My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Taking a Break Towards Simplicity

This Christmas we chose to take a break from the hectic nature of the modern Christmas time. The break also incorporated a few days of hiatus from the technology of computers, Facebook and Twitter. We went up to Belton, Texas to a spiritual retreat center, Immanuel Prayer House. The setting was a quiet Texas Hill Country ranch. The simple buildings at the base of the hill reminded be of little villages at the base of mountains in South Korea I had seen when my wife and I visited her family there. At the top of this post you see my wife and daughter by their sign and the other pictures are of the grounds of the retreat center. My wife had read about the prayer house in a Korean newspaper she had picked up at a San Antonio Korean grocery store where we occasionally shop. This was a small Butterfly effect that grew to a fulfilling get away that was much needed for us all.

While it was a break from stress and the hustle and bustle of Christmas I recognized there was a break towards simplicity and a renewal of spiritual thinking and being. Each evening at 7:00 pm there was a worship service and each morning at 6:00 am there was a morning prayer service. Each service was in Korean and translated into English. The accommodations were simple in that we stayed in an old mobile home unit with no tv, and modest living arrangements. The sanctuary was very plain as well as the very small prayer buildings along the hillside. The grounds showed the ministry’s simplicity in being mostly self-sufficient, as they had vegetable gardens and chicken coups for eggs.

We had our meals with the Pastor and her husband, along with three ladies who helped with the ministry. It was at these dinner times I learned through my wife’s translation of their Korean that this retreat had been a vision the Pastor felt God had given her over 25 years prior when they had moved to the U. S. A. to help with church work. Her husband for those 25 years helped develop the land by building the various buildings and the garden areas. He verified my initial reflection as he stated he wanted to replicate small farming villages that can be seen in the countryside of South Korea.

This simple elderly Korean couple was the real deal of living out Christianity. They were not running a business instead it was a faith ministry. They did not have rates to stay there instead they asked only for a donation based on how an individual could pay or felt God telling them to give. They had no flashy furniture or high tech gadgets. Everything from their main residence to the worship chapel was simple and functional. Their lifestyle was an example of following the ways of Jesus.
The time spent there listening to her Bible messages, praying and walking through nature gazing at the awesome Texas skies renewed my spirit. I also had time instead of being on the computer, to read positive literature I had brought with me and my Bible. I used the time to think over the past year and pray about God’s will in the coming year of 2015. There is something about being on a hillside with a camera staring at the clouds and countryside reflecting on what God’s plans may be for the days and year ahead.

I don’t know if this is will be a yearly tradition at Christmas time. The relaxation that came from knowing that there is life away from Facebook and Twitter reminded me that we need breaks from technology as I have mentioned in the past. Technology is not bad in itself and there are good aspects to Twitter and Facebook. The key is to understand those social platforms should not control our lives. As a Christian who believes in the Biblical worldview of following Jesus in a simple and faith based manner is the primary way of living. The experience at Immanuel Prayer House reminded me that from time to time it is important to set aside time to break towards enjoying the simple pleasures of life that God has for a fulfilled life.
I would encourage you to in the New Year find times through the year to take a break from technology and do a personal or family retreat at a nature center or spiritual retreat center. The inner relaxation of your mind and spirit is a benefit to your well-being.

Reflection - Are you hooked on technology? How easy is it for you to take a short break from Social media platforms? Look for retreat centers or nature parks in your area where you could take a couple days away from home for a spiritual break for your being.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thank You For Stopping by Please Explore Past Posts!!!

There have been no posts recently as I have had a few crazy past weeks finishing up an Advanced Statistics course for my Phd. It has been hard for me as I am a story guy not a numbers guy. This Christmas week I am having some solitude with my family at a prayer retreat center in the Hill Country area of Texas.

New Year's Day week I will be back writing. Thank you for stopping by my blog! Please take some time to look at some of my posts from the previous years.

Have a Blessed Holiday Season and a Positive New Year!
Frank Coulson

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful for Books as a Bookhead

from foter

In the past I have mentioned that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me it is not the food that comes foremost in my mind. Even though I enjoy the turkey, my wife’s garlic ranch mashed potatoes and pie. The importance of being thankful is what has been most important in my thinking of the holiday. This year with one goal of finishing my book on reading (which is a goal I am still struggling with), I thought I should share why as a Bookhead, I am thankful for books and reading. I see reading as an important way to impact changes in the mind which of course affects our living. That is the aim is Living More Than OK -- the title of my blog. A reminder of continual growth on our life journey.

Dr. Edmond Huey in the book, The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading (1915), speaks of the unique development of reading through history. His research revealed how in the study of the eyes of those reading, it is not a natural aspect of human development. Early humankind passed information through oral tradition and storytelling. Reading takes work and effort and had to be taught and developed. As reading became habit new thought patterns developed. He mentions “ Among early peoples the mystery of reading naturally , led to reverence for the printed word and book and for reading and the reader. Reading became a holy office, performed by individuals who possessed divine powers, and the book became a fetish.” (Huey. p. 2). Reading was for a selected few until the invention of the printing press. Huey describes a wonder filled description of reading, to him it is “a wonderful process by which our thoughts and thought-wanderings to the finest shades of detail, the play of our inmost feelings and desires and will, the subtle image of the innermost that we are, are reflected from us to another soul who reads us through our book. (p. 6). What a powerful picture of the importance of reading and books. The thought that comes to my mind is of students I have had who are reading books that had movies made from them. Most of the time the student would tell me the book was better as there were more details in the book. That is what Huey is getting at with the phrase, “… finest shades of detail….”.

from foter

It is the power of reading I find in Dr. Huey’s research on reading that makes me thankful that my mother when I was young had me be involved in the Summer reading programs at my hometown library in Barberton, Ohio. I am also thankful my third grade teacher, Verna Clifford, read to us regularly in class, which helped fan the flames of enjoying reading. Books have been companions and advisors in my life over the years. Through times of depression when I secluded myself in my apartment in Chicago, it was books that would impact my mind back to reality. It was through books such as the Bible, the works of C.S. Lewis, Dr. Victor Frankl, Dr. William Glasser and others that helped me. So I have many reasons to be thankful for books and reading.

I have also been thankful for those who promote reading and books. Recently the author, James Patterson has had an emphasis on saving books that I would encourage all readers to be a part of. Underneath the reflection I have a link to his column where he is interviewed on his call to arms to promote reading and books. I wish more authors would join him in this. He rightly points out that our culture by moving away from reading is dumbing down. I have had some students at the college who are honest with me on the topic of reading. They have shared that they see the rise in just watching videos and video gaming is making their minds lazy so they don’t want to do the hard work of reading college level material. What I like about the Patterson interview, and I do hope you will click on the link and take the few minutes to read it, as he is saying we can reverse the trend. He speaks as well how fewer people go to bookstores and how there are fewer bookstores in the country which I also believe effects the lower emphasis on reading in society.

With Christmas nearing I would encourage you to bypass doing your book buying on Amazon. How about going to a bookstore in your area? Go to a Barnes & Noble, or another bookstore of choice. Here is Texas they have Hastings and some towns still have independent bookstores. Some people like Half Price bookstores. Go in and touch the books and flip through the books. There is nothing more personal than a gift of a book that has been chosen particularly for that individual on your gift list. Then of course get a book for yourself.

The day after I thought of writing about being thankful for books and reading, I came across on the Barnes and Noble book blog a post about being thankful for books by Ginni Chen. I list the link under the reflection. Do take the time to read her blogpost as it is an enjoyable read that will make you think of why you are thankful for books. Take time this Thanksgiving to be thankful and to do some personal reading.

