Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Small Steps and Giant Leaps

Hey everybody! I haven't written in a while. I've been occupied. But now I'll explain all you need to know. This is going to be about where I've been the last 2 years and where I believe that my life is going, what the next step in my life could be and why.

About a year and a half ago a friend of mine was going through discipleship training at a type of school called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). During that time he sent me a message and told me that God told him to point me in that direction. I listened because I was intrigued that I was pointed out. It seemed weird to me because I'm not used to it; being pointed out by God to do something. He told me I should try and do it for January 2012 but the truth was I had no desire to do it that quickly and it didn't seem to me that it was the right thing to do when I prayed about it. I had a lot of doubt that it would do any good at the time. However I did not dismiss the message. I just kept it in my mind, but shared it with the right people and moved on.

However not long after that I started to get depressed. I kind of felt like I was in a rut. It seemed to be a sort of selfish depression at first with being discontent in my current situation. After I thought about it more I found that there was a more pressing issue behind it.

I decided to do some self-searching. Having a lot of time on my own at work accommodated that fairly well. I must say though that having so much time to myself during work is not a good idea. Especially coming from a place (camp) before this one where I was barely alone ever. I was alone for sleep/naps and hygiene related stuff and that's pretty well it. But I loved it and I thrived in it. Which is weird because I'm typically not a fan of being around people a lot. Yet here I am thriving in a camp environment. It made me wonder if there is a type of environment where I could be with people and be on my own at times and we would make our own community. I wonder if that's the environment where I can thrive the most and I never thought I would survive in it before.

I am an introvert. I need time to myself. It helps me recharge my batteries. It gives me time to think. It gives me time to rest. I like being alone fairly often after a busy day. There's nothing wrong with that and I know it. But part of the reason is that I'm socially awkward all the time and it frustrates me a lot so it really does wear me out to be in highly social environments.

A problem has come up though. If I have too much time on my own (in any environment) my mind begins to wander into things that I have no business thinking about as a Christian. And I'm not just talking about girls. I'm talking about viewing all sorts of areas of life in an unhealthy manner and I start doing things that aren't healthy. Family, friends, girls, jobs, life all mixed up in a mind that isn't the most perceptive when it comes to the consequences and implications of these thoughts.

Now if I go to camp, yes I may still think those thoughts but they're minimized significantly. So are those actions. My thought life is significantly improved at camp where I don't have a lot of time to myself. And so is my community life. In fact my overall quality of life is better at camp. I don't spend much time depressed. I worship God more freely. I am also doing something that I'm passionate about.

I think I know why this is and why there's a huge issue in our current society. We've become too afraid or too stubborn to spend time with each other consistently. When we do, they tend to be close to meaningless and we project fake representations of ourselves and when we don't, we suffer a lack of communication and community in general. I have noticed that in myself and I want to strive to change that.

So I've thought a lot about it and I am choosing to do YWAM. Not because I want to be super-spiritual - no, there's more to it than that. It is my understanding that YWAM helps instill the fact that I have value (hopefully positive) and it will certainly help me in my relationship with God.

Here is my hope with YWAM. I hope that it will help me determine the direction my life should be going. I have been stumped by that question recently and it would be nice to have an answer. Another hope I have is to test living in community on another level and see how well I do. I want to push myself further than I've been pushed before- in more ways than one.

And the way this will happen is I will be spending the better part of 3 months in Pennsylvania. I'll be sitting in lectures learning about God. I will be doing chores and I aim to have my camera with me so I will be doing some video and photography and I may have something to show for my time during or after my stay. I will then spend the Christmas season and January on outreach. It will most likely be in the Ukraine. I'm not totally sure what we will be doing there but I have my theories so we will see what happens. Once I return, I may stay in Pennsylvania for a month depending on how I feel.

I do apologize if I caught anybody off guard about this. The reason I've been tight-lipped about what I'm actually doing is it took me a while to realize that it was something I could really do. That may not be a fair reason but I really believed it was a stupid idea and that I wouldn't be doing it. And now here I am, about to take the plunge into the biggest step of faith that I have ever taken.

