Friday, May 25, 2007


It’s more the feeling than a specific event I remember. I was 21, moving ‘up the ranks’ in ministry. There were so many things I hadn’t done, so many things I wanted to do, so many things I dreamed of doing. My whole life seemed to teeter on the edge of excitement and inexperience. Every week it was something new. Preaching to adults. Performing at a youth convention. Speaking to complete strangers about deeply held convictions. Reading a book that immediately impacted my life. At the heart of it all, deeply believing that I was impenetrable, unbreakable. That I could face the tsunami and wade through it.

Now we all romanticize our memories. It’s how our brain works. Neurologists tell us we don’t truly remember events as they happened (except for the traumatic ones), but rather, we remember the memories of those events. Over time, we colour them with different emotions. (E.g. fondly remembering past relationships, but not remembering the fights and arguments) But in this case, it's not an event or relationship I’m romanticizing, but my mindset, the attitude with which dominated my thinking.

I was fearless.

Now there are some things my older and wiser self would like to tell my younger, zealous self. For example, I would remind him that people were not objects or goals, and that handing out pamphlets did not mean I was spreading God’s love. I would tell him not to put women on such a pedestal, and ironically, remind him not to expect perfection from the woman he was with. I would tell him that friends were precious and should be treasured, that the finish line was not as important as the race. But the one thing I wouldn’t tell him, wouldn’t have to tell him, would be to take risks. To go for it. To not let fear stand in the way.

I stare at the keyboard for a minute and stand up. A heat wave has rolled through the city, and I move to my balcony, where the sun smolders along the creaky old wood. Sweat begins to roll down my face, and I look at the coffee in my hand with a sigh. Dedication has its price. The trees and bushes wave lazily a few feet away, and the smell of moistened mud and concrete rises up in the soft breeze, compliments of an afternoon thunderstorm.

I can’t remember when I stopped taking chances. As life began to twist and turn, at times offering more pain and disappointment than encouragement, I stepped back from the edge. For some people, one event, one bad happening, is enough to make them turn the engine off. But for most of us, I think, it’s a number of things. And over time, they wear us down.

A dog barks in the distance. Down below me, the big orange tom cat who seems to rule this side of the building lazily turns his head and than sprawls out along the damp grass. It’s taken me a while to realize it, to realize just how much fear plays a part in my life. I’ve always been interested in many things, an ‘idea guy’, but over the past ten years I’ve become less and less of a do-er. It’s become easier and easier to talk myself out of any new idea. Sometimes the reasons are rational and right, but even then, the longer I let certain fears rule my existence, the less I participate in my life. The less I dream. The less I hope.

I sip my coffee, enjoying the breeze that seems to have picked up, envious of the careless manner of the cat stretched out below me. I’ll be honest, I’m afraid of becoming involved in a bad relationship again. And I know it affects the way I approach women, with wariness and cynicism that is ready to propel me backwards to safety. This fear, this cautious approach, has not helped in my writing either. After a couple of hard experiences in the industry, I’ve found it difficult to push forward. This past year was my first time on a plane by myself. I want to travel more, but I find myself holding back.

What is it that these fears have become such a part of me? When did I decide that this was all that life was, that I’d gone as far as I could go?

Studies show that the most consistent trait in successful people is perseverance. People who are willing to meet their fears head on.

To be fearless.

I take a sip of coffee and head back inside to the cool of my air conditioned apartment. This next year, I will not return to my comfortable position back at the high school. I do not know what I’ll be doing, or where I will be. And it scares me.

But what scares me more is that if I don’t try to pursue my dreams, that if I allow my fears to win, that if I stay in the known and comfortable, I will always look back to the time when I “was alive.” That I’ll spend my time remembering “the glory days.”

But the glory days are now, no matter how old you are.

For all of us.

We all have fears. We have all suffered heartache and setback and disappointment. It’s a part of life. But I think that too many of us let our fears, our hurts and difficulties in the past, dictate our future. Today I am wiping that slate clean, and whatever fears I have, I choose to face them.

