Expand on your faith???

Recently, someone called me out on a statement I’ve been known to make from time to time.  I’ve been quoted as saying that I’m “Christian, but not religious”.  That person really called me to task and asked me to expand on what that means to me exactly.  I think I’ve always had a comfortable understanding what that means to me, but I’ve never had to paint that picture or define what I truly mean when I make that statement.  Going through a period in my life where Faith is truly all I have to lean on, I was challenged to discern my feelings, situation, experience, challenges, triumphs and relationships to arrive at a response that is not just “off the cuff”.

Having recently moved to a new community and beginning the process of making new connections can make for a lot fun and excitement, but there are significant periods of time where, it’s just me (of course, God is there too).  It’s during those times where my faith and my relationship with God really gets put to the test.

When writing my response, I didn’t have to hesitate, I just had to try to define what my walk looks like.

Here’s the result….

“Expand on my faith… hmmm… that I can do. It’s odd you should ask me this… today especially. I was recently in the office of the pastor of my Church. We’re in the process of getting to know each other and becoming friends. I was telling him about my faith and what it’s based on.  Beyond what we were talking about (though some of this was a part of the discussion), It’s not based on my showing up in Church on Sunday, singing on a worship team or serving people in some way in the hope that I’m doing something good or of value.

Faith is about trust, respect, and integrity. It’s knowing that while Christ was here, he was not here to tell people how to live their lives, but rather, to show us.  He did not want to force us, but to give us an alternative, an example. Mostly though, I believe Christ was here to love us. This is not some fantasy I believe. Far from it. I truly believe Christ was here, I believe he lives on and I truly believe that one day (which no one will know until it happens) He will come again.

Faith is not something you talk about, or some expressions you make, it’s something you live. Just because I talk about Jesus with confidence doesn’t make me faithful. Trusting in Him, in what He’s teaching me and acting on that understanding reveals my faith.  Trusting that He’s here with me and walking with me, even when it would be easier to depend on what I know or what I can see is an example of my faith.  For me, faith is trusting what Christ is trying to show me in order to choose to truly live the life He’s created for me.

If you’ve chosen to read this far, I’ll share with you that I don’t use God or Jesus 10 times in each sentence. I don’t say “praise God” or “Hallelujah” every other sentence.  Words don’t make me faithful or reveal my faith.  I’m just a regular person like everyone else. My life is not perfect and I suffer the same trials as everyone else. Choosing to follow my life in faith does not guarantee that it will be perfect or that I am perfect. I’m just as flawed as anyone living on Earth. To be honest, there are many “people of faith” who do more to steer folks away from a possible relationship with God because of their “religious” views, expressions and actions than there are who lead others to him because of how they choose to demonstrate their “belief”.  It’s much harder to love someone you don’t agree with, whose viewpoint you don’t share and whose lifestyle choices clash with your own than it is to point a finger at them and tell them you don’t agree with them or that they’re wrong.  Don’t misunderstand, sometimes we need to share the kind truth with each other, but we must be careful to ensure it’s more about truth than our comfortable perspective.

I don’t live my life following Christ because there’s a set of rules I must adhere to. I do not live in fear, but rather, I live my life with a healthy love and respect for God. I want to understand why God shares a path for us in the way that He does. He doesn’t ask us to follow Him because he’s a control freak. He’s God. He doesn’t need to. Instead, I truly believe that he has our best interests at heart and wants us to learn why he provided the wisdom and path that he has. This is not blind obedience we’re called to. It’s really no different than the love a parent would show and guide a child with. God’s word to us is for our benefit and it is shared out of love and a desire to see us thrive.

I could go on but I’m pretty sure you get the picture. So… if you would like to have an honest and open discussion about it sometime, I’d be more than happy to share time with you. If not, I completely understand, but this is who I am. God put within me a heart of love, though it’s taken me years to finally come to the point where I may be humble enough to share it with someone. Time will tell that tale.

Cheers,
Tim”

We never did share that conversation, though I did receive a reply which let me know what I shared was understood and appreciated.

We don’t need to agree to live and love together, but we do need to be respectful and that…. sometimes, takes faith.

Have a great weekend and remember while you’re following your nose, there is much you can lean on because you’re loved and valued.  In that, you can have faith.

Life lies beyond our fear

It’s been a long while since we’ve chatted, or more accurately put, I’ve poured out my heart and mind.  Thank you once again for your willingness to read if you choose to do so.

