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What I Learned During April 2017

Finally!

The month of April 2017 went by fast. It seemed like we had just begun the Lenten season and then suddenly it Easter weekend, and then April was over.

Despite the month feeling as if it went by quickly, I learned a few important personal lessons during that time.

I Love Reading and It Should Only Be Used for Leisure

Every time I see a blog post for, “How to Read X Amounts of Books in a Year” I instantly feel the need to take on the challenge. It’s taken a lot of will power and discipline to stop myself from following through on my desire to do so.

March and April I read two books. The first was Fifteen Dogs by Canadian author Andre Alexis. I loved every minute of this book. There were times I had to stop in the middle of a page and think deeply about what I just read. I realized that if I had chosen to participate in a year long reading challenge I might not have been able to take time to consider in depth what I was reading. Instead, I would have been focused on finishing the book so I could mark another one off the reading list and carry on with the goal.

Some of these challenges would require me to read at least one book per week, and at that pace, I honestly don’t think I would find reading relaxing; it would become another task added to my already too long of a to-do list.

The second book was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I had started reading this novel approximately a year ago and abandoned it half way through out of boredom. I decided to finish reading it because I wanted the book off the shelf and out of my house, and because so many people I know had said the book gets better as you read along. It didn’t.

Lesson Learned: Reading challenges are great, but only if doesn’t take away from the relaxation and pleasure of reading.

Sunlight Brings Happiness to an Entire City

It’s difficult to get an entire city population to agree on anything, but here in northern Alberta, we seem to all agree that the constant darkness of the winter months affects our moods. I’m not referring to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). After 8 months of cold weather and dark skies we are known to crave warmer temperatures and most importantly sunlight that extends beyond the afternoon.

I couldn’t help but notice how excited me and my female co-workers have been about finally getting to wear spring leggings, skirts, and ankle length pants, and not to mention sandals and heels. Avid gardeners are excited about planting, and tending to the earth. Tired workers are already looking forward to relaxing in their backyards and enjoying summer BBQ’s.

Lesson Learned: Constant darkness and cold weather does in deed affect people’s moods. Sunlight not only provides vitamin D and sun tans, but also happiness.

Bullies Rarely Apologize, So Don’t Hold Your Breath

For several months I’ve been dealing with a group of bullying Christians who are part of a local Christian organization. They have consistently engaged in dishonest behaviour, manipulation, and fraud. I thought I would be able to bring about changes to this organization, but I haven’t been able to do so.

I realized that you can create a long list of policies and procedures, but if people aren’t willing to change their unhealthy ethical practices and develop a sense of integrity, it won’t work.

I allowed the bullying behaviour to take an emotional toll on me until I realized and accepted the fact that I can’t make others change.

Lesson Learned: If an organization does not want to become a healthy workplace, I have three options: accept that the workplace is toxic and find a way to work there without becoming toxic myself; stress myself out and become toxic as well; run away from there as fast as I can.

QUESTIONS and REFLECTIONS

Are you the type of person who learns lessons the hard way or the sensible way?

Which types of lessons have the most positive impact on you; lessons that were painful, or lessons that involve “aha” moments.

How do you think God teaches us lessons in life? Does he do so gently, painfully, both, neither? How do you know when God is “teaching you a lesson”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Not Funny; You’re Sarcastic and Mean

 

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Sarcasm: “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny; a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

Dealing with sarcastic people has been my biggest battle over the past few weeks. I hate sarcasm. In the past I used this style of communication quite often and it lead to my hurting the feelings of too many people. Thankfully over the years I’ve learned that hurtful sarcasm is unnecessary when dealing with personal frustrations. There are much healthier and effective ways to express one’s self.

Please know you don’t have to put up with people’s spiteful sarcasm. If people feel the need to be sarcastic there are ways to do so without insulting anyone; however, that takes a lot more skill and wit, hence the reason why people don’t use this style of sarcasm.

Hurtful Words and God's Peace

From Webster’s Dictionary:

If you’ve ever been hurt by a remark full of cutting sarcasm, you have some insight into the origins of the word. “Sarcasm” can be traced back to the Greek verb sarkazein, which initially meant “to tear flesh like a dog.” “Sarkazein” eventually developed extended senses of “to bite one’s lips in rage,” “to gnash one’s teeth,” and eventually “to sneer.” “Sarkazein” led to the Greek noun sarkasmos, (“a sneering or hurtful remark”), iterations of which passed through French and Late Latin before arriving in English as “sarcasm” in the mid-16th century. Even today sarcasm is often described as sharp, cutting, or wounding, reminiscent of the original meaning of the Greek verb.

