Refuse to be Passive

Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

The time suck

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Today, someone I greatly respect said something that will stick with me for days to come. He said this, “If you don’t have enough time in the day to get all that you need to get done, odds are you are doing something that you shouldn’t be.” 

How often don’t we get to the end of the day and say, “There just aren’t enough hours!” And yet, how often on that same day did we spend time plugged into Facebook or staring at the TV?

A couple of months ago, I chose to to get rid of the internet at my apartment. Prior to that I had gotten rid of my TV. Now, when people find out that I go to a library or the coffee shop to access internet, and that TV for me is a thing of the past, they look at me like I’ve grown two heads. 

But in light of the words that opened this post, I am convinced that I’ve made the right decision. Technology is beneficial in many ways, but it is important to recognize that power that it can hold over us. 

Today, I was at a friend’s place for tea, and a call came in on his cell phone. He looked at the phone, looked at me, and said, “Do you mind if I take this?”

Quite frankly, I was shocked that he even asked. And if I said, “Yes, I mind.” I’m certain he would have hit the ignore button and sent the person to voicemail. But it isn’t always so.

I’ve had it in the past where people have not asked permission before picking up the phone. Or more likely, they’ll text while visiting. The latter is something that drives me nuts. What are you saying to the person that you’re with when you’re texting while out for coffee? What you’re saying is, “You’re not really worth my time.” It’s insulting. It’s the equivalent to whispering to one person, so the other across the table can’t hear you. Yes, then you definitely feel wanted.

Have you ever been in a room where all the people are using some form of technology, but none of them are interacting? How does this effect the relationships of those people with each other?

Are we worshiping technology by letting it constantly distract us from the things which we should be doing? Is it sapping your days, leaving you with a panicky feeling as you go to bed that not everything got done? Is it replacing the time you would spend in devotions, developing your relationship with God? 

Just a few questions to leave you with as we go to celebrate Easter. Take the time to create a Sabbath this Easter, and rest from your media. Take time to remember the true reason for this long weekend. Christ’s death and resurrection resulting in salvation. Makes your Twitter updates look pretty pathetic in comparison, no?

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Mark 3: Hospitality to the Stranger

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm

This mark is pretty obvious in its meaning. Don’t just be hospitable to those you know, but be hospitable to all. Christ spent his time with all manner of people; he dined with those in positions of authority, as well as with the dishevelled and poor.  

While showing hospitality is simple if it’s just friends and family, it isn’t anything special. Everyone shows hospitality to friends and family. It’s what we do with the new people who enter our lives that test our commitment to the call to hospitality. A call to be hospitable means growing relationships with those around you who you might otherwise not have in your circles.

I mulled long and hard over this post. What did I have to say on the concept of hospitality to the stranger? I don’t have people over often. After all, I live in an apartment that is 250 square feet. And I certainly don’t invite strangers in on a regular basis. Does that mean I fail at hospitality?

Yesterday I had coffee at my little Italian bakery and started chatting with an elderly gentleman I’d never met before. He told me the story of his life as I sipped my Americano from the next table. I listened intently. He seemed starved for someone to notice him, so I gave him that time. No one should have to sit with a coffee and a Danish, wondering if anyone cares.

That afternoon, I hosted a Good Friday lunch for some of my female friends, as well as a guest I’d never met.  We had lots of food, good conversation, and played a game of Apples to Apples. My friend Pherdhoz came. She’d never experienced any form of Easter celebration. She came with an Easter Lily in hand as a hostess gift. While I was flattered by the plant, I hadn’t even thought that this might be her first Easter. I knew she was Muslim, but I also knew she was fairly liberal. The other ladies opened right up and we talked on all manner of things. At the end of the day, Pherdhoz gave me a big hug and gave me a sincere thank-you for inviting her. She’d met some lovely ladies, and it was great for her to experience some time away from her school work, as well as receiving an introduction to Easter beyond the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs.

That evening, I hopped on the bus with leftover  food and headed over to my friend Cassandra’s apartment. She’d been intending to come to the Good Friday lunch, but couldn’t make it because of a recent back injury. I know Cassandra from my brief stint at another restaurant in town before coming to my current job. I had every intent of simply dropping off the food and heading out again, but rather wound up staying for a cup of tea and discussing life. I know how much I hate being stuck at home, and spending time with her is enjoyable, so why would I not?

This morning, I woke up with the sun. I just couldn’t sleep anymore. By noon my apartment was cleaned, my laundry was done, and I’d baked coconut cupcakes, and a small birthday cake. I packed up a set of four lovely iced cupcakes—coconut buttercream, and headed over to another friend’s place. He lives a lifestyle that is so drastically different from mine, that I’m actually nervous when introducing him to other friends I have. After all, the odds of them getting along aren’t terribly high. In fact, one of my friends who knows both of us expressed a large amount of surprise when she found out that he and I were friends. But there is something about having friends from different walks of life that means I treasure them greatly. They expand my view of the world, and challenge me in my beliefs and how I live my life. Regardless, I made the cupcakes, dropped in for a cup of tea, and proceeded to stay and chat for a couple hours. I know he’s lonely and without many good friends. And I truly love visiting with him. He was delighted with the cupcakes, and as we hugged goodbye and wished each other a Happy Easter, I was once again thankful for his friendship.

I don’t write these things to brag about how good I am. If you only knew how good I am not. However, as I reflected on what to write for this post, I came to a realization. Only three months ago my Muslim friend, non-Christian co-worker, and my pot-head friend all were strangers to me. Somehow, without being intentional about it, I extended invitations to each of them in the spirit of hospitality, and they all accepted.

These people weren’t just strangers in that I didn’t know them, but also in that we came from vastly different walks of life. Rather than worrying about how I would make these relationships work, I simply allowed them to grow. Now, I value all three of these people highly.

So the answer to my former question regarding hospitality and small spaces is this: I don’t fail at hospitality because I’m not having people over for coffee. Simply interacting with people and making myself available to them is hospitality in itself. Christ had no formal home, and yet he showed hospitality to all. If a homeless man can do that, then why can’t we?

Mark 2: Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2013 at 6:42 am

“There is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” Ghandi

 

When I was small, I received a weekly allowance from my parents. From a young age they instilled in me the importance of fiscal responsibility. A dollar a week. 10% went to the church, 45% into savings, and the rest was for spending. I had little jars and I split my change between the three—tithe, bank, and spending. I never resented giving money to my church. I always proudly brought it with me to Sunday school. After all, Jesus wants us to share with the poor.

 

Then, when I got into high school, my church organized its first short-term missions trip for the youth group. It was a trip to Mexcio. Oh, how I wanted to go! And I would get to go. After all, who can deny a missions trip? What parent would do such a thing? As it turns out, my father. I pleaded with him to be able to go, but he said to me, “There is plenty of service to be done in this city. There are plenty of people who need help, right outside your door. Why should I send you to Mexico to help build a school when I don’t see you serving in your own community.  Take this next year,” he said to me, “and prove to me that you care enough to serve where you’re at, and then we’ll discuss it again when the next missions trip comes around.”

I was aghast, but to this day, I am thankful to my father for saying those words. For the next year I did focus on serving in my city, and my eyes were opened to people I had formerly seen only as the unlucky ones, the lepers of society. The next year I did go on a short-term mission, but my true experiences in service, came in my own home town.

A short term missions trip is a drip in the ocean, and for many who go, it’s the beach, sun, and friends that are the real draw. The service work is simply a cover, and excuse to go on vacation. I could write an entire post on short-term missions and the impacts or lack-there-of that they have on the communities in which they take place, but I’ll save that for another time.

 

While there is nothing wrong with giving money through your church, or donating to charity, or going on short-term missions trips, it is an easy way for the upwardly mobile to appease their consciousness in regards to the poor and Christ’s call to serve them, without actually having to interact—allowing us to maintain distance from the poor. But as Shane Caliborne, from The Simple Way points out, “Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He is seeking concrete actions of love.” It regards us to get up-close and personal. Jesus was all-in, and many of us Christians prefer to play the role of the bystander, cheering from the sidelines. While Christians and the poor may both receive what they desire through giving from a distance, no new community is formed. Did not the first century church live together, sharing their wealth, selling land as there was need. And all were taken care of. That is what we’re called to, and something that many Christians in the church today simply don’t want to face. We are called to get to know those in poverty, to see them as people with names and stories, rather than just strangers on the street. This means doing some unconventional things in a culture that is all about me, Christians are called to make it about Christ, and through that, make it about others. And not at a distance. If God is love, and we are made in his image, then we are called to love. And how can we love what we do not know?

 

Beyond that, the concept of sharing means examining your life and seeing where you’re living beyond need, and into want. Ghandi said that, “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not for their greed.” As Christians, we need to take a close look at our lives and ask this question, “What is enough?”

