Friday, March 27, 2009

ups and downs

I climbed a mountain! How appropriate. Two strikes, and a home run on the third attempt. I'm content with it. I'm not going to tell you what mountain, but it was big. Bigger than the others. I hired a guide, and without him I would've failed undoubtedly. Actually the trail wasn't even marked so you'd have to be pretty amazing to do it without a guide. I'm glad I didn't summit before, because I think the lessons learned in the failed attempts are more worthy than this most recent success.

On the down side, I didn't make the first round of offers for Ryerson's Public Policy program *sad face*, though I may make the next round of offers. Anyhow, I'm owning up to the reality that I'm not quite as hot as I'd like to be in the eyes of academia. I'm definitely working through feelings of insecurity about the future... buuuutt, I know this is a good thing. God's got a plan, and so far it's been unfolding well for me, one piece at a time. There's a mixture of disappointment that my plans may not work out, but anticipation and a bit of excitement to see what He has in store.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides His smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste;
But sweet will be the flower.

William Cowper, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" (1774)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

free music

I love free music that artists willingly give away. I've been introduced to two websites that have been of great blessing to me, and I want to pass them on to you.
This page has new Christian artists. I'm enjoying the Grassroots album. The web site is from Relevant Revolution, a bunch of cats engaged in producing media that celebrates the gospel and isn't cheezy.
one of their subministries is:
These site is mainly about taking sermon clips, and mixing in some beats to emphasis the message. I like a lot.
This site has plenty of artists, some very successful, who are posting some of their albums for free. I suggest Derek Webb, The Ringing Bell. If anyone finds or sees an artist they like, I'd like to hear about them.



Monday, January 26, 2009

a (near) mountain-top experience

I just spent a week in Spain. It was great. While I have not found a hobby, since the creation of this blog I've developed into a more out-doorsy guy. I've solo-hiked and camped on the Bruce Trail, I've smelt many wild flowers, woken up early to watch sunrises, and have attempted summitting two mountains. To my great dismay, neither mountain was summitted.

It is not a happy thing to hike through snow and mud, scramble up slick rocks, get blown off your feet, and then not reach the top. The first mountain was in Morocco, and I was not prepared for 4 inches of snow that the Lonely Planet guide didn't mention. The second failure to summit in Spain hurt more. I was told 4 hours top and bottom. So I scheduled 5 hours to go up and down before nightfall in order to be safe. 3 hours into the hike I was no where near the top, and met a guy coming down who told me it was another 2 hours! I was frustrated and worried that I wouldn't reach the top. I committed to a faster pace. So far the path had been really flat and I was going along easily, so I thought a faster pace would might just do it. Turns out that the previous section of the hike was easy, but from now on it was steep and rocky, and with rain and cloud mist it was pretty dangerous to go quickly. I laboured for about 40 minutes at a good pace. At one point I thought I saw the peak, but was disappointed when the path just continued past it. Looks like I was going higher. Soon the path was no more, just spray-paint markers on rocks to tell you where you needed to climb. I was using all fours to get up some parts. It was exciting, but I just didn't know if I had the time. I committed to just ten more minutes, because I didn't know how much more light I had, and with the cloud cover it would get dark faster, and there was no way I wanted to be on that mountain in the dark. It was hard enough sticking to the path at it was.

When the 10 minutes was up, I decided to stop, not knowing how much further it was to the top. I took a video and lamented another failed attempt. I even pondered out-loud whether God was trying to teach me something in all of it. As I turned off the camera and looked up to where I thought the peak might be (I couldn't see because I was in the mountain's clouds and you can only see so far in a cloud), the wind blew and moved the cloud away so I could see the peak. It was nice to see it, but my heart nearly stopped when I saw what was on it. A cross. There it was, a white metallic cross at the top of the mountain. After the shock, I chuckled at the odd answer God was seeming to give my pondering as to whether he was trying to teach me something. Seeing the summit I tried to guess how much longer to the top. The path was not direct, and I believed I needed to turn back. I wavered about whether to attempt to reach the top, but decided against it. I knew I could reach it soon, but I didn't know if I could hit it and get back before dark. I took a picture of the barely visible cross (edited at top) and headed back. It was a painful turn-around.

On my way back, I was dealing with the pain on having turned back. For me, these outdoors adventures are more than kicks. They're metaphors for how I want to live my life. Pushing past tough obstacles, strectching my limits, and taking risks in order to experience great rewards. Not succeeding in one of these outdoorsy things fills me with a fear that I won't succeed in life. If I don't push myself to summitt the mountain, will I push myself to follow God's will if He calls me to do something crazy hard, like live my life overseas?

Then I realized that these metaphors, while cool, are not necessary parallels to my life. In fact, to have tried to summitt that mountain without knowledge of how long it would take could've endangered my life, rendering the metaphor useless (because I'd be dead). I began to find comfort and joy in knowing that I had chosen life and obeying God's call in the future over a less important immediate goal of mountain climbing. That was a good lesson learned and I didn't feel so bad coming down.

