Tapping Maple Syrup

I plan on tapping maple syrup soon!

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That’s right… it’s a Canadian tradition (both French and English). Also, places like Vermont and New Hampshire are into it. Some folks opt for a complicated version, with tubes going to large vats boiling maple syrup. I’m keeping it simple. And small. At least this year, since it’s my first year tapping!

My set-up will look a little bit like this one. On our family land, I rebuilt my grandfather’s fire pit. If you want to see a picture of what the stove now looks like, check out the top portion of my cover art for my book The Factory Challenge and Energized—this is what the pit looks like now! Grandpa used to boil down the maple syrup in a second stage at home, as he lived only a few minutes away. I, on the other hand, will not go back to Ottawa for the second stage. I have a Coleman stove for that part!

In addition, I have had to collect ten 2-litre or 4-litre containers to use with the spiles and tubes I purchased online. These containers, along with my jars, will have to be thoroughly cleaned.

I’ve made arrangements for the wood (a face cord)—of which I’m likely to use a fair amount. For me, though, this whole journey is about enjoying the outdoors at this time of the year. My dad is supposed to pop by too!

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Book Signing

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After visiting nearly twenty different bookstores, independent and franchised, in the Ottawa area a couple of weekends ago, I am delighted to say that I have a book signing for my début book, The Factory Challenge and Energized at Coles Billings Bridge on Saturday, April 7, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’m also happy to report that I am selling copies at Octopus Books in the Glebe, Singing Pebble Books on Main Street and Books on Beechwood.

Feel free to stop by and have me sign your book, and do pass along the message to others!

Promise Keepers

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This past Saturday, I was privileged to attend the 2018 “All In” Promise Keepers conference at Woodvale Pentescostal Church. It is interesting because this theme is the same one as another conference to do with adoption and serving refugees, that is occurring on March 24, 2018 in Ottawa.

This was my third PK conference, and first one I attended as representative of the Gideons. Praise God, we handed out many, many Scriptures to the men in attendance! Uplifting conversations were hand and what was really cool was that I bumped in to a number of Christians I had not seen in a while.

Promise Keepers is a great movement and organizations. It calls men to be better husbands and fathers. It assists men in combatting pornography or other crippling addictions. It’s a formidable launch pad to propel men into community with other men, to keep each other accountable, as “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17).

Firstly, the calibre of speakers was phenomenal. Their passion was visible. Regulars included Kirk Giles and Caleb Bislow, who talked about being totally sold out for the Kingdom of God. This is a message that the Church needs to hear, and something that others like David Platt has encouraged us by preaching.

Secondly, in addition to the solid teaching on marriage about being kind to our spouses, Brady Boyd was particularly compelling to me. He has been a faithful steward and has incredible testimonies to God’s faithfulness. The stories of adoption about his two children struck a special chord with me since my wife and I cannot conceive. I talk about my journey in my forthcoming book called Father to the Childless.

Lastly, the worship was refreshing. This organization had humble beginnings, started by a football coach, inspiring men to live with integrity. Hopefully the Millennials are catching on! I loved singing and hearing songs about God’s goodness, something that I have struggled with in this last season, but I know that He is faithful to show me what this means as I draw near to Him.

Riverview Park Review of The Factory Challenge & Energized

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At the Dec. 8th, 2017 book launch of The Factory Challenge and Energized which I hosted at my home, I showcased my first two short stories, and was honoured to have Carole Moult of the Riverview Park Review in attendance. I am thankful to her for writing such a glowing review!

As someone who attended teacher’s college (where I met my wife), apparently I may have bumped in to Ms. Moult, who used to teach teachers at the University of Ottawa, in the English stream. Carole works hard each month to not only contribute to the writing of the local paper, but also to bring in advertisements that keep it going. Thank you, Carole for what you do to make this community better!

These two short stories I wrote are loosely autobiographical. The Factory Challenge and Energized centre around two men who are ambitious and strike out on his own, trying to start their own ventures, encountering challenges and overcoming them. These are qualities that I’d like to think I possess, and so my father and my grandfathers. My one grandfather, similar to Bob McConnell, brokered second mortgages. But instead of working at an investment house like Bob, my grandpa moved up in the Metro Toronto roads division, starting as a surveyor, then Chief Maintenance Engineer, Chief Projects Engineer and finally the Director of Roads & Planning.

