The Happiness Illusion

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 – Something you wish more people knew or believed

“Don’t worry, be happy”

To be honest, I think happiness has become an idol for so many of us. It’s an end goal, something everyone wants but no one seems to have. We think that if we can just “be happy”, everything difficult in our lives will work itself out.

Happiness is so fleeting, so temporary. It comes and goes daily. It’s dependant on your circumstances and can all come crumbling down when life gets hard. It’s inconsistent. It all depends on “how you feel”. Sounds pretty depressing right? I sound like a total downer. Why? Because I don’t need to be happy…I’ve found something better.

What I wish more people knew is how limited happiness is when compared with joy.

Joy persists through anything life may throw at us. It is deep seated contentment in every season of life. It is the thrill found in everyday beauty. It’s the triumph that comes from knowing that everything is going to be okay. Joy is an inward peace and consistent state of knowing how truly blessed and utterly lucky we are to live. Joy is like happiness on steroids!

The thing is, joy doesn’t come from external factors. It actually (and some of ya’ll may disagree with me here) can only come from God. One of the verses I have been trying to really reflect on lately is Romans 15:13. “May the Lord of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I believe that joy is a gift God offers us freely; it is one of the fruits of the spirit and he is wants us to be so filled with this uncontainable and thrilling sense of joy that it overflows out of us. 

I didn’t want this to be a “I wish more people knew God” post (although I do wish that). What I was really trying to express here is the inadequacy of a feeling we chase, thinking it is the ultimate goal in life. I wish more people knew and believed that there is more for them in this life than than a feeling that comes and goes with the tides. Expect more! Expect consistency. When you find true joy that comes from the Lord, you’ll come to realize that it is possible to be content wherever you are; no matter your season, no matter your circumstance. Joy is something that can come with you wherever you go; no chasing required, no let down at the end of the day. Joy is the complex fulfillment of the simple happiness we have learned to desire.

I wish more people believed that joy > happiness

“A joyful heart is good medicine” – Proverbs 17:22

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Anticipating Greatness

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September, the season of endings and of beginnings. An exciting time, a nerve-wracking time, a new adventure time. It’s back to school, it’s the last of warm days and it’s beautiful and sad all wrapped up in one. It’s bike rides and trips to the Farmer’s Market and hugging friends you haven’t seen in a while, it’s saying goodbye to summer and it’s printing syllabi and updating your calendar. It’s when we look out over the school year to come, a fresh slate of tests not yet written and challenges not yet faced. What are you expecting this year? Are you apprehensive of what’s to come? I know I was.

This morning I woke up to an email from Blackboard, my university’s “virtual campus”; it was a notification that one of my economics professors had posted the syllabus for the course. As ridiculous as it might sound, my heart literally started racing and I was so nervous to open the file. Economics was my worst class last year and I am so anxious about going back to it this year, especially with two courses in the same semester, one of them in French.

This is just one example of the apprehension I’ve been feeling about second year. For me, summer has been over for almost 3 weeks, as soon as I left camp and came back to Ottawa for Community Advisor training. This year, I’ll be living in residence, watching over first year students and hopefully helping them to have a safe, fun and successful first year. That is an added responsibility that I need to account and make time for! I’m super excited about it but still! Tomorrow is the first day back at classes and I am definitely feeling nervous about all the work that is about to rain down on me and consume my life; but it will only consume me if I let it.

On Sunday I was in church and the woman leading worship said something that really stuck with me. It was about the difference between apprehension and anticipation. I looked up the definition of the two (as I often do) in order to make sure I clearly knew the difference.

Apprehension – anxiety or fear that something unpleasant will happen

Anticipation – the act of expecting or looking ahead to something with pleasure. 

It was one of those moments that I was caught off guard by the realization that this was God speaking clearly and directly to ME. I hadn’t even noticed the negative attitude I had been having towards the coming year. I was hiding my anxiety with “cautiousness” and “being realistic”. Neither of those are bad things but I was using them as reasons to not allow myself to be excited about year coming up. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty optimistic, glass half full type of person, so it’s not normal for me to be like that. In fact, one of my favourite verses in high school was 2nd Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-decipline.” I loved it so much that I had it written out and taped on my wall but I think that I’ve still somehow forgotten!

