Sunday Night Musings

Sundays are for sleeping in and brunch with friends, for catching up on readings and spending time with Jesus. Sundays aren’t always a day of rest but it’s best when they are. Today was one of those lazy, lovely Sundays.

It’s not very often I just lie in bed, awake but still cozy in my blankets and nest of pillows. Today I did. Well, actually I got up and made a tea, got my bible and then climbed back in. I did my devotions and lay and thought about life for a while. Just when I had almost convinced myself that I was going to be productive today, BAM. An old high school friend texted and asked if I wanted to have brunch. Should I have said no? Probably. But I didn’t, because life chats and crêpes from Cora’s are better than the library life any day.

michelle and sam

We ended up coming back to my residence afterwards because Michelle lives off campus and wanted to see what LeBlanc is like. For me, trying to see my friends and our interactions from an outsiders point of view was so interesting. She kept commenting on how close we all seem to be and it made me grateful all over again that I get to spend this year living in such a close knit and fun community. And at the same time, I got to spend my afternoon with someone from home. It felt like my two worlds were mixing, just a little. It was so fun talking to someone who knows the same people I know and misses some of the same places and things.

I didn’t end up making it to church (which, by the way, I think I’ve found one) because I was having trouble figuring out the bus schedules to get there. But my God isn’t contained to a building or a group of people. I went to my room and listened to some worship music and dreamt about the future and prayed for my friends and read some theology blogs. I just got to hang out with Jesus. Anyone who could hear my music through the wall (totally a possibility in res) probably wondered why on earth I was listening to the same song over and over again. But sometimes words just speak to my soul and show me God in a clear and powerful way. Today that happened with the song “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons and Daughters.

 When it was finally time to get a start on my homework, I made a “To Do” list on my desk whiteboard, as I always do. Today though I decided to start with a bible verse to keep myself focused. This verse really made me think today and I posted it on Instagram with a caption: 

Started my “TO DO” list with some encouragement tonight. Right now my “wherever” happens to be the desk in my dorm room. Definitely not all that exciting and not exactly frightening nor requiring of courage. But the fact of the matter remains that God is WITH me. Whether I’m at a desk or on top of a mountain (please?) I can rest easy with the knowledge that God’s got my back. Also, with Arabic and Econ at the top of that list, I’mma need the back up.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened. Do not be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” -Joshua 1:9

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And now, I’m here. Sitting at my desk, more behind in homework than I should be and yet completely satisfied and content. Working hard is important but so is having days of rest. Thank you Sunday for being so lovely. You’ve set the stage for a wonderful week.

Until next time,

-Sam

There are no winners in war

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They say life imitates art…and in the case of the newest Hunger Games instalment, Mockingjay Part II, the real life connection hit a little too hard.

Sometimes I think that I think too much. I can never managed to completely zone out and focus on one thing, I always have a million secondary thoughts chasing around my brain, cross referencing with each other. So when I watch movies, I sometimes have a hard time disconnecting from all those thoughts and just watching the dang movie.

As I’m sure most of you know, the Hunger Games is an extremely popular movie franchise in a dystopian world called Panem. The heroine of the story, Katniss, finds herself the centre of a rebellion…and soon enough, a civil war. The 13 districts, tired of facing an oppressive government are fighting to free the people and establish a democracy at any and all cost.

For myself, as a student of development, the story of this fictional society rings all too true. This past semester, my discussion group had an interesting discussion about democracy. Democracy is considered a vital part of development but political reform comes with consequences and conflict, which makes it a difficult topic to figure out. My peers and I went back and forth for over an hour and couldn’t come to an agreement about a) whether or not these changes can be made without war or b) if the answer to a is no, is that conflict worth it? I still don’t have an answer to this question but the Hunger Games had me thinking about it again.

As I watched the war in the movie unfold, I couldn’t help but cringe. Here I was, sitting in a theatre, on a “sister date” after months of being away from home and watching people kill each other…for entertainment. I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t think it was fun anymore, sitting and watching Katniss fight for her life. It gave me chills to know that thousands of kilometres away, people were hiding out for real, worried about being blown up or tortured, praying that their children won’t be taken away.

