11.18.2007

Our first day was a great one. We had a huge history lesson on the First Nations people and it was all very interesting. First off, it was in a residential which was pretty eerie, it was the last one built in Canada and the last to be shut down in ’86. it was cool learning about their culture, which is something I had mixed feelings toward, not knowing what to expect. A lot of what was said I could relate with as good morals and Christians values while other things baffled me that they could believe such things. But I feel that it is important to listen, whether we agree or not, and accept and appreciate their way of life without having to conform to it. I particularly appreciated what Brander McDonald (a speaker of ours) had to say about doing a dance, where one foot is in his Christian faith but the other foot is in hi Native culture, and he often finds himself questioning and bouncing feet back and forth.
I found the First Nations ‘representation’ concept interesting and in some ways relevant. Aside from their not making eye-contact as a show of respect, I too feel that the contents of a first impression are much more valuable than the presentation of ones self. It’s really cool to learn of their values though, and how I could possibly adapt them into my own life or at least challenge my own values and morals based on theirs.
In reaction to the Firs Nations land, I only ever knew what other people would tell me. That we’ve stolen their land, and they hate us and just want their land back and are stealing our tax money. But learned first hand, what is really going on. It opened up my eyes and not only reminded me how na├»ve I am, but it gave me a stronger appreciation and sympathy level for them. I learned that since they believe that they belong to the land they had never had a concept of ownership before. But now, because of our force, they must adopt this policy. And I think I’ve created a way that I can best understand this vicious cycle that they are living in and it goes like this:
First Nations people can only maintain their culture as Status Natives if they live on a reserve, if they live on a reserve they cannot own any land because it is seen as government owned land (Federal), if they want to own their own land they must leave the reserve, if they leave the reserve they are sacrificing a big part of their culture.
What a horrible cycle to be stuck in –all just to live out their heritage, their history, their culture. I can’t imagine living in such a way with regards to my faith.

The second night we joined with six First Nations elders for a healing/sharing circle. This is a time for people in the circle to share what’s on their hearts, what they feel the Creator wishes them to share. For us, it was a time to be more of an observing audience, but they seemed to have slightly different plans. It’s almost impossible to find words to explain what went on that night. Beyond all the smoke and waving of eagle feathers, these elders had some great wisdom that they were happy to share with us. Some of it raised a few eyebrows as it clashed with many of our Christian beliefs, but amidst this like I said before, we were able to have an open heart to what they wanted to say and God was able to use them to speak powerful words to each one of us.
To begin, one of the students sat in the Medicine Man’s (Uncle Norbert’s) chair, but he told the student that he could. To the other elders, this was quite prophetically powerful. As they later learned that the student was from the same territory as the Medicine Man, they saw that he would be a great leader when he grows up. There was so much power in this for the First Nations people.
Midway through the night, as an elder share his personal past addictions with alcohol, another student couldn’t hold back their tears as they could relate in some way to this. Farey ‘The Love Lady’ later spoke on how wonderful it is that the student shared those tears with the rest of us. After she continued with a speech to the student, she asked for all the elders to share some two-sentences of wisdom that they felt the student needed to hear. As they did, it was clear that it not only affected the one student, but all of us. As tears were being shed by many, the words of wisdom were heard by others in the room that needed to hear them for themselves (as we later learned during a debrief session). This was very powerful and despite some of the elder’s beliefs, God used them still as the affected student reflected, “Who but God knows our thoughts? No one. They didn’t even know me, but knew just want I needed to hear.”
It was impossible not to feel loved in this place. From the moment we walked in, there was a real sense of God, a complete sensation of true love. And as Farey shared throughout the evening, you could tell she was just so full of love –she even told us, all of us, each one of us, that she loves us. It’s no wonder that with comments from her like “You have arms to hug with, a voice to say ‘I Love You’ with, you have these things, everyone has these things, use them” that another student was led to share in our debrief exactly what they felt.
“I saw real genuine love tonight, something that Christians speak so highly of but rarely actually have. I’ve never felt that kind of love from any Christian group before, and if I ever had to choose, I’d much rather join their type of lifestyle and belief system than Christians because they’ve got it, they’re real, and that’s what everyone needs.”
It was a slap in the face –something that was so necessary to be said. I wish he could slap the face of every hypocritical Christian out there. I thank God for his raw words of honesty.
Our week continued on as we visited the Charlie Longhouse where a man, Kelsey Charlie, who had just hosted a funeral the day before and wasn’t expecting us at all, welcomed us into his home with open arms. As he started up the fire hoping to warm his home for his new guests, he shared with great excitement of his family’s history, the traditions they had, and the stories that are the foundation of their territory as the Chehalis tribe. Kelsey felt so comfortable and respected by our group that he wanted to show us his great grandfathers’ pit homes, where they use to live underground. What an honour it was that he wanted to share this part of his family’s heritage with us –something he would rarely ever do with a group.
As we were told by Brander, Uncle Herman (one of the elders from the healing circle) said that he’s never been so happy at a healing circle before. And our good friend Tim, who helped co-ordinate this week for us, shared that the opportunities that we encountered this week were one of a kind. He told us that we followed through with many missionaries broken promises to participate and learn from their culture. We represented so much more than just a small school group. We helped to bring restoration by paying respect to this beautiful culture that so many are quick to reject.
We had the incredible opportunity to be invited to join the Chehalis in celebrating the new year. We indulged in some Salmon, and sat and watched many dances and songs –ever being welcomed to join in at one point. No textbook can give a student the education that these experiences gave us. We were never supposed to be there, but at the last minute we were invited –they wanted to share their culture with us. Near the end of the celebration, as children ran to our group and gave us gifts of fruit, artwork and peach jam, the man on the microphone expressed the entire groups appreciation that we joined them, and how pleased they were to share their culture with us. Surely, we were the blessed ones. What an honour it was –to be shown such love, generosity and hospitality. Despite some of the elders and First Nations belief systems, I ask myself which one of us would be more easily recognized as living the life that God calls everyone to live. It hurts to say, that probably more First Nations people are living this life than most Christians who believe in the God they claim to be following.
How do we obtain this lifestyle, this love that we talk of but rarely act out? What does it truly look like? And how do we break from our selfish moulds to selflessly love the way we’re called to. Even those who don’t believe in God can do it, so what’s stopping us?

11.13.2007

I visited Oppenheimer Park, a place overgrown with weeds, blanketed in trash, home to hundreds of seagulls and street dwellers, and surrounded by homes tagged with the poorest postal code in Canada. As I stood in that park observing all that I saw, I was overwhelmed. My heart broke for this community. It didn’t matter that I had no idea of how I could possibly solve anything here, I just wanted to right then and there.

This isn’t the first time for me, I have seen and been a part of many broken communities all over the country and I just want to help, I want to be a part of the solution. One friend found it difficult not to ask the question of where God was in all of this, and I know direct that question toward ourselves and how we are being Jesus to these places. But what I struggle with is that I want to help places like Oppenheimer Park, but I honestly would really not want to live there. I thought of my comfortable home in Ontario, my family, my security and the blessings God has given to me so graciously. Then I thought of how we don’t have communities like this one anywhere near my home. In fact, I would have to travel quite a distance to find a place like Oppenheimer Park, which is very challenging for me because I’ve lived in the city and cottage country and I much prefer the countryside. I want to live there, I like it , it’s beautiful, I don’t want to sacrifice that…

Is this yet another test of dropping all I have to follow Christ? Oh man

…So I’m left to ask, do I have to live in the places that I want to change? Or can I just commute from my home of comfort to the places that I want to meet the needs of? Are we called to give our all or nothing and live with those we want to help?
I’m reminded of a friend who decided with his new bride that they wanted to work with inner city teens and adults, but they felt they couldn’t separate their job from their social life. The two needed to be one. So they moved right into the heart of where they wanted to work, living on a rundown street with gangs, drugs and prostitutes. If they wanted to serve God by reaching out to these people, they wanted to immerse their whole lives into it.

I’ve got many passions. I have a heart for the homeless, I have a heart for leadership, and my heart breaks for many people. I am passionate about music, I love being creative, and I love to write my thoughts. God has given me many passions, but am I to chase after all of them? Must I make them all my focus? Is that even possible? Perhaps there is a median between what I’ve been blessed with and what passions I focus on. Maybe I can have a real heart for poverty, but decide that I’m not cut out for being involved with it full-time. Just because I may choose to focus on a different passion, doesn’t mean I have to dismiss my heart’s desire to care about those living in poverty, does it? I can’t do everything, but I can still care about everything, can’t I?

Must I sacrifice what’s comfortable to me? Must I sacrifice a safe home for my wife and children? Must I sacrifice what I’ve always known? Or can I compromise between the passions…and blessings…that God has given me.

