Decisions, decisions…

I want to present to you a problem requiring a decision, from my own personal repertoire, and then a method of making a decision, the four-column method.

I was recently confronted with a situation that required a decision. The outcome would affect time and money, two valuable commodities, whichever way I decided – yea or nay. I have a membership in a health club, for which I pay monthly. I signed up for personal training, for which I also pay monthly. The personal training is on a one-year contract, a legally binding document. I can quit the membership at any time.

The problem is I live so far away from the club that I am rarely going. I don’t have a car, and I make use of city transit. We’re talking 80 minutes round trip. When I first joined, I had the highest expectations of what I could accomplish. I believed my zeal to get fit would override the length of time it takes to get there. Unfortunately, my zealousness did not survive for a number of reasons, thus my desire to resign from the club and training and cut my costs. I can’t get out of the one-year contract; I have nine training sessions, and five months left. I can, however, resign from membership.

So what to do? Resign as a member and save what I am paying for dues, and by necessity, continue paying the training contract, without the benefit of any training? Or continue paying for both, and try to make the best use of the club that I possibly can, given my limitations. I would then resign mid-August, when the contract expires.

I have just been introduced to a decision-making model. It isn’t new, but it’s worth examining again. It’s a Four Column method. I take one set of alternatives, e.g. Keep the Membership, and make a list of Advantages and Disadvantages. Then I take the other set of alternatives, e.g. Don’t Keep the Membership, and also make a list of Advantages and Disadvantages.

My lists looked like this:

Keep Membership

Advantages                                                                      Disadvantages
I will get the benefit of training.                                  I’m paying dues so I don’t lose the 

I won’t be forfeiting the money for training.            money I am paying for training.

Don’t Keep Membership

Advantages                                                                      Disadvantages

I’ll have the extra money from the                              Paying for training I’m not using.
membership dues to keep each month.

Perhaps a load will be lifted off my mine if               I will regret paying for training I’m
I’m not always thinking I should be going.                 not using.

What did I decide? I decided to keep the membership. I got a second opinion from my daughter, who is very astute. Second opinions are good. Her comment was that I had to pay it anyway and at least if I go, I’ll be getting something from it.

I have gone through this exercise to show you a method of making a decision. Now, it’s almost time for me to catch a bus to get to my next training session! See you later!

Affectionately,

Penny

 

 

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A Return…

Hello! I have been absent for far too long. I’ve had writer’s block, brought on mostly by depression. My psychiatrist has prescribed an increase in antidepressants, and I am feeling incrementally better day by day.

Depression brings with it an inertia. I think of all the things I would like to be doing – including writing – but the will and the body won’t cooperate with the mind. There are activities I continue to engage in. I have been doing them for so long it doesn’t take much effort on my part – and very little brain-strain – to keep the momentum going. Having said that, I am enjoying a week away from all my commitments while I housesit. This is definitely refreshing, and most likely one of the reasons I can sit down and record my thoughts in this way.

Do you suffer from depression? Do you have a family member or friend who does? I encourage anyone who is in the depths to have a get-away, even if it’s for only part of a day. Visit an art gallery. Find a restaurant that is featuring live music. Check out an open mic event. Explore nature. Once we get over the initial resistance, we’ll be glad we made the effort. A big world awaits us.

Affectionately,

Penny

 

A Penny-wise thought…What’s in a Name?

Image result for picture I have called you by name

Isn’t that the statement! God has called us by our name and we are His.

I was curious: what does the name Penelope mean? I started by searching “What does Penelope mean?” and reading the descriptions. I suggest you do it for your own names too (don’t forget your middle name!). You might find some pleasant surprises.

Penelope means faithful, weaver, intelligent, wise. In Homer’s Odyssey, Penelope was the wife of Odysseus. She was faithful to him for the twenty years he was away. She kept suitors at bay by pretending she had to finish weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus’ father before she would choose a suitor. I like to weave stories.

People with this name have a deep inner desire to create and express themselves, often in public speaking, acting, writing or music. They also yearn to have beauty around them in their home and work environment.

People with this name are excellent at analyzing, understanding, and learning. They tend to be mystics, philosophers, scholars, and teachers. Because they live so much in the mind, they tend to be quiet and introspective, and are usually introverts. When presented with issues, they will see the larger picture. Their solitary thoughtfulness and analysis of people and world events may make them seem aloof, and sometimes even melancholy.

I can see myself in this description. Perhaps others who don’t have the name Penelope can see themselves as well!

Now, to turn this around, what names does God call us? We’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), a friend of God (John 15:15),  God’s handiwork – or work of art, or masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), God’s treasure (Deuteronomy 7:6), His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18), heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and His beloved (Song of Solomon 2:16). Can you find more?

What’s in a name? A whole character description – from the names we were given at birth, to the names God has lovingly called us.

Enjoy your research!

Affectionately,

Penny

 

 

A Penny-wise thought…Hope!

Image result for picture of sunrise

What stirred me to write this, at 4:35 a.m. this Sunday morning, was the twittering of birds in the darkness just shortly after 4:00. Sunrise isn’t until 5:42 a.m., although it will be light some time before that. These birds are anticipating the light. They are heralding a new day quite some time before it appears.

Isn’t that what hope is? Anticipating that something good will happen before it occurs? In fact, that is also a good definition of faith.

