Monday, December 31, 2007

Deep Question: Confidence and Humility

Deep Question: Are confidence and humility mutually exclusive? If they aren't, what do they look like together? I've been thinking about this and am so far undecided . . .

Buy Assets, Not liabilities: Part 2

Hopefully in my last post, I convinced you of the wisdom of buying assets, especially cash producing assets that appreciate. "Yes," you are probably saying, "that does seem smart." So what stops us from getting them? I have a few ideas (many which are part of my own experience).

1. Fear. Most of us are scared of the unknown (how do I buy an asset?). We are also afraid of "taking a step back" in our lifestyle, afraid of explaining to our family/friends that we are changing our lifestyle to be wiser with our wealth, afraid of making a risk, and afraid of living life without all the luxuries that we are used to. Borrowing large amounts of money to buy a property (or stocks or a small business) seems terrifying. I think its terrifying not to borrow the money to buy something that will actually make you money instead of just draining your account! What will retirement look for you when you are no longer working?

2. Discipline. Most of us are not disciplined enough to say "no" to an impulse buy, a beautiful car, a night out with the girls/guys, that trip to the Mexico. We are convinced that we need these things and that we deserve them. We also believe that we couldn't possibly save money for an investment. The truth is that it takes discipline to save, work extra hard so you have something to invest with, and study to find good deals/assets to buy. Bill Hybels defines discipline as "delayed gratification." You delay getting what you could get now so that you can reap the massive benefits later.

3. Disbelief. Sometimes, we cannot believe that buying assets really will make the average person wealthier. Or even more common, we can't believe that it could actually make me wealthier (other people yes, me - no). These people cannot imagine themselves doing what so many others are. You can show it to them on paper, simple mathematics, but they can't see it. They are like the dwarf's at the end of C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle." The Dwarfs get transported to paradise, but all they can see is the dirty old stable they used to be in. They will not allow their worldview to be changed.

4. Analysis paralysis. This one is often a problem with me. There are a lot of people out there who can see the wisdom of buying assets. They read up on the topics, go to seminars, talk about it with their friends. They spend hours analyzing properties, investments, or businesses. But they never act on this information! I was here. I was telling all of my friends for two years they should buy real estate but I didn't actually buy any myself. Then one day Jobina told me that one of these friends I had been talking to, a guy named Keith, actually took my advice and went and bought a rental property. He took action and I hadn't! I got so mad at myself that I called my realtor and said "We are buying a property by the end of this month!" Finally, I had the motivation. A few weeks later we bought our first rental property. I had moved from analysis to action.

5. Excuses. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. What are your excuses? "I don't have any money to spare." "I'm in debt." "I don't want to fix plug toilets at three in the morning." "Stocks are to unpredictable." "I'm not the investor type." "It's not the right time." "Maybe in a few years, but not right now." "I've heard that we are in a bubble." As a counselor I know that if we don't want to do something, we can come up with tons of justification to not do it. And don't get me wrong, I don't think that everyone should be investing in assets, some people just aren't emotionally/intellectually cut out for it. Or they may be in a poor situation at the moment that won't allow them to. But the truth is that most people can and should invest in something. It's called being a good steward of the resources that God has given you. What excuses do you cling to? Are they justified?

These are just some of the things that hold us back. You could probably think of more. I think that the best way to get into buying assets is to buy an asset that:

1. You understand how it will make you money (the intellectual appeal).
2. Enjoy the thought of owning/maintaining (the emotional appeal).
3. Isn't too risky or won't destroy you financially if it doesn't go well. (the risk level appeal).
4. Other wise people you know think is a good investment (the safety check appeal).

It's New Year's Eve today. Why not make a goal to purchase at least one cash producing asset in the next six months? Maybe something small, maybe big. I know you'll be glad you did. Happy New Year.

May Light increase!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Buy Assets, Not liabilities: Part 1

I should start this post by saying that I am not a professional financial guide by any means. So take everything that I say with a grain (or two!) of salt. Yet in my limited financial education I have come across some things that I think are helpful, perhaps even wise, and I'd like to share them.

