My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reaffirming Reasons for the Christian Life Journey

This week I am beginning to explore a book written by a former classmate, Wiley Graf, (or I should say – Dr. Wiley Graf), from my hometown of Barberton, Ohio. Looking back even to elementary school in 5th and 6th grade I can say I was impressed with his intelligence. So when I reconnected with him on Facebook over a year ago I was not surprised in the least that he taught engineering. His first book which I have been looking forward to is – 100 Reasons To Believe the Bible is the Word of God.

In my blog I discuss a variety of topics often relating to positive psychology which is a passion of mine as well as topics of living an abundant life. I have been open here and in my book, Living More Than OK, that I come at life from a Christian worldview. It is my worldview of belief in Christ as the answer to ultimate meaning, that draws me to books such as Wiley has written. He brings out in his forward the importance of Christians having a foundation of evidence for why they believe. I am thankful when I was a teen my pastor pointed me to authors such as Josh McDowell and Francis Schaeffer who provided sound thinking for a Christian philosophy of life to provide evidence to show that the Bible was trustworthy. Wiley here in his book builds on their work.

In perusing through his book it is no surprise with a scientific mind of an engineer, he first speaks to the laws of thermodynamics which relates so well to the Biblical message on creation. Those were always points of thought I held onto during high school science classes and college science courses that promoted the theory of macro-evolution. It is a theory not a proven fact. Why else would atheists have such wild ideas as Dawkins has speculated that space aliens brought initial life to earth -- check out his speculations:

I won’t go through all 100 reasons here as I want you to buy his book. I will simply touch on a couple that stood out to me. The reader will appreciate a wide variety of examples from science, history and archaeology he uses in his book. My favorite is how he brings out several times the nation of Israel as a reason to believe the Bible. In one of my times of doubt, I pondered the overarching story of the Jews in the Bible. If you think about it here is this small people group, God chose for the Savior of the world to come through. During their whole history nations have tried to destroy them. Yet many initial enemies are no longer in existence such at the Amorites, Hittites and many other “ites”. Just from that standpoint it is a miracle the Jewish people survived through the ages and are now a nation again surrounded by enemies who want to destroy them. Think about it. Maybe the Bible is true. Also think about this. Why are so many people and nations against Israel?

Then another reason I enjoyed seeing is more experiential. It is the reason of “changed lives”. Reading what Wiley has to say took me back to my days in Chicago at Moody Bible Institute with Dr. James. One day Dr. James reminded us in days of spiritual doubt to remember times when God has answered prayer in our lives. No skeptic can take that away. If the Christian takes time they will see how belief in Christ has changed their lives with little and big miracles in their life journey.

Wiley’s book provides the believer in Christ solid thoughtful reasons to be secure in their Christian faith. Sometimes in doubt you need a reaffirmation and Wiley’s book can be a useful intellectual tool for that. The Bible points out that having a defense for why you believe in Christ is important. Here are a few examples:

1 Peter 3:15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

Acts 17:15-34 -- Paul here debates with a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens. Their response revealed that some believed and others replied “We want to hear you again on this subject.” Which shows it is important to be open in sharing while you believe in Christ but do so in a way that keeps the door open to dialogue. Too many times Christians browbeat and turn people off to Christ.

100 Reasons To Believe is a belief in Christ strengthener. It can help you as a Christian when you come up against the modern myth calling Christians “Believers”. That is a pet peeve of mine when I hear media types or the new atheists saying that. What does that mean “Believers”? It is often said in a snarky tone like Christians are leaving their brains at the door. Think about it—everyone is a Believer. It is just we believe different things. The Hindu believes the divine truth comes from the Vedas and they experience numerous reincarnations until they are absorbed into the divine. Is there factual proof for that? No, it is a belief. Atheists, are they believers? They try to pretend their thought is based on science. No -- they BELIEVE in inanimate matter that has either always been here or popped into being by chance. Their real belief is in random chaotic chance full of fiction stories of big bangs and macro evolution of a piece of slime plus millions of years turning into man. I am sorry there is no proof -- it is a belief. Go back to the Dawkin’s Youtube link I provided above. I read Darwin’s Origen of the Species back in high school and all that went through my mind was -- what an imagination! No proof. Christians are believers as well. We believe that God has revealed Himself in the Bible and personally through the person of Jesus Christ. We believe contrary to other religions that are focused on man trying to reach God; the Bible shows a loving God reaching down to man. Can I prove that? No, I readily admit that. But books such as Wiley Graf’s 100 Reasons To Believe provide a person with evidence to weigh against other worldviews and personally the Christian view makes the most sense to me.