The sun may come up on a bleak, dreary, rainy day. Does that discount the sun’s presence? It is possible to forget that the sun is shining when grey clouds overshadow us, yet if we were in an airplane high above the clouds, the sun would be bathed in radiant rays, and we would be enjoying its effect on the clouds below.

So is hope. There may be nothing in our present circumstances to suggest that hope is reasonable, yet inwardly, hope may be welling up, anticipating a new day, anticipating new adventures, new solutions to problems. We are not robots, programmed to act out a certain way under a certain set of circumstances. We are humans, with the capacity to think outside the box, to pray, to find solutions, to find hope before the dawn.

May the birdsong remind us all that no matter what the circumstance, the sun rises – whether we can see it or not. May we believe that there is hope, that answers will be found when we seek them.

Wishing you a hope-filled day,

Affectionately,

Penny

A Penny-wise thought…Thunderstorm!

In my part of the world, we are experiencing a heat wave. Temperatures of 35º to 45º Celsius with the humidex (95° to 113° Fahrenheit for my friends in other parts of the world). This is creating the right ingredients for a thunderstorm. Warm, moist, unstable air is rising and as it cools, it forms a cumulonimbus cloud, out of which comes a thunderstorm.  As you know, thunderstorms are characterized by sound and fury – the lightning causes a loud crack, or a deep rumble, and hail, fierce winds and tornadoes may be devastating. On the other hand, there may be no precipitation or fierce winds or tornadoes at all, and we are treated to a magnificent sound and light show. This is a time when we are in awe of God’s creativity.

What about the storms in our lives? In particular, what if someone becomes hot under the collar and tempers erupt? Is there a path of destruction as words that can never be retrieved are spoken, devastating those who are caught in this path? I knew someone long ago who said how much better she felt after she had “let off steam”. She may have felt better, but those upon whom her invectives were hurled certainly did not feel the better for it. It was alienating and hurtful.

What to do when tempers start to flare? Immediately separating oneself from the situation is an excellent move. I don’t know that counting to ten gives a long enough space between anger and action, unless one is accustomed to using it as a means to cool down. If a person cannot separate him or herself from the scene, and this pattern repeats itself over and over again, perhaps a long-term solution needs to be found. This could take the form of therapy, or a physical move. It doesn’t have to be forever – only until the person has his or her anger issues under control.

.A good discussion – and even a heated discussion – where no one is vilified can be productive. It’s all in how we say it.

The Apostle James has a very descriptive way of representing the power of the tongue:

James 3:3-6  “A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest  winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (The Message)

In contrast, listen to the prayer of the Psalmist: Psalm 141:3 “Post a guard at my mouth, Godset a watch at the door of my lips.” (The Message)

May the thunder and lightning in your life be a dynamic source of creativity, rather than a source of destruction and devastation.

Affectionately,

Penny

A Penny-wise thought…The sky is falling!

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little (or Henny Penny in some cultures)? Not the movie, but the book. An acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head and he is convinced that the sky is falling. He goes as far as making a journey to see the king to warn him of this impending disaster.

The meteorologists predicted a week ago that we were going to be the beneficiaries of a significant snow storm. 10, 20, and even 30 centimetres (almost a foot) of snow was anticipated in some regions. I woke up the next morning, fully anticipating to see a blanket of fresh-fallen snow on the ground below, and there was…nothing! Just a light dusting of snow. No need for snow plows. To be fair, some other areas farther afield did get some snow.

Many times we anticipate the worst, and it never happens.

Catastrophizing. Have you ever catastrophized? It is an irrational thought that we have in believing something is far worse than it actually is. There are two forms: we can make a catastrophe out of our current situation, or we can imagine making a catastrophe out of a future situation. Example: I am late getting to work. I immediately believe I will lose my job and my paycheque, and therefore I will lose my house and my car. By the time I get to work I’m in a panic. Meanwhile, my manager welcomes me and is glad I’m at work, or suggests I leave a little earlier for work next time.

If you are prone to catastrophizing, next time ask yourself some questions. Is the situation realistic? Is it really likely to happen? Is there anything you can do to mitigate the situation? For example, perhaps you can call ahead to work to say you’ll be a few minutes late.

For me, catastrophizing is a symptom of depression. I imagine my nearest and dearest in a fatal accident, and the scenario includes a funeral. When I start thinking that way, I know I’m depressed. Just knowing that takes away the heavy emotion generated by these irrational thoughts – I do recognize these thoughts to be irrational.

Next time the sky is falling, look for the acorn.

Affectionately,

Penny

A Penny-wise thought…Joy!

What is joy? It is not happiness. It is more deeply rooted than that. It is in our very wellsprings, something that bubbles up from beneath the surface. I may not be happy about my situation. In fact I can be angry, frustrated, sad…you name it. But I can feel joy.

Joy is a separate entity. Our babies give us joy. Victories give us joy. We sing joyful songs to the Lord for He is great. Creation sings for joy.

Joy is being able to feel good when everything else around us feels bad. It is the inexplicable sense that no matter how terrible our predicament is, we can still feel good. I believe optimism is rooted in joy.

Depression can mask joy, can thwart joy.  But we have the Comforter. Romans 8:26-27 says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Let the Holy Spirit pray for you if you have lost your joy.

Seek joy. Happiness is ephemeral. It is fleeting – sometimes here and sometimes not.  Joy will stand the test of time.

I welcome your comments!

Affectionately,

Penny