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A More Painless Way to Memorize Scripture

student with books and the computer

By Jesse Jost

A red neck hillbilly went to the hardware store frustrated with how dull his handsaw was getting. The store clerk convinced him to try the brand new Husqvarna chain saw, saying it would revolutionize his ability to cut wood. The hillbilly brought it back a few days later and complained, “This thing can’t even cut what my old rusty hand saw could handle.”

The hardware clerk looked over the chain saw, primed it and pulled the starter cord. The engine roared to life. The hillbilly jumped back, startled, and shouted, “What’s that noise!?”

A chainsaw is a powerful tool when you know how to use it. Trying to use it like a handsaw with the engine off and cutting wood will be a terribly painful exercise in futility.

Our brain is a powerful memorizing tool that has incredible potential, but use the memorizing feature incorrectly and memorizing will be more painful than a trip to the dentist.

When the printing press first came out, philosophers worried that our memories would deteriorate now that external memories, books, were more readily available.

Before the printing press, a simple book cost one year’s wages because that is how long it would take for a scribe to write it out by hand. Scrolls were bulky and cumbersome, making it difficult to find certain sections.

With books so scarce and hard to access, people were forced to develop their memories. They knew how to harness the brain’s natural ability to memorize so that they could commit whole books to memory.

Today with smart phones in our pocket and Google, there is practically no need to memorize anything. People no longer even need to remember phone numbers or multiplication tables because it’s quicker to whip out the phone. Because of this, we have almost completely lost the art of how to memorize.

There is much information that is better stored in an accessible external memory, but I believe the case is different with the words of God. It is great that we can load up the YouVersion app and access any passage of scripture with a couple of clicks. But keeping scripture external to our minds and hearts changes our experience of the Word. It keeps it distant and minimizes its transforming effects on our hearts and minds.

Man Shall Not Live on Bread Alone

God designed His words to be digested and mediated on throughout the day. Jesus declared to Satan that God’s word is more important to us than even food itself, that we live by God’s every word. Today with supermarkets and new ways to keep food fresh, all varieties of meats, fruits, and vegetables are more accessible than ever before. But that doesn’t change the fact that you still need to eat and digest the food if you want to benefit from it. You must make the food a literal part of you if you want to grow from it. Continue reading…

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Tips for People Offering and Receiving Health Advice

By Heidi Jost

Knowledge is at our fingertips. This has infused us with a sense of confidence and understanding about health and disease that we actually may not have. I know well the adrenaline rush of online research that causes me to think I’ve found a cause or a cure for someone’s suffering.

While we have advanced greatly from the time when Greek and Roman “doctors” treated all sickness by the four bodily “humours” (fluids) theory, scientific medical understanding still has a long way to go.

It is humbling to say “I don’t know” in the face of suffering. Look at Job of the Bible, and his friends. They sat in silence with him for a week, but after that they couldn’t shut up, offering theory after wrong theory about why Job had experienced such devastating loss. They offered partial truths and diagnoses with a lot of dangerous, false views about God mixed in, and at the end, God told Job to offer sacrifices on their behalf so that He “would not deal with them according to their folly.” Note also that God did not tell Job the cause of or cure for his suffering.

To those who are seeking to help their suffering friend, here are some thoughts to keep in mind: Continue reading…

  • Rebecca

    Heidi, wow. SO good. So good. Thank you for that, in the midst of your lack of spare time and energy!! You and Jesse have graciously dealt with us in our ignorance, and so kindly agreed to educate us. THANK YOU.

    You’re my heroine, sister.

    To the road ahead …
    Rebecca

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My 10 Favourite Books of 2018

by Jesse Jost

I didn’t reach my goal of 65 books finished this year, mostly because I got engrossed in some mammoth tomes on Russian history, and some other large volumes that I haven’t finished yet. But I did make it though 46 books. Here are my ten favourite reads with commentary. Below you will find the 10 that just missed making the top 10. It was a tough choice and anyone of these could have easily been included. They were all really good and highly recommended. Below that you will find the rest of the list. Feel free to look me up on goodreads to see my ratings and reviews of all of these books. What was your favourite read?

#10 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

by Jordan B. Peterson,
Very thoughtful and insightful book. Each chapter gave me something to mull over and challenge me in some way. The writing style won’t be to everyone’s liking but, the ideas explored are more than worth the effort!