Of course Christians need to remember what I have heard from Ravi Zacharias live and in his writings. Apologetic reasons are helpful but all discourse and lifestyle needs to be based in showing the love of Christ. Letting God’s Love show can win a person over more than all the arguments.

If you are a non-Christian reader I am simply stating my worldview here. I hope you can feel like the Epicurean philosophers and say “We want to hear you again on this subject.” I encourage you to check out books like Wiley’s and keep an open mind in your search for truth.

Reflection: Think over your personal Worldview-- be it Buddhist, Atheist, Hindu, Christian or whatever. Why do you believe what you believe and how does it help you on your life journey? Check out Dr. Wiley Graf’s website

Monday, January 9, 2017

Taking Time to Smell the Coffee

The phrase “take time to smell the roses” is a common one encouraging us to savor the small moments of life. This past weekend we took some time to “take time to smell the coffee”. We went to the San Antonio Coffee Festival at La Villita Historic Arts Village in San Antonio, Texas to enjoy the event. We had a busy Saturday full of errands so we did not make it down until near the end of the afternoon. We were glad we made it.

There were a wide variety of local coffee roasters and coffee shops participating in the festival. The aroma of the courtyard where it was held was an experience in itself. Part of savoring coffee is the aroma of the various coffees. So with the variety of roasters involved it was like experiencing a rainbow of scents. We enjoyed watching the people while capturing the sounds of a local band that was playing. The festival showcased coffee but also revealed the social side of coffee. Even though it was crowded the people in line were conversing with each other until it was their turn to enjoy their brew of choice.

You could not ask for a better location as after perusing the coffee area we took time to go down over by the River Walk. It was not as crowded as when we were there during the holidays. It was a chilly day for Texas in the low 50’s so some coffee in hand; was comforting as we walked around. We had not visited the shops at La Villita for some time as we usually just stroll the River Walk when we go downtown. So it was a treat to appreciate the various art stores at La Villita.

The coffee festival made me reflect on times I enjoy coffee the most. Of course being a heart patient I am more of a decaf person- not by choice. In the present some of my favorite times with coffee is on various Saturday mornings when I take my wife out for coffee at one of the local coffee shops in New Braunfels. There is something relaxing about being with someone you love conversing over coffee.

Of course being a reader, my past experiences I savor in my mind were the coffee shops in Chicago. When I lived by myself I would take a book to a coffee shop to read. Or, on a cold Winter night in my apartment on Chicago’s Northside I would read with a cup of coffee nearby on the table. Coffee and books make a great team. It started in college with late night coffee and textbook reading then later enjoying coffee with books I enjoyed reading. Of course being a Bookhead I even enjoyed reading my textbooks.

If there is ever a coffee festival in your area take time to go and smell the coffee. It will provide a savoring aroma trip down memory lane.

Reflect: What kind of memories does coffee (or tea) conjure up in your mind? If you love reading do you sometimes enjoy coffee or tea with your reading experience?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Moving Into the New Year with the Power of Focus

As we start the New Year I want to share some thoughts from a book I think is perfect for moving into 2017. I could mean my book, Living More Than OK, as it is a thought provoking positive book to begin the New Year; but that would be rather self-serving of me. Of course you then can say, why mention my book with a link to the Barnes & Noble site for it? Maybe because I am a little self-serving and I believe in what I wrote in my book. Back to the topic at hand – what book do I want to share thoughts on? It is Bull’s-Eye: The Power of Focus by Brian Tracy. It comes from one of my favorite motivational companies, Simple Truths.

Tracy’s book came to mind while reflecting on a church service we attended on January 1st. The pastor had his minister team share their objectives for the coming year. A recurring theme was to write down the goals and plans that you have for the New Year. What the various ministers there were saying fit so well with what Brian Tracy is saying in Bull’s-Eye. The beginning for the book states the importance of writing down goals that we want to obtain along with the plan to accomplish the goal. As he states in the book, “A person with a goal and a plan is like an archer or a dart thrower with everything they need to step up to the line and hit a bull’s-eye” (p27).

