Saturday, May 31, 2008

life mission

So, I've been reading this book lately that's really got me thinking. It's called "Get A Life" by Reggie McNeal. I was given the book to read as something every one on a team I am part of this summer is supposed to do. I like reaading, but usually I like to pick my own books. I must say that this was a good book and I'm glad it was passed on to me to read.

Really, in a lot of ways, it was more of a workbook than a book that you just sit down to read. Lots of interaction and questions to think about and try to apply what you had read to your own life. And definitely lots of stuff to make you think.

In the first chapter of the book McNeal talked about the whole idea of having a life mission. He talked about looking out what you're passionate about - what really gets you excited in life - and your talents - what you do well naturally - and your experiences. He suggested using those thigns as a place to start when thinking about your life mission.

For me, that's been a challenging process. There is such a huge diversity in my answers to those questions, that I think they may have just confused me more, not helped to me think about what my life mission might be. What I'm passionate about and what I'm naturally good at in many ways seem to be completely opposite things. And then I have life experience with the things I'm passionate about and what I'm talented at. I still don't have any idea as to what I would say my life mission is - and I've been thinking about it for three weeks or so.

Now, some of you by now might be asking why I'm making this whole idea of a life mission so important. And I probably would have thought the same thing not that long ago. But, the more I think about . . . the more I realize that it is important to answer the question of "why am I here?" (which is the title of the particular chapter that this whole talk about a life mission came from). There is importance in answering that question.

It is so easy to just walk through life without thinking about why we're here. We just go through each day and nothing really matters beyond making it through each day. But there is so much mroe to life than just making it through each day! We are called to more than that! Scripture makes that clear.

I think whether or not I ever write out what my life mission is (which me, being me, is something I really would like to do , I need to see it to really get it), it has been beneficial for me to think about these things. I mean, I have done it so often in my life where I just get caught up in the day to day and live likes that's all there is, when there is so much more. I honestly think that at the very least we all need to take a look at our lives and try to discover what that bigger reason is that we are here for.

Obviously, we are called to spread the Gospel and share Christ with those around us who need to know. But that's going to look different for each person. And if we don't know how we can best do the work that we have been left on this earth to do, we are in danger of not doing anything that makes a lasting impact for the Kingdom of God.

My apologies if this post is rambling and doesn't make complete sense. I'm still processing this all. And, as I said above, I'm one of those people who needs to see it to get it, so writing about it is part of my making sense of it all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

does it matter how we dress for church?

I've had a few conversations lately that have made me think about this question a lot.

Does it really matter how we dress when we head for church to go to a service?

I grew up in a family, and really a church, where it did matter. I remember every Sunday morning being a long process of my parents trying to get threee girls who didn't want to wear dresses in to dresses and their har done and out the door. It can't have been something they looked forward to. But, over time, that all changed. As I got older it became acceptable to wear dress pants to church, and now to wear jeans or shorts.

Seeing that change happen and having a few conversations in the last while have really made me think about it all. There are still people in church who dress up and who expect a certain level of "dressy-ness" (is that even a word?) from any of those on stage. But, is this important?

When I would ask why I had to dress up for church as a kid, I was told that it was because when we went to church we were supposed to bringing God our best, and that included how we looked. As a kid I took that as the way it was. And, although I didn't like it much, I just went with it.

But, now that I think about it more, I wonder if that really makes sense. I mean, aren't we supposed to always be brining God our best and not just limiting it to an hour or two a week at church. God deserves our best all of the time, not just when we go to church.

So, I'm back at the question I started out this blog with: Does it really matter what we wear to church?

Obviously, it needs to be appropriate. But, really, does it matter?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

the Church and the inner city

I was encouraged recently when my mom handed me the monthly magazine that the denomination my church is part of puts out and I saw that the theme for the issue was working with the inner city. As much as the place where I live has an inner city (that really isn't much compared to some of the larger cities in North America, but we have one), that is where I work. Which means I see everyday some of the needs that this magazine was talking about.

I often wonder where the Church is in all of this. In the area of town where I work I see one church within a few blocks. There aren't many in that area of town. Not that the church has to be there in terms of a physical building for it to be present, but I would say in many ways the presence of the Church is lacking compared to other areas of town where there are churches just a couple of blocks from one another. But, I think along with the lack of physical buildings has come a lack of the people of God being the Church among these people.

To me, it was encouraging to read about what is happening to bring God's love into these places of cities. The inner city is a place that desperately needs the love of God to penetrate the hopelessness and despair that is often present. We need to be creative in how we reach out to these people as they are not going to come to a traditional church building. We need to go to them and bring God's love with us as we go.

