I’m Not There Yet…

“Can you just get to the point?”

Ever have those thoughts go through your head? Under the right circumstances you  might even allow them to come out.

Some people have a tendency to elaborate on what they are trying to say – me included. The details of a story become an integral part of the events. Maybe it is the writer in me. All I know is you can often tell, just by the look on a person’s face, when it has gotten to that place. When inside they are thinking…

“Quit beating around the bush. Stop giving me details. Just spit it out.”

They say that, “Patience is a virtue”. Except increasingly you see less of it.

We want things now. Waiting is not something we tolerate very much. It is more than simply a reflection of our “instant” society. It is not just because we get accustomed to getting things within moments. I live in a world where action is important. Waiting around appears to be like we are doing nothing of value.

However, what I discover is the journey is as important as getting to the destination. Image result for destination

So much can be learnt on the way. So much can be discovered about ourselves, about others and about what matters as we get to where we are headed.

This has filled my thought for a couple of reasons.

One is because of the time of year. This is the time when students walk across the stage and receive their diplomas for successfully completing High School. It marks the culmination of years of schooling – with receiving a diploma.

These students will hear about what is to come – the bright future, chasing their dreams, pursing their passions, and so on. There will be memories of their past years, but looking forward seems to be the prime focus. They have arrived.

However, the journey is where the learning has taken place. Through the struggles and triumphs, the ups and downs, the failing and passing grades these students have found important lessons of life. It is in them where these accomplishments gain their  importance. If little effort was given, the result doesn’t seem to mean as much as when there was struggle to attain the prize.

That was one of the things I have been thinking of.

The other thought is because of something I read. It is not central to the story, but does reveal our tendency to get to the point. Let me give you the context.

The account is found in Luke 3 where John the Baptist was calling people to turn from their current path and follow a new one. One which God had set for them. As a symbol of their desire to do so, John would baptize them in water. Quite a following was occurring. People from all walks of life were flocking to see John and received his message.

However John wasn’t interested in crowds following him. He had a different focus in mind and he challenged them to do more than be caught up in the latest fad.

We read him saying,

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. (Luke 3:8 (NLT)

This message could turn people away. And some may have left – we are not told if they did. However, what we read about their response is what struck me. The reaction was the same…

“What should we do?”

Luke’s account clearly makes this point. Three times, with three different groups of people, he reveals them asking the same question. That spoke to me.

It revealed that often we just want the answer. Tell me what I have to do. I don’t want to wrestle with the process. I don’t want to work out the specifics for my life – just give me the response I need to have. Let me avoid the work of getting there just get me there. It made me think how appreciating the journey often gets lost – we simply like the destination.

Notice what Luke records…

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?” 11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” 12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.” 14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” Luke 3:10–14 (NLT)

What we are not told is how many did what they were told to do as a response to their turning to follow God. I am sure some left and others did what John said. Some saw it as too difficult and may have tried but reverted back to what was their normal pattern of life.

It is easy to be told what to do.

Doing it is another thing entirely. That is especially true if we have not wrestled with discovering what God’s path for our life is. If we have avoided the working through the process of why we do what we do. If we have jumped to the conclusion or action and have not understood or grappled with the process of getting there.

We can end up with little ownership of the solution. We simply were told what to do and we tried to do it.

However, the journey matters. The wrestling, the process is as important as the destination. It is not quick or often easy – but it is worth the wait when we get there.

 

 

 

 

Different…Maybe Not

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…”

If you are familiar with this song you know the next line. It speaks in simplistic terms about the various backgrounds of these children one based on race or ethnicity.

I couldn’t help but think of this old song as I spent a considerable amount of time watching people this week.

One of my aunt’s passed away and since I was already in the area I spent a good part of my day waiting at the Toronto airport for my mom to arrive so we could attend the funeral. One thing you notice in airports and particularly one like Toronto’s is we live in a very diverse world. Image result for diversity

Not only is Toronto a very cosmopolitan city, but the airport reflects the incredible diversity we find around the globe. People from all backgrounds and places coming and going.

I am sure in the course of several hours I heard at least a dozen different languages being spoken.

I find that incredible coming from a small, predominately unilingual community. However, it caused me to do more than be fascinated by the people. It provided me the incentive to reflect on a statement which quickly came to mind. It was triggered as I was struck by this incredible diversity around me.

It comes from the writings of Paul to a faith community. In Galatians 3 we read these words.

26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:26–29 (NLT)

I have heard the statement in verse 28 used a number of times.

It identifies how there are no distinctions between us as people. The message is clear. Ethnicity doesn’t make a difference, neither does economic or social status, nor does  gender divide us.

