Saturday, December 29, 2007

just a day of fun

So, I back home . . . tired, sore, and still cold . . . but I just had the best day that I have had in the last little while. My roommates and some of our friends and I just spent the afternoon tobogganing, having snowball fights, and just generally acting like kids again! It was so much fun!!!!! I haven't done any of that stuff in so long . . . and I needed to.

I tend to be someone who takes life pretty seriously (unless I've stayed up all night and I'm running on caffiene . . . which is just scary). And taking life seriously isn't always a bad thing. There are times when it's good to take life seriously. But, I have a tendency, especially when things happen that make life not so easy are going on in my life, to take life too seriously at times.

For the last month or so, since my uncle died, I have taken all of life quite seriously and I haven't had a lot of fun with anything that I've done. But, today, I just let it all go and played int he snow with my friends like I used to when I was a kid. It was so good! And it was so what I needed right now!

I know it's something that I need to learn . . . to not take life too seriously all the time. And today was another step in learning that for me.

All I have to say to close, is that I absolutely love the snow . . . it's the one time when it appears to be OK for adults to act like kids again.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

missions and shadow missions

I was finishing up the book When the Game is over it All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg tonight, and a couple of the chapters I read brought me back to something he had spoken about this past summer at Leadership Summit. He talked about the hwole idea that we all have a mission in life, but we all also have shadow mission that distracts us from what we are really called to do in life.

Ortberg talks about how our mission in life is that thing that drives us to do something. Something in the world that causes us to do whatever we can to fix the situations. Something that we can't just leave alone and ignore. Frederick Buechner puts it this way: "The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Meaning that our mission is something that we know that we need to do and it is something that the world needs to have done.

At one point in his talking about our mission, Ortberg says the following:
If you want a sense of mission to burn brightly in you, spend some time feeding your divine discontent. Usually we try to avoid unpleasantness, but if you have a sense that your mission involves helping the poor, spend time around those in poverty. Allow your emotions to become deeply engaged, and carry with you that fire that things must change.
We need to allow those things that cause us to want to do something to change things to be a part of our lives. It won't always be fun, but by doing this we can live a life that has a purpose that goes beyond making money.

Ortberg also talks about how we have a shadow mission in our lives as well. He describes the shadow mission this way:
Just as we all have a mission - a way of sontributing the God's kingdom that we were designed and gofted for - we also have what might be called a shadow mission. My shadow mission is what I will do with my life if I drift on autopilot. It consists of activities toward which I will gravitate if I allow my natural temptations and selfishness to take over.
When we begin to ignore the mission that God has given us - the divine discontent with the way things are in the world, that is when we get distracted by our shadow mission. Our shadow mission can be seemingly harmless, but it is harmful in that it stops us from doing what we are called to do. Our shadow mission can also be harmful if it draws us into activities that are unhealthy or sangerous.

We all need people in our lives who will call us on it when we begin to get distracted by our shadow mission. People who know us well enough and are comfortable enough with us that they will confront us when we ignore the mission that we have been called for. Often when we get distracted by our shadow mission we won't realize it and we need these people to draw us back to reality.

In the book, Ortberg uses the example of Esther to illustrate this idea. While it may not have looked like it in the beginning, Esther was int he position she was in as queen to be able to help her people - the Israelites - when they needed it. It would have been quite easy for her to get distracted by the fact that she was chosen queen because of her beauty and to just keep on living in the lap of luxury with beauty treatments and riches. But, when the situation arose for her to act, and she was hesistant to do so, she also had someone in her life who was willing to call her on it - willing to keep her from getting distracted by her shadow mission and keep her focused on the mission she now had before her.

All of this has really gotten me thinking about my own life . . . and I hope it will get you thinking about yours.
What is my mission? What it that one that one thing that I cannot leave as it is? What is it that drives me to act?
What is my shadow mission? If I just start going through life on autopilot, what is it that I will tend to do? What will I fill my time with when I just go through life without any thought as to what I am called to do?
Who are the people in my life who will call me on it when I get distracted by my shadow mission? Who knows me well enough to help me identify what God is calling me to do? Who loves me enough to challenge me when I shrink back from what God has called me to do?
My answers to those questions are not coming easily. I have been thinking about them for a while tonight already, and I still don't have all the answers for myself. But I think that they are important for us to ask ourselves.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

reflecting on my own Christmas

So, I'm back home in my apartment . . . no roommates yet . . . and I've been reflecting a bit on today. By all standards it was a good Christmas. I had an amazing day with my family! Lots of fun and laughter and enjoyment of each others company. Even the exchanging of gifts (I'm not usually a fan of this part of the day) was enjoyable . . . and the food was delicious (my Grandma always does an amazing job on the dinner).

