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 1, 2018

Reflecting on 2017 and Favorite 2017 Worship

Before progressing into 2018 I believe it is important to reflect on 2017. My highlights of the year most importantly was in October going in for an angioplasty to find after my first 99% closed arteries 14 years ago I had another 99 % closed one and one heart artery in the 80% range closed. God helped me to get help twice in my life for my heart without having a heart attack. Some may call it luck but my worldview points to God. That was the primary blessing of the year. I find myself again asking why am I alive when I know others die with such blockages. All I can think of is my time is not up yet and God still has things planned for me on this earth.

Other highlights of the year were continued teaching of college students in my college success course I teach and also in my work as a therapist seeing positive growth in clients. Professionally a highlight was to attend and do a presentation at the International Positive Psychology World Congress in Montreal, Canada. It was a great learning experience and a wonderful vacation trip for the family.

Music wise we ended off on a high note of attending a Mannheim Steamroller concert at the Majestic Theater in our nearby San Antonio. It is a beautiful old theater and Mannheim’s Christmas show was amazingly spectacular. We have enjoyed good music this year but the highlight was in the Fall to hear John Michael Talbot in concert at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in San Antonio. I had always enjoyed his music over the years and had not heard him in concert since my time in Chicago over 20 years ago.

John’s music and voice just carried my heart and mind into worship. I loved hearing his songs that I have continued to listen to over the years. The evening was an opportunity to hear his thoughts behind some of the songs. He is also a deep thinking teacher and some of his thoughts challenged my thoughts on living of a life of knowing myself as a sinner but also understanding God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. I also needed his thoughts on daring to believe God in prayer from his sharing on Mark 11: 22 “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” He encouraged us if we can learn to let go and let God amazing things can happen in our lives. We limit God in our lack of faith. So the John Michael Talbot concert was a spiritual worship highlight of 2017 for me. If you ever have the chance to hear him do not miss it. Check out his website for tour information --
Like the last post about Christmas I am including another John Michael Talbot song for you to reflect on. Growing up in my high school years I would play many of his songs at church and this one was one of my mom’s favorites. Listen to the Youtube video and reflect on the lyrics.

Would You Crucify Him by John Michael Talbot (Click on the title to hear the video of the song.)

Sometimes, in the cool of the evenin'
Truth comes like a Lover in the wind
Sometimes, when my thoughts have gone misleadin'
She'll ask that same old question once again...
Would you crucify Him
Would you crucify Him..., my religious friend?
Would you crucify Him..., talking 'bout the sweet Lord Jesus
If He'd walk right here among you once again?

She's askin', How many times have you looked down to the harlot
Lookin' through her tears, pretendin' you don't know?
For once you were just like her, how can you be now so self righteous
When in the name of the Lord you throw the first stone

So now I turn to you through your years of your robes and stained-glass windows
Do you vainly echo your prayers "to please the Lord?"
Profess the Marriage with your tongue, but your mind dreams like the harlot
But if the Judge looks to your thoughts can't you guess your reward?

Yet how many times have you quoted from your Bible
To justify your eye for your eye and your tooth for your tooth?
You say that He didn't mean what He was plainly sayin'
But like the Pharisee, my friend, you're an educated fool!

Reflection: What were the highlights of your 2017 year? What do you think of the lyrics and meaning of the song “Would You Crucify Him”? Books are a great way to start off the New Year. Check out my book Living More Than OK on line (click on the title for the hyperlink to purchasing it at B & N)

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Uniqueness of the Nativity at Christmas

Christmas evokes so many different memories for each of us. Savoring memories of the past I think of times with my mom and grandmother when I was young. Christmas Eves with hot chocolate and cookies that a neighbor had baked for us. Then when I was older baking cookies and muffins to give to others became a joy. Also there are memories of snowy nights in Ohio and Chicago as there was always a peacefulness of walking outside on a quiet snowy night. Of course now in Texas I am glad to have the snow memories without the snow now. There was also the enjoyment of Christmas lights. Whenever I was home from Chicago I would take my mom out driving to see the light displays as she always enjoyed that part of Christmas.

A few days ago as I drove my wife and daughter to see the Christmas lights at Windcrest, Texas I noticed the Nativity displays on the various lawns. The displays spoke to the message of Christmas from a Christian worldview. The Nativity speaks to the uniqueness of the Christion faith story. As we visited Rock Hills Gospel Church on this past Sunday, Pastor Bubba Collins message reiterated my thoughts as I pondered the Nativity displays we had seen. Instead of starting his message in the Gospels he started with Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” As he spoke he reminded me in his message that the story of Christmas goes back to the beginning. In the beginning God chose to make a unique creation where He gave humans free will to accept or reject Him.

