Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I like the slow-motion facial expressions the best.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Group Connection Ideas

Our small group met last night, our third meeting so far. We are still kind of in the that stage where everyone is trying to figure out what's happening and what we are going to be about. Even though I have given a vision of "just doing life together" my sense is that most people don't really believe it and want you to prove it. Question: How do you get people to bond, to share, to be vulnerable and real? After all, this desire to know and be known is strong within all us. From my experience as a leader I have found there are a few things that often work:

1. Ask the Magic Question. Just having a sharing time as part of a meeting or get together is usually not enough to get people who are not used to being real with each other to suddenly become so. At some point, someone has to ask what I call the Magic Question: "How are you doing?" If you don't ask this question (or a derivative of it), little will probably happen. This question is magic because it challenges people to share where they really are. We asked this question for the first time last night and I could tell people were uncomfortable with it. There was a long silence and the the person who was going to answer struggled at first to find the words. But after a moment or two he began and shared some real and important things. It was real, it was powerful, it was actual "sharing." Something changed in the room and in the group. "Aha," I thought, "now we are getting somewhere!" Asking the Magic question in a safe environment is the quickest way to create deepness, bonding, and emotional connection between people. Tip: don't make this question a demand, but rather an invitation. Give people an out ("share if you wish or pass if you don't want to").

2. Ask someone to share a testimony. Sharing/hearing a person's life story (especially faithwise) is another way to get people to feel emotionally connected as a group and engaged with each other. Since by our nature most of us are protective about sharing our "stuff" with each other, to hear someone else do so helps us connect with the speaker and with the rest of our group. The other day in church we had a sharing time (unusual for us) and as people shared their victories and struggles you could feel the bonding strengthen in the room. Something very different was felt that day - a new connection with others. Tip: Making time for testimonies in meetings and groups may seem like a less efficient use of time and making it is difficult for many to prioritize it (especially if your meeting is only an hour or so). But I find that intense sharing/testimonies actually increase the productivity of a group over the long run. Ask people who are more authentic to share first - they'll set the mood and be an example for others.

3. Shared intense experiences. The word fellowship means "common sharing" and nothing induces bonding more then doing intense, memory-making activities together. What makes something intense? A few things come to mind: people are out of their comfort zones, emotions are elevated, the task is difficult, it is out of the ordinary, risk is involved in some way. The LiMiT team training I used to do would quickly bond groups because they combined all of these factors. Tip: Don't try to overplan such experiences, instead plan an intense activity that has the potential for good things to happen and then let it go where it will. The trick is that the activity will be in the "sweet spot," not so intense that it terrifies people and turns them against you nor too easy that people are not challenged.

These are just a few of my ideas, but I'd love to hear from you what helped bond your group together and what happened to help people be real and vulnerable with each other. Ever been stuck in a group that just couldn't seem to share? What were your best and worst connection experiences?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alternative To Spanking

My friend Jacquie sent us this forward and I thought there was some real wisdom to be had in it. The topic of spanking children usually brings up strong feelings in people; they either hate it or believe its the most natural thing a parent can do. Whichever way you lean, I hope you can approach this novel parenting approach with an open mind:

Tough Love vs. Spanking - Good Argument
From a mom...
Most people think it improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have one of 'those moments'.

One that I found effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk.

Some say it's the vibration from the car, others say it's the time away from any distractions such as TV, Video Games, Computer, IPod, etc.

Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our car ride together. Eye to eye contact helps a lot too.

I've included a photo below of one of my sessions with my son, in case you would like to use the technique.


A Friend

This works equally well with

grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Risky Inspiration

Here are a few inspiring thoughts on risk, to go with my last post:

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
- Wayne Gretzky

He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.
- Paul Tillich

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.
- Leo F. Buscaglia

Prudence keeps life safe, but does not often make it happy.
- Samuel Johnson

The more chance there is of stubbing your toe, the more chance you have of stepping into success.
- Author Unknown

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
- Robert F. Kennedy

Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first.
- Frederick B. Wilcox

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
- Soren Kierkegaard

Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?
- Frank Scully

Nothing Ventured . . .