2014 was a whirlwind and a roller coaster to say the very least.  There were many harrowing moments in the past year which caused me to have a good look, take action and allow significant change into my life.  Of course, most of my troubles were (and are) first world problems and really, if I’m honest, they were about risking my comfort.  While that’s not an entirely fair statement, the choices I made were important to my growth as a person, a man and a Christian and they were voluntary.  I had a choice in the matter.  It was mine to choose in terms of what direction my life would take.  I’m so very blessed and fortunate to have the gifts and abilities that I’ve been so very abundantly provided with.  I’m grateful to God every day for the many talents and abilities He’s given me.  I truly hope I’ve honoured Him in the way I choose to use them and in how they make me feel.  I honestly believe that by using our talents, by enjoying and reveling in them, we honour and please God.  I’m sure He delights in seeing us use our gifts and abilities in ways that are both joyful and steeped in servant-hood.

It’s been my experience that when we enter a relationship with God, we have to do one very important thing.  We have to give our “yes” to Him.  What does that mean exactly?  I can’t answer that for you, but I can describe what it’s been like for me.  When I first accepted God into my life some 30 years ago (this June), I was aware that change would come as a result of my new found relationship, but I didn’t take the time to really consider what that meant.  I didn’t take the time to truly learn what being a follower of Jesus was or that I even needed to.  I was just a fan!  I stood on the sidelines of my faith and did little to engage or encounter God.  Sure, I was definitely in love with God and his abundant creation, but I was little more than a kumbaya Christian.  Let’s all feel nice and treat each other nicely.  While that’s a noble and worthy pursuit that we’d all do well to engage in, there’s an awful lot more to living out this life in a relationship with God (thanks to a very good friend for teaching me this about myself and my journey).

A long story made short, I floundered for some twenty years and then, one day, I met someone whom I confidently believe God used to speak to me and say “OK sonny… enough is enough!”  I’m grateful that in his gracious way, He used a kind hand to speak to me rather than grabbing me by the scruff of the neck to get my attention (believe me, he’s let me hit the brick wall a few times too).  In this case, my heart was involved because of another of his children but because of that encounter, He and I had the opportunity to get to know one another.  I hear myself say that and realize that’s not what I should truly say.  God was there and waiting for me the whole time.  It was up to me to say hello or at least, to return His hello.  I did nothing of the sort because I had my ideas and had locked God neatly away within them.  I put God into a storage box and pulled him out whenever it was convenient.  How nice for me!  That all changed for me one day nearly 11 years ago now and the change progression has been slowly and steadily increasing for the better.  I’ve learned that while I still have moments of being a fan on the sidelines of faith, more and more, I’m an active follower of Jesus!  If you know me now or are someone who calls me friend, you know that my faith is core to who I am today.  It’s been a shaky, scary, bumpy and often frustrating and terrifying process, but I’m still here and I’m still hanging on!  I won’t let go and there’s a reason.

There are those who would say… “Hey Tim… that’s just what you believe.  I get ya, but I call it something else entirely.”  To that I would reply… I’m glad you see it that way and I’m glad you are willing to give me the space and grace to walk out this path that I’m on.  I’m just as willing to respect you in your journey too.  Hopefully along the way, we can check in with each other to see how each of us are doing and describe what our experience has looked like during the course of our lives.  You see, I think that’s how God (in part) works.  He lives within us and as we share and struggle together, we get to know Him through one another.  That’s not a romantic notion I hold.  I truly believe that’s part of our purpose while we’re here.  We encounter God (in part) though our interactions.

Anyway, I digress… what I’m here to tell you today is that I’ve learned something valuable in the last few years… this last year especially.  Life lies beyond our fears!  If  you know me, you know that’s quite a statement for me to make.  I like my life to be neat and tidy (not just my kitchen counters).  Change is not something I do well.   Sure, there are some forms of change that embrace well, but for the most part, when it comes to my life, I like things to be exactly where and how I place them.  Stepping outside my comfort zone is not something I do or do as often as I should.  That all changed for me last year.  I decided to shut down my personal consulting practice and join a large software company.  It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.  It shook me to my core, but something told me that I needed to do it.  At the time, I thought it was necessary in terms of dealing with my physical and emotional health, but I’ve come to learn that there was more to it than that.  I truly believe that there was a part of my life that needed to change because God has been preparing me for something.  What that fully is has yet to be revealed exactly, but I do know that I’m being prompted to change and trust during this season of change because my growth requires it.  I can’t begin to describe how uncomfortable has made me feel because in the midst of the process, there is so much self-doubt.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I making the right choice?  Can I trust what I’m doing?  The common theme there is ME.  I’ve not been acting with any faith that what I’m being drawn to do can be trusted.  I know (and fully believe) that it is up to me to choose what I do from day to day.

