Category Archives: Take Permission

Reading Goals

I previously went public with my goal of reading 100 books this year.  I’m not quite ready to say that it won’t happen.  However several factors have intervened.  The first is that my sister Cathy is requiring more care from Amy and me.  This, combined with teaching, has left me in a state of exhaustion for a sizable portion of the last month.  I haven’t missed any days of class.  But I have had a difficult time keeping up with grading.1848-261926

The other issue that tends to cast a doubt on the viability of this goal is that I’m reading some behemoths now, the main one being A Secular Age by Charles Taylor.  Weighing in at 896 pages, Taylor chronicles how the worldview of the West has experienced revolutionary changes from the Middle Ages up until now.  He writes of how the outlook of pre-Enlightenment Europe was profoundly supernaturalistic, a world that was enchanted, in which the Divine broke through, even through inanimate objects (think of the Holy Grail, for example).  Taylor makes the case that over time, a number of developments took place across different areas, such as the Enlightenment, the rise of modern politics, “polite society,” and perhaps most of all, a change in the perception of the interaction of God in this world.  I’m about a third of the way through the book.  For me, it’s timely, it’s educational, it’s interesting, and being a work of philosophy, it’s stretching me.  At this point, I’ve having to trust the author to take me where he’s going.

James K. A. Smith introduced me to this book in his guide to Taylor’s work, How Not To Be Secular.  It’s been long enough that I don’t remember too many specifics about Dr. Smith’s book, except that it made me want to read Taylor.  So, it seems that Dr. Smith achieved his purpose with me.

Another book on the nightstand is Rod Dreher’s How Dante Can Save Your Life. Mr. Dreher is a senior editor of The American Conservativeand one of my favorite writers.  He went through a crisis in his life similar to my own in many ways, moving back to the town where he grew up after an absence of over twenty years after the death of his sister, and experiencing an adjustment difficult enough to lead to a physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown.  The Lord used Dante’s Divine Comedy to lead him out of the dark wood that he experienced midway through his life, with striking parallels to Dante’s own experience.  It’s an enjoyable read, and it has succeeded in motivating me to begin again with the Commedia.  I’ve read Inferno several times before, but have gone no further, so I opened up Purgatorio last night.  I’ve only read through Canto III, but so far, it’s surprising how hopeful and optimistic the beginning of Purgatorio is.

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Being A Hermit Today And Enjoying It!

07392666639a183982794280ac73312dI see that I haven’t posted in a week.  Been putting in some long days at work.  Teaching is like that sometimes.  I’ve gotten myself in a big hole with lesson planning and need to dig myself out.
However, I did get in a little R & R today.  Ran an 8K race in 48:05 gun time.  I’m guessing the chip time will be about 46:30-47:00.  Now, I realize that this isn’t exactly the second coming of Steve Prefontaine.  But it’s the fastest I’ve run in many years.  To be able to hold under ten minute mile pace for five miles is bookin’ it for me, at my age and weight.  I think the difference now is that I’ve gotten my core strong enough to be able to preserve my form when I get tired.  Today, my mind was on preserving my form and rhythm, and not letting that get away from me.  Also, I’m proud of the way that I stayed mentally tough throughout the whole race.
I’m staying out of the house today because my wife is giving a baby shower for our niece.  So, I went to Riverside Arts Market after the race, and got a savory crepe with feta, spinach, and tomato from The Little Family Crepes.  Great food truck!  Then, I went to Chamblin’s Book Mine, Jacksonville’s treasure house of used books, and picked up more than my share, including an interlinear translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.  Now, I have about ten hours of study ahead.  Teaching Revelation 11 in church school tomorrow plus class prep for this week.  So, that’s what’s happenin’ today!
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Copyright Your Faults

It fascinates me to listen to people who are good at their craft and passionate about it.  I’ve posted about Dan Carlin and Hardmainpic_hh-1core History before.  His interview on The Tim Ferriss Show is an excellent conversation that really gets at the intersection his passion for his craft and his proficiency at it. Dan Carlin is a podcaster who has excellent content and practically flawless delivery.  One of points that I took away from this conversation is his line, “copyright your faults.”  In other words, don’t spend all your time trying to fix your weaknesses but be yourself, and use the actual weakness into a strength.

I found it interesting that he didn’t say, “work on flawless delivery,” and even goes into some flaws that have been pointed out to him with his delivery.  Rather than trying to change those, they have become a part of who he is, and given him a distinctive voice.

The phrase “copyright your faults” really captures the idea of not trying to conquer your weaknesses but  to strengthen your strengths and make your weaknesses part of your individuality better than anything else I’ve heard.  Rather than flat out imitating someone who have been an influence on me, I’ll be more effective in the long run by building on my skills and abilities and cultivating my own style.

In my own setting, as a teacher, there are probably as many ways to bring about good learning outcomes as there are teachers.  If I care about what I’m teaching enough and I care about the material enough, I can usually find a way to connect students with the material.  There’s usually a human interest element that may be behind or beyond the text that we are studying.  I really want to connect this to my students to broaden their interests and to continue the process that was begun with me in high school, when I first encountered teachers who were passionate about their craft and good at it.

What are you learning about being passionate about your craft and being proficient at it?  I’d love to hear from you!

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Organic Growth and Development in Writing

I was listening to an episode of a podcast called “The Tim Ferriss Show” last week  Tim was interviewing Dan Carlin of “Hardcore History.”  The excellence of Dan’s preparation, delivery, and subject matter is fascinating.  If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you check this podcast out.  He explores the “why’s and the “what ifs” in a way that really grabs you and provokes you to think.  He’s also terrific at making connections with different events and movements taking place at the same time, as well as events and movements that preceded and influence each story he covers.
What interests me about the segment that I heard though, was his theory of how our work and art evolves and becomes what it is over time..  An example he used was “Seinfeld.”  Mr. Carlin said, “go back and watch the first five episodes of Seinfeld.”  He goes on to talk about how the “Seinfeldness” of “Seinfeld” evolved over the course of the show.  The quirkiness and uniqueness of Seinfeld wasn’t a given at the start of the show.  There was organic development within the cast, the writers, and the audience that made “Seinfeld” distinctive.  He went on to apply this insight to any long-term artistic project.
My takeaway from this is that with any long-term creative project, we must have a key concept and a plan. But we must also expect the project to organically incorporate elements that we do not foresee, and once momentum is created, to taken on a life of its own.
This gives me a great deal of encouragement in teaching, writing, and in my pastoral role in the church.  I’m blessed to have been providentially dumped into a great organization that has allowed me to make the most of my abilities and given me the freedom to do this and enjoy it.  Once I’d been at Providence Extension Program for a while, it felt like I should have been doing this all along.  Yet, my teaching eight years down the road has organically grown as I’ve achieved greater command my subject matter to teach out of depth rather than last-minute preparation.  I’ve grown in my ability to create classes as learning communities, in such a way that even if I teach the same prep four times in a week, that each experience of that material is remarkably different.
My hope is that I will persevere in my writing, in such a way that the same kind of organic development will happen, that I will be able to develop discrete concepts within the unity of personality and interests, and express them in an inviting and compelling way.
What examples of organic growth and development have you seen in your writing?  I’d love to hear from you!
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Vegetarian? Vegan? Macro?

I made my post Christmas pilgrimage to Barnes and Noble a couple of days ago.  It’s a “pilgrimage,” because I enjoy the blessing of having raised a family of avid readers.  So, there’s no shortage of books in our home, and no shortage of enthusiasm for visiting bookstores.  Indeed, aren’t bookstores the real reason for shopping?

The object of my quest was to find a book that was a combination of personal journal/explanation/how to concerning making the change to a vegetarian, vegan, or macrobiotic diet.  The thought of making this change has been rattling around in the back of my head for some time now, and I wanted to read more than Wikipedia had to say about this.  I’m not exactly as svelte as I was in my 20’s, and realized that most likely I’ll never get there again.  But I’ve talked to people who have done this, and they seem happy that they made the change.  Those whom I’ve talked to feel better, report health benefits, and seem to be able to eat all they want within the range of their food philosophy.

I wanted to find the story of someone who “waded in the shallow end” of this journey and didn’t try to do it all at once — someone who would make me think that this might possibly be achievable for someone who includes friends and loved ones in their eating habits.  I also felt like I needed to be “sold” on the why of doing this, and read the words of someone who enjoyed and benefitted from making such monumental changes.

