One thing and the Whole

One Thing and the Whole           

                As I am growing and developing in my professional skills and balancing working a marketing position and running the church Jr. High and College ministries I am learning how much any one piece of that effects it all. I can’t be on top of my church involvement and let one of my work responsibilities, say phone calls, slide. The backsliding in one area will affect all of my other responsibilities.

                I have a really bad habit of just not trying my hardest. I am fairly smart and have been very blessed in my life to always have good opportunities for work and education. I pick up new skills quickly and can get by just fine without having to pay attention to every detail. This comes through in every area of my life. In martial arts, I don’t pay very close attention to every detail of every move, like where my weight is placed during a kick, and I can still perform at an acceptable level. I can teach my Jr. Higher’s without hours of prep and still pull off an okay lesson. I can write a paper without going through carefully word by word and still write a decent paper

                Often I know everything I should be doing, but since I am adequate, I let it go. The problem is that this is not being a good steward. Every choice in my life will affect the lives of people around me. How well I teach can affect my kids for a life time. How I write will affect my readers. How I train will change how I think about the rest of my life.

                I am going to begin taking a principle of, “change the outside to change the inside.” I will begin to practice martial arts with intentionality. As I train with intentionality, I will be not only training my body, but also my mind in how I should think about everything. Just like mold on food, it spreads. I want to spread professionality. So I start in one spot and watch it spread. 

Redeeming Black Friday

Redeeming Black Friday

                Black Friday does ruin the classic ideal of Thanksgiving being a nice meal with friends and family for those that begin lining up at stores at 5pm on Thursday evening. However, I do not want to give the impression that those who do such things are horrible stuff focused people. Besides many people, including one of my cousins, love the rush of trying to find the deals. It is their “sporting” hunt. Rather than shooting birds, they try and nab the deals. So for the shopping lovers, here are a few tips on how to redeem the shopping holiday.

                First, when you are out shopping smile and say hi to others. It is amazing how something as simple as a smile and “hello, how are you doing?” can change a random persons day for the better. You can even step it up by asking, “who are you buying for?” and following that up with, “what do you think they will think of the gift?”

                Second, be thankful. Thanksgiving is about being thankful. It used to be thankful for not dying and having food. Now we can be thankful that we do get to buy stuff. You should remember that there are people who are less fortunate than you and donate to Operation Christmas child or some other holiday giving, like buying a goat for a village through World Vision. But, you should also be thankful for the stuff that you do have. Denying the blessings that you have received is not the best way to remember or help those who don’t have the same blessings. Enjoying them is.

                Third, have fun with the process of thinking of others and buying them gifts. Get creative. Think of ways of gifts that will make memories.

                Finally, while you are in the checkout line standing in line after line, think of funny stories to tell or memories from seasons past. Sharing stories is one of the most powerful forms of connection and hope (if you tell it well). Be vulnerable, give it a try.

 

30 Days of Days of Random Acts of Kindness

30 Day of Random Acts of Kindness

                A while back I posted a link to a ted talk by Shawn Achor. In it he encouraged people to practice a thirty dayy attitude changing drill. For it you write out three things you are thankful for each day, write about one positive experience, and reach out to a random person each day. In light of that, not only am I writing out positive experiences, but I am also starting thirty days of actively looking for opportunities to love.

                Each day I am going to look for ways to show the people I am around that I love them. This includes things like—gifts, flowers, notes; acts of service, hugs, helping to clean up, dishes; encouragement, compliments, reminding people of who they are; and many others. Tonight I am starting off by buying my good friend Ashley a gift.

                Now I am probably the worst gift giver ever. Usually I end up buying my mom and sisters birthday gifts several months (or a year) later. I also have the hardest time finding a gift. I either think what they want is impractical, or that it is something they can just get themselves instead of as a gift, or I rationalize why they wouldn’t really like it. I am a perfectionist so when I don’t think it is perfect, I excuse it.

                But tonight I am going to give the simple gift of a purple pen. It isn’t much. It is just a pen. But I do know that it is her favorite color. And even if she doesn’t remember it in thirty years or cry from appreciation (which will definitely not happen, more likely I will get weird looks) I will be doing a kind thing for her.

                As for my other three, I haven’t figured those out yet. But I still have about 11 more hours in my day, so I still have lots of other chances.

Boundaries of Information

                 In order to know what was going in other people’s lives you used to have to write them, call them or see them in person. Or hear about them from mutual friends. Information or the details of a person and their lives could only be gleaned through intentional activity. This also cuts off a lot of people. Everyone only has a limited number of hours in the week, and have to choose (or not choose) who to keep up with.

                Now because of social media you can keep up with as many people as you want with no effort and no contact. You can read Tweets and status updates about friends from all over without ever having to actually contact them. You can absorb information about others without actually knowing them.

                I find that this trains people to build more shallow relationships, as well as losing focus on how we do need to spend more time with some people than others. There are some people that do need more of our time and attention. We also must keep in mind that knowing things about others is not the same as relating with them. So my challenge to you, is call five people you know you normally wouldn’t this week, and say hi.

 

Internal World

On Wednesdays I am going to be going over ones internal world. How we think and respond internally to outside stimulus. Granted, of all the days that I will take a break it will be this one. My focus should be outwards on others first. When I think to much about how, “I feel” “I learn” “I think” “I grow” it turns me inward. When we are supposed to be turning out towards others and up towards God.

Granted, there is a time when it is appropriate to ask ourselves about our behavior and the internal world that may be causing that. However, the motivation for why we change should be because of others. I look to see why I get mad at little things through out the day because I do not want my anger affecting others negatively. 

The other side of this is that if we think to much, it will never top. We can constantly ask ourselves what our motivation is. We can constantly question if we have good or bad motivations to act certain ways. But eventually that is pointless. What matters is how well we treat others. Look at your actions and that will tell you who you are. 

Furthermore as a Christian I know that God is the only one that truly knows my heart and it is before Him that I will stand in judgement for every choice I have made. He is also the one that is working in me to change my heart to be more like his. So my internal struggle need not fret and worry, but seek his cleansing changing power.

Politics for Tuesday: Healthcare Debacle

Political Tuesday

                Healthcare. It used to be a swear word to conservative Republicans, and the defendable pride and joy of liberal democrats. Now no matter what side you are on it is an embarrassing mess. (Which I wish more politicians would vocalize. The Republicans should not be cheering the failure of the bill as much as they are, they should also be lamenting that our government would do anything this poorly. It’s embarrassing, even if you just mentioned the website).

                But the larger problem at hand at the moment is, to what extent do we hold our politicians responsible for doing a poor job, lying, or being ignorant. I am going to use Mr. President as an example, not in order to bash him by any means; in fact I hope to have an opinion that is understanding and kind so as to be an example to both political parties. I want to use him as an example because he has been in the media enough that most people know what has been going on (In fact I feel free to write this because both the liberal and conservative media have been upset at the handling of the healthcare law), and he is a singular example that everyone will know and can then hold congressman, senators, and local politicians to the same standard.

                Mr. President, as shown on both conservative and liberal media, have been pointing out inconsistencies in what was promised, and what has actually been delivered. There are three possible reasons for inconsistencies in what was said and what happens.

The first is that the politician lied. This is the easiest to jump to and proclaim when it is someone of the opposing party, however, if we want politicians to have integrity, we must also have the integrity to patiently give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them better than we think they are treating us.

                The second is that they were ignorant. Being ignorant is difficult to deal with as it is part of their job to be in the know. They are being paid to be professionals and know what is going on. Just like generals in the military must know what is going on in combat, if they don’t people die. If politicians do not know what is going on, then people suffer. However, they are only human so at times they cannot know everything. Furthermore, they could have bad advisors. To a great extent they are responsible for having good enough judge of character to pick good advisors.

                Thirdly is that something changed from when they made the promise. Most of the time when this happens I don’t give them much grace because they shouldn’t not have made a promise about a decision that they could not enforce themselves. Blaming other political leaders, the system, the voters, etc. is not an excuse. They know full well the obstacles in their way.

                So, Mr. President is either a liar, ignorant, or a foolish promise maker. Personally I believe he is the latter of the two. He should have read the bill and had the right advisors to know the vague areas that could be applied in various ways. He also should not have made a promise on how it would be enacted when that is not in his jurisdiction.

                How do we respond? We need to hold all of our elected officials to a higher standard. If they are ignorant or incapable we should call them on it. But we must also not be too harsh. We must leave room for dreamers and visionaries. Martin Luther King’s dream was not realized in his life time. But we should not fault him for pursuing something big. We must be able to recognize ignorance and abuse of a position and the attempt to dream big dreams and pursue them.

                

From Pain to Hope

I am going to start doing different topics on different days of the week, much like radio programs. On Mondays, I am going to be telling my story as I am moving from one who focused on growth, to pain, and now hope. I emphasized these three things not only in my own life but in how I interacted with others. 

I had been having a long stretch of no motivation, wondering why anything was worth while, and general existentialism. After much prayer, some time in the sun, conversations with friend, and watching the following Ted talk, I realized something rather important. For the past four years I had been focusing on pain. I would ask others questions about how they were, and find bits and pieces of a story, hone in on the pain and start digging. I got rather good at it. 

Unfortunately, that was in stark contrast to the hope and motivation I had been sharing years previously. When I was in and taught martial arts, my primary goal was to share the hope of a better life. Constant improvement and moving forward. I was the example for others to follow. 

