When the singing stops…

5 12 2011

This post is from my other blog, www.churchburned.com. Check it out.

For decades, canaries were used in coal mining as a warning system to alert miners to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. These little birds sing most of the time, so as long as the canary was singing, the miners knew it was still safe to work. If the bird was silenced, killed because of the presence of poisonous gas, the miners would evacuate the mine until it could be made safe.

The analogy of the canary in the coal mine is often used to describe the person or persons who attempt to warn others of a situation that is going awry. Yesterday I began applying this concept to the Church. Is there an effective warning system in our churches? When things are going wrong, what signals do we follow, what actions do we take to make it safe again?

People are leaving the church. Many strong followers of Jesus are walking with Him outside of a traditionally accepted institutional community because they’ve found it to be too dangerous on the inside. Trusted voices are being silenced by a message of love that is tainted with toxic levels of politics and pride.

When these trusted people stop “singing,” do we take it as a warning sign or do we just replace them with someone who will perform on command? If we continually repeat the pattern, replacing the dying bird without venting the poisonous gas and correcting the problem, the quality of life will never improve. The canary may be more sensitive and succumb more quickly, but the same toxic fumes are negatively affecting the health of rest of the people as well.

It’s been half a year since we stopped singing. Like the canary’s silent alarm, our exit was quiet, to the casual observer it may have even appeared peaceful; yet there was nothing peaceful about those last violent, painful gasps for air and eventual suffocation. How many more will succumb to the noxious fumes before someone throws the doors open, letting the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit refresh the air supply with Jesus’ love?

Breathe. Just breathe.

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’
Matthew 22:37,38 MSG





Spinning…Riding hard, but we getting anywhere?

12 09 2011

Spinning

Last year my wife asked me to participate in a spinning class with her at the gym. Once she explained that “spinning” was the trendy, fit-persons term for the stationary bike class, I agreed to try it. Once. Amidst the soundtrack of grunts, groans and an intense techno beat, I hopped on a bike near the back hoping not to be noticed by the instructor and started to “spin.”

About a minute later, soaked in sweat, I heard the instructor inform us that we are about to begin, and that we should all turn our resistance knobs to level 1. Oh good.

So this is how it works: The instructor, who looks like she lives on her stationary bike, shouts out how fast to pedal and where to set the level of resistance, and in unison, her spandex-suited stationary-biker gang submissively complies.

Or do they? Within the first minute I realized that the instructor has no way of knowing what level I’ve actually got my bike set at. As long as I make the same strained face and  grunt with the rest of them, I could keep my resistance level much lower and I just might live through this class.

At the end of our “ride” our instructor congratulates us and informs us that we’ve “travelled” nearly 40 kilometers today.

Really? Where did we go? What did we see?

I’ve noticed that as good, church-going Christians we put a lot of emphasis on training, making sure that we are in perfect spiritual shape. We focus on eating the right food, drinking the right liquids (and not drinking the “wrong” ones…), wearing the right clothing, the right equipment and then we train. We spin and spin and spin…but do we ever really get anywhere? Do we ever really race?

I’d rather ride a mile outside, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting…than spin 100 miles in the cool climate-controlled atmosphere inside. If the rubber never hits the road then all we’re doing… is spinning.

How much of all this exerted effort is simply to impress the instructor or our fellow stationary riders? If we are just going the through the motions, grunting at the right times, dramatically toweling off the sweat at just the right moment, then it is all for naught. It is very easy to get caught up in the attention of people or leaders observing us as we work-out, showing off our skills and talents, finding fulfillment in their acknowledgement.

What good is all this “training” if it is never put to use? The church in general has an inward focus. Very little of what is done inside is targeted to applying our training in real-world situations outside. In fact, most of our energy is spent trying to make sure everyone is keeping up with their training, keeping each other accountable with devotions, service and lifestyle.

I liken this to the resistance knob, because nobody really knows what level you’ve got the bike set at, and as long as you make it look good, you’re fine. This culture places great importance on the outward appearance, and fosters relationships based on that, limiting the potential for real relationships that allow for failure and encourage growth.

