Wise Wednesday: What Creative Thinking May Do for You

You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have. — Maya Angelou

According to John Maxwell in Thinking for a Change, there are 5 specific things creative thinking has the potential to do for you:

1) Adds Value to Everything

2) Compounds into more creative thinking (given enough time and focus)

3) Draws People to You and Your Ideas – think about the Leonardo da Vinci effect: people are still talking about him 500 plus years later

4) Helps You Learn More – “Creativity is the joy of not knowing it all.” — Ernie Zelinski.  Creativity is having options

5) Challenges the Status Quo

Next Brain Byte we will look at some ideas on How To discover the joy of creative thinking.

Wood, Stone, and Fire: Beauty, Brawn, and Blazes – Reflections of Worship

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” Exodus 25:8-9

As we study Exodus chapter 25 through 30, we see that God is the Master Planner. In this case, God gives Israel the exact specifications to build the Temple where He will “dwell” among his people  The incredible part of this documentation is that it took place 2000 years prior to the birth of Jesus and each element and requirement laid forth by God, points perfectly to His ultimate sacrifice.  Whether you believe, or not, that Jesus truly lived and died for you – will you read Exodus 25-30 along with 1 Chronicles 21:24; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Matthew 1:23; John 1:14; Ephesians 2:19-22.  This reading could change your life. Forever.

The Tabernacle prepared for God’s presence. He provided the stone, the fire, the wood, and the precious gems to make this Tabernacle beautiful and worthy of His presence among his people.

Fireplace 2014

I am so thankful today for the joy I have gazing at the beauty of God’s creation.

I have an unusual love for stones [BEAUTY]. I delight in the colors, shapes, and original designs of nearly every stone I spy. It is a common sight to see me stopping on a walk to bend down and collect yet another rock from the dirt path.

God is the Master Planner and the Master Provider of all the materials and the skilled craftsman of the original Temple.  As I consider this,  I am especially grateful at the place I find myself worshipping God in my home. Here at the foot of my beautifully crafted split stone wall; the work [BRAWN] of my skilled and artistic brother-in-law; and near the warm wood fire, installed by the hardworking hands of my husband, who also laid the slate hearth and chops the wood for us. This place combines many things that are precious to me.  It is a reminder of God’s Master Design in Creation (stone, wood, fire) and God’s provision of family, love, and the warmth of fire [BLAZES].  As we seek Him and worship Him we know that He will show us the perfect plan for our day and give us wisdom (Daniel 2:21, James 1:5) for decisions that affect our future.

And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD. Ezekiel 16:14 NIV [BEAUTY]

The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Psalm 28:8 KJV [BRAWN]

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NLT [BLAZES]

Wise Wednesday: Which Comes 1st: Cluttered Mind or Cluttered Matter?

organized and free flowing brainDo I tackle the clutter around me or inside me first?

I participated in a wonderful How to Make HUGE Projects Feel Easy Webinar today put on by April at Power of Moms dot com. She does a nice job of implementing the tools from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  She has created a niche for helping Moms to get organized using Allen’s GTD method.  She has a beautiful website with many visuals, podcasts and videos to help Moms to get organized and reclaim time to spend on family!  I love her aim and from what I have seen so far, I love her material.

It sparked my thinking, of course, about our minds and organization.  I stumbled upon an article on CNN.com featuring Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life.” by Margaret Moore.  She is the director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation and Harvard psychiatrist Paul Hammerness.  Their theory is that one must first organize the mind prior to organizing the environment in order to see lasting change.

Personally, I believe it is very important to have an organized mind (that is why I teach Mind Mapping! And perhaps why David Allen includes a map on page 71 of Getting Things Done), but I also know from experience that an unorganized environment can cause your brain to be so overwhelmed it becomes cluttered.  When your mind is overwhelmed, it becomes stressed which causes it to freeze, so that you are not able to even begin a project. That is, unless you have a reasonable and incremental process to begin, as April puts it your “next step”.  In other words, focusing on ONE step at a time versus being in ‘overwhelm’ mode by looking at ALL of your To Do’s at one moment.

