Off to Europe…

Well, it is two weeks and counting till the wife and I (that’s right, no kids) head off to Europe for a cruise. We will be in Rome for four days, then board a Regent Cruise ship for six nights, touring the Mediterranean to such places as Pompeii, Naxos, Ephesus, and Santorini. Here is the kicker. The vacation is an incentive for hitting my sales numbers last year. Being part of a large software company has its perks. Our company has the whole ship with special programming for this cruise. I am stoked and looking forward to this time as a significant spiritual experience as we walk the same cobbled streets as St Paul and the early Christians did.

We are only on the hook for our accommodation in Rome, the Roma Pass, Vatican Tour, and Early Christianity and Catacombs tour. Trip Advisor gives the tour company the best rating for the quality of commentary. Word has it that scholars and classical historians guide the tour.

I will (time permitting) be blogging on the trip and hosting pictures to my Flickr Account.

Does anybody have any recommendations for us on what to see?

On the Road…

Well, I am off tomorrow to great big Dallas for a customer visit relating to my work. I’ll be there for the next couple of days and then on Sunday, it’s off to Vegas for our Sales Kick Off at the Belaggio Hotel. I am not too keen on the travel as it means being away from the wife and kids; however, I look forward to a bit of relaxing and sleeping through the night (our son still wakes us up). The quality of the Belaggio will serve that purpose just fine.

The posting has been weak lately, and I still will come through with some reflections about the incarnation from my Christmas silence as promised; however, the next couple of days may still lag in the posting department. Last year I blogged about my time in Vegas. You can read about it here. Perhaps (if time permits) I will post some additional reflections from this year.

Until then, grace and peace be yours.

By the way, I thought this was pretty funny

My attempt at socially responsible gift giving this year…(part 5)

To round off the Christmas shopping, and conclude this series, I checked into the offerings of local theatre and bought tickets to a couple of shows for the family. Theatre fits well into my criteria for socially responsible gifts this year. (My wife better not be reading my blog this month). On to the MEC store. MEC is good place to shop because throughout their history they have trumpeted "ethical sourcing" and they partner with third party organizations to hold their manufacturers accountable. They have been known to pull product and cancel contracts if a manufacturer is in violation of their values. So my visit there netted me some miscellaneous things for the family, and at a good value.

I am wondering if I have made a mistake with my purchase from the Body Shop. After my purchase, I discovered a short article about the Body Shop’s ethical practices. The author uncovers how this company has trumpeted ethical values across the board but falls short of delivering. Is this a classic case of perception of ethics for good public image? Please read the article and discern for yourself whether this is a place to shop. I think I will return what I bought and seek a better alternative. I think this is deceptive in that I have noticed how consumers (including myself) will make buying decisions on ethical statements that in the end are just good marketing tactics. It leaves me wondering what is most valued.

I have learned during this gift buying adventure that it is quite possible to buy socially responsible gifts. We do not need to support injustice in the way we celebrate Christmas. And my goal is not to make people feel uncomfortable, but to inspire thought provoking questions about our lives in relation to the gospel and the empire we are part of. For me, my desire to change was sparked by an image of exchanging gifts made by slaves in the name of the one who came to liberate them. Such a vision has challenged me, yet inspired me to dream of what Christmas may be, instead of what it is. Thanks for joining me on this adventure.


Introduction Post

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Here are some other related links to consider

Fair Labor Association (

No Sweat (

Justice Clothing (

Fair Trade Federation (

Corp Watch (

My attempt at socially responsible gift giving…(Part 4)

Today my report includes a goat and two chickens. That’s right, a goat and two chickens. I purchased these from Oxfam in name for others. These are a great gift for the person that pretty much has everything they need. They serve as good stocking stuffers (the information gift card does). They can also be great conversation points about the meaning of Christmas and how it is important to consider others in need over the compulsion so common to just buy stuff for people because we feel we have to. It was, after all, God who considered our need in giving the gift of His son. I heard today that the world spends enough each Christmas on “stuff” to end global poverty. Perhaps unrealistic, but an important statistic to consider to show the extent of consumerism’s plight.

