Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Our "aggressively inarticulate generation"

Like . . . is this guy serious?

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

For the past five or six days I've been working hard. Really hard. We had been trying to find a house in Transcona (an area of Winnipeg) in a certain neighborhood for a couple who's house burnt down and there aren't a lot of homes on the market (also, it means seeing properties and working out the financing with the bank as well). We were also trying to get our rental property ready for new tenants which meant repainting, fixing, and redoing some flooring. In the meantime I've also been seeing old and new clients (I now have 9 of them) for my practicum, work at Olive Garden, and occasionally see my family. I've been burning the candle at both ends.

Sadly, we were not able to find a property for these people so that means that particular weight is off our shoulders (it's too bad though, it would have been win-win for both our families). And I should finish off my work at the rental today. And I'm going down to one day a week at Olive Garden. So yes, balance is being restored.

So what was the cost of the past few days? Well, I've been existing on 4 hours of sleep a night, I've lost 10 pounds, almost every muscle in my body hurts, I'm a bit cranky, and I owe my family (especially my kids) a lot of time together. What was gained? Well, we have new renters for a year in an upgraded house so that means a modest monthly income from that and another $10,000ish (conservatively) in equity raised on the property by this time next year. And even though we didn't get a new property we are all set to get one if another opportunity presents itself. Jobina (master painter) and I got to spend some time together working on the rental which was kind of fun (thanks Mom for babysitting yesterday, you are awesome!).

Now I look forward to getting back into my schoolwork and reconnecting with my family and friends. So was it worth it? I think so. When it comes to burning the candle at both ends, I think it can be done, but only for a short time and only if there is great reward. I know some people who seem to live in this state all the time - I don't think I could do that! The question I think about is: how do you know if your life is too busy? Burnout is always a possibility and yet people get trapped in their thinking ("I have to do all this stuff!"). May we all have the wisdom to know what we can handle - and what we can't.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm Still Alive . . . Barely

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, my rental property needs new flooring and so I've been doing that and some other stuff constantly for the past few days. I just came back from there a few minutes ago (it's 3:21am right now) and I must get some sleep. My entire body is in serious pain. Adieu!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Does The Christian Sub-Culture Still Exist ... For Students?

I remember it like it was yesterday; I walked into my dorm room at Briercrest and was shocked to see my roommate sitting on the floor and systematically destroying all of his "non-Christian" CD's. For weeks he'd been getting slack from fellow guys (including me) about some of his pagan musical choices. Unbeknownst to me, he was getting more and more convicted/guilty about some of these choices and in a spectacular display of radical faith/guilty conscience, he was destroying all of his CD's that weren't on a Christian label.

At the time I was impressed and yet there was a nagging worry. Did he really have to destroy all of them? Was it devotion, guilt, desire to impress others, or something else that was behind this action - what were his motives? At that time, there was a great battle between the secular culture and the Christian one. The Christian sub-culture was like a big bubble; it it had Christian alternatives for everything; music, movies (yes, they were bad), books, clothing, candy, art, greeting cards, etc. Look in any large Christian bookstore and you'll see it all for it still exists in some ways. Where I think it doesn't really exist any more is with students.

Growing up in high school as a Christian it was all black and white; Christian or non. Choose! Today though as I was putting away dishes I thought about how much had changed when it comes to students. As a youth pastor, I was in a small rural Mennonite community and I literally saw the transformation with my students. They moved from a closed Christian culture to a quasi Christian culture and then finally into a "vaguely Christan" sub-culture. "The world" was first rejected, then explored with caution, and finally embraced as the norm. By the time I left most of my students were listening to/watching/purchasing most of the same things that their unchurched friend did.

It seems that things are always on pendulum and I worry that maybe the pendulum has swung too far. As my first story illustrates, the Christian sub-culture was way too judgmental. Today though I wonder if we have swung too far the opposite direction. Do we still have discernment? Have we forgotten that we are aliens in this world? Are we different enough? Will spiritual hunger reengage with the next generation of Christian students and will the pendulum swing back to a defensive Christian culture again? Or will we seem something truly different from this next generation - a fresh new approach to being in the world but not of it?

May Light increase!

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Hate Cancer: Part 2

“Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight.”

