As all of us were growing up, volunteering has always been a very altruistic thing. The feeling of giving back out of your blessed fortune to others who may not have as much, or have not been given the same hand in life is a very cool thing.
That can mean something as simple as doing down to your local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and helping serve people, to actually going all-in and working for a non-profit, trying to help them make ends meet.
Today I’d like to go into more of an opinion piece that will possibly stir up some controversy within the Lutheran community. I’d like to talk about the idea of church-associated and run businesses, and why I believe they are where churches should be headed towards in the future.
Obviously there are many opinions out there regarding the ethics of this, and whether the church should be ‘in business’. I would like to address some of those, as well as some of the advantages of the church sponsoring and helping more of these types of organizations.
In the past few decades, church membership has been gradually shrinking, and has been going on all over the Western world. Some say that young people today just don’t relate to the old and antiquated church, while others just say the world has changed. Whatever the reason, it’s starting to change.
This article is dedicated to all of the worship leaders out there! Raise your hands!
If you have been leading worship for more than a few months, you know that it sometimes has the tendency to get stale and routine, with the same people playing the same songs, with the same instruments. Worship isn’t supposed to be stale! It’s supposed to be vibrant, and engaging, and always trying to worship our Creator in the way we best know how.
He has given us these gifts for a reason, and it’s not to just go through the motions of worshipping Him. It’s to be loud, and new, and always be continuing our growth journey with Him!
But what is a practical way to do this as a worship leader? Well with any stagnation situation, it’s always good to be able to change something up, such as the environment, or situation, or something like that. For worship, this can mean the music, the musicians up there, how and where you are playing from, and the instruments that you use to play.
Some weeks, the full band with drums, bass, keys, guitar and backup singers are great, but other times it’s great to just strip it down to a very low-key, acoustic worship. Here are a couple of unique musical instruments that can help add some variety to your worship set. The only issue now is finding someone in your congregation that can play them!
The first new instrument on our list can be fairly old-school to some people, but after hearing a few worship sets with one in them, it’s amazing what kind of presence it can create. An accordion can be the perfect instrument to add a very big ‘wall’ of sound to any worship. It’s long and droning background chords, and ability to play complex melodies make it a very versatile instrument. It can either blend in well with the backing instruments, or come to the front and play much more of a lead melody role.
Once you know how to use it well, it can become as useful as a guitar!
The next instrument on our list is the classic violin. In years past, this was much more common throughout worship sets, but not as much in the last few years. It’s about time we bring back that nostalgic sound of the violin. It is important however that the violinist knows how to blend into the rest of the band. They grew up playing melodies and the leads through songs, so making sure they don’t ‘take over’ the music is important.
The third instrument on our list is the tenor saxophone. This beautiful, and rich sounding instrument can really add a large depth to your music. It’s very soothing and warm, yet can really stand out with its raspy sounds. It’s not just for sensual jazz any more!
Last but not least, the lap slide guitar is one instrument that is rarely seen in worship music today. When you say slide guitar, most people start thinking of twangy country music, or old people sounds. But with modern slide guitars, especially played with modern stylings, their sound can be very smooth and versatile. A good acoustic slide player can add a whole another dimension to music that most people haven’t really heard too much of before.
If you have ever been on a mission trip, or even just ventured into the developing world, you know how much of an issue clean drinking water can be to people living there.
Their surface water supplies that they usually do everything with from wash clothes, to bathe, to even use the bathroom, are becoming more and more contaminated. This leaves some of the water supplies alright to do certain things in, but certainly not drink from.
Thousands of people around the world are dying everyday from very preventable diseases, and as Christians who are supposed to care about the world, we should be outraged. Why should the less fortunate have to die at the hands of the inaction of the more fortunate? We’re all God’s children, and deserve the right to life!
Well we started to do some searching around for cool companies and technologies that are really making a difference in this epidemic. These simple and functional devices are not only giving people in impoverished areas a clean supply of drinking water, but a new lease on life. A life without meaningless disease.
The first, and probably most utilitarian water-purification device is called the LifeSaq. This brilliant innovation was meant to be a shipping sack for grains and supplies, and then turn into a water purification bag, using UV radiation, and a 5nm filter to eliminate almost all bacteria from the water. This bag also has very simple slits in the sides, so after filling the bag, it can be worn as a backpack for ease of transportation over longer distances.