11.09.2007

I’ve talked and thought plenty about how we should be spending our money, especially as the church. What are they pouring all their money into? But as I expressed to a friend in the local Starbucks drinking our four dollar drinks, it often seems so simple to blame the church and point fingers at them, but as legitimate and necessary as that may be at times, we need to look at ourselves just as much.

I feel such conviction because I see this in my life so much farther that just super sizing my fries or my constant desire for new music. For the last three years I’ve been asking for financial support from the same people as I have been doing work at camp, but what is this money for? Why do I need it? Do I need it? As I look ahead at this upcoming summer, I am considering not working at camp simply because I won’t make enough money there. Enough money for what though? What is enough?

It’s for school, right? It’s about time I continue on in my education, move on, look toward my future career. But as soon as I enter that cycle, everything will revolve around my finances. Work to make money, pay for school with that money, use that schooling to get work.
This is my conviction. How many thousands of dollars will I be pouring into my education in order to assure a successful life? When that money could be used to save lives. Is education necessary in order to love? As I read in Irresistible Revolution, I learned that living can be simple. Not lazy, but a life can be of community, sharing, providing for each other, and living on very little cash; a life that is still fulfilling and glorifying.

We talk about taking what we’ve learned this year back home with us –but how will that effect the thousands of dollars spent or gone into debt just to assure a healthy prosperous lifestyle? I guess I question whether education is better acquired sitting in a classroom as it is through experiential learning. How am I to live?

10.21.2007

I was sitting in my hotel room in beautiful Victoria, BC, in the middle of our journey that’s cost over $10,000. As we contemplated what to do with our day, where to go, what to buy, I turned on the oh-so-convenient television to be faced with something much too familiar as an image we rarely think anything of flashed across the screen. It was the image of a young mother with her near-naked baby crying in her arms and her little boy standing beside her gripping a few fingers on her frail hand as they stand in their community – a garbage dump in Nicaragua –asking themselves what they would eat for the next meal, and where they would sleep for the night.

How disgusting did I feel? I was sitting in what would be a five-star hotel to them, beside friends in clean clothes watching sport highlights on their wireless laptop. All the while we were debating whether we should buy the touristy five dollar candy apples first, or travel through the thrift store to see if we could find any nice cheap clothing to add to our already stuffed bags. We definitely didn’t need any more clothes and we would essentially be robbing those who can really only afford the thrift store clothes. We would be stealing from the people we are all called to love and give the shirt off our back to... or is that only on Sunday that we are suppose to do that?

I don’t know where I’m suppose to draw the line, or where God has drawn the line for me. When does it become wrong to buy that nice expensive top for your mother on her birthday? Or spend more money on that pair of shoes because you’re told they’ll last longer than the five pairs you have back home? Or buy that new jacket because it will match your new pants better than your one-month old, now out of style jacket? Surely God doesn’t frown upon everything we buy to please ourselves or to put a smile on someone else’s face, but I’m sure He’s shaken His head quite a few times at all the stupid, worthless things we find such value and pleasure in but never actually need, especially while there are children dying on the street corners.

So what am I to do? Leave this program? Well I don’t think that is really going to solve anything. For me, right now, I don’t need to buy anything in order to really experience this adventure. Almost everything has been paid for so I shouldn’t need to pull out my wallet unless I have found a meaningful and reasonably priced souvenir.
We do a lot of sitting and eating. And when we sit for such long periods of time we get bored, so what better thing is there to do than eat? It becomes an activity, something to pass the time, and it’s neither healthy nor a wise use of money. For this reason, I will only eat the provided meals, drink lots of water, eat more on special occasions, and when I’m bored...I’ll actually do something! And something physically active if possible.

But as Ephesians 4:28 says, don’t just stop stealing but “begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need.” To just stop stealing from the people we are called to love is okay, but doesn’t do much good unless I begin to replace it with something that benefits them; something that counteracts my selfish desires. And this is where I leave you. What value do you place in monetary things? Do you feel you have to buy something whenever you go to the mall? Do you turn your head at the price of something that you just really like, even if you have 3 perfectly good ones already at home? Do you super size when you should probably just get the salad?

If you trust that your money belongs to God, will you listen to or ignore that little voice in your head telling you that He doesn’t think you need to spend your money on certain things. You have a choice to make every day, the choice is yours; candy apples or thrift store clothing... or there’s always a door number three to look behind.

10.07.2007

The following has been inspired by the readings of Shane Claiborne.

Lately I’ve been challenged to take a look at my faith and how it compares with the faith of those who we read about in the bible. We read about people willing to kill their children when God tells them to, people who jump into raging fires and don’t burn, we read how Jesus raised people from the dead, heal their illnesses, and feed 5000 people with just a few fish and pieces of bread. We are told that we can have a faith that moves mountains, yet we read of these biblical miracles and convince ourselves that God just doesn’t work that way anymore, not in today’s society. But I ask why not? Why do I try to limit God’s awesome power? How do I obtain a faith that believes God can work miracles, that He can bring an end to certain injustices and issues? Why do we say, “Well I can’t do anything to change the stats on world hunger or poverty.” We may do our small part in donating food to food banks and feel good about it, but even then we know it won’t change the world and we convince ourselves that God can’t use us to influence change in this world. Why don’t we dream big and allow God to do miracles through us? I want to be a radical. I want to do something huge for God. I want to allow God to use me however he wants and accomplish world changing things through me. I want God to give me passion toward something that takes it to the cover of the Rolling Stones Magazine.
…but will people in desolate places in Africa ever read that magazine? Will everyone in the world ever be able to hear of my ministry? All of a sudden, it seems like a bit too big of a goal. Mother Theresa said, “We are called not to be successful but to be faithful,” and she also use to say, “We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it.” So am I to narrow down my focused audience? Should I just pinpoint one group that I’m really passionate about? Can I ever start big and look at the world, or can I only begin in a small town working in my community and over time develop my ministry even bigger if I can, but if I can’t, do I remain content with the work God is doing in me? But that’s just one community, maybe 100 people I would be effecting with God’s love… 100 of how many billion people in this world? All of a sudden it doesn’t seem that big of a deal. I believe God can use our dreams to work miracles, to influence change in not just one part of our world but throughout the whole world. I don’t know where to start, I don’t even know where my passions lie, but I have the faith that God can and will use me and my desire to do something huge for His honour and glory.
–Lord, make me a radical, place in me goals and ambitions and help me dare to dream big. I want to tell your story Lord, and I pray that You use me to do this as best I can-

CONTINUED… 09/10/07
So, how do I combine my desire to impact the world with Mother Theresa’s claims, and my conviction that I can really only truly love those I’m passionate about when directly in contact with them (if I do something BIG where it seems the higher up on the social ladder, the less direct interaction I get).
That also leads me to thinking, maybe this BIG thing will be a community thing, and as it works for me, it can be passed on to other communities to evolve into a huge movement. Or maybe God will lead me into this BIG thing –but more as a leader and I will oversee everything, training others to go out into their communities –giving them the same drive and passion that God instilled in me. I don’t know? And on top of this, I like living in the countryside/small town. More than that though, I may have these vague dreams or ideas, but what is my passion? What do I want to do? I know whatever I decide, God will be with me and guide me –but I’m lost. So, what should I be thinking for next year? This is my third year out. I wish I could be further along in my career direction –but I’ve got nothing. For sure God is guiding me, but it’s such a long, slow process that sometimes I wish was going much quicker. Am I to be a musician? A store owner/manager (I always liked the idea of a bowling alley) A founder of a non-profit organization? I think I can narrow it down at least to being that of a radical. Daring to be different, unique, not fitting into a box. To not just work for someone else, but to begin something new.

CONTINUED… 16/10/07
In continuation, I read something that I think I really needed to hear.
See, I want to do something huge, I feel God’s placing that on my heart –that He can use me for something big for this world. But despite my desire for this, perhaps I shouldn’t be looking at that big picture, looking at the final project. Not to doubt it’s possible, or give God the short end of the stick, but rather to start normal and believe that God can build it into something bigger as He so desires. The story I read is found on page 120 in Shane Claiborne’s ‘Irresistible Revolution.’ The story is about children dancing in a park and how they thought maybe other kids would see and join in, maybe business men would join in, maybe the whole city would eventually join the dance, maybe the whole world. ‘Maybe…regardless, they decided to dance anyway and enjoy it.’
I want to influence the world for God, but I’ll let Him lead me into that as He so desires. For now, I should just focus on my now, allow Him to show me my starting point and together we can work from there.

10.01.2007

“Now that you’re familiar with the city, it’s your turn to impact Vancouver, however you want to.” These are the words that unleashed the freedom for me to do something big. And we did just that. After praying about it, I suggested to my group of four to post signs down the busiest street in Vancouver called Robson St. and distribute packaged mints to everyone on the dirty streets of Hastings. The mints contained a note which read the same as some of the signs: “God loves Hastings. God loves Robson. Will You?” Our message was clear. These streets, although so close to each other, represented the two very contrasted lifestyles of wealth and poverty. Through our actions, we not only wanted to impact people on this one day, but we wanted to cause them to think and take actions into their own hands continuing on even after we would leave. We were doing to begin a movement that we felt God was leading us toward, despite the risks and against the odds.