As I have studied the various religions in the world they are man focused. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and others are man striving and reaching out to God to somehow prove they are worthy in their good works. The newest religion of atheism tries to show humankind as the pinnacle of perfection. That is why you hear people say “I’m pretty good I have not murdered anyone. I think God will accept me”. But Jesus himself turned that thinking of our good works on its head as he said in Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” In ourselves we cannot be good enough for a perfect God.

The Nativity story speaks to God’s love and mercy to bring us as sinners into right relationship with Him through Christ the Son. It is as simple as the popular verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is not man reaching up to God in trying to show how good we are. The true story is of God reaching down to mankind with his love to rebuild a broken relationship that began with mankind’s choices in the beginning of the book of Genesis.
Take time to think of this during this Christmas time. I close off with one of my favorite Christmas songs by John Michael Talbot. Reflect on his lyrics.

Wonderful Counselor by John Michael Talbot (Click on Title to hear the song on Youtube.)
For unto us a child is born a son is given
Come holy Spirit come Father this Child
The virgin Mary shall be his mother
And his name shall be called Emanuel

Sing hallelujah to the wonderful Counselor
Sing hallelujah to the mighty God
Sing hallelujah to the Father forever
Sing hallelujah to the true Prince of peace

Understanding He will come, come with compassion
Come to forgive all of the world of Sin
And he will save all of the weak and tender hearted
And the weak forever shall dwell in their land

Sing hallelujah to the wonderful Counselor
Sing hallelujah to the mighty God
Sing hallelujah to the Father forever
Sing hallelujah to the true Prince of peace

So let us beat all our swords into plowshares
And let the wolf come be the guest of the Lamb
And let the song of all the worlds nations be peaceful
Worship the child come to the world in Bethlehem

Sing hallelujah to the wonderful Counselor
Sing hallelujah to the mighty God
Sing hallelujah to the Father forever
Sing hallelujah to the true Prince of peace

Reflection: Whatever your worldview what are your favorite Christmas memories? What do you think of the Christian story of God reaching down to humankind in love? Living More Than OK (Click title to purchase) is a great book to start the New Year with.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lessons in Cinemetherapy from Wonder

With the craziness of ending the college semester I have been away from my blog. As I finish giving my students their final exams I thought I would share some thoughts on a movie my family and I saw a few weeks ago. The movie was Wonder. It is based on the book of the same name by the author, R. J. Palacio (Can’t forget the book order it here!). As a family we were amazed and I felt this should be a family classic. The movie follows a family through a year of their son transitioning from home schooling to a middle school. The son, Auggie, was born with a rare physical deformity that affects his appearance.

Of course Auggie being the central character, his concerns are in the forefront. The movie is an excellent study on the topic of bullying as Auggie was faced with rejection and being made fun of by the students at the school. Yet the movie is much more than an anti-bully movie. The story speaks to the importance of real friendship. There is a positive look at how a family works together in dealing with life difficulties. As a counselor I appreciated the in-depth look at the lives and back story of the various characters. The older sister realistically shows what siblings go though in a family with a special needs child of how forgotten they feel. Married couples can also learn from the parents in the movie how to be supportive of each other during life difficulties.

This was one of those movies that made me reflect back to my Masters in Counseling program when we lived in Brownsville, Texas. One of my professors, Dr. Selma Yznaga at UT Brownsville, (now UT Rio Grande Valley), shared with us in her classes about the benefits of Cinematherapy. She revealed to us how movies can speak to the power of stories to clients. In the movie, Wonder, there are many topics as I stated about that relate to the stories people live out in their daily lives. Movies can have a transforming effect as we connect with the purpose of the story and connect with the characters in a movie. We learn and transform through the power of story.

Dr. Birgit Wolz in the introduction to her book, E-Motion Picture Magic, says this about the power of movies: “As a therapist, I believe the movie experience used in a very specific way can have great healing benefits for those who are willing to apply themselves. I also believe that this experience can be fun” (p5). As a family we have often have learned and also enjoyed the experience of discussing a movie once we have seen it together. I have also had success with teen and child clients when discussing a movie that meant a lot to them.