Flag Day

Did you know today is flag day in Canada?

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This day 53 years ago, Canada got its own flag. I’m proud to say that my own grandfather, George Bist, was one of the most valuable critics of “Pearson’s pennant,” described by Member of Parliament John Ross Matheson in his 1980 book Canada’s Flag: A Search for a Country.

During the 1964 flag debate, my grandfather, his wife and children circulated the above design (which he later incorporated into his testimony leaflet). The idea was why do with three leafs, as Lester B. Pearson proposed, what you can do with one? This was a basic design and management principle that my grandfather articulated. The centre leaf’s design is slightly different than our current flag, and the two blue borders represent the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

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A World War II vet, my grandfather viewed the design he submitted of the Canada flag to be his most valuable contribution to our country. And he made no money off of it. Bist was originally from Montreal, and moved his family to north Toronto in the mid-1950’s to take a job as a graphic designer. He had started working at age 13 in lithography, the family trade, sweeping floors and then moving on to Morgan’s and Eaton’s to draw pictures in their catalogues. Soon after moving to Toronto, he was a very successful freelancer who designed notable packaging for firms like Sealtest, Post, O’Keefe Brewing and McCain’s. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, with continuous innovations in the way of plastics and chemicals, fresh food was easily and attractively accessible in the local supermarket. There were no computers or Adobe InDesign or Photoshop. These designs were drawn by artists like my grandfather, by hand.

Later in life, when he became a Christian, my grandfather took his same gusto and enthusiasm to matters of faith. As an active Gideon, he gave out many a Bible on busy Toronto street corners with his church friends. I, too, have become a Gideon member as of 2015.

The Aviator

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Over the past weekend, I had the opportunity to watch the nearly 3-hour movie, The Aviator. This 2004 flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist, the tycoon Howard Hughes, paints the mogul in a rather positive light. Having come from wealthy beginnings, Hughes debuts in his movie Hell’s Angels. He then moves on to build Hughes Aircraft, and a lifelong fascination with flying.

Hughes was an eccentric, as one of the riches men in the world, it seemed like he was invisible. He didn’t really have progeny, so when he passed away there were people fighting for his estate. But as he aged, in part a result of his flying accidents, Hughes developed increasingly severe health disorders.

 

Was Hughes Happy?

As much as he could be described as a genius, Howard was a neurotic man. He was constantly concerned that his Trans World Airlines would be subsumed by the powerful Pan-Am Airlines. The head of Pan-Am, by the way, is played real well by the famed Alec Baldwin in the movie.

Add to his neurosis, Hughes was a flagrant womanizer, using his influence to date movie celebrities the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. The trouble, though, like many in Hollywood, is that these relationships weren’t marriage and they didn’t last. There was no commitment. No “til death do us part.”

Hughes was a good designer, to be sure. The monumental Hercules airplane, was massive, and was successfully flown. The Hughes Aircraft Company employed many people, spawning innovative products such as satellites and electronic components.

On the whole, however, I would have to say that the man Howard Hughes, for all his brilliance, was not a happy man. He missed the true significance in life, which is coming in to relationship with His Saviour, Jesus Christ. Hughes would have done well to understand that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Wealth, whether generated passively, like from real estate ventures, or actively through business ventures or work enterprises, never brings lasting happiness in and of itself. It’s only in losing your life that you will find it (Matt. 10:39, 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:25). I will be addressing these issues of finding hope in Jesus, rather than material possessions, in my forthcoming book, Father to the Childless, which I plan on releasing soon.

Skiing

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Some of you may have been watching the skiing at the Winter Olympics Pyeongchang County, South Korea. For me, this past weekend marked the annual tradition of ski trips with my family. Although we somehow got our weekends flipped, with the help of a little scheduling, we were off the races! One day at Mont Sainte-Marie, an hour north of Ottawa, and one day at Calabogie Peaks. We did this trip last year, and have also gone to Mont Tremblant the year before that.

