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)

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 (www.success.com/article/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?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankful the Lord Hears Our Cry




Recently I had a client discuss songs that uplift him and give him energy. A couple of the bands he shared were U2 and Duran Duran. He told me I should check out the video of U2 doing the song “40” live at Redrocks. That is one of my favorite U2 songs so I checked out the video. The song is Bono’s adaptation of the first few verses of Psalm 40. Going into Thanksgiving this week I felt it is an important Psalm to reflect upon.



"40" U2 “40” at Redrocks (click on the title to listen to the video and reflect on the words. Below the lyrics I have the complete text of Psalm 40)

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long...how long...how long...
How long...to sing this song

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and fear

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long...how long...how long...
How long...to sing this song


Psalm 40 King James Version (KJV)

1 I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

4 Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

5 Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.

7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,

8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

9 I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.

10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.

12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me.

14 Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil.

15 Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.

16 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.

17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

The beginning and ending of the verses reveal the attitude of humility that is integral in calling out to God in prayer. The Psalmist presents himself as needing a deliverer and helper for the outside evils of life that face him and the inner sinfulness of his human nature that needs forgiveness. He waits patiently in prayer for the Lord’s answer as he knows God is not a celestial bellboy to jump at his beck and call.

Just like I stated in last week’s post there are times we feel stuck in a pit or other times -- forget the feelings – actual life situations put us in a virtual miry pit. Through crying out to God, the Psalmist reminds us God can lift us out and place us on firm ground. Our response should be a heart of rejoicing and thanksgiving.

In a worshipful response to God’s deliverance we each can create a new song to sing out about God’s wonderful works and how good it is to trust in Him. That song according to verse 3 is a testimony to the people around us. Living out the song can have a positive impact to those around us as they see God’s work in us.

The Psalmist points a realistic picture of the harsh times in life. Sometimes it is other people that put us into the pit. Sometimes it is our selfish sins that make us be stuck in the pit. The promise is as we keep our relationship with God growing He will help us rise above the harsh realities of this life. At this time of Thanksgiving take time to remember and humbly reflect upon the majesty of God who reaches down to us with mercy and love.



Reflection: What do you feel when you think of the majesty of God and his amazing works? What does it mean to you to wait patiently upon the Lord? What New Song is God placing in your heart and life this Thanksgiving?



Monday, November 14, 2016

Break Through From Being Stuck



At times we feel we are stuck on a treadmill on our life journey. We are moving and becoming exhausted but as we look around we are in the same spot. Living More Than OK the idea behind my book by the same name encourages a life journey that spirals up into abundant living. The idea is about continually growing and moving higher up to new goals and purposes. That is not happening when we are stuck and exhausted.

I came across a book from Simple Truths that speaks to these times of being stuck. The book is Getting Unstuck: 10 Simple Secrets to Embracing Change and Celebrating Your Life. The authors, George and Sedena Cappannelli, are founders of Age Nation. They have a rich history in media and are motivational experts in the area of helping organizations and individuals deal with change.

Change – we all face it. Each day is a new change with new directions, challenges and opportunities. Just think of their subtitle though. How many of us are good with embracing change? We are more comfortable initially being stuck in the comfort of the knowable. Many wind up hiding in their comfort zone closet and miss out on the celebration that is waiting for them if they would step out and try new possibilities.

The book looks at 10 secrets they offer to help us break out of the comfort of the recliner of the comfortable knowns or the fear of the closet of the mundane routines we settle for in our lives. I will make a few comments on a few of the secrets that stood out to me the most. For the other 7 you will need to buy the book or request it at your local library.

1. Rules are made for the guidance of wise men and women.
2. Begin at the beginning.
3. Learn to say yes.
4. Build a strong and stable base.
5. Celebrate excellence.
6. Eliminate limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.
7. Connect, understand, and accept.
8. Worship spontaneity.
9. Take (almost) nothing seriously.
10. Become an instrument of grace and gratitude.

Secret 3 “Learn to say Yes” stood out to me first of all. Concerning this they say ”Where resistance , tension, and stubbornness are often the by-products of no; yes can become our gateway to openness, greater joy, and a rewarding and adventurous life.” (p,33). Often the no’s we say to ourselves keep us stuck as we fail to step out in faith to new opportunities and possibilities. How much do we miss out in life whether it is in meeting new people, helping someone, or a new opportunity for success when we are locked in fear with our saying no instead of saying yes.

