You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2007.

It’s just one of those lazy, grey, Saturday afternoon in autumn that I just love. There isn’t much happening, which for me is good news. I’ve been thinking a lot about what things I want to do in life, and asking God for clarity on the things that He wants me to do. I’m then reminded by Proverbs 16 which says, in effect, “make your plans, but God’s gonna’ lead every step.” For me this is so reassuring. I’ve got plans to go to Teacher’s College, maybe plans to work for the government; but in the end, even before I know it, God’s directing my steps.

I’ve had some time to reflect on things lately, and I know that I’ve gone from employed to unemployed to underemployed, all in the span of about five months. In this position I’m in now, I have the opportunity to take on some challenging projects. Yet, more importantly, I have the opportunity to do my work as a Christian, and in that way, I have the time and opportunity to affect and encourage my non-Christian colleagues.

There’s a young woman at work with whom I’ve had lunch with a few times, and we’ve talked about a lot of things in such a short period of time. I sense, for some reason, that she’s searching for meaning in her life, and she appears a little unsure of which direction to take, and what she’s supposed to do with her life. Maybe she’s never thought about it in that way.

Every time I speak with her I get a good glimpse of my own life almost ten years ago. I see that she’s got youth and an open world ahead of her; maybe she doesn’t see it that way. She want to go back to school, just as I had. We work in our jobs partly as time fillers, something to do until our next phase. But I see more than just that. I see a real opportunity to reach out and share the gospel, some time in the future, and hopefully see a life transformed and searching after God.

God uses us in so many ways. I first started this blog when I was unemployed, searching desperately for work, wondering where God was through my search, clinging to him each night as my wife and son slept, waking up in the middle of the night worried. Now, here I write as an employed (though not compensated very handsomely) person, telling my own tale of how God sustained us throughout those challenging days. This site now attracts people who had the same trials as I had a few months ago. So I know that God’s been using me to affect viewers, hopefully in the best possible way.

God is good all the time. He never changes. He is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be tomorrow. He is holy and righteous. We can depend on Him for everything, because He is the one who created us and gives us life each day.

If you’re unemployed, underemployed, depressed and worried about finding work, offer it up to God. He knows what you need. He knows the direction for your life. He didn’t create you just so you could worry about work every single minute of your waking (and sleeping) day. He loves you!

I had a one-month-check-in today at work, which means my supervisors wanted to speak to me about my work, progress, thoughts, and situation. Because I’m only on a temporary contract with them, they wanted to see a little further beyond the horizon, and see what kind of time frame they could map out for me.

Much to my delight and praise to God, they stressed how impressed they were with my work. I explained to them that I was thankful doing the work I was given, of going beyond my duties and performing at a much higher level than expected. And I suppose I owe this to my desire to live a life of faith at work and at home: doing whatever it is that’s before me, and doing it as if I were serving God. Heard that before? I’m sure you have.

I think it’s easy to listen to stories, but it’s much harder to actually do it every day. There hasn’t been a day yet where I’ve felt bored. I probably owe this to my desire to always have something to do or follow up on. But I think this is a good indication of where my eyes are: they’re on God.

Remember when I wrote about feeling like I was underemployed? Well, these days I don’t feel underemployed. I feel it’s just about right for my level of knowledge and experience with the institution. I’m making good use of my skills, experience, and qualities, to help and influence change in the department. And my attitude, one that wants to bring all glory to God, is to keep my eyes on Him and let Him do all the work. My accolades are nothing compared to His radiance, so I say let Him shine each day.

If you’re unemployed and trying to figure out where your life is headed, I can only encourage you by saying that God is faithful. He is truly faithful. He sustains us in this life, even when we think He’s a million light years away. He cares for us even when we think we’re in a cave, deep, deep underground. Because He is love, and because we are born again in the spirit through Jesus, we can draw from that endless well of love. Don’t be discouraged today if you don’t have work. God has something for you. It may not be what you expected, but He’s got something for you to do.

One day I decided that I wanted to keep a stat on how many cups of coffee I could get out of a 200g bottle of my favorite instant coffee. I kept a simple scrap piece of paper on the fridge next to the stove, and every time I had a cup of coffee I recorded the number on my list. I finished the bottle of coffee today and I had recorded 62 cups of coffee, with probably 3-5 unrecorded cups.

