Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"the shack"

So, I will now add my thoughts to the many blogs and comments on the book "The Shack". I'm not usually someone who reads fiction - most of the time I don't enjoy it. I had many people tell me that I should read the book - the most adamant being my mom whose opinion on books I trust, as she often points me in the direction of really good books. Also,I had read many people's comments on the theological issues with some of what is in the book. So, I picked up having really no idea of what to expect when I read it.

Now, before I begin, I don't think I can argue against any of the theological issues that people have found with the book. I'm not so sure about the idea of God the Father appearing as a female and yet being called Papa. I'm not sure about a few things, and for that I caution people to read this book with a discerning mind and guidance from God as to what is truth and what is not.

But, depsite anything I might have questioned, I cannot deny the incredible honest reality of the struggles that main character deals with in this book. Who among us hasn't struggled with forgiveness? Maybe not in the scope spoken of in this book, but I think we all have those people in our lives that we have struggled to forgive, or that we are struggling to forgive right now. "The Shack" is an incredibly powerful story of forgiveness and the journey to get there.

There's also the storyline of struggling to forgive God for a wrong that happened to you or to your family. Our wisted, incomplete view of God comes to play in this. I think we all struggle with this to some degree and we shouldn't feel like we have to hide that or deny it.

Honestly, all I can say about this book is what everyone else is saying: "You have to read it!" It's a story that will tug at the deepest part of your heart and challenge you immensely if you let it. Read it with a discerning mind asking God to filter any untruth out, but READ IT!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

note to readers

After a couple of email comments I received about my blog, I was looking back over some of what I have written in the past while. I had people tell me that I was really good at pointing out where the church needed to grow or change in order to live up to what we have been called to. There are many times when I have issued a challanege in an area where I believe the church, as a whole, does need to step up, or we, as individuals need to step up.

Please note that these things come out of my love for the church and my desire to see us living what Jesus calls us to live. I don't point out things where the church or individuals may need to grow lightly. I point them out when I see them (or think I see them, I don't profess to be an expert on any of this either) because I think it's when we acknowledge where those weak points are that we can begin to make the changes to better live out what God calls us to.

Also, I don't write about things that I have all figured out in my own life. Most of what I write comes out of what I'm learning in my own life. I am far from having it all figured out. But I believe that as believers we need to be sharing the lessons we're learning and challenging one another to deeper growth. That is my purpose in writing this blog.

I don't want to come across as a know-it-all seeing all the problems and having all the answers. I seek to humbly challenge people to greater growth in their walk with God.

heavenly minded

I don't know about you, but there have been a couple of times where I have heard people caution that we, as followers of Christ, must be careful that we don't become so heavenly minded that we're of no earthly good. I'm not so sure this is the caution we need in our culture today. I think we struggle with exactly the opposite. We become so earthly minded that we're of no heavenly good.

I started thinking about this when I read Colossians 3:1-2 yesterday. These verses say:
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things above, not on earthly things." (NIV)
Paul makes it very clear that our hearts and minds should be focused on the things of God, no on the things of this earth. So, reading this passage made me start to wonder if the caution to not be too heavenly minded was maybe, at least, somewhat, unnecessary.

As I thought about it some more, I came across a definition of what it means to set our hearts and minds on things above that I found helpful. The Life Application Study Bible puts it this way:
"Setting our hearts on things above means striving to put heaven's priorities into daily practice. Seeting our minds on things above means concentrating on the eternal rather than the temporal."
By that definition, we should be seeking to be heavenly minded, not earthly minded. And I think that is something that is definitely lacking at times in our world. Maybe we need to spend more time focusing on the things of God rather than the things of this world.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

growing cold to the need in the world

I had a conversation with one of my roommates last night about the incredible need that we are surrounded by everyday in our own city. We don't live in a culture that has the same kind of poverty as some of the third world countries, but do have people who are poor and homeless according the basic standard of living here.

