Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This Day . . .

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a fine poet and occasionally a wise thinker. He had some good advice for us:

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered by your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: Every Man's Battle

Book Review: Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker

Sometime during my last few years at Bible college I got excited about purity. I mean really excited. I became absolutely convinced of not just the importance of being sexually pure but that it was one of the greatest gifts of God we could choose for ourselves. I started a new, purity focused relationship and began talking with many people about the topic. Encouraging men and couples in this area became one of my strongest passions. My relationship with Jobina was one of purity and integrity and I took that passion into marriage, youth pastoring, and camp directing.

Last week I was looking at my co-worker Gerry's library, looking for next book to read when my eyes rested upon Every Man's Battle. I thought it might help me with some of my clients who struggle with sexual issues. I read it in a couple of days and it kind of rocked my world. I realized though that my old passion for purity had kind of . . . faded. I'm not sure why, but when I encountered the brazen honesty and passion for purity in this book, I knew that it had happened and I hadn't even realized it. This book restored my vision for purity and helped me to see it's importance not just before marriage but after as well. The book is unique in that it mostly addresses "fractional addiction." This is where you are addicted to getting some of your sexual needs met outside your marriage relationship. So while most men are not like Tiger Woods, full blown sexual addicts, many have fractional addictions. Many young Christian men think marriage will be a kind of sexual nirvana where they won't have to fight against sexual temptation anymore (since they can now have sex)- and they are shocked when the battle changes but continues.

Personal purity is a delicate subject and so too often we don't talk about it, and if we do, we talk about it in code or vaguely. I liked this book because it was terribly honest and specific. Honest enough that you cringe when the authors tell their stories and you realize their wives have heard everything they've said. This would be a difficult book for a woman to read - and so at the end of each chapter there is special section addressed to any female readers, trying to help them understand the uniqueness of the male makeup. The authors differentiate between being male (our unique proclivity to getting our sexual needs met) and being a man (choosing to be pure to honor God). They then present a simple battle plan. Part of this plan is to "starve your eyes" and "bounce your eyes," two great strategies which when mastered will protect a man and his marriage in powerful ways.

I liked this book alot. I don't think it would be helpful for full blown sexual addiction but for fractional addiction (the vast majority of men) it is practical and easy to understand. It certainly is not boring! There is a female version as well called Every Woman's Battle: Discovering God's Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment, which I would love for a woman out there to volunteer and review for me. Any takers? I rate Every Man's Battle 4.4 stars out of 5.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Discipline of Romantic Retreating

I have a friend who leads a crazy busy life. He and his wife are extremely generous and hard working people. Anytime they have a chance to get away for awhile they always invite their children to come along and share in the experience. So I was overjoyed to hear that they had recently decided to get away - just the two of them - and go to a cabin for a few days together.

I was so excited for them! I caught myself praying for them, asking God to give them a beautiful few days together. You see, I'm a very big fan of what I call the discipline of romantic retreating.

Romantic retreating is going away, just the two of you (no children!), for a time to reconnect emotionally, conversationally, recreationally, spiritually, sexually, etc. I'm convinced that every couple is different but that almost every couple needs to do this occasionally or else their relationship will wither. Going away to a hotel or a cabin in the woods is not a guarantee that a relationship will be rekindled, but it increases the chances a lot. Why you ask?

When a couple tries to spend quality time together in their home it can be difficult because of the many distractions; children, finances, housework, house repairs, and the ever present spontaneity killer - familiarity. "Getting away" is like making conscious choice to put all of that on hold for awhile and show your spouse that connecting with them is of utmost importance to you - and that all that other stuff can wait (don't worry it will still be there when you get back!). Its a time to have fun together again, to be romantic, and to recapture what has faded. Retreating together is a beautiful thing and a great way to remind yourself that the tyranny of the urgent does not need to be your slave master.