The cost per cup is $0.064, excluding the sugar and milk/cream.

Based on this statistic, for the price of one small cup of coffee from Tim Hortons, I could have 17.8 cups of instant coffee. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “who wants to drink instant coffee?”

Well, I actually don’t mind instant coffee in the mornings. For starters it’s quick and easy, with no fuss, no filters, no plungers, just spoon it in your cup. In addition to the simplicity, I get “real” coffee at work for free, so why spend unnecessarily on coffee?

I’m not sure how many people have ever had an investment go 17 times over, but this simple home economics experiment is a real eyeopener: for us, at least!

Today at the library I picked up an evironmentally-friendly, positively encouraging little book called “Change the World for Ten Bucks: 50 ways to make a difference.”  It’s got a funky, witty, visually-rich list of 50 things we can all do to make our world, environment, and surroundings a better place for us and everyone around us. Sound neat? It is. Socially-engaging (or at least attempting to be) and eco-awareness-raising, this book has some really heartwarming ideas about how to make a difference with our lives. The premise is based on a movement that has a very simple banner statement: we are what we do. And I suppose that although it’s seemingly tautological, it makes perfect sense to reflect on how we do everyday things, and how those everyday actions reflect our identities and or social commitments.

Do I let people go ahead of me at the expense of a short delay, or do I bark madly at people who bud in line? Do I curse those who litter or do I kindly pick up some trash every day? Do I leave the tap running while I brush my teeth, or do I turn on all the lights and electrical applicances in my apartment? These are questions that you may be asking yourself after the quick and simple read (and rightly so in this day and age: the questions, I mean, not the quick and easy read).

There’s an exceptional feeling on Friday afternoons, having finished off a good week at work, to come home to the smiling and giggling face of my son who comes bouncing up to the door exactly when it opens. I can honestly say that there has been no better emotion that causes my soul to soar than Jasper’s smiling face when he comes running to me. I suppose that’s how God must feel each time we go running to him.

Life seems to offer a mountain of indecision, and we’re often left wondering what it is that we’re supposed to do. If you’re like me, I’ve often knelt before God and simply asked him what it is that He wants me to do. I find it’s easier to do what’s before me than to listen and wait for God’s direction. But I feel reassured that although we make elaborate plans to do something, it’s God who directs our steps. Careful prayer and petitions to God are important steps, but so is trusting God to lead you in His ways.

I have a written test through the Public Service Commission tomorrow. It’s the Level 1 General Competency Test which is aimed at screening candidates for the next hiring stage. I’m rather lukewarm about it; I have a sincere desire to teach, but this opportunity with the federal government is also one that could provide a lot of job security. Again, I’m relying on God for His guidance, and I know that taking the test is simply trusting that He’s got all things in His grip; all I need to do is follow Him.

I was listening to Radio New Zealand’s podcast on my way home from work and I heard an interview about a bank in Sweden that offers interest-free loans. Now before you think scam, there is a large awareness in some circles that banks can be supported locally, and do not need to necessarily be growth-oriented. JAK Bank works like this: Say I want a loan for $52 a year. I would then pay back $2 a week for 52 weeks, paying down $1 for the principle. But what about the other $1, you say. Well, the other $1 is actually your savings. No, you didn’t read me incorrectly. It’s YOUR savings, to be withdrawn upon completion of your principle loan payments. While you are paying down your loan, the money is then used to loan to others in your community.

I found this to be a very intriguing concept, one that I can identify with. My only question is what happens when people default on their loans, and how often does that happen? The only thing I know so far is that to get approval for your first loan is actually very difficult, but every subsequent loan becomes easier to find approval.

Is it a house of cards? If one loan defaults, would it cause a massive chain reaction of defaults? I’m not sure, but here are some other articles on the matter. Hope it helps.

 How Interest-Free Banking Works

JAK Bank (Wikipedia)

Saving Together

 JAK Bank (English information)

I came across this MSN article on saving money, and it mentioned “voluntary simplicity” as a combination of words I’d never heard of before. With more thought, it makes complete sense. Voluntarily living simply each day. And there’s a whole movement around it.

