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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Hey Mr Tambourine Man

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

 

When is the last time that you won a Nobel Peace Prize?  Who would have imagined that Bob Dylan at age 75 would be given this honour? Even as an avid Dylan fan, this was not on my radar screen.

One of my most exciting finds was a new biography by Ian Bell, entitled Once Upon a Time: the lives of Bob Dylan. The Financial Times describes this book as the best Dylan biography yet.”  WB Gooderham of The Guardian, UK described ‘Once Upon a Time as “Knotty, beguiling, contrary, infuriating and as ambitious as its subject, this could be the most vital Dylan biography yet.”  As part of writing this Deep Cove Crier article on Bob Dylan, I have been asking friends, neighbours, relatives and local business people as to what they think and know about Bob Dylan.  I discovered that Dylan has had a remarkably long shelf life, appealing to a wide variety of very diverse people.

My favorite Dylan song is Hey, Mr Tambourine Man.  No one can ever fully agree as to what Dylan means in his mysterious, playful lyrics.  Hunter S Thompson dedicated his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Bob Dylan because of this song allegedly promoting Mr Tambourine Man as a drug pusher.  Dylan told Joni Mitchell’s husband Chuck that the Tambourine Man was the one common musician in the New Orleans funeral Jazz Bands that helped people grieve the death of their loved ones, and embrace their own mortality.   I see Dylan as an enigmatic Tambourine Man who is playing songs for us in our jingle jangle world.

The Byrds’ version of this song convinced Dylan to switch to rock & roll. Like our Canadian Bruce Cockburn, Bob Dylan is one of the most private, elusive public figures in the world.  The grueling pace of touring and interacting with the media has destroyed many musicians over the years.  Dylan himself often lost himself for a while in the midst of such media onslaught.  As June Sawyers ironically put it in Book List, Dylan is an artist who, to this day, defends his right of “artistic autonomy, refusing to be anyone but himself, whoever that may be. “

Michael Dyer of the Japan Times Newspaper has called Bob Dylan the single most important artist in the history of popular music.  What pains many of Dylan’s fans is that he keeps artistically reinventing himself again and again.  Just when you have ‘figured’ Dylan out, he surprises you.  The real Dylan is always blowing in the wind.  At age 74, Dylan the Tambourine Man will likely reinvent himself many more times before he goes home to the Lord.  You cannot put Dylan in a box.  When Dylan switched from folk to rock, he was publicly booed and called a ‘Judas’.  When he embraced Jesus in the 1980s, many people walked out of his concerts.  Geoff Dyer of the New York Times commented: “The conversion to Christianity was the point at which I, like many others, first jumped ship, but again, bootleg recordings have since made clear that as a result of his newfound faith, Dylan rocked harder than he has ever done since.”  Some people have never been able to forgive Dylan for spiritually reinventing himself.  After Dylan’s explicit spiritual trilogy of albums “Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love”, he has become more parabolic and subtle in talking about his faith.  Sometimes less is more.  When I came to faith, some people dismissed my conversion as a phase that I would get over.  My hunch is that Dylan’s coming to faith was more than just a phase.  Dylan the Tambourine Man, far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow, is continuing to enable us ‘to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands.’

Back in 1976, The American Guide magazine asked Dylan how he imagined God.  He memorably said: “I can see God in a daisy. I can see God at night in the wind and rain. I see Creation just about everywhere. The highest form of song is prayer. King David’s, Solomon’s, the wailing of a coyote, the rumble of the earth. It must be wonderful to be God. There’s so much going on out there that you can’t get to it all. It would take longer than for ever.”

I am struck by how deeply the African-American churches have embraced Dylan’s Gospel music.  Blues and Folk music have deep roots in the African-American community.  While other people may have been offended by Dylan’s Gospel music, the African American churches have transformed these songs into large choir productions.  Even if Dylan never again writes such explicit Gospel music, I believe that his Gospel songs will continue to impact many new generations.  Music has a way of outliving its composer, even Dylan.