I’m not meant to fear the future. I’m not meant to live expecting things to go badly. God has created this incredible world and put us in it, to live and learn and explore. So this morning I opened the email, read over the syllabus, and will go to the class tomorrow anticipating that it will go well, that I’ll learn something interesting. Fear is normal; letting it consume your life is not. This fall, I’m trying to re-learn how to surrender my apprehension to God and let him replace it with anticipation. The future is full of possibilities. Yes, some of those possibilities include hardship or difficulty or heartbreak. But they are just that, possibilities. This fall, I’m choosing to look forward with anticipation, expecting not just goodness, but greatness. 

Today, I went adventuring with a friend. We rode bikes along the canal, lined with trees while the sun shined brightly. We sat and had coffee, we walked through our favourite park and we sat at a lookout over the city. It was fun and warm and carefree. It was a great day. There are many more great days to come: deep chats in my new dorm room, friendships with my residents, (even if sometimes I have to break up their beer pong games), adventures through the beautiful city I get to call home, learning about the world and the people God created and hopefully lots and lots of laughter. Yes, school is going to be a lot of work, and yes, I’m going to have to learn to manage my time and schedule to balance school, work, life and self-care. But that’s okay. Because those are all exciting things that God has blessed me with. 

Anticipation – to expect or look ahead with great pleasure. 

Life is exciting if you let it be. So to all my friends going to back to school tomorrow, or sometime this week. Let’s be anticipatory. Let’s expect GREAT things from this school year. Let’s have good attitudes and a willingness to learn. We are blessed for the opportunity to live and learn in Canada. Let’s act like it. Let’s act like we have sprits of power, love and self-dicipline.

That’s all I got for now. I’m surprised how nervous (damn, there’s that word again eh?) I am about hitting “publish” on this post. Vulnerability here folks. All the more reason to do it I guess. Hopefully someone out there in the big world of cyberspace gets something out of my silly realizations. God is always teaching me, even if I’m sometimes an inattentive student. So, good luck with September my friends. Let’s make it a great one

-Until next time, Sam ❤

P.s. Here are some pictures of my last couple weeks settling into my new job/home. They do make me more excited for all that is to come!!

 

Rising Sun

“Our great Redeemer, glorious Saviour, Your name is higher than the rising sun. Light of the morning you shine forever, Your name is high than the rising sun….Hallelujah, King above all, simply to speak Your name is praise. Hallelujah, now and always, forever we lift Your name in praise. Hallelujah, our God, you reign.” – Rising Sun, All Sons and Daughters

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Oh the joy that comes from knowing the Lord. This weekend was one in which I was just so overwhelmed by how much our God loves and what a joy it is to be in His presence.

Good Friday, a day designed with sadness in mind, a day when innocent blood was shed so many years ago. Oh Jesus, I’m sorry, and I really am grateful. Thank you. And yet, because my God is love, even the darkest of days are filled with laughter and joy. I observed the day at church in the morning, and I have to say, a choir completely made up of senior citizens is enough to make anyone’s heart happy. In the afternoon, I baked bread that was eaten faster than it could cool. My night, I spent in worship. I showed up to a room called the Bible House around 7, hardly knowing anyone and spent the next 4 plus hours worshiping my God, a good Father who loves deeply, widely, and fully.

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Silent Saturday. A regular day. Nothing special about it, except a growing anticipation of the celebration to come and the quiet peace that comes from already knowing that He has and will overcome. I try to be pensive and consider seriously the sacrifice that Jesus made but this year, sadness is not a part of that. This year, I am filled with a steady stream of joy, bubbling just below the surface of my smile.

Today. Today, my Easter morning started at 6:30am with a beautiful sunrise. This was more than just a “pretty” sunrise. It was breathtaking. Vibrant and strong reds and oranges flooded the sky, peeking between buildings and reflecting on the canal as I made my way to Parliament Hill. How fitting that Resurrection Day was ushered in by a glorious sunrise. I remember thinking how much I love this city, how lucky I am to live in the capital. As the day dawned, I worshiped and prayed with friends and strangers alike on Parliament Hill. How blessed I am to live in a country where I am free to love Jesus.