In the past two years I went from a desk job to working as a cook. I took at 2/3 pay cut. Somehow I still manage to survive, although when I was working my desk job, I never had a large surplus of money. Granted, now it’s going to take longer to pay off my student loan, but in the end, it’s not all about money. I still survive, and I still manage to live a pretty darn good life, filled with blessings of work, friends, faith, and service. There are some things I have opted to live without—TV, internet, car—in making this life choice, but I still have days where I walk down the street, a grin plastered to my face and I think, “This is my life. How awesome is that?”

 

Despite what our culture says, money is not the be-all and end-all. Mamon is not the be-all and end-all. Stuff will not make you content or complete. In a culture that pushes for a rat race, Christ encourages us to live more simply, to downsize so that we may be more generous, even to the point of being extravagantly generous. If we truly want to take hold of the charge to “love our neighbours as ourselves,” then we must simplify, pare-down, and embrace a new way of life. We must choose to live on what we need, and trust God to supply. And out of that will come a different form of life that is so countercultural that people will look at you like you’re crazy, but you just might be on to something.

 

And this extends into the realm of using your gifts as well. I am a cook. I have chosen a job working at a bistro that also works with high-risk youth to give them life and job skills. It’s not a glamorous job, and I’ll certainly never get my own TV show working at a place like that. The menu, while decent, is nothing mind blowing. But at the end of the day, it’s about more than cooking, it’s about the youth. It’s about reaching out to a segment of the population and saying, “You have potential. You have a future. Let’s make it happen.” I could be working at any number of other places, restaurants that would take me up the ladder. But for now, I am where I need to be. I am serving  others, making my faith seen—taking it beyond words. I am choosing to follow the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words.”

 

And when you become radically generous with your time, talents, and money, you’ll start to see the world around you change. You’ll develop deep friendships with people you may never have talked to in any other circumstance. You’ll go beyond money, to serving others out of love, and allowing that service to be reciprocated to you. Then it’s no longer about money or wealth, but about love, friendship, and family. I don’t have any good examples of this yet in my new neighbourhood, but goodness I’m looking forward to developing them.

 

At the end of the day it comes down to this, you never see a hearse with a Uhaul behind it.

 

 

New Monasticism: Relocation to Abandoned Place of the Empire

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

This is the first post following a general overview of the concepts surrounding a New Monasticism– the intentional living out and development of faith as disciples in Christ as members of community with a focus on hospitality, spiritual development, and neighborhood involvement. These communities have been around for years and come in many different forms, but there are a few general guidelines that most follow. These are known as “marks.”

In the prior post I listed 12 Marks put forward by The Rutba House in the book School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. This post unpacks the first mark put forward, Relocation to Abandoned Places of the Empire.

Relocation to Abandoned Places of the Empire is really just a fancy way of saying that you choose to live in an area society has rejected, be it remote and rural, or inner city. New Monastic communities form in areas that are in need of healing and renewal, along with the message of love in Jesus Christ. It chooses depressed areas where they can serve and develop a life along the lines of the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words.”

Choosing a neighbourhood that is generally rejected by society in the situations I’ve found myself in has meant living in the inner city, surrounding myself with other like minded people who want to be a part of positive change as an outworking of our thankfulness for our salvation through Christ. After all, what better way to acknowledge the gift we have than by sharing it with others both in word and deed? 

This means embracing the unlovables of society– the addicts, the homeless, the drunks, the struggling– those society would prefer to sweet under the proverbial carpet. 

Granted, locations don’t have to be poverty stricken or inner city. For some it may be remote rural communities, learning to find beauty in the vast expanses, and living out one’s faith outside of the business of our culture and the values our society tries to impart to us. It is a rejection of living life for self– a rejection of the American dream, of self autonomy and materialistic success– in favour of another dream. It it learning to live and develop oneself spiritually, by departing from areas under strong government control. As one who has never experienced this type of community, I can’t really speak to it, but do know that it exists. Think hermits. 

Relocation means an intentional move towards something different. If one feels called to a community such as this, it may mean relocating from a cushy home in the suburbs or some other such thing. Discomfort is expected, along with the blessing that can come from living in a community such as this. 

Many of these communities live communally, and that in and of itself is quite the adjustment. It’s also a blog post for another time. 

Short but sweet today. Another Mark covered next time.

