the false-self in skinny jeans

I am finding that the best way to identify the false-self is to “reverse-question” yourself.

I know that sounds confusing, but let me use a personal example.

Anna and I were talking about fashion, and likely about how I have none and how Anna has trouble helping me out (probably because I find it hard work, yet hers is brilliant and free). I had mentioned how I didn’t want to be “hipster” in my style. Of course only a guy who wears jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps most of the day explains it this way (its called ignorance). Anyway, I said that I didn’t want to end up wearing skinny jeans, skinny shoes and deep V-necks. My body and my self-esteem couldn’t handle the tightness factor, not too mention that I would look ridiculous, in my opinion.

As we dove deeper into my fight against this “style,” and Anna opened me up to this style and its connectedness to your personal body type and personal style and I realized that I actually had a prejudice of sorts to this hipster crowd and certain people I know to be hipsters. I was shocked that truly it wasn’t the clothes but the image and all the stereotypes I had collected about this “group” of people that lead to my fashion dilemma.

So then instead of making the statement, “I am not a hipster” I decided to ask a question of myself, “Do I feel the need to be a hipster?” “Is it true that I will become a hipster (and all its baggage that I have added on to it) if I wear certain clothes?” All of a sudden all this “stuff” came up. Everything from my prejudices, my insecurities, ignorance and expectations on myself.

My false-self believed it was a fashion issue, my real-self revealed to me my prejudices.

Because heaven forbid that I would ever have any problems with anyone (especially us religious types, who usually tend to make it always a God issue and nothing personal).

So what have I concluded on the issue?

My false-self has held me back (in this case the surface topic “style”) in order to uphold a belief that my true-self identified as a preconceived idea about hipsters.

And believe me, there is more where this came from…

…but there will also always be more questions to ask that can move me closer to freedom.

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false-self, meet real-self

In 2005 I moved to Commercial Drive.

I moved here specifically to start a church.

I moved to “The Drive” specifically because of what I had heard and what I had seen in my visits to this neighbourhood. The people in this area appeared to have a lot more social awareness and care for the community. Since our plan was always to point God out to people we met (as opposed to bring God to them) I thought what a great chance to join in with these people and work together. And perhaps, in some mysterious way, start a church in the process.

But I learned something about myself along the way.

I learned that I wasn’t as socially aware as I thought myself to be. My false self was the most socially active person you had ever met and was very caring for others in all ways possible. Of course my real self never lived up to that expectation.

Sure I did a few things here and there, but my real self could never live up to the hype my false self created. I kind of picture it like someone meeting someone else for the first time after learning about them exclusively from their facebook profile.

I could go off on a tangent and give you all examples of how the perception of Commercial Drive was pretty false as well, but i’ll keep this post personal for now.

If I was to do it over again, I would have done a lot more work on myself. More work figuring out who I truly was and not assume I was the person I posted on my facebook profile. And I would have done that work before I moved here and chose a place to start a church. I think I actually chose the place the represented my ideal self and not who I actually was. (Not that you can’t go to a place with people different from you, but I thought they were the same and they weren’t, hence my dilemma). Even now as my wife and I dream about a business we might want to start one day, I am happy I have begun to do the work on myself. I have begun to see who I really am and know myself.

If you really looked deep into yourself, do you truly know the difference between who you think you are and who you really are?

I am starting to get there…

…and its painful.

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pondering regret

I became a Christian when I was 18. A choice I will never regret.

But there are some choices after that day that I sometimes do.

I wonder what University would have been like if I didn’t spend most of my time running a Christian Ministry. And then I wonder where I would be in life if I didn’t go to Seminary for another 3 years. And now I look back and think about a life that didn’t involve 5 years of starting and pastoring a church.

That is about 8 years of full-time commitment to Christian work and another chunk of free time devoted in University.

Sometimes I wonder if I wasted my time. Sometimes I regret it. Sometimes I wonder whether it was worth it.

Seems like a lot of time to devote to something that ultimately I think has almost entirely lost its purpose and in many cases, usefulness… not Christianity, but the work part.

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transitioning members to friends

I live in Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city.

I used to be a pastor in this city. I was the pastor of a church I started in a city in which I really knew no one before moving here.

This creates a dilemma…

…most of the friends I made were a part of the church.

Not sure if I am making sense, but I find it hard now to transition back…

…back to friends and not “people I am pastoring.” I am sure they would say they don’t see the issue, but I struggle with it at times.

I feel like I am living in a beautiful city with no friends.

I think this is a dilemma many pastors/ church planters have but do not admit it due to the worry that they might offend someone.

This is only a thought… but it feels real.

Sometimes I think moving to a new city will solve this problem. (no offense)

I am not sure this is a good reason to move.

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steam shovels and re-inventing yourself

I read a book most nights with my son before bed called Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. The book is about a man and his steam shovel named Mary Anne who are losing work due to the new gasoline shovels that have entered the work force. In order to prove that they should be given the work of the more advanced shovels they go to a small town and promise to dig as fast in one day as 100 men could dig in a week or the town won’t have to pay for their work digging out the basement of the new town hall. The town takes them to task and they begin digging. As you can guess the childrens book does a good job of describing the hard work of Mike and Mary Anna throughout the day. People continually get behind them, cheering them on. There are few that want them to fail as well (hence no payment), but the majority are quite supportive. We always seem to want the underdog to win.

Mike and Mary Anne finish the job on time but forget to create a way out. The amount of time it would take to get out would put them over time so in essence they failed. All seems to be for not, especially when you think that they will probably never get a job again, when the town comes up with the idea to use the steam shovel as the new furnace in the town hall and allow Mike Mulligan to be the new janitor of the town hall. A sort of evolution, I guess, into a new role and purpose.

I feel much in the same way as Mike. I felt like at one point I was in a role that was relevant and I could really stretch my wings, but somewhere along the line there was no more need of the steam shovels and I could either die slowly, or re-invent myself. Today I feel like I have re-invented myself, even if what I am becoming is not clear yet. But I now ponder that former role I had and wonder its relevance today. I am not sure which metaphor to use here, but we will always need holes; perhaps the way to dig them will continually change and evolve but I am not too sure I know what the new shovel will look like.

But what I am sure is that I still haven’t seen it.

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revisiting the blog, the life, the spiritual, the should, the shouldn’t and whatever else that comes to mind

To say it had been a while since I had last written on this blog is to be generous. I had become so tired of reading, writing or even thinking about the topics normally reserved for this blog (spirituality, church[planting], christianity, culture, etc) that my last few posts had become short blurbs on books I had read. Many of which had little relevance on the topics mentioned above.

I had been wrestling with the purpose of this blog until I finally walked away from it in April. I was stuck in my thinking that I should write about the church, or should talk about spirituality or I should simply write on it. But by walking away from the blog (and a number of other things) I realized I did not want to write on it, I had nothing to say and it did not need to be kept up. I suppose it’s easier to give up writing when the number of readers are minimal and nobody is waiting on my next thought. But the truth is, everything I write on here becomes public and it might actually be read. And if it might be read then I want to write coherently and be prepared for push back. I wasn’t in that place then, but perhaps I am now.

It may be true that my second son (born in March) had something to do with making it easier to walk away from the blog, but the truth is much of what I believe about the Church, Christianity, and Spirituality has changed. My beliefs have changed quite a bit and I have some fear that my thoughts (that would be exposed in this blog), may actually lead to worry or concern by some of the readers when actually these changes have positively shaped my life, beliefs and my thoughts to date. I am always open to a challenge and a conversation, but I think prior to today I wasn’t as open as I thought, especially when you have an interesting conversation with some of your closest friends and instead of listening and exploring the thought they feel the need to make sure you’re still saved (especially when a thought is a thought and no more).

I didn’t write the above paragraph in order to share with you my new theology. I don’t have one. But what I am hoping to do on this blog is share some new ideas, thoughts and perhaps some real personal life stories that have shaped who I am to date. It is true that I used to be a church planter/ pastor of a church called the open house (website permanently down), but I am not that person that started that group in 2005 (and unofficially ended in 2010). I am a new person and although the church doesn’t meet, I am still highly connected to those people that I call my family.

So who am I right now? I am a father of 2 boys. I am married to a beautiful aquarius spirit who challenges the HELL out of me! I don’t “go” to church right now, but I still consider myself a Christian. I live in Vancouver, BC (for now), I work a normal job (somewhat in engineering) that allows me travel all over BC (I call it island hopping) and I play hockey weekly.

This is a true (all-be-it small) account of me… who are you?

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Book 39/48 – Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

rework Another great asset from the guys who brought us 37signals. Sometimes I think I only want to be a full time project manager in order to use all of their tools, all of the time! It was great to get into the head of the writers and get some background to their products and why they do the things they do. This book has also inspired me to read more of Jason Fried’s work in the magazine INC. Thanks Frances for the subscription.

Although I really enjoyed this book, I will say that where I think they were coming from and where they say they are coming from are 2 different places. I would say that this is a reflective piece on the development of 37signals and in hindsight they are telling us what has worked for them, but they speak from a place that sounds like they planned to do it this way (in some way) from day one. I really agree with what they have done and how they have organized themselves, and in fact it has allowed me to sort through the course load in my Project Management program right now and all the info in the PMBOK. The information overload I have received was overwhelming at times, but now I am inspired to create my own stream and it has made the program more enjoyable. However, the proverbial chip on Jason’s shoulder at times was a little much, but maybe that’s my Canadianisms coming out.

If you are looking for a book that inspires you to get work done and to run a clean streamlined office, system, team, or business I highly recommend this book. For my CP rating I give it a 4.5/5.

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Book 38/48 – Love Wins by Rob Bell

Love Wins I decided to get back into the spiritual reading world again after a hiatus from those “types” of books. When I first picked up this book it was in the shadow of quite a bit of controversy in the twitter world. Even some mainstreamers in the evangelical world were writing off Rob Bell for his words in this book as no longer “part of the fold” so to speak. Greg Boyd makes a great point on this here.

All I want to say about this book is that it was inspiring and said a lot of things that not only I have been thinking about, but I know other “doubting Christians” have been thinking for a long time. And even though some might argue that this books encouragement toward questioning and its suggestion of new answers might be “unhealthy” or a threat to Christianity, I believe that this is a hopeful book that makes God bigger than perhaps we have viewed Him as in our current Christian faith circles.

And to those who find this book threatening I would just like to say that it is important for many of us to reflect on how accurate you believe you are concerning your accuracy of your theology. Don’t hear me wrong, I appreciate critical readings, and feel free to read this book critically, but if you read it and if it doesn’t agree with your church or your personal theology try to remember that we are all trying to figure it out and do not have it all together all of the time. To read this with that in mind, might give more life to your reading. I can appreciate those that want to find the “final” answer, but I guess in my mind (right now) that doesn’t seem to be the point.

One thing that I appreciated from Rob’s book that I would like to share here is that Rob looks at the many different views of atonement in Chapter 5 and makes a great point that many of the explanations provided by the writers in the Bible (and thus interpretations from others since) were ways to describe the life eternal and not to point to one final theory. We would do well to embrace more theories in order to expand on the richness of the gospel itself. This in turn makes God bigger to me, not smaller. I think we would all be amazed how many of those theories we embrace even though most evangelical Christians say they only embrace the substitution theory.

I think this is an important book and give 5/5 on my CP scale.

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For every kiss your beauty trumped my doubt

I’m finding that some of my best moments of writing have come while listening to Mumford and Sons. And with the way that this band has taken off I am sure I am not the only one. But there was something in this quote from “Winter Winds” that led to some reflection on my part.

I am working through the concept of doubt these days, and to some may be trending on some dangerous ground, but for me I am beginning to see and feel faith more than I ever have.

As I thought about the quote and although I like the sound of beauty trumping doubt, the thing is if you do not doubt freely without the need to “know” that eventually things will be okay you have never really doubted. Beauty may in fact trump doubt, but doubt must be fully engaged for it to do its work in you and for beauty to rise. And I believe that doubt is a very important part of faith.

Are you able to doubt freely? Or when you doubt, do you say to yourself, “It’s okay that I am questioning my faith, because God is bigger than my doubt.” If you are saying things like this to yourself, then I am sorry to say you are not doubting freely. (Not to sound trite).

I have heard a couple different schools on this (via @peterrollins) that I have found helpful. (I adapted it a little).

Picture a cliff. You are standing at it with questions. Those questions may or may not be answered on the other side. So in order to confront the questions you decide to jump off the cliff.

The person who doubts freely knows that when they jump they might fall for a very long time (perhaps forever), possibly never obtaining the answer. But this freedom allows the person to receive, live in tension and see beauty.

The person that does not allow doubt to freely do its work will still jump, but their jump is reserved in that they have this idea that the ground is only a few feet down from the cliff or they jump with this metaphorical harness knowing that God will catch them and make all questions clear with answers when they jump bringing them back to safety.

I see this mentality a lot. I specifically see it in those with Christian backgrounds that have “left” the church but always speak in terms that suggest they “should really go back.” I feel a sadness for these people. They are in essence stuck in the purgatory of faith. Never really growing and always hanging on to something that in practice has never truly worked for them, because if it did they wouldn’t speak in these terms. I think in some variation of this idea this is where I sit.

I see issues in both the hard and fast believer (reject all doubt as a way of belief) as well as in the hard and fast doubter (never trusting the beauty that could trump the doubt), but I won’t get into that now.

So I ask you, are you able to doubt freely?

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Sleepless theology: Late night bible interpretations by Kyle Martin

Just got back from Hockey and it’s 2am. This post is almost like Drunk History, except i’m not drunk, just overly tired.

Here are a couple comments from a person who is tired and reading the bible a little differently these days… but I hesitate to say that I am adding anything new. This is from James 1:2-8. I have been facing some trials, so it seemed fitting.

James 1:2-3: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

I think when I read “perseverance” I used to think it meant “no matter what anyone says against what I believe don’t back down.” Almost like a good Tom Petty song. But instead I see this saying that challenges are good and it’s important to be challenged. In fact I encourage you to read counter opinions of your beliefs and experience them. It is those experiences that allow you to truly know that you know.

James 1:4: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

And it’s this statement that needs to be included for my point to be complete itself. Almost like you have to let the challenge sink in.

James 1:5: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

What I love about this statement is that James doesn’t let up. He first says let the trials come, then he encourages us to work them out. Not run. Not believe blindly. But gain access to wisdom so that you know that you know. Brilliant! And God won’t fault you for working it out. In fact he applauds you.

James 1:6-8: But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

This just gets so good. James looks you in the eye and says, “guess what there is an answer.” Don’t give up and walk away. You must believe the answer is real and available and not just give it a “ho hum” and go back to believing what you have already believed. You must fight through and work it out. This is not good doubt, this is lazy doubt. Lazy doubt says “ah the answer is too hard, I’m going to just believe what I have been told all my life.”

So don’t just blindly believe. Challenge and grow so that you know what you know.

Version 1.0 of Sleepless Theology.

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