Body Image

The issue of body image starts in Genesis 3. Ever since then, male and female, have struggled with this issue. Am I too short, fat, tall, thin, weak, etc. ? Essentially, after The Fall, we have all become selfish and greedy, sinful by nature.

In my estimation, dealing with how we and others view our own body is something that most believers (and unbelievers) will deal with regularly. In the same way that we sin every day, there will always be an aspect of our body image that we are working through. In other words, we will constantly be seeking to rest in the knowledge that God created us as we are, and that Jesus loves our bodies.

This struggle is good. We need not look in the mirror and be judgmental or ashamed. In fact, we ought not to spend time gazing in the mirror as we can make our own bodies into idols. As Martin Luther put it, our hearts are “idol-making factories.”

I’m not saying don’t appreciate your body. Far from it. But don’t hold it up to a standard that it was never meant to bear. Eat well. Exercise. Get adequate sleep. Leave the rest up to God! Because the treadmill of comparing ourselves to others never ends well. It never ends, period. Similar to how some people can never get enough sleep, we will never be able to come to a place where have a superior body to another’s. There will always be some flaw, never mind the fact that we age every day (2 Cor. 4:16).

 

Body Image: Community Image

Here’s something to think about: just like avoiding getting overly concerned with our appearances is important, so is working on the relationship with the “body of Christ.”

In the second half of 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul talks about how we each need to be concerned about serving in the church, which is Jesus’ body. We cannot put God’s children in some sort of arbitrary hierarchy. It doesn’t work that way.

Instead, the least honourable parts are made holy. Same with in the Church. Those who are lowliest should be held in high esteem. Philippians 2:3-4 teaches that we need to put others’ needs ahead of our own. This is Christian living. I will talk more about this and other topics in the book I will be releasing called Father to the Childless.

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Saving

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In advance of my sabbatical year, my wife and I are trying to save money. There are many ways to do this. One practical way is talk to other people and read up all you can on the subject.

Sometimes, increasing your income in order to save more simply isn’t possible. Usually, it will take a while before you’re able obtain a higher income. Additional education or work experience is often the criteria, as well as expanding your business networks.

Nevertheless, there are small ways that everyone can save. Making a budget is important so that you can account for when and where money is coming in and out of your bank account. Limiting the amount of money you spend eating out also helps.

If you are serious about saving money, you can rethink how you enjoy your vacations. This March Break I plan on tapping maple syrup on some family land. Camping, or enjoying a “stay-cation” are excellent ways to pinch your pennies and make your money go further, so that you can stash up some on the side.

Coupon-cutting and reflecting about big purchases assists in weeding out impulse buying. Writing out why you would like to make a certain costly purchase aids in processing whether it is necessary, or could be delayed. Evaluate the cons of making that purchase… we live in such a materialistic society. More unnecessary clutter = not a good thing.

Bullying

This evening we will be running an evening with the Cub Scouts on the topic of bullying. Now, this has always been a problem amongst youngsters. The difference is now it is no longer relegated to the locker room or schoolyard, but also to the Internet.

Bullying is a problem for both boys and girls. Contrary to popular belief, it does not go away as you age. We all struggle with body image, and are judged or “bullied” by certain people around us, even in our adult lives. Bullying can happen in the workplace, as this is the place where most of spent the majority of our time.

In my essay “How the Internet Has Affected Us,” I make the argument concerning the ubiquity of the Internet, and how we need to live in light of this reality. Social spheres, work and faith all intersect when it comes to the World Wide Web. There is no escaping it.

But how do we deal with bullying on the Web? For all the good that the Internet brings in terms of connecting us humans as social beings, and expanding our business networks, or helping to grease the wheels of commerce and trade, it makes targeting individuals easier. Chatrooms and internet videos can cause hate speech to go viral.

Thankfully, many schools have instituted policies to stop bullying. But it must not stop there. For policies to be truly effective, they must be carried out. Consequences must be enforced. There have been too many crimes that have occurred as a result of Internet-related bullying incidents, that have pushed students over the brink to self-destruction and suicide…

A culture of respect needs to be built from the bottom-up. Students need to know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. As a teacher by trade, and married to one, I know that it is not necessarily an easy task to teach these values. As a Christin, I know that everyone has a sinful inclination. But at the very least if we can help healthy boundaries to develop, and try our best to teach our children to speak up not let disrespectful actions or language to go unchecked. The consequences are far too grave.

