Tuesday, October 28, 2008

running on empty

Do you ever get the feeling that you're running on empty? That there's nothing left inside you and you're just kind of going through life with no emotion, no passion, no energy . . . no nothing (OK, OK I know that's bad grammar, but it's my blog so I can write what I want).

Running on empty . . . that would describe pretty much how I've been feeling lately. It's not the most pleasant way to go through life. It gets tiring pretty quickly.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this (since last night when I realized how I was feeling so forgive me if my thoughts aren't completely finished on some of these things) . . . and wondering how do you get beyond that feeling of running on empty? How do you "fix that problem" for lack of a better word?

I mean, I'm still going to church and reading my Bible and praying . . . doing all those things that a good Christian should do. And they don't quite seem to be working. So, what to do?

I think sometimes just doing the things we know we should do isn't enough because they should be a part of our lives all the time, not just when we feel empty. When we feel like we're running on empty, we need to do something different that helps us to connect with God and be filled again by Him.

What sorts of things work? I think every person is different and so different ways are going to work for them. For some people it might be getting together with a group of people and for some people it might be going off someplace alone. Some people might want to be in a church with traditional symbols and sounds, while others want to be outside in nature.

All people are different and will connect very differently with God and be filled by Him in different ways. The key is that when we feel like we're running on empty we do something about it.

I know for me it means that I need to get out of the noise of city life (however small my city may be in comparison to yours) - to a place where I can be alone and surrounded by God's incredibly beautiful creation. But, I also need to balance this with getting together with fellow followers of Christ to dig deeply into God's Word and challenge and pray for one another.

What about you? What would you need to do?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

the importance of the church

With the sermon series we have been doing at church recently I have been thinking a lot about the church. The series is called the Quest for the Authentic Church, and it has been thought provoking. We have talked about evangelism, fellowship (community), worship, discipleship,and service. All of which I agree are very important to the life of the church and to life as a follower of Christ.

Tonight as the pastor was finishing up his last message in the series, the one on service, he was talking about how you need all five of these things - evangelism, fellowship, worship, discipleship, and service - to have a healthy, functioning church. And then he went on to make a comment about some people pulling back from the the church, as an institution, and saying they didn't need that since the church is the people of God, not the buildings and the institution. The pastor didn't deny that the church is the people of God, but he also asked the question of whether those who have pulled away from the church have all of these five things in their lives.

It made me think about something I have heard from a number of young adults in the past few years - that they don't come to church because they're disillusioned with the institution of the church, and that they don't need to come to church because they have community on their own with their friends. But, the words of the pastor tonight made me think a little more deeply about that.

You know, honestly, there have been times when I have felt the same way; yet, for some unknown reason I've never been able to walk away from the church. Tonight it clicked for me why I have never been able to walk away from the church, and it's because I know that without these things (the five listed above) there is something missing in my life. Yes, the church is the people of God whether we are gathered in a building or scattered in the rest of our lives, but there is an importance to both (and this sermon series talked about both).

I have also thought about the descriptions of the early church found in Acts. Even in the early church, there was some sort of structure and organization. The church, as an institution, has existed as long as the church as the people as God has existed. There is no way that a group of people on the fringes of society in those early days could have done what they did without some sort of structure and organization to guide the work. Just as there is no way that it can happen without it today. I'm not trying to discount the work of the Holy Spirit and the things that do happen outside of the church. But, I think we sometimes forget about the need for a structure and organization so we can better complete the work we have been called to do.

Does the institution of the church have its problems? Yes! I would be lying to myself if I said no. But I don't think walking away from it is the answer.

There's a quote that my pastor has repeated many times in the course of this sermon series that has really stuck with me. It's from Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. It talks about how we often criticize the church that exists, rather than becoming the church we dream of. I think that idea hits the nail on the head. If we're disillusioned with the church, or maybe we've been hurt by it and walked away before, maybe we need to set ourselves to becoming the church we've always dreamed of rather than walking away from the church.

Think about it for a while. What would happen if we decided to become the church we dreamed of and set ourselves to doing that, rather than deciding we don't need the church and walking away from it? I think it would have a bigger impact and be the better answer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

showing up at important church stuff

So, I just got home a few minutes ago from a church business meeting. Not always the most exciting thing to go to , but they're important and so I go and sit through them so that I know what's going on and have a say in decisions that are made. Really, the same idea as a government election (since we Canadians just had one this past week) . . . if you don't show up you don't have a say.

As I looked around the room tonight, I was both happy and dismayed at the same time. Happy that there were lots of people taking an interest and happy that there were more young adults there than I usually see. But, also dismayed, because out of the group of young adults that I know are members and should be more involved there were so few of us there. Not that I look down on those who weren't there . . . I've done my fair share of skipping these meetings because I decided they were boring.

But, as I thought about it today, I started to draw a bit of a parallel in my mind between things I've heard from both young adults and the generations that have gone before us. I've heard the generations that have gone before ask where the next generation of leaders - the young adults (age 18-30ish) - are at these meetings. I've heard young adults say that they don't come because they think they're boring. I've heard the generations that have gone before us say that if we really cared about it we would show up whether we found parts of the meeting boring or not, and because we generally don't show up we don't care. I've heard young adults ask why the generations that have gone before us don't take us seriously and don't ask for our input.

Both sides are asking valid questions and deserve answers.

My answer to the generations that have gone before us is that we do want to be taken seriously. But, sadly, we don't always make the effort to be heard or get involved. If you know young adults who should be at these meetings, challenge them to get involved. Don't be afraid to get us upset enough to come.

But, my passionate answer is the one that I give to other young adults. The generations before want to take us seriously - they want to hear from us - they want our input. And there is a way for us to do this, but it requires that WE DO SOMETHING! Those church business meetings that we decide are boring and therefore don't attend, happen for a reason. They are the opportunity for the church members - the people who make up the church - to have a say in decisions about all kinds of matters. If we don't show up at these meetings, our voice cannot and will not be heard! In an organization the size of most churches these meetings are the most effective way to bring things to the church and get the feedback of the people who make up the church.

If we continue to refuse to get involved in these things, then we can continue to expect the generations before us not to take us seriously. We are the future leaders of the church! In 20 years, we will be the ones who are called upon and relied upon to do these things. Why not start now and learn from the older generations, so that as we get older we don't make the same mistakes that have already been made!

The young adults of today are the future leaders of the church! We must get off our butts and get involved now!!! We cannot continue to sit around and complain that no one takes us seriously. They don't take us seriously because we don't take initiative and get involved. Let's change that! Who's in???

Sunday, October 12, 2008


So, with this weekend being the obvious Thanksgiving weekend where people turn their thoughts toward what they're thankful for. So as with most people I've been thinking about that today as well. The more I've thought the more I've realized how incredibly much I have to be thankful for. God has blessed me richly in many ways and I have so much to be thankful for. Yet, I so often take it all for granted when I shouldn't.

So here's my list so far of what I'm thankful for:
  • a family that loves me and cares about me
  • amazing roommates to enjoy spending time with
  • incredible friends
  • freedom to worship God and to gather with other Christians
  • an amazing job that I enjoy most days
  • the beauty of creation that I get to live in
  • having enough money each month to pay the bills and still have some left to have fun

Those are just some of the many things in my life that I have to be thankful for. If I took more time I'm sure that I could come up with even more.

I'm not sure why it takes a once a year weekend that is planned for me to think of what I'm thankful for. It should be something that is a part of my life all the time. That's the challenge right now . . . for me to remember to acknowledge the things I'm thankful for year round, not just once a year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

what really matters in life

So, in the past month or so, I have been thinking a lot about what really matters in life . . . but most of the time I wasn't even conscious that I was doing so. With all the events that have happened in my life in the last month, I've been thinking about a lot of things all the time just as I go through every day.

Anyways, back to the topic fo what really matters in life . . . I realized how much I had been thinking about this on Monday night. As usual I was one of the last to leave after Alive. There wasa group of about 7 or 8 of us that were discussing various understandings of Scripture, theology and science. It was a good conversation and I was enjoying it a lot. I like to discuss things with people because it makes me think . . . and it gives me stuff to blog about.

There was a point in the conversation where we turned to something that I sometimes don't mind and soemtimes can annoy me. We were discussing whether a word someone used that someone else wasn't a fan of in that context, was the right word to use or not. I know, I know sounds like kind of strange conversation to have.

Anyways, while we were sitting there debating about the meaning of a word and whether it had been used correctly I just got this incredible urge to leave right now, rather than say what I had in mind to say. When I got that feeling, I knew that I had to leave . . . I didn't know why . . . and I knew that my friends would wonder why I jsut got up and left . . . but I didn't have a choice.

So, I got up, grabbed my bag, and walked out to my car. It was as I was walking to my car that thos realization about the need to be involved in thigns that matter in life rather than things that don't came to mind. The conversation that I had just left had turned from discussing things that did matter to debating whether a word was used properly (even though the meaning of what was siad came across whether it was the correct word or not). It had moved from what mattered to what really didn't matter.

Normally, I'm the kind of person who would have been right in their for this kind of a discussion. But, the more I think about it . . . the more I realize that it's not something that is important. Arguing over word useage really serves no prupose other than to possibly make someone feel stupid or seem to devalue the point someone was trying to make. This isn't important!

