The End of The Story

The end of every story is simply the beginning of another. Last Friday I finished a teaching contract at a thriving and fun Christian High School. In my beloved math den, we always began class with a devotional discussion. (This was always deeply appreciated by the students of course, who may have been on devo overload at times.) I didn’t mind. Bring on a few rolling eyes – it was early in the morning after all. As I decided what message to leave them with, a video came to mind I had watched months prior.

The video relays how one young Christian Pastor chased achievement tenaciously, only to end up disappointed and broken. By the time he was thirty, he had written several successful Christian books, was pastoring a thriving church and becoming recognized as an anointed speaker. Somehow in the shuffle, his significance became tightly tied to his achievements. When his woven achievements unraveled, he was left devastated. His wife left him and his ministry diminished. He found himself a single dad, changing diapers – pondering the question:

Am I still significant? Yes. Just as significant? Yes.

As I looked at my students I was reminded of the times I spewed challenging words at them. I often affirmed they are heavy beacons of potential – and should they forget or waste it – I would hunt them down with a robust reminder that they are capable of much. However, in this moment, my raccoon-like, liquid eyes had a different message. One I often need to remind myself:

We are not valuable because of our achievements. We are empowered to achieve because God has made us valuable with gifts, talents and skills to use for Him.

I am reminded of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians: that they may have a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” so that they may “Know Him better” and that “The eyes of (their) heart(s) may be enlightened in order that (they) may know the hope to which he has called (them).” He prays this so they may receive “The fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” – Ephesians 1:17-23

I told my students: “If I meet you on the street in ten years – My prayer for you is not about what you have accomplished, but instead, about who you are. Whether you are changing diapers or the world, whether you are becoming a doctor or a traveler, who are you? May you be one beaming with fullness because you Know God. May it be your first goal in life – to radiate Who He Is. May he authorize you to chase him … First, before any title, status or achievement. And may your primary life goal read: Know him. May all else flow from this.”

Some extra good news:

When we get this wrong…  and we will…

When we crash on our noses – when we forget him and chase the wrong things first – It is not the end of the story. It wasn’t the end for the man in the video, it’s not the end for my students, and even though my time at the Christian school is done, it is not the end for me either. The end of one story is simply the beginning of another. God is on the move sprinkling insurmountable grace freely on all who ask. God, we want to know you.

Encountering Dennis

As I strode out the door last week on my way to work, I was glad to remember I owed my students some Tim Horton’s donuts in exchange for their willingness to sport party hats on exam day. What grade ten math class wouldn’t embrace this kind of opportunity? (To wear the party hats I mean… eating the donuts was secondary). My wheels turned quick, and the drive-through was no match for my mad dash so I parked and darted in, quickly making my order. As I watched my donuts get packaged, my impatience growing like an early spring weed, I got caught right up in conversation with Dennis. There was no escaping it. Dennis, like any good salesman, had caught me. For several minutes he chanted the boisterous praise of his newly developed nutrient rich bars. In fact, I’m certain the entire room of early morning coffee drinkers was paying close attention to the advertisement being thrown. Let’s just fast track to my exit from the building: endowed with boxfuls of round treats and some extra square ones I never bargained for –for the party hat kids. Dennis had been more than generous providing his precious newly packaged bars for each of my students.

I left the lot that morning flabbergasted at this man’s gusto! When was the last time I had been so brazen to share what I believe in? The traffic nagivation to the school was spent conversing with God about the weird Dennis-encounter. Dennis was confident that he had something incredible to offer the morning Tim’s crew, the world, and me. He knew his product and he believed deeply in it. Although I am keenly aware I am supposed to have some great hope to offer the world because of Jesus – in reality – I don’t always feel I have anything that I can give the next guy, because my experience of life may not be all that different than his, even though I carry Christ in me. The hope of glory. I crowd my days bulging so they burst with activities, achievements and titles. Even the days I am focused on being a Christian seem to fill with Christian things instead of the Christ himself. Christ himself. Hope bountiful, joy unspeakable, friendship incomparable, and satisfaction unquenchable. Oh God, I want this. Let the voices jumbled, the social media, the rat race of traffic, the social gatherings and the constant activities take a back seat. Yes. There it is. May the quiet make space for friendship with you that brings peace as you promise. May connection to you fill me with Dennis-like confidence. Confidence and belief that being in relationship with you is the answer to every human predicament and puzzle. It is all that you say it is. You are all that you say you are. I carry the hope of the world. God, make me know it profoundly. Make me overflow with it madly. Make me like Dennis. Make me like You.

Heart Giving

One week ago, I celebrated 25 years with sausage, pancakes and waffles in the company of this vivacious and rowdy crew at my favorite breakfast joint …spoiled? Yes. I asked these friends to live it up with me by taking ten dollars and creatively giving it away.

I have been captivated lately by the power of heart giving. Jesus said it is better to give than to receive, but why doesn’t it always feel that way? Heart giving happens when we give in response to the abundance we receive from God – and vitality swells in the soul as a result.

At different times in my life, I have given time, energy and finances because I have felt guilty, wanted to earn big brownie points with God, or to appear altruistic – however, at times – this giving has not touched my heart. Oh yes, it has looked mighty shiny and flashed a generosity badge to the world, but it has not renewed my Spirit as God intends. Heart giving happens when a person experiences the sufficiency of Christ, and abandons a mindset of lack. So how can one commit to give money, time or energy from the heart? By declaring belief. Often we see God’s goodness – to others, at other times, in other ways – but hidden within, we cling to the nagging lie that God is currently holding out on us, much like Eve felt in Eden. When we begin to declare loud and believe hard that God is good to us –right now – we are compelled to give to others in response to the sufficiency that spills right over – and right out. We have enough and we are enough in Him. This knowledge empowers us to give from a jam-packed heart – that brims freely and joyfully as a result.

May the stories of my friends’ creative giving inspire you to experience some heart brimming of your own this week.

“I actually used my ten dollars to buy lunch for a friend yesterday. We had some really great conversation about scripture, the church in general and what it looks like to actually be in relationship with Jesus.” – Cassie Vancamp

“I bought a $10 Starbucks gift card and wrote a little thank you note for the mailman at work. My plan is to leave it on the mailbox wrote he comes by tomorrow – just to say thanks for what he does and that he is appreciated!” – Cora Hamm

“I felt the Lord wanted me to bless my hairdresser with the 10$… So I shared the story and said here is 10 dollars and I know she loves cheesecake at calories so I said go enjoy a piece cheesecake tonight on my friend” – Rebekah Clearwater

“I’m going to give an anonymous thank you card to our building manager/caretaker with a $10 coffee gift card. He does so much for the residents here, he drives the old ladies in our building to appointments and to get groceries which isn’t part of his job. He’s great and deserves to be appreciated.” – Charlotte Babowski

“I will be dropping off flowers for a girl who is in a stressful season of planning a wedding, trying to make it Christ centred while experiencing family tension and challenges because they are not Christian. Just hoping that a bright bouquet with an encouraging card will help her know that God is with her in every season and will see her through, walking down the aisle and way beyond through to the great wedding feast in eternity.” – Alysha Radics

“I bought an adult coloring book at Walmart for the patients in the child and adolescent ward where I am doing clinical this week. When I was there yesterday I noticed they really didn’t have anything like that and there was a few sheets from Google printed off but nothing they could all do. So many of them are really artistic and love doing art during the day, so I thought this would be a good plan! So I brought it to the ward this morning and the girls were so pumped to color! We busted out the pencil crayons and all took a page out and spent a good part of the morning working on our pages. Just a little something to brighten their day!” – Carly Morris 

“I am planning on doing flowers for someone, and maybe a Starbucks or something as well. It seems it has been a rough week last week for her so a nice little something would be appreciated!” – Jane Landine

“I am going to send a little care package to a friend of mine in Minneapolis who is currently fighting breast cancer. Her trust in God through this has been so incredible and I want to encourage her in that and let her know that she even has crazy Canadians praying for her!” – Sarah Hundeby

“I’m going to purchase my boss flowers and some sweets. I was talking about her this weekend, and someone was like what makes you enjoy your boss so much? And then I listed off a bunch of reasons. So then today at work I was brainstorming, and it made so much sense to do this for her. She is so special, so kind, so encouraging, and so easy going. She always has little gifts for us and is always thinking of ways we can encourage each other at work. She is the greatest boss!” – Brooklynn Chovin

“Yesterday I was behind a girl at Tim Horton’s and her card declined, she was with her two kids getting drinks and some supper. So I used to the $10.00 to go towards paying her bill.”  – Kara Cupples

“I am also doing flowers for a friend who is feeling very lost, stressed and lonely. I’m going to give her flowers with a card and write her a personal message. I was trying to figure out what to do the last couple and yesterday she expressed all that has been going on in her life to me and how she feels exhausted and alone. I’m hoping this will cheer her up!” – Sierra Anamay

 

God-Powered Gratitude

Today, I turn twenty five years old. I have been practicing gratitude for 3 years now – journaling, scrawling, and babbling. This is an awesome practice, but lately I’ve been realizing that giving thanks for the sake of giving thanks is limited. Sure, you can choose to be grateful for gifts, however, if you appreciate the gifts without falling in love with the gift giver you will only experience what is good – not what is best. What is best is to know and appreciate the gift giver First, before even seeing the gift. Who does the gift come from? What do I believe about him? How do I experience Him? What do these gifts reveal about who He is… to me? Giving thanks alone is nothing more than positive thinking (which will produce happiness – but not deep transformation by the Spirit of the living God). The power of the Spirit is activated when we align our thoughts with God’s through our beliefs about who he is And who we are in Him. Don’t just give thanks for the gifts – but let the gifts teach you about the revolutionary love of the Gift Giver. This is how we practice God-Powered Gratitude.

25 things that showed me God’s love today as I celebrate 25 years on Earth:

1. The extra moments my “sleep” button allows in the morning
2. High school student giggles
3. Spontaneous dance moves in my classroom
4. Piping hot McDonald’s coffee waiting for me on my desk
5. Delicious fruit at breakfast
6. Bright pink coloured streamers arrayed brilliantly
7. Gentle eyes passing me in the hallway
8. Enthusiastic morning greetings
9. Sun breaking through clouds on the way to work
10. Wind moving winter leaves to reveal lawn growth
11. God’s voice whispering to me through radio lyrics
12. Waking with satisfaction and contentment in my heart
13. Gracious co-workers
14. Quiet moments
15. Comfortable shoes with intriguing designs
16. Pizza. Need I say more?
17. Soul soothing beats and rhythms (United Pursuit – Simple Gospel)
18. Timely text message
19. Math class: Spreading my passion for standard deviation (not sure how successful this was)
20. Free medical care
21. Wind shoving my car- reminds me of God’s power
22. Sunshine rays through ominous clouds
23. Car heater. Car heater. Did I mention I love my car heater?
24. Handi-capped parking – it shows that Canada values the most vulnerable people
25. The joy and Power that comes from knowing The Giver of each of these gifts – To Me.