Monday, December 31, 2007

Deep Question: Confidence and Humility

Deep Question: Are confidence and humility mutually exclusive? If they aren't, what do they look like together? I've been thinking about this and am so far undecided . . .

Buy Assets, Not liabilities: Part 2

Hopefully in my last post, I convinced you of the wisdom of buying assets, especially cash producing assets that appreciate. "Yes," you are probably saying, "that does seem smart." So what stops us from getting them? I have a few ideas (many which are part of my own experience).

1. Fear. Most of us are scared of the unknown (how do I buy an asset?). We are also afraid of "taking a step back" in our lifestyle, afraid of explaining to our family/friends that we are changing our lifestyle to be wiser with our wealth, afraid of making a risk, and afraid of living life without all the luxuries that we are used to. Borrowing large amounts of money to buy a property (or stocks or a small business) seems terrifying. I think its terrifying not to borrow the money to buy something that will actually make you money instead of just draining your account! What will retirement look for you when you are no longer working?

2. Discipline. Most of us are not disciplined enough to say "no" to an impulse buy, a beautiful car, a night out with the girls/guys, that trip to the Mexico. We are convinced that we need these things and that we deserve them. We also believe that we couldn't possibly save money for an investment. The truth is that it takes discipline to save, work extra hard so you have something to invest with, and study to find good deals/assets to buy. Bill Hybels defines discipline as "delayed gratification." You delay getting what you could get now so that you can reap the massive benefits later.

3. Disbelief. Sometimes, we cannot believe that buying assets really will make the average person wealthier. Or even more common, we can't believe that it could actually make me wealthier (other people yes, me - no). These people cannot imagine themselves doing what so many others are. You can show it to them on paper, simple mathematics, but they can't see it. They are like the dwarf's at the end of C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle." The Dwarfs get transported to paradise, but all they can see is the dirty old stable they used to be in. They will not allow their worldview to be changed.

4. Analysis paralysis. This one is often a problem with me. There are a lot of people out there who can see the wisdom of buying assets. They read up on the topics, go to seminars, talk about it with their friends. They spend hours analyzing properties, investments, or businesses. But they never act on this information! I was here. I was telling all of my friends for two years they should buy real estate but I didn't actually buy any myself. Then one day Jobina told me that one of these friends I had been talking to, a guy named Keith, actually took my advice and went and bought a rental property. He took action and I hadn't! I got so mad at myself that I called my realtor and said "We are buying a property by the end of this month!" Finally, I had the motivation. A few weeks later we bought our first rental property. I had moved from analysis to action.

5. Excuses. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. What are your excuses? "I don't have any money to spare." "I'm in debt." "I don't want to fix plug toilets at three in the morning." "Stocks are to unpredictable." "I'm not the investor type." "It's not the right time." "Maybe in a few years, but not right now." "I've heard that we are in a bubble." As a counselor I know that if we don't want to do something, we can come up with tons of justification to not do it. And don't get me wrong, I don't think that everyone should be investing in assets, some people just aren't emotionally/intellectually cut out for it. Or they may be in a poor situation at the moment that won't allow them to. But the truth is that most people can and should invest in something. It's called being a good steward of the resources that God has given you. What excuses do you cling to? Are they justified?

These are just some of the things that hold us back. You could probably think of more. I think that the best way to get into buying assets is to buy an asset that:

1. You understand how it will make you money (the intellectual appeal).
2. Enjoy the thought of owning/maintaining (the emotional appeal).
3. Isn't too risky or won't destroy you financially if it doesn't go well. (the risk level appeal).
4. Other wise people you know think is a good investment (the safety check appeal).

It's New Year's Eve today. Why not make a goal to purchase at least one cash producing asset in the next six months? Maybe something small, maybe big. I know you'll be glad you did. Happy New Year.

May Light increase!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Buy Assets, Not liabilities: Part 1

I should start this post by saying that I am not a professional financial guide by any means. So take everything that I say with a grain (or two!) of salt. Yet in my limited financial education I have come across some things that I think are helpful, perhaps even wise, and I'd like to share them.

When I was in high school I had a friend who's Dad was a teacher. Now most teachers aren't rich but they usually aren't poor either, earning a fairly good salary. What fascinated me about this teacher is that although I'm sure he could afford to purchase a fairly decent newer car, he always had a fairly old car. But he had a very nice house. At the time I thought, man, if I was him I'd get a much nicer, newer, and more expensive car, and live in a more modest house. This made more sense to me.

Today, I realize how smart that teacher was. He was choosing to put the lion share of his money into an asset, while I would have put it into a liability. Let me explain.

In simple terms, anything that can puts money, or income, into your pocket is classified as a financial asset. Different people define assets differently, but most would agree that the following are examples of them: real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement funds, bank accounts, debts owed to you. Liabilities are anything that takes money out of your pocket. Liabilities include: mortgages, car loans, credit card balance due, school loans, personal loans, taxes. The typical amount you pay on each of these liabilities is considered your expense related to that liability. Your bank might consider things like a car, boat, or timeshare to be an asset, but they aren't really. They take money out of your pocket and the longer you hold onto them, the less value they have. Eventually they will be worth nothing. Really, they aren't a good use of your money (essential as some might be sometimes).

Buying an appreciating asset is always a better choice then taking on debt to buy a depreciating asset (a liability). People who are wealth-wise buy things (assets) that will make them money, not liabilities that will cause them to lose money. My friend's father made a better decision. By buying an older vehicle, he used the money he saved to buy a home that was more expensive and thus would appreciate more (which it has).

Let's take it a step further. Real estate, though I think isa great investment, is technically not an asset until you sell it. That is unless it is a cash producing real estate. For instance, a rental property that produces $300 in profit a month after expenses would be a cash producing asset.

Let's say a person needs a car. She has the choice between buying a $30,000 car and buying a $10,000 car. The $30,0000 car will steadily depreciate (around $400 a month or so) even as you are paying $400 a month for it and in ten years it will be worth around $7,000. On the other hand you can purchase a less expensive car for $10,000 but put the other $20,000 into a down payment on a rental property. Here in Winnipeg, you could buy a rental property for $80,000 with $20,000 down. If you do your homework you can buy a modest duplex for this much which might cashflow $150 a month after your expenses. In 10 years you will make about $18,000 in monthly cashflow plus your house value will most likely at least double (to $160,000). Total profit at the end of the 10 years is $18,000 in rents + $80,000 in appreciation = $98,000. Sound too good to be true? It's not. It's the power of putting money into appreciating assets, not liabilities. Where are you putting your money into? Hope this is helpful for someone. . .

May Light increase!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Count Rugen: Ah. Are you coming down into the pit? Wesley's got his strength back. I'm starting him on the machine tonight.
Prince Humperdinck: [sincerely] Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped.
Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything.

(The Princess Bride)

"If you haven't got your health, then you have got anything." Not sure where this quote originally comes from but I was thinking about it a week ago. You see, I had just spent a good part of my "Westman" Christmas vomiting or fighting back the urge to vomit. It is amazing how when you are ill how little you can really enjoy other things. Seriously. At the time I remember thinking how my upset stomach was affecting everything. Here I was at one of my favorite parts of the year and I could not take joy from even the simplest pleasures. It reminded of the above quote and I realized how true it is.

