Friday, March 30, 2007

Lessons From Exile Island

I really like survivor because it has some of my favorite things; the wild outdoors, crazy team dynamics, competition, and ethical challenges. Jobina and I love to watch survivor. I know, I know, Survivor isn't the most "deep" drama on TV right now, but for Jobina and I it has been something we both really enjoy so we have a date every week to watch it together. Ah, l'amour!

Anyway, we were watching survivor yesterday (warning: spoiler alert) and the Ravu tribe won the reward challenge. Part of this means they got to send one person from the losing tribe (Moto) to "Exile Island," a small and forlorn island infested with watersnakes. Rave decided to send one of Moto's stronger player's Earl to the island. This was I think Earl's third time there. Now going to Exile Island isn't desired by anyone. Not only are you alone without decent shelter and facing the constant threat of watersnakes but you are away from your tribe (which can be death to you if they turn on you while you are gone). Most of the people who go there complain, feel sorry for themselves, and try to tough it out.

Earl though isn't your average person. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he instead focused on the positive. He decided to rename the island "Earl's Island" and proceeded to make this really cool sign in the sand officially renaming the island. By choosing to focus on the positives of being there, Earl persevered both in body and in spirit.

Earl's approach to Exile Island inspired me. What if I would take my life's disappointments, let downs, and suffering and choose to look at them positively instead? I suppose we all feel like we've been sent to Exile Island sometimes. What's your reaction to when you get sent there? How do you choose to react? I sensed real character in how Earl responded. Sure enough, I found this video (not the best quality)that shows that he was a survivor long before he joined the show:

May Light increase!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Power of Perception

It's amazing the effect our perceptions can have on us.

Scientists have long known the placebo effect can be incredibly powerful: Fake pills can ease pain as much as real medication, and rubbing fake poison ivy on people can cause actual rashes. Check out this terrific story in the New York Times about the power of the placebo effect (thanks to for the link).

But now a new study poses an even crazier idea: That merely imagining that you got a workout can give you the same effects as a real-life one. Fascinating.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Got Camp?

This is a picture of Riker wearing a Beaver Creek Bible Camp hoody from a couple of years ago. He's only four but he is already excited to go to camp (only four more years to wait!). I grew up going to Beaver Creek and later served there as director for 7 years after college. Camp is in my blood. My favorite place in the world to meet God is down at the creek, sitting on the dock with my Bible, early in the morning (but not too early of course).

There is something magical about camp ministry; it really is a place where God makes himself known in miraculous ways. Some of my best times experiencing God were at camp. I have seen God literally save people's lives, soften hard hearts, heal the hurting, solve impossible problems, and bring hope to campers and staff alike.

Camp is just such a natural fit for me. Combine the beautiful outdoors with cutting edge ideas/profound sense of tradition. Add God's power and the passion of loyal Christ followers with all sorts of gifts, skills , and personality. The result: a temporary but powerful fellowship of like-minded ministers united around a single purpose. A fellowship who knows how to have a lot of fun as they minister!

If you've never tried camp before, I encourage you to think and pray about it. Even a week of your time at camp could change your life (not to mention a camper's). The great thing about camp is that anyone can be involved. Camps need people to pray, people to give, people to lead, people to cook, people to cut the grass, people to counsel, etc, etc. If nothing else, go visit a camp this summer. Your soul will thank you.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The New World of Radical Transparency

I really found this article interesting. Clive Thompson discuses the reputation economy and how the internet changes how people can build and maintain their reputations. Most interestingly he theorizes that transparency (being real with your thoughts, feelings and ideas) is now the most important element to success. I'm not sure I agree with everything he says, but the examples he gives are eye opening. I was both encouraged and discouraged; is the secular business world beating Christians in the embracing of being authentic, honest, and transparent? Are business leaders seeing the benefit of being real before Christian leaders?

May Light increase!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Premature Crown of Splendor

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained by a righteous life." - Proverbs 16:31

Lately I have noticed that I am starting to get some gray hair near my temples. At first there were just a few hairs, and I thought them quite intriguing. To me they were a strange curiosity. Now there seem to be quite a few more of them and there is less intrigue and more concern. My grandfather Westman grayed early in life and I worry I may have a wee bit too many of his genes.