Death comes to us all, but what a tragedy when it comes before we die.

May God grant us the strength to identify the things we fear the most, and face them with a courage and decisiveness only He can give. And may we always remember that there is One who believes in us, who will never leave us or forsake us, no matter what fear we face.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Efficiency Trap: Multi-tasking Your Way Into Slavery

“Sir, can we get some more bread?”

I paused on my way to the kitchen long enough to smile and nod. I went over the list in my head. Again. Rolls for that table. Salad dressing for table five. Two Budweiser's for the couple in the corner.

“I need two Bud's, Amy.”

The blonde bartender flashed me a grin.

“Busy today.”

“I’m losing my mind.” I said.

I’d been working at the Royal Park Hotel restaurant for about a month. It was a high end joint, populated largely by theatre patrons. I’d never waitered before, but my fiancĂ© had been there for four years, and with her recommendation I’d gotten the job. Until I’d started there, I was pretty terrible at multi-tasking, but I’d learned in a hurry. When you were waiting on six tables, efficiency was king.

I ended up working there for the entire summer and made a lot of money. Even better, I thought, was how I’d learned to be more efficient. If I was going to the grocery store, I’d remember to take the quickest route, and plan my other stops along the way. We only had so many hours in a day.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my education that summer was not necessarily a good one. That efficiency, or multi-tasking, is not all it’s cracked up to be. And yet, so many of us in Western culture rave about it. Women especially talk about multi-tasking as if it’s a necessary skill.

The problem with efficiency is that the more time you create, the more time you have to fill. Our world moves at a lightning pace, and we feel obliged to keep up with it. It is not a surprise to me that so many people, including young people, feel so much stress these days. People cram as much as they can into their day, and the better you are at multi-tasking, the more you can get done.

My question is this: what’s the hurry?

Why do we feel that we must account for every second?

No wonder we struggle with community, no wonder we are lonely, no wonder we feel detached from our Creator. Everything is programmed and regimented into thirty minute or thirty second time slots. Our relationships, the more important part of life, are bound to suffer. Ask your friends how they’re doing, and what is the answer you hear most often? I hear the words “tired” “busy” “exhausted” quite a bit, and too often I hear them from my own lips.

It shouldn’t be that way, especially for people of faith. An eternal perspective should allow us to relax, but an earthly perspective causes us to hurry. We realize we only have so much time on this earth, therefore, we only have so much time to “do stuff”.

I know there are times when busyness is inescapable. Especially for young families. But part of the problem is that we don’t recognize our own culpability. Instead of shrugging and saying “that’s the way it is when you have kids”, why don’t we take a closer look at our life? Do we really have to be that busy, or is it because we desire a certain style of life so that we need the extra job, the overtime? Do we want our kids to be involved because it’s good for them, or are we living through them? Are we so enamored, so caught in the web of the big cultural lie that “more is better, and faster means more”, that we’ve forgotten how to slow down?

I’ll be honest. I still struggle with this.

I want to be successful writer and speaker, want to travel, want to produce films, want to work with kids, want to have kids, want to be married, want to have a great relationship in that marriage, need to pay the bills, want to be a good son and brother and friend. Amazingly, I not only want all these things, but I believe I can achieve them if I can just be a little more efficient.

The slavery of multi-tasking in a materialistic culture is that too often it leads only to broken relationships, broken dreams, and broken hearts. It did for me. In hoping to get more done, I forgot how to prioritize. To do one thing at a time and enjoy it. Over time I realized that it became difficult to complete anything at all.

I muted the commercials on the TV and picked up my book. I had a coffee beside me, along with two magazines and two other books. I also had my laptop open on the coffee table and some of my work. When the commercials ended I turned the volume up so I could listen to the halftime show of the game I’d been watching and glanced down occasionally at my book. The commercials started again, and I was about to mute them when I realized what I was doing. I shook my head, turned off the TV, and closed up my book.

