Monday, March 31, 2008

How To Repel Women: Lessons From a Dork

The Dating Life: Volume 1 “Back in the Game”

Many Moons Ago…

I was nervous. It had been seven years since I’d been on a date, and things seemed much different now. I’d come out of a long-term relationship a while ago, and it was time to get back in the game. The café was about half-full. A youngish guy in his early twenties was idly stroking the hand of a woman at the table next to me. He had a bored, half-lidded look on his face. He jerked his head slightly in my direction, and we exchanged knowing smirks. Yeah. I was back in the game. Cooler than cool. It was fitting that my first date would be here, my regular Starbucks. I’d read recently that home court advantage was important. I was pretty sure it had been an article on dating. Or was it that article on the Raptors chances in the playoffs? Hmmm. It didn’t matter. I forced myself to smile and slowly fixed my coffee.

“I’m the coolest guy in the world.” I muttered to myself. “I. Am. The Man!”


I turned and nearly spilled my drink.

“Uhhhh. Hi, Kim. Can I get you a coffee?” I said.

She looked down at the coffee in her hand.

“No. I’m okay.”

“Uh, right.”

Kim was tall, with short blonde hair and an easy smile. I had met her a week ago, and that night the conversation had seemed easy. But as we sat down at an empty table, I found myself drawing a blank. What should I ask her? I closed my eyes and tried to calm my nerves. I hadn’t called any of my female friends for advice because I was sure that it would just confuse me and then I would say something really stupid. Kim didn’t know that she was my first date in eight years, and I wasn’t going to give THAT tidbit away. I had to be sure about our future first. Be patient. I took another deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Much better.

“So you work at a high school?” She said, raising her cup to her lips.

Why did she ask me about my job? Didn’t I already tell her where I work?

“Yes. I work with developmentally disabled students.”

“But you’re not a teacher.”

I shook my head.

“Still, that must take some patience.”

I squinted to see her response. Her lips moved slightly downward. Was that a frown? I sighed and looked past my date’s shoulder to the adjacent bookstore and the few people browsing through their titles. I’d had hair the last time I’d been on a date. A lot of guys shaved their heads though now, didn't they? Yeah. Shaved heads were definitely cool.

“How long have you been doing it?”

Again! What is this, a date or an interview? Maybe I should have filed an application first...

“Four years.”


I snorted under my breath and buried my face in my coffee.

Nice? All she can say is 'nice'? What does that even mean? That it's acceptable but not great or that it's really swell in a different way than what I think it means, as in, its a good enough job for me to be datable?

"Steve? Are you okay?"
"yeah. Super cool. Just thinking. You know. Cool stuff. ummm... what about you?” I asked, as casually as I could. “Do you like your work?”

She put her coffee down and with an excited look on her face told me about her job with the government.

“And next year they’re sending me to Japan for five months. How great is that?”

“Sounds good.”

“Good? Are you kidding? I love this. Every Friday we all gather after work we all dress up, go out for martinis… talk about the week… I love it!”

“Hmmm. It sounds like you’re happy.” I said, in a slightly disapproving tone. “But is this what you really want to do?”

I found it difficult to believe that someone could be that happy working for the government. She looked at me as if I hadn’t been listening.

“This is my dream! It’s great!”

I nodded gravely, and gave her a faintly condescending smile. If only she had my wisdom, I thought, reassured by the noticeable absence in her life. Pah! The government? Enjoying her job?! As if THAT was enough. I obviously had something to offer her, something very real and very important.

Still, maybe she could be my next wife. I studied the small dimple in her left cheek, the way her left eyelid didn’t seem to open all the way, giving her face a smoldering, sensual tilt. And I liked her laugh. Soft and firm at the same time. It was time to tell her.

“Did I tell you that you’re my first date in seven years?”

Her face twitched for a second.

“No.” She said finally. “That’s… interesting.”

I barely heard her response as I launched into a description of my last relationship. I asked her a few personal questions along the way, but only to enough for her to acknowledge what I’d said before skimming along again into another vignette from my life. When I finally looked at my watch, I realized it was eleven o’clock. We’d talked for three hours.

I felt a strange rumbling in my stomach as I walked her outside to the edge of the snow-covered parking lot, as if I’d missed something or done something horribly wrong. I shook my head at the annoying thought.

“Hey, listen. I’ll call you tomorrow." I said. "We can make plans for the weekend.”

Her mouth twisted downwards. She must be cold, I thought. I gave her a hug, but she was stiff in my arms. Good heavens, she must be really cold.

“Well, I know you’re cold, so I’ll let you go. See you tomorrow!”

She made a funny motion with her hands and looked like she was going to say something before nodding quickly and running to her car. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Women were just no good in the cold. I waved one last time before heading back into the café to get my things.

One of the baristas approached me when I came inside. She had a strange smile on her face.

“How was the date?” She asked.


“Sounded like she was grilling you. Every time I walked by, you were talking and she had this dazed, almost dreamy look on her face. Like she was sad or something?”

“Uh, no. I don’t think so.”

I suddenly realized that my throat hurt. All the way out to my car I thought about my date, and our conversation. It was weird, but I still couldn’t remember a thing she’d said. Of course, I couldn’t remember what I’d said, either. Still, it’d been so long since I’d been on a date, I wasn’t sure if this was normal or not.

No worries, I thought. I. Am. The Man!

Kim didn’t return my calls the next day, or the day after that. For the next two weeks, I tried to call, but she never did get back to me. It was very odd. It didn’t occur to me that I’d done something wrong until I told one of my friends about it.

I think he’s still laughing…

Thinking back, it probably ranks as the worst date of my life. However, I’ve been doing dumb things with the opposite sex for a long time.

What about you? Can anyone relate to my ridiculous (and true) story? What’s your most humiliating date story? Post it or email it to me and I will post our tales of relational ineptitude. (I'll post it anonymously if you like) Learning to laugh at our own silliness brings people together and helps us move forward, especially for us dorks. We’d love to hear your story…


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Up for a Few Laughs? coming soon... The Dating Life Vol. 1

It happened the way things usually happen for me. This morning I was talking to a friend of mine about this website. Having known me only from work, where I spend most of my time laughing and engaged with both customers and co-workers, he said he was surprised at how serious the site was, as if there was apart of me completely missing from my writing. He asked why the site lacked humour.