Then after the divorce of a close mentor I began to seek and look for pain in others, as I ran away from my own. When I realized this was causing problems, mostly in emotional connections with women, I was left with nothing, no hope, and no pain even though as said by Three Days Grace said, “I would rather feel pain than nothing at all” 

Then I watched this video, (don’t read the transcript, watch the whole thing)

This changed my whole outlook. While watching, my mind was running and racing through past ways of thinking, how he came to think this way, how it compares to my own thought and interests. What drew me to Benjamin Zander the most was that he was using what he loved, music, to put a light in peoples eyes. Before I had used martial arts. The creativity of how he strung together stories, music, and life lessons of moving forward inspire me. So I have made a commitment, to work to inspire hope and love creatively. Through whatever one is interested in, we can learn to combine our interests with helping people, we can truly be engaged in this life and the people we love. 

The Facebook Connection

                The Facebook Connection

                At one point, when I used Facebook I sent several dozen messages to friends at the end of a college semester encouraging them to stay strong. I also used it to keep in contact with friends that were far away. It worked like an email and I was able to encourage others while keeping up with them. However it has taken a turn. I find that most of the time when I send messages, there is either no response or a delayed one.

I don’t believe it is because anyone is ignoring me, or that they don’t like me. I find it to be because of the distraction of our current generation and the ADD. If the message is too long, or the response requires too much thought and time it takes second place to whatever else is going on. Then the business of life and the internet take over, and the relationships that are seeking real life interaction take second place to the thrill of online connection.

The thing about online conversations and connections is that the inhibitions of the brain do not kick in. People in general will release more information because  when you don’t see another person, you are not as worried about someone else thinking poorly of you etc. This is more prominent in chat conversations where it is quick and less thinking is involved. Even reading wall posts help people feel more connected with others when we read information. Furthermore the culture of the new and instant takes over, long messages are not nearly as important as the quick new details of other people.

                Also, people develop a habit of going to Facebook when they want to connect or fill a gap of loneliness. I was going into that habit to. So I got rid of mine. I have only had it active for about three days in the past two to three weeks, and I am thrilled. Whenever I want to connect with someone, or feel lonely, I call a friend. I arrange a real in person hang out and go do something. I am less distracted about wondering what is going on in people’s lives who I don’t see often and focus on the people I have a direct influence on.

                I am not saying Facebook is bad. I know many people who redeem it with encouragement and joy. However, I find that most people would be greatly benefited from having a Facebook fast. Don’t waste time on the internet, and invest it on others.

                This also means that I am trying to build this blog without Facebook, so please, tell your friends. Also, if you are redeeming Facebook, and you like anything that I have to say, recommend me. It helps.

Thor the Dark World

Thor the Dark World was a fun adventure movie, and that was about it. There are plenty of unexplained key plot points to pick at, but it is not really worth it. There are so many that it ruins the entire movie. What I find more unfortunate than the unexplained coincidental plot points, was the change in characters character. Thor’s father turns from the wise overseer who understood how to change a persons heart (it is hinted at in the first one that he knew sending Thor to earth would change him) to one that is harsh, un-compassionate to Thor’s feelings for the human girl, and quick to fight. At the ending of the previous movie he told Thor that there was more than one way to earth, now he tells Thor to live where he is at and forget her. 

Heimdall (The gatekeeper of Asgard) loses his mystery and unlike in the first one where he would not even disobey the evil Loki, was quick to turn treasonous to Odin. 

Thor lost much of the emotional depth from the first movie.

In fact, the only characters that really kept their identities were Loki and Jane Foster. However, Jane Foster and her friend Darcy both are problematic in that they present women as one demential and fulfill general female stereotypes. Which I will talk about in later postings.

As far as worldviews go, Thor presents the most right thing the one that involves a personal duty to fix problems over any organized authority. The good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad guys, but the good guys get to ignore authority and injure innocent people so long as the intentions are good, even when putting the planet at risk. In short, there is nothing blatantly wrong with the example given by Thor, except that it does not deal with the moral issues within it at all. They are ignored for the preservation of good as good and bad as bad. This ignoring of the moral questions is its problem.

30 Days of Thankfulness

30 Days of Thankfulness
Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and it is time for everyone to sit around the table, eat food, enjoy company, and completely forget any meaning for the holiday. Actually a lot of people are good at remembering on that day to be thankful. But we should not end there. What if we were thankful for the whole month of November? What if every single day we practiced appreciating every single blessing we had? We would be happier people, and would have a happier thanksgiving, just watch this Ted Talk.


My challenge to you is to practice a thirty day thankfulness challenge. Except I will make two changes; do still write down positive experiences, but also write them in words of thankfulness. Be detailed. Don’t say you are just thankful for a person, write out why you are thankful for that person, what do you appreciate? Do you have a good memory with that person? Write it out. Second, tell someone, everyday what you are thankful for. Start a movement of thankfulness in your life and share it with others. Share this blog, and post down at the bottom your experiences.
Bonus if you tell them what you are thankful in the face of adversity.
Extra bonus if you tell complete strangers what you are thankful for. 