We began walking down Robson street posting these signs [a second sign read “It’s Your Turn To Act”], but we soon learned that the street posts designed for advertisements were to be cleaned off on this exact day. So we made a decision. The only way this will work is if we only post on the polls that are not intended for posters. In other words, we were to do something illegal. After prayer for protection and reassurance, we continued on. Quickly and efficiently we posted our 8½ x 11 posters.

Understand that prior to our actions we had recognized police cars constantly driving around almost every corner. But after we prayed about it, not one police car drove past us the entire hour and a half, except when we were just standing at the lights waiting to cross. We felt God’s protection. Our first reaction to the posters was from a man living on the streets who wasn’t too happy. He yelled and cursed at us for posting illegal graffiti in the city and told us to stop. We began second guessing ourselves but soon realized that He was the voice of Satan not happy with what we were doing. Not soon after we recognized those words were not from God, we felt His approval from the next comment we heard. It was made by a construction worker walking by, mumbling the words on the sign to himself. He responded hopefully with, ‘really? I didn’t know that.’ Thank You God for honouring our dedication of following Your voice.

It was such a blessing to have people actually look at the signs as we posted them, as well as after we had posted them. You could tell that they were reading them and our prayer was that they were causing the people to think. As we passed one poll, not an hour after we had posted the signs, someone had written ‘God is Dead’ on one of the signs. Not the best thing to read, but evidence that this person read it, thought about it, and even cared enough to respond. This and other situations told us we were successful. We were making people think, and our prayer now is that they might hear God’s voice and act on those thoughts.

This was the first glimpse for me in being a radical. Someone willing to push the boundaries, pass the limits, determined to make my voice heard on behalf of God as a call for people to follow this movement. The movement of love. Like you, I have read many stories of radical revolutionaries and their attempts to go beyond the norm for a cause they are passionate about. These stories excite me, encourage me, and challenge me to get out of the pew and do something. I was able to execute my first attempt this day, and it felt great. I felt right in my element, using gifts, talents, and passions that God has blessed me with to show His love to His people. There may be better, legal approaches for next time, but this is where God led us this time. Two-hundred posters challenging the rich and poor to love one another, posted on literally every single lamppost down the busiest ten-block street in the city that has been voted as Best Place in the World to Visit and that has the poorest postal code in all of Canada. This is where God called us this day to be radicals. May He call me to more challenging and risky places preparing me to break the sound barrier with the radical message of Christ’s love.

9.29.2007

Recently we discussed the ways in which our world has changed; from when religion was so incorporated into everything to now removing Christianity from education, the workplace and just about everywhere. This led to discussions related to Ecclesiastes and it’s contrast to today’s living where so many are asking, ‘what’s the point? what are we living for? Why should I believe? Give me proof.’

After travelling through the Old Testament, we hear some pretty cool stories about guys like Moses, David, Sarah and so many more. But by Lamentations we read how everyone became depressed and were living in Exile. While so many were in jail or living as slaves, people began talking about these great radicals named David or Moses and these stories were brought to new life, it ignited a new flame inside them. It helped bring restoration to their souls and gave them a reason worth living for.
And in a sense, we are back in the Babylonian Exile now, living in a mixed up world where we are asking ‘what’s the point?’ We’re losing hope. And this leads us as a Christian community to ask ourselves how we can sing and tell our stories in a new way as we embrace this changing world. Do we dare to tell the exciting stories that gave us life, that gave us meaning? Will we live to be radicals?
I love the parallels between this and my learning last week regarding the different ministry organizations that we learned about. I discovered that people were having such a big influence on those in need –but they weren’t following the normal career moulds. They taught me that I can use my creativity to be unique in my career choice. To colour outside the lines, to step outside the box, beyond the borders and see what lies in the mysteries of the unknown.

I loved the story that Tony Campolo shares about a birthday surprise he organizes for a woman he’d never even met. He said, ‘I belong to the kind of church that throws birthday parties for hookers in a diner in the middle of the night.’
I think as the church, we need to strive to be different; to be radical, and to share our stories in new innovative ways to a lost world.

9.25.2007

In today’s society, swearing is associated with rebellion, a bad-boy style; they contain a negative connotation. If you consider times when your faith is brought into the spotlight, a common first question is “have you ever sworn?” or “do you ever swear?” This is our proof that, to today’s culture swearing is considered a sin, and a part of the human language that should not be included in the Christian dialect.
For this reason, I choose to use my words carefully and not swear. Not necessarily because I think these words are sinful or wrong, rather because of the example they set to others. Non-Christians view swearing as a big sin, and if I’m heard swearing, their first thoughts are ‘hypocrite.’ I don’t want to bring this image to God’s name and how I represent Him. I choose not to swear because it allows room for conversation. These days, it is often very difficult for non-Christians to see Christ in people because Christians don’t think of their representation and the bad rep they might be giving to God. People will notice when you don’t swear, and whether you realize it or not, if they know you are a Christian, they will look constantly to find fault in you and I believe that they discover our faults the most through the words we choose to express ourselves.
Including using God’s name in vain, other swear words are just not a part of my vocabulary because I know I am representing so much more than just myself. I represent Christ through my actions and my words. I want others to see Christ in me –raw and real- without any hypocritical hindrance.

9.23.2007

Hi everyone.

I have now headed out into my Outtatown Program. If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down to get an idea of what I'm up to this year. Keep checking out this site every once and a while as I hope to update you with some insight from my experiences as I journey along. In addition to my blog here, feel free to head over to our official Outtatown Site 2 Blog(http://www.outtatownsitetwo.blogspot.com). this iwill always be updated with photo's and overviews of key parts of our trip to keep you up to date.
You can also view my personal pictures on Facebook and you can check out this site to see who all my new friends are: http://outtatown.com/students/07site2/
Thanks for your interest!

9.18.2007

Well everyone, I have headed out into my Outtatown Program. if you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down to get an idea of what I'm up to this year. Keep checking out this site periodically as I hope to update you with some insight from my experiences as I journey along. We will also have a Site Blog, where you can check out some articles from myself and others in my Site Group as we travel throughout the entire year -and we'll post tons of pictures too -but you'll have to wait a bit longer for that! Until then, add me on Facebook to see some pictures so far, and check out this site to see who all my new friends are!

http://outtatown.com/students/07site2/

9.05.2007

A week ago, I joined in a Medieval Feast where we ate chicken legs, corn on the cob and potatoes with our hands. It was a huge success, but as I helped clean up after the meal and friend approached me as I held the garbage can in place and said, ‘I can’t take it.’ I didn’t know what He was talking about and before I could ask, as another person dumped a platter piled high with whole potatoes into the garbage can, he repeated himself, ‘I can’t take it. Look at all this good food we have to throw out while there are so many people who could really use it. Because of my character and how I generally react to people who try to make me think, I tried to disregard what He said and pass it off as a conversation I didn’t want to get in to at the time. But as I continued on throughout the rest of the evening, I meditated on his comment.

It’s nothing new to us. Not many people are naive enough to believe that everyone in the world is as good off as us in North America. We’ve all heard the stats; we know that 80% of the world consumes 20% of the world’s resources and vice versa. We know that there are people in the world that live on less than a day. We recognize that it isn’t right and things need to change. We’ve heard speeches and have maybe even given our own messages about the poverty and injustice in our world and try to convince people to change the way they live, but I am finding it hard to believe or comprehend that we can make a difference, that we can change all of this.

Yes, we can help those we pass by on the streets. We could welcome people into our homes, we can open up a drop-in shelter, we could get laws passed to crack down much harder on human trafficking and the porn industry, we could boycott making purchases from businesses that take part in slave labor and sweat shops, we could only buy fair trade products. All these things are positive things we could do I guess, and as big a supporter of beginning a revolution as I am, I can’t help but ask ‘what can this one man do?’ It’s one thing to believe in something, it’s another thing altogether to make that belief into a tangible action that really causes change. Will we ever be able to make those stats from 20/80 to 50/50? Will we ever be able to alter the human mind and convince them that human trafficking and the porn industry is nothing that unifies our world and brings praise to God’s name? Will we ever be able to put a stop to slave labor and sweat shops? Just because you may only buy fair trade coffee, doesn’t mean that . Sure your self esteem may be heightened because you feel you’ve added another notch to your belt, but will your personal decision cause any difference? We can acknowledge that we are wasting hundreds of potatoes because nobody likes eating plain potatoes with their hands –but at the end of the day, what is your opinion really doing the cause change? Tomorrow we will still throw out our leftovers and uneaten food simply because we couldn’t eat it all, and as much as you wish you didn’t take that much food in the first place, and as much as you know there are plenty of people elsewhere in the world who could use all that food –what can you possibly do about it? So, you keep eating and keep throwing food out, and just try to put your beliefs at the back of your mind. But you can’t help how you feel, you know it’s wrong, you know you want to do something about it. But what? Are you going to move to some desolate place in Africa and live on very little so you are no different? Are you going to build a food shelter in a small village in Africa? Are you going to go on the street corners and love the prostitutes that stand there? And even when you do these things, although you will definitely make a difference in those people’s lives –will you change the stats? Will you begin a revolution that brings awareness and attention to the other people that wish they could do something but are too afraid to do anything?

