Monday, November 30, 2009

Appreciation - Moments of Growth

Isn't it true that all of us crave appreciation? Craving compliments isn't a bad thing, but when our cravings are the only thing that fuels our self-confidence, that can be scary!!

Our words are a gift that we can use to build each other up, or tear each other down. There are so many moments and memories that I can recall of times when I used my words for good and times when I used them for evil. Today I was asked the question, "if you could have a super power, what would you choose?" As I answered the question, many of these growth moments came to mind. If I chose time-travel, perhaps I could go back in time and undo the wrongs in my life...I could change what I said when I said it. It seems like a great idea, doesn't it? But the truth is, without these short-comings in my life, I'm not sure I would have been able to learn the lessons Christ intended for me to experience through the pain, suffering and grief I experienced when I made a mistake.

It's these very memories of failure that help me to make a different choice when faced with a simliar situation. Moments of growth...they define us all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

AAA Spirituality

Last night I got home from an amazing time spent with an outstanding bunch of students at one of our grade 8&9 Super Groups and began to debrief the evening with my wife Bonny.

As our conversation continued onto the later hours of the night, I began sharing with her 3 different things that I have been observed about Christianity, faith and spirituality: Aesthetic, Apathy and Affluence. These three A-words summed up conversations I had been having with students and parents about what they see in church. Usually AAA is a good grade to give something, like beef for instance. But in this case AAA is the killer for authentic and relevant faith in our world today. I see three categories emerging that we need to be aware of in order to combat in an effective and efficient manner.

Aesthetic - This kind of faith is summarized as something that looks good on the inside, but reeks of rot on the inside. Basically, this category refers to keeping up appearances; making sure others' opinions and presuppositions of who we are stay intact at the cost of our joy of salvation and our assurance of faith in general. How many times do we engage in some sort of spiritual activity in order to look good or to make sure people don't speak negatively of us? Is there really any substance behind our motivation? I am reminded of 2 stories from scripture as I think about this dilemna of faith. The first is Samuel annointing David as king of Israel. In Samuel's summation, David was not the best option for his long list of brothers. He wasn't the tallest or the strongest. There wasn't anything that really made him stand out as an effective leader. But God chastized Samuel saying, "I do not look at the outward appearance as man does; I look into the heart." The second is the story of Cain and Abel offering sacrifices to God. Cain's sacrifice was rejected while Abel's was accepted...again, a matter of the heart, not the action itself. It's interesting when we begin to dissect our actions in light of God's interpretation rather than man's.

Apathy - Another word that comes to mind here is apathy. When you are trying to build muscle, you need to exercise it regularly. When you don't, over time the muscle begins to detiorate or atrophy. The same thing can be said of our faith relationship with Christ. If we don't put into practice what we believe on a regular basis, our spiritual muscles and our relational connection with God can atrophy, not because God isn't living up to His end of the deal, but because we have chosen to begin to slowly let our relationship with Him die. I realize there are many different theological opinions and ideas around this topic, and I don't have the time nor space to tackle each of them in this post. But what I will say is this, our eternal resting place may never be in question, but our willingness to take up our cross daily to follow after Christ just may be if we are not actively practicing what we believe from God's truth found in the Bible. We must be known for something other than apathy in our approach to faith in Christ.

Affluence - Perhaps the latest greatest spiritual craze to sweep our nation is this one...affluence. Affluence refers not only to stuff, but to choices as well. Think about how well we eat, sleep and live in comparison to someone living in a third-world country or even someone living below the poverty line in our great nation! Even right now, I'm sipping on bottled water as I type instead of tap water...just another sign of how deep the root of affluence is in our society. In the gospels Jesus talks about us storing up treasures in heaven instead of here on earth. There is something to be said about the need to eradicate affluent behavior...the accumulating of things beyond what our needs are...from our pursuit of Christ and our desire to partner with Him in changing the world.

