death and loss

For something as universal and experience as death you might think we’d talk about it more. You might think we would understand the experience better. You might think we’d be better prepared to love those experiencing a death in their life.

But you know as much as I do that for all we might think when we look at death objectively, rarely is that the lived experience.

For worse, death will touch everyone. It will irrevocably impact your life at some point while you are still alive. Talking with a good friend has brought the topic back to mind.

We’re going to explore death a little.

We’re going to do that because society is terrible at supporting people and sadly the church isn’t often much better.

But we should be.

And we can be.

We will be.

Today we’ll touch on some fundamentals, staring points so we are all in the same space.

Death cannot be fixed.

While I understand how redundant a statement that is we still try. We try to make people feel better. To fix or change what cannot be fixed. Death is permanent. It’s dark and traumatic and often our best attempts to fix the experience end up minimizing it.

So we won’t try. We won’t fix this experience. We’ll be with people in the darkness not tell them the darkness isn’t there.

Death is not purposeful.

We won’t try to render meaning where they is none. This is so important I don’t want you to miss it. Death wasn’t part of the plan. So when we talk about death we have to be careful how we speak. We need to understand the implications of the words we choose.

God can bring good from evil but it’s never His plan. He doesn’t cause evil to happen so He can do good. Evil is a part of our world and death is wholly evil. God can bring redemption out of death but it’s not the purpose of death. It’s not why it happened and God’s ability to bring good from evil doesn’t detract from how evil something is.

It happens because we live in a dark fallen world and people need to be allowed to experience that darkness without it being minimized or overly spiritualized. It’s complicated enough experience loss we don’t need to complicate it with some theological controversy over God’s involvement in death.

God doesn’t want death.

God doesn’t cause death.

God is 100% with us during the darkness, but that darkness and pain are very real.

With that as our start we’ll look at how we respond to death tomorrow. If death cannot be fixed and death isn’t part of some bigger purpose what do we say?

Or rather to start what don’t we say?

only if

We make an awful lot of choices in a day. We probably don’t think too much about most of them.

Should I go the same way to work I always do? Yes.

Should I drive on the right side of the road? Yes.

Do I want coffee this morning? Yes.

Do I want 5 coffees this morning? Of course!

Do you wish there was a faster way to make the 5 morning coffees? How could I not?

I may be drifting but I think you get the point.

We make lots of choices that just happen without a lot of thought.

What I want to look at is WHY we make choices. What are our motives and do we gives them any real thought? We make lots of choices without thought but when we do think about it do we graze over some important parts of the process?

I was chatting with someone about an interesting experience they had with motives and compassion.

They we’re going about their work day as usual. During the course of the day a person they came across noted how much they wanted a cup of coffee. He tucking this in the back of his mind he kept on with his day.

When he returned later that day he brought with him a day saving cup of sweet dark nectar (or however you see coffee).

“Thanks.”

That was it.

Just, “thanks”.

It was almost a passing thanks. Almost a no-existent thanks. It was as if he didn’t care at all.

The man I was talking with carried on with some exceptionally clear self reflection. He talked about how his mother would be so over the top any time he did anything. Praise upon praise for doing the right thing.

The conversation continued and he noted how he didn’t WANT to do it for that reason and didn’t even THINK that the praise and validation he didn’t get was at all  part of why he did it.

But he noticed its absence. Almost upset that it wasn’t there.

How often do we do this? How often do we get upset, become jaded, and vow to never do something again because the person we were trying to love didn’t react the way we wanted them to?

Did we do it to just love them or did we do it as a means to the end of a reaction/change/growth that WE chose for THEM.

I think we stop because we don’t get what we want. I think we often don’t even realize that’s why we stop or why we’re upset. I think we don’t act compassionately and actually hold back our love because the other person won’t do what we think they should with it.

Our motive isn’t what we think it is. We make a choice to not love without even thinking about the true reason why.

What are your motives?

Why do you love?

And perhaps more importantly, honestly, why don’t you love?

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.

as they are because they are

Now comes the hard one. We’ve been building to it.

Loving your community. That’s your neighbours, your co-workers, the man experiencing homelessness you pass every day. This is the hard one but in all honesty probably the most important. This is the one we’re called to. This is the space to which Jesus teaching should take us to. This is the great commission.

We will spend a LOT of time in this space.

To step back for a moment, I don’t think this is new. We know who Jesus hung out with. We know who he’s called us to connect with. That said, this is the space we so often struggle in. This is the space we make excuses in. This is the space we wish we knew HOW to do.

As we do here, a story.

Sarah and I wanted to be more involved in our community. We actually sat in our living room and said ‘so what exactly do we do?’. Sure we wanted to love people and get involved but HOW do we do it?

We decided on a community party. We’d go door to door and personally invite all our neighbours to come to a neighbourhood party. We’d have all the food, all the drinks, everything. All they would need to do is come.

To be honest we were worried.

One, going door to door makes me feel outrageously uncomfortable. But we thought it need to be personal and not just a letter in their door if we could. So we did it. I felt super uncomfortable the entire time but we did it.

Two, I was worried that everyone would think there was some ulterior motive. And not just some ‘thanks everyone for coming. If it’s ok I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about an investment opportunity…’ type ulterior motive.

No I was worried people would think ‘I think that’s that Christian couple. I bet they’re going to try and convert us or tell us we have to go to church or that we’re bad people or something. You know bait us in with free beer then tell us we’re all sinners going to hell for drinking the beer.’

I don’t know if it sounds ridiculous to you but I was honestly worried.

I was worried because the church has really screwed this one up. People are projects not people. People are a means to an end, a gold start for saving a soul. I was worried people wouldn’t believe that we honestly just wanted to get to know them.

I was worried that people wouldn’t believe that for Sarah and I they are our end. Getting to know them, building an honest, real relationship was our goal. Not to convert them or tell them how they should be living but to just get to know them enough that we could start actually loving them.

So the day came and despite it raining we had a good turnout. It was good enough that we did it again at Christmas. Was a super awkward start?

YUP!

But we met new people, shared some drinks, laughs, stories and had a ton of fun!

Yes this compassion in community is big and there’s a lot more to see but it looks like action. It looks like love. The life of compassion in relation to our community is us in relationship with our community. Not set apart but embedded in. Not distant but close. Not judgement but love and grace.

We get into the messiness of our community, our neighbour, co-workers and the man experiencing homelessness on the street. We do it because we’re disciples. We do it because we want to love everyone like Jesus loves us, as we are because we are. Not a project to be fixed or some goal to be accomplished but a person to be loved just as they are with no expectations of anything in return or any change from them.

We do it because that’s our call and our commission.

We do it because we are striving to live a life of compassion.

compassion at home

This week we’re going to look at three areas that we hope this life of compassion will begin to work in; family, home church, community. I’ll come back to this gimmick often because I think it’s helpfully to look at how this works in the many different facets of life.

Today we’re looking at family and we won’t go any further than my own home for this one.

My wife Sarah is a great example.

What does compassion look like in a family? It looks like Sarah.

Here’s what we try (a far heavier emphasis on the try for me than Sarah but I’m getting better).

Sarah puts me first. Not just in certain things or in small things but in basically everything Sarah puts me first. As opposed to it being the oddity it’s the norm.

I try to do the same but I honestly don’t think I’m anywhere close to as good at it as she is. But because we love each other we try really hard to always put the other first.

Again what does that look like and why is it important?

It’s important because if the other members of the family are always trying to put you first you don’t have to ask or demand for what you ‘deserve’. You don’t have to say things like ‘I work all day long I just need a break’ or ‘I wish someone would just help me with this.’

Instead you’ll get what you deserve and more.

It’s Sarah saying to me ‘you’ve had a long day go watch TV’ even after she’s had a long day too. It’s Sarah collecting the garbage, even though it’s my job (we’ve divide up the house work so nothing get missed). It’s Sarah saying ‘I’ve got Nolan tonight’ even after she’s had him all day long.

But why the system works is because I clean the washrooms, even though it’s her job.

I don’t have to demand or state how deserving I am of a day to sleep in. Sarah graciously offers them to me. But it works because I do the same back.

It works because when I hear Sarah tidying I help. I could not help and Sarah wouldn’t be upset at all. But I try to put her first so I go and help.

And it’s a balance. You have to be willing to accept the grace and love from the others. I may get up to and help Sarah tidy but she may also say ‘it’s ok I’ve got this just sit’. We’re both putting the other first. I may be doing the dishes after dinner and tell Sarah ‘go read I’ve got this’ even after she’s started to help. Neither takes advantage of the other. We know what each other needs and we put those needs before our own.

Or at least that’s the goal. I’ve got more than a few stories of miss steps on this one.

If everyone is trying to always put the other members first it’s a loving, gracious, generous home to be in.

Try as a whole family to put everyone else before yourself. You worry about them and they’ll worry about you.

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.