Fatherhood ~ Lessons from the Pitch

I’ve only been a dad for 8 and a half years. To be honest I feel a little silly writing about being a dad. Though I have some experience I wouldn’t consider it enough to be an expert. I suspect I will never be an expert but that is the beauty of any relationship we are in. There are constant ebbs and flows that gives us a lifetime of opportunities to learn and grow and our success is found in the ability to do so.

Last winter I started the journey of coaching soccer. Much like becoming a dad I had no idea what to expect. Coaching has brought with it anxiety, frustration, exhaustion and some amazing laughs and smiles. Now in my second season we are undefeated and the boys are learning, growing and having fun.

I constantly feeling like I’m faking it as a coach and a parent, I deal with stuff as it comes but never really have a full out strategic plan. Knowing what I want to happen isn’t the problem, knowing how to make it happen is. It seems Fatherhood is very similar to being a coach. I want to coach my boys to become joyful, hardworking, giving and kind young men. Here are 3 leadership traits I’ve learnt as a soccer coach that transcend to fatherhood that I think will help me achieve my goals as a father:

1)      Encourage – Colossians 3:21 reminds us to not to cause discouragement in our kids. Kids are kids. They are learning everything you think is normal and easy. Just like when I was learning to drive, though reversing was second nature to my father, it was impossible for me to avoid that truck in the parking lot. Our kids might not kick, pass, run or pay attention as good as they will one day but harping on their inability will not get them where they can be. Become focused and diligent in finding situations to encourage them. Sometimes a simple “good job” or “great effort” squashes the insecurity that has been making it tough for them to excel. Encouragement can be the switch that turns on the realization that they can do it.

2)      Teach – Proverbs 4:1 reminds us that it’s in teaching that our children learn and understand. Besides any mental/developmental challenges children start off as clean slates. Whatever paint colors you give them is what will show up on their life’s canvas. If you don’t take the time to teach a child how to throw in the ball from the sidelines there is a good chance that they won’t know how to. The key to teaching is time. Invest time into your kids and teach. Answer their questions, let them watch you and learn. Teach your children how to be joyful, hardworking and kind. If you don’t chances are good no one will.

3)      Love – Above all LOVE YOUR KIDS. There are going to be moments where you want to bench, and sometimes you will need to. I am confident however that if you love your kids they will learn from it. 1 Corinthians shows us what love looks like. Love is patient and kind; It’s not envious or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. No matter the stress, frustration level or even anger we need to LOVE our kids. Before you react, love. It’s the hardest thing to do but the most important.

Without love we will find that it is impossible to encourage or teach our children, and rightly so. It’s in the vulnerability of love that we find safety. And it’s in that safety that we humble ourselves to learn and grow. Kids are the same. Encourage them, teach them , love them and you will find success as a coach, leader and most importantly Father. Happy Father’s Day!

Love and Marriage go together like a Horse and Carriage ~ Husbanding 101


There are many things I’m terrible at. 13 years ago I added another thing to this sad list; Being a Husband. Sure on the outside looking in being with my best friend and wife for over 16 years (including dating) seems like success, but don’t let the numbers fool you. I am selfish, lazy and a terrible communicator and to be frank it is a miracle from God that my house key still works when I come home from work. However, even in my spousal deficiency I have learnt a few things that make marriages happy.

I was raised in a “traditional” Christian home. My father worked hard at providing for us and my mother worked hard at making everything function well (My mother worked part time once we were old enough to not need mom home all the time). I knew the cliché bible verses about the husband being the head of the house and understood it’s a wife’s job to do whatever the “boss” leads the family to do. Thanks to the great example of my parents and some good teaching I now realize there’s a lot more to those verses then a blueprint for dictatorship.

Marriages all have their ebbs and flows. We all have seasons. Some seasons are hot and fun like a summer long weekend. Some are cold, desolate, dark and lonely like a prairie winter. My wife and I had a winter experience when our second child was born. Before we knew it my wife and I had spent zero time together. Her goal was to keep our youngest alive and growing, and mine was to keep our oldest alive and loved. Two months in my wife and looked at each other and realized without knowing it we had transitioned from Husband and Wife to roommates. We had our roles and were doing them fine but the foundation of our family was being ignored.

I see this happen a lot within my circle. Life brings carrier changes, babies are born and a new stage of life brings with it things we weren’t prepared for. By focusing more on our new stage then our foundation, without knowing it, we find ourselves in winter. The best case scenario has both of you in winter at the same time. The worst case, your wife is freezing alone while you ignorantly keep doing what you’re doing…Usually in this case we think we are helping, when in reality we’ve been using our snow blower to clear the snow in our life not noticing that we’ve buried our wife in our piles of “help”.