But, it was also a strange Christmas . . . it's just a little over a month since my uncle passed away. The first Christmas in a number of years without him . . . seeing his fiance (they never did get married before he died) sitting there at the table alone, with people who have become her family over the past few years. There was something missing this year.

We still had laughter . . . brought on mostly by my cousins' 8-1/2 month old daughter . . . but there was noticeably less of it than there usually is at a holiday with family. It was still good to be together . . . but in everything we did, it felt like there was something - someone - missing.

I think we were all a bit more reflective this year than usual. I mean, we all know that with the age that my cousins and I are we won't all be together at every holiday anymore, cuz we'll have other family commitments as we get married and all that. But, this year was different . . . we were all there, except for one important person . . . and he won't be there next year at Christmas, or at Easter in spring, or Thanksgiving in fall . . . and it doesn't feel right.

But, in the midst of all that today, I had the words to a song that I was listening to as I drove to meet my family for the day running through my head. It's a song written by a friend of a friend from when I was at Briercrest. This song has honestly become one of my favorites and one that has encouraged me a lot in the last month or so. The song is called, When I Walk Through the Dark. Here are the words to the song (I was hoping to upload it, but I couldn't get it to work).

When the pain seems like too much to take
When my heart can't stand enough the break
When the battle's wearing down on me
Stay by my side to comfort and guide me

When my feet don't know which step to take
When my heart's not sure which choice to make
When my eyes are blind to sights I see
Help me to know You're right beside me

Hold my hand when I walk through the dark
Speak my name so I know where you are
With You close I will not wander far away
When I walk through the dark

When the clouds block out the light of day
When the summer skies return to grey
When the rains pouir down and I can't see
Stay by my side, and come through this with me


Cover me, with Your love
I don't want to lose my way
And give up all the good here for me
You have planned what's best for me
So I want to be faithful to You

You are here as I walk through the dark
Your voice says "Child, I know where you are"
With You close I will follow the path You make
And walk on through the dark
Your voice says :Child, I know where you are"
With You close I will not wander far away
When I walk through the dark

The words to the chorus of the song have just become my prayer on so many occassions in the last month, as I have walked through the valley of grief. Sometimes things have seemed pretty dark in the last month . . . and today really could have been another one of those days. Yet, I know that there was joy and excitement in today because God is walking through this valley with us.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

reflections on Christmas

So, I've been thinking a lot about the original Christmas recently. What was it really like? What was really going on?

I think so often our Chrostmas story plays and thoughts sanitize the story to make it more enjoyable. But, in doing that I think we miss some of the significance of the situation in which Jesus, God's Son, came into our world to save us! This wasn't some quaint little story . . . it had a prfound impact on the lives of Mary and Joseph before Jesus even arrived.

We live in a world where a young girl having a child out of wedlock is nothing out of the ordinary, nor is it a bog deal. But, in Israel at that time, it was punishable by death by stoning (literally, having people throw rocks at you). The news that the angel brought Mary was not something that she wanted to hear. This situation would make her an object of a scandalous event and completely destroy her reputation among the people in Israel!

Then there's Joseph. This news from Mary and from the angel put him in a tough spot as well. Mary was pledged to be married to him and now he finds out she's pregnant . . . and he's supposed to believe that this is a child form God, not form another man. What kind of a person would choose to believe that? By staying with Mary and still marrying her, Joseph brought himself into the scandalous situation and allowed his reputation to be destroyed along with hers.

This was no pleasant situation for either of them! Yet, they chose to trust God and follow His plan for their lives and His plan for bringing His Son into the world. They had faith in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Then there is where Jesus was actually born . . . in a stable! This was no easy situation for them either. No warm place to lay the baby or for Mary to rest . . . in the midst of animals and all the noise and smell that goes along with them. This is where the Savior of the world came into this earth.

