Discipling the Body


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Too much

We know too much about each other these days. What I mean to say is that, I think we can find out too much about others earlier than we used to be able too. We used to have to sit down and talk to someone, perhaps for days, weeks or months before we found out certain things about them. Nowadays, a lot is just freely available online; especially through social media. This is creating a false sense of intimacy and is perhaps inhibiting the development of true friendships built on a foundation laid over time, through conversation and experience.

These days we can meet someone, sometimes for the first time, and we about their family, where they went on vacation, their political or religious views and who they appear to have close relationships too. We meet them thinking we know all this stuff about them, but in fact, we don’t know THEM. Conversely, they may very well not know that much about us, so there is an imbalance. Some of us give more of ourselves online than others, and certainly I would be classified as a heavy user.

But, as I looked over my Facebook timeline this morning, for the last time before I deactivated it, I saw pictures, links to articles, all the normal stuff and I thought… Why do I care? Why do I care what movie you watched last night? Why do I care that your life is over because they ran out of your favourite ice cream? I do enjoy seeing people’s vacation photos, but I at the same time I don’t get he commentary to go along with it. I would prefer to sit with a friend, drink in hand, and go through the photos and have them tell me about their trip: what brought them joy, what went wrong, what problems did they have to solve, what did they experience, and what did they learn? Most people aren’t going to go to the trouble of writing that stuff down when they add their top 15 photos from the day in wherever and whatever city.

So, it’s not just what we learn, but what we don’t learn. While I don’t see as many “fights” online as I used to, what I don’t see is that it’s been replaced with building people up. Instead, I see apathy or just nothing. No attempt to engage one way or the other. We just post things without comment. We, essentially, just drop a newspaper on the floor, walk away and maybe someone picks it up. It doesn’t tell us what you think or what your purpose was in dropping it. It’s a little bit of digital litter.

Maybe it’s because we see others posting things and we don’t want to be left out of the conversation (non-conversation). I worry that social media is not increasing or improving our ability to have genuine and meaningful conversation. Certainly, it has helped serve as a platform to launch revolutions in countries, but this sort of massive social change and meaning, seem pretty rare.

I know I’m sounding a bit down on social media. I do recognize that there have been many positive things come out of this new media revolution, but if we are too improve it, we need to acknowledge the flaws and repair them, so we can bring more good to it.

More engagement. Less litter.


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Minimize the Inputs

Following up on my post yesterday, here are the first steps I’m taking to regain control of my time and attention:

  • Deactivating Facebook
  • Keeping the twitter app on my phone, but turning off notifications. I occasionally need this for work, and it’s a pain to log back in to the various accounts, so I’ll keep it installed, tucked into a folder. 
  • Deleted my Instagram apps
  • Deleted my RSS reader apps
  • Deleted my Pocket apps
  • Deleted most of my YouTube playlists.

I’m still down with reading blogs occasionally, but I have some of my favourites bookmarked. This should add enough friction that I won’t visit them too often. The new rule, is not to check them unless I have time to read them, right then and there. The strength of read it later services like Pocket and Instapaper is that it saves the article for offline reading, so you can read it anywhere. Whereas, reading an article when you have to be connected means there are only certain times when you can read them. I think it adds more intentionality.

Facebook is my biggest foe. I’ve done social media fasts before, usually during Lent and I really enjoy them. It’s very freeing. While I am a little worried about what I may miss, I know in reality that I won’t miss much. I may miss some birthdays, but in reality, I don’t know most of these folks well enough to wish them a happy birthday normally, so do FB best wishes really mean that much. I’m tired of being addicted to the little red badge, and the multitude of Birthday wishes, when in reality there are just a few that are truly meaningful.

