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Gym – day 3

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Never actually made it to the gym. After having an entirely wasted day at work this week, I wound up super behind and I have spent the whole day running around like a mad woman. I’m annoyed because I slept so well after yesterday’s work out and I’m feeling that great burn in my gluts that tells me I did something right…

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Gym – Day 2

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Guess who got a gym membership.

My awesome new office is in a health club. We have a separate area, complete with doors and locks and a kitchenette to keep us from the gym bunnies, but we’re nestled between the tennis courts, pool, and ping pong area all the same. Our landlords, the gym owners, gave me a great deal, which made my tippy tennis club membership affordable. So here I am.

Literally.

I’m blogging from the stationary bike at the gym. Because I’m so bored.

Growing up, I never had a problem eating my vegetables. With exception to a brief period in my tweens, Brussels sprouts have been a well-loved food. On the other hand, my better half still approaches veggies with hesitation. Couldn’t we have a side of bacon with our steak. Whenever we talk about getting healthier, he argues it’s better to be more active, rather than depriving yourself of delicious things. I would simply swap to a fish and greens diet than sweat. Especially in public.

And still, here I am at the gym. I definitely don’t enjoy it. I know it’s good for me. And I know it’s important to create good habits in this season of life. And I know it will get me into great shape for my bikini season and out honeymoon to Cancun. Still – no enjoyment. I’m told that will come later… Something about endorphin highs and improved self image…

Thus far, the stationary bike is my favorite. I get to sit and check Facebook. That’s a win-win. Next time, I’m going to start going weights. I actually really love weights, so I’m looking forward to switching it up now that I’ve found a couple of do-able cardio options.

64 more sleeps until I wow my guy in a gorgeous white dress.

65 before we hit Cancun.

Excuse me while I go tone up my butt on the stair master…

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You’re growing on me…

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I’m so thankful to work with incredible children. They teach me more than I could ever teach them.

On Sunday, one of my Grade One kids initiated a group discussion about bullying, friendship, and hard choices. With no prompting from me, he began to talk about the importance of making solid choices, even when it makes you lose friends. Because “you just gots to say ‘we can’t be friends’ if your friend calls you a c-word a-word f-word. You can’t make bad choices like that. And I miss my best friend, but I used the a-word and it felt icky, so now I want a new best friend.”

“You have to love and respect everyone. Even if you don’t like them. Even if you don’t want to be friends. That’s hard,” said a slightly-older and very-awesome girl.

“I pray for him with my mom. But I run away from him on the playground,” the boy explained.

It seems that my tiny humans have a better handle on dealing with difficult people than I do. They understand that sometimes you need to put down boundaries and run away from some people on the playground. Still, they aren’t tarnished by bitterness; they don’t approach life with the same harshness as grown-ups. They still miss the distanced friend and long for the restoration of the relationship.

And they thought that *I* was teaching a lesson on Paul…

Dear WayKidz, you have weaseled your way into my heart. I hope you can always stay so inquisitive, thought-provoking, free-thinking, sweet, challenging, playful, and wonderful as I find you to be now.

Also, please continue to draw me incredible artwork.

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Playing Pollyanna

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In just 2 weeks I’ve filled 6 volunteer positions in Waykidz.

I’ve found a great new curriculum set that will justify me wearing a flight attendant uniform.

eBay has some quality replica PanAm costumes.

I made it through a whole day gluten and bad carb free!

I almost have my video ads for Sunday complete.

iTunes had a ringtone of “one thing remains.” This will soften the blow when my alarm goes off at 5:30.

I get special snuggle time with baby T tomorrow.

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The Best Christmas Movies of All Time

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As I’ve previously mentioned, I could spend hours watching Christmas movies.  I even love the made-for-TV classics that feature washed up 80’s TV stars and schmaltzy plots – with exception to The Christmas Shoes, of course.  (That said, Christmas Shoes doesn’t meet all of my requirements; it features Kimberly Williams of Father of the Bride (1991) fame and it lacks a schmaltzy plot: Kim dies at the end, from what Wikipedia suggests. The point is thusly moot!  But I digress…)

In the midst of  the deluge of Christmas crap that will take over our televisions this month, several films will stand out time and time again. I never grow tired of these films, and they never cease to fill me with Christmas joy throughout the season.  Without, further ado…

 

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

Charlie Brown and his gang warm hearts in this television special, which is one of the first animated features to use child voice actors.  This gives a sense of sweetness to the entire production.  The music is delightful and whimsical (it’s what McDreamy and I listened to whilst decking our halls this year).  The pathetic Christmas tree almost makes me feel guilty for having an artificial tree at the expense of rescuing a similar, dying tree. And Linus’s impassioned speech always helps me to remember what we’re celebrating each year.