God could have chosen different circumstances and a better place to send His Son to earth . . . but He didn't! God chose a young unwed teenager and her husband-to-be to carry and raise His Son. God chose a smelly, noisy, dirty stable for the place where His Som would be born.

God sent His Son to be a Savior to all . . . from the lowliest in the world, to the greatest!

I think we can often miss the significance and life-altering circumstances that surrounded the birth of Christ when we watch our Christmas plays and see our nativity scenes. They look so quaint . . . and tidy . . . and everyone looks so serene! But, the original Christmas night was anything but!

Jesus' birth was a life-altering event for the entire world . . . just as it was for Mary and Joseph. Jesus' birth is an even that changed history forever! It is significant! It's not some quaint little story that we read once a year! It matters that it happened! It matters that it happened!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

are we hypocrites?

I'm reading a book called "When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box" by John Ortberg right now. All in all, it's a good book. And I've been enjoying reading it. There is one quote today that really seemed to jump off the page at me.

"The world gets pretty tired of people who have Christian bumper stickers on their cars, Christian fish signs on their trunks, Christian books on their shelves, Christian stations on their radio, Christian jewelry around their necks, Christian videos for their kids, and Christian magazines on their coffee tables but don't actually have the life of Jesus in their bones or the love of Jesus in their hearts."

I started thinking after I read that and realized, sadly, how true that can be. We claim to be followers of Christ, yet we don't do a very good job of actually living the way we are called to live.

I know I can often find myself claiming to be a follower of Christ and yet looking down on those around me rather than loving them with the love of Christ. I've really begun to notice this with where I work now. I claim to follow Christ and have His love in me . . . and yet, I look down on the guy who lives on the street and has an addiction problem who walks through the doors of the Gospel Mission. And, this is nothing new or strange to me wno that I work there. Yet, I do it still. And then, when I do have the time (take the time) to sit down and have a conversation with them I'm reminded that they too are human and need someone to love them.

In a world where it is so easy to claim to be Christian, I wonder if we have lost the importance of living the way that Christ has called us to live. We can put the Christian bumper sticker on our car and play the Christian music as we drive without worry about what the consequences may be for doing so. Yet, we're also the ones yelling at or swearing at the dirvers around us that do something that bothers us. What kind of a picture of Christ are we giving the world?

So much of the teaching in the New Testament focuses on how we are to live as followers of Christ. As I read Scripture, I wonder what we would look like to the world if we actually lived that way:
  • What if we actually sought to serve others rather than be served ourselvse?
  • What if we chose to love ALL PEOPLE - even those who the world would call our enemies?
  • What if we gave generously out of what we have rather than just giving the minimum we can get away with?
  • What if we willingly walked alongside and helped out those around us who are hurting and in need?
I think the world would see us very differently. And we would be finally giving the world an accurate picture of what the Body of Christ - the Church - looks like. The Church is not a building but a group of people sent out to change the world!

I just want to close with that quote from the book again for you to think about:
"The world gets pretty tired of people who have Christian bumper stickers on their cars, Christian fish signs on their trunks, Christian books on their shelves, Christian stations on their radio, Christian jewelry around their necks, Christian videos for their kids, and Christian magazines on their coffee tables but don't actually have the life of Jesus in their bones or the love of Jesus in their hearts."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

your past does not define your future

I've heard that said many times, but the last time I heard it I started to think. It sounds nice . . . what has happened in my life doesn't define who I am in the future . . . but how true is it?

As I thought about it, three Bible people came to mind as examples of the truth of this. The first person being Paul. At one point in his life Paul had been persecuting Christians and trying to stop the spread of Christianity. But, this is also the same person who had an amazing encounter with God and had his entire life changed . . . this man who persecuted Christians became an evangelist and helped to spread the Gospel across the then-known world! Paul's past didn't stop him from what he did with his future.

The second person that I thought of was David - a person described as a man after God's own heart. David had some amazing triumphs in his life and saw his way through some difficult times with God's help . . . but he also had some major screw ups in his life. He committed adultery and then tried to cover it up and when that didn't work he had someone murdered . . . among other things. And yet, he is still remembered as a man after God's own heart and God used him and his decendants in amazing ways. David's past mistakes didn't stop him from what could be in store in his future.