- Lance Armstrong, Tour of France Winner, Cancer Survivor

I hate cancer, but the way people choose to do cancer can be totally inspiring. Having cancer is going to war it seems, a fight. Part of the battle is against the cancer and part of it is against yourself. Sometimes, I think it can even be against God. War (sorry my pacifist friends) can be fought well or poorly. Although every person who has cancer has times of euphoria, anger, and deep-in-the-pit despair, some people seem to find a strength within them and rise to the occasion. They find God, peace, strength, and a positive spirit. I don't know how they do it, but I've seen it. I've literally seen someone's battle with cancer inspire hundreds of people with their authenticity, faith, and honesty. My friend Ramona has inspired so many people including myself (check out her battle with cancer here).

One of our youth sponsors Lorna also has an amazing story about her time with cancer and in it she tells people (just as other cancer survivors do) that cancer changes you. Something profound happens to these people. They will never be the same again. So yes, cancer is hell, but God can in spite of it even use it to inspire and change people. If you would like to leave the name of someone you know has cancer in the comments section, I (and maybe some others) will pray for them. Never give up hope.

May Light increase!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Hate Cancer: Part 1

Is it just me, or are more people being diagnosed with cancer? It seems that every week I hear of someone else I know finding out they have it. This week, I've heard about several. I'm not sure if I was just blind to it before, but I'm not anymore. Cancer is everywhere.

I hate cancer. I hate how it is hurting those close to me; putting fear, pain, doubt, and horror into their lives. I have had people in my family get it, I've seen friends battle it, and I've known people who have died from it (good and special people). It can attack your skin, your lungs, your brain, your privates, your blood . . . anywhere really. It's difficult to detect and difficult to battle. Sometimes even when you think you've killed it, it can come back. Cancer reminds me that I'm mortal and that suffering is indeed happening in this world. Whenever I hear of a friend who's been diagnosed, I'm reminded that all is not well - someone new has had their world shattered. Recently I feel like I've heard the bad news too many times. Too many times...

Does cancer scare me? Yes, yes it does - I don't want to get it and I certainly don't want any of those close to me to get it. I feel like it is robbing me and this world of some very special people. I watch even those who fight it and beat it - it changes them. I'm angry about this disease; angry, bitter, frightened, confused, enraged, and even chilled by it. I was going to write something more positive to end this off with, but instead I'm just going to focus on it and express my feelings. Perhaps there will be something more positive tomorrow.

Cancer, I hate you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Office - Grief Counseling

Jobina and I have been watching "The Office" lately (after "Survivor") on Thursdays and have been enjoying it's intensely awkward humor. Here's a clip from an older episode that shows what serious grief counseling can look like in a group setting. Watch and learn!

P.S. If the link above doesn't work, check it out here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Problem With Zeal

I was discussing the iPhone with a guy at work when another waiter came by and asked us what we were talking about. The new guy began telling us about all the things he loved about this new product and how much he wanted one. "You must really like Apple," I said. "Love them? "No way," he replied. "I hate Apple!"

"Really?" I said confused. "Why?"

"The same reason I hate Christian's. Apple people are so zealous for their product that come across as super annoying to everyone around them. It's the same with Christians, you just can't have a rational conversation. They are so excited about their "product" that they can't have a conversation with you - it's them telling you about how awesome it is and if you try to critique their precious company/religion, they can't handle it. They talk at you, not to you!"

As both a self-confessed Christ follower and Apple fanboy, I was feeling a little defensive. But I had to agree with him. Mac zealots and Christians are often guilty as charged - great at sharing the "faith" but horrible at looking at it objectively. We also are famous for alienating those who question any of our "beliefs." Worse, we often annoy those close to us as we attempt to share with them.

The waiter was trying to pin such behavior on Christians and Apple zealots only, but he had to agree that there are atheist zealots and PC zealots as well. But I couldn't stop thinking about what he said. If as a Apple user I am totally convinced that Apple products are the best out there, why do I have this overwhelming need to make others think the way I do? Why can't I handle them challenging my beliefs? Is it the end of the world if they don't believe what I do? Do I give people the freedom to not choose what I have chosen?

When it comes to faith, we are commanded to share Christ with others. But do we allow people the freedom to reject it? Do we sacrifice the basic rules of communication (listening, seeking to understand others, agreeing to disagree, not being rude)? Does the end (someone coming to Christ) justify the means (being annoying, beligerant, rude, making people angry, refusing to listen to others opinions, etc). Would you listen to someone if they treated you like this? Why do some Christians expect unbelievers to respond to it? Because we have the Holy Spirit on our side? If so, this is twisted logic. I think the antidote to unrestrained zeal has to do with love for God and our neighbors. It's not about us and being right about God. It's about God and we need to humbly remember that people can choose what they will. Are you OK with that?