Now we know there are differences, visible and not so visible ones. Yet, the focus of these words is that Jesus changes all of these distinctions, including the ones which tend to separate us from each other. He makes us one, He unites us with one another.

Really…

I am often confronted with differences. I regularly interact with people who are bent on looking for ways to differentiate, distinguish, and define other people in such a way as to separate themselves from…them.

Them…

The other…

The…   (You can fill in the blank here.)

There will always be some group or category of people who fits into that space. One is probably coming to mind right now. One that for you is “the other” – or those who are not like me.

Many attempts have been made in recent decades to shrink the differences we have. Things like singing “We are the world…” Breaking down barriers. Encouraging social justice. Embracing as many groups of people we can in an attempt to acknowledge that we are the same.  We are one.

Only…

Division continues.

In reflecting on what I witnessed, I couldn’t help but think about the wide diverse cross section of people I meet on a continual basis. I see people from many different walks of life, from many different places and backgrounds – not quite as diverse as I saw at the airport, but pretty close.

Many of these people would propose that our differences should be embraced. And yet, what I often discover is that these distinctions – those things which can differentiate us from them – come to the surface in even those who have the best intentions.

  • Those who are the most open to embracing all people (yet there is always a few exceptions. They particularly struggle with those who are unwilling to embrace the openness they show. They can’t tolerate those who aren’t tolerant)
  • Those who accept no one other than the people who are just like them.
  • And there are those who lie somewhere between these two extremes.

There is always a catch. There is always some group of people who are not on the same level as me. Differences are always created and are often too large to overcome. It is what we do as people.

Which makes this statement all the more meaningful.

You see it is “through faith in Jesus” where we are able to set aside all of the distinctions we use to keep us apart from each other. He blends us together where we become one.

Which makes me wonder about our submission to Him as His followers.

If He causes us to no longer see race, social or economic status, gender – where we just see people. If He enables us to look past all of these differences and see people as He does and loves them. If He reshapes our vision – where people are people and not all of the other things we use to group or differentiate ourselves from them. Then…

How come things aren’t different?

Could it be that we are not submitting ourselves to His desires and we are still operating in our own strength and perspectives of the people around us and those throughout the world?

As…

28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It is a sobering thought.

Unimportant Truth….?

The Horrors!

He said what! She did what!

Fake News! Real News?

We have seen a lot take place this past week including another terrorist attack. Image result for fake news

Each day news outlets determine what rises to the level of a reportable story. Something which necessitates or demands the giving of our attention. How many – column inches, seconds, words – a story is worth being reported on to the masses. Not everything gets covered. Not everything carries the same weight. Not every event is “newsworthy”.

I am sure we get that.

However…

We are living in a very different time.

Grant it, it is a difficult job to assess, out of all of the events which take place in a given day, what is worthy of reaching the front page or being part of a 30 minute news cast. You have to pick and choose. I get that. Most of us get how difficult that task can be. We sympathize with those who try and provide us with the truth of a story.

We also understand how there is some bias with any reporting. After all we are people who have opinions, perspectives, viewpoints which are shaped by many factors and creep into our telling a story. We all do it as we recount events – even in our own lives. We have our bias slant our recalling of events. How we describe people or situations has our personal viewpoint colour our retelling of situations.

It is understandable that news outlets, made up of people, would also have a slant to their reporting.

But really….

I have paid attention to news, particularly political news, for decades. And in doing so I have listened to and read reporting from diverse perspectives, understanding that with any story there are various angles and viewpoints and the “truth” is often somewhere in the middle. I have found this “balance” helpful in getting a fuller perspective on issues and events. So I read broadly with that in mind.

That is until recently.

In the last year I have all but stopped reading sources I read almost daily. I have listened to less and less “news”. I have found little patience with what were “credible” reporters.

Why?

There has been a significant shift in, and maybe this is particular to North American but I don’t think so, “reporting”. Instead of informing about events, the shift has been toward persuading. It is not enough to give details of what happens. The trend these days has been to tell you how you need to think about what takes place. And even more sinister, if you don’t think a particular way, the message is you are not worthy of a voice or an opinion.

No one seems to listen anymore.

If you don’t share my perspective you are discredited, de-valued or dismissed.  Seeking for truth gets lost in trying to prove my perspective above giving the “facts” and allowing conclusions to be drawn by the reader or listener. Giving the “facts” are intended to help you conclude what and how you should think about a given situation. So the “facts” become what I want you to know so you agree with my conclusion – whether they are “true” or not.