With secret 6 which is “Eliminate limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.”, I believe it fits well with secret 3. Our negative thinking and false beliefs are often behind many of the no’s we tell ourselves. The negativity of our thinking keeps us stuck in our doubts about moving in an upward spiral to abundant living. They encourage in the book to be reflective and meditative in our thinking so we can mindfully be aware of the negativity filling our thought life. In doing so we can change the negative statements to positive thoughts that move us forward in vibrant living opportunities.

Secret 10 was another secret that stood out to me. That secret is stated as “Become an instrument of grace and gratitude.” One thought in this section is ”Your life is a gift, even with it’s most daunting challenges, difficult people, circumstances and significant changes.” (p. 100). When we are in stuck mode we are whining and complaining too much to view our lives as a gift of grace. We need to take time not just at this Thanksgiving season but throughout the year. Being grateful, helps to pull us out of being stuck to be open to new things to be thankful for. Here they mention one of my many favorite quotes, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. “ (Meister Eckhart)

There was a wealth of information to reflect upon with the other 7 secrets. I focused on 3 in hopes to whet your mental appetite to seek out the book for yourselves. If you find yourself stuck in your life remember your Creator made you for more than sitting is a comfortable recliner or exhaustingly treading in one spot. Make this a time for a break through and become unstuck.



Reflection:

Think through a time of being stuck in your life. What did you learn about yourself and how did your break free? What did you think about the 3 secrets I presented from the book?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Life Wounds Can Be Bearers of Light



One myth about positive psychology is that it just focuses in on happiness and ignores the difficulties of life. That is so far from the truth. Yes it does provide research on happiness which of course is a good thing, as who does not want to be happy. Just think of it, even our Declaration of Independence speaks of happiness, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….”. Still, positive psychology does speak to the illnesses and hurts that affect mankind. The principles they research can aid in overcoming hurts and wounds that are realities in our life journey.

I thought of this as I was listening to Switchfoot’s latest CD, Where The Light Shines Through. I want you to focus your attention to the lyrics of their title song. As always, first click on the title and listen to the video of the song

"Where The Light Shines Through" Switchfoot (click on the title to hear the song)

When you're feeling like an astronaut
Stuck on a planet even time forgot, and
You're a version of yourself, but you're not the same
You try to keep the wound camouflaged, and
The stitches heal, but the years are lost, and
Another bottle on the shelf can't numb the pain

Why're you running from yourself now?
You can't run away

Cause your scars shine like dark stars
Yeah, your wounds are where the light shines through
So let's go there, to that place where
We sing these broken prayers where the light shines through--
The wound is where the light shines through
Yeah, the wound is where the light shines through

Ain't we all just Abraham's son?
Saint and sinner with the song and drum, and
We're fallen on our knees, we all bleed the same
And the only tattoos I have are scars
I got your name written on my heart
And the story that brought us here ain't the thing that changed, no

I wanna see that light shining
Brighter than the pain

Cause your scars shine like a dark star
Yeah, your wounds are where the light shines through
So let's go there, to that place where
We sing these broken prayers where the light shines through
The wound is where the light shines through

Mama, ain't the blood just proof I'm human?
Mama, ain't the wound just retribution?
Well Mama, ain't the scar like a vision of grace?

The wound is where the light shines through
The wound is where the light finds you
The wound is where the light shines through
The wound is where the light finds you
Your scars shine like dark stars
Yeah, the wound is where the light shines through
It's where the light shines through
Yeah, yeah, it's where the light shines through
Yeah, the only time to our heart, oh oh
It's where the light shines through
Where the light shines, where the light shines through
Where the light shines though
It's where the light shines through

As I listened to the song I thought of times of wounds in my life. Back in Chicago there were wounds of hurtful relationships, memories of my mom’s death and oldest brother’s death. There were work difficulties and times of wondering what should be my direction in life. Over the years I have worked with students and in counseling practice I have observed many people’s life pains and wounds. The song speaks truth in that while we go through life wounds, we can feel as if we are outside of life like outer space as we experience pain because we know the pain is not where we are meant to keep living. You feel as if you are somewhere, where God has forgotten you. Some people hide the pain as I made mention in my book, Living More Than OK, some can smile and say “everything is OK while living in the pain”. Others turn to substances like drugs or alcohol, “Another bottle on the shelf can't numb the pain”. Like hiding they find substances do not help with the pain long-term.

