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What you might inadvertently be doing to destroy the life you always wanted!

January 13, 2016

I’ve read that the way Arctic aboriginals  would catch a wolf was by freezing blood around the blade of a sharp hunting knife and burying the handle in the snow so that the blade is sticking up. The wolf would smell the blood and start licking the frozen knife until it exposed the blade. The blade would slice the wolf’s tongue and it would eventually die as it’s appetite for blood caused it to literally consume itself to death.

I see the same appetite driven, self-consumption happen in people’s lives also. They may not be licking on a blade but they keep investing in the thing that is destroying them. However, the main difference between the wolf and people is that people rationalize their behaviour and willfully engage in self-deception.

Allow me to give you a few examples:

  • A person feels embarrassed, guilty and afraid because they are seriously over weight. In fact, although the media, the mirror and their mother all remind them that they should be losing weight, it was the last doctors visit that really convinced them of the need. But now all of the negative emotions are crushing in on them. So what do they do? To make them feel better they decide to give themselves a treat. A big bowl of ice cream ought to do the trick. The next morning the ice cream is gone, but the guilt has increased – along with their weight. “I’ll never lose the weight. The doctor said if I keep it up I’ll have a stroke or a heart attack in a year!” And by the end of the day they’ve scared themselves into eating nothing but celery and an apple. Feeling better they decide to treat themselves, after all they deserved it because they had hardly eaten anything all day.
  • A person with a fixed, limited income who is barely making ends meet and who has acquired a small debt finds $20 on the ground. It wouldn’t make that big a dent on their debt but they might just get lucky at the casino. The evening ends and they walk out of the casino another $50 short for their rent. The only solution they can think of to get out of their problem… you guessed it, tickets in the lottery, or more time in the casino. After all they figure they were bound to get lucky and hit it big eventually weren’t they?
  • A person desperate for a relationship finally meets someone they think is “the one”. The relationship starts to get a bit bumpy, and so they compromise their values, cross boundaries and silence their conscience to avoid disappointing their date and causing tension which could put the relationship at risk of ending. Of course, over time, the relationship does end but now the person is older, feeling even more desperate, and “well” they reason to themselves, “I’ve already compromised. I’m not fooling anyone by trying to stick to my old standards.” Before you know it they get passed around and used in one relationship to another. Their longing for the intimacy of a shared life and a supportive partner continues to drive their relationship mismanagement. 
  • A nation of people experience a growing national crisis of escalating gun violence in their streets. While they feel bad for those people, they don’t feel it should impinge upon them. So they reason, we need more citizens carrying guns in order to protect themselves. Surely if everyone had a gun their would be less gun violence!

They have allowed strong, internal desires to drive distorted thinking which leads them in cyclical, destructive patterns. What is needed is to change the way they think and reason. They must let their clear thinking, dictate to their desires and will themselves to conform to what they know is best.

Such personal discipline is an increasingly rare treat. It takes rigorous, mental energy to be self reflective and appropriately self critical. Maybe you’ll consider such a discipline, but not now. Your favourite T.V. show is on, you know the mindless, stupid one that makes you feel good. 

I do it. Do you?

December 31, 2015

Every year at this time we read or hear of people’s penchant for either making New Year’s resolution or scorning them. By and large I find that most people lean towards the latter. “Why commit to something I know I won’t keep?” is their rationale.

I understand their thinking and sympathize. More than once I’ve solemnly told myself what I would resolve to do or not do only to find that “the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.” And yet…

Perhaps the word “resolve” is too strong. Surely there are too many variables in life to be able to take control and resolve anything but what about setting a few goals? I’m a strong advocate for goal setting.

Goal setting is about heading towards a determined destination rather than drifting aimlessly. It’s about leading your own life through careful deliberation rather than being jerked around by circumstance and emotions.

With all the hype over the latest Star Wars movie, I’ve been re-watching the originals. I find myself bristle every time I hear the mantra to “trust your feelings Luke…” I find more often than not it is the trusting in one’s feelings that gets so many people’s lives into turmoil.

Goal setting is my way of taking back control; of me choosing the course that the New Year will launch towards. Sure I don’t always reach all of my goals. But I reach some and I come close to others – much closer than I would if I had never set any goals to begin with.

And so with the end of 2015, I thought I would encourage you to take a few minutes to consider where you want to be a year from now. Perhaps you may even want to write that down somewhere and jot out how you might achieve it – in other words set a few goals. I do it. Do you?

