Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Book Review: The Long Walk

"The Long Walk," Slavomir Rawicz, 242 pages.

The next time you feel whiny about the circumstances of your poor, pitiful life, pick up Slavomir Rawiez's classic "The Long Walk." It is an absolute must-read for those who enjoy real life adventure stories. I found it so compelling I could barely put it down. It is a real life account of the Polish author's harrowing escape from a Siberian labor camp in World War 2. He and his companions traverse thousands of miles on foot; out of Yakutsk and down to India. Essentially this book is about suffering and man's ability to endure it. Rawicisz's matter of fact narration makes for a story that is lacking in poetic enhancement but loses nothing for it; the facts of the story presented in a simple non-dramatic fashion lure the reader into the story. I was a little worried about the non-English as the original language issue, but the translation from the Polish is very good.

I found two shocking elements to this story; first the evil of man. When you hear the kind of torture that these men went through, you wonder how anyone could do this. The Russian torture techniques started with something called the "kishka, a chimney like cell into which one stepped down about a foot below the level of the corridor outside. Inside a man could stand and no more. The walls pressed round like a stone coffin Twenty feet above there was diffused light from one, small, out-of-sight window . . . we excreted standing up and stood in our own filth. The kishka was never cleaned . . ." The second shocking element to this story was what a couple of men desiring freedom are of capable of. I found the courage of these men as they fought near impossible odds to be very inspiring. It also made my personal challenges look rather pathetic in comparison (which they are). I dont want to give away too much of the story, but let me tell you that victory and tragedy both get their fair share in this book. I give this book 4.5 ninja stars out of five.

Monday, February 26, 2007


"There is at least one thing more brutal than the truth, and that is the consequence of saying less then the truth." - Ti-Grace Atkinson.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Teachable? Part 3 . . .

Well I took my own test and scored a lot lower then I thought I would. Here's how I scored myself; I gave myself a number from 1 (low) to 5 (high) on each of the five questions. Here are my results:

I know I'm teachable when . . .

1. People give me input. People do give me input, just not as much as I would like. Score: 3
2. I see measurable growth and character development in myself. Ouch, Score: 2
3. I don't have to answer a critic with a defense. This one I mostly do OK. Score: 4
4. I don't have to criticize back. I'm in the middle I think. Score: 3
5. I'm learning new ways to grow. Am I seeking out new ways to better myself as a person? Score: 2

Final score: 14 out of 25. Lots of room to grow! So how does one become more teachable? My initial thoughts:
-ask for feedback from everyone (above and below you) and offer it to others (carefully of course)
-Keep a journal of feedback given to you and share it with those close to you.
-pray daily and ask God for a teachable spirit

Any other ideas?

May Light increase,

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Teachable? Part 2 . . .

My last post was on the rationale for being teachable. This one concerns trying to figure out where you are when it comes to teachability. If you're not sure how you teachable you are, try taking this 5 point "quiz" (written by Dr. James Macdonald):

1. I know I'm teachable when people give me input .
When people feel free to give you a word of improvement, it's a good sign that you're teachable. Nobody wants to risk cleaning up a meltdown if the person can't
receive a difficult word. Don't try to tell him he's not headed in the right direction because he'll bite your head off. The fool is always deeply persuaded that what he is doing is right. A teachable person will receive input.

2. I know I'm teachable when I see measurable growth and character development in myself.
If you're changing for the good, then you're teachable. You're not the same person you were last year at this time. Godly instruction has produced results in your life and there's growth because of it.

3. I know I'm teachable when I don't have to answer a critic with a defense.
More often than I ever want to be, I'm in the uneasy position of giving people input. As hard as that is, I love to sit down with a person who has hears a difficult word with an open heart and without defensiveness. It's been my repeated observation that those who are receptive to criticism, flourish!

4. I know I'm teachable when I don't have to criticize back.
The classic symptom of an unteachable person is that they will listen to what you say, all the while framing their comeback, "Now let me tell you something..." Can you keep your defenses down and pride in check?

5. I know I'm teachable when I'm learning new ways to grow.
If people have been telling you the same stuff for years, you're not teachable. If you've grown out of those old issues and are now on to new lessons, you're on the right track.

Are you teachable? Ask someone who knows you well for their honest
evaluation. And take their response to heart.

May Light increase!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Teachable? Part 1. . .

"I am still learning." - Michelangelo

I have always loved this quote. After DaVinci, Michelangelo is possibly the second greatest painter and sculptor in history. And yet, near the end of his life, he still wanted to learn. He was not content with what he knew. I heard a story once about a pastor who got a chance to meet Billy Graham. Graham asked him what he did for a living and the man responded that he was a preacher. Graham looked him in the eye and asked him quite sincerely "Maybe you could teach me how to preach better?" The man was stunned that the world's most prominent preacher would think that he could learn anything from him. This humilty is quite striking. Graham had a teachable spirit.

