Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Come with me if you want to live"

I decided to take a popular movie quote and twist it to serve my purposes. Good ol' Arnold Swarzenhooser said it in The Terminator but it reminds me of a few other things. I've mentioned in a previous post that I'm reading Uprising by Erwin McManus and I'm really loving it. I've been finding myself resonating with what he writes about so of course I'm going to like the book. It's really all about living, actually living and not just existing. I've found that this last year or possibly year and a half I've just been existing for no other purpose than to do so. I have to be honest, I've never really been comfortable with that idea but have often, well almost always found myself just existing and never really living.
Basically the premise of his book is to point people to the call of God on our lives to live, in some respects dangerously, but essentially to live like Jesus. I mean if you think about it, what was Jesus saying to his disciples when he told them to follow him? And this is where I twist the quote, he was basically saying "come with me if you want to live." He called Peter and Andrew, James and John out of their boats from their plain old lives and offered them something different. He called Matthew from being a tax collector (one of the more despised professions of the time) to follow him. He was drawing those guys from the monotony of their old lives to take them places they never would have even dreamed, from merely existing to experiencing life.
These are things I have been thinking about lately as I find myself preparing for something that I've never done before and frankly am not sure that I'm ready for, being an adult. But it's as if I'm responding to Jesus saying to me "come with me if you want to live." He sees the monotony of my life and knows there's so much more for me to experience if only I'll go. So I'm hoping I've at least taken a step in the right direction by taking a job that I feel completely helpless to do, to experience some incredible acts of God in that context.
I mean think about the lives of the disciples after they chose to follow Jesus, was there really any ordinary day for them? Yeah they kicked back and enjoyed themselves on occasion, Jesus knew the importance of that, but what happened with the rest of their lives after that initial decision? They experienced life, I mean really experienced it. They saw things that nobody could explain, Jesus healed people, drove out demons (taught them to do so as well) he fed thousands in their presence, he caused excitement for them and a few moments of fear as well, and that's before his resurrection! Then after that they kept on going and did some crazy weird things then too! I have to be honest, that's kind of exciting and appealing to me!
I'm kind of tired of always playing it safe all the time, what's the point? Why not step out and do something that otherwise seems stupid or dangerous? Why not talk to that guy that's sleeping in the back alley beside his shopping cart? Why not help that person change their tire on the side of the road? Why not jump out of a plane just for the thrill? Why not stir up the pot a little for the sake of advancing the gospel? Why not ask the pretty girl for her phone number?
Why not? What's the worst that can happen to me? I get rejected? Laughed at? Hated? Persecuted? Chased down? Beat up? Shot at? Kidnapped?
So what? What was Jesus like? He was the type to take some risks, to go out on the limb, knowing he was going to cause some uproar, but he was cool with it. He didn't have any problem with the Pharisees, with the demon possessed, with the outcasts. It's the same thing we've heard a billion times, but why does it never sink in?
The people that I've most admired in life have been the ones who took the chances that people like me were too scared to take. Why did they do it? Conviction, passion, love, service, all the things that I want to be, that's why they did it. So will that be me? Will I get out of the boat and follow, will I leave my tax collector's booth and go? When Jesus says to me, "come with me if you want to live" will I say, "ok, let's go" or will I just stay put for safety's sake?
I want to live. That's what I've decided.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

That's my boy.

Ok, this one may sound slightly cheesy but that's alright. I've been in Ontario staying with my parents for the last couple weeks almost and I have a couple weeks left here. My uncle and his family are visiting right now and here's a bit of a story that made me think.
I was working at the old fry shack today (that's a story in itself, mainly cause I need some extra cash but they were also in a bind), and at the end of the day, it was around 8:30 tonight actually, my parents and my uncle, aunt and their two little boys were down at the beach where I met them when I was done work. So while we were down on the beach, I went swimming and caught the sunset as I swam. Now for those who aren't familiar with Sauble Beach, the beach itself faces west so the sun sets over the lake, it's incredible and tonight was no exception in that respect. Well, it was actually exceptional, the colors were amazing. And of course I couldn't help but think of God and His bigness.
Now later on, but not too much later, as we were getting out of our vehicles at the house, my little cousin who can't be much older than 4ish (I'm actually not sure how old he is) asked my dad "what's he doing here?" Of course he was curious because the last time I saw him all he knew how to do was load his pants and smile, so he didnt' know who I was. My dad answered him with a certain tone in his voice, "That's my boy." He was of course explaining to the little one that I belong here and it's ok, but what he said was what really sparked my thoughts.
I've been told that something changes when you become a parent and you just love that kid, no matter what. Now of course there's exceptions to that and it's rough to see that too, but of course I don't understand either side of it. Regardless, that comment made me think. There's not a thing that I could do that would make my dad not love me. At least I don't think so, I mean he's seen me at my best and worst, I'm not the greatest person at times but he still says "that's my boy."
Now of course knowing me, I took it another step further and started thinking of how God says the same thing. He even said it about Jesus in the Gospels. When Jesus got baptized and the Holy Spirit decended on him like a dove, what did God say, well the "voice from heaven?" He said "this is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased, listen to him," or in other words, "that's my boy!" There's a sense of pride in that, but the good kind, the kind that comes from love, the "boy, I'm proud of you" kind of pride. But if my dad, my human dad can have that kind of pride in me, how much more does God feel that way about me, regardless of what I do or don't do. That's a comforting thought on both levels.
So that's my story.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Life's a Beach.