Reflection - Who influenced your reading desire or habits? What is your fondest memories of book reading? What can you do to encourage reading just as author James Patterson is trying to get more people involved in reading?

Patterson on saving books

15 Reasons to be Thankful for books Barnes and Noble book blog by Ginni Chen

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Revealing Pain Through Beauty

Last week while I was at the Texas Counseling Association conference in Dallas, Texas, my wife, daughter and I went to hear the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. They were performing Concerto in E minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 85 by English composer Edward Elgar. They also performed Pavane, Op. 50 and Requiem, Op. 48 by French Composer Gabriel Faure’. I had never heard of these composers so we attended the lecture prior to the performance to learn more about the composers. I highly recommend taking advantage of any community lectures before a classical performance as the information adds to the enjoyment of the performing of the musical works.

With Edward Elgar I was surprised that I was familiar with one of his works. Matter of fact anyone who has graduated would be familiar with his Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 that is played as a march at most high school and university graduations. His cello concerto was composed in his later years. It is a dark emotional work reflecting the mindset of Elgar, who had become disillusioned like many after WWI with the atrocities of mass killings and mustard gas killings. Also his wife that he loved dearly was gravely ill and he was facing illness as well. The program listed a quote from a letter he wrote that showed Elgar’s mindset, “Everything good and nice and clean is far away never to return.”
Knowing what his mindset was, I was setting up myself to hear a depressing sad piece. Yet as the young cellist, Alisa Weilerstein, performed her magic on the piece, I was captured with the beauty of the notes and emotion rising from the music. Yes, melancholic and dark, but still beautiful at the same time. It made me think of the wonder of the creative mind of Elgar to be going through personal pain yet creating music that could showcase the beauty of the range of tones from the cello.

With Gabriel Faure’ he was a contemporary of Elgar and the pre-performance lecture noted they had even met. Faure’ was trained in his schooling to go into church music and he started as a church organist. The requiem was a funeral mass piece Faure’ composed. So again at the lecture I was thinking another depressing piece about death. A difference was mentioned though compared to regular funeral mass music Faure’ wanted to take a different view of death. Most requiems that were popular at that time period, emphasized judgment in death. His requiem focused on solace and rest. The program notes listed a quote from Faure’ “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that we see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration toward happiness above; rather than a painful experience.” What a powerful statement as a way to look at death. It caused me to think back to my mother’s death years ago and the joy that was expressed at her home-going celebration at her church, remembering hymns she enjoyed and also as people shared kind thoughts about her.

When we heard the Requiem performed the Dallas Symphony choir performed along with the piece. The piece was far from depressing instead sections were majestic and powerful and other sections where light and airy. The solo “Pie Jesu” was performed by soprano Susanna Phillips. Her voice was amazing in capturing the emotion and lightness of the piece. In the reflection section below I have a short video clip of Barbara Bonney performing this solo. Do give it a listen.

Pain and death are subjects we don’t like to consider but they are part and parcel of our life journey. It helps us to understand these negative aspects of life through the creative mind of the artist, poet, or music composer as they bring bring beauty and different ways to understand the topics.

Reflection - What solace do you turn to during times of pain or grief through loss? To these composers who lived in difficult times of the hardships right after WWI music was a solace to use as an outlet. Take a listen to “Pie Jesu” and think over what you felt after listening to it

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Encouraging Reading to Create Booklovers

At the recent Texas Book Festival in Austin I found myself conversing with a librarian and a sales rep for Penguin Publishing while waiting in the long line for Crepes in the outdoor food court. Part of the discussion was the decline in reading in the country especially among young people. The reality of our discussion I read in an article I found online where Jordan Weissmann speaks in The Atlantic (2014) about the decline of reading. He pointed out that recent research showed that about 25% of American adults had done no book reading in the previous year. He pointed out a Gallup study that showed in 1978 that 42 % of adults read 11 books and then a recent Pew study showed that percentage had declined to 28%. He correctly points out that a major difference is that in this modern era there is an increase of technological gadgetry to sidetrack from reading. Students at the college level that I speak with in classes agree that most of their technology time is spent watching videos or chatting through texting not reading.

Weissmann is optimistic in his article, in that he shows that the statistic of readers had stabilized so he is not seeing further decline. Myself I would like to see the 28% go back up to 42%. His article ends with bar graphs in response to a question “How many Americans Read a Book for Pleasure Last Year?”. The years reported were 1992, 2002, 2008, and 2012. The last two years showed a stable mid 50s percentage. One problem I have is the question is stated in the singular “book”. How about working on getting people involved in their local library reading more than one book a year? I think that can happen if we encourage the importance of reading. That is why I promote reading in the classes I teach to college students.

I also came across a column by Dr. Howard Gardner back in 2008 he makes good points that even in our digital age that literacy will continue to grow. He doesn’t worry because “it’s essential to read and write fluently.” That is a point I discuss with my college students. They do get it. They will tell me they prefer just watching videos to entertain themselves and an easy way to get information. Yet they admit the work it takes to read pays off in a stronger thinking capacity and better creativity.

Gardner brings out important differences in our modern quick hi-tech media. One is that it limits authors’ ability to organize complex arguments that takes time for the reader to work through. He uses Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” as an example due to what he calls “The Web’s speedy browsing.” I see it more that the web makes the mind lazy in that everything has to be written in short sound bites of low mental fluff. I have actually had students admit to that point that the quick information and videos make them mentally lazy. That is why I encourage building up the mind with critical thinking skills.

Gardner also looks at another aspect of reading that is changing with technology and that is the solitude of reading where an individual would spend hours alone being absorbed in their book reading. I remember as a child enjoying hours of reading in the Summer. He points out rightly that young people today because of social media cannot enjoy solitude, but need to be continually connected with checking social media with their network of friends. I question whether this is really a good thing? Isn’t there a benefit to encouraging a break away from the connection to staring at the tech gadgets that control so many lives? Why not encourage a balance between using social media and web surfing to also include a 30 minutes a day of reading of a book?

I was encouraged on a recent Sunday evening at a Bible study where a young couple walked in and their little girl was holding several children books. She is just a one year old but they are incorporating books into her life by reading to her. They told the group about the 1,000 book challenge. It is a program to encourage parents to have their children starting at age 1 to be involved in reading to their child and having the child read up to 1,000 books before kindergarten. That sounds like a positive way to be creating future booklovers. If you want to know more information on the program here is the website for the organization behind it --

Reflection - How can you encourage others around you to read more? Do you enjoy reading a book in solitude? If you have difficulty finding time to read start out with reading a book just 30 minutes a day or even every other day.


Gardner, H, (Feb. 17. 2008) The End of Literacy? Don’t Stop Reading. In the

Weissmann, J. (Jan.21.2014) The Decline of the American Book Lover. The Atlantic.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Turning From Nowhere Man Into Somewhere Man

It has been a couple weeks since writing here as I have been busy with the College classes I teach. So with a few of the classes I teach just being finished as they were half semester courses called Flex classes I thought I would share an activity that I do with my College Success classes. It is where I have the students reflect on the song, Nowhere Man, by the Beatles. Then I have them write a letter to Nowhere Man pretending he is a student on campus who is failing because he is going nowhere. Their purpose is to give suggestions and ideas to get him moving to Somewhereland. Many students enjoy doing this and I have been surprised over the years how many young people enjoy the Beatle’s music still. Let’s see what we can learn from the song.

