this is dark…

Death is horrific.

It is purposeless and devoid of meaning. Death is violent and visceral. It’s abusive and unyielding.

We strive to bring meaning to it. We hope and pray for purpose in the darkness, but there is none. And that’s terrifying.

We say it’s all a part of Gods plan, but it’s not.

It was never the plan.

The loss that comes with it is crushing. If it hasn’t yet, death will fundamental change the way you see the world. The world is never the same.

The relationships is lost, and with it part of you is lost. It can’t be redeemed, it’s never coming back.

And how do we feel?

Sadness? Nothingness? Profound pain? Less than whole?

We call this grief.

Greif is the response to the loss of that which we love. When we love and that love is ripped from us, torn away in such a permanent manner that it cannot be reconciled we grieve. It’s what our love pushes us to do.

From time to time I volunteer with grief support groups.

I can’t tell you often I’ve heard people struggling through their loss say “I wish it was me.” How many people would give anything to bring the wholeness back into their lives. Who plead for anything the fix it, willing to give up everything, knowing in the depths of their soul there is nothing to do.

Death is darkness in a way nothing else can be. It’s to permanent. It’s to one sided. There is no going back and there is no way to process or reconcile once it’s happened.

What’s done is done and it can never be undone. That relationships can never be anything more or less than it was. Old wounds can’t be address and past trauma can’t be reconciled. They will remain open and unfinished.

This is the power of death. What death takes with it, we can never get back.

I told you this was dark.

But it’s love that longs for an answer. It’s love that desires renewal and change. It’s love that demands we try to find meaning.

But we’re powerless. This darkness has no meaning and it’s everywhere we turn. We are left with the simple reality that we must accept that we can do nothing more. That horrific, pointless pain has come and we cannot change it.

But what if we weren’t?

What if we could redeem it? What if we could reconcile all that was lost?

Wouldn’t you, even if it cost you dearly?

It’s the deep and unwavering love God has for us that caused Him to reconcile the death now a part of all of us. It was the crushing grief over the loss of relationship with us, the undeniable change in how we now interacted with Him that drove Jesus to do something.

Hate had nothing to do with it. Sin so greatly grieved the heart of God that His love motivated Him to do whatever it took to make redemption possible.

We so desperately miss the point when we make it about sin. It wasn’t about abolishing sin but about redeeming all that was lost. It was about a love so deep and a God who could do something we can’t.

Who could bring life to the dead and redeem the unredeemable. Who loved all of us, the dead parts as much as the rest.

It was grief motivated by love.

How did we ever let hate into the equation?

a hole

I heard a lyric in a song the other day that stood out. The singer said “do ya ever get the feeling there ain’t no hole when you’re not around?”

It struck me.

The idea of being seen or connecting isn’t new for me or new for this space. It comes up a lot actually.

I wonder however, if it bears repeating this time of year. So many people, parties, activities, family, it’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to be in a room full of people and be alone.

And how sad is that. A room full of family, friends, co-workers and someone is for all intents and purposes alone. Maybe it’s their own fault. Maybe they won’t engage. Maybe they don’t want to connect. Maybe their tired or sick. Maybe they’re an introvert and the group is too much.

And maybe they are all alone in a room full of people that won’t’ notice when they aren’t around.

Maybe they are in a room with you and you won’t notice when they aren’t around.

Maybe no matter what they room, no one notices when they aren’t around.

Maybe they wish there would be a hole when they aren’t around.

Maybe we should notice so there is a hole when they aren’t around.

worth comming back for

I think about duality a lot. Something that is two ends of the same spectrum.

Grace and judgement. How do we blend them? How do we choose? When?

Stuff like that.

For me the internet is a prime example of this sort of duality. Spend any time in a comments section and you’ll see unfetter anger and misplaced rage.

You can also see videos and read stories of people changing the world. Giving themselves to a cause and making real change.

The internet allows for relationships to grow and develop in a way that I don’t think was present before.

I sent a Facebook to an old colleague of mine who is working in Senegal. 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. I don’t have an address or a phone number. I only found out he was in Senegal because of Facebook.

The chances and opportunities are amazing.

The internet is a tool like anything else. I can be so good and it can be so bad. But with intentionality and love and grace it gives all of us a chance to start, build and deepen relationships with people who we couldn’t before. We can’t take it for granted. We can’t miss these ways and spaces for connection.