My wife is the greatest person I have ever met. She is patient, kind, loving and intelligent. She is all these things even when I don’t display those same traits. She with

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My Happy little family

out realizing it has led our household to the success and love we have today. I am grateful for our partnership and her leadership. She exemplified this leadership before we had children. We were driving one day when she said to me matter-of-factly that our children were always going to be second to our marriage. She explained to me that we started this together, and we when it’s all over and the kids move out we will be stuck with just us. She taught me that our job as parents is to show our boys what love is. She taught me that if we show our boys the importance of keeping the foundation of what we’ve built our family on strong, they will be able to do the same when it’s their turn. Ever since then my wife and I have made conscious decisions to get away and make time for just us. Sure our boys take a lot of time, as they should. They are busy and need attention but the only way we can give them the love and attention they need is if we have been giving each other the love and attention we need.

So husband’s stop “helping” and start listening.  Love your wife and pay attention to her. You want to be a great leader in your home? Serve. Stop jumping at every “fix it” opportunity with your new baby, job or “priority” and start jumping to serve your wife. Your wife was given the ability to have a baby, I’m confident she has been given the ability to do much more then you can (and no you don’t know better). Your job is to help her, respect her, serve her and love her. If your instinct is anything other than “what does my wife need/want?” I’m afraid you might be making a pile of snow burying your wife inside it without even knowing.

Want your family to be happy? Love, respect  and serve your wife. Stop “fixing” and start listening. Allow no priority to be placed in front of your wife, not even your children. As my dad told me once, “very few things are an emergency”. Even if the baby is crying, or the boss is calling. You will find that when your time has come, serving your wife was the best thing any Father can do for their family. It’s the best example your family could have.

What’s Missing? Searching for Influence

I’ve heard the term Leadership described in many ways. Wikipedia simply describes Leadership as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” It seems logical then to lead well, leaders must be men and women of influence. So how do we become people of influence. I believe there is one key characteristic that people of influence share. The opposite is also true, people struggling to have influence usually share a common characteristic. Michael McKinney said it best when he said, “Our ego hinders our ability to influence more than anything else under our control.” If you want to be a leader of influence and inspiration, you must be a person of genuine humility.  

One of my first leadership lessons came from my father. He has been in executive positions with a National Company, an owner of a successful business and a pastor of several successful churches. He has been in a leadership role my entire life and I have been fortunate enough to watch and learn. I remember sitting in his office after just graduated from College. I don’t recall the discussion rather than a bit of advice he gave me. He said, “Leadership is like a mirror. When you have success you point your mirror at your team and everyone around you. Success is a reflection of your team. When things fail, you turn the mirror to yourself . Failure is a reflection of your leadership.” That has stuck with me ever since.

Now more than ever terms like “soft skills” are used to describe great leadership attributes. Emotional Intelligence is the catch phrase of day. Influence is so important that consultants and authors alike are trying to figure out what makes great leaders great, and it usually always comes down to humility. Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence at their roots are humility driven. In order to understand the emotions and perceptions of others a person needs to humble themselves enough to understand them. Humility in today’s world is like a light in a dark room , or a beckon on the horizon. It stands out and attracts others. A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity. We humans are frail creatures; we have our faults. Recognizing what we do well, as well as what we do not do so well, is vital to self-awareness and paramount to humility. Struggling to gain influence? John Baldoni suggests the following ways to demonstrate humility in the workplace.

Temper authority. Power comes with rank but you don’t have to pull it to make it work for you. You can encourage others to make decisions by delegating authority and responsibility. Encourage your people to write their own performance objectives and set team goals. Allow them to make decisions. Your authority comes in the form of imposing order and discipline.

Look to promote others. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman note in their seminal text, First, Break All the Rules, that a characteristic of successful managers is their ability to promote others, sometimes to positions higher than their own. Such managers are talent groomers, they are ones upon whose leadership success of the enterprise rests.

Acknowledge what others do. Few have said it better than legendary Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. “If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.” Practice that attitude always, especially when things are not going well, and your team will rally together because they want you to succeed. In short, humility breeds humility.

Citing a passage from Ernie Pyle who had been killed in action in the Pacific months before in anticipation of victory. “We won this war because our men are brave and because of many things — because of Russia, England and China and the passage of time and the gift of nature’s material. We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other peoples… I hope that we are more grateful than we are proud.” Great leaders find influence with humility.

James 4:6

Two Tickets to Paradise ~ Christianity, Capitalism and Spoiled Brats

I’m growing more and more disenfranchised with North American Christianity (the only Christianity I know). I don’t think Facebook helps me. It seems there is nothing someone doesn’t have an opinion on. And it seems everyone is right. I grow tired and frustrated because although learning and challenging your faith is good for your own development, I think for the most part we are missing the boat. This all started with a conversation on my Facebook wall where someone said that only Christians can display the fruit of the Spirit. Their argument was based on the idea that you can’t display a fruit of the Spirit if you support a sinful lifestyle and worship false idols?  I responded like this:

“I have yet to meet a Christian that doesn’t support sinful lifestyles or worship false gods. I do these all of the time. From speeding willingly to lying, from thinking I’m better than others (smarter, cooler, I’m right they are wrong) to worse without knowing. I suspect even my lifestyle is sinful because I spend my money on holidays and a nice house rather the poor and widowed.”

