Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Review: The China Study

Book Review: The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell

I first heard about this book on ysmarko. He described how amongst youth pastors it was the most discussed book for awhile so I knew I had to read it. As I have no previous knowledge in this area this is more of a "impressions" then "review" so keep that in mind. The China Study is written by Colin Campbell, a very well known nutrition researcher. Although marketed as a book about the China Study, discussion of this landmark nutrition study (the largest ever undertaken) comprises only one chapter. In essence the book is about Campbell's research career and how he has come to the conclusion (through his and other's research) that cancer, heart disease, obesity, alzheimer's, etc. can be greatly reduced by having a better diet. So what is a better diet?

According to his research, it is one that is:
1. as low as possible in animal protein
2. as low as possible in milk
3. high in whole vegetables, fruits, and cereals

That's it. Simple.

Campbell emphasizes his Eight Principles of Food and Health:

  • -Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • -Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health.
  • -There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.
  • -Genes do not determine diseases on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.
  • -Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.
  • -The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).
  • -Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.
  • -Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.

What makes this book different is that the author cites good research in defense of his thesis. Although this book isn't the be all/end all for nutrition and it does leave you with many questions, I found it to be easy to read and very thought provoking. A big question I had was is it the vegetables that prevent disease, the meat protein that causes it, or both? I wonder if those who eat high plant diets (and have lower rates of disease) are more healthy because of the amount of vegetables or the lack of meat? Also, what is the interplay between cancer causing factors, nutrition, exercise, and stress on disease? Further research needs to be done.

I especially enjoyed reading about other researchers who have been able to control cancer growth and prevent heart attacks - quite inspiring. I plan to try a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet in February to see what it feels like. A month long challenge! I also recognize that one book on nutritition is not a proper education in nutrition and I plan to read more. It definitely "whetted" my appetite (ha, ha) for more information. Reading this book made me want to know more and improve my health. I had never really thought about nutrition being a major part of my health that but now I do. Now if only I can find the discipline to make some changes. I rate this book 4.7 ninja stars out of 5 - a must read. Even if you are the biggest meat eater in the world, what harm would it do to give this book a look? And if you've ever experimented with a vegan or vegetarian eating plan, let me know!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Question

If you knew
that all you had to do
to severely decrease
your chances
of getting

1. Heart disease.
2. Cancer.
3. Obesity.
4. Alzheimer's

was to
change your diet,
would you?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Choosing Your Sucessor

Whilst hanging out with my in-laws family I overheard Mom updating Jobina on one of their old pastors. "Did you hear about Pastor ______? He's remarried. His new wife is nothing like his old wife (who had passed away). I didn't hear it from him but apparently his wife told him before she died that this woman would be a good match for him."

My ears perked up at this. Dying spouses making suggestions on their successor? Interesting.

Apparently this was not an isolated incident, my Mother in law had heard of this several times before. She wasn't sure if she could do such a thing. It made me think, if I was in my last few months of life, would I (could I) see myself making such a suggestion?

I know that I have told Jobina before that if I died I would want her to remarry (and soon). Once I am gone I have no problem with her doing that - in fact I would want her to. I want her to be happy. But to go so far as to say "Hey, I think this guy would be a good choice for you?" Not sure. I think for me it might be a control thing. For some people though, especially those who would find it difficult to move on it might be helpful. What would you look for in your successor? For me it would be integrity, character, kindness, intelligence, financial security, and faith. Oh, and maybe someone more attractive (that might be difficult for her to find, but hey, we're hypothesizing here). Anyway, this post has no real point except to let you know that some people are doing this. Would you?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Would You Still Take Your Kids To See Him?

This image was created as a conversation starter by the United Church of Canada. The caption is "Would you still take your kids to see him?" If you get a bad feeling from this picture, what is it you don't like? I think it bring to an emotional level some of the inherent tension about the Christmas holiday for Christians . . .

May Light increase!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whom Should You Pray To?

Many years ago at camp it was late in the evening. Myself and the camp pastor were both taking a shower (not together) and were discussing faith type things. "James," I asked, "Is there anywhere in the Bible where people pray to Jesus? Cause so many people pray to him but I can't find any examples of it in the Bible." James told me that he didn't know how "wrong" it was, but yes, there was no example of it in the Bible. Of course there are examples of people talking to Jesus while he was on Earth but that doesn't really count. The only thing close is when Paul talks to Jesus on the Road to Damascus (again though, I don't consider a verbal conversation the same as praying). I personally don't think anything is terrible about it and I wouldn't try to stop anyone, but you could argue it's not "Biblical." It's probably one of those things we've learned by observing others and we just assume that it's a normal kind of thing. And what about praying to the Spirit, any of that in the Bible? Anyway, just an interesting theological tidbit to share with you on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


This is in regards to the "*" in my last post:

At OG the other day (my last day) I had an unsettling experience. Courtney, one of the servers and I were talking. I asked her how her last night had been. "Terrible!" she said. "I made no money. Remember your friend, the one who is training to be a minister, who was in here last night? He and his friend had, like, six bowls of soup each and stayed for forever. And then? They stiffed me. What's worse is that I knew they would."

I felt myself wincing. The "friend" they were talking about was a Christian I know. I don't know him very well but . . . "Well," I stammered, "he's not exactly a friend, but more of an acquaintance. But as far as I know, he's not planning to become a minister. What makes you think that?"

Courtney warmed to the subject "Well, him and his friends sometimes have their Bibles when they come in. They always run me ragged and give me $%@& in return. Oh, and last night he looked me in the eye and said 'Thank you so much for the excellent service.' Everyone here knows him and us veterans refuse to serve him if we see him come in. When he and his family come in for pasta bowl they run us off our feet and always leave nothing. I'm never going to serve him again. I know he's your friend and everything but I thought you should know. . . "

I sighed to myself and shook my head. Why do Christians do this? This person probably has no idea that he is known as being a stiffer and that he is known as being a Christian. As you know from my previous posts here and here, I believe strongly that Christians ought to tip in this culture, whether they feel like it or not. I don't care what your principles are, if everyone tips and you don't you look like garbage - that's the simple truth. My "friend" here is totally destroying his witness (not to mention Christians in general) by not tipping and then giving the "verbal tip" as a final insult. It's distressing because he should know better. It's appalling really.

"Well, I guess I need to talk to him," I said. The problem is, when people should know better, what can actually help them to see the light? What can break them out of their idealogical view that "I don't get tipped for my job, why should I tip someone else? " kind of thinking. I have had very little success so far in helping people see how their actions hurt others (including our witness as Christ followers) and changing someone's heart so that they actually want to tip generously seems even more daunting. Yet, I know that shouldn't hold me back.

I can't change his ideas or his actions and I can't control him. But I feel like I should at least give him some feedback, some information for growth. He should know that:

1. The servers at OG know he is a Christian.
2. The servers at OG think he is cheap and that he works them hard for no reward.
3. The servers at OG recognize him when he comes in, speak badly of him, and don't want to serve him (sometimes refusing to!).
4. Wether it should be or not, his decision not to tip puts him in a group of less then 8% of our guests and is hurting his witness considerably.

I would also frontload him for it by letting him know that I have some information for growth for him but that I only want to share it with him if he thinks he can take it. It might be upsetting, embarassing, and he may or may not like it. He might feel some angry thoughts towards me for sharing it. He may not also agree with it, but it is honest and is not judging motives. I would leave it up to him to decide if he would want me to proceed.

It's sad because this kind of information could destroy any chance of he and I having a relationship, but it would be speaking the truth and I would only do it if I was feeling like I could do it in a loving way. What do you think, should I do it? What do you think of my approach? Would you do it differently (add or subtract anything)? I guess I'm looking for some feedback on my proposed feedback. The easiest thing would be to ignore it, especially now that I'm not waitering anymore. But if I was in his shoes I'd want someone to care enough about me to let me know the impact my actions were having on others (and especially on my witness) . . .

May Light increase!

Monday, December 22, 2008


Well I had my last day of waitering this past Saturday. Jobina says its the last part of my "student" experience and I guess she's right. I had mixed feelings as I left Olive Garden on Saturday afternoon. Joy, but much sadness as well. As we would say in LiMiT terms, I am experiencing the loss of community.

When I first decided to go back to school I was a 1/2 time youth pastor at Mennville EMC church and a half time camp director at Beaver Creek Bible Camp. Both of these jobs were secure (as far as I know!) and I'm sure I could have stayed longer. Instead though I felt it was time for a change and we moved to Winnipeg and I took some courses at the U of M and then applied at Providence Seminary. I had originally wanted to go to Trinity Western in BC but the cost seemed to much. Prov was cheaper and their program had more practicum (practice) which I thought was a good thing.

To make ends meet I knew I needed to get a job. I thought non-profit would be a good place so I applied at a few, going so far as to be in final selection froup for Heart and Stroke's Volunteer Coordinator, but nothing worked out. Realizing that money was needed quickly, I got a job at Chapters. Though I felt the job was beneath my experience and qualifications it was quick money so I took it. I liked Chapters - one of the employee perks is that you can take home any book you want and read it - you own personal library! That lasted only a few months though as my back hurt working over the counters. M friend Jay, a former student from Mennville offered to get me a job at the Olive Garden where he worked and I took the plunge. I had waitered before during my summer in college (8 years previously), how hard could it be?

Actually it was quite hard. OG was a lot tougher then Lakeview Resort in Gimli. Being a laid back youth pastor doesn't prepare you very well for intense waitering. Also, restaurants are quite . . . um . . . pagan (sorry, I don't know how else to describe it). It was a shock to hear the kidns of things from people that I did - and to not have any authority to tell them to smarten up! I struggled there for many months, trying to learn the menu and multi-tasking skills necessary to be succssful. I'm not sure but if OG hadn't spent so much time and money training me I think they would have let me go. I was that bad.

Eventually though I got to the point where I was "decent" or possibly even "mediocre" and I kind of coasted. Deep down though I felt a little ashamed about my job- it was difficult to humble myself and I fought against it. Being a past leader of two ministries, it was hard to now be on the bottom again. Basically I had pride issues. Eventually though I remembered what servanthood was really about and got into my groove. By the time I left I wasn't amazing or anything but I'd say I was pretty good. And instead of feeling weird about being a waiter, I was OK with it. Did you know that many servers are students training to be doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers, etc? In fact some of them are teachers and entrepeneours who work waiter on the side. After a shift it is not uncommon to see a server reading a textbook and cramming for a test or exam. Some of the smartest people I know are servers so keep that in mind the next time you feel like talking down to one of them!

Anyway, I developed a lot of friends at Olive Garden and began to get into their lives. I loved listening to their stories and watching the ebb and flow of relationships. Occasionally I would even give advice and suggestions to people about their relationship woes and it always encouraged me if they came back and said it had helped. Also, I was able to have conversations about God, faith, the Bible, and ethics. Waitering helped me expand my social skills I think - greeting several new people every hour helps to do that. As I said goodbye to people, many said they'd miss me and I believed them - I'll miss them too. I shook many hands and received a few heartfelt hugs. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm even going to miss serving guests. There is something good for the soul in serving people the basics of food and drink, and especially in doing it well. I will miss you Olive Garden.

What did I learn by waitering? So many things! But here are a few:

1. Servers are people too, we ought to treat them like they are.
2. Tipping a server poorly can literally ruin their entire night.
3. Many servers who have the most wild lives are still spiritually searching (and open about it).
4. Rude, cheap, and thankless Christians are in abundance and seem strangely blind to the fact that they ruining their witness* to servers again and again.
5. People tip less according to the level of service but more according to the positive emotional effect a server has upon them (this is scientifically proven by the way).
6. All positions in a restaurant are humble ones with dishwashers being the most and hostesses having the job most open to abuse.
7. The average restaurant workers is sensation seeking, experiential, expressive, moody, dramatic, and socially gifted. This makes them a lot of fun to be around. Contrast this with a group of safe accountants for instance and I know who I'd rather see at a party!
8. Servers are just like everybody else; they are looking for love and purpose.
9. Women (hanging out together) are more perverted (and scarier) then men.
10. Verbal tipping instead of cash tipping is the worst insult you can give a server. If you like your server, show it! Talk is cheap, cash is not.
11. Sometimes the sanest and wisest person in the restaurant is the dishwasher.
12. Trying to reason (and change) an angry guest's mind is the worst use of your time ever.
13. A guest's bad experience may be your ticket to a much bigger tip then if they had enjoyed themselves (if you handle it right and get them there meal for free).
14. People work better for an incentive then they will without one.
15. Grace, even in a restaurant, is contagious.

*More on this in tommorrow's post.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Today I preach at 10:00am and as usual feel under-prepared, ungifted, etc. Feel free to pray for me! Thanks.

UPDATE: Thanks for everyone who prayed for me, it went better then I thought it would. I was pretty nervous and quite rusty but I managed to get it done. If you have time on your hands and want to listen to it you can find it our church's website here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Perception Is More Important Then Reality

Yes, this shepherd in China is using a picture of a wolf to herd his sheep! Perception is so often more important then reality. Or as Epictetus (1st Century AD) said "People are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them." I guess that goes for sheep too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It Seemed Like A Good Idea

Sometimes the difference between a good idea and a bad one . . . is only apparent in hindsight.

Yurt Dreams

I stumbled upon this on eBay today and started dreaming:

Yurt for Sale.

Anyone want to buy it for/with me? We could put it on a nice piece of land somewhere and use it. We could also rent it out (especially if it was waterfront) and make back our money very fast. I know, I know, I'm dreaming but it it's a good deal (probably $2000 to ship to Canada) and it's brand new!

A yurt in the wilderness, what could be better?

Christmas Letter From Jesus

I'm preparing (or rather procrastinating on preparing) a sermon for this Sunday. I dislike preaching on several levels (my favorite part of preaching is when it is over!) but I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone and help my church - it's hard to find someone to preach the Sunday before Christmas. My sermon title is tentatively called "Addicted to Christmas?" Feel free to pray for me as I feel woefully under-equipped for this task! Anyway, although I have managed to avoid this important task all but a few times, the times I have preached seem to all be around Christmas. While looking over some old stuff I found this fictional letter from Jesus. I don't think I'm going to use it this Sunday so I thought I'd post it here:

Hello dear friend!

Well, as you know, it's time for my birthday again. Last year, they had a real big party for me and it seems like they will again this year. After all, they've been shopping and preparing for it for months now, and there have been announcements and advertisements almost everyday about how soon it's coming! They really do go overboard about it, but it's nice to know that at least on one day of the year some people are thinking about me a little.

You know, its been many years now since they first started celebrating my birthday. Back then they seemed to realize and appreciate how much fun it is for the little children. Just the same, it seems that most folks are missing the point of it all.

Like last year, for example: When my birthday came around, they threw a big party, but can you believe it?... I wasn't even invited! Imagine! The guest of honor, and they forgot all about me! Here they had begun preparing for the festivities two months in advance, but when the big day came, I was left out in the cold! Well, it has happened so many times in recent years, I wasn't even surprised. Even though I wasn't invited, I thought I'd just quietly slip in anyway. So I came in and stood off to the side.

Everyone was drinking, laughing and having a grand time, when all of a sudden, in came this fat fellow in a bright red suit, wearing a phony white beard and shouting, Ho ho ho! He looked like he had more than enough to drink, but he somehow managed to weave his way running around the floor while everyone cheered. When he collapsed into a big armchair, all the little children went running over to him excitedly yelling, Santa! Santa! I mean, you'd have thought he was the guest and the whole holiday was in his honor!

Finally I just had to leave, I walked out of the door, and it was hardly surprising that no one even noticed that I had gone. As I walked down the street afterward, I felt about as lonely and forlorn as a stray dog! I could hardly remember the last time I'd felt that low. Maybe you don't think I cry.....

Another thing that amazes me is how, on my birthday, instead of giving me presents, most people give gifts to each other! And to top it all off, it's usually all kinds of stuff they don't even need! Let me ask you, wouldn't you find it odd if when your birthday came along, all your friends decided to celebrate it by giving each other presents and never gave you a thing?

Someone once told me, Well, it's because you're not around like other people are, so how can we give you a present? You know my answer to that one: Then give gifts of food and clothing to the poor, help those who need it. Go visit the lonely! I said, Listen, any gift you give to your needy fellow men, I'll count as if you gave it to me personally!

Much Love,


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Should Parents Let Their Children See Them Fight?

In Billy Graham's autobiography he mentions the fact that several times his children told him that they never saw him and Ruth fight. About anything. Ever. It seems like's not sure on how he feels about it:

One day one of our daughters, who was discovering how the little ripples of disagreement with her husband could swell into crashing waves of confrontation, said to Ruth, "Mother, I can't remember ever hearing you and Daddy argue."

Ruth probably chuckled inside as some of our "discussions" flashed across her memory. But her reply revealed a principle we had followed: "We made it a point never to argue in front of you children."

We thought that concealing our disagreements would spare them unnecessary pain and insecurity. Now I'm not so sure our approach was entirely correct. The girls have said that never seeing us argue left them wide open for surprise and disillusionment when the inevitable conflicts flared between them and their husbands. When the harmony of their households was disrupted, they assumed that their marriages weren't normal. Well, if the television soap operas and sitcoms set the current standard for marital bliss, I much much prefer the route Ruth and I chose, in spite of its possible shortcomings.

I have heard this a few times from people "I never saw my parents fight" and the person saying it is usually strongly in favor of it (proud) or strongly against it (resentful for the same reasons Billy mentions). I wonder if there is some middle ground: displaying conflict sometimes (as long as it does not get to intense) but also showing how to resolve and bring closure to it? I would suggest that such "public" arguments should not be those of a personal nature (spousal relationship issues) but be limited to a few key issues that aren't that personal or important. Another solution to the problem might be never fighting in front of the kids but teaching them the ways to fight "fairly" and authentically and to handle disagreements in a Christian way. This could be done by modeling and verbal instruction. Perhaps there are there other ways to handle this topic as well?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Handling The Reins

Many moons ago I was a first year College man (boy?) at Briercrest. I decided when I came home for the summer to try one week as a camp counselor. Keep in mind that I was a terribly shy and awkward person. So though my boyhood camp was Beaver Creek Bible Camp, I decided to spend the week at Camp Arnes. Why you ask? Basically, I wasn't sure if I could be a camp counselor and I didn't want to screw up badly or embarrass myself on my old stomping grounds. If I was to mess up, I wanted to do it where I was unknown!

My experience at Camp Arnes that week was nothing short of amazing on every level. It was one of the highlights of my life. Someday I will perhaps try to share more about the experience but lets just say God confirmed to me among other things that I could "do" camp ministry! I learned so much that week. One important lesson I learned was about dealing with campers. It's a leadership lesson that transfers over to many other aspects of life including business, parenting, employment, partnerships, etc.

Naomi Green was a member of my youth group and a little older then me. She was a veteran counselor at Arnes and when she found out that I was trying counselling she gave me some advice. "Don't try to be their best friend at first," she said. "Most beginning counselors (I did) make the mistake of doing everything they can to be liked and they are lax in their rules and discipline. Once they realize their mistake they then spend the rest of the week trying to get respect and obedience out of their resistant campers. Don't do that! Start out on the stricter side. Be friendly but firm. When they test you at first, give strong consequences and don't falter. Earn their respect first and then you can loosen the reins later on. It's a lot easier to be strict first and relax the reins later on in the week then it is to start off lax and try to increase your strictness as you move on."

I took her at her word and had a wonderful week with my kids. I laid out my boundaries and when they tested them, they found out I was serious about them. As the week went on I relaxed things. At the end of the week my campers loved and respected me (and I them). We had so much fun! Later when I became a camp director I tried to teach this principle in staff training. I got to see the truth of this principle repeated week after week. When counselors ignored our advice they usually paid the price (burn out, frustrated kids, etc)! I take the principle into leading teams and parenting as well. Better to start off strict and loosen up the reins if you wish as time goes on. I think it's easier on everyone that way. You should put at least as much energy into discipline and earning respect as you do into connecting and building relationship.

Agree or disagree?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trying To Control God

I read this a few days ago at nakedpastor and have been mulling it over:

"The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber believed that the enemy of true faith in God was not atheism (the claim that there is no God). In fact, he believed the enemy of true faith was two-fold: gnosticism (the claim that God is known); and magic (the claim that we know what God will do). I quote:

The two spiritual powers of gnosis and magic, masquerading under the cloak of religion, threaten more than any other powers the insight into the religious reality… the tribes of Jacob could only become Israel by disentangling themselves from both gnosis and magic.

Which reminded me of Simon in Acts 8. It says there that he previously practiced magic. But legend also has it that he was the founder of the gnostic movement, Simon Magus. Interesting that both enemy streams would merge in one person and perhaps one movement."

What I have been mulling is this: where is the line between knowing true things about God and taking that knowledge too far? And also . . . are we trying to control God by our belief that our deep understanding of Him (the gnostic error) and our belief God can be utilized by us as we wish (the magical error) and if we are, what are we losing? To me these are deep problems. Sometime I worry that we idolize knowledge and faith, attempting to make God our slaves through them. "If you know this, you will be in God's will." Or "If you just believe, it will happen." Both of these extremes are so easy to fall into. Yet both of them attempt to enslave the sovereign God of the Universe. Somehow they do not reflect what the Bible tells us about God - that rules are for humans and not for Him. As C.S. Lewis says "He's not a tame Lion, but he's good." Nakedpastor's post has been making me think: how have I been trying to control God in my own life? And how does one possibly balance faith (say as in Mark 11:24) and God's sovereignty? Difficult questions . . .

P.S. The above painting is The Conjurer, by Hieronymus Bosch (16th century).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

10 and 90

In case you missed the quote of the day today (top right part of the page everyday) I thought I would just repeat it:

Quote of the Day
"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it."
Lou Holtz

It seems to me that we are at our worst as people/Christ followers/spouses/etc when all we can do is look at the deck of cards we've been dealt and cry about it. Eventually it's time for the "woe is me" stuff to stop and action to be taken. I love reading stories about those who start out in terrible circumstances yet somehow persevere and then . . . surprisingly . . . prosper. People in poverty, people who have been abused, people who are disabled. People like Helen Keller. May we all stop focusing on what we don't have and start moving forward to what we could. And please pray for me that I will do the same!

May Light increase!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wealth Building Newsletter - Free Test Drive Giveaway!

Yesterday I went to a free seminar in Winnipeg called "Get Rich In Canada" presented by Darin Weeks and the Fast Track to Cashflow organization. I had meaning to go one of their seminars for a long time and it had never worked out. Finally a friend called me up and we went together. I learned a few things which was good and also had the honor of meeting Darin Weeks himself. Darin is one of those natural entrepeneurs, the kind that owns stock and businessed while still in elementary school. Now his education and investment company has revenues this year of over $150,000,000. He is associated with the "Rich Dad" organization down in the U.S.

Anyway, I have been subscribing to his newsletter "The Fast Track To Cashflow Inner Circle Newsletter" for over a year now and have learned a lot from it. It has practical advise on business, real estate, investing, marketing, etc. I got into it by taking a 3 month test drive and decided that the info was so good that it was worth paying for: $29.95 a month. You may think this is steep (my wife certainly does!) but the newlsetter provides motivation and great practical estate investing techniques (one on negotiating saved me probably $5000 on one of our properties) that make it more then worth it financially. Anyway, I have 3 gift certificates which offer a three month test drive of the newsletter that I'm willing to give away to 3 lucky commenters.

The only stipulation is that you have to be somewhat ready to take action in building wealth. For instance most months I would rate myself a 8 or 9 out of 10 at readiness to take action. If you are merely curious you are probably at about a 2 or a 3. As this info is only good if it's practiced, I'd like to give it out to people who would rate themselves at least a 5 out of 10. So if that's you, feel free to leave me a comment and if in a week's time I have more then 3 comments, I'll put the names in a hat and it will be a draw. Good luck everyone!

P.S. The test-drive is the type where you sign up for the newsletter, give them your credit card, but if after three months you don't want to subscribe you cancel and you don't pay anything. You may want to continue with it like I did, but if you don't think it's worth it, it's easy to cancel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Passive People . . .

. . . are the angriest people."

So says Cloud and Townsend, the authors of Boundaries, the book based course that I am co-facilitating. Passive people are often people who don't know how to say no and the fact that they "betray themselves" constantly makes them very, very upset. Passive people are angry; angry at the people imposing their will on them, angry at themselves for giving in to them, and angry at fate (or God) for being in this situation. Eventually these kind of people will snap and become extremely aggressive. They will lash out: against them self, the world, or their tormentor(s).

Ironically, the solution to being passive and angry is to begin to define one's boundaries with others. This is basically what assertiveness is. Assertive people respect and ask others to respect their boundaries. And if others won't respect those boundaries they do something about it. They are not ruled by others but give their time, resources, and friendship out of generous hearts (and not guilt or the inability to refuse). Assertive people also respect the "no's" of others. This is important. Do you respect and accept other people's "no's"? If not, you have a big problem! This is love really, to accept other people's "no," even when it hurts or inconveniences you. Accepting the free will of others is one of the ways we honor the commandment "do unto others what you have them do unto you." We want others to respect our freedom to choose our own destiny, thus we offer that freedom to others. Of course there are some limits to this (say with children and discipline) but I think it's an important life skill.

If you are deeply angry inside, I suggest you do something about it and stop blaming it all on other people. Do not sit on the sidelines and keep repeating the mantra "woe is me." You are not powerless but you will need to make some changes. Face your fears about yourself and your relationships. You can do something about it. Choose to get some support, some knowledge, and start today. A less angry future awaits you.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reading Widely

I realize that not everyone is a reader. If you are not, don't despair, it doesn't make you less of a person. Sometime a person wants to be something that they will probably never be. For instance, I would like to a person who is good at constructing and fixing things. It would be very nice! But alas, I don't think it's in my makeup. There are too many details involved in such things and I am more of a big picture person. And if you are not a reader that is fine, stop punishing yourself. But I digress.

For those of you who are readers; those of you who enjoy reading and read a fair amount (at least a book every month or two) I would like to encourage you to do something.

Read widely!

In other words be curious. A good book is a good book and there are lots out there. What kind of books do you read the most?

1. Fiction or non fiction?
2. Christian or non-Christian?
3. Those you agree with or those you don't?
4. Topics you are familiar with or those you are not?
5. Familar authors or those unknown to you?

I know several avid readers (people who read more then one book a month, usually 2 or 3) who only read one kind of book! For some it is theology. Others Christian romance. Another reads only fantasy. Others I've seen include self help, biographies, history, cookbooks (yes they are technically books), graphic novels/comics, wealth building books, craft books, politics, social issue books, adventure books, etc. So what makes a person just stick to one kind of book? My theories include such things as familiarity, mild addiction, safety, ignorance, peer pressure, professional interest, and of course pleasure (the kind of pleasure you get when you order your "usual" from a restaurant you frequent often).

When I think of reading though, I think of myself as an explorer. I want to explore distant lands and read things I've never considered. My current reads include Stephen Covey's "First Thing's First", Billy Graham's biography "Just As I Am," and "The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy." I'm also deeply engrossed in a book on a totally new subject matter: nutrition. "The China Study" is changing all of my preconceived notions on what eating healthy (and preventing cancer) is all about. I'm loving it, even though it is something totally new for me.

Readers, hear my plea. Stretch yourself a little. When you visit a bookstore, meander a little bit. Linger in your favorite areas yes, but let your feet take you to the places there you visit rarely. Pick up some books on a new topic and leaf through them. You might be surprised on what you find. I love it when a person comes into Olive Garden and pauses before they order. "Usually I always get the same thing," the say hesitantly, "but today I think I'm going to try something new." Ordering an unknown dish or reading an unknown type of book (or author) might be a risk sometimes, but it is usually worth it. What's the worst that can happen?

May Light increase!

P.S. The painting is Canadian explorer Jacques Cartier, done by Fran├žois Riss.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Ah, so many lessons learned here . . .

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Boy Has Skills

Today when we got home from church Riker stayed outside while the rest of us hurried indoors to warmth and relaxation. He got out our big snow shovel and went and shoveled our walk. Then he did our neighbor Wade's walk followed by the person next to him. Then he went to our other neighbors and did theirs as well. When he was done those people came out and gave him $10! Now keep in mind that he was not necessarily trying to make money. He is only 6 years old and there is not much snow so it only takes him about two or three minutes to shovel a walk. I figure he made an hourly wage of about $300 an hour ($10 for two minutes) which is better then his sad Father was every able to do. Very impressive! Another neighbor gave him some money too and now his little entrepreneurial heart has been quickened. I'm was very proud of him!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The End of An Era

Dec 5, 2008

Dear Linda and Management Team,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign from my position as a server at Olive Garden (on Reenders). My last available working day will be December 20th, 2008.

For the past few years I have worked at Olive Garden as I completed my Masters in Counseling Psychology and I have appreciated the flexibility and graciousness you have shown towards me with my student schedule. My new counseling practice requires more time and focus, thus necessitating me leaving OG.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and Darden for having me as part of your team and for taking a chance on me when you hired me. I have enjoyed my time with you and the staff and I wish you all the best for the future.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Westman

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ten Percent?

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
-Malachi 3:8-12

A few weeks ago, Pastor Bob was speaking on money. I love Bob's speaking . . . he is passionate, witty, not afraid to challenge, and he does his homework. As a past RCMP officer he brings a viewpoint that is . . . well, let's say different then what I heard as part of a Mennonite church for many years. It still surprises me when at the beginning of a sermon he asks us to stop and pray for our serviceman overseas or our law enforcement officers who serve and protect. Like I said, different perspective.

Anyway, in his last sermon before heading for Bali where he and his wife Anne are serving for several months he preached on tithing. One of his points which I am pondering is this:

Tithing (giving 10% of your income) is a command for Christ followers today. That giving is to be done directly to one's local church, giving to other charities/needs should be above the 10%.

Although it is an Old Testament command that is never mentioned in the New Testament, Bob appealed to Jesus words that he had come to fulfill the law (not replace it) as well as Matthew 5:18 "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Bob said that God blesses those who obey this aspect of his Word and implied (if I head him right) that some blessing might be withheld if it is not.

I'm not sure if I agree with him on this one. Most Christians agree that we are still to follow the moral law but not the ceremonial. Wouldn't this be the ceremonial law? There is much said about giving generously in the New Testament but nothing on tithing (at least that I could find). Also, Bob's appeal to the perseverance of the law wasn't fully explained. Bible scholars have much disagreement over which parts of the law should still be observed by Christians and I'm not sure most would agree that the tithing laws are for today. What do you think?

For the most apart I agreed and was challenged with Bob's series on money (very refreshing I thought) but it's just on this one issue that I am unconvinced. Money is a touchy issue but I'm curious to know other people's viewpoints on giving. What do you believe and what is your actual practice? Are they different? I'm considering trying "living by the law" when it comes to tithing for year and see what happens. Perhaps the blessings of Malachi 3 will be more obvious in my life. I suppose it would be difficult to argue with results, right?

May Light increase!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tears From A Clown

Coulrophobia: an irrational and overwhelming fear of clowns. Check out this video:

The first time I watched this video I thought the therapist was a bit . . . well, cruel. But when I watched it a second time I realized that people with irrational fears need to be pushed to confront those fears. Notice how he gets her to "graph" her level of fear between 1 and 100. He does this for three reasons (I think); first to help her realize that that are different levels of fear (not just "calm" and "terrified"), secondly to help her think rationally about emotional events, and thirdly to help chart her progress in losing her fear. I also like how he uses systematic desensitization to slowly get her more comfortable with increasing amounts of exposure to clowns. For people with phobias, another technique that works well is immersion therapy, which pairs desensitization with relaxation techniques.

So . . . does anyone out there have an irrational phobia? Or know of anyone who does? Phobias are powerful because they become learned emotional responses - ones that aren't rational. Once an irrational fear is not challenged, emotional response can "solidify" it in the brain so that the sufferer loses their ability to imagine them self without it. Most people with phobias eventually realize that they are irrational (like the woman in the video)- but the fear response remains. There is only one way to deal with phobias - you have to face your fear. Even Freud with all of his crazy theories admitted as such. All successful therapies have this as their central component. So if you or someone you know has an irrational fear and want to beat it, this is what you (or they) will have to do . . .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Honesty Talk

My first year at Beaver Creek Bible Camp as an assistant director was a notable one. I was hired to be the assistant but because Larry the director only made it to camp a few days before camp, I had to do all the preparation for it! Needless to say it was quite the experience: recruiting, planning, procuring stuff, etc. We had a good summer and the next summer Larry declined to be the director. With many promises of "we'll be with you all the way" from the board I fearfully took over his position. Although I was far from the perfect director I must say off all the camp positions I've had, being a director was the one I enjoyed the most.

Back to Larry. Larry was a people oriented, charismatic, up-front kind of leader. I learned many things from him but the most useful was probably that of "the talk." I remember him gathering our leadership team together in the office late one night and telling us it was time to have an honesty talk. Instead of talking about camp business in an impersonal way, he basically challenged us to talk honestly about how we were each doing with being and serving at camp. He wanted us to share how we were being impacted by each other. I remember it being quite awkward at first and then eventually everyone got . . . vulnerable. There was much honesty shared: especially about frustrations with each other and with what was happening at camp. Tears were shed. By the end of that conversation though we all felt more understood and real with each other and we put an action plan into place to deal with some of thing things that had finally been spoken out loud. I was amazed at this process and have tried to practice it myself as a leader and teach it to other leaders. This past summer as I was doing some consulting for the camp's new leadership team I took them through an honesty talk and I could tell as fears, frustrations, etc. were spoken out loud that something special happened there. "Stuff" builds up and although on great teams honesty happens all the time, sometimes we need to go out of our way to have a time to release our pent up secret frustrations, thoughts, and feelings. It gives us a chance to work some things out as well as let people in on where we are emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. An added benefit is that in my opinion teams that choose to be consistently honest with each other are more productive, accomplish more in less time, and find their work much more fulfilling (and less stressful). That's my observation anyway.

We don't usually want or choose to be that honest with people but sometimes it is essential. And it's not just for leadership teams either. A few nights ago Jobina and I were awake late at night and there was some awkwardness that had been building for awhile. I sensed this and took a deep breath and (without calling it an honesty talk) took a risk. I started being really honest with her about some issues we were facing and how I was feeling about it. Although scary, we ended up having a really good talk (Jobina was honest about her "stuff" too) and I felt so much better after it. When two or more people choose to lovingly be vulnerable and honest, when they get things off their chest, when they expose their secret thoughts and feelings - amazing things happen. Just try it.

May Light increase!

P.S. I chose the skydiving image because to me it captures the risk and the rush involved with choosing to be honest with someone. You've got to jump out of the plane to experience the thrill!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sharpen Your Saw

While working out in Mennville I learned several important lessons about how important it is to “sharpen the saw” as leadership guru Stephen Covey says. Sharpening the saw can really only be described by Covey's word-picture:

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

"What are you doing?" you ask.

"Can't you see?" comes the impatient reply. "I'm sawing down this tree."

"You look exhausted!" you exclaim. "How long have you been at it?"

"Over five hours," he returns, "and I'm beat! This is hard work."

"Well why don't you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?" you inquire. "I'm sure it would go a lot faster."

"I don't have time to sharpen the saw," the man says emphatically. "I'm too busy sawing!"

Sharpening the saw is about renewing yourself - physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Self-Improvement (or Self Growth) is one of my favorite themes. What can you do to sharpen your saw? Do you need to start exercising? Do you need to start challenging your mind with new ideas? Do you need to spend time serving or connecting with God? Do you need to choose to courageously sit with someone and explore some of your emotional issues? Or do you need to set aside time for friends or family? Whatever it is, I encourage you – sharpen your saw. Investing in your growth is not a bonus in life – it’s a necessity!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Billy Story

After reading Franklin Graham's biography recently I thought I would also read his Dad's story titled Just As I Am. Though he wasn't perfect, I'm a big admirer of Billy. He is a good example of what someone sold out for Christ looks like. Anyway, I'm reading and I came across this story (p. 123-124):

It was October 1948 and we were in Augusta, Georgia about to conclude a fairly successful two-and-a-half-week citywide Campaign. Though I had recently taken on the presidency of Northwestern Schools, I was still on the road a great deal, speaking at YFC rallies, conferences, and evangelistic campaigns.

Our Augusta Campaign clearly was not having any impact on the people in the hotel. An automobile dealers' convention was in town that Saturday night, and around one in the morning a wild party erupted in the next room, awakening me from a deep sleep. Grady came to my room to complain.

"I can't sleep."

"I can't either, and tomorrow's a big day," I said to him. "I'm going over there to put a stop to this." I wrapped my bathrobe around me and went out and pounded on their door.

"Whad'ya want?" asked the drunken man who responded to my knocking.

"I want to speak to this crowd!"

I had intended just to tell my neighbors to stifle the noise, but I guess the preacher in me took over. I yelled for silence into the crowd of thirty or forty carousing man and women behind him. Startled they quieted down.

"I'm a minister of the Gospel," I began. Pin-drop silence. This was a bunch of South Carolina auto dealers who knew a Bible Belt evangelist when they saw one, even in his bathrobe.

"I'm holding a revival Campaign in this town. Some of you may have read about it in the paper."

Not a reasonable assumption.

"I daresay most of this crowd are church members. Some of you are deacons and elders. Maybe even Sunday school teachers. I know your pastors would be ashamed of you, because you're certainly not acting like Christians."

I got bolder: "I know God is ashamed of you."

"That's right, preacher," one of them piped up. "I'm a deacon."
"And I'm a Sunday school teacher," a woman confessed.

Well, I stood there and preached an evangelist's sermon to the crowd. I don't know what happened to the party after I left, but there was no noise for the rest of the night.

That was not my usual pattern, of course, although I have endured more noisy hotel rooms than I care to remember. But sometimes an evangelist has to be bold, and sometimes he comes across as brash!

The image of Billy Graham in his bath robe breaking up a late night party makes me chuckle. May we all have the guts to confront our brothers and sisters in Christ when they forget that being a Christian means acting like one.

May Light increase!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Real Estate Musings

Ah, winter. The time of year when a young man's fancy turns to . . . real estate! This is my favorite time of year to buy. There is kind of a lull in the market which means that there are some houses sitting on the market that have been there for a couple of months. Sellers get desperate. I'm getting the itch to pick up another rental property and have looked at a few places recently.

The market here in Winnipeg has cooled off - there is still demand for houses but the supply has increased dramatically in the past few months. Here in Winnipeg we have a very diversified economy so we are relatively safe from the radical swings in prices that other one source economies (Alberta - oil, Ontario - manufacturing) get but house asking prices have started to stabilize and in some cases go down. I've seen some houses drop their asking price by 20 or 30K in the last month. I'm happy because this means properties will be easier to find and buy, sad because the equity in my properties that I use to buy them will decrease as well. Soon I will have to find private investors to work with me. I also have someone who wants to formally partner with me (create a small company) so I am exploring that option as well.

The question is: buy now or wait? I talked to the head of the Winnipeg Realtors Association last week and she counseled me to wait, maybe until spring. Prices should keep dropping and supply should go up she says. The thing is that I don't like to give in to fear when it comes to investing. Most potential investors don't take action and the ones who do (wisely) are the ones that realize profits. Fear and greed drive the market and I would rather just pick up a property or two a year as deals become available then hold off simply because I'm afraid. Perhaps she is right, maybe I should wait until there is even more fear out there and then buy? I'm thinking of starting another blog that will just focus on Real Estate stuff, but I thought I'd just update you a little bit. Also, if you're interested in taking your money out of a terribly performing asset (say, mutual funds or stocks!) and put them into something more stable let me know. Also, if you are interested in learning more about investing in a slow market, feel free to visit this site ( and download a free ebook with lots of strategies. I'm reading the ebook right now and find it fascinating. Also there is an amusing campy video that made me laugh!

P.S. Looking at houses can be tough because you sometimes run across places you'd like to get for yourself. Here's a cute one in North Kildonan close to my work . . .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The French Paradox

Lately I've been thinking alot about my health and wondering what I need to do to improve my long term outlook. Yesterday I stumbled upon this link found it quite enlightening. How is it that the French can eat a diet that contains large amounts of butter, cream, and other foods rich in artery-clogging ‘unhealthy’ saturated fats, yet nationally their rates of heart disease are quite low? The French don’t diet and don’t spend hours working out in the gym. This is, of course, seen as a paradox because conventional wisdom has it that such a diet should increase heart disease rates - but they are actually among the lowest in the world. The article cites a few theories on why the French do so well with their unhealthy diet. These include:

1. Associating food with pleasure, not health.
2. Small portion size.
3. Red wine habit.
4. Food quality over quantity.
5. Home cooking tradition.
6. "No snacking" habit.
7. Water instead of pop.
8. Walking and naturally active lives.
9. Self discipline.

Most of these I have heard before and are sense but it's interesting to see how when they all come together into shared cultural values and lifestyles and what the benefit is to overall health. Number one was especially interesting: maybe instead of fixating on food's health value we should instead look at it's pleasure value? Obviously if you eat too much of a certain food (everything in moderation) you begin to enjoy it less. Also, in the article it expands on each of the 9 theories and the insights on self-discipline and the eschewing of diets (number 9) strikes me as very different understandings of such ideas then we would have in North America. I think the French have lots to teach us. For more food paradoxes, check out this article.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Going Solo

One of my goals this year was to go on at least three 24 hour "solos" before the year is done. A solo for me is a personal retreat where I get away from people (usually in nature) and just be with God. When I was a youth pastor/camp director in Mennville I usually did it at least once or twice a year. It was easy; I had flexible ministries that encouraged such things and I had a plethora of cabins and places I could go that didn't cost me anything to use. I still had to book the time off, but it wasn't that difficult.

Fast forward to now that I live in the city. If I want to go on a solo, it actually costs me something! I now have to sacrifice on a larger scale my family, time, and especially money (which is on the tighter side at this stage in our lives). And so . . . I have put it off. Even though I know how good it would be for God and me.

Recently though I have been feeling more and more the desire, nay, the need to get away. Spending extended time with God does not just seem like a "good thing to do" but a necessity. My soul is crying out for it. Just like I feel occasional retreats are necessary for my wife and I's relationship, I need these times away with God as well. I have justified not doing it because of all my life stuff but now I need to just do it. I think it was Gandhi who said there was no worship without sacrifice so I suppose the fact that it costs you is itself a part of the experience.

I guess I just need a place to go. Anyone have ideas? Or know anyone who has a cabin that they would let me borrow (or rent at a reasonable cost) and that isn't too far from Winnipeg?

In the past I have talked to people about this solo thing and many have said "That sounds so awesome, I wish I had the time to do that." I used to think something like "Well, you have to make the time!" and feel a little spiritual pride. But for the past few years I've been saying what they did (oh, the irony)! It's humbling but true. I encourage you - if you think or know personal solos would be enriching for your relationship with God, don't be like me - make the time.

May Light increase!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Review: The Year Of Living Biblically

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

Thanks to Lee who saw this on my Amazon Wish List and offered to let me borrow it. This book has had a fair amount of buzz to it, so I'm not sure exactly what I can add to the many reviews out there but I will try. First of all this book is quite unique. I mean it really is different. The story is about an editor for Esquire magazine (definitely not a Christian magazine) who decides to spend an entire year trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible. A liberal agnostic who is Jewish in, it is humorous to see him attempt to not just follow the commands but to attempt to be open to a faith that he fully admits he does not have. If you hear the premise of the book you can see two possible dramatic conclusions: an eventual embrace of faith or a passionate rejection of it. I don't want to give too much away from the ending of the book but neither of these happens. I liked that.

What makes the book so different and so unique is the tone of the author. You keep bracing for negativity and criticism but instead you are met with something else - respect. The book is witty and pokes fun at much but even as he interviews and considers the fringe elements of Judaic and Christian fundamentalism he treats them all with respect. Christians could learn something from this respectful tone! I also liked his honesty as he grapples with complex issues of religious observance and the difficulty of keeping even the simplest of commands (ex/thou shalt not lie). Some of his attempts to keep the commands about cleanliness, circumcision, and stoning had me both laughing out loud and thankful for the freedom that Christ followers have from the Law. His attempts at things like prayer and faith made me think about my own spiritual journey quite a bit and at times I felt myself quite moved. All Christians can fall into the trap of outward expression of religion for religion's sake and this book helped me to see how empty that really is (especially at the end).

The author spends 9 months trying to observe the Old Testament and then 4 months on the New Testament. It was interesting to see how he noted the major difference in Judaism and Christianity; Christianity to be truly embraced is the belief in Christ. The author fights this. All in all, I found his embracing of the last 4 months to be a bit lackluster but he is honest about it. How can he truly embrace it when he has not truly embraced Christ? I found his honesty refreshing.

I recommend this book to those looking for something a little different. I read portions out loud to Jobina some night and we both laughed hard. I was also challenged as I felt some of my own views towards God challenged and sifted. This book is not for everyone but it's a great way to see the Bible through the eyes of a honest spiritual seeker (albeit it one who admits his own impure motives in doing this experiment). It would be a great book club book or a nice break from all the sanitized and squeaky clean Christian books that you see in your local Christian bookstore. To hear/read a sample of the book go here. I rate it 4.4 stars out of 5.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Logo Feedback: And The Winner Is . . .

Hi Everyone, thanks for all the great feedback. I have forwarded the link to my previous post to the designer who has already told me he has appreciated the input. Of course I said I would give away a book prize to one lucky commenter. So using a totally random generator which I found online the winner is . . .

Jay Boaz!

Congratulations Jay! You have just won Mere Christianity, one of the classics of modern Christian thought (and an excellently serious yet witty read). I will contact you about getting the book to you. If others are bummed because they didn't get it, feel free to pick up a copy from my bookstore. Thanks again to everyone who left feedback, stay tuned for more giveaways!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Logo Feedback Wanted (and Contest)

Riverbend Counselling, the plucky upstart counseling center that I work at has someone working on some temporary logo designs for us. They have sent us two designs so far and I'm wondering if I could get some specific feedback on which ones you like (if any), and specifically what you like/don't like about them. After a few days I will go through the comments and randomly choose one commenter who will get a free copy of C.S. Lewis's bestseller "Mere Christianity!"

Logo 1

Logo 2

Thanks again for your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Warning About Slowly Fading Away

I was very touched by this video and its words (even though I'm not particularly in to the music of Casting Crowns). I thought of it was a good warning, kind of like the warning the author of Proverbs gives to his son . . .

P.S. I first saw this on Lena's blog.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Courting!

Being a camp director for several years, one of my sacred duties was to read the Beaver Creek staff manual to our staff. This was always a favorite part of our Sunday night training (OK, not really) but one of our rules was something like this:

Staff must not spend time courting. Necessary as that may be, it must be done elsewhere. Staff are at camp to serve the Lord. Any staff that does not help to build a healthy atmosphere at camp should be expelled by the camp director. It is better to be short staffed than to be wrong staffed.

In other words, no new exclusive and/or romantic relationships at camp. There are basically two approaches to the whole "dating" thing with short term ministries: yay or nay. Beaver Creek Bible camp has always been strongly on the "nay" side.

Staff usually snickered at this rule but most did not seriously object to it (although there was plenty of mocking of it, much to do with the old English word "courting"). Some staff did honestly think it wasn't necessary and there were a few who even thought it inhumane or unChristian. I suppose when I came on as director I could have changed that particular rule but I thought of it as a pragmatic necessity. Why the rule?

1. Exclusive romantic relationships upset team balance and often make others feel awkward.
2. Camp ministry is short term and spiritually intense. Staff need to be focused. Romantic relationships usually distract staff from their ministry to the campers. This can be subtle, as in a mental and emotional distraction. Or it can be physical as the couple find more and more time to be together and less time with their campers.
3. The appearance of evil. Staff, visitors, and campers can all have bad reactions to watching couples form in the midst of ministry opportunities.
4. Distraction to the campers.

Camp (and missions) are emotionally intense places to be. In this kind of atmosphere it is exceedingly easy to fall in love. Seriously, do you know how many guys I've had in my office confessing to me that they are in love with the lifeguard? Or that cute LDC leader? Or even the nurse? And don't forget those wonderful kitchen helpers! I have seen it happen so many times before, a person comes to camp with every intention to give everything they have to the campers for 6 full days and mid week they are "out of it," swept along by an intense chemistry reaction to another staff member. Of course such attractions are normal and to be expected, the problem is if they are sanctioned and encouraged they can quickly get out of control. That is why most ministry teams that I have encountered also have non-dating rules. It just makes thing much easier. I even coined a great phrase which no doubt encouraged many staff: camp is a great person to meet the person of your dream but a bad place to persue them. Oh yes, many staff have expressed great joy when they heard these wise and encouraging words!

The funny thing is that whenever we had to talk to someone about the fact that they were breaking the courting rule, they always seemed shocked. "What? No, you must be mistaken. There's no attraction here. We're just friends." Somehow what was obvious to every other staff person escapes the view of those directly involved! Usually (I'd like to think) these people are not so much lying as they are self-deceived. Very humorous though.

Not to say there isn't a place for people who are already dating at camp. I have seen some of the best examples of mature and balanced dating by staff who came to camp as a couple. The way they handled it all was a witness to many. But if it was completely my choice, I will always suggest no new romantic relationships for ministry teams. I know a few other camps that operate differently (Camp Arnes being a notable example) and I even know at least one couple who met at camp, dated at camp, and got married. These folks are the exception to the rule. And the rule is this: No courting at camp! What do you think about this topic?

P.S. The image is from our staff canoe trip from a few years ago (2004). I don't think Viola and "Slash" were courting here, but it was my best camp staff pic that kind of encapsulates the idea of it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I was blog surfing last night and found this inspiring poem at Lena's blog (Lena, by the way, is the talented designer who made up the custom header for this site):


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

-Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Review: It's Not About The Bike

Book Review: It's Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong (with Sally Jenkins)

With all the bad stories we hear about cancer it is occasionally nice to hear a positive one. When it comes to accounts of fighting and beating cancer I can't think of one better then Lance Armstrong's. Lance Armstrong was an up and coming cyclist from Texas. A super aggressive personality with a tough background he was shocked one day when he went to the hospital because he wasn't feeling well to find out he had testicular cancer. He'd had it for awhile and his prognosis wasn't good. In a very honest fashion he chronicles what fighting cancer was like; the fear, the hope, the frustration, the pain, and especially the helplessness. For a driven man like Armstrong, cancer was the last thing he expected or wanted. He had to face not only the loss of his health (and possibly his life) but also his dreams and ambitions which he thought were about to be realized. What he experiences mentally and emotionally is brought to life in his simple prose and vocabulary. I felt along with him as he describes his fear and the reactions of those around him. This is gut wrenching stuff.

The book goes back into Armstrong's less then perfect upbringing and sets the stage to explain the persevering spirit, pure stubbornness, and willingness to embrace (and defeat) suffering that helped him so much in his fight against cancer. The fact that he survives the cancer physically is wondrous enough, but how he goes on to recover emotionally and then revive his career is pure inspiration. Cancer transforms Armstrong into a different person. I don't want to give too much away, but the new Lance is able to achieve things the old one was never capable of. He believes the cancer was his enemy but it also made him into a better man and in the end he is glad he got it. I tend to agree with him.

You don't have to enjoy cycling, stories of healing, or even biographies to really get into this book. I think that about 80% of the reading population would find something enjoyable and inspiring in it. I have read it three times now and every time I'm impacted differently. This time I was moved by what may have been his toughest battle of all, living after cancer. How do you live when others who fought the battle with you didn't make it? What does life mean now? These deep questions (and Armstrong's journey through them) are authentically explored and I appreciated it.

It's Not About The Bike is everything a book should be. It is absolutely fascinating, inspiring, emotional, and down to earth. Armstrong is not a saint (far from it actually) but his honesty is refreshing. In many ways it is one of the best books I have ever read. If Armstrong was a Christian, was more relationally savvy, and he swore less this would be one of those blanket "you have to buy this book" books. If someone you love gets cancer (especially testicular cancer) you should definitely consider buying them this book. I rate it 4.8 ninja stars out of 5.