Love is “Something” if you Give it Away!


Love is something if you give it away

Give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more…

 

That is an excerpt from a song I learned when I was about 8 years old attending Sunday School in the musty basement of the Nairn Mennonite Church.  My dad, at 79 years old, is the pastor there today and I bet the Sunday School kids are still singing that song.

That little ditty goes on to compare love to something magical, like a penny that increases in value and volume the more you give it away.

You’ll have so many – they’ll roll over the floor!

It came back to me recently during a discussion of gratitude with one of my mentors.  I also wrote about it in my first book “Meekonomics”.

Love, like gratitude isn’t really a thing until you give it to someone.

I didn’t get it when I was 8, in the basement of the church but as the song says – Love is only something if you give it away.

Now, there’s lots of different kinds of love but the three we are most familiar with are

Eros – The physical attraction that sometimes leads to a life long commitment between two people to do life together.

Philia – Brotherly love, the expression of mutual respect and deep friendship that grows out of community.

And

Agape – The all encompassing love of “the other” which is the underpinning of a society based on law and social justice.

But none of these types of love are anything unless you freely give them to someone.

For the purposes of business and ministry Agape and Philia are the two that really drive us forward.   A sense of community, brotherhood (or sisterhood) and openness are required to really move people.

Last year one of my mentors retired.  At his retirement party he quoted Scottish Journalist, Alexander Chalmers who said:

“The grand essentials of life are:  Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for”

He went on to say that he hoped that throughout his career he had been able to convey and sense of love in all that he did for his team and the hope that he had for our future.

Love is a funny thing.  And talking about it here and in this way might seem a bit odd.  But I firmly believe that cultivating a sense of Agape and Philia in all that we do is the only way to truly move people forward.

So freely give Love – it’s only a thing when you give it away.

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Becoming


I’m a member of the Be In Christ Church of Canada.

We used to be called the Brethren In Christ but a few years ago some people got concerned that the name was a bit sexists and dated.  What is a brethren anyway?  We don’t use words like that anymore and no one quite knew what to do with it.

I looked it up – Dictionary.com defines brethren this way:

 

archaic plural form of brother.

fellow Christians or members of a male religious order.

 

Yah – dated and sexist, not exactly how you would expect a modern church to want to present itself.

Unfortunately, no one could agree on a suitable new name at first so for a time we resorted to being known simply as the BIC.  That satisfied some people but not everyone and so we continued to work through different options, finally someone suggested that we could just let the B stand for the word Be and we could use it convey the message that we are BE-loved, BE-long, and BE-coming.  Check out the video on our name here – http://www.canadianbic.ca/

It’s that last word – Becoming – that has captured my imagination lately.

What, or more accurately who, am I becoming?

Have you ever just sat and watched a fish in a tank?  Your Goldfish, or whatever you choose to keep in your tank, can’t ever stay in one place for very long or he’ll die.

We all know that a fish breathes by extracting oxygen from water.  In order to do that water has to pass through his gills and in order for that to happen poor old Nemo must keep moving.

In a way, we’re all kind of like fish.

Think of time as our water.  As we move through time we breathe and grow.  We are constantly becoming the people we will be tomorrow, next month or next year.  But we can’t stop.  If we stop, we stagnate and a little piece of us dies.

Life is a process of becoming.  But becoming what, or who?

As Christians our goal should be to become more and more like Jesus.  Jesus taught us intimately how we should live.  He showed us with his life and taught us through direct instruction and storytelling.

The apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi prayed that the process of becoming more like Jesus would one day be complete.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. [Philippians 1:4-6]

But the process is never complete.  The gap between who you are and who you will one day be may be getting narrower, but it will never fully close.  Dissatisfaction with the person you are and the person you wish to be is what keeps us moving forward.

That’s the nature of becoming.

Who are you becoming?

Let’s chat about it in the comments below – I read and reply to every comment…

 

Core Messaging


I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old friend and colleague.

Paul was a financial advisor in the same office where I work but about a year ago, he moved on and started a consulting firm for tech start-ups and embarked on a professional speaking carrier.  Because I write a lot and produce short videos I wanted to meet up with Paul and pick his brain on how to get more exposure and start booking speaking gigs myself.

Our conversation was wide ranging, but Paul’s advise could be boiled down to just one key point.

  • “Get super clear about your core message and repeat it over again every chance you get.”