I don’t know how to make it happen. I don’t know if it can be accomplished. I don’t know if we can be content with causing change in our little community and loving on certain people and feeling like we’re doing our part. I don’t know if we are cutting ourselves short when we could really be doing so much more. I don’t know what the answers are. But I ask myself, can I chase dreams big enough to change the world? Take what I believe to new limits, take it beyond being able to pat myself on the back, take it further than influencing one persons life, and cause change that will turn heads and hearts.

Whether you’ve been that guy or girl before or not, you are probably familiar with the ‘flip and point for wisdom’ Christian. You know what I’m talking about. When you’re faced with a particular dilemma, simply close your eyes, shoot up a quick prayer for God’s guidance as you allow the thin pages to flip past your thumb, then stop flipping the pages once you are convinced you have passed Leviticus, and firmly stamp your index finger down on the page, and dramatically open one eye slowly while squinting the other as if to pinch a grape between your eyelids. Some believe this works; others think it to be a load of croc.
My personal experience tells me it rarely works, and you only leave doubting the strength of your prayer signal and maybe God didn’t hear you ask Him for guidance.

Are you familiar with the infamous C.S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? It follows the lives of a couple siblings who play a game of hide and seek, and accidentally find themselves in this magical world known as Narnia. Why can’t everyone go to this awesome place though you ask? Well, the trick is –you can’t be looking for it. This is why when the youngest sister tries to show her brother the secret passageway to Narnia through the wardrobe, she is unsuccessful because she knew it was there. She knew it had worked before, therefore she was expecting the wonderful world of Narnia to greet her, but to her dismay she was only welcomed by the other side of the old wooden wardrobe leaving her confused and frustrated.

I bought a book earlier this year because the back intrigued me. Earlier I had recognized that something in my life needed a real makeover and so I searched for a book to help me out. I was so determined to fix this problem in my life that when I found this book and read what others had said about it, I knew this was the answer. Through the rave reviews, I was convinced that I would find exactly what I was looking for in this book. So I began to read. But chapter after chapter, I was losing hope in ever finding the answer. I only wanted to hear the authors opinion on my specific problem –meanwhile he was talking about some other really great things. I shut out all these others things because I wasn’t interested in them –I was looking for only one thing, I wanted to find the answer from God that I was looking for, but was only greeted with disappointment and I never found what I was looking for. I was told that this book had exactly what I wanted to hear, but I ended up just walked into the back of an old wooden wardrobe that served me nothing but discontent.

And I can’t help but wonder if this is how it always is? Are we always searching for God to reveal himself when we want to see Him? Do we try to search for the remedy, but in actual fact try to create one ourselves? Have you ever been told to take a chunk of time completely alone and in complete silence and see what God has to say to you? Instantly, we go into a search mode as we sit in silence and try to look for God… what does He want to tell me right now? What am I dealing with that He can miraculously talk to me about as I sit here in silence. Have you been told to read a certain piece of scripture because it is bound to effect you? All of a sudden, you are looking for something in influence you more than anything else…looking for some sort of revelation, something that will speak directly into your heart at this exact moment as you are dealing with this specific situation.Are we too busy trying to listen to what we want to hear, that we don’t hear what God wants to tell us? We think we’re listening to God’s voice, but maybe are we speaking for Him? Are we putting words in His mouth? Are we forcing Him to speak to us about one thing, when He has completely different plans for what He wants to tell us?

Do we say we are waiting around to hear that still small voice… when we are really just flipping through the pages and pointing at something we hope will break the sound barrier.
In his famous book The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis says, “Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God…For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?”

As I look onward to my coming year of adventure, travel, and learning there are the obvious eager excitements and stirring emotions, but there so much more than that. I am learning more and more about this program and I understand that as much as the teaching is faith based and focused on our personal walks with God –it is not just for Christians. The students will range from all walks of faith and as much as this excites me it also intimidates me.

As you may or may not know from my past blog Why Do I Believe? I am not the best with confrontations regarding my faith. When posed with questions, not even very difficult questions about why I believe what I believe, I caved with nothing to back up what I believe. No real reasons for why I believe what I believe.

This was one of my main reasons for wanting to dive into this school program; so that I could better root my self and develop tangible answers to the questions I would face –which I am still hoping to obtain from this coming year. But knowing that I will be living with people from all walks of life who will challenge my beliefs, I’m nervous. I’m already intimidated by them and the anticipated debates I may encounter. I understand that I will be living with some incredible people and will definitely learn from them –how can you not learn from such different people when stuck with them for such a long period of time in such close proximity. For this reason I am excited to embark in this quest.

I often get caught up in what the Bible tells, and when people ask me questions I need to have biblical references to back myself up –which I do believe is important. But I am reminded by Thomas’s thoughts, that it’s more than just being able to battle scripture with people. What good is studying the scripture if you can’t back it up with your lifestyle. And this is where I want to place my focus for the next month leading up to this new adventure.

I know I may not know everything about my faith, I am still learning and plan to learn much more through this next year. I know challenges will be thrown in my face and I may fall flat on my face with nothing to stand firm on, but I know I will learn from that.But rather than dwelling –and anticipating- on that so-called failure, I want to focus on my lifestyle. How am I living right now. Do I represent a life that is glorifying to God? Do I live a life that brings honor and praise to His name? Am I approachable, trustworthy, kind, loving, selfless, an encourager, a listener? And if not, what needs to change? How can I better develop these characteristics so that when people see me, they see something different. They see that there’s something greater than anything that is dwelling inside of me. They will recognize that and discussion may erupt from this desire to imitate the life of Christ. So, this is my challenge for myself for the following month, and I pass on the same challenge to you. How are you living your life, and is it a life that demonstrates a desire to grow closer with God, a desire to live a life that imitates the life lived by Jesus Christ.

“He who follows me, will not walk in darkness” –John 8:12

7.30.2007

As I sit here in my room all alone listening to a playlist on my iPod titled Chill and drink from my 591 mL bottle of carbonated beverage, I am reflecting on numerous conversations that I have had lately where someone, or I, have talked about God. We say things like ‘I don’t know what God is telling me right now’ or ‘I really am trying to figure out what God wants to teach me through this’ or ‘I feel like God is getting back at me for that thing I did.’ We do it all the time don’t we? If not telling people about our journey, we may be searching for God’s influence in others; ‘what do you feel God is teaching you these days?’ or ‘how do you feel God is helping you with this?’ We talk about God as if He were a person we talked to in the past, someone that we chatted with 10 minutes ago, but now I’m here talking with you about what He was teaching me. Let me try and explain…

These conversations that we have with others often take place in a room, maybe outside, but for sake of argument let’s say you’re in a room. Four walls, a floor, but imagine the roof isn’t there… instead the roof is open with four flaps… like a box. Yes a box. Think of yourself in this giant box. But to God, this box is small, it fits in His hands. God is standing there, holding the box in His hands looking down and listening to your conversation. Eve’s dropping on every word you say about Him. You can’t see Him, but you are in plain view of Him, 24/7. See, it’s kind of like were talking behind God’s back. We have conversations with Him, hear what He tries to teach us, but then we go ahead and tell others about what He just taught us –whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. We talk about God as if He wasn’t there.

But He is there.

He is here.

He is with you as you read this.

He is with me as I write to you.

I am writing about Him and what I feel He is teaching me, as if this is my down-time from God. This is my time to take a step back and reflect on what He’s teaching me. My time to dissect the things I’m learning and put them down on paper for you to read, only for me to go back to Him when I’m done typing and say thank you for helping me kind my thoughts down on paper.

But there is no down-time from God.

He never takes a break.

I feel like we begin conversations about God and what He’s teaching us, as if this is our time away from God. “I really don’t understand why God is causing all this pain in my life… What have I done to deserve this… What do you think He is trying to teach me through this?” Then when our conversations are over, and we’re not busy doing other things we call back to God and say, alright let’s talk again, I think I may have figured out what you’re trying to teach me… tell me if I’m right. But is this the way it really is? Can we ever escape God? Can we ever take time away from Him, and talk about Him to others as if He isn’t… right… there… beside us?
Psalms 139 tells us otherwise. We can never get away from God. He is all around us, He never sleeps, or turns His back as we talk to our friends about Him. He’s always there.

…which leads me to take things one step farther.

