Practical Fasting

Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash

With all that is going on in the world, I think it’s fair to ask what impact fasting can have. With the loss of life and ongoing persecution happening in Ukraine, it feels like futility. But we should persevere in our fasting and doing good. As the verse says, “do not weary in doing good”.

Every time we face a new world crisis, I feel powerless. And perhaps that is part of the grand plan. We recognize that we cannot control world events, or even the events that directly impact us. Not one of us knows how many breaths we have left. Yet we are required to continue to do good.

So we fast and pray and do what we can. It seems to have no impact, but a thousand drops of water compounded will make an ocean, so keep at it!

How do we fast?

In that light, I wanted to talk about fasting itself. I’ve come to recognize that the act of fasting also puts a strain on us as individuals. I joke about my youngest child that she is often “hangry”. Fasting is like a guaranteed one way ticket to hanger. We are guaranteed to be hangry.

The hard part is that it feels justified. Hey, I chose not to eat today because of my desire to impact the world, so everyone ought to acknowledge that. But the key is to understand that fasting is an act of service – it is about empathizing with the pain of another human being. So it is important that we do not use fasting as a license to allow ourselves greater leeway, but to intentionally be even more service oriented in this day.

The main thing..

So my friends, as we fast, we also pray. As we fast, we also serve. As we fast, we also consider those that are impacted around the world today. The focus is not on us, it is on the “other”, the wounded, the weary, the burdened.

So pray together with me today for Ukraine, for all those affected. Let’s focus less on what we need, what we deserve, and more on the other. And lest you ask, what can we do? We hear of refugees of this war. Let me remind you that refugees will be resettled around us. Reach out and understand how you can directly have an impact on those being resettled here.

You can do something! You CAN have an impact.

The future of the Ethnic church

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

It’s been a while since our last blog post. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been meditating on the state of the ethnic church. Although top of my mind is my own church community, I recognize that this is true of many of the ethnic churches we have been a part of over my many years. There is even an aspect to this that applies to traditional churches more broadly. Today, let’s dive into this (warning, it’s going to take some time and words).

The beginning

Let me paint a word picture. At some time in the past there was a first large wave of immigration of one particular ethnicity (e.g. Indians in the 70s and 80s), who arrived here while in their early 20s from impoverished countries, to build a better life. They brought their faith with them, or perhaps encountered faith in Christ on these shores. Either way, they established ethnic churches who mirrored their own experiences back in their home countries. As with the Israelites in Babylon, they planted fields (figuratively speaking), they built houses, their sons and daughters married in this land. However, they didn’t seek the welfare of the cities they were planted in. Instead, they maintained a separation from the culture of the land, dictated partly by a different language (Malayalam), different dress and food, different customs (sometimes mixing the religious observances of their home countries), and partly by their affiliation to their homeland. Even missions and charitable activities involved sending resources back to their homelands. They supported their families back home, and helped them emigrate to the US.

The middle

Over time, they had children, these children grew, and assimilated into the new culture. These sons and daughters spoke English, helped translate for their parents and acted as caretakers in many ways. They are a generation that struggles with their identity, the product of two very different and strong cultures while not belonging fully to either. Too ethnic (Indian) for the American culture, while being too American for their home culture. But this also extends into their experience of church. Their ethnic churches steeped in the culture of their homelands is uncomfortable for them, requiring they be ethnic on Sundays, while being American on the weekdays. They often grew up with a semblance of head knowledge of Christ, sitting through prayer meetings and Sunday school. They often found true faith on their own, away from their homes where they truly encountered Christ. Those that do are often passionate about their faith.

More of the middle

This second generation was perpetually seen as “youth”, even as some approached the age their fathers were, when they first came to the country and established churches and built families. In the eyes of the elders, this generation would always be the “youth”. As a result, some of this generation stepped away entirely from the faith once they left home for college and work life. Some moved to American churches. Those that pursued their calling as pastors and ministers were not welcomed back into their home church culture because they were often seen as bringing ideas that were not compatible with the culture of the ethnic church. These young ministers left the ethnic church ministry to minister in American churches. Over time, this generation started to see America as their home, and started to seek the welfare of the land, and the cities they settled in, breaking away from the homeland centric views of their parents. During this entire middle period, the church never addressed the situation, because new waves of immigration filled the pews, so it was not seen as an existential threat.

