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)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Mindful Christmas With Focus Forward

This Christmas we took a different path of celebrating the day and took a short trip on Christmas Day to the small town of Marble Falls, Texas. The only place open in the town for activities was a small movie theater where we saw the new The Secret Life of Walter Smitty movie. From there we enjoyed a magnificent Christmas light display the town puts on every year. A volunteer told me that the display is put up by townspeople but they also receive help from a local prison that sends a team of inmates to help string lights. Those same inmates are invited back before the display opens to the public to see the fruits of their work and enjoy punch and cookies. She mentioned for many inmates it is a touching experience to give back to society in that manner.

Back at the hotel I had time for some reading so took the occasion to read through my December issue of Mindful magazine. Sitting there reading I was thankful that we had a relaxing Christmas day together with no major cooking or cleanup. This time of reading also gave me the time to be reflective. Mindfulness is being able to appreciate the present moment . I thought that had been a part of the evening for me, starting with the Christmas light display. Strolling through and viewing the lights with my wife and daughter gave me time to reflect on the message of Christmas and the importance of this holiday in my present and past. The crisp cold air gave me the reminder of Christmas time even though being in Central Texas there was no snow unlike my Ohio and Chicago Christmas days. Viewing the displays I was able to fully able to fully enjoy them in the moment while at the same time they brought up fond savoring memories from Christmases past.

This time of year I do also begin to think of the year ahead of new goals and plans for the year ahead. It was interesting that the Mindful issue had an article that inspired me to reflect on my new goals and plans for the coming year. The article was “Focus” by Dr. Daniel Goleman. The article shared thoughts from his latest book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. I have always been a strong supporter in my teaching college students concerning his concepts of emotional intelligence so this was the highlight article of the issue for me.

The article mentions the lack of the power of focus for many people in our modern technological world. In a Twitter, texting world minds are more scattered and less focused. I noticed this the other day while attending a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert. Two people beside me at the beginning of an amazing show were looking at other videos on the one person’s cell phone. Also throughout the show many people I noticed, instead of taking in the show with the focus on the performance, they had their cell phones out either texting or taking pictures and videos of the show. Why? To prove on Facebook that they were there? By mindfully being focused on the performance I was able to deeply appreciate the group’s talent yes, but also more importantly be touched by a powerful story of the meaning of Christmas within the story being told by the narrator and singers. I understood that Dr. Goleman was right -- focus is important.

Within the article he shared three aspects of focus I had never thought of before. He shared that to have what I call a living more than ok life of abundant living, we need to consider three vital aspects of focus. First is to focus on the inner world, other relationships, and the outer world. The “inner focus” zeroes in on our personal values and our personal unique strengths. The second is the “other focus” that relates to an emphasis on our relationship with others in our circle of influence. The third focus aspect to consider is the “outer focus” that encourages a consideration of the big picture of the larger world around us.

As I reflected on what Dr. Goleman was saying here how these three aspects of focus can move us towards excellence; I thought of how I usually worked through personal goals in the past. I would say my personal plans were usually planned with just the inner focus. So as I move in to the New Year with my planning and new goal preparation, I am deciding to add into the planning the “other focus’ and the “outer focus” to add new dimensions in the planning process as I prayerfully and mindfully consider ideas for my life in 2014.

Reflection: Do you find yourself more scattered in your thinking and your life? Did you take time to mindfully enjoy the meaning for Christmas in your personal life? What do you think of Dr. Goleman’s concepts of having an inner, other, and outer focus?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Don’t Forget Books For Last Minute Gift Shopping

This week I was thinking with Christmas coming what to write about . My mind went to a column I read last week on American Spectator, “Buy the Book Christmas Books The gift of knowledge”, by Thomas Sowell . Then by happenstance that day I saw a Barnes & Noble ad on Facebook with this quote, “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside them” – Neil Gaiman. Then a couple days later, a friend from my school days on Facebook posted an interesting tag of mentioning 10 favorite books that had personal meaning to her life. So I thought why not write about books as a last minute Christmas gift option?

Now I know what you may be thinking. You notice my new book, Living More Than OK, at the top of my blog webpage. “Oh, this is a subtle attempt to get me to buy his book.” My response to that is, “ do you really think I would stoop so low as to just focus in on my book to get more sales? Ummmm! Oh my, that is a great idea. Thank you for thinking of it!” But seriously I am looking at this topic from the standpoint of the individual needs of each person on your gift list.

Considering the Neil Gaiman quote books make a great gift as they allow you to give a gift that opens up new worlds to the person you are giving the gift to. You have so many options to choose from in looking for books that relate to the friends you are shopping for. This variety with books is seen as Thomas Sowell brings out in his column there are options from coffee table books to more heady scholarly works. So through the gift of books you are opening up the mind of the receiver to new ideas, new possibilities and even new worlds. Dr. Sowell’s column title has the “gift of knowledge” in the title. What better gift to give as to increase a person’s thinking and knowledge with a Christmas gift of a book. Everything we read is increasing our knowledge which I believe is a good thing. I can’t think of a better way to help a friend prepare for new possibilities in the coming New Year.

Also giving the gift of books is very personal. In buying a book for someone you are thinking about the unique interests and likes of the person you are buying for. Of course you do that for any gift but with books you are zeroing even closer as you want the book to fit the individual. So buying books as a gift is very personal. If you need some ideas you can go to an online search engine like Google or Bing and search for ‘Best Books to give at Christmas”. You will find a wide variety of suggestions from various websites.

With shopping for books there are opportunities for ordering online through Barnes and Nobles and Amazon’s websites, as well as other book websites. Of course I am old fashioned, and prefer supporting brick and mortar bookstores. The internet cannot give you the feeling of exploring through the bookshelves and finding a hidden gem of a book. In the bookstore you can relax and peruse through any pages you wish, to see if it is the right book to purchase. So give me a bookstore any day!

Don’t forget in your buying books for others to not forget about yourself. Another great thing about books is that you are not going to break the bank so you can purchase a book for yourself to enjoy on these Wintry December days. Visualize yourself inside on a snow covered day with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. Buy yourself a book and you can make the visualization come true (maybe-- except for the snow if you live in the South like I do). Have a fun and safe final shopping weekend before Christmas!
By the way did I forget to mention I have a new book out? Living More Than OK! (Alright! I will keep quiet about it!).

Reflection: Write down the names of five of your friends. After their names write down what you know of their interests and likes. Search the internet for books that relate to those interests and likes.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Writing New Pages In The Book Of Your Life

At the recent Texas Counseling Association conference, in my presentation evaluation form , I asked attendees to share positive uplifting songs. My purpose, I told them was to pool among them a variety of positive songs that I could then email them for use with their clients and their own personal lives. As you know, I believe that music has power as a medium. A power for good or bad. My emphasis is to accentuate the positive music. They offered a wide variety of songs from various artists and styles of music. One that caught my attention is “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.

I wasn’t aware of her as an artist and thought I had never heard the song. Once I listened to it on Youtube, I realized I had heard it but never paid attention to the message. As usual take a few minutes to listen to the song by clicking on the song title. I came across an extremely creative video that touches on the message of the song.

"Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield (click on the title to hear the song)

I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned
Staring at the blank page before you, Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance , So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions, Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else, Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken, Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins,
The rest is still unwritten
I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way
Staring at the blank page before you, Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance, So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions, Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else, Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken, Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin, No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in, No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips, Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open, Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
Staring at the blank page before you, Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance, So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions, Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else, Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken, Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
Feel the rain on your skin, No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in, No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips, Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open, Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten, The rest is still unwritten, The rest is still unwritten

The first thought that hit me is that each new day we face is a blank page in the story of our lives. We may have some outline notes laying around if it is a day where we have something planned. Yet if we are honest much of what happens is unplanned. As we look into the future, years ahead and the end of our story; we do not know exactly what will be. We often find ourselves thinking of the future as the line says, “Reaching for something in the distance”. So we are constantly creating new pages in our book as we write with the pen of our daily living.