There are churches that take the show on the road, as it were, and attempt to focus some attention outside and evangelize, but, for the most part, it isn’t done very well.

We keep this awkward distance, a buffer, between “their” way of doing things and “ours.” Instead of outfitting ourselves with equipment suitable for riding “their” way through the “dangerous” and “difficult” terrain of this world, with perhaps a road bike or mountain bike, it’s almost like we’d rather put our safe, stationary bikes on a trailer and tow them, and show the world what we can do from a safe, elevated platform. All the while we’re decked out in protective “armor-of-God” styled helmets and safety gear, possibly forgetting that it is designed to protect us from the devil’s schemes, and not from people.

It’s a ridiculous, exaggerated example, but sometimes our way of doing things and the language we use can seem as absurd as riding a stationary bike towed on a trailer.

Well, I’m looking for a new bike. See you on the open road. Me and Jesus will be the ones riding with no helmets on.

Peace.

Travis





Risky Business

25 05 2011

When someone chooses to invest money, whether is be in an RRSP or on the stock market, it is considered best practice (and can be required by law) for the financial advisor to conduct a risk tolerance assessment of the investor, to basically determine what their viewpoint is on losing money while on pursuing a return on their investment.

The outcome of a risk tolerance assessment is the determination of the investor’s risk category or style, traditionally ranging from conservative to aggressive. The conservative investor generally never wants to see less money then their original investment, while the aggressive investor realizes that hanging on through short-term losses can often lead to significantly higher gains.

So you’re asking… “what’s all this about investing, Travis!? Are you trying to sell me life insurance or get me into some kind of pyramid scheme or something?”

My purpose in bringing this all up is fairly straightforward. What if you were to conduct a risk tolerance assessment on your walk with the Lord? Do you take a conservative position and stay satisfied with maintaining your nest-egg or will you take on a more aggressive portfolio, with higher short-term risk and the possibilities of a much greater reward? The parable of the talents comes to mind…

Now, what if you conducted a risk tolerance assessment of your church? If the church was the investor, it’s members the shareholders, and the pursuit of Jesus the asset being invested, what would the outcome be? How aggressive is the pursuit for growth? Is the expected ROI (return on investment) numbers driven or is there a deeper purpose?

Do you notice a conservative, controlled growth plan (keep it on the safe side) or do you see an aggressive, passionate – even maverick – vision to go deeper, to go further, even if it means risking short-term numbers for long-term success?

Sometimes the best move an investor can make is to diversify or strengthen their portfolio, rather than to try to hit a home run with a single strategy or property.

What would a successful return on investment mean to you? A full church? A full heart? A fulfilled life?

Will we bury what the Master has given us, to ensure it stays “safe”? Or will we ready ourselves, move out of the rut and risk the criticism of man to experience a real relationship with God and with each other?

I, for one, am going all in…all the way. What does that look like? I can’t wait to find out.

Peace.

Travis

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

Breakeven-The Script
Come All You Weary-Thrice
Healer-Jesus Culture
You Found Me-The Fray
100 in a 55 – Pop Evil
Come All You Weary-Thrice
Price Tag-Jessie J





Making Room For Destiny

22 03 2011

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (New King James Version)
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

I have the privilege and honour of co-leading a church in Abbotsford, BC with my good friend and pastor, who used this quote in a recent Sunday morning sermon:

Destiny is only as big as you’ll let it be.

We were designed with limitless potential, the only limits we face are the ones we impose on ourselves. How many times in life have you heard or said, “You can’t do that, you’re too weak, young, old, inexperienced…” or, “I can’t do this, I’m too shy, nervous, small, etc…” Whatever the adjective we choose to hide behind, or choose to impose on someone, the result is the same: we either limit our own destiny, someone else’s or both.

Both? How can the limitations I place on myself, based on my own insecurities, affect the destiny of someone else?

