Friday, January 30, 2009

The Tao of Hugging

I'll admit it: I'm not a big hugger. I blame my English ancestry! But when I saw this video it inspired me a bit more and helped me to see the other side a little more clearer. I dedicate this to my friend Lynne who is the most "huggy" person I have ever met. Do you know someone who needs a hug today? Or maybe you need to ask someone for one. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Musings on The Christian and Business

It occurs to me that for a Christ follower (with at least a slightly engaged conscience), you are sometimes restricted in what kind of business you purchase and what kind of products and services you offer. For instance, I love books but I don't think I could ever own a bookstore. Why not? Well, because a bookstore sells a lot of books and magazines that I wouldn't be comfortable as a Christian selling. Could I get away with just selling "decent" books? Probably not. And even if I could I'm not sure it would be profitable. And who would want to spend all of their time censoring which books are OK and which are questionable? And of course some books might be "grey" area ones where you aren't sure if they are OK or not. Some Christians might not have a problem with selling all books, but I don't think I could do it.

Another business I have considered is owning a resort. Owning and operating a resort in some beautiful locale seems like the perfect business. But if you own such a resort you can't really choose and pick who your guests are or control what they do on your premises. Would you be OK to have guests who you know will most likely be doing things that you ethically don't support? For instance, what if NAMBLA (the North American Man Boy Love Association) wanted to rent your facilities and you really don't support anything they say or do? Or what about a same sex couple on their honeymoon? Or even a young unmarried couple wanting to get away for a romantic retreat? I want to underline here that I don't condone any sort of cruelty or unkindness against people who's sexual behavior I disagree with. And some Christians might have no problem with these things as the law protects these people from being discriminated against (and hey, maybe it's a chance to minister and be a witness to these people, right) but I wonder how I would feel if I was the owner. Should one just obey the Golden Rule and offer lodging to all who ask? I feel conflicted on this one.

Another example of this: I talked with someone the other day who knew a person (a Christ follower) who as part of their job basically had to lie all the time. "Were they in sales?" I said. Turned out this person was. Sales is an area where deception seems to either be required or at least is a major temptation. Deception comes in many forms; outright lieing, witholding certain information, and sharing selective information (but not all of it). Now don't get me wrong, I have known a few excellent Christian salespeople over my lifetime - but very few. Sales can be a tricky area for Christians involved in business.

The ironic thing is that we as Christians sometimes have no problem supporting businesses that we ourselves might find morally impossible to operate! It might be something small: like buying your jeans in a store that sells shirts with immoral slogans on them. Or buying diamonds from a jeweler who gets their rough diamonds from a country where the goverment uses that money to oppress their own people. Or renting a movie from a place that also rents out soft or explicit porn. Or buying body spray from a company who uses illicit advertising/messages to sell their product. The question always comes back; where do you draw the line?

Anyway, this post is not about trying to come up with a solution (or a judgment) on anyone, but is an attempt to illustrate some of the ethical challenges involved for the Christian business person. I'm guessing some would say my conscience is way too sensitive (or completely off!) but these are honestly some of the things I think about. Have a good Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Parable About Cracked Pots

A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak all the way back to your house."

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. And God uses us despite our flaws and from those flaws brings forth amazing things.

Blessings to all my crackpot friends!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Validator

vali·date (val′ə dāt′)
transitive verb validated -·dat′ed, validating -·dat′·ing
1. to make binding under the law; give legal force to; declare legally valid
2. to prove to be valid; confirm the validity of; verify

Aneta blogged about smiling a few days ago and included a video (a little long at 16 minutes but worth the watch) which I've put below. It's called "The Validator" and it made me smile fiercely. It made me think about how powerful my acceptance, admiration, and appreciation of others is to those who I meet every day. So load it up and get some popcorn. Here's a little inspiration to power you for your week, enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spritual Growth and Comfort

We had some friends over today for supper, Keith and Lee and their charming (and I must say well behaved) children. It was great! After dinner (my famous homemade macaroni and cheese) Keith and I were talking about life stuff. I'm not sure how we got onto it but we were talking about being comfortable; comfortable with one's job, ministry, relationships, finances, etc. I told Keith that for myself, whenever I am comfortable for too long, my spiritual life gets worse. In fact, if you graphed it out on an X and Y axis, it would show a perfect curve. As comfort increases, spiritual vitality decreases at the same rate. Yikes!

