Friday, November 30, 2007

Dressing Up For Church?

My poor wife. She is a beautiful woman, quite striking really. Not only that, but she has a striking sense of artistic understanding and style. She knows what looks good and what doesn't. An occasion to dress up is a time for her to use her natural gifts and abilities. One occasion to dress up (for many people) is church. Sadly she married me, a man who has little in the way of style and despises dressing up for church. Because her sense of style says that she can't dress up to much if I don't (something to do with "matching" or some strange concept like that). Thus, she is forced to dress down, against her better wishes.

I find people's view on what is acceptable or good to wear to church very interesting and usually bound by what they experienced as a child (and wether they rebelled against it). I'm also amazed at how some people, if they are quite honest about it, admit to being very aware of what they and others are wearing in church. My thought: who cares? Most people fall into one of two camps; "dress up" or "dress down." Each has good arguments. The "dress up" types believe that going to church is a special occasion and to show God honor. To not do so is not just to show disrespect for those around you but to show disrespect to God himself! When we present ourselves to God, we ought to present our best. Or something like that.

Personally, I fall into the other camp, the "dress down" or "dress comfortable" types. If I dress up I feel like I'm trying to impress people and it distracts me. Also, if I dress up and I think I look good, I could be distracted by thoughts of how awesome I look! This too is not good for a focused worship experience. Also, as mentioned before, there are a lot of people who are way to aware of how everyone looks. Somehow this seems wrong to me, shouldn't we be trying our best to not focus on ourselves and those around us? Jealousy, coveting, disdain, feelings of superiority, worrying about our looks, etc., these are things I'd like to save for another day, thank you very much.

I'm also quite lazy and find dressing nicely takes more time then simply choosing a pair of jeans and a shirt, grabbing my Bible and heading for the door. It's a rare day if it takes me more then one minute to choose what I'm going to wear in the morning. I guess my motto(s) would be "come as you are" and "humble thyself in the sight of the Lord." I know that I can never understand the other side of the fence (those who feel it honors God to dress up), but I can understand their viewpoint. I wonder what the breakdown is "dress downers" to "dress uppers?" Check out my poll on the sidebar and we'll find out.

May Light Increase!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Rapture Song

HT to JollyBlogger for this:

More Thoughts on "Poisoned"

A little while ago I wrote 2 posts called "Poisoned" in which I talked about what happens when we develop a poisoned view of someone and how that affects us. One of my good friend J sent me an email and I thought his words were wise, but I had forgotten to publish them. Anywhere, here they are:

regarding your poisoned post: This is an interesting post Mark.

A few thoughts and what not that I have gathered have been from a different stand point but may draw interesting parallels to your thoughts.
From a sales stand point. Which may or may not be more manipulative, but likely just the same. Customers that are the most aggressive and the most pushy tend to get under the sales guys nerves. What happens eventually is that the customer is pushed aside, and when he comes into the store he is ignored, perhaps even abused. He becomes a bit of a joke after a while. Inevitably it becomes a senior staffs responsibility to deal with them. In the church this would equate to the elders or the more patient members to look after or counsel him.

Something interesting happens when you change your attitude towards these problem people / customers. They become very loyal to you. Once you change your attitude your brain creates anti body's to the undesirables present in your interactions. Rather than a chore, it becomes a pleasure dealing with them. Knowing that you have that special touch that can calm the beast. You learn to take their misgivings with a grain of salt and still get to milk them for the money that they want/need/ or you want them to spend. Not sure exactly how the 'milking' part moves over into real life but I'm sure it does somewhere.

Anyways... thanks for the thoughts.
Catch ya later.

"J" might never say this about himself, but he is truly an excellent salesman. He is in the top 1% of his field. I find myself buying from him even when I know he is using those powers on me! His insight on changing his attitude towards people (and how that profits him) shows why he is so good. Learn from him!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Really Strange Dream

Last night I had a strange dream. It wasn't really coherent and I can't remember most of it, but I thought I'd share what I remember seeing and feeling. First of all, it began with me and some other people making a "fort" in my parent's back 40. It was pretty basic, made up of old boards (like from a fence). I dreamed that for some reason my Dad and I were going to go out there and stay overnight. Suddenly it was winter and we were both congratulating ourselves on how tough we were to winter camp and how other people weren't as tough as us.

Everything went hazy for awhile and then instead of going out to the fort, I was going out to a cabin on a lake. To get to the cabin we (my friends and I) had to canoe down a long river to get to the lake, then we had to hug the edge of the lake until we got to the cabin. For some reason my friend Kenton came after us in his own canoe a little while later with two dogs. I was very concerned the two dogs would fight with another dog that was already there but they didn't. I was also concerned that after such a long journey I had forgotten the keys. Somehow while I was worrying about this someone opened the door and went inside. When I went around the back of the cabin to explore I discovered that there was a road about 20 feet in back of the cabin and we could have just driven right up to it. This made me angry; angry because it was could have so much easier to get there and angry because we were no longer as isolated in the wilderness as I had hoped (ironically I was angry at both things at the same time).

Somehow it was brought to my attention that I was suffering from some debilitating disease that was slowly inhibiting one side of my body from working. Thus I was walking strangely, talking strangely, and I began considering my own mortality (as well as my lack of compassion for those with similar diseases in the past). I remember feeling overwhelmed with the knowledge that I had an untreatable disease and that I couldn't do what I was used to doing. Sad, I went outside to think.

Outside, I noticed a creek beside our cabin with people swimming in it. The water was not as clear as the lake's, but it looked warmer and more inviting. I swam around for awhile noticing the fish and crayfish in the creek. There was some sort of structure in the middle which I climbed up on sat on, thinking about my future and thinking about how short men's lives can be. Slowly, I began to accept my lot in life and I began to relax.

Then I woke up. It was morning and the children were climbing all over me. It took me a moment to realize that I did not actually have this disease and that I wasn't at the cabin. I felt relieved, yet sad that this wonderful place I was at didn't really exist, except in my dreams.

