Friday, June 23, 2006

so tired....

I know, I know, the last thing that I should be doing is writing another shpiel on here, but it's not going to be long.
I'm doing custodial work for a worship conference at our church this weekend, but it has a good number of people at it that aren't from our church, in fact most aren't. As well as seminars all day and such that we have to set up for, there have been worship services at night as well, led by Robin Mark (not sure if you've heard of him and yes I"m name dropping). Anyway, the worship sets themselves I find myself not being able to engage very easily, which isn't all that out of the ordinary for me, but it's strange. However, the speaker, who is Paul Reid, the pastor at Robin Mark's church, is incredible. He's Irish (it makes sense, considering he's from Ireland), and he's fantastically funny but an incredible preacher as well.
He has some interesting thoughts and beliefs on life and I find myself fitting right in. This evening I was having trouble focussing and it allowed my mind to wander to all the reasons why I want to be mad at God. When it comes down to it, I'm just full of pride that I couldn't even recognize before. I knew I had some issues with pride, but it's showing itself pretty strong right now. I hate the stuff that comes up when God brings it up, not because it's at the surface or that it has to be dealt with and repented of, but mostly because it's been allowed to be a part of me for so long. That's where the sting comes.
God's been showing me (I think) how my attitude is often a "kicking and screaming" type of attitude. As if to say "Ok, I'll do it your way, but I'm going to make it as hard as possible." Well who's it hard on? Me. I'm not being cynical or over self-eroding, I'm just exploring this as it's fresh in my mind.
I'll likely end up writing more (strangely enough I wrote another post earlier saying I didn't have much to say anymore), but for now I must hit the hay, late nights and early mornings this weekend. 11 hours of work today in a 16 hour period, likely similar tomorrow.

Is it the end of the world as we know it?

I'm a little frightened at this particular moment because I have just realized that I've not been "thinking" as much as I normally do. I can't blame it on a lack of creativity or say that there's nothing to ponder, because neither of those are true.
I am, however, finding myself actually thinking more about my future and how to "strategize" for what's to come, mostly with regards to my career. I"m actually thinking on why it is that many youth pastors seem to want to leave their churches after only 3 years of service. That's a good run, I suppose, but to me it seems like you'll never really get anywhere with jumping from place to place and spending a minimal amount of time at each place. Maybe it is possible to accomplish much and see many great things happen in that short span of time, of course it's God who does the real work anyway, but it seems that when it comes to the human relationships and the direction of a ministry plan, there's hardly a chance to get that kind of ball rolling in that amount of time. Of course I'm also beginning to wonder how long is "too long" for a youth pastor to be in the same church. It seems that ministry can always continue on well, but the impact that one can have decreases significantly after around 6 years, and maybe your passion and desire for that one church might diminish as well. I don't know, these are all just thoughts, but one thing I do know is that the church needs people who are committed to pushing through, even though it may get hard and it needs people who are intentional and at least somewhat strategic in what they do so that there's some sort of direction happening.
It seems that a lot of people bail when it gets super tough, I know there's definitely good reasons for some to leave their situation, and some even have trouble doing so as well. But then there seems to be others who just get "burned" by something and check out.
That would be like someone deciding to become homosexual because one relationship with the opposite sex didn't work out, that's how I see it anyway. Not all situations are the same, yes it is vastly important to take time to heal and recover, but why ditch completely? Maybe God's calling them elsewhere, maybe it'll happen to me and I"ll have to eat my words, who knows, I sure don't, but God does. Maybe we're just too chicken to face a little adversity when it really comes down to it. Maybe not.
I know some people who have left a ministry situation after a relatively short period of time and it's precisely what needed to happen. I'm in that situation right now, and it's exactly what needs to happen. So I'm not saying that everyone who leaves a church before their 4 year mark is a wuss or isn't committed, what I am saying is that there seems to be a trend that says after 3 years you're done, so you might as well get out while you can. That, I'm not fond of.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pack it up, pack it in...

It is now roughly two weeks until I will be throwing my belongings into a U-Haul trailer and haulin' it to North Battleford Saskatchewan, where I will be soon settling in as the Associate Pastor (or as I like to call it, the Ass. Pastor) of the Alliance Church there. This move comes with mixed emotions, sort of. If I had been asked to make such a decision and go there 6 months ago, the decision would have been packaged with much greater sadness and difficulty but at this point in time I feel the draw and release of one of those moments in life that I believe God grants us with a little more peace than we might otherwise feel.
I'm rambled on with my musings of life, love, and the American Way (what? that's not right). Ok about life and godliness, that I certainly have expressed my innermost thoughts on. At this point, I'm rediscovering how much I despise moving, not everything that goes with it, just the physical act of moving belongings from one place to another, it's annoying. I don't enjoy packing in the least, usually because for me that entails a lot of cleaning up of piles of paper that I've strategically hidden so that I don't have deal with them right away. However, today proved to be a positive experience in packing as I shuffled through some papers and cards I found $30 that I thought I had long spent on something, but much to my surprise I became $30 richer again today.
There is, however, certain difficult emotions to wade through as one packs up and prepares for a new adventure. I feel it's the right time for me to go, mainly because I feel God's calling me elsewhere, but my time is coming to a close on my life in Calgary, at least for this stage, I'm not the one to say whether or not I'll end up back here again. It's interesting how life changes, relationships change, but there are certainly some people you know you will always remain in contact with and keep up that friendship built so long ago. For me there are a few from before I reached my Bible college years that I know I will remain in contact with and I certainly look forward to hearing the stories of their adventures. Jon and Fran are two of those people, although we don't work extremely hard and regular contact, whenever we cross paths there's a great story of life to be shared. Jon and myself go back a long time, to early childhood, though our friendship didn't grow to any depth until our high school years. Steve is another that I will remain good friends with, I'm sure for quite some time, although across a country from each other, we still throw each other the occasional phone call or e-mail of encouragement and news.
Matt and Mike are two others who have more recently (by more recently I mean since I started college) found themselves at a depth of friendship with me, and I expect that the three of us will maintain our wildly hilarious and very "iron sharpens iron" sort of relationships for our lifetimes.
I feel that period of my life coming to a close, I know I will continue grow relationships with people that will be godly and beneficial and long lasting, but there's something about those friendships, especially those of the same sex, that you make in your highly formative college years that remains for a long time. The most interesting part is that I can think of numerous stories of betrayal or "dirtbaggin'" as we've affectionately named it, and stories of great laughs all mixed in with some major growth experiences with those guys. That's something to hold on to. I won't go into any details of those stories, I'm sure that those who are privy to my thoughts will gather at least a couple of those anecdotes and find some humour in them again.
I feel God is preparing me for this next step in life and in service to Him. He has wildly expanded my perception of Himself over the last short time and has grown my heart for ministry and passion for life ever more than I've experienced.
The sovereignty of God completely astounds me as I recall the hills and valleys of life. Take away one or the other and life is boring, or so I'm learning. We make mistakes and although redemption lies in wait for us from the Father himself, we still experience the fallenness and the consequence of this world. Newton's laws of physics can come into play in this idea, at least the one that speaks of every action having an equal and opposite reaction. If we look at that in a different light we can see how that may ring true on some levels in life itself. Truth or consequence it could be called. The fact is, what we do directly affects what happens later on. It may take years, it may only take seconds, but we feel the consequences of our actions, whether good or bad.
The much brighter side of this story is that God does redeem. He takes those horrible situations that we are either placed in or place ourselves in and He uses them for His glory and sometimes our own. Not to say that's a vain glory for us, that's a God-given glory handed to us from the Father. Every good and perfect gift is from above, don't forget that. I'm learning to see many things as gifts from the Father. Life, love, relationship, breath, to name a few, all come from the Creator of everything. It is through our twisted eyes from our fallen nature that skews the good in those things and causes us pain at times. Life was not meant to end, love was not meant to hurt, relationship was not meant to destroy, these were all meant for the good and enjoyment of His creation. Wow does it take a lot for someone like me to realize that. My heart is stubborn, I know that well, and unfortunately probably not as well as I will know it in 25 years. I, like Jacob, wrestle with God on many occasions, and God wins, every time and I usually walk away with a "limp" or a scar to prove it. But what do those scars do for me? They soften that stubbornness a little for the next time I decide to go head to head with God. It can be likened to a chi-hua-hua trying to pick a fight with an elephant, it's a given who'll come out on top, but I tend to jump in the ring and give it a go anyway.
With all these things occuring in a very short period of time for me recently, I know I am no where near being on the other side of that valley, but the worst of the trip is over, at least until I reach the top of the hill and see the vast mountain ranges that lie ahead of me.
God prepares us for adventure, He prepares us for the right battles that He knows we're going to be entering, and he's right there to remove the arrows and sear the wounds that we endure in the midst of those battles. He does this because He loves us, and He wants us to join in to fight the greater battle, for the hearts of the world. The battle has been won, but the war is far from over because the opposition isn't going down without a fight, so I'm suiting up and running into the crowd with armour on and sword ready.
The things that have happened in recent days have played major roles in bringing me to where I am now, God has used certain people and certain events to humble me and to ready me for the next part. And in the rest of the night, I will have people to recline and relate with, that I've been fighting alongside in the same war.
So the people that I am leaving behind, they will hold a place in my heart and mind, I will remember the days of my time here in Calgary, and I will look fondly on those people who have played a part in my life's story and have helped me (more than they know) turn to God and become more of the man that God is making me to be. But I won't live in one place while my heart still waits in another. I will carry on and I will maintain the relationships I hold here because they have all meant something to me, but my heart will lie where my Father is, and the rest will remain as an ally to a greater cause.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sometimes I wonder if there's anyone else who thinks the way that I do. I consistently get caught up in "how things should happen" instead of just going along with the way they actually do happen.
For a long time now I've had this innate fear/feeling/thought that if I enter into a situation in life that resembles another's situation, that I am destined to experience the same fate that my predacessor suffered. Another thought that plagues me at times is that if I can't imagine what it would be like to either experience something or be somewhere, then it must be that I will never experience it. These are ridiculous thoughts of course, and I see them as that but nonetheless they are an ever present picture in my mind that my life will not be any different than anyone else's. Were I to dwell on such thoughts and allow them to infiltrate to the core of my being, I would most certainly lead a rather sad existence without any hope of anything different. The fact of the matter is, I don't allow those thoughts to overwhelm or overcome me and I actively fight them off and surrender to the Spirit of God for comfort and assurance so that hope can exist in my life.
Hope is an interesting concept that I'm not sure is entirely easy to understand. Why should hope be the one thing that an entire religion holds onto? In a world full of scientific "fact" and theory (of course I speak of the "Western World") such an idea is ludicrous. Why base your life on something that you can't even prove or say is absolute? They do raise an interesting question and I think it's a question that we as believers individually need to wrestle with and reach a conclusion on if we really are to give our lives to such a cause. I am heading into a full-time pastoral ministry position within a couple very short months and this is a question that I don't seem to have difficulty with anymore. The answer to said question of course looks and sounds different for each person but the elements are essentially the same. The answer comes with time, experience, surrender and difficulty sometimes. And it seems much more simple than it actually is, or maybe it's much more simple than it indeed seems. But the ultimate conclusion that we come to as believers in such a hope is that it is indeed a legitimate hope. It is not a lie that we are trusting, it is in fact the truth that comes from God.
I have recently experienced something that I fully believe and hope will remain with me for the remainder of my life and that is an adjustment of faith that I don't believe has anything to do with me. Where I once suffered great agony in my soul of struggle with the truth of God, there is a peace and calm that can only come from one source, THE Source. Such a struggle does not seem to be evident in my mind these days, who knows maybe my sinful nature will once again catch up with me and my mind will be clouded from my Father but as for now I will live in the comfort and the assurance of hope.
And as for what I began with, those thoughts continue to flare up in mind, as I venture into pastoral ministry alone, I look at the negative possibilities and the negative experiences others have had, forgetting the positive ones and forgetting that my life is not like anyone else's. That's a weird thought I know, because we should all know that we're different than everyone else and our personal experiences will not follow any kind of precident, because with God, there seems to be no such thing and that's something that I am a huge fan of. I'm afraid of being single for long, yes, but I'm beginning to see the importance of the place in life that God has put me for now and that's part of this place. So I will carry on, I will walk into situations that I don't know the outcome to because I know that God's not finished with me yet, it kinda seems like he's only getting started.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A funny thing happened....

The funny thing of which I speak happened as I was on my way to my small group tonight in the south of the city at Shawn Jones' house. I was picking up some snacks for us to enjoy after we had our Bible study and as I was backing out of my parking space, another car backed into the back of mine. Now for some of you, mainly my family or one or two of my friends, you may be thinking that I just wasn't paying attention at all because it has happened to me before. But that was not the case this time, I was actually paying attention and had been looking of my shoulder, and as I was getting ready to shift into 1st gear, an older couple who in fact were not looking backed into my car. I was scared to death that I was going to have to go through the pains of dealing with insurance companies again, and my day hadn't left me in the greatest of moods so I was soured slightly as I searched my insurance card. I also suspect that they couple had noticed a little damage on the one corner of my rear bumper but tried to distract my attention from it. I didn't see it until after our interaction to make sure they were ok. It doesn't really bother me, hence why I say it was a funny thing. I just find it slightly humorous that the only car incidents that I've had have been within the last year and in this same city.
Of course I was nice to the elderly couple and didn't cause any problems. I could have been angry, but it just isn't worth getting mad over someone's lapse in judgment. I have those experiences all the time, where I do something that I just hit myself in the forehead because I know it was a dumb mistake and hope that the other person's response will be one of grace.
God is good to grant us the grace needed in situations like that and I am so very thankful for it.

I've been throwing a bunch of ideas together in a document on my computer lately. I don't know what it will turn into if anything at all. Since I've been done school and work has slowed to a crawl for a little while I've been finding myself with a lot more time on my hands than I am used to. In some respects it is a very good thing for me because I have been reading more, meeting with people more and all around dealing with my thoughts as they come instead of suppressing them. There are a few things that I have been thinking about that I will choose not to share at this point but have been taking up a lot of my thoughts lately but some of the other things that I have been thinking about have been flowing into words on a page that I hope to be able to share with other people someday.
I would really love to be an author. I enjoy writing, although not extremely great with the english language, I like to place my thoughts into written form. I find that when I write I am much more capable of expressing my thoughts than when I merely speak them.
I've been thinking a lot about the passion for ministry which God has been lighting up within me. There are so many things that I believe could use a little shove in the right direction when it comes to 'church.' I sincerely hope that I will have the chance to be a part of some of those things. It seems that there may be a potentially big awakening within the Church happening within my lifetime, I can only pray and hope that God will allow me to be around to be a part of that. There is a certain complacency within congregants that we may not even really recognize as a problem. Many people have been talking about this type of issue for years, quite possibly centuries, but the thing is that it doesn't seem like people are getting it.
Our society is cause for much difficulty within the church as we are infiltrated with so much garbage and we accept it in the name of relevance. I am one who believes that the church needs to be the reflection of Christ and as we seek to preach the gospel as we have been commanded there may not be a lot of space for relevance. There is certainly not space for complacency that cripples but is accepted for the sake of comfort or stability. Maybe we need to take an adventurours step and risk losing money so that God can be pleased with his chosen ones instead of turning his head from his "Israelites" because they have chosen to make up a "golden calf" that looks an awful lot like affluence.
I struggle with these things myself because I like stuff. I like movies, big tv's , nice cars and leather furniture. Maybe we don't have to give up all our comforts, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we were more generous with our money, time and energy for the sake of Christ.
Something we discussed in our small group tonight was "who are we as church leaders asking the people to serve?" All too often it seems like we are asking people to serve us or our ministries, but there's a problem even within that sentence. WE are not asking, or should not be asking, anyone to serve, we should merely be relaying God's commands from Scripture.
It is the Lord Christ we are serving, and as such we should and must be giving everything we can to see to it that the gospel of Christ is preached in places that it hasn't been and in places where it has been because even those of us who have heard it all our lives, we forget so very easily.
I'll have to limit my wild rampage of brain vomit for now because I am getting slightly tired and my thoughts will likely continue to make less sense if I continue.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Love like you've never been hurt...