Living and Purpose in the Inner City

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I live in the inner city. It’s just outside the downtown core. When I told my friends that I was going to be moving into my neighbourhood in Little Italy, most of my friends and family were taken aback. While some were supportive, in general the responses I got ran along the lines of, “don’t walk alone after dark”, “it’s dangerous, aren’t you scared you’ll get shot?” and the most blunt, “are you nuts?”

But the refrain I hear right now is an acoustic set on guitar paired with a smoky female voice. I sit in a packed out community run coffee house that is smack in the middle of the inner city. People from all walks of life attend, some have walked from their homes a block away, while some have driven in from the suburbs from this even. The coffee shop is a homey mishmash of furniture, and the make-shift stage enhances the positive vibe filling the room.

My Americano is brewing and my lemon and pistachio biscotti beckons to me. There is a young man sitting just behind me who has brought in a vintage camera for the event and is snapping pictures and winding film. The song has switched to “You Are My Sunshine.” And it’s probably the best version of this song I’ve ever heard. As the song ends, the singer takes the time to tell a little about herself. At only fifteen, her voice and abilities are far beyond her years.

And this amazing experience is within walking distance of my tiny apartment. Doesn’t it sound like a place you’d want to be?

As I walked toward the coffee shop today, having no idea of what a treat was in store, I found myself giving thanks for the sunshine and feeling incredibly blessed to be living the life I am.  But even with amazing events going on such as this, people are still wary of the inner city.

The inner city does have some detrimental aspects that give it this negative reputation. A high homeless population, drugs, prostitution, low income resulting in unkempt or old houses, and low education rates that are associated with elevated crime rates. That being said, unless you go looking for trouble in the neighbourhood, you probably won’t find it.  This is the second city in which I’ve lived in the inner city, and never have I felt unsafe. Simple good sense takes you a long way.

The area in which I’ve chosen to live requires a lot of work and love to get away from its current status. And it will take even more work to make the rest of the city realize what a fantastic place it can be. It will take people who are willing to live in and commit their lives to becoming part of the solution to the things that create heartbreak in the neighbourhood. 

I was raised in a low-income neighbourhood. I was also raised by loving parents who taught me the importance of serving others and being a positive influence in the world. I suppose it is no surprise then, that I feel called to a life where I live in place that others find undesirable while aiming to be part of the solution that brings healing to that place.

A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of The New Monasticism. It has several features that focuses on building community in the place that you live, and living a life that goes beyond yourself, but is lived in service of God and others. It believes in love. Love for all those around us, not just those we feel comfortable around. Over the next series of blog posts, I’ll touch on the different aspects of the new monasticism. I don’t profess to be an expert, but I’ll do my best to express what I know and have experienced of living out my faith in Christ and the call to love on a daily basis.

 

Marks of the New Monasticism

 

  1. Relocation to Abandoned Places of the Empire
  2. Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us
  3. Hospitality to the Stranger
  4. Lament for Racial Divisions within the Church and our Communities, Combined with the Active Pursuit of a Just Reconciliation
  5. Humble Submission to Christ’s Body, the Church
  6. Intentional Formation in the Way of Christ and the Rule of the Community Along the Lines of the Old Novitiate
  7. Nurturing Common Life Among Members of Intentional Community
  8. Support for Celibate Singles along with Monogamous Married Couples and their Children
  9. Geographical Proximity to Community Members who Share a Common Rule of Life
  10. Care for the Plot of Earth God’s Given to Us, Along with Support of Our Local Economies
  11. Peacemaking in the Midst of Violence and Conflict Resolution Along the Lines of Matthew 18
  12. Commitment to a Disciplined Contemplative Life

Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism ed. The Rutba House, 2005.

 

Now, some of these marks may seem confusing. Hopefully, over the next series of posts I can unpack them for you. Living in a New Monastic community doesn’t mean that all of the marks are followed to the full extent of their power, simply that these are guiding principles for many of the intentional communities that are linked to the New Monasticism.

 

Ultimately, the New Monasticism comes down to being a group of people who practice intentional hospitality, spiritual growth and discipleship, and aim to develop ourselves as faithful followers of Jesus.  These are groups of people who share a common life and guidelines or “rules” for living.

 

I was introduced to the concept of The New Monasticism a number of years ago, but didn’t take the opportunity to live it out as a member of a community until I spent a year living in Toronto. Now, moving into my neighbourhood in Edmonton, I hope to start a New Monastic Community in my new neighbourhood. But first comes prayer, some miracles, and a community of people with hearts joined together. First, comes a discussion of what it means and how it could look to live intentionally to bring positive change to this inner city neighbourhood.