... Getting Closer to the Door...

It took a lot of convincing for me to join facebook.  Since then, I have maintained my skepticism, as noted by my earlier reference to several articles on the subject.  I remember reading about facebook's change of term's back in February of 2009. This was a position which quickly engendered various degrees of outrage, prompting 20-some-thousand people to join protest groups on facebook (Oh, the irony), among other responses. It took less than a week for facebook to back down.   

Of course, you still give facebook permission to use anything you post, including the keeping of data for "a reasonable period of time" after you delete it or delete your account... whatever that means.  So far, it seems they just don't delete content

None of that is news.  Facebook is out to make money.  Integral to their ability to do so is the use of personal information from users.  Shocking, I know.  Aritcles like "The Future of Selling: It's Social" from Forbes are only the tip of the iceberg.  As of 2009, facebook began to actually make money. But surely we all knew that targeted advertising based on anonymously distributed user info and money made off of user purchases of virtual goods was only the beginning? I don't remember where I read it, but someone made the comment that facebook will be constantly treading the line between user privacy and making money, hoping that over time users will become less concerned with such things and more willing to give up info. 

Yesterday, facebook took the next step on its journey towards the end of the rainbow with the addition of 'sponsored stories.'  With this, facebook combines personal information with advertising to create a shallow, and fake, word of mouth advertising effect.  If you like starbucks, the fact that you did so may appear in one of you friend's ads ("try starbucks, *insert friends name here* liked it!").  Of course, facebook will respect your privacy settings.  So, if only your friends could see what you like then only your friends can have you personally present in their advertising... small comfort, since you cannot opt out of this feature short of leaving facebook or making all of your content available only to yourself (Yipee for solipsist uses of facebook!) You can find out more of the details here and here.

Personally, this is just one step closer to the door.  By that I mean that at this rate I will eventually delete my facebook account.  The date of decontamination is a vague and misty point defined by the overcoming of the convenience of facebook (most everyone I know is on it) by my own distaste of being used as a tool for marketing.  

I want to be clear though, I don't think facebook is evil.  There are inherent problems with the social media in general and facebook in particular, but these do not absolve us, as users, from responsibility.  Nor do I think facebook should operate without making money (though the disparity between rich and poor which the growing wealth of those higher up in the facebook echelon embodies is another problem, and a topic for another post).  I just hate advertising.  I mean that.  I think it is dangerous, manipulative, misused, and toxic to the soul.  From a Christian perspective I believe that most advertising promotes ways of life that are contrary to a life of faith.  

In other areas of my life I do my best to avoid being a walking advertisement.  No brand names visible on my clothing, with a few exceptions.  No product stickers on my computer, car, backpack, or anywhere else. I am all for word of mouth about a helpful product, company, etc. in the right situation but I will pass that recommendation on under my own terms, thank you very much.  

For me, facebook stands poised at the edge of a fiery abyss.  I will see how this goes, with the whole sponsored story thing, but I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The irony is that I get more hits on this blog from facebook than anywhere else, that I will be posting this entry on facebook, that I know it makes it easier to communicate with others, and I have an amorphous feeling that a decision to leave would be at least somewhat selfish of me.  Then again, those are probably the wriggling tentacles of the world's most popular social media site burrowing their way slowly but surely into my person.  


Many Joys

I am not going to lie. This post is basically just a chance for me to brag about how blessed I am.  I have a life filled with many joys. 

As a pastor I get to perform many duties.  Some of them are tedious, frustrating, and difficult (as with any job).  However, I find that most of the duties of my position are not only fun, but bring me joy.  So, I think of teaching youth, hanging out, leading,being part of prayer meetings, preaching, and so much more that I am privileged to not only be able to do, but encouraged and upheld in the doing by a wonderful church family (thank you Burnaby Alliance!).  

You may have noticed that in my list of joyous duties I did not include the two stereotypically associated with pastors: marrying and burying.  Indeed, until this past weekend I have had no occasion to perform in either of those capacities (as marry-er or bury-er).  Then came this past Saturday. 