He makes an important point in creating the goal to make it personal, positive and present. So write the goal as if it has been completed in the present sense of the moment. For example for the PhD I am working on using his thinking I would write down “I have my PhD in Psychology”. It is like making a declaration that the mind can visualize. Imagine your goal has already happened. It is a different concept than the traditional future tense goal with a timeline. Of course it is then important to create an action plan to reach the goal otherwise it is simply a Pollyanna wish. The idea is similar to Stephen Covey’s Habit 2 “Begin with the end in mind”. He follows up the goal thoughts with a solid section on building a personal mission statement.

He moves into the importance and hard work of being focused and building up concentration to reach the goals by following your plan. Many people don’t reach what they want due to not following basic time management principles or are too easily distracted in our distracting world. We need to manage time and social media or they wind up mismanaging us and stopping us from getting what we want for our lives.

Tracy also in the book shares the importance of building up a mindset of excellence. He brings out an important research point from a professor at Florida State University, Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, “According to Ericsson, people in the bottom 80 percent will work during their first year of employment to learn their particular job or craft. After that, they slow down, level off, and never get any better. They don’t read any books, listen to any audio programs, or take any additional courses. They simply flatten out.” (p.77). This relates well with my thinking in my book, Living More Than OK, as I emphasize one problem in our life journey is that we settle for the plateau of OK living and just getting by. So Tracey encourages an excellence mindset along with the discipline of skill building and lifelong learning.

Those are just a couple of key thoughts that helped me as I am looking forward to new goals and readjusted goals for the New Year. There are many other fine points in his book to help with your life. As usual I want to simple peak interest so you can look for the book in your local library for purchase a copy for yourself. The beginning of a year is a time to gain a fresh start and begin moving on goals you want to accomplish.

Reflection: Has your life leveled off? What area of your life do you want to improve in 2017? How can you move towards being a seeker of excellence?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Creativity of Christmas Lights in Windcrest

After our Christmas dinner, our daughter suggested we go to Windcrest, Texas to see the neighborhood Christmas lights. I always thought Windcrest was a neighborhood in San Antonio but it is actually a small city on the Northeast side of San Antonio. Every Christmas season they do a lights competition so their area has some of the most beautiful displays in the area.

As we drove in the main neighborhood with the displays; we saw as in previous years some of the standard displays. Then in other yards we saw new displays we had not seen before. What always strikes me is the wide variety of creativity seen through the neighborhood. As you can see in the pictures posted here some are simple as just a manger scene by a tree or elaborate animal cut-out displays. Several of the homes had Christmas carols playing in the background. I wondered to myself, if the creativity reflects on the people who are making up the displays.

Not every house has a display which shows it is not mandatory to live there to do the Christmas displays. Still plenty of homes do become involved. There are placements for different categories such as best mailbox display, most joyous, or most creative. I would not want to be a judge as there is such a large number of amazing displays.

With displays like this the streets were packed with cars but unlike traffic on the local highways people were very patient with each other. No one was honking at those getting out of their cars to take a picture under the largest mistletoe ball. Maybe it was the holiday spirit coming out and calming the drivers.

As I drove through, my wife and daughter enjoyed the sights and took pictures. I made sure we did not bump into any other cars but still was able to keep a good view on the various decorations. I also took time to savor memories of Christmas lights in the past. There is just something about the lights at Christmas time. They remind me of years ago when I would go back to see my mother at Christmas in Ohio when she was alive. One thing she always wanted me to do was to take her out in the car to see Christmas lights. So seeing the lights in Windcrest allowed me to go back to the fond memories of those times taking my mother out to enjoy the lights.

Pictures are important for future memories but there is nothing like the experience of enjoying the lights in the moment.

Reflection: What kind of memories do Christmas lights bring to your mind? What are your favorite Christmas memories?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lessons from Enjoying Andrea Bocelli in Concert

Over a week ago we as a family enjoyed a concert experience of Andrea Bocelli in Austin, Texas. We had been anticipating the concert for months as we bought the tickets in Summer. We had viewed dvd’s of his concerts in the past yet in my mind’s eye nothing beats the live concert experience. That evening he was with a full orchestra and chorale, along with guest artists. My favorite of his guests was soprano Ana Maria Martinez. That to me is an amazing point about him. It is not all about him as he showcases other talents to help others in their careers.

