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Small town living

Do you prefer city living because you want to have options? Options for entertainment, shopping (I realize that is a form of entertainment for some), restaurants, schools (K-12 & post-secondary), travel, conferences, etc?

I enjoy having multiple options in the above areas too (except shopping!). Yet I choose to live in a small town in south-central Alberta. And contrary to popular opinion, it is not just because I grew up in this town and my parents (and in-laws) still live here… though that is another great benefit of this particular small town!

three-hills-sign-picI prefer to live in a small town for many reasons…

Life has a live-able pace – Although I am an ambitious, type-A personality, I need life to proceed at a live-able pace. Many of my friends (some of them also living in small towns) try to live life at warp speed and are so busy running from A to B to C to…Z, they don’t actually live. They just run… and run… and run. Because of my physical limitations, I cannot do that. But I don’t want to do that either. I want to live life and enjoy it. Small town living makes that more possible, though ultimately, that is a choice each person must make for themself.

Finances – Living in a small town is financially beneficial. We have been able to buy a house, my wife has been able to be a stay-at-home mom, and we send our children to a faith-based school (even though I am only employed part-time). Living in an urban centre would require a significantly higher income to acquire a home and then to continue paying the mortgage. I would either need to get a different (full-time) job or my wife would have to work outside the home for pay… which would create additional complications.

I calculated that someone could live in a small town like Three Hills within an hour of a city (eg. Calgary) commute to work for 20 years, account for the fuel cost of driving back and forth, pay themselves $20 per hour for the driving time, and still be financially ahead in the difference of buying a house (eg. small town home selling for $250,000 would be listed at over $450,000 in an urban centre).

Travel – Along with the financial benefit of only requiring one vehicle, small town living is great for getting from point A to point B. Except for inclement weather, our children are safe traveling around town, including to school or friends’ houses, either walking or by bike. Even international students new to town are able to navigate around town within a few weeks of arriving. With my regular use of a power wheelchair, I am also able to get around our community easily. (And if I ever do get stuck, citizens are always glad to provide assistance, usually because they recognize me)

thrashers_logoOptions – Realizing that not all small towns offer the same opportunities, Three Hills is a wonderful community because it offers a vibrant arts community with programs for adults and children, both a public K-12 school and an affordable faith-based option, faith communities of many denominations, and a post-secondary institution. Partially  because of these resources, significant opportunities come to this town (eg. Global Leadership Summit) and it makes the community attractive for professionals (eg. accountants, lawyers, medical doctors, etc. Along with high school and college athletics, we also have a junior b hockey team, the Three Hills Thrashers.

Technology – The incredible opportunities now available through technology mean that a person can connect to virtually anywhere in the world for a face-to-face meeting. (I benefit from this significantly as I blogged about here)

Proximity to the city – While living in a small town includes all these benefits, the other benefit of Three Hills is its close proximity to Calgary. We are just over an hour to Calgary – even less to the international airport – providing us with all the “beneficial options” of city life nearby.

Three Hills is not particularly unique. Smaller communities like Sicamous (less than an hour to Kelowna) or Tofield (less than an hour to Edmonton) and others across Canada hold many of the same advantages of small town living.

For these reasons, I love living life in a small town. Care to join us?

Communicating and “New” Technology

Have you realized the way we communicate has changed as a result of “new” technology?

I don’t mean “technology” causing us to speak in 140 characters or less (Twitter) or causing us to believe a picture is worth a thousand words (Instagram/Snapchat). I mean technology that truly allows us to change the means and methods we use to

For example, I am part of a new/emerging online university where the primary means of gathering is via video conference or Skype. Academic meetings with the deans or operations meetings with the student services and marketing personnel involve people spread geographically across North America (and once in a while with people beyond Canada/USA). There is voice-to-voice communication as well as the ability to see one another’s face. It is incredible to have a meeting on Thursday with people from South Carolina, Texas, and Alaska from my home in Alberta (Canada) and then another meeting with colleagues in Brazil, Nigeria, India and Georgia (USA) the next day.

This same technology can also be used for international board/conference meetings, saving significant money for travel expenses. It would seem governing boards – corporate and non-profit – could use these technologies more, whether for their annual or semi-annual meetings, or for monthly executive or sub-committee meetings. This would allow for more regular updates for board members on organizational activities as well as broader representation on boards from people they serve. Furthermore, it opens board positions to individuals beyond certain geographic and socio-economic backgrounds that previously were limited.

However, these kind of meetings take some extra listening skills. Some people speak at higher volumes than others and others have more “background noise.” As well, it takes some skill for the meeting leader to keep everyone on track with the agenda and not let one person monopolize the conversation.

Nonetheless, after a Skype/video-conference meeting, the communication challenge begins anew as the to-do list is shared. An email with an attachment can appear adequate, but the sender does not know if individual(s) receiving the message, read it, are acting upon it, or have questions. Ideally, the recipient(s) will ask the sender for clarification. Yet that may happen a day or a week later. Or they may just try to figure it out themselves. The sender needs a method to follow-up with the recipient(s), yet one that does not come across as disrespectful, distrusting, annoying, or intrusive. Some recipients will respond to a follow-up email, while others will appreciate a phone call or text reminder. It takes time for the messenger to know which strategy works for each individual recipient.

What a privilege for leaders to live in this era of technology that makes personal and group communication around the world so accessible. Yet this privilege brings its own communication challenges.

I would be glad to know how you are learning to handle communication challenges & opportunities with these “new technologies.”


Spoiled Western Parents

I am a spoiled western parent. This post is not about those other people. Its about me.

When my son had a headache last night, I reached into the cupboard and pulled out some medication for him easily. He popped the (chewable) pill into his mouth, and an hour later (or less), the pain or fever was gone and he felt healthy again. I didn’t have to listen to him scream in pain, groan woefully, or watch him writhe in agony. Add some good food and a good night’s rest to the medication and he was ready to go full speed ahead this morning to school and play with his friends… as if nothing ever happened.

Likewise, if one of our children develops a more significant sickness or breaks a bone, we can simply take them to the outpatient unit at our hospital or make an appointment with one of four local doctors, and… voila: medical attention and a process for healing/repairing the injury or illness. It is shocking, even complaint-worthy (so we think), if we have to wait more than one day for such medical care.

Yes, I am a spoiled Western parent.

cambodia kids.pngOne of the reasons I joyfully serve on the board of ACTION Canada is because we help poor children around the world – in countries like India, Cambodia, the Philippines, Malawi, Zambia, Columbia and others – to have access to the necessities of life. Even more importantly, we help parents gain skills and employment so they can continue to provide these necessities for their family. My friends who serve daily in these ministries provide food, water, housing, as well as medication, education, and other services that we as parents in the Western world take for granted.

I am also proud that our children can give a little bit of their money to support ministries like FirstSteps that provide North Korean children with nutrition they would otherwise never have access to. And when a natural disaster like a hurricane hits a country like Haiti, I am glad an organization like Compassion brings physical care, medical supplies and food to those parents and children in desperate need.

So if like me, you are a spoiled parent, be thankful.
Help your children be thankful.
And together, do something to help those parents and children who are not so fortunate.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:35-36 & 40)

Book Review – America at the Crossroads by George Barna

america-at-the-crossroads-barnaUndoubtedly, George Barna is the most respected evangelical pollster of the last 40 years. His newest work, America at the Crossroads (Baker 2016) surveys various areas of life in the USA and attempts to identify the larger underlying trends that are emerging and will have significant impact on the next few years of life in America. As usual, Barna also identifies the similarities and differences in these same areas of life for Christians.

Obviously, Barna’s research methodology and assessments are solid and accurate. He’s a professional and his expertise and orderly summary of the relevant data is informative. His comparison of “Christian” data to the general population is beneficial and his general analysis is fair. Likewise, he offers valuable generational comparisons, especially in matters relating to faith and spirituality. There were a few places where analyzing subsection of these two comparisons groups would have been informative (ie. generational data and “faith” matters would have been beneficially contrasted in analysis of political data, views on retirement & future outlook).

Interestingly, Barna takes a dramatic change of tone in the final chapter from the informative data presentation & analysis to the preacher, exhorting the reader to consider necessary macro changes through self-evaluation and spiritual re-commitment. It was a challenging, biblical response offered with a pastoral heart.