The people who knew that I was really considering YWAM were friends whom I trusted to treat this gently but firm. What I mean is, we talked through it and I did not ever feel like I had to be defensive on the thought. That doesn't mean it wasn't questioned and contested, but that the conduct was constructive when it was contested and I really appreciated that. I hope that helps you with where I was while I was thinking about it.

Now I mentioned that there was an outreach phase - likely in the Ukraine. I am going to pay the down payment for it but I want to give you all a chance to get involved if you are being led to support me.If you are interested, send me a message and I can tell you how you can give support.

So I have determined that living in community with other people is the way to go for me. I don't know how it will work, but I'm convinced that it would be better than anything else I could have planned.

The point of all this is to test a theory that I have about myself and integrate everything I've thought about doing the last year and a half with real life to see how it works. I don't know how it will work or even if it will work. This is all based on a thought that I would live and thrive better living in community long-term. I may be provided with a way to continue in this type of community long after I'm done the training- which would ultimately make it a success.

I've also spent time thinking about what my life would be like had I continued on the path where I was going. It isn't pretty. On my own, I would open myself up to living a completely fake life because I can. I would keep to myself and I would be okay with it in time. I have searched the Bible for ways to justify this way that I want to live but the truth is simply that it's disobedience to God and myself. So that's why I realized that there needed to be change and it needed to be drastic.

Thank you for reading. I hope you consider supporting me in this endeavor as I learn more about God, myself and where I'm going.

May God give you peace wherever you are in life.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Looking Back Part 2: On Life at True North Records

Hey everybody, this is an article that I wrote for a small publication about a year ago and I thought I'd share it here. I hope you enjoy it.
God has given me a lot of experiences in my life in my nearly 24 years on this earth. From band trips to Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa to great youth conferences in Toronto and Niagara Falls. From awesome places like summer camp to a mission trip to Mexico. Oh yes, I've been inside the CBC building, CTV Agincourt, MTV Canada and CTS Burlington.
I have Community Living to thank for the fact that I am currently employed at a Canadian record label. That's my foot in the door for future opportunities. My internship at CTS did the same. I'm not exactly sure what my future holds, but I know that I have been given a unique opportunity to bless the community that I am a part of at work and outside of it.
True North Records is an ordinary workplace with some extraordinary experiences. I recently had my picture taken with Bruce Cockburn's latest JUNO award win. I don't think many people can say that they have held a JUNO award before nor can they say that they have attended the JUNO Awards. I've also had the privilege to meet some really neat artists like Murray McLauchlan and Gowan (in addition to Manafest who is not on the label). Not to mention that I’ve made some really neat connections in the music industry. Not that it makes me more special, because I'm not the only person to have multiple extraordinary experiences that help shape me as a person. But I didn't ask for this. I didn't see this possibility when I graduated college. The chance of this experience was given to me and I chose to take it. For that, I am grateful.
About a year and three months ago my case worker told me that she had been made aware of a job opportunity for me that involved music. True North Records had approached CLB saying they had a job opening and they hoped CLB could recommend a potential employee; CLB had thought that I was that potential employee. Now my first choice career was for a television/video related environment but at this point I was not about to complain. So we went to the interview (a rather casual one) and I got the job...before the interview started. I was happy. My mom was happy...when I told her. My case worker was very happy! I'm not sure even she thought Community Living would actually be of help to my situation in searching for a media related job. But it happened and it made lots of people happy. Getting this job meant a lot to me and those around me. It’s no secret that having a job provides a huge boost to one’s self-esteem.
The job that I got at True North Records was a position working in the warehouse shipping and receiving product (mostly CDs and DVDs) as well as keeping it organized. My first impression of the job was that it was a great entry level position because I knew that most media related companies start new people at basic positions so that the company can get used to the person and the person can gain their trust. I had no problem with that because I was prepared for it. What I wasn't prepared for was the fact that I turned out to be a lot better than most of the people who worked the position before - at least the shipping part anyway. This fact was really good because not only did my excellence and precision in handling consumer orders conform well to any good company's expectations but they also conformed to my Christian values. The people were also really good to work with and they have helped me out a lot.
At the end of my first week I got invited to go to a Bruce Cockburn concert... for free! Yep, that's right, the perks started one week in. It was a fun night and I learned a lot about Bruce Cockburn; specifically that he wrote one of my favourite Barenaked Ladies songs - “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” Over the last year, I have learned even more about the Canadian music industry: Where it's been, where it is, and where it's going.

