Having a birthday in a different country is beyond strange—it’s truly a unique event. You don’t precisely know what to expect. Let’s face it, birthdays can be tough without the folks that you love surrounding you with love and affection. Sure, you have all the social media attention, and we all love that, but nothing satisfies the soul like an embrace from someone you love. But what do you do when you’re new in a town and begin longing for your friends and family back home? Do you sulk all day? Do you watch Sleepless in Seattle (I did this yesterday— great movie)? Or do you make the best of it? How do you make the best of it?
Well, I’m pleased to say that I didn’t sulk all day. I didn’t wonder what “it” would be like to be back home. I simply desired to make the best of it. Whether that meant sitting in a park alone or speaking with friends on the phone, I wanted to be completely content. I wanted the gospel of Jesus to be vibrant within my heart. When you’re alone in a foreign environment, you find yourself with scarce resources for satisfaction. You cling to whatever it is that you have. Fortunately, Jesus is the perfect fulfillment for our every need, want and future desire.
In Luke 11, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching while Martha is running around serving and busying herself. Obviously, Martha is at being alone, so she distracts Mary’s situation by demanding that she be helped. Jesus makes a huge statement. He tells her that she’s worried about all the wrong things. Instead of trying to do all these “things”, she should just sit at Jesus’ feet. Sitting at his feet was the better option.
The single most valuable atmosphere we can possibly find ourselves in is at the feet of Jesus. Learning, gleaning, gazing, capturing every little moment with him in our heart. We never know— we may find ourselves reflecting back to those times of great understanding and refreshment from the Lord. Our time with Jesus today has many, many implications for the rest of our lives.
Whether we are alone on our birthday, missing special people, being reminded at every corner of our mind of a meaningful moment or we are just simply sad, we fix our eyes off of ourselves and our situation, leading us to fix our eyes on Jesus, our perfect champion of righteousness and we will certainly rejoice. This moment is enough to last the rest of our lives. May it be so with you the next time you are alone.
Pre-suppostions can potentially ruin someone’s experience with anything, no matter the reality of the actual experience. When we go into something new, like any road trip, a class, coffee shop, a new club, etc., when we’ve already heard other’s experiences with the event, it usually affects the way we actually experience it. We can also have presuppositions about our own environment. We can think of our own environment as being superior to other environments which depletes our appreciation of other cultures & peoples. I’m learning how to learn & appreciate other cultures, regardless of how different they are from mine. I desire to, without compromising my ideals & foundation in Jesus, to conform to what the culture enjoys doing & how they engage with each other.
As I’ve come to Montréal, there are a few major differences that come to mind.
As you read this, genuinely ask yourself: “what is wrong/right about these things?”
1. Alcohol Consumption (Of age drinking, responsibly)
- Drinking beer, going to a bar, buying beer are all things that are a norm in society here, even among Christians.
- People go out for drinks more frequently than they do for coffee.
- Going to a bar with someone opens up doors to share the gospel.
- Most restaurants expect you to drink their wine.
2. Swearing (They’re just words, right?)
- Swearing is different in any country. American curse words are regular words in French.
- While at most times, completely innapropriate, out of respect for people, it’s best to refrain.
- It’s ok if you hear the F bomb in a fancy restaurant, don’t let your cringe be to obvious.
3. People think & act differently
- Instead of criticizing people for what they do in their cultural norm, seek to understand.
- Don’t assume the way you do things is the best way. Obtain & ask God for a heart of humility so that you can learn & be open to other things.
- People don’t hold doors for you to walk through.
- People don’t say hello when you walk by on the street.
- People don’t say sorry if they bump into you.
- It’s not because they are rude. It’s because in a big city, in a fast city, you have to forsake your right to comfort in traveling like you may experience in your Kia on the way to Wal-Mart in your small town. People are accustomed to being uncomfortable here.
- Also, even though someone may not smile & say hello to you on the street, it is always appropriate to smile & say hello to them.
The big picture is learning about people to the point to where you understand them & obtain the opportunity to share true love with them. I asked my new friend that I met at a restaurant that I frequent, “What is the perspective, or the general thought towards people like me? You know, an American coming to Montréal to learn about ministry here?”
He said to me, “We [Québecois] are open to any person coming here for any reason. If you come here & try to convert everyone & are arrogant, we will avoid you.”
Sometimes you have to seek conversion without agressively trying to convert.
