Monday, April 30, 2007

It's all about . . .

I don't think this video needs much introduction or explanation. I'm curious to know people's gut reaction to it though.

May Light increase!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Stuff of Dreams

In my two years of school I have heard several different points of view about dreams. One of my profs believes that dreams are a path to the unconscious, that they reflect our deepest fears and desires, that they are symbolic to the issues we are dealing in with life, etc. He uses dream interpretation as part of his counseling and believes that almost all dreams are significant in some way.

I have another professor who thinks that dreams are the minds way of recycling ideas and events of the recent past, that they occasionally reflect our fears/desires but for the most part aren't significant to our waking lives. Unless they were brought up in session, he would never inquire about them. And if they were shared he would be very hesistant to assign/interpret any meaning to them.

I probably lean more to the recycling bin idea and would like to let things stay there. Unfortunately, I suspect I have had dreams that were either spiritually or mentally reflective of something . . . important. Sharing one's dreams can be tricky. I find that sharing a dream can be a very personal thing, especially if the dream is about something we don't usually like to share; ourselves attacking/killing someone, doing something sexually (that we feel is inappropriate), being afraid of something, choosing to do something that we usually wouldn't, etc. As a Christian it can feel problematic to be sinning in our dreams! I told the first professor about a recurring dream I had in high school where I was always running away from this wolf. He of course was very interested! Finally one night, the dream changed and I never had it again. I wrote a poem about how the dreams finally ended and shared it with him (forgive the high school morbidness, overdramatic prose, lack of proper rhyme, etc.):


Treading lightly through the bramble,
As twilight quickly fled
The greyish trees cast their shadows,
And my spirit filled with dread
Homeward bound at a nervous pace,
Cursing the ill lit path
When the sound of terror incarnate,
Touched a twig and made it crack.

The moon was hidden in the Heavens,
As my vision swept the heights
Terror filled my searching eyes,
When they found him in the night
Two orbs of hellish blood red fire,
Marked his spot upon the way
Then his monstrous features came to me,
Great flanks and cloak of grey.

The demon spawn was known to me,
My deepest fear come true
He haunts my troubled slumber,
And stalks the dreamworld hue
Chasing me through my visions,
In his cruel unwavering gait
Countless nights awaking me,
With his laugh of blackish hate.

Throwing my burden to the ground,
My dagger is unsheathed
Tossing black mane he slowly sneered,
And bared his brutish teeth
Unholy white they seemed to shine,
As he let his spittle spill
Then with a jump of perfect poise,
He leapt in for the kill.

He knocked me down, raking my side,
With his white, angry claws
Madness gripped my frightened soul,
As his mouth began to gnaw
One limb raised to guard my throat,
The other gripped my dart
And then with a scream of bloody murder,
I stuck him through the heart.

With wounded speed the beast rolled away,
And watched as his life force bled
Then suddenly his frame went still,
And I knew that he was dead
Without glance back I staggered home,
Then dressed my wounds with time
No longer nights of fitless sleep,
Dreamless slumber would now be mine.

(c) Mark Westman, 1993

In the end it was facing and killing the wolf (instead of always running and waking up in a cold sweat) that I felt stopped the recurring dreams. Was it somehow tied to something that had happened in my real life? I'm not sure. Was I afraid of something? Was it a spiritual attack? Was my mind recalling something I'd read or seen on TV? I don't know. All I know is that I'm sure my prof was much more concerned about me then he used to be . . .

May Light increase!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Drawing Blood . . .

Today I went in to get something checked out at a walk in clinic and they asked me to get some tests done. One was to get a urine sample (seriously, is there anything more embarrassing to announce in a crowded waiting room? Oh yeah there is, when she asked me to collect stool samples over the next few days!) and they also wanted to take some blood. I hadn't planned on giving any blood that day, but I thought I'd better go along with it. Anyway, the student (alarm bells, alarm bells!) told me I had "nice veins" and then proceeded to take out 3 large vials of my precious red stuff. It didn't actually hurt very much but it took him a long time to come back and left me just sitting their waiting. Somehow, I started not feeling right and when I went back to the lab waiting area I was feeling a little queasy and light headed. One of the nurses told me I was looking a little green and asked me if I would like some water. I said yes and put my head between my knees. . .

I actually don't remember that happening. I remember music (the radio?), feelings of peace, and various thoughts about my life and then all of a sudden I heard several voices asking me if I was OK. Then I realized that my eyes were closed and that I was very tired and sluggish. I slowly opened my eyes to find a concerned looking medical team all around me. They had put a pillow behind my head, a cold cloth on my neck, and a "puke" pail beside me. I guess I had passed out.

After a minute or so, I sheepishly convinced them I was OK and they left me with some water and my puke pail to await the next test (an EKG test). In truth, I felt great, like I had just had a very long and relaxing sleep. I felt curious and peppered the nurses with questions. I found out that I had only been unconscious for a few moments, that I had shaken a little (which apparently is common), and that I had been talking to the nurse up until the second I passed out. I wish I could have seen it! I'm not sure why I passed out - I think it had something to do with the unfamiliar feeling of having something foreign stuck into my body. I'm not really afraid of needles.

Anyway, the dream like state I was in seemed different then the previous times I had passed out (over a decade ago) and was what interested me the most. It seemed so . . . nice actually. I had sweet, vivid dreams in those moments but sadly can't remember any of them. I look forward to giving blood again soon! It felt quite therapeutic . . .

May Light increase!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I did it . . . eBay

Tonight I spent several hours trying to figure out how to sell a couple of things on eBay. I've realized that is takes a lot of know how to be able to produce a really nice listing (and a lot of patience too - my rage erupted a few times in a way that is not at all healthy). Selling on eBay is kind of scary. Hopefully people will see past my horrible pictures and akward descriptions and buy my old junk (I mean stuff) out of pity. Hardest to sell is my GPS. It really is the cutest little GPS, I feel like I'm selling a family friend. I've decided that although its amazing I don't really need it. Saying goodbye will be very difficult, I can already feel myself grieving its loss. Parting is such sweet sorrow. . .

May Light increase!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Is Depravity The Genesis of Art?

Lately I've been thinking about art. A few days ago I watched part of a documentary on Paris after the World War I. It was in a series called "Cities of Sin" or something like that. The documentary was showing how a large group of the most influential artists of that time period lived in Paris because of it's "anything goes" approach to morality. You name it, the Parisians did it. It was kind of like an European cross between Disneyland and Babylon. The documentary hypothesized how the Parisian spirit of tolerance and experimentation were the fertile (no pun intended) ground of the artistic revolution of that time.

This got me thinking, is depravity and lack of morality the beginning of art? Or at least truly creative art? Growing up as an evangelical Christian there seems to be a lot of evidence of this. How much original "Christian art" truly exists? I suppose it may exist, but it certainly isn't mainstream. It only takes a cursory look through a Christian bookstore to see that almost everything artistic in it is a sanitized copy of something secular. Music, books, movies, am I missing anything?

Truly creative art seems to by its definition be boundary pushing and against the status quo. I worry that either we have forgotten how to be creative as Christians or even worse . . . that artistic creativity and Christian faith or antithetical to each other. I of course don't want this to be true and hope that maybe some artists out there can set me straight. What do you think?

Friday, April 20, 2007

New Tolkien Book Out!

Good news for all of the Tolkien fans out there. How has Tolkien done this since he is dead you ask? Christopher Tolkien (JRR Tolkien's grandson) has edited the manuscript of a previously unpublished work called The Children of Hurin. If you've read The Silmarillion, you may remember them mentioned there. Anyway, if you are thinking of buying it, why not buy it through my new online Bookstore? Check out the "Random Enlightenment Bookstore" link below my personal profile on the side. Partnering with, I've started an "aStore" to highlight some of my favorite books and allow others to purchase them if they wish. Is this shameless commercialism? Um, maybe! How the aStore works is that if anyone buys a book from my store, I get a small percentage of the profits. So yeah, if you plan to buy any of these books, buy them through my site and help out a student! And if you have ideas on books I should add, let me know.

