Home Is Where….


There once was a wealthy man who owned the best farmland in the country. His hired hands were well-trained and the farm prospered. But the real love of his life, even more than the farm, were his two beautiful boys, who for the record, couldn’t be any more different!

The oldest boy was the kind of son every father dreams of, disciplined, hard-working, and rarely questioning what he was asked to do. The younger boy, however, was of the free-spirited kind, always asking questions, and he would rather play than work anyday! While the older boy carefully learned the tools of the trade preparing himself for the day he would be a landowner himself, the younger carefree son couldn’t wait to get out and discover the real world!

Some weeks after his 20th birthday bash the youngest son said to his father, “Dad may I have a minute with you?” And for the longest minute he spoke frankly of his boredom on the farm and how he dreamed to discover the world out there. “Father,” he said, “I hear the world calling for me, I have to go and discover my place in it! And I know it pains you for me to ask you this, but the only way forward for me is to get my portion of the inheritance right now.” The father was silent for a moment, although he knew deep down that this day was coming, it still took him aback to hear his son’s request. “You are free to go,” he finally exhaled and sadly watched as his playful and curious son walked out of their lives.

The young man rented a large upscale apartment in a bustling city. He was fascinated by all the sights, the lights and his newfound freedom. He could now go to bed whenever he wanted and wake up and not worry about chores. His carefree spirit, good looks and seemingly endless wealth attracted a lot of attention. He soon became the toast of the town, but not always for the right reasons. His apartment unexpectedly became ‘the place’ for the best parties. The pretty girls couldn’t be more plenty. The drugs always found a way into the parties and enhanced his feelings of happiness. “This is the good life,” he thought. But little did he know he was being played as much as he loved to play. The girls had their way with him and his wallet. His new friends knew how to pry one more joint, pop one more pill, stay for one more drink, order another pizza, and, of course, party all weekend. It took its toll on him and his bank account. The bills for repairs and the endless parties for his so-called friends kept adding up. The day came, of course, when it was all gone, every cent of his inheritance.

The owner of the apartment had no choice but throw him on the street. He was homeless. The timing couldn’t be worse, a deep recession hit the land and the only job available was one he loathed to do, raising someone else’s pigs. The pay was so poor that he could hardly afford food. Sometimes he would even try eating the pig food to save a few coins. After weeks of this he came to his senses. He said to himself, “I’ve screwed up bigtime. This is not how it was supposed to turn out! How could I have been so stupid!” His thoughts went back home and to his father’s eyes. How sad they were the day he left home. “I could be such an idiot and he’d still love me,” he faintly smiled to himself. He thought of the time he crashed the truck and how his father would still let him drive the car around! “Man, he was the best dad a boy could have,” he knew it. “I wish I could go back, but how can I now? I’ve embarrassed the family name. But I’ll die of starvation here, maybe if I went back and asked him for a job. At least I know his employees have good food to eat and comfortable sleeping quarters. It’s a million times better than this squalor I’m living in now. I’ve got to go find my way back home even if I have to walk all the way back.”

And so he left on foot for home, all the while practicing what he would say to his father, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and I’ve sinned against you and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But could you find it in your heart to let me live with the servants and I’ll work hard for you until I pay every cent back. I’ll get back on my feet.” He kept on repeating it, “I’m no longer worthy, no longer worthy, no longer worthy…” And the tears fell to the ground.

But while he was still a long way off his father saw his silhouette. He knew right away that it was his younger son. His heart raced as he leapt to his feet and ran and ran through the fields towards his son. When he came upon him he threw out his arms and embraced him and kissed him over and over. The son was so overwhelmed he had been expecting the worse, he expected his father to say, “Why are you even here?” “Dad, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you.” But he couldn’t finish his speech, he just crumpled into his father’s embrace crying, “I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.”

