My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Shaping The World With Our Choices and Lives

Photo credit: symphony of love / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Whether our life is going great, or just OK or maybe in a spiraling downward slump our choices and consequent actions shape the immediate world around us. You may respond with, “You don’t know what life just threw at me!”. I agree I don’t, but even with the dark discouragements of life we have the ability to choose how to respond. I believe it helps to know that how we respond can create positive change for the better in our lives and the world around us.

I have been listening for the past few months to the latest CD from Switchfoot, Fading West. As usual with all their projects it is full of fantastic music and thought provoking and challenging lyrics to think through. One song that speaks to the topic I am looking at this week is The World You Want. When the pieces of life are falling apart for us the song poses a question of “Is this the world you want”? Listen to the song by clicking on the song title and think through what the song is saying.

The World You Want (Click on the title to view video)

I'm pickin' up the pieces, I'm trying out adhesives
I'm trying to fix a place that feels broken, All my words have failed me
My voices don't avail me, I'm trying to say the hope that's unspoken
Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want?
You're making it, Every day you're alive
Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want?
You're making it

The world feels so malicious, With all our hits and misses
Feels like we're in the business of rust
It's when I stop to listen, All the moments I've been missin'
I finally hear a voice I can trust
Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want?

You're making it, Every day you're alive
Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want?
You're making it, Every day you're alive
You change the world, You change the world
You change the world, Every day you're alive
You change the world, Honey, you change the world
You change my world
You start to look like what you believe, You float through time like a stream
If the waters of time are made up by you and I
I could change the world for you, you change it for me

What you say is your religion, How you say it's your religion
Who you love is your religion, How you love is your religion
All your science, your religion, All your hatred, your religion
All your wars are your religion, Every breath is your religion yea
Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want?
You're making it, Every day you're alive
Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want?
You're making it, Every day you're alive

You change the world You change the world
You change my world Every day you're alive
You change my world Honey, you change my world
You change my world

Agents of Positive Change

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I would like to first list a few thoughts from Jon Foreman from an article he did concerning his thoughts on the song he wrote:

“It's a dark, self-indicting song to sing, because I'm guilty as well. I'm culpable in the state of the world. … Religion is an odd word to our ears. Words like religion, faith, and spirituality are often relegated to the irrelevant, obscurity of our childhood fantasies… And agnostic naturalism becomes the cold, sterile replacement. How could religion have anything to do with our post-modern, post-Christian world?

When Greg Graffin, Bad Religion's frontman, calls naturalism his religion, I think he's right. Your religion might not include transcendent elements, it might not include a long history of tradition. Show me your pocketbook and I will show you your religion. …You can talk all you want about your beliefs, but without action your fancy words about faith mean very little. Religion is best shown in the way we spend our time here on the planet. What you say you believe is not your religion, your religion is the way you treat the orphans and the widows here on the planet.”
- See more at:

Jon rightly points out that our choices and thoughts must connect with behavior to make changes in our lives. As we make changes in our lives the song reminds us that we can have an impact in the lives of others in relating to them as they are going through times of difficulties. We need to be alive to be agents of positive living more than OK changes in our own lives and in the lives around us.

Especially in times where life feels like it is falling apart we need to quiet ourselves and take time to listen. Listen to what God is revealing. Listen to the question “Is this the world you want”. The thoughts in the song fit well with cognitive behavioral concepts in psychology. Think through the world you want beyond the present difficulties. The question also speaks in my mind to Dr. William Glasser’s concept of our Quality World which is the pictures we create in our mind of the perfect world we desire based on our values. Considering in the stillness new choices for positive changes and then decide to act on those choices in new behaviors is what the song is speaking of in my mind.

Religion Is Part of Who We Are

Photo credit: Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) / Foter / CC BY

One part of the song that captured my attention was the near the ending vamp with the repetition of phrases about “religion”. Coming at my worldview as a Christian I understand that the word religion has a negative connotation. We Christians like to state that Christianity is about relationship with God not religion. But in this song we are reminded that religion is one of the unique aspects of our humanity. The repeated phrases remind us that what we hold onto firmly in our beliefs as the most important is our religion.