My standard answer is that it is difficult to write humour. It comes naturally when I'm with people, but with the quill, it's far more difficult. The other reason is that I laugh quite a bit during the day, and when I sit down to write, I'm often ready to tackle things of a more serious nature. As the day progressed however, I realized a couple of things. The first is that it would be a challenge to expose that side of my personality in my writing. And the second was that laughter acts as an emotional release and helps us see our lives more clearly. The best environment for solving problems or conflict is one in which the participants are laughing. Laughter can act as a de-magnifier for the difficulties in our life. If that was the case, than maybe helping people to smile wasn't such a bad idea... if I could do it. But what would I write about?

Fortunately, I was able to answer that second question pretty quickly. I've been called smooth and charming by some people, but when it comes to the opposite sex I can be a bit... errrr... ahhhem.... dumb. I'll include some tales from my grade school years, the years I wore braces before they were cool, and the past four years of (mostly) singleness. I'll try to write a volume every two or three weeks as an alternate to my regular column. I'll be looking for, as you will see, some tips and comments from you all. (I'll say it again, please don't be afraid to post. I love your emails, but don't be afraid to post your comment.) Perhaps some suggestions from you women out there for us dummi- I mean, men.

Sigh. Okay, so here come the warts, the ridiculous, and the just plain 'head shaking', idiot things and thoughts in my attempt at the dating life.

The Dating Life: Volume 1 will appear within the next two or three days.


Authour's Note: Single women please note that I'm actually much cooler now. Super duper cool, actually. So anything you read is about, um, another guy. Well, it's me, but not the 'cool' me that I am now. Um, yeah, I'm much cooler now. Totally different. Totally.

...just wanted you all to know that.
Note 2: The man pictured with Jennifer Aniston is not me. I'm not saying it shouldn't be me. I'm just saying that it isn't.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Discouraged? Disheartened? Stop Apologizing

It took me a long time to realize what I was doing. That I was unconsciously putting myself down, attacking my own self-esteem. That I thought I was being humble, or conciliatory didn't matter, because it didn't change the impact on my life, or the discouragement I felt at the very core of my being.

But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. I won't go back to the beginning, although who we are and how we express ourselves always goes back to the beginning. Instead, let me tell you about the day I realized that I was engaged in a common but destructive process. One that all too often gets ignored, especially by people of faith. If someone had told me what I was doing, or how my life and sense of self would completely alter with this one minor change, I'm not sure I would have believed them.
But then, I would've been wrong...

..."So I heard that you weren't watching the students on the bus. That's what one of the parents told me." My boss said, looking at me with a stern face.

"I'm not sure what you're talking about, Sandy. On every field trip I sit with a student from the class. What parent-"

"It's not important. What's important is that you understand how important it is that you're not just screwing around when you should be working. These students are counting on you."

I scrunched my face, trying to understand what she was talking about. We were in Sandy's office at the school, the principal's office. In the background, I could hear the faint conversations and rhythms unique to the school system. I'd been here for the past four years. It wasn't my first visit to the office, but it was not unlike the other ones. A lecture about something of which I was either not responsible or one in which I had no idea what she was talking about.

"I know that. I love the students-"

"Good. Let's just not let it happen again okay?"

I opened my mouth but no words came out. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to shout and protest, instead I meekly nodded my head.

"Sure, Sandy. Sorry about that."

"No problem, Steve. I'm glad we got that straightened out."

As I left the office, I felt something inside me tumble. Had I not been with the students as I should have been? No. That didn't make sense. Of course I'd sat with the students.
I moved slowly down the empty halls towards my class. Well, I thought, maybe that was part of being a Christian. To turn the other cheek. I sighed and opened the door of my class determined to put the incident behind me.

Unfortunately, it didn't go away. It wasn't the first time something like this had happened, and every time it did, I could feel my strength and confidence leaking as if someone had poked a hole in me. By the end of the day, I could barely speak.

"Hey Steve, can you walk the guys out to the van? It's home time."

"Yeah. Sorry. I'll take them."

When my students had happily piled into their van, a strange thought struck me: why did I just apologize? And why did I apologize to my boss?
Why am I always apologizing?

My spirit felt like it had been chopped in half. All these people around me, moving and talking with confidence, laughing and joking and carrying out these important discussions... They seemed to exist in another world.

Who was I to say anything? I am a nobody, I thought. I am a thirty three year old former pastor, who holds down a job he got with no interview, has no responsibilities, and apparently screws up even when he isn't aware of it. I should be 'sorry', I thought.

I went home that night, as broken and dejected as I'd ever felt in my life. The thought that kept hammering away at me was that I didn't matter. That whatever my hopes and dreams were, whatever potential I'd once had, I'd totally blown it. I might as well accept the reality of it. Just do what I can to help, love my students, and accept the fact that this is as good as it gets.
Still, something inside me burned and raged. I could not accept that this was it for me, or that I allowed other people to disrespect me so easily. I didn't accept it from the youth I loved, so why was I willing to accept it from adults, many of whom I didn't even respect?

It took more than a year to answer that question. It took a year for me to realize that I was practicing a form of self-hatred, that I was lowering my self-esteem every time I accepted someone else's idea that they were superior to me. And the clearest manifestation was the amount I found myself apologizing to people around me. Yes, I'm Canadian, and we are generally a polite people, (Old Joke: How do you get a Canadian to apologize? Step on their foot.) but in my life it had gone well past politeness to belief.

It wasn't until I left my job, tackled some of my fears, and grew some confidence again that I finally stopped doing it, but maybe it would have made a difference if someone had pointed out this one simple thing to me a few years ago:

Stop apologizing!

I hear it over and over again these days, readers and friends and family members, continually apologizing... for everything. Saying 'sorry' has gone from simply a polite term to a statement of character. We're not just sorry about the incident at work, or that we're in somebody's way, or that we didn't get the entire house cleaned, or that we didn't get the grades or the promotion we were hoping for, we're sorry for much more than that. This constant act of debasement has the effect of us apologizing for who we are, for the way God made us, for the things we love and don't love. What we are doing, in fact, is telling our Creator that He made a mistake. That we are a mistake. That we are not created in God's loving image, but rather that we are nothing more than poor, sinful creatures crawling upon the dust and grime just hoping to please God and the 'bigger' people around us. This is taught, in no small measure, in too many Christian circles. Complimentarians claim that for women, it merely entails a different role, not a different value. This almost sounds acceptable, until you SEE it applied and the expectation for women is to literally debase themselves simply because they are not men. Where is the nobility of Creation in that?