Don’t let people tear your apart with their sarcasm. If you are the one being sarcastic, ask yourself why you have chosen this form of “humour” or communication as a means of expression. What did you hope to achieve with your sarcasm?

This article linked below has excellent information about sarcasm: why people use it, what to do to stop using it, and how to deal with people who use it against you. I highly recommend taking the time to read it.
https://www.ksl.com/?sid=30323210

words be careful

If you are a sarcastic person remember that we have an amazing God who is always there to listen to us; we can always come before him with our fears, vulnerabilities, and anger. Take everything to Him first instead of taking things out on others with hurtful words. His Spirit will give us the wisdom on what actions to take.

Surround yourself with uplifting people and this will decrease your tendency to use sarcastic expressions. Safe people allow you to engage in healthy problem solving discussions. You might not always get your way, but at least decisions are arrived at in a healthy manner.

If you are on the receiving end of sarcastic remarks; remember that God is a healer. Take those wounds and let Him heal them. You were not created to be the butt of someone’s mean joke or as an outlet for another person’s frustration. Be strong, it may not be easy, but try not to give into their passive-aggressive ways; if you are not careful you will deal with their behaviour by responding in the same unhelpful manner.

QUESTION: How often do I use hurtful sarcasm? In what situations do I use sarcasm the most? What do you think of sarcasm? How do you think God views sarcasm?

ACTION: Learn more about sarcasm. The following articles are helpful.

(Secular/Non-religious /Non-Spiritual) What Does Sarcasm Say About You? From Kim Giles at KSL.com

(Christian Based) Pillar Six: Relational Skills – Sarcasm Isn’t Funny From Betty Swan Ministries

(Self-Help) The Damaging Effects of Sarcasm From Todd Smith of Little Things Matter

 

When Help Is a Hindrance

 

Give and Take

Well, part of our Alberta forest is still burning. During the worst of this fire a region of 88,000 people had to be evacuated. The entire city of Fort McMurray was evacuated. Thankfully no one died from fire. The evacuation was amazing and firefighters from near and far have been doing an excellent job of fighting the down side of nature vs man.

Alberta is a very charitable province. People volunteer in large numbers, and like to donate things in large amounts. So far people have been actively donating to the Edmonton Emergency Relief Society. This is great because the items on their most needed list are not cheap. I hadn’t realized the high price of baby diapers and formula; but cost did not stop thousands of people across Canada from donating those items.

While some people have respected the “Needs” donations list, others, with good intentions have disregarded the list of criteria and taken it upon themselves to donate used clothing and items. Along with these donations of unrequested and forbidden items has been some hurt feelings, frustration, and anger. No one likes to be told that their act of charity and offer of help is not wanted and will not be accepted. No one likes to be turned away at a donation centre while others are welcomed with open arms, a huge thank-you, and a smile.

While I want to be compassionate towards those who honestly are only trying to help fill a need that they think needs to be filled, I am simultaneously frustrated with people who don’t understand that despite their best of intentions they are not helping those in need; instead, they are hindering those in need.

Hindrance:A person or thing that makes a situation difficult; (b) the act of making it difficult for someone to act or for something to be done.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

Help:To do something that makes it easier for someone to do a job, to deal with a problem, etc.; (b) to aid or assist someone; (c) to make something less severs; to make something more pleasant or easier to deal with.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

Armchair_Firefighter Definition
Armchair Firefighter: A person on social media sites who like to tell people what firefighters should and shouldn’t be doing to put out a massive forest fire despite never having been a firefighter.

When we choose to do acts of kindness during disasters, it’s important that we not make it about what we think is right. In our desperation to help we can easily begin to develop a mindset that unconsciously says, “I know better than the disaster relief experts. I know what they need more than the organizers.” I was amazed at how many Albertans suddenly became experts in Firefighting despite never having put out anything bigger than a backyard fire pit. There were also those who within 24 hours of the mandatory evacuation became specialists in mass emergency evacuation planning. It didn’t matter that every single person in the city of Fort McMurray was saved from the fire; despite some of them having to slowly and literally drive through an inferno to get to safety at the nearest evacuation centre several hours away.

It was difficult for me to sit back during those first few days and not be actively volunteering my time towards this crisis’s biggest need for help; but I had to remind myself that I was battling a major migraine and congested from allergies. I would not have been helping anyone by dragging my dizzy self down to a warehouse to help accept and sort donations. I had to resort to donating a small amount of money with the hope that yes, it would make a difference when combined with the other small amounts that others have given.

