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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Dealing With Boys (Letter to Ellie)

Boys Suck!!

Something that will bug me forever, Eliana, is that you will one day like boys. Even worse: boys will like you. A lot. You’re funny, pretty, smart, creative, confident (just today when mom asked you if you’re silly, you said, “No, I’m beautiful!”)…the list goes on. And while I will already hate the boy who marries you (kinda), I feel that it is my responsibility to give you the inside track on the majority of guys (there are some exceptions, but in many areas, we’re all the same) and what you need to watch out for.

Now I don’t worry about you ever having to stand up for yourself (the other day at day care, I saw you push a boy over when he tried to give you a hug. The fact that it was during bible story time, is besides the point.). But as you get older, a boy will take your attention and possibly break your heart. And it’ll suck. So before that happens, here are some things about boys you need to know.

1 – Boys Suck

Just right off the bat, they do. All of them.

2 – Boys are smelly

They all sweat a lot, some smell a lot worse than others but the all smell. Really bad.

3 – Boys live in a land of passive aggressiveness

You think you know what they are thinking or how they are feeling. You ask them for their opinion and they hem and haw at you. They get mad but mumble under their breath. They ignore you because they don’t know how to express themselves but desperately want your attention. Is he mad at you? At life? Just quiet? Is he a vampire? Rarely will you know how they feel and when you do, you’re sorry you found out. They know what, or who they want…it just takes them a while to know how to ask for it. (See Edward from Twilight…or so I’m told…).

4 – A lot of boys have dad issues

Boys will try to be just like or completely unlike their dad. A lot of what they are trying to find on the path to manhood has to do with figuring out how their dad feels about them (because THEIR dad never knew how their OWN dad felt about them…you see, men only do as they’ve experienced…). (When you’re old enough, see Good Will Hunting).

5 – A lot of boys are scared

They will never say it because men are to be heroes, leaders, soldiers and athletes (when’s the last time you saw a guys accountant or psychologist action figure?), but underneath it all, they fear. They fear failing, commitment, getting over their issues, never making it, being broke, doing life wrong, living in regret, growing up, zombies…you name it. When you meet “him” ask him what he’s scared of. If he says nothing, he’s a liar. If he says, “I don’t fear because_________”, he’s a liar. Now if he says, I fear this, but I bring that to God everyday, you’ve met someone who hopefully has a good sense of self-awareness. They’ll know that they can’t get over their stuff on their own. I should say, however, that because I am a cynic and because you are my daughter, I MIGHT not fully believe him so he and I might have our own coffee date to hash that out:). (When old enough see the movie Antoine Fisher)

6 – Boys suck at giving and reading signals

He won’t know if you like him and he’ll think you want him. Use words, not eye and ESPECIALLY NOT YOUR FACE!!!!! (Example: Every man who has ever lived. Period.).

7 – Boys want to be better

Even the really rough ones, when they are away from their crew, don’t want to be bad. Many of them want a better life for themselves and for ones they may bring into the world. Some are rotten apples who have been dealt a bad hand (whether they were spoiled or left alone). And if you confront them (and wade through the passive aggressiveness) and ask them about it, they’ll tell you. However, once they are back with their crew, it’ll be like it never happened (see The Simpsons episode where Nelson dates Lisa for an example).

8 – Boys often don’t know how to be the “starter“.

You won’t be sure if something should be happening or IS happening and he won’t say anything (see nos. 3, 5 &6). And so you’ll become the man to ask him what’s going on. That should never, ever be. If you have to go to him for that, you’ll have to do that for the rest of your life. And it’ll annoy the heck out of you. Think on that one.

9 – Boys will break your heart (knowingly and unknowingly)

At least some will do it knowingly. I will hunt them for sport. The guys who do it unknowingly…they are the worst. They led you on, didn’t know how to get out of it and they broke it off in an ugly manner. Urgh…boys really suck (Example: Scott Pilgrim Versus The World).

10 – Boys are territorial

They may not want to be with you but at the same time, they won’t want anyone else to be with you either. It’s really weird…and when you’re taken, they won’t know what to with themselves…watch out for guys who are naturally selfish. If they are selfish with stuff, they’ll also be so with you.

Bonus: Beware of the guy best friend. You may end up marrying him OR running after him like in “My Best Friend’s Wedding…”

Bonus 2: Boys suck. It’s true, kid. They do.

Bonus 3: Even the Christian ones can be sucky. That’s a whole other letter, kiddo.

There are so many more things I could say. And I’m no psychologist here. I just know a lot of guys, kiddo. And I was a boy too (and still am sometimes.). My prayer is that as you do life the right way, you’ll meet the right kid of guy who will take care of you and love you sacrificially and unconditionally. And something I have to remind myself of is that you will (i don’t know if it’s consciously or unconsciously) look for a guy who is either a lot like or the complete opposite of me. And so if I do life right (love my life, love your mom, you and your soon-to-be brother or sister), your standards will be set and you’ll be okay. And if I don’t, I’ll meet him and say (to myself, of course…maybe to your mom…), “You’re MY fault.”

And it will be.

I love you kiddo. And when a boy breaks your heart, we’ll sit on the couch, eat ice cream and plot our revenge.

I already have their graves dug out 🙂

P.S. This is not ALL guys, I know. Dudes, I got love for you. I just gotta give my kid the 411 on the bad ones! If you have a daughter, you know EXACTLY what I mean. None of you want a dummy son-in-law right?

D.N.A. of a Man of God…What Does it Even Mean??

That guy is a man of God!

Lately I’ve been thinking about that statement and its significance. What does it mean to be a man of God?

What defines someone as a man of God? It is an Old Testament term used often to describe someone who represented God’s voice to his people. Here’s how I’ve heard people describe it along my travels in life today:

  • Someone who preaches well.
  • Someone who leads well during adversity.
  • Someone who knows their Bible and prays a lot.
  • Someone who acts with integrity.
  • Someone who “looks” like Jesus.
Now I don’t have a PROBLEM with these definitions per se but I wonder if our definition is more “cultural” than “biblical”. I mean…
  • I know people who preach REALLY well on a variety of subjects but are really mean once they are off the pulpit. Is that man of God-ish?
  • I know people who lead well in front of people but can’t lead their bank books. Is that man of God-ish?
  • I know men who can quote scripture and seek the face of God daily but in their reading and seeking, they justify their prejudices and hurtful actions. That is definitely NOT man of God-ish, right?
  • I know men who look like Jesus but don’t act like him…is acting man of God-ish?
I’ve also noticed that much (not ALL but a lot) that has to do with being a man of God has to do with LEADING or something that many others can see. What about the guy who isn’t an upfront person but is never late when they are needed to serve? Or the dad who spends time teaching their kid a hobby or skill? Or the man who quietly opens doors for someone or buys someone’s lunch just because? Or the man who is able to successfully manage his checkbook, taking care of their tithing and bills with precision? Is that man of God material or is it only leading someone to Jesus over coffee? What of the man who cares for his wife or lives right until his wife comes? Or who is a good friend?
If you had to build a man of God template or a book of ‘skills towards man of God-ism’, what would be in it? Ladies, if you were building a man of God, what would he carry? What would he be like? Is it enough for him to be a man of God outside of the home but not kind inside? Or vise-versa? I’m rambling here now…
The reason I’m writing this is because at some point, my Ellie (and quite possibly my second daughter if Becca’s prediction of a boy is wrong) is going to bring a boy home and he might ask for her hand in marriage. Before all of that though, she’ll ask me (and her mom) what kind of guy she should be looking for…eek. And even MORE scary is that he might be a bit like ME…
So then, what should a man of God look like in our current culture? What’s top on YOUR list? What’s not so important? Please comment, share and ponder with me.
P.S. – I’ve also noticed that my generation (and younger) throw around terms that we heard growing up (like man of God) without really knowing what they mean. Like it says in Rococo by Arcade Fire states, we’re “using great big words that we don’t understand…”
P.P.S. – My fellow men, don’t worry about being crowned a ‘man of God’ by someone. Just serve…Micah 6:8, yo. Last
P.P.P.S – Maybe I’m just venting because I’m tired of seeing guys think that if they read a few verses, they are good. Without purposeful intergration of what one reads but way of action, it’s words. And I’m TIRED of seeing people put their families on the back burner for ministry things, cool tweets quotes and the like.

Vacuums, Santa, Clowns & Dread: These are a few of the scariest things (Letter To Ellie).

I think that once a child discovers fear, the slow burn to adulthood begins.

Once fear shows up, it is like “innocence” begins to pack up room after room until it is forced to move out.

Most kids first meet fear around a new person, or in moment of separation from their mom.

Not you, Ellie. You’re way too strong and independent to cry when you’re not near mom or dad.