Check out the wealth of resources on David and April’s sites:

http://gettingthingsdone.com/ — David Allen

http://powerofmoms.com/  — April Perry

Now to you — what do you believe comes first?  Cluttered mind or cluttered environment?  I look forward to your comments!  And then we should all get busy uncluttering both our minds and our matter so that we are better equipped to have more time to enjoy our family and friends during this upcoming Holiday Seasons!  

Steps to the Mission-Minded Day

Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission. – Zig Ziglar

Do you have a written mission?  A mission in your mind?  Do you know what you want your life to portray?  Are your daily actions clearly reflecting your mission?

Sometimes…. honestly – many times – I can have way too many missions in my mind to do any ONE of them any good on a daily basis.  So I have decided to make a reasonable and manageable approach to being mission-minded each day:

  1. Write down the mission for today
  2. Compare it to my life mission – if it complements than it is approved, if not, it is re-worked
  3. Set my daily focus
  4. Take actions in alignment with the mission

For example, today my mission is financial organization and overseeing family. Both are agreeable with my life mission, so the FOCUS:

  1. Prepare for Austin’s movie party
  2. Revise budget and set new goals for 2015

ACTIONS:

  • Buy party supplies [food, drinks, movie]
  • Clean and organize game room and family room
  • Review financial data [stocks, insurances, retirement, estimated college expenses, etc]
  • Revise budget spreadsheet
  • Set meeting day & time to have family goal setting and agreement on spending

Of course there will be many other items screaming for attention.  There will be hundreds more action items; but the goal of the Mission-Minded Day is to have your top priorities at the front of your mind so that they become the main priority for this day.

A mission statement is not something you write overnight… But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life. – Stephen Covey

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Developing the Preschool Brain

According to David A. Sousa in The Leadership Brain: How to Lead Today’s Schools More Effectively:

After birth the neurons in the young brain make connections at an incredible pace as the child absorbs its environment.  Information is entering the brain through “windows” that emerge and taper off at various times.  The richer the environment, the greater the number of connections that are made; consequently, learning can take place faster and with greater meaning.  Thus, at an early age, experiences are already shaping the brain and designing the unique neural architecture that will influence how it handles future experiences in school, work, and other places (Sousa, 2001a).

Preschool Learning Toy

Glenn Doman of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential made a personal impact on my extended family’s life when my cousin’s brain was damaged a birth by the use of forceps her parents were told that she would never walk, nor live a quality life.  My Aunt and Uncle did not accept that diagnosis and did everything they could to get educated, get help, and make a difference in Karen’s life.  Including attending the Doman Brain Institute, as it was called at the time.  Through a long series of physical, social/emotional and intellectual exercises, Karen, responded with remarkable results!  She was walking and talking by about the age of three. She turns 50 years old this year and has accomplished so much more than the MDs predicted.

The brain is a remarkable organ.  I have another friend who had healthy children, and yet she sought to learn all of the best methods to teach them to be all that they could be, so she attended Doman’s Institute for a different reason, but with successful results.  She credits his work with helping her to train her exceptionally creative and musically gifted children.

Here is the information included on Amazon with regard to several of his books that tap into growing preschool brains:

Time and again, the work performed at The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential has demonstrated that children from birth to age six are capable of learning better and faster than older children. How To Teach Your Baby To Read shows just how easy it is to teach a young child to read, while How To Teach Your Baby Math presents the simple steps for teaching mathematics through the development of thinking and reasoning skills. Both books explain how to begin and expand each program, how to make and organize necessary materials, and how to more fully develop your child’s reading and math potential.
How to Give Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge shows how simple it is to develop a program that cultivates a young child’s awareness and understanding of the arts, science, and nature—to recognize the insects in the garden, to learn about the countries of the world, to discover the beauty of a Van Gogh painting, and much more. How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence provides a comprehensive program for teaching your young child how to read, to understand mathematics, and to literally multiply his or her overall learning potential in preparation for a lifetime of success.

