Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Fasting

Well it's been an interesting month.

In "The 4 Hour Work Week" author Tim Ferris talks about how for some people they read too much. For such people, reading becomes a distraction that dilutes their knowledge and stops them from applying. Considering my last year's goal was to read a book a week, this idea intrigued me. Am I reading too much? Would it be helpful to take a break? Perhaps I could really increase my productivity towards achieving the important goals in my life. I played with the idea a bit and decided to try it for the month of February. As today is the final day, it strikes me that my experience has been eerily similar to the first time I tried fasting from food.

During my first year of Bible College my friend Jason and I tried experimenting with fasting. It was pretty pathetic. We decided to fast for a day or two (I can't remember exactly) but we spent the whole time complaining to each other how hungry we were. Not only that but we fantasized on what we would eat - dreaming of the food we would happily ingest as soon as the fast was done. We went from fast food to buffets to massive self cooked feasts. Finally, as the hour was drawing near we decided to go simple - we'd go to the local grocery store and buy some canned pasta and stew and "gently" reaquaint our systems to the food. We counted down the hours, went to the store and bought several cans of food and went back to our dorm. There we joyfully broke our fast and then proceeded to eat way too much processed food, way too fast. We both felt sick. As for the spiritual fruit of the exercise? Not much! We spent the whole time focusing on what we didn't have, not on what we wanted (closeness with God).

During my book fast month I started out well, but then began to dream (literally) of being able to read books again. I also cheated, twice people caught me reading a book here and there (both times I had just picked up the book and without thinking started reading - doh!). I also started telling people about my fast - telling people about your fasting is of course a big no-no in the world of spiritual disciplines. Not content with these things, I then began to distract myself with other things - instead of reading books, I watched a little more TV and did a lot more surfing. Fasting from something and then replacing it with other, non-productive things isn't very helpful. Lastly, as the last few days came upon me, I remembered that I had some gift cards and so I began dreaming about what books I would buy with them - and then I made an order for 6 books! It's like gorging myself after fast except for instead of food, it's on reading. Yikes.

Now I could beat myself up for my lack of progress with this book fast experiment, but I can't help but smile thinking about how my first food fast went and the similarities to this one. The truth was that I learned alot about myself by "failing" with that first fast and I think I learned some great things this time as well. I think it is never failure if you learn something important through an experience. I think I'll do it again next February but I will prepare myself better for distractions, keep it private, and prepare myself in advance for the temptation to start thinking about books right til the very end. I did experience a small increase in productivity this month and I'll aim to increase it for next year. But I will do it a lot more humbly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Goals

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." - Antoine de Saint - Exupery

After much thinking, some discussion, and some prayer, here are my goals (if the Lord wills it) for the year:

2011 Goals

As a Christ follower
-Verbally (out loud) submit myself to God daily, every part of me
-Pour myself out serving God and others, investing in their lives
-Using my money, time, and resources store up treasure in heaven
-Spend quality time with God twice daily
-Invite someone to church
-Pray weekly for family, friends, clients
-Do at least one 24 hour Solo retreat (scheduled)
-Set aside some extra giving money for missionaries/compassionate needs
-Reboot confession/accountability with an old friend

As a husband
-One Date every month with Jobina (scheduled)
-One weekend getaway with Jobina (scheduled)
-10 hours/week quality time, meeting our most important emotional needs
-No screens in the bedroom, ever
-Set Up specific boundaries around computer/TV/reading time

As a father/family leader
-Family vacation (scheduled)
-Go down to a maximum three nights a week by end of March
-1 overnight get away with each of my kids (scheduled)
-Minimum 1 hour a week quality time with each of my kids
-2 “dates” with each of my older kids during the year (scheduled)
-4 family day excursions per year (scheduled)
-Rethink how we celebrate Christmas, make own traditions

In terms of my physical health
-Get to bed by 11, 5 days a week
-Minimum once a week aerobic activity (scheduled)
-Purchase winter exercise equipment (ex/ rollers or skis)
-Purchase bike rack for van
-Reduce my caloric intake by at least 20%

As an adventurer
-Two Weekend Adventures (scheduled)
-One day solo adventure (scheduled)

In terms of my financial health
-Do Pay Yourself First (every month) and invest it
-Make 50% on my stock investing
-Make an extra $1000 a month income

In terms of professional/personal development
-Transition to checking email twice a day (a la Tim Ferris)
-Notes: Summaries, next session planning
-Learn Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

I found it hard to come up with specifics for my spiritual goals, so I'm just going to rate each on a scale of 1 to 10 now and then compare near the end of the year where I rate them then. My theme is "doing what works" so most of what I'm aiming to achieve I've already done for short periods of time or I've done as an experiment but quit for some reason. A good example of this is scheduling - I find I get way more of what I want to do when I simply schedule it on my calendar. I'm finding my goal setting is becoming more of personal journey, but I post them here to give myself incentive to not forget about them as I will report on them at the end of the year.

It's past January, so I feel I can realistically finalize these goals after the cold, hard realities of life have supplanted the giddiness of New Year's. Here's hoping I'll have a meaningful and productive year (and I wish the same for you!)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting Away

This past weekend I had a great get-a-way. Myself and two other guys went up to Pinawa for a combination XC-Ski adventure and personal retreat. I came back feeling. . . refreshed.

The trails at Pinawa are top-notch and they obviously have a very dedicated ski organization there as the trails were so well laid out and maintained. The warming huts on the trails were really nice log cabins which were very inviting. The first night we got to Pinawa we went for a night ski. This is where I found out that 1. I had forgotten how to descend on XC skis (with spectacular results) and that 2. one of my ski bindings was broken. Still had a good time though. The next day we we spent our morning and evenings doing solitude stuff but did some amazing skiing (me with a new set of skis) in the afternoon. I'm pretty out of shape so by the end I was tired and had done some pretty amazing crashes (the other guys took turns skiing behind me so they could witness these things) but it was still tons of fun. It's taken me til today for my body to not to feel in constant pain but that's OK because I consider that kind of pain to be a good kind!

We stayed at Wilderness Edge Resort in downtown Pinawa. This is an old, massive AECL dorm that has been converted into a group use facility. It was very cheap. We got a great deal on a 2 bedroom suite and had all of our meals taken care of (including a pig roast on Saturday night that was absolutely amazing). I would say we were quite coddled there but the time not preparing meals meant we could put more time into skiing and solo reflection times. I don't recommend the complimentary skis at this resort - many of them were damaged and it was hard to find a decent pair. Next time I go here I will rent skis in Winnipeg.

One of the guy's core values is hot tubbing so we spent a lot of time doing that - at least once a day. What I found interesting was how much time we spent talking. We talked about God, relationships, personal growth, giving, psychology, church, finances, child-rearing - almost everything. We must have spent at least 8 hours in deep discussion about all sorts of things and everyone ended up sharing really cool things. I definitely learned alot. Every night we were up past 2am talking about really fascinating stuff. That alone was probably worth the entire weekend - never mind the exercise and personal time with God (which were very good).

I also spent some of my time refining personal goals for the year. I will post these at a later date.

Yup, it was a great weekend. I definitely feel different coming back. Sometimes I need to get away from my regular life for awhile. It helps me remember what is really important: God, my family, ministering to others, taking care of myself, and growing. One of my core values is exploring and so this need gets met as well. We plan to keep on doing it at least once a year (this is the 3rd or 4th year and other men are always welcome. Let me know if you'd like to be contacted with the details. The more the merrier.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Death Prayers

I was talking with a friend the other day and they confided me that they, and their family, had been praying for the death of a loved one. I had never really thought about this unique prayer before. It was a little unsettling.

My friend's family was praying for the death of someone with terminal disease and who was in a great deal of pain. Not being able to handle their suffering, the family prayed that God would take this person home. It made me think - Have I ever prayed that someone would die before? I don't think so.