This movie with its story line that touches on bullying, also provoked my mind to think about an old friend from high school days in Barberton, Ohio, Dr. Ron Graham. He is active in helping schools on the issue of bullying. He was a contributor with Kelly Karius in a book titled, No Such Thing As A Bully (purchase it on Amazon). It is a great resource for counselors, teachers, and parents. Their website for the book and their program is -- I encourage anyone interested in bullying to check out their book and website.

Back to the movie, as I do not want to pigeon hole it as just an anti-bully movie. As you go to watch it, (put this down as a must see movie), keep in mind the title, WONDER, and reflect on how to add more wonder in your own life journey! My book, Living More Than OK (click to purchase) has within its pages principles to live a Wonder-filled life. There is still time to order it as a Christmas gift for a friend or yourself.

Reflection: What comes to your mind when you quiet your mind and reflect on the word WONDER? How can you build more wonder in your life? What are some best ways to counter bullying in society?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude Is Helpful Beyond Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Cicero- Roman politician and philosopher

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalms 9:1)

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Every Thanksgiving I make sure I do a blog post about the importance of being thankful. As I state in my book, Living More Than OK, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

This year at the college since it is Thanksgiving week I did a lecture in my College classes on the importance of being grateful in our lives. I could have given a quiz or test right before the holiday but I thought it would be better for the student’s lives to think through some positive psychology research on the emotion and attitude of gratitude.

I shared with the students information from some research studies on gratitude. They were based on the work of Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003) as well as Wood, A. M., Joseph, S. & Maltby, J. (2009). I have links to the articles listed under the reflection in today’s post.

The quotes I have listed above show the importance of gratitude in life. Cicero felt it was the parent of all virtues. In the Bible we are encouraged to have thankfulness in our inner most being as well as be thankful in all the experiences in our lives. Thankful in every circumstance t is sometimes hard as in October I shared, I was not too thankful for going into heart stent surgery but again I must confess it saved my life.

I discussed with the students some of the benefits from the research about gratitude. I was also able to bring to their attention research from the most recent issue of Live Happy magazine. In their December edition, Paula Felps, writes about the physical and mental benefits of gratitude from the research of Dr. Sara Algoe at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Grateful people according to research are happier. They find more satisfaction with their life and social relationships. Grateful people are also more positive in their ways of coping with difficulties. They have less stress and depression (I have seen this develop in clients I have worked with in therapy as they reframe from depression to thankfulness). So you can see there are many benefits to being a thankful and grateful person.

Gratefulness does not mean the storms of life will go around us. No, we still are hit with difficulties in life but if we keep a grateful spirit we can bounce back and often learn from our experiences to help others.

At the end of the class we went around the room and each person shared one thing they were thankful for. Most of the gratefulness revolved around family. In each class one person spoke out about being thankful for being alive. That means a lot to me again this Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my family – my wife and daughter but I have a renewed thankfulness for living. Being so close to the October stent surgery where one artery was 99% closed reminded me of 15 years ago when I had 2 arteries 99% closed. Each time I have never suffered an actual heart attack. They have always been caught and unblocked before an actual heart attack. For me that is a miracle and something in both cases I am thankful for.

This Thanksgiving take time to be grateful at some point in the day. Then remember with the benefits of gratefulness isn’t it a good idea to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving going all during the year?

Remember comments are always welcome.

Reflection: What are 3 things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving? How can you be more thankful throughout the year? What does it mean to you to “Give thanks in all circumstances”?

Here is a Youtube video of gratefulness quotes. Which is your favorite quote?

Quotes about gratitude and thankfulness

Here are links to 2 of the articles I shared with my college students

Article by Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003).

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S. & Maltby, J. (2009)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Let There Be Light In Your Lifestyle

As a family we saw the Kevin and Sam Sorbo movie, “Let There Be Light”, a couple weekends ago. As I checked the local theater schedule I was glad to see that it was still going strong in our community of New Braunfels. My wife, daughter and I, felt it was a touching story and there were many angles to view different aspects of our life journey.

I felt the famous atheist character, played by Kevin Sorbo, captures the arrogance of the New Atheists. A Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris may not debate so over the top like in the movie but when watching them in interviews and debates they and other atheists carry an arrogant attitude with them. Of course why not? In their minds if there is no God, then they are a god themselves, better and smarter than most people -- especially those that believe in God. I present my thoughts on the faith beliefs of the New Atheists in my Spirituality chapter of my book, Living More Than OK.

