Sunday, June 27, 2010

Walk A Little Slower Daddy

"Walk a little slower Daddy,"
said a child so small,
"I'm following in your footsteps
and I don't want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast,
Sometimes they're hard to see;
So walk a little slower, Daddy,
For you are leading me.

Someday when I'm all grown up,
You're what I want to be;
Then I will have a little child
Who'll want to follow me.

And I would want to lead just right,
And know that I was true,
So walk a little slower, Daddy,
For I must follow you."

-Author Unknown

On Father's Day my daughter Trinity gave me a cute little card with this poem. I missed church this Father's day but didn't miss getting some Father's day exhortation! I'm not sure why but every time I read this simple poem it is very convicting to me and gets me kind of choked up. The message is a good one and I hope it blesses some other Dads out there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

T or F: People Just Fall Out Of Love

I got this in a newsletter from Michele Weiner-Davis, one of my favorite marriage therapist/ authors:

True or False: "People just fall out of love."

Answer: False

Some people believe that they need to divorce their spouses because they've fallen out of love. They didn't mean for it to happen, it just happened. To them, love is a feeling that is either there or it's not there. If it's there, you get married. If it's not there, you divorce. This is one of the silliest ideas I have ever heard.

The number one cause for the breakdown in marriages in our country is that people don't spend enough time together. They take their marriages and their spouses for granted. Everything- work, the kids, soccer games, community activities, extended family obligations, and so on- becomes more important than spending time together-. The marriage gets placed on the bottom of the priority list. When this happens, people grow apart. They become two strangers passing in the night. They're no longer a team. And, because they're distant, the little time they do spend together, they end up fighting.

This distance and alienation sometimes fools people into thinking they've fallen out of love. They feel numb. They can't imagine ever re-igniting those loving feelings. But the truth is, the love hasn't been destroyed, it's just camouflaged beneath the numbness. And, by retracing the steps taken to weaken love's bond, the feelings of warmth, connection, friendship and intimacy can be restored.

While not spending enough quality time together is not the only destroyer of relationships, I agree with the author that it probably the most common (and easiest to treat). I take is a warning but also encouragement - time can indeed heal alot of wounds. One of the tasks I give couples sometimes is to schedule 10 to 15 hours a week to spend together actively meeting each others most important emotional needs. This is accomplished by giving your spouse a great gift - your undivided attention for awhile. It doesn't solve every problem but I have literally seen it transform some marriages in a week or two.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2 Things That Won't Solve Your Relationship Problems

Two things that won't solve your relationship problems:

1. Getting married.
2. Having a baby.

In fact, the above things almost always increase relationship stress! The adjustments to both these things can feel crushing to both people in a relationship and so it always better to make these commitments from a position of relative strength, not weakness. Yet you'd be amazed by the number of people in my office who are in complete crisis where one or both of them think that it would help to either get married or have a baby! I also see a lot of people who are choosing to depress and think one way to get better would be to get married/have a baby. The problem is that what the person is thinking isn't logical.

For instance, if you in constant conflict with your partner, how will having a baby fix that problem? My theory is that when we start thinking such things we are holding to the principle of distraction - whatever distracts us from our problems is good for the relationship. This principle is self deception at it's best. Sadly the practice of distraction only works, if it does work, temporarily (ask any person with addictive behaviors) and often only makes things worse. Some reasons that distraction is so compelling to us:

1. Fear. This is the big one. We are often afraid of facing the truth about ourselves or our partner because of what that might mean. So we look for creative solutions that will allow us not to face our fear head on. But facing our fears is usually the only way to find a real solution.
2. Procrastination. Need I say more?
3. Low frustration tolerance and other unhelpful beliefs about self, the world and others.
4. Past pain. Old wounds hurt and are not easy to face and let heal.

My advice to people who are experiencing relationship problems and are tempted to either get married or have a baby? Get some help. Even if your partner or spouse doesn't want to come with your, find someone who can help. A friend, a pastor, a counselor - anyone who will be supportive and wise.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: Out Of The Silent Planet

Book Review: Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Part 1 of the Cosmic Trilogy)

When most people think of C.S. Lewis and fiction they think "The Narnian Chronicles." Or if you know your C.S. Lewis fairly well you might think of "The Screwtape Letters." But very few people are aware of his much lesser known foray into science fiction, "The Cosmic Trilogy." Part of this is due to the fact that you can't even buy it as a trilogy any more, instead you buy each book as an individual volume. But the fact is that Lewis' Cosmic Trilogy just never caught on that much. Which I think is sad.