He performed songs from his latest CD, “Cinema” as well as popular love songs and spiritual songs. With this being the Christmas season he also did O Come All Ye Faithful in Italian. My wife liked how he showed video of he and his wife during one of the love songs. To promote his Andrea Bocelli Foundation's 'Voices Of Haiti' Choir, he had backup on one song by a local Austin children’s choir. I have listed here the lyrics to one of my favorite songs of his. Take time to listen to the Youtube video embedded in the title by hyperlink:

The Prayer (Click on title to hear duet of Andrea Bocelli and Katherine McPhee)

I pray you'll be our eyes,
and watch us where we go
And help us to be wise,
in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer,
when we lose our way
Lead us to a place,
guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe.
La luce che tu hai
I pray we'll find your light
Nel cuore resterà
And hold it in our hearts
A ricordarci che
When stars go out each night
L'eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera
Let this be our prayer
Quanta fede c'è
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace

Give us faith so we'll be safe
Sogniamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace, di fraternità

La forza che ci dà
We ask that life be kind
È il desiderio che
And watch us from above
Ognuno trovi amor
We hope each soul will find
Intorno e dentro a sé
Another soul to love
Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Just like every child

Need to find a place,
guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe
È la fede che
Hai acceso in noi
Sento che ci salverà.

The lessons I learned from the night first of all was while I was listening to the song above, The Prayer. With his blindness he could be bitter, but his singing this song, one understands he has deep spiritual roots. That very first line “I pray you'll be our eyes” must have special meaning to someone who is blind. He is seeking God to guide with his grace and protection throughout each day, in a way that those of us with sight do not fully understand.

After the concert I looked up his biography at He was born September 22, 1958 in Lajatico, Tuscany, Italy. His parents encouraged music early in his life with various instruments. He also enjoyed sports especially soccer. He was not born blind but had visual impairment at birth. He actually lost his sight at age 12 playing soccer. I can’t imagine a young boy at that age losing his sight. Thankfully he had a supportive family who encouraged education. He kept his passion for music but his parents wanted him to be a lawyer and he did become one. At the same time he never gave up on music. Happenstance happened in his life with a chance event in 1992 when he recorded a demo tape of "Miserere" the song co-written by Bono of U2. This was heard by the famous Luciano Pavarotti who then helped Andrea spur his career in music to what it is today.

So Andrea Bocelli was respectful of his parents career advice but at the same time never gave up on his own passion for music. He was also proactive with happenstance in that he did not sit around waiting to be noticed but did demo tapes that just happened to reach a great singer like Pavarotti who understood Bocelli’s talent. You can’t just sit and wish on dreams and goals there is the need for action; in the case of music the hard work of creating demos and sending them out.

From a number of songs like The Prayer, above was also the reminder of the importance of the spiritual in our lives. Bocelli seems to understand that his life journey is guided by a power greater than he. Even though I use the word happenstance, I see it as God guiding the chance events in our lives and the wise person acknowledges this. I believe his God-centeredness is a driving force in his Foundation -- 'Voices Of Haiti'. He is using the musical talents of the children in the choir to help change their present lives and a future out of poverty.

We may not have the talent of an Andrea Bocelli but each of us has talents that can either be wasted by neglect or perfected by passion and drive. At this Christmas time this may be the right time to slow down and reflect on your talent and passion and see how you can grow into the New Year.

Reflection: Who is your favorite musician and what can you learn from their life? Take time and think over what your talent in is your life. Are you using your talent or is it stagnating? How can you improve your talent in the New Year?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Are You Thankful To Be Alive?

A reader of my book, Living More Than OK, (purchase at Barnes & Noble by clicking on title) complimented me on my book as it was helping him grow in his life. Although he said there was a song I should have added into the text. I made use of many songs in the book to make people think of the song’s messages but he had an addition. I asked him what song was that and he said “Born To Be Alive by Patrick Hernandez”. He said it was a positive song from back in the days of disco. So at first chance I looked it up on Youtube and remembered it from the late 1970’s.

Patrick Hernandez is a French singer whose family roots are Spanish. He was more popular in Europe but his big hit, Born To Be Alive, gained gold status in the US and was on the Billboard charts for disco songs when it came out in 1979.

As I listened to the song and looked over the lyrics there is not a lot of depth to the lyrics but take a listen to it and see what you think.