When I was young I thought about what I would look like when I got old and I remember getting a very distinct image in my head. I would be the old, white haired wise man sitting thoughtfully at the top of a hill, waiting to dispense my wisdom to those worthy enough to climb up to seek answers to their problems. Then after they asked me their question, I would smile and give them a wise but cryptic answer and send them on their way. Of course I would have a decent sized beard and be wearing robes for some reason. I tell you this so that you can understand my current conundrum and also help you realize that I indeed have issues.

So now I am getting what I always dreamed of, it just seems a bit early. I'm starting to get the look of the wiseman without having had the time to attain the wisdom. So I am both happy but concerned as well. Losing the outward appearances of youth is not as easy as I thought it would be. In many cultures there is a general honor and respect shown for the aged, but not here in North America. My wife of course is very supportive, telling me she thinks gray hair is attractive. And of course if I could be half as wise as my grandfather I would be content. It just seems a little early, that's all. I am trying to take the view of the author in Proverbs, that gray hair is a crown of splendor. May my crown be full and gray and wise!

Just not yet.

May Light increase!

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Soul of Romance

Can there be romance without sexual attraction? The reason I ask is that in the past year I’ve talked to several people who told me that they were in love with someone but didn’t feel very physically attracted to them. They all asked the same thing; is that OK? My response was “possibly.” After all, we are sexual creatures and if one doesn’t have any desire for one’s mate, serious problems can occur. My personal theory is that sexual attraction is the foundation (or soul) of romance. So here’s what I’m thinking:

Love can exist (and flourish) without romance.
Romance cannot exist without sexual attraction.

Now I have to admit that when I’ve shared these thoughts people don’t always like them. It sounds a little, well, . . . unromantic. After all, sexual attractions seems like such a crude motive. I sometimes ask people what is is that they like about their fiancee and they tell me things like personality, character traits, abilities, etc. but if attraction is mentioned it’s said almost guiltily - “and of course I’m attracted to her/him.” But here’s a question for you married people out there; would you have gotten married if sex wasn’t involved? Would you pursue someone romantically if there was not the possibility of “something more?” I'm curious to hear what others think on the subject.

May Light increase!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Prius Worse For Environment Then Hummer

Know any eco-friendly people who own a Toyota Prius hybrid? Want to humble them a bit? This article is a fascinating example of how things are not always as they seem. As a person who wants to take care of the world that's been given us, I think we need to look at the big picture. This article is a great start.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Authentic Living

Authenticity (being real) is something I value highly and yet it mostly seems to elude me. When I think of being authentic I see it as me being real with others. This usually involves not hiding my weaknesses or feelings. Today I realized that I've missed a big piece of it:

I need to be real with myself.

In other words, can I be honest with myself about who I really am? Shouldn't this be the starting point for being authentic with others? My spiritual director has been challenging me to accept my own poverty, and I think in our last session it finally sunk in. I realized somethings about myself that were truly . . . not good. Things about who I've been trying to be and why. I'm still processing it, and may share about it more in detail in a later post.

May Light increase.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Secret To Change?

Last week, my friend Evan emailed me and brought up the topic of change:

" . . .and your blog entries are insightful and thought provoking as usual. Here's the problem. I think to myself, OK, I'm going to fix my life. Then life happens and it never gets done. I don't even start. But boy do I love reading them and thinking to myself, someday.... "

Does that resonate with you (as it does for me)? I have been pondering a response to this for many days now and I'm not sure how to answer it. What is the secret to change? Instead of hypothesizing I thought that maybe I would share a story as a way to kick start the discussion:

I have this friend who I work with named Cole. Cole is a great guy, gets along with everyone, has high social skills, is in his early 20's. A year and half ago Cole weighed 320 pounds. He ate really poorly, didn't exercise, and felt badly about himself. He endured the subtle taunts of his friends and family and would avoid looking at himself in a mirror. He still enjoyed life but didn't really know where he was going.