May Light Increase!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Book Review: Hood

Hood (496 pages) is a historical piece of fiction by one of my favorite authors, Stephen Lawhead, the first volume in the new "King Raven Trilogy." At first glance it appears to be just another retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale, but Lawhead has changed things up. Instead of the 12 century, England, Hood's setting is 1093 AD in Wales. King Brychan ap Tewdwr and his war band have been slaughtered by the hated Norman invaders and his kingdom take away. Of the royal family only the king's worthless son Bran has been left alive. The prince has been following his own pursuits and not the duties of his responsibilities. What is he to do?

I really enjoyed the themes that were developed in the book, especially those of justice and responsibility. Hood is the tale of a self centered young man who must make some serious choices that effect not only his life but the lives of those who come to depend on him for their very existence. Faith is woven into the story in a way that is natural. Most of the time, while reading the book I was unaware that I was reading the classic tale of Robin Hood as the plot/intrigues were so unique and the characters so well developed. Though not quite as good as his classic Byzantium, this is easily Lawhead's best work in several years. I highly recommend it, 4.3 ninja stars out of 5.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Johari Window

"Johari's Window" was one of the favorite games that we played at camp (my youth group liked it a lot too). The game involves spitting up the field into 4 quadrants, each with a stash of items and a team. The four teams then have to steal items from other quadrants while defending the items in their own quadrant. We discovered the game about 7 years ago and renamed it after the famous Johari Window which was part of our LiMiT team development training.

The Johari Window model of interpersonal processes (sometimes refered to as the "windows of growth") was developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham:

The theory is that in order to grow, we need to open our windows. To do this, one needs to take part in two important processes; feedback and self disclosure. To increase others understanding of you, you need to engage in self disclosure to expose one's hiddeness (or mask). To decrease one's blind spots one needs to receive feedback, information for growth that you are not aware of.

We can all benefit from sharing more of ourselves with others (the health benefits are enormous) and caring enough to share feedback with others. For a more of detailed explanation of Johari's window go here. And to try your very own Johari Window, go here.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Romancing the Trail

"No all who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien

I have a problem. Whenever I drive somewhere outside the city (especially somewhere new) and I see a trail leading into the woods I have an almost irresistible urge to stop the car and go running into the bush. I know this is a problem because my wife says so. Also, if I gave in to this urge, it would make cross country car trips very, very slow.

Every time I see a new trail, it bewitches me. It calls to me seductively, tempting me to forget about whatever else I was doing and to seek what lies further up and further in. To me, an unknown trail is the most mysterious thing there is. Every trail is an adventure that is waiting, just waiting for me to explore and discover. A good trail promises mystery, fear, beauty, and curiosity fulfilled. Exploring a new trail feels like the most natural thing in the world; I want to see what lies deeper, deeper in the heart of the wood.

Every trail has a personality all its own that makes you love it or hate it. A sampling of my favorite trails:
1. The Maah Da Hey Trail (100 miles long) in the badlands of North Dakota. It is so easy to get lost out there and the badlands make you feel like you are on a different planet. Otherworldly.
2. Black Island (near Hecla Island) has a trail that goes through the center of the island. On a canoe trip with my friends Terry and Dawson we started exploring this trail but turned around because of time. I will see what lies at the end!
3. The Mantario Trail is a famous Manitoba trail that I want to explore sometime soon.
4. It's only 10 minutes of walking, but the trail out to the overnite site on small peninsula at Beaver Creek Bible Camp holds much meaning for me. I walked it as a camper, counselor, and director. Every twist and bend holds precious memories from my past.
5. Somewhere on Vancouver Island (near Parksville?) is a magical trail that my family and I discovered while there for my sister's wedding. Rainforest, gargantuan trees, and a trail that ended at a mist covered lake flanked by mountains. Closest thing to paradise I ever saw.

May Light increase!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Madness of Money

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil . . ." - Paul (1 Tim 6:10)

Lately I've been thinking about greed a lot. I both love and detest money. I love what it can do for me, how it can make others happy, how it can solve problems. On the other hand, money can truly become one's master. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins and I'm always fascinated by how easily (and often) it rears it's head. It's kind of a taboo, so I feel a little strange writing about it. But my sister in law's openness about it a comment a couple of weeks ago inspires me to attempt authenticity:

I struggle with greed every day. When I eat breakfast, I read the flyers. When I serve at Olive Garden, I am always wanting more tips. Then when I go to tip out the bussers, I constantly have to fight against my basic nature that wishes to hold onto my money (even though money was generously given to me!). I look at my old car and start wanting a new one. I own two houses, yet I want more. I want to eat expensive food and go on expensive exotic vacations. I, like most who live somewhere in North America, am in the top 5% of the richest people in the world. And yet, I am not content with what I have, I want more. Sometimes I don't care about money, but most of the time I'm quite conscious about it . . .

What fascinates me most about money is that you can't just ignore it. It's a part of life. Money is not a vice or virtue, but rather a pragmatic necessity. I don't think we are called to attempt life without it, Jesus talks too much about it in the New Testament to go that route. At the same time, we are told to not let it become our master. Somehow we just need to figure out how to control it and not let it control us.

Is there an antidote for greed? What is the best way to approach money? Is the opposite of greed contentment? Is there a way to be radical with our money without becoming either the Apprentice or a hippie living in a commune? These are some of my questions . . .

May Light increase,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

You're Beautiful

This is a touching tear-jerker video for all of the Apple fans out there. I know you'll understand the emotions that were experienced here.

May Light increase!

Friday, April 13, 2007

The "All Nighter"

Have you ever done an "all nighter" before? An all-nighter is when for some reason you stay up all night. Last night I did this, I literally got zero hours of sleep. I was working on a project for my group therapy class which was due the next day. I probably could have had it done by 3pm or so but I was enjoying the experience and thought "what the heck?" and shortly after I was eating breakfast.

I had no idea what all nighter was until I went to Briercrest. My dorm, Lewis Apartments (LA for short), had its own culture and part of the culture was that you did all of your work the night before it was due, staying up as late as you could to get it done. Sadly, I have never recovered from learning this bad habit! It was at Briercrest that I saw people trying to "cheat" on their all nighters by drinking coffee, popping caffeine pills, playing music loudly, etc. The only thing I found that helped me make it through the 4-7 "death zone" was drinking juices. Unlike coffee or sugary drinks, there is no "down" afterwards from juice. There, I've shared my secret with the world, use it wisely.

Anyway, last night I found it was my easiest ever all nighter, so I suppose I've discovered a new secret to them (or perhaps the secret). You see I was writing up a proposal for a canoe trip based psycho-educational couples communication group experience. Sounds fun, eh? Well, it is for me! This week long canoe trip/group experience is one of my dreams and I found that because I was so excited about it, I didn't get tired. So that's my new secret; working on your dreams will give you strength, endurance, and creativity like you never had.

I know that we can't always be working on our dreams (after all, we have some life stuff that occasionally needs to be done as well). But if you are never working on dream stuff (or things that you really enjoy doing), life seems to lose something. My challenge is to think about something you dream of doing/experiencing/learning/reading/listening to/seeing/etc., and plan a time to "work" on it this week. You'll thank yourself later! Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to get some sleep. . .

May Light increase!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Changing What You (Think you) Know

"You must unlearn what you have learned." - Yoda

If you've never read "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (see my list of Books that Changed My Life) you should. Stephen Covey talks a lot about how in order to learn we need to be able to shift our paradigms (old ways of thinking). He illustrates this in this classic story:

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch as the night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."

"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.

Lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees."

Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."

The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees."

"I'm a seaman second class," came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees."

By this time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees."

Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."

We changed course.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Church Musings

You may have noticed that I've added a new blog to my "Blogs of Honor." Naked Pastor is a site I've been considering adding for awhile, but this post sealed the deal for me. I think it sums up one of the "problems" with church that we often can't put our finger on. You really have to read the post but essentially the author talks about how we can share our reality with others (vices, weaknesses, need for others) outside of church but that when we get to church we often put on:

the spirit of the church. We become possessed by it, and we are suddenly very religious, which manifests itself in excuses, self-justification, empty assertions, arrogance, pat answers, aggression against doubt, and fruitless faith claims. It’s curious how unrighteous we can be out there, but once we get within the walls of a church, we become something we are certainly not: righteous.

I liked this. The problem is not necessarily the church itself, but what we become when we step inside. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater! What Hayward describes as the "spirit" of the church" is not the Holy Spirit of the church. The small "s" spirit is religiosity and a false image of reality that is destructive to everyone. What if we decided to rebel against this false spirit? How would it change our churches? Imagine the freedom . . .

Of course, that doesn't mean that we should glory in our depravity. God is holy, and calls us to a transformed and righteous life. And yet, he does not call us to deception and false righteousness. Authenticity is a tricky business sometime, but I think we should strive for it and pair it with the giving and receiving of grace.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On Being A Dad

On Sunday, Riker received a new soccer ball as part of his Easter loot from his grandparents (as well as WAY too much chocolate). After lunch he and I went outside and we kicked the ball around. I'm not sure why, but playing soccer with Riker just made me feel like such a . . . well, Dad. I really, really enjoyed it. Basically we just kicked a ball back and forth to each other but it seemed like so much more.

When I was young, my brother Tim and I used to play soccer outside with Dad after supper. It was always him versus both of us and I remember the thrill when we occasionally beat him. I hadn't really thought about those games until Riker and I were outside and it all came back to me. Playing soccer with him was something my Dad used to do with me. Not only did we have a ton of fun, but I truly felt like a Dad! Very cool feeling.

Later on that day, I called my Dad and let the kids thank him for the gifts. I also thanked him for all of the time he spent playing soccer with me when I was a kid. I hope he was encouraged that all those games of soccer made a difference. It also encouraged me to remember that sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.

May Light increase!

P.S. The picture at the top is Riker's drawing of us playing soccer. I assume that I'm the bigger stick man but I'm not sure.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Minaki Yurt Adventures: Pics

Dalen took a few pics from our last ski trip so I thought I'd post a few of my favorites.

This green Yurt is the tri-level B&B yurt that the owners live in and is the first things you see when you pull into the parking lot.
In order to get all of our stuff to our yurt, we loaded up the packs onto a plastic sled and dragged it behind us to the Yurt.
Here's our abode for the next few days, the Blueberry Yurt. It was the nicest of the trail yurts and is hands down the best one to stay in.

This is Dalen skiing fearlessly across an ice and snow covered lake, deep in the woods.
After several hours on the "not open" Red Squirrel Trail we were tired but triumphant. Going first and breaking new trail is nasty. Most of the time I allowed Dalen the honor of doing so.

The last pic is my favorite. After the Red Squirrel trail, we did another big loop and when we got to one of the trail signs, Dalen approached it slowly and accidentally skied into it. We laughed. Then he completely collapsed on the ground. Then we really laughed. In biking we calling running out of fuel "bonking" and it seems that Dalen had bonked. Notice the look on his face; clearly he's enjoying the irony of the situation.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Desiring God

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
-David, Psalm 42:1-2

Honest Confession: I feel like I don't have as much of a desire for God as I used to. It's still there, but it seems . . . diminished. My spiritual director (Kalyn) and I were discussing this today. How does one increase one's desire for God? Raised as an Evangelical, even the way I think about this is problematic as it implies that I need to "do" something to "solve" a problem. Why is that I think of a relationship with God as a problem to be solved? Yikes.

