My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Monday, December 24, 2012

Building Christmas Memories

One way to counter stress during the Holiday Season is to build memories from the different activities you do through the time period. It can be family traditions or new holiday activities you try out. Keep a mindset of enjoying the Christmas Season instead of worrying over whether everything will be picture perfect. The Holiday issues of magazine Christmas scenes are perfect because they have a full film crew to make the scene perfect. So unless you have the money to hire a complete decorating crew don’t stress out if something winds up out of place.

We experienced a new Christmas activity at the middle of December when we enjoyed a jazz concert called The Gospel According to Jazz Christmas with Kirk Whalum, Keiko Matsui and Amber Bullock at Austin’s One World Theater. We went because of
Keiko Matsui, our favorite jazz pianist. She is so magical at the keyboards so I thought who better to hear doing Christmas music. We had never heard Kirk Whalum and I was surprised to hear he was the Sax player for Whitney Houston. He is an amazing saxophonist, but more so his sincere Christian faith came across to make the Christmas carols so much more from the heart and felt real. The best part of the concert for me was a rousing jazz rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear, where Kirk directed the audience singing in parts while the band jammed in the background. Having a music background it was funny hearing some of the audience who could not pick up on the syncopation. Kirk Whalum mentioned this was the first time for this concert series so they would be back in Austin next year. This is definitely a Christmas concert we will want to repeat next year.

On the concert front, we also attended the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s concert of The Lost Christmas Eve in San Antonio’s AT & T center. We had experienced them last Christmas and were so amazed at their musical artistry we wanted to hear them again. Even though most of the music was familiar just hearing the talented musicians and the compelling story of the Miracle of Hope and Change in the lives of people at Christmas was well worth hearing them again. I also appreciated hearing how wherever the troupe goes they donate some of the proceeds of their concert to a local charity.
Another important activity this Christmas was a Christmas program sponsored by a group my wife has been involved with this Fall. They are a group of Christians that work with youth in a nearby low income project neighborhood. They tutor the children, play games and teach Bible stories to them one night a week. They had the children do a program for their parents about the true meaning of Christmas -- the Bible’s Christmas story. Each child who came received a decorated shoe box filled with small toys and goodies. It was a wonderful feeling to see the children who do not have much appreciate their Christmas boxes and they put on a simple and clear presentation of the Bible story of Christ’s birth.

As I write this we are looking forward to our Church’s Candlelight Christmas Eve service this evening. That is always a time to reflect and build new memories of what Christmas means to me. There are numerous other ways to build Christmas memories for some it is baking cookies to give to others, (and of course do taste testing as they come out of the oven). Sending out Christmas letters it a warm way to connect with family and friends once a year, ( and I mean an actual old fashioned letter not a short tweet). Other activities are to look for local school and church Christmas concerts to enjoy the music of the Season. I am not a big shopper but I know that is something some people just love -- being out in the hustle and bustle of the stores trying to find the best buy. Other people enjoy watching their favorite Christmas movies every Christmas as a tradition. I remember when my mother was still living and I would be home from Chicago to visit her in Ohio, one of her favorite activities was to have me drive her around to look at Christmas lights.

The key is find those Holiday activities you enjoy and when you are feeling the stress; de-stress by switching over to the activities you enjoy. Enjoying the Christmas season and building memories for the future is more important and rewarding than being stressed over everything having to be perfect.

Reflection: List your three favorite Holiday activities. Is there anything new this year you enjoyed that is a new memory for this year’s Christmas Season? Write about it in your journal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Give The Gift Of Creativity and Critical Thinking

Being the Bookhead I am, at the beginning of December I was reading through the December 2nd New York Times Book Review section. Their focus from the cover was Holiday Books meaning giving the gift of books at Christmastime. They had book lists for all ages and books on a variety of topics such as cooking and music. Then later in the month I purchased the December issue of The American Spectator and they had a special highlighted section of Christmas books. This was their annual holiday book gift suggestions from writers that work with the magazine. Looking at these reminded me the importance of books as gifts at Christmas.

In giving a book at Christmas you are helping to build up the creative side of young children and adults. Reading good fiction books makes the reader create the scenes and pictures of action and scenery in their minds. This helps to promote the strengthening of the imagination. The creativity that is built up through reading can then be transferred to other areas of life to add value to their total life experience.
Another skill area you will be building up in giving a book for a gift is critical thinking. Whether it be fiction or nonfiction book the mind is actively engaged in reading gathering and interpreting the meaning from the author. So it is forcing the reader’s mind to be active in looking for meaning or questioning what is being read. Those are key building blocks in strengthening critical thinking skills. By improving critical thinking skills you are helping improve the gift receiver’s future as good thinking promotes better living.

So in giving a book you are not just giving an object to someone to be forgotten but giving the gift of an improved literate mind. It is a gift that keeps giving by improving creativity and critical thinking in those you give books to. I look back on my life and some of my favorite books were gifts from someone important in my life.

You may wonder what kind of book to purchase for someone. If they are a solid booklover, ask them who are their favorite authors or favorite literary style. Or if you know their main interests go to a local bookstore and ask a worker for ideas based on their interests. You can explore other book ideas by looking at suggested books lists by searching for holiday books lists on the internet search engines of Google or Bing. Each year in our Christmas letter to friends I always mention a couple book recommendations each year and this year two books that impressed me were: Hearing God by Dallas Willard and Flourish by Dr. Martin Seligman. So I am recommending them this Christmas.

I have also noticed bookstores are helping in literacy programs during this time of year. I was at a Barnes & Noble store recently where they had books a person could purchase and give to a San Antonio literacy group that was giving the books to young children. Donating to a cause like that is important as you never know how the book you donate to young children may change and improve a life.

Don’t leave yourself out on this Holiday book searching as each of us can improve our creativity and critical thinking skills by reading. Treat yourself to a book on a topic you enjoy or a fiction story that sounds interesting to you. I know of no better way to end the year than by reading a good book. Of course that is why my daughter calls me Mr. Bookhead!

Reflection: Think about giving a book to a family member or friend this Christmas and don’t forget about giving to yourself!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The God Behind Coincidences

Have you ever had the experience where you find yourself saying, “My what a coincidence we meet as I was just thinking of you yesterday.” Or you take a new direction in your life and after the fact you remember you chose the direction based on a detail that occurred outside of your control. We think of those events as coincidence or happenstance. What a coincidence. Recently I heard on the Mike Huckabee show an interview with a man named Squire Rushnell. My mind perked up when he started talking about his new book Divine Alignments and God winks -- a new way to look at coincidences in our lives.

After hearing him I saw in a bookstore a book he mentioned and other books he had written. The one that caught my attention was When God Winks. I picked it up and it is a short book so it did not take long to read. The information reminded me of Dr. John Krumboltz’s book Luck Is No Accident, which considers our choices in response to happenstances that come into our life experiences. We all have coincidences that pop into our life and the key is how we respond.

At the beginning of his book he lists definitions of key terms. Coincidence “is a sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged”, from the American Heritage Dictionary. A Wink “is to give a signal or express a message”. He took that definition from the American Heritage Dictionary. So he created the term God Wink stating that it is a “personal signal or message, directly from a higher power, usually, but not always, in the form of a coincidence” . In the book the author poses a sensible question in that if the term coincidence has a sense of the event being planned or arranged then who does the planning. He states that most people respond that God does the arranging. It is not a proof that there is a God but it makes sense that considering the probabilities of some of the things that happen to us there is some sort of a God guiding our life events.

The book looks at a variety of examples of God Winks in various life situations. Squire Rushnell also shows how we can react to the God Winks. We should not just float along the river of life letting life happenstance events affect us. Life is not to be lived passively as that turns us into victims of fate. Instead with the coincidences or as Mr. Rushnell calls them God Winks, we make a choice to respond actively to these life events. After the choice is made we receive the consequence of our response. That consequence can be either good or bad based on whether we critically thought through our response or just impulsively responded.

The author gives us a series of questions to explore and discover the God Winks that are in our lives. Here are just a few of the questions listed to help you start exploring your God Winks:
1. Did something surprising happen to you in your past?
2. Did some new person come into your life?
3. Did you experience a death of someone close to you? Did this open up a new path for you?
4. What is the biggest break you have ever received in your career journey?
5. Did you have a rebirth in a spiritual manner or in another manner such as giving up drugs or alcohol?

His reminder to think through questions reminded me of Dr. Tal Ben Shahar’s lectures on Positive Psychology where Dr. Shahar mentioned our questions we ask ourselves can help us create new realities for our daily lives. Those questions can help in exploring the various God Winks that have affected us and then we can look deeper into them and think through the choices we made in response. In exploring God Winks in my life the most of them that I have clearly noticed have often been in church worship times where the minister is preaching and I have this feeling like, “ how did he know that about me? That is just what I needed to hear.” I am not paranoid at those times but thinking about it those points in the Pastor's message may be a God Wink reminding me what I need to work on from the message. Another God wink that comes to mind is from my career positions that have focused on helping students in their career portion of their lives relates to a Professor at UTB in Brownsville I had as a student. I had professor for Career Counseling that encouraged us to be involved with Professional Associations. So I became involved with the National Career Development Association as a student and the state association in Texas. I would not have joined that association if I had not had that Professor. I believe this also helped me see the importance of career in people’s lives. What it just chance I had a Professor that encouraged such activities? I do not think so.

When God Winks is a book that acts as a helpful reflective exercise to help us be more aware of what is going on in our lives. The more we see God work in our lives the more our lives can make sense out of happenstance items that drop into our life journey. This awareness can help us in understanding our purpose in a deeper fashion as well. You may want to look further into the author’s ideas by looking at his facts page of his website --

Reflection: Try to remember and write down three God Winks in your life. Ponder over them and write down how these affected your life at the time and events further along your life journey.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Being Grateful on Thanksgiving

Last week I attended the Texas Counseling Association’s annual conference in Galveston, Texas. Because of my work schedule I could only attend the one day I was presenting. It was a disappointment to me as I prefer attending a full conference to attend as many sessions as I can to learn, to improve and grow. A good thing about the trip was that my wife was able to go along We had an enjoyable evening going to the Festival Of Lights program at Moody Gardens. They have an amazing creative Christmas themed light display every December so while we were in Galveston that was a must.

What does that have to do with Thanksgiving? One thing is that I am writing this on Thanksgiving Day and the experience popped into my mind. Another is that I am thankful we had the opportunity as a couple to enjoy the Festival of Lights. Also one section of the session I presented on, Living More Than OK In Our Workplaces, was being grateful in our work. Having an Attitude of gratitude in our work and how it can help improve our work experience. I had a good group of people show up to the session. It was a Friday at noon session so as a presenter you never know how many will show up. During the time segment on thankfulness in the workplace, I appreciated how a number of the people shared what they were thankful for in their work settings. They all felt that hearing thankful thoughts about work made them feel better. That is one importance of having a grateful attitude.

This Thanksgiving I am sitting in a hotel room writing. This is because instead of getting up early to put the turkey in the oven and working on my sweet potato casserole we drove to visit my wife’s relatives and have a Korean styled dinner of kimbop rolls, (Korean Sushi rolls), and beef bulgogi. Since the family conversation would be in Korean which I do not know, I decided to use my time studying, reading, and writing. So it is a nice change of pace for a Thanksgiving.

Being Thanksgiving I brought along a book called, On Gratitude by Todd Jensen It is a series of interviews about gratitude with artists, singers, writers, sport stars. I read five of the stories; Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Daryl Hall, Ray Bradbury and Yao Ming. While reading I remembered those who attended my session at the conference who expressed their stories of thankfulness. I realized the high point in my session for me was hearing why they were thankful. The lesson I learned is we can improve in our attitude of gratitude by sharing and listening to others what they are thankful for in their lives. That is a key element to Todd Jensen’s book. The author has a website where you can learn more about being a grateful person and the importance of it at I would encourage you to check it out.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for it is a remembrance of the importance of giving thanks and having an attitude of gratitude. Culturally in our country I call it the forgotten holiday as the emphasis is on Halloween sales and then right into Christmas sales. I was pleased when I saw a person who posted on Facebook an ad from Nordstrom’s Department store that stated how they would be closed out of honor for Thanksgiving Day. I wish all stores would follow their lead and more so if the American public would follow the lead and not shop on Thanksgiving Day. Can’t people give it a rest one day of the year to be grateful in their hearts.

Of course books like On Gratitude, remind us that being grateful is not just for one day but a year round daily activity. Having a thankful heart benefits our living more than ok each and everyday.

Reflection: Look over the past week and write down a list of as many things as you can remember that you are grateful for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hold That Line To Your Victory

Having a presentation coming up at a conference I was looking for a Todd Rundgren song to play and came across his greatest hits CD on sale. As I was listening to the cd the song, Just One Victory, came on. Then I went to YouTube to watch a few of the videos pertaining to the song. I noticed in the comments several people who were battling with cancer or addictions had used the song as a motivator for their struggle. This is one reason over the years I appreciated and enjoyed Todd Rundgren’s songs. Of course there is his amazing musicianship and talent but his messages in the songs he writes have a positive feel about them. Well -- there is Bang On The Drum All Day. I am unsure of the philosophical message behind that.

Just One Victory is a great song looking at the issue of Resilience. There are thoughts of battling with weakness and struggles in life. With true perseverance and prayin’ there is no sign of giving up or giving in. As usual take time to listen to the song and meditate on the lyrics before going further. As you click on the title I have embedded a live concert link of Todd Rundgren and his band performing the song.

Just One Victory by Todd Rundgren (click on the title)

We've been waiting so long. We've been waiting for the sun to rise and shine
Shining still to give us the will, Can you hear me, the sound of my voice?
I am here to tell you I have made my choice
I've been listening to what's been going down There's just too much talk and gossip going 'round
You may think that I'm a fool but I know the answer
Words become a tool, anyone can use them Take the golden rule, as the best example
Eyes that have seen will know what I mean
The time has come to take the bull by the horns We've been so downhearted, we've been so forlorn
We get weak and we want to give in But we still need each other if we want to win
Hold that line, baby, hold that line Get up boys and hit 'em one more time
We may be losing now but we can't stop trying So hold that line, baby, hold that line
If you don't know what to do about a world of trouble You can pull it through if you need to And if you
believe it's true, it will surely happen Shining still to give us the will
Bright as the day, to show us the way Somehow, someday
We need just one victory and we're on our way Prayin' for it all day and fightin' for it all night Give us
just one victory, it will be alright We may feel about to fall but we go down fighting
You will hear the call if you only listen Underneath it all we are here together shining still

From the beginning phrase “We've been waiting so long We've been waiting for the sun to rise and shine” along with other phrases; “We've been so downhearted, we've been so forlorn” “We get weak and we want to give in”. I see the picture of people going through struggles, cancer, addictions, and depressions make people feel this way. The sense of waiting and wondering if the sun will ever shine again in their lives. I have had those times in my life. As I stated many of the YouTube comments related to cancer patients and addicts but I believe those going through the grief process of losing a loved one can find encouragement in this song. Any of these struggles make the person going through them think with a forlorn heart, “Is it worth going on??” “Maybe I should just give up and give in?”

That is where I appreciate the football analogy that comes in – “We get weak and we want to give in But we still need each other if we want to win Hold that line, baby, hold that line Get up boys and hit 'em one more time We may be losing now but we can't stop trying So hold that line, baby, hold that line.” Those lines made me reminisce back to high school days back in Barberton, Ohio being in the marching band during football season. I could visualize in my mind the crowd shouting, “Hold That Line, Hold that line.” Think of the analogy. If a football team is down by two touchdowns at halftime. Does the coach tell the team during the break, “Boys, you look pretty tired and we are behind. Let’s just give up and call it a night. I will tell the other coach we give up. There was a good movie on tv I wanted to see anyway!” No way! He motivates them with “The time has come to take the bull by the horns…” and “we still need each other if we want to win”. “We need just one victory at the beginning of the second half to get us going now go do it!!!” When going through life struggles we need to be our own coaches giving that kind of a pep talk. It also helps if you surround yourself with friends that can give you that kind of pep talk as well. The key to resilience is to keep on fighting for that victory!

We need to be disciplined and do our part, but as you know from my Christian worldview, I believe there is a spiritual element to our battles. I do not know if Todd Rundgren meant it this way, but with my spirit colored glasses I want to point out a few spiritual ideas I see in the song to consider. From the very beginning I see it with the phrase, “We've been waiting for the sun to rise and shine. Shining still to give us the will.” Granted physical sunny days can brighten our moods but does the physical sun give us the will to go on. From my view the Son, Jesus Christ gives us the will to go on through the battle or struggle. Of course to someone else reading this blog the phrase may relate to another spiritual force. I am just stating where I come from.
The same spiritual idea for me is found later in the song, “You can pull it through if you need to And if you believe it's true, it will surely happen Shining still to give us the will” If you believe it is true makes me think of the principle of faith and belief that is vital for our relationship and walk with God. The light of the Son continues to shine to give us the will to continue the fight. Right after those phrases is the phrase “Prayin for it all day”. Prayer is an instrument to being resilient in life’s trials for those who believe in a spiritual side to this life journey. We need to work hard for the victory and pray hard for the victory.
The last spiritual element I wish to point out is his mention of the Golden Rule early in the song. Todd Rundgren says, “Take the golden rule, as the best example” as to show us how to act as we fight through the struggle we may be facing. It is not do whatever it takes to win, instead it is act in an ethical manner. In Mathew 7:12 Jesus states, “So in everything, Do to others, what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” Living that life helps us keep relationships strong through the difficulties of life. Words are easy -- it is the actions that are important.

In the end how we deal with our life struggles comes down to our choice as Rundgren states in the song, “I am here to tell you I have made my choice.” To gain that just one victory we need to make the choice not to give up in the middle of the game.

Reflection: Think over a victory you had in your past. What actions did you do to win the struggle? Who helped you during this time? Are you battling with something in your life right now? How are you going to hold the line to gain your just one victory?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting Around To It: A Fall Riverwalk Stroll

There are always more errands than time on a weekend. Often the errand lists stop us from getting around to pleasurable activities that can add to a Living More Than OK Life. Sometimes we need to take a break from the fast paced weekend duties to slow down and make the most of this thing we call life.

For months my wife and I had talked about taking a Saturday morning to stroll along the San Antonio Riverwalk. Each weekend would come and go with new to do items filling up the weekend. Noticing that the weather was going to be clear on the weekend, I thought we would never get to our idea of enjoying that Riverwalk stroll if we kept letting the weekend rituals get the best of us. So we made a plan to use our Saturday morning to drive over to the Riverwalk.

We started at the Pearl Brewery, (due North and slightly East of Downtown), where they have a Farmers’ Market to enjoy on the weekend as well. This is also where the newest area of the San Antonio Riverwalk has been built. We had never been to this Farmer’s Market and quickly decided we must come back again to shop there. This morning’s mission though was the Riverwalk . We purchased a cup of homemade Strawberry Basil ice cream and headed over to the Riverwalk.

As we slowly walked towards downtown we took pictures of the landscaping of the gardens and trees alongside the river. There were a variety of flowers along the way. Since we were having some landscaping down at our house seeing the gardens along the way gave us more ideas for the future. At each of the bridges they showcased artwork and tile murals which added to enjoying the stroll. It took us about 40 minutes to make it to the Downtown area of the Riverwalk. Distance wise it was probably about a mile and a half from the Pearl Brewery area.

With all the walking and the sun coming out strong by 11 am we thought it would be best to grab a bite to eat before heading back to our car. We ate at an Italian Eatery, Michelina’s, right on the river. There is such a selection of restaurants on the Riverwalk. Italian is one of our favorites so this fit the bill. We were debating doing the walk back or taking a River taxi back up to the Brewery. After a tasty lunch we decided to walk back. Going back was a little more slow paced as I was taking more pictures since the sun was out. Also going back I liked the different perspective of the artwork along the way. Art is best viewed from different angles and perspectives.

Upon arriving home we both realized our muscles were feeling the miles of the walk. Time wise it did take longer than I had anticipated but we both had enjoyed the experience. It was important that we could enjoy that time together of enjoying the calmness of the new area of the Riverwalk with the trees, flowers and birds. Errands and fixing things up around the house are important too, but they are always there. Times together, enjoying the outdoors and people watching are helpful to refresh us from the weekly errand rituals we get stuck into in what feels like unending cycles of boredom. What have you been putting off getting around to?

Reflection: Look at your weather forecast and plot out a hike or bike activity during this Fall season. Take some time afterwards to reflect on the experience and how it refreshed and relaxed you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Texas Book Festival: A Little Slice Of Heaven For A Bookhead

This past weekend I took the opportunity to attend the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. Being a Bookhead I was looking forward to it. As I strolled through the Exhibitor's tent area a memory came to my mind of a yard sale we had in Brownsville before moving up to New Braunfels. I needed to trim back on my library so I had a table full of books for sale. An elderly man came by and when he saw the books he excitedly exclaimed, “I feel like a kid in a candy store.” Suffice to say he took most of the books off our hands. It was refreshing to see a fellow Bookhead with an excitement for reading.

My basic feeling about the day at the Book Festival was as if I was experiencing a little slice of heaven. A whole day related to reading, books, and authors. Who could ask for more? I can’t say I know what heaven will be like, but as a Bookhead, I imagine there will be a library there with all the literary works from history past.

The favorite part of the day at the Festival was attending lecture sessions lead by various authors. These were primarily held in the State Capital building. It helped to hear from the authors themselves about what the true background of their novels were about. Hearing about their life stories and how that connected to their writing, left me with a better understanding of the passion behind writing. In several cases it was insightful to hear the research that goes into the books. A couple of the authors mentioned how their most popular books took 8-12 years to write due to the research elements in them. The sessions I attended the authors were asked what writers influenced them. Each one had various works of literature and authors that influenced them. The common thread was rightly stated that if you plan on writing your better be reading. It should be common sense that a writer better be a Bookhead. Yet one of the authors mentioned from time to time she gets a statement from a young person that they want to be a writer but they don’t like to read. I have heard that from College students as well and I like the author just shake my head in confusion. How do they expect to write well if they do not read well? Why expect others to read your writing if you are not reading as well?

Being around a crowd of book-lovers for a day was encouraging as well. Before each session, I could hear discussions about reading all around me. At the Exhibitor's tents there were many publishers, the Texas Library Association had a booth, and more importantly organizations that encourage reading and literacy. That all encouraged me that all is not lost; as I read reports come out in the news of fewer people reading. There are organizations trying to encourage young people the importance of reading which is of interest to me. To have a strong stable society we need to have a literate citizenry.

This year I was only able to attend the one day of Saturday. Next year I do plan to enjoy the whole weekend of the book festival. Whether you are a Bookhead or not; do take advantage to attend Book Festivals in your area. If you are visiting Austin in October I highly recommend attending the Texas Book Festival.

Reflection: Use a search engine link Google or Bing and search for the name of your favorite author. Read about their lives. Or if there is a biography about them check at your local library for it. Does knowing about them better help you understand their books in a new light?

Here are a couple of links to find Book Festivals:

Maybe schedule a vacation to a book festival and of course did I mention, Austin is a great place to visit in October to attend the Texas Book Festival?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tapping Into Practical Spirituality In The Job Search

Recently I have been reading a number of career books to improve my thoughts on Career Counseling. One book I have working through is The Job Search Solution by Tony Beshara. He is the President and owner of Babich and Associates which is the oldest job placement firm in Texas. One thing that drew me to the book is that he obviously has a passion for helping people through the difficulties of the job search.

The best sections of the book for me were the interviewing process which is a scary process for many people. It is often a topic that is not discussed well in career books. Still there was a chapter that caught me off guard as I was not expecting the topic in a book about job searching. I was pleasantly surprised to see a chapter entitled, “The Benefits of Practical Spirituality”. What does spirituality have to do with looking for a job? Isn't that side of life just for religious types on the weekend? I could simply say “Buy the book and find out”, but that is not what this blog is about. Even though I encourage you if you work with career issues a lot this book will be a help to you in helping clients.
I will share some of the ideas he discusses in the chapter with you. What I like is that they are practical ideas so that even if someone is agnostic and the idea of humans having a spiritual side is nauseating they can still honestly see themselves incorporating these ideas. Also I believe the ideas can be helpful simply in our daily work lives.

The first idea he mentions is Be Grateful. I have written in the past on the importance of having a thankful spirit in our life journey. There is a wealth of research showing the importance of being grateful. Carrying an attitude of gratitude as the poplar phase goes, builds up a positive outlook to the our daily journey. I know from having been on job hunts myself that it is easy to get down negatively on life. When working to help those in the middle of a job search, I know being grateful after another job hunt dead-end is difficult. Those who do try writing down a few things they are grateful for each day, though find that an attitude shift occurs that helps the day to day job search process more manageable. This spirit of thankfulness helps in the daily grind of work as well.

Practicing Forgiveness is something the author mentions that again someone may think has nothing to do about the job search. Although if you think about it, an unforgiving attitude exudes bitterness about the gripe or complaint the person is often holding onto. Many times in the job search process maybe the issue that needs forgiveness was things that happened at a former place of employment. Maybe there needs to be forgiveness of themselves for making a bad choice in quitting a job too early or taking a job they knew they weren't qualified for. In today’s job world of layoffs possibly it is hard feelings about being downsized. Forgiveness can lighten the heavy spirit of bitterness that weighs on a person’s emotions. It is best to be rid of the bitterness as it can be a body language hindrance in an interview setting. Or even in a new job if the person has not let go of the past issues it can hamper work effectiveness.

