Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Pure Desire

Book Review: Pure Desire by Ted Roberts

Porn. Sexual addiction. These are not topics most Christians (and churches) like to think or talk about but the truth is that there are literally millions of men and women who struggle with them. And if it's not you it's certainly people you know. Guilt, self loathing, and bondage. Pure Desire is written by a pastor who chose to do something about it. Chronicling his own battles with addiction and his courageous choice to share his story and offer hope to his congregation, Robert's book is both inspirational and hopeful.

The main focus of Pure Desire is in the healing and restoration of healthy, loving, and holy relationships with God, self, and others. Roberts argues that sexual addiction is a symptom of a deeper relational problem. Pure Desire presents a way out of this trap that really works if you want to follow it. No, its not easy or quick, because true healing in this area takes time, a lot of time actually. If you are struggling with sexual addiction, you need to do something different like reading this book (and others like it) and getting help. I like this book and although it tries to be a lot of things for a lot of different kind of readers, it succeeds in presenting a unique blend of theology and psychology in helping those with the noose of sexual addiction around their neck get free. I rate it 4 out of 5 ninja stars.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


This morning as I was driving to work and listening to the radio (CJOB - "The Superstation!") I listened with interest about how in California, the first week in March is going to be "No Cussing Week"). Apparently this reaction against foul language was started by a young lady who began a group on Facebook that now has many thousands of members. Interesting.

How do you feel about swearing? I have always been a "no swearer" - never had a problem or issue with it. It's honestly never been attractive to me. I have many vices but swearing isn't one of them. When I was in full time ministry I noticed that "swearing" was one of those things that many ministers, youth pastors, counselors and elders would sometimes let slip. It became that as I got closer to someone I would wait for it - it was almost a sign of how much they trusted me and liked me that they could swear in front of me! So many ministry people feel the constraints of their profession and enjoy the freedom to occasionally let loose an f-bomb or the like to express their frustration or hurt.

Although I don't like it, I don't judge people for it and certainly in my office I hear lots of foul language. When I was young I was very sensitive to it, but now due to my profession I am mostly desensitized. It doesn't matter if a person is Christian or non, most people at some point will go there. So is it really a big deal? And what constitutes cussing to you? I'm amused by my friends and family members who giggle or laugh when others swear, it's like a guilty little pleasure. Perhaps a small act of rebellion? I guess for myself every week is no cussing week. How about for you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Medals and Happiness

Tonight Canada won two medals in Women's Bobsled, silver and gold. I can't imagine how exciting it must be win a medal in front of the world. Which makes one wonder; is an Olympian happier if they win Silver as opposed to Bronze? Well it turns out someone else was asking this question and apparently Bronze medal winning Olympians are actually the happier (on average) then silver medalists!

US academics at Cornell discovered the surprising truth while doing research during the '92 Olympics. It goes to show how important our desires and expectations are when it comes to winning. And how weak our human nature is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Your Past Is Not Your Destiny

Have you heard this story before?

Two men were interviewed on television. They were twin brothers. One was very successful in every area of life – he was a great family man, successful entrepreneur, avid sportsman, and generous philanthropist. The other was a convicted felon, a wife beater, and a drug addict. When the TV host interviewed this brother, who was homeless and bitter, he was asked why his life was such a disaster. He replied, “Well, what do your expect? My parents were alcoholics, my mother was a prostitute, my father ended up in jail. We were poor and regularly beaten as children. That’s what caused my present situation.”

Then they interviewed the successful brother. They asked him what he attributed his success to. He replied, “Well, what do your expect? My parents were alcoholics, my mother was a prostitute, my father ended up in jail. We were poor and regularly beaten as children. I decided to create a better life for myself and my family.” One brother used the past as an excuse for his bad choices, the other used the identical situation to motivate him to be successful.

Some people come from terrible backgrounds. I know it because I have heard enough stories in my office that would truly break your heart. Yet as bad some people's past is, it does not define one's destiny. Everyone must deal with their past at some point and certainly it does affect one's future. Certain challenges accompany a past filled with pain, abuse, betrayal, or heartbreaking mistakes. But it does not define where one ends up. By facing one's past, processing the hurts, and choosing to move forward in faith one can change one's stars. You can't change the past, but the future is up to you. . .