It’s so easy to drift into an ego centric internet experience. Read what I write (I see the irony), look at my pictures, like my status, all of the me, me, me stuff.

But in reality it’s a chance for a type of compassion that’s new and exciting. The internet is a place and space where we can be about what Jesus was about, love and grace.

Those are stories and experiences people will come back to see and read about again and again.

just shut up

Some times we need to shut up.

We may know what’s best. We may be right. Shut up anyway.

My mother often asks the question “to what end?”

So often the end is my rightness. I need people to know I was right. They need to know how smart, or clever, or whatever I am and my rightness will show them. But it’s really all about me. It’s not for them.

There have been so many times I’ve told someone what to do and how to do it and they refuse to listen. A few weeks later they come back and tell me how they’ve changed or solved their problem and it’s exactly what I said to do. But they needed to find it. They needed to get there on their own.

I needed to shut up. I needed to listen.

As compassionate people we are called to love and there are so many times when love means we hold our tongue.

It’s nothing earth shattering. Listening is often better than talking. But the reminder that even when you have the right answer the answer is still often, shut up.

peace in her hands

Today was not fantastic.

Points of the day were good, but there were some less than ideal portions.

While I was on a rather difficult phone call one of my co-workers quietly appeared in my door. She was holding a coffee. If you’ve been reading here long you understand my deep connection to coffee.

She had heard part of my call and could sense how frustrated I was and how much I was struggling with the call. I didn’t have good answers for the person on the other end and they needed good answers.

It turned my day around.

She just appeared with peace in her hands. “I could tell you needed this.”

Relationships allow for this kind of love. Knowing how I work and who I am and being able to tell right away I was frustrated. But more than just reading the situation, knowing how much a coffee would mean and how much something so simple changes my entire day and then doing something with all that information.

It’s that kind of love we strive for.

Love, in relationships, in action.

who is my neighbour?

This is it.

It’s finally here.

This is the first week I’m asking you to dip into your normal everyday life. To not change the way you interact with people in your life but to actively seek out a new interaction.

I want you to have dinner.

Or coffee, wine, cookies, hotdogs, whatever you want.

I want you to connect, probably over food and drink because it’s easier, with your neighbour.

Invite them over if you don’t know them well or accept their invitation to coffee you’ve been avoiding.

Connect with your neighbour this week.  And this not some sort of deep theological question around ‘who is my neighbour’? it’s the person who lives near you, in geographical proximity.

Go knock on somones door and say “Hi, I’m your neighbour. I was wondering if you’d want to come by for dinner/drink/cookies sometime. We’ve been neighbours for _______ and I thought it’d be nice to know who’s around us.”

No agenda.

No ulterior motives.

Just get to know your neighbour for who they are, as they are right now.

Phil says yes

A life of compassion is not one that is marked by saying yes to everything, but it says yes to way more than a life not trying to live like Jesus has called us.

Its amazing how much you can do and what you can offer when you commit to it. When you choose too.

A lot of us really honestly want to help. We want to give and want to be involved.

But we miss the chance. It presents itself and we start to process and think about all the reasons why it’d be too hard and talk ourselves out of it.

I have a buddy named Phil. He is arguably the busiest person I know. The man is a farmer and can without exaggeration work 70-80 hour weeks. In 6 days no less because his boss, a great man of God, shuts the operation down for rest on Sunday. They have to squeeze 7 days of farming into 6.

If anyone has an excuse to be busy and not say yes its Phil.

Phil always says yes.

He showed up at my place around 8pm the Friday of the weekend we were moving. He’d been out working all day and was going back out the next morning. But he help me move our GIANT outrageously heavy fridge to our new house in the rain. I think he got home at midnight.

But that’s Phil.

Compassionate living just pours out of him.

And if you ask people who know Phil no one will be surprised. Everyone who knows him knows him as one of the most generous people they’ve ever met.

His answer is yes.

That’s the kind of person I want to be. I want to be like Phil. I want people to know they can count on me. I want people to know that I will love them with my actions not just my words.

That my busy life isn’t’ more important than my relationships, my friends and family.

I want people to know that if they need me I’m there.

It isn’t about saying yes every time. I’m sure Phil has said no, I just can’t remember it because Phil is a consistent person who consistent answer is yes. It’s who he is. He gives of himself and his time and his resources and he does it by saying yes.