May Light increase!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Three Interesting Thoughts

Thought One: Even Good Vampires Are Bad. This blog post talks about what has been discussed on this blog before about the tensions between fantasy and faith. The discussion in the comments section shows both sides of the spectrum. It's difficult to not take a side.

Thought Two: Will Bicycling to Work Get You Killed? The answer is both yes and no and the reasons may surprise you. Will this stop me from biking on city streets? Maybe.

Thought Three: First Kiss Is Key To Winning Female Love. Apparently being a good kisser is pretty important to women. Guys, you'd better start practicing now! I disagree with the theoretical foundation of this argument (evolutionary) but I think the data speaks for itself.

May Light increase!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Upcoming Busy Week

Well, we've managed to lease out our investment property again and I have to frantically make repairs (or call someone to them for me), redo the floor, and do some painting. Anyone like painting? If you do, let us know, we have lots of fun painting ahead of us (probably in the evenings) and would love some company/assistance. If you like that sort of thing.

My counseling is also getting busy. I have 7 clients who I see weekly with the potential for a few more. And my schoolwork is always present. Also, we are contemplating another real estate property to help out some people who lost their house in a fire. We are determining if we have enough resources to get them into a property while their house is being rebuilt. It could be win-win, but we'll see what happens. I'm praying that if we are supposed to do it that we'd find the right property and the financing would work out.

I'm too busy! At least this coming week.

I am doing something about it though. I am going down to one shift a week at Olive Garden. This will hopefully give me more time to do all of my other stuff (and hang out with my family too). I'm realizing more and more how much they need my time (and I need their's). God wants my time too! Well, that's a little person update, hope you've had a good Sunday.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Quote: Taking Off Our Armor

"It is true that no one can harm the person who wears armor. But no one can help him, either." -Kristin Hunter

I really found the above quote to be profound. As a counselor I see this all the time. A lot of garbage happens to a person (you wouldn't believe some people's personal stories) and so to cope we put on armor to protect ourselves. Call it what you will; defense mechanisms, detaching, shutting down, etc. All of these are ways of putting up armor so that we can't be hurt anymore.

Once you've got armor on, it's difficult to take it off, even if you know you need to. This is what makes a counselor's job so hard. We have to gently convince people that to get to the wound, they have to dispense from what has protected them from further harm. It takes a lot of courage to do this and I'm always impressed when someone does it. I know that it wasn't easy.

I want to take this quote to heart myself as well. What's my armor? Hmmm . . . I'll have to reflect on that one for awhile. What's yours? Something to think about.

May Light increase!

Friday, October 19, 2007

God: "Otherness" vs "Closeness"

Ever think you'll hate a class and then find out it's actually not that bad? Shockingly, I'm quite enjoying my Theological Foundations 1 class. We've covered some interesting topics and in our last class we were talking about the nature of God. Sometimes God's attributes are paradoxical; for instance God is all powerful yet he is vulnerable in love.

Another such paradox is God's transcendence (complete otherness from humanity) vs. his immanence (intimacy to humanity - or closeness). God is absolutely above all creatures and yet He is also intimately related with them. The paradox is He is the transcendent one yet he is among and with us. It seems Christian's have often emphasized transcendence at the expense of intimacy (immanence) or vice versa. Think about your church (if you are a believer); which does your church tend towards? Does it emphasize God's otherness or his closeness?

I would say my church (and most evangelical churches) emphasize the closeness. In the singing, God is spoken of as a friend, lover, helper, etc. The songs are love songs usually stressing intimacy. The sermons mostly stress the same things; relationship and getting closer to God. Occasionally in songs and worship God's more transcendent qualities are spoken of, but intimacy is the main focus. Contrast this with a more mainline denomination like the Anglicans or conservative Mennonite churches. They might lean more towards emphasizing God's "otherness" in liturgy, sermon, and song.

So which should be emphasized more? The answer is both. We need to remember that God is not like us, he is greater then all creation, holy, and the great "other." We are not on the same playing field with him and he should be treated with great respect. Feared even. On the other hand, God is also close to us, desiring to hold us in the palm of his hand, craving relationship and loving us as a good Father loves his children. He is intimately involved in our lives and is familiar with every part of us. When he knocks at our door, he desires us to open it so he can come in and be with us. When we ignore either aspect of God's character, we fall into error. Ignore God's transcendence and he is not God any more, just a cosmic buddy at best (or a cosmic Santa at worst). Ignore God's immanence, and we no longer have relationship with him; God becomes a distant deity; scary, uncaring, and untouchable. Balancing these two seems pretty difficult, but I think David does a good job. When I read the Psalms, I'm reminded of both sides of God. Which aspect of God do you need to embrace more? What's holding you back from embracing it?

