Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Servant's Heart


Sometimes my non-Christian friends will ask me why I do so many things* (youth group, worship, etc) and usually follow up by saying that I'm such a good Christian for doing these kinds of things out of "the goodness of my own heart" (what the heck does that even mean?). And while it might be true that doing things to serve others is definitely good, and I am definitely a Christian, I don't know if I would say that being a good Christian necessarily has anything to do with our actions. I'd like to say no, since our salvation comes from the blood of Christ alone, but I also definitely acknowledge that we are called to be faithful servants, to love and serve the poor and needy without condition, and to give of ourselves for others.
*For the record, I do so many things because I love God, He loves me, and I want other people to experience that love.

I think one of the biggest things about having the heart of a servant in the Kingdom of God is the attitude behind it. We have to be loving in ways that are unconditional; this means that if the motivation behind our good deeds is anything but to bring glory to God by showing love to His people, then our actions are empty. Sure, they're still going to make people feel good, but they're meaningless without Jesus. This is why I argue that service is more of a heart issue than an action issue. If your heart's not in the right place, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do whatever you were planning on doing- because God can use that to bless people all the same- but you definitely need to pause and re-evaluate your priorities, and pray that God will help you lose whatever idol you're clinging onto that is preventing you from dedicating everything to Him.

It can be really easy to fall into the habit of doing things for God that are really for us. I won't lie- I have to constantly check myself to make sure I'm not being selfish in my service. But I think it's super important for a leader to acknowledge that we are all broken, selfish humans, and to be actively praying against the attitudes that come to us so easily.

/End rant

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Guest Post from Carl Jones!

Hey guys,

So, those of you who are regular readers know that a little while ago I wrote a guest post for my friend Carl's blog! Tonight (or today, depending on what time zone you're in, word to my international followers) we have the pleasure of receiving a guest post in return! Carl is American, which is pretty cool, and it's my understanding that they have some kind of strange ritual this time of year that we Canadians celebrate in October. Thanksgiving! My favorite mostly-secular holiday ever. Anyways, this isn't my post, it's Carl's! So I'll stop talking now, and let's just jump right to it! :)

When Tom asked me to write a guest post for him about "American Thanksgiving," I admit the sound of those words hit me a bit funny.  I know that Canadian Thanksgiving is earlier- in fact I just saw an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which the very Canadian character of Robin comments that Thanksgiving in November just seems odd.  But truth be told I never really think of Thanksgiving as "our" holiday.  I know the history of it all- the Pilgrims and the Native Americans sitting down over a feast to celebrate surviving another year.  I, like so many others, will enjoy sitting down today with family and friends for a feast- and I will eat way too much.  There will be parades and football games to watch, and there will be the realization that the Christmas season is now officially here.   I realize that many USAmericans (technically, Canadians are Americans too.  So are Central & South Americans. I'm just saying...) manage to turn most every holiday into an excuse for patriotism, but I do not think of Thanksgiving as a day that belongs to God and country.  It simply belongs to God.  It is a day to give thanks for the many blessings in each of our lives, even in times when we do not feel as blessed as we might hope.  

I have always used a very simple exercise to help keep me focused on the meaning of this day, and I thought I would share it with you all today.  We used to sing a song at camp and youth group that went like this:
"Thank you, my LORD for the day, 
Thank you my LORD for they day.
"Cause you've given me your Son 
and you know I've just begun,
Thank you my LORD for the day."
We would sing those words over and over again, but each time through we would ask for suggestions on words to substitute for the words, "the day."  For instance, we might substitute "friends" or "turkey" or "family."  The list of things we were thankful for was usually endless. Each year on Thanksgiving I use this song as my morning devotion, taking time to list many of the things I am thankful for.  Taking time to thank God for our blessings is at the very heart of this day, whether you live here in Tampa, Florida or you live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  Today, even more than usual, we should remember the words of the psalmist in Psalm 118 when he tells us that "this is the day that LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" Live today in God's glory, filled with the love and grace of Jesus Christ, and no matter where you are or what you are doing it will be Thanksgiving Day!  Be blessed!