The end, or where we are now

That brings us to the present. For the reasons we noted, many of the second generation have left and most ethnic churches are graying. Many of the ethnic churches who were desiring new and bigger buildings in the 90s, are now sparsely attended, with the majority either nearing, or in, retirement. This is especially a problem for churches in areas where there is outward migration (e.g. New York, California etc). The elders of these churches are decamping for Texas and Florida. But the same will happen regardless of location.

Its not just an Indian thing!

Although I am of Indian origin, the same pattern is true of all ethnic churches I have visited. Chinese churches, Korean churches, Nigerian churches. If you are from an ethnic church, most likely some of this will resonate with you. Most of the world immigration into the US is declining from the highs in the 90s, so the ethnic churches are all seeing the reality of this issue that they’ve ignored for far too long. Age is respected in most ethnic cultures, so elders hold on to their posts for life. The passing of the torch from the older generation to the younger, simply has not happened. The “youth” service is populated mostly of folks who are between 30 and 50 years old! Even where church boards are filled the younger members, they feel beholden to the elders who can veto or circumvent any progressive ideas.

So should the ethnic church simply give up?

Is there a place for the ethnic church or is it simply a time for the ethnic church to dwindle? Isn’t it sufficient that the young people are still attending church? What does it matter if it is an American church or an ethnic church?

To a certain level, this is true. Our culture is Christ, first and foremost. I rejoice for those of our brothers and sisters who remain within the church no matter what the name of that church. However, I do still believe the ethnic church has a place.

So then, why even have an ethnic church?

There will always be a place for those that desire to worship the Lord in their own language, in their own customs of worship. The only thing I would say is that should be subordinate to the principal commission of the Big C Church.

That practically looks like a church where the principal services are in English, because we are planted in a neighborhood to reach those that we are adjacent to. We are here for a reason, and that reason is to reach souls for Christ. The ethnic language services should continue to minister to those who desire it, but we should not forget why we are Christians. Ultimately it is not for our comfort, but for FOR HIS GLORY.

God made each culture different and loves each people group in the world. I believe that alone indicates that God is glorified when we worship him in our own ways. We should constantly examine our practices to ensure we are in line with the Gospel and not glorifying any cultural element above God (e.g. bringing religious rites of our home countries religions into our own worship practices), but beyond that, God has given us freedom in worship!

So then how?

That’s a Malaysian saying I heard so often when I lived there. So then, how? I believe the ethnic church is placed here for such a time as this. Young people in Gen Z are searching for a more “authentic” worship experience. They have been jaded by the sound, fog and light machines and are authentically seeking God. Ethnic churches, however, are seen as “more authentic”, for many cultural reasons. So it is our calling to minister to these wounded, bruised souls, and show them the Jesus of the Bible.

That requires a radical rethink of the ethnic church, placing outreach to a people that may not look like, think like or sound like them. It requires allowing the second generation leaders to take their place at the helm of the church while ensuring Christ remains the head, and respecting our elders. It requires subordinating the home language services to a second service, and accepting that gracefully. This change cannot be forced on the elders or anyone else, it must be voluntary even as our own faith is voluntary.

Ok, wrap this up..

Thanks for staying with me. I’d love to connect with you and see if we can’t build bridges between ethnic churches to help each other and grow together. I believe that God has created us uniquely for a reason and a purpose, so let’s lean into that while glorifying God in all our actions.

The priority of starting right..

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

The start to 2022 (honestly I can’t even believe we are in a whole new year) has been hectic for us. We launched our business mid-December and we are starting feel like real business owners now – packaging sample boxes in our living room, turning our office into stacks of boxes, and making USPS drop off runs every day.

Story time – our launch went a little sideways. We were supposed to launch a month earlier (early Nov), but due to some food safety signoffs that got delayed, then some production issues, we ultimately got pushed to mid Dec. We had planned a trip to FL for the holidays (and that was non negotiable), so I was in the weird position of trying to figure out how to fulfill orders while on vacation.