By the way, the pictures for this post show are attempts to illustrate God's transcendence (God in the heavens) and his immanence (God as portrayed in "Bruce Almighty").

May Light increase!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Top 20 Theological Pick-Up Lines Not To Use

This is for my theology student friends:

Top 20 Theological Pick-Up Lines Not To Use

My favorite was "Looking at you makes me reconsider preterism, because you are heaven on earth.”

May Light increase!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Quiet Romantic Meal

I don't know if I've ever shared this, but I am a romantic at heart. The main reason I want to get into counseling is to help people with their romantic relationships, especially marriage. There is something so profound and beautiful about a woman and a man doing life together.

One of my favorite passages from Proverbs 30:

18 "There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:

19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.

I think this passage mostly refers to the wonders of sexual love, but there is something mysterious and engaging about romantic love in general. One of the things I really enjoy is watching couples together at Olive Garden. I'm a couples watcher. I'm intrigued at how different couples interact. Some everyday (but still profound) things I see every night at OG:

1. An elderly couple celebrating their 40th or 50th anniversary with family and friends. You can actually feel the respect that others have for them and the subtle but tender ways the couple show their affection.

2. A young couple on their first date. The delightful awkwardness, the desire, the nervousness, the inability to form cohesive sentences. Everything is exciting and terrifying at the same time.

3. The middle aged couple who don't know how to relate. They find themselves at a meal together and not knowing how to be together; the meal is full of long quiet periods and it's not until after dessert that they relax and really begin to talk with each other. You can sense it - they've found themselves as a couple again.

4. The new parents who have finally gotten a babysitter and are enjoying their first sleep deprived time away from their baby. Sometimes zombieish, they do not know what to do with their freedom and it takes them until the main dishes are served (or longer) to remember their couplehood again. They enjoy it for a few precious minutes and then they leave and go home to their baby.

To me, all of these simple meals are sacred times. I feel honored to be a small part of them. I'm not sure what it is, but when people share a meal together there is the potential for something very intimate to happen. Especially when it's a couple. I think that if most couples would just sit down for a leisurely meal once week, there would be a lot less divorce (and we might even achieve world peace!). If you have a significant other, why not take them out for dinner? Whether it's McDonald's or fine dining, it doesn't matter. And honey, if you're reading this, let's go out for dinner next week. My treat.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ancora Imparo

"Ancora imparao." (Latin, translated means "I am still learning" - Michaelangelo.

This is one of my favorite quotes. It is attributed to Michaelangelo who said it at the end of his life. Even though he was genius and had contributed much to the world and even though he was not far from mortality, he chose to keep on learning. This inspires me. I never want to think that I've learned all that I need to. As a Christ-follower I never want to think I've learned enough about theology and understanding God. I find those who have stopped learning . . . dangerous. As a counselor - same thing. As a parent, husband, investor, etcetera etcetera . . . I want to choose to keep on learning.

Lately I purchased Jobina a new toy (a pink iPod shuffle) and I got myself one at the same time (a tiny orange one and only $59 each if you buy refurbished directly through Apple). I thought it would be nice to listen to music but one of the surprise results is that I am learning more. You see, iTunes has this cool podcast directory where there are literally thousands of different audio and video podcasts on tons of different subjects. You can subscribe to them, download them, and then upload them to your iPod. I'm currently going through a real estate investing course but there are courses on everything from cooking, to theology, to self-help, to parenting, etc. Every topic under the sun. And it's all free! I find that if I load up my iPod with stuff and go for a walk, this is an optimal way for me to learn and get exercise at the same time. The best thing is that new ideas get me excited, which makes me walk/run faster; more so then even listening to music. I now look forward to excercising and miss it when I'm not able to go.

How are you currently "sharpening the saw" as Franklin Covey says? What are you learning about and keeping your mind sharp with? If it's nothing, I encourage you to take action and choose to learn something, something that would enjoy learning. Learning is a habit and a discipline, but it should also be fun. Well, I must go - I've gotta go to school (more learning).

May Light increase!

Monday, October 15, 2007

"The Bachelor" Rant

(Warning: Although I'm usually open to discussion on any topic, my reason has left me and I'm left with only rage concerning this one. Comment at your own peril!)