Alas, I found no such book!  I didn’t look at the books that were mostly scientific information– I’m just not going to read that.  The science seems pretty sound from what I’ve read — at least it’s more on the side of a plant based diet than what I’m eating now.   However, it just cannot be that there has never been anyone in the history of mankind who considered attempting this change one meal at a time.  I’m astonished that there is no one in the history of the planet who contemplated taking baby steps toward this.  The books I found were either straight-out cookbooks that assumed that I was sold on their particular philosophy, or “how-to” books.  Of the two varieties, the how-to books started out with advice such as “take everything out of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, and throw it in the garbage.”  No consideration whatsoever that person who may attempt to follow such advice may be married to a spouse who would advise reasonable, prudent steps toward a better diet, or more like exclaim, “you’re throwing hundreds of dollars of food into the garbage!”  No advice given on how to win over a skeptical spouse whose wisdom has been nothing short of life-saving.

So, my quest was halted in frustration.  However, I’m sure that there is at least one person in the history of the planet who has been in the circumstances described earlier who has written a book about their experience that’s worth reading.

I’d love to hear from you!  If you have researched transitioning to vegetarian, vegan, or macro and found a helpful book that is makes it sound fun encouraging, and achievable, let me know!

 

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Feeling Rebellious! In A Good Way!

Wow!  It feels quite rebellious to take a 2 hour nap AND run 7 miles AND spend extra time writing all in one day.  Not quite sure how I managed to do all of that !  Rebellious?  Doesn’t exactly sound like the word most people would use.  However, I’m not used to taking that much time to focus on what I want to do.  My wife and I lead a nonprofit educational organization, which is pretty much like running a family business.  My sister lives with us, who is disabled and needs some help with daily living tasks.  And two of our children are home from college.  So, it did feel rather delightfully rebellious and irresponsible!

The 7 miles is the longest run I’ve gone on in about a month or more.  Lately, with the holiday weight gain, it’s been a struggle just to get out and shuffle 4 miles or so.  But today, the miles just clicked off!  It was a beautiful day, temps in the mid 60’s, with a northeast breeze about 10-15 mph.  Started out south on the beach and headed back into the wind — but on the road.  Felt great physically and made me remember why I continue to persevere in this activity.

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Do What You Can With the Body You Have!

I posted yesterday on how I’m in doubt about plans for future ultra events.  However, there’s another take on this subject, or for that matter, any other physical challenge.  This attitude is, “do what you can with the body you have!”

Now, this attitude is not original with me.  I read this somewhere, and I can’t remember where.  But it makes sense.  Rather than trying to diet, slim down, and get into “better condition,” whatever that may mean, do what you can now.  And push yourself to do more.

The idea here is that physical perfection is probably beyond most of us,  So we use this mythical ideal to hold us back, rather than enjoy what we can.  So, do what you can with the body you have !  And enjoy yourself!

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Why blog?

Why blog?  This is a question that I’ve been asking myself for the last couple of years.  If you follow this blog, you find out that the usual answer is, “there’s no reason to.”  And for the past several years, I’ve managed to marshal some reasons not to blog that sound like good arguments.

I don’t have anything to say.  In other words, there’s nothing that hasn’t already been said.  Now, this form of thinking is one to which I am prone.  What I’ve discovered, however, is that there are new ways of saying what has been said, and new audiences who are looking for a fresh take.

I’m not that interesting.  Blogging is a good way to become interesting.  It’s good to have a driving force that will push me to be more engaging, develop new interests, and to pursue the interests that I have more wholeheartedly.

I’m not a narcissist.  While there is more than enough shallow, self-centered banality that sounds narcissistic, it doesn’t follow that anyone who wants to put their thoughts in public is a narcissist.  There are writers whom I read who stimulate me, challenge me, and edify me.  These are results that don’t come from navel-gazing narcissists.

I don’t write that well.  My self-evaluation of my writing has deterred me from sharing most of my writing with anyone.  But the opposing point of view says, “how am I going to improve?”  The path to improvement is regular writing, revising, and sharing what I write.

I don’t care about being famous.  There are bloggers whose readerships is in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.  Developing an audience and bringing dependable content to that audience sounds like pressure.  But building an audience is not easy.  It takes effort.  At this point, I’m writing as if I have an audience, but I’m far from being famous.

I’d rather teach than write.  Fair enough.  But won’t writing and editing and revising make me a better teacher?

I’d rather while away the hours in unproductive pursuits.  This is the honest truth.  But it’s one that I want to change.

What keeps you from blogging?  Why do you blog?  What motivates you to keep sharing and publishing content?  I’d love to hear from you!