#9 The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives

by Dallas Willard

I found this book so thought provoking and challenging. Really made me ponder why there is so little real life change in the church, why so little spiritual formation. A great introduction to the need for spiritual disciplines in the life of the disciple and how they work. There is a difference between trying and training. If you try to run a marathon, you will fail unless you first train. You will not succeed in in “trying” to respond in a Christ-like way, unless you, through the spiritual disciplines “train” to be daily abiding in Christ. Much to think about, and to apply. I think it is time to take the spiritual disciplines more seriously then I have in the past Continue reading…

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2018 Christmas Letter: A Letter to Me

Dear Jesse, snuggling with your beautiful wife on the couch in the last hours of 2017:

Hello from future Jesse, writing at the tail end of 2018. Once you’re over the shock of hearing from me, I’ll bet you have lots of questions. I’m sorry I can’t tell you everything, but I can reassure you that everyone in your immediate and extended family is still alive. Enjoy your dog Tirzah every chance you get, though. You’ll have to deal with an unexpected goodbye later this year.

Yes, you still only have five kids; Heidi isn’t expecting yet, but we’re working on that.

I’m sorry to report that even though right now you are so excited about your new diet principles, and expect to be a lean athletic individual by year’s end, you’re not. In fact, you’ve gained 5 pounds. Oh well, maybe next year’s Jesse will finally bring happy news in that department. We can always dream….

I can report that you have an incredible year waiting for you and I’m so excited for you to enjoy it! After the painful and difficult 2017 you had with medical anxieties and dealing with Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, 2018 will be refreshingly smooth and free from tragedy. Sure, you will face diabetes scares and end up in the emergency room once because of a stomach bug that Elijah will get. And even though you’ll fall asleep many nights worried about whether Elijah will make it through the night, I can assure you, he will wake up with energy and love for life every morning, so sleep well. Continue reading…

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9 Causes of Depression

By Jesse Jost

Johann Hari is someone who has struggled with extreme depression and was on antidepressants for 12 years. In his insightful book “Lost Connections,” he questions the common story peddled by many in the drug industry. For years he believed that depression was caused by a broken brain – a chemical imbalance – and the way to fix it was through pills that altered the brain chemistry. After years of pills that only caused a temporary upswing in mood, followed by years of nasty physical side effects, Johann wanted to take a closer look at the causes and remedies for depression. He found that depression has many causes other than simply biology. There are psychological and sociological causes as well. Rather than a mere imbalance in the brain, depression is mental and emotional pain that is a natural response to a broken world.

Here is my summary of the 9 causes of depression that Johann discovered.

  1. Disconnection from meaningful work

Some depression can be caused by work that makes people feel they have no control over their roles or position and that their opinions don’t matter. Other job factors that lead to depression include a perpetual sense that you are falling behind and the work keeps piling up no matter how hard you try. Also jobs that have a low reward to effort ratio make a person feel trapped, i.e. hard work that is unnoticed and under appreciated.

      2.Disconnection from other people

Loneliness, a sense that you are alone, that you are not part of a group that protects and values you, can play a large role in depression. The scary thing is that loneliness snowballs, and causes people to “shut down socially and be more suspicious…You become hypervigilant. You start to take offense where none was intended, and be afraid of strangers. You start to be afraid of the very thing you need most.” We all need to feel like we belong, that we have people who will listen and accept us, and that we play a valuable role in their lives as well.

  1. Disconnection from meaningful values

We are motivated by two categories of motivations. One is “extrinsic” motivation. We will do something we’d rather not do, so that we will get something that we do want. For example, we will take a job we hate so we have money to pay the bills, do a painful workout so we can have a better body, etc. The other type of motivation is “intrinsic” motivation. We do something just for the sheer pleasure of it, or the action matches our convictions so we want to do it regardless of attention or reward. Johann argues that the more your day is filled with time spent doing only the things that are extrinsically motivated, the more likely you’ll spiral into depression. Johann also believes that our culture places too much significance on wealth, status, and material goods, so that people feel the acquisition of these things is what will make them happy. But people end up living years of drudgery, doing the things they hate, trying to chase the hollow dream. Continue reading…

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The most helpful Type 1 diabetes care tips we’ve learned so far

By Jesse Jost

Our world was turned upside down last August when our 5 year old son Elijah almost died from undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes care involves a huge learning curve. At first the emotions are so overwhelming it’s hard to focus on even the basics. But gradually you can think again and try to sort through the mountain of information. This is a list of tips and info that has really been helpful to us in this first part of the journey. We’re only 11 months in so I’m not sharing this because I think we’re experts – diabetes does a good job of making sure that never happens! I only share because our experience might be useful to someone else.