“News” these days seems to be an hour long infomercial trying to sell you a certain perspective. And so we hear more about how a “tweet” will destroy civilization as we know it. We hear more about a comic making a tasteless political statement. We hear more about artificial agreements to address “problems”.

More about these than…

  • Ensuring citizens find meaningful work.
  • Ending terrorist ideology.
  • Addressing poverty in meaningful ways.
  • And so on…

It is tiring.

So I have chosen to pay less attention.

I discover I am not alone. However, it has made me wonder whether this current climate of unimportant news keeps us from focusing on what actually does matter? It is easy to chase after things which seem urgent and grab headlines. The only thing is these issues  often don’t really amount to very much.

It is easier to pay attention to them because those things which are vital get harder. They are more complex and can’t be addressed in a few moments. I find this happens in more than simply news stories.

I have had entire meetings where what is discussed are all “rabbit trails” which don’t go anywhere. The more significant, important issues end up being almost dismissed entirely. They are not as urgent, or as glamorous so they require less attention.

Fortunately, this is not usually the case in the meetings I attend.

However it is difficult in this climate to focus on what is actually important. It is much easier to chase things which matter little while ignoring what matters most. That is true in many arenas of life not just the news. I see it in various places, including the church.

But this is not the first time this has happened. I can’t help but think things were similar in Jesus’ day. Truth was somewhat elusive. Pilate thought so. When Jesus mentioned truth Pilate was quick to question what truth was.

It appears that truth was a matter of perspective. Varying perspectives and opinions were competing for attention of what was actually reality. And like today, the masses just wanted to know what was real, what actually mattered.

Jesus provided perspective when asked. And He was asked often.

His response was to point out that above all other things what mattered most was quite simple to say: Love God and love people.

What wasn’t so simple was doing it.

So instead it is easier to focus on, debate, argue over, try and convince people about a host of other things. And miss was what mattered the most.

Sigh.

That can be so tiring…

 

Above the Clouds

He could hardly do his job.

The rain was pelting down so hard it made removing the blocks an exercise of  frustration.

He was wet, his gloves were soaked, and the blocks weren’t co-operating. When he did manage to get it picked up, from both sides of the tire, he carried it for a few feet and threw it out of the way in disgust.

I can only imagine how he felt.

I assume he had done this activity hundreds of times in all kinds of weather – after all it is part of his job. Only this day I happened to be watching.

I noticed the impact this routine task was having on him. I noticed it from seat 16A. He was wet and frustrated.

In minutes my view would be different. No more grey skies, no more rain pelting down on everything, there was only sunshine and a blanket of puffy white clouds.

It is always sunny when you fly. plane

Regardless of the weather on the ground, in just a matter of moments you soar past the weather you are experiencing, and get to a different vantage point, a different perspective on the day, where the sun is always shining.

What is your perspective today?

Is it on the ground or in the air?

Is it under the shadow of clouds and all they bring or is it a few thousand feet in the air where you can see the sun no matter what is happening on the ground around you?

Perspective matters.

It affects everything.

We know that.

We know the impact looking at the glass being half full or half empty brings. Of whether we are more like Tigger or Eeyore. Whether we are always happy or always seeing the worst of things. If we are continually complaining or constantly encouraging.

We get the sense of what that looks like in the people around us. And we also step into those places ourselves – sometimes many times over the course of a day.

Perspective is not very profound.

We understand it.

What can be profound though, is what occurs when we are exposed to perspectives  different than our own. Our immediate tendency is to question or even dismiss them as too foreign or difficult to understand. “How can they see the world like that?”

We use a certain lens to view life through.

As a result, when we are confronted with a perspective different than our own, we recoil at the strangeness of it. Even as we attempt to understand, should we be brave enough to try and do so, we approach our pursuit of understanding with skepticism. “Is this a legitimate way to view the world?”

It appears our perspective is the only one which matters.

Sounds harsh, but it is pretty accurate. After all, what I see, what is in front of my window, is the only thing which is real.

Only, it is not the full picture. It is not the complete picture. It might be what I see, but at the same time there is a different viewpoint just above or below the clouds.

As I left the downpour on the ground and within minutes was above the clouds enjoying the sunshine – it caused me to think about perspectives.

Both of them are accurate, just not complete.

It is pouring and it is sunny. But if I can only see one, and can’t always understand there is another perspective, then I will never have the complete picture of reality. I can argue until I am exhausted on how it is “pouring” with someone who is soaring above the clouds.

I can come across as if I am the only one who sees the “truth” because of the perspective I have. And in doing so it looks as if I am judging the other person’s perspective. Yet, neither one of us sees the complete picture. Each of us only sees part of the picture – part of reality. We can’t see the whole from our limited vantage point.

