My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Monday, 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.