you don’t have to change

People say change is inevitable.

It can’t be stop and it’s going to happen.

While that may be true for the greater world you can choose not to change. Sometimes that’s a really good thing. I will love my wife and my children every day for the rest of my life. I’m made that choice and I will make that choice every day. I refuse to change.

I shouldn’t eat hot dogs. They are all kinds of terrible and even I would struggle to say with a straight face that are anything other than horrible for you. But I refuse to give them up.

I will not give up hot dogs.

Some change is good some is bad.

Giving up hot dogs would be good.

Not loving my family bad.

So on principal there is nothing wrong with the concept of saying I will not change. But how do we know if we’re making the right choice when we refuse to change in an area?

This drifts back to one of my favourite spaces and one of the odder stories about myself I’ve shared.

I think this is the time for the hard self-reflection I think Jesus has called us to. The difficult process of saying “who am I really?” Not who do I want to be or who do I wish I was or who do I tell everyone I am but who am I really.

I’ve talked about this before. It’s a horrible process.

But how can we talk about change in our life if we don’t even know where we are starting from?

How can we decide if we need to be more loving, generous, and gracious if we don’t know how those elements of our lives manifest themselves NOW.

One of the ways you can do this is to start with who you think/say you are and work backwards.

Go ahead give it a go now.

Who do you say you are? Write it down with each note of who you are on a new line.

It may look like this:

A father

A Christian

A friend

Someone who cares about community

Someone who cares about the environment

Someone who is healthy

Someone who is gracious…

Now write beside everything you’ve written what a person, not you, but a person who is a “someone who is healthy” would live like.

Do you do that? Are those really that person?

I remember the first time I did some of this type of reflection one of the things that stood out was a claim that I am a healthy person.

Problem was I wasn’t.

I love pizza, hot dogs, beer and sitting on my couch.

So I had to decide am I a healthy person or not?

This led me to make changes. I started riding an exercise bike in my livening room every day. But I also refused to give up parts of the old me.

So there I am sitting on an exercise bike, playing video games, drinking a beer.

Can you picture this?

My mother in law walked into our home and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone more confused.

But that was who I am. I’m someone trying to be healthier who still loves video games and beer.

But it was honest and real. I wasn’t lying to myself anymore.

So maybe none of this compassion stuff is really interesting to you. Maybe you don’t change because you are actively refusing to like I actively refuse to change when it comes to loving my family. Maybe you don’t think this is really what your life is supposed to be or what Jesus has called you to.

Just make sure that the things you refuse to give up aren’t the hot dogs of your life.

Or at the very least be honest that you’d rather have hot dogs than be compassionate

two sides from two brothers

My brother and I were talking about church.

We talk about church a lot. We’re both always right so it’s good we are on roughly the same page. We talk about all aspects of church. Growing up as pastor’s sons and my brother now a pastor it’s been a part of our lives since the very beginning.

We talked a little about how to encourage people to live a more compassionate life. We agreed that there is a large portion of people who have the language (you might say missional, other centred, whatever) and but still don’t’ apply it.

I said it was priorities that hold people back.

He said it was time.

The more we talked about it the more we realized that priorities and time are two sides of the same compassionate life style blocking coin. It’s a big complicated coin.

I said it was priorities because people make time for what matters. They do what’s most important first and work their way down. I’ve written about this before.

He said that part of the problem about saying its priorities makes it sound like something else. Another thing that needs to be added. I’ve got work, soccer practices, church, Home Church, volunteering, date night and now you want me to add compassion into that too? Nope, sorry I’m just too busy.

He’s right (and so am I but we’ll get there).

Talking about it like a priority makes it sound like more. The idea is that you live a life of compassion. It’s not something you add it’s how you go to work, soccer practices, church, Home Church, volunteering, date night and the way you spend your time while you’re there. Is the way you live your life.

Not something more, a change to how. So he’s right. That’s the call of Jesus in our lives.

But that’s big and scary and for a lot of people who are working towards the life style, the all-encompassing nature is too much. It’s all or nothing. So he’s right.

And that’s why I often start with priorities. Changing the way you live is hard. It will take commitment and effort and a struggle. So I ask you to start small. Prioritize this new way of living over a few other things in your life by engaging in timed events to get started. Planning to meet with your neighbours, plan to go out to the pub with a co-worker. Prioritize relationships as a start.

In the end it won’t be a priority but rather a way of living. For me though, I think prioritizing some time for relationship is a good first step to that changed life.

try again

I’m distracted.

I’ve got sooooo much going on. It’s the busy time at work, I move to a new home on Saturday, our new home is getting work done, I have a new baby coming in July-August, and so on and so on.

I’m distracted.

And to be honest I’m slipping back into old Phil. The less other centred, less generous, generally less of the man God has called me to be.

It was subtle and slow but reflecting back I think distinct.

At the onset of this space I talked about the need to be purposeful. I talked about how things won’t just happen and often we need to commit ourselves to doing something. We need to pick a concrete task and do it or it may never happen. We will talk and think about all the changes and love we want to give but it just doesn’t happen.

But today is a new day. Every day is a new day. A chance to commit, chance to change, a chance to love unconditionally, a chance to give without strings, a chance to open up your life and help someone else find safety and love and grace and acceptance.

Today I commit to being generous once a day again. In some way every day I plan to be generous.

I’m also writing grace on the back of my hand. I’m hoping it will remind me to choose grace in every situation.

What are you doing today to make sure you don’t slip back into old you?

money, money, money!

I decided I wanted pick a really easy topic for this week, so we’re going to talk about money all week!

See nice and easy. No one’s every gotten upset about money before right? I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Look, money’s touchy. We talk around it, we talk about it in abstract terms but rarely in a way that creates accountability. We don’t want anyone telling us what we should do with our hard earned money.

We have commitments and responsibilities and you don’t know what I’m dealing with so don’t tell me what to do.

Any of that sound familiar?

We are talking about money and to be honest if you don’t like it, tough. It’s an important topic.

I think one of the things we need to break when it comes to money is that is ours.

I know we’ve all heard it and if asked in church we’d say “everything I own is Gods” or something like.

No it’s not.

It’s supposed to be but it’s not. No worries, it’s a process.

One thing that we lack however is how to we begin or grow in the process of giving everything over to God. We know it’s all supposed to be God’s but I don’t feel like we have real tangible ways to start.

Here’s a start for you to try. It’s more about changing your perspective and getting you thinking than it is about huge monolithic change so don’t get too worried.

Think about your average week (reflection) and look at how you spend your money. Is there one thing you could change about how you spend (action)?

For me it was coffee. Ah, so dark, so delicious, so caffeiney. Caffeiney’s a word right? I’m just going to assume you agreed with me and move on.

At one point in my life I bought coffee almost every day. I was young and had some free dollars to spend. So to get my head in the right space about who’s money it was and get me to be more generous I started giving my coffee money away.

Some days that looked like be buying coffee for someone else. Some days it was me not buying coffee so I’d have some money to be generous in another way.  Some days I forgot and just bought myself coffee.

It didn’t cost me any more than I was already spending. I didn’t give up coffee at all and I’m not asking you to stop what you’re doing, just change it. Yes I had to drink coffee at work which wasn’t as nice but my budget didn’t change one cent

My mind however changed a bunch.

It just gets you thinking about money. It gets you thinking about how much you actually have and how you spend it and ultimately who’s money it really is.

Maybe you cut back eating out by one time a week. Maybe you buy 1 coffee a day instead of 2. Maybe you buy a sweat at the consignment store and give the difference away. Maybe you decide that you won’t by brand name groceries and donate the difference to the food bank.

I’m not asking you to change your budget, yet, just how you spend within it.

I’m asking you to start thinking about what the spending of a person who lives a compassionate life would look like and I think this is a good start.

this might suck

This week we’re looking at what holds us back. Why we don’t live the life of compassion that Jesus has called used to.

There will be themes that you will hear over and over and over and it may be super repetitive, but it’s important and I’m writing so I get to choose. Most of these probably won’t be new to you if you’ve been following along with past posts.

Over the past number of months I have begun to grasp to the idea that our actions are our beliefs. That what we do says more about what we believe than what we say. That all the right words and thoughts in our mind only matter when we action them out, when we live them out.

That is over used theme number 1, action. Love is not felt but acted, compassion is not thought but done, grace not wished but given.

Think about it like this. If I tell my wife everyday that I love her deeply but my actions continue to show something different which would she believe? At some point she’s going to stop trusting my statements of love and look for me to actually LOVE her. She would look for me to be patient and kind. To not be jealous or boastful or proud or rude. To stop demanding my own way. She would watch for me to not be irritable, and to stop keeping record of being wronged. She would want me to stop giving up on her, to never loses faith in who she is and what she can accomplish. She would want me to be always hopeful, and to not let the circumstance dictate the way I act towards her.

It’s those actions that will bring meaning to my words of love.

So moving forward with the idea that actions are belief, to know what we believe requires over used theme number two, self reflection.

Reflection, action, reflection, action, etc.

So let us reflect.

Who are you? Or better put, what do you think you believe? What did you come up with on Friday when you thought about where you were at and what you believe?

What do you tell yourself you believe?

You’re a good Christian, you love your neighbour, you care about the poor, your family matters most etc.

Ok, now look at your actions.

Seriously, step back and take an inventory. Pull your calendar and actually look, I got nothing but time.

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That was quick.

Now pull up you bank statement.

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It’s a process, just trust me. Go look.

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What do you actually believe?

Where has all your time actually gone? Where has all your money gone?

Do you believe that work matters more than family?

Do you believe that your new TV matters more than the work of the church?

Do you believe that sports/reading/Pintrest/Facebook are more important than your spouse?

I’m not asking do you THINK these things I’m asking do you believe (your actions dictate your beliefs) these things.

Self reflection sucks.

It sucks a LOT!

But we have to be honest. We can’t move forward if we don’t even know where we are or what direction we’re facing.

I’ve done this a lot.

It sucks.

It sucked the time I sat at home and realized that despite all the years I said it, I didn’t care about my community or neighbours.

It was brutal the time I sat at home and learned that I can place TV before my son.

Self reflection requires us to look at our brokenness, our deficiencies, the places we are weak. But it’s our mind set that all that matters are our thoughts that holds us back. Our understanding that belief is in the mind. That thought that we can love our neighbours without getting into their lives, without their messiness becoming our messiness.

But since we are in control of our actions, we can change our beliefs.

I can see that I have placed TV before Nolan and decide that I will never do it again. And then never do it again. Telling myself I’ll never do it again doesn’t matter to Nolan. Me never doing it again matters. Me spending time with him with my undivided attention matters to him.

Do we slip back, sure.

Do we choose not to love, of course. But sometimes, and hopefully a growing number of times, we can choose to share God with someone. We show them love they’ve never known.

We commit to and set out plans, lots to come on ways to do this, to love people. Love our co-workers, neighbours, the waiter are your favourite coffee shop.

Look back and be honest. Be honest about where you’re at.

Then spend some time thinking ‘what do I WANT to believe’ ‘what does GOD want me to believe’?

You want to believe that the poor matter and we should love them?

FANTASTIC!

Now we have a direction and action/belief to work towards. We can start to find, define, purpose ourselves to actions that show the belief that the poor matter and that you do love them.

But let’s not run ahead of ourselves.

For today find where you are and give some thought to where you wish you were, where God wished you were. Like I said at the start, action is a theme that you won’t be able to miss.

This time don’t miss the call to look at ourselves.

come and listen

‘Come and Listen’ by David Crowder Band

Come and listen, come to the water’s edge, all you who know and fear the Lord.
Come and listen, come to the water’s edge all you who are thirsty, come.

Let me tell you what He has done for me.
Let me tell you what He has done for me,
He has done for you,
He has done for us.

Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.
Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.

Praise our God for He is good.
Praise our God for He is good.
Praise our God for He is good.
Praise our God for He is good.

He has done for me,
He has done for you,
He has done for us.

Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.
Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.

I love this song. I’ve used it before. I’ve you’ve never heard it, go check it out on YouTube. This isn’t going anywhere. There’s just something about the invitation. It’s so gentle and feels to me to be honest and real.

So what are we doing here? We’ll maybe ‘we’ is a bad choice of words. I know why I’m here but I suspect you’re not entirely sure.

I have some hopes for this space, this community.

I hope it becomes a community, a two way conversation.

I hope it creates growth, change. I hope it creates movement.

I hope you are able to find, see, and connect with God.

I hope that connection with God is so great that – for all of our flaws (and I do mean ‘our’ because as you’ll see on this journey here I’ve got enough for the both of us) – you won’t be able to keep God from spilling out of you into all the people you know.

Here’s what I want to do.

I want to tell stories. I want to tell good stories. And when I say ‘good’ I mean ‘well told,’ not just positive.  There’s going to be some pain in this space.  We are going to struggle.  Yes, I have and I will share stories of triumph.  There will be stories from my life and the lives of people in our community – stories of people stepping out and chasing after the call God has on them and things actually work out.  A coffee that leads to a relationship that leads to support in love in the darkness. I promise we will have that.

But I also promise struggle, pain, doubt and darkness.

You may not see the value of both, but it’s all a part of my life.  I do what I feel the spirit leading me to do and sometimes it’s nothing spectacular – failures and awkwardness are part of the journey.

We’re going to have it all because our lives have it all.

This space will be honest.

I’ll have my thoughts and my opinions, and I’d like to hear yours as well.  I even welcome your thoughts on why you think I’m wrong.  I hope that you come with a listening heart to see what God has here for you.

This space will have teaching.

I hope to share how to live a compassionate life … how to work through the struggles and difficulty … how to start the process.

We’ll look back at some of my old writings I’ve done on giving and how it applies to a life of compassion.

So come and listen. Listen to what He has done for me, for you, for us.

Come and share.

Come and find God in a way you may not have before.