Mornings

Imagine, every morning, getting the chance to start your day off with your favourite person. You get to talk to them, learn from them, eat with them, and laugh with them. You might even say that this is your best friend, perhaps a mentor, a role model. You bounce ideas off of them, they do the same with you, and your conversation flows back and forth with the familiarity of two old friends.

Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

It was pointed out to me some time ago that I had the opportunity to do that every morning. I thought about it and realized that it seemed like it would be a wonderful opportunity. I thought up big ideas of how my life could be different, how everything might change, how out of those opportunities I might become a much better person.

But did I follow up with that opportunity? No. Did I ever explicitly say that I wasn’t going to follow up? No, I didn’t do that, but I never made a commitment to change anything either. I never really got into the habit of sitting down with that person on a daily basis. In fact, I hardly ever did it. It happened maybe three times, and only when it was most convenient for me to be able to.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not talking about a relationship with another person. I’m talking about the opportunity to sit down with the Word, and pray.

I’ve felt convicted at least five times in the last 3 years that the habit of morning prayer and devotion is something that I need to implement in my daily life. It’s come from all kinds of sources as well; speakers, books, personal study, prayer. All of those sources have told me that I need to be spending more time in the morning, praying and reading, and I’ve believed it. I believed it the whole time. I think that the idea of starting your day with the word is a beautiful proposition.

Yet here I am, without even having started

 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. [Mark 1:35]

As you read the whole book of Mark, you find time and time again, Jesus leaves the crowds and retreats to the other side of the lake, or to the top of a mountain, or to another solitary place so that he can be alone.

I can’t imagine that during these times he just slept. I know for a fact that during his down time he didn’t go to the top of a mountain to play video games and eat too much pizza. I think during these times, he spent large portions of it in prayer. Jesus found his comfort through his Heavenly Father. He probably talked about his day, he prayed for his disciples, and he tried to figure out what he had just seen. He was a man after all. I imagine Jesus got scared of things. He probably got nervous in front of crowds. He probably was worried when he realized that religious leaders were pursuing him, trying to kill him.

So Jesus went and prayed.

This passage drives me crazy though, because if Jesus, the Son of God couldn’t even guide his way through the struggles that his daily life threw at him, what chance do I stand? Sure, I can get from day to day, but will I ever have the influence that Jesus had? No, obviously not. We’re in the year 2015 based solely on the fact that Jesus was born approximately 2015 years ago. That’s some serious influence. But do I believe that I could lead an amazing life even having the small fraction of excitement that Jesus’ life had? Yes. Do I believe it could be scary? Yes. Do I believe that I’ll need to be faithful in prayer, diligent in reading the Word, and careful to listen as God speaks? Yes.

But is that easy? No.

So for now, I’ve been blessed with a new beginning, a fresh start. I know that I have a perfect opportunity to change my morning routine. To start everyday right. To connect to the vine that is Jesus Christ. To realign my thoughts, my dreams, my goals, with the Maker of the Heavens.

It may not be easy to make these changes. Some mornings I’ll wake up very tired. Some mornings I’ll probably sleep in. Some mornings I’ll just be dumb and decide not to do it. Like any goal though, I believe that small steps have to be taken. I can’t expect to be able to spend four hours in prayer every morning. So for now I set realistic goals.

And as I close the page on this entry, I want to leave it with one of my all-time favourite quotes. It comes from a Scottish minister named Robert Murray M’Cheyne. He proposes the idea that it’s not fair to those around him if he doesn’t spend his morning in prayer.

The more I dwell on this quote, the more I believe it. I’m excited to try to finally put it into practice.

“I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, it is eleven or twelve o’clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural… and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune, I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first, to get my soul near him before it is near another.”

Quit Counting Your Blessings

Do you ever get fed up with the way that your life is going? Maybe you just want to change what you’re doing in your life. You want to turn around and do something completely different.

That’s me all the time. I don’t think that it’s because I’m unhappy with my life, I don’t think that’s the reason at all actually. I think I would equate it more to the idea that I could be doing better, or that I could be better. I’m not even entirely sure how true that is, but I feel that way all the time.

One thing that has been on my mind everyday in the past few weeks is the idea that we have so much here. The United States and Canada are truly blessed countries. We have unbelievable resources at our hands. I’m typing this right now from a room that has 25 computers in it. They probably get used for a total of 3 hours a week. If that. This room isn’t even uncommon here! We just have this much stuff!

For a long while, it pained me to think of the richest 1% of the world, the ones sitting on millions or even billions of dollars. How could they be so selfish to just hoard all that money? And to think that many of them are trying to get even more?!?! That seems disgusting to me. They have money that they can’t even spend.