I'm a little frustrated because I lost what I was writing a few minutes ago and it won't be quite the same as it was, but I think I'll get by.
I've been thinking about what I say lately, I mean, do I actually mean what I say and do I show it? It's like in James 2 when he talks about the whole "faith without deeds is dead" thing. You can say you believe something, but if there's nothing to back it up, do you really believe it? The gospel of Christ is the kind of experience that requires more than just words being said to show you believe it. It makes sense doesn't it? If I say I believe the Bible, but absolutely nothing that I do shows that statement to be true, do I actually believe it? I would suggest not. In a similar way, if I say that I want to support the fight against cancer but I do nothing at all to show that, who will believe me in saying that? Nobody.
The perspective I am currently pondering is that of love. If I tell someone I love them (parent, friend, brother, sister, etc.) but do nothing to show it, why should they actually believe what I'm saying? This is something that I've struggled with for a few years, and it's not an easy one to grapple.
One of my best friends, Mike, has some wall hangings on the wall in his apartment (perhaps the doing of his fiancee, perhaps not, I don't know) one of which reads "Love like you've never been hurt." How hard is that? I've been thinking it should maybe say "Love like you've never been hurt and like you've never hurt someone." For me, actions speak louder than words, that's just how my personality works, and if I say something I want to follow it up with action, of course I don't always succeed and that rips me apart when I don't. It comes from dependence on God, and sometimes I'm just not there, it's so tough. So when I hurt someone, it's so tempting to just shut people that I care about "for their best interest" so that I can't hurt them or be hurt again.
Does that really give any value to life? I don't think so. Jesus loved regardless. He got trashed by others, and he just kept walking towards Golgotha because of his love for us all.
That's so huge to me. He didn't just say it, he showed it. I believe that God has given me the gift of service, so being a servant is one way I show I care. Or you could say that one of my love languages is works of service. But to go along with that is the words of affirmation or encouragement one. They go hand in hand in my mind and it works perfectly for me. The difficulty comes when others don't show me that they care or that they mean what the say in the same ways I do, because in the end I feel rejected or hurt. Sometimes it's warranted, sometimes maybe not, I'm certainly not the best judge of that.
As I had mentioned previously, it comes down to whether I'm willing to love regardless of what will happen. I truly believe that life without love is not worth living, but I don't mean "marriage" kind of love or even just "friends" kind of love. I mean love in it's truest form, from God, that bleeds into all relationships and all areas of life, regardless of what comes back to you.
After all, is it really love if you expect something in return?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I got a lot of leavin' left to do....

Dierks Bentley said it well...although his song was referring to a guy who just wasn't ready to settle down yet. I'm leavin' to go somewhere to begin "settling down." It's not at all like I used to imagine when I was younger. Yes, I used to imagine what it would be like to actually be some place and have a family and all that jazz. I still do as a matter of fact.
There seems to be a few things missing from that picture that was once painted inside my mind. There's a companion missing, not just a wife but a woman to share my life with, maybe I haven't even met her yet, maybe I have, who knows. Although at this point in time, I'm not at the place where that's even possible in my mind, there's still some healing and growth that needs to happen, I think. There's no children in the picture yet either. It's not quite what I had originally planned, that's for sure, but the interesting thing is, I'm more than ok with it that way. I struggle with the lonliness factor at times, it's a frightening thing to have nobody to "come home to." But those things come at the right time, never the wrong one.
I admire any woman who has ever held interest in me, I'm a tough nut to crack and a difficult person to be around sometimes, it would take a lot of patience. Although I do think a few of those things have slightly changed within the last little while, at least it seems that way.
I was saying to a very good friend the other day how I've been noticing how much things can change and how much you can learn in just a 24 hour period. It's insane really.
I have learned so much about God, myself, life, other people, etc. in the last 6 or so weeks than I have in a very long time.
It's interesting how with all that has happened in my life in the last 2 months, I can look back over the last year especially and see God's hand in my life, even though I could not see it before.
Something very significant has changed within me, it's such a great experience. There are things that if given the chance, I would "redo", knowing how I've hurt people, but even those people have displayed forgiveness, and that's cool too.
I'm so excited for life, to see what's going to happen in the next few days, months, years. I hope and pray I will be able to look back on this period in time and remember in vivid detail how God has carried me, literally.