in my last post I reflected on the absence of a family member.
to end the year I thought I would reflect on the holiday season and the presence of family.
I spent the last week travelling between my mother’s home and my grandmother’s home. I eaten more christmas dinners that I can count and played host and guest to parties full of family in both locations.
new locations for this creature to explore

continuing a norweigan tradition Marianne brought us last year!

to the victor goes the marzipan pig!

Brad found the almond in the julegrøt

he and his pig became fast friends

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happy new year!

time is a funny thing.
two years disappeared in the blink of an eye.
two years seems like a lifetime ago.

~~~

the one thing I have learned in the past two years is that no matter what happens you just keep living.
my father taught me that the best way to be alive is when you are helping other people grow.
this is why I teach. this is why I coach.

~~~

when I was seven I wanted to play hockey. this was a surprise to no one in my family. my mother grew up playing and eventually coaching hockey. my father volunteered with the local can skate program. playing hockey was the natural progression for me.
unfortunately there was a small “situation” at the beginning of the season. when it was time to purchase my hockey gear mom was away and so the task fell to my father. full credit to him though, he didn’t have any experience with hockey gear but I was fully equipped for my first ice time. he stepped up to the challenge because making sure I had a great experience was the important thing.
this story doesn’t end at that first ice time. buying all my equipment came right down to the last minute and resulted in the purchase of a pair of hockey pants that could be described as “large”. they were the only pair available so dad bought them. they were so large on me that I pulled them up to my armpits and they still went almost to my ankles.
I wore those same hockey pants until I was a teenager in bantam.
I still laugh about it every time this story comes to mind.
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making sure this hockey player had fun meant my dad was willing to appear a bit foolish

~~~

my father was a silly man.

we loved laughing at him, he loved hearing us laugh.

I miss you dad.

to feel love, you must be known

– Donald Miller

I have spent so many years avoiding being known. there is a classical idea that the oldest type of magic is naming magic. that if can name something then you control it. I have devoted a lot of energy towards the pursuit of loving people I meet in a way that is new or unprecedented for them. without realizing it, this process has been largely about getting to know people, learning to walk through walls and armour they have. learning to see and understand the baggage they carry.

During this time I was learning to construct my own defences. I guess it was with a motivation that if people couldn’t get in then I couldn’t be hurt. who knows, the subconscious is a strange, strange place. consciously I have always been a chameleon, joking that I want to be a myth. it comes at no surprise that few people actually know me.
My greatest fear for a long time has been that I would never meet someone who loves me like I could love them. whenever I express this fear friends are quick to jump in and say that I will be surprised, that I just haven’t met them yet. this was an idea that I could get behind. the unpredictable nature of the future is my favourite property of time.
then, a week or so ago, Donald Miller tweeted the leading quote. no context. no commentary. seven words that would upset everything I know and dominate my mind ever since.

my greatest fear is a situation of my own creation. to avoid being named, to avoid being vulnerable or weak, I have prevented myself from being loved.

what does this look like going forward? I’ll likely be just as mysterious as ever. fundamentally changing the person that I am seems unlikely. however when people get past my defences I won’t run away. when someone genuinely knows me I will embrace the inherent vulnerability of the situation.

when someone uses my name and it stops me so completely that I feel it physically I will no longer feel it as whiplash. instead I will recognize it instead as a side effect of being known.
then the love can come.

community is a large part of life. communities are things that businesses hope they can create and that people are eager to be a part of. there essentially two truths about communities.

    • communities are die without engaged people
    • people are left as hollow shells of themselves without community

with these two truths one would think that communities and the art of creating a community should be simple. make sure you have a critical mass of people and they will be happy and your community will thrive. this is the example I see most often. churches and businesses alike have great to create community (for different end goals obviously). there is nothing wrong with this desire as communities benefit both groups greatly. there are many social media experts and consultants that groups can hire to attempt to grow or cultivate their communities. I will say quite simply this is a waste of resources and time.

the fundamental problem is that community is not something that can be created. as it turns out the truths above don’t work both ways. having people does not make a community. you cannot say that you are going to grow a community if you do x, y, and z. there is a non-zero chance that a community may form if you do say those things but it isn’t a guarantee.

communities are organic things, just like people. or rather a mold. yes let’s go with mold. they will pop up where they feel like, when they feel like and die if they choose to.

expressed more fully I mean that given a group of likeminded people in a common location at the same time, they will communicate and relate. those relations will naturally grow and become bonds. this is how a community grows. a series of 1 on 1 relationships that form a network that is larger than any one individual relationship. by the same token though communities have natural life spans and at some point they die. if you try to hold on the idea of a specific community once it has passed it’s life expectancy you will find that those actions will have a negative impact on the relationships that you previously relied upon as a member of the community.