When I'm comfortable for too long my walk with Christ begins to wither. I seek comfort and ease but the more I experience them the less I experience Christ. Sadly, I need challenges and "hard things" to keep me connecting to God. Am I happy about this? No, but its the reality I have learned to accept.

We are continually moving from comfort to discomfort and back again. Of course no one could live in discomfort and challenge for too long - eventually it would destroy them. Comfort is good and should be enjoyed providing we don't get stuck in it and spend most of our energy trying to stay in it. Does that describe you (it sometimes describes me)? Let's face it, when we choose to get out of our comfort zone we are usually at our best. To willingly risk and tackle challenges again after a time of comfort is one of the best choices we can make for ourselves and those who depend on us.

Too much comfort will eventually destroy us. And the rule doesn't just apply to individuals. Businesses, churches, and ministry teams all begin to lose their edge as soon as they live in comfort for too long. They become complacent and their "muscles" soften. And eventually they will self destruct.

At Olive Garden we got our worst guest satisfaction survey scores when we were slowest. Our best scores were received on our busiest nights when we had a full and hopping restaurant. Coincidence? I think not! Though we long for it, I believe we were not meant to be comfortable all (or even most) of the time. Perhaps if we did not have a sinful nature we could handle it, but I suspect most of us are like me. Instead of believing that a life of ease would solve all our problems I think we need to move to thinking about a life of challenges with occasional times of ease as the ideal situation. Embrace your lack of comfort - like eating your vegetables its good for you.

May Light increase!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Never, ever . . .

You should never, ever try to steal a waiter's tip. If you do, this might happen. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blog Update

So as I have mentioned in the past, I'm trying to decide what to do with this blog. Should I restrict it to only those I know? Or perhaps I should just stop posting about personal things? Should I stop blogging altogether? As a counselor I struggle with knowing how blogging fits with me and my profession. I'm into authenticity but I also want to protect myself, my reputation, etc.

So I'm still not sure what to do. In the meantime though I have decided to experiment by starting a new blog. I long for a blog environment that would be totally counselor centered: one where counselors can share insights, techniques, experiences (respecting confidentiality of clients of course), humor, theory, reflections, research findings, struggles, resources, job opportunities, etc. The mission of the site would be to foster community and to encourage, equip, and enlighten ourselves as counselors. This would be a private, invite only blog - that is once it was established people would have to email the administrators to get permission to see the site. This would restrict readers to those the community can confirm are counselors. I've emailed a few counselors already and have gotten positive feedback on the idea.

I'm not sure the new blog would affect this one, but I'm curious to see. In the meantime, I'm hoping to get the new blog off the ground by mid February. What do you think of this idea? And any ideas for a name? And, if you are in the helping field (counselors, psychologists, therapists, pastors, etc), feel free to contact me for an invite at markwestman at gmail dot com . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Almost Unbelievable

Charles Wigan is learning disabled. Yet he hasn't let that stop him from creating art that is simply extraordinary:

Thanks to my sister for showing me this.

Jesus Helps Mom With The Dishes

This morning I had a intellectual discussion about God's omnipresence with my four year old daughter. She and I were having breakfast while Mom took Riker to the bus. She was telling me about a scary dream she had been having and I told her that maybe we should pray and ask Jesus to take it away from her. She thought this might be a good idea. She also told me that Jesus was everywhere and that He wanted to help Mom with the dishes. Wow, dramatic change of direction! I gently pointed out to her that God was everywhere but not necessarily doing everything. She just looked at me like I had no idea what I was talking about.

Later as I chuckled and thought about it I realized how difficult it is for children to grasp some of these heady theological concepts (and how hard it is for us - OK, me - to explain them). For instance it really bothers Trinity that she can't hear Jesus talking to her. "I can talk to Jesus, but I can't ever hear Him Daddy . . ." says Trinity looking sad. How can I tell her that so many other Christians have struggled with this fact as well? And that many struggle with just feeling His presence in their lives? Instead I try to reassure her that God loves us and that while some believers do audibly hear his voice, many instead hear him through his Word and through their lives. And that's OK.

Another thing that's seems difficult to get through to her is the whole Dieing/Salvation/Heaven/Hell thing. Trinity is sometimes worried about dieing and even though we've reassured her that Heaven will be a much better place, she is still concerned and has many questions about it. Honestly, I find it difficult to tell her about salvation in these instances because I don't want her to make a decision for Christ simply based on the fact that she is scared of death or hell. The Bible seems to talk about salvation as so much more then this! If she was only a teenager (or I was wiser in talking to children) it would be a lot easier. Sigh.

One thing I do like about these conversations is that they help me to think about faith a little more honestly and concretely. Have you had any deep or comical experiences in trying to explain theological truths to children? How did it go? If you have any pointers for me I'd love to hear them!

Monday, January 19, 2009

So Many Secrets

"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret"
- Proverbs 11:13

I was reflecting on some of the interesting things that come with being a counselor. There are many, but one of the unique ones is that you get to hear a lot of secrets. Sometimes people tell you things that they have never shared with another human being. Confidentiality is one of the most beautiful things about the therapeutic relationship. I believe people long for a safe place to honestly share their joys, pain, thoughts, and feelings.

So I end up hearing and keeping a lot of people's secrets.

Perhaps some would find that difficult, but I don't yet find it a burden. Although I'm far from perfect, in my personal life I think I'm overall fairly trustworthy. I've noticed (and been told by others) that people will often feel free to share their deep and vulnerable "stuff" with me, even if the don't know me that well. The other day I was chatting with a new acquaintance when all of a sudden they were telling me about some deeply painful memories. One time at a banquet I was sitting beside a complete stranger who out of the blue began sharing with me all about her concern for her daughter (who was undergoing intense personal struggles). Granted, some times people share with me because they know I'm a counselor and hope I can offer a listening ear or a word of advice. But often they share whether they know my profession or not.

So here's my question: Are you the kind of person who it is safe to share something with? Do you pass on peoples private information easily to others? I believe that lots of people can sense a trustworthy/untrustworthy person. And such traits get noticed. In one of Phil Callaway's book's he talks about how his Mom was talking with a gossipy neighbor. When the neighbor started talking about a church member's personal issues, Phil's mom said "Why don't we go and talk to her (the church member) about this right now?" The gossipy neighbor immediately stopped gossiping! Callaway ends the story by saying that because his mother would neither gossip nor listen to it, she knew more about anyone in that little town because she was everyone's confidant. Ironically she knew way more then her gossipy neighbor!

It's so easy to talk about people behind their backs; we can justify it in a million different ways. "We're all family" or "they need prayer" or maybe even "they need help." But the truth is if we don't have permission to share it, we're treading on this ice. My personal standard is to ask myself "Would I be OK sharing this if the person I'm talking about was in the room right now?" If not . . . well, I shouldn't do it. What starts out innocently quickly becomes gossip and slander. I have seen several ministries and churches robbed of their vitality or completely destroyed by these things. The sting of a gossip's betrayal is painful indeed - I know this because sadly I have been on both sides of the equation.

So, do people trust you with their secrets? There's only one way to find out. Ask those closest to you (friends, family, co-workers) to rate your trustworthiness with secrets on a scale of 1 to 10. I dare you! If you are brave and teachable enough to ask this question your prognosis is very good.

May Light increase!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Goal Power

I came across this quote and really liked it:

"Goals are dreams with deadlines." - Diana Sharf Hunt

So what dreams of yours are you putting a deadline to? And which dreams do you need to put deadlines to (and what's stopping you)?"