Unlike during a bout of nausea, we aren't always conscious of how necessary good health is. A man ingests copious amounts of sugar without much thought until one day he is told he has diabetes. A woman leads an exerciseless existence until the doctor informs her she has heart problems. Maintaining ones body is always one of the easiest things to not make a priority - until it breaks down. Then it becomes a priority, a big one!

I have not been maintaining my body too well these past few years. I'm not stretching, do almost no aerobic exercise or strength training, don't get enough sleep, eat poorly, etc, etc. My body is starting to sound the alarm and I have to choose to make changes. What changes do you know you need to make? What's stopping you? Prioritizing my health is a rediscovered concept for me. Wish me luck!

May Light increase!

Friday, December 28, 2007

And . . . We're Back

Happy Holidays everyone! The Westman's have just returned from a whirlwind trip to Gimli and Alberta to spend some serious relaxing time with family. I hope everyone's Christmas was good. We are now in the recovery mode, but stay tuned for more exciting blog topics to come!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best Girl/Boy In Sight: Part 2

(I'm a little worried that some of this may come out wrong, but I'm going to try anyway . . .)

Balancing our natural inclination to look for the best looking girl/guy in the room with our need to control it can be tricky. If you go too far towards “accepting” BGIS then you run the risk of embracing it and harming yourself and others. As an example, I have met people who tell me “Oh yeah, I tell my wife all the time when I’ve met and am attracted to other women. It’s natural!” Rarely does this have great effects on a spouse, especially if they are insecure! If need to mention this to your mate (and others!) or feel it's your "right," it’s probably a sign that BGIS is problematic for you.

If you go to the other extreme and go too far in “over controlling it” you may be attempting to repress natural drives and pile guilt on self/others. Think about it, if you try to deaden yourself to beauty in/attraction with others, it might begin to deaden your ability to be attracted to the person you want to be attracted to. A second problem with "over controlling" BGIS is that in attempting to over control it you may be guilty of punishing behavior, either inflicted on self or others. "You think she's beautiful, don't you?" The woman mistakenly believes that her man should not find attractive women, well . . . attractive. Somehow he should be a great judge of beauty when it comes to her, but be blind when it comes to other women! This is totally irrational. Such a guy is put in a double bind. If he says "yes, she is beautiful," the woman gets upset. If he says "No dear, she's not" he is a liar . What's worse? When a person (male or female) often makes these kind of comments, BGIS is a problem for them.

So what does balance look like? It's tricky. Personally (and this is just for me), this is my approach. I try not to check out women, but if I do notice someone is beautiful, I note it to myself and move on. And if I’m in a situation where I’m tempted to linger over someone's beauty (yes, this is reality) then it is my responsibility to exit the situation. I almost never mention noticing other women's beauty to others, but I also won't lie if someone asks me directly about it. I just won't dwell on it. Lastly, (and I want to do much better at this), I'm trying to express my attraction to my wife to her and let her know how beautiful I think she is. Many times throughout the day I will find her striking but often don't verbalize it. I should! The way she looks, moves, smells, and sounds captivates me and she ought to know about it. Partners should know when, where, why, and how other person is attracted to them. It's good for both parties.

The application here for counselors is to look for signs of BGIS and help clients to dispute and change their irrational thinking/behaviors about it. For teens and young adults, being aware of BGIS and your ability to control it (not over control it) is huge. Also, stay away from potential mates who exhibit this kind of thinking and make no progress in changing it. The chances they will eventually break things off with you are huge!

I should also note that just because you are dating/engaged and you are thinking that maybe you should get out of the relationship does not necessarily mean you are giving in to BGIS. It could mean that you are realizing that the person you are with is not right for you, has too many problems, or that maybe you aren’t ready for commitment. Self-awareness is the key here. Are you breaking it off because of something important that is lacking in the other person or are you breaking it off because it off because you are enamoured with someone else’s good looks? Only you can know for sure. If you are confused though, talk it out with someone who is wise. You’ll figure it out.

Anyway, that's the theory and my thoughts on it. I'm curious about what others think.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Girl/Boy In Sight: Part 1

I've been meaning to post on this idea for awhile now and I've finally got the time. A few years ago my friend Dayna was with a drama/evangelism team called LifeFORCE and she told me that she learned about this theory in her bootcamp training. LifeFORCE in an intense experience; small teams of actors go out and spend a week in a place doing outreach dramas and developing relationships with the students in the area. LifeFORCE has a "no dating" rule for it's team members. In other words, relationships starting on teams creates an exclusive relationship which throws off team dynamics and is a major distraction for the team and the couple. Many ministries (and buisnesses) have similar rules.

Anyway, to help the LifeFORCErs cope with the inevitable attractions that occur on such teams, they were taught about the principles of BGIS and OGIS (Best guy/girl in sight.... ONLY guy/girl in sight). Basically the theory is that when you are in a group setting (even if it is a non-official group like a bunch of friends) you will always pick out the BGIS or OGIS.

For the most part I agree that BGIS occurs. It seems especially strong in adolescence. The basic drive is to find that person, to impress that person, possibly even to mate with that person. As long as you are aware that this is simply a way of thinking, it is manageable and even good (after all we were designed for relationship, romance, etc). Problems can occur though:

1. A person can't stay committed to any one person. They are always chasing the next BGIS. They believe that since they find someone more attractive then the person they have (something that inevitably must happen), they must cheat on or dump the person they are with and pursue the new one.
2. Counselors, doctors, etc who do a lot of one on one work (and are in a position of power/responsibility/authority over others) end up pursuing their clients. Always destructive.
3. Younger persons moving into marriage. They are confused because they are in love with their fiancee but find themselves attracted to and distracted by others. Guilt and indecision haunt them.

I talked to one guy in the above situation. He asked me what I thought he should do. I told him "stop checking out other women!" I saw him as a good guy who was trying to hold onto his old beliefs and patterns of BGIS. Just because you notice other attractive people does not mean that you are:
-powerless to stop from pursuing them mentally or physically
-not supposed to marry the person you are committed to

The next time I talked to him he was engaged and at peace. He realized that BGIS didn't have to rule his life. He didn't try to believe that he he was a bad person for noticing other women, but he stopped "checking them out" and adding fuel to a fire that he didn't need. He committed to his fiance (now wife) and is happily married. Handling BGIS and OGIS is one of those essential life skills that can mean the difference between happiness and broken dreams. More on this later . . .

May Light increase!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Riker: Future UFC Champion

Today after supper my son Riker was pretty rambunctious and started attacking me. Sometimes this kind of violence-towards-one's-father stuff bugs me, but not today. I was showing him some moves and basically pummeling him and of course he always comes back for more (even against my patented Westman choke (TM) and my Chuck Norris like spinning back kick. Anyway, I was showing him some karate when the following exchange took place:

Mark: See Riker? It's all in the hips. That's where the power is in karate. Maybe someday when you get the whole "karate is for self defence only" thing a bit better, we can get you karate lessons. Or maybe even mixed martial arts?

Riker: Yeah, mix it up baby!

