I Have This Hope – Cover

This song.

This hope. How quickly we forget it and take it for granted. He is with us, and we have hope, He is the one who takes our sins away and gives us grace. That should blow our minds every single day.

I had it on repeat all day today so I decided to practice some rough harmonies and slap ’em together.

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Paris 01: Lets get down to business

Cue the intro to “Be a man” !

The day has come. Training is over and we fly for the city of light tomorrow!?

We have a tight team and already God has shown us how good He is and how much He knows us and loves us. We haven’t even left and there are already a few cool stories, a number of examples of “coincidental”, “that was lucky”, “guess that worked itself out” moments. AKA God-ordained, super cool, crisis averted moments.

From “happening” to have extra essential things to cover exactly what was forgotten, to “happening” to be all musically talented with hearts for worship, to “happening” to be perfectly compatible housemates… I’m amazed.

What training has challenged me most in is making a habit of checking where my heart is at with regard to pride, my attitude towards others, especially my team mates. To not hide behind a surface version of me, but to not be afraid to be vulnerable. Amidst all the fun and the teasing, I have to be careful with my words and use them to edify and encourage also. Not only that, but to be caught in His grace if I fail and something weird and unnecessary comes out of the mouth. Also, being ready to generously offer grace to others, especially in ou varying degrees in French fluency.

What I find encouraging is that we’re all learning and for many of us, but I’ll speak only for me, there is less fear in asking what words mean or how to translate a saying. And there is no shame when gently corrected.

Our very wise directors gave us some potential points of culture shock and the most worrying is the cultural sport of invigorating discussion. Debating with rationality and rhetoric. Did I mention that most Parisians would identify themselves as atheist? Ouf, debating… not my cup of tea. Nor my glass of wine, or slice of brie, or bite of croissant. (Can you tell I’m looking forward to the food?)

And yet by God’s grace and the wise training we just went through, I’m going on this mission trip without any significant feelings of fear. I have no expectations because what God has planned is far more magnificent than anything I can imagine.

The other day I was reading Isaiah 55, and it is my prayer for Paris, that they would see the compassion of the Lord.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. …Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way,and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. €œFor as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”

Jesus is enough to satisfy, and the Gospel is enough for an answer. God in His sovereignty and the power of the Holy Spirit is stronger than our human hearts, He is mighty to save. His word is enough to water this hardened soil, and I trust that the next 5 weeks will yield fruit, even if we never see it.

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Matrimony of the Cross

Wow, what an interesting week. All building up to this weekend of celebration, first of Christ’s death and then His resurrection.

This morning as the sky lightened, dawn set crystal trees on fire, seemingly bent and frozen in mourning. How is it that something as destructive and displeasurable as an ice storm could be so beautiful?

How is it that the worst death of all time became so influential that it brought people of all eras, all cultures, together? How is it that they — that we — can say it was so beautiful, it changed our lives forever?

How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news.

Christ took away the sin of the world — the sin of people like you and me, people of all eras, all nations, all cultures — absorbing the wrath of God in our place on the cross. He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become righteous. He died so that we might have eternal life with Him. He loves and pursues us, an unfaithful people who rejected Him. Christ demonstrates his love in this, that while we were still sinners, he died.

Hear that? We had nothing acceptable to God. Nothing. He didn’t do what he did on the cross because we “did our best” — we didn’t even try. He didn’t meet us half way or 75% of the way or 25% of the way, he met us ALL the way.

That is why it is beautiful.

This Good Friday we celebrate the marriage proposal of the Lamb to His bride, the Church. The cross, is the ring.

I was reminded of that this morning when rehearsing with the band for the worship service. I was having fun singing, I was worshipping, I was trying so hard to let the words and his memory and his promise sink in. To meditate on them.

But I didn’t “feel” it.

Had my heart gone cold, had it hardened? What was going on? Was there some sin I’ve been holding on to that doesn’t make me right with God??

Except, that’s the whole point of Easter weekend, isn’t it?