Can we really will ourselves to desire God more? My director and I both agreed that as soon as you try to manufacture/create/will desire, it makes it inauthentic. On the flipside, if we are never seeking somehow to increase that desire, we could possibly drift in the opposite direction.

Kalyn suggested that instead of either (a). doing nothing, or (b). attempting to manufacture desire that maybe I need to instead be open to God and be open to desiring him. I guess this is kind of the middle place between doing nothing and doing something. Just the thought of it seems quite difficult to me. Um, like, how long do I have wait? Also, what does this being open look like? I assume it means have a heart and mind that is open to being filled with desire for God. And to live life in way where I am open and expectant for God to stir my soul. As principles these sound good. As a plan, it seems really, really hard.

I often think of this story I heard where an interviewer went around the U.S. and asked prominent Christian leaders what does Jesus meant to them. I'll never forget how Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, responded. When the interviewer asked Bright "What does Jesus mean to you?” Bright didn't say anything, he just broke down and cried.

That's the kind of desire and love for God that I want to have. Please, God, fan the flames of my desire for you. Amen.

May Light increase,

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Student and the Professor

Student: What is science?
Professor: Looking for a black cat in a dark room.
Student: What is philosophy?
Professor: Looking for a black cat in a dark room and there is no cat.
Student: What is psychotherapy?
Professor: Looking for a black cat in a dark room where there is no cat . . . and finding it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What Would Jesus Drink?

Jobina and I were going into the sanctuary of our church this past Sunday and she stopped to get some coffee before going in. As I saw her pouring the coffee in her cup, I started thinking. How is it that coffee, a legal addictive stimulant, has now become a part of people's worship experience in our churches?

Now I have to admit, I'm not a big coffee drinker. OK, I really don't like it. I don't like the taste and Jobina seems to get more headaches when she is drinking the stuff regularly. Add in the fact that coffee is addictive, has a high amount of caffeine which is a toxin, and is proven to increase stress . . . and I struggle to understand how we got here. Can we really not have fellowship without drinking something that isn't actually that great for us?

When I was a youth pastor, I remember going to a lot of seminars and training seminars. One seminar stood out to me: A Bill Hybels church leadership seminar. The speakers were all good, but the most notable part of it was when we broke for our break. Instead of having the usual coffee/soft drinks and unhealthy snacks we had bottled water, juices, fruit, and healthy snacks. This added a holistic element in a ministry setting that I have rarely experienced since.

I know that I am in the minority of people who don't like coffee and that certainly colors my perception. But what if it was another addictive substance we were sipping before, during, and after church? I'm thinking wine or Pepsi (yes, high sugar soft drinks are addictive). Would that be OK? Could we achieve fellowship without it? I'm not saying that there is not a place for such things. I'm just wondering if church is the place for it. Many different religions use mind or mood altering substances as part of worship - are we going down the same path? Where do we draw the line?

May Light increase!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Delusional Calgaria

I'd like to dedicate this video to my friend's Mike and Chris . . .

"Space" Experiment

I have this theory that the more tidy, clean, and organized one's space is, the more productive one will be. I have observed that when my office and house are in better shape, so am I. I feel I get more school work done, more "life" stuff completed, am in better shape, and procrastinate on things a lot less when my environment is more ordered.

Last week I had a really unproductive week. So this week in the Westman house we are doing a 5 day experiment. We are going to try to keep our "spaces" tidy/clean/organized for five days and see if we get more of what we want to get done. Although technically we will be doing more housework stuff, my hope is that we will get even more done as we will need to procrastinate less.

A few other things I am doing as well to increase productivity:
1. Get to sleep earlier. To do this and still keep my spaces ordered I will need to do less time wasters like watching TV and web surfing.
2. Work on first things first. In my list of things to do for the day, I often start with the least important (and easy) things to do first. This week I will do "first" things first.

So anyway, to really test my theory, I was wondering if anyone would like to try the 5 day experiment as well. If you are, it would be great if you could let me know and then report later how things went. I'm interested to see how it would play out in other homes.

May Light increase!