On Saturday I performed my first wedding ceremony, and for family no less.  My sister-in-law Amanda is now wife to Chris.  At the end of the evening my Father-in-law said to me "Thank you for marrying my daughter, again."  Funny man (and good family is definitely part of my many joys; both Kristina's and my own are sooo good :).  

If that wasn't enough, I got to watch my wife walk down the aisle again! Can it get any better than this? (sorry, no picture of her actually walking down the aisle; I am sure I will get one sooner or later)

Seriously.  Amazing.  Beautiful.  Stunning.  A huge part of my many joys is my wife.  She is an excellent wife, and an incredible mother.  My parents came out to visit and take care of the Ethan and Hannah for our busy weekend.  On Monday we went shopping, and while I was sitting in the car waiting for Kristina to come out of a dollar store, I shared this observation with my mom: "Kristina could spend hours in dollar stores and craft stores.  I walk in there and see all this stuff and think to myself: 'Who would ever want to buy this? What in the world would you do with it?' and then Kristina walks in, buys all the stuff, and comes up with awesome crafts and games for Hannah to do."  It's true.  She is creative.  It's why she's good at design work and crafts.  And that is only one of her many admirable qualities.    

I know I am missing stuff in this sharing of my many joys.  But I will close with one more joy: children, of course.  Both of them are growing and changing so much.  I love to watch them learn and laugh.  This morning I was able to take a special moment of joy in watching Hannah.  

Kristina was sitting in the comfy chair in our bedroom reading and I was playing with Hannah.  Ethan was sleeping downstairs.  Eventually, Hannah and I made our way into the bedroom and Hannah saw Kristina reading a book.  So she perused the books in the room (there are many, but she is fast).  Selected one, and proceeded to her 'corner'.  Really, it's just a space between our dresser and the wall where Hannah has laid a pillow so she can go and sit there from time to time.  She sat down, pulled up the book, and 'read'.  

Of course, she is not really reading that book yet.  But she definitely has good taste already.  A collection of three novelettes by J.R.R. Tolkein.  Keep it up Hannah!

Like I said, this post is really just a chance for me to brag.  But I do feel very blessed and that the Lord has gifted me with many joys.  So, thank you Jesus! 


To Transform a City by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams

Eric Swanson, Sam Williams. To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City. Zondervan, 2011.  224 pages. 

Here is a book with a large vision.  The subtitle, corny as it sounds, actually encapsulates the message of the book.  Herein the authors explicate the ideas that we, as a whole church (not a single building or denomination), need to take the whole gospel (not just salvation from sin, but that and much more) to the whole city (not just the parts that fit conveniently with the make-up and preferences of your particular group of people). 

This book was a pleasant surprise and an enjoyable read.  It provides a good mix of biblical and theological reflection with practical suggestions and ideas. Their vision of the kingdom of God, of the city, and of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit working through the church were all refreshing, well researched and well thought out.  

One point I wanted to share came from the end of chapter two, "City and Community Transformation."  They pass on a point made by Andy Crouch that the only effective way to change culture is to to make more.  It is not enough to protest the existing culture and attendant woes if we do not offer an alternative.  In other words, if you want to change culture you need to be living out a different one already.  

Conclusion: 4.5 of 5 stars.  Excellent read, great introduction to the subject, and built on solid foundations.  Recommended.  Considering the small vision so many Christians and churches have towards God's work in our city and our culture, this book is a needed wake up call. 


Relationships and Faith: Christian - Non-Christian Intimacy

A couple of months ago I had a dialogue with a friend, via email, on the subject of Christians dating and marrying non-Christians.  It ended up being a really good conversation, and my friend asked a lot of good questions that I think others might wonder about.  So, with this friends permission, I am posting an edited version of that conversation for you. We started off with two sets of questions:

When dealing with relationships when it involves the other person being a non-Christian:

i. What are the consequences of having such a relationship, especially if it eventually involves marriage? Will one's salvation be lost due to this even if the believer still holds firm to his/her faith in Christ? Is there punishments involved? What if the non-believer eventually decide to receive Christ after marriage by witnessing his/her parter's faith and love?

ii. And is there a way to deal with this issue other than saying a direct no to the whole matter?

