Sunday, September 30, 2007

Better-Late-Than-Never Speech for Evan's Wedding

I am happy and excited for my friends Evan and Renita who got married this past Saturday. They had a very nice and beautiful wedding (which I was honored to be an usher at). In the receiving line I was told by several people that there was not going to be an open mic but that it would be appreciated by Evan (and others) if I would say a few words. Sadly, I am not a good speaker and don't respond well under pressure but I attempted to write a few things to say. The pressure was on! Usually pressure does not paralyze me very much but this time it did. By the end of the meal I almost had something to say, but then it was time for the wedding party speeches and I missed my chance. Perhaps it was better this way as now I can redeem myself online. So Evan (and Renita) this is what I would have liked to say:

On behalf of my wife and I, I just want to wish a hearty congratulations to the happy couple. Though I have only recently gotten to know Renita, she seems like a good match for Evan (even though she tried to poison him). She is very beautiful, especially her smile and her genuine spirit. Evan of course is lucky to get her.

Ah, Evan. We have gotten to know each other well, haven't we? I have been your youth pastor, camp director, camp director mentor . . . and especially your friend. I have watched your continued growth with fascination and awe. Whenever I have been unsure if you were up to a particular challenge, you have surprised me with your ability to pull it off - usually in a way that was unexpected but distinctly your own. In that way I have learned much from you. I have enjoyed our long talks about God, life, relationships, ministry, grace, emotions, and everything else under the sun. I could wax eloquently about your gifts and abilities (of which you have many) but instead I will focus on one that truly makes me smile; your genuine desire to do the right thing. On this day, like many others, I'd just like you to know that I'm proud of you. Well done my friend.

May God's Light be upon you both!


P.S. Think of marriage as the ultimate T.D.A., complete with team (Team Kornelsen?), loving feedback, exciting tasks, and debriefings galore. Marriage is the most enjoyable T.D.A. of all. Enjoy every minute of it!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Life, Death, and Wisdom: Part 2

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying." -Woody Allen

Yes, we must accept our mortality, but I wonder if it's OK to look something so imposing in the face and laugh at it. This was the strategy of men like Woody Allen. Is it OK to find ironic humor in death? Just to balance off the heaviness of my previous post, I thought I'd provide a link to an interesting article entitled:

Strangest Deaths In History

Is it morbid to find it fascinating to hear how some people have left the world of the living? Perhaps, but if we focus only on the darkest aspects of death life could get pretty dour. Perhaps some lightness and humor are alright sometimes. Can you joke about death?

May Light increase!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Life, Death, and Wisdom : Part 1

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart." -Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

OK, this post will be a bit morbid (warning: if you are the type to think that discussing death is questionable, this post might be a bit too much for you). After reading Solomon's proverbs and thoughts in the Bible, it seems that he links the concepts of wisdom and death. Thinking about death (and what it means) leads one down to the path of further understanding. My first reaction to this is alarm; why should we think about death? Won't it just lead those who have suicidal thoughts to becoming more so? At the very least it seems quite depressing, how can this be a good thing?

These are valid concerns - to a point. As a clinician I would never tell a person contemplating harming themselves that it would be good for them to think more about death. And yet, it is often when people are confronted with their own mortality that they wake up to what is important. Also, many of us are afraid of death. "Death anxiety" is a term used in existential psychotherapy which refers to the fear of death and the avoidance/coping methods that most people use to fight it. Existential therapists, converging with Solomon somewhat, would say that instead of distracting ourselves from the reality of death, we ought to instead realize (and accept) that we have a limited amount of time on this planet and should make active choices about how to live. Westerners have a particularly "blind" view of death and suffering. We long for a happy ending and death seems to deviate from that.

Do I fear death? Most days I'd honestly have to say yes. I try to avoid thinking about it. But when I'm confronted with it, it almost always forces me to seek God more and use my time more wisely. Funerals often do bring me into the presence of God in a way that is both painful and yet meaningful. Any thoughts here?

May Light increase!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Deep Question: Dreams

Last night at OG, one of the staff there told me this bizarre dream he had about being tempted by another woman. What really interested me was the impact it had on him. He truly did not know what to make out of it; he seemed to have conflicting feelings of guilt and shame yet but his mind told him that it was nothing. I started thinking about my own dreams. It seems to me that in some of my dreams I am a mere spectator and don't feel like I have any real control over what happens. Other times I very much do feel in control and that I am making my own decisions and choosing my actions. Is my sense of control an illusion? This got me thinking about a deep question; if you sin in a dream, does it "count" as a sin in real life? In other words, since sin can be a mental concept, is sin done in dreaming "really" sin?