Nowhere Man , Lennon & McCartney (Click on the Title for a video)

He's a real nowhere Man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

Doesn't have a point of view, Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man, just listen, You don't know what you're missin',
All the world's at your command.

He's as blind as he can be, Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?

Nowhere Man, don't worry, Take your time, don't hurry,
Leave it all 'till somebody else lends you a hand.

Doesn't have a point of view, Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere man please listen, you don't know what your missin'
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command

He's a real Nowhere Man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

What I have enjoyed about the song is that it reminds me of the importance of choosing a life of purpose. If we want to go somewhere in life we need to intentionally choose to make plans so we can go somewhere not nowhere. It helps to take time to understand our point of view and have a firm understanding of who we are, and what we want out of life. Too many are missing out on all life has to offer as they don’t take the time to think over where they want to go. It is very true “Isn’t ‘he a bit like you and me?”. If we are honest we all have desert times where we don’t know and sit in nowhere land. We need to think is that where we want to stay?

“He’s as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see”. As we sit around staring at the plastic rectangles we carry around with us, or sit in the comfort of home staring at the larger plastic rectangles that entertain us to death, we become as blind as Nowhere Man. I am glad to see more calls in research and news reports to encourage parents to watch the amount of time they allow their children stare blindly at the little plastic entertainment rectangles of technology. At the same time how about the parents? It upsets me to see children at restaurants or outside playing and the parent instead of interacting with the children are staring at the little plastic entertainment rectangles of technology. Do they really have to be staring at the phone and texting that much? Do they understand the children learn from their actions? Don’t they understand what they are missin’? Don’t we understand what we are missin’? That is one point the Beatles are getting across in the song. The idea relates well to my book Living More Than OK and this blog. Do we want to come to the end our life journey only to see what we have missed?

Reflection: Think over the words to the song and reflect on your life. Are you moving towards Somewhereland? Are you blind to the purpose and opportunities in your life? How can you make better choices with your time to make the most of it? Is technology controlling you in mindless entertainment or do you use your time wisely on the internet to read life fulfilling blogs such as this? (Sorry just had to add that in!)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Soothing Stress Relief Through Music

When I recently spoke with my College Success course students about anxiety and stress, I brought up the subject of music as a stress reliever. I enjoy music immensely and believe in the power of music to calm and energize. Several of the students shared how music helps them to focus their minds on their studies so they can concentrate better. Other students shared how before tests there are certain songs that help motivate them to do their best.

Music helps to create moods that can aid in improving our emotions for relaxation or excitement. At times I have made the mistake of playing soft relaxing music prior to my 8 am lectures and students tell me to toss on some rock or country music to wake them up. Music can have a powerful effect on us. I want to share a couple of my favorite music choices when I am stressed out that help calm me down so you can think over how to use music as one way to deal with your life stress times.

First of all is a jazz musician I have mentioned many times in the past and in my book, Living More Than OK. Her name is Keiko Matsui. She is a smooth jazz pianist and composer of her music. She has songs that energize as well as songs that calm and heal the soul. Even her upbeat songs I can enjoy while I am relaxing while reading a book or simply trying to calm down from the worries of the day. I primarily listen to her cd’s yet sometimes if I have my computer on I enjoy some of the creative videos that have been created for her songs. Check out this example of a video based on her song Deep Blue:

Keiko Matsui song Deep Blue

Then one musician/composer I bring up each semester to my students when speaking about beating stress is Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. He is a chiropractor in his primary career path who has also had a passion for studying the healing qualities of sound and music. He is an expert in the field of acoustic pacing frequencies that he adapts into his musical compositions. His music is relaxing as the basic tempos match the breathing patterns in mindfulness meditation. So one reason I listen to his music is to slow down my breathing and to remind myself to take deep slow breathes. This type of music is helpful in de-stressing and lowering blood pressure. I have tested it out for myself when my blood pressure was high after listening to his music for 15 minutes or so, I have checked my blood pressure and it has gone down. Dr. Thompson’s music comes across as rather spacey so the first time listening it may take time to be used to it but the effects of relaxing of the body is noticed by most students when I try it in classes for them to listen to his compositions. Try listening to a sample of his music from Youtube:

Sleep Flow Dreaming by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson

Of course in speaking to students about relaxing music I bring up Classical Baroque music as well. Don Campbell in his book, The Mozart Effect, points to research after research that has shown the health benefits of classical music on the body, mind, emotions, and spirit of people. I do make use of my classical cds as well in relaxing while I am working in my office. It helps in being more productive with busy work if I have music such as classical music playing. I tell my students you do not have to break the bank of buying classical music as Youtube has collections of classical music for concentration and studying. Here is a sample here:

Study Music for Concentration:

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas about using music to conquer stress or improve your concentration. I hope you tried out the samples given here. Think through your favorite music and reflect on how it helps in your life and your moods.

Reflection: Listen fully to one of the three music samples above and reflect on how it made you feel. What is your favorite music style or favorite musicians? How does your music help you in your life?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sharing The Beauty of Creativity

From Ruma's blog

I enjoy taking photographs but do not consider myself that good at it. I am often enamored by photos taken by professionals as they capture the true artistic skill with their cameras. With their talent they brighten our lives by sharing the beauty of the world they capture with their camera lens. The creativity revealed in their photography can help us in appreciating the world around us in new ways.

One blog site I have enjoyed for the past couple years because of the beautiful photos that are listed there is Calligraphy in the Landscape:
The blog is put together by Ruma, who is from Japan. The blog by Ruma provides a visual tour of Japan using amazing photographs to capture the beauty of the country. The photos are amazing to sit and view. Most are nature photos which show the beauty of creation. Ruma also provides positive thoughts that encourage the soul. These thoughts or poems fit well with the photo that is being displayed. Since I list the weblink to Ruma’s blog I encourage you to go view some of the photos and reflect meditatively on some of the writings there. Two of the pictures I list here come from Ruma’s blog.

From Ruma's blog

I enjoy the cloud picture the most as it reminds me of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Ever since I have visited their website, it gives me an appreciation and reminder to relax and enjoy the beauty found in the skies. There is something peaceful and relaxing about looking up at the blue skies and the clouds.

Thinking over photography as art because of the beauty it captures reminds me of the power of art to enjoy and to heal. As Rollo May in his book, My Quest For Beauty states, “Good art wounds as well as delights. It must, because our defenses against the truth are wound so tightly around us. But as art chips away at our defenses, it also opens us to healing potentialities that transcend intellectual games and ego-preserving strategies.” There is healing potential in photography. I hope you experience some healing as you enjoy Ruma’s website.

Photo I took with my camera

Reflection: What are your favorite types of photos? As you looked over Ruma’s blog site which photo and saying touched you the most?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Learning to Thrive in Life

The Christian music group, Casting Crowns, is one my of wife’s favorites. Their latest CD is entitled Thrive. The title song relates well with what I write about in my book, Living More Than OK, and in this blog. Merriam Webster defines thrive as “to grow or develop successfully : to flourish or succeed”. That thought makes me immediately think of Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish, where he describes how concepts within positive psychology can aid in our humanity so as to develop to fully flourish and enjoy life.

Let’s see what we can learn from the song to be thriving in our lives. First look over the lyrics and take time to listen to the song by clicking on the title:

Thrive by Casting Crowns ( click on title to view the music video)

Here in this worn and weary land Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water We never will run dry
So living water flowing through God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls With one desire
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Into Your word we're digging deep To know our Father's heart
Into the world we're reaching out To show them who You are
So living water flowing through God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls With one desire
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High, Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Hey! We were made to Thrive

Mark Hall and Matthew West the song writers look at life from a Christian worldview which is the same viewpoint I look at life from. The ideas though can relate to all people I believe. We all have times where we are living in a worn and weary land. Matter of fact recently I have been feeling that way on many days. It can also be argued that as a country we have been facing worn and weary times, economically, socially, and war-wise with the Middle East turmoil. What is pointed out in the song is that is not the way we were meant to live our lives. Our purpose in life is not to just survive. Being purpose driven we thirst for more than just survival mode.

Just as the definition of thrive states, we need to look at ways to grow. The song starts out with the vision of a tree planted by water so it has a continual source of growth. Throughout the Psalms in the Bible is the idea of thirsting after God. For example in Psalm 42:1 & 2 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” As well in Psalm 63:1 “O God, thou art my God; earnestly will I seek thee: My soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee, In a dry and weary land, where no water is.” From a spiritual point of view the answer is looking outside of ourselves and connecting with God. Tapping into the Spirit’s power source we do not have to run and hide from life. We can move beyond our ordinary lives and thrive as we are meant to be.

The repeated line at the end, “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible”, speaks to joy, faith, love and endless possibilities. For me this looks back to the initial line where the lyrics say:

“Where many a dream has died”. If we are open to God’s work and power in our lives dreams can be renewed. We can shine in the worn and weary land being lights of joy and love to those around us. God can open new possibilities that are blocked when we settle for living in survival mode instead of thriving mode.

Reflection: What does “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible” mean to you? What worn and weary land are you facing right now? How can you move more towards a thriving life?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Living More Than OK Look at One Nation

As a family we recently finished reading Dr. Ben Carson and Candy Carson’s latest book, One Nation. After several weeks after dinner we would sit in the living room and our daughter read the chapters to us. This was an enjoyable way to work through the book so as a family we could think through the ideas of Dr. Carson and his wife. We had the privilege to meet Dr. Carson and his wife at a San Angelo, Texas book signing a couple of months ago. His wife is delightful as we had about a 15 minute discussion with her that evening at the store concerning the state of affairs in our country.

The first part of the book covers and looks at the roots of problems that are causing America to decline. Topic such as the economy, political correctness, bigotry, and of course health care from a doctor’s perspective to name some of the problems mentioned. The discussion of the problems are well reasoned out. With each problem discussion he provides action steps for readers to consider in helping to correct the problems at the end of each chapter.

After focusing on real problems the country is facing he moves on to discuss more in-depth and overarching solutions to help America regain the greatness it once had in the past. Topics here are such as learning to have mutual respect even when disagreeing. Political correctness implies everyone must all believe and say the same talking points. Respect doesn’t mean we all have to agree on everything. He speaks of learning to compromise which relates well with having a civil and honorable respect for each other. He rightly brings out that both sides in Washington cannot get anything done as they all are focused on doing it “my way” -- then nothing gets done.

In his brother’s keeper chapter he brings out that we need to move beyond the government nanny state to having we Americans, truly care for those less fortunate across the land. Allow the people in their communities to come up with ways to move from the dependency mentality to compassionately aiding their neighbors to be more responsible and rise up to being charitable and compassionate. He makes an important point that a spirit of charity disappears in a Socialist state where an impersonal governments gives handouts paid for by tax payers.

from foter

My favorite section is that America needs to build a more informed populace. He begins that chapter with a verse from Proverbs 14:15 “Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.” I emphasize the same thinking in my book, Living More Than OK, in the essay on Critical Thinking. His chapter emphasizes the importance of education and having an educated populace. To solve the problems we face as a nation we need to have an emphasis on lifelong learning.

Throughout the book he uses his life story as to how a well-rounded education helped him to succeed in life. He points out that it not only helps in financial terms but enjoying life to the full. In other words education and a mindset of learning helps us to keep spiraling up to abundant living. An important part of this process he rightly mentions is the reading of books. He encourages the use of local libraries to read books on a broad array of topics. Of course being a Bookhead I had to say amen to that as my daughter was reading that section of his chapter 11. Dr. Carson’s experience again shows the importance of libraries and reading from when his mother had him and his brother when they were young read two books a week . Being poor they did not have cash to buy books so they made use of the local library. I am glad he continues to promote libraries in his books.

With a public that continues to grow in their learning and knowledge we may be able to turn this Titanic of country around. I must say Dr. Carson and Candy are more positive than I am at present on the issue of the country making a comeback. His final chapters look at the need for vision, renewed understanding on the roots of morality, and the need for positive role models. Many are discussing Dr. Carson as a presidential candidate in 2016. He wisely remains hesitant. He would be a breath of fresh air with his common sense wisdom. His running may help the dialogue of real solutions rise in the discussions that are needed. Part of me still wonders if it is too late with too many Americans not wanting to learn, or to be responsible. It is so much more comfortable for too many voters to sit and take handouts of goodies from the government. Time will tell. I will keep writing about individual personal growth and see what happens in 2016.

Reflections -- What do you think of the current state of our nation? How can an attitude of lifelong learning help in improving your life and maybe America? If you have not read Dr. Carson and Candy Carson’s book do so and encourage others as well to read it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amazing Grace in the Develop of Our Life

The popular Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, is noted for being the most recorded hymn with Wikipedia stating about 7,000 recordings. In hearing the song do we think over the concept of grace and the impact it can have on one’s life? The song dovetails in my mind to one of my favorite passages of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches. Ephesians 2:8-10 reads: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Grace is a major concept in the Christian belief system. It uniquely separates Christianity from other religions. Where other religious systems are focused on man bettering themselves to reach out to God for favor; grace is God looking down towards the brokenness of mankind in love and presenting the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of His resurrection as the way to be in right relationship to God.

Is the initial work of grace in repairing our relationship to God where Amazing Grace ends? That thought is answered in a book, Resisting Grace, (click on book title to purchase the book) by Jon Ido Warden. (click on Jon's name to read his blog) He paints a more elaborate picture of the Amazing Grace of God and how Grace engages with the Christian believer’s complete life journey. I must say one initial reason I was interested in this book as I know the author from my days in Chicago in my undergraduate work at Moody Bible Institute. We lived on the same dorm floor, the famous “9th Floor” of Culbertson Hall. I remember him as a reflective thinker back then so it does not surprise me that he became a Counselor and a writer of a reflective book such as this.
Another reason I found the book an interesting read comes from my Christian Worldview so I was intrigued by his in-depth look at the Grace of God. In his words he describes the book. “This book is about the process of grace. Grace changes us, freeing us from our fears and self-protective mechanisms and develops in us the ability to live freely, fully, and gladly. God does all the work to bring about the change” (page 9). This connects with the scripture I shared at the beginning from Ephesians chapter 2. Salvation from the Christian point of view is a gift from God. God reaches down to human kind in our brokenness to heal and repair. Jon points to the analogies in the Old Testament that describe the sin nature we all carry as being like our being a broken cistern or clay pots that were made for a purpose of holding water but due to the cracks do not serve their purpose. I remember in the beginning of my Counseling program we had to describe our view of human nature. I wrote about the same analogy that Jon speaks of that we are “cracked pots”. I thought of it as it relates to the concept of someone being a crackpot as defined as an eccentric or foolish person with problems. I felt at that time and still do that part of the process of Counseling is moving broken people from being “Cracked pots” to “Masterpieces of pottery” appreciating the beauty and purpose of their lives.