The movie continued and I realized something, in the dark of the theatre (while I should have been mindlessly consuming media); there are no winners in war. It doesn’t matter how valiant the cause…war is war. It is violent and dirty, it corrupts good people and makes my heart ache. There are always people who die from being in the wrong place, there are always innocents killed in the crossfire. There are no “good” outcomes. Only ones that are less horrendous.

This post isn’t about violence in the media, nor is it necessarily about being grateful for what have. It’s just something to think about. We were born into a place where we live with freedom from fear, a place that has never known war in our life time. But we do reside in an era of globalization, which means that we cannot close our eyes to the things happening around the world and pretend they don’t affect us, that people we don’t know, don’t matter.

Maybe I should have just watched it and enjoyed it for what it was: a movie. But I can’t, that’s not me. I thought about all the ways it related to the world, to my life. When the movie started showing the refugees fleeing their homes…when it showed their children being bombed (by the “good guys”) in order to gain leverage, all I could think about was the Syrian refugees. 

I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole refugee “hot topic” when people bring it up because I do understand both sides of it. Obviously we can’t just leave them there. Refugees do not choose to be born in a war zone. They do not choose to have their religion hijacked by extremists, they do not decide to flee their country for fun. I cannot imagine the horrors the people in the Middle East have faced recently but moreover, I cannot imagine living a nightmare and being told by the world “we won’t help you”.

I also understand the fear of Canadians.  Yes, it is going to cost you money. Yes, these are people you do not know. Yes, you are scared that they might bring the war here. But when it comes down to it, yes, they are people. Yes, they matter. Yes, they deserve to have the basic right of living without fear.

In this Christmas season, the Bible story will be read all over the world, thousands if not a million times. But a lesser known part of the story has been all I could think about.

Jesus, as a baby, was a refugee.

Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary received word that the King had ordered all baby boys to be murdered and thus were forced to flee their country in order to save their son. They went to Egypt of all places and keep in mind that the Israelites had quite the history with Egypt. It was probably the last place they wanted to go and the last place they would be welcomed. But they went. Not because they wanted to but because they feared for their lives. 

They lived in Egypt for several years. Imagine if they had been turned down at the border. Told “Go home, we don’t want you. We remember what happened the last time we had Israelites in our country”. Jesus could have been one of the children killed during King Herod’s reign. How crazy is that? This Christmas the pastor at my church said the one person he wouldn’t want to be in the Christmas story is the innkeeper that turned them away. I wouldn’t want to be the one to turn away a refugee out of fear. God understands the plight of the Syrian refugees and my only possible response is one of love and of hospitality.

There are no winners in war. But there are heroes. I’m praying that Canadians will live up to our reputation as being the friendliest country in the world, because in some cases, the best hero is the one willing to be a true friend.

As for the Hunger Games, it did sort of have a “happy ending”, as happy as can be after everything the characters had lived through. It was one of my favourite book series when I was in elementary school so maybe I’ll be able to watch it again sometimes and see it just for what it is.

Or maybe not…I think I’d rather think anyways. I certainly learn a lot that way.

-Until next time,

Sam

 

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

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-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!

Courageous

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them because the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” – Deuteronomy 31:6 

It’s January 2015, season of resolutions and fresh starts. While some may approach this with a cynical attitude, I love that people take this opportunity to make changes, to have a benchmark to look back on and to have a timeline for goals. A year seems like a long time in the present but in the grande scheme of things, it is actually just a fraction of life. The last year of my life brought me so many ridiculously amazing opportunities, it sometimes felt like I was living in a dream and I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring for me in all areas of my life.

Something I did last year for the first time was have a word of the year. I honestly cannot for the life of me remember where I first heard about it but basically the premise is that you pick a word that you want to be representative of your year, something you want to strive for or learn about or focus on or improve. My word of 2014 was chosen on a whim on night early in January and I really had no idea how much of an impact it would have on my growth over the past year. The word was renew.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed, day by day” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Throughout the year, the word would come up when I would least expect it, in bible verses, in conversation and in my life and I feel like it was truly a year of renewal and growth.

So after last years success, why would I not pick one this year?