Friday, January 16, 2009

What's My Small Group About?

Have you ever seen the famous episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry come up with the pilot for a new show? When people ask them what it's about they gleefully respond "It's a show about nothing!" "Well what do the main character's do?" the exasperated television people ask them. "That's the beauty of it; nothing!" George and Jerry model the show on their own lives and think it's genius.

At our small group on Tuesday we stopped for a few minutes and I asked everyone how they felt the small group was going and asked them if we needed to tweak or change anything. I asked this because if you'd ask me what the topic of our small group is, the answer is "nothing." We don't have a topic or anything to study. We don't really have an agenda. We just get together talk and usually pray. Often we eat stuff. That's it! We basically just "do life together," kind of like on Seinfeld. We're a small group . . . about nothing.

This kind of group is an experiment for me. I had this idea that because small groups are supposed to be about fellowship (common sharing) that maybe we didn't need to have a teaching/learning time to go with it. What would happen if we just shared each other's lives? I don't think this group would be for everyone and it depends on everyone valuing the power of fellowship (and getting their discipleship needs met elsewhere) but I think that it's working. No one seems to want to make any changes. I guess nothing is something after all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beating Procrastination: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of some ways to beat procrastination (found here) . . .

7. It could be that you will come to realize that making a commitment to someone or setting a deadline for completing a task is one way to make procrastination more difficult. It is known that for many people, setting a goal results in motivation. For this to work, ex-procrastinators have found that the goal must be something they want to achieve.

8. Maybe you will discover that doing a job in the least distracting environment makes putting off work a little harder. For many college students, homes, dorm rooms, or apartments have many distractions and potential distractions. Perhaps you will find a place like the library to study where it is quiet and is going to stay quiet until you are ready to leave.

9. Like many non-procrastinators, you may find it enjoyable to reward yourself for doing a part of a job and for completing a task. Some examples of rewards are treating yourself to some ice cream, going to a movie, visiting with friends, or just doing something that you enjoy.

10. You may find it easier not to put things off when you match the outcomes of what you do with your goals. In other words, "How will not procrastinating on a talk move me toward my goals?." Possibly, you would come to realize that it is much easier to do something if you see that it is getting You where YOU want to go. You may even begin to believe that "your life is YOUR life" and that you have the freedom to pursue YOUR OWN GOALS, if you choose to do so.

11. Many counselors and researchers have discovered that procrastination is one characteristic of adult children from dysfunctional family’s i.e., families with alcohol abuse, physical abuse, emotional neglect or abuse, drug abuse, etc. Many people from dysfunctional families find this difficult to believe, accept, or even acknowledge, at first. If you think a background similar to dysfunctional families may be one reason why you put things off, you might choose to tell a college counselor about it. It could be that you would find a way to use their training and experience to help you reduce the number of times you put things off.

12. A normal reason for procrastinating is because a person is trying to do something they really and sincerely do not want to do just now. After acknowledging that something may be difficult or distasteful, it is not uncommon for people to get the help of a friend or counselor. Many former procrastinators have found that doing something they deeply and truly don't want to do just now is a primary reason why they put things off.

You may discover, as others have that this is a normal response to distasteful tasks. By making a change to do something they really want to do, many people like you have reduced or eliminated procrastination in their lives.

13. Sometimes people are unaware of a degree of self-criticism or self-anger which is a common cause of procrastination. Through no fault of their own, procrastinators in this escapable trap lapse into a cycle of thinking, feeling, and behavior that promotes procrastination. You may choose to examine the cycle below to see if any part of it fits you. If any part fits you, you may choose to enlist the help of a professional counselor to eliminate this possible cause of your procrastination.

When some people procrastinate, they become critical of themselves and that causes them to become angry at themselves. This leads to low self-esteem and discouragement. The self-talk language may go something like this.

Part 1 “I’ll do that later.”
Part 2 “Now it’s too late and I screwed up again!” “Why do I do this? It makes me so angry when I get into this situation.”
Part 3 “I just don’t have what it takes to succeed, I guess.”
Part 4 “Maybe I’ll quit.”

The sinister part of this cycle is that you may inadvertently enter at any point and continue circling until you realize what is happening. To exit this cycle, many ex-procrastinators have chosen to practice one or more of the possible solutions listed above. By using some of these solutions to procrastination, you may realize that you are not stuck with your present degree of procrastination, if you don't want to be. You may also begin to realize as others have, that you are not powerless to modify and eventually control this behavior. You may even find that reading over this handout several times could possibly give you more ideas to try in order to reduce your procrastination behaviors. You may come to believe, as many ex-procrastinators have, that you may choose to control and even eliminate procrastination by making habits out of one or more of the suggestions listed above, when you are ready.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beating Procrastination: Part 1

While researching for my College Success Skills Class, I found some excellent thoughts and tips on procrastination. I thought, "Why keep this to myself?" Hopefully this will be helpful to someone out there . . .

Possible Solutions For Procrastination

1. Some people who procrastinate become curious about what is it they put off when they procrastinate. Some of these people have kept a log for only 1 week where they jot down whatever it is they put off. Maybe after a few days of logging "procrastinatables," you may begin to see certain patterns about what kinds of tasks you put off. You may see avoidance of certain kinds of work or situations that are potentially conflict arousing. Maybe you will see that "putting off" has to do with certain kinds of people, teaching styles, environments, moods, feelings, tasks, etc. Possibly, you may notice a "first impulse" resistance to required work as you log things. It could be that doing this first step might give you insight into whatever it is you keep putting off. Some people begin to see possible solutions to procrastination at this point and some do not, yet. Either way is ok.

2. If you choose to do a log, you may want to look for common "delaying tactics". Many procrastinators discover an "inner voice" telling them what to do just before something is put off. This inner voice is normal and exists in all of us. You may feel like jotting down some of the things this inner voice says just before you put things off. This inner voice is called "self-talk."

Some people become curious about this "inner voice" and want to know more about what it says. This inner voice is normal and is called self talk. You may choose to listen more consciously for any negative or delaying self-talk when faced with commonly put-off tasks. You might discover what your self-talk is saying to you when facing commonly procrastinated tasks. You may even realize that, like many other people who put things off more than they want to, that you are likely to do what you tell yourself to do when facing unpleasant tasks. It might be interesting to see what happens if you change your self-talk and repeatedly tell yourself not to put something off. some ex-procrastinators have found that describing exactly what they intend to do and for how long, just before doing it, makes procrastinating more difficult.

3. You may believe that it is "good news" when you realize that negative or delaying self-talk can be consciously changed to positive self-talk. For example, if your self-talk when facing a disliked task is, "I don't want to do this," you are likely to do what is normal and do what you tell yourself to do. "I don't want to do this" is only a small logical step away from, "so, to hell with it!"

Perhaps you might like to experiment and see what happens to you if you attempted the kind of positive self-talk which says the opposite of your habitual negative or delaying self-talk.

Some ex-procrastinators jot down positive self-talk phrases on notecards that they carry with them. If you feel this may be a good idea, you might use notecards for reminders of what to say to yourself when facing commonly put off tasks.

Some examples of positive self-talk that you could put on a note are:

"I will do it now."

"I may not want to do it, but I will for 1/2 hour."

"I'd rather swim but it won't help me graduate so I will study first."

"I'll feel better when it's done, so I'll do it at 2pm."

'I'll do this for 1 hour and then go out."

"I'm a good student and good students do this, so I will do it now."

"I may hate this but I will finish it before I watch tv."

"I haven't liked this in the past but maybe i can learn to like it."

"I haven't done well on this in the past, but I will learn to do it well."

You may come to agree that more positive self-talk involves saying the opposite of what you used to tell yourself just before you procrastinated.

4. Just as most people can't eat a whole birthday cake in one bite, some jobs cannot be done all at once. Some people come to realize that it is harder to put something off if they slice a job up into manageable pieces and do the task piece by piece, little by little. This might mean breaking down the time required to-do a task into smaller chunks that are spaced over several days or weeks. Some people don't like large doses of something distasteful. They find that smaller doses spaced over time makes things easier to do and less procrastinatable.

5. Another way some people have reduced procrastination is to begin with an easy, an enjoyable, or the least distasteful piece of a job to get started.

6. Many ex-procrastinators have realized that working with someone else makes it less likely that they will put something off. Perhaps this would work for you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christmas Books

To me, one of the best presents is a book. This Christmas I received His Needs, Her Needs from my sister (which Jobina and I have thoroughly enjoyed) and Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Novels which is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from my in-laws. I also got some Christmas money and purchased the following:

1. Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea
2. Outliers.
3. The Little Prince (to read to my kids).
4. Losing My Virginity: The Autobiography.

So far, I have read Adrift (which is an absolutely mind-boggling survival at sea story) and am a few chapters into Outliers which is already blowing me away intellectually. I will try to do reviews on all of them when I've finished reading them. Anyone else get any Christmas books?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives

Ever heard of Norman Borlaug before? I hadn't either but I thought he fits well into my "inspiring people" series. Neatorama has a cool write up about this plant pathologist/geneticist who is credited with saving more life than anyone else - ever! How did he do it? You'll have to read the link for the details. But to sum it up: Borlaug created new strains of wheat that were hardier, shorter, stockier, and disease resistant then ever before, increasing yields 200-400%. He singlehandedly helped some poorer wheat-importing countries become wheat-exporters! Who would have thought that so much of the world's population could be saved by advances in farming technology? Very cool.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

There's More To Life . . .

Here's one more Rodney White piece:

Also, here is an interesting video I found about him:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Of Art And Shoes

Today I did something unusual for me: I spent the whole day shopping. And by shopping I mean "attempting to find stuff to buy." Shopping has never been my most enjoyable pastime but I told myself that I really needed to buy:

1. Artwork and decoration for my office (whose walls are woefully bare and annoying my co-workers - OK Gerry - immensely).
2. Some new clothes, especially shoes which are ugly and unclean from waitering.

I decided to take Jobina with me as I've decided after reading His Needs, Her Needs that I ought to take my mate's preferences for what I wear into consideration. Also she has better taste then I do.

Anyway, I got new shoes and it was very efficient. I walked in, spent 4 minutes looking at shoes, got the girl to bring me my size, walked around in them, bought them. Total time spent: about 12 minutes. Buying new jeans took a bit longer (went to two stores, bought from the second after a little fashion show for Jobina). Art though is a different matter.

I've been looking for office art for several months. I see some art I don't like, lots of art that's good, but not much art that I absolutely love. The few pieces that I do really like seem prohibitively expensive (perhaps I do have some taste afterall!). I finally decided that I would just get some cheap, decent art showing the outdoors and be done with it. But whenever I try to buy it I can't. I just don't love it enough.

Today I did find something that I kind of like, at Urban Barn of all places. I was surprised that I would even take a second look at it, but something about them made me ponder. It is contemporary art by Rodney White. I would best describe it as a whimsical fusion of early 20th century advertising imagery and positive psychology. Here is an example of one of his pieces that caught my eye (imagine them being quite a bit larger, about 3 feet by 3 feet) :

And here's another one I liked:

Also, what would you think if you saw this in a counseling office?

Check out more of Rodney's work here. This kind of artwork is a lot different then I was looking for, yet I liked it. (By the way, art is quite subjective and I won't be offended if you don't like it yourself). Alas, though I liked the pieces, I decided they were just too expensive. Jobina asked me if I was disappointed and maybe I am a little. You find something you kind of like, that maybe you could even love (the kind of art that you would be proud to have in your home) and you can't afford it. Sigh. Shopping is in so many ways oppressive! Anyway, my quest for art continues . . . and my deadline for procuring it is this weekend . . .

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lovely Thoughts

I have been thinking a lot about love lately. One of my friends at Olive Garden, Cole, once told me that he had been thinking for several days about love - what is it really? At the time, I just grunted as I was "weeded" (a waitering term for overwhelmed with one's duties) but afterwords I thought it was probably the deepest question I'd ever heard there. What is love? It seems we often recognize it when we see it, but to try to describe it is so very difficult. A few random thoughts on love that I have come across lately:

-Everyone has a love bank account for everyone we come in contact with. When someone meets one of our needs, love units are deposited. When they don't meet our needs, love units are withdrawn. Eventually if too many units are withdrawn, a person moves from love to hate. This is the theory of Dr. Willard, F. Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs and Love Busters. Jobina and I read his book to each other in the van while travelling this Christmas - very good stuff. Harley works mostly with couples experiencing infidelity - a very tough group! Yet he finds that by teaching warring spouses to begin meeting each others needs again, he can help them to rebuild their love bank balances - which results in feelings of love where once there was hate. Yes, love is a feeling, a choice, and a verb. But according to Harley it is also tangible - something that can be added to and subtracted from - at least when humans are involved. I thought his concept of love to be quite interesting.

-Sometimes even animals seem to exhibit love (I dedicate this one to Lindsey) :

-Love can get you into trouble: Child Elopers African Plan Foiled.

Love. Isn't it marvelous?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Going To The Other Side

Today I went back to school . . . as an instructor. I taught my first class at Providence College: College Success Skills. Trust me, the irony of the situation is not lost on me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Power of One-On-One

Once upon a time when I was a young punk youth pastor I got a call from my senior pastor. "Hey Mark, how's it going?" he asked. "Good Ernest," I replied and wondered what he wanted. "I've got some time today," he said, "how about we go out for coffee?" Immediately I said yes. Ernest was a busy guy (as most pastors are) and for him to take time to just spend with me was . . . well . . . special. In fact in the several years I had worked with him it had only happened a handful of times. I cherished those times and looked forward to it.

Finally the time came for him to pick me up (in his old 80 something yellow Ford Truck). When I hopped in we started driving and then he casually said "Oh by the way, I've asked ______ if he would like to join us today. You don't mind do you?" "Um, sure, no problem," I said. But when I thought about it later I realized that yes, I had actually minded. I was disappointed that I didn't get that one-one-one time with him that he had implied we would have. And even worse I realized that I had done the exact same thing to the students in my youth ministry many times. Ouch!

Later as a camp director we had decided that we were going to change the way we interacted with our staff at camp. Following the LiMiT style of camp leadership, we began to make sure that all of our counselling staff got to meet with someone from the director team for at least 40 minutes, once a week. We were worried that this kind of "program" approach to connecting and discipleship would be too awkward and formal and we prepared to meet with some resistance. To our surprise no one objected and most of the staff strongly appreciated these times. Staff conflict went down, staff morale and performance went up. I think we can safely say there is a strong hunger for us to meet with those who we look up to, care for, or want to learn from. And we want do it one-on-one.

One-on-ones are the secret ingredient for success in so many ventures. It is the essence of dating, the glue of marriage, the heart of parenting, and the soul of mentoring. If a relationship is in conflict, meeting one-on-one is the start of the solution and regular one-on-one's keep relationship's from going there in the first place. Quality one-one-ones help people to feel cared for, known, and valued. I have a friend with whom I have been an unofficial mentor for over 12 years. I saw him this Christmas. First we hung out in a family gathering style context but eventually it was getting late. I asked him if he wanted to go for a drive and he jumped at the opportunity. Just the two of us, we drove and talked for several hours about all sorts of life, relationship, and spiritual things. My time and presence was the greatest gift I could give him. And I enjoyed it immensely as well. It felt like I had accomplished something worthwhile.

Two challenges here: First, is there someone close to you that could benefit from a quality one-on-one? Your spouse, one of your kids, a friend, or maybe someone looking for some guidance? Why not give them the gift of your time and presence?

Secondly, is there someone you know who you would love to spend time with? Why not ask them specifically if you could go for coffee/a hike/a drive with them? Sometimes we sulk, waiting around for those we love and appreciate to spend time with us. Maybe we need to take action and make the first move? This post is just a little reminder. For myself and maybe for others: Life is busy but we need to make the time to connect with people one-on-one. Almost nothing else will make a stronger impression on them.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Three Interesting Thoughts

Living In The City Is Bad For Your Brain. I knew it! According to researchers, just being in an urban environment impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. The culprit? Lack of nature. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard.

Living Like Jesus For A Year Is Very Difficult. Could you live like Jesus for a year? This pastor tried! "I've concluded that I am a follower, but I'm not a very good one," Ed Dobson said. "If you get serious about the Bible, it will really mess you up." Messing him up enough to witness for Jesus in bars, pick up strangers needing rides and voting for a Democrat who he believes best reflects Christ's teachings.

Diet Soda is Worse For You Then Regular Soda. In 2005, Sharon Fowler and her colleagues from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio presented eight years of research data that explored the link between obesity risk and soft drinks. According to the WebMD summary of the study: For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was: 26% for up to 1/2 can each day, 30.4% for 1/2 to one can each day, 32.8% for 1 to 2 cans each day, and 47.2% for more than 2 cans each day. For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was: 36.5% for up to 1/2 can each day, 37.5% for 1/2 to one can each day, 54.5% for 1 to 2 cans each day, and 57.1% for more than 2 cans each day. For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up 41%!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Touching Reunion

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Are You SURE That's Decaf?

Now you can know for sure. This product fits solidly under the "great idea" category:

D-Caf - Caffeine test strips

As a former server I can tell you that mistakes occasionally are made when it comes to coffee (and especially if you are rude to your server!) and the ability to know for sure that what you have is decaf could save you a decent night's sleep. Of course as a coffee abstainer I feel I must point out that the easiest way to avoid this unpleasantness is to just avoid coffee altogether, but hey, I'm in the minority out there and I accept this. If interested, you can buy the product here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Looking Back . . . On 2008 Goals

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo

Research shows that people who write down their goals and look at them often are more likely to actually achieve them. With this in mind I came up with a list of goals for 2008. I like goals more then "resolutions" as resolutions seem more final and are more devastating when not achieved. I did not achieve all my goals but I did complete a few. Here are my goals (and what happened):

My 2008 Goals

o I want to be able to run 4 miles without having a heart attack.
-Nope, not even close. I gave up on this one around March. No excuses!

o I want to have three 24 hour "solos" (spiritual renewal).
-Did one near the end of the year. Perhaps of all my missed goals, this is the one that hurts the most. I feel like I made 3 dates with God but only kept one. Still, the one solo I had was so beneficial for me.

o I want to take my wife on a romantic "10 Year Anniversary" trip (prioritize my marriage).
-Did it - went to Belize for 10 days. An almost perfect vacation! Just a little bit left to pay off.

o I want to buy one new investment property (taking action).

-Did it - kind of. I bought a property but sold it for a small profit. Really I should be buying and holding so I guess I get credit for achieving this one on a technicality.

o I want to buy one small business (for profit and for fun).
-It was close but I now know what my next business will be - a website producing monthly income. I expect to fulfill this goal a little late (sometime this month).

o I want to graduate with my Masters in Counseling Psychology.
-Did it! Yay, I have a very nice piece of paper to display in my office.

o I want to do two multi-day adventure trips.
-I did one excellent bike trip but it was only a day. So I guess I failed on this one. Sad as this is probably the first year in a decade where I haven't at least had one multi-day outdoor adventure.

o I want to put siding up on my house.
-We signed the papers in the Fall and they company still hasn't come to do the work yet. I'm giving myself a point here - I set it all up, it's the company's fault for being over 3 months late!

Stay tuned for my new goals for the upcoming year . . . displayed here to keep myself publicly accountable for my new year's intentions. Remember as C.S. Lewis said "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”