One day a co-worker invited Cole to work out with him. He didn't really want to but he said yes. He felt very uncomfortable and self conscious at the gym but endured it to make his co-worker happy. He didn't mind the working out, but he would have quit if he could have gracefully. Then one day he had a dream. He dreamed that he was standing on a street when he saw an man running down the street. After he had passed Cole noticed an old man on the corner. The old man told him to run. Then he woke up.

At first he just pondered the dream for a few days. Then he decided to try running a short distance. It hurt, but he enjoyed it. Then he tried running more and more. Eventually he tried to run from his house to the Golden Boy, then across the entire city. He began running everywhere even to work. He started working out harder and radically changed his horrendous eating habits. Soon the pounds were dropping off. He invited others to run with him and many have started doing it. A few months ago, he decided to try to run from Grand Beach to Winnipeg (55 miles) in one day. He did it in 28 hours. Terry Fox and Rocky are his heroes. He is inspiring to everyone around him. He is currently training to run from Calgary to Winnipeg this summer (13 hours of running a day for 35 days). He's going to do it to raise money for diabetes. Cole weighs 90 pounds less then he used to, is excited about his future, and is in the best shape of his life. He has truly changed for the better.

So the question is, what do you think caused Cole to be able to change? What are some of the things that cause people to make significant life changes? What has helped you or others you know change?

May Light increase!

Monday, March 19, 2007


"A man never describes his own character so clearly as when he describes another." -Jean Paul Richter

Something about this quote made me stop dead in my tracks this morning. Think about it; how do you respond when you hear a person describing another in less then flattering terms? I know how I do. Even if part of me agrees with that person, I lose respect for the person for telling me. More so, I lose some of my trust for them (if they talk about others like this, what are they saying about me?). I think a big part of how we grade people when it comes to character and integrity is how they talk about others behind their back. I worry that many of us Christians are addicted to gossip (which we justify in so many interesting ways) and are unaware of the damage it does to relationships, churches, and ministry. Instead of doing the work of giving feedback to each other, we share our opinions with others. Speaking poorly about others behind their back doesn't just affect the teller and the subject but the hearer as well. My challenge for this week; speak the truth in love and maintain my integrity when I speak about others.

May Light increase!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Eichmann Is In All of Us

Sometimes I forget that I am sinful and judge others for their weakness. When I do, I like to reread a story that Chuck Colson wrote about in his book "The Body." I read it 13 years ago, but I often am reminded of it and in a strange way it inspires me:

In 1960, Israeli undercover agents orchestrated the daring kidnapping of one of the worst of the Holocaust masterminds, Adolf Eichmann. After capturing him in his South American hideout, they transported him to Israel to stand trial.

There, prosecutors called a string of former concentration camp prisoners as witnesses. One was a small haggard man named Yehiel Dinur, who had miraculously escaped death in Auschwitz.

On his day to testify, Dinur entered the courtroom and stared at the man in the bulletproof glass booth - the man who had murdered Dinur's friends, personally executed a number of Jews and presided over the slaughter of millions more. As the eyes of the two men met - victim and murderous tyrant - the courtroom fell silent, filled with the tension of the confrontation. But no one was prepared for what happened next.

Yehiel Dinur began to shout and sob, collapsing to the floor.

Was he overcome by hatred . . . by the horrifying memories . . by the evil incarnate in Eichmann's face?

No. As he later explained in a riveting "60 Minutes" interview, it was because Eichmann was not the demonic personification of evil Dinur had expected. Rather, he was an ordinary man, just like anyone else. And in that one instant, Dinur came to the stunning realization that sin and evil are the human condition. "I was afraid about myself," Dinur said. "I saw that I am capable to do this . . . exactly like he."

Dinur's remarkable statements caused Mike Wallace to turn the camera and ask the audience the most painful of all questions: "How was it possible . . . for a man to act as Eichmann acted? . . . Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying . . . was he normal?"

Yehiel Dinur's shocking conclusion? "Eichmann is in all of us."

May Light increase

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The iRack

Parody,noun. - A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.

If you've spent any significant amount of time with me, you know I am a huge Apple fan (some would say zealot). I also enjoy staying up to date on current events. This parody video masterfully blends the two. Hope it makes you smile . . . and think.