The song makes me think of Dr. John Krumboltz’s happenstance theory that speaks to the point that we need to be open to what life brings to us. The phrase “Live your life with arms wide open” points for me to be open to the possibilities that God brings my way. We need to be active in our lives as well, as Natasha reminds us to “Feel the rain on our skin”. We need to be involved actively in life as no one else can live life for us. Be open to trying new things which in turn can open up more possibilities. Thinking of the creativity of the video we see a book that was not satisfied to stay on the shelf but climbs to venture outside. I am very much of a traditionalist admittedly. The song though made me wonder can we become stuck behind dirty windows and settle that a drab ok life as this is all there is? Maybe it is better to open up and “Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find”. Move into the sunshine and try new experiences for new pages of our book.

The word, “drenching” to me is to allow full absorption in the new happenstance events, because that helps in the new creation of each day. This allows for full understanding so I can then “speak the words” on my lips to continue to write new portions of the narrative of my life story. Then as I close off a day I can sleep with anticipation for the next new page in my book the next day “The rest is still unwritten, The rest is still unwritten, The rest is still unwritten”.

Reflection: At the end of the day do you look forward to new opportunities in your next day as a blank page in the story of your life? As we near the end of this year look back at your life story for this year. What have been highlights in your story?

Monday, November 25, 2013

What is Thanksgiving About? Thankfulness, Relationships, or Shopping?

I recently heard on the news that a number of retailers were opening on Thanksgiving Day this year. It saddened me as I thought “can’t people take one day out of the year and enjoy family friends, relax and be thankful instead of bowing down to the almighty dollar?” I thought it bad enough over the years as right after Halloween Christmas displays go up to start making money out of Christmas as if that is the meaning of Christmas! This year there were Christmas items, one aisle over from the Halloween decorations. Now the marketers for retailers are saying no to Thanksgiving and trying to turn it into another shopping day!

Thankfully there are some retailers that are keeping their doors closed so there employees can have a united day off to be with family and friends. Some of them are: Nordstrom, Dillard's, Home Depot, Costco, BJs, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Ross stores. They are showing a priority of allowing their employees to enjoy a day of relaxing and building relationships with the important people in their lives. What are the names of those stores that are opening? I don’t want to waste my breath on them.
This should make us think in our hearts and minds of what is Thanksgiving all about? For years Thanksgiving has been one day that most everyone could take a day off to gather with family and/or friends to enjoy a day together. As you know with my belief system there is a strong spiritual element to the day for me. Not that I believe that a person has to be spiritually minded to be thankful. Gratefulness research shows that an attitude of gratitude can be found in all people and all belief systems.

This year I would like to share some thoughts from Dr. Robert A, Emmons. He is a professor at the University of California at Davis. His research in positive psychology has been focused in on thankfulness and gratitude. I had been wanting to read his book Thanks: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier and finally this past Summer had the opportunity to read it.

One section of the book I want you to reflect on is his discussion of how spiritual thankfulness often comes out of suffering trials, and loss in the life of followers of God. He uses the pilgrims as an example. “We need look no further for exemplars of grateful living in the midst of trials than the lives of the Pilgrims. More than half of those courageous souls who crossed the Atlantic died after one year in their new home. All but three families had dug graves in the rocky soil of New England to bury a husband, wife, or child. But they knew about ancient Israel’s harvest festival: how Israel, at the end of a successful harvest, thanked God for the bounty of creation – also for delivering them from their captivity, giving them freedom as a people. And so they did the same. They understood their God to be a God who is to be thanked and praised when times are good and when times are tough. Their gratitude was not a selective , positive thinking fa├žade, but rather a deep and steadfast trust that goodness dwells even in the face of uncertainty. Their thanksgiving was grounded in the actuality that true gratitude is a force that arises from the realities of the world, which all too often include heartbreak, sometimes overpowering heartbreak.” (Emmons. pages 116-117). It is easy to be thankful in the good times but what about the hard times? Learning gratitude during difficulties, aides in a better overall attitude rather than a bitter attitude. We live more abundantly when we live with thankfulness in all areas of our lives. That is one thing we can learn from the pilgrims as we go into our Thanksgiving Day experience.

What will happen on Thanksgiving with the stores that are opening? I would hope that people across the land will keep the priority of family, friends, thankfulness, and I cannot forget those who will be watching football; with the result, that those stores will remain empty of shoppers until the traditional midnight madness sale time. Yet knowing the Pavlovian nature of the words,”store open” to the American public, I am not holding my breath. It will be sad to watch hordes fillings the stores on Thanksgiving.

Reflection: On Thanksgiving enjoy your time with family and friends. Be thankful. If someone says to you “Let’s go shopping. I heard this store is open on Thanksgiving!” Kindly remind the person what Thanksgiving is all about.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Myth of Nonbelief – You Gotta Serve Somebody

This week a thought came to my mind over an article on The Blaze I read recently. The link to it is listed below the reflection. It was about a student at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon. Eric Fromm is the student body president of the school and came out recently stating he is an atheist. I have no problem with that as he can be whatever he wants to believe. What concerned me was some of the descriptors in the article.

The descriptor that troubled me is seen first in Eric’s statement “For those of you who didn’t already know about my nonbelief, this news may be a bit shocking, but I was an atheist long before I came to NCU.” He speaks about his “nonbelief”. Then later in the article comes the statement, “Fromm took aim at some of the Christians on campus who have treated him differently since they found out he’s a non-believer.” When I read statements like that in news articles I always think to myself -- what is it with this “nonbelief” or non-believer status. Probably the only person who could be called a non-believer may be an occasional honest agnostic who doubts everything therefore they would be non-believer in the true sense. Someone like this young man who states he is an atheist is a believer. He has a belief system. An atheist has a strong faith belief that God does not exist. This is a belief as they have no proof so they have to go on blind faith that God does not exist.

Matter of fact even in the article it states: “Fromm went on to explain that he was baptized a Lutheran and raised a Methodist, but that, over time, he began to develop the belief that “God wasn’t real’”. He states he developed a belief that God was not real. It did not say he had solid scientific proof that God is not real. No one can say that, because belief in no God has to be taken by faith. Just as belief in God has to be taken by faith is also true.

I wish reporters would think through and use the right terminology. Atheists who stress their so called “nonbelief” try to promote that they are more rational that Christians and those in other religious faiths. Instead they are simply being disingenuous as it takes a strong faith to believe that there is no God with no proof. Christians are also to blame for the misuse of terms as I have read many Christian articles that speak about non-believers. I usually cringe saying to myself “No, they are believers. They are just believing differently.”

As I was thinking this through the old Bob Dylan song “Gotta Serve Somebody” came to my mind. Take a look at the lyrics and think what he is saying in relation to what I have been speaking about.

Gotta Serve Somebody by Bob Dylan ( click on the title to hear the video of

Dylan and his band )

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Might be a rock'n' roll addict prancing on the stage
Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody's landlord you might even own banks.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say.

You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Like Dylan says we all gotta serve somebody. The Buddhist serves the principles of the Buddah, the atheist serves the principles of atheism, and the Christian follows the life of faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone’s serving is based on their belief system. I am glad to see from what I have read most on the NCU campus students and administrators are trying to be understanding of the young atheist’s faith journey. Also from the article and other related articles I have read the student is showing his true colors by crying like a victim about those he perceives as being against him because he is an atheist. Yet if you do read the various related articles and student comments the truth is even those who are coming out against him, are not concerned about his atheism. It is more about his deception and hypocrisy of not being honest about his worldview while running for student body president. If you critically think about it, those students have a good point. Believe what you believe but be honest and open about it.

In the world where we live we need to understand there are many various world views based on a variety of beliefs. There would be less strife if we could learn to respect each other’s beliefs. The ancients seemed to have a better command at having open dialogue than we do today. The Apostle Paul in the times of the Romans could speak and debate openly for example in Acts 17, to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in the Areopagus in Athens. He was not told to shut up. The other philosophers listened to him. Some thought he was mad or crazy and others believed while others simply said they would think over his statements. Why can’t we have that open dialogue today?

Reflection: Do you have a firm understanding of your worldview and why you believe what you believe? Are you open to agree to disagree with those of differing worldviews?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Is There Cathartic Value To Writing And Reading?