Just the way he said it, so smoothly and cooly, I could suddenly see him in a ring 20 years from now. There was both a feeling of excitement (my son will rock people!) and fear (by boy could get hurt!). Whether he takes up martial arts as a career or not, I know that I have to learn that I cannot save him from this world and it's hurts. He will experience joy and suffering just like any other person. I'd like to protect him but I can't. Hopefully he'll learn to roll with the punches and trust God to be his strength and his shield. And hopefully I will get many more years of pummeling him before he's big enough to do it to me!

May Light increase!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote: Jack Handey on Criticism

Quote: Jack Handey on Criticism

"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Horror, The Horror

Today I have to do a 12-15 page paper for my Biblical Foundations class. So far, it is killing me. Why you ask? Here is an abridged description of the assignment:

Select two commentators on thh Psalms, one of which should be a pre-modern commentator (possible pre-modern commentators: Calvin, Jerome, etc. Possible modern/post-modern commentators: Walter Brueggeman, John Eaton, James L. Mays, C.S. Lewis). Compare the two commentator's interpretative approaches, using extensive examples form their work. Discuss, using the examples from the commentators: (1) the methods they use to interpret the Psalms (e.g., allegory, historical critical, canonical); (2) the concerns (e.g., historical, ethical, doctrinal, etc) and purposes (e.g. exhortation, Christology, etc) that become apparent as they interpret, and (3) how (if at all) you find the commentators assist you in your personal reading of the Psalms.

No doubt for OT guys like my friend Tim this would be considered an elementary assignment but for me it is just short of impossible. So far I have 3 pages and no idea what I am doing. Anyway, whatever is on your plate of of difficult things to do, I hope seeing what I have to do (today!) makes you feel better.

By the way, anyone know where the quote I used in the title of this post comes from?

May Light increase!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cool Idea: Dissapearing Car Doors

This is such an incredibly great idea, I am stunned. Kudos to whoever thought outside the box on this one.

May Light increase!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Joy Of Dating

Reframe: To revise something in light of new information or a new way of thinking.

A couple of years ago I noticed something. If I asked Jobina if she wanted to go out to dinner and a movie she would usually be happy. But if I asked her if I could take her out on a "date" , her reaction was significantly better! Same thing, different wording, much different results. Somehow, the idea of going on a date seemed to be powerful thing to her. Later on, I realized it was a powerful for me as well. I thought about the event differently and then acted differently (hopefully in a good way!).

In counseling we refer to the process of reframing as a way to to find a different meaning for an experience or situation. As an example, for a woman feeling anxiety about her new job, a counselor might suggest reframing in a more positive light, as say feeling really excited about it. Reframing helps people to not just think about the negative of something that's happened to them, but focus on the positive instead. Or, in the case of me taking Jobina out on a date, it's helpful in that it takes something positive and puts it into an even more positive light.

So what is it about dating, that makes it so attractive? I'm guessing the answer is different for everyone. For most people though, it is time set aside for the two of you. It's also a time for fun, romance, and reconnecting. When I take my wife out for a date I'm telling her that she is special, desired, and important. Even if I suggest we have a date night at home, Jobina's mood picks up. The idea of dating is very special in our house. I'm not sure if reframing certain things as dating would work well for everyone, but I suggest you try it. Dating is very natural when people are getting to know each other, but it often (usually?) will fall by the wayside after marriage. Taking time to be together for the purpose of connecting is extremely good for any relationship. And to call a night out together "a date" just adds to the pleasure of it. And it doesn't always have to be men asking the women either. Women, invite your mate out on a date every now and then and eventually you'll find him reciprocating.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Woody Allen Interviews Billy Graham?

This seems rather bizarre until you see it:

To me this is classic Billy, standing up for what he believes in, but in a mostly gentle and inviting way. He truly was a master of evangelism, tactful and yet strong at the same time.

Billy Graham: "Maybe you could give me some ideas on how to give up coffee?"

May Light increase!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Breaking Down

Lately it seems that lots of stuff has been breaking down at the Westman's. Our back door knob broke on Sunday, our old computer was on the fritz, and our rental property has had a string of things needing repairs. Other stuff has been breaking too. Today though was a killer blow. Our 92 Camry (a gift from my parents and a wonderful second vehicle) was turning itself off after starting sometimes so I thought I'd better make a car appointment (it was way behind on it's oil changes too). Since it wasn't reliable to drive I got it towed to my neighbor Wade's shop. However, when he tried to start it at the shop, the engine completely ceased up! When they checked the oil there was almost none there (and the oil that was present wasn't in good shape). What happened? I'm not totally sure but as Wade diplomatically put it, the most probable conclusion is that it died from "neglect." Ouch.

This was terrible news, mostly because it seems that the death of the Camry was premature (and probably preventable). I literally felt sick, like I had killed it myself (and perhaps I did). Don't get me wrong, this vehicle had over 365,000 km, had lots of rust, and was louder then a Harley so it's not like it had not had a long and useful life and was nearing its end. Yet I had a distinct and ugly feeling that I don't usually feel: shame. I was ashamed that I had not better maintained the car - checked the oil, done regular oil changes, more regular maintenance, etc. It was irresponsible of me. Letting my parents know was the worst though, I shan't easily forget that experience. "Humbled" doesn't seem to describe it powerfully enough.

The only positive I can get from the situation is that I just taught myself a powerful lesson. Hopefully I won't forget it. And if you are like me and are putting off doing some maintenance on your vehicle, a word of advice: get it fixed as soon as possible!

R.I.P Camry, 1992-2007.

May Light increase!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Secondary Trauma

Vicarious traumatization (or secondary trauma) can be experienced by a counselor who works with traumatized individuals, whether they work with victims of child maltreatment, domestic violence, victims of torture, or victims of large-scale disasters. "Vicarious traumatization is the process through which the therapist’s inner experience is negatively transformed through empathic engagement with clients’ trauma material" (Pearlman and Saakvitne, 1995, p. 279). For example, a therapist may experience nightmares related to events in which they have heard graphic details. They may experience fear, may have concerns about their own safety, or they may feel compelled to question own their life experiences or their own vulnerabilities after hearing the stories of survivors.

This whole idea of vicarious trauma is disturbing to me. Hearing people's stories of horror eventually will affect you, whether you are counselor or not. I'm afraid of this, even though I know it will happen in some way or another to me. In my opinion, the more traumatized your clients are, the less clients you should be seeing. It is not a case of being "mentally/emotionally strong enough" to take the stories people tell you. Everyone eventually has their limit on how much they can endure hearing. Every time you hear a story of evil or suffering or incredible pain, it changes you a little. Maybe it shouldn't, but eventually it will. Your ideas about good, love, God, and the nature of the world become different.

I wonder if most counselors don't consider the effect this kind of stuff will have on them and plan accordingly. My personal plan to protect myself involves these factors:

1. An emotionally balanced client load. I want to have a good mix of in-crisis couples, couples not in crisis but wanting better marriages, and couples in pre-marital counseling. Is this realistic? It is if I choose to make it a priority!
2. Not doing more then 25 sessions a week.
3. Maintaining hobbies and interests (passions) outside of work.
4. Spending lots of time with family and friends.
5. Making my relationship with God a priority.
6. Regular vacations and off time.
7. Sports and physical exercise.

