Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Soul Cravings . . . In Review

image courtesy of http://www.erwinmcmanus.com/
Soul Cravings
An Exploration of the Human Spirit
by Erwin Raphael McManus

Must Read: Very thought provoking.  As I read the title in the bookstore amongst the myriad non-fiction books available, I am sure this will be an interesting read.  It turns out, however, to be far more than that.  Every essay, every page, every statement resonates with me in some way.  I like when a book does more than deliver information.  This one inspires profound thought.

This book is a collection of short essays divided up into three sections: Intimacy, Destiny, and Meaning.  As I settle into the comfy bookstore chair with my bride beside me and my decaf in my hand, I start with the introduction.  Right from the beginning I connect with everything McManus is saying.  I don't even feel like I'm reading a book; I feel like I'm writing it myself.  It's like a guided tour of my own thoughts and emotions.   

McManus distinguishes between religion and God.  He also articulates the difference between religion and spirituality.  He addresses our need to be loved for an endless list of 'good reasons' and our seeming discomfort with the concept of unconditional love.  He has an artful way of separating and defining things that are intuitively indistinct.   

As the book progresses, McManus explores the need in every human being to be and feel significant.  He explores the effect of our relationships on our belief system and the effect of our belief system on our view of life.  He quotes psychologist Thane Pittman as inadvertently saying, "I'll see it when I believe it."  Overall, a fascinating investigation into the core of humanity.

The best part, though, is that this book does far more than disseminate information.  Instead of pouring new information into who I am, I would rather say that something was drawn out from within me.  Instead of gaining information that I didn't have before, I gained an awareness of the person I've always been.  I just didn't know me before, like I do now.

See all Must Read books I've reviewed.

*I purchased this book and have not received any compensation from anyone whatsoever for reading or reviewing it.  The thoughts expressed above are my own. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Key to Assuming

It's not true what they say about assuming.  At least when you're assuming the best!  Unfortunately, for me, I wasn't assuming the best this morning.  I was in a bit of a rush.  I was looking for my keys.  This is fairly routine.  All else being equal, there's about a 50 percent chance that my keys will be in the pocket of the pants I wore yesterday.  There's about a 20 percent chance they'll be on the hook by the door.  There's about a 20 percent chance they'll be on the little table by my bed, and there's about a 10 percent chance they'll be somewhere else.  At 7:30 this morning, it was time to leave and I was down to the 10 percent chance that my keys were 'somewhere else.'  I just couldn't remember which somewhere else it was.

I hunted.  I hollered, "Mrs O. . . "  I do actually call her Mrs O at home.  ". . . I can't find my keys."  She is not alarmed by the news.  You can hardly call it 'news' at all, in fact.  It happens frequently.  You might even call it part of my morning routine.  I'm now 2 minutes late and counting.  I'm retracing steps. . . I drove us on our date last night. . . Ahhh!  Mrs O took the babysitter home.  I dive into her purse and rummage around.


Oh, wait!  The little secret inside pockets.  I try again. 


I think to myself, "I KNOW [read: assume] you used my keys to take the babysitter home and didn't put them on the hook.  You ALWAYS tell me how I need to put my keys on the hook so I won't lose them and then you take my keys and don't return them to the hook and now I can't find the keys in your purse and I'm almost getting lost in here myself. . ."

Mrs O comes up the stairs and says, "Why don't you just take that set on the hook?" 

"I don't like that set.  Those are yours.  I don't like your dangly cow-girl boot key chain!"  *sigh*  "Oh, alright.  I know I'm being silly, and I'm late."  I turn to open the door. . . I turn back to Mrs O. . .

"You're gonna laugh so hard," I say sheepishly.

"Is the car already running?"  She asks as though she doesn't already know the answer.

"Uhhh, yeah!"  I had started the car while taking the garbage out only minutes before.  I mean, we're talking 3 maybe 4 minutes.  See, I have this short-term memory thing. . . or rather, I wish I did have a short-term memory thing, but there are days when I think I don't have any short-term memory at all.

Note to self: Assume the best--the alternative can be embarrassing!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slouch more. . . Fight less

When Mrs O was little. . . way back in 'once-upon-a-time' time. . . her parents had a creative solution to sibling squabbles.  When the girls would get fighting, they would make them stand face to face and hug.  At first the girls would be at arms length; their finger tips would barely touch the shoulders of the adversary. 
"Closer!"  The parents would demand.  The girls would inch closer, faces turned away, scowls across their lips. 
"Closer!"  The sisters would begin to crack a smile despite their best efforts.
"Closer!"  Their fingers would now almost touch behind the other's neck, the tension would begin to loosen.
"Closer!"  Now grinning or even laughing, the sisters would be embraced in a proper hug and the fight was over.

Interesting, isn't it.  This came to me the other day when the Mrs and I were. . . not really fighting, but just tense with each other.  It was one of those days when you just know you're going to end up arguing if you don't change the direction of the day.  A take-two works well here, but this time, Mrs O simply said, "I miss my friend."  I had been completely oblivious to the scowl on my face, my crossed arms, and the way I had squared off my stance.

I couldn't help but uncross my arms and cross the room to give her a hug.  As I rested my head on her shoulder, all the tension melted away.  The wisdom of my in-laws suddenly made tangible sense in a new way.  You just can't fight like that. 

The anger management thing isn't as tough as we sometimes make it out to be.  Sometimes you just have to change your 'stance.'  Change the tone of your voice.  Change your posture.  After all, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's probably a duck.  If you want to be a lover and not a fighter, then walk and talk like a lover and not a fighter. 