… that He will always be listening. And this may influence our prayers. Sometime we refer to it as our prayer life, as if some lifestyle outside of our regular schedule. But our prayers are to be very much apart of our daily lives. We cannot escape God, so why not talk to Him whenever we want to, whenever we can. Treat those conversations as you would a friend who were physically right beside you. Why do we so often feel we have to wait till the 10 minutes before we rest our head on our pillow to talk with God –like we must wait for everything else in our day to be over and off our mind before we can talk with God. As if we need a clean head before talking to God, get everything else out of the way, because there are too may distractions throughout our day that there’s no way we can pray without cease. But we can.

We can pray without ceasing. We can talk to God all through the day. It doesn’t need to be directed as a letter, dear God. By all means, He loves it when we talk about Him. He loves knowing that we have conversations about His love, His teaching, and His challenges. In fact, if you don’t talk about God with the people around you and what He’s teaching you, you need to start. It’s healthy, you will grow from it. Don’t think that He doesn’t smile from ear to ear when He listens to our conversations, He listens to everything we have to say so don’t limit yourself to just talking with your friends about God… talk to Him,
He is right there.

He
is
right
here

6.19.2007

In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 describes what faith looks like. It provides examples from the bible of people who had such strong faith even when those around them would turn from God’s promises if put in the same situation as to assure their own safety, freedom, or their own life. We can find endless examples of this kind of faith; through Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah.
“All of these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God,” says verse 13. This reminds me that, everyone has the opportunity to influence someone else so vastly that their impact could very well change that person’s life completely. And, like these biblical characters, we may never even know or see the effects of our actions.

Now, there are two sides to this influence and I have touched upon them in the past. Obviously our words and our actions toward others can be so hurtful and condescending that they can lead someone into such deep emotions that they are scarred for the remainder of their life through such things like anorexia, depression, cutting, addictions, or even suicide.

But today, I want to look at the positive influence we can have on people. And this has been triggered by some of the guest groups I worked with during the Spring here at camp.

We have some pretty close interactions with the students while they are here; playing games, doing activities, eating together. We spend lots of time together. And it’s really pretty amazing because, on day one we know no one. These kids are all new to us, and we have the choice to either just be their leaders, go through the motions and dream about our evening time off, or we can choose to get to know the kids, treat them as our friends, and really make our time with them less like a job and more as a friendship. And it’s such a blessing to see the results of those efforts.

As one group was getting ready to leave, a young eighth grader by the name of Shaina, who had been in my small group for the past four days, approached me and asked, “Ben, when will I ever see you again?” As I told her that she just needed to come back in the summer and she could see me, she replied, “But you will be at the boys camp. I won’t see you even if I come to camp. I won’t see any of you ever again. Honestly, you guys are just so great, and so nice and so funny, you made me feel so important –like, I’m going to start to cry right now because I’ll probably never see you ever again in my whole life.”
A few groups before this, I was walking with a grade seven student. This group had already been at camp for a couple days, and this student had not been in my small group, but I did help instruct his group for one activity. As we were walking and talking, I said his name. As many students are quick to ask, ‘how do you know my name?’ this student posed a different comment. “That’s really impressive that you remember my name. I mean, I’ not even in my group yet you still have made the effort to get to know me well enough that you see me and can call me by name. I’ve been to some other camps and the staff there are just there to work and never get to know us. But you guys… you guys are different. You care about us, and that’s so cool.”

One of the last groups that we had this spring was just great. We had a lot of fun with them, and made some good friendships with them. Like a couple of the other groups, this group had a few students that even decided to add a couple of us as their friends to their Facebook page the day they got home. But this group in particular did something that really caught me off guard. As we were saying goodbye to them, they all piled onto their coach bus to begin their long drive back home. But before the doors closed, a large group of them filed back off the bus, camera’s in hand and wanted to take our picture. So, as their group leaders, we huddled in close with some of the students as well, and we smiled for the cameras. Even some of the teachers and parents were taking our pictures.

When I think of cameras, I think of capturing a moment. I think a photograph is a memory that can never be forgotten. And this is exactly what these kids were trying to obtain. We only had four days to get to know these kids, and in the end we became such role models and friends to these kids, that they wanted to get our pictures. They didn’t want to forget us. They associated their great camp retreat with the staff that worked directly with them. Staff that cared about them, and wanted to build friendships with them. Staff that, as one teacher put it, “are clearly not here for the money. You care about our kids, and we can totally see that that is because of your faith. Thank you so much, we will never forget you, and please send up a prayer every once and a while for us.” This coming from a teacher with a minimal faith background.
As Christians, we may not have lead all of our guest group students to a saving relationship with Christ, but we were able to demonstrate God’s love to them in the best of our abilities, and they saw that, and they will remember that. When they pull out those dusty photo’s years down the road, they will be able to point us out and say, ‘that guy was great. He really made that retreat amazing for me.’ And who knows what sort of influence I’ve really had on some of those kids. There could be something I said or did, that had impacted them so much that it was just a stepping stone unto the path toward an eternal life with God, I have no idea. But as Hebrews tells us, when we step out in faith, God too will step out. And we may never truly see the results of our impact, we may never experience the promises that God offers us, but we can strive to lead the type of lives that God can use to further His kingdom.

A man entered the office doors here at camp a few weeks ago. Telling his name, he asked the lady at the desk if she could possibly provide him with a particular man’s phone number or home address. He could only remember this man’s camp name because he had been this man’s cabin counselor over 30 years ago. He wanted to get in touch with him and personally let him know that those 30 years ago his counselor helped lead him to a relationship with Christ and now he was a pastor and he wanted to thank his counselor for all he had done for him.
As we step out in faith, we may never know what the type of impact we can have on the ones around us.

6.04.2007

When you think of camp and its location and what it does to a person, do you, like many others, view it as this huge Christian bubble? A place where everything is safe, surrounded by God’s presence and creation? A place where you can be rejuvenated and learn things that you may be blind to in your everyday life outside of camp?
It’s interesting, where does this perspective come from?

Over the last month, I have received numerous messages from readers of my blog who tell me they miss my writing, they’ve missed what I’ve had to say, they’ve missed learning what’s going on through my mind. On one hand it encourages me, letting me hear that people actually read these blogs of mine. But on the other hand, these comments have led me to take a step back and re-evaluate my life right now.

The first question I asked myself is where did my motivation come from when I wrote my blogs before? What inspired my writing? The experiences I lived out, the conversations I had or listened to, and the thoughts or epiphanies I had gave me my material. Everything that was going on in my life, I put down on paper.

This led me to ask myself why I haven’t written anything in the last month. Is it because I’ve been too busy with work? No, if anything I work less now and have fewer distractions than I had before when I wrote more. You see, my blogs have been from things I’ve felt God teaching me, so if I have nothing to write anymore, does this mean God is teaching me anything? Or perhaps am I less responsive to the things God is trying to teach me? As I sit here and look back on the past month, I don’t believe I can really tell you much of anything that I really feel God has taught me. Nothing stands out, not even small insignificant things. How can this be?

Isn’t it interesting that I feel I’ve learned the least from God in a place where our relationships with God are to be at the foreground? Isn’t it interesting that the place where I should be learning the most from or about God, is actually where my faith seems to be the most stagnant and neutral?

Perhaps my conversations with co-workers need to be more in depth, perhaps I need to read more interesting books that will inspire me, perhaps there are deeper issues that I can look at beyond the familiar bible study topics we cover each week as a group. Maybe I need a life-altering situation to fall right in front of me, so I can learn some deeper message from it. I don’t know. But maybe, in telling you all of this I have written a sufficient enough blog to
get
you
Thinking.
Reflecting.
Regretting.
Relating.

Where do feel you learn the most. And don’t say school. I don’t mean academic education. I mean real life learning. Experiential learning. Spiritual learning. As you sit there reading, can you take a look at your past month and tell me the things you’ve been learning? The things you feel God is trying to open your eyes to. And how responsive have you been to those little tugs on your heartstrings? If you’re sitting there right now, and feel your life is stagnant, boring, uninteresting, ask yourself why? And what needs to change? Are you too comfortable? God doesn’t like us to be comfortable. It limits Him to what He can do in our lives, what He can teach us. How still are your waters? Will you let Him toss a few stones in so He can watch them ripple? Watch the water change, take form, move, flow, being real and allowing the calm waters come back to life.
We always must make decisions. And recently, I have made a very big one for myself.

