Friday, January 23, 2015
In this early part of the New Year improving our thinking is one way to keep growing on our Living More Than OK journey. The quality of our thinking aids in our enjoyment of life and personal successes. Richard Paul and Linda Elders in their book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life state this of the need for sound thinking: “There is nothing more practical than sound thinking. No matter what your circumstance or goals, no matter where you are, or what problems you face, you are better off if your thinking is skilled. …in every realm and situation of your life, good thinking pays off. Poor Thinking, in turn, inevitably causes problems, wastes time and energy, engenders frustration and pain.” (page 7)
If we look at the problems and difficulties of our lives and are honest we can see where most our negativity can be traced back to faulty thinking. In the Living More Than OK life we want to live more of our time spiraling up to abundant living instead of spiraling down into stagnation and problems. Each of us can find room to improve in our thought lives.
Improving our thinking begins with a choice to continually learn and improve our minds. We need to take time to make time to do things to improve our thinking. Take mental growth breaks during the day or on the weekend. Paul & Elders in the aforementioned book reveal that critical thinkers need to work on building intellectual habits and traits into their thought lives. The traits they mention are: “Intellectual integrity, Intellectual humility, Intellectual sense of justice, Intellectual perseverance, Intellectual fair-mindedness, Intellectual confidence in reason, Intellectual courage, Intellectual empathy, Intellectual autonomy.” (page 19) Look over those terms and first reflect over which areas are you already strong in and which areas do you need to grow in at present time.
How can we grow in these areas? Probably no surprise to you my first response is to tell you to go to your local library and select a book on Critical Thinking. I highly recommend any of the writings by Richard Paul and Linda Elders. Their writings are sound and also practical. There are other good writers on critical thinking but those two are my favorites. My book, Living More Than OK, has one chapter on the need for critical thinking. So this Bookhead is telling you books are one of the best ways to grow your mind and thought life. For reading material you can also go to www.criticalthinking.org and click on their Library tab and read various articles about critical thinking.
Beyond reading you can also search on YouTube or Ted talks for video lectures on thinking and critical thinking. Here is an example of a short video of Richard Paul on thinking from YouTube -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNCOOUK-bMQ . You may also want to look into Continuing education courses at local universities and colleges. Find an area of mental curiosity or interest to you personally, and take a course in that subject.
Growing in improved good thinking will add value to your life. The process may lessen the number or intensity of problems that you may be facing. By growing our thinking it helps keep the mind open to possibilities and new solutions to adversity and new areas of growth. Give improving your thinking a try in this New Year.
Reflection: Go to the Library link of the critical thinking website http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/index-of-articles/1021/ and read one article of your choosing. Take time to reflect over the message of the article you chose.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
This discussion is not about Lasik eye surgery or our physical vision. The idea is to look at our spiritual vision. The inner mental vision that focuses in on what is the most important in your life journey this New Year you find yourself traversing. It considers what values are important and what goals you are aiming for and keeping your eyes on. What is the foundation of your values? A song by For King & Country relates well with what I am thinking about this week.
So as always first take a listen to the song by clicking on the song title and reflect over the lyrics I have listed here:
Fix My Eyes by For KING & COUNTRY –
Hit rewind, Click delete, Stand face to face with the younger me.
All of the mistakes All of the heartbreaks. Here's what I'd do differently.
I'd Love like I'm not scared, Give when it's not fair, Live life for another,
Take time for a brother, Fight for the weak ones, Speak out for freedom Find faith in the battle, Stand tall but above it all Fix my eyes on You On You
I learned the lines and talked the talk 'cuz the road less traveled was hard to walk It takes a soldier who knows his orders
To walk the walk I'm supposed to walk
Love like I'm not scared Give when it's not fair
Live life for another Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You On You
The things of Earth are dimming In the light of Your glory and grace
I'll set my sights upon Heaven I'm fixing my eyes on you
Love like I'm not scared Give when it's not fair
Live life for another Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You On You Fix my eyes On you
The beginning of the song looks backwards at mistakes in life. We can hit rewind in our minds as we look at the past but in reality we cannot go back and redo the past mistakes. We can do things differently in our present choices and grow by moving ahead with better values. The song presents positive values of living out acts of love, caring for others and standing tall which I believe relates well with ethical living.
