Disturbing the comfortable & comforting the disturbed.

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

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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The One Certainty for All Uncertainty

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 4 minute read

The US election results. The war with ISIS and terror. Helplessly watching the disaster in Syria. Global insecurity. Closer to home? My kids. My marriage. My job. My finances. Feel out of control?

We in the West have this addition to certainty. We franticly scramble to ensure predictability and security in our lives. Most of us don’t like change, and all of us hate unwelcomed change. The resourced global West has been built on the value of being in control of our own lives; the result is a life distanced from God. The reality is we would rather In sha have certainty than intimacy with God.

People from non-Western nations have an advantage over us Western control freaks. In sha allah is Arabic for “if God wills”. Mañana is Spanish for “tomorrow or later,” referring to a tolerance for the uncertainty of today. Various Eastern faiths believe in karma: what goes around, comes around. All in recognition that we are never really in control of our lives. There is always something beyond our control that might affect the outcomes I desire. And that is incredibly biblical.

In a section on the topic of drawing close to God, James writes this:

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Top Ten

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

I’ve consumed my fair share of leadership books, and there are many. So many…that we can easily get lost in the sea of what to spend hours of our precious time reading. If we are going to make that kind of a time investment, where should we spend it?

For what it’s worth, these are my top 10 in no particular order.

  1. The Take of Three Kings – by Gene Edwards
  2. Living Close to God – also by Gene Edwards
  3. The Bible – by God
  4. Leading Leaders – by Jeswald W. Salacuse
  5. Start with Why – by Simon Sinek
  6. Difficult Conversations – by Stone, Patton & Heen
  7. Servant Empowered Leadership – by Don Page
  8. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Timothy Keller
  9. Leading Change – by John P. Kotter
  10. The Emotionally Healthy Leader – by Peter Scazzero

There are many more that AMLOST made the cut, but if I could keep only 10 books for the rest of my life, in order to lead well, I’d pick these.

My purpose for writing this wasn’t to promote books. If leaders aren’t healthy, neither will their organizations, families or businesses. Whatever you do, continue to put yourselves in places of feeding.

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If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

I was struck recently by the satirical and cynical nature of our society and how the Church has swallowed this hook in many ways. It’s almost impossible to live in a culture and not wear it’s clothes. 

I wonder why it is that we so quickly can become critical or judgmental of other people? Next time you are in a conversation with someone, about someone else, try and notice the tone or content of your words. How much of the conversation is praise about other people instead of what you don’t like about them?

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”  

Jiddu Krishnamuriti 

We often seem to be drawn to focus on other people’s imperfections, frustrated that they don’t live up to my expectations. There can be so many great things about someone, but we have to find and fixate on a weakness of theirs? Seriously?... Why do we do that? Why do we find it more satisfying to talk about people's failures rather than the great things about them?

Could it be that we make people feel or sound small so that might I feel bigger about myself?

Do you have a hard time when other people are praised? Do you feel the need to share something negative, or “equalizing”, about them to somehow “balance” a perspective? “WELL…(you think, or say)….you don’t know what I know about them!"

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Overdone Strengths

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

One of the most profoundly freeing truths to understand about relationships is that our weaknesses are simply our strengths overdone and on display. When people are inconveniently not like me, they can become really frustrating. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to see everyone through my filter and value system; and it takes real discipline not to judge people using my values as the most valuable.

We all like to function in our areas of strength. We naturally behave, or live in ways where people affirm our worth. The problem comes when we don’t know how to control our strengths. Our greatest strengths, taken to extremes, become our biggest weaknesses. That’s why it hurts so much when we receive criticism from someone who isn’t like us. They are usually attacking the areas in our lives we feel particularly good about. Maybe some examples might help:

People who are good at details are often judged as “anal.”
People who are sensitive are often judged as unstable.
People who are private and introverted are often judged as disinterested.
People who are sociable are often judged as attention seeking.
People who are confident are often judged as arrogant.
People who are soft and amiable are often judged as flakey.  
And the list goes on...

All of these are our strengths, the gifts God has given us. But, our very strengths—overdone—become our weaknesses and opportunities for conflict. So how do we respond?