So . . . what do you think? Think it's significant? Ever had a weird dream like this?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Football is Better Than What??

There is a cook who I work with at OG who likes to try to shock me with his messed up thoughts, perversion, bigotry, and general nonsense. A few days ago he asked me if I was excited about the big football game coming up. I said I was, but that I had only just lately started enjoying "The Game" and that really I’m kind of a bandwagon Bomber’s fan. He looked at me with a look of both disdain and pity. Yeah, I know people like that he said. I told him that he must be a big fan.

Oh, I am, he said, let me put it to you this way: I would rather watch football then have sex. Watching a good football game is better than the climax of lovemaking (OK, he didn't say it like that, I'm editing to keep this blog PG). I looked him in the eye. He was telling the truth! Then he told me that if it was a choice between watching the final game of the CFL or NFL or being present for his first child being born he would choose the game.


I always feel sad when people tell me that sex is not very thrilling to them. I wonder what’s behind that. But seriously, football is better? Or better then being there for the birth of your first child? And is it only men who are guilty of this? I shake my head in wonder.

May Light increase!

Monday, November 26, 2007

If You Could Do Anything . . .

Many people give up acting on their greatest desires and passions. Instead they stifle these desires, believing that they are practical and replacing them with a career that pays the bills but makes them miserable. If you could do anything, anything, and money/skills/time were no object, what would you like to do?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reawakening The Poet

I'm slowly reading through John Eldredge's "The Way of the Wild Heart" when I get time and I'm having an interesting reaction to it. I'm finding that I disagree with a lot of his theology, logic, and impressions of what it means to be a man or woman. And yet, I'm also finding that I am hit on an emotional/faith level hard almost every time I read a part of it. Last night was no exception. Eldredge believes that men naturally ought to go through a few stages in their lives. These consist of the Beloved Son, the Cowboy, the Warrior, the Lover, the King, and the Sage. I was reading about the Lover and found this part impacting on me (I've bolded the parts that stood out to me especially):

The Poetic Awakening

We've heard ad infinitum that men are rational beings, along with the supporting evidence that our brains work differently than do women's, and this is true. Spatial abstractions, logic, analysis - men tend to excel in these because we are more left- then right-brained, and the commissural fibers that connect the two hemispheres appear in women in ratios far higher than in men. Women have an interstate uniting both sides of their brains. Men have a game trail. Thus men tend to compartmentalize, a capacity that allows men to handle the atrocities of war, and administrate justice. It also makes them excellent chess players and auto mechanics.

And yet . . .

I don't buy it. Too many men hide behind reason and logic. A man must grow beyond mere reason, or he will stunted as a man, certainly as a Lover. No woman wants to be analyzed, and many marriages fail because the man insists on treating her as a problem to be solved, rather then a mystery to be known and loved. David was a cunning tactician as a Warrior, but he was also a poet of the first order. Jesus could hold his own in any theological debate, but he is also an artist (the Creator of this world of Beauty) and a poet (by whose Spirit David wrote the Psalms) and a storyteller. When he says, "Consider the lilies of the field," he does mean analyze them, but rather, behold them, take them in, let their beauty speak, for "Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are" (Matt. 6:29 NLT). He appeals to their beauty to show us the love of God.
The Lover is awakened when a man comes to see that the poetic is far truer than the propositional and the analytical, and whatever physiology might say, I've seen it happen in many men.

I came to Christ not because I was looking for a religion, but because I was looking for the Truth, and, having found it, I knew it must be true across the realms of human culture. I yearned for an intellectually defensible case for Christianity, and I found it first in Shaeffer and then in the Reformed writers, to whom I remain very grateful. There are reasons to believe. My head was satisfied, but my heart yearned for something more. While I found logic in my theology (and went to war against my philosophy professor), I was being wooed by Beauty in the mountains and deserts, in literature and music. Why did they bring me closer to God than analysis? Why did the dissection of systematic theology cut all life out the living Word? Then I discovered writers like Oswald Chambers, C.S. Lewis, and his Sage, George MacDonald. Smart men, all of them, quite capable of making a good argument. But that is not the essence of their glory. They speak to the mind, but also to the heart. More so to the heart.

-The Way Of the Wild Heart, John Eldredge, p. 186-187

I like the idea that truth is not just propositional/analytical but poetic as well. If one could just balance both sides of this truth, it would seem to me they would be protected from error and protected from a dead experience of faith as well. I know which truth I lean more towards, the propositional/analytical type but the times I've felt closest to God were when I was briefly experiencing the poetical. I certainly don't agree with much of what Eldredge says, but I found that his words and ideas give me hope for my too-often passionless faith. It seems in many church traditions the people choose either a path of doctrine or a path of experience. Lord God, please give me both.

May Light increase!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Father's Terrible Choice.

What do you think of this video?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Why Do People Treat Their Family Like Garbage?

I was thinking today about how some of the most saintly men often treat their family like garbage. Seriously, to others they are saints but their family knows the truth. I think of people like Gandhi who in many ways treated his wife worse then his political opponents (by his own admission) or Martin Luther King who cheated on his wife repeatedly. Men and women can be so cruel to their spouse, their parents, and their children - all while saving the world. It's frightening actually. For some reason it seems that we can be ruder, angrier, more abusive, and more cruel to those who are closest to us, the very ones we hold to be the most dear. As I get further into people's lives with counseling, I'm seeing it more and more. If it grieves me, it certainly must grieve God.

At least most people. I know that I easily fall into it. I will sometimes give my best time and energy to outside things and neglect my own family. I will show near-Job-like levels of patience and empathy with my clients or ministry team but be grouchy and snap at my wife. Sometimes I can tell my kids need my attention and I brush them off - something I would rarely do with a co-worker. This makes me sad and duly ashamed. I don't accept that somehow I am a different person at home. I am choosing my behavior (like everyone) and sometimes I choose to treat my family really bad.