My response: 

i. It is not an issue of losing your salvation in the sense of God abandoning you.  He never does and never will.  Also, there is no 'punishment' involved if by that you mean 'will God punish me for this'. God isn't waiting up in heaven for us to make mistakes so he can zap us with a lightning bolt; if He was we would all be extremely singed right now.  

Paul, mainly in 1 Corinthians, advices against such relationships for several reasons.  

Marriage is the closest, most intimate, relationship you can have with someone (or, it is supposed to be).  How can that be true when one person has Christ at the center of his or her life and the other does not?  How can you be truly intimate when you have completely different priorities and that which is at the center of your personhood and identity is not at the center of your spouses?  

There are only 3 possible outcomes of such a relationship: 

A. You marry, live on, neither person converting, and deny yourselves a proper marriage by virtue of what you do not and cannot share.  
B. The believer loses their faith, 'converting' away from Jesus.  (obviously bad news)
C. The non-believer converts, placing their faith in Jesus.  (Praise the Lord!)

Of these, if the last occurs, then this is by the grace of God and a great gift. However, in most cases, by the time the couple is married, the believing partner has already been forced to make numerous sacrifices, changes, and movements away from Christ for the sake of the relationship.  Once this pattern is established in the relationship it is difficult to get things moving in the other direction.  Still, God is gracious and can change people even in the worst situations.

ii. Dealing with this issue other than a direct no is not generally a good idea.  If you are talking about yourself, then just say no.  However, if you are talking about friend or family who is not in the position where they have said that direct no, and may not take it kindly coming from you, then you have to be gentle and wise, gracious and compassionate, and very, very prayerful.

One of the things I always want to ask is why, as a Christian, you would want to marry someone
who is not a follower of Christ?  Individuals who do are usually basing their relationships and priorities on things other than Christ, and the answer is not so much 'forbidding the relationship' as it is maturing in our understanding of our own identity in Christ and of marriage itself.

Yes, I am long winded. Two other sets of questions/thoughts and responses followed:

i. I see. Another question: when you say "denying yourself a proper marriage", does that mean the church or any pastor would not bless such unions, even though it is a legal marraige?

i. That would be up to the individual pastor and/or the denominational regulations under which they serve.  I know pastors who are willing to marry people in that situation, and others who are not.  Some have conditions (which they apply to all couples that they will marry) such as a certain number of pre-marital counseling sessions, or that the couple is not living together prior to marriage, and so on.  But there is no hard and fast rule here; by "denying yourself a proper marriage" I only meant that the relationship between those two people would not be what marriage was designed to be by God, not that the marriage would be improper in some legalistic sense of the word. 

ii. Coming from a personal point of view, sometimes I believe that when the right person appears you may get into a relationship without realising there is a conflict in faith until you have to face the point of deciding to move on or walk away. In rare circumstances, people are able to respect each others' faith and not try to force one another to submission. I also think the thing that really matters for me is the hope that the relationship might be a way to help the other person get to know Christ. Having said that, I fully understand the risk one will undertake by depending on God for sufficient grace and wisdom to maintain one's own grounds and faith.

ii. But what defines 'the right person'? Shouldn't a big part of someone being that right person be the faith you share, especially if that faith is meant to literally be the center of your life? I am not trying to sound harsh, so I hope I don't come across that way, but I feel pretty strongly about this, not as a
rule or law, but as an issue that can be very damaging to individuals and relationships.  How can you know they are the right person without learning about their faith?

Also, you mention the rare circumstances in which people respect each others faith and do not force each other into submission.  I do not think that is so rare.  When two people 'fall in love', they are more than willing to respect their differences and not be too pushy and so on.  But none of that is the point.  Respecting each others faiths and differences, when we are talking about the core of your identity, is not what marriage is made to be.  It is made to be about sharing those things, growing together in them, lifting one another up towards Christ, dying for one another, and so on.  