The song encourages facing the pain and learning from the wounds that come into our lives. The lyric phrase “Well Mama, ain't the scar like a vision of grace?” to me points out that our wounds can be a turning point to learn more of God’s Grace in our lives. Letting the light shine though our wounds breaks the hold of life pains on us and bring us back to earth where we can serve others who are hurting.

The song writer reminds us that we are all fellow brothers and sisters who each have our own wounds and scars. As we let the light shine through we can learn to grow in our lives and learn to be better people helpers to those around us. I have met people who after the fact are thankful for the tough times they went through as they became stronger in their life journey because of the difficulties and wounds they faced. As I look back of course I did not enjoy in the moment, my life difficulties but they have helped in serving college students as I can be real with them about what they will face in their futures. The past difficulties have been helpful in serving counseling clients, as I can encourage those hurting that the light will shine through in their lives if they do not give up.



Reflection: Think through some of your wound times in your life. In looking back do you see some light shining through that you learned from? How have the hardships and difficulties in your life journey made you a better person today?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Think and Use Your Brain in This Presidential Election




I try to stay away from politics in my blog. Work and school research has been so busy I have not written recently. Also recently the election has worn me down as I see the possible increase in problems for the country if Hillary gets elected. So I thought this week I would focus in on critical thinking, which I am a believer in the importance of it and how it relates to the election.

I remember back in the primaries Dr. Ben Carson kept using a phrase “Use your brain and think for yourself”. Dr. Carson was our favorite in the primary race, (as you know over the years I have mentioned him often in my blog). We as a family felt he was the sound rational thinker to help turn the country around. His thought that the politicians are the problem is one concept that tapped into my thinking. When he dropped out Mr. Trump was the only real pragmatic outsider left. It helped us to see Dr. Carson be supportive of Mr. Trump.

What has disgusted me about this race is that people are not using sound thinking in looking at the candidates. Listen and think of what you hear from Hillary supporters. They cannot tell you one good thing Hillary has done for the country in her 30 years of living off the taxpayers. Instead all they do is say trashy and nasty things about Mr. Trump. Their statements are all based on negative emotions instead of thinking.

Facts and solid thinking are on the side of Mr. Trump. From the beginning he has been solid on the need for strong borders. Knowing that the Border Patrol and ICE has endorsed Mr. Trump is important to think about as who knows more about the border’s needs than these professionals. Hillary’s supporter’s counter with lies that Mr. Trump said all Mexicans were killers and rapists. This is a lie as you can go back to the tapes and see he never said “all”. There are many Hispanics who are voting from Mr. Trump but you would never know by listening to the media. The facts show Mr. Trump was and is right -- just one clear example was the death of Kate Steinle; shot by an illegal immigrant while out walking with her father. Mr. Trump is right that we don’t have a country if we do not have a border. In the Summer we went to Big Bend National Park and one trail was by the Rio Grande river. There they posted warning signs to not enter Mexico illegally or face fines and prison. Think about it!

Probably the most disturbing thought I have about Hillary becoming President is her pathological lying. My best example that makes me livid goes back to her lies over Benghazi. In my book, Living More Than OK, in the chapter on critical thinking I discuss her lies about the 4 brave Americans who died in Benghazi. The facts show that she did not listen to the Ambassador’s hundreds of request for more help. Then worse yet, lied to the faces of the families of the killed 4 brave heroes in front of the coffins telling them they would get the YouTube video guy! Facts from emails prove she texted her daughter and leaders of Egypt and Libya that it was a terrorist attack before she told those lies to the families. That lie is more than pathetic it is sick. With their blood on her hands, she should not even be allowed to run for president.

Mr. Trump has discussed details of his 100 day plan to show how to build our defense, return jobs, and Make America Great again ( by the way what is so bad about that phrase??- think about it). All Hillary does in her few speeches, when she has energy to go to a rally, is to say lies about Mr. Trump and give out the regular empty promises politicians have been saying for years – 30 years in her case. As Mr. Trump has said – what has she done in those 30 years except get rich? Think about it.