Does Theology matter? Don’t freak out teachers and professors. Obviously having correct theology is a great starting point but it seems like Christians are becoming obese with Theology. We love talking theology; arguing about theology and being right, but is that the point? We’ve become book smart, ready for any debate but in the practicing/living out of our faith we are more times than not useless.

Drive to any typical North American church and in the parking lot you will most likely find nice new vehicles. Go in and you’ll see nice suits, expensive jeans, hair that has been styled with most likely an expensive hair product line. These signs are almost used a sign or metric of how successful your church is. It’s a point of pride for some. I wonder how God feels about this.. In Matthew 25 we see the iconic verse that says whatever we do to the least of these we do to God. I wonder how poor, broken and needy people feel when nice cars drive by without noticing them only to park as close as they can to the entrance of their church.

Mark is a scary book, or at least it should be to North American Christians. In Chapter 12 we find the story of a lady giving virtually nothing to Jesus as an offering. In comparison the rich people threw in large amounts yet Jesus wasn’t impressed. In fact he said they gave out of wealth, big deal. She put in everything she had. A few chapter’s earlier we find the story of the rich young man asking how he can get to Heaven…Why does this verse not scare us as much as it should? If you read the story it’s actually remarkable. A rich young ruler comes to God very humbly. It says he bows and eagerly runs up to Jesus. This isn’t a pompous person trying to show God how important he is. This is a guy genuinely curious as to what it takes to get to Heaven. What does Jesus say? Sell everything you have, help the poor and your treasure will be Heaven.

“But I tithe 1o percent and even give on top of that.” Well how much do we spend on ourselves? Look I’m not coming down on anyone that has money. I’m a capitalist, and have been fortunate enough to earn a comfortable living. This is exactly what scares me. My wife and I give a lot, but we spend a lot on ourselves. Whether it be a house that is bigger than we need (practically every house in North America), buying bigger, nicer vehicles than we need, our clothes, our holidays, the list can seriously keep going, most of us definitely don’t give as much as we could because it affects our lifestyle.

So I wonder if our Theology even matters if we’re missing a key point to our faith. It’s not about our comfort. When Jesus said take up your cross and follow me to the rich man the cross was not a gold plated piece of art for his mantle. The cross implies that this is a faith of self-sacrifice.

Sure we can argue about pacifism, celebrating Halloween, or who the Anti-Christ is but I’m sure none of this will even matter when we are before God. What’s even more scary is I’m sure when I say that we gave to our church and other ministries God might have the same response that he did in Mark. You gave out of wealth…The problem I’m really having with my own lived out version of Christianity is I could realistically give more by spending less. I could take holidays at my house instead of spending thousands to travel.

So what really matters?  Is it your church size? Your sound equipment? Your light show? How cool/nice your clothes are? How much you make? Being comfortable? Having nice things? Knowing exactly what God thinks on any hot issue topic?

I’m worried that I look like an annoying brat to God. Arguing fruitless theological ideas and judging sins and others while in the comfort of my leather chair in front of (whatever luxury you have). Have you ever tried to take something from a spoiled kid? I bet you’re reading this going “well I don’t have to give more”, or “my lifestyle is fine”… Perhaps our Christian culture has made us all spoiled brats. We’ve put capitalism before Christianity. There really is nothing worse than privilege without responsibility.  

Do you want to get to Heaven? Be smart. Tithe. Volunteer. Be a good person. Have nice things. Take great holidays because you deserve a break.  I wish. If you want to go to Heaven sell everything you have, give to the poor, take up your cross and follow Christ. Hard isn’t it.

7 DIFFERENCES Pope Francis Has Made in One Appearance!

    1. Changed the Golden Throne by a wooden chair…Something more appropriate for the disciple of a carpenter.

2. Did NOT want the Gold-Embroidered Red Stole, Heir of the Roman Empire …,NOR the Red Chasuble.

3. Uses Same Old Black Shoes, not the classic red.

4. Uses a Metal Cross, NOT one of rubies and diamonds.

5. His Papal Ring is Silver, NOT GOLD.

6. Uses the Same Black Pants Under the Cassock, to Remember That He Is a Another Priest.

7. Removed the Red Carpet.

He is not interested in fame & applause.

Pearl Jam Lightning Bolt Review – Song by Song, A life long fans Perspective

Ok, so like the last time I feel I need to start this review by admitting Pearl Jam is my favourite band. That might not even adequately describe how I feel about them. They’ve been a part of my life for over 20 years. They’ve helped shape my opinions and taste in music and when the day Pearl Jam ends is the day I will feel like I lost a family member. Crazy I know, but no less true. I admit that I was even once a Pearl Jam fan that thought they could do know wrong. Though my love for them has not diminished, it has matured from “never see a fault” love to loving them despite their imperfection. 

