Perspective #purpose

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Perspective.
We all need some from time to time.

The tedious task of releveling the front sidewalk blocks provided such a moment. I dreaded moving the heavy blocks. But I hate it when they sink and look out of whack. So I picked the hottest day of the year to work on them. I wedged and pulled and heaved the first block out of place, and caught nature at work.

Ants do not contemplate what they have to do. They just do what they were designed to do.

While I contemplate with dread the moving of the blocks, they are building and establishing their community below. They move sand, grain by grain, because that is what they do. And they do it well. Consistently.
They picked the most hard packed piece of the yard to make trails, but that did not seem to stop them. Persistence. My messed up sidewalk was actually a thriving community, unbeknownst to me.
On purpose.

Just a little everyday perspective.

5% Principle

Where do you place your highest priorities in life?
And how long is that list?

I personally called myself to evaluate this list recently, considering what my next options are in career and vocation. As I am one to spend a lot of time evaluating and introspecting on the healthiest of occasions, these types of lists come easy to me. Or so it has seemed in the past. In short order, I realized my list was muddied and far too long. My top priorities looked more like a menu board at McDonald’s.

I came across the ‘5% principle’ in a book called Leading On Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro. When he suffered burnout in leadership his list of important items was out of control, and he realized he needed to consider what the top 5% of his life represented. 85% was the list of tasks that anyone could do in his life, most of which was general maintenance. The next 10% could be called specialized training, things that other people could do in his place but required more than just getting up in the morning. In healthy circumstances, these things are pretty easy to identify and keep in their categories.

But that top 5% directs the rest. If it is off, then the train has trouble staying the right track. This is a short list, but it is the important stuff. It comes to a very basic line of thought: What has God called only me to be in this life? What does He require that only I do in the days I have been given?

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Surprisingly, answering emails should not be in your 5%. But this list is still less complicated than one might first think. I know it struck me in its simplicity. I have asked others to establish their values in the past; the short list of things on which they will not budge. Why? So they know how to direct themselves in a healthy manner in all matters. But when you lose energy, it is an amazingly easy list to misplace in the junk drawer of the soul.

So, can you list your 5%?

Beast of Burden #relationships

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“I’ll never be your beast of burden, my back is broad but it’s hurting”

A classic line from a classic Rolling Stones track. Most people catch it when they see it or hear it, and many started singing it when they see read the quote. I know I did. Whether you like the Stones or not, you have to admit their musical impact is iconic. Good or bad, their music casts a large shadow on our contemporary scene, and their lyrical content has followed the same path. I could mention a simple term like “sympathy for the devil”, and emotion is solicited. Prior to the 1960’s, it would mean very little. It is amazing how music can have so much impact on individual lives, as well as carve out a cultural lexicon that outlives many moments amidst its contextual history.

Ironically, the music that impacts us can be so subjective that the meaning with which it was penned often is lost in the meaning it solicited within the hearer. “Beast of Burden” is one such example. I, among many, many other music fans out there in the land of rock ‘n’ roll interpreted the song as meaning something completely different than what it actually was intended to say. The framework and delivery gave me the impression that it was a love song. A rock ballad. Something Mick Jagger wanted to say to that special someone in his life. Especially pertaining to a love interest that he wanted to bring to a new and important level of commitment. It sure feels that way as I sit here humming it in my head.

It was for a special someone, just not a love interest.
Surprisingly, the song was written by Keith Richards for his friend and lead singer Mick Jagger. It morphed as the band played around with it to its current form, including some allusion to women, a direction many of their songs go. The song is actually an anthem of friendship, regardless of some of the lines that point towards a love relationship. In fact, the original sentiment is based on Mick having to carry the weight of the band while Keith was struggling through drug addiction, and eventually a trip to rehab. Mick may have seen his role as a friend and band mate to do what he did, continue carrying the burden so his friend could become whole again. It is a picture of two things, unintentionally becoming a burden to the one we are closest to, and being a burden bearer without being recognized as such.

Both happen. We rely on a friend for so much in life. So much so that we forget the pack they have been carrying for us all this time, or the cart in which we ride with them under the yoke. This song shares a common element in all our relationships, but I think especially of marriage and friendship. The structure under which we felt we entered the relationship changes over time, often without our consciously perceiving it. People change, we change, and we usually do not do well with seeing it until a crisis point forces us to refocus our place together. A beast of burden is both incredibly necessary, but it can also seem a nuisance.