After the sunrise service, I made my way to a breakfast hosted by my schools Christian fellowship. It’s almost sad how excited I was to sit on a real couch. After, I went out for second breakfast (because who doesn’t eat copious amounts of eggs on Easter??) with my friends, who have truly become family. I don’t know if they noticed but I was so overwhelmed with love for these people this morning. Coming to university I never dared to hope I would find friends as great as these and for neither the first time nor the last time today, I was shocked by how blessed I am.

12895380_1056086091115530_531127622_n.jpgThis afternoon, after a quick nap, (hey, the 6am wakeup call was rough ok?) I put on a brightly coloured dress, curled my hair and headed out in the sunshine to a church that I think I may be starting to call “mine”.  Dani and I were so surprised by how warm and sunny it was. The air smelt like springtime… and not going to lie, we may have embarrassed ourselves by singing out loud as we walked to the bus stop. But hey, what are you going to do when the sun is shining and Jesus is risen?!

Church was so, so, so good. Like, it always is but today it was just so full of life. Oh how I love Easter. The worship was genuine, filled with off beat claps, and all different voices intertwining. The message was hopeful and made me excited for the future. We prayed with a group of students from another university and chatted with people after service. We sat under the big window and felt the sun on our faces.
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As I was sitting there, I literally felt this indescribable, inexplicable joy rise up inside of me and I wanted to run out into the sun and dance and sing and shout because I am SO BLESSED. Blessed to be alive, to be saved, to love and be loved. A wave of peace came over me and I was reminded of God’s incredible goodness, not just today on Easter but always, everyday, now and forever.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt words rushing to my mind, my tongue, my fingers. I’m ready to write again. When there is so much beauty in the world what can I do except try to get it all out on paper? Pray for me that I find…no, make the time to pursue this passion and gift that I’ve been given.

So Happy Easter everyone. Today was a day the Lord had made, beautiful and victorious. I spent it rejoicing and being glad. Did you? #choosejoy

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory – Psalm 118:14

-Until next time, Sam 12910930_1056086274448845_1140488705_n

 

 

Like a Bird

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

I’m starting to truly realize how transient life as a student can be. Thinking back, in the last two years I have lived in 3 different cities, not including the two months I spent on an island at camp. Right now I live in a residence building with a lease of just 8 months and then I will be back on the island for 3-4 months. 6 months from now I’ll presumably be back in Ottawa but as of now, I haven’t got a clue where I’ll be resting my head. Home (as in Barrie) isn’t home anymore. But neither is Ottawa. And what about when I start co-op terms? I’ll be displaced to different cities for 4 month stints where again and again I will have to make friends and try to carve out space for myself. It’s kind of scary. It’s kind of exciting. It makes me feel sort of floaty and untied. I was never the kid who moved around a lot when I was younger. I went to my elementary school for 10 years and my high school for 4. We changed houses a few times but I always lived in the same 5 kilometre radius. I’m not used to being so unanchored. When I went back to Barrie at Christmas, I drove around and just looked at all the familiarity. The gas stations, parks, schools, intersections and street corners that had made up my childhood world.

I don’t know why this makes me feel so strange. After all, the wanderlust is strong. I love exploring new cities and breathing the air of new places. I thrive off of meeting new people. I think it’s not so much the fear of what’s new but the loss of what’s old that makes me feel uncomfortable. These may seem like one and the same but I don’t think they are. Switzerland was incredible and stretching and a learning experience. But I always knew I was coming home at the end. Now, I don’t even know where home is. I mentioned in one of my posts at the end of last year that I realized how important family is but missing family is not the same as missing home. 

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of the word home. There were several definitions, especially because the word can have so many functions within a sentence. Two of them however really caught my eye.

Home, noun: the place where one lives permanently, particularly as part of a family or household

Home, verb: to move or be aimed toward (a target or destination) with great accuracy 

Ok, so I’ve pretty much accepted that for my time as a student I am not going to have somewhere that I “live permanently”. What about the second definition? To be aimed toward with great accuracy. This reminded me of a homing pigeon, which can find it’s way where it needs to go and yet always knows it’s way back to where it came from 

I am homing. I do not have “a” home, but I am homing. I will navigate these next years, always moving, always aimed towards something new and fresh and yet I will remember my home; I will find my way back from time to time. And one day, one day, I will settle and be permanent. But for now I am in transit like a bird.

What’s the target? I don’t know. I’m trusting God with that one. I do know that if I keep trusting Him, my steps will continue to have great accuracy. I will get to explore and learn and find new corners of my heart for each person and place that I learn to love. And in that way, I will always be “home”.