business that want to create communities generally skip over the 1 on 1 relationship aspect and wonder why no one forms a real attachment. churches on the other hand are dealing with communities dying out and respond by doubling down on the same methods using the mentality of if we try harder then people will come back. however like a bad relationship sometimes trying harder will just push people away and alienate them.

thus the problem is not that communities are dying but rather that we cling to what we know for too long. as someone who lives in a university town I experience the rise and fall of communities at an accelerated rate. looking back over the past 7 years I can identify 3 distinct, sequential communities that I was a part of. each was the product of the failure of a previous community and often shared similar components but was unique in it’s own right. life follows death, it is the natural order of things.

the death of a community is not something we need to fear. something will grow to replace it, often something that is stronger and healthier because the individuals that compose the community have learned lessons from all of their past communities. the thing we need to fear is not being willing to let go of something that has already died. when we do that we not only hurt ourselves, but also those that were a part of what made it great in the past.

what motivates us to create? where do we find our muse?

I haven’t been creating much lately. not music, not photos, and not words on a page. I have a theory about why this is.

I am happy

the friction I need to overcome to create seems to be greater when I am happy and everything is going well in life. when I am unhappy the words seem to poor out of my soul. when I am unhappy I don’t want to let go of my camera for fear that I would miss capturing the next moment of pure beauty or emotion that I am around.

looking around the world a lot of art is created through the lens of pain. music is often sung from heartbreak. painting as an expression of deep desires of the soul. this is not something that I will take exception with. to do so would belittle the work these people do.

the question should instead be “how do I continue creating when my soul isn’t grieving”. I don’t have an answer to this. if I knew how to find a muse and continue creating when life is rainbows and sunshine I wouldn’t be writing this post. I do think that it has to be a two part question. I believe there are spiritual and practical components to it. the ability to create feels like something that should be a result of being balanced and healthy in both of those areas in your life. both spiritually and practically you should not be willing to sit on the sidelines and consume. instead you should be making a mark somehow.

so go make something.

even if you feel like you don’t need to.

being a good christian teenager attending camps and youth group the one subject that I was taught about more often than anything else was relationships. the prevalent teaching idea was to guard your heart and not give anything away to someone unless you are going to spend the rest of your life with them. the rationale behind this is because once you give part of yourself away then you can’t give it away in the future. this idea that we only have a finite amount that we can pour out to other people seems to be in contest with teachings about loving everyone we meet.

let’s consider for a moment the idea of walking around barefoot. I am someone who isn’t particularly fond of wearing shoes and often wander around without shoes. when I first started walking around barefoot I pretty much stuck to the grassy areas. these were safe areas. pavement was sometimes okay but often could be too warm or even sharp. gravel was my worst enemy. the majority of surfaces simply overwhelmed my feet and rendered me incapable of moving.

over time though my feet adapted to the point where not only could I tolerate pavement and gravel but I could even run on just about any of the surfaces without overwhelming pain. the reason for this of course is that my feet developed thick calluses enabling them to deal with much greater strain. a similar scenario is found amongst guitar players. one hand develops calluses that enable them to create something beautiful without wearing out their fingertips.

I am going to suggest that we really need to develop a callused heart. now this immediately brings to mind people who have been hurt and are cold and closed off from others. this is funny, because in any other scenario developing a callus is considered a good thing. whether it is working in a field or playing an instrument the teaching is always “once you push past this initial stage you will be ready to truly perform.” so why then, in matters of the heart do we not follow a similar model.

it isn’t incompatible with the ideas of what we tell teenagers about love, whether in a relationship or people in general, in fact it falls quite in line with it. with a fresh heart you can get out of your depth and be hurt really quickly. the pain from loving someone, in any capacity, is inevitable. however like any other situation these experiences will build calluses that give us a choice. we can either choose to never love again because you want to dwell in the dullness, or we can chose to pick ourselves up and love in a more complete way the next time and the time after.

instead of letting pain and loss cripple us by teaching that we only have a finite amount to give we need to be teaching people that loving others deeply and completely isn’t something that even comes from us. it comes from God and we simply have the job of developing a layer of callus that will help us to navigate the rough edges of the gravel that is the people we meet. then we can run with the whole love thing.

this fall has brought many changes to my life. like the leaves falling from trees, long standing parts of my life have fallen away. I have gone through major changes in the areas of church and working with youth. specifically I am not doing the first anymore and I have moved my work in the second area to the ice as I have begun coaching sledge hockey this fall.

the move into coaching actually led to no longer going to church as there was a scheduling conflict. however the decision to stop attending a weekly service has proven to be an area of much discussion and thought for me.