Then it hit me not too long ago, that even as a student, with only a part-time job, I’m in the top 10% of earners around the world. I personally, am one of the richest people in the world. It’s not just that I grew up in a rich household in comparison to the rest of the world anymore, I have joined the top 10%.

It was a rude awakening to realize this, but I realized that I must look so silly for complaining about how I don’t have enough stuff all the time. I complain that I can’t afford to go out, or that I can’t afford things like a new guitar, or a laptop, or a camera. Meanwhile, I wake up everyday in a beautiful home with no health concerns, I go work towards my post-secondary education, and I finish the day off at my job that gives me good money by the hour. I eat several times a day, I’m always kept at a nice temperature, and I have endless opportunity.

This isn’t about counting your blessings though. This is actually about redistributing and blessing others. I always looked at the filthy rich and thought, “How could they not be giving their wealth away to the less fortunate? The problems they could solve might change the path of humanity!” The question that clicked recently though was, “How come I’m not giving away my wealth to the less fortunate?!? I could change a lot!” This isn’t to say that I want to start just blowing money at people who look like they need it, but I’m trying to be conscious of how I can be smarter with my money. What I want to ask is, “How can I give to those who need what I have, in such a way that it will change them, not for a day, but for the rest of their life? Where can I invest in a life in order to change it’s destiny?”

I read recently about John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist movement in the 18th century. He was a generous man, but one day he decided to buy some decoration for his apartment. Just a couple of inexpensive paintings to spice his place up a little. As he walked in to his house with the paintings though, he saw his neighbour, who had recently lost her coat. He realized he couldn’t help her because he had just bought those paintings. It devastated him. While buying the paintings was in itself harmless, he felt like he had done a great injustice to the woman in not being able to help her. This drove John Wesley to completely re-shape his budget so that he was living on the equivalency of $20,000 a year. He wanted to have as much disposable income as he could in order to be able to be generous to others. By the end of his life, he was making about $180,000 a year in today’s standards, but he remained faithful to the budget he had set and if he were alive today would have been giving $160,000 a year away! That’s a tremendous sacrifice, and a decision that for me, stands as being an admirable example of giving with complete abandon.

For me, I’m trying to stop counting my blessings. I’m trying to think of how I can realize the blessings that I have, and help others to be blessed through what I can give. It’s time for us to stop talking about how the less fortunate need help, and to start collaborating and helping them. We all know the need is out there. Why don’t we do something about it? Instead of going overseas for a week and helping (which I don’t think is bad), why don’t we do something that will create lasting change by empowering people and helping them to overcome their struggles? It doesn’t even have to be overseas. Look in your own city, there are poor people there who struggle day by day to find what they need. It’s time for some pro-activity across the board. The time to start living this way is now. The time for us to change later just isn’t out there.

Do You Ever Want to Plug Out?

Well, this week I really struggled with posting on here, because as you may know, the new NBA season started. That’s important and occupied most of my free time.

Anyways, I had a pretty average week. I went to school, worked, socialized less than usual (actually a good thing), and did homework. Or I avoided doing homework.

One thing in particular has really been on my mind though.

In September, I had a major project assigned in one of my classes. It was long. It had five things I needed to produce, and to be totally honest, I didn’t really understand it. It was confusing, and I didn’t feel that there had been enough clear direction from the teacher. Every time someone asked the teacher for help though, they walked away unsatisfied. Seeing this I decided to go with an, “I don’t care, I’m just going to hand it in and see what happens” attitude.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon. I was hunched over a computer, freaking out, and desperate to finish. It was due in one hour and I had only started the project that morning. I had no idea what to do for the last deliverable and I obviously was too late to ask anyone any questions that I had. I had just wasted a week (well, two months) of opportunity to work because I thought, “I have time, and I’m totally good under pressure.”

Looking back, that mindset is clearly ridiculous. Why on earth would I ever put off a project for two months and think I could do it in one day? More importantly, why do I do that all the time?

I just think it’s interesting that much of our society has a fascination with procrastinating. It’s almost like, a cool thing for us to do. We all know that this is a problem though, and we all know that it’s something we need to change. Yet here we are, doing it over and over. Maybe we’re procrastinating on changing our habit of procrastination. Seems pretty silly.

What causes this procrastination though? I know for me, being a part of this new generation that loves to be stimulated and distracted, the temptation to be doing something more fun is a constant pull. I could do homework, or I could check Twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook, or Snapchat, or my texts, or my E-mail, or watch  TV, or YouTube (the ultimate time-killer). It’s awful. I can always think of something (that’s technically useless) that I could be doing.