There is a marked difference between asking forgiveness and saying 'sorry'. We must always be ready to ask forgiveness, but forgiveness is weighted, serious, and introspective. Apologizing rarely entails any of those trademarks. And every time we apologize to 'keep the peace' or avoid confrontation or 'to be the meek person God expects me to be', we actually perform an act of self-hatred. And as this hatred piles up, it becomes harder and harder for us to dream, for us to express our passions. In some cases it manifests itself in relationships. I know many women who are no longer capable of making a decision without their husband's 'approval'. I know co-workers and employees and friends who can barely look me in the eye, ever ready as they are to apologize for something they did or did not do.

It's time to stop.

It's time to change your story.

It's time for you to walk in the confidence and strength and passion God gave you when He created you.

And even if you do something that you think is terrible, you need to stop believing these lies that what you've done is unfixable or that someone else wouldn't have 'screwed up' like you did. Changing your story is important, because we are who we tell ourselves we are. If we tell ourselves, and let others tell us, that we are not smart enough, not strong enough, not deserving enough, than that is what we will be. It isn't a story we can change overnight. Some of you have been told that you are worthless since you were young, and every where you go, other people seem to reinforce that.

There are two things you can do. First, surround yourself with positive people, and if your choices are limited (not all of us can change our jobs), than submerge yourself in inspirational literature and films. Engage yourself in positive stories that inspire you.
Secondly, for one day examine how often you say 'sorry' to people. If you want to be polite, say 'excuse me.' If you make a mistake, apologize ONCE. Mean it. Accept responsibility for it. And MOVE ON. Do not continue to apologize and prostrate yourself before your boss or friend or spouse or partner.

Confidence bleeds when we apologize for things that we are not responsible for, including our personality. I didn't stand up to my boss that day at work, and I paid the price. I should have told her. "You're wrong. I'm a great worker. You need to check your information." Instead, I sucked it up and watched my confidence bleed onto the carpet. I know many people who apologize for simply being themselves. If you don't like to go to parties, then don't go. That's okay. It's you!

If you're in a relationship, you make compromises, but you never compromise yourself. And yes, I'm talking to you dear women. And to my introverted friends, male and female, who often feel denigrated when they'd rather spend time alone. Don't feel that way. It is how God made you. And if someone asks why you don't like "the company of God's people" or something equally stupid, firmly tell them that you prefer to spend time alone. If they start accusing you of not being (and this is the brutal truth in many Christian circles) "Christian enough" or that you need "help", perhaps a reminder such as "And you wonder why I like time alone." would not be inappropriate.

It amazes me still, that two millennia after Jesus, we still confuse paganism and Christianity. That somehow we believe God wants us to debase ourselves in front of some ruins in the dirt and grovel before the people around us. He doesn't. God thought so much of His people, He became one of us!

My prayer this week is that you will take a long look at your life. Are you apologizing too much? Even if you're not apologizing aloud, are you doing it in your mind or when you're alone? Is the story you're telling yourself one in which you are always to blame? If that's the case, you need to stop. Make an effort to NOT apologize this week, to catch yourself every time it slips to the end of your tongue. God did not apologize for creating humanity, even when we turned our back on Him. So why should we apologize for who we are?
You are noble, my friend. Capable of sin, it's true, but still uniquely created with your own passions and giftings and purpose. A great place awaits you, a place filled with dreams and confidence and strength... and hope. My prayer is that you will head for that place, and along the way, however you decide to get there, you'll stop apologizing.


Friday, March 21, 2008

The World’s Nastiest F*** Word

Changing Your Life by Chasing Your Dreams

"Most people prefer unhappiness over uncertainty."
-Timothy Ferriss

I was sitting on my leather couch, just staring at the television screen. Images flickered into my subconscious but I wasn’t processing them. I cradled the beer in my hands and glanced over in the corner. A nearly empty case sat beside the refrigerator, one I’d purchased just a couple of days earlier. I wasn’t a big drinker, but lately I’d found the increasing need to find some solace there. Numbing my brain when I came home from work every night to help me fall asleep so I could steel myself to get up for the next day.

It was a Friday night, and I tried to psych myself up. I tried to remind myself that for the next two days I’d be free, but I couldn’t escape the fact that on Monday the cycle would begin again.
How many drinks and sleepless nights would it take? How many times would I have to lie to myself before anything changed? I took a swig from the bottle and shut off the TV. The biggest problem was that my… unhappiness... seemed completely nonsensical. I was making pretty good money. I was working with students I loved. I had security. I had weekends and summers off, along with two weeks at Christmas and another week in March. I had time to write. I never had to worry about my bills or having enough to go out with my friends. And things hadn’t been this good spiritually in a long time. I liked my church, was part of a theatre group, and felt like I was growing and learning in my faith.

And yet, here I am on another Friday night, trying to numb this void in my life.

What I needed to do another examination. Yes, there were good things in my life, but what was driving this misery? Why did I dread work so much? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t just slightly unhappy, I was miserable! I hated going into work, although I loved my kids, because work was such a negative environment. The leadership was micromanagement. It wasn't simply not empowering, it was completely discouraging. So much so that I’d had a run-ins with my bosses about their tendency to pick at every little thing. I'd been given little or no authourity despite a decade in the field and there was no room to grow in the position. I also hated the daily, Monday to Friday routine. I felt trapped by it. And while it was true that I had time to write, most of the time I was so emotionally exhausted simply trying to cope at work that I came home too weary to create.

And while i had my own place, my apartment felt like a mausoleum, and every time I started to get ahead financially, I’d end up buying something to make me feel better. I couldn’t explain it, but somehow I understood that I was a square peg being squeezed into a round hole, and that if I didn’t do something soon, it would be too late.

But what could I do? I was thirty four years old. I’d thought about going back to school, but I’d hesitated every time I started thinking about the cost or the moving or the change. Besides, I was too old to start a new career.

Two weeks later, I was sitting with my successful and motivated friend, Jackie, having our weekly coffee. Our conversation bounced from politics to social issues to philosophy. As always, I felt it enlivening as we danced from subject to subject. When I mentioned the thought of going back to school, she leaped onto it immediately.

“You should do it.”

“Yeah, but, Jax, I’m still-“

“You’re a total smarty pants, and you’re not happy.”