Which is how Paul describes life.

He understood that no matter how much we see or believe we understand it is not complete. He writes…

12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

He understood that our perceived wisdom and understanding is incomplete. We see imperfectly no matter how much we think we see.

However, there is something else he reveals – God see me completely. There is no puzzling reflection or imperfect view with God. He sees the complete picture. Beginning, end and everything in between. Which means that His guidance is perfect. He knows where the bumps in the road are. He knows where the twists and turns show up. He sees the danger and where there is a smooth path.

And so I can trust His perspective more than my own. That is if I am willing to believe that my perspective is not complete. That I can only see what I can see and I can’t see it all at once. It is partial and incomplete.

If I want to see completely it will take time. It will require having the long view rather than snap judgements. It will mean I need to step back from the moment and see as big a picture as I can.

Which means I shouldn’t be too hard on those whose perspective is different than mine. Neither of us see the way we should. We are all on a journey where we don’t see completely – at least not yet. One day though…

 

Can I Trust…

It is one of the hardest thing to do in life…trust.

What makes it so difficult is what it means. To trust goes against everything we believe about ourselves and have experienced from others.

“Trust” is defined this way,  Image result for trust

“assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”

When you put it that way… no wonder it is so hard.

It literally means we expect someone else to be, act, function, be responsible for, whatever circumstances we face in life. It means I expect they will respond in a  way  where I can rely on them to fully to do as good a job, if not a better, than I can.

No wonder it is so hard.

For all of my failings and shortcomings, one thing is certain, I know how to live my life. I know how to make the right decisions when it concerns me and what I think life should entail. Because, after all, it is my life. I know it better than anyone else. I know what matters the most to me. I can do the best job of living it.

Except…

When I don’t.

When I mess up or make a mess of things I might ponder whether I should have trusted someone else. Maybe I should have listened? Maybe I should have trusted the advice I received? Maybe I should have paid attention to…

However, it really is beside the point.

The point of all this is that I know best. Regardless of how many times I fail, or how many times I fall flat on my face, or how often I mess up, it is my life and the choices I make are best. Period.

Besides, when I think of ceding control to someone else. When I think of following rather than leading my own life. When I think of giving the decision making responsibility to someone else, I find it is just too hard to imagine.  After all, that would require belief that someone else can do at least as good a job of things as I can.

Which is too hard to accept.

For that to happen, I have to believe the other person will have my best interest in mind. I have to believe they will do everything in their power to make the best decisions for me. I have to believe they will be fully invested in whatever the implications are for my life.

Which requires trust.

But, as hard as it is to trust, breaking trust is pretty easy.

All it takes is one lapse in judgement, one word, one deed, and what may have taken years to create gets broken.

Trust is pretty fragile.

Which adds to the difficulty of placing trust in someone else. If I dare to trust…will it be broken? Will the person I trust only let me down sometime in the future? Will I just experience being hurt as a result?

If that is going to happen, why go through that? Why bother. Why not dismiss trusting someone else and instead trust only in me?

It is easy to see why trust is not something we easily give – the stakes are too high. And so when Jesus invites us to trust Him, He is asking a lot.

Except…

What are our options?

Think about it for a moment…

We have a way of leveraging our letting go and trusting. We will trust to the degree we are comfortable. If a situation is not too severe or the consequences are not too high – we can be quick to trust. The results are not very important to us or very consequential so trusting or not trusting is not a big deal. We have little invested and so giving a situation to someone else for their input is pretty easy.

But, if we start adding degrees of importance or the stakes get higher we tend to go to our default. We tend to take charge of our own lives. We ignore trusting someone else and we take control. That last for a while.

It remains until we run out of options. When all of our efforts and decisions cease coming up with answers for our situation. When we no longer can find solutions or have any control in the circumstances. When things get that far, where our hope is gone, we are then willing to trust again. After all, at that stage what do we have to lose.

It is how we are.

But… Jesus said “Trust Me.”

He said that to those who had allowed things to get so far gone they needed rescuing. If they were “weary or weighed down by life” they could call on Him. If they were overwhelmed and “troubled” they could trust Him in their dire circumstances.

But, the invitation to trust is not just for those facing significant challenges who have give up or lost hope. He invites us to trust Him in all stages of our lives. When things are going well. When we feel we have a handle on life. When we have things together. When we are making what appears to be the right choices. He says, “Trust Me”.

We tend to trust only when we have no choice.

But we do have a choice. Our trust can be placed in Him at all times because we believe, we know, He has our best in mind. We know He loves us.

One of the foundations of trust is love. If we know someone loves us it is easier to trust them. Which is why we read in 1 John 4:16–17 these words,

16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love….(NLT)

Trust is easy when we know we are loved.

So…can you trust? Do you know how much you are loved?

They go together.

Losing our Way

Do you know where you are headed?

Can you be lost if you don’t have a specific destination?

Will clear vision guide you if you can’t see?Image result for feeling lost

Some thoughts are easier to wrestle with than others. These aren’t some of them, but they have struck me recently.

I am not sure why.

The only thing I can think of is that I am  increasingly feeling disappointed by what I see.

The inability to grasp the bigger picture, the lack of seeing the longer term affect of our immediate actions, witnessing so much energy being put into winning a battle while the bigger fight gets lost – it is all frustrating to watch.

And when the stakes are so high – it is very discouraging.

As Jesus followers I am struck by the lack of depth to our faith. We are steadily drawn to systems to make sense of life and the world we live in:

  • Litmus tests of behaviour to reveal our faith.
  • Activities to signal we have the genuine thing.
  • Pursuits of mechanisms to control or govern how the world should look based on a few “core values” we espouse.
  • Alliances with characters who meet our felt needs

It is distressing.

It is even more so when I feel sucked into the same place.

What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?

Is it prescribing to a certain way of life? Is it living according to a certain creed or expectation? Is it checking off the right boxes when it comes to actions – accepted Jesus – check – attending a church – check – doing good – check, and so on.

Is it bringing the Kingdom of God to earth? Is it about supporting and following those who enact laws according to our beliefs? Is it taking the political power of our day and using it to defend our views?

These are not easy questions or ones which lend themselves to simple answers. However, there is something this questioning does do – it makes me think. It makes me wrestle with my thoughts – with what I read, with what I hear, with what I believe.

We tend not to wrestle much these days as followers of Jesus.

We want things simple and easy. “God said it, I believe it and that settles it for me.” It is a great catch phrase for a simplistic child-like faith. And I get it. The easier, the simpler, the better. The easier for people to understand.

Why make something complex when it can be pretty simple? There is no need to do that – only I am not sure everything is so simple.

We read encouragement to “grow in our faith” – “grow in our knowledge and understanding” – “become mature”.

But that seems too hard to do. Instead…

  • Have someone tell us what to do.
  • Have someone define faith for us.
  • Have our perspectives shaped by what we listen to more than by our hearing the voice of the One who knows all things.

And I wonder if we then begin to lose our way.

We go through motions of faith without much impact. We do all of the “right” things. We  assume we are making a difference, but the depth of transformation we see is shallow at best.

It could be expected.

After all we are told a time was coming when it would be like this. Only…we didn’t expect it would be us.

In a letter written by Paul to a young preacher named Timothy we find these words,

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (NLT)

Paul had already warned Timothy that there would be some difficult days in the future. The would be characterized by self-centeredness. They would be challenging to go forward and not get lost. He described them this way…

For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 2 Timothy 3:2–5 (NLT)

 As I think about “Jesus followers” in our culture, including myself, I wonder if we haven’t arrived at this place? If we haven’t lost our way? Lost what matters most? Lost what God is looking for?

We have made faith in Jesus to be a thing we do as opposed to what our lives are about. We form alliances with those who think like we do so we can prove how right we are as opposed to being absorbed with the heart of the One we claim to follow. We love our own wants and desires more than anyone else around us.

I am glad I feel frustrated.

I am glad I am not dismissing this as just the way things are or determine that is how “some people” are. It would be easy to ignore this sense of feeling lost and presume that is someone else but I am on the right track.

The fact that I am feeling frustrated means at least there is a possibility I may change. I can pursue a different path.

But will I?

 

Home Sweet Home

It’s good to be home.

After being away for almost three weeks it is so good to be back home. It is good to be with family, sleep in my own bed, unpack and no longer live out of a suitcase, be in comfortable surroundings, be home.  There is no place like it. House 001

We are entering the time when we look at family with Mother’s Day this weekend and Father’s Day a month or so away. We give gratitude to those who have positively influenced and impacted our lives. Happy Mother’s Day!

However, I recognize not everyone’s home environment is healthy or happy. Some “home” environments are toxic and it is the last place you want to be. You would rather run away from “home,” given the strain and dysfunction which occurs, then run toward it.

However, “home” is intended to be a wonderful unique place. It is where the people you are with know you better than anyone else does. It is where you don’t have to try and impress or feel unreasonable expectations. It is where you can “let your hair down” and be yourself.

“Home” is where you are welcomed. You belong there and are embraced with love and grace. You feel that love. You may mess up and yet are given the benefit of the doubt. You may argue or have disagreements, but love overlooks your faults and you overlook others. It is where you find acceptance.