Of course, diabetes is different for everyone, so trust the advice of your endocrinologist.

The Law of Small Numbers

With diabetes you constantly walk between two dangers: the life-threatening low, and the miserably dangerous high. You have one factor that plummets your blood glucose (BG) – Insulin. And one that rockets your BG : Carbs. The goal is keeping them in balance.

The challenge is all the guesswork: Not always knowing how many carbs are in the food, what the body’s current insulin ratio is, how much the carbs will be burned off by exercise or blocked due to illness.

With so many error factors that multiply exponentially as you increase the carbs or dose of insulin, it makes sense to us to try to keep the carbs and insulin numbers as low as possible. The greater the error in calculation the greater the risk of a stubborn low, or a health-threatening high.

Whenever possible we try to keep carbs at minimum without sacrificing good flavour and eating enjoyment. Saying no to sugary treats is difficult sometimes (understatement alert! It tears your heart out to have to say no to your little guy!) But we try to remember that being high or having sugars drop like a rock would be even more unfair to Elijah. Stable BG is true quality of life.

Low carb is not the only way, however. Many families are wizards with insulin, and have figured out how to achieve stable sugars without a change in diet. Find what works for you. Continue reading…

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Guest Review of “Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices”

 

(A Note From Jesse Jost)

I recently read Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. This book is over 10 years old but has had a large impact in areas of the church, especially with those disgruntled with their church or those seeking more from their church.

The church as a whole is in need of revival (as it always is). Tradition often produces ideas and practices that become accepted and promoted without people stopping to consider if these ideas are supported in scripture. In the 1500s, the visible, institutional church had become so corrupted and the spiritual life was squelched by tradition and human ambition. Martin Luther and many other reformers took a bold stand for truth and left the institutional church, and, in many cases, gave their lives to pursue the rediscovery of church as they believed it was revealed in Scripture.

Five hundred years later the church has taken thousands of different forms, and any given Sunday you will encounter many different expressions of what Christians believe worship and fellowship should be. Many feel that the Protestant church has again strayed from the biblical ideal and has decayed into a spiritually dead institution, with church members merely going through lifeless rituals. Again, thousands are leaving the “institutional church” in search of something “organic” and uncluttered by tradition.

People are forming house churches, or even exploring more radical ideas of how Christ’s body should assemble. I was a part of a house church for eighteen years; the ideas Viola expresses in this book shaped many of our practices. I loved being a part of that group and was an avid apologist for doing church face-to-face in a circle, without paid clergy, bulletins, Sunday school, budgets, or elections.

In the last couple of years, we felt called to serve in a more traditional small town Evangelical Free church that has a paid pastor, beautiful building, Sunday school, budgets and annual meetings. We love our current church as well. Being actively involved in both styles of church has given us a front row seat to the strengths and weakness of both approaches.

I’m still on a journey and forming my own ideas about what Church should look like. I plan to write more, but for now I can say I appreciate many of the authors’ concerns about lack of spiritual life in many modern churches. There are serious problems in the church such as pastor burnout and passivity among members. But I’ve also seen, as many who have left the institutional church have found out, that getting rid of pastor, building, budgets, and bulletins, does not change the sin nature or the people problem.

A change of methods does not change the heart. There is no substitute for spiritual regeneration, humility, kindness, forgiveness, and abiding in the Vine and letting His Word change us. If our Christianity is real from Monday to Saturday, then Sunday can be enriching and Christ-exalting in many different forms, including one that has a paid pastor and building.

My long-time friend Jacob Denhollander (who is married to Rachael Denhollander, one of Times magazine’s 100 most influential people), heard I read this book recently and sent me the review he wrote a couple years ago. I enjoyed it so much and found it so insightful, not just for those who have read the book, but for the church conversation in general. He gave me permission to share it here. Fair warning: Jacob’s a PhD student, so you will find the writing far more intelligent than what you normally read on this blog. Enjoy!

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Pagan Christianity

A Book Review 

by Jacob Jonathan Denhollander

April 10, 2015

Barna, George, and Viola, Frank, Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Barna Books, 2008. 295 pp.