It can drive you crazy and make you want to go off the grid. Which I would love to do but I won’t because then I’m “that guy” and no one likes him.

If we’re honest though, most of us are plugged in to too many things. It’s not necessary. I have four ways that I can think of to send a picture to my friends with my phone. What is the point of that?!? I really think that we’ve gotten out of hand. It kind of makes me sad sometimes. Hopefully the next generations figure out how to manage themselves.

When Nothing is New Anymore

I love art. In many forms, whether it be music, books, photography, design, or film, I love being sucked in and enthused by a great work of art. There’s few things that I find more enjoyable. Like today, I had work to do, but I decided to read a little first, so I picked up my Malcolm Gladwell book (if you haven’t read his stuff already, I can’t recommend it enough) and before I knew it, two hours had gone by and my homework remained unaccomplished.

I wish that we were all as passionate as artists sometimes. Not to say we don’t have passion, or that all artists do have passion for their work, but could you imagine if we approached everything we do with an artistic mindset, or the same passion that we have when we create? The world would certainly be a much more interesting place.

Sometimes I wonder though, do we have too much exposure to art? Is it possible that it’s too easy to find?

Take photography for example. Instagram is one of the largest social networks ever, and all it started with was, “Take a (square) picture (seriously, who picked square?), slap a filter on it, then throw some hashtags on, and let likes roll in.” Now Instagram enjoys millions of photos a day, and is an avenue for legitimate communities. There are some seriously talented photographers on there, and their work is just out there for all of us to enjoy for free at a rate of about a picture a day. I’ve now seen so many unreal pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge covered in fog, that it no longer amazes me, even though it’s a spectacular sight!!! Or the sunset picture is a classic example of overexposure. Eventually, we get it. The sun set and it lit up the clouds and it was cool to look at. The problem is that it isn’t that cool after you have seen it 500 times on your phone.

I guess it just worries me that too much of a good thing will eventually bore us. I could go on, but I’d rather not lose your interest.

Coffee

I really find coffee culture to be a fascinating thing. Personally, I love sitting in coffee shops. I’m at them several times a week, and they are often the highlight of my day.

But I don’t know why!

Why do we as a society, pick ourselves up in our free time, and race out to public places and buy these bitter hot drinks, while sucking up WiFi? If we’re honest with ourselves, we can do this at home. Most of us have a coffee machine at home (keurig anyone?), quiet places where we can work, and internet service that’s usually more dependable. Yet we religiously go to coffee shops. They are usually kind of loud, we usually overpay for our beverages, and we often come out smelling overpoweringly like coffee. And we love it.

I think most people would write a post in this format with a solution that is supposed to make sense of it all. I actually don’t have one, and coincidentally I’m in a coffee shop right now looking for why I’m enjoying it. Little to no answers are coming to mind. I think that’s good enough though. I enjoy it here, and I don’t know why, but I don’t need anything more. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we enjoy these places, because we expect to enjoy them.

Or because baristas are usually pretty nice. I dunno.

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Let’s Open Up In Our Classrooms a Little

As a full-time student (for the last 15 years), I’ve sat through a lot of teachers. I’ve had good, bad, boring, funny, and downright scary teachers. Teachers really come in all kinds of flavours. Some of my favourites were the ones who weren’t afraid to be innovative. They were educated on education, and weren’t afraid to push the envelope in how they taught their students.

That being said, one thing that I’ve really discovered this year is that if a teacher can’t convey that they are an interesting person outside of their job, I struggle to find them to be an interesting teacher.

For example, if you are an English teacher, there’s like a 99% chance that you ask your students to make personal connections in their writing. If this applies to you as an English teacher, you better make sure that you’re leading by example and making personal connections during your lectures, otherwise it’s very unlikely that any of your students will really care about what you’re teaching!

This also applies to math teachers, and if you’re teaching high school math, it’s basically a guarantee that your students have no idea when they’ll be using your math in their future. and if we’re honest, some of the things we learn in math won’t be used outside of that classroom. BUT I distinctly remember when teachers actually came up with reasons for us to know things, like the Pythagorean Theorem (actually very helpful in determining distances traveled when sailing), and it made me want to learn those concepts.

It’s not a hidden fact these days that the current education system is flawed. It’s really only helpful for a few students, and completely leaves many students behind with it’s structured approach, but I think that the ability to relate education and experience is one thing that very quickly can change the dynamic of a classroom setting. Because who doesn’t love a great storyteller, right?