The story lines of families dealing with loss of children and diseases such as cancer allowed for the movie viewer to think through the realities of the difficulties in life. Realities such as those can and do shake people’s religious faith. These hardships can also renew our turning to God as the Christian thinker C. S. Lewis stated, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This thought of Lewis is seen in the movie story line. I think is it a wonderful movie for those who have lost loved ones and are processing the grief.

The story of the movie, also helps us think about purpose in our life journey. There is seen a renewed purpose in family relationships. Also as a couple and family, they think big about leaving a legacy in doing a work for Christ. The movie is about the Christian faith, (one reason movie critics are giving it poor reviews), and living out that faith. The movie is personally challenging from that point of view. I do hope Christians will continue to support the movie and I believe it is a great story for those who are seeking answers about the spiritual part of life.

We do need light in this world as there is much darkness. This is brought out in the movie as well. The recent church shooting in nearby Sutherland Springs, Texas reveals the evil darkness in the world. The church killings reminded me of the movie in that the killer according to quotes from his former classmates, was always promoting atheism and being antagonistic towards Christians. That is not to say all atheists are killers but that side of him could explain why he had no moral qualms of shooting up Christian worshipers and even little children. From that atheist standpoint I think of the quote of atheist, Richard Dawkins “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” With no moral absolutes the atheist killer was dancing to his DNA. That is repulsive thinking to those of religious faith traditions that believe life is precious and there are moral absolutes to follow.

I am thankful that the Sorbo’s wrote and directed the movie. I am also thankful there are people such as, Sean Hannity, who caught their vision for the story and helped produce and provide financial backing. If you are looking for a refreshing and touching true to life story about a spiritual journey I highly recommend “Let There Be Light”.

Reflection: How does your faith tradition deal with the darkness in the world? How can you be light to the people in your sphere of influence?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Heart Caths, Gratefulness, and Prayer

In my last post I shared about taking a positive look at my first heart catheterization and stenting of the blocked artery. That was a few weeks ago. Last week I had a second heart cath for another blocked artery they could not do the 1st time. As I look at the tiny dot of an incision I am amazed at the technology available now to help with arterial blockages. About 15 years ago I had two 99% blockages and these two now were 99% and 80%. My hope is that I do not have to go through any more in the future.

As I have been thinking and reflecting over the past few weeks I am grateful for being alive. I remember in my 40’s with the first blockages my cardiologist told my wife I would have died in my sleep if they would have not taken me to the hospital. I remember back to that time realizing since I was that close to death but did not experience a heart attack, as they did the heart cath just in the nick of time. I came out of that with a renewed sense of purpose and gratefulness to God as I was given a second chance.

Now looking at this time of heart artery blockages, it is like having a third chance at a renewed life and purpose. Not many people get that. I remember 3 weeks ago with the first procedure one of the surgical techs asked what music I wanted to hear at the start of the surgery and I said “classical”. Another tech responded with “I think he said classic rock”. Remembering that Tom Petty had just passed away from heart failure I said “Let’s go with Tom Petty music to remember him”. So as I drifted off I heard Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ playing.

With the blockages removed I find I am breathing better so I am grateful for the renewed energy and just the ability to breathe easier. As I came home from both procedures my wife and daughter were a big help to me so I had a renewed sense of gratitude for family realizing some people don’t have family so have to be in hospitals longer or go into nursing care.

As I mentioned in my last post on positivity, my father had died of arteriosclerosis at age 58 when I had just turned two in October of that year. So with this happening in October I thought about my father’s death. He was a good man and a hard worker so I have carried the good I had heard about him throughout my life. I will continue to press on to be here for my family. I am renewed in finishing my PhD dissertation in Psychology. I know I am alive for my wife and daughter and any other purpose God has for me. I see in the future, more teaching of college students and counseling of hurting people so they can move higher up in living an abundant life.

Lastly I found myself grateful for prayer and it’s power. I have many friends from Facebook and churches, we are involved with, who were praying for my two heart procedures. Knowing about the prayers provided comfort and hope in going through the heart procedures. I am thankful to God for honoring the prayers of many people and mine in giving me this third lease on life.

Feel free to leave a comment.