“Home” is where you find care and compassion. Everyone looks out for each other and enables each other to be their best. You feel support and encouragement. You feel loved. When you say “you feel at home” it is because there “you are able to be yourself, feel acceptance, welcomed and be cared for.”

I enjoyed my time away and the few days I got to spend with some family members. I enjoyed meeting people and doing what I had to – learn, share, encourage, and lead. But, it is so good to be home.

Making the seemingly endless journey home – plane delays and all – made me think about home.

Now, I’m not sure what your impressions of God are. I don’t know how you think about Him or if you even think about Him at all.

I don’t know if you see Him as a genie who is there to meet your every need or as someone who is there to keep you “on the straight and narrow”.

I am not sure whether you feel a weight of expectations. Where you need to live up to something which seems unattainable. Or whether you feel so loved you assume He will always overlook what you do.

I don’t know whether you the thought of God makes you cower in fear or come alive.

What I do know is our perceptions of Him impacts life. It impacts our sense of “home.”

Jesus spoke with His followers about “home”. He talked about a “place” He is preparing  where He said this…

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14 NIV)

This is in part why followers of Jesus often describe death as going “home”. Going to be with Jesus and dwell in the place He prepared for them.

Except…

It made me wonder if we see being with Him like being “home”?

Does being with Jesus bring out that same sense for us?

Like our families, God knows everything about us, except more so. He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. We can keep some things from those closest to us, but God knows even those things. Nothing is hidden from Him. We can try and impress Him and be something we are not – but He knows the truth.

However, He wants us to be ourselves – nothing more or less. He desires that we relax in His presence. Jesus even said so.

When Jesus called everyone who was “weary and heavy laden” to come to Him to find “rest”, it was for this very reason. He is not expecting us to be something we are not, but to be who we are – to be ourselves before Him.

God knowsTo be at home with Him.

Home is where we are welcomed. And He welcomes us. He embraces us “Just as we are”. It is out of that warmth and love where He brings out the best of us. At home with Him we find that He encourages us, supports us, fights for us, and makes us feel like we belong. Like we are at home.

Do we feel that way?

Is that the way we would describe our lives in God’s presence? Do we feel at home there? Or does it feel different? Does it feel like we are having to be someone we are not or try and impress Him. Do we feel burdened by trying to live up to expectations in order to feel welcomed and a sense of belonging?

If so, then it really is not at all like home. It is somewhere else.

Only thing is – He intends that when we come into His presence it will be like coming into a place which He prepared for us. Like coming home.

Are you at home with Him?

 

Political Correctness

I know I just created expectations.

You read these words “Political Correctness” and immediately you anticipate certain things. What they are will depend on your perspective.Image result for political correctness

Your view of “Political Correctness” will  determine whether you expect to read, in what follows, insight into how we talk.

You will expect to read about how we engage and at times guard our conversations so that the things we say are acceptable to the masses. Where what we say shows respect for everyone.

You may read these words and you immediately expect to hear how, things have gone too far. While showing respect is important, there are some things which are labeled as “unacceptable” but they are what people are thinking. So honest dialogue gets lost.

How you view political correctness will cause you to anticipate what is to follow here.

Sorry to disappoint you.

The reason this title came to mind was not because of the debate over what should be said or not said publically. The reason I thought about political correctness was because of what I saw as I continue my journey across the country.

I was in a setting where educators were discussing their best practices. Each had the opportunity to share about their experience, which was being recognized and honored.  They are from very diverse places – large and small, urban and remote. And as they were sharing their experience I was struck by just how diverse these experiences were.

Several discussed, and showed pictures, of how they helped their students learn how to “live off the land” as part of their cultural heritage. Yet, seeing these images of remote northern places, where hunting and trapping is normal, struck a negative reaction from some of those around the table, particularly those who live in large urban centers. It was very foreign to them.

Which is just the point.

It is difficult to see something as normal when it is not part of our experience. When it is not part of the world we live in.

We all get pretty comfortable with what we know. The lens we look through at life helps define it for us. Yet, even for those who believe we need to show and give everyone respect and provide value to various perspectives, when we are exposed to views of life we do not understand or ones which do not line up with our own, we recoil. We can’t quite get ourselves to see, what we just witnessed, as something which should be happening.

It is so foreign to our world – we can’t quite get it.

I understand that.

I have many conversations where I am told about situations which don’t make any sense. “The concept can’t possibly work. There is no way this is doable.” At least that is what they say. The described “change” is immediately followed by this assessment of what has not been experienced before.  “We can’t possibly do that.”

