Under Pressure

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Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum

In 1981, this baseline opened up the classic Under Pressure, written and performed by David Bowie and Queen, fronted by virtuoso vocalist Freddy Mercury (it was later on sampled and used in 1991 by Rob Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice. If you don’t know what song I am referring to…that makes me sad…).

The opening lyrics to the song are:
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets”

We can all relate to that sort of feeling. Well at least I can. Even the coolest cucumber among your tribe of friends feels some sort of pressure, a downward sense of “I don’t know what to do here.” Pressure comes from multiple sources. Here are mine (see if you have any that are similar):

Family – being present when present (which I am currently contradicting by writing these thoughts while Ellie and Liam play at my feet), being a leader in my home, serving my family through my actions.
Work – helping people reach new levels of potential, menial tasks that still matter in the long run, long term planning and short term actions.
Financial – paying off debt, saving, investing
Physical – resting, working out, staying groomed (though #beardwatch continues, suckas!!!)
Spiritual – Growing in my faith intake, making moments for faith outputs
…And more and more and more…

I’ve learned that pressure comes from inside (we know what we NEED to be doing and we want to get there) and outside (those who watch us either place on us expectations OR we, out of insecurities, try to impress others through living for them) but its born out of a need to make ends meet and make due. When we are kids, it’s the pressure for grades and accomplishments planned out by parents and coaches. When we are older, it’s bosses, spouses and other achievers. It is always there. And those pressures, when left alone or added to can kill a job opportunity, kill a family and ultimately, kill a person.

This fall, I felt that sort of pressure in a way I never had before. Some staff changes had me move into interim roles that added to my workload, left me with less home time and pulled me way beyond my regular threshold. So to keep myself ALIVE, here are some things I have tried to incorporate into my life, especially as this fall turned into a winter with more responsibilities on my plate (knowing that all of these things start with a heart to live out Mark 12:29-31 as my launchpad).

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My Problem With Forgiveness

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Forgiveness sucks. I have a HUGE problem with it. Forgiveness? More like forgiveMESS. 

Dumb pun. My bad.

Here’s my issue…

Forgiveness forces me to get over something I’ve gotten used to holding on to…like a favourite shirt. The shirt is ugly, it’s embarrasing and no one likes it but it’s my shirt.

Forgiveness forces me to realize that the person who hurt me may never actually find out that they hurt me…and be okay with that. (There’s nothing more annoying that not knowing you hurt someone only to have them come up to you and say, “You know…I forgive you.” You reply, “For what?” They reply, “It doesn’t matter anymore because I forgive you.” And they the separation of friends begin. Been there?)

Forgiveness says that justice and revenge isn’t in the card…and that retribution isn’t mine but rather Someone else’s.

Forgiveness says life isn’t fair nor is it about winning, in fact, forgiveness is about losing.

 Forgiveness is something that has to, yes HAS to, be given. It’s not something that’s a PROCESS or an “over time”. It’s a right there and now.

Forgiveness can’t be earned like a pay check or promotion. It is a gift that can’t be begrudgingly given but rather offered no matter what. (If I are make someone earn your forgiveness, I am being what they call…revengeful and spiteful.)

Forgiveness is a human choice enabled by Spiritual power and sustenance. It sucks because it means depending on someone other than myself.

Forgiveness is about other people and not about me…and when I am hurt, it’s all about me. Unforgiveness when not treated is narcissism at it’s best.

Forgiveness means someone gets another chance, when they really should get a backhand.

Forgiveness means following the example of one who was rejected by many, turned on by many, spat upon, mocked and later killed for his beliefs but said, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force (Dr. Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream).”

Forgiveness means, “I am not right and you are not right” but rather “I love you and let’s move on.”

Forgiveness means forgiving someone not to be an example to them but to simply do it.

Forgiveness takes guts and doesn’t allow for glory.

Forgiveness heals and allows for repeated hurt.

…forgiveness sucks mainly because it means being like Jesus when I really want to live like the devil.

But without forgiveness, I might as well be dead…and I like living.

Urgh.

So today. I choose. To Forgive. To let go.

And I when I wake up tomorrow, I plan on relying on the strength to do it again.

Because I still am human you know. And bearded.

What does forgiving someone mean to you? How has it changed how you look at yourself? Others?

#Beardwatch: Shot to the BEARD & You’re to blame…

                         It’s been 4 months since I first decided to grow my beard for a full year and this last month has been the best one yet. Why? Christmas jokes! I’m hearing a lot of “You should be Santa Claus/Black Santa” comments and while the majority of them aren’t creative, they are still quite funny. My barber has never worked on a beard before of this magnitude (pop POP!) before so he’s quite ‘jazzed‘ by this challenge and my now 1-year-old son takes to my beard like rope to pull himself up from whatever mess he has made in our home.

There are still some beard haters, though…the ‘You should look clean-shaved‘ people.’ Example:

          But to quote the quotable Sean ‘Puffy/Puff/Puff Daddy/P-Diddy/Diddy’ Combs, “Can’t nobody beard me down/Oh no/I gotta keep on moving!” Haters will beardhate© (copyright pending) all day, so you know what I say? Hate the Haters…With love. Boom. I just bearded your mind. Even Wifey*is warming up to the beard life.

(*Okay, she’s not but she’s much better now that she was at the beginning.)

Things I need to do more of in the meantime:

  • More Flickr pics. I think I overshot doing it all the time everyday, as I started to, then fizzled out. My friend Steffan advised on that I should have listened. There you go, Watson. You were right. And if the Spurs win the NBA Finals, you’ll hear me say that again.
  • More #beardwatch tweets. Quotes, thoughts, beard stats…I have to keep the #beard alive.
  • Start working out. That has nothing to do with #beardwatch. But I start at the gym tomorrow. Please pray.
  • Buy some lumberjack shirts. And a thermos. And become more outdoors-y. I know I look like a hipster wannabe, but inside me is a person who wants to camp, cut down trees and who am I kidding, I’m writing this while waiting for a Gingerbread Latte.

All to say, the beard life is a good life. It IS weird though to grow a beard  during Movember. Movember is a great cause to raise awareness (and funds) towards research for prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives where men of different races, ages and stages of puberty look like creeps by growing moustaches for the month of November. And so because I have a beard, many people ask “Are you doing Movember?”, to which I have to reply “No”, which signifies I’m sure: “Yes, I love facial hair. Yes, I am a narcissist. No, I do not care about Movember’s mission…I just look like a hobo because I WANT too.” (And for the record, I am a major fan of Movember and why it exists. Check out my latest blog on mental illness and it’s affects on our family here.)

But the thought of growing my beard FOR something other than my own resolve has struck a chord in me since attending Catalyst in October (I can’t shave it now…I made WAY too much of a deal when I started!). And so my second quest, apart from the beard, is to find an organization to support with my #beardwatch. Because I think there’s something cool about using everything about you to be able to help someone else.

Even your beard.

So send your suggestions here!

Chris

Question: what part of you life have seen as unusable to help others? How can you start making those areas available?

PS: Here are some cool beard sites and links provided by great #beardwatch supporters. Check them out!

Marriage Blog: It’s Not Her Fault

prefix: Becca and I have been overwhelmed in a loving way at those who have read and commented on our posts dealing with our journey through Becca’ postpartum depression. We’ve both talked about how we don’t want to write to “capitalize” on that readership (hence my monday blog was this) but at the same time, we’ll open up a bit more from our story with Becca writing from her experience and I from a naive husband’s perspective. That being said, I will still talk about my amazing beard too, among other things that I like to talk about. But today, the postpartum story continues. And do look out for Becca’s blogpost as they come.

I have often heard that it is wrong to kick someone when they are down. I know this to be true but for a number of months I didn’t practice this in my own home. During my wife’s pregnancy and especially during after Liam’s birth, i did this. It’s hard to admit but I did. How? But quietly getting angry at Wifey without knowing what was going on in her. And I didn’t realize that in my actions that i was making things worse.

I saw her sadness and thought, “why can’t you snap out of it!?“. I saw her fatigue and thought, “maybe we (but really meaning her to be honest) should eat better…” and I saw her frustration and thought, “Life is good, why complain?” At the time, Becca was driving long hours to work and the drive was killing her. It always had but at this junction in our lives, it was worse. Her sighs were louder, her sadness more pronounced. Truth be told, she loved who she worked with but didn’t love her job and it was really getting to her. And at home She wasn’t able to play with Ellie. And after his  birth, she was always mad at Liam. He didn’t feed like Ellie or sleep like Ellie, or cry like Ellie…and she would let him know that. And I saw this…

And I kept it in. And grew in anger towards my wife.