All our relationships have beasts of burden, we just do not do well with distinguishing and understanding who they are, nor why they play that role. Or even when they got there. Taking time aside in your life to reflect and refresh, as I have over the past couple of months, can be great in discovering your beasts of burden. They need to be recognized. Where you have become a beast of burden is good to see as well. Those relationships are not always healthy or true to all that God desires of us or the other. But they are present, and we need to take stock of how those important relationships fit into our becoming more as He intended. More than likely, a beast of burden is in place for a good reason, and there is unimaginable value to you being together. But understand what you represent to one another.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
It reminds me of a sentiment shared by Dr. Larry Crabb in his book Shattered Dreams. When you create a list of your closest friends, the ones you truly feel loved by and love for, it tends to be that you love them for what they do. It seems so selfish, but it is so true. Those closest to me in love are all beasts of burden. Nowhere is this more evident than in my married life. I think, and hope I am right, that when my wife and I are really clicking along we understand that we lean heavily on the other, all the while maintaining a strong sense of self. But that balance of understanding is difficult to track, and unless crisis exposes that the scales are off, we will not even notice that we are bearing the burden of another continually. At my healthiest, I recognize this is a reciprocal action but also know the other is lovingly doing so, and it shows. And I realize that I can be the same to them in turn. At the low points though, the list can be heartbreaking. Because you know they are bearing far more than you are able to give in return. But an exchange of goods and services is not the point of the song, nor of love in general.

Love keeps no record, it just knows that sometimes we are bearing, and sometimes we need to take a load off. True love acknowledges both.

Crap happens…

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At least that’s kind of what the Fatburger guy said after I told him how my day was going. Good reminder.

Long story short, I decided to take in another conference out west. Felt a little unsure about that passenger side rear tire, but filled up the spare and felt good about hitting the road. As I was getting within hopeful distance of Regina, knowing I had a number of hours beyond that to go, my bladder reminded me that it would be time to stop. And then the rear speakers got loud. At that point I realized the music was coming from the rear, and I was refamiliarized with the deep bass of treads coming off a tire.

I pulled over, acquainted myself with some bushes away from the highway, then prepped everything for a quick change. Bags on the highway, figuring out how to use yet another type of compact jack, a cruel reality amidst realities hit me. The spare had a nail in it that I forgot to fix. Great timing.

Impeccable in fact.

Picture me in the image, praying over that stupid tire while cursing every driver that had to pass close enough to make my already tilted car sway towards me on its tiny pedestal called a jack. Then imagine the thankfulness I gushed when that tire made it the 50 kilometers to Canadian Tire.

Good reminders on a day of well laid plans:
Crap happens.
Other people don’t necessarily give as much of a crap as you possibly think they should. Especially on the highway.
And it’s worth thanking God when the alternate plan comes together.

Mission in plain sight #whoweare

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Much like your facial expression, the mission of your existence is far more visible to those near you than a well worded statement.

I had to grab a shot of this wall stencil, and the corresponding message on the ad banner, at a local Starbucks. They have always been pretty open about what they desire for stores and parishioners, as you can see. I wonder how many people have noticed the message on the wall change over the years? Since the late 90’s, when I began to attend regularly, I started to take note of their mission and vision as a company. The experience aligned with what I desired in my attendance, and it was confirmed by managers who became friends. I remember one such manager sharing with me that they were “selling an experience”, not a product.

Take note of what the wall and banner say. Good product, fast and convenient. Not an experience. Not sure if this is a response to the consumer, or a desired outcome for the business. Our mission and values tend to fluctuate between the two.

Did you notice the church language in my summary by the way? Along with being a pastor, I have been an observer and anecdotal speculator of church for some time. And it will show up in my writing frequently, especially with regards to our systems and leadership models. Church language works when talking about Starbucks because there are too many similarities and parallels to ignore. Having time to visit churches and meet with folks of different walks lately has been a blessing, refreshing, and eye opening. I will share more insights on these moments later.

The church, like many organizations, can have the tendency to display a desired mission that is very different than it’s facial expression. This is based on hopes and dreams. After a while, many will not even notice the wall the words are painted on, or the banner, or even when the statements are changed over time. Largely, this is because the message has already been received, or those owning it have clearly conveyed it. Even when we choose to offer broader or vaguer statements so we have room to play under them, we leave little to interpretation by our actions.

What does your face say?

FROM HUSTLE TO FLOW #DISCIPLESHIP

In case you actually need me to tell you, you should sign up to receive updates from my blog by email. Just saying.