While I was up on stage, worrying about all these things while outwardly worshipping with solemnity, a thought put those worries to rest… “don’t pursue feelings, pursue Me, for I first pursued you.”

He took our sin to make us right with God. And not by any effort of mine.

One of the songs was “Jesus Paid It All,” and we skipped the bridge “O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead” because the Disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming.

But Sunday is coming. Jesus is coming.

Happy Easter!

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When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour content on all my pride // I hear the Saviour say, thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow // The Lamb of God in my place, Your blood poured out, my sin erased it was my death You died, I am raised to life, Hallelujah the Lamb of God. There is no greater love… ||

Daily bread, not weekly buffet.

My heart is so full. I don’t think I can comprehend or express how blessed I am to have the community that I have around me. Surely, this is how we were designed to be– a family of families, caring for one another, genuinely being thankful for someone’s existence, loving one another, blessing and being blessed by one another. Essentially loving one another under the unity of Christ.

I didn’t get much writing done, so the “muse” is coming out in a blog. And why shouldn’t it if that’s where my heart is overflowing right now.

It’s only Monday night (technically Tuesday morning) and I’ve already learned 3 interesting things:

  1. The folly of God is still wiser than the wisdom of men
  2. The weakness of God is still stronger than the strength of men
  3. The riddles of God are still more satisfying than the solutions of men

Perhaps the past tense “learned” is a bit premature… three things I was taught and am still learning.

I do not have all the answers, I don’t have a comeback for every argument or debate, I don’t know what is to come, or how or when, or why.

And I don’t need to.

Well how’s that for an unsatisfying answer? Right up there with “well, it depends.”

It’s taken me this long to realize it, and will continue to be a wrestling point I’m sure, but not having to know the answers, not having to be strong in my reasoning… is so freeing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it’s so true… “Hallelujah we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.” (Mike Donehey).

We can fail, we can walk away from an excitable discussion unscathed by the tongues of men because we’re told that to them it’s folly. We are free to be confident in the truth. As Matt Chandler put it (roughly), if it’s true, it’s of God… we’ve got the market cornered on Truth.

And so our only task is to preach Christ, as Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians.

Bonus thing I learned this week: The Lord is my portion.

What does that even mean? Who talks like that anyway, what does that look like? I’m still unpacking it to be honest, but He is our daily bread.

He is enough for today, He is everything I need for today. He is the strength that helps me peel off the warm covers to get me out of bed, He is the joy and energy that sustains me throughout a long day, He is my companion who walks me to wherever I’m going, He is the provider who chases away worry and fear, He is the one who makes room in my busy schedule for rest and community, He is the creator who is glorified when the wisps of sparkling snow race alongside me when I look out the bus window.

Who am I that you are mindful of me? How wonderful are your works O Lord. You are my prize and my portion, my God and my deliverer, my refuge and strength, my Rock and my Redeemer. Praise be to God in the highest.

Every day is an adventure and every soul encountered has a moving and epic story worthy of the big screen, and He is moving in all of it, and He is God through all of it.

Tomorrow, next week, next month, next semester, next year, the next five, ten, twenty, fifty years… starts with today.

Not weekly buffet. Daily bread for the daily grind.

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Joy and Death

November 1st… the day where we enter the Halloween-Christmas limbo period.

I was walking home just now, and passed two houses, side by side. One had the lights and sparkles, red and green decorations, the works. The only thing missing was a pristine, light fluffy layer of fallen snow.

Their neighbours on the other hand had demons in the trees, skulls and monsters in the yard, smashed pumpkin on the porch, cobwebs on the hedges… Seriously, the cobwebs were everywhere, someone went crazy with it. It almost looked like someone toilet-papered their yard.

One house was ready for joy, the other was clinging to death.

This Sunday, Pastor Jacob preached about the joy of repentance, of leaving our sin behind us and trusting in the Lord. Trusting that the good He has planned for us far outweighs the valley of suffering that we may have to cross to get there. Moreover, when we put our trust in Him, the pressure and the focus is no longer on us. Why– how is that a good thing? Imagine it. Our world stops being about us… we can step off stage and just… enjoy. Laugh, cry, connect, be strung along for the ride of what Christ is doing centre stage.