I call it the discipline of retreating because it for most of us it takes a conscious choice to sacrifice two limited resources (money and time) to do. Yet whenever Jobina and I go away (usually to our fav resort, Falcon Trails), we always end up saying to ourselves "We need to do this more often." To me 3 nights is optimal but even one or two is great. I consider retreats a wise investment into one's relationship. Personally, I'd like to do a get-a-way at least every 4 months to get the most out of them. Like having a weekly or monthly date night, this is a discipline that has immediate and far lasting results on your relationship. What's your best retreating experience or where do you like to get away to?

P.S. The pic is from Mariaggi's Theme Suite Hotel here in Winnipeg, a great (though expensive) place for a romantic retreat. Waterfall hot tubs right in your room! Jobina and I spent our first night there as a married couple - it was worth every penny . . .

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review: Fast Food Nation

Book Review: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side Of The All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

A week or so ago there was nothing on TV so Jobina and I looked for a DVD to pop in. We ended up watching Supersize Me. If you want something to help you reduce your fast food habits, I highly recommend it. One of the bonus features in this movie is an interview with Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. The next day I picked up the book from my library and started reading it again.

There is no other way to put it; this book is shocking. On so many levels. Charting the history of fast food in the USA, it shows how the industrial processes of mass production have been applied to food. Spoiler: It's not always good.

Schlosser's book is easily readable, well researched, and is not over the top in it's anti-corporate views. It's chilling to know that due to the meat industry being run just by a few corporations, essentially we are eating the same meat from the same feedlots and slaughter houses whether we buy it at a fast food chain or the local supermarket, and perhaps even upscale restaurants. But there things that are even worse. Cattle are fed cats, dogs, other cows, even old newspaper! Not to mention feces - and lots of it. Yuck! If this doesn't outrage you enough, just wait to you get to how these same meat conglomerates treat the low paid, low skilled employees of the slaughterhouses. Working in a slaughterhouse is one of the most dangerous professions in North America with thousands of injuries reported every year.

How fast food corporations have evolved their food - adding taste to almost everything by using chemicals is unsettling at best. Advertising to children, tainted meat, chemically fabricated food, underpaid workers, the direct connect between obesity and fast food's rise to prominence, and the movement away from food regulation are all issues that the author touches on. I rate this book 4.8 ninja stars out of five - highly recommended. For a concise overview of the book, check out this link.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I haven't posted in a few days, perhaps because we are still catching up on so many things after the birth of our son. We are continually fighting a losing battle with sleep deprivation (my wife much worse then I) and this tiredness seems to disrupt my whole schedule - especially blogging . Despite all this, I am learning a ton of things right now - personally, spiritually, and professionally. But, when I sit down at my computer I find that I have nothing to say.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Parkinson's Law

Recently I came across this rather depressing law and have been thinking about it lately:

Parkinson's Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

In other words, if you have a half hour for lunch, you will eat in a half an hour. If you have an hour it will take the whole hour. Work expands to fill the time available.

I find this is true for so many things. When I was a student if I had 2 weeks to do a paper, it would take me two weeks. When I prepare to see my clients if I have two hours, it will take me 2 hours (conversely if I only have one hour it will take me one hour). What sort of insidiousness makes this true? Perhaps it is simply human nature and our ability to procrastinate. Maybe it is only my opinion but it seems that most people are ruled by this principle. As the wikipedia article on the topic states, the idea has been expanded and sprouted several corollaries: for example, the derivative relating to computers:

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

A second aphorism, attributed to Parkinson and sometimes called "Parkinson's second law", is "expenditures rise to meet income".

The universal truth behind each of these laws could be put like this:
The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.
Ah, human nature, it's great isn't it? I'm not sure if knowing about this law will help me not procrastinate but perhaps it will help me be more aware of it. If you refuse to give in to this law and want to fight it, Lifehacker has some great tips here. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trolls and How To Deal With Them

The following is taken from IMDB. I thought it would be helpful and instructive for some of you out there:

What is a troll?

A 'troll' is an individual who enjoys creating conflict on the internet. He or she creates and fuels arguments which upset other members of the online community.
Trolls thrive in the anonymous space that is the internet. Trolls crave attention from others, and they don't care whether the attention is positive or negative. For trolls, other users are not quite real people; they are abstract characters on the other side of a computer screen. Trolls don't feel bad about hurting the feelings of other people in the digital space.

Trolls view chat rooms and newsgroups as a challenge where the winner is the user who creates the biggest argument, the user who upsets the most people in the most dramatic way. A troll wants to be the user getting the most attention.

Troll behavior discourages many users and makes for a less vibrant online community. New users may not post because they fear ridicule. Established posters may leave an online community because the noise has overwhelmed the real discussion. Trolls can make an entire community paranoid, leading users to become negative or to accuse a user engaged in normal criticism as a troll.

What should I do (and not do) about trolls?

Remember, trolls feel rewarded by creating the biggest altercation possible. They want to get a reaction out of you. When you fight with a troll, he wins. When you reason with a troll, he wins. Any time that you give a troll attention, he gets exactly what he wants.
The best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. When you ignore a troll, he doesn't get the satisfaction of creating an escalated conflict.

To avoid reading/receiving posts from a specific user, you can see if the website you are on has an User feature (click on the "Ignore User" link attached to any message posted by that user). If the site has it and you activate it, you will not see or receive any more messages (including Private Messages) from that user.

If you decide to leave a discussion because of the negative tone, do not dramatically announce that you are leaving. While that message may make you feel better, it only convinces the troll that he is winning.

You may also bring an abusive post to the attention of the blog author (or moderators if you are on a forum). Please only do this if the comments violate our Terms and Conditions. Just remember that a strongly stated opinion is not a violation of most sites Terms and Conditions, even if it is stated in a way that you feel is insulting or hateful.

Please remember: the best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sometimes All That's Needed Is A Hug

Check out this video. A shelter dog (Edie) was scheduled to be euthanized. She was fearful, aggressive, and hard to control. Then Bronwyne Mirkovich gave her another chance ...

What struck me as I watched this film is the power that loving and gentle touch can be in someone's life. So many times in counselling I will ask a wounded woman what she wants most from her husband. The most often repeated reply I hear is "Just that he would hug and hold me sometimes." One hug is not always the only thing necessary to heal people of their afflictions but there is definitely something powerful about it. Who do you need to hug today?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: The Wealthy Barber

Book Review: The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton

I picked up this book from my bookshelf this weekend and couldn't put it down. Yes, it's that good. This book is a very practical look at how any person can put their finances in order. The things that appeal about this book are:
-It's a fictional story so it's easy to follow.
-It's simple and the premise is simple and easy to grasp.
-It's Canadian written and geared to Canadians.
-It covers all the basics of good financial planning without getting too technical.

In short, if there is only one book you read about finances in life (and apply) this is the one. Like many other books it espouses "pay yourself first" as the core principle. What makes it different is it covers some other basics like
-Why a will and life insurance are totally important (and what kind and how much insurance does someone need)?
-What do you do with your 10% (where and how to invest it)
And many others practical things that some of the books miss. And it assumes that managing your finances is not something you want to spend a lot of time doing. I like how Chilton has a realistic view of human nature when it comes to saving and budgeting (basically that we are weak) and makes this part of the book. If you already know that you won't read this book and want a good summary, check this one out here.

The best part of this book is its accessibility. You don't have to be an accountant to be able to manage your finances wisely and build wealth for yourself and your family. I rate it 4.8 ninja stars out of 5.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A New Arrow: Part 2

Here is the boy screaming at his mother. I think he is voicing his displeasure after having blood drawn from him before we left the hospital.

Here's Jobina and Sawyer after their triumphant homecoming late this morning. Notice the strong, manly hands (somewhat wrinkled of course).

