Friday, December 04, 2015

Facing the Unknown

It's incredible how life can change so quickly. Three weeks ago my brother-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This came out of the blue. No past indications suggested anything was wrong with him. Otherwise healthy, a general weakness occurred on his left side and two days later he's in the hospital talking to a neurosurgeon about a craniotomy. Four days later he was operated on and three days after that he was home recovering. With full speech and mobility intact, he bounced back very quickly. We were all so encouraged by his progress. His positive attitude and outlook so very inspiring and assuring.

Yesterday, he received news of the biopsy done on the tumour. It was confirmed that it is the nastiest type of brain tumour. The phrase "life's a bitch and then you die" rang through my mind as I witnessed all of this. How unfair life seems to be especially to those that have spent their life doing good, being good, spreading goodness everywhere they go. My brother-in-law is a good guy! A family man, lovingly devoted to his wife, family and friends: an example of the best of humanity. Why this is happening to him is a question that I know we will never get the answer to on this side of life.

Life can change so quickly. One day you are thinking about where you will be in a year, what retirement will look like, who your next dinner guests will be and what to buy your loved ones for Christmas, and the next you are wondering if you will even be around next Christmas? How can any of us prepare for what we don't know? It's just not possible. As much as we can plan and anticipate what we want to do in the future, life can give you a turn and re-arrange all your thoughts and priorities.

One thing I do know is that when mortality stares us right in the face, we draw on what lies deep in our soul to carry us through. For my brother-in-law, its his faith that is giving him the strength to face what now lies ahead. Knowing that much of this is out of his control, I see him grasping for what he has control over and then trusting God for the rest that lies beyond his grasp. I see in him a resolve to accept what will come, not by laying down but by fighting his way through. As a family, we have resolved to fight along with him. We are also digging deep into our faith to carry us through. If it were dependent on sheer will to keep him here with us, there is enough will to sustain him for years to come.

The irony in all of this is that bad news rallies families together. We have gone into support mode. Anything we can do to help out, anything we can do to bring some relief, anything we can say to encourage and convey our love, we are there to offer it. If only we could all take a piece of his pain and endure it for him, we would do it. In the face of the unknown, family is the foundation bedrock of of our society. Family supports us, loves us, cheers us on, and carries us! I know not all families are like this so I'm grateful that I married into one that is. This is the ideal - what families should be! Knowing that we can't control what will come to us out of the blue, we can work to build families that support each other through thick and thin.

In the face of the unknown, my advice is this: love unconditionally, cherish all those that are in your life, make friendships and keep them, build relationships that will endure whatever might come, and remember to enjoy your life in the present and share it with as many as you can. You never know what lies in the future; that kind of information lies well beyond us. Leaving it in the hands of the divine is the wise choice. Living life to the full and for others should be both our mission and our joy. This we do knowing that when the unknown hits us with full clarity, we have family and friends that can take the journey with us.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mobile Education

I found this slideshare very helpful in highlighting the trend of a student centered technology assisted learning environment. More educators are embracing a collaborative learning paradigm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Living Life Faithfully

As I watched the Masters Golf tournament over the weekend, a drama unfolded that struck me in a very powerful way. Two figures fought in the foreground for two very different reasons. Phil Mickelson fighting for his wife as he battled toward a third win at the Masters and Tiger Woods battling the demons raging within for the battle for wholeness in his life. Although Phil and Tiger were not neck and neck in the standings of the golf tournament, they were neck in neck in a fight for their lives.

I saw the pink ribbon embroidered on Phil's cap as he diligently played through tough tee shots, making one great recovery shot after another. It was almost like his golf swings were mirroring his life, set back by cancer in his wife's body only to fight back in an effort to defeat it. Tiger in his usual "uniform" for the fourth round, the ever familiar red nike golf shirt and black slacks identifying himself unmistakenly to the crowd. In every swing there was frustration. Glimpses of greatness shined through like the second shot holed on the green on the 7th hole showing that there was a possibility of reaching the leader only to be frustrated by bad tee shots on the back 9. More than fighting the golf course, it was clear that Tiger was fighting a demon inside him, something that he has not exorcised yet.

