Discipling the Body

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Discipling the Body: Inviting Christ into all life

65cb6659b02df2aed3e7535d919b5610[This is me just after Ash Wednesday service at
St. Paul’s Bloor Street Anglican Church, Toronto, On – 2013]

Welcome to my blog Discipling the Body. This blog is one of two blogs I maintain. The first is a theological/faith oriented blog The Sacramental Nomad. This blog is about life in general.

I’m a married father of one son (with a second on the way) and I work full-time, so I don’t have a lot of time. In fact, I’m writing this at 4:30am on a Monday morning, just to have time to write it. I write about things I enjoy: writing, theology, exercise, personal finance, the arts.

Specifically though I think there is room on the internet for a blog that looks at “life” through a specifically Christian lens. As a Christian, I don’t believe that faith is one aspect of my life, but that my faith must inform every part of my life. Sure, there are parts of my life that are more directly faith related: prayer, attending church, reading Scripture, etc. But when I go for a run, or lift weights, or take in a musical, or listen to a great piece of music, I don’t do that apart from my faith, but rather as an extension of my faith. My faith informs the things I do, how I do them, and what significance I give them.

How does my faith inform my desire to be a triathlete. What do swimming, cycling and running have to do with following Christ? Well, that’s precisely what this blog is going to look at. You’ll share in that discovery as well as following along on my journey accomplish possibly the biggest and hardest goal I’ve ever worked towards.

The Goal: To complete, within the 17 hour official time limit, an Ironman distance triathlon, by the end of the year I turn 40: December 31, 2017.

An Ironman is: Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles, Run 26.2 miles – all in 17 hours.

So, come along for the ride. Learn about food, fitness, and faith.


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You (probably) know what to do

Sometimes you already know what to do. I don’t mean you posses some inner esoteric knowledge from the universe, I mean you don’t need another book, another CD, another online program, another documentary or more information. You need more action.

Action is hard. Is requires planning and organization, both of which can take time. Time is scarce and we don’t always know where to start. So, start small.

Start with drinking a glass of lemon water in the morning. That’s pretty easy to do. Then move onto cutting out obvious sugary drinks and candies. This can be harder to do, but it’s not complicated.

Then move onto removing or eating foods you already know you shouldn’t.

Which diet to do? Pick one. Trust your intuition. Stay away from diets that overemphasize one food. The broccoli diet, the Twinkie diet, the carrot soup diet.

Meal planning can take time, this is true. But don’t delay because you think one more book, one more workshop is going to change your life.

You probably know what to do. Just start.

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Deep Work: The perils and possibilities of social media

One of my favourite authors and thinkers is a scientist named Cal Newport. He’s written several books, but the two that have resonated with me are a great career book called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” and a book on how to truly do your best work titled “Deep Work”. His latter book and follow-up blog posts are large reason that I’ve finally deleted (not deactivated) by Facebook and Instagram accounts (I still have Messenger and twitter for the time being).

Get the book and read it for yourself, or read these great blog posts:

How We Sent a Man to the Moon Without E-mail and Why it Matters Today

Spend More Time Managing Your Time

Alexander Hamilton’s Deep Work Habits

On Social Media and Its Discontents

Beyond #DeleteFacebook: More Thoughts on Embracing the Social Internet Over Social Media

On Digital Minimalism

I (nor Cal) am not saying social media can’t be useful. My wife uses it all the time to buy and sell children’s items at a great discount. There are many groups that are provide valuable information and connection. For most people however, I venture to say that there is little real value.

I have considered one day restarting my account and not having any friends. Just having it for the purpose of being part of certain groups. But, I fear the temptation would be too great for how my mind works. I’m very all or nothing, not great at achieving moderation.

As I said, I have kept Messenger because it does provide a convenient way to stay in touch with friends. I have also kept twitter for the time being for a very specific purpose, but it too can go at any time.

Do a serious audit of what you use social media for and the opportunity/cost is to your life. We all have the same amount of time available to us. Will you use it to do your best work, or take in more low calorie information?

I still have those moments when I think of something funny or interesting to post, but this was life before social media. You perhaps sent an email, or saved it to tell someone the next day. Or you just laughed and forgot about it.

You do need time to relax, we can’t be serious all the time. I spend too much time on Netflix, but we all must have our vices.

Hope you enjoy the articles.

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Two struggles of being a parent of an autistic child

I hate that I have to care.

I recently found out that a local theatre company (Young Peoples Theatre) offers relaxed performances, suitable for autistic children and other who find loud noises and darkness a barrier to attending live theatre. This isn’t a new concept, movie theatres have been doing this for a while.

I had taken acting classes through YPT when I was a child, so I was really happy that they continue to innovate and be a good community partner. At the same time it made me cry. I hate that I have to care about this. I love both my sons. One has autism, the other is neurotypical. They are kind, smart, and funny kids.