Instead, you first met fear by way of a singing toy penguin. You cried, kicked and kicked and KICKED until it was far from you. I think it was the sound it produced that got you. You are petrified by loud noises. You can’t walk by the bathroom when mom is blow drying your hair and god-forbid we put the vacuum on in your royal presence! You hate that thing even though it keeps us clean. And unlike other kids, you hate Santa. Oh you love him from a far but once you’re two kids from him, the abyss of disturbance rocks you to the core. Like a hurricane…(too sooooooon?)

I hate that you know what fear is. I wish I could erase it from your mind. I wish you didn’t have to live in a world with fear. That being said, if you didn’t have fear at ALL, here’s what you’d be doing:

– Running in the middle of a busy road without looking both ways.
– Walking up to someone bigger (or smaller) than you and smacking them in the face.
– Putting your hand on the stove.
– Running away from home at age 15.
– Breaking the law without fear of consequence

Stuff like that.

So in that regard, fear is a good thing (maybe it’s fear that turns into wisdom…) but here’s what I don’t want you to be afraid of:

– Making friends as you go through the awkward preteen phase.
– Trying new things like a sport or instrument or simply dreaming big.
– Love. It’s work, it brings out the best in you while killing the worst. But it’s so worth it.
– God’s voice. As of now, I wouldn’t want you to do what I do. That being said, if God calls you, listen to him as the PRIMARY VOICE. I’m 2nd…maybe even 3rd.
– Being yourself. I never want you to be afraid of becoming you. Don’t try to be like the status quo. Start a new one.
– The Vacuum. Seriously, Eliana, it’s cleaning. I know it’s loud but it is helpful.

Kidlet, fear is always going to be around. It’ll get your adrenaline up, give you quicker problem solving skills and hopefully make you wiser. But don’t be a slave to fear. If you are, you’ll miss that job, that friendship, that love, that call. God is bigger than your fears. He’ll walk with you through your fears and help you get past them.

There’s a story in the Bible that you’ll probably hear forty times by the time you’re 10 but it fits well here. A bunch of guys are on a boat when they see Jesus (the same Jesus who lives in your heart) walking on the water. (P.S. Jesus is a G! You’ll hear me say that a lot…). One of them, Peter, asks Jesus to invite him to walk on the water too. Jesus does. And so the guy GETS OUT AND BEGINS TO WALK ON THE WATER.

No tricks. No graphics. Just walking.

After a few steps, he realizes what he’s doing, gets scared and starts to sink. But Jesus is right there to take his hand.

And when you feel like you’re sinking in fear, he’ll do the same for you. He promises.

Love you, kiddo.

Da-ddy

P.S. And I still deal with fear too. I fear clowns. And zombies. And the event decline of Kobe Bryant.

The DNA of a Good Husband…?

I am a big fan of magazines.

I can’t tell you how much money I have spent on Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, SLAM, GQ (depending on the cover) and Time. So much information…so many articles. Awesome sauce.

Last week, I picked up a copy of Esquire magazine because it had a cool music section and Mr. Kevin Flynn, a.k.a Jeff Bridges was on the cover (If you have yet to see Tron: Legacy, you need to. Pure eye candy). While I was looking through it, I saw an interesting article that prompted me to buy the magazine, bring it home and underline stuff. It’s title? “Hitched: A Man’s Guide to Getting and Being Married.” In it, various authors give their thoughts on why men still choose to marry someone though divorce rates are high and doing the “let’s just live together” movement is booming large. The article is broken into the following sections:

– Meeting the wife: Initial relationship building, marriage and kids
– The Middle Years: A Philosophy of Fighting
– When A Marriage Ends: Dealing with the ramifications of divorce, remarriage, etc.

The article also has a quiz on if you are a good husband or not (of course it’s according to Esquire status so it’s kinda funny, kinda gross and not indicative of whether you are or aren’t good at the ‘job’) and some little quotes from people who have been married for YEARS on how to make a marriage last. Here are some of them:

– “She cleans, I cook. It works.” Herb Burton, married 52 years to Sylvia
– “Hilary tells me that women say that they need three husbands in their lifetimes. As a young woman, they need an adventurer. As a mother, they need a father to their children. And as an older woman, they need a companion, a steady type of guy. If you can fill those roles over the course of decades, you’re in luck.” Paul Wexler, married 40 years to Hilary.
– “Everything’s negotiable. There’s no black and white. You can’t draw a line in the sand, because the sand moves.” Dick Tressel, married 40 years to Connie.

Some cool truth there, i think. And you know what I notice even more? The numbers. 40…52…that’s amazing.

So I got to thinking: What is the DNA or recipe for a good husband? If the perfect husband could be constructed (and I know it’s impossible but for the sake of the blog post, please keep that arguementative voice to one’s self) what would it look like? Is it simply, “love God and that’s it?” Is it “adventure and romance?” Is it “know the signs, don’t be selfish?” Is it all of the above?

You see, I’m going on 6 years in September, one beautiful girl at the age of two and other bundle on the way. I have a steady job, a sliver of maturity, a have a relationship with Jesus, good morals and fashion sense. But it that all that it takes? I’m not the greatest at listening or noticing things (check out Becca’s blog for proof at http://beccachase.wordpress.com) but I clean a lot, even at weird hours. I misread eye contact (and every married man knows what I mean…yup. Exactly.) but love shopping for wifey…don’t know why I’m adding this in but hopefully it give context.

If I had to put myself on a HUSBAND scale of one to ten (one being “How did that guy even get out of the nursery??” and ten being “What? Jesus got married and coaches little league?? Amazing!”) it really varies. There are days when I know I am untouchable. Then there are days when I know that work came first, or TV, or the iPad, or even Eliana. I’m still learning and I am very thankful for patience that is shown my way, even when the scale is tipping towards the one. But still…what makes a husband good? And a follow up question, what makes a marriage last?

So, I need your help both ladies and gentlemen! In your estimation, what makes a good husband? If you’re married and a dude, what do you think you need to be awesome? If you’re a lady and married, what about your husband do you love? If you’re single, what do you want to be (men) or desire and expect (ladies). Comments and thoughts are encouraged here (so is subscribing…but that’s a whole other story) so post them away.

One last story: At Ellie’s daycare, there is a lady who literally walks with joy. It’s amazing because it’s not annoying but rather infectious. On certain days when I am there, her husband comes to pick her up. And when they see each other, you can feel their sparks. It’s amazing. Whether they say nothing or gab away, they love each other. She is his everything. They are still newlyweds but love each other like they have been married for years. And to know her story of how their love came about makes me smile even bigger. He’s her hero (apart from Jesus).

I like that. I wonder what he’s doing right.

2011…Painting a Picture

Dumb title…

I can’t even paint. In fact, I hate painting. I’m so bad at it that Becca took me off painting duty when we were (and by we I mean she) was painting Eliana’s room.

What I meant by the title is that I want to “metaphorically speaking” paint you a picture of what I want my 2011 to look like. No, this is not a late addition to the New Year’s Resolution Party. Nor is it a goals list. This is an if I could do a couple of these things really well, I’d be happy” picture. You see, I got really sick just before Christmas. pneumonia sick. In the hospital sick…wasn’t fun at all. And while I was recuperating, I realized that I really wasn’t taking care of myself in many areas.

  • I hadn’t done anything sports-wise or healthy in ages. Running stairs was hard.
  • I hadn’t really took time to read like I did in the summer.
  • I wasn’t taking care of my core soul.
  • I was getting bored and tired with everything and everyone (sorry if you were in that path…)

Now Becca and Ellie were the lifeline but I realized that I have to lead my home properly. That my wife won’t respect me if I’m lazy. And that my daughter will one day look for a guy who was like me. And if I didn’t like ME, I’d hate that dude…or really like him…but mostly hate him.

Anyhow…so as I got better, I started to do an inventory of my life, in a holistic sense (based off of Mark 12:28-31) and areas I wanted to improve with practical ideas on how. Then my buddy Josh suggested that I put it online to make sure that I did it or at least attempted to…so here’s my holistic list.

  • Feed my mind – This year, I want to read a book every 10 days. The type of books? Doesn’t matter. Listen to great music that inspires me. Take in a sunset. Paint. The last one is a lie.
  • Feed my soul – Really pray and get into the Bible. I’ve never been a sit down at 3 AM and get into the word guy. Sorry if that confession makes you question my Godly status. Hopefully the fruit from my life makes up for it? I’ve been really using the apps on my phone and iPod (and soon…the iPad) to make that a priority.
  • Feed my body – I’m looking at prices and my time to join the Ajax community centre. Plus I REALLY need to eat better. AND actually EAT!! I’d love to be 160 one day:). So working out…and playing more golf this summer. Went out twice. not enough.
  • Feed my heart – Dream a lot, enjoy company with my friends, make new friends, love my wife and daughter. Be passionate about who I am and what I do. Stay engaged in cool stuff.

The result of this picture: I’d be a better man, husband and father. And I’d live longer…maybe.

Think I can do it? What should I look out for? What are my roadblocks? Think you can help me do these things?

Proud Nerd Status

I’m a bookworm. I have been since high school.

My high school in Pierrefonds, Qc (MTL stand up!!) was built right near our public library and I spent HOURS there looking up encyclopedias, novels and more (in my school uniform. Classic blue sweater, white turtleneck and grey slacks). I wasn’t allowed to watch TV during the week so my imagination was fed through pages and pages of history, poetry, fiction, biographies and how-to-beat-video-games books. I’ve always tried to keep a balanced diet when it comes to reading. This may not be you, but I don’t think it’s healthy to ONLY read spiritual books or ONLY leadership books or ONLY fiction books. It’s good to be well-read in various types of books, for a couple of reasons:

1 – It’s keeps you sharp: Once I’m done a fun book, I’m longing for something deeper. After that, something that stretches my thinking in regards to leadership or culture.
2 – Vocabulary: Different authors, different words, different paintings, different ideas, sentence structures, etc.
3 – Conversation: The more you read, the more likely you’ll be able to enter into various conversations about lots of topics. (it’s funny how the one who only reads one sort of books is lost when any other topic comes us.)
4 – An appreciation for the gift of writing.
5 – A nice book collection (I have MANY leather-bound books…my office smells of rich mahogany…)
6 – You get a deeper perspective on life.

So…that’s why I balance it out. Biographies to know people and how they got to where they are. History to teach us lessons of old. Fiction to help me dream, imagine, paint scenes and grow as a communicator. Leadership to be an effective servant-leader. Spiritual books and essays (and blogs) to fuel the fire in my heart to live a Eph 4:1 life. Sports books to enjoy the highs and lows of teamwork, winning & losing. And culture to have a better understanding of the world I live in, people groups, trends, fashion and what’s ‘next’.

Here’s what I’m currently dabbling through (with hopes of finishing them by new years)

  • The Me I Want to Be (John Ortberg) – A book I’m reading with some quality leaders at our church. It’s all about knowing God, knowing how He’s wired you and then taking that information to know Him more. It’s a real eye opener. (4/5th done)
  • Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (Reggie Joiner and Carey Niewwhof) – Reading with some of our junior high parents. I figure I want to learn how to be a great dad now and to learn with them is a joy. (3/5th)
  • Switch (Chip and Dan Heath) – Leadership book on leading people through change. Good insights so far and the cover is cool. (1/5th)
  • The Armageddon Factor (Marci McDonald) – A deep “secular” view of Christian Nationalism in Canada. Funny to see things like The Cry, Canada Christian College and Tyndale in here. It’s a page turner. Was recommended by my good friend Steffan Watson. (2/5th)
  • The Book of Basketball (Bill Simmons) – I read it in like 4 days (it’s 700+ pages) but he’s re-releasing it with corrections, new stories and more. And Kobe’s in it. It’s my fun read! (RE-READ)
  • and…Decision Points (the Dubya) – I still don’t know if this is chalked up to fiction or not…kidding. His life is so polarizing that not reading it would be criminal. PLUS, it’s reads like he talks…that’s a win-win! (Need to purchase and finish before Becca gets to it. She loves George. Wants to have him over for supper.)

And books I look forward to reading in 2011

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die like Children by Romeo Dallaire – Child soldiers is a travesty and something that burdens me greatly. I’d love to do something about it one day…
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill and/or Roots by Alex Hailey
The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha – Cause it’ll be awesome (sorry, it had to be said…)
Journey to The Ring by Phil Jackson – It’s all about the Lakers and winning. Nuff said.
Off-Road Discipleship by Earl Creps
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning (I’m VERY excited for this one…don’t know why…)
The Living Church by John Stott
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes…the comedic actor writes and his book is getting great reviews) and a whole lot more…and The Help…(Becca and Karen Johnson loved it…)…and The History of SNL

P.S. You know what’s cool? Seeing my little girl pretend to read. The Kid will take her gabage patch doll, sit with her, pretend to drink tea and read to her Goodnight Moon. The nerd in her is alive and well!

SO….what are you reading? What do you look for in a good book? Where can you beef up/clean up your reading diet? What authors do you abhor/recommend and why?  What’s your FAVORITE book (not counting the Bible…). Mine’s a tie between To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. If you don’t like reading (which is completely cool), how to do you learn and grow?