In Genesis 45, after decades of bottled emotions, Joseph sends his brothers back to get their father Jacob in Canaan, to unite the people of God as a family once again. And he tells them, “do not quarrel on the way.” Do not fear, don’t stress, don’t fight.

Jacob fought his whole life for his inheritance, God’s promise to his grandfather Abraham that nations would come from him. But his 12 sons, the nation of Israel was crumbling before his eyes. His first born slept with his father’s concubine, Simeon and Levi slaughter a whole city, Judah sells Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s mother dies in childbirth to Benjamin…

Is anyone to blame? Maybe. But does it matter? When Joseph sends his brothers back, they’ve all accepted that God can bring beauty from the ashes. There’s no need to point fingers, or to wallow in remorse. What’s done is done. What God’s people meant for evil, God meant for good.

So what is this good?

The good is the fact that it’s November 1st. We don’t have to cling to death anymore, it’s time to get ready for joy. Not only is Christmas time the season for joy, it is the celebration of the Messiah’s arrival, the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who loosens our white-knuckled grip on death.

Colossians 3 invites us to “put on the new self.” In Christ, getting rid of death is as simple as changing your clothes. Or for the sake of this metaphor, as easy as cleaning and redecorating a front yard, because Christ already did the cleaning 2000 years ago on the cross.

In the same way that snowfall covers the city in pure, sparkling beauty, in the same way that it heralds the season of joy and cheer, let us let go of death and find joy in repentance: “Repent and believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

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P.S. Oh, and move over Pumpkin Spice Latte… bring on the Peppermint White Hot Chocolates!!

The Artist’s Collapse

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

This is no obscure verse. There are cards and mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers that probably have this verse on it. It’s great for encouraging one another, especially in those times (cough cough teen angst) when we question our worth, our existence, and our future.

I remember seeing it and reading it and coming back to it time and time again but as always, the Word of God always has something to say to the soul no matter how many times you’ve heard it. The ramifications of this verse are stunning; literally and figuratively. It’s huge! It’s almost unbelievable. It’s a compliment as big as God’s heart, and it’s so hard to take in. I have a hard time dealing with mortal compliments, that is, my response to them. How am I supposed to handle these words breathed from the God of all creation to me?

“Who am I that you are mindful of me?” asks the psalmist.

Here’s the usual breakdown of what this verse is actually saying:

1) If you are a human, we are told that each of us are masterpieces worth dying for.

2) We are chosen, and chosen well. We have purpose. We have a destiny. No one who has ever lived or will ever live, is an accident. No one is useless. Not only that, this purpose was carefully chosen long before you arrived.

3) Our salvation is a gift. This is the Bible turning backwards thinking right side up again. To us of course, the backwards part seems forward, and God’s forward seems backwards.

You do something to earn the reward, right? Not with God.

He gives first, now go do good work. We didn’t earn God’s gift, we can’t boast in our efforts toward it. But in truly receiving the gift of grace, our works and effort become a natural response of joy and gratitude. Natural. As if it were supposed to be that way all along. Right side up, right way forward.

Ours is a culture where chosen ones and heroes and destiny resonate so deeply with us. Most, if not every child has at least dreamed or pictured themselves as their favourite hero character. Maybe I’m an alien with powers that will develop in the near future. Maybe this body mark means I’m destined for greatness. Maybe my crazy old uncle has a double or triple life and will find me worthy enough to invite me into it. Maybe my family has a secret they will take to the grave and I’m about to join their ranks.

Maybe someday a mysterious stranger or mysterious circumstance will come knock at my door, tell me I’m chosen, present me with a purpose and turn my life upside down, but also make it so much more interesting.

I’ll be honest, with that last one I was initially thinking of Harry Potter or something like that, but reading it again… in many ways, isn’t it what we’ve been exploring in Ephesians 2:10 just now?

Sure, but that’s fiction, people have told me. Well how about an analogy, penned no less by CS Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain, in which he answers the anxiety-inducing question, “if God is so good and loving, if God loves us, if God finds us precious and worthwhile, why does He allow pain and suffering into our lives?”