Help without expectations

Before you decide to be of help to organizations during an emergency or crisis we can all stop and ask our self the following questions:

  • Am I providing what the agency has requested and following their instructions? If the answer is “No”, then don’t volunteer yourself or your goods. Take those items to another place that has asked for what you have. Volunteer where you will be a good fit.
  • Am I doing this for myself or those in need? If the answer is “Myself”, then do the Christian thing by not posting your good deeds all over social media. If God and those you helped are the only one’s who know what you’ve done to help, then that’s good enough.
  • Do I need a tax receipt before I agree to give money? If the answer is “Yes”, then your charity might be selfish. There is nothing wrong with requesting a tax receipt, however there are times when helping others won’t come with a donation tax receipt. There are countless ways your money will help others but unfortunately won’t qualify for a receipt, do it anyways.
  • Do you expect a thank you and appreciation from every single person who is helped by your generosity? If the answer is “Yes”, then you’re in for a big surprise. Sometimes people who are in the midst of trauma and shock are not the nicest mood. They are lacking sleep, they are scared, they are frightened. They have no idea what tomorrow holds. These desperate persons are not always in a smiling, happy mood; especially when what they need in that moment is not available to them. If you give to others with the expectation that you will be appreciated, you might need to volunteer behind the scenes or not at all. Highly emotional volunteers are not helpful and only add problems to an already tense environment.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been a help rather than a hindrance, but that would be a lie. Thankfully I’ve learned a lot over the years by being an active volunteer. These lessons have allowed me to remember to be thankful for behind the scenes organizers whose work often goes unnoticed and misunderstood.

To those who help during emergencies and crises; whether paid, volunteer, or donor; you are awesome! You, yes you have made a difference big and small in someone else’s life.  No one forgets an act of kindness and help during their greatest times of need. Don’t ever let your heart be hardened by this world. Be discerning, be wise, and keep being kind hearted. Peace.

Reading Your Self-Esteem

In our culture there is no shortage of books on self-esteem. Currently the most popular topic in the self esteem department is shame and vulnerability. You will often hear women using words such as brave, daring, great, and imperfect. Thanks Brene!

For Lent my church has been reading “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr and I belong to a book group that is reading “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are; Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life” by academic researcher Brene Brown. Both books discuss similar topics but in much different ways. I am only part way through both books, but I’ve already noticed some important differences between the two.

 

Falling Upward and Gifts

I’m thankful for Brown’s material on shame becoming popular and mainstream. Shame is not an emotion we have been taught to recognize, address and eliminate when necessary. Because of Brene Brown’s popularity, her research and media appearances have shown society the damage that comes from living a life of constant shame. Her book and her talks on the Oprah network have been great for helping people who have issues with their own sense of shame, but I find her work is seriously lacking in helping people recognize when they shame others or stifle the vulnerability of others.  As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, when people are hurt, they tend to hurt others. I wish her book had dedicated some space to dealing with this truth. If you are not able to take ownership for the shame and hurt that you impose onto other people; then you are not really living the wholehearted life that Brown has been teaching.

unlearning

It’s important to be able to list all the wonderfully great things about ourselves, but we have to remember we are human. Our list of self descriptions need to include both the positive and the negative. As Brown likes to remind us, we are all imperfect. Am I a kind person? Yes I am. But I also know that I am impatient, which means that at times I can also be an unkind person. Does this make me a bad person? No. It simply means I am human and need to be able to recognize when I hurt others and make any necessary amends.

Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” goes deeper than Brown’s work. This might be because he is a Franciscan priest which makes it nearly impossible for him not to delve deeply into human behaviour. He makes it clear to readers that our inability to accept that challenges in our lives are a necessary part of being human is what helps to create the “unnecessary suffering” so many people experience. He references Carl Jung in stating, “he said neurotic behaviour is usually the result of refusing that legitimate suffering! Ironically, this refusal of the necessary pain of being human brings to the person ten times more suffering in the long run.”

let things go

Feelings and emotions are complex. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to experience change or transformation; we must accept the fact that the process is uncomfortable at times and requires life long work. Those who suffer from addictions never claim to have been cured or free from their addictions; they know that at any time they could easily fall back into old habits and coping mechanisms. I feel this is how we should view personal change; never fool yourself into believing you’ve got everything figured out.