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)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Building the Habit of Savoring

Another Christmas is here so time to slow down and savor the memories from the distant past and this past year. Writing Christmas cards to friends bring up memories of past interactions and activities with those who have been close over the years. Christmas school plays and holiday church services bring back memories of childhood to reminisce while sipping hot cinnamon apple cider. Christmas is a natural time to savor life as it is a holiday season that has so many memories attached to it. Since it is at the end of the year it allows as a good point to reflect over the events of the past year.

Living the more than ok life we need to savor life throughout the year not just at the end of the year. The benefits of savoring life each week is that we lower our stress levels as we learn to slow down and smell the roses in our daily life. Much of our stress and anxiety come from being on the go, go , go track of life and not noticing what is really going on in our lives. Our lack of in the present mindfulness makes our lives disjointed and disconnected which increases our stressed out feelings of being out of control.

Lisa Graham McMinn author of The Contented Soul: The Art of Savoring Life has this to say about savoring life: “We are surrounded by simple pleasures and the possibility of sipping and savoring our very earthy, very physical life. Contentment awaits us, inviting to savor each moment, and in doing so to honor the God who gave us life”. In her book she gives practical exercises to savor the world around us and to savor our relationship to God. Building up the habit of savoring helps us to see the importance of slowing our lives down, so we can enjoy life and living more.

With savoring, instead of scattering our thoughts continually we learn to take a deep breath and focus on the hummingbird at the feeder; the colored leaves on the tree in autumn; watching the variety of people walking through the mall, while we sit enjoying a cup of coffee. It is appreciating creation and the little joys of life which leads to being thankful in our spirits to the Creator God. Savoring is a habit that brings joy and relaxation into our lives.

Another benefit to savoring it yields the fruit of contentment in our lives which counters the constant urge for more and more stuff in our lives. Christmas has been turned into a consumer buy-a-thon instead of celebrating God’s loves and grace to mankind in the story of Jesus. We can live richer lives in savoring and appreciating what we have instead of a continual angst to desire more and more of the newest commodity to hit the market.

One passage from the writings of the Apostle Paul in Philippians relates to this, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…. For I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Be content and savor, soak in all the good in life. If our minds, our thinking, are focused on the good in life and all that is lovely around us we are savoring. We are taking the time to slow down and truly enjoy the life God wants us to enjoy.

I have mentioned slowing down a couple of times. There is a helpful website http://slowdownnow.org on the internet that is focused on encouraging people to slow down and shows the benefits of enjoying a slower life. As this year ends and you work on goals for the New Year make one of your list items for the New Year to take time throughout each week to savor the life around you.

Reflection
Spend 10 minutes sitting outside still in a chair. Sit upright and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you. Then open your eyes and stay seated and soak in through your eyes all the details of what you see. Write down your feelings of the experience.

Take a walk quietly through your neighborhood or a nature setting without an I-Pod in your ears. Savor the sights, smells and sounds around you during the walk. Write down the feelings of the experience.

Go to http://slowdownnow.org and jot down a couple of ideas you can incorporate in your life to help you live more slowly.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Exploring New Places

This is a continuation of last week’s story of our cruise experience. Aside from the delicious food, enjoyable activities aboard ship and the freedom to relax with a good book poolside; there are travel excursions offered at each Port of Call. These give you an opportunity to explore new areas and try out new activities.

Exploring helps us in breaking out of boring everyday sameness. The process aids in our knowledge of the world around us, increases our multicultural awareness, and increases our appreciation for life and history. Some of the activities offered on our cruise were snorkeling, scuba diving, and walking up a waterfall in Jamaica which connects with those who enjoy higher risk taking activities. I am a low risk taker so I usually am not found on those activities.

The excursions on cruises are extra expenses so you need to watch your budget. That is why with our group of four we chose to go on the Tulum Mayan ruins tour. Click here on Tulum Ruins to view more information about the ruins and photos


The Tulum ruins are set on a Cliffside with access to a beach below. The tour guide who was very knowledgeable on Mayan history shared how the Tulum site was an area for the higher aristocrats of the Mayan society and for religious purposes. From artifacts found buried the guide mentioned Tulum was a major trading center in its days.

We were lucky that our guide was not trying to be a Las Vegas comedian but instead filled us in with historical information about the Mayan culture and the ruins at Tulum. One sad item to learn was that at its height the Mayan culture had libraries with thousands of books. These were destroyed by early visiting priests who believed their culture to be evil. We were told of the mass of Mayan literature only three books survive today and they are in European University libraries. This story shows the importance of respecting other cultures. We can disagree but to destroy without fully understanding one another is a travesty of history.

The guide told us that it is still a mystery why a culture as advanced as the Mayans disappeared so quickly with no reason why. The archaeological excavations continue today as they had recently unburied another dwelling site. So maybe the mystery will be solved at sometime in the future.

Educational tours such as this one, is one of my favorite exploring activities. Looking at the layout of the small city of Tulum, I used my imagination and wondered what life was like in the 1200’s when Tulum was in its zenith period.

Of course you do not need to go on a cruise to explore. There are sites all over this country to explore and around the world. In your local area where you live there may be small museums and historical sites where you can visit and learn from.

There are many types of exploring activities you can partake in. I am emphasizing an example of historical site exploring as that is something my family and I enjoy. Here are a list of websites you can visit to peruse historical sites in the U.S.A. and around the world.

U.S. sites to see of historical importance:

http://www.historyplace.com/tourism/usa.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._National_Historic_Landmarks_by_state



World Historical locations:
http://www.worldhistoricalsites.com/

http://www.historicalsitesoftheworld.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Heritage_Site

Our journey on this earth is so brief and when you explore websites as those listed above you can see there is so much to do in life. There is no time to be bored with an ok life. We have opportunities in life to flourish and live more than ok in exploring the vast opportunities around the world.

Reflection:
Go back to the cruise websites from last week and explore some of the travel excursions offered on the cruise ships.
View a couple of the above websites on historical locations and write down 5 you would like to visit in your lifetime.
Take 15 minutes of quiet time to write about one of your favorite exploring times in your life journey.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Enjoy A Cruise For A More Than OK Life

I am writing this posting from a cruise ship vacation with my wife, daughter, and my third grade teacher. This is one vacation I never thought I would do. In the past I always thought of cruise ships as people stuffed into an overgrown tin can floating in the ocean with hungry sharks underneath waiting for a snack. The idea of being on one was as enjoyable as eating a plate of artichokes. And I hate artichokes! So how did I wind up on the Voyager of the Seas on a Royal Caribbean cruise??

This all started one Saturday in the Summer when I attended a creative journaling seminar at El Rocio, a local retreat center in Mission, Texas. The seminar was led by Dr. Marsha Nelson, a therapist who focuses on creative therapy techniques. She gave each of us at the training a pamphlet about a cruise group to the Caribbean she was planning in December. I dutifully took one and showed it to my wife when I went home. She excitedly said, “we need to go!”. Then my daughter overheard and was all excited ,”Yeah! We are going on a cruise!” I was thinking, “Oh, great! Floating in a tin can for a week! How do I get out of this!”.

I told them I would check to see if I could get off work. My perfect out! The cruise was during the end of the university semester so I probably would not receive time off. Well -- I am here so I did get the time off.
When we boarded the ship, my wife, daughter, my third grade teacher and I were amazed by the ship. The size was enormous and the d├ęcor was like a top scale hotel. We looked at the daily planner schedule and there were so many things to do, special classes on different topics from scrapbooking, to cooking, to better health classes. Each evening they have talented entertaining and music of all varieties throughout the day. The food is all deliciously prepared and you can eat round the clock if you wanted or would be able to. State of the art exercise facilities are available to work off the pounds from all the food. It was awesome to be working out on an elliptical machine staring out at the sea water with the sun reflecting its rays at sunrise.

All the activities and entertainment have made this an enjoyable time. Also the freedom where my daughter can go off do her thing, my wife and my third grade teacher can relax poolside, and I am free to work on my writing and reading. Of course being a bookhead I need my reading time. Yet the most enjoyable part of the cruise is the wonderful people on board. We came up from the Rio Grande Valley with the nicest group of folks that Dr. Marsha Nelson put together for the trip. Beyond our small group with all the friendliness between fellow cruisers you don’t feel like a stranger.

First of all I want to mention the workers on the ship. I can tell they are dedicated to great customer service. They go out of their way to serve and each person from those at the information desk to the dining helpers always have a smile on their face. Then the other cruisers on the ship are so friendly. You can strike up a conversation with about anyone. I began to wonder if they slip a happiness drug in to the water supply? How else could the emotional atmosphere be so congenial?