The father called out for his servants explaining his boy had finally returned. “Quick”, he said, “Go get him a clean robe, some shoes, and the family ring. And oh, lets not forget the celebration, tonight, yes, invite everyone you can, prepare the best food, and don’t forget to kill the fattened calf! At long last my son is home!!!!!

That evening the guests arrived and while the feast was being served and the music played. the older brother had just come back from a long day in the fields. When he heard the music from afar he wondered what he had missed. When one of the servants told him it was his younger brother come home, he refused to go in. “Get me my father,” he barked, “ I need to talk to him, NOW!”

And when the father came out to greet him he saw how angry his oldest son was and asked him why he was so upset. “How could you do it, Dad? How could you let yourself be duped by this rotten so-called-son of yours, not just once, but twice! He’s a freaking dishonour to the family name! I can’t believe you are actually feasting and celebrating in his honour!” There was a long pause as the father looked him in the eyes, but the older son turned from his regard. And then the son let it all out, “I’ve been slaving for you all these years. I’ve done everything you asked me to, and more! You never had to worry a single minute about my whereabouts. And did you ever throw a party for me? Not even once, Dad! What’s wrong with that picture!”

The father put his hands on his son’s shoulders and looked directly at his angry boy, “Look at me son. We are all in this together. Everything I have is yours. Everything, yours! That will never change. But this my son, your little brother, was lost. We thought he was gone forever, but now, thank God, he’s back. Can’t you see, he was as good as dead to us, but he’s alive and at home at last! Come on in, please,” and nodding his head yes the father added, “And he’s excited to see you, too. Let’s welcome him back home together.” With this the father gently kissed him, but the older boy just stood there shaking his head, staring off into the distance.

*This is the famous story that has been called the prodigal son that Jesus told. I’ve paraphrased it to make it sound more 2019 ish. I’ve given it a title, but if you could suggest a better title for it, I’d like for you comment. I’ll ‘subjectively’ pick what I think is the best one. Thank you.

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People are not Labels


Have you ever found yourself labeling those different from you? We all do it at some time or another. We have biases that we have learned, unconsciously accumulated and are mostly unaware of. These biases have snuck in the backdoor and now we see whole people groups as labels. These labels fuel our fears pressing us to avoid certain kinds of people and seek the company of those who are more like us. Studies confirm that we trust more easily people with the same skin colour as us. They are pointing out the truth of unconscious biases. 


The challenge confronting us is to remove the lens of labels and change the way we see. We begin by examining our hearts to see if we indeed harbour fears and biases. This is no easy task for biases often disguise themselves as concern. It goes a little like this: We are concerned for the safety of our country, our families, and our future. “If we let all these people in they will make it worse for all of us!”

So here’s my thought when it comes to the mass of humanity so different from you and I fleeing their countries and arriving on our shores: Realize from the start that these refugee populations crossing mountains and seas are enamored with very same concerns that you and I have. These concerns are what compels them to leave their countries, homes and families. They just want to live safe. That is why, in many cases, their fathers, mothers and extended family love them so much that they urge them to flee and find safety and a better future in some far off land. Sometimes they do leave together as a family. Many times they get separated. Other times one child is sent off with hopes high for the entire family. I think of H. who left brother, sister and parents in Aleppo at the request of the family. Miraculously all his family survived and he too of the horrendous journey to Germany! He is safe. His future is secure. His family can breathe a sigh of relief.

You see, they all did not leave solely because of the bombs or persecution or poverty. They did not leave, as in the case of many, because of the pressure that gangs exert on their children to join. Those factors admittedly played a part, but it goes deeper than that! It is a desire to find safety that compels them and thus a better future for the ones they love most. That’s all. When you hear it like that you realize that these souls sound a lot like us! Maybe we can now see through new eyes knowing we have more in common with the refugee than we thought?

Love’s Energy



Love is perfect they say and I believe it. My imperfections didn’t turn your love away. Thankfully they didn’t disqualify me from receiving it. If I could be perfect, I surely would. I’d be more easier to love and more worthy too. But…. I am flawed and full of contradictions. My guess is that it goes both ways for us. That’s why we need perfect love, always. It is the energy that moves us to walk together, not lagging behind one another unless to admire, and not moving in front unless to open a door and show the way. Metaphorically, and for real, this perfect love is always reaching out for your hand. Whether near or far from view, we are together, side by side, no matter what circumstances gets strewn in our path. Sometimes, though, I may have to exert love’s energy a little more to reach for you. Sometimes you have to do the same for me. And in doing so we experience love’s energy, watching to see where it takes us next!

And So the Moment Happened!


History talks. She reminds us and shows us things. “I am not here just so you can recount stuff,” she said to me out of the blue!

And the conversation began.

“Do you remember when you used to think your path would never end,” she asked?

“I do, all that walking and all I could think of was my sore back and feet,” I replied.

“You were always in a hurry back then,” she scolded.

And I didn’t learn much either, I thought. “I just wanted to get over there as fast as I could,” I said meekly. “Now it seems I want to slow ‘er down a bit.”

These days I’ve been living and walking in the older version of me, in what now seems as though weeks are like days and the minutes have shrunk to seconds. I no longer want to hurry. I want to smell the air, hear the rustling leaves, even taste the earth.

“Well, you look much better, connected to the moment when you walk a little slower, don’t you?” History chided. I thought she was making fun of my gait. It’s true I am 57 years and I am not prepared to believe that I am that old either.

“Too bad time slowly washes us wrinkly white and we come out looking perpetually tired like a piece of driftwood,” I laughed.

“Why? It’s not all that bad. I like it when I see you stopping more,” History added with kindness. “Yes, that’s looks better on you.”

“Well, I guess I am letting things happen more. I don’t have to judge each moment like before. It’s like I can  relax,  stop and take it all in, the good parts and the boring bits.”

“Like the seals and whales,” History asked?

I remembered  this history, to how I heard my traveling partner, Patricia, shrill with joy, “Seals!”

“Seals, really?” I stopped the car quickly.

And I glanced and I saw them too, those silvery grey wonders dancing on the waters of the Baie des Chaleurs. The doors opened as two humans crossed the road. I was running with my iPad in hand, and I jumped the fence and started filming those bopping seals. There I was, happy, all the while giving a running commentary.

“Ha! Seals!” I said confidently, “Look at them!” I continued while squinting my eyes against the bright sun, “See how lucky am I! God thank you, thank you! You knew how much this would mean to me.”

My traveling partner had her phone out recording too. Was she recording me? We had both watched long and hard for this, hours of travel along the coastline. It was either whales or seals we longed to see. And then after a few minutes, yes that long, I noticed the seals were not seals. I laughed to myself now knowing they were some sea birds bobbing for fish. I deleted my video, not in the least disappointed. It was the moment that counted.

And I have to admit that this story was repeated twice. Yep, it was actually the second silly moment of that day. This was the trip we saw seals and whales. And both times I deleted both videos and my commentary with it.  It was really kind of funny.

History spoke up while chuckling at me, “You won’t forget this trip, will you? Those bird-seals and the rock-whales. However, the thing you should always remember is how you let the moments happen.”

I promised History to try and remember the lesson.

When I turned back towards the car and saw the happy eyes of my beloved traveling partner, they too reminded my heart. We were both learning to let things happen, no disappointment and without judgment. “It was not to be,” she said, “You always find what you look for, right?”

“Right,” I answered! “Let’s keep letting the moment happen.”

“And finding the seals and whales and the beauty of the moment,” she added.

Heaven surely must have laughed out loud as she looked down on us that day and wondered where we got our wisdom. You could say hearing History start up a conversation with me played a role in slowing us down. gaspe

Performance.