The Simplicity Resource Guide

 The Simple Living Network

Article on a family that voluntarily lives frugally

 Choosing Voluntary Simplicity

I’d have to say that this birthday is a really special one, though it is also one that brings much reflection. I’ll tell you why.

My wife brought me a nice hot cup of coffee when I was in bed this morning, and then when the door opened, I called for my son and he came toddling and woddling and bobbling to the bed, smiling and giggling. That, in itself, is a big enough birthday present for me. I can’t be more thankful for having him in our lives, and each day our hearts overflow with joy when we see him. So that’s why this birthday feels so special.

However, I mentioned that this birthday is cause for reflection. With each passing year and season, and with each milestone, I think there’s something inside me that wants to do something big, something lasting, something important. Perhaps that yearning is more of a drive to be known, rather than a drive to actually help. I am confident that we can do something lasting and important without having to go past our family circle, for isn’t being a good husband or father one of the most important and lasting things a man can be?

I think I’ve fallen into the trap of comparing myself with other people (regardless of gender) and their ages and their accomplishments. The inherent problem with this is that the majority of people I end up envying are people in the news or media spotlight, for which they either deserve acclaim or praise because they really have done something big. I think I forget that there are millions of guys out there who are simply going about their lives in an ordinary way, and that’s not to say that being “ordinary” is small thinking or small dreaming. Perhaps being ordinary can lead to contentment, and being godly while being content bring great joy. Maybe that’s the secret: to yearn for success at everything on the everday and ordinary level.

Do I really want to be the 33-year-old CEO of a company? Is that what I truly desire? Most likely not. Do I really want to be known as the 33-year-old real estate mogul? Certainly not. So what is it that I want to be known for?

I’d have to say that right now, I think the sentence that makes the most sense for me is this one: I want to be known as a God-centered man who lives his life of faith for his wife and son, and brings joy to those around him as an overflow of the joy he has inside in Christ. Hmmm…..that’s an interesting statement, isn’t it?

Envying other’s success is a common trap, and I’ve fallen prey countless times, and I’m sure I haven’t been cured today. Yet, I do think that having made that statement above about my true desire helps bring things into perspective. The more content I am with the things closest to me (God, family), the clearer my perspectives become.

“In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

Looking at the Word Press stats, I noticed that someone had typed in the search terms, “What am I suppose (sic) do (sic)?”  I found it extremely interesting that someone had that thought in their mind, and how they ended up at my site. The Internet seems to be the perfect extension of our thought-life, reaching out to sites from a few simple search terms.

So what am I supposed to do? Have you ever asked God? Of course you have. And what did He say?

Well, if you’re like me, there was probably a lot of silence, a lot of waiting, and a lot of wondering. Often, the wondering got blurred with doubt, so asking God what I was supposed to do ended up as, God, I doubt I should do this.

I know that it takes a lot of discipline to wait for God to act in your life. If you’re unemployed and you think you’re absolutely employable, waiting for HR managers to call can seem horrendously painful. What makes it worse is the fact that sometimes we can’t “hear.” Listening for God is an essential part of Christian life, but it doesn’t always involve an audible voice (I’ve never, ever had that happen…yet), or a miraculous sign (again, never happened to me). Sometimes it means prayerfully considering the situation, waiting, listening, and then trusting that God’s going to direct your steps as you take them.

I think it’s so clear in Scriptures to know that each step is from the Lord: “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.”  Psalm 16:9 

Wondering which way to go? Pray. Ask your Christian friends. Read up on it. Mine the Bible. Pour out your considerations before God. And then step forward in faith, knowing that He’s got each and every one of your steps in His power.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. —Colossians 3:23-24

How many times have you read this one when you’ve had a rough time at work? How many times has your pastor pointed out the fact that we have a master in heaven who loves us, even if our “masters” on earth don’t?

Well, a true key to finding satisfaction at work, regardless of the kind of work you do (legitimate work, that is), is to know who you’re working for. Yes, Mr. Smith may be your immediate supervisor, and he may be the one putting the piles of work on your desk, but your true boss is not on earth. The clearer that picture becomes, the more satisfaction you wil find at work.

I’ve been strugling with this for the past few days. First, I’m paid at a tremendously low hourly rate. It’s not the bare minimum, but it’s enough to pay the major expenses in our everyday lives: rent, food, telephone bills and transportation. At the end of the month, I’m not sure how much will be left for anything else. Thankfully we have savings to use. My point is that the low level of pay, and thus thelow level of responsibility and challenge, can blur the focus of who my true employer is. I see this position I have as a test of my faith, testing my belief that God’s always going to provide for me, and this job is an example of his provisions. It may not provide riches or a store of savings, but it does provide for my family’s needs.

I could never have seen myself in this position: a family to support and a job that isn’t going beyond my financial expectations. Yet, I know, too, that God’s doing a new thing here for me, and He’s always cared for us, provided for us, and nurtured us. So why should this situation bring about any worry? Trusting God to bring you through transitions, through gaps, across mighty rivers and deep oceans, is one way to live a life a true faith.

_________________________

I wanted to share with visitors this incredible series of comments from a random visitor who, after 9 months of being unemployed, found work the day after she posted on my blog. I say very clearly that my blog was not responsible for her finding work, and I take no credit on this matter. However, it does highlight one important fact: having paid work that supports your family or yourself is a gift. It might not seem like a gift while you’re working, but as you will read below, being without work when you’d just about do anything is far worse than having work. Having a godly attitude at work, regardless of the kind of work or the pay you receive or the status of your job title, is, at the end of the day, far more important.

Here is the visitor’s comments below:

“I, too, typed in “God what am I supposed to do?” Did you ever imagine that phrase would be one that brought so many people to your page??

I’m sitting here watching yet ANOTHER free dvd from the library after a dinner of frozen asparagus and bread and cheese, shivering because I can’t afford to turn on my heat, and wondering what I’m going to do now that I’ve drawn the last $30 I’m eligible for in unemployment checks. I’m a good worker, a hard worker, a smart worker. I hate handouts. But I’ve applied for job after job, week after week, for 9 months now and gotten TWO interviews out of it. I pray about it, talk with strong Christians in my life about it, read scripture and meditate on it with my current situation in mind… and still find myself typing my ultimate query and frustration into a Google search. Why?!

You just feel so empty of answers, of logic, of the ability to reason sometimes. You know wisdom is given to those who seek it, but at the end of the day you still want to have a roof over your head, food in your belly. Wisdom may teach you the worthlessness and temporary nature of so many of the things we take for granted as “necessary” parts of our lives, but does wisdom then tell us to expect to live a life of abject poverty and constant hunger because abundance isn’t “necessary”?

I’m not looking for something miraculous. I’m not looking to make loads of money, or even as much as I made at my last job (which I lost because the company closed due to the crumbling economy which is hurting so many of us). I’m not looking for greatness, for gold, or for glory.

I’m looking for sustenance. For the ability to pay my rent, pay for my car, pay for my student loans. To pay back my grandmother who’s generosity has kept me in groceries. To pay back my also-struggling parents who’ve given me so much in the way of true love and support. For the ability to work. To serve and love through work. I love people, I love committing to a task, I love bringing things to completion, I love working.

What’s happening? What is this? Why is this? How is it we can follow God’s commands on how to deal with situations like this and *still* find ourselves, find each other, heaped into a comment board on a stranger’s web page as we all ask this questions we can’t seem to get an answer to?! “God! WHAT am I supposed to DO?!”

I can wait. I have been waiting. I will continue to wait. And I’m running out of money and credit and no closer to a job than I’ve been since I lost my job in May ‘08. I will continue to wait. Maybe that’s what we’re all supposed to do. But the loss, sacrifice, heart ache, pain, and sadness resulting from the situations mentioned on this page– if waiting is what we’re supposed to be doing, shouldn’t some of those symptoms lessen since we’re doing what we’re called to do?

I will continue to wait.”

This is perhaps the most meaningful comment I’ve read on my blog thus far. This entire blog acts as an organic archive of people’s lives around the world who are struggling, including myself. So it’s immensely profound that someone would make an expression of their thoughts, anxieties, worries, and post it as a comment. As Behnnie writes, ” I pray about it, talk with strong Christians in my life about it, read scripture and meditate on it with my current situation in mind…and still find myself typing my ultimate query and frustration into a Goodle search. Why?!”  I’m sure there’s a thesis dissertation lurking in Behnnie’s writing, just waiting and wanting to be penned. How and why is it that so many people type those exact search words into a search engine, seeking meaning? It’s like using Biblegateway.com and typing in some keywords, praying and hoping for divine intervention or to hear God’s gentle voice. Waiting is so difficult, yet, in many ways, God becomes clearer because of it.

