Post Secondary life

So this is a poem that I wrote for all post secondary students out there who are currently in the midst of final projects, assignments and exams.

 

Some people see post secondary life as a party

Day in day out, drinks all around, totally NOT reality

This is not some T.V. show, or Hollywood movie

Everybody has to work hard whether they be jocks, musicians or geeks

Pardon me if those terms seem to you offensive

But what I’m trying to say is we are all the same, please don’t be defensive

The party life can be fun for some, but it is overglorified

Many of us are stuck studying, sitting in chairs like we’ve been petrified

In this time of high mental stress, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to fade

Do you see my eye bags? they’re not from going on vacation and having my flight delayed

This is the time where people of faith seem to lose it, and those without (through silent prayers) seem to gain

Our “summer break” is so close yet so far away, excuse the cliché, but exam period is a pain

But through it all, this is the story of life

Not some movie plotline where there is no strife

We live, grow up and press on with duty

Because we don’t want to fail here and end our life in futility

 

I don’t want to sound like a downer, but this time has definitely been a hard time for me academically.  Even so I will move forward and take whatever comes my way.  I hope to encourage all of you feeling the same way with this song.  WHAT we are going through now doesn’t define who we are, HOW we go through it does.

God is like a song

So last night in bible study we talked about God and how to describe him.  The speaker (Rob Bell) in the video (titled “Rhythm” from the NOOMA series in case you are wondering) challenged us with how we view God and how we should view God.  Some may see him as depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, some others may look at ourselves and think that if we are made in his image then he MUST look like us, and yet others may think of other images.  However, Rob Bell challenges us saying, God cannot be described physically; instead he sees God like a song that we have to tune ourselves to.  Not to say that physical depictions, like the Sistine Chapel, should not have been made (it is important for those particular depictions to make sense and tell a story), but in reality, these depictions (no matter how awe inspiring and amazingly beautiful they can be) are inadequate to describe how God is in reality.  That is why Rob Bell describes God like a song.  A song has many components, physically we can read music sheets and play the instruments, but it is meaningless if it is not played accurately.  To play a song accurately, it is important to play in the right key, at the right tempo and most importantly with the right FEELING.

God doesn’t just want us to play the right notes.  Think about Jazz songs and the improv involved in them.  Yes there are notes written out, but those are just guidelines, as long as your instrument is in tune and you play in the right key, then you could play any note that brings out the fullest in the song.  Jesus often talked about this with the religious leaders of his time.  They were all hitting the “right” notes, but there was no feeling in it.  Jesus’ followers, however, sometimes played the “wrong” notes but they had the passion and really got into the feeling of God’s song.  If you watch a professional orchestra, you will notice how they sound absolutely A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!  Even to people who know nothing about music, they can FEEL the music by listening and watching the musicians.  If you watch soloists in an orchestra, they don’t just play the right notes rigidly, they move their body with the music and add feeling into their part.  Sometimes you will even see facial expressions that help them evoke feelings into their solo.  This is what makes songs so pleasing to listen to, it’s not just the notes played, it’s the feeling put into the music and the emotions that it evokes.

For those of you struggling to find out how to be in tune with God’s song, don’t worry.  One of my bible study members said something that I think will help you.  When asked, “Do you think that you are playing in tune with God?”  He answered, “Not yet… I’m still listening and not playing.”  Take some time to listen, but don’t take too long, because when performance time comes, you need to be ready.  After you take some time to listen, start playing what you know.  Even if it’s every few notes that you manage to play at first, overtime you will figure everything out and you can maybe even add some improv (in the right key mind you).

I want to share this song where God’s love is compared to a song.  I hope that it inspires you today.

Friendship (the story of ONE church)

Here’s the fourth and final part of my blog posts about our youth retreat.  I apologize for posting it so late, I was pretty busy with school work these past few days.  So without further ado, let’s begin…

thebodyofChrist image

One thing I love about youth retreats (especially ones that involve multiple churches) is the unity that it brings to the group(s).  I feel so sad when I hear about people leaving their church family due to conflicts within it.  This makes me sad because in Romans 12: 5 it says, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  If we are called to be one church, one body, why are we so separated?  Why are people getting hurt by their own family?

One thing I want to talk about is friendship.  Not only did I find friendship at this youth retreat, I also met “Friendship” (the name of one of the churches attending the retreat).  The amazing thing about their youthgroup is that they were not very cliquey and my youthgroup felt so comfortable around them.  On the Saturday night, a large group of representatives from both our youthgroups sat together and just sang and worshiped as one.  Then at breakfast the next day, our tables were next to each other and one of my youthgroup members playfully turned one of their leader’s chairs around so that he faced our table.  One of the Friendship youth members then turned the leader’s chair back around.  I of course took the diplomatic approach and placed him sideways between the two tables (as a joke).  I never imagined that the following  step would go in this direction.  The Friendship youthgroup pushed their table up against ours so that we all sat together as if we were one and the same youthgroup (talk about friendship eh? Get it “Friendship” shows friendship? Badum crash… OK bad pun)!!