Medals-with-red-ribbon-on-white-backgroundI think many of us males get lost in our need for significance and success. We measure our lives against the expectations of culture and our closest peer group. In doing so we forget the crucial identity piece: Who are we? My closest peer group has been leaders in Pentecostal circles. Our conversations so often centered around what we did and how well we did it. I’ve  most of my working life the pressure to perform well and be successful. The compulsion to impress any given audience was my only way to show how worthy I was of support. It came to a head while being a missionary in Thailand. I left for Thailand under a central funding model, but  years later it was transitioned to a shared funding model where every missionary was responsible to find his own support, every penny! That’s when I did myself an injustice and began to worry too much about my performance. That’s when competition crept in too.

The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Which is true. But so is the fear of not having enough, it can have detrimental effects on your life. I remember a seasoned Dollarsveteran teaching me how to raise money.  Since my wife at the time didn’t get a salary, but was very involved in what I did, he told me to tell congregations, “See, here you get two missionaries for the price of one!” And I would follow-up that statement with: “There’s no better deal than that, right?” Not only that, I would add that I was no newbie, and had sacrificed a lot to learn languages, cultures, and live in extreme weather! That’s how I presented. I actually don’t know if my new kind of talk helped or hindered the raising of funds. I think now it sounded ‘entitled.’ But in the moment I tried to impress.  I became reduced to how one dictionary described performance:  “the continual performance of a single task reduces a man to the level of a machine.” I felt machine-like wherever I went to ask, ask and ask again for support.

Now performance in itself is not evil and we all should do our very best with the hand God has given to us. However I had to come to my own conclusion as a ‘preacher’ and spiritual catalyst of sorts that I am not my performance on Sunday (or any other day when I am in front of some group speaking for that matter.) If you are a spiritual leader reading this, I encourage you to get this right; you and I are not ‘the great holy man of God’ that some want to label us with. We are not Moses, Billy G, or John Maxwell! And most of us are glad that we aren’t Bill Hybels right about now. But oh how we wanted, at one time or another, to be known as a successful world-shaker, right? But better watch out if you make that your identity! Here is a better more accurate picture of our identity, we are servants, we are lovers, and we are God’s children. That takes off some of the silly pressure that we put on ourselves to be something. Our roles and gifts are not our identity. They are simply the way we express our love to God and His world.

Since my brain surgery in 2012 I’ve tried to be more me, more authentic. Well, ‘try’ is maybe the wrong word, I’ve determined to be more me. That means not worrying so much about the expectations of others. It also has led me to being more open to the struggles of others. I’ve become more sensitive to the pain of others, more forgiving, more inclusive and hopefully more like Jesus. I now am also less afraid, too, of who I hang out with. I like people of all kinds from those who like to eat non-fat yogurt to those who smoke a pipe! And I’ve noticed people like to be around that kind of me, too.  It is kindness, not judgement, that slowly changes people’s attitudes and lives.

But it is not easy walking this path. Many people in church leadership structures want performance reports with numbers about all aspects of ministry. The stress on uniformity and speaking the same language (doctrine) and the need to be successful and more successful than the guy down the street is real. In many circles uniformity is next TheSoldierPeteto godliness. And this is where I return to my main point, if you don’t know your identity, you’ll confuse your self-worth with what you do and how well you do it. Performance.  Yes, it is a good feeling to be able to show big numbers. However I believe the epiphany we need in life happens when we realize I am not my big numbered performance. There’s more to me than that.  I am loved for who I am. And my life is about being true and faithful and generous and caring and not caring who sees me.

So stand up confidently and be different. Be quirky if it is you. Be engagingly outgoing if it is you. But please be unabashedly you.

 

Sorry sir, We Overbooked You!


It was the first time since I started to travel internationally that I was not allowed to board. I was landed in Lisbon heading to Alicante to speak to Thai young people living in Europe. But when I asked TAP Air about getting a boarding pass I was given the spiel of an overbooked plane and that I could fly the next day, same flight. I’d also get a hotel room and meal vouchers and a credit card with 250 euros for my troubles. Just go to any ATM and get your cash. She was a good saleswoman and so I was mildly okay with the plan, besides I would lose only one day with the young people.
 
However, the reality of the situation became clearer when I, along with seven others, began a long conversation with the TAP agent making the arrangements. The next day’s flight was already full. No way to get on it. So I was given a new TAP Air flight 2.5 hours north to Amsterdam and there to transfer to a KLM 2 hour flight to Alicante. I wasn’t too happy. He wasn’t budging. I didn’t even know I was given a 50 minute window to catch my next flight. I doubted their wisdom.
 

Next morning I was on time to the Lisbon airport wondering how my day would unfold. I boarded on time. The pilot then announced a delay of twenty minutes.  Not looking good already! While in the air I kept looking at my watch to gauge my chances of making my connection. It wasn’t looking good and I know my Swiss-made Seiko was not lying. I heard, at last, the landing announcement, I quickly calculated ten more minutes to touch the black tarmac. We descended through the fluffy clouds, passengers obediently belted to their chairs. I continued my calculations, hmmm, next flight now leaving in ten minutes. Hmmm, well, no matter how fast and long my spindly legs could carry me I knew I wouldn’t be on time. I look out my oval window to see highways dotted with cars and trucks, the dutch rooftops are visible and some big deciduous trees are at eye level. We hit the ground too hard and lurch from left to fright! My bag of unopened candies dance down the aisle. I now have two minutes to get my body on KLM flight.

It got me thinking, I wonder if we have tried to make living by faith too much like the way we travel. Ideally in travel there are no delays, no over-bookings, no technical problems and the weather is bright and sunny. Plan B’s are always the right plan too. So  up above those clouds I wondered if my next plane would wait for me. Was I important enough? Would there be ground staff waiting to whisk me to the where I need to go quickly. I found myself wishing again I could better control my future.

As it was there was no one waiting for me. I find the first boarding pass machine. After pounding my flight info, it decisively informed me that I missed my flight. “Due to delay…. You are too late, Peter DeWit, so sorry!” It gave me the option to rebook a flight. I clicked continue. The only flights were next day. I’d miss a second day of a three-day retreat. And where do I stay another night away? I didn’t how to decide. In the end, after talking to ground staff about options I made the decision to go home. Three days of travel to get to Alicante? No way jose!late.jpg

Some people live by the “nothing ever goes to plan” mantra. It’s really not true. Nonetheless sometimes things don’t go our way. That’s when you need to learn to let go and let be. I could have yelled like some of the others not permitted to board at Lisbon. I could have let the situation ruin my days and other people’s day too. I made an effort to let go and live lightly. I am sad of course to not be with my Thai friends in Spain. I am disappointed with TAP Air Portugal and it’s failures too. And the bank card they gave me that didn’t work, maddening!!! But what a reminder to self that I am not in control of the decisions and events that seem to go against me.

I am learning over and over to let go of the illusion that I am in control and trust the journey and the God of my journey. I guess that is what faith is all about, if everything was according to my plan I wouldn’t even need faith!

Goodness is Contagious


Just last week I experienced a beautiful human moment. As I was looking down from our Parisian balcony, five floors above, I saw an old man walking with a cane. I could tell he was begging as he took his little steps forward. He motioned to people with his hand that he was hungry. I continued to watch. But sadly no one wanted to even lift their heads! For some reason I dug into my pockets for a coin. It wasn’t much of a coin. And I dropped it from the fifth floor hoping he’d hear the ping. He did not and kept limping forward. But other heads below lifted and looked above to see where the coin descended from. One lady even grabbed the bronze coin and looked up at me questioning on her face. I motioned with my hand pointing sheepishly at the beggar that just passed her by. She understood. And she walked to the beggar and gave him my coin. I waited to see if she’d look up. She didn’t, but was looking down into her own purse by then. She caught up to the beggar a second time and gave him another coin, most likely worth more than mine! Then she looked up at me. I waved. She waved back. A beautiful human moment between strangers took place.

 

small-acts