-May Light increase!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Christians and Tipping. Part 2.

I have to admit that I'm a lot more mellowed out about Christians and tipping then I used to be. Last year, such discussion could easily bring me to the point of rage. Now I just feel a profound sadness, regret about how my brothers and sisters in Christ continually hurt the cause. Jay made a good point in his comments that it's not just the cheapness that makes Christians look bad, but the way servers are treated. What is it about Christians that makes them think that they can act so contrary to Christ's commands when they enter a restaurant? I really would like to know this! Some initial theories:

1. Christians feel like they can take a break from being a Christian when they are in a restaurant. "Whew, what a relief! It took a lot out of me to be so pleasant at church. Now where's that waiter . . ."
2. Christians assume there server is not a Christian, is not part of "the club," and thus doesn't have to be treated as well as brother so-and-so.
3. Money spent on a tip could better be spent on missions. (Don't laugh, I've actually heard this one before . . . the thought of it still chills my blood.)
4. Christians just forget about the fruit of the Spirit or don't think that it applies to servers. It's scary but maybe we are more talk then walk. Christians are good at "saying" but less good at "being."

What do you think is the reason?

Ironically, tipping is I think just a cultural practice as this article notes. I think of it as something we are stuck with doing. Servers shouldn't expect a tip if they give poor service and guests should tip if they have a good experience. In the meantime, please be gracious and generous to your server the next time you dine out. Maybe someday in heaven they'll thank you for it.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Christians and Tipping. Part 1 . . .

Why don't some people tip? Tipping (as in giving a waiter/waitress a gratuity) is an important topic for me. As a part time waiter, tips are a crucial part of my income. In the business we refer to not getting a tip as "getting stiffed." Being stiffed is extremely painful. There are also derivatives of the stiff, one that is considered quite evil is to leave less then a dollar in change. Also painful is the credit card slip where the bill amount is $59.96 and your guest rounds it up to $60 (and actually writes $0.04 in the tip line. I saw this happen to a fellow server not too long ago and let me tell you it's not pretty. I think the poor girl was devastated for several days. Even worse though is the stiff that is done primarily by Christians. I am of course talking about the "leaving a tract as the tip." If you like the thought of your server screaming, cursing, and swearing off church forever, please do this. I have seen these tracts torn to pieces, shown to other servers (accompanied by words that cannot be typed here), or posted up on the staff bulletin board (along with a note explaining what happened) so that everyone can know how ignorant Christians can be. Ouch.

I'll tell you right now; servers for the most part don’t look upon Christians kindly. Maybe its unfair but Christians are stereotyped as cheap, rude, cheap, ignorant, cheap, demanding, and (dare I say it?) . . . weird. They have a penchant for ordering water with lemon. They work you really, really hard (and then don't tip accordingly). This stereotype is almost universal. As a fellow Christian, even I don't usually see it as a good sign if I see my table pray before a meal; and I'm a Christ-follower myself! I'm honestly surprised if a Christian table has fun, treats me well, and tips generously. Though I do run into this kind of table it is not that often. Sunday lunch shifts are almost impossible to give away. Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to work them (mostly because that's when the Christians come out in droves).

I think that the absolute worst thing that a Christian can do if they want to shine for Christ at a restaurant is not be generous with your server. I admit that I am biased. Why would someone not tip? What is your reaction to this?

May Light increase!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Separate Beds

If you know me, you know that I am keenly interested in relationships, romance, love, eros, etc. So I was very interested to read this article about the number of homes being built with more then one master bedroom. A survey by the National Association of Home Builders has predicted that by 2015, 60% of American custom-built homes will have two master bedroom suites! The reason behind this is apparently many couples have trouble sleeping with another person in their bed (snoring, movement, getting up for children/bathroom stuff/etc.). The article mentions that apparently the sexual lives of the couples is not a factor. Just the desire for better sleep and to avoid marital tension.

