Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Policy of Joint Agreement: Part 1

I want to tell you something that for some of you may be common sense and for others will blow your minds. Many of you will probably have objections. But trust me in this, if you try this for 30 days and it does not radically change the direction of your relationship I will give you your money back. But you haven't paid me anything you might ask? True, but that's besides the point! If you take this policy and apply it faithfully in your relationship, you and your spouse will cut down on fighting, bitterness, negative feelings, etc. It will probably contribute to a better sex life, deeper conversations, and excitement about your relationship and even life in general. It's not rocket science but it works. OK, here it is:

The Policy of Joint Agreement (By Wilard Harley)

In a marriage, your interests and your spouses interests should both be considered at the same time, all the time. One of you should not suffer for the benefit of the other, even willingly, because when either of you suffer, one is gaining at the other's expense. If you both care about each other, you will not let the other suffer so that you can have what you want. When you are willing to let the other sacrifice for you, you are momentarily lapsing into a state of selfishness that must somehow be corrected before damage is done. The Policy of Joint Agreement provides that correction.

Before I tell you what the Policy of Joint Agreement is, I want to warn you that when you read it for the first time you may think it's crazy to be suggesting such a rule. But the more you think about it, and the more you follow it in your marriage, the more you will recognize it as the breakthrough you need in the logjam that the Giver and Taker create in marriage.

The Policy of Joint Agreement:

Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.

If you follow this rule, it will prevent you from giving so much that it hurts you, or taking so much that you hurt your spouse. It forces you into the balance you need in marriage to create and sustain a compatible lifestyle and the feeling of love. So what happens if you have a dilemma and you can't agree on a solution - that is, you can't agree on a way to move forward that you are both enthusiastic about? The answer is simple; you don't do anything. Usually, this leads you back to the negotiating table where you can eventually find a solution or you take a breather on the issue and come back to it later. Either way, you don't damage the relationship by moving forward with something that one (or both spouses) strongly object to. Making decisions that cause one spouse to suffer are never worth it, even if the spouse submits to it. The Policy of Joint Agreement helps prevent and also correct some of our most emotionally damaging marital behaviors including manipulation, coercion, selfish demands, independent behavior, and annoying habits.

Committing to The Policy Of Joint Agreement is one of the toughest but wisest decisions you will ever make. Once you become accustomed to it, you will wonder how you ever attempted marriage without it. Why is it so effective? One reason is because it embodies Jesus words to us in the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"). It is the most loving, fair, and "Christian" way to approach an intimate relationship. It is a way for you to stand up for yourself as well as respect the freewill and choice of your spouse.

So what do you think? On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you uphold this policy in your marriage? Any objections to it? What's stopping you from trying it for 30 days and seeing what happens?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grieving The Deleted

Thanks Terry and Jacquie for your posts this past week. It's nice to get a change of viewpoint, style, and pace by having other people post sometimes . If anyone reading is interested in being a guest poster for Random Enlightenment, please let me know. The less experienced a blogger you are, the more authentic (and probably better) you will be!

As a side blogger note, let me tell you about a sad moment I had. Several months ago, I clicked onto one of my favorite blogs called The Red Pill, written by my good friend Jay. However when I clicked on it, it wasn't there! At first I didn't believe it. A blog just can't disappear can it? It was like if you have your car stolen at the mall - you come outside and just stand there awhile, trying to figure out what could have happened. Your mind plays tricks on you. Are you in the wrong spot? Did it get towed? Slowly the cold, hard realization hits you like a load of bricks. It's gone, baby! Like when the Millennium Falcon comes out of hyperspace in Star Wars Episode IV:

What the...? Aw, we've come out of
hyperspace into a meteor shower. Some kind of asteroid collision. It's not on any of the charts. (The Wookiee flips off several controls and seems very cool in the emergency. Luke makes his way into the bouncing cockpit.)

What's going on?


Our position is correct, except...
no, Alderaan!

What do you mean? Where is it?


Thats what I'm trying to tell you,
kid. It ain't there. It's been totally blown away. . .

That's how I felt when I went to Jay's blog - that it had been blown away. (Sniff.)

Usually when a blogger decides not to blog anymore they just let their blog sit there for eternity (some of you readers know exactly what I'm talking about). But this was different, the blog was not just abandoned, it was deleted. Quite dramatic and without any warning. I sensed myself going through the stages of grief:

1. Denial. "No, this can't be happening! It hasn't happened! It's still there, I just can't see it!"
2. Anger. "What, he can't do this! I loved that blog! Who does he think he is?!"
3. Bargaining. "Maybe if I beg him, he'll reconsider . . ."
4. Depression. ""I'm so sad, why bother with anything . . . What's the point? I miss that blog, why go on blogging myself?"
5. Acceptance. "It's gone. I can survive this. I will go on."