Introduction

One of the surprise Christian bestsellers in recent years is a book entitled, Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. In this revised and expanded version, noted Christian pollster George Barna joins original author Frank Viola as co-author. The authors set out to examine how the practices of modern institutional Christianity developed and compare those practices against the example of first century Christian practices. This review will focus primarily on chapters 4 & 5, which deal with the place of the sermon and the role of the pastor, respectively. More than any others, these two chapters get to the heart of Viola and Barna’s objections to ‘institutional Christianity’. This more focused approach has been chosen because it will allow for a deeper examination of the claims and methodology used in those chapters, rather than lightly touching on the contents of each chapter. The contents of these two chapters will be summarized, and then evaluated. Both positive claims (What church should look like) and negative claims (What church should not look like) will be evaluated. In addition, the methodology of the authors will be briefly discussed. Continue reading…

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The Marvelous Life of the Modern Peasant vs King Louis XIV

By Jesse Jost

We are exposed to thousands of commercials and advertisements daily, each with the subtle and colourful message that we are missing something, that our life isn’t as good as it could be. These ads train us to focus on what we don’t have, and bemoan our lack, rather than live in awe of the wonders of our modern age.

We have so quickly forgotten what life was like for those who came before us. Take, for example, the life of one of the most powerful and wealthy men who lived during the last part of the 1600s: King Louis XIV. As the powerful ruler of the French empire, he had access to quality of life that peasants in his day could barely fathom. Yet, as a modern Canadian rural peasant, I have access to quality of life that would make Louis shake his head in wonder.

Louis could hire world class musicians to occasionally perform a concert, but I, with a few clicks, can bring crystal clear recordings of any type or genre, of the world’s greatest performers from the last seventy years into our house, car, or even on outdoor runs, and switch between songs effortlessly without waiting for musicians to travel or set up.

Louis could hire a drama troupe to perform plays, but I have access thousands of movies that would have dazzled Louis with the quality of musical score, cinematography, acting, and special effects, and I can watch them all in the security and comfort of my heated living room, without worrying about an assassin’s bullet.

The King of France could hire talented chefs who could prepare freshly butchered meats and rare delicacies, and because of his great wealth could occasionally enjoy fruits and vegetables that ordinary people had only heard about. I, on the other hand, can visit a supermarket and on my “below the poverty line” income can purchase any type of meat or fresh fruit year round, and stock up on well-preserved jams, breads, pastas, rice, and an unbelievable array of sauces, spices, and desserts. And I can prepare them on a well-regulated electric stove, and pull prepared meats anytime of the year from our freezer that I can thaw in a few minutes in a microwave, and store the left overs in our fridge that will keep them fresh for days. I have access to recipes and ingredients from all over the world with clear and simple instructions on how to prepare them with all of the conveniences of the modern kitchen. Continue reading…

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In Defense of Stuff

By Heidi Jost

I can’t believe I’m writing this: I, who have painted and stalked the war path against STUFF.

I love, love, love pictures of sparse, white expanses framing single chairs with well-draped blankets. I can feel my soul rise and float peacefully while I meditate on these pictures. My white walls are more a grunge shade with interesting “bumps and dents” texture. My blankets are literally throw blankets… all over the floor. Single chairs are non-options in this house of seven. When we watch a movie or read a story, we need two couches. Golly, my floating soul of peace hates being yanked down by these reality checks.

I salivate over blog posts by other moms about how much more streamlined their lives are after they swept a lot of material possessions out the door. I have armed myself with the argument “less is more,” wielding it like a righteous torch in the cluttered darkness.

Our North American experience of SO. MUCH. STUFF. is unprecedented in history. Which means basically nothing because every era of history has something in it that has, to some degree, never been known or done before. So like everybody else who’s ever lived, we are dealing with new challenges here. Let me ask a couple of questions to wade through the material pileup.

  1. Are things good or bad?

I can answer this the complicated way by pointing out various philosophies that have branded physical, material things as evil or dark, and spiritual things as good or light. I can casually toss some polysyllables your way to help you see that this idea of things being the enemy of the greater good is really not new. (And also, to preen my feathers of knowledge. All two of them.) Manichaeanism, Docetism, Gnosticism, Marcionism. A bunch of people have held these ideas over the years in order to make sense of our messy world. Continue reading…

  • Carl Gray

    Wow, that was just marvelous and so well though out. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing this with us. This discussion is one I have had with so many families and it usually comes down on the side of, “stuff is bad; we have too much; peace comes with having nothing, so we’re getting rid of stuff, even stuff certain children care deeply for, maybe then the attitudes or our children will change.”

