Thursday, June 25, 2009

Extending your care

I've been getting ready to lead a group of people down to Mexico next week on a humanitarian relief project. Admittedly, I've been a little nervous about this whole experience because of having to leave my family for 10 days. I love my wife and kids...I'm going to miss them.

Today I recieved photos from the organization we are going with of the family that we will be serving by building them a home. Including in these photos were pictures of the place they are currently living in, and the bathroom that they are current using.

As soon as I opened them, I knew that I had to go no matter what the perceived emotional cost of not seeing my family for 10 days. As a Canadian, I am truly privileged to live where I do. I don't have a fancy home, and I don't live in a ritzy part of town. But what I call home looks like a palace compared to these photos.
Sometimes we fail to remember that our world isn't the world. What we see on a daily basis is not the current reality for many other people here on our planet. The above images tell us a vastly different story about what the real world is all about.
I think it's time we extend our care beyond what we can see firsthand. Can you imagine if an entire Canadian city would stand up for injustice in our world and take action against poverty? How about if one church or one youth group did the same?
The time for change is now...and change begins with extending your capacity to care.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Each of us has had some sort of experience with a team. Maybe we were on a sports team, or drama team, or choir, or chess team, or something else. Some of our experience was probably good, and someone was probably bad. In my own life, I've been a part of some great teams both at work and at play. I've also been a part of some not so great teams in both categories as well.

Teams usually have a leader or captian. The responsiblities of this person or group of people differ depending on what the context in which they serve is. Captians of hockey teams usually represent the players when talking to the officials about a poor call or a question about something. Leaders in a choir are usually responsible for their choral section (tenor, bass, alto and soprano) in some manner. Being in charge of, or leading a group at work could mean assigning tasks, making sure people are completing their job, and perhaps even evaluating personal perfomances of those under your care.

Regardless of your context for understanding what a team is all about, I think that there are some basic principles that transcend all experiences. The values of a successful team regardless of the context, are each other and then task. Teams are organized for a reason and purpose. In order to reach its' goal, a team must be focused. An accurate focus or vision comes from valuing each other as team mates first, and then valuing the task your team has to accomplish. It's too easy to slip into getting stuff done and letting this part of team overshadow valuing one another. As a team member, I have a choice to make. When someone on my team has a question, or needs someone to talk to, I can make time for them, or I can make time for the tasks that I have to accomplish as a member of this team. Too often we make sure we get stuff done and we neglect caring for one another.

In actuality, stuff gets done more efficiently and more effectively when team mates take time to value each other first. Think about this in terms of your family. If each of you makes sure you take the time to tell and to show the other members of your family that you care about them, your family experience and environment will be more productive and more healthy than if you were simply focused on getting stuff done. Let me share this story with you as an example. Bonny loves to bake. Each time she bakes, she invites our daughter Saydie to be a part of this experience. Sure it takes a lot longer and the mess is greater with Saydie's input, but what Bonny is doing is valuing time with Saydie rather than the task itself. And guess what?? The baking still happens!! Imagine that!!

Sometimes we can begin to believe the lie that if we take time for our team mates we won't get everything accomplished that we need to get done. This is simply not true! I cannot tell you how many times I have felt swamped in my job, but still felt compelled to care for members of my team. After taking time for others, I often have greater clarity and become more efficiently in getting my own stuff done. Plus, I'm growing in my connection to my team.

The connections we have as a team are only as strong as how much we value each other, not only in words, but in actions. Words without actions are empty...they are a waste of breath.

I think that if more people experienced functioning in a healthy team, a lot of the hurt, suffering and burdens in our world brought on by the injustice we inflict upon each other would deminish. Imagine that...changing the world by being a part of a healthy functioning team. Let's get started!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Touch of Love

Today Bonny & I received a letter from our sponsored Compassion child, Deborah. Deborah lives in Ghana, and she has been in our family for almost a year now. Her birthday is March 26, the same day we found out about our son Cannon. We sent her some birthday money through Compassion in order for her to celebrate. As we read her letter to us, we started to it, she wrote to us that she has never been able to celebrate her birthday before. With the money we sent for her, she purchased new school books, a new book bag and some canvas for her family. Compassion workers also came buy with cookies and juice and sang to her...

