Tuesday, March 30, 2010


This blog may be a bit more of a book review than I usually do. I just finished reading a book that I found really good - encouraging and challenging. It's called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam McHugh.

When I picked up the book a few weeks ago, I had heard nothing about and knew nothing of the author, but the title caught my eye. I am most definitely an introvert and I have found that many people assume all leaders are, and should be, extroverts. Naturally, a book talking about introverts and leadership and church interactions was interesting to me. The book confirmed for me that you can be introverted and still be a leader and called to some kind of ministry. It helped me see that the way I do things sometimes is normal, not strange just different from how an extroverted person would do it. And it also challenged me in areas where I need to push out and beyond where my introverted personality has me.

I know, and have always known, the importance of Christian community. God didn't create this life to be lived alone. He created us to live it in community with others. But, to be honest, being around people all the time drains me. Don't get me wrong, I love to hang out and have a good time with friends or to talk with a close friend for hours. But, in all groups, no matter the size, I will get tired faster than people who are more extroverted - this happens especially when the group is quite large.

Sometimes I've wondered if this meant there was something that wasn't quite right about me. I mean if God designed us to live in community, why does spending time with people tire me out? In the book, McHugh talks about introverts involvement in community being a sort of spiral. While an extrovert may start out on the edge of a community and will move into the core over time, it will look different for an introvert. I'll quote him here on what community often looks like for an introvert, because he says it better than I could:
The journey of introverts into a community, however, is better conceptualized as a spiral. They take steps into a community, but then spiral out of it in order to regain energy, to reflect on their experiences and to determine if they are comfortable in that community. They move between entry, retreat and reentry, gradually moving deeper into the community on each loop. The introverted path into community, much to the confusion of many extroverts never reaches a point in which the spiraling form is shed. The spiraling shape persists even for introverts who are thoroughly committed to a community. (pg. 94)
When I first read that, it was like he was describing me. And it was encouraging to know that I'm not alone in needing large amounts of time without people around to regain energy and to reflect on things. Of course, the accompanying challenge to this is to make sure that those of us who are introverts don't pull back too far when we retreat from the group a bit. We need to make sure we're staying connected to others all the time, even in the midst of our time to regroup before we dive back in to an active community.

The chapters on leadership in the book were also good reminders that I need to be leading out of who I am. Sometimes, it can feel as though we are expected to be extroverts to be a leader and the temptation is to try to be one. But, people aren't going to follow a leader who isn't true to themselves and who they are, because in the end the introvert pretending to be an extrovert as a leader won't be able to keep it up.

There were many other insights for me in reading this book. And I would recommend it to pretty much anybody. An introverted person can be challenged and encouraged in reading it. And it can help an extroverted person to better undersand the introverts in their world. All in all, a good read.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

a theology worth having

Hmm, two posts in one night . . . another one that springs from a quote I read in my computer file of various quotes I have collected.

A theology not worth smuggling is not worth having. Becoming a practical theologian means drawing from the very best of theological product, but doing so connected to the life of the Church by theological process. A theology worth smuggling serves the Church well because it is based on listening to God rather than just talking and writing about God – the kind of reflection that cultivates intimacy with Christ, the core of the missional life.
-Earl Creps, Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders

A theology worth having . . . that sounds interesting.
For many years, I thought theology was something that only people who wanted to be pastors studied or cared about. Then I went to Bible college for two years and discovered that I had a theology. Theology is, in simplest terms, just the understanding of God that we have based on Scripture. In reality, we all one; we just may not know it because we've never called it that.
The quote above really makes me think: Do I have a theology worth smuggling? Is my understanding of God and how He relates to the world, to us, something that I would risk my life to smuggle into a place where it was against the law? Or is it just a convenience and an assurance of heaven when I die? Am I just looking for a simple list of things to do? Or am I really trying to build a relationship with God that so deeply impacts who I am and the way I live that it goes with me everywhere?
We can talk about what Scripture says about things and keep it just head knowledge. Or we can take what we know Scripture says and translate it into how we live. To translate it into how we live means that we listen to God and His promptings in our lives and we love God and others as we love ourselves.
Ultimately, a theology worth smuggling becomes a part of the core of who we are. We aren't who we are without it. And it makes us a bold witness for the Kingdom in all we do - no matter the cost.

busy, intelligent, or deep?

I stumbled across a quote that I collected a while ago (I have a file on my computer that is just quotes from various books or articles that struck me when I read them) and it got me thinking.

The world doesn't need more busy people, maybe not even more intelligent people.
It needs deep people,
people who know that they need solitude if they are going to find out who they are;
silence, if there words are to mean anything;
reflection, if their actions are to have any significance;
contemplation, if they are to see the world as it really is;
prayer, if they are going to be conscious of God;
if they are to know God and enjoy God forever.
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

We live in a society where people pride themselves on being busy and on being intelligent. But, this quote makes me think because it goes exactly opposite of what our society tells us is important. Our world tells us we should be busy and we should intelligent. According to Foster, as followers of Christ, we should be deep people - people who seek time for solitude, silence, reflection, contemplation, and prayer. None of these things come baturally to us when we are caught up in just making it through life.

