My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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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?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Importance of Being an Engaged Critical Thinking Reader


Last week I considered the importance of reading for pleasure in building inner creativity. For developing our overall mind we need a diversity of reading. Reading for learning and self-development should be an aspect of our weekly reading habits. In this reading we need to activate our critical thinking. The activation process begins with an intentional choice to be engaged with a habit of reading.

Our level of engagement in reading begins when we are young. I read an article recently by Brozo, Shield, & Topping, (2007) on the engagement in reading. They were focusing in on a study by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) done back in 2000 & 2003. It was discouraging to see overall reading scores of American 15 year old students behind that of Finland, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Korea, Japan and Sweden. In the particular area of reading engagement the U.S. was in 20th place. Sad to say from what I see on the college level and within the populace I would say it is lower today.

The PISA definition of reading was stated as: “the capacity to identify and understand the role that reading plays in the world, to make well-founded judgments and to use and engage reading in ways that meets the needs of the individual’s life as a constructive , concerned and reflective citizen.” Wouldn’t the country be better off if we had a populace engaged in that type of reading?
The importance of engaged readers are seen in the study that shows that better readers have improved comprehension skills, improved vocabularies, do better in testing and have higher high school grade point averages than those who are not interested in reading. Of course this reading does not have a payoff just for young people. Engaged readers continue as readers in their adulthood as well keeping their minds active. The engaged reader as seen in the study reads a diversity of material, magazines, fiction for pleasure reading, non-fiction for learning, as well as reading on the web for learning and enjoyment. Sounds like the creation of a Bookhead, which my daughter calls me.

So the choice to be an engaged reader aids in a reader who reads a diverse style of reading. Within non-fiction and magazines, for the purpose of learning from reading, requires what Elder & Paul term “Close reading”. This is purposeful and reflective critical thinking reading. They make an important statement, “Every book we read is a potential teacher… When we take the core ideas of those readings into our minds through careful reading, we can productively use them in our lives.” (Elder & Paul). I have mentioned in my book how lifelong learning is a part of the Living More Than OK lifestyle. Learning from reading is vital to lifelong learning.

Critical thinking in reading is reading driven by seeking to understand what the author is saying and engaging in a conversation with the author as you go through the book. With this close reading approach the mind is not wandering over the pages but is reflecting and thinking while reading. You may not agree with the author on everything but reading critically allows for understanding another’s point of view and realizing where the author is coming from with his or her worldview.

Close reading is the mind being active and not passive. Many people I believe think books are boring as they were taught to passively “just read the words” instead of actively reading for ideas, concepts, and observing the creativity of the story. It is the active engagement that moves the act of reading into an activity to impact and challenge the thought life of the reader. As you read have a mindset of what can I take away from this material to improve my life in some manner. I know that is my hope as people read my book, Living More Than OK, that they gain some positive take-aways to improve their lives.
Think through your level of engagement in reading. Do you have a library card from your local public library? If not stop what you are doing right now and go to your local library and get one. Ok maybe I am being too pushy. Read the rest of my blog then go get it! It is just that a local library is an excellent place to provide a way for the family to be engaged in reading. Going back to the initial PISA study, they found that access to students having diverse reading materials at home was more important than the economic level of families. This reminds me of the story of Dr. Ben Carson. He grew up poor in the Ghetto area of Detroit. They did not have plenty of reading materials at home so his mother had him and his brother go to the library each week to pick out books to read. That was one turning point key in his life. You don’t have to become a full bookhead even though I wish more people would. Still understand there is no better way to improve the mind and keep an active mind; so do build some diverse reading into your weekly schedule.

Reflection – What is your level of engagement in reading as a weekly activity? Do you see reading as a passive or active activity? Check out your local library and see what books are available in interest areas that are important to you. Encourage young people in your life to see that reading is an active activity for their good.

References -
Brozo, William, Shield, Gerry & Topping, Keith, (2007). Engagement in Reading: Lessons Learned from Three PISA Countries. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 51 (4) 304-315
Elder, Linda & Paul, Richard (2004). Critical Thinking … and the Art of Close Reading. Journal of Developmental Education. 27(3), 36-37

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Connecting Creativity to Reading for Pleasure creativity

Creativity is an important side of Living More Than OK. Creativity helps us to break free from the mundane repetitiveness of life. How do we grow in our creativity? Can reading be a help in improving our create side of ourselves? I firmly believe so. The power of story and the enjoyment of reading fiction came aid the mind in improving its creative powers. In reading fiction the mind is actively creating pictures within the mind. When watching a video all the creativity is fully formed in the graphics so the mind passively accepts the rendering of the video pictures without the work of creating the images itself. That is what I prefer about reading in that the mind can conjure up its own imagery of a scene.

Schools focus most of the reading efforts on information building reading. That is learning of facts and ideas in science, psychology, history sociology and the like. This is of importance but reading for pleasure should be encouraged with the study of fiction works as this builds on creative thinking of using imagination and visualization (LeCren, 1997). Louise Rosenblatt speaks to creative reading as aesthetic reading, “The reader is no less immersed in a creative process that goes on largely below the threshold of awareness. He is conscious of the resulting images, ideas, states of mind, even physical states, that are generated by his reading, but he is not aware of the individual responses or of much of the process of selection and synthesis that goes on as his eyes can the page.” (quoted in Lecren, 1997). So the mind is active in reading fiction for pleasure in creating the images in the mind and synthesizing the ideas in the story. Lecren mentions how students who read for pleasure in her class in a two year informal study came up with higher creativity scores on the Torrence Test of Creative Thinking. reading to children

Reading for pleasure in past research has been shown to be positively related to academic achieving. This is especially seen in the particulars of being open to new experiences and ideas. Reading for pleasure is also connected to increase in academic motivation (Kelly & Kneipp, 2009). I can see that in my own life as I reflect back over my years of reading. I believe it was the early fiction reading in Summer public library reading programs that opened my mind to other types of people in the world and the variety of places in the world. It never helped with my low risk taking levels but that is more my personality. Yet I do feel this early reading allowed my mind to be more open to new ideas and continual desire to learn which helped me academically.

Other studies noted by Kelly & Kneipp suggest fiction reading and encouraging reading for pleasure can aid in moving students from outward motivation to intrinsic motivation of the importance of learning for learning sake. Creative reading of fiction and the classics can help our minds grow in so many ways as noted. Those who were more inclined to enjoy reading for pleasure importantly showed a negative correlation to watching tv. I would believe this could carry over to internet video watching. It is important to encourage creative reading early in childhood. As school is letting out encourage the children you know to be involved in Summer reading programs at their local library. Building the habit of the pleasure of reading will reap future benefits. Of course this is not just for children. I spoke with someone today who stated since he got his ipad he hardly ever reads. Put the ipad down and open up a book from your local library!

Reflection: Do you feel reading has helped your creative thinking? What book has tapped into your creative side the most? Stop by your local library or local bookstore and pick up a fiction book to read.

references -
Kelly, K.E, & Kneipp, L. B. (2009) Reading for pleasure and creativity among college students, College Student Journal 43(4) 1137-1144.

LeCren, C. (1997) Creativity and reading … is there a connection. California English (Spring) p. 20