Not to belittle any painful experiences, but… well I guess I should just let him explain:

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would, doubtless thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.

He goes on to show this love in a man’s despotic love for a beast or a pet, a father’s provident and venerable love for a child, and the inexorable love between husband and wife.

For the artist’s love for his work, it is persistent, according to Lewis. God’s love is persistent. It’s taken me a while to really believe the truth in Ephesian 2:10, and even now I haven’t plundered all its truth yet. But God is faithfully persistent in revealing it.

When all the other voices tell me what’s wrong with my body, my fitness, my intellect, my personality, my social image, my beliefs, my behaviour, whatever it might be… The cross tells me who I am.

Not that my identity is in religion, necessarily. Far from it. I am labelled under “Christian,” but its implications are far more interesting. The cross, and my faith in what was done on it, tells me that while I still deserved His wrath over my sin, God in all His glory and power died in my place because He loves me and thinks I am worth that cost.

Let me note that my revealing these voices is not to garner pity or validation… it’s not a secret cry for compliments. I rarely know what to do with compliments, it’s not my love language, if you will.

But the cross, the act committed upon it. That is love at its truest.

I love Lewis’ illustration of a sentient work of art. If we were to take the analogy a bit further, Christ’s incarnation would be like the artist being collapsed into his own creation, only to be scorned by it.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional painter is collapsed into a few two dimensional strokes of colour, and then blotted out.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional author is collapsed into a few lines of fiction, and then scribbled and scratched out beyond recognition.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional dancer is collapsed into pattern of movement, then practiced poorly, abandoned and forgotten.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional musician is collapsed into a simple melodious pressure wave, lost in a cacophonous symphony.

But the story isn’t over…

The painter, the author, the dancer, the musician, the creator… is so much more than their creation. Immeasurably more, as our friends at Rend Collective sing. What is a blot of paint to the painter, a scribble to the writer, poor repetition to a dancer, noise to a musician? A nuisance sure, but certainly not enough to wipe them from existence.

What is death to the creator of life?

But the story still isn’t over…

What if the art maker, like Gepetto, desired so much more, not of but for the artwork? For a wooden toy to become a son? For the creation to be like the creator?

[See] that you put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians 3:9-11

What if the artist could lift the world on the canvas and bring it to life? What if the writer could lift a character from the page and hang out? What if a dancer could meet their dance personified in all its richness and complexity and beauty? What if a musician could duet with their opus?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ’s invitation to draw near to Him, to enter a covenant relationship with Him, is not for misery in righteousness, not an ideological cage or a prison. It’s an invitation to a life outside the confines of this reality.

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From Useless Pirate to Surrendered Captain

The end of the semester came out of nowhere. Has it really been 12 weeks since I started? This winter term, if I’m to follow the schedule I’ve set out for myself, is the climax of my time here. Or at least, in terms of fun courses. So much fun in fact, that after the first week, I was dreading the last.

This mentality of course did not last very long, because I got swept up in the work that I thoroughly enjoyed. And now the end has come and gone. Perhaps it’s a mercy that I didn’t brace myself for the end, or else it would have been a bitter end.

Fortunately, I plan much too far in advance and those future plans, when they become present and urgent plans, are always modified. So this is most likely not the climax. It’s not all downhill from here, as many people try to tell me.

They’re right, of course, but they’re wrong too. There’s always something better and worse around the corner, I find.

Anyway, the sudden evaporation of my daily routine left me with a work vacuum. For the first few days, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Do I relax? Watch hours of YouTube and Netflix? Check emails? Do chores? Work on personal projects? I could do all of these and should do all of these, but with a schedule wiped clean, my brain went, OKAY YOU HAVE TIME TO DO THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS, ISN’T THAT EXCITING? LET’S DO ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. And… cut to white noise.

There were no boundaries, no structures, no coherence to organize or prioritize. And so I got nothing done.