When life conspires against you

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Sometimes things in life just conspire against you. Against your best intentions, things don’t turn out as they should…

This past week, I finally decided to do something about the lock on our front door, which kept sticking with the dramatic swings in temperatures. Our lock had gotten so bad that my wife and I couldn’t even stick our keys in the lock, without jamming them in.

I purchased two new locks from Canadian Tire, since I also wanted to replace our garage door lock as it was also stiff. I ended up only tackling the front door, and it turned out that new locks don’t fit all old doors. And our doors aren’t that old – they are only from 1997.

Needless to say, I had to enlarge the cavity of our front door, and I decided to not even tackle the garage door for the time being. I was thankful for the drill I had, as well as our neighbour who leant me some of his tools. When I finally got the knew lock in the door, the bolt wouldn’t fit in properly with the lock itself. How annoying! I didn’t have the correct tool to make the bolt go in farther, so I mixed the old bolt with the new lock, and even this didn’t end up working well. Thank goodness for locksmiths! We had to call one – and they did an excellent job, I might add.

In the midst of all of this, I had the “check engine” light on in our car, which I needed to get resolved. It turned out that our warranty was still valid, a welcome relief indeed. But it seemed to happen that annoyances happened in two’s and three’s. Certainly these were first world problems… Although, it pays to have $1,000 (or $500 if your income is under $20,000 per year) saved up in an emergency fund, as Dave Ramsey mentions in his book Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money, in order to be prepared with some cash on hand when you need it. Of course if you rent, you don’t have to deal with repairs to your living quarters.

My point in writing all of this is that when everything goes wrong and things start to “hit the fan,” we can turn to something that is rock solid: our faith. We can turn to the numerous examples of faith found in the Bible, and look to passages like Hebrews 11 that lists different people like Abraham, Rahab the prostitute and Joshua, who persevered in the face of often overwhelming odds.

Perseverance is key (pardon the pun) because good things in life take time to establish. Starting a business. Paying down a home. Raising a family. Saving money. Investing wisely. As the expression goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

When we turn to God in Jesus right in the midst of our trials, our prayers aren’t simply putting information into “the cloud” – either real or the term referencing computer data storage. When we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, everything else will take its place in light of that reality (Matt. 6:33).

What bestows value?

This is a fine question to ask. Why do sometimes you pay $75 to dine with your family versus other restaurant experiences you have to expend $150? Is it simply the quantity of food? Certainly the number of persons eating also affects the cost. Why are some hotel or motel rooms double or triple the price of other rooms, which may ironically be referred to as “value” deals?

The answer lies in the perceived worth of an item. If I perceive that a Rolling Stones concert is worth more than a local band, as many people do – for better or worse – I am more likely to expend the money to see them play rather than to withhold paying for the experience.

Other ways that money is used (or misused) reflect what we as humans value. Dave Ramsey, the famous money guru, has quoted the Scripture Proverbs 6:5 which talks about us escaping from debt as a “gazelle.” It means that debt can ensnare us, and we as fallible humans can turn to it as a crutch in our lives – like carnal pleasure or pride – when the response should be that we should run from (or pay back) these things. Debt can be valued too highly. That’s not to say that all debt is inherently bad… but we do need to examine cautiously the reasons for which the money is being borrowed.

Put simply, our value at is essence is pronounced to us by God Almighty. Every one of us was created in His image (Gen. 1:27). This gives us a sense of responsibility for how we steward the gifts given to us. As Christians, we can engage in God’s Word and practise a regular quiet time in the morning, for instance. We can value fasting, praying for the local and international church, fellowshipping with other believers and sharing our faith with those who do not know Him yet. The concept of grace, of course, is fundamental to Christianity because Jesus taught us that even though as God’s creation we continually fall short, if we turn to Him in repentance, we can be granted forgiveness of our sins. It doesn’t make sense on the face of it, but it is the “free gift of God” we should accept (Eph. 2:8).

There is a certain fluidity to the chaos of our every day living, problem-solving and work. When we rely on Jesus to run our lives, we can rest in that failure is not the be-all and end-all. Like an entrepreneur, we can rebound and tackle what lies ahead knowing that our Creator cares for us. We can value and hold in high esteem the things that He is concerned about. Like poverty, the downtrodden. Those who are trapped in cycles of addiction or self-pity, “to seek and save the lost” (Matt. 18:11; Lk. 19:10).

