by Charlotte O
To be completely honest, attending Chinese church in Taiwan is a struggle, and for my first few years, sometimes felt like a sacrifice, or worse, a waste of my time.
The small group model seems to work well for many, and it is a wonderful thing to be able to have resources to help those in need, to provide for leaders, and much more.
The Biblical mandate includes things like keeping the Sabbath and setting apart a day for God, corporate worship, prayer, prophesy, fellowship, accountability and even discipline, and remembering the sacrifice of our Saviour through communion.
But do these things have to happen on Sunday morning? Do they have to happen in a certain building? Why do we need committees, building projects, and so many rules?
Figuring Out Why You’re There
Maybe you’re an introvert who loves the prayer but dreads the post-service small talk. Maybe you’re a musician who wants to grow in your knowledge of the Bible but is extremely sensitive to people singing off-key in the worship team (it’s probably me, I’m sorry), maybe you’re a retired professor who endures fluffy seeker-oriented sermons because you want to serve your community. Maybe you’re married to someone who works at a church that wouldn’t be your first choice to attend. Maybe you’re a 22-year old from Canada who doesn’t understand a word of Chinese, but who knows you’re expected to attend the church that is supporting your ministry project. How often did I (and do I still) feel like the ‘unspiritual’ missionary because I don’t want to attend more services than I have to, because my mind wanders halfway through a sermon, because I know that there are so many places I’d rather be, and that sometimes I’m just there so that my name will be checked off on the attendance box (have I ever mentioned that Taiwanese churches take attendance?). To be completely honest, attending Chinese church in Taiwan is a struggle, and for my first few years, sometimes felt like a sacrifice, or worse, a waste of my time.
I know that he is working both inside and outside the walls of the church, but I am convicted of the fact that He wants me to be a part of what he’s doing in the church community where I am. So that’s what I do.
Fortunately, God did convict me on that issue though a very simple comment given by the secretary of the church where I lived for 8 months (so many hilarious stories there… Like this one (short) and this one (longer)). This was toward the end of my second year in Taiwan, and she was asking me how much of the sermons I could understand. I confessed that it was a little more or less than half depending on the topic. And she said, “Well, you are still offering your time to God.” And there it was. Because that’s what I should have been doing. What I could have been doing. But instead I was feeling sorry for myself and counting the minutes until lunchtime. If that was my offering, I was sure God wasn’t interested in it. So I really was wasting my time, because I was refusing to give it to God by having such a bad attitude about it. Since then, I have come to what is a (hopefully) much healthier approach, though as I said before, I STILL don’t have all the answers, but I do believe that God wants me to be in church most Sundays, and so I obey. I know that he is working both inside and outside the walls of the church, but I am convicted of the fact that He wants me to be a part of what he’s doing in the church community where I am. So that’s what I do.
So assuming you do want to be a part of a church community, how do you do so when there seem to be expectations at every turn? Check out Part 2 of this series as Jen VanSteenbergen gives her thoughts on this topic.
We’ve all heard it said: "Welcome to the real world." A phrase so powerful that it can literally crush someone’s dreams. A warning, perhaps, of the trials to be held in this new era in our life. A new era in a new world. The “real” world. Some God-forsaken place where dreams, joy, and happiness have all died. The place that welcomes us after high school or college that is apparently not as forgiving as the last 12+ years of our life have already been. It’s that season now where people are graduating, with diplomas or degrees, which means a whole new group of people are being prepared to have their wildest dreams crushed by the harsh reality of the world. Because there’s no room for goals, aspirations, or desires here.
Frankly, it’s sad. People - adults - walking around and slamming the door in bright and excited youthful faces. And all because the exact same thing happened to them when they thought that they could set off into a novel and inspiring realm to fulfill themselves. Instead, they were handed a box to live in and to never DARE leave. They were convinced, maybe purely in just that phrase, that a life spent pursuing dreams was idiotic and fictional. That the world they had been living in - dreaming in - did not line up with reality. That they might as well give up now so as to avoid future disappointment and embarrassment. But maybe I’m the only one bothered by it. Maybe I’m the only one who believes that dreams could actually come true. That you could set a goal and defeat any obstacles in your way as you pursued success.
You’ve heard it a hundred times: anything is possible if you just try! But let me change it up a bit. Anything is possible if you buck up, recognize the sacrifice required, and stop at nothing until you’ve reached the top.