Why does this happen? One of my theories is that families, in their predisposition for love, loyalty, peacefulness, and grace let a family's members ignorant behavior "go." It is not addressed, challenged, or responded to. The ignorant acting family member gets a subtle message that his /her behavior is OK and they keep on doing it. They don't receive enough of a reaction to stop them from doing it again. And again. . .

The "cure" it seems (according to my theory which I just thought of 5 minutes ago) would be a gracious, yet assertive response. Immediate and appropriate feedback. Something that says, "I love you, but I won't let you treat me/us this way. You need to know this hurts us/me and is unacceptable and if you choose to do it again, there will be consequences." This (I think) would nip a lot of ignorant behavior in the bud. Whether it is rudeness, anger, moodiness, bullying, silent treatment, nagging, striking, additions, unfaithfulness, guilt-tripping, etc., the other family member(s) must not enable the ignorant person's behavior by just letting it go and hoping it will not happen again. Of course, what is "ignorant behavior" is not always black and white, but I think this concept is still useful. I wonder what others think about this.

May Light increase!

Three Interesting Thoughts

Caligynephobia - persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of beautiful women , despite the understanding by the phobic individual and reassurance by others that there is no danger. Don't worry, there is a cure . . .

Building Your Own Castle. Can you build your own castle without engineers, architects, or even know how? The answer is yes. How do I know? Because these guys did it . . .

Internet Addiction Camps - Can you be addicted to the internet? The South Koreans think so, so much that they have a government funded camp to assist addicts in weaning themselves off of it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Ultimate Endorsement

As you may know, in the U.S. there is much political posturing going on as the Democrats and Republicans get ready to choose their next leadership hopefuls to run for the presidency in 2008. Just like here in Canada, leadership hopefuls look for high profile endorsements from influential people, mostly other politicians. Mike Huckabee is a conservative Christian who isn't one of the frontrunners but still has a small shot at becoming the next president of the U.S.A. Huckabee's a smart guy, instead of looking for an endorsement from some cheezy political type, he instead went for the ultimate endorsement:

A good political move on Huckabee's part! If Chuck wants you to vote for Mike, can you really say no (at least say no and not be kicked in the face?). Of course, if the American voters were really smart they would just vote for Chuck Norris. Apparently, this is not so far off as Chuck has mused himself on this very thing. Check out his political "promises" here. Of course, if Chuck Norris decides to run for president, Chuck Norris will be president, that much is obvious. . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Emotion Behind the Emotion

My supervisor is attempting to teach me about emotion. One interesting theory she sent my way is thinking about emotions as either primary or secondary. For instance, anger is a secondary emotion. Thus, when someone comes in complaining about an anger problem, anger would be the secondary emotion so the counselor would look for the primary emotion. "What other emotions did you have? How did you feel before you got angry?"

Think about your own anger. What comes before it? If you are honest with yourself you might find other feelings; pain, disappointment, fear, jealousy, sadness, betrayal, helplessness, etc. Sometimes it helps to find the primary emotion (pain) and deal with that as a way to control their secondary emotion (anger). Once people learn to deal with the primary emotion they find that the secondary one has either decreased alot or disappears.

Luckily as I have no emotions myself, I don't have to worry about such things! OK, maybe that's not totally true. Hope you have an emotionally honest day today . . .

May Light increase!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Anti-Microsoft Rant

As a long time Apple user I naturally have a distaste for the company that is Microsoft. After all, Microsoft stole Apple’s operating system and made a really, really bad copy (Windows 1.0) and eventually took the whole PC market. But my dislike of Microsoft goes much deeper. Today their OS isn’t that bad but their Mac version of Office is just terrible. Unlike almost any of my other programs, this one gives me serious grief every time I use it. Weird things happen and it seems to need all of the processor to do even simple tasks. The ugliness of the interface makes me mad too. Last night (early this morning) I spent two hours trying to reformat a Word document so it would look right. Two hours! Finally I gave up. OK Microsoft, you win. I would do anything to free myself from the clutches of Office. Office is the only Microsoft product I am forced to suffer on my computer. The only exception to my anti-Microsoft feelings is Xbox. And the only reason grace is given to them is because they bought an all Apple software game company (called Bungie) to make decent games for them (anyone heard of Halo?). Yes, Halo was originally going to be developed for the Mac. But I digress . . .

My hate of Microsoft is so bad now that I can feel it in my body. Yes, my fellow counseling students, my self-awareness grows! Once in Human Development class I could feel this nausea in the pit of my stomach and I didn’t know what it was. Then I realized it. I was watching my poor professor trying to work Microsoft Powerpoint using a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse! This exercise in complete futility put together with just looking at powerpoint (ugh) in the hopelessly unelegant Windows environment (arghh) was literally making me ill! I looked frantically around the room for a piece of technology that worked well. Alas, none was to be found. Finally I just put my head down and stared at my binder and thought of happy thoughts, like my cute little MacBook. Apple isn’t perfect, but at least they don’t make me angry and nauseous.

A Wise Ruling

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. "During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne."

The other woman said, "No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours." But the first one insisted, "No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine." And so they argued before the king. The king said, "This one says, 'My son is alive and your son is dead,' while that one says, 'No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.' "

Then the king said, "Bring me a sword." So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other."
The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" But the other said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!" Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother."

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

- This story about Solmon is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. The image is a woodcut by Matthaeus Merian the Elder from the late 1500's.

The Wisdom (and Folly) of Solomon

One of my favorite, absolute favorite people to read about in the Bible is Solomon. To me, King Solomon has been a role model. God asked him what he wanted and instead of asking for riches or long life, the man asks for wisdom to rule his people. That's my kind of guy! Evidently God was happy with is answer and blessed him and his kingdom in ways that were never seen before and never seen again. Solomon's Israel enjoyed peace, renown, and prosperity (silver was seen as almost without value in Solomon's reign because gold was so abundant).

The books that record Solomon's wisdom (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) blow me away with their depth of insight. If you have never read them, I encourage you to. All of the secrets necessary to living life to its fullest are there. Many say Ecclesiastes is negative ("meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless") but I enjoy it's frank and truthful view of life. When I was a camp director, I used to have to let in the cabins for meals. I tried to console the last cabin let in by giving them a "nugget" of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs (ex/"A truthful answer is like a kiss on the lips."). In many ways, wisdom is one of the greatest things you can give or receive. Wisdom, true wisdom, has the potential to transform people's lives - if it is acted upon of course.

But recently rereading the story of Solomon again I think that I have finally seen the other side to wisdom. As good as it is, it will not stop a person from sinning. Perhaps I have been idealizing it. Solomon allowed his many wives (oh yes, he had many!) to lead him into the sin of idolatry. Solomon started well (extremely well actually) but finished poorly. Wisdom is not a guarantee to a life well lived. It is a good start, but must be matched with something else; obedience. Wisdom is something I long for and will pursue my entire life, but I know that it is not enough. I need to act on it. My big prayer is that God will give me faith, love, and wisdom. And the grace to apply them.

My wish for you today is that you have the wisdom of Solomon and the obedience of Jesus. By the way, the image is an artist's rendition of Solmon's Temple.

May Light increase!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Congrats Bombers!

I'm not usually a big Bomber Fan but I've jumped on the bandwagon and am cheering them on to win the Grey Cup. Go Bombers!

Why is it that guys can get so into sports? Seriously, it becomes an obsession for so many. Maybe even an addiction? I wonder if obsession with sports is due to the noble aspects (team, sacrifice, giving 100%, etc) or the negative aspects (violence, power, exclusivity, etc)? Or maybe it's just a way for people to procrastinate or ignore the relationships/life circumstances around them that aren't going well. Sports widows are a joke, but not for the widows. Just some random thoughts . . .

May Light increase!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Honoring the Patriarch

Last night after Trinity's birthday celebrations, we went to Winnipeg Evangelical Free Church to hear my grandfather speak. The church is celebrating it's 50th Anniversary and my Grandpa Westman (the church's second pastor) was invited to address the crowd. My retired grandfather who lives in Calgary is getting older and doesn't speak very much any more so this was a special treat. My grandfather is a role model to me. Even though I don't know him super well, I really look up to him.

Grandpa was always a bit of a maverick. I remember my Dad telling me how Grandpa had been a fighter pilot trainee during World War II. One day during training he decided to impress a pretty girl he knew by "buzzing" her at her college. Flying low and fast over the school created some alarm (this was wartime after all) and the authorities called in the numbers in the plane. Soon after Grandpa was court-martialed! Without skipping a beat he re-enlisted the next day and because the military needed people, they accepted him back. They never did let him fly overseas though.

After his service, Grandpa became a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church in White Rock, BC. One day his district supervisor asked him to consider pastoring a young church in Winnipeg. From what Grandpa knew of "Winterpeg" he was not keen. My grandmother was also not keen. He finally was coaxed into visiting (against my grandma's wishes!) and when he got there he distinctly knew that's where God wanted him. So he left his church of retirees in White Rock and began pastoring a church barely two years old in Winnipeg. The church was young in other ways too - when he got there, there was only one member over 40 years of age!

Grandpa spent 8 wonderful years in Winnipeg before as he describes "he was dragged kicking and screaming" to become the EFC Western District Supervisor. When he spoke last night about his memories of the church, he spoke warmly about those years and about the awesome things that God did. It was quite moving. In this church made up mostly of conservative Mennonites, his wife noticed that some of the community women were being shunned because they wore makeup to church. This really ticked off my grandparents! Grandpa briefly considered wearing makeup to church himself to prove a point! However, he could still recall my grandmother wearing lipstick to church one Sunday and the horror that produced. Less than a year later though, he said, he looked out at his congregation and makeup was everywhere! Everyone in the audience laughed. At the end of his speak he pulled a "Westman," he exhorted the congregation not only to be thankful for all God had done and to celebrate, but to realize that there was so much work left to be done and not to lose sight of the needs in their area. He said this authentically so that it did not put a damper on the celebrations but instead gave them a context. I enjoyed his speak immensely.

I was fairly emotional during the evening. Listening to the history of a church isn't always a happy occasion, but this one was. I'm sure they've gone through their tough times as all churches do, but it was encouraging hearing how lives had been changed because of this body of believers. I could literally feel my passion for the church being renewed and with it my passion for God. I was reminded of where my own priorities need to be and what is really important. The sacrifices of the different members including my grandfather, given willingly and not out of a sense of empty duty, were inspiring. I came to the evening not expecting much but instead was blessed with one of the best things I could wish for; hope.

May Light increase!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Insane Buzzing Of Mountain Via Flying Suit

I got chills when I watched this video. Thanks to ysmarko for the link. I would absolutely love to try this, however I'm not (yet) insane enough. But maybe I'll ask Jobina to sew me up a flying suit for Christmas anyway. Are you reading this honey?

May Light increase!

Happy Birthday Trinity

When my daughter Trinity was born, I thought that I would have a difficult time relating and bonding to a female child. I had taken to Riker and his "boyness" so quickly and naturally. A girl seemed so foreign and unknown. Boy was I wrong! Something about her immediately touched my heart and I could not get enough of holding her, kissing her, and enjoying the wonderful little gift that God had given us. She truly is one of the delights of my heart, so much like her mother it boggles the mind. Today she turned three and my joy in her only gets stronger!
P.S. The Pics are from a recent camping trip to Camp Morton Provincial Park. The second one is a picture of her and I when we went out for little hike. She had to keep collecting sticks along the way which she referred to as her "family." For some even better pics, check out Jobina's blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sad Plight of the Solo Pastor: Part 2

I think that basically pastors are set up by the system to fail. What do you think of you when you think of a "good" pastor? Here's a few:

1. Great preacher.
2. Good counselor.
3. Great administrator.
4. Excellent leader.
5. Great servant.
6. Fun and approachable.
7. A natural evangelist.
8. Able to receive feedback.
9. Full of integrity and the fruit of the Spirit.
10. Vulnerable yet strong.

Often solo pastors walk the plank for failing at just one of these! Now character is indeed important and nonnegotiable, but what about the other skills? Do you know how rare it is for a pastor to be a good preacher, a good administrator, and a good counselor? Maybe one in 200. And yet we have such high expectations!

Part of the system is that we expect that a good pastor can do more then they possibly can. Adding to the dysfunction is the pastor also believes they should be able to meet these expectations. You cannot imagine the pressure. No wonder so many good pastors lose it! Eventually they buckle under the pressure and either commit some sort of moral failure or burn out, or leave the ministry (and possibly the faith) completely disillusioned. When a church feels their pastor isn't measuring up to "what a pastor should be" they turn on them. The pastor can do no right and when they do make mistakes they are hung for them. Both pastor and church believe they are correct (maintaining the evil expectations of the system for the pastor) and they resort to incredibly un-Christian conduct (slander, gossip, deception, etc). The wounds are are sharp and deep.

I don't think that pastors or congregations should not take personal responsibility for their actions but I do think we need to make some changes to the system. Some humble suggestions:
-Stop thinking of leadership as the "pastor." Start thinking about leadership as "the team."
-Take the emphasis off pastors (maybe even get rid of the term completely) and put the emphasis on elders and deacons (like in the NT)
-Hire pastors according to their character and gifting, fitting what is currently missing in the church's leadership team.
-Re-teach the congregation (not a quick or easy task!): From now on the pastor will serve according to the abilities, not their old expectations.
-Forget the "universal" pastoral job description. Instead jointly come up with a job description with each new hiring and each new need of the church.

May Light increase!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sad Plight of the Solo Pastor: Part 1

I feel for pastors where they are the only pastor in their church. You've all heard it. Once again, a church has a major falling out with their pastor and the pastor is pressured to resign. Some in the church aren't happy (they love the pastor!) and strife is created. Eventually, the church may even split.

Then it happens again.

It seems to me that I've heard a lot of stories recently about pastors being fired/resigning/being forced out of their pastorates. Or churches suffering under the leadership of an unjust pastor and who finally gets him out of there. When one hears these stories there are three obvious explanations:

1. It's the pastor's fault. Or . . .
2. It's the church's fault. Or . . .
3. It's both their fault!

Usually if you talk to the pastor, it's that crazy church's fault and if you talk to the church, the messed up pastor was at fault. I'm not saying that these things are never true, but I wonder if there is a third possibility:

It is the system's fault.

For some reason, we have a system where we believe that the church is best served by one leader at the top who bears all or most of the responsibility for leading and serving the church body. Where we got this idea I have no idea. In the New Testament we don't get any indication (that I can see) of professional pastors who do most of the leadership work. Instead we see team leadership. In many of our Evangelical church's we say we have team leadership, but we don't. "Team" is a term thrown about, but not really practiced. Most of the responsibility falls onto one individual. Doug Fields describes it like this:

"Imagine a sports dynasty for a minute - pick your favorite. It's success can't be attributed to one component; several factors combine to it's success. A true dynasty is stronger than its one great player. It must also have supportive key players, a motivating head corch, experienced assistant coaches, a position in the free agency market, a risk-taking owner, a productive front office, and a strong farm system (or luck with the draft). Average sport fans don't consider all of these factors when they watch their favorite team play. Instead they focus on the team's best player and falsely assume that the team's success is due to that great player.

Unfortunately, many in the church view . . . ministry with that same mentality. They look for the one great player ( . . . worker) who can save the franchise (the . . . ministry) and develop a winning team (volunteers) that will attract the fans . . . Once a great player is identified (either hired clergy or volunteers), the owners (church board, selection committee . . .) settle into other pressing affairs withing the organization (church). This type of scenario usually results in a suicide mission for the "star" player. He or she charges in with enthusiasm and practices (works) endless hours trying to achieve success . . . to please the owners. But to please everyone the player has to run (often knowing not where) so hard and so fast for so long that he or she eventually tires and becomes injured (burns out) and has to be replaced (quits or is fired). At this point the owners get involved and looks for another great player to bring the team out of the dumps. The cycle starts all over with no foundation to build on because the last great player felt the burden to win by her- or himself." (Doug Fields, PDYM, p. 15)

I think a system where the church expects the pastor to do/be everything (or even most everything) and the pastor agrees to this is dysfunctional. There are a few examples of talented/character filled people who can do this but they are by far the exception, not the rule. And yet churches never learn. They keep hiring the "wrong" person! The truth is that all potential pastor have both great gifts and great shortcomings. Thus, every pastor coming in is going to be lacking in some of the most essential abilities needed to fill the leadership needs of a church. When a church believes that one pastor can fill even most of their leadership needs and the pastor agrees to try, it's a recipe for disaster. The system, based on unworkable beliefs about solo leadership fails the majority of churches, especially the small ones. And not to say that churches and pastors shouldn't bear any of the responsibility for failed pastorates, they should. But the system is not making things any easier.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hell Hath No Fury . . .

So I was at Olive Garden the other day talking to my friend Cole when one of the newer waitresses who neither of us really know came up and interrupted our conversation:

Cole: I'm really excited about having kids someday.

Mark: Yeah, well kids are awesome though very challenging as well -

Waitress: (walks in and cuts me off) Yeah, so anyway, my EX boyfriend comes up to me and is like "I know you did it." "Did what?" "You know very well." "I have no idea what you're talking about." "Someone paintballed my car last night and I know you did it because you are the only one I know who is angry enough with me to do it." (The waitress here took a deep breath) "I love the idea that someone shot up your car with paintballs and I wish I had thought of it and then done it to you. I'd have enjoyed every moment. You deserve it, you ______!" "So did you do it?" "Did you see me do it?" "No?" "Well then, I guess I didn't do it!!!"

Mark: (still getting over the shock of having our conversation interrupted with this strange story) So . . . um . . . did you do it?

Waitress: Of course I did.

