Patience: Following God’s Plan For Us

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At a youth group that I volunteer at, every week one of us leaders will give a brief message based off of the fruits of the spirit.  One of my friends gave her talk on patience.  She gave her examples of how she handles patience in different situations.  For her personally it’s easier to show patience when she is in a situation where she when it has to do with listening to other people (especially when they are sharing personal feelings or stories about events that took place), however it’s harder for her to show patience in a situation where she has to wait for something to happen (such as working out and getting immediate results).

 

She quoted Habakkuk 2:3, which says:

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.”

She also used James 1:2-4, which says:

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

 

Both of these passages talk about waiting and persevering, both qualities associated with patience.  All of us know what it’s like to wait and/or persevere; whether we are a baby attempting our first step, or when we are at our peak years practicing the movements that we have honed over our lifetime, to when we grow old and walking is painful so we persevere with each step.

Everything doesn’t come naturally, we need to take time to get better at things that we do.  Most importantly, the message behind her talk is the message of perfect timing.  Not just perfect timing in our human terms, but GOD’S perfect timing.  Everything happens in a timely fashion and it planned perfectly by God our creator.  We may go through trials, but we need to see it as learning opportunities that make us the people we are today.  These trials come in many forms, maybe it’s the physical struggle of enduring harassment daily, or maybe it’s the emotional struggle of waiting for good/bad news about a loved one while waiting in emergency, or maybe it’s the spiritual struggle of not knowing what the meaning of your life is and the struggle of wondering if there even is a God out there.  In any of these situations, patience is key because all these situations should not be destinations, rather they are rest stops along the highway of life.  If we stop here, we sill never know what the city looks at at the end of the highway.

Her personal example that she gave was about her experience looking for a job.  For two years she looked for a job and applied to many different places, but never even got a reply call.  Last summer, she decided to give it one last try and she got a job at a fast food joint.  She had to lower her expectations for what sort of job that she wanted to get.  She had to persevere with the job hunt before she even got a job that was originally very low on her list of job opportunities.  Now that she is here, she knows that this is not the destination and eventually she will move on in life to get to the real destination.

She ended off her talk with Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG), which says:

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

 

So may you find comfort in this and persevere in life.

The Secret Life of ME!!

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Been a while since I wrote my last blog.  Amidst final exams (which finished a week and a half ago) this is how my head feels hahaha…

 

Anyways today I want to talk about a movie that I watched the other day with my family.  This movie has some great imagery for our relationship with God.  After watching it, it became one of my all-time favourites.  The movie is titled “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, directed and starring Ben Stiller, this movie is loosely based off of a short story written in 1939 by James Thurber.

In this movie, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a negative assets manager (the person that manages photo negatives and prepares it for printing) for the ‘LIFE’ Magazine.  He lives a pretty ordinary and boring life; he doesn’t travel much, has no love life and daydreams about a more exciting life to make up for it.  ‘LIFE’ gets bought out by a larger company and Walter Mitty is assigned to process the final magazine cover of ‘LIFE’.  The photographer who took the picture (Played by Sean Penn) sends Walter Mitty the negative roll along with a birthday and ‘thank you’ gift (a wallet) for the sixteen years of service that Walter Mitty had done for him.  The problem was that the picture that was to be the magazine cover was missing and no one knew what it looked like except for the photographer (who travels around a lot and does not have any direct way of communicating with him).  From this point on, the movie is about how Walter Mitty travels around the world following clue after clue to find the photographer to ask about the missing photograph.  In the end he does find the photographer and the photographer told him that the picture was in the wallet, so he actually did have it the whole time.  All Walter Mitty had to say was, “you’re crazy!!” (in reference to putting the photo for the front cover in some obscure location like a wallet).  Now here’s the thing, throughout his journey, Walter Mitty gets fed up with the things that were happening in his life and decided to throw the wallet away.

This got me thinking, does God give us gifts to thank us for all the hard work that we do for him?  YES he does… This can be found in the parable of the Talents Jesus tells us in this parable that we all have talents and that we are to use them all.  Those that use their talents will gain more, and those that don’t lose EVERYTHING that they have.  So how many talents/gifts do I have that I don’t know I have?  How many talents/gifts have I thrown away in frustration because I didn’t know that I had it all along?  But here’s the great thing, there’s redemption.