OK, today I had a fairly long day. Last night I didn't sleep very well and I had a lot to do today. I saw clients this evening as well which is somewhat emotionally taxing. Then I come home and all I want to do is relax. But instead of relaxing, I am instantly incredibly ANGRY! Why you ask? Because someone in our house is watching "The Bachelor."

"I hate this show more then any other," I growl to Jobina as I seethe dangerously over my supper. Seriously, is this not the most evil show in the world? Take a whole houseful of women and then make them compete for the love of one apparently charming guy who takes turns destroying them all, leaving only one in the end to begin an incredibly dysfunctional (but "romantic!") life together. Surely this show is all about what is the most despicable about human nature. I hate it! Why do I hate it? Because it is so false. Everything about it is false! The way he treats the women is beyond my words to describe. He woos them, lies to them, occasionally seduces them, causes them to attack each other, and then eventually discards them. Most of them have believed his lies (he's good after all) and then he breaks their hearts.

If you click on this link you'll see the secret truth; not one of the ten seasons has resulted in a successful relationship!! Why not you ask? (OK I'll tell you) Because a relationship sowed in complete dysfunction can never succeed. If you were the guy, would you want a woman who you really never had to win (who by virtue of the competition process was manipulated to fall in love with you)? And if you were the woman, could you really forgive Casanova for romancing (and sometimes seducing) other women when really he was in love with you? I think not! "The Bachelor" show borrows the words and images of romance but twists and distorts them into a counterfeit facsimile. And some women love this show!

(OK, I'm taking a moment to breathe. Rage . . . receding . . .)

Am I right or am I right on this? Is it not absolutely heinous for a guy to take two women out on a date, speak tender words to them both, and then dismiss one of them in tears? This guy agrees with me.

May Light increase!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Taking a Family Day

Today I took a family day. I refused to do any school work or working at Olive Garden. Just me and my family! We went out for lunch, napped, and then went for a nice walk down a hidden path by the Seine River. As Solomon said, "There is a time for everything . . ." Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Jaccuzzing At The Top Of The World

What better way to celebrate summiting the 15,771 ft (4807 m) tall Mont-Blanc, the Alps, than to strip down, put on some bathing suits and jump in a jacuzzi?

Here’s the story of the crazy mountaineers who specializes in mashing up mountain climbing with the relaxing in the hot tub. Wow, do you think this is cool, stupid, or ethically/ecologically irresponsible? I tend towards, really, really cool. I'm assuming that getting out would be very difficult though! Thanks to Neatorama for the link.

May Light increase!

Friday, October 12, 2007

What Would You Do?

Imagine that you are an otherwise healthy young woman (23) who has a problem. The problem is that virtually every woman in your family (your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunts, and cousins) all suffered or have died from breast cancer. What would you do?

This was the situation of Lindsay Avner who discovered that she too has a genetic predisposition to the disease. She didn't want to live in fear. She wanted to meet her future husband and say, "we got this out of the way so our family won't go through what I did growing up." So what did she do? She volunteered to undergo a double masectomy.

How's that for decisively dealing with a problem? Wanting to spare her future family from what hers went through growing up, she made the difficult decision and has even started her own non-profit organization, Be Bright Pink to rally against the disease. What's really interesting is some of the responses she's had regarding her radical decision. Most people think she's a hero, but others question the wisdom of her decision. Some even question her faith! As a man, I can't relate to this as much as other's might, but my question is: what would you do?

May Light increase!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

When Sin Isn't Treated Like Sin

As a Christ follower, certain actions are considered "sin," that is disobedience to the will of God. Occasionally, Christians will disagree whether something is sin or not, but for the most part we agree. What disturbs me (and I'm sure I do it sometimes) is when some Christians treat certain sins like they're not that bad.

For instance, I have friends who consider themselves devout Christ followers but are living with their girlfriends/boyfriends. Of course, living together isn't a sin, and neither is sharing the same bed (technically) but having sex outside of a marriage relationship definitely is. If I'm brave enough to ask them about this, most of them kind of waver "Yeah, some people think it's a sin . . ." or "It's not really that bad a sin (if it is one)." How do you respond to this? I'm amazed too at the number of Christians who admit to me cheerfully that they cheat on their taxes (a double whammy as they are not submitting to the authorities of the land and they are lying). Gossiping too is a sin and I'm shocked by the amount of it I here. Even when pointed out to good Christian brothers and sisters of mine, I've heard my point laughed off nervously. But they didn't stop.