The third person that came to mind was Rahab . . . a prostitute who ended up in Jesus' family tree. She had been living a life of sin, but yet she helped God's people and married an Israelite . . . ending up in Jesus' earthly family line! Her past didn't define her future either.

Being someone who tends to hold on to things that have happened in the past . . . particularily times when I screwed up . . . this was a good reminder to me that God can use everyone no matter what has happened in their past. I mean, I know from my own experience that God can take the situations where I've screwed up and use them to help someone else . . . and yet I still have those doubts that God can use me because of my past.

Now, I know that there are probably some of you who are thinking: "Yes, but what about the effects that past things you've done can have on your life?" Our actions do definitely have consequences that we have to live with in the future. Our past will always have an influence on who we are in the future, because our experiences shape us into the people that we are. But, we aren't held back or prevented from serving God because of our past mistakes. That's the good news here!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

living out what Scripture says

I was reading Romans 12 the other day. As I read I started thinking about what the church would actually look like if we lived these things out. It goes back to the whole idea of authentic community, and how things would look if we were willing to live that way.

But, that wasn't where I stayed. I started thinking about my own life. Romans 12:9-21 contains some practical guidelines for living. As I started to think through each one, I started to realize that I have a long way to go in this area of being able to live and function in the kind of community that God created us for.

"Love must be sincere." (Rom 12:9)
Do I just pretend to love others? Or do I actually love people genuinely - not just because I'm supposed to?

"Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." (Rom 12:9)
Do I hate evil the way that God does? This isn't a hating of a person, but a hate for the evil that happens in this world. Do I cling to - do I desire - what is good?

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." (Rom 12:10)
Do I love those around me as brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I willing to put in the effort required to love those around me?

"Honor one another above yourself." (Rom 12:10)
Do I put others before myself? Or do I place msyelf and my desires above those of others? Do I consider others to be more important?

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (Rom 12:11)
Do I serve God with my life?

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Rom 12:12)
Am I joyful because of the hope that I have? Am I patient when I am facing difficulties? Am I faithful in going to God in prayer?

"Share with God's people who are in need." (Rom 12:13)
Do I share with those in need willingly? Or do I share only grudging? Or do I not share with those in need at all?

"Practice hospitality." (Rom 12:13)
This is so much more than just entertaining people. It is caring for the needs of others through waht I have. Do I practice hospitality? Or do I look for ways to avoid doing so?

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Rom 12:15)
Do I feel the highs and lows of life with those who are a aprt of my life? Or do I just brush off those things and alow them to go through those times alone?

"Live in harmony with one another." (Rom 12:16)
Do I do my best to live my life at peace with those? Do I deal with conflicts and disagreements quickly? Or do I try to ignore them and hope that they will just go away if I ignore them?

"Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position." (Rom 12:16)
Am I so concerned wiht my own social stastus that there are people I won't associate with because of how I may look for doing so? Do I allow my pride to get in the way of my interactions with certain people?

"Do not be conceited." (Rom 12:16)
Am I conceited?

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil." (Rom 12:17)
Do I seek to get someone back when they wrong me?

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Rom 12:18)
Do I make every effort to make peace with everyone?

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath." (Rom 12:19)
Do I spend my life seeking revenge on those who have wronged me? Or am I willing to leave that up to God?

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21)
Do I spend my time focusing on doing good in the midst of the evil that can happen around me? Or do I get caught up and overcome by the evil that will happen around me in this world?

As I thought through these questions, I realized that I have a long way to go in my own life in these areas. I know that I will always hav room for growth in these areas, while I live on this earth. This passage was really just challenging to me to think practically about how I lived my own life and where I needed to begin to make some changes. I hope that as you read the verses and questions above you were challenged in your lives as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just a good laugh

So, I was online and I came across this video on youtube tonight. I've seen it before, so you may have also. But, I thought it was a good one. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

sometimes life isn't fun

OK, so since my last post my life has most definitely not been fun . . . my uncle died on Sunday night . . . much sooner than we expected or were prepared for (altho' I'm beginning to wonder if you can really ever be prepared for someone to die . . . but that's another rant). Really, that's been mostly what I've been thinking about since then.

This is really the first death of someone close to me and it's a lot harder to deal with than I thought or I think was even willing to admit at first. I mean I may not have been super close with my uncle, but he is family . . . and I was brought up with family being the most important thing in life (second only to God).