“What do you mean? I’m okay. I love the kids-“

“I know you love the students. But you hate everything else. Besides, what’s the worst thing that can happen?”

Two other friends echoed her comments. I hadn’t realized how much my unhappiness had revealed itself. Five months later, I picked up the final piece of garbage from my apartment and left my life behind. It’s been a move fraught with many things this past year, but no regrets. My life is new, and it gets brighter every day, even when the bulb burns a little dim some weeks.

The greatest change in my life, without question, is how I deal with the f*** word.

The world’s nastiest f*** word.


Most of us live in fear. From the moment we wake up – what will happen at work, where are the kids, I forgot to call about the car, I’m so unhappy in my relationship – our day is generally governed by our fears. Most of us, without even realizing it, spend our day trying to put a positive spin on our life instead of working to change it. As Ferriss has said, most people DO prefer unhappiness over uncertainty. The key word is ‘security.’ Although the self-inflicted boundaries we impose upon ourselves are tight and imposing, well, at least we know what’s it’s like to live there. Sure. That’s what prisoners say about their prison cells. And most of us will not challenge those boundaries, even though we’ve created them, because we feel they somehow make us safe.

Think about how ludicrous that sounds. We create invisible boundaries that no one else can see, and then proclaim ourselves safe. Why? And what makes those boundaries so safe, especially if no one else can see them?

I can hear my dissenters already. “Steve, that sounds like a great theory, but we live in the real world.” Do you? What is the real world? I’ve heard that expression my whole life, and I’ve yet to identify what it means except when it is offered as a pat answer as to why we shouldn’t strive for whatever passions God has given us. It is generally offered as a term of discouragement, by people who don’t realize that they’re miserable, to persuade other people to join them in their misery.

What’s most saddening is how prevalent fear is within the church. It says in 1 John “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and of sound mind.” I could spend an hour breaking down that verse, but for now, understand that what I said about our everyday lives, is true in the church.

We’re afraid to change how we worship, afraid to discuss certain topics, afraid to associate with certain people, afraid to re-examine what we truly believe. And while God has said that He has given us something other than fear, we have chosen fear as our primary dwelling place. In many instances, the church has so established its identity in these roots of fear, that we will persecute the very people we are called to love simply because WE ARE AFRAID. We establish religious codes, books, and policies that have little to do with the Bible, and that revolve mostly around our fears about what would happen 'if.'

“But Steve, what will happen if we change the way we do church? What will happen if we focus on love? What will happen if women start preaching? What will happen if we focus on mercy? What will we be communicating if we say God loves gay people?”

Fear. Fear. Fear.

We use fear mongering to evangelize. “Hell awaits! Fire and brimstone and eternal torment!” It is not the love and grace of God, of what knowing Jesus means, of enacting the Kingdom of God now, or of finding joy in the purposes and passions of life. Nope.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

Most of us have become quite good at rationalizing our fear. I did. I would talk about how great my students were, how much I felt like I was learning, and on my particularly bad days, how I felt that God had called me to ‘this life’, unhappy or not. What I wouldn’t admit, was that I was simply afraid to change my life. Afraid of what would happen if I left my secure job. Afraid of where I would end up. Afraid of who I’d be living with… what if I didn’t get along with my room mates? Didn’t I need the time alone?

Fear. Fear. Fear.

It’s been quite a journey these past seven months, and there have been days of brokenness, of loneliness, of sorrow. Lately however, as each challenge raises its ugly head, only to find that I have not only faced it but conquered it, the fear dims. The past three months I haven’t watched a minute of television. Back in Ottawa, I watched an average of six hours a night to ‘keep me company.’ These days, I don’t need the company. I have nine terrific housemates. I’ve watched my blog double its traffic and multiply around the world. I've taught myself a professional film editing program in the process of producing three short films. I write daily now, with a lot of energy, and have seen my email load quadruple.

Most important, for me at least, is that my faith seems to find regular expression. In my contentment, I find myself better able to reflect God’s love and compassion to those around me. Each morning is spent in solitude and prayer. Even better, I wake up in the mornings as if breathing for the first time.

What conquers fear, you ask. The answer is simple. Action.

Action conquers fear. Procrastination and excuses fertilize fear.

By doing what I thought I couldn’t do (changing my life, moving, going back to school), I faced a huge fear and gained confidence. Confidence is not something you re born with, it is something you earn. With action comes confidence, and with confidence comes freedom.

Freedom is a wonderful thing and it is the sole reason Jesus came. He did not come to save us from hell, but to set us free. Free to live as God has called us, to break the yoke of our sinful nature so that we could live as God intended. (Understand one thing, God calls us by way of our passions and giftings. Too often we have been taught to work on our weaknesses. Don’t!! Stop spending hours and hours on your weaknesses! Focus on your strengths, what excites you, and whatever makes your pulse quicken.)

Whatever happens, it is time to stop allowing your fears or the fears of others to dictate your life.

Look, most of us do not like being uncomfortable, which is why we are so reluctant to try new things. This week, do one thing that makes you uncomfortable. The purpose of this exercise is to get used to being uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to take a good long look at yourself, at your life, and finally, to start thinking about the possibilities. People will inevitably try to ‘calm you down’, to reset you in ‘the real world’ (i.e. their world of misery and mediocrity). My prayer this week is that you will not allow them to cut you down or rule you with their fears. God has in store for you more than you could ever imagine, a life of freedom and purpose, and yes, even joy. Perhaps it’s time that you let go of your fears, and see what God can do…


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Monthly Mailbag

Wow... It's been an eventful few weeks here on our blog. Yes, I said 'our', because you guys are the ones that help me to continue to write here, with your letters of encouragement and your excellent questions. Over the past twelve days, our little blog has been read in 47 countries and continues to grow. So for all of you who have taken the time to digest some of the things written here I wanted to say a big 'thank you.' :)

I also want you to know that I don't expect everyone to agree with every thing that's written here. My prayer is that you'll take the ideas presented, and that they will spur you to think. To think about your faith, about God, about life, and about what you really believe. I believe that the Bible teaches situational ethics, that nuance is important, and that doing the right thing isn't easy. If I can somehow help you along that path, than I consider myself very fortunate indeed.

On to the mailbag...

