Books you need to read in 2020

The year isn’t done yet, but as the Christmas season rolls around the corner there might be some books that you would like to get for that special someone… or, let’s be honest, yourself. These are books I’ve read. Most of which are in the last years and a half. At the end I tag a couple on that I’m looking to read in 2020

Here’s a list, links, and a short reason why.

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide To Money by Dave Ramsey

I read this book early on in 2019 in preparation for a series I was doing. I cannot say how much it changed my families approach to money. It helped us to be intentional and smart with our cash. I cannot recommend it enough. Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2Rz4vE9

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

At first, I must be honest, I thought “what have I got myself into?!” But just like most reviews of the book I read, I must echo that if you stick with it through the disjointed parts you will be rewarded. I find my emotions swirling constantly as Albom slowly unfolds the story of a boy and his guitar. You can grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/345sbmd

The Day The Revolution Began by N.T. Wright

The Day The Revolution Began is not for the faint of heart. It is heavy! Literally and figuratively. Wright begins be spelling out the history around the cross and the Jewish belief/practice of laying down one’s life for another. Wright then methodically unravels various Scriptures (mostly Paul’s letters) as he points us toward the true nature of the cross, thus revealing the character of God. If you have question on how a good God could kill His son (what we call cosmic child abuse) then this is a book for you. If you want to go deeper into understanding both the cross and Scripture in richer ways, I cannot recommend this book enough. Pick up your copy here: https://amzn.to/36hvg43

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while and it was also published many years ago. Saying this Godin spells out some important principles are pretty universal when it comes to marketing. Be a Purple Cow… how? well, you’ll have to read the book for that. grab your copy here:https://amzn.to/2s8trYA

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

My country, Canada, just went through an election. this book help me immensely while thinking through, what would Jesus do? As my neighbours to the south begin to embark of an election also, I cannot recommend this book enough. Yoder looks at some very important principles in Jesus’ life and teachings and how they affect us here today. While things are the same, there are some general principles that are. Get your copy here: https://amzn.to/36kBhNg

Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright

Wright show up again, and in the same vein as Yoder, this book helped me navigate the complicated waters of Jesus and politics. Now, that is only one aspect of this book. Wright does an exemplary job of putting Jesus in His historical period and point us toward a kingdom life. Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2RxIh5u

Short Stories by Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine

Levin takes a fresh look at the parables of Jesus and pulls us into the mind of a Jewish person of that time. I’m not all the way through this book (I’m about half which you can track by connecting with me on Goodreads.) and have been reading as part of my devotions each morning. Levin as a way of poignantly, but humorously, pulling out insights that never crossed my white, male, western mind. We are captive to our experiences, Levin helps us expand those. Grab you copy here: https://amzn.to/2DWR1Kv

Hidden Faces by Josh Trombley

I am biased. However I really believe my book will enrich your life for the positive. I explore Biblical narratives in ways that will affect your life. Personal stories, humour, and yes, pictures, help convey the truth that God loves you with a deep passion, you are His child, and He is the one you defines your value. There is no need to put on masks (or faces) but we must strive to be who Christ has declares us to be. Grab your copy: https://amzn.to/38vo32q

Einstein by Walter Isaacson

A fascinating look at a fascinating man. Einstein overcame great trials, prejudice, and his own prideful self limitations to become the premier scientific mind of the 20th century. His story is encouraging, inspiring, and challenging. A fantastic read. Grab you copy: https://amzn.to/2Yuz4MA

On My Reading List For 2020

Inspired Imperfection by Greg Boyd

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Eternity Is Now In Session by John Ortberg

History and Eschatology by N.T. Wright

What are some of your “must reads” of 2020? What books are on your “to-reads” for 2020?

Life Takes a Village

This is an important message that we all need to hear and apply to our lives. We need each other.

Life was not meant to be lived alone.

Life takes a village.