Another example of value is through good customer service. When I was fresh out of my undergraduate degree, and before I went to Teacher’s College, I worked for eight months on a Convergys contract for the big company AT&T. Though I got paid minimum wage, we were thoroughly trained on the software and skills necessary to excel in our job. Even today, I use what I learned in my present job to negotiate, and to bring value to the work I do.

How can you value the things that He values today?

L’Arche

aTkM0U3KIn the summer of 2008, during my fourth co-op work term of my undergraduate degree, I had the privilege to serve at L’Arche Ottawa, a community for people with developmental disabilities. The two main aspects that I had to learn, as I served in the “foyer” of one of the seven-odd homes, was firstly meeting the medical needs of the residents and secondly cultivating the social by engaging in communal activities. One of the highlights of the summer was travelling to Lévis, Québec when we exchanged foyers for a week with a French Canadian foyer.

I distinctly remember my father questioning why I chose to pick this as my final work term. Why couldn’t I had gotten a “practical” job in the government similar to my previous three work terms? Couldn’t I work a term in a workplace that was more career-oriented? In retrospect, I view my decision more as a calling to dedicate these four short months to discovering my shared humanity with all of God’s children.

I also had the opportunity to meet other students and develop friendships with young people my age during my time at L’Arche. Many 18-year-olds from Germany have come to volunteer with L’Arche because they used to be required to complete a year of military service or volunteering before embarking on their studies or apprenticeships. These students would often take the time to travel across Canada afterword.

Jean Vanier, the son of a former governor-general, is the founder of L’Arche. He started the first community in Trosly, France. Vanier is an academic who has considered deeply some very profound questions about our shared humanity. I have enjoyed reading his book Becoming Human, in which he shares his reflections and proposes a society where we learn to value weakness rather than strength. It is important to emphasize that this does not come naturally for most folks.

This was precisely the attitude of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. I have found L’Arche to be good praxis, or out-working, of my faith. Through summer barbecues and Christmas parties, I have kept in touch with this community. Not without its challenges, I learned that summer nearly ten years ago the words of the Apostle Paul ring true: “… for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Indeed, another aspect about L’Arche that is encouraging is how it helps dispel stereotypes about mental health. Our society has come a long way. Whereas residents used to live in large facilities, like the one that was in Smiths Falls, now places like L’Arche and Christian Horizons offer a more humane way for people with developmental disabilities to live their lives. Now, mental health is recognized as a real concern for many Canadians, and there are efforts underway to help each of us in this area.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12).

Rooming Homes and Boarding Houses

My memoir-like book, The Factory Challenge and Energized, explores the idea of renting out rooms in homes (or apartments) and brokering second mortgages. I come from a family with members who have engaged in both activities.

After the Second World War, renting rooms out of one’s residence was very common in cities like Toronto. If you’re interested in a short history of it, you can read it here. The long and short of it is that engaging in this real estate business was an excellent way to “get ahead” financially. The logical next step for many was to extend second mortgages to other people who were in need. This could be done by tapping in to the equity in one’s home and refinancing it.

A distinction must be made, though. Boarding houses insinuate that boarders were given warm meals and had their laundry taken care of. Room rentals were simply that—rooms available to single people, or the working poor. With the advent of the modern suburb, cheap houses, however, were more affordable to the middle class and many families moved to bedroom communities, where the cost of a spacious home was not prohibitive.

Now, rules have changed, but many people choose to own rental properties or rent out apartments, often in the basements of their homes. It is a wonderful stream of passive income, and can work quite well to pay off one’s mortgage and reach out to people in the community. My father always took on church people through word-of-mouth at our church. It worked marvellously. Slowly, we are seeing the gentrification of the city cores and return of families to inner city milieus.

Welfare has also changed the name of the game, as government-sponsored lost-cost housing has sprung up in more recent times. In addition, the boarding house concept has been supplanted by apartment complex high rises. People who have succumbed to addictions, or who experience chronic unemployment are often relegated to boarding houses. My aunt, who is a Reverend in the United Methodist Church, and my cousin, both have been actively involved in the Boarding Homes Ministry of downtown Toronto. This is such a great program, and it extends care to the downtrodden and those who have been relegated to the fringes of society. But this is exactly the people whom Jesus asks us to serve. After all, every one of us are broken on some level. We are to go to the highways and byways, proclaiming the Kingdom of God is here—this is the year of the Sovereign Lord’s favour (Matt. 22:9; Lk. 4:21, 14:23).

