Archive for February, 2009

Making the Most out of Lent

February 27, 2009

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16)

If you ask a young person what he might be doing for Lent, you’ll likely get responses along the lines of: “I’m going to spend less time on the internet” or “I’m giving up eating chocolate.”

Granted, these may be noble notions on their own, but young people (along with many adults) often get too caught up in what they might be “giving up” for Lent instead of why they are doing it.

We know that Lent is a solemn, reflective season that prepares us for Christ’s glorious resurrection at Easter. The forty days of Lent recall the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert resisting Satan’s temptations before starting his public ministry. During Lent, Christians are called to renew themselves through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charity). Think of it as a spiritual tune-up.

Solemn and reflective does not have to mean miserable and depressed. Lent gives youth ministers a wonderful opportunity to teach about sacrifice, and how these sacrifices can be pleasing to God. When we sacrifice in one area, we grow or make room in another; in the case of Lent it’s in our relationship with God. Fasting is a perfect example: it’s less about what we are giving up (food) and more about how we are growing (in prayer).

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

An avid cola drinker, for the past 5 or 6 years I have proudly proclaimed that I am giving up pop for Lent. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that simply sacrificing pop wasn’t enough…God was challenging me to do more. To spend more time in prayer. To be a better steward of my resources. And to be more generous.

As youth ministers, we can pray for humility; that we can “die to ourselves” and instead set our hope on the living God. In doing so we recall the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.

So now, I still give up drinking pop and I look forward to losing 5 to 10 pounds in the process. But that’s only a small part of my Lenten plan to strengthen my relationship with God and with others. Forty days should be enough time.

I just need to find an alternative to Pepsi!


My 7 Year-Old Conscience

February 19, 2009

Many of my friends know that I have a long-standing subscription to Sports Illustrated magazine. For many years, I’ve looked for to the NHL and NBA preview issues in particular, while I could use a little less NASCAR coverage and stories about baseball.

Even more people know that Sports Illustrated publishes an annual Swimsuit Issue. The issue serves as a lightning rod for controversy…so much so that subscribers now have the option to opt out of receiving the magazine.

I admittedly haven’t gotten around to opting out of the magazine (it’s funny how I seem to forget to make that phone call every year) and sure enough, this year’s edition arrived last week while I was away in Montreal.

To my lovely wife Gail’s credit, she actually didn’t throw it away, rather placing it discreetly in a pile of bills and newspapers for my review. After all, she is a good steward of resources.

By coincidence or not, the boys happened to be with me as I rummaged through my pile of catch-up items, and thus were present when I pulled out the Sports Illustrated issue in question.

“Eww….gross!” was one of the boy’s reactions as he glared at the cover.

“Cool…she’s in her underwear!” was the other boy’s reaction as he stared at the cover.

I was caught off-guard by both reactions for different reasons. As 99% of you have likely already guessed, Sean’s comment was the former, and Jake’s was the latter.

My 7 year-old conscience continued: “You should just throw that whole magazine away so you’re not distracted.”

(As an aside, the title of this blog refers to the fact that Sean is 7 years old, and not that I’ve had a conscience for only 7 of my 34 years of existence. But I digress).

As Jake tried to wrestle the magazine away from me to leaf through its contents, Sean hit me with one more zinger that to this day I still don’t have a good answer for:

“What does it have to do with sports anyway?”

How Old is This Kid Again?

February 11, 2009

On my nightly call home from Montreal earlier this evening, Gail mentioned that Sean was chatting with Bev, the PREP Coordinator at St. Paul’s. Bev is working with Gail (and others) to prepare the grade 2 students of St. Paul School and St. Paul PREP for First Communion in May.

Bev was speaking with Sean at school today about the Sacrament. For some reason, Sean took it upon himself to get Bev’s credentials. After a bit of small talk, Sean asked Bev:

“How long have you been doing this job?”

“For 30 years” Bev answered.

“Do you find it fulfilling?” Sean continued.

“Uh, very much so.” Bev replied.

Apparently, Sean asked a third question that neither he nor Gail could recall. I’m guessing it was a probing one, as Bev later told Gail that she felt like she was being interrogated. Kinda like how Carolyn felt when I first met her (I recall sequestering her in the kitchen and peppering her with questions for about 10 minutes). I was just looking out for my buddy…she passed! :p

How do you say “Raw Meat” in French?