"Hi Steve, do you think God is pleased with us even when we make choices that are not His perfect will but He works with us on it?"
-L, Texas

I think God certainly doesn't love us less no matter what choices we make. God is love. It is unfathomable for us, because as humans, even the best of us relate behaviour to how we care for a person. God doesn't do that. I think we can disappoint Him, but I think that disappointment is based on what's best for us. God is complete in Himself. He doesn't need us. However, He chooses to love us and guide us anyway. Again, this is something outside the human experience. I'd also say that the idea of 'perfect will' is dangerous. How can an imperfect human attain anything perfect? This is, in my books, a bad, and guilt producing teaching. Your best is good enough. Yes, we'll make mistakes, but it will never affect how much God loves us. Instead of perfection, we should be aiming for humility and mercy. Every time we choose other people over ourselves we please God, of that the Bible is clear. Best when we do it because we are so thankful for what's He's done. Guilt and fear are neither of God nor lasting motivations, in any case.

The column "Shut Up, Woman!" garnered a number of responses and questions.

"Stee Beezie... Good work here. If my pastor starts bringing you up during the service, I'll remind him of the demonstration put on in the weight room. Question from the floor: Paul's instruction for 'family living' (eg. Eph 5), this is limited to the historical context to/in which he wrote? (as in the case of slavery? - of course differently understood then from now)."
-Ryan, Toronto

Thanks for your question, pal. It's interesting to me to watch the histrionics of people in conservative evangelical circles when it comes to family roles. Why we focus so heavily on this I have no idea, until we start to talk about the aspect of power, which is where the problem truly lies. (Men who are not interested in this 'power' NEVER talk in terms of a "woman's duty" or "submission")The best of relationships rarely require definition. The best marriages I've ever seen are two people who do not need to articulate who is the leader at what point and who is 'the man', etc... It isn't necessary. The mutual respect is there. I think we often read (the apostle) Paul backwards. He's talking about the bare minimum, the idea of respect, and we make it the maximum. We turn his concepts into this rigid structure. What relationships work well under structure? He talks about spiritual armour, as a metaphor how NOT to be (in terms of fighting) and we produce a list of "spiritual warrior' books.

While I hold the Bible up as the Word of God, when we take it literally, we miss the real power in it. And yes, you're example of slavery is ideal here. The Bible was written for all time, but it still must be understood in context. We don't think slavery is a good idea, do we? Yet many people have justified slavery throughout time by using Scripture. In that case, principle always overrides any individual Scripture. Before we start quoting Bible verses, take a look at the human experience around you, look at the larger principles of Scripture, and then try and understand what Paul is saying. I think that you'll find him less the 'angry patriarch' than he appears. (And women, I think you'll find the New Testament far more empowering.)

"I've read a few of your articles, as well as watched a few of your videos on Youtube. You are brazenly sarcastic in those videos in which you hope to inspire others into the heart of the Lord; which is concerning. I never walked with the lord until recently, and my heart was filled with hatred. Your videos and merchandise ( would only fuel my beliefs that the church, that Christianity and the people who are meant to be our role models are just as I had assumed; a bunch of fraudulent thieves. You not only make a parody of yourself but of others who have no mal intention on their heart. I apologise for whatever unsettling past you may have experienced, but you have no right to inflict that bitterness onto the hearts of others. Have you not considered the implications of your actions, of your movement?"
-L, Canada

If I hold bitterness, it is the same as Thomas Aquinas who said "the church is a whore, and she is also my mother."

We hold the key to love and forgiveness, and that is in Jesus, and yet we continually display something other than that, don't we? When we believe we have our doctrines in order, that everything is right, we are certain to run over people. And that includes me. I don't claim to have everything worked out. What I do know is that Jesus never would have stood for executing people because they were gay (as Calvin did). I believe the 'full gospel" the good news, to be something far greater.

As for my videos (\2413steve) I believe Jesus and Christianity to be wholly different. That may be hard to grasp., but saying that something is Christian doesn't make it Christlike. Do I push the boundaries, certainly! I want people to THINK about what they believe. Most Christians, especially here in the West, exist in a very safe world. We do not do what Jesus did. We guard ourselves by our external behaviour, and get together with those who agree with our beliefs. I can not stand for that.

And in the videos, they are not aimed at you. They are aimed at people to let them know that not every Christian is offensive. I know it is difficult for evangelicals to hear, but it IS offensive to talk about 'the gospel' that way when you meet someone you haven't seen in 10 years!! You obviously don't care about the person! You are only interested in having them believing what you believe!! Is that what the Gospel is about? I hope not...

"I loved your personality profile test. It helped me understand myself and I feel so much better about who I am. Thanks!"
-K, United Kingdom

I'm so glad it helped! I had a number of emails like this one. Understanding who we are, that we are no less than anyone else because our personalities are different, is a God-given insight. I will try to post more things that help us with this. (For those of you who haven't taken the test, it's located near the top left-hand corner of the site)
"Hi Steve, I'm a mother of three, and I really liked what you wrote about the importance of silence and solitude, but I can't seem to find the time. From the moment I'm awake, with my kids and the family, I don't have a moment to myself!"
-F, California

You're right, finding solitude in this culture, especially with young kids is pretty difficult. My suggestion is that we may have to be creative. For example, even the washroom can be a break. I know it sounds funny, but take ten minutes instead of five. Or schedule a break during the day. At some point, we must take the time to listen for God's voice in our life. If we're too busy to do that, we need to adjust our priorities. I know its tough, but I promise you it will make a difference. For those of you out there, other busy moms, send me your suggestions for what you do and I'll post them.

"Loved the Brian Regan video. It was terrific!"
-GH, Houston

He's pretty funny. Those of you who know me know I love to laugh (and make others laugh) I'll post more comedians in the future, since this was also a popular addition to the site. As well, I never remove videos from my site, you merely have to scroll down...

My apologies, here, because I couldn't get to every question ( I do tend to ramble) but the more you send in, the more I'll post. And I do try to answer individual emails, so don't be afraid to write or comment. Thanks again, everyone...

Blessings, Steve

Monday, March 10, 2008

This Could Change Your Life! ...And Save Your Marriage

Things have faded now, but I still remember the arguing. I remember the hurt; the lonely nights when I couldn't seem stop my emotions from spilling into an empty abyss of pain and the long days that would follow. Sometimes we would make things right, we would talk it through and things would be fine. But over time, the constant frustrations and conflicts began to stain even the most peaceful moments. By the end, it was tough to look back on my marriage without my body twitching and tensing as if sensing another battle on the horizon. As much as we tried to forgive one another, as much as we tried to let it all go, even when the memories faded, the emotional scars were too great, and whatever we had once felt and known was lost and our relationship sketched a painful trail through a divorce.

