Converge Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:39:27 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 10 Entrepreneurial Traits Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:13:44 +0000 10 Entrepreneurial Traits by Grayson Bain

Leadership Jazz author Max DePree once said, “The greatest thing is, at any moment, to be willing to give up...

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10 Entrepreneurial Traits by Grayson Bain

Leadership Jazz author Max DePree once said, “The greatest thing is, at any moment, to be willing to give up who we are in order to become all that we can be.” This sentiment is one that many self-starters are all too familiar with. Grayson Bain knows this first hand. With a bit elbow grease and a lot of drive, he turned a humble Vancouver bike and hardware shop into Canada’s most prestigious bicycle manufacturing firm, Rocky Mountain Bicycles. Although there is no roadmap for guaranteed success, Bain shares some of the entrepreneurial traits that have both helped him and hurt him in business.

5 Traits that led to my success

1. I didn’t settle with mediocrity

I’ve never liked doing business in the traditional way, so when my dad bought the bike shop in the ’70s I found I really didn’t want to “mind the store” as he asked me to. Instead I wanted to shake up the whole retail bicycle industry. We started to import bike parts from Europe that most riders in Vancouver had never seen.

2. I am a Contrarian

I thought that the best way to make a bike that could be tough enough to take on the West Coast mountains was not by conforming to the present 10-speed skinny-tire trends. Instead of working through the present policies that were applied to retail stores by the distributors, I figured the regulations just did not have to apply to us. My team and I ended up building the first mountain bike in Canada. Sometimes breaking the rules is how new opportunities open up.

3. I am Thrifty 

I have a lifelong record of resisting expenditures, keeping overheads low and allowing room for expansion in profits to grow the business. I live by this quote from John Wesley: “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

4. I took risks

Risks are the norm for most start-ups; unfortunately I was not born with guts. I went to business school and read lots of books to learn how to do it but there’s no manual.  Risk in a business is plotting a course between the “known” unknowns, and the really scary unknowns.

5. I liked company

Entrepreneurs who fly solo make me nervous. The combined skill-sets of two or three founders make a recipe for success, but finding the right partners is key. Often my partners were long-time friends, and others were employees I hired. I have had some relationships that did not work initially but then blossomed, and others that started sweetly but ended up toxic. But ultimately, partners in business are very valuable.

5 Traits that led to my disasters

1. I doubt myself too often

Even after my 30+ years of success I question how people perceive me and underestimate what I am able to do.  Doubt stops me from constructing and creating new ventures. Doubt hinders me from confidently speaking and acting out of the wisdom I have acquired.

2. I get bored

I get excited about bright and shiny new projects — usually before their time. There was nothing wrong with doing new things, but not when it was at the cost of running all the activities of a $15 million company. It’s easy to neglect day-to-day operations when you’re more excited about dreaming up new ideas that customers will love. In a leadership role, however, I need to give my time and energy to both.

3. I can be too naive

When I see a way to help, I usually offer to do so — even when that means helping my competitors. I feel good about helping other companies, but this has led me to give away free intellectual property.  On more than one occasion in the bicycle business, others have finished — and profited from — what I had started.

4.  I wanted to prove people wrong

I was picked on and maybe even bullied during all five years of high school, and my grade 12 academic counsellor summed up those years of torment with these words: “Bain, you’ll never amount to much.”  Maybe he had just had a bad day, or maybe I didn’t answer his questions about my aspirations,  but I vowed to prove him wrong. Unfortunately, this vow led me to crave success — even at the cost of things that should matter more.

5. I Put work first 

I have a photo of my wife’s extended family displayed in our home, and of our 40 or so relatives, I am the only one missing. I was called away to a public relations photo shoot in Whistler Village and missed the opportunity to be in my own family’s photo.  My wife’s father passed away later that year, and that photo reminds me how foolish I was to miss that very important day.

Photo by (Flickr CC): 74-ant-ma

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Why I’m giving up on my dream Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:00:14 +0000 Why I’m giving up on my dream by Julia Feeser

A few years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever live in New York City, my answer...

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Why I’m giving up on my dream by Julia Feeser

A few years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever live in New York City, my answer would have been a confident, “Yes!”

I could easily imagine myself walking the streets of New York City, bundled up in my trendy pea coat, toting an equally trendy coffee, and rushing in and out of the subway in a frenzy of busy sophistication. I would be young, successful, and living the dream.

I have since visited New York City – twice. If you asked me the same question now, I could give you a semi-confident, “No.”

I love being able to drive my car at my leisure through familiar streets and back roads. I love being able to see the sky in all directions. I love places that are not bursting with people, but instead have a crowded yet cozy charm. I love living in a roomy house with a backyard.

New York City does not offer any of these things. Its stressful atmosphere of never-ending people and tourists, expensive studio apartments, and the crushing realization that no, I will never have the wardrobe or the legs of Serena van der Woodsen, doesn’t entice me the way it once did. I wish I were the girl who found this lifestyle appealing. I really do. I wish I could channel my inner Bohemian, itching to burst out and take up smoking and wear ripped pantyhose and go live out my days in the East Village drinking cheap wine and writing eloquent metaphors about the Brooklyn Bridge.

I wish I was that cool. But I’m not.*

I had a similar experience last January. Three friends and I decided to travel around Europe for two weeks. In one week we visited London, Paris, and Belfast. I then stayed in Belfast for a week before traveling 36 hours by myself to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I was promptly driven to the jungle to live in a hut for the next seven days.**

Prior to this traveling experience, I had always pictured myself as the travelling type.

Of course I was carefree and wild enough to backpack around Italy by myself for a month. Obviously I could move to New Zealand and work on a sheep farm for six months, if I wanted to. Naturally I could be in any non-English speaking country and feel perfectly at ease because I was just that awesome.

