Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmastime in the city

Christmas has come and gone once again, though as we plan a trip to Winnipeg this weekend to see Sarah’s family it feels as though we’re heading into an extended edition of the holidays.  Sarah has had to return to work for a couple of days this week, but with Tyler, Nicole and Olivia still down it still feels like we’re on Christmas vacation.

This year was a bit of a return to tradition for the Cain side of the family.  Christmas Eve at Auntie Laurel and Uncle Don’s and Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s.  Good times and good food!  Nicole, Tyler and Olivia arrived soon after and we had a larger family gathering complete with Uncle Don songs, more gift-giving, more food and even dancing!  Yep, that’s right.

Two and a half years since its completion, I was finally able to print off a finished copy of my undergrad thesis for Mom and Dad.  I thought it’d make a good surprise gift at the end of the morning.  Though the manuscript was officially ‘done’, I’d gone through it again last October and then again in January when I experienced I really frustrating set-back.  I’d accidently created two different copies without realizing it, and had on some days been editing one version and on another day editing the second.  Sometimes in March, I think it was, I bit the bullet and read through both copies again to try and decide which sections of which version was the final.  Thankfully, I had noticed my mistake early enough and I ended up merging the two without much difficulty.  Still, you can imagine the headache.

Afterwards I was able to finally pull in my title page and table of contents and save the whole thing as a .pdf.  It’s such a good feeling to get it totally done and have a copy printed off.  I wanted mom and Dad to have the first one (I have an older one that I printed when still at the college), as they played such a huge part in me even being able to go to school.


If you’ve been following my blog you’ve probably heard me mention my favourite authors from time to time.  When it comes to the Christian life, Eugene Peterson is my favourite.  He’s down-to-earth and grandfatherly, and his writing is rich, meaningful, and pastoral and imaginative.  For Eugene, it’s all about how everything is liveable, nothing in our Christian faith is meant to be abstract, general, propositional or removed from day to day life.  It’s all personal.  All relational.  All participatory.  Last Christmas I received Practice Resurrection, which I’ve blogged about before. This year I was blessed with three more books of his five-piece series on spiritual theology. Each book is a “conversation” on a different topic related to living.  So now I’m reading Eat this Book, a conversation about spiritual reading.  I think I’ll be able to use it with my Sunday school lessons in January.


It was great to see Olivia again, and to visit with Tyler and Nicole—who we introduced to the thrilling epic farming board game, Agricola.  As we purchased sheep, built clay huts and harvested our grain, Olivia would lean over to me, her Dad’s iPhone in hand with her favourite kids game, and show me how to colour Christmas trees and listen to Tinkerbell stories.  She was pretty interested in all the little wooden pieces for the game, so we let her set up a farm of her own—though all she really wanted to do was collect more wood and assign everyone coloured bowls: “Blue for Dad and orange for Nikolas and green for Sarah and yellow for Mom!” 

We’ve made New Year’s Eve plans with the three of them once we’re all back in Winnipeg—and hopefully we’ll be able to see Mike and Steph, too!

Until next time, happy reading, and hoping you’ve all had a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

houston, we’ve found a topic!

Feeling a little bit better this morning--I've had a sore throat for the last couple of days (typical for Christmastime, I suppose!)  Earl Grey seems to be helping!  Of course, being able to rest at home now that I've finished work for the year doesn't hurt either!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to decide on a topic to teach for our church’s adult Sunday school.  Keith Eichel asked if I’d be interested in taking some of the sessions, so I was given the month of January, and plenty of room in terms of topics and style.  For a long time I was pretty sure I was going to do something on Christian spiritual disciplines.  I started working on it back in October or November and had had a few pages written up.  But plans change.  Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline describes twelve practices through which we connect with God and one another in the Christian life: meditation, prayer, fasting and study are the Inward Disciplines.  Simplicity, solitude, submission and service make up the outward disciplines.  Confession, worship, guidance and celebration are corporate disciplines—practices which we participate in together as the body of Christ.  With only four sessions to speak, I couldn’t possibly do them all justice.  I thought of pairing some together, or simply picking four, but it simply wasn’t working.  It's an excellent book, and would make a really good small group study.  Maybe some other time.

Thankfully, there was something else in store.

I was working on study as a discipline, and then reading in the broader sense.  How do we nurture our minds?  Do we know how to do this?  How do we read well?  How important is that to cultivating a wholistic and healthy faith?  That sent me into Fee & Stuart’s book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, a text from my freshmen class, Biblical Foundations I.  Within a few pages of reading I knew I needed to focus here: on how to read the Bible well.

So I’ve been working a lot on that, and really enjoying it.  I wrote the first session and I’m just in the middle of editing the second.  The third and fourth are still to be determined.  But it’s a good start, and I’m thankful to have settled on something.  For me that’s usually the hardest part.

Merry Christmas, dear reader!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

hobbit trailer!!

I really like that the dwarves are singing their song.  Its the same song re-arranged as a theme in the second half of the trailer.

This reminds me of the good old days of making a trip to Thunder Bay to watch the Two Towers and Return of the King on opening day—our own little there and back again adventure if ever there was one!

Here’s the official site with a larger trailer and the artwork.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


As we were getting ready for bed last night we got talking about how much stuff we have.  We’re reminded of this regularly since our main storage area also has the laundry and a shower in it—so you see these things that you don’t really use very often.  Some of it is definitely important like our winter clothes, my drum cases, and some bins of old papers and/or toys from our childhoods.  Sometimes it feels like the wall of storage is encroaching on the rest of the room!  If we were in a bigger place we’d probably have it tucked away somewhere else.  But in the same breath, we’d also have bought more stuff to fill a larger home!  Endless cycle!