the initial reaction of most people was simple concern that I would not be participating in a weekly ritual. common responses were “maybe you can find a service at some other time.” the thing that was most entertaining to me about this was that most would then go on to tell me that without church I would be missing out on important community time, yet their reaction was to send me off to another community that has an alternate meeting time. while I suppose one could say that all churches are part of the same “global community” that would just be simple justification of a much greater issue.

first I will say that the church that I attended was by far the best example of a church that I have ever seen or participated in. the more I talk to friends about other church experiences the more thankful I am for the church I was/am a part of. I include this disclaimer because I am not suggesting that I am looking for another church to participate in. I am going to address the very institution that we have created in the church. a second more general disclaimer that I will make now is that this will probably upset or offend some people. this is the intention, it isn’t to be seen as a personal attack on anyone though, more an educational attack.

I titled this post institution of man simply because that is what the church is. I am aware that pretty much everyone will disagree with me on this point but I would suggest that is because of two things. it isn’t what the church is supposed to be and that people are very good at deluding themselves when necessary. church can be simplified to a collection of traditions and processes that have been collected over 2000 years and practiced because they are the “right thing” to do. of course most people reference scripture as the basis for many things, which in and of itself is fine, but the problem lies in the attitude. while scriptures provide examples and instruction they were written at a different time, to a different people, by authors who have a long dead mindset. this does not invalidate the truths contained however it does mean that our application of those truths is based on our own human interpretation of those truths. this human element is a beautiful facet of christianity and should be celebrated. the problem arises with the human attitudes that accompany the interpretation and application.

the attitude of many christians has become one of superiority. if you don’t follow a specific set of guidelines, adherences, etc then you are missing out or that you will be unable to grow in faith or relationship with god. this of course is a foolish place to reach. considering that many of the practices that are considered integral to the church have no foundation in the bible. things like organs, the music of many popular hymns for example began life as tavern music that the church adapted to stay relevant and engage people. so today when churches face resist things like new music or repurposing rooms in their churches it is simply due to selfish stubbornness. interesting the bible does directly address this kind of behavior. in colossians 2 Paul is writing to the church at laodicea (troublesome bunch they are) and he warns them specifically to make sure they do not get lost in man made philosophy or tradition (v8). this is a wonderful idea that is too often ignored by the church. Paul is teaching that we can develop a strong faith system, and that we can even utilize ideas and traditions created by man, however we need to be careful as to how tightly we hold on to them so they do not become our undoing.

so what does this mean for the church. I would never suggest that we shouldn’t be meeting as a body of christians. the problem as I see it is that church is happening because we are supposed to have church. this of course is not a valid motivation or starting point for anything of value. when looking at the early formation of the church we don’t find a group of people that said “well all other religions have gatherings so we should too!” instead you find a group of people who have hearts that are concerned with the well being of others. what we know as church happens to be a natural side effect of their heart and mind set. this of course is not something you can found a church on, in fact it is quite the opposite since no church is founded, one just happens.

so this is where I am at. I really do believe that the current system is beyond repair. that is the nature of a man made system. the foundations of the system have fallen into such disrepair that there can be no fix. I do not have any idea what the new system should look like, but I do honestly believe that the religion that has been created is doing a lot of harm to a lot of people. this of course is not a popular idea and is often met with the idea that we need to be considerate of the beliefs and practices of others, not wanting to offend them. while I think that approach has value in some situations this is not one of them. when Jesus entered the temple to find it corrupted by the business people and rif-raff of the time he didn’t stop to consider their feelings or how the ended up justifying the practice they were participating in. no, he started throwing tables. throwing tables! 

tables need to be thrown. attitudes need to be discarded. interpretations need to be exposed for what they are – interpretations, not truths.

above all faith is about love, a deep mystifying love. not rules.

I will lead with a brief thought. there hasn’t been anything posted in a while. it certainly hasn’t been because of a lack of ideas. in fact at the end of november a friend of me wrote something on love that I promised to comment on. well I never got around to that and after a couple weeks I figured I would just write a blog entry on the idea in response to him. the end result is I have kept putting off writing it because I am constantly thinking on the idea more and not writing it down. this ends now of course as I am going to compile these thoughts I have been having into one single place.

to say that I am fascinated by loving unconditionally and completely would be a bit of an understatement. this is also not an attitude that I reserve for one or two people in my life, this is the attitude that I want to and try to take with all of the people that I meet through the course of a day. now of course being a simple human being I don’t usually meet this goal, often failing spectacularly (which of course is at the expense of others as there is no other way to fail at loving). the reason I continue to believe that this is the way I really want to be though is because of the times when I do succeed. those moments when you can truly care for someone with a consuming passion regardless of what they do or say, is a truly spectacular feeling.