Why I don’t wish you a Merry Christmas

December 24, 2015

I have to admit that with the unseasonably high temperatures and lack of snow I have not found myself in much of a Christmas mood. But this is not the reason why I don’t wish you a merry Christmas. Neither is it because of my over-eating, lack of sleep, added stress and the pervasive grumpiness of my fellow shoppers who are joining me in the mall at the last minute during what is ironically,called “the most wonderful time of the year.”

My not wishing you a merry Christmas has nothing to do with my mood, be it good, bad or indifferent. According to the online Etymology Dictionary the word “merry” has as part of its origin to mean short lasting or brief. In which case I would be wishing that the joy, hope and love of Christmas, that we celebrate, would not last long. And I wish better for you than that. My prayer is that the joy, hope and love that is seeded in your heart at Christmas would continue to grow and bear fruit all year long.

There is another reason why I don’t wish you a merry Christmas. It seems to me that the word “merry” in its common usage has become synonymous with words like jolly. At least to my ears if seems somewhat trite or frivolous. I want better than that for you. I want something richer and deeper. I want a Christmas wish that is rugged and durable that can stand with you and stand by you! My Christmas wish is not simply for something that touches on the surface of your emotions but that dives deep into your soul to form you and shape you and sustain you when life’s circumstances get tough. As I’m sure they will at some time in 2016 – every year has ups and downs.

And so for all my friends I wish for you a Christ-filled Christmas and a 2016 filled with the blessings of God!

What your holiday stress may be telling you.

December 15, 2015

I’ve been thinking about Christmas. In particular I’ve been thinking about why so many people seem to get so stressed. Just go to the mall and you are sure to see more than a few panic stricken shoppers who look as if they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But why?

Perhaps it has to do with the pressure of getting the “perfect” present. However, I suspect most people have sufficeiently probed their spouse regarding what they would like to find under the tree. Likely their children’s wish list is tucked away in their pocket. Even in a worst case scenario they can always get a gift card. And most malls and stores will even provide a suggestion list for what they feel that special someone would like. 

It seems that most of the thought of Christmas shopping has been virtually removed. You can get thought-less gifts! 

Maybe the stores and advertisers have put their finger on what is really causing us angst; it’s that we have to think of others, to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine what would actually make them happy. 

Let’s face it we spend the other 95% of the year barely thinking of others, neither wanting or caring to know their needs, and now suddenly we have to exercise an empathy muscle that has been dormant. 

Sure spending a little more might sting, yes we are a little more tired from gatherings, and parties, and likely we’re a bit more sluggish because we’re taking in more calories than we are use to, but spending, partying and eating don’t usually make anyone’s top ten for causing stress.

Stress comes when we are asked to do something outside of our comfort zone, something we’re not use to. 

Maybe the stress of Christmas has to do with what it tells us about ourselves. During the season when we are trying to be thoughtful, kind and good (for goodness sake) we find that we aren’t.

Maybe what we find out is that we really do need a saviour. One who would come and save us from the very thing over which we are stressed – our own selfish, thoughtless hearts.

Something smells funny with atheism.

December 3, 2015

I was recently evaluating a new song and after it had finished I decided I didn’t like it because it had an odd odour. Some songs just smell funny and turn me off.

Now if you have just thought “Merv has gone insane.” Allow me to explain my remark. Clearly a song is not evaluated by its smell, the nose is not the organ through which music is considered. Just as you wouldn’t judge a painting by how it felt or food by how it sounds. This is because the organ for knowing those things must correspond to that organ to which the thing appeals.

I was recently listening to a famous theologian who, in a throw away comment said, “The primary mode of knowing God is love.” While we love with both our heart and mind, the primary organ through which God is known is the heart. It is the heart to which He has primarily chosen to reveal Himself.

Of course this is not at all suggesting that God does not appeal to the intellect, but it is to say that apart from a heart encounter with God, God cannot be known. Studying God only intellectually limits the degree to which a person can know God. This is why God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”

And this is the trouble with atheism. Atheists pursue knowing God only through their intellect and then confidently proclaim God doesn’t exist. It’s like trying to smell music and then proclaiming that the music is not entertaining because it has no odour.

If you ask me something smells funny with atheism.

My problem & how you’re about to come under attack!

December 1, 2015

I like books but I have a problem. My problem is that I usually dive into a new book, but soon I find I am tempted by another. I make the mistake of reading the back cover and perusing the table of contents of some new, intriguing title. It’s not long before I’m thinking about the subject, slowly being drawn in to a mental conversation but I have no conversational partner to engage my mind and appease my freshly spiked curiosity about the topic I’ve just been introduced to (or was I seduced?).

