Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Career Day Advice: take risks, expect the unexpected

There's a good chance the career path you choose or the field of study you pursue won't be where you end up, students at Smithville Christian High School were told at the Career Day Chapel.

"Over 70% of college and university students change their major within the first two years," said Heidi Kooiman Vanderkwaak (Class of 1998), who described how "torn" she felt about abandoning her long-held plan to be a teacher. "I felt that switching my major meant failure. Had I known that at the time, I would have been comforted knowing that I was far from the only one who made discoveries about my future" along the way.

Kooiman Vanderkwaak, who now works for the City of Hamilton as a Program Review Officer in the Ontario Works department, told students there is no clear vantage point from which they can see the road ahead. But she shared seven "Ah-Ha!" moments she had in the 17 years since she graduated from Smithville Christian High School.

#1 Do your research. If you have a career path in mind, investigate it, practice it, shadow someone who has been working in the field, interview people practicing in that profession. If you don't have a particular career in mind, find out about more jobs that you are interested in by reading, shadowing a professional, interviewing your parents' friends. Get a real idea of what each job is like on a day-to-day basis.

#2 Listen to others. There are people in your life who know you very well: they have seen you grow up, they know your strengths and weaknesses. Ask for their opinion and advice about your career path. Listen to a variety of opinions.

#3 Expect change. God will take you in directions that you can't see at the time. He'll  use decisions and sidetracks that you take to your advantage. You may graduate with one degree or as an apprentice in a trade and five years later be doing something completely out of your field. Your degree, your apprenticeship, your experience is not wasted. Almost everything you learned in life will come in handy at one point or another.

#4 Travel. It doesn't matter where you go — spending three or more months in another part of the world learning alongside your peers will change your life immeasurably for the better, even though it could be really difficult at the time. It will open up desires and passions you didn't know you had, and it will open a world of possibility and understanding that will serve you well wherever you go.

#5 Take risks. Try things you've never tried before. Step out of your comfort zone. God will speak to you as you learn what you love and have gifts at. If you don't try something, you may not discover a hidden talent or gift or passion you have. This means you have to try something that you are not normally drawn to, but it will stretch and challenge you.

#6 Rely on your values. Ensure your career or job complements your values -- which are shaped by your faith. For Kooiman Vanderkwaak and her husband, that meant taking an unpaid leave of absence from their jobs and travelling with their two children on a year-long bicycle tour of North America, cycling from Hamilton to Vancouver, to Panama and then back up the eastern seaboard through Washington, D.C. and New York City to home. "Throughout our year off employment, we deepened our relationships with each other and learned so much about God and his calling for how to serve him in our community in Hamilton."

#7 Be still and listen to God. God doesn't usually directly tell you what to do. It is not very likely that the heavens will open up and you will hear a loud voice commanding you to choose a specific career path. A relationship with Him means you are asking through prayer and questioning and listening through His word and his direction through other people in your life, and through the passions and gifts he has given you. Kooiman Vanderkwaak said God has often spoken to her through people in circumstances that at first appeared to be mere coincidences. "He spoke in my discovery of things that I am good at, and the gifts that developed as a result of practice and use. You often don't realize the 'God-is-speaking-to-me' moments until after they've happened, but if you tune in to Him, you'll start to hear it while it's happening and it's one of the most amazing and wonderful experiences."

Kooiman Vanderkwaak said she loves her job, "one I didn't even know existed when I was sitting where you are." She told the students she hopes the same for them.

"I want to wish each of you God's richest blessing as you make discoveries and enrich your understanding of who you are, who the Creator is, and how you are called to serve in this world."

A student praise team led in worship with "Oceans," "I Lift My Hands," and "Not Ashamed."

Career Day continued with workshops on topics such as:
  • Rights in the Workforce
  • Apprenticeships
  • Transition to Life After High School
  • English as a Second Language at the Post-Secondary Level
  • Vocational Inventories
  • Selling Yourself
  • Finding A Job
  • Interview Skills
  • Applying for OSAP and 
  • Discerning God's Will for Your Life.

After lunch, students each attended three different sessions with presenters from 35 different jobs or careers.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

How much does God love you?

Q. How much does God love you?

A. Jesus.

You might be having a bad day, and, when your mother tells you that she loves you, not even that helps, said Smithville Christian High School's spiritual life director, Gord Park.

"Because that's her job," you might retort.

That's true, Park told students at the Thursday chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week. But there is one friend who loves you because it was his choice: Jesus.

Park quoted Jesus from John 15:15: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends."  

Park told a story of an 11-year-old boy who was undergoing chemotherapy, and whose classmates all shaved their heads to match his.

"They identified with their friend, they chose to be with their friend," Park said. In the same way, Jesus becoming human was God identifying with you, choosing to be with you, he said,

"He didn't have to do it, but he chose to take on my sins and my shame. Why? So we could have atonement, so we could be at one with God."

Jesus atoned for all our shortcomings so we can stand in perfection before God for all eternity, Park said, but it's not just about what happens after we die. It's about who sits enthroned in your life right now.