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bloom Box

Bloom Energy is working on fuel cells, the kind that might end up in your home. Think it will work? Check out this 60 minutes feature on this up and coming technology:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Speaking In A Foreign Land

Today I'm speaking at Maranantha Evangelical Free Church here in Winnipeg. I have never been to this church in my life and only yesterday found out where it is located. Why am I speaking there? Because I went to Bible College with the pastor and made the mistake of innocently sharing his Bible College nickname with someone from his board. OK, maybe it wasn't totally innocent. Needless to say I owed him one! Going into a church "cold," where you have no idea what they are like, how many of them there are, what their culture and personality is like, etc. is always exciting and scary at the same time. Dave (the pastor) refused to give me any information - undoubtedly to make it more difficult for me. Strangely I haven't felt any nervousness about speaking until this morning. So if you are checking your blogs in the morning and you are the praying type, please feel free to pray for me. The service starts at 11:00pm . . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: The Art Of War

Book Review: The Art Of War by Sun Tzu

I have longed to read this book for several years and when I got an app for my iPod Touch called "Classics" I suddenly had it in electronic form (for free). It was really quite a fascinating read. Short and sweet it is the guide to war but more then that is a general treatise on how to beat your opponents. This ancient guide to strategy is timeless and would be a worthy read for anyone in a competitive environment: sports, business, sales, love, etc. A few quotes I liked:

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
- Sun Tzu

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."
- Sun Tzu

"If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected."
- Sun Tzu

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.
Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"
- Sun Tzu

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."
-Sun Tzu

"Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard."
- Sun Tzu

This book is old (6th Century BC) and has lots to teach. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Day After . . .

Well, it's the day after, how was your V-Day? Mine was pretty good. Our house is the den of sickness right now so we were happy to just have a brief reprieve from vomiting (that came back today) but Jobina and I spent some nice time just hanging out together. I have blogged in the past about the unique ways that we react to Valentine's Day, but hopefully you observed the day in one way or another. Maybe a date, a card, flowers, some kind words, or some time spent together. I will assume that if you are married that you probably did something.

Aside from the pressure, commercialization, and general madness that is Valentine's day, I really like the idea of either a special occasion or a reminder to woo that special someone. What is natural in the beginning of a relationship gets tougher as person moves out of the "in-love" stage that is the hallmark of all romantic relationships. This "in-love" experience has been studied and is a chemical/emotional high that accompanies all romantic beginnings. It is the true manifestation of eros love - a love that desires and is captivated by the beauty of another. Studies show that is accompanied by obsessive thinking. Because the person is always on your mind, romantic acts are as natural as breathing. It's a great stage, but it doesn't last forever - research pegs it lasting to a max of about 2 years (slightly more if the romance is a secret -as in an affair).

The thing about eros love (erotic love?) is that is is very centered on . . . oneself. "I love you . . . because of what I get from you." We never say this of course, and we may protest it, but it's true. I'm starting to realize that while this love is not necessarily inferior, it is certainly not it's highest form. It is merely a beginning . . . hot, passionate, and exciting, but only a beginning. Feeling in love is not the same as being loving.

Which brings me to my thought today: What would it be like if we pretended that everyday was Valentine's Day? What if we made a choice to love our spouses in extraordinary ways, every day? One of the Greek's words for love is agape, which is a sacrificial kind of love that is very different from eros. Instead of focusing on what we get out of the other person, it focuses on loving the other person. It says that love is patient, kind, not envying, not boasting, never proud. It is not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered. Amazingly, this kind of love keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Pretty radical stuff.

In 1 Corinthians 13 (the passage I've been contemplating lately and where the above description comes from) it says that nothing matters if it isn't done with this kind of love. I am still trying to wrap my head around it but for me it is deeply humbling because I don't know if I have ever lived even remotely like this. My friend Andrew challenged me to speak on this passage at my youth speak in Teulon and now I'm finding this old, familiar passage is overwhelming me. All of this is simply to say that for Christ-followers, every day is Valentine's Day, a day to show our spouse that they are loved, not because of what they will do for us, but because this kind of love is the only way to live a life worthwhile. It doesn't mean that we can't still enjoy eros (after all, it is a wonderful gift from God), but lavishing agape love on our mate is the greatest thing we can do on this Earth, for God and for each other. I only wish I had realized it earlier.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Teulon Youth Speak

Tonight I did a little Valentine's speak at a youth group's Valentine's banquet. It was the first time doing any sort of youth teaching time in several years and I was actually quite nervous, especially since they were grades 6-12 and most of them were unchurched. Definitely not an easy group to prepare for! Crafting the speak was incredibly difficult on me and I wasn't at all impressed by the end product. Not only that but Jobina couldn't come with me so I went to Tuelon all alone. My speak was mediocre but I had a lot of fun just hanging out with the students (and with one of my former students who helped lead the group). I found myself disarmed by these kids and very much wanting to hang out and minister to them. I actually starting thinking about how I miss doing youth ministry - something I haven't felt in a while. Although I was stressing out about this particular engagement I believe that God really wanted me to do it and I felt his blessing on my heart. It's funny, it was way more stressful preparing and anticipating speaking to a group of 25 students then it is to speak to a church of 150. Yet I am so glad I went through with it. I honestly consider myself to be a mediocre at best speaker but I still get invitations to speak every now and then. I think maybe it's God keeping me on my toes by getting me out of my comfort zone.

