Categories
Character

In The Valley

I don’t know where this idea came from that Christians, because of their relationship with Christ shouldn’t experience life just as everyone else does. The perceived outside pressure that we should live in a state of continuous joy and peace can feel dehumanizing. The reality is that being a Christian doesn’t make us less human, in my own personal experience it made me more human and has made me approach life in a vulnerable way.

Before you read the rest of the blog I want to quote Psalm 23. During hard times in life, feelings can overshadow what we know to be true.

” The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff —they comfort me.” HCSB 2011 version.

Moving to a foreign country makes one rethink and re-evaluate many things. In Canada they celebrate Thanksgiving today. I am thankful for many things, yet a day like today highlights many things we so often take for granted. History, with places and people, social standing accumulated over time, family and friends, acquired taste, be it food or social interaction.

A day like today is complex, for me it highlights that my small family here in Canada is healthy and our basic needs are covered, at the same time it screams out the absence of what is now missing. As I reminisce about what was just a few years ago and the hole that has been left, never to be filled, pulls at my character violently, the battle between the old and the new. This month I celebrate four years sober, the first time I can claim that since I was thirteen. As thankful as I am for this time, the disconnect between who I was and who I am today isn’t a big chasm, instead it feels I could walk into myself right around the corner and become him again. The sad thing is, sometimes I want to become that person again. To love and being loved, caring and having people care, grace for myself and others is a scary place.

Today I should be grateful and give thanks. That’s the official post a pastor should write. I guess I’m not a good pastor. I can barely shepherd my own life, what qualifies me to pastor others? The pressure of publicly upholding a certain image is not perceived but very real as we have seen with suicides amongst pastors this year. One by one the brave will fall, the price paid for isolation is too high. Pastors are not superhuman people, the brave face and the smile can at times cover up a disintegrating reality.

Why am I honest today? What catapulted me, a person who is usually silent on social media to “overshare”? This is the day that I feel like heaven has gone away. I know I’m loved by my Maker and by multiple people, but that knowledge doesn’t always translate accurately into bliss and happiness when the humanity of past mistakes and lost relationships looks you in the mirror.

Time that can never be recovered or fixed, it’s easy to talk about the hope of a new day outwardly, yet the past is always just there, either as fuel for progression or regression. Pictures may fade but what they represent nobody can ever take away. There will be no more long goodbyes with so many people that used to be crucial characters in my life, it’s a fine line between thankfulness that they were in my life and bitterness that they are now gone.

I wish sometimes I wasn’t me but someone much better, a better son, a better father, a better friend. I’m grateful that I still have today to improve, but I so wish that you were here to see it and journey with me as I progress towards these things. I feel like I have no more tears to cry because that thin line is escaping me and all I feel is slowly becoming empty. At times like these, it’s easy to morph into what was, it’s easy to accept the lie that no progress has been made and I’m only taking up space in this life.

For over twenty years I prayed and witnessed the suffering around me. I thought we would come out on top as brothers in arms. I always said, my brother ain’t heavy, we will both break these generational bonds of addiction but now I soldier on alone without you. Now it’s almost a year since you left, I still haven’t dealt with it, my younger brother, the one who was bullied for years and who celebrated his birthday more than once by inviting his “friends,” but nobody showed up. Now, as I’m older and have kids, your reality breaks my heart. I wish I would have been the big brother you needed, I wasn’t.

Armann Jakob, the great man I’m named after died in 2012. I will never measure up I feel, yet you loved me no matter what. You proved to me that redemption is real, that to never give up isn’t just a slogan but something you lived out. A big part of why I haven’t succumbed is because you overcame so much more than I ever have, how can I ever give up when you never did?

Dad, you broke my heart by leaving me in this utter mess of a family. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be you, the coolest hippie bass player, hardworking, well respected by everyone, accomplished in your profession. You never once lost your temper, which is a miracle in our family. If there was a rock in my life, you were it. As the cancer ate you away in 2015, I didn’t understand, how can you be leaving as I’m trying to become a new and improved man. I have only fond memories of you, your laughter, how you loved me at times when nobody should have loved me. I could call you at anytime and you would answer the phone. I just wish I could call you today and get your perspective, just one more laughter.

This list could be much longer … everyone must die but on days like this one, I wish we could all sit at the same table and share stories. Beside the people that have left there are so many that are still alive but are far away from me. My sister, who is the kindest and most selfless person I know, my grandmother who always makes me smile. She is the hallmark of tenacity, she is a fighter, a fighter for her family and friends. A prayer warrior that knows God in ways I hope I will one day to. Sverrir Gaukur who my brother was named after, someone who has fought his entire life, life hasn’t been easy for him but that hasn’t stopped him from being an immense blessing for me and our family.

As we partake in Thanksgiving today, let’s not fake it, if we feel raw, tired, lost or hurt, then it’s okay. If we feel awesome, even better. I’m grateful that I’m still around for my family and that the hope of a new day isn’t beyond my grasp.

Categories
Character

Love?

As Christians we are called to a lofty standard. We are supposed to love our enemies (Matt 5:44), our neighbours (Mark 12:30-31), disciples should be known by the love they have for one another (John 13:34)… It really is a whole lotta love smorgasbord. Anyways, for a person like me, who wasn’t naturally in the wheelhouse of overwhelmingly positive feelings towards my fellow human beings, I found at times this concept beyond common sense and contrary to every fiber within me.

Yes, being a pastor, I wouldn’t say this was to my advantage. 🙂 I can’t qualify this statement with Biblical data to support it but I believe God has a sense of humour and that’s why through His grace He has allowed me to work for Him. At first I really didn’t want to have love for people that were outside my family/friends circle, at the same time I wanted to follow what I read in scripture. So I slowly started trying it, I really incorporated “fake it till you make it,” a little smile there, small talk with people, in a sense I was faking it, as awful as that might sound. I had no other choice, what was the alternative, not try? Never.

What happened surprised me, as time passed my default viewpoint started to shift. When someone wronged me or hurt me, I didn’t default to anger or some other knee jerk reaction. I tried to put myself in their shoes and I wanted to respond in a way that I would like other people to respond to me when I’m not having my finest hour (Luke 6:31). Yes, I’m a work in progress as we all are. I do wonder how this process works though. When we accept Christ into our lives and start this journey of sanctification, we are slowly changed into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Some slower than others (me) haha, but as I started to pray more, read more scripture, I started to change, as if my character, my essence was taking baby steps towards something better, something foreign. My old identity that had given me this fake sense of security was being stripped away and was on full display for my eyes only.

Then I wasn’t faking it anymore.

It started with “fake it till you make it.” I did it out of obedience, not because I felt like it. I do think God honoured that because I sincerely wanted to change and grow in Him. The point is, if we truly want to grow in Christlikeness we should pay more attention to what the Bible says about our interaction with one another and try our best to fulfill what scripture asks of us.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22

Some days it’s hard to follow what the Bible commands. When I fail, I get back up and try again. We all fail, that’s why it’s so important to have a solid community around us that can help and support as we run this race corporately.

Some days you fall hard, other days are glorious, but getting good at something is all about repetition.
Categories
Character

Banana man

A friend sent me a link to a good documentary called The Fool. What I liked about it was observing how God can use things we perceive as failure and mistakes work towards spreading the gospel message and personal growth. If you watch the movie, you see that on more than one occasion Ray could have given up and said it’s too hard. The circumstance he found himself in would make most of us at least ask the question, God, should I be doing something else? Did I fail? We need to engage in self analysis but there is a fine line between self analysis and self loathing. Maybe it’s a big wide line for other people but often what started as “I could stand to lose a few pounds” turns into “I’m a glutton that has no self control and I’m clearly obese, hence why even try, I suck!”

Clearly some people aren’t like me, which is good, but I think it’s a slippery slope for many. I believe God illuminates certain areas of our life that need work, when that illumination happens, we have the power to choose how we react. Do we flip the illumination that was meant for good into self loathing and apathy? Can we look at our past and see a pattern concerning whatever the issue might be? Do we often or always react in the same manner when our spouse or friend brings up a certain issue with us? Do we get defensive and justify our reaction and our choices? At times that might be warranted but I can only share from my experience and I’m pretty sure that over 90% of the time people spoke the truth to me. The delivery of that truth might have been lacking, often I dismissed the truth in the message because it was delivered with anger, bitterness, or some other concoction of feelings.

When we speak to others, our statements might be truthful, yet truth can be cloaked underneath layers of animosity and therefore have a reverse effect and perhaps be an impetus for future behaviour that’s contrary to the change we want to see.

If we rewind back to the beginning of this post, faith stretching seasons are often just that, seasons that Christ uses to refine, teach, mould and sometimes we are broken so He can rebuild us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (or sound judgement). 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB).