addiction, Family, Parenting

Don’t take a picture of your french fries – eat them.

The old cigarette ad shows a smoking doctor holding a baby.

We cringe because we know better now.

I wonder how long it will be before pictures of toddlers holding tablets cause the same reaction?

Because at some point we will know the effects of:

  • learning to speak without being able to look directly at a face; adults were on a device while talking to you.
  • never being bored enough to learn to be creative.
  • hearing “just a second” more than any other phrase for the first 4 years of your life.
  • being taught to re-arrange and re-enact the moment until it is most suitable for “sharing”.

Time will tell.

But, I do think one thing is already clear.

Those who have been trained to get likes will have a hard time giving love.

Giving love requires engagement.

Getting likes requires detachment.

Let’s talk detachment first.

Consider how, before the necessary capture and share required to get likes, you must detach. You have to hover above every scene ready to capture the moment. Then, the moment has to be evaluated and a choice made – share, delete, or re-enact? Each choice makes loving more difficult.

Sharing: What is shared is compared with thousands of other moments dressed up and held in captivity. Comparisons rarely make us happier. Unhappy people find it harder to love.

Deleting: If deleted, the moment is assigned a value which most certainly has psychological implications. Something about the moment was unworthy. Hard to love from a deficit position.

Re-enacting: If re-enacted, it is robbed of what gave it appeal in the first place. Love is incompatible with continuous attempts to create impressive moments. Lack of spontaneity means a lack of vulnerability. And love requires vulnerability.

Now we are talking about engagement and love.
Love means being fully present in the least impressive of moments. It means being so present that being present is it’s own reward. It means being engaged enough to share yourself and not a captured and curated version of yourself. It means losing yourself in the moment instead of capturing the moment.
It means keeping secrets instead of sharing.

It means holding everything as if it belongs instead of deleting.

It means revelling in unsanitized spontaneity instead of re-enacting.
Don’t take a picture of your french fries – eat them.

Uncategorized

What did I miss?

There is a bit of a pattern in our home.

I’ll start watching a couple episodes of a TV series and mention to Tamara or Acacia that they might like it. Then, a few days later, I’ll go to the basement and see them watching it, plop down on the couch, and realize they are a few episodes (seasons!?) ahead of where I left off.

So, I am left with no choice but to become incredibly annoying.

A few years ago Tamara got way ahead of me with “Scandal”. I’d sit down beside her after about 3 years of not watching the show, point at the TV and ask:”Is that person involved in the scandal?”

  • “What about that person?”
  • “Is there more than one scandal?”
  • “Should they pluralize the name of the show? Seems like it should have an ‘s’ on the end…more than one scandal I’m thinking.”
By this point I’d have a pillow stuffed in my mouth and the duct tape would be next.
It’s a humorous way to understand one of the reasons for our next sermon series at PAC. Because when it comes to being “caught up” on the Jesus story there are both “Tamara’s” and “Nathan’s” in our congregation.
Do you feel like you have been paying enough attention or know enough to understand the power of the Jesus story and be absorbed by it?

Then, the sermon series, Uncluttered, will be like watching a favorite movie again but noticing a whole bunch of nuanced things the director did to make the film more powerful.

Do you feel like you missed something?

You don’t know where characters fit. You are sheepish to ask too many questions. Not even sure if this is a genre you particularly like?

In that case, Uncluttered will be the series which not only answers your questions about Jesus but pulls you into the transforming power of His story.

Uncluttered will take us through the first recorded story of the life of Jesus – the Gospel of Mark. Along the way, we will be drawn into the simplicity, joy, and passion of Jesus and his mission. And as we learn what it is to walk with Him in that mission we to will find joy, simplicity, and passion as we find our lives becoming less confusing and less chaotic as we get to know Jesus better.
It starts this Sunday as we introduce the key figures behind the Book of Mark. It’s going to be good Sunday to invite a friend and get them hooked on this series. Who knows?
Maybe they’ll get way ahead of you and you can ask them annoying questions in a month or two.
Also this Sunday is a party week.
That means Mexican food and line dancing.
I love this church.
Family, Marriage

What She (Really) Wants For Valentine’s Day.

He doesn’t care.

He shrugs it off as no big deal.

He couldn’t be bothered.

His wife wants more – but baby, that’s just him.

He has removed the variables from life so he wont be blindsided.

He lives vicariously through high paid hero’s married to supermodels.

He can be disappointed but never hurt.

He thrives online.

He never loses because is never vulnerable enough to win.

He avoids storms instead of building a house which can stand up to storms.

An old trick which doesn’t work.

A mean trick shrinking life so small when the inevitable storm comes and knocks it over no one notices.

Unless Jesus.

Jesus, who has yet to meet anyone except where they are at.

Jesus empowering with affirmation.

Jesus exposing the fear masquerading as masculinity.

Jesus healing the bravado fueling hurt.

Jesus insisting he has, indeed, found the right man for the job and has not made a mistake.

Jesus choosing and naming.

Jesus challenging and provoking.

Jesus teasing.

Jesus mentoring.

Jesus honoring with distinction.

Jesus the hero making hero.

And everyone who walks by wonders why they have not noticed that house before. The blinds are wide open. Lamp blasted windows pour warmth into the cold front yard.  The welcome mat is out for those who might need  shelter. The driveway is shoveled to warn pending storms about how short lived their effects are.

It might be too late for 2019.

But if you start now, by 2020 you could give her a new house for Valentine’s Day.

She will love it, and you will like living in it too.

 

 

 

 

Pastoring, Sermons, Story

Those batteries wont keep you warm at night.

He grabbed the cheapest one and headed to the counter to pay for it.

He was buying it for someone who didn’t have one and was more than a little pleased with himself for being the kind of person who buys things for people in need.

He was delighted because:

  • He was acting anonymously.
  • there was no way the recipient would be expecting it
  • they needed it badly
  • He was using his personal money instead of the funds he could access as a pastor which are designated for helping people in need

It was especially this last ingredient which had him ever so pleased with himself.

But these others lined up at the till? Bunch of selfish jerks! Like the guy with a bunch of AA batteries. Self absorbed narcissist. Who needs that many batteries? Probably gonna just go home and change the batteries in his smoke detector or his remote control. Some people don’t even have remote controls to put batteries in! No consideration for the needs of others. No personal experience of the heart warming joy which comes when you sacrificially meet those needs.  Those batteries wont keep you warm at night friend!

Unless, of course they are for a heater or electric blanket or something…in which case then yes they would keep you warm in the blunt physical sense…but there is a depth of soul warmth only available to the man spending his own money to meet the needs of others.

It occurs to our hero that this poor self absorbed battery man will never ever find the path to deep joy if he keeps the mission anonymous. Yes, it might be hard on his soul to get a bit of attention here for this generosity what with the rewards in this life canceling those in the next, but such is his benevolence he is willing to pay a bit of a personal eternal price for the good of his battery obsessed brother.

He begins to mentally script the conversation he will have with the girl at the counter. She is a friend of his daughter, so it will be easy to strike one up. She actually knows the person he is buying this for! Even better. It will be natural. His tone can be almost reluctant. He basically is forced to tell her about it (and if battery man overhears then so much the better) because next time she sees “so and so” they will be wearing the item he is anonymously purchasing with his own money and so she better not tell them who bought it because he wants to keep it on the down low.

It’s his turn at the till.

Then Jesus nudges him.

It isn’t the obvious Pharisee / King David / “You are the man!” kind of self awareness a-ha moment you’d think would be coming. Neither is it about the need to avoid having your deeds shine before men, nor even about your left and right hand needing to act independently of each other.

Nope.

Jesus gives him a couple elbows to the conscience.

First: “Do to others what you would like them to do for you.”

He looks at the item in his hand and realizes he is buying a piece of crap. It hits him that he would never purchase or wear a garment of this design, quality, appearance, or cost. If someone were to buy it for him he would set it aside for a Christmas Party gift exchange or put it on the MCC pile.

But it is good enough for them.

Second: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

And that is when he gets the opportunity to make the decision if he wants to keep being a Christian or not.

Does he actually intend to try to obey everything Jesus commands, which of course is the intention of Christians. Or is he going to not be a Christian for awhile? Come back to it when it wont cost him as much.

Then some clarity. He suspects he has many un-Christlike reactions and thoughts which he doesn’t even know about. So probably when he notices one – he should pay attention.

He leaves the line and puts the item back on the shelf. He grabs the one he would buy if he was buying for himself.

He returns to the cashier a bit more self aware and a whole lot more humble.

This is to be expected.

But there is something else he is feeling which he totally didn’t see coming.

He feels really really safe.

There are reasons why he feels that way.

But he’d have to come to PAC Portage Sunday at @ 11 am to find out what they are.

I can guarantee he will be there. If it works out and isn’t awkward, I can maybe introduce you to him.

Leadership, Pastoring, Portage on Purpose

The Super Natural Power of a List.

“I don’t know where to begin.”

I heard it recently from a WPS student facing end of semester assignments and exams. But it could just as easily be coming from:

  • someone sorting through their recently deceased parents estate
  • a mom with two pre-school kids
  • someone overwhelmed by all the names and faces at their new job
  • a couple starting to have honest conversations about all the things they swept under the rug for 10 years
  • an addict who is determined to kick the addiction

We can spend most of our lives feeling like there is so much to do it is nearly insurmountable. It’s a terrible feeling – but you can make it go away. And not by some intricate and deep spiritual process (although that might help too). Nope, the simplest thing to do is:

Make a list.

Making a list is the easiest way to calm yourself because it takes what feels like a million things to do and shows there are actually only 11 things to do. Most of us can handle 11 things. Schedule them one by one. Cross them off as you do them.

Lists empower because they show you where to begin when it feel like there will be no end. Even more, lists show you there could actually be an end! Lists show traction and momentum as items get crossed off.

I sometimes hear from PAC’ers they don’t now where to begin when it comes to tackling our 4 Prayers: One Touch Healing / Multi-site / Demographic Representation / Award Winning Town. They are excited about these prayers, but are not sure what personally it means for them. What are the next steps? What can they do personally to nudge us towards them becoming a reality?

They need a list.

Currently, our staff and elders are working on a list. Discerning 3-4 specific things each person at PAC can do to help propel us towards seeing these prayers answed. I’m anticipating that list being done in Feb. But until the PAC specific list is done, there is another one to consider.

The list in Isaiah 58. Isaiah 58 paints a picture of healing, reconciliation, momentum, and towns which are beautifully repaired.

It also provides a list of boxes to check which will take us there.  

I have found this list to work without fail.  When I check the boxes in Isaiah 58, the good things promised happen with a predictability that is almost amusing. It’s a great way to experience partnering with Jesus. You’re partnering with Him because He has the same boxes on His list.

I invite you to live in Isaiah 58 for a season. Give it a read. Memorize it. Come back to it daily. Journal the promises. Make a list of what you are going to do and schedule when you will:

  • share your food with the hungry
  • give shelter to someone who needs it
  • reach out intentionally to someone you have been avoiding
  • not initiate or enter into gossip
  • lighten the burden of someone who is carrying more than you are

The complexity of the four prayers will fade away in the rear view mirror as you begin to experience the promises of Isaiah 58.

You’ll experience momentum.

You’ll experience intimacy.

You’ll get clarity.

You’ll get energy.

Because now you know where to begin.

 

 

Pastoring, Spirituality

No one will have to sit by themselves…

We were 30 minutes into the Grade 6 Bible class at Westpark School a couple weeks ago and I was loving how engaged the students were.

We had decided the Bible was like a 7 act play: Creation, Fall, Exodus, Exile, Incarnation, Spirit, and Renewal.

I asked “What act of the play are WE in?”

Little hands were straining to the ceiling taking wild guesses.

Finally, one young woman got it.

“It’s kind of like we are somewhere between Spirit and Renewal.”

Much earnest discussion about how a renewed world will look. How will people behave? What does a tree look like without sin in the world? What will doctors do when no one is sick? Do moms and dads split up in this renovated creation? Does anyone in Grade 6 not have nice clothes or have to sit by themselves at lunch when heaven comes to earth?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I was loving this. I could see lights going on that there might be something to this Christian story beyond lifeboat evacuation thinking. This might be a story which can capture the imagination forever.

Then the best insight I’ve ever heard an 11 year old have.

“Wait a second?! If we already have the Holy Spirit and we already know what it is going to look like – WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?”

I could hear the angels singing. Come on!

This season, what are you waiting for?

You have the Holy Spirit and you know what it is going to look like so do it now.

Forgiveness. Generosity. Fill the hungry with good things and not your left overs. Pulling corrupt rulers from their thrones. Offer hospitality beyond your kin. Reconciliation  which costs. Deep celebration because the darkness can never win. Justice because the real King puts other needs ahead of His own. Healing. Inclusion. Mercy. Grace. Beauty. Restoration.

Now.

Advent reminds us it can feel like we are waiting for everything, and this is true.

A girl in Grade 6 (can we call her Mary?) reminds us we are waiting for nothing, and this is also true.

What are you waiting for?

 

 

Pastoring

Say for example you needed $330 000…

What Jesus meant when he said “Kingdom of God” isn’t the easiest thing in the world to understand.

What is clear is that whatever exactly this Kingdom is, he told us to make it our primary concern. Because he knows we can’t entirely abandon our primary concerns without being foolish, he doesn’t tell us to deny ourselves those things or ignore our need for them. Rather, to make it possible for us to focus on God’s Kingdom first, he tells God will provide for us the things we need if we prioritize God’s Kingdom.

Responding to these teachings will change how you might have other wise approached things.

Say for example it was December and the church you were pastor of needed three hundred and thirty thousand dollars to meet budget by years end. This money represented 25% of your annual budget. 1/4 of the money needed to come in during 1/12 of the time. Also say you had scheduled for the first two weeks of December guest speakers who represented situations and needs which were greater than your own. The point of inviting these speakers was to inspire people in your congregation to support the causes they represent.

Without Jesus teaching challenging your reflexes you’d maybe cancel the visitors. Or, you’d delay. Or, you’d make sure your congregation knew that these were fine causes to support generously but they ought to keep in mind our own budget needs as well.

Without taking Jesus teaching seriously you’d make your own sense of scarcity the context for the level of your possible generosity and that would be a clearly anti-Kingdom of God move.

But now also say, by God’s good grace to you over the years you are beginning to take Jesus teachings as descriptions of reality so you don’t do that. Your reflexes aren’t Kingdom of God reflexes just quite yet but at least you pause now before you react without thinking about Jesus promises. In this case, you thought carefully about Jesus promises and decided to bank on them, not making your own sense of scarcity a basis for your decisions.

Now say, because of your Dec 2 guest speaker your church board gave twenty thousand dollars to help a new church in Laval Quebec. And then imagine because of your Dec 9 guest speaker 175 Compassion Children ended up being sponsored. If all this happened you would no doubt be immensely proud of your church and more importantly, you’d also feel like God was pretty proud of your church.

And finally, say if on Dec 16, there was no guest speaker. Just you returning to the pulpit and preaching a normal sermon after you talk about the current financial situation for a bit.

What would you say?