As it turns out, in the movie, Walter Mitty’s mother sees him throw away his wallet and she retrieves it and gives it back to him when he said he needed one.  This reminds me of when I think to myself that I don’t have the skill to do something anymore so I stop doing it, but then later on I find out that I never lost it.

Anyways, just a thought that I had, I hope you can relate to this.  Again I highly recommend watching “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” I hope I didn’t spoil too much for you.

Time of reflection

Time of reflection

I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity before Good Friday and Easter to blog about this topic, so I’ll do it now. I love this little comic and I think we can all relate to this in some sort of way. Yes, Christmas is a time of rejoicing and it is so great to see Baby Jesus lying in a manger. But the Jesus on the cross is also a beautiful sight. Not in the physical sense, but in what it represents. If Jesus did not die, then he could not be resurrected and then our sins wouldn’t be taken upon him and gotten rid of.

Just a quick thought that I had.

The father is waiting (time to come HOME!!)

Alright!! Here we go with blog post number three about my youth retreat experiences…  The topic I want to talk about today is one that really hits home for me, so let’s get started…

God Is Waiting On You-2

I’m sure that many of us have heard Jesus’ story called the Parable of the Prodigal Son at least once.  If not here’s the gist of the story.  A father has two sons and the youngest asks the father for his inheritance while the father is still alive and well.  The father gives the inheritance and the son goes off and squanders it.  Upon losing everything, he gets a job feeding pigs and is starved.  He realizes that his father’s servants lived a better life than he was so he sets off to go home to apologize and ask his father for a place in his home as a servant.  The father sees his son (implies that he has been waiting for the son to return) coming home and runs out to him, embraces him and reinstates him back into the family.

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Now there are many things about this story that were highly controversial for that time (which makes me appreciate the father’s gestures even more), but today I just want to focus on the aspect of the father waiting (I’ll save the other aspects for another day).

I usually associate myself with the son and I see God as the father.  The interesting thing is that this story was told on Saturday afternoon as one of the talks being delivered, and then I experienced not once, but four incidents where I had to wait on the youth (of which I will tell you the two that really stood out to me).  Not to say that I am comparing myself with God; but after these experiences I thought more about what God was possibly feeling towards all of us (except probably to a much, much greater extent).

The first incident I want to talk about is this.  So, on Saturday night, there was an outdoor game that involved running around in the dark and finding things.  To make things worse, it was raining hard.  The youth were split into 4 teams and they had to collect balloons (which counted for certain points depending on the colour).  Since I didn’t want to run in the rain in the dark, I chose to be one of the leaders that hid and handed out balloons when the youth found us.  My station was located on a playground.  Let me tell you, hiding in the rain in the dark on a creepy playground is NOT fun (my pants were soaked and it wasn’t from peeing in them hahaha).  The whole time I was sitting in the quietness, all alone, waiting for some youth to find me.  By the end of the game, I still had balloons that were uncollected (all the other leaders managed to give all of theirs away except for me and one other).  Talking with some of the other leaders that night, it was quite evident that all of us had one thing in common that we wanted to happen… We all wanted to be found (for the benefit of the youth and for our own benefit).

This got me thinking, are we making God wait for us?  Is he sitting in dark as WE run around searching for him (sometimes in the completely wrong places).  There was also another thought.  When I have an encounter with God, he usually has something to give me (just like I had balloons to give to the youth).  Is God trying to tell me that he has already given me a balloon, but there are more left to give?  Am I missing out on something?  I just want you to think about this for a bit…

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Alright, now for the second incident that happened to me.  So Saturday night was Daylight Savings and so we would “lose an hour of sleep”.  Even so, some of us planned to meet at the gym at 6 the next morning to play some basketball.  Two of the youth in my cabin asked me to wake them up when the time came.  Being the initiator, I made sure that I was up the earliest (I actually ‘slept in’ 15 minutes and felt really bad about it).  I shook the two youth to wake them up, their reactions were priceless… They kept on sleeping like little babies (Cue the “AWWWWWWWWWWWW”…)  After a bit, I decided to head out to the gym because I didn’t want people from other cabins to think that I was ditching them by not going.  As you probably could’ve guessed, I was the ONLY one there.  I decided to just shoot around by myself for an hour (because maybe they didn’t change their clocks an hour ahead), but still no one came.  That’s when I decided to go back to my cabin.  Upon return, some of the youth were up, including one of the two that I tried to wake up.  He felt really bad about not waking up and I could tell he really wanted to go play, so I offered to go play again.  This time when I tried waking the other youth up, he woke up (apparently tickling his soles was what I should have done the whole time…).  So the three of us made our way to the gym and played for about an hour.

