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I’ve had the privilege of hearing Jerry Howarth call Blue Jays baseball games on the radio for decades. As he’s grown older (and wiser), something has struck me with who he’s becoming for the Jays: the informal father figure. While he’s not on the Jays staff as a coach, he does command respect from many of the players. He’s honest with his assessments and yet gentle. He demonstrates a desire for those around him to strive for their best, and he cheers for them to be at their best. Like a father, he challenges when he needs to, and demonstrates his care for the individual.

Earlier today, on the Jeff Blair show, Jerry shared a moment he had with Jose Bautista (listen here). Jerry was addressing Jose’s clubhouse presence and on-field antics (like arguing with the umpires) last season. Howarth shared how he had a moment with Bautista, told him his actions were hurting the team, and left it at that. I don’t know how Bautista reacted nor his opinion of that situation. But since Jose’s started to be a better example, Howarth was the first to stand up and support Jose’s change in attitude.

If you see a picture of Howarth, he’s not really a physically intimidating man. What I sense is someone who demonstrates his genuine kindness to others, showing the dignity he believes they deserve. Not for his own sake, but because of his exemplary career as a broadcaster and a man of baseball, others give him the respect he’s earned. When he speaks, others listen. Yet he seems to be a man of humility, not drawing attention to himself but deflecting it back to the players and others he supports.

Jerry Howarth is an example of how to carry yourself with humility, dignifying those around him and earning their respect.

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Since Saturday, I’ve been battling gout in my right foot. I’ve had gout before, but nothing this long. Ironically (or providentially), I preached from Exodus 7:14-24 on warning signs, and not letting stubbornness get in the way of seeing them. This gout attack has been a warning sign for me. Here’s what I’ve taken note of so far:

  • Everything cannot depend on me. While I may be a significant contributor to a lot of different areas, I cannot be the one who’s solely relied on. Yes, there are things that are my primary responsibility. But at the end of the day, I can be replaced in those roles.
  • I need to slow down. I’ve literally had to slow down this week. I’ve had to take more time to rest (interesting how pain drains you both physically and mentally).
  • I need to change my diet. The fact is, a huge factor in my gout is my diet. Therefore, I need to make adjustments. (Another wake up call.)
  • I need to trust others. I’ve leaned more on my kids and my wife. I’ve had to delegate when I may have been more likely to do it myself.
  • It challenged me to prioritize. In the midst of all I had originally intended to accomplish this week, I had to reschedule items on my task list that weren’t as important, but take time to focus on those fewer items that were a priority.
  • I can still do things. While I can’t be expected to do everything, I can still contribute (and not just do nothing and feel sorry for myself).
  • Others still go through much deeper, more significant issues than this. Frankly, I really don’t have it that bad. There are others who are experiencing much deeper pain than I could imagine. They require our prayers much more than me.

Interesting how God uses a preacher’s message to also speak to the preacher. (And it won’t be the last time.)

Today, I removed myself from the business of life coaching. It’s been an interesting 5 year journey, with my training from Coach U to my accreditation with the International Association of Coaching and the variety of opportunities I’ve had with life coaching.

The fact is, life coaching is a skill I will always use, but not a profession I will pursue. Over the last few months, I’ve noticed more and more that having the vocation of life coaching started becoming a distraction. I still deeply value the skills which life coaching taught me, and am still using them in a variety of contexts (both personal and ministry-wise). However, this isn’t something I need to be spending lots of time both in its continued development and to maintain my accreditation.

I’ve shut down my website, Twitter, Facebook page and Google+ page. It’s the end of a chapter. But I feel relieved knowing I can focus on what God’s focused me to do in preaching his truth and supporting churches as they continue to reach this upcoming generation.

Who knows (besides God) what else may be in the near future?

In my youth, it seemed education and people were trying to pursue truth. Through studies, debates and other literature, the premise was that these were people’s pursuits of truth. That’s why so many outlets like newspapers quote scientific studies, because they are supposed to be about the pursuit of truth.

Call me a cynic, but it seems the default nowadays is the pursuit of an agenda. It seems there are many, through studies and other avenues, trying to prove an agenda rather than seek the truth. When’s the contradicting data, it’s because of “those people” and their agenda. Rarely is there a discussion of why there are these apparent contradictions and how do they “work” together. The problem then becomes the arguments for the sake of an agenda (left vs right, liberal vs conservative, etc.) rather than the pursuit of truth.

Universities were supposed to be about that pursuit. However, it seems most people see universities as job-prepping factors rather than a place to pursue truth. Even our own federal government is less interested in pure science in favour of applied science i.e. the pursuit of an application/agenda vs the pursuit of truth. Even our court system seems to be about having the best people who can argue a certain agenda rather than collectively seeking the truth.

By no means am I always right (many would agree). I do hold my own convictions and faith. I also recognize, those convictions and faith too are a gamble. (If I’m wrong about Jesus, then no matter what I believe, that reality/truth still doesn’t change.) But too often, people push their agenda and dismiss anything that may contravene it (including Christians, atheists and other religions/philosophies).