I thank God for Bob Dylan the Tambourine Man who continues to fascinate so many of us.  Through his evocative songs, he takes us ‘down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves, the haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach.’  Only God really knows Bob’s heart.  Our calling is to enjoy his music and remember to pray for him and other musicians.  There are few tougher callings than that of a travelling Tambourine Man.

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

-An article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News and the Light Magazine

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 


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Bella: Lightning a Candle

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird 

Many of us are unaware that BC was once a Spanish Territory.  Our famous Captain Vancouver, after which our city is named, was sent to the West Coast by the British Government to receive this land from the Spanish.  I took one year of Spanish in Grade 10 after finishing Grade 12 French in Grade 9.  Languages have always fascinated me, perhaps because I spent two years in Montreal learning French during the time of Expo 67.

Our St. Simon’s NV community has been on many mission trips over the years, especially to Mexico and Rwanda.  Our first St. Simon’s NV mission trip was to the Hispanic Anglicans in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the world.  It was a wonderful opportunity to refresh my Spanish, preaching, teaching and even singing on the radio in Spanish.  Our Latino Honduran friends were very kind to me as I sought to improve my Spanish diction.  I think that they appreciated my making the effort to speak in their heart language.

The largest ethnic minority in North America is the Hispanic-speaking people with over 52 million in the United States, 14 million in California, and almost 5 million in Greater Los Angeles.  Fifty percent of all those recently added to the USA population were Hispanic.  Many commentators  predicted that the very close American Presidential election  would be won on November 6th by whichever way the Hispanic voters lean. (Hindsight comment: It was.)

One of the most delightful movies that crosses the Hispanic/Anglo divide is Bella.  My wife and I recently borrowed Bella from the local library, after a good friend recommended we check it out.  We were not disappointed with our ‘date night’ movie.  This stunning ‘once in a lifetime’ movie left us both in tears.  It left me with the conviction that Bella has the potential to do something beautiful in the world. Bella lights a candle in people’s heart.

Bella struggled for visibility until winning the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as a Heartland Film Festival award.  Then our North Shore-based LionsGate Films and Roadside Attractions became the distributors.  LionsGate Films is part of the reason why with so much film activity, the North Shore is often called Hollywood North.

As the top-rated movie on the New York Times Reader’s Poll, the Wall Street Journal called Bella ‘the fall’s biggest surprise’.  With more than $10 million in domestic box office, it became one of that year’s top-ten-grossing independent films, breaking the record for a Latino-themed film in total box office earnings.

Alejandro Monteverde, Bella’s Producer with Metanoia Films, wanted to produce a movie that showed the real face of Latinos.  So often Hispanic people are portrayed in movies in less than flattering ways.  We need more culturally sensitive movies like Bella.  For Latino people, the kitchen is at the heart of the family.

Everything in Bella was food-related, whether speaking of the key actors who worked in restaurants or the intimate family times where Nina a pregnant non-hispanic waitress is welcomed into their Latino hospitality. Bella reminded me that the Hispanic people have a rich family heritage and deep spirituality that is an important contribution to our North American multicultural mix.  In an age where marriages and families are often collapsing, the Latino people have much to teach us about human dignity and making room for everyone.

The gist of the story is that Jose, a famous soccer star, becomes involved in a tragic car accident that ends his career.  He lost his passion for life and for soccer.  Meeting Nina changes everything for him and for her in a most unexpected way.  More than romance, Bella reveals the beauty of sacrificial love.  I thank God for Bella’s celebration of family, food, music and life-affirming Judeo-Christian values.  You could check this movie out of your local library or view it online.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we will daily rediscover the importance of family, kindness and compassion for others in need.

Bella Movie Trailer  (click to watch online)

Bella Movie Trailer (en Espanol/Spanish)

 

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

-an article 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.  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 


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The Heart of Valentine’s Day

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

My wife Janice and I  celebrated our 41st Wedding Anniversary.  Over four decades later, I can say without reservation that I love her more deeply with each passing year.  It is too easy to take one’s marriage partner for granted in our extremely busy world.  Yet each of us want to feel special and appreciated.  Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to go to the very heart of what marriage is really all about.  Valentine’s Day was birthed in a time much like nowadays when people were encouraged to look down on marriage as an interference with their personal freedoms and careers.

Through attending a Marriage Encounter weekend, I have learned that one of the most romantic things that one can do on Valentine’s Day (and every day) is to write a personal letter to one’s sweetheart.

Despite Napoleon Bonaparte’s extreme busyness in leading France, he took time to write as many as 75,000 letters in his lifetime, many of them to his beautiful wife, Josephine, both before and during their marriage. This letter, written just prior to their 1796 wedding, shows surprising tenderness and emotion from the future emperor.

“I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart! Are you angry? Do I see you looking sad? Are you worried?  My soul aches with sorrow, and there can be no rest for you lover; but is there still more in store for me when, yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire? Ah! it was last night that I fully realized how false an image of you your portrait gives!

You are leaving at noon; I shall see you in three hours.

Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.”

Each Valentine’s Day, approximately 1 billion letters and cards are sent each year to loved ones.  So where does this remarkably popular Saint Valentine’s Day come from anyway? In the city of Rome around 270AD, there lived an Emperor known as Claudius the Cruel.  Claudius was having problems recruiting men to serve in his armies, because the men selfishly wanted to stay home with their wives and children. Angry that his men were more loyal to their wives than to himself, Claudius decided to outlaw marriage!

Couples who were in love searched for someone who would help them get married, even in secret.  A priest named Valentine performed wedding ceremonies for these desperate young lovers. When a young couple came to the temple, he secretly united them in marriage in front of the sacred altar. Another pair sought his aid and in secret he wed them. Others came and quietly were married. Valentine quickly became the friend of lovers in every district of Rome.

But, such secrets could not be kept for long in Rome. At last word of Valentine’s acts reached the palace and Claudius the Cruel was angry, exceedingly angry.  On the orders of Claudius, Valentine was dragged from the temple, away from the altar where a young maiden and a Roman youth stood, ready to be married, and taken off to jail.

Valentine’s jailer had a daughter, Augustine. She was so kind to Valentine during his brutal imprisonment, that Valentine sent a ‘Valentine’s Card’ with a grateful “thank you” message for all that she had done.

Many asked Claudius to release Valentine but Claudius refused to do so.  As a punishment for supporting marriage, Valentine was beaten to death with clubs and then beheaded.  Valentine laid down his life for others because he passionately believed in the sanctity of marriage.  His devoted friends buried him in the church of St. Praxedes.   The date of his tragic murder was February 14th AD 270. .

History tells us the first modern valentines’ ‘card’ date from the early years of the fifteenth century. The young French Duke of Orleans, captured at the battle of Agincourt, was kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for many years. He wrote poem after poem to his wife, real valentines, of which about sixty of them remain. These can be seen among the royal papers in the British Museum.

All of my Valentine’s Day Cards to my wife over the past 34 years have been marked with a string of “X”s to represent kisses.  The practice of using an “X” for a kiss grew out of the medieval practice of letting illiterate people sign documents with an “X” to represent their name. This was done in the presence of witnesses and a kiss was given upon the “X” to show sincerity. The “X” then became synonymous with a kiss in the minds of most people.  Why did they sign with an “X”?  One reason was because the “X” shape represented St. Andrew’s cross which is also used in the Scottish and British flags.  But most importantly for our ancestors, the “X” represented the first Greek letter (Chi) in the name ‘Christ’.  (That’s why Xmas stands for the ‘Christ’ in CHRIST-mas.)

For our forebears, “X” = Kisses=Love=the Cross=Christ.

As my wife and I will be celebrating thirty-four years of a loving committed marriage, I am reminded that ‘X’ marks the spot in our grateful marriage.  ‘X’ has been the open secret to our perseverance through good times and bad times.  ‘X’ has been the key to our hanging in there through sickness and health.  ‘X’ will be the key to our having and holding till death do us part.  My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us, like Saint Valentine, may be open to a personal encounter with the eternal ‘X’, Jesus Christ.

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

-award-winning author of the 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.  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.


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Why does it sometimes feel like men and women are from different planets?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Is it okay to suggest in this post-modern culture that  we as men and women are equal but often different?  Too often equality becomes reduced to a sterile sameness.  True equality between the sexes involves a joyous celebrating of our very real differences.  Men and women are so wonderfully different that many authors have been writing books exploring this unique key to marital and relational satisfaction.  We really do come from different ‘worlds’ as men and women.

Gary Smalley, the best-selling author on relationships, has put enormous research in exploring just how male/female differences actually affect us.  Smalley comments that “most marital difficulties center around one fact – men and women are TOTALLY different…virtually every cell in a man’s body has a chromosome makeup entirely different from those in a woman’s body.”  Dr. James Dobson says that there is strong evidence indicating that the ‘seat’ of the emotions in a man’s brain is wired differently than in a woman’s.

Greater understanding of our differences can bring greater acceptance and love between men and women.  Dr. Paul Popenoe, founder of the American Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles, dedicated most of his working life to the research of biological differences between the sexes.  He found that females outlive males by four to eight years because of their greater constitutional vitality and perhaps because of their unique chromosome makeup.  Women’s thyroid is larger and more active than that of men, giving them a greater resistance to cold.  Women’s blood contains more water and 20 percent fewer red cells.  Since the red cells supply oxygen to the body cells, women in general tire more easily.  An illustration of this is that when the working day in British factories was increased from ten to twelve hours during wartime conditions, accidents increased 150 percent among women but not at all among men.  Women can withstand high temperatures better than men because their metabolism slows down less.

Another important difference is in the area of women’s intuitive gifting.  Smalley holds that each woman has a built-in marriage manual within her.  She intuitively knows  what she needs, what the relationship needs, and what, if anything, is wrong with the marriage.  All she needs is a husband who is courageous enough to ask her to share her marriage manual with him.

Neuropsychologists McGuinness and Tribran led a Stanford University research team investigating this unique intuitive capacity.  They discovered  that women do in fact catch subliminal messages faster and more accurately than men.  Someone has observed that women often use logic more as a tool, while men tend to treat logic as the bottom line.  In my own life, I have had to retrain myself over the years to stop shutting down my intuitive impressions, in favour of what seemed to be the obvious logical course of action.  I have found that when I close down and ignore my intuitive perceptions, they become weaker and much fainter.

Gary Smalley admits that generalizations about gender differences are probably only true 70 or 80 percent of the time.  Every individual is indeed an individual.  Even so it is amazing how many couples are finding a new lease on their marriage through learning to rejoice in gender differences.  Smalley noted how often men tend to be focused on gathering and sharing facts.  Facts can far too easily swallow up feelings in marriage.  This can lead us as men to be “Mr. Fix-it’s” in our intimate relationships.  Yet there is no better way to destroy a healthy marriage than to attempt to fix our wives and solve their problems.  Smalley and others remind us that our addiction to fixing our wives must be replaced by a radical commitment to just being there and listening, no matter how helpless and painful that makes us feel.  When our wives keep talking about their problems,  we often fall into the trap of defensiveness, somehow feeling that we’re to blame.  Yet in fact the most healing thing that we can do is to not run, and not defend ourselves, but rather hang in there with our total attention on our wives.

John Gray observes that when a woman gives advice to another woman, it is most often seen as an act of kindness and generosity.  Women firmly believe that when something is working, it can always work better.  Their nature is to want to improve things.  Gray observes however that this “Home Improvement” tendency often backfires when applied across the gender divide.  Offering help and advice to a man can make him feel incompetent, weak, and even unloved.  Advice in the male world is usually only received well when asked for in the first place.  Gray holds that one of the best gifts a wife can give her husband is to abstain from giving him advice, and instead give him acceptance and approval.  A man’s deepest fear, says Gray, is that he is not good enough or that he is incompetent.  Accordingly one of the best gifts a woman can give her man is to believe in him, and to stand with him, when he begins to doubts his own abilities.

The Good Book calls men to love their wives as themselves and for wives to honour their husbands.  Why does it say this?  Because as men we are often crippled in expressing romantic love.  Why do romance novels sell by the hundreds of millions?  Primarily because we men are missing out on this very deep need of our wives to be cared for and romantically loved.  Too often our marriages become predictable and stale as a result.  Why then does the Good Book call wives to honour their husbands?  Because in this dog-eat-dog competitive world, if our wives won’t honour us and believe in us, then no one likely will.  When my wife honours me, I feel like a million dollars.  My prayer is that many husbands and wives reading this message may learn to rejoice in their glorious God-given gender differences.

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

-award-winning author of the 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.  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 


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The Love Affair

  By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

On a New Year’s Eve, the well-known author Michael Harper was sailing solo on Lake Taupo in New Zealand. Suddenly his boat capsized in a particularly violent squall about a mile offshore. Clinging to the side of the boat and unable to right it, Michael was rescued after an hour in the chilly glacial waters. He nearly died of hypothermia.

When Michael recovered, he asked God why He had saved him and what God wanted him to do. The reply came something like this: “I want you to learn how to love people the same way as I do.” Michael learned that very day that life is meant to be a Love Affair, that life is meant to be dedicated to learning how to really love each other in a genuine way. The famous ethicist Joseph Fletcher wrote that the opposite of love is not “hate” but rather “indifference”. Fletcher writes, “… There is one thing worse than evil itself, and that is indifference to it.” The lowest point to which our society often seems to sink is when it says, I couldn’t care less.’

As Michael Harper struggled with learning how to really love people, he became aware that there are few words in the English language that are more open to abuse than the word “love”. “Love is swampy” is how Joseph Fletcher describes the problem. Much of what is called love today is little more than making sure that our needs are met. Need-centered love, however, is self-centered and narcissistic. True love, said Karl Barth, is when a person gives them self to another with no expectation of a return, in a pure venture, even at the risk of ingratitude, and of that other person’s refusal to make a response of love. That kind of love is very scary because it involves the possibility of being rejected and hurt. That is why we so often prefer self-centered love to other-centered love.

Harper comments that “the widespread identification of the word love with sex indicates that most people think that sex ought to be an experience of love … and that is where the frustration comes in. People feel cheated because sex has not delivered the goods.” A good marriage, says Harper, in which both husband and wife delight to give each others pleasure, and thereby reassure one another of the love that they have for each other, does more for the reestablishment of true love than almost anything else. The bible calls this kind of true love “AGAPE LOVE”. Most of us have been to weddings where a passage is read from the bible telling us about true love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud it is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13).” it would be helpful for all of us, whether churchgoers or not, to regularly measure our marriage relationships against that standard of Christian love.

I am more convinced than ever that love is what it is all about. That is why the bible even says that God is love … not self centered love, but rather other centered love. Harper reminds us that “Jesus did not come to present a new set of ideas to us. He came to show us the meaning of love. He revealed what love is. He manifested love. The secret of Jesus’ revolution was not the love of power but the power of love.” When Jesus, hung on the cross, he stretched out his arms and said, in effect, “this is how much I love you.” And most amazingly when the Roman soldiers were torturing him and humiliating him, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them for they ‘don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus has taught me that the finest quality of true love is its power to forgive. As the late Michael Harper puts it, love without forgiveness is meaningless.

