My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life Is Not Always Good, But God Is Always Good

We all have times when life knocks the air out of us. Moving is not always easy. Trying to adjust to a new job with accompanying stress does not feel good. Finding yourself in a new location without work in the midst of a recession and seeing few job openings but many unemployed competitors does not feel good. On a deeper scale, seeing the insane travesty of young people at a Norwegian camp massacred by a crazed killer claiming he is doing God’s work goes beyond life being not good. Life is definitely not good at times. It can be downright evil.

Following principles of Positive Psychology that I discuss in this blog will not stop the difficulties and travesties of life from appearing in our life journey. I have mentioned previously, I follow the Christian worldview. Some falsely assume that a follower of Christ walks down a path strewn with rose petals and angels spreading blessings of happiness, health and wealth in their every moment. That is a false view of Christian reality. Jesus had his share of difficulties and His disciples in the New Testament writings dealt with difficulties and persecutions. Christian beliefs do not stop evil and difficulties from coming into our lives.
This reality of our life journey brings to mind a Christian song that was popular in the 1990’s. It is one of my wife’s favorite songs and has an important message for us to reflect on. As usual when I do songs click on the title to hear the Youtube video and then reflect over the words of the song.

Life Is Hard But God Is Good by Pam Thumb

You turn the key
Then close the door behind you
Drop your bags on the floor
You reach for the light
But there's darkness deep inside
And you can't take it anymore

'Cause sometimes living takes the life out of you
And sometimes living is all you can do

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

You start to cry
'Cause you've been strong for so long
And that's not how you feel
You try to pray
But there's nothing left to say
So you just quietly kneel

In the silence of all that you face
God will give you His mercy and grace

Jesus never said
It was an easy road to travel
He only said that you would never be alone
So when your last thread of hope
Begins to come unraveled
Don't give up, He walks beside you
On this journey home and He knows

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

There is so much emotion of the reality of life in this song. It reminds me of how Scott Peck starts his book, The Road Less Traveled – “Life is difficult”. It is the hardness and coldness of life that “takes the life out of you…”. I think of the coldness of what happened in the killings in Norway. Young people at a camp, being deceived by a killer in police clothes; he shot them down in cold blood. The pictures of the prayer gatherings make me think how many at the gatherings were engulfed by the silence of where is God is these acts of evil.

The song also, reminds us that the tears of life’s pains are not forgotten. There is a Good God behind the difficulties. Even though evil tries to silence God’s Grace and Mercy He will break through the silence if we hold onto hope. God will be faithful to those prayers where you are just kneeling and don’t really know what to say as long as you hold on to hope. The difficulties are just a point on our journey they are not the journey itself. At those hardest points in life be assured God silently is walking at your side.

Reflection: Think back to a difficulty in your life journey. From your vantage point now, can you see what you learned from the experience that can help you in further difficult times? Take a moment to breathe a prayer for those around the world in major difficulties, such as those grieving in Norway over the loss of so many lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Appreciating Clouds

At a recent conference I was attending, during one of my sessions an attendee mentioned there was a Cloud Appreciation Society. At first mention I thought it strange to have an organization about clouds. Upon returning home I looked up their website -- . I marveled at their photo gallery of cloud pictures.

The next few days I caught myself looking up into the sky admiring the cloud formations around me. This brought back memories of younger days staring at the clouds and seeing shapes in the clouds. I don’t know if you ever did such things when you were young. It was amazing what you could dream up looking at the clouds. It was very relaxing and I realized it still is.

The above two photos are views from my home office. I have a beautiful view of the sky and clouds from my desk. This is very inspirational to look outside and appreciate nature. Sometimes there is a squirrel perched on the fence munching on some seeds. But since hearing about the Cloud Appreciation Society, it is the sky and clouds that catch my attention. Looking at the clouds is peaceful and allows my mind to slowdown. Savoring life and learning to slowdown and to appreciate the simple things in life is part of living more than ok.

The vastness of the sky dotted with puffy clouds makes me think of the Grand Creator behind the beauty of creation. Taking five or ten minutes to relax and savor the Cloudscapes helps me to calm down so I can focus anew on the activities I am trying to accomplish. We need to work and accomplish our tasks but we also need to rejuvenate by savoring God’s Creation.

Here is one thought from the Cloud Appreciation Society’s Manifesto:
“Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked. They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.”
One point that stood out to me in the statement is how the beauty of clouds are overlooked. That is often true of so many things in our lives. How in our over hurried lives we miss the small beauties around us that can improve our daily outlook. We need to look to the sky and dream new dreams from the inspiration we see.

Reflection: Take five to ten minutes to relax and look to the sky and observe the clouds. Jot down in a journal how the clouds make you feel. Write down a few memories of what looking at clouds was like when you were a young child. Also visit the Cloud Appreciation Society website and be inspired by their photo gallery. If you are a photographer take some photos of clouds you see.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What Does Your Next Chapter Look Like?

Each of us on our journey has a story to tell. That story is our life. Many people enjoy reading biographies. These are life stories. I have noticed over this past year in bookstores many actors, politicians, and musicians have been having their memoirs written. With some,honestly, I question what have they done to merit a memoir? Yet I am sure their fans will enjoy reading their story.