By the way, the The painting at the top is Frederick Lord Leighton's "Flaming June," painted in 1895.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Power of An Invitation

When I got home from work last night, Jobina told me a cute story. On Sunday, I had checked our church mailbox and found an envelope addressed to Riker. Last night he found it: inside was an invitation to his friend Katie Rose’s birthday party. Riker was absolutely overwhelmed. For about 5 minutes he repeatedly carefully took the card out of the envelope and said “Ohhhh . . . awwwwww . . . it’s so cute of Katie Rose . . . It’s so cute of her to invite me.” Obviously he was very touched and when he woke up this morning, the invitation was the first thing on his mind. Invitations are powerful things.

Can you think of the last time you were excited to be invited to something? Do you remember thinking about how nice it was that the person/persons thought highly enough of you to invite you? I can think of two; my friend Harry invited me to play floor hockey with him and his friends. Another time my friend Kevin invited me to go on a canoe trip in Northern Manitoba. Sadly, I could not attend either of these (I dearly would have liked to - curse my crazy schedule!) but I was touched for two reasons. First, they were inviting me to something I enjoyed. Secondly (and most importantly) the person wanted me there - they specifically wanted me to attend and be there with them. I felt wanted, special, and liked.

Who could you invite to something this week? It may be something simple like going out for coffee, going to a movie, or going for a bike ride. Or maybe it’s a bit more; inviting someone to your church, to a meal in your home, or to join a group that you attend. Your invitation might be the most encouraging thing you can give them.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why Do We Crave What's Bad For Us? Part 2.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." - James

In my last post I looked at the vexing problem of why we crave what's bad for us. I gave a few examples and wondered about our weakness as human beings. I also said that I would give a few strategies for beating our desires. Here are a few:

1. Remove yourself from the temptation. This one's easy, if you know you have a problem indulging in something, remove it from your house, work, car, life, etc. Ex/ Binging on fatty foods is a lot harder if you don't have them in your house.
2. Flee like Joseph. Occasionally we are surprised by our temptations when we least expect it. Get up and leave, drive away, turn off the TV/computer. Don't justify being tempted, get out of there!
3. Stay close to others who are wise in the area you are weak in/far from those who share your weakness. Misery loves company - hang around those who will bring you up not down.
4. Ask someone to keep you accountable. "Ask me about _______." Give them permission to call you on stuff. When tempted (and it's possible), call them and talk stuff through. AA has a useful model for accountability I think.
5. Figure out what you really want. Whether on your own or with the help of skilled listener, ask yourself the tough questions. What do I get out of doing this? Why am I attracted to this thing that is so bad for me? What do I really want? What function does _____ do for me? Though sometimes painful, this self examination may yield much fruit when it comes to desires which war against us. It may also give us clues to victory and substituting better alternatives.
6. Recognize both your weaknesses and your strength and act accordingly. Yes, you are stronger than you realize, but don't test it too much. Reveling in a newfound ability to abstain from something is the sure path to failure.
7. If it's "not that bad" a craving, plan to give in every now and then. This is of course for non-sinful actions (eating bad food, sleeping in, being lazy, time wasting, etc). Planning to do these things robs them of their power. Caution: should only be done when some control has been established and only with strict guidelines on time/amount/etc. spent.
8. Pray. Not just "for" control but "about," sharing one's experience with God.
9. Focus your attention and time on desires and passions that are good for you. Substitution! What do you really enjoy/gets you hyped that's good for you? Start doing that instead. The key is that substituting should be done with something you enjoy. Philippians 4:8 applies here.
10. Be gracious with yourself and others. Be strong, but when you fail, forgive yourself and look positively to the future. To be gracious with yourself, you'll also have to be gracious with others - these things go hand in hand. Don't beat yourself up, take responsibility and then move forward in wisdom and discipline.

The truth is that its terribly hard work to battle against anything that we strongly desire but we know is bad for us. The above ideas will help if applied consistently, but don't expect the desires to just disappear (though hopefully they will diminish). Instead, hope and pray for the strength to say no to acting on them . . . again and again and again. Never give up.

May Light increase!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why Do We Crave What's Bad For Us? Part 1.

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." - Paul

Yesterday Riker was telling me about how he learned about temptation in Sunday School. I actually had been thinking about the topic myself lately. Why is it that we crave things that are bad for us? Two examples:

I often crave an ice cap from Tim Horton's. Especially in the evening. The thing is that if I have one I will literally be awake all night. Since I never drink coffee, my body is unused to such high levels of caffeine. I know this, I've experienced the sleepless nights and yet . . . I still occasionally buy them. Then I suffer for it. Then I do it again.

Another thing I often do is play this online tank battle game called BZFlag. This game isn't really that fun, I play for way too long, and my arm gets cramps from using the controls. I almost always regret playing it (as it is major procrastination tool). Yet, I'm still tempted to play all the time and I often give in.