But . . . and here we are back to talking about community again . . . I have realized just what incredible friends I have through it all. I really wasn't looking forward to going to Alive on Monday night, but after being home alone all Monday afternoon I knew I needed to get out and see some people. I wasn't really myself and I kept crying just about every time someone talked to me that night. But, I realized how amazing my friends are. The hugs and prayers and everything just made me cry more at the time, but when I got home I realized how much I had needed that from my friends that night.

There again, in my life, was a picture of community in action. Thank you to all of you!

Anyways, I'm not entirely sure what I was writing this post about tonight or anything. I just needed to get some words down and this is where they ended up. Honestly, things aren't all looking good in my life right now . . . I'm still trying to make sense of why this all happened (with my uncle) . . . but I am getting through . . . with the encouragement and love of friends . . . and God.

Friday, November 16, 2007

more thinking about community

OK, so two posts in one night . . . after a while of not writing . . . oh well . . .

So, this past week hasn't been particularly easy for me . . . we knew the day was coming when we have to be ready to say good-bye to my uncle, but I don't think any of us were ready for just about being guaranteed that he wouldn't make til Christmas this past week. Needless to say, that has made for a difficult week.

But . . . I have totally seen the beauty of community at work in my own life in this past week as well. I've seen it through my roommates.

As I've tried to come to grips with all that is happening and needed a listening ear or a word of encouragement or someone to pray with me . . . they've done exactly that!

To me, that is a picture of what Christian community should be. A place where we can go with our struggles, our sadness, our joys, our trials, our triumphs and have people who will celebrate with us, grieve with us, and encourage us.

The ideal of Christian community is 100% possible. I have seen it and experienced it this week. It may take work to find it . . . but it does exist!

live every day like it's your last . . .

"Live every day like it's your last, because one day you'll be right."

To be honest, when I first heard/read (I can't remember) that a few years ago I thought it was kind of morbid. It's pointing to the fact that one day our life on this earth will be over.

But, in the past few days, I've been thinking about it in a different way . . . not so much as morbid, but in terms of how I would live if I knew that a particular day was going to be my last one. Some tough family circumstances have started me thinking this way.

I mean, I'm hearing about my uncle dying and he knows that it's happening and has some opportunity to say those things that he needs to say to people and reconcile those relationships that need reconciling. But, not everyone has that opportunity.

It has me thinking about how I would change some of the things I did or didn't do in a day if I knew that it was going to be my last day. The people who I would tell how much they meant to me . . . the people I would say I love you too that I usually don't say that too even tho' I think it . . . the realtionships that I would seek to reconcile . . . the people I would forgive . . . the people I would ask forgiveness from. But, the more I have thought about it, the more I have realized that those are things I should be doing anyways . . . and, yet, I don't. I don't even think about them until I'm in a situation where I am forced to face the reality of death - the death of a family member.

"Live every day like it's your last, beacuse one day you'll be right."

I need to stop putting off the things I need to say and do in my relationships with other people. I need to take advantage of opportunities to serve others. I need to make the best use that I can of everyday that I am granted on this earth, because they are all a gift.

Friday, November 9, 2007

thoughts on community

OK, so I just finished reading a book called "Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them" (John Ortberg). The book was talking abou the importance of community. There was a lot of good stuff in there, but I'm not talking so much about the book tonight as a couple of thoughts that came to mind that are related to the book and to some of the questions I have gotten about how to actually go about putting into practice what I talked about in my last post.

Honestly, I think that the only way we can begin to remove that masks that we so often wear is to begin with small groups of people - whether this is a group of close friends, a Bible study group, an accountability group, or whatever. We need to have those groups of people in our lives who we can go to and be honest with . . . and who will be honest with us as well. Without these kind of people in our lives, what hope do we really have of moving beyond the "image management" that we have gotten caught up in? I honestly don't believe we have much . . . not that I want to be depressing, but I think it's true.

I know for myself, I've grown up in the church and I was raised that what other people think is important. So, we could fight all the way to the church, but the moment we turned into the parking lot . . . smiles on everyone's faces and the answer to how things were going was "great" . . . even if that wasn't the truth. Not exactly honest . . . but I've talked to others who had the same experience growing up.

