Friday, February 27, 2009


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Miracle Liquid

It's a kitchen degreaser. It's a window cleaner. It kills athlete's foot, anthrax spores, and disinfects your lettuce. Oh, and you can drink it. This is an absolutely revolutionary idea:

Amazing. Check out an more in depth article on the benefits of electrolyzed water here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Voices In Our Heads

This cartoon from the Joy of Tech made me smile (click to enlarge):

Although most of us don't hear true "voices" we are all hearing things in a way because of the messages and beliefs stuck inside our heads. "You're a loser," "I should be better," or "I'm fat." Or maybe they are good messages like "I'm special," "God is good," or "Life is harsh but I can still be happy." Have you ever really analyzed the voices in your head and ask yourself if the message you hear is:

1. True?
2. Helpful?
3. Logical?

In counselling we call the messages we tell ourselves/hear as "self-talk" or "automatic thoughts." What are yours saying? May we all have the wisdom to dispute our voices that are not true or not doing us any good.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stop Making Yourself Unhappy

Think about this, what makes you stressed, unhappy, or miserable? Besides basic life circumstances, William Glasser suggests 4 possible reasons. See if any of these apply to your current misery:

1. You wanted someone else to do what he or she refused to do. Usually, in a variety of ways, some blatant, some devious, you were trying to force him or her to do what you wanted.

2. Someone else was trying to make you do something you didn't want to do.

3. Both you and someone else were trying to make each other do what neither wanted to do.

4. You were trying to force yourself to do something you found very painful or even impossible to do.

When we try to control someone else, or we try to control others we are experiencing what Glasser calls external control psychology. Jesus said to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Golden rule is the antidote for external control psychology. No one wants to be controlled, thus we should not try and control others. If you have a difficult relationship issue right now I encourage you to try to stop all of your controlling behaviors and instead focus on controlling yourself. Stop nagging, manipulating, pressuring, moralizing, etc and just accept that you can't control the other person. It's the only decent way to live . . .

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Oh My!"

Those are the words I first used when I first saw this unusual video:

I'm not sure what is the most impressive; the sheer creativity to come up with the idea to do the stunt or the courage involved to actually do it. I really, really would have liked to see what happened in his first two attempts!

Meatless In Manitoba: Day 23

Well, the end in in sight for my little vegetarian experiment. The funny thing is that I'm kind of scared! I think it's for a few reasons:

1. I enjoyed the experience and am not sure if I want to quit this meatless things
2. I don't look forward to the "stomach adjustment" that I know will happen if I start eating meat again.
3. I'm thinking that maybe this was too easy - should I try going vegan (no meat, no dairy, no eggs) for a month?
4. What if I just go back to my high meat diet and nothing changes for me?

In lots of ways I don't think I've benefited as much from this as I could have because although I have eaten no meat, I haven't increased my veggies all that much. I have discovered that you can be a vegetarian and still eat pretty bad. Overall though, I still feel better then I did before and for that I am thankful. I estimate about 10-15% better, and if I ate even healthier (and actually exercised) I would probably feel around 20-30% better. I'm realizing that health is so much a sum of many factors:

1. Nutrition
2. Exercise
3. Sleep
4. Relationships
5. Work
6. Faith/Spirituality
7. Recreation
8. Finances

To focus on just one thing is helpful but really you need to tackle all of them to feel really big benefits. I have learned lots about the vegetarian way but one thing I have realized is that I truly dislike beans! Luckily we recently discovered lentils which are similar but taste way better. Jobina has been making some awesome curry dishes which I am also enjoying quite a bit. I don't know what else to write on the subject but perhaps something more profound will come out of my last one or two posts before the experiment is over. . .

Friday, February 20, 2009

How To Influence People

Gerry shared this John Maxwell quote with me yesterday and I found it quite profound:

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- John Maxwell

As a counselor I have a lot of theory, experience, and "knowledge" about how to help people with their life issues. As a parent, friend, and Christian I also have wisdom that can enrich and help people. But if I don't show people first that I care, my understanding is difficult to hear. Caring for others in a natural precursor for them to listen to us when we want to impart into their lives. The quote is a good reminder for me - and maybe it will be for someone else out there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Your Church Man-Friendly?

