Morning Rhythms

This morning I was up before the sun.

A static melody fills my room as the radio alarm clicks on at “5am” which is really more like 4:50 since all my clocks are set ahead; my chronic lateness needs all the help it can get to make me be on time for something, anything.

Even though I want to snuggle down into the covers and wrap myself in the cozy denim coloured jersey sheets, I force myself to put my feet on the ground before I think twice. Half asleep, I hit boil on the already filled kettle and scoop this morning’s caffeinated drink – vanilla matcha – into a wide mug I need both hands to hold. Almost on auto-pilot I brush my hair, get dressed and gather my things for the day. Before 5:30, I am out the door, green drink in one hand, grey bible in the other. I head for the common room.

I spend the next hour or so sitting in front of the window. I journal while music quietly plays and sip my drink while reading about this week’s “spiritual discipline” of choice – gratitude. I pray and ask God to meet me, to teach me, to change me, to grow me, as I open the Word and read the Psalms. I am almost brought to tears by the beauty and emotion of the Bible’s poets. I praise the Lord for the truths I read: that He is my refugee, that He alone gives peace, that I ask and He answers, that He is angry without sin, that He delights in me, that He gives joy in the darkness. I do not feel the tiredness in my body any more. You could argue that it is the matcha kicking in but I can feel the Holy Spirit filling me with so much excitement about being alive. I ask for forgiveness for the times this week I spoke in anger, for the times I was lazy or selfish or unkind or prideful. I ask the Holy Spirit to be with me through my busy day.

I practice gratitude all the way to work. I realize that for the first time this year I can hear birds chirping in the tree on the Leblanc front lawn and think, “what a gift that is to me!” I watch pink streaks wind their way through the sky and smile to myself as I step into puddles. Whether or not it lasts, this morning feels like spring and I am grateful to be alive.

I talk to God about how much I love writing and getting to know people. I pray about the book I want to someday write and the blogs I have in the back of my head. I thank Jesus for the plans He has for me today, tomorrow, this summer and six years from now and day dream about all the countries I will visit soon. I remember my last year’s trip to Iceland and am thankful all over again for a God who fulfills the desires of my heart. I remember how I prayed last August that I would be able to find a non-profit to do co-op at this winter. I walk through the downtown core of the city I so love and cherish on my way to the job that is everything I asked God for, and more. Like the bonus of having Friday’s off to accomplish tasks for my many other commitments. I thank God that He actually does give me more than I can handle but never more than He can handle; I am grateful I have to rely on Him and not my own stubbornness and pride.

I pray for friends near and far. I pray for people I do not call friend. I pray in French and thank God for language and rain and my residents and for being a God who is “tu” and not “vous”. I stop and buy a tea. I tell the women behind the cash how grateful I am that she got up early to serve me this morning.

I get to work 20 minutes early. I sit and talk with my co-workers about how beautiful long-lasting friendships are and I think about how excited I am to catch up with my best friend on the phone tonight. What a blessing it is to have technology to keep in touch.

I sip my tea. I start up my computer. I make my to-do list. I get to work.

I gave up sleeping in for Lent and it is not easy to resist the snooze button. Sometimes I mess up, like last Friday when I convinced 3 friends to meet me on campus at 7 for prayer and then I slept through the alarm and missed it. 5am comes oh so early. But a 5am start to my day means I have time to meet with Jesus and focus my day on the Lord before the busyness of everything else kicks in and more and more I am finding beauty in this rhythm. I am truly giving God the first of my time and getting His view on my day long before the stress of work or obligations kick in. At 5am, there is nothing I need to do but sit in the presence of the Lord.

Morning rhythms, quiet cups of tea, birds chirping. I get to pray and meet with the Creator while most of Creation sleeps. Wow, if that doesn’t help me cultivate gratitude, I don’t know what will. I am so thankful for the life I get to live.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35

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Praise and Puddle Jumping

Rain is often seen as a negative weather phenomenon. Something that ruins plans, keeps people inside and destroys things that weren’t supposed to get wet. It’s dreary and miserable and people pray for the sun to come out again.

Yet for me, so many times in my life, the rain has been a sign from God that He is doing something GOOD. I look back and the amount of times I was caught in the rain, only to have God grab hold of my grouchy attitude and teach me something beautiful are too many to count.

