Wednesday 9 November 2016

Is the Lord's hand shortened?

Donald Trump is the next president of the United States of America.

People have been worrying, cheering, campaigning, tweeting, sharing, writing, posting, commenting, debating, and waiting for months, and now the votes are in.

Today, I woke up in a world where a demonstrably racist, sexist, greedy, criminal man is the leader of one of the world’s greatest powers.

But, you know what?

I also woke up in a world where I know the God who created it. And He is in control.

So, what is my response to the decision of the next commander-in-chief of the USA?

I refuse to be shaken by it.

Donald Trump is moving into the White House, but he is not taking over the Throne. That belongs to Jesus – yesterday, today, and forever.

Today, I continue with renewed passion and vigor to live out my calling. To “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God” (Micah 6:8). To “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). To “love the Lord with all [my] heart and with all [my] soul and with all [my] mind… and to love [my] neighbour as [myself]” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Today, I will continue the work that I do every day on alongside the hurt, the broken, and the vulnerable.

Will that work, and life, be different now that Trump is president? Probably. How, specifically? I don’t know. Does worrying about that help anyone? Nope.

I am reminded of the ancient words documented in the Biblical book of Numbers. God had led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, into a long journey in the desert. Their leader, Moses, was terrified about what was to come, and cried out to God.

The answer, short and simple, was, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23).

To those who have been hurt by the election, I am sorry. There have been tongue-lashings so harsh, rhetoric so distasteful, and divisions so deep that I cannot see how they will be repaired. I grieve with you.

But rest assured: the Lord’s hand is not shortened. He is still sovereign, and He is not afraid of any president, of any country, past, present, or future. He’s got this.

Monday 12 October 2015

A Reflection on Elections

If you’re reading this blog to find out my political views, you may as well close it now. I have political views, but I think they’re best expressed over a cup of coffee, not the internet. Sorry!

No, this blog is to express my reflections and observations on the election itself, specifically the way that people have been responding to its issues. 

This election has become a platform for a vast spectrum of controversial topics- how best to manage the economy, how to respond to the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and who should be welcomed into this country as a Canadian. But how are we doing when it comes to discussing these topics respectfully and fruitfully? How can we be doing better?

A Note to Christians

I am a Christian, as are many of the people in my life. Still, I know that many of my friends who ascribe to other religions or worldviews have observed or been part of the controversial election debates too. If that’s you, feel free to read on!

Christians, here’s the reality. It’s ok for us to disagree with each other. On every relevant election issue, there are a variety of viewpoints that a Christian can hold. Most of these issues are not critical or central to our faith. In case you are not certain of that, let’s review the Apostle’s Creed, widely accepted as a comprehensive statement of what Christians believe: 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

I’m not saying this is all-encompassing. There are a lot of issues that are important to Christians that are not covered by the creed. 

At the same time, I would say that NONE of those issues have a universally accepted “Christian” perspective on them. We disagree on Biblical interpretations, severity or urgency of the issue, and the most effective response. And that’s ok! Diversity is a good thing, not something to be feared. It is through the exploration of diverse opinions, understandings, and viewpoints that we can challenge ourselves and grow.

By creating the hostile, arrogant environment that I have seen countless times since the election was called, we are driving a wedge between ourselves and others. I have to ask: to what end? Are we that certain that our current opinions are (capital T) The definitive, flawless, righteous viewpoints that Christ commands us to take? I know I personally have altered and in some cases reversed my views as I have continued to study the Bible and experience the world. God and His word don’t change, but our understanding of both should as we continue to seek a mature faith. 

Even for views that are a little more cut-and-dry, do we really need to fight tooth and nail, even to the point of alienating our own family and friends? In my observation, that has proven to be more unproductive and divisive than thought-provoking and edifying. 

A Lesson in Grace

I think the lesson to be learned this election is grace. We need to have grace for each other, grace for ourselves, and almost especially grace for the politicians. Is there any other way that we can be transformed into a productive, loving, unified nation?

I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Galatians, a standard to which I genuinely desire (and consistently fail) to adhere:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

When reflecting on your own personal views, I encourage you to challenge them with the grace check I have set up for myself:

  1. Why do I believe this? What combination of Biblical teaching, fact, and lived experience contribute to my perspective?
  2. Do I need to express my perspective? Why or why not? If I do, what is the most edifying and effective way to do so?
  3. How can I be contributing to the Kingdom of God in this circumstance? How can I make the world a better place?

God help us all!

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Rape Culture Isn't News (Anymore)

Theres been a lot of buzz on my Facebook news feed lately about rape culture at the University of Ottawa (my ever-classy alma mater). SFUO officials were exposed for their horrific comments made towards Ms. Anne-Marie Roy, and the mens hockey program has been suspended for serious allegations of gang rape. To the victims in these situations, I am truly sorry.

But what I want to say goes beyond these two specific incidences. What I want to reflect on is the fact that, when I read the articles on what was happening, I was not the least bit surprised.

Not. One. Bit.

And do you know why? Because rape culture is not news! Its old. Its so common at this point, its practically routine. Its just the way it is.

To the people who still think rape jokes, or even sexist jokes, are funny, WAKE UP.

Its not so funny when youre the one someones cat-calling, honking at, or screaming what sexual act theyd love to do to you. Its humiliating and makes you want to hide.

Its not so funny when its your body that people are constantly staring at, undressing, and criticizing. Its painful and fosters such low self-esteem that youd rather starve yourself than accept yourself.