When I was about 11 years old I had my first investment idea. I was reading a comic and noticed an ad for "premium collectible comics." The company sold very expensive comics, in fact the most costly ones. On the list for sale was Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider Man. My first thought was "Hmmm . . . that would be a great investment, Spiderman will always be popular" or something like that. I immediately went to my Mom and told her about my idea. I attempted to reason with her but sadly she was unconvinced and didn't give me the money. How much was the ad asking for this comic? $2500. Last night I was surfing a comic price guide site for fun. Prices for a near mint version of Amazing Fantasy #15 today? About $250,000! Oh how I wished I had convinced my Mom that day!

I also think of some of the properties I looked at when I first became interested in using some of my home's equity to buy another one. Some of the houses have more then doubled in value . . . and that was only five years ago! It reminds me that when we risk nothing we are sure to get it. Whether it is investment wise, spiritually, or in the realm of relationships taking risks and facing your fears is the way to growth. Of course you won't "win" with everything you risk, sometimes you will lose it all. Risk wisely, but risk something.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Asbo Jesus Friday: Double Feature

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Can You Be Lovers But Not Friends?

"Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever talk about their friendship. (Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends side by side, absorbed in some common interest.)" –C.S. Lewis

The answer to the question is yes, you can be lovers but not really be friends. I see it all the time. But can you be lovers without being friends long term and still have a great and satisfying relationship? I'm not so sure.

Friendship, knowing each other, sharing common pursuits and interests, sharing in each others lives - these are like the cake that the icing (eros and romance) is built upon. John Gottman who has 30 years of research into couples behind him says the quality of a couple's friendship is one of the most important indicators of whether the relationships will persevere or fail. Sometimes when meeting with a couple who is in peril I will ask them directly: What is their friendship like? Married couples need to put time and energy into knowing and being known, spending time together recreationally, and pursuing life experiences together.

And yet, let's face it, men and women do not usually pursue each other for friendship, they pursue each other for romantic and erotic love. And so both eros (erotic love) and phileo (friendship love) are necessary in order for a relationship to prosper and persevere. Don't settle for one without the other.

Most people are better at one and find the other more challenging. If you are married, look at your own relationship - What are you better at? What do you need to put more into? How are you going to do this (and when)?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Prophecy Fail

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Moral Society Without God?

Can a Godless society be a good society?

That is the question that a new book by Phil Zuckerman called "Society Without God" asks. It sounds like an interesting book. The author asks questions like:

1. Is the belief in (or fear of, depending on your point of view) God necessary to have a "good" society?

2. What would a nation of atheists look like?

3. Would a godless country lead to lawlessness and immorality?

When I have considered these questions in the past I would think something like "Of course a Godless society couldn't be good. Look at the atheistic experiments in Russia and China and how they turned out. This was one of those assumptions that I usually just took as obvious. Oops.

Yet Zuckerman argues that in answer to his questions we actually don't have to wonder - there is a place where the great majority of people are not only not religious but they can't even be bothered about the questions of faith, God, and life's meaning. Zuckerman spent a year studying Denmark and Sweden, the least religious countries in the world and perhaps even in history, and interviewed people about their religious beliefs (technically, the absence of such beliefs). He published his findings last year in his book.

His main thesis: “First of all, I argue that society without God is not only possible, but can be quite civil and pleasant. This admittedly polemical aspect of my book is aimed primarily at countering the claims of certain outspoken, conservative Christians who regularly argue that a society without God would be hell on earth: rampant with immorality, full of evil, and teeming with depravity. Well, it isn’t. Denmark and Sweden are remarkably strong, safe, healthy, moral, and prosperous societies…”

Here's an interesting interview with the author:

In his book Zuckerman is careful not to champion the absence of religious belief as preferable for a society, but he argues strongly that when religious belief (or dogma) is absent, society can proceed along nicely. I find his premise refreshing in that he takes a common belief and turns it on its head. Should a Christian society be more "good" then an atheistic one? Absolutely. Is it always the case? Sadly, no. Rather then discourage us or cause doubt in us, I find it challenging. Belief in God, even passionate belief does not always translate into believers being better people. Religion (belief systems) on their own can never do this. Obedience and a Spirit filled relationship with Jesus Christ marked by the fruit of the spirit is much more important. Zuckerman of course oversimplifies some things and ignores other things but I think he does have an important point to make. More on this later, but in the mean time, what do you think of what this guy says?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Creative Help Wanted . . .