The Value of Curiosity

question-423604_1280Curiosity is a marvellous gift. I fancy myself to be curious, and it has held me in good stead. As a Christian, I try to approach my faith with childlike wonder (Matt 11:25-26). I endeavour to keep my relationship with God pure, not syncretic. My desire is to come to Jesus on His terms, not mine—because He knows what’s best for me. I am not acting childish, but unveiling the mystery of what it means to live in complete, utter dependence on the Lord Jesus.

In coming to Christ, I want my faith to be holistic. I do not want any part of my life untouched by the magnanimity of Jesus. How can I do this? By cultivating generosity and gratitude. One of the ways Christians in Ottawa the last few years is with The Big Give. This is a time when the churches, in unity, come together usually in June to reach out to the community with a welcoming heart. Random acts of kindness are carried out and lives are influenced for the better, free of charge, of course. Some churches choose to do car washes or some other benevolent, charitable service. This is great—the Bible sure has lots to say about unity! See John 17:21-22 and Eph. 4:13 for starters, if you want to delve into this subject.

When Christians keep their curiosity alive and extend a loving embrace to their communities in love, it is an act of worshiping God. We cannot keep all 613 Levitical commandments (the Hebrew “Mitzvot”). It is impossible. All of us somehow fall short. Even a little bit of impurity ruins are relationship before a holy, just God. That is why we need Jesus to stand in the gap between the Divine and us humans. He was perfectly God and perfectly man. He did no wrong, and His record was spotlessly clean. A lamb without blemish (Jn. 1:29).

When we practice mindfulness, remembering what our Saviour has done for us, we cultivate our faith. Measurable steps can me taken, trusting God will provide for our needs. Our faith can even move mountains! Read Matthew 17:20—all it takes is the faith of a mustard seed to see God do incredible things in the world around us.

God is near the poor

Last night, I had the privilege of hosting a couple of volunteers from Ottawa Innercity Ministries at a local place I volunteer at. What a blessing it was!

I love what Jesus taught us about treating the poor. We are not to judge, but to extend grace (Matt. 7:1-3). Here are a few other facets about poverty that the Bible teaches us about concerning this topic:

  • We are to seek justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8)
  • “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
  • We are to remember the poor (Gal. 2:10)
  • Do not be distracted by the riches of this world—”the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life”—since this doesn’t come from our Heavenly Father (1 Jn. 2:16)
  • Jesus beckons us to accept Him as Saviour so that we do not gain the world but forfeit our soul (Matt. 16:24-27)
  • The Church is to be a house of prayer, not a “den of robbers” (Jer. 7:11; Isa. 56:7; Matt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17)

I am reminded of how Jesus, in His compassion, fed 5,000 people. If we humbly bring to Him our loaves and fishes, He will multiply it. This isn’t the social gospel of the late nineteenth century. It is the real Gospel. I would venture to say that the Gospel has never really been preached unless it is accompanied by acts of kindness and helping to meet the physical needs of people.

You see all of us are broken, in some way or another. Relationally, financially, emotionally. But the good news is that Jesus is close by. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). We need each other. Community is important. Jesus commanded the disciple Peter to feed His sheep (Jn. 21:17). We who were once far off have been brought near to Christ (Eph. 2:13).

Jesus fends off our loneliness and all ugliness. “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities…” (Isa. 53:5). The Lord is gentle toward us. Jesus took on the punishment that rightfully should have been endured by us: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out…” (Isa. 42:3). Though there is nothing we could do to repay Christ, He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5).

Should Christians Drink Alcohol? (Part 2)

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The question of whether Christians should drink alcohol has wrung down through the ages. The Apostle Paul is famously quoted as saying in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything—but not everything is constructive.”

Needless to say, this is one of the more thornier issues in the church. But is shouldn’t be. The Bible teaches that wine gladdens our hearts, according to Psalm 104:15. In moderation, of course.

There are plenty of cautions against drunkenness, though (Prov. 20:1, 23:31-35; Gal. 5:20-21; Eph. 5:18; 1 Pet. 4:3). So much foolishness can occur with alcohol, if one lets it control oneself, or to try and get a buzz off of it. If one has alcoholic tendencies, one should refrain, just like if one struggles with pornography, one should be careful to avoid this sin.

The Bible tells a story at the end of Genesis 19. Lot is impregnates his two daughters, who get him drunk, leading to this despicable situation.