Silent Expectations

quote_expectations-are-premed-resentmentsThere have been some ‘speed bumps’ that have occurred in the last number of months with various relationships that intersect my life. What has transpired has allowed a memory to come crashing back of a time in my early fatherhood when I was quite frustrated with my family life, to the point that I engaged a counsellor.

I remember the first session – well not all of it – but a couple of moments when I got busted. Here’s the story: I had this knack (and it continues to rear its ugly head at times) of expecting events to unfold in a certain way, which of course meant that people had to behave in a certain way for that particular event to unfold as I had envisioned it in my mind. (I hope you’re still tracking with me) So when it didn’t, it would frustrate me to the point of…well let’s say I wasn’t the most pleasant person to live with (this is where my family came in).

What I said or explained to the counsellor is something to the effect that ‘people just don’t cooperate, or say, or do what they’re supposed to do!’ Or something like that, anyway.

He looked at me and with a very sly smile, said, “Ah, so you have a script written out in your head as to how things should go, and no one is following it. The only problem is that no one else has that script. Not really fair, is it?” Busted! He was right and I had to begin the process of learning to let go of my ‘need to control’. Instead, I needed to believe the best about others and let the day unfold in whatever way it unfolds.

That’s easier said than done. But I have learned.

And I have also learned something else.

I am not the only one who suffers from ‘controlfeakitis’.

Lately I have been on the receiving end of this with people who intersect my life in and outside of the church.

There are expectations they have of me…silent expectations. They come into the conversation, the meeting, the whatever…with an expectation of me that I have no knowledge of. It’s either what they want me to say or not say, do or not do, think or not think, behave or not behave in a particular situation.

Now some folks are quite adept at being able to ‘read’ people and can figure out what it is the person ‘really needs / wants’. In fact, they’re brilliant at it! I on the other hand have not been blessed with such a gift. There has been the odd time I have given it a go, only to fall flat on my face and make matters worse.

What I love about Jesus is that he couldn’t always read minds (his humanity) and so he would ask people, especially those who were sick and clearly needed healing, and others as well, especially those in his close circel. It would go something like this: they would be calling out for Jesus to have mercy on them, and he would not assume anything, but ask: “what would you like me to do for you?” That’s smart! He knew there was a danger in assuming things from people, and so he would ask. That is so simple, and I can’t believe that I haven’t thought of that sooner. That’s probably because I assumed everyone understood me.

I love how Jesus lived his life here on earth.

He treated all people with dignity and respect.

He flowed with life.

He followed the advice to never ass-u-me!

Posted in Following Well, Leadership, Off the Wall, Random, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Rob Hall

For a couple of years between 07 and 09 I had the great pleasure of having ‘go-get-‘em’ guy on our pastoral team here at The Vineyard (www.cvcf.ca). Rob Hall served as our Assistant Pastor and he was constantly pushing the envelope on things we could do, either as a ministry or with our monastery property. Rob was an ideas guy, and he never lacked for an idea! Which was exactly what we needed, and it’s what I needed as well.

At one of our staff meetings he came up with this idea for our church family to love on one another. So for the few weeks in February, he had a glass vase placed at the front of the church, and he asked people to throw whatever cash they had in their pockets, wallets or purses. We also sent out an email to our leaders and asked them for ‘nominations’ – people in our church family that should be blessed…just because. Not because they served, or give money, or for any reason. Just because.

So we did it and it was awesome! We even sent 1 couple on a weekend romance getaway. It was fun and the folks loved it. Our point was, that is how God is to people. He loves us! Not because we deserve it or are worthy, or have been a success (based on our own criteria). He just loves us and wants us in his family.

A year later, Rob, Kate and their kids made plans to head over the pond to do some travelling thru Europe and then to eventually land in Zambia and serve at a school helping them in the area of farming and agriculture. And then in February 2011, Rob was killed in a construction accident!

‘Just Because’ has become a ‘tradition’ for The Vineyard. Every February we do it, and every February we get to love one another…’just because’. And every time we do it we are reminded of the infinite expansiveness of God’s love for us, and we get to remember Rob and thank God for giving us two years with him. Two years of inspiration and being pushed. Two years of being encouraged to live with a sense of abandonment, secure in God’s love.

That’s why I always scratch my head whenever I hear one of God’s kids scrunch up their face whenever pastors or others say things like ‘It’s all about God’s love’. They scrunch up their face because for some reason, they think that if you just focus on God’s love, you forget about his holiness, his wrath and anger, his righteousness and almighty power. And I don’t get it.

As I’ve said before, I said ‘yes’ to God because on the loneliest day in my life, God showed me and told me that he loved me. It’s because he was extravagantly silly with his love that I’m still following him and why I was willing to lay down my career in policing.

