Sunday, January 01, 2017

Saved A Good One for My Last Read of 2016

     


Soar Above:
How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress
Author: Steven Stosny, PhD
Publisher: Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2016                                                                     
                                                  

I agreed to read this book thinking it would help me in stressful emergency situations. You know, times when you’re camping and you hear a bear sniffing around outside your tent, or when a gang of three attacks you on a dark street, or when . . .you get the idea. But instead this presents us with a whole way of living a less stressful life all the time and soaring way above the mundane circumstances we all face in our daily interactions. Steven Stosny has a wealth of experience in this field and knows his stuff.
He starts off telling us the three questions he intends to answer:

1. Why do smart and creative people make the same mistakes over and over again, in life, work, and love?
2. At what point does the unavoidable emotional pain of life become entirely avoidable suffering?
3. How do we escape suffering while remaining vibrant and passionate about life?
Then he proceeds to hit the answers “out of the park”.  He very carefully walks us through the process he recommends.  What comes to mind is “baby steps” as some of us remember the expression from that much-enjoyed 1991 movie called “What About Bob?” and starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. And they’re crucial to our understanding and using the process he recommends.
Stosny reminds us of the unique need of humans to balance two drives – that of autonomy and connectivity. Using the development of our Toddler and Adult brains, he explains how some of us learn to do just that while others never quite master it.
The author also has a lot of time for the role of ‘values’ in our development and maturity, and that includes the value we place on ourselves.
The book contains numerous insights that we can all use in our lives as he shares with us some real examples from his counselling clients. Stosny writes, “I had to show him how to appreciate whatever rainbow he found, and, in a real sense, to become the rainbow. As T.S. Eliot would have it, you become the music while the music lasts. In marriage, for instance, if you do not become the love, the love will not last.”
He introduces us to “Toddler brain reactaholism” as the number-one addiction of our times, and then adds, “The other addictions tend to start as attempts to ease the chronic powerlessness and frequent ill feelings of reactaholism.”
We learn more about emotion, pain, healing, improving, repairing, and suffering which he defines as the result of pain intensifying and generalizing over time. One of my favorite sections in the book is the material on “Feeling Powerful vs. Being Powerful”.  That is excellently explained and it is in this section that he spends considerable time helping us understand the behavior of real toddlers – making this book great for young parents as well. Immediately after that, we are introduced to a bad dude – namely ‘blame’. Stosny says in life, we must choose between blaming and solving problems, because we cannot do both at the same time.  Understand that, believe it, and act on it, and the book has paid for itself.  Here’s another gem: “Blame-driven resentment makes you wrong, even if you’re right.” Enough said on that, but if you want more read what he has to say about anger (the sole purpose of which is to prepare us to ‘fight’) and anxiety for they are related.  Another gem: “If you wouldn’t drive a car designed by a toddler, don’t use coping mechanisms designed by a toddler.” Finally, you’ll want to find out why we sometimes react to a jerk like a jerk (his words).
The rest of the book focuses on how to turn Toddler brain feelings into Adult brain values; identifying Adult brain habits; and how radical self-value breeds radical value of others – at which point he gives us another one of my favorite gems from the book: “If you believe in the essential equality of all people, based on your most humane of values, you’ll never meet anyone superior to you.” Or put in my own words, there really won’t be people out there you’ll label as “deplorables”.
Another chapter tells us how to be happy (although I’m not so sure he’s got the whole answer although he has some good ideas on the subject). There’s a chapter introducing us to the “Web of Emotion” where we learn that everything we do makes the world better or worse. He talks about the advantage of association based on being “for” something vs. those that are based on being “against” something (well worth the read).
He ends the book charging us to build a “web of compassion and kindness” explaining each term very carefully, including what they are not.  The book ends with a series of exercises on how to begin and maintain what Stosny hopes he has communicated. For me, just the big “ideas” were sufficient to make it all worthwhile – and I found them easy to integrate into my own very complex life.  I’m sure you will too.

·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, December 31, 2016. www.accordconsulting.com


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Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Guest Blog by Chuck Stephens


The Four Gospels of Our Time
By Chuck Stephens, South Africa
There are many variations of this tale, but four exemplary church leaders come to mind from the past century:
1.     Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s stand against the Holocaust
2.     Martin Luther King’s stand against Segregation
3.     John-Paul II’s stand against Communism
4.     Desmond Tutu’s stand against Apartheid
Bonhoeffer was born into a well-to-do aristocratic family before World War I.  As a teenager he decided to become a theologian, although his siblings were eminent scientists and lawyers - like so many of his relatives were.  After completing his doctorate at age 21, he spent periods of time working in Spain, the USA and England, so he was able to see Fascism for what it truly was, when it emerged between the two World Wars.  His ecumenical and global contacts provided a counter-balance to run-away German nationalism.
The dark side of Hitler promoting an Arian super-race was that he singled out a minority for genocide.  These ideas were somewhat in line with social Darwinism, the scientific trending of that era.  But they did not align with historical Christian values and beliefs.  This did not deter Hitler and his inner circle from their plans to corrupt theology, systematically absorb the church, and then redeploy it.  For example, in 1933 the new “Reich Church” was told to merge ALL church youth groups with the Hitler Youth movement.  The state church was to become a cultural institution to support the Third Reich.  The philosopher Nietzsche became its prophet (e.g. “Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual”).  The contrast to Martin Luther’s theology was shocking – instead of Grace, the Reich Church worshipped Power.  Its bishop was a former Navy chaplain.
Bonhoeffer opposed this hijacking of the Protestant church and declared the Reich Church’s theology to be heretical.  First he started a Pastors Emergency Council and later the underground Confessional Church.  In due course, during World War II, this led him to get personally involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler - as the extent of Nazi Anti-Semitism with its death camps and extermination of the mentally ill became clearer.  But for his role in this failed attempt at regime change, he was sentenced to death for treason.
All the same, he is truly revered by churches everywhere as a Protestant saint – for coming to the rescue of the Jews in the face of state sanctioned genocide.

Martin Luther King was also a pastor, but not a Lutheran in spite of his middle name!  He was a great orator – like Bonhoeffer.  In the mid-1950s, he took up a political cause – the segregation of schools, buses and restaurants, and the practice of not allowing blacks to vote that prevailed in some southern states.
Like Bonhoeffer, he was well-known to the authorities.  By the time Lyndon Johnson became President, King was on a roll.  He visited the Oval office more than once.  He took his mission to Selma, Alabama, to march to the state capital and demanded to register black voters.  The march across the bridge at Selma in 1965 turned into a Sharpeville scenario – 5 years after the incident in South Africa.  Covered by the media - on national TV - this encounter galvanized support from other states and countries.  Effectively, the federal government had to intervene and tell the state government to “correct” its ways.
Unlike the Jews in Germany, African-Americans were an underclass.  German Jews were well-to-do and well-educated.  Names like Freud and Einstein come to mind.  But African Americans – even a century after the Civil War ended slavery – were still a marginalized majority.  The Civil Rights Movement gradually changed all that.  Of course there are still nasty attitudes that linger, but they are not prevalent.  The election and re-election of President Obama was evidence of that.

Karol Wojtyla grew up in Communist Poland.  It was part of the “East Bloc” namely eastern Europe which was controlled by the Soviet Union.
Poland had a proud history of being independent and of course resented its occupation by Russia.  It was and is a devoutly Roman Catholic country, and had put forth great heroes like Marie Curie, who won two Nobel prizes - in two distinct disciplines.  Wojtyla stayed true to his faith, his role-models, and decided to go to Seminary even though the church was experiencing persecution in all of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Every “struggle” can put forward secular heroes as well as church leaders.  In Germany one thinks of courageous citizens like Sophie Scholl.  In America, musicians like Woodie Guthrie and Peter Seeger.  In South Africa, a lawyer and activist called Nelson Mandela.  In Poland, it was a plumber in the trade union Solidarity, called Lech Walesa.  When he climbed over a fence to come over and speak to the media, it was clear that the fear of oppression was waning.  Holes were rusting through the iron curtain!  That was in 1980.  The Berlin Wall came down in 1989.  Between these two dates there was Glasnost first, then Perestroika in Russia.  Walesa went on to become President of Poland!
One factor may have sparked Solidarity’s courage in 1980 – the election of a Polish Pope in 1978.  This was a prophetic act, if there ever was one.  The Curia’s strategy in electing Karol Wojtyla to be Pope John Paul II may have been unspoken, but he did not miss his cue.  John Paul II was a man on a mission, and that political objective came to pass – on his watch.  The “Second World” all but disappeared, leaving only the First World and the Third World to trundle on under a single superpower.  Except for its vestiges in Cuba and North Korea, Communism crashed. 
Apartheid was able to hang on as long as it did because of its shared anti-Communist position.  However, by the time Mandela was moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982 it was clear that even the Boers were hatching a contingency plan.  Winds of change were blowing.
The question of sanctions was vexing.  In the 1980s, many including the UK’s Maggie Thatcher argued that sanctions would actually hurt blacks in South Africa more than they would help their cause, because of the negative impact it would have on the economy.  Commonwealth leaders kept up the pressure on her and the UK to relent and impose economic sanctions.
At the time, the South Africa Council of Churches had a general secretary named Desmond Tutu.  He was invited to visit Demark, and while there, he was interviewed on TV.  Although he was a pastor and a theologian, he signaled his support (for sanctions) to help end Apartheid.  Upon his arrival back in Johannesburg, he was visited by the secret police.  They gave him 24 hours to publicly retract his statement, which had made the world news.
That night, as he agonized over what to do, his wife Leah said that she would rather see him happy on Robben Island, than miserable at home in Soweto!  Women of influence include Bonhoeffer’s mother and of course Coretta King, who never remarried after her husband was assassinated in 1968.  The year that oppressed people in Sharpeville re-lived the nightmare of Selma, Alabama in 1963.
Tutu did not recant his view.  But he was not arrested after all, because of the ecumenical and international support that he commanded.  It was just more of the intimidation church leaders get from speaking truth to power.

These vignettes of four gospels – to the Jews, the African American, the Poles living under Russian domination, and the blacks of South Africa – are related for a reason...
How can a President say – at a church conference yet! – that the church should stay out of public life?!
Does he want our churches to become like the Reich Church?  Heretical in its absolution of government crimes?  There has been no genocide in South Africa, but there has been xenophobia, patronage, corruption and waste.  And there was an African genocide – in Rwanda – during the years of Mandela’s presidency.
No, the church has a mission.  The gospel is told and re-told in different settings, situationally.  South Africa is well evangelized and deeply religious.  Its greatest leaders are churchmen like John Dube and Albert Luthuli.  The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness will never put it out.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that "if you get on the wrong train, you can’t fix it by running down the center aisle of the carriages in the opposite direction that the train is moving."
The point is to get off the train at the next station, and start moving in the right direction.
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Very Sound Advice For Generations X, Y, and Millenials


Unemployable:
How To Be Successfully Unemployed Your Entire Life
Author: David Thomas Roberts
Publisher: Self-published, Texas, 2016                                                                     
                              


Very Sound Advice For Generations X, Y, and Millennials
This book is not for those who want to play it safe, have a steady income (when they have a job), or go home and watch TV after a day’s work. It is for risk-takers, people who value freedom over money (but who know they can do better), and like to be responsible for others as well as the bottom line.
David T. Roberts tried working for others and knew that wasn’t for him. And then he went to town trying to set up his own business or two. In the process, he learned some valuable lessons that he shares candidly with his readers. He tells people to not just wish “for toys” that others have but to do something about being able to afford them – and to do it now, not sometime, not tomorrow. He concluded early in life, that “Everyone is created with an equal opportunity to become unequal.” If the reader’s behavior is changed by that statement alone, it’s worth the money he/she paid for the book.
The author believes that if anyone can bring “value to an idea” then he/she is an entrepreneur. The early chapters of the book describe how you can detect if you should work for someone else, or if you should be your own boss. Once that is determined, he then uses a chapter to communicate the pros and cons of education but ultimately ends up saying that whether we like it or not, today’s education systems are geared to teaching us “how to work for someone else, period” and likely turning a person into “a little communist”.
The rest of the book gives us the tools we need to work for ourselves and be “unemployed”.  He starts with the need for us to become financially literate. I love his “Here’s a tidbit: If you make a million dollars this year and you spend one million and one dollars this year, you are broke!” Duh. How much simpler can it get? To this he adds great advice on mortgages and acquiring things for the sake of status.
He throws in some history on the growth of “micro-businesses”, the importance and advantages of “sales” jobs, and from personal experience, teaches us much about networking marketing.  There’s also great and detailed advice for anyone considering a franchise; when a business plan is necessary and when it’s not; why you need to avoid those who would discourage you; where to get valuable personal advice; and where and when to raise money and when not to.
There’s a whole chapter on two important rules in business and ten most common mistakes that result in failure. He tackles the issues of partnership as well as the family business, identifying pitfalls to be avoided. Next he talks about “Renegade Marketing” and social media – but that’s material you’ll need to discover for yourself in Roberts’ book. His last chapter deals with the “taxman” and the role we all have to keep government in check to preserve free enterprise.
The “bonus” is a twenty-six-page glossary of terms which should become second nature to all pursuing the exciting world of being “unemployed”. I’m seriously thinking of giving the book to my grandchildren long before they finish high school.  And even for this baby boomer, the book provided advice that is most critical to success and could be applied to my own “un”-employment as a consultant, long after I retired from working for those other guys.
·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, December 22, 2016. www.accordconsulting.com

Get the book here: http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20

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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Good Ideas That Would Benefit From a Good Editor

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Human Origins and the Bible:
A Bold New Theory Relating Genesis Origins to Science
Author: Myron G. Heavin
Publisher: Redemption Press, Enumclaw, WA, 2016 



Okay, I better come clean at the beginning of this review. I am an evangelical Christian with, up to now at least, some very traditional views on the origin of mankind. Second, I did get this book free for purposes of reviewing it. Third, the author is a solid Christian to the best of my knowledge, but he is also an engineer (with 50 years’ experience at Boeing) who, using his graduate degree in Christian Apologetics, now teaches and leads Bible studies. These were the facts under which I commenced my reading and hence my review of this book.
The book is all about how “humans came to be” and Myron Heavin does a great job of presenting the alternatives. He takes both Scripture and nature seriously, because he believes that God wrote both ‘books’. For the most part he does not get into the debate on creation (Genesis chapter 1) but focuses on the origin of man (Genesis chapters 2 – 5).  There’s an excellent treatise of various types of Scriptural writing, their differences, and their best uses, in order to best deal with problems that arise from text to text. Being a Bible study leader, at the end of each chapter he provides thought-provoking discussion questions.
To help us best understand Scripture, he calls for our study of it, to the extent possible, in its original languages, Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New. Doing so, he believes we will soon learn that it “is wrong to take poetry and treat it as scientific literature, for poetry is totally true images too vivid to be expressed as scientific fact.”
Heavin takes particular issue with those (usually Christians) who add things to Scripture that Scripture does not say. And throughout the book, he cites several examples of people doing just that.
It’s at about the one-quarter way through the book, that the author starts to lose me – or at least where I start to take issue with some of his comments and style.  For example, he is so excited about his arguments (being an engineer) that he jumps around from thought to thought without being careful to take his reader with him.  This often results in his making sound conclusions in his mind, but not ones easily seen or followed by the rest of us.
He too easily adopts the position that science “totally supports” the claim that the scientific Eve (the one woman that science believes we all came from) lived from 50,000 to 150,000 years ago. The Bible seems to point to an Eve that lived 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. He justifies the difference between the two by saying people existed longer, but only the Biblical Adam and Eve “became aware of good and evil” and thus it was then that “men started to call upon the Lord.” It is at this time that “culture” truly began according to Heavin and thus sin could be conceived and eventually had to be dealt with.
His solution is rather simple, “Scripture and nature” cannot disagree as God wrote both of them. Where we have differences, he implies, it must be because we are reading Scriptural poetry (e.g. parables) as scientific fact.  Then he carries that argument just a little far (although perhaps justifiably) by arguing that if we don’t take that position, our “children” will laugh at us or discredit us when our belief system (based on our interpretation of Scripture) does not fall in line with the science that they learn. That is assuming, of course, that not having our children discredit us is the sole basis on which to form our own beliefs.
Heavin’s book is greatly in need of a good editor.  For starters he uses acronyms like MT, SP, and LXX without explaining what they are – just assumes we all know.  [MT stands for the Hebrew Masoretic Text; SP stands for the Samaritan Pentateuch; and LXX stands for the Greek Septuagint – I actually had to look them up.]  He argues that because two records of genealogy differ, we can assume that Scripture genealogies have “literary features” rather than factual ones. Not sure all scientists would arrive at that conclusion in an unbiased fashion, unless they were trying to prove a premise with which they were starting. In fact, he calls those who make science and Scripture agree, the “mature” Christians. Doesn’t say much for the others – those who have Scripture trump science, or those who say, “we don’t have all the answers yet; I’m sure one day we will; and we just might all be surprised.” Heavin seems to be preferring “compromise” over other approaches.
Another reason, albeit minor (but very annoying), I believe the book could have benefited from better editing, is that throughout the book there are many grammatical and/or spelling errors.  I ignored them for the first half of the book, but started keeping track in the second. There is also the use of some diagrams and charts that are referred to but their content is not fully explained. Perhaps scientists (not the target audience) may be able to fill the mental gaps that he seems to expect us to leap across.
Finally, Heavin’s style leaves me at best very confused. I never knew if he was sincerely asking a question, or if he was being facetious. Maybe that’s my naivety, but it certainly does not win me over. Throughout the book it is difficult to know sometimes whether he supports a position held by others or he is just representing their viewpoints, only to knock them down, or so it seems, in the next paragraph, often without telling us he is doing so.
He ends chapter 6, entitled, Fossil Hominid Record, by writing, “Scripture clearly states, we were designed in the image of God. The sure scriptural statements seem to be in sharp contrasts to scientific speculation.” Great. Now where does that leave us, or, his solution of fully reconciling scripture with science? He never really lingers there long enough to tell us – at least not this reader.
Lest you may think I have little use for the book, let me say that the author makes some great theological points with which I fully agree. For example, “Whether there was a literal Adam or not, the main point is Christ died for our sins, not that Adam sinned.” While we can argue on the existence of the Biblical Adam, we can’t argue on the need, as the author says, for Christ’s death to save us from sin. And it is true that we often make too much of the fact that “Adam sinned”.
In conclusion, Heavin examines and rates various alternative theories and positions. He ends his book with, “See how each of the various viewpoints were ‘somewhat true’. This book suggests taking the best of all of them, assembling them together, so now the larger picture makes sense and better fits together.” If you can benefit from that kind of conclusion, and can “assemble” the best of the lot together, for what you believe, then this is a great book and you need to read it.
As for me, because I believe he has much to offer, I would love to see the well-meaning author take another crack at this – with a great editor and testing each chapter with a small group of non-scientific readers. Nevertheless, having said that I found myself filtering much of what was said in church today through Heavin’s ideas having just read the book.  That alone made it all worth it, even if I don’t buy all of his thinking hook, link, and sinker.

by:  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, December 11, 2016. www.accordconsulting.com

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.