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Continuing on in my memorization of Bible verses for the unemployed, I decided to memorize 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” 

Waves of panic encroaching on your everyday life and thoughts? Bouts of hopelessness and feelings of helplessness?

The truth about it all is that God’s got it all under control, and that He demands of us to cast our care onto him. His yoke, as it were, is light. Our yoke, clearly experienced by the unemployed, is extremely heavy.

When we cast our cares upon him, no matter how often (it could be daily, by the hour, by the minute even!), we’re living the instructions set out by God. What benefit could anxiety have for the unemployed person? It does nothing to improve, benefit, or encourage. Instead, anxiety destroys and divides the spirit, taking the false claims as truth and reality. God has our lives firmly in his hands. If we forget that, we are forgetting the truth.

1 Peter 5:7 reminds me that God cares about me in ways that I can’t understand. By trusting him, and entrusting my worries and anxieties with him, I can then experience the fullness and freedom of a life found in God.

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For some strange reason, I’ve managed to memorize key Bible verses that are reminders of God’s Truth, especially throughout my period of unemployment. In random moments of panic and anxiety, right through to times of intentional prayer, I have found the Bible verses memorized helps me to maintain focus.

Jeremiah 29:11 happens to be the third verse I’ve memorized since last week:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

Not knowing the plan is part of my frustration, but I am reminded that it’s also part of my solution. Being goal-oriented is often a good attribute to have, but when you’re unemployed, the goal is much more difficult to achieve. The verse reminds me that God’s in control, that He is sovereign, that He hasn’t forgotten about me, and that He has designed a plan for my life that is for my benefit (and not my harm).

Unemployment brings with it such immense uncertainty, and trusting that God’s plan for us will always be for our good, will bring us back in tune with His purpose for our life. I know all too well that this faith is not always present in my life, that in my state of mind, I can spinout and think that there is no hope, no meaning, no plan. Yet the better side of me knows that Truth always trumps my own emotions and feelings. If I have the verse in my head and heart, I can quickly get off that merry-go-round of emotions that tends to take me on the verge of emotional exhaustion.

One trick that I’ve found useful in memorizing the Bible verses is to begin by stating the citation, and then recite the complete verse. Then after completely reciting the verse, end it with the citation once more. For example, here’s what I would literally say:

“Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.”

I hope this post will be an encouragement to you, especially those who are in the same situation as me.

The sermon today had this great, simple, purpuseful and meaningful question as the central focus: Where are you? We all know that God asked Adam this from Genesis 3:9; we also know that God didn’t really want information concerning Adam’s whereabouts, for, as God, He knew exactly where Adam was. God wanted Adam to have some time to reflect on this question, to come forward and let his heavenly father know where he was. God asks us the same.

God wants us to quietly go over our relationship with Him, and our relationship with His word, to see “where we’re at” in this life. We can be easily distracted in our day-to-day “busyness” that our relationship with God no longer matters, and we get lost, either unintentionally or on purpose, onlyh to hear that simple question from God, “Where are you?”

One really important step that I learned in helping me each day is to not only read His word, but to have a plan to read His word. You see, we can always say we’ll do something, but without building a plan and then acting on it, we don’t get further than merely saying we’ll do something.

Similar to questions of “What am I supposed to do?”, this question convicts us to reflect on our relationship with God. It doesn’t ask of God, as in asking for something through prayer; rather, it asks us to look deep into our own lives to see how we can be closer to the God we’ve placed our trust in.

The pastor also noted that Satan asked Eve a rather simple question as well, only that his question was one that tested her faith in God. Satan asked, “Did God really say that….?” Of course Satan knew that God had said,. “Don’t eat from that tree.” But Satan wanted to test Eve, just as he often wants to test us in our lives.

The answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” Yes, God said don’t do such and such, as clearly written in Scripture. And there’s no way to know unles you’re grounded in Scripture; and there’s no way to become grounded in the Word unless you’ve got a plan to read the Word.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, all you Canucks out there!

Thankful? You bet.

I am thankful that God’s working in me, changing me, shaping me into a new creation. His mercies are new each day, for great is His faithfulness.

I am thankful for a job. Period.

I am thankful that God provided for me and my family during my period of unemployment, and I’m thankful that He has promised to sustain us each day, just as He provides for the birds in the air who do not sow or store up things.

I am thankful for my wife, who loves me for who I am, and who cares for me more than any other human on this planet (and other planets included). She is so precious.

I am thankful for young Jasper, who with no intention of his own, remains the cutest and heart-achingly cuddliest toddler in my life. He is clearly a gift from above, and for that, I thank the Lord.

I am thankful for food to eat on this holiday, and I’m thankful for the people who will sit around our table to enjoy God’s provisions.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

Psalm 95:2

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”

Psalm 111:5

Character forming.

Two words to summarize this week’s work week.

My first week at work was one of simple and straightforward tasks on the job. There isn’t much room for creativity when you’re simply entering data into a company database. But I think the lessons were still clear: keep your eyes on things above.

I realized that I’ve transitioned (temporarily, at least) from unemployment to underemployment. Yes, I have a job where I’ll earn a paycheck, but perhaps the tasks and responsibilities are not exactly employing the skills that I already possess, and I have yet to expand any set of skills. Of course it’s only the first week at work, and I think I’ll be doing much more than what I’ve just done. Yet I think it’s interesting to see that unemployment, underemployment, and meaningful employment all lack meaning when your eyes aren’t on things above.

When you’re unemployed, you think that God’s abandoned you, or that He’s not listening to your careful and sometimes tearful prayers. That’s not true, is it? He’s always there (Yahweh), shaping us, nurturing us, sustaining us, providing for us, and caring for us. I am so thankful that He provided for us during the last few months.

 In terms of being underemployed, I think this is similar to being unemployed in that one needs to one simple thing: trust God. The sculpting hands of God does wonders when it comes to being able to do something in a godly way, especially if it’s menial or boring, and to do it in a way that brings glory to God. Waiting for God to provide a job when you’re unemployed, and faithfully carrying out our tasks while we’re underemployed, are two very similar things.

So if you’re experiencing unemployment or underemployment, I think the key to getting through this season is to remember that your employer is God above, not Joe below. Are you working for a salary that is well below your expectations and abilities? Keep working and bring glory to God, and watch how the experience changes your attitudes. Are you doing tasks that seem suitable for a bunch of well trained chimps? Keep your eyes on things above and do your “chimp work” so well that people will be amazed by your attitude (and your attitude comes from God!).

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feed them. Are  much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Matthew 6:25-27

Well the prospect of a job is getting better, as I have one of the best leads I’ve had since I began looking for work six weeks ago. In addition to that, I’ve registered with another recruiter and there’s a big potential for work with a non-profit organization. I met with them yesterday and my computer skills assessment even wowed me, as I did very well on the MS Office package skills.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by a radio series called, “Discover the Word,” by RBC Ministries. One podcast in particular made an impact on my life. It was by the senior teacher of the series, who teaches at one of the most famous seminary colleges in the world, and whose voice and radio manner is very pleasant and inspired. Anyhow, his story was about how Abraham followed God’s direction and went to a place he had never been before, and to his great surprise/horror, there was a famine in the land. The broadcaster told a story of how he was a young father of two who, at that time, was at the bottom of his financial barrel. He and his wife had no idea how they were going to make it through their “famine.”  He even recalled having knelt beside his bed and said to God, “God, if this is what You mean by providing for our needs, then I don’t want any part of it.” But God was faithful. Period. God was faithful. Period. One more time, God was faithful. The most reassuring part of this discussion was the wise words learned from experience, that God is faithful, that He provides for all of our needs, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. Yes, we may strugle with waiting, battle under pressure and try to do things on our own. But this broadcaster said, reaching what I assume is the late fall or early winter of his life, that through experience of having lived a long life, he knows the biblical and scriptural promise that God made to us: God is faithful.

And that’s exactly what brought me light yesterday, a somewhat slow Monday morning. As I’ve written before, some days I feel as though there’s no hope for a job, that I’ll be unemployed and suffering in a drought. But no, God will provide, even at the eleventh hour, He will be there. In fact, He’s always there, nurturing us, showing us, caring for us, scultping our hearts. And I’m thankful for the plans he has for me and my family, and I pray continuously for His provisions and blessing in our lives. “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (Romans 12:12)

As the title of this post read, it’s my fourth jobless Friday. Today, however, was a very different day. The recruiter I met with yesterday kindly phoned with a flurry of offers, two for today and two starting on Monday. Now you might think I was a little happy about this–yes, I was–but the challenge and the pay scale just wasn’t there.

For example, today’s “temp-tation” was a temporary assignment downtown as a concierge. Now how’s that for a temp job? I was going to accept it but Suz had was out registering for a community children’s program and I was at home with Jasper. I simply didn’t know when she’d return home and I couldn’t commit to her offer. So I let it pass.

Another offer was for a pharmaceutical company doing……drum roll……..data entry. I’ve done data entry before, and I know that it’s not exactly a difficult or challenging job. That wasn’t the only problem about the job. This position would take me out to Etobicoke, and without a car, I’d be traveling for a long time to get to work, just to make an hourly wage of….gasp….$11.50.

OK. I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, and I certainly don’t want to sound like a spoiled suck who won’t work for anything under $14 an hour. I’ve seen poverty in parts of the world firsthand, and I know that I shouldn’t complain about job offers. Yet, I also know that accepting that offer would put me (and my family) further back than further ahead. in addition, taking the job would mean having that on my resume for life. (It’s a 3-month contract.) Anyhow, I declined politely, wrote her a long e-mail explaining my situation, and I haven’t heard back from her today. Hmmm…

As for the other job I’ve had on the back burner for almost a month now, I still haven’t had a conclusive offer. That bums me out a bit, but I can’t expect an answer because it’s not my decision to make. I’m thinking Monday will bring a firm closure to that job, but I’ve been wrong before, so I might be wrong again.

In closing, one of the deepest, most meaningful passages from the Bible for me right now is this: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”(1 Timothy 6:6, NIV)  or “Religion with contentment brings great wealth.” (NLT)  I like the NLT translation because it really highlights the accumulation of wealth and the problems with “loving money.” As the passage continues, “For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.” (NLT, my bold, 1 Timothy 6:10) 

 Now look at this one, also from 1 Timothy: “After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (NLT, my italics, 1 Timothy 6:7-8)  How awesome are those three verses when you combine them together!

God’s saying: “Look guys. Be content and godly. After all, you didn’t bring anything and you’re not taking anything with you. So if you’ve got food and clothes, be content! Don’t mess around and scheme and fall in love with your money! Don’t trust your money. Use your money to do good things! Be generous! Store up your treasures in heaven, not on earth!”

How cool is that for me? Too cool. Why? Because right now I’m struggling with the covetousness (a mouthful of a word). I look at others and desire what they have. Kind of like envying property or situations. I sometimes feel sorry for myself and my jobless situation or my income level, and I covet others for their property or situations or careers. But when I get back in focus, I realize that, dude, you’ve got it good. God is good to you. He has provided you with everything you need and more. So what’s with the covetousness?

I learned an important lesson about coveting others. I think of this question: “Did God save me just so I could continue coveting people’s property and situations?”   Similarly, “Did Jesus die for me just so I could worry about all the things in my life that haven’t happened to me yet?”   Of course the answer to these two questions are, no, God didn’t save me so that I could covet, and no, Jesus didn’t die for me just so I could worry.

Those, friends, are liberating answers to a worrying and covetous spirit.

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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).

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