    I have pleaded with parents to see past the “stuff” and focus on the attitudes about the stuff. The children may be fighting over toys, so is the solution to get rid of the toy? Perhaps temporarily, to help them think about it for awhile. But what you really need to deal with is the heart attitude. If they have no toys to fight over, that would be good, right? Well, except that then God would have no opportunity to teach them how to deal with their possessions wisely, learning to enjoy the good gifts and use them for good.

    We tend to focus on anything but the person as the source of the problem, when the real problem is right there in those little hearts and the stuff is the perfect object lesson for dealing with that. Then there is the attitude of the parents. Mom feels “crowded” because the living room is filled with stuff, the Lego space ship which keeps losing pieces to step on, books scattered about, play dress-up clothes, homemade swords, etc. Then things finally go over the top when the children all work together to build a fort out of dining room chairs and blankets, which is well outfitted with all the things they can think of to go inside. Dad comes home and can’t even get to his favorite easy chair to read or watch TV and so he gets grumpy. So the parents grumble at the kids to clean up the mess. Now who has the attitude problem?

    I have seen this scenario play out so many times and it hurts me to see the bad attitudes on both sides, simply because the adults have forgotten the joys of being a child, the spontaneous, creative play that is helping to prepare them for when “playing house” will no longer be play, but the real thing. It hurts my heart to see parents who covet minimalism so much that they let it get in the way of a happy home.

    My home was never what you would call tidy. In fact, to this day my childhood home is so filled with enough “stuff” to drive a Shaker into an OCD fit. It looks nothing like the modern homes with tidy white walls with nothing on them but a few choice framed family photos, tastefully decorated with a few items on shelves or end tables so as to not look too sparse. Our home has rows and rows of bookshelves in every room, none too tidy because books are always circulating. It has an eclectic variety of items on the walls from photos to paintings, wood burned scripture plaques made in VBS 40+ years ago, such that barely a square foot of wall space can be seen. We have a wasp’s nest hanging from a corner (ref. Wives and Daughters). We have containers of interesting and pretty rocks collected over 50 years, enough antique glassware covering every horizontal surface to resemble a second-hand shop.

    Although the quantity of “stuff” has increased over the years, this is largely the way it was when we were children and we came to love and cherish our home of stuff because everything in it, though perhaps having no intrinsic practical purpose, had some connection to people, relationships, memorable events (I can remember finding the at pretty quartz crystal or fool’s gold on vacation in British Columbia or rescuing the wasp’s nest from the woods). The books were filled with things to learn or just to enjoy. The antique glassware adorned the room like jewelry and made us feel “rich” compared to our friends whose homes contained only things that served some practical purpose. I am grateful for a very wise mother who, although she too felt “crowded” in our small rooms, recognized that developing relationships, not only with her children but with friends and neighbors who felt free to drop in any time because that’s what our home was about, and through those relationships teaching Christlike character and attitudes.

    As you can tell, this is something very near and dear to my heart. So I very much appreciate your willingness to be honest and recognize this trend toward heartless minimalism that is hurting relationships and covering up for the real problems that we all have when we cling to strongly to our “things.” Sorry to take over your blog with a blog of my own, but this is a topic that I feel very strongly about and couldn’t stop writing about my thoughts once I got going. Hopefully it will provide further food for thought.

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Notes from Crucial Conversations

By Jesse Jost

I just finished reading “Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high” By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, and Al Switzer. The book was a wise and practical read on learning how to have conversations that reflect the love-fuelled dialogue the apostle Paul pleads with the church to have.

I was so impacted, convicted, and inspired by the book, that I unrealistically want everyone to read it. Of course hardly anybody has the time to read or follow up on book suggestions, so I took the time to distil the principles in the book into an article format.

I hope this short piece inspires you to buy the book for yourself, but more importantly, helps transforms your ability to speak the truth in love, with wisdom and compassion. 

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A crucial conversation = when emotions become involved and the outcome of the conversation will have an impact on direction or quality of life. Your ability or inability to handle these types of conversations will have a tremendous effect on the quality of your relationships and success at work or in your organization.

When emotions run high, blood is directed away from our higher brain functions and toward our fight or flight system. As emotions rise, we tend to fall back on to habits of silence or violence, becoming less mentally equipped to handle the complex issues before us.

The goal of healthy dialogue is the free exchange of information, opinions and feelings. This is only achievable when trust is earned through creating a safe environment. Feeling safe is absolutely critical.

Here are 7 conversation skills you can develop to navigate crucial conversations effectively. Continue reading…

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