Ultimately this led to me packing an entire suitcase of product that we took to FL with a shipping label printer and started fulfilling orders while on vacation. Not satisfied with that chaos, I was basically given feedback that required a complete ground up rewrite of my site and transition to a new website provider. All while I’m on “vacation”.

Now that we are back it feels even more manic if such a thing is possible. It is in this context that I heard Pastor Colin Smith talk about the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The overwhelming pressure of “things to do”

Specifically at minute 48, he speaks about the people keeping the Feast of Booths upon their return. Now this was when they first arrived, the wall was broken down, the city was in ruins. The Pastor speaks of the people and how they must have been overwhelmed by the number of things to do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iyrY_NDUfc&t=2884s

But before all that, and in the face of an overwhelming set of tasks, the first thing they did, was to observe the feast of booths, a unique celebration of remembrance of the wandering of the Israelite people. Also known as the festival of Tabernacles, the Jewish people remember their wandering in the wilderness and celebrate God’s provision through that time by living in tents for a week. This is to remember how the people wandered in the desert living in tents.

Slow down and recenter

It seems odd that when the work is so urgent and pressing, the people took time off to worship. Yet, time and again, research shows us the truth of the old racing axiom :

Go slow to go fast

Anonymous Racer somewhere in the mists of time

I’ve heard that variously quoted as “Slow down to speed up” etc. The core notion is that in order to be more efficient, sometimes you need to slow down and take your time. Assess, reflect and recharge.

The same is true in our work lives. Going 110% for an extended period of time will ultimately just slow you down. A lot of things in life are counter intuitive – this is one of them. The more manic we become, the more we stress, the less effective we are. This is why having a good work life balance ultimately leads to more effective organizations, and why happy employees lead to better business outcomes.

Slow down this week

So we as a family have decided to dedicate some time at the beginning of this year, to fast and pray over some specific requests. In the face of all that needs to be done, it is even more critical that we recenter our lives, breathe, sink deeply into the love of God, and start the year re-energized. “In the face of all that is to be done, take time out to worship”.

I’d like to leave you with this song – its called “Wait on You” by Maverick City. It just resonates with me as I start this year.

And remember friends, go slow to go fast!

Goodbye 2021, What’s the plan for 2022?

As we bring 2021 to a close, thank you for joining us on this journey. I look forward to another year of ups and downs (which are inevitable), and struggles. Our temporary struggles may illuminate another’s path, so don’t discount the struggles.

Let’s take a moment to consider all that we have been given, and consider how we can best steward those gifts. I believe the things we are given are not only for our benefit but also for the benefit of those around us. We are not simply here to store up value to pass on to our children, but to pass on values to our children. Values of joy through suffering, love in defeat, and perseverance through hardship.

As we end this very tumultuous year, I think it is a good moment to remember John Piper’s Seashells talk.

John Piper’s Seashells

We don’t know what 2022 will bring, but I pray it will be a year of impact.

Anxiety (Let it go!)

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Hi friends, I’ve been ruminating on anxiety recently, because I’m going through a particularly anxious season. Even taking the time out to write a blog seems like a luxury, because there is so much to do. Launching a startup is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m also a girldad and a fishdad, so I have “life” to deal with as well.

To give you a sense, we are re-launching our website next week, manufacturing our “products” and starting to take orders, packaging the orders and fulfilling the orders (all next week). In the midst of that, I went to close out my pond for the winter (later than usual because of the unseasonably warm fall).

And the problems start..

I looked in, to find that two fish had died, and four were dying (in complete distress). This seems like a little thing to most people, I know – they’re just fish. But you see, my grandmother always taught me that if you keep an animal or fish, their well being is your responsibility – they can’t speak for themselves. That’s farm life. Animals are working as much as you are, but they are your responsibility. I felt like a failure because it was my fault – I’d gotten complacent and not tested the water quality going into winter (water was clear so I assumed it was good).

Literally the same day, my daughter was sent home from school for the week because the classroom was shut. Thankfully we got her tested and she’s clear.

