Friday, October 30, 2009

Peace, Complexity and Simplicity

Today the family and I had the opportunity to celebrate the life of a friend of ours, Winnie Grebe. Her memorial service was a moment of reflection for myself. What struck me the most during this time is the connection between the words peace, complexity and simplicity.

Plainly said, there is no peace in complexity...there is only peace in simplicity. Consider what this statement is referring to. Think of the chaos and stress that surrounds pulling off something that is complex in nature, be it an event, trip or experience of some kind. Each of the details can bring frustration, joy, discontent and stress!! Now think of engaging in an activity, experience or event that is derived from simplicity. Let it stew in your heart and in your mind. Get past the notion of needing to fill time and space with stuff, and really embrace the idea of this simple approach to whatever memory or experience you've decided to create.

I'll tell you something. After doing this simple exercise I have found that the complex memory brings me stress, but the simple one brings me peace...and in peace I find joy!!

I want to deconstruct some myths about simplicity. Simplicity does not mean being lazy. Sure, a complex event takes more time, effort and planning to pull off...or does it? I believe that choosing to embrace simplicity takes as much, if not more effort than complexity does. Pursuing simplicity means setting up boundaries that keep you focused in the task at hand. Simplicity requires discipline; a willingness to submit to whatever guidelines, boundaries and parameters are set up to guide the experience, journey or event.

Think about this example of a marriage. In basic terms, a marriage is a life-long relational commitment between two members of the opposite sex. The notion of marriage is simple, yet we can begin to make it complex. Add in the dynamics of bills, jobs, kids, cars, vacation, in-laws and other things, and you soon end up with a complex image of what marriage is. Yet, at it's core, a marriage is still defined by the relational connection between these two people of opposite gender. Choosing to define a marriage by these simple standards is hard. It's hard because all of the other stuff begins to attach itself to a marriage, and our quest and thirst for complexity overshadows our need and desire for simplicity.

There is beauty in simplicity...and there is also complexity!! Yep, that's right, there is complexity in simplicity. Consider this statement: "Love one another as I have loved you." Jesus spoke similar words to His disciples. This is a simple statement, but its' implications are complex and profound. In this case, choosing to love other people means to personify Christ-like characteristics in every relational connection with others. Seems simple, but it's complex. It's not complex for the sake of being complex, it's complex because it radically reshapes the way we see the world around us.

Complexity for the sake of complexity is more like a list of do's and don'ts that you need to follow in order to gain a reward. This kind of complexity doesn't bring anything but frustration, hopelessness, fear and bewilderment. There is no peace in this kind of complexity.

Jesus said this to His disciples in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." I wonder what Jesus was referring to? I believe He was talking about simplicity, not complexity. How about you, what do you think?

Monday, October 26, 2009


One of my favorite verses is John 10:10. Here Jesus says that He has come to grant us as His followers life to the full. Last night this verse got me to thinking...what does full really mean?

In the church, we seem to do a great job at keeping our calendar "full" of stuff. Much of this program based routine is our attempt to spiritually form people. But what happens when the programs don't measure up to their original intent? What happens when the programs begin to detract from true spiritual growth?

Jesus came to give us life to the full. I believe His reference was directed towards the heart, not the bank balance or day planner. I've heard a lot of talk about divine appointments in my life. While I do agree that God sets things in motion to bring people across our paths so that we can impact and be impacted, I don't believe that God operates out of chaos or busyness. God is not lazy, but God does not how and when to rest. Think about this for a moment. The creator of the universe (everything we can see and can't see) took time to rest on the 7th day of creation. If He took time to rest, why don't we? Why do we feel the need to overprogram keep busy?

I believe it's because of fear that we fill up our schedules. We're afraid that not having a full plate will invite other people to judge us and comment about our inactivity as Christians. For my job, I have to hand in contacting information...a list of the people I have connected with on a monthly basis. While this can be good in terms of accountability, it can also be something negative if I allow my fear of a poor job review to govern my desire to fill up my schedule with stuff to do and people to meet.