It took me awhile, but I think I'm onto stage five. I will be OK. And I will always have the memories.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dance of Anger part deux

Harriet: "If feeling anger signals a problem, venting anger does not solve it. Venting anger may serve to maintain, and even rigidify, the old rules and patterns in a relationship, thus ensuring that change does not occur." (pg. 4)
Jacquie: Ever just ranted and raved at your mate, or good friend and felt "better" after? But did anything relationally really change from your venting?
Harriet: "Nothing, but nothing, will block the awareness of anger so effectively as guilt and self-doubt. Our society cultivates guilt feelings in women such that many of us still feel guilty if we are anything less than an emotional service station to others." (pg.7)
Jacquie: Do you agree guilt and women/mothers go hand in hand?
Harriet: "Those of us who fight ineffectively are usually caught up in unsuccessful efforts to change a person who does not want to change. When our attempts to change the other person's beliefs, feelings, reactions, or behaviors do not work, we may then continue to do more of the same, reacting in predictable, patterned ways that only escalate the very problems we complain about. We may be so driven by emotionality that we do not reflect on our options for behaving differently or even believe that new options are possible. thus, our fighting protects the old familiar patterns in our relationships..." (pg.9)
Jacquie: OOOhhh. So guilty here, the nagging, the blaming, the crying and stomping. Many years I have tried to change Bob, and he so far has never changed because I thought he should. And it turns out, all my "reactions" drove us further away from change.
Harriet: "Our anger can be a powerful vehicle for personal growth and change if it does nothing more than help us recognize that we are not yet clear about something and that it is our job to keep struggling with it." (pg.107)
Jacquie: When I feel myself getting angry, these are good times for me to say to myself, "what am I really angry about here?" "Is there something I, (not someone else) could change in this situation?"
Harriet: "Countermoves are the other person's unconscious attempt to restore a relationship to its prior balance or equilibrium, when anxiety about separateness and change gets too high...Our job is to keep clear about our own position in the face of a countermove - not to prevent it from happening or to tell the other person that he or she should not be reacting that way." (pg.35)
Jacquie: A wise woman told me this week, you can only be responsible for what you are responsible for. I have seen in Bob's and my relationship, his attempt to escalate an argument, when I won't fall into our old pattern of fighting. (I'm not bragging, I've got a long way to go, I'll be honest.) I can be responsible for my end of the fighting, to not blame, nag, and speak in "you" messages. I can express my feelings (NOT TO CHANGE HIS, but to clarify my position), I can ask to regroup myself so we can talk later when it's not so heated...and in the end, if they freak out, or play the martyr, I can't be held responsible for his reaction.
Harriet: "Even if we are convinced that the other person is ninety-seven percent to blame, we are still in control of changing our own three percent." (pg.56)
Jacquie: Need I say more?
Harriet: "But we know that this interaction [of blaming] is really a circular dance in which the behavior of one partner maintains and provokes the behavior of the other. The circular dance has no beginning and no end. In the final analysis, it matters little who started it. The question of greater significance is: 'How do we break out of it?'" (pg.?)
Jacquie: I think Harriet said if one person changes the step in the dance, the same dance can't continue...praise God, there's hope!
Ok, folks, I'm not sure I'm back...so I'm leaving you with these tasty tidbits. If you're interested, she's also written a book called The Mother Dance. If I had ninja stars, I'd give them, but I think I'd like to finish these books first...and like I said, I have a hard time finishing books!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Yes, another guest blogger

I'm afraid I'm doing the equivalent to "cutting someone off" on the road, except on Mark's blog, sorry if I'm cutting in Terry, I'm guessing because of the weather you've been unable to post...hence, why I'm here!!

Anyways, I'm Jacquie. Mark and I met at Briercrest in 1993, I fell in love with his mom and dad and became an "adopted" daughter I guess. Jobina and I enjoy coffee together when we can, and I let her hold my babies so she can get her baby fix in! :o) What a privilege it has been to know them. I've been married for 13 years (incredible...days we thought we'd never make it past 1, or2, or3 years...we are passionate disagreeers sometimes), I'm the mother of 4 children (also incredible...I actually apparently wanted 6 growing up, but we have successfully stopped at 4.) Their ages are 7, 4, 2 years and 5 months. I'm currently on a maternity leave from one of the most fulfilling jobs I've ever known, a labor and delivery nurse at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, MB. I've been sucked in by the whole "card making" business, and the honest truth is I love it, but am weary of being called "crafty." I don't craft, I make cards, Ok? Is that enough introduction to build some credibility to post here????? I guess Mark will let me know!

Unlike Mark, I am not an avid book reader, I got through all of high school without reading an entire book in English class. I remember finding out in the middle of a test that a character had died in the book I didn't finish. I think I got better through Bible college, I managed to get through most of the Bible, but failed miserably through the Pentateuch...I think Leviticus did me in. And having children, well, 4 of them, is not very conducive to lengthy reading. But something caught my attention this maternity leave, I'll leave you to put two and two together, but the name of the book is The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner.