Here’s an example to help illustrate how limiting your own destiny can limit the destiny of the people around you. If you are placed in a position of authority, and don’t fully embrace the destiny that God has placed in you, then the people he’s placed around you to help fulfill and empower that destiny can’t fulfill theirs. Likewise, if you’ve been placed in a position to support the vision God has given someone else, and you don’t fully embrace that calling, then you are limiting both the fulfillment of their destiny and the fulfillment of yours.

Another way we can limit destiny is by trying to hold too much for ourselves. Imagine your life as a tower in a city, and destiny as the stairs connecting each floor. You start from the ground up, gaining knowledge, wisdom and life experience. As you move upwards you accumulate various titles, responsibilities and positional authority…these are the things you carry with you, tucked in your briefcase, they define who you are, and what you do. If you become too possessive of your title, or your responsibilities, then the  contents of that sleek, professional briefcase will begin to bulge and overflow until the classy gold clasps snap and you are forced to transfer the contents into a bigger, bulkier suitcase.

Burned out? You’ve probably been hanging on to way to many things! There are people behind you with briefcases filled with nothing but potential, ready to carry some of the load for you, to allow you to continue your journey to the top. If you try to push, pull or drag your baggage up to the next floor, you’ll likely just get stuck in the stairwell. You can’t go up if you try to bring everything you do or have ever done or accomplished up the stairs with you! Not to mention, you’ll be blocking the way for anyone else to go to the next level as well.

It’s hard to let go. I know. But it will be okay. You aren’t letting go of who you are, just what you do! The life experience, the knowledge and the wisdom gained goes with you.  You don’t always know what awaits you, and even though you’ve gone up a level it may feel like you’re starting from the ground up again, but remember, the floor on this level is the ceiling of the level you came from.

When we release something we’ve birthed or carried for a time, something new can be released to us.

Eight years ago, when we were coming up with a purpose statement for Windword, we came up with this: “Empowering and Equipping People in the Pursuit of their God-given Destiny.” Destiny is to be pursued, to be chased, and we all can equip and empower each other as we seek it.

One more thing. We have the ability to change destiny. A simple attitude change or change in priorities can cause the path of our lives to shift, and this shift can range from a small correction to a complete change of direction.

Peace,

Travis





Shooting Three Throws

20 01 2011

If I were to give an alternate title for this article it would be “How to feel good about making a difference while making the rest of us look dumb.”

I first heard about the “Three Throw” while listening to Christian Radio station K-Love this past Monday. Usually I am lulled into a mind-numbing coma by the repetitive, poorly-rhymed lyrics and themes of most Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), so I am surprised that I even heard the interview with the founder of the “Three Throw” movement. Along with most of my co-workers, I was caught up in the absurdity of a hand gesture to connect me to other members of my Christian faith. I quickly glanced at my calendar, is it April 1st?

Here’s how it works. Hold up three of your fingers as if you were a toddler telling me your age. There! Now I know you are a Christian! If I do it back we can both rejoice, because as we stand in the middle of a world going to hell in a hand-basket, we are secure in our belief that we’re going to heaven! Yay. Of course, I could look at you with a dazed expression that says, “what the…?” In that case, you can view the situation as an opportunity to witness to me, “this little finger is God, this little finger is Jesus, and this finger is the Holy Spirit…” Once I know the sign, I’m in! Hmmm. So that’s the “Three Throw.” For more info, check out their website: www.threethrow.com. Seriously.

I know that I am using a facetious tone as I get this message across, and while I admire anyone who actually gets up out of their pew and does something about their faith, this is just a bad idea. I am specifically referring to the actual idea of a “Christian” hand gesture, I am trying hard to ignore the fact that there is an entire line of merchandise for sale. We need Christians that will not use their faith as a marketing strategy, but as a way to affect who they are and the world around them.