She then left to go see to her tables. Cole and I looked at each other. "Wow." Though I don't know this waitress very well, she comes across as calm, kind, and gentle. It's rather hard to imagine her opening up on her boyfriends car with a semi automatic paintball gun and cackling maniacally. Later on she came back to Cole and I:

Waitress: I'm not a psycho, you know. He deserved it.

Mark: Of course you're not. And we would never suggest anything contrary as that since it might cause you to get angry with us!

She laughed and then told us a little bit about their relationship. It seems that several times a week he would tell her he would do something with her and then "blow her off" by not showing up. Then he'd apologize and bring her flowers or something and she would forgive him. He also lied to her compulsively. One day he told her that he had a second job at McDonalds one day to explain one of his failed appearances. The next time she was at that particular McDonalds location, she asked if her boyfriend was in that day. They told her that he hadn't worked there for over two months. Needless to say, she finally broke up with him. Which then lead to her attack on his car.

My personal thoughts on the story: The guy acted like an incredible jerk/loser to her and her anger is not mostly at him, but at herself for putting up with him so long. Sometimes we are really angry with ourselves but since we don't want to hurt ourselves anymore, we take it out on others. I do this myself sometimes (usually taking out my frustration with my own poor decisions on my wife or children). I bet if you look honestly at your life, you do too. The trick is to acknowledge that you made some bad decisions and accept the consequences (and not take your own stupidity out on those you care about).

May Light increase!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

Today I went to a Remembrance Day church service that was very different from the one's I attended in my last church (Mennville EMC). Remembrance Day fell on a Sunday and our church has recently brought on an associate pastor who is a former police officer and a chaplain for the armed forces. I can honestly say this was the most patriotic church service I have ever been at! Patriotic aspects of this service included:

-Singing "O Canada"
-Reading "In Flander's Fields"
-Watching a video showing names and pictures of all the fallen soldiers who have been killed so far in Afghanistan.
-The congregation being invited to pin a poppy on cross to remember how Christ promised peace in a world filled with turmoil.
-Singing God save the Queen.
-Watching video footage showing images from all 5 of Canada's military conflicts since confederation.
-Listening to a sermon about the sacrifices of men and the sacrifices of God.

Interesting. Yes, definitely different from Remembrance Day Sunday with my pacifist brothers and sisters in Mennville! It seems to me that many true pacifists have difficulty with Remembrance Day and so on that day there is a subtle anxiety. The day just seems . . . uncomfortable. I don't blame them. What do you do with a day remembering a noble sacrifice that you believe was not in it's essence noble (and perhaps sinful if you take engaging in war to it's logical pacifistic conclusion)?

Should we be mixing patriotism with church? I see all of sorts of difficulties to be sure. There is a reason (actually lots of historical reasons) why the idea of separation of church and state arose, but I have to admit it felt good to look at a historical reality (thousands of soldiers dieing for their country) and feel pride about their sacrifice. Do I think that pacifism is unfounded? Not at all. Pacifism has profoundly changed forever in my views of peace. And yet . . . I am inspired by the heroic acts and the willingness of some to fight for their convictions. War is hell and yet it is in war where we sometimes we see the very best that man is capable of. I fear I am off topic. This post isn't so much about arguing for or against pacifism, but sharing about a new church experience. Anyway, hope you had a meaningful time in church this Sunday. . .

May Light increase!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Learning By Looking Forward and Backward

Everyone (well almost everyone) is attempting to learn new things. There are several ways to do this, but today I was thinking about learning by looking both forward and backward.

First consider learning by looking forward. In counseling and psychology research is always going on and attempting to discover new ways of understanding why humans do, think, and feel the ways they do. Newer is better because newer is based on new theories, new information, and newer research. In psychology, most of which is based on evidence based results, looking forward is the key to remaining fresh and applying the newest and most proven interventions to those we are seeking to help. In a counseling course, if a textbook is more then 8 years old it's almost considered obsolete. There are exceptions of course, but generally this seems true to me.

Second, consider learning by looking backwards. In theology, looking forward is certainly applied, but also just as important is looking backwards. Theology is in many ways not as "results oriented" as psychology and some of the greatest theological ideas are not the newest ones but the oldest. In theology it seems we must often be reminded of the old truths again and again. One of the texts for my current theology course that I'm taking is 100 years old. The central and most reliable text of theology is actually over 1900 years old (the New Testament)! Newer in theology is not necessarily better. History is another subject where we can learn by looking backwards. What can history teach us about leadership? Or how about politics, philosophy, economics, religion, relationships, art, or culture? In history we find the lessons of the past repeating themselves and there is much to learn from them.

So . . . where do you spend most of your time learning; looking forward or backward? If you only choose to look one way you will eventually fall into error. The past it too rich a mine of wisdom to ignore and yet if we try to only look backwards we will find it difficult to find and embrace new and better ideas. I tend to mostly look forward and yet I'm realizing I need to look backwards as well. Reading through the O.T. this month I have been struck with the lessons from the past that are hitting me hard - and need to be applied to my present. If you are stuck only looking forward or backward, why not balance it out a little?

OK, I'm tired so I hope this made sense. I'm off to bed.

May Light increase!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bad Day At The Office

(YouTube Link)

I've been thinking a lot about anger lately; what cause it, what sustains it, and what can be done about it when one feels out of control with it. Since I can't show video's of "The Office" (as I would be pirater as Jay pointed out!), I thought I would post these real life examples of people losing control of their anger. What do you think is the key to learning to control your anger? What was your emotional response when you saw these other people losing it?

May Light increase!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Unapplied Theology: Sex Before Marriage

Here's a question for you: How many Christ followers (under the age of 30) do you know who did not have sex before marriage? Most evangelicals agree that Christians are supposed to wait until marriage before engaging in sexual relations but statistically those who call themselves Christians are having sex at about the same rate as unbelievers (most just usually wait longer). As a former youth pastor, I know that sexual temptation is one of the biggest temptations students will face. Is the church naively assuming that most Christians are obeying the admonition to be pure? Newsflash: they aren't. Not most of them anyway.

The problem is getting worse. It seems to me that if you would ask most 20-30 year old youth pastors if they stayed pure with their spouse before getting married, most of them would say no. Of these lots (and I've spoken to many) do do not feel they have the moral ground to really challenge their youth to purity since they did not experience victory themselves. When you don't believe something is really possible (purity) it's pretty hard to teach/admonish it with real conviction. Students can sense this. Students are then receiving a double message; "be pure" (loud message) and "it's not possible" (subtle message). Combine this with a general acceptance of sexually explicit media and a later average marrying age and you can see why today's students are going to have an extremely difficult time embracing and maintaining purity.

So there you have it; a Christian theology of sex that is mostly not applied. What's the solution? Either we change our theology (sex or 'some sex' before marriage is OK) or we start practicing what we preach. I have heard proponents of both, although how to achieve the latter seems to be anyone's guess (little seems to be working right now). What do you think?

May Light increase!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Priorities Experiment

This is an interactive post - not just reading but doing! So here's how it works. Take a minute or two and write down your top 5 to 10 priorities. The point is not to get "everything" but to get the main things. Here's my example:

1. God
2. My Family
3. School
4. Friends
5. Ministry/Utilizing My Gifts
6. Investing/Entrepreneurial Pursuits
7. Outdoor Adventures
8. Staying in Shape
9. Surfing the Internet/Maintaining My Blog
10. Watching TV and Movies

Now here's the fun thing; redo your list according to how much time you actually spend on your "priorities." The tough part is to be really honest. Again, here is my Real List Of Priorities (in approximate hours spent a week):

1. School (20 hours a week)
2. Surfing the Internet/Maintaining My Blog (16 hours)
3. My Family - quality time - (13 hours a week)
4. Investing/Entrepreneurial Pursuits (10 hours a week)
5. Watching TV and Movies (8 hours)
6. God - time spent with just me and Him (5 hours a week)
7. Friends (5 hours a week)
8. Ministry/Utilizing My Gifts (2 hours a week)
9. Staying in Shape (1 hour)
10. Outdoor Adventures (0.5 hour)

As you can see in my case, things change. Priorities are kind of empty unless we back them up with time. Now I realize that using just one variable (time) does not fully show one's priorities, but it is still useful to do so. Of course time is not the only way to show where are our true priorities are. Let's try it again with money as the main variable:

1. My Family ($2300 a month)
2. God - money given to God's church or to those in His Name (between us and God)
3. School ($260 a month)
4. Investing/Entrepreneurial Pursuits ($100 a month)
5. Surfing the Internet/Maintaining My Blog ($25 a month)
6. Watching TV and Movies ($30 per month)
7. Ministry/Utilizing My Gifts ($20 a month)
8. Friends ($12 a month)
9. Outdoor Adventures/Hobbies ($10 a month)
10. Staying in Shape ($0 per month)

Hopefully you see the point of this experiment. You may something is a priority for you, but your time or finances spent there may share a different story. Any other ideas on variables to use to show your priorities? My prayer for myself and for you is that God blesses us in following through on what we say is important - whatever that is.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quotes: The Power of Initiative

I like to be inspired by quotes, so after yesterday's post, I went looking for some good quotes on the power of initiative. There's actually lots out there! Here are a few of my favorites:

"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit."
— Conrad Hilton

"Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader. Don't fall victim to what I call the ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome. You must be willing to fire."
— T. Boone Pickens

"The right man is the one who seizes the moment."
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"A man who has to be convinced to act before he acts is not a man of action. You must act as you breathe."
— Georges Clemmanceau

"Their comes a moment when you have to stop revving up the car and shove it into gear."
— David Mahoney

"I would rather regret the things I have done than the things I have not."
— Lucille Ball

"If you don't make dust, you eat dust."
— Motto of Jack A. MacAllister

"Do not lie in a ditch, and say God help me; use the lawful tools He hath lent thee."
— English Proverb

"Luck comes to a man who puts himself in the way of it. You went where something might be found and you found something, simple as that."
— Louis L'Amour

"A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow."
— George Patton

"Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle."
— attributed to Abraham Lincoln

"Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world."
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence, The only consequence is what we do."
— John Ruskin

"Even if you're on the right track you'll get run over if you just sit there."
— Will Rogers

"An idea is worthless unless you use it."
— John Maxwell

"Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
— William Jennings Bryan

"No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered with a searching but at the same time a steady eye."
— Winston Churchill

"Everyone who's ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference."
— Nolan Bushnell
Founder of Atari

"You can't cross a sea by merely staring into the water."
— Rabindranath Tagore

"Anything worth doing is worth doing now!"
— Ralph Stayer

"If opportunity doesn't knock - build a door."
— Milton Berle

"You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there."
— Edwin Louis Cole

"Let's make a dent in the universe."
— Steve Jobs

"The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."
— Mark Twain

"Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone."
— Robert Allen

"If I had to sum up in a word what makes a good manager, I'd say decisiveness. You can use the fanciest computers to gather the numbers, but in the end you have to set a timetable and act."
— Lee J. Iacocca

May Light increase!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Power of Taking Initiative

"Don't wait for your ship to come in; swim out to it." — Unknown

Last night we had a surprise visit from our dear friends Terry and Eloa. They were in the city for the evening so they honored us by giving us a call and hanging out with us (very cool). Terry and Eloa are the kind of people who you can not see for a long time but after being with them for five minutes you feel like you've never been apart. Anyway, can't say enough good about these two.

Terry and Eloa told us a great story about why they were in Winnipeg. It seems that their 14 year old daughter Kelly Ann wanted to (last minute) go to a concert for a favorite band of hers called Boys Like Girls. So she tried calling Ticketmaster but the concert was sold out. Then she looked at eBay and there was nothing there. Her friend and her still did not give up. With only a few hours before the concert, they called a local radio station and asked them if perchance they had any tickets left over for the concert. They called her back and said, yes, actually they had two, did she want them? Here's where Terry heard loud screaming and realized that he would be coming to the city after all! When they drove the girls to the radio station headquarters to pick up the tickets, another surprise awaited: "Would you like to come in and meet the band?" asked the radio host. You can imagine two teenage girls' reaction to this! So Terry took them up to meet the band and the girls now not only got to go to the concert (for free) but they also got to meet one of 103 FM's most popular radio hosts and meet the band members themselves! All of this because Kelly Ann wouldn't give up in trying to find a way to get to the concert.

This is the power of initiative. You never know what you will get unless you try/ask! Kelly Ann, even in the face of unlikely odds, chose to try another way and was rewarded for it. My hat is off to this girl, her story inspires me. Too often we convince ourselves that there is no way to get what we want and we give up. What do you need to not give up on today? What do you need to find another way for?

May Light increase!

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Jobina thinks my blog has become too "dark" lately so to convince her that it is not, I am posting two humorous videos. Hope you enjoy them.

This is a really cool prank. It's in German so I'll explain first. A restroom, a mirror, and a young woman putting on make-up. Only the mirror is not a real mirror, but a sheet of glass.

The restroom on the other side is exactly the same but build in reflection. And the young lady is not alone, on the other side of the sheet of glass is her twin sister.

This is the best parade I've ever seen (sorry about the commercials at the start and end)!


Poisoned: Part 2

What is the antidote to having a poisoned view of someone, can anything be done? I'm really not sure. This is what I have been reflecting on for the past few days. Preventing the poisoning is realistic (see my last post), but what to do after it happens is sketchier to me. If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears!

It takes a truly awesome amount of inner fortitude to choose to forgive someone of their past wrongs and then treat them as worthy of some level of respect again afterwards. What does it take to do this? Powerful motivation? I am reminded of a story I read somewhere (Phillip Yancey?) about Polish Christian leaders meeting with German Christian leaders after one of the major World Wars. The Polish Christians has suffered horrendously at the hands of the Germans and although the Poles agreed to meet with their German counterparts they told them they could not honestly forgive them for the atrocities that were perpetrated. The meeting was rather tense and at the end someone suggested that the two parties pray the Lord's prayer together. When they got to this part:

"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us"

the Poles stopped praying. After several minutes of silence, the Polish Christians met together and discussed. Finally, they returned to the Germans and told them that they were in error; they could not honestly pray the Lord's Prayer and harbor unforgiveness against the Germans. Tears were shed as forgiveness and reconciliation began that day.

Perhaps God's grace is the antidote for a poisoned heart and mind? Forgiveness (not forgetting) is not optional for Christ-followers and maybe we need to be reminded of that sometimes. As my friend Dwight used to quote "Forgiveness is setting someone free and realizing it was you."

May Light increase!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Poisoned: Part 1

Lately I've notice that many people are essentially poisoned in their view to someone else. If you are poisoned and reading this, this will seem like the most natural thing in the world. "Of course I'm 'poisoned' towards them, do you know what they've done? What kind of person they are?" I have no idea, but I do know that people (all people) are capable of incredible evil. And how do we cope with that evil?

One way is to write the person off. Maybe it only takes one thing. "You did what? That's evil. You're a ________. Or maybe it takes lots of things, consistent evil actions, before it happens. "They'll never change. I've given up hope. They're a _______." Basically, we see them painted in one color. Once we see a person in one "global sense" (good/bad, nice/mean, evil/good) we justify our actions towards them, based on our judgment. Sadly, we do this everyday. Once we've decided to label someone as evil (or loser, moron, always wrong, beyond hope, etc) we can then justify ignoring the second commandment (and many others) and treat them like garbage. As long as it's not as bad as they've treated you or someone else, it's OK. If they're an adulterer, it's OK to gossip about them. As long as they are truly evil, we can be as slanderous, ignorant, condescending, angry, deceptive, inhospitable, cruel, etc. as we want to be. They deserve it after all, they're evil.

I've noticed this before (in myself and others) but recently being in counseling has made me more and more aware of it. People can and do write off their own father, wife, husband, pastor, church, friends, co-workers, or sibling. Somehow we allow ourselves to become poisoned and the poison affects us. Slowly it eats away at us, affecting our other relationships, our relationship with God, and even our health. You don't even notice it at first, so subtle it is. But eventually it will take you. If you let it.

Is there another way to deal with the problem of evil in others? I have some ideas. And let me just say that I'm not saying that we should allow evil in others to flourish and just passively accept it. The abused should leave and seek justice from their abusers and we need to react assertively when we are sinned against. In marriage, friendships, work, and family separations or the severing of relationship is sometimes necessary.

My ideas all involve focusing on people's actions; what if we would truly see people according to their actions and not the global labels we want to give them? To discipline ourselves to separate the actions from the person as an entity made by God? To learn to be angry/hurt/devastated by what a person has chosen to do and not to give into the temptation to write them off as a human being. What if we could stop trying to judge people's motives and just focus on what they've actually done? Can we discover how to give strong and appropriate consequences for evil actions yet remind ourselves that a person's actions isn't who the person is (at least not all of them)?

Choosing to focus on the person's actions is admittedly a lot more work then choosing to label them in a global, universal sense and simply writing them off. It means we truly have to struggle with the dark side of human nature, not just in others but in ourselves as well. Can you face the evil inside of others, inside of you? I think we need to try. More on this tomorrow.

May Light increase!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rest In Peace

On the morning of October 30th, 2007 my dearly loved orange iPod Shuffle was taken suddenly from us. Specifically, it was hidden in my grey BCBC hoodie and got put in the wash. Though I only had it for a couple of weeks it quickly became part of the family. My iPod is survived by it's sister, a pink iPod Shuffle that is currently in the "denial" stage of the grieving process. Viewing may be had for the next week at my house for those who wish to say a final goodbye. After that, the remains will be dealt with according to it's wishes; sold to the highest bidder on eBay. Rest in Peace my dear, sweet iPod. You are dearly missed.