She prefaces the book right at the start to say that this book isn't meant to be a technical explanation of why women find themselves angry, or for that matter why we should find ourselves occasionally angry. She states that this book is meant for easy reading, and a practical guide to "changing the patterns of intimate relationships." Although she is pretty clear that the changes aren't easy, I know for myself, they have required a lot of self-reflection. Lerner also says that the relationships around you may be consciously or subconsciously against you making changes to your part of the "dance." Even in the crappiest of relationships there lies a resistance to change, despite the obvious need for it.

I find myself angry a lot of the time, this is my main mode of emotion I operate out of, and I've found that anger is more common among young mothers than I would have first guessed. I am in no way a hardcore feminist, but there are "dances" society encourages women to do, or to be, inside of our intimate relationships, that lend to some of this anger, and I am starting to notice. After being at home for a few months of maternity leave, I have found myself yelling at my kids, blaming my husband, and falling into the "irrational" stereotype that women sometimes have hanging over them. I realized this had to stop, and I was the only one in this moment to make it stop. "Anger is a tool for change when it challenges us to become more of an expert on the self and less of an expert on others." (Lerner, pg.102)

Mothers are classic at being an expert on others don't you think? I'm so busy looking after kids, laundry, food, house, that sometimes I wonder, who am I outside of all these things? I know for instance, that Eliot doesn't like crust on his sandwich, Calvin doesn't like mushrooms, Tessa needs to be cozied before bed and Sam needs something soft close to his face before falling asleep. Sometimes, we mothers, let ourselves go, because everyone around us is much louder and more demanding. And I believe, the louder everyone else gets, the more angrier we can become on the inside, and the more resentful we can become thus leading soon to an "eruption" of anger on whomever is on this life journey with or near us.

So, if this is resonating with any of you, I'll share some more stuff I've been reading tomorrow. But if you think it's all a load of feminist BS, then you can let me know too and I'll keep this life change for myself!! :o) I'm ok with that by the way!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guest Bloggin

Good day!

Mark asked me to be his 'guest blogger' for a couple days. Having never attempted something like this before, I decided it was time to try. I would have posted yesterday, but the winter weather we're getting here knocked out my wireless ISP.

So a little intro for those who don't know who I am, I'm a friend of Mark's from his distant past. I got to know him a little in high school, and we attended the same church for some time. Even though I am 3 years younger than he, we hung in the same group in high school. OK well maybe it was more like the grade 12s tolerating my grade 9 presence, not sure. But it worked for me...

Later on, Mark and I worked at Camp Arnes (where I basically grew up from 89-95), after which he went off the Briercrest... which is where I went to elementary school back in 1987. I always find it very interesting to see that he is connected with several people that I was connected to, albeit many years earlier.

Anyways, enough reminiscence. About me.... married for almost 3 years, live near Niverville (hopefully not a flood zone!) in the country. Claim to fame? Well, Sabrina and I got married, bought a house, got a dog, and got pregnant in the first 30 days of our marriage. Since then, it hasn't slowed down terribly much, and it feels like we are just finally settling into our life here. Just before that happened though, we decided to get pregnant again, and are expecting our second child in August.

I work at Motor Coach Industries in Winnipeg, and have spent the majority of my life after high school working in business, usually in purchasing and manufacturing. Spent some time in college getting my Business Admin diploma.

There ya go. For those who didn't know me, now you kinda do. For those who know me, but haven't heard from me in ages, thats the 25 cent tour of my life.

So some of the things I find intriguing about Mark's blog include the Financial aspects, as well as the spiritual. I find I'm not terribly good at the spiritual stuff, but the financial stuff I'm OK at. Something to work on I suppose.

Anyways, thats all for now. Hopefully my internet stays up so I can post something more interesting tomorrow!

Terry in Niverville.

PS the pic is of my 2yr old daughter Samara. She looks peaceful in the pic, but it was quite the experience getting her to 'pose' for the camera. :)

Guesting It

Just a note to tell people that I'm taking a few days off of blogging to catch up on some life stuff. So I've asked for some other people to fill in for me whilst I'm away. Enjoy the guest blogging (and some new thoughts) in the meantime!

Feed Your Fire

I had a good talk with Cole Choken, an old friend from my OG days this weekend. Cole is an amazing guy; he used to weigh 320 pounds and now's he's dropped over a hundred of that and is in the best shape of his life. Cole ran from Calgary to Winnipeg a year ago and is training to leave in December on a much longer run; Mexico city along the eastern seaboard of the USA & Canada and then back home to Winnipeg. He's raising money for diabetes, a disease that is very prevalent in Native Canadians (and one that has affected many people in his family as well). He's also just a really good guy.

Cole is a good study in motivation. What is his secret? While talking to him on the phone he mentioned how he is super excited about visiting two places on his upcoming big run. The first is Thunder Bay where the Terry Fox statue is located. Terry Fox is one of Cole's heroes. The other place is Philedelphia where the famous "Rocky Stairs" are located. Apparently when Cole was a boy, he lived with his Dad and they only owned two movies. One of these was one of the Rocky movies (I can't remember if it was 1 or 2) and he and his Dad used to watch that movie once every two days. Once every two days! That's a lot of times to watch an extremely motivating movie. I believe Cole was primed by this experience to be ready to accept the challenge to change his life when the time came. And when he chose to change - well, he knew where to go to find motivation to follow through.