Another one is gluttony (definitely a sin). For some reason believers think that if it is a special occasion, gluttony is OK. Don't even get me started on the Christians who come to O.G. and make themselves completely ill on excessive amounts of "never ending" food on Sundays! One that I'm encountering a lot more then I used to is in regard to alcohol. Now I don't think that drinking alcohol is a sin (more on this in a future post), but the Bible makes it pretty clear that drunkenness is. How then should I react to Christian friends laughing about how drunk they got or admitting that they will probably overdo it when they go out on the weekend or celebrate their birthday? I could go on and on . . .

I'm not so disturbed that Christians sin, after all Christian's are still sinful beings. But I am concerned when we become OK with it, when we begin to accept it, dismiss it, or even embrace it. I'm reading through the Old Testament and you pick up pretty fast that God takes our sin very, very seriously. Should we not as well?

May Light Increase!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blog Poll

For some reason my last attempt at getting blog feedback didn't get me too much. So I thought maybe I would try something else that was simpler and less scary: A poll. I tried using Blogspot's cool new Poll thing a while ago and after spending half an hour getting it all set up . . . it didn't work. Than I tried again and this time it did! Check it out on the right hand side under my profile. And if you choose "other," feel free to put what that other is in this post. Thanks for taking part!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How To Clean Your House in Under 20 Minutes

Is cleanliness next to Godliness? I hope not, cause I hate house cleaning! This article did give me some hope though:

How To Clean Your House in Under 20 Minutes

I'm going to try it next week, I'll let you know how it goes.

May Light increase!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Testing For An Unfaithful Wife: O.T. style

I can't remember the last time this happened, but the other day I ran across some Scripture that I can't remember ever reading before. I've read through the entire Bible a couple of times, so although I am continually enlightened by passages and verses, it's been a long time since I've truly felt like I was reading something totally new to me. But two days ago it happened. I was surprised, shocked, and floored to read this:

The Test for an Unfaithful Wife

Wow! I know that all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, etc., but this passage blows me away on several levels. I'm curious to know what others think about it. Also, have you ever been completely surprised by something you never noticed before in the Bible? Just curious. By the way, the image at the top is an artist's rendition of one of the Bible's most famous unfaithful wives; Hosea's wife Gomer.

May Light increase!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

On Being Challenged: Part 2

"Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear."
-Proverbs 25:12

If you could choose between being carefully rebuked/challenged by someone wiser then you or not being rebuked/challenged but reaping the negative consequences of your actions, what would you choose? Probably most of us would say we'd rather be rebuked or challenged. Why then do we usually take so much offense when it happens?

Working as waiter I've seen my share of angry, irrational guests. I find that once a guest gets upset, the average server will disconnect from anything the guest was upset about. Suddenly the guest is deemed "crazy" and their original complaint (no matter how justified it was) is forgotten. I think we all do this; we don't like how the message is told to us, so we write off the message (and often the messenger).

It takes a lot of humility to listen to a rebuke or challenge and honestly weigh it to see if some or all of it is true. When it comes to leadership this is so important. I can think of times at camp where I sat and listened to a staff member point out the errors in my judgment and I was able to overcome my annoyance that they were disagreeing with me and hear the wisdom they were offering. I also grimly remember times as a youth pastor shrugging off some of the concerns of parents about our program vision, choosing not to consider their thoughts because I was so convinced I knew what was best (which I didn't by the way!).

Today is Thanksgiving Sunday, I suggest being thankful to those who disagree with you and have the guts to share it (when was the last time you thanked God for that?). Whether you agree with them or not, they are at the least testing your ability to be challenged.

Proverbs 12:1 says "Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid." I'm certainly not there yet, but at least I have my goal. May we all be known as those who are open to correction, feedback, and challenge. Not sure if you are? Ask the people close to you to rate your openness to feedback on a scale of 1 to 10. If they seem very reluctant to give you an answer, you know you've got work to do!

May Light increase!

Friday, October 5, 2007

On Being Challenged: Part 1

How good are you with people challenging your opinions? I was thinking about this the other day because sometimes when I disagree with someone they can get quite disturbed by it. This brings me to the conclusion that a. I can sometimes be insensitive in how I share my opinions and b. some people do not know how to handle it if someone disagrees with them.