One of the things I love about Sarah is that she’s so good at deciding what is important to keep and what she’ll never really use again.  She goes through her clothes on a regular basis and what she doesn’t think she’ll use anymore she gives away.  When I was a kid and a teenager Mom would do the same with me: sit me down and we’d go through the old cupboard.  Cleanse things out.  Make room for what we actually need for today.

I’m thinking of looking at spiritual disciplines as a series for Sunday school in January.  Why do we make things so confusing?  Look at this horse!  He seems pretty happy just to have food and space to run around.  Plus he's got a great view.I’ve been wanting to do something with Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline for some time now, but I’m still not sure this is the best outlet.  The chapters in Celebration are already so well arranged that I think any one of them would be hard to present in a 45-minute segment.  Also Foster highlights 12 disciplines…and I have room for maybe 4-5!  So I’d have to pick some and skip others.  Part me of just wants to hand copies of the book out: “Here.  Read this through and then come back and we’ll talk about it when you’re done.”  I wonder how’d that go over?

The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reorientation which, in turn, transforms the way we go about living life.  Inward to outward, always both.  What begins inside of us will permeate our outward experiences.  Out of the heart the mouth speaks, so I’ve heard. Here’s Foster:

Contemporary culture lacks the inward reality and outward lifestyle of simplicity.  We must live in the modern world, and we are affected by its fractured and fragmented state.  We are trapped in a maze of competing attachments.  One moment we make decisions on the basis of sound reason and the next moment out of fear of what others think of us. We have no unity or focus around which our lives are oriented. …

We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic.  We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. … We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are warn out.  The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality.  It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick. . . .We should take exception to the modern psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn.” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 80-81).

Foster paints it pretty bleak, and I’m not saying that everyone is sucked into this 100%.  But it’s hard not to think of real experiences when I read this.  Especially the stuff about mass media.  It’s one of the reasons why Apple drives me nuts.  They redesign their iPods so quickly that once you buy one it’s not long before you feel that they missed out, and then you feel the need to upgrade sooner than you would really need to.  It’s the same now with Amazon’s Kindle e-book readers.  I’m sure the same thing goes for cellphones, but I don’t really know.

Simplicity.  I’d rather ignore all the rubbish of having the newest and the fastest and get my inner life straightened out first. Out of that I know I can be a better husband, a better employee, a better son, a better drummer, a better person.  The fundamental reorientation of the heart and mind, when set aright by God, can really transform our attitudes and the way we go about living day-to-day.  I’m far from this.  But Foster helps to point us in the right direction.  I’m glad for voices like his that can cut through the system and get us thinking again.

If you’re still reading this than kudos to you!  Way longer than I intended for first thing Saturday morning!  Have a great weekend.

Friday, December 09, 2011

drumming i will someday learn

Youtube can be a blessing and curse.  A blessing in that you can see some pretty neat things: amazing imaginative ideas, or newly discovered music, or something ridiculous that your friends from college posted.  Sarah finds some really great stuff in her surfing travels—nearly every other day there’s something to listen to or ponder or just laugh at.  That said, youtube can be a bit of curse too: the amount of garbage on there is pretty atrocious.  It’s as though you’ve got to wade knee-deep through the sludge to find the gems.

For me, youtube provides me with new ideas, and usually these have to do with drumming.  I can’t speak on behalf of musicians who play other instruments, but for myself I can tend to get in a rut.  A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that I’ve really played the same styles of music.  But beyond genre, there’s still a certain dynamism that can seep away as time goes on.  Like anything in life, we need to infuse fresh inspiration into the activities we love, lest they become mundane or we forget the beauty they’re capable of making.

The curse comes into play here, as well—it’s easy to watch excellent drummers and become discouraged, “I’ll never be able to do that!” (and that might very well be true, sadly…)  But that’s why I really like watching Mike Johnston’s drum lessons.  He is without question a gifted drummer, but he’s also a teacher who is inviting, down-to-earth and humble about his skills in a way that makes one think, “Hey!  I really could play this!”

I tried that tonight with this video.  It was harder than it appeared.  But it was great practice, great fun, and challenges me to take the time to play and practice more and avoid the ruts.

Be well this weekend.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

december comes

It’s been so long lately between writing these posts, and I’m not too happy about it!

Here’s a little update on what’s been happening with us, dear reader…

November and December have been filled with memories of work and family (though hopefully not indefinitely in that order!)  Sarah’s family came down for her birthday weekend in November.  It’s always a lot of fun when we all get together.  On that Sunday Auntie Laurel and Uncle Don came over too and we had a birthday party for Sarah.  I was able to find her a record player that she’d had her eye on for awhile.  Now named “Ruby”, she has only a few vinyls to play, but she’s a very happy contribution to our cozy little home.  Sarah was very excited.

Snow hasn’t flown as early as last year, considering how this was November 30, 2010:

No snow days for us this year, sadly.

We’ve been trying to set aside time in the weekends together.  A little Christmas shopping here and there.  Our warm reading by the stove.  Last Saturday we decided to try something different for breakfast: crepes!  And it was a grand success.


So that’s about all that’s new with us.  I’m also working on lessons for our Church’s adult Sunday school classes for January.  I’ve got four or five Sundays to prepare for…and I’m still undecided on topics (though, as usual, I have like 2 or 3 options and just need to settle on something!)  We’re staying home for Christmas this year, and thinking of heading to Winnipeg for New Year’s.  I’m just looking forward to time off!

Thanks for reading.  Stay warm, reader.

One last album: some pics of us at Bear Narrows at the end of autumn.