Here's a closeup of Sawyer, thinking deeply in a modified "The Thinker" pose (OK, I might be stretching that a bit). I have prayed that this child will be one who God blesses with much wisdom and insight. It took him about 3 minutes to figure out "eating" so I think he is well on his way.

Thanks everyone for all the well wishes, congratulations, and prayers!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A New Arrow

Psalm 127:3-5 (New International Version)

3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

More details to follow . . .

UPDATE: It's a boy! And his name is Sawyer. Sawyer John Westman. Born this morning at 2:29am, 7 pounds 10 ounces. He's a redhead! And everyone is doing well. I'll post a picture sometime tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review: Love Is A Decision

Book Review: Love Is A Decision with Gary Smally and John Trent

I first read this book over 12 years ago when Jobina and I were going through premarital counselling. I thought that since I'm on this "book a week" experiment, I'd revisit some old books and see how I liked them now. Love Is A Decision seemed very old as I began to read it with kind of an, ahem, "classic" view of men and women's roles that I am sympathetic to but not quite in agreement with. And so for the first couple of chapters I considered abandoning it. I'm glad I didn't.

There are some very good thoughts in this book. I especially liked his views on "tenderness," a subject that I hadn't thought much about. Smalley believes that a posture of tenderness towards one spouse during a trial is one of the most powerful ways to build an intimate relationship. This kind of a posture is a great way to "renergize" our mate in as little as 60 seconds. I can think of a few times when I responded tenderly to Jobina after she had made a significant mistake that affected us both and how it powerful it seemed. The safety you feel when your mate chooses to be tender with you is a beautiful thing.

The book has 13 unique principles to energize marriage and family and my experience that some were better then others. But there were a few that were very impacting on me and I'd guess that anyone would get a few things out of it. I liked his final reminder that we won't find our sense of fulfilment and happiness in our spouses. Or in our children, jobs, friends, houses, or "stuff." We will only find it in Christ. To look to these other things for this fulfilment is going to be disappointing and hurtful to those around us. Too often we look for love, joy, peace in all the wrong places. I wholeheartedly agree as I fall into this trap rather often.

So an old book which seemed outdated still had a lot of good things to say. I'd give is 3.8 ninja stars out of 5.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On Guard

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
-Proverbs 4:23

A few weeks ago in my church John Neufeld, a former counselor and pastor, spoke on this verse. Solomon (the wisest man who ever lived) believed that the most important thing above all else was to guard your heart. I remember in Seminary being taught that in the Jewish understanding of things, the heart wasn't separate from the soul and mind - they are all one entity. As followers of God guarding our hearts is one of the most important things we can do.

So how do we do this? John had a fairly simple sermon which suggested three ways to guard our hearts:

1. Read the words of God.
2. Memorize the words of God.
3. Meditate on the words of God.

Disappointed? I was a bit. But as he explained how powerful these practices were I was very moved. He shared about how in his decades of counselling he has never counselled a couple in trouble where both people read the Word on a daily basis! Of course he admitted this was possible, he has just never seen it. He also talked about how if you know how to worry, you can meditate. So for the last week and half I have been memorizing Proverbs 4:23 (I'm a fast reader and slow memorizer) and reading/meditating on Psalm 119. I'm trying to get into the habit of guarding my heart, above all else.

There was something about this simple, almost old-fashioned sermon that touched me very deeply. I fought back tears - something I don't do a lot in church and a sign to me that God was saying something important to me. I need to start guarding my heart and reading his Word more consistently, making it a higher priority again. And already I have noticed a difference. I feel more sensitive to sin and my own predisposition to it. I'm becoming more careful, more on guard of things that could hurt my heart. Thanks John for a sermon I needed to hear . . .

Monday, March 8, 2010

Excitedly Supportive

"While many men and women may not realize it, we never really outgrow the deep need we have for our loved ones to be excitedly supportive of our interests. What this means in a marriage is that the sunlight of security can shine on a marriage when we show an active interest in our loved one's life.

