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?


Red Cup Season

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Tuesday was Red Cup Day in Canada.  By Red Cup Day, I refer to the not-yet-Stat holiday on which Starbucks begins serving winter drinks in festive red cups.  I observe Red Cup Day with a near-religious fervor each year.  Truthfully, I’m not sure why. I know that it’s just a cup of coffee and nothing more.  However, I feel like each Red Cup Day is a milestone. A turn of the page. The beginning of something new.

As urban dwellers, I think we have become so removed from creation that we must look for our own markers to draw us into the cyclical nature of life.  Yes, we see the leaves turn and fall and we feel the need for warmer jackets, but we are no longer entrenched in nature to be a part of the change.  Summer turns to fall before we realize it has happened, and fall turns to winter.  I think Red Cup Day is my way of trying to fall into step with the grand cycle.



Sometimes I wonder if we struggle to truly understand seasons in our lives because we are so removed from nature.  We don’t understand death or loss the way we might if we were fully entrenched in creation.  We are so divorced from the natural cycle that we’re afraid of the changing seasons in our lives. We don’t have a way to rationalize what we experience.  We long for stasis. But the world isn’t static; it’s dynamic and kinetic.  No one can predict what each season will bring.

Ecclesiastes 3
To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.

This entry was posted in Life.


Why I Loved Working for my Dad

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Over the past five years, I had the remarkable privilege of working for my father. As a child, I had great reverence for his work. Although I was often frustrated when it seemed he invested more time in other kids, I could never stay upset for long because I was always struck by the thought that my dad was a somebody. When we lived in Scotland, he was local celebrity.  He had been on radio and television and had taken the stage before arenas packed with thousands.  It wasn’t uncommon for us to be stopped in the street by a young person he had inspired.  Atop his shoulders, I would tug at tufts of his hair impatiently – which is why I’m convinced he’s balding now – eager to disappear from the starstruck teenagers that wished to pick his mind.  My dad really was a somebody.  He was generally regarded as an expert in his field, and received the praise – if not pay – as such. When we moved to the anonymity of the U.S., I never forgot how incredibly my dad was and is.

As a potential who-knows-what (these days), I was excited to work for my dad.  Until now, that was probably one of my best kept secrets.  My father is an incredible communicator, and I love to hear him speak.  I love to listen with a critical ear, paying attention to how he uses language and humor to convey his points. Recent events aside, the biggest disappointment of my summer was missing him give the salvation message at VBS. I had been so excited to sit at the feet of a master and learn from the way he communicated with the tiny humans. Instead, I was cornered in an office and force fed drivel about an already-resolved head lice incident.   When that opportunity was taken from me, I was livid for days.

No one can deny that my father is a dynamic communicator, but those of you who have never seen him behind the scenes may not know what an incredible leader he is.  I’ve learned a number of key leadership lessons from working with him, and I feel they’re too important not to share:

1. Good leaders are slow to speak and quick to listen

Many people associate leadership with outspoken words and fast, decisive action.  While helming a ship in the eye of a storm, my father would be the first to take decisive action, but he has the wisdom to know that brashness is no way to captain a crew at all times.  I’ve learned from watching my father that the best leaders absorb their surrounds and listen to the people they lead.  They take time and seek expert advice before making a decisive turn.  It is never wise to make a decision without all the facts.  From my father, I’ve learned to be as unbiased as possible and to weigh all possible outcomes and how they will personally effect each person involved.  When my father leads, he thinks not only of his staff members, but also of their families and they people they serve.  Through the years, he’s worked with a lot of under performers.  The impetuosity of my youth made me question why he never fired anyone.  The answer is that he wanted to know why someone under performed and how he could help them move into using their gifts.  In he back of his mind he always remembered that redeeming someone was better than casting them off. Building another leader was more important to him than giving up on anyone.

2. Good leaders coach

To that end, my father taught me what it was to coach a team.  Rather than trade a player to a different team, his first step was to watch how they played and look for their natural abilities.  My father has a great eye for potential and would far rather move someone sideways to play a position that brought out their strengths.  In his day, he’s worked with a lot of Mark McGuire’s trying to pitch.  Or if you prefer, Wayne Rooneys attempting to play in goal.  Or Luongos playing forward.  Pick your poison.  Good coaches spot talent and develop it.  Moreover, coaching is deeply personal.  A coach cannot micromanage.  You can’t learn to play hockey sitting on the bench.  It’s far harder to work alongside someone as they struggle than it is to do it yourself, but my father is persistent.  Whenever he had a younger staff member preach for him, he’d schedule time to debrief and encourage him.  He’d give constructive criticism and hold his staff to account for improvement.