But you know what happens when you travel to other countries? You actually have to get there. Meaning you may have to be on three different planes for nine or more hours at a time. You’re going to have to think about changing currency in every new country, and finding directions from signs in a language you can’t read. You may have to walk everywhere because you can’t afford a cab, and you probably will be lugging an 80-pound backpack while you do that. If you’re going from place to place very quickly, you will more than likely be consumed with the worry of getting to the airport or the train station or the next hostel on time.

Travelling is thrilling, and it is a beautiful challenge. And in my case I was stressed almost the entire time. I missed my bed. I missed my boyfriend. I missed wearing clean clothes. I missed not feeling so out of place everywhere I went. I missed not feeling stupid every time I opened my mouth to order something.

Kids, it builds character to feel out of place and miss things. Really. Everyone should travel for the sole purpose of feeling uncomfortable and knowing how to be strong and thrive anyway. Plus, I mean, you get to experience amazing places. But this trip made me realize something about myself: I’m not sure the ultra-cool world travelling type. And that sort of bums me out.

Just like my New York alter ego, I really want to be this girl. I want to be the girl who can live out of one giant backpack for six months and travel alone to all seven continents, meeting hundreds of new people and existing perfectly fine without seeing her family or friends or her nail polish collection. I want to be this girl. But I’m not.

I’m giving up on these dreams of who I thought I was or wanted to be. And here’s why. Those dreams won’t actually make me happy! I know this because I’ve tasted what they could be and found myself wishing for something different every time.

I can dream about living in New York City and soaking in the Manhattan lifestyle, and I can dream about living in the jungles of Sumatra for six months observing the life of orangutans. But while those dreams sound exciting, I don’t believe anymore they actually fit who I am. The person I am is adventurous, spontaneous, and bold. I’m great at meeting new people and challenging myself and doing brand new things that scare me. I am also an introvert, an avid lover of my bed, a homebody, and someone who thrives off of stability and the presence of familiar, well-known people.

I’m giving up on my dreams because I’m learning which ones I will actually love, based on who I am and what truly gives me life. The dreams I plan to pursue are ones that will push me out of my comfort zone, but ultimately nourish the very things that make me me, rather than an ideal of someone I’m not.

Through trying out the dreams I thought I wanted I’ve discovered what will more likely make me happy. I suppose that’s both the tension and the beauty of discovering who we are and what we want to do with our lives. We must be willing to face the unknown and the possibility of learning more about ourselves, in order to find out what we will do next.

I wouldn’t trade these experiences — or many others that have helped me discover what I actually want to do — for anything. Trying out my dreams was half the fun. Now it’s time to go try out some new ones.

*Smoking is not cool, kids. Neither are ripped pantyhose. If you’re wearing ripped pantyhose, cut it out. But for the purposes of my New York City alter ego, they’re fitting.
**My time spent in Thailand was one of the most remarkable and impactful weeks of my life.

Photo by (Flickr CC): Mario Mancuso

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What does it mean to love your neighbour? Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:00:51 +0000 What does it mean to love your neighbour? by Brett McCracken

‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He...

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What does it mean to love your neighbour? by Brett McCracken

‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’ (Luke 10:36-37)

For many of the Jews in Jesus’ day, one of the most unexpected (and unwelcome) aspects of the message Jesus preached was how much he emphasized loving one’s enemies. After centuries of being conquered, exiled, beaten, battered, and ruled by one foreign regime after another, Jews were understandably hopeful that the promised Messiah would come with an iron rod to dash Israel’s enemies to pieces “like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).

But Jesus turned that expectation on its head by emphasizing — at least in the “now” part of the “now and not yet” kingdom — love and compassion for all people: neighbours, society’s exiles, the unlovable, the “least of these” (Matt. 25:45), and even the enemies who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a classic example of Jesus turning the Jewish religious establishment on its head and challenging his followers to care about love as much as they care about law keeping. When Jesus tells a story where a Samaritan is the hero and a model of neighbourly love to be emulated (“go and do likewise…”), he is presenting a difficult call to His Jewish listeners because Jews and Samaritans were enemies. They hated each other.

To truly follow Jesus means we must love the unlovable.

The “go and do likewise” call at the end of the parable applies to anyone who seeks to be a disciple of Christ. Loving my neighbour as myself is tough because my “neighbour” doesn’t only include my friends, family and the nice, attractive people who are easy to love. It also includes the difficult, smelly, insufferable people I might see as enemies. To love like Christ is to love universally and unconditionally. And that’s costly. In the particular case of the Jews and the Samaritans, it’s costly because it rebukes any hint of racism or ethnocentrism.

Earlier this year at a prayer service in my church, a pastor — who also happens to be an Iraq war veteran — led the congregation in prayer for all those affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria: Christians, Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, the military forces, and anyone else being impacted by the bloodshed and terror happening there. But we also spent concentrated time praying specifically for ISIS. We prayed for them because in spite of their evil tactics — their crucifixions and rapes and beheadings of innocents — they are not beyond the bounds of the love and grace of God.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:44).

What would it look if Christians led the way in this sort of love? Instead of screaming at our enemies on Twitter, what if we blessed them? Whenever the culture incites hate and division, whether in Ferguson or Gaza or on cable news, what if Christians led the charge for reconciliation? What if Christians became known as the most radical of all lovers, embracing both the oppressed and the oppressor, the terrorized and the terrorist, enveloping all with the grace of God?

Grace doesn’t mean we downplay the gravity of sin, of course. God is a jealous lover and cares about justice; when Jesus returns, that longed-for “iron rod” rule will vanquish all evil, once and for all (Revelation 2:27). The knife-wielding, masked jihadists of ISIS will be held to account, as will the tax-evading Wall Street tycoons and the unrepentant, pharisaical churchgoers.

But until then the justice we serve must be grounded in and driven by generous love and the widest-possible understanding of who is our “neighbour.”

Originally published in Issue 20 of Converge Magazine.

Photo (Flickr CC) by reway2007.