Then there is my JUNO Awards experience. I went with our entire office as we were offered the chance to go at a discounted price. There was a lot of fun had and the nights were late. We went to the welcome ceremony, the Awards Gala (where most of the awards were handed out), and the actual Awards ceremony where the more popular awards were given out as well as major performances. I got to see Blue Rodeo, one of my family's favourite bands, perform live and receive special recognition for their achievements in Canadian music. That moment was a special for me and one of my favourite moments of the trip. I met a lot of neat people and I got to see Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, in person. That was just cool. My friends might have been a little jealous.
I think it's needless to say that the last year and a half has had real special moments for me in my life as I did not expect any of them. They just showed up and I took advantage of the opportunity. My life has since been changed for the better as I now also have a better idea of what I want in life and I have a clearer picture to model my life after, whether it happens at True North Records or elsewhere.
What can someone expect to take from this piece? I would hope that someone who reads this and is inspired by it learns to take any opportunity given to them wherever possible and squeeze out whatever experience that they can gain from it. I don't just mean the special experiences, but the mundane ones as well because that's where I received the clearer picture on how I want my life to be run according to God's purpose. Although I am not sure of what my long term future looks like, I know that if I let God lead me and guide me, I’m going to add to my life experiences and hopefully improve my quality of life as well as that of others.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Learning from Joseph

But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
- Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)
Joseph said this to his brothers. They plotted to kill him, sold him into slavery to end up thrown in jail for a crime that he was not guilty of. And when the time came, he forgave them. Can we do the same to those who have wronged us, intending to destroy us? It's not easy to do and it can feel like we're letting them off the hook completely.

And when God says that it is His responsibility to avenge those who do wrong to His children, we do not always trust Him to do that because we believe His concept of vengeance is very different from ours and He never acts on it when we might like Him to. However if we find the courage to let go and forgive (sometimes we need to ask God for it... multiple times) then the enemy (and consequently the person who wronged us) has no power over us, which can be very freeing if we let it free us.

The anger and shame doesn't have to rule over us. Somehow Joseph understood that. Somehow over the many years he spent in slavery and prison he found the strength to forgive those who wronged him and let God handle the situation. And he was rewarded for his faith.

It takes time. But over time we must learn to forgive. Anger poisons our minds and hardens our hearts. And we were never meant to live with anger eating away at our souls because it will kill us- literally.

I realize that people who have read this may have been hurt, recently or in years past. And that hurt covers a whole spectrum of things from broken promises to criminal acts. If you haven't already, (because some people are better at this than the rest of us) I urge you to at least look for the courage and the strength to forgive. And if justice needs to be done then seek it and let it be done. But if reconciliation can be found then there is a powerful healing that comes from God when we share the mercy that He's granted us once we've reconciled with Him.

I hope this finds all of you well. May you be at peace as we remember that Jesus has the last word. And that word could very well be resurrection. God bless you all.
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. - Matthew 6:12

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Parties and Baptisms

I liked this weekend. For the last 9 years the first weekend of February has been truly special. Most of it has been because of the Snowflake youth retreat that always happens at this time. The last 6 years have also held an anniversary service for 24/7 Church and then a Super Bowl party right after.

It's really one of the best weekends of the year for me because I do something every day of it and it's a lot of fun. This year it was a bit different. I haven't attended Snowflake in 2 or 3 years now but something still happened on Saturday.