I find this desire for separate bedrooms intriguing. In the past, if I have heard rumors of couples sleeping in separate rooms, my first though was "uh oh, having problems are we?" This is my own prejudice I suppose. In my mind (thanks to my cultural upbringing) I assume marital health and sleeping in the same bed are synonymous. Even as I challenge the thought, I realize it is a deep belief. Why not sleep in separate rooms? Spouses don't have to always to be together right? I'm wondering if there are many people out there who already sleeping in separate rooms and not sharing that information with others out of guilt/shame. Or perhaps there are people who are sleeping together and their marriages are suffering for it because, like me, they can't get past their cultural assumptions about what married couples do?

I remain curious. Do you know anyone who sleeps separately from their spouse? Do you know anyone who perhaps should be or is considering it? Or what about you? Here's your chance to come out of the closet. Let the liberation begin!

May Light increase!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Beach Party with Riker

The other day I had a cool experience. My son Riker invited me to a beach party in his room. Apparently there were some bright sunlight coming through his window so somehow he got it in his head that we should have a beach party. So I went up to his room and sure enough he had the blinds open to take advantage of the warm sunlight. Then he turned his clock radio on and cranked up the tunes. Sadly, I had no sunglasses, but Riker put on his. Then he got a "beach" ball from downstairs and we played catch on the "beach." Apparently a beach party in Riker's mind involves the giving of gifts so Trinity and I both got gifts that we were allowed to keep (for two whole days)! We really did have a lot of fun.

I was impressed by Riker's imagination, generosity, and positive attitude. He also taught me a lesson - every now and then, it's time to have a beach party. A time to notice the simple beauty around us (like a good sunbeam) and creatively invite others to take joy in it as well. And if you end up throwing one, please invite me, I'm sure my soul could use it!

May Light increase!

The Power of our Beliefs. Part 2.

"For as he thinks within himself, so he is." - Proverbs 23:7

Here's a radical thought: People or events don’t make us feel good or bad. It is our perceptions of them that result in our feeling good or bad. These perceptions then influence our behavior. The A-B-C process is a method I really like to use to identify and dispute my irrational beliefs, thoughts and feelings.

(A) = Activating Event. What do you think happened? What would a camera see?
(B) = Beliefs about Activating Event. What did you tell yourself?
(C) = Consequences. How did you act? How did you feel?

When a person is emotionally disturbed there is an activating event (A), a belief about the event (B), and a consequence (C). As an example, when you fail a test –failing the test would be the (A), activating event. The emotional consequence (C) might be a depressed mood. Without thinking about it most people might think that (A) causes (C), but A-B-C theory says that instead it is the belief (B) that we have about the event (as an example “Because I failed that must mean I'm a failure”). It is the belief that causes the consequence (depressed mood in this case).

After identifying A, B and C, we move on to (D).
(D) = Disputing Irrational Beliefs (iB’s). Some examples of disputing one's irrational beliefs:
Where is holding this belief getting me? Is it helpful or self-defeating?
Where is the evidence to support my belief? It is consistent with reality?
Is my belief logical? Does it follow from my preferences?
Is it really awful (as bad as it could be)?
Can I really not stand it?
Why is this so terrible?
Where’s the proof that I can’t handle it?
What does it mean when I say I can’t handle it? Will I actually explode?
Must I always get what I want?

I find that disputing my irrational beliefs (we all have them after all) can be a powerful way to jar me out of all sorts of bad feelings and behaviors. So the next time you are having a bad emotional time, why not give the A-B-C method a try. What do you have to lose?

May Light increase!

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Power of Our Beliefs. Part 1 . . .

"People are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them." - Epictetus, 1st century AD

One of the core theories that I use for my counseling is REBT (rational emotive behavior therapy). REBT is based on the idea that we are not disturbed solely by our past but that we have strong inclinations to disturb ourselves consciously and unconsciously. We do this by taking our goals and values (which we mostly learn from our families/culture) and changing them into “shoulds”, “oughts”, and “musts.” To overcome this self -indoctrination REBT focuses on active/directive techniques such as teaching, suggestion, persuasion, and homework assignments. REBT therapists challenge their client to substitute an unhelpful belief system for a helpful one.

Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT believed that there were two kinds of beliefs: rational and irrational. Irrational beliefs are exaggerated and absolutistic, lead to disturbed feelings, and do not help individuals attain their goals. Some examples of irrational beliefs would be:

"I must make everyone I come in contact with happy."
"Others must find me intelligent and witty."
"I should always feel close to God."
"I must not be anxious!"

