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.