As a Christian, I believe in line with the book, Resisting Grace, that the healing best works with God as the Master Potter, recreating the “Cracked pots” to being “Masterpieces”. I see that process being described in Jon’s book. I appreciate how he follows through how grace relates to all aspects and stages of our life. Just as verse 10 of Ephesians 2 brings out that the work of grace in our lives is God’s handiwork in each believer who is open to the gift of grace. The purpose of God’s grace in the life is to empower the Christ follower to do good works. The good works is not the instrument of salvation but instead it is the result and response of what God has done in our lives. Sad to say many non-Christians point to the lack of good works in the lives of Christians.

Jon ends each chapter with reflective thoughts and questions so it is a book to work through slowly and savor the information he is presenting about grace. One favorite part of the book is from a Counseling perspective, as I noticed many of the reflections and information connects to aspects of psychology and Jon sharing stories of his Counseling practice. One example is his mention of the Johari Window (page 101). The Johari window is a helpful self-understanding concept tool. In the one box is the Known self or also known as the Public self. It is how we are seen by others. It may be a true picture or many wears masks in public. Another box is the Hidden or Private self which is where we keep our secrets from others. This is the person we are in private. The Blind self are the blind spots which are positive or negative traits others may see in us but we often do not see. Then the last box is the Unknown self which Jon describes as the “Only God knows” box. This is the area of our lives where we and others may not understand why we feel or do things. Jon shows how God interacts in all the quadrants of our lives as we are open to His act of grace to fully allow God to be in charge of our lives. That as he states is truly freeing. Some think that Christians are not free but true freedom is resting with an open spirit to what God has in store for our lives.

Of course our human nature of resisting God comes to play in the dance with grace. Even as I wrote the previous paragraph and read Jon’s book I understood why he titled the book, Resisting Grace, as the inner tension of the sin nature wants to go my own way instead of God’s way. That is the root of the problem -- the broken pot is saying, “Why doesn’t someone use me to hold water?”, as it is blind to the open cracks where the water would be wasted by pouring out on the ground. We need that humble surrender to the Creator who can with our openness to the gift of grace refashion our lives to the Masterpieces He wants us to be.

This book is primarily for a Christian who is wanting to understand the process of Amazing Grace in his or her life. Yet I can see where it would be helpful to a truth-seeker who is exploring and wanting to understand what Christianity is all about. Jon aptly and fully paints a word picture of the importance of the unique aspect of grace that sets Christianity apart.

Reflection: What were your thoughts of the scripture passage, Ephesians 2:8-10 listed at the beginning? Look at the picture of the Johari Window – what do you learn about yourself by thinking and reflecting on the four quadrants of your life? Do you see God’s interaction in your life?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Career Passion In The Hundred Foot Journey

From Barnes and Noble website

My wife, daughter and I went last weekend to see the movie, The Hundred Foot Journey. We thoroughly enjoyed it and from the laughter in the theater most everyone did. The cinematography alone inspired us to want to visit small country towns in France. The story opened up a view of the initial clash of two cultures, Indian and French then the unfolding of how although different they learned from each other. The characters were full of a wide range of emotions from of course humor as was noted but also jealousy, prejudice, appreciation, and happiness.

The movie is based on the book by the same name written by Richard C. Morais. The story looks at a family who had a successful Indian restaurant in their homeland that was burned down during political upheaval. The mother of the family tragically dies in the fire. The father leads the family to Europe to settle. By happenstance of car problems they wind up in a small town in France. Then further happenstance and what the father feels is the mother’s spirit guidance, he purchases an old beaten down restaurant for sale with the desire to turn it into an Indian Restaurant with his son as the main chef. The problem is the location is right across from a well-respected French restaurant in the village.
from foter

The movie focuses in on the humorous tension between the father and the owner of the French restaurant, whose husband died so she is a widow who pours all her energies into the French restaurant. The Indian son who learned all he knew of Indian cooking from his mother becomes intrigued by French cooking and desires to expand his talent and knowledge by working at the French Restaurant under the culinary tutelage of the French owner. That increases the tension between his father and the owner of the restaurant.

That is all I will say of the story as this is not a review and my daughter says I always say too much about movies ruining them for others. Kind of like the Geico Maxwell the pig clip, (if you have not seen it click on the link - ), that appears in movie theaters during the ads and spoils the movie endings for those standing before him.

The angle I want to view the movie from is from the career angle. Probably since much of my work over the years has been helping college students on career issues this stood out to me. We see in the movie Hassan who is the Father’s son and chief cook at the Indian restaurant has a natural talent for cooking that was cultivated by his mother in the original restaurant. In considering careers we need to consider and understand the natural talents that we have. Explore your skills and how they relate to the work you do. Some people are stuck in jobs where there is a talent and skill mismatch. Explore on the internet jobs that relate to your skills you are strong in. There are many free skill assessments on the internet.

from foter

Hassan’s attitude about his culinary work captured my attention. He carried a humility about his skills. This allowed for his curiosity and desire to improve to flourish. He could have settled on making his father’s Indian restaurant become more popular in the small town and vicinity. That would have given him a good life most likely. Yet his inner desire to learn and grow as a chef allows him to take the risk to join the team at the French restaurant. In doing so he helps that restaurant improve as well as continues the growth of his culinary skills. In our careers we need that same curiosity to keep growing and learning. This attitude aids in helping conquer boredom in the workplace as well as opening up new opportunities. Our attitude shapes the passion in our work also and you definitely see career passion alive in this movie.

The movie as mentioned earlier brings out happenstance events or as I mentioned last week, life chaos, that affected how Hassan’s opportunities in the town advanced. If the brakes had not failed they would have not found themselves living in that town. If the racial prejudice event had not occurred a major turning point in the French restaurant owner’s life may not have happened. Granted this movie is fiction but the chaotic events are very true to life and fit well with what Dr. Jim Bright brings out in his chaos theory of careers. How do we make the most of the chaos events that come into our lives?

Then one final thought from the movie comes from the final segment of the movie. In keeping with my promise not to spoil the movie I will only mention that a change occurs for Hassan that allows him to reflect over his life values. In the end you see him connecting his career and other aspects of his life to his personal values. In our career journeys to have the most fulfillment in our work time we need to explore our values and see how they connect with the work we are doing. How do those values balance the various aspects of our lives such as work, family. and leisure? For most of us our career journey is longer than 100 feet. It is well worth exploring how well our career journey has gone and how work adds to our life experience.

Reflection: If you have not seen it yet, go see The Hundred Foot Journey as well as read the book. Reflect over your natural talents and skills – how do you use them in your workplace? How curious are you about your career area? Are there areas where you can grow and continue to learn? How do your personal values relate to how you do your work?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Education As A Priority For Living More Than OK

From Foter

As the Summer comes to a close I see activity at the local elementary schools as teachers return to prepare their rooms for the new school year. My belief is that education is important in developing minds to face the challenges of life with critical and creative thinking. Education provides the foundation to prepare young people to explore possibilities for their futures and create new possibilities that are not apparent at present time. I am thankful I had a mother although not well educated herself, due to the time period she grew up in, emphasized education to me. Also I am thankful for the many fine teachers I had who inspired a love for learning. In the past and in my book, I have mentioned my third grade teacher, Mrs. Verna Clifford, who believed in her students and focused on the basics of reading, writing and math to set a foundation for future learning.

Thinking of education, caused me to have interest in a new Glenn Beck book written with Kyle Olson. The title is Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education. No matter what side of the argument one is on it is an important book to think through the problems with education. I went through public schools in Barberton, Ohio and appreciated the education I received. Did I have perfect teachers all the time? – no. I would have, if they could have used cloning technology to create more Verna Cliffords. But the majority of teachers were passionate about teaching. That is one problem I have with those who bash public education (which Glenn is not doing). People pick out the bad examples of teachers and paint all public school teachers with the same brush. It would be like going to a grocery store and finding one apple with a bruise on it and asking the grocer to throw away all the apples.

In Conform the beginning starts out with the well documented problem that American students fall behind similar students in many other countries. They point out that studies show that American students “rank 31st in math, 24th in science and 21st in reading globally” (page 7). If we want to continue to be a global leader our education of our youth obviously needs to improve. It is problems like this that Common Core is trying to address. Glenn and Kyle go through the book making sounds arguments that maybe Common Core is not the best solution.

From Foter

I am going to discuss just a couple of concerns that I felt strong about in the book. Again I suggest if you are concerned about education in our country to pick up a copy to read and think through the issue yourself. One problem I have strong feelings about is that the Common Core system encourages “cookie cutter” education and teaching to the test. An example of this can be found on page 87, “If the English portion of a Common Core related test asks one question about Shakespeare but four questions about the Environmental Protection Agency document, it won’t be long before schools tailor their curriculum to include the EPA document. As McClusky puts it “Year after year, questions become curricula”. I have spoken with teachers who lament the teaching to the test dampens their love for teaching. More importantly, many College students have told me that it is all the required testing that turned them off to education. How can we create a love for learning to build creative and critical thinkers in such an environment?

Speaking of the tests, when I was working on my Masters in Counseling many classmates were school teachers. You could hear the anxiety in their voices when they mentioned that the TAKS or TASS tests were coming. You would think it was an invading army with the anxious voices. They would mention how anxious the students were. I would think in my mind “Of course! If the teachers and counselors are this scared of the tests that is going to rub off on the students”. In my discussion with college students many have shared how schools would focus for a couple of weeks in all the classes on the TAKS English for example before the test. How ridiculous! I am not against comparative tests. I think back to my elementary and junior high days. We had national tests but they were never hyped up like they do today. You just took the test and received the results. The emphasis on teaching was not particular national test questions. Instead of looking for new ideas for teaching someone should look back at what worked right in the past before test scores started to slip across the country.

Then a point that raised my blood pressure was on page 112 and 113 where they discuss all the data that is being collected on students to predict possible failure in college and to force career directions on students. I have seen this in action. One institution I worked at used an assessment tool for all incoming freshmen. In our college success course we would go over the results. One day one student came to my office and said the computer report said he would drop out. I asked him if he wanted to finish his Associate in Air Conditioning & Heating. He said yes. So I told him, “who is right – the computer report or you?” He went on to finish his degree. Another student, a girl, was doing poorly in her classes. She told me she did not like the health care program she was in. She actually wanted graphic design but a school counselor in high school told her that her career test showed she should do nursing, (which she did not like but did as the counselor told her to). Glenn is so right on this point. I am a believer in that career tests can be a useful tool but they are not exact predictors as the talking head experts like to make them out to be. Most of these “Experts” who say that students need to know at age 17 what they will do for the rest of their lives, did not know themselves at that age where they would be at age 50. That is one reason I promote to my college students to explore thinking about Dr. Jim Bright’s concepts of the Chaos Theory of Careers. We should be building up students critical thinking abilities so they can shape their own futures instead of following cookie cutter sameness in what computer programs tell them what to do.

From Foter

These are just a couple of points that tapped into my thinking on education. Glenn and Kyle were very good at presenting arguments about the problems with Common Core. I do wish they would have spent more time presenting solutions. That is weak point in the book. Parents need to be more involved in promoting the importance of education in the lives of their children. If we keep saying they are the future of the country what are we doing for them to help them prepare for progressing in that future?

Reflection: What was your education experience like growing up? Who were your favorite teachers and what made them your favorite? What did you learn from them?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Golden Time in Alaska

Last week my wife and I enjoyed an Alaskan weeklong cruise on the Golden Princess of the Princess Cruise line. When we did a Caribbean cruise several years ago most of the people on the cruise spoke of the Alaskan cruise being a “must do” cruise. After experiencing Alaska upon the Golden Princess, I had to agree with their sentiments. With my Living More Than OK concept I don’t like telling people what they should do, but I highly encourage everyone in their lifetime to see the splendors of Alaska.

Seeing nature on the Alaska cruise made for a needed break from the Summer heat of Texas. Seeing the majestic beauty of God’s creation was the highlight of the cruise. For my wife the favorite part of Alaskan nature was going on the whale watching excursion. The humpback whales were very active in feeding while we were out on the small boat activity. The captain of the small boat would follow the circling of the seagulls to find the whales. The seagulls had a sense of where the whales would be feeding and would swoop down to get leftover fish for their lunch. We also had the chance to see some killer whales on that excursion as well.

For myself, the favorite excursion was a 40 mile scenic railway ride in Skagway up to the Yukon territory of Canada. Seeing the trees, mountains, and streams was refreshing way to view the wild and beautiful nature of Alaska. I tried to imagine how they built the railroad there in the late 1800’s. The tour guide mentioned that this particular railroad was an engineering feat in its time. This railroad tour helped me capture a sense of wonder about the creation in Alaska.

We always enjoy meeting a variety of people and cruises are a wonderful place to meet people. The crew and the staff of the Golden princess were friendly and helpful which I believe helped create an atmosphere on the ship of friendliness. One could strike up a conversation with about anyone. One man from California had been on Alaskan cruises numerous times and gave us insightful tips on where to do photography on board when the ship toured through Glacier Bay. With my wife and I being Christians we met with a group of about 9 Christians on Sunday morning. By midweek that group grew to 14. The fellowship of meeting with a group with the same worldview where we could share our mutual appreciation for God’s creation in Alaska was an important part of each day on the cruise. Then there was a delightful elderly couple we met from Louisiana that made our time special as well. New Orleans is one place we have wanted to visit but have never made the time to get there. With our meeting Clarence and Vilma from the suburbs of New Orleans changed that. On the last day of the cruise she gave us their address reminding us they have spare rooms so we would have no excuse not to come. So if you enjoy meeting new people a cruise is a perfect way to do that.

Then with my being a Bookhead, reading is part of the cruise experience. The Golden Princess had a small library on board that I frequented. I read a couple of my books I brought along and then I picked up a Jim Patterson novel, Tick Tock, out of their library to enjoy reading as well. In Ketchikan we stopped in the town bookstore, Parnassus Books. If you are ever in Ketchikan and enjoy books stop by. Their specialty is books on Alaska and they carry a variety of little gifts in the store as well. I have included here a picture from their store window, “Snack, Nap, Read” fits well with the cruise ship experience of good food, rest and reading. I was glad to see that Princess cruise lines promote reading with their library and a book club activity they had on board. I was too busy with other books to be involved with that, but the next cruise with them I will make it a point to try out the book club.

That wraps up my thoughts on the golden time we had on the Golden Princess cruise to Alaska. Hope you enjoyed some of the pictures from the trip. I have heard people say they would never take a cruise. Years ago I was one of those people. Give a cruise a try and you will see it can be one of the most relaxing vacations you ever experience.