Notice the absoluteness of these beliefs. Beliefs which contain musts, oughts, and shoulds when internalized can cause us lots of trouble. As a personal example, in my third semester of seminary I was feeling increasing waves of anxiety about failing my counseling practicum. My symptoms included anxious thoughts, increased heart rate, and fear of the future. Part of our training involves going for therapy ourselves to understand what it is like so I brought this up with my counselor. Eventually, she got me to explore this anxiety and then asked me to outline my beliefs. Some of my beliefs about failing included "I can't fail because I've put too much money into this," "failing means that I am a failure," "failing practicum means that I've wasted my time for two years," and "failing practicum means that I'm not gifted to be a counselor." Notice the absoluteness of these expressions. Gently my counselor asked me if I believed these things and I had to admit that part me of did. "What about the other part of you, what does that part believe?" She then got me to dispute these irrational beliefs. I challenged each of them and came up with new rational beliefs to replace the irrational old ones. For instance, instead of "failing practicum means that I've wasted my time for two years," I replaced it with "failing practicum would be not be fun and would make me feel somewhat discouraged, but I have learned a lot from my training so far and am a better/changed person because of it and I have definitely received much for my investment." After doing this exercise my anxiety was gone within a few days. This is the power of finding our unhelpful beliefs, challenging them honestly, and replacing them with more helpful ones. I will show one way of doing this (along with an example) in my next post. What do you think about this stuff?

May Light increase!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Review: Minaki Yurt Adventures (winter)

I'm back from 2 days of skiing at Minaki Yurt Adventures. Every year I like to do at least one XC ski trip and this year I wanted something that was a little less extreme then previous years. Luckily, I picked up the Winnipeg Free Press and read an article on a quaint sounding place a mere 2.5 hours away from Winnipeg. At about $15 per person per night in a nicer yurt plus $5 a day trail fees it seemed like a steal (though if you go with just two you need to pay the $60 a night minimum). Dalen and I arrived there with tons of gear. We brought a sled and hauled our gear the 10 minute ski to our yurt. It was a 20 diameter yurt with hardwood floors and a pine upper cone/ceiling (check out my previous post for details on yurts). It was equipped with water, a propane stove, a wood stove, a couple of futons, some magazines, pots/pans/cuttlery, and a bunk bed. Though you could technically have 6 people in there, I wouldn't have more then 4. It would also make a nice romantic getaway for just you and that special person.

The trails there (about 25km worth) are very nice. All were well designed and maintained except for the Red Squirrel trail. Dalen and I of course had to try it anyway, breaking trail the whole way. Let's just say we were pretty exhausted when we finally completed it. Shortly after that we were returning to our yurt when we stopped to look at one of the trail maps which are at every major intersection of trail. Dalen was so tired that while looking at it, he kind of slid his head into it. That was of course funny but then a moment later he completely fell over! I laughed hard, but then I reminded myself that 10 minutes earlier I'd been sking on a gentle downward slope and just fell over for no reason (my mind tends to wander). Anyway, the trails are great and I reccomend them -I'd like to come back and try them on bikes in the summer.

We were the only ones there, and the owners seemed quite laid back. The tri-level yurt that the owners live in (which is also a bed and breakfast) is stunning. Like most of the tiny pictures on the website, they do not do it justice. Staying in one of the two B&B bedrooms in the yurt would be a great experience I think. They are small, but the area outside is definitely large enough to lounge around comfortably in. This yurt's lower level (the owners live in the top two levels) has two bathrooms, two fireplaces, two cats, a beautiful kitchen, and a nice piano. It's decorated rustically yet with incredible style. Beautiful.

My favorite part of the week (besides Dalen's amazing cooking) was going for a night ski to the Finnish Sauna. Skiing through the night with your headlamp on is a magical experience. Also, the sauna itself (which I didn't think would be that great) was totally invigorating. If you go, you have to try it! Especially if you go in winter. Standing on the deck overlooking the lake while you watch steam rise off of your body in the middle of winter is just an otherworldly experience.