I should actually be writing about the question- is it wise to be blogging while working on a PhD in General Psychology? It has been over a week since I have written on my blog do to my classes and work. As well as one important item! My book I have been writing based on this blog is out. All you have to do is go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon’s website and search for “Living More Than OK” to find it and hopefully buy it.
Back to the question at hand, since I went off topic. A weekend ago my wife and I went to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. The event is wonderful for me, as it is a celebration of books and reading. This of course is a passion of mine and a passion I would like to see more of in our society. Some of my favorite booths were the organizations that are working on helping with literacy and encouraging reading in the schools.

During a panel discussion with a few new upcoming authors; that is when the question of the title hit me. One author was promoting a fiction book he had written. The other two were focusing in on new memoirs they had written about their family experiences. There was a short Q & A time at the end with just a few questions. One young questioner caught my attention as she wanted their thoughts on whether writing is a form of healing or has cathartic value. She posed it in a demeaning manner in that you could tell she felt writing books did not have a healing side to it.

The three authors were about the same age as the questioner. I was surprised to hear all three back away from writing as means of healing emotionally. Any idea of writing as healing came across apologetically. Especially since two of the books were memoirs about difficult family situations I don’t see how their writing could not have had an element of personal healing to it. Now it could be because they were all English Fine Arts majors and/or they wanted to be agreeable with the young questioner in their age group. Maybe they picked up her sentiment on the issue. Granted writing alone should not replace the healing in counseling therapy. Yet in in mental health counseling the success of the power of story in Narrative therapy and journaling as a tool in helping overcome emotional problems is solid in the research.

When I made it home, I pulled off from my bookshelf, my copy of Writing As A Way Of Healing by Louise De Salva, Ph.D. Here is one of many examples in her book, “In Virginia Woolf’s memoir, ‘A Sketch of the Past’, there is an unequivocal statement about how her need to write came about from the pain she’d experienced in childhood. By writing her autobiographical novel, To the Lighthouse, Woolf says she ‘rubbed out’ the impact of her father’s violence by writing about it…which formerly had obsessed her. Woolf believed by writing ‘I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest.’” This is a perfect example of writing being used in a cathartic way for personal healing. Louise’s book is a thorough reminder that writing can be a help to personal healing.

In the same manner that writing that book helped Virginia Woolf in her personal struggles, I am certain there were people who read that book who were helped in a healing manner by reading it. Reading novels and life stories of people’s struggles can help the reader think and feel through issues in their lives to bring healing. Personally I know I have been helped more by reading books than any personal counseling I have had when going through life difficulties. Dr. De Salvo is not saying that writing is the only form of healing but that is can be depending on the writer and their purpose. I as a licensed professional counselor know the importance of one on one counseling but I also understand the usefulness of writing and reading as having cathartic value for the individual. I feel better already!

Reflection: Has there been a book that has helped you during difficult times? Do you journal or keep a diary? Do you find the experience beneficial?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How Is The Fire In Your Life?

Back on June 12th , 2012 I presented some thoughts from a book, A Tale Of Three Ships, written by Dwight Edwards. If you did not read that post you may want to in the near future. I recently read through his latest book, Kindling For The Fire: Meditations to Warm the Heart and Ignite the Spirit. Dwight is effective at using metaphors and analogy to bring his points out in improving the reader’s life. This book is a devotional spiritual guide looking at the attributes of fire in relation to a person’s relationship to God. Kindling For The Fire is a book to be enjoyed read slowly to gain the depth of the richness of his writings.

He mentions that there are over 90 references to fire in relation to the nature of God and our relationship to him. One of my favorite references to this is Malachi 3:3,” And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold & silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” This relates well with Job 23:10 “But He knows the way I take; He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Refining is intense fire and pressure used in precious metals to remove impurities and increase the worth and value of the precious metal. Part of the relationship daily walk with God is to allow him to apply heat to our lives to improve so that we are closer in living a Christ like lifestyle. Our lives are more worthwhile in purpose if we are open to the refiner’s fire in our life.

Even though Dwight’s book focuses in on the spiritual life I began to think after reading it how the analogy of fire relates to other aspects of life. The phrase “fire in the belly” often is connected to one’s motivation for interests in life. A salesman who has a passion for a product or service is considered fired up with excitement in selling. A person who has a passion for a hobby has “fire in the belly” for that hobby. I feel that is because fire is a source of energy.

Just think of the sun. It is a fireball about 93,000,000 miles from the earth. That far away, the heat and energy of the sun provides life on our planet earth. Fires provide heat for homes and cooking. Therefor it is an easy analogy to link the energy internally we have for our passions in our life as a fire. What happens when the fire goes out? When we have darkness we have lack of energy. Think through times when your power has gone out. Your life is much more difficult as you stumble around in the darkness. I remember during hurricane season when we were out of power for several days. That was not an enjoyable time being without energy.

There are times where we should do a check on how the fire is going in our lives. These are times to consider if the fire of passion in relationships, work, or hobbies has been going down to just embers. If coldness is setting into life there is a need to kindle the fire within to renew a passion for the things in life that are the most important to you.

Reflection: Considers the areas of your life: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. Also look at relationships, work and leisure hobbies. What is the level of the fire of passion and energy in those areas? What can you do to rekindle the fire in your life in the areas where coldness is setting in?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Connecting Persistence With Goals

Persistence – As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow. We cannot choose the day and the time we fully bloom. It will happen in its own time. –Dennis Waitley--

Goals – What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. – Henry David Thoreau –

For the past couple of years with the blog I have been writing I have had a long term goal of turning the blog into a book on Living More Than OK. I am a big believer in the importance of having short term and long term goals to accomplish more in life. The accomplishments vary from person to person depending on their dreams. Of course just having a goal written down in a journal or on a poster does not make it come to pass. There is another key ingredient needed to make the goals come to life or blossom.

Persistence is that other ingredient. According to Merriam Webster persistence is “the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.” Trying to accomplish a goal in life is difficult and there often numerous obstacles trying to stop us. The obstacles can be people or things. Persistence is that internal drive that keeps us plodding towards the finish line of our goals. This internal driver helps us to not give up when the mountain feels too high to climb.

My long term goal of the book had come down recently to a short term goal. I couple of quarters of my PhD in General Psychology ago I thought I could have it done but life got in the way. As I neared the end of my Summer quarter I made a short term goal to have my final editing done of the book project during the 3 week break before my Fall classes. Pesky obstacles still cropped up but this time I finished my final edit before the Fall quarter classes began. Now I am at the point of contacting a self-publishing company to get the final product finished.

Thinking of the two words Goals and Persistence we can learn from the two quotes listed above. The Thoreau statement on goals challenges me as I have always focused on achieving through goals. In his statement Thoreau makes me think of character and values that are enhanced through accomplished through goals. For example in the goal of my book for focus should be what I have learned through the process instead of gain from the profit of the book. Writing especially is a risk you don’t know with self-publishing if you will recoup the costs expended. The important issue should be getting thoughts and ideas out that may help someone in their search for truth or personal self-development improve in their life journey.

In the Dennis Waitley quote on persistence the key word for me is grow. Persistence helps us to keep up with the hard work even during difficulty to keep spiraling up into higher levels of personal growth. If we stop growing we stagnate then whither and shrivel up instead of blossoming. God in his timing causes us to blossom in the goals He has placed in our minds. Think of a flower bud such as a rose. A person can’t force the bud to open into a flower without tearing it up or deforming it. Our goals need hard work and the patience of persistence to allow them to come to fruition.

What goals are you working on in your life? How do you see your personal persistence driving you internally to finish your goals? In your past have there been times of difficulties that with persistence you overcame?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Calling and an Elevator Operator

An important element to our work life is connecting with the Calling aspect of our work life. Often Calling is misunderstood as being only for spiritual related careers as a person is Called to be a minister or missionary. I view Calling as that which makes our work meaningful. The areas of our work that brings the inner satisfaction as we look back upon a workday knowing we made a difference. A website that I enjoy reading and listening to the podcasts concerning the topic of life/work calling is .
The website presents stories and articles about the importance of our work. We spend a significant portion of our lives doing this thing called work. From the stories on the website I have found a deeper appreciation in how to look at my work settings from a Callings angle. It helps in exploring new ways to create meaning in the workplace.