But, I've also experienced the opposite . . . I had the privilege of living with some incredible girls for the two years that I was at Bible college. And I saw how . . . at least most of the time . . . to move beyond this "image management" metality. First of all, when you have 40 girls, two to a room, with one big bathroom at the end of the hall you see more and hear more about people just due to the living situation. But, I also never knew one of them to ask how you were doing and allow the answer to just be "fine" or "good" or "ok". The standard answers were not enough . . . and usually the questions asked were more specific than just asking "how's it going?" as you passed someone.

That was a learning experience for me . . . but it was good!

I think we need to start having those people in our lives who will ask us how we are and want a real answer. I think we need to start having people in our lives who we give permission to for them to ask us the hard questions. I think we need to start having people in our lives who are not afraid to say something when we're headed for trouble.

And if this is going to happen, we have to be these kind of people for others in our lives as well. We need to be willing to speak up when we're concerned about a friend or ask the tough questions. This isn't a one way thing . . . it has to go both ways.

Right now, we each need to find people who we can be completely honest with in our lives.

Who is this in your life?

If there isn't anyone who you could trust in this way, what is the next thing you can do to move towards having these kind of people in your life?

I asked myself these questions recently. I count myself lucky to be able to say that I do have people who ask me the tough questions or speak up when I'm headed for trouble in my life now. But, I haven't always . . . because it takes a risk to do this . . . to trust some people enough to be this open and honest with them. But the rewards of doing so are huge . . . and far outwiegh the benefits.

So, I challenge you . . . find these people in your life and develop these kinds of relationships. They won't happen overnight . . . so get started! Or if you have these people in your life already . . . continue to develop those relationships.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

confessing our sin

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we handle our own sin in the church and how the Bible says that we should. In the church we so often hide our sin rather than allow anyone to know about it. I know I do it often.

But, Job 31:33-34 got me thinking about whether this is right when I read it earlier today. It says:
"if I have concealed my sin as men do, by hiding my guilt in my heart because I so feared the crowd . . ."
In this chapter, Job is talking about about things that he didn't do in his life. Job was saying that he didn't try to hide his sin . . . and that this is a good thing.

It is our natural tendency to hide our sin because we're worried what other people might think of us if they found out. But, maybe our - my own - tendency to try to hide my sin isn't good.

When sin is kept secret it retains its power over us. But, when sin is no longer a secret it loses much of its power over us. In James 5:16 we are told to confess our sins to one another. It is extolled as something good that we are supposed to do.

I think that most of the time this practice of confessing our sins to a trusted Christian brother or sister is something that is sorely missing in the church today. We have gotten so caught up in this idea of "image management" and worries about what others think of us that we don't want anyone else to know about struggles.

But the church wasn't meant to work this way! The church should be the one place where can and do safely share our struggles and confess our sins to break their power over us! But, sadly, it is often the last place that people want to admit any of their weaknesses, because of a fear of what other people will think of them.

I wonder what would happen if the church would finally move beyond this and begin to confess our sins, struggles, tempations, weaknesses to one another in safe non-judgmental environments. Obviously, we don't have to go into great detail, but so often just admitting that you're struggling with sin in an area of your life breaks so much of the power. Think of all the strangelholds of Satan that could be broken by bringing secrets out into the open. It would be pretty cool!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

moving . . . ugh! (but apparently some good lessons can come from it)

So, I'm sitting in my new apartment . . . I moved in yesterday, to live with three of my friends. I'm glad to be here. But, I definitely hate the whole process of moving . . . packing all your stuff in boxes, suitcases, etc only to drive to a new place and take it all out again. But, I'm not writing this complain about moving.

As I was sorting and packing my stuff, I got to thinking about what is most important in life. So often we put our value in what we own - our stuff - but is that really what is important in life? As I decided what to move and what to get rid of I began to realize that the most important things I had don't come from the actual stuff I have, the most important things were the friendships and life-changing events that some of those things represented.