Being teachable is not just being willing to take in new information about things (though that is indeed an important 1st step). The real key is being able to admit that there is something that you are ignorant of, or worse; you are wrong about. For me is the most difficult part. To approach something/someone with that attitude that "I am lacking." It often a very painful experience to realize that you have been ignorant or wrong about something. But to willingly place oneself in this vulnerable postion takes both courage and a strong desire; the desire not just to be "right" but to be wiser. And yet, after the fear of being ignorant/wrong has been confronted and accepted, real passion for correction begins. IMPORTANT: you can't be wise without desiring and loving correction:

"Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear." - Proverbs 25:12
"Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. - Proverbs 9:8
"Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid" (Proverbs 12:1)

So here's my question - are you teachable? I would say that at one point I wasn't, then I got better, then I regressed, and now I'm desiring it again. When I was a camp director and looking at hiring for volunteer positions the first question I would often ask would be "is he teachable?" "Does she desire feedback?" Working or living with people who aren't teachable is a recipe for disaster - living with such a person can be miserable. Don't be that person!

May Light increase!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


"...but Godliness with contentment is great gain . . ." - Paul the Apostle

I had an interesting conversation with my hair stylist the other day. I find talking to hair stylists/barbers/etc. fascinating because I know that when trained they are told to avoid three difficult topics; religion, politics, and morality. I of course try to cover all three whenever I go for a a haircut! Of course you must be careful with such topics, but I really do enjoy seeing the initial squirming. Usually my hairdresser Cheryl starts off by asking me a safe question like "Going anywhere interesting this weekend?" which I answer dutifully and then switch the conversation to something deeper and more dangerous. Anyway, in my last apppointment we were discussing the idea of destiny/dreams and I asked her if she could live anywhere and do any job that she wanted, what and where would it be?

She thought about it for a minute and then told me "Honestly, if I could choose to do anything I wanted and live anwhere I wanted, I would do exactly what I am doing now. I love my job and I love where I live. Sounds boring, right?" Actually, I was astonished. I had not expected to find someone so content with their life working in a hair salon. And in Winnipeg!

I asked her for her secret but she couldn't really say. So what is the secret? Living in the moment? Being thankful? Having no dreams? As I sat there in the chair I thought about what keeps me from bring content; materialism, comparing what I have with others, thinking about future possibilities, etc. It's not that I never feel content (I do) but it so often fleeting. It seems like if you make contentment your goal, you will never achieve it - it must be something that just sneeks up on you. Or is it? Do you know any people who seem to be for the most part content with their life? Ask them for their secret . . . and let me know what they tell you!

May Light increase!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Ski Adventure/Retreat

I find that sometimes I need time away from my regular life to renew my mind, body, and soul. For me this involves getting into the wild and doing something adventurous (usually with a couple of likeminded friends). My wife says I'm a better man when I return. I wonder if this is the same for others. I'm planning one such retreat for the beginning of March. Want to come? Here's some of the details:

-Dates: March 5-7 (leave late morning on the 7th, return by noon on the 9th)
-Location: Minaki Yurt Adventures (2.5 hours from Winnipeg)
-Accommodations: A rustic yurt (yurts are traditional Mongolian tent structures, ours will be heated by a wood stove)
-Activities: whatever you want. Our yurt will only be about 10 minutes from the trailhead. Spend your days skiing the 25 km of trails, hanging out by the fire, reading, exploring, or try the rustic Finnish Sauna!
-Approximate costs: $15 per night, $20 for food, $20 for gas, trail fee $5 per day = Approximately $85. Extras: XC skis if you need to rent them (try MEC or Windsor Park Golf course)
-What to bring: warm clothing, clothing to ski in, swimsuit & towel, headlamp or flashlight, a backpack, skis/boots, reading material, sleeping bag, and camera if you have one.

P.S. Check out for more details.

P.P.S. Sometimes I need to get perspective by leaving my normal life behind, even if only for a little while. It gives me a chance to see myself outside of my regular little life and "reconnect" with God, my heart, and my dreams. Going into the Wilderness isn't for everyone, but if you're reading this and haven't done it before, I reccomend trying it.

Some might say, "isn't it just escapism?" This may be partially true. I do want to escape. I want to escape the concrete jungle, my tedious life, and all of my obligations. However I find that I return motivated and refreshed and ready to tackle those things again. Being in the Wild allows me to regain persespective. It challenges me. And it's beauty draws me back to the God whom I sometimes lose clear sight of. There is a part of me that longs for adventure, fellowship, beauty, rest, silence, daring deeds, and a sense of my own smallness in the universe. The Wild brings all of these to me and more.

May Light increase!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

What is authentic when it comes to a blog?

I have toyed with this idea of a blog but have hesitated; not because of not know what to write, but how to write it. How does one remain authentic on a blog? I mean should you write primarily for yourself or for others? What is the purpose of a blog; ego gratification, helping the masses, monetary gain, self promotion, etc? Is it an excuse not to actually connect with people face to face? Or a chronicle of one's exploits that shows them that indeed your existence is justified? Sometimes I read people's blogs and I get this "fake" feel, like they are writing to try to impress others and not writing for themselves. I can easily see myself falling into this trap. And so I've hesitated.

Perhaps I need to just aim high when it comes to staying authentic but accept that I will fall short. "He who hesitates is lost" though and I shouldn't use fear of hypocrisy to keep from attempting the impossible. In that vein, here are some of my principles for writing:

1. I will write for myself primarily and if I write something for others I will identify it honestly.
2. I will write when inspired, or close to it, or I will not write at all.
3. I will be authentic when I write (sharing my real thoughts and feelings).
4. Feedback from others is welcome but not necessary for my self-esteem and shouldn't affect my writing.

I've decided to narrow the focus of this blog: To act as a journal of ideas and thoughts that challenge/enlighten me. I may occasionally add some personal life stuff as well.

May Light Increase!