Maybe my refusal to accept the status quo - house, steady job, wife, and 1.5 kids - and live outside of it will require sacrifice and effort. But if it means that I can reach a point of fulfillment, of real joy and happiness created by ME, then I would refuse my box a million times. I will NOT let someone dictate my life, and I sure as heck will NOT let someone tell me what I can and cannot aspire to do and be.
Maybe it’s time for us to live a real life. Maybe we need to stand up for ourselves AND for each other, and for the promising future that we can offer. Maybe we don’t need to throw away our childhood wishes, because it is all attainable. You’ve heard it a hundred times: anything is possible if you just try! But let me change it up a bit. Anything is possible if you buck up, recognize the sacrifice required, and stop at nothing until you’ve reached the top. (This is definitely the spot for some sort of mountain metaphor, but I digress.)
All I wish for is that young people could go out into the world, supported by their neighbours, to find (or make) true happiness in their short life on earth. So when someone (inevitably) says those five words to you, don’t take it personally. Don’t accept it. Don’t take offence or let it get to you. Rather, sympathize with the person saying it to you. Because that person’s dreams have already been thrown down, spit on and kicked to the gutter. They’ve accepted their box. And they will most likely never have the courage to aspire for anything different. Dream on, my friends.
I know I spend the too much time on social media. It is not to the problem where I am losing purpose in my life, but I know I could be much more effective if I spent the time I used on Pinterest actually doing things. I look things up online and get inspired to life this beautiful life in a rose gold filter. Where I never run out of coffee and everything in my house is white with a hint of colour. I spend time on instagram looking at adorable apartments in New York and a website called Refinery 29 looking at all the newest ways to paint my nails. I read a lot of blogs and book links that tell me how to organize my life and how to supposedly get the most out of it.
Now, this is an industry and I am aware of it. I buy into it all the time. Sometimes I really do drag my sisters to the market to see if I can buy things to duplicate the looks I see online. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, sometimes I fail miserably. I made a few candle holders that looked like the picture, I taught myself how to knit with my fingers, and how to do a few neat things with my hair. The problem with social media and with things like this especially is, no one is thinking about the time and effort that goes in to these seeming effortless pictures. The prep and the work that goes into those adorable apartment pictures and all the touch ups in hair tutorials. No one is posting pictures of their worst hair days and how their apartments and laundry piles look by the end of the week. It is a miss representation to think that everyone walks around in perfect cream coloured outfits drinking french press coffee out of delicate porcelain cups. For most women I know, this is not reality. Its unnerving to think that this is what is being impressed upon the public as normal. It is actually starting to make girls think that they need to look or act a certain way to be happy.
I know I spend the too much time on social media. It is not to the problem where I am losing purpose in my life, but I know I could be much more effective if I spent the time I used on Pinterest actually doing things.
While it might be fun to day dream about all the adorable things you see on the computer, it is also okay to be totally happy with how things are going in your life. No cream cashmere sweater required!Now, most of you know that I am talker. This entire blog happened as a conversation in my head over doing the dishes today. I have a coffee addiction and it makes me even more happy to drink it out of gigantic mugs. It is my all time favourite. There are days that I pre set the coffee maker before going to bed, pick out my hair and blow dry my hair, all for the sake of having a smoothly run morning. Then in the morning I get dressed, fix my hair and put on my make up. I don't wear a lot of make up, but I LOVE wearing coloured lipstick. Almost as much as I like drinking coffee. My lipstick and my curly hair are the two things that I think make me look a little different. I always rock them with no apologies.
On an especially good weekend when I took a little break from work, I got my hair done and had a really pretty lipstick on. I felt awesome, even with the sun burn I got from loving the farmers market too much. But, here I am, awesome weekend come and gone and now I’m washing my favourite coffee mug. I flipped it over and there was a perfect lip print of bright red lipstick. Like so perfect you could think that I had really tried to make it on purpose. But it was something that you would see on Lauren Conrad's Pinterest page. Something kind of artsy that on my Starbucks 16 ounce coffee cup there was a red mark of my lower lip. What it could also mean is that I need to find a new lipstick that doesn't leave marks on my coffee cups. But, it happened. In my happiness of having a good weekend, I wore my favourite dress and did my hair and make up and it still wasn't perfect, and I have the coffee cup to prove it. What I want you to take from this is obviously something bigger than the fact the my lipstick smudged on my cup, I want you to remember that not everything goes perfectly all the time, and it is okay to wash your cup and move on.
by Charlotte O
In the M* world, I have heard the term “likeminded” used at times as kind of a code word, talking about meeting other people in a possibly hostile place who share your beliefs. In such a place, these people are a joy to find, and there is a certain immediate sense of camaraderie that can even appear. It can be a relief to know from the start that you’re at least going to agree on some of the basics before stepping into a conversation. It also subtly influences what you feel free to talk about, and maybe how you talk.