How different life can be for two people playing the same sport and in may ways sharing the same ambitions. If I had a choice of which life to be living, I think I would pick Phil's. Its not an easy choice because the uncertainty of an illness like cancer and the battle it forces in terms of the human will to live long makes it a very challenging and tiring journey. But I think I would prefer it to the hell that Tiger is living in right now. Of his own doing he has torn his life apart leaving a very broken heart and frail human shell. Yes he looks healthy on the outside but it is clear that much is caustic on the inside. I think its always better to tackle the hell that comes from the outside with a health that exists on the inside than tackle a hell created by oneself on the inside reaching for wholeness on the outside.

"It's not what goes into a man's mouth that defiles him but what comes out.." Never truer words were spoken. When you look at these two men and the battle they waged on the golf course this past week you see two very different perspectives that result in two very different endings. Faithfulness proves to lead to enduring life's greatest blows evidently showing that one can come through it much stronger and with a healthy perspective on life. Unfaithfulness leads to creating such internal turmoil that results in adversity not only in relationships but within oneself. Tiger has a much tougher road ahead. I think it wise that he will take more time off. It's clear that he was not ready to return to the pressure of playing at the professional level when his own life has plunged him into personal turmoil. Phil, on the other hand, has experienced how enduring the hardships in life but staying true to oneself and one's family produces joy in the middle of suffering. Phil showed that wounded people who are faithful can endure anything that comes their way. Tiger showed us that we have the power to plunge our lives into ruin and so be left with a huge mountain to climb back up - a mountain that rivals the heights of Everest.

It was a very important golf game this weekend. And if one saw the drama that went much deeper than tee shots, chips and putting, one would see a battle for life that demonstrates how choices in life can make or break the best, brightest and most talented people. The lesson in all of it that I see is that faithfulness ultimately wins out in the end. I pray that Tiger would make his way to a faithfulness in heart and relationships that has been so vivid in his faithfulness to his talent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Dream for the Future

I'm in my mid 40s and I realize now that some of the dreams I had when I was a Young Adult may not be realized based on the fact that I have only a certain amount of time left on this earth.

When I was a teenager I believed I had forever in front of me. I believed that anything was possible and that I could do everything. 20 something years later and I realize that I don't have forever and that I can't do everything. In fact given the reality of time, I need to be more focused, more disciplined and more faithful to the things that I've committed to in life.

These days my dream is to help my kids fulfill their dreams. I realize that I have means to support the things my kids want to reach for in the future.I realize I have strong shoulders and I can lift my kids up - the next generation-and cheer them on in their dreams, encouraging them toward the deep dreams in their heart that will fulfill who they are.

These days, I'm focusing on the dreams of my kids. I pray that I help them and not hinder them. I pledge to support them and give them the best possible chance at their dreams. I feel that this right now this is my mission in life.

At 44 years of age I realize that i have strong shoulders and the ability to support those who will influence the future of world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Worried about the Next Generation

I'm worried about the next generation. What I mean is the generation of our present teenagers. What I worry about most is the seeming lack of their sense of responsibility for our world.

I try to put my finger on it but I'm not sure I'm hitting close to the reasons why. My observations are many though:

