Compassion Requires Understanding

I’ve read over some really neat notes this morning, that I made from a Henri Nouwen article. It’s actually a blog post where I quote myself, talking about people having “sympathy” for us because of Rej and Sam.

And now I’ve written this post just to give you a link to something where I quote something else! Sorry about that, but you know what just hitting the “Share” button does… (causes people to flip by, assuming they’re like me…)

Another reason for doing this, is the subject matter, which has to do with my One Word for this year. Compassion, and getting to know people, wow, from 2007!

 

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Love Carried Me

It seems I’m becoming personally acquainted with more and more missionaries. There’s a family from Good Shepherd that I pray for all the time, there a couple of my Perspectives students on my missions-prayer list now (naturally), and now there will be a couple from our small group, who are moving back to Africa. Also, there is a lady who was working with me on Wednesday mornings with the 3-year-olds, who went to Peru on her mission just before Christmas.

She has a very sweet spirit, and was always good with the little ones (she’s actually a teacher). In Peru, she works at an orphanage, where many children have been given up because they are handicapped. Her newsletters are beautifully written, and she also has a blog. One reason I’ve had to tell you all about her, is to explain where I found this beautiful thing–the words to a song that I don’t even know (“Carried to the Table”):

Wounded and forsaken
I was shattered by the fall
Broken and forgotten
Feeling lost and all alone
Summoned by the King

Into the Master’s courts
Lifted by the Savior
And cradled in His arms
 
I was carried to the table
Seated where I don’t belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love

And I don’t see my brokenness anymore
When I’m seated at the table of the Lord
I’m carried to the table
The table of the Lord

Fighting thoughts of fear
And wondering why He called my name
Am I good enough to share this cup
This world has left me lame
Even in my weakness
The Savior called my name
In His Holy presence
I’m healed and unashamed

You carried me, my God
You carried me.

And now I’ve just remembered that this comes from the Old Testament story where David tells Jonathan’s son, who is lame, that he is to eat at the King’s table every day. The promise for Christ-followers (now or in the future), is to be “healed and unashamed”… wait… scratch that about “now or in the future”–because “In His Holy presence”, we ARE healed, even if not physically (though it WILL be physical, in that Day when we are physically in His presence!)

 

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Love = Joy

It was rather fitting that the first sermon of the year was full of the subject “Love”, my One Word for 2017! Our Young Adults pastor did an excellent job preaching on John 15, about “Abiding in Christ”, and was very passionate when he came to the part about love.

Of course, he emphasized how important it is, as Christ-followers, to be into God’s Word–and not just reading it, but letting it “get into” you. This passage is pretty clear about that. Jesus says “if you make yourselves at home with me and my words [scripture] are at home in you”– this is The Message translation, making “dwell” clear with “at home”–if you do that, “you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.”

These verses talk about having results, or “producing fruit”, so part of that has to do with asking for things according to God’s will revealed in scripture. The reason to have results, is to point to God, so more and more people will know they are loved by Him: “This is how my Father shows who he is”. Jesus says, “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.”

And how do we keep that relationship alive (“organic”), and “remain at home” in God’s love? Jesus makes it pretty clear: “If you keep my commands [as revealed in the Bible], you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.” And just a few lines later he says, “This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.” There are so many fickle “love” declarations around these days, but this one is about loving sacrificially.

Jesus also demonstrates his love in these very verses, by explaining why he’s saying these things: “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy”.

I didn’t actually make notes on Kenny’s sermon, but these are such wonderful verses, that it’s easy to read them over and come up with LOTS to say!