It's really bad for me, but I want it anyway. This is pretty illogical! Yet it seems that this kind of affliction affects us all. For some reason, what we get out of the "bad thing" is more motivating then the repercussions of it. I think of addiction; addicts know that a substance is bad for them, but the high they get from it drowns out all objections. The fact that we crave what hurts us (or can even kill us) is remarkable. Why do so many extremely smart people (presidents, pastors, etc) risk their entire career and reputation on an affair? Suddenly their reason is out the window. To me, this one of the greatest proofs that we have truly a sinful nature. We have conflicting desires and for no good reason, the bad desires often win. Tomorrow I'll talk about strategies to beat them.

May Light increase!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Book Reviews: Island of the Lost, Scarlet, Invisible Men

Three brief book reviews of books I've read recently:

Author: Stephen Lawhead.
4.5 ninja stars out of 5

I loved it. Scarlet is the 2nd in the King Raven Trilogy which is Lawhead's rethinking of Robin Hood, Celtic style. Told from the viewpoint of captured outlaw Will Scarlet, it makes for a great tale that kept me engaged from beginning to end. I really think Lawhead's writing is getting better as he ages and the King Raven Trilogy shows that his take on Robin Hood is yet another show of good literary judgment. I felt an affinity with the main character which didn't hurt either. Altogether a fun, enjoyable read that I couldn't put down (thus I went to bed at 1:30 last night). I can't wait for the last book ("Tuck") to come out in 2009.

Invisible Men: Finding, Engaging, and Inspiring Men in Therapy
Author: David Grove
4 ninja stars out of 5

This book was one of my texts for a Gender Issues class at Prov. Ironically, the book was nothing what the course instructor thought it would be (always pre-read your textbooks professors!) and that was the best part. She thought that it was mostly a book on connecting to men in therapy. Really though, it was how at the core of many families problems there is an "invisible" male: a husband/father who is essentially abdicating his role and not standing up to or standing up for his family. Through fascinating case studies, the author shows how once these men are identified and empowered, the families' other problems disappear. Grove (who comes from a family systems background) seems to say that the man fulfilling "manly" type roles is both necessary for him and his families health. This seems to strike a blow against the idea that man and women's roles are completely interchangable - Grove says the man must be assertive and play his role. Fascinating reading for therapists, pastors, or anyone interested in psychology.

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
Author: Joan Druett
4.2 ninja stars out of 5

This book is kind of like Robinson Crusoe meets Survivor with a touch of Alive for good measure. The true story of two separate parties of unfortunate men who shipwreck on Auckland Island, 285 miles south of New Zealand, Island of the Lost is an inspiring double tale of men coming together in the worst of times and working magic with the precious resources they had and yet also the story of failed leadership in a crisis which results in tragedy. I will never think of hunger the same as I did after reading this story. Especially interesting to me was the fact that it wasn't just a lack of food that nearly did many of these brave souls in, but rather the lack of the right kinds. Druett chronicles what happened to the men as they ate only meat and scurvy began to assault them. I know I think much more seriously about making sure I eat my fruits and vegetables after reading this book.

May Light increase!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Waiters Who Are Nauseated By Food

What if a waiter was really nauseated by food, what would that look like? This older but funny sketch seeks to answer this question. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

By the way, for those of you who are interested the first waiter is (a very young) Stephen Colbert and the second is Dana Carvey.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Advice From Trinity

Today my two year old daughter shared some wisdom with me:

Trinity: "Daddy, it's very important not to touch bees."

Like the best understood wisdom, she learned this from experience.

May Light increase!

The Reality of Balancing One's Goals.

I remember hearing Gary Fisher, one of the Father's of mountain biking quote an old engineering saying. When it comes to building mountain bikes:

"Light, strong, cheap. Pick any two."

When it comes to a bike, it can be light and strong, but then it won't be cheap. Or it can be cheap and light, but it won't be strong. Etc., etc.

The idea that you can have several ideal goals, but that you must always sacrifice one also applies to life. I'm working through this reality right now.

I have three big desires. I would like to graduate this year (I need to get 10 courses done). I would like to excel in my courses (especially my time intensive practicum). And I would like to be financially healthy (able to pay my monthly bills and not go into debt). Unfortunately it seems that I may have to "pick any two" and sacrifice the third.

I can excel in my courses and remain financially viable, but the time required for both means that I won't be able to graduate in April. Or I can excel in my courses and remain financially healthy, but then have to delay getting my degree by at least a semester (the end of summer). Or I can get excel in my courses, graduate in April, but I will have to get a loan to accomplish it as I won't have time to work at OG (or at least not enough to cover life expenses). I also may be able to graduate in April by getting all my courses done, and remain financially healthy, but I will do relatively poorly in my courses and not really get the learning that I wanted (or needed) out of them.

You see my dilemma.

Don't feel too sorry for me, though you may not realize it, you are probably in the same boat (in some way). I believe that we all face choices like this in our lives. We want more then we can realistically accomplish with our limited resources of time, money, skills, etc. We want to serve our churches, be a great spouse/parent, successful in our careers, financially secure, in great physical shape, etc, etc. The truth though is that unless you are Superman (and even he has balancing issues!) something will always have to be sacrificed. There is only so much time to do these things. It's better to accept this fact and to choose wisely what you will focus on then to let the stress of not being able to do everything destroy you. You have finite abilities and resources. That's OK.

Just choose wisely. And while you're at it, pray that I will choose wisely as well!

May Light increase!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Personality Profile . . . Apparently

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Not sure if I agree with this, but it was interesting anyway. Engineer? I don't think so.

May Light increase!

What Are The Chances?

Keep you eye on the bat . . .

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Free Counseling

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself … that’s where it’s at.”

— Jesse Owens

I'm entering the final year of my counseling degree and would like to offer a great opportunity to help others and assist me at the same time. Part of my final practicum this year involves me working out of at a counseling office and seeing clients. So I'm counseling and being supervised out of Turning Point Counseling Center here in Winnipeg. The good news is that because I'm a student counselor, neither Turning Point nor I will charge for my services. That's right, free counseling!

So if you know anybody who would like to talk to someone about some important life issues or would like to see a counselor about a specific problem they are having, please let them know about me. Or if you you'd like to offer me a resource to your pastor as a resource, I'd appreciate it. I'm offering individual, couple, and family counseling on almost any topic. If you would like more information, feel free to contact me or call Turning Point directly. Also, if you are interested in counseling for yourself, let me know and I could refer you to another counselor (student or not) who could assist you. Thanks!

Update: I graduated! Google keeps bringing this page up for those who are searching for free counseling, however since I am now finished my practicum I am no longer offering free counselling. If you'd like to find out my fees for counseling services, feel free to email me at

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Predestination and Free Will

So a Calvinist and an Arminian walked into a MacDonald's. The Calvinist says to the cashier “You make the choice for me”. The Arminian gazes at the menu and says “So much to choose from!”

Monday, September 17, 2007

"What About Us?"

It was a strange sermon (at least to Jobina and I) at our church this past weekend. Our pastor is speaking a series on the vision of our church and today's topic was what the historical problems of our church are (problems which I suppose are shared with many churches). Here are the problems:

1. 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work.
2. There is never enough money to accomplish the vision
3. Churches tend to focus inwards not outwards.

For the third problem, our pastor spoke about how when the church leadership came up with a vision that was outreach focused at its center, not everyone agreed with it. He said the elders main comment they heard was "What about us?" He seemed to liken these comments to a. misunderstanding the others-centered purpose of the universal church and b. an inward desire to have church "about me and my needs." Some people left a few years ago (when the vision was launched) in his opinion because they wanted what was best for them, not unbelievers in the community.

Usually, I love our pastor's preaching, but I had several issues with this sermon (Jobina was pretty annoyed with it as well!). First, just because someone would like church to meet their needs doesn't mean they are selfish. In my humble opinion, a healthy church is an outreach church - but it also meets the spiritual needs of it's members. A church that is only outwards focused will eventually die - people need to be fed as well as be feeders. Evangelism is not the only purpose of the church. As Rick Warren teaches there is also worship, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry. Healthy churches excel at all of these. Struggling churches ignore any of these to their own peril.

A second issue I had was with the use of guilt to try and get people to increase their adherence to a vision/giving/ministry participation. Probably my pastor would say he wasn't using guilt, but that's what it sounded like to me. Guilt of course does work, but only in the short term. As a camp director, I got good advice to never guilt people into coming to camp - it works that summer, but then people avoid you and associate manipulation with service! I definitely think there is time to challenge people and ask them to work according to their priorities. But it should be used rarely and still combined with what really gets people moved to action; inspiration. I want to be inspired to give, inspired to serve, inspired to follow Jesus. If I'm not inspired (and thus choosing to act), but acting out of guilt, what use is it? People want to be invited, not guilted.

The end result was that Jobina and I felt very pressured to give of ourselves by the end. The sad thing is that we have both been thinking about getting more involved in our church, but this type of sermon turned us both off - we almost didn't stay for lunch afterwards, it was so upsetting! We did stay though, and were glad we did. But I know I certainly don't want to get sacrifice for God in my church out of guilt. I want to do it because I think Christ will be pleased with it (and I want to).

I'm pretty sure if it's not fair to rant about a sermon I didn't fully agree with on line, but I wonder what others think on this matter. I suppose I should call my good pastor and ask him to go for coffee to discuss. I didn't talk to him yesterday as I believe in the rule that you should never challenge a pastor's sermon on the day he preaches. Not sure if he's open to feedback in this area, but I guess I could find out. By the way, the message should be posted to our church's website in the next day or two, check it out if you are interested.

May Light increase!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Looking Young

Yesterday I was encouraged. I was working at Olive Garden when one of the newer servers looked at me and said, "Mark, are you married?"

I looked at my ring finger (astonished) and said, "Oh no, you're right!" The server appeared to be in shock. "How old are you?"

"Actually, I'm 32."


Another server near her said "I thought you were 24." Yet another nearby server agreed.

Even though I'm getting older, to some at least I still look young! My brother called me last night and when I told him this story, he told me a story. He's a smoker and the other day he shaved off his beard before going to buy some smokes. He was shocked when the person at the store ID'd him. He just turned 30! We found our youthful looks ironic considering we are both starting to get some grey hairs.

Here's to the Westman boys. Getting old, but at least we don't show it!


Saturday, September 15, 2007

How Revelation Makes Me Feel

I'm trying to finish up an intro course on the NT. Part of the course requirements is that I need to read through the entire New Testament. Twice. Yesterday I finally finished by reading Revelation. My assignment for that book was pretty easy: describe how Revelation "makes you feel." I thought that it was very cool to reflect on what kind of emotions scripture brings out of us. Below is some of what I wrote. By the way, the image is "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" by Viktor Vasnetsov (1887).

When I first looked at the question in the assignment, a few words came to mind. First, there is eeriness. There is something so otherworldly and bizarre about this book that I can’t help but have a sense of eeriness and strangeness. The description of the 4 winged beings is beyond anything I've seen or experienced. This brings me naturally to another emotion I felt; fear. Though I am a Christ follower, the terrible events, suffering, and pain which are described in detail are a little frightening.
I don’t like to admit it, but I also felt a little bit of distrust. When you hear that many of these “crazy” things are supposed to happen soon and you know that is almost two thousand years since John wrote that these things were going to happen - well, it makes you wonder. Seems like it should have happened already. Or has it? I know that time is different with God, but I still feel some distrust and it makes me wonder if either I’m totally not reading things right or something went wrong with the prophecy.
Lastly, the final part of the book fills me with hope. The triumph of the Lamb over his enemies is inspiring. When the new heaven and new earth are created and the heavenly city comes down, that is exciting stuff! I feel like what is supposed to happen will. The beauty of “no more tears” and God being the light for the city is truly fantastic to meditate upon. Yes, I definitely felt hopeful and optimistic at the end.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chuckie Baby

I'm betraying my age here, but the topic of my post today is Chuck Norris. Ever heard of him? Before there was Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Vin Diesel, etc, there was Chuck Norris. Back before Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger . . . Chuck Norris was. He is one of the greatest movie action heroes ever, a master of Karate whose steely eyed stares that could take down any enemy foolish enough to get in his way.

I remember first becoming acquainted with Chuck Norris through my Aunt Gai. This usually mild mannered and saintly woman confessed to me one day that she was "part of a group." What kind of group? A group of women who met weekly to watch "Chuckie Baby" (as they called him) movies and then discuss his awesomeness. What kind of man could inspire such devotion?

It turns out that Chuck Norris is now a Christian and a pretty nice guy. He's also the subject of some great jokes called the Chuck Norris Facts which have become a cultural phenomenon. Most are pretty funny, though some are crude. Check them out here. If you are too lazy to click for the link, here's a few that Chuck himself likes:

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.

Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.

There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.

When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.

Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.

Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch, HE decides what time it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


"Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant." - Maya Angelou

I immediately liked this quote when I read it in my planner this morning. Too often when I look at my schedule I am in survival mode - desperately trying to get done all I need to. And in life, there are times when just surviving is an incredible accomplishment. I think of times like grieving, financial hardships, spiritually dry times, and illness. Surviving is sometimes the best one can hope for. Sadly, sometimes we can get stuck in survival mode and it becomes a way of life instead of a stage. We can't imagine ourselves anywhere else then in our current, desperate (or near desperate) circumstances. Hope leaves us. And even if we try and sound hopeful to others, in our hearts we have given up. Things will always be like this. I might as well just get used to it.

When one is just surviving, it takes a lot of courage to imagine what thriving would like. It takes even more courage to plan for thriving! In psychology it has been proven that long term depression is often exacerbated by an overall (or global) negative mindset. This mindset, rather then circumstances, can keep a person from exiting the depression and thriving in their life. Action is necessary to break out of the survival mode and takes steps toward thriving.

Why is action so necessary? Because action challenges negative mindsets and proves that many of the negative assumptions that a person has are false. As an example; lets say a person has an accident and is unable to leave their home for several months (getting obese and socially isolated). During their recovery, this individual could eventually develop a negative mindset that says they can only survive and that they will always be this way (obese, lonely, and homebound). Depression may set in so that they can't get back to normal even after physical recovery from the accident. A counselor might challenge them to try some sort of action; maybe going for a walk twice a week and saying hello to at least one person they meet. Once they try this small action, the action proves the myth is wrong (I can get excercise, I can talk to people), and the negative mindset loses some of its power. They have taken a step from unnecessary survival mode to thriving.

