Measure Up

There is no way to quite describe the feeling that I got when I sat down to eat with daughter at the school cafeteria for the first time. She looked up at me. It was a look that said she completely adored me just for being me. That just blew me away. She couldn't hardly sit still, or know what to do with her hands, as if she wanted to hug me.  There was a searching look as if to say, "Who am I?"  "Tell me who I am."

Fathers have a way of planting life mottos in the heads of their daughters.

"Measure Up!" is one of the most often heard. Perhaps it is never verbalized, but a daughter knows what's expected—and her attempts to live up to those expectations from her childhood result in her running her life by guilt. She ends up serving a motto instead of her creator. 

Stephen Goforth

Time Pressure at Work

The typical form of time pressure in organizations today is what we call “being on a treadmill” – running all day to keep up with many different (often unrelated) demands, but getting nowhere on your most important work. That’s an absolute killer for creativity. Generally, low-to-moderate time pressure is optimal for creativity. But we did find some instances in which people were terrifically creative under high time pressure. Almost invariably, it was quite different from being on a treadmill. Rather, people felt like they were “on a mission”— working hard to meet a truly urgent deadline on an important project, and protected from all other demands.

Teresa Amabile talking about her book The Progress Principle  

Crashing through Barriers

Why do you think did Matthew started his Gospel with a boring list of so-and-so begat so-and-so? Consider just the women mentioned in this genealogy. There are four of them before you get to Mary. 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.  

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 you’ve erected too. The barriers that place God in a nice comfortable corner where you can keep and 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 were we come from and how much are lives are dependent on God grace. On receiving it and giving it to others. 

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

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 

Three Goals for 2018

“Kierkegaard cries out for us to live passionately, and worry more about the problem of living life than trying to fit the social order. His philosophy is all about living this way, even to the point where an outside viewer will be unable to understand your motivation,” writes Scotty Hendricks at BigThink.

1. Be passionate,

2. Focus on living not fitting into some predetermined social role,

3. You will know you are on the right track when people have trouble grasping what motivates you.

Three worthy goals for 2018.

Stephen Goforth

What we really believe

Every person expects to be treated as a person. The proof that he really believes there are some unconditional values is that he expects his freedom and dignity to be respected. In his actions, he may not always respect others, but in his reactions he proves that he always expects others to respect his freedom and dignity. Hence, human expectations are the key to what a man believes to be absolute.

Norman Geisler, Options in Contemporary Christian Ethics

Memories are Overrated

A comment I heard from a member of the audience after a lecture illustrates the difficulty of distinguishing memories from experiences. He told of listening raptly to a long symphony on a disc that was scratched near the end, producing a shocking sound, and he reported that the bad ending “ruined the whole experience.” But the experience was not actually ruined, only the memory of it. The experience itself was almost entirely good, and the bad end could not undo it, because it had already happened. My questioner had assigned the entire episode a failing grade because it had ended very badly, but that grade effectively ignored 40 minutes of musical bliss. Does the actual experience count for nothing?

Confusing experience with the memory of it is a compelling cognitive illusion – and it is the substitution that makes us believe a past experience can be ruined. The experiencing self does not have a voice. The remembering self is sometimes wrong, but it is the one that keep score and governs what we learn from living, and it is the one that makes decisions. What we learn from the past is to maximize the qualities of our future memories, not necessarily of our future experience. This is the tyranny of the remembering self.

We have strong preferences about the duration of our experiences of pain and pleasure. We want pain to be brief and pleasure to last. But our memory (represents) the most intense moments of an episode of pain or pleasure and the feelings when the episode was at its end. A memory that neglects duration will not serve our preferences for long pleasure and short pains.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

the Mask of Guilt

The fear of repeating a wrong or a fear of repeating past failures can produce an anxiety that can be mistaken for lingering guilt. Rising to meet even the simplest of expectations can be difficult. We become angry at ourselves and guilt-ridden. The bar is so low. Why can't rise above it?  But guilt isn't the culprit. Fear wears the mask of guilt, fooling us into wearing its chains.

Stephen Goforth

Imperative Thinking

While imperative people may not have their list of regulations typed on a legal document to be signed, they have a mental agenda that they apply in a wide variety of circumstances. They know how others should behave, speak, and feel, and nothing else matters to them but meeting that standard. In the meantime, the relationship is lost.

(They are) in essence stating, “I’ll accept you only after you meet my conditions.” And since each of us responds negatively to this kind of emotional blackmail, we become angry or tense. There is a hidden message of conditional acceptance. It’s as if (they are) saying, ‘I don’t think you can be trusted to make good decisions; you’ll probably foul things up… If you’ll fit my mold and be what I think you should be, we’ll get along okay; but if you don’t, I’ll have to hound you until you shape up.”

Les Carter, Imperative People: Those Who Must Be in Control

Imperative People: Those Who Must Be in Control

Imperative people can have too strong a sense of responsibility. In pushing themselves to do right, they often pay the price of burnout. When others encourage them to slow down, they won’t for fear that a bad habit of laziness might develop. Or perhaps someone will be displeased. The saying, “When you want something done, ask the busiest person in town to do it” may contain a lot of truth. Especially if the busiest person in town doesn’t have the ability to say no.