The Lifestraw has a number of innovative systems out there for water purification in the developing world, but its flagship and initial innovation was the actual Life Straw. A small, plastic tube that looks a lot like the recorders we used to play in elementary music class, this portable device can provide instant clean water from virtually any water supply. So if someone is traveling and comes across ground water, they can safely drink it without catching any sort of disease.
The Solarball is a device that looks like a large hamster ball. It has two sides, one completely translucent, and the other black. It is meant to heat up using the solar rays, and have the evaporated water move from the dark side to the clear side. Overall, one of these balls with result in about 3 liters of clean water per day. Simple, yet effective.
Ceramic Water Filters
The last water purification device on our list is a series of ceramic water filters developed by UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program for use in Cambodia. These gravity filters are made from fired clay, and have very small pores that virtually remove all harmful bacteria from the water, and will produce about 1-3 liters of clean water per hour.
So if you are going on a mission trip in the foreseeable future, or just want to make a difference, I highly recommend that you look into one of these amazing technologies. They could just save a couple lives with a very easy donation.
As a Christian, we are given the very unique circumstance of being on this world, but not of it. What that means is we are called to live Godly lives, and serve the one who saved us from our own depravity, all in a very un-Godly, and broken world. We were born of this world, and of sin, but won’t need to be here for long.
But before we go to heaven to be with Jesus, how are we supposed to act and live our day-to-day lives here? How are we supposed to teach our kids that? The earth is just a small proving grounds for the eternal, so how do we show the same love that Jesus showed us to the world around who haven’t discovered Him yet?
We’ll try to cover a few helpful areas and things to consider when looking at the idea of living a Godly life in a very un-Godly place. It is a difficult thing to do, but in the long run, it will be completely worth it. We will have our rewards waiting in heaven, and not on this earth.
Don’t Compromise Character
The first main point to consider when trying to live in this world, and not of it is to never compromise your character. You have strong moral beliefs, and it is very easy to be swayed by the ways of this world to be a certain way. Satan is very good at deceiving us to give in on those little slips of character, that really don’t seem to be much in the moment, but add up huge over time.
The easiest way to get someone to do what you want isn’t to try and impose a belief that is completely opposite of what they think, and attack them with it. That is an easy enemy to know and to fight against. The easiest way to do it is to continually make little tiny offshoots of the beliefs they already have, and just gradually work that needle farther and farther away from where it should be. “This way is really bad, but what about this? It’s pretty much the same as what you are already doing! Why not?”. As Christians, we need to resist this gradual moral degradation, and stay strong to the morals we were taught as kids, and should be living with today. The world needs more backbones.
Know What is Most Important
In a world where many things are throw in front of us, and viewed as ‘important’, we really need to keep our true north and realize what is truly important in life. It’s not what everyone else is doing, or what is popular at the time. Television is great at showing us what we should be paying attention to, and what we should be doing. This is just wrong, and we are acting on and building our lives around the whims of the corporate powers that be.
Why would we want to get so wrapped up in aesthetic fame and celebrity status? Is there any actual worth in that? Absolutely not.
We need to know that as Christians, we live for something much more important.
The Things of This World are Fleeting
In the fame and glitzy culture that we live in, things like wealth, bling and status are prized. But how many of those people have turned around and found themselves bankrupt after living that life of luxury? Wealth and glamour are things that are given by the Lord, but really aren’t worth anything. He may bless you in your life with great wealth, or great poverty. But in the end, neither of those matter. They are both gifts from Him, and He can take them away at any moment.
We all need to continually realize what things are going to last, and disregard the things that are fleeting.
The following article is a story from a frequent reader of the newspaper, and is about traveling abroad, especially in a place where there are not as many Christians. It covers
- How to travel abroad
- Meet like-minded Christians
- Never be Disconnected from Home
I hope you enjoy this unique story! Go grab some Vegemite and enjoy!
I have been a Christian my entire life. I grew up in the church, and have always had a great relationship with it. But I’ve always been a traveler, so when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a life circumstance, I took it right away.
This adventure was leaving the frozen and cold North America for Australia, without really having an idea of where I was going, how I was going to get there, and who I was going to meet and spend my time with.