It was with much surprise that I saw that this hard to find trilogy was in my church's library so of course I had to pick them up to read again. Out Of The Silent Planet (book one of the trilogy) introduces to us the character of Ransom, an English professor who is on a walking vacation when he stumbles upon a cottage in the middle of nowhere. Through a series of unfortunate events he finds himself a captive and a passenger . . . on a spacecraft. Later he has the opportunity to explore a strange new world and meet it's inhabitants. I don't want to share more of the plot then that, but suffice it to say that there is little mind-blowing in the basic plot, but it is the descriptive detail and theological ideas that Lewis presents in a quasi-allegorical form that is the most compelling. What if a planet wasn't "sinful" like ours? What would it and the people who lived there look like?

Billy Graham famously speculated that there could be life on other planets but how that would fit theologically has been difficult to sort out. Lewis, in the first of the Cosmic Trilogy begins laying this out a theology in just such a case I must say it is fascinating. The book itself is a little more "English" and little more difficult to follow then some of his other fiction but it has the genius of C.S. Lewis all over it. Think H.G. Wells meets The Pilgrim's Progress meets J.R.R. Tolkien. I rate it 3.8 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I was reading Luke 14 yesterday and for some reason these verses stuck with me:

"Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
-Luke 14-12-14 (NIV)

The idea of inviting a whole bunch of people over to my house who I don't know and who are poor, crippled, lame, or blind is both appealing and scary to me. Where would you find such people? How would you get them to come? What would happen to your house?

I realize that Jesus was probably not literally saying we should do this, but I started to think a lot what this might look like and what it might feel like. I'm guessing that putting on a banquet in ancient times could be (like today) alot about what you get out of it; connection with people, the gratitude and admiration of others, feeling impressive in your own eyes, etc. It must have shocked the pharisees who were with Jesus for him to suggest such a radical new way of throwing a banquet. I wonder how I would have reacted to Jesus if I was there with them.

Anyway, I'm not sure if Jobina would support me having a banquet at our place for such people - but who knows? I'm also not sure - perhaps someone else has tried this - or you know of someone who has tried it? If so, I'd love to hear about it. I can't quite shake this scripture from my mind . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leaving For A Year

Today as I was walking my son to the bus I was reflecting on how a couple in my church was taking themselves and their three kids to Ecuador for a year. They are both doing missions related work and feel that God is definitely leading them to do this. As we walked I asked Riker, "What would you do if I told you that Mommy and I thought we felt God was asking us to go to another country for a year?" He thought about this for a moment and then said "Cool!"

As we talked a little more, Riker realized that this would mean him having to give up his friends for a year. Then he wasn't so sure. I remember reading a short story in Outside Magazine a few years ago about a guy who decided that he wanted to live overseas for a year so his kids could get a cross cultural experience. His own parents had did it while he was young. So he and his family did some research and found a nice little coastal village somewhere in Spain and moved there. The kids learned Spanish and went to the local school. For a year they basically just learned to fit in and explored the countryside. Since the man was an author, he continued to work without a hiccup in their monthly cashflow. It all seemed so idyllic.

On and off since then I've daydreamed about leaving for a year. Either on missions or just for a cross cultural adventure. Occasionally Jobina and I talk about it but I think it's mostly my dream. Still, I think it would be very cool if God would open up all the doors to have this kind of experience. What about you? Have you done something like this or dream of it? Or perhaps that is the last thing you would do? I'm just curious if other people have these kind of thoughts.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: The Glass Castle

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster. . ."

So begins the story of Jeanette Walls dysfunctional yet heart warming tale of how she grew up. As a parent, I was immediately drawn into this book and could barely put it down. Yet, put it down I did as sometimes the revulsion of what the author and her siblings went through as they grew up impacted me. The story itself is fantastic and heart wrenching. Her parents are both the heroes and the villains at the same time and the simple way she tells their story is both touching and macabre. It is a wonderful piece of biographical storytelling that almost made me cry, laugh, and shiver . . . all within a few pages.

I was struck first of all at how resilient children are - that they can survive so much. At the same time I thought about our "helicopter" overprotective parents and how children are actually so much tougher then we imagine. We are so good at blowing up a few stories of misfortune and then try to protect our children from everything, and in the process stop them from developing the kind of character that can truly make them as independent as we hope they will someday be. I want to honor my children by letting them make mistakes, letting them risk themselves, etc.

Lastly, this book me as it reminded me of a poor family who moved into the area where I lived and who came on my bus when I was young. Although I did not subject them to the torture and daily derision they received from other people on the bus, I nevertheless judged them in my heart. How I wish I had now treated them differently, accepting them and not judging them. I had pushed these thoughts aside but the Glass Castle brought them back as my understanding of the poor changed. If you haven't read this book, I encourage you to. It will challenge your thoughts on a lot of things; homelessness, abuse, mental illness, parenting, and success. I rate it 4.8 ninja stars out of 5.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's A Date!

Today I took my 5 year old daughter on a date. We went to Boston pizza and had a delightful lunch together. I taught her tic tac toe and she shared her fries with me. Afterward we got the car washed and then went to Kilcona Park (this place is huge - over 400 acres) and explored the wilderness areas together. Mostly we picked flowers, collected feathers, and climbed hills. It was a great time but I was exhausted when we returned.

I hope my daughter feels cherished and respected when we go out and do something like this. My hope is that if I show her what an example of a good date is she will have a standard that she will carry with her into her teens and adult years. Hopefully she will learn that dating is for connecting, growing, and enjoying the company of someone. Hopefully she will remember what it was like to respectfully share in each other's lives. And hopefully she will have a decent model of how she deserves to be treated and will have high standards for what she wants from boys and men. Hopefully. . .

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: The Liar in Your Life

Book Review: The Liar in Your Life - The Way To Truthful Relationships by Robert Feldman

This was a very interesting book, but ironically was rather deceptive in it's title. The part of the book devoted to the subtitle ("The Way To Truthful Relationships") was only a few pages long. Most of the book summed up the research and theory of deception, which was quite intriguing (and kind of depressing actually).

Deep down we know that everybody lies, yet this book shows just how widespread and pervasive the activity really is. For instance in the first 10 minutes of meeting someone the average person lies about three times. Feldman provides a good overview of research on lying and . . . and argues that it is a necessary aspect of social life. Feldman also says we all have a built-in "truth bias" and so we are incredibly susceptible to lieing and so most of the time liars very get away with their deception. We are also very good at self-deception (which he says is "an essential component of social living"). Animals deceive, too: the portia spider taps on other spiders' webs pretending to be a tasty fly, and then eats its hapless rival; and small frogs croak more deeply so as to seem bigger. Feldman reveals that people lie more when talking to attractive persons, to get better jobs, to feel better about ourselves, and to make others feel better. He also notes by discussing media falsifications and the awesome power of the internet for spreading lies (he includes bloggers of course).

I was struck especially at how my desire to be honest and truthful often contradicts my desire to be polite. This is where many of us lie on a daily (sometimes hourly) level. I was also struck by Feldman's research that shows that those who are gifted socially are almost always very strong in the area of deception. What was really depressing is that contrary to myths out there (ex/ the idea that if people can look us in the eye that they aren't lieing to us) that no one is very good at detecting lies. Lastly (and perhaps most distressingly), children grow up naturally learning to lie and then are taught it by the modelling of their parents (yes, you - sorry it is true). They are taught to be honest but then taught to be polite. To illustrate how this is problematic think of this situation:

For young children it is not easy to grasp the nuances of situations in which they are "supposed to lie." A preschooler might be defensibly confused when she is punished for lying about eating grandma's freshly baked cookies, then is punished again for being honest about unhappy she is to receive grandma's hand-knitted sweater. (Feldman, p. 69)

As a Christian, and as an idealist, this book was a huge wake up call and challenge that I could not ignore. As a parent I was struck by how I have confused my children with opposing messages on being honest. I still have to sort out how to balance grace with others and my desire to see honesty in my life but now I feel I have a much more "honest" understanding of deception and the difficulty even the average person has in weeding it from their life. A good read, I'd give it 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Disciplining Your Wife?

There is a new kind of domestic arrangement that some people in the Christian community are espousing. It's called Christian DD. Check it out:

Christian DD

I thought it was a joke at first, but it isn't. So what do you think? Think it could improve your marriage?

Update: Since there are some links on this site that might take people to places that might not be good, I've taken down the link. Suffice it to say that Christan DD stands for Christian domestic discipline which is the addition of Christian theology to the fetish of spanking. Yes, that's right, spanking! I laughed hard at first when I saw what they were saying, but now I'm mostly just disturbed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind

Book Review: Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker

There are two topics that most people don't like to talk too deeply about: sex and money. This review deals talks about the latter.

Sometimes you go looking for a book and sometimes they come to you. When I signed up for some coaching on stock investing this book was given to me as a bonus and I had it read within 3 days. I have read several books on becoming wealthy (contrary to some's opinion it is not a sin to be wealthy!) but this one was really different. As the book subtitle states ("Mastering The Inner Game Of Wealth") this book book focuses less on how to attain wealth, but the necessary psychology that those who attain wealth have that differentiates them from the average person. Eker suggests that these psychological traits can be learned (he learned them) and that they can dramatically change one's life. From a counselling perspective I would say that he helps identify cognitive errors and negative self/money talk regarding finances as well as psychological blocks to being able to attain wealth.

Eker suggests that everyone has a financial blueprint, a map of your inner beliefs about money. This blueprint is conditioned into us by verbal programming (what did you hear about money when you were young), modeling (what did you see when you were young?), and specific incidents (what did you experience when you were young?). For instance if you hear "rich people are greedy" this will definitely have a subconscious effect on how much money you make and especially how much money you are able to hold onto. To discover your financial blueprint is the first step towards healing and improving it.

Another part of the book I enjoyed was Eker's observations of 17 ways that wealthy people think differently then those who are poor or middle class. You may find that such observations may make you think that Eker is elitist or arrogant but this is not the case. He is simply identifying the belief differences. Here are the 17 ways the rich think differently.

Reading this book illuminated to me a few different thing but one of the most profound was a few of my core beliefs about wealth. I realized that deep down in my being I believed that rich people are greedy. The idea that rich people could actually be generous and good people goes against a core belief of mine. Also, I realized that a few of the key models I've had in my life have had a great fear or distrust of money and how that affects me. Looking at the 17 ways rich people think differently, I saw that I have a few beliefs I need to overcome (and positively some I already have). I plan to read this book a few more times and do the exercises it suggests to fix some of my most unhelpful financial beliefs. Another interesting things about this book was it's side discussion on how different financial blueprints can affect a marriage. This was a huge eye opener for me and will help me as I counsel couples who struggle over money issues.

This book is inspirational in tone but the stories were great to illustrate the points and the theory seemed sound. I'd recommend this book to almost anyone who is interested in understanding how their beliefs about money impact how they earn, save, invest, and spend it. You don't have to have a great desire to be rich to get alot out of this book! It goes deeper then most and I appreciated it. Some people might balk at some of the exercises Eker suggests but there is nothing I found overly unethical or unchristian. I'd rate this book 4.6 ninja stars out of 5.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Protecting the Creative From Themselves

This 20 minute video by author Elizabeth Gilbert (who wrote the recent best seller Eat, Pray, Love) is a very interesting take on where creativity intersects with mental health and the divine. Keep in mind I don't agree with everything she says, yet it is the idea that intrigues me:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Furniture Genius

Very innovative!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: Farhrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation (Graphic Novel)

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury (author) and Tim Hamilton (illustrator)

"Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes."
- Guy Montag, Fahrenheit 451

Jobina and I took the kids to the Millenium Library in Winnipeg a week or so ago and picked up a few books. When I saw the literary classic Fahrenheit 451 in a graphic novel and authorized by the writer I was immediately intrigued. I've always been a big Ray Bradbury fan after reading a few of his books (Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles in high school. Bradbury is easily one of the greatest and most prolific American writers of the 19th century and his works are works of art. Comic books and graphic novels are often stigmatized as being of little literary value compared to books (especially the classics) so I was ready to see what a combination of classic book with graphic novel art would be like.

The story takes place in a dark dystopian future. The main character, Guy Montag is a firefighter, but instead of putting out fires the firefighters of this future start them. Books are illegal contraband and those who are caught with them find the firefighters coming to their house and burning the books (and often the houses) as well. Guy Montag does his job well but slowly begins to question his his role and beliefs in the society he is upholding. The book is fairly dark and has imagery which would not be appropriate for children. It explores themes of freedom, despair, authority, and to some extent faith. If you like dark stories you'd probably like it. Compared to the great comic book and graphic novel artists of this time, Hamilton's artwork is not nearly as detailed but his simple style seems to fit the book fairly well. I felt chilled, disturbed, entertained, and somewhat haunted by the end. And like most graphic novels or comics I have read I felt it was over too soon.

Do re-imagined and illustrated graphic novels of great literary works have their place? I think so. I'm am not so snobbish as to say that only the original is worth reading! Graphic novels can never replace the novels themselves but for for all their drawbacks they do attempt to courageously illustrate something that your mind has imagined - a brave things for any illustrator to do. Sometimes the illustrator gets it right (compared to your internal view of what things should look like), sometimes they get it wrong, and sometimes they surprise you with something completely different and superior to your own imagery and you feel delighted. I rate this book 3.8 ninja stars out of 5.