-Until next time, Sam

Some pictures of places I’ve called home the past two years. Where will be next?

 

 

Crossing Oceans

When I was in grade twelve, I kind of had a habit of getting into intense debates. Still do to be honest. But in grade twelve I was really starting to discover what I was passionate about and I was blessed enough to be put in classrooms with teachers who encouraged me to think for myself and friends who constantly challenged me (thanks). I learn best from talking things through and so these debates led to break throughs in how I thought. They often made me realize my beliefs, as I defended them.

So, I’m in my grade 12 religion class and the theme is ethics and morality. Inevitably we start talking about how to treat other people…and if our treatment of them should be dependant on how they treat us. And I’ll never forget the next 15 minutes or so that unfolded. One of the boys in the back of the class started, very determinedly I may add, stating that people who didn’t respect him did not deserve his respect in return. From his point of view, it was acceptable for him to treat people as “less than” if they didn’t give him the respect that he thought he deserved. He saw respect and care for other people as a transaction. I give you, you give me. And all the kids in my class nodded their heads and something inside of me just pulled back and felt sick. And being Sam, I decided I could not let this brief conversation go by without fighting back.

Suddenly I found myself at the center of a debate, my main argument being that human beings deserve respect solely on the basis that they are people. You do not have to like someone. You do not have to be best friends. But human beings deserve basic respect and someone else not showing you love does not give you an excuse to treat them subpar. I was very respectful but very adamant that he was wrong. We never did come to an agreement that day but I did learn a lot about my own thoughts and views.

A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook, as one does, and I came across this post. I’m assuming that its a screenshot from a Tumblr post or something? I’m not super on top of my Tumblr knowledge (psst WordPress is better). 

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So I see this post and, I’m not exaggerating, I wanted to shout and jump around because YES. Yes, yes, yes a million times over. I wanted to find the person who wrote the second half of this and shake their hand. This is what love is. This is what life is about. This takes what I was trying to get that boy in my class to understand and takes it one step further. Because I would say that going further than only respect, we should actually love all people.

Here’s the thing. As humans, our gut reaction is to read just the first part of this and nod our heads in agreement. Obvious right? Why go above and beyond for anyone who isn’t willing to do the bare minimum for you? And that logic makes sense…if we’re being selfish. And if we’re being close minded. And if we want to limit our potential for love and fullness of life. But life is not just about us as individuals. Our world is beautifully interconnected and intertwined. Life is about connections. 

I love people. I really do. I think people are fascinating and quirky and wonderful and weird and I love it. When people ask me why I’m studying International Development, the first words out of my mouth are always “I love people” (I have lots of others but this is the first). Because even though I do not know every individual on this planet, I do know that every single one of them has potential. They all have strengths and weaknesses and dreams and ideas. They have stories and pasts that give them a unique perspective. They know things that I don’t. And I love them. Regardless of the mistakes they make or the way they act, God made them with a purpose and if I want to live a full life, I want to show people love.

Obviously this perspective is heavily influenced by my faith. I’ve experienced love and sacrifice from my God on a level that I will never truly understand. I mean hello, died for us? And as much as I try to love people unconditionally and without strings attached, I definitely fall short sometimes. It’s hard! We disagree or we feel hurt when someone doesn’t appreciate our efforts. But when I step back, it always comes back to love. And I want to let the love God has given to me overflow into every aspect of my life, every breath I take, every word I speak, every person I meet and every day that I get on this earth.

1st Corinthians 13:7 says “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I want to learn what it means to love recklessly and enduringly. I want to love, regardless of what I get in return. Will I get hurt sometimes? Definitely. Sometimes loving people I don’t even know means I cry about earthquakes in other countries or get righteously and furiously angry about inequity. Love means being open to heartbreak, and I’m okay with that because the reward outweighs the risk, big time.

So I will cross oceans. I will climb mountains. I will step out of my comfort zone again and again. I will turn to God as an example and I will turn to people as the purpose. I will greet everyone as “friend”. I will connect and I will laugh with people who do not share my language. I will try my very best not to let my temporary frustrations influence the way I treat people.