The stuffed animals . . . I have a lot of them and I like them . . . but the ones that mean the most are the ones given to me by close friends or family . . . they represent a valued realtionship in my life. My Bible . . . I have more than one, but this particular one . . . the first (non-children's) one that I was given by my parents . . . it's been well used . . . three summers as camp staff, two years at Bible college, missions trips, youth events, and just the rest of life in-between . . . the Bible is pretty worn and the pages are falling out, but it has meaning because of the journey of my life that it has been a part of. My journals . . . the story of my life . . . my battles, my victories . . . really they're just notebooks that only have meaning because of what I have written on the pages. My saxophone . . . the first musical instrument that was ever my own . . . I honestly don't play it much anymore . . . but it means something because I know that my parents spent a long time searching for one that they could afford to get for me so I didn't have to borrow one from the school. Or my photo scrapbooks . . . pages of pictures and stories . . . I love looking at them . . . but not because of what they are actually are . . . because of the parts of my life that those pictures and stories represent. My golf clubs . . . I don't play as much as I wish I could . . . but they represent a special relationship with my grandparents . . . they taught me to golf and spent many hours every summer golfing with me . . . that time with them is invaluable . . . but my golf clubs represent that to me.

I would consider all of these things important to me. But, as I was packing them up to move them this last week, I realized that I didn't consider them important just because they were things I owned, but they were important because of what or who they represented in my life. While I most definitely wouldn't want to lose any of these things that I consider important . . . I think if I did someday, I would be OK as long as the people and life events they respresent to me were not lost.

I think that maybe I need to tell the people that these things are from how much they really mean to me more often than I do right now. So, if you are reading this, it's probably becsause I've passed the information on to you and I would consider you a friend. For starters, thank you to you for being a friend and being someone who I appreciate having in my life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

desperate faith

I was reading in Mark earlier today and I was totally struck by this whole idea of desperate faith when I read the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years in Mark 5:25-34.

Here was this woman who had been declared unclean by her culture for the last twelve years. She was unable to touch anything or anyone without making it unclean! She had spent all her money on doctors and nothing had gotten better . . . it had gotten worse!!! I mean, can you imagine being in her place?!?!? No one wanted anything to do with her, she wasn't allowed into the Temple to worship God because she was unclean. Her entire world had pushed her aside!

Yet, she hears about Jesus and His power to heal people. She decides that the chance to be healed is wirth whatever it will take to touch Jesus . . . just to touch the clothes He wore. She knows that she will be healed if she does this. And so, she takes the chance!

She goes in amongst the crowd of people around Jesus. And slowly, carefully, makes her way towards Jesus. I imagine out of habit she was being careful not to touch anyone as she walked though the crowd . . . although, even taking the chance of walking through the crowd would not have been appreciated by anyone in the crowd.

But, she was willing to take the chance of touching someone else . . . of someone else's disdain as they saw her and tried to avoid her for the sake of being healed! She had come to such a point of desperation that she was willing to risk everything to get to Jesus! Nothing mattered to her anymore except getting to Jesus and being healed. She had faith that Jesus could heal her and so she took the risk. She was desperate to be healed and so she took the risk!

All this got me thinking about my own life.

What am I desperate enough for that I will risk everything to get it?

What am I dealing with that needs Jesus' healing touch that I am desperate enough to be healed of that I will risk everything to get to Jesus and have Him heal it?

Am I willing to risk my reputation, my pride, the respect of others to get to Jesus to be healed?

Am I desperate enough yet?

As I thought, I very quickly thought of an area in my life where I need Jesus' healing, but I'm not yet sure if I'm desperate enough to risk everything to get that healing. I want to be . . . I think. But, yet, sometimes I feel like I might be OK with that area of my life the way it is. And, yet, I know that I don't want it to remain that way.

Am I willing to ask God to make me desperate enough that I will risk everything to receive healing in that area of my life?

That's a risky prayer to pray!

Do I really want to ask God to do that?

He might not do it the way I would like.

But, I've been inspried by the story of this woman - these few veres in the entire Bible - and her desperate faith that Jesus could heal her. I want that kind of desperate faith. I want to be willing to risk it all to receive Jesus's healing touch!