Thinking about it further, there are several more probable variables other than a happy drug. One thought that comes to mind is the superb respectful customer service along with their friendliness of the workers helps create a climate in which the friendly spirit spreads throughout the ship. Another is that the type of people who go on cruises are more open to meeting new people, so that aids in the people on the ship having a closer sense of fellowship.

Another reason for the relaxed atmosphere is there are so many things you can do and no pressure to do any particular activity. Family members can do different activities or do the same thing. You can eat when you want, sleep when you want. SO no one feels pressured. I have had several people tell me before taking the cruise that a cruise is one vacation where you go home relaxed and not tired. Many vacations I have been on you feel like you need a vacation from the vacation. This cruise is almost over and I still feel relaxed.

Vacations are an important part of living more than ok. We need time to break away from our work and the routines of life. Vacations are a way to learn new things about the world around us, other people and people groups. This experience of being on a cruise has opened my eyes to a new way to vacation. I would encourage anyone now to be open to having a cruise experience as one of their vacations. I know my family and I will be trying other cruises in the future.

Reflection:
Make a list of your top 5 vacation spots. Then go online and search for cruises that may go to one of those locations. Take some time to explore cruise websites to see what is all open to you in a cruise experience. Create a goal plan for doing a cruise vacation
.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Joy of Enjoying Music

This past weekend I was enjoying the PBS show, Woodsong’s Old Time Radio Show. I have always enjoyed folk and bluegrass music and this show and the website www.woodsongs.com specializes in promoting this music genre. The host was emphasizing the importance of music in our lives as a force for good. Music makes us happier. It brings joy in our daily experience which helps us have a more than ok life. Seek out music in your life to bring more joy into your life journey.

As I did a workshop on Test Anxiety on my campus the other day, I used music to show also the health benefits of music in relaxing and aiding in overcoming anxiety. Music can also act as a motivator to stimulate us to be active. In the workshop I played a song from a Keiko Matsui CD. Her style is contemporary smooth piano jazz. Her music can be very relaxing to listen to. Her music writing is varied and listening to her CD’s over and over I always pick up on new nuances I never heard before. She is one of the most creative pianists I have ever heard. Click on her name here, (Keiko Matsui), to listen to one of her songs.

Even though I played trumpet in High School I always was impressed and enjoyed the saxophone. It can really capture the emotion of the artist playing the saxophone. One of my favorite sax players is Tom Braxton of Texas. He is an amazing player. Click on the hyperlink of his name to listen to one of his videos. Watching and hearing him play you can tell he enjoys communicating joy in his songs. When I hear him in concert I can sense how easily he gets into the flow of his songs and works in tandem with his band. We have enjoyed hearing him at the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival over the past years. I also appreciate he has a deep Christian faith and is not afraid to be open about his beliefs. Part of the flow of his music is that he is worshipping while he is playing which adds to the deep emotion of his performances.

I always try to be open to new artists to keep an open expanding creative mind. Recently we as a family went to a concert locally by the world renown Ahn Trio. They are three sisters from Korea all trained at Julliard. I was a little skeptical at first, as I am not too big of a fan of modern classical music. I prefer the old classics. In their literature they mention that their music is all composed for them by modern composers. I am glad we went. They definitely brought joy into our evening. Their talent and skill on the piano, cello, and violin was breath taking. Click here on The Ahn Trio to hear a sample video of their music.

I encourage you to try to attend a concert of your favorite music artist or go to a concert of someone new to you. Nothing is better than live music with the sight and sounds. Of course you may say your budget just doesn’t allow for that. Then do what my wife and I do sometimes. Put one of your favorite CD’s in the stereo and then sit back in a soft recliner with your eyes closed and imagine you are listening in a concert hall.

Also for enjoying live music on a budget watch for local university student programs that are often free or a low cost. We recently enjoyed a wonderful classical guitar concert of high school guitar ensembles and the University’s guitar ensembles for only $7.00 knowing that the funds were going for music scholarships. Some towns and cities during the Summers offer free music concerts. The free music festivals are one aspect of Chicago we miss.

Try to incorporate more music into your life and see how more joyful your journey is. Building music in your life will increase your own personal creativity levels as well. Think over who are your favorite musicians. Presently my top 5 are:
1. Phil Keaggy
2. Steven Curtis Chapman
3. Tom Braxton
4. Keiko Matsui
5. Michael Card

Reflection:
Think over what does music mean to you? Jot down your top 5 music artists. Take some time out of your busy life to sit in a comfortable chair and listen through one of your favorite CD’s.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving and Happiness

Yesterday was my favorite Holiday, Thanksgiving. For many it is the forgotten holiday as stores and restaurants usually go from Halloween decorations right into Christmas decorations. Most likely in our commercial driven country it is because they make more money off those holidays. For many the meaning of Thanksgiving is lost in all the food and football. Thankfully we as a family enjoyed a day enjoying the meal with dear friends, so it was a relaxing day of enjoying the meal we cooked and sharing conversation.

I always try to find some time during the day to reflect over things I am thankful for: My God and Faith, My Wife and Family, a job I enjoy helping college students, friends, my abilities in counseling, writing, and music, having a love of learning to keep my mind growing, Thankful for being able to live a more than OK life. Thankful for the flowers outside of my window as I write this blog. I am thankful to live in an era of the internet where I can share my ideas. I am thankful for anyone who takes the time to read what I write.

If we think honestly each one of us, even with all the troubles that come our way have much to be thankful for. I believe it is important to keep Thanksgiving day as a Holiday as it is a reminder to be alive is to be thankful. We need to rise above the humdrum of live and the troubles an notice there are good things active in our lives. The day should remind us the being thankful isn’t just for that day but for every day of our lives.

Here is a Psalm of Thanksgiving from the Bible to reflect over. It was used as a musical song of thanksgiving.

Psalm 92 (King James Version) 1IT IS A GOOD THING TO GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD, AND TO SING PRAISES UNTO THY NAME, O MOST HIGH:
2To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,
3Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
4For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
5O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.
6A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.
7When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
8But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.
9For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
10But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
11Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.
12The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
15To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

The Psalmist reveals in verse 4 that being thankful produces gladness and happiness in our spirit. That is a positive result of being thankful. So if you want more happiness in your life cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.

As a Christian my thankfulness list placed God and my faith first. For each of us depending on our belief system the thankful list varies. For me in my experience the Most High God of my Faith has continually provided love and faithfulness to me. I have seen Him work in the past so I know I can trust for God’s further work in my future. In verses 12-14 the King James version uses the word “flourishing” three times. Those who are thankful in union with God will have flourishing lives. That doesn’t mean riches necessarily but rather a richness and positive growth in our inner being that provides richness in enjoying and experience what I call the More Than OK life.

Each day take a few minutes to be thankful and see how it improves your daily journey in living a More Than OK Life!

Reflection:
What does Thanksgiving Day mean to you? Write down a list of things you are thankful for in your life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Life-long Learning to Overcome Career Mediocrity

Sometimes boredom affects our work lives as we settle into the ok-ness of mediocrity in our day to day work life. We go through the motions of the 9-5 longing for the end of the day. Each day becomes longer and longer. Even if we are working in more than a job for ourselves -- a career or calling. It can lose its luster from the initial passion we had at the first day of our dream job. We become stuck in the same patterns and do not grow in knowledge about our career areas so this important part of our life becomes stagnant.

As time marches on changes occur for every one’s career. New ideas, new procedures, and new people come along into our daily work. We also change as well from being thankful for the dream job and eager to do our best at the beginning of our job. With lack of growth and allowing routine to take over how we view our work turns us into cynical, griping, and feeling stuck on a never ending hamster wheel. I want to touch on a couple ways to improve our work life through life long learning. To break out of boring ok-ness in our career and move us into growing and increasing in work satisfaction.

I recently came back from a the Texas Counseling Association conference in Austin, TX. This is one way to reignite your energy in your work. At conferences you can attend training sessions that can help is learning about new changes occurring in your career area. Some sessions help in brushing up in old skill areas and others focus on new creative ideas. Also conferences will have a guest Keynote speaker to energize the attendees and help them breathe new life into their work.

This was very true of our first day main speaker, Bill O’Hanlon, a famous psychotherapist in the Solution Focused school of thought. His talk to us was to help us refocus our passion in the field of Counseling. By stories and examples he helped to reignite my thinking on counseling as well as giving new ideas to try out. I had come into Austin to the conference worn down from a hectic work setting. His session started to perk me up as I was tracking through each of his four main points. This is an example of how Conference times can help you feel pumped up and refreshed to tackle your work setting with new ideas to improve and conquer workplace boredom.