So go get God’s word into you: John 15:1-17 :)

 

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“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it.” (1 Peter 4)

My year-end thoughts were pretty clear on a couple of things:

  1. I knew what I’d learned this year: to persevere in prayer, especially for loved ones who don’t yet know Christ; always keeping in mind that God answers/does things that are far above what we can ever think or imagine. Of course, I knew this before, but this year I “learned it more”. (And just as an “extra”, this was also the year that I learned to “talk” less–even though I can still post quite a few brag-photos, several days can go by before I update my status; and of course it’s now rare to update my blog… I got tired of myself!)
  2. I knew what I wished for myself, for next year: that I would be better at sharing Christ, face to face. It’s easy to say things on Facebook, or in a blog. But face to face, I just don’t do it. Even though my “calling” seems to be to help Christians grow; and not that I want to be forced or uncomfortable. But there is an urgency after all, just like it’s important to let people know that you love them (that idea that you never know when you won’t have the chance to say it again). Yeah, speaking of love…

Year-end is also time to think of my One Word, and what it might be for 2017. It hasn’t been anything amazing for me in the past, but I still enjoy doing it. As it is with anything when I ask God for wisdom, it begins with me having absolutely no idea. Yet, there’s usually excitement, as I think of how willing God is to answer, when you ask for wisdom or guidance; and so there was this time.

In my email was a link for a “personal retreat”, which I worked through without much enthusiasm for their questions–since there was no “personal baggage” from 2016 that I needed to attend to, no real “failures” to deal with and move on. Unless it was the failure mentioned above: not sharing the gospel face to face. I’d read somewhere recently that if we really love people, we should have a desire to share Christ with them….

Yeah, maybe that was it. Knowing that I can be quite self-absorbed, often thoughtless, and having a slightly guilty feeling about all that I possess for my personal comfort… maybe it’s because I need to love better. Even when we had International students over for Christmas Dinner, the main reason was to make sure of a good “crowd” for that Christmas-y feeling, and to expand our own horizons by meeting people from another country. So don’t pat me on the back for any sacrifice on my part!

“Love” is such a common, over-used word. When it first suggested itself for my One Word for 2017, I totally rejected it. Way too general! But a One Word after all, shouldn’t be based on how “chic” it is. So I read over the verses provided at the end of that “personal retreat” (“To help refine your search, examine a few scriptures that speak of virtues that have the potential to become your One Word: 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, Colossians 3:12–17, 1 Peter 4:7–11, Galatians 5:22–23.”) And of course, the main “virtue” in these verses is Love. Also, I’d just read a reminder that God’s assignment for us each day, can be accomplished if we concentrate on truly loving those we are in contact with. (Mind you, this will always have in the background for me, the lesson learned in Perspectives: that we humans are not capable of keeping up a love-for-the-world, it usually becomes too exhausting. We do things/be missional because God commands us to.)

I’ve never been so sure, so quickly, about my One Word for the next year. It was what happened at the end of this devotional time, that solidified it (even though I had to let it “percolate” overnight). Thinking about how one year, I talked about how it was fun to look at the One Word in an opposite way, or come at if from a different angle, I soon sensed God clearly saying to me, “This is what I want you to remember about this One Word, Love:

I. love. you.”

*sigh!*

Of course, we always know that God loves us, and there have been many times over the years, that I’ve been overwhelmed with God’s love. When I was a teenager, “God is love” was such a common phrase that I think we became numb to it. In recent years, my worship has been inspired by God’s mightiness, his sovereignty, etc. Perspectives brought home the amazingness of God’s work through the centuries, and my Word for last year highlighted one of my favourite truths, that God. is. working–a silver “thread” that you can’t always see.

Last year’s word was mainly a way to praise God, and note his wonderful creation, through posting photos on Facebook (with a weird hashtag). This year, I guess I’ll have to start blogging again, to keep track of this word!

Actually, it’s something I’ve been praying for awhile–if you think I’m praying for you, I probably am, and this is what I’ve been praying: that you would be overwhelmed with God’s love. As I have been.

Because everything else kinda follows.

 

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We nominate Albert Roffey…

So here is what Randy & I submitted, to nominate Dad for the Chris Beer Award, at the “Champions Challenge”, and what Randy used for his speech at the dinner:

The whole story can be found in myriad photos, blog posts, Facebook events, etc. The first photo that comes to mind is from 2008, of Dad with his son and grandson, who had done the Meech Lake Triathlon as a relay with him—his very first time, at 73, to do any race. We drove our Facebook friends crazy, being over-the-top proud.