now there are some that would suggest to me that you can’t really love unconditionally and I would agree with them but with the qualification of “unless you are working at it.” if you even stop working at it for a moment things like jealousy and selfish desires will creep back into your mind and muddy everything up. I think the best advice I have ever heard on the matter of how to love people came specifically talking about romantic relationships but can be applied anywhere. I read it in Donald Miller’s newest book and here is the quote, “she had married a guy, and he was just a guy. He wasn’t going to make all her problems go away, because he was just a guy. And that freed her to really love him as a guy, not as an ultimate problem solver. And her husband believed she was  just a girl, he was free to love her too.” too often we try to push our problems off to others in hopes that they will solve them, whether in a romantic relationship or any other relationship we form. generally we don’t decide that someone will be our problem solver until we decide to engage with them and lower our guard to love them. the connection between these two decisions creates an unsustainable dependence on the problem solving nature.

one of the most natural reasons we avoid this kind of engagement with the people we meet is that there are risks associated with loving deeply. there is pain and heartbreak that many people know well when the person fails to live up to our expectations of them. for some the idea of even opening up to one person is a terrifying ordeal simple for the fear of being hurt or rejected. recently I said on the internet “to agree to love is to agree to have your heart continuously broken.” I can honestly say that nothing I have ever said has generated so much discussion before. it was a statement that had come out of a lot of thought about the idea of having your heart broken and why it happens. I will say that I meant it in a beautiful fabulous way and didn’t even notice how depressing or cynical it sounds. 

I have come to have a great appreciation for heartbreak in the last couple weeks. while in no way do I mean to belittle that pain of it all or suggest that it should be easy to deal with if you aren’t weak, those are not the aspects of heartbreak that I am going to dwell on. those aspects suck a lot but there is a lot to be said in a positive light about heartbreak that generally goes unsaid. if there really was nothing positive about it then I don’t think anyone would ever take a risk that involved heartbreak. even the chance of a life long partner who loves you completely wouldn’t be enough to risk something that is only negative.

so what about heartbreak is good then? well it is a place in life where you have absolutely no use for the masks or performances that you use daily when meeting people. your emotions and thoughts are so close to the surface that just about anything can set you off. it is this closeness that makes this state of being the perfect place to change. now no one really likes change but then again deep down very few people are happy with who they are and they crave change. normally change is really hard to affect and to handle because it is pushing you out of your comfort zone, however when you are already so far outside of a comfort zone – completely broken and open – change just seems like a good idea. so this process of heartbreak is really just a process of transformation where we can learn about ourselves and open ourselves to being a better person.

I believe there is great value and power in just accepting people for exactly who they are and providing them with a love that, as far as they can tell, they have done nothing to earn or deserve. I think it is something that can be painful or beautiful, often both at the same time. it really isn’t something that can be ignored though.

Tonight as I drove home in the rain I decided I would turn my radio to my default radio station, CBC Radio 1. As I tuned in I found myself listening to a program called Out Front. This show they were talking about an arranged marriage, one specifically although they did generalize a bit. The really interesting part of it was the talk about how it is surprising how genuine Love develops in these situations simply because they choose to Love one another. I have held the opinion that people choose to be in love and that it isn’t something that you “fall” into for a while now but usually just get funny looks. I am interested to hear others opinions on this.

Seeing that it is the end of another university school year, the sixth time I have witnessed this event, thoughts and discussions have turned inevitably to employment. For me personally I have been constantly answering questions about what I want to teach, where I want to teach, or ‘Why the heck did you take this degree at all!’ That last one is my own personal favorite of the bunch. Personally I love teaching and I love the teenagers that I get to work with when teaching however I am not a super big fan of the school system. Just not the kind of place I really want to spend my life.

I personally think that loving what you do is the most important thing when it comes to a job and that money is a lesser consideration (There are people I know that will give me grief about this but I am okay with that). Having the desire to go into work and the ability to love what you are doing contribute to your mental health, your productivity at work and also your happiness outside of work. Of course I have nothing firm to back these claims up but as I like to do I will leave that up to someone else.

I came across an interesting interview about the Love/Growth/Cash Triangle on the internet that go me thinking about this. Read it here.

Of late I have spent a lot of time thinking about truth, honesty, lies, liars, and living in general and I have come upon a topic that I want to hear the opinions of others on.

That topic is regret.

What does it mean to regret something?

What does it mean to have no regrets?

I am left wondering if it is part of the human experience to regret in life, or that if by believing that one is living a life of no regrets are they just deluding themselves? What things do our regrets get in the way of us experiencing or doing in our lives.

Does regret stop love?

I look forward to the questions, answers, and reactions of those that take the time to let the idea of regret ruminate for them.