Minaki Yurt adventures is definitely a great place for a two or three day retreat/adventure. Pluses: unique and cheap accomadations, beautiful trails, rustic scenery, Finnish sauna, relatively close to Winnipeg. Negatives: Occasional trains, $60 per night minimum for the Blueberry Yurt.
Rating: 4.1 ninja stars out 5

Sunday, March 4, 2007

What is a yurt?

Today's yurt is a modern adaptation of the ancient shelter used by Central Asian nomads for centuries. The compact shape of the yurt and combination of lightweight members in tension and compression mean that the structure is highly efficient in maximizing strength while minimizing the use of materials. A yurt is a lightweight, low-cost, state-of-the-art version that retains the sense of wholeness of the ancient form while delivering the structural integrity, longevity and low maintenance demanded by modern users. Though generally classified as a tent, the yurt is much stronger and weathertight. A yurt is a circular structure that consists of a durable fabric cover, tension band and a wood frame that includes a lattice wall, radial rafters, central compression ring and a framed door. They can be luxurious with bathrooms, plumbing, electricity, and other conveniences or quite simple and rustic. Many people build them themselves or you can buy kits that just require assembly.

I love yurts. I discovered them a few months ago and am now smitten with them. I like how quick you can set one up, how eco-friendly they are, and how inexpensive it is to build a basic one. I am so going to have one someday! You can use them for almost anthing (a cabin, a guest room, a temporary shelter, a counseling office, an outpost shelter, a library, storage space, etc). Jobina has already warned me to not talk about them all the time. I have already converted my friend Chris into the fold of yurt lovers (and he is working on his wife). I actually have a friend named Travis who lives in one in Alberta. He says that at -30 out, his yurt is warm and cozy. He has a little coal stove that he estimates costs him $40 to heat all winter long. $40!!! We all need to be in yurts I think. Tomorrow I go on my ski retreat in Minaki and I'll be having my first yurt experience! Anway, below are some links for more info:

May Light increase!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Who Can You Control? Part 2.

In my previous post I talked about trying to control others. In this post I'd like to look at the idea of control when it comes to ourselves. Whereas with others we mistakenly think that we can (or should) control them, with ourselves we often demonstrate the opposite problem - we believe that we have no control. As an example take my life; I currently feel somewhat overwhelmed. I'm behind in my schoolwork, sick as a dog, finances are tight, my investment property is giving me headaches, etc, etc. My thought is "I'm overwhelmed, my life sucks right now." I then try to externalize my problems and blame my current situation on bad luck, people, etc. Truthfully though, I make the decisions that put me where I am and I am continually making choices that keep me in that situation. I, like all of us, for the most part choose my destiny.

Think about what is causing you stress - I'm betting that whatever it is, I can show you how you are choosing your destiny. Are you feeling cold? Well, you could choose to put on a sweater (move somewhere warmer, turn the heat up). Is your boss abusing you at work? Of course you can change the situation, but you choose not to (you could try talking to him/her, finding a new job, or hiring a hitman - not a recommendation of course). But instead we choose to remain where we are and then we whine about it! I am not saying that you should leave that job. But the stress sometimes comes from this idea that we can't control the situation. This is a delusion. Taking personal responsibility for one's choices may not change your current situation (after all, suffering does happen to everyone and sometimes we choose to remain in things for good reasons). But at least we won't be fooling ourselves.

Glasser takes it a very personal level; he talks of depressed persons as "choosing to depress" for example. While this may seem like a radical thing to say (and lacking in compassion), it actually does help a lot of people. What do you think?

May Light increase!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Who Can You Control? Part 1 . . .

“We almost always have choices, and the better the choice, the more we will be in control of our lives.”
-William Glasser

The above quote is from William Glasser, the founder of Reality Therapy. Glasser taught that too often we externalize our problems and blame them on others instead of realizing that it is our choices that are at the base of our problems. This was a rather dramatic departure from blaming (among other things) your parents, your friends, your abuser, your employer, God, etc. Glasser put the blame for your emotional problems on, you guessed it, you. Life can deal you some pretty harsh blows, but you choose how you will react to them. This emphasis on personal responsibility and free will appeals to me alot and has been found to be helpful with people who are highly resistant to change.