Everyone needs to go into survival mode sometimes - it's part of being human and very normal. Life happens. But if you live there, if you can't ever get out of it even though circumstances may not be really that bad, then I challenge you in a friendly way to imagine and plan for thriving. Take some sort of action to change things. Even if you can't think of some action, ask someone else for ideas (a friend, a pastor, a business person, a counselor, a doctor, etc.). As much as is possible, change your stars. Thriving is possible, you just can't see it . . . yet.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Favorite Super Hero

Who's your favorite super hero? When I was a kid most boys chose one of the Big Three; Superman, Spiderman, or Batman. Personally though, my favorite was the invincible Iron Man. Iron Man didn't have any special mutant or magical powers, instead he was a genius who built himself a hi-tech "suit of armor" with extraordinary abilities.

I really liked the fact that Iron Man was just an ordinary man (well, OK a genius ordinary man). Unlike some other heroes, Iron Man (aka Tony Stark) has had some significant problems; alcoholism, womanizing, and he's an uber-capitalist who's company occasionally sells high tech weapons to the U.S. Government (many ethical issues here). For some reason, I can identify with a hero who also has significant challenges in his personal life. Anyway, next year they're coming out with an Iron Man movie and I'm really stoked. Here's the link to the trailer. I of course will be there opening night on May 2nd, 2008. Let me know if you want to come with!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Were You?

Today is the the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. On my way home from Olive Garden I tuned into an to a talkshow where they were discussing how the world responded. One interesting tangent the show got onto for a little while concerned what should be a Christian response to 9-11. Someone called in and said that George Bush didn't act like a Christan because instead of forgiving the terrorists (as Jesus would have), he instead sought justice. The caller said that Jesus wasn't "into" justice, that he was only into forgiveness. The host argued that Christ is forgiving and yet also is interested in justice. "Can you imagine what the American people would have done if George Bush had just said 'Hey, we forgive you?" asked the host. It's a good question for my pacifist friends. What do you think George Bush should have done?

Where were you on Sept 11th, 2001? Do you remember what it was like, how you felt, where you were? I was living in Mennville at the time and was planning on doing some mountain biking in the Howardville pits with my friend Grant. Sometime in the morning he called me to confirm our ride and told me that I should turn on the TV. "There is some crazy stuff happening" he said. I tuned in just after the second plane hit. I couldn't believe it. How could it happen? I mean one plane was a horrible accident, two - what could cause that? Partially I felt detached, like I was watching a car accident - and I couldn't look away. On the other hand, I felt incredibly uneasy. I remember wondering if maybe this was the start of the end of the world. My whole view of the world was abruptly changed. If someone could do this to the Americans then what could it mean for us in Canada? Grant and I decided to go biking that day anyway, but it felt strange to go out and enjoy ourselves while tragedy was occurring south of the border.

My thoughts and prayers are with those relatives and friends of those who died that day.

May Light increase

Monday, September 10, 2007

Becoming "Just Roomates"

While on our Anniversary trip, we watched a movie one night called "Premonition." Sandra Bullock plays a housewife who imagines one day that her husband has been killed - or did it really happen? Anyway, I won't give away the movie, suffice it to say that it's a good show that keeps you guessing til the end. In one part of it, Sandra Bullock's character tells her best friend that her and her husband have been living as roomates, not as spouses. I'm not sure why but this hit me hard and made me very sad. I'm a huge fan of marriage - I believe it is the most beautiful relationship there is; the vital building block of civilization. I also believe that the Divine is reflected in it. So when I think of marriages where people just live as roomates it makes me so very sad - it's a tragedy. What should be essential and fantastic is robbed of its life changing power . . . and replaced with being merely "roomates" and having a hollow shell of a relationship

It's also scary because I know people who have become just roomates with their spouses. It is incredibly painful to them. And don't get me started on the effect that it has on their children. Children get so much security from parents who love each other that it's not even funny. Children know when things between mom and dad aren't good. And it effects them terribly.

I also feel it's scary because "becoming just roomates" can happen to anyone; it could happen to me. If I neglect the relationship with my Jobina, if I allow life and all its busyness to take the place of connecting with my wife, if I stop working at my marriage relationship - it will happen to me too. And to you! I implore you - no, I beg you. If you are going down the road to becoming just roomates, stop it. Fight for your relationship! Put the energy in! Challenge the status quo! Get help from outside if you must, but don't let it happen to you. Too much is at stake.