I have seen myself some examples of the Church bringing God's love into the inner city, and reading about more as I read this magazine I was even more amazed at what is happening and what God is doing. I believe we need more of this to happen. The Church needs to come together and partner with one another and the ministries that already exist to help these people to make a difference.

In all reality, I'm not completely sure we will ever be able to completely eradicate the homelessness, and drug addiction that runs rampant in many cities today. But, we can make a difference in it all if take seriously our call to reach out and help the least of all in our society.

My apologies for the rant tonight. This is where my heart is at right now and I feel these things strongly right now.

losing our compassion

I've been challenged about how compassionate I am towards people in need a couple of times recently. I work for a ministry that seeks to reach out to these people and I think that can sometime assist me in forgetting about the real needs of people. I may not be interacting with them everyday, but I see it everyday as I arrive at work and again as I leave. When something is in your face that much it can get to be something that you begin not to notice.

This is what has been happening to me lately. It has become so normal for me to see someone sitting on the side of the street with all of their earthly belongings or lining up outside my place of employment with it all, that I don't think I really see the people anymore. It's normal to me and so I hardly notice it.

But it hasn't always been that way. When I first started this job it tore at my heart everyday as I drove past them in my nice (albeit older) car, coming from or going to my home, where I had a fridge and cupboards full of food. It just didn't seem fair that I had all of that and these people didn't. But, over time, seeing it became as normal to me as breathing. I quit even really noticing that these people were there.

By failing to notice these people anymore, I as losing one of my main reasons why I was drawn to this job in the first place. I'm not on the front-lines with these people, but when I started my job I was excited about it because I was still a part of something that was seeking to make a difference in people's lives. My job was starting to become just that . . . a job . . . and nothing more.

But through a couple of situations recently God has been helping me to begin to see these people as people again. One way was through seeing someone that I grew up with as one of these people. Sometimes you grow up with people and they drive you crazy all the time . . . that was this person growing up. But, it was still a lot easier to remember that these people in need are really truely people when it's someone you know that you see in that position. You never expect to see someone you grew up with on the streets, in need, and going down a dangerous path. That was one of the hardest things to see that I've ever seen in my life . . . and it was an incredible reminder that these people that I see around work everyday are people.

The second reminder came when I was sitting in a park with my friends last night. Just a little ways away there was a guy playing his guitar and singing, hoping people would leave him money. It was pretty obvious that he was either on drugs or had been drinking heavily. My first response was just to write him off as a drug-addict or a drunk, and I said something along those lines to the friends I was with (if you guys are reading this blog, you'll know who you are and I want to apologize to you for that). Almost as soon as I finished saying it I regretted it. As I heard those words come out of my mouth it struck me that, while he may be either one of those or both, that doesn't make him any less human. This guy was still a person and deserved to be seen as such. Thankfully not everyone at the park last night saw him the way I did at first. There were people who did see him as a person and had a conversation with him.

Neither of those experiences were incredibly pleasant, but for me they served as reminders of why I do the job that I do. God knew I needed reminding and He did what it took to do that. And I honestly hope that they are things I never again forget. I don't want to find myself back in this situation again.

Every human deserves to be seen as human and treated as such. It doesn't matter where in society they fall - whether they are the wealthy, the middle-class, the working poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless. All our people and worthy of being treated as though they are people.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

what could be my undoing? my downfall?

I've been reading about the life of Solomon in 1 Kings recently. It's been a good read, but nothing really new. That is, until a couple of days ago . . . It wasn't exactly new or something that I hadn't read before, but it struck me and stayed with me for the last little while.

I was reading in 1 Kings 11 where it says:
"As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God . . ." (NIV).
Solomon was granted incredible wisomd and wealth by God. But he had one thing that led his completely astray in his life.

God had made it clear that Israel was not intermarry with the nations around them. But that's exactly what Solomon did anyways. He took wives from the foreign nations around Israel. They came into his royal household with the gods of their people. And they eventually led Solomon astray with their gods.

It got me thinking about my own life. What is that thing in my life that I won't let go of that could be my undoing - my downfall? What is that area of my life where I could be led astray because I'm holding on to something that God has told me is wrong but I enjoy it so I go there anyways?

I think most of us have those things in our lives if we're really honest about it. We have something that we know is wrong but we don't want to give it up. And it is that one thing that could lead to our downfall as followers of Christ.