My job gives me the privilege of seeing this need in my own community everyday. When I first started this job, my heart broke every time I walked or drove past the people waiting to come into our building for a meal or a cup of coffee or just some care. But, I noticed over time that I stopped having my heart broken by it. I eventually got to the point where I didn't even really see these people anymore. I had grown cold to it because it had become normal to me. When I realized this, I was quite horrified. I mean really . . . how can you get to the point where you don't see people in need? How could I be one of those people who just walks by and doesn't have my heart broken by the incredible need? I asked God to change my heart from what it had grown cold to. I didn't want this to be the case. God took me seriously when I prayed this prayer. He definitely broke my heart through a series of circumstances. Probably the hardest part of God breaking my heart for these people again was that He did it by bringing someone who I had known growing up into that place of need and me seeing that. This was someone who was more than another face on the street that I walked past. This was someone that I knew. But, as my roommate and I were talking last night I realized that God has answered that prayer I had prayed - that my heart would break with the things that broke His heart. It's not an easy place to live, but it's a place I would rather live.

I don't think we can really take seriously Jesus' call to look after the poor and those in need without our hearts being broken by the things that break His heart. And since Jesus talks in Matthew 25 about what we do for the least of these, we do for Him" we should be seeking to do just that. We should be helping out the least among us those - those in need.

Social justice . . . helping those in need . . . that is what we are called to. How are we - the church as a whole, world-wide - doing at living out this calling? How are you doing at living this in your own life on an individual level?

Friday, August 15, 2008

leadership thoughts

Disclaimer: The first part of this blog might apply more to the women than the men. Not to say that guys can't read it.

At the leadership conference I was at, they interviewed two young women that I was quite interested in. Both of them are young women who have taken a dream to make a difference in the world and gone out done just that. They both started their own non-profit organizations and began working for towards these dreams they had been given. As a woman working in the non-profit world I was excited to be able to hear from these women.

I appreciated just being able to hear from them about how they did it. I know that for myself I often find myself holding back from getting involved in leadership because I'm female. One of the women said these words, that have engraved themselves in my brain: "make no excuses for being a woman in leadership." I am called to lead where God has placed me in life. It may look different than how a guy would do, in fact I think it should look different, but I don't need to shy away from where God has called me to lead in my life. I don't need to be making excuses for myself. I just need to step up and do what God has called me to do.

The rest of this blog applies to both men and women.

Another thing from this leadership conference that I attended last week that has really stuck with had to do with whole topic of accountability. It is something that needs to be a part of all leader's lives! One of the speakers talked about how sometimes we need to be willing to sacrifice our privacy for the sake of accountability. It just struck me as so true. When we make ourselvses accountable to other peole, we willingly give up some of our privacy. And this is a good thing! Our lives cannot be lived in secret. If no one knows what is going on in our lives - what we're doing when we're not working or volunteering - we can very easily fall into sin. When we have people in our lives who have our permission to know what we're doing in our off-time and to ask us the tough questions. Without that our lives as leaders suffer greatly.

Another thing that hit me was when one of the speakers talked about failing at something you step out to do. I tend to be someone who takes failing at something pretty hard. It's something that I often transfer to myself, seeing myself as a failure rather than just seeing it as an event. So for me, this reminder is something that I need often.

As I've thought back over this two day leadership conference, there has been so much that has spoken to me. It's taken me this week to really begin to make sense of all of it and to pull out what I needed to learn. The biggest thing I think I took away is the reminder that it will be easier - not always easy, but easier - to lead if it's something you really, really believe in. When you are really souled out to the vision that you're working for, you will be more committed to it and more willing to stick with it through the challenges that will inevitably come your way.

OK, so up to this point, this is my processing from this leadership conference I attended. There was so much more information that came my way in those two days, but I'm learning that in situations like that I need to take the things that I need to learn and then leave the rest of the information for a later date. You can't process that much information all at once. You have to leave the rest to be learned at a later date.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I was at a leadership conference at the end of last week. Two days, nine sessions, 11 speakers (I think) . . . it was a lot to take in . . . and I've spent most of the past week trying to process through it all. That's something that I'm definitely still working on. I think it's going to take a while.

One of the things that really jumped out at me was the theme of social justice. It seemed to come up in so many of the sessions. While hoping to provide tools for us to learn from to be better leaders, many of the speakers also had call to be involved in righting the injustices of our world. It's something that has just really stuck with me since then.