Although this wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read by George Barna, he provides the reader with accurate and up-to-date information with solid observations.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Thanksgiving 2016

As we enter Thanksgiving weekend here in Canadthanksgiving-graphica, I want to share a few of the immeasurable number of things I am thanking God for today…
(not necessarily in order of priority):

  • Improved health in the last year
    …and good medical doctors who care for me (Dr Reedyk, Dr Prieur & Yvonne Balon)
  • Sarah, my amazing wife…
    …who is also an amazing mother to our children
  • Caleb, Rachel & Anna – our healthy and growing children
  • Two more wonderful international students, Maggie & Phoebe
    …we thought our two previous international students, Hayley and Baylee were great! Actually, we still think they are great and we miss them, but look forward to seeing them at Christmas when they have a break from their studies at UBC.
  • The blessing of having both my parents and my wife’s parents in the same town, influencing their grandchildren in so many ways! (mostly good)
  • Brothers & sisters and brother-in-laws & sister-in-laws and their partners and children (aka wonderful aunts, uncles & cousins for our kiddos)
  • An encouraging church family (PTC) where we see God working in people’s lives consistently
  • A wonderful lead pastor, Dr Tim Miller and his wife Cecile and their family
  • An incredible new school building that are children are able to attend at Prairie Christian Academy
    Even more importantly, superb teachers at PCA
  • The people I am meeting and connecting with in my role as Provost of Missional University
  • The incredible technology we have available that lets us maintain contact with past colleagues and friends and connect face-to-face with new colleagues/friends
  • The opportunity to have taught again at Prairie College and to make ongoing connections with students
  • A great group of couples/friends who have children about our age.
  • The privilege of serving alongside godly brothers & sisters with ACTION Canada and ACTION International.
  • A part-time job that allows me to use my computer & administrative skills serving a pretty amazing realtor. Check out
  • The privilege of living in the greatest country in the world, Canada!

Most importantly, to God (who has blessed me with all these gifts and many more) and has given me salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to forgive my sins, and rose again to defeat death, and empowers me to live and love all people in His Name. Deo Gloria!

Movie Review – Hillsong Let Hope Rise


If you enjoy the Christian worship music of Hillsong (or Hillsong United), you will also find this documentary enjoyable and inspiring. Tracing the origins of the group as the youth worship team led by Joel Houston, son of Hillsong’s Senior Pastor Brian Houston, this program billed as a “theatrical worship experience” gave viewers an inside look at the group’s development. Without overspiritualizing the process, Let Hope Rise shared the journeys of various band members and explored their work together in producing a new album.

For the Hillsong fan, this show was enjoyable to watch and sing along with and also encouraging spiritually. Its not your normal “movie” where one describes plot, character development, acting or the like, so in those respects it satisfies as documentary. For the person who thinks Hillsong (church and worship music) are soft/fluffy or weak theologically, it will not likely change their mind, but it does provide evidence that they seek to be thoughtful and theologically consistent.

The reviewer was provided with a complimentary preview of Hillsong: Let Hope Rise by Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.



Just asking…

I realize as a white male living almost all my life in North America (specifically Canada), I have very rarely experienced any discrimination nor encountered the prejudice others face. My privilege notwithstanding, and at the risk of being accused of racism, I offer the following questions relating to addiction, living location, and education.

  • If your grandfather was an alcoholic and died of liver disease, and your father was an alcoholic who died of liver disease, what would be a reasonable plan for you to follow in relation to alcohol consumption?
  • If your grandfather worked in the Sudbury nickel mines for 30 years but then got laid off when they closed, and your father worked in the mines for 3 years before they closed, would you plan to either get a job in the mines or remain living in Sudbury after you finish high school?
  • If your grandmother quit school after grade 6 in the Philippines and after giving birth to 4 children was seldom able to earn enough money to feed her family, and your mother quit school after grade 8 in the Philippines and after giving birth to three children was seldom able to earn enough to feed your family, even after immigrating to Canada, what would be the reasonable plan for you to follow in relation to quitting school?

I understand and agree systemic injustice happens and organizations need to take steps to restructure themselves to counter the defaults that have created unequal opportunities for some and against others. In asking these questions, I am simply suggesting as multiple individuals make choices, social change will occur more effectively and sustainably than any system can structure.

Just asking… please respond below:

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