If we were humble enough to pursue truth, perhaps we’d have less confrontation. (Perhaps I’m too naive on that point.) However, it seems too many of us are too focused in pursuing an agenda rather than seeking the truth.

Over the last few days, our new home has frozen pipes. About 10 days ago, the city staff came, assessed and highlined water from our neighbours. That lasted for about 6 days until that line burst and flooded their basement. The next day, the city staff returned, dug into our yard and the street, and determined the lead pipes could not be thawed so they will need to change them to copper pipes. For the last few days, we’ve been taking showers at my in-laws and using various bathroom facilities in the city. From this time, a few things have struck me:

  • Hassles like this take up a lot of mental energy. While it may not take much to figure out how to work around this, it’s constant planning (especially with two kids during March break at home) which takes up energy and can become a constant distraction.
  • I am so reliant on so many luxurious of the western world (like running water, electricity, Internet access, etc.).
  • There are so many people willing to be gracious and hospitable. It’s amazing to have family and friends who care.
  • This isn’t that huge of a deal. In the big picture, this is a relatively small problem that someone else (i.e. the city) will solve eventually. Sure, I need to deal with its effects. But there are more profound issues to steer my concerns towards.

With all the discussions, especially in recent days, about the new Ontario Sex-Ed curriculum (actually, it’s called the Health and Physical Education curriculum), I figured I should read it over to get a better idea of what it’s all about. (Let me rephrase that, I skimmed over the grade 1-8 version; didn’t read it in depth.)

From that, some observations:

  • Given the change in culture, society and early adolescence, many of these issues needed to be addressed.
  • Whether explicitly stated or not, the curriculum is presenting moral decisions. (e.g. The curriculum draws the line between having unprotected sex as harmful and protected sex as permissible.)
  • I didn’t see anything about age of consent. Given all the legal ramifications emphasized on issues like sexting, I find it interesting that age of consent isn’t even addressed. (e.g. For someone who’s 12 or 13, do they realize that they can’t be engaged in sexual activity with anyone older than 2 years from them or who is in a position of trust/authority/dependency? Given how many girls seem physically older than they are, I would think this is vital information to be aware of.)
  • It addresses masturbation from the perspective of exploration (and addressed as an acceptable type of exploration). However, for many, masturbation is the outlet for pleasure (and other emotions) especially when stimulated by visual cues (i.e. pornography). As far as I noticed, pornography isn’t addressed at all.

With all this, some reminders I’ve thought about:

  • While the onset of puberty is starting earlier in many children, not all kids start it early. Let’s not assume that all kids are ready for specific parts of the discussion. (Differentiated learning will become vital in this area, I would suspect, more than any other subject.)
  • Sexual health can be a very vulnerable and sensitive discussion (even the naming of the parts). There is a reason why we use the term “private parts” for genitalia; most people are sensitive and very self-conscious about that area because bringing it out in the open (both literally or figuratively) is, in many ways, allowing others to see a deeper part of you.
  • These issues do need to be discussed. However, it needs to be discussed amongst people (including specific peers) the child is comfortable with. To have the discussion amongst people you don’t fully trust heightens that self-consciousness (and leads to feelings of embarrassment).
  • Once something has been exposed, it can never be “unexposed”. Given the sensitivity of the subject, some parents are cautious of what exactly is being discussed, including the types of topics like anal sex and oral sex. Those subjects do need to be discussed at some point. However (back to the issue of trust), who is doing that and when is key.

Why are so many people upset about this?

  • Because sexuality is a sensitive subject to begin with for many kids, some parents are protective with whom their child has that discussion. The deeper issue is trust. Many parents do not trust the explicit or implicit agenda set by this curriculum, its authors (e.g. the perceived connection with Ben Levin) and/or the teachers who are delivering it. This subject is uniquely different than most others because this does address the fundamental issue of our individual identities. Many parents are very guarded who brokers that issue and what are they teaching, especially from positions of authority.
  • In the curriculum, it states that “Parents are the primary educators” of their kids. However, I’m not sure just how much consultation was really done in the preparation of this curriculum. I’d speculate that they didn’t really have a representative set of parents to address topics that are this sensitive. The fact that they have essentially shut down any further discussion on this with the actual release of the curriculum also suggests, in action, that the Ministry of Education actually doesn’t believe the parents are the primary educators because they don’t really value the broad spectrum of opinion and insights from their stakeholders (i.e. parents).

So might we respond?

  • Parents: Start talking with your kids if you haven’t already. Proactively evaluate where your kids are at, and how best to address these issues. The fact is, assuming this does get implemented in September, you’ll need to address it anyway. Even if you take your kids out of class those specific classes, they’ll likely be discussing it with their friends. Get ahead of the curve and appropriately address it with your kids before there’s first-exposure by someone else. As parents, we need to help our kids think critically about what they are being exposed to, so they can at least decipher what is being presented, and how they can handle it.
  • The church needs to be ready to respond. Early adolescence and how the church needs to respond has been an issue for a few years now. While we may not model after the curriculum itself, these are issues that we need to equip parents and be ready to address ourselves (both in children and youth ministries). The fundamental issue the church can address is identity. Out of that stems many of the issues in this curriculum (such as bullying, violence, orientation and behaviour). Sexuality is tied into our identity, but it does not solely define our identity. We need to continue to help our children think critically. The church also needs to be a safe place where those discussions can happen. The difference between school and church is attendance to church is solely voluntary (whereas attendance at school is mandatory). We need to ensure the church is a place where honest discussions and doubts can be expressed without ridicule or dogmatism. It’s not to say the church can’t have an opinion or a conviction; we need to allow space for people to wrestle with where their faith is going.

Likely many other subjects before, this one is not apocalypse coming. I’m sure there will be a lot of dialogue to still take place. However, rather than having a fight/flight response, as a Christ-follower, may be we the salt and light, ready to engage respectfully in this continuing discussion.

Maybe I should rephrase that, it’s who you trust to know. In our infinitely-accessible information age, anyone can get information. The question is, who is the source of that info? In high school, we learn about primary vs secondary vs tertiary sources. (In the Internet age, some sources are many more degrees removed.) Perhaps someone we need to consider more than just the information is where that information is coming from.

Nowadays, a highly debated issue is vaccination. The voices that tend to get the most attention are celebrities who are anti-vaxx (e.g. Jenny McCarthy and Alicia Silverstone) vs pro-vaxx (e.g. Jennifer Garner and Sarah Michelle Gellar). In most cases, while these individuals may have researched about these issues, almost all of them are in position to speak authoritatively on this subject. Yet why do people believe them? Because they trust them, whether rightly or wrongly.

There are times when even experts disagree. Just because a person has a degree in an area of expertise doesn’t necessarily make them right. However, for the average person, which direction will they go with? The one they trust the most.

So, who do you know? (And how much do you trust them with that subject?)

I am frustrated with all politicians of all stripes. (Right now, maybe John Tory holds some hope for me. But even that I approach with skepticism and reservation.)

Through my adult years, I feel like we get screwed over and over again by politicians with scandal after scandal after scandal. Worse than that is when they start making excuses and not owning up to those mistakes. From the Conservative Senate scandals to the myriad of Ontario Liberal scandals, no wonder many voters (especially younger ones) are disenfranchised with our governing system because, time after time, it doesn’t seem to work. Many pay lip service to gaining the trust and vote of the younger demographic; I’ve yet to see any evidence of that the last few years.

I am probably lumping too many politicians in the same boat. I’m assuming there are some honest, decent public servants who we’ve elected to do their job well. However, the ones controlling the message (i.e. the party leadership) seem to out-do the other by low-balling others, by cutting others down (e.g. attack ads) and deflecting blame (when they should be taking responsibility for the issue).

Frankly, we expect our children not to do that. You would think our politicians would arise to a higher standard and actually be leaders.

Lessons from Paul Beeston

Today, I heard an interview with Paul Beeston on Sportsnet Fan 590. Over the last three months, there’s been an ambiguity about his role with the Toronto Blue Jays and whether his successor would be hired or not. Finally, they re-signed him for one more season.

I don’t personally know Paul Beeston nor am I familiar with all that he’s done. But from my peripheral view of him, I’ve come to associate two terms with him: loyal and trustworthy.

In the interview, he commanded a sense that what he was saying was what he meant. His aim is to bring this organization into one focus and to move together as such. As the President/CEO, he needs to set that tone and does without being bossy or a bully. I think it’s because he’s earned the credibility that he wants to see these people succeed (not only him). I think his staff realize he has their back and will do whatever he can to help them succeed.

Over the years, Beeston has demonstrated (at least to me) that he doesn’t have a hidden agenda, that he’s loyal to his staff and he won’t be (publicly) swayed by all the distractions that swirl.

It’s my hope that I’ll learn and model those characteristics both in how I lead and how I follow.

While the title sounds a bit gangsta (which, by far, I’m not), something I’ve begun to do with my kids, especially when they have a problem, is respond with, “What do you want to do about it?”

For instance:

  • “I didn’t finish my homework.” (What do you want to do about it?)
  • “I’m bored.” (What do you want to do about it?)
  • “I can’t get to sleep.” (What do you want to do about it?)

I wouldn’t respond with this question if it’s an emergency. (“Help, I broke my hand?!”) There are some situations where I, as a parent, need to intervene immediately.

However, there are plenty of times when I don’t need to intervene (like those examples above). For me to immediately step in to solve their problem means 1. I’m taking ownership of it when they should be and 2. I’m taking away their opportunity to resolve it themselves.

So, more and more, I find myself becoming a “What do you want to do about it?” parent. Not because I don’t care, but because my kids are capable of resolving those situations by themselves.

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