I can already tell that this will be incredibly difficult. If you are a counselor, helping professional, minister, or even a helpful friend, take my advice. If you see the warning signs, take action! Change something! Drop some clients, drop some hours, take a vacation, take a leave of absence/sabbatical, or go talk with someone. There is always someone else who can take your position if necessary (why does it have to be you - don't you think God is big enough to send someone else to take care of those you are helping?). How can you help others if you yourself are in desperate need of help? May God help all of us to care for others and to care for ourselves even more (so that we can truly be of help to others).

May Light increase!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Peace And Feeling Unwise

This post is probably not like my usual ones. It may not make sense. It doesn't really make sense to me . . .

For the past little while I have been slowly coming to a conclusion that is both painful and freeing; I know very little. Any wisdom I thought I may have had is barely wisdom at all. I have spent the last weeks reading through Proverbs and also reading through The Way Of The Wild Heart. The conclusion that I have coming to in my mind and heart is a profound feeling of unknowing, of not understanding. Strangely, this feeling isn't alarming. Instead I think I am sensing a little about what true humility is, not the the helplessness of feeling small and unconfident nor the struggle to control one's powerful ego. The kind of humility I'm feeling is more an acceptance of how one is compared to true wisdom, true knowledge, and God himself and how all that I do know and experience is a gift from Him. Not sure where this will go, but that's where I'm at right now . . .

May Light increase!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Narnia: Prince Caspian Trailer

The trailer for the new Narnia movie just came out, so here it is for any Chronicles of Narnia fans out there. Looks a little more violent then the last movie. What do you think?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do We Need Sunday School Anymore?

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
- Proverbs 22:6

Do we need Sunday School anymore? Contrary to people’s belief, it’s only existed for about 275 years. It was started for very for specific reasons which no longer exist. As far as church technologies go, is it still relevant? Or necessary? In Jewish synagogues, there was no Sunday school, instead adults were taught how to teach children. How have we gotten to the point where we consider the spiritual teaching to be the responsibility of the church instead of parents? As parents we need to consider Sunday school to be a great secondary place of spiritual teaching.

Parents ask yourself this: If your church had no Sunday school, how would this affect how you teach your kids about God (or how you would like to be teaching them)? Personally I admit that the existence of Sunday school probably makes me lazy in how I bring up my kids in the faith. I’d like to change that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Sunday school a lot when I was a kid and I enjoy the peace in Church it gives me now. I just wonder if one of the effects of it is that it tempts parents to abdicate their positions as faith teachers as well. And if they are, do the pluses of Sunday School outweigh this glaring negative?

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007


I’ve decided that I’m going to push through and attempt to graduate in the spring. To do this I’m going to have to work very, very hard. The thought of all this hard work makes me very . . . sad. I’ll tell you why. Partially it is because much of the work I’ll be doing I don’t enjoy. For instance, I ABSOLUTELY HATE doing papers. Also, some courses I’m taking not because I want to but because they are required (and I have foolishly left them til the end). This does not make me happy. Complicating this is that I am suffering one of the worst bouts of procrastination that I’ve ever had. Seriously, feel free to pray for me.

I think alot. I was once filling out out this survey and one of the questions was about how often I think about “deep issues” about life and existence: never, occasionally, sometimes, or often. I think about these topics many times a day! Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve sacrificed to get this degree I’m working on done. Is it worth it? I’ve sacrificed:

1. My body. Seriously, I am in the worst shape of my life. I have aged like 8 years in 3. Not good.

2. My friendships. It’s hard to put time into relationships when you’ve only got 1 or 2 nights a week free . . . luckily this has recently gotten better as I’ve dropped my work hours substantially.

3. My pride. I was the leader of two large ministry teams (a camp and a youth ministry). Now? I’m a student and a waiter. This was deeply and profoundly humbling.

4. Family/romantic time. I hate having to tell my kids or my wife that I can’t hang out with them because I have to go to work or do a paper. I really hate that.

5. My passions. The outdoors, relationship coaching, mentoring. All of these passions of mine are still there, but seem like a distant memory as I have almost no time to devote to them.

6. My material posesions. We haven’t really had enough time, energy, and especially money to maintain what we’ve got and it’s starting to show. Our house and cars need serious work!

7. My relationship with God. For me, when I’m tired (my usual experience these days) it’s hard to connect with God. Also, my heart is crying out for a few days alone with him, but I don’t know when I can find the time to get away.

If I could do it all again, would I do it the same way? No! Of course not, I have learned. I would stretch my three year degree over 4 or 5 years. Ironically, the degree that I’m working so hard for will probably not be last learning I undergo as the degree is somewhat lacking in the main area I wanted training in; working with couples. But don’t feel sorry for me, I have chosen my fate. But it doesn’t mean I can’t learn from my experience though! The past few years have been both tough and great at the same time. I look forward to graduating. People keep asking me what I’m going to do afterwards. I have no idea, but I think it will start with some rest.

May Light increase!

The Silly Things Christians Say

Some times Christians say the most outrageous things. Often they do a lot of harm to others, but other times they just make you laugh. Steve Marrs at The View From Marrs has a classic post called Top 10 Things Heard By Christians. Here's one of them:

9. “Well your communion is not valid in the eyes of Christ. It is merely a Sunday snack, a disgraceful mocking of what our Lord did on the cross.”

Said to me by another pastor upon finding out our church auditorium did not have the communion elements displayed on a table up front that said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Check out the post and if you have time, check out the comments where people tell some of their own stories (one of my own is near the end). If you weren't convinced that Christians are fallible, you will be after reading this!

This begs, the question: why would I post something that shows such an ugly part of the Christian experience? A couple of reasons; first the truth must be told if we are to fix what is lacking. Secondly, for those who have wounded, may they see that others have as well and that it is not OK or normal. And thirdly (and quite honestly), some of this is just really entertaining.

May Light increase!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Why Aren't You Blogging?

I was looking at my "friends and fellow thinkers" section on the side of my blog and it made me sad. First I was sad because some of these blogs are almost never updated and I fear that I will have to remove them ("dead" blogs are not cool to have on one's blogroll). Secondly I was sad because I'd love to add more blogs of people I know but there aren't a lot out there. I find it interesting that many people are smarter, funnier, and can write way better then me but they don't have a blog. Why not? It takes like 10 minutes to start one. And you don't have to write something everyday. It seems that a lot of my friends would have fantastic blogs (which I could learn from) if they'd only give it a try.

Starting and maintaining a blog does have some drawbacks (mostly in time and mental energy spent). But here are some reasons why you might want to try it:

1. It's not the "cool" thing to do anymore. The people who jumped onto the bandwagon exited it first for myspace and then facebook. Think of blogging as pleasantly retro, like the 80's!
2. It's a great way to journal your life, thoughts, ideas, pictures, music, etc.
3. It's a great way to "sharpen the saw" of your creativity.
4. It keeps people up to date and lets them know you are alive.
5. It's a great way to learn how to present your thoughts/ideas/feelings publicly and learn to expose yourself to feedback (the real way to achieve growth in anything).
6. Do you like getting mail? That's how it feels anytime someone leaves a comment.
7. You will meet new people with interesting lives and opinions.
8. Some 2006 bloggin stats:

* 8% of consumers (12 million US adults) keep a blog, up from 7% last year.
* 39% of consumers (57 million US adults) read blogs, up from 27% last year.