  • The seeming lack of their ability to communicate: Now don't get me wrong, I do recognize that they communicate. What I wonder is if social networking online is a true way of communicating that causes them to take responsibility for who they are, what they say and how it affects their surroundings. Face-to-face communication forces one to take responsibility for what they say since the person is right before them and the emotional reactions are visible and evident and ownership of what one says is real. Cyberspace tends to de-personalize communication, making it very one-sided and so convenient to the one communicating but not necessarily healthy. Sometimes I just wish they would pick up the phone and call their friends rather than "msn them."
  • The seeming lack of general respect for others: I wonder if we have created a bubble for our teenagers? We hover over them so much and subsequently their world is so ordered around them as a person, that I wonder if we have invariably created the lack of respect we see that they have for others. Wild night parties are supposedly okay because they are 'having fun' yet it doesn't seem to cross their minds that they are disturbing their neighbours and putting their friends in jeopardy by binge drinking and driving under the influence.
  • The seeming casualness of their sexual activity: I find that their music and their culture views sex as an act - not a commitment. Sex is what you simply "do" as a teenager. That statement in itself worries me since I realize then that my girls are being objectified because they are girls by boys who have a casual sense about what is expected from them in terms of their sexuality. No one seems to be teaching them about the context of sex within a loving relationship. Marriage hasn't fared well either since parents have demonstrated an unreliability about marriage in general. I do know that a lot of teenagers, more than we would like to think, have been hurt by marriage breakdown and this has directly affected their view of themselves and their sexuality by removing the healthy environment that models healthy sexual activity. Marriages break up because one of the spouses "fools around" - betrays the trust of relationship. I know the answer is healthier marriages and relationships that model healthy sexuality. But who is teaching these teenagers? Sometimes I feel that sexuality is more of a "warning" in the High School context then a healthy aspect of life and relationships.
  • The ongoing adolescence: I basically was done with adolescence when I got to college and was on my own. In many ways I had to grow up and be responsible for myself, take care of myself and take responsibility for the relationships that I was building. I got married when I was 23 years old and had my first child at 25. I look at 23 and 25 year old and they are still living in adolescence - still dressing and behaving in the same immaturity they expressed in their teens. That worries me about the future. What happens to children born to Young Adults still expressing their adolescence? What happens to the work force with Young Adults still living in adolescence well in their late 20's - some in their early 30's?

I know I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture. How are we going to change this? I know that its up to us to change it. We can point the finger all we want toward this emerging generation but we are ultimately to blame for creating the insecure environment that they have been raised in. We are not all individually to blame but I think together we are culpable in what they have become when we neglected to monitor what they watched on TV. When we neglected to ask them about their friends, about what they were doing and where they were going. We are culpable when we didn't take the initiative to engage our teenagers to talk about what is going on in their lives. We are culpable when we said, "I'm too tired right now to talk." We are responsible when we knew they were hurting but did not engage them because we were afraid of what we might find out and did not want to know what they were doing. We are particularly responsible when we didn't take initiative to teach them how to build relationships with others and live in healthy relationship with others. We are culpable when we didn't use situations to help them learn and understand that their actions impact others and they needed to think about others before they acted.

I feel my wife and I have done and are doing our best to raise teenagers that have respect for others and the world around them. Yes they are selfish and yes they are hormonal and yes they don't think before they act and yes they don't see how their actions now affect the future but that doesn't stop us from trying to help them realize that they do! We can't be part-time or absent parents. Being a parent is a lifelong commitment to helping children become adults who take responsibility for their lives and the world around them.

Some of you may say, "but I don't have children." I wonder if that abdicates you from teaching and influencing this emerging generation? There are certainly many teenagers who can use a supportive adult other then their parents! Exerting your responsibility on our world I believe involves your getting involved to fill a gap of adult influence in the life of a teenager. You have the opportunity to make up for what a parent has neglected.

What worries me though is what will my children's future be like given an emerging generation that seems so ill equipped for life in general? They will certainly make their way through like we did but I want them to know that we are on their side - cheering them on to take responsibility for their lives and their world and to make it the place that they want to live in.

Here's hoping that you are as worried as I am and worried enough to do something to change it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Connection with Creation

It was an incredibly relaxing vacation. We had a great time and didn't worry about anything. We had a lot of sun, had some great meals both in and out and managed to care for a family of cats that adopted us for the week. This little family reminded me of God's incredible providence. Our first encounter was with the mother, who looked beaten up and was very thin. No doubt, food was scarce and she was working overtime providing nourishment for her two kittens. The first night we fed her, she laid down on the front porch after chowing down on a cup full of cat food we found in the pantry. She gobbled it all down and had herself a great sleep. What satisfaction she must have felt having eaten such a meal after what must have been a long and difficult time of scrounging for food.

The next day we fed her in the morning and a black tom cat appeared who no doubt was her partner in crime. It was tough for him to get any room for a few morsels of food as the mother cat buried her head in the cup of food and was chowing down again! I thought of how interesting the cat world is, with the females as the hunters who provide food and the fathers who provide protection - not unlike our present culture where so many women are out their hunting in the market place to provide for their families.

That evening the two kittens emerged. Now secure that we were no threat to them, they were comfortable to bring their two little ones out and for the rest of the week, at every feeding, the cat family emerged with mother and father and two kittens to enjoy the meal that was so lovingly given. As the week wore on, we began to worry about how they would do when we were gone. Who would feed them? They would have to revert to their previous scrounging and the danger that came with it.