In Jon’s comments that I quote about the song he alludes to the verse in James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (NASB). Jesus spoke in the synagogues so He was not against religion instead he was against hypocrisy in the religionists of his day. Religion is based on our beliefs but should also be seen in our actions in how we live our lives in an upright ethical manner and caring for those around us.

Reflection: What do you want your world to look like? What choices are you making to help make that happen? What is the basis for your “Religion”?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Considering Forgiveness In The Workplace

Photo credit: symphony of love / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

When I think of the word forgive or the idea of forgiveness I think of the hurts and wrongs within personal relationships, family and friends. Forgiveness helps to release the tensions and rebuild the relationships when we have been wronged or have wronged another. The holding on of hurts only increases anger and internal pain. We can be enslaved to past events holding grudges while the other party may move on without a care in the world while the unforgiving person is chained up with internal strife reliving the events. The spirit of forgiveness frees us from the stresses and anger to move to an upward spiral of openness in relationships and clarity of pressing forward into new growth areas.

Forgiveness helps overall health by releasing the pent up anger or stress that negatively affects the body. A body full of tension from lack of forgiveness will yield physical problems. Forgiveness builds up resilience in that we learn the freeing power of forgiveness so are better able to deal with future hurts in a better manner. Also by forgiving we strengthen our relationships.

Forgiveness and Work

Photo credit: Cory M. Grenier / Foter / CC BY-SA

Is there a need to think of forgiveness in the workplace? That question came to my mind as I heard of a book by Dr. Deborah Welch, Forgiveness at Work. She brings out how in our workplaces we are often faced with hurts and offenses. These hurts can come at us from co-workers, our managers above us or customers. Sometimes the difficulties we face at work come from the system or style of management of the company of where we work. I remember one place I worked at in Chicago that was taken over by another company. The difficulties and hardships were not purposely caused by any one person in immediate management. Instead the hurts and stress were caused by the nature of the takeover.

Dr. Welch in her book shows how understanding forgiveness in the workplace helps to build trust, resilience, increase productivity. Just think of how many problems in our home relationships stem from unresolved hurts and stressors from our work settings. I have mentioned before that we spend a large amount of time at our jobs. So the irritations and resentments that build up from work affect our overall work effectiveness and carries over into our out of work relationships. She quotes Michael Stone a consultant concerning forgiveness, “ Forgiveness provides opportunities to use mistakes, failures, flaws and breakdowns of life as opportunities to awaken greater wisdom, compassion, and capability in our coworkers and ourselves.”

From the preceding quote can you see how forgiveness in the workplace can re-energize your efforts in your job? Can you see the possibilities on how to improve service to your customer base? I believe it makes a lot of sense to break away from the blame game or the pointing of fingers and be open to the power of forgiveness at work.

Forgiving Yourself

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How do we become better at forgiving those at work who wrong us? Much of Dr. Welch’s book is teaching us by looking at various stories from real life in various companies and her personal stories from therapy clinics she has worked at over the years. One point on forgiveness she sheds light on is the importance of forgiving yourself. She states, “ It is essential to forgive myself because I will never be perfect in my efforts. It is only by forgiving myself with all my imperfections that I can get better at forgiving others.” (p134) Often in our work due to perfectionism or not wanting to admit our imperfections we can be our own worst enemy. As Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar often states in his writings we need to give ourselves the right to be human. This accompanies forgiving ourselves.

I like how she admonishes that by first forgiving ourselves we can then be open to accept the humanness of our co-workers. We need to realize they are human as well. Some problems that occur at work where we do not see eye to eye is often not because one person is right and the other person is wrong. Instead one person is looking at the trunk of the elephant and the other the tail. It boils down to differing perspectives and personality differences. But inside, the desire is to quickly point fingers with pent up feelings that my way is the right way. When the true solution may be a synchronizing of both sets of ideas there just needs to be openness from both parties within the team.

There is so much more on forgiveness from Dr. Welch and the stories she brings to light in her book. Do look for her book online or ask for it at your local library. Remember that forgiveness can be a positive factor in your workplace setting not just in your home life or with personal friends.

Reflection: Do you find irritations and hurts in your workplace negatively affecting your home life relationships or personal friendships? Think over ways you can free yourself up forgiving the hurts from your work setting. Do you need to forgive yourself from beating yourself up over your feelings of inadequacy at work or other aspects of yourself?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Appreciating a Worldwide Best Seller

Recently my wife and I attended a “Read The Bible For Life” conference our church sponsored. The speaker was Dr. George Guthrie of Union University in Tennessee. The presentation is an outgrowth of his book, Reading The Bible For Life: Your Guide to Understanding & Living God’s Word. The book is conversational in tone as he presents information on the foundations of interpreting the Bible, the Old and New Testaments , and understanding the Bible in modern contexts. The book I say is conversational as it is based on his interviewing of other top Biblical scholars on the various topics.

The Best Seller The Bible

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In the beginning of the conference Dr. Guthrie reminded us that the Bible is a perennial best seller. Every year over 25 million copies of the Bible are sold in the US and about 100 million are sold around the world. Those numbers surpass the best sellers on the New York Times best seller list. I just happened to look at the New York Times list as I was writing this to see what book was number one today. This week the fiction number 1 is CONCEALED IN DEATH, by J. D. Robb and the number 1 non-fiction is THE MONUMENTS MEN, by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. These change from week to week but the Bible keeps selling regularly.
It is amazing to consider the uniqueness of the Bible. It is a compilation of 66 books of which 39 are from the Old Testament and 27 from the New Testament. The authors came from various geographical areas and the writing occurred over a time span of about 1,500 years. Yet from the Christian perspective there is a unity that connects the books together. That unity is the message that there is a personal God who is seeking a loving relationship with humankind that has turned their backs in rejection to God.

Literary Styles in the Bible

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Dr. Guthrie empathized that the Bible has a variety of literary styles within it. That needs to be considered as we are reading it. The Old Testament has the richness of the historical stories of the development of the nation of Israel. There are sections of Laws that relate to helping the nation as a people form and laws that relate to all mankind. The differences need to be considered in understanding the context of the scripture passage being read. There is also the Wisdom literature of the Psalms and Proverbs that need to be read differently from the historical passages.

In the New Testament there are the first four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke , and John that tell of the life of Jesus. Each gospel author is looking at Jesus from a different perspective. Many times people will point out the differences in the gospel stories and suppose those as errors in the Bible. But if you consider it reasonably, you would expect there to be some variation with four writers taking a different perspective on a subject such as the person of Jesus. Then there are other writings in the New Testament. These books are mostly letters to Christians in the early years of the development of Christianity discussing how they should live as followers of Christ.

In the conference presentation we were reminded as we read the Bible take note of the various styles. Understand the literary style as that has an effect on interpretation. We understand that poetry of the Psalms are filled with metaphors and illustrations. Reading that is different from reading the facts of a historical narrative say in the book of Joshua or I Samuel.

Living the Bible for Life

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Going back to the overarching theme of the Bible as God seeking a personal living relationship with us, we were exhorted in the conference that reading the Bible should make a difference in our lives. Consider these words from Psalms 119: 25 – 29 “ I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” I chose this set of verses for those who say the Bible is an old irrelevant book. Who has not been in a situation where they felt like they were knocked down in a dusty desert? Who has never been worn out by the burden of life’s sorrows? The Psalmist is telling us to meditate and listen for God in these low-down times. Listen for God to help strengthen your life. To learn how to preserve our life for the better we need to be living according to His Word. I like the phrase meditate on God’s wonders. Think over the amazing things about creation and your life that you know are Godwinks from Him trying to get your attention. As you ponder these in awestruck wonder you can understand the graciousness of God and then choose to follow His way of Truth.

These thoughts are just a few of many that came from attending the “Read The Bible For Life” conference. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Dr. Guthrie speak, do so as he is very passionate about Bible reading. In the meantime pick up a copy of his book, Read The Bible For Life.

What is your favorite Bible story or Bible character? Get out your Bible and read the story or read the passages about your favorite Bible character. What principles can you apply to your life from what you read?