Another aspect of the conference setting is meeting other people in the same career field. In the conference setting you can have coffee or lunch with different people in your career field . Through these interactions you can obtain new ideas of what others are doing. Or commiserate with others in knowing you all face the same struggles. Sometimes a venting session away from the work environment can be of help.

Outside of conferences another helpful way to keep the mind actively improving in your career area is webinars. These are workshops online where you can gain information on a wide variety of topics. Many online educational companies have webinars for Continuing Education Credits for certifications and personal growth. Just the other day I enjoyed a webinar sponsored by an organization I belong to – The National Career Development Association. It was a session on Career Counseling Tips by Dr. John Krumboltz of Stanford University. He is one of the great minds in Psychology. I have mentioned his book on Happenstance, Luck Is No Accident, in other articles on this blog site. The webinar brightened a difficult day and gave me some new ideas to share with my co-worker. So do not ignore webinars as part of your life long learning.

One other area to consider that I cannot pass up since I am a certified Bookhead, is keep up in reading about your career area. As I stated at the beginning, I mentioned career information is always changing. So it is important to keep up with journals and books that relate to your career field. This material can stimulate your mind and help in your work creativity. The increased knowledge as well improves your ability to be in a state of flow in the work you do. This then provides more confidence and allows you to enjoy your work more than just going through the motions on the job.

These are just a few ideas to help in improving your work life through lifelong learning. One other item about conferences-- usually they are held in the larger cities in the U.S. So this gives you an opportunity to do some sight seeing on the side. That is a reason I usually include my wife and daughter on conference trips so we can turn it into a mini family vacation.

Reflection:
Think over your career field. Search on the internet and look for associations or organizations you can join to enliven your career. Search for any magazines or new books at the library that relate to your career area as well. Answer the question How can I improve myself to be a lifelong learner?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reach For Something More

Is it alright to want more than just existing in life? People become trapped in mediocrity living the sameness of a Ground Hog Movie day life. Doing the same thing over and over again. Waking up, going to work and watching the same dull tv shows or lame internet videos. Do we dare to try for something more?

The fear of the scariness in trying something new keeps us from stepping out into a new direction. We become out of touch with our dreams and passions. We can even become so downcast to think, “Maybe I don’t deserve better.” The issue is we deserve the best life possible. There are many things we can do to enrich and grow our lives and new possibilities for our futures.

This brings me to a song I heard that has a powerful message about being open to our dreams and to changes in our lives. That it is good at times to try to reach for more in our lives. It is ok to ask for help in improving our lives. The song is Maybe by The Sick Puppies. I know, I had the same reaction to the name. Who would call themselves The Sick Puppies? But be open to the message in their song. As usual you can click on the title to activate a video and hear the song as you reflect over the meaning of the lyrics. The video I chose was done by a young fan of the group.

Maybe -- Sick Puppies
Maybe I'm a dreamer Maybe I'm misunderstood Maybe you're not seeing the side of me you should Maybe I'm crazy (Maybe I'm crazy), Maybe I'm the only one
(Maybe I'm the only one), Maybe I'm just out of touch, Maybe I've just had enough

Maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind, I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try, So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more, To wanna live a better life, What am I waiting for?
'Cause nothing stays the same, Maybe it's time to change

Maybe it's hopeless, (Maybe it's hopeless), Maybe I should just give up
(Maybe I should just give up), What if I can't trust myself?, What if I just need some help?

Maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind, I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try, So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more, To wanna live a better life
What am I waiting for?, 'Cause nothing stays the same, Maybe it's time to change

And maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind
I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try

And maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind, I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try, So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more, To wanna live a better life
What am I waiting for?, 'Cause nothing stays the same
Maybe it's time to change, 'Cause nothing stays the same, Maybe it's time to change.

Thinking over what is being said in the song, we do not have to resign ourselves to a hopeless life. We can rise above the fear and aim for a better life. We need to make a choice to step out alone or by asking for help. We need to be able to trust that God wants the best for us. Step out with the dreams we have been given inside to go for new directions in our life pathway. We need to trust ourselves as we take that first step towards change.

I thought the young person who did the video spoke creative volumes about being brave enough to make a change for the better. Also she took the step for asking for help. In going for your dreams are you stopping yourself because of fear. Maybe seek help. Is there a close friend or someone you respect you can talk about the issue that is facing you? Or as a Counselor I would highly recommend you find a Licensed Professional Counselor in your area to help you through the transition period of change. The American Counseling Association can help you with this. They have a directory of Professional Counselors on their website.

Jesus often challenged people to make changes and not look back, as He said in Luke 9:2, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." The song says, “And maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind”. We don’t always have to forget the past. But if it is something negative that you are holding on to and stopping you from a better life it is best to let it go. Then you are free to move on to that better life. Take some time to think over the reflection questions and move into some changes that will give you a better life!

Reflection
1. Have you ever felt this way in your life that the song is speaking of?
2. Why do people sometimes feel it is wrong to reach for something more than the routine of our lives?
3. What stops us from reaching for help to make the change?
4. What is one thing you could step out into and move towards to have a better life?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Celebrating Your Career Dreams

Our work life takes up a large portion of our time. It has been stated we work 80,000-100,000 in our lifetime. I always tell students how do they wish to spend that kind of time? No matter what kind of work we are doing, to live life more than ok we need to make our work life as positive we can. That is too much time to go through despairing or gritting our teeth in anger.

One creative idea about how we canview our work in a positive light, can be found each November with National Career Development Month. Each November the National Career Development Association sponsors a career Poetry & Poster Contest. The contest is an opportunity for Counselors to encourage creativity and inspire career development with a positive tone through mediums of Poetry and Artistic Posters. Age ranges are from Kindergarten to Older Adult. There are three categories:

• Poetry of which can be in any acceptable Poetic form; (e.g. cinquain, free verse, diamante, haiku, limerick, metered, rhyming, blank verse).
• Poster Traditional (C1 Category) using any of the traditional drawing styles --pencil, poster paints, magic marker, acrylics, or oil.
• Poster Mixed Media (C2 Category) utilizing photos, clipart, graphic art software, collage, or mixed media.

The theme this year is “Celebrating My Career Dreams”. I think it is important that National Career month is in November the same month we celebrate Thanksgiving. Especially at this time as the economy is difficult no matter what our work is, whether it is perceived as a job or a calling we should be thankful and celebrate that we have work. Many of those enduring unemployment would like to be in our shoes with steady employment. We should be thankful for the work we have. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t vent about having bad days at work. Those bad days will come and go and make sure you have a shoulder to lean on furing those times at work.

Here is the Link to the NCDA page about the contest and other resources for National Career Development Month: http://associationdatabase.com/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/ncdmonthHere is also a link to last year’s winners so you can view some of the artwork and poetry for inspiration:
http://associationdatabase.com/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/28941/_PARENT/layout_details/falseIf you are a teacher you may want to speak with your school Counselors about being involved with the contest. If you are an older adult and would like to try out a poster or a poem about your career dreams you can contact me at livingmorethanok@gmail.com as I am the National Contest Chairperson. I can find the state coordinator for you. Even if you don’t want to try out for the contest take some free time and draw out a picture of celebrating the work you do. Think about the lives you touch in the work you do. Also think of new dreams in your career journey.

Reflection:
Write down 5 things you are thankful for about your work.
Take some quiet time to draw out a picture about celebrating your work and career or write out a poem. Think about entering the contest. Who knows you may be a state winner or national winner.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Enjoying The Sun After A Rainy Day

Each of us have rainy days of difficulties that come into our lives from time to time. These are unplanned happenstance events that bring trouble to varying degrees. Sometimes the rain feels like a storm pounding you and knocking you around. These events may be a car accident, or an illnesses that hits you out of the blue. Really bad events may seem like a hurricane. The hurricane events may be a sudden death of a loved one, sudden loss of a job, or finding out of an infidelity in a relationship. Other rainy day events may be a dreary cold drizzle which are just the dull boring drudgeries of life that drag you down to that just getting by, just ok feeling.

Just like with the natural weather we can count on rainy days occurring. Life problems come with much less predictability than the rain shower that are predicted in the weather reports. During the rainy days it is hard to process what can be learned through the troubles that come to us. We are usually stuck in Why me mode. As with the real weather rainy days we know the sun will come out eventually. But during an extended time of personal troubles that feel like a stretch of rainy days, we often feel like the sun will never come again. Yet it does the sun will come back into our life.

Christ in His teachings recorded in Mathew 5:45 speaks to this issue, “…For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.” The “He” in this verse is speaking of God. That all people whoever they are experience sunny days of good times and problems and troubles on the rainy days. Of course we desire to enjoy more good days than bad days. The reality of life is that it comes with good and bad.

Recently I saw on PBS a Jimmy Cliff concert of him at Austin City Limits. At the end of the concert he did his popular song, “I Can See Clearly Now”. It made me think of rainy times in my life and yes the Sun does come back. Here are the lyrics of the song.

Click on the song title to view a video of Jimmy Cliff singing the song and take a few minutes to reflect on the song lyrics.

I Can See Clearly Now

I can see clearly now the rain is gone I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshinin' day
It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Oh yes, I can make it now the pain is gone All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I've been praying for It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshinin' day

Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies Look straight ahead, there's nothing but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone I can see all obstacles in my way
Here's the rainbow I've been praying for It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshinin' day
It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny dayReal, real, real, real bright, bright sunshiny day
Yeah, hey, it's gonna be a bright, bright sunshinin' day

I live in South Texas where we have a lot of sun compared to when I was living in Chicago. Sometimes we have so much sun people long for rain. Though down here after the rain of a hurricane or a long stretch of cloudy rainy days during Winter's rainy season it feels so great to see the sun again. It is like the sun is appreciated more after a rainy day. How I remember the cold dreary Winters in Chicago wishing for the sun. Peoples spirits always lightened when the sun would break up the dreariness of Winter.

The same is true of the problems that feel like rainy days. Once the sunshine of days finally going right, or solutions to problems occur, or happenstance surreptitiously brings good our way we feel so much better than ok. As the song sings “we can see clearly now”. After the rain we find new directions in our life the sky of our life journey is more of a bright blue. We can handle the obstacles of life with more confidence. We can refocus on the true North of our purpose God has for us in our journey.

Next time the rains come. Remember that your not alone. We all experience the rain. God is watching over us in the rain. Then you can be confident the rainbow and the sun will return.

Reflection:
Write about what a sunny day is like for you. Think back to a rainy period in your life. Looking back what did you learn from the experience? Did it help you appreciate your Sunny Days more?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get High On Life With Your Natural High

Living on the Border I hear often the news on the drug cartel wars in Mexico. I believe the number of dead in Mexico is now up to 26,000. I have stated before and still believe so, that the drug users in America and those who want drugs legalized have blood on their hands. Drugs are not essential for life and happiness. They provide a short lived false happiness with long-term destruction for the body and mind. Drugs are not the way to have a More Than OK life which I try to promote. Yet the drug users are fueling the violence in Mexico over drugs.

I have seen too many real life stories of the destruction in personal lives and families due to drug use. Most people can probably recall a friend or family member whose life has been destroyed by drug and alcohol use. I still remember a student talking about his problem with Marijuana to me saying, “they say grass is not addictive but it is.” That is the big myth many try to have society swallow. Marijuana is safe and a good drug they say. The reality is Marijuana is destructive. It stunts mental capabilities and destroys self motivation to improve to have a more than ok life. The student had started smoking grass when he was young and now it was interfering with the education he wanted to obtain.

With the lure of the high feeling, people are seeking in going for drugs, the “just say no to drugs” does not seem to be the best way to stop drugs. For strong critical thinkers who weigh out the pros and cons of things in their life just say no comes across as the clear smart way to go. But positive alternatives need to be brought up for people to do to take the place of the don’t do “just say no” slogan.

That is why I would like to re-mention a website I have mentioned in the past and encourage you to check it out. It is www.naturalhigh.org At this website they are trying to show alternative positive and healthy ways to go for a natural high instead of a drug induced high. Their emphasis is to young people to show them non boring ways to enjoy life with out drugs. I like that they bring up the subject of boredom; as in boredom research, life boredom is one reason young people try drugs to give their body a sensation that they think is exciting. The natural high website provides testimonies that young people can relate to in encouraging them to go for passions in their life with activities instead of sitting around stoned on drugs.

Here is a sample of a Natural High video of a young musician, Cassadee Pope, Lead Singer of Hey Monday. Her passion, her natural high, is singing and making music. Check out this video of her thoughts on her passion and being drug free-- http://www.naturalhigh.tv/?tr=y&auid=6781852 I appreciate how she brings out that real fun is being in control of that fun not being zoned out on drugs and not knowing what you are doing. She knows with drugs the quality of her performance and quality of her music would go down. Her comment on fun is important as that is the big lie of the drug crowd of Hollywood and popular rock/pop musicians. They push the lie that the drug life is the party fun life. In reality it is whitewashed pain, depression and death.

I remember seeing classmates high back in high school. They had bloodshot eyes, blank expressions, and often talked nonsense. I always thought observing them how is that fun?? How is that really living?? Especially when you consider the number of tragic young deaths due to alcohol and drugs involved in fatal driving accidents; many who believe the lie wind up dead. Positive examples and stories such as Cassadee’s should be playing in the main stream press so young people know how to really enjoy life and follow their passions. I question why our media does not promote stories like the ones on the natural high website. They instead follow the stories of pop stars who promote drugs and sexuality. If positive values and natural highs were promoted to the youth and followed by adults; if people would rise up against the lies that promote alcohol and drugs help people to really live life to the fullest, we could stop the drug trade in its tracks.

Teachers and Counselors in schools need to promote this naturalhigh.org website to their students and parents. Of course natural highs are not only for young people. Everyone should be searching out for ways to build natural highs into their lives. The Natural High website provides ideas and the continuing journey of this blog relates to that issue as well. Living more than OK living is about having those natural highs in our lives to truly enjoy life as God would have us live abundantly. Being a bookhead reading is definitely a high time for me as it expands the mind and fiction taps into the creative side of the mind. Music of all types also is a high inducer for me.

The key is to find the natural highs that work to make life more meaningful for you. As mentioned in the past explore new hobbies, prayer, meditation, build new friendships, seek ways to volunteer your time to a cause. These are the things that create flow in your life. These flow times create a sense of timelessness and enjoyment that are better than the drug induced highs. Build up the natural high times in your life and spread the news of going for natural highs. Instead of just saying no to drugs we need to point people to saying yes to natural highs.

Reflection:
Go to the above listed natural high website. Spend some time looking it over. Write down two items that impressed you from the website. Take some time and write down your top 5 natural highs, those things that create a sense of flow and peaceful enjoyment in your life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sensible Risk Taking Daring to Move

Continuing from last week, when we do not step out in taking risks on new ideas or directions for our life we become stuck where we are. Stuck in dead end jobs, stuck in negative thinking of “I can’t do this or that”. The “stuckness” is often based on fear of what may happen. An illogical notion of only negatives can happen if we step out and try a new direction or way of thinking.

Of course using last week’s risk questions of Dr. Ben Carson, it is right to take time to think of what may go wrong if you take a risk but other options should be looked at as well. The positive side of the risk needs to be considered. Too often new possibilities pass us by as we are stuck to the fear of taking the risk. We lose out of what great things could be ahead for us as we don’t step out into the risk taking zone of trying for that new career, new learning experience, new relationship, or new hobby.

As I was pondering over this issue and considered the many times I possibly lost out because I did not take the risk to try something new, a song from the band, Switchfoot came to mind. The song is Dare You To Move. Here are the lyrics of the song. Click on the title to play the video and think over what the song is saying in the context of the topic of Risk Taking:

"Dare You To Move" by Switchfoot

Welcome to the planet, Welcome to existence, Everyone's here
Everyone's here, Everybody's watching you now, Everybody waits for you now
What happens next, What happens next

[Chorus]
I dare you to move, I dare you to move, I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move, I dare you to move, Like today never happened
Today never happened before

Welcome to the fallout, Welcome to resistance, The tension is here
Tension is here, Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

[Chorus]

Maybe redemption has stories to tell, Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?, Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?, Salvation is here

I dare you to move, I dare you to move, I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move, I dare you to move, Like today never happened
Today never happened, Today never happened, Today never happened before.

Some of the thoughts that come to my mind are first of all I am glad on a personal growth risk issue not everyone is watching me as I make my decision. On the other hand, some of our decisions we face we need to realize people are watching. What can others learn based on how we respond to risks? I see the word tension in the song lyrics and when deciding on new options and directions there is a tension in our mind and spirit. Too often it is easier to stay comfortably stuck where we are or in our present thinking patterns. Then you don’t have to deal with the tension of -–What will others think of me? Instead of negativity couldn’t it be possible when great things occur for you when you step out into a sensible risk, that people will think good of you?

What I like most of the song is the phrase, “Dare you to move”. We need to dare ourselves to break away from the fear. If we have honestly worked through the Dr. Carson questions I posted past week and see the risk is a positive one; we need to dare ourselves to make the move.