I walked out onto the balcony. The birds were singing in the bushes as the twilight approached, and I watched the swirling clouds ripen and shift and close, struck by the beauty of it all.
Sometimes we need to be efficient I thought, but maybe we need to worry less about getting things done. maybe we need to worry less about the tyranny of the efficient life, and think more about this wonderful world we live in and the beautiful things we miss every day because we’re too busy thinking about the next thing or the other thing.

Our culture tells us that more is better. May God open our eyes this week to the world around us, to the details in our life we have never seen before, and show us how to slow down, so we can truly enjoy this abundant life.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Broadside

A look at the top (and bottom) five the last week in the world of politics, sports, and culture.


1. Boy, this is painful. Congratulations to the Ottawa Senators. I've told everyone all along that this was a different team, and now I'll have to hear about it after last night's 4-3 2OT win in Buffalo. Personal feelings aside, this is a good team with grit, character and speed. I still think that the Sens will need 6 games to beat Buffalo, but this series is over.

2. A special congratulations to the non-conformists in our society who are making an effort to speak the truth. There is a movement, not confined to religious circles, of people who are tired of being told what they can and can not say. In Canada, bureaucracy is a big part of culture, in everything from government to church to education, and the road to 'success' is often paved with covering your **s and dishonesty. A special shout to those who have decided it isn't worth it, and face hardships for their dedication to the truth.

3. I was relieved to see Sarkosky win the French presidency. The last thing Europe needs, especially the French, is another socialist ruler (like Royale). No matter what you say about conservatives, and sometimes they can be difficult to stomach, is that they are more apt to defend their roots than socialists. Aren't you tired of Western leaders abasing themselves? Yes, we've made mistakes in the past, but let's not throw out everything, especially when it comes to human rights. I am hopeful...

4. A special thank you to the New York Yankees for being so terrible. They signed Roger Clemens, who will cost them more this season than other major league franchises entire payrolls! It's not that I hate the Yankees, but I hate a system that allows one team to spend $240 million dollars on its payroll, while most teams work on a payroll of about $75 million. How is that fair?

5. A special shout to some people who are really making a difference, despite heavy opposition. The guys at XXX are doing some good work, and being pounded by some traditional Christians in the process. My wish is that the church would open up and see what they are trying to do. They are, in my mind, the picture of what Jesus would be doing now. Taking a segment of society everybody hates on... and loving them.


1. A culture that preys on its loved ones. There is a lack of intimacy in North America, a lack of community, and it's not hard to see why. Working in a high school, I am witness every day how friends pick on friends. I see it in adults too. How can we build community if we are going to rip the very people we're supposed to love. This week, try to step back when you're 'teasing' your friend, and see if they really think your 'teasing' is truly funny. Or are they covering up? Sometimes, our words do great damage, and we can destroy people and not even realize it.

2. The NBA selected Dirk Nowitzki as its MVP. They're are too many reasons to list, not including the first round of the playoffs, but Nowitizki and Steve Nash, no matter what some members of the media said, were not 1a and 1b. Nash should have won it. Period. He is the best player on the second best team in the league, who simply are not that good without him. This was a case of politics (not wanting to enshrine a Canadian three times in a row). Brutal.

3. The culture of laziness inherent in large government. The City of Ottawa came out with a report this week that highlighted how much money is wasted by city employees who don't work a whole lot. I still don't understand how this is a surprise. People like myself who argue for small government do so vigorously because we know that bulky bureaucracy produces laziness and incompetence. I have many friends who work in government, who file stuff and make $50,000 a year. I'm not sure what's worse, the shock of so many people, or the fact my hard earned tax dollars are spent on work crews who don't work.

4. The unwillingness for those in education to take risks. These next six weeks will perhaps be the last weeks of my career working for the Ottawa school board. I've seen many good things over the years, but I am less convinced now than I was six years ago that public education is a good thing. The schools have become too feminine, too safe, and too cowardly. Students are not disciplined because the school board has become fearful of complaining parents, and responsibility rarely flows to the top. Instead, it flows downward. I don't know what the solution is...

5. A quick shout to the federal Liberals for the continued and incessant pestering for Canada on Afghanistan. Thank you, Stephane Dion, for showing us what Charlie Brown would look like if he was the leader of a federal party. Please take your academic, stand for nothing, whatever way the wind blows, reactions, somewhere else. You had your turn. Let a real Liberal leader with strength and fortitude take over.

Despite the misses, remember that God is good. Have a good week everyone. Enjoy the sun.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Most Powerful Thing In Your Life

It’s good for the soul to admit that you’re wrong every once in a while. And as I sit here on my balcony on a warm, Friday evening, spring has finally come. The wind rustles through the trees and the soft, incandescent blue sky seems to reach well beyond the city, to a pot of gold somewhere or perhaps, to just another rainbow. Tonight, it’s almost easy to acknowledge my mistake. I just can’t remember her name.

I do remember she had blond hair and came up to my shoulder. And her laugh. I remember how the sound of her laughter would tug at me with the soft residuals of wind chimes… sparkling, delicate and strong. Laughter is unique to every person. No one laughs exactly the same, and if a woman’s laugh has the right timber to it… for me, it is irresistible.

After high school, we dated for a while. Not long. Perhaps three or four months, after which I ended it for some reason or another. I regret it now, and can admit my mistake. But when you’re young you often suspect that the next girlfriend, the next friendship, is right around the corner. And with all the parties and outings and planning and growing up, the next one usually is. Until sometime after 30…

That’s the same day you wake up and realize that you’re an adult. That the future is now. That you actually have a past, parts of which you don’t quite remember. It’s sometime around then that you realize that the next one was actually the last one, and when you try to move forward like you did when you were younger, it becomes extremely difficult. For some of us, it’s because of our families, our spouses and kids. For others, it becomes tougher to move forward because the optimism that marked so many of our younger years has been replaced by growing cynicism. The troubling experiences of broken friendships, break ups, divorces, and the general realization that in the search for the NEXT one, there’s a good chance you’re going to get hurt.
And yet, this search… this endless relational quest… is what drives all of humanity. The most powerful thing in your life is the relationships you forge around you, and what you do with them. They define your character. What you become. Who you are. And yet, most of us rarely think twice about them. Most of us are more worried about paying the bills or the house or our weight or something else.

I say this because at 34, I am still looking for the next one, or if you prefer, another one. Another friend. Another relationship. I am human, and this will be my pattern until God takes me home. But while I am looking for the next one, I want to be careful to maintain, to develop, to restore, the relationships of those I’ve met through the years. And my close friends now.

I'll be honest. I haven’t always been good at this. At times, I've been downright terrible at it.
I regret the times I took for granted my friends and family. I never realized how important they were. I never realized how easy it was to hurt people I cared about simply by not following up. Much of our soft North American character, as well as our loneliness and sense of abandonment, comes directly from our apathy towards the people around us. Our unwillingness to open up, to share, to give, to respond. Women are generally better at this, but I am convinced it is infused within a Western culture that is more concerned with security than intimacy, which is, of course, a great illusion. When people are poor, they understand that the ‘security’ we give ourselves, through our money, our education, our books, isn’t real, and they have a better understanding of community because of it.

My hope, this week, is that we’ll become more aware of the most powerful, the most redeeming, the most important thing in our life. Go see your friends. Put down the remote. Don't work so much overtime. Stop cleaning so often. Call your mom. Give your wife some flowers. Take him out to see a play.

I believe we go through this life once, but along the way, we experience different lifetimes. And the richness of each can be directly measured in one way. So while we search for the NEXT one, let's not forget the ones around us.

May God give us the strength to open our hearts, to understand that the pain that comes with love is worth it, and that His plan for an abundant life, a powerful life, can only be found in the relationships we forge each day.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Broadside

A weekly look at the top (and bottom) five in the world of sports, politics, and culture


1. The Toronto Raptors finished their turn around season with a heart breaking loss on Friday night in New Jersey. I didn't expect them to win the series, but they played hard and with a few breaks, perhaps should have been playing a game seven today in Toronto. Any way you look at it, it was a successful year for the Raptors, who embodied everything good about sports. This was a rare team, especially in the ego driven world of professional sports, which genuinely liked each other. An unselfish, modest, and diverse group of athletes who, if not Canadian, embodied Canadian values. Looking forward to next season, but in the meantime, take a bow, fellas, you done good.

2. Embattled Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor. Yeah, I know that he hasn't handled the Afghanistan file very well lately, and I know he should have been more forthright about what the arrangement was about handing over Taliban detainees. But over his short time in the minister's office, the Canadian Armed Forces are more equipped, better funded, and better served then any time in the last twenty years. Liberals who are calling for him to be removed should ask the soldiers on the ground what they think, especially since it was the Liberals who cut their funding so much that at one point in the Nineties, some soldiers on the ground were wearing their green fatigues... in the desert!

3. The resolute nature of Canadians. All of this awful politicizing of Taliban prisoners, who according to some of the opposition, should be given Canadian citizenship for killing our soldiers, had not made a dent in our support for the United Nations, and NATO supported mission over in Afghanistan. What I love most about this is that Canadians understand we must stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, that it's an integral part of who we are. Good for you for not listening to all the crap coming from Parliament Hill.

4. Our soldiers. Just a quick note to say thank you for what you're doing. Did you know that recruitment for Armed Forces is higher than it's been in decades? Probably haven't read that lately, but a lot of young Canadians want to make a difference, and believe that they can make a difference, even in troubled, dangerous spots like Afghanistan. The Canadian soldiers, all of you, are setting a great example. And we see it.

5. The Ottawa Senators. This is the year they get to the Cup. I said it before, and I'll say it again. Congratulations. And for Bob Cole, my favorite announcer, can you please work up a little excitement for the Sens? I know Ottawa fans have trashed you through the years, but last night's game in Jersey was brutal. And a special shout to the Golden State Warriors for one of the greatest upsets in NBA history, beating the Mavericks in six games. Baron Davis... what a fighter.


1. The federal Liberals and Bloc Quebecois who dragged the whole Shane Doan incident back before the media. Shane Doan, a devout Christian, was cleared of supposedly making a comment about a ref two years ago. Now, you question him being chosen as Captain for Team Canada? This is so disgusting to me, I'm frothing. Don't you have a job to do, something other than trashing people's reputations who are representing our country, like, I don't know, running the government? And where are the Conservatives? Doesn't anyone have the courage to speak up for this good Canadian kid? Special shout out to Susan Riley, a columnist with whom I rarely agree. Her take on this incident is searing and well written. Good for you, Susan.

2. The Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki, the probable MVP, are out of the playoffs. The best team in the NBA this year is out in 6 games. And Dirk, well, where was he? Just another reason why Nash is and should be a three-time MVP.

3. The environmentalists' lobby refusal to be honest about cost. Look, I think most Canadians are concerned about the environment, but please be honest with us about the cost. I am begging for all you activists out there to not "Michael Moore" this whole thing, because than we'll lose support from the moderates, who we'll need to push through some real changes. Governing is about balance. That said, you've done a wonderful job opening our eyes to some of the real changes we should be trying to make.

4. Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Monarchy. Does anyone know who Stephen Harper's parents are? No. Hmmm... And he went to the University of... where was it? Somewhere in Alberta? First Paul Martin and his dad... That was bad enough, now we have the son of the worst Prime Minister in Canadian history... okay, the last fifty years anyway, which is about as far as we remembers... who is being embraced like he's some kind of hero. Sigh. I get that he will run on his dad's name. Fine. But why is the media going gaga over this kid? Because he's good looking? Because he taught elementary school? No, that can't be it. Must be nice to George W. Bush your way into office... and people say I'M conservative...

More hits than misses this week, folks, as it should be. A special shout to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has done quite a bit of good (excepting Iraq) in Britain these past ten years. Good luck in the future, Mr. Blair.

Have a good Sunday, everyone.