Reflection: Here is the link to the Princess cruises click on it or search for another cruise line you are interested in and imagine yourself on one of the cruises.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Living More Than OK by Successful Reading books

Before taking a break from my blog for a week of rest in Alaska I was wondering what to write about this week. Through a library loan I was able to track down a book on reading I had been searching for, Successful Reading: Key to Our Dynamic Society by Maxwell H. Norman. So in keeping with some of my recent discussions on reading I will share some important thoughts from his book. This book has helped me select the books I am taking on our cruise.

In the preface he points out that the need for reading has grown as knowledge in the world has expanded. From a career standpoint he states that many of us may do several career shifts so there is a continual need to learn and grow in new knowledge areas. Reading brings flexibility to our lives and the ability to cope better with the continual changes. One timely thought even though the book was printed in 1968 he speaks of the importance of a strong democracy depends on a literate society for citizens to make sound critical thinking decisions. I mention this concept in my book Living More Than OK in my critical thinking chapter. We can only improve the society for the better by rational understanding of facts and issues and making sound decisions instead of irrational emotionalism that guides the Alinsky type tactics found in our present government. The present administration just reacts to chaos not letting a crisis go to waste instead of critical thinking to solve problems.

Norman views the successful reader as the students who do not complain about their reading assignments or the business people who know the importance of keeping up with business journals. To him these readers see how, “Books can provide escape from the monotony of everyday existence… they taste the joys frustrations of the laboratory and the creative thinking of great minds” (page 2). There is a great love for all literature and understanding of the importance of reading in self-growth which I believe is the basis of being a Bookhead.

In the successful reader there is seen in his text three characteristics that he keeps considering throughout the book. The first is that the readers have a purpose driving their reading. There is a reason behind why they are reading. Then that progresses to the characteristic of concentration. The reader with a purpose can better focus his or her mind in their reading. This improves the third characteristic of comprehension. Reading is not just to glance mindlessly at pages of words. With the purpose in mind linked to the power of the mind’s focusing powers we better understand what we are reading for a meaningful reading experience.

As to the purpose that varies on the types of material we are reading. The examples that Norman presents are on a Summer day reading a thriller novel as an enjoyable escape for the mind. James Patterson novels come to my mind as an example of this type of reading. A strong reader may go through 200 pages of a novel in one evening with this purpose of reading. Then Norman switches to a purpose of a student having to read for Philosophy a short reading of Aristotle’s Ethics. This will probably take just as long as the novel but with reading much fewer pages to fully understand the information for a class. It all depends on the purpose. I know my journal article reading for my PhD classes take longer to read than a lighter novel or non-fiction book for pleasure.
The emphasis of the book is reading for learning. This learning is not just in the scholastic sense but reading to learn because of curiosity of various aspects of the world such as history, technology, social issues, and philosophy. There is also reading for pleasure and relaxing. This is using reading to escape the boredom of everyday life and exploring topics of interest in books and magazines or expanding your creative mind in the vast array of fiction novels. Norman also speaks of reading for personal growth and self-understanding. This is the area of reading where my book, Living More Than OK fits into with a desire for individuals to grow in various aspects of their lives.

His encouragement at the end of the book is to build a reading program into our weekly time schedule. To the question of busy people who say when can I find time to read he responds. “The basic answer to this question is a philosophical one, a deliberate decision on your part, a determination of values. Can you afford not to read?” (page 134). If you can read 30 minutes a day that is 3 ½ hours a week. In a month that equates to about 14 hours to read. Then in a year that would be about 168 hours of reading. Think through how that investment of time could improve your creative and critical thinking. Think how that investment may help you in your career by having greater knowledge. It all boils down to our personal choices in how we use our time. Mortimer Adler is quoted in the book on his thoughts on reading, “Reading … is a basic tool in living of a good life.” ( page 160). I would go beyond that by saying that reading is a core tool in the continual Living More Than OK experience to help us keep Spiraling Up To Abundant Living.

Reflection: Do you believe reading can be of help in living a successful life? Do you think about your purpose when reading a book? What do you think of the question “Can you afford not to read”? How could an increase in reading by everyone improve the world we live in?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Experience Critical Thinking and Gratefulness with America the Movie

Dinesh D’Souza is a conservative political and social commentator, whom I have respected over the years in reading his books. I have appreciated his clear sound thinking in declaring his arguments which he backs up with researched evidence. In my book, Living More Than OK, I present some information from his book, Godforsaken, in my chapter on spirituality. Recently my family and I went to see his new movie, America: Imagine the World Without Her (Click on the title to see a preview clip of the movie). The thought in watching it comes across that if the liberal progressives hate America so much, what would the world be like if America did not exist. This week I want to share some of my thoughts on the movie and encourage you to go see the movie for yourself.

As I watched the movie Dinesh’s ideas were thoughtfully engaging. He gave liberal progressive professors a hearing of what problems they saw in America. Having worked in higher education, they were familiar problems, such as the slavery issue, America’s stealing of Indian and Mexican land, and income disparity. Dinesh presented their arguments in their own words and highlighted valid concerns they had. Then he went point by point through their arguments with facts that have been overlooked in history showing the fallacies of the liberal progressive thinking. A thread of the argument also shows how the ideals and values of America have been more of a help to progress in the world.

The movie gives an example of critical thinking in action and it stimulates the viewer’s critical thinking. Several of the historical points he brings out I searched for on the internet after watching the movie. My questioning mind wanted to know if he was correct in his examples. Not surprisingly, he was correct in every instance. I am not going into specifics as I want you to go see the movie for yourself and not spoil any of it. Be active with your mind as you view it and think over the arguments and the historical evidence that is presented.

Dinesh and the production team also present a heart stirring level of emotion that brings out a gratefulness for the good things about America. Beautiful scenic photography reveals the beauty of our country. Historical examples show how America has been a force for good in the world. His own story of being an immigrant from India, who came to this country gives a glimpse of a fresh look at the liberties and the good America has done in the world compared to other countries around the world. We as a family saw the movie on the 4th of July weekend so emotionally the movie had an impact of my being thankful for being an American and appreciating the history of the country. Some liberal movie critics who are trashing the movie state that he glosses over the problems of America. This shows either their level of pure ignorance or they were high on drugs while watching it. Dinesh from the very beginning presents the problems using liberal socialist professors own words and even agrees on some levels with them. What bothers the liberal critics of the movie is that he speaks the truth from historical facts that have been ignored and shows the fruit of progressive liberalism for what it is – failure. We see this is the recent events in our country that has turned into what Dr. Ben Carson likes to say a “what can you do for me country, instead of a can do country”.

I was hoping to see a packed theater, especially with July 4th one would think the populace would like a movie about America that instills pride in our country. Instead the masses flocked to movies such Transformers (isn’t this the 100th Transformers movie) and Tammy, a comedy of which looking at the trailer for the movie is not even funny. Maybe the movie critics with their campaign to trash the movie had an effect. Usually I find that if a movie critic says a movie is bad you can count on it being a good movie. I would wonder why the critics are so against such an amazingly great movie but I know why. Most of the critics follow the liberal agenda that America is the problem because that is what their liberal professors told them in their university education. Since they had no critical thinking skills and still do not, they blindly follow the liberal agenda to be anti-American, while they are enjoying all the freedoms of this great country.

I would highly encourage you to go see this movie and go with a few people so you can discuss the movie afterwards. I would encourage liberals to use a little critical thinking and stop blindly following what your leaders tell you and go see the movie for yourselves. It is obvious from the liberal movie critics their desire is to shut this movie of truth about America down as it does not fit with their narrative that America is the cause of the world’s problems. We even saw this week further evidence of this in that Costco pulled Dinesh’s book by the same name out of their stores. They used the lame excuse that it was not selling although it was. Once customers complained about their censorship they quickly switched back to putting the book back in their stores. So again I say this is a movie that everyone should see and discuss. Whatever your political persuasion there are things to learn from seeing America: Imagine the World Without Her.

Reflection – What are three things you are thankful for about living in America? After you see the movie what was one historical fact about America that stood out to you?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Explore Reading Possibilities With Book Lists

I missed posting on my blog last week as I was in the research trenches attending my Capella University PhD Colloquial. Hopefully in a year I will be at work on my dissertation. Back to the main business of sharing thoughts on personal growth ideas. Before leaving to Dallas for my Colloquial a Facebook friend had a post about a list of movies everyone should see. Movies are an important medium for entertainment as well as development as I believe many have been helped through cinema therapy which is using movies or segments of movies in Counseling therapy. While I looked at the list my being a Bookhead got the best of me and I started looking for booklists of recommended books.

Here are some of the lists that are out there for finding new book possibilities for Summer and reading throughout the year:

Book suggestions for children under 10

Book lists for teens from the American Library Association to encourage reading for teens –

Here is a general book list for everyone to think of new book ideas -

Here is a book suggestion list for men from Goodreads- (Where is the list for Women? I am sure one is out there. You women are smart enough to search for what you are interested in. We men sometimes need help in pulling away from the remote and Sports channel).

Here are some ideas for books to read that include literary classics. How many have you read or is it time to re-read one -

Since I look at life from a Christian worldview I even found a list of suggested Christian books from Goodreads –

I have mentioned book lists for a variety of ages and lists that show literary classics so there are ideas for everyone.

As a Bookhead I present these lists to encourage you in your reading to look into new ideas and possibilities of books for yourself. You may want to create a list of your own top 100 books that you want to read in your life. Connect the list of books to your personal bucket list or dream list.

Another reason for emphasizing these books lists is to encourage you to be involved in your Summer Reading programs with your local public libraries. As I mentioned in my book, Living More Than OK, reading became an interest of mine when I was in elementary school through the Summer reading programs at the Barberton Public Library. I can thank those reading programs for helping me progress early on in my academic life and my critical thinking skills. Reading expanded my view of the world and the desire to explore new ideas while affirming for myself my values and why I believe in my worldview while being respectful of other’s worldviews.

Since one reason of placing these booklists here is to help with ideas for Summer reading I was curious about what was going on in my local library Summer reading program. I went to the New Braunfels Public Library reading program’s website: to look over there program. Their theme is “Fizz, Boom, Read” with a focus on Science reading at all the age levels. For children they are emphasizing reading in 20 minutes segments for their reading logs. That is a good idea as reading in short segments is an effective way to get young people interested in reading. It is a helpful reminder for adults too in our busy world who say they do not have time to read. Just do one chapter a day or 20 minutes to start off in your reading regimen.

New Braunfels library has reading categories in their program for children, teens, and adults. I noticed they have prizes for each of the age groups as well. I am fine with incentives to encourage reading whatever gets people into books is important. Not everyone is a Bookhead like myself who enjoys reading for the sake of reading.

Looking over the New Braunfels website for their Summer reading program made me think about my home town library back in Barberton, Ohio. So I went to their website and right on their homepage is the announcement for the Summer “Fizz, Boom, Read” reading program. Seeing their website brought back good memories of reading books in their program and working at the library when I was in High School. I noticed they are using prizes as well to encourage reading which again I am all for as people are often motivated if given an external prize to aim for and hopefully in the process reading will become more of a personal habit. On the Barberton Library website there is an encouragement in the notice to “Sign Up The Whole Family”. What a great idea! Don’t just send the children or teen to the reading program. Adults need to be involved as well. Reading is better caught than taught so parents need to be examples in being seen as reading instead of being glued to their cell phones and tv all the time.

One concern I have with Summer reading programs is when Summer is over so is the reading. When Fall comes keep your library card handy as in the lists I presented there is much more reading for you to keep your mind active and growing throughout the year!

Reflection: What book are you reading right now for the Summer? (If the answer is none, get out of the recliner and head to your nearest library to sign up for the Summer reading program)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Spiritual Lift of Worship Songs

A while ago a Facebook friend, Mark, from back in my hometown school days, sent me a message to listen to a song, Revelation Song, performed by Jesus Culture. When I heard it I recognized it from worship times in my church. The song was written by a songwriter, Jennie Lee Riddle. (Click on her name to learn more about her). Listening to the song made me reflect over the importance and power of music to lift up the inner spirit not just in church but throughout the day. I listen to a wide variety of music, yet when it comes to spiritual songs of praise songs and hymns they enliven my inner being is a uniquely different way.

In thinking of worship songs I looked on the internet and read several articles that mention how music is an important component in many religions in the way they worship. That makes sense as music has in its very nature the ability to tap into our emotions which is an important facet of our being. Music can be found in the worship of a variety of faiths such as Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Atheism to name some of the major religions. I will not speak to religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism, as I am not Hindu or Buddhist. I am a Christian whose journey in my faith walk has been enhanced through songs of worship.

In this post I want to focus in on the song Mark suggested to me. If you click on the song title as usual a video of the song performed by Jesus Culture, a worship band, will play.

Revelation Song by Jennie Lee Riddle

Worthy is the, Lamb who was slain Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to him who sits on Heaven's mercy seat
Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings You are my everything
And I will adore You
Clothed in rainbows, of living color Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be to You the only wise King
Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord God Almighty Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything And I will adore You

Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder At the mention of your name
Jesus your name is power Breath, and living water Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah... Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord God Almighty Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing Praise to the King of Kings You are my everything
And I will adore You

When I hear this song it reminds me of the visual picture of the worship of Jesus the Lamb found in Revelation 5:11-13:

11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." 13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.

In my Christian worldview that I hold onto, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice to bring fallen mankind back into right relationship with God. He alone is worthy of my worship for being the holy perfect Lamb of God. The verses point to a myriad of worshippers in heaven worshipping Jesus on the throne. As I watched the video of Jesus Culture in a worship gathering in Chicago; that showed a small foretaste of the worship being viewed by the Apostle John in the Book of the Revelation. The song mentions about creation singing. In the revelation text we see “every created thing” mentioned in worshiping Christ. Reading that made me think over to a text by the Apostle Paul Romans 8: 18-20

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope…

Here we see creation is a pointer to God. Enjoying the beauty of creation is a joy as people enjoy flowers, sunsets, lakes, canyons, and many other wonders in nature. When I see creation I feel with Paul that creation is pointing beyond itself to the Creator God behind the creation. I can appreciate the atheist who feels the cosmic magic rabbit just popped into existence by random chance. I just do not have that level of blind faith in chaotic random chance. I look at the complexity and beautiful delicate nature of a flower and see God the Creator behind it. My response is then as the Revelation Song goes “Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder”. That is spirit behind my worship in view of the pure holiness of the great God behind all things. The song states, “You are my everything”. If my worldview is based on the God of glory and maker of all, my only response should be that He is my everything. God should then be the driving force in my love and concern for helping my fellow travelers on this journey in this life. I am glad Mark pointed this song out to me so I could think through the importance of a life of worship that is a major part of my personal worldview.

Reflection: What is your thoughts about the lyrics of the worship song , Revelation Song? If you are of another belief system what do you think of the music that is a part of your Faith? What is your favorite Spiritual song and why is it important to you?