After sharing a beer with him, we went to dinner & I found the opportunity to share the Gospel with him. He wants to spend more time together & come to the church that I go to. Sharing the gospel is not just merely “trying to convert”, it’s truly loving & understanding someone & meeting them where they are. We are not sales persons with an item, but we have a story, a true embrace of love that we deliver.
I’ve been here for a month & that’s what I’m learning. Feedback is necessary. Thanks for reading along.
two weeks already in Montréal.
I’ve had a beautiful time assimilating into the culture here, mostly thanks to beautiful people who brought me into their lives. When going into a new culture, a lot of faithful people have written that the practice of “Mapping” is primiarly the first thing that should occur. This is when you come to understand the city/area/village as if it had been where you were born. So the first two weeks have consisted of learning the streets, the ways people do things and why, etc. I’ve even come to find my favorite cafe with the Barista memorizing my order and name. Great beginning to friendships here.
I’m especially grateful for my church, La Chapelle. Typically, for most volunteers at churches, the arrival time is early, around 6, maybe even 7 or 8. After the service(s) is over, the volunteers go home. Which is awesome, volunteers and servants are what help a church breath. At La Chapelle, everyone is a volunteer (bénévole) and you arrive before 6 and you leave at 4. No one is necessarily paid, they just genuinely love Jesus and love people. This has been a humbling factor.
and also, EVERYONE IS SO DANG JOYFUL
just an update. thanks for praying for La Chapelle.
I only have yet a few short days until I depart from the place I was born, to a completely new culture, new people, new ideas and new ways to embrace people. The longest I’ve ever been apart from home was when I traveled to Paris twice over the past two years for 10 days each trip. Two months will prove to be a great experience of independence, yet great dependance upon God for help and mercy at all turns and corners I find myself encountering.
As the trip has become tangible and near, I have romanticized less. As this all began, I ventured to go somewhere different, where there were no churches— or no love among a large group of people. I loved the french language and had been studying it since early high school. I never thought that God would actually lay a burden on my heart for the french, much less my neighbor, but as it has demonstrated itself over these years, I have no doubt.
Last month I met my friend Wes in a local cafe. Wes has spent a lot of time in the last 5 years in different countries making impact and sharing Jesus with people. As he comes home every so often, he makes time to meet with different people and friends. As we were sitting there, he looked at me with a gentle, sincere smile and asked me, “Andrew, if you didn’t go to Quebec, would you feel disobedient to God’s call on your life?”
I had to really think about it. and I wouldn’t.
As I pondered, I realized that I can only truly feel disobedient for the places I’m in now. Let me explain: Even though we are called to go, and many times to specific places and specific people, we are only disobedient through where we are today and now. I feel disobedient not because I would choose to not go to Quebec primarily, but I feel disobedient to not be faithful here. Where I am today. If we are not faithful first where we are now, and then also neglect to be unfaithful to go to the remote and to the lost, we are found to be immediately sandwiched between unfaithfulness and a lackadaisy as we are unfaithful now and will be unfaithful then. If we are not faithful where we begin, believing to become faithful provided by a new location, we are then lying to ourselves and possibly even falling to the trendiness of becoming a missionary. Or maybe our greatest desire is not the gospel itself but the occurrence to be practice photography or become a traveler.
This is a call for my heart to be a faithful man.
April 6, 2014
how long have i known you, brother?
the miles we wander, the moments we share
from point a to point b, from x, y & z
singing, dancing & gathering
though many distances & hardships we may bare
these chords of three break not simply
in fact, i would dare not try
we, held together by He is mightier than Man
strengthened with power, with Him, you & I, we all stand
how long have i known you, O brother?
Now, I am sitting in my warm, cozy thinking chair–thinking. Music is gently playing in the background–sounds like Bach.
I’m slowly falling asleep, as the chamomile has done its job. I’ve begun this phenomena, this extraordinary exercise. Drawing Roses. Compasses. Arrows. Odd things. It’s left ajar a piece of my mind that hasn’t been drawn before.
That’s just a small update. But, in more important matters, I keep on hearing different news of Christian persecution in the Middle East. Church bombings, women & children being killed & tortured. What’s worse is that if the same thing happened here, many folks wouldn’t have the proof that they were a Christian. This could only exist in a society that truly treasured Christ above all– above the riches of the world. This could only exist in the Church. The Syrians get to suffer in this way.
‘If you love me, you will obey my commandments’.. The one who loves Him, naturally, by the Spirit of God, obeys– not out of reproach or reluctance, but out of good joy set before. ‘the kingdom of God is like a man buying a field. he sells all the he has & in his joy buys the field’
just some thoughts before the day is through. Hold the Syrian Christians in the heart.
luke 22:38, “look, Lord, here are two swords.”
i read this and immediately misunderstood and almost missed something huge. This comment, made by Jesus’ disciples, is referring to all of the troubles that were to come to Christians all over. Jesus, speaking figuratively, recommend the disciples to grab their money bags and grab their swords, for they would need them after His time is come.
this is what flesh does. flesh wants the flesh. flesh sees only flesh. flesh hopes only in flesh. things go wrong, your car breaks down, you immediately think about your bank account, or, you are mocked for your belief in Jesus, you think about hiding, or shrinking back. it’s truly a shame to be flesh and blood sometimes. we have hope though, because the disciples hoped in physical, temporal things to save them from the persecution to come.
swords can’t save us from the battle we fight. neither can a degree or a job or a dollar amount. psalm 20:7, psalm 33 and isaiah 31 all mention the same thing. “Woe to the ones who put trust in a chariot or warhorse.” and “they do not consult the Holy One of Israel.” we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. fearing humans is foolish.
even in politics, (yes i’m going there), this entire gun control situation has caused people to store up on ammunition and weaponry, but they can’t be saved by these things. a war horse is a false sense of salvation (ps. 33)
encouragement for today is to trust in jesus. Hebrews 7:25, he lives to make intercession for us. Psalm 33 continues, the eyes of the lord are on the ones who fear him.
don’t fear any man. Fear and love God. He is our hope for future tribulation. Stay on alert.
this is what the Spirit does. spirit wants the spirit. spirit sees only the spirit. spirit hopes only in spirit. things go wrong, you hope in Jesus. look to jesus!
sometimes, just every so often, we stumble upon a season. a season that isn’t difficult. a season that isn’t easy. but a season that is just.. uncomfortable.
this is true. sometimes we find ourselves waiting. but, waiting for what? is what we are waiting for and patiently enduring for worth the wait?
they say patience is a virtue, but patience that is patient for the insufficient isn’t patience, it’s ignorance.
so.. what sort of things do we pray and wait for? maybe a job, a new location, a new opportunity, school, finances, relationships, for distinct people to know jesus, etc.?
sometimes we wait for the wrong things. we spend our time and efforts on things that truly will not last.
Isaiah 55, summed up, says: come drink from an endless fountain, all of you, without money. why do you spend your money on that which doesn’t satisfy?
this verse is key. what do we put effort into? what do we long for? wait for? eagerly endure for?
i’m 19 years young, but i can look back and see things that weren’t waiting for or investing in.
so, like paul says, let’s press on toward the goal of knowing jesus. let’s forget what lies behind and look at what lies ahead. because what lies ahead has no comparison on what God is doing today. God’s work gets better and better and better. so, i think we should invest into his kingdom. in his glory. in knowing him and making him known.
so when we pray for those jobs, locations, schools, relationships, etc., let’s pray that these things would be a step in the direction towards the glory of God.
hebrews 3, phil. 3, isaiah 55
it’s interesting to look & take a healthy examination of my life & to see what Jesus is teaching me.
sometimes, it’s faith. I can look & think, “wow, me of little faith. god please help me with my unbelief”.
sometimes, it’s diligence. I can look & think, “crap, I am so lazy. god give me a heart for your word & a yearning for your truth & to see that play out among your church”.
so, recently, it’s been contentment. it’s been satisfaction.
where is it coming from? who is it going to?
I read all through the bible of God satisfying his people with his goodness & just who he is.
not a person, amount of money or thing on this earth can satisfy me. I’m constantly searching for more. I always want the next best thing.
because of God’s goodness, the infinite, everlasting portion of it, there’s never more to find because all of it is all of it. make sense?
when I embrace the GREATNESS of the Almighty God, he doesn’t delay in revealing who
he is. his presence allows life & transformation to follow. I never have to search again. I can be done wishing. he showers me in his weight of satisfaction. I can’t deny it. I can’t avoid it. I can’t stop his love. what great news!
there are too many things on my mind other than God. I’m so imperfect. but he is so perfect & by his mercies & affections, I am able to be satisfied. to love him with my heart & not just my head.