4. Die Hard 2: Die Harder

It would not be Christmas without Bruce Willis shooting people.  At least that’s how we see it at my house.  This is why we likely failed at integrating into Mennonite subculture..  Die Harder follows John McLean as he attempts to purge the airport of terrorists on Christmas Eve.  The stakes are high because McLean’s wife is on a flight due to land at the airport and her plane is running out of fuel.  In order to bring his wife home safely, he must risk life and limb to take out every last terrorist. They are reunited on the runway as snow falls around them. Yippe Ki-yay!

3. White Christmas

This holiday classic means almost as much to me as a good Turkey dinner.  Bing Crosby and Danny Kay make me laugh time and time again as they attempt to bring business into a Vermont inn owned by their former US Army general.  The General has fallen on hard times, as it has failed to snow.  Bing and Danny move their stage production to Vermont to “practice” while secretly plotting to flood the inn with their Army friends to celebrate the life and accomplishments of the man they admire.  The film has romance, comedy, drama, tension, and great music.  Perhaps most importantly, the film features the song “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, who had relegated the song to the bottom of a drawer or trunk, believing it to be one of his lackluster works (or so one story goes).  No matter who sings “White Christmas,” my favorite will always be Bing’s version, as performed at the end of the film.

2. Home Alone

At one point or another, we’ve all been forced to spend the holidays with family that we’d rather not see.  Sometimes the thought of holing up at home, completely alone, seems better than family drama that seems to pop up when everyone is forced to sit together around the table for a holiday meal.  That’s why this movie is so great.  It appeals to the part within each of us that would love to withdraw and do Christmas our own way. When eight-year-old Kevin McCallister angrily wishes he could spend Christmas alone instead of traveling with his extended family, the Christmas magic makes his dream a reality. Kevin is left behind after the entire family over sleeps and rushes to the airport, failing to realize he hasn’t made it to the airport, let alone their destination.  Oops.  Kevin then falls victim to Marv and Harry, the Wet Bandits, who have planned to rob his house on Christmas Eve.  As Kevin proudly exclaims, it is his house and he is going to defend it.  Using all the tools in his arsenal – Kevin builds traps with toys, kitchen torches, irons, rusty nails, you name – it to stop Marv and Harry from invading his Christmas.

This film captured my imagination as a child, and for years my poor father had to dodge the traps I set for him.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to build a spider web or leave trip wires around the house.  I was quite possibly the most obnoxious five-year-old of all time.  Still, one of my favorite moments is when Kevin and his mom are reunited just in time to spend Christmas together.

1. Home Alone II

 

I’m shocked to find that there is any argument about which Home Alone film is better.  In this fabulous sequel, Kevin angrily wishes that he could dodge the family trip to Florida and take his own Christmas vacation, avoiding the hypocrisy of pretending to be a big, happy family.  Again, the Christmas magic works and Kevin gets on the wrong flight and ends up enjoying Christmas in New York at the Plaza Hotel.  Kevin must dodge a nosy concierge who suspects him of credit card fraud, befriend a crazy bird lady, and defeat Marv and Harry, who have escaped from prison.  I find this film far more compelling than the first because Kevin is shown as a considerate person who fights against Marv and Harry to prevent them from stealing money that is intended to go to a children’s hospital. He is no longer in a defensive position; he deliberately goes after Marv and Harry to foil their plans, luring them to his unoccupied Uncle’s house, where he unleashes another set of sophisticated traps.  I think this is why I love the film just the tiniest bit more than the first.

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The Worst Christmas Songs of All Time

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I really love Christmas. More than most people.  My decorations are always up before December 1st. My Christmas music creeps through the house before [American] Thanksgiving.  And I could spend hours watching Lifetime Christmas movies.  There is one thing that I just cannot tolerate, however: a bad Christmas song.

The following are the worst Christmas songs of all time.

5. The Christmas Shoes

This is very possibly the most depressing Christmas song. Ever.  If you have been living under a rock during the past decade and have missed the Christmas Shoes phenomenon, I ought to explain that the song tells the story is about a boy with a dying mother who wishes to buy her fancy shoes so that she’ll look pretty for Jesus when she dies.  I find this song so ineffably infuriating that I will neither waste my time (or yours) by pointing out the logical and theological flaws in the song, nor point to the idiocy of a father that would encourage his child to follow through on a plan such as this. Amazingly, this dreadful song was thought so inspiring that a TV movie was made; it follows the plot of the song.  Joy to the world?

 

4. Carol of the Bells

As a small child, this song terrified me. I always equated this song with the scoring of Home Alone, which played with the main theme whenever the roguish Kevin McCallister was dangerously close to villains Harry and Marv.  Growing up, the song would always put a sinking feeling in my stomach. Now that I’m older, I still find it entirely contrary to the spirit of Christmas. It just feels dark.   And the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version still sort of creeps me out.

 

3. My Favorite Things

I am annoyed by this song for the following reason:

  1. It isn’t a Christmas song at all.
  2. It feels melancholy to me.
  3. The Julie Andrews version is never played. It is the only good version.
  4. More cover versions = more air time on the radio.
  5. And this time of year, this song is played over, and over, and over again.

The band Pomplamoose recorded a cover and I think it caricatures everything I hate about this song:

Also, how creepy is her face while she sings?

 

2. The Little Drummer Boy

This year, my dearly beloved Justin Bieber did the unthinkable. He made “The Little Drummer Boy” even more intolerable. The track, which features Busta Rhymes, includes the addition of rap interludes between the annoyingly repetitive traditional lyrics.  And the rap interludes are annoyingly cheesy:

Rum pa pa pum, rum pa pum pum pum pum.
Yeah I’m on the drum, yeah I’m on the snare drum.
Yeah I’m on the beat cause the beat goes dumb.
And I only spit heat cause I’m playin’ for the Son.
Playin’ for the King, playin for the Title,
I’m surprised you didn’t hear this in the Bible.
I’m so tight, I might go psycho.
Christmas time so here’s a recital.
I’m so bad like Michael, I know I’m still young but I go I go.
Stupid stupid love like cupid,
I’m the drummer boy so do it, do it.

If you dare, listen:

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause

The song features the lyrics “Oh what a laugh it would have been / If daddy had only seen / Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”  While I’m sure this song was intended for adults who would fill in the blanks and assume that Santa was, in fact, daddy, I feel it is entirely too ambiguous.  There is no real allusion to the father’s presence. Instead, mommy is kissing Santa Claus while her child looks on and laughs.  Mommy is kissing an old, fat man with a big, bushy beard and Jr. is amused.  Who wrote this?  A 7-year-old Maury Povich?  I’m not sure, but I’ve never been a fan.

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How much value do you place on your church?

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One of the things that I found most infuriating about working at a church was the lack of value the congregation placed upon the services they were receiving.  Unfortunately, most people don’t buy into their local churches.  They don’t financially support the institution, nor are they willing to volunteer to run the programs.  As in most cases, ten percent of the congregation do ninety percent of the work. It sounds cold to talk of the church as though it is a commercial venture, but the fact of the matter is that most people attend church as consumers.  They devour free services as they wish.  If they choose not to show up, they don’t call ahead to cancel their attendance and save the church the overheads they don’t use.  If you didn’t show up for your massage therapist appointment, you will still be charged if you don’t cancel 24 hours before.

A quick google search helped me put together a suggested price list for the basic minimum services that people consume at their local churches:

Cover charge for worship band: $20/adult (a cover artist show at my work runs $35 for early bird registration…)
Tickets for sermon/motivational speaker: $10/each (based on MissionsFest ticket costs)
Childcare for two hours: $12.50/child (based on Wind and Tide basic full-time childcare)
Juice: $2.25/each
Coffee: $2.25/each
Kid’s midweek club fee: $5/child (Based on quarterly program at YMCA, $60)
Adult midweek program:  $15/adult (Based on YMCA drop-in rates).
Weekly cost towards annual pastoral counseling appointment: $3.37/adult (Based on $175/hour rate for my therapist)

Thus, the total cost to cover a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) is $112.83 (including HST.  Because there is tax on services).  In case you’re too lazy to do the math, this works out to a basic annual cost of $5,867.10 for basic service rendered.

I’m deeply disturbed by the fact that the same people who pay thousands of dollars for gym and golf club memberships, who run their kids to four or five activities a week, and spend $6 per latte at Starbucks show up to church in their Audis and refuse to invest in their churches.  What I’ve found is that the least involved people are usually the loudest people who expect to dictate the trajectory of their churches.

When you don’t support your church – financially or otherwise – people start to look for reasons that the church isn’t flourishing.  Without people to staff programs, do evangelism, or invite others, you will not get a full house on Sunday morning.  Programs suffer even more when churches are forced to freeze their budgets because the same people who drink $10 of bad church coffee every week don’t want to invest their finances.   Usually the pastor becomes a scapegoat.  I think this is grossly unjust.

Organizations have cultures.  Just like you may shop around for a gym or golf club that fits your personality, or you may be choosy about the book club you attend, people want to be part of organization that fit their worldviews.  To an extent, culture can be fairly insidious.  An organizational culture flows through everything a company does.  Consider Starbucks; you can travel the world and you will have similar experiences at every Starbucks you visit.  The same can be said for Apple;  Apple stores adhere to universal standards.  There is also a reason that Wafflehouse isn’t universally hailed as a bastion of customer service and fine cuisine.  To that end we can deduce that organizational culture dictates more than anyone person can.  When you come in as the new guy, you’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to change the culture.  Even Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO) was unable to oust the breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks when he returned to his position after an 8-year hiatus;  he didn’t want people to walk into his coffee shops and smell burnt cheese, but once people’s expectations were set, there was no reining in the beast.

A pastor cannot make his congregation place value on their faith community, especially when the congregation has multiple decade track record of poor involvement and a lack of buy-in.  If Howard Schultz couldn’t do it, I can guarantee your local pastor can’t either.   D

If you want your church to thrive, you have to be invest. This prompts the question: how much do you value your church? Do you believe your church is worth even the most minimal financial buy-in to keep it afloat? Do you give your church the same investment that you put into your local gym, sports league, or shoe addiction?

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Through the valley of the shadow of death

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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

-Psalm 23:4

Often we attempt to rationalize why bad things happen to good people.  We perceive it to be unjust when those who have wronged us appear to float onward with no apparent consequences.  We are enraged when we witness a tragedy befall the upstanding pillars of our communities.  At such a time, it appears inevitable that someone will ask, “How can you reconcile that with a good and loving God?”

In my brief 24 years of life, I have experienced privileges and pains that most people twice my age have not encountered.  Often the two go hand-in-hand.  To be in a position of unique privilege, whether this is an incredible friendship, a challenging career, or a breath-taking adventure, often involves a great amount of vulnerability.  It is this vulnerability that allows us the pain.  I’ve worked with many families through the years, and have become convinced that being a parent is one of the greatest privileges that we can be afforded.  This is likely why there is little that can compare to the pain of losing a child or the dissolution of a family.

To be free of pain and suffering in this life is to be removed from society. Save removing yourself from anything dangerous and every person that has the power to hurt you, it would be impossible to feel no pain.  This often makes me think of the film Finding Nemo.  In the film, Marlin, Nemo’s overbearing father, frantically searches the ocean for his wayward son who has been fishnapped by a scuba diving dentist.  He teams up with a forgetful fish, Dory, to bring Nemo home to the Great Barrier Reef.  As the two traverse the seas, the following conversation unfolds:

Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
Dory:
Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
Marlin:
What?
Dory:
Well you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

In order for good things to happen to us, we must also be vulnerable enough to allow the bad.

Still, bad things do happen, and it seems impossible to rationalize a world of human suffering with a good and loving God.

Ultimately, God has given us the power of free will.  And, as Uncle Ben reminds us, with great power comes great responsibility:

The same incredible free will that empowers us to do good in the world also allows others to do evil.  The free will that allows someone to dedicate his life to saving lives allows another to take life.  It’s two sides of a volatile coin.  The responsibility rests with us.  Today, our generation has the power to end world hunger, take vital immunizations to the developing world, and close the gap between the richest people in the world and the destitute.  We have the power, but we’re not taking the responsibility.

I suppose taken to an extreme, it could seem that I’m describing God as a distant entity with little real power.   I have seen God’s miraculous intervention a number of times, but more often than not, he allows us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  He doesn’t promise that we wont see the shadow or linger in the shadow, but he promises that we can trust in him as a guide.  The Psalmist reminds us that we must make it through the shadow guided by His rod and staff to prosper in spite of our enemies.

Recently, I feel like I’ve been walking through the shadow of the valley of death.  I’ve suffered at unjust hands and I’ve wept as I’ve questioned how bad things can happen to someone who strives to do the right thing.  However, I’ve come to see the miraculous providence before me.  I’ve seen that walking through the shadow of the valley of death, directed by the rod and staff, perhaps took me from the clutches of something more dark than I could have imagined.  And I praise God.

Ultimately, dwelling upon the wrongs of others never leads to health or prosperity.  As long as we compare ourselves to others – especially our enemies – we will never be satisfied.  Even vindication loses its justice and we are poisoned by lust for the other’s demise. Instead, I advocate responsibility.

Be the best person that you can be.  Take the power you have over your sphere of influence and execute it with moral integrity.  You have the power to treat others the way you wish to be treated.  You have the power to protect others from the pain you might inflict when you abuse your power.  You have the power to humble yourself and make amends when you have done wrong.  You have the power to speak out when you see injustice, rather than becoming complicit in your silence.

What will you do with your freedom?

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Things I did instead of blogging…

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  • Midterms
  • Got engaged
  • Turned 24
  • Went to Whistler for the first time
  • Finals
  • Bought a pair of really hot shoes
  • Started planning my wedding
  • Picked up more hours at work
  • Booked my wedding venue
  • Got hired in a new position at work
  • Bought my wedding dress

Egads, I’ve been busy.  Sooner or later, I’ll catch you up on all the craziness in my life.  At this moment, it feels a little daunting to see just how long it has been since I’ve posted and just how much that I will have to share at some point.

XOXO

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