Does God hand pick each of my steps?  Well, I believe He creates a path for me to follow and that I’m free to follow it.   I believe God creates a healthy and orderly path for me to follow, but that path will also be intertwined with what life brings.  That’s the tough and challenging part of faith.  God is not a puppet master!  He gives each of us the gift of choice or free will… but trusting in the path I perceive He’s created for me allows me to put my faith into action and also aligns me with His  will.  I absolutely believe to my core that God wants nothing but good for me and I also believe he’s not going to put me in harm’s way.  It is up to me to learn, to listen and trust to God when I’m choosing a new path.  Sometimes, our parents give us a nudge out the door or in a direction that they feel is in our best interests and I don’t think God is any different.  I honestly believe I became stagnant in my life.  I was waiting for stuff to happen and became entrenched in the sidelines while waiting.   During that time however, God has been teaching me and equipping me for the change I’m now embarking upon.  He was teaching me that He’ll be there throughout and if I just trust in Him… I’ll be OK.  That’s not to say that life won’t get hard or messy, even dangerous, but I can count on his constancy and sovereignty to see me through because I can trust in His love for me and His desire for me to thrive.

Life begins beyond our fears… what a great statement!  It certainly does, but what’s even more encouraging and exciting though is that God will be there waiting to help us each step of the way.  There’s no place I can go where He won’t be with me and I find that very comforting.  While I may have moments where I’m scared and unsure, I also know that my potential and growth will be limited by my fear if I allow it.  I don’t for a moment think that living in fear is what God has in store for any of us.  Giving my YES to God each day and saying… “I don’t know what’s coming, but I know I can trust you for what I need in the days that are to come”.   Stepping forward in faith and living through it is what I’m going to do!  I don’t know what life will bring, but I do know that if I trust in what I’ve been taught and am being taught, I’ll be just fine… no matter the circumstance.

Sometimes, being a follower and not just a fan means taking action in your own life as much as it does taking action in the lives of others.  Sometimes, we need to take care of ourselves in order to be a bigger part of the Kingdom!  Fan or follower?  Sometimes, I’m still a fan, but more and more, I’m finding myself to be a follower  and I’m so grateful for what that brings in my life.  Laying our lives down may seem a tough thing to do, but what’s exceptional about it is that God will give us all kinds of grace in the process.  We just need to be willing to let Him in and to learn to trust Him.

For what it’s worth, it’s just like when I let go of the airplane when I tried skydiving, I not only felt exhilaration when I let go, I also felt the peace that followed during the journey to the ground and my friends waiting there.  Skydiving started out to be a terrifying roller coaster experience filled with terror, uncertainty and excitement.  Learning what I needed to be able to skydive was filled with scary moments which were followed by confidence and then fear again.  When I finally got into the airplane to make the actual jump… the reality of my situation became acute and I once again found myself terrified!  The coolest part of the experience though, was when I said to the jump-master “I don’t think I can do this”.  He calmly said “Just lean forward and let me check your pack and chute and if you still feel the same, you don’t have to go.”  From that moment forward, what I’d learned that day kicked in and I just followed what I’d been taught.  It was easy because I was able to step out on what I’d been shown with some confidence and faith.  I still didn’t know what the outcome would be, but I’d been well prepared for the experience.  Life is like that too.  All we need to do is trust in what we have and what we’ve been given… and the rest… that’s the journey.

To those of you who’ve been a part of my journey, those brave souls who’ve been willing to listen to me vent my fear or trepidation, thank you for your kindness and support!  I cherish each and every one of you!  To my Dad… thanks for being such a good example of patience, grace and honesty and for always being there.  To Scott… Seriously dude… I think we’re finally getting even  J To John & Christine… thanks for always being willing to be there and for teaching me the true meaning of friendship.  To Larry & Barb, Brian & Dar, Mike & Liz, Tim & Melissa, Anthony & Jana, Tim & Jo, Don & Chris, Arden & Pat, Barry & Lynda and the countless others who’ve been a part of my growth, words escape me, but thank you and I love you!

Fan or Follower, you must decide that for yourself, but try to remember to be kind to yourself in the process.  It’s not easy to follow, but I can promise you this… if you do follow, God will not ever leave you stranded.  He’ll always be there for you because I can tell you with certainty… He’s always been there for me!

Just shut up and shoot….

I suppose, since I state that I’m into photography and list it as a topic on my blog, maybe I should actually write about it a little.

I came to the realization last spring that… I must now consider myself an artist.  I attended an event called “the Levite summit” at which all manner of artistic expression was presented and explored.

Just because you don’t paint doesn’t mean that you’re not an artist.  Artistic expression can take on many forms.  It may be that you express yourself by doing back flips on a mountain bike or by jumping from rooftop to rooftop.  You may be the creator of sand castles, or something of an impassioned and inexperienced writer like me; or, also like me… you may love to take pictures.

Like many of us today, I participate in and read internet based special interest forums on subjects of interest to me.  One of those happens to be about photography and photographic equipment.  These forums can be a blessing and a curse because they’re usually filled with tons of personal opinion, preference and brand loyal people who are keen to scoff at equipment not necessarily of their own choosing (read fanboys).

While I think it’s great that we bear loyalty to products because we believe in their quality or feature set, it’s still just stuff!  Artistry is not contained within a piece of hardware.  Unless configured, staged and then pre-programmed, a camera will not take a picture on its own (and don’t geek with me because AI is still artificial).

I have acquired quite a bit of equipment for my hobby.  I have it because I enjoy it!  I love the different effects that I can achieve just by changing a lens or using a different camera body, but in the end, it comes down to what I want to shoot.  I don’t take a picture if I don’t want to.  I personally don’t do this for money.  I just love the way it makes me feel.

I was thinking about my photography this morning and how little I’ve actually done in the last 9 months or so.  I’ve been out a few times, but nothing that significantly reflects my passion for the hobby.  I guess it’s just a part of a season and that’s OK by me.  If I’m not out there because I’m drawn to shoot a subject or landscape, then it’s not what I should be doing.  Integrity comes from simple truth and the simple truth is that it’s just not been in me recently.

All that stuff said, I did have a significant encounter this summer while out with my camera.  To tell that story, I have to tell another first.  Earlier in the year, I purchased a new “mirrorless” camera because I wanted something I could travel with easily.  I vowed to myself that I wasn’t going to buy every lens on the planet that works with the new system.  I was going to be content with the single and very capable “kit” lens I purchased with the camera (it was not part of a bundle).

This particular lens is great for all types of shooting, but it does have some limitations because it’s a zoom.  Without getting all technical, I can’t get many of the effects I like in the type of photography I enjoy.  I love shooting candid portraiture and landscapes.  That type of “picture takin’” really blows my hair back.  I also like to shoot extreme Depth of Field (blurry background and foreground with the subject perfectly in focus).

So… back to my original point… while reading through one of these “photography forums”, I noticed a thread on how a fellow photographer “overcame the agony of the X-T1…“ (http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3734655).

The article was basically about how a guy learned that his camera was in the end, a fine piece of kit and that he should simply learn to be content with it instead of focusing on its limitations or shortfalls (sorry about the pun).  The best part of the article was how he came to his conclusion… his wife used common sense on him.  The part of interest to me, was how it made me reflect on my own camera and photography.  Yes… I still want another lens or two, but something wonderful happened while I was reading the article.  I was reminded of an occasion a few weeks ago while at the annual “kick off” event hosted at my Church.

A friend of mine asked “Hey Tim, is that the new camera you’ve been talking about on Facebook?  You know, the little one with the cool pictures”.  I said “why… yes” and grinned my usual, silly and toothy grin.  Her question and observation wasn’t the cool part though… the cool part was what she said (or asked) next.  “We don’t have any recent pictures of us as a couple, so would you mind taking our picture with it?”  I had my big fancy DSLR rig with me, but she wanted to see a picture from my new, little Fuji.  I took one picture and showed her… Her reaction (and that of her Husband) made it all worthwhile!  “Wow… that’s so cool!  Can you send it to me and do you mind if I use it as my profile picture”.  You could have handed me a cheque right there and It wouldn’t have mattered!  She loved the shot and that’s what’s important!  The point being… I used what I had in my hand!  It wasn’t the best of my gear or the best for that kind of shot, but it allowed me to get the shot and it brought a smile to my friends face in the process.

The essence of art is about one thing and one thing only, how the art makes you feel.  If it touches you and makes you “feel”, it’s done its job! I went on to take more pictures of my friends with my other gear, but honestly, the first picture I took of them with my little Fuji wound up being my personal favourite.  It was my favourite because it captured them as they wanted to be… not staged, not posed, but captured in a simple moment that they wanted to have preserved.  It was a fun picture taken in a fun moment by a friend, for a friend.

I’m grateful that I came to this realization this morning and I’m also grateful that my friends helped to teach me a valuable lesson.  Do what you love!  And… when you do what you do, don’t sweat the small stuff.  (The grammar police are gonna get me for that last one)

There’s beauty in any occasion and it’s usually right there in front of you!  How you choose to capture the moment is yours to decide, but please…… do choose to act because the world will be a better and brighter place for it!

Thanks Katie & Joel for helping to teach me this lesson!

KAC Kickoff 2014 (6 of 6)

Appreciating those in our lives…

It’s easy to overlook important relationships in our lives. It seems that we more easily maintain work relationships, or those with close friends whom we relate to best and see often because there is something in it for us; gratification, a sense of belonging, validation, you pick the reason.  There are however, relationships that should be closer to us but take a great deal more effort to maintain for whatever reason; distance, dissimilar interests, age… again, you pick the reason. I lump myself into the latter category too. I’m a very busy, self-employed man who has little trouble filling in the hours and minutes of the day and I often have to work to stay connected to those that matter most to me…. I’m not always successful and in fact, I believe I often fall short. It’s when I read a story like the one at the bottom of this post that I’m reminded of the importance of nurturing important relationships… whether they are with our Mother, Father, Sister, Brother… or most especially, with Jesus. That’s right… I have to remind myself that he’s an active part of my life and I have to remember to invite him into it. It’s easy to pray, offer thanks… the easy, warm and fuzzy stuff, but I need to remember to allow him into my life as my Lord, brother, confidant, accountability partner and friend.

Making time for someone special in your life doesn’t need to be a big production. It can be a coffee, a phone call, a trip to the mall or the dump, fishing, you name what works for you… in the end, a two minute phone call to let someone know that they’re a part of your thoughts that day. Letting them know that they matter to you can become a memory that lasts a lifetime.

My Mother died six years ago… I often think of her and I truly miss her. I remember how we shared time together but also how we did not! I know she would have liked to have been a greater part of my life and it was significantly in my hands to allow that to happen. I often reminisce on how I’d planned to take her on a road trip to Whistler, BC for the day… just her, me and the wind in our hair. Many years and plenty of excuses later, she’s gone and sadly, that trip didn’t happen. I have forgiven in myself this situation and prayed for forgiveness to God also. The point here is, it doesn’t have to be a trip to Whistler; it could be a drive to the coffee shop, the park or just a drive through the country to share time together. Making time form those who are important to you is what makes the difference between a casual, convenient relationship and one that is worthy of the person who loves you and affords you the same.

My Dad is always willing to say “Yes… of course” when I ask him. Last week, I asked if he’d like to come for a ride with me… just to purchase some food for my Dog. Yes was the answer and even though it was only a half our trip, we enjoyed ourselves and shared time. I’m grateful for that simple memory and the countless others I have of my Dad as I remember him on his 79th birthday and this Father’s Day!
I pray we can all make an effort to care for those important relationships that take more work to maintain but have such great value. This writing was not out of guilt or hard memory, on the contrary, it was spawned out of the lovely memories I have of my Mom and Dad and the other friends and family who have shown me such great love and care over the years… it’s a reminder for me to continue to make the extra effort to connect and remain connected.
So… all of that said, Happy Father’s Day.

Do have a great week, make time to connect with those significant relationships in your life and enjoy the read below!

Tim

PS… I’m not responsible for the story below, I just found it very touching. It’s what inspired me to write the preface above.

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After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my MOTHER, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally. That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked.

My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news. “I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.” She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s. “I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. “It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said. “Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded. During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home. “Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her. Sometime later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.”

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: “I LOVE YOU” and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till “some other time.”

Pastors… who are they really?

Christianity is a bumpy ride at best… if anyone says differently, they’re not being honest or they’re not living life! I don’t care who you are, life can definitely be hard (even when it seems to be going well). Choosing to follow Jesus is not a promise of sugar cane lollipops and clean sheets! Following Christ is a demanding choice that brings with it the promise of a healthier life if we choose to follow the example that Jesus taught and what God promises.

I’ve been more challenged in my latter adult life than at any other time, because I choose to follow Christ! I choose to make the hard choices I do to help me live the best life I can. I can’t say I get it right all of the time or even most of the time for that matter, but it’s incredible to know the difference because it means I have a path to follow and a guide to help show the way. It gives me hope!

God does want not tell us how to live our lives in terms of what we choose to do when buying a house, what we want for a career, where we want to live or what colour to paint the bathroom. I do believe though, that He hopes we’ll share or offer our choices to Him and ask for His guidance and wisdom. I know there are probably some people who just read that who may in part disagree with me. That’s completely OK… that’s between you and God to wrestle with. I’ll continue to engage God and wrestle with that stuff too.

I suppose this is where our Pastors come into the picture. What a huge responsibility they have. They have to be available for questions or thoughts like I just mentioned. They also have to be there for us as we struggle through our challenges, losses and triumphs. They’re an amazing group of people wouldn’t you agree? They choose to be an earthly guide to us as they present the Word or Message of God. They do this not just every Sunday, but every day! Every single day, our Pastors are on the spot because they must lead lives of example; the example that Jesus left for all of us to follow. That is an awesome responsibility! Not only must our Pastors lead lives of example, but their husbands or wives also share and present a similar example. On top of that, they must try to live out in their own lives the same advice they offer us. Talk about a hard road to walk!

While they engage in this life of service, they knowingly choose to be held by God to a higher standard! They are held accountable because they have chosen to publicly accept the responsibility for leading His people in a life committed to following Jesus Christ! WOW! I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a pretty incredible responsibility to accept! To add even more responsibility, they must do what I just described with absolute grace and humility! When you think about it, it’s a pretty incredible life choice to make!

I hope by now you’re beginning to see my point. Our Pastors are pretty incredible people who have taken on an awesome responsibility! It’s been my privilege to make and maintain deeply bonded friendships with nearly all of the Pastors and families who have come into my life! I’m getting a little choked up thinking about it actually! Some of the very best friends I’ve ever had are Pastors! If you’ve known me for most of my life, you’d quickly realize how bizarre and unusual that sounds! I spent the 80% of my life outside of any form of Church or organized religion. I still do not consider myself a religious person, but I am definitely a deeply committed man of faith and follower of Jesus Christ! I’ve been a follower walking in grace for nearly 30 years, but I’ve not been involved in a church or with any pastors for the majority of it. In fact, it’s only in the last 10 years of my life where I’ve really become closely connected with any church or pastors. There’s a long story to my testimony and maybe one day, I’ll write about it, but this is about pastors and so I’ll continue to focus my thoughts on them. To do that though, I’ll have to share a little bit of what I’ve seen through my friendships with them.

Probably the most significant thing I’ve notice is THAT THEY’RE PEOPLE TOO! They experience the same struggles and trials in life that we do. They have to pay bills, maintain mortgages, raise children, buy food, face trials and cry tears like the rest of us do. When it comes to experiencing all that life can bring, they are no less subject to the trials of life than we are! I won’t share specifics about what I’ve seen, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen is no less challenging than anything I’ve faced in my lifetime.

When our pastors have trouble with their children, who can they turn to? Of course, they can and will turn to God, but it’s also nice and real to need a certain amount of human support too. They’re there for us when we need them… are we just as available to them when they need us? When their kids or family get sick, when they maybe having a marital or relational problem or when they’re struggling in their faith just like we do, who here on Earth can they turn to?

So far, I’ve only focused on the stuff life can bring their way, but what about the stuff that really doesn’t belong to them like our expectations of them? Do we consider that they have lives and trials just like we have when we say we need them? Are we aware of the difficult decisions they must make like whether or not to help someone financially? They have to make financial decisions every single day with funds entrusted to them by their congregation and by God! They must discern whether someone is truly in need or is fabricating a story just to get a hand out. They choose to help guide our children, teens and young adults and they have to deal with our expectations of how they’re to do that too.

Who do they turn to when they have troubles within their own pastoral community? Managing a staff of church employees and pastoral staff is no different than managing regular employees because they’re all regular people, but who can they talk to about it. Peer review and experience are important resources to lean on when making business and staffing decisions and they exist beyond the church. Are we available without judgment and in confidence?

Who do they turn to when they’re struggling with a problem themselves? What if they need someone who isn’t in the pastoral community to listen to them because they need someone who has shared the same experience? What if they need to turn to you for help, would you be ready or willing? I don’t necessarily want to talk with my girlfriend about everything. I may be struggling in a relationship issue with her and I need to hear another perspective before I try to discuss it with her. I’m not saying that we should air our laundry publicly, but sometimes, it’s helpful to say what you’re thinking to someone else and have them reflect back to you what they heard you say. Maybe the issue is all me and I need a checkup from the neck up. Our pastors needs are no different.

I think we have an conception or understanding that our Pastors are infinitely wise, their lives are largely without trouble or trial and that they probably don’t need us. Well, guess again! They’re people just like us and they need the same love and grace we do! They’re no less human and therefore no less prone to the trials or temptations in life that we are.

I’ve seen in a few cases where people live their faith lives vicariously through their pastor. They “do what they do” and happily accept the grace they receive from their pastor or friends, but are very quick to judge a pastor when they fall in the same things they’re guilty of because their expectation is that their pastor is beyond sin! Well… I’d rather have a sinful, repentant and real pastor than a fake, holier than thou pastor any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

I happened to be at an event recently where my pastor and his wife wept openly while they watched their son admit to a part of his life he’d been struggling with. It was not easy for their son to admit to and it was no easier for my friends to watch their son make his obviously honest and sincere testimony! What I can tell you is this… they were not crying because they felt shame or guilt because of what their son was publicly offering in his testimony. They were weeping tears of joy because their child had claimed freedom from the dominion of pain they’d been labouring under and the guilt and shame of that past. What was my response? I cried with them, held them and supported them too because they’re my friends and I love them!

Pastors have kids who have to go through the same teenage years that ours do… those waters can be shark infested at the best of times and it’s no different for them. They have illness, financial challenge, need for retirement and other challenges to face within their own families and lives just like we do. They do all of that and still listen to our burdens and suffering because let’s face it, most of the time we need their counsel when things aren’t going too well in our lives. We usually need them when we have a difficult challenge or question we’re facing and we want or need their time to work through that stuff. They share with us as we watch our kids being born and they weep with us when we lay our loved ones to rest. All the while, they’re facing the same stuff in their own lives!

I think we should have a national “love your pastor” day because they definitely deserve our love and respect! One day seems too little considering they give back to and serve us nearly every day. Think about that… they’re living a pastoral life every day of their life. Here’s a challenge from me to you. Make a day in your own life to honour or thank your pastor… just as they do for you each and every day of theirs.

I have to say that I’m overwhelmed when I think of all of the pastors who’ve been giving, loving and kind to me. They’ve sacrificed their time when I’ve needed them. They’ve been there to help guide me through very difficult moments in life and in my faith. God has richly blessed me by allowing me to become closely connected with my pastors! They are among the wisest and most gracious people I’ve ever met. Not because they bear the title pastor, but because they choose to be kind, gracious, humble, truthful and above all, human!

I’m writing this today because I want to honour the pastors who’ve always been there for me and who continue to remain willing to be there for me. Beyond that, they choose to call me friend and share friendship and life with me! What a blessing they are. I’ve been told that no matter where I am or what time of the day it may be, I’m always welcome to call… not because I’m anyone special, but because they truly love me, care for me and want the very best for me!

What an amazing blessing our pastors are to us each and every day… let’s all take time to give them a hug and tell them that we not only we appreciate what they do for us, but why! Tell your pastor that you love them if you do and how they’ve helped you or helped shape your life. Worshiping God is about more than music. Worshiping God is about recognizing and rejoicing in his blessing and provision for us. Celebrating your pastors and their families with love and acknowledgment of their life choice is God honouring worship too, not to mention, it’s just kind appreciation for all of the love and sacrifice we receive from them every day.

Larry, Don, Arden, Mike, Sara, Heather, BrianD, BrianT, Ed, Lynda, Doug, TimB, TimD, Scott, Rick, Anthony, Nate and any that I’ve missed; to you and your families, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all of the love, care, compassion and patience you’ve shared with me over the years. Thank you for loving me enough to kick my butt when I’ve needed it. Thank you for always being willing to ask the hard questions and then walk through them with me. Thank you for trusting me with your confidence when you’ve needed my friendship and thank you especially for always being real people! You’re a light unto my path and my life would not be the same without your loving friendship!

Always and with love,
Tim

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