Because of Jesus

Carl Jones

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prologue to The Sought

Good afternoon, all.
Now I know Tom has introduced me as an aspiring creative writer, and so far you've only read a post about mind-reading, so I figured I'd post something I've written.
I'm also ditching the whole pen name thing. From now on, I am Oliver James Morello. Morello, for short.

This next piece is meant as a prologue for the book The Sought, by a good friend of mine.

Varoram stood in the fields just outside of Faromey, eyes closed, his bare feet damp from the dew that covered the grass. He opened his eyes and breathed in the moonlight. It had been so long since he’d felt the wind on his face. He started walking toward the remains of what was once the great city of Faromey. Ever since the massacre, it had become but a pile of ruins and mangled, bloody cadavers. The glory that had once emanated from that city was long gone, crushed by the abominations that had slaughtered the citizens of the city. With each step he took, he left a burnt footprint on the grass, the tiny droplets of dew sizzling into the night air. The sounds reminded him the burrowers that used to sing any time a god would approach Faromey. Their long snouts would produce a flute-like sound, and tens of thousands of them would stick their heads out of the ground and produce a magnificent melody for the gods.

As Varoram thought of them, he looked down at his feet and saw one peering up at him. He bent down and picked it up, admiring it. It tried to move, but he would pass it from one hand to the other. Its shiny mulberry skin reflected the moonlight. He looked at its small legs, its short and pointy tail, and its arrow-shaped, green-tipped ears. It eventually stopped running, and stayed immobile in his hand, flaring its snout in all directions. Varoram smiled, and it suddenly stopped moving altogether. As he tilted his head, the burrower fell to its side and shrivelled up like a wilted flower. He dropped it on the ground and it landed soundlessly as he moved on.

After finally arriving in the city, he felt a strong breeze blowing his long black robe about. The streets of Faromey were meant to channel winds from the South-West, as they were the winds that brought good weather. He remembered, he’d helped design the city.

After a few moments, he felt something cold on his foot. When he looked down, he saw a corpse’s hand. His eyes followed the arm and reached finally reached the head. It was Tyll. He recognized the man. He was one of the city’s apothecaries. Varoram found it ironic that the one who healed people had been one of the first to die in the massacre. He remembered how the kraven had been the first creatures to charge, followed by the rest of the abominations. Kravens looked like dogs, but with a back that was far more arched, and were much, much more vicious. They were meant to be swift, but not to kill. They would maim, wound the opponents, while the other creatures went in for the kill.

With a quick jerk of his foot, Varoram moved Tyll’s limp hand, which turned an ugly shade of brown, as all the flesh dried up. He kept walking, stepping over cadaver after cadaver.

It was when he looked up that Varoram saw it: Nyusatar. Faromey’s great temple. It took up a large part of the city, since the city itself had been built for the gods. Nyusatar had been built out of the finest hewnstone in all of the land. It had once stood, proud and tall, towering above all the other buildings of Faromey, with spires that could be seen from miles away. But now, it was merely a pile of stone, a broken memory of a paradisiacal edifice, a crushed mirror of the beauty of the heavens. As Varoram approached it, he smiled as lines from the stone lit up in a bright powder-blue. When Nyusatar had been erect, these lines traced vines all around the exterior and interior of the temple. Leaves and flowers had been drawn on the hewnstone by magic from Nyunamey herself, and these drawings of divine beauty were meant to shine as soon as any god approached the city. Whether it be bright as mid-day, or dark as a moonless night, the beautiful lines never went unnoticed.

Varoram entered the temple, looking around him. It was strange to see it from this angle. He’d come in and out of the temple many times, but he was always in his ceremonial colossal self, never in human height. And as he walked through the halls, his marmoreal hand feeling the cold, hard walls, tracing the vines, he heard nothing. It was a deep and utter silence. There weren’t the usual cacophonic cheers from the citizens or the music of the fays and sprites. Even his feet didn’t make any sound. The corner of his mouth began to curl into a smile.