One of Glasser's theories was called Control Theory. Basically it postulated that much of our relational problems with others came not from the ignorant things those others do, but on our attempts to control those people. "Who can you control?" he would ask his clients. Eventually they always came to the same conclusion; the only person we can really control is ourselves (and even that is difficult). So why do we spend so much time trying to control others? It can never work! I have found that challenging clients with this question works extremely well - realizing you can't control others can be quite liberating.

I think that when I was first married I tried to control my wife a lot. Not in an abusive way, but in a "I'm just helping you improve" kind of way. Shockingly my attempts bore no fruit and didn't exactly contribute to marital harmony either. And of course I felt stress because she was resisting my attempts to change (cough, OK "control") her. Instead of accepting that she was going to act the way she chose, I felt an inner pressure to change her. I find that when I accept that I can't change someone, that they have to change themselves, it takes the pressure and stress off of me and almost always improves the relationship. I think this is because I am not subtly telling them "you need to become how I want you to in order for me to accept you." People can sense this in you when you talk to them and they will almost always rebel against it.

Try this experiment; think of someone you currently have a stressed relationship with. Are you trying to control them? What sort of "expectations" do you have of them that they aren't meeting? How would it look different if you weren't trying to control them? Keep in mind that this means you don't have to accept their behavior, but it does mean that you accept their right to choose their own destiny. If you can't accept this . . . well, I'm guessing you are feeling lots of stress!

May Light increase!

The Undiscovered Country

Yesterday I had a decision to make. I was at the end of a long food shopping trip at superstore with my wife and two kids. As we were bagging up our groceries (superstore is still to cheap to have someone bag your food), my wife said "Trinity needs to go to the bathroom." Now Trinity is currently "training" in this art and so I knew we didn't have much time. I was in luck! A stranger pointed to a hallway a few feet away and said "The bathrooms are that way." I grabbed Trinity and ran down the hall to find two doors, a boys bathroom and a girls bathroom. Now I should stop right here and say that this kind of thing has usually been Mom's kind of thing to do. So I was initially a little confused. Trinity's a girl but I'm a guy. What bathroom should I then take her into. Logic prevailed and I took her into the men's bathroom. However, I was shocked to see that the bathroom in this massive superstore had exactly one toilet. One! And it was currently occupied.

At this point I began to sweat. Trinity was certainly not going to wait very much longer to go to the bathroom, wether she was sitting on a toilet or not. We didn't have time to wait! I became aware of hate feelings rising inside me. Hate for Superstore with its hopelessly underequipped bathrooms, hate for the man who was on the toilet, and hate for myself for getting into this situation. What could I do? I dashed out of the men's room with Trinity and looked at my only other option; the women's bathroom. Horror overcame me and I froze.

Never in my life have I been in a girl's bathroom. For me, this is one of those things that define you. Things like "I'm a Christian," "I'm a mac user," etc. I'm not sure where this fear comes from. Perhaps being labeled as a pervert? Maybe I'm not as secure in my masculinity as I thought? Whatever the case, going into a women's bathroom is a massive taboo for me. So it was with incredible reluctance that I gingerly pushed open the door and looked inside. It was empty. I dashed inside and sat Trinity on the toilet. Closing the door to the stall, I prayed ferverently that no one would come in - thus making me have to explain why I was there. It seemed like an eternity (actually it was about 45 seconds) and then I whisked her out of there. I walked shaking back to Jobina and Riker but couldn't bring myself to talk about what had happened. The trauma and guilt were still too fresh in my mind. . .

Later as I reflected, I realized that sometimes we get ideas in our heads and stick to them without really knowing why (and sometimes despite the fact that we know better). But after we've stuck to them for awhile it is almost impossible to go against them - unless like me you enounter the possibility of something worse. I think of things like racism, sexism, etc. People stick to these ideas (even in the face of clear logic against them) until the consequences of sticking to these beliefs become untenable. Perhaps this is why God sometimes has to shock us into a paradigm shift?

May Light increase!