Now that I'm home in Ontario, especially here at the beach, I've been appreciating this place more and more. I absolutely love it here, the scenery that is. It's so beautiful and I never realized how great it was until I lived a few years in the prairies and came back. My parents and I went for a picnic at Tobermory today, for those of you who have no idea what that means, it's the end point on the Bruce Peninsula, the escarpment that begins at Niagara Falls continues through Owen Sound and up the Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory is sort of the end point, although it still continues....blah blah blah, I know. But we were walking around in that little town which is essentially a small marina with some shops and houses surrounding it, and I was realizing how much I miss those types of places, you know, water.
Then I spent some time on the beach tonight, read and went for a swim. It was a good way to reflect, I'm in that kind of a mood today, moreso than usual I suppose.
I recently started reading "Uprising" by Erwin MacManus and I am really enjoying it so far. It's actually been useful in God showing me how deep pride runs in me at times, it's kind of scary, but it's a good thing to be made aware of it. You can't fix something if you don't know it's broken.
Pride is one of those things that works its way into you so that you don't even notice, sometimes it's painfully obvious and other times it's not so clear, maybe to those around you but not always to you.
All I could think about as I read was how much I want to be so bent on God and his purpose that nothing else matters, and as things fall into place after that I can count them as a gift from Him and not as the goal in themselves. As I reflected on life earlier today and how I often find myself desiring to be in a relationship with a "significant other" and further into the future, married with kids, but I often see those things as the goal in themselves. Or even what my career might look like and all that junk, seeing those things as the end in themselves does not provide much hope in life, because once you get there, then what? If my goal is to get married, and it happens, then what? But if my goal is to dive deeper and follow God wherever, that's a goal that I think is worthy of persuing with everything, and if I am blessed with a wife and a family, that's great! Then I can enjoy that and contribute as much as possible.
I guess it may not make a lot of sense, at least the way I said it, but it's making sense in my mind. The ultimate goal, in my mind, if not eternal is not worth it.
I tend to be very much of a future oriented person, I'm always thinking of what things will be like 5 or 10 or even 40 years down the road. I think there's some importance in making plans, but worrying so much about the future only stalls me from being who God has made me now.
These all seem to be such fundamental realizations, but when you rerealize them for the first time in a long time and actually begin to really grasp a bit of the concept, it's exciting.
The bottom line is, I want to live, and live freely, I mean real freedom, not something that I think is freedom but is really holding me back from experiencing God and being changed and molded to look more like Him.
There's a song, it's a country song (that's right), Paul Brandt sings it. The song is called "Loving You" I think, something along those lines. One line goes a little something like this: "Loving you is what I want to be remembered for." Now the song is directed towards a woman, it's pretty clear, but man do I want to be remembered for loving, actually living the two main commandments. Love God, love people. The question is, what am I going to do about that?

Monday, July 10, 2006

The air is thick with moisture.

