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.

marked

I’m up late.

I’ve always been a person who likes to stay up late. If left to my own devices I would stay up until 2am every day. I don’t because I’d also like to get up at 10am every day. That was my schedule when I went to university.  Two kids make that kind of hard.

That and my work expects me to show up.

But with Quinn I’m up late again. I’ve got time.

Time is one of those things no one ever has. At least that’s what we tell everyone. There’s some kind of a stigma I think if you’re not super busy. If you tell people you’ve got all kinds of time they start to wonder.

We are supposed to be busy.

I’m not going to get into if that’s the way of compassionate living or not. That’s for Wednesday, we’ll talk about begin busy.

Today I’m interested in how we use or time, busy or not.

I’ve now got more free time. It’s not totally free. I’m watching Quinn who may be up, may need to feed, may need to be changed, etc. But when he’s sleeping as long as I keep him with me my time is rather open.

And with it I watch a whole bunch of terrible movies and internet videos of people playing video games. I’m not even playing video games anymore, I’m watching people play video games. Some times at 1:30 in the morning I ask myself what I’m doing with my life.

I was talking with my wife about some of the programs that we run here at the community centre I manage. We have a big Muslim population in our community and she asked about what we do for those members of our community. It’s tough for us. A large portion of the community we serve is Muslim but a large portion of that community spend hours a day studying the Quran.

And I watch people play video games.

It’s not that cut and dry, or maybe it is, I’m not sure. Maybe it would be easier if there was a discrete activity that I was to engage in for a finite amount of time every day. If it was as simple as “Read your bible for 1 hour, pray for 30 minutes and sing worship songs for 30 minutes to be a good Christian” I think I could nail that.

But that’s not how it is.

We are called to live lives marked by love and grace. They will know us by our love.

And that’s why this space is here. How do we live so that instead of finding 2 or 3 hours a day to make myself a “good Christian” I live every hour as a person who is marked by and constantly exuding love? How do  love so deeply and so frequently that people want to know why and how I can live like this so I can say “because I’m a disciple of Jesus and this is how we’re called to live and it’s a deeper and fuller life than the life I had before.”

So I hope to use more of that time to become a better disciple which will help me to live a life of love that will exude out of me. My time becoming a better disciple will include praying and reading my bible as well as find ways to love and be in relationship.

And if all goes well in some of those relationships I’ll be able to make more disciples.

to late

Sometimes we miss things.

A moment, a chance, an opportunity. Once they’re gone they’re gone.

And sometimes they aren’t.

Sometimes a moment is there, over and over and over and we just won’t take it.

Like the old saying, better late than never, sometimes a chance is just waiting for us to finally take that step. I think this can play out in a whole bunch of ways but today I want to talk about forgiveness.

Have you ever been scarred? Not just hurt but deeply and in a sense fundamentally wounded?

I’m not talking about the time I had terrible service and then refused to go back to a local restaurant for years. I was frustrated and upset by how my friends and I were treated. But that’s something different.

I’m talking about something that touches you in the deepest most inner parts of who you are. The kind of scarring that rattles you loose of your grounding and causes you to start to question life. This is about betrayal.

Is that ever a hard place to forgive. Bitterness is just so much easier.

And maybe for you it’s never been that deep. Maybe for you it is something far less dramatic. But did you forgive?

Perhaps more interesting, did you do anything to help the other person forgive when it was you who caused the scar?

I’m reminded of a very specific instance in my life. I was scarred and wounded on such a deep level not only did I not want to forgive I knew I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I had known these folks for YEARS.

But things were said and action taken that I swore I would never let go. I could not and I would not forgive. They had made their choices and so this was the outcome. And God worked on my heart to soften it.

So I tried to forgive.

And much like I thought, I couldn’t. I wanted to let it all go but every time the topic came up my pulse quickened, I got harsh and difficult, and I relived that pain over and over.

But I kept trying.

More than a year passed and I was approached.

“I’m sorry Phil.”

And I was released.

We don’t know all the people we’ve hurt and all the scars we’ve caused, but we do know some. Sometimes what people really need is to know that you are honestly and truly sorry. Help give them the tools and the space to be gracious and forgiving, even if it’s too late.

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.

is this enough?

I feel like there is a natural end to what we’ve been talking about this week.

We’ve been looking at what we should do and how we know if it ‘counts’. We’ve looked at how we should start to shape our lifestyle related to compassion. But there is one very obvious question that I’m sure you’ve thought of.

How much of this do I have to do?

Common, you’ve wondered.

You want to check it off your list, “yup I’ve doing all my required compassion work to be a good Christian. 3 volunteer opportunities a month. Done and done!”

Maybe it’s not that direct. Maybe it’s “I don’t have any time. How much of this do I NEED to do to be ok?”

It seems like the logical finish to this week.

The problem is that is topic is crazy complicated.

We can talk about seasons of life, the calling God has placed on you, how engaged you are now, etc.

We can talk about what Jesus has said when it comes to the great commission to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20), we can talk about forgiving 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:22), etc.

Here’s my take, do with it what you want.

I think in general we don’t do enough. We’ll talk about why we don’t in the future but I think we usually don’t. I think if you’re anything like me you’re on a journey to see how this all works practically in your life. That’s a growing process.

I started out wanting to volunteer more and build more relationships. Then recently I sat down with my wife, feeling like we did at the start. Like we were missing God and not living in community the way God had called us.

The funny thing is that we were still doing all the things we decided to start doing at the beginning of this process.  We were doing all the things we thought that if we did we’d have it all sorted.

We’d be loving enough, giving enough, serving enough.

But as we did it we found it only depend our commitment or sense of need to do it more.

Peter Rollins has a parable where Jesus meets a group of followers.  I’m paraphrasing here but the story goes that this group is known for going above and beyond. As opposed to the rule of the day where they had to carry the pack of a Roman Officer for one mile if asked this group would carry it two.

The parable ends with Jesus saying “I’m so sorry you misunderstood. If your rule is to carry their pack 2 miles then I’m calling you to carry it 3.”

Ultimately Jesus is always calling us into more. Into deeper relationship, stronger community, and more of Him. Little by little we need to give it all over.

So are you doing enough? Probably not, but that’s ok neither am I.

You and I are on a journey together to be more engaged with the call Jesus placed on everyone one of His followers. That’s why I created this space. That’s what this space is about.

Don’t be discouraged that you’re not there yet. Be encouraged that there is more of Jesus to find, that He still has more for you and more your life can be.