Les Carter, Imperative People: Those Who Must Be in Control

Lasting Love

Lasting love is a passion that grows. The more we know the person, the more deeply we love him. There are a few who are struck like lightning. The minute they see someone they hear violins. This usually happens only in the movies. As one writer has suggested, it has to be “love at first sight” in a show that only has two hours to run.

Surveys continuously support love by growth. The overwhelming majority say they did not “fall in love” all at once. They met a person and found him attractive or interesting. Whatever caught their attention made them want to learn more. Possibly they met the person again or went on a date. At any rate, something started to grow. The person became more interesting.

Some people are frustrated because falling in love wasn’t like a divine revelation or a heart seizure. Consequently they even wonder if it is real. Such “falling” is a romantic dream that most of use have never experienced. But love which takes time can be the most enduring kind.

It is a question of expectation. Those who expect love to be automatic and instantaneous are often disappointed. It is more realistic to expect love to grow into full bloom as you live together in marriage. Then, rather than looking for an ideal experience, both lovers expect to change and grow.

William Coleman, Engaged

setting boundaries

Many people feel that they are “people persons,” able to attract others and connect with them. At the same time, however, people persons often feel overwhelmed, anxious and frustrated about the obligations and responsibilities that their bonded relationships demand.

Setting boundaries is the primary tool for strengthening your separateness and developing an accurate sense of responsibility. The essence of boundaries is determining where you end and someone else begins, realizing your own person apart from others, and knowing your limits.

A good way to understand this is to compare our lives to a house. Houses have certain maintenance needs, such as painting, terminate control and roof repairs. If, however, we’re spending all our time putting roofs on our neighbor’s houses while neglecting our own roof or we run the risk of a leaky roof or worse by the time we get back home.

Think of all the different caring acts you performed over the last 24 hours. How many did you do grudgingly because you were under the threat of someone’s criticism or abandonment? How many did you do under compulsion because you feel guilty if you don’t keep people happy? And how many were from a cheerful heart, from the overflow caused by knowing you are loved by God and people in your life?

John Townsend

Expect the best!

Expect the best at all times. Never think of the worst. Drop it out of your thought, relegate it. Let there be no thought in your mind that the worst will happen. Avoid entertaining the concept of the worst, for whatever you take into your mind can grow there. Therefore, take the best into your mind and only that. Nurture it, concentrate on it, emphasize it, visualize it, prayerize it, surround it with faith. Make it your obsession. Expect the best, and spiritually creative mind power aided by God power produce the best.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

little negatives

I began to analyze my own conversational habits and was shocked by what I found. I discovered that I was making such statements as “I am afraid I'll be late” or “I wonder if I'll have a flat tire” or “I don't think I can do that” or “I'll never get through this job. There's so much to do.” If something turned out badly, I might say “Oh, that's just what I expected.” Or, again, I might observe a few clouds in the sky and gloomily state, “I know was going to rain.” These are ‘little negatives” to be sure, and a big thought is of course more powerful than a little one, but it must never be forgotten that “mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” and if a mass of “little negatives” clutter up your conversation, they are bound to seep into your mind. It is surprising how they accumulate in force, and presently, before you know it, they will grow into “big negatives.”

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

Giving your Best

Expecting the best means that you put your whole heart (i.e., the central essence of your personality) into what you want to accomplish. People are defeated in life not because of lack of ability, but for lack of wholeheartedness. They do not wholeheartedly expect to succeed. Their heart isn’t in it, which is to say they themselves are not fully given. Results do not yield themselves to the person who refuses to give himself to the desired results.

A major key to success in this life, to attaining that which you deeply desire, is to be completely released and throw all there is of yourself into your job or any project in which you are engaged. In other words, whatever you are doing, give it all you’ve got.

A famous Canadian athletic coach, Ace Percival, says that most people, athletes as well as non-athletes, are “holdouts,” that is to say, they are always keeping something in reserve. They do not invest themselves 100 percent in competition. Because of that fact, they never achieve the highest of which they are capable.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

When self-expression meets the classics

Should we teach art students to recognize, understand and dissect classic works of art - or should we encourage them to explore creative self-expression, apart from the cultural context?

If beginners are taught to internalize the classics before finding their own voice, won't they be nudged to conform to expectations and tempted to stay inside the box of what has gone before? Are they wasting time learning how others express themselves rather than learning to do so themselves? Will stepping in the shoes of the masters cause them to avoid pursuing ideas outside of the norm? 

Unconventional artists and visionaries have often been shunned by peers - only later to be revered by another generation. If these craftsmen had conformed, if they had stifling their inner voices, they might not have stepped out of the crowd and we would have never had the chance to appreciate their genius.

However, if we teach students to venture out on their own, aren't we just treating them like toddlers, telling them to go play in the paint - without guidance? Failing to study the masters means missing the opportunity stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before and to see further down the road. Keeping them away from the classics could mean failing to grasp the value of the great works that have stood the test of time. How can students understand where their own feet are planted in history unless they know about others who have struggled and flourished.

Perhaps we need both sides and the danger lies in slavishly taking one position or the other. Perhaps we can learn the rules before breaking them and avoiding simply mimicking the masters. Perhaps we can tap into the echos of their inspiration rather than plunging into our own narcissism.

Asking, "Am I creating to please myself or to please others?" may bring clarity. If you are creating to please yourself, then diving into what’s culturally hot may take you away from your goal. But if you have decided to create for the crowd, then knowing what is already valued seems like a reasonable starting point.

Stephen Goforth