I plan on being off Facebook at least until my second son is born in about 50 days. Even then, I wonder. I feel this urge to share pictures of the new life that will appear in the world. I know many people will be genuinely happy for us, but I wonder. I wonder if the positives outweigh the negatives. When Facebook first came around, I was one of the last of my friends to get on board. I didn’t understand the purpose of it. I’m not sure if I have any clearer answer now. It has allowed me to make connections that previously would have been difficult, but it can also cause great damage to in-person relationships. I’m not saying social media is inherently evil or anything. The company itself may have issues, but the tool is amoral. How you use it defines whether it’s used for a moral or immoral purpose.

We’ll see what this experiment brings and whether or not I do reactivate my account when our son is born.

I can already tell that I will become less clingy to my phone. I will stay keep it with me, especially when I’m at work and my wife is at home with our child(ren), but I won’t really have anything to “check” because as much as I still have a ton of apps on my phone, most of them don’t have a purpose until I activate them. They don’t bing, bond, boop, or bop unless I tell them to. So, right away my relationship with my technology with change. I imagine for a while I will feel that pull to check my phone, just in case I missed a notification and the POTUS needs me to negotiate a peace accord; or worse, my wife needs me to pick up something from the grocers on the way home.

Will my relationship with technology become more relaxed over time. Will I see my iPhone and iPad more like tools for my use and not the other way around? Will I then turn to alternate sources of information and entertainment, like, I don’t know: books?

I also want to look at limiting the amount of TV I watch (we’re a no cable, iTunes/Netflix family). So much of TV is formulaic and I’m guessing what the plot twists are and usually can guess who the murder is before the midway point of the show.

So, that’s where I’m at so far. Facebook disconnect: T-48 hours.


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Lists, lists and more lists.

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I have to do lists for work and personal life, and playlists; YouTube playlists, iTunes wish lists, lists of books waiting to be read, lists of saved articles to read later, a full RSS reader, lists of skills I want to acquire and character traits I want to fire and acquire. Lists of movie I may want to rent or buy, lists in my head of all the subjects I find interesting, grocery lists, list of things to do before baby 2. I have my Facebook feed (a kind of list), my twitter feed, and my Instagram (insta-distracted).

I have ADD (like, legit, not because its trendy), so I am easily distracted by all the possibilities in the world: Do I want to learn to play chess, the fiddle or read about theology, politics, the economy, or child development (I have one son and another on the way). Do I want learn markdown or French? Do I want to study weight loss or athletics? Or do I want to read more fiction and finally get through The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, Lés Miserables, Hunchback of Notre Dame, or do I want to read more science fiction? Or, do I want to bite the bullet and put it almost all aside, so I can focus on completing my Masters?

[ I actually can’t tell you, how many times I’ve switched from the window I’m typing in, back to something else that’s open on my computer. I should probably close it. Maybe next time.]

Do I want to read and dive deep back into my old interest of theatre? Perhaps read Shakespeare? Do I want to spend more time blogging, podcasting, exercising, or …. ? Speaking of which, how many podcasts are waiting in my queue?

This isn’t the first time I’ve suffered this sort of paralyzing over analysis. Usually I get back on track, but only for a bit. The problem is, I can pick a couple of topics and say “Ok, this is what I’m going to focus on”, but I don’t get specific enough as to what that means. There are, I think a couple of things at play:

  •  I don’t set specific enough goals around these things, or see them as part of larger process.
  •  The lack of doing this means I don’t really know when I’ve been successful at doing something, or I get lost in among the trees and loose sight of the forest.

As a consequence, I am easily swayed by my mood and the new shiny interesting topic that comes my way. Unfortunately, this can leave me feeling sad and aimless. I’ve tried using a life coach a couple times, but I’m just too uncommitted to make it work; I just waist their time.