Anyway, I challenge you to try it. Anyone up for it?

May Light increase!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Poem: “The Road Less Taken”

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Taken.” May it inspire you today.

The Road Less Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Dressing Up For Church?

My poor wife. She is a beautiful woman, quite striking really. Not only that, but she has a striking sense of artistic understanding and style. She knows what looks good and what doesn't. An occasion to dress up is a time for her to use her natural gifts and abilities. One occasion to dress up (for many people) is church. Sadly she married me, a man who has little in the way of style and despises dressing up for church. Because her sense of style says that she can't dress up to much if I don't (something to do with "matching" or some strange concept like that). Thus, she is forced to dress down, against her better wishes.

I find people's view on what is acceptable or good to wear to church very interesting and usually bound by what they experienced as a child (and wether they rebelled against it). I'm also amazed at how some people, if they are quite honest about it, admit to being very aware of what they and others are wearing in church. My thought: who cares? Most people fall into one of two camps; "dress up" or "dress down." Each has good arguments. The "dress up" types believe that going to church is a special occasion and to show God honor. To not do so is not just to show disrespect for those around you but to show disrespect to God himself! When we present ourselves to God, we ought to present our best. Or something like that.

Personally, I fall into the other camp, the "dress down" or "dress comfortable" types. If I dress up I feel like I'm trying to impress people and it distracts me. Also, if I dress up and I think I look good, I could be distracted by thoughts of how awesome I look! This too is not good for a focused worship experience. Also, as mentioned before, there are a lot of people who are way to aware of how everyone looks. Somehow this seems wrong to me, shouldn't we be trying our best to not focus on ourselves and those around us? Jealousy, coveting, disdain, feelings of superiority, worrying about our looks, etc., these are things I'd like to save for another day, thank you very much.

I'm also quite lazy and find dressing nicely takes more time then simply choosing a pair of jeans and a shirt, grabbing my Bible and heading for the door. It's a rare day if it takes me more then one minute to choose what I'm going to wear in the morning. I guess my motto(s) would be "come as you are" and "humble thyself in the sight of the Lord." I know that I can never understand the other side of the fence (those who feel it honors God to dress up), but I can understand their viewpoint. I wonder what the breakdown is "dress downers" to "dress uppers?" Check out my poll on the sidebar and we'll find out.

May Light Increase!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Rapture Song

HT to JollyBlogger for this:

More Thoughts on "Poisoned"

A little while ago I wrote 2 posts called "Poisoned" in which I talked about what happens when we develop a poisoned view of someone and how that affects us. One of my good friend J sent me an email and I thought his words were wise, but I had forgotten to publish them. Anywhere, here they are:

regarding your poisoned post: This is an interesting post Mark.

A few thoughts and what not that I have gathered have been from a different stand point but may draw interesting parallels to your thoughts.
From a sales stand point. Which may or may not be more manipulative, but likely just the same. Customers that are the most aggressive and the most pushy tend to get under the sales guys nerves. What happens eventually is that the customer is pushed aside, and when he comes into the store he is ignored, perhaps even abused. He becomes a bit of a joke after a while. Inevitably it becomes a senior staffs responsibility to deal with them. In the church this would equate to the elders or the more patient members to look after or counsel him.

Something interesting happens when you change your attitude towards these problem people / customers. They become very loyal to you. Once you change your attitude your brain creates anti body's to the undesirables present in your interactions. Rather than a chore, it becomes a pleasure dealing with them. Knowing that you have that special touch that can calm the beast. You learn to take their misgivings with a grain of salt and still get to milk them for the money that they want/need/ or you want them to spend. Not sure exactly how the 'milking' part moves over into real life but I'm sure it does somewhere.

Anyways... thanks for the thoughts.
Catch ya later.

"J" might never say this about himself, but he is truly an excellent salesman. He is in the top 1% of his field. I find myself buying from him even when I know he is using those powers on me! His insight on changing his attitude towards people (and how that profits him) shows why he is so good. Learn from him!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Really Strange Dream

Last night I had a strange dream. It wasn't really coherent and I can't remember most of it, but I thought I'd share what I remember seeing and feeling. First of all, it began with me and some other people making a "fort" in my parent's back 40. It was pretty basic, made up of old boards (like from a fence). I dreamed that for some reason my Dad and I were going to go out there and stay overnight. Suddenly it was winter and we were both congratulating ourselves on how tough we were to winter camp and how other people weren't as tough as us.

Everything went hazy for awhile and then instead of going out to the fort, I was going out to a cabin on a lake. To get to the cabin we (my friends and I) had to canoe down a long river to get to the lake, then we had to hug the edge of the lake until we got to the cabin. For some reason my friend Kenton came after us in his own canoe a little while later with two dogs. I was very concerned the two dogs would fight with another dog that was already there but they didn't. I was also concerned that after such a long journey I had forgotten the keys. Somehow while I was worrying about this someone opened the door and went inside. When I went around the back of the cabin to explore I discovered that there was a road about 20 feet in back of the cabin and we could have just driven right up to it. This made me angry; angry because it was could have so much easier to get there and angry because we were no longer as isolated in the wilderness as I had hoped (ironically I was angry at both things at the same time).

Somehow it was brought to my attention that I was suffering from some debilitating disease that was slowly inhibiting one side of my body from working. Thus I was walking strangely, talking strangely, and I began considering my own mortality (as well as my lack of compassion for those with similar diseases in the past). I remember feeling overwhelmed with the knowledge that I had an untreatable disease and that I couldn't do what I was used to doing. Sad, I went outside to think.

Outside, I noticed a creek beside our cabin with people swimming in it. The water was not as clear as the lake's, but it looked warmer and more inviting. I swam around for awhile noticing the fish and crayfish in the creek. There was some sort of structure in the middle which I climbed up on sat on, thinking about my future and thinking about how short men's lives can be. Slowly, I began to accept my lot in life and I began to relax.

Then I woke up. It was morning and the children were climbing all over me. It took me a moment to realize that I did not actually have this disease and that I wasn't at the cabin. I felt relieved, yet sad that this wonderful place I was at didn't really exist, except in my dreams.

So . . . what do you think? Think it's significant? Ever had a weird dream like this?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Football is Better Than What??

There is a cook who I work with at OG who likes to try to shock me with his messed up thoughts, perversion, bigotry, and general nonsense. A few days ago he asked me if I was excited about the big football game coming up. I said I was, but that I had only just lately started enjoying "The Game" and that really I’m kind of a bandwagon Bomber’s fan. He looked at me with a look of both disdain and pity. Yeah, I know people like that he said. I told him that he must be a big fan.

Oh, I am, he said, let me put it to you this way: I would rather watch football then have sex. Watching a good football game is better than the climax of lovemaking (OK, he didn't say it like that, I'm editing to keep this blog PG). I looked him in the eye. He was telling the truth! Then he told me that if it was a choice between watching the final game of the CFL or NFL or being present for his first child being born he would choose the game.


I always feel sad when people tell me that sex is not very thrilling to them. I wonder what’s behind that. But seriously, football is better? Or better then being there for the birth of your first child? And is it only men who are guilty of this? I shake my head in wonder.

May Light increase!

Monday, November 26, 2007

If You Could Do Anything . . .