Unlike my review of Backspacer I have had the privilege of hearing this album. With the online streaming a week before launch PJ gave many of us the opportunity to listen to it early. Though some other fancluber’s received their pre-order early, living up in the boonies sometimes has its drawbacks, and fanclub merchandise shipments seem to take forever up here (Saskatoon).  Anyway, I’ve heard the album and a few singles on the radio. At first I will admit I hated the production. It was so clean.. I miss the raw passion that was translated in their former recorded style.  I figured with age they would slowly lose the raw aggression and passion they once had and could feel on the records. Eddie’s voice will no longer crack as his vocal chords gain some more nodules (in Blood). Don’t get me wrong, their passion hasn’t disappeared, it’s just morphed from unadulterated angst into experience and wisdom. They aren’t young men anymore trying to prove a point. They are men, changed by the love they feel for and receive from others. The sound on this new album is mature. I love that they are working with Brendan O’Brien again (though it’s nothing like their past work with him) and really loved how the album was put together as a package. So with that said, here my song by song review. 

Getaway:

I’m not sure I’m a fan of Cameron’s snare… Anyway, I like the tempo of the groove. Ament gives a great tone to this song. His bass run in the verse is really cool with Ed’s melody.  The prechorus is decent, and the chorus actually feels like a typical Pearl Jam the bridge. It builds nice and really climaxes like a chorus should. The Guitar solo fits the song and the come back to the chorus is sweet. It’s a nice touch to change up the bass line and guitar parts slightly on the repeat (like the last verse in In My Tree). The screaming guitar tone at the end fits the aggression of the song well. 

Mind Your Manners:

The production is so clean. The tone of the guitars is so crisp and crunchy. Anyway, the opening riff sounds like a System of the Down kind of thing, then the verse melody is like a punk rock thing which takes it directly into the chorus that is a nice punk rock riff and melody. Then the bridge changes to a pop rock melody that some how doesn’t feel soft. I could probably do without the full cut out on this track.. Maybe keep it for the live show but it feels strange. Just my taste but honestly the song is put together like a masterpiece… Not much negative to say.

My Father’s Son:

Great transition from MYM… And the bass line is unreal! Eddie’s melody is instantly interesting…And the story he tells lyrically are always brilliant. I love the space the guitars give the verses. It’s really Ament’s song, and the bass line really works well with Eddie’s melody.. Every time I hear the verse I love it. The breakdown bridge is brilliant. What a conflict with the aggressive bass line earlier. Great lead into last verse as well. Eddie’s so great in this song. His voice’s tone is awesome, actually reminiscent of Evolution. Great rock song! 

Sirens: 

Inspired by Pink Floyd and you hear it. Honestly the first time I heard this song I thought it was soulless.. It just felt blah.  A couple listens in though I got it. It just all of the sudden became a beautiful rock ballad. Eddie’s lyrics are passionate and incredible. I wish I thought of some of the things he says in it, or at least my wife probably does. He is a brilliant poet. McCready really has improved in his writing with experience.  The prechorus is shots at first seemed lame but once you get the whole picture it’s a great build to Eddie going up a bit in his melody. Eddie’s melody is beautiful and then McCready’s solo is almost haunting.. Mike nails its for sure. Starts like a rock solo, then a bit Pink Floydy, then it ends like a Bon Jovi solo. Ha. Anyway, it fits it well. All in all a beautiful soul filled song that I’ll always turn up when it comes on the radio. 

Lightning Bolt: 

This song instantly reminds me of Unthought Known. I heard this in Wrigley Field and I thought it didn’t really translate well live. But fast songs are hard to get for the first time live, let alone in a huge venue. McCready sounds great in it and Stone’s chords in the background are crazy, Stone always adds cool chords. The piano’s melody is alright…I’m just not sure I’m crazy about the chorus. It even breaks down like Unthought Known eventually. I like the verse melody a lot and think that would be great live.. I’m just not sure I bite on the chorus. I like the instrumental at the end. Some really nice chords with some really dirty ones. And Matt’s tom work sounds cool in it. The piano is great as well in the instrumental. The end of the song and the verse are really all that song needs. The end really shows the bands talent and live feel. They should have done a chorusless version of this like Hero’s (Bowie). 

Infallible: 

Interesting intro. I like the walkdown riff right before Ed comes in with the melody, which I must say I like. And I like Stone’s guitar part in the verse, and the bass line is simple but perfect. The chorus sneaks up on you in this one, and I really like that. I’m expecting a brilliant bridge.. But when the chorus keeps going a little longer than I thought it would I it builds nicely. I really like the verse instrumentation. I can picture boom bobbing his head to this on stage. The second time you hear the prechorus it builds it more than the first time to me, or maybe I was just so interested in the verse the first time I didn’t notice, either way a great sign. The chorus builds really well, and turns into something really energetic. The instrumental bridge and guitar solo is cool, interesting and fits perfectly. It’s a nice transition with vocal parts in the back that builds back nicely into the chorus. I’m surprised I like this song this much…3 guitars gives some cool sounds and space for a nice outro. 