I was working at Turning Point the other day (where I do some contract counselling) and saw an old issue of "New Man Magazine," the official magazine of Promise Keepers. Now I'm not a big PK guy, but I was bored and the cover looked interesting so I picked it up. Inside there was an article called The Unsafe Life which was about men, risk, and living as a Christian man. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the following:

"It's a life that requires kingdom risks, standing up for righteousness, having a confrontational side and a willingness to lay down your life for God, family and beliefs. Listen to a growing number of Christian men's ministry leaders and they'll tell you such a life is not only biblical, but it's also crucial to a man's well being.

The only problem? Men won't hear that message at most local churches. In fact, the leaders New Man spoke with say far too many churches promote a quiet, non confrontational life that tells men to be passive and nice. It's a message that commonly accompanies an unbiblical portrait of Jesus as a weak and mild Savior. Such teaching, leaders say, is like man-repellent and hurts the church as badly as it does men."

The article goes on to say that the Church emphasizes the gentle, loving, kind virtues of Jesus (which are fantastic) but when it misses other virtues such as boldness, righteously angry, courageous, obeying sacrificially, etc, we are missing out on other important parts of the Gospel that resonate with men. The also note that sermons and especially worship reflect this dynamic and put off a lot of men who find it difficult to only connect with the "nice" side of Christ and ministry.

I have actually been thinking about this idea for awhile. Is the church/my church/your church not man-friendly? I think there is some truth to this. I often feel that church is too nice. Perhaps this is why man churches are having difficulty engaging men into leadership and ministry. Is it possible the church is missing men's hearts and emasculating the Gospel? Is our music and teaching (style and content) more appealing to women (and offputting to men)? I'm curious to hear what other people think about this topic.

P.S. Here's some tips (pdf) on how to make your service man-friendly.

May Light increase!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Stories


War II produced many heroes. One such man was Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mothership, he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese Zeroes were speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor, could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.

There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until finally all his ammunition was spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the Zeroes, trying to at least clip off a wing or tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He was recognized as a hero and given one of the nation's highest military honors.

And today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.


Some years earlier there was a man in Chicago called Easy Eddie. At that time, Al Capon virtually owned the city. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. His exploits were anything but praise worthy. He was however, notorious for enmeshing the city of Chicago in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. Easy Eddie was Capone's lawyer and for a good reason. He was very good! In fact, his skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capon paid him very well. Not only was the money big; Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago city block. Yes, Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything; clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object.

And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Yes, Eddie tried to teach his son to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man than he was.

Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things that Eddie couldn't give his son. Two things that Eddie sacrificed to the Capone mob that he could not pass on to his beloved son... a good name and a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Offering his son a good name was far more important than all the riches he could lavish on him.

He had to rectify all the wrong that he had done. He would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Scar-face Al Capon. He would try to clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this he must testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. But more than anything, he wanted to be an example to his son.

He wanted to do his best to make restoration and hopefully have a good name to leave his son. So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. He had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer at the greatest price he would ever pay.

I know what you're thinking. What do these two stories have to do with one another?

Well you see, Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hecla XC Ski Trip

Two weekends ago, I went on XC ski trip retreat with some friends up at Hecla. Dalen got us a waterfront (or more appropriately "ice-front") cabin up there and we spent just over three days skiing, hanging out, playing games, reading, and discussing life stuff. All in all it was time well spent and the whole weekend cost me less then $80 which included ski rentals from MEC, food, and my part of renting the cabin. Jobina always says I'm a better man when I get back from something like this and I think she's right.

Day 1 (Friday)

Dalen and I met in the city at my house. Usually when we do a trip together it is more rustic and weight/supply choices are very important. Not this time! Basically we could pack whatever we wanted - and we still had room in the car! Staying in a cabin with electricity and plumbing that you can actually drive right up to seemed so luxurious. I actually took a suitcase instead of a pack! Can't remember the last time I did that on an outdoor trip. After spending some time drooling over gear and clothes at MEC I rented some skis and we headed north. Along the way we discussed some intense theological ideas which is always good. As we got further north I realized I had forgotten my Park Pass. We decided to stop in Mennville at Stan and Luella Brandt's house to inquire if they had one (they did, thanks Amy for fetching it). We also stayed for coffee was which was cool (the hospitality of Mennville is always exceptional - thanks Brandts)!