Following a two-year absence from school, I have decided to take the next step in getting back into school by joining a program through the Canadian Mennonite University called Outtatown. After months of consideration, I feel this is the where I need to go next year. Come September, I will be going to Winnipeg, Manitoba to embark on this incredible adventure with fellow students ranging from 18 to 22. The program has about 100 students, divided up into 3 site groups of approximately 30 students. For the first semester we will be travelling to some of the largest cities across Canada. Spending 4 days to 2 weeks at each location, we could be in classrooms listening to guest speakers, or in a houseboat on a desolate lake, or doing a bible study on the Rocky Mountains. One day we may be standing in line at a soup kitchen getting to know the some of the homeless, and the next we could be learning from Canada’s aboriginal people about the struggles they have faced over the many years. Through all the teaching that the program has to offer, they take advantage of the locations and make it an incredibly fun experience!
After returning home for a month during the Christmas holiday, I will be heading back to Manitoba to begin setting out for the second semester. Like I said, the program is divided into 3 site groups, and for the second semester the three groups split off; two will travel to Guatemala, and one will travel to South Africa. I have been accepted for the South Africa site group, which was my choice. I will be living in South Africa for 3-4 months traveling every two weeks from town to town. From participating in building projects, to working in orphanages, to praying over those dying of Aids in the local hospice, I hope to gain a clearer understanding about service, love, and poverty. Amidst this, we will have teaching from South Afrikaners learning about their struggles with poverty, conflict and apartheid. We will also take advantage of the beautiful location and spend time doing hikes, sleeping in caves, going paragliding, bungee jumping, and swimming with sharks among many other things. Where this may lead me to next, I don’t know yet, but I can’t tell you just how excited I am to embark on this possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I hope that you can share in my excitement as I prepare for this journey.

At the beginning of May, I came back here to Camp Mini-Yo-We. Along with almost 20 other students, we have worked hard on preparing the camp property for the summer. From building projects, to raking and mowing lawns, to training as guest group team leaders, we’ve been having a blast getting to know one another. We’ve had many laughs, cries, conversations and arguments. All in all, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we are having a great time! Just the other night, when we had no guest groups in, we made a campfire at the Junior Camp site, and had a nice worship time for over an hour. Although our team is quite diverse in our attitudes, personalities, and personal time agenda’s, we do get along well and are gaining greater appreciations for things in life that we may have taken advantage of before.

In just a few weeks, following my 20th birthday on June 15th, the camp will fill up with all our summer staff for Staff Week and Skills Week. After these two incredibly fun two weeks, our summer camp will officially take off. I am the Ministry Director again for Boys Camp this summer, which is a position that directly oversees the bible studies and worship. I have been doing my planning and preparation over the last few months for this, but there is still much work to be done. Time is cutting close now, but as much stress as there is linked to this deadline, I can’t help but just be excited for the summer and having our camp be trampled on by the hundreds of campers that will be coming every week.

Again, I will do my best to update you and share my thoughts and struggles with you when I can, but until then you can put your mind at ease in knowing that I am still fully alive, living in God’s creation, and enjoying every minute of it.

5.01.2007

As some of you may know, I will be heading off to camp May 2nd until the end of the summer. For the next two months I will be working on Spring Crew at Camp Mini-Yo-We, this is a program where 20 college age students get together to prepare the camp property for the summer as well as host the Spring guest groups. Then for the summer I will be taking on the position of Boys Camp Ministry Director for my second year.

I’m pretty excited for both of these experiences, but along with them comes great responsibility, dedication and lack of internet time. I am telling you all of this to let you know that the blog posts of Ben Pavey will be scarce from here on in. I will be busy, and although I will have plenty to say, I won’t be able to post as much as I’d like to.
So, here’s to you, the reader. Through the think and the thin you’ve been reading my blogs. Whether you read just one and closed the window, read a couple here and there, or have followed along extensively for the past few months, I hope you have learned something. Maybe you’ve just had a glimpse into my world, maybe I’ve helped you to look deeper inside your life practices, and perhaps my words have effected you to the point of realization that you need to change a few things in your own life.
Whatever it may be that you’ve taken from my blogs, I want to thank you. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading, and thank you for being anonymous friends that have let me share my thoughts and struggles with you.
Have you ever been really excited about something?
Has there ever been something that you recently witnessed that you found just incredible?
Have you ever known one of those little-known-facts that you figure no one else will know, and you just can’t wait to share this acquired knowledge with someone?
Assuming we can all fall under one of these categories, if not make a similar scenario of our own, we all have this deep desire and urge to share information with family, friends, and even perfect strangers! We find things interesting and we contain this natural human yearning and willingness to tell others what we know.

Our motives to share this knowledge may vary from: wanting someone to share the same emotions as us, or perhaps to impress others with stories of things we’ve seen or heard, or quite simply we want to use our knowledge to put others in their place and let know we’re better than them.

Let’s begin with the possible first and second motivations. In the situation where you want to share your joys with others or impress them with your stories, how do they typically respond?

If you’re lucky… they will respond just the way you’d like them to. They’ll be excited for or with you, they’ll smile, laugh, give you a hug, or they might even repeat your story or facts immediately following because they feel it needs to be recognized by many more people.
In the case of you wanting to impress your listeners, they will hopefully drop their jaw in amazement, or give you this higher level of respect on the cool guy bar. They recognize your experiences and know you better for the things you’ve done, seen or heard.

But how about all the times they don’t react the way you’d like them to? You show them something of value to you; you share a personal story that effected your whole life; you tell them about something incredible that you saw, heard happened to someone, or a cool fact that you think is so completely out of this world, or maybe it is something as simple as telling them that you’ve drank over 100 coffees during this season of Roll Up The Rim and have won nothing while a co-worker of yours has already won 5 free coffees. And their response is this,

“That’s not a big deal, I haven’t won anything either and I’ve probably had even more than that.”

It’s simply unresponsive and leaves you either in an argument or you just wishing you had never opened your big stupid mouth in the first place.

Why do they respond this way? As a victim of this type of reaction, I feel that one of the only reasons… beyond that they didn’t intend for it to come across the way you took it… is the third motivation that I mentioned just a minute ago. They are in essence responding to you in this way to simply put you in your place and let you know that you’re no better than them. In fact, through their response, they just might be telling you that they are actually better than you because they either already knew what you just told them, they know something that trumps your cool story or fact, or they will pretend that what you said wasn’t important at all, when in actual fact, they are just stubborn because they wish they knew it before you and they don’t want to give you any credit for what you just shared with them.

If you are a victim of this response, I’m sorry, because I know how painful this can be. It’s crushing when you tell somebody something that you are so excited about, and it’s just tossed in the trash like last weeks paper. It really can cause you to think twice about sharing your excitements with this person again because it’s easy to anticipate what their response will be like.

Like I said, we all have things we want to say, but it’s difficult when others aren’t willing to listen and share in our joy, but would rather correct us and put us in our place telling us that ‘we’re no better than them.’ I know these are often the feelings of our predators because… although I feel I am a big victim, I too inflict just as much pain upon my friends.

As I identify all the times that I have been hurt in this way, I recognize that I am in fact no different than them. I am as big a jerk as the next guy. But through this learning and new understanding, I am trying to teach myself to be mindful, respectful and be excited when others are excited. When someone tells me something that I don’t believe or I know to be untrue, I want to think about my response before I go correcting them and belittling them. I want to try to remember to ask myself ‘why?’ Why do I want to correct them? Is it their sake or mine? And in what tone will I correct them in? How will what I say really effect them? These are the questions we all need to be asking ourselves because as Mother Theresa best said, “The greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted and unloved.”

As we take a deeper look at things, we will quickly find that this life lesson is represented best through Jesus while living here on Earth. From blind Bartimaeus [Mark 10] to mourning over the death of Lazzarus [John 11], Jesus listened whole heartedly to what people had to say to Him and felt the emotions they felt, and like the woman who grabbed at His cloak [Luke 8], even among the most hectic times, Jesus stopped what He was doing and was considerate. Loving and caring, without dismissing what any one had to say, in doing so telling them that what they have to say is a big deal.

4.18.2007

In elementary school, my best friend had a birthday party. Pretty common. Just your standard kids birthday party. Nothing extravagant, in fact I think there were only three of us that went. First you’ve got to understand my level of success with my childhood friendships, and you can obtain a clearer understanding of this in an earlier blog titled ‘Dirt.’ Basically, I was always struggling to fit in and would do anything for the acceptance of those around me.

One of the best illustrations of this devotion took place at this birthday party. At one point we all received Push Pops. If you’re not familiar with the classic candy of the day, it was a small hard plastic tube slightly larger than your index finger. Inside this tube was a large flavored candy stick. You simply remove the cap, insert your index finger into the base of this tube and lightly press upward, revealing the magnificent mysterious candy that had once lay hidden inside its tomb. Needless to say, this candy was quite the delectable delight.

My two friends, being the mischievous young boys that they were, wanted to see how far I would go to impress them. Not that I was being picked on, but I was certainly an easy target for them. So we took a stroll outside with our Push Pops and stood on a big mound of dirt. My friend’s house was still partly under construction so there was plenty of freshly dropped dirt all over the place, among many scrap pieces of wood, tool belts, and the anticipated dropped nail every step taken. As we stood there talking, I wanted to be accepted by them so much. My intent was to do whatever it took to gain this acceptance. I would do anything for them. All they needed to do was tell me to jam my Push Pop into the recently dumped dirt pile and digest the candy mixture, and before they could finish explaining the task, I was already stirring my Push Pop around in circles to get the most dirt-coating possible.

