Monday, February 23, 2009

What To Do?

I graduated from my undergrad in 2003. I immediately applied at Acts Seminary at Trinity Western University and began a Masters of Arts in Christian Studies there. After one course (Intro to NT Greek - B+), and learning that Masters courses I was beginning in Victoria were transferable to Regent College and not to Acts, I switched schools. I enrolled as a student at Regent, with the intention of attaining my Masters of Christian Studies in Applied Theology, but didn't actually apply to that program as I knew it would take longer than the 5 year maximum they allowed.

I took four Applied Theology courses in Vic over 2 years, but did not get credit for them as I didn't have the money to put into it. Plus, I'm always eager to get free education :) I have taken 2 courses (5 credits) at Regent, where each credit costs about $500. I need 60 credits to graduate, so not only do I have a long way to go, but $$MONEY$$!!!!

So, that's where I've been, and lately I've been trying to figure out where to go now. I have looked at various options over the years, and have generally not decided much. A year ago, before JL and I found out Leilani was coming to visit, I decided that doing the Arrow Leadership Program (which gets me credits with Regent, but not many) would be the best initial move forward. But I've recently been encouraged to take an MA in Leadership with Royal Roads or UVic instead. So now there's lots of options.

I'm writing all this, not to bore you (you can stop reading anytime you feel, and move along with your day), but rather to inform you about my life and ask your opinion of 'what to do?' (note title). Below is a list of pros and cons for each option I'm currently looking at. Feel free to pass along your thoughts, or any further options you may suggest for my consideration.

Regent College MCS:
+ Great reputation within church (good cred if I remain pastor for life)
+ LPC will give me ~$1500 for courses
+ I'm already in this program
+ Lots of freedom in my degree, which allows me to take courses I enjoy
- Will take me at least 5 years, probably more to complete
- Related to above, no real end in site has been bad in past for Andy (including with education)
- Not as well recognized outside of church (what if I am not pastoring?)
- Still not sure how to meet residency requirements (doing on-site courses)

Arrow Leadership Program:
+ Great support among other Christians in cohort
+ Counts for credits toward Regent degree (not many, but a few)
+ I get a scholarship and LPC will probably give me money as well (still $4500 out of my own pocket)
+ Only 2 years
+ Good reputation within some church circles
+ Supposedly really good (and devastating) for personal awareness and spiritual life
- Takes 2 years, and then I still have 3+ years left to get actual Masters degree
- Quite a lot of money considering what credits I get
- Hesitation in past has been my disagreement with leadership philosophy of Arrow CEO (also a prof)

MA in Leadership Studies at UVic:
+ Comparably really cheap compared to other degree options (about $9-10K total)
+ Walk away in 2-3 years with a Masters degree
+ Good reputation everywhere (not JUST Christian agencies)
+ Great learning, more academic than Arrow
+ A foreseeable end in sight... very good for Andy
+ Thesis option allows for future in academia (not currently a big priority for me)
- Possibly no financial help from LPC
- Possibly not recognized as equivalent to Masters at seminary for LPC or other church
- Have to apply and get accepted!
- Not Christ-focused (a con suggested by a mentor, though I think this has value too)

MA in Leadership at Royal Roads:
Same as above except
+ Lower admission requirements mean I should be a lock to get in
- Twice the price of UVic
- No thesis option

And that's that. Thanks for helping me with going through this process.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Little Update

I've been meditating on Ephesians 4 lately. Here's a bit from memory:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live lives worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called. One Lord, one faith, and one baptism, one God the Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train, and gave gifts to men." What does "he ascended" mean if he had not also descended to the lower, earthly regions?

That's about it for now. Check up on me if you want :) Hope it allows you to meditate a little on it too.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How Far Will It Go?

Here's a story for you. A 60 year-old woman has just given birth to twins in Calgary. My thoughts below, may be offensive to some, so I apologize now if that's the case. Maybe stop reading now if you prefer. But I still want to share.

Now I have no problems with older people having children. If you get pregnant then that's life, and God be with you. And I have no problem with older people choosing to raise kids either. I am aware of a semi-retired couple that has just adopted their grandchild because their daughter is incapable of caring for the child who is fighting an infant addiction to many hard drugs. I think it's not only commendable what they are doing, but I also pray fervently that God will be with them and bless them in this incredibly hard task.

What I have been thinking about recently is the assisted pregnancy our country has normalized. Now this takes many forms, from simply helping the parents gametes not fight each other off, to in vitro fertilization with ones own embryos, to the same IVF but with donor embryos, etc. So many variables. I am not necessarily against them all. I have a friend who is currently carrying the child of a couple who was unable to get pregnant themselves. She has done an honourable thing, and I am proud of her, but I still question (not 'decided') the ethics of it all.

Paul said everything is permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Just cause we can, doesn't mean we should. The medical world has jumped leaps and bounds in the last 30 years in what can be done for assisted pregnancy, which is great for science. But is it right?

The two main concerns I have are (and notice I'm staying away from the theological - just don't know regarding that):

1) What about adoption? Are there not enough children in our world that if having a child is hard for us, can't we try loving and caring for another's natural child? Two friends that have adopted have shared interesting thoughts with me recently. The first is a woman who adopted after having multiple miscarriages. She says she knows her children (3) were born in her heart, and she regularly forgets they were not born of her body as well. Interesting. The second is a friend who made the choice to adopt rather than have natural children (which he and his wife use careful protection to inhibit). He says he is shocked and saddened that people always presume and offer apology for the fact that they can't have 'natural' children and HAVE to adopt. Some people even suggest IVF as a better option. His experience shows that adoption is sometimes even frowned upon, including in the church community. What?!

As people who have decided to walk down the road of adoption and see where God takes us, JL and I are excited to learn about what God is going to do through us and teach us in this somewhat isolated community. I'm excited as to how it will further influence my thoughts on IVF and other assisted pregnancy options.

2) Healthcare costs. Having children is expensive. In every way. It is very expensive for our healthcare system. But our country desires for our nation to produce more children, so it's worth it. It's always worth it.

However, the cost exponentially increases with children who have health irregularities at birth or who are premature. And with assisted pregnancies, the chances of these goes up exponentially as well. IVF regularly (around 50%) results in multiple pregnancies (twins+), which almost always result in pre-term births (the rate of preterm births in multiple births babies is 17 times higher than single babies). In Canada, a normal weight, single birth child costs our system about $1000 by the time it goes home (after a couple days). With additional health concerns for pre-term babies, the cost goes up quickly. It is suggested a pre-term baby born before 6 months costs well over $100,000 to our system before it leaves the hospital. The average cost for per-term babies was a lot less however, but still 12 times the normal cost at over $12,000.

Now sometimes per-term births cannot be avoided, and I obviously believe we need to care for any child born in Canada. But, should we look at controlling IVF and other assisted pregnancy options that regularly (over 80%) lead to pre-term and/or multiple births? Or what about the woman in the above article, who was deemed too old to be eligible for IVF in Canada, so went and paid for it in India and then returned to Canada for the free care? Does the taxpayer have the obligation to care for these people? Well, ethically, yes. But should we look into it a bit more. I think so.

Well, those are some of my thoughts. I think this will gradually become more and more of a concern for Canada (especially with universal health care) and you'll see it as a hot topic on a political stage near you. Best to do some research and get your opinion ready cause someone may be asking for it soon.

Sorry again if I offend anyone. Please be gracious.

Here are some resources you may found valuable in thinking through this all:
Recent Can. Press article
Article on recent Canadian Institute for Health Study
Victoria's Fertility Centre

Monday, February 2, 2009

On the Move Again

This past year's been a tough one on my body. Not only am I just getting older, and that's hard enough, but I've had some injuries that have put me up longer than hoped for.

The first was an ATVing accident that was 100% my fault, as I pushed the boundaries of what that Quad could do and felt what it was like to fly. Concussion, whiplash, some cuts and bruises were the minor problems. The back pain lingered longer and eventually required some physio treatments and a trip to a Chinese medicine-man who worked this magic on me by beating the junk out of my back, neck, and shoulder. The worst part was that I tore the two menisci in my left knee. MRI's, sports doctors, and physiotherapists worked on that to get it back in shape, but it was 3 months before I could walk without discomfort and 4 months till I got the go ahead for normal exercise.

That was around late October. Unfortunately, after going to the gym for a few weeks, the next hit came. In November, I was walking down the stairs with Leilani, and the stairs fought back. Now, I always have trouble with stairs, and especially the ones in my house. I fell down them every other day for the first 6 months we lived here. Now that we're almost 3 years in, I do a lot better. But I knew my time would come when my daughter and I took a tumble together. Fortunately, I was able to sacrifice my body to keep Leilani safe. She was fine, but my left foot and ankle were not. Two months later, I'm finally feeling confident to get back to exercise.

So, I'm on the move again. I've been exercising the last few weeks, but it's all involved lifting weights and doing action on the floor that doesn't involve my foot. But now I'm taking the plunge and gonna start hitting the pavement again. I hope to complete my first run this week (complete with ankle brace of course). Short, but hopefully sweet. And come April 26th, I hope to be able to make 10km cause I'm signing up for the Times Colonist run. Really excited actually. Haven't done that since 2001 or something, so I'm eager to try it again. I have NO idea what kind of time my old and injured body will be able to muster, but I'm hoping for at least under 50 minutes. I regularly ran 40-42 minute 10km as an 11 year old so 50 minutes shouldn't be too much of a stretch. I know I can handle the pace, but can my foot handle the distance. Ah well, we'll see!

Check back to hear the report.