In addition to livestock, I picked up a couple of Leatherman Squirt keychain tools for family. As far as I can tell through Leatherman’s literature, they are made in Portland USA. So, the distance for them to travel was not too far and they seemed to fit my criteria for gifts this Christmas.

My wife asked me to consider some CDs for her. Notably, Dave Matthew’s and Carolyn Aerands. She laments that I always take my ipod and macbook with me so she doesn’t get to listen to the music we have. I checked with Best Buy today and the cost of CDs are double than through itunes. Perhaps an online purchase and a little CD burning for the stereo might be the best solution here.

Here is the collection of related posts:

Introduction – Is Our Celebration of Christmas Shrouded With Injustice?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

We was robbed…

…virtually, that is. On my way to a meeting early today, I tried to use my debit card to fuel up with some Tim Horton’s and lo and behold, my card was declined. I know there’s money in our accounts, but when I went to check online, there was $2000 less. Someone in Thailand helped themselves to our money over the last couple of days. Nedless to say, I was disappointed.

After a two hour call with the bank’s fraud dept (most of it on hold), we managed to sort the problem and I was thankful that they cancelled the card after some suspicious withdrawal’s. The money will be returned to us in the next couple of days. Another friend who banks at the same bank shared a similar story with me. Around Christmas, this is an unfortunate occurrence. Lord have mercy on those who commit these crimes.

Some upgrade kinks…I could use some tips.

Apple-logo.jpg (JPEG Image, 187x226 pixels) I posted about how I made the switch to Leopard and I am largely pleased with the added functionality that comes with this OS. However, it I have experienced a few inconvenient challenges.

1. Ecto 2 problems: I love using Ecto; especially ecto 2. It is by far the best blog editor and I payed 20$ for it. With Leopard, Ecto 2 is sketchy and therefore I had to upgrade to Ecto 3, still in Beta and a platform rewrite. I have yet to familiarize myself with the new ecto. I am curious to know if others are having these challenges with ecto 2 on Leopard?

2. Printing Problems: I use a Canon Imageclass MF 4150 laser printer. Post upgrade, I had to reinstall the printer and have not been able to print yet. I am curious if any of you mac wizards out there might be able to help.

Overall, I am impressed with Mac; however, the quality of this platform release is making me wonder if the upgrade was a little premature. maybe I should have listened to my friend Rahim; a new technology and Faith blogger who you will want to visit.

If you have some tips, please leave a comment.

A busy week, late summer cleaning, and a new blog…

Toward the Intelligent Enterprise

‘Tis been a busy week at work and at home so far, so apologies for the blog slowdown. In fact, blogging has not slowed down but increased, just not on this site. As part of an initiative at work to strengthen customer relationships, I’ve decided to start a blog related to Business Intelligence. It’s called “Toward the Intelligent Enterprise: Excerpts from Experts on all things Business Intelligence”. Go figure with the name heh?…I had to get the ‘toward’ in there to be consistent. Check it out if you want to learn what I do for a profession. A part of me longs to be able to live full time in the missional conversation, but for now, the mission field for me is equally in the office.

Tonight we gathered at our campus to offer the building some much needed TLC. We started with a BBQ and then all got busy fixing up the place. Many hands do make light work. Thanks for all who showed up to help…your faithfulness and servant-hood was much appreciated. There is an increasing sense of community among us, even though we’ve gone through a tough time the last number of months. The Lord is good.

I used this cool new program called Skitch to create the banner for my BI blog. Check it out, it’s pretty good.

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The 3 Maladies of Facebook relationships

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I have managed to tally up 59 friends on Facebook (not many by most standards). I can say that some I am in relationship with and others I am not. The ones I share a friendship with require little need for Facebook interaction, because we practice the gift of presence. The ones I don’t have a ‘real’ relationship with are oft neglected in the Facebook realm as well. Don’t get me wrong here, many have thrived on the connectedness spurned by this virtual world to keep in close touch with loved ones abroad. I just haven’t. The technology of email serves just fine to communicate over distance and I don’t even have to taste stamp glue and wait eons for the pony express to facilitate.

So what about Facebook? Is it a reasonable way to facilitate social connections and relationships? For some it may be. But I have a specific virtual beef with the terminology of “Friend” that Facebook uses. Are they really friends? Some may be. Others, by way of my experience are more acquaintances and to a lesser degree people whom I have no acquaintance with outside of a brief social encounter. As people I care deeply about each one of my Facebook friends. However, the term “Friend” I think is a bad choice for how to define the type of relationship encouraged by Facebook. So, here are 3 reasons why I think Facebook relationships suffer from malady:

The lack of presence: I think for humanness to be fully realized in relationship, the gift of presence is required. Presence is capable of communicating more that words could express. The embrace of a hug, the caring, attentive gaze as the other is speaking are crucial components to what it means to love and to be loved as humans. Presence contributes significantly to friendship and without it there seems to be something missing.

The Lack of Substance: Substance in relationships is crucial if friendship is to be realized. Facebook offers the medium of text communication and other creative trinket like applications and gifts for expression. But is this substance that is indicative of intimacy as defined by friendship? I am not sure it is. I was sent a virtual drink by a friend in another province, multiple invitations to accept poker game apps, ninja fighting apps, and other virtual trinkets that seem at best trivial. Leo Tolstoy once said of marriage, that they should be purposed on bringing more love and truth into the world. I think the same could be said of friendships. This would be more substantial than the trite trivialities of the above. Let me add that in some cases, like Mike Todd’s initiative, some good can be realized.

The Exploitive Nature of Relationships: Because Facebook is a social media network and because it is built in the spirit of individualism, relationships are often exploited and used for personal gain. This goes too far into the vain of personal ambition that it abuses the relationship definition of friend. Company connections are used to further one’s interests and social ladders are climbed on the rungs of people that serve as commodities. How many friends do you have? This leaves me wondering about motive and since when are friendships about personal gain?

The reality is that in Facebook, there are many whom we will never share a friendship with (at least in its richest sense) but are called friends. And I think this takes something critical away from what it means to be human and live in relationship. Intimacy is lost in the virtual world, it’s but an echo of the fulness realized when people are present for each other. There are many positives to Facebook connections and I am only focusing on what I think is part of the problem, so please don’t think I am being critical of the sum when it is only a small but important part that I am questioning. I can say in closing that this post was inspired by the following experience this last week:

As I was walking back to work from the deli after lunch, there were several from our company who were doing the same. As I walked I realized beside me a person who is a Facebook friend that I met once in a business setting. As I thought about how I know him (or don’t) I realized that there is no relationship there and I had nothing to say to him. It was an awkward situation to think that this person I hardly know in real life is my friend on Facebook.

What do you think are some of the positives and negatives of Facebook relationships?

image credit

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A Podcast turned into a book purchase…

Toward Hope Bookstore - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle_ A Year of Food LifeI was listening to Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith Podcast today. This week she interviewed Barbara Kingsolver to talk about The Ethics of Eating and her new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I was quite intrigued by what she said that I went and bought the book. The book tells the story of how her family moved from Arizona to VA and became locavores. They grew their own food or ate only local produce and meat for a whole year. I am intrigued by this because of the many things I am learning about local economies, the environment, and ecology as a big part of what it means to live a missional, Kingdom life. Please listen to the podcast…it’s a good one. I will post my thoughts on the book once I work my way through it.

I am hopeful this book will help inspire further and give ideas for our local church community.

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The World of Business and a thought about church…

The last two days were packed full of meetings at work. It was our Quarterly Sales Update. Our company brought in an expensive sales trainer to guide us into further strategic account management excellence. Working for a global BI company has it privileges in that way.

I was intrigued by the direction the trainer took. He spent time focusing on the single most important issue for top executives. That is: How to maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly changing technology market. This is the big one. It’s the riddle that needs to be solved by any executive if longevity is to be realized. Even more intriguing was how companies are placing the highest emphasis on solidifying trust in customer relationships; over improving corporate structure or process.

The church immediately (and disturbingly) came to mind. I say disturbingly because I hesitate to import examples, values, and practices from the free market capital paradigm. It’s dangerous because of the heavy emphasis on the value of people as objectify-able commodity and that for me is a non starter in Kingdom conversation. It’s like oil and water.

But the church did come to mind because of this: Relationship! Businesses are picking up on the reality of our postmodern context and responding by speaking the language of the day. Less emphasis on bureaucracy, and concentration on what is real….relationship. It seems that increasing suspicion is cast upon the spin of the every day (consider marketing) and ‘experience’ is the heavy arbiter of trust and truth. That is why it is increasingly important from an account management perspective, as it is from a mission shaped church perspective, to establish trust and act through the paradigm of genuine relationship. Albeit without the goal of market share that is the end of every motive in the business world.

In the end, we will only be true if the ‘walk’ does not contradict the ‘talk’.

What are your thoughts?

Is this example a stretch?

Is the church responding to the impulse of post modernity in the same fashion?

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Back from holidays…

We are back from our 7 day vacation in Osoyoos. It was time well spent with family and friends in the sun. A much needed break for me. Daily excursions to the beach filled the agenda. There were five families from our church that went (we all live in proximate community together) and we shared the meal responsibilities for lunch each day. It was really good to be away.

IMG_0068.JPGMy daughter celebrated her third birthday on Friday. Here is a picture of her playing her new guitar. Hopefully she will assume much of the passion I have for music, but transcend the hack status that resembles my musical accomplishment.

On Wednesday night, we all gathered in front of one of our cabanas and had a time of worship. We read together the book of 1 Peter and shared communion and prayer. It was a blessed time and meditating on the scriptures as they were being read reminded us of who we were and where we had come from. The more I sit in scripture these days, the more I well up inside with the joy that comes from Christ and the reality of my own life which seems at times far from the simple admonitions we are given. Scriptures have a way of doing that to people.

Here is a group shot of us as we packed for our departure…


Here are some additional images from the trip…

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Some of the highlights of Osoyoos for us were…

  • the peaches
  • the sun (Canada’s desert)
  • the warm lake (BCs warmest)
  • the people
  • creation
  • A good book I started reading (more on this later)

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A Little Break…and some pics

Posting will slow right down for me this next week. The family and I are away with some friends. In the mean time, below are a few recent pics for your viewing pleasure…


This is not too far from where we live. It’s like there is a conversation going on between two types of creation


This is the view from my mother in-law’s place just two blocks behind our house.


My son’s first attempt at spaghetti and my daughter taking a rest at the beach


My son and I at the beach…

Check back soon for updates…

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Reality and Values Collide….

I believe there are things such as expressed values and impulsive values that shape behaviour in people. Expressed values are stated ones that a person (or people) make cognitive effort to live out. Impulsive values are unstated, deep values that often guide a person (or people) instinctually, unknowingly, and subtly. On the one hand, with stated values, there is great awareness and intentionality to mold behaviour. On the other, with impulsive values, there is little awareness of them and they resemble more the subtle cultural scripts that guide behaviour. In the messy texture of human existence, these two worlds collide to some degree. The mildest effect may be a glimmer of anxiety. The biggest impact may be serious dissonance that evokes confusion, and perhaps insanity.

This human predicament is the motif that that our faith germinates in and births conversion. For the nature of conversion consists of the Spirit working His way into our lives, first through opposing cognitive values that we are aware of in us, and then to transform the deeper (unaware) values we live by. The process of illumination is a gift the Spirit gives to those who have (as much as they can in their faithfulness) given themselves over the the work of God in their lives. Thomas Merton’s prayer captures well the reality of this journey when he says:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thoughts in Solitude, HT Len)

Slowly, as we walk in obedience the Spirit leads us into truth about ourselves and our deepest impulsive values are slowly unearthed. As God’s light shines into these parts of our inner rooms we become capable of yielding and are thus brought into more freedom and transformed.

In my post on 10 Tips for Living the Incarnation, and in Brant’s post (his elaboration on the importance of simplicity), values are expressed. Call them tips, practices, rules, guides, whatever, they in turn reflect the values I believe the Kingdom of God is constituted by. As a result of much trial and error from toiling in the garden of conversion and discipleship, these values (or whatever we call them) are expressed ones and my energy is going toward living them faithfully. However, I am not there yet. In fact, I am far from a place that I can say in all honesty is faithful to them. I contradict myself and time and again I compromise myself for the deeper impulsive values that conflict with how I ought to live. In fact there are many conflicting values that I am aware of that I sell out to. This equates to my willing sinfulness that is a deliberate walking away from the furnace of transformation. So, the reality of being shaped by values I am unaware of, and my desire to follow through on stated values collide and at times the crash is cause of great discouragement, but not loss of hope.

What might be the remedy for such a conundrum? Of course, it is the work the Spirit in us to lead into greener pastures. However, my question pertains to what our involvement in that process is. Some might say we are talking about mapping conversion. Here are my two cents for how we might approach this (in list form for simplicity):

  • We must learn to honestly pay attention to our lives and the world around us
  • We learn to pay attention by staying close to our experiences and feelings
  • We must practice seeing God in all areas of our lives (no sacred/secular)
  • We must ask God questions about ourselves and our experiences
  • We must always be looking for the invitation to freedom in our lives
  • We must be willing to learn in humility
  • And finally, we must consider that our lives this side of the eschaton are a journey and our destination is yet to come.

I am convinced that if we aim for an open, willing, and listening posture toward God, the tension between expressed and impulsive values will ease as we are brought into further likeness to the image of God.

What are your thoughts about this?

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10 Tips for Living the Incarnation…[Plus One]

[UPDATE: Brant Hansen initially left a comment this post expressing perhaps what might be one of the most important and prophetic tips/practices for living the incarnation these days in the West. I asked him to elaborate a little and his latest, well written blog post hits the mark. In a world marked by lives rushing at an unsustainable frenetic pace, simplicity, or as he calls his post “Here’s to Nothing“, can ironically accomplish the most benefit for the Kingdom. Brant’s examples of how he and his family live this out practically are worth consideration. Consider it the 11th tip and Check it out! More tips are welcome, leave a comment and let us know what you think.]

As a way to express much of what has been stirring in me lately, I have decided to give my top 10 tips for living incarnationally. This list is by no means exhaustive, but consists of my reflections on some important elements for the task. They are a result of my experience and experimentation of trying to embody the gospel in our neighbourhood. In some ways our community has explored and experienced many of these to a good degree; in other ways, we are just scratching the surface of what incarnational living means. In no particular order:

1. Attentive Listening: The art of listening is becoming increasingly important for what it means to live incarnationally. Appropriate listening is grounded in a robust understanding of Pneumatology that believes, in addition to the oft overemphasized personal experience, that the Holy Spirit is active, working, leading, and inviting the church into mission. Our ideas and plans can often override the still small voice that gently invites us into unexpected and new adventures. Peter’s encounter with Cornelius in the book of Acts is a good story to identify with for the importance of listening to live incarnationally. As the Spirit promises to lead us into all truth, we trust that God will reveal the injustice and oppression in our midst so that we can respond appropriately.

2. Formative Practices: Living in a rhythm that includes formative spiritual practices is vital to remain intimately connected to God. This is the Contemplative way. Seeking union with God and to see God in all things allows for greater freedom to reflect the image of God to others, understand His good an pleasing will, and it gives us a greater awareness of reality. Walking in closeness through disciplined practices of prayer, listening, scripture reading, Examen, discipleship, and fasting prepares the us for works of service that are pleasing to God and shapes us into a Gospel storied people.

3. Proximity: As Jesus localized himself in the incarnation, so too must the church localize in order to reflect most vividly the image of God. Without local relationships, the fullness of community seems somewhat lacking. People are transported everywhere through vehicles, the telephone, and the internet in convenient and practical ways. But at what cost? In the midst of the connectedness we have through technology, there is still a great longing for local relationship and the gift of presence. Being proximate with our relationships is vital if we are to express a full embodiment of what Biblical community is. So go for walks. Build relationships. Let people see you and know you are there.

4. Holistic Gospel Proclamation: Who are we and what are we about? These are vital questions about ourselves to understand and unless we have embraced the holistic gospel that includes the restoration of all creation, we run the risk of dualistic spirituality that settles for getting people to believe things about Jesus to get to heavn. Proclaiming the gospel invites people to walk alongside God in this world to help put it to rights. If we are to see the values of a community transformed, proclamation of a renewed heaven and earth and not just going to heaven are a vital component. Furthermore, inviting people into the restorative work of the church under the Lordship of Jesus is the most complete embodiment of the gospel. So we must ensure that we preach the full message and not just part of it.

5. Patience: Relationships take time. Gone are the days of thinking drive-by gospel presentations to win souls actually works anymore. Incarnation happens through the fabric of life involvement with others. That is why it is difficult to say how long it will take to transform a neighbourhood. The Gospel needs to take root and the most influential and effective way for this to happen is through long term relationships of trust to be established. So be patient and recognize that we are here for the long haul.

6. Generosity: Living with a deep theological generosity is both prophetic and attractive to a culture that is socialized into a hoarding mentality of scarcity. The fear of “not having” and the false human end our consumeristic culture preaches leaves people thinking charity and generosity consist merely of giving spare change or junk away. So be generous with all you have. Give without expecting repayment and share. The reality is that there is too much to go around in most cases and the freedom the Gospel invites us to live is one of an open hand toward possessions and not a closed fist. I am convinced it takes a living example of generosity to convince someone that the perceived freedom of consumption and materialistic pursuit is actually a form of slavery.

7. Advocacy: Following in the footsteps of Jesus means siding with the oppressed. Not only an identification with them, but an advocacy for them is what Kingdom living means. For if we believe that God is putting the world to rights, then we believe our place in that reconciliatory task is to deal with oppressiveness and injustice that systemically operates in our community. Go and involve yourself with local groups that already have a leg up on some issues, or start a grass roots movement. Offer to help and always be prepared to give an answer when people ask you why.

8. Hospitality: Relationships deepen in the home. Sharing a meal is an opportunity to allow the stranger to become a friend. As we welcome people into our home we welcome them into our hearts and allow them to freely be who they are. This requires us to become less and seek not our own desire to be known, but to desire first to know, understand, and appreciate the other. It is a posture of gentleness that reserves judgement and seeks only to love. Hospitality creates space for relationships to flourish and deepen.

9. Reading the Culture: This is perhaps one of the most important tasks for the church these days. To read the culture and understand how we are socialized as part of it is crucial to discern appropriate demonstration of the Gospel. The world and its messages that shape us today are nothing less than subversive and if we fail to understand the cultural forces and values that shape us we become scripted unawarely by them. So pay attention to media, to the stories people in your community tell and live by, to the news and to the things people constantly buy into. You’ll be better off for it and the opportunities for powerful and prophetic incarnation increase when we are aware of the stories our culture tells.

10. Pathos: Why do we even attempt to commit our lives to traveling the narrow road described in the points above? It is a response to the unending and faithful love of God alone! The love of God is the beginning of all incarnation. A response filled with passion and fueled by the Spirit comes out of our experience of conversion. Our experience of conversion is enabled by our willingness to embrace pathos. It must not stop with our initial coming to Christ, we must always have a real view of ourselves and our need for God as we grow in Him. In addition, none of this is attainable unless our hearts are in line with God’s and weep alongside His against the injustice, brokenness, and sorrow that plague what it means to live the human experience separated from God. We must resist thinking everything is OK and take seriously the suffering among us so that those who do suffer are not perceived as normal and expected fixtures of our community, but seen as Christ himself suffering. Compassion is born out of embracing pathos. Do we weep over our city as Jesus did over Jerusalem?

So what do you think? What other tips for incarnational living can you recommend. What is your tip and why?

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