*Let that sink in, Chris. 

I remember Becca mentioning on night, “I think you should read about postpartum depression…” and getting defensive. I mean, I KNEW about it. I read books, studied it for classes…but much of what people know in theory means nothing if it’s not practiced out when the time comes. And at that moment when healing should have taken place, my anger push her away…deeper into her depression. And there is nothing worse that being alone when you already feel alone.

My worst moment came during an extended family situation where the end result was me kicking a piece of furniture in front of my wife and daughter. Everything boiled over: my sadness, my feelings of failure as a husband, my naiveté, my embarrassment…

…There is no worse feeling than the ones you love seeing you at your worst. Nothing like embarrassing yourself because your own pride was wounded. And there is no bigger bittersweet moment then when you have to say, “I was wrong, I am sorry, what can I do to help?”

It took me a lot of time, counsel and tough talks with Becca to realize something that all husbands need to know:

It wasn’t her fault. My wife didn’t ask God for the test of depression to prove his glory. She didn’t get herself tangled into darkness to then find herself bound by something. No. Her body failed her (As ALL our bodies will in some form at some point) and she hadn’t received the medicine and counsel to be her again. She was unable to love us as she wanted to, not unwilling. And there is a big difference there.

So what did I do when this revelation came about:

Parent Blog: Don’t You Forget About Me…

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did WAS wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is … a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal…Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”

This quote from one of the greatest movies of the 20th Century which then cues up one of the most recognized songs of the 80s, titled “Don’t You (Forget About Me). The scene, where the song is introduced, is punctuated by one character (seen above) pumping his fist in the air in a classic freeze frame shot (man wouldn’t that be awesome to do, eh?!). Truly unforgetable.

This scene, along with the song has been on my mind as of late because of my daughter. While she can’t write legibly yet, she left me a letter of sorts the other day. I was preparing to go to work after playing with her in the AM when she ran to me and give me two pieces of her puzzle and said “Daddy, don’t forget about me, okay? This is so you don’t forget!”

A purple star and green circle.

She’s 3.

As I drove to my Siri-led destination, my brain moved overtime:

  • Am I too distracted with her when I am with her to give off the impression that I’m not really with her?
  • Am I not home enough?
  • Why would she say that? Who does she think she is?

You see, with adults and ESPECIALLY with spouses, we graduate from talking directly to passive agressive conversations when we’re upset. Example:

Person 1: Hey, I’m leaving now…

Spouse: Okay…well have fun. I’ll be here. (subtext: You get to be out and I’m with the kids all day…with no car.)*

Person 1: I could stay a bit later. Do you want me to stay? (Subtext: I’m sure I did SOMETHING…can’t figure it…)

Spouse: No. It’s fine. (subtext: I shouldn’t TELL you to stay. You should just stay, dummy!)

But kids, just come out and say it: “I want you to stay with me and play and laugh and make a mess and have snacks and (big breath……) tickle me and play hide and seek and giggle and watch the Lorax right now, okay?”

And so, as a father aiming to be a better one, I HAVE TO reevaluate how I do my time spending. I have to let her words sink into my soul and reform my way of being, because if she said it, she feels it. And if she feels it, I have to work on fixing it. Here’s what I think so far:

Marriage Blog: Post-Partum Depression

prefix: I am writing this with my wife’s full knowledge and support though it is hard for her to read. She herself is a blogger and I look forward to my own uncomfortability as she writes how this affected her. Please encourage that too!!!

Depression is a real thing. It’s not made up. It hits us at different points of our lives for different reasons and without help, counsel, prayer and sometimes medicine, it can easily take over one’s life, making them a shell of who they want to be.

How do I know this? It happened to my best friend: Wifey, during and after her pregnancy with our second child.

We found out we were pregnant with Liam on Ellie’s 2nd birthday. We had been trying but Becca’s symptoms hadn’t kicked in like they did with Ellie, so we were completely taken back not only by knowing he was coming but that we missed so much in the getting ready. For some reason it really bugged Becca. More than normal. Things became different from there…

Becca’s always been quieter (she IS married to me so I take up a lot of room in the noise dept!) but now her silence was moody, sad even. Sleeps were longer, conversations shorter. She had less energy than with Ellie and more, how-do-I-say passive hostility. Much of that was because now while being pregnant, she had to place attention to our bubbly 2-year-old non-potty trained daughter and me, who is a handful. The pregnancy took much out of her…even the birth didn’t move her. She was almost placid. Tired is an understatement when a woman gives birth but there was an extra lethargy to her. She cried a lot more too, and Becca is not a crier. At all. At first her tears made sense to me; she missed Ellie, Liam wasn’t as good a sleeper or eater as Ellie was, she was disappointed about moving to formula so soon after his birth. But still, it was different.

I should stop here to say that I didn’t notice much of this when it was happening. I was too busy trying to be a fixer. Or making sure I wasn’t the cause of her grief. My thoughts for many of the above things were

  • You hang with Ellie, I’ll take Liam. I didn’t realize how deep her sadness went.
  • Couldn’t argue the sleep thing. The beginning was rough!
  • Who cares if we move to formula now. Other parents aren’t us. Her sadness was only heightened by what she saw other parents doing via social media. Their “lives on-screen” made hers seem like a failure, deepening the spiral.

My thought was, tomorrow will be better. Let’s get out of those pyjamas, go for some outdoors time and everything will be okay. But it got worse. There’d be days of sitting on the couch and not moving. Blank stares while Ellie roamed around, Liam just being a baby…It just didn’t make sense. Plus, as a husband: no sex, no affection. My Wifey was different. And I didn’t now how to help her. So I did what I thought best: I took care of everything else. Shopping? Check. Ellie? Check. Cleaning? Check. And on and on. But that made things worse.

One night while at work, Becca called in tears asking for me to come home, as something had happened that threw her off. And I did the worst thing possible. I didn’t go straight home. I waited to make sure all was well at work and then did. Stupid. It was there that our talks on her being depressed began…and continued for some time with help from good friends, family and staff where we work. Becca got some medicine and began to come back to her normal self, though she may be dependant on them for the rest of her life. And if I ever thought this was hard on ME, I can only imagine how this ordeal has changed and affected her.

I’m summarizing a two-year ordeal here to get to this point:

So you love/hate/tollerate Halloween, eh?

When I was either 8 or 10, I remember being on Rue Des Cageux in Pierrefonds, Qc out getting candy on Oct 31st, when I rang a door to no answer. stubbornly, I rang the door again; I was NOT going home with a half empty bag. The door opened and a man said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. We’re Christians.” He then closed the door and went back inside. I was perplexed. “Shouldn’t Christians WANT to give and be nice?” my young mind questioned as I walked to the next home.  I mean isn’t it better to give than to have a dark house and sit in your basement until 8 PM?

I bring this up because Each year on the last day of October, millions of kids get dressed up after school and either among their friends or with their parents, go to different doors in their neighbourhoods to collect candy. To most kids, it’s an excuse to be Iron Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, a Cupcake, a lion, a ghoul or a witch while (and I’m emphasizing here) getting free candy. The houses that give candy always have their outside light on, some steps are covered with pumpkins and decorations. And the houses that have their lights off either hate kids and visitors, have a religious stance against it or simply aren’t home.

Now for Christians and people of other religions, Halloween comes with its own, how-do-I-say struggles. On one hand, we want to be lights in a dark world no matter what. This is why we go to war-torn countries, get involved with pulling people out of sex trades and the like. So it’s funny that on the supposed darkest night of the year, many Christians house lights are off. And on the other hand, Halloween in its current form highlights the occult and many evil practices, and so churches do Halloween “alternatives” (candy, games, prizes with no costumes so church kids are away from the ‘world’) and protect themselves from the evil outside. These same Christians, I hope, want to reach their neighbors for God and have it in their hearts that their stance is a part of their witness.

Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it’s “Satan’s Birthday” (never proven). Some Christian do Halloween because they weren’t allowed when they were kids and this is their rebellion. Some Christians don’t do Halloween because to do it is to accept evil in the form of costumes. Some Christians do Halloween because they enjoy dressing up and acting (not in the hypocrite sense…I mean actual acting). Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it celebrates all that the Bible speaks against. Some Christians do Halloween because the same Bible compels them to go into evil without being of the evil world.

What about me? I’m a pastor at a church. I aim daily to shun evil and cling to the light. And for 3 years, I have skipped my church’s Missions Mania Halloween alternative night and taken my daughter trick or treating. And the event is a really good one that many people love and come back to year after year. So why am I a Halloween-er? (Click on next page to find out!!)