When I used to a camp counsellor, rainy days were dreaded, especially when they came back to back with no end in sight. It meant cancelled programs and sitting inside face to face with 10 little girls expecting to be entertained for hours on end. Let me tell you, there is only so many bunk bed forts and games of “Werewolf” a girl can take! One day, I was walking back from a staff meeting, rain boots on, head down to keep the droplets of rain out of my eyes. I was annoyed because skills were cancelled and I knew my sailing students were going to be behind, maybe even fail the class if the rain didn’t let up soon. Just as I turned the corner to my cabin I heard laughter and shrieking. Crossing my fingers that no one was hurt, I saw my campers, 13 years old at the time, jumping up and down in their bathing suits and barefoot, kicking up water and sticking their tongues out at each other. Almost on it’s own accord, my face broke out into a smile. I couldn’t even remember the amount of time’s I’d gone and stood in the pouring rain on the warm sidewalk in my home town, dancing and laughing as the puddles grew around my ankles. So much fun! Instead of hiding inside, my girls and I spent at least an hour, running around in the rain. We were the only ones out and there was so much joy and fun to be found when we stopped fighting what seemed like bad luck and started making it work for us.

Another time I went for a walk around the city with a couple of friends. It was our first week back from summer vacation and we walked and walked and talked for hours, catching up on everything we had missed. On the way home, we wandered past Parliament, where our country’s government sits. Suddenly the rain came DOWN. There was no escaping it. Even if we had wanted to go inside, there was nowhere to go. We starting laughing and running around, kicking water at each other, holding hands and turning our face towards the sky and letting the rain pelt our faces. I’ll never forget the beauty and pure joy of that night.

And once, just a couple of weeks ago, I got lost after taking the wrong bus. It was absolutely pouring rain and I was so far from where I needed to be. I angrily got off the bus, and started walking. Soon enough, my jeans were soaked through and there was no point even trying to stay dry. I pulled my hood back and stared at the sky. I was not happy. And yet, I felt a small voice inside tell me to start praising the Lord. Although I was walking down a street in a major city, no one else was around. I started singing the first worship song that came to my head, hesitantly at first and then really giving it, praising God with all I had as the rain pooled on the sidewalk, filling my running shoes and making mascara run down my cheeks. It was one of the most beautiful and intimate moments I had had with God in a long time.

As I walked home that night, I heard God’s voice reminding me of truths I have known for years but seemed to have forgotten in the chaos that is university. He reminded me that I am called to praise him through all circumstances. He reminded me that there is beauty in ugly things, in endings and in struggles and in rain. He reminded me that rain will always end, the sun will come. But he also reminded me that I do not have to hide. Rain will not melt me. Neither will the rainy seasons of life. If we choose to praise through the gray seasons of life, how much more quickly they will pass!

Someone I went to high school with died a couple of weeks ago at 19. I don’t know how many more days God will give me on this earth but I yearn to fill each one of them with joy and adventure. I will not risk being kept inside by rain. I will not give up mountain climbing, but I might get there by puddle jumping. And I’m telling you, splashing and dancing in the rain really is fun.

Now, as I sit in the sunroom at the back of my apartment, I listen to the rain fall and the thunder roll. God is quietly reminding me that He made me to be a storyteller and a writer and that I have neglected that dream to follow others. I hope to make a place here, on this blog to dream, encourage, write, praise, pray, and learn. I pray that I continue to pursue being more Christ-like and more Sam-like each and everyday.

After all, growth can only happen after it rains

-Until next time, Sam

(p.s. I listened to the Wanted On Voyage album by George Ezra while I wrote this if you’d like to listen along <3)

 

40 Days of Friends

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In high school, if you were going to drive me home, you had to know one thing: my driveway was a place of heart to hearts. Friends would often take me home and end up still sitting in the car with me hours later, talking late into the night about school, family, friends, relationships, faith, the future or just about anything else we could think of. Even my mom came to know that if I wasn’t home when I had said I would be, she only to had to look out the front window and chances were, I’d be there, either talking to or listening to a friend. I’m not sure what it was (and still is) for me about talking in the car but I suspect it’s largely the total absence of distractions. No other people talking, nothing to get up and do, no where to go. For however long we sat there, we had each other’s total attention. And because catching a ride home each day was inevitable, these chats happened fairly regularly.