Only…

I know where it is happening and is in fact a normal practice. If I were to suggest change from what is a “normal” practice in one part of the country to become what is “normal” in another it seems impossible. There would be lots of push back. “It just can’t possibly take place”. I recognize the push back because I have done just that often.

There is something about change.

We struggle because it is outside of what we know or expect. It doesn’t fit within our “correctness” of looking at the world.

It is easy to talk about respecting others when they think in a similar fashion to us. It is quite another thing altogether to speak about respect when we are exposed to things we do not understand, appreciate, agree with or even like. Can we still provide respect for people under those circumstances?

What I often see is we don’t go there. We avoid those who see things differently than we do. And when we do get exposed to them and their views, we immediately make judgements based on the one or two perceptions we have of them. We assume much and really get to know little.

And so it amazes me how Jesus knows everything about me and yet He gives me value and respect. He loves me regardless of how “incorrect” I may be or how I may see the world. He takes me where I am. He knows all the faults, all the shortcomings I have and yet is patient enough to give me room to grow and understand what I don’t get.

And He even offers to help me become who I can become. He helps me move toward becoming the “best” me I can be. Not who someone wants me to become. Or into the person I wish I could be. But into the person I was made to be.

In a letter written to Jesus followers it says this…

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

It speaks to how Jesus helps move us toward new life.

Full, abundant, life.

I am amazed at that. It is so foreign to what we often see. For ourselves, we may want things to change or be different, but we tend not to embrace change.

For others, we desire people to change, be different and grow. However, what we really mean is we want others to think, believe, and do what we expect them to do. We want them to become more like us.

And yet, Jesus comes along side of us and transforms our lives into what they are intended to be. Ones where freedom, hope, fulfillment, joy, is present and overflowing. He came to release the true nature of who we are.

There is only one way to describe that….

Amazing.

Cultural Divide

I am in the midst of a four city trip. Image result for airports vancouver

Four cities over 19 days taking me from the west to the east coast of Canada with a one day layover in familiar territory.

The thought of it seems glamorous.

Travel, seeing new sights, meeting people, being in hotels, etc.

But…

It also means waiting at airports, security lines, late night flights and arrivals, different beds, living out of a suitcase, adjusting to time zones (a four hour difference from one coast to the other), and being exposed to different cultures.

The culture part is what struck me as I began this journey. Image result for cultures

No matter where you go you discover a distinct culture. Things are done a certain way, things are looked at through certain lenses, life is lived through a distinct light no matter where you go.  Rarely do  you see life lived out in the same fashion as it is at “home” – wherever home happens to be.

With that comes the perception that the “right” way to view the world is the one we know. Which can mean any perspective, different than “mine”, is viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. After all it is unfamiliar.  “How can they think the way they do? How can they do what they do?” “What world have I gone to?”

On this trip I have been reminded just how diverse our “cultures are.” And it has caused me to think about two aspects surrounding culture.

One is our response to different cultures.

Let me be clear, diversity of culture goes beyond ethnicity. From one neighborhood to the next, from one community to the next, from one group of people to the next, one organization to the next, we discover different cultures. Culture is distinguished by the way we look at things, the way we do things, what is “typical” or “the lens” we view the world through. These help define our particular culture.

Which means that within any community there are various cultures. Some may be more prominent or prevalent than others. One neighborhood may be very different from the next. Groups of people, living together, working together, create a culture as they interact with each other.  Organizations take on a particular culture. We see different cultures all around us.

I am involved in different organizations and each board has a different culture even though they are doing similar work.

Different cultures exist all around us.

In thinking of this reality it made me wonder how we respond to culture. Do we dismiss the culture which is different than ours? Do we try and understand it? Do we look down our noses at it? Do we neglect, ignore, or reject it – because it is different? Do we embrace it? Do we look at it with suspicion? How do we respond?

Now before we get either too defensive or try and measure how tolerant we are, viewing other people, who think differently than we do in a negative light, seems natural. Whether we have a “progressive, conservative, liberal, religious,” or some  other perspective of life, it is natural to see “our culture” as the right way to view how life should be lived.

When we get exposed to a culture, different than our own, it is difficult not to view it questionably. Being around people who see and do things differently than I do has made me think about how I view and respond to cultures?

But it has given me another thought.

How does Jesus see culture?

God stepped into a time and space in our world. He stepped into a culture – much of which is foreign to what we experience today. And where He lived He was surrounded with other cultures as well. The Roman culture was present. He spent time in Egypt as a child. He grew up in Nazareth – very different from Jerusalem.