Many people give up acting on their greatest desires and passions. Instead they stifle these desires, believing that they are practical and replacing them with a career that pays the bills but makes them miserable. If you could do anything, anything, and money/skills/time were no object, what would you like to do?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reawakening The Poet

I'm slowly reading through John Eldredge's "The Way of the Wild Heart" when I get time and I'm having an interesting reaction to it. I'm finding that I disagree with a lot of his theology, logic, and impressions of what it means to be a man or woman. And yet, I'm also finding that I am hit on an emotional/faith level hard almost every time I read a part of it. Last night was no exception. Eldredge believes that men naturally ought to go through a few stages in their lives. These consist of the Beloved Son, the Cowboy, the Warrior, the Lover, the King, and the Sage. I was reading about the Lover and found this part impacting on me (I've bolded the parts that stood out to me especially):

The Poetic Awakening

We've heard ad infinitum that men are rational beings, along with the supporting evidence that our brains work differently than do women's, and this is true. Spatial abstractions, logic, analysis - men tend to excel in these because we are more left- then right-brained, and the commissural fibers that connect the two hemispheres appear in women in ratios far higher than in men. Women have an interstate uniting both sides of their brains. Men have a game trail. Thus men tend to compartmentalize, a capacity that allows men to handle the atrocities of war, and administrate justice. It also makes them excellent chess players and auto mechanics.

And yet . . .

I don't buy it. Too many men hide behind reason and logic. A man must grow beyond mere reason, or he will stunted as a man, certainly as a Lover. No woman wants to be analyzed, and many marriages fail because the man insists on treating her as a problem to be solved, rather then a mystery to be known and loved. David was a cunning tactician as a Warrior, but he was also a poet of the first order. Jesus could hold his own in any theological debate, but he is also an artist (the Creator of this world of Beauty) and a poet (by whose Spirit David wrote the Psalms) and a storyteller. When he says, "Consider the lilies of the field," he does mean analyze them, but rather, behold them, take them in, let their beauty speak, for "Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are" (Matt. 6:29 NLT). He appeals to their beauty to show us the love of God.
The Lover is awakened when a man comes to see that the poetic is far truer than the propositional and the analytical, and whatever physiology might say, I've seen it happen in many men.

I came to Christ not because I was looking for a religion, but because I was looking for the Truth, and, having found it, I knew it must be true across the realms of human culture. I yearned for an intellectually defensible case for Christianity, and I found it first in Shaeffer and then in the Reformed writers, to whom I remain very grateful. There are reasons to believe. My head was satisfied, but my heart yearned for something more. While I found logic in my theology (and went to war against my philosophy professor), I was being wooed by Beauty in the mountains and deserts, in literature and music. Why did they bring me closer to God than analysis? Why did the dissection of systematic theology cut all life out the living Word? Then I discovered writers like Oswald Chambers, C.S. Lewis, and his Sage, George MacDonald. Smart men, all of them, quite capable of making a good argument. But that is not the essence of their glory. They speak to the mind, but also to the heart. More so to the heart.

-The Way Of the Wild Heart, John Eldredge, p. 186-187

I like the idea that truth is not just propositional/analytical but poetic as well. If one could just balance both sides of this truth, it would seem to me they would be protected from error and protected from a dead experience of faith as well. I know which truth I lean more towards, the propositional/analytical type but the times I've felt closest to God were when I was briefly experiencing the poetical. I certainly don't agree with much of what Eldredge says, but I found that his words and ideas give me hope for my too-often passionless faith. It seems in many church traditions the people choose either a path of doctrine or a path of experience. Lord God, please give me both.

May Light increase!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Father's Terrible Choice.

What do you think of this video?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Why Do People Treat Their Family Like Garbage?

I was thinking today about how some of the most saintly men often treat their family like garbage. Seriously, to others they are saints but their family knows the truth. I think of people like Gandhi who in many ways treated his wife worse then his political opponents (by his own admission) or Martin Luther King who cheated on his wife repeatedly. Men and women can be so cruel to their spouse, their parents, and their children - all while saving the world. It's frightening actually. For some reason it seems that we can be ruder, angrier, more abusive, and more cruel to those who are closest to us, the very ones we hold to be the most dear. As I get further into people's lives with counseling, I'm seeing it more and more. If it grieves me, it certainly must grieve God.

At least most people. I know that I easily fall into it. I will sometimes give my best time and energy to outside things and neglect my own family. I will show near-Job-like levels of patience and empathy with my clients or ministry team but be grouchy and snap at my wife. Sometimes I can tell my kids need my attention and I brush them off - something I would rarely do with a co-worker. This makes me sad and duly ashamed. I don't accept that somehow I am a different person at home. I am choosing my behavior (like everyone) and sometimes I choose to treat my family really bad.

Why does this happen? One of my theories is that families, in their predisposition for love, loyalty, peacefulness, and grace let a family's members ignorant behavior "go." It is not addressed, challenged, or responded to. The ignorant acting family member gets a subtle message that his /her behavior is OK and they keep on doing it. They don't receive enough of a reaction to stop them from doing it again. And again. . .

The "cure" it seems (according to my theory which I just thought of 5 minutes ago) would be a gracious, yet assertive response. Immediate and appropriate feedback. Something that says, "I love you, but I won't let you treat me/us this way. You need to know this hurts us/me and is unacceptable and if you choose to do it again, there will be consequences." This (I think) would nip a lot of ignorant behavior in the bud. Whether it is rudeness, anger, moodiness, bullying, silent treatment, nagging, striking, additions, unfaithfulness, guilt-tripping, etc., the other family member(s) must not enable the ignorant person's behavior by just letting it go and hoping it will not happen again. Of course, what is "ignorant behavior" is not always black and white, but I think this concept is still useful. I wonder what others think about this.

May Light increase!

Three Interesting Thoughts

Caligynephobia - persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of beautiful women , despite the understanding by the phobic individual and reassurance by others that there is no danger. Don't worry, there is a cure . . .

Building Your Own Castle. Can you build your own castle without engineers, architects, or even know how? The answer is yes. How do I know? Because these guys did it . . .

Internet Addiction Camps - Can you be addicted to the internet? The South Koreans think so, so much that they have a government funded camp to assist addicts in weaning themselves off of it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Ultimate Endorsement

As you may know, in the U.S. there is much political posturing going on as the Democrats and Republicans get ready to choose their next leadership hopefuls to run for the presidency in 2008. Just like here in Canada, leadership hopefuls look for high profile endorsements from influential people, mostly other politicians. Mike Huckabee is a conservative Christian who isn't one of the frontrunners but still has a small shot at becoming the next president of the U.S.A. Huckabee's a smart guy, instead of looking for an endorsement from some cheezy political type, he instead went for the ultimate endorsement:

A good political move on Huckabee's part! If Chuck wants you to vote for Mike, can you really say no (at least say no and not be kicked in the face?). Of course, if the American voters were really smart they would just vote for Chuck Norris. Apparently, this is not so far off as Chuck has mused himself on this very thing. Check out his political "promises" here. Of course, if Chuck Norris decides to run for president, Chuck Norris will be president, that much is obvious. . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Emotion Behind the Emotion

My supervisor is attempting to teach me about emotion. One interesting theory she sent my way is thinking about emotions as either primary or secondary. For instance, anger is a secondary emotion. Thus, when someone comes in complaining about an anger problem, anger would be the secondary emotion so the counselor would look for the primary emotion. "What other emotions did you have? How did you feel before you got angry?"

