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Good news according to frodo

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.  “So do I,” said Gandalf, “ and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  Hearing this insight from Frodo and Gandalf in the recent Lord of the Rings movies really touched my heart.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the first movie Fellowship of the Rings as it seemed too violent and traumatic for my liking.  So I planned to quietly avoid the second Lord of the Rings movie ‘The Two Towers’ but ended up going along reluctantly in order to spend time with one of my sons.  Though I had tried reading the book back in the 1970’s, I couldn’t get into it.  The endless details and strange names threw me off.  My classic excuse for not reading material like Lord of the Rings was that life has enough fantasy and fiction in it to suit me already.

Amazingly, in watching the second movie Two Towers, the penny dropped and the message behind the message began to break through.  It was like being in an AA 12-step meeting where they always say at the end: ‘Keep coming back, it works’.  Eventually the penny will drop.

When watching the Two Towers, I, like Frodo, had been going through a rather challenging year that ‘I wish…need not have happened in my time’.  Like Gandalf, I had to learn that ‘all we can decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’  I have discovered afresh that I am not alone on the journey of Life, and there are resources available to me that I might have never imagined back in the comfort of my ‘shire’.

The Shire in the Lord of the Rings is a symbol of tranquility and safety free from harm and stress.  To many of us locally, Deep Cove represents that kind of Shire.  Have you ever wondered who the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings really are?  JRR Tolkien once said that ‘the hobbits are just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination –not the small reach of their courage or latent power.’   Tolkien also said the hobbits were ‘just what I could have liked to have been, but never was.” Tolkien was deeply traumatized by the loss of both his father at age 3 and his mother at age 12.  So he never knew the safety and security taken for granted by so many other rural English children.

Bill Hybels of Willow Creek wrote an unforgettable book entitled ‘Courageous Leadership’.  Where are the courageous leaders in our highly ambivalent third millennium?  Elrond said of the hobbits, “This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields, to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.  Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it?”  Many of us shy away from facing conflict.  But the experts tell us that conflict-avoidance only makes it worse and more widespread.  It takes courage to stare evil right in the face.

 

The Lord of the Rings book reminds us that ‘there is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow.’  As the journey became more difficult, Gandalf said to Frodo: ‘Courage will now be your best defence against the storm that is at hand—that and such hope as I bring’.

JRR Tolkien warned against allegorizing the Lord of the Rings but believed in ‘applicability’.  As I read Frodo’s danger-filled quest, I was reminded of the applicability of Psalm 23: ‘Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me’.  King Theoden of Rohan said to his men: ‘Fear no darkness’.  Elrond said, ‘There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it.  But you do not stand alone.’

One of the most gripping moments in the Lord of the Rings was when Frodo had fully counted the cost and still courageously said: ‘I will take the ring, though I do not know the way.’  Frodo at that moment was choosing to face Mordor’s wasteland, vicious Orcs, giant spiders, and betrayal by Gollum.  The greatest danger that Frodo faced was the ever-present temptation to grasp the Ring for himself, and make use of its vast power for his own benefit.  After destroying the ring in the Crack of Doom, Frodo was deeply hurt by his self-sacrifice but reminded his friend Sam that ‘when things are in danger, some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’  Frodo’s selfless actions remind me of the words of Jesus: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it’.

Many people who love the Lord of the Rings don’t realize that JRR Tolkien was a deeply committed Christian whose values permeated his unforgettable trilogy.  Tolkien knew the power of Story in touching hardened hearts like that of his friend CS Lewis who, through Tolkien’s influence, moved from hard-core atheism to passionate faith in Jesus Christ.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we too may discover the message behind the message in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

p.s. For more on Tolkien, just click

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Bill W. and Dr. Sam: 12 Steps to Freedom

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

With millions set free from the ravages of uncontrollable drinking, who among us cannot be thankful for the gift of Alcoholics Anonymous?  Many of us have friends, family, and co-workers who are alive and well today because of the miracle of the 12 Steps.  Over the years, I have had the privilege of doing a number of ‘5th Steps’ with people in recovery.  I have always come away from those experiences with a deepened sense of gratitude for the amazing gift of life.

One of the perhaps unexpected spin-offs of AA has been the dozens of recovery groups who apply the 12 Steps to all kinds of addictions and challenges, including overeating, narcotics, sexual brokenness, emotional dysfunctions, and gambling dependencies.  One of the fastest-growing spin-offs is the ACOA movement for Adult Children of Alcoholics.  There is even a specifically Christ-centered expression based on the beatitudes called ‘Celebrate Recovery’ that over 400,000 have already participated in.

Where did these amazing 12 Steps come from, in the first place?  They were written by Bill W who had been mentored towards a life-changing faith by the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker.  Dr. Sam, as he was known affectionately in AA circles, had a profound impact on the spiritual awakening of Bill W.

As Bill W tells it in ‘AA Comes of Age’, he went with his friend Ebby to Dr. Sam’s Calvary Church Mission.  “There were some hymns and prayers.  Then Tex, the leader, exhorted us.  Only Jesus could save, he said.  Somehow this statement did not jar me.  Certain men got up and gave testimonials.  Numb as I was, I felt interest and excitement rising.  Then came the call.  Some men were starting forward to the rail.  Unaccountably impelled, I started too…I knelt among the shaking penitents. Maybe then and there, for the first time, I was penitent too.  Something touched me.  I guess it was more than that.  I was hit.  I felt a wild impulse to talk. Jumping to my feet, I began…Ebby, who at first had been embarrassed to death, told me with relief that I had done all right and had ‘given my life to God.’”