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How far is too far? Wed, 25 Feb 2015 12:00:36 +0000 How far is too far? by Hannah Collins

I am seeing someone. If you know my dating history, this statement in and of itself is quite an accomplishment. We...

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How far is too far? by Hannah Collins

I am seeing someone. If you know my dating history, this statement in and of itself is quite an accomplishment. We met at a coffee shop, and he’s charming, spontaneous, and significantly smarter than me.

Like any “good” Christian couple we decided on setting physical boundaries early on in our relationship. When we asked the question, “how far is too far?” we settled in on some pretty simple dos and don’ts.

Though we had the best of intentions, our plan simply didn’t work. We had the rules in place, we reviewed them often, but we had a hard time following through. Suffice it to say, I learned that my heart is deceitful above all else, in very tangible ways: I continually circumvented the rules and blurred the lines.

This failure left both of us feeling empty and guilty. We were ashamed at our lack of resolve and frustrated that we couldn’t get it together; we weren’t being good Christians.

How far was too far? Well, we were seeing just how far we could go while still holding our heads high on Sunday mornings. As long as we checked certain boxes and didn’t check others, then we were good to go. Through past experience, I can attest to the fact that having sex outside of marriage isn’t the only way to leave someone broken and messed up. Emotional and spiritual lines can be crossed without ever taking off clothes. Simply creating a system of rules and regulations set us up for feelings of shame and self-righteousness: shame because we broke our rules, and self-righteousness because our identity was in them.

In a moment of divine clarity I realized that, like my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my boyfriend shouldn’t be defined by rules; but it’s just that — a relationship. Instead of being consumed with whether we’ve crossed the line, we have decided that our main goal should be to leave each other in a better spiritual condition than when we found each other. It’s less about rules and more about relationship. Isn’t that what we’ve heard time and time again concerning our Christian walk? Our focus shouldn’t just be on avoidance of various sins; it should be on being present with Christ. So why do we treat our interpersonal relationships with God’s creation any differently? I’m realizing that I need to be thinking less about my performance and more about His presence, less about being right and more about being with.

So what does this all look like for me? As a Christian in a dating relationship, leaving a guy in better shape than when our hearts first met means leaving him more conformed to the image of Christ. When (or if) we part ways, he should look more like Jesus, sound more like Jesus, be more like Jesus. This is my new goal.

These days, instead of stressing out about where our hands are, we’re more concerned about where our hearts are. As a result, the relationship feels freer. There’s a lot of honest communication, a seeking of grace, and a fierce commitment to not contribute to each other’s sexual brokenness. It means being very intentional and putting in more effort rather than taking the easy way out.

And the most beautiful thing in all this is that I feel my relationship with Christ has grown deeper and fuller through the struggle.


 Photo by (Flickr CC): Kevin Cortopassi


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Why bother with Lent? Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:00:00 +0000 Why bother with Lent? by Shannon Gianotti

Like many non-denominational, evangelical church kids, I grew up on Christmas, Easter, and stranger-danger. Lent was one of the strangers....

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Why bother with Lent? by Shannon Gianotti

Like many non-denominational, evangelical church kids, I grew up on Christmas, Easter, and stranger-danger. Lent was one of the strangers. Most years, Resurrection Sunday would slip in and out of my world unannounced, without even a Good Friday service to herald its coming. Lent, in short, felt too Catholic for my Protestant roots — roots that sorted expressions of devotion and worship into distinctly spiritual vs. physical categories. Of course, giving up chocolate for 40 days before Easter defied all such sorting.

Over the last several years, though, I’ve started to question my roots, and whether the Bible actually teaches us to divide up the spiritual and physical aspects of our faith. I’m questioning whether there might be a place for Lent after all.

To start, I think the Bible is packed with physicality. Genesis records the story of past creation, a command to work and subdue the land, and an invitation to eat fruit from the Garden of Eden. At the backend, Revelation tells us the story of a new heaven and new earth, the Tree of Life, and an invitation to feast with Jesus. Our spiritual story, both now and in the future, is also a material one.

Thinking more specifically of Jesus, the mind-blowing reality of Easter is not just that God forgives our sins, but how He accomplished the right to do it: through physical torture and suffocation on a cross. The son of God traded his pain-free, bliss-filled, limitless power, and in exchange he opted for blood, sweat, and torn flesh — dying suspended from a spike in each wrist. Easter compels us to worship, not just because of what Jesus accomplished spiritually, but because that spiritual victory was won in a profoundly physical way we can relate to.

Lent connects me — in a small, but tangible way — to the physicality of Easter. The discomforts of Lent — whether skipping coffee in the morning, driving to work in silence, or fasting once a week — can offer connection points to Jesus’ incarnation and suffering. In denying ourselves, or in my case, introducing a new discipline into my schedule, we gain a sensory experience that can help us relate to Jesus’ experience as the self-denying suffering servant. Practicing Lent can provide the time and space to contemplate how our God became a human to redeem our humanity.

We humans are prone to inertia. Our instant-access, technology driven, at-your-fingertips culture feeds into this. Practicing Lent is a way to counter this tendency.  In looking forward to the cross and empty tomb, we will position ourselves to understand more deeply God’s redemptive purpose in the world — not just to save souls, but also (according to Romans 8:19-21) to redeem all of physical creation.

This Lent I’m taking advantage of the fact that I am embodied — as much body as I am soul, and I’m appreciating the fact that the two are inseparably linked. I’ve spent a lot of my Christian life embracing a spiritual/physical dichotomy, missing the fact that God’s spiritual work is intensely material — from creation to curse, from incarnation to ascension, from resurrection to the new heaven and the new earth.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Víctor Nuño


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Why I mentor Mon, 23 Feb 2015 12:00:15 +0000 Why I mentor by Natalie Floyd

  Some days, we all need to pause, take a step back, and view the bigger picture in order to...

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Why I mentor by Natalie Floyd


Some days, we all need to pause, take a step back, and view the bigger picture in order to see the world just a little more clearly. I have a few friends who help me do that. One is in the fourth grade. The other two are 10 and 14.