When I was in high school I had a friend who's Dad was a teacher. Now most teachers aren't rich but they usually aren't poor either, earning a fairly good salary. What fascinated me about this teacher is that although I'm sure he could afford to purchase a fairly decent newer car, he always had a fairly old car. But he had a very nice house. At the time I thought, man, if I was him I'd get a much nicer, newer, and more expensive car, and live in a more modest house. This made more sense to me.

Today, I realize how smart that teacher was. He was choosing to put the lion share of his money into an asset, while I would have put it into a liability. Let me explain.

In simple terms, anything that can puts money, or income, into your pocket is classified as a financial asset. Different people define assets differently, but most would agree that the following are examples of them: real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement funds, bank accounts, debts owed to you. Liabilities are anything that takes money out of your pocket. Liabilities include: mortgages, car loans, credit card balance due, school loans, personal loans, taxes. The typical amount you pay on each of these liabilities is considered your expense related to that liability. Your bank might consider things like a car, boat, or timeshare to be an asset, but they aren't really. They take money out of your pocket and the longer you hold onto them, the less value they have. Eventually they will be worth nothing. Really, they aren't a good use of your money (essential as some might be sometimes).

Buying an appreciating asset is always a better choice then taking on debt to buy a depreciating asset (a liability). People who are wealth-wise buy things (assets) that will make them money, not liabilities that will cause them to lose money. My friend's father made a better decision. By buying an older vehicle, he used the money he saved to buy a home that was more expensive and thus would appreciate more (which it has).

Let's take it a step further. Real estate, though I think isa great investment, is technically not an asset until you sell it. That is unless it is a cash producing real estate. For instance, a rental property that produces $300 in profit a month after expenses would be a cash producing asset.

Let's say a person needs a car. She has the choice between buying a $30,000 car and buying a $10,000 car. The $30,0000 car will steadily depreciate (around $400 a month or so) even as you are paying $400 a month for it and in ten years it will be worth around $7,000. On the other hand you can purchase a less expensive car for $10,000 but put the other $20,000 into a down payment on a rental property. Here in Winnipeg, you could buy a rental property for $80,000 with $20,000 down. If you do your homework you can buy a modest duplex for this much which might cashflow $150 a month after your expenses. In 10 years you will make about $18,000 in monthly cashflow plus your house value will most likely at least double (to $160,000). Total profit at the end of the 10 years is $18,000 in rents + $80,000 in appreciation = $98,000. Sound too good to be true? It's not. It's the power of putting money into appreciating assets, not liabilities. Where are you putting your money into? Hope this is helpful for someone. . .

May Light increase!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Count Rugen: Ah. Are you coming down into the pit? Wesley's got his strength back. I'm starting him on the machine tonight.
Prince Humperdinck: [sincerely] Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped.
Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything.

(The Princess Bride)

"If you haven't got your health, then you have got anything." Not sure where this quote originally comes from but I was thinking about it a week ago. You see, I had just spent a good part of my "Westman" Christmas vomiting or fighting back the urge to vomit. It is amazing how when you are ill how little you can really enjoy other things. Seriously. At the time I remember thinking how my upset stomach was affecting everything. Here I was at one of my favorite parts of the year and I could not take joy from even the simplest pleasures. It reminded of the above quote and I realized how true it is.

Unlike during a bout of nausea, we aren't always conscious of how necessary good health is. A man ingests copious amounts of sugar without much thought until one day he is told he has diabetes. A woman leads an exerciseless existence until the doctor informs her she has heart problems. Maintaining ones body is always one of the easiest things to not make a priority - until it breaks down. Then it becomes a priority, a big one!

I have not been maintaining my body too well these past few years. I'm not stretching, do almost no aerobic exercise or strength training, don't get enough sleep, eat poorly, etc, etc. My body is starting to sound the alarm and I have to choose to make changes. What changes do you know you need to make? What's stopping you? Prioritizing my health is a rediscovered concept for me. Wish me luck!

May Light increase!

Friday, December 28, 2007

And . . . We're Back

Happy Holidays everyone! The Westman's have just returned from a whirlwind trip to Gimli and Alberta to spend some serious relaxing time with family. I hope everyone's Christmas was good. We are now in the recovery mode, but stay tuned for more exciting blog topics to come!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best Girl/Boy In Sight: Part 2

(I'm a little worried that some of this may come out wrong, but I'm going to try anyway . . .)

Balancing our natural inclination to look for the best looking girl/guy in the room with our need to control it can be tricky. If you go too far towards “accepting” BGIS then you run the risk of embracing it and harming yourself and others. As an example, I have met people who tell me “Oh yeah, I tell my wife all the time when I’ve met and am attracted to other women. It’s natural!” Rarely does this have great effects on a spouse, especially if they are insecure! If need to mention this to your mate (and others!) or feel it's your "right," it’s probably a sign that BGIS is problematic for you.

If you go to the other extreme and go too far in “over controlling it” you may be attempting to repress natural drives and pile guilt on self/others. Think about it, if you try to deaden yourself to beauty in/attraction with others, it might begin to deaden your ability to be attracted to the person you want to be attracted to. A second problem with "over controlling" BGIS is that in attempting to over control it you may be guilty of punishing behavior, either inflicted on self or others. "You think she's beautiful, don't you?" The woman mistakenly believes that her man should not find attractive women, well . . . attractive. Somehow he should be a great judge of beauty when it comes to her, but be blind when it comes to other women! This is totally irrational. Such a guy is put in a double bind. If he says "yes, she is beautiful," the woman gets upset. If he says "No dear, she's not" he is a liar . What's worse? When a person (male or female) often makes these kind of comments, BGIS is a problem for them.

So what does balance look like? It's tricky. Personally (and this is just for me), this is my approach. I try not to check out women, but if I do notice someone is beautiful, I note it to myself and move on. And if I’m in a situation where I’m tempted to linger over someone's beauty (yes, this is reality) then it is my responsibility to exit the situation. I almost never mention noticing other women's beauty to others, but I also won't lie if someone asks me directly about it. I just won't dwell on it. Lastly, (and I want to do much better at this), I'm trying to express my attraction to my wife to her and let her know how beautiful I think she is. Many times throughout the day I will find her striking but often don't verbalize it. I should! The way she looks, moves, smells, and sounds captivates me and she ought to know about it. Partners should know when, where, why, and how other person is attracted to them. It's good for both parties.

The application here for counselors is to look for signs of BGIS and help clients to dispute and change their irrational thinking/behaviors about it. For teens and young adults, being aware of BGIS and your ability to control it (not over control it) is huge. Also, stay away from potential mates who exhibit this kind of thinking and make no progress in changing it. The chances they will eventually break things off with you are huge!

I should also note that just because you are dating/engaged and you are thinking that maybe you should get out of the relationship does not necessarily mean you are giving in to BGIS. It could mean that you are realizing that the person you are with is not right for you, has too many problems, or that maybe you aren’t ready for commitment. Self-awareness is the key here. Are you breaking it off because of something important that is lacking in the other person or are you breaking it off because it off because you are enamoured with someone else’s good looks? Only you can know for sure. If you are confused though, talk it out with someone who is wise. You’ll figure it out.

Anyway, that's the theory and my thoughts on it. I'm curious about what others think.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Girl/Boy In Sight: Part 1

I've been meaning to post on this idea for awhile now and I've finally got the time. A few years ago my friend Dayna was with a drama/evangelism team called LifeFORCE and she told me that she learned about this theory in her bootcamp training. LifeFORCE in an intense experience; small teams of actors go out and spend a week in a place doing outreach dramas and developing relationships with the students in the area. LifeFORCE has a "no dating" rule for it's team members. In other words, relationships starting on teams creates an exclusive relationship which throws off team dynamics and is a major distraction for the team and the couple. Many ministries (and buisnesses) have similar rules.

Anyway, to help the LifeFORCErs cope with the inevitable attractions that occur on such teams, they were taught about the principles of BGIS and OGIS (Best guy/girl in sight.... ONLY guy/girl in sight). Basically the theory is that when you are in a group setting (even if it is a non-official group like a bunch of friends) you will always pick out the BGIS or OGIS.

For the most part I agree that BGIS occurs. It seems especially strong in adolescence. The basic drive is to find that person, to impress that person, possibly even to mate with that person. As long as you are aware that this is simply a way of thinking, it is manageable and even good (after all we were designed for relationship, romance, etc). Problems can occur though:

1. A person can't stay committed to any one person. They are always chasing the next BGIS. They believe that since they find someone more attractive then the person they have (something that inevitably must happen), they must cheat on or dump the person they are with and pursue the new one.
2. Counselors, doctors, etc who do a lot of one on one work (and are in a position of power/responsibility/authority over others) end up pursuing their clients. Always destructive.
3. Younger persons moving into marriage. They are confused because they are in love with their fiancee but find themselves attracted to and distracted by others. Guilt and indecision haunt them.

I talked to one guy in the above situation. He asked me what I thought he should do. I told him "stop checking out other women!" I saw him as a good guy who was trying to hold onto his old beliefs and patterns of BGIS. Just because you notice other attractive people does not mean that you are:
-powerless to stop from pursuing them mentally or physically
-not supposed to marry the person you are committed to

The next time I talked to him he was engaged and at peace. He realized that BGIS didn't have to rule his life. He didn't try to believe that he he was a bad person for noticing other women, but he stopped "checking them out" and adding fuel to a fire that he didn't need. He committed to his fiance (now wife) and is happily married. Handling BGIS and OGIS is one of those essential life skills that can mean the difference between happiness and broken dreams. More on this later . . .

May Light increase!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Riker: Future UFC Champion

Today after supper my son Riker was pretty rambunctious and started attacking me. Sometimes this kind of violence-towards-one's-father stuff bugs me, but not today. I was showing him some moves and basically pummeling him and of course he always comes back for more (even against my patented Westman choke (TM) and my Chuck Norris like spinning back kick. Anyway, I was showing him some karate when the following exchange took place:

Mark: See Riker? It's all in the hips. That's where the power is in karate. Maybe someday when you get the whole "karate is for self defence only" thing a bit better, we can get you karate lessons. Or maybe even mixed martial arts?

Riker: Yeah, mix it up baby!

Just the way he said it, so smoothly and cooly, I could suddenly see him in a ring 20 years from now. There was both a feeling of excitement (my son will rock people!) and fear (by boy could get hurt!). Whether he takes up martial arts as a career or not, I know that I have to learn that I cannot save him from this world and it's hurts. He will experience joy and suffering just like any other person. I'd like to protect him but I can't. Hopefully he'll learn to roll with the punches and trust God to be his strength and his shield. And hopefully I will get many more years of pummeling him before he's big enough to do it to me!

May Light increase!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote: Jack Handey on Criticism

Quote: Jack Handey on Criticism

"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Horror, The Horror

Today I have to do a 12-15 page paper for my Biblical Foundations class. So far, it is killing me. Why you ask? Here is an abridged description of the assignment:

Select two commentators on thh Psalms, one of which should be a pre-modern commentator (possible pre-modern commentators: Calvin, Jerome, etc. Possible modern/post-modern commentators: Walter Brueggeman, John Eaton, James L. Mays, C.S. Lewis). Compare the two commentator's interpretative approaches, using extensive examples form their work. Discuss, using the examples from the commentators: (1) the methods they use to interpret the Psalms (e.g., allegory, historical critical, canonical); (2) the concerns (e.g., historical, ethical, doctrinal, etc) and purposes (e.g. exhortation, Christology, etc) that become apparent as they interpret, and (3) how (if at all) you find the commentators assist you in your personal reading of the Psalms.

No doubt for OT guys like my friend Tim this would be considered an elementary assignment but for me it is just short of impossible. So far I have 3 pages and no idea what I am doing. Anyway, whatever is on your plate of of difficult things to do, I hope seeing what I have to do (today!) makes you feel better.

By the way, anyone know where the quote I used in the title of this post comes from?

May Light increase!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cool Idea: Dissapearing Car Doors

This is such an incredibly great idea, I am stunned. Kudos to whoever thought outside the box on this one.

May Light increase!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Joy Of Dating

Reframe: To revise something in light of new information or a new way of thinking.

A couple of years ago I noticed something. If I asked Jobina if she wanted to go out to dinner and a movie she would usually be happy. But if I asked her if I could take her out on a "date" , her reaction was significantly better! Same thing, different wording, much different results. Somehow, the idea of going on a date seemed to be powerful thing to her. Later on, I realized it was a powerful for me as well. I thought about the event differently and then acted differently (hopefully in a good way!).