This is all particularly funny, because that same day I read on the Bible app, the verse of the day :

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

It really felt like I was being given the encouragement before the trial. Just to close out the story, I called around to all the pond people in a panic. Eventually, I got in touch with the previous owner of my house (we still keep in touch, story for another day :). He was so kind, and calmed me down, letting me know I was not the only one to lose fish or make such a major mistake. He suggested an immediate water change. Even though it was down in the 20s, I went out and did it, and miracle of miracles, two of the fish revived and the rest look healthier.

Intentional change

I say all that to say this – anxiety (worry about the uncontrollable aspects of our life) doesn’t provide us any action plan. Worry eats away at you and doesn’t let you rest. It fills up your time and mental space so you can’t be a blessing or help to others. Worry is selfish and focused on me.

So I chose to be less anxious, and hope more. Have a little more faith, and exercise that faith muscle.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:27

Things are now looking up, our business website redesign is nearly complete, the kid has learnt some more math, the fish are doing better. I’m sure tomorrow will bring its share of worries, but again :

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

Getting rid of anxiety is probably an impossible goal, but we can choose to set aside anxiety. Focus instead, on actions you can take – as I’ve taken to saying like a mantra “One problem at a time”. This intentional choice will enable you to move ahead in life and have a greater impact in your life.

I’m taking my own advice. Taking several deep breaths, starting on task 1 on my list and working my way through it. As Elsa would say “Let it gooooo”..

I hope your Friday is filled with action and joy. Speak soon, friends. Remember, one problem at a time!

Be Present

Hey friends, following on from our last conversation on intentionality, I wanted to share what I’ve been thinking about : Being Present.

I think we all know “that guy”, and I probably am “that guy” to some of you. The guy so focused on his phone or on what he’s thinking about, that he’s not really listening to you. I know my wife has called me out on this a time or two.

We start pretty innocently, checking the phone (or worse, the watch) quickly at dinner. Taking a sideways peek. No big deal. Then we see an alert we really want to read more. Before you can say “Lasagna”, we’re down that rabbithole of a r/espresso thread at the dinner table.

Maybe your distraction looks different than mine. But the distractions that prevent us from being present are all around us. It is a test of our heart and intentions.

I’ve heard it said that New York, a city of approx. 9m residents, can be one of the loneliest places in the world. It’s true. I’ve lived that life surrounded by people, but all alone.

Being Present (As a parent)

As a parent, this is especially apparent to me. I’ve come to understand that kids don’t really want the newest toy or new shoes. “Things” are always the icing on the cake. The cake is your time, your presence. I’ve heard it said that to engage with a child, you have to come down to their level. I find the most memorable times with the girls are where I play with them in their own space, at ground level, with their toys.

I can’t count the number of times, I’ve been around the kids, but not really BEEN there. I’ve been thinking about the business or life or some argument I had, and listening to them with only 10% of my attention. They recognize that too, and will soon stop talking and engaging with me. That usually brings me back to reality, and reminds me that they value my time more than anything else I can offer them.

Toxic Positivity and Being Present

The WSJ wrote an article on toxic positivity. “Sometimes the worst thing you can say to a person who’s feeling bad is: “Cheer up!””

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tired-of-being-told-cheer-up-the-problem-of-toxic-positivity-11635858001

There is truth to this. Cliche-d one liners tell people that you are not really listening. Not with your whole being. Because if you really hear someone going through pain or grief, you empathize with them. Then you realize that a glib saying won’t take the pain away.

Our Pastor once described the Jewish practice of sitting shiva. “It’s a time to honor a mourner’s grief process without trying to correct or fix it, as the focus is on giving space to mourn without constraint.”. I’ve been approached by friends going through pain or grief, and I try to “fix it”. I am definitely the platitude guy.

I need to learn that this is an escape mechanism, a way to not empathize, to not be present with the grieving and hurting. It may be uncomfortable to be silent, but that is often what people need. I’ve heard it said that Job’s friends erred when they started to talk. Stay silent, and be with the grieving and hurting.

Being present takes time and energy, just as much as being intentional does. We need to push down our natural desire to escape feeling the pain of others, empathizing with others, and taking time out of our days to “be with”.