The Bible has people praying for death - of themselves and their enemies. Job prayed for death sometimes and David prayed that God would kill his oppressors. Perhaps there are other examples? I can think of a few different reasons you might pray for someone's death.

1. Compassion at someone's suffering.
2. Justice for a great wrong.
3. As permanent protection from an abuser.
4. For revenge.

Can you think of any others? And have you prayed for someone to die before?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fitness Craze Madness!

Warning: This Post May Contain Trace Amounts of Ranting and Sarcasm

This Sunday we were heading back from Church in the van. Jobina mentioned yet another person she knows who was enjoying her Zumba class. Zumba, in case you didn't know it, is the latest fitness craze. How do I know? Because everyone is talking about it of course! And because they are leaving behind their old fitness crazes to do it. I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about Zumba but I find the slogan on their web site compelling:

"Ditch the Workout, Join The Party!"

If you go to their website you can see from the pictures that the people are very, very happy. Perhaps they are just having a party and noticed that they were getting fit? I'd be happy too!

When the kids asked what Zumba was I explained it like this; it is the latest fitness craze. Every 6-12 months a new craze comes out and everyone abandons the past craze to take on the newer, shinier one. Then people stay in it for awhile, gushing to all of their friends how they have lost a few pounds and are having so much fun. You have to try it, they say. Then you buy the DVD or join a class. After a few weeks (a couple of months if you are serious about working out) most people stop working out all together. They remain quiet and look at the floor when people ask them how their ________ class is going. Sadness and depression sometimes sink in. Then, just when it appears to be too late, the next fitness craze comes around the corner. Thank goodness! Everyone is saved! Then the cycle repeats itself . . .

My theory is that fitness crazes will continue to be successful (but with short shelf lives) because they do two things. First, they promise a way to make exercise fun again that is very compelling. Our human nature that craves creativity and variety will find almost all exercise to be repetitive rather quickly and so we jump at the chance for something new. It's like crack cocaine to us. Secondly, fitness crazes usually appeal to our sense of laziness. We want to be fit without putting in too much time, effort, and sweat. Thus, each craze suggests that their way is the most efficient way to get fit quickly and with minimal effort. "Only 12 minutes a day!" "Workout while you watch TV!" "Easier then getting up!" (OK, I made that last one up, but you get the idea).

The problem is that exercise is tough. It takes something called discipline, it requires work, it hurts, and even with creativity it is very, very repetitive. Nothing will change that. Even Zumba is little match for reality. The people who do well with fitness crazes are the ones who possess the discipline, work ethic, time, and willingness to suffer that all people who eventually get in shape have. The rest end up with a closet full of fitness DVD's for things like Tae-Bo, Military Boot Camps, P-90X, Pilates, Wii Fit, Pole Dancing, Richard Simmons, Belly Dancing, etc. that mostly gather dust.

Personally, I could try and fight against the fitness craze but I'm too canny for that. Instead I introduce to you the newest fitness craze:


Cold Yoga was developed either in the frozen wilds of Siberia or by elves at the North Pole (whichever seems to better received by focus groups). It's based on the fact that people like Yoga (and that Hot Yoga is already being replaced by Zumba which is yesterday's news) and . . . science. Yes, powerful science! Research has proven that if you stay for extended periods of time in very cold temperatures you will definitely lose weight! In fact, people who go winter camping, for instance, can't actually gain weight, their bodies burn it off too quickly no matter what they eat. Cold Yoga consists of you doing Yoga outside in the snow and in extremely frigid conditions. And it's soooooo fun!! Sometimes people will even throw snowballs at each other and stuff. And go ahead and eat whatever since your body will metabolize things as you battle frostbite. The pounds practically melt off! Look for official DVD series "COLD YOGA: Stop being warm, start being fit" at a retailer near you. Or look for classes at your local fitness studio, equipped with artificial snow, -20 temperatures, and branded ear muffs. Tell your friends!