So, I’m not 100% sure what the solution to this problem is, but I have an idea. I’ll give it a go and report back. If you have any ideas on how to stay focussed through life, while getting things accomplished, leave a comment below (make sure it’s something that’s actually worked for you long term though. Not just something you’ve heard or read about, thanks 🙂


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The Right Side of Wrong: The Value of Struggle

Adults have a problem. We learned it way back in adolescence. Actually, I think we learn it long before that. We hate being wrong. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell them we were wrong. We had an idea. We tried it and we failed. Failure. It sucks, eh? We must be some kind of dolt for failing. I mean, no one else fails, right? Failure is like this private club that everyone belongs too, but we all own our own clubs.

My son is 17-months old. He fails all the time. He certainly isn’t a failure. Learning to walk is hard, yo! My son however spends a lot of time learning how to stand up and find his balance. Then he falls or sits down and he tries again. This is called practice. I hate practicing. I don’t see myself getting better, because improvement usually come in increments so small, we can’t see them until we hit a milestone on the way.

My son hit one of those milestones today. He stood up and fell down, then stood up again. Then, he took 3 steps towards his mom. It was amazing. The video is above.

Did my son get frustrated if he couldn’t maintain his balance sometimes, sure, he’s human too. He keeps trying though and he doesn’t really need our help to do it. What he needs from us is encouragement, support, and healthy (safe) boundaries. He’ll figure out the walking thing on his own, he doesn’t need us interfering or telling him he failed, so he may as well give up.

If you have a skill you’re trying to master, give it time. Yes, you’re trying to get to the right “answer”, but we do a disservice if we don’t honour the struggle and attempts. If you finally decide it’s just not for you, there’s nothing wrong with moving on to something else. Just remember to take sometime and reflect back on what you’ve learned from the learning/trying process. There’s always something you can learn about yourself and how you persevere.


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Better the bully you know? Negative self talk, is nothing less than self-bullying

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Disclaimer: I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist or anyone who knows anything in particular about psychology. This blog is based on my own experience and things I’ve learned from own my counselling. I hope it helps.

You idiot!

You dummy!

I mess everything up!

Feels good doesn’t it?

Try it. Stand up, look in the mirror and say to yourself, with as much conviction as you can muster: “I’m so stupid. I’m no good. I’m a total loser!”. Don’t you feel better? Isn’t the world a brighter place? Can’t you hear the birds chirping?

Ok, ok, pardon my sarcasm. Please don’t do that little experiment. If you did, I apologize. Hopefully you recognize that the above was a ludicrous request. We know that negative self-talk doesn’t do us any good. It’s not productive and doesn’t help us move in a positive direction. We don’t need a scientific study to prove it to us, we know it from experience.

I say this confidently, even without knowing you, because most people I know have been in this position at one point or another. Like many things, we know this is bad for us, but we fall into this trap easily, almost effortlessly.

Words matter and words have power. There is so much focus these days on bullying and the damage it causes our children. Who needs external bullies thoug h, when we can beat ourselves up? We worry about the bully who can call us, mail us, email us, Facebook us, tweet at us and post photos of us on Instagram (though, as that point I suppose it might be called criminal harassment or threatening). But, what about the bully we can’t get away from? The one who lives so close, we can feel them breathing, all the time. Who needs the internet when we can be our own bully? We can beat ourselves up 24/7. We can mess up our relationships, careers, health, and spiritual lives all on our own.

You know the drill: Things are going along fine – maybe we’re managing to stick to our new diet plan, then we have a MAJOR mess up. Like eating a candy bar. One candy bar. BOOM! EXPLOSION in our HEADS!

I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! I KNEW I’D MESS UP.
I’M NOT WORTH IT. WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER!?

But, I mean, you ate a chocolate bar. You totally messed up your perfect record. And, you have to be perfect, right? ALL. THE. TIME. Or, it isn’t worth it.

That was sarcasm again.

Sarcasm, but true. Right. I know, I read your mail. It’s okay though, I’m not judging. It’s my mail to. Thankfully, the junk mail that is self-bullying is being delivered with much less regularity. I guess the “no junk mail” sign is finally getting noticed. It might have something to do with junk yard dog attached to it.

When it comes down to it, the only person who can put up the “no junk mail” sign, is you. You have to tell it, not only to stay away, but that it’s not wanted in the first place. You need to put it on the “do not call” registry (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors. I’m okay with that). If it comes calling, you need to see it for what it is: an intruder trying to attack from the outside. I have two main tools that have helped me along the way.

 

Be your own best-friend
The first is simple: Think about what you say to yourself and then consider what you would say to a friend who said those things about themselves. Would you tell them to stop? Would you tell them what you see when you look at them, which is vastly different than the negative statements they make about themselves? I hope so. So, be your own best friend. Give yourself a break.

A second tool, related to the first, is what I call the Anti-Self-Bullying Tool

1) When a negative self-thought presents itself, you need to notice it. Don’t let it just come and go, as if you haven no control. Notice it and name it.

2) Then, ask yourself: What evidence do you have for this emotion/feeling/name?

Really look at it and see what evidence there is? Are you calling yourself an “eternal screwup?”. Fine. What proof is there of this? This does two things: 1) It forces you to slow down and really examine the thought, rather than letting the thought just do a drive-by < BANG BANG > to your soul. 2) Ideally, it brings you to realize that the thought simply isn’t supported by the evidence.

Also, in addition to looking for evidence to support the claim, you can also look for evidence to counter the claim. It’s ok to list the negatives. Maybe there really are some things you need to address. It’s better to list the positives. List all the things you’ve done right (and yes, there are some, if not many).

3) Write down wha the more empowering thought should be. So, instead of saying: “I’m a total loser!”. Perhaps, you can say: “I am a child of God, created in His image. I made a mistake, but I am not a mistake. I will learn and do my best to not repeat the mistake again”.

The more you do this, the more you will train your brain to not be as quick to accept the negative programming, but rather consider the positive.

Note: This isn’t about ignoring negatives and living a pollyanna life. If you make mistakes, it’s important to learn from them. You just need to learn to put mistakes in their proper perspective. Maybe the mistake isn’t even your fault. In addition to making small mistakes into seemingly larger ones, we also tend to enhance our own culpability in mistakes when they really aren’t (the reverse can also be true, but it takes really hard objective thinking to really know the difference. This is where a trusted friend, family member, or mentor can come in handy).

Here’s a real life, almost real time example. Just after I wrote the previous paragraph, I took a break and got up. Somehow I managed to kick over my water bottle and it rolled under the couch. The lid isn’t particularly secure, so I know the water was going to be everywhere. So, I got up, moved the couch out of the way, but in the process I managed to knock the CO detector, which caused it to beep. Our couch isn’t too far from the babies room, so I was worried it would wake out son up. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Now, I could have, from the point of realizing I had a mess to clean up and sounded the alarm, told myself something very negative about myself. Probably something including a few swear words. The old me would have done that. Over time however, I have learned to simply move on; to tell myself that stuff happens. It’s no big deal, just get the mop, clean it up, put the couch back in place, pick the laptop back up and get back to writing.

It’s essential that you realize you are not and will not be perfect. If you struggle with perfectionism, you may need to get some counselling to help you with that. Seriously, there’s no shame in that. I’ve had tons of counselling for different issues. I’m not screwed up, I just needed some help figuring out some things.

I’ve made a “Anti-Self-Bullying Worksheet” to help lead you through the above tool. I hope it can help you. Blessings.


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The Art of Completing

 

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Some people like to choose a word to describe their focus for the year. Of course, this usually happens around new years, as a replacement for the much maligned new years resolution.

 

It’s Easter Sunday, so we’re decidedly no longer in a new year, according to the main stream calendar. I suppose the church calendar would say this is a new year, marked by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Regardless, sometimes we need to work backwards in life and see what God is doing in our lives and to discern a direction. This then, allows us to carry forward, somewhat secure that we’re headed in a right path.