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About Changing the Script

     I read an article a couple of weeks about changing one’s internal script with writing.  It was one of those self-help things that you read and say “meh”.  However, on greater reflection it’s been surprising helpful in thinking ahed toward 2015.  The idea that stuck with me is that through reading, reflection, and writing, It’s possible to change a person’s inner thinking, and as a consequence, change their story.  It’s possible to bring the best out of yourself instead of scraping through every day unthinkingly.
     This year’s 500 word challenge turned out to be a trial run at this.  While I didn’t follow through with it for the rest of the year after the 31 days, there was something powerful about it that began to change my internal script; that is, the instinctive and reflexive governing of my life that is so influential, and often so self-limiting.
     “Change the Script” is a powerful imperative, like “Take Permission”, my theme for 2014.  While I still need to follow through with the Take Permission imperative, something deeper needs to change within me to generate the boldness to Take Permission.  That’s where Change the Script comes in.
     To begin with, there are a couple of ways I want to work toward Changing the Script:
     Internally:   I want to generate optimism, positivity, and encouragement instead of cynicism and negativity.  My default script tends to be cynical, sarcastic, negative, and a sense of smarminess that “I know better”.  I find this repulsive when I see it in others but tolerate and advance it in myself.
     Move forward to initiate new habits:  I can take charge of myself.  I can initiate change with others, I can work to lead those within my sphere of influence to a preferable future.  While my sister tells me I’m “regimented,” this regimentation can be positively used to work toward being willing to experiment, to try new things, to take risks.
     What are you thinking in terms of changing your script?  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and plans!

2015 Annual Plan

2015 Annual Plan

Last week, I shared my 2014 annual review.  Putting forth what I learned in 2014, here is my annual plan for 2015:

Long term desires:

  • Keep current work and life situation.
  • Initiate more in relationships – network in areas of commonality.
  • Become more self-aware and take better preventative measures to maintain good mental health.
  • Continue to educate myself and develop my craft.
  • Travel more
  • Family vacation
  • New York City at least once.
  • Weekend away with my wife.
  • Running goals
  • Ultras
  • Overall fitness – strength, stretching,

 

How to structure to move forward: Minimalize. Essentialize. Throw out about 90% of old key result areas.

Moving forward:

 

Disciple:

  • Live a more consistent Christian life
  • Devote myself more to prayer
  • Incorporate more books and audio to enrich my soul
  • Work harder at going from Biblical insights to application
  • Become more self -aware and take better preventative measures to maintain good mental health.
  • Initiate more in relationships – network in areas of commonality.
  • Be more conscious of the preciousness of time and act accordingly
  • Cut about 90 percent of the to do list
  • Do things that matter as opposed to spending large amounts of time in what amounts to trivia

 

 

Husband/Father:

  • Initiate more communication and planning with my wife
  • Continue to live within our means.
  • Continue to slightly accelerate paying on house
  • Rebudget in light of income changes– how much to keep contributing to in retirement vs. current expenses and short- term savings.
  • Initiate more and work harder to keep and improve relational ties among children.
  • Reduce book inventory in garage by 90% — go through one box a week – keep, sell, give, toss.
  • Initiate working together with my wife on more projects.

Teacher/Ministry Partner:

  • Continue to focus on the joy and excitement of my calling and its resounding affirmation.
  • Actively seek out ways to get better at my craft.
  • Love my students, my texts, my coworkers, and my parents well.

 

Pastor:

  • Keep focus on teaching, administrating, and prayer.
  • Keep focus on supporting our lead pastor and the session.
  • Work more on “on the spot” shepherding.

 

Athlete:

  • Goals were too ambitious last year (I did enter 4 races and finished two, rather than entering 5 and finishing 5). Decide on some events and do those only.
  • Rediscover the wonder and enjoyment of endurance sports.
  • Work on maintaining and enhancing overall fitness. Maintain an average of 5 times a week of cardio exercise.

 

 

Scholar/Writer:

  • Look into how to move into writing for an audience from zero to some.
  • Develop another reading plan to unfollow. Or look at old ones. Push toward 50 books per year.
  • Continue to seek to maximize time through reading and audio.
  • Expose myself to a steadier diet of positive authors and speakers who can speak into my life.
  • Develop writing skills.
  • Develop audience

 

Note: Just about all of these are process-oriented rather than SMART goals. As I move ahead in the year, I will need to tweak current processes and put new ones in place as occasions arise to move from vision into action.

Looking ahead, what are your desires for 2015?  How do you plan for a new year?  I’d love to hear from you!

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