Make Friends With Yourself

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.  Proverbs 14: 30                 

The beauty of ‘maturing’ (getting older) is that you realize not everything is as it may seem. The things I was so certain of in my younger days…well let’s just say I’m not so certain anymore. The lines blur a bit for me. I think that’s just wisdom and the beauty of living through a few decades of life on this wonderful planet of ours ;).

One of those blurry areas is this whole thing about body, soul, and spirit. I understand where that comes from, and I also get that we like to compartmentalize just about everything. I’m not sure why we like to do that, but we do. Perhaps one reason for doing that is we ‘think’ we can understand it better. It’s more easily controlled. And it’s just so gosh-darn fun to label everything.

So along with my body, soul, and spirit, I also get that I have a mind, and emotions. All of these ‘parts of me’ are not pieces of a human pie…connected but separate. For me it’s more like pasta sauce – different ingredients all blended together; one enhancing the taste of the other. Take one out and it changes everything. By the way, this ‘pasta sauce’ analogy is just that, an analogy, but that’s what happens when the lines blur. So what does this have to do with the proverb I chose for today? Well…

This proverb is basically saying that a happy heart leads to a happy body. A jealous heart leads to a sick body. That’s what this proverb is saying. Yes, it’s speaking directly to jealousy, but as with all other proverbs, there is a general principle here, and a lesson to be learned.

Human beings today are frantically spending ginormous amounts of cash, time, and energy trying to not only fix those three areas (body, soul, spirit), but also trying to have them aligned perfectly with each other. The way I see it, we are becoming (and some of us have already arrived) a neurotic and unhinged people. I sometimes wonder if we are actually causing more harm to ourselves than the good we are desiring?

Again, the way I see it, it was me who asked Jesus to ‘save me’ because I couldn’t save me. If I’ve read my Bible correctly, God loves the ‘messed-up-me’ (Yes, it is possible to love a messed up person, just ask your parents). So if God can love the ‘messed-up-me’, then I think I can. It was a number of years ago that I decided to make friends with myself. Sometimes I’m not the way I’d like to be, and I don’t believe I will ever arrive at that place of perfection in this life (I’m not even sure what a perfect Scott would even look like). So I’ve decided to let Jesus work on me…in his time.

Today, why not make friends with yourself? Your body, mind, soul, spirit and every other part will thank you for it! And Jesus will thank you too!

mirror-kiss

What’s Your Bulls Eye

Bullseye (1)Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be self-important but have no food.

A life of wisdom always trumps a life of greatness! Always!

There, I said it.

As I was slowly reading through the 12th chapter of Proverbs, I was intrigued by today’s passage. It was so refreshing to read the words, “Better to be an ordinary person…”. Ya see, that’s what I love about the sacred writings found in the Bible, they speak the truth.  No air-brushing, no glossy images of people, no superstars. Scripture tells it the way it really is. So where am I going with all of this? Let me explain.

Every time that I read or hear the words, “You too, can discover your destiny!” I feel some joy leak out of me. Here’s why. Those words are telling me that where I currently am in life is not my destiny. What it is telling me is that a life well lived is one of greatness, fame, wealth, brains, beauty, popularity, ad nauseam. Then what gets added to that phrase are examples of people who have made it in one or several of those categories, and more joy leaks out. Throw in a dash of glossy photo’s and then you know that your life is completely boring. This is a bit of a rant because I believe that this is a set up for disappointment and discouragement. I’m ranting because this is not the Kingdom that Jesus taught about.

Secondly, we really don’t want every person in this world to be some stellar superstar, do we? As I’ve said to many people time and time again, when I’m stranded on the side of the highway because my car broke down, I want a tow truck driver. I don’t want a famous brain surgeon, or a pastor. Look… we need servers at restaurants, custodians, hotel clerks, cashiers, truck drivers, sanitation workers, people who empty septic tanks…and the list could go on and on. Yes we need entertainers, CEOs, prime ministers, presidents, rock stars, sports stars, etc., but we also need the people in the background because they are the ones who make it all happen!

What Solomon is saying in this verse and throughout all of Proverbs is that wisdom, character, sound judgment, self-discipline, and the fear of God are the bulls eyes in life that we need to be aiming for. The beauty of making those the bulls eyes is that everyone can aim for it and hit it, not just the top 1% of the population. You see, everyone is created in God’s image and have God’s DNA imprinted on them.  It’s why Jesus recoiled whenever people wanted to make him famous or a superstar. That would have missed the mark.  It’s why he said that if you want to be famous in God’s kingdom, then become a famous servant to all.  And that is everyone’s destiny!

The Wisdom of Our Universe

BeginningThe Lord formed me [wisdom] from the beginning, before he created anything else.

I [wisdom] was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began.

I [wisdom] was the architect at his side. I [wisdom] was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.                                                                                                                                                                                        Proverbs 8: 22-23, 30

Just a reminder to those who are journeying with me through Proverbs, that the words I write are simply my thoughts and insights. Perhaps a different passage from the chapters stands out for you, and no doubt you may have different insights. My desire is that I am whetting your appetite for the richness of Kingdom wisdom. These proverbs really are ‘words to live by’.

If you’ve been reading every chapter from Proverbs, then by now you are feeling like Solomon, or maybe it’s Wisdom, is desperately pleading with us to listen and make these words a part of your life. Wisdom wants to marinate us in these words so that discipline and sound judgment ooze from our pores.

An eye opener for me starts at verse 22 where Wisdom declares that God formed her, or gave birth to her from the beginning before he created anything else! What I take from those words is that ALL of life has been formed and shaped by wisdom. In other words, God didn’t take a bunch of human body parts and throw them against the wall and see what stuck and what didn’t. Just imagine if God had…where would your nose have ended up?  Every part and cell in our body is placed where it’s supposed to be, and designed to do exactly as intended. Thank goodness!

IF that’s the case, then it would stand to reason that to fully get the most out of this brief life that we have on earth is to live in rhythm with creation, and in rhythm with our Creator. In other words, live life the way it was meant to be lived…with wisdom, understanding, sound judgment, discipline, and the fear of the Lord (a healthy fear, that is).

And one thing before I close off – discipline is even found in the creation of planet Earth. Get a load of verse 29 – I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries. Just imagine living on a planet where the oceans could do what they want and go where they want! Scary, eh?

Say Hello to Wisdom

GoldVeinBefore we embark on our journey into the depths of life and mine for wisdom, I wanted to give you a bit of an intro, welcome you to the tour…sort of like your ‘tour guide’, and show you the beauty of wisdom.

I find it intriguing how in my early years of following Jesus I naturally assumed a passive posture when it came to living like a Christian. It was like I was waiting for God to change me by zapping me or something. But over time I have come to learn the value of taking responsibility for the person I desire to be, which I think is the person that God desires, too.  I believe that deep within each of us lies the dormant seed of wisdom, and if we’ll water and nurture that seed it will produce for us a rich life.

Those necessary nutrients are found in the book of Proverbs.  This little book smack-dab in the middle of the Bible contains…proverbs!  Short pithy sayings of concentrated wisdom.  It was written by King Solomon, perhaps one of the wisest world leaders humanity has seen.  I’m fascinated that Solomon took the time to not only ponder the vastness of wisdom, but to also write it down.

So plant yourself in the Ground of all Being and let yourself be nurtured by these nutrient-rich nuggets!  Welcome to the tour.

 

It’s All In How You See It

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which basically means that what one person may see as beauty, someone else may not.  Which then begs the question: “What exactly then, is beauty?”  If that saying is true, then I’m not really sure what constitutes beauty.

However, in saying that, I read a book some time ago, entitled Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, by Elaine Fox.  She unpacks why some people are born naturally optimistic, and others, pessimistic.  If you take an optimist and a pessimist and allow them to experience similar situations, the optimist will naturally see the good, while the pessimist will naturally see the negative.

And so I wonder, are some people just wired to see beauty in life, while others have a much more difficult time?  Well, whether they do or not, I am fairly sure of this one thing: I think I can choose to see what I want to see.  I feel fairly confident in saying that, because I naturally lean towards a ‘rainy brain’.  I think that’s why I enjoyed policing, because as a police officer, your job is to go out and look for what is wrong in society.  But it’s exhausting and a downer to just see the bad.  I made a decision some time ago to choose to look for beauty in all things and people.  I’m not saying that it comes easy…it doesn’t.  But I know that beauty is out there.

As a church minister, I have the opportunity to guide people as they navigate life and faith. Now Christians see the Bible as their guide for life, and that is a good thing.  However (and this is a big ‘however’), I’m fairly convinced that the ‘rainy brain, sunny brain’ plays a significant role in how one reads the Bible, which in turn shapes their belief in God, and how they see others and themselves.  I’m not an expert on this theory, nor have I conducted any studies, but the fact that there are close to 34,000 denominations, is a fairly good indication that we can read the same canon and come to different conclusions.  Just saying…

The Bible is my daily ‘go-to’ book because it nurtures my soul.  I choose to look for the good, and I find it every time!  Currently, I am reading through the books of the prophets in the Old Testament.  There are a lot of rainy passages, which can easily cause one to see an angry God.  But there are just as many ‘sunny’ passages as well.  Hosea is one such book.  This week I read the last chapter of Hosea, and it was full of sunshine.  Here’s what is written:

The Lord says,

“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;

my love will know no bounds,

for my anger will be gone forever.

I will be to Israel

like a refreshing dew from heaven.

Israel will blossom like the lily;

it will send roots deep into the soil

like the cedars in Lebanon.

Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,

as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.

My people will again live under my shade.

They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.

They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

 

Shut Up and Listen!

[blogging is like exercising…stop long enough and it becomes easier not to]

So the other day I was leaving work and three feet from our main admin door was a young man sitting on our sidewalk, cross-legged with his head down. I stepped outside and bent down beside him and asked if everything was okay. He turned his head slightly and with a bit of a slurring mumble told me to “shut up”. He rocked and said something to the affect of needing drugs. His face looked like it had been roughed up and he clearly needed some help that I wasn’t going to be capable of offering. At that point he rolled onto his side and curled up into the fetal position. I went inside and called the emergency services.

The fire department were the first on scene. After a few questions, the young man stood to his feet – clearly not liking the looks of any authority figures. One of the fire fighters asked him, “Why did you come here?” He looked at him with glazed eyes and said, “Isn’t this a soup kitchen? Can’t I come here if I need help?”

The fire fighter looked at me, and I haltingly said it was. But inside my mind I could hear this very LOUD voice saying, “Did you hear him? Do ya get it? Out of all the places or people he could have thought of, he thought of YOU!”

Not wanting anything to do with anyone even slightly resembling authority, the young man took off with the fire fighters hard on his heels. In the midst of the f-bombs and screaming coming from him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that God had me by the scruff of the neck and was trying desperately to drive his point home – “THIS IS WHY YOU’RE HERE!”

Ya see…our awesome faith community, Cambridge Vineyard, is going through what many churches are facing – expenses exceeding our income. We have some options available to us, including severing some of our property, or relocating altogether.

In the past couple of weeks I have asked God to help me make sense of all this.

When all is said and done, I think it was Jesus sitting outside of our office doors, cross-legged, beat up and broken with only two words for me… “Shut up”. He wasn’t being rude…he just needed me to listen.

Cambridge Vineyard are his Matthew kids…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

I get it! I know where we belong. Please pray that I’ll continue to shut up and listen.

BEWARE OF THE ‘GREAT’ SNARE

We are dominated by ‘great’…nah, actually inundated by ‘great’. We live for ‘great’, strive for it, talk about it, flaunt it, brag about it, and unfortunately compare ourselves to it. Great is all around us, but if we’re honest, it’s also just out of reach for most of us. Here’s what I’m getting at.

For some reason I have unconsciously chosen to follow a number of people on Twitter who I don’t really know, but in the Christian world, they’re considered ‘great’…or getting close to it. Those who are great generally have some worthwhile things to say, but what I find interesting (myself included) there are many who are in the ‘triple As’ doing their best to become ‘great’. And so they try to sound great by tweating cool sayings, little nuggets of wisdom, or referencing someone who is in the major leagues.

None of this is bad, but I wonder if we’ve become ensnared in the pursuit of being great, and if we have, then that could be a problem.

For me, I desperately want to bow out of the race of being great. No more being a great dad, great husband, great friend, great preacher, great pastor, great cop (in my former life), great neighbour, great human being. I want to bow out because when I run this race, I miss out on the life that is right before me.

Life before me are the non-great people who are right before my eyes. If I would just take the time to hang with them, I would be dazzled by the story of their life. I become blind to my neighbourhood I drive in and out of everyday of my life. It’s a non-great neighbourhood, but if I could only tap into the stories of life that are found here…wow! The stories I would hear

Life before me is the fascinating life that I’ve led so far, with a vast array of experiences and encounters with people of all stripes and persuasions.

Life before me is family that I have come from and the family that April and I have created. Who needs fiction when you belong to a family! I’m trying to think of how I could apply the word ‘great’ in describing my family. Ahhh, yes… “I belong to a great dysfunctional family!” For the most part it’s true, but nonetheless, I still love the family we have and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Life before me is the church that I have belonged to for fifteen years and pastored for the last ten. We are no different. We too have fallen for the ‘great’ bait. We want so desperately to ‘do’ great things for God. To be a great church, not only in the neighbourhood, but in our city, our nation and around the world.