I have recently found myself returning home to Ontario for a few weeks vacation and everything seems the same since the last time I was here. One thing I definitely haven't missed about Ontario summers is the humidity that coats you as you leave a building, or stay inside, anywhere really. I can feel my lungs working just a little harder to deal with the moisture in the air.
The best part about such weather is the incredible thunder storms that come through. I was hoping that there would be at least one good thunders storm whilst being home and it did indeed occur last night. The storm lasted for hours and the windows shook with various rumbles throughout the night. There's nothing quite like going to the beach and watching the storm as it crawls across the lake. I sat in my parent's minivan, which is a sweet ride by the way, and watched the lightning light up the entire sky, you know it's a good one when for a split second it seems like daytime.
I couldn't help but feel dwarfed by the storm. Imagine what it would have felt like to one of the Israelites in the Old Testament when they were within spitting distance of the close presence of God, near Sinai, the pillar of fire, etc. I am so not fit to follow God, but he lets me anyway, I can't get over that one, and I don't ever want to. It's so great to be able to reflect on God's goodness to me in spite of me.
I've been reading Joshua lately, there's some pretty interesting stuff that happens while Joshua leads Israel. The Jordan river stops flowing at the command of God, the walls of Jericho crumble at a shout from God's people, and that's only within the first few chapters, all because they believed God and obeyed. What does He want to do with me, through me, or even for me if I just believe and obey? Unfortunately I come short of both of those sometimes, but how cool is grace? And I don't mean my grandma(whose name is Grace), I mean the fact that God is so relentlessly in love with me/us that He went to the absolute extreme and continues to do so just so that He can have me and I Him. Wow, that's all I can say.

On another topic, it's wierd being home again. There's not many people that I know anymore and even those that I do "know" I don't actually "know" them, you know? But it's fun to be back and kick around town and hang out on the beach. I really had a good place to grow up and call home. I was thinking the other day about how much has happened with me since the last time I was home. It's been a year and a half, a lot happens in that much time, it doesn't seem long, but so much has happened. I can't even think of what my life may be like a year and a half from now, I think it's best not to think about that. Matthew 6 comes to mind with Jesus' words of "do not worry", many times He has reminded me of His sovereignty through that passage.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Relocation: The epic saga.

It was a beautiful sunny day of late when the moving vehicle arrived at my Calgary home to steal away with my belongings and take them toward their next adventure.....Ok I can only take so much of that language.
So I'm actually moved to North Battleford now, well, mostly. Everything that I own is now sitting in the basement of my new place awaiting my return in August. This past week a couple guys from the church up there came to Calgary with a truck and trailer to load up my stuff and take it up there, I joined them there the next day. It blows my mind the lengths those great people are going to help me get there. It's an incredible blessing really, which makes me even more excited to get started up there working in that community with those people, of course it won't be a cake walk but there's so much potential and well friendliness there that it's definitely something to look forward to. The funniest part of that story is that in all the moving process, it only took about 30 minutes to load the trailer and 18 minutes (it was timed) to unload it. So with the exception of packing, unpacking and travel time, the move took less than an hour.
I guess that's the way it works when you're fresh out of college without much in the line of material things. I'm kinda hoping it'll stay that way as well, makes things a little easier in the long run.
But as for now, the thing that I look forward to most is going home to Ontario for 3 and a half weeks. There's something about home that is an oasis for me. It's been the place of much healing I suppose you could say, although this time I might be a little more proactive in what I do while I"m there. I have about 4 or 5 books that I want to have completed by the end of my time there, it shouldn't be too hard to do. If I am able to get through them all, it'll have been the most books read in that short of time for me, ever I think. I have recently been discovering that I enjoy reading good books, this is a relatively new experience for me because I've never really enjoyed reading. I suppose things change when you're no longer in school and forced to read.
It's interesting how God uses other people's perspectives on faith and life to strengthen, shape and restore your own.
So now I await heading to Ontario for some fun and refreshment (not refreshments), and who knows what's coming down the pipe next, well God does, He's been leading me so far, even when I wasn't asking for it, and here I am, not done yet. A life of pessimism turned somewhat optimistic, now that's a strange thought. And to think of the things that needed to happen for me to finally be maliable enough for God to work some miracles. Not that he couldn't before, but it wouldn't have been the same, not for me anyway, and I think it's better this way even though I don't know what's ahead necessarily, I welcome it all with very open arms. This is not a case of the blind leading the blind, it's definitely a case of the guide leading the follower. And this is one follower who's putting all stakes in the one leading him.
It's a high stakes reality when you think of it. Putting everything you've got in one hand, and betting your life. But knowing what will come in the end, that's a chance I'm willing to take, regardless of what happens along the way. In no way does the end justify the means, but when the end is right, there's really only one way for you to get there.
On a completely unrelated topic, I have my own place now. That's such a crazy weird thought for me, living by myself, with no roommates, without the cafeteria nearby, you know the comforts of college. This growing up thing is strange, good thing I'm not going to actually grow up, I'll just pretend to and that'll satisfy the people around me. I'll be the mature kind of kid though, you can be sure of that.