My prayer for those reading this article is that true love may so invade our lives that costly forgiveness will become normal for us in our daily lives.

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

-award-winning author of the 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.  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 


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My Beloved on Valentine’s Day

 by the Rev. Dr.  Ed Hird

Valentine’s Day’s full title is St. Valentine’s Day, because it was named after two St Valentines. They were both Italian clergy martyred in the 3rd century AD for their Christian faith.  Because of their sacrificial love, it has become one of the most popular annual events celebrated by hundred of millions around the world. It has become a traditional date night where a wise husband remembers to take his wife out for dinner, followed perhaps by a movie or theatre production. (Husbands, please note that such dates are much less expensive than divorce lawyer’s fee; so put Feb 14th in your IPhone or Blackberry).

Many years ago in a Deep Cove Crier article about marriage, I wrote the following words: “Inside the heart of each and every one of us there is a longing to be understood by someone who really cares. When a person is understood, he or she can put up with almost anything in the world.”  After being posted (unbeknown to me) on hundreds of Romance websites, I was approached to write a chapter for the upcoming Canadian anthology “Hot Apple Cider 2’  about this romantic quote.  In Hot Apple Cider 2, I commented that my beloved wife “Janice and I are learning afresh the joy of ordinary pleasures: taking regular time together for peaceful walks, chatting over a cup of tea, listening to each other’s daily experiences, watching a video together, going out for dinner, and even reading together.”

One day I picked up the North Shore News, read Martin Millerchip’s article about Presentation House, and on a whim said to Janice: “Let’s go out on a date night to see Antony Holland’s St Mark’s Gospel.”  Being remarkably adaptable, Janice agreed.  What a wonderful evening. Unplanned, unexpected, and totally memorable.  Happy marriages need to have that sense of adventure, of the unexpected.  Boredom in marriage is the devil’s best tool.

 

Sadly many husbands stop dating their wives after they marry them.  “What happened to the man I married?”, many wives wonder.  Why was he so attentive before marriage, and now he would rather hang out on the golf course or stay late at work?  Our wives deeply need to be romanced, pursued, won over every week.  That is one reason why the romance novels are a Billionaire dollar industry, because we husbands are not always putting our wives first.  My wife Janice needs to know that she is more important than my work, my hobbies, my writing, my sports.  She needs to be Number One under God in my life.

I love to hold my beloved Janice’s hand when we are out on a date.  Sitting there in Presentation House, watching Antony Holland perform St Mark’s Gospel, I often reached out to her and gently squeezed her hand when something was really moving. Many people don’t know that Mark’s Gospel is high drama, and when done by a gifted artist, can bring you to tears.  Antony Holland, at age 91, is literally North America’s oldest leading actor.  If I have half as much energy when I am in my nineties, I will be deeply grateful.  As Martin Millerchip of the North Shore News put it, Holland’s ‘hard to resist, perhaps like Jesus’.  Holland directed plays throughout the Middle East for the WWII Allied forces, and founded Studio 58 at Langara College where my parents attended his plays for many years. (My late mother once told me that Studio 58 initially rehearsed its play in our St. Matthias Oakridge church basement.)

I first became aware of Antony Holland from watching his phenomenal acting in ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. No one dances quite like Holland in the final ‘Morrie’ scene. Antony Holland is the quintessential actor. He loves what he does. At age 91, he has just started.  Love is what motivates him. Love of acting and love of people.  In both St Mark’s Gospel and Tuesdays with Morrie, the love of God overflows through Holland.

 

This Valentine’s Day, may I love my wife even more deeply than Holland loves acting and loves his audience.  May my beloved wife know that she means everything to me, that she must never come second, that my heart is still aflame with tenderness for her, thirty-three years after I said ‘I do’. May this gift of tender romance be real and life-changing this Feb 14th for your marriage, for your family, for your community.

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

-award-winning author of the 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.  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 


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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.

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