I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to think about anything… for lack of a better way to put it, I was in a lethargic waking coma.

It was a dry season spiritually too… I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sleep or get up, one part of me wanted to dig into a new Bible study while another part wanted to binge watch Orphan Black, going outside or having any human interaction was suddenly a lot of effort… the list goes on. My internal soundtrack may as well have been, “we are the pirates who don’t do anything, we just stay home, and lie around!”

But there’s good news. The reason I felt compelled to write this post is because I am OUT of that space now. Mostly because I’ve actually got to study for exams now… but also because once I got back into prayer, scripture and community, everything came back into focus.

I’m moving ahead with a new project now, and I’m researching and just moving forward with purpose again. This research incidentally requires Biblical investigation. History, culture, extra-biblical sources, looking for experts… some very fun stuff I might add.

After a few days of spiritual drought, the sudden thirst for the Word is just exploding in me, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. I was about to go to bed when I decided to skim through Hebrews and 13:20-21 caught my eye. Of course, my writing impulses forbid me to leave this blogpost til morning.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Especially right after Easter, this verse is such an encouragement and a reminder. We’ve celebrated, now it’s time to get to work. Work? I thought the cross was all about not having to work. This is true, for our salvation. That work is being done in us, but not by us. That’s Christ’s work. His work then motivates us to fulfill the purpose he designed us for.

If we are motors designed to fulfill a purpose, He is the beautiful, dangerous, essential, electrical power source without which the motor is useless.

As I’m working on this new writing project, it was a great reminder to me that my writing is worthless without His power in me. My words would be meaningless, my stories ephemeral, my voice unintelligible. He has equipped me with everything I need to do his will, and he is working in me the map to doing it. He is creating in me something new… Lord willing, a person of the Jeremiah 31 people, and a Proverbs 31 woman.

The project is Esther’s story, one of providence and presence. God provides, and God is present. In a time when God’s presence appeared much more tangibly than it does now, whether it be booming voices, blinding visions, miracles, burning bushes, oncoming storms… the book of Esther shows His presence in a much more invisible kind of visibility.

This post is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? God’s name is never mentioned in the book, and nothing strictly supernatural happens either. Events just sort of… fall into place. One after another.

God was definitely in control of what was going on. He set his plan for the Jews’ deliverance into motion before they even faced destruction. He wasn’t there, but boy he was definitely there. At work. In people. Esther was equipped naturally with everything she needed to face the king and win his favour: faith, obedience, wisdom and modesty. Mordecai was equipped to be at the right place at the right time to discover the plot against the king’s life.

After watching a documentary about the incredible trials that come with the incredible… eventual… precious… rare rewards of writing in the TV industry, it’s so good to know that God is present through it all, and that he provides the “inside,” like the personality and the skills, as well as the “outside,” as in the circumstances and doors.

What does this mean? I’m realizing as I write that this post has become an “unriddling,” a place for me to digest my inward thoughts. If I’m preaching, this is not my intention. I simply cannot let myself forget these truths, lest I fall for the lie that my life is in my hands, that I am the captain of my destiny.

If I am to pursue this career, I will have to bring the right idea, to the right person, in the right place at the right time, and do it consistently and constantly. A daunting, impossible task for me, but all too easy for God. I must keep reminding myself of this, that everything that happens to my scripts and stories are under control. If they succeed, God did that. If they fail, God let that happen for a reason. I want to fight my pride to the sweet sweet end. These stories aren’t for me, or my living. I need to keep my eyes on that which they cannot see; write toward a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, for a King who is never changing.

Clearly, this is in my “head knowledge.” But what of the heart?

My “big break” hasn’t come yet, but neither have I faced any kind of searing rejection… yet. This is all the more reason to remember that while I am equipped with the quill, I am not the writer. My darkest and finest hours of my early career are coming, so let my heart (as well as my head) ever remember:

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

And with that, friend, may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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There but for the Grace of God Go I

After a whole bunch of posts for my media class digital portfolio, it feels good to do a normal check-in on my “real” blog.