When I was a college sophomore, I signed up to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. At the time, I was a theatre major minoring in pranking and general shenanigans. But the frazzled social worker at the organization didn’t ask too many questions; instead, she slid a brochure across the desk, and told me I could start meeting my new little sister at her school during lunch.

A year later, when we graduated to after school hangouts, she and I would troll the aisles of Wal-Mart, pointing out all the things we would buy if we had money, or visit the local pet shop to play with the puppies. I let her pick out the movie for our first slumber party, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which resulted in a really great night’s sleep for both of us (not).

Clearly, I was really good at this big sister thing.

For three years, I’d finish up class and head to my little sister’s house, loud and filled with smoke from the kitchen where her mom baked fresh tortillas and papusas. Her family only spoke Spanish, which was perfect since I was studying French and grew up in south Alabama. Somehow, we bonded over time as I made phone calls to the school, interpreted bills that arrived in the mail, and gave rides to the social worker or doctor’s office.

They gave me an honest glimpse into the world of a Salvadorian family doing their best to adjust to life in a warm but entirely foreign culture.

Fast forward a few years. I was winding up a smoky stairwell in a corner of Southeast DC that I’d spent my early adulthood entirely avoiding. It was the kind of neighbourhood you don’t tell your mom you’re visiting until after the fact. I felt more than a little aware of my sparkly cardigan and snakeskin purse as I made my way through a housing complex where residents have to earn less than $7,000 a year to qualify to live there.

I looked around at the cracked walls, the bugs, and the mattresses on the floor and realized I’d never spent much time in places like this before. But standing next to me was my new little sister. Her family greeted me with a warm smile and an open door into their home. We laughed when we realized that our sisters shared the same name. And that was it. We were on the same team. We were each other’s people.

The highlight of the next two years was my friendship with this teenaged girl and her family. We passed the seasons side-by-side, trick or treating on Capitol Hill, shopping for new school clothes, sharing giant chocolate chip cookies from our favourite corner cafe, celebrating birthdays and holidays and average Saturday mornings. When I made the move from DC to Atlanta, the only time I cried was when I broke the news to her and her younger sister.

It took a few months to settle into life in a new city, but it wasn’t long before the itch to mentor began to surface. These days, I spend many of my Saturdays hanging out with one of the sweetest fourth graders you’ll ever meet. She’s my walking buddy on the BeltLine trail that winds through Atlanta, and I’m her sidekick to go meet Santa. I make her tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and she makes me homemade jewelry. She knows my friends by name, and I love her family. We share whatever we have with each other, even if it’s just a stick of chewing gum.

Over and over, she has helped nudge my head upwards when I get a little too self-focused (which inevitably happens a LOT when you’re in your 20s). She continually reminds me to be kind, to be generous, to be joyful. She makes those things look easy. I can’t wait to see the woman she’s going to grow into, and I feel so privileged to have a seat at the table in her life.

When I started out as a big sister when I was 19, I didn’t have any concept of what that might look like over time. I’m sure that in the back of my mind, I thought I was doing a favour for someone else. I didn’t realize that I was being given the immeasurable gift of joining in with the lives of others — others who have had much more to teach me than I could have ever taught them. Others who constantly and gently clarify that life isn’t actually about me, and that the real goodness comes from those unexpected moments of joy that happen just from being together.

Mentoring has become a core value that is so close to my heart, I can’t really picture my life without it. And I wouldn’t want to. I could only wish this same richness for everyone else.

If you’re not a mentor in some capacity, today might be the day to change that. Because, yes, there are kids out there who need someone to look up to. But you just might find that you need them, too.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Brook.


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Finding healing through Flannery O’Connor Thu, 19 Feb 2015 12:00:30 +0000 Finding healing through Flannery O’Connor by Nathan Chan

Author Tim Basselin speaks on discovering the good in the grotesque One day when Tim Basselin was in the sixth grade,...

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Finding healing through Flannery O’Connor by Nathan Chan

Author Tim Basselin speaks on discovering the good in the grotesque

One day when Tim Basselin was in the sixth grade, he got called to the principal’s office. His father — a mechanic for a heavy machinery dealer — had been working on a front-end loader when the tractor’s three-ton bucket swung down suddenly and slammed into the back of his head. Metal prongs crushed his skull against the concrete floor, causing multiple skull and facial fractures. On the way to the hospital, Basselin’s father’s heart stopped three times. The attending doctor expected him to die, and he asked Basselin’s mother if she would consider donating her husband’s organs. She refused. She believed that her husband would live despite the overwhelming odds.

bookHe survived, but despite being spared death’s defeat, the Basselins fell into a new chasm of sorrow. The accident left Jay with retrograde amnesia that robbed him of all recollections prior to the accident. He didn’t recognize his family when the hospital staff introduced them to him. “I don’t have a wife! How can I have kids if I don’t have a wife?” he demanded. It registered with Jay in subsequent visits that the woman and two boys who kept returning to see him were in fact his family. But for Basselin, Jay no longer resembled the father who would wake him and his brother on Saturdays before sunrise to go motorbiking. They would ride all day, taking recess only for lunch or ice cream. After the accident, Basselin traveled every weekend between Birmingham and a rehabilitation clinic in Nashville to visit his father, who treated him like a stranger.

The condolences poured in. “God has a plan…there’s a reason for this…” Basselin never felt betrayed by these cryptic promises, because he “didn’t trust them in the first place.” In the months following the accident, Basselin would go to his church and cry at the altar before God. “I loved going there and letting it out,” Basselin says. In the levee of pain that followed, Basselin found comfort in God’s presence.

Jay recovered to the point where he could eat, walk, and engage in conversation. While still gregarious and quick with his wit, the extent of the brain damage limited him to the  cognitive ability of a third-grader. Consequently, Basselin felt abandoned by his father. He couldn’t talk about his day or ask advice from a man who no longer possessed his paternal instincts.