In counseling we refer to the process of reframing as a way to to find a different meaning for an experience or situation. As an example, for a woman feeling anxiety about her new job, a counselor might suggest reframing in a more positive light, as say feeling really excited about it. Reframing helps people to not just think about the negative of something that's happened to them, but focus on the positive instead. Or, in the case of me taking Jobina out on a date, it's helpful in that it takes something positive and puts it into an even more positive light.

So what is it about dating, that makes it so attractive? I'm guessing the answer is different for everyone. For most people though, it is time set aside for the two of you. It's also a time for fun, romance, and reconnecting. When I take my wife out for a date I'm telling her that she is special, desired, and important. Even if I suggest we have a date night at home, Jobina's mood picks up. The idea of dating is very special in our house. I'm not sure if reframing certain things as dating would work well for everyone, but I suggest you try it. Dating is very natural when people are getting to know each other, but it often (usually?) will fall by the wayside after marriage. Taking time to be together for the purpose of connecting is extremely good for any relationship. And to call a night out together "a date" just adds to the pleasure of it. And it doesn't always have to be men asking the women either. Women, invite your mate out on a date every now and then and eventually you'll find him reciprocating.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Woody Allen Interviews Billy Graham?

This seems rather bizarre until you see it:

To me this is classic Billy, standing up for what he believes in, but in a mostly gentle and inviting way. He truly was a master of evangelism, tactful and yet strong at the same time.

Billy Graham: "Maybe you could give me some ideas on how to give up coffee?"

May Light increase!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Breaking Down

Lately it seems that lots of stuff has been breaking down at the Westman's. Our back door knob broke on Sunday, our old computer was on the fritz, and our rental property has had a string of things needing repairs. Other stuff has been breaking too. Today though was a killer blow. Our 92 Camry (a gift from my parents and a wonderful second vehicle) was turning itself off after starting sometimes so I thought I'd better make a car appointment (it was way behind on it's oil changes too). Since it wasn't reliable to drive I got it towed to my neighbor Wade's shop. However, when he tried to start it at the shop, the engine completely ceased up! When they checked the oil there was almost none there (and the oil that was present wasn't in good shape). What happened? I'm not totally sure but as Wade diplomatically put it, the most probable conclusion is that it died from "neglect." Ouch.

This was terrible news, mostly because it seems that the death of the Camry was premature (and probably preventable). I literally felt sick, like I had killed it myself (and perhaps I did). Don't get me wrong, this vehicle had over 365,000 km, had lots of rust, and was louder then a Harley so it's not like it had not had a long and useful life and was nearing its end. Yet I had a distinct and ugly feeling that I don't usually feel: shame. I was ashamed that I had not better maintained the car - checked the oil, done regular oil changes, more regular maintenance, etc. It was irresponsible of me. Letting my parents know was the worst though, I shan't easily forget that experience. "Humbled" doesn't seem to describe it powerfully enough.

The only positive I can get from the situation is that I just taught myself a powerful lesson. Hopefully I won't forget it. And if you are like me and are putting off doing some maintenance on your vehicle, a word of advice: get it fixed as soon as possible!

R.I.P Camry, 1992-2007.

May Light increase!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Secondary Trauma

Vicarious traumatization (or secondary trauma) can be experienced by a counselor who works with traumatized individuals, whether they work with victims of child maltreatment, domestic violence, victims of torture, or victims of large-scale disasters. "Vicarious traumatization is the process through which the therapist’s inner experience is negatively transformed through empathic engagement with clients’ trauma material" (Pearlman and Saakvitne, 1995, p. 279). For example, a therapist may experience nightmares related to events in which they have heard graphic details. They may experience fear, may have concerns about their own safety, or they may feel compelled to question own their life experiences or their own vulnerabilities after hearing the stories of survivors.

This whole idea of vicarious trauma is disturbing to me. Hearing people's stories of horror eventually will affect you, whether you are counselor or not. I'm afraid of this, even though I know it will happen in some way or another to me. In my opinion, the more traumatized your clients are, the less clients you should be seeing. It is not a case of being "mentally/emotionally strong enough" to take the stories people tell you. Everyone eventually has their limit on how much they can endure hearing. Every time you hear a story of evil or suffering or incredible pain, it changes you a little. Maybe it shouldn't, but eventually it will. Your ideas about good, love, God, and the nature of the world become different.

I wonder if most counselors don't consider the effect this kind of stuff will have on them and plan accordingly. My personal plan to protect myself involves these factors:

1. An emotionally balanced client load. I want to have a good mix of in-crisis couples, couples not in crisis but wanting better marriages, and couples in pre-marital counseling. Is this realistic? It is if I choose to make it a priority!
2. Not doing more then 25 sessions a week.
3. Maintaining hobbies and interests (passions) outside of work.
4. Spending lots of time with family and friends.
5. Making my relationship with God a priority.
6. Regular vacations and off time.
7. Sports and physical exercise.

I can already tell that this will be incredibly difficult. If you are a counselor, helping professional, minister, or even a helpful friend, take my advice. If you see the warning signs, take action! Change something! Drop some clients, drop some hours, take a vacation, take a leave of absence/sabbatical, or go talk with someone. There is always someone else who can take your position if necessary (why does it have to be you - don't you think God is big enough to send someone else to take care of those you are helping?). How can you help others if you yourself are in desperate need of help? May God help all of us to care for others and to care for ourselves even more (so that we can truly be of help to others).

May Light increase!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Peace And Feeling Unwise

This post is probably not like my usual ones. It may not make sense. It doesn't really make sense to me . . .

For the past little while I have been slowly coming to a conclusion that is both painful and freeing; I know very little. Any wisdom I thought I may have had is barely wisdom at all. I have spent the last weeks reading through Proverbs and also reading through The Way Of The Wild Heart. The conclusion that I have coming to in my mind and heart is a profound feeling of unknowing, of not understanding. Strangely, this feeling isn't alarming. Instead I think I am sensing a little about what true humility is, not the the helplessness of feeling small and unconfident nor the struggle to control one's powerful ego. The kind of humility I'm feeling is more an acceptance of how one is compared to true wisdom, true knowledge, and God himself and how all that I do know and experience is a gift from Him. Not sure where this will go, but that's where I'm at right now . . .

May Light increase!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Narnia: Prince Caspian Trailer

The trailer for the new Narnia movie just came out, so here it is for any Chronicles of Narnia fans out there. Looks a little more violent then the last movie. What do you think?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do We Need Sunday School Anymore?

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
- Proverbs 22:6

Do we need Sunday School anymore? Contrary to people’s belief, it’s only existed for about 275 years. It was started for very for specific reasons which no longer exist. As far as church technologies go, is it still relevant? Or necessary? In Jewish synagogues, there was no Sunday school, instead adults were taught how to teach children. How have we gotten to the point where we consider the spiritual teaching to be the responsibility of the church instead of parents? As parents we need to consider Sunday school to be a great secondary place of spiritual teaching.

Parents ask yourself this: If your church had no Sunday school, how would this affect how you teach your kids about God (or how you would like to be teaching them)? Personally I admit that the existence of Sunday school probably makes me lazy in how I bring up my kids in the faith. I’d like to change that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Sunday school a lot when I was a kid and I enjoy the peace in Church it gives me now. I just wonder if one of the effects of it is that it tempts parents to abdicate their positions as faith teachers as well. And if they are, do the pluses of Sunday School outweigh this glaring negative?

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007


I’ve decided that I’m going to push through and attempt to graduate in the spring. To do this I’m going to have to work very, very hard. The thought of all this hard work makes me very . . . sad. I’ll tell you why. Partially it is because much of the work I’ll be doing I don’t enjoy. For instance, I ABSOLUTELY HATE doing papers. Also, some courses I’m taking not because I want to but because they are required (and I have foolishly left them til the end). This does not make me happy. Complicating this is that I am suffering one of the worst bouts of procrastination that I’ve ever had. Seriously, feel free to pray for me.

I think alot. I was once filling out out this survey and one of the questions was about how often I think about “deep issues” about life and existence: never, occasionally, sometimes, or often. I think about these topics many times a day! Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve sacrificed to get this degree I’m working on done. Is it worth it? I’ve sacrificed:

1. My body. Seriously, I am in the worst shape of my life. I have aged like 8 years in 3. Not good.

2. My friendships. It’s hard to put time into relationships when you’ve only got 1 or 2 nights a week free . . . luckily this has recently gotten better as I’ve dropped my work hours substantially.

3. My pride. I was the leader of two large ministry teams (a camp and a youth ministry). Now? I’m a student and a waiter. This was deeply and profoundly humbling.

4. Family/romantic time. I hate having to tell my kids or my wife that I can’t hang out with them because I have to go to work or do a paper. I really hate that.

5. My passions. The outdoors, relationship coaching, mentoring. All of these passions of mine are still there, but seem like a distant memory as I have almost no time to devote to them.

6. My material posesions. We haven’t really had enough time, energy, and especially money to maintain what we’ve got and it’s starting to show. Our house and cars need serious work!

7. My relationship with God. For me, when I’m tired (my usual experience these days) it’s hard to connect with God. Also, my heart is crying out for a few days alone with him, but I don’t know when I can find the time to get away.

If I could do it all again, would I do it the same way? No! Of course not, I have learned. I would stretch my three year degree over 4 or 5 years. Ironically, the degree that I’m working so hard for will probably not be last learning I undergo as the degree is somewhat lacking in the main area I wanted training in; working with couples. But don’t feel sorry for me, I have chosen my fate. But it doesn’t mean I can’t learn from my experience though! The past few years have been both tough and great at the same time. I look forward to graduating. People keep asking me what I’m going to do afterwards. I have no idea, but I think it will start with some rest.

May Light increase!

The Silly Things Christians Say

Some times Christians say the most outrageous things. Often they do a lot of harm to others, but other times they just make you laugh. Steve Marrs at The View From Marrs has a classic post called Top 10 Things Heard By Christians. Here's one of them:

9. “Well your communion is not valid in the eyes of Christ. It is merely a Sunday snack, a disgraceful mocking of what our Lord did on the cross.”

Said to me by another pastor upon finding out our church auditorium did not have the communion elements displayed on a table up front that said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Check out the post and if you have time, check out the comments where people tell some of their own stories (one of my own is near the end). If you weren't convinced that Christians are fallible, you will be after reading this!

This begs, the question: why would I post something that shows such an ugly part of the Christian experience? A couple of reasons; first the truth must be told if we are to fix what is lacking. Secondly, for those who have wounded, may they see that others have as well and that it is not OK or normal. And thirdly (and quite honestly), some of this is just really entertaining.

May Light increase!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Why Aren't You Blogging?

I was looking at my "friends and fellow thinkers" section on the side of my blog and it made me sad. First I was sad because some of these blogs are almost never updated and I fear that I will have to remove them ("dead" blogs are not cool to have on one's blogroll). Secondly I was sad because I'd love to add more blogs of people I know but there aren't a lot out there. I find it interesting that many people are smarter, funnier, and can write way better then me but they don't have a blog. Why not? It takes like 10 minutes to start one. And you don't have to write something everyday. It seems that a lot of my friends would have fantastic blogs (which I could learn from) if they'd only give it a try.

Starting and maintaining a blog does have some drawbacks (mostly in time and mental energy spent). But here are some reasons why you might want to try it:

1. It's not the "cool" thing to do anymore. The people who jumped onto the bandwagon exited it first for myspace and then facebook. Think of blogging as pleasantly retro, like the 80's!
2. It's a great way to journal your life, thoughts, ideas, pictures, music, etc.
3. It's a great way to "sharpen the saw" of your creativity.
4. It keeps people up to date and lets them know you are alive.
5. It's a great way to learn how to present your thoughts/ideas/feelings publicly and learn to expose yourself to feedback (the real way to achieve growth in anything).
6. Do you like getting mail? That's how it feels anytime someone leaves a comment.
7. You will meet new people with interesting lives and opinions.
8. Some 2006 bloggin stats:

* 8% of consumers (12 million US adults) keep a blog, up from 7% last year.
* 39% of consumers (57 million US adults) read blogs, up from 27% last year.

Anyway, I challenge you to try it. Anyone up for it?

May Light increase!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Poem: “The Road Less Taken”

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Taken.” May it inspire you today.

The Road Less Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.