Bill W said that ‘It was from Sam that co-founder Dr. Bob and I in the beginning absorbed most of the principles that were afterwards embodied in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of AA’s way of life.’  Bill W went on to say that Dr. Sam ‘gave us the concrete knowledge of about what we could do about (alcoholism)’ and that Dr. Sam ‘passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated’.  Dr Sam, according to Bill W, ‘has been the connecting link’.  Dr Sam even hosted the first AA meetings in his Calvary Episcopal (Anglican) Church Hall in New York.

Even though Dr. Sam was not an alcoholic, he had unusual insights into the human condition that drew alcoholics to him.  Reminiscing about the first time that he met Dr. Sam, Bill W said: ‘I can still see him standing there before the lectern.  His utter honesty, his tremendous forthrightness, struck me deep.  I shall never forget it.’  According to Bill W, Dr. Sam ‘always called a spade a spade, and his blazing eagerness, earnestness, and crystal clarity drove home his message point by point…Here was a man quite as willing to talk about his own sins as about anybody else’s.’

The author of twenty-eight books, Dr. Sam was named as one of the ten greatest preachers in North America.  He challenged all of the backward failings of humanity with fierceness, wit and relevancy.  But Dr. Sam was never pessimistic or despairing.

Upon Dr. Sam’s death, the late Billy Graham said: ‘Words cannot express adequately the sense of personal loss I have felt at the home-coming of our beloved Sam.  What a blessing it has been for me to talk and especially pray with this giant among men.  I doubt that any man in our generation has made a greater impact for God on the Christian world than did Sam Shoemaker’.

Many 12 Step groups around the world pray both the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s prayer.  Both prayers are about ‘letting Go and letting God’.  According to Bill W, breakthroughs happen when “…we can surrender and truly feel, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done’”.  It is so hard to let go.  Yet as we work the twelve steps, as we admit our powerlessness, as we turn our lives and will over to the care of God, as we seek only for the knowledge of God’s will, then miracles can happen.

As Dr. Sam said to the 20th Anniversary AA Convention, “Prayer is not trying to get God to change His will. It is trying to find out what His will is, to align ourselves or realign ourselves with His purpose for the world and for us.  When we let willfulness cool out of us, God can get His will across to us as far as we need to see ahead of us.  Dante said, ‘In His will is our peace’.”

Dr. Sam concluded his address to the 20th Anniversary AA Convention by saying: “I thank God that the church has so widely associated itself with AA, because I think AA people need the church for personal stabilization and growth, but also because I think that the church needs AA as a continuous spur to greater aliveness and expectation and power.”  “Perhaps the time has come”, said Dr. Sam, “for the church to be reawakened and revitalized by the insights and practices found in AA.”

My prayer for those reading this article is that as with Bill W and Dr. Sam, God may make each of us a channel of his peace, his serenity and his sobriety.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Managing Anger in Marital Conflict

by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

DPM 929 ( a doctoral paper for Dr James Ponzetti submitted to Carey Theological

St Jerome

 College)

St Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, agonized over how anger destroyed his relationship with his aunt. He wrote: “Tell me, how are we two going to face the Day of Judgement? The sun is witness that it has gone down on our anger not one day, but for many a long year.” (Ketterman, 2000) While St Jerome was obviously not married, his impassioned letter alluding to Ephesians 4:26 shows how vital it is to manage anger in marital and family conflicts.

Segrin, C. & Hanzal, A. (2009) observe that “no marital communication process has generated more scholarly interest than conflict.”  This is probably because as Garland (1998) puts it, “Whatever a family’s style of communication, conflict and anger are inevitable.”

The social sciences and seminaries often function in an academic apartheid. Never the twain shall meet. Both are poorer for it. My aim with this paper is to integrate the best of the social science and theological research in how we can help our families more effectively manage anger in martial conflict situations.

It was noted in the DPM 929 class how marital conflict has had more social science attention than the anger component in marriage.  Yet marital conflict involves many emotions, including both ‘hot and cold’ anger.  Hebrews 12:15 describes cold anger as ‘the root of bitterness which defiles and harasses many’.  Garland (1998) says that we must avoid allowing anger to take up Root of bitternesspermanent residence in our hearts. That is why anger, while encouraged in Ephesians 4:26, must be without sin or harming of others, and must not be taken to bed.  Wisely Ephesians 4:26 suggests that going to sleep with unresolved anger gives a foothold for the negativity which sacramental Christians would describe in their baptism as ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’

We know that anger can be expressed without sin because even the sinless Son of God in Mark 3:5 was legitimately angry at people’s insensitivity to others.  The challenge is how in the words of James 1:19 to be slow to anger.  Anger can easily take on a life of its own.  Waddell (Browning, D. & Evison, I.,1998) wisely comments: “Nothing kills marital love more than hardness of heart.”

In preparing to write this essay, fifty-five books on anger and martial conflict from the Regent/Carey and the Public Libraries were either read or scanned. The overall impression is that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages.  Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) observe that the ability of couples to manage marital conflict is key to the success of healthy marriages.  Some of the solutions in the books were creative, but many of them after a while seemed rather repetitive and predictable.  As well, around one thousand social science articles on anger and marital conflict were scanned through the UBC Library, of which one hundred and two were downloaded for closer examination.  It became clear that not all articles are created equal.

Managing conflict, says Gottman (Garland, 1999), is one of the central tasks of maintaining a marriage.  Gottman’s research Dr John Gottmanwas described both in class and in an article as the ‘Gold Standard’ of marriage research.   The Gottmans (2006) recommend that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion. We need to rediscover anger as a healthy emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive. Gottman’s evocative phrase is “Look for the longing in each other’s complaint.”   Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side.  While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change.  The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.

Dr Gil Stieglitz, our past Coach for the Anglican Coalition in Canada, has been a major influence in helping our congregation become more proactive in strengthening and building marriages. Reminiscent of social exchange theories, Stieglitz (2004) says that love is meeting needs and that each marriage partner needs to aim to out-give the other at a 70/30 ratio.  We have found his ‘Five Problems of Marriage’ videos and books to be very practical in helping our couples manage anger in marital conflicts.