As I raised the Push Pop toward my mouth, I looked at each of them as if it were all in slow motion. Huge grins stretching across their faces, looking toward one another to make sure the other one wasn’t missing any of this. As they turned their faces back toward me, their laughter ignited and was my green light to stick the dirt-coated candy into my mouth. Let me tell you, it was not pretty. This thing was disgusting. Everything about it tasted horrible. The once Strawberry-flavored candy that was so beautiful in every aspect had been turned into something so dissatisfying that I could hardly contain myself. But I did it. As I looked at them enjoying every minute of it, I couldn’t believe they were just watching me do this for them. Of all the things I had ever done for my friends because they told me to do it, this one neared the top of the charts as being the worse. But I didn’t back down, I wouldn’t stop just because I didn’t like it. I held it in, and took it like a man because it’s what they wanted. I was doing this for them, in the end getting nothing out of it but an intimate encounter with the toilet bowl in the middle of the night, coughing up all that I stomached through for their satisfaction.


In the first book of bible, we are told that the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). In the bible, the word for ‘breath’ is the same word as the word for ‘spirit,’ and some pronounce God’s name as ‘Yahweh’ although the ancient rabbis believe that the name of God is so mysterious, sacred and holy that there is not even a word to name Him with. In fact, they believe that the letters of Yahweh, YHVH, function as vowels in the Hebrew language. They believe they were kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing: Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh.(Rob Bell, 2006).
Is the name of God the sound of breathing? If so, then could it be that God has breathed some divine spirit into each of us when we are born. Every breathe we take is more than just the second nature of breathing, there is something that resides in us that cannot be taken away. There is this divine breath that is in every single human being. Ephesians 4:6 tells us that there is ‘One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’
If there is something of God living inside each and every one of us, whether you are a Christian or not, is it safe to say that in someway, Christ resides within each of us?

What did Christ do by dying on the cross? He took our sins… he took the sins of the world on His shoulders so that we wouldn’t have to. Before Jesus came around, whenever people sinned against God, they had to make a sacrifice, as a way of repentance, seeking forgiveness. But then Jesus landed on the earth, and saw the sins we were committing, and knowing what the consequence for sin is [death], He followed His Father’s plan to pay the ultimate price and die on the cross. He knew what He needed to do, He knew what we were doing and what we would do, but looked past all our stupidity and selfish desires and said ‘You know what? I’m going to pay the penalty for your decisions and there is nothing that will stand in the way of that love for You.’

If we take this knowledge then, considering that Christ dwells within each of us beginning with a divine breathe being breathed into each and every one of us by Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh, and that Christ knows of the choices we will make and made the decision to take the consequential death onto Himself. Could we then, picture in our minds that as we sin, when we make the decision to sin, He is right there with us, in us, a part of us. And He isn’t going to stop us, He won’t stop us, He gives us this choice and all He says is, ‘no matter how sick or disgusting this thing is that you are doing to yourself, I am going to hold my tongue and take the pain for you. You are essentially making me do this same sin that you are doing right now therefore I am in fact facing the horrible results of what you are you doing to yourself… what you’re doing to me.

When we sin, are we really telling Christ to take that Push Pop, swirl it into the dirt and eat it? And does He do it? He knows He’d just be doing this disgusting act for our sake, for our amusement, but He’ll do it because He loves us so much that He’ll do anything for us… and this what we choose to do with His love? In the end, we get some real kicks out of the sin we put ourselves through, what we put Him through, and we walk away scotch free. Meanwhile, He’s hurling himself over the toilet seat the rest of the night, dealing with the aftermath of our decisions.

To the friends who decided I should eat that dirt-coated Push Pop… I forgive you.

4.14.2007

A poster on my wall reads:
--Ross Powers. A true champion in every sense, Ross has won more halfpipe titles than any other rider in history and is the defending gold medalist from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. In the 04/05 season Ross won the Mount Bachelor US Grand Prix and walked away with the overall Grand Prix title. Over the years Ross has shown an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion in clutch situations. With tricks such as frontside and cob 1080’s and an entire summer to train, Ross is poised to make another run for the Gold as he goes for his third Olympic appearance. Both on snow and in the laboratory he continues to fine-tune his pro model, constantly tweaking it to match his ever-evolving style.—

You know when a celebrity gets on stage after an anxiety-driven pause when the person presenting the award waited a minute before reading their name under the 'best actor' category? Mind you, they themselves weren’t too anxious. They knew they had this award in the bag; it was all the millions of skeptical viewers who were unsure of what the results would be. But this particular celebrity had already received 3 'best actor' awards, 2 'best supporting actor' awards, and had even received a few 'best director' awards! This guy’s got it. And now he's got another one to add to his collection. Is this guy successful or what? Well, is he?

Mike 'Pinball' Clemons spoke at a conference a couple months back. His message was a striking one; one in which you would've expected to hear from someone on the other end of his celebrity-status spectrum... someone like me.

Clemons began his talk by highlighting all of his accomplishments.
I was the highest achiever that...
I could outrun most players who...
I was the most valuable player in...
He continued on for a couple minutes boasting to the audience of all he had done and was capable of doing; really building himself up.
Clemons followed this with a brief open mic session and walked around to audience members in the first few rows of seats asking them what they thought of him and what these great accomplishments that he had mentioned just seconds before meant to them.
I believe their response was just what he was looking for.
Umm, more than what I could do…
Ah, Not the best, but not the worse…
Well, pretty good I guess.

“Pretty good?! Did you not hear me tell you all the things I have done? And the list doesn’t end there my friend.
But you know what? You’re right. It means very little. What is the big deal? In the end, what does it really matter? What it means is that for twelve years I held a piece of leather and became really good at running away from really big guys that wanted to slam me into the ground… Big Deal!”

Who is this man? Who is Mike Clemons… really? When he puts all of his worldly accomplishments aside, he answers with, ‘I am the lucky husband of a fine wife named Diane and the father of two wonderful daughters.’

As you think back on the things you have done in your lifetime… whether that be just a few twenty years, or if you’ve been around the block quite a few times… what have you accomplished? What are you proud of? What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to remember most about your life? Is it that award or trophy? Is it that sweet frontside and cob 1080 that you’ve mastered? Is it your athletic career? Is it your sick ride equipped with the best sound system in the neighborhood? Is it your home theatre system, iMac, and 80Gb iPod? Is it your conquering of the most challenging X-Box game? Is it all the vacation trips you’ve been on? Is it the wild parties every weekend? Is it in all your skills and talents? Is it in how you use those skills and talents to help others or serve a certain someOne? Is it your family? Is it your friends that stick by you through the thick and the thin? Is it your small group? Is it your church community? Is it your job? Is it the conversations you have with strangers? Is it being a listening ear to those who need someone to talk to? Is it feeding the hungry? Is it clothing the naked? Is it giving shelter to those without a home? Is it giving money to those with little to spend?

Because in the end. When it’s all said and done. When we die and our life here on earth is finished, what can you take with you? As much music as you store on your 80Gb iPod to capture every single song and every favourite band of yours, you can’t clutch it in your hand on your deathbed in hopes that it will go with you. No. The things that this world has to offer us holds no value for us when we’re dead. When we take our last breath, all of that is forgotten, left behind. It served no purpose but simply providing momentary fun. Our possessions here on earth last only a short time compared to eternity.

So is there anything you can possess that will carry on after death? Is there something we can find here that, when we die, will continue to have an effect on us? Is there something worth obtaining because it is eternal… everlasting… for all eternity? Many of you may know of this thing. Many of you may be wondering this exact question. There’s got to be something more to this life than being born, gaining all this stuff and then dying alone without any of it. And I challenge you to seek it out. Talk with people. Find out what it is, because it is out there. You know, the interesting thing is… the bigger our stuff is, the higher the price tag. Have you ever realized this? You want something to store all your music… but a 4Gb is around your price range… if you want something that will last longer and do more for you, you’ve got to dig a bit deeper in your wallet. It will cost you more.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I believe that there is something that will carry on through into eternity. Although, it’s an odd thing… because it will cost you more than any price you find on an iPod… this thing will cost you your life. Your entire life will be changed when you accept this gift. Yes, it’s a gift. That’s the odd part… this thing is free. It’s a free gift that absolutely anybody can accept.
So it’s free, but it’s going to
cost
you
your
life.

So, take what I’ve said here and allow it to challenge you and influence your life to the extreme. Think about it, dissect it, question it, figure it out, and apply it.

.What holds value in your life.

3.28.2007

I’ve reached an odd crossroads right now. On one hand, I think I’m an arrogant hypocritical person with the coldest heart one could ever possess. On the other hand, I think I can be a thoughtful, caring warm-hearted individual. Where do I find myself amidst all of this?

I miss having a girlfriend, that best friend you value and can always obtain support and care from. Some might think that a guy who misses having a girlfriend after dating one for almost two years would really be missing some sort of physical intimacy. This isn’t the case at all. I’m sure I could admit in saying that I would love to have a person to have physical interaction with, but what’s more than that to me, is my desire to make a young lady happy. I miss having someone that I can do spontaneous things for just to show how much I care about her. Yes, that’s just it. I always loved doing creative things, or spending quality time doing activities or just sitting and spending time with a female. I don’t need the physical intimacy for me to be happy, all I want is to be able to make her happy, and that in and of itself would make my day the best ever. I understand that you can do this for anyone and everyone; that you don’t need a dating relationship to surprise someone with something to express your appreciation for them. But, even still, I do wish I had… not necessarily a girlfriend… but just someone to do things with and for, and care about and be cared by. I miss having a best female friend.

This sounds good right? I’m a good guy for desiring nothing but to make a young lady happy. But why was it so easy for me to go cold turkey when we broke up? Why was I hurt for only a week, and then was fine to continue on with my life after that? Why, when I moved out of my home for the past two years, leaving my family behind, did it not sadden me as much as it should have? Why do I not miss my high school friends? Why do I not cry much? Why do I not break into tears when I hear of friends my age who have died recently? Why, when people tell me how much they will miss me, or have missed me, I don’t really have much of a response for them.
I don’t know the answers.

I value my friends and the people in my life. But do I value them enough to cry with them when they are hurting? Do I value them enough to call them on the phone when I haven’t spoken with them in a long time and truthfully care about how they are doing? Do I value them enough to embrace them with arms of care, compassion and heartache before I leave for a very long time knowing that I won’t see them for months on end?

I don’t think so, and I don’t know why. I feel like such a rude, ignorant, bad-word person. I feel like I’m so cold-hearted, and self-centered, and probably come across as someone who doesn’t care much about anyone but himself. And that kills me that you may be reading this and think to yourself ‘I thought I knew this guy, I was wrong.’ Inside I would love to be so compassionate that I would earnestly miss people when I leave or when they leave. I want to care about everyone, outside of my own agenda, but I don’t know why I can’t seem to find it in myself to be more warm-hearted toward those closest in my life. And especially when I have endless accounts of things I did for my old girlfriend to go out of my way and try and make her feel like she was the only thing that ever mattered to me. How do I jump from having such strong desires to still have a person like that in my life, to being able to tell you right now, if they were to ever leave my life, my heart would mend quickly?

I hate myself for knowing that when I say goodbye to everyone here and head back home, they will miss me very much, but I will just see them as a memory; the next chapter of my life coming to an end. I’d like to think that it has something to do with my childhood and there is a series of events from my past that I have removed completely from my memory, which has created me into the person that I am today. I’ll let you know if I ever flashback into the thoughts of a failing past and discover where all of this once began.

3.25.2007

This past Friday night, I sat in on a speaker at the Valley View Alliance Church in Newmarket. His name was Rick Osborne. He had been in jail for about 25 years and was one of Canada’s most wanted men in Canada when he was 21 years old. He was heavily involved with drugs and gangs, and his testimony was incredible. Having been shot 4 times, one of those in the head with only his bike helmet protecting him, and one near the mid-south of his body, to overdosing on some of the worse drugs, to finding comfort lying next to prostitutes, to escaping prison and spending years in ‘the shoe,’ his story breaks down all misled stories of the convict-lifestyle portrayed in some television shows. His message was one of a quick and slippery slope into the places no one desires to go. It was an eye-opening lesson about a strong Christian teenager who got caught up doing drugs only once before he ran from home and never returned. I haven’t found a website of his yet, but if you come across it check out his story in more detail.

Following this event, I saw the film ‘Reign Over Me.’ A film starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, a pair of reuniting college roommates learning from each other and helping to support and lead the other from the lifestyle they are currently living into a life worth living for. It was a good movie I thought, slow at times, and it felt like it dragged on quite a bit, but a film with a phenomenal soundtrack is bound to have a strong impact. With Sandler taking a serious role once again, and having the movie based on the reoccurring aftermath of 9-11, I would give it 3.5-4 stars out of 5.

The next day, I attended the Evolving Church Conference at The Meeting House in Oakville. It was a day of speakers focusing their messages on restoring social justice in our world, a message that I fully agree with. Understanding that the level of poverty is overlooked by too many people these days, and that there is so much more we can do to simply: love. I believe this, and know of the things that are going on in our world regarding it, but I couldn’t say I really enjoyed the conference itself. Everyone that I attended it with enjoyed it, but I had a very difficult time following along with the speakers. Jim Wallis, Ron Sider and Shane Claiborne were the main speakers, and their messages were sincere and thought-provoking, but social justice is just something I can’t really wrap my head around enough to dialogue with others about. Overall, it was a good worthwhile event but didn’t benefit and effect me as much as it may have for others.

This brings us to Sunday, when Josh and I continued our journey traveling to different churches each week. If you recall in my earlier blog ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ I made reference to a church that I drive past every day on my way to work. I also have wanted to attend a Catholic Church service but have been nervous not knowing what to expect. We decided to go to this church, and wouldn’t you know it, it turned out to be a Catholic Church, but what’s more than that, it was a Ukrainian Catholic Church. Let me just say, it was quite the experience. The interior of the building was beautiful and reflected such stunning stain glass windows and painted biblical murals. There was singing throughout almost the entire service, only the priests 10-minute sermon was spoken. I didn’t sing along because I had no idea where they were reading the words from, and because I’m pretty sure the majority of it was sung in Ukrainian. It was great to just sit back, enjoy, and take in this way that this Catholic Church functioned. And those are my weekend’s stories.

3.22.2007

I’m leaving my work in just a few days. Next Friday in fact is my last day before I say my goodbye’s and leave my Brick crew in Whitby. It’s sad, they’re great people, they really are. They all make working there so much more enjoyable and although we share some differences, I couldn’t have asked for any better people.

From the sounds of it though, they could say the same about me. There is one woman who, when I first began working there, told me to go back to school as soon as I can. Now this same woman is giving me hugs and begging everyday for me not to leave. There are people offering to take me out for a goodbye and good luck drink before I leave. It seems as though these friends of mine are earnestly disappointed that I am parting ways with them all. They don’t want me to leave; I have had some sort of influence on them. Perhaps it’s my cheerful smile, or my constant singing to the radio as I walk down the isles, or maybe it’s my sweet dance moves that I pull off whenever I enter the offices. I really don’t know what it is, but there is something for each of them that cause them to feel sadness at the thought of me leaving.

Now, don’t take this as some sort of pig-headed, egotistic message because I am honestly telling you that I don’t know why they will miss me. I don’t know how I could’ve had much of an effect on them. Don’t take this as a sympathy-seeking call out either, I don’t hate who I am and wonder how anyone could ever love me. But the question that arose after receiving the previous comments from my fellow co-workers is merely this:
If I Knew Me, Would I Want to be Friends With Me
.
Do you understand the question? If you were someone else with a different name and appearance, and you met who you are right now and had a five-minute conversation with yourself, could you see that being someone you would want to spend more time with? It’s not meant to be a conceded question, and I think by answering this question for yourself you will be one step closer to finding out what you may need to change about yourself in order to hold on to the people you care most about. Furthermore, in no way am I suggesting that you should change who you are as to keep your social status quo or to fit who your friends think you should be or expect you to act.

Simply put, are there things about you that would tick you off? Are there things that would drive you up the wall? It’s kind of funny to think of, because at first thought you’d think ‘well, obviously I don’t have my own pet peeves.’ Maybe not, but consider another’s point of view, what would their pet peeves of you be? Would it be your rebellious attitude, your stale jokes, your insults, your ‘eating with your mouth open’ habits, your clothing choices, your punctuality or lack thereof? How you deal with stress, with conflict, with joyous occasions. Maybe the first step in learning how to be more appealing and hold on to those you care most about, is putting your selfish desire and stubborn way of life to rest, and become willing to adjust and remain open to the suggestions that those around you may have to offer.

Perhaps for you however, the question is not about conformity, rather individuality and being the person you are for as long as you can be. Why should you change just to make others happy? If they don’t like you for who you are, screw them. You can find better friends that won’t judge you and force you to become someone you’re not. You are your own man or woman, and that’s that. Maybe they aren’t really the type of people you want to invest your time and energy into anyway, so whether they care about you or like certain things about you or not, doesn’t concern you in the least.

In the end,
No one really likes to be someone that nobody else likes,
And at the same time no one likes to be someone that they themselves don’t even like.

So how will you decide? What will determine what changes who you are? You are not the same you were when you were nine. People always change, it’s what has influenced those changes that matters and will you continue to let those things change you. Can there be a balance between being who you are to feel good about yourself and make others feel good about you too. And if so, where do you mark this balance. Who do you want to be?