Another idea that he mentions that meant much to me is looking at the power of prayer. He makes a point of saying not to pray for a specific job but to pray for wisdom and guidance in the job search process. I see this thought as praying for opportunities to open and then wisdom to know which opportunity to focus in on. Of course this idea is not attractive to those who disbelieve in the power of prayer. For those people he encourages them to look at this idea as creating a list of what he calls positive intentions that you desire to pass on to other people . This can relate I believe to visualization. Take some quiet time to visualize in your mind new opportunities and ways to help others and often you will become more aware of opportunities in your daily life. I strongly believe prayer is important is our daily work life as well, to live out the best intentions in our work and with our co-workers.

The idea of positive intentions towards others relates well with another idea he relates which is volunteering. Of course a job search should be considered a full time job until a person finds work. But finding some time to volunteer is a positive experience to help others. Of course it can be a productive networking experience as well for those on a job search. For those who are working, volunteering is an extra way to give back to your community in your local church, synagogue or community service group. It provides a positive example to your children and enriches your life as you are giving to others often less fortunate than you are.
Tony Beshara’s chapter on Practical Spirituality in the job search process has a number of other ideas. I just wanted to touch on a few here that stood out to me. Hopefully if these wet your mental appetite you will look for his book at your local library or bookstore near you.

Reflection: How does Gratefulness, Forgiveness, Prayer, and Volunteering relate to your career life? Write your thoughts down in your journal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Improving Your Attitude Is Important In Living More Than OK

What is it that shapes our outlook on each day and our future? How can several people experience the same event and have totally different feelings and ideas about it? One person looks at a rainy day as a terrible nuisance and another thinks it is helpful for the plants and nature or enjoys it as a great day to relax and read, (my personal favorite). This shaper of our mental outlook is our attitude. We all have an attitude all the time. The problem is what kind of attitude do we carry around with us?

There is a motivational company called Simple Truths that promotes positive books on a variety of topics. They also have short motivational videos that are very uplifting to the spirit and can help think over better ways to live our lives. I want to share with you one that is on the topic of Attitude. Before we progress further take a moment and click on the below title and watch the video:

Attitude Is Important (Click on Title)

There are too many uplifting ideas in this video to expound on in this short blog post. I just want to touch on a few that meant the most to me as I watched it. The first is what I think most of us relate to when considering attitude. Stay Positive. A positive attitude is so important to living the best life possible. I often ask college students in lecture who would you rather hang around with? Someone with a positive attitude towards life or a negative attitude? Always the response is the desire to be with a positive attitude person. There is always the rare wise aleck student that states they enjoy negativity.

To have the best life possible, we need to as the video states, have an attitude that “Expects the Best”. If we expect the best, that attitude motivates us to do our best to get what we desire. To go for our dreams and reach our goals we need to have that expectation of the best to fully reach them. Listen to testimonials of sport stars and musicians you will often catch that “expecting the best attitude” in their talk. This drives their discipline to be the best. We each can use that attitude in achieving what we each are passionate about.

Attitudes are relational as they affect how we relate to those around us. The thought in the video about an attitude of kindness is important to consider. “It is not the things you get, but the hearts you touch that will determine your success in life”. The kindness attitude seeks to help build other people up not to tear them down. A good question to ask in relating to others is how do we view others? Is it with a kind heart or a disdainful heart? Greater than kindness is having a loving attitude. The quote in the video is so true which I believe is why they call their company Simple Truths. “Love doesn't make the world go round – Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” To live a life of purpose and fulfill our mission God has us in this life for is to be people with loving attitudes. This is why the Bible states the “greatest of these is love” in I Corinthians 13.

Another question I want to end with is in the middle of the Simple Truths video clip. It speaks of how attitudes are contagious. Attitudes can rub off on others. Consider a work situation where negative comments are being tossed about by a worker who has a bad attitude. Soon others chime in and try to one up the negative statements. The work climate soon becomes very negative and gloomy. Consider the same work group situation but this time a positive attitude person encourages a co-worker and is always cheerful and kind. Often then the office atmosphere becomes more positive. So here is an important question to consider – Is my attitude worth catching?

Reflection: What were the main ideas of the attitude video that caught your attention? The video speaks of singing your song. Is there a song you like that could be considered your life theme song?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Getting’ In The Flow With Van Morrison

As I was watching the news on TV a commercial for a new Van Morrison CD caught my attention. The title struck me, Born to Sing: No Plan B. Being a Career Counselor I always encourage students to have a plan B & C in their lives so the title caught me off guard. Then what really drew me was the R & B hook of the first song’s chorus, “Open the door to your heart, Open the door to your heart, Get back in the flow, open the door to your heart.” This made me want to explore the song more as the concept of the chorus speaks to me of moving in a positive direction.

In the liner notes for the cd the description of the song, Open The Door To Your Heart is stated this way, “the private man, (meaning Van Morrison), introduces us to some of his permanent truths”. Later in the liner notes Van Morrison states concerning the messages in the songs of the album, “These are all just ideas…songs are just ideas, concepts and you just put the mic there and go. There are no rules that say you can’t have different ideas – in fact why not? Why not have different ideas.” So as usual when I focus in on a song listen to the song first and I will share some ideas that came to me in the song. Click on the title above the lyrics to hear a live version of Van Morrison performing the song.

Open The Door To Your Heart by Van Morrison

Open the door to your heart, Open the door to your heart,
Get back in the flow, open the door to your heart.
Money doesn’t make you fulfilled, Money’s just to pay the bills,
It’s need not greed, Open the door to your heart
If You’ve got eyes to see and ears to hear,
Then why don’t you quit crying in your beer my dear.

If nobody gets what they want, tell me what’s the use in that,
Everybody just gets fat, open the door to your heart,
Backbiters always make mistakes if you want to get an even break,
Think of everything that’s at stake, Open the door to your heart.

Don’t you think I know who my enemies are,
Their slip is showing and the door is ajar,
Well this time they pushed me too far, open the door to your heart.
If You’ve got eyes to see and ears to hear,
Then why don’t you quit crying in your beer my dear.

If you can’t hear the song your wrong, I’ve been around too long,
Just listen to the words that’s all, open the door to your heart,
Open the door to your heart, Got to get back in the flow
Open the door to your heart, Come on,
Yeah, Yeah, Open the door to your heart, Open the door to your heart
Get back in the flow, open the door to your heart.

The chorus is what first drew me to the song. The phrase “Got to get back in the Flow”, reminds me of the concept of Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his work on the concept of Flow. That feeling of being absorbed and fulfilled in what we are doing. IN the sports world they speak of being in the zone. That is flow which is important to living more than ok. It is living at peak performance. This part of the song to me causes me to think of how am I living my life? Am I closed off to the desires of my heart just existing in drudgery or a dullness of life? I should open the door in my heart to all that my God has for me in life to enjoy and fulfilling my potential. Getting back in the flow of what my potential and possibilities are brings fulfillment.

Van Morrison states what will not bring fulfillment. Money and greed does not bring fulfillment. Materialistic greed is one theme that goes through the CD. Granted money is needed in life but the quest for more and more does not truly satisfy the heart. Also he repeats the phrase, “quit cryin in your beer.” Moping around and feeling sorry for oneself will not fulfill us as well. Have a pity party and see how many people come. People will stay away. He keeps going back to the choice we need to make to, “Open the door to your heart, Got to get back in the flow Open the door to your heart, Come on, Yeah, Yeah, Open the door to your heart, Open the door to your heart Get back in the flow, open the door to your heart.” If we “got eyes to see and ears to hear” we should listen to his words. The song on the CD ends with a joyful emphasis on repeating the chorus.

Reflection: Are you living with an open heart? How can you get into the flow personally for a more fulfilling and joyful life? Jot down a few ways you can personally move more towards getting into the flow of life.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Be Happy While You Work

Every now and then I re-read magazine articles I enjoyed to learn more from them. So this past week I was spending some time with the Harvard Business Review January/February 2012 issue. Their special focus was Happiness with several articles focusing on happiness in the workplace. Usually when you observe people they are happy when they are leaving work not going to work. That is what attracted me to the issue. Two articles that stood out to me were "Creating Sustainable Performance" by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath and "Positive Intelligence", by Shawn Achor.

Both articles brought to light research metastudies that showed how happier and positive employees are more productive, more creative, and go beyond the call of duty. It makes sense that if you hate your job you have less energy and when asked to go the extra mile “forget it”, is the first thing that comes to mind. I thought of my own work over the years and I would say the jobs I enjoyed the most I put more effort and energy into them.

I want to discuss a few ideas from the articles that can help us improve our happiness levels in our work. The first item I want to share is how Shawn Achor discussed the importance of creating positive habits. New habits that are positive can keep us growing to thrive in our lives. He presented ideas such as to write a positive note to someone in your social network on a regular basis. Also to keep a journal and write down a few minutes each day a meaningful experience from your day or write down three things you are grateful for. Since the focus of this is to increase happiness at work I would suggest to think about meaningful experiences in your workday. Maybe you had a positive experience in solving a problem for a customer. Or jot down how you encouraged a co-worker who was having a difficult day.

One thing that can drag us down is workplace stress. Shawn gave an interesting reminder that stress although we don’t like to experience it, often is the fuel for growth in our lives. He listed how one company he consulted with, he asked the managers to list 5 life experiences that helped shape their lives. All the items they listed were times of stress and struggle. He states, “few people grow on vacation”. So, when we are in the stress of work have a mindset of how can I grow through this experience. He suggests to look at the stressors affecting you and list those that can be controlled and those that can not be controlled. Consider the stress factors that can be controlled and then brainstorm specific ways you can lessen the stress.

Another item that helps with happiness levels is discovering a sense of meaning in your work. Look at your work and see the bigger picture of going beyond just putting in your 8 hour day. How does what you do touch others lives? How are you adding value to the world around you in your work? Life long learning relates to this. What new things can you learn to grow in your job position to improve how you serve customers or help your fellow co-workers? As we learn and grow we can find deeper levels of meaning in our work to appreciate and enjoy our work on new levels.
As I have mentioned in the past we spend much of our time in this thing called work so doesn’t it make sense to be happy in it rather than carry a sense of dread about it. Some of the research in the articles show that the benefits of being happy at work carries over to happiness outside of work. If we are happier in our work we do not carry home the burden of stress and anger that is then often displaced on those living with us, or the household pet having to run and hide.

Reflection – Think over your work life then list a few things you are thankful for about your work. Write down a way you can bring new meaning to the work you do. What is your mindset about stress? Look at three turning points of growth in your life. Did they occur out of a time of struggle or a vacation time?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Enjoy A Break From Technology

To enjoy a Living More Than OK Life it helps to take a break from technology. Technology is so much of our daily lives and we often we can not do without it. Much of our work involves the computer screen many hours a day. Emails and texts seem to be never ending. Even in grocery stores in produce sections I see people picking up vegetables or fruits with one hand and scrolling their iphone screens with the other. I want to walk up them and say “why don’t you give it a rest”. As a family we gave technology a rest this past weekend.

We took a weekend trip to Bastrop State Park, which is outside of Austin, Texas. Instead of doing a hotel we rented a full service cabin inside the park grounds. The cabins were very simple but comfortable. I was surprised to read of the history of the cabins on a poster inside the cabin. It turned out that they were built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. I remembered that 3 of my uncles served in the CCC before World War II. The cabins were made of stone so they had survived the Bastrop Fires that occurred last Summer.
We enjoyed canoeing on the lake and hiking through the woods. Even though the fire had devastated the area, we viewed nature making a come back. Many of the pines near the cabins were coming back strong. Further from the lake and into the deeper wooded areas the trees were still more barren. If we can have some strong late Fall rains as the weather forecast is predicting hopefully next Spring will see more greening of the trees.

The morning canoe outing was the highlight for my wife and I. It was so relaxing to be out on a still lake viewing the surrounding nature from that perspective. We took the sights in with all our senses to savor the time together and capturing pictures of the beauty of the park. That is one of the positives of taking time to be out in nature to savor God’s Creation.

In the evening at the cabin we continued to keep away from technology. There was no television in the cabin. So we spent time playing a game called WhatchamaDRAWit. We had never played it since buying it and had lost the instructions so we made up our own rules and enjoyed playing our version of it. That opened up conversation time which is also a rare item in today’s technology world of texting or talking in short phrases. Twitter and Facebook communication has limited communication to just short phrases. It seems like people can’t read an email that asks three topics as they will just respond to whatever the person first stated and ignore the other items in an email. So it was pleasant to be away from the technology to use old fashioned speaking in communication.

We bought a Texas State Park pass at the park as we realized as a couple and a family, we need to break away from technology from time to time. To enjoy life to the fullest it helps to do other things than to be tied to the electronic gadgetry that tries to control our lives. We are looking forward to going back to Bastrop State Park and exploring other state parks during this next year.

Reflection: Take a day and shut down the electronic technology that you think is vital to your existence. You will see you can survive a day without Facebook or texting. You may even enjoy it. Go to a State park, zoo, museum, or a picnic at a local park. Enjoy a conversation with someone with the cell phone off or silent. Write in a journal how your experience from technology felt.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weaving Our Dreams In Life

In my work with college students I encourage them at the beginning of the semester to dream big dreams. Life has much to offer if we work hard and go for the dreams and goals we want to accomplish on our life journey. There are also hardships and struggles which at times bring chaos into our lives. At these junctures we often need to re-evaluate our dreams and see if they need changed or new pathways to obtain them

I don’t apologize for telling students to think big about their lives. I was reminded about today a quote from C. S. Lewis, “It is not that we desire too much, but that we desire too little. Our appetites are not too big, they are too small.” How much more in life could we accomplish if we went big with our dreams for our lives? Often what stops us from dreaming big are life’s pains that overtake us as well as worries that keep us bound up in the chaos of life. We don’t see our dreams coming true instead life looks like just a chaotic mess of knots and twine. What started me thinking about this recently was hearing the song by Gary Wright back in the 1970’s called “Dream Weaver”. As usual I ask you to look over the lyrics and listen to a video of the song by clicking on the song title.

Dream Weaver (click on title to view video) by Gary Wright

I've just closed my eyes again Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver take away my worries of today And leave tomorrow behind
Ooooh, dream weaver I believe you can get me through the night
Ooooh, dream weaver I believe we can reach the morning light
Fly me high through the starry skies Maybe to an astral plane
Cross the highways of fantasy Help me to forget today’s pain
Ooooh, dream weaver I believe you can get me through the night
Ooooh, dream weaver I believe we can reach the morning light
Though the dawn may be coming soon There still may be some time
Fly me away to the bright side of the moon And meet me on the other side
Ooooh, dream weaver I believe you can get me through the night
Ooooh, dream weaver I believe we can reach the morning light
Dream weaver Dream weaver

The song reminded me of how I encourage students to follow their dreams. It reminded me of the importance of dreaming big. Some of the words remind me of the famous quote, “Reach for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars”. This is much better than those who do not try and just trudge the mud of this earth just existing with no aspirations. The Dream weaving concept also made me think that we often have many dreams through out life. Some we reach, some are changed and reworked. When we go through the process of reaching tour dreams, life can seem like a mess like the underside of a rug that looks chaotic. But once we accomplish our dream and look back at all the pains and struggles we see how they fit together in a beautiful pattern.

The term Dream Weaver in the song also made me wonder who the Dream Weaver is? Reading a little about Gary Wright his worldview comes across as heavy in Eastern religious thought so the Dream Weaver may be an impersonal force of the universe. From my Christian worldview I see a personal God in Jesus Christ being the Dream Weaver. Therefore I seek to have my dreams for my life line up with God’s will and direction for my life. The God of the Bible can use dreams in our lives. Here are just a few references to dreams and visions from the Bible:
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." Joel 2:28

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams." Acts 2:17

Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to those in captivity. And the vision that I had seen went up from me. So I spoke to those in captivity of all the things the Lord had shown me." Ezekiel 11:24-25
"...the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Daniel 2:19

In your life take time to think over dreams you have for the next part of your life journey. Desire big dreams in your future. Don’t go small. You will be surprised with a little commitment, discipline and hard work what you can accomplish.

Reflection: Look over your life journey. Was there a dream you had that looking back you can see how the difficulties were well worth the final end result? Looking forward is there an out of this world starry sky dream you want to aim for in the next phase of your life journey? Write it down and plan to go for it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Living a Flourishing Life

Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness was one of my first introductions to Positive Psychology. That book along with the online course I took of Dr. Tal Ben Shahar solidified my thinking that psychology is not only for the variety of mental illnesses but the principles are also there to help all people live better lives. I am grateful for both of these experiences in my life.

Being the Bookhead I am, when I saw a new book Flourish, by Dr. Martin Seligman I had to get it. The book has been out for a while and it continues his thoughts on Positive Psychology. The work is a deeper expansion of Positive Psychology beyond his initial work, Authentic Happiness. He shows examples of how the principles behind Positive Psychology have been used with beneficial results in a variety of populations.

The deeper expansion Dr. Seligman speaks of in the book is moving beyond happiness to overall improved well being in our human life journey. The core features of Positive Psychology he mentions in the first chapter are having positive emotions, being intentionally engaged in our life focus, and having a sense of meaning and purpose. The first core principle focuses in on our happiness level and life satisfaction. The second is centered on the joy of learning and creatively looking at life. Then the third focuses in on what is the big picture of what we want to do with our lives. What will make our life journey meaningful? He describes some other principles which flow out of the three core features but I don’t want to give all the book’s features away. Hopefully you will go to your local library or favorite bookstore and pick up a copy to read. As I definitely would say this is one of those books that would make life better if everyone would read it.

In the preface of the book he makes this statement that stood out to me “… happiness, flow, meaning, love, gratitude, accomplishment, growth, better relationships – constitute human flourishing. Learning that you can have more of these things is life changing.” Life can be a continual growing journey of flourishing if we make the right choices to spiral up instead of spiral down in life. This is the way to have the best life possible and I believe it is the way we were meant to be.

As I come at life with a Christian worldview, the title of Dr. Seligman’s book made me think of how God wants us to be living. I looked in the scriptures for the word flourish and found many references to the word in Psalms. In Psalm 92:1 we read, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.” Or in Psalm 52:8 “ But I am like an Olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” There are several other verses that use the metaphors of our being like a flourishing tree or plant without using the term flouring but it is implied, (Psalm 1:3; Psalm 144:12; Proverbs 11:28; Jeremiah 17:8).

The scriptures look at God’s desire for us not as shriveled up plants or dried up dead trees. The verses mentioned above describes God’s people as flourishing, healthy trees. Trees that are strong and fruitful as well. The metaphor carries with it that our lives are to be positive and have meaning in being fruitful so that we have a purpose in our daily living. So, that we are strong to meet the challenges of each day. This is what I appreciate about Positive Psychology is that it’s focus on making people stronger and more fruitful in their life.

Reflection -- If you were a tree what kid of tree would you be? Thinking of the three core features of Positive Psychology where are you at presently:
1. What is your level of happiness?
2. Are you learning something new and excited about it?
3. What do you see as your primary purpose in life at the present time?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Taking Charge of Change in Life

Change is one thing we can always count on in life. Sometimes it comes fast and swift and other times change sneaks up on us. Change also varies in that it can be a good change that we can be grateful for or a bad change that negatively impacts our life. As a new semester is starting for my teaching at the college I found myself thinking about change. Also as my daughter begins college this is a change in our family life and her life.

I found myself pulling off my bookshelf a book I had read years ago, You Can Excel In Times Of Change by Dr. Shad Helmstetter. I want to share today just a few of his ideas on how we can make the most of change in our lives. The important part of change is how we react. All change has an impact on our lives either bringing good feelings or debilitating us. Loss especially in death of a loved one is a change that is hard to let go of. Especially when the death is unexpected -- the change of having that person gone can create a shock that is difficult to overcome. In the same vein job loss is a difficult change to overcome. There is a sense of life is not fair that can take over and hold people in responding to the change by negatively keeping stuck in the pain.
Dr. Helmstetter in this book brings out that many of the changes that occur in our lives when we look at the causation, is often out of our control. But the outcome of the change is controlled by our choices to be responsible in the face of change or irresponsible and staying stuck. He brings out the point that people who make it a habit of being responsible in their lives handle changes better. Those who hold on to excuses and blame often stay stuck longer or go backwards when faced with change.

A key element in our response to change is our attitude. Again we may not be in control of the change agent that affected our life. In response, though we have a choice to shape our attitude in a positive or negative way. Our attitude is a powerful force we can control to make good come from even the worst changes that may occur. Successful people and people who overcome great odds when their lives are examined; their success comes back to the positive attitude they carry in their life.
To excel and take charge of change Dr. Helmstetter encourages the reader to go beyond attitude to change your perception to the resulting future of your choices about the change. Write down and create mental pictures of the next steps in your life journey beyond the change. List the positive things that you want to move towards. Create goals to go after what you want to gain for a better life. If this is not done he says we can stay stuck in what he calls just an average life, just ok. Not a life that is succeeding.

Dr. Helmstetter gives a couple of examples of what he is getting at. He describes a couple that move their mother-in-law in with them with an initial attitude to get to know her better. But in not moving beyond attitude they begin to resent her being there and life turns negative. A young woman takes French classes with an attitude to learn so as to travel to Europe. She never goes beyond the initial attitude and never travels. She keeps a nagging regret of why she took the classes in the first place. So there needs to be a choice to move beyond being stuck by changes. A choice is needed to move beyond living just average or what I call living more than ok.

Reflection: What changes are you facing in life? Is it a new change or a change from the past still holding you? Reflect on your attitude about the change. List what can happen if you choose a positive viewpoint of the change. Create a mental picture of future positive possibilities you can move towards in your life.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Be Responsible For Creating Your Life

I was preparing for my new semester of Teaching a Foundations for College Success course by looking over the new textbook, On Course by Skip Downing. One chapter that jumped out to me was on Personal Responsibility. We live in an era where it is rare for people to accept responsibility. This is even seen on the governmental level instead of working on problems the leaders point to excuses away from themselves as to why the country is in the mess it is.

It is easier to make up excuses and point to others as the root of our problems than to do the hard work of solving our problems ourselves. The author says this of personal responsibility, “The essence of personal responsibility is responding wisely to life’s opportunities and challenges, rather than waiting passively for luck or other people to make the choices for us.” Those two key words responding versus waiting have a big impact on how we respond to life.

Skip Downing places people in two categories in relation to responsibility. One is the Victim role. The victim is the waiting passively person. As life events occur and often trouble occur they wait and then blame others for their difficulties. They want a handout or someone such as the government to take care of them. The other role is the Creator role. This person actively responds to find personal solutions. At times they may seek out help from government but on a short term basis, as they ultimately want to be responsible for their own way in life. The passive victim often spirals down to deeper despair and complaints about how they got the short end of the stick or how unlucky they are. The Active responder creator instead spirals up with a positive attitude that the difficulty is only a temporary set back and they will bounce back. This is a key element in resilient people of having a comeback attitude.

In both cases a central element is the choices each person makes. The Creator makes positive choices to actively make their lives better. On the other hand the Victim makes choices to passively wait for someone else to help them which creates more hardship. Elisabeth Kuler-Ross said this of choices, “I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.” I always emphasize to my students that all our life is made up of continual choices and each choice we make creates a consequence . The creator accepts responsibility for their choices while the victim sits crying unfair and blaming others for their situation. At the end of our life we will look back and realize our life was the result of all our choices.

To have the best life possible we need to be actively engaged in making wise responsible choices. We need to choose whether we want to be a victim and spiral down in negatively or be a creator and spiral upwards with a positive attitude. Now granted rain and storms occur in every person’s life. And there are some who have more storms than others. The creators keep bouncing back resiliently from the storms knowing that there is more to life than just storms. The victims often stay stuck in the storm and miss the rainbow by staring at the grey clouds in the distance. The choice is up to each of us.

Reflection: Are you a creator or a victim? How can you make wise choices for your life?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reading Releases Flights of Fancy In Our Imagination

Today I am writing about the picture above this posting. The title of it is “Tapestries” by Joy Wallace an artist from Wisconsin. I have had this piece of artwork in my library/office area since I bought it over 15 years ago at an Art Festival in Chicago, (one of the many things I miss about the Windy City—dare I say pizza as well – but I digress). It has been an inspiration to me about an important aspect of reading – imagination.

First here is a little about the painter and artist. Joy Wallace started doing art shows of her works in 1970 and as I mentioned she is from Wisconsin. She uses a technique called etching which along with her creativity the technique gives her works of art a magical and mystical feeling. You can find out more about her technique and view more of her artwork at her website listed here: The link I have here takes you to her section on Books. Being the Bookhead I am I could not pass up taking you to that section. But I encourage you to look at all of her art in her Gallery section.

Now back to Tapestries and reading. The picture took me back to my childhood in the Summer Reading program at Barberton Public Library in Barberton, Ohio my hometown. Starting in third grade, that was an enjoyable part of my Summertime, reading fiction books in a chair at home or outside under one of our trees. What I liked about fiction is I could imagine the places in the books and the descriptions in my own way. In “Tapestries”, we see the young boy has been reading and has fallen asleep. Possibly he is dreaming about the story he was reading. As the book is falling, a flock of white birds, maybe doves, are flying out of the pages. Is that what he is dreaming of as well?