I have to say that it was very difficult to think about. This little cat family became part of our family and it was heartbreaking to not be able to help them and wonder what danger would come their way. Then we realized that somehow they made it this far. God was their provider and in the scheme of things, He allowed this little cat family a reprieve from working hard for their food with our presence. One week of not having to worry about where food was. One week of rest from the rat race [literally]. One week of enjoying one great meal after another and one great accompanying nap after another.

I guess in an ironic parallel, this little family met us in our time of kicking back to enjoy our vacation with us. What a great surprise and what a privilege it was to be part of God's providential plan. It reminded me of our incredible connection to creation and how the harmony that God imprinted on his creation was so very evident to us during 10 days of rest and relaxation.

Thank you God for the shear joy of being part of your creation and knowing your incredible love and presence in this world and reminding us that we are a part of a masterpiece creation that fits together and runs in a graceful unity. It was a taste of the future, when all harmony will return to the creation and we will rest in your presence in the space that you have given us and so enjoy everyone and everything around us.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What will we pay for Gas in the future?

I thought of posting a note about Gas and wanted to avoid ranting about how the price of Gas has hit our wallets. My initial feeling every time I hear about the price of gas going up, the price of a barrel of oil rising to its highest ever, and record setting profits by oil companies, is anger. I'm angry that I'm paying more for a product that I can't live without. In fact, I reason with myself that Gas is an essential product in my life. I need to put Gas in my car so I can get to work so that I can earn a living so that I can ....... you get the idea!

And then I came across a thought provoking article that hit me between the eyes. It provoked me to think about whether high Gas prices is actually a consequence of my buying it. The reasoning centred around the fact that prices go up when demand goes up. Hmmmm ..... very interesting! The opposite is also true: when demand goes down, so do prices. Am I to blame for the high demand in fuel? Do my habits in how much I drive and how few times I actually walk or cycle somewhere affect what I pay at the pump? This made me think.

All along during these past 3 months of soaring gas prices, I quickly and willingly blamed it on the oil companies and tycoons [feeling justified in doing so since they are so filthy rich], on other countries like China and India where the demand for Gas is soaring, or on politicians and the taxes that they impose. Never did I once consider that my daily routine and habit of relying on a motorized vehicle is responsible for what I'm paying at the pump.

There is something deeper going on than just my seeming refusal to see my culpability in all of this. I wonder if it is a down right selfish consumeristic attitude that is so ingrained in me that I have lost perspective. I know I'm not alone in this. [Hopefully the culpability feeling is rising as you read this] I think of the habits of generations past: my parents and their parents. My grandfather has never owned a car. He walked everywhere, and took transit if he needed to get somewhere that was unreasonable to get to by walking. My parents, especially when they were young, were very conscious of using the ability to "walk" as an excuse [at least I thought it was] not to pick me up from where ever I was. In fact, I just knew not to ask. It would be embarrassing to do so. We assumed "walking" was a mode of transportation. Now, we drive everywhere. I drive my daughter down the street to drop her off at school in the morning. I drive to the closest grocery store that is about half a kilometre away and a very reasonable distance to walk.

I wonder ......... if I made a conscious effort to walk where I could walk or transit where I could transit and leave the car at home, would there be a difference in the demand for Gas. Immediately I think of the fact that I personally, along with my family, will benefit. We won't be spending as much on gas and we would have the added bonus of living healthier as well because we're actually exercising. Then I think ...... what if a whole lot of other people did this as well. As I think about this I think of how true it is that we are just as culpable as those we blame for high Gas prices.

I definitely think that I need to start making some immediate changes. I also think that if we want lower gas prices in the future, we need to evaluate our own habits and determine whether a change in habit and behaviour will give us lower gas prices. It seems to me that what we pay for things in the future will depend on how much we feel we need them or how badly we want them. And at the end of the day, was I better off because I had it or didn't have it? Thinking of this in terms of my personal need for Gas, there are times that I would benefit if I didn't have it and it would also benefit others as well.

By the way, you can click on the following link to read the article I mentioned above: