My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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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:
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 helps with giving instruments and lessons to needy children interested in music.

Here is the Youtube link to the news story:
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.

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.

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.

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?