A Broken Glass

When the glass isn’t half full, is it because it’s half empty, or is it because the glass is broken?

Often times I find myself wanting to be the upbeat one, the one with the appropriate response to a dire situation. I know I can’t let my worry surface, I need to remain calm and cool under pressure. It’s my trademark personality trait. Yet, if I am a glass trying to remain on the sunny side of life, I am doing a bad job, because I leak.

I believe it to be true of everyone from time to time, we want to do our best and be the happy one – but our shell begins to crack, we begin to let out the sadness and worry. It’s only… human.

Sometimes, we need to stop and repair the glass before we can even debate whether it is half full.

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A Windy Day

I’ve always been a little confused by politicians who refuse to say they changed their mind. For example, Bill Clinton recently praised the defeat of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in the Supreme Court of the United States of America. This is all well and good as a politician to do, especially as a Democrat. Except, that he was the very president who signed this bill into existence. Many of his critics came out the wood work to say he was a hypocrite and a wishy-washy politician. Instead of simply saying, “I thought this way then, and now I have changed my mind.” he got all defensive and said he signed it because it was the majority of public opinion and that it was a pragmatic decision. You can read all sorts of opinions on this matter – do a simple Google search of “Bill Clinton DOMA” and you’ll get hundreds of articles that range in opinion on the matter. I just want to tell him it’s ok to say, you changed your mind, that you grew, you progressed, whatever political word you want to say.

This is not a blog about the merits of striking down DOMA or Bill Clinton or American Politics, instead it’s a blog about changing my mind. I do it, you do it, we all do it. We think one way, one day, and then a week later we might think another way. From the mundane – I used to hate school work, but through becoming more passionate about the topics I have changed my mind and now love class and doing my readings (for the most part). To the far more complex – like a theological issue such as women in ministry.

We live and learn and change our minds.

This is beautiful, this is to be celebrated not feared, I blame Ancient Greek philosophy for this fear of changing our minds. There is a theory out there that stems back to my main homeboy philosopher Plato. He had this theory that perfection requires a stasis, an unchanging-ness. Christians have adopted this theory in a lot of ways. God is the rock, unchanging one, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. While there might be some merit to that, there also needs to be some wiggle room. Perfection is not stasis.

To become the best versions of ourselves – to achieve steps toward perfection, we will all take different paths, pursue different passions and fight for different causes. We will think differently, and be fundamentally different people. And that’s beautiful. And as part of that process we need to grow, progress, fall back, take steps forward, regress and change our minds. We need to be fluid, we need to doubt, we need to ask hard questions, and we should expect that from time to time it will require a monumental shift in our theology, worldview, tastes, and life decisions.

Like a hot summer day with no wind, an unquestioning spirit beats us down and exhausts us. But a windy day reminds us something is happening – at times it is far more powerful than we can comprehend, and at other times it is a gentle reminder that life doesn’t stand still.

Pages

I have thought a lot lately about life, and its transitory nature. My grandfather recently suffered some medical set backs, tangentially related to a knee replacement surgery he had a few weeks back. It has been a time of prayer, deep thought, worry, celebration, long distance phone calls, and doubt. I hate to make a situation like this about me, and it isn’t really, but I can’t but think about big questions, little questions, and questions like “how does God fit into things like this?”

I recently moved down to Toronto, to Tyndale University College and Seminary to be more specific. Yes, I live where I work. It is actually amazing, it is everything I wanted. I want to be involved in community in all aspects of my life. I want to know the community I am trying to serve, and what better way than to live here? But that’s another larger thought for another day. The point is, I transitioned this fall into something new. A page turned in my life, and pages will continue to turn as I journey through this chapter of my life. And so, when my grandfather was all of the sudden taken in for emergency surgery, I got selfish. I wondered, how does this fit into my story, my transition, my turning pages? I had a thousand thoughts, and less of them were selfless than I care to admit.

I am relaunching my blog with this post, and I can’t think of a better way to do it. Life is messy. We all have crap we deal with on a regular basis, and we are all on a journey. I recently told a friend that I feel like I am in a car eagerly waiting to round the next corner because I know I am so close to something, that if I look out the window I might see it. I am in heavy anticipation mode right now. He fired back, what if you get around the corner and find out you still have a long ways to go? He’s right. We never do truly know when we will reach the destination and we never know what is around the next corner. Like the old cliche says, it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey that counts. I can’t help but that think there is such a deep truth to that. As someone who follows the way of Christ I was always told that Heaven was my goal, but the older I get the more I think Earth is the goal. That it’s what we do here that matters most. As Jesus said, “Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

So as I relaunch my blog, I want it to be about the journey. As I round every corner in my life and explore the gleam of new things, mourn the passing of old things, struggle with the the fragility of life, and everything in between I want to share my story. I can’t promise consistency, because frankly life isn’t. I will change my mind on things, and that’s OK. I might will say offensive things. I hope to provoke thought, not anger it. I can promise to use big words like tangentially, and abbreviate words unnecessarily like cause for because. I’ll try not to swear.

Join me as I turn yet another page in my life, as I round yet another curve.

Coming soon

As I have hinted on Twitter for a couple weeks, I plan on revamping the idea behind my blog. I want to make it more engaging, focused, and topical. My intention won’t be to start hot debate, but rather to discuss what I am learning, and most passionate about. Stay tuned, I am hoping for good things. 

A New Season

Yes, it’s fall. 

I have started a new job, and am encountering new and exciting people in this new position. It’s great. I get to meet and hear from amazing students on an almost daily basis. My heart has grown and been encouraged so much over the past few weeks, I love it! I have been trying to find a way to share this love with others, and I have talked to friends and family, but I always come back to writing. I love writing, but I have struggled to find something that truly works for me. I have tried and tried to find a series that keeps me going. In the past I have tried little known bible characters. That led to one blog on Uzziah. Then I tried to explain big Christian words, I think I did three on that topic. Next was The Issues, I am still kind of proud of that, there are ten or so of those. Lastly was stories.

Story is important, and story is where I always want to be. There is a narrative to each of our lives that we are telling, and God is telling through us. Story is what shapes us, whether we know it or not. We live our own story and we live in a bigger story. The person we choose to be plays a role in the kind of story we are telling. 

God’s grand story features all of us, from beginning to end, he is telling the story of humanity. He asks us to come in and be participants in that narrative and to help push it forward. The gospel message, the good news of Jesus is a story within the story. It is a story we live out in our lives. As a student here at Tyndale said to me recently, “The gospel is just story until someone tells it.” The question I often ask myself is, what kind of story am I trying to tell with my life? 

I have been blessed to see the story some of the Tyndale students are sharing with the world through their lives and how they are participating in God’s story. I am going to continue to share my thoughts on the stories of others that I hear and my own as I continue to write my story. 

 

Green Beans and French Toast

I hate to admit that I think I do some of my best writing when I am in a less than happy state. I think it might be my way of venting, or releasing a frustration that has built up in me. I am not a good puncher, and I don’t like to scream, so I write. I find myself in one of those states right now, and I all I can think about is Green Beans and French Toast.  This is the title I have given to my memoir that I haven’t written. A memoir with the subtitle, “Life lessons told through a mostly true story.” If you have ever read Blue Like Jazz, then you’ll know the kind of book I want to write. I think it’s fair to say that no other writer has a had a bigger impact on my personal style than Donald Miller. Personally, I would love to have a hit book like Blue Like Jazz, but I am also a semi-realist slash cynic, so I know the odds of that are tough. But, I will write it nonetheless!

Green Beans and French Toast you might say is a weird title. But, in point of fact, I think it is a great title. I am biased.

Let me start at the end, with French Toast. I love French Toast, but let’s admit that it isn’t the most nutritional meal. Sure every once in a while it is good, but not every day. It may not kill you to eat it every now and then (unless you’re lactose intolerant and/or allergic to eggs), but you need other things to fill your diet. French toast is the meal you love, but not the meal you need. Which brings me to Green Beans. I hate green beans, or hated. To me, they suck, they suck  a lot. I will eat them… now. When I was 16 I wouldn’t go near them with a ten-foot pole. In my semi-true memoir I tell the story of how a friends mom made me eat green beans. She pulled a classic mom move and wouldn’t let me leave the table until I did. It was good for me, though I’m not entirely sure why I put up with it, it’s probably cause she made pretty good French toast.

In case you missed the metaphor, green beans are the things in life that you might hate but are good for you. And French toast are those things in life that you love to do, but probably don’t need to do that often, or need in your life that much. Not that French toast is altogether bad, it’s not an everyday thing. I would say this is my life lesson, learning what is and isn’t green beans and French toast.

I could write a thousand stories about all this, and maybe I will in my book, look for it on shelves in 2015. But first, what makes a good story?

In the movie Blue Like Jazz the main character talks about narrative structure. Setting, Conflict, Climax, Resolution, or SCCR. Life is about story, the moving through settings and conflicts and climaxes and resolutions and then doing it all over again. You have to go through conflict to get to resolution. Those two parts of story are the ones I identify with the most, and the other two parts are very important, but without a conflict and resolution you don’t have much. Conflict is what gives life it’s zest I think, and conflict isn’t always bad, trying to decide between a Maple Cinnamon bagel and a Cinnamon Raisin bagel is a conflict. Resolution is what makes that zest come to life.

The problem is that green beans are the not fun conflicts, and it’s only when your still healthy and regular that you realize that they were actually good for you. French toast doesn’t seem to be a problem, until you’re fat and lazy.

I think I have learned a ridiculous amounts of stuff about myself through relationships of all kinds. Friends have taught me more about myself then anything. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, some are good and some are bad. When I was in my early high school years I had a good friend, nay a best friend. We did a lot together, probably in a strange way. We had sleep overs where we would stay up super late or early depending on your disposition. We were pretty silly, we talked about the girls we liked, and how we saw our lives going, it was actually pretty sweet. It was French toast. Eventually, down the road, this friend decided I wasn’t good enough to be his friend anymore. I was left at the curb, friendless and broken. I have distinct memories of walking to lunch and eating it alone.

It was devastating.

I found a new old friend. We have been BFF’s ever since. He was green beans, I didn’t realize how much I needed that friendship at the time. Years later I still deal with the loss of that initial friendship and just how much it hurt me. In some ways I will probably deal with it for the rest of my life. And that’s life, learning to deal with the pain of loss, and the power of gain.

Green beans and French toast.

A Primer on Missions

I’m sorry but I am using this blog and the audience it possesses as a test audience of what is to come in my life.

I now find myself in a new job and position at Tyndale in which I am called to run local and global outreach/missions opportunities for our student body. There is a strange thing about this though, Tyndale has been well know for it’s attempts to have a global impact through many well run short term missions. However, our presence locally is almost nil. We have never really reached out into the local community in a powerful and meaningful way. We have done things from time to time that have had an impact, but for the most part, people in the Bayview and Steeles community would have little knowledge of the Christian University that exists in their very own community.

The issue with Missions in our present church culture is one of language. We speak of two kinds, local and global, as if they are two distinct things. I think this is an issue. I want to go back to the beginning of mission with what is commonly referred to as The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (emphasis mine) The key words here that I added emphasis to are, of all nations. All nations includes our very own. In Acts Jesus goes on further to say “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” He actually names places here, Judea, Samaria, all the world. His point was it starts in Jerusalem and moves out, but the point we overlook is, it should never stop in Jerusalem after it moves out. It wasn’t meant to be a progression so much as a general charge to move out and reach all nations.

In Canada, and America, we have celebrated a certain kind of Christendom. We thought we were okay, that we had it under control and the rest of the world needed our help. There is a certain amount of truth to this historically. Call it white guilt, or even first world guilt, we have forgotten our very own here in on our own streets. We see the streets of Kolkata as an exotic locale that needs Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, they do need Jesus, but so do the streets of Toronto. Why should one be more exotic than the other? My own personal time spent in India was formative, moving, and all around life-changing, but my mission didn’t begin there, nor should it end there.

I want to be an agent of change. I want to help change our language. I want missions to mean all missions. I want to remove local and global from the equation. I want to applaud the camp worker, alongside the person who ministered to those caught up in the sex trade. I want to encourage the tutor who gives up nights a week in Toronto with the English teacher in Haiti. Each needs to be held up by the church, but more importantly the people in the church need to be these people! I cannot emphasize that enough. We in the richest nations in the world have been more than satisfied with throwing money at missions of every kind, but how much are we truly getting involved. This goes for myself just as much as anyone else. Let’s not stop ministering with our wallets but let’s also add to our ministry our hands and feet.

It is a big task in front of me. I am coming into a job with extremely large shoes to fill. I need to maintain that legacy while also helping to push Tyndale forward. It is a tough task. This is a primer on my missions goal.