Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I found it

I am posting this for Naomi and Michelle - 14 years ago this was a constant request of theirs. They asked me to perform the "Mistadobalina" dance. It was magic to behold - hehe!

The track is - Mistadobalina by Del tha Funky Homosapien - it made top forty around about the summer of 1992-93

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


In many recent conversations I have heard youth pastors wondering aloud about the merits of youth retreats. Many have expressed serious questions about whether these retreats are the right approach in helping students grow in their faith. Now retreats can come in two basic types – the spiritual growth type or the social bonding type based on the objectives of the leaders. To be fair both spiritual growth and social bonding happen at both types of events but each one has some basic expectations. You hardly expect to take kids to YC in Edmonton and not come away with some report of kids changing their lives (the church board chairman would like that report on his desk tomorrow Paul). It the 'spiritual growth' type of retreats that most of the questions have centered on in my discussions. Here's the questions I have heard - -

Do we do more harm than good by isolating these kids for a weekend completely void of the natural stimulus around them in their normal life? Does a decision made at one of these retreats actually seem less likely to 'stick' with the kids?

When you look at the problem from the point of view of classical conditioning – we need to raise some important questions. We know that kids some to these retreats full of crappy coping mechanisms to deal with the dysfunction in their lives. Their coping strategies are played out in what we would call defeated Christian discipleship (in the case of pre-followers we might even call them their sinful ways). Kid's behaviour is typically challenged at these retreats. Stop sleeping around, stop smoking, stop being a dick to your friends, stop and follow Jesus. Do the stuff he wants you to do – be nice to your friends, treat others with respect, help poor people etc… Kids normal behaviour doesn't measure up to these convicting pleas from the front/preacher/pastor so they naturally feel guilty – often confess their sin and promise to live a more devoted life. A week or two after the retreat it is not uncommon to find these kids right back in the old groove – doing the same old things – and often worse. Defeated lots of kids wander away. Psychologists can identify this easily as a result of classic conditioning. Kid's normal world conditions them to respond in a certain way. The retreat is an opportunity to eliminate the regular stimulus and give a person the opportunity to cease the bad behaviour. What is tough is that according to classical conditioning we know that merely one exposure to the original stimulus can trigger a recurrence of the original behaviour. Add on top of that the new found guilt that the kid has just acquired on the retreat and we can compound the effect of the negative action with the added stigma of broken promises etc etc.

Of course classical conditioning is not the only thing at work at these retreats but sometimes I wonder if we don't recognize it and respect it enough to develop more effective strategies of discipleship training that can actually help kids deal with the stimulus they find themselves in every day normally…

Older and Weaker

This afternoon I listened to the proposed omnibus bill that will deal with a number of significant changes to the criminal code. Included in this bill is the intention of the government to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. Now while most people might think this is good thing – I for one am pretty much against it.

Now on the one hand I readily recognize what this legislation is intended to accomplish. It seeks to give greater teeth to enforcement and the judicial system in penalizing offenders with stiffer sentences and generally greater consequences. And to be fair it will like do that. And who in their right mind wouldn't want to 'spank' offenders harder for this type of crime. In my opinion the law is not strict enough in penalizing sexual offenders but…

I'm not sure we are fully appreciating the latent or unintended function of this type of legislation. We have worked hard in our society to establish a more gender equality. We have a long way to go but many strides have been taken to help women gain more social power and relieve the oppression that they have suffered in the past. I'm not just talking about more equality in the work force but in more general ways – women today are the beneficiaries of a sense of common ground. I think this is a good thing. And while I recognize that there are still some who would argue that this equality is a negative thing and that it somehow challenges God design – I think that most people recognize that women were unfairly treated in the past and that the partial redemption of their social status is more inline with God's view of our standing in his eyes. I think that is precisely why this legislation moves in the wrong direction.

I think this legislation suggests that women/girls are actually weaker than men/boys and need to be protected. This is because an overwhelming majority of non-consensual sexual offences are perpetrated on females and although the legislation does not discriminate between genders it clearly is aimed at the problem that exists in one specific part of the population. Girls being essentially…raped. The legislation actually deals with the ability of a girl to make a decision about whether or not she wants sex. Essentially the government would like to suggest that a girl under 16 can't really make that decision and actually know what she is doing. This unintentionally communicates the notion that girls are actually exactly the things we have been working so hard all these years to remove – Girls are dimwitted ninnies that need to be rescued and saved and certainly can't process these types of decisions on their own. So in my mind we take a step backward.

On top of that we essentially extract the responsibility of the girl in almost any sexual encounter if she is young enough. Sex is rarely just the action of one person. There is no question that girls who are looking for sex at 12 and 13 are seriously ill. But I have seen enough provocative sexually stimulating behaviour from girls in middle school (from the way they dress to the way they talk and flirt with boys) to know that girls are still caving in to the objectifying attitudes that still dominate our culture and which fly in the face of the equality we have worked to achieve in our society.

Another factor that goes unnoticed is how this type of legislation affects parenting. My question is if the government wants to step into the role of parenting in deciding what kind of behaviour should be acceptable or not they will inadvertently disable parents from providing the first line of behaviour modification which is essential for youth who need personal connected consequences to affect them rather than the disconnected relationship to the government to force them into some behavioural paradigm. I for one expect that my boys will clearly understand the importance of respecting women enough to honour them with a proposal of marriage before engaging in sexual encounters. I also anticipate that in the back of their mind they should fear the consequences that I would deal to them should they 'screw up'! I expect they will fear that more than any jail term could invoke.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


My philosophy prof is quite the trip - - - like most ardent/aggressive atheists he spends a lot of time talking about God. He's a pretty scattered flappermouth (hmmm – I don't know anyone else like that eh?). But Monday this is sorta how the discussion went. We were talking about Janus words. The prof doesn't actually hold to the strict definition of the concept he says that a Janus word is one that has both a value association in one sense and neutral value in another. Normal could be an example of this. Normal could mean the average of collection of measures (neutral) but normal also is used to refer to nothing being wrong (value).

Anywho we started talking about the word discrimination. "To discriminate" actually is a complex Janus word because it not only has a neutral meaning (being able to distinguish between various objects or concepts – value neutral) but it has two covert value meanings (1. Neg. to let irrelevant factors count in some circumstance and Pos. to let all and only relevant factors count). The Negative meaning we all recognize when people don't allow people to be hired based on gender or racial differences. The positive we recognize as connoisseurs – people who have discriminating taste for wine or cheese. As an example of all this he held up this dilemma:

We expect judges to be unbiased in their judgements. We could say they should not discriminate (racist judges would not last long in our system) in their judgements. But in another sense we could say that judges should be discriminating in their judgements (here we mean that the judge should weigh all and only the relevant information about the case to make a precise decision). We would ask judges to care about everyone involved equally – so as to be an impartial judge. But the judge could not be impartial if either the defendant to the prosecution was his/her daughter – we would ask that judge to recuse him/herself for that case. So we could see that it would be ridiculous to expect a parent to not care more for their own kids than for other people in the courtroom. Or in our neighbourhood for instance let's say that Char and I had only $100 dollars for food. You would expect us to spend that hundred on groceries for our own kids. You would look at us weird if we were to decide to divide that money between all the children in our neighbourhood (not to mention that if we really didn't want to discriminate we might consider sharing it with ever kid in the whole world).

Enter the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbour as yourself. Is this to be taken literally? We would say yes? Stuck? Well maybe but then our prof goes on to suggest that God (the supreme judge in Christianity) was definitely not impartial. He chose and paid special attention to the Jews. Our prof then asked if we could really suggest that God was just. He pointed out that one of the central messages of Jesus was captured in the parable of the Good Samaritan yet historically according to the Biblical account God seemed to anything but impartial. So there you go. Wrestle with that one. See if you can come up with some counter proposals or other arguments – just curious how you might respond to that.

salsa time

we turned this...

into over 5 gallons of this

Friday, October 5, 2007

Achievement Award

All you youth pastor/worker types who read this blog take note. It is not very common to see a church youth worker gain access to local campuses. High schools are focusing on security and warding off any hint of proselytizing by religious groups. These conditions make it hard, especially for urban youth workers to gain access to local high schools. And when it happens – which is rare – access to schools is often restricted to attendance in a lunch hour Christian club.

That is what makes this award so much more significant – Mark Dyck has an established reputation with the local high school that he has been listed as auxiliary staff in the school. Huge marks need to be given to the school principal whose insight can take advantage of another pair of eyes and ears on the school campus. Mark shows up whenever he wants to – hangs out in classrooms during class, walks the hallways at lunch, and hangs with kids in the parking lot. He has successfully endeared himself to the staff of the school. His commitment to long term ministry has developed a deep trust even with staff who might have some basic animosity against Christianity.

Mark gets listed as a staff member of the school – see here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

what I wish

my wife would have been told when she was a little girl...

...it seems to hardly matter how often I tell her that she is beautiful - somebody else's idea of what she looks like seems even more important!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


...how eggplant is spelled will not help you find it in the grocery store...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Is my vane labour in vain?
Are you sure or is it simply the same
Game as whips and chains
Bought and sold - plain
Gimme a job mister please
So I can ease
My family's needs
But here's the proof:
I need a roof
And if I build a roof for you sir
Can I buy it back from you sir
With the cash I get from you sir
And you say you're not my master
And you get my back
And I get paid back
And you get your money back
When I buy back what my back bought
If by slave you mean my back has no marks
Then I guess I am not one, right, Mr. Marx?


Autumn leaves under frozen soles,
Hungry hands turning soft and old,
My hero cried as we stood out there in the cold,
Like these autumn leaves I don't have nothing to hold.

Handsome smiles wearing handsome shoes,
Too young to say, though I swear he knew,
And I hear him singing while he sits there in his chair,
Now these autumn leaves float around everywhere.

And I look at you, and I see me,
Making noise so restlessly,
But now it's quiet and I can hear you saying,
'My little fish don't cry, my little fish don't cry.'

Autumn leaves how faded now,
that smile that I've lost, well I've found some how,
Because you still live on in my fathers eyes,
These autumn leaves, oh these autumn leaves, oh these autumn leaves are yours tonight.