The next year he did the “Try-a-Tri” in September, and the memorable photos are of his kids, grandkids and great grandkids surprising him by joining him over the finish line. Of course he was hooked, and each year he has been doing the Champion’s Challenge, involving at least three triathlons over the season.

So many photos! There’s one of Dad wearing a funny “No Passing” sign on his back, and one of him pointing his finger as if to say “YOU can do it too!” There are a few of him stopping before the finish to greet his cheerleaders, especially the little ones who ran up to him for a hug and kiss. From the beginning, he has been totally thrilled to hear of others being inspired by his stamina.

On his wall behind his lazy boy, he proudly hangs dozens of 1st place banners, each with their own story of hard work and training, such as the year he had a knee replaced in the winter but decided to sign up for the early bird anyway to help motivate his recovery. Interestingly enough, in all these years racing I don’t think once there has been another participant in his division. Even dad might question what is a First if you are the only competitor. But when you stop and think about it, he showed up at the start line and finished every time. Dad will always be first place to his family.

It takes a special kind of person to train all winter and summer for 3 races each year at his age! Like any triathlete he is a competitive guy, always wanting to be a little faster, and try not to finish last. He challenges anyone to not let him catch them.  Over the years he and his bright red/green race shirt have made a lot of friends on the course. I love hearing them, “wow did you see that… that guy is 80!!” Or they cheer him on. For dad though, it’s never been about winning. It’s about encouraging his family. Often he will say “if I can do it you can do it”. We have seen him inspire even mom to start swimming in her 70’s, right down to inspiring so many family members to race this past summer. For him that has made it all worth it.

And if you’ve ever watched him race, you know it’s not easy for him. You can feel his agony, along with the great relief when it’s finally all over. Just ask his “favourite cheerleader”, with whom he celebrated his 60th year of marriage, this past August. Then, each year after the May triathlon, he goes home and barbecues for all his beloved cheerleaders!

Dad has always had a desire to see people be active and healthy, and for several years he had us run a “100 Day Family Challenge” at the beginning of the year, to get everyone to exercise, in any way that was best for them. This year he turned 80, and how could we refuse his request for as much family as possible, to join him at the Early Bird Triathlon in May? Altogether, he inspired three relay teams, and three other individuals to sign up, including his sister, some nieces, his kids, grandkids, and even one of his great-grandsons! Whoever couldn’t actually race, was there to cheer us on!

Dad has always been so thrilled to have his family come out and cheer him on, but I know that having them actually participate this year, was worth more to him then ANY Gold! And that says a whole lot about who he is, and why he inspires us.

Randy may say he just did some “tweaking”, but he also did two large paragraphs. I think we worked well as a team! Of course, it was great “subject matter”… :D

 

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Multiplication not Addition

There have been a lot of great articles to read lately, and some are just calling me to make notes on them!

One by Mike Breen shows how humans can be such creatures of overreaction, “choosing polarities rather than living in tension”. It seems like not long ago that Christian leaders were saying how we were becoming too “inward”, constantly singing songs about our own personal relationship with Jesus. Apparently, the opposite is now true in some places, with a movement to have “missional communities”, where people neglect their personal development as disciples–being “obsessed with the work of the Kingdom, with no idea how to be with the King”. It’s the old thing of “Be-ing” vs “Do-ing”.

We usually think of discipleship as “doing” things, but the “long obedience in the same direction” includes other things: as Mike Breen explains, discipleship is “the boot camp training for front lines, the hospital when people are wounded, and the off-duty time needed to rest and recuperate”. The key words he uses are Character and Competency; remembering, humbly, that “apart from [Jesus] we can do nothing”. If you send people out without those things, it’s a recipe for burnout.

If we look at it objectively, we see churches with discipling cultures (that focus mainly on the transformation of individual self) and churches with missional cultures (which focus on the transformation of the world/people around us) and we often see tensions between these two camps.