After reflecting on my blogging this past month, I'm going to make a change. I've decided to start a relationship blog - one that will be connected to my counselor web site. It will be targeted at those looking for relationship wisdom, tips, ideas, and reflections. It will be for those who are single, dating, engaged, or married. So I'm looking for ideas for a name. Do you have any suggestions?

I am usually pretty creative, but I thought I could use some help on this one. Good, bad, terrible, and humorous suggestions would all be appreciated! Even if I don't use your idea(s) it might spark something in me or someone else reading. Also, if I choose your idea, I will send you a unique and mysterious prize to express my thanks!

Friday, October 16, 2009

ASBO Jesus Friday: Triple Feature

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Random Dating Wisdom

Here is a great dating principle from Cloud and Townsend's book "Boundaries in Dating" (which I highly recommend):

"Don't date anyone who you wouldn't have as a friend."

It seems obvious but people break this relationship rule all the time. I know I was guilty of doing it once and I still shake my head when I think about it! How could someone do this you ask? People often date people with only short term needs in mind; to alleviate loneliness, to build their self esteem, to resolve early childhood conflicts, to relieve boredom, etc. But after the white hot passion of romance waxes and wanes, will be left with a person who you will want to spend time with? If that person isn't someone you would think of as being a friend you will be in trouble. Usually the people we want as friend are those with similar values, with character's we appreciate and enjoy, and whose personalities endear us to them. Yet when we are looking for romantic partners we will sometimes ignore the fact that if we weren't interested in this person romantically we wouldn't be friends with them. And it gets us into terrible trouble sometimes.

If you are single then heed my advice: don't date anyone (or at least date exclusively) anyone who you wouldn't want as a friend. You'll thank me for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sad News

This morning I woke up to Riker's crying. Sadly, his pet fish Dan (which Riker had less then a week) had passed away during the night and was floating upside down in his fish bowl.

Although I am not in favor of keeping fish as I don't like the idea of small & cramped "cages" for aquatic prisoners, I somehow had to take care of the funeral arrangements. This was because Jobina suddenly had stomach issues at the the thought of a dead fish . . . apparently it caused bile to form in her mouth and this was unpleasant. But I digress.

Anyway, I grabbed a measuring cup from the kitchen and gently I scooped up Dan's remains from his little cage (I mean bowl) and dumped it into the toilet. Then Riker and I both said a few words in remembrance of the little fish. After this was done Riker ceremoniously flushed the toilet and Dan went down to rest in the place where most fish end up.

It was a tender moment for Riker and without looking at me his emotion filled voice said quietly "I'll miss him."

"Yes, we'll all miss him," I replied.

"I'm just so upset . . ." Riker began.

"Yes, you are so sad because . . ." I tried to sympathetically interject with something comforting.

"Because now I have to spend another $5 to get another one!" Riker said bitterly.

I had been expecting a different reaction and to hear that he was thinking from a financial perspective about his loss almost made me chuckle out loud! But I controlled myself. I told Jobina about it afterwards and we both laughed heartily.

Rest in Peace Dan. Know that you will be missed, mostly because you costed so much. Adieu.

On Mysticism - G.K. Chesterton

"Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health;
when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has
always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.
He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth
and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt
his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe
in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.
If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other,
he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.
His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight:
he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better
for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing
as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed
that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless
ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth
because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly
this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole
buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this:
that man can understand everything by the help of what he does
not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid,
and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows
one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid."
- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Simple Test To Predict Success (or Failure)?