The Gentle Revolution Series:

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential has been successfully serving children and teaching parents for five decades. Its goal has been to significantly improve the intellectual, physical, and social development of all children. The groundbreaking methods and techniques of The Institutes have set the standards in early childhood education. As a result, the books written by Glenn Doman, founder of this organization, have become the all-time best-selling parenting series in the United States and the world.

I cannot personally attest to his work, as I did not implement his systems literally for my kids.  However, I did incorporate several concepts he promotes and I believe he has made a positive impact on many lives, in spite of the criticism he receives for being pseudoscientific.  Will scientists ever be in full agreement with one another, let alone someone who is not a PhD?  I value critical research and the scientific community greatly, however, there is a vast territory of the unknown in the world of intellectual development:  I say, go with what works!  And continue to be a lifelong learner, testing what is said to work against real time results and making adjustments along the way.

Bottom Line:  Let your preschooler explore their environment with all the senses and encourage him/her to try new foods, experiences, and so on to grow new neural connections.  This I did do, and my boys are achieving high marks in school.  Start early and make learning fun!

 

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Teen Brain

This week I had the privilege of hearing from a man who shared his very difficult and painful 2.5 year journey with his only son.  His son was in his early twenties, came from a healthy middle-class family, achieved a 32 on his ACT and was a great all-American kid (for those outside of the US, this means he was well kept, well-liked).  He attended university out of town, but had recently transferred to a University in his hometown.  This young man met a girl who had modelled in a metropolitan city and during this experience met up with the wrong crowd.  The type of crowd that lures unsuspecting successful kids into the life of drugs.  Since she could no longer keep jobs, she moved back to her home state and hung out on this same University campus, because there were many ‘partying’ houses that welcomed her.  It was at one of these parties that the two met.

According to the boy’s father, after piecing together bits of stories he came to uncover this picture: one night his son was drinking; the beautiful girl offered him heroine (or some precursor to it) and within three months this young man was HOOKED.  By hooked, I mean he was at the point of needing the drug so much he was stealing family heirlooms and money and his sister’s X-Box, nothing was off-limits to get the money he needed to get his next fix of heroine.

I opened with the fact that it was a privilege to hear from this father, and I feel this way because what he shared was what we would normally consider very up-close and personal.  You see, in spite of the father’s attempt to do everything he possibly could to help his son get clean – his son died  two and a half years after he first experienced heroin.  And because of what this father shared, I believe lives may be spared.  A little education goes a long way.  The one hundred people he taught that night will turn around and share with at least one more person, probably an average of 200 more people will have the ability to educate their children and their friends.

His main message:  The prefrontal cortex does not fully mature until the mid twenties.  Why does this matter?  This is where reason occurs.

According to the Guardian dot com:

Teenagers can do the craziest things. They drive at high speeds. They stand around outside loud parties and smoke weed in front of the cops. They guzzle liquor. They insult their parents – or lie to them – and feel no remorse, because, of course, their parents are idiots.

Using such tools as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), scientists have peered into teen brains and found that typically, until a person hits his early to mid-20s, his prefrontal cortex is still rapidly changing. So are the cell endings and chemical connections that link the cortex to parts of the brain associated with gut impulses.

It is easy to blame peer pressure or wilfulness, but scientific studies suggest that at least some of this out-there behaviour has a physiological tie-in: brain mapping technologies show that the average teenager’s brain looks slightly different from an adult’s. The biggest differences lie in the prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain associated with reasoning – and in the networks of brain cells that link the cortex to regions of the brain that are less about reasoning and thinking and more about emotion.