The next thing you know I’m in line at the checkout with my new best “friend”. But of course, I reason to myself, I won’t start reading it until I’ve finished my old one first. But I find that next book plays on my mind until I eventually give in and leave my first book in limbo usually when I am between 1/3 to 2/3’s finished.

It’s not that I’m uninterested in the first book I start, it’s just that I’m more interested, perhaps it’s more curious, about the new book I’ve just purchased. On my home side table I have 8 books all partially started or partway read, probably another dozen upstairs in my home office, and then at my work office… let’s not go there.

Now, of course I get books read, my “GoodReads” feed in the sidebar of my blog lets you know that. But I think my book reading bingeing is a symptom of a deeper problem. I have a restless, discontented, bibliophilistic heart!

The disease of discontent does not only show itself in book buying. I suspect that most of you reading this have similarly been affected to some degree or another, at one time or another. And once affected with discontent it seems like it never leaves, but merely lies dormant until awoken.

Although the winter season is associated with hibernation, advertisers are counting on that dormant disease being reawakened as they pry your heart with messages and images to make you dissatisfied with what you have. Wouldn’t you like to go out and buy a new thingamabob right now? Just imagine how much better you’d feel, how much more attractive you’d be, how you would be respected and envied by others!

You’re  about to come under attack! A highly paid, highly educated, manipulative system of coercion is about to be unleashed upon your will. ‘Tis the season – you’ve been warned.

Join me on a journey.

November 25, 2015

I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the last little while. I’ve been looking for those places, events and times where I’ve seen the Kingdom of God breaking in or breaking out. Times when the invisible world touches this one. I know it’s a bit of an intangible concept to fully grasp, it does not have the sharp edges of certainty that science offers (or thinks it does). We are less comfortable with shades of grey and would prefer a black and white world, but I have not found that this is how God’s Kingdom works. It does not and will not conform to what we would like, and so if we want to see it and observe the ripples of influence the spiritual world makes on ours we must learn to see differently. It is a  type of seeing that God makes available when He gives His Spirit (See John 3:3). And so I’ve been on this journey of trying to train myself to see this Kingdom.

Admittedly I find it easier at some times than others. It is hard to measure or commodify. I find I have to use a lot of “feeling” language: haunches, urges, impressions, nuances, impulses, these kinds of words. They are no less real but harder to quantify.

The other day was one of those days. I was at McMaster University for a course I was teaching, and went to the Starbucks before the class. On my way I saw a person who I knew. At first, I wasn’t sure that I knew them, it was outside of the regular context where we have met in the past. We caught each other’s eye as we walked towards each other, almost simultaneously our faces lit up with recognition.

Although she was going in the opposite direction she stopped gave me a hug and said something to the effect that, “Now that I have seen you I must stand in line with you and catch up.”

A small gesture of friendship that made me feel so loved. She interrupted her day for me, paid attention to me, and gave me the gift of her company.

After the class, as I drove home, the sun had gone down and it was dark. I was travelling along the 403 and along that stretch of highway in that dark, cavernous, evening sky hung a perfectly round, beautifully glistening single dot of radiance. A full moon suspended over the skyline. And an overwhelming sense of peace hijacked me as I drove. Somehow the sight of that suspended orb watching over the city brought a wave of tranquility over my heart and I felt as content and serene as I have ever felt. It felt like a sacred moment as if I had driven through a sacred space.

As I got home a note was hanging from the door asking me not to yell (as I often do when I walk through the door, to announce my arrival) as my daughter had arrived home from University in the States for the American Thanksgiving break and she was sleeping because she had only had 4 hours of sleep the night before.

This meant that this would be the first time that the whole family had been together at home in almost about 8 months. And like effervescent bubbles on the bottom of a carbonated beverage I felt this joy tickling through my chest at the thought of being together.

Later that evening as we sat around the supper table, like a bottle of pop that’s been freshly shaken, that effervescence exploded, as we laughed and joked, and teased over our meal.

We are told in the Bible that love, peace and joy are traits of God’s Kingdom. Were these moments the presence of the Kingdom of God breaking into my world? Some may tell me they weren’t real. If they mean they cannot be measured, or weighed or quantified in some way than perhaps they were not real. But in that case I know a lot of people longing to experience those things which are not real, so that the deepest places of their heart might be touched by them.

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