Let’s not put ties on our lives. Let’s live fully and with love. Do it. Cross whatever “ocean” you’ve been avoiding and extend love to the people you see as unloveable, whether it be because of the way they’ve treated you or because of your own bias. Open your eyes. See worth rather than flaw. 

This all sounds pretty basic. Like, we know, treat others how you want to be treated, thanks Mom. But seriously. I want to be known for being a woman who loved fiercely and compassionately rather than one who was bitter and so wrapped up in her own comfort that she forgot how valuable people and relationships really are.

Take a risk. You’ll survive a little heartbreak but f you never love openly, you won’t truly live.

– Until next time, Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to be Still

 

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Study central

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still – Exodus 14:14

Even though I have only been back at school for a week and a half, it already feels like months have gone by. Between finding classes, switching courses, buying textbooks and catching up with friends, it seems as though Christmas break never even happened.

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Very busy “TO DO” list this week

Last semester, I ended up being really, really stressed out, particularly in October when I had the bulk of my midterms and papers due. Although I don’t regret my first semester of university, as I learned a lot, this semester I’m making a concerted effort to be more organized, prioritize what’s important to me and make school not so much a struggle but a season on my life to enjoy to the fullest. I made myself a list of 16 goals (I’m ambitious okay) that I’ve actually been looking over at the end of each day and trying to ask myself if I made most of them happen that day.

And it’s incredible how much of a difference some of those things have made even in just the few short weeks I’ve been working on them. I’m not going to lie, getting up at 7am every day is not my favourite thing in the world and my floormates are not super impressed by my insistence on my “bedtime” of 11pm. But SERIOUSLY my days feel like actual, full, productive days! My friend Tati wrote a great post this week about becoming a morning person and  it’s crazy how much of a difference it makes. And the libraries are so quiet in the morning, having a cup of tea and ploughing through a couple of chapters of econ or history can be accomplished before most people are even out of bed.

But in the last week or so, I’ve been realizing something else that is important: knowing when to be still. Between classes, readings, working out, volunteering, clubs, friends, errands etc., I sometimes have to take a minute to be still, and just breathe. I talked about this actually last semester as well but clearly didn’t learn my lesson.

Which brings me to the point of this point. Every year, I choose a word to focus on, kind of a theme for my year. Last years word was courageous . This year, nothing was really coming to me and I kind of had decided to just go with “Joy” since one of my goals was to “choose joy”.

But then I went away to Wintercon, a weekend retreat with my school’s Christian fellowship. It was a time to get to know each other and learn about the “good news” of the gospel. It was definitely an amazing experience. Upstairs they had this prayer room which was absolutely beautiful and peaceful.

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p.c. Steve Kim @ stevekinsung.wordpress.com

All weekend however, I had a song stuck in my head that I used to sing with my choir in high school. The lyrics go:

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with You above the storm

Father you are King over the flood

I will be still and know you are God

The word still really stood out to me, in two senses. One, for me to be still, in the busyness of life, to take time and just be in God’s presence. And secondly, still as a steadfastness, a continuation, an “even now”, an always. Since being in school I sometimes find myself just trying to get through it so I can move on with my life, forgetting why I’m here. But this weekend I was really reminded that God still has  plans for me, that the passions and promises he has given me are still remembered and that he is still with me everyday. In particular I really felt affirmed and renewed passion about my call and love for Nepal which I’ve written about here and here. My friend Dayna is actually there right now (as was my friend Tori about a month ago) and hearing their stories and seeing their pictures just makes me so much more excited for when the day comes that I finally get to go and explore this place I feel inexplicably drawn to. These are some of Dayna’s pictures, so of course photo credit goes to her!

So that’s my word for the year. Still. It will be interesting to learn how God can bring about incredible adventures for me, even when I am patiently standing still.

Sorry if this hasn’t been a super interesting post for you guys to read! This one has been (and let’s be real, several of my recent posts are as well) a lot of personal reflection and letting my thoughts spill out onto my blog…not to fear! I’m trying to come up with some fresh and interesting content soon so stay tuned!

Until then, I hope you’re having a lovely day. Pro tip: studying with a facemask and a cp of tea is pretty not bad.

-Sam

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Not a great picture but I got glasses for the first time this week. What do you think?

A simple pause

Sometimes you need to just be.