Wikileaks and Project Veritas have shown proof of the corruption and the collusion with the mainstream media that has made me sick about this election. Every voter needs to watch some of the Project Veritas videos and think about what the truth is about Hillary Clinton. I remember Watergate and the Nixon administration. The corruption of Hillary and Bill makes Nixon look like a choir boy.

I could go on forever as there are so many positive reasons to vote for Mr. Trump. One of the most important reasons to think about is the Supreme Court. A president is there for 4 maybe 8 years but the next president will appoint 2-4 Supreme Court justices who will affect the next generation. Voters need to think about what kind of Supreme Court do they want? A court that honors the Constitution like the candidates Mr. Trump has announced or a court that legislates from the bench that Hillary wants. Think about it.

As the election is close it is hard to know what will happen. I fear for the country as the media is worse than any media under communist regimes. They are not reporting objectively instead they are slanting the news in favor of Hillary’s lies so as to brainwash the voters. WikiLeaks and Project Veritas have proven the media is in collusion with Hillary. Even going back to Hillary versus Bernie; Bernie would have won the primary if it was not for the media. Going back to Dr. Carson’s statement I list at the beginning. If the voters use their brains and think then Mr. Trump will win and the country can move forward out of the mess of the past 8 years. If lies and corruption continue to blind non-thinking voters then Hillary will win and the country will basically continue on a spiral down to further destruction.

Reflection: What are you basing your vote on- blind emotion or critical thinking? Have you looked into the facts from Wikileaks or Project Veritas?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Growth Mindset and Positive Emotions To Keep On Going




This semester of teaching is going by so fast. Part of this fastness perception was trying to get my college teaching classes off to a good start while ending a quarter of my dissertation work. With the dissertation it was a Summer quarter of trying to gain final approval on my research. There were items out of my control giving me grief and stress so it was hard to keep a positive front to my college students with my own educational stress was making my self-talk want to throw in the towel.

Thankfully as the quarter ended I did finally gain full approval for my research. So in the near future I hope to run my research study. So I realized I need to keep a mindset of growth to keep on going on the dissertation marathon.

Early on in each semester I go over in my college success courses the importance of Mindset based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck. I was grateful this year in our pre-semester adjunct professor training to be affirmed in emphasizing this to students. At our training this year the guest speaker was Dr. Janet Nay Zadina. She was a former teacher and now an educational neuroscientist. I have gone to these mandatory training for years and she was the most noteworthy presenter I have heard. Listening to her I could feel her passion for education. She was not there to just pick up a speaker’s paycheck. Instead she wanted to instill the importance of helping college students grow in successful ways.

I was lucky in the drawing at the final morning session as I won a copy of her book, Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain and the corresponding workbook. It is an effective resource for educators on best practices to help students learn based on the most recent neuroscience research.

The most important aspect from her session and in her book for me was the emphasis on encouraging students to understand growth versus fixed mindset early in the school year or semester. Dr. Zadina pointed out that the growth mindset allows the student to break free from the fixed thinking of “I just can’t do it” or “That’s not the way I am”. Often those students struggling with math or writing will say statements like that which become self-fulfilling prophecies in math and English courses. Or the student that does poorly in Speech will say “I can’t speak in public”.
When students understand the growth mindset that they have the ability to grow in every area of their lives it frees them up from the negativity. This then allows them to obtain better abilities in all areas of academics as well as other areas of life.

Another area in the book and her presentation that stood out to me was the need to emphasize positive emotions. So many struggling students are bound up by negative beliefs and a victim mentality. By emphasizing positive emotions such as gratitude, confidence, enthusiasm, inspiration and awe they often can move in a positive direction in re-framing their mindset about their possible success in their academics in college.

As a therapist as well, I see many personal problems are caused by people being bound up by negative emotions such as frustration, jealousy, despair and envy. When they move over to a habit of allowing positive emotions control their lives they are more likely to overcome problems such as anxiety and depression.

I had to deal with this myself as I was frustrated with gaining research approval so I could move forward with my dissertation. It is easy to let negativity and the “maybe I should give up mentality” take over. But I did not give into that and kept pressing on and finally approval came. Granted too late to do the research this semester on my time line. Overlooking that, I simply created a new timeline starting with the January semester. So I will keep on with my dissertation marathon and continue to encourage my college students to focus on growth in their lives as well.


Reflection: Examine your reactions to life – are you guided more by negative emotions or positive emotions? How can you build up your positive emotions more in your daily life?