Is living out our values easy to do? The song writers are honest in how living rightly is difficult. The phrase “'cuz the road less traveled was hard to walk. It takes a soldier who knows his orders” reminds me of the M. Scott Peck book, The Road Less Traveled, that begins with the statement, “Life is Difficult”. Living the best life of positive values is often difficult as the negativity of the world says to take the easy selfish approach.
This song is written by Christian writers and they show the key to getting over the difficulty is by fixing their eyes on Christ. By keeping a focus on Christ’s example and His love and grace those of us who believe in the Christian worldview, can move beyond the past mistakes and move forward in loving our neighbors and stand tall above the difficulties of life. Not that the difficulties disappear but we have extra strength spiritually in the battle with the difficulties.
Fixing the eyes, which is the most repetitive concept in the song is the reminder of the importance of focusing our minds. To conquer and win in sports for example there is a need for a focus on the goal of winning. So if you have come across this post and you are not a Christian I would first say take a serious look at not the myths of Christianity, but seriously take a look at who Christ says he is by reading on of the books Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
Of course I feel the thought of “fixing your eyes” can relate to any belief system. Think through what or who are you fixing your eyes on. As this New Year starts to move on one way to live it for the best experiences is to examine your values that are important to you.
Reflection: What is the basis of your personal value system? What does it mean to you to “Fix Your Eyes”? How do you overcome the difficulties of living the best life? How do your values relate to the goals you have for the New Year?
Friday, January 9, 2015
In my past year of reading books about reading one of the most passionate books I came across was by an elementary teacher here in Texas, Donelyn Miller. The book is The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. The title reminded me of the Robert Redford movie, The Horse Whisperer. The horse whisperer was a trainer passionate about horses, who had an innate knowledge on communicating with horses in training them. That concept fits well with the Book Whisperer. Donelyn Miller is an example of a teacher with a passion for reading and books and passes that passion and love of reading on to her students. Here is a link to her webpage about the book -- http://bookwhisperer.com
Her comment at the beginning, “Anyone who calls herself or himself a reader can tell you that it starts with encountering great books, heartfelt recommendations, and a community of readers who share this passion.” (page 4). That comment reminded me of my journey with books and reading with the Summer reading programs at my hometown, Barberton Public Library starting when I was in second grade. That is where reading caught on for me. Her comments here are in context of the standardized tests that focus on reading short passages in worksheets. Anyone who has had an honest conversation with students knows that is not how to build readers. Donelyn in her book shared how she encourages independent reading and students would read 40 books a year in her classes. That is how you build the process of “Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.”
I just want here to share a few of my favorite points I gathered from the book. First of all her statement of the importance of reading struck me, “ Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters – the saints and the sinners, real or imagined – reading shows you how to be a better human building.” (page 18). Back to my Summer reading programs the books I read opened new worlds to me as I read stories about cultures around the world. As to the thought of making us better people that relates to what I was getting at about two weeks ago with spiritual literacy. Spiritual writings help us improve our lives.
Ms. Miller reveals how reading was an integral part of her teaching time. She made sure the students had time for independent reading of books of their own choosing. This is important to note, that she allows students to read about things they were interested in reading. I over the years have had talks with College students failing remedial reading courses and often it would relate to their being bored or not liking the forced readings the courses revolved around. Her emphasis in taking time to read is a reminder to all of us which hits home from a poignant quote by Atwood H. Townsend, “No matter how busy you think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” (page 49) The quote and her thoughts in the book point to how reading develops the mind. We need to take even a little time during the day to read.
The develop of the mind is brought out by her mentioning the Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen. She states he, “reveals that no single literacy activity has a more positive effect of students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading.” (page 51). So why do I see parents leaving libraries with their children carrying stacks of videos instead of books? Reading needs to be encouraged by parents and teachers.
Ms. Miller reveals how she tries to be a role model in sharing her love of reading to students. We need more teachers like her. I remember back to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Clifford who would regularly read to the class from books. That also encouraged my reading. On being a role model for reading she states, “When my students think about me in the future, I want them to remember me as a reader with a book in my hand and a recommendation on my lips.” (page 106).
I was glad to see that she also brought up the harsh realities we face in our lazy minded world of passive video watching versus the enjoyment of reading. “We have created a culture of reading poverty in which a vicious cycle of aliteracy has the potential to devolve into illiteracy for many students… They may be capable of reading well enough to perform academic reading and informational reading, but they do not love to read and have few life reading habits to model to children.” (page 107) I ponder often about the truth of this and how this is creating a dearth of critical and creative thinkers due to the lack of well-read fellow citizens. A video based diet for the mind creates lazy passive thinkers. I have observed this experientially and in conversations with college students who admit they watch videos too much and read too little.
Another point I enjoyed in the book is her discussion on “Finding Your Inner Reader”. The concept reminds me of the importance of savoring memories about reading as in my case I can think back to my mother encouraging my involvement in the local Library Summer reading programs. Memories of my first grade teacher who encouraged reading as well as my third teacher, Mrs. Clifford who read openly in class from various literary books to encourage reading stand out as well. Good memories of reading can build future Book Whisperers.
Reflection: What are your memories about reading from your past? If you have good memories share them with others to become a Book Whisperer yourself. If you did not have good memories of reading in your past start new good memories. Visit your local library and pick out a couple of books on subjects you enjoy to begin reading in this New Year.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Starting off this New Year I want to continue on the topic of last week. Last week I spoke of a spiritual retreat we took to Immanuel Prayer House. It was a relaxing time of spiritual reading and enjoying the natural scenery of the Texas Hill Country. That experience reminded me of a book I had read earlier in the year. The title of the book is Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life. The authors are Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. The book brought back memories of reading Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence that speaks of worshipping God in all experiences of life.
In the introduction they define Spiritual Literacy as “the ability to read the signs written in the texts of our own experiences.” (p. 15). They both speak of their love and passion for reading from which they gleaned wisdom that relates to spirituality. Their book is built upon sharing spiritual thoughts from books, movies, and a wide variety of experiences of life that point to understanding the spiritual side of the lives we lead. A quote they use by theologian Samuel H. Miller, expounds on the premise of their book, “In the muddled mess of this world, in the confusion and boredom, we ought to be able to spot something – an event, a person, a memory, an act, a turning of the soul, a flash of bright wings, the surprise of sweet compassion – somewhere we ought to pick out a glory to celebrate.” (p.16). The spiritual literate individual is mindful of seeking God’s interaction in their lives to celebrate the grace and love of God.
They do mention that all the world religions have literature that relates to each philosophical worldview. The additional thoughts in the book is showing the spiritual in all other aspects of life. I personally feel that it is avid readers who are more Intune with the power of story, so are able to pick up on the spiritual that appears in life experiences. The authors point out that to be spiritually literate we need to be open to the possibility of the divine reaching into our world. There needs to be openness to wonder and mystery. This is based on our worldview. They present a quote from Albert Einstein when he was asked, “’What’s the most important question you can ask in life?’” He replied, “’Is the universe a friendly place or not?’” (p33). If the world is just random chaos with no God, true wonder and mystery is absent. If there is a God who is interested in involvement with humankind than wonder occurs as the world has the potential of being a friendly place.
Keeping so busy or living a life of just getting by, limits the sense of wonder to pick up on the spiritual rays of light that the Divine wants to shine into our pathways. “By skimming the surface, we miss what lies beneath. ‘Your soul suffers if you live superficially,’ Nobel Peace Prize – winner Albert Schweitzer cautions. (p.35). This is exactly what I try to get across in my book, Living More Than OK. If we are just living boring OK lives we are just existing and not being open to the spiritual light breaking into our lives. Being open to the spiritual around us provides meaning and purpose even in the little mundane issues of life. We can be more thankful and we can understand how the coincidences and even the disappointments of life as being His appointments to teach us new thoughts or reminders of important principles to apply in our personal growth.
One of the favorite quotes I came across in the book was “the words of the Christian journalist Malcolm Muggeridge: ‘Every happening great and small is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message’ (p. 40). The question is “are we open to His message?” If you are the type who enjoys spiritual reading books, this book by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat will be a helpful aid in your spiritual growth journey. They also have a website with a variety of resources. I have that website listed under the reflection definitely check it out.
Reflection – Are you open to seeing God work in your life each day? Do you make it a habit to read Spiritual Readings each day? What has been a way God has spoken to you in the parables of life?
www.spiritualityandpractice.com Website by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
This Christmas we chose to take a break from the hectic nature of the modern Christmas time. The break also incorporated a few days of hiatus from the technology of computers, Facebook and Twitter. We went up to Belton, Texas to a spiritual retreat center, Immanuel Prayer House. The setting was a quiet Texas Hill Country ranch. The simple buildings at the base of the hill reminded be of little villages at the base of mountains in South Korea I had seen when my wife and I visited her family there. At the top of this post you see my wife and daughter by their sign and the other pictures are of the grounds of the retreat center. My wife had read about the prayer house in a Korean newspaper she had picked up at a San Antonio Korean grocery store where we occasionally shop. This was a small Butterfly effect that grew to a fulfilling get away that was much needed for us all.
While it was a break from stress and the hustle and bustle of Christmas I recognized there was a break towards simplicity and a renewal of spiritual thinking and being. Each evening at 7:00 pm there was a worship service and each morning at 6:00 am there was a morning prayer service. Each service was in Korean and translated into English. The accommodations were simple in that we stayed in an old mobile home unit with no tv, and modest living arrangements. The sanctuary was very plain as well as the very small prayer buildings along the hillside. The grounds showed the ministry’s simplicity in being mostly self-sufficient, as they had vegetable gardens and chicken coups for eggs.
We had our meals with the Pastor and her husband, along with three ladies who helped with the ministry. It was at these dinner times I learned through my wife’s translation of their Korean that this retreat had been a vision the Pastor felt God had given her over 25 years prior when they had moved to the U. S. A. to help with church work. Her husband for those 25 years helped develop the land by building the various buildings and the garden areas. He verified my initial reflection as he stated he wanted to replicate small farming villages that can be seen in the countryside of South Korea.
This simple elderly Korean couple was the real deal of living out Christianity. They were not running a business instead it was a faith ministry. They did not have rates to stay there instead they asked only for a donation based on how an individual could pay or felt God telling them to give. They had no flashy furniture or high tech gadgets. Everything from their main residence to the worship chapel was simple and functional. Their lifestyle was an example of following the ways of Jesus.
The time spent there listening to her Bible messages, praying and walking through nature gazing at the awesome Texas skies renewed my spirit. I also had time instead of being on the computer, to read positive literature I had brought with me and my Bible. I used the time to think over the past year and pray about God’s will in the coming year of 2015. There is something about being on a hillside with a camera staring at the clouds and countryside reflecting on what God’s plans may be for the days and year ahead.
I don’t know if this is will be a yearly tradition at Christmas time. The relaxation that came from knowing that there is life away from Facebook and Twitter reminded me that we need breaks from technology as I have mentioned in the past. Technology is not bad in itself and there are good aspects to Twitter and Facebook. The key is to understand those social platforms should not control our lives. As a Christian who believes in the Biblical worldview of following Jesus in a simple and faith based manner is the primary way of living. The experience at Immanuel Prayer House reminded me that from time to time it is important to set aside time to break towards enjoying the simple pleasures of life that God has for a fulfilled life.
I would encourage you to in the New Year find times through the year to take a break from technology and do a personal or family retreat at a nature center or spiritual retreat center. The inner relaxation of your mind and spirit is a benefit to your well-being.
Reflection - Are you hooked on technology? How easy is it for you to take a short break from Social media platforms? Look for retreat centers or nature parks in your area where you could take a couple days away from home for a spiritual break for your being.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
There have been no posts recently as I have had a few crazy past weeks finishing up an Advanced Statistics course for my Phd. It has been hard for me as I am a story guy not a numbers guy. This Christmas week I am having some solitude with my family at a prayer retreat center in the Hill Country area of Texas.