The last few weeks have been a blur of rushing around and a flood of names, faces, places, instructions and information. Even my last blog post was written in one shot and published immediately. The rhythm of university life caught me up in it’s current before I knew what had happened. And you know what? I love it. I love being busy. I love getting to know people and exploring and learning.

But sometimes, it all gets to be a bit overwhelming. Today for the first time I felt a little buried in this new experience. I looked around and felt odd knowing that no one here really knows me. They’ve met me and I’m sure they have a general idea of who I am and what I’m like but they don’t really know me, my thoughts, my soul. Maybe that’s a little dramatic but I miss having people around who just get me. Victoria, if you’re reading this, I miss our heart to hearts and you just knowing what I mean when I sigh and wave my hands around.

I think all this is amplified by the fact that I’m sick right now and having to take care of yourself kind of sucks to be honest. I miss my mom making me soup and rubbing my back when I’m not feeling well. I guess that’s part of growing up though right?

Today, I just needed to be Sam. Completely me. Not a university student, or a floormate, or a new friend or anyone. Just me. So I went for a walk and when I got back to my dorm, I put in my headphones and listened to some worship music. This one song came on. To be honest, I can’t remember what it’s called anymore. The lyrics go something like:

Holy Spirit you are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory God is what our hearts long for

These words hit me so hard today, as I was sitting in my little room at the end of the hall. Even though it’s not what the song was talking about, I felt God speaking so clearly to me…as soon as I was willing to listen.

The One who knows my soul and my being better than any human ever will, is with me. My God knows “just Sam” better than even I do. I was so overcome with peace and a sense of the Holy Spirit as I sat and there and remembered that I am not, nor have I ever been and nor will I ever be, alone. That, my friends, is the most incredible feeling in the world.  Even when I am in a strange place, with no one I know, I am known. I am known by a God who cares about my thoughts, my dreams and my passions. My God knows that I need community and I can have full confidence that He will provide opportunities for new relationships and places that I’ll feel comfortable in. Barrie, Mapleview, Kitchi…Ottawa will eventually make the list of places I call “home”.

Today, for me, that pause in my day to just be alone with God for a few minutes made me feel so refreshed, calm and ready to reassess what I had to get done, one step at a time. It helped me get my thoughts back in line rather than let myself get caught in a rut of feeling out of place.

Life is busy. Life as a student in a new city is even more so. Today I am grateful that I’ve been blessed with this experience and even more grateful that I have a God who’s got my back. Essays and readings ain’t got nothing on me!

-Until next time, Sam

P.s. How is life going for you? I hope it’s good.

My little nest
My little nest

Even if…

Could you…or would you love someone even if they cheated on you, ran away from you and publicly humiliated you again and again? For most of us, the answer would, no doubt, be a resounding heck no! That’s what I’d be saying for sure!

As I was writing about a couple of weeks ago after Overflow, in today’s society we have a bit of a warped view of what love really means. In theory, it is meant to be completely irrevocable and unconditional. It’s meant to be so strong that literally nothing can change it, break it, or make it run and hide. Unfortunately, that is nearly impossible for humans to achieve. Our love is based on a give and take, a mutuality. God’s love is not.

In small groups last week we came up with a list of what love is in the context of Jesus

  • Active; a verb not a noun; pursuing
  • Overflowing; no limits
  • Unending; forever; eternal
  • Unconditional; expects nothing in return
  • Pure; no hidden agenda
  • Obsessive; intense interest in our lives even without reciprocation
  • Self-less; sacrificial
  • Relentless; constant

If I’ve sung it once, I’ve sung it a thousand times. That song (Hosanna) by Hillsong that goes

“Show me how to love like you have loved me.”

And although I mean it when I say it, I think it’s so hard for us to truly comprehend what that love means. Loving like God loves means loving the people you don’t even like. It means talking to the people you don’t want to talk to. It means being okay with not getting an “I love you too”. It means going back to the person who ran away and telling them your not giving up that easy. It means being available but understanding your love might never be accepted. It means asking “How are you?” and meaning it. It means making a choice on a daily basis to continue to love, even when you don’t “feel” like it. It means more than words, it means action. Loving like God is not a part-time job, it’s a full time commitment. Love doesn’t quit.