Sarah Faith

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but our society doesn’t seem to work that way. Don’t get me wrong, we support each other in little ways, but there also seems to be another side. Over my nearly nine years of parenting I’ve noticed a lot of comparison and competition. Under the surface though I see something else entirely. Beneath it all I hear, “I don’t have a village, so neither should you”.

I’ve heard it disguised in conversations more times than I can count, and it makes me sad. I know that I often want and need a village. Maybe you didn’t have one, or maybe at this moment you’re all on your own, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our very best to be a village for each other now.

In Luke 6:31 Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do…

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We must speak our pain

One of the hardest things anyone could ever do is share the deepest struggle in our lives. Maybe it is the baggage you carry from childhood or something that happened to us. It could be lies that we believe about ourselves or insecurities over our inadequacies.

We all have a story of pain. Why? Because we are all human. We are all alive. To live is to experience pain. Though at times, I wish it wasn’t, it is.

I believe that the story of pain in our lives must be told. We must speak our pain. If not, we allow the pain to hold us captive. I love what Zora Neale Hurston says,

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”

When we embrace the pain and speak of it in healthy ways, it holds us accountable. Our pain becomes like a wet cloth on a dirty window. As we move the cloth across the surface, the pain attaches to the cloth, slowly revealing the clear glass underneath. As our story escapes our lips, it begins to reveal our actual state. Are we broken, embittered, jaded, cynical, angry, apathetic? As Rob Bell writes,

“Pain has a way of making us more honest.”

He continues,

“The ache reminds us that things aren’t how they’re supposed to be. The ache cuts through all the static, all of the ways we avoid having to actually feel things. The ache reassures us that we’re not the only ones who feel this way.”

Here’s the thing…

We often do feel like we are doing it alone. I believe we all know that in the words of REM, everybody hurts, sometimes. The thing is that though we know, we don’t always believe it. The silence of pain has a way of tricking us into thinking we are alone. As we begin to speak our pain, others hear, and it helps them realize they aren’t alone. There is no need to suffer in silence. Bottling up and hiding away the pain that eats your heart and soul isn’t doing you or anyone else any good. It is not until we begin to speak what has happened or is happening that change can occur.

Society, families, cultures, organizations, governments, circles are all made of broken people acting in broken ways. If the wrong is never voiced, things continue as they once were. If your pain is never told, no one can help you put together the broken pieces. If it is never voiced, someone can’t confirm that what happened to you is wrong or speak words of truth into your life. If you don’t speak your pain, that status quo is allowed to continue.

Richard Rohr writes, “Pain that isn’t processed is passed on.” And that’s the kicker.

When we don’t speak our pain, we give it a life to continue and it continues through our life.

The passing on of pain is what we see in the life of Jacob found in the book of Genesis. The man has some serious baggage in his life through choices his parents have made, and the lies he has chosen to believe. Jacob has a choice to live out his pain or speak it. Jacob lives it out, and it affects his whole family.

Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to explain Jacob’s family. The pain is passed on and never spoken. After all, as Rohr also states, “Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted.” The silent killer of pain that hides in your heart is there. More than likely, it’s there because someone else is transmitting theirs.

Now you have the choice.

The ball is in your court.

You now have the control.

Do you transmit the pain? Or speak the pain.

Speak, we must. Speak it to friends, family, perpetrators, spouses, children, parents, victims.

If we never speak the pain, we can never learn. If we never learn, we will never grow. If we never grow, we will continue to do what we have always done, not maturing into the people we are created to be.

Most importantly, we must speak our pain to God. The shortest verse in the Scriptures says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus didn’t weep because someone called Him a name or because He stepped on a piece of lego.

Jesus wept because He felt the pain of His friends.

And so He does with yours. God sees you. He hears you. You’re not alone in the fight. God is here, and so are others, but for us to bear the weight with you…

We must speak our pain.

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It’s O.K. to be ignorant… but don’t stop there.

In today’s polarized world, ignorance is one of the greatest crimes. Continually, someone is getting in trouble for saying something that offends someone. Sometimes these are words that are intentional in their direction of hurt. Other times they were phrases people grew up with that held no connotation to them. Historically some of these words did.