 

I just realized today, that is I knew what path I would be on, personally, I would have picked the work “complete”, as my word of the year. I have historically not been someone who completes things. I have started and stopped many, many things. Some of them certainly we of no consequence, but a few big things I did not complete an I regret them. There are at least two training programs I started and did not complete, which I really regret, because I think they would be of use today.

 

More so, I regret it because of the reasons why. I typically haven’t finished many things because of a lack of self-confidence, a lack of motivation, and a lack of organization. Really though, I just got to a point where it got too hard. I wasn’t able or willing to push through the hard stuff and take that next step.

 

Why is that? Am I not “man” enough? Am I really not strong enough? Am I not able to persevere? Am I really just a persistent failure that can never achieve? Well, I certainly felt like that a lot. This is related to my earlier post on the twin fears of success and failure. Eventually, I started failing just to be consistent with how I saw myself. I was no good because I kept failing and even when I was on the verge of success, I would cause myself to fail, just to prove I was right.

 

It’s important for us as humans to be consistent with themselves, so if you believe you’re a failure, you will cause yourself to fail. The solution of course is to reorient your thinking:

 

1) Decide, no matter how you’re feeling in the present, that this feeling of being a failure, is unacceptable.

 

2) Accept that people fail, but people are not failures. Failure is an object, it’s something that happens and yes, you may be the cause of it, but you are not a failure.

 

3) God made you and you are therefore not a mistake or a failure. God doesn’t fail. Realize who you are in Christ, who you were made to be, and live as if it were true. Slowly, every so slowly, you attitude and mindset will shift and you will understand a truer reality.

 

4) Your job is to see what isn’t working, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure it doesn’t happen again. So, look back on some recent failures and figure out what happened. How can you ensure you don’t fall into those traps again? Make a plan and follow it.

 

5) What resources, if any, do you need? Do you need the help of other people? Is there something you’re not good at, that you need the expertise of someone who is skilled in that area?

 

6) Assess your schedule. Are you too busy to realistically do all the things you have committed to do? Do you need to cut out, or ask to be let out, of some commitments? Be realistic with your time, energy and other resources. You can only do so much. Don’t fall into the trap of martyrdom or the cult of busy. Even Jesus had his quiet time.

 

7) Commit to complete. Commit to following through and completing what you start. It’s true, there may be something that you have going on right now that aren’t really serving your higher calling, and those you may need to consider dropping (as per point 6), but from now on, make sure you’re someone who, when they make a commitment, will stick it out and see it done.

 

8) Start small. One of my goals for this year is to finish a lot of the books I’ve started by have never finished. I have a bunch of half read books laying around and I want to finished them. I bought them for a reason, so I may as well finish them.

 

9) Aim high. My other bigger goals, is to finally complete this battle of the bulge. I have about 60lbs to lose and I am currently 10lbs down. This is a project that has haunted me for at leas the last 15 years, so I will be happy to have this one completed. Weight loss is a continual project, as you move into maintenance and work to keep the weight off, but getting to that number will be a huge accomplishment.

 

Being a completer is a work of consistency and commitment. It requires thought, goal setting, taking one step at a time and doing the hard work every day of prioritizing your actions towards one activity, over and above those of another. If you want to finish your half-ready books, you may need to watch less TV (you probably need to anyway). If you want to loose weight, you may need to prioritize a slightly decreased social life, over being able to make wiser decisions about what you eat (if they’re worth it, you’re family and friends will understand and adjust to support you).

 

Being a completer is about feeling awesome on the inside and when you start that snowball of completing one thing after another, you’re internal awesome will start to show on the outside and you’ll start to spread the awesomeness to others.

 

Being a completer is about closing as many loops as possible, while being ok with the loops left open, knowing you did your best and will get back to them one day, if they are worth closing.

 

So, what’s one thing you can finish today? Make the bed, do the dishes, wash the floors, go for a walk? Start and finish. Decide. Commit. Succeed. You can do it. You are worth it.