Put the question to yourself. Why do you get upset with someone if they disagree with you? Here are some of my ideas, some of which are based on my own experiences:

1. The topic is something I'm passionate about.
2. In order for my self esteem to be OK, people need to agree with me.
3. I don't know how to be in comfortable relationship with someone I disagree with.
4. The person comes across rudely. Perhaps they are too forceful, I felt too much pressure to not just hear their opinion but accept it myself. Or possibly their words are laced with sarcasm, double meanings, etc. Or maybe it is the tone of their voice that bothers me (know-it-all, egotistical, authoritarian, angry, condescending).
5. Secretly, I may know that their opinion could have validity and thus make my opinion incorrect. If I'm wrong, that makes me feel bad.

Notice we usually blame the other person? How often do we see our annoyance at being challenged as our own issue?

I like to debate things and throw out ideas for others to test them. Really, that is one of the main purposes of this blog. A little while ago I made a post inviting feedback on my site. If you read some of the comments it's interesting to note that some people were surprised that I would actually put myself into such a vulnerable position; inviting people to tell me what they don't like. It actually wasn't that bad! After all, what's the worst that can happen? By soliciting feedback I put myself in a position to learn new things and grow. And I can always disagree. Or ask follow-up questions. Or challenge the challenger. Either way, when done respectfully, it almost always results in good. If someone can never disagree with you then you are (in my opinion) unteachable and that is a very scary thing!

To me, a sign of good relationship is not the absence of disagreement. Instead it is a relationship where all parties can share their opinions honestly, openly, and respectfully - being free to disagree with each other. When done respectfully, the disagreements can be worked through and everyone benefits.

At least that's my opinion. Of course you are welcome to disagree with me.

May Light increase!

Dove's "Onslaught"

Thanks to ysmarko for this one. This newest short film in the dove “real beauty” campaign comes out of England and is hard hitting. When I watched it I felt a profound sadness roll over me. Is there any hope for our daughters when our mothers and sisters are already so unhappy with their own bodies? I also felt rage, rage that women are daily hit with so many messages telling them what they should like that they almost have no hope of building a healthy self concept of themselves. How many women are truly OK with how they look? I'm not sure if I've met any. As a man who loves his daughter, I'm truly scared.

See more on this at CNN: Pressure to Look Perfect Drives Girls to Destructive Behavior: Dove(R) and Hollywood Team Up to Give Girls a Reality Check About What Goes on Behind-the-Scenes

onslaught.jpgSome Chilling Statistics:

- The average person sees between 400 and 600 advertisements per day - equivalent to more than one message for every waking minute.
- The average US girl has the opportunity to see an estimated 77,546 commercials by the time she is 12 years old.

This growing phenomenon is having a direct impact on girls’ self-image and even causing some to engage in destructive behavior. The Dove Self-Esteem Fund/Seventeen Body Image Survey also revealed:

- 93 percent of girls and young women report feeling anxiety or stress about some aspect of their looks when getting ready in the morning
- This could explain why more than 70 percent of girls and young women avoid activities when they feel bad about their looks including giving their opinion, attending school and even going to the doctor.
- 76 percent of girls and young women admit to partaking in unhealthy activities when they feel badly about their bodies
- 58 percent of girls describe themselves in negative terms, including words like “disgusting” and “ugly,” when feeling badly about themselves.
- Nearly four out of 10 engage in unhealthy eating behaviors, such as anorexia or bulimia.
- More than one out of 10 girls has used cutting or self-inflicted injury as a coping mechanism.

For those of us who are Christ followers, what can we do about this? God help us!


May Light increase!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why Did You Get Drunk For The First Time?

Yesterday I was bored at work, so I asked people one of my infamous random questions: "When you got drunk for the first time, what was your reason?" Notice that I didn't say "if" as drunkeness has been experienced by the majority of North American adults, especially those who work in the restaurant business.

One of the 16 year old bussers looked at me and said "I don't have reason, I just do it." I laughed. "We don't do anything without a reason," I said. My friend Cole agreed, "Everything is a choice and you are the one who makes it." So why do people make that initial choice? What is their motivation?

So with a little therapeutic probing, here are some answers:

1. To fit in and be accepted.
2. To be "cool."
3. To see what it was like (curiosity).
4. Peer pressure.
5. To cope with something bad or stressful.
6. Um, it was an "accident."
7. To rebel against my family/friends/upbringing/church.
8. To alleviate boredom.
9. To increase sexual virility/attractiveness.
10. To find one's "limits."
11. To increase social skills.