When I was in college, I remember one of my professors would always call the students a particular name. What it meant, I had no clue. He didn’t either. That is, until one of the students made a grievance. It turned out it was a racist phrase.

People continually are finding themselves in hot water because they have said or done something that has offended a person or group of people. The word ignorant has become a derogatory term to describe a person who is not, as the kids say, woke. The implication is that if you say certain things, do not know the history behind phrases or events, not understand the social impact regarding an incident or words spoken, you are evil in some way. We throw around words like racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. not truly understanding what these words mean. The people on the opposing side of the table, calling out for rightness, fairness, and equality, end up missing the point of how our society works. Not to mention followers of Jesus who, when calling out these actions, end up in the mud they are accusing their counterpart of (whether they are or not—whether intentional or ignorance).

However, let’s think through the question, is it wrong to be ignorant?

If we look at this black and white—right or wrong—we miss all the gray that NEEDS to be explored. I believe that as we look at the acceptableness of ignorance, we cannot separate the topic from transparency and grace.

Let’s tackle these in order: Transparency. Ignorance. Grace.

We need to have transparency in our lives. That does not mean that you must tell every little dirty sin to every single person. It does, however, mean that we must be willing to express what we feel, think, and believe to others. We must share our experiences with those close to us. If not, both us and others cannot reclaim the cultural wisdom we once had. The past is broken, but we have tried to learn from our mistakes, moving forward with better understanding through hearing each other’s stories and feelings. We don’t always get it right. Even after the third, fourth, fifth, or hundredth time. Maybe I’m an optimist or too hopeful, but I like to think we try and move forward, which means silence is not an option.

The silence I speak isn’t on the part of the perpetrator or the accuser. We must dialogue. Not scream and shout — not blame and ridicule. As a professional speaker and writer, I roll with others who speak and write for a living. There is a growing fear of saying the wrong thing. 

Fear stifles communication. You cannot communicate to fear or in fear. All fear does is cause us to react. React seems to be the one skill our culture has down pact. We must be willing to reveal ourselves. As Jordan Peterson writes,

If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.

Next is ignorance. It’s O.K. to be ignorant… but don’t stop there. You are not going to know everything about everything. Furthermore, we need to stop expecting others to know what we know. As Michael Wilbon, the sports commentator points out continually whenever there is, specifically, a race issue in sports is that he doesn’t know what that person knows, he doesn’t know how or where he grew up. Can I say yes to that?! We need to have this perspective about ourselves and others. 

You are ignorant. There are things you don’t know. You are going to offend someone at some point in your life. Again, it’s O.K. to be ignorant. But also, don’t stop there. What I mean is we are going to hurt others, but let’s have open ears of learning. Let’s do better as we move forward. 

I once used a term that I thought was the appropriate word to describe someone and a friend who fell into that category took exception. He didn’t hate me, slander me, accuse me. What my friend did was to be a friend to me and have compassion in my ignorance. I listened, and I no longer use that phrase, why, because I had no idea it was the wrong one. Up to that point in my life, I had never been corrected, educated, or whatever. It was O.K. that I was ignorant. What would not be O.K. is for me not to listen, sympathize, and think of my fellow human being.

Finally, there is grace. We need it. No matter the pigment of our skin, our ancestral culture, how we identify, our gender, we need grace. We need it for ourselves, and we need to extend it to each other.

We can continue our battle of words, but in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for ya?” We need to level our tone, and despite how hurt by others or maligned we feel, extend grace. Maybe they are ignorant. Perhaps they’re even an ignoranus. We extend grace because we need it sometimes, and so do others. 

Heck, if Jesus while on the cross, can look at his crucifiers, insulters, and accusers and say, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” I can choose to assume that when someone hurts me—saying something completely ignorant—that they do not know what they are saying. I can choose to respond in love. I can choose to inform in that same love. Most importantly, I can choose to model what repentance looks like by modelling it myself when I am called out.

Transparency will lead to ignorance, which means we must extend grace.

It’s O.K. to be ignorant… but don’t stop there.

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What’s wrong with worship?

My most favourite PODcast is 99% Invisible, which may make me a nerd, but I’ve learned to accept it. In this particular episode, Frozen, they rebroadcast part of an episode of a radio show called Sound Opinions, which is a rock and roll talk show. In this episode from 2006, they were interviewing musician, composer, and producer John Brion.

John spoke of how the record has changed the way we interacted with music. Now, because of the recording, there is “a version” of a song. It’s not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just now we can like a tone of a guitar, drums, bass, or keyboard, thoroughly enjoying every minute, all the while some lyrics are meaningless and have an extremely simplistic melody, only revolving around three or four notes. Maybe it is a complicated melody like a Led Zeppelin song, to use John Brion’s example, but it turns out what you like about the piece is Led Zeppelin doing it—their skill, their chemistry, their expression.

John explained that he loves Led Zeppelin, but for the most part, their pieces were performances, not songs.

For example, John pointed out, Lithium by Nirvana is one of the greatest songs ever. Play that piece on a piano, and it will move you to tears! It is a beautiful chord progression, with rich lyrics, and it will leave you humming.

All of this caused me to think about the music we sing in church. 

To back this up a little, if you have been around the church worship music scene, there has been much debate about performance vs. congregational. This argument is valid and one to which I would like to touch on. However, the performance vs. congregational debate usually morphs into a contemporary vs. liturgical or hymns vs. choruses. While these are important to talk about, I believe that we need to explore the insight of John Brion and apply it to the songs we sing. 

Could it be that the reason contemporary worship has become a performance is that the songs we are selecting for corporate worship are, in fact, not songs but performance pieces?

Churches all over the world try and emulate the synth effect on the latest Young and Free or copy the guitar riff on the newest Elevation Worship track. Speaking as a musician, learning these songs can be fun and playing them with a tight band can be exhilarating. The congregation appreciates the cover. Their worship is heightened with each crescendo. What we often don’t like to admit is that the congregations have become audiences, as our worship services become sets. I believe much of this is due to us moving away from the worship song to performance pieces.

Just like Brion and his love for Led Zeppelin, so I love much of the Hillsong, Elevation, Bethel, or whichever worship band you might be listening to at the moment (my favourite is Citipointe). Pastors, worship leaders, and congregations need to learn the subtle art of differentiating between the performance and the congregational piece. 

If we genuinely want to teach our churches what worship is about, we must find the songs to which both music and lyrics—melodies and poetry—work together to speak to the soul and direct our hearts to worship at the throne of our Eternal Father.

It’s not wrong to have a performance piece. I can be stirred to enter the presence of God with a rousing Ode To Joy as much as Never Lost by Elevation.

Leonard Sweet points out,

You don’t attend worship; you attend a concert. You participate in worship. You contribute to worship. Yet we count attendance, not participation.

We need to count participation, but the fact that our congregations have become audience has little to do with them and more to do with how we have conditioned them with our ambience, smoke, riffs, pads, and hooks.

As Matt Redman lamented about his heart of worship,

When the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come.
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart.
I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in its self is not what you have required.
You search much deeper within through the way things appear.
I’m coming back to Your heart.

Heart of Worship

I don’t know your context. What I do know is that there is a shift in our worship music that has left many of those in and out of the churches wanting. There are so many amazing congregational worship songs, both old and new, Hillsong to Charles Wesley. Let’s stop, think, and pray and ask ourselves a few questions. Is the melody pleasing? Can it be stripped down to work in a house church? What do the lyrics teach us about God?

I encourage you to check out 99 PI’s episode Frozen https://99percentinvisible.org/?s=56.

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Increase= love x serving others

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

It turns out it is true.

VO2=Q x a-vO2 difference (I’ll explain how this connects with love).

Basically, the more you train aerobically at what is called the VO2 max (your maximum heart rate during exercise, more or less) over time increases your capacity to exercise at that right max. How? Well, it is what Adolf Eugen Fick equation above tells us. As either Q (Stroke volume x heart rate) or a-vO2 difference (oxygen extraction) improves, you can exercise harder for longer.

What studies have discovered is that for those who have an active lifestyle, both heart size and heart volume increase due to the work demand.

What is also fascinating is that just a couple weeks after you stop training, the heart returns to the size it was before training.

All this made me think about the spiritual practices in my life and living a life of love.

If you are anything like me, you have moments when you feel God’s love emanating through and other days when you are sour. It is like the classic sign on an administrative assistant’s desk, “Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.” eeeeekkkkkk!

What I have found is that when I am accepting and engaging with God’s love—God’s love is pumping through my veins—I feel stronger and a greater capacity to love others in my life. You could relate this to our Q (stroke volume x heart rate) in our equation above.

Again, ever do a serve event (community projects, soup kitchens, etc.) or a missions trip and feel that as you served and worked, there was an increase of love in your life? You return home and feel as though you are going to change your life, start a revolution, feed every hungry person in the world! This happening is much like our a-vO2 difference (oxygen extraction) also in the equation above.

When I am engaging God’s love for me and begin to live that out by serving others, it increases my capacity to keep serving others and maintain a life that lives in God’s love. It turns out Fick’s equation deals with more than just exercise.

As we engage in receiving God’s love and showing that same love to others, just like as in the physical body, our spiritual heart—our capacity to love others, ourselves, and God—begins to grow. That is why missions trips have the effect they do. We end up becoming like the Grinch encountering little Cindy-Loo Who and having our heart grow!

Just as the physical body after only a few weeks of not living in God’s love and showing that love forward, our heart begins to shrink. It returns to the size to which it once was. We become like the church from Ephesus in Revelations 2

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.

Re 2:2–4

God sees the work and perseverance. God knows what you have endured for his sake. He also knows when we have forgotten part of the equation. Yes, we must love others, but first and foremost, we must love God. For it is in God that all other love flows. After all, as John tells us,

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 Jn 4:8

Or as Jesus stated

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’

Mk 12:30–31

The love for our neighbour flows out of the love we have for God, and a love for God must manifest its self as a love for others. There is no separating the two.

If we want to be more spiritually fit, it is not only about serving others, and it is not only loving God and receiving that love in return. It is not just focusing on our social justice projects, just as it is not only finding ourselves in the deep-end of worshiping God.

We must love and serve both God and people consistently in the steady rhythm of our lives. It is only when this becomes our normal that we will begin to see dramatic changes in our hearts.

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Do We Deserve God’s Love?

I want to pose a question, do we deserve God’s love? Depending on my mood that day, the answer may be different. There are days when I feel the hope of the hope around me, in me, and in the lives of others—I see the promise of humanity—and I say yes, we deserve God’s love. After all, we are His children.

There are other days when the darkness abounds. Hope seems but a paradise lost, and I can’t help but think or our unworthiness. After all, doesn’t the immense holiness of God cause him to be repelled by our misdeeds?

So what is it? Do I need to taper the hope with a reminder of my misdeeds? Or do I need to see my self as more than just actions but as an image-bearer of God?

Yes.

To what? Both.

Yes.

This question was posed to me, and others in a group that I am a part of that explores and asks some hard questions about our faith. As we gathered that Sunday night a few weeks ago, reflecting on that week’s chapter from Brian Zahnd’s book, Sinners in the Hands of a loving God. The room gathered different sexes, races, denominations, and upbringings. The room was divided but strangely united. Yes, people fell on either on one side or the other, but no one felt they could blatantly reject the other side.

To find the answer, we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:27 has become one of my most favourite verses.

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.

Three times, in a row I might add, God declares that he created us. Not only that, but God created us in his image. We are God’s children. After Genesis 3, however, the relationship changes. Suddenly, through the belief in a lie from the tempter, man and woman no longer believe that they were made in the image of God, but instead, think that they need something more—something other than God—to complete them. Thus they are marred with their misdeeds.