When people are around 15 or 16 years old, many brain cells in the cortex die off while others are created, and new connections form among them. A lot of the basic cognitive abilities – advanced reasoning, abstract thinking, self-consciousness rapidly expand during this time, says Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychology professor. “The connections within the brain don’t fully branch out until age 22 or so. The kinds of capabilities that connectivity contributes to – emotion regulation and impulse control – probably plateau in the early to mid-20s.”

 

 

Jot and Tittle, Journal and Jar

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” Exodus 17:14 NIV

“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’ ” Exodus 16:32 NIV

Recently I was recommissioned to begin writing my book again. As I sat down to begin, my mind was blank.  I have many ideas, in fact, I have two books started. The trouble is I want to be certain that I am writing on the right topic.  So I went to my knees and asked the Lord for insight and began typing. I wrote out my first sense (or calling) that I was to write a book. I wrote down all of my feelings of opposition and how God walked me through those with various promises, His presence, and major provisions. It was such an encouragement to me.  Of course, I knew these things had happened, but to see them all together in order as a reminder was a huge encouragement to my faith and a bolt to my initiative to keep writing!

I have a radiant friend who has been faithful to record every jot and tittle of her call to adopt two precious preemies over two years ago.  This journey has been filled with significant challenges and rewards.  She confesses that the ups and the downs are all worth it and God has given her a supernatural love for these two new family members.  They are now legally a part of her family, but they have been a forever part of her heart from the moment she laid eyes on them. Because she was faithful to detail this incredible journey – this Sunday she will stand before her church community and confidently recall God’s faithfulness.  This will prove to be an amazing encouragement to people whose faith is waning or to those who wonder if God still speaks today.  It will be a charge to others who may be sensing the calling to adopt or foster children.  My friend’s journal will be a faith builder and a call to action.  Had she neglected to record all of the little things, the big things may not have had such a powerful impact as they do with the full record.

Journals

Benefits of journaling the journey:

Clarifying direction

Testimony to God’s faithfulness

Ability to look back and see lessons learned and successes

Record for future generations

When the Lord told Moses to “Write on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it” It was to encourage this faithful Army Commander for future battles.  It was a testimony to God’s faithfulness.  It strengthened Joshua’s faith in God and helped him to trust that these enemies were in God’s capable hands.  It was a reminder that God was with Him and his army and rendered not only this victory, but the victories to come.

The Lord also knew that the Israelites seemed to have trouble with memory, so he had it ordered that an omer of manna would be preserved for the generations to come as proof that God was able to sustain about 2 million people in the desert by the miraculous provision of food for forty years!  I mean, come on, how else would they have been able to survive?  Apart from this miracle, it makes no logical sense.  This visual reminder would prove valuable to future generations to remind them of God’s provision and faithfulness to His promises.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5:18 KJV

Just as we can trust the Word of God, let us show our faithfulness by jotting down all of God’s mercies, leading, and provision so we can strengthen the faith of generations to come.

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Listen to Learn

Assistive_Listening_Devices_2

Common sense tells us that we learn more by listening than by speaking.  However, we all know someone who spends more time speaking than seeking.

Speakers share knowledge; seekers soak-in knowledge.  While it is good to do both, you will have the ability to share so much more when you spend time listening to learn from those who have gone before you.

True learners make a conscious effort to soak in as much knowledge from other’s life experiences, wisdom, and advice as possible by tuning in their ears to what is spoken, tapering the desire to dominate the conversation.

Listen to Learn.

Learn to Listen.

The way of a fool seems right to him but a wise man listens to advice.      Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Marriage: A Work in Progress

image

 Two Imperfect People – Perfect for one another

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NIV

As I write this I am keenly aware that some of you have heartbreaking stories of a marriage that has not gone the way you planned and perhaps has ended way before you dreamed.  I do understand that marriage can be a battlefront.   Arguably, marriage is the most intimate and vulnerable relationship we can have with a person.  Marriage requires humility to trust that the covenant made at the Altar will be equally valued to our spouse – no matter