One has a clue, but no cause. The other has a cause, but no clue. High mission/low discipleship church cultures have issues with Biblical literacy, theological reflection and deficiencies in character and Creed that, in the end, sabotage the very mission they’re about.

…High discipleship/low mission church cultures have a strength in the previous issues, but lack the adventurous spirit/heart of compassion and Kingdom compulsion that so stirred the Father into action that he sent his only Son to a world he so loved.”

Obviously, his argument is that BOTH are important, and goes on to explore more about discipleship… which does not mean addition, but multiplication. In other words, you make disciples who make disciples. And it’s obvious to me, that you do this with small groups.

I’m so thankful that, not only does our church have a strong missions emphasis, but they are very good at small groups!

 

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Blessed to be a blessing

Yikes, I’ve signed up for yet another email feed! Not sure how often this one updates, but it was recommended by our church plant, and has some really good articles/resources. Plus, it’s all about being missional.

For example, an article about the question of celebrating Hallowe’en: “For most of us, Halloween isn’t a time where we celebrate the dead and go and skin a goat and sacrifice it to Satan…. It has become just part of our culture in the West and has very little to do with the “darkness”…it’s not good, it’s not evil…it’s just something we celebrate…” He (Seth McBee) suggests that lots of evil things happen on other holidays that we celebrate without question (drinking too much, etc.), and that God wants to redeem all things back to himself.

You see, there is no holiday like Hallowe’en, for its opportunity to meet people and befriend them, which is where missioning begins. Jesus went to parties and was accused of spending time with “drunkards”. The thing is, you can alienate yourself from those new friends in two ways: 1) by not opening your home to them on Hallowe’en (this author even suggests that church “harvest parties” are bad, because they take everyone away from their community, and your neighbours get to know you as the mean people who don’t hand out); or 2) by handing out apples wrapped in tracts, or dressing your child like Martin Luther. Two extremes, two ways to scare people away.

Jesus always pursued the sinner, meeting them where they were, engaging them in ways that they’d understand who God is and how he loves us. “Jesus used the everyday celebrations as a way to build relationships so he could speak into the lives of those around him.  He was continually at parties.” So, this author says that we should “be THAT house”–the one that gives out the best candy, and is the most welcoming. One of his ideas I saw put into practise by a good friend in Toronto: have hot cider/hot chocolate etc., available for the parents.

Maybe it’s an excuse, but I’m always cautious about acting in ways that would be out of character for myself. Yes, I love to entertain, but I’m not really an extrovert type of person. If I was to overdo this kind of thing, it would only end up awkward and embarrassing. Nevertheless, I love these ideas!

One other thing he talks about that was a lesson to me: you know how Paul talks about eating meat sacrificed to idols, and how it might be okay for us, but we shouldn’t cause our brother to stumble? Paul was talking about new Christians who actually used to do that–eat meat sacrificed to idols.

Here’s how to contextualize for Halloween:

If you have a brother who used to worship Satan and they used to sacrifice goats and drink its blood, then it might be a good idea to work through Halloween with them and whether or not it would make that brother stumble.  This does NOT mean, if you have a brother who thinks it’s merely wrong to celebrate Halloween then you should put it to the side.

Because, shouldn’t we educate our brothers on this great missional opportunity? Just remember: “Don’t use this holiday to make a point.  Use this holiday to point to the true reason we all get to celebrate and bless…Jesus… He was about parties because that’s where people were and that’s where people connect and share stories and start and continue relationships…. Christians shouldn’t be the ones avoided for parties, but should be the ones that people are most excited to have come around because they bring the “better wine.”

I should have just shared the whole article with you, haha! If you do want to read it, you have to sign up for a (free) membership at “Vergenetwork”. The title of this one is “3 Practical Ways to be Missional This Halloween; Or, Why Jesus Wouldn’t Attend the Harvest Party at Your Church”.

 

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Baseball Lessons

Do you sometimes feel like a failure? You’ve been trying and trying, honed your skills, done everything in the best way that you know, and still nothing has come through?

