Friday, December 19, 2014

Solving Problems

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein


Arthur Chickering writes that helping “students deepen their understanding about reaching for authenticity and spiritual growth.. starts and ends with self-reflection and employs that throughout” (emphasis mine).

To say the journey is all about self-reflection is too restrictive and small. Perhaps the teaching and learning adventure dips into navel gazing from time-to-time and ends with light bulbs popping above eager young heads. But discovering the insights of other people who have gone before is not going to happen quickly. What if we first read the great thinkers of the past--and then wrestled with the questions and ideas we discover?  An effective journey requires a shift away from the self to a focus on sorting through all the previously mined dirt to discover valuable nuggets of truth.

Standing on the shoulders of great thinkers in order to peer down the road a bit further than we could just standing on our own two legs is a great way to start the learning process. If instead, we attempt to hack through parts of a jungle where a path has already been cleared, we waste our time and energy. It's smarter to save strength to get through the undiscovered regions--especially those areas accessible only to myself.

Now, back to that Chickering quote from his book Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education.  While he understands the goal of getting students to engage with ideas beyond their own by encouraging them to read great works. his stated purpose is to help them “evolve” their "own" answer. Applauding young people just for coming to their own conclusions about life is not enough. It's only a starting place. Their answers may be weak or entirely baseless. They need help  learning to think critically, so they can figure out which of the many ideas they will encounter are worth hanging on to.. even when we're not around to guide them. 

It’s not just about whether you arrive at an answer but how you got there. Patting students on the tops of their heads, just for coming up with something they can call their own is not enough. Can they  effectively defend their positions?  More importantly, can they live those answers?

Stephen Goforth

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Activity is not accomplishment

John Henry Fabre, the great French naturalist, conducted a most unusual experiment with some Processionary Caterpillars. These caterpillars blindly follow the one in front of them. Hence, the name. Fabre carefully arranged them in a circle around the rim of a flower pot. So that the lead caterpillar actually touched the last one., making a complete circle. In the center of the flower pot he put pine needles, which is food for the Processionary Caterpillar. The caterpillars started around this circular flower pot. Around and around they went, hour after hour, day after day, night after night. For seven full days and seven full nights they went around the flower pot. Finally, they dropped dead of starvation and exhaustion. With an abundance of food less that six inches away, they literally started to death, because they confused activity with accomplishment.

Zig Ziglar
See You at the Top

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What we love

We are shaped and fashioned by what we love - Johann Von Goethe

The limits of Science

The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament and the two great commandments (to love God, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself), according to Freud, come from human experience, not from revelation. The scientific method, he writes, is our only source of knowledge.

(CS) Lewis strongly disagrees. The scientific method is simply cannot answer all questions, cannot possibly be the source of all knowledge. He says the job of science- a very important and necessary job – is to experiment and observe and report how things behave or react. He writes, “But why anything comes to be there at all and whether there is anything behind the things science observes.. this is not a scientific question.”

Armand Nicholi
The Question of God

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to exert self-control

Ever wondered why certain people are able to resist temptation? A new study indicates their secret is not sheer willpower but rather consciously avoiding situations that test their self-control, The Wall Street Journal reports. Researchers at Florida State University recruited 38 volunteers and rated their levels of self-discipline using a series of 13 questions. Half were ranked as above average, half below. The students were then given an anagram to solve and told they could either start it immediately in a noisy student lounge or wait until a quiet lab became available. Among those with below-average self-control, most went for the lounge; among those with better self-control, most chose to wait for a quieter place to work. Previous studies have found that everyone has finite stores of willpower, which can be exhausted by repeated temptations. So researchers said the wisest way to pursue a goal—such as academic success or weight loss—is to structure your environment to minimize distraction and temptation.

The Week Magazine

Monday, December 15, 2014


We are not retreating--we are advancing in another direction. - General Douglas MacArthur

the Friend of Sinners

Only four women are mentioned in Jesus’ Genealogy in Matthew.

First, there’s Tamar. Harlotry and incest. That’s what we know of Tamar. Read Genesis 38 if you want the details.

The second woman is Rahab. What two words come to mind when you hear her name? For most people who grew up in Sunday School it is Rahab the.. harlot. She was a pagan – and a professional prostitute, according to Joshua chapter two.

The third women is mentioned in verse five. Ruth. A nice lady. But Ruth was a Moabite. She was a Gentile, an outcast, a descendant of incest. In Deut. 23:3, God curses the whole nation of Moabites. But here, God picks up a cursed lady, born of an incestuous relationship and uses her to help bring forth the Messiah.

Now, there’s one more woman mentioned in verse six of Matthew one: "Uriah's wife.” Who was Uriah’s wife? Bathsheba. What do we know about her? She was an adulterous.

And we could go on. But I think we’ve established the point.