Think about your own anger. What comes before it? If you are honest with yourself you might find other feelings; pain, disappointment, fear, jealousy, sadness, betrayal, helplessness, etc. Sometimes it helps to find the primary emotion (pain) and deal with that as a way to control their secondary emotion (anger). Once people learn to deal with the primary emotion they find that the secondary one has either decreased alot or disappears.

Luckily as I have no emotions myself, I don't have to worry about such things! OK, maybe that's not totally true. Hope you have an emotionally honest day today . . .

May Light increase!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Anti-Microsoft Rant

As a long time Apple user I naturally have a distaste for the company that is Microsoft. After all, Microsoft stole Apple’s operating system and made a really, really bad copy (Windows 1.0) and eventually took the whole PC market. But my dislike of Microsoft goes much deeper. Today their OS isn’t that bad but their Mac version of Office is just terrible. Unlike almost any of my other programs, this one gives me serious grief every time I use it. Weird things happen and it seems to need all of the processor to do even simple tasks. The ugliness of the interface makes me mad too. Last night (early this morning) I spent two hours trying to reformat a Word document so it would look right. Two hours! Finally I gave up. OK Microsoft, you win. I would do anything to free myself from the clutches of Office. Office is the only Microsoft product I am forced to suffer on my computer. The only exception to my anti-Microsoft feelings is Xbox. And the only reason grace is given to them is because they bought an all Apple software game company (called Bungie) to make decent games for them (anyone heard of Halo?). Yes, Halo was originally going to be developed for the Mac. But I digress . . .

My hate of Microsoft is so bad now that I can feel it in my body. Yes, my fellow counseling students, my self-awareness grows! Once in Human Development class I could feel this nausea in the pit of my stomach and I didn’t know what it was. Then I realized it. I was watching my poor professor trying to work Microsoft Powerpoint using a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse! This exercise in complete futility put together with just looking at powerpoint (ugh) in the hopelessly unelegant Windows environment (arghh) was literally making me ill! I looked frantically around the room for a piece of technology that worked well. Alas, none was to be found. Finally I just put my head down and stared at my binder and thought of happy thoughts, like my cute little MacBook. Apple isn’t perfect, but at least they don’t make me angry and nauseous.

A Wise Ruling

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. "During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne."

The other woman said, "No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours." But the first one insisted, "No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine." And so they argued before the king. The king said, "This one says, 'My son is alive and your son is dead,' while that one says, 'No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.' "

Then the king said, "Bring me a sword." So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other."
The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" But the other said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!" Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother."

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

- This story about Solmon is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. The image is a woodcut by Matthaeus Merian the Elder from the late 1500's.

The Wisdom (and Folly) of Solomon

One of my favorite, absolute favorite people to read about in the Bible is Solomon. To me, King Solomon has been a role model. God asked him what he wanted and instead of asking for riches or long life, the man asks for wisdom to rule his people. That's my kind of guy! Evidently God was happy with is answer and blessed him and his kingdom in ways that were never seen before and never seen again. Solomon's Israel enjoyed peace, renown, and prosperity (silver was seen as almost without value in Solomon's reign because gold was so abundant).

The books that record Solomon's wisdom (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) blow me away with their depth of insight. If you have never read them, I encourage you to. All of the secrets necessary to living life to its fullest are there. Many say Ecclesiastes is negative ("meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless") but I enjoy it's frank and truthful view of life. When I was a camp director, I used to have to let in the cabins for meals. I tried to console the last cabin let in by giving them a "nugget" of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs (ex/"A truthful answer is like a kiss on the lips."). In many ways, wisdom is one of the greatest things you can give or receive. Wisdom, true wisdom, has the potential to transform people's lives - if it is acted upon of course.

But recently rereading the story of Solomon again I think that I have finally seen the other side to wisdom. As good as it is, it will not stop a person from sinning. Perhaps I have been idealizing it. Solomon allowed his many wives (oh yes, he had many!) to lead him into the sin of idolatry. Solomon started well (extremely well actually) but finished poorly. Wisdom is not a guarantee to a life well lived. It is a good start, but must be matched with something else; obedience. Wisdom is something I long for and will pursue my entire life, but I know that it is not enough. I need to act on it. My big prayer is that God will give me faith, love, and wisdom. And the grace to apply them.

My wish for you today is that you have the wisdom of Solomon and the obedience of Jesus. By the way, the image is an artist's rendition of Solmon's Temple.

May Light increase!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Congrats Bombers!

I'm not usually a big Bomber Fan but I've jumped on the bandwagon and am cheering them on to win the Grey Cup. Go Bombers!

Why is it that guys can get so into sports? Seriously, it becomes an obsession for so many. Maybe even an addiction? I wonder if obsession with sports is due to the noble aspects (team, sacrifice, giving 100%, etc) or the negative aspects (violence, power, exclusivity, etc)? Or maybe it's just a way for people to procrastinate or ignore the relationships/life circumstances around them that aren't going well. Sports widows are a joke, but not for the widows. Just some random thoughts . . .

May Light increase!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Honoring the Patriarch

Last night after Trinity's birthday celebrations, we went to Winnipeg Evangelical Free Church to hear my grandfather speak. The church is celebrating it's 50th Anniversary and my Grandpa Westman (the church's second pastor) was invited to address the crowd. My retired grandfather who lives in Calgary is getting older and doesn't speak very much any more so this was a special treat. My grandfather is a role model to me. Even though I don't know him super well, I really look up to him.

Grandpa was always a bit of a maverick. I remember my Dad telling me how Grandpa had been a fighter pilot trainee during World War II. One day during training he decided to impress a pretty girl he knew by "buzzing" her at her college. Flying low and fast over the school created some alarm (this was wartime after all) and the authorities called in the numbers in the plane. Soon after Grandpa was court-martialed! Without skipping a beat he re-enlisted the next day and because the military needed people, they accepted him back. They never did let him fly overseas though.

After his service, Grandpa became a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church in White Rock, BC. One day his district supervisor asked him to consider pastoring a young church in Winnipeg. From what Grandpa knew of "Winterpeg" he was not keen. My grandmother was also not keen. He finally was coaxed into visiting (against my grandma's wishes!) and when he got there he distinctly knew that's where God wanted him. So he left his church of retirees in White Rock and began pastoring a church barely two years old in Winnipeg. The church was young in other ways too - when he got there, there was only one member over 40 years of age!

Grandpa spent 8 wonderful years in Winnipeg before as he describes "he was dragged kicking and screaming" to become the EFC Western District Supervisor. When he spoke last night about his memories of the church, he spoke warmly about those years and about the awesome things that God did. It was quite moving. In this church made up mostly of conservative Mennonites, his wife noticed that some of the community women were being shunned because they wore makeup to church. This really ticked off my grandparents! Grandpa briefly considered wearing makeup to church himself to prove a point! However, he could still recall my grandmother wearing lipstick to church one Sunday and the horror that produced. Less than a year later though, he said, he looked out at his congregation and makeup was everywhere! Everyone in the audience laughed. At the end of his speak he pulled a "Westman," he exhorted the congregation not only to be thankful for all God had done and to celebrate, but to realize that there was so much work left to be done and not to lose sight of the needs in their area. He said this authentically so that it did not put a damper on the celebrations but instead gave them a context. I enjoyed his speak immensely.