I’ve never joined the snowboard-craze, but I’ve enjoyed skiing since an early age. I’m thankful my parents enrolled me in a ski-school when I was six at Centiennal Park. It’s a good place to go for young learners… it was actually a garbage dump that they created a hill on.

As I grew older, I would go with my dad, brother and family friends to Quebec during our March Break. We skied Orford, Le Massif, Mont Sainte-Anne and St-Sauveur. They were great vacations! I must admit, the Quebec cuisine was pretty phenomenal.

My dad was never one to take us to Disney World. It was too commercial for him. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Wonderland several times, but for our family vacations it was usually camping or a really exciting ski trip!

Hopefully, this weekend I will get to Winterlude, the annual winter celebration similar to Quebec City’s Carnaval. I have also enjoyed cross-country skiing in recent years, in particular. If you live in a cold city this winter, make sure to get out and celebrate the weather while it lasts.

Kub Kars

In the Cub Scout calendar, we are in the middle of working on our Kub Kars. It is a great activity to get the youth engaged in as they build these toy Kars from kits. The youth can learn about working with their hands, and bond with their parents as they work on this fun project.

A sense of friendly competition is introduced as the Cubs race their Kars early in March. Groups from across the area get together to see who has the fastest car! It’s amazing what weights, graphite, straight nails and sanded-down wheels can do in the way of increasing speed.

For our American friends, Kub Kars are the Canadian equivalent of Pinewood Derby cars. Building Kub Kars is also a great way to exercise creativity as they are often painted and decorated to the Cubs’ tastes.

The last couple of years have been challenging since due to insurance purposes, we have not been able to use power tools in our rented facility where our Cub pack meets. Not to worry! We are working with another pack that will help us cut our Kars using a bandsaw.

The Currency of Trust

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If you think about it, our world revolves around trust. You trust your employer will pay you, or that your customers will meet their payments. In turn, your boss and your clients expect you to deliver. When a society loses the intangible quality of trust, everyone loses. Businesses flee, and the free exchange of commerce is stymied.

This is exactly what happened in 2008. When the big banks like Lehman Brothers defaulted on their ability to meet their loan obligations, people lost their life savings because of some crooks at the top of the food-chain. Deregulation had been continuing for the better part of a decade. Or, more accurately, deregulation started in the Reagan administration and Thatcher era of the 1980’s. This whole move was in response to the persistent stagflation that was happening during the 1970’s.

Needless to say, the same pattern repeats itself; the Bible tells us, “… there is nothing new under the sun,” (Eccles. 1:9). The same motif occurred during the Great Depression, following the stock market crash of 1929. It was during this period that, under Roosevelt, government spending and public projects like highway-building were undertaken. This Keynesian idea was that when the economy is doing poorly, government has to go in debt to get the economy up and moving again.

I wonder if we have taken this whole philosophy a little too far, though? With its high debt-to-GDP ratio, the U.S. cannot afford to lose any currency of trust.

When I hear the news about how the Senate has passed the new budget bill, averting a government shut-down and removing the debt-level cap, I am seriously concerned. “In God we trust,” but in reality America is more and more resembling the famed T.V. show To Debt Do Us Part.

Yes, the economy had been doing well in recent months. Job numbers were up. Manufacturing was humming along. But there is concern about inflation. This normally forces interest rates up, but can you imagine the interest alone on U.S. government debt? We’re talking trillions of dollars…

Since when has it been responsible to live off of our children’s future? Senator Rand Paul rightly has critiqued the government spending in the latest budget. People point to how America needs to lead with strength, not weakness. It needs to rebuild its military… Perhaps. But at what expense?

A cursory Internet search reveals that almost all countries have debt. At the top of the pack, though, is the U.S. This shouldn’t be so. There have been periods in both Canadian and American history with little to no debt. Understandably, during nation-building or war years, the debt has increased. The Harper government has been strong on trying to get rid of the deficit and running a surplus. Paul Martin the 1990’s did well to rein in government spending and balance the books, leading to years of surplus.