In marriage, couples can fall into this horrible place where both people are unhappy but they don't do anything about it. They don't say anything. They don't want to rock the boat, even if they are dying inside. Rock the boat. Rock it today. There is always hope, even if you can't see it. As you can tell, I'm pretty passionate about this stuff. After I become a counselor, if I can help save even one marriage, I will feel like I have changed the world.

May Light increase!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Jobina and I dropped off the kids at my parent's house on Friday (thanks Mom and Dad!) and spent a romantic weekend at Jessica Lake Lodge in the Whiteshell! We had a wonderful time, it was so cool to be back at the place where we started our honeymoon; lots of good memories. We also opened up our 10 year time capsule that Jobina's sister got us and read with interest all the predictions/advice people gave us at our wedding. We wooed each other, we hiked, we biked, we jacuzzied, we feasted, we read, we relaxed. It was truly beautiful. Here's some pics from the weekend:
This is a shot from our little "love nest" cabin illuminated by the fire and candles. This cabin was well equipped with a king sized bed, jacuzzi, sauna, TV, screened in deck and many other nice features.This is my bride teasing me at Rainbow falls. I love those lips! To think I never got to kiss them until the night we got engaged . . .

This is me clearing away a little deadfall that had gotten on to the trail. As you can see this tree was a little heavy which is why I look so focused. If you look just right you can see the steely glint in my eye that says "No honey, you will NOT have to step over this tree - I shall remove it from your sight at once." Chivalry is definitely not dead.

Here's Jobina triumphantly cresting the top of a tall hill on the hopelessly oversized mountain bike provided by the resort. I wonder what she's thinking?

Those feet belong to me, I'm relaxing on our private dock and staring out the lake. It was a bit cloudy at that moment, but I was quite relaxed. It was a time to think of God and thank him for this time of rest.This is Jobina and I after a fabulous dinner at "The Landing" steakhouse at Westhawk Lake. 10 years ago we dressed up formally and came for dinner here on our honeymoon. At that time a couple inquired of our server what we were celebrating and when they heard that we had just been married they bought us our dinner! Sadly, we had to pay for own dinner tonight, but the prime rib and steak we had were both very good.

This is me working on my "Crane Technique" at sunset. Even anniversary celebrations must make way for one's ninja training. Luckily I'm married to a woman who understands and embraces this misunderstood art form.
Here we are, the happy couple. A little older, a little wiser, and definitely better looking. Now it's time to get back to regular life . . .

May Light increase!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Happy 10th Anniversary (to us)!

Today, exactly 10 years ago today I married the woman of my dreams. We were married here in Winnipeg at All Saints Anglican Church (across from the legislature buildings). I remember my bride walking down the aisle towards me and the anticipation I felt as she came closer. We told our pastor to make his sermon "passionate" and so he did; speaking directly from Song of Solomon and making Jobina blush! When he told me to kiss the bride, I jokingly kissed her hand first (nearly twisting it off I'm afraid) and then gave her a long, sweet kiss on the lips. I don't remember everything from that day, but I do remember the utter joy and happiness I felt towards God for giving me such a wonderful gift. Here's to you, honey; my soul-mate, my confidante, my lover, my friend. Thank you for marrying me and if I could, I would do it all over again. Team Westman forever!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Western Christianity's Dirty Little Secret

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
-1 Peter 2:11-12

I have been thinking alot about what a Christ follower should look like in North American culture. Reading through the New Testament and looking into the historical background has convinced me that if you were a Christian in the first or second century AD, you stood out. You were different. People who watched you for a little bit couldn't help but notice that you lived and acted in a way that was both different and counter to the Hellenistic culture of the day. "In the world, but not of it" is a good way to sum it up.

Fast forward to today. I have seen many polls and research that show that Christians in the West (well, at least evangelical Christians) are almost identical to the non-believers they live around. We watch the same movies, we buy the same stuff, we divorce at about the same rate (or higher in some areas), we have about the same levels of premarital sex, we cheat on our taxes (and spouses) about the same, we listen to and read the same things, etc, etc. Except for going to church on Sunday's, it's hard to differentiate between a Christian and non-Christian.

Shouldn't we be different?

Shouldn't I be different? Shouldn't the fact that I'm a Christ-follower (or at least very different) be obvious to anyone who meets me?

Apple had a great ad campaign a few years ago: "Think different." I wonder if as Christian we are called to think and be different and yet . . . we aren't. In my heart, I'm unsatisfied with this. What would I change about my actions? I'm not sure. But I have this growing desire to not be an anonymous Christian. I want people to see God working in and through me. How can we shine if we don't even stand out?

May Light increase!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Riker's Question

This is an actual conversation between Riker and I in the car today as we were running some errands.

Riker: "Hey Dad?"

Me: "Yeah, buddy."

Riker: "Are ideas dangerous things?"

