Blog

Disturbing the comfortable & comforting the disturbed.

Staff thoughts and life lessons about poverty, injustice, leadership, religion and other social issues in the world today.

Observations from Haiti

Thoughts by Daniel Mack – 4 minute read

If you’ve ever done any sort of international relief work, you know that a couple of things happen when you get home:

  1. Some people want to know everything about your trip and, 
  2. the other people just can’t wait for you to shut up about it.

Those expectations, either way, will affect how you are processing your experience. And, I would think, most people are unprepared to give an adequate account—short or long—the moment they step off the plane.

That brings me to my last experience. It’s been about a week since I returned from Haiti and I think I’m ready to share a few observations from my time there. And, like I said, these thoughts are still under development, subject to change, and ultimately unable to describe the totality of what God is doing there, or even just what He is doing through me.

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The More, The Less

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

  • The more you lead people, the less you will have to manage them.
  • The more you influence people, the less you will have to try and control them.
  • The more you inspire people, the less you will have to motivate them.
  • The more you know what God thinks of you, the less you will care about what others do.
  • The more you focus on relationship, the less you will have to focus on behavior.
  • The more you collaborate with people, the less you will focus on securing agreement.
  • The more you listen to people, the less you will have to talk.
  • The more you can control your emotions, the less you will have to control people’s actions. 

Most people focus on the lesser of these. It is easy to manage, control, motivate, focus on people’s opinions and behavior. But the more you focus on the greater of these, the more you will experience relationships God intended. 

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10 Ways to Dishearten People… and the Reasons It’s Important We Do

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

  1. Make someone feel worse for something they already feel bad about. Usually people know when they screw up, but in case they don't, make that your job.
  2. Always find the negative in every situation. This will effectively cause people to not want to talk to you about things they are excited about.
  3. Make someone feel small, so you can feel big. When you're insecure, this will help you feel better about yourself.
  4. Always look for the opportunity to be able to say, “I told you so”. This will help you appear smarter than you really are.
  5. Burst people's bubbles with “welcome to the real world”-type comments. This will help you feel better about your own disappointments.
  6. Never encourage people or affirm their strengths. You're doing them a favour by making sure they never become proud.
  7. Don't acknowledge or validate people's disappointment or pain. You're doing them a favour by helping them not wallow in it.
  8. Default to “no” unless you have good reasons to say “yes”. Life is usually too easy for some people, so we're really helping them by making it a bit harder.
  9. Point out other people’s mistakes or imperfections. This is a really effective way to motivate people to improve… and it will help you feel better about yourself.

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Western Christian Cultural Entitlement

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

For those who think we should send missionaries to Syria and not have Syrians in Canada or the … isn’t that hypocrisy?

For a couple of decades now, Christians in the West have been decrying the de-Christianizing of our culture. Prayer in school, handing out the Gideon's bible, the change from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays was just the start. Those issues now seem like child's play. 

Now we deal with issues of gender orientation, immigration, and home-grown terrorism. While we once took pride in the pluralism and tolerance of our nation, there is a constant heap of faith-based posts and shares lamenting how much we have strayed from our Christian roots. 

While it might sound mission-like, is taking our country back to its "Christian roots" really what God wants for us? What if our pluralism and the hostility to all things Christian was exactly what God wants for Christians?

The social media commentary I read, even from Christian leaders, doesn't sound at all missional. It sounds like, protectionism, fear of other faiths, loss of control… and even racism. It actually sounds more like a white European entitled idea that this country should be full of people like me. 

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“What You Do with What you know” (Lillianna’s Song)

Thoughts by Charlene Stinson – 2 minute read

 “…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”

Isaiah 58:10

She was just one face in an endless sea of faces that all speak the same story. I met her quite accidentally. She had just arrived at a small orphan home in Africa; bruised, abused, and damaged, an orphan whose life had been counted as worthless. Afraid, distant and detached—something about the look in her eyes stuck to me. Her picture never left my mind, and Lillianna never left my heart. Her story inspired a bold venture to make a difference for Lillianna and the children of the Mukumu Children’s Home in Kakamega, Kenya. Two teams and more than 30 people raised more than $250,000 and took the trip to Kenya - building, planting, painting, and sharing in the lives of this child and 32 others like her. We witnessed the transforming power of love in action. The truth is, it really doesn’t take much to change someone’s world—just a decision to do something with the knowledge that you have.

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Does the Bible Support Capitalism or Socialism?

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

In short, yes!

It is unfortunate, but normal, that we look for scripture to validate our previously held convictions. I have read lots of proof texting by proponents of free market capitalism to convincingly support all of the values and behaviors of market-driven economics. But, I always wonder (mostly to myself until now), are capitalists using scripture to justify consumerism and materialism? I have also read lots of proof texting by proponents of socialism to convincingly support the values and behaviors of compassion and social responsibly. And I equally wonder to myself, are socialists using scripture to justify entitlement and avoid personal responsibility?

I’m really tired of the conservative/liberal debate and the camps built around each one. Our current political context constantly pits one against the other. I am even more tired of Christians who say that to be one or the other is more “Biblical.” I googled, “the Bible and Capitalism” as well as “the Bible and Socialism,” and was immediately directed to dozens of passages that seem to support each one. I read many of them and came to the same conclusion I started with. The Bible teaches both—prescriptive and descriptive.

The Bible teaches us to work hard and take personal responsibility for our actions and for our families. It teaches us not to be lazy and to enjoy the work of our hands. The Bible doesn’t teach that wealth is wrong, but that the love of it is.

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Stop Trying to Be Close to God!

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 5 minute read

In our experiential and consumer-based culture, we have placed way too much stock in the emotional component of our faith. Think about how you evaluate the quality of your spiritual walk. How much does experience and emotion play into your evaluation?

  • “I haven’t felt close to God for a while.”
  • “God hasn’t answered my prayers.”
  • “God has felt distant lately.”
  • “I read my bible, go to church, and try to pray, but I don’t feel any different.”
  • “My spiritual life is dry.”

All of these types of evaluations are based on our efforts to “be close.” It’s as if contemporary evangelical spirituality is all about doing our part to find God’s presence and proximity. It’s as if He is allusively waiting for us to find the formula that activates His closeness in our lives. What a pile of unnecessary and unbiblical work. In my passion to experience God’s presence, I grew up looking more for an experience instead of Himself.

Beyond spiritual exhaustion, this faulty thinking also makes us vulnerable based on our circumstances of life. If God’s presence in our life is based on experience, what happens when the normal storms of life knock us around? If life is hard, then God must not care or even exist.

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Reverse Inequality

Thoughts by Daniel Mack – 3 minute read

Sometimes I read the Bible and I think, “How is that even possible?!?”

I find myself in the middle of a conversation with God and I actually think I have the right to question His thought process. Sometimes it only takes Him a line to set a standard so high that it sounds ridiculous. Take this one from Philippians for example: 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Do nothing, nothing from a position of ambition or conceit: “Sure God, that sounds easy enough.” When you put it in the context of our culture, it only increases the demand on our already fallen nature. North America thrives on self-centredness. It gets tied up in a bow and presented to us as a never-ending meal of flashing lights. If you want to be someone, be someone successful, be someone great.

Did you know? 

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The Deserving Poor

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 4 minute read

Transparently… when I think about times I have responded to the poor… I have played a little game in my mind. Whether it’s been someone down the street, or on the other side of the planet, I put that person in crisis through my little self-righteous test.

Like most of us, I’ve been confronted by the homeless addict saying they are looking for food when they are more likely looking for a hit. I’ve also been confronted by the most extreme poverty and suffering on the planet. I’m embarrassed to say there are times I have put people in need, and my response, in two categories: The deserving poor and the undeserving poor.

If it’s clear to me that someone is undeserving of their poverty and suffering, I find it so easy to find grace and respond. I can ooze empathy in those situations because I can imagine how I might feel if I suddenly found myself in that place of vulnerability and need. Such compassion is easy to muster. It’s hardly even a thought. It’s instinctual and almost automatic. There is rarely a decision to make, and almost anyone would respond. Responding to the undeserving poor is so incredibly fulfilling.

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Shame and Religion's Role

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 4 minute read

Guilt is, “I did something bad;" shame is, “I am bad;” a devastating distinction if we don’t know the difference.

I can’t talk about shame without acknowledging the work of Dr. Brene Brown. She has brought a message of hope and healing with her research about shame and I’d more than suggest you read whatever she writes. Anyone who influences anyone should be keenly aware of what shame is and when we do it, even inadvertently.

What kicks me in the gut, as a Christian Leader, is the role that religion plays in shaming people. The very force that should give life, often kills someone's soul.

Someone I know well was removed from their lifelong Christian community after some bad choices. The result was devastating. This person fully admitted guilt and took responsibility. Guilt was a good motivator to change behavior. However, from a spiritually-motivated focus on behaviour, the “consequence” was rejection. The message was, “I am acceptable if I do good…and I am rejected if I do bad.” That’s the difference between I did something bad (guilt) and I am bad (shame).  

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