It's been many years since those days, and while I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I'd known than what I know now, there's no question that one of the things I have struggled so greatly with over my life has been learning to manage my emotions.

I passed by a young couple last week as I was walking into work. They were standing outside my store arguing loudly, their voices taut and clipped, and from the little I heard, using forceful and destructive language with one another. It made me think. As much as I'd love to have a partner in life again, I wasn't interested in going back to THAT place. Much better, I thought, to be single and alone than entangled in a complicated and emotionally draining relationship.

Unfortunately, many people find themselves entangled within their relationships. As much as they care for the other person, nothing seems to work. An argument arises, a few 'hot buttons' are pressed, and suddenly the evening, the day, or the week is ruined. When it happens often enough, the relationship becomes a place of pain. And from that point, unless drastic steps are taken, the relationship will most likely die. The key then is to figure out what we can do to minimize these types of damaging conflict. This applies not only to romantic relationships, but to our friends, our family, and our colleagues as well.

The latest offering from the field of psychology and neurology, strangely enough, may offer some help. Emotional Intelligence is a concept that has been around for a while, but has only hit the mainstream this past decade. (If you want to know more than the brief description here, I'd encourage you to look at Daniel Goleman's work) What it means, in short, is “the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.” Back when I was married, I had no idea about emotional self-management. It sounded like a pile of gobblygook nonsense to me from some airhead professor who had no idea about real life and real relationships. I had no interest in this 'secular notion' of relationships.

(Yes. I was, ummmm, sort of closed to new ideas... an idiot, in other words.)

I didn't know for instance, that whenever our emotions are triggered in a negative fashion -- someone cuts us off when we're driving, we have a bad situation at work, the kids do something silly or get hurt, our partner acts selfishly -- that there is an actual physical response in our body. A chemical called cortisol shoots into our cortex. (The part near our brain stem that is directly connected to the other important parts of the brain that help us make decisions.) Cortisol has the effect of essentially numbing those functions to help us focus. (For example, if you're driving and someone cuts you off, and you swerve to another lane to avoid being hit, Cortisol has flooded your cortex (and adrenaline) allowing you to respond without thinking. It's a physical survival instinct and very important. ("Hmmmm, should I change lanes now?") However, you can see how this can be more than an inconvenience. If you get into conflict, the trigger in your brain releases cortisol, and suddenly the key parts to making good relational decisions are eliminated.

Have you ever felt that? Of course you have. In the heat of an argument, it's either fight or flight, usually fight. And all you can think about is winning the argument or getting your point across. It may even occur to you that you are being silly or stupid BUT YOU JUST CAN"T STOP. Things are said and done, and no matter what happens the next day, the emotional stain of that conflict is left behind.

So what does this all mean?

What it means is that if you understand your emotional disposition, like your personality, you have a better chance at self-management, a better chance to put yourself in position to avoid these types of heavy emotional conflicts. (If I know I've had a bad day, I can tell my partner or my friends that I need time to cool off, heck, tell them you need to flush the cortisol out of your cortex... that will impress them!)

Most of us operate on a daily basis setting off these minor emotional triggers without ever allowing the cortex to flush the cortisol from our system. The end result is that we're operating our important relationships without full control.

Here's the thing, when we set off these emotional triggers, it takes a full 18 minutes for our cortex to flush the cortisol from our system. (Here's to a new generation of Flushers!)
Look, there's no miracle to managing your emotions, but understanding that it's a chemical reaction in your body helps. It reminds us that we are not horrible people and can help us from getting discouraged about our lack of control. Our task then, is to figure off what sets off our triggers, and do what we can to alter the situation.

I spent the past six years working in the school board, and while I loved the students and enjoyed many of my colleagues, I wasn't as patient, or as kind, or as willing to "walk the extra mile" as I am now. What I've learned is that my personality didn't fit within the hierarchical system at my job, and that there were a few people, especially those in leadership, who set off my emotional triggers all day, so that by the time I got home I was thoroughly tired and discouraged. I now work for nearly a third of what I once made, and I've never been this happy. I had to sacrifice of course, with parts of my lifestyle, but somehow, that fits now too.

The better we learn who we are, the better chance we have to find God's plan for our life, and when we find that, we will find a life that fits more comfortably with our dreams as a kid. If you're in a relationship, understanding each other's emotional triggers, and coincidentally, the things that encourage one another, can be the difference between a fragile marriage and an exciting one. And for those of you in leadership, be aware of those beneath you. If one of your people seem 'off' don't be afraid to send them on a twenty minute break, or even better, sit down and let them vent for a bit.

Knowing your body, understanding your emotions, however, won't help us if we forget that we're in this together. We must learn to pay attention to people around us. Our partners, our kids, our colleagues... and even when we're out shopping or having dinner. Look at the people next to you. The more we pay attention to those around us, the better chance we have to offer the love and mercy the way Jesus did.

Life is hard, and there are no quick answers, but my prayer this week is that you'll start to look at the things in your life that set off your emotional triggers. If you're working at a job you hate, if every night you come home and your family feels your agitation, perhaps it is time to re-examine what really matters.

God loves you, my friends. Some of you have beaten yourselves up for too long. Maybe people have verbally chastised you repeatedly because of your 'emotional weakness'... be that anger, or impatience, or sadness. And maybe it is time to let that go. The tools are there if you're ready to journey into a new way of living.

I hope you all understand what a wonderful gift God has given us! He has neurologically wired us to our passions and calling so we may better know ourselves. And the more we learn about who we are and what we need, the better opportunity we have to live the abundant life.


P.S. I have been madly searching for a free EQ (Emotional Quotient) test to attach to this website. I took one on, but it cost me $6.95. If I do find one, I'll be sure to post it immediately. If you have the opportunity to take one, I definitely encourage it. Blessings, all.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Shut up, Woman! Aren't You a Christian?

Why Christian men despise women... And what you can do about it...

We were sitting on the couch, and Jer was leafing through a photo album of his trip to Florida. Heather, his wife, wasn't home. We were due back for class in an hour, but for now, we were content to chill and hang out. He showed me pictures of the beach, and I was nodding along until a picture of him and Heather made me sit up straight.

"You let her wear that?"


I was almost afraid to look at it.

"Dude, your wife is wearing a bikini!"