This was brought home to me in a tangible way when I first met a couple who became special friends. He was a huge offensive lineman for an NFL team when we first me, and his wife was perhaps 5'4" in heels. On the basis of size alone, there probably wasn't a more oddly matched pair. But in terms of their shared interests, this couple was only a heartbeat apart.

I met them at a Pro Athlete's Outreach Conference and was fascinated with a conversation we had at lunch one day. Out of curiosity, I asked this NFL wife how much she knew about the position her husband played on his team. I expected her to say something like, "Oh, he's paid to stand in front of other people." Instead, she gave me a ten minute presentation on offensive blocking techniques.

Taken aback by her grasp of the sport, I asked how she'd become such an expert on her husband's position on the team. That's when she gave me a real-life lesson on what it does to become one's spouse's biggest fan - by becoming a graduate student of their likes and dislikes. She explained that when they were first married, she resented the time he spent on the practice field, she resented all the team meetings and the travel. Finally, she grew tired of feel so negative all the time, and she decided to go on the offensive. She would stop throwing spit-balls from the back row, and get up in the front row and learn about this career that she resented so much.

She began to ask her husband all sorts of questions about playing on the line for a pro team. She even cornered a few of the assistant coaches to learn more intricate details of the game. The more she learned and read, the more of an encourager she became. That's when a funny thing happened.

As her level of encouragement and interest went up, she noticed their marriage improving. While it wasn't her goal to get anything from her husband in return, he began showing more than a passing interest in her likes and dislikes. What this wise woman had done was to push back the dark clouds of resentment to let the sunlight of security shine on her marriage. She didn't try to "coach" her husband, but her knowledge and interest in his life said clearly, "Because you're so important to me, your interests are important to me, too."

At the end of our conversation, my huge pro-football friend made a comment I've never forgotten: "Sometime I'll have to tell you how much my wife's taught me about refinishing antiques. I wouldn't be surprised if learning about one her big interests is where I end up after football." For this couple, being committed to each other meant showing interest in the things they individually valued. The message came over loud and clear that because of that, the felt secure in each other's love and commitment."

-As told by Gary Smalley in "Love Is A Decision"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Flying Hovercraft

Rudy Heeman is an inventive museum mechanic who threw this flying hovercraft together in his free time. I have always loved hovercraft, I so much want one of these!

Book Review: Call Of The Wild

Book Review: Call of The Wild by Jack London

I'm a big Jack London fan. Even though he was a gambler and chronic drinker he produced some of the best adventure fiction ever written by an American author. When I was a kid I read "White Fang" several times, which is Call of the Wild's prequel. London was a prolific writer who wrote over 20 novels and many more short stories over his career. His style is simple, creative, and playful.

Call of the Wild picks up where White Fang left off. White Fang's son ("Buck") is kidnapped and shipped to Alaska to be used as a sled dog during the Gold Rush. It is an adventure, but a brutal one as Buck reverts to his wolf roots. The book chronicles his journey from civilization to savagery and then to his redemption. In case you haven't read it, I won't spoil the ending. I will say though that the book is brutal and not for very young children but older ones would enjoy it, just as adults will. Developing a character in a book is tricky business but it takes a master like London to do so believably when the main character is an animal. Really enjoyed this short book - it's not deep, just engaging in simple way. I rate it 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Are North Americans "Wimpy?"

I had an interesting conversation with a hairdresser today as she was cutting my hair. Although I procrastinate alot at getting hair cuts, I do like talking to hair dressers - you never know what they will talk about. Telling them I'm a counselor (which is usually followed by a long pause) often leads into interesting topics. Today we ended up talking mostly about men being abused by women (and if this was a reality in domestic violence) but then somehow we got into cross cultural differences. My hairdresser was a middleaged Filipino lady and she remarked that she was surprised when she came over to North America and encountered such things as "stress" and "depression." She told me that in her country these things were mostly unheard of. Her view was that in her country where everything was hard and people didn't have high expectations on getting whatever they wanted in life - depression and feeling stress were almost unknown.