New Year's Day week I will be back writing. Thank you for stopping by my blog! Please take some time to look at some of my posts from the previous years.
Have a Blessed Holiday Season and a Positive New Year!
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
In the past I have mentioned that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me it is not the food that comes foremost in my mind. Even though I enjoy the turkey, my wife’s garlic ranch mashed potatoes and pie. The importance of being thankful is what has been most important in my thinking of the holiday. This year with one goal of finishing my book on reading (which is a goal I am still struggling with), I thought I should share why as a Bookhead, I am thankful for books and reading. I see reading as an important way to impact changes in the mind which of course affects our living. That is the aim is Living More Than OK -- the title of my blog. A reminder of continual growth on our life journey.
Dr. Edmond Huey in the book, The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading (1915), speaks of the unique development of reading through history. His research revealed how in the study of the eyes of those reading, it is not a natural aspect of human development. Early humankind passed information through oral tradition and storytelling. Reading takes work and effort and had to be taught and developed. As reading became habit new thought patterns developed. He mentions “ Among early peoples the mystery of reading naturally , led to reverence for the printed word and book and for reading and the reader. Reading became a holy office, performed by individuals who possessed divine powers, and the book became a fetish.” (Huey. p. 2). Reading was for a selected few until the invention of the printing press. Huey describes a wonder filled description of reading, to him it is “a wonderful process by which our thoughts and thought-wanderings to the finest shades of detail, the play of our inmost feelings and desires and will, the subtle image of the innermost that we are, are reflected from us to another soul who reads us through our book. (p. 6). What a powerful picture of the importance of reading and books. The thought that comes to my mind is of students I have had who are reading books that had movies made from them. Most of the time the student would tell me the book was better as there were more details in the book. That is what Huey is getting at with the phrase, “… finest shades of detail….”.
It is the power of reading I find in Dr. Huey’s research on reading that makes me thankful that my mother when I was young had me be involved in the Summer reading programs at my hometown library in Barberton, Ohio. I am also thankful my third grade teacher, Verna Clifford, read to us regularly in class, which helped fan the flames of enjoying reading. Books have been companions and advisors in my life over the years. Through times of depression when I secluded myself in my apartment in Chicago, it was books that would impact my mind back to reality. It was through books such as the Bible, the works of C.S. Lewis, Dr. Victor Frankl, Dr. William Glasser and others that helped me. So I have many reasons to be thankful for books and reading.
I have also been thankful for those who promote reading and books. Recently the author, James Patterson has had an emphasis on saving books that I would encourage all readers to be a part of. Underneath the reflection I have a link to his salon.com column where he is interviewed on his call to arms to promote reading and books. I wish more authors would join him in this. He rightly points out that our culture by moving away from reading is dumbing down. I have had some students at the college who are honest with me on the topic of reading. They have shared that they see the rise in just watching videos and video gaming is making their minds lazy so they don’t want to do the hard work of reading college level material. What I like about the Patterson interview, and I do hope you will click on the link and take the few minutes to read it, as he is saying we can reverse the trend. He speaks as well how fewer people go to bookstores and how there are fewer bookstores in the country which I also believe effects the lower emphasis on reading in society.
With Christmas nearing I would encourage you to bypass doing your book buying on Amazon. How about going to a bookstore in your area? Go to a Barnes & Noble, or another bookstore of choice. Here is Texas they have Hastings and some towns still have independent bookstores. Some people like Half Price bookstores. Go in and touch the books and flip through the books. There is nothing more personal than a gift of a book that has been chosen particularly for that individual on your gift list. Then of course get a book for yourself.
The day after I thought of writing about being thankful for books and reading, I came across on the Barnes and Noble book blog a post about being thankful for books by Ginni Chen. I list the link under the reflection. Do take the time to read her blogpost as it is an enjoyable read that will make you think of why you are thankful for books. Take time this Thanksgiving to be thankful and to do some personal reading.
Reflection - Who influenced your reading desire or habits? What is your fondest memories of book reading? What can you do to encourage reading just as author James Patterson is trying to get more people involved in reading?
Patterson on saving books
15 Reasons to be Thankful for books Barnes and Noble book blog by Ginni Chen