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)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Resilience And Knowing Our Limits

Resilience is that part of our being that keeps us going during the tough times. When we want to give up our resilience level is that inner voice that says don’t give up -- keep moving forward and upward. It helps us to bounce back when life throws us unexpected curveballs. We can through planning and goal setting control much of what life throws at us, but we can’t control everything. Resilience can give us the strength to keep plodding along the path instead of giving up.

We each have different difficulties on our journeys to test our resilience. In dealing with these difficulties part of resilience is knowing our limits and knowing when we need to ask for help. There is nothing wrong in asking for help. That help can come from our fellow travelers on life’s journey or Divine help as we call out to God for help.

Recently we as a family heard Matthew West in concert at a church in San Antonio. Many of his songs impacted me but one that stood out that evening was Strong Enough. Click on the title and listen to the song. You will find the video amazing.

Strong Enough by Matthew West

You must, You must think I'm strong, To give me what I'm going through

Well forgive me, Forgive me if I'm wrong, But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

I know I'm not strong enough to be, everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up , I'm not strong enough , Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be, Strong enough, Strong enough
For the both of us

Well maybe, Maybe that's the point, To reach the point of giving up

Cause when I'm finally, Finally at rock bottom, Well that's when I start looking up
And reaching out

I know I'm not strong enough to be, Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up ,I'm not strong enough , Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be, Strong enough, Strong enough

Cause I'm broken, Down to nothing, But I'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God, and you are strong, When I am weak

I can do all things, Through Christ who gives me strength, And I don't have to be
Strong enough, Strong enough

I can do all things, Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be, Strong enough Strong enough

I know I'm not strong enough to be, Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up, I'm not strong enough, Hands of mercy won't you cover me,
Lord right now I'm asking you to be, Strong enough, Strong enough, Strong enough.

The song reminded me of difficult days in Chicago after my mother had died, then shortly thereafter my oldest brother was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away months afterwards, wasting away to nothing in his final days. During that time of grief the company I worked for had a corporate takeover and I lost my job. Those were depressing days where like the song says I was at the point of giving up. This was a time when my resilience levels could not cope. I felt the strength of Christ by close friends at church filling in the gap. Also by holding onto the promises of God’s Word helped me to keep forward on the journey.

The song also reminded me of my volunteer work with a drug rehab center in Brownsville, Texas. Their groups used the 12 step program of Alcoholic Anonymous. If you work with addicts they know from their stories they had to hit rock bottom before seeking help. They will admit their turn around was only from God’s hand of grace reaching down to pull them up.

As you listened to the song and read over the lyrics did it remind you of past times of difficulties in your life. Maybe you are facing difficulties now – economic, health, broken relationships. Know that whatever you are facing you need to be open to know your limitations and reach for help. Maybe it is calling a friend to let them know what you are facing. Possibly you need to reach out to your local church or parish for help. Most importantly of all, I believe we need to reach out and understand Jesus Christ is there to give us strength enough for the difficulty we are facing.

Reflection -- Think over a past difficulty where you felt overwhelmed. In hindsight can you see how the Hand of God helped through the process whether through other people or in a miraculous happenstance occurrence. Also in these difficult days is there someone you know facing difficulties where you can be the hand of Christ by helping in love?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Month To Live

How would life be different you us if we knew we only had a month to live? That is an important question to consider in Living More Than OK. Sometime ago a dear friend gave my wife and I the book One Month To Live by Kerry & Chris Shook. The Shooks are the founders of the Woodlands Church in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. A little over 10 years have passed since I had my brush with death, but stent surgery to my heart arteries saved my life. So thinking of this anniversary made me think about this book.

The premise of the book, looking at our life journey with the end in mind, is very relevant to how I have lived my life since the stents unblocked my two blocked heart arteries. Knowing that ten years ago may have been my last day has affected how I lived since then and today. The experience gave me renewed purpose for living life and that God had a purpose for my life continuing. That purpose is still cloudy sometimes yet each new morning I awake I know there is a reason to use my time wisely.

The authors early on in the book bring up an interesting analogy by mentioning cemetery grave markers. Every time I visit my hometown of Barberton, Ohio I try to visit my parent’s gravesite. The markers list their birthdate then a dash and then the day they passed away from this life. The authors note that we don’t choose our birth date and the day we die but the dash, which is the time in between we can make choices on how we use it. How very true. Do we consider how to maximize the use of our dash time?

We can live a better life if we take seriously to make the most of our dash time. One could think of the book title and think this is a morose way to live. Waking up and hiding under the covers as, “This might be the day I die. I think I will stay inside and watch Reality TV re-runs.” That is not the message of the book. When we accept our mortality we are more open to living life in a way that we can make the most of it, and hopefully impact it in a way to improve the lives of others.
In Ecclesiastes 7:4 it reads, “A wise person thinks much about death, while the fool only thinks about having a good time now.” By accepting our mortality we can make better choices with how we want to use our dash time to make the most of the fleeting time in this life. By just living for pleasurable impulses we may miss some really great opportunities that we may have enjoyed even more. The fool is just reacting to life and not thinking through how he or she wants to really live their life.

The authors speak to important topics that are found in making a flourishing life. Having a strong connected spiritual relationship to God is the foundation of life so this is highlighted in the book as primary. This relationship should be of main importance in our dash time. Relationships with others are also stressed by the authors. Too many people die and those left behind have unresolved issues because relationships were not a priority. To live a life without regrets it is important to work on relationship issues in the land of the living.

Living passionately and being open to risk taking are important and so are discussed by the authors. Many come to the end of their lives with regrets because they did not do what they wanted to do in life. They always had certain things on their “get around to it” list but they never really got to them. That is one problem with such lists. We make the lists but allow the mundane activities of life to snuff out the importance of the items we really want to do.

Psalm 37:4 says “ Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If your primary connection to God is right and He has placed a passion in your heart for something then take the risk to do it instead of putting it on a “get around to it” list that will be quickly covered up the others cares and day to day business of life. The importance thing about this verse of scripture is the first part. Too many people claim this as a promise for going after our desires. The text clearly shows the priority is having a right relationship to God and then the desires, passionate items, can be gone after with knowing God will be with us.
An important feature of the book I found is the “Make It Last For Life” reflection boxes at the end of each chapter. The questions help to savor the information so you can apply it to your everyday life. It is sort of a paradox being faced in this book. To truly live life to its fullest, we need to consider our death and what kind of legacy we wish to leave behind.

Reflection: What would change in your life if you knew you had a month to live? Is there something God has placed a passion in your life for?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do The Rich Owe Me A Better Life?

Over the past few weeks I have been watching the internet news and reports on Fox News about the Occupy Wall Street Protests. Much of what I have heard in the interviews with protestors is that many are against companies, banks, and the wealthy. When asked what they want they state they want economic justice, they want the wealthy to have their money redistributed to “The People”. In reality they mean they want their money. They never state why they deserve the money.

As I listen to all this I have thought of my thinking behind Living More Than OK. My belief is that the principles of Positive Psychology and spiritual principles help each of us to make better choices so as to improve our fulfillment of living in the world. The aim is to make better decisions in self empowerment. It has nothing to do with stealing money from the rich so I selfishly can have a better life. That is not what I hear from the OWS groups they want the money of the rich given to them by the Government.

I came across this Youtube link to a OWS protest in Oakland, CA. Take the time to listen to it. Especially, if you have not heard their comments about what they are doing. Listening to it was a combination of blood pressure rising, to despair of how our universities are brainwashing young people into Marxist zombies. What is economic justice? Several spoke of the need to redistribute the wealth. Do the wealthy owe me money? Sure, if Warren Buffet wants to hand me a million dollars I won’t say no, but do I have the right to demand it? Does the government have the right to take most of it?

Since when did the American Dream turn from self initiative and hard work to get ahead; to being a nation of entitlement seekers, stealing from the rich to gain easy money? The one man speaks of the billions left behind in Steve Jobs estate as Mr. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer recently. The interviewer reminds him there is an estate tax the family will have to deal with. The man’s response is, “That is not enough!”. That is sickening. What makes that man believe he deserves some of Steve Job’s money? There is also the young lady that gets defensive when the interviewer points to her IPhone. She is there complaining about corporations yet she uses their products. There is an insane level of hypocrisy within the OWS movement.

OF course they are not totally wrong. There has been abuse from rich companies that get corporate welfare and definitely do not pay their fair share. In those cases that is where justice should be done. General Electric, one of the wealthiest companies in the U. S. paid no taxes. Warren Buffet , Barak Obama supporter, who has complained he is not taxed enough, has been behind billions of dollars in taxes from his company. If he feels he is not being taxed enough he should start with making sure his company pays the billions in back taxes. These are the economic injustices that need to be solved.

Is it fair that 1% of the population who are the wealthiest pays about 40 percent of the total taxes received while 51% pay no taxes? I agree with those who say the OWS protestors are protesting at the wrong place. It is the Government that gave $500 billion to a Solar company that went bankrupt and another billion to another solar company whose factory is in Mexico. So our tax dollars are being funneled from the White House to Mexico job creation when we have so many out of work here.

Again I must say I am not letting the wealthy off the hook. They should be responsible with their wealth. But it is their wealth, not mine nor the governments to take. Jesus told a story in Luke 12:42-48 (NIV)
42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

Jesus is speaking of a manager a Master has put in charge. If he does right he will receive more responsibility. Managers who do wrong will be punished. The key verse is verse 48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” In the larger context Jesus is speaking of the kind of leadership qualities He wants in his disciples but an application of this verse relates to the issue that before God we are responsible for what we have been given in knowledge and in material benefits. Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” All of us need to care for the poor and that includes the wealthy. So we each need to be thankful for what we have been given and be accountable and responsible in using our material wealth and resources.

Reflection Think over of how you can be a better steward of the talents, gifts and material resources God has given you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Overcoming Time Regrets

Recently in the College Success course I teach I was lecturing on time management. Time management is one issue big in the lives of college students and the rest of us struggle with it too. The sands of time go by too fast and often we would like to do a rewind but that only happens in Hollywood movies. In our race against time we often feel like we are steps behind time or running way behind. As time passes us by we then look back with regrets which is often the basis of our desire to rewind time.

In my teaching I like to use music lyrics to jog the minds of the students to think about issues and life. This semester for time I found a song which I used, “One Day Too Late” by a band called Skillet . Here are the words to the song and as always -- simply click on the title of the song to open up a video of the song to listen to it as you reflect over the words.

One Day Too Late By Skillet

Tick tock hear the clock countdown Wish the minute hand could be rewound
So much to do and so much I need to say Will tomorrow be too late

Feel the moment slip into the past Like sand through an hourglass
In the madness I guess I just forget To do all the things I said

Time passes by Never thought I'd wind up One step behind Now I've made my mind up

Today I'm gonna try a little harder Gonna make every minute last longer
Gonna learn to forgive and forget 'Cause we don't have long, gonna make the most of it

Today I'm gonna love my enemies Reach out to somebody who needs me
Make a change, make the world a better place 'Cause tomorrow could be one day too late One day too late One day too late

Tick tock hear my life pass by I can't erase and I can't rewind
Of all the things I regret the most I do... Wish I'd spent more time with you

Here's my chance for a new beginning I saved the best for a better ending
And in the end I'll make it up to you, you'll see You'll get the very best of me

Your time is running out You're never gonna get it back
Make the most of every moment Stop saving the best for last.

There are so many positive take aways from this song. The first thing that stood out to me is, “Never thought I would wind up one step behind.” No one plans to fail or fall behind in their lives. Yet since we are not actively seeking to “make the most of every moment” in wisely using the time God allots us on our journey we subconsciously sabotage all that we could accomplish.

The phrase “gonna make every minute last longer” speaks to the quality of our time. I can’t make a minute last 85 seconds but I can gain more from my time usage by focusing on what Stephen Covey calls the Big Rocks, which are the most important things in my life. For me the Big Rocks are God, family, and the purposes God has placed me on this earth for. These need to be emphasized in my time usage.

Another phrase that stands out to me is “Make a change, make the world a better place”. How can I leave this world a better place? Is sitting around watching reality tv or watching inane videos on the internet helping me make a positive impact on the world around me? In my time usage I need to reflect on ways to improve my little part of the world before the sands of time run out for me. Living life in this fashion cuts down on regrets in how we use our time.

Reflection: Write down some of your thoughts about the song “One Day Too Late” What key thoughts stood out to you? How can you make your time last longer? Think over how can you make you make the world a better place?