I agree with Rob Bell in his book Love Wins, when he says just that – love wins! (Doesn’t mean I agree on everything he says in his book…breathe :) ) Love does win in the end. In fact the entire redemptive story of Scripture is driven because of God’s love for us. In fact, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is:

to love God with everything in us…

and to love others as we…

love ourselves!

Yup! Love wins!

So we at The Vineyard dedicate the month of February to love…Just Because!

 [To find out more about Rob Hall, you can check these two sites – www.withkidsintow.blogspot.ca and www.danielroberthall.net ]

Posted in Following Well, In Memory Of..., Uncategorized, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Resolutions Done Right

dietI’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging due to Christmas holidays and also getting out of the habit of writing, along with excuse after excuse. But I’m back in the saddle and ready to write. There is lots on my mind and with a new year ahead, what better way to start than with some resolutions.

Let me say first off, that I have little, if any use for ‘new years resolutions’. Only because we make them and then break them (at least that’s what I do…and not intentionally). For me, a resolution has to come from inside of me, something that has been brewing for a while, and then I have to settle it in my mind. Once I do that, then I make the decision and do it right NOW, not a week from now. Otherwise…

I had been thinking/praying about what to teach on for January, and I kept being led to Joseph in Genesis. And if there ever was a guy who lived with resolutions, it was him. Mind you, most of the folks who are in our scriptures were tough people with mucho resolve. But I like Joseph. So when I look at his life and the areas he resolved, I think I can make the same resolve. I say I think, because these are definite challenges for me.

Do It Right

What stands out for me, is not the story of the wife of the captain who had the hots for Joseph, but how Joseph treated others, including her. He treated everyone with dignity and honour, even those who treated him in a really unfair way. Joseph did it right. I admire people like him, because I find them classy and I love being around them. I want to do it right…all the time. But I find it really hard when I’m not given the dignity or respect I feel I deserve…and that’s the rub, isn’t it? I don’t extend dignity because someone ‘deserves’ it…I’m just supposed to do it. God doesn’t love me because I deserve it (that’s for sure!), he extends his love to me, regardless.

Never Give Up

I have yet to figure out how Joseph did all those years in prison. We read it knowing the end of the story. He lived it, not knowing. Not sure I could do it, and if I could, I’m not sure I could do it without having major pity parties for myself. I think one of the keys is that it says God was with him. He believed it, and so I pray that when the really tough times come for me, I will believe it.

One of my favourite ‘old wise guys’ was Fred Smith, a Christian businessman well respected in the US church. He wrote many articles on not giving up – not ever. However he distinguished between giving up and accepting failure. His favourite line was “when the horse is dead – dismount”. That’s pure, unadulterated wisdom!

Believe the Best

If you know me, then you also know that while I believe we should think the best of others, this doesn’t come easy nor natural for me. I do know this however, when others think the best of me, then it has a tendency to draw the best out of me. I’ve always wondered how Joseph was able to embrace and weep with his brothers and extend unconditional love and forgiveness. As I think about this, I believe he thought the best of them. I wonder if forgiveness flows a little easier from me to you when I believe the best about you? I think it does.

My first real encounter with God was when I was 18, in a phone booth, stranded and needing help, two days before Christmas (another story for another post). Weeks before I had thrown Christianity and God out with the weekly garbage. But there in that phone booth, a God who thought the best of me offered me forgiveness like a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee. Yes, believing the best of others is a God-thing.

In a nutshell, that’s the series I’m teaching on this month. The challenging thing about preaching is that God let’s you walk it out in your own life. I’m walking and remembering that as I do, God believes the best about me!

Cool, eh?

Posted in Following Well, Leadership, Right Thinking, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Tans, Tequilas, and Tattoos

So what is it about a vacation that makes it want to linger in your head…like forever? I returned from two weeks in warmer climes and have yet to find my groove. I’m almost there, but man is it hard to get there. The inability (or lack of desire) to find my groove accounts for my MIA on my blog. It’s not that my brain has totally checked out either.  Au contraire mon ami, my mind is spinning with some deep thoughts.  It’s more like my motivation is still scuba diving in the gulf of Mexico (mind you, as I look out my window at the grey, bleak sky on this lack lustre December morn, that would be an okay place to be). So I’m going to take myself by the scruff of the neck and just start writing…

One day in Mexico I decided to go for a stroll along the beach and then eventually made my way to a lobby at one of the resorts. Off to the side was a large lobby bar with maybe a handful of people scattered throughout. It had a lazy, relaxed atmosphere about it, which was how I was feeling at the time and so I ordered a drink and found a table that looked out over the pools and I watched people, and I wondered…

I wondered what was behind all those faces. Where were people coming from? What lives did they leave behind or escape from? What pain are they carrying that down here at this resort no one can see? What are any of us searching for?

Here at this resort were people from all over the Americas and beyond – perhaps five thousand or more – and I had this strange feeling we weren’t all that different. While our lives may look different on the surface, I had this sneaky suspicion that below they were quite the same.

Tans…ken doll

It’s funny to watch people scramble looking for the best location to sun themselves. It’s this feeling you get that the last thing you want to do is to travel this great distance and then return home only lightly broiled. And so we oil ourselves up and lay horizontal for hours at a time every day. Now if you’re really a pro at this tanning thing, then you’ll move your sun bed to follow the trajectory of the sun. Like a burger on a barbecue, you make sure you flip over at regular intervals…cuz ya do want to get that nice even tan. All this effort, and for what? What is it we’re after? What is it in our lives that we’re not content with?

Tequilas…tequila

They say that when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It would appear that Mexicans like their tequila, because it definitely seems to be ‘the drink’ to have when in Mexico, and so people order it by the shot glasses full. I wonder to myself, are they drinking it because they enjoy it, or are they just drinking it because that’s what you do when you’re in Mexico? But then why do we do anything? How much of our decisions are motivated by fear, insecurity, pain, a need to feel like you belong, accepted and loved?

Tattoos…tattoo1

When I was just a lad, only ‘bad’ people, sailors and army folks had tattoos…or at least that’s what I thought. Not so anymore. It seemed that at least half the people had made the decision to display some fine works of art on their body. I found it interesting that tattoos are no longer found on the ‘rough and tough’ crowd. They were on men and women, young and old, short and tall, skinny and fat – there were no restrictions as to who could wear one. And I thought to myself, ‘all of us have this longing, or need, or something, to be unique…different. We want to stand out (sort of) and in our own indiscreet way, we want to communicate to others, something or someone that brings meaning to our life.

There’s a security and a contentment found in knowing that the God who created me, loves me for who I am and the way I am. In his eyes, I am unique and known. I am loved and accepted and I know that he will never, ever reject me. God is able to do what tans, tequilas and tattoos are unable to do…to heal my heart and make me whole.

I think my motivation is surfacing from the depths of the ocean. It’s good to know that I’ll soon be back in the groove.

Posted in Off the Wall, Random, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

God Needs Friends

I am beginning to think or believe (whatever you want to call it) that God is in need of friends just like any other human being is. God NEEDS friends?? Yep…I think so. Or let me put it another way: As his creation, he loves us, takes pride in us and has amazing dreams for humanity. I think he’s downright grrr-angry that sin polluted everything and basically messed up his plans.

Regardless, friendship, which is a beautiful gift in this rough world of ours, must be birthed or emanate from God…like if I’m created in his image, then friend must have come from him. I think the redemption story is a story of God pursuing us, not so much so that he can get ‘things’ back to the way they were supposed to be, because I don’t think we can ever rewind the tape and go back. Instead, it’s God pursuing us because he loves us – he loves us like a friend who is there through thick and thin.

Jesus tells this very interesting parable where a man prepares a great feast and sends out invites to various people. When the banquet is ready, he sends his servants to tell the invited guests that everything is ready…come now! And no one comes! They give the usual excuses like, “I’m too busy figuring out my investments”, “I just bought a new car”, “I just got married”…etc.

It’s not like they really had some pressing issue that needed attending too right this very minute. It was the fact that they couldn’t be bothered, no time to offer their friendship to one who desires to be their friend. And then it says that the master was mean-angry.

I’ve wondered why Jesus didn’t portray a God that is calm and understanding…an unruffled God. No, instead, he portrays a God who is pissed off! He’s hurt, and I get it. We all get it.

Everyone of us knows what it’s like to go out of your way for someone who is your friend, but for whatever reason your friend is too busy or has other things that need tending to. We know that feeling.

But it goes even deeper than that. It’s when a friend goes out of their way to do something so special, like this man in Jesus’ story who painstakingly poured his heart into creating this sumptuous feast. It was like when he created it he had those specific guests in mind. He made it for them…and they couldn’t be bothered. And I think it broke it his heart!

Or maybe it’s like the little 5 year old girl who does an abstract finger painting at school for her mom. She let’s it dry. Then carefully puts it in a grocery bag and goes directly home because she’s so excited to give it to her.

Mom comes home with so many things on her mind, appointments to attend to that evening, supper to put on. Her mind totally focused on other things…except her little girl. And so with her heart all puffed up from excitement, the little girl gives the bag to her mom. As mom takes the bag, her phone rings, and of course she must answer it because it’s so important. It’s classic multi-tasking taking place: while talking on the phone she pulls the painting from the bag, a quick glance, and brief smile to her daughter…and the painting is laid on the table as the mom goes about her important work.

The little girl’s heart plunges like a rock into deep, dark waters. She had poured herself into this for one reason only: she loves her mom dearly and through this painting is saying to her mom – I LOVE YOU!

As Advent approaches, I like to think that God had us in mind as he poured himself into his gift of Jesus, saying to us – I LOVE YOU!

Posted in Following Well, Theology Rethink, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Same Sex and the Real Issue At Hand

Every month I meet with a couple handfuls of pastors from our fair city, mostly to hang out and eat lunch and chat. Which is great and just the way I like it. I enjoy just ‘being’ and not having an agenda or a ‘to do’ list. Perfect.

Last month when we met we decided to add a ‘spice’ to the mix. It was suggested that we should discuss things that are relevant for us, some ‘meaty’ topics. I threw into the mix the idea not to avoid any challenging topics, such as…same sex issues that is sorta on the front burner for many churches/denominations.

It was only a suggestion.

However, by the end of the day, an email had been sent out with the details of the next lunch and that ‘Scott will lead the discussion on same sex issue.’

Yay.

I’m actually expecting a good discussion with these guys. But to say that I’m a little bit nervous would be an understatement.

If I was a betting man, I would hedge my bets that they are coming knowing very clearly where they stand on the issue. And to be quite honest, I really don’t want to know where they stand. In fact, I don’t even think that is the issue here. I believe the issue is: Can we have a conversation and ask any and all questions, and even think through or allow to be questioned what we believe is the ‘right answer’?

I say all this because I find that if I try to have a conversation with anyone who thinks they ‘know the answer’, defences go up, stances are defended, and cliche answers get tossed around. I realize that much of this reaction comes from fear, insecurity, and ingrained beliefs (whether accurate or not). I also wonder if that fear reaction speaks more to our lack of faith/trust/belief in God, than it does to any ‘strong faith’ we think we have.

This past month I’ve been reading and listening to various opinions on the same sex issue, and not because I don’t know where I stand, either. I just want to be able to sit down with anybody and just listen to them, and ask some non-threatening questions for the sole purpose of being able to better understand them. As well, I am trying not to have a reply waiting in the wings, but to acknowledge that their thoughts and opinions are just as legitimate as my own.

Here’s what I’ve learned this past month…

  • I don’t have it all figured out
  • there is freedom in choosing not to judge
  • it takes effort to listen and not spout off
  • it actually does enhance your understanding of the subject matter
  • I am trusting more
  • people are easier to love
  • Christ’s yoke really is easier, and his burden is definitely lighter!

Oh yeh…my meeting with the pastors is in three hours!

Posted in Following Well, Leadership, Questions, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Lesson from Eli

For any who really know me, then you know that I am a contemplative at heart. What does that mean, you say? Well…as best as I can understand, I seem to connect best with God through the practice of quieting myself…being still…listening to him speak and then responding back to him. I would have to say that 99% of the time God always speaks to me. He’s clear and I know his presence beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I’ve always been bent this way. As an introvert (at healthy one at that), I recharge by getting away from people and spending time alone. So twice or three times per year I head away to a retreat centre and spend anywhere from one to three days – just me and God and his nature.

In 2007 I was offered a sabbatical and during that time I engaged a spiritual director. We met three times. I was sold on it. After the sabbatical she invited me to participate in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I did and the next eight months was unlike any journey that I have yet experienced in my walk with Jesus. The importance of listening and being!

So about a month ago I was having my ‘alone time’ with Jesus and heard him say (not audibly) to read the story of the boy Samuel and Eli the priest. I read it and this is what I knew God was saying to me:

You are my servant, Scott. I am your Master. Servants only have one master. Whenever you try to please people, you make them your master as well. You have too many masters, and life is no fun when you’re trying to please all those masters. When you have one master, life becomes so much easier. Just make me your one and only master and see how much easier life can be.

I want you to take Eli’s advice. When you hear me call your name, say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” That is all that is required of a servant…just listen.

Every day now I remind myself that I only have one master, not several. Here is what I’ve discovered: there is freedom in being Jesus’ servant. Who would’ve thunk it… freedom in servanthood.

A couple weeks back I messed up. I allowed someone to be ‘master’…I listened and this week I am paying for it. I talked to Jesus about it this morning, and he told me to forget about it and move on. I like my for-real master…he’s gentle and cool.

And he likes you too!

Posted in Contemplative, Following Well, Prayer, Right Thinking, What Really Counts | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment