"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Friday, July 03, 2015

work spaces

I took a vacation day yesterday to do school work.

That's a first.

In several years of being in school part-time
while working full-time,
I've carefully hoarded vacation days for
that glorious between-semesters Down Time.

But ... this is the final push ...
I'll be finished in August ... 
and I've gotta get it done.

So I'm spreading out a week's worth of vacation days to
Get. It. Done.

I've discovered a change in the way my brain works.

I'm not sure if it's all the time-saving technology (which makes it actually harder to avoid distractions) ... or just that I have too much on my plate these days.

I do.
There's a lot on there, honestly,
and I love all of it.

I'm sooooo looking forward to being done school,
even though I will miss learning,
and haven't ruled out continuing on.

At any rate - it's harder to stay ultra-focused lately for a significant length of time.

I know that I need an outside view.
Learned that a long time ago, and Birkman confirmed it.
I would weep in a windowless cubicle.
At work, my desk is placed squarely in front of a window.

So my solution - for the focusing thing - has become setting timers and moving work spaces. It's surprisingly effective.

I start here, in my L'viv corner, so named because when I set it up as an experiment several months ago, The Boy said it reminded him of a L'viv cafe. From it, I can stare into the backyard while typing and thinking - that's what I do.

The Boy gets a little creeped out by my vacant stare, I think.

Louie hangs out there all the time, keeping an eye on things.

As soon as the snow melts, I'm outside on the shady back deck. I have to adjust the laptop screen a little, because of the glare, and if there's a breeze, papers blow away. But I could - and do - stay out there for hours.

(On Wednesday this week, a bird pooped right on my MacBook. Still didn't go inside.)

In the winter - or super early morning - or for a change of space - I work in my favourite chair. It's by the front window. Has a perfectly-placed space for coffee on one side, and a piano stool for extra papers on the other side.

It's cozy.

But this - THIS is my latest work space, and I spent hours here yesterday.

It's opposite the L'viv corner. That's the extra leaf from the dining room table on there, and it's solid as can be. I can even set a coffee on there, and work away while slowly walking. It's remarkable how much I can focus while my legs are moving.

Is this a side-effect of being a multi-tasking society?
We struggle now with single-tasking?
It's working,
and I'm now trying to figure out
how I can get a (free) treadmill
into my (not-big-enough) office at work. 

Louie's a little overwhelmed by all the beeping timers and the moving to different spaces, but he never says it out loud. Just sits in his corner with a facial expression that can mean anything.

He's the Mona Lisa of stuffed sheep.

Monday, June 22, 2015

travel through time and space

I'm working on a paper this summer, instead of going to classes. When it's done - I'm done.

Unless I decide to continue.
But I will have completed the original goal.

I got to choose the topic for my paper, which will be the sole basis for the final six credits.

No pressure.

So, of course, the general topic is Ukraine ... and the more specific topic is the idea of Soviet nostalgia ... which is or has been a real thing, for some, not all. We Westerners don't understand that at all ... doesn't even cross our minds.

Part of the research involves poring through Kyiv Post archives from 20 years ago. When the nation was only a few years old. When the economy was terrible. When the government was a giant pile of bureaucracy, effective at nothing.

You know what's sobering?

Articles that talk about being "too poor to die". People couldn't afford the cost of a funeral in Kyiv in 1997.

When I went the first time in 1999,
I remember babushkas - grandmothers -
sitting on the streets,
holding out their hands,
heads bowed,
no eye contact.

You held tightly to your belongings;
on that first trip
I kept my passport and cash with me
at all times,
in a belt under my clothing. 

Things have changed a great deal over the years, although the current war and flood of refugees is changing it all again.

It's easy for me to get lost in it all.

So on Mondays, my mind moves through history in a land on the other side of the planet, while attempting to frame events within a sociological understanding.

And on Mondays, I long to be there again, visiting this #landilove.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

i'm a pastor

My job involves a lot of things.

  • Working out and balancing short and long-term budgets for a non-profit organization, entirely dependent on charitable giving ... 
  • Community liaison to businesses, government and people living here, not to mention connecting with other pastors, leaders, churches, faith groups, non-profit organizations in the city ...
  • Building manager ...
  • Volunteer recruiter / organizer / empower-er ...
  • Boss ... mentor ... vision caster ... detail-handler ... long-term strategist ... Board chair ...
  • Counsellor ... crisis-helper ... wisdom-giver ... Scripture student and teacher ...
  • Networker ... people-connector ... 
  • One who shares and contributes to important life moments with people ...
  • Musician ... public speaker ... small group leader ... pray-er
  • And the list goes on.

I also set mousetraps and sit through photocopier sales pitches.

And I am responsible to maintain my own spiritual, emotional and physical health too, in every way. To remember that I am first and foremost, one of God's kids; and my value and identity lie in that alone.

One of the most important things for pastors to learn is that we can't fix everything, and we can't help everyone. For some of us, it takes a long time to become ... comfortable with this? maybe that's the wrong way to say it ... um ... It takes a long time to be ok with the fact that we're not God. That we don't have all the answers. That we don't possess endless personal resources of time and energy.

But lately ... in just a few places ... I've been able to help, I think. Where it was most needed. At the right time.

And I'm really proud to be the pastor of a church that is small, with limited resources ... but we have some things we do well. And those things meet specific needs. And because of that ... we had something to offer that was genuinely helpful.

Tomorrow is another Sunday.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

one of my "things"

Hey, you know how one of my "things" is Outrage-Free Friday?

Also coffee. And Ukraine. Those are also "things" of mine.

But the whole "outrage-free" thing is, for me, a response to ... um ... how do I say this ... I feel like a lot of outrage is in response to valid concerns, but it's ... uh ... knee-jerk, short-lived and ineffective at creating long-term change.

And it's bad for my health to live in that space all the time. So I care deeply, which means I get outraged too, but I also declare one day a week outrage-free, because looking for joy is a good thing, and getting outraged can become an exhausting, demoralizing habit.

For me.  If you want to be outraged all the time, that's your call.

So this morning, I read this brief story. About a government that outlawed a practice that was essential to someone's faith. And the "someone" heard about it, knew about it, and continued their practice anyway ... "just as he had always done".


That's the difference between short-lived, loudly-expressed, less-effective outrage ... and a life lived intentionally, core values solidly defined. This guy ended up surviving three massive government changes and influencing his world - not by loud outrage, but by an authentic life.

Less short-term outrageous.

More long-term courageous.

Off to work now.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

5 reasons to STOP reading lists

1. Life isn't that simple. 

2. You already know what's on the list; you could write it yourself. 

3. If you're reading "9 essential secrets to success" you're probably just doing it to avoid doing the actual work that would make you successful. 

4. Lists are a poor substitute for the art  of the written word. 

5. Irony is a beautiful thing. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

da twitters

Oh, that twitter ...

Wednesday night I found myself glued to tweety. No wait, that's a cartoon bird. People who are twits. No...that's not it either....

Oh you know what I mean.

Anyway, there was a lot happening.

For one thing ... the Ontario Ombudsman, who uses social media very effectively (whether you like him or not), found himself nearing the end of a term without word of a promised extension. He put this out on tweeter, with the encouragement to "make some noise, please"!

Well my friends, there's nothing that twitting people enjoy more than making some noise, all together, all at once. The twooters exploded. Within two hours, the mainstream media was reporting it. By the next day, it was announced that Mr. Marin's position had certainly been extended as promised, with the commentary that it would have happened anyway, and his social media "meltdown" was entirely unnecessary.

Maybe that's true, maybe it's not.

I'm just saying ... dude understands social media.

And props to him for that.

And then for another thing ... our fair city was informed on Tuesday that we are getting a whopping 1 Billion Dollars for Light Rail Transit. Since a lot of local people in favour of this are also twittinators, there was a great deal of virtual rejoicing at this. To follow-up, our City Council had their regular meeting Wednesday evening, which, judging by various online sources, was just one long exercise in happiness and unity and general agreeableness.

Um, to give perspective ... I've lived in this city for 15+ years, and I've never personally seen everyone so happy and agreeable all at the same time. It was a billion-dollar miracle, a beautiful little moment.

Emphasis on "little".

Because finally ... um ... how do I say this delicately ... you know how outrage and offence become magnified exponentially at lightning speed on the interwebs, and there is no stopping it once the mob mentality takes over?

Yeah, that happened. To some local people, whom I don't personally know, but who seem to me to be decent people, who advocate for and add to our city. So the drama of that exchange was right up there with reality TV. ... Except it was real.

I really hate that.

Someone suggested that Outrage-Free Friday
could maybe be moved up a day,
I presume in relation to that whole thing.

So that was encouraging.
You know - that anyone had heard of my
Outrage-Free Friday project.

Oh, that twitter.

Oh hey! It's Outrage-Free Friday!
Well... it's the last Friday of the month, so technically - it's a freebie - you're free to be outraged. But in honour of yesterday's outrage, I'm going outrage-free anyway. 

I'm all wild like that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

from the heart


I pray. You might think that's obvious, me being a pastor and all, but ... not necessarily. 

Sometimes I pray more than other times. Doesn't always look the same. Often, it's in writing. This evening, it was unexpectedly in someone's back yard - impromptu, you might say. 

I've been known to suggest that the most profound prayer of all is a whispered "...help...."

And the other day, I paused and knelt at the side of the bed, wanting to take time to communicate what was in my heart. I waited for the words to come, and finally spoke a single one.