How often do we actually give people in our lives that kind of time to be heard? Not sure about anyone else but I am brutal at making time for people, especially if they aren’t in my pathway, if I don’t see them while just going through my everyday life. University is BUSY!  I have a full course load, I have a job that can be unpredictable, I volunteer, I’m on the executive of a club, I’m learning languages and studying and applying for summer jobs and going to church and, and, and, and. It’s not like I don’t want to connect with people, it’s just HARD to make TIME. If you know me, you probably know I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people. It’s not that I don’t love you, I’m just BUSY (or so I say, as I binge watch Netflix).

But here’s the deal ya’ll. Friends and relationships are one (of if not THE) most valuable gifts we have been given in this life. Whether it’s a sit down coffee date, a quick text to let someone know you are thinking about them, a FaceTime with those far away or a walking home and chatting instead of sticking your headphones in your ears, we all could do well to start finding and making time for those we love, those we miss and those we wish we could get to know better. Let’s be real, I bet you could name 5 people right now that you should reconnect with or catch up with.

SO. What am I going to do about it?

As you may or may not know, today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter. For Christians, it is a time of reflection and often a time when people give something up in order to better reflect on the gifts God’s given them. So this year, I’m giving up complacency in my relationships. I’m giving up excuses and I’m giving up my tendency to wave my hands and say “I just don’t have time”. The point of Lent is to, for 40 days, be super intentional about acknowledging Christ and preparing your heart for Easter. I believe that sacrificing my time and other hobbies to be present in the lives of those around me, and by taking the time to really see them for the person God created them to be is a great way to worship the Lord and acknowledge all He has blessed me with.  Friends are SUCH a blessing and I need to acknowledge that more by stepping outside of my own desires to watch Netflix or ignore people when I just don’t feel like socializing. We all want to feel noticed and appreciated and this season I want to make my people feel seen and heard.

SO. Here’s the plan.

40 days, 40 friends. 40 ways to celebrate the people I get to do life with.

Some of them will be family, some will be Ottawa friends and others old friends who live far away. Some will be acquaintances I’d like to know better and at least a couple will probably be total strangers. I want to see what happens when I intentionally acknowledge, appreciate, connect with, celebrate, communicate and love the people that God has placed in my life.

JOIN ME!! I’ve started making a list of those I want to connect with over the next month and a bit and I’d love if any of you wish to be a part of this adventure. Let me know if you’d like to connect. Whether you celebrate Lent or not, I think our friendships are so important to prioritize. And I’m being realistic here. Relationships are a two way street. I may not be able to connect with each one of these people this month. The point is, I’m going to try.

And one other important thing: I am going to PRAY for them. Each day, I’m going to pick one of the names on my list and pray intentionally for them by name throughout the day. I believe that prayer has power and that it is a way for me to care for my friends, even when they are far away or too busy to hang out. Friends,heads up! I’m coming for you, ready for all the heart to hearts, all the hugs, all the cups of tea and the texts and Facetimes and whatever else you need to feel loved and seen. I love you all and I look forward to sharing time with you soon ❤ And if not, know that you’ll be in my heart and my prayers!

I’ve gone through stages of my life where Lent has been either something I did just for the sake of doing and other times when I didn’t observe it at all because I didn’t want to be “just going through the motions”. I was convicted today that God doesn’t require anything from us; His sacrifice is enough. Giving things up for Lent and/or taking on new habits/disciplines is NOT something we have to do to be saved or to make God love us more, yada yada yada. The intention to grow closer to Him. Lent isn’t meant as a requirement or something to check off your list of religious chores but as a way to be more aware about your relationship with God and the grace that comes with it.

I just really love Jesus and I really love the people He has placed in my life. I’m super excited to spend the next 40 days thanking Him for my friends, lifting them up in prayer and HOPEFULLY spending lots of time listening to their stories and being present in their lives. Isn’t that what we all want, to have people who are really present in our lives?

Until next time, Sam

Illuminating Faith

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I have seen it but because by it I see everything else – C. S. Lewis

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I wrote this quote in my journal on Sunday, intending to ponder it some more when I got some spare time (hahahahah) and today it suddenly started appearing everywhere I looked. I saw it on Twitter, it was used as two Instagram captions on my feed and a friend quoted it out loud to me. I figured I was supposed to take notice. Here are my thoughts today.