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Movements, Organizations, or Institutions?

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

We’ve always done it that way.

Saying “no” until we have a good reason to say yes.

A preoccupation with policies.

Overly-managed and under-led.

Most people have forgotten about the “why”?

Characterized by bureaucracy and control.

If these statements describe your organization’s default in decision making…you might be leading an institution not a movement. Every organization will naturally lean toward institutionalism unless you can hold onto the values that were present when you started.

It’s a natural lifecycle for every organization that gets past infancy and onto maturity. Vision leaks, inspiration wanes, and people feel like “it’s just a job”. At the start, everyone is focused on why the organization exists and the problem it exists to address. There is an optimism and a motivation that is larger than the start-up obstacles we face. People are captured by the ideal of a different future. And that ideal is worthy of sacrifice, scarcity, hard work and straightforward hardheadedness.

For all of the organization's that are skilled…or last beyond infancy, a danger awaits. It’s a subtle change that can even appear healthy. Maturity can easily transform into indifference. We start to risk less and protect more. We pat ourselves on the back and begin to coast for a moment. And very subtly our maturity becomes passionless.

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Never Enough

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

Are you ever overwhelmed by the unrelenting and exhausting feeling that it’s never enough?

And by “it," I mean everything. It seems that in almost every area of our lives, I need to be doing more of something. The list feels endless. 

I should exercise more. I need to get to those unfinished projects in the house. I should spend more time with the kids. I should be spending more time with my spouse. I should visit my grandparents more. I really should be connecting with extended family more. I should take baking to the neighbors. I should read that book that my friend recommended to me last year. I should get together with those friends who are hurting. I should really go to the hospital to visit my uncle. I should be making more money. I should call that person back and respond to a bunch of emails. We should have those friends over.

Then you add the spiritual to the list and the weight of guilt can be even more heavy.

I should pray more. I should give more. I should be reading my bible more. I should sign up to serve in a program. I should go to church more. I should be in a small group. I should be doing more outreach. I should share my faith more. 

Our society honors people who are busy. We value those who can do more. We measure people by their accomplishments and we motivate with guilt and obligation.

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Does God exist for you?

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

Does God exist for you or do you exist for Him?

I don’t think there is a more critical question for us to answer. The way you answer orients the direction of your life and also sets foundational expectations upon which you will evaluate the quality of your life. Our secular culture has convinced us that our life is only about us, and that happiness comes from a greater focus on self, which has actually led us to greater emptiness.

Our self-obsessed western culture has dramatically affected how we answer the question. We think the world revolves around us. Individual rights have become the paramount value in our society. The default purpose of life is my happiness and my comfort…and nothing should get in the way of that.

And, even worse, spiritual people carry that same value into our spirituality. We think and act and pray like it’s God’s job to exist for our own wellbeing. He exists to make my life better, less painful, and more comfortable.

We treat the God of the universe like He is our personal assistant.

We think the best way to represent God is when our lives are healthy, prosperous and all-together. Not only is this incredibly unbiblical…it’s an insult to the millions of God’s people around the world who suffer daily and who still choose to constantly worship Him.

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Freedom From Religion

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

I desperately want to be freed from religion. I grew up religious; I trained for a religious career; I’ve traveled and been exposed to most of the world’s major religions. I’m done.

I have never been more finished with religion than I am today, and I have never been more in love with Christ either. I like how Paul said it. “I consider all my religious background as animal poop compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus.”

Phil 3, Paraphrase

By religion…I am referring to any system of belief that compels people to please a deity with rules, rituals, systems, and moral behavior. Religion is all concerned with the way we behave. It is rooted in the concept that God is good, we are not, and we need to act better. Religion is like a heavy backpack we wear that constantly reminds us we are not good enough, and we never do enough. And, it seems the more devoutly religious we are, the more we need to obsess on what we should be doing less of and more of.

Jesus came to show us the futility of religion and to free people from it. He came to end a religion that had become behavior focused. So many think that Christianity, or most religions, is about a behavior improvement process. The truth is that, because of grace, God actually changes our very nature. Grace and mercy don't mean that God tolerates our sin, it means that God completely removes our sin: past, present, and future.

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