Friday, January 30, 2009

The Makings Of A Terrific Book

I'm in a class right now on church conflict management with Dr. Carlus Gupton. We've been reading lots and lots of different approaches and models for how to analyze, prevent, and deal with conflicts.

Some of my favorite books to read are collections of short stories. Incidentally, one of my all time favorites is by Jimmy Buffett--yes, that Jimmy Buffett--called Tales From Margaritaville. It's a highly entertaining read. But I love the idea of developing a set of characters, and rather than looking at everything from one person's view or experiences, giving importance to a wide assortment of people, enjoying the way they bump into one another through life's experiences.

In my class, we got to one place in our reading where Goodman and Maultsby have put together a list of different types of irrational thinking. This is published in their Emotional Well-Being Through Rational Behavior Training.

When I'm done with Grad school, I've always wanted to write. Part of why I've continued to blog is because I want to develop my skill in this regard. Most likely, I'll continue to develop classes, sermons, and didactic works, and perhaps I'll get something published at some point. But I would love to compose a set of short stories, whether I could ever find anyone to publish it or not.

So for you writing types, if you can't find some good character/conflict inspiration from this set of irrational thinking traits, I don't know what else could possibly inspire you. I laugh to myself just reading through this list, imagining the possibilities.

Types of irrational thinking
1. Inconsistency: The person expects high standards from himself or others some
times, and not at others.

2. The non sequitur: His reasoning has gaps in it, hence the use of the term non sequitur, Latin for “it doesn’t follow.” He concludes that he will not believe what someone says because they have long hair or are late for an appointment.

3. Generalizing from a few particulars: The person makes general conclusions based on a few isolated facts, as in the case of deciding that all people belonging to a certain group have qualities that he has found in one or two members of that group.

4. Exaggeration: The person describes a moderate failure as a catastrophe or an inconvenience as a terrible problem.

5. Building a case: The person selects only those observations about someone or something that fits his preconceived conclusion—favorable or unfavorable.

6. Shifting responsibility: Instead of assessing responsibly for a given situation to one or more possible causes, the person arbitrarily assigns it to a person he has selected or a condition he has decided, in advance, is the cause.

7. Viewing feelings as facts: The person believes that because he reacts to something or someone in a certain way that is emotional, this means, therefore, that something or someone actually is the way he views them.

8. Viewing memories as present-day realities: The person persists in thinking, feeling, and acting today as if certain past events or conditions were still in effect and still governing his behavior.

9. Perceiving remote possibilities as imminent probabilities: The person fails to distinguish between these two very different situations. He cannot see the difference between “could” and “is likely to.”

10. Trying to reconstruct reality: The person thinks in the “as if” mode, declaring that a person or situation “should” be different than it is, simply because he wants it to be that way, failing to recognize the antecedents for something being the way it is.

11. Expecting immediate or rapid change: Impatience, in itself, can lead to irrational conclusions about the speed of changes in situations or other’s or one’s own behavior. The emotional desire for change interferes with clear perception as to its feasibility and its speed.

12. Following established habit patterns: The satisfaction derived from repeating behavior interferes with clear perception as to whether the behavior is personally or socially desirable. The person reasons that because a behavior was gratifying in the past, it deserves to be repeated in the future, regardless of consequences.

13. Assuming one’s behavior is externally caused: This assumes a direct relationship between outside events and one’s own feelings, thoughts or actions, ignoring one’s own role in creating behavior.

14. Assuming one is responsible for whatever happens: This is the opposite of No. 13 above and is based on the arbitrary concept of self-blame, rather than an objective weighing of various causes. This is also the opposite of No. 6, wherein one shifts responsibility to others arbitrarily, resulting in “other-blame,” and ultimately to paranoia.

15. Perfectionism: The person thinks in terms of “always,” I never,” “have to” and “must not” with respect to his own behavior and that of others, or in regard to conditions and situations he either insists be achieved or demands be maintained. He does not recognize fallibility as an inescapable quality of human beings.

16. Magical thinking: The person believes that something will or might happen because he dreams, feels, or thinks that it should, according to some preconceived “system” of ideas he has adopted. Astrology, superstition, witchcraft, and other arbitrary ideologies are classic examples of the magical way of perceiving and interpreting the world.

17. Mind reading: The person believes he can “feel” what other people are thinking or that they can feel what he is thinking. He thus imagines many reactions that may be totally at variance with reality.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dan's Double Daffy...whatever that is

So my buddies, Nathan, Dan, and I decided that in light of this coming week's ski trip that I'm taking the teens from church on, we should take a one-day "dude trip" to Paoli Peaks again to get warmed up. And yes, Nathan did more work as a camera man, and got some good videos of Dan, which I compiled below. I promptly hurt my knee on the 4th time down the slope, and the medic guys told me that I would have to stop for the day. So I was bummed out not to be able to keep going, but by taking it easy, I'm optimistic that my knee will be feeling good and ready to go again this weekend.

Dan is a great skier, which would make sense, since he is also a great Canadian. Please stay tuned for the "Nathan noises" at the end of the video. It's impressive that he was able to ski down this difficult slope while holding a camera, but the grunts and oomphs he blurts out are priceless!

Next week we'll be there again with the teens, and I suspect if there's any way possible, I'll try and make a 4th trip some time in February. Skiing is my new hobby. If you haven't tried it, it's fannntastic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Not Nacho Cat: Nancy Pelosi's Cats

I never thought the day would come that Nancy Pelosi would do something that I actually like. But she has! It's the Capitol Cat Cam:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Book Review: The Bible Illuminated

Yesterday, I got a new book that has me absolutely mesmerized. It's called "The Bible Illuminated: New Testament." It is the entire New Testament in the form of a classy, glossy, picture-filled magazine.

It came about as a result of a dinner conversation between two men in Stockholm, Sweden about why more people don't read ancient texts. This is a subject that often saddens me. Some of the most meaningful books I've ever read are the works of the original authors, such as Augustine of Hippo and Justin Martyr. Yet people see old works and immediately think, "boring," then they learn as little as possible about these works by reading text book summaries of them, which, in my opinion, are incredibly dull compared to the original works themselves.

But the dilemma is that the Bible continues to be one of the best selling books in the world, yet people don't read it. They set them on coffee tables, or give them a prominent place in the book shelf, but they just aren't reading them as they should. You don't find them lying out open and in use.

The possible solution they decided to try was to take the same words of Scripture, and put them in a format that is more likely to connect with a modern readership. The company doing this, Illuminated World, is financed and managed by a Swedish consortium, chaired by Dag Söderberg, former CEO of one of the largest advertising firms in Europe and Jan Carlzon, former CEO of Scandinavian Airlines and author of global management bestseller; The Moments of Truth (1987). Both a New Testament and an Old Testament were released in 2007 in Sweden. The effort has been a huge success, with 10% of Stockholm showing up just for the book launch.

Let me offer some observations, pluses, and minuses of this format, as I perceive it.

- It really has the feel of a magazine. It is comfortable to pick up and thumb through. It has a multiple column format.
- It does not have chapter and verse divisions, though it does have section headings and very creative book divisions.
- It has absolutely stunning photographs. The pictures are from a variety of things, from major computer gaming conventions to historical photographs from during the civil rights movement.
- The translation used is the Good News Translation, which is extremely easy to read.

- When you see this book, you are simply drawn to pick it up. For those of you who know what a passionate '24' fan I am, I didn't get to watch the show Sunday night. I recorded it, and was intending to watch it when I got home yesterday. But despite how desperate I've been to start watching the new season, I couldn't get myself to put this book down long enough to turn it on.

- Rather than being a typical illustrated Bible, where each picture is supposed to be a representation of the historical event, a la Gustave Doré (who is a favorite artist of mine), most of the pictures selected are more about helping us visualize what the text might mean in our world today. I found myself astonished by how relevant some of these texts are, though I had failed to see it before.

- With large pages, it gives you an unexpected help in being able to visualize passages in context. With one page opened, you can see a great deal both ahead and behind the text you're reading.

- I really enjoyed the highlighted verses. Passages at random, which the developers saw as particularly interesting for thought and conversation are put in text blocks here or there, or highlighted, or sometimes included on top of an image chosen.

- I'm confident I can wear this thing out pretty quickly. As a magazine--a very expensive one at that--this will simply not have the toughness to last for generations, like a normal Bible can.

- Some people will be bothered by some of the social agenda included with the pictures. This comes out most strongly in Luke, where on the images apart from the text, it talks about lots of humanitarian efforts going on around the world, or about efforts that need to be going on. This is not a plain vanilla text-only Bible. Though the text is unmodified, there are some notes here and there that will challenge you to think about how the text is to be applied in our world. I wouldn't say this is an all out negative, but I am sure it would be a potential turn-off to some readers. Then again, the goals they are encouraging are all ones I'm confident Christians should be supporting.

- Some will be bothered by some of the picture selections. I think this will be because of a misunderstanding of the purpose of the pictures. The editors are not trying to push a specific doctrinal agenda, though it does appear they are pushing a humanitarian agenda. The images are there to simply spark some ideas in your mind. The goal is to get you to read your Bible. Your love of one image might drive you to think, just as your dislike of another one might do the same. As an example, Hebrews 7:12 is one of the verses used in conjunction with an image.
For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.
The image they chose is one from the late 1950's of a woman named Margit Sahlin, who is looking at the shroud she's going to wear when she becomes the first female priest in Sweden, appointed in 1960.

This immediately got me thinking:
- We are under a new Law in Christ, which is different than the Old Testament.
- Are they suggesting that the agenda of a new Law is putting females in this sort of role?
- Are they suggesting that putting a female in this sort of role is a violation of what Paul has taught elsewhere?
-What do I think about this?

Some will not care for images, such as the one I just mentioned. I didn't see it so much as a negative, because it challenged me to think about what the passage meant in the Early Church, as well as what it still means. It opens it up for your interpretation. As long as you understand the images are meant to spark your imagination, I think you'll enjoy them. If you cannot approach this without getting offended about suspected agendas of the editors, you will not enjoy this book as much.

Also, there are many cultural icons, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie, the Dali Llama, and Mohammad Ali, who show up in various places. In one place, after several pictures, there is kind of a summary of some of the good things some of these people have stood for. Some will not like the idea of praising a non-Christian as a moral example. They don't really give them a wholesale thumbs up, but they highlight something the person has done simply say, "This is something that this person did that was very influential in the world." I like the idea that there is an underlying sense of right and wrong that much of humanity is able to understand, because we are made in the image of God. It challenged me to think about how I should be trying to make a difference in my own environment. Again, some will like this; some won't.

Final Thoughts:

Fortunately, you can try it for yourself! Here is a sample download of the Gospel of Luke in its entirety. I felt like Luke's Gospel was the passage that has the most humanitarian agenda pushing of all the text. Most of the book has images that are simply related to the subject matter. The images in Luke are a little bit more of a separate collection. So in my opinion, if you like this section from Luke, you will love the rest of the book.

I think this is one of the best things I've ever purchased. I think it's a great conversation starter. You can leave this out on your coffee table, in your cubicle, on your desk, read it on the bus or train, or anywhere else. You could get this out for your non-Christian friend and say, "Take a look at this!" without them feeling like you're about to try and corner them into a religious conversation.

When Carolina saw it, within 5 minutes she was begging me to get her a copy to keep at work, and insisting that we purchase the Old Testament when it is released. I'm sure that I will.

I hope that when they've released their Old Testament (see the cover on the left), that they will continue to make similar efforts with other ancient texts. I would love to see the writings of Justin Martyr or Athanasius put into a similar format.

Here is an interview with Dag Söderberg about the book.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dave Barry's Year In Review

This is long, but it is the best thing I've read in an awfully long time. If you appreciate Dave Barry's humor, you must read this. If you have no idea who Dave Barry is, this will make a great introduction to him. Please do yourself a favor and click here. You're welcome.

It's Nacho Cat: But it's MY chair

Nacho loves this chair. Whenever we get home and let her in, she stays with us, but when she sees us walking upstairs to the bonus room, she runs ahead of us to try and beat us to the chair.

We have a little routine where I come and sit down on the front edge of the chair. She then walks around my right side onto my legs, so I can lean back. Then she sleeps in my lap. That way we both get the chair.

Since the weather's colder, she stays upstairs and sleeps here almost all day every day.

You might also see here that she's modeling her latest kitty collar, complete with a pink "Princess" name tag on it. I imagine by the time that this post goes up on my blog (I'm typing this on Dec. 1st, 2008) she will have already lost it and wiggled out of it somehow.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Inspiring Passion and Action Through Communcation

Origami In the Pursuit of Perfection from MABONA ORIGAMI on Vimeo.

I loved this video. I love the idea of starting with the things available to you, and combining them in new and wonderful ways. I believe that God has give each of us the ability to bloom where we're planted, and it's up to us to seek out the best ways to bloom.

I've been working on some ideas for what we'll be doing at church over the next year. We're trying to emphasize outreach and evangelism. While we have what I think are some great ways to move forward in this direction, one of the areas that Don and I have seen most challenging is the preaching. Sure, you can get up and fuss at people and say, "We all need to be more evangelistic!" As a preacher, you can always just blurt out what needs to be said, pat yourself on the back for speaking "the truth in love", and saying, "If they don't do it, it's their problem." I think we can--and must--do better than that in teaching and equipping our members.

Fred Craddock's approach to communicating is the best I've seen. "Inductive preaching", he calls it. Rather than state the major point you're making, you walk them through the thoughts and emotions that built up to your point, allowing them to reach the conclusion through their own thought processes. Inductive preaching is much more difficult to do than deductive preaching, but when it connects, it's very powerful. I feel like we've got to find some ways to talk about reaching the lost that will evoke feelings of compassion for the lost souls of the world, but it is so difficult to help people develop passion unless there is some already there.

I'm curious about what you think: How can you communicate with people about evangelism in a way that makes them feel motivated to be more evangelistic?

How do you inspire passion in people?

What has your minister/church leader done that has caused passion about God's work to well up from within you?