Its not so funny when youre the one who wakes up every night with nightmares of sexual abuse, and has flashbacks and panic attacks during the day. It hurts.

And in case youre wondering, each of those situations has happened to me PERSONALLY. If you dont want to believe one persons experience, I have plenty of other friends (male AND female) who can give you references. 

Maybe you make these jokes, but youve said something to the effect of Im obviously kidding. I respect women and would never do anything like that. If thats youplease stop pretending that makes it OK. I'm glad that you are not willing to rape a woman, but your words have more power than you think.

I can guarantee you that you know someone who has been sexually abused or assaulted. Yes, I said guarantee. 1 in 3 women has been sexually abused before age 18, as have 1 in 6 men. Think of what that looks like in your circle of friends, co-workers, neighbours, or teammates. For them, a rape joke can trigger painful memories and panic attacks. It reinforces the shame, guilt, and self-blame that plague them constantly.

Worse, you might have a friend whose boundaries are, lets say, not as moral as yours, and WOULD or HAS sexually abused someone. Through your so-called innocent joke, youve now sent them the message that you condone that behaviour. Youve taught them that it is acceptable to you to be an abuser.

Not so funny now, is it?

Sunday 14 July 2013

Sometimes, being special sucks.

What Glee fan can forget the intense moment before Season 1 Sectionals when Mr. Schuester has to convince Finn to compete with New Directions right after he finds out that he’s not ACTUALLY the father of Quinn’s baby? Despite the slight inclination to yell at the dopey teenager for not realizing that he could not possibly have been the father, you can’t help but sympathize with him. He’s under continual pressure to be the coolest, nicest guy in school. He’s football captain, the head cheerleader’s boyfriend, and emerging star of the glee club. That’s a lot for a 16-year old to handle!

Sadly, Cory Monteith’s off-screen life was no easier than his character’s. The entire Western world was interested in who he was dating, where he was singing, and ultimately, the substances he was abusing. He was constantly in the public eye, and seemingly couldn’t do anything without the paparazzi picking up on it.

It’s the same old story. We hear it all the time, but yet we never change anything about it. Celebrity gossip magazines are still a billion-dollar industry, with no sign of changing. Now, with the advent of social media, Monteith’s tweets and goings-on can be monitored by any teenaged girl with a computer.

However, this post isn’t about criticizing contemporary society. There are enough social scientists, journalists, preachers and critical thinkers writing about that. What I’m concerned about as a follower of Christ is the turmoil Cory must have gone through in the last few years of his life.

Drugs are not something addicts choose to wake up and do every morning. They take over your relationships, your thoughts, your hopes, and your life. They bring you to rock bottom, with little hope of climbing back up again.

At my church in Ottawa, I have had the pleasure of getting to know former drug addicts whose lives have been turned around by the power of Jesus’ love. Instead of having their lives controlled by heroin, cocaine or alcohol, they are friends of God, and as such are blessed with divine love, joy, peace, and hope.

Unfortunately, not every addict has the opportunity to experience such love in his or her lifetime. This, to me, is heartbreaking. I genuinely hope that Cory Monteith had the opportunity to know God, and that as he died, he knew that he was special not because of his talent in acting and singing (though sadly not dancing!), but because he was created and known by the Lord of the universe. I also pray that he knew he was not alone when he died, even though none of his friends or colleagues or even stalkers were with him in that hotel room.

What makes you special? What gives your life worth? For me, it’s my relationship with God. Psalm 139: 1-6 reads:

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

God knows each of us intimately, and wants us to take comfort in that. No matter what the societal, personal, and professional pressures that go on in our lives, we can always relax with our Heavenly Father. Isn’t that amazing?

Sometimes, being special sucks. This isn’t a post about the evils of the paparazzi, social media, or drugs. It’s a post expressing my heartbreak in knowing that a young man lost his life, maybe having never known God. I honestly will pray for Cory Monteith’s family and friends, and for all those who are still slaves to their addictions as an escape from real life.

Monday 1 April 2013

My Next Steps

You can tell a lot about a person by their Twitter.

If you look at who follows me and who I follow on Twitter, you will see a lot of organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to ending human trafficking and modern day slavery. By most estimates, there are 27 million people worldwide who are enslaved and sold for the purposes of sex or labour. Many of these people are trafficked because of dire poverty, drug addictions, or threats and coercion. The stories are heartbreaking, and no country or major city is exempt.

Despite the global nature of the problem, I wouldn’t have been able to define human trafficking a year and a half ago. One of the staff members of Power to Change challenged me in January 2012 to take a leadership role in planning our I Crave Freedom campaign by planning a movie night. When I started researching for it, I was blown away by what I learned.

Isaiah 1:17 says:
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow's cause.  

God’s heart for the oppressed is clearly shown throughout the Bible (just type justice into and you’ll see what I mean). He calls us to take care of His people, especially those who can’t take care of themselves.

A line that further challenged me was from William Wilberforce, the leader of the British movement to end the slave trade. He famously said: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

He was right. With that in mind, I have decided to stay in Ottawa next year to complete a one-year graduate certificate in Victimology, so that I will have some idea how to work with people who have been rescued from human trafficking. This program will open doors for me to take internships here or abroad to show people who have been oppressed for so long that somebody cares about them. That I care about them. And for now, that's what my life's going to be about.