What about you and me? Do you have a story to tell? In reality each day starts out as a new page in your life story. As we reach major turning points and life shifts these become new chapters in our story. Family, friends, culture, government, life events, and our personal power of choice helps to shape our story.

In Counseling Psychology there is a therapy technique called Narrative Therapy . It focuses on the story of a client’s life. The problems we face are built into our stories and created by all the factors that shape our story. The solution is helping people re-author their lives in choosing to write new chapter directions in their story.

A song by one of my favorite musicians, Matthew West encapsulates the power of story and re-authoring in our lives. Take time to listen to the song by clicking on the title and reflect over the words to the song.

The Story Of Your Life by Matthew West

Is this the end? Or only the beginning?
The second chance You never thought you'd get.
The question is Will you do something with it?
Or spend your days lost in your regret.

This is the story of your life. You decide how the rest is gonna read.
This is your chance between the lines. To redefine what kind of legacy you
Leave. This is the story of your life and it's a story worth telling.

Breathe in deep. Feel your heart still breathing.
Let's go see the reason you're alive. Oh, you are here
and love is up to something.
So take your fear and leave it all behind.

This is the story of your life You decide How the rest is gonna read.
This is your chance between the lines. To redefine what kind of legacy you
Leave. This is the story of your life And it's a story worth telling.
This is the joy. And it's the pain. And all the pages in between.
Your finest hour. Your weakest moment.
It where you've been, It's where you are, It's where you're going.

This is the story of your life. You decide How the rest is gonna read.
This is your chance between the lines. To redefine the kind of legacy you
Leave. This is the story of your life. Go tell the story of your life.
Cause it's a story worth telling, It's worth telling
Is this the end? Or only the beginning?

On our journey we face joys, pains, moments of weakness, moments of natural highs, and finest moments. In each of the moments we make choices that redefine the direction of the story. So we have the power to re-author our lives just as Narrative Therapy is saying.

Often in the painful moments we may become despondent and think our story is over. And sad to say some people make the choice to end their story. But if we realize our story is worth telling with all the pain and joys together, we can wake up each morning knowing a new page is turning.

I like the line that says “Cause it's a story worth telling”. We may never have a book written about us or have a movie about our story. Yet to those around us our story is important. We have a legacy that will live on after we move on to the next world. What will that story be? Maybe you are going through a change, As I mentioned I recently moved so I have a new chapter facing me. What does that next chapter look like?

Reflection: Take 30 minutes in a quiet place to free write a new chapter in your life. Think through your present moment and where do you want to go next. What are some new possibilities for your story? Another idea --Go to your local library and pick out a biography of someone to read. It may be someone you know in history or just pick a biography by random and read their story.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Empowered By Our Past and Genograms

In the past I have mentioned that as a believer in life long learning, I enjoy learning at conferences. Last week I attended the National Career Development Association Global conference in now nearby San Antonio. Our work and personal life is empowered beyond boredom if we are taking time to learn new ideas from others. That is the main importance for me in going to conferences.

One topic that stood out to me first came from a keynote speaker, Mark Guterman of Meaningful Careers. Their website is The topic of his presentation was “In Remembrance Lies the Secret…Lessons From The Past Guiding Us Into The Future”. He touched on a number of ideas yet the driving point that spoke to me was that we are impacted by the people in our past. Our families, close friends, and role models have an impact on how we shape our values for what we want to pursue in our work world and personal world.

I like quotes that speak a kernel of truth to me and one that stood out in Mr. Guterman’s presentation was by David Brooks, “We inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources, none of us exist self made in isolation from it.” We each are where we are at partly because of choices and responses to those in our past who have interacted with and impacted our lives.

We need to take quiet times aside, to savor the impact that those in our past have had on the development of our present state in this journey we each are on. We need to take time and think through how past advice and personal examples have helped to shape our present. Through appreciation and gratitude for their impact, this can help us move towards a more positive future.

After the Keynote speaker I found it interesting as I was looking at the afternoon speakers, there was a session on “Discover The Impact Of Our Past By Learning How To Use Career Genograms”. A genogram is a graphing or mapping tool to look at your family tree. Since I am a strong believer in savoring the past for what we can learn from it, I could not pass this session up. The speaker was Kimberly Key, who has a private coaching practice in Austin, Texas -- named Encompass Work and Family. Her website is where you can find out more about her work.

I was somewhat familiar with Genograms and how they can give us insight into how we are living our lives in relation to our past family interactions. I must say I had never looked at them from the career standpoint. So this was refreshing to learn new ways to use Genograms. In some case studies reviewed in the session, I could see why people went the career direction they went in relation to past family members careers. In discussion and sharing in the session others pointed out that it is also a helpful tool maybe not to predict a particular career path, but to help people understand how their career values were shaped.

Both of these conference sessions helped me to see the importance of the past in our life journey. I often tell people we cannot change the past. But that day at the conference I gained a better understanding of how we can learn from the past to make better present choices. If you would like to learn more about Genograms check out the website and try doing one.

Reflection: Try doing a Genogram going back to your grandparents on both your mother and father’s sides. Reflect over their lives. What do you remember or even think about family myths about relatives? Jot down in a diary or journal how your values and life experiences have been shaped by them.