In the Bible, there’s this prophet named Hosea. To make a long story short, he’s a super popular and important influence in Israel in his time and God basically tells him to go find a prostitute named Gomer and marry her. Despite the fact that Hosea was probably thinking “God…what the heck? I’m a prophet! Where’s my hot, holy girl at?”, Hosea finds Gomer and marries her because he is obedient to God. A few years pass, they have a couple of kids and suddenly Gomer is up and gone. She turns away from her loving husband, life of relative wealth and prosperity and goes back to her sin. In fact, this time she ends up a sex slave.

Can we just address the fact that Hosea was way too good for Gomer? She was literally a sex slave and he was God’s voice to all of Israel. So you’d think that at this point, our man Hosea would just write her off as a lost cause and move on with his life. But that’s not the end of the story. Hosea goes looking for her, determined not to give up, no matter how “far gone” his wife is.

He has to buy her back, which must have absolutely broken his heart.

Now she is no longer selling herself, she is being sold. And her husband has to buy her back from a pimp. Not only does he have to go find her and forgive her, he actually has to pay for it. But he does it and “shows love again to his wife, as the Lord loves his people“. There was nothing Gomer could do to make her husband turn his back on her. There was no mistake too great, no heartbreak too terrible, no amount of pushing away that could stop him from going out and finding her again, no matter what the cost.

That is God’s love for us. We can break promises, run and hide, spit in his face, reject his love and and refuse to even acknowledge his existence and none of that has any effect on his insurmountable, unconditional, relentless love for us. 

Sometimes, we are Gomer. Doing everything we can think of to push God away and yet we know that he is right there, just waiting for us to accept that he has paid the price for our release. Free to live, if only we would stop holding the unlocked chains to our wrists.

And sometimes, we are Hosea. Being told to go love people that we just don’t “feel” like loving. To invite that girl to church even though last time she told you to eff off. To go have lunch with that guy no one else wants to talk to. To stand up for the girl everyone is calling a whore. To hang out with a friend while they’re coming off a drug high. You might not feel like it. But that is what love is. And God calls us to do it in obedience because he loves those people so much more than you can imagine. He wants to use you as a tool, but you have to be willing to do it his way.

Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice to be steadfast and consistent.

Guess what? Love isn’t always fun. It’s not gushy, mushy feel good. It actually is way more powerful than that and to reduce it something as mundane as “I love tacos” or even “I love you because you can do something for me”, is ridiculous.

God’s love remains even if…

Fill in the blank with whatever you want, God’s love can handle it ALL

image

-Until next time, Sam

With Everything – Giving Back What Isn’t Ours

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind  and with all your strength – Mark 12:30

Another year, another Overflow has come and gone! If you don’t remember (or never knew) what Overflow is, you can check out their website here or my blog post from last year, here!

Now, forewarning here, I have this problem called being distracted. Which means I spent a lot more time this weekend laughing than I did thinking about my blog. Which means, there aren’t photos. Sorry about that my friends! You’ll just have to use your imagination…or Google I guess.

So the thing is, last year’s blog post was easy to write. I could just write about what Overflow is, the event of it. But I can’t write the same post twice. And if I learned anything this year, it’s that the event isn’t what’s important. Music, sports events, games, performances, and lights and people can only get you so far. At the end of the day, it’s not about any of that. It’s about Jesus. It really is.

This was my fourth Overflow and for the first time, I wasn’t excited about going. I’m a really social person but the idea of loud music and people jumping around isn’t really my cup of tea. But God surpassed my expectations, as per the usual. He proved to me once again that what we do can’t limit His power, nor can it distract from His glory. Now, don’t get me wrong. Overflow is an amazing event that brings people together and provides a fun environment for people to encounter God. I’m so grateful to the tech and creative teams, the organizers, the speakers, band and youth leaders for giving up their time and energy to make Oflo the best it can be. What I’m trying to get at is that having an experience with God isn’t contingent on how good of an event we put on. We can meet with Him in our bedrooms, our school hallways, or in Walmart just as powerfully as we can in an arena full of people worshipping.

The theme this weekend was “With Everything”, the idea being that God doesn’t want just part of your life, He wants it all. This isn’t because he wants to control you, it’s because when you fully surrender He can begin to reveal His incredible plan for your life.