I shared the link for the “Three Throw” website with Seattle-based author Jeffrey Overstreet, and he had these words to share:

If I remember right, the idea was that those who know Christ would be recognized by their love… not by their “Are you in the club?” exclusivity signs. Nor, for that matter, by the way they vote, their political party, their fashion, their ethnicity, their income, their denomination, their taste in art, etc… etc…

We don’t need our own sign! Nor do we need our own “Christian” Facebook, iTunes, music or bookstores…. As Christians, we are called to excel in the gifts and talents that God has given us, and share the love of Jesus organically as we live life to the fullest in the world! Rather than “Christian” authors, musicians or who-ever’s, as Christ-following authors we will write out of the overflow of heavenly inspiration, as Christ-following musicians we will be passionate about creating something that would sound sweet to the One who has heard it all. In whatever we do, we are to do it to bring glory to God. Labeling something “Christian” doesn’t necessarily accomplish this.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am aware of how easy it is to criticize someone else’s work, and I actually believe that the founders of the “Three Throw” are well intentioned. I bet they’ve spent time in prayer and poured a lot of time and energy into this. I’d love to see that much energy and creativity poured into an effective witness for Jesus. Because of my criticism I must must resign myself to finding real, constructive ways to allow my faith to affect people around me. I hope that means living and loving life and letting Jesus shine through.

Peace.

Travis

PS – Here’s hoping the Three Throw goes the way of WWJD bracelets and Fish-shaped car decals…BE the change, don’t BUY it.





The Church Tamer

7 01 2011

The devil likes it when we just go to church.

We are to be emulating the Lion of Judah… so why do we often appear as common, quiet, domesticated house cats? And when we do make enough noise to be noticed, all too often it’s just the shrill sound of a cat fight with one of our own, or the petrified whimpers of a kitten afraid of the dark and scary world out there…

God cannot be tamed. And yet the church can be, and often is, by the The Church Tamer, aka the devil…

Are we walking in inspiration, or are we the walking dead? The power of God isn’t to be contained in a package that we open on Sundays for a couple hours and wrap back up before noon. The power of God is to be lived, it is to flow through us.

Church can’t be just another part of our compartmentalized lives…this many hours allotted for work, this many for school, a few hours for church… Church isn’t an event or a building. It is the relational community of the lovers of God, collectively known as Jesus’ bride. In other words, the church (the people, not the institution) is about living in unity with one another, forgiving differences, looking past conflicts…becoming one, in Him.

Being the bride is so much more than going to church. Everything we do in life is affected by who we are.

The ring finger of my wife’s beautiful left hand is occupied by a beautiful ring, and it means she is my bride. Everything she does, every choice she makes is a reflection of her commitment, love and honour for me. In the same way, if we choose to live in our identity, the bride of Christ, everything we do, every choice we make will be a reflection of our commitment, love and honour for Him.

The devil likes it when we go to church. Or at least he used to.

The bride of Christ is rising up…and she is strong and beautiful.

I can hear it…less meow, and more ROAR! Tame that, devil.

Peace,

Travis

PS – I released this because of how proud I am of the people in our church, together we are becoming a family, and I am honoured to be a part of it.





You’re Bringing Me Down…But His Love Never Fails!

19 10 2010

You can’t count on people to help you make your climb to the top; however you can expect them to try and knock you down once you get there.

I’m replaying Pixar’s short film, “For the Birds,” in my head, and remembering the story.  You’ve got a little bird who lands on a wire, and feels pretty good about himself. He’s subsequently joined by others who take the spotlight off him, and he becomes visibly annoyed, expressing his displeasure to the other birds around him. Once the little birds are joined by a big bird, who is “different” than them, they turn their attention to him, channeling their frustration, pecking at him and eventually knocking him down off the wire. What the little birds didn’t realize was that the big bird was weighing down the wire, and once he fell off, the wire sprung back and hurled them through the air like a slingshot causing physical harm and much embarrassment to themselves. Find it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it.

All the while as the little birds pecked at him, the big bird was unaware of their disdain for him, even blissfully so. This is one of the aspects from the story that I connect to the Father, and his love for His children; even when we are being attacked, he works everything out for our good!