I want to be more like Phil and lucky for me I’ve got a head start since we already share a name.

a simple warning

This will cost you money.

Like I said yesterday, I try to be up front and transparent. Sometimes I get ranty and long winded. I get complicated and intricate.

Not today.

A life of compassion will cost you money.

You are going to put yourself in relationships that will cost you. You are going to connect and engage with your neighbours and those who have been marginalized by society.

Money will come up and you will give.

And it’s FANTASTIC!

Giving is amazing. It’s like exercise. It hurts and you often try to find ways not to do it but it’s rare that after you’ve been generous you regret it.

Sure there will be times you get taken advantage of just like there are times you pull a muscle at the gym. And it holds you back. It makes you tentative. You start out small and build back up to where you were.

I’ve said it before and I really mean it. Generous people get taken advantage of. So if you’ve never been taken advantage of you may not be a generous as you think you are.

Don’t think for one second you can live a life or compassion, a life of love, a life of grace and it not affect your bank account. It will cost you money, of that there is no debate.

So don’t be taken aback when it happens. Don’t be surprised when the request comes and God says “give.”

You’ve been warned.

making space

This is one of my favourites.

This week we will be committing to: not being the one to end a conversation.

I love this one. It’s such an easy choice that gives so much space for relationship to grow.

Think about how often we are too busy for people. Too busy to connect, too busy to talk, too busy to see someone? This is an easy way to create space for people in your life.

What I think you’ll find is that it doesn’t strain your time as much as you might worry it will. I remember a while back Sarah told me about when she was out walking. She was walking with our first son, our second hadn’t been born yet, and ran into someone we knew. Sarah chatted briefly then excused herself to get home.

But she wasn’t doing anything at home. There was no rush. No reason to jump out of that conversation other than to just finish the walk and get home.

I think we do this a lot more than we realize. We end conversations so we can finish whatever we are doing with no real time pressure being there. We artificially create a busyness that we can’t just connect.

Or the things we NEED to do don’t NEED to be done. It would be good if I got back from my walk and did the dishes, but they will be there in 10 minutes this opportunity to connect won’t. We forfeit this very time sensitive relationship for chores or activities that have no real time connection other than our own personal desire for them to be finished.

Give it a try. Don’t be too busy for people or for relationships.

Instead invest in people. Give them space to share what matters and to connect. So often people just want to be seen. They want someone to give them the time of day. This is a great way to do that and it gives God loads of space to move in a conversation and to give openings for real depth that wouldn’t be there if we rush.

Relationships take time, be the one to make it this week.

but change sucks

I talked on Monday about a change to this space.

I’m hoping the change to this space will in turn make a small change in you.

I think when we talk about change and growth and goals it can get really scary really quick. It may just be me but when I start to think about change my mind goes all the way.

Jesus called us to be generous with all we have soooooooooo do I have to sell my house?

Jesus called us to connect with those who are marginalized by society sooooooooooooo do I just go sit on the streets at night to find some marginalized people?

Jesus calls us to a life of grace soooooooooooo do I always have to let everything go?

It gets so big so fast.

It gets so daunting.

It gets so impossible.

I think it’s a strategy I’ve developed so that I don’t have to change. It’s a tool I use to justify my lack of change.

I’m just not in a place where I can give up my house yet so I’ll pray and connect with God and hope I can be there one day. All the while I’m doing nothing. I’m not really praying and connecting more and because the idea of generosity leads, in my mind, to giving up my house I do nothing.

It causes me to be stagnate.

And then I come and write here that I want to live a life of compassion. That I want to be more generous and build relationships and share God’s amazing grace.

Soooooooooooo what do we do? How do we reconcile our minds to our hearts?

We start. We start with small things that are direct and attainable. We start with things that are totally achievable. We share our experience in community to be encouraged and to be challenged.

We stop making excuses about being ready and how much it’s going to cost in the end. We stop making it so much bigger and impossible. It’s and act of will. A choice that say’s we control our actions and I’m purposing myself to be the person I tell myself and others I am.

We find something we can do and we do it. We trust to the process and believe that there is value in effort and that God honours our hearts desire to be close to Him and the life He’s called us to. We understand that small steps are part of the process. We look at the next step and not the big scary end.

So if I didn’t convince you yesterday, go say Hi to some people.