Friday I just rested at home. I had the option to do something if I wanted to, I just chose not to because I had already been doing something every other day during the week and I was tired. I also had to get up at 7am the next morning. I know, that's not horrible but I rarely wake up early on Saturday mornings. So I just went home after work and I just rested.

Saturday I went to a men's event at 24/7. Basically we watched a bunch of videos on what men need to be (according to the Bible... more on that at a later time) and talked about them in small groups.

In basic, they were talking about how men have become fairly quiet when it comes to properly balancing all life's parts together. I know this to be true. I have experienced it and I have seen it in other people. Our family and work lives have been blurred together and each part is demanding more time. How do we work with that? How do we deal with it well when we try to please everybody?

The videos gave some answers and left a few more things open (to be expected since it was a preview of a longer series). But it generally handled what a man is supposed to be very well. Although I'm expecting that my life will be a bit different than what the men in the videos were trying to portray (again, a topic for later). Overall it was informative and well done in its purpose. My criticism is that I didn't learn much; in fact it seemed to reinforce everything I already knew about what a man should be.

On Sunday, we had our anniversary service. It was great! The turnout was great. Four people were baptized! There was still a Super Bowl party and that was a lot of fun. I learned that my flip phone is now considered ancient among high school students... which is probably why I don't use it. I got to hang out with people I know and laugh at the special commercials with them.

All in all, it turned out to be a really good weekend. Perhaps it wasn't like a former high school weekend with a youth conference in Niagara Falls but it was still a lot of fun and a lot of good things happened that reflected what life has been like for the last year... or at least the last few months.

It gave me a greater appreciation of the smaller week-to-week experiences that I go through because without those small moments, the big moments aren't very big at all. This weekend throughout the next many years will probably maintain the significance whether I'm busy or not.

May you see the mundane things in life with a better appreciation for what they give you when you give to them. God bless all of you and have a great week.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Looking Back Part 1: What Happens in Mexico...

Hey everybody. To provide a bit of content I decided to post something I've already written. This is a reflection on a mission trip to Mexico that I participated in a couple of years ago. I edited a bit to make it a little easier to read from a proper literary perspective. I hope you enjoy reading it and may you all be blessed the rest of the week.
What Happens in Mexico...

A while back, I said I wanted to help the poor (I just looked and it was around three and a half years ago). Well, for a while after I wrote that, I didn't do much. I'm rather known for that. Being all talk and not much getting done. Yep, that's me. Until two years ago.

I went to Mexico a couple of years ago. I got to spend time there with a group of people who wanted to change the world around them. They call themselves 'Everyday Philanthropists.' I still have no clue what that means; or if it matters. What I know is that through them, God does things. Strange, but amazing things. When I was down there, I don't know exactly how, but He did what He does best: Salvation, healing and restoration. And He's still doing it. Because He's God and He can.

So we got to Monterrey on the Monday after a long time of flying and waiting and customs and we got to see a little bit of the mountains. The mountains are magnificent. They're really big (They're mountains and they're supposed to be big but still...)! On the way from Monterrey to Linares I got to go in a small truck to where we would be staying with 3 other guys and I learned some things about Mexico. I learned a bit of history that I won't repeat here but was really important to know at the end of the week (And since I want you to read on, you'll have to wait until the end of this to read about it unless you were there because then you already know). But we finally got to the missionaries' home and got settled in, ate, then pretty much went to bed.

On Tuesday and a bit of Wednesday we helped to repair the home of a family. The home experienced destruction during a hurricane so we went to fix it up a bit. We laid down some concrete, painted, installed new windows and gave them a toilet-something they did not have before. Also on Wednesday we got to meet the orphans at the orphanage that we're connected with down there. We got to meet some really great kids.

On Thursday, We went back to the orphanage and spent more time with them. Most of us started a great game of soccer and there were many goals scored. There were so many goals, I actually scored one! It was marvelous. We ate lunch there and it was really good as well. Once the kids saw my video camera though, I became about 10 times cooler...not a totally new thing, but something I still noticed.