Well, it’s a statistical reality that home-run hitters tend to be strike out leaders, and: “people who are called to attempt the greatest achievements tend to experience the most embarrassing failures”. Just think of all the failures that baseball players have to deal with! Every time they strike out, or are in a slump, lose a game, lose a series… It’s heartbreaking for them, I’m sure! But they have to learn to deal with it, or they’d never survive. Perhaps you too, are going through a rigorous training process, becoming one of those called to something great… “unless those folks learn to how to deal with failure, they are never going to fulfill their destiny.”

“Too many people are sitting in the stands, watching the game (of life), because they are too afraid of failure.”

Baseball has such great lessons for life! The guy who wrote this article I’m quoting from, is actually working on a book all about it. He is the Chaplain for the Ottawa Champions, and was one of the students that I marked for Perspectives. I’m looking forward to that book!

The article was written awhile ago, and I assure you, I did not come to it this morning on purpose. ;)

 

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Stand Up

During our small group Bible study last night, my husband’s response to one of the questions (I forget what the question was), was that we should decorate our homes in such a way (subtle, not blatant) that when people enter, they know that you’re a Christian. As I sat there amazed that he should have such a neat idea, he proceeded to suggest an example, “like my wife does”! Thinking to myself that he must have in mind an incident from many years ago, my eyes fell to the autumn basket on my coffee table, beside which was a bulletin cover that says “We thank you our Creator, for all things bright and good”.

Funny how I really liked the idea, and had forgotten that it’s already what I like to do (though I’m hesitant to say that everyone should do it). The fact that it’s now done without thinking, is not so good! The memories finally came back to me, of just wanting so much to give praise to God in every way possible.

The discussion continued, about not wanting to turn people off, or having the effect of making them avoid you at all costs. I grew up in the “Jesus Freak” days, when you wore buttons that said “I Belong to Jesus”… and little feet the same size as an aborted fetus’… pins and bumper stickers of “Jesus Loves You”, etc. etc. Perhaps it worked well for an extremely shy teenager such as I, to ward people away from me, haha!

We always seem to go from one extreme to the other though, don’t we? Our (excellent new) pastor bravely told us a couple of weeks ago, that Christians in Canada are going to have to stand firm in the coming days, about unpopular Biblical truths. As he said, when you change what the Bible calls sin, you change what we are to repent of, and you actually change the Gospel. Because the Gospel is not just “believe”, but “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). And it’s when we stand firm and united, that others will get the idea that we’ve got hold of something that might be true. (Philippians 1:27-28)

And what will give us the ability to stand firm? To live as we should, to serve sacrificially and be joyful even in suffering, and do it humbly? We are inspired by our Model, who has done it before us. You see, it’s not all about what we can do for Him. It’s all about what He has done for us!

 

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If we care enough

Here is a quote from something I just read, that shows why “showing love” to people does not always mean doing whatever makes them happy.

The quote is from one of my Perspectives students, who writes a regular piece on the Torah (called Torahbybtes). This one is on some verses from Deuteronomy 7, where it talks about God destroying “those who hate him”. As Alan says, “we ignore true negatives to our peril”.

God doesn’t take our total disregard for him lightly. He actually loves us too much to do otherwise. I know that this is not how contemporary society regards love. But it is contemporary society that has redefined love to mean allowing everyone around us to do whatever they want, however they want, and whenever they want. But as any loving parent knows (if they care to admit it), permissiveness undermines maturity. If we care enough about our children, we will instill in them a sense of responsibility that can only come about through their understanding that actions have consequences. To let them get away with anything and everything will result in much harm to them and to others.

Contrary to popular thinking, this is not hard to understand. If you mishandle fire, you get burned. Ignoring God’s ways, you will unnecessarily get sick and injured. You can count on it… Because people ignore some of the most basic of God’s principles, they prematurely die. And that’s what God through Moses is emphasizing here. To hate God is to disregard him. We cannot flagrantly turn our backs on how he designed creation and expect good results. It does not work that way!

 

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