In response to our question about the most valuable thing you’ve ever given away or received for free:

Victoria Gallo, Connecticut: My time. One of my friends was emotionally hurting, and I am glad to have been there for him. Time is a gift, too. Dedicating time and energy to others keeps things in perspective.

WSJ

Time is indeed the most valuable gift. And we need to share more of it. It reminds me of the boy with the two fish and the five loaves of bread. When he gave it up, even though he didnt have enough for himself, he was blessed to see it being sufficient to feed the multitude.

Give of this most precious resource (time), and it will bless all those around you.

Thanks for joining me friends, speak soon! May your time be filled with meaningful relationships.

Intentional Impact

Hi friends, I’m at our production location for my small business, having driven an hour to get here. I was listening to the radio on the way in and the conversation made me think about the intentionality (or lack thereof!) of our lives.

Sometimes, it feels like life is happening to us, like we are just passengers on a train that is out of our control. I’ve been having a few days like this where I feel like I’m hanging on for dear life. This feeling can persist for days or for a lifetime if we allow it. We all have those days, of course. But allowing life to happen to us, also abdicates us of our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.

Last week we talked about making intentional changes. The word “intentional” has long been a favorite of my wife’s. We are very different, my wife and I. I was always a “go with the flow”, relax and enjoy the ride type (classic B type). My wife is a planner and a definite A type. Takes all kinds to make the world go round ;).

This of course, is the reason I assimilated so quickly into life in Malaysia (chaotic, not very rule bound, relaxed society). My wife’s favorite countries are Singapore and Japan (VERY strict social order, and very rule bound). Over the course of our marriage, she has learned to be more flexible and I’ve learned to be more structured.

That is all by the by, because the kind of intentionality I’m referring to (and she refers to) is not a short term, making plans for your vacation kind of intentionality.

The intentional life

When I speak of intentionality, I am talking about the goals for your life, the models that we build our character towards. When I started a garden a couple of years ago, I noticed how much plants grow towards the sun. If you place a potted plant just outside of the sunshine, in a couple of days, you will see the plant lean and grow towards the sun.

That is the intentionality I am referring to. You will grow towards whatever role model you admire or whatever character you desire to grow. Even if you have not sat down and fixed a role model in your head, you will naturally start growing more like your “unintentional” role models.

Now, unfortunately, the role models we see around us in the world are often not ideal. I was watching a few TikToks (haha), and I see many influencers speaking down to the audience. They often demonstrate unkindness, and in some instances outright cruelty with their words. This world will generally elevate the worst among us as experts and worthy of praise, who tell us to live life for our own benefit.

If we desire to have impact in this world, we have to sit down and intentionally look for role models that demonstrate a life of service, a life of impact. Then we need to again, intentionally, grow our lives and our habits towards that destination. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul who said “follow me as I follow Christ”.

We also need to re-examine our lives on a regular basis and, like with a bonsai, prune those habits and behavior that is not in keeping with our end goal. It takes time and energy to sit and think about where you want to go (in career, family life, service). Then it takes energy to change our direction.

But as I said last week, a life of intentional service, will pay exponential dividends, because there are many eyes watching us. Whatever we plant into our lives, will give fruit. Not just over our lifetimes, but generationally as well.

Let’s plant good seed, so that we can grow good fruit. And that the tree of our lives can provide shade and sustenance for others!

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:8

Love you all, and speak next Friday!

Purpose, Superpowers and Penguins

Welcome back to Fasting Fridays :), figured we should talk about purpose. I’ve been pondering it recently because of the business I’m in. I meet so many people who have walked away from corporate careers to start a business that they believe is their true calling. It’s been making me think about what our purpose is.

Mrs FF has been quoting that age old line, about how much time you spend at work vs how much time you spend at home. They say that you spend a third of your life at work. But actually, it is a lot more than that. You also spend time sleeping, so if you really consider that you spend 8 hours a day working, about an hour or so commuting (could be up to 3 hrs in a big city), you spend anywhere from 4-5 hours at home awake and active. So you spend double or more of your time at your work on a weekday!! Frankly that is an insane proportion of your day doing something that brings you no joy.

Steve Harvey has this video where he talks about purpose.

About as easy as climbing Mount Everest

Finding your purpose in life is hard, in that it takes energy to sit and think about this very hard, very elusive question. Once you believe you have identified your purpose, it takes even more energy to change your circumstances, and to convince your family, to plan. It is no easy thing, living in your purpose.

But the cost of not living in your purpose is too great. When you are miserable waking up in the morning, it affects you, and all those you love (in fact it affects them the most!). You are unlikely to be successful at a thing that you feel unwilling to do every day. And you spend more of your resources trying to be happy in other areas of life, because you don’t feel a sense of fulfillment in your calling.

A penguin shouldn’t fly

We used to go to a church in Buffalo, and the Pastor once did a session speaking to parents. He talked about how as parents, we need to identify our children’s gifts and talents, and encourage them in that. He gave the analogy of a penguin child. If the parents of a penguin look at that penguin, and say, you’re a bird, you should fly well, they will make that child’s life miserable.

They will send that penguin to remedial classes, they will pay for extra flying training, they will spend nights and weekends trying to teach that penguin to fly. Who knows, after all that, the penguin may learn to fly a few yards. But he will NEVER be a great flier. A mediocre and very fat chicken probably could outdo that penguin.

BUT, put that penguin in the water. He will be unrivaled and can beat most fish at swimming and diving. That is what a penguin was made to do!

So parents, stop teaching your penguin to fly. Figure out what they excel at, and encourage them in their skills. Of course we need to build them up in the basics of all other talents also to live in this world, but accept some kids may never be math geniuses, and thats ok. The world also needs artists, movie producers and musicians.

Are you a penguin?

That talk really impacted me, many, many years before I had kids, and it made me also see my own gifts in a new light. My whole life I’d been told I’m the laziest person most people know. And there is truth to that. I was an easygoing and extremely lazy individual. But that laziness translated to a desire to do things more efficiently, so that I spent the least amount of time on a particular task. I’m an incredible problem solver, and I will figure out a better way to do things (typically by automation).

My laziness is in fact, my superpower. My laziness and general distaste for physical activity made me introspective. So I sit and think about a problem, and wont let go until I crack it.

Now one of my kids is the same way. Although I still need her to move fast when the circumstances call for it, I know she will never be very organized or physically capable in activities. But I see her incredible aptitude in problem solving. She will excel in the sciences, because that is her laziness derived superpower.

The other kid has such a natural rythm, such a natural physical dexterity, that it’s honestly amazing (that she is any relation of mine at all). She will excel at the arts and anything that requires skill and concentration. That is her stubborness derived superpower.

In that vein, we each need to figure out our superpower. Whatever negatives that the world has been pronouncing about our own personalities, figure out the positive side of that. If the world calls you stubborn, you may be persistent. If the world calls you lazy, you may be a problem solver. The world only appreciates the end product, it will never encourage you on the journey.

You have a superpower, use it!

I guarantee every one of us has a superpower. That superpower gives us purpose. Some of us are not living out the gifting we have been given, and will need to change course. That takes time and effort. But sitting down and thinking about it, thinking about the person you want to be, is the first step. Not just in terms of purpose, but also in terms of the character we want to exhibit. Think about it, journal it, and then make changes to get you to your end state. A good character, and a happy life, does not happen by magic, it happens by intentional change.

One more thing, our final purpose will be about service. It’s not about making money. We humans, as social beings, derive our purpose from service.

So as you sit and think about purpose, think about it in terms of service to a community. That is where you will find a purpose that lights you up, that makes you get up in the morning and want to do something meaningful in this world. Help your children identify their giftings and their purpose, so that they can have the most impact in their lives.

Finding purpose is a gift that pays exponential dividends. Stay joyful my friends, and see you next week!

Kindness – the greatest impact

Photo by Ditto Bowo on Unsplash

It’s been a couple of weeks, and honestly, I’ve been on a rollercoaster. As some of you may know, I’ve been working on a startup. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the mountain, and some days (weeks even) I feel like I’m getting kicked in the guts by a very annoyed horse. Over and over again. So, its been a few weeks of the latter.

No matter, lunchtimes on Fridays are an opportunity for me to set aside my own worries, and look outside. We need to focus less on ourselves, and more on how we can serve those around us.