Born To Be Alive by Patrick Hernandez (click on the title hear to hear the song)

We were born to be alive
We were born to be alive
Born, born to be alive
(Won't you be alive)
You see you were born
Born, born
(Born to be alive)

People ask me why
I never find a place to stop
And settle down, down, down
But I never wanted all those things
People need to justify
Their lives, lives, lives

You see you were
Born, born, born to be alive
(Born to be alive)
You see you were
Born, born, born
(Born to be alive)
It's good to be alive
To be alive
To be alive
It's good to be alive
To be alive
To be alive
It's good to be alive

Time was on my side
When I was running down the street
It was so fine, fine, fine
A suitcase and an old guitar
And something new to occupy
My mind, mind, mind

You see you were born, born
Born to be alive
(Born to be alive)
You see you were born, born, born
(Born to be alive)
You see you were born, born, born
(Born to be alive)
Born, born to be alive

What I like about the song is the catchy tune is full of positive energy. I usually like deep lyrics I can think through but in this case the overall message makes me think about how we should look at life. We were not placed on this earth to just exist. Many times when I people-watch crowds too many people walk around like lifeless zombies. The song writer has it right that we were born to be alive!

I am thankful the reader of my book brought this song up to me, especially at this time. The message makes me think -- How am I occupying my mind this Christmas season? Do I dread the stress of the holidays, worn out as another year ends? Or am I thankful that “It’s good to be alive!” as the song says? How would each day be different if we would wake up and dance through the day realizing we were born to be alive and to understand in our mind that is a good thing!

I found it amazing that after listening to the song the gentleman pointed out to me; later that day on Facebook I saw a post from Success Magazine about 126 Ways To be Extraordinary ( With the song on my mind I read the article. I felt the ways to be extraordinary can be a help in living a more alive life. Here are 10 ways from the list that stood out to me (you can explore the article and find 10 that are important to you):

2. Say, “Thank you.”
3. Learn from your mistakes.
17. Plan to be successful.
21. Fight mediocrity.
51. Stay mentally strong.
70. Read a new biography.
91. Let someone else get the attention.
108. Have a big vision for those around you.
117. Write a kind note.
125. Remember the good times.

I was never big into disco back in the 1970’s as I was more of a classic rock person as in Kansas and Yes. But I am glad this reader of my book shared with me the disco song, Born To Be Alive. Is there a song you enjoy that has a positive message to it. Please leave a comment and let me know.

Reflection: How can you be more alive this Holiday Season? Look at the article 126 Ways To be Extraordinary at the link above and choose your personal list of top 10 ways to be extraordinary in your life.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bed & Breakfast Thanksgiving

We took a different approach to Thanksgiving this year. With work stressing us out we took the opportunity to get away further up in the Hill Country of Texas to Uvalde, Texas. We rented a cabin at the Live Oaks Bed & Breakfast. I have a picture of the country styled cabin shown above. The cabin experience was a relaxing way to spend the holiday. Live Oaks had a beautiful tree covered yard which attracted deer at night.

The main reason for our getaway was to enjoy God’s amazing creation which provided us with an inner purpose for being thankful. We visited two state parts near Uvalde. On the way to the cabin we stopped at Lost Maples State park first. We were hoping to see some changing colors from the maple trees but we must have missed it by a couple of weeks. Still it was an awesome sunny day to view the water and the hillsides during out hike. On the trail we were surprised to meet a young couple from our church. It turned out their family was doing Thanksgiving as well at a nearby cabin. They were kind enough to take a picture of us.

The park we went to on Thanksgiving was Garner State Park. We thought we would be the only ones there but there was a line of cars when we went to the park. Then inside the park in the camping area we found a number of families with campers enjoying the holiday weekend in the state park. Although the parks are relatively close together the trees and surrounding are different. Garner has a shallow river that runs through it and the hillsides seemed steeper. We enjoyed hiking but realized we did not have the right shoes for the one trail we chose so did not make it to the top. We understood it was not the end of the world not to make the whole hiking trail. Again we were just thankful for another beautiful sunny day to enjoy hiking and the wonder of nature surrounding us.

For me I always enjoy finding time on Thanksgiving for reading. Back at the cabin I had evening time to read. I was able over the two days to finish a couple of books I had been working through.

This was a nice change of pace for Thanksgiving this year. We definitely will be returning to Uvalde to visit Garner State Park again (with more appropriate hiking shoes). We will go back to the same bed & breakfast as the atmosphere there was relaxing and clean. As for Thanksgiving though next year I will vote to stay home as I missed cooking the turkey in our kitchen and inviting friends who did not have a place to go.

Reflection: What was your favorite Thanksgiving experience? Are there any Thanksgiving rituals you regularly follow? Did you do any reading during the holiday?