This past weekend my wife and I watched the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”. It is one of her favorite movies. I definitely recommend watching it. Each time we watch it new points of view come out. It is a great story, has a great emphasis on books and reading, great acting, and many other great points to it. But in the movie at one point when the character Kathleen Kelly makes the decision to close her story; she is told, ”you’ve made the brave decision. You’re marching into the unknown!”. How true of sensible risk taking. Even after you have considered your options and know deep down that the risk way is the best way fear is still there. So at that point we need to ‘March Into The Unknown” and have faith in God who holds the unknowns in His hands. This example in the movie has much to speak to those today who are forced career shifters due to job lose and job cutbacks. But the march into the unknown relates well to any sensible risk taking venture and daring ourselves to move.

Reflection:
Write down some of your thoughts about the Dare You To Move lyrics in relation to the topic of taking sensible risks. Do you have an area of your life where you feel stuck? Write down 3 Dares to yourself to Dare you to Move in new ideas and directions for yourself and your future.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Risk Taking for a More Than OK Life

I was listening to a message by a minister the other day and he was exhorting people that God made us to be more proactive than reactive in our living. That we need to step out into the battle of life with more courage. His thoughts made me think of the need for taking risks at times in our lives.

Now me and risk taking do not get along too well. On Holland personality assessments I usually come up as a low Enterpriser as I like to play it safe and stay away from stepping out into the risk taking zone. Some time ago I read the book, Take The Risk by Dr. Ben Carson with Gregg Lewis. In the beginning part of the book he reminds us that every day is filled with risks. That made me feel better. Maybe I am better at risk taking than I thought! Think of just driving in a car. When I see all the crazy antics that occur on the roadways I am amazed there are not more accidents than what there really are. Just getting behind a wheel of a car is a risk. We were at a hotel this weekend that offered free breakfast. As I made the waffle I noticed a sign warning that the waffle grid was hot. Duh! How else does the waffle become hot and crispy! The waffle sign is letting one know of the risk of getting burnt taking out the waffle, (of course so the hotel does not get sued – remember the McDonald’s coffee case!).

Back to the Take the Risk book. Dr. Carson shares stories from his life and the lives of his patients and shows how risks were taken so his patients could have a better life. I have read a couple of reviews on the book on Amazon who felt the myriad of risk stories were overkill to fill up pages. I disagree. He is showing that risk taking occurs in numerous area of our lives and we can follow the same plan in each situation to evaluate whether to take the risk.

Not every risk is the best thing to do. I remember hearing Dr. Krumboltz on the issue of risk taking and creating our own luck. He mentioned if you take the risk of parachute jumping you better be wearing a parachute. We need to think through the risks we take and not be foolish. Many senseless risks and ensuing injuries are caused by people not thinking through what they are doing. Which touches on the topic of critical thinking, I have discussed before. Think before taking the risk.
Dr. Carson presents a series of questions which I believe helps encapsulate good critical thinking before deciding on which way to go with a risk. I definitely suggest you read his book but here are his key questions you can ask yourself when faced with an important risk venture in your life. I recommend taking a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper and divide it into four quadrants. At the top write what is the risk you are deciding upon? Then write these four questions in each quadrant:

1. What is the worst that could happen if you do the risk?
2. What is the best thing if you do the risk?
3. What is the worst thing that could happen if you don’t do the risk?
4. What is the best thing that could happen if you don’t do the risk?

Next go question by question and brainstorm ideas in the quadrant that relates a way to view the risk you are facing a decision on. As in brainstorming, just come up with ideas-- they can even be zany. This is not the time to make judgments. Write down the possible consequences you may face.

After you have your brainstorming done; now put your critical thinking cap on and rate the ideas in each of the quadrants as to how important they are to your life. Be even creative by writing a little story down of what you think your life would be like in each of the four quadrants. This may help visual the better route to take. Do I take the risk or take the risk of not taking the risk, as even that is a risk. The key is you can have more peace about the risk situation if you have worked it through as to what is best for you.

Of course, if you are a person of faith then a necessary element is praying over this whole risk taking exercise as well. That will give you extra assurance that He is guiding your thoughts as you reflect over the options.
To risk or not to risk? That is the question. I believe these four questions from Dr. Carson can be a positive help in our being more proactive in living a more than ok life with the big risks that come our way.

Reflection:
Think over a risk that you are facing possibly a job change, a move, a plan to go on for further education. Take a sheet of paper and work that risk situation through the four questions and see what you come up with? Write down what you felt about the activity.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Important Reasons for Reading

Recently I picked up a copy of U.S. News & World Report 2011 Edition of Best Colleges. I like to have an updated copy in the office for students at the university I work at who are thinking of transferring elsewhere. Inside the edition I read “A Crash Course in College Preparedness” by Carol Frey. The article mentioned that many students coming to Universities are not prepared with adequate math and reading skills. She mentions a survey of college professors and employers that showed a major concern that many students are unable to read and comprehend difficult materials. Students don’t understand that reading will continue once they go into the workforce.

Young people and those of us not so young need to keep reading to build up our mental comprehension skills. One way to build up strong critical thinking skills of active thinking is through reading through books not just short columns on the internet. The discipline of reading is one of the biggest work tasks on the University campus. Recently I was doing a campus outreach and I asked a young student how her classes were going. She said there was too much reading in her History class..I hear so many complaints about reading from students and it goes back to that they did not have to read in High School. They just had to study a test cheat sheet the teacher created for them and the focus is the test not comprehending the big ideas in their textbooks.

This article spoke about the lack of students understanding the basics of reading, writing and math made me reflect back to the book I discussed last week, The Dumbest Generation. They dn’t have to be if the discipline of reading would be emphasized and reading would be seen as something positive and enjoyable. One person in the article recommended students should read 40 books in a year to help prepare for college level reading. That would mean much less time on Facebook and Youtube.
IT was mentioned as well students should check out must read lists to prepare as well. Here a sampling of some websites that go over important lists of books to help students prepare for college and they are good for those of us who are looking to stretch our minds as well.
http://pla.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/outstandingbooks/outstandingbooks.cfm This list is from the young adult library services association listing books by area of study.

http://universitiesandcolleges.org/walden-online/ This website shows 100 of the top classic books over time that well read people should read.
http://www.collegeboard.com/student/plan/boost-your-skills/23628.html This is a list of 101 recommended books from the College Board organization to help prepare a student’s mind and reading skills for college.

Many of the books on the lists are the Classics of literature. These books are considered classics as they have lasted the test of time. A book I have mentioned before, More Than Words looks at some of the classic authors such as Ray Bradbury, J. R. R. Tolkien, Has Christian Anderson and others through the eyes of Christian authors of today, Calvin Miller, Luci Shaw, Phillip Yancy, and Luci Shaw. These modern authors show how reading the classics shaped their lives and their own writing.

In the book I especially liked Calvin Miller’s Essay on Ray Bradbury. He shared four ways reading was important to him. Most importantly to Miller reading allows him to Celebrate Art. He is a writer and an artist so reading is a help in expanding his creativity and his artistic level. Reading helps improve the imagination as the picture is not spoon-fed like in our modern video age. This is possibly why creativity is very lacking in the young who are locked into tv watching. With reading of fiction the pictures in the mind are challenged to grow and expand.

He mentions his second reason for reading is to Broaden the Understanding. That is probably number one for me. Increasing my critical thinking and broadening my thoughts on issues and knowledge is very important to me. Reading is like exercise for the brain. The exercise adage of “use it or lose it” is true with reading. If we are not actively building our thought life and mental powers through reading we will lose out by having less effective thinking powers.
His third reason for reading is to Escape the Heaviness of the Moment. Escapist literature of the Fantasy of C. S. Lewis comes to mind. There is so much pressure and tension in life. A good book can lighten the day while still building up the thought processes. We should not escape all the time from life but reading fiction can be a helpful stress releaser in letting the mind go in imagining the story the author is telling.

Miller’s fourth reason to read is to Believe in a Better World – Goodness and Hope. Self improvement books help us to improve our lot in life and gain a better focus on our purpose on life. Through reading we improve our spiritual and mental life providing ideas on improving our lives to live more than OK to live the flourishing lives we were created to live.

Young people need to be encouraged to find their reasons for reading. Also the best way to start reading is to read things each person enjoys. But be open to new things as well. A student noticed I do not have many fiction books in my office library. That is one area of reading I need to add to my reading as over the years I have read mostly non-fiction. I believe if I read more fiction that will improve my creative side.

Reflection:
What is your most important reasons for reading? What kind of impact on your life have you felt from the last book you read?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Battle to Create Bookheads

Being a bookhead I enjoy promoting reading to students and others I meet. I understand in today’s world there are many things that pull people’s time from reading. Sometimes it seems like a battle to convince students they need to make reading a priority. One recent book I finished gave me a disconcerting feeling about the state to reading in society. As I read the book by author Mark Bauerlein, a Professor of English at Emory University, I knew he is so right, even though I wish he wasn’t.

The book is The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. The author presents the case of how the decline in reading is detrimental to our youth and maybe the future of our country. Many studies are presented that reveal the decline of reading in all age groups in America with a special focus on the youth population. The hardest part for me was the statements listed by educators saying it is ok that the youth are not enjoying reading but rather mindlessly texting, playing videos, and absorbed in Facebook. He mentions at one of his presentations on his research on Reading at Risk, a Professor of Renaissance Literature spoke out, “I don’t care if everybody stops reading Literature. Yeah, it’s my bread and butter, but cultures change. People do different things.” (page 60). How can an educated person say such a thing??! Reading is so important in developing the mind and thinking skills. A Literature Professor should be helping encourage students to read instead of encouraging mindless activities that take the place of reading.

I highly recommend the book even though I mentioned it gave me an uneasy feeling. It is sad to know the importance of reading in the development of the mind and read of the research that shows young people spend so little time reading and often say it is boring. Yes it can seem boring when compared to the sights and sounds of YouTube videos and video games. If they could only see how reading fiction stories can tap into the creative part of the mind as you imagine the scenes being described on the pages.

I am not the type to say people should stay away for the internet or computer games. There are many fine features to these tools for self improvement of the mind. But reading should be held up as an enjoyable and important way to grow our minds.

In reading The Dumbest Generation I wish the author would have spent more time in providing ideas to counter this trend. The text can come across as too cynical but others would say he is just realistic. My understanding of the book is he is clearly trying to present the case of what the decline of reading is doing to lower test scores, quality of life in the country and eventually the decline of our civilization. So the author is probably leaving it up to Bookheads to brainstorm ideas to promote the importance of reading.

During my near ten years of working with University students I have seen what Professor Bauerlein in saying. It is a rarity to see students reading on campus or before class. When I was in college I would use my spare time to read. In my Divinity School for my first Masters one Professor encouraged us to read a non-class book once a month. Or course I was and am a bookhead so it would be more natural for me to be reading. Also back then you did not have a laptop always so as to surf mindless information on the internet. I say mindless not to say all the internet is mindless there are educational elements to websites. But for example go to the Youtube homepage. Are there usually any videos that promote culture and higher values? No they are usually mind numbing wastes of time. As today in the news they mentioned a video going “Viral “ of a newswoman being hit in the head by a soccer ball. That is uplifting? Positive? A good use of computer viewing time? No! Case closed!

One positive change idea he brings up in found in this passage of the book, “Young people need mentors not to go with the youth flow, but to stand staunchly against it, to represent something smarter and finer than the cacophony of social life. They don’t need more pop culture and youth perspectives in the classroom. They get enough of those on their own. Young Americans need someone somewhere in their lives to reveal to them bigger and better stories than the sagas of summer parties and dormitory diversions and Facebook sites.” (page 199) We need to have those of us who enjoy reading and know of its importance to better our lives to promote the cause. I would love to see Professor Bauerlein write another book Changing the Dumbest Generation to the Best Generation using practical ideas on how we can stem the tide in reading.

As I stated I have seen what the Professor is speaking of in my interaction with students as a career counselor and teacher of a freshman success class. Usually the students I see that are excelling are the few that I will see with a fiction book or they mention they enjoy reading , I know this is just anecdotal evidence from my observations. Matter of fact ,that would be a useful research project. Do research on students on both extremes of the academic spectrum; those who excel in their classes and those who do poorly in college, and compare their reading habits. I would assume those who do well would have higher scoring of interest in reading.

I am thankful as I stated before my mother saw the importance of reading in having me be involved with reading clubs at our city library when I was in elementary school. That helped shape me as a bookhead early on.

Here are a few websites that help promote reading:

www.adlit.org/article/19793

www.wnba-books.org/

charityguide.org/volunteer/fifteen/reading-books.htm
Reflection:
Do you take time in your schedule for reading? Reflect over why reading is important to you? Think over how you can promote reading to those around you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Giving As Part of the Living More Than OK Lifestyle

Does the person who dies with the most money in the bank and the most land have the most flourishing More Than OK life? A dear friend of mine in Arizona sent this following web link about the Harmonica man. It is from Youtube and it shows a CBS news story of the life of Andy Mackie. He is a retired gentleman who lives a simple life in his camper trailer in Washington State.

He had numerous heart attacks and one day decided to stop his 15 medicines a day as he was tired of the side effects. He had a love of music, especially the Harmonica, so decided to use his medicine money to buy 300 harmonicas and gave them to children and gave them lessons on how to play. He must of thought that without his medicine he would die in a month. As he continued to live another month, he bought 300 more harmonicas and doing the same thing gave them to children with free music lessons.
Fast forward 11 years he has given out approximately 16,000 harmonicas. Since he lives simply, he even uses most of his Social Security funds to make a simple string instrument called a strum stick and has given them out to children as well. The report states with children in whom he saw deeper music talent he would even buy other instruments such as mandolins and guitars for them and teach them as well. Sort of like the movie and book Pay It Forward, other people became involved by sending donations to Andy. He was helped in forming a music foundation. His music foundation website www.andymackiemusic.org helps with giving instruments and lessons to needy children interested in music.

Here is the Youtube link to the news story:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSpoMWQRCiU
Give a listen to the story as it is inspirational to see the fruit of his giving spirit. I like the principle he tells the young people that “music is a gift you give away”. So he is passing his giving attitude away to the students. He also shares how the joy he receives from giving is probably why he has survived so many years after stopping his medicine. This mission of giving music away has been a foundational purpose and passion in his keeping on in his journey.

His story made me think of the scripture text in 1 Timothy 6:6-7, 17-19 — “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. ... Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” A life that is truly life is not all about building up possessions. The importance is on being content in life and using our money to be generous to others. We are not content if we are always in search to be the first on the block with the latest electronic gadget. Also this generosity is also not just writing a check but a generosity of good deeds. Such as Mr. Mackie’s taking time to pass out the harmonicas and teaching young children how to play the instruments.

Another item to note is that the Bible text is not against wealthy people. In our country today there is too much disdain for those who have worked hard to gain wealth. These Bible verses do not castigate the rich. The Apostle Paul is firmly reminding them we come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. Once we die our toys and bank accounts do not come with us to the other side. So there should be a willingness to share a portion with those who are in need. Andy Mackie is obviously not rich but he is using wisely the funds he has to change lives of young people by opening their minds to musical talent and the discipline in learning music. As research shows, this discipline can then be transferred over to other areas of their educational life.

Reflection:
What is your level of contentment in life? Are you chasing after materialism? Do you have a passion you can teach to young people or those young at heart? If you attend a church can you volunteer to serve generously with the talents you have? Is there a community group you can contribute some of your monetary and volunteer time to?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Improving Our Lives with Brain Power

Our amazing brain that we have is an important resource we need to consider in building the Living More Than OK Life. In the past year I have noticed a number of books about the Brain in bookstores. One is The Winner’s Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown and Dr. Mark Fenske with Liz Neporent. Jeff Brown is a cognitive behavioral psychologist and Mark Fenske is a neuroscientist . Liz Neproant is a author that helped with the writing of the book. This book gives a brief simple to understand review of our amazing brain and then goes into how we can best use it’s power for our success in life.

They wrote the book from the positive psychology standpoint of looking at successful winners in life and seeing what works instead of looking at problems of what doesn’t work and trying to find solutions. They pinpoint 5 psychological tools the brain uses to help us win in life if we make use of them. Then these tools are applied to 8 factors that can aid in guiding our lives to the success we want for our life journey.

I just want to go over the 5 tools mentioned so you can reflect over them in your journey. The first tool they call Opportunity Radar. Now we don’t have antennae on our heads but we can be in tune with what life sends our way, as Dr. John Krumboltz terms it-- Happenstance events. How do we respond? If the radar is not working we just ignore them or complain about them unless it is a good luck type thing that comes our way. But winners intuitively look for the kernel of good in happenstance events for their benefit. For example the book uses an example I have used with students when I discuss creative thinking. George de Mestral a Swiss engineer, was out in the woods one day with his dog. The dog wound up with thistle burrs in its furr that de Mestral had to comb out. What would be a nuisance to anyone of us opened de Mestral’s mind to the idea which turned out to be Velcro. What could each of us find in our happenstance events to improve lives of our families and others if we kept our radar on?

Tool number two they call the Optimal Risk Gauge. Winners take risks but not foolish risks. To live a life without regrets and live more than ok we need to be willing to try to move beyond the comfort zone. At the same time the gauge helps us to look at potential consequences if the risk produces failure. I am not a great risk taker I become anxious just thinking about it. Starting this blog was a risk in trying to find time each week to have something new written and wonder if my thoughts and ideas were worth the effort. I have had a few people say they appreciated what I wrote so it has paid off.

Where I am not too much into risk taking, the third tool I am a big believer in. That is what the authors call the Goal Laser. This is the ability to focus in on goals that we set for ourselves and follow through to attain them. Goals give us a sense of direction to guide our purposes. With no goals we are aimless and just drifting. Now not every goal is achieved or should be. Dr. Krumbolts’s work on Happenstance and Dr. Bright’s work on chaos theory show that life events can come along and interfere with our goal plans. Based on our use of our opportunity radar,(tool # 1) we can change our direction to our goal or we may shift to a newer goal that will be better for us.

The fourth tool is the Effort Accelerator. This is the internal gas of motivation and discipline that keeps us moving towards what we want. I may have a goal but if I put no effort towards getting it I won’t get it. There is an anecdotal story of a woman who spoke with the famous violinist Isaac Stern after hearing him in concert. With an emotional outburst she said, “ Oh Mr. Stern, I’d give my life to be able to play the way you do.” To this statement the great violinist replied, “Madam, I have!” To be great in whatever area you wish to be you need to put disciplined work to the goal.

The fifth tool is the Talent meter. This is our brain’s thought processes on what we are good at and also what we are not good at. We all have talent, some in music, sports, some are good encouragers, others are good listeners. Using this tool of the brain is taking time to look at your strengths and tap into your talent and strengths and build on them. Then with the talent uncovered the effort accelerator can help in building up the talent even more so. It is also pointed out the talent maker tool can help us see our weaknesses as well. By knowing our weaknesses we know what we need to improve on in our lives.

This is a synopsis of the 5 tools mentioned and then the authors move into 8 factor strategies that the tools can be applied in for our personal success. The book is very practical with Prime the Brain exercises throughout to put into practice their ideas.

Reflection:
What are your top talents? What are your weak areas to grow in? Which of the 5 tools do you use more often? Which tool do you need to increase the use of?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We Are Designed For Loving Relationships

We are relational beings in the sense we thrive better in our lives by having meaningful relationships with family and friends. We are not islands to our selves but our actions affect those around us. In the spiritual realm of our living I believe God is relational. I understand some believe that God is an impersonal life-force or others believe God is a figment of our relational imagination. This is why I mentioned before that everything boils down to our belief system.

The following verses from the New Testament reveal that the God of the Judeo-Christian worldview is a God of Love. The Bible states that God is Love. His love is a sacrificial love and outreaching love. God’s love reached to man before man reached back. His love is the model that those who believe in Him should follow.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:9-11
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16


God desires for us to really live lives of love through Him. That is the purpose behind the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. The text points out that it is not we who love God. He first loved us. The fallen nature of man makes us selfish creatures who simply tend to love ourselves first. Within self esteem this is needed to a certain level. Our sin nature though often turns this selfishness to an extreme that excludes us from relating true love to God and our fellow man. As we accept God’s unconditional love and sacrificial love we can then love ourselves in a right manner and then pass God’s love on to those around us.

The following song by Toby Mac is a picture of a clear statement of how we were designed to be loving in the image of God’s love. It is a great song from one of my daughter's favorite music artists. That is another reason I chose it. Click on the title to view the video of the song and then reflect over the lyrics.

Made To Love

The dream is fading, now I'm staring at the door
I know its over cause my feet have hit the cold floor
Check my reflection, I ain't feelin what I see
It's no mystery
Whatever happened to a passion I could live for
What became of the flame that made me feel more
And when did I forget that...

I was made to love you, I was made to find you
I was made just for you, Made to adore you
I was made to love, And be loved by you
You were here before me, You were waiting on me
And you said you'd keep me, Never would you leave me I was made to love
and be loved by you

The dream's alive with my eyes opened wide
Back in the ring you've got me swinging for the grand prize
I feel the haters spittin vapors on my dreams, But I still believe
I'm reachin out, reachin up, reachin over, I feel a breeze cover me called Jehovah
And daddy I'm on my way, Cause I was made to love...

I was made to love you, I was made to find you
I was made just for you, Made to adore you
I was made to love, And be loved by you
You were here before me, You were waiting on me, And you said you'd keep me
Never would you leave me I was made to love, and be loved by you

Anything I would give up for you (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah)
Everything, I'd give it all away (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah)


Cause I was made to love you (I was made to love you)
Yeah I was made to love you (I was made to find you)
Cause I was made to love you (I was made to adore you, made just for you) (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah)
I was made to love you (I was made to adore you, made just for you)
Cause I was made to love you (I was made to adore you, made just for you) (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah)
I was made to love you (I was made to adore you)

I like how Toby starts the song out with a question of what has happened to the passion and fire of the dream. It is like the dream is dying. Recently I spoke of atheism as a belief system. Many atheists have a good argument against God by what they see in the negativity of Christians. The famous author Anne Rice made news recently in saying she was quitting Christianity because of the level of hate she sees in Christians. I felt sad that she has not seen the good examples of Godly Christians who unite as a community of God’s love. Thinking through the words from I John and this song they do have a point that should make Christians look at how they are living their lives. God gives each of us dreams to live out but the foundation of living out the dream should be bathed in His love so the world can take notice in a positive manner. Our dream can be revived just like the lyric line “The dream's alive with my eyes opened wide”. This comes to pass by our adoration of the God of love in daily worship and in daily loving of those around us.

Reflection:
What does God is Love mean to you? Think through the many good things in your life that God has brought your way often through happenstance events. How are you showing God’s love to the people in your sphere of influence?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Are you on Mission?

One way to help keep a focus on your purpose in life is to develop and compose a Personal Mission Statement. The Personal Mission Statement zeroes in on your core values, principles, and key items you wish to accomplish with your life. In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he likens the Mission Statement to that of the Unites States Constitution, the core values of our country.

This Summer I have been going through his son, Sean Covey’s, book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens with my teen daughter. This is a positive book to help teens understand the 7 principles to living life with more purpose and finding more potential in their futures. I have enjoyed this time with my daughter discussing principles which will allow her to have the best life possible. We just finished the chapter where Sean describes the Mission Statement. I like how he brings out that it can be put into various forms of a poem, a song, listing of positive bulleted statements, or a poster to tap into young people’s creativity.

Before working on the Mission Statement there is a need to work on concepts that go into it. Take time to brainstorm a list of values that are important to you. What are some of the positive strong qualities that set you apart from the next person? Make a list of 10 of the most important things in your life. Think over and list 5 core principles that are unchangeable and are the basis for your worldview and lifestyle.

Just as the Constitution is the standard for our country the Personal Mission Statement is the standard to guide our sense of purpose through the storms of life. Our world is always changing but a mission statement can help remind us of the inner strengths and principles we believe in that do not change. It can help us keep moving towards our goals and pursuits in our life journey by providing a guideline to keep on track with what is important to us.

The Mission Statement also helps us be more responsible so more can be accomplished of what we really want for our lives. Stephen Covey quotes Victor Frankl in his section on Mission statements. “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” We are responsible for our choices and following our personal beliefs. Understanding our responsibility to follow our mission statement encourages a deeper motivation and commitment to live our daily life by the principles and values important and keep a vision towards being goal centered which is important in living more than ok.

Keep your Mission Statement in a place you can review it often. Place it at your desk, as a wall poster hanging in your office or bedroom, or laminate a small version to place in your wallet or purse. This way you can review it on a regular basis and keep in fresh in your mind as a guiding force in your life. Does the Mission Statement ever change? As we go through shifts in our lives aspects of our life change but our core principles are usually constant unless a major philosophical and spiritual shift occurs. As we review our Mission Statements during periods of shifts there are new items that may need added and others replaced.

Here is a rough draft to my Personal Mission Statement:
 I seek to live a life pleasing to God as I follow the principles of Christ like living to the best of my ability.
 I seek to be a positive loving support to my wife and daughter in the journey God has for them.
 I am committed to grow in my creative and critical thinking skills in helping others grow to reach their God Given potential of living more than OK.
 I desire to live a more simple life to appreciate the savoring of God moments in life.
 I desire to live a thankful life for all that God brings into my life journey.