Cole knows how to motivate himself and that is what separates him from others with lofty intentions. He is continually feeding himself motivation. He listens to inspiring music. He watches inspiring movies. He continually tells everyone what he is planning to do, inviting them to be a part of his journey with him (brings others onto his "team" and gains accountability at the same time). Who is responsible for motivating us, for inspiring us? We are. Or more specifically, you are.

Billy Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek was once asked why he takes speaking engagements in small churches that are celebrating momentous events. After all, he's a busy guy and he has "bigger fish to fry" as the saying goes. The explanation he gave is that when he attends such an event, he actually gets more out of it then his audience. Hybels find those kind of celebratory events inspiring and motivating - they get him hyped, engaged, and on fire for the local church. He comes back from such an event energized and hyped to see the church prevail. So he speaks at these events not just because it's a good thing to do, but because he needs it to stay motivated in his ministry. It's not a option for him. Like Cole, he knows what he need to do to stay motivated. Do you? And if so, are you making the time for it? I believe that discovering/knowing what fires you and making time to do it, is the single most effective thing we can do to fulfill the dreams and goals that God puts in our hearts. It's not a substitution for discipline, rather it is the foundation of it - the catalyst for it. What step do you need to take to feed your motivation/inspiration fires this week? And what's stopping you?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Heavy Metal Grandma

Really think you should work out but are having trouble finding the motivation? Think you should get in shape but finding excuses? Ever blame your age for you inability to reach your goals? Here's an inspiring person that might help you:

Heavy Metal Grandma

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What Do You Love To Do For Fun?

At our small group meeting the other day we had some questions that everyone answered. One of them was: "What do you love to do for fun?" I like this question because it helps you connect with someone and find out what really, really makes them tick. Notice it's not what do you "like" to do for fun. No, no this is about what you love to do for fun.

William Glasser believes that fun is one of our core human needs and I agree with him. For me, doing the fun things I love gives me joy and energy. Here's two of my big ones:

1. Exploring. Whether it's a sufferfest paddling adventure, a spin through a part of my city I've never been before, or driving down a new road out in the country . . . I love to explore. Seeing what's around the corner is glorious. On my way to work I continually drive down new streets just to see what's on them. And when travelling through a foreign area I continually have to fight the desire to stop the vehicle, get out, and run into the forest. Why? Because I want to know - what's out there that I haven't seen before?

2. New ideas. It may sound strange but new ideas invigorate me. I crave them! Whether its theology, psychology, sociology, economics, architecture, business, poetry, the environment, comedy, philosophy, art, or something else. Life is worth living to me because we as humans are continually applying creativity to the world around us. When I hear a creative idea that I've never heard before it's like music to my ears. This is why I will never get sick of reading (and why I read so widely) - it is pure fun to hear new ideas!

So what do you love (and it has to be love) to do for fun? I'm really quite curious . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Going Solo

I saw this video on ysmarko, and it reminded me of some of my solo times - times spent alone seeking God. I've shared with a few people about how I've gone on solos (the longest was for 5 days) and how they impacted me. The thing a lot of people don't like to hear is that part of that time spent seeking God can be tough. Very tough. I find that much of that time is often spent in battle: battle against distractions, temptation, doubt, fear, and self. I think that when I first started doing these solos that I believed God would reward me instantly for taking time off to be with him. Saint Mark, modern day Desert Father! Not quite. Just like making a date with your spouse does not guarantee a night of bliss, neither does setting time aside for God. You still bring yourself to the equation, with all your issues, hangups, and foibles. And most of the time you still need to put work into the encounter (don't all relationships require work of some kind?). Although I don't want to put God into a box and sometimes our time spent with him can be effortless and blissful, often it requires hard work. For me that work is battle and though I wish it were otherwise, that is what it is.

So maybe that's why I can identify with this video so much. Although Jesus' battle in the wilderness was very different from mine (ex/ battling Satan directly vs. me battling my sin and weaknesses), I did feel some solidarity with Him. And like the video, I too find wonder in the simple beauties of the wilderness. This video is not a literal rendition, some artistic license has been taken, but perhaps it may connect with you. Enjoy:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


When I was 11 or 12 I remember feeling a strong desire to go and explore the forest and bush (on our quarter section of land) but also feeling great fear and trepidation about doing so. I can vividly remember standing behind our house and looking longingly into the distance towards the trees but finding myself frozen with fear. I literally couldn't take a step. What was I afraid of? Wild animals mostly (wolves, bears, cougars, etc.). Yet my heart wanted to know what lay in the woods. My instinct and my fear duelled for supremacy.

Eventually my heart won out over my fear and I explored the bush. It was exciting, terrifying, and deeply satisfying - all at the same time. I found that the wilderness was a place where God and I could have fellowship. I have never regretted my choice.

This relates to my subject of the day. It seems to me that we wear a lot of masks. The masks protect us from being real with people, of showing them who we truly are. Transparency - the act of being ourselves with others- is frightening and unnatural. We desire it - we crave it in fact - but we fear it at the same time. "What will people think of me?" "What if they knew about my past?" The fears and doubts swirl in our heads. Eventually most of us will take a chance and reveal ourselves to someone. Scary and unsafe it is and sometimes we will get hurt. But really, its the only decent way to live.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spontaneous Parenting Theory

“Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes.”
-Chinese Proverb

Yesterday I was sitting around the table (at Chez Cora's) with my family. The kids were lost in their own worlds and us adults were discussing parenting. In the midst of our conversation (which was specifically about discipline) I spouted the following theory:

Although some children have natural ADD or ADHD, I'm wondering about how many children's behavioral issues stem from disciplining mistakes made at home. Since so many children are parented by single parents (or because the other spouse is gone so much its almost the same thing), many children end up with only one functional parent. This one parent undergoes what all parents do - the incessant challenging of authority. A single parent must continually fight the desire to "sluff off," compromise, and ignore infractions as the disciplinarian of the household. Unfortunately when one is parenting alone this slide becomes imperceptible. In other words, the parent sluffs off in acceptable levels of discipline without even realizing they've done it. They begin to accept rudeness, disobedience, lack of respect, non-responsiveness, demandingness, etc from their children. Perhaps deep in the back of their minds they realize something is wrong, but they often feel powerless to do something about it.

My theory is that this natural slide of parental discipline and control is worse the more alone the parent is in their duties. There is something beautiful about having two parents call each other on stuff ("Hey, why are you letting him talk to you like that?"), offer fresh solutions ("Why not send them to their rooms?)"), and be an encouragement ("I know you feel bad about taking away her dolls, but you did the right thing"). In other words, parenting seems best when it is done as a team. I have called Jobina on things and she points outs my parental mistakes to me.

I realize my own "slide" mentality when I watch our kids alone for an extended time. Laziness at calling the kids on things, assigning and enforcing consequences, etc. naturally seems to happen the longer I parent the kids by myself. The old stereotypical view that women make the best caregivers and can do just fine without assistance seems dangerous to me. To raise behaved, psychologically healthy, and confident children is not easy, but it is easier (I think) when parents have the opportunity to love and influence their children as a team.

Am I saying that single moms and dads cannot hope to parent as well? Not at all. I think that there are many single parents who are better parents then some mother/father teams! But I think that they have to work much harder then an involved two parent family to get the same results. Also single parents can rely on family, friends, and church family who can help "parent" children and provide those extra person supports (accountability, encouragement, solutions, etc) that every parent needs so badly.

My theory (which you are free to poke holes in by the way) challenges me to not sluff off (which I often do) in the parenting of our children. I'm also challenged to keep my eyes and heart open to be a support to the single parents in my midst. And as long as theory becomes action, I should be OK.

May Light increase!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Newspaper Clippings

I saw these recently and they made me smile. They aren't really deep, but they are amusing. Have a great Saturday!

Which one did you like the best?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Battle Cry Of The Fool

The battle cry of the fool: "Don't tell me what to do!"
- Rod Appleby

This morning I glanced up and saw this quote on a calendar at Turning Point. So true, so true.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Overcoming Adversity

Thanks ysmarko for pointing out this video. It's a great illustration of how it is possible to overcome our weaknesses and limitations:

Are you focusing too much on your limits/weaknesses and not enough on your potential? What action can you take (today) to change view of yourself and your situation?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jumping To Conclusions

Last night at around 10:50 or so Jobina and I were watching TV in our living room. Actually I was blogging and she was watching TV. Suddenly, we heard knocking on our back door. Jobina screamed "There's a man outside our window!" Our drapes were open and we could a teenage boy in the dim light outside. He was a dark skinned guy with short hair, a peach fuzz moustache, and was wearing an oversized hoodie. I started to get up to answer the door but Jobina told me in no uncertain terms that this would be a bad idea! I thought to myself, maybe she's right. I shouted to the boy through our 1970's cheap and thin windows "Hello?"

"Could I borrow a shovel?" he yelled back, "I'm stuck." Smelling a rat I asked him back "Where's your car?" He pointed and said "Around the corner." I told him that we had a shovel in our front yard he could borrow." I watched him go around our house, to the front and grab the shovel. He went to to the back again and we saw him break into a run when he got out into the back alley. Hmmm . . .

"Not sure if we'll get that shovel back," said Jobina quietly. I was secretly thinking the same thing. Jobina and I were a little on edge after that. Jobina told me that one of our neighbors had had something similar happen to them and within a day or two they had been robbed. Had this guy been casing out our house? I'm a pretty optimistic person, but even I had to admit this was possible. And there was his story about being stuck. It hasn't snowed for several days! We closed our drapes and waited.

After 40 minutes the guy still hadn't come back. I decided to walk around the block and see if I could see anything. Jobina wasn't happy about this, but she let me go. I told her I should be back in about 10 minutes. I was going to tell her what to do if I didn't return, but thought that she probably couldn't handle it. I went around the block and started to approach the general area when the guy had pointed. As I got closer I could see the back of a car, parked in the middle of the road, lights on and engine running. I could make out somone in the back smoking. I didn't get too close because I didn't want them to see me. Wow, maybe they really were casing our house (or others on the block)! I crept back to the house. A much relieved Jobina opened the door and I explained the situation. I told her that maybe we should call the police - suspicious behavior after all. First though I wanted to get a license plate number. Jobina warned me not to get myself killed!

I went back out but as I was approaching the car (still there) I saw a van come up behind it. Instead of bolting the car just stayed right where it was. The van actually bumped the car, spun it's tires for a moment, and then a man got out and when to talk to the people in the car. Hmmm . . maybe the car had been stuck I thought. I went back to our house and went out to our back yard. Peering over the fence I could hear the unmistakable sound of spinning tires. Doh, somebody was stuck there! I told Jobina sheepishly that it appeared the car was really stuck and that I walked out to investigate. Sure enough the poor guys had got stuck by taking the corner too sharply and getting hung up on a snow bank. The person in the van was just trying to help them. They hadn't returned my shovel because they were trying to use it every now and then to free the car. I tried to help them but eventually they gave up and called a tow truck.

Can you see the errors in judgement that Jobina and I made? A boy knocks at our back door and we start jumping to conclusions. The boys age and darker skin, combined with the time of night and the way he came to our back door (through our yard) made us jumpy and predisposed us to think negatively. When Jobina told me the story of someone being cased and then robbed we started to come up with a hypothesis about what was happening. We then saw everything through our hypothesis - we thought the boy ran because he was making a quick getaway - actually it was because it was an extremely cold night and he was totally underdressed! When I saw the parked car, I was primed to see it as a get-a-way car of some kind and so that's what I saw. Jobina's initial fear spread to me. When I asked her if she was imaginging terrible things happening to me after I first left, she said yes. So many cognitive errors happened. I felt quite ashamed of myself afterwards, yet it is difficult to suspend my perception biases long enough to find out the truth.

Would you have come up with a different interpretation of events?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ever Been Here?

I have. Or least it's felt like it. Am I terrible for being honest about it??

This art is from David Hayward at Naked Pastor a few days ago. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What Happens To A Foreclosed House?

The Power of Relationship

"It is the relationship that heals" - Irvin Yalom

I'm rereading one of my old counselling texts, Irvin Yalom's "Love's Executioner." Its a collection of short stories, case studies of Yalom's interaction with his clients. I really enjoy tales from therapy. Reading a famous counselor's recollections of notable real life therapy is not just highly entertaining but instructive as well. In other words I learn alot and am reminded about a lot. And it feels good to hear that even master therapists don't always know what they are doing!

Yalom is an existential therapist. Existential therapy focuses on helping people deal with meaning , loneliness, death anxiety, purpose, being, and freedom. This isn't my main focus of counselling, but nonetheless I was struck with love his emphasis on relationship. To Yalom there is no helping without relationship. Every part of the counselling process hinges on the ability of the counselor and client to be able to connect. How is this connection facilitated? By client and counselor being available to each other; honest, authentic, real, vulnerable, caring, etc. A client must feel accepted, supported, and valued. This gives the relationship what it must have - meaning. If it doesn't therapy will certainly fail. Brilliant interpretations, homework, solutions, etc are never the most important part of helping someone. The client must first have the foundation of a good relationship before anything else meaningful can happen. Once a person is in a strong relationship with someone, then (and only then) can they truly be helped (or just as likely heal themselves). In this way it is true as Yalom says "It is the relationship that heals."

The take-away for anyone not in the counseling field is that relationships are key to everything. Want to motivate someone? You need relationship. Want to confront them? Again relationship. Want to help them with their problems? You must have a connection with them - and they with you. So stop trying to just focus on fixing people's problems. Instead, why not focus on a strong relationship with that person?

Thanks for the reminder Professor Yalom.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I'm Not Loving It

Random life stuff: Today Jobina and I got home and both decided that we should just go out for dinner (no one felt like making anything). So we had to make a decision; where to eat? Jobina and I thought that we'd rather go somewhere fast - maybe Subway? The kids choice: McDonald's. It's almost always McDonald's for them. Sigh, curse you McDonald's with your billions spent on laser-like marketing to kids! As a compromise I told them that we'd go to McDonald's but that this would be the last time for a long time. Slowly, we've been trying to wean them off their taste for it, but alas, it is usually still their first choice. Maybe I should get them to watch "Supersize Me."

Anyway, against my better judgment we went. I can see why kids like it so much; playland and Happy Meals - what other fast food place can compete? Seriously, McDonald's knows how to attract kids. If Subway only had playland, think how life might change! Instead, we ended up at the golden arches, thinking about how yucky we'd feel inside after our visit.

The kids had no problems there but for Jobina and I it's daunting. We are still getting off our meatless diet and leery of the effects of eating meat. Afterwords (as usual) I felt gross after eating there but at least my stomach wasn't in pain. It didn't help that I found some "McGristle" in my McChicken burger! It's remarkable though, you really do feel different eating meat (not in good ways) when you haven't in a while. I'm not sure if we are still just experiencing the "halo effect" from going meatless for a month, but meat is certainly rarely craved now. We are eating a lot more vegetables. And I think I feel quite a bit better on days when I keep the meat to a minimum (or don't eat any at all).

Well, the kids liked going there at least. One of them even thanked God for us going in their evening prayers. I guess that's something!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Music To My Ears

I have been told there are two kinds of people; those who spend more on music and those who spend more on books. I'm firmly in the latter category. I would guess I spend an average of about $10 per year on music - not a lot! I don't want to even think about how much I spend on books. Basically, that's to say that music is not that important to me. When I was a teenager and college student I did listen to a fair amount but it was never high on my list of things to do.

On Tuesday I was headed out of town to a BCBC board meeting and I uncharacteristically grabbed my iPod. Half way out to my destination (about 2 hours from my home) I remembered it, set it to shuffle, and started listening. I'm not sure why, but as I listened to songs I felt my soul stirring. Does that make sense? Basically by that I mean that I started thinking and feeling thoughts about my purpose in life, God, etc. I was thinking about transcendence, things outside of the material dimension but independent of it. I was hearing the spiritual meanings in the songs I was listening to and connecting with them. It felt good.

Occasionally some Christmas songs would come up. My first inclination was to skip them - most people who know me know of my struggle with the season - but I decided to give them a try anyway. To my surprise I found myself connecting deeply with several Christmas songs - the first time in a long time! I think that being able to reflect on the meaning of Christmas outside of the distraction of the season made the beauty and joy of Christ's birth finally available to me. I felt my heart soar as I listened to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlement" by BNL and I savoured the words "Wise men still adore him" in some late 70's Christmas music from my childhood. It was wonderful. When I got to my meeting I felt like a different person, more in touch with my heart (and my heart for God) then I usually do. When someone shared some verses in a devotional thought at the beginning of the meeting, I savoured each word. I felt elated and thoughtful.

I listened to more music on the way home and even sang along sometimes - worshipping in a way that was so unusual for me. For the first time in many moons I felt God connecting with me (and I with Him) through music. I know that music will never be one of the more prominent ways that I will connect to Him, but for that one night it was gift that I will cherish the memory of. Faith is more then just intellectual assent to things, it is also emotional connection. I think that for me music can be a powerful way to that emotional side. I want my faith to be intellectual and emotionally strong and I was reminded that night how necessary both are to my soul. Anyway, these are just some random thinking I had a few nights ago.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quote Of The Day

I love this:

"When you blame others, you give up your power to change."
-Robert Anthony

P.S. The image is "Blame Game 3" by artist Donny Hood.

Piracy Justification

(Click on image to enlarge)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happiness Tip: Stop Watching So Much TV!

A recent, 30 year study at the University of Maryland confirms it: The more TV you watch, the less happy you probably are. So what do the happy people do with their spare time: they read or socialize. Some of the major findings:

-Self-described "very happy people" were more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read more newspapers. By contrast, unhappy people watched significantly more television in their spare time.

-According to the study's findings, unhappy people watch an estimated 20 percent more television than very happy people, after taking into account their education, income, age and marital status - as well as other demographic predictors of both viewing and happiness.

-The data also suggested TV viewing is "easy." Viewers don't have to go anywhere, dress up, find company, plan ahead, expend energy, do any work or spend money in order to view. Combine these advantages with the immediate gratification offered by television, and you can understand why Americans spend more than half their free time as TV viewers.

-Unhappy people were also more likely to feel that they have unwanted extra time on their hands (51 percent) compared to very happy people (19 percent) and to feel rushed for time (35 percent vs. 23 percent). Having too much time and no clear way to fill it was the bigger burden of the two.

-TV and addiction: The short, temporary pleasure of television can be likened to addiction: "Addictive activities produce momentary pleasure and long-term misery and regret," he says. "People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged. For this kind of person, TV can become a kind of opiate in a way. It's habitual, and tuning in can be an easy way of tuning out."

We are currently without TV in our household, although we do watch a lot of movies and TV series on DVD. I think most of us are aware of the dangers of too much TV watching, yet we flirt with it anyway. It does have an addictive quality to it that we should not underestimate. Not that I think some TV watching is bad, but we should be careful with it. Especially if we know that it may directly impact our happiness. Interesting stuff!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scheduling Fights

In solution focused therapy, one technique that is sometimes helpful with couples is called the scheduling fights task. The couple (usually prone to conflict) is told that they are only allowed to fight at certain times. For instance they may be allowed 2 hours on Wednesday night the first week, and 1 hour the next week. Often they are told to fight hard during these times but to avoid fighting any other time.

What is the point you may ask? First, it helps a couple to interrupt their old patterns of fighting, something they may sometimes feel is impossible to stop. But when they do this exercise they do find it is possible! The old cycle is broken and they now have the opportunity to try something new.

The second benefit is that one or both members of the couple see the process of fighting as something they can actually control. Many fighting couples come into therapy believing they can't help fighting and that the other person makes them fight. Yet when they start scheduling fights, they realize the can indeed control themselves (and thus their fighting) if they choose to. What at first seems inevitable and beyond control is not really so. They realize that fighting is not so inevitable after all.

By interrupting the old pattern and showing them that they can control one's actions, the myth of endless fighting is challenged. Paired with some other techniques, this task can be useful to help a couple wanting to change things, maybe it would be helpful for you?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Review: Holding Fast

Book Review: Holding Fast: The Untold Story of The Mount Hood Tragedy

I wasn't sure if I would make it through this book. After reading the first chapter or two I was struck by an incredibly strong desire not to continue reading! The book is all about a tragedy and as the story unfolded I began to feel a sense of dread about where it was going. Written by the wife of a climber who gets the news that her husband did not make it off the mountain, she writes honestly and openly enough that you feel right along with her. Usually a quick reader, I put the book down for a couple of weeks. This past weekend I picked it up again and forced myself to keep going with it. I was very glad I did.

Holding Fast is written by Karen James, the widow of a mountain climber Kelly James. The book is about the life of this amazing couple and the series of events that lead to a massive search and rescue effort on Mount Hood, looking for Kelly. What Karen and her children go through, the efforts of the searchers, and the response by family and friends make this a truly compelling story. Painful yes, but therapeutic as well. It is a book about letting go - on several levels. It would be difficult to not be inspired by the life of Kelly - he truly loved life but was not a prisoner to it. Like myself he found himself closest to God when outdoors. He is described as a man who loved hard, risked hard, and laughed hard - all traits I'd like to have more of. He seemed to have a good balance between fully enjoying this life and longing for the next.

Kelly's faith was a rock to his wife but she had to find her own faith in the aftermath of Kelly's death. The response by her friends and family and the powerful steps she took in the grieving process would be helpful for anyone going through grief (or wanting to know how to help those who are). How does one recover from terrible tragedy, when the thing you loved the most is taken from you? Karen seems to have found the answers to this painful question and the end result is hope for herself and those who read her story.

Most North American movies are the ones with happy endings, but if you read only such books, you are missing out on a major part of the human experience - overcoming suffering. I recommend this book to anyone interested in questions about life, suffering, faith, or anyone with a passion for the outdoors. Very readable, thought provoking, and real. 4 out of 5 ninja stars.

P.S. This was the first book I read through Thomas Nelson's free book review program for bloggers. Find out more about it here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Meatless in Manitoba: Day 28 and beyond

OK, well my grand experiment is over. I went a whole month (even if it was the shortest month of the year) without any meat. As we speak Jobina is cooking our first meal with meat - tuna casserole. Honestly, I approach this meal with dread. First, because of how my stomach may react to the meat and secondly because I'm sad to abandon my experiment. It was a very cool experience. Yet now, just anticipating the meat, my stomach feels "off." Alas.

It's powerful to change one's routine, just for the sake of changing it. It reminds us that we are still captain's of our own destiny, that we truly can choose to do things that are against the norm. That's what this experiment was for me. Could I do it? The answer was yes, and I'd say it wasn't even that bad (giving up chocolate for a few months was much, much worse). Yes, I had the occasional cravings, but only when I was very hungry. I felt better (about 15-20%, depending on how healthy I ate) and felt less gluttonous, gross, overfilled, etc.

I am grieving the loss of my experiment and feel confused. I kind of want to continue it, kind of want to end it, and kind of want to do an even more radical experiment (whole foods vegan perhaps?). I became sincerely OK with not eating meat and it even became a little bit of my identity.

So what was it like? Basically it was like normal life - except without meat. Except for the banquet that I spoke at where we were offered prime rib, I didn't feel any significant social pressure anywhere. Because Jobina was on board I didn't have to even think much about changing my eating habits because she did most of the work (thanks Babe). Honestly, I probably thought about meat maybe once or twice a day, and that thought was usually fleeting. I dropped about 5 or 6 pounds which is nice (although unnecessary for me) and I think that if I'd eaten healthier that would have gone down even more. Besides feeling better, I'd say the best part was getting to eat some new delicious foods that we probably would not have tried unless we tried this crazy experiment. My favorites were pizza veggie subs, various curry dishes, lentils, and this shell thing. I also realized that I hate beans and never want to have them again! Thanks everyone for your interest, questions, encouragement, and questioning my masculinity - it was all part of the experience and much appreciated. If I decide to go back on the meatless thing (or go vegan for awhile), I'll be sure to post about it.

Jobina just send the boy downstairs to tell me dinner is ready. I must go . . .