The birds flying to me can be a metaphor for freedom. When we read and grow our imagination this way, we are opening up to learn to be free in expressing our imagination in new ways. This aspect of reading helps to improve our creativity. Imagination and creativity helps keep us sharp minded and feeling alive.
I also notice that the Tapestry, the boy’s chair is on; is rumpled, as if it is moving and the chair is tilting like it is ready for take-off. Is that part of his dream from the book as well that he will be taking a magical journey to some unknown world on this soon to be flying Tapestry? I don’t know as I do not know what book he is reading? But I can imagine can’t I?

We need to encourage reading in our own lives and in the lives of children. I am not movie bashing here as I enjoy a nice Disney film as well as anyone. Movies do play a part in creativity and imagining as well. But in a movie, visually everything is all spelled out there for children and adults. With reading their own imagination gets to kick in and create what the scene and characters actually look like. I believe that is lost in movies and mindless TV. In reading a book our imagination is not passive but actively engaged. It is this active engagement of the mind’s imagination that helps improve our minds I believe creatively as well as critically.

Reflection: What does the meaning of the picture “Tapestries” mean to you? I have been randomly asking people two questions for a writing project I am working on: #1. Why do you think reading is important? And #2 What is the name of a book that has meant a lot to you in your life? If you have emailed this to me you are off the hook on this part of the reflection. If you have not and would like to email me your thoughts send them to my email Keep your imagination flying!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Listen To The One Who Will Not Forget You

Listening is often a neglected yet important discipline in the spiritual sphere of our lives. In the American Christian tradition which is the basis of my worldview, prayer is too often a one sided gabfest with God With our ongoing list and repetition of demands and requests to the Almighty there is no silence and listening on our part. If we look at prayer and meditation as communing with God there must be listening on our part.

These two following verses from the Psalms remind us of the importance of listening to God with our inner spirit waiting silently in His presence.

Psalm 85:8 “I will listen to what God the LORD says;he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”
Psalm 62:5 “For God Alone, O my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.”

If we seriously want peace and to live in the hope God provides, we need to be listening for His call in our lives. To be considered as faithful servants as the Psalmist says, we need to be listeners to God the Fathers voice. I take note of the word folly in the first verse mentioned. Often in going our own way because we are not listening to God, we fall into folly and foolishness in our actions and face the negative consequences.

A dear friend of mine from Chicago singer/songwriter, Keryn Moriyah, recently posted a video on Youtube of an original song she wrote entitled Listen. Take some time to listen to the song and reflect of the lyrics below.

Listen by Keryn Moriyah (to view video click on the song title)

Look at the world in a rumble.
See the people tremblin'', tremblin''.

Listen. Can you hear me?
Listen, you should be listening to my call.

Sensitivity is scarce, touching is rare.
Caring is becoming extinct and
loving is on the brink, so...


Walk in new life in the Spirit,
for He is strong and we are weak,
so weak, so weak to worship the Father and love one another.
Yeshua, Covenant of the redeemed!

Ending Refrain:
Listen, can you hear me?
Listen, can you hear me? Hear me.
Listen, can you hear me, hear me?
Listen, you should be listening to my call.

Listen, (to my Lord's call) can you hear me?
( my Lord's call). Listen.
I will never forget you...
never forsake you
listen, listen, listen, listen, listen.

The song to me is a prophetic call to us in these troubled times to take time to listen to the Lord God's voice. When we are feeling forgotten and forsaken we are reminded by the song that God does not forget us. He can be our strength when we are overcome by the folly and foolishness in the world that causes us to tremble. When we do not take time to listen we become overburdened and downtrodden so that we can not care and love as we should.

If we take time to be quiet and listen and understand that this is part of worshipping God, we can enjoy the covenant relationship with the Lord. He will then guide us in seeing the needs around us that He wants us to reach out to. He will give us His strength to love the world that is in a rumble of trouble. Following His Call is true walking in the Spirit.

Reflection: In your personal prayer and meditation time are you taking time to quietly listen to God’s speaking to you? Incorporate time of listening in your spiritual devotional prayer time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Become A Difference Maker

In a recent USA Today issue, they listed a Pew Research poll on how readers got their most recent book. Borrowing from a library was listed as 14%. I would like to see that number grow higher as libraries are a wonderful place to pick out books that interest you. Today I want discuss a book I borrowed from my local library in New Braunfels, Texas. The book is Making a Difference by Being Yourself by Gregory E. Huszczo.

One reason I wanted to read it was that perusing through it, I noticed the author was focusing in on the MBTI, (Myers-Briggs Type Inventory). Although personality inventories have received a bad rap from some I do believe from taking them and studying them, they do offer helpful insights in understanding ourselves better. The author helps in this book to show how the personal insights gleaned by knowing our personality type can help individuals grow in their work relationships and personal relationships.

Think over the phrase “making a difference”. In living a life more than ok, having an attitude of making a difference is a motivator to move us beyond just existing. The author brings out in the text, that starting with the desire to make a difference helps in giving meaning and fulfillment to our lives. As he states in the book, “The More we notice opportunities to make a difference and push ourselves to rise to the occasion, the better we will feel about ourselves as well as life in general” (Page 7). Living this way gives our lives meaning and purpose.

The book discusses how making a difference is based on three parts in our life: our abilities, our motivation, and opportunities that come up in our daily lives. The more we know the unique elements of our personality type we can understand how to use our abilities in our interactions to make a difference. The primary realms we can make a difference is in our work and in our relationships. It is all about how we touch other people’s lives. That is how we make a difference.

Think over how we can help make a difference. In the book the author gives a list of ways we make a difference in work or relationships to help the reader brain storm other ways they have or can make differences in lives around them. Here are some items from the list: solving a problem, being a role model, motivating others, resolving a conflict, team building, caring for others, reducing stress in a situation. As you consider the list of items you can probably think of other ways of making a difference.

As we understand how our unique personality traits work we can be effective in making a difference. Based on our personality type we all attack problems differently, we care for others differently, we team build differently. The key word is different. Personality is not about right or wrong it is about our unique strengths we each bring to the opportunities in dealing with things in life differently from the next person.

We can only imagine how better life in the world would be if each of us took the viewpoint of making a positive difference in our workplaces and relationships. It would create a more giving environment instead of a passive, “I’m sure someone else will do it” or worse yet, the victim mentality we see too often today of “why doesn’t someone help me. It’s not fair!”. Difference makers seek to improve other people and situations around them. The positive paradox is that the more we give and serve the more we will find our lives more fulfilled rather than empty.

I encourage you to explore the author’s book website -- and look for his book at your local library or local bookstore.

Reflection: This is based on one of his reflections in his book. Write down on a piece of paper several examples of when you have made a difference at work. Then Write down on a piece of paper several examples of when you have made a difference in personal relationships. Think over these times. How did they make you feel? How did these experiences affect those around you and yourself in a positive manner?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keep Your Dreams Flying Higher

Last week I was driving down the highway listening to a San Antonio a classic rock radio station. The song, Dreams by Van Halen came on. I had always liked the energy of the song; as well as, since being a big believer in the importance of dreams, I appreciated the overall theme. I thought to myself that I had never really looked at the lyrics of the song so decided to look for the lyrics and check out videos of the song.

When I made it home I went on line and saw several videos for Dreams. The video I embedded in this post struck me for several reasons. First it took me back from a savoring concept, of remembering days in Chicago attending the air and water show along Lake Michigan. I also remembered a student this past year, in the college success class I teach, who wrote his career paper on his passion of wanting to follow in the family tradition of being in the Air Force. Going into the military forces often begins with a dream when the person is younger and that is part of what the song is about. Take some time to look over the words to the song also to view and listen to the video.

Dreams By Van Halen(click on the title to activate the video)

World turns black and white, Pictures in an empty room
Your love starts fallin' down Better change your tune
Yeah, you reach for the golden ring Reach for the sky
Baby, just spread your wings

We'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher Leave it all behind

Run, run, run away Like a train runnin' off the track
Got the truth bein' left behind, Falls between the cracks
Standin' on broken dreams Never losin' sight, ah
Well just spread your wings

We'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher Leave it all behind

So baby dry your eyes Save all the tears you've cried
Oh, that's what dreams are made of 'Cause we belong in a world that must be strong
Oh, that's what dreams are made of

Yeah, we'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb
Higher and higher Leave it all behind Oh, we'll get higher and higher
Who knows what we'll find?

So baby dry your eyes Save all the tears you've cried
Oh, that's what dreams are made of Oh baby, we belong in a world that must be strong
Oh, that's what dreams are made of

And in the end on dreams we will depend 'Cause that's what love is made of.

From the context of the whole song it is focusing on the dreams of a couple in a relationship who are facing difficult times. “World turns black and white, Pictures in an empty room” causes me think of metaphors for barrenness and despair leading to broken dreams. From dreams in a relationship point of view, I believe the song is saying don’t give up. Keep climbing higher and higher to keep hold of shared dreams. It is important in marriage to support each others dreams and to also have united dreams together. In the difficult times the shared dreams can help the couple work together and stay strong on climbing higher in life together.

Looking at the song from just an individual dreamer standpoint, I first notice “reach for the golden ring, ..and spread your wings.” Go for the gold in your dreams. Not meaning money instead, go for the best for your life in your dreams! Keep going “higher and higher” focuses in on dreaming big. Not every big dream comes true but dreams move us out of the empty black and white of life. They take us out of the empty room. Where do the dreams take us? Sometimes as the one lyric phrase says, “Who knows what we will find?”. We often don’t know what God has in store as we move out with dreams he has implanted in us. Yet if we don’t dream or stay sulking about broken dreams, we will know where we are, as we will remain stuck in the same empty room going nowhere.

“Straight up we will climb” relates to our discipline and perseverance in following our dreams. We again go nowhere if we just write our dream down and stay seated in our recliner. We need to be actively engaged in reaching for the sky and spreading our wings following a plan of action to go for the dream. We have been reminded recently in the political arena discussions that dreamers who actively have reached out for the gold ring have been one reason for America’s success. To continue this we need to be dreamers who dream big and then are willing to spread our wings to reach those dreams!

Reflection: Are you a dreamer or stuck in your recliner in an empty room? Take ten minutes to reflect over a new dream for yourself. Maybe it is to be involved in a new volunteering venture, or writing, or a new business idea, or fill your own blank. If you are in a relationship take time to share your dreams with each other. Discuss shared dreams you want to work on together.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Be Compassionate to Yourself

One of the best books I have read on the subject of Anxiety is From Panic To Power by Lucinda Bassett. She is the founder of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. It is a very realistic book on the subject as the first portion of the book she shares her story of her battle with anxiety related disorders. Then she offers a variety of practical helps for individuals with anxiety or therapists can use these helping ideas with clients.

I want to focus in on one of recovery techniques she shares. In chapter 8 she discusses Compassionate Self-Talk. I am a big believer in the importance of Positive Self-Talk which is the same thing but the term compassionate intrigued me. If we think about it and ponder over the negatives things we say to ourselves we are often more compassionate to others than to ourselves. We can often be our harshest critics. We stop our selves from progressing in our work or activities we want to do because we put ourselves down. Thoughts such as “someone else could do better than me”; “there is no way I can be successful with that”; “There are so many better writers, painters, singers,…than me”. The negative critic inside stops us from what we can really do. If we heard our best friend say these things we would stop them and help them think in a more positive way. But living with inner self we continue to tear ourselves down with negative self-talk.

Ms. Bassett says of compassionate self-talk, “it is any message or dialogue with yourself or someone else that makes you feel good, strong, happy, confident, relaxed, capable, loving, energetic, peaceful or motivated.” It is the messages we tell ourselves that can overcome and help us flourish in our daily walk. We need to understand that our thought life is powerful enough to motivate ourselves to do great things, to overcome depression and anxiety, to gain power in difficult times, and to rise above being a passive victim and conquer the difficulties.

We first have to understand the level of our negative self-talk. She recommends carrying a small spiral notebook, ( I call these my brain on paper), and when you hear yourself say something negative like, “I feel too blah to go to work today” or “I can’t volunteer at the Summer camp, what if I make a fool of myself?” Write the statement down. After a week look over the statements. Is there a theme? Are you a “what ifer”? Such as “what if I fail, what if I look foolish”. Funny thing about what ifs is that they rarely come true. Or maybe you’re an “I Can’tr” Phrases like “I can’t do that” come up over and over again in your self-talk. As you look at the list consider how negative is what you are saying to yourself. How harmful are the statements? How are they defeating you or stopping your success.

In your notebook Ms. Bassett says to rewrite thought replacements. Take the time to write what you should say instead the negative things you are saying. This is like re-writing the scripts for your life. In being compassionate in your rewriting of negative self-talk be realistic. If you are feeling depressed because your car was wrecked don’t try to negate a true feeling by saying, “I am not depressed I am cheerful and happy. I am gald my car got totaled.” Instead say “I am feeling down about the car but I can be thankful I wasn’t hurt.” In understanding compassionate thought replacement we need to understand our thoughts can make us bitter or better. They can cause our emotions to spiral down in the dumps or spiral upwards to a energetic triumph over our difficulties.

Reflection: Spend 15 minutes thinking over your most recent thoughts from the past few days. Jot down a few of the negative scripts you say to yourself. Imagine you heard your best friend saying these same things. What would you tell your friend out of a spirit of compassion to help them say things that are more positive? Be more compassionate to yourself!

Friday, July 6, 2012

God Cares When Bad Things Happen

Last week I wrote about a song of comfort for difficult times. I was going to move on to another topic until I found myself reading a new book Godforsaken by Dinesh D’Souza, President of The Kings College in New York City. What I like most about his books is he makes me think about my viewpoint on topics. I find him reaffirming most of what I believe and sometimes challenging me to think in new ways. The subtitle of the book is “Bad Things Happen. Is there a God who cares? Yes. Here’s proof”. Just as song “Tears of Joy” looked at suffering and difficulty this book digs deeper into the subject.

Dr. D’Souza leaves no stone of suffering unturned. He looks at terrible acts of God in nature: earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes. Pain and suffering in the animal kingdom which often makes us wonder why God created a nature full of pain and struggle? Of course there is also much human suffering in young people who die too young. People you become paralyzed due to illness and accidents. He discusses the full range of suffering along all spectrums, as these are all areas where people look at the pain and suffering and ask where is God? How can there be a God that allows all this suffering? In my younger years I read the atheist, Bertrand Russell’s writings and in recent years I have read the new atheists writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris as well as others. Suffering is one angy complaint they hold up as evidence,(?), that God does not exist. So from that point alone it is important to look at the subject of suffering. Also it is important for me as a Christian to see what there is to learn from suffering.

I appreciate how the book does not describe the suffering in a detached intellectual way but delves into the emotional impact of it in our lives. I remember recently a dear friend in Chicago lost his son to an early death from sickness. When I had received the email from his mother I was shocked as I could not believe what had happened and felt sadness for a dear friend who had been a big help to me when I lived in Chicago. Those sudden unexpected deaths are often the hardest to take in trying to understand the silence of God in it all.

There are too many things I learned from the book to address here is this post so I encourage you to pick up the book in your favorite bookstore or library. But I will touch on a few items. One item that first comes to mind is his discussion on atheism and what he terms “wounded theism”. I had always wondered to myself why do these atheists in their writings write full of anger raging against God who they happen to believe does not exist? So you don’t believe in God -- big deal get on with your life. In many of them though is a background of religious upbringing and they become disillusioned. The idea of at their root of their anger at God is a wounded theism makes sense so I can understand where many of them are coming from. Some of them are angry with God so then make a choice to believe in an atheistic faith.

Another point I appreciated was that one purpose of suffering is to help mold us to be more empathic in our caring for others going through suffering. A helpful quote is, “Happiness is an incompetent instructor; much of the knowledge we get in life comes from hardship.” As I look back on my life as I went through a very difficult time a friend asked me what was I going to learn from the experience. Through pain and suffering we can either become bitter or become better. I try to aim for the better mindset as the bitter attitude causes a negative spiral downwards. A move to improve to be better, spirals us upwards to an improved attitude and better future response to difficulties.

We should never wish harm and pain on others. My blog attempts to improve people’s happiness levels. Yet our journey on this earth gives each of us our times of trials and pain. My worldview causes me to turn to God and know He will not forsake me. He is there in the storm with me. Just as Christ suffered more than any of us could imagine there is a promise of a future hope of a world without pain and suffering. An atheist may think I am crazy for believing that. But as I was reading Dr. D’Souza’s book verses from Romans 8:19-22 came to mind, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

I simply believe the Bible’s message of the Fall of man and subsequent fall of nature and the promise of God’s love and redemption through Christ makes the most sense out of what I observe in the world around me and in the world’s history. That is my belief, yes and I stand firm on that. Just as the atheist stands firm in their faith belief, that this magnificent miraculous world just poofed into existence by random chance.

Reflection: This reflection idea comes from the book, God Forsaken. Take a sheet of paper and draw two columns. Look over the past year and first write out all the bad things that happened to you. Then in the other column write out all the good things that happened and things you are grateful for from the past year. You will see even though there are bad things that happen for the most part there are more good things. Also look over some of the bad painful items. Has there been anything you learned or grew in from those events?