Frustration led to resentment as Basselin struggled to empathize with his father’s childlike temperament. On one occasion, Basselin came home from school, and seeing his father, tossed several assignments onto the couch where Jay sat. Basselin hoped his father would show approval for the high marks he received, but instead, Jay clenched his fist and struck his son in the chest. The papers had fallen onto Jay’s arm, and the contact upset him. Over time, the resentment subsided as Basselin yielded to the reality of his father’s disability. One person who helped change his attitude was Flannery O’Connor.   

Basselin encountered the writings of Flannery O’Connor as an English major in college. Having grown up in Birmingham, Alabama, he found himself drawn to the Southern comfort of pine-covered landscapes and backwoods preachers evoked in O’Connor’s short stories. “The people she described were my aunts and uncles,” Basselin says with a smile. What fascinated Basselin the most about O’Connor was her use of the grotesque — a literary distortion intended to extract reactions of compassion and disgust from the reader. Basselin discovered that O’Connor’s success in applying the grotesque, as a writer, sprang from her experience with lupus. And her insight from this debilitation changed Basselin’s perspective on his own journey with disability and suffering.

What fascinated Basselin the most about O’Connor
was her use of the grotesque — a literary distortion
intended to extract reactions of compassion and
disgust from the reader.

Doctors diagnosed O’Connor with lupus at 25. The disease had killed her father 10 years prior. O’Connor would face a similar fate, but not before suffering much pain for 14 years. In spite of her disablement, O’Connor did not languish in pity. In her lupus, she gained an appreciation for what Christ suffered on her behalf.  Basselin explains in his book, Flannery O’Connor: Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity, “O’Connor’s disabilities helped her develop a keen sense of how limitations and even suffering must be accepted and embraced as participation in God’s redemption of the world.” In grappling with the grotesque in O’Connor’s stories, readers may also come to recognize the necessity of violence in Christ`s death to fulfill a profound purpose. Basselin says O’Connor helps people evaluate their suffering by offering an understanding “that life is a good gift to be accepted, struggles and all.” 

Learning to accept limitation has proven a lifelong endeavour for Basselin himself, now 38. Recently, after completing 10 years of graduate school, Basselin, with a wife and three kids to support, had no job prospects. His confidence further diminished after an interview that he felt he had “bombed.” In his despair, Basselin says he heard God challenging him: “Do you believe that I work in your weakness, or is that something you just write and talk about?” A week later, the interview committee offered Basselin the job. Members of the committee told him that it was precisely his vulnerability and honesty in sharing his weaknesses from his past and the pain of his father’s accident that impressed them.

When he reflects on the accident that happened almost 30 years ago, Basselin calls it one of the most difficult experiences in his life. Yet he also describes it as “beautiful.” The church community cared for his family, and Jay’s workplace provided for his father’s medical expenses. Through it all, God’s presence served as an anchor.

Four years ago, Basselin’s parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with their two sons and their wives, and six grandchildren who adore “Papa Jay.” His father’s disability still challenges Basselin’s patience, but he realizes that he needs to “make space for his father to be who he is.” In this space, miracles continue to abound both with Jay, the man most affected, and with his marriage and family, which thrives with a special intimacy.

Why did all of this happen to Basselin and his family? The reason remains a mystery. For Basselin, with the help of O’Connor, finding hope and truth in the mystery begins by accepting the grotesque. 

Three to Read

Tim Basselin lists his favourite works by Flannery O’Connor, the 20th century writer who typified the Southern Gothic genre. 


Described by O’Connor as a “purgatorial vision,” the whole story is told by a woman whose vision of heaven overturns her self-concept of righteousness and worth.

The River

Does baptism have any true significance, or is it religious trickery? Readers must confront the purpose of this Christian sacrament after a young boy seeks its beauty by drowning himself. 

The Violent Bear It Away 

This second and final novel published by O’Connor challenges the measures that humans embrace in order to avoid suffering, and the ideology that the salvation of the world comes through reason. 

Photo (Flickr CC) by ParanoidMonk.


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A Q&A with Andrew Belle Wed, 18 Feb 2015 12:00:49 +0000 A Q&A with Andrew Belle by Converge Admin

Before he had even released his first album, Andrew Belle was making waves in the music industry. He was awarded...

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A Q&A with Andrew Belle by Converge Admin

Before he had even released his first album, Andrew Belle was making waves in the music industry. He was awarded a John Lennon Songwriting award in 2009 before he debuted his 2010 freshman album, Ladders. Three years later he released Black Bear, a sweet mix of his poetic lyrics and new electronic beats. We had the chance to sit down with Andrew Belle in Seattle to talk about his music, inspiration, and faith.

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I grew up in Chicagoland, went to Taylor University in Indiana, which is a little private Christian college. I was studying business because it seemed like the most vague major to go for, and marketing because it allotted for the most creativity of all the sub-sections of business. In my sophomore year of college I began writing songs on my own and enjoyed it, felt like I had a talent for it, so I just continued to just do it as a hobby. I found some guys to play with me in a band, but really I just enjoyed writing.

In my senior year, I thought, “What if I wrote like 12 songs on my acoustic guitar?” I found a friend who had just graduated who had a bunch of sound engineering equipment and wanted to try out a project. So I was like, “OK, I can make a whole album for free and just give it a shot.”

In my senior year, I thought, ‘What if I wrote like 12 songs on my acoustic guitar?’

I enjoyed the process, and felt like I had something above average to give me enough reasons to pursue that after school. I decided not to interview for jobs and take internships, but move back home after graduation and wait tables, and just start playing around Chicago wherever, live restaurants and bars and open mics. 

Eventually I realized I needed to quit my table waiting job. I was so exhausted from doing that, that I was never in the mood for doing something creative. I realized that if I didn’t just quit that job I was just going to stay in comfortable-zone forever, and maybe never have enough incentive to really try.

So I quit, and it forced me to start finding paying gigs around town. I would drive to the city, play at restaurants and bars that would pay me like a couple hundred bucks to play cover songs for four hours at a time. It’s funny because I remember at the time thinking, “This is great that I get paid for this.”

Honestly, looking back, that time helped me teach myself how to sing and how to play in front of people. There was an evolution in my singing style and my tone and all of that. It was a couple years of doing that before I thought I was ready for something else.

That was a really formative time for me, though, to be able to develop my sound and my voice. So that’s where I began and then I met someone who brought me to Nashville. And that is where things really took that next level turn. 

You seem pretty open about your faith in some of your other interviews. Can you tell us a bit about that, and if your faith coincided with your focus on music?

Yeah. I went to Christian school growing up, grammar school, high school, college but [faith] is always a really tough thing to discern. At what point are you “all in”? I guess you only you really know that in your own heart.

Looking back, there was some percentage of me that was sort of interested in being a Christian, whatever that meant, but maybe there was some percentage that wasn’t.

Christian school is interesting because you’re kind of just thrown into a camp, and everyone else is Christian, so you’re Christian. But the heart of what that really means doesn’t really start to until your early adulthood. And then you come up against some sort of devastating life issue that everybody inevitably runs into. And then all of a sudden you realize, “Oh wow, life was really easy when I was a kid, and I really didn’t need Jesus. But now I’m adult, and life is hard, and now I get it.”

I felt this extreme conviction out of nowhere. It was a total ‘Road to Damascus’ moment, 180 kind of thing.

I can’t really pinpoint when I became a Christian, but all I know is that four years ago in 2010 I had one of those existential crisis. Life-blowing-up times, regarding my relationship with my now wife and stuff was just going badly. I just realized that I was living on a trajectory of life, going in one direction, and I didn’t want to be going in that direction anymore. I felt this extreme conviction out of nowhere. It was a total “Road to Damascus” moment, 180 kind of thing. I just went in the other direction from a lot of stuff that I was involved with. Came clean and was honest about a lot of stuff that I wasn’t honest about.

Really for the first time, I actually felt like I realized what it meant to be like, “Wow I’m really a despicable person at the core of me. There’s something wrong, and I can’t do it on my own.” That’s what I feel like is the humility that gets you to that point — that allows you to become a Christian.

My wife and I weren’t married then, but I was getting serious about her. I think that is a part of what lead to all this revelation. I was starting to think about getting married and what type of commitment that demands of you, and the honesty that it demands. So in order to do that I kind of had to blow everything up. Thankfully we got through it. We weren’t together for a long time, and then we got back together and worked through a ton of stuff. And two years after that, we got married. We’ve been married for two and a half years now.

In light of all of that, it wasn’t just a relational thing; there were many facets of my life that were affected. Since then it’s been about: now what do I do, how do I live my life in light of surrendering to Jesus? What does that look like, especially being a musician — how is my art affected by that? What are the things I associate with, now that I’m a musician? Especially since this all happened as I began to have success with the music.

I’m supposed to be deflecting glory —
it’s not about me.

It’s an interesting time to all of a sudden be caring about the gospel. When you start getting some small chunk of success, where people know you and like your music and want to give you glory. The gospel is actually the opposite of this. I’m supposed to be deflecting glory — it’s not about me. Juggling all that has been an interesting learning experience, over the last four years. And it’s not something you figure out overnight — you just take it day by day, and surround yourself with people that are like-minded to have a lot of conversations about it, and you just evolve over the years. 

BlackBear215x215What is the meaning behind your album Black Bear?

As far as “Black Bear” and the album, I wanted to write a record that just talked about my experience, my life. Making a mess of my life and feeling, quite literally, like there was a time where one minute there is absolutely no conviction, and then out of no where, just blasted with all this conviction about stuff and the ensuing time after that.

I don’t know where that comes from, except to say that I felt like God allowed me to go a certain route in my life for the exact number of hours and days and minutes that He did. And then there was a time where He said, “Now it’s over, and you’re going to go this way now.”

It’s the whole idea of being pursued or hunted, tracked down, ultimately by God, and the person of Jesus Christ is the black bear.

In terms of Black Bear, Flannery O’Connor described [Jesus] as this ragged figure, lurking in between the trees and motioning and calling. In my head, I pictured a ragged bear — black bear — just kind of scruffy and disheveled and not attractive. That was just the first thing that popped into my head, and I just started writing lyrics. And this concept was born and evolved.

It’s the whole idea of being pursued or hunted, tracked down, ultimately by God, and the person of Jesus Christ is the black bear.

It was just a powerful overtaking?

Yeah, exactly. C.S. Lewis describes it by saying that there was a very clear time where I had a choice where I could go this way, or I could go this way. But looking back on it, I don’t know if I had any choice at all, you know?

It’s just that weird mental puzzle where we have choice, but where God values allowing people freedom to chose. And really, without freedom, you can’t have love. It’s just a weird mental pretzel that you get yourself into, and I’m not smart enough or arrogant enough to think that I’ve figured it out. But I have rested in the fact that God is clearly and obviously way more qualified to be running everything, and to be coming up with how this all works. It actually only makes sense that it wouldn’t make sense to me.

Is the “Black Bear” song about being captured?

That song is a little bit more of a hybrid. There are [a few] themes in “Black Bear.” The one I just described being the biggest and most encompassing, but also my relationship with my wife and my marriage, which was very new at the time. I sort of married the two. The “Black Bear” song, in some spots, I’m actually referring to that relationship of just God and me, and then in other parts, some of the imagery and lyrics are describing events and things that took place with my wife.

What are you listening to right now?

I’m getting to the point where I need to find some more new music but I’m just more and more attracted to alternative, left-of-centre kind of stuff that doesn’t typically fit the mold of a singer-songwriter. But it’s the only stuff that is inspiring me to make music right now. I really like Beach House and Washed Out. I really like James Blake, even though his stuff is a little out there, and I would never try to go there with my music. Radiohead, I really didn’t discover until later in life, so I’m just obsessing over Thom Yorke and his solo stuff.

Is it the lyrics or the music, whether listening or making your own, that really inspires you?

I would say when I first began it was more lyrical. Writing was always my strong suit —that’s what first got me into it. I would say that shifted in the past few years, though. I have been more inspired and attracted to the music element of things. Creating different sounds, gates and atmospheres. When I hear something new, I’m reminded of what I really love about music.

What is the writing process like for you? I read somewhere that you don’t write unless the time’s right, and when you really have something to say.

It’s opening up logic on my computer and other software with libraries of samples and different sounds and things. Then, I just start playing around on my keyboard until something clicks and I’m inspired by the textures and the tones.

Typically, it’s music first, lyrics second. A lot of times you can write lyrics, but you don’t know the cadence or the rhyme scheme that makes sense. I always find that I have to sit there and hum through, and find an interesting melody that I think is neat. And then find words that fit that melody. Typically the words that start off don’t really mean a whole lot, I‘m usually just looking for words or phrases that just feel.

It’s just a process of revision and going back and reworking.

It’s funny to think about, but there are words and phrases that just sound better than others. So I just kind of float — I kind of stumble around until I find something, and then look at what it is, and why I am attracted to it. I start trying to think what can I shape out of this phrase and this word, how can I make a story out of this or apply it to my own life. I just build from there. And then halfway through the process, I can kind of see how I’m relating and tying the lyrics back to my own life. It’s just a process of revision and going back and reworking.

Going forward, I’ve been a lot more inspired musically. There is a guy who played drums on my most recent record, James McAllister — he’s a great musician who lives in Los Angeles. Him and I have been playing around with the idea of working back and forth on the same thing. I’m excited about the opportunity to work with musicians who are going to push songs in directions that I would have never thought to take, and the endless creative possibility that comes out of that.

What are your thoughts on the music industry, and how does your music fit into that?

As an art form, I really like where my music is. It has been a complete blessing to create the quality of music that I have because that has required me, just over the years, to be meeting people, meeting people, and meeting more people. However you want to call it— happen stance or fate — but my career has always hinged on working with other talented people. I’ve been so thrilled to create what I’ve created up to this point, from an artist’s perspective.

From a business perspective, I basically look at myself as a small business owner. Like I’m creating this product or marketing or selling it. You are always striving to do more, to sell more volume, to spread awareness, to have more high profile looks and all those things. That’s just what any business owner is striving to do. Not making it an absolute or end goal, but that’s just what you do when you have a business. From that stand point, I would love to continue to grow, but I can’t necessarily expect the flow of the way things are coming now to always be there.

For more of Andrew Belle check out his tour dates!

Photo courtesy of Andrew Belle.

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Meet Amy Fatzinger, mother turned sex trafficking activist Tue, 17 Feb 2015 12:00:32 +0000 Meet Amy Fatzinger, mother turned sex trafficking activist by Gina Borg

“Six years ago, I realized trafficking isn’t something that just happens in other countries.” says Amy Fatzinger, a Georgian wife...

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Meet Amy Fatzinger, mother turned sex trafficking activist by Gina Borg

“Six years ago, I realized trafficking isn’t something that just happens in other countries.” says Amy Fatzinger, a Georgian wife and mother of three boys.

“It’s here.”

She can’t recall quite how her research started. One day, provoked to learn about ministries geared toward women in stripping, pornography, and prostitution, she simply started to stumble upon one repeated phrase: sex trafficking. As she dug deeper, her eyes were opened to the hellish world that thrives closer to home than she ever expected. Girls are forced into sexual slavery every day. To put things into perspective, The Urban Institute reported in 2014 that Atlanta’s 2007 sex trade revenue was 2.5 times higher than the Atlanta Falcons’ 2013 payroll.

Even more shocking came the realization that such inhumanity is often hiding in plain sight. 

“I soon realized that what I know as reality is not reality,” Fatzinger explains. “[Sex trafficking] is happening in suburbia. It’s happening in the city. It’s happening to people from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds.” 

Indeed, victims of sex trafficking may come from upper-middle class, church-going families and earn straight As in school. Abusers may be teachers, coaches, or dentists. The bad guy isn’t always a shady villain in a trench coat; sometimes he or she hides behind the face of a person who seems most worthy of trust. Appearances don’t matter. Darkness doesn’t discriminate.


Fatzinger with her husband and three children. Photo by Rachel Lehne.

The Start

As her knowledge of the issue grew, so did Fatzinger’s desire to do something about it. She says, however, that her efforts to connect with ministries targeted toward women involved in the sex industry were long met with disappointing silence.

“I wrote emails to different ministries asking if I could wash dishes, clean floors, cook, whatever. I just wanted to serve,” Fatzinger explains. “For about a year, I didn’t hear anything back. Then all of a sudden, I started getting emails back, [but] didn’t feel ready anymore.”

She accepted one invitation to serve, nonetheless, and cooked and cleaned for an assessment centre in Atlanta. By serving abused women who were coming out of prison, addiction, and prostitution, Fatzinger took her first step toward a better understanding of God’s compassion for the trafficked.

“I think the best thing to do is just plant yourself under someone already in the fight and serve while looking for needs,” she says. 

The new volunteer’s picture of God’s vast love grew as her heart continued to break for the women she met — women with brilliant minds and beautiful souls, tucked deep inside lives ravaged by devastating circumstances. 

The Stepping Stones

It quickly became apparent that Fatzinger had an affinity for connecting with the girls she ministered to. In 2011, when Jeff Shaw launched Out of Darkness, an anti-trafficking ministry of the Atlanta Dream Center, Fatzinger was recommended to him as a trainer for outreach volunteers. Fellow staff members soon came to lean on her for support and wisdom.

“I would say she was definitely a person I would draw from because she had worked so closely with the women,” says Anne Kerr, founder of TrueNorth Freedom Project, a men’s ministry intended to decrease demand for pornography and prostitution, and former assistant director at Out of Darkness. “I would call her because she had connected with them on such a deep level.”

The Song

Early on, Fatzinger cultivated that connection through her willingness to answer 3 a.m. calls, provide rides when needed, and sit up overnight with fear-stricken girls.

As a musician, Fatzinger carries her guitar almost everywhere. In the darkest hours, she acts as a conduit for the Holy Spirit, singing girls to sleep with a melodic reminder of hope. It is a simple act of love for those precious to her.

“My favourite thing to do is just sit with the girls through the night, singing Scripture, singing Psalms,” Fatzinger reveals.

It was during one such overnight stay in Atlanta that “God of the Breakthrough” was born. Now on the radio, Fatzinger’s song of triumph and healing was written for her friends who have been trafficked.

The Sparrows

Initially, Fatzinger hoped to launch her own recovery centre, a campus where victims of human trafficking could be at home and receive healing through strong friendships, responsibility, and education.

But as time went on, her view shifted to “protecting the vulnerable,” those most at risk for being targeted by traffickers. In an effort to stop slavery before it begins, Fatzinger focuses on 18-year-olds exiting the foster care system without familial protection or job training. So began the plan for Sparrow’s Nest, a place to help young women become self-sufficient by providing shelter, teaching marketable skills, and demonstrating the love of Christ.

Fatzinger’s husband Shane is key member on Sparrow’s Nest’s Board of Directors, offering strategic administrative guidance. In addition, Fatzinger says her spouse “provides an anchor to reality,” reminding her of goodness when she is surrounded by injustice, and encouraging her when she questions her calling.

“I try to support her vision, especially when she feels like maybe she’s misheard or misunderstood the Lord on it,” Shane says. “I can see through what has happened in the lives of the girls that this is where God has led her.”

Others can see it too.

“When I think of Amy, I think of obedience. The Lord calls her, and she goes,” Kerr says. “She has been refined for this in the fire, through her experiences as a young adult and young mother, and God is faithful to finish what He starts.”

Fatzinger likens her vision for Sparrow’s Nest to the mission of Moses, a man of weak speech and weaker confidence, called to free a people dear to God. Though Sparrow’s Nest is expected to launch no sooner than 2016, efforts to partner with other ministries and agencies are already in motion.

“I don’t mind slow,” Fatzinger shrugs. “I want something that far outlasts my earthly life. My weak, weak, weak, lame ‘yes’ is still on the table. He’s going to do what He’s going to do anyway. This vision has never been mine.”

It has been a hard path. In giving herself to ministry, Fatzinger has not shielded herself from the shocking reality of hurt that humans are capable of inflicting on one another. She has opened her ears and eyes to painful stories that many would close their eyes and cross the street to avoid. Far from emerging unscathed, she has at times contended with feelings of deep depression and anxiety in the process. But, she says, His enduring faithfulness makes her able.

“There is a very high rate of burnout on this end of ministry. I just have to rely on the fact that He cannot be unfaithful. He cannot be untrue.”

Featured photo by Holly Etchison.

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I Know Anxiety and I Know Jesus Mon, 16 Feb 2015 12:00:12 +0000 I Know Anxiety and I Know Jesus by Hannah Collins

I am a confident girl. I’m the funny, never-let-them-see-you-sweat girl. I have a great living situation, a full-time job, a...

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I Know Anxiety and I Know Jesus by Hannah Collins

I am a confident girl. I’m the funny, never-let-them-see-you-sweat girl. I have a great living situation, a full-time job, a budding relationship. I even have a puppy. From my Instagram and Twitter profiles, it looks like I am the happiest girl in the world.

And yet, I am caught up in the most crippling bout with anxiety.

From the outside, you would never know. I have packaged myself rather nicely, and I commend myself for trying really hard. But if I’m being honest, that’s all it is: trying. At this point, I still feel like I don’t measure up. I am terrified of people finding out, of being discovered, of looking like a fraud, of being broken.

I want to hide from my Christian community. I am ashamed that my faith isn’t stronger and my identity isn’t more secure.

In my experience, anxiety is like being lost at sea at night; I’m without a raft, in the middle of a typhoon. I can’t see the shore. There is nothing to hold on to or stabilize me. It is dark, loud, and I feel incredibly alone. When the waves crash in the middle of my ocean of anxiety, there isn’t anything to bump into; just more darkness, more abyss, more nothing. While I am trying to hold on for dear life, I only come up with fistfuls of more fear. The fear begets more fear, and I sink down in a panic for what feels like the 100th time.

In spite of all this, I can still say that I know Jesus. I can say that I love Him. I’ve hitched my wagon to His. I’m rather helplessly in love with Him, eternally grateful for His love.

I know the verses. I know how many times the Bible says, “Fear not.” I know to cast my cares on Him; I know He has good plans for me; I know I know I know! I know I shouldn’t be this way or feel this way, and yet I do. I know I should have freedom, but I don’t.

Would Jesus quote Scripture to those of us who battle anxiety? The Jesus I know would wrap me up tight, listen closely, and lean in. I’m not denying the importance of truth, but I am wondering if sometimes there’s more truth and honesty in just being. If we want to be able to comfort our anxious and depressed friends, we need to consider this. As a Christian and someone who works in full-time ministry, I just keep pounding myself over the head with Scripture, Christian writings, formulas to fix it. I’m starting to wonder if what I really need is the body of Christ with open and willing arms, nonjudgmental ears, and quiet lips.

I really don’t need another Bible verse. I need a hug.

Yes, I am a Christian and I am also battling anxiety. This is the tension I am currently living with, and I’m trying to be more honest about it. One day I’ll say, “I’m a Christian and I’m also fill-in-the-blank.” But for now this is my present darkness. For now, I need my community and the Church at large to just love me. For now, that is enough.


Photo by (Flickr CC): Lydia Brooks.

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