I know for me, it is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and in learning more so that I can at least sound more intelligent in conversations. I don't always seek times of solitude and silence for reflection, contemplation, and prayer. In many ways, I've bought into society's view of what we need to pursue in life - and that means being busy and knowing lots.

But, somehow those things never actually satisfy - at least not for the long term. Being busy just means I fall into bed tired every night and hope I get enough sleep to make it through the next busy day. Learning more so that I can sound more intelligent in conversations just means I've filled my head with knowledge - especially if it never has any impact on how I live my life. When these things don't satisfy, it makes me wonder: Is there something more? And I think Foster addresses in how words:

The world doesn't need more busy people, maybe not even more intelligent people.
It needs deep people,
people who know that they need solitude if they are going to find out who they are;
silence, if there words are to mean anything;
reflection, if their actions are to have any significance;
contemplation, if they are to see the world as it really is;
prayer, if they are going to be conscious of God;
if they are to know God and enjoy God forever.
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

When we seek times of solitude and silence so we can reflect, contemplate, and pray, we learn how to enjoy God. And enjoying God is ultimately what will satisfy us forever. The only lasting satisfaction we can find is in God alone - in seeking Him to build relationship with Him. We cannot find satisfaction in the things of this world. True and lasting satisfaction comes only from God.

Friday, March 19, 2010

different Bible translations

As I was writing the post just before this one (that I posted just a few minutes ago) I started thinking about the different Bible translations we have available to us in our world. Sometimes when I'm in the Christian bookstore I'm surprised when I look at the number of different translations of Scripture we have available for us to purchase. There are a lot of them.

For many of us we're most familiar with the NIV. It's the one we use most often in churches and Bible studies because it is easier than some of the others to read and understand. But, if you're like me and have grown up in church, there is a danger that comes with the familiarity of the NIV . . . you know what's coming next so you stop really reading it. You begin to just skim over many passages because you figure you know what it is going to say.

I've been there. And that's one of the reasons I started reading other translations. I may know generally what is coming next but because the language used to say that same thing is slightly different I find myself slowing down and actually reading the words on the page. I don't always know what the next word will be, so I have to read it. And it's good for me, it makes me pay attention to what I'm reading and to what God wants to say to me through what I'm reading. For more specific study I still use the NIV, but when I'm reading to hear from God I find that other translations can be helpful in slowing me down enough and making me pay enough attention that I actually listen.

The other translations available in the Christian bookstore shelves or various places online can be very helpful in our growth as followers of Christ. In the English language, we can be thankful that we have so many options.

a verse we usually reserve just for Christmas

The other day I was reading the prophet Isaiah. Rather than reading it out of the familiar NIV, I was reading it in the Message paraphrase. One of the verses just jumped off the page at me and I haven't been able to get it out of my head. Isaiah 9:6 is a verse that we often hear only at Christmas.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)

This verse is familiar enough that I hardly think twice about it when I read it in the NIV, but when I read it in The Message something stayed with me.
"For a child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us! He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness."

It was the names that Jesus will be called that have stuck with me since I read it. They just seemed to really make me think again about Who Jesus is . . . Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. I have definitely been reminded of Who my Jesus is and why He alone is worthy of my worship and praise.

Amazing Counselor . . . There is no counsel that we could receive from a friend, a family member, or a professional counselor that compares to Jesus words in our lives. He gives the greatest insight and wisdom into decisions I'm making and into how to deal with things that have happened in my life. We could ask for ne better Counselor.

Strong God . . . nothing is stronger than God! Nothing is impossible for Him! Nothing is too big for Him! My God is stronger than it all.

Eternal Father . . . No matter the situation we never face it alone. Our Father is there with us protecting us, comforting us, encouraging us, strengthening us. No matter what, I never have to doubt that I am alone or that God has left me. He is eternally there!

Prince of Wholeness . . . Jesus came to make us whole. He wants to take the broken pieces that we are and put them together into wholeness. We are His masterpiece that He desires to bring wholeness to! I can trust Him with my broken pieces.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


What would you do for the rest of your life if money was no object?

That's a question I have been asked a few times in my life, mostly in "get-to-know-you" type situations with a group of people. It's a bit of an overwhelming question and more difficult to answer than it seem at first glance. Or to take the question in a bit of a different direction and, at least in some way, make it more difficult to answer:

How would you serve God for the rest of your life if you didn't have to work and you didn't have to worry about money?

I can't remember where I was first asked that one, but it was definitely more difficult than the first one for me to answer. In fact, I'm not even sure what my answer was or if I answered it.

I've been thinking about these two questions recently. Really, what they are is invitations to dream - to think big about what you would want to do with life. And to think big about how you would most love to serve God. And, I think that's a good thing. Much of mission work, both overseas and in our own backyards, in the church today came because people were willing to dream and think big about how they could serve God.

I've been wondering lately if sometimes we - the church in North America - have become so comfortable in our lives that we don't dream God-sized dreams anymore. And those that do dream those dreams are looked on as strange or out of touch. But, I also wonder if dreaming God-sized dreams again is what would shake us out of our complacency and get us back out in the world making a difference.

So, what about you: How would you serve God for the rest of your life if you didn't have to work and you didn't have to worry about money?

Now, think about how you could begin to do even a small part of that now - in your current life situation?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

interactions with co-workers

OK, I'm up way too late, because I had too much caffeine and sugar too late.

Anyways, for the last few days I have been thinking about relationships you have with co-workers. In each of the jobs I've had, the interactions and relationships I've had with my co-workers has been different.

In the craft store I worked at, they were mostly ladies I thought were much older than my 18 years at the time. I was in my first year of college and was working evenings and weekends to pay for school and my car. I had a good time with all of them and was really said to see that job end. I may not have always felt like I had a lot in common with them, but there were always conversations and laughs to be had.

My second job (and my fourth) was working in fast food - not exactly a glamorous job, but one that many people seem to do at some point in their lives. My co-workers were for the most part in their early 20s as I was. None of us really loved being there. We were just working because we had to. There really wasn't much in common either - we didn't talk much - mostly just worked.

In between the two fast food jobs, I worked in the cafeteria at the college I attended. In many ways, not too different from fast food. When I returned to the same college for a second year, I was working in the Distance Learning office. Both of those jobs I had a lot in common, as I was at a Christian college and we all shared core beliefs. I actually really enjoyed both of those jobs.

After I graduated, I found a job as a bookkeeper for a repair shop. I had gone to school for accounting so I was working in the right field now. That job was probably my least favourite. I really had very little in common with the other five guys who worked there. And, I really didn't enjoy listening to their temper tantrums and throwing things and swearing when something didn't work. It really was just a filler job until I could find something better.

That brings me to my current job - the one that I love! I get to work in my field, but I also get to be a part of something that helps people to change their lives for the better. And, my co-workers . . . for the most part, they're amazing! We have a good time together - lots of laughing and talking (that's what happens when you have 8 women in an office together). And outside of the office staff, we have so many other staff that come through the office for various reasons and it's enjoyable to chat with them too. This is a job where we actually do things together as a staff outside of work and enjoy one another's company. Like tonight with our skating night. Or a few weeks ago when we went bowling.

There's something about co-worker relationships that can make or break your work life. When you think about it, you spend a lot of hours or your week with those you work with. Having a work environment where friendship with one another is encouraged and built is helpful. It makes the work day go by that much faster because you can actually enjoy it and the people you are with.

Really, I'm not completely sure what the point was to this blog. I've been thinking about this lately, but there's no big conclusions or challenges to draw from this. It just interested me that there were these differences in the interactions and co-worker relationships in my jobs, and you stopped to read my blog so you got my synopsis of my employment history.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Doubt . . . it's rather common in the lives of followers of Christ . . . and yet it's something we rarely feel free to talk about. It seems as though we like to think that we're the only ones struggling with it, when that couldn't be further from the truth. The truth about it is that if we opened up about it, we would find other followers of Christ who sturggle with doubts.

It does pay to be careful who you open to about your doubts because some people won't handle them well. They will be shocked or they will tell us they mean that we're not really followers of Christ. But, other people will encourage us in using them to push us deeper in our relationship with God.

Doubts can have two different effects on our lives - they can drive us away from God, or they can drive us to God. What our doubt does depends on how we respond to them. If we choose to think that no person who really has a relationship with God can doubt, then we will be driven  away from God and we will come to false conclusions about Who He is and what He can do. But, we can also choose to allow our doubt to drive us to our knees in prayers and to the Bible in search of answers. The second choice honours God in the midst of our doubt and will ultimately benefit us greatly in the long run.

On a website that I read regularly they had a two-part series on doubt this week that got me thinking about this. You can read Part 1 and Part 2.

So, how do you respond to doubt in your own journey with God? Do you allow it to drive you away from God? Or do you allow it to drive you to God?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I've been thinking a lot lately about family. At the beginning of February I was sitting at a table in a restaurant with my family . . . except it had a couple more people than I'm used to having at the table - a couple more guys specifically. Both of my sisters are engaged and so their fiances were with us. In some ways it seemed strange to have these two guys at the table, and in other ways not strange at all. My sisters have picked quality guys.

I have apparently gained two brothers at this point - something they both informed me of. And it shows in things like messing with the other remote for my parents' Wii while I'm trying to select something, so that I can't actually select what I'm trying to and am confused by what's happening that I'm not doing. Or seeing them eye the cupcake in my hand and try to time it correctly to shove it in my face instead of me being able to take a bite (they weren't successful on that one, but they tried).

The more I've thought about family the last while, the more I've realized how lucky I am to have the family I do. We may drive each other crazy at times or amke each other mad, but I never doubt they love me and I never doubt my love for them. And my family, my two future brother-in-laws included, are the people who I know will be there when I need help and they're the people I would call on first. I feel pretty lucky to have a family like that, and I don't want to take that for granted.