This weekend I went on a canoe trip with a bunch of complete strangers. I have to say, no matter who you are with, there is something absolutely magical about sitting around a campfire, dark skies and crackling wood. I, for one, am mesmerized by fire. Aside from the beauty of it, campfires seem to spark vulnerability. 

Strangers. A diverse group. Undergrads and PhD candidates and people who weren’t even students anymore. Canadians and exchange students. 9 people in the woods together by chance. And yet sitting around a campfire answering questions like “what do you care about”, “what is your biggest dream in life”, “tell us about a place that means something to you”. Vulnerability. All weekend, I had this total peace of being exactly where I was supposed to be, knowing firmly that God had placed me on this trip, with these people for reasons I will never fully comprehend.

In the canoe during the day, mentioning my faith and ending up having life chats about how good and faithful my God is. Praying with and being prayed for by a total stranger because my God doesn’t do randomness; He always has a plan.

In the tent at night having long discussions about faith in the darkness, trying desperately to explain how present Jesus can be in my life; struggling to show two new friends (both atheists) how I look around at the fiery changing trees and the lake, misty at dawn, and see the hand of an incredible artist. How it makes me want to shout praises at the top of my lungs. How faith is so much more than naively pushing logic aside to feel comfortable. Not being very convincing and yet having one of them ask me the next morning as I sat by the water if I was thinking about God’s role in my life. I think he was teasing me and yet, my heart smiled at the thought that something I said had stuck with him even a bit.

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Being able to breath in fresh air.

Listening to stories as sparks rise up in the smoke. Getting to know people’s passions and histories and dreams and senses of humour.

Getting lost on the way there and getting locked out of the car on the way home.

Climbing to the top of a cliff to look out over the trees and water, having to sit and catch my breath but knowing in that moment how blessed I am to be able bodied and alive.

Writing a list in my journal titled “Things I am Grateful for Today” and having it spill over and fill more than 4 pages.

Lazily waking up to the sound of rain on the tent walls, smiling at a friend while everyone else still sleeps and not moving, just enjoying the quiet of morning.

The way nature has a way of evoking prayer from my every breath, connecting me to Creator God and making every other thought one of praise and thanks.

Laughter

Singing

Cold mud squishing between my toes as I push a canoe off the shore, almost tipping it over

Kneeling alone in a canoe pivoting and paddling, circling the small island where everyone sits eating lunch. Pride and contentment in the satisfaction of practicing skills I worked so hard for. Getting to share those skills with others, sharing my passions

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Sharing “no-bakes” with people

Racing the other boats, laughing and yelling as the two boys in my boat splash me in our excitement to win.

Cooking food over a fire, slightly burnt and smoky, better than anything I’ve had in weeks

Hugging goodbye at the end of the weekend, promises of sharing pictures, Facebook requests, catching each other for a drink sometime. Hugs from friends, no longer strangers

This weekend was one of complete rejuvenation. It filled my soul and gave me joy. In a place I’d never been, God catered to my heart’s desire for adventure. He gave me people to love even for just a short period of time. He gave me natural beauty and deep questions and conversations that went past the surface. He gave me a time of prayer and vision and hope for the future.

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I don’t believe in Jesus just because of faith. I believe in Jesus because I see Him permeate every aspect of my life. He is active and present. He gives GOOD gifts. He is faithful. He fulfills the desires of our hearts. He rejoices in our success and is the quiet whisper of peace and grace when we struggle. He is a master storyteller, weaving threads I would have missed, never forgetting a single detail, introducing characters at just the right time, crafting a plot of adventure and victory. Like the sun, He illuminates my days, allowing me to see the world as a place that is inherently good and full of light, despite the darkness that seems to swallow the streets and fill the news.

Today, I had a hard day. Mondays are long for me and this was not a very nice one. But God is present. Today, this quote by C.S. Lewis (one of my favourite authors) was all the reminder I needed of His faithfulness today and everyday.

This weekend is my answer to my friends in the tent when they ask how I know God is real.

Faith is the choice to put God’s perfect gifts into perspective.

Joyful until next time, Sam

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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

 

 

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.

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 🙂