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When Your Kids are Better Than You

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Have you ever had a moment when you realize your kids are learning things, without you even realizing it?

This happened quite a while back at Christmas.

We had a busy day trying to get the kids out for school, catching buses and drop-offs. And, I had an early breakfast meeting, only to come home and realize everyone was still sleeping and we are now late.

And by late, I mean late.

It’s at this time that my son, Hudson, starts to ask about his allowance. About how much he has, how much he gets and if he can have it all now.

Like, right now. Like, “I need cash, dad.”

I respond like any parent would with a “No, go get your stuff on” and proceed to run around like madman trying to get things ready.

We make it out and I give Hudson $5 reluctantly, because apparently it’s a day when they can buy presents at school that they will wrap for them. And, he wants to spend his allowance money (hence the “How much do you owe me dad?” conversation).

That’s all I thought of it, until I picked up Hudson after school and he walks in with a wrapped gift. And, he’s proud, excited and shows me what he’s bought. On it, in big bold letters, it says, “Asher, Merry Christmas, from Hudson.”

He used his allowance money to buy a gift for his brother. His brother he often wrestles. His brother he often fights with like any child. His brother whom he loves and showed it with a gift.

Ever feel like your kids are teaching you?

Here I was all mad about giving him his allowance, and all he wanted to do was buy something for his brother. Because, as he told me, “That’s what we do at Christmas.” (He also told me that if I’d given him more of his allowance, he could have bought Eden something too.)

So, I write all this to remind you that sometimes your kids are picking up more than you realize.

And I think we need to pay attention to them and what they are learning, because truth be told they learn faster than we often do. I should have learned to trust my son 6 months ago, but I didn’t. And this last week the exact same dynamic played out again. He asked for money, needing his allowance, this time though it was so he could buy food for kids in Africa.

So I write all this because, while you think they are not listening at all, as you are just trying to get them to school, hockey or piano, they are paying attention.

And, sometimes, if you are paying attention, they have something to teach you.

Like how my first response when Hudson asks for his allowance should be “what for” 🙂

Consuming Church

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We live in a Western consumeristic world.

This is something I’ve written about before, but it’s still true. And, what matters most isn’t to lament this, but rather to recognize it and “call it out” when we see it. Because, what can (and does) subtly happen is that this Western consumeristic world starts to infect and affect the church.

One way that often happens is through this idea of the church “providing religious experiences” for people. That the goal of coming to church is to have “an experience” in which people encounter God. And, on the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with this. Because, in many ways, that is what I hope happens during our weekend services.

But, when you peel back the layers, you can see how quickly that goes off course. Because, the church doesn’t exist so you can have “an experience.” Church isn’t about you in the first place, and it’s not about me either.

Church is about Jesus calling us to be faithful in His mission in the world.

But, it quickly slides into consumerism when we show up to “experience something” and then rate our experience based on what we were offered, rather than what we brought to it. We talk about what we receive, rather than what expectations and openness we brought with us.

I write all this because it is subtle and dangerous.

And, I know it’s me. I’m more likely to enjoy something that makes me feel good, rather than something that invites me into the hard process of being an apprentice of Jesus.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

Now, I’m not bemoaning the current state of Christianity. Instead, I’m bemoaning the state of my own soul. Because, I’m shaped by this culture, just like everyone else. And, because of this, I’m tempted to ask, “How was church this week?” – as if I’m somehow outside of it, divorced from it and a spectator, rather than part of it.

Instead, I should be asking different questions, such as:

. “How was I a part of church?” 
. “Did I give, participate and open myself up to being found by Jesus?”

Different questions, but question that I think matter.

Because, it’s so easy to seek a little religious, uplifting experiencing, rather than choose the long road, pursuing holiness in an apprenticeship to Jesus.

So, this post isn’t to “call out” anything else other than to remind us that the temptation to consume church is always there, and it needs to be recognized and, most of all, resisted.

The Power of Routines

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A week a bit ago, we ended up cancelling our services because of the bad weather, and the forecast of freezing rain. What this meant was that I was up much earlier than the rest of my family, looking at the forecast, and talking with my team and other churches, in order to make the best decision.

So, when my kids came down, I was already on my second cup of coffee. And when I told them that we had a snow day and we weren’t going to church, they all promptly started crying…

Hudson cried, “Dad, I want to learn about Jesus!” To which I assured him I could teach him about Jesus, but he said I wasn’t as good as his teacher (never mind that I teach people about Jesus for a living).

Asher cried, “Dad, my craft! I won’t make my craft!” To which I assured him I could do a craft with him, but he also said I wasn’t as good as his teacher.

And, Eden? Well, when I asked her, she was just crying because the other two were.

Now, in some ways, I know this story sounds like a made-up pastor’s story. You know, the kind that embellishes the spiritual connections of the family of the pastor. But, let me be up-front about something:

My kids are normal kids, and my family is a normal family.

We are not the rock-star, spiritual all-star family who have quiet, daily devotions with long prayers. We are a regular family who struggles, just like everyone else.