I think that we need to be brutally honest with ourselves about what that is. If we don't admit that it's a problem then we're really in trouble. And we need to admit to ourselves and to God, and then ask for God to help us to change it.
(OK, bit of a rabbit trail here, but it's important: This may seem counter-intuitive when it's something, or someone, that we really enjoy . . . but, I believe, if we don't take this step we will be in troubl because of it in the future. Now, back on track . . .)
Sometimes just admitting to ourselves and to God isn't enough. Many times we need that accountability that comes from another person that we trust knowing and having permission to ask us about it.

So . . . what is it in your life? Are you willing to admit? And learn to let go of that?

As Solomon's story shows, when we refuse to obey God in one area of our lives, it can lead to our destruction in other areas of our lives.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

modern day idolatry

So, two posts in one night . . .

The last couple of weeks that series of messages at the young adults group at my church has been on "modern day idolatry". It's been a challenging series to say the least.

When I think of idols and idolatry I think of people bowing down to an image of something or someone. So, with that thought in mind I usually don't then think of it as being a problem in our culture today. While I suppose there may be some people who do this, I would say that it's not a usual occurance in our western world.

But, in the message series, an idol was described as anything we turn to when we should be turning to God. That definition makes it a lot more relevant to our culture today. With that definition, our culture has many idols . . . work, sports, celebrities, cars, houses, computers, leisure, ourselves, financial security, material possessions, popularity, entertainment . . . to name just a few. Yikes! How many of us haven't struggled with the amount of value we put on some of those things.

This message series really hit home for me last night. Just thinking about what may have become an idol in my own life. I hadn't really thought much about it until then. And, if you'd asked me before the series if I had any idols in my life I would have told you no. But, now, if I were to be honest I would have to say that I do have idols in my life.

Really, it all comes down to how much we trust God. If are trusting God completely then we won't be turning to other things to try to find our satisfaction. But, it's when we're not trusting God completely that we can find ourselves turning to the things of this world to try to satisfy our longings.

A lot of this is a learning process. As we learn to trust God more we remove idols from our lives. And as we remove idols from our lives we begin to trust God more. The two quite often go hand in hand.

living in diversity

So, I saw this quote the other day that has really got me thinking about how we interact with others and live together.

We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have wierd names, and all are different colours, but they all have to learn to live in the same box.

We live in a world that wants to divide us based on our differences so often. Yet, we should be learning to live together and work together with our differences. It is in our differences that the best of all of us really shines through.

Friday, May 16, 2008

idol worship & learning from the OT

So, this past week at Alive the message was on "modern day idolatry". We talked about what the idols we worship today are.

Deuteronomy talks about Israel falling to idol worship. They had a golden calf made and then they worshipped it. Reading that today, it seems almost strange that they would build something and then worship it. It's not something that we can picture in our culture today.

But, we do the same thing today. We may not bow down before a physical idol, but we bow down and worship other things. We make education, success, money, material things, power our idols and we worship them, the same way that Israel worshipped the golden cal in Deuteronomy.

The message really just got me thinking. It's so easy to right off some of the things in the Old Testament as irrelevant because we are no longer bound by the Old Testament Law. But there is value in paying attention to what it has to say and learning from it. There are still lessons we can learn.

Well, that's the end for tonight. My apologies for being all over the place tonight, I'm apparently really tired and should sleeping and not writing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

the unexpected things of life and trusting God

So, things have been interesting since I last wrote anything on here. And I must say that most of what has happened has been unexpected . . . and usually not the good kind of unexpected. Not that things have been terrible or anything, but they haven't exactly been good or what I had hoped for. But life goes on and you learn to make the best of things.

With all that has happened recently, it's really got me thinking about where I put my trust. Do I really place it in God, so that when things go wrong and the unexpected comes I'm still OK? Or do I put my trust in my own plans and what I want to see happen in my life.

I was reading in Psalms earlier this week and Psalm 20:7 really jumped out at me. It says:
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

The psalmist was talking about the big things that people would have trusted in for protection and success in life in this verse. Comparing what the world trusts with what we trust. After I reaf that verse I sat there thinking for a long time.

Can I really say that?

Is it true for me that I can say: "Some may trust in their money or their job or their education, but I trust in God"?

That's quite the statement to live out (but then, most of what we are called to live in Bible takes some guts and willingness to live counter-culturally to do) . . . but that is my prayer. That I would live a life that acts on the trust that I say I have in God - a life that is what God calls me to live.

Without having trust in God, I can't hope to stand in the spiritual battle that is going on all around me. The only way of assured victory in it is to place my trust in God and then to live out that trust.