Reflection: Have you had a second chance experience in your life? How grateful are you for the simple things in life such as just breathing and the family and friends in your life? Are you grateful for some of the life difficulties you have faced?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Change to a Positivity Outlook

I have been away from writing in my blog due to work and medical tests. This week I am back at it. I am reflecting on a book I read after attending the IPPA (International Positive Psychology Association), conference in Montreal in the Summer. The book is Positivity (Purchase this at Barnes & Noble) by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. She is a professor of psychology at University of North Carolina. In her book she discusses many of the common topics within positive psychology. One of the many strengths of the book is that she includes the research behind positive psychology in an understandable fashion. I cover some of the same topics in my book, Living More Than OK (Purchase this at Barnes & Noble), but I do not delve into the research as I was writing a personal journey reflection book.

What is positivity? Most people are familiar with negativity. We are inundated with negativity in the news as negative stories draw people’s attention. Over the years working in different environments I remember that most of what people would bring up in the work place was how frazzled their day was or negative events. Dr. Fredrickson at the beginning of chapter 1 in her book she shares an experiential description of two perspectives of starting the same day that sheds light on positivity.

The first morning perspective is a mother who wakes up late as the alarm doesn’t go off. It does not take long to read the all too common negative self-talk we all do when we oversleep on a work day. The reading then shows how that negatively spirals down to harping at her children in getting them off to school. Then a further negative spiral downward occurs as she interacts in a negative manner with her co-workers. If we are honest this is all too common for all of us.

The second perspective shows the same mother waking up late but instead of the initial negative self-talk there is a positive realism on how to make the most of the day. That initial mental change creates a positive upward spiral in relating to her children with a further upward positive spiral with her co-workers. After reading through the two perspectives I thought back to some times in my life where I reacted negatively and could see now if I worked from a positive self-talk and positive actions, things would have gone better.

I read these pages from the book to my College Success students this semester and the two perspectives provided a helpful positive discussion on how our thoughts and perspectives can create better days through positivity. If you honestly think how often we spiral down in our days by reacting negatively in our thinking and responding actions; you can then understand that we have a choice to change our responses in a positive direction. Those few pages are worth the price of the book.

I experienced this thought on perspectives recently after doing a nuclear stress test. The nurses said I did great as I went the max speed and incline on the treadmill. So I felt pretty good. Then a few days later the cardiologist called me and was concerned over the cool down EKG results and pictures of the heart showed a possible blockage. Negativity set in as I had to schedule a heart cath to check for artery blockages. I was not looking forward to it as I asked the doctor to post pone until the end of the semester and his response was I could have a heart attack before then.

So my wife took off time from work and I went into the heart cath expecting to go home that day with no blockages. When I woke up later, I found out one artery was 99% blocked which they stented. Then I would have to go back in again soon for another lesser blockage. As I was resting in the hospital I thought of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book and thought on positivity in this situation. I thought back to 15 years ago when I was in my early 40’s, I had 2 other arteries blocked both at 99%. I thought also how about 56 years ago my father had died when I was at the age of 2 because they did not have heart technology to save him.

So while I laid in the hospital bed, I thought of the concept of gratitude considering that I have missed a heart attack or death twice. I was also grateful for the technology that could help with heart blockages before a heart attack occurs. Also I could be thankful for many friends who offered prayers for me. From my spiritual viewpoint, I also thought over purpose in life that if I have missed a heart attack twice. There must be other purposes for my continued future living. As the saying goes “God isn’t through with me yet.”

Back to Dr. Fredrickson’s book, another important strength of her book is that the last half of the book is filled with interventions to help you grow in positivity. As a therapist I appreciate her listing and explaining the positive interventions. I have used many of them in my own life and with clients. There are practical ideas such as gratitude journals, random acts of kindness, visualizing your future dreams, and focusing on your strengths. She also presents positive themed portfolios to help a person focus in on positive emotions. I will mention one here from page 117 to give you a feel for this activity (purchase her book or find it at a library to do the other portfolios). You answer questions about an emotion using words or pictures or drawings combined. I think of them as collage posters. Here is her “Serenity Portfolio:

1. When have you felt fully at peace and serene, truly content where you are?
2. When has your life felt so comfortable and so very right?
3. When does your body feel completely relaxed with all your physical tensions melted away?
4. When do feel like simply sitting back and soaking it all in savoring the goodness you feel, thinking of new ways to get that feeling in your life more often?

I encourage you to add Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity to your must read list as it will help you spiral upwards in your life journey.

Reflection: Think through a recent negative life situation and how you responded. How could you have changed your thinking, feelings and actions in a positive manner? What are 3 things you are grateful for today?