Joint Venture coach Robin J. Elliot is a "direct and to the point" style communicator and entrepreneur. You may not like what and how he says things, but I like to contemplate his point of views on things. Here some thoughts on the power of specificity. What do you think? Is he an uncompassionate guy in a suit or does he have a point?

Here’s a simple formula to predict someone’s future choices and actions. This virtual crystal ball has helped me significantly over the years to save time and money and allocate my resources more accurately. Here’s how to do it – quick and easy!

Sit down and do a spot of goal-setting with them, including the creation of an Action Plan. There are really only two responses to this activity. Winners who intend to produce will set very specific, realistic, measurable, time-related, significant goals with an Action Plan to support them. Those who do not intend to produce will set vague, mediocre goals that focus on activity rather than results, and are hard to measure and check.

For example, the Winner writes: “I will make four paid, $2,000 sales by November 1st.” The loser writes: “Contact fifteen new prospects, advertise in the newspaper, ask for referrals from existing customers, read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ again.” You get my drift. How do I know she called fifteen new prospects or read the book, and how does reading the book put money in the bank? Did she really ask for referrals? It’s easy to advertise in the newspaper, but that doesn’t create sales. Also, listen to their words: Winners says things like “I will, I commit, definitely, exactly, certainly, I know.” And they will put themselves on the line, invest, and face the consequences. Losers will use words like, “I guess, I hope, I’ll try, IF, it depends on, maybe, I can’t control the future”, etc. They will deflect blame.

When November 1st rolls around, the Winner will either celebrate his success, or he will have to explain why he didn’t attain his four sales, because it will be plain to see whether he succeeded or not. The loser has protected herself by insulating herself from criticism; she will claim that she achieved her goals by reading the book, contacting people, asking for referrals, and advertising, yet she made no sales! So she feels very successful with no sales, while the Winner, who in fact made three sales, determines to do much better next time by applying more self-discipline, something which the loser knows nothing about.

Losers (parasites and moochers) are motivated by being busy, feeling important, impressing others, and teaching others (the blind leading the blind.). Winners (producers and creators) are motivated by results. The way they set goals is the first way to predict their futures. The second way is to listen to what they say after their results are revealed. Losers will make excuses, blame others, the economy, circumstances, their tools, products and services, pricing, the market, you name it. They will be “offended” if confronted with the fact that they failed to produce. Winners will take personal responsibility and resolve to do better by changing their action plan, working harder, honing their skills.

Before you commit time and resources to working with someone, apply this simple formula – it could save you a lot of time and money!

Robin J. Elliott

Monday, October 12, 2009

Planning For Christmas

The Westman's are doing something different at Christmas this year - we're going to a cabin. Ever since we got married we Westmans have taken turns spending Christmas with our parents at their houses on alternating years. And by spending Christmas I mean actual Christmas, the 24th and 25th of December. We have absolutely loved these times but one thing always seemed missing - it was difficult to establish any holiday traditions of our own. So for a few years now we've played with the idea of doing a Westman Christmas with just our nuclear family. We'd still visit our parents of course and celebrate Christmas with them but we would do it before and after the actual day of Christmas.

Jobina was especially adamant that we needed to celebrate on our own sometime. I'm open to trying new things so I'd agree but when it came to actually telling our parents that we wanted to do Christmas on our own she would have second thoughts. Or as I called it "chickening out."

Sure enough Jobina was having second thoughts again (even though she gone so far as to tell our parents last year that we were considering a Christmas on our own) but I convinced her that we should just do it. And if we were going to do it, we should do it in style! So we called Falcon Trails Resort which is easily our favorite resort to escape to. They usually do three night minimums at Christmas but they had one cabin that ended up being available for two - so we booked it! To me staying in a beautiful cabin on a lake, chopping wood for the fire, enjoying the outdoor hot tub, XC skiing, and sleeping in a cabin is like my perfect Christmas. The kids are excited too - Riker is already planning to go exploring with me and wants us to build a snow fort together. I'm sure it was a little disappointing to our parents but they took it well. We tentatively plan to do a "Westman" family Christmas every three years, alternating with the parents on the other two.