I think this boy and I are going to have some awesome deep conversations in the future!

May Light increase!

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Anti-Piracy Manifesto

The Anti-Piracy Manifesto

I am a man.
A man who refuses to steal from those I don't know.
I refuse to steal copyrighted material like music, movies, or software.
I will not use the usual excuses:
"The companies are rich and rip us off,"
"I'll probably eventually buy it,"
"It's only illegal if I'm caught," or
"The technology has left the companies behind."
I will respect both the law and the artists who's livelihood depends on the sale of their work.
Whether an artist is rich or poor, he doesn't deserve to be stolen from.
A company, however corrupt has the right to charge whatever they want for a movie or song.
I may be tempted by the ease of ripping a song,
And I may be tempted to watch a movie before it's released on video.
But for the sake of "Thou shalt not steal" I will refrain.
For the sake of following Christ I will not give in, though everyone else "is doing it."
Nothing justifies stealing.

May Light increase!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Black Death

I was doing some work on my investment property the other day (well, trying to at least) and I needed to get some caulking to seal some stuff. My friend recommended PL-Premium - "good stuff he said. Anyway, things didn't go as well as they should have and by the end of the project my hands were covered with the stuff. Oh well, I thought no big deal, I'll wash it off. Hmm . . . water doesn't seem to work. I guess I need soap. So then I go home, use soap, and it still doesn't come off. OK, I guess I need something stronger. When we went for dinner (Ethiopian) with the same friend later that evening I said, "So, how do you get this stuff off?" "The 'Black Death?'" he said, "that stuff is almost impossible to get off, um, try gasoline!" He tells me after I use it about this cute little nickname and that is impossible to get off! The next morning it was almost time to go to work so I thought I'd better try the gas. That also didn't work! My mechanic neighbor had this green stuff that he uses and that didn't work either. Jobina went to the PL website and looked under the FAQ's. Here's what she found:

Q: How do I get PL Premium off of my hands?
A: Use gloves or barrier cream when working with PL products.

Translation: Nothing gets PL Premium off. Don't get it on you!

The only way I've figured out how to get it off is to painfully scrub my skin off. This stuff is so nasty! It made me think about how the Black Death is alot like sin. It stains and nothing can get it off. Nothing that is except for the gift of grace in Jesus Christ. As I've been reading through the New Testament I've seen the depravity of the saints; before and after becoming believers. Sin is seriously staining. Thank God for grace! It's our only hope.

May Light increase!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Never Ending Pasta Bowl

Right now at OG we are experiencing the promotion known as NEPB (never ending pasta bowl). This is a once year event where a person can come in and get their choice of pasta (about 8 kinds) and sauces (6 kinds) for $9.95 and get unlimited refills. It's grotesque really. It's a 42 day event that strikes horror in the hearts of all OG servers and is the bane of every OG cooks existence. NEPB can suck away one's will to live.

Is NEPB a good deal? Absolutely. Not only do you get never ending pasta but you still get never ending soup or salad with that (and unlimited breadsticks). It can be pretty stressful to servers though:

Server nightmare 1: The football team. It seems that football teams wanting to shore up on their carbs can come in and almost singlehandedly put a couple of servers into the deepest depths of server hell. Imagine continually trying to fill up a pitcher of water with a hole in it? That is what it is like to serve NEPB to a football team. I have seen servers lose it (snap) and start crying or almost fall down from exhaustion. Nasty.

Server nightmare 2: Impossible man. Every year we get a few of this type who can consume beyond what any human should be able to. After your first full size bowl you get refills in half size bowls. They are smaller but still very filling. The average person will eat maybe one refill and then be in agony. Last year we had a man who had eleven refills! Eleven! The poor server had to get the manager to override the computer as it won't allow you to punch in over 10 refills! Watching someone with this ability is like watching a train wreck in action. You can almost actually hear their arteries clogging up. Terrifying.

Server nightmare 3: Super sensitive guy. Get this, my friend Matt was serving two larger men the other night (one was estimated to be 300 pounds). After the two guests got their first bowl of pasta Matt asked them if they would like a refill. The two got very angry and went to talk to the manager - they thought by asking if they wanted refills Mat was suggesting that they were fat! The manager explained that this was standard practice (anticipating guest needs) but the two were completely offended. Very strange.

Anyway, NEPB is a great deal, so if you must partake, here's a few tips:
1. As a table, as much as possible, order your refills at the same time.
2. If you think you'll want a refill, order it in advance.
3. Realize that if you order refills you are adding a lot to your servers workload and tip accordingly.
4. Ask your server to pack up any refills that you don't finish - this is allowed!
5. If you can't decide between two sauces ask for two - this can be done. I recommend the fettuccine with both the 5 cheese marinara and the Alfredo sauces.
6. Really like a sauce? Ask for extra - there is no charge.