February 9, 2009
As we prepare for a wonderful week of faith and fellowship at this year’s AGM of the CCYMN (Canadian Catholic Youth Ministry Network) here in Montreal, we’ve been doing a fair bit of preparing and quite a bit of eating. On Saturday night, I enjoyed a wonderful meal with Warren and Laurie at a classy restaurant on Crescent Avenue. With some really nice live jazz music providing the pleasant background noise, I consumed a tasty prime rib dinner. As usual, I asked for my steak cooked on the rarer side of medium rare and the chef didn’t disappoint. In fact, the reddish centre reminded me of beef sashimi. Sort of.

So Sunday night we hit another nice bistro, this time with a bigger group. It was another wonderful night of catching up with youth ministry colleagues from throughout the country…similar to a family reunion. We shared, we laughed, and we compared notes, much like any good youth ministers would do.

This time, I went even rarer than the night before, and I ordered the beef tartar. I wasn’t sure what to expect, though I knew that I could handle if. After all, I love beef sashimi (especially the Matsuyama version, and even more especially when it’s after 9pm and a few bucks cheaper…see blog here ).

When my dinner came, it looked like something else, with equal emphasis on the “something” and “else.” Words can’t really do it justice…you can judge for yourself.

my beef tartar

Needless to say, I was quite eager and excited to try it, as you will see here.

with my beef tartar

As an aside, Wikipedia states that “The basis of the name is the legend that nomadic Tatar people of the Central Asian steppes did not have time to cook and thus placed meat underneath their horses’ saddles. The meat would be tenderixed by the end of the journey.” Mmmmmm…great. But I digress.

The first few bites were rather tasty, and I didn’t have too much trouble adjusting to the unique texture and taste. Once I reached the half way point, I noticed that it wasn’t slipping down my throat as easily, so I started combining my bites with my fries, my pepsi, or sometimes both.

By the 3/4 mark, I wasn’t sure if I would finish it.

By the 7/8 mark, I kept picturing the cow.

By the last bite, I was thankful that Ted, Sarah and Andrew were there for moral support. And to drag me to the washroom if necessary.

As I stared down at the empty plate, I realized how much the sauce makes a difference to its taste and feel. I was thankful for the opportunity to try something that was new to me, and even more grateful that I kept everything inside.

I think I’ve had enough physical nourishment for a while. Now it’s time to look forward to some spiritual nourishment!

Trash-Talking 101

February 6, 2009

Most sports have elements of trash-talking in them. Professional basketball and football players are notorious for it, and amateur athletes can get into it as well. Sadly, even kids aren’t immune to it, as I’ve already heard a few zingers while coaching Sean’s hockey or baseball team. It’s inevitable, because sport breeds competition. And competitors are often looking for any edge they can gain on their opponent.

It’s sometimes entertaining (Kobe and MJ), often offensive (Sean Avery), even scary (Mike Tyson) and usually humourous (Charles Barkley and Geroy Simon).

But regardless of the quality or quantity of the trash-talk, you must be able to back it up.

For better or worse, trash-talking has found its way into some of the Imoo boy competitions at home. Thankfully, the majority of the time it’s harmless and downright funny. Earlier tonight, just before the start of our nightly hockey game, I put on my best announcer voice and (while pointing at skinny Jacob) proclaimed:

“Introducing first, the boy who is missing meat!” (Sarcastic cheers from Daddy).

Then, I turned my attention to Sean: “His teammate is the boy with the missing teeth!” (More sarcastic cheers from Daddy).

It wasn’t my best work ever, but it rhymed and I was proud of myself nonetheless. Maybe too proud, as I wasn’t prepared for the verbal onslaught I got back.

“Introducing the guy with no hair!”

“Their opponent is the guy with the big stomach and big butt!”

“He’s the guy with holes in his head!” (a reference to my recent staph infection).

“He only knows how to cook Ichiban!” (a reference to my inability to cook anything besides instant noodles).

Ouch! Needless to say, the shenanigans paved the way for a very spirited game. Ultimately, I lost per usual, bringing my record to a likely 2 wins and 158 losses.

So much for backing my trash-talk up!