He looked at me and laughed, and despite the obvious consternation on my face, he didn't bother pursuing it. He knew better.

At the time, you couldn't have convinced me of anything other than the simple fact that my friend was being loose with his wife. That he should be checking to ensure she didn't act in an inappropriate manner like that. Wasn't he her husband? If I ever married, my wife would never act in that manner, I reassured myself. A bikini? What was this world coming to?

I was twenty-one years old.

14 Years Later
The lecture had finished, and I stood inside the little foyer at the retreat center, pouring myself a coffee and trying not to eat too many cookies. I approached Patricia (all the names have been changed in this blog, but the stories are true) to thank her for her openness in the last session. She'd been a minister for eleven years, and as we talked, she began to share some of her experiences as a woman in ministry.

As an associate pastor, her and her church had put together a joint service with another church. The other church was currently being served by an interim pastor. When they spoke and began to plan the service, it made sense that she would be the one to preach. When the board of the other church found out, however, that a woman would be preaching, they cancelled the service. Patricia, showing great humility, did not force her way into the pulpit. Instead, she demurred, but in every other facet ran the joint service. As she greeted the people in the foyer afterwards, the women were genuinely surprised that she was an actual woman minister. The men, however, did not disguise their disgust, snarling and making snide comments as they exited the building.

This is the environment she has worked in for the past eleven years. Funny, gentle, disarming, educated, Patricia has all the qualities you hope for in a minister. Except she isn't a man.
A friend down in Texas has three kids, and she wrote me recently, telling me how trapped she feels in her marriage. Her husband controls every aspect of her life, he never helps around the house, and he is unwilling to admit when he is wrong, insisting that as a woman her role is to simply forgive and move on. He is a prominent pastor, and whenever she has had the courage to mention it to someone, she is told that he 'is working for the Lord.' That she is to be his helpmate. That she is to deny herself and follow Jesus. She no longer knows who she is, and inside her soul is dying, but she sucks it up because she thinks that maybe this is what God wants for her.

She is a woman.

Another friend recently married. Her family life has been marred by a litany of emotional struggle and abuse, but this man, this Christian man, seemed like a dream. Until she got sick. He has decided that she is not positive enough, and he has walked away until she is more joyful for the Lord. He is commended within his community for being a strong, positive role model. Meanwhile, she faces an uphill battle with a life of unsurety, while he 'pursues the Lord'.

She is a woman.

Another friend recently wrote me about her situation. She has three kids, and hasn't worked since she and her husband married nine years ago. She asked him about work, but he has always discouraged her, reminding her that the first years are important. He also controls her life. She has no bank account of her own, because her husband claims that there should be no secrets within the marriage. When she spends money, he always wants to know why. When she calls or speaks with a man, he wants to know why. He is allowed to speak to whomever he chooses. However, openness is important to the Lord. She bravely tries to live on the compliments of the church. That she is such a wonderful role model, that her husband is very lucky. But lately these comments don't mean very much, because she realizes exactly what she is.

She is a woman.

Over and over, I am besieged this past year of stories from friends and coworkers and colleagues, of women trapped and frustrated by these seemingly loving Christian men they have chosen as their life mates. It is, in a word, heartbreaking.

Especially so because I have been there. That is, I too, once believed as these men believed. That women were designed for a different role. This past month, we were forced to read a textbook on leadership that gave two forms to fill out when examining some things we need for leadership. The form for women did not include any intellectual capacity, and filled with terms like 'loving your children'. It was a harrowing and distasteful read.

At what point did we decide that women were not equal to men? At what point did women simply start accepting it?

We know in our society that men dominate women. One in four women willed be sexually attacked by the time they are twenty, and that is the women who report it. But shouldn't the church be different? How have we turned the ministry of Jesus, who radically upended the view of how women should be treated, and reverted to this idea that everyone is equal... except for women? How have we turned the cultural letters of Paul into a doctrine for this continual, systematic abuse? Had William Wilberforce simply echoed the cry of the confederates, that slavery was in the Bible (the book of Philemon) without understanding the Biblical principle of equality for all, perhaps we would still have slavery today. Most Christians would agree slavery is wrong, but when it comes to women, well, Steve, don't you need to be more moderate?

This past semester, I have been pursued, sent angry emails, called out and castigated for my 'radical' views. I am followed, frowned at, and as I've recently found out, am talked about in churches outside the school. Most of the time, the people who are most upset are men. White males, specifically. But occasionally it is a woman. I don't say this because I am special, but because the nature of what I teach is so... mundane. Women are equal to men. Every person is deserving of our love. Doctrine can be dangerous. Mercy is always first. Isn't that what Jesus taught?

I ask this because, and as this blog is especially painful to write, I have not always thought that way. I, too, once believed that I was better than women. Better than quite a few people, actually. Better than the sinners and God-haters out there, I was always quick to delineate what made me special.

However, only one truth matters.

I am special because God loves me.

So are you.

It doesn't matter that I am a man, or that I am white, or that I am straight. What matters is that Jesus died for me, that there is now no longer black or white, Greek or Jew, male or female.
Except there is...

Because, I am a man.

The truth is that we have embraced this seeming bland form of inequality and hatred within our fold without challenging it. We use doctrine to keep people in place, without addressing the person. Didn't Jesus opppose that?

Dear woman, do you believe that you deserve to be happy? Do you deserve to be treated as an equal? How does God consider you? Has the Bible been used as a hammer to enforce your station? My prayer this week is that you will see yourself as God sees you. Fully equal to every other human on the planet. It is time to stop letting other Christians, especially men, walk over you because you are the 'lesser' of the sexes.

There are men, like myself, who needed to be completely shattered before God could slowly work on my heart. But maybe it starts with you. Maybe it's time we started asking questions and demanding some answers. Why is a man's ministry so much more important than you? Why is it okay that he has freedom to pursue life, when yours is locked into a corner of small expectations?

You are not less than a man. You are fully, deeply, and equally loved by the Creator of the universe, who sent His only Son (supported by women throughout his ministry) to remind you of that.

You are a woman.