This past week and this coming week are the two busiest weeks of the semester, maybe even of all the time I’ve been in Guelph. The work to be done, the meetings to go to, the people to speak with, the time to be spent… going into this period, I was anxious and worried. I was worried about being worried.

My to-do list is too long. I’m not going to have time to do everything, or at least everything well. When am I going to do this task? How am I going to do that task? How am I going to time manage all this??

But God is faithful. Here I am, half way through and more than hopeful.

In fact, last Sunday’s sermon was about God’s faithfulness. He comes through on his promises. He comes through on His word toward those who aren’t his people like Ishmael, and He will certainly come through for those who are His. And how amazing is it to be called His if we are in Christ.

What’s cool is that from the get go of this busy time of year, God worked to encourage me and take away my fear and my anxiety. He is faithful to provide. And He’s been looking out for this for a while — forever to be precise, really — because He had to orchestrate the sermon schedule, among other things.

My point here is not that the world revolves around us and that God is here to make our problems go away. Just the opposite. I don’t think I could have been as productive as I was and I don’t think I would have made it through this storm as unscathed as I did without the grace He’s shown, without the strength He’s given, without the community He’s blessed me with. This is about Him, and praise and honour and glory be to the one who restores us to Himself.

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

Isaiah 40:31

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

These are such go-to verses, almost cliche to the point where it seems they’ve lost their lustre. They’ve been said so many times online, on mugs, on T-shirts, on posters… But this week has reaffirmed their truth for me in way I haven’t experienced before. God gives us what we need to get through stuff, and at just the right time.

I received peace and rest through a sermon before I could even get very anxious. Before that, I learned those verses before I knew what it was to be this busy. Way before that, God breathed and the authors of those words penned them to encourage the thousands of generations to come.

I even got VCB’s new album that Sunday and I’ve been listening to If I Have You throughout the week. Such a timely encouragement and a blessing:

I don’t need the riches of this world / I can’t even take them where I’m going. / I don’t need a thousand empty words / I just need the ones that You have spoken.

If I have You and nothing else, I have everything.

I don’t need to see tomorrow’s plans / I just need to trust that You are working. / I don’t even need to understand / I just need to keep You as the first thing.

You are more, You are more than enough.

I forget which sermon I heard it in, but God knows every cause and effect event down to an atomic level and smaller. He knows how many moles of oxygen are in your lungs, and he knows which molecules bump into what when we exhale. He knows what the chain reaction of consequences will be for every action taken. He planned the cross before He made man. He knows what He’s doing, He’s in control, He is sovereign over our circumstances. Now, these two weeks seem as small and insignificant as they are, and not because I’m woman enough to handle it.

He is my strength, He is my everything. With one week down, one to go, there but for the grace of God go I.

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I’ll Remember You Forever

Re-post. I may have to update this list after I graduate. I’ve had the privilege to learn from exceptional teachers who also happen to be professors.


This article caught my attention:

This kid says she’ll remember this teacher when she’s 75.

Take a look, I’ll wait.

I get the feeling that having a teacher that inspires you is a rare thing these days. I could be wrong. I hope I am. There are the fun ones, the brilliant ones, the lazy ones, the strict ones, and any combination of these labels.

But the ones that you remember forever are the ones that cared – not just about what you did in class, but what you’ll do after your time with them is up. The ones that cared about YOU, mostly academically and often times otherwise. They made that their job.

They’re the ones that even though they had a student label – crazy, harsh, chill, etc. nobody really cared what it was.

I hope that as you were watching the video and as you’re reading this post (if anyone is reading this post) that at least one name comes to mind – one teacher that you’ll remember forever. In a life season where everything is spinning on its head at unfathomable speeds – that is, adolescence of course – I think it’s important, nay essential, to have someone with a true gift for teaching there to keep you focused, to nurture your learning. Not just to discover what you’re good at, but who you are.

They may not realise they’re contributing to your discovery of your identity at the time (or maybe they will). You probably won’t either. I certainly didn’t.

I have no idea what the average number of inspiring teachers people have in high school is these days, but I can tell you that I had the honour, blessing and privilege of 4 of them. And here’s what I learned from each (in no particular order).