Furthermore, the problems don't usually arise because one person is disrespectful or overbearing
(though that does happen, of course).  The problems arise out of the subtle interplay of contradicting beliefs and priorities which occur daily and despite our best efforts to put those differences aside. Often the more strenuously we attempt to 'live with one another' through the differences what we are really succeeding in doing is lying to ourselves and hiding the real problems. Not to mention the difficulties that can arise after the couple has been together for some time and the 'honeymoon stage' of the relationship wears off. 

I do understand about hoping that the relationship would help the other person get to know Christ.  Of course we want that for all people we care about. However, in terms of developing an intimate relationship, that is usually a poor excuse to justify what we know is a wrong action/decision.  We tell ourselves that is what really matters, but in reality what 'really matters' to us is whatever convinced us that they were 'the right person' in the first place, or the fact that the relationship is fun, fills a need, etc.  

If what was ultimately important was helping the other person to get to know Christ, we would develop our relationship with them according to that goal, and when we are talking about a non-Christian that doesn't really include what we normally associate with dating/courting/engagement/etc.

Like I say, I am not trying to sound too harsh, or be judgmental.  But I have seen lots of people, including too many friends, go this route and get hurt.  Not only that, but thinking it through tells me its not a good idea (which is what I am hoping to share with you).

Our conversation ended with thanks and prayers for one another. I hope this has been helpful to you as well as my friend and myself.  I know I will have missed things, so please speak up.  

God Bless! 


"The Lion, The Mouse, and the Dawn Treader" by Carl McColman

Carl McColman, The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis's Narnia. Paraclete Press, 2011.  144 pages. 

Provided for review.  #SpeakEasyNarnia  Special thanks for providing this in electronic format; so much easier that way. 

Sometimes the title, and subtitle, just says it all.  You don't even need to read the back of this book to know what it is about.  It is a book outlining some of the spiritual lessons we can learn form Narnia and, more specifically, from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  After all, C.S. Lewis himself wrote that The Voyage was about the spiritual life and journey of the Christian (though, it is not an allegory, a fact both Lewis and McColman are very clear about).  With this beginning, McColman explores just what lessons we can learn from this book, including such things as: the choice to walk with God is not always our own, mysticism does not make saints, everyone is at risk of slavery to sin, and much more (16 lessons in fact, summarized at the back of the book under the cheeky title "Everything I needed to know about Christian Spirituality I learned from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). 

The ever present risk of interpreting lessons from a narrative is of cutting off the feet of the story as we try to fit it into the procrustean bed of our lessons.  While we may draw lessons from a story, no story can be reduced to those lessons.  Likewise, stories are never quite as clear as we would like them to be about their lessons, and so whlie we are busy cutting of the stories feet we may also be tempted to stretch the arms and hands out just a little bit.  For the most part, McColman steers clear of such dangers, drawing lessons from the story while allowing the story with it's implicit mysteries to remain standing on its own.  The few occasions in which shape-changing efforts are brought into play are hardly worth mentioning, seeing as they are ancillary in nature.  

Overall, this book was quite well written and interesting. The lessons McColman teases from the narrative are true as well as thought provoking and McColman does his teasing in an admirably affable style.

Conclusion: 4 of 5 stars.  Conditionally recommended.  The conditions are that you read The Voyage first (I know, shocking advice) and that you are interested in spiritual lessons from C.S. Lewis (and who isn't, even if they do come through the circuitous route of an interpreter). 


"Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron, Chasing Francis. Navpress, 2006. 208pg novel + 39pg study guide. 

Provided for review.  #ChasingFrancisSpeakEasy

Here we have the story of Chase Falson.  Chase is an evangelical mega-church pastor who has broken new ground and done what no-one thought he could: successfully created a large evangelical church in New England.  But things are not all roses and butterflies as Chase reaches the climax of a crises of faith in his pulpit.  As his board scrambles and his church threatens to disintegrate, Chase heads to Italy to hang out with his Franciscan uncle and learns how to be a new kind of Christian (recent literary echoes intentional) at the feet of St. Francis the 'first postmodern Christian.'