I was fairly emotional during the evening. Listening to the history of a church isn't always a happy occasion, but this one was. I'm sure they've gone through their tough times as all churches do, but it was encouraging hearing how lives had been changed because of this body of believers. I could literally feel my passion for the church being renewed and with it my passion for God. I was reminded of where my own priorities need to be and what is really important. The sacrifices of the different members including my grandfather, given willingly and not out of a sense of empty duty, were inspiring. I came to the evening not expecting much but instead was blessed with one of the best things I could wish for; hope.

May Light increase!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Insane Buzzing Of Mountain Via Flying Suit

I got chills when I watched this video. Thanks to ysmarko for the link. I would absolutely love to try this, however I'm not (yet) insane enough. But maybe I'll ask Jobina to sew me up a flying suit for Christmas anyway. Are you reading this honey?

May Light increase!

Happy Birthday Trinity

When my daughter Trinity was born, I thought that I would have a difficult time relating and bonding to a female child. I had taken to Riker and his "boyness" so quickly and naturally. A girl seemed so foreign and unknown. Boy was I wrong! Something about her immediately touched my heart and I could not get enough of holding her, kissing her, and enjoying the wonderful little gift that God had given us. She truly is one of the delights of my heart, so much like her mother it boggles the mind. Today she turned three and my joy in her only gets stronger!
P.S. The Pics are from a recent camping trip to Camp Morton Provincial Park. The second one is a picture of her and I when we went out for little hike. She had to keep collecting sticks along the way which she referred to as her "family." For some even better pics, check out Jobina's blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sad Plight of the Solo Pastor: Part 2

I think that basically pastors are set up by the system to fail. What do you think of you when you think of a "good" pastor? Here's a few:

1. Great preacher.
2. Good counselor.
3. Great administrator.
4. Excellent leader.
5. Great servant.
6. Fun and approachable.
7. A natural evangelist.
8. Able to receive feedback.
9. Full of integrity and the fruit of the Spirit.
10. Vulnerable yet strong.

Often solo pastors walk the plank for failing at just one of these! Now character is indeed important and nonnegotiable, but what about the other skills? Do you know how rare it is for a pastor to be a good preacher, a good administrator, and a good counselor? Maybe one in 200. And yet we have such high expectations!

Part of the system is that we expect that a good pastor can do more then they possibly can. Adding to the dysfunction is the pastor also believes they should be able to meet these expectations. You cannot imagine the pressure. No wonder so many good pastors lose it! Eventually they buckle under the pressure and either commit some sort of moral failure or burn out, or leave the ministry (and possibly the faith) completely disillusioned. When a church feels their pastor isn't measuring up to "what a pastor should be" they turn on them. The pastor can do no right and when they do make mistakes they are hung for them. Both pastor and church believe they are correct (maintaining the evil expectations of the system for the pastor) and they resort to incredibly un-Christian conduct (slander, gossip, deception, etc). The wounds are are sharp and deep.

I don't think that pastors or congregations should not take personal responsibility for their actions but I do think we need to make some changes to the system. Some humble suggestions:
-Stop thinking of leadership as the "pastor." Start thinking about leadership as "the team."
-Take the emphasis off pastors (maybe even get rid of the term completely) and put the emphasis on elders and deacons (like in the NT)
-Hire pastors according to their character and gifting, fitting what is currently missing in the church's leadership team.
-Re-teach the congregation (not a quick or easy task!): From now on the pastor will serve according to the abilities, not their old expectations.
-Forget the "universal" pastoral job description. Instead jointly come up with a job description with each new hiring and each new need of the church.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sad Plight of the Solo Pastor: Part 1

I feel for pastors where they are the only pastor in their church. You've all heard it. Once again, a church has a major falling out with their pastor and the pastor is pressured to resign. Some in the church aren't happy (they love the pastor!) and strife is created. Eventually, the church may even split.

Then it happens again.

It seems to me that I've heard a lot of stories recently about pastors being fired/resigning/being forced out of their pastorates. Or churches suffering under the leadership of an unjust pastor and who finally gets him out of there. When one hears these stories there are three obvious explanations:

1. It's the pastor's fault. Or . . .
2. It's the church's fault. Or . . .
3. It's both their fault!

Usually if you talk to the pastor, it's that crazy church's fault and if you talk to the church, the messed up pastor was at fault. I'm not saying that these things are never true, but I wonder if there is a third possibility:

It is the system's fault.

For some reason, we have a system where we believe that the church is best served by one leader at the top who bears all or most of the responsibility for leading and serving the church body. Where we got this idea I have no idea. In the New Testament we don't get any indication (that I can see) of professional pastors who do most of the leadership work. Instead we see team leadership. In many of our Evangelical church's we say we have team leadership, but we don't. "Team" is a term thrown about, but not really practiced. Most of the responsibility falls onto one individual. Doug Fields describes it like this:

"Imagine a sports dynasty for a minute - pick your favorite. It's success can't be attributed to one component; several factors combine to it's success. A true dynasty is stronger than its one great player. It must also have supportive key players, a motivating head corch, experienced assistant coaches, a position in the free agency market, a risk-taking owner, a productive front office, and a strong farm system (or luck with the draft). Average sport fans don't consider all of these factors when they watch their favorite team play. Instead they focus on the team's best player and falsely assume that the team's success is due to that great player.

Unfortunately, many in the church view . . . ministry with that same mentality. They look for the one great player ( . . . worker) who can save the franchise (the . . . ministry) and develop a winning team (volunteers) that will attract the fans . . . Once a great player is identified (either hired clergy or volunteers), the owners (church board, selection committee . . .) settle into other pressing affairs withing the organization (church). This type of scenario usually results in a suicide mission for the "star" player. He or she charges in with enthusiasm and practices (works) endless hours trying to achieve success . . . to please the owners. But to please everyone the player has to run (often knowing not where) so hard and so fast for so long that he or she eventually tires and becomes injured (burns out) and has to be replaced (quits or is fired). At this point the owners get involved and looks for another great player to bring the team out of the dumps. The cycle starts all over with no foundation to build on because the last great player felt the burden to win by her- or himself." (Doug Fields, PDYM, p. 15)

I think a system where the church expects the pastor to do/be everything (or even most everything) and the pastor agrees to this is dysfunctional. There are a few examples of talented/character filled people who can do this but they are by far the exception, not the rule. And yet churches never learn. They keep hiring the "wrong" person! The truth is that all potential pastor have both great gifts and great shortcomings. Thus, every pastor coming in is going to be lacking in some of the most essential abilities needed to fill the leadership needs of a church. When a church believes that one pastor can fill even most of their leadership needs and the pastor agrees to try, it's a recipe for disaster. The system, based on unworkable beliefs about solo leadership fails the majority of churches, especially the small ones. And not to say that churches and pastors shouldn't bear any of the responsibility for failed pastorates, they should. But the system is not making things any easier.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007