Courageous

I don’t think I even know what it means to be courageous, but I’m willing to learn. Here goes nothing. 2015, a year of being courageous

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We’ve Been To The Mountain Top (AKA Waterloo)

1-thessalonians-3_12 You know those “You had to be there” moments that are just about impossible to describe no matter how amazing they are? That’s what this entire weekend was like, but here it goes trying to explain it anyway because it was just too great to go not talked about.

 

This weekend I went to Overflow which is basically a conference for Christian youth. We come from all over Ontario, over 2500 of us to meet and praise God and learn from each other and hear amazing speakers and just have fun. This year was my 3rd at Oflo and somehow, it just keeps getting better every year. My difficulty comes when I try to describe it to friends and do it justice. I mean I kid you not, I just texted a friend describing it as ” Like we were just praising Jesus and there was a mosh pit and a guy had a chain saw and there were bouncy castles and God really spoke to me and I got to hang out with all my favourite people and see cool bands and it was basically a rave but about God with no drugs” Sorry what? I’m super eloquent about these things, I know. I’ll see if I can do a little better for ya’ll

A view of the stage during worship *not my photo*
A view of the stage during worship *not my photo*

Overflow is a really good representation of what I believe church should be about. Fun, fellowship and honest discussions about God and what a relationship with Him means. There’s no strict rules about how you should act or what you have to do to be Christian because we all realize a relationship with Jesus is a personal thing. The pastors talk about the Bible in ways you can seriously understand and make jokes we can relate to. It’s engaging, funny and real. It was a place you actually wanted to be.

Theme for the weekend
Theme for the weekend

Outside of the services, you get to hang out with your friends and encourage and build each other up which is refreshing after the gossip and backstabbing that characterises the hallways of a high school. And I was serious about the bouncy castles, not to mention hockey and basketball tournaments, a bunch of cool bands (including my new favourite, Juno award winning The City Harmonic. Seriously go check them out) and some serious dance-offs. It’s honestly nothing like what most people my age think “church” or “religion” looks like. One of my favourite quotes from this weekend was said by Mike Miller during Friday night’s session. In referring to the a-typical church services he said Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit! It’s okay for church to be FUN!”

And while Overflow is a ton of fun and you end the weekend filled with laughter, memories and inside jokes, you also leave having had a real encounter with God. I already knew and loved Jesus before this weekend. Tons of people at my school have heard me talk about God or my youth group so I’m known as a “Christian kid” (ironic since I go to a Catholic school haha) However I’m still learning and growing and trying to understand this crazy thing called grace, which in short is God’s love for us. As I grow closer to Him, He teaches me how to love the people around me, helps me to overcome everyday struggles and reveals His plans for my life. It’s crazy for me to think that there really is a God who love me unconditionally, knows the number of hairs on my head and my future. But I believe because He’s proven it to me time and time again. This weekend was no different. This weekend He showed up and did amazing things in the lives of all of us who were there. He taught me how to be still in the craziness of life (or the craziness of a conference room with 2500+ people) and just be in His presence. And it totally refreshed me to go back into my everyday life knowing I’m not in it alone.video So, if you’re still reading this and think I’m absolutely nuts, sorry! Well actually I’m not sorry ’cause this is my blog and I’m going to post what I want but I do know this is the first non travel related post and may not have been what you were expecting. So hopefully, you have somewhat of an idea of what my weekend was like. I can tell you it was absolutely amazing! Feel free to ask any questions about God or whatever as I’ve never really shared my faith to this extent on social media!

Some of the best moments happen on bus rides
Some of the best moments happen on bus rides

Finally thanks to our AMAZING team of leaders, TSL (my youth group) couldn’t be more blessed to have them, the Overflow team and worship band for putting on an INCREDIBLE weekend and to my lovely friends for loving me despite my constant chatter, confusion and loudness, they ROCK. This weekend will be one I will look back on with a smile for years to come as life-changing and laughter inducing!

“Take your problems to Facebook for attention, take them to Jesus for answers” 

Also, this is the song I’m referencing in the title of this post

‘Till next time everyone, I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂

P.S. I was a bad blogger this weekend and took a limited number of photos so the entire first gallery and a few other of these pictures were taken from the album on my youth groups Facebook page, credit goes to them if it’s captioned as not being mine 🙂