What struck us was not only that Deborah has never celebrated her birthday before, but what she chose to buy and the heart of the compassion workers. When I think about it, the least of my concern is getting new materials for school and what not. With my 'disposable' income, I buy things like slurpees, CDs, movies and hot chocolate or pepsi. We've got so much, and having Deborah in our lives reminds us of what our priorities really need to be about...serving and giving to others.

The cool thing about Compassion is that every ministry that they have is run out of a local church. In other words, local communities of faith do the serving, loving, educating and caring for these children. How cool that parts of the body of Christ are choosing to be love in action in their local ministry context??

A note on Change

Yesterday I picked up the new Incubus album and read a quote that made me think.

"The voice of the artist is the unconscious voice of the masses. Music and art are the guiding light that will change the world."

I agree that music and art influence the way our society views certain subject material. If you look at any sort of revolution or period of morning in our earth's history, music and art accompany these movements. Think back to the most recent New Orleans or 9/11 happenings in the US. Music and art were used to heal wounds and to bring hope.

Where I do not agree with this statement is that music and art are the guiding light that will change the world. You see, I believe that there is more depth to change than what can be found in music or art, or any sort of other human creation for that matter. True change occurs when someone has had the change to observe, experience and respond to the love of Christ. Music and art can aid in this journey, but it is the love of God that serves as the guiding light that will change the world.

The cool part about change is that God invites us to be a part of it in our world...He asks us to be His agents of change by demonstrating firsthand to the world around us what His love is all about. God planned for people to know who He is and what He stands for by watching His followers, His people, His body at work in our world.

Unfortunately, people have turned to things like music, art and other avenues in search of what God's love can only fill. I believe people have turned away from Christ and from His body because they have not been able to observe, experience and respond to His love through the church on a consistent basis. I do believe church has been active in demonstrating the love of God to a point, but the issue we as followers of Christ wrestle with is consistency. I'm not taking about being perfect in our walk with Jesus. I'm referring to consistently choosing to engage the world around us with love.

As Christians, it's way too easy for us to build a Christian fortress that we can feel safe in. We can find a Christian mechanic, a Christian dentist, doctor or hair stylist, a Christian club, a Christian church, school, or neighborhood that we can so easily immerse ourselves in that we are no longer aware of or engaged in the world around us.

To be the change we wish to see in the world, we need to engage and immerse ourselves in the world armed with the love of Christ to see true change take place. Love in action...make the the change!!

Monday, June 15, 2009


This past weekend I was doing some yardwork in our backyard. We have a willow tree, and every year we need to trim off the dead branches to that the new ones will flower and grow. As I was hacking away at it this year, the story Jesus told His disciples of the vine and the branches took on new life for me.

In this story Jesus chastizes His team to remain in Him so that He might remain in them. Jesus is essentially saying, don't forget about me and don't try to do life on your own, live it by following my example, the one that I laid out for you. Branches that bear fruit are people who have remain committed in their relationship with Christ and have chosen to live their lives for Him and not for themselves. Branches that do not bear fruit are people who have chosen to live life selfishly, not concerning themselves with God's intentions or desires for our world. Jesus says that theses branches that do not bear fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire.

I'm not getting all doom and gloom here, don't worry. What struck me about this story is the idea of pruning. Pruning is a necessary phase of growth for plant life. Without pruning, our willow will not grow. There are seasons of pruning and seasons of growth in the life of our tree, but also in the life of a follower of Jesus. Pruning may represent getting rid of bad habits, refining our value system and shifting our priorities. Growth might represent being granted the ability to view life in a Christ-like perspective, being love in action to others and seeing the lives of people we care about and change through an experience in the richness of Jesus' love. I couldn't help but think that pruning is also a necessary part of ministry life. We can hold onto our traditions and rules so tightly that we forget to follow Christ's lead in obedience. We can begin to think our program can save us, or that our program represents growth. But this isn't the case at all. In fact, program only points to one thing...a schedule. Schedules are not a bad thing, but schedules can be a god or an idol in our lives. We can live to fill our schedule with stuff. We can begin to find value in being busy. We come to see that importance is based on whether or not we have more things to do than time in the day.

Pruning sees something different. Pruning holds onto schedule very lightly. Pruning is willing to more and to submit itself to the will of God and not the will of man. Pruning is a necessary part of learning to grow deep in Christ.

What sort of season do you find yourself in? My encouragement to you and to myself is not to fear the shear, but to embrace God's winnowing of your heart and learn to grow through each phase of your life as result.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yes Man!!

I just finished watching the movie Yes Man starring Jim Carrey. I must admit that it wasn't my favorite, and it had several awkward moments, but it did get me thinking...and I love movies that make me think.

The basic premise of the movie is a guy who is disengaged in life is challenged to say yes to all opportunities that come his way. As a result, his life changes for the better and he begins to truly live life.

I wonder if we can and should apply this same principle of saying yes to our relationship with Christ. When God asks us to do something, our response should be yes. Living life according to God's rhythm and design is really the only way to truly live. It's not all roses, there are some definite tough times and struggles, but knowing that God is in control gives you the foundation from which to truly live life.

Without God leading and directing my path there are a few things I would not be enjoying in my life right wife, my children, the home that I live in, the car that I drive, serving others with my time, effort and energy and having compassion for the world around me. Even right now, following God's leading has cost me my job and I'm freaking out about what the future holds knowing that we need some sort of income to live...but I ultimately know that God is in control and that He will provide for our needs.

I want to be a yes man in terms of obedience to Christ. I know that I'm going to continue to make mistakes, but I hope that what I see in myself and show to others is a honest effort to try and love and live like Jesus in our world today. I'm learning to give, I'm learning to love and I'm learning to live in the grace that God gives anew each day.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tainted Love

My wife stumbled upon this quote from Mother Theresa yesterday. "It's not about how much you do, but how much love you put into doing that matters."

I think each of us in life is yearning for signficance. We want to be remembered for doing something great and grand...we want to leave a legacy of awesomeness!!

My cousin Lance has a son named Coleman. Coleman lives with his mom and step-dad in BC. During one of his summer visits, we had a family BBQ at my parents house. Coleman was the only kid at the party at the time (this was pre-father days for long ago!!), so I decided that I was going to be his best buddy. I played lego with him for 2 hours. We laughed, we yelled, we wrestled...and well, we just plain had fun. Because Coleman lives in BC I don't get to see him much. Lance's parents keep in contact with him often, and every time they talk to Coleman, he asks about me. He wants to spend time with me.

I can't help but think that this quote summarizes my interaction with Coleman. Coleman doesn't remember everything we did together, but he remembers how it was was done in love.

It kind of makes me think about how I will be remembered by others. I know this is how I remember Jesus...not necessarily for all that He did, but how He did it...He did it for love. It's funny how our love can be so easily tainted by our quest for greatness. Sure, we might get a lot accomplished, but if the doing isn't saturated in the love of Christ, then what good is there in what has been done? At one time I think I might have said that the 'to-do' list was of utmost value, but I'm not so sure I would any longer. So here's hoping that my doing is rooted and grounded in the love of the more tainted love for me please!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Running through my head

I've dabbled in song-writing ever since I began playing guitar. It's something that I really enjoy doing and is somewhat theraputic for my life. These are the lyrics for a song that I wrote for my wife...which seems to be the subject matter for the majority of the songs I write!! I just thought I would share them with you seeing as they are running through my head today.

There is something I'd like to say
Something you need to hear anyway
A shining star only becomes
Something beautiful when it's gone

At it again

And like a flower in the sun
You shine brighter than everyone
And when there's nothing left to say
I will sing to you anyway

At it again
At it again
At it again
At it again

And when it rains it reminds me
Of my mistakes and my dreams
All washed away
So it me

At it again
At it again
At it again
At it again

This was the song we walked out to for our much fun. Saydie loves dancing to it when I play it, so it was well worth writing that's for sure!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cliches are Crap

I think we've all been on the receiving end of a well meaning cliche at some point in time in our lives. Maybe it was when we were dealing with a death in the family, or with the reality of having been cut from a sports team or dance competition. In these moments of time what we really need is someone to be present with listen to what we have to say and to make sure we don't harm ourselves or others.

Unfortunately what we usually get is some sort of well intentioned rhetoric that allows the speaker to remain disconnected from our pain and suffering.

What do you tell a kid who has lost his mom or dad?? "God is in control, He knows what He's doing." This statement may be true, but it doesn't mean much to the one that is on the receiving end at times.

What most people need in these moments is someone to say..."I know this sucks. I want you to know that I'm there for you and I'm going to be praying for you." And this should only be said when and if you have taken the time to listen to the other person's pain.

Cliches are a dime a dozen (cliche), but true friends are difficult to find. If you are looking for a friend who sticks with you in the good and bad times, trying being one to someone else might give you some perspective on what you may need when you are going through a rough patch of your own one day.