HERE IS THE CONTINUATION OF HER STORY.

I *thought* I was a random visitor, sent here via your friend and mine: Google. But perhaps it was via a more literal Deus ex machina? LOL! The real irony, though, is in the timing of that comment I left on your blog. You see: After 9 months of unemployment I got a job today.

For the past 2+ years (plus summers since high school) I worked for the family business which, recently beset by one unfortunate struggle after another, finally had to close after 12 years as the weight of the crashing economy further burdened our efforts. Scores of people lost their jobs when the business closed, most of them with spouses and children to support. It was a difficult situation all around. Luckily, however, my dad was able to use his connections to find jobs within days, sometimes even hours, for almost every employee who needed the help. Almost every employee except me. I’ve got two degrees, several years’ work experience, and references who’d loan me kidneys, but no employers were interested. If that ain’t a blow to the self-esteem I don’t know what is.

I spent the summer working with my family helping close things down on the business end, dismantling steel case cubicles to be recycled for cash to keep us in groceries, selling off our remaining inventory of pens, staplers, and post-it notes to keep us in fuel; it was a summer I want to forget. Every day was sad. Every day was the end of days. Every day was a reason to think that maybe, just maybe, things would be better if there would be no more to follow.

I began looking for work in earnest as our efforts to finalize the company began to draw to a close in August. I wanted to look sooner, but every day so far had been so filled with work, sadness, and stress that somehow walking into people’s offices brandishing my resume and a smile seemed a near impossibility. And the that work that filled our days? It was work that didn’t pay. Work that made us weep. But we had God. We had each other. And I? I had a few friends. I had naps. I had library dvds. I had more naps…

I faithfully applied for at least two jobs a week (a condition of receiving unemployment checks), but companies were beginning to really realize the gravity of the economic depression so no one wanted to hire until we all had a better grip on what to expect. All told I attended one job fair (if you’ve ever attended a job fair you understand why attending even one is more than sufficient!), signed up with four staffing agencies and one talent agency, registered with countless job sites (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) which I checked religiously, sent emails to everyone I knew, and searched Craig’s List on a daily basis for postings that weren’t scams. I applied for anywhere from 5-15 jobs a week, every week, for 6 months. If there’s any business in this area that doesn’t have my resume, references, and position specific cover letter at this point I’d be heartily surprised!

From these months of effort I netted one follow-up call asking if I knew how to use Power Point, one interview through a staffing service for a job that went to someone else, and one interview last week which I got because a friend works there and put in a good word for me with HR. My deferred student loans start up again in March, my windshield is cracked from end to end, my auto insurance is up for renewal, and I just drew my final unemployment check on Sunday. It totaled $30. Which brings us to today. To a phone call. To a follow up on last week’s interview. To an offer for a job paying $0.46 more per hour than I need to pay my bills. To a job I don’t know how to do yet but will learn faster than I’ve ever learned anything. To a job near my home. To a job with a friend.

Praise the Lord, stranger. After 9 months in a terrible economy: I have a job.

God has always known my needs, always met them. He has provided ways for me to get by financially during my period of unemployment. He has provided me with strength on days I couldn’t bear to get out of bed. He has provided me with peace and encouragement when I was ready to check out. He has provided me with family and friends who love me and who give me the opportunity to love. And now he has provided me, after nearly a year of waiting, with a job. When following gifts like strength, love, and encouragement, the job really does seem the least of those in many ways doesn’t it…

Where are you from?

Clustr Map

Flag Counter

free counters

Blog Stats

  • 109,600 hits

What I’m reading now

"Wanderlust: A Social History of Travel," by Laura Byrne Paquet (Fredericton:Goose Lane Editions, 2007) "The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping malls, and the Search for Home," by Pico Iyer (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2000). "Outliers: The Story of Success," by Malcolm Gladwell (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2008).

Flickr Photos

List Universe