Anyone think of any other reasons? I thought it was interesting that so many people when asked had never really thought about it. When you honestly look at what motivates you to do something, you arrive at the doorstep of personal enlightenment. Sometime later I'll do a series on the topic of alcohol . . . think of this as a teaser.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Blessing

Lately I have been reading through the Old Testament for one of my classes and have been reminded about the power of blessing. God blesses individuals and nations while fathers bless their sons. I used to think that this was one of those "Old Testament" things that wasn't really for today, but something happened to me several years ago that made me reconsider. A story:

Back in the late 90's I was attending Briercrest Bible College in Saskatchewan and working towards my BA in Counseling. During one of the short school breaks (I think it was thanksgiving), I invited my cousin Jonathon to come home with me. Jonathon is a great guy with interesting abilities. For instance, he can make himself tear up on demand. It's incredible to watch him in action, creating awkward moments or endearing himself to women. Anyway, Jonathon was staying with us out in Gimli for the weekend when he got a call that his Great Aunt (unrelated to me) was not doing well in the hospital. If he wanted to see her again, he should do so soon. Jonathon described his old Aunt as a "saintly woman" and even though he didn't know her well, he wanted to say goodbye. Since she was a short drive away in Winnipeg, I offered to drive him.

When we got to the hospital, the hall outside her room was filled with relatives. There was a kind of serious mood in the air; this woman had lived a long life, but all knew the end wasn't more then a few days away. Someone told the ailing woman that Jonathon was there and she asked that he be let in. I stayed outside and set myself up to wait. After a moment or two, one of the relatives came out of the room. When the Aunt asked Jonathon how he got there, he mentioned me and she asked to meet me. Immediately I felt uncomfortable. I'm not usually good with hospitals in general, but hospital rooms with dying people who I don't know (but want to meet me) is even worse. Of course I went in.

Inside the room it was crowded with family but I was ushered over beside Jonathon. In the bed was a little old lady who though weak looked peaceful, sharp, and purposeful. She asked me a few questions about myself and then told everyone that she wanted to bless us boys. A murmur went through the room. A blessing from this woman was a significant thing and she had said "boys." My discomfort level increased tenfold as I looked over at Johnathon who seemed as surprised as me. Who was I to be included in this? We bowed our heads and she first prayed for Johnathon. After but a few sentences she began praying for me. For several minutes! She prayed long and eloquently, praying that God would bless my faith, my ministry, my family and so much more. As she went on and on I felt two thoughts; that this was a beautiful and powerful thing to be a part of. Secondly I thought "uh oh."

After the deal lady finished praying we thanked her and were ushered out of the room. It seemed to me that everyone was staring at me, and not fully in the nicest way. Jonathon said good bye to his relatives in the hall and we started walking . For several minutes we walked in silence until suddenly Jonathon stopped and shouted "You stole my blessing!"

"I know," I said defensively. "But I didn't do it on purpose!"

Ever since that day whenever I see my cousin, there is always this slight tension until he reminds me again that I stole his blessing. Every time he fails in something, he takes it back to that fateful day. Sure enough, God has blessed me immensely since that day with years of fruitful ministry and a beautiful family. Do I believe in the power of the blessing? I guess I do. By the way, the painting at the top is "Isaac Blessing Jacob" by Giuseppe Ribera. I thought it fitting as Jacob stole his brother's blessing as well.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mountain Biking Speed Record Broken - On Snow

I don't usually like to post two videos in a row (as a nod to any dial up readers), but this one was just so impressive. Also, it's only 56 seconds long so if even dial up people should be able to watch it if they have a few minutes to let it load.

First, just let me say that what this guy accomplished - that's awesome! On a slighter deeper note though it makes me wonder - is a person insane to try to do something like this? What amount of risk (and certainly serious harm or death was possible here) does there have to be in order for a person to be considered "not right in the head?" Or can one be perfectly rational and mentally healthy but put one's life on the line? Maybe I'm being too judgmental, trying to assume that I can judge a person's motives and if they don't line up with what I think are acceptable, I write them off as insane. After all, if he was risking his life for a noble cause I'd say he's a hero. If he's doing it just because he wants to see if it's possible (or for money/fame), then I consider him insane. That's not very nice of me. I should beg this man's forgiveness. Then I will ask if I can borrow his bike.

By the way, if you want to see a person attempt the record and not make it, hit the link below. Especially if you'd like to hear excited Japanese commentary at the same time!

Video: Speed Bike Gone Wrong

May Light increase!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Word Association

This video is dedicated to my fellow counselling students, especially the ones who are tempted by the psychodynamic perspective.

May Light increase!