Sunday, 13 April 2014

What Do You Call God?

When I was growing up, we always started our prayers with: “Heavenly Father… (insert prayer here)…In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.” For the longest time, those words didn't have any meaning to me; it was just a routine I grew up with. I didn't know God well, so I addressed Him just like everyone else did. This one year at camp I remember one of my cabin leaders prayed out loud, simply telling God about her day saying, “Hey God, here’s what’s happening in my life…” I realized that you don't have to sound fancy or holy when you talk to Him, you can be real, honest, and down to earth.

The other day, I started reading The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. In his book, Groeschel talks about what it means to really know who God is. He looks at the difference between saying you’re a Christian and actually having a relationship with Christ. There’s one chapter on prayer and talking to God that really challenged me:

“What do you call God? The Big Guy in the Sky? The Man Upstairs? Dear eight-pound, six-ounce Baby Jesus? Then you don’t know him. Those titles may be clever or funny, but they certainly aren’t intimate.
If you know God, you are likely to be far more specific with him, and the words you use will reflect your accurate understanding of him. Maybe God graciously forgave you for two decades of sins and you gratefully call him “Savior.” Perhaps when you pray, you call God “Healer” because he’s healed your broken heart. Maybe you call him “Comforter” because he has come alongside and provided company in your misery. Maybe you call him “Fortress” or “Rock” or “Strength.” Maybe you’ve found yourself backed into a corner, with nowhere to turn, creditors calling, and he’s “Provider” to you. If you’re a woman and the man in your life has abandoned you, you might even call him “Husband.” When you feel totally alone, perhaps you call him “Friend.” Maybe your earthly father has never been there for you, and to you God is “Father.”
What do you call God? Your answer may be a clue to how well you know him. Or don’t.”

If you were to call me “Anne”, you probably don’t know that no one calls me that. If you call me “Annie”, we’re probably friends or family. Call me “Aqua” and I know you from working at camp. My brother and I sometimes call each other “Brougah”. If you were to call me “Sluggard” or “Fannie”, you know me really well. The names you give other people depends on the relationship you have with them. It's the same with God. The name you have for God shows how close you are to Him.

In the Bible, David has an incredible relationship with God and you can tell by the way he addresses Him. “I love you Lord; my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2) This psalm was written when the Lord delivered him from his enemies and from Saul. The words he uses to talk to God show how much he loves and trusts Him.

God’s become so much more to me than just someone I learned about at church. When I’m outside on a beautiful day, He’s the perfect Creator who makes no mistakes. He's the kindest and greatest Teacher, and I'm His student. Whenever I've had no one to turn to, He’s been my Best Friend; one that will always be there. When I feel like I’m not good enough, He becomes my Strength. Throughout my life He’s been my Provider, not giving me everything I want, but everything I need. Every time I mess up He never fails to be loving and gracious. There are so many names for God, but these are the ones that mean the most to me.

What do you call God? Does it reveal anything to you about your relationship with Him?

Saturday, 14 September 2013

One Week Left!

When Johnny left this morning to begin his second year at Capernwray Harbour, it made me realize how soon I'll be leaving too! With one week left before I fly across the Atlantic Ocean, I thought I'd give an explanation as to what exactly I'll be doing for the next nine months.

September 28th marks the first day of bible school for me at Capernwray Hall, but my Mom and I are leaving on the 22nd and staying in London for the week. The school is actually located in Lancashire in north-west England. Although it is a bible school It's not exactly like university. I'm not going there to earn a degree, I'm taking the year to focus on studying the bible, learning more about my faith and growing in my relationship with God. I'm so excited and a little nervous to travel to another country and to meet new people, but I know that the Lord is going to take care of me and He has given me this opportunity for a good reason.

To give you an idea of what my schedule might look like, here's a summary from a previous student of a day at Capernwray Hall. I copied this from the school's website

Here are some of Erynne's memories of a regular bible school week;
(Not every day is like this, but at least this gives you a flavour of what it’s like)
Up for breakfast, get ready for the day...
Off to lectures! There are four sessions with a tea/coffee break half way through...
Free afternoon - walk the loop (round the park), play a game, get to know other students and staff, work on projects...
Time for tea (dinner/supper depending on where you come from !)...
2 evening lectures...
Supper (hot chocolate and a biscuit)...
A bit of free time before bed...
Lock up!

Saturdays are different – usually a free day. Late start, and often there is a trip organised to a local town or attraction. You will have to pay extra for these trips, but it’s worth it to see and experience more of England!

Fridays and Saturdays there are a number of social activities organised – family nights, film nights, maybe even a British night!

Sundays too are different – there are services morning and evening – but generally a fairly relaxed day.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spiritual Gifts Test

Last month, I took the spiritual gifts test at along with some of the other youth at my church. In our Sunday morning youth class, one week we talked about spiritual gifts and concluded that everyone has at least one spiritual gift. We even talked about gifts within our church and what we thought our spiritual gifts were. Most of the gifts we came up with were related to what we did in the church, or what we were good at, whether it be music, working with kids, cooking, speaking, writing, and other things like that. 

When I took this test, I thought it would talk about the same things, but it was completely different. If you take the test yourself, it gives statements that you rate on a scale of 0 to 5, then scores you into the following categories: Administration, discernment, evangelism, exhortation, faith, giving, leadership, mercy, pastor, serving, and teaching. Even if you don't take the test, it might be a good idea to read up on what each of the categories are.

My top three gifts were:
1. Serving
2. Faith
3. Administration

I wasn't surprised that serving and administration were in my top three. I enjoy doing small, detailed tasks and helping out wherever help is needed, but I never thought of it as a gift. Having faith as number two was a shock to me though. Looking back at my answers, I realized that anytime there was a statement regarding faith, I didn't even hesitate and gave it five out of five. 

The good thing about this test, is it also gives your score for the other gifts, that way you can see how you fit into those categories as well. I know this is just a test, and the results are not going to be perfect, but I'd really recommend taking this test. Let me know what your top three are!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Week 2: Goodness

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control; against such things there is no law. 

What does it mean to be good? Well, I looked up synonyms for goodness, and this is what I found: Moral, generous, kind, friendly, honest, and gracious. Goodness isn't just one idea, I guess it's a combination of good characteristics and other fruit of the spirit too.

All throughout my life, I've been labeled as a good person. In my high school yearbook, I was even voted the "most likely to become a saint". But just like everyone else, I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes in my life, and I don't always do the right thing.

In the theme of goodness, I've been reading Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman. (Book review to come!) One chapter focuses on Mary and Martha. Martha was trying to be a good host and became easily worried and stressed when her sister listened to Jesus speak rather than help her. Another chapter focuses on the parable of the lost son. The younger son took his share of his father's land, left home, and lost all he had. When he returned home, his father was overjoyed and began planning a celebration. The older son who had not done anything to displease his father, became angry and jealous of his brother.

When I was reading these stories again, I came to the realization that I could relate to Martha and the older son. When other people are rewarded for their good behavior, I think what about me? I've been doing the right thing this whole time, where's my reward? But goodness should come with humility, and just because you're not praised for doing the right thing, doesn't mean you should stop.

But why is it important to be good? Jesus says in Luke 6:33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. As a Christian, I think it's so important to do good to everyone around you, because by doing good, you'll be showing God's goodness through your actions.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Bathurst Update: Mission Complete

Read week one here!

Day 8: Sunday
The group that was in Campbellton participated in their morning service and in the afternoon, we all attended the service at St. Luke's. After staying at the church for a week for meals and setting up, it was good to see the congregation again and to see the church being used by people other than us. During the service, Kim and Shoolie performed a small skit depicting a conversation between a woman and God. She told God her list of things she needed to be done, and He simply told her to give all those things to Him.

That evening, some of us went to play soccer with Chaleur Generation again (Can you tell we like soccer?) and some of us did some finishing touches on the VBS decorations. Bathurst has fireworks at the end of their summer festival, Hospitality Days. So many people came to watch, the entire bridge and waterfront were filled with people!


Day 9: Monday
Welcome to day one of VBS! We learned that God's love helps us stand strong! I was so excited to see lots of kids from last year and some new faces too. Since I was a station leader, I was in charge of taking 6 kids around to the different stations throughout the morning. I love being a station leader, because I get to experience VBS with the kids by going to each station with them. These stations include Tournament Games for kingdom related games, Chadder's Royal Theater for a daily video, The King's Kitchen for a tasty snack, Epic Bible Adventure for an awesome bible story and the Imagination Station for fun experiments.

Day 10: Tuesday
VBS day two was just as fun as day one. We learned that friends and family help us stand strong! During the Epic Bible Adventure, the kids learned about how Esther's cousin Mordecai helped her stand strong. The kids encouraged our very own Esther before she had to talk to the King.

Esther Becomes Queen Esther

That evening we went deep sea fishing! While some of us caught more than twenty fish, I managed to get five mackerel and two cod. Kim even caught a jellyfish tentacle (Gross!). Those with strong stomachs helped gut and clean the fish before we took them home. But the best part of catching all those fish is eating them!

Kim's a Natural

We Caught Tons of Fish

Day 11: Wednesday
On day three of VBS, we learned that prayer helps us stand strong! During VBS, Landie, Christian, and Shoolie became Sir Brodie, Sir Gogos-A-Lot and Sir Flight. To make VBS a little more interesting, we decided to make a couple of videos of our knights looking for and slaying a dragon. The first one showed Sir Brodie escaping from the fire breathing dragon during training.

Watch The Dragon Video #1
Watch The Dragon Video #2

Sir Gogos-A-Lot

Filming The Dragon Video

Day 12: Thursday
Our energy levels were running low on the fourth day of VBS but we managed to stay energetic for the kids. We learned that trusting God helps us stand strong! That evening, we had a combined worship service with Chaleur Generation. Since they are a bilingual group, we sang songs like Forever and Revelation Song in both French and English. I can still remember that chanton means sing praise.

Worship With Chaleur Generation

Day 13: Friday
The final day of VBS is always bitter sweet, especially since we have to wait another year before we see the kids again. We learned that God's word helps us stand strong! Our knights finally slayed the dragon at the Fanfare Finale and they got to share how God helped them stand strong. Parents that came early were able to see a little bit of what we've been doing all week. Lunch was also provided, giving us the opportunity to say our final goodbyes and to meet parents and family members.

Zachary Helps Sir Brodie Slay The Dragon

Kingdom Rock!

We had dinner at a seafood restaurant near Pabineau Falls. We would have visited the falls after, but it was raining. A lot. So instead of taking our team picture at the falls, we went to the gazebo by the waterfront.

The Team 2013

Then we headed back to the church for our final debrief. This included worship, some time to share what the trip meant to us, and some time to talk in smaller groups. Even some members of the congregation and VBS volunteers joined us.

Day 14: Saturday
Once we finally packed, cleaned up and got into our vans, it was difficult to say goodbye to Bathurst for another year. After another long car ride, we arrived in Quebec City, but this time to stay for a few days.

Walking Around Quebec

Day 15: Sunday
I really enjoyed the service at St. Andrew's that morning. Since the church is in Old Quebec, there were some other tourists there too. That evening, we teamed up with the youth of St. Andrew's to create a contemporary worship service. We split up into teams where we worked together to present different parts of the service. This included a call to worship, prayer, worship through art and worship through music.

Christian and Esther Present The Call To Worship

Day 16: Monday
After a lengthy drive filled with many needed bathroom breaks and Tim Horton's stops, we finally made it back to Toronto.

Even though the title says mission complete, it's not actually over. I can't wait to see what this mission trip is going to bring to the Bathurst community and to our own community here in Agincourt.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Mission Trip Update: We're Halfway There

I can't believe it's already been a week! So many great things have been happening, there will be plenty of stories to share when we come back. But until then, here's a simple description of what we've been doing on the mission trip.

Day 1: Sunday
The commissioning service was great! The congregation is so supportive of what we do in Bathurst, it was good to be able to get them involved and to say goodbye. As we departed, the ride was surprisingly smooth. We took less stops we didn't get lost or stuck in traffic. That night, we stayed at St.Andrew's in Quebec City. The surrounding area is beautiful, filled with old buildings, sloping sidewalks, and tons of people.

Quebec City

Day 2: Monday
On the road again! Being stuck in a car for two days isn't always fun. When we finally arrived at our destination, most of us were reunited with St.Luke's but Alyssa, Torre, Landie, and Kofi got to see it for the first time. We were especially excited to be able to eat a homemade meal instead of fast food! We were also able to meet a lot of the members of the congregation, and introduce ourselves to them.

Torre is reunited with his Grandpa

Day 3: Tuesday
Glen took us for a walking tour around the town. He took us to the waterfront, the gazebo, the tower and showed us a monument placed in memory of the high school basketball team that died in a bus accident. Later on that evening, we joined up with Chaleur Generation, a bilingual youth group to play soccer. It was great to see some growth in their group as well as ours, and to simply help them out by being there for their events.

The Waterfront Gazebo

Day 4: Wednesday
Before we started setting up for VBS, we started some leader training. We learned this year's songs, and came up with ways to become effective leaders. Everyone chose their stations for the next week. This was when I was reminded why we came to Bathurst in the first place, to serve the community and share the gospel with families through VBS.

Learning the Actions For Songs
 Even though the weather wasn't great, we made some time to visit the beach. Some of us went swimming, while others enjoyed the view or played football in the sand.