"We don't become Christians to go to heaven, we become Christians to bring heaven to earth," he said.

The point of Jesus' resurrection is to change your life right now, "so you can live in the resurrection power today, to experience all that joy today. He wants us to know his joy, to live with creativity, whatever you do.

"You were created to live and love this life, to drink deep and seize the day."

But there's more, he said.

"Love Jesus in such a way that you are empowered to love others."

Park read 2 Cor. 13: 4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Park said he doesn't get very high marks for succeeding at that kind of love, "and most of us are not going to get a gold star." But the point is Jesus loves like that, and when we have Jesus in us, we can love like that, he said.

"My goal to is to be committed to Christ in such a way so that I can live out his commandments.

"How great is our God? He chooses you to take it all on the cross and he chooses you to live in love. Receive all the benefits of his marvelous grace and then share."

In friendships, in dating relationships, in family relationships "don't just give your love, give His love."

"How great is our God? He chooses you, he loves you, he identifies with you.

"Believe it.
"Receive it.
"Share it."

A student praise team led in worship with "Not Ashamed," "The Stand," "Holy Spirit" and "Build Your Kingdom Here."

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The enormity of God

As creator of the universe God is beyond our comprehension, said spiritual life director Gord Park at Wednesday's chapel, but he's for you.

Park said he has always been fascinated by space and inspired by its immensity — from the Star Trek television show, to Star Wars movies, to laying in the backyard with his son and looking at a night sky full of stars.

"Stars have always inspired me," Park said, "the infinite nature of stars."

Park shared some amazing facts and figures about stars, such as:
The sun travels 220 km/second.

It takes the sun 225-250 million years to complete an orbit of the centre of the Milky Way.

The sun is 149,600,000 km away.

The star Betelgeuse is 427 light years away and the star Canis Majoris is 2,500 light years away. The Whirlpool Galaxy, with its 300 billion stars, is 31 million light years away. "And it is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe," Park said. "The more you know, the more you are blown away. It staggers the imagination."

Park compares a golf ball sized earth to the enormity of the sun.
And God made it all, Park said, quoting Nehemiah 9:6

You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

And quoting  Psalm 33:6

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Yet God, the creator of the universe, did it for you, Park told students, quoting Psalm 8.

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is humankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?

He did it for you, Park said, quoting Psalm 139.

13For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

"You are created in the image of God," Park said. "You are created to be creative," and whatever form that creativity takes, whether it's repairing an engine, writing a song, acting in  a play or nurturing a friendship, "do it so that your creativity worships him."

Park challenged students to live lives that worship God, that worship creatively, and that take care of God's creation — both of the earth and of themselves.

He also told students to look for God: "When you pay attention, you won't miss him, and when you take care of yourself, you honour God."

A student praise team led worship with "Whom Shall I Fear God of Angel Armies," "How Great is Our God/How Great Thou Art," and "Build Your Kingdom Here."

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The glory of God

God is glorious but he lives in you, spiritual life director Gord Park told students at the second chapel of Smithville Christian High School's spiritual emphasis week.

Park began Tuesday's chapel message by reading an account of Isaiah's vision of God, taken from Isaiah 6:1-8.

1"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Park said Isaiah's vision comes at a time in the history of the people of Israel when their king has just died and the nation is in disarray. But the vision begins with the certainty that God is still on the throne, that the real king is still the king.

The name of the Lord, "Adonai," which is translated as LORD, indicates that Isaiah saw God as the "suffering servant," Park said. "God has always been enthroned and when he chooses to reveal himself, it is as Jesus."

The "train of his robe (that) filled the temple" indicates the majesty and glory of God, just as the 
train of a wedding gown brings honour to a bride, or the length of the tassles on a prayer shawl signifies righteousness, Park said, using a prayer shawl to demonstrate.

"You are the temple of the Lord," Park told students, "and if God is in you, his glory fills you.
The symbolism of the train of God's robe filling the temple "is hugely important. The glory of God is so overwhelming that the train of his robe fills the temple. When you are in the presence of God, there is nothing else.

"And if you allow God to sit enthroned in your life, there will be nothing in life that he will not be victorious over, " Park said, "even death." Bad stuff may still happen, but as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah's vision emphasizes the holiness of God, but the hot coal taken from the altar fire — where the sacrificial blood of atonement is poured — indicates that Isaiah is cleansed from his sin and is now also holy.

And so are we, Park said, if we accept the forgiveness God offers.

"The challenge for each of us today is to recognize that you are a temple of God, and you can be the one standing at the altar in communion with him, thanking him and praising him," he said.

And at the end of the vision, God asks for a volunteer, and Isaiah steps up.

"Who has God called you to be?" Park asked the students. "What is God calling you to do?"

"We know who sits enthroned in heaven, but who sits enthroned in your life?" he asked. "You are the temple of the Lord but you have a choice to make: who sits enthroned in your life?"  

A student praise team led in worship with "Mountaintop," "Dare you to move," "Oceans" and "Great I Am/Our God is Greater."

Chapel is every morning at 9 a.m. and everyone is invited.

Here's the praise team with "Great I Am/Our God is Greater."

Monday, 24 November 2014

How big is your God?

What do you think of God?

How do you picture him?

Smithville Christian High School's spiritual life director Gord Park started this year's Spiritual Emphasis Week by telling students that when we picture God, we tend to reduce him, to make him smaller than he really is.

Sometimes we see God as a kindly old man with a flowing beard, or as having a voice like Morgan Freeman, Park said. Some people, like Albert Einstein, say they don't believe in a personal God, or like Paul McCartney, who said. "If God is out there, he's hiding someplace."

But it's not God who is hiding, Park said, it's humans who are the ones who hide from God, just as Adam and Eve did when they sinned and felt they had something to hide. The truth is, it's God who comes looking for us, Park said, but many people want to hide from God.

Like a child hiding behind a tree, we think we can successfully hide from him, or we hide because God doesn't fit the version of reality that we find comfortable.

But as it says is Psalm 139: 7, 8, there is no place we can hide from God's spirit, no place we can go where God is not present.

And God revealed himself most tangibly to us in the person of Jesus who embodies the infinite God in a finite human, Park said.

Jesus invites us to look at him and to see God, just as Peter did when he said "You are the Christ, the son of the living God," or as Paul does in the letter to the Colossians, revealing Jesus as a man, our Saviour, the creator and the reason the world was created.

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Col. 1:15-20)

But it's not easy, Park said. Just like the six blind men who encountered an elephant and reached different conclusions about what an elephant is like, we can form our opinions about God based on what we've read, or heard, or experienced.

"But wait," Park said, "there's so much more! Whatever you think about God, there's so much more."

God invites us to grow in the knowledge of him, Park said, through his Word, creation, people, service, devotion and obedience. And while it might be scary, it's also freeing, because God's loving kindness envelopes us. And the God we worship is "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God," who deserves our "honour and glory forever and ever." (I Timothy 1:17)

In fact, we can never stop growing in the knowledge of God because if we can ever figure God out "he's not worth worshipping," Park said.

A student praise team led in worship with "I Will Follow," "Holy," and "One Thing Remains."

Chapel will be held every day this week at 9 a.m. Everyone is welcome.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Praise and worship

Today's chapel was a warm-up for next week's Spiritual Emphasis Week, with a student praise team leading an extended time of worship, including two new songs: "Breathe," by Michael W. Smith and "Lead Me to the Cross," by Hillsong.

They also read a poem called "Entering the Story" which was written by Spiritual Life Director Gord Park for October's Edifide Teachers' Convention.

Entering the Story

                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds                                               
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds                                               
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                  Micah too
                                                  "For Unto you  ....
is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord          
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                                      The list goes on
                                                  Men and women
                                                  Through the years
                                                  Following Christ
                                                                      His Spirit here
                                                  Now it's me
                                                                      Now it's you
                                                  And this we know
                                                  Will never get old.
                                                  Promise made. Story unfolds.

Park read Isaiah 40, which proclaims the greatness of God. Next week's spiritual emphasis week theme is "How Great is Our God!" and will feature chapel every day plus a time for small-group discussions after lunch. We will also be heading down to Grimsby for Guys Night Out on Wednesday and Girls Night Out on Thursday. Parents, alumni, friends and guests are always welcome to join us for daily chapel, which starts at 9 a.m.

Whether you are able to come or not, pray that we will let the Holy Spirit work in all of our hearts.

Chapel also featured an opportunity to pray a blessing over the members of our Senior Boys Volleyball Team, who are heading to OFSAA this week as the defending champions.

Gina VandenDool, the staff sponsor for the volleyball team, shared the following season stats:

221 —  inches combined height of the Senior Boys Volleyball team 2014.  Height helps!
33 — hours of intense practice  
116 —sets played 
85  — sets won, 31 losses
2,811 —points earned
30,000  — estimated total of passes, digs and lasers practiced and executed during games
4 — first place finishes/gold medals including zone (and hopefully a 5th this weekend)
0  — number of games lost at OCSSAA.  Incredible!
3 — number of passionate coaches who have invested in the STORM over the past 4 years. Which so happens to also be the # of years that Mitchell regrets not playing high school volleyball)
1 — the ranking going into this OFSAA tournament that no other team in Smithville's history has ever earned
6 — the number of letters in the answer to the questions "What all day?"  BOMBAY!!

The OFSAA tournament schedule this week is four games for pool play: three on Thursday and one on Friday.

The Thursday games are at 9 a.m. and 12 noon at Niagara Sport and Social Complex on Rice Road in Welland and at 3 p.m. at Jean Vanier High School in Welland. The Friday game is at 8:30 a.m. at Niagara Sport and Social.

Then, hopefully, it's on to the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Niagara Sport and Social.
Tournament passes are $20 for adults, $12 for students. Day passes are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
It would be great to have lots of fans: parents, students, alumni and friends.