But I hate that I have to care about all these extras. Finding the movies, the theatres and the experiences that are easier for him. I hate that we have to live a Tetris puzzle schedule to get him to pre-school and different appointments with his occupational therapist, different educational opportunities for my wife and I … and trying not to neglect our youngest son.

One of the hardest parts of having a child with special needs, especially autism, which is essentially an invisible disability, is that to others, we may look like we have it all together. It ain’t so. We’re tired, worried, and stressed. We fight to get out children ready to go out. I know, most parents are saying “so do we!”. Well, all I can say is: either your children is an undiagnosed autistic, or I can’t really make you understand. The difference is the frequency, duration, and reasons for his behaviour. He doesn’t meltdown because he’s being obstinate, he’s melting down because there’s something that doesn’t compute. His inputs are messed up and his wires get crossed.

I love him dearly, I really would’t change anything about him. He’s the child God gave us and I’m excited to see him grow. But, I hate all the extra stuff we have to manage.


Invisible disabilities

When someone gets sick, like really sick (Cancer, breaks a leg), their immediate community of family and friends can rally around them. People organize meal trains, respite care (babysitting), laundry, or other help. When your child has an invisible disability like autism, people can’t see it and they can’t understand it, so rarely does the calvary come. We’re very lucky in that we have a chance every week to get away for a few hours for a date night. We’ve always been able to secure funding for a respite care worker a few hours a week (well, we can do whatever we want, but the funding is limited, so we ration to make it last). We have a great worker and our son loves playing her. She works with him on his skills and development).

On the other hand, when people ask if there’s anything they can do, I feel guilty asking them for help, like a meal. One one hand, this isn’t something that is just going to end. Aidan, God willing, will have a very long life, and there will be different stages of this as he grows up. Are we going to ask for help until he’s in college? There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and if people offer, I suppose you should assume they are asking out of a genuine desire to help.

I’ll do whatever we have to to help our son have fulfilling life. But, I don’t have to like what we have to go through to do it.

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Why I’m being anti-social.

I deactivated my Facebook account a couple of months ago and yesterday I deactivated messenger and Instagram. I’m still on Twitter for the time being, because I have a particular need for it, but I’m hoping to be able to ditch that as well by year’s end. I’m keeping LinkedIn for professional reasons, at least for now.

Despite being a fairly early adopter of a lot of technology, I was one of the last to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. I was skeptical of the service and wondered why anyone would voluntarily put that much personal information out there for people to see. But, feeling like I was missing out, I joined. And was immediately sucked in. I posted pictures and statuses, hoping for the red like button to illuminate. I won’t say I was addicted by any clinical definition, because quitting wasn’t really that hard, but I was definitely a heavy user and loved getting the little hits of recognition (likes, comments).

After many years of indulging in various forms of social media, I came to realize that it was not having an overwhelming positive effect on my life. Indeed, I now believe that the positives did not outweigh the negatives.

So, here are some of the primary reasons, I decided to let go.

1 – It’s a time suck that prevents me from getting more meaningful things done. I recently finished reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. In it, he makes the case that most of what we find useful about Social Media has legible ROI on our lives, and should be eliminated in favour of pursuing more worthy work (note: work doesn’t necessarily mean our employment. It could be a hobby, etc.). I also recommend his other books, particularly, *So Good They Can’t Ignore You*

2 – I’ve read some research that indicates were only meant to have a small number of close friends and despite the rise of social media, most of us only have 2 or so close friends. Social media gives us the illusion of being closer to others and knowing more about them, then maybe we really do. Long before social media came around, we lost the concept of an acquaintance. Merriam-Webster defines this as: a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend. We’re all supposed to be super friends, because we can share the most intimate (or close to it) parts of our lives online. It can be stressful to think you need to keep up with your feed, so you know what’s going on in other people lives. And, let’s face it, we all know social media is largely a lie. Or least, only a partial truth. We post the best of everything and rarely the worst. So, time to step away from it and get back to some reality.

Also, when I looked at my actually messaging, I realized that out of the 200-300 friends I have, I only message about 10 of them with any regularity. If I didn’t have their contact info, I sent them one last message asking for it. I can now phone, text, or email, when I feel I have something to say or ask, and not just because they pop up on my list and I think “Oh, I should message them, they’re online now”.

3 – I recently watched the movie Snowden and the documentary Citizen Four. Both recount the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden as he revealed the extent of the US Government’s surveillance programs. He also revealed details of the PRISM program, where it was revealed that the various spying agencies have virtually free access to the servers of multiple technology companies, including social media sites. So, my original unease with social media was correct, they really are watching us and more than perhaps we thought at first.