What’s my core message?  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Bruxy Cavey, another mentor of mine broke his core message down into three separate statements, each one more succinct than the one before.  In doing so he was able to clarify his message and use each of the statements in different contexts.  The longer statements are good for writing and speaking when there is adequate time to express the nuances of the message while the shorter statements are better as conversation starters or when brevity is required.  Bruxy’s core message can be easily stated in one word, three words and thirty words.

The other thing Paul encouraged me to do is to claim a title for myself, something that clearly states who and what I am and aligns cleanly with my core messaging.  The title itself should say as much as possible without the need for further explanation.

So here it is, taking a page each from Bruxy and Paul my core message broken down into a five-word title, and then clearly stated in five letters, five words and five paragraphs.

**************************************************************************

I am an Ambassador of Peace and Justice.

My core message in five letters is: Let go.

My core message in five words is:  Peace without Justice is Oppression.

My core message in five paragraphs is:

God is Love.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and made mankind both ruler and caretaker over all that He had created.  There was only love.  There was no war, no violence of any kind, no injustice and no oppression.

Mankind was deceived into thinking that God was holding something back and rebelled.  We set up systems and institutions to try and take control of that which belongs to God and which He was freely sharing with us.

As a result, the world is broken.   All man-made systems and institutions (including our government and the church) are broken.

But God is still Love and wants nothing more than to reconcile with His creation.  Mankind is still in rebellion and cannot let go of the control we have taken for ourselves.  Reconciliation with God is the only cure for our broken world.  That reconciliation begins with mankind letting go and taking a posture of surrender, gratitude and other-centredness.

That is my core message.

Further to the message I have chosen the word “meekness” to describe the mindset that mankind needs to ascribe to in order to achieve reconciliation with God.  Meekness is not weakness, it is the willing submission of personal power, entitlement and ego, a form of surrender and laying down in the presence of God’s pure love.

The meek shall inherit the earth but only through letting go.  Peace shall be achieved but only through justice.  And God’s creation shall be restored but only through surrender.

Blind Bart


 A Story of the Kind of Courage That Can Change the World

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. [Mark 10:46-52]

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing my good friend Mark preach a sermon on this passage.  Some of the points that he made during that sermon struck me in a new way.  I want to take a few minutes to parse them out and maybe give you a new way of reading this passage as well.

First a question – How do you see Jesus?

Bart was blind.  He couldn’t “see” Jesus at all.  As a result of time and distance neither can we.  But Bart knew that Jesus was near and that he had a reputation as being a merciful healer, so he cried out “have mercy on me.”

When he was rebuked and told to stay quiet he called out even louder.  Why?  Not only why did Bart persist but more importantly why did the disciples try and silence him in the first place?  He clearly needed healing, why put him down?

It’s disruptive when someone in need interrupts us from our agenda.  I get it, do we put people down because we are afraid of doing something wrong, being inconvenienced, or getting dirty?

Jean Vanier said –

“Fear is at the root of all forms of exclusion”

But Bart overcame that fear.  He was courageous in the face of ridicule.  He refused to be excluded based on his disability.

When he finally got the chance to speak to Jesus his request was simple and obvious.  “I want to see..”

In this context the request would have carried the double meaning.  Not only did Bart want to see, but he also desired to be seen by others. Those with disabilities in Jesus’ day where on the outside of everything.  The overriding cultural attitude was that their disability was the consequence of sin.  They were therefore excluded from all forms of community.  The fact the Jesus was willing to stop, see Bart for who he was, listen and act upon his request is all you need to know about how we are to view those around us who are on the outside.

We live a hurried existence.

Twice in the last few days I have had people comment about this hurried world by using the same expression.  They have said that it’s as if everyone is running around like their hair is on fire.  That is quite the mental image and I think it says a lot about the way too many of us our living our lives.  You can’t see anyone, understand their needs and serve them if you are preoccupied with a fire on your own head.

We need to stop.  Not just slow down but completely stop what we are doing.  Stop like Jesus stopped.  Stop and see the people around us, I mean really see them.  Stop and hear them and stop and know them.

Only when stop in this way will we be able to impact people’s lives and change the world.

What’s causing the fire on your head?  What do you wish people would see about you?

Becoming Your Best Self


“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” Aldous Huxley

I think it was Oprah who first introduced me to the concept of the “Best Self”.  It certainly sounds like something she would say anyway.

Lately I’ve been dealing with a strong desire to get back in touch with who I am.  I’ve told my closest friends on more than one occasion that due to a difficult season of life I’ve become a version of myself that I hardly recognize and quite honestly don’t like.

As a result, I’ve been working through  these four steps to help get back to the person I used to be.

1 – Call yourself out.

When you catch yourself thinking or behaving in a way that doesn’t feel authentic.  Say so.  This isn’t me, I don’t like this, why am I doing this?  You’re not alone in this.  The apostle Paul said as much when we was talking about grace and law in Romans chapter seven.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. [Romans 7:15]

2 – List 3 to 5 qualities of your best self.  (more if you can)

                So you don’t like yourself, so what?  What do you like?  How do you want to be perceived?  Do you want to be happy, energetic, full of integrity, trustworthy, outgoing, and helpful?  That’s part of my list, yours will be different.  By naming your best qualities, even if they are just aspirational, you start to shape your mind to create the person you want to become.

3 – Live it.

                Actively show up and live those qualities for just one day.  Hell, even just one hour.  As you do it, go for longer and longer periods every time. Before long they will become your active way of living.

4 – Ask for help.

This last one isn’t for the faint of heart.  If you are having trouble identifying your best (and worst) qualities, ask a trusted friend what they see.  Be prepared for brutal honesty.  Often-times those closest to us see things more clearly than we do.  And their advice is sometimes hard to hear.  But if you want to be your best self you really should listen.  Maybe what you thought was a good quality is being perceived in a negative light.  Sometimes we can go too far and come across as self-righteous, arrogant or aloof (that’s me again).   Or maybe what you don’t like about yourself isn’t that bad and you can cut yourself a little slack.  Regardless, asking for help builds trust, increases credibility and lets people know that you are committed to improvement.

Everything is a process.  Some days you’ll be better at this than others.  That’s okay.  I’m still learning to be my best self everyday and there are still days when I don’t like the person I have become.  That’s okay too.  The goal isn’t perfection, it’s just to be a little better today than I was yesterday.

It’s a process of becoming, not a static recipe for who to be.

That One Thing!


Question – Do you have a recurring sin?

Even the most faith-filled followers of God can mess up habitually.  It’s nothing to be super ashamed of.  One of my favourite sayings is a line I coined a few years back.

Today is NOT Judgement Day…

What I mean when I say that is that it’s okay to make a mistake, even the same mistake, over and over again.  The key is to try and learn from it and move on.

In my experience sins fall into five main categories.  Fear, judgement, lying, blame and manipulation.  And there are eight keys to fighting your habitual sins with love.

1 – Say Your Sins.

Confess them, through prayer and in community with each other.  Get it out in the open.  You can’t get help if you don’t admit you have a problem.

2- Live Like You’re Vulnerable.

Admit your weaknesses, like before.  Stay away from temptation and practice radical separation.  When Jesus told his disciples to pluck out their eyes and cut off their hands (Matthew 5:29-30) he wasn’t advocating self mutilation, he was deliberately using a form of hyperbole to drive the point home.  Just get as far away from the temptation as you can.

3 – Think About Your Sins Effect on Others.

It’s not about you.  Love is not self-seeking and neither should we live in a selfish manner.  If we keep our minds focused on other-centeredness we are less likely to sin.

4 – Don’t Confuse Acceptance and Agreement, Grace and Approval

Grace is not a license to sin. Messing up is not a path to blessing.  God wants to be kind to us but that is not to be abused.

5 – Remember Who and Whose You Are.

We are ambassadors of the Kingdom.  We have a higher calling.  When you fall into a sinful pattern try to remember that you are better than this.

6 – Drive Out Fear With Love

Do Not Worry.  Let nature and history be your guide.  There are literally thousands of people who have experienced the same kinds of temptations you are faced with.  Look to them, read their stories and take comfort on how they overcame.

7 – Get it TOGETHER

Go to the community of believers.  Spend time with others that are on the same path, facing the same struggles and living life in a similar context.  Build honest relationships and ask people for feed back. When you’re ready, and can take a bit of constructive criticism ask the question “what do you see in my life that I need to work on?” and take the advise you receive back seriously.

8 – Jesus Is The Key

He was called the friend of sinners.  Let him be your friend too.  Read his teaching and work out what it means for you in community.

We all have that one thing that slows us down.  Look to Jesus and his community to help remove it.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

 

Whom Do We Follow?


