Dear Donald Miller, You set me up.

This weekend I lied to our congregation.  It wasn’t on purpose.  I was telling the part of your story I knew.  And well, I only told them the part I knew and I was missing what Paul Harvey used to call, “…the rest of the story.”  I told them that in your reluctant search for your father you discovered that he was dead.  I shared with them that by starting the search you began to live a better story.  So this weekend you illustrated one of the contrarian impulses that may come to us when we start living the Gospel by the Spirit of God: to include the mess-ups in a new family story.

Its Advent, and we launched our series with Matthew 1:1-18.  Yes, its the list of names,   the genealogy of Jesus, and I read every name.  His family tree includes the stories of wonderfully messy characters.  Abraham, David, Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and a slew of wicked kings.  Jesus’ family list of the “bad” among the “good” shocks our desire to hide what we believe to be our shame.  From Matthew’s perspective the genealogy of Jesus is the genesis of a new family and a new kingdom shaped by grace (Matthew 1:1).

The Gospel compels us to do something different, something contrary to our impulse to hide.  Instead of hiding the past, we redeem the past by God’s grace.  God is faithful.  Now we know He is working through the messes of sinful people to accomplish His plan and purposes.  While life in its current and painful construction creates a deep longing for family and for noble leaders our disappointment with reality may compel us to hide from truth and ignore the reality of our fallen families. And that hiding only creates more pain.  But grace creates a new impulse:  the impulse to include the mess-ups of our lives in our story and in our family story.  Jesus did it, and He is the grace for it.  You know this and have profoundly illustrated it in your writing.

And so, I told your story as you have told it in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years… and as far as I had read in the previous week.  So I didn’t know that “rest of the story” until I finished reading your book last night.  Like a good story teller you set me up… and for that I’m really glad.

Now our contrarian Advent adventure continues… and I get to tell the rest of your story and the search for your father this Sunday as Origin gathers to explore the rest of the  Jesus-story in the Matthew 1:18-25.  Thank you!  I’m glad you set me up, because you  showed  me that sometimes God surprises us and the void in our heart gets filled up by grace.  There can be a surprising “rest of the story.”

Merry Christmas Donald, and by His grace may we all live a better story.

Blessings,

Craig

 

Broken Generation

People are still discussing the Macleans article “The Broken Generation.”  Why? Because the problem for students is real and there are people who care.  There is a campus crisis.  “A quarter of university age Canadians are dealing with mental illness, most often excessive stress, anxiety, and deep depression.”

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

Some problems are the natural ups and downs of life, like a bad mark or a sloppy roommate. There’s a question of whether today’s young adults are somehow less equipped to cope. “Not all pressures can be removed,” says Woolf, principal of Queen’s. “There is pressure just by going to university, or doing anything in life.” When he was in university in the 1970s, he recalls, students didn’t fret so much about their marks, or employment prospects after graduation.

“If we got a bad mark, it was ‘Too bad, on to the next one,’ ” Woolf says. “There’s a generation of students now—and I’m not saying it’s every student—but a tendency to want to be a winner in all that they do. They all get a trophy at field day; they all get a treat bag at the party; and then they get to university and suddenly find they’re now playing in a different league, and no longer necessarily the smartest in their class.” Woolf is quick to note that serious, long-term mental health struggles are a different matter.

The ability to cope is an acquired skill, and one that takes time to learn. “I speak to parents who insist their children not take summer jobs so they can go to summer school, to get the best marks,” says Trent University psychology professor James Parker, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Emotion and Health. “I say, ‘I’m not sure that’s the best strategy.’ ” It’s often at those summer jobs that kids learn resiliency: serving coffee, waiting on tables and dealing with demanding bosses and crabby customers. Overprotective parents may think they’re helping their kids, but once these kids arrive on campus, small problems can seem overwhelming.

Getting over the hurdles of life takes time for introspection, and that’s also in short supply. Students aren’t left alone with their thoughts on the bus to school or the walk across campus. They’re texting, listening to music, checking Facebook or Twitter, often all at once. There’s no time to mull over difficult, complicated emotions, and no immediate reason to do it, either.

Our team serving Born for More and Origin in the UBC campus community realize with other campus ministries that the issue of mental distress and illness must be brought out from the shadows.  I am pleased that Power To Change is hosting Tim Chan and Dr. Sharon Smith tonight at Wood 1 at UBC.  I encourage you to go and consider the information and the insight they have.  Tim will be sharing from personal experience and how his faith informed his journey through his depression. He has written about it on his blog.

love is in the follow-through

Sitting with a friend at my dining room table I listened to a champion of love.

At the moment he doesn’t feel like it went well.

I believe love is not wasted.

As I listened I was convicted on how hard it is to follow-through with love.

Love may have a feeling; but it sustained as action over time.

Love may have created contact.  But the experience of love is in the follow-through.

Tenis, golf, basketball:  there’s always talk about the follow-through.

Follow-through is after the initial contact.  Why does it matter?

Follow-through creates a trajectory.

Love is in the follow-through.

“Always be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults, because of your love.”  Ephesians 4:2 NLT

At Origin we have our original moment conversation each week.  When did you love God or love people or when did you experience the love of God and the love of people?

Self-righteousness is fuelled by a short-sighted  satisfaction — “Yah, I made contact with the ball.”  “But, where did it go?”

I needed this cautionary word:

Love is in the follow-through.

Consistency — its about the “who” and not the furniture

Three weeks ago we finished cocooning with our newest daughter and have now been out in the “real” world with great regularity.  The intent of cocooning was to establish consistency and attachment for Mica in our family.  The family becomes a referent point for her engagement with the world.

So here’s the real world for our church experience at Origin: for the last three weeks we’ve gathered in a different location every Sunday.  Different address.  Different set up.  Different washrooms.  Different children’s space.  Different lighting.  Different feel.  So much for consistency!

Its made me think a lot about her experience of the church.  Who reaches out?  Who prays for her?  Who creates safe space for her to be her, to explore, and to hear again that God loves her?  Who celebrates what God is doing in her life?  Who affirms her growth?  Who challenges her to explore again Jesus’ grace?

Who?

See its all about the people & the Gospel, not the furniture.

But its not just about her.  My hope is that our gathering and life together is a referent point for many students and the UBC community in their walk with Jesus.  Origin, church, wherever, and whenever we gather, is a community that acts as a reference point for people to encourage them to keep going with Jesus and His Gospel.