Under Pressure

8840276-stress-magnifying-glass-over-background-with-different-association-terms-vector-illustration

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).

Advertisements

Netflix, TV and My Kid – A Parent’s Tale

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.” – Homer Simpson, B.A. and father of The Simpsons.

This, for many people, is their unspoken motto. A life filled with sitting in front of a flat screen/laptop watching hours of episodic television, 24 hour news TV or March Madness. That statement is much of my life’s story (minus the troubled Bart-like kid), for growing up I had 3 parents: Mom, Dad and TV. Much of my pop culture nerdish quotes and ideas come from hours as a kid, teen and at times, adult, watching and learning from TV. From Perfect Strangers to Community, Summer to Winter Olympics, from Lost to Fringe, from live to PVR/Netflix and online, TV had been a part of my framework and a part of how I see things.

Now I’m not writing this blog to tell someone to turn off their TV and get to running outside or fasting or something.  Nor am I writing to invite that for myself from a loving commentator. I think there’s someone much Bigger than I am who can do that. I’m writing because I have a daughter who like her father loves TV. And because she loves it and we let her watch it (with we hope, wisdom), it’d be good to talk through how we do it and hear from other how they walk their kids through it, if at all. So here’s how we’ve done TV with Ellie and what I’m learning in the process.

  1. Some cartoons aren’t good for her. At first we simply left a Canadian channel called Treehouse on all day while she played for background noise. And in all honesty, sometimes we did it for a break too (any “Oh man I’m not alone!” chants starting?)! And what we would hear would most often by fine but some shows, even for kids, would promote behaviors that we didn’t want her to see as approved. And this goes for me (and you) too. I talk about that on number 4.
  2. Know the limits. Winters are the worst for this. It’s not like you can go outside at minus whatever to ride a bike and Lord knows craft time, if you’re not a craft person, can be draining. So the easy decision is to simply turn on the TV and walk away. And for a time we would do that. Now we let her watch some educational stuff for a bit then turn the TV off and enforce play time. And that might be in her room with toys, might be coloring, but it is something away from the ‘tube.
  3. Talk with her about what she sees. I think good parents know when to simply say no and when to explain a no, even to a 3-year-old. The reason to explain isn’t to get them on your side or even the Lord’s side but instead to help them start to think critically over what they take in. This past summer Ellie was watching a kids show on my iPad through Netflix when a character said something I found inappropriate. My initial instinct was to take the iPad and walk away. Instead, we had a short talk about being nice and kind with our words. Did it stick? She’s three. But I do believe that the seeds are there.
  4. Set an example. Man this is hard. Am I on my phone in front of her all the time, checking emails (not tweets, if you remember)? My iPad? Even a book? Am I paying more attention even to writing this blog than to playing with her and her brother? It might not be a TV but if it’s something and it’s for a long time, it might at well be a TV. I have to take my own breaks, even when she’s sleeping. And I also have to constantly reevaluate what is appropriate and not. As I read today through Jon Acuff’s Quitter, “Discipline begets more discipline.” How I do things will affect her greatly, to make better calls, take better breaks and know when something shouldn’t be in her life.

So, thoughts? Ideas? Do you own a large TV but never use it because of different principles (side question: then why have the TV? But I digress…)? Was TV never a big deal for you? If not, what do you find is? How do you help your kids think while they do? If you don’t have kids, how to figure out what you watch and how much is too much?

To make sure you don’t miss my newest posts, you can subscribe via RSS or e-mail by clicking on the “sign me up button” on my blog page.

Inspiration – Got Some?

Last week, our senior high pastor came to my door and asked me who inspires me. His reason for asking was because I don’t often mention the names of authors or speakers. I told him that most of my inspirations are people that surround me, who I watch and allow to shape my life. So question to you: who or what inspires you? What are some things and who are some people who push you to be better, work harder and keep you on the right track? Even good people can lose their way when inspiration isn’t there (example – Joash in 2 Chronicles 24…did what God wanted at first, then got corrupted by the wrong voices…), meaning we all need it.

Here are some of my ‘muses’:

  • My immediate family Becca and Ellie remind me that i need to be better. Becca’s understanding and Ellie’s joy for everything in front of her keep me going on the worst days. They are examples of God’s grace and mercy.
  • My close friends – From laughter to arguments to their own brand of creativity (you know who you are…), they help me become better by not letting me become worse. They care THAT much but do it in a way that I’d still wanna be their friends. Cheers, guys. (Check out my blog roll for some of their thoughts…)
  • My family – I will have illustrations until I’m 90….thanks, guys. They are the epicentre of the Epic Fail Blogs….
  • My Pastor and the people I work with – each time I’m with them I am determined to bring my best and not let them down for the sake of the Kingdom
  • Good storytellers – Whether through books (Donald Miller, Matthew Paul Turner, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.) TV and Movies (Lost, Mad Men, Gladiator, Tom Hanks, etc.) or song (U2, Coldplay, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, etc.), I am forced to re-examine how I share, design and use stories, not to make a point but to help people get from point A to B.  And if you know me well, you know that I love a good story.
  • Alone time – Some times you just need a break from everything to hear your own thoughts; to press the reset button.

So that’s me. In a nut shell of sorts. What about you? Take time to think about it today. What inspires you? Who inspires you? What role does inspiration play in your daily life?

Something that I just noticed about me – Inspiration mainly comes out of community. What about you?

PS – if you read this and thought, ‘well, he didn’t mention The Bible or Jesus’, then get a clue 😉

Missed a week…sucks

So I’m a big LOST fan. Huge.

Since December of 2004, Becca and I have not missed a single episode. We’ve hosted season premiere parties, season finale parties, read spoilers care of Doc Jensen at Entertainment Weekly think about often when I have spare moment to try to figure out the little and big mysteries. By now, even if you hate the show, you know the basic premise: people on a plane crash on an island – chaos, mystery, intrigue and discovery ensure. The main question asked is: is this destiny in our being here or is this all chance and happenstance?

I write that because in the last episode, there was a great exchange between two characters dealing with the idea of destiny and fate. One of the secondary characters who came to the island later on in the story mentioned that he was supposed to be the original pilot on the doomed Oceanic 815 flight but slept in and missed it, therefore missing the crash and what came with it. The character with whom he shared this info responded with this: “well it didn’t matter cause the island still got you here.” So in some senses, it was chance and in others it was destiny…what the heck am I getting at, you wondering…?

I think, like Forrest Gump talking to Jenny’s grave, that life is a mix of us floating accidental-like on a breeze (choice and circumstance) and destiny (God’s ultimate will for us). There are some things that we choose thinking we’re in control and only later on when we meet Him, we’ll learn that it was his leading all along, his plan and protection. We’ll learn that there was a reason for better or worse that the alarm didn’t or did go off, that the baby was born on a Wednesday…I dare you to look back on your life and not see the fingerprints of someOne bigger and wiser, who has set things in a way to make you who you are now.

Or maybe I just need a new TV show.

Either way, I’m encouraged to know that I’m not being dragged left and right but at the same time, every decision is being weighed out by what is right and best and not on what is wanted and right now. And looking at my life, He would have got me eventually. And look at what I’ve got…a new year, beautiful family, great job, friends and a busted but drivable Civic.

And a great Tuesday night pastime of Lost at 9 PM.

Check out this song called So Damn Lucky (sorry for the D word…he named it) by the Dave Matthews Band, that talks about this theme of destiny.

Story

I am a huge fan of the TV phenomenon known as LOST. I’m one of those junkies who reads every article about it, rewatches episodes for lost clues and ideas and has indepth convos with fellow Losties over coffee about where the story is going.

The reason why I love the show…or I should say, ONE of the reasons is it’s love for story. Each person on the island has a story and for the past five years, we the viewer have been able to learn their back story, allowing us to feel connected to them (so much so that when a character turns wrong or even worse, dies, there is a touch of sadness that lingers for a while. Becca still hasn’t gotten over Charlie’s death and that was three years ago.) and to their next movements. As you learn their stories, you realize why a few episodes ago, someone responded to something miniscule like the world was ending or why another character has an alias. We the viewer get an inside glimpse into someone’s reason for existence and it draws us in week by week. That’s why American Idol does those little back stories. Sometimes it’s to prepare us for a train wreck (…looking like a FOOL with your pants on the ground), but most times it’s to pull us and cause us to root for an underdog who may in fact, win it all. We’ll watch because we know “The Guy who Is Going Back To Iraq doesn’t want to leave his blind son and talking dog is singing Hello by Lionel Richie” and even though he’s not that good, we’ll cheer anyhow. It’s the pull and power of story.

I love meeting new people but even more so, I love getting to KNOW them (Those 25 Random things were great in its heyday…back in 2009.) and hearing their story. Story is what connects us, binds us and confronts us. Story allows us to illustrate life in a way that everyone gets. Story helps us rally, helps us survive and encourages others. The moment someone hears that you’ve dealt with something that they are, that person feels a bit more secure that everything will be okay, that they might make it too. I think that’s why no one likes shallow people…you know, people who live for the surface…but man, if they were to share that tale of how they got there, how much more sense would they make.

Close friends of mine would know that growing up, I didn’t have the best father-son relationship. I didn’t get Mr. Collin Carson Chase and I’m sure he didn’t get me. All through my teens, I was a thorn in his side through rebelling and anger. It was only until a visit to Barbados and a conversation with my Granny where my dad began to make sense. I learned his story, something I was too bitter to ask him for, and discovered why he was the way he was. It clicked, we clicked and he is my best friend. Not to say we don’t have our moments but I know his love for me is real and that’s cool. It was out of his story that I learned WHO is was…and WHY he was.

So! What’s your story? You do have one…it may not be a ‘page turner’ but you have one and people want to know it. As you share yours, someone will share theirs with you. The world is connected by story. Hopefully these little posts are opening you up to mine and challenging you on sharing your own. And if you’re a parent, remember that you are shaping your kid’s story too!

Here’s a cool quote I heard in a team training meeting last week: Joy comes from enabling peoples stories to be heard at the same time.

Cool eh? And now to prepare for 18 more LOST stories…