May God help you see that this week and beyond, and to no longer take a back seat to anyone who says otherwise.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

On Retreat... Thoughts

As part of my Spiritual Formation course, the class spent two nights at a Catholic Retreat Center in Mississauga, Ontario. Much of the course revolves around this retreat; the practicality, and impracticality of spirituality, and what it entails. Theology has always been a conversation, though we often like to make it more than that if only because it is safe. Spirituality, on the other hand, is the formation or manifestation of God in our life. It does not occur naturally. Like any form, it must be learned and practiced. I’d say too many Western churches confuse theology and doctrine with spirituality, which is why there is such a hunger in our culture for spiritual ideas. Religion, absent spirituality, is like an empty shell. And if we aren’t careful, we fill that shell with more religiosity, more of ourselves, and leave God out. Jesus said to the Pharisees that they were like “white washed tombs” (very ornate coffins). They looked good on the outside, but inside they were filled with the rotting bones of selfishness, pride, and vanity. (Does that sound like some religious people you know?) It doesn’t matter how good or strong you think your doctrine is, because in the end, it will not fill that void in our hearts nor will it lead us to God.

Spirituality is the practice of knowing God, and the attempt to allow Him to change us that we become more like Him.

Here are some thoughts from the retreat:

Wednesday, Feb 27

I arrived with Mark and Pete at about 7pm. We stopped along the way to get some food at Wendy’s, and I overate. They were both in tears (of laughter) from the restaurant to the retreat center because of my groaning, which made me laugh too, which only made it worse. Great. First day of my spiritual retreat. A glutton.

…I like my room. It’s small, with its own bathroom. I have a window, a bed, a chair, and a desk with a kneeler underneath. Somehow the spartan nature of the room makes me breathe easier. When I get back I intend to clean out my room back at the house.

…The chapel is barely large enough to hold all 68 students. It is shaped in a circle. Some of my classmates are unfamiliar with the Catholic setting: the altar and the tabernacle and the kneelers. I like it however, it reminds me of church when I was a kid.

…Our professor, Dr. Sherbino (who prefers we call him David), has asked us to call out what we hope to receive from our time here. I listen to a number of people call out before I voice my own expectations. “I am bitter towards God in certain areas. I’d like to work that out.” My bitterness is in the area of relationships. As a divorced, single man at 35, I have not had much success in that area. Coincidentally, Pete had asked me earlier in the week in I trusted God to bring someone into my life. My simple answer is no, I don’t. Every time I’ve met someone it has resulted in disappointment. I no longer trust God when it comes to women. I’d like to change that.

…At 11pm they turn most of the lights off. Every one goes to bed except for Pete, Mark, Greg and myself. We stay up until 2am talking and laughing in the dim light of the foyer. I can’t remember laughing so much. It makes me realize just how important it is to have good male friendships. Did you know that the average North American male does not have a single, deep, male friendship?

…I can’t sleep. I am hungry and cold. They turn the heat off at night and offer extra blankets. I can’t help but think I’d make a terrible monk. I do however, appreciate the silence.

Thursday Feb 28

…Happy Birthday, Sis.

…In the morning service, our professor stresses the importance of unity. The Scripture he reads is on the importance and power of our words. I can’t help but think of how often I get critical. Although I do like to encourage people, my heart is too often swayed by bitterness and frustration with those who do not see things the way I do. Especially in my conservative institution, where change is almost anathemic to many of the students. I must do a better job promoting unity.

…In our morning lecture we talk about solitude and the importance of solitude. One thing sticks with me. As we are looking at the three temptations Jesus faced, our professor labels them this way: 1)The temptation to be relevant 2) the temptation to be spectacular and 3) the temptation to be powerful. These are the three temptations all leaders face. For me, it is the second one. The desire for a spectacular life, for a spectacular ministry. I want to sell a million books, produce and direct best selling films, and deliver speeches to thousands of people. Although it is easier for me to shrug off the grasping nature of materialism, ‘spectacular’ still holds me in its spell. I long for the approval of so many. My prayer is to remember that small is big and deep, and that big is usually wide and shallow. Lord, help me to want small and deep.

…After lunch we are expected to spend the following five hours in silence. Some will find this more difficult than others. Despite my gregarious nature, as a writer this will not be too hard I think.

…It’s cold out, but the sun is bright, and the blue sky lends a perfect backdrop to the mass of evergreens and whitened landscape. The snow crunches under my boots as I head walk down the road. Greg joins me on my way back, and we walk in silence together for about ten minutes. It’s an odd feeling. Somehow my presence feels heavier when I am. I will have to think about this more.

…We're still in our time of silence. Mark and Pete and I head down to the river. We stumble down a rickety flight of about 150 stairs to the riverbank. The sun glistens off the rushing water, which bubbles and gushes, made louder by our collective silence. I am trying to listen to God, but find that I am too busy writing (in my head). I hear nothing. Our professor has said that we carry on nearly 1200 conversations in our head, that there is great noise when we first learn to appreciate silence. As the monks will often say, in our culture, waiting is associated with doing nothing or wasting time. But when we wait on God we allow our souls to grow up. I guess I have some growing up to do.

Friday February 29th

...I'm still thinking about silence, and how I use it. And when I do not. I am realizing that I often use silence to punish people. I put my gregarious nature on hold to let others feel my displeasure. I also realize that I am often uncomfortable being silent with others because I am trying to lighten the weight of my presence. Sometimes this is a good thing, but too often I equate silence with displeasure. For me, talking is a bridge. But does it have to be? And why am I so focused on lightening my presence?

Saturday March 1st

...It's been an interesting few days. A lot of fun, at night too, with four or five of us who stayed up way too late both nights playing pranks with plastic cups and throwing Kleenex boxes at one another. Not sure how spiritual that part of it was, but for someone who never goes on vacation, it was a nice break.

One last thing. Solitude must be intentional, especially in our culture. Let me encourage you to try it. Spend time, either in the car or take a half day and get away, so you can have some solitude. No music. No noise. At first, you may be amazed at some of the 'junk' that broils to the surface. Confess it to God, and wrestle with it. This is how we grow our character. At some point, we have to let God speak to us. That can be a scary event, because some of us worry that He WON'T speak to us, or if He does, what will He say?

I'd say take small steps, but if you're interested in true spirituality, you must be willing to face solitude. Jesus had a pattern of solitude and than facing the crowds, and than hanging out with the disciples. Real inner strength comes from that which God gives us. We risk burnout in this life when we forget to go to the well, as it were. God loves you and wants to get to know you. Remember the story of the prodigal son, where the son spends the inheritance and comes crawling back to the father, who welcomes him back and throws him a huge party. God is not angry with you! He longs for your company! I think the effect on your life and faith will surprise you.

-Have a good week everyone.