Life to the full speaks to the heart. I believe Jesus extends the invitation to each of us to build new life into our very being. He desires to fill us with compassion, mercy, hope, love, peserverance, truth, honesty, integrity and other Christ-like characteristics. This is what a full life is all about...Christ-like character being developed in us and through us within the context of relationship!

If you're looking for a truly full life, I suggest you begin letting go of your day-timer and freeing up your time to allow God to direct and to move in and through you as He sees fit.

Just a thought...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gifts & Passions

One of my favorite things to do is go grocery shopping. Call me crazy, but I like seeing how much food I can get within our budget. It's a challenge...go figure, I like strategy!! I slap on the old ipod and rock out to the mix that filters in my ears all the while seeking to ensure that I get a variety of goodies for my family without breaking the bank.

On my ipod I have a bunch of music that I recorded; songs that I had written when I lived under the delusion of being a rockstar. As these sweet melodies and guitar riffs rattled through my brain, it got me to thinking. Gifts and passions manifest themselves in two different ways...personal and community. Some of the things that I'm gifted in and enjoy are for my own personal growth and maturity in my faith journey with Christ. Others are meant to be shared within the context of community and relationship. The challenge is discerning which gifts are meant to be personal and which are meant to be shared in community...on top of defining what community means!! Sometimes sharing a gift and passion in community means with a small group of people, other times it means a large group of people.

There is a parable in the gospels that talks about talents and gifts. There are 4 main characters in this story: The master and his 3 servants. Two of the three servants invest their talents while the other servant burries his. The master praises the two that invested and reprimands the one that hid his talent. Usually this is interpreted to mean we need to use our gifts for the benefit of others. While I agree with this basic interpretation, I think there is more to this story. For instance, what does it mean to invest a talent? The songs that I have written are used to bring me life and joy on a personal level. At times I have had the chance to share them in community, but if my focus is for my gift and talent to be seen by others, then I think I might be missing the boat on what investing actually means.

The bottom line is that gifts and passions come from God. They are birthed in each one of us to help us grow and become whom we have been created to be. The challenge is learning the difference between using these gifts and passions personally and in community. Now that's one big puzzle if you ask me!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's been too long

Sorry I haven't updated my thoughts lately...seems like that plate gets more full each day! Today was a good day. I pulled off an incredible dangle (according to my standards!!) at hockey in the morning, and then got to hear how God has been working in the hearts of my teammates and colleagues at work for the major portion of my day. Also got cracked by the chiropractor and am now hoping that the work benefits from this new job actually pay for medical expenses...cough, cough.

One thing that stood out to me today was hearing the story of one of the dudes I play hockey with. His name is Kevin. My buddy Tony and I were chatting about a mutual friend of ours who has been trying to find a full-time ministry position and the challenges that he has been facing. Kevin, a non-churched individual, piped in with his thoughts about communication which got me to thinking.

Kevin shared about how it's better to over-communicate than under communicate. He shared about what it felt like to be kept in the dark at his place of work prior to the company going belly up, and he shared about his desire to be kept in the loop in order to feel valued as an employee.

Like I said, it got me to thinking...maybe this is why relationships break down. In fact, I know this is why. We simply stop communicating with each other. I read a stat somewhere that said 80% of communication is non-verbal. That's a lot!! When you think about what that means for relationships, it has HUGE implications. Is it more important that students heard you say the right things, or do them?

I see this presupposition played out in the lives of my family. Our daughter Saydie is 2, and our son Cannon is just over 7 months old. Bonny & I have never sat Saydie down and told her how to show love to her brother. Saydie has simply picked up on our actions, and in her own way, and begun to show love to others. We take the time to use our words, and our actions to communicate our love for our children to each of them. In turn, they take what they have experienced and begin to apply it to the other relationships they are forming in their lives.

I know I seem to keep harping on the same theme, but love is an active word. I think communication is a large part of the love equation. Taking time to connect with people, call them back, email them back, and actively LISTEN to them first instead of trying to download one's opinions can do way more good than harm.

I know that Obama's foreign policy has come under much scrutiny. Regardless of what you think of him as a person, you have got to admire his tenacity to stick to his principles. Essentially, Obama has suggested, implied and demonstrated that he is willing to sit down and listen to any and every other foreign leader in our world. When I hear about this, I can't help but think that Obama gets it. He understands that in order to be heard, you must first be willing to hear.

Jesus modelled this very same lesson. Jesus took the time to listen to people first, and then share His story with them. In choosing to listen, Jesus communicated more to the people He took time for than any number of words others could have shared with them. Jesus' communication reached its' culmination with His death and resurrection on the cross. Jesus again took time to show people what He wanted them to know, communicating a timeless message of love that will outlive us all.

Communication is the key.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Listening & Obedience

I am learning so much every day about what it means to be dad, and where I can improve on how I communicate with my kids and with others.

One thing that has been impacting me as of late is the notion of listening and obedience. As I child I can remember getting in trouble for not listening to my parents. But now as an adult, I'm beginning to understand that there is a separation between listening and obedience. What I was getting in trouble for as a child wasn't about listening, it was about obedience. There is a huge difference between these two words. To listen to someone means to hear what they are saying. To obey some means to do what they have asked you to do. These are two totally different things.

Unfortunately, I think we've confused these two words. We get frustrated when people don't listen to us, but I wonder if it's because we're expecting obedience instead of listening.

I'm learning this concept with my daughter Saydie. She often hears what I'm saying, but doesn't do what I'm asking because I haven't asked her to both listen and obey.

Something for you to think about today. When I ask others to listen to me, am I expecting them to obey, or simply to hear what I'm saying?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Be Real

I stumbled across a song by Butterfly Boucher thanks to good old iTunes. I bought the song cause of the sound and because the lyrics posed an interesting question that is rattling around in my brain today.

"It's scary to be fragile"

As a youth pastor, I evaluate my success in ministry based on two criteria: 1. Love for God and 2. Love for others. Looking at the life of Jesus, He focused on two things when building into His team, the disciples: 1. Environment and 2. Experience.

Worded a different way, as a youth pastor I need to be focused and evaluating success in ministry based upon what sort of environments and experiences I help to foster and create for students.

Now take into account the lyric from this song, "It's scray to be fragile." There is a lot of truth in this statement. Being real is scary. It's scary because of the environments and experiences we've been exposed to. When we "put ourselves out there" and we didn't receive an agreeable response to our real-ness, then we shy away from pursuing authenticity and getting real again.

I know that I've felt this level of uncertainty and fear before. I've hid from opportunities to be real with others out of fear and worry that I may not be accepted, loved or cared for. But then there are also times when I have been real in my approach to life that have been positive experiences as well...marrying my wife would be one of them.

My thought for today is simply this: Be real...lead the charge in the pursuit of authenticity and be the change you wish to see in the world. Create environments and experiences that foster depth, truth, life and encouragement for those around you. Accept others for who they are in Christ and be intentional about demonstrating your love for God and for others in a real and authentic way.

This is the only way that I see of how we can burst out from under the oppression of fear and run into the freedom of living life to the full...the way Jesus intended!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Little Grace

Fridays are grocery shopping day. I haul my butt out of bed as close to 7am as I can and make my way to Superstore to beat the daily rush. Bonny had this great suggestion a few weeks ago. She told me I should bring our ipod in order to be able to listen to tuneage as I shop. It was a stroke of genuis...let me tell you!!

This morning as I was putting our groceries away, Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars began to play. I've listened to this song numerous times before, but this time a lyric jumped out and grabbed my attention.

I need your grace
to remind me
to find my own

I really think this simple lyric is brilliant. There is so much depth here when you analyze these words in the context of your spiritual walk with Christ. Not only do we need continual grace flowing from God the Father in our lives, we also need to be agents of grace by extending God's love and compassion to others. The gospel must not only be proclaimed, but must also be demonstrated in tangible ways that point people to the overtures of love flowing out from the throne of heaven and permeating the very core of our lives and the world around us.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Destination: IMPACT

Each of us longs to have some sort of signficance and impact in life. We want to be important to someone. Being a dad has taught me so much about this. I wanted my children to be around me.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, Saydie was following me around. It made me feel important that she wanted to be with me and near me. I was glad that I had some sort of signifcance in her life.

This got me to thinking (boy does my brain hurt!!) that the sum of my personal significance is defined by what I give to others in terms of relationship. True relationship is motivated by love, not results. Saydie and Cannon are my children. Regardless of their desire to be around me or not, I am their dad, and my significance in their life is measured by the love that I give to them. They are times when they disagree very passionately about what may be happening to them (that comes with the territory of us as humans wanting and needing to be our own boss!!). Regardless of the circumstances, my love for them must saturate my actions.

In the same way, when we're thinking of having significant impact in our world, our love for God and for others must saturate our motivation. We cannot simply care about the eternal destination of a person's soul if we are unwilling to care about their physical circumstances first!! If my focus is simply about getting people to heaven, I've lost sight of the true impact of my life. I cannot, nor am I able, to get people to heaven...God is Savior and Judge...not me. I can, however, be an agent of love or restoration...someone that points people to Christ by what I give to them through relationship...through love.

Think about it. Each of us is headed somewhere. Why not stop at Destination: IMPACT and see what a little love in the name of Christ can do to really change the world!

Friday, October 2, 2009

My name is...

All of us have names, and our names tell a story. For instance, my name Jason means healer. My middle name, Dale, was given to me because my dad's first name is Dale. That is the simple story of my name.

We were making lunch today and getting Saydie to help us wash grapes and cut up from strawberries. Being her Dad, I'm always bugging her and trying to get her to smile and interact with me...making memories is what I call it!! I can't remember how our conversation started, but I said something about her name and she said, "Saydie...that's me!!" She knows that is her name...she owns it.

The book of Revelation talks about names being written in the book of life. These names are the list of people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and will receive the gift of eternal life once their physical life on earth is over.

What struck me about my daughter's simple comment today was this whole idea of ownership. Do I really own my name? What I mean is, as someone who enjoys a relationship with Jesus, knowing that my name is written in the book of life, do I own that name. In order to have my name written in this book, I need to have the name of Christ written on me. The scripture calls this the circumcision of the heart...Christ alive in us and through us. It's a relationship based on faith and lived out through good deeds. The very name of Jesus, our Savior, is written on the hearts of those who enjoy a relationship with Him.

Do I really own my name? Do I embrace this idea that my name is written in the book of life because the name of Jesus is written on me?

This is what is making me think today.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Takeout Spirituality

It always amazes me that we as humans interact with spirituality using a drive-thru mentality. We pull ourselves up to our favorite spiritual watering hole (church, para-church, faith community or small group) and place our order for one of many spiritual combos offered up. Sometimes we even have the gumpstion to order something off the menu. Perhaps we even try to weasle in some extra bonus spiritual bites or tidbits if we up-size our biggie-blessing combo!

I realize the above description may seem somewhat ludacris, and perhaps even outlandish...but I also think it is somewhat true. We've often looked to church or to faith as a service to us, instead of a place to serve, to give and to belong. We can become so blinded by our need to "feed" that we shudder at the thought of not have our spiritual needs met at our earliest convenience. And yet when you think about it, truly living in a relationship with God and with others is so not convenient!!

Relationships are messy; they are "organic"; they move and sway, grow and rescend, bring joy, frustration, hope and life. In the midst of this chaos and messiness, relationships are still about connection.

I love strategy. My mind thinks in waves of systems, structure and order. I love functioning within parameters like this in all facets of my life. But sometimes relationships don't follow a pattern or system or set of guidelines. In these moments where my desire for structure and order smashes headfirst against the wall of chaos I am faced with a choice. Do I cling to my system, or do I cling to the relationship?

When you read through the Bible you can see our default human programming and how we crave structure. But if we elevate structure above the relationship, we miss the very purpose of life.

Spirituality is messy. Relationships are messy. Rest in the fact that God is so much larger than we are and in His economy messy is good because messy means we are learning that we are not in control...only He is.