When he reached the courtyard at the center of the temple, it was exactly as he’d expected. On the floor of the courtyard, in those same lights as everywhere else in the temple, was an accurate astrolabe, a map of the stars under their feet. A true work of art, but now cracked all across. Varoram looked up at the night sky. The stars had once danced for him. With him, even. In the many glorious celebrations they’re had in Nyusatar, the stars, the moon, and even the sun had joined in the great feasts.

But that had been a long time ago.

A long, long time ago.

In the days of old.

He kept walking toward the opposite end of the courtyard, where the eight thrones had once stood. Now, only two of them remained: The one in the center to the left, and the one at the very right. He walked up the three steps and sat on the throne. His throne. He looked to the other one with hungry eyes.

Suddenly, there was the sound of claws on stone getting closer. Varoram slowly turned his head to the courtyard and observed as a kraven walked his way. It walked up to his throne and looked at him dead in the eyes. Then, it turned around and sat at his feet. He reached out and started petting its head. He looked straight ahead.
Somewhere out there, was Raiu.

Somewhere out there, was his son.

Somewhere out there, was the one who would help him, Varoram, the god of passion, of fervor and rage, in his ascension.

Help him in the instauration of his realm of darkness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Self-Indulgent Blog Post

Hey internet,

I'm writing today just because I feel like talking about myself. I try as much as possibly to avoid doing that, or at least to bring it back to a point every time, but today, I'm actually just indulging myself and writing a post entirely about me. So if you don't read blogs that are just about how people's days or weeks or months are going, that's totally fair, and you're welcome to ignore this post if you want to and read some of my juicier stuff. But if you're the type of person who's happy to hear about what's going on in someone's life that you may or may not know in the real world (this being the internet and all) then I encourage you to read onward as I babble a bit about what's been happening with me lately!

I've been pretty excited recently about a big project that's coming up for me in the not-so-distant future. For the last couple of years, I've really wanted to move out of my parents' house. It started off because I was sick of living with them (ah teenage angst, aint it grand?) but I quickly realized that was a crappy reason to move out, and got over it, deciding to persevere and endure their quirks out of love. It was only when I realized I really want to live in community with other Christians that I felt God giving me the thumbs-up I needed to start planning to move out. I prayed about it a lot, and something really exciting came up that's going to be a real game-changer for things around here. Along with two (or possibly more) of the other guys who lead youth group at Emmaus, I'm going to be starting up a sort of missional community in the Verdun area of Montreal, since like 90% of our teens live around there. Our goal will be to grow together in our faith, and to disciple the teens and offer up our space as a safe place where they can hang out, have barbecues, game nights, Bible studies, etc, all while doing what we can to be a blessing in that neighborhood.
So that's super exciting, and things are starting to pull together a little bit- there's three of us definitely on board who share the same vision, we're planning on moving out July 1st 2012, and I'm actually making tons of money right now, which is a comfort, since I know things will be financially tight for the first little while.

Another thing that's exciting is that school's almost finished for this semester! I have about three weeks of class left, then a massive break for Christmas. What's best about it is that even though things are picking up in terms of work-load, I still don't feel overwhelmed by school, and probably won't until next semester! God's blessing me with peace and rest. I'm very excited about Winter break, because it will mean extra hours at work, extra time to work on music, extra time for friends, and a bizarre sleep schedule! Might try out the whole 28-hour days thing ;)

As a treat for those of you who actually took the time to read this post through to the end (or tl;dr'd it and skimmed down to here) here's a sneak peek at what to expect in the next couple of weeks!
- "A Servant's Heart"
- "Worship: More Than Just The Same Old Song and Dance"
- "A Critical Analysis of the Physics of Luke Cage"
- A guest post about Thanksgiving from Carl Jones!
- Music?!
- Much, much more ;)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Post on Carl's Blog!

Hey guys!

Nothing new here today, but I did do a guest post for my friend Carl Jones, so you should go check that out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Problem with Mind-Reading

So Tom and I thought it'd be cool to have a series of posts about the pros and cons of super powers.
I know that a lot of people think mind-reading would be awesome, but I'm here to prove them wrong.
It's pros and cons time.
No one can lie to you. You can interrogate a super villain and find out where he's hiding his death ray and how to destroy it. You can ask the Russian spy who his contact was, and no matter his answer, you'll find out. You can discover the secret identity of your arch nemesis.
You wanna find something out? There are easy ways of manipulating thoughts. If I say "Don't think of an elephant." What do you think of?
An elephant.
Comes in handy, like I said, for interrogations.
That's about it.
There are two possible scenarios: Either you can turn it off or you can't.
If you can't, the problem is pretty self-explanatory: Thoughts are chaos, you hear what everybody's thinking at all times, it's a nightmare. It's like an overwhelming cacophony of uncensored thoughts, an deafening circus of judgments and non-sequiturs. Sooner or later, you'll go mad. You won't even be able to hear your own thoughts.
Second scenario:
You may think you can handle it, but truth is, you can't. You forget that we have emotions. More specifically, doubt. You'll tell yourself you can use your power for good, and not for your own needs.
But trust me, you cant.
One day, your friend will say something, you'll doubt him or her, and then, before you know it, you'll tap into their thoughts. You'll start using it over and over again, and you'll eventually stop trusting people. Ever.
You know the saying "Ignorance is bliss?" Yeah. It applies here.
Eventually, people will find out.
You: Hey, how was the concert?
Friend: What are you talking about?
You: Good enough to skip our plans?
Friend: How did you find out?
You: to yourself Crap... He never told me... Forgot about that.
That's when your status of "hero" turns to "stalker".
Let's face it, reading people's thoughts is invading their privacy. You will no longer be the dude (or dudette) who saves the day, but rather the creeper (or creeperette) who listens in to your thoughts.
No one will want to come near you, you'll end up alienated, isolated because your attempt to do good backfired. Kinda like in The Incredibles.
Okay, assuming you can turn it off, assuming you're not taken away by emotional conflicts and your cover's safe and you find out some kick-ass info about a super villain. Then what?
Let's face it, mind reading doesn't allow you to do much. You can just find stuff out (which, if you're a decent cop, you can also do). Mind-reading is a dead-end.
And by the way, Professor X's powers go beyond mind-reading, so he doesn't count.
Besides, what kind of a name could you find for a superhero who reads minds?

Yours truly,

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Pre-service Ramblings

Good morning internet,

I got up an hour early this morning (derp, derp, daily savings) and really feel like just throwing out a whole bunch of thoughts, so where better to do so than here?

I'm leading worship this morning at Emmaus Anglican Church. Weekends where my team leads are usually the craziest in terms of workload- long practice hours, lots of prep the night before, and getting up extra early (even moreso today!) to be at the church early for more practice! It's always a neat reminder for me of how much I love serving at church, because I think about the amount of time that goes into it and I realize that nobody would do that unless they loved what they were doing or were getting paid for it. I think that's what is so beautiful about doing service for the Lord- it's not something you can do without being genuinely into it, which means that His servants are super committed and love the cause!

That's all the time I've got this morning! Maybe I'll do a full post about this later...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

How Great the Pain of Searing Loss

I was reading through Job earlier before I fell asleep (it's been a long week, give me a break) and stumbled onto a passage near the beginning that really spoke to me, so I thought I should share a bit.

Job Loses His Property and Children

13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; 14and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans[c] raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across[d] the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:

      “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
      And naked shall I return there.
      The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
      Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

How amazing is that? In the midst of all this bad news, crappy thing after crappy thing, Job broke down, but instead of whining and complaining and blaming God for all of it, he mourned healthily and in a way that glorified the Lord! That takes such a crazy amount of faith and character- to acknowledge that something sucks and is hurting you, but to praise the Lord in spite of that and not jump to the conclusion that He doesn't love you or something. I see that happen too often, people losing their faith and hope in Him because something horrible happened and blaming Him for their suffering. But suffering doesn't come from the Lord, instead, through Jesus we have freedom and salvation from that suffering, redemption and a knowledge that there's so much more.

So if you're feeling hurt or upset or are grieving or mourning, take some time to praise God and keep your heart in a good place! Also, today is Comment Day, so leave a comment! Would love to hear from you! Am also totally ready for the disappointment of seeing no comments on this post, haha. Prove me wrong!