Now, some thoughts on the picture of a post-it note… And moving from hustle to flow. Yes, it is an old saying, but it kept coming to mind as I considered discipleship and Christ’s Passion week, and the two verses in the picture. So bear with me if this is too old for you. Others may read on…

This contrast has made its way into all kinds of contexts. Over the passion week I was struck by their contrast in my faith and calling over the years. I spent a part of a Lent retreat reflecting on these verses. With my recent transition I realized how I was drawn to one more than the other, in my work and personal devotion, and even family life. It all seemed to come to light by comparing two synoptic gospel passages, from the same sermon, but the interpretation holds such different meaning.

So are you more hustle? Or more flow?

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I have blogged, preached, shared, taught, reflected… Ad nauseum on the Matthew passage. Perfection is both elusive and desired in parallel in the life of each of us. Some ignore it and seek solace in imperfection, all the while stifling the pressures it presents. Others are crushed under the pressure, and never feel relief. Ironically, those who speak the most about experiencing grace tend to be those who exhibit its absence. I know I have been guilty of this crime. It is like living in all hustle mode. Striving for something that is elusive, and feeling frustration in our shortcoming.

We love preaching the sermon on the mount version of this verse, but it is a difficult living.

What about the flow? What about the feeling of grace? I love how Luke focuses on the word compassion. I think we all crave one who ‘suffers with’ us, but it isn’t earned. Therefore it isn’t complete. At least in our temporary understanding. So we struggle with not hustling for something already given, and take it out on each other. It just feels better to pass the burden of perfection on each other.

Compassion feels like such a loser so long as we can fight to be perfect.

This is where humility trumps our fight. We struggle with the Saviour’s example unto death, even though He rose victorious. The amazing part in this story is that we learn to be both because both were freely exhibited and given through Christ. Crazy. It is a mystery yet in our hands to understand all at once. But we can’t hold one over the other as a better way. They are both true and real in Him.

Perfection is something I can create a metric to accomplish. Compassion, not so much. Funny thing is part of God’s perfection is His perfect compassion. I desire to put the metrics aside, and pray that I can learn to have more flow in my life. His flow, his hustle.

His perfection.
His compassion.
My lacking in both.

My social media fast #socialmedia

I’m not used to using hashtags these days since choosing to remove social media from my diet for the Lenten season. How refreshing!

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I felt that after years of using it as a means to communicate with people in ministry, find old friends, stay in touch with family, and act as a platform for my own creative mediums, I needed to reevaluate what it meant for me. My blog posts, and checking in usually on Sundays to make sure I wasn’t missing personal messages, was what I aimed to maintain. I did pretty good, slipped occasionally, and tried to remember to think on the finished work of Jesus Christ when I was tempted.

That last part was difficult, because I was not associating social media with the work of Christ anymore. That’s pretty big if you consider any part of your life of faith. Instead, this is what I was associating with it.

Anxiety. Not having anything to check and wondering what I was missing in idle moments.

Busyness. Why do I need to check on these things?

Importance. There is a sense if importance related to seeing people’s updates, and pretending they are relevant to your well being. You are a curator of personal moments, and you get to think you are now involved in them. You are not. Then of course there is the phenolic phenomena of self-importance, where you need to check and make sure your life is being viewed and appreciated by others.

Boredom. An escape from solitude, moments of peace, and personal revelation, can all be discovered by creating boredom in the absence of Facebook. It’s amazing. 10 years ago this would not have been boredom. But suddenly the intervals between checking up on everyone was called boredom; and if you wait too long, i go back to the first item on this list.

Binary thought. I have mentioned this before, but social media changed our concept of time. From a global, context driven view of our surroundings, to a linear mindset of only yes/no/like/quick response. Post is only an index item to momentarily review before springing forward and up to date.

The crap filter was full. Oh there were plenty of community moments mixed in, but they became increasingly hard to find on my timeline/newsfeed. (Those are ironic names for what the algorithms deem most important for me to see at the moment. Neither are true to their names)

So this last week I chose to have a personal retreat as part of Jesus’s passion week, and to consider different aspects of reflection. Almost entirely in silence, until near the end. At a few key moments I turned on my phone in case of any family emergencies. Eventually the texts began to roll in. No urgency, just sh*ts and giggles to break the silence on the other end, waiting for an immediate response. Again. And again. I took the bait and suddenly realized that I was waiting for more and ignoring what I had accomplished up to this point.
Off.

Contrast that with an old friend who had been walking me through my recent church departure and had been around to talk life on both sides of that bridge. He joined me for coffee one afternoon at this cottage somewhere near nowhere. It was strange to have human contact. When we weren’t talking, we say quietly listening to the fire. And then spoke when there was something to say. I had not felt comfortable with this concept in a long time.

At the end of it all, I will still use social media. But the concept that stands clearly to me going forward:

What actually needs to be said.
What actually needs to be heard.
What actually needs to be seen.
What actually is community.