Reflection:
Get on Mission in your life. Take time to work on your Personal Mission Statement. Start by listing your core principles, values, things and people that are important to you. You can then write it out in a poem format, listing of declarative statements or in a narrative form. If you are really creative maybe do a poster using drawing along with your statements. Here are some examples of mission statements that may help in your constructing yours:
www.missionstatements.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Worldview Beliefs Shape Our Spiritual Life Journey

I have mentioned that I look at life from a Christian perspective. I believe Spirituality is an important aspect of the Living More Than OK life. Our morals, how we treat others, our purpose in life stems from the spiritual side of life. Personally belief in Christ’s death and resurrection in providing me a fix to the broken relation with God the Father is an all important driving force in my life.

In recent years I have read the works of the new atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. I was interested in their arguments against religion. I wanted to compare them with Bertrand Russell’s writings as I read his Why I am Not a Christian? back when I was searching my doubts on Christianity years ago. I found nothing new in their recent books. I saw just the same extreme hate, misconstruing scriptures out of context and emotional ignorant statements that they states as fact when they are just personal beliefs. The same things they complain about religionists, the hate and emotionalism, they do in their writings but even more exaggerated.

The atheists are more rabid against Christians possibly as we are the dominant faith in the West. What amuses me is how in their writings and atheists I have heard on TV point to those who believe in a religion as following beliefs, (these beliefs are foolish in their viewpoint). On the atheists side they say they promote science so atheism has no aspect of belief. They act like it is known fact!. It is to that point I appreciated recently reading Peter Hitchens’ book- The Rage Against God. He tells of his journey from atheism back to the Christian faith that He and his atheist brother, (Christopher Hitchens) grew up in. I recommend this book as an insightful spiritual pilgrimage from atheism to Christian faith. In it he so rightly states the atheism just like religious faiths that believe in God are beliefs. He states, “As he has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more certain that we can not know such a thing in the way we know anything else, and so must choose to believe or not. I think it is better by far to believe.” All of our world views are based on belief. Ask an atheist what is the scientific proof that proves there is no God? They can’t respond as there is no proof that God does not exist.

Of course I honestly admit I can not prove God exists. I believe it. In Christ we are to live by faith. Although, we are not called to live an unreasoned faith. I have had my times of doubt in the past and looked at the opposite sides of other religions and atheism and came back thinking Christianity made the most sense to me.

When I was young I remember looking up at the stars and night thinking there has to be something or someone great behind all this. When I have seen the Grand Canyon or recently visited Niagara Falls again I look at the majestic beauty and say how can anyone say a God does not exist. Nature seems to shout out like a billboard for God that He is! Appreciating nature won’t tell us what kind of God He is. That is where God would need to reveal himself. As a Christian I believe God has revealed Himself through the Bible.

Secular Atheists try to write of religionists and primarily Christians as nuts and fools. The reality is Christianity is a reasoned faith. The Apostle Paul used logical arguments with the Jews and the Greeks to persuade people in his days. Today there are great Christian thinkers like Ravi Zacharias, Charles Colson, Josh McDowell, and others who stand up for a rational faith. Ravi in his book The End Of Reason answers back to Sam Harris’ writings. Ravi shares his life story of being an atheist and shows how the emptiness of it never fulfilled him as his life in Christ has done.

The hate atheists show towards God is the funniest thing that puzzles me. If they do not believe God exists why are they spewing such hatred towards God? IT doesn’t make sense. Just state your case and let it be. Reading their God rants I picture in my mind a rabid dog frothing at the mouth barking wildly at a brick wall. What is this non-existent God doing to the poor atheist? Or is it that the true God is speaking to the conscience of the atheist and that is setting off their wild rants??

Several of the atheist writers mention how disappointed Christians will be when they die and they find out nothing exists in the afterlife. When I read those statements I ponder to myself will I really be disappointed. If the atheist is right will I be disappointed after I die. Will I feel regret that I did not have the pleasure of falling flat on my face drunk in a pool of vomit? That I missed the pleasure of nearly dying from an overdose of drugs? Or maybe missing the pleasure of sexual freedom with all the accompanying sexually transmitted diseases? Yes the true joys of living free without God??

Definitely I will have no regrets? Even if they are right Christianity has allowed me to live a life of purpose. My faith has given me a basis for living justly and showing kindness to others, it is the basis for living a thankful life for all of the good in life and nature. I can really enjoy life to the fullest and be happy and better yet with no hangovers! I turn the question around to the atheist. What if they are wrong and they find themselves before the God they told others did not exist? Often in their books from their comfy leather writing chairs they follow Bertrand Russel’s argument. They say they would stand firmly before God and politely tell Him he had not given enough evidence to convince them. Yeah right! In reality put them before God and they will be sprawled out on the ground sniveling and crying for their eternal destiny.

We won’t fully know what is beyond until the curtain falls on this life. The important issue is to understand your belief system and see how it fits with your purposes in life. Does your worldview make sense or are you living a lie? Doubts will come but they help us think through critically what we truly believe.

Reflection:
Take some time to think through your belief system your worldview. Try to draw a picture of it or write a poem about it. How do your beliefs affect your purpose and happiness in life? If you are curious about what this Christian thing and Christ is all about --try reading through the book of Mark or John in the Bible. As you read through reflect over who Jesus is and who he said he is?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Appreciating and Creating Art

Art is an area of life that adds greatly to the quality of our existence. I have always appreciated art talent in others. I say in others as art is one area I am not talented in. My stick figures look sad. One reason my art grades were so low when I was young; as I could not stand my art so I would often throw it away rather than turn it in to the teacher.

Appreciating art is a different story. One of my favorite past times in Chicago would be to go visit the Art Institute of Chicago. I even had a yearly membership. I could spend hours walking through the various collections. In front of some of the major works they had benches were you could sit and soak in the visual expression the artist had created. I enjoyed going over the details in my mind and then expand to the big picture so as to capture the emotion and story the artist was trying to communicate. My trips to the art museum were times to de-stress or times to quiet myself within to think more clearly when I was going through difficult issues. Art has that cathartic value in our inner healing.

Recently on our vacation to Niagara Falls we met a gentleman, Don King, who was showcasing his mother’s artwork. Her name is Polly King. I bought a print entitled “Sacre Coeur” that she had painted in France. It is a picture of a sacred church in Paris. I purchased it as my wife has always wanted to visit Paris and I thought this could be motivation for her to reach her goal someday. Her paintings had such a variety of colors and I could understand why by a short poem she wrote that was listed on the back of the painting.

God must have loved color very much
-he created so much of it
Vast skies with their ever changing bluse
-the silver greys
With their sunsets of
Oranges, pinks and purples
The mountains now green, purple, blue.
The grasses and flowers of limitless colors
And tints
And trees with their stark lines
In plumes of green, pinks and yellows
And now orange, scarlet.
What a wonderful world he has created for us.
-Polly King-
I thought it wonderful that her son is keeping her art story of the beauty of art alive. You can see her art work at www.pollykingart.com

For me art is gifted people reflecting the beauty of God’s creation as can be seen in Polly King’s statement above. I understand there are other definitions of art, as some in the post-modern realm feel art is all about shocking people. I will grant they have a point that art can be communication of sometimes shocking issues that need to be addressed. Yet I feel sorry for those that stay focused on the shock value and miss all the beauty God has for us to enjoy so we can flourish in our life journey.

If you have had the urge to be creative in the physical arts of drawing painting, pottery or interested in computer graphics take an art class at a local community college. You can also see if there is a local association of artists that may offer classes in art. Don’t take the “I’m no good at art as an excuse not to try” (I am the only one allowed to do that—believe me if you saw my stick drawings you would agree!).

You can also learn to appreciate art by visiting a local art museum or when you are visiting a major city visit one of the major art museums as in Chicago, Dallas or New York City. You may also want to take out a book on art at your local library. Take some quiet time at home to reflect over a collections book of a famous artist and enjoy their talent and the message they have in their paintings.

There are also many resources on the internet to learn more about art. Here is a listing of a few art links you may wish to explore:
http://www.artistsnetwork.com/artistsmagazine

http://www.artistdaily.com

http://www.collegeart.org

http://www.artshow.com/orgs
http://www.artpromote.com/famousartist.shtml

Enjoying artwork can help relax you from the stresses you face each day. Art can help you slow down the pace of your life and build up skills of savoring the good things in life. Artwork can inspire you to reach your dreams and goals. As I mentioned that is one reason I purchased a print of Polly King’s work “Sacre Coeur” for my wife’s dream of visiting France. Tap into your creativity today!

Reflection:

Take a book of artwork by a famous artist out from your local library or find some artwork online. Spend some time reflecting over the art. Choose one painting to focus on and spend 15 minutes looking at it. In a journal write down what was the artist trying to say in the painting. How did the artwork speak to you in your present situation. Did it help relax you? Did it inspire you in some way?