If you look back over these 3 categories as I have, perhaps you have begun to wrestle with the feelings of guilt and shame. IT IS NOT my intent to guilt trip you or to make you regret something you have said or done. My hope and prayer is that as we become more increasingly aware of the pitfalls in our world and our society to following Christ, we may be able to combat them alongside our all-sufficient Savior and begin to take back ground from our enemy. The Holy Spirit will teach, convict and correct as need be. Remember, each of us is a work in progress, and the God who began the work in each of us will be faithful to complete it in His timing. I'm so grateful that He is able, and I am learning more about what it means to be willing!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Mayhem

Have you ever noticed that Mondays are often chaotic and frustrating days? I can remember waking up to my alarm clock in high school to hear a local radio station playing a song that summed up my experience of Mondays..."Monday it bites the big one". Perhaps you have heard that song...or maybe you're more familiar with the Office Space line of "Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays!!"

In any case, Monday seems to be a tough day in the week, for me at least. My motivation isn't too high and my energy level is often low. I've learned over the years that on Monday I need to do smaller projects rather than anything that takes too much thought power, energy or effort. This doesn't mean that I'm lazy, but this does mean that I am learning to understand there is a certain rhythm and pace to life and specifically to how God has created me to function.

If you look back to the story of creation, you can see this very idea of rhythm and pace incorporated into God's design for life. God worked on projects for 6 days and then rested on the 7th. God didn't complete His to-do list on day 1, but He spread the work out through the week so as to ensure that everything was created fearfully and wonderfully. I wonder if there are times where we're so concerned about getting things done (whether that is tasks or meeting people) that we miss out on the Christ-like approach to our day?

I'm learning a lot as of late. I'm learning about rhythm, pace, grace, life, love, being a dad and so much more. I must first look to Christ and follow His example in all matters of faith and life in general (which faith should speak into!!). I'm a work in progress, and I'm learning to be content with that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Balance & Restoration

As a family, we have five values: balance, authenticity, simplicity, genorosity and diversity. There are moments in life when I can lose sight of what is important and I can become jaded in my perspective.

When my schedule starts filling up and the "busyness" of life and ministry begins to take over, I sometimes need a remember of what balance is all about. I've seen many friends and family members fall into the trap of the Canadian rat race...the pursuit of more stuff...power, money, possessions, relationships and status. I too have found myself flirting with the grasp of what I'm beginning to call the Canadian dream!!

My family is a great source of balance for me in life. My wife and my kids help me to understand when I'm reaching my limits. My attitude and demeanor change, my values shift and my priorities begin to reflect this unhealthy realignment.

Yesterday was one of these reminder moments for my life. Sitting in staff meeting I began to feel burdened as I listened to my peers share their exhaustion with each other. As we began to pray for one another, I stepped out of the room to find my bible. Turning to Psalm 23, I read these words: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."

The word restore lept out off the page directly into my face and into my heart. Balance is about pursuing God. Pursuing God brings restoration for what is truly important. Meditating on what restoration meant for me on a personal level, I felt all the burdens and frustrations of ministry and life begin to melt away one by one. God, the restorer of souls, brings balance to those who desire to follow after Him and be obedient to His lead.

This is what is rockin' my world today...thoughts about balance & restoration.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on Team

I was sitting through a staff meeting today and began to dream about the elements that make a team successful. The first thing that came to mind is the word proximity. Proximity refers to closeness, connection and commonness. Without proximity, I do not believe a team can exist.

There were four other words that came to mind regarding team as well. The first is trust. In order to function like a team, you need to trust your teammates. Whether your team is in the business world, the church world or in a recreational sport...if you don't trust each other, you are not a team. Trust means releasing responsibility to others and knowing that the task will be completed. Trust doesn't mean making everyone do things in the same way. Trust leaves room for uniqueness, creativity and collaboration. Trust also comes with a deadline. Trust is broken and hindered when responsibility is not taken seriously or is not dealt with in a timely manner.

A second word to describe team is authenticity. This refers to being real, honest, genuine and truthful in your interactions and communications with each other. Authenticity works hand in hand with trust. Where real trust is built, authentic behavior is its' building block.

A third word is appreciation. Teams need to value each other as teammates. In the sports world this is described as playing for each other. When a team trusts each other and is authentic in their interactions with one another, it is because they have learned to appreciate each other. Each of us has something unique to contribute to a team. When our contribution is valued, and we feel appreciated, our trust and our willingness to be authentic and real increases.

A final word is mobility. Change will happen. Teams that are mobile, flexible and willing to adapt to change will have longevity and success in whatever tasks they face together.

What do you think about working as a team?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sweatin' the Details

This past retreat weekend with Jr. & Sr. High students was amazing. There are so many stories to share that I don't know where to begin.

One of the largest lessons that I learned this weekend was that it's not about me. God is so much larger than all of the details, and yet God is always working in the little details and taking care of everything behind the scenes and in front of things so that His will and purpose are accomplished.

As a youth worker, I'm learning more about what it means to partner with what God is already doing. This was never more evident than during this past weekend. Hearing and seeing students respond to the love of Christ was all it took for me to understand, yet again, that my role is about letting go and letting God. Sometimes I can get in the way of what God wants to do simply because I'm trying to rescue things or trying to make things look and feel a certain way. While it is good to plan and to focus and to pursue excellence, when these things become my goal, I've lost sight of what truly matters.

I'm learning to approach life in a different way. My perspective is changing. Instead of trying to cultivate spirituality out of thin air, I'm learning to find where God is at work and see how I can partner with what He is doing.

I'm more and more convinced that these younger generations are blessed and anointed by God to do a work that only He can do in and through them. I'm excited to be a part of it and to partner with what God is doing. May the name of Jesus continue to reign supreme in the hearts, minds and souls of the men and women who claim to be followers of Him, and may the world we live in benefit from the richness of God's grace and mercy flowing through the body of Christ here on earth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today being remembrance day, it seems fitting to blog about freedom. When I was a little boy I always thought that the men and women who died in service to our country were so much older than I was. While many veterans are much older than I, the reality in our world today is that many more men and women are dying at younger ages in service to our country. Yesterday our church held the funeral for the gunner who was killed in action in Afghanistan. My sister was in his graduating class...he was only 25.

Our freedom has come with a price. Now that we have freedom, what do we do with it? The same can be said of life in Christ. Jesus came to grant us freedom, and now that we enjoy living in freedom, what are we doing with it?

Freedom comes with responsibility. I think living free means learning to fight against injustice in the world around us. I think it means standing the gap for those who do not have a voice, and fighting for basics rights for all humankind. So again I ask, what are you doing with the freedom you have been given? Here is a quote that rocked my world today: "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

You have freedom...use it!

Monday, November 9, 2009


I spent the weekend hanging out with youth workers and students as we attempted to reshape our thoughts on evangelism by studying the word and engaging in creative learning experiences.

After this time away I have found clarity in more than one area. First of all, I am more convinced than ever that being a part of God's family extends beyond the boundaries and borders of time, space and government. The language our brothers and sisters were using mimicked what the Spirit seems to be saying to the church in Calgary as well. God is stirring in the heart of this generation...there is something HUGE on the horizon. I pray that we as youth workers don't snuff out the fire!!

My second conclusion is that the bonds of friendship are forged in the fires of time, trust and hardship. My good friend Matt and I travelled together to Vancity for this conference. We enjoy a 15+ year friendship. It's good to be completely real and honest with others. This level of connection only comes after time spent together, hardships endured and trust built.

My last epiphany is that my family is absolutely essential to my sanity. I don't enjoy experiencing life without my wife and kids by my side. God designed the family for love and support relationally, emotionally and spiritually. The more we keep outsourcing these needs to others, the less of a priority family will be and the more issues we will face in our world, in our churches and in our homes.

We'll see what tomorrow brings!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Listen & Pray

I'm coming to the realization that I can maybe only offer two things to another person in a relational connection: 1. An ear & 2. a prayer partner.

Having been immersed in a new ministry context for the last few months, I've learned more about these two things than ever before. I'm starting to think that this is also the best thing I can offer students as a youth pastor as well.

Last night the family and I were hanging out in the mall. I was so thankful for the chance to catch up with Bonny and shoot the breeze a little bit together. She shared a concern with me, and I immediately put on my "pastor" hat and began trying to find a solution for her. I'm so quick to try and solve problems that I forget to listen and I forget to take the issue to the one that can actually do something about it. Bonny finally injected herself into my rant and said, "Hey, I'm not asking you to solve this issue, I just want you to listen."

Huh, who would have thought that my wife just wants to be heard!! :)

I wonder if other people feel like this sometimes as well. I know I do. It's part of the reason I started this blog. I want to be heard. I want people to hear me. As an introvert, this is a non-instrusive way for me to say what is on my heart and mind while sharing it with others.

Think about this for a moment. When we stop to listen to others we do two things: 1. We value them and 2. we invest our "talent" (in this case our time) into God's Kingdom. The kingdom of heaven is the community of believers mobilized to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Taking time for others, even if it seems like a burden, is a way of investing in the kingdom.

Listening doesn't mean agreeing with another person, but in order to be heard, we sometimes need to earn that right by listening first.

Try it for a week, I dare you!! In each of your relationships, ask questions that require you to listen. Engage the conversation with your non-verbal communication using eye contact and other postures that suggest interest rather than disgust or busyness. I bet you will learn more about those you love than by doing anything else for them that week. I know I have!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thoughts on Church

I've been involved in church in one way, shape or form for the last 28 years...basically, my entire life. I've had the chance to see a lot of traditions come and go, and other stay for one reason or another. Perhaps the most intriguing thoughts on church that captivate my heart and mind are the few accounts we have of what church looked like when it first began from the book of Acts.

In particular, Acts 2:42-47 is a favorite of mine. These few short verses contain an immense amount of depth in terms of vision and mission for church. There are four themes that are often taken from these verses: teaching, community (fellowship), breaking bread (generosity or hospitality) and prayer. The theme that I would like to share a thought on today is teaching.

Verse 42 says, "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching." They refers to the fellowship of believers, or the early church. The apostles is a reference to Jesus' 12 disciples, those whom He walked the closest with while on earth. These twelve men included Matthias, who was added to their number to replace the fallen Judas after his betrayal of Christ.

What I am starting to believe more and more about this particular phrase is that the emphasis wasn't so much on the teaching as it was on the learning. Think about this for a minute. What makes a great teacher? Answer truthfully!! I'm sure each of us immediately thought of someone that may go easy on us and let us slide through their class, but in fact, a good teacher is someone that is able to help their students own what is being taught. So, what this verse is actually referring to is the early church valuing the opportunity to learn; the opportunity to hear the truth of Christ and have it shape the way that they live.

There is a new buzz word running around the educational system's called experiential learning. The basic presuppostion behind this premise is to allow each student or person learn in his or her own way, or how they learn best. For instance, if someone is more of a hands-on learner, they are referred to as a kinesthetic learner. For students that learn in this way, they learn best in an environment that fosters hands-on learning through group projects, activities and exercises. There are also people who learn best by listening. They are called auditory learners. The last group of learners are those who learn best by seeing, called visual learners. What these categories mean is that there are different ways people learn. This doesn't mean that an auditory learner cannot learn visually, it simply means that an auditory learner learns best by listening.

Here is what I believe makes the difference when reading this portion of scripture and understanding a little bit about different learning styles. Verse 42 begins with the statement of "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching" followed by "and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." The early church valued learning. They took what they heard, and began to live it out in a hands-on and visual way. The body of Christ found a way to engage every person in the way that he or she learned best. Those who were unsure of what the apostles' were saying learned more about it as they saw their friends and family begin to live differently. These people observed truth in action, and then were invited to be a part of the community of faith because of what they had experienced.

Imagine for a moment if church today really emphasized these basic principles? What would change? What would stay the same?

As someone who is charged with the task of teaching, I believe I will be held accountable for how I helped others learn. Therefore, my teaching approach must become increasingly more interactive and less directive if my true goal is for others to begin to learn and experience Christ at work in their own lives.