It makes me think of when I went with my Mom to visit Ottawa in the fall. She wanted to use the new GPS she had bought but didn’t trust it fully. So sometimes she would do what it said and others she would say “No, I remember the way, I’m sure we’ll get there faster if we go straight.” The GPS would then have to recalculate and usually we ended up having to backtrack, or extend the trip in order to get back on track. I remember getting frustrated and telling her that she couldn’t have it both ways. Either turn the GPS off and go your own way or listen to what it’s telling you to do! You can’t pick and choose what directions to follow. You trust the guidance or you don’t, there’s no in between. 

It’s the same thing with God. Following Him halfway sucks. It’s not fun, it’s confusing and it ends up getting you even more lost. The thing is, we aren’t always going to understand why He’s taking us a certain way. And that’s where faith comes into play. Do you trust Him with everything or does your faith have boundaries? If so, is it really worth it all? I can tell you, God’s plans can seem terrifying but they are designed perfectly in line with who you were created to be. This means that when you walk in the Spirit and in full confidence of God’s plan you will be more fulfilled in your talents and gifts than any other time. He knows better than even ourselves what we are capable of and how to use us to our fullest potential.

But here’s the kicker, the biggest part of “With Everything”. Giving everything to God is really just returning what is rightfully His. Everything we have and everything we are is just a reflection of who He is. All of our talent, our opportunities and yes guys, even our cash, are blessings that God has given us in order to be used for His plan. By re-entrusting it to Him, we can ensure that it will be used effectively.

Overall, Overflow is a life-giving event but it isn’t life-changing. Only Jesus has the ability to change lives. But it was an incredible weekend and I was blessed enough to be given an opportunity to use the gift of writing God has given me and share it with people in the form of spoken word poetry at the Overflow after-party. I was so nervous and thankful I didn’t puke like in the first Pitch Perfect movie haha! But when I was up on that stage, I felt full of the Holy Spirit and knew it was where I was meant to be in that moment. I’m so excited (abet nervous) to see where God is going to take my poetry and this blog in the next few years…trusting Him with every word I write.

My God is bright colours and I'm just enjoying all the different shades
My God is bright colours and I’m just enjoying all the different shades

Until next time, I hope you all have a lovely day

– Sam

Here’s the Recap video from last weekend if you want to see how cool it really is!

Let’s Talk about LOVE

We have corrupted love.

Previously a weightless ray of sun,

we have tied it to an anchor

and drowned it in the sea.

We have taken a word as strong as iron,

heated it with the fire of our indifference

and twisted it until it broke

into pieces

not useable for much.

 

We love Starbucks

and our hipster clothes.

We love driving fast in cars.

When did love start applying to

momentary satisfaction?

And why do we have such a shocked reaction

when God says love

is forever?

 

See we in our simplicity have taken

four Greek words and translated them as one.

But God had a single intention

when He sent his son

to earth.

 

Agape

No, it’s not a new flavour of smoothie

This

is a little foreign.

A little out of place on my lips

and a little startling

to the ears.

This is the love that we have lost

in the shadows of a world that is drowning itself

because it won’t let go of an

artificial emotion.

 

This love

comes with no terms and conditions

because we all know

nobody reads them.

Our father

already skimmed

and found the loophole.

 

Our father

can’t be discontinued because

eternity will always be in style.

 

Our father

doesn’t watch us be carried away downstream

and throw a paddle.

He jumps in

and pulls us out because

he’s not afraid of ruining his hair.

 

Our father

doesn’t cheer us on from the sidelines.

He will run every uphill mile

and piggyback you when you twist your ankle

or get a cramp

in your motivation.

 

Because He is Agape

 

And Agape is not a love that is stagnant

It doesn’t have an ending

Agape is a love

in the business of sending

us out

to find more people to Agape.

 

Agape asks for nothing in return.

Agape will give you it’s jacket in the rain.

Agape and love are not the same thing.

 

But we don’t use the word Agape.

Someone was too tired

and accidently spelt it

L-O-V-E

when transcribing.

 

But we are children

learning by example.

 

I will start liking Starbucks

but loving people.

I will stop expecting an “I love you too”

I will reclaim the word “love”

 

Because language is defined by the people who use it

 

I like to get my meaning across,

use precise diction.

So I will use action

to remove ambiguity from my words.

I will make

love mean Agape.

 

And you.

I will pull you out from the depths

and into the sunlight

because

God

loves

you.

And I want to be the dictionary

He gives you to define it.