What spoke to me about this was that God will also “wake up” at the time that we agree to and he will wait for us to come out the the meeting place.  When he gets tired of waiting he goes back to where we are.  When we finally wake up, he offers to go out again to where we were supposed to meet him to begin with.  He will always, Always, ALWAYS give us more opportunities to spend time with him, even when we fail to do it sometimes.  God is like the father in the parable, waiting patiently for us.  When we finally wake up from our stupor and go find him, he RUNS out to meet us and throws his arms around us.

I pray that this encourages you today.

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REALLY Holding onto God

Blog post number two of what I learned on my weekend away at a youth retreat.  So my last post was about turning your life around to find God, and this one will talk about Holding onto him.  I mean REALLY hold onto him.  I hope this will speak to those who are feeling like God is allowing things to happen to you that you feel like you are not ready for.  Maybe you are mad at God for this (hopefully not).  I’m not saying that what I write in this blog will be exactly the answer why, but I pray that if will open up your perspective to think more broadly in terms of why God COULD be putting you through these situations.

Two things happened on Saturday that really stood out to me as good imagery for holding onto God.

The first was this.  So there are two leaders from our youthgroup that are siblings.  The brother was sitting in a chair waiting for Saturday morning worship to start and he was talking to people around him and tipping the chair in front of him back and forth.  His sister come by and is about to sit down when he tips the chair and accidentally hits her in the knee.  She pretended to be really hurt and offended and he tried to lighten the mood by apologizing and asking her to forgive him and saying that he needed a hug from her to prove that she really forgave him.  She decided to play “hard-to-get” and refused him the hug (GASP!!).  As she sat down on her chair, her brother went up to her to give her a hug and she kinda halfheartedly put her arms around him.  He said, “That’s not a REAL hug!! Do it properly!!” and you won’t believe what he did next…  He tipped her chair backwards while she was sitting on it (he was still holding her at this point) and her reaction was to grab onto him tightly.  Then he set the chair back to normal and said, “you REALLY hugged me that time!!”  (Oh how I love these two siblings, they really know how to brighten me day!!)

You may be thinking what does this have to do with God giving people situations that they are not ready to handle.  Well, think about it… In this story, did the girl expect her brother to tip the chair when he was hugging her?  I don’t think so.  Imagine that you are that girl and God is the brother in the story.  Something happens to you and you are hurt and so God says, “Give me a hug… A REAL hug…”  You choose to oblige only when he initiates the hug by putting his arms around you.  Even then you only put your arms around him softly, barely qualifying your choice of action as an embrace.  So God tips you back quickly but slightly and unexpectedly, while holding onto you tightly.  How do you react, do you return the embrace and hold him tighter?  Do you panic, freeze and blame him afterwards and never want him to get close anymore?  What do you do?  You see, the thing I love about this story was that the brother had the whole thing planned out and was in complete control of the situation, just like God.  The rest of the story was up to the sister to decide.  So what do you do?

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The second story I want to tell you is this.  So at the lodge that we were retreating at, there was a ropes/obstacle course.  Our youth leaders were in charge of running this event during free time.  Now on this particular day, it was raining hard.  The whole time we were out there we only had three participants show up.  We kinda got bored (OK not kinda, we DID get bored…) so we decided to try some of the obstacles.  The one that we were particularly proud of accomplishing was climbing a 12 foot tall wall as a team.  The way this works is we had to get someone over the top (without help from the top) and then everybody else would be pushed up from the bottom and helped by the person that already made it to the top.  Once at the top, we were not allowed to go back down to push the last person from the bottom (though spotters were allowed to support him/her when he/she jumped to try and grab the people at the tops hands, they were not allowed to push him/her and hold that person until they had a firm grip with the people up top).  Therefore it is up to the last person to work with the people at the top to make it over.

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Similar to the first story, imagine that you are that last person to get over the wall and God is the people at the top of the wall and people that support you in life are the spotters.  God is reaching down the wall to you and it is up to you to jump and grab hold of his outstretched hands.  Once you grab hold you cannot let go or else you will fall, but if you fall you have at least two choices, get back up to try again, or stay lying down on the wet ground (as far from God’s reaching hand as you can be).  Other people may support you in life (like the spotters at the wall), but they cannot push you up and hold you there.  YOU need to hold on and work with God to pull yourself over that wall (or whatever situation you need to get over).  It doesn’t work if you only let the people up top pull you over without using your own effort to get over (in fact that might hurt you more than falling).

I think that when these situations happen to you, it’s because God wants to test you to see if you trust him (if so how much and to what extent).  Also God knows that you won’t have to go through the situations alone, and he wants you to realize this fact.  Of course there could be many more reasons why, but these are the two that really stood out to me this last weekend.

So what do you choose?  Will you hold tightly onto God when something you are unprepared for happens?  Or will you let him do all the holding and just pray that you make it through?  Do you choose to work with God to get over that wall with the support of others?  Or do you choose to again let him do all the work and just pray that he manages to pull you over the wall?

Turning around and finding the right place in life

So here we go, the first part of four blogs where I will talk about things that I personally learned from the youth retreat that I attended, as well as events surrounding it.

Today I want to talk about being lost.  Are you, or have you ever been, spiritually lost?  Like that feeling where “God” is just a word that exists only in your vocabulary and not your life.  Like that feeling where it is just so hard to believe in him because of all the strife.  Like that feeling where you are your own person, because there is no heavenly father to call you son (or daughter).  If so, I pray that this post will speak to you personally.

So here we go…

Get-Ready-For-A-Turn-Around

We headed out on Friday afternoon for what was supposed to be an hour and half bus ride.  Suffering slightly from sleep depravity I fell asleep for the first hour of the bus ride.  When I woke up we were still on the Highway and about 20 minutes later we pulled off onto an exit and reached a fork in the road.  The bus driver thought that we had to turn instead of driving straight.  We thought that we were getting really close to the Lodge because we were driving by lots of wooden residences and we were ecstatic!!  5 minutes later we no longer saw any residences and the thoughts running through my mind were, ” I think we are on the right track.  I mean it’s a lodge, so it would be further away from all the other residences… right?  Wait, there is no longer any lights around on this road…  Did I just see a Yeti?…”  OK maybe not that last part, but you get the point… WE. WERE. LOST.  It actually took a wooden gate blocking the road for the bus driver to realize this fact.  After much looking at the GPS on someone’s smartphone (don’t you just love technology?!?!?) we figured out where we went wrong.

Turning back was not easy, we were in a big bus and we were on a narrow road, but eventually we were turned completely around and on our way again.  At the fork in the road we went in the right direction.  Once we arrived I was taken over by a wave of familiarity and memories flooded back.  You see this particular lodge that we went to, I haven’t been to since 6 years ago and at that time I was one of the youth.  Now that we return to this place, a few of the people from the other youthgroups and I return as leaders of our perspective youthgroups.  It was also six years ago at this very location that I had an intimate encounter with God and I broke down during one of the worship sessions.  Upon arriving, I knew this was definitely the right place to be at.

So for those of you struggling and feeling lost, I want to encourage you with this thought.  Imagine that bus that my youthgroup was on was you.  You travel on the road of life in search of the place that God is at.  You arrive at a fork in the road and you choose to go in the direction that doesn’t lead to God (whether this be by accident or intentional you are still on the wrong road).  God still gives you signs that you need to turn around.  You may see other people building residences along this road, but they are sparse.  Soon enough you come to a point where there are no people around, just wilderness.  And finally, you hit that wooden fence.  You see this fence is not a dead end, you could keep going on past it, but it would keep leading you further and further away form God; therefore this fence is a point of decision, keep going or turn around.  What will you choose?

Turning around isn’t easy… You are a big bus on a narrow road and it may take a while before you are fully turned 180 degrees around.  Then it’s the slow process of getting back to where there is life again (the occupied residences) and then fully back onto the path that leads to God.  When you get to where God is, you will know it is the right place, because at sometime in your life you have been to a similar place and have gotten this feeling of God’s presence.  Question is, are you wiling to turn around?

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