MR. BAYAT – Gr. 11 and 12 physics and chemistry.

He was my tutor, and I was jealous of his students at the high school he taught at.
Up until grade 11 physics, school was a blast and a breeze and my biggest fear was getting an 85.

For the first time in my life, I was failing. (On the bright side, pride was no longer much of an issue afterwards.)

My confidence evaporated at an astronomical rate in moles per second and my heart plummeted to my stomach with a force and acceleration greater than that of gravity everytime any sort of evaluation came up.

Like a racing altimeter on a crashing plane, every mark update was painful.

I had never failed a test before. I never had to ask for after school help before. Why was this happening? I failed once and it shook my world. It also seeded my dislike for learning physics and to a lesser degree, chemistry.

My identity was in my marks. Failing once meant that I was a failure. “It’s just one set back” never got processed in my brain. It was inexplicable and illogical and silly, and yet that’s how blindsided I was by it.

Bayat helped me get the grade – I impressed a handful of people with my improvement. He also achieved the impossible by making my least favourite subjects (because they were my weakest) fascinating, if not enjoyable.

But let’s not talk about the academics since, despite my success I remember nothing and am very far away from the academic fields of chemistry and physics. Obviously what I took away from learning under him, was not academic.

Lesson 1: DON’T GIVE UP. Teachers ought to care simply that you learn. Whether it’s from their lectures or your mistakes is irrelevant.

Lesson 2: TALENT can be measured in potential – how far you can go with what you have. Not how you or others judge your performance. You are more than a percentage.

Lesson 3: BE CONFIDENT in what you’ve learned. Defend yourself, respectfully challenge your teachers and your peers, be grateful when corrected. The point is learning.

In many respects, I learned these 3 lessons over and over again from all four of these teachers, every year I had them. Same lessons, different numbers — situations.

MS. GOLDMAN – Gr. 11 English.

She was an LTO, a long-term on-call while my much stricter English teacher was on mat leave.

I was doing alright in 3UENG but not as well as I hoped, in terms of numbers. It’s important to note however that at my high school, an 80 meant you were considered a genius. If not in English language and literature, then in pinpointing exactly what your teacher wants to read amidst an infinite range of subjective interpretation. I’m not sure which type I was. I didn’t feel like either.

Ms. Goldman was a refreshing change after that first half of the semester, and some marks started to climb.

Now, I won’t comment or compare with how the two teachers marked us. Again, what I took away from being Ms. Goldman’s student was not academic.

Like the other three names in this post, the first thing I noticed when she started teaching us is that she genuinely cared about the work we submitted, and how that reflected us as individuals, as a class and as a school.

She was actively participating in this unspoken dialogue, interacting with us on such a level that her students could believe her when she gave positive feedback and trust her when she gave constructive criticism. And we loved her for it.

This is perhaps the strongest theme or trait these four names have in common:

She cared, and that made us care about the subject, our work, ourselves and each other, whether we liked or were good at English or not.

But for me personally, I’ll remember her forever because she embraced creativity and taught and encouraged me to do the same, whether she realised it or not.

Many projects in that class had very little guidelines. It could be as insightfully crazy as you wanted or as crazily insightful or just standard clear and concise.

No matter how you learned, the point was that you learned.

For me, that was writing an 11 page (~12K words) “sequel” to Shelley’s Frankenstein.

I’d been writing stories for most of my life. But this project. The comments she left and the mark I got left me more than chuffed. I was stunned that she actually read it all. But that selfish pride soon faded away. After all, she was just one person.

And yet, one person is enough. It wasn’t the comments or the mark that did it. Anyone can slap a number on something. But when she handed it back to me, her eyes seemed to smile, “I’m proud of you.”

Then my mom read it and said so audibly. She was genuinely impressed as well, unlike some other times, but she’s my mom… So bias is a factor.

Anyway, after that, and only after that, did I actually begin to think that maybe writing was something to consider.

But it was a thought too dream-like to indulge and I didn’t want to admit it to myself. As a result, it took a couple years for me to go actually dive in and go for it. In the meantime, those two years were spent experimenting… literally and figuratively. It was painful. And necessary.

MRS. HEISLER – Gr.10 Math

I realize I’m going in backwards order here. I should correct what I said with Ms. Goldman. She only reaffirmed what I learned with Mrs. Heisler a year earlier.

Much in the same way, those grade 10 “anything projects” allowed me to let my creativity loose.

1. Create a comic STRIP explaining how to solve a binomial expansion.

…I created a 27 page Stargate-based comic booklet.

(She’s a fan, don’t worry.)

2. Create a presentation on how to use the quadratic formula.

…I spent a couple weeks creating an espionage choose your own adventure on Keynote for the class to play, with me as the game master.

I’ll never forget what she told me on the last day of class:

“I would love to open up your head and explore your brain one day.”

It was, and perhaps still is, my favourite compliment I’ve ever received.

learned in that class, and not at all in the conventional way. I learned because I was allowed to be creative without fear. I was allowed, because she was creative without fear. (I still remember some of the many QF songs we heard).

MR. COLLEY – Gr. 9 – 12 Music.

Yep, so this is definitely in backwards order. As my first high school teacher I ever met, this whole narrative might have begun with him.

From the moment I met him, I could tell he was one of the crazy ones. But also one of the kind ones. Then I was a student in his class, and I saw the way he worked. His passion for music, but more importantly his passion for students and their growth, academic primarily, but otherwise as well. (Well maybe not physically. Although he did poke fun at us shorties.)

It was the first time I’d seen anyone fulfilling their calling and it blew my mind. I wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last. Secretly, I think it’s why people stay in the music program for all 4 years.

Yeah the marks are easy, the trips are fun, but the rehearsal hours can be brutal – and yet Colley is always, always ready to go. (With his never ending coffee supply of course.)

I can’t speak for the hundreds of students he’s had and whose names he somehow never forgets, but even if I wasn’t a band geek already, I might have stayed just to see what he would do next, how he would do it and why.

There was something different about him. Other teachers care, but he’s next level. He’s genuine, he’s tough, and he’s hilarious. Perhaps the three key things a teacher needs to help students learn and grow in a healthy way.

(Let me be the first to admit that I am no pedagogical expert – these are simply my observations based on my personal experiences)

When I learned that he was also a brother in Christ… Suddenly things made so much more sense, and things clicked very quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be Christian to be a great teacher. Many of them aren’t, and conversely, very few who are, are akin to Colley.

What I do mean is that the “why?”s could be answered.

Why get to school before 7 am and stay til 5 to help students? Why listen diligently to all 300+ students play up to 48 scales each? Why push and spur on a student when it would be understandable if he gave up on them?

This is what he was made to do. Encouraging students is his passion, music is his skill. He did not openly preach the gospel, that wasn’t his job.

Instead he taught us to work diligently, to find our passion, to encourage and be encouraged, to build community, and to care and listen to one another unconditionally. What’s more is that he taught us – or me anyway – all this with his actions first, across the 4 years, and his words last, during our last day together as a band.

It was during my one on one sessions with him that he taught me to put my identity in Christ. Not marks nor praise. In Christ alone.

He loved us first, so we too must love others with the same unconditional love that is manifest in how we use our gifts and talents.

Now… I can’t help but feel a bit vain going on about my greatest high school academic successes throughout this post.

So I’ll sum up what the connection between all of this and my life now to show that in many ways, I am indeed who I am today because of these people and their success at what I call real, true, teaching.

Without Mr. Bayat, I would not have the confidence or patience to persevere after a failed script or query.

Without Ms. Goldman, I would not have thought to be remotely capable of writing anything entertaining or worth reading.

Without Mrs. Heisler, I would never have the guts to share my work with other creatives, let alone the more sane people.

Without Mr. Colley, I would not have seen what being the light and the salt of the earth or a calling fulfilled, looks like in real life.

These people and so many others like them need medals for both leading by example and then passing that example on in their students. Who and where would we be without them?

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