And yet He embraced people – regardless of their culture. He called for His followers to “go into all the world” and make further followers of His.

Somehow He was able to look past the cultural walls we create and see people as they are. Look past all of the things which divide us and see what we have in common. He stepped past the division, the difference and stepped into the common and brought life.

It doesn’t mean nor do we fine where He embraced every point of view or cultural nuance people had. But what we do find is He looked for those places beyond what would naturally divide us and sought the common ground to offer hope and life.

Do I do that?

It is more difficult than trying to get everyone to embrace my “culture”, my way of doing things. It is harder to do that than it is to reject any culture I don’t understand or appreciate. But it is also only possible if it is based on a love for people which goes beyond anything I have ever felt.

When we read, “God so loved the world…” it is more than words. It is what He meant and demonstrated. It is what Jesus did – regardless of the culture He saw – including yours and mine.

Am I following His example? Are you?

Stressed…

“I’m feeling stressed.” There I have said it.

It is not a profound statement. Stress is something all of us face…providing we are alive.

“With life comes stress”. Image result for stressed

However, we tend stress is seen in a negative light because of its’ impact on us. The  physical and mental ailments we face are often directly related to the level of stress we feel in our lives.

How many of us have heard we need to do what we can to reduce the amount of stress we face? We are told if we don’t curb our stress we are going to face certain medical conditions.

It sounds reasonable enough….except….

What causes us to feel stressed?

I could rattle off all of the areas we normally think of – major life changing moments, like marriage, death, moving, changing jobs, work pressures or deadlines, difficult relationships, health challenges, etc.

It is easy to identify how there would be stress when we walk through these typical life events. If we have survived them we understand how they can cause stress to increase in our lives. We get it.

Only…

It is only a small part of the overall stress we face. Much of our stress comes from other things in life. It comes from what many of us feel should not be stressful at all, and yet, for some reason it is stress inducing.

So why is that?

Is it because we worry about things? Is it because we are so adverse to change that when we have change happen in our lives we panic? Is it because we are “fragile” and are particularly “anxious” about life?

It could be all or none of the above.

The triggers for stress are diverse. So is the impact it has on us.

Years ago I saw a list which included some of the more obvious events which I have listed and then a host of other life moments, which seemed to be less significant stress producers. Beside each one was a value representing how much stress these events would typically produce. Everything from going on a vacation, to exercise, to seeing the dentist – dozens of things.

The basis for the list was to identify all of the areas which you experienced over the past year. Then add up your score using the value of stress for each. Depending on how high that number is you can determine whether or not you are in for some physical challenges because of the stress producers in your life.

The higher the score the more severe the impact stress would have.

The first time I did it – it was an eventful year. My score indicated that I should probably not be here. It was more than double what was approaching the concern zone. It was way beyond acceptable.

So, what is the right response?

Do you cut out all the big stresses? Do you limit living in order to reduce stress? Do you look at how you manage events and try and reduce the stress that is produced? Do you learn to cope with stress? Do you go on a vacation (higher on the stress list than you may think.) What do you do?

As time goes on stress does have an impact. We can learn to live with a certain amount of stress and we can do everything in our power to try and cope with or avoid the full weight of stress we feel. We can learn to say “no” to some things which alleviates some of that pressure. But stress is a funny thing.

I have felt stressed about things I would never expect to feel stressed over. Things like: taking a cab, packing, going through airport security, checking emails. And yet, I can feel little stress speaking in front of a crowd of people even though it is not a natural thing for me to do.

Stress is hard to figure out.

So what can we conclude?

Not a lot about why we feel stressed. There can be a host of factors. But we can discover some help in the midst of our anxiety or stress.

One is that stress is not a surprise to God. He understands life and the impact of living in  a broken world. So if you are feeling stress remember that God knows all about it and is there to help.

He reveals as much as we read these instructions from 1 Peter 5.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (NLT)

Secondly, manage our expectations. We are told to give all our worries and cares to God and we can easily imply that by doing so they will suddenly disappear. Our biggest challenges will be cut down to size or removed completely from us. Everything will work out the way we want it to and our stress will be eliminated. Perhaps.

God may do that. But He may also lead us through the stressful situations we face and not eliminate them at all. Our expectation, by giving our stress to God, is that what we face we will do so with Him present. We do not face our worries and cares alone.

And lastly, understand that when we face stress we are alive.

I know it sounds glib and seems to dismiss the impact of our stress. But as someone who feels stressed today, recognizing stress is part of life helps. After all Jesus said this about our stress…

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28–30 (NLT)

He doesn’t say there is no burden. But He does say He will give rest in the midst of our stress.  So rest in Him.