As a former youth pastor it is always a special blessing to see one's past students now leading and involved in ministry of their own. It's seeing the fruit of your labour bearing fruit of it's own and it's quite exciting. I pray for my old students that they will get to have the same blessing. Very cool!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Assuming Other's Motives

The following is a tale told by Joe Wagner in Reader's Digest:

I was attending a junior stock show when a grand-champion lamb, owned by a little girl, was being auctioned. As the bids reached five dollars per pound, the little girl, standing beside the lamb in the arena, began to cry. At ten dollars, the tears were streaming down her face and she clasped her arms tightly around the lamb's neck. The higher the bids rose, the more she cried. Finally, a local businessman bought the lamb for more than $1000, but then announced that he was donating it to the little girl. The crowd applauded and cheered.

Months later, I was judging some statewide essays when I came across one from a girl who told about the time her grand-champion lamb had been auctioned. "The prices began to get so high during the bidding," she wrote, "that I started to cry from happiness." She continued with: "The man who bought the lamb for so much more than I ever dreamed I would get returned the lamb to me, and when I got home, Daddy barbecued the lamb--and it was really delicious."

I love that story. To me it illustrates how futile and prone to error it is to assume anyone's motives, to think we know why they acted a certain way. Assuming others motives is wrong for several reasons:

-Assuming other's motives and trying to call them on it is like telling lies. Why? Because unless you can read minds you actually only have guesses at what someone is/was thinking. Because of this you will always be wrong; either totally, mostly, or at least a little wrong every time you think you know someone's motives. But you will never be completely right.
-Most people will react badly to anyone assuming they know why they did what they did. At best they will become defensive or indignant and at worst they will become openly hostile. Want to make a conflict worse? Assume someone's motives! The sparks will fly.

You can never offer feedback on someone's motives (always unknown), only on their actions (visible and verifiable). I have helplessly watched many individuals, ministry teams, couples, and family members ignore this principle and suffer for their folly. Do you do this, do you try to assume other's motives and then call them on it? If you do, there is no gentle way to say it: you aren't acting in a helpful way. The first rule of sharing feedback with others is never to assume motives, only address people's specific behaviors. Once you, your marriage, or your ministry team makes this a rule you will be amazed at how much more quickly you can work through conflict. Try it, it works!

Perseverance, Thy Name is Terry

If you are tired, if you are discouraged, you might want to take a few minutes and watch this video:

Truly, he was one of the greatest Canadians who ever lived. One person can make a difference.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen & David Relin

My sister got this book for me for Christmas and I wasn't sure I'd like it . . . but I did. Greg Mortensen was a nurse and part time mountain climber who got terribly lost on his descent on the mountain of K2. He ended up in a tiny village that he had never heard of. While there he was so impacted by the people, their way of life, and their poverty that he vowed to return. When he did he noticed that the children's "school" was simply a spot outside where they did math problems by scratching in the dirt. Their teacher only came a few days a week as he was shared with another village. Right there and then Greg felt moved to act. He vowed to return and build them a school. What follows is an unbelievably inspiring story about how one man can make a difference - a real difference in people's lives. After reading this book I noticed my own thoughts and feelings about helping people had changed - I had more of a vision in my mind on how the whole idea of "benevolence" could look. Really enjoyed this book - I'd give it 4 ninja stars out of 5.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Risky Business

Yesterday my son and I opened up one of my Christmas presents, the "new" version of the classic boardgame Risk. I consider myself to be somewhat of a Risk aficionado. Why? Because I have literally played hundreds and hundreds of games. I have played several computer versions, the "old old" version with the pink soldiers, the Risk 2210 version (ah, the nuclear commander rocks), and many others. My favorite is the 40th anniversary version that Jobina got me as a present one year - with it's little steel soldiers and felt pouches for all the colors it has a really nice "feel" to it.

Risk is part of my personal story. I bought my first mac computer based on the fact that there was a really nice computer version of Risk in the store. I procrastinated on scores of papers by playing several games of Risk a day on the computer whilst in college. When I got married, Jobina's Mom's family played super long (and very socially intense) games of Risk at their Christmas family gathering, going so far as to have a "Risk Champion" trophy as reward for the yearly big Christmas game. As a youth pastor I enjoyed playing many games with my students. To me Risk is not just a game, it a passion that I connect with the important people in my life.

So it was a special and tender moment to introduce the reinvented new version of the game ( to my 7 year old son. Amazingly, though it is for kids 12 and up he not only figured out how to play but ended up beating me (I was kind of going a bit easy on him when all of sudden he did a crazy kamikaze move and surprised both of us by being victorious). I really, really like the new version. It is much shorter so you can easily finish a game in 45 minutes to an hour. Not only is it faster, but the new rules meld easily with the old ones making it a quick transition from old to new. Because of the importance of objectives in this version you have to be much more on your toes, considering more variables and ways that not only can you win but how your opponents might. The game board and pieces themself have kind of a Cold War look and feel to them which I wasn't sure of at first but soon grew to like. Most importantly, the potential psychological warfare that goes on between players remains intact in this version - one of my favorite parts of the game. It was a lot of fun and I really want to play again. You need at least 3 players with a maximum of 5.

Boardgames are great because unlike TV, movies, or the internet they require several people and invite more social interaction. Although somewhat retro, I think they are much more healthy form of entertainment and I'd like to play more of them.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter, For Real

Here in Winnipeg it finally looks like winter. I keep finding myself looking out our front window and perusing the beautiful scene before me. In front of our window is a big pine tree with fresh bunches of snow draped gracefully all over it. Across the way is the playground and after that a treed ridge in the background. Everything is covered in just the perfect amount of lovely white snow. It looks so striking it almost takes my breath away. I'm not the only one who thinks so - a man came to pick up something we were selling on Kijiji and kept telling Jobina how beautiful it was outside!

We had a very late snowfall here (well, a decent one) and so finally it truly looks like winter here. Our little home next to and across from greenspace now feels enchanting again and now I can't imagine moving into a larger home - even with a child on the way. The realtors are right: the most important thing is location, location, location and I am getting rather fond of ours.

A few days ago Riker came upstairs excitedly telling Jobina how he looked up (his bedroom is in the basement) and looked into the eyes of a bunny staring down at him. For a moment they just stared at each other. Riker got right up to the window before the rabbit hopped away. Very cool experience for him.

Perhaps it was being without my computer for a day or two but I feel a little more aware of the world around me - the land and the people in it. It feels good. We do well to connect with a place; to know it, to feel it as the gift from God it truly is. Do you have an emotional attachment to a special place? What makes it so special?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bad Blogger!

Well, it's been a few days since I've blogged. To be fair, I've been quite busy and then I had computer issues but hopefully I shall be blogging more often now.

It's been interesting.

A day or two ago our old iMac gave up the ghost (at least we think it has). It's our main home computer and the effect on Jobina was fascinating. It was like she went into a panic. No internet! At the same time I left my laptop power cord in Mennville on Tuesday and so until today we didn't have that either. Jobina was crawling the walls! And honestly so was I at first. But after a while I almost started to relish it. After reading Last Child In The Woods I realized how much indirect experience I have (internet, TV, etc) and how little direct I had. I felt like through this little unplanned fast from the internet I was able to get some much needed perspective.

We can live without the internet. Seriously. Anyway, not sure where this is all going but it felt somewhat providential. Do you ever think about your time on the computer (facebook, blogging, surfing) and wonder it is too much? Or wonder what your missing? I told Jobina it would be a cool experiment to go a whole year without any media: TV, movies, internet. I wonder how it would change your life? How would it change you socially, physically, spiritually? I don't think it is necessary for someone to give up all media, but too many of us (OK, I'm really just talking about myself) do not keep it in balance. Like too much sweets, salts, or deep fried foods, we know what we ought to do but lack the willpower to keep it in moderation. . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Book Review: The Sex Starved Marriage

Book Review: The Sex Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis

I wish I could have taken a picture of people's faces when they see me reading this book! Ah, good memories. Anyway, as a counselor I'm always looking for resources to help my clients and I must say this is one that I think I'll be recommending alot. Michele Weiner Davis is a solution focused therapist and this book reflects her theoretical orientation - that is to say it is concise, practical, and full of solutions to a position that probably most couples will find themselves in at some point in their relationship. The book helps couples deal with the "desire gap" the difference in libido that most couples experience. Instead of getting depressed with your spouse, the author focuses on things that you can do to change things - in yourself and your spouse. I found the book very practical yet also very compassionate and understanding of what it is like from the higher sex drive partner and the lower one. There is a general introduction to the topic and then two large sections; the first on helpful ways for a low sex partner to improve the marriage and the second on ways the higher sex partner to improve the marriage. And by improve the marriage I mean have better, more satisfying sex, that both people enjoy.

The book is about sex but of course is about much more - the emotional needs that make up true intimacy. In some ways this is a book about love and marriage, with sex as the subtheme. I'd recommend it to any couple wanting to discover and grow in this important area. Sex books often tend to be either too scientific (boring), too theological (passionless), or too raunchy (graphic). This book seems to hit the sweet spot (no pun intended) in that it presents sex as a beautiful, hot, exciting, fun, and emotionally necessary part of marriage. It is visionary and down to earth at the same time. If you are daring enough (go ahead, I dare you) reading it together might be a great use of your married time. I give it 4.7 ninja stars out of 5.