While one camp believes that this angered God so much that he wanted to destroy us (not sure what has taken him so long), the other, which I tend to find myself in, would say that God loves us despite our mistakes and longs for us to see who we truly are as His children. I believe the former idea has become so dominant in recent thought that it has marred the truth of the second claim.

So I believe we can move the question to, do children deserve their parent’s love? I think most people would say yes. Have they done anything to deserve it? No. Their existence qualifies them to be loved, not for what they have or have not done, but because of whose they are. Children are created in the image of their parents. 

But what if that child steps outside the purpose their parents willed for them? Is Mussolini less deserving of his mother’s love because he was a fascist dictator? Is Stalin disqualified from his Father’s love because of his cruel dictatorship? I might argue it is the lack of love that drives many children to hate, not unconditional love.

When describing how sin affects our made-in-Gods-image, one member of the group mentioned above stated, “It is like this indoor table I have on my back deck. It’s not meant to be outside, but it has been through all the elements. It wasn’t meant to be outside in the rain. It deserves to be inside.”

After all, it was made for the inside. The person who made the table made it for the inside. It deserves to be treated the way the initial builder intended. Did the table do anything to deserve to be inside? Of course not. It was meant to be.

So it is with us. We were meant to live and be in the love of God. We deserve God’s love because we were made in His image. We are his children. Though we find ourselves places we should not be, out in the rains of life—maybe rains of our own doing—we deserve more and better. It’s what we were created for. Instead, we accept a lesser fate believe what was meant to be inside should be outside. We think we can compensate for it. We reject the love of God, filling our lives with everything but what we deserve.

I write in my book Hidden Faces,

Just as God deals with Adam and Eve’s shame, so Jesus comes to deal with ours. Adam and Eve’s shame is represented in their nakedness, but with the skin of an animal (Gen 3:21), representing the replacement of the perishable (fig leaves) with the imperishable (animal hide), it thus shows us that it’s only God who can deal with our shame. 

Only God can deal with our hearts, bring the table in from the rain, and restore it to how it is supposed to be.

But table, don’t be fooled. You have done nothing to be brought in, just as my kids have done nothing to earn my love. We don’t earn God’s love. We receive love because we are the King’s kids. 

So, do you deserve God’s love? Of course, you do, for you are a child of God.

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Living in Exhale

The physical body is a marvel. We have limbs, cells, plasma, ventricles all working together intricately. It truly is amazing.

Throughout the Scriptures, the biblical writers use the body continually as an analogy to describe our spiritual lives. The most popular being the Apostle Paul’s admonition for the church in Corinth to be united and work together just as a body does, in fact, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Recently I was doing some learning about the human body when I learned something new, which, when it comes to biology, isn’t hard for me to come by. Regarding breathing,

Expiration occurs passively during normal, quiet breathing, requiring no assistance from muscle action.

As one of my friends stated, “This is why it’s so creepy when someone dies—they breathe out.”

What I find very interesting is that when you exercise your body, no-longer is the expiration of air passive, but is active. What is literally effortless during ordinary moments suddenly requires abdominals, internal obliques, serratus posterior, and internal intercostals, which are pulling the rib change down to force the air out.

As I recall how the Scriptures use the body as a metaphor for our spiritual lives, I couldn’t help but think of my patterns of exhaling. I reflected on taking a breather and the differences between the normal pace of my life and the exercise times.

When my spiritual life is in exercise phase I have regular prayer times and spontaneous moments, I’m in the Scriptures, I’m studying, I’m dreaming of what’s next, and I’m diving into relationships in accountable community. I’m working hard. I can feel the growth. The blood is pumping! I can feel the faith sweats of risk and trust. I’m locked in. Within the midst of this pace Sabbath—rest—exhale is hard.

Just as my physical body needs to work, using developed muscles to push the air out, I need spiritual disciplines to force me to exhale. 

It could be easy to buy-in to the idea of a slow pace—no pushing, strive, working hard on our spiritual life. The problem is you never grow. Just as you can’t get stronger, increase lung capacity or stroke volume by sitting on the couch, so it is the same in our spiritual lives.