Such is the story... at least, in brief intro and outline.  I fiercely desired this book to be good.  It has received several rounds of ringing endorsements, many from people I respect.  As an evangelical pastor, the story hook was nearly irresistible.  Sadly, the book did not deliver.  From hackneyed speeches shoehorned unimaginatively into journal entries (I mean, really) to ridiculously over-dramatic descriptions of emotional states (Chase in an airplane with nothing to do is described as glad he didn't have razor blades so he didn't slit his wrists... there is a place for such hyperbole, but it was so out of character I almost couldn't keep reading) to rank inconsistencies in character development to dead-ends whose only purpose was to force yet another point of the emerging church agenda into the book... I could go on, but two words will suffice:  Just bad. 

Of course, not all so.  I do appreciate the picture Cron is trying to paint of the possibilities and calling of the church.  As much as I disagree that St. Francis was the 'first postmodern Christian,' a phrase which betrays a misunderstanding of both post-modernity and St. Francis, I still believe we have much to learn from him and this book does present a lot of interesting information about him.  

Conclusion: 2.5 Stars.  As a novel Chasing Francis is terrible.  As a vehicle for certain ideas in theology it is a bit better.  As an introduction to St. Francis it was acceptable but only if it spurs the reader on to other, better, works (many of which are mentioned within). Still, Not Recommended.  


The "Me" Marriage?

Ran into an 'interesting' article on the New York Times today.  The Happy Marriage is the 'Me' Marriage with an associated quiz to see how well you are doing. 

The initial point of the article is that those things which make for a lasting marriage do not necessarily make for a happy marriage.  Instead, the best marriages are those which bring satisfaction to the individual.  Tara Parker-Pope (the author of the article) briefly wonders: "Isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?" But quickly responds: "Not anymore."  Marriage used to be about this, among other things, but in "modern relationships" people want someone who will make their lives more interesting. 

Enter the concept of 'self-expansion' and a quiz to go with it.  Throw in some quotes from psychologists, a few thoughts on how couples grow together, and conclude with a wonderful throwaway quote: “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.” Stir it all together and what do you end up with?  Why, typical modern psycho-babel of course. 

Don't misunderstand me, there is much that is true here.  After all, who doesn't want someone to make their life more interesting? Who wouldn't want to enjoy new experiences and learn new things with a loved one? Don't we all want to become better people?  Yes, yes, yes.  But....

The assumptions which underlie this article, and the theories it proposes, are familiar to all of us:  The goal of life is happiness. One of the greatest enemies of happiness is boredom.  Ipso facto, we must seek out the new.  Alongside of this, we find that better means new.  Does your partner bring new knowledge, new experiences, new things?  If so, then your all set. But...

Taking this line of thinking to it's end, there is only one conclusion: a new spouse.  After all, eventually you and your spouse will overlap.  The article makes this very point; as a couple grows together they have greater difficulty differentiating between each other.  Then, I suppose, it is time to move on. If this article is correct, then this conclusion is both justifiable and inevitable, though the article itself does not go that far. But...

But...  I have said that three times now.  Clearly I do not believe this article is correct.  In fact, I think it embodies many of the deadly assumptions of our time.  Assumptions which are visibly destroying marriages, among other things. 

To begin, notice the subtle conflations of better with new.  The dangerous blurring of the line between happy and good.  The increasingly muddied waters on the sea of relationship which obscure our view into the many other goals and purposes of marriage.  Notice that the article begins by differentiating between a happy marriage and a sustainable marriage but, by the end of the quiz, we find out that they are one and the same (the higher your score the happier and more sustainable your marriage).

Then take a look at those assumptions again.  

1. The goal of life is not happiness.  In fact, making happiness the goal of our lives is precisely what prevents us from becoming the better people we ostensibly desire to be (not to mention preventing us from being happy!).  

2. Boredom is not one of our greatest enemies, especially not when happiness is no longer our goal.  In fact, boredom is much like pain.  No one likes it, but it is present for a reason.  Children instinctively know what pain means.  The other day Hannah touched a hot pan, and I saw this first hand.  She moved so fast that she didn't even burn her finger.  Score one for pain.  Unfortunately, boredom isn't so easy.  

3. "The new" is not the solution to boredom, at least not in any long term sense.  It is, in fact, a classic 'shifting the burdens' solution.  That is a systems thinking term, which I will now explain. A shifting the burden scenario occurs when a problem arises and is addressed at a surface, or symptomatic, level rather than at a fundamental level.  Let me give you an example.  

Joe was a hard working 30 year old whose career took up 95% of his time.  Every time Joe got sick he took medication.  We have all seen those Tylenol adds: I am an olympic athlete and I can't let a cold keep me down, so I take Tylenol and get back to training.  That was Joe to a  T.  Couldn't miss a day of work.  
However, as time went on, Joe found himself getting sick more and more often.  Finally, he went to see the doctor.  After a thorough examination the doctor asked for blood samples to do some tests.  Joe gave them, and hurried back to work.  A few days later the doctor called and asked him to come in right away.  
Joe was frustrated, because he had a lot to do, meetings to attend, and he was planning a trip to the east coast for the next day.  But his doctor assured him it was urgent.  So urgent that the doctor would be meeting him at the nearest hospital. After some serious schedule rearranging, Joe went to the doctor.  It turned out, according to his doctor, that Joe was not only suffering from over-work, stress (and the resultant high blood pressure), and lack of sleep, all of which the doctor had diagnosed initially, but also from severe malnutrition.  The doctor was surprised Joe could even continue functioning and ordered him to stay at the hospital for several days.  
Joe was lucky; his doctor caught the problems just in time. Joe had been so busy that he was subsisting on a diet of energy drinks, fast food, and TV dinners.  He was getting sick because he needed to slow down and make some major changes.  But the medications and the caffeine allowed him to keep working well past his body's natural limits.  You've heard of the guy in S.Korean man who played video games until he died?  Joe nearly worked himself to the same end.  

This is a classic shifting the burden scenario.  Joe had a problem.  He was living an unsustainable lifestyle.  This fundamental problem was causing a symptom: illness.  Rather than deal with the fundamental problem, Joe addressed the symptoms.  The insidious thing about this kind of scenario is that most of the time, as in this case, the symptomatic solution actually worsens the fundamental problem.  Being able to push on, with the help of medications, did not help Joe.  All it accomplished was to allow him to go on ignoring the fundamental problem of his lifestyle.  The seductiveness of this lies in the fact that dealing with fundamental causes of problems usually requires deep understanding, hard work, and a willingness to make big changes.  It's easier to deal with the symptoms.

How does this relate to our third assumption?  I propose that boredom is a symptom, much like Joe's illness was.  Treating that symptom with 'the new' is precisely like treating Joe's illness with drugs.  It temporarily allows us to go on, lifts our spirits and injects some new vim and vigor into our lives, all the while worsening our fundamental problem.  Leonard Sweet identifies our fundamental problem as semiotic breakdown in his book Nudge.  I would also point to the overload of intense stimulation, increasingly short attention spans, and the loss of understanding that truly good things make the waiting worthwhile.  Whatever you call it, the answer is definitely not "the new".  Instead we need to reconnect to the goodness, indeed the god-ness, all around us.

4.  Newer is not always better.  Sometimes it is, but there is no necessary correlation here despite the fact that we no longer have to say "new and improved."

I think I understand where this article is coming from.  The formula for life which most people uncritically accept, when applied consistently, leads to these conclusions about marriage.  And, after all, we have all seen how well this formula is working out for the rest of life, right?


"A Year with God" by R.P. Nettelhorst

R.P., Nettelhorst, A Year with God: Daily Readings and Reflections on God's Own Words. Thomas Nelson, 2010. 399 pages. 

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Thomas Nelson for review.  

As I am sure you can guess from the title, this is a book of daily devotionals.  It is organized topically with antonymous pairs as "Hope and Fear" and "Love and Hate."  Within each topic, the reader will find several dozen entries which move from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end, roughly speaking.  There is no attempt to hit every verse, or chapter, or story, just that each days reading, within each topic, move sequentially through the OT.  

I began this book thinking that, for a daily devotional, it seemed fairly good.  However, by the end I was thoroughly disappointed.  It quickly became clear that while the title of each days entries were chosen to be provocative, the content was rather poorly thought out.  About half way through I started to wonder if the author actually realized what he was doing (i.e. being intentionally ironic and vague) or if it just happened by accident.  For example, in an entry entitled "Punishment from God" Nettelhorst makes the statement: "God's judgment is selective... He never just 'kills them all.'"  Then, four days later, he has an entry entitled "Kill Them All" in which he discusses God commanding just that.  This would be fine if there was even the slightest indication of attempting to grapple with this issue... but there isn't.  This is only one example of many, which makes me sad.  

2 of 5 Stars.  Not Recommended.  Shallow, pithy, and provocative in all the wrong ways.  


Determinations for the Neoteric Heliacal Circumvolution

I can't remember the last time I made any kind of neoteric heliacal circumvolution determinations (henceforth known as NHCD's).  I think the first one ought to be something about making less liberal use of a thesaurus.  I just wanted to see how convoluted I could make the phrase "New Year's Resolution" because I tend to look at such exercises as silly.  It makes me feel better to call it something elaborate. 

Kristina calls NHCD's (hereafter abbreviated as ND's) 'pedantic.' I suppose they can be at that.  Personally, I think if you want to change something then just do it.  Why make a big deal about an arbitrary calendar date?  As far as I have ever been able to tell there is no mystical power available just today, no subterranean door which opens up every Jan. 1st to release the mists of change. 

However, I have recently been reminded that 'my way' is not necessarily better.  As hard as it is to believe mine and better are not synonyms.  So, if you need the psychological kick-start of the new year in order to make your ND's (from now on denoted as D's) actually happen, then go for it. 

Why, then, do I have my own list of D's this year?  Coincidence.  It just so happens that in the last month I have decided to try to make a few changes, and I can conveniently sum them up as a list of D's. 

So, with that bit of preamble out of the way, on to the D's (in no particular order). 

1. Floss everyday

Yes, you read that right.  Floss.  I am 28 years old and just now resoluting to floss every day.  Statistically, I am far from unusual.  According to surveys 28% of people floss every day.  According to sales figures of actual floss, it is more like 15%.  

That said, I hate the question.  You know, the one the dentist asks every time you go in? 

"Do you floss?"  or "How often do you floss?"

She is not asking for informational purposes.  So far all she has done is to ask me to 'open wide' and my gums already look like they have faced off against some kind of mini-machine-gun.  Watching the blood run down my chin, the dentist knows exactly how much I floss.  She is asking because even if I lie she knows that I can't tell her I won't floss from now on.  I have to tell her that I will, because I know its a good idea, healthy, and all that other good stuff.  

Next time I go to the dentist I am going to be able to answer confidently, with gums standing tall and proud, nary a speck of blood in site, that YES, I do floss. Oh, and I might also have healthier gums.  That's good too. 

2. Eat Less Dessert

Yes, again, you read that right.  I have a massive sweet tooth.  I have also enjoyed 28 good years of high metabolism which, in terms of weight gain, enabled me to eat whatever I want.  My brother used to joke that I kept a machine under my bed which I would sneak into at night in order to keep my metabolism up.  I wish. If I did I wouldn't be slowly noticing the fact that the desserts I eat don't 'disappear' as quickly as they used to. 

Instead, it is time to face the inevitable and change my eating habits.  Grumble grumble....

3. Write 5-6 Days a Week

No, I don't mean here on this blog.  Though, I do hope to continue to blog regularly (unlike during the month of December) I mean actually write, as in towards a book.  I don't expect to do a lot; 200-250 words a day or so, just enough that in a 1-1.5 years I may have a book done.  While I would love to get it published, I think I need to start several steps back from that and just work on improving my writing. 

4. Love Kristina, Hannah, and Ethan More Each Day

Ahh, the obligatory mushy D.  In this case, I really mean it.  Of all of my D's this will be the easiest to keep.  Just listen to this song.

5. Spend More Time Listening in Prayer

Pretty self-explanatory.  

There you have it; my list of D's.