By the time we made it to the island it was dark. We stopped at the new Hecla Oasis resort to get some trail maps and chatted with the front desk guy about the resort. It seems quite reasonable to stay there during the week - a mere $140 for your room. Then we went and found our cabin - very nice! Here's pic of the kitchen:

We were itching to go out skiing and it was then that I couldn't find my headlamp so we went skiing in the dark - a new experience! We got lost only once and eventually found our way to the the resort. We found a bench at the back of the resort and stopped for a rest and some fuel (chips and Eatmore bars). Watching the people inside the restaurant through the huge windows was entertaining - we made up stories about the people inside and their crazy lives. Then we skied back to the cabin. Along the way we both heard/saw something skulking in the trees along the trail but didn't say anything to each other until the next day - we didn't want the other person to freak out! We snacked heavily in the evening and stayed up late talking about relationships and other deep topics.

Day 2 (Saturday)

We slept in and when we woke up the weather was great and we saw some deer in our backyard:

I was excited to see two islands off in the distance: Punk and Little Punk. One of my adventure goals for the weekend was to set foot on Punk Island (and thereby cross it off my list of Lake Winnipeg islands to visit). We had two other guys joining us sometime after lunch but we were wanting to see if the ice could be skied across. I noticed lots of people ice fishing so we decided to ski out and talk to them (as well as test the snow cover on the ice). We skied on the ice (it wasn't too bad at all) out to a lady ice-fishing and had a great conversation with her (turns out her husband was the guy at the front desk of the resort). Both of them moved up to Hecla to retire and they now live here year round. What a great life! She told us we should ski out to one of the commercial fishermen out on the ice and ask the if they could show us what they do. We did and 15 minutes later got to see how they do their thing. Very interesting but feeling guilty, we headed back for lunch and found Dalen's brother Matt and his friend Alan waiting for us at the cabin. We caught up, had a great lunch, and then headed out on the groomed trails of Hecla. I'd guess we did about 15-17 km of intense skiing before making it back to the cabin for supper. Later in the evening my friends Jay and Dahlen came up and we played some board games in the evening. Then they went home (after delivering us some supplies to help us the next morning in our attempt to make it to Punk Island). Again we went too bed too late.

Day 3 (Sunday)
Woke up and the view of the islands was again pretty good. Here's a pic of us preparing to leave the safety of Hecla and venture across the ice:

The thing about these lake crossings is that all of a sudden a snowstorm or wind can result in a total whiteout while you're out on the ice - a very scary situation. Luckily we had my friend Terry's maps, compass, and GPS to help us find our way back if something should go wrong out there. Which was good as after about 10 minutes of skiing a whiteout made the islands impossible to see for half an hour! This is what it looks like when the snow begins to blow:

It's difficult to describe the feeling of skiing into a big white "nothing" and hoping that you are still going in the same direction as where you started. You don't want to miss your target! It's like being in very white, very cold desert. A little later we were all relieved to see the outline of first one and then both islands a kilometer or so away. Eventually we made it to land again. First we stopped at Little Punk and took pictures. Here's a nice pic of the coast:

Matthew saw a clearing up on the isle and with some amazing ski prowess managed to make his way up a very steep coastline - only to find an old cabin! Very cool. We checked it out (it was more shack then cabin) and then left.

I had some problems with my skis not wanting to go on that slowed us up so that eventually we were all pretty cold when we were ready to do the crossing to Punk. It wasn't a very long crossing, but the way the wind hit us it was extremely cold. It took about 15 minutes but it was very bad. The wind cuts you like a knife and we all started to lose feeling in our hands (again, not good). Here's some pics of two guys near the end of their crossing:

When we finally reached Punk we were thankfully out of the wind but all of us were quite cold, especially Alan. We had a potluck lunch out there and it was good but we didn't stay long as we didn't want to freeze. Amazing views from there!

We decided to go back to Hecla via a more direct route, hoping we could find a way up the coastline and connect with the trail system (taking us back to our cabin). The advantage of this was it was a shorter distance back to the main island (at least half a mile) but the disadvantage was not knowing if we would be stopped from getting into the tree cover by near vertical cliffs. Matt and Dalen headed out first (and were about 10 minutes ahead of us) and Alan and I came second. I was a bit concerned about Alan getting frostbite or hypothermia and we stopped several times. Alan came up with this neat memorization game which we used to help us keep our minds off disaster (and until our core temperatures warmed us up enough) which was fun. When we finally got to the coast of Hecla (about an hour later) we weren't in bad shape at all. Matt and Dalen had found a way up that mean we had to only take off our skis for one short climb and then we were on the main trail. When we got back, I finally realized how cold the wind had been on my face when I felt snow and ice in my beard!

Wow, XC skiing off the trails (and exploring islands) was extremely fun - way more interesting then just going down groomed trails! I so much want to do that kind of thing again. All in all another great outdoor adventure.

*Things I learned/was reminded of for XC ski exploration:

1. My new thin polyproplene base layer that my mom got be was completely awesome as a base layer. I didn't sweat once! Seriously, thin and synthetic is the way to go. Except for breaks (and the two nasty crossings) I wore my base layer and a waterproof shell and that was all I needed.
2. In my pack I had brought a heavy fleece in case I got cold. It was perfect when we stopped for lunch and I didn't want to get too cold.
3. When you stop to rest, sit on your pack. It keeps your rear from getting too cold.
4. Never wear cotton base layers. They call it "killer cotton" for a reason. The sweat you produce freezes and is stuck in the cotton (which doesn't wick moisture away) and can chill you quickly when you stop.
5. I need to get something to protect my face. Even a scarf would have helped - I was lucky that we only had to go into the wind for one short crossing, otherwise it might have been more serious.
6. GPS is like a security blanket, bring it along just in case you get lost, in a story, or want to change your plans.
7. Matt had this cool device that you "click" and it becomes a hot hand warmer. The best thing is that its reusable, you just boil it, wait for it to cool and then you use it again. I have no idea how it works but I really want to get a few.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

These Are The Things You Don't Say To Your Wife

Today I spent the afternoon at a Marriage seminar that Gerry was doing at Riverbend (and which I did a portion of) at Eastview Community Church. It was fun. I was speaking on the idea of the love bank, love busters, and meeting your spouse's deep emotional needs. Gerry spoke on all sorts of cool stuff, but here was video of some marital advice that stuck with me for a long time afterwards:

Friday, February 13, 2009


In my counseling I often come across people who's relationship with their spouse is in serious jeopardy. Their spouse doesn't feel love towards them anymore; perhaps because of an affair, abuse, neglect, whatever. Their spouse is done and wants a divorce. Suddenly they realize that the relationship is in peril and they wake up to the danger. Hoping to win the person back, they pursue the person desperately, that is with desperate behaviors. Unfortunately when someone feels nothing towards you anymore, this kind of pursuit rarely helps you - especially in the long term. Feeling sorry for someone is not helpful to breathe new life into a relationship!

Here's why desperate doesn't work: it's not attractive and it doesn't usually have long term results. Who wants to be with a desperate person? We want to be with someone because we want to be with them. So why do we use desperate behaviors on people? My theory is that:

1. It's learned by watching others. If others do it, shouldn't we?
2. It often works - but only in the short term. It never puts off the inevitable.
3. We don't know what else to do. We panic!

We see desperate acting people all the time (and I fully admit that in general I have been there). . What desperate spouses don't realize is that their desperation often is the final nail in the coffin - it turns off the other spouse completely and reinforces their negative views of the other. Often it is also felt as manipulation (crying, begging, moping, seeking reassurances, being clingy) - and I don't know anyone who wants to be manipulated. We all have a desire to rebel against manipulation - we either do it externally or internally. Sometimes we think that the more desperate we appear to our spouse the more inclined they'll be to take us back but an angry or withdrawn spouse doesn't want that pressure and will often rebel against it.

People want the freedom to make choices; whether it is with having another go at a marriage, teaching Sunday school, or supporting a child in Africa. Are there cases where some sort of desperate reaction is acceptable and understandable? Absolutely. But when we try to use desperation to get what we want with something that is not a total emergency we lose respect with those we are trying to impress. As a camp director, the best advice on recruitment I ever got was to "stop sounding desperate" (Thanks Tim Reimer). If you use this strategy on people, ask yourself - are you long term getting the results you crave? My guess is you aren't. Maybe its time to switch strategies?