In that vein, I’ve been considering kindness. Kindness seems pretty simple, “don’t be a jerk” :). But it has deeper roots than that. I think Kindness is about selflessness. When you think about it, being kind is giving someone more than they deserve.

Kindness & Grace

If we consider a typical scenario where you walk into a restaurant. You are well within your rights to demand a table and a menu. You are well within your rights to expect fast and attentive service. And, you are well within your rights to expect your server to not spill your food, or make a mistake on the bill.

BUT, kindness is showing grace when you have to wait, when the server makes a mistake, takes too long with the menu or spills some food. When you speak gently, in the face of not getting what you “ought”, that is kindess.

I’ve always heard it said that “mercy is not getting what you deserve” and grace is “getting what you don’t deserve”. Kindness, at its core, is the giving of grace.

We are in a world that is constantly, and loudly, demanding its rights. We have a choice whether we walk that same path, demanding, and receiving our rights. And no one in this world would criticize you, for asking for what is your right.

But the way of faith, is a way of counter culturalism. When we give up our rights for the sake of the other, we really are living out our faith. This is how we can impact the world around us. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary! For Christians, this is emulating the life and character of Christ, living out the teaching “turn the other cheek”

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2 : 3-7

As we go through the rest of this weekend, let’s try and practice kindness. When we are annoyed or angry, it’s a perfect moment to breathe, calm down, and actively practice kindness.

See you next week, same time, same channel!

Rest, to Reenergize, to do good work

Friends, it’s time again for our mid-day reflection on Fridays as we fast. Today, following on from our ruminations of last week about being overwhelmed, I’ve been considering “Rest”. We are so busy doing good work, that in some respects, simply continuing the treadmill makes us even more overwhelmed, and takes meaning away from even the good things we do.

I’ve found it is easy for doing good to become tiring, and painful. How can doing a good thing become hard? Simply by giving of ourselves without refreshing. Every time we care deeply about something, or we “try” at something, it takes energy. Even thoughts can consume energy. And that is the key to understanding why we are exhausted after a day at the office. We are not exhausted from physical work – after all, a great majority of us work at desks, where our most physically demanding activity is to walk to the water cooler. We are exhausted from the emotional and mental toll that our work takes on us.

I personally have witnessed friends who are entrepreneurs, and even those in ministry, giving up their work, because of this emotional and mental exhaustion. I’ve seen friends who had a deep conviction about a cause, after years of incessant work, let the work lapse and move on. This was not a result of physical exhaustion, but emotional and mental exhaustion.

Every person needs refreshing, we need renewal. We need time to recover and renew the energy that we expend weekly. We need short pauses in our weeks, and longer pauses in our year. This is not an option, this is necessary for growth. The classical example is of a farmer, who leaves a field “fallow”, so that it may recover and support crops in the future.

We are also a field, and our farmer is instructing that we lie fallow for a season (weekly and annually) to recover, so that we can produce good fruit. Producing good fruit in season is never easy. It is hard work, it requires plowing, sowing, watering, tending, weeding, pruning.

In that same way, embarking on good work takes sincere, committed effort. In the midst of the effort, we are often forgetting the need to pause, to breathe, to enjoy time with family, to recover the energy we’ve expended. I love this TED talk on the Shabbat.

So tonight, I’m going to switch off my phone. The startup will be fine for a day without me. The “good work” can also take a pause for a day. Because without that rest, I will burn out. I encourage you to look at your own lives, pause, breathe and allow your mind and body to recover. If you feel like you are on a treadmill, step off for a day. Enjoy your children, ask them about what brings them joy.

I was thinking about this topic (following from our conversation last week), when an ex-manager of mine (since retired from banking) posted about his new role with a charity in HK called Bethany ministries. Bethany Ministries is a retreat center, for rest and restoration. There are also similar centers closer to home in the US. Book a retreat, it is well worth it.

Have a look at the Bethany ministries website and please support this work (abroad or at home). Perhaps consider sending your pastors or ministry leaders on a retreat so that they may also rest and recover!

http://bethanyhk.org/

See you next Friday, friends.