I think this is a great image about what the WHOLE body of the church should look like.  Unfortunately, at the youth retreat not everybody bonded together.  Looking around the room during a worship session, you would see all the different youthgroups sitting amongst themselves.  During free time, lots of people were in their rooms where they spent time with people from their own church.  I brought this up as a concern for future youth retreats, and I found out that I wasn’t the only one that felt this way.

To conclude, I want to challenge all of us to be that body of Christ that Jesus wants us to be.  I hope this song encourages you to help make that difference, no matter how small it is, to help bring the church together as one body; because united we are strong.

God’s Voice (part 2)

So as my blog post title from yesterday suggested, this is a continuation on my experience of hearing God’s voice (if you haven’t read it yet here’s the link if you want to check it out).  Yesterday I mentioned hearing God’s voice in the silence, but some may ask aside from early in the morning or late in the day or going into seclusion, when can we find silence?  I know that I often ask myself this question.  In this day and age, many of us live in big cities where there are noises around us for most of the day.  Whether this noise is natural or man-made (usually the latter) it can be highly distracting for those of us trying to find and hear God’s voice.

One of my bible study members (the youngest mind you) came up with an idea that was actually very interesting.  He said, ” The way that I find silence is to listen to the same music everyday until I can just zone out so that the music becomes background noise.”  In my opinion, this is a very wise thing that he said.  I think that we don’t have to completely isolate ourselves (even though Jesus and the prophets before him managed to do it, his society was very different from ours) in order to hear God’s voice; instead we need to find the will and the discipline to find an inner silence and move all noises into the background.

As a musician, God speaks to (and through) me a lot through music.  Now this may sound a little contradictory to what I just said, but allow me to explain.  In the moment that I worship through music, maybe a thought or phrase comes up (sometimes it stems from lyrics from the song that I sing/listen to).  That thought or phrase all of a sudden will bring me an inner peace; and then I can focus less on the song and more on what God is trying to tell me.  In this way I find my inner silence.

About two years ago, I was asked to lead worship for the young adults group that I was attending at the time.  I still considered myself fairly new to the group at that time, and was a little bit uncomfortable at this thought, but I agreed because no one else was able to do it.  The whole time that I planned the set I was constantly in contact with one of my close friends, who had been there longer, asking him if they sang this song or that song.  He responded, “just pick any songs and we will just follow whatever you lead.”  I ended up with a three song set of  Starfield’s “Unashamed” and “Hosanna” as well as Chris Tomlin’s “Our God”.  The night of our meeting (Friday night) went really well but I didn’t realize the importance that two of the songs would have on my life.  The two songs were “Hosanna” and “Our God”.

Here’s the account of the next few days (no joke):

Sunday service (at my home church, not the one where I went to for the young adults group) we sang the two songs as part of the service

Tuesday night, my mom picked me up and “Our God” was playing on the radio and when we went to our Tuesday night prayer meeting we sang “Hosanna”

It was too crazy to be a coincidence!! God was definitely trying to tell me something, but I didn’t know what.  Now two months ago my family switched home churches.  This church has a youthband (the coolest thing ever!!)  This past Sunday they were the one’s leading us in worship and guess what?  Yeah we sang those two songs again… God really wanted me to hear him that particular Sunday.  You see I was going through a tough week where I was having a hard time motivating myself to get some things for school done.  In the moment that we started singing, I got this feeling and I was overwhelmed!!  Part way through we started singing “Our God” and later on we sang “Hosanna”.  That was when I got a flashback to that moment two years ago.  God as trying to remind me of a time when I was unsure of myself but everything turned out alright.  He was trying to tell me through “Our God” that if he is for us then what can stop us.  He was trying to tell me through “Hosanna” to repent and find his voice (“Take my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like you have loved me…”)

As one of my mentors once said, “We think that music has a way of jump-starting our worship to God, which is not really true. Music is not the beginning of worship, it is the end product of it. When we sing to God and play music to Him, it is merely the expression of the worship that is already in our hearts.  I pray that God will reveal His greatness, His unshakeable character, and the limitless depth of His grace and love to you until your hearts melt or explode in worship!”

I definitely learned this from the experience that I encountered.  I had to express what was on my heart and put everything else aside in order to find and hear God’s voice.

I hope this song encourages you to find God’s voice wherever you are in your walk of life

Forgiveness: A Hard Task

Wow!! God speaks in the craziest ways… These past few weeks a common theme has been coming up for me and that is the theme of forgiveness.  A week ago in my bible study, we talked about Jesus teaching about forgiveness; and just yesterday the pastor at my church talked about the same topic using the same story (definitely not a coincidence)!!

Now these last few years (maybe 10 now) I’ve had a lot of forgiving to do and I still have forgiving to do.  One story in particular was when I was in grade six.  I was a new student at the school that I was going to and I didn’t have any friends.  Over time I built what I thought were friendships; but it turned out that a lot of people were just using and toying with me.  There was this one guy that was in my class and he was in a similar situation as me (everything except being new to the school part).  The popular kids at school would get the two of us to do things to compete of their “friendship”.  So week by week and day by day it was a constant struggle to be in the “in” or the “cool” crowd.  Sometimes I was a jerk to him and sometimes it was the other way around.  Yesterday at church, he came as a visitor and I was shocked to see him there.  The only reason he was there was because it was snowing hard and he didn’t want to drive out to where his church was (which was in a different city).  At first I wasn’t going to talk to him, but I felt convicted and ended up talking to him.  Luckily there were no hard feelings between us.

