Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Speak to me!

So, I'm checking out my favorite blogs. (Found a few awesome ones, by the way.) I'm inspired, challenged, encouraged by the words and thoughts of others.
And I think: "I haven't written anything for a couple weeks. No inspiration, no burning message to impart to my disciples. What's wrong?"
For me, the urge to write something usually comes from a bit of revelation. Some thought starts swirling around the galaxies of my brain, and develops into something somewhat cohesive. I hope.
The muse strikes, and having struck, moves on.
When it doesn't happen, I don't write.
Pretty simple, I guess.
But reading other people's stuff gets me wanting to write. To have deep, philosophical, world-changing thoughts.
So, being a strong believer that God communicates with us today, I ask/beg/demand that He show me something worth writing about.
As if I can make God do anything!
That I can force Him to talk to me.
Sure, I know He is especially fond of me (Check out The Shack for further enlightenment on that one.)
But that doesn't mean I can make Him do something at the drop of a hat.
Sure, many times He has answered my desperate calls for immediate wisdom to make a good decision (and sometimes I have even followed His direction!) But still!
And I know He loves to be in communion with me. He totally desires for me to share all of the little and big things of my life with Him. But...!
Can I just sit here and say: "God, talk to me. I think now is the time that I need to hear something. I think that now is the time for me to move forward in my knowledge. I think now is the time for me to gain new understanding."
I think God has the right to decide if I am ready for some new level of understanding. I think He gets to say: "It's not time yet. You don't need to know the answer to that question yet. I'll show you in good time. Don't get your knickers in a knot. Hang on, and Trust Me."

So, I'm not writing about some new revelation about something. This isn't a catchy little turn of phrase that will have you going "WOW!"
I guess it's a recognition that God is God. And I'm not.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What's the worst that can happen?

(With much thanks to Peter Walker for a comment on one of my posts, and the awesome series of Meeting House videos)

What is the worst that could happen if we started living and loving like Jesus? If we actually started building relationships with 'the least of these' that Jesus calls us to?
Mat 25:40 “Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me--you did it to me.'”
There are lots of people that could fit into that 'overlooked or ignored' group. The qualifications vary for each of us. Perhaps one of the various sub-cultures I talked about in my post on culture:
--the pierced and tattooed
--the homeless
--the gays, the prostitutes, the addicted
--the punks, the emos, the goths
--the hardcore, the straightedge, the headbangers
--the non-whites, the non-English, the non-American
You know the person you are most likely to walk past on the street, trying not to make eye contact.

But what is the worst that could happen if you actually made a friend with one of 'those kind of people'?

Peter Walker challenged me with the question, particularly referring to being a friend of a gay person: “what if someone thinks I'm 'one of them?!?'” (Realizing that many Christians treat gays like the biggest scourge on the earth)
That's the kind of worry we might have, that's one of the worst-case scenarios we might be worried about.
So, let's confront our fears, and dream up some more of the 'What's the worst that could happen?' screenplays in our minds.

In many cases, I think we are worried about being tarred with the same brush, treated as part of the same group. Whether it is a gay person, a prostitute or someone on drugs, we are worried that our lily-white reputation might be tarnished. We might lose our friends, we might not be looked up to any more.
It happened to Jesus, so don't be too surprised if you get treated in a similar fashion.
Mat 9:10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them.
Mat 9:11 When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?"

We are a lot more worried about how we feel than with how they feel.
So really, our fear is that we will be treated like Jesus was treated—looked down on, talked about. If that is more important to us than loving them, we are missing the whole point.

Maybe you are worried about catching something from a homeless person—some terrible disease, or lice, or actually having to touch them, or caring enough to take them for a meal. Well, it wouldn't be any worse than they deal with all day long. Do you think they enjoy not having easy access to a shower or clean clothes? Do you think they really like suffering with a cold that just won't go away all winter long?

What about hanging around people with different musical tastes than you, having different political views than you, or dressing in a very different style than you? Are you worried that they might actually affect how you think about things? That you might change your political views or perception of society? That you might discover that the 'Christian' way you were taught to see life might not be completely accurate? That you might have to admit that you really don't completely understand an issue, and need to think about it some more? That you might have to admit your dogmatic view needs to be changed? That they might actually be (Gasp!) 'right', and you are (Double Gasp!!) 'wrong'?
You might even begin to understand why they have issues with society/adults/Christians.

It has become so easy to assume that our culture is the best one, the only one. That we have figured out the best way to do things. That 'the Canadian (or American) Way' is God's way. That any teaching about anything is from us to them (whoever you perceive them to be at the moment). We honestly don't think other cultures can show us anything of value. This tends to be as true about other national cultures as the sub-cultures around us. Do we see how arrogant that really is? Can we see how much beauty and wisdom we are missing?

So, the worst that could happen as we begin to treat people as Jesus would, as we are friends with people different than ourselves:
--we might see how it feels to be treated as a second-class member of society
--we might be treated like Jesus was treated
--we might get our hands dirty
--we might have our minds expanded
--we might experience life and beauty from the broader perspective of more than just our own culture.

We might start looking more like Jesus.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Follow your passion

Google the following phrase:
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.' Gil Bailie
and you will discover several pages of people who find it a source of inspiration. I found it on a friend's Facebook profile, and thought I'd check it out.
I think what caught my attention was that it says something quite similar to how I prefaced some remarks I made yesterday at a fellowship called 'The Sheep'.
I hadn't planned on starting out that way. It was one of those moments when you can hardly keep up with the words coming out of your own mouth fast enough to keep the heresy filter in place. If I can remember the gist of what I was saying, it was along the lines of:
“If you really aren't enjoying what you are doing in life, you are probably missing out on a lot of what God intends for you. He has given you skills and passions, and if you aren't using them, you are probably bored, depressed, or stressed. If you are using them, you will be enjoying your life and work more, and will be closer to how God intended you to be. “
We had sung 'Shout to the Lord ' and 'Jesus, all for Jesus' during worship, and the following lines had really stuck out in my spirit:
'Let every breath, all that I am, Never cease to worship You.' (Shout to the Lord, by Darlene Zschech)
'Jesus, all for Jesus; All I am and have, and ever hope to be.' (Jesus, all for Jesus by Robin Mark)

And it wasn't a sense of “I have to give everything up, to lose all my personal identity in order for God to be blessed in and through my life”, but “I have to really use everything I have been given, be truly myself in order for God to really be lifted up through my life.”

God has given us skills, gifts, passions, talents, urges, and dreams. We really aren't going to feel fulfilled until these things start happening in our day to day lives. If you are a frustrated musician, working as a software designer you might be making good money but not feel like you are really making a difference in the world. You would likely feel much better about yourself, and recognize your place in God's kingdom if you quit your good job and become the musician you always felt you wanted to be.
Now I realize you should think it through a bit, count the cost of giving up a good paying job, and all of that, but personal fulfillment (or using your talents, or following your passions) will give you more satisfaction in life than making money. Besides, if you really want to be obedient to God, doesn't it make sense that you should be doing the things He planned from the beginning for you to do? Why else do you think you have musical skills, and a desire to be able to move people with your music?
(If you follow my advice, and it works, I'll be happy to share the glory. If you end up losing everything, playing guitar on the street, it wasn't my idea!)

So, I agree with the quote from Gil Bailie.
Do what makes you come alive.
It will energize you. It will multiply the effect of your life. It will make the world a better place.

I can see how it has been happening in my life. I'm feeling more alive and fulfilled now as a volunteer missionary than when I was working my way up the corporate ladder. I know I am making the world a better place (at least the little part of the world I am in). I know more of my gifts and passions are being used. And I think people around me can probably see that I am more alive.

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