And, the best part is, when we take that chance and act on that desperate faith . . . Jesus does bring healing!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

taking a break from the term "Christian"

OK, so it's not what you think. But, I've been thinking a lot lately about what is typically associated with the word Christian. Quite often it's pretty negative . . . and not something I want to be associated with.
I find it interesting that we self-identify with the word Christian . . . most of the time without actually thinking about what it means. I think that it has lost some of its original meaning because of many people who identify themselves as Christians without that actually being true. These people don't live according to what the Bible says . . . they may even claim not to believe it, but identify themselves as Christians because their paretns were or because they go to church sometimes.
I also find it interesting that the early church didn't self-identify themselves as Christians . . . it was a name that was given to them by those who didn't believe. Acts 11:26 says: "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." The word Christian, here, meaning "Christ-ones". This wasn't a label that they gave themselves, but it was a name that the culture around the early church gave to them.
Up to this point in the history of the early church, Christians had often been called disciples . . . which simply means "learner" or "student". And this is what we are called to be as "Christians". People who are students of God, who are learning and growing to become more like Christ. When the disciples of the early church were first called Christians, people still understood what that meant. The culture around them was recognizing them as people who were learning from and modeling their lives after Jesus Christ. The term Christian still had a meaning that I think is largely missing today.
For these reasons, I'm not a huge fan of the "label" Christian. I don't think it adequtely describes to our world what exactly we are. It has become nothing more than a religious belief, when it should be a relationship where we learn from Christ and live the way He calls us to.
For the time being at least, as my title suggests, I'm choosing to take a break from using this term to self-identify or to talk about other followers of Christ. I would rather define or explain what disciple means than use a term that has lost much of its original intent to identify the way that I live my life. From this point for a while I will refer to myself and to other Christians as followers or disciples of Christ.
While "follower" may not adequately describe things either, I believe it does a better job than "Christian" does right now. And I feel that the words follower and disciple do probably the best job that can be done in describing what we have devoted our lives to.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

interesting quote

OK, so I was driving home today and I saw a sign that said the following:
"In a world full of cheerios, be a froot loop"
I have become accustomed to reading some strange things on this sign, but this one caught my attention tonight.
When I first read it, I started to laugh, because it seemed a little strange. Comparing people to breakfast cereals. I mean really? Who does that?
But then I started to think more about what it could be talking about. If you were to be a froot loop surrounded by cheerios, you would be different from "everyone" around you.
And then I started to think . . . that's what we are to be as followers of Christ (I'm not a huge fan of the term Christian, but that's something for another blog). We are called to be different from the world around us . . . to stand out . . . as a froot loop in a bowl of cheerios would.
Maybe I'm stretching things a little bit, but that's what I was thinking about as I kept driving after seeing that sign. Philippians 2:15 says that we are to "shine like stars in the universe". The world around us should notice us as point to God and hold out His Truth.
So, yeah, that's my thoughts tonight.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My new blog

So, I've been thinking about starting a blog of my my own for a while, but I've hesititated on doing so because I wasn't sure if I would have anything to say or much time to write anything. I guess I will see how this goes.

I've been thinking a lot about service in the last week or so. It started with putting together some Christmas shoeboxes for Samaritan's purse with my small group. It was really cool and a lot of fun to be able to get together with some people who I haven't known for all that long and put them together. We might have looked a little strange to some people as we walked through the dollar store gathering items. But it was the first time that my small group has really connected sincce we started meeting. it's amazing how doing something like this together can help with that.

The impact that service can have was also emphasized to me a week ago when I was part of a church-wide service project. As a church we spent a Saturday afternoon in the downtown area of Kelowna helping some of the ministries down there with some fall cleaning and just doing a general clean up of the area. I spent my Saturday afternoon picking up garbage and pulling weeds . . . not the most exciting thing to do . . . but I loved it. It was cool to see families with kids all working together on this project and to see the response of the people who work in this area. I also work in this area of town and see on an almost daily basis the hopelessness and despair in some of the people in this often neglected area of town. But I also saw the light and encouragement we brought to the area by spending sometime cleaning it up.

Both of these opportunities got me thinking about service a lot. It is the kind of life that we are called to live as followers of Christ . . . a life of service. When Christ was on earth He served others all the time . . . and that is the example that we are to follow. Serving doesn't always have to be big things that the two opportunities I had recently. It can be in little things - like helping someone carry their groceries to their car, or taking out the garbage when it's not your turn, or any number of other examples you can think of. As I have begun to look around at the people I come into contact with everyday I have bgun to see the many opportunities we have ot serve others . . . and then I've started to think about the difference it could make if we would take these opportunities. It's an incredible thing to picture!