One of the hardest things I learned to do was coach a team.  My dad was the one who taught me how to have the uncomfortable – but necessary – conversations with the people I lead.  His greatest pearl of wisdom was this: “If you’re not uncomfortable, the other person wont be uncomfortable.  And if the other person isn’t uncomfortable, she wont change.”  He was never one to candy-coat confrontation, but he always spoke the truth in the most caring way possible.  His intent was never to hurt anyone, but rather to encourage their growth. 

3. Good leaders build strong teams

I adore my dad, but there are a lot of things he just isn’t good at.  It’s cringe-worthy to watch him trying to find files on the labyrinth of folders on his computer.  He isn’t an administrator.  And he focuses more on the big picture than the minutia it takes to execute a vision.  I know this, but more importantly, he knows this.  Rather than ignore his shortcomings, he builds teams of people with strengths that balance his weaknesses.  A leader knows when to delegate and when to ask for help.  There is a reason for the cabinets that support our national leaders.  Obama lacks the foreign policy experience and connections that Hillary Clinton could bring to his team.  When I began to delegate and admit weaknesses, I found that my teams grew and that the quality of our programs improved.  While they may look pretty, a team of Ryan Kesslers will never make it to the Stanley Cup finals, nor would a team of Luongos.

4. Good leaders know when to flip the bird

There comes a point for every leader when he or she must decide whether or not to cross the Rubicon.  The Rubicon is different for each of us. After you’ve built your army and set your course, when you know beyond all shadow of a doubt that you are on the right path, you have to press forward and let nothing deter you.  Julius Caesar would have never been Emperor of Rome had he been too afraid to cross the Rubicon.  He knew the risks and weighed them for both himself and his men.  He knew that if they failed they would be killed as traitors.  He knew that if they crossed the Rubicon failure was no longer an option if he wanted to take his men home.  Yet, he proceeded because he knew he knew he could win.  My father has shown me what it means to take a stand and hold firm for what is right.  He’s shown me what it means to cross the Rubicon.  He’s shown me what it means to enter the promised land.

Unfortunately, my father recently met the same end as Julius Caesar. (Et tu, Brutus? Et tu?) But during the past five years, I learned some of my most important life lessons.  Moreover, my father held me to a higher standard than anyone else who worked for him.  And I’m thankful. Because of his integrity in that regard, I am confident in my abilities.  I feel strong and empowered because I know that when my father chooses a team member, he will pick the person that he thinks will serve the team best.


I am proud to say that I worked for my father. When I look in the mirror, I see him. When I look at my sloppy penmanship, I see him.  And when I crossed my own Rubicon, knowing I would meet with Brutus as well, I did so because I’m just like my father. I’m an uncompromising leader of integrity. I will always speak truth, walk humbly, and seek justice tempered with mercy.

This entry was posted in Life.


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.
Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
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?


Worst. Fiancée. Ever.

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My McDreamy and I eagerly await May 26th, 2012 – the day that shall launch a thousand change-of-name forms.  I will put away the last relics of life as a single lady – my Justin Bieber CD, the tin can in which I still have love notes from grade 9, my Twilight books, and all other adolescent frivolity.  I’ll be a real grown-up. I’ll be Mrs. McDreamy.

We have secured our venue, found a culinary artist to construct our cupcake tower, picked a caterer (whom we still need to book… oops…), and decided upon the general vibe.  On Saturday, I bought my bridal gown and finally talked to my remaining bridesmaids about joining the wedding party.  Things are really coming together.  Quickly.

So quickly, in fact, I forgot that we had booked a photographer to do our engagement pictures.  Again, oops.  Just days ago, I was complaining that McDreamy and I only have a handful of cute pictures together.   This was giving me serious anxiety about the near-mandatory reception slideshow.  Friends asked me whether or not we had settled on a photographer. I had no recollection of booking the shoot for next Tuesday.  None.

Between the new job, McDreamy’s recent car accident, and a thousand other details I’ve struggled to track, this appointment slipped right past me.  And that makes me feel like the worst fiancée ever.

On the bright side, this is a perfect excuse to go shopping…

This entry was posted in Life.


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.



Reading Week Update

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It’s reading week! Lest the world become convinced that Trinity Western University gives its students a mid-semester week of vacation, we all go through the charade of promising we’ll seize the opportunity to study and get ahead. Some of us will use the extra time to catch up on reading. But for the most part, I plan on living in my sweatpants and enjoying respite from the fast pace.

As of now, I’m sitting in the salon with dye dripping off my head, enjoying an iced latte and the wonders of technology. (iPhone wordpress app for the win!) I splurged and bought some remmy hair extensions, which my stylist has disappeared to color in the back room, and hope to leave the with movie star hair. We’ll see… If I like my clip-ins well enough, I may get them sewn in! The whole thing is shamefully self-indulgent, but I haven’t purchased new shoes since November, so it almost feels justifiable. It’s incredible how much women will invest in their hair. I’m in the midst of dozens of women, and each of us is eager to own new look, as though our hair somehow shapes our identity. I suppose we feel a lot of our femininity is wrapped up in our hair… But that’s a conversation for a day during which my mind isn’t clouded by dye fumes…

This week I’m looking forward to my best friends from junior high journeying north for a reunion sleepover. We plan to mix martinis, watch girly movies from the past, and sing some righteous karaoke. I can’t wait! It’ll be great to introduce McDreamy to the girls and to catch up before Kiana moves to Japan for a year. While she’s away, I’m determined to keep in better touch with her, as well has heading south to reconnect with Tommy more. You can’t buy the kind of friendship that we three share.

Also on the radar: lunch with McDreamy’s mom. Just me and her. Thursday. We get along well and I really like her. Still, I’m nervous. I don’t know what to expect and I hate the unknown.

And tomorrow I have a staff meeting. Not only will the staff meeting be different/weird/unusual/chooseyourownadjective because it’s my direct supervisor’s last staff meeting before she leaves, but the supervisor running our staff meeting requested we bring our running shoes. Again, I have no idea what to expect. And I hate the unknown. Tomorrow I shall, no doubt, come home with a very interesting story or two…

This entry was posted in Life.


Afghan Government Seizes Control of Women’s Shelters

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The Afghan government is cracking down on shelters for abused women. Humanitarian organizations fund and run the shelters, which play a vital role in the lives of women escaping abusive situations. One such shelter housed the now-famous runaway child-bride, Bibi Aisha, who covered Time last year. Aisha and countless women like her face forced marriage during childhood and suffer public flogging, mutilation, and death. These independent shelters are lifelines for women desperate to build a new life for themselves and their children.

Unfortunately, the awareness Aisha’s story raised has caused massive backlash from conservative government factions, reports the New York Times. Extremist Taliban leaders are making moves to close shelters entirely. They feel they encourage runaways and want to hide the humiliation caused by growing awareness of women’s issues. Other conservative figures want to seize the shelters and…

Continue reading @ ZeldaLily.com


“Red Vines – What the hell can’t they do?”

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Things I have consumed today: strawberry poptarts, red bull, Cadbury’s chocolate buttons, diet coke, Triple O buffalo chicken club, and red vines. I am a university student. If there had been any doubt until this point, I think my eating habits have clarified the situation.

Try as I might, I can’t stop myself from eating the Red Vines. Neither can I stop myself from shopping on Amazon.  I’ve eaten 7 Red Vines since sitting down in class and I’ve  ordered one book and an iPhone case.  Did I mention that I’m just getting started?  Despite priding myself on being a night owl, I’ve been up for 12 hours already; I’m tired and my WWII History course is the last place I wish to be.  I may have to clip my wings and give up late nights until the end of the semester. Even though I attended class in my sweats, armed with sugar and caffeine, I’m lagging.

This sums it up:

I’m in the zombie zone.  And apparently the only thing Red Vine’s can’t do is keep me awake.


Rape in US Military is on the Rise; Veteran’s Group Takes Action.

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In 2009, Katie Couric released a provocative piece on the rise of sexual assault within the US military. Couric found that in 2006, there were more than 2,900 sexual assaults occurred within the US military; in those cases, less than ten percent of the accused faced prosecution. Despite a military review and investigation, the prevalence of rape and assault is spreading, and the measures taken thus far have been ineffective.

The lack-luster response to this crisis was the creation of a two-tiered system of report. Women (and men) who have suffered sexual abuse can now seek medical aid or counseling without fear that their care providers will report the assault to their superior officers. This is a response to the most twisted part of the crisis: most of the assault victims are afraid, not of repercussions from their abusers, but of the repercussions they will receive from their commanding officers. They fear that their careers will suffer if they ask for justice. It seems that the problem is so deeply and systematically ingrained that the very military structure has – and continues to – protect the architects of these atrocities, while ostracizing and silencing the victims.

Continue reading @ ZeldaLily.com

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