The world we live in can sometimes also feel like a hostile place, or even a foreign field, even if it's your own family or a place you've worked at for years. And there, too, there is the blessing of finding someone who is likeminded. Someone whose core goals or beliefs deeply resonate with your own. When this is found, both sides are opened up to achieve great things. I think the most amazing thing about this word is the freedom it offers. What like-mindedness doesn't mean You can be likeminded and yet different; have similar visions but unique means of achieving them; and hold common values that are lived out practically in vastly different ways. And it's ok. Being likeminded doesn't mean being cookie cutter people who always toe the party line and never think for themselves once they've found someone to align with.
Likemindedness brings us into community where freedom and life spill out onto the world around, and each member is spurred onto love and good works.
It doesn’t mean peppering your speech with ‘Christianese’ in hopes of gaining approval. Nor does it mean expecting others to automatically want what you want in every situation. Being likeminded doesn’t mean being a clone. It doesn’t mean agreeing at the expense of engaging at a deeper level. In fact, being likeminded may have a lot less to do with the mind and a lot more to do with the heart. What being likeminded does mean is that you are willing to set aside your differences or even celebrate them in pursuit of a greater vision. It means that you are headed in the same direction or have the same purpose, regardless of how you choose to get there.
It means that you are not alone, and that makes so much sense when you remember that there is a big God who is constantly calling people to HIS purpose. God’s plans for humanity have never changed. It’s just a matter of whether or not we are willing to set aside our own agendas, ambitions, and artifices, no matter how noble, in order to really seek what God wants to do, and how he wants to use us. There is a new kind of hope in realizing that you are part of something bigger, and in remembering that the sun does not rise or fall on your own successes or failures. Likemindedness brings us into community where freedom and life spill out onto the world around, and each member is spurred onto love and good works.
Ephesians 4:4-7 (NLT) For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.
Being likeminded may have a lot less to do with the mind and a lot more to do with the heart. What being likeminded does mean is that you are willing to set aside your differences or even celebrate them in pursuit of a greater vision.
How to find likeminded people
There are no easy answers to this, because sometimes it can be hard, and sometimes those you thought you were in close agreement with end up opposing you unexpectedly. But you will hear it in conversation, see it in the actions and priorities of others, and sometimes even just sense it as a spiritual connection (spoiler alert: that’s called the Holy Spirit). In the meantime, figure out what gives you the greatest sense of purpose, talk about things that inspire you, and serve where you are. And as you look to the left or to the right, you will see others who are with the same light in their eyes. This is the ‘glorious hope’ that has been sparked in your heart, in your mind.
by Carmen Farmer
Many of us know it is beneficial to re-live your childhood at some point in your adult life. I mean come on- the sand castles, the lego, the trips to the fair or zoo, lemonade stands, riding bikes, climbing trees- we were courageous and carefree!
Just this morning on my way to my adult job in my adult clothes, driving my adult car, I was caught by the driver next to me singing along to the “happy song”. Yes, and I was actually enjoying myself. Not embarrassed, and not flaunting it or faking it like an idiot. And as he drove past me, I saw the tiny smirk on his face. He did not look over or make eye contact, but that smirk, I thought, was a bit of joy. I glimpse of humour, and maybe even enjoyment of life. I hope that anyone I randomly come across in my day-to-day adult life may be blessed by me. It doesn’t take a lot, but it does need to be genuine. A smile, or a kind word, or gesture can mean a lot. I know it does to me- like holding open the door as I go through with full arms- it helps make a full heart.
Have you ever looked back on your old self and laughed? Shook your head? Wondered with sobering thought how you ever made it??
Now, as I was pondering all this, I acknowledge that not all childhoods were healthy, wholesome or fun. Some of us have unpleasant memories, whether they be one situation, or repeated. And let’s face it, if you are among the majority, you didn’t make it through your teens years unscathed either. In fact, even if our childhoods were sweet, the teen years took over in a bad way. I’m talking about thinking you had it all figured out (we’ve all been there, and if you’re not yet an adult, you’re probably there now), and making some poor decisions that have affected you along the way. Possibly have cost you a lot. I am no exception.
You see, as I look back on my early years as an adult, I know now that I certainly didn’t fully act like or think like the adult I am today. Years grow wisdom, because wisdom, in part, comes with experience. At 15, we can’t know it all because experience is not yet on our side. And unfortunately, we have to fail sometimes to become more successful at life. And although I can think of some stupid situations I got myself into at 14, they pale in comparison to the worst situations I got myself into at 19! Was I getting dumber?! No. But I was getting more freedom, which is a powerful thing.
Have you ever looked back on your old self and laughed? Shook your head? Wondered with sobering thought how you ever made it??
Life is not safe. Even if we are naive, it still is not. People let us down and hurt us. Even if we pick the “good ones”, they still fail sometimes. It’s called being human. The big question is: Can we have new eyes, to see our adulthood differently? We want so much to always be going somewhere. To see progression. To accomplish.
In childhood, it is so easy to see! Goals are made for us. You pass kindergarten. You finish elementary school. Congrats to you, now on to junior high. You start and finish your music lessons, your volleyball season, summer camp. You mark milestones like getting your driver’s license and the biggest one- graduation! These are all worthy of celebration.
We are all people changing from who we used to be and we are all on a journey, a process to becoming better and going further. If we stop learning and growing at the end of our childhood, we are going to be sad, stunted adults.
Adulthood has it’s celebrations too, though they vary widely from person to person, considering each in their own path & timing. But, adulthood also has, perhaps the biggest pitfalls yet. Whether they are mistakes you make yourself, or things that happen to you, it seems, no one goes through adulthood unscathed. I can remember making a few poor decisions in my early adult years that I still reflect on today. Perhaps, you’ve made mistakes too that you still feel the consequences of. Some people carry their past with them for years, or even decades. Let me ask a question: can a person truly move forward while dragging along their past? It may not even be something obvious or visible- a way of thinking, a prejudice, self doubt, fear of failure, disrespect for others or authority.
Let me give an example for you. I spent my entire 20s staying away from alcohol entirely. It was beneficial to those around me and also seemed beneficial to me, after using it too freely it in my late teens as many teenagers do. Now, in my 30s, I am able to enjoy it on occasion with a whole new perspective. I’m still an adult. Did the alcohol change? Of course not. But I certainly did.
We are all people changing from who we used to be and we are all on a journey, a process to becoming better and going further. If we stop learning and growing at the end of our childhood, we are going to be sad, stunted adults. Adulthood should continue to be a time of growing further, learning more, challenging ourselves and pushing the envelope in our own lives. No longer are goals set for us. Me must make our own. We all have the power to make our days, our years what we want them to be, to take us to where we want to go in life and in our future.
Have you ever looked back on your old self and laughed? Shook your head? Wondered with sobering thought how you ever made it??
Let our self doubt turn into self confidence, and our fears fade away into realized successes! Let our old habits and negative thinking be corrected and not brought along our journey any farther. And most importantly (because this is the one that will hinder us the most), let past hurts and scars be fully healed. Let’s just admit it- we all need healing somewhere. If past regrets get you down, look at them afresh, give them to God, change your perspective and remember that tomorrow is always a new day.
God wants to restore us to live our full potential as adults in this world, and He wants to give us 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. chances to change and grow further. He gives abundant life! Let our old self die to the new self coming. Every day is a new opportunity. Believe in yourself and in who you want to become. Embrace the ‘now’ you are living in. Embrace change. And give yourself back the power to do it, and enjoy it! You only get one shot at this life!
Perhaps like me, when you look back on your previous years, you don’t want to squander all you have learned since. I want to enjoy my life, be humble and thankful and make wise decisions. In hard times and good times, I want to learn and grow in love and knowledge and self control, even! If you are like me, think about your adulthood with hope. Don’t resent it. Don’t repeat it. Re-live it!
This past weekends was a big one in my Christian walk. I took the Gateway youth to Youth Conference in Edmonton Alberta. While prepping and talking about YC I expected to to see my kids have a great time and learn things about God and his love and to have really tired youth by the end of day three. What I got was so much more...
I will tell you that I had already started this blog before the weekend and while sitting in a leadership session during YC I heard a speaker that said something that spoke directly to my heart. You already know from my previous posts I was an Air Cadet as a teenager, a CI (Civilian Instructor) as an adult and I am the oldest of 4 kids. Needless to say during all those positions in life you learn a little bit about leadership and being a role model. I was taking lessons at the age of 14 about how to be a good leader and how to treat your followers. It's strange for me now to talk to people my own age with much less leadership experience. As I get older I realize how much of my own personal attributes and major parts of my personalty were shaped from things I was taught from a very early age by the Cadet Program.
I had no idea about all the different 'hats' I would be wearing with the kids. I have been a sister, a friend, a support system, a counsellor, a mentor and most importantly a role model.
I have now been working with the Gateway Youth for a year. Let me tell you that no amount of preparation and life experience prepared me for what I was walking into last summer. When I first talked to Pastor Drake about becoming a member at Gateway he asked me a few questions and we soon figured out that we have the Cadet Program in common. Not long after I was invited to come to the planning session for the youth group kick off, and to meet the student leadership team. I liked it right from the start, and after about week Drake asked me if I would come back and that was strange to hear because in my mind I had already decided I would be working with them. Internally I thought that I had enough experience with kids and youth that this really shouldn't be a problem. Well, let me tell you that my own personal growth from working with these kids this year has been astronomical. I had no idea about all the different 'hats' I would be wearing with the kids. I have been a sister, a friend, a support system, a counsellor, a mentor and most importantly a role model. I had absolutely no idea that by agreeing to work with the Youth that I would need to be in possession of so many Hats.
This weekend at the Youth Conference I was inspired in so many ways. I was so happy that our kids had the most incredible time, to see 10,000 people raise their hands in worship, and to be blessed to sit through some of the sessions and classes I got to attend. I sat through some really great speakers and learnt some things that are really going to help me on my journey to be a better youth leader. I heard talks called 'Love God, Love People, Do Stuff', 'Embracing the Awkward, Talking about Teens and Sex', 'Future Church', and 'Good Grief'.
Often my friends will ask me why I give up my Friday nights to work at the church with the youth, when I could be doing so many other things. I always say it is because I love it here. I love the team, I love the kids, I love learning from them and being able to support them. Now it seems like I have a much bigger end game
During one of these talks a speaker said something that I had kind of thought of, but never in a way that I could put words to it. She said to imagine that a teen from your youth group brings a friend to the next youth night. (Which happens more often than not at Gateway). Then said to imagine that the teen coming has come from a family that does not attend a church and that teen doesn't know a lot about God. She asked us how common it is to meet the lead pastor on a youth night... That's not common for anyone. Then She asked us if the kids meet the youth pastor right away. Sometimes they do, and depending on how big the night is, they may not meet him right away. Then she said, 'Depending on where that child comes from and their knowledge about being a Christian, you as a youth worker might be the only living example of Jesus that teen with know.' Talk about a big statement! It made the hair on my arms stand up. I may very well be some teens' only point of contact about God. What an expectation to live up to! I had never thought about it that way. I just show up, put on whatever hat they need from me that day and float along the path of Youth ministry.
Often my friends will ask me why I give up my Friday nights to work at the church with the youth, when I could be doing so many other things. I always say it is because I love it here. I love the team, I love the kids, I love learning from them and being able to support them. Now it seems like I have a much bigger end game, I knew I was a role model before this weekend, I just had no idea that in the eyes of some, I would be their main example of the church and ultimately of God. Talk about needing to step it up!
I left feeling a little overwhelmed and then thinking it over and talking to my Grandfather, I have decided to look at is as a great challenge for myself. Something greater to be working towards, something to add above my hats. I wear all these different hats at different times for the youth, ultimately so they can see that church is an open and loving place and people care about them here. If that lets them grow in their learning and their faith then what a great job to have!
CONNECT WITH US
SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL
Privacy: We hate spam as much as you, so we will never share your e-mail address with anyone.
SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOGS RSS FEED
AND GET ARTICLE UPDATES