I have heard this kind of thinking before. When we were talking with some people who had been overseas an on a beach when a Tsunami hit. I asked them if they were traumatized by the event; their near death and the deaths of so many people around them. "No, we're not North American's," they said. "We are used to suffering and know how to get through it." Of course there are undoubtedly many non-North Americans who get depressed and many North Americans who never get depressed but I wonder at the proclivity of certain cultures to suffer certain mental discomforts and illnesses more intensely. Apparently there is some research to back this up. My hairdresser pointed to the fact that in her culture people are more connected (especially in the form of family and thought this was why people managed stress and depression so much better. The research I previously linked to makes the exact same assertion. Interesting!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great Artists . . . Steal?

This is a short clip from Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple in his early years. I'm certainly not in the category of "artist" in any way, but I was intrigued by his comments. Do you agree with his quote that good artists copy and great artists steal? It is ironic then that Apple is spending millions of dollars to sue HTC for patent infringement!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


"Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord."
- Psalm 27:14

Well, Jobina and I are officially "waiting." Her due date is about the 13th of March but since she
has been a week and half to two weeks early with our past two kids, it feels like the baby could come anytime. I keep my phone with me and on all the time, even in sessions in case I get the call. It's weird because you just don't know when it could happen. Could be 2 weeks, could be 2 hours. Making appointments also feels weird as I don't know if I'll be able to keep them or not. Everything feels very much up in the air. Of course it is much worse for Jobina, I don't know how she sleeps at night!

Waiting is tough work. Here's to more of it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Powerful Plan For Paying Off Your Debt

This past weekend I finished rereading "The Richest Man in Babylon." Although I read it a few scant months ago I loved the book so much and realized I hadn't yet got all I needed to out of it. I highly recommend this book of short stories (read my short review here) as it contain so much financial wisdom that is easy to read and apply. Jobina and I are trying to decide where to invest the profits from selling our rental property and so I went to The Richest Man In Babylon looking for some advice on investment discernment. I was not disappointed.

Aside from that advice I was looking for, I was struck by one chapter's story on how to get out of debt. The story is about a foolish Babylonian man who becomes addicted to spending more then he makes until finally he loses everything; his wife, his respect, his job, and even his freedom as he is sold into slavery. The wife of his new master questions him repeatedly - do you have the heart of a slave or a free man. This makes our hero angry but his master's wife tells him that if he is a man who gives in to despair and does not repay his debts then he truly has the heart of a slave. In a daring escape, our hero leaves his master and heads out across the desert to make the trip back to Babylon. Along the way he almost dies but has an epiphany - he is a free man and he decides right there and then to repay his debts and reclaim his self respect. He survives the desert and returns to his home city determined to change his stars.

He meets up with a wise money lender (one of his debtors) who is impressed with our hero's desire to better himself and gives him a wise plan to do so. First, go to each of your debtors and let them know your plan, signaling your intention to pay back your debts and how you are doing it. Then proceed with the plan as follows:
1. Put aside 10% of you income to keep as a savings and wealth builder.
2. Live on 70% of your household income, doing whatever is necessary to live within these financial boundaries.
3. At the end of each month take the last 20% of your income and divide up amongst those you owe money to.

The plan works well and within a year not only has he repaid his debts, but he has won back his wife and the respect of even those he had borrowed from. Also, he now has a nest egg for investing in his future. He goes from being a slave to a freeman who never again foolishly spends more then he makes.

I liked this plan because it is realistic and gets the person into the habit of saving/investing that 10% right away. Of course it won't work if the person in debt believes the lie that they have to spend more then they make (or chooses not to live within their means). Still, this is a good general plan that could work for almost anyone. Debt (well, "bad" debt anyway) is like a dragon and slaying it is good for your health.