Blog

Chamomile Tea Anyone?

Image result for chamomile tea

Can I get you some Chamomile Tea?

I’m not a tea drinker, but I’m ‘woke’ enough to know that Chamomile tea is known to calm people down and help them relax. (I know there are other herbal options that provide the same results, but I’m sticking with tea!)

I generally enjoy social media, but this past week has felt a bit like that time when you discover the tiny piece of tin foil attached to something you’re chewing. It’s shocking, jarring and leaves you feeling a bit raw. My friend put it this way ‘It feels like everyone is yelling at everyone about everything.’ It’s an accurate observation.

My ‘friend’ list is populated mostly by people who identify as Christians. I’m not exclusive and have many friends who aren’t followers of Jesus, but Christians are the vast majority. I’m mostly disturbed by the yelling that my Christian friends are doing. I’ve admittedly done my share of ‘yelling’ on social media but a wise friend gently told me that I needed to tone things down and today I’m pretty much down to posting pictures of sunsets and puppies with the occasional good natured banter about small town rivalries in Saskatchewan. (Go Millionaires!)

I realize that we have ‘disconnect’ moments in our lives where we aren’t thinking about how what we say represents ourselves or in this case, our Lord. I’ve read shared posts this week and concluded that the person who shared it, didn’t read it before they shared it. I know this, because I know them. I know who they are and what they are about and that their values are contrary to what the post communicates. They were caught up in the moment, hit share without giving any consideration to how the content represented them or the Person that they follow.

Here are a few thoughts on how to manage social media ‘outrage’ as a Christian (or even as a good person).

  1. Words matter. Choose yours and your ‘shares’ carefully. What you say online or in a conversation lives on long after the sound has left the room and the post disappears from your newsfeed.
  2. Stop yelling! The loudest voice in the room is rarely the most respected. Speak softly so people have to listen to hear you. Less is always more.
  3. Building bridges is always a better option than burning them. Joining the mob might feel good at the time, but it rarely produces long term results.

Drink chamomile tea as required!

Reckless Love

I’m borrowing this from the Bible Reading plan that I’m reading. The content is from Tim Mannin and OKC Community Church. (http://www.doingthingsthatmatter.com)

Image result for mr rogers, image

From the 1960’s until the early 2000’s there was a show on PBS called Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. For decades Mr. Rogers ruled kid TV. He began every show by singing the same song; “IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR A NEIGHBOR. WOULD YOU BE MINE? COULD YOU BE MINE? WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?” For Fred Rogers, this was not just good for the show, instead this was something he believed! His faith led him to believe in this simple, yet huge idea that we ought to love our neighbors! 

Loving God and loving our neighbors—everything hangs on these two commands! Jesus actually connects these two commandments in what he defined as the greatest commandment and essentially makes them one by saying, “If you love God then you better love your neighbors too!”

What if we took this idea of loving recklessly to our literal neighbors? Meaning the people who live closest to you. The truth is the vast majority of us have little to no relationship with our neighbors.  Most of them are nameless faces that we know more about how good or bad they are at yard care than about who they really are. We occasionally wave, or we may have had a conversation with them, but most of us don’t even know our neighbors’ names. We call them – “Hey maaannn and Hey girl!” A study found that the vast majority of people know 0-2 of their neighbors’ names and only 5% of people know 8 or more names of their neighbors (8 households). So many of us are ignoring the people right next to us! 

Perhaps loving your neighbor isn’t as difficult as we make it. It can begin by learning names…because that matters. It can lead to caring for your neighbor…because that matters too. Getting to know their story, bringing them cookies, inviting them over for dinner, hearing their needs, sharing your life, befriending them…all those things matter! Often the greatest and most profound things God will do within you are discovered in the simple obedience of you doing the things he said mattered and Jesus clearly said that loving your neighbors matters!

The Fingerprint Series – Dr. George Johnson

In His mercy and wisdom, God brings people into our lives who make an investment that pays dividends for years to come. Sometimes it’s intentional and defined. Sometimes it comes through friendships and long talks over meals or a cup of coffee. Dr. George Johnson has been a long-time friend, mentor, coach and confidant for me. I don’t think either one of us planned for it to be this way. We just liked each other when we met, built a friendship and stayed in touch through the good, bad and ugly that ministry life brings.

Dr. George Johnson

George and I met close to 25 years ago. He was leading a growing church in Vancouver. I was taking on my first lead pastor job. I was excited to get going, but I knew that I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that I would need some help sorting out the challenges that every young leader encounters. George became one of the people that I looked to for insight and coaching.

We built our friendship over coffees, lunches and dinners. The more we time we spent together the more we seemed to ‘get’ each other. That turned into invitations to speak both at his church and at other churches where he encouraged an open door to ministry opportunities for me. I knew that George had a strong preaching ministry and that his congregation regularly heard quality speakers from around the world, so being there required me to grow my ‘A-game’ as a speaker. Even on the days when I thought I was an A but was more like a C+, George found ways to make me feel like I had earned an A and affirmed my growth. He always finished by inviting me to let me know when I’d be available to speak again.

I’ve always appreciated George’s wisdom and insight. I learned a long time ago that having well-educated, thoughtful friends pays enormous dividends in your life, and George was always happy to take time to dialogue with me, recommend a book or author and follow up after the fact. His shared wisdom continues to pay dividends in my life.

George’s most significant impact on my life came in a season where I needed some experienced friends to stick with me. We were going through a challenging time in our church with a lot of internal turmoil. It was in the pre-caller ID days, and I was screening my calls at home when he reached out to me. To this day, I can repeat his message verbatim…. ‘Tim, this is your friend George Johnson. I’ve been praying for you and wanted to encourage you with this thought. Your future is in the harvest. Don’t set your eyes on what’s happening around you, but look to what God has in store for you. Take care, my friend.’ And he hung up….

That VM stayed on our system for a long time. On the darkest of days that followed, I’d go back to it just to be encouraged and find strength. The difficult season passed. God gave us grace, and we began to see and experience what God had in store with us. That message was like cold water on a hot day! I kept it long after our dark days turned to bright days as a reminder that God knew my circumstances and used George to encourage me through a VM.

George’s health isn’t what it used to be. His days are more challenging, and it’s become harder to see each other face to face. He had a birthday last week, and it reminded me that I wanted to include him in this series. I’m thankful for his fingerprints on my life in a beautiful way, and I am very grateful! Thanks for seeing something in me, George!

The Leadership Stretch

Permit me to confess today. I’m being challenged in an area of my life and talking about it creates accountability and hopefully produces some good fruit for other people. For the past several months, I’d get a gentle ‘nudge’ on the inside whenever I spoke about other leaders in a negative light. I generally avoid doing that, but occasionally, I succumb to the temptation to ‘speak freely.’

The past week has brought something new. I’ve had several colleagues follow up with me on passing conversations to clarify things as a matter of integrity. One said they had a two-hour coffee when it was only one and that it was at Ikea and not in a coffee house. Part of me says it doesn’t matter but my friend that ‘as a matter of integrity’ he wanted to clear things up.

Yesterday’s followup call left me thinking deeply about the ‘nudges’ that I’ve been experiencing. I know better than to speak poorly of others, and it’s not my general practice to do so, but I’m guilty, and I need to own it.

One of the crucial lessons that I’ve learned as a leader is that personal growth and integrity are vital to leadership credibility and success. Stagnant leaders eventually squander the privilege of leadership and the organizations and teams that they lead suffer the consequences.

Leaders who stretch themselves to be better and do better become better. I’m choosing to stretch myself so that I can be, do and become better than I’ve been.

Telling you makes me accountable for my words and actions. It heightens my awareness around what I say and how I say it. This can only be a good thing for me, for those I serve and those I lead.

A Christian Response to the LGBTQ2S Community

I’ve been watching a social media thread on a friend’s wall degenerate from a simple declaration of support into a week-long display of shaming, name-calling, bullying (in the old school sense of the word) as each side tried to ‘out-right’ the other. As I watched friends, former friends, and strangers turn on each other, I gave thanks for the wise words of a good friend who told me that I’d be well-served to avoid the ‘controversy du jour’ on social media.

It may be that I’m about to throw all of that out of the window, but here are my thoughts on a Christian response to people who are LGBTQ2S. It’s admittedly a bit sassy and blunt, but hear me out on this one!

Let’s start with something simple… We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. People are treated equally in a democracy. It’s illegal to discriminate against people based on their religion, their sexuality, their language, age or ethnicity. The same law that gives us the right to practice our faith also guarantees LGBTQ2S people the freedom to celebrate their life and love. It’s important to understand that every time we speak against the personal freedom and choices of other people, we put our own freedom at risk.

We need to change the way we think about people who love differently than we do! We have this idea that we can somehow legislate a moral code for others that suits our world view. It won’t work! We can’t legislate morality, nor should we want to. As Christians, we are set free from the old law (because it didn’t work) and instead live under God’s amazing grace!

Grace changes the way we approach people who live life differently than we do.

Jesus taught a powerful truth involving specks and planks. The lesson was to pull the plank from our eye before working at the speck in someone else’s. In the broadest of strokes, we need to acknowledge our failures as a movement and as individuals before speaking too loudly about the shortcomings of others. Nothing screams hypocrisy louder than people who are either oblivious or have forgotten their sin going on about the sin of others. Remembering that we are all guilty of something and that collectively, we are guilty of many things, should keep us from pointing our finger and raising our voices about what others do or don’t do. In the times when we must speak, we should do so from a place of humility and grace. Walk softly.

Let’s talk about love! Jesus summarized the law and prophets into two simple commandments. Love God and, love other people just like you love yourself. It seems simple enough.

Here’s where things get sticky. It’s easy, or more truthfully, it’s not always easy to love some people who share our core values. Sometimes it’s hard work. Sometimes we (or at least I) fail miserably at loving people who sort of see the world in the same way that I do.

I cringe when I hear members of my spiritual family say that they love LGBTQ2S people and then proceed to spew unloving things on social media or in private conversation. It’s impossible to love people like yourself and say unkind, unChristian and too often hateful and judgemental things about them. If your faith is too immature to actually speak in a loving way about people you don’t agree with or understand, then stop talking until you grow up in your faith. You’re hurting the rest of us who are trying to navigate our way through some complicated places. If you need some help, memorize 1 Cor. 13 and apply it to the infected area.

A recurring theme in these conversations is the need to ‘speak the truth’ to the LGBTQ2S community. The truth is that God loves people. Full stop. God doesn’t love Christian people more than gay people or gay people less than Christian people. He loves people!

Jesus said that everyone would know we were His disciples (followers) because of our love. We can (and need to) do a better job of loving people who love differently than we do.