It’s usually at our highest, happiest points in life, on those mountaintop experiences where we feel like we could just jump off and soar, that we can expect people to bring us back down to earth. Perhaps it’s a misguided intention to keep us from becoming too proud. Or perhaps it’s simply jealousy. Either way, when people bring you down, it hurts.

Ever overheard a conversation where someone was putting you down behind your back? Or had someone use a weak compliment as a means to deliver a hurtful, thinly-veiled criticism, right to your face? It hurts. The sad part is that usually the people that we allow closest to us are the ones with the ability to hurt us the most.

What entices us to bring down the ones we love? I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they are delivering those painful blows, believing that causing hurt isn’t their true intention, but an inadvertent reaction to an underlying issue, rooted in jealousy, pride or hurt of their own. It is this belief that reminds me again of 1 Peter 4:8; And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

Love never fails. Love calls forth a maturity that causes us to put away our childish ways and wisely reason with faith, hope and love. Our spiritual growth can be stunted when we allow hurt to take root and become an obsession, leaving us to function from within that obsession in an immaturity based on hurt, pride and jealousy. Love is not just a word, or a way to qualify a condemning or criticizing point of view; rather, love is a mature action that calls forth “the best” in people, without the predetermination of what “the best” is for them.

Peace & Love.

Travis





Haiti

29 01 2010

Today, as I was catching up on some paperwork, I came across an unopened letter from Compassion Canada. Usually, I just throw these letters in a box, theoretically to read at a later date when I have more time.

This time it was the envelope that caught my attention, as it contained a familiar word: Haiti.

We’ve sponsored children through Compassion Canada for several years now, but other than sending in my monthly payment for $38, I haven’t been too involved.

I opened the letter, and saw an updated photo of our sponsored child. With the photo was a sheet of lined paper, expecting me to write a letter to our child. I’ve never before found the time to do this, but it was then that I realized for the first time that our sponsor child, Samantha, is from Haiti. My heart sank. Tears came to my eyes. I moved to my piano, and sang these words…

Were you scared?
Did you cry?
Were you left all alone wondering why?

Did you find shelter?
Did you find peace?
Have you had any food to eat?

I wish I could be there,
I wish I could save you,
In my helplessness I pray that God’s angels will hold you in their arms

I am certain that He will not let me neglect her again. I pray that it isn’t too late to show her His love.

Peace.

Travis

PS – If you don’t currently sponsor a child, do it today, don’t wait. www.compassioncanada.ca





Order. Order! Order in the Church!!!

19 01 2010

Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40 NKJV

In the past, when this verse has been brought to my attention, I’ve imagined in my mind’s eye, a judge, seated high above a courtroom, pounding his gavel like a crazed carpenter, as though the sound of incessant hammering will bring peace once again.

Perhaps, instead of a judge, it’s a pastor, left with nothing but a gavel of control, in a culture of selfishness. The thing is, however, the incessant hammering of control only drives a wedge deeper, separating leader from follower even more, creating even more distrust and discord.

Our church is a very open church to the move of the Holy Spirit, and as such our services have a very free flow to them. We have a basic structure, an idea of how things will look, but we leave most of it to God.

So…how do things stay in order?

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue of an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV

Honour. Whatever we do is out of honour for God and our sisters and brothers.

In conversation with Brandee (my beautiful wife) last night, she said this to me, “Honour equals order.” And it’s true. Where there is honour, there is respect. Where there is honour and respect, there is love. And where all these things exist, there is order, because in a culture of honour, I am last, the people around me are first.

In a culture of honour, there is no room for self promotion or personal gain. We minister to each other to build each other up, not to build ourselves up. And whenever there is need for gentle correction, a slight change in course, there is no room for offense, because there is honour.

So far in this article I’ve written the word honour eight times…make that nine. And yet, I can’t stress enough: Honour is a major key in the fulfillment of our destiny.

That’s probably enough to contemplate for now…

Peace & Love.

Travis








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