Swimming in the Ocean

Day 5: Thursday
Those who had VBS stations started to read their scripts, set up, and decorate. To make decorating more fun, we were put into four groups and had a stained glass window making competition, which sounds a lot easier than it really is. That afternoon, our group split up into three in order to start service projects. One group went to Campbellton to start setting up for their weekend VBS. The second group volunteered at the homeless shelter, folding and organized donated clothes. The third group that I was a part of, helped Eleanor, a member of St.Luke's by painting her house and helping in her garden.

The Winning Stained Glass Window

Day 6: Friday
The Campbellton group started VBS and had a great time even though they only had three kids show up. The rest of us helped Sharon, another member of St.Luke's by pulling weeds in her small farm. Her family usually helps her during the summer, but they have moved away from Bathurst in order to find work. Then we spent another evening playing volleyball with Chaleur Generation.

Having Fun in Campbellton

Day 7: Saturday
VBS continued in Campbellton, while everyone else went to the local farmer's market for breakfast. This is the last year before it gets replaced with a larger market where the prices for tables will go up. In the afternoon, we got some well needed rest and watched Sean win another soccer game.

Read week two here!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Pre-Bathurst Excitement!

All year, I've been eagerly anticipating for the two weeks of July that involve my church's Bathurst Mission Trip. Whenever people ask me what I did in New Brunswick, I find it difficult to come up with a short answer. There were so many amazing experiences and stories, I could go on for a long time. But, I've decided to narrow it all down into five categories. Here are the major ways I saw God working in Bathurst over the past two years:

The Kids of Bathurst
Bathurst is a smaller city with amazing people. Our day camp started very early in the morning, and most of the kids who came had to drive about an hour to get to the church. Last year, I was a crew leader of a group of older girls about 7-12 years old. One of the girls in my group insisted that she was only coming for one day because she didn't like it, and frequently complained to me about the quality of the camp in general. I thought I'd never see her after day one, but lo and behold, she came back every day of the week. On the final day of camp, we had small group time, and this girl asked me for proof that God was real. Before I could even think of an answer for her, the other girls in my group had faithfully given her their own answers. As a camp leader, it's hard to know if the stories you're teaching the kids will be remembered, and sometimes it feels as if they have no idea what you're talking about. Not only did my group understand what we were teaching them, they were teaching one another as well. I was amazed to hear these girls talking about their faith and what they believe to one another and to see God working in their lives.

Music and Worship
After a tiring, but exciting day full of service projects, setting up, cleaning, or running a morning of VBS, we would gather together at the end of the day in our close living quarters, to have a time of worship and share our experiences that day. This was one of my favourite parts of the mission trips, because after all the hard work done during the day, this gave us the chance to praise God for the work we were able to do and to put our focus back onto Him. It was easy to become stressed and tired on the trip, but these debriefs allowed us to reflect on the real reason we were there. In these moments, I was able to push aside all my thoughts or worries of the day or the days to come and keep my focus on God.

Nature, and the Beauty of God's Creation
I was talking to my coworker about Bathurst during my break the other day, and I tried to explain the scenery of New Brunswick. Living in Toronto, I'm used to a crowded, busy atmosphere and being able to take the bus, or walk to get where I need to go. When in Bathurst, we had to drive everywhere since everything is spaced out and far away. When we went to the town square, we could see the ocean and the beautiful sunset in the evenings. We also went to Pabineau Falls  As I sat by the water and just listened to it moving, you could feel God's presence through His creation. Visiting these places was a reminder to me that God created this earth, and that the earth and all it's beauty is His. Watching the water and the stillness of nature in Bathurst brings such a peaceful atmosphere, it's so easy to feel God's presence in the beauty of His creation.

The sunset from the town's gazebo.

Pabineau Falls

The Bathurst Team
Going to Bathurst with a team of great people made the trip an amazing experience. Everyone was excited to travel to a new place. Everyone had their own job, and as a team we all worked great together. Last year, living in a small house with 22 people could have gone terribly wrong. But instead of arguing over space, or complaining about shower times, we were able to survive two weeks without getting sick of each other. I thought I knew everyone in our group pretty well, but after the mission trip, I had learned so many things about them, and the trip had brought us so much closer together, and so much closer to God during this time.

The Team: 2011
The Team: 2012

If you were to ask anyone from the mission team about Bathurst, they will mention Sean. We met Sean the first year we went to New Brunswick. He's a member of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church and was there on the first day to welcome us. As we began our service projects in the community, he joined us and soon became a part of the group. It was almost as if he had come with us from Toronto. Seeing God work in Sean while we were there made me realize how God can use one person to do great things. It has been a blessing for everyone to see how meeting Sean on the mission trip made a huge difference in his life and in our lives.

Matt gives Sean a Bible before we leave.

Our team leaves for Bathurst on July 14th. I hope you're as excited as I am! Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare for our third mission trip!