What do you do for Christmas? How do you handle family traditions and expectations? And have you ever gone somewhere exotic/adventurous for Christmas and what was it like?

Friday, October 9, 2009

ASBO Jesus Friday: Teen Pregnancy?

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bromantically Speaking

bromance - the complicated love and affection shown by two straight males.
(Urban Dictionary)

Recently I went out for lunch with someone who I used to minister with. We hadn't seen each other for several years but out of the blue he had emailed me and asked me if we wanted to do lunch. We went to Tony Roma's and basically caught up on each others lives. It was good. At the end, he had to run and then he said "Hey, it was great talking to you again . . . you know I'd really like to be friends. I don't know if you are looking for friends . . . but I'm new to the city . . . you know, maybe we could go to a Bomber game or see a movie?" Suddenly I realized what had happened - I was on a guy date and I hadn't even realized it. Now I was getting an invitation - was I interested in taking this to the next level? I told him I would like that. Then, just like that, he was gone.

I sat there pondering this amusingly. A little while ago Jobina and I rented the movie I Love You Man which is a movie about "bromances" or "man crushes" and the seldom discussed area of intimate (important: non-gay) male friendship. Although the movie is in my opinion way too crude (crude enough for me that I almost didn't get through it and certainly wouldn't rent it again), it did make me think about how one goes about the often awkward process of finding good same-gender friends. Occasionally you meet someone and you are naturally just become inseparable (I had this happen to me a few times in my life) but often it is more like dating - sometime you like the other person more then they like you (and vice versa). You fear rejection and sometimes get nervous. And of course sometimes you just don't know where you stand with your friends - do they really like me or not? And if so, how much? The idea of men going out on dates with each other offends my masculine spirit but I think it is the reality of what often happens.

Anyway, I find the whole subject interesting. . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Do You Think Of When You See This Picture?

Honestly, I'm just curious to hear other's impressions. . .

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review: The Richest Man In Babylon

Book Review: The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason

I absolutely loved this book! Everything about it was great. First it's written in a witty "King James English" sort of prose. Secondly the book is a collection of stories - each can be read independent of each other and yet all connect with each other as well. Thirdly, the last story is the best one (in my humble opinion). I have heard this book referred to many times as the "classic" on financial wisdom and now I can see why. I can see how the author of The Wealthy Barber and other similar books borrowed liberally from Clason's work. I may even integrate the book into my premarital counselling as the financial stories are so wise and so well put.

The author is a genius. Apparently the book was made from a collection of tracts that banks used to have - little tracts that would tell people how to be wise with their money (not so anymore, eh?). Clason manages to entertain, to put it in a style that engages (the story), and a language that seems authoritative (old English) for a truly excellent literary experience. If your finances aren't doing well, this book might be the trick to turning it around. I give it 4.9 ninja stars out of 5.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"The End Of Poverty?" Trailer

I was very moved when I watched this trailer. Justice! Anyone want to go watch it when it comes out in the end of November?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Only In His Home Town

Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." - Mark 6:4

Ah fate - so interesting. Tomorrow I speak in my my home town, in the church of my youth. Please, if you think to, pray for me! And have a great Sunday . . .

Friday, October 2, 2009

ASBO Jesus Friday: Waterfall

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At the heart of wisdom, successful relationships, career success, mental wellness, spiritual vitality, and much more . . . is this one simple thing.

Personal responsibility.

As long as you are blaming things (or people) outside of yourself, you will never truly be able to grow and move on. There is so little you can change in others, the biggest thing you can change is . . . you. So stop blaming everyone else for where you are - instead, take responsibility for your own healing/success/happiness and do something different! Face your fears, take a step of faith . . . and move. With God's help you see change in your life, but it starts with you taking responsibility for what you have done and what you can do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009