I’m not a paranoid person, I just believe in the rule of law and the concept of human rights. And while it is a common refrain to say, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about”, I think that misses the point. The government has no moral right to our information without our informed consent. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing anything “wrong”, they shouldn’t be looking in the first place. (But, seriously, if you do nothing else, cover up your webcam).

Jesus had 12 apostles, not 300. We weren’t biologically designed to manage this level of relationship with as many people as social media would want us to. When I emailed my friends and told them, many of them expressed support and a desire to do the same thing. There’s something that keeps us there and I don’t think it’s healthy when it can be that hard for people to quit. FOMO is a real cultural phenomenon and should be heavily scrutinized.

I am aware that this has implication for this blog. I can’t just publish it to all the various for the world to see, but that’s okay. I write this for me and whoever finds it.

So, those are some of my primary reasons for ditching social media (or most of it). My friends are still my friends and we will still email or phone or meet in person or whatever. But, the world doesn’t need access to children’s photos, or my every thought (no one really cares). Plus, I’ve got this blog, so if you want to know what I think, just stay here and you’ll get more than 140 characters of thought. Hopefully, that’s more worth reading.

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I didn’t sign up for this . . .

You’ve been up all night and day. Not a wink of sleep. Whenever you have a moment to sleep, you are torn between cleaning and tidying up your messed up dwelling or trying to catch some zzz’s. Whenever you choose the latter, the second you hit the pillow, the cries of your newborn wakes you just seconds after you close your eyes.

Through your tears you hold your baby, bouncing, soothing, whispering to them that it’s ok and they can stop crying. Why won’t you stop crying? Are you dirty? I’ll change your diaper. Are you still hungry? I’ll feed you one more time. I’ve done all that, why won’t you stop crying? Do you have gas? I’ve been trying to make you burp for an hour. I heard a couple of small burps, even a big one, but you still won’t stop crying.

Please Lord, I just want to sleep.

I didn’t sign up for this.

Parenting is hard. Especially your first. Especially the first three months.

While I believe there is lots we can say about the awesome responsibility and privilege that is raising a child, it drives me beyond insane when I see people overly romanticize parenting; especially those initial three months. You can be told over and over again that parenting is hard, but until you endure it, you can’t truly be shown to an adequate level of understanding what that means. Unless you’ve been through painful, prolonged sleep deprivation, you can’t know what it’s like. You certainly don’t know what it’s like when the reason you can’t sleep is the cries of your child. The cries of this child who has only one way to communicate with the world and it’s through their tears and their silence.

What do those tears mean? That is for you to detect and figure out. Sometimes there is no answer.

May the Lord have mercy on you if your child has colic.

Our first child (we have two) had colic. Hours long, virtually non-stop crying episodes in the middle of the night. How many times I saw my wife, after trying for hours to calm him, would walk out of his room in desperation. Tears spilling out, wondering how she’s possibly going to deal with this one more minute. There was little I could do to support her, other than listen and comfort. I had to work after all, and that requires driving, so I needed my sleep too. At least a modicum of sleep.

That’s not being supportive, some say. You should have taken turns, swapped out and given her a break.

Maybe. Maybe, you’re right. This is the reality of parenthood. Someone does the lions share of child care and one does the lions share of making money so the roof stays over our head, the food stay in the fridge and the oven and lights turn on. Sometimes, this means an unequal distribution of the hard stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of early morning drives where I would take our son on a drive, which would settle him. I would take him 15 mins south to the lake. The sun would dawn and we would both sleep. It was exhausting, but I also knew it was giving my wife at least a couple of hours of sleep she desperately needed to get through the day. Then I would go home and sleep. Missing a day of work. I used half my yearly allotment of sick leave in one month.

The first days of your first child can be extremely difficult. Or they could be easy. But, if you tell me they were easy, I’m not going to believe you. If for no other reason than I don’t want to think it could have been easier. The 100 days of hell were just that. We became the living, walking dead. Able to function on an almost primal level, but not much beyond that. Work, when I was able to go to work, because I had had enough sleep and could safely drive, became almost like respite care. A time to get away from the terror of the screamer.

I love my son. And my other son. I learned that you can love someone even though they cause you so much grief and hardship. Intended or not. Love is a choice you make. Every. Single. Day. In those 100 days however, it seemed that the spectrum of time was sharply reduced and it became an hour by hour decision, if not minute by minute.

The reality is that holding a screaming baby close to your chest, puts their mouth right next to your ear, making the screams that much louder and visceral. They cut you to the core. You want to simultaneously fling the baby away from you and at the same time hold them closer. Holding them closer: hoping that you can make them stop if they just feel your breath, your heartbeat, your love a bit more. It doesn’t help. Sometimes love isn’t enough to make someone else’s pain stop.

This is the beginning of compassion.

Compassion is a desire to end someone’s pain, yes. But it is more than that. It is the willingness to sit with them through the pain. To take on some of that burden for yourself. To let them know they are not alone.

Love demands compassion.

In those 100 days, we learned about compassion and devotion. I learned by watching my wife consistently recommit to our son. Bounce. Tears. Bounce. Tears. Repeat. I think that must be God’s cycle sometimes. He teaches, he prods, he pokes. We disobey. God cries. Repeat. Never giving up, never stopping, never imposing.

You can’t impose on a newborn. They don’t know what they’re doing themselves, let along what you want them to do.

I suppose in a way, I was her Aaron to her Moses. I played a supporting role. That doesn’t denigrate fatherhood or manhood. It recognizes the supreme sacrifice that mothers make and the resultant sacrifice fathers must make. Food needs to be made. Bills need to be paid. You know, the necessities of adult life. Just help her get through the next hour. The next day. Eventually those days add up to a week and a month. Then finally, 100 days hits and a switch is flipped.

You start sleeping again. You feel human again. The tears subside. You take a deep breath of relief and start thinking long term again. You’ve made it through survivor without being voted off and now you can get on with the job of raising a family.

Parenting is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You can’t know how hard it is if you don’t have a child, and that’s a good thing. If you knew would you really do it. Parenting is a reflective exercise. Yes, there is planning. Sort of. (Can you hear God laughing?), but it’s ultimately a reflective exercise. So is much of life, I suppose.

If you are not a parent yet, are pregnant or thinking about being pregnant, I want to encourage you. You’re on the rollercoaster as it slowly rises to the top of the first curve. You’re about to drop super fast down that first mountain and you’ll feel like everything is out of control. You will get through it though. Almost every has. Spouses, remember each other. Have each other’s backs. Husbands, remember to “love your wife, just as Christ loved the church”. Support her. Love her. Cry with her. Make sure she knows you’re there for her.

If you have just become a parent and are saying “I didn’t sign up for this”, I say with love “yes you did”. There’s just no way to tell you that in advance. It gets better. It really does. Screw the fairy tales you were told. This is hard stuff. But you will learn so much about yourself, your spouse and God, if you only keep your eyes open and pay attention.

In the end, this is so worth it. Seeing your child grow and develop and learn, is one of the most awe-inspiring things I have ever witnessed or been a part of. My love for my children and my wife, continues to grow and deepen. But, there are the hard bits.

Parenting is amazing, earth shattering, terrible, horrible, and wonderful. All at the same time. Enjoy the ride.

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What is your relationship?

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As previously mentioned here, I used to be fairly involved in live theatre and it’s still an interest of mine. I would much prefer to see a live play or musical, than a movie. I’m currently reading one of the classic acting texts “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff. Michael was a broadway casting agent for years and this books aimed to help actors avoid the most common pitfalls he witnessed over his years in that role.

I’m re-reading it partly our of interest, but also to see what lessons I might derive from it for work or life. After all, if “all the world’s a stage”, the maybe the acting world has some actual lesson we can learn. I’m barely into his first of twelve “guideposts” and I’ve already found something interesting. In guidepost one Michael is saying how important it is for an actor to know their relationship to the other characters in the scene.

Frequently I will ask an actress after she has read a scene: “What is the relationship?” and she will answer “He’s my husband.” “So?” I ask.
She looks consternated. “He’s my husband” is as far as she’s taken it. It’s not far enough. The fact that you are married to a man tells nothing about how you feel toward him at this moment in the scene. (p.34).

Are you married or else in a significant relationship? Or, do you have a parent or sibling? How do you define your relationship to them? “Who is that?” “She’s my wife.”. That tells me nothing than perhaps your legal status. I don’t expect anyone to provide a deeper answer publicly, but could you provide anymore than a superficial response to your spouse, privately? “Who am I?”, they might ask. “You’re my wife, of course”, you answer.

What defines your relationship? What do you think and feel when you look or think of them?

The fact that two people are married, is a fact, not an emotion, not content. Shurtleff goes on to write: That is what you need to explore. That is why the fact of relationship is of no value to the other actor unless it leads him to explore the feelings in the relationship now. Not how it was when you got married, now how it was last week when he got a raise (although this information is of value in creating an emotional past to the relationship), but how you feel now. The now is the imperative question you must answer.

How man of us try and ride the wave of high emotion, only to stop paying attention and realize that the feelings we felt early on have faded or dulled? Some of this is natural, if it s a maturing love. Relationship will change as the high emotion of love changes to the choice of love; real love. If someone were to ask you (and it wasn’t weird for them to ask you for some reason; say a therapist) how you felt about your spouse, would you give a canned response, would you give a response you believe to be true, but is in fact outdated/ Do you know how you feel about each other? I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with a marriage if you can’t answer the question, but it might be time to really talk and do the work so you can answer it.

Find the love in the scene. One way or the other it’s there. Love affirmed or love deprived. It’s there.