What is the message here? Grace. This genealogy was a knockout punch to the Jewish legalist who was so caught up into purity of lineage and the line of descendents and stuff. Matthew introduces their glorious Messiah.. as descending from two harlots, one born out of incest and an adulterous. And they are the only four ladies mentioned in the genealogy other than Mary.

Let it be known that Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners.

He came crashing through the barriers that said, “You have to be born spiritual out of the ‘right kind’ of people.” And today, he comes crashing through barriers we’ve erected too. The barriers that place God in a nice comfortable corner where you can keep an eye on him. He breaks down those excuses that say, “God, you can’t use me. You can’t love me. I’m a sinner.

God built a monument to grace on that genealogy. That’s why you shouldn’t shy away from admitting your past for what it was. It can be a monument to God’s grace in our lives. That’s when God can use us the most. When we realize who we are, where we come from and how much our lives are dependent on God grace.. on receiving it and giving it to others.

If we hide from our past and pretend it didn’t happen, it’s almost as if we are trying to pretend we are people we are not. By admitting who we are, acknowledging how God completely changes our past, He is able to bring us further than he could otherwise and use us more.. just like those people in the genealogy.

Bottom line: You stack up a row of harlots and liars and murderers and cheaters and what do you have? You have Jesus. That’s the way God works.

Stephen Goforth

Friday, December 12, 2014

The way to love

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. - G. K. Chesterton

Settling for the shallow

On golf courses, one may find some aging men and women whose chief remaining goal in life is to knock a few more strokes off their game. This dedicated effort to improve their skill serves to give them a sense of progress in life and there by assists them in ignoring the reality that they have actually stopped progressing, having given up the effort to improve themselves as human beings. If they loved themselves more they would not allow themselves to a passionately settle for such a shallow goal and narrow future.

M Scott Peck
The Road Less Traveled

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Art of Listening

Effective listening takes practice; it’s actually a discipline. It doesn’t come easily or naturally. Listening means more than just hearing what a person says.

A counselor I know expressed the difference like this: “hearing captures the words a person speaks; listening captures the meaning and the feeling beneath those words."

Listening is the mental step by which we become more aware of the other person than we are of ourselves.

The best definition of listening I ever came across is that given by Norman H. Wright, who wrote, “Listening is not thinking about what you are going to say when the other person has stopped talking."

Stephen Goforth

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates

The telephone rings..

Your telephone rings and the voice at the other end says, “Friend, don’t be disturbed. I don’t want to borrow any money and I have no favors to ask. I just thought I would call and tell you that I think you’re one of the nicest persons who ever draw a breath of air. You are an asset to your profession and a credit to your community. You’re the kind of person I like to be with because every time I’m around you, I feel inspired and motivated to do a better job. I wish I could see you every day because you motivate me to be my best self. That’s all I want to say, friend. Look forward to seeing you soon.”

Now, if a close friend called you and said those things to you what kind of day would you have? Remember, you know the words are sincere because they are coming from a close friend.

If you were a doctor, would you be a better doctor? If you were a teacher, would you be a better teacher? Regardless of who you are or what you do, you know in your own mind you wouldn’t only be better at your job, but you would be happier wouldn’t you?

How much more would you know about being a doctor? Or a sales person? Or a lawyer? How much more would you know if you had gotten that phone call? The answer obviously is you wouldn’t know any more. Still, in your own mind you know you would be better and happier.

You would say, "I’m an asset to my community and a credit to my profession. That old boy said so and he is one more smart cookie."

You wouldn’t argue with him for one single moment. You would see yourself in a different light. Your self-image would change and at that instant an interesting thing happens. You confidence goes up and when you r confidence goes up, you r competence goes up at the same time.

Since you know what this kind of phone call would do for you, why don’t you do the same thing for someone else?

Zig Ziglar
See You at the Top

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


1. What did the angels sing to the shepherds?

2. In what direction did the Wise Men see the star in the sky?

3. Where did the wise men go to see the baby?

4. How many wise men were there?

5. In which season of the year was Jesus born?

6. What did Mary ride on to Bethlehem?

7. What did the wise men ride on?

8. In what country did the Christmas tree originate?

9. In what century did Christmas celebrations begin?

10. Was there ever an original, real Santa Claus?

11. What Christmas tradition commemorating the birth of Jesus did St. Francis of Assisi begin? 

12. What is frankincense?
    a. a precious metal
    b. a precious fabric
    c. a precious perfume
    d. an Eastern monster story

13. What is Myrrh?
    a. an easily shaped metal
    b. a spice used for burying people
    c. a drink
    d. aftershave lotion

14. Did Jesus tell us to remember his birth?

15. What did Jesus tell us to remember?


Monday, December 8, 2014

Admiration and awe

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily reflection is occupied with them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me. Neither of them need I seek and merely suspect as if shrouded in obscurity or rapture beyond my own horizon; I see them before me and connect them immediately with my existence. – Immanuel Kant