May Light increase!

P.S. The image is The Desperate Man, by Gustave Courbet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meatless In Manitoba: Day 12

Well I guess it's time to do an update on my vegetarian experiment. I was going to update more often, but I thought that I really needed some time first to see how this was affecting me (or not). So here goes:

First of all, it's really not that bad. Except for when I pass McDonald's (I know, I know, it's disgusting but McDonald's food smells pretty good) or when I got a plate of prime rib at a recent banquet, I haven't had any really intense moments of temptation. In other words, I'm not craving meat. It makes me wonder; was most of my meat eating before just a habit? Or is it still too early to tell? Jobina is fixing us both all meatless food this month so I rarely think about what I eat at all. Two days ago I had a bit of a nutrition epiphany: some foods are just as good or better without meat. Jobina made us some veggie pizza sauce subs that were out of this world amazing! Seriously, they were fantastic. I was so shocked that I didn't miss the meat - at all! I still miss certain meat dishes occasionally, but not in a way that causes me any real grief. Its just not that bad. Plenty of my favorite dishes (especially pastas) don't have meat in them anyway.

As far as my body goes my stomach felt a little off during the first 5 or 6 days. Lots of gurgling in my stomach as well I was "more regular" then usual. After the first few days my stomach felt normal again - or even better then previously. Its difficult to explain but I almost never experience that "overfull," "gross feeling" that I used to . Also, I have to admit that I feel more awake during the afternoons - less likely to feel that overwhelming need to doze. Is this due to my diet - I'm not sure. Over all physically I'd say I feel about 8-10% "better" then I did before. I'm eating a little less but feel better about what I do ingest (and rarely do I feel any guilt over what I eat). In case you are curious, it wasn't a goal or anything, but I've lost about 2 or 3 pounds.

Socially, I find it interesting. I try not to make a big deal about it, calling it an experiment, and not trying to push the idea on anyone (we all know some annoying vegetarians who are forever spreading the good news). Some people look at me like "you poor, poor man" and think I must be insane. Others seem genuinely interested and ask questions - but usually as soon as I start telling them why I'm doing it they look a little freaked out - or profoundly sad. A few rare souls get excited about it and tell me about their own experiments or desire to try going meatless. Its fascinating how what you eat influences your connection with those around you. I'm temporarily not part of the "meat clique" anymore but I'm not really a full fledged vegetarian either. I'm like one of those "floater kids" at high school - hobnobbing with several cliques but not really a member of any of them. Men especially find it difficult to understand the meatless thing and many are seriously disturbed by the idea of it. I think that many of us men connect part of our maleness to eating meat - the more manly you are the more meat you eat. To spurn meat is like spurning contact sports, power tools, or action movies - how can you do it and call yourself a man? Food is so much more a part of our identity then I previously knew. Insights such as these are making my little experiment that much sweeter. Only 16 more days to go!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Klingon Night School

Everyone needs teachers who care. I'm dedicating this to my friend Mike, a Trekkie and a teacher.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Could Your Marriage Survive A Year Of Total, Brutal Honesty?

One guy tried it. Here's a bit of his tale. I am totally fascinated by this story! I will definitely read his book about the experience when it comes out. What makes this story interesting is that it assumes that pretty much everyone is dishonest in their marriages and that everyone tells white lies. I suppose this is true and that kind of depresses me! Yet here is a guy who decides to try something that is in many ways the ultimate experiment - not out of a deep faith or adherence to strong ethics but because he just wants to see what it would be like. What do you think, would you be brave enough to do it?

The idea reminds me of that classic Hollywood masterpiece Liar, Liar (OK, its not much of a masterpiece) which is also about truth telling and its impact on relationships. Is it not sad that consistently being honest seems like a crazy, radical idea? Shouldn't honesty in our relationships be the norm?

Monday, February 9, 2009

4 Kinds of Hamburgers

According to Tal Ben-Shahar, author of the excellent book "Happier," there are four kinds of hamburgers I can eat. Each of these hamburgers represents an approach to happiness. See which approach you use!

1. Tasty Junk Food Burger. This is the kind of burger that yields present benefit, in that I would enjoy it, and future detriment, in that I would subsequently not feel well. This fits with the hedonistic approach to happiness. Hedonists live by the maxim "Seek pleasure, avoid pain" focusing on enjoying the present while ignoring the negative consequences of their actions.

2. Tasteless Vegetarian Burger. This burger is made with only the healthiest ingredients which will afford me maximum future benefit, in that I would feel good and healthy, but present detriment, in that I would not enjoy eating it. This burger fits with the rat racer approach to happiness. The rat racer subordinates the present to the future, suffering now for an anticipated gain.

3. Tasteless and Unhealthy Burger. This is the worst of all kinds of burgers - it tastes bad and is bad for you. This corresponds to the nihilist approach to happiness - present and future detriment. This is the person who has lost the lust for life, someone who neither enjoys the moment nor has a sense of future purpose.

4. The Tasty and Healthy Burger. This perfect burger is the best of all worlds; tasty and healthy. This burger exemplifies the happiness approach to happiness! Happy people look for present and future benefit. Happy people live secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring them pleasure in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future.

No one wants to be a nihilist (and not get any pleasure) while the hedonistic approach has only short term effects (and long term drawbacks) . Being a rat racer may seem like the best way to go except that when rat racers finally achieve a big goal they usually only feel relief (the pressure is now over) as opposed to happiness. Rat racers, confusing relief with happiness, keep on chasing bigger and bigger goals, hoping the next one will make them happy but only feeling worse about their empty achievements.

Instead of asking if we should be happy now or in the future, the happy person asks "How can I be happy now and in the future?" While present and future benefit may sometimes conflict - because some situations demand that we forgo one for the other - it is possible to enjoy both for much of the time. Happiness can be best described as trying to spend as much time as possible engaged in activities that provide both present and future benefit. This formula of Ben Shahars's which I've shared before then is:

Happiness = Pleasure (positive emotions in the present) + Meaning (future benefit of our actions)

So what kind of burger do you usually eat? How can learn better to make choices that will result in you doing actions that will benefit both your present and your future? What changes do you need to make in your life to make that happen? And what's holding you back?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Valentine's Approacheth

Well, now that Valentine's is coming up, I thought I'd post a little bit on some of my thoughts (in progress), opinions (still forming), and musings on the subject.

Do most married women look forward to Valentine's Day? Probably. Do most men? I'm not so sure. For instance, have you ever been in a mixed group of married people and one of the women starts talking about what her romantic husband did for her last Valentine's? The places he took her to, the surprises, the romantic things he did, the gifts, etc? I have. If you watch the guys in the room, many of them begin to get uncomfortable. Some look they want to bolt! And almost all of them are not feeling happy thoughts towards the man who did these things! For myself I know I often think something like "Uh, oh, I hope Jobina isn't listening to this . . . Doh, she is . . . well, maybe she won't get any new expectations . . . Oh man, now I have to come up with something really good!" For married men it seems there's pressure on Valentine's day - perform! Be romantic! Plan something! Buy something good! And of course we have to do it because it's Valentine's Day.

When men are in the dating days, the affection and zeal shown on Valentine's is natural and not usually forced. Yet after marriage many men feel resistance to it. I know tons of guys who either don't like or even hate Valentine's day. Why is that? It's certainly not because they don't love their wives. Is it the pressure? Maybe, perhaps it is because it the decision to be romantic feels forced and not something spontaneous and sincere. That would be a good hypothesis except for the fact that the same expectations were there in their dating years and then it wasn't much (if at all) of a problem. Maybe then it's insecurity? Maybe deep down they feel that their affection showing is lacking. Maybe Valentine's Day convicts men? Hmmm . . . I'm not sure.

One thing is for sure; you can't just ignore the holiday. I have heard many men explain why they refuse to celebrate Valentine's day (the commercialism, the forced romance, the fact that they "aren't the Valentine's type," etc). But behind 90% of these men are women who are hurt by their spouse's rejection of the holiday (whether they admit it or not) and take the rejection personally. I used to belong to this group. I wanted to rebel but eventually realized that it was just too painful on my wife. It wasn't worth it. I decided to embrace the holiday (even though my instinct is to loathe it) because I know my wife loves it. And I want to please her.

Another reason why I think that Valentine's is not always comfortable for men is because in many ways it seems that the genders see the holiday differently. Women often see it as mostly a time to meet their emotional need for affection while men tend to see it as a time to meet their emotional need for sex. Thus if you get two groups together; one of women and one of men and talk about Valentine's day the conversations will be quite different! Since the advertising and cultural expectations lean more towards romantic displays of affection - my theory is that many married men find it difficult to relate to. Many men don't naturally find it exciting to think about displaying affection without the potential for present or future possibilities of. Is this evil? I don't think so. I think we need to think of Valentine's (for marrieds) in a way that balances the needs of displaying heartfelt affection and the passion/romance and sexual fulfillment - if we want the holiday to appeal equally to both sexes.

Is there such a model? I think so. It's called The Song of Solomon, a book in the Bible that has excessive amounts of affectionate poetry mixed with tasteful but exciting expressions of desire and sexual intimacy. In my humble opinion the best marriages are the ones that are high in affection and passion. Should we not approach Valentine's (at least for married couples) the same way - exalting both aspects of romantic love? The application of this to me is this: both spouses should expect and contribute to a Valentine's day that has lots of displayed affection and lots of sexual fulfillment. What do you think?

P.S. Please note that I'm not trying to gender stereotype here, and I realize I make some generalizations that won't fit all people. For all of you men who desire more affection and you women who desire more passionate sex, I know you are out there!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Speaking Today

I've been invited to do speak for a Valentine's Day banquet in the sprawling metropolis of Morweena. As usual I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to talk about and a bit nervous. What is unusual is that Jobina is going to speak with me! If you are the praying type, please pray for us. Our speak is tentatively titled "From Incompatible to Irresistible."

Thursday, February 5, 2009


One day, a ship sank, leaving a single survivor stranded alone on a deserted island. Having lost everything, the man prayed to God to save him as he scanned the horizons looking for rescue boats. None came. He built himself some shelter, gathered some food, and continued praying and praying and scanning the horizons, day after day after day. Still no one came. Finally, after gathering some fruit from the forest, he returned to his hut to find it in flames, sending a thick dark column of smoke into the blue sky. Now thoroughly frustrated and angry at God, the man cursed and cried “How could you abandon me in my greatest time of need?!” But then after a few hours, to his surprise, a ship approached his island and came to his rescue.

“How did you find me here?” he asked the ship’s captain.

“Why, we saw your smoke signal of course!”

The lesson of the story:

When life gets you down, don’t lose faith; what may seem like a disaster to you might actually be life’s smoke signal beckoning the grace of God.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Book Review: Adrift

Book Review: Adrift: Seventy Six Days Lost At Sea by Steven Callahan

"Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink." So said Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his 1794 poetry classic Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I could not help but think of these words repeatedly while reading Adrift. Adrift is the story of Steven Callahan's solo survival epic; a long distance sailing race which ends abruptly with the sinking of his boat seven days out. Woken brutally from his sleep, Callahan begins a nightmare that seems to always go from bad to worse. Naked in a stormy night, he barely escapes with only a few supplies as he manages to get into an emergency raft inflated before his boat goes down. After surviving the first night what follows is setback after setback as the story honestly charts his descent into a situation that few could conceive of (and even fewer could survive). The book describes how he solves, survives, or perseveres through each of his many problems - some of it by pure luck and some by his ingenuity. Sharks, no food, no water, a leaking raft, depression, etc - somehow he overcomes them all. Imagine being in crisis for for 76 days straight!

What I really enjoyed about the story is the psychological/spiritual journey that Callahan goes on. You get to hear about his history and addiction to the sea. Also he tells how many of his preconceptions are challenged and/or blown out of the water by the predicament he finds himself in. I won't spoil it, but his interaction with the sea world around him is fully terrifying, inspiring, and downright miraculous. It's almost impossible not to feel that Someone is helping him in very specific ways. The author includes sketches he made of himself along his journey which helps you to connect with him and his situation.

I'm convinced that it takes a very special kind of person to survive what he did. I know certainly that I would not have been able to do it and that is humbling. Callahan had a unique blend of survival knowledge and skill, as well as a positive spirit and an ability to be alone that certainly made the difference between his life and death. This book is inspiring as it shows what a human is capable of persevering. Think your situation is bad right now? Read this book, you'll feel better! I read a lot of outdoor books, but this one is definitely right up there as a classic that I will read again and again. If you are not an outdoors person you may find the first chapter or two difficult to get through as it describes a lot about his boat (which eventually sinks anyway) but after that it is highly engaging for any reader. I rate it 4.6 ninja stars out of 5.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Once upon a time, there was a general who was leading his army into battle against an enemy ten times the size of his own.

Along the way to the battle field, the troops stopped by a small temple to pray for victory.

The general held up a coin and told his troops, "I am going to implore the gods to help us crush our enemy. If this coin lands with the heads on top, we'll win. If it's tails, we'll lose. Our fate is in the hands of the gods. Let's pray wholeheartedly."

After a short prayer, the general tossed the coin. It landed with the heads on top. The troops were overjoyed and went into the battle with high spirit.

Just as predicted, the smaller army won the battle.

The soldiers were exalted, "It's good to have the gods on our side! No one can change what they have determined."

"Really?" The general showed them the coin--both sides of it were heads.

This is an old Chinese story about fate which basically says this: Fate is in your own hands. The smaller army was able to beat the older army because they believed they would - and they took action accordingly. As a Christian I still believe the story has something useful for me, that is that I need to believe that not everything is determined ahead of time and that I am not just a powerless man, tossed helplessly upon the crashing waves of fate and destiny. It is true that God is working powerfully in my life, but it does not mean that I have no responsibility to take action and choose to think positively (and in faith) as well.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I really liked this when I saw this on postsecret today:

We all want to change something. We want to be thin, smart, ethical, happy, sober, spiritual, talented, forgiving, etc. But often we don't want it enough to do the work necessary. We think we really want it, but we don't. We want something else more - usually the comfort of not working hard, of not sacrificing something, or not losing the thing or things that aren't making us long-term happy but help us to cope in the short term.

We try to convince everyone around us how hard life is and how we so much want to change but alas, we cannot. I have an idea to try something different: be honest with yourself. If you can't find the motivation to change realize that you just aren't ready or motivated enough yet! Don't tell people you want to change. What you really want is to be wanting to change on a level that will actually produce action in you. Once you are sufficiently motivated, you can change (if you choose to). Do you just wait around for it to happen to you? No, you must find your motivation. Or let it go. Either way, torturing yourself isn't going to help you. As Libby said on Lost a few seasons ago: "If you want to change . . . then change."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Meatless In Manitoba: Day 1

Today I got back from a XC ski trip retreat at Hecla. Myself and a few friend went up there for the weekend and had some great skiing and some great talks - good for a man's soul I'd say. We also went and skied a couple of miles across the ice to Punk Island so I can now cross this island off of my "Islands To Explore" list. The picture to the right is "Little Punk" the sister isle to Punk that I had visited several years ago. Skiing across a frozen lake to an island that sometimes is invisible because of snow is a fun experience.

This morning though was the first day of an experiment - I'm going to go a month without eating meat. Sounds like fun, eh? Many people are asking the obvious question; why, Mark, why?! It's a combination of things actually:

1. I've read the book The China Study which has strong research to back up the hypothesis that animal protein is one of the major causes and instigators of what are called the diseases of affluence; cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, etc. So I wonder, if it's true, could I do it?

2. Lately I've asked a lot of people if they've ever tried eating vegetarian or vegan and what it was like. Everyone who was one (or had tried it) told me that they felt the best they'd ever felt in their lives while not eating meat. Some had had some stomach issues for the first week or so but after that smooth sailing. Many had had ailments and chronic sickness either improve or disappear, better skin, more energy during the day (and an easier time getting to sleep), and many other improvements to their health. I would like to know what it would feel like for me to go meatless

3. I like radical experiments. As a person who eats vegetables mostly because other people think I should and as the son of a farmer this would be quite a radical change. Change for the sake of change is always a great learning opportunity and I'm interested to see what it will be like.

Yup, so this morning I woke up and had to endure the smells (and sounds) of bacon in a frying pan. My first test - and I was strong! Later at the BCBC camp reunion I had people letting me know they'd save me pizza - cheese pizza of course! Jobina has decided to try the experiment as well so that will make it easier (although I didn't pressure her in any way to try it - she's doing it of her own free will). I'll give periodic updates every few days to let you know how I'm doing. Only 27 days to go!