Upon my return to civilization, I told a couple guys who were planning on going up the next day how long it took me, and how it's way more than 4 hours. Well one of those guys took the advice, and ended up climbing the mountain in 4 hours on the dot. Wow! He explained he ran through the initial easy parts, cutting down his time immensely. He also told me that from what I described to him about where I stopped and turned around, it was only another 5-10 minutes to the top. 5 MINUTES! ARGH! All my contentment and comfort vanished and I returned to God, complaining to Him for no good reason, and berating myself for not trying harder. It hurt bad. It still smarts.

That picture of the cross I took at the top of the mountain is a great comfort to me. Even if I could've pushed myself harder and summitted, and built this great life metaphor for future reference, that cross tells me that there's already been an accomplishment greater than any metaphor I could've made. Christ walked this painful earth, took the sins of humanity upon Himself, broke their power of death and came back to life. I believe that, and now that same power is at work in me, pushing me on to obedience to His call. It's a worthy call that I won't fully obey, but I'm very hopeful because He's already stuck a big cross at the end of my life that says, "It is finished," and that gives me great freedom and power to trudge onwards.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

if a blog gets updated, and no one reads it, is it still an update?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

a late post

just want to say sorry to anyone who may have visited my blog looking for a post, and finding jack. I've been slow on the upload. usually i go for once a month, but blogging loses it's luster when I'm busy and don't think i have much to say.

anyhow, so I have a verse pinned up on a light-switch in my bedroom. It says, "When I thought, 'My foot slips,' your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up." This verse has really been a blessing to me on days I recall it, but especially the past two days. Even though the verse is pinned up, I often don't "see" it. I just pass over it. I had actually forgotten where it was in the Bible. One recent morning it stood out to me, and I realized I had forgotten where it was found. I made an initial opening of my Bible to the Psalms to start searching for it, and boom, there it was. For the skeptics (me included), I opened the Book of Psalms in the general area I thought it might be in, so maybe I subconsciously knew where it was all the time. But still, I got the verse on the first opening, and that doesn't happen to me often.

So what am I saying? I'm not saying I believe God exists and loves me because He sovereignly dictated me to open the Bible there. I actually already believe He exists and loves me, whether or not I get to random verses I want to find. What made the event significant to me was that though I believe God loves me, I don't always experience it. Often I feel he's distant, like his love is an RRSP, it's real but it's pretty difficult to cash in on. I'm saying that God reminded me his love can be experienced daily. He may be the all-powerful sustainer of the universe, but He's willing to help me find a verse about his love for me. It's more than encouraging, it's strength to my heart and fuel for my desire to work hard for him.

So here the verse is again,

When I thought, "My foot slips,"
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
Ps 94

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ode to Loved Ones

I visited Spain about one month-ago with my parents for vacation. Funny how vacation and parents fit together so easily on the computer screen. Actually, I had a great and restful time. My parents are a real blessing to me. They encouraged me in my future plans and really drove home that they are proud of me. God has really used them in my life. So I'll give them a big shout out, even though they don't even really know what a blog is and will likely never read this.

Another great encouragement to me has been my team here in North Africa. They do read blogs, and so I'll give a shout out to Sid, Angela, Aban, and Selina (SAAS). They've been what has made my North Africa experience a positive one, and have helped me grow in different ways.

So below are pictures of both my parents and my other "family" on my Spanish vacation. It will be harder to pick out Sid, Angela, Aban and Selina since they didn't actually come on vacation with me. Instead, they asked me to take pics of things I thought represented them well. I don't think you'll be able to guess, it's really completely subjective to me and how I see my them. But you may want to try...

Thanks for looking at my pics!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lamb object lesson

Recently I had two friends in my apartment. We got to talking about faith, and I was trying to communicate that Jesus needed to die in order for the sins of people to be forgiven. It was hard. Why did Jesus need to die?

About a week ago I witnessed a Muslim family sacrifice a lamb. They bought him live, housed him for a few days, then sacrificed him by slitting his throat. The lambs greatest struggle against death came only after the cut had been made at his neck. It was interesting and disturbing that the greater struggle came too late, and the struggle itself helped to quicken the process of dying because of the heightened blood rate, and quicker loss of blood. Within three hours of the sacrifice, we were eating the lamb. That was the other interesting thing I reflected on. We need things to die so we can live.

Now doesn't that provide some interesting light on why Jesus needed to die? Life relies on the death of others. Christians rely on the death of Christ to live. But why then, does his death bring us life? The lamb's futile struggle to live gives insight to that also. This lamb could not overpower natural law. No blood, no life. I'm like that lamb. I struggle a lot to make my life work fine, present a good face, not do bad things. It's a losing battle. Loose ends come back to bite me, pride taints the best of my motives, and I won't be able to fix all this before my heart fails and my blood stops. There was one that overpowered the natural order. Christ did die, he was lead like that lamb, and slaughtered in a much more gruesome way, but death did not have the final word in this case. Christ broke death's power and came back to life. That resurrected life is the hope of the Christian. The Lamb that death cannot contain. The best miracle that ever took place.

Death is swallowed up in victory
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?

2 Cor 15