That kind of change and nebulous thought would be paralyzing for some people, but personally, I love it, and always have. New situations excite me, and without that constant change in my life, it really becomes boring and stagnant.
Upon arriving in Australia, I knew things were different. Not only did they have goofy accents, but they also seemed to drive on the wrong side of the road! In some areas, the culture and behavior of the people were very similar of that from the US or Canada, but other ways, they were much different.
One thing I quickly learned was that people there were mostly non-Christian, and didn’t really care much for religion of any kind. This was a drastic change from the majorly Christianized North America that I was used to.
So as I started traveling around the country and doing awesome things, I found it was very different and interesting to speak with people about their religious beliefs. Some were open to talking, while others weren’t.
I was fortunate enough to meet a number of very strong Christians living in the midst of a very pagan world, and making huge progress for the Kingdom of God. They are not just pretending to be in Church, but actually living how Church should live.
I made friendships with these people that will probably never be broken, at least in our hearts. They were truly Christians living the Christian walk, and spoke worlds to me in how we should be acting within “the world”.
It was very difficult initially to convey and articulate this to my friends and family back home, who hadn’t actually experienced this first hand to know what I was talking about yet. Over Skype conversations, we would talk about things on a very surface level, but nothing more meaningful than that. It was like being stuck in between living in the real world, and pretending to in some sort of hidden and fake one.
In the end, it was really great to be able to travel down through Australia. I met many great people, did some awesome things, and really had the experience of a lifetime. It was also very nice to be connected with the Internet, so I could quickly and easily connect with anyone I wanted to back home.
If you ever do get the chance to go down to Australia, I strongly encourage it! It’s a much different place to be, but very rewarding at the same time.
If you are like me, then the long, cold and dark winters up here in Canada will really start dragging on you about January, and you still have at least half of them left!
The perfect cure for the winter blues is a tropical getaway to a new location. Just imagine the sound of the waves lapping against the shore, with a nice warm sea breeze coming in and rustling your hair. Add a nice cold drink in the sand and it seems like nothing more could go wrong in the world.
So if you are looking for that next tropical getaway, it’s time to start booking! But where should you decide to go? There are many beaches around the world, but which ones are the absolute best for a vacation? We’ll go over our top 4 picks for a tropical beach getaway:
The number one destination on our list is the just a little while south of us, down in Mexico. This country that borders the United States to the South can be the perfect place to vacation and get away from winter.
It offers a very diverse variety of landscapes, including jungles, rainforests, beaches, and deserts. But the one you want to go for is definitely the beaches! Often times, you’ll find perfect white sand beaches just a little ways out of the main cities, just waiting to be explored. The Mexican culture will also add a very nice twist on your vacation. I highly recommend trying out the street tacos – they’re delicious! That is if you are not trying to eat healthy.
The next getaway on our list is all the way ‘down under’ on the other side of the world. From North America all the way to the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is truly a place of wonder. With great friendly people, white sand beaches, and a huge country to explore, it’s no wonder that Australia has one of the most popular beach cities in Sydney in the world. Just don’t eat too much Vegemite when you are down there!
The next spot on our list is the beautiful nation of Greece, and the only one on the list in Europe. A quick jump over the Atlantic will leave you in this incredibly beautiful and historic country. In recent years, the economy has been in turmoil and ruin, but this means that your money will go even further in an economy that desperately needs your tourism dollars.
Old world beauty and pristine beaches are the names of the game in this southern European country.
The last place on our list is a beautiful little island nation in the Caribbean. The Caymans are a very quirky and unique place, with their own share of tourist areas as well as native island culture. Life just seems to move a little slower down there, and for good reason. Some islands in the Caymans are only a few square miles, so there isn’t really too many places to go and rush off to. So sit back, grab a coconut, and relax! You are in a beautiful tropical paradise!
I think just about everyone has a few pounds to lose somewhere on their body. With the holiday season coming up, we could all use a little help preparing for those trays of christmas cookies and roast hams. Or you may want to get into shape for a beach vacation.
Here are the 5 tips that we received from fitness expert Tony Calhoun, who is a personal trainer in downtown Toronto. Without taking any exercise into account, Tony has compiled a list of simple eating changes you can make to your diet that can dramatically affect weight loss for you.
So let’s just straight into it! Take it away Tony:
1. Use small plates
The first rule of weight loss eating is to control portion size using small plates. I’m talking about plates that are no larger than your hand. Feel free to pile them with as much food as you would like, but just know that that plate size is your meal portion, and all your body really needs to sustain itself.
Too often we tend to just finish whatever is put in front of us, just out of physiological habit, and not even hunger. By using smaller plates, we’re tricking our brains into saying that we are full, and that it just finished one helping.
2. No white carbs
The next easy eating habit that you can change today is to stay away from all “white” carbs. Generally this will mean breads, rice, pastas, starches, and anything else that can be deemed a starch or grain. These just convert into sugar so fast that our bodies really don’t have a good way of processing them, so we store them as fat around our bodies.
3. Don’t drink your calories
Along side simple eating habits, an important area to look out for is the calories that you drink, and not just eat. Beverages such as soda, sweetened tea, beer, wine and many more things have a significant caloric load that can really add up quickly on you. These beverages are usually of very low nutritional value as well, so the calories really are ‘empty’. Use simple alternatives such as unsweetened tea or water to quench that thirst, but not consume nearly the amount of calories.
4. Eat within 30 mins of Awakening, and Not After 7pm
Another simple rule of thumb to go with throughout your day is make sure and eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, and not anymore after 7pm at night.
By eating an early breakfast, especially with tons of good protein, we make sure that our metabolism gets a big jump start in the morning, and will be at a higher level for the rest of the day. We also say not to eat after 7pm because that is when most of the binging in our day really happens. We often eat out of habit and not hunger, so can pack in quite a few calories without even realizing it.
5. Cook for Yourself and Eat Slowly
The last weight loss and eating tip is to take more time to enjoy cooking and eating! When you take more time with your food, not only are you putting more care into the things you put into your body, but you are also able to really make things that you like to eat, but are still healthy for you.
Eating slowly will serve two purposes – feeling full faster, and enjoying the food more. They say our stomachs take 20 minutes to tell our brains that they are full, and we can keep eating and keep eating without feeling it, then suddenly feel over full. Eating slowly also helps us enjoy our food more, and get more pleasure from eating.
Our friends at the United Gospel Church in Eastern Toronto are proud to unveil the grand opening of their brand new thrift store in the same area in Eastern Toronto! They are located at 1430 E. 220th Ave and Demascus St.
The opening of the store will mark a new start and a new chapter in this low income neighborhood, and will hopefully be a catalyst for change in this neighborhood. For too many years, street gangs have run wild here, bringing drugs into our fair city, participating in vandalism and theft, and increasing the overall hostility towards the African American community.
The building that the new thrift store is located in is a historical building in Toronto, and was built all the way back in the 1920’s. It was originally built as a paper mill, and was running continuously since its creation, until production halted in 1976 because of market and industry conditions.
Rupert Moss remembers the mill fondly – “I remember going down to the mill as a young man, and working the swing shift from 11pm – 8am, making sure all of the paper got through those machines. Back in those days, there were no such thing as labor laws, so they worked us to the bone. But it always brought great money into the neighborhood, so we put up with it.”
He continues, “I’m so glad to see the old building finally used for something productive now! It’s great to not have another building just rot away with time.”.
The church initially purchased the property on foreclosure back in 1995, and have been sitting on it, deciding on direction since. The church administrators have told us that the building itself wasn’t in bad shape, but the internal systems such as electrical and hot water needed a lot of work.
The church voted on the idea to restore the old building back in May of 2009, and have been working since on raising money, cleaning and gutting the existing building, and remodeling it to acceptable and safe current standards.
Helping the Community
The main purpose of the building is to raise up the surrounding community to a higher economic standing. It will create about 50 new jobs in an area that really doesn’t have much going for it now.
A portion of the building will also go into creating a community center for the neighborhood kids, and will feature a classroom, hangout room, and activities room for engaging the youth. Funding for the community center is being split between the church and local government outreach.
Earning Money for the Church
The other purpose for creating the Thrift store was to create another stream of income for the church. Over the years, as church member age has increased, giving has decreased, so the church has been looking at alternative ways to fundraise for a number of years now.
They initially made the jump into property ownership and rental back in 2005, and have since acquired over 7 new properties in low-income areas that have been converted into prosperous businsses.
So if you are looking for a new (old) pair of pants or shirt, stop on by at the new United Gospel Thrift Shop!