Unfortunately we are not immune to the snare. In our willingness to remain discontent with who God has created us to be, we set lofty goals that become impossible to attain, and in the end we experience disappointment after disappointment. We miss what we have right in front of our very eyes.

This summer at the Cambridge Vineyard, I am looking at the book of Judges. When I was a little boy in Sunday School they would tell stories of the ‘heroes of the Bible, and that included the ‘so-called heroes’ found in Judges. Who are we kidding, the folks in Judges were no heroes, unless you’re talking about the GREAT blunders they made. What they did get right is that they made themselves available for God to use. Time after time God delivered the Israelites from a life of self-centredness, debauchery, murder and mayhem. And yes, he would raise up the various judges to rescue his people, and like a bull in a china shop, they would get the job done. But it wasn’t because of they were ‘great heroes of the faith’. It was because they served a Great God.

I really don’t want to be known as great, but my prayer is that I will be known as someone – blunders and all – that was used by a Great God!

Parallel Universes…Parallel Saints

Parallel universes. The first time I encountered this phrase was when I was reading a science-fiction novel a few years ago. Basically the concept is that if you travel through a black hole (not going to happen anytime soon) you will pass into another universe that is sort of like the inverse of where we live. The idea created is that life is like what we experience in our universe…but not really. Things have played out and play out differently in this parallel universe. I know…weird, strange and a bit scary if it was actually true. But you have to admit, it’s nice to dream up concepts like this.

This past week while on vacation I think I had a glimpse into a parallel universe of some sort – at least it sure feels that way.

Generally when I go away I will take a few books with me, either on my e-reader or the old fashioned paper kind. I will try to stay away from anything work related – so no ministry, leadership or theology books. I have a novel or two and just some books that are supposed to be light reading.

Several months ago I had about three or four books on the go and realized that if I kept this up, I wouldn’t finish any of them. So I picked one, and set the others aside. One of the books I had set aside was on Mother Teresa entitled, Come Be My Light. What draws me to this book, and others like it is it shares her journey (warts and all) in working out her call to start the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.

So where does the ‘parallel universe’ play into all of this? As I was reading, I found myself scratching my head, realizing that her approach to her faith in Christ was almost the opposite of what I’m used to hearing or seeing expressed among the Christians I rub shoulders with from day to day. For instance…

‘Sold out for Christ’ meant just that – SOLD OUT! Lock, stock and barrel. Everything in. For her, this wasn’t a ‘Sunday’ thing, a volunteer ministry thing, or even a vocation thing. For Mother Teresa, this was a life thing – in every sense of the word.

‘Obedience’ is a good thing. To obey her superiors or those who she believed God had placed over her, was honouring God. In fact for her, to obey was an opportunity to reflect Christ’s obedience when he went to the cross. When she prayed to be more like Jesus, she meant in every way to be more like him.

She never (I mean never!) desired to do great things in this life. In fact her belief was to do small things with great love. That was her goal.

She really took Jesus at his word when he said ‘I will be with you always to the end of the age’, as she ventured on her own into the worst areas of one of the worst cities in the world.

As she ventured out of the security of the Sisters of Loreto convent, and into the unknown of Calcutta she told her superiors that if there was any success, it was because of God, and if there was any failure, it was because of her.

Though she battled for years with depression, it was her rule to smile and have a countenance of joy so that the focus would be on Jesus and not on her.

She solidly believed that the sick, the dying, the poor and marginalized reflected the suffering and thirst of Jesus as he hung on the cross. And so every opportunity she had to encounter the poor and sick of Calcutta was an opportunity both to satiate the thirst of Jesus, and to bring Jesus into the ‘holes’ (homes) of Calcutta.

To say that I have been humbled is an understatement. I thank God that my faith has been confounded by a petite and plain Catholic nun. It confirms for me that none of us have it all figured out, and the sooner we come to grips with that, the better off we will be, the church will be, and the the world will be.

However, there was one thing that I do share in common with Mother Teresa…

Jesus loves me…and I love Jesus.

Be Yourself – Everyone Else is Taken

Do you ever wake up and feel like ‘the world’ hasn’t been completely honest with you? I do. I’ve been having ‘one of those days’ a lot in the last week or two. It has to do with who I am and what I can do and cannot do.

As a child I remember my Mom telling me that I can do anything I want to do, if only I will put my mind to it. I remember my public school teachers telling me something similar to that, as well as some older adults that influenced my life. I know what their intention was behind this phrase – “Believe in yourself. Don’t limit yourself, but instead, dream.”

They were right.

Sort of. 

Time and time again I have discovered throughout my life that there are things I do not do well. I do ‘okay’, but the subject matter or the activity doesn’t grab me. It does not hold my interest or bring me life when I engage in the activity. Try as I might, it’s just not there. There are other times when I will throw myself into an activity or attempt at trying to wrap my head around a particular subject, and I simply cannot do it. Not that I don’t want to. I simply cannot do it – either wrap my head around it, or literally do not have the capability to pull it off. And then…there are those times (like all of us) when we try something and go, “I – LOVED – DOING – THAT!” It doesn’t matter whether it’s hard, it just brings so much life and it honestly feels like a ‘good hard’.

A couple of weeks back I was having this conversation with God and with myself (which can be a really scary thing to engage in as I can end up confusing the conversations I have with myself as being ‘God’s voice’.). But what I heard him say, was right out of Romans 12 where Paul talks about offering our bodies as a living sacrifice. I heard him say that the only thing I can offer is ‘Scott’. In fact, that’s the only living sacrifice that I can offer him.

I cannot offer anyone else, because that is not ‘my sacrifice’, and since it is not mine, I have no business in expecting God to accept it. As I continued to read on, Paul gives this warning: “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Got it!! Be honest in your evaluation of yourself, Scott.

Paul then goes on and basically says that once you have found that ‘thing’ that brings you life, then do that to the best of your ability. Got it!! Find what you do and then focus your energy on that and bring your A game to the table.

I think I’m figuring out part of what Jesus is inviting me to when he says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!”

Stunned, Shocked, Surprised…and Speechless!

This past February, two significant events occurred: one happened in our church, and the second occurred in my life. In our church we have this tradition we do every February called Just Because. It’s all about our Vineyard family loving on our Vineyard family…tangibly loving one another. It all started with our late Assistant Pastor, Rob Hall. Rob had a way about him where he just loved to do things spontaneously…and this was one of those things.

So for three or four weeks in February we take a glass vase or jar, place it on a table which is in the middle of our centre aisle, and ask folks to throw change or bills in…whatever they have on them. It’s not planned…ya just give…just because. At the end of the month we take all the cash and buy various gifts – some big and then some just to say ‘we love you, just because’. On either the last Sunday of February or the first one in March, we surprise people with the gifts throughout our service. It’s fun and a great encourager for those receiving. This Sunday, we did that and had a blast!

On February 5, it was my 10th anniversary as a pastor. Ten years when I walked away from a career I loved and into my calling. January and February have been tough months for me emotionally. I’m not really sure why my emotions have been all over the map, but they have been. My lows have been very low. I’ve wrestled with so many things to do with my calling and have had to face some tough realities about how I’ve walked out these ten years.

So this Sunday, we worshipped, gave out gifts, and I preached my heart out. At the midway point of my message at the second service I had turned around to read the scripture off the screen – so my back was to the congregation. I heard what sounded like someone coming into the sanctuary with a noisy stroller…and I just kept on reading this passage with all the passion I had. I turned around and there in front of me was my son Zac and his wife, Sara, with my daughter, Autumn with a food cart that had this huge cake on it. 

I was stunned, surprised, shocked, and utterly speechless. My brain went into high gear trying to figure out what was going on. I think I asked out loud what was going on, and from somewhere, I heard the words – ‘Just Because’. I looked at the cake and written were the words, “Happy 10th Anniversary”. I was at a loss for words and had no idea what to say or do.

And then the most surreal thing happened. Zac and Autumn took the mic and addressed everyone. In front of my congregation they honoured me for all the years that I worked away on my degree while working full time and being a dad. They hi-lighted my perseverance and how I never gave up, regardless of how difficult it was. How I have been an inspiration for them. My wife, April, then got up and shared with everyone the demands of pastoring and how she is proud of me for how I have handled the past ten years.

I was presented with letters and cards from children and adults, gifts, a photograph of April and me signed by everyone in the congregation, and a photo album of various photos (early married years, policing, and pastoring).

Yesterday was absolutely amazing for me. I serve an awesome group of people who passionately love Jesus…and love their pastor. Jesus is good to me, and he sure puts up with a lot from this guy. I’m so thankful it was a cake on a cart and not a pie in the face!

Oh yes…I did find out who was responsible for pulling this off without me catching so much as a whiff of what was happening. But that’s for another post…I promise!