The fact that he showed up at my church on the same day that the pastor preached on forgiveness is definitely not a coincidence.  I was impacted deeply by the message.  The pastor asked us to physically act out forgiving others by writing on a sheet of paper those who we choose to forgive and we put the paper through a shredder as we went up to receive communion.  One thing that I would like to quote from the pastor that I feel is very important for all of us to remember is, “When you are angry at someone, bring your concerns to God, not the person that you are angry with.  When you feel like someone is angry with you, then bring your concerns to that person and make peace with them.”  When he said this he was referring to Matthew 5:23-24 because we cannot give a pure offering if we are angry at a brother or sister and/or when we have sinned and angered a brother or sister.

I want to encourage all of you with this video.  I found it very powerful and moving and I hope you feel the same way.

Like a child

If you haven’t caught on yet from reading my previous blogs or if this is the first blog that you are reading by me, I learn a lot from children and youth.

As a youth leader and coach I love to watch youth from my youthgroup play sports.  Whenever I (or any other youth leader) go watch a youth play a sport they always feel like they have to play their hardest and win their game.  A couple of examples.  One youth lost her hockey game and she felt so bad and kept on apologizing to me and the other leaders that were there for losing.  Another youth told me not to bother going to any of his basketball games because they had a bad record.  I love how these youth look up to us in this way where they feel like they let us down when they lose.  In reality, we love to watch them play because they love playing their sports, we watch proudly as they compete, we cheer every point they score and we sympathize with every point lost.  We want to be there for them in all situations, win or lose.  We want to share in all their joys and sorrows and support them in any way that we can.

This is just like our relationship with God.  Sometimes we feel ashamed when we do something that we perceive as letting God down.  Maybe we put our faith on the line and it doesn’t turn out the way we imagined, so we perceive it as a failure and try to push God away.  Through all of this, God looks at us and says, “I want to be with you through all situations.  Let me get close to you, I am proud of you for who you are!!”  We have to accept him and let him cheer us on.

This song touches on this subject.  Pay close attention to the lyrics and may it help you let God come closer to you (or get closer to God).

Children: The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

Oh the things that you can learn from children.  What they say, how they act, some of it is just so precious.  My parents are preschool teachers and some of the stories that they tell are so intriguing.  There was this one child that was being tested by an observer to see if he needed to be put into the school districts ESL program.  My parents described the incident saying that the observer was asking questions that were required to be asked to determine if the child needed to be put into ESL.  Meanwhile, the child is talking about all the things that he is interested in and all the amazing things that he can do.  After a while he (the child) noticed that the observer wasn’t as interested in the topics that he was so passionately describing so he stopped talking and said, “You aren’t listening to me!!”  Imagine the feeling of being scolded by a child like that… “You aren’t listening to me!!!”

Today I had twenty minutes to teach a group of grade 5-6 students how to execute a netshot in badminton.  I had the lesson plan all made out and it looked great, but when the students came into the gym, it turned out that it was the same group that my colleagues taught on Tuesday, so they had already learned everything that we were going to teach them today.  My group was a rowdy, restless group of boys.  Wow were they full of energy!! The whole time I was trying to teach them through the proper progressions, but they just wanted to play a game of badminton.  It’s not like they were proficient at the skills that I was teaching them, but they knew how to do the skills, and which ones they were good or bad at.  They weren’t scared to tell me when they were bored or when they weren’t good at a certain skill.

This honesty, boldness and innocence.  No wonder Jesus told his disciples that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven would be children.  They know exactly what they want and want to do and they are honest and bold enough to tell us so.  On top of that, they have this obedience that we sometimes lack.  The group that I was teaching today, sure they were rowdy, and yes they didn’t do what I told them to do the whole time, but when I asked them to stop and listen, they would.  Children have this faith in grown ups where whatever grown ups say and do must be right (even though many times we are not right).  That’s why they will stop and listen to you, but whatever impression you put into them is the way that they may grow up to be (so we need to be cautious in how we teach them).  Therefore we need to have the faith that they have (in us) and try to be the best that we can be and strive for what we want and need in life.

Sometimes we should learn from the children that we come across in our lives.  When was the last time you knew exactly what you wanted to do and had the boldness to ask to do that, yet have the obedience to abide when people tell you “no”?  Take my parents’ student’s advice and listen to children when they have something to say.  Maybe you can learn something about yourself and what are important virtues in the kingdom of heaven.

I pray that I can find childlike faith.  I pray that I can listen when someone tells me that I am not listening.  I pray that I can trust myself the way a child would trust me and do what is right and required of me.

I hope that this song will encourage you to listen carefully to things around you.