Pendulum: 

They’ve been opening with this on this tour.. Not sure what’s happening with Eddie’s melody and the guitar part…Whoa, the drums don’t help me figure out what’s happening either when they come in. I’m probably being a bit harsh. It does make sense I guess. The drums production sounds really reverby. Not sure I like this as an opener for a show. It almost sounds like it’s meant to be on a soundtrack, like it’s not a full song or something. Mike’s guitar solo sounds like it’s narrating a gun fit draw in the old west. The whole song feels like it’s building, but nothing really happens. I can appreciate all the parts as a musician, not sure I like them. I do like the bass in the song, but seriously this as an opener?? I hope I come back to this song and love it one day but right now I’m just not really interested, it’s like a background song. Matt Cameron is doing some cool stuff, but seriously don’t open with this please. (P.S. I listened to it again because I felt like it was the hole in the album…I think I like it now but this song is still the worst thing on the album. I’ll be curious to see how it translates live) 

Swallowed Whole:

The beginning of the verse isn’t that interesting in terms of Ed’s melody but the tail end of it is cool when he does a little vocal run repeating the last word. The guitar part in the beginning sounds like a 70’s rock song. The chorus is barely one. You don’t even know you’re listening to the chorus until it ends. Ok, well I like the verses a lot when Eddie brings it up a notch after the first “chorus”. Which now makes me appreciate the first bit more. The chorus is strange though, it actually dies down from the verse. The Bridge is cool. It starts with a break down and slowly builds like the whole songs seems to do. I like the feel of the bridge, kind of poppy, then into a great instrumental. The solo is great, and I’m wondering is the verse the chorus?? I like it a lot and they go into the verse from the bridge, but then nope, they go back into the chorus.. Interesting ending. 

Let the Records Play: 

Reminds me instantly of Nobody’s Fault but Mine by Zeppelin. Then it turns into a really dirty blues rock. I like Ed’s melody against the blues riff’s, and I like how he copies the guitar before the chorus. And the chorus turns into a pop rock song that would fit in the 60’s almost, or in the musical Grease. I actually really like it. This song as a full package is brilliant. The Bridge is so good. Instantly you dig it. I love the vocal and instruments walk down and shots. Ed’s melody is awesome in it as well. Then out of nowhere a crazy guitar part and solo. I’m looking forward to hearing this live! I love the cut out in this one and instrumental outro.

Sleeping By Myself:

So I love Ed’s ukulele album so to see this on here is interesting. I like this version/interpretation. An acoustic guitar around a fire type of song, kind of country actually.  The lyrics are really great and well put together. Ed’s a poet always. His own harmonies are impressive and sound awesome. And the added instrumental is a cool addition. Considering it’s hard enough to write a song once, it’s cool to see he did it twice and I like this version. Even though it’s simple, it really shows the bands diversity. 

Yellow Moon:

The beginning you can just feel a story coming on.. With Eddie’s humming start to the verse. I like the B3 organ in the back. The Chorus is really out of nowhere but I love it. The time signature is interesting.. It feel likes it switches every bar between 6/8 and 5/8 in the verse, but 6/8 for the rest of the song. 6/8 usually allows for cool melodies.. The back and fourth time signatures in the verse sounds cool though. The bridge doesn’t really stand out as a massive builder but it builds into the chorus well. Then Mike ends up doing a solo to two different time signatures. It’s cool to see them try out different things like that. That’s definitely one thing (of the many) Matt Cameron has brought to the table.

Future Days:

I saw this one in Wrigley as well. Brandon O’Brien plays the piano part at the beginning. His walk down piano chords, similar in feel to the Cheers piano song part is nice and it drops off to just Eddie and his acoustic. Eddie’s lyrics are beautiful. His love songs are some of the best out there. The organ sound and shimmer in the chorus is really cool too. Violin in the intro to the second verse is a nice touch. Ed’s melody is really nice and warm. It’s nice how he plays off his melody with his acoustic melody. The bridge comes in again with a strong piano part and builds substantially even in its minimalism. One thing about Pearl Jam is the last song on each album has always been a great ending piece. It feels like it’s the last song. It’s a beautiful way to end the album.

 Overall Review:

Overall this album is really put together. Matt Cameron seems to play with an intention to be different from any past recordings. Stone’s guitar parts are subtle yet beautiful. His riffs always counter something else in the song and he has been brilliant since the beginning. Ament’s bass lines are aggressive when they need to be all the while holding the many different perspectives of each musician in the band together. To me Ament makes the album make sense. McCready really brings his A-game to this album. When I first heard the solo’s in Mind Your Manners I knew it was going to be a great album for him. He has some classic in the box solo’s but really branches out in this album. He’s guitar is a like a voice adding emotion to every track with its melody. And of course Ed.. They are all getting older but I love that emotion and energy displayed on Lightning Bolt. Eddie’s melodies are fantastic, almost “infallible”. His lyrics are poems and poetic stories. Eddie nails it on this album. Jeff brings all the music parts together, but Eddie is the keystone keeping the songs together. Lightning Bolt will be a classic album, much like No Code in my opinion. The albums starts and ends strong, the middle has some moments but I’m hoping they grow on me. This album is an easy 9 out of 10

Chasing things that don’t matter ~ How we can miss what we actually care about

One day we will all come to the same conclusion. For some of us it will be an easy step, for others difficult, and unfortunately for some the decision is forced by a terrible life circumstance; the conclusion that life is not all about us.

Today with a very heavy and torn heart I have resigned as a member of the Board of Directors for two different organizations. Luckily for me it was a conclusion I wasn’t forced in to making. It was a decision I made after speaking with my wife and a few trusted friends. I realized I wanted and needed to make a change. Let me clarify the “want to”. It’s not that I really wanted to not be involved, it was that I really want to be involved with my family.

Often life can grab us like a fast moving current. We get involved because we believe it’s the right thing to do, maybe because our ego won’t let us do otherwise, or maybe we are involved because we just like being wanted. Whatever the case, it can be easy to become swept away and soon in over our head’s.

Last night my wife told me that our oldest son’s soccer team was going to be cancelled because they couldn’t find a coach. It didn’t take much time for me to realize that I am giving valuable time to people that in a day, a week, a year or a decade will forget that I even existed. Maybe they don’t care that I do now. Very quickly the hypocrisy of my life glared me in the face. You see I believe in working hard (I’m going to have to work harder now that I’m not as present), I believe in doing a good job and believe in being involved in our community. However, I also believe that I am first a husband and father. You see life isn’t about me anymore. There is a time in your life that you can build your own ego, your own social status and your own brand. When my first son was born 7 years ago my life stopped being about me.

The truth is I will die and fade to dust. God willing my sons will continue on with their families, and their children will continue on and so the circle of life goes. Investing my time in the people that will be around much longer than I will seems to be the right focus. It’s a parent’s job (some of the many) to love, groom and raise our kids to be loving, committed and involved people. At this point it seems to reason that if I focus on myself I’m really only investing in the next 50 years. Putting energy into my family is an investment for generations to come.

What are you investing in? What are you chasing? Egos and insecurities might allow you to have nicer things, but the world doesn’t need nicer things. The world needs nicer people. My sons need to know that their dad love’s them. My wife needs to know I will do anything for her. My family needs to see an example of balance and love, and that they are a priority. They need my attention and I’m willing to make the changes to make that happen. It’s not easy. There is immediate payoff when you have an awesome title and can be seen at the who’s who of events. I’d rather wait for the long term payoffs, recognizing there will be plenty of short term payoffs and memories along the way (just not the kind that inflate my ego).

The book of Timothy in the Message says “But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble.” The more you get, the more you have to stress over and about. Freedom isn’t in a title or money, it’s in love. Love always wins and I’m looking forward to having a lot of freedom and time to spend with the ones I love most.

Insecurities and learning to live Carefree ~ God see’s us Differently

What are you insecure about?

I’m insecure about a million things depending on the day. Sometimes it’s my hair line. Other times I have a low body image. Other times it’s how much of a sinner I am compared to the saints around me. Honestly I am insecure about almost everything, from relationships to ability.

I have to watch myself with my boys. It’s so very easy to speak to them through my baggage covered lens and project the things I hate about myself onto them. I look at them and realize that unless I tell them they should not be happy they are exactly what they should be, happy. They aren’t concerned with their hairline, waistline or career path. I’m not sure if they can stay that way forever but I’m hoping that Danielle and I can nurture their happiness instead of planting insecurities and doubt in their lives.

I have to watch this with myself at church too. It’s easy to look at situations through our all-knowing lenses usually leaving hurt feelings and deflated passion in our wake. Stopping things that don’t fit into our picture of what a healthy Christian would do. Yelling at kids because they don’t realize that reverence is something you give to a building. Complaining about the service a volunteer is giving you.

If you’re anything like me the things that bother you the most are the things that you aren’t happy with deep inside yourself. We aren’t happy so why should they be?

Don’t pass on your fears and insecurities to those around you. If you don’t like your waist line or bald head, do something about it. Never make someone else think they should hate in themselves whatever it is you hate about yourself. And don’t stop watching Bruce Willis movies because he has somehow not only made bald work, but he seems to enjoy it (that one might be a bit of my jealousy popping out). Imagine telling him he should think less of himself because he’s bald? We do it everyday to the ones we love. If we aren’t happy about something we become jealous when someone is freely and happily displaying the same traits that we are insecure about. Or with our kids, we correct behaviours that are part of their personality because those very same traits are in ourselves and have caused pain or insecurities. Meanwhile they have been completely happy not knowing this trait is a problem.

The truth is God loves you. He loves me. He loves us just as we are. And if he loves us just the way we are, why are we telling our kids that they should lose weight, ask less questions or be quiet (I’m sure we can all add to this list). It’s probably because we don’t want people to notice that we aren’t perfect but the truth is that doesn’t matter. 1 Peter 5:6-7 in the Message says, “be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

We have more to offer than we think. Let’s stop the cycle of viewing everything through a self-conscious lens, remembering that God’s hand is on us. Life won’t be easy, but once we realize and know we are loved by a gracious, kind and loving community, family, friends and church it gets easier.

It’s not you, It’s me ~ The only way to Change the World

If you are a people person I’m sure life can seem pointless at times. If your tendency is to think of others before yourself I suspect you have days where you wish you could just stay at home. You’re constantly hoping for the ideal, seeing the best in people only to be let down. Whether you call it serving, giving back, or involved in your community I was raised that these things are important and almost second nature. A very vivid memory for me as a child was a night my father took the 3 of us (me and my two brothers) grocery shopping. This was odd because my father rarely went grocery shopping without my mom, and he never went grocery shopping with just us. The oddness of the situation was quickly surpassed by joy and excitement when my dad looked at us and said “pick whatever you guys want.” Now to those of you that were “fortunate” enough to have this scenario happen regularly this was equivalent to a surprise no school day for us. We were so excited walking down each isle picking nothing that had nutrients and everything that had a high sugar content. We ended up with 3 overflowing carts and made our way to the checkout. After loading the bags into our family Dodge Caravan we started to drive home. It didn’t take us long to realize we weren’t driving to our house, and before we knew it we had parked in front of a strange house. My dad looked at us and said “ok boys, grab the bags and follow me.” We all grabbed what we could and proceeded to the door of the house. My dad had heard that this family was in a rough patch (I don’t remember the details but they weren’t able to afford groceries) and decided to do something about it. I remember seeing their gracious, yet somewhat humiliated faces. The family was almost identical to us. Young kids, and mom and dad but for some reason they just weren’t able to make ends meet.

Driving home my dad was now dealing with angry spoiled kids. How could you blame us really? My dad said pick anything you like.. I had already tasted that box of Captain Crunch.. I pictured a glee filled morning before school eating the greatest cereal on earth, and now I was quickly brought back to the reality of porridge. I focused on my situation ignoring completely the situation that family was dealing with. It only took seconds for my attitude to shift to me and my wants. Thankfully my dad was able to get past his desires to make a poignant difference in that families life at that moment.

I was raised in a house that taught us the importance of people. My biggest joy is found in serving people. On the other hand my biggest frustration is serving people.

I recently tweeted a question; “What do Christians do that make you never want to be one?” I had a number of responses ranging from the typical “they are hypocritical” to “ they are judgemental.” I’m fascinated by how church going believers are perceived in our modern culture. As I get more and more involved in my community, expand in my career and experience day to day interactions with people however one thing remains true; We all do what we hate, and often we do it more than we notice. A simple example of this happens daily in my office. One person hates being uncomfortable so they change the thermostat to frigid arctic temperatures ensuring their comfort meanwhile freezing out everyone else. I’m confident the others don’t like being uncomfortable either. So because one person is striving for their own comfort, they force everyone around them to be exactly what they themselves don’t want to be; uncomfortable.

Thankfully, and I hope this isn’t a news flash to any of you, Christians are not the only hypocrites to judge others. We’ve all gotten angry at someone trying to butt their car into your lane for no apparent reason. We’ve also all had a brain fart or completely changed our mind causing us to need to get into that other lane. And this in lies the problem with people; though we are passionate about ideals, we are more passionate about ourselves and often ourselves trump the ideals we have so adamantly preached, enforced or just held quietly in our angry hearts. So we find ourselves forming opinions against those displaying the exact characteristics we have on any given day. We hate religious groups because they like us, are hypocritical. We picket our governments because like us, they can’t make everything perfect, and God forbid occasionally make the wrong decisions.

I can hear the back seat drivers now, ”But they’ve signed up to a higher standard. They are supposed to look out for me.” This proves my point. What’s good forImage you might not be good for others. The standards you hold might be the bare minimum for others, and it could be the ultimate goal for someone else.

People are frustrating, especially for those wired to be involved and give. Our expectations aren’t calibrated properly. We often hold others to a higher standard than ourselves. Sure we don’t like to be late, but sometimes life makes us late. It is really rude though when someone else shows up late. “They obviously don’t care enough about what we are doing to show up on time” is the usual response. The principal is true, being late is rude, but the sentiment is wrong and until we understand that in leadership not everything is cut and dry we will continue to grow frustrated and resentful. I’ve seen very passionate, kind and loving leaders throw in the towel because they felt like they were beating their heads on the ground. Unfortunately some of those leaders might have been chasing a pointless directive but until we grow in our capabilities to be empathetic we will continue to see things like road rage, backstabbing, a lack of volunteers and a seemingly indifferent attitude about most things.

You see the problem isn’t them, it’s you. It’s me. It’s in all of the seemingly minor character compromises we make daily. We are no better than anyone else, yet we live and lead like we are. Until we recognize our own capacity to cut corners, think selfishly and hate we will never get over the fact that others are doing the same thing. And until then we will all continue to be frustrated with others, write idea’s off because of the messenger and sit on our own soap box (size depending on empathetic ability) pointing out the flaws in everyone else instead of making a positive difference to the people and communities we are in. Think of all the good things about yourself and what you can offer. I bet some people have never seen those things. And I bet the same things that are so great about you are found in the person you hate most on earth but until you realize that you’re never going to be able to learn from them. And until then, others won’t be able to learn from you. You’re just the person that butts in traffic.

Does God Exist? ~ Stress, Sin and needing Help

I have never been as stressed as I have been over the past 3 months in my entire life. I’ve lost weight, felt like I was having heart attacks and have lost a lot of sleep. I can probably admit that most of my stress has come from a reliance on myself.. But still, I’m God’s child right so why isn’t he helping me? Maybe God doesn’t exist.

We have just finished the Easter season. My pastor gave a unique perspective to the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’m sure you’ve all seen a reality cop show once or twice. It doesn’t take long for a friend of the criminal to change his story and confess that their friend is guilty. Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation. It’s easy to say God doesn’t exist but it’s very hard to get past the disciples testimonies. All of the disciples were murdered, tortured even for their belief in Jesus. Funny how a criminal’s friend can’t keep the lie up, but one of Christ’s disciples would die for a story. How many people would die for something that wasn’t true, something they didn’t actually see. Seems to me maybe they did actually see what we believe today.

So if God really exists why are we stressed? I really don’t know but I do know that God is bigger than our stress. I’m literally the worst person ever to talk about this lately. As I’ve said I’ve been so stressed that it actually hurts. I’ve been pulled in so many directions I barely know where to go. The times I do actually recognize I need to give it to God I turn into this legalistic believer. I find myself thinking I need God to help me with A, so I better not sin until he does.

What a cycle. Why is it that my gut instinct is to be perfect if I want God to help me? And why do I not just allow God to be in control so I don’t stress?

As far as I can tell, and I believe scripture backs me on this, God is Faithful and in Control. Perhaps even the self-inflicted situations that cause us stress are easy for God to handle. It’s easy to believe that God is ready to help but I often feel guilty because I’m the one that got me into this mess. I often find myself thinking that if we’ve dug ourselves in a hole by not listening to Him why would He help. I even question if He should. Have you ever felt that way? The God that I read about, and believe in (not just because 13 of His closest friends were willing to die instead of changing their story) seems to be pretty gracious. Perfection doesn’t seem to be a requirement for His grace and/or help. All we need to do is recognize our need for Him, and humbly ask for his help. God will be there.

No matter how seemingly big or small your stress is give it to God. Stress isn’t measured by the size of the problem.. It’s measured by the length you have to carry it. When you have to lift a cup of water for 3 days it doesn’t matter that the cup only weighs a few ounces as it’s impossible to keep it up for that long on your own. Small problems can be big burdens.

If you’re stressing, turn to God. I believe He exists and I believe He will give you peace.. I even believe He will do the same for me, and until then I will do what Phillipians 4:6 tells me to do. Pray and let God be God.

First World Problems and the Church

We’ve all heard the expression, “First World Problems”. It’s a sarcastic approach to mask the fact that our problems are, for the most part, trivial. We, in the Western World have come to terms with our greed, selfishness and excess so much that we have resorted to a sarcastic saying to both make light of our situation (maybe get it off our minds) while doing nothing about the real problems in the world.

As I sat in a prayer meeting my mind was lead to the idea that Christians have the same problem. We’ve come so used to our perfect facades that we start making small issues problems because it’s easier than dealing with big issues, the issues that Christ has called us to deal with. Issues like helping the homeless, the widow, the sick and the needy. I’ve sat in sermons where the pastor admonishes tattoos, social drinking, “secular” music and certain clothing because we need to be different then the world. Though I understand some things are not conducive to being a great witness (I’m liberal though so it’s probably not the same things the pastor thought aren’t) I can’t help but wonder if we really are that different.

The problem is we have it too good. Both in our world and in church so instead of seeing the real issues outside of our worlds, we nit pick the trivial problems in our world. We’ve chosen tattoos, alcohol, books, music, movies, dances, hats in church, personal styles as “First Church Problems”, all while missing out on the real needs of the people in our church and outside it.

There are broken people out there that don’t know where to turn. Their stress is so palpable that suicide is the easiest way to escape. Marriages are breaking up. Children and adults are dying from addiction, yet most people in church would notice a guy wearing a hat in the church building and consider that a more pressing issue. “First Church Problems”.

Christ has called us to an undeniable love of others. Paul says in Philippians 1:9 that his prayer is that our love will flourish and that we will not only love much, but WELL! He goes on to say that we need to use our head and test our feelings so that our love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. We are to live a Lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, MAKING JESUS CHRIST ATTRACTIVE TO ALL, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

I wonder if our First World Problems have crept into the community of believers? Do we really think our issues are greater than what Christ has asked us to do?

Next time you find yourself grumbling or offended (I have still yet to find a verse that says we as Christians can be offended personally), check yourself. Don’t let the selfishness and greed of our culture distract you from your call. Let people be people, let people in your church be themselves and love them while they are doing that..Maybe then we will actually have something that is a witness to our great God!

P.S. Here’s an interesting article on Christians and the World I found by Gary DeLashmutt. http://www.xenos.org/teachings/?teaching=485