I share this story to point out, not the amazingness of my family, but rather the power of tradition, rituals and rhythms. Because, what gets repeated often gets missed. What I think this little anomaly of a story demonstrates is how good rhythms, rituals and traditions are missed when they don’t happen.

That’s what happened on Sunday. My kids missed our normal routine. They missed our regular rhythm. Because, routines, rhythms and rituals create huge impact over the long-term.

So, my question is this: What routines, rhythms or rituals do you have in your family? Which ones really matter? Which ones should you add?

Because, we tend to have family traditions around things like Christmas, holidays and Easter. But, what about weekly habits that draw your family closer? Is church a habit? What about Friday night game/movie night as a family? Or, saying one thing you love about your child or spouse each night before bed?

I write all this because very early on Sunday, I was reminded about the power of routines, and how they build good things within us. So, take some time to make sure you are intentionally creating the right ones.

People of the Second Chance

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A little while ago, I was reading the book, People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster. In it, he lists what he calls “The Five Condemnments”:

1. “I don’t deserve a second chance.”
2. “I am my shame. I am my secrets.”
3. “I will always feel and be this way.”
4. “I am defined by my worst moments.”
5. “My life, my dreams, my hopes no longer matter.”

As I interact with people, I see so many who live under these condemnments. That somehow a second chance is for others, not for them. That somehow what defines them most is their shame, failure and worst moments. They feel trapped in a cycle of no hope because yesterday was bad, so tomorrow will be bad, and they feel they deserve it. In essence, they start listening to the lies other people say about them, rather than what the Gospel says about them.

But, Jesus has a radically different promise and pronouncement for all of us. Here’s what He has to say about you:

1. “You do deserve a second chance, because I died to secure that for everyone.” (John 3:16)

2. “You aren’t your shame and secrets. You are forgiven and free.” (John 8:1-11, when Jesus encounters the woman caught in adultery).

3. “Your future isn’t full of darkness and repeats of defeat. If you believe in Me, you will have full and abundant life today.” (John 10:10)

4. “You are not defined by your worst moments, but rather by My calling on your life.” (John 21, when Jesus restores Peter after his worst moment).

5. “Your dreams do matter, because I, the Good Shepherd, know you and all that you need.” (John 10:14) – In fact, the first words of Jesus in the book of John are, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). So, your wants, dreams and desires do matter to God.

I write all this to remind you of something: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is freeing, transforming and totally life giving. The condemnments we so often live under aren’t part of living under God’s reign, love and grace.

So, today I want to remind you that if you feel like you don’t deserve a second chance – that shame owns you, that your past failures define you, that life can’t change, that your wants and desires don’t matter – than, well, Jesus begs to differ. Come and experience Him, and find that difference in your life.

There Is No Love Which Does Not Become Help

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There is a beautiful quote from theologian, Paul Tillich, about the relationship between love and help. He writes this:

“There is no love which does not become help.”

I find this immensely helpful. Because, in my world (and probably yours too), the situations around me are complex. Sometimes I see the struggles in the lives around me, both locally and globally, and I can feel stuck. I mean, I want to help that neighbour who is struggling; I want to help that co-worker with a broken relationship; I want to change some of the global realities around me. The problem is, I just don’t know how.

Have you ever been there before?

Sadly, since we don’t know what to do, we just don’t act. We end up having loving intentions that don’t lead to helping actions. And, if the love isn’t there and you just focus on the helping part, it will often come off in the wrong way.

This is why I love Paul Tillich’s quote. Because he gets the focus right.

If you want to help someone, the focus should be on loving that person. And, if that focus is there, as Tillich says, it will turn out to be helping. When you focus on loving someone first, it always turns into helping them in the best way possible.

Love turns into love-filled actions, which turns out to be help. Because, help without love isn’t charity; rather, it’s empty actions.

So, I write all this to say something simple: If you see someone and you want to help, but don’t know how, start by loving them, and the rest will come.

“There is no love which does not become help.”

 

What’s Killing the Church

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Today, I want to talk about what’s killing the church and its witness. And no, it’s not what you’d expect – it’s not sin. It’s not a lack of discipline. It’s not weak or lukewarm Christians, or whatever else is lamented in today’s world.

I think what’s killing the church is busyness.

And, I say this as an incredibly busy person. This is snapshot of what a recent day looked like for me…

  • Meeting starting at 6 AM.
  • Back to the house to get kids and drop them off to school.
  • Meetings and sermon writing throughout the day.
  • Volunteering in Asher’s school.
  • Hockey in the evening for the boys.
  • Followed by school (I had an exam).
  • Followed by prepping for a large NGO Board that I sit on.
  • Followed by cleaning the house and talking with Krista.

And, I say this not to be like, “Look at how busy I am! I must be awesome!” I say this because I think the drive to get more stuff done each and every day is what is killing the church. Where do you and my neighbours show up? Where is whitespace for God opportunities and interruptions?

Where am I even giving God space to move in my day?

I bring this all up because I bet your life isn’t all that different. Sure, the pieces might be different. Sure, some of what you do might be different. But, I bet the first thing you’d say when I ask how your week is, “Busy.”

And, that’s what needs to change.

Because, busyness doesn’t expand God’s kingdom.

And, I’m not talking about being lazy, rather I’m talking about being available. Available to God. Available to interruptions and those around you. Available to meet and connect with others.

Doug Fields writes, “Busy is the enemy of neighbourly.”

That is so simple, and true.

As Christians, we are called to be neighbourly because we are called to change neighbourhoods.

I write this as a challenge today. Cut some things out of your schedule to make space for God’s schedule. Busy is the enemy of neighbourly, and busy is the enemy of a whole life. So, make some changes.

That’s what I am going to do today.

 

The Greatest Treason

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“The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” – T.S. Eliot

I read that quote just a little while ago and it has really stuck with me. However, I don’t want to comment too much on it, but instead I want to encourage you to examine it and think it through.

Because, what I believe Eliot is getting at is that our heart, motives and desires actually do matter.

I believe that’s true, because, in Matthew 25, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees, not for their actions, but for their hearts. They were doing the right deeds for the wrong reasons.

And so, for me today, I’m thinking through not only my deeds, but also my heart. Because,

I believe that Eliot is onto something when he reminds us that the right deeds done for the wrong reasons are a great treason.

 

Dad you can have enemies right?

Enemies-e1520468752606.pngI have always believed that the Bible matters and is relevant to all ages. I just didn’t realize how true that was, even for little kids, until the other day when I was driving Asher to school.

As we were driving, Asher said, “Dad, you can have enemies, right? If someone hits you a lot, they are your enemy.”

He then preceded to tell me who his enemy was and what he thought about them. And, he outright asked if it was okay to have enemies. Because, in our technical language, it seems that Asher has a “frenemy.”

Sometimes I wish adults were this honest and open.

So, I told him about Jesus, and how we follow what Jesus asks of us. I told him how Jesus doesn’t deny that there are enemies in this world (people who hurt us, maybe even hit us, or people who aren’t good), but that Jesus says we are called to love our enemies.

I said to Asher, “If you have an enemy, we need to love them too. It’s okay to choose not to play with them. It’s okay to tell the adult in charge if you are being hit. But, we don’t want to hate anyone.”

I write this all because I think Asher’s question is a good one: Is it okay to have an enemy?

Yes, the Bible lives in the reality where there are hurtful, abusive and difficult people in our lives – people that we might call an “enemy.” What the Bible challenges isn’t the existence of evil, but rather our response to it. We are called to love our enemies, and we are called to love them because our God in heaven loves them. And, how we do that is complex, and my point isn’t to wade into all of that today.

Yes, with abusive people, boundaries matter.

Yes, with toxic people, you don’t have to become a doormat.

Yes, with evil, pursuing justice matters.

But, when it comes down to the base level, what I told Asher was, “We can’t let hate into our hearts.” We need to love people, even the ones who are difficult.

So, how might you do that with the difficult people around you?

That’s a question that’s worth thinking about, because after I dropped Asher off that’s what I thought about. My little guy reminded me of Jesus’ calling on our lives to love our enemy. And, it’s a reminder that I needed. And, maybe you need this as well.

 

Daddy are you Strong?

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The other day, Eden came into our room and into our bed, because, as she said it, “I scared.”

If you have kids, this has probably happened to you.

And so, like any good parent, I snuggled with her, calmed her down and then took her back to bed (because little kids are wiggly in bed and ensure that while they sleep, you don’t!).

When I took her to bed, I prayed with her, and ensured her that daddy loved her and that she was safe. It was then that she looked up at me and said, “Daddy, are you strong?”

And, I said, “Yes, honey, your dad is strong.”

“Like really strong?” she asked.

And, I told her this, “Yes, sweetheart, your dad is very, very, very strong. He is here and you are safe, and it’s okay to sleep and have sweet dreams.”

At that, she turned over and fell fast asleep.

Now, you might want to quibble or challenge the statement that I am “very, very, very strong.” And maybe, in your eyes, I’m not. Well, let’s be honest, in most people’s eyes the first word that jumps to their mind when they see me isn’t “strong.”

But, the point is that for Eden, knowing that someone stronger than her was watching over her let her feel safe and at peace. What she was looking for wasn’t for me to give a complex answer on the different magnitudes of strength out there, but rather to assure her that she is safe because of my strength.

When I went back to my bed then, the first thing that came into my head was how often the Bible talks about God being strong and mighty. We read of God being great and “mighty in power” (Psalm 147:5); that He has “acted with a strong hand and powerful arm” (Psalm 136:12) and is “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17).

I think the reason the Bible talks like this isn’t because God is physically strong or that He has big muscles. The point is that God is strong enough that we can trust in Him, and feel safe in His presence, power and protection.

Of course, the world is broken and complex and, at times, bad things happen. I’m not denying that.

All that I am saying is that at some point what we need isn’t a complex discussion on the different magnitudes of strength, free will and evil. Rather, what we need to know, at a base soul level, is that God is mighty and able to save, and that He is for us and not against us.

What we need to know is that the One who looks after us and cares for us is “very, very, very, strong.”