I think most people can agree that in 2018 we’re living in unique and uncharted history.

That might sound silly, all history is unique and uncharted while we are living it, but that’s not the point.

The point is that in 2018 things are very different than they have ever been before and the choices we make today can and will have lasting effects on our future.  It’s as if we are standing at a crossroads of history.  Fifty or a hundred years from now people may look back on these moments and say that the era in which we are now living was a major turning point.

History is a funny thing.  It turns all the time.  But this time somehow feels different to me and as I look back over some of the major sociopolitical events of my lifetime I see an accelerating trend that appears irreversible and that is scaring the hell out of me.

Sociologist and historians have begun to refer to our current cultural moment as the turning point from Christendom, in which most people identified, at least nominally, as members of the Christian religion to a new “Post-Christian” period.  For the first time in over 1500 years polls are showing that people who identify as Christian have fallen to less than 50% in most western countries.  And those who identify as having no religion all are the fastest growing segment of society.

What this means for our society is not yet known.  For clues we can look back to the pre-Christian period, that time before the Church became the dominant sociopolitical force but that will only give us a few clues, looking backwards can’t accurately predict the future.

In the pre-Christian period for example the sanctity of life was not a given.  As a result, unwanted babies were simply thrown in the trash, people were bought and sold as nothing more than units of labor, conscripted into armies and treated like “canon fodder” to advance the ambitions of a despotic leader.  Human rights were practically non-existent.

Over the last 1500 years however the Church has played a big role in the slow progression away from these attitudes.  The Church wasn’t perfect but Christian monasteries were the first to take in unwanted children giving them a chance at life, William Wilborforce, a devoted Christian politician, championed the abolishment of human slavery and the Red Cross was founded to help and protect wounded soldiers left to die on the battlefield.

One only needs to look to societies where Christianity has failed to penetrate to see what our future could be.  Abortion, human trafficking and even the failure to adequately care for war veterans were once the exclusive purview of nations heavily influenced by Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim theology.  But as the influence of Christianity wanes these debates are becoming more and more mainstream.

The abortion debate is alive and well as are discussions of Euthanasia and welfare programs.  The poorest members of society continue be victimized by those with wealth and power.  Human trafficking resulting in sexual slavery and indentured servitude is happening right under our noses in every city and province of Canada while arguments regarding how best to educate our children about things like sexuality and the funding for social programs to assist the poorest among us continue to be hijacked by far-right discussions of personal responsibility.  All of this results in the restriction rather than expansion of human rights.

What is the true Jesus follower to do?

First, we must remember that Jesus was no friend of the ruling class.  When Christians align with political power the result is almost always an ugly, misshapen form of oppression.

Jesus was called a friend of sinners, relentlessly pursuing the downtrodden.  What an irony that today his followers are seen in the opposite light!  How can people love God, whom they can’t see if those of us who claim to represent him don’t respond to outsiders with love? David Kinnaman; unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters

It sickens me that Christians can in one breath proclaim the love of Christ and salvation for everyone while voting in politicians who gut social programs, close boarders and deny access to health care on the basis of some misaligned morality and “traditional” values.  There is a huge disconnect and when people really study the teachings of Jesus the untruth of what many of His followers teach becomes glaringly obvious.  The sad fact is that most self-proclaimed Christians refuse to see it or try to explain it away by saying that Jesus didn’t really mean that to apply to us, just to his first century followers.  That quite frankly is heresy.

When people live life the way Jesus intended the result is undeniably counter cultural.

There is nothing more powerful than the Christian life lived out in obedience; there is nothing worse than a flat, self-righteous form of faith that parades around in Christian clothes. David Kinnaman; unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters

Christians who endeavor to embrace Jesus stand out.  They are perpetrators and ambassadors of an entirely new way of living.  The way of Jesus is not the way of politics or religion but the way of discipleship on a completely different plain.

Jesus declares not that he has come to reform religion but that he’s here to END religion and to replace it with himself. – Timothy Keller; King’s Cross

Followers of Jesus are not perfect.  We get it wrong a lot, probably more often than we care to admit.  But our heart is aligned with Jesus, completely and totally.  No pretence, no caveats and no compromise.  We work together in community to study the scriptures and learn from one another to bet better versions of ourselves and better followers of Him each day.

We are not followers of a book, or a set of rules, we are followers of a person.

If your religion does not look like Jesus, it’s heresy, plain and simple.