It reminded me of the words to one of my favourite songs
God of justice, Savior to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Came to serve and not be served
. . .
We must go
Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward
Keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go
The first time I heard this song (God of Justice by Tim Hughes) those words just really struck me. And they were brought to mind again this past week with all of the call to be involved in social justice in our world.

The past couple of days, that song has become my sort of theme song for my life. I find it so easy to just get caught up in my life and forget about what is going on in the rest of the world. Even with my job and being face-to-face with some of the injustice in North America everyday, I find it so easy to forget what we are called to in Scripture. In some ways, I think my seeing it everyday when I go to work, makes it even easier for me to turn a blind eye to it all. That is not what I want to happen.

Anyways, back to this leadership conference I was at. The second speaker was the president/CEO of International Justice Mission which is an organization that operates all over the world working to free people from slavery and forced prostitution (read more here). He was talking about leadership that matters - that makes a difference. He talked about how this means that we continue to lead, even when the calling seems hopeless, scary, and hard. He also talked about how we can do this. And we lead in these situations by remembering where our hope lies and that the work we are doing is God's and we don't have to make it happen.

There was one thing he said that really hit me, and it was this: "Jesus didn't come to make us safe, He came to make us brave." It's so clear in Scripture that Jesus didn't call us to some safe thing where we sit in our own little group where we all believe the same thing. Jesus calls us to something that is counter-cultural, that requires that we take risks - it's not safe to follow Jesus!

I think often this is something that the Church (not a building, but the community of all believers), particularly in the West where being a Christian is relatively easy, struggles with a lot. We are okay leading when things are easy and everything is going according to plan. But, when we're faced with the injustice going on around the world, and even in our own communities to some extent, we get scared and lose hope that we can make a difference. But, these are exactly the situations where we need to step up and take the lead.

We should be working against injustice not sitting idly by as it happens!!! God is a God of justice and He uses us to make a difference in the injustice that is happening in our world. As a Church we need to step up and make that difference! Whether it be through financially supporting ministries that seek to right the injustices of our world or thtough getting personally involved in seeking to right the injustices of our world. We may not be able to stop all injustice, but we have to do our part!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

learning from other leaders - from those who have gone before

Learning from other leaders . . . that's what I've spent the last two days (yesterday and today) doing. I had the privilege to attend a leadership conference called Leadership Summit. It was really good! There were some speakers that I definitely enjoyed more than others. But I couldn't really ask for a greater opportunity over the last two days.

Especially as someone who is just starting to step out into leadership roles, it was incredibly valuable. People who have been leading both inside and out of the church for so much longer than me have an incredible amount of wisdom that I need to seek to learn from. I am blessed to have personal connections/relationships with people who lead in various capacities in my own life, but, in my books taking time to spend learning from more people than you normally would is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted!

I often look around at the church and the segregation by age that naturally happens and wonder what we're missing. There is nothing wrong with having ministries that seek to reach specific groups of people, but there also needs to be times when the entire church from the kids to seniors is together and can learn from one another. I talk to many young adults who say that they have no connection with the older generations outside of their parents and extended family (which not all of them live close to). For me, luckily, this isn't the case. I grew up surrounded my much family and many other people in my church family of all ages that have played a part in my life. (What a huge blessing that is!)

But, I see the truth to what I hear many young adults around me saying. And it makes me wonder about what we (young adults, 18-30, as a collective group) are missing by not having these interactions. I know from experience that there are people who have walked the road before us that we can learn from if we have the opportunity.

Like these last two days, I had the privilege to hear from the hearts of people who have gone before me in leadership roles, some who are just a few steps further down the road than me and some who have been doing this stuff for years. And I wouldn't trade the last two days of sitting in a church pew, getting a sore butt, for anything. I'm still working to make sense and apply to my life much of what I heard, but I also know that I heard an incredible amount of wisdom that I'm glad to have heard.

All of this makes me wonder . . . how can we create space for those meaningful connections between the generations to happen? What do we need to do so that youngadults can truely learn from the vast amounts of wisdom of people who are in the same building as them on a weekly, or more, basis? There has to be a way to bridge this dis-connect. Young adults are the future leaders of the church . . . and we need to learn from those who have been leading for a while.

I think this is something that requires a change on the part of both sides. As youg adults, we need to et past the idea that we can do it ourselves and be willing to admit that we don't have all the answers - that we can't do it ourselves. We need to get to the point of being willing to go to the corporate church and ask them to teach us - to mentor us - to share their wisdom. And, as a corporate church, the all too common attitude that young adults don't want you around and just want to drive you away from the church needs to change. Young adults do want you around! We may not always express it very well, but we do. You have the wisdom and experience that we need to learn from. And maybe we can pass along some of our energy to the rest of the church.

The church should not be a one generational thing. We (all people, of all ages) need for it to be multi-generational. All ages and stages of life need to be learning from one another. This is how the church is supposed to be. Not some building we go to once or twice a week, but all ages learning from one another and growing together.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

God ordained conversations

Do you ever those conversations that you know have to have been set up by God?

I had one of those conversations last night. There's a person that I've been avoiding having conversations with for a while . . . a LONG while . . . OK, so it's been like seven years! Anyways, we were dating. Then we broke up . . . and it was messy. So, I've been avoiding him in pretty much any way possible since then. Even to the ridiculous point of going all the way around the church to get somewhere because I would have had ot walk past him to go the more direct way. I must say . . . it has been a little bit ridiculous.

Anyways, on to last night. He was at Alive and afterwards he came up to talk to me and it was a situation where I couldn't avoid having to have a conversation with him. The conversation turned to something that I have really been working through with God recently. As I've seen him around more in the last 8 months or so, I realized that I was avoiding him because in all these years I had never gotten to the point of truely being able to forgive him. God made it clear to me that it was time I did forgive a few months ago and so began a journey that took about a month of getting to that point.

Yet, even after being able to say that I forgave him, I still avoided him as much as possible. Not quite in such ridiculous ways as before but avoided him nonetheless. Until last night . . . there was no way to avoid having a conversation with him, so I decided I could make small talk for a few minutes until I could escape. But, the conversation very quickly turned to the issue of the unforgiveness towards each other that we had both been carrying around for so many years. Needless to say, it ended up being exactly the conversation I needed to have in order to really be able to move beyond that relationship from seven years ago completely.

Last night was definitely one of theose God ordained conversations. Had things gone the way I was hoping I would have avoided anything other than a passing "hello" all evening. But God had other things in store. And, now, I'm glad God did and that He made His plan happen despite what mine was.

Anyways, this has all got me thinking about how often God does this in our lives. I think more often than we maybe give credit God makes those conversations with someone happen because He knows they need to. And, no matter how hard we try to avoid them, He makes His plan happen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

living in authentic community

So, I'm "suffering" the results of drinking a half a pot of coffee after 8pm. When you don't usually have any caffeine after that time . . . that much coffee can really get you going. My roommates all seem to be going to bed, but I still have too much caffeine in me to even think of sleeping right now. Of course, this all means I will sleep in really late when I do finally go to bed . . . good thing I don't have to be anywhere tomorrow before 6pm. ;)

Anyways, being up and awake has got me started on thinking about something. It seems like God has been teaching me a lot about community and how it should look in the last year. (For previous posts on the topic of community click here or here). I've been thinking about it more tonight, just as I've been reflecting on some things that have happened in my life lately.

I've been realizing that if we completely isolate ourselves from others then when something happens we are often left alone to deal with it on our own. Whereas, when we are living in authentic community with others we have those people that we can call on - whether it's something big or something little. And, I think that is how life is supposed to be lived. We weren't made to go through it on our own.

I've also been thinking a bit about how we typically respond when people call us to help or to care when things go sideways for them. Honestly, I sometimes want to give any excuse in the book not to help. But I'm beginning to realize that it's when I drop the excuses and step out in whatever way that person needs that God shows up in some pretty cool ways. The more I do that, the more I want to do it. But, at the same time I'm always somewhat concerned about how far God will push me in doing those things that I maybe don't want to do, but know that I should be doing to help out those I love and care about - whether friends or family.

I honesty think that one of the major keys to authentic community is that willingness to just be there when someone call. The willingness to put aside your own plans and concerns and be there for the other person - whether it be by listening on the phone, heading over to be with them, or offering help in a practical way. That is the kind of authentic community we are called to live in. And then more that we do that, the more I think we will see God show up in amazing ways.