When I’m at a normal pace, Sabbath is natural. The exhale is effortless. It requires no effort. After all, I’m not pushing, dreaming, falling into regular relationship building with God and others. I sit and get spiritually unfit.

God has not made me to be spiritually unfit. Nor has he made you that way either. 

We were made to be strong and fit. This is the struggle. 

Work too hard; you can have a heart attack. Don’t work at all; you can have a heart attack. We need spiritual disciplines. Bill Hull tells the importance of spiritual disciplines,

Spiritual disciplines are tools that prepare us to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and as it needs to be done.

Hull also points out to us that this isn’t about it always being “go” time. There is a balance within the work.

Jesus practices the disciplines in a healthy and balanced way. We don’t see him have any angst about them. He simply did what met the need of the moment. Some were staples in his spiritual diet, while he only used others on special occasions.

There are times when we need to work those spiritual muscles. Then there are times when we need to stop and take an effortless breath.

Living in the exhale isn’t real life, but neither is always having to work for it.

Let’s take a moment and breathe.

Now, let’s go work for the kingdom knowing that soon we must stop, let our spiritual body rest, and take some effortless breaths.

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The Illusion of Connection

When’s the last time you had a deep and honest conversation? I don’t mean a discussion about the existential, political, or decisions made in life. I also don’t mean an email, blog, or text message. 

When is the last time you had a meaningful conversation where you explored the depths of your heart? One where you wrestled with your past, hoped for the future, sorted through your brokenness?

I can honestly say, It’s been a long time. Yes, conversations with my wife from time to time when we are not working, cleaning, parenting. Unfortunately, even deep discussions with a spouse aren’t givens.

We create giant social circles. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TicToc, Reddit, and the list goes on with different platforms, all creating little communities. Groups in Facebook that provide support and connection. Social media has become a place where we can emotionally vomit (I don’t mean this negatively) and feel like just maybe someone is listening. We enter text conversation with the picture to whom we are talking to in our minds as we stare at screens with green and blue text bubbles.

These mediums are not wrong in themselves. All of these platforms can create pseudo-micro communities and allow us to connect with people we never dreamed of or at least a neighbour or long lost high school friend. 

However, we must not forsake a real conversation with a real person, where we can hear the inflection in their voice, and they can see the joy/pain/triumph/sorrow in our eyes. Jonathan Grant writes, 

…it raises the question of whether social media is stimulating genuine relationships or just simulating them. Are we sharing our lives with others, or are we just broadcasting them? Are we learning the rhythms of intimacy, or are we too busy pleasing the adoring crowd?

I fear it is the latter, yet we delude ourselves in believing the former. Perhaps we are innately aware of this delusion, and that’s why we are still such lonely people. The illusion of connection can be a devastating ailment. It is one that I fear has captured our current planet.

If connection is food, then Socials, text, and email are potato chips. Chips (as we like to call them in Canada) are delicious and are of the more healthy of the junk foods, after all, they are made from potatoes and potatoes are vegetables. Though they are delicious, you cannot have a diet of chips. We need actual food. 

We need an actual connection with each other.

When we don’t get it, we search in other places. Russell Brand writes, 

Think of it: the bliss of a hit or a drink or of sex or of gambling or eating, all legitimate drives gone awry, all a reach across the abyss, the separateness of ‘self’, all an attempt to redress this disconnect.

I believe this is why the writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering of believers. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in perfect community, so we, created in the image of the triune God, were created for community and connection. Mark Waltz points out,

“To be human is to be spiritual. To be spiritual is to be relational. We are connected, like it or not.”

We need each other. Whether we feel weak or strong, we are in this together. How can we speak to the deep recesses in others’ souls if we never have a conversation and never dare to be vulnerable enough to make a valued connection?

Your socials are fine but don’t be duped and trade for the illusion at the expense of a genuine human connection. It’s hard, but if you’re willing to invest, you’ll find it’s worth it.

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