One thing I learned though; each one of those kids has a story. And most of the stories aren't ideal fairy tale stories at all. I don't know very many of the backgrounds but I do know that if most of the kids weren't being assaulted or neglected in any way, then they probably wouldn't be at the orphanage. So in a way it's a double-edged sword; it's great to know them but I wish we met in better circumstances. In short: It's not camp.

Anyway, also on Thursday some of us performed for a bunch of families who lived in the area where we were working earlier. All of them seemed to enjoy what we did young and old. And on Friday we went and gave out food and supplies to some of those, in and out of the body of Christ, who were hardest hit by the hurricane. Some of them were really thankful and praised the Lord.

On Saturday we helped another group of families by giving them supplies as well as giving one woman and her family new beds and new furniture to use (Her other stuff stuff was wrecked by the hurricane). It was wonderful! And later in the evening, the missionaries hosted something like a banquet to the extended family of the family that we helped earlier in the week. It was amazing to see everyone celebrating and God being honoured during the celebration.

Before I move to Sunday I want to explore something. Something I can be rather good at is just doing and not talking (Arguably, I completely suck at talking). Many times during the week, my ministry did not come from my mouth but from what I was doing (Okay, besides high-fiving the Mexicans...). When we played, I played. When we worked, I tried to work. But in each of those things I did my best to communicate to those whom I could not verbally communicate with a sense of brotherhood and unity that only comes through Christ (This involved numerous high-fives to the people and their children-it was glorious). The point is that it's amazing what God can do when you're willing to get involved in what He is doing in a certain place.

So on Sunday we returned to Monterrey and we prepared to return home. We stayed at the YWAM (Youth With a Mission) base (I can now say that I went to YWAM!) overnight. However something incredibly strange happened. The way I tell this may be lighter than how it should be told but I'm only telling it from my perspective. We woke up bright and early to a Mexican showdown. I thought it was construction at first and then I heard the grenades and I thought...that cannot be construction. As it appeared, not far from where we were someone was angry enough to shoot a lot of bullets and throw a few grenades while at it. And their target was returning fire as well. All this amounted to one dead person, a couple of wrecked homes and emotional wreckage for many of those around (I don't know how it affected all of our team...I don't really know if it affected me at all...). However the place where we were staying (YWAM for those who forgot) did not have a single hit. And it was right in the middle of the action. In other words, God does things in the midst of trouble to still show that He is with us in all circumstances. And then we came home.

I'm still thinking about that experience. I'm expecting that it will change a lot of things in my life. It may yet contribute to completely changing the direction of my life. But something that's really important is that now the poor have a different face. It's not a face that you would see on a World Vision advertisement or any other organization similar to them. It's a face of hope in the middle of poor circumstances that strives for better without negatively surrendering your life. I now know who I am supporting when I give money to the organization down there. That is crucial to what I believe about the Kingdom of God.

So, now that I've experienced this, I can understand even more why some of the New Testament missionaries always went to some of the same places each time they went out from their home communities. They spent a lot of time building up the places they preached the Gospel to and strengthening the Church there. And so now in Mexico it's the same thing going on...sort of. My church, 24/7, is involved in supporting and sending teams to Mexico so that they can improve the lives of those who are in need and preach the good news to the poor. And hopefully, some of us will keep going back to build our relationships and strengthen the church there. And my hope is that no stupid gun shootout's going to stop us from doing the work of God. I strongly believe that.

May the Lord Bless you and keep you and may you love and obey Him knowing who He is.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

23 Intros

Hello Blog world. In a way I'm not that new to you. It's just been a while since I've written a blog of any kind. I will be posting things here, but not that regularly. It will mostly be about what I observe or notice about the world around me. It will also hopefully be a means to communicate God-related stuff. Most of my original posts will be serious although I will try to bring some humour in them. Any humourous/Just-plain-awesome posts that I find will be shared here. Happy blog reading!


P.S. I will add a photo of me as well as try to jazz the profile page up a bit.