Since Monday night, I've been reflecting a lot on what matters in life - what really matters. There are things that do matter - that do make a difference - and those are the things that I want to focus on. I don't want to get caught up in what's not important. I want my life to be spent on what matters!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

our craving for acceptance

So, at church last weekend we were talking about community. One of the things the pastor mentioned when talking about it was our craving, our desire, for acceptance. And about how often we will do crazy things just to be accepted into a group. We will even do things that go against our values and beliefs to be accepted.

I definitely think this is something that plagues our culture. Despite constantly being told that we can do it all on our own and we don't need anyone else, we defy this statement by how we live. We may say it on the outside, but underneath it all we still have this desire for acceptance that supercedes anything we might say about our ability to live life completely on our own. We want to be accepted by a certain group and we will do anything to be a part of that group. Really,when you think about it, it doesn't matter if it's a sports team, a social group, a gang, or a church group. If we want to be a part of that group we will do whatever it takes to become a part of it.

The saddest part of it all to me, is not that we crave acceptance, but that there are so many times in church circles where this craving for acceptance causes us to do thing we would never otherwise do. In the one place we should be accepted no matter what, we still seem to have to earn our acceptance! Why is this? It doesn't seem right to me!

Why does this happen in the church?!? It shouldn't!!! The church should be the one place where everyone can find acceptance - a community to belong to. Afterall, Jesus never turned anyone away - not even the social outcasts of His society. So why do we think we have the right to turn people away or judge their acceptability by worldly standards?!?!? We don't! But we often act like we do. Just because someone doesn't dress right or act right doesn't make them less worthy of belonging than us. None of us is worthy of acceptance by God on our own merits, so why do we think we have the right to judge other's worthiness of acceptance by God?

I am as guilty of doing this as the next person. Far too often I've judged people by their appearance or actions and deemed them unworthy of acceptance. It comes naturally to most people.

But I've been thinking a lot in the last week about what the church would look like and the force it could be in our world if we became a group - a place - that just accepted all people. What kind of a raical dfference would we make in our world if all people were accepted - were welcomed with open arms. We live in a world surrounded by people who are desperately searching for acceptance - for a community they can belong to. What ifthe church were to actually become the community it should be? Maybe, just maybe, that would move us more in the direction of becoming the world-changing force that the early church was.

Now, I can hear people saying . . . but what about the sin in people's lives? By just accepting them are we condoning their sin? Think about this for a moment . . . who are the people in your life who have the freedom to tell you the hard things? To call you out when you are in sin? They are the people who you are accepted by - the people in the group you are a part of. People living in sin - people who are lost - are not going to listen to us tell them they're living in sin until they feel accepted. We need to welcome people wiht open arms for who they are and, after that, we can get around to helping them change their sinful ways.

Our cultural circumstance are different than they were for the early church, but we are still a part of a hurting and broken world. And we still hold the only hope for our hurting and broken world. But, if they are going to come to us and we are going to go to them, we must become a community that accepts people for who they are and where they're at. We can't judge people as worthy of acceptance or not - that's not our job. We must accept them!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

a Franciscan Benediction

So, I've heard this a few times and it's something that I'm really thinking of as a very important to the life of Christians these days. I just want to share it with you tonight.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial realtionships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

a faith of convenience?

Disclaimer: The idea for this blog came to me while I was watching M*A*S*H a little while ago. If you have never watched the TV show, some of details that I explain to try to get my point across may not make sense to you.

OK, so on with the blog now . . .

I was watching Season 10 of M*A*S*H after I got home from work. In this particular episode, Father Mulcahy (the company priest) is talking to a soldier who has gone AWOL from his unit. When things go wrong and the soldier turns on Father Mulcahy with a rifle, Father Mulcahy utters these words while trying to talking to talk the soldier down: "A faith of convenience is no faith at all."

For some reason, hearing those words tonight started me thinking (and it's far from the first time I've heard them . . . I own all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD and have watched them many times). Anyways, I started to think a lot about that statement and what it means.

I think that we often do have a faith of convenience. We are willing to call ourselves followers of Christ so long as everything is going right. But, as soon as things get hard or someone says something disparaging about Christians we no longer claim the Name.

Why do we do this?

We know that it's not right . . . that we have not chosen a faith of convenience . . . but a faith that costs us much. Yet, it is so easy to fall into a mindset of only following it when it is convenient.

I don't want to just have a faith of convenience, because that really is no faith at all. I pray that this is not what you want for yourself either. We need to be willing to have a faith of inconvenience . . . a faith that is costly!