Simple, really.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Anger Management: part five

You don't have to take my word for it!

Judy Ringer, an expert on conflict resolution, wrote some interesting thoughts in a newsletter that I received recently.  Since it related so well to the stuff I'd been writing about, I thought I'd include her newsletter here.


(since this is part five, you might want to start with part onepart two, part three, and part four first!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Take Two

Alas, even with a good plan there will be mistakes.  That's what grace is for.  So, last week I composed a new ending.  At dinner, I asked for a 'take two' which is our version of a do-over.  Little E even snapped his fingers together like one of those black and white things they click on movie sets to announce the beginning of a new take.  I actually described what would have been the appropriate response.  It seemed to be uplifting for Little E to hear that I realized I was mistaken and to outline what I now wish that I had done then.

Part of life is starting over.  It's amazing to see what a little humility will do.  When you mess up, admit it.  Describe what you wish you had done, and ask for a 'take two.'

"Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

(since this is part four, you might want to start with part onepart two, and part three first!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be a Man

(since this is part three, you might want to start with part one and part two first!)

How do I solve the anger management problem.  I don't want to ignore the problem and I don't want to give in.  I want the problem to go away, and for good.  I'm not satisfied with managing the anger, I want to eliminate it altogether.  Is that possible?

I was ruminating on this subject this afternoon and remembered a discussion I had a couple of years ago.  Mrs. O and I were putting together two raised bed gardens.  I am an avid gardener and I was really excited about the gardens.  I also wanted to include my young son in all of the gardening fun.  We decided to give our then-two-year-old his own space in which to plant, water, dig and weed.  I didn't want to allow him free reign of my gardens for fear that he might mistake heirloom tomatoes for weeds.  As we were setting up the kid garden only feet from my own gardens, I realized that this was no panacea.  I may have isolated space for Little E in theory, but four feet of lawn and an isolating theory are no match for a toddler, right?  What's to say that I'm not going to come home from work one afternoon and find all of my tomatoes in a heap?  What am I going to do if at some later time he turns my gardens into a sandbox or an obstacle suitable for bike jumps or the pole vault?

I think the answer is to 'be a man.'  I think we need to play to our strengths.  Let's be logical.  Let's be the problem solvers we would want to be for our wives if the shoe were on the other foot.  Run through the scenario in your head: think for a moment about your most prized material possession.  How angry would you feel if your spouse or child trashed it. . . on purpose?

Imagine that it happened.

Decide not to be angry.

Decide now how you will respond then.

Imagine that you know for a fact that some day someone will trash that thing that you value so much.  Realize with me that you will still be able to be alive without that thing, and quite happily if you so choose.  Realize with me that the person who trashed it is actually more important to you.  I think these most genuine realizations are the key to the best response.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unexpecting the expected

(since this is part two, you might want to start with part one if you haven't read it already!)

Finding the answer to the anger management problem isn't easy.  In fact, sometimes I think that finding the problem isn't easy.  What, exactly, is the problem?  The problem is that I'm confused about what the problem is. 

It reminds me of a story I read in a magazine once.  It was about a guy who bought a house and turned his new backyard into an awesome garden with all sorts of cool plants and trees.  The guy had a couple of huge dogs, though.  Now, if you have dogs, you know that they are creatures of habit.  They wear paths through your lawn because they always run around the corner of the house in the same spot.  Well, this gardener and dog lover had a method: he let the dogs loose in the new yard for a couple of weeks.  When he found the paths being worn, he incorporated them into the landscape.  He made pathways where the dogs naturally wanted to walk.  That's a man who knows what the problem is: his ideal.  His expectation.

If I expect everyone to live up to my ideal, then I get frustrated.  People don't live up to my ideal. . . I don't even live up to my ideal.  That's annoying!  I get annoyed and frustrated and then I get confused about the problem.  I get to thinking that the problem is that people aren't living up to my ideal, when the problem is really that I am trying to restrict them to my ideal in the first place.  Even if they're wrong, I can't restrict them to my ideal.  God gave them the freedom to be wrong.  Shouldn't I be at least as lenient as He.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Going Postal

There are several ways that I react to the various curve balls of life.  Being the analytical person that I am, I sometimes deliver the textbook response.  It's intentional.  Devised in advance.  It results in exactly the outcome I've anticipated.  Success!

This afternoon, however, I did not deliver the textbook response.  To make matters worse, I misunderstood.  I was mistaken about the facts of the exchange that was occurring between my two-year-old and my four-year-old.  Had I chosen the high road, it would have been simple to excuse myself and correct everything.  Alas, I did not choose the aforementioned high road.  I chose the response known as 'going postal.'  **Note from the editors: In an effort not to offend the faithful workers who deliver our snail mail in rain and snow, we are considering changing the name of this response to 'going Charlie Sheen.'**

How do I fix the anger problem.  Is it meditation?  Is it periodic trips to the garage where I can smash things to pieces and release the pent up frustration?  I don't really like either of those methods.  You know what I'm afraid of?  I'm afraid that if I just meditate that I'm not really solving the problem.  I'm also afraid that if I just go release the anger that I'm training myself to give in, albeit under 'controlled' circumstances.  I don't want to avoid the problem, and I don't want to give in to my foolish inclinations of the moment.  I want to deal with the problem and make it go away.

But what, exactly, IS the problem?