I want to share one of the stories presented on the website by Howard Butt Jr. about an elevator operator, Bruce Renfroe, in New York City. The links to the highcalling video and a more in-depth Guideposts article about the man can be found below after the reflection.

Mr. Renfroe was a cleaner in the Metro system and enjoyed his work but after a stroke he could not return to his work. He was then transferred to be an elevator operator. He shared how he found the job very boring and noticed people in the elevator never spoke. This made me think of my years of living in Chicago. Elevators were always a place where everyone just faced forward with stoic faces and never made a sound. Mr. Renfroe wondered if he could make a difference to these robotic group of emotionless people. He started off by making a joke one day and noticed a passenger laughed. He then put up a poster, and brought in a houseplant. Then he added a small radio playing jazz music and had his Bible on a small table. Those changes in the atmosphere of the elevator started the people talking and enjoying the short ride down to the metro train stop. Some mornings a rider would ask him to read a Bible verse to inspire their workday. Other days a jazz song would be requested. At that point he realized he was enjoying his job again. What started out as ways to perk up his riders’ day was a boost to bringing meaning to what started as a boring job for him. This story touched me as I remember some of the Chicago buildings that would have an elevator operator. It always made the ride better to have a cheerful worker in the elevator. It also shows how Calling can be added into any job.

The story made me think of my work and what aspects of it relate to calling. Where am I making a difference in the world and lives around me? The answer to that question is where we move beyond the mundane of everyday work and move higher up into the calling of our work. In the living more than OK life, work is an area where we need to see how we can spiral up to abundant life even in our job, not just marking time until Friday. I am amazed how the Guideposts article ends about Mr. Renfroe. “Some people say, ‘Thank God it’s Friday because they can’t wait to start their weekend.’ Bruce said, ‘Me? I say Thank God for Monday because that’s the day I go back to work.’”

Reflection: In what ways can you add a sense of calling into your work world? What would our work places be like if we had Mr. Renfroe’s attitude about Monday mornings? article copied from Guideposts


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Conquering Stress With Flow

After finishing a term paper for my Social Psychology course in my PhD program I reflected over one article I had read about showing the importance of leisure activities. The article looked at how our leisure activities can act as a stress reliever in our lives. The researchers mentioned in the article how participants shared their activities moved them into a flow state of mind. As I have mentioned in the past, Flow is based on the research and observations of Dr. Mihalyi Csikszentmihali. It is that state of mind and emotion where the person is totally absorbed in an activity they enjoy and have a high skill level to match the activity. There is a sense of timelessness and ownership in doing the activity. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s research came from observing people involved in sports activities and the arts. So he was observing people doing their leisure activities and hobbies. He found that nine primary elements made up flow: having clear goals, immediate feedback, skills met the challenge at hand, focus of action and awareness, ability to overcome distractions, lack of worry, lack of self-consciousness, a sense of timelessness, and activity becomes intrinsically enjoyable.

From looking at the elements of flow described it is clear how Flow activities can aid in stress reduction. By being absorbed is something you enjoy doing, there is less worry, the mind is more focused and there in more internal joy in your life, These elements of Flow can counter act against stress. With stress having such negative effects in our health and overall life experience it is helpful to know by building time into our lives to do special activities we enjoy can help relieve stress.

Flow acts as a change agent that helps move the internal state of our mind and emotions to being more calm and joy filled. As stated at the beginning, flow is based on the observational research work of Dr. Csikszentmihalyi. He spent time observing rock climbers, chess players, dancers and other such activities for many years. Then with a questioning mind thought why did they spend so much personal time in those activities? He found they had a deep sense of enjoyment in the activities. There was also a skill enhancing aspect they held to internally. If you think about it the dancer wants to improve her skills and learn new dances. The rock climber wants to climb new areas. And artists wants to continue to improve in their paining style. He created the term flow to stand for the sense of optimal experience the participants felt inside with their absorption and enjoyment into the activity.

The article I mentioned that especially caught my mind is based on a research study to consider how leisure activities can counter stress and build resilience in individuals. Their participants were a varied group of adults from Canada. They made use of focus groups and grouped the people in related categories. The topics of the groups revolved around discussing stress in their lives and then discussing what did they do in their leisure that helped relieve the stress thus making them more resilient to stress. Some of the activities mentioned by the participants were doing puzzles, exercise, playing musical instruments, knitting, dancing and reading. My favorite is in the list is reading. Some of the resulting effects in the participants were feeling a sense of balance, renewed, and recharged. For many, the activities allowed them to put the stressors of life in perspective by taking their minds off the stress and being absorbed in the activities they found enjoyable. This sounds very much like the effects of flow in a person’s life. Many of the activities mentioned were activities that required a level of skill enhancement and they were activities the people deeply enjoyed. This is an important aspect to flow activities so that people do not tire of them as there is always room to grow in the activity with new understanding and new skill. What the researchers were describing was very similar to Dr. Csikszentmihaliyi’s observations of people who were involved with flow activates. This shows that flow has a positive effect in relation to stress.

From reflecting over the preceding literature on flow there can be seen positive connections to how flow can help people overcome stress by doing activities they enjoy. The mentioned connections between flow and increased inner motivation can aid in the strengthening of the building blocks of resilience which help conquer stress. The important question do we take the time to involve ourselves in such activities?

Reflection – What are your favorite activities and hobbies? Do these activities help in lowering stress in your life?

Iwasaki, Y., Mactavish, J., Mackay, K. (2005). Building on strengths and resilience: Leisure as a stress survival strategy. British Journal of Guidance & Counseling, 33. 81-100. Doi: 10.1080/03069880412331335894.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and The Mind

Last week I was looking at the power of music for positive effects in our lives. So I thought I would zero in on a song this week. It is another song by Amy Grant off her How Mercy Looks From Here – CD. I want to focus in on the importance of the initial lines of the song. The words relate so well with self-fulfilling prophecy from our self-talk; that defeats us keeping us away from an abundant life. Self-fulfilling prophecy is when we allow our thoughts from our self-talk take over and the results are what we have been feeding our mind. For example let’s say a person is dreading a meeting at work on Monday. He keeps repeating to himself that something terrible is going to happen. Low and behold at the meeting things do not go well for him and afterwards he states, “I knew something bad was going to happen today”. That is self-fulfilling prophecy in action.

Click on the title of the song to listen to Amy Grant sing the song and focus in on the beginning lyrics.

"Not Giving Up" Amy Grant

If you think you're gonna fail Well, you're probably gonna fail
So tell me, what was all the dreaming for? And if you think you're gonna lose
Well, you're probably gonna lose So what's the point in trying anymore?

What you're looking for, you'll find It happens every time

I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You can say you've had enough But I won't stop calling,
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you, Not giving up on you

When your fragile heart is breaking And your confidence is shaken
I can tell you that we've all been there before The first step is hard to take
But it's a choice you gotta make When life is waiting through that open door

I wish that you could see The way you look to me

I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You can say you've had enough But I won't stop calling,
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you, Not giving up on you

Oh, not so long ago, You pulled me through

So I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
Even if the rain comes down And your sky is falling
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You can say you've had enough But I won't stop calling,
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You know we can work this out If we just keep talking
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you , Not giving up on you

Cause is you think you have a chance, Then you really have a chance
I hope you know that I believe in you

The opening lines of the song discuss the mental choices of negativity that many choose to repeat in their self-talk – “I’m gonna fail or I’m gonna lose”. If the mind is filled with that type of mindset a negative result will occur. I have seen it time and time again in the lives of students and clients. The descriptor words we feed our minds do have an impact. The question at the beginning of the song can be heard from people who allow negative self-talk to control their minds. So what's the point in trying anymore? So people give up and choose to just exist with OK living and spiral down in to further negativity. Their confidence continues to weaken as the see negative results in their lives totally unaware that it all goes back to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the negatives they are feeding their minds with.

That is why it is so important to take time to think through what we are saying to ourselves. The self-talk we feed our minds with have a direct correlation to the outflow of our choices and actions. That is what is important about the line “But it's a choice you gotta make When life is waiting through that open door.” We need to make choices about what we want in and of our lives each day and in the future. We can only spiral up to abundant, living more than OK, living by having a positive mindset that comes from feeding our minds with positive self-talk. Making the use of positive self-affirmations, positive quotes, scriptural promises are what can create the mindset that can give us powerful wise choices that improve our lives for the better. Dr. William Glasser in his book Choice Theory states, “When you learn that you are almost always free to make better choices, the concept that you choose your misery can lead to optimism. This new awareness is a major redefinition of your personal freedom.” (Page 77)

What the song is getting at relates to the Dr. Glasser quote in that through our choices we can change the self-fulfilling prophecy. We do not have to continually fail or lose all the time. We all will fail at times as that is one way we learn. But changing the mindset to that there is a chance for success moves us towards having more opportunities to have more success in our overall life.

Of course a larger point in the song is that it also helps to have those around us who build us up by never giving up on us. There is a sense of reciprocity in the phrase “Oh, not so long ago, You pulled me through”. As others help us we need in turn to help others not to give up. Why I stressed the beginning lines is, yes, it is good to have others believe in us. But bottom line, you can have a group of people who believe in you, but if you do not believe in yourself nothing will change. We each need to be in charge of making right choices to make positive changes.

Reflection: What kind of mindset is guiding your choices – positive or negative? Do you have a friend or friends in your life that do not give up on you? Where does God fit into the picture of not giving up?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Positive Impacting Music To Live More Than OK

I was doing research on aggression for a class in my PhD program a week ago and my focus was to see the relation between music and aggression. I chose that because I believe music is a powerful force. It is one activity many people of all ages enjoy. Occasionally I will run into someone who hates music but most people either love music or at least enjoy it. When it comes to music should we be careful to what we listen to? I believe there are positives and negatives in most facets of life and to live the best life possible we should feed our mind with that which is the most positive. Today I want to share some of my thoughts on the importance of positive music as well as some of the information from various research.

I first began to think of just instrumental music and its effect experientially on people. A study out of Germany (Krahe & Bieneck. 2012) looked at how music affects the mood of listeners. They used two groups of listeners one listening to hardcore techno music and the other group listened to calm relaxing classical music. Those who listened to the heavy techno music did have higher levels of feelings of aggression and tension after listening. Those who listened to the calmer music had less tension and lower aggression levels. So this showed how even just the style of music may have an effect on emotional responses to those hearing the music. So, just the music alone has a physical effect on the listener. This does not mean listening to heavier beat music will turn someone violent as there are other factors. Actually when I am busy on organizing material or driving I prefer faster tempo music to keep my mind focused. Yet when needing to rest I prefer classical or smooth jazz.

One concern I have is the high levels of alcohol and drug abuse in our culture. A relevant study on music and substance abuse looked at various music styles and substance abuse among the listeners (Chen, Miller, Grube, & Waiters, 2006) . They found a high level of lyrical content about drugs, alcohol and violence in rap and heavy rock music songs. An interesting point that stood out to me is that with rap music many of the artists promote malt liquor and it just so happens in the study the highest use of malt liquor was among listeners of rap music. I am concerned about this as I am a big believer in the work of the organization Natural High. They seek to encourage school age students to think of natural ways to be high instead of using drugs and alcohol. Their website is There are too many lives destroyed due to drugs and alcohol and there are so many positive ways to enjoy life instead of the phony myths that promote drugs as a good thing.

There was also a study of the negative effects of rap with College males using rap music (Barongan and Hall 1995). They used two groups one listening to positive rap that looked at social justice issues. The other group listened to sexual aggressive rap that spoke of women in a negative light. The participants were then to view video clips to share with a female confidant of the study. Those who listened to the positive rap leaned towards showing a video clip that was neutral to the female confidant participant. Those who listened to the sexual violent rap were more inclined to show the female participant in the study a video that was sexually demeaning. These researchers felt that the results backed up other studies in the literature that sexually violent rap does lead to a tendency towards negative views and aggression towards women. I have many college students in my classes, who list rap and hip hop as their favorite music style. This is disconcerting when I hear what they are filling their minds with lyrically. It reminds me of the old computer programming phrase, “Garbage In, Garbage Out!”. I tried a search for positive rap artists and none of the famous artists show up. That is because most of their rap songs are garbage promoting a demeaning view of women or promoting violence. . It would be nice to reach a point in the world, when all the women and men with critical thinking skills would walk out of a rap concert when the rappers start one of their derogatory misogynous songs, leaving the rappers standing in an empty concert hall all by themselves.

I am not encouraging censorship as I believe in the constitutional right of free speech. What I encourage people to do is think about what they listen to and support musicians that promote positive music to impact our living the best life possible. Here are some of my favorite musicians that I find as being very positive:

Phil Keaggy -- An amazing guitarist and singer/songwriter

Keiko Matsui -- My favorite smooth jazz pianist

Tom Braxton -- Fantastic Saxophonist!

Switchfoot -- A band introduced to me by a former TSTC student. They write songs that make one think about life and the afterlife.

Matthew West -- A very inspiring singer/songwriter/storyteller

Lecrae -- A rapper who is trying to make a difference with rap music.

Reflection – Who are musicians and music styles that you like and find very positive? Check out a couple of the websites I list above and try out some new music.

Barongon, C. & Hall, G.C. N. ( 1995). The influence of misogynous rap music on sexual aggression against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19. 195-207

Chen, M., Miller, B.A., Grube, J.W. & Waiters, E.D. Music, substance abuse, and aggression. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, May, 2006

Krahe, B. & Bieneck, S. ( 2012). The effect of music-induced mood on aggressive affect, cognition and behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42. 271-290.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lowering Poverty One Library At A Time

A few weeks ago I went into my local library to see their new books in circulation. I came across the book, Creating Room To Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy. It is by John Wood, who left a lucrative job with Microsoft years ago to follow his passion. A passion many would think crazy since he was making great money at Microsoft. His dream and passion was to build school libraries around the world in Third World nations. His aim was to promote reading and education.

Since I love reading I thought a story of someone encouraging literacy and reading around the globe would be a great read. I was not disappointed. Through the book I saw how one person who had personally been enriched in his life through reading saw the power of reading. His underlying goal with starting Room To Read was to have children everywhere in the world to have access to books in their own language. His resulting hope was to increase education in poor areas which would result in lowering poverty rates. Literacy would unleash in children to dream big dreams for their futures.

One emphasis that came across through the book was the emphasis to help especially young girls in countries where they are short changed in the educational process. Some of the countries mentioned in the book where libraries and also schools were built are: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and many more. Part of the dream that developed too was when John realized that teaching these young children in English was helpful, but the children also wanted books in their own language. What they found was that many of the countries did not have children books in the various languages. So a whole new publishing arm of his dream came to pass to create new books in the various languages for the children. This opened up opportunities for authors in the various countries as well. It was like seeing Dr. Jim Bright’s Chaos Theory of Careers in action.

Each chapter of the book is an exciting journey to see the excitement of children around the globe being able to read books. Schools gaining libraries with actual books in them when before there were just empty shelves. Whole villages would come out and celebrate the new libraries that they had a part in building. As part of the library development was built into the program, by having local ownership by either sweat equity involved in the building process, or paying a portion of the building process. It is an excitement that needs to keep pace in our country as well if we want to keep dreams, creativity, and mental growth alive in our young people. Here is the US the emphasis on a steady diet of videos is turning our young people into passive non-thinking zombies. So book reading needs to be an important part of education here in the US as well.

I was glad John Wood shared that the passion for his endeavor to build libraries around the globe came out of his personal upbringing. He shares how his parents brought him up to appreciate education. He also gained an early love for reading that stayed with him over the years from his mother. He shares in the book a quote from his grandmother that shows that the importance of reading went back several generations, “If you have a good book in your hands, you will never be lonely.” (page 29). Obviously his early love for reading was the impetus behind a dream that has helped build thousands of school libraries in poor communities around the world.

John Wood could have stayed in the comfort and prosperity of his job at Microsoft. Instead he took the risk to leave it behind for a passionate dream of creating hope and dreams in the lives of young children around the world. His dream is a positive change agent in improving young lives through the importance of reading and books in the lives of children. Only time will tell how this affects each of the children’s futures.

Click here – John Wood Room To Read-- to listen to a short Youtube video by John Wood about his organization.

Reflection – Why is reading important to you? How can you help promote reading in our country and around the world? Here is the website for Room to read. Check it out and see the great work they are doing around the world:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good Exhaustion and Flow

I came back yesterday from Chicago where I attended a PhD Colloquial with Capella University. Since the lion share of the course work for my psychology program is online I had been looking forward to meeting face to face with some of my fellow students. The experience was very intense study in formulating and narrowing down a topic for my future dissertation. I came back to Texas very tired and exhausted. As I thought about my exhaustion I felt it was a good exhaustion.

I call it a good exhaustion as it came out of a time of creatively thinking through a dissertation topic that had meaning to me. It was good as well from critically listening to the sharing by those in my general psychology cohort. I loved hearing my fellow classmates’ passion for their topics. The topics were varied touching on topics such as helps for public school students, drug abuse issues and chronic pain, fire fighter families, problems with social media and new tools for psychotherapists to use in treating clients. I could see how each person’s passion for their topic tied into their life story. That is one tip I encourage college students with. When they do a project try to find an angle to the project that taps into their interests and passion. It allows the student to have more motivation for the project and become personally absorbed into the project.

My dissertation topic will be focusing in on a topic I have mentioned in the past that of Flow which was first researched and termed by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Since I have been emphasizing reading this Summer I will mention one book of his that I re-read this Summer, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. I like the thought of Optimal Experience Dr. Csikszentmihalyi emphasizes in the book. It is living our lives to the full level of happiness which is what I am trying to get at with Living More Than OK. We are meant to live for more than just existing.

As I have mentioned before Flow is the deep concentration and pleasure one experiences when absorbed in an activity they enjoy where they have a competent level of skill. The examples that always come into my mind is seeing a painter absorbed in painting. They may have people walking by them on the beach as they paint the ocean view but they are not distracted as their focus is on the subject of the painting. My flow activities are reading, music, prayer and exercise. The whole concept I feel relates to natural highs that I promote from the website

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s in his researching of Flow reveals in the book eight aspects of Flow that are important in reminding us the importance to incorporate Flow activities in our person lives. One is where we do activities that we have an inner confidence we can do them. Second is that we can focus in and concentrate on the activity. Three is where we mentally establish clear goals for the activity. Fourth is where we can gain immediate feedback from self or others. Fifth is that it is an activity that we absorb ourselves in and not worry about what is going on around us. Sixth is when we do enjoyable activities we use personal control in doing the activity. Seventh is a paradox of losing the sense of self while doing the activity yet we feel more positive about ourselves after doing the activity. Then the eighth and last aspect is that our perception of the sense of time is altered. The activity is not boring so we lose track of time. Think of when you have done something where you say, “I could do this for hours!” (page 48).

If you think of the eight aspects of Flow you can see how they add to living life abundantly and to the full. Having read through the writings of Dr. Csikszentmihalyi it reminds me of a former Professor I had who spoke of the “Power of One”. Meaning that one person can have a large impact on the world. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s years of work and research on Flow have added so much to humanity in reminding us of the need to break away from passive existence. Examples of passive existence is wasting too much of our time on passively watching television or mindless videos on the internet. His work is an encouragement to actively seek out Flow activities that add meaning to our living and expand our minds and skills.

Reflection: What are your Flow activities? Do you take time to make time in your schedule during the week for activities you enjoy?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Learning to Let Go and Hold On From Phil

This past weekend my wife, daughter and I went to Georgetown, Texas. They were going along to because I wanted to hear my favorite guitarist Phil Keaggy who was doing a concert there. They had heard him from the CD’s I play in the car but have never heard him live. The last time I had heard Phil live was in the late 1990’s when I still lived in Chicago. So I was excited to hear him again.

The concert was being held at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown. It was an evening of Phil Keaggy with just his Acoustic guitar. Should I being saying “Just”? Phil is an amazing talent and a perfect example of someone who has tapped into his creative powers. With the looping equipment he uses and the various pedals he uses he turns the “just an acoustic guitar” into a one man band. My wife and daughter were awestruck with his God-given talent on the guitar. That is why in various posts on creativity I mention it is nice to listen to music by cd around the house but always try to find time to enjoy live music to see and hear the artist. With Phil Keaggy I always enjoy his artistry show through as well as his worshipful spirit. In his guitar solos I view him as being in tune with God as he plays. HE is also so down to earth. He took several favorite songs from the audience into his playlist. One was “Sunday’s Child” in which he asked the young lady to come up on stage and do the chorus as a back up with him. It is wonderful to see an artist who sees what is important – people not ego.

That brings me to a short topic for this week as I prepare to travel to Chicago for my first PhD Colloquial. Phil’s final encore song was “Let Everything Else Go”. It looks at the importance of holding on to what is important in life and learning to let go of the insignificant. As always click on the title to listen to a video of the song and then reflect over the words.

Let Everything Else Go by Phil Keaggy

Chasing down hot air balloons on Sunday morning
In pace with a familiar tune I reach for nothing less but something more
All the day and the wind is at my back most of the way, hey-yeah.

Holding conversation with a friend I know is near
Great anticipation fills my soul, it fills my heart, it fills the air
All the day and the wind is at my back ..

Oh, I can't wait to see you, Jesus, face to face
Nothing in this world can take Your place
All the pride of man laid low and all his works of gold
Nothing can compare with what You are
Let everything else go.

Let it all go.

And the wind is at my back ..

Oh, I can't wait to see you Jesus, face to face
Nothing in this world can take Your place
All the pride of man laid low and all his works of gold
Nothing can compare with what You are
Let everything else go.

Let it all go
Let everything else go.

The song has a refreshing melody and a peaceful introspective feel to it. The message of the lyrics is not complex. On a Sunday morning stroll he is thinking through what is important in his life. From following his music over the years since the 1970’s I know from his similar worldview as mine that Jesus Christ is the most important to him. In the early 1970’s the band he was in Glass Harp was gaining popularity. They were following the tradition of the three piece power classic rock bands of the day. He was gaining recognition for his guitar playing. During that time he had a sincere conversion to Christianity and switched over to Contemporary Christian music. Personally I believe and granted I am prejudiced, that he is the greatest rock guitarist ever. Just check out an old Glass Harp video by clicking on this Title Can You See Me Brother. He is just amazing to watch and listen to .

Back to the topic of letting go but I brought that up for a reason. Phil speaks of “All the pride of man laid low and all his works of gold.” I truly believe he and Glass Harp could have been one of the super-rich rock groups. But you can see his attitude towards materialism in that phrase. The most important aspect of his life is his spiritual journey he is on. He is saying the materialism the toys of life le tit go and focus on what is the most important to you. If you think about it is life just about collecting the stuff and toys of life. If you think that visit a garage sale or estate sale. That is where all the stuff eventually winds up.

If we focus on what is the most important in our lives we have a fuller and richer more than OK life. We can also learn to let go of the worries and anxieties we hold onto. Too many of us major on the minors in life instead of spending the most of our energy on the major important aspects of other people, making a difference in the world and I believe personally the importance of our spiritual life. Think over what is the most important aspects of life to you.

Reflection: What are some of the little things in life that you are holding too tightly to? List your top three areas of importance in your life. How much time in your week do you focus on them?

Friday, July 12, 2013

How Do You Greet You Day?

This year I missed the National Career Development Association Global Conference that was held earlier this week in Boston. I have always enjoyed that conference as there are so many informative and practical sessions on various aspects of careers. Instead this July I am focusing on preparing for my first Colloquial for my Capella University PhD program. Yet knowing the conference was going on my thoughts through the week turned to career thoughts.

Those career thoughts connected with a song I was listening to on Amy Grant’s lastest CD. Her new cd is How Mercy Looks From Here. It is full of powerful lyrics to think through and beautiful melodies to enjoy. The song that caught my attention was Greet the Day. The song made me think through “How do I greet my days?” I thought of many work days in the past and to be honest my worst days usually started off with a negative mental attitude. My best days were when I started off with a positive mental attitude. Look over the words to the song. As usual if you click on the song title it will take you to a video where you can actually listen to the song which I believe allows you to gain more insight into the lyrics.

Greet the Day by Amy Grant and Cindy Morgan

Lead me to the ones I need, And to the one who's needing me.
I won't assume the worst is true,, And do the best that I can do.
A word of kindness, I believe,, Is heard throughout eternity...
Hey, hey, This is how I greet the day,, I greet the day...
Lead me to the ones I need, And to the one who's needing me
And everything that gets me through.
Gladly I’ll receive from you.
All the mercy , all the love. Pouring down to fill us up…
Hey, hey, This is how I greet the day,
I greet the day,
Hello sunshine, Hello rain, Glad to see you either way.
Hey, Hey, This is how I greet the day
Come on, greet the day, let’s greet the day.
Hello sunshine, hello rain, hello every single day.
Lead me to the ones I need, And to the one who's needing me.
I won't assume the worst is true, And do the best that I can do.
If you listened to the actual song you can first see how the cheerful melody captures the spirit of the song. The song is very bright, lilting and upbeat. A kind of melody that brings a natural smile to the face. That is how to greet the day. You don’t greet the day by pulling the covers over your head. You don’t greet the day by sleeping in and rushing out the door. You don’t greet the day by having a mindset that says, “something is going to go wrong today”. Something already went wrong by you thinking that.
The way to have a positive workday is to have a positive mindset of greeting the day with a smile and “Hello”! Amy Grant adds to the song in the liner notes by sharing the background of the song was based on a prayer she was taught:
“Lord, lead me today to those I need, and to those who need me, and let something I do have eternal significance.” What a powerful way to start the day!

Starting our day is not about just rushing out the door to find a cup of coffee to hold onto at work. It is not about assuming the worst concerning the guy who is travelling too slow on the highway. It is not about assuming the worst of our co-workers or boss. Starting the day is to take a few minutes to breathe up a prayer seeking God’s guidance to touch lives and to make a difference. How can you better serve the people who come into your path each day so they can learn to “greet the day” should be on our mind at the start of the day.

The phrase that states, “Gladly I’ll receive from you. All the mercy , all the love. Pouring down to fill us up…” is another prayer reminder. We start each day needing a new filling of mercy and love for people from God so that we can do our best in our people interactions through the work day. It is those people interactions that have lasting consequences so they need to be filtered by mercy and love.

Her repetition of “Hello sunshine” and “Hello rain”, reminds me of the verse in Matthew 5:45 “In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” The immediate context is in relation to how we should love those around us even enemies who hate us. We are all faced with good and bad things that happen in our day. I have mentioned Dr. Jim Bright’s Chaos Theory of Careers in the past. We live in a chaotic world. Much of life we do not have control over. The important thing is how we react to the happenings of life. This song is a reminder to greet the good and bad with a “Hello” and do our best with each circumstance we face.

Reflection: How do you face your days whether you are working or not? Do you take time to spiritually meditate on the day ahead? How can you improve on “Greeting your day”?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Are You A Decoding Reader Or A Deep Reader?

This week I will continue on the topic of reading. Recently as I was reading news on the internet I came across an article from a recent issue of The Atlantic. The title read , “How Reading Makes Us More Human”. It is written by Karen Swallow Prior. I have the link to it listed under the reflection so that you can read it as well. I encourage you to do so as I am only touching on a few points that personally stood out to me.

The first major idea that struck me about reading is that reading is one activity that differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. When was the last time at a zoo you saw a monkey reading a cookbook on recipes with bananas? Or have you seen an elephant reading a book on how to increase memory skills? Reading is uniquely a human activity.

From the title of this blog post comes another thought from the article to ponder. She speaks of deep reading and defines it as “…slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity…”. The contrast to that is decoding reading which is “the mere decoding of words…”. The writer states that most reading that is done is of the decoding type. She especially points this is the sort of reading done in schools. It makes sense that in schools and I would say even work settings, most of the reading we do is to decode so we can process as fast as we can the basic meaning of what we are reading. Most workers working on reports and students are under the gun, so with the little time in their schedules they want to speed read to glean information for tests and reports. So I would say I have and still do, my share of decoding reading.

Still my joy of reading rests in taking my time through a book on a topic I deeply enjoy. This is the time where I want to go into the depths of what the author is discussing. When I read like this a nonfiction book I find myself mentally having a discussion with the author. Sometimes questioning what the author is saying or excitedly agreeing with the author is part of this reading process for me. With a fiction book I always take it slow so I can use my imagination to place myself into the story and gain a feel for the places and persons in the story. I had never thought of it as deep reading. Two words stand out to me in the definition she stated, “Slow, immersive…” . In our busy world this type of reading can be a helpful de-stressor. Slowing the mind down to enjoy the story to the fullest. Slow down to understand better the topic you are wanting to understand better. This slowing down allows the mind to then be immersed, defined as “Involve oneself deeply in a particular interest”. I feel this allows us to enjoy the deep joy of reading.

Karen Swallow Prior also expands on deep reading showing that it taps into the depths of our humanness on the spiritual plane. In doing this she quotes Eugene H. Peterson, a prolific writer and poet, who is most well known for being the writer behind The Message paraphrase of the Bible. She lists this quote of his about reading, “reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” This quote reveals the joy of reading in the power of story, the growth we gain from reading others ideas and concepts. Reading is a powerful force to bring a deeper understanding of our fellow travelers on life’s journey. This type of reading we can improve our own creativity and critical thinking to make the best choices possible for living a more than ok life.

So as you look at reading understand that it is alright to be a decoder as seeking meaning and analyzing data of what we read is important in our work and school. If the boss wants a report done in a week it will not help on your next review to say, “Boss, can I have a month to read through this information I have found. I would like to slowly immerse myself and deeply enjoy the data”. The Boss will probably say that we can easily be replaced if we can’t turn in the report in a week. However the article is an important reminder that we need to find time in our lives to rejuvenate our minds and spirit with deep reading as well. As a Bookhead the article reminds me that one way to help people enjoy reading is to encourage them towards deep reading.

Reflection -- Do you take time in your weekly schedule for some deep reading? What is a fiction book you deeply enjoyed and learned from the story new meanings or understandings for your life?

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Book of Eli and Summer Reading

As I was in the grocery story recently I noticed Oprah Winfrey’s recent issue of her O magazine. Actually it was a byline that caught my attention. The line was “O’s Summer Reading List”. That is one aspect of Oprah I have always appreciated is her steady support of reading. It reminded me that reading is often promoted during the Summer months. As I have stated before I was always involved with the Summer Reading Programs at my hometown library in Barberton, Ohio from second grade on up. Those programs helped shape me into becoming a Bookhead.

As I see fewer and fewer College students reading or even complaining about reading I believe it is important to keep promoting the importance of reading. In the lounge areas of campus you used to see students with books open now they just sit there blankly staring at the screens of their ipads with headphones on. As I glance at the screens there is often some type of video or movie playing. I think to myself what are we creating for the future. For the most part a continual diet of videos perpetuates a passive mind as the mind is simply soaking in the sounds and images. Reading text forces the mind to be active in seeking meaning and builds creativity as the mind has to create the images being described instead of being spoon fed the images via video.

Pondering what I see in people addicted to staring at their plastic video screens caused me to ponder what if society lost literacy and reading altogether. A movie I had seen some time ago then popped into my mind. I watched it again as I was thinking over the importance of reading. The movie is The Book of Eli. It is R rated as it has some graphic violence, so it is not a movie for small children but it is good for the older viewer to think through human nature and I found important concepts related to reading in it.

In the movie Eli, played by Denzel Washington is on a mission given to him by a mystical vision to carry a copy of the King James Bible out West to a destination unknown to him. It is based in the future after a great war that has decimated the country and the world. In his travels he comes to a town that is run by a despotic controlling man named Carnegie and his thug henchmen. Eli stops to get a rare commodity in a bar – water. After a fight scene the despot ruler of the town understands there is something different about Eli.

Carnegie is a collector of books and he is looking for a copy of the Bible as they were all burned after the war but he knows a supposedly one copy still existed. He is looking for the Bible as he feels it will give him power and control over people. It is clearly seen that this ruler of the town is the only one who can read. His thugs that look for books in their illiteracy think it is foolish to just be looking for books. Carnegie discerns that Eli can read and a short interlude between them speaks volumes to the importance of reading:

Carnegie “Do You read?”
Eli “Everyday”
Carnegie “People like you and me are the future”

The two of them were the only two in the town who could read. The town was brutish and full of savagery. Is that how life would be without literacy? The movie shows the human nature conflict between Carnegie in his quest to get the The Bible from Eli once he finds out Eli has it. There is much to be learned about human nature and good and evil as Carnegie wants the book for controlling purposes and Eli humbly on a mission, wants to get the book to somewhere out West to it’s rightful destination.

Back to the three line conversation that spoke to me. In promoting reading we need to show young people the importance of reading for their future. Readers are building the creative and critical thinking skills needed for the future. The best way to promote reading is to read ourselves. Then we can also encourage others to read. In using this movie I do see the importance in other media. Yet back to the concept of the passive mind versus the active mind. I have observed even in myself, that when I am watching a movie unless it is a documentary my mind is definitely more passive that when I am reading.

So as you go through this Summer make reading a part of it. Then remember reading doesn’t end with Summer make it a year round activity. Support your local books stores and local libraries.

Reflection: What book or books are you reading this Summer? Why is reading important for our lives and society?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Classical Music and The Creative Mind

This week again I am thinking over our recent vacation to my home state of Ohio. As we were preparing to go to Norton, Ohio my wife suggested we go hear the Cleveland Orchestra while we were visiting there. Since we all enjoy classical music it seemed like a great idea. We thought it would be a nice treat for my third grade teacher, who we were staying with to take her along too. I found a concert that fit our schedule, Sunday the 26th of May at 3 p.m. in the afternoon so we would not be out too late. The concert was to be the Cleveland Orchestra’s season finale. It was held in Severance Hall which was built in 1931 and renovated in 2000. It is considered one of the oldest and beautiful concert halls in America. From our mid-balcony seats we were impressed with the stateliness of the interior design.

The musical program showcased three works. The first was Open Mind composed by Rolf Martinsson, a modern composer from Sweden. Secondly came Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Opus 37 with pianist Lars Vogt, from Germany. Then the final piece was Tchaikovsky’s symphony No. 5 in E minor Opus 64. You can listen to portions of each piece by clicking the lines below:

Beethoven piano concerto No 3 in C minor Opus 37 click for movement 1

Tchaikovsky symphony no. 5 in E minor Opus 64 click for the finale

Rolf Martinsson listen to a clip of Open Mind by clicking on the title

We were enraptured by the emotion of the music as we listened intently to each piece performed. We also had a magnificent view from the balcony looking down viewing the conductor, Manfred Honeck, as he led the musicians to perform as a single unit. It was an amazing experience of sight and sound.

As I listened to each piece of music my mind reflected on the creative minds behind the music. Thinking of each composer and how their personalities and emotions came out in their individual works of musical art. I marveled also at the complexity of the creative mind. Just to think that in the mind of Martinsson, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky they could combine together all the pieces of music for each of the individual instruments. They had to write out music for violins, French horns, flutes, percussion, clarinets, trumpets, and many more. Then combine it all together so that it makes musical sense and not just a bunch of senseless noise. Melodies and countermelodies in relation to each of their pieces of music first were born in their creative minds and then painstakingly written out for each of the orchestra’s instruments. When the audience member listens with delight it all seems so easy. But if you contemplate all that goes into to developing music from the first mental thought, through the composition process it is amazing to think of the God given talent of the creative minds of music composers.

I grew up playing trumpet in band in my hometown of Barberton, Ohio. From that experience I have always had an admiration for the work that goes into making an orchestra a unified unit in expressing pieces of music. That afternoon in Cleveland brought back memories of concert band in earlier years. Yet the primary thoughts going through my mind was that of the amazing power of creativity.

Thinking through the creative mind process of the composers then moved me to meditate on the greater Creative Mind of God behind all there is in life and creation. As we go through our days on autopilot not paying attention to the amazing world around us, it is simple to be like the concert goer to see it as all so easy. You can maybe even see how some may consider how everything just popped into existence via random chaotic macro evolution. Like a rabbit out of a magic hat. But then if you allow your mind to move from autopilot to deep reflection on the complexities and beauty of creation and life you then begin to be amazed at the power of creativity and design which of course logically would entail a Grand Designer.

Reflection: What did you think of the pieces of music listed in this blog post? Think of music composers in any genre you enjoy. What do you think of their creativity? How does this relate to your creativity?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Savoring Butterflies and Flowers

A week ago we took a family vacation to my home state of Ohio. Having a chance to go away is always helpful to gain new perspectives and take advantage of must needed rest from the busy routines of life. We stayed with my third grade teacher, Verna Clifford, in Norton, Ohio which borders my hometown of Barberton. Spending time with her, other friends and family made for a pleasant time away from Texas. We also took time during the week to experience various sights in Ohio. One excursion that stood out was a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio.

The Franklin Park Conservatory is a horticultural delight of designed flower gardens and green houses. When we visited they were holding a special feature on butterflies. They had a window display hatchery where you could view the butterflies emerging from their cocoons. Then they had a large green house area of lush flowers with butterflies. This is where we spent most of our time. We each had cameras and were watching the butterflies to see where they would land. Everyone in the green house had the same agenda of taking pictures of the butterflies.

Butterflies must have the highest levels of ADHD of all insects or maybe it is just the nectar. They flit to and fro and when they would land -- just when you were ready to snap a picture off they would fly. It did not help much that there were a few unsupervised girls running around chasing the butterflies. They were not content to watch they wanted to touch the delicate creatures. Thankfully for the butterflies they remained elusive to the annoying trio running through the greenhouse. I was able to obtain a few good pictures while some of the butterflies were resting on plants. I took the time to observe their beautiful designs on their wings. It is amazing in considering how delicate the wings are. It is more amazing that those wings can transport these wonderfully designed creations from Brazil and Mexico up to Ohio. As I was savoring the uniqueness of the butterflies in the created order of nature I also observed the other photographers who gazed at these insects with a sense of wonder.

In this greenhouse there were many flowers to observe and enjoy. We took time to go through several other greenhouses that looked at desert , tropical, and rainforest flowers. We did not have time to cover all the outside gardens but saw quite a few. There were such a variety of flowers to view. From a photography standpoint the flowers are easier as they are not moving away from the camera. But as with the beauty of the butterflies I could not just quickly glance and walk on by. To capture the full beauty of the color and design of the flowers you need to take time to observe and savor the intricate delicate beauty of them. So many colors and shades of colors along with the variety of petal designs.

Taking time for the butterflies and flowers in nature is a relaxing way to spend a day. Absorbing the mind in observing their beauty is a de-stressing activity and you can feel the calmness sweep over your inner being. From time to time in living more than ok I believe everyone should take a day to visit a park, a botanical garden, a nature conservatory and take time to savor nature. It is a positive way to recharge the inner being by literally taking time to “smell the roses”.

Also from my world-view perspective as a Christian it allowed me to have a greater awe filled savoring in my mind about God as Creator. I see the beauty and variety of flowers and can see the artistic mind of God behind them and the butterflies. It is interesting as I was thinking of writing this week on this experience by happenstance, I came across an NPR article about the author, Stephen King. In the interview with National Public Radio, he states on the topic of God, “"I choose to believe it. ... I mean, there's no downside to that. If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together.” That is how I look at it as well. I choose to believe in a Creator God as it makes sense from my observations of the intricacies and complexities of life and nature. I admit it is on faith but a reasoned faith as I look at the created order. I respect the atheist to hold onto their blind faith on the unproven theory of macro-evolution. I often find that those who bark the loudest against those who believe in an Intelligent Designer will act like Darwin proved evolution as a fact. When pressed they often admit they have never even read Darwin’s, The Origin of the Species. I read it and still have it on my bookshelf. It was not convincing to me as he does not prove evolution in the macro sense. It is still a just a theory. I look to the butterflies and the flowers and they seem to be shouting out clearly concerning the Creator God. He is there and not silent.

Reflection: Take a morning or afternoon to enjoy a park or flower garden in your town. What are the flowers and nature saying to you? Stop by a flower and spend a few minutes to observe and savor the experience with all your senses. Does the experience relax and calm you?

Link to interview with Stephen King --