Thirty-four years of ordained Anglican ministry have taught me that alcohol abuse has a huge effect on anger and marital life.  Johns, A & Newcomb, M (2007) draw a strong research correlation between alcohol problems and anger-related marital conflict. Alcohol abuse has been scientifically linked with a much higher rate of physical violence during anger in marital conflict.  One study quoted by Johns (2007) showed that the rate of verbal aggression was 5 to 7 times higher among such couples experiencing marital conflict. Since 1982, I have been privileged to do many AA ‘Fifth Steps’ which has convinced me that supporting people’s recovery from addiction is a key to helping them manage anger better in marital conflict. When feelings and pain are suppressed through substance abuse, the checks and balances around anger in marital conflict often disappear. The Bible describes this phenomenon in 1 Timothy 4:2 as ‘the searing of the conscience’. One of the reasons I strongly value the Twelve-Step process is not only for its helping people stop abusing substances, but also for its value in helping people manage anger and repair the damage done to marriages through past inappropriate anger.

It was reported by Vogel, D and Werner-Wilson, R (2008) that men are more likely than women to withdraw during marital conflict which results in wives feeling rejected. This withdrawal (Gottman, 2006) heartbreakcauses emotional distance, loneliness, and a lack of romance.  Ironically this is not about the husband not caring but because his over-caring makes him so anxious (Garland, 1998).  The husband’s withdrawal is associated with increases in the wife’s blood pressure, norepinephrine and cortisol, all of which are linked to poorer cardiovascular and immune outcomes (Loving, T., & Heffner, K., 2004) Cortisol is a useful hormone in the short-term ‘fight or flight’ response, but is very destructive long-term to the white T cells which fight off cancer.

Stonewalling in marital conflict (Gottman, 1999) is one of the more serious indicators of future marital collapse.  Faulkner, R., & Davey, M. (2005) observe that “women have considerable tolerance for physiological arousal and, thus, can maintain high levels of engagement. Men, in contrast, experience this arousal as being highly aversive and act to dissipate it by withdrawing from the conflict”.  The tendency for men to withdraw seems to be linked with the higher tendency for men to physiologically ‘flood’ during marital conflict. When the heart rate goes above 100, the ability to rationally process marital conflict significantly decreases (Gottman, 2006).  Gottman recommends the strategy of an agreed-upon ‘Time-out’ until the spouses can emotionally de-escalate.  This gives the wife more security and hope for resolution rather than when the husband just shuts down and goes away without any context for readdressing the conflict later.  Thomas Jefferson wisely said: “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”  (Tavris, 1992)

Marital anger for women (Cox, D & Clair, S, 2005) is often experienced as a threat to intimacy and connection.  This results in many women internalizing their anger in the form of self-hate, obsessive thoughts, and guilt, which paralyzes their ability to constructively make use of the emotion.

Anger, even when inappropriately processed in marital conflict, has a number of payoffs.  When we are hurt or threatened by our spouse, we tend to feel helpless and weak.  When the anger emotion clicks in, it can give us a surge of strength, power and control.  This need for control has been linked with some of the worst of the physical violence in marriage.  In the Twelve Step process, we reverse the control need by admitting in step 1 that we are powerless over our condition/addiction/marriage.  ‘Letting go letting-goand letting God’ is at the heart of true recovery.  I am reminded of Paul saying in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 that God’s grace is sufficient for him, enabling him to realizing that when he is weak, he is strong.

Anger is associated with physiological and biological transitions, with the increase of our heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  The instinctive, natural way to express anger, says Spielberger (APA, 2009), is to respond aggressively.  Assertiveness training has been developed as a more effective way of managing marital anger than either stuffing one’s anger or dumping it on others. I have read many books on assertiveness training over the years which have been helpful but sometimes lack the needed gentleness of the ‘soft startup’ recommended by Gottman.

Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged couples to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other spouse. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse. Garland(1999) comments that “anger expressed in venting becomes the first step toward murder, not toward reconciliation (Matthew 5:22).”  Neither blowing up or clamming up really helps us manage anger in marital conflict (Cosgrove, 1988).  Tavris (1982) found that “aggression frequently has precisely the opposite effect of catharsis: instead of exorcising the anger, it can inflame it.”  Many people are afraid of marital anger because of its tendency to get away on us.  Plato wrote “[when reason] is asleep, then the wild beast within us, gorged on meat or drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime it won’t commit.”

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) reported that spirituality, especially practices such as prayer between a couple,  is closely linked with reduced marital conflict.  The shared Praying Hands picturevision and relation virtues such as selflessness and unconditional love have been linked with better marital functioning in times of anger and conflict. Couples indicated that their involvement in scripture reading and regular church attendance increased their commitment to relational permanence.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) found that couples were able to increase their sense of interpersonal space by detouring their anger to God in marital conflict.  In my pastoral work, I have found that praying together can really help a couple, though most find such activity too intimate.  It is vital that the couple do not use prayer or the bible as weapons to win a fight, but rather as a way to resolve conflict and build a healthier marriage.

Mahoney, A. &  Pargament, K. ( 1999)  found the benefits of spiritual involvement as a couple to include greater global marital adjustment, more perceived benefits from marriage, less marital conflict, more verbal collaboration, and less use of verbal aggression and stalemate to discuss disagreements for both wives and husbands.  Before my spiritual breakthrough at age 17, I viewed marriage as just ‘a piece of paper’.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) observe that couples who view their marriage as being a sanctified object (whom God has joined together) are more likely to act and think in ways that protect their marriage.  Part of the improved handling of anger in marital conflict comes out of the religious couple’s allegiance to their meta-narrative and their God’s ethical expectations.  Even after thirty-two years of marriage, I still have to resist my tendencies to selfishness and irritability.  My faith is a major motivator to keep working on myself.

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. listed studies showing that the value of forgiveness is linked with better managing anger in marital conflict.  Gordon, K. &  Hughes, F. (2009) identified three elements of forgiveness:

 (a) regaining a more balanced and compassionate view of the offender and the event,

(b) decreasing negative affect towards and avoidance of the offender, and

(c) giving up the right to seek revenge or lash out toward the offender.

Ketterman (2000) observes that couples who refuse to forgive pay a heavy price:

“The physical costs of unforgiveness may include hypertension, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular ailments, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name just a handful.  Because negative emotions have a depressive effect and can suppress immune function, unforgiveness may even have an indirect link to major and severe disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.”

Jesus’ words ‘forgive and you will be Jesusforgiven’, say Ketterman, lie at the heart of marital harmony and health.  She speaks both as a psychiatrist of the Christian faith and as a victim of infidelity who remarried her husband.  Forgiveness is indeed a practical proven key to managing anger in martial conflict.

Another key to managing anger in marital conflict is the reduction of blaming behaviour.  Gottman (1999) calls this learning how to complain without criticizing.  Gottman (1999, 2006) talks about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) which are greater long-term indicators of divorce than mere anger. Research by Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) showed that blaming one’s spouse for marital conflict is negatively associated with marital satisfaction.  Couples that habitually blame one another are some of the most difficult to help.

Contempt has a major impact on how we manage anger in marital conflict. Day (2003) noted how “Husbands who were more extroverted were more likely to express anger and contempt during times of relational difficulty.”  Gottman (2006) defines contempt as including “hostility or disgust (rolling their eyes). Contempt often involves sarcasm, mocking, name-calling or belligerence.”  Contempt is the opposite of honour and respect.  Steiglitz (2004) teaches extensively in his books and videos on the need for husbands to honour their wives daily, which he defines as ‘adding value’ and ‘putting them first above our other priorities’.  He also emphasizes the need for wives to respect their husbands, which he defines as ‘acknowledging value’ by ‘finding and affirming his strengths in the sea of his weaknesses.”  Such acts of love go a long way in repairing the damage done through what he calls our S.A.D. (Selfish, Angry, Demanding) behaviours that we may slip into when our needs are not being met.

One of the more recent emphases in marriage research has been to study not only dysfunctional couples, but also long-term successful couples. Matthews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) noted one study of 576 couples who had been married for 50 years or more.   The three qualities attributed to such long-term success were trust (82 percent), loving relationship (81 percent), and willingness to compromise (80 percent).

Matthews and Hubbard also noted that the wedding ringsindividualism of North American culture militates against healthy anger management in marriage conflict. They suggest that the way forward is to rediscover a theology of marriage that focuses on the common good, the value of community, discipleship and missional orientation. Marriage, said Matthews and Hubbard, ‘must have a purpose, a goal, a task beyond ‘being together’.

Osborne (1988) insightfully noted that “Marriage is the most rewarding and the most difficult relationship known to man.”  As Gottman and others have observed, no married couples have been found to be free from anger in marital conflict. Gottman (2009) commented: “when Julie and I do our workshops with couples, one of the main messages we give is that we’ve found that really good marriages, people who are really happy, have terrible fights, where they’re thinking at the end of the fight: Why did I marry this person?”   Some marital problems never go away, but the wise  couple doesn’t get gridlocked on these unsolvable problems.  The AA Serenity Prayer expresses this wisdom of ‘the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed.”  David Mace, in Ridenour, F. (1989) notes how the Lauers studied three hundred marriages lasting fifteen years or longer. All the couples had times of anger and marital conflict. The key to these marriages was that they chose not to attack each other, but rather work on the anger. Mace (1986) compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm.  In our DPM 929 Class, I was reminded how healthy marriages and families are foundational to the health and stability of our society

How we interpret the meaning of anger in marital conflict is just as important as the conflict itself.  Lester (2003) holds that

“the hermeneutical process is central to the experience of anger. Individuals and communities decide what is threatening as they interpret life situations through the lens of their own narratives – their values, meanings, and beliefs.”

Our values and hopes for the future profoundly affect how we navigate the gottman-love-lab-3challenges of marital conflict.   This is why Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) encourage couples to explore each others’ dreams and hopes, with an aim to create shared meaning.  It is important that couples in conflict do not give up on their ideals and dreams.  Higher expectations for romance and passion have been linked with increased marital satisfaction.  Sometimes in a desire to get along, spouses give up something essential that actually fuels the romance and passion of their lives.

Positive affect (such as humour or affection) during marital conflict was the only predictor of both marital stability and marital satisfaction 6 years after the wedding. This has also shown to be true for long-term couples dealing with conflict (Gottman, J. and Driver, J., 2004). Positive affect cannot be faked but rather cultivated over time with a series of enjoyable events. As suggested in DPM 929, a healthy marriage has learnt to celebrate the ordinary not just the extraordinary. My wife and I handle anger in marital conflict better when we take regular time together for peaceful walks, for chatting and listening, and for physical exercise.

In Gottman’s interview with Wyatt, R. (2009), he emphasizes the value of a soft-startup in managing anger in marital conflict.  Many couples, commented Gottman, say to their spouses “The problem is you, and your personality, your character; you’re a screw-up.” Such personal “you message” attacks do not help couples manage anger better. Garland (1999) says the “I and we’ messages of a soft start-up are “the difference between speaking the truth (Eph 4:25) and the judging of others that Jesus warned against (Mt 7:1).  Carl Roger’s active listening model has not born up under clinical research with married couples. It seems to be too demanding to expect one’s spouse to act as a detached Rogerian therapist in the midst of marital conflict (Gottman, 2006).

Anger in marital conflict is handled better when there are approximately five times as Making Marriage Workmany positive behaviours as negative behaviours. Couples in crisis usually only show a corresponding ratio of 1:1 (Gottman, 1999, 2006).  The need for a five to one ratio seems to come from the greater emotional impact of negative behaviours on a marriage. Garland (1998) poignantly notes that “truth, especially when it leads to conflict, must be wrapped in words and actions that build rather than tear down love for one another.”

Another well-researched principle for managing anger in marital conflict is the willingness to accept influence from one’s spouse. Gottman (2009) says “If you don’t accept some influence, then you become an obstacle and people find a way around you and you have no power.”  This is an area that I have had to work on our thirty-two years of marriage.  My wife reports that I have improved in this area.  Sometimes it is hard to recognize our own stubbornness and defensiveness because it may be hidden in strengths like perseverance.  Going for marriage counselling from time to time can be a real strength, though it is challenging to motivate both partners to be willing to go.  We have many couples in our congregation whose marriages have been deeply restored through a willingness to do the hard work of going to a professional marriage counsellor. The particular clinical counsellor that we bonnie chatwinmake the most use of in our church is Bonnie Chatwin who is both a nurse and a clinical counsellor trained at Trinity Western University.  I have been invited in a number of times by Bonnie and the couple to co-counsel in particularly challenging situations. One of my greatest joys each Sunday is to see couples in church whose marriages were over, but they did the hard work with a counsellor that enabled them to find new ways to rebuild their marriages and to handle anger more effectively.

We have one couple in our previous congregation who were divorced for six years after an angry misunderstanding.  The man kept on serving his wife in practical ways.  The wife kept saying to me: “Some day I would like to marry my husband again”. Finally on Father’s Day 2002, they were both kneeling to receive communion and she said to me: “I would like to marry him again some day.” We married them that Sunday at the end of the service, and then remarried them legally later that week.  I have followed up that couple with the Dr. Gil DVDs on marriage, and they are still together seven years later.  This remarriage not only affected the couple but also their extended family and friends.  Every restored marriage give hope to many others, especially to the younger generation that often lives together in a misguided attempt to marriage-ringsavoid the pain of divorce.

 I have seen some couples who refused counselling because they thought that it would be too expensive, only to spend far more on a divorce settlement.  I can think of a case where a successful entrepreneur was so devastated by the divorce that years later, he is still trying to rebuild his life and his career.  Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) confirmed that marriage counselling actually saves couples money compared to the costs of divorce and the medical costs associated with the reduced health of couples involved in marriage breakdowns.  Sadly though marital counselling is cost-efficient, many insurance plans do not reimburse for martial therapy.  Several couples I know have initially experienced great resistance from their insurance company over the area of paying for marriage counselling. Thankfully this was often positively resolved.

Sometimes Christian couples on the North Shore are suspicious of counselling in general, based on horror stories that they may have heard from others.  Not all counselors have the same professional competence or sensitivity to the Judeo-Christian values.   By the time that a man may be ready to go for counselling, the woman may have already emotionally detached years before. She may not have physically moved out, but she is no longer there.  Both husbands and wives on the North Shore often stonewall each other as to whether they are willing to try out marriage counselling. Many men see counselling as an admission of weakness, neediness and failure. I see it as an act of great courage that will reap great benefits if the couple does not give up.  Sometimes just when the couple are making progress in their counselling and the woman feels safe enough to finally open up, the man will pull the plug and claim that the counsellor is biased towards the wife.  “I will never go back to counselling”, a man told me. “We will just live as roommates”.  I encouraged this individual to rethink his stance.  Because many people on the North Shore are wealthy and successful, they are used to getting their own way all the time. Dominating their spouse from a power position does not work these days, especially as women have the ability nowadays to be financially independent.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the work of Dr. Gottman and others who are offering practical social science insights as to how we can better manage our anger in marital conflict.  The irony is that many of these research-based insights such as soft-startups, accepting influence, forgiveness, and positive affection all take us back to the historic Judeo-Christian teaching on marriage and healthy relationships.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

 

References

American Psychological Association (2009).  Controlling Anger — Before It Controls You. Retrieved June 20th 2009 from http://www.apa.org/topics/controlanger.html

Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) Treatment of Marital conflict and prevention of divorce. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 24, 461-473.

Browning, D. & Evison, I., Series Editors (1998) The Family Handbook. Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press.

Cosgrove, M. (1988) Counselling for Anger. Dallas, Word Incorporated.

Cox, D. & Clair, S. (2005).A New Perspective on Women’s Anger: Therapy Through the Lens of Anger Diversion, Women & Therapy, 28, 77-90.

Day, R. (2003) Introduction to Family Processes, New Jersey, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Gottman, J. and Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, Crown Publishers.

Faulkner, R., Davey, M., Davey, A. (2005) Gender-Related Predictors of Change in Marital Satisfaction and Marital Conflict. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 33, 61–83.

Garland, D. (1999) Family Ministry: a Comprehensive Guide. Downers Grove, IVP Academic.

Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) Conflict Management Style and Marital Satisfaction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26, 321–334

Gordon, K.,  Hughes, F., Tomcik, N.,. Dixon, L., and Litzinger, S. (2009) Widening Spheres of Impact: The Role of Forgiveness in Marital and  Family Functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 1–13.

Gottman, J. & Driver, J. (2004) Daily Marital Interactions and Positive Affect During

Marital Conflict Among Newlywed Couples. Seattle, Family Process, Vol. 43, 301-304

Gottman, J., Gottman, J., & DeClaire, J. (2006) 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage. New York, Crown Publishers.

Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, Crown Publishers Inc.

Johns, A., Newcomb, M., Johnson, M., & Bradbury, T. (2007) Alcohol-related problems, anger, and marital satisfaction in monoethnic Latino, biethnic Latino, and European American newlywed couples,  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 255–275,

Ketterman, G and Hazard, D. (2000). When I can’t say “I Forgive You”, Colorado Springs, NavPress,

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) How Religiosity Helps Couples Prevent, Resolve, and Overcome Marital Conflict.  Family Relations, 55, 439–449.

Lester, A. (2003) The Angry Christian: A Theology for Care and Counselling. Louisville,Westminster John Knox Press.

Loving, T., Heffner, K., Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. (2004) Stress Hormone Changes and Marital Conflict: Spouses’ Relative Power Makes a Difference. Journal of Marriage and Family. 66, 595–612

Mace, D. &  V. (1986) The Sacred Fire: Christian Marriage Through the Ages. Nashville, Abingdon Press

Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) Blame, Control, and Marital Satisfaction: Wives’ Attributions for Conflict in Marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 663-674.

Mahoney, A., Pargament, K., Jewell, T., Swank, A., Scott, E., Emery, E., and Rye, M. ( 1999) Marriage and the Spiritual Realm: The Role of Proximal and Distal Religious Constructs in Marital Functioning. Journal of Family Psychology. 13, 321-338

Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000)Religious Beliefs and Practices and Catholic Couples’ Management of Anger and Conflict, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 7, 22-36

Mathews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) Marriage Made in Eden. Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

Osborne, O. (1988) The Art of Understanding Your Mate. Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Ridenour, F. (1989) The Marriage Collection. Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Segrin, C., Hanzal, A., & Domschke, T. (2009) Accuracy and Bias in Newlywed Couples’ Perceptions of Conflict Styles and the Association with Marital Satisfaction. Communication Monographs. 76 , 207 — 233.

Steigltiz, G (2004) The Five Problems of Marriage, Sacramento: Faith Productions.

Tavris, C. (1982). Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. New York: Touchstone Books.

Vogel, D., Werner-Wilson, R., Liang, K., Cutrona, C., Seeman, J., & Hackler, A. (2008)

The Relationship of Physiological Arousal with Demand and Withdraw Behavior: Examining the Accuracy of the Escape-Conditioning Hypothesis. Sex Roles, 59, 871–879.

Wyatt, R. (2009) An Interview with John Gottman, PhD: Couples Therapy and Marriage. Retrieved June 12th 2009 from http://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/John_Gottman#author109


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Why is it so hard to let go?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hirdlet_go_let_god

I often notice car bumper stickers saying ‘One Day at a Time’, and ‘Take it Easy’.  One of my favorite bumper stickers is ‘Letting Go and Letting God’.

Popularized by the 12-step movements. this phrase reminds us that excessive striving and drivenness is damaging to our health, our families, and our inner lives.

Our North American culture is becoming more and more frantic and fear-bound, especially in our shaky economic and political context.  Is it little wonder that A.A. teaches us that the first step to sanity is to admit that we are powerless over our problems and that our lives have become unmanageable?  This admission of powerlessness is very humbling to our ego.  It is a real death to our illusions of grandiosity and immortality

The 3rd Step to sanity is making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.  The heart of Step 3 is ‘Letting Go and Letting God’.  Most of us put enormous energy into remaining in control of our own private lives.  The idea of surrendering control to anyone, let alone God, can be enormously threatening.  Yet the act of surrender can be the most healing step that we may ever take.

CrossThe heart of spirituality, in fact, is surrendering our will and lives to God who really cares for us.  As Jesus was hanging in agony on the cross,  he cried out,  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.  Such a surrender can be our choice one day at a time.  Either we commit our lives daily into God’s hands, or we commit our lives into our own hands.  Either God ends up at the centre of our lives, or our self ends up at the centre.  There is no greater disease than finding one’s self at the centre, the essence of self-centeredness.  As Dr. E. Stanley Jones puts it, anything that leaves you at the centre is off-centre.

Self-centeredness is rather like bad breath or body odor.  Everyone knows about it but yourself, though you can certainly detect in other people.  I have discovered that the heart of my problems in life is not usually other people. Rather it is my own self-centeredness.  As a teenager, I tried to live life seeking my own personal happiness.  I was never unhappier.  I have learnt the hard way that happiness is a by-product of serving others and caring for others in a Christ-like way.

The A.A. Big Book has a passion for honesty as a key to sanity and sobriety.  In one section, it ironically comments that blaming others and anger is a luxury that alcoholics cannot afford. You cannot indulge bitterness and finger-pointing and stay sober.  The truth, of course, is that none of us can indulge self-centered blaming of others, and stay healthy.  Bitterness always eats the bitter person alive.

“The deepest necessity of human  nature”, says Dr. E. Stanley Jones, “is to surrender e-stanley-jonesitself to something, or someone, beyond itself.  Your self in your own hands is a problem and pain; your self in the hands of God is a possibility and power.”  Why is it so hard to let go and let God?  Why does our ego so often fight self-surrender with all its might?  Because self-surrender is choosing to die to the false self, the self-centered way of living, that the true self might live for the sake of others.  “Fears, worries, anxieties, and resentments”, says Dr. Jones, “are all roots in the unsurrendered self.”

Letting go is to surrender to creative love.  Letting go is to align ourselves with God’s healing peace in our lives.  Letting go is learning to stop and smell the coffee, enjoy the sunsets, rejoice in our children.  Letting go is all about learning to slow down in our pressure-cooker world.  Dr. Jones comments that ‘the surrendered are quietly creative and actually produce twice as much as the unsurrendered with all their fussy activity.”  You may have heard of the old expression: ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get’.

Slow Train ComingAs Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘you gotta serve somebody…It may be the devil, it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody’.  The choice is ours one day at a time. We may choose to surrender to fear, to pride, to money, to resentment, to popularity, or we can choose to surrender to God who really cares for us.  My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us may learn to slow down, let go, and let God.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada 

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


3 Comments

The ‘Dangers’ of Listening to Women

Ed_Jan2By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Most  men are ‘experts’ on women, until we marry one. Experience can be rather humbling to our most treasured pre-conceptions.

Flowers are, by far, the most popular gift that men like to give to women, followed by chocolates, candies, and other such delicacies. But perhaps the most valuable and most dangerous gift that we can give the women in our lives is the gift of listening.

confusedHeartfelt, non-critical listening is a rare phenomenon in our fast-paced, analytical culture. Listening takes time. Listening takes energy. Listening takes courage. To be honest, it often seems a lot easier just to give them chocolates. Most of us as men know that we need to grow in the area of listening.

The most offensive thing about listening is how helpless it can make us feel. Very few of us as men either like to feel weak or admit our weaknesses. Despite the male consciousness-raising of the last thirty years, such radical vulnerability does not come easy.

I well remember the first year of our marriage as a great time. My wife however has somewhat different memories…‘little things’ like our living on a shoe-string budget so that we could go on vacation in Europe, and my spending all my time studying for my Master’s Degree.

Years later, she finally told me that the first year wasn’t a bed of roses. I said: “Why didn’twife of your youth you tell me?” “Well, Ed”, she said, “You weren’t listening”. Sadly, she was right. One of the dangers of listening to women is that we just might hear something that we don’t want to hear. Our equilibrium may be so unsettled that it will take us quite a while to recover.

The key women in our lives usually have a remarkable ability to impact our sense of inner calm, in a way that our male acquaintances rarely do. When a male upsets another man, we often just ‘write them off’ and carry on. But when a key woman ‘gets under our skin’, we have to deal with it, or our life begins to shrink.

One of the key signs of a man going through a marriage breakup is the radical energy loss, and the consequent impact on his work. As men, we are usually so ‘thick’ that when a marriage breakup hits us, we rarely see it coming. It’s like being hit by a Mac Truck. So many men say: “I had no idea”. Exactly. More than any other offense, the action that most drives our wives to the Courts (and I don’t mean ‘tennis’) is our unwillingness to listen.

laceheartAnother danger of listening to women is that we might have to change. None of us like being controlled. We certainly don’t like being treated like children by the key women in our lives. Sometimes we confuse our fear of change with our fear of being controlled. Without change, there is no growth. Without change, there is no future. I have found that if I am willing to change the things that I can change (which is me), then the rest of life begins to make more sense.

The famous A.A. Serenity prayer asks God for the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change ( which includes anyone else, especially the women in our lives). When we finally wake up and realize that women are ‘unfixable’ (that is, by us), then we can stop trying to change them, and start actually listening. Genuine listening to women can be unnerving, because to listen is to change.

Most of us as men have an amazing ability to Channel Changerblock out parts of conversations that make us feel uncomfortable. Ever wonder why women get so irritated with us, as so many men are forever flicking on the TV channel changer. This filtering ability can make men look like their memories are extremely selective. As the old saying goes, the problem with men is that they never remember, and the problem with women is that they never forget.

I remember when a former secretary in another city came up to me and courageously shared some concerns with me about our work environment. My ‘walls’ were down that day, and so I actually heard what she was saying. I said to her, “Why have you taken so long to tell me?” She said, “Because until now you would have never listened. You would have just explained it away.” I felt stunned and challenged. Here I was, a trained Social Worker and Priest, and I couldn’t even see my own ‘walls’.

The Good Book says that our hearts are deceitful, and that no one can really understand them. (Jeremiah 17:9) We have an amazing ability to fool ourselves. Have you noticed how often we judge our spouses by planktheir actions, and ourselves by our good intentions. That is why Jesus challenged each of us to first remove the log from our eyes, before we try to do surgery on the splinter in someone else’s eye.

Courageous listening  is choosing to remove that log of defensiveness, and actually give the women in our lives our full, uncompromised attention. I have found that my wife is virtually always right even when she is wrong. She, and most other women, have a God-given intuitive ability that functions like a radar system in discerning basic truth. Sometimes she can’t even tell me why she is feeling so uncomfortable about some area, but in hindsight, my listening to her has saved me a lot of grief. That doesn’t mean that she is always right on all the details, but she usually intuitively grasps the core of issues.

That is why the famous author Gary Smalley says that every woman has a built-in marriage manual, if we men would only have the courage to listen and not reject It has taken me a long time to fully benefit from this ‘dangerous’ gift of my wife.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus after his resurrection turned up to women first? Perhaps it’s because women are so spiritually open. No one in that 1st century culture listened to women, except Jesus. So Jesus, after rising again, broke all the rules and showed up to rejected, despised, ignored women. Did the male disciples initially believeempty_large the women when they shared about the risen Jesus? Not in your life. Like so many of us men today, they wrote off the women’s stories as “old wives’ tales”.

I pray that we men may have the courage to listen to the stories of women, especially their stories of Jesus’ love.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


10 Comments

Pain: Useless intrusion or gift of God?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed HirdDr Paul Brand

One of the most significant books that I have read  is Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey.  Dr. Paul Brand was a world-famous leprosy surgeon who has spent most of his life caring for the forsaken lepers in India.  He performed countless medical miracles, enabling people with leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) to live healthy and productive lives.

 

Dr. Brand’s  book was endorsed by Dr. C. Everett Koop, a former Surgeon General of the United States, who bestowed on Dr. Brand the Surgeon General’s Medallion.  Dr. Koop said that when he wonders who he would like to have been if he had not been born C. Everett Koop, the person who comes to mind most frequently is Paul Brand.

Dr Paul Brand2One of Dr. Brand’s greatest breakthroughs was the discovery that people with leprosy do not have ‘bad flesh’ that just rots away by itself.  In fact, their flesh is just as healthy as yours or mine.  They are usually not even contagious.  What they lack is the ability to feel pain.  As the blood flow is cut off from key parts of their body, their nerve endings die.  With the death of their nerve endings comes the death of their ability to sense danger to their bodies.  Leprous people live a virtually pain-free existence.  Many of us would do anything to live a pain-free life.  Yet in fact, the absence of pain is the greatest enemy of the leper.  Again and again they wound and impale themselves.  Yet they don’t feel a thing.

Dr. Brand spoke movingly about little Tanya, a four-year-old patient with dark, flashing eyes, curly hair, and an impish smile.  She seemed fine as an infant.  Then when she was a year and a half, her mother came into her room.  She noticed her daughter finger-painting red pictures on the floor of her playpen.  Suddenly her mother realized that her daughter had bitten off the tip of her finger and was drawing with her own blood.  Because of her leprosy, Tanya felt no pain even when she damaged herself.  I wonder how many of us as parents have ever thanked God that our own children can feel pain?

We in the west live in a culture that has a Dr Paul Brand 3remarkable ability to shut down pain in our lives.  People in North America consume over thirty thousand tons of aspirin a year.  North Americans, who only represent 5 percent of the world’s population, consume over 50% of all manufactured drugs, one-third of which work on the central nervous system.  We are the most advanced society in the world in terms of suppressing pain.  Yet the more we try to shut down pain, the more pain strikes back.

 

When we refuse to listen to the pain in our bodies, we invariably begin to destroy ourselves.  Just think of the number of famous football, basketball, and hockey stars who have damaged themselves for life by going out on the field, still injured, with the help of painkiller injections.  If leprosy is the inability to feel pain, then alcohol and drug addiction, which deaden our pain, are forms of modern day leprosy.  The greatest damage that pain-dead alcoholics and drug addicts do is the damage they do to their spouses and children.  That is why I am so grateful for the gift of AA and related 12-Step groups.  I wonder how many of us as parents have thanked God for the ability to feel our family’s pain?

Dr Paul Brand 4As you are reading this article, you have probably blinked your eyes hundreds of times.  Have you ever wondered why we blink?  Dr. Brand discovered that leprous people go blind, because they don’t blink.  Blinking functions like our car’s windshield wipers, washing away the impurities.  It is pain that causes us to blink.

 

Try not blinking for the next 60 seconds, if you need proof of this.  Because leprous people feel no pain, they don’t blink.  The absence of pain actually makes them go blind.  Dr. Brand solved their blinking problem surgically by attaching the chewing muscle to their eyelid.  Every time they chew gum, their eyelid blinks.  As we lovingly look at the faces of our children,  how many of us as parents have ever thanked God for the ability to feel pain in our eyes?

One of the greatest mysteries that Dr. Brand faced was why leprous people kept losing their fingers and toes overnight.  He knew that they didn’t just shrivel up and fall off.  but no one could ever find what happened to the lost fingers and toes.  Finally Dr. Brand decided to have people stay awake all night watching the leprosy patients sleep.  To their surprise, they discovered that rats were coming in and nibbling off their fingers.  Because the patients felt no pain, they never woke up and brushed away the rats.

 

To save their extremities, leprosy patients are Leprosy_hand_affected_fourth_digitnow required to take cats with them, wherever they plan to sleep.  I encourage you as you are reading this article to look down at your 10 fingers.  How many of us as parents have ever thanked God for our hands that reach out to touch our children, and for the gift of pain that keeps them healthy?

 

Over 2,000 years ago, a Jewish peasant loved us so much that he allowed people to drive spikes into his hands.  I thank God that Jesus chose to bear our pain that he might give us the gift of life.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Don’t Worry, Be Happy!?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed HirdDean Inge

Dean Inge once said that worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due. Another person said that “worry, like a rocking chair, will give you something to do, but it won’t get you there.” In Canada today, there are all kinds of things to worry about if we let ourselves: the economy, the health crisis, the epidemic of broken marriages. But the truth is that worry is completely worthless, Worry drains away our energy for living, and makes us far less efficient and productive. Research shows that 95% of the things we worry about never actually happen. From a cost/benefit analysis, worrying is not worth the bother. That is why the most famous person on earth said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

 

Jesus Asleep at the switchMany of you reading this article will be thinking: “Yes, I agree that worry is a waste of energy, but how can I stop worrying?” One helpful solution is to view worry as an addiction, just like an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Addictions are broken, by admitting our powerlessness over our addiction (worry) and turning to a power higher than ourselves. Jesus said that the solution to worry is to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .” We worry most about things over which we have the least control. We feel most secure and in control when we think that we have our life figured out. Yet often our very desire to be in control causes us to alienate the ones we care for most, whether at home or at work. When we feel in control, others tend to feel controlled by us, and will often distance themselves from us. As we give over our need for control to our Higher Power, then we stop pushing others away from us.

 

Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for popularizing the phrase “One Day at a Time.” Very few alcoholics can imagine being sober for the rest of their lives, or even for one year. But they can imagine being sober for one day. Similarly the solution to worry is found in focusing our energy on today’s concerns, rather than tomorrow’s

That is why Jesus said:jesus3

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” It is the future that we worry the most about. The future scares us more than our past or present, because we can’t control it. As one person said, “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday!” Yet worry is broken when we realize that Jesus is the Lord (in control) of our future, as well of our past and present.

That is why Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Viewed from that perspective, worry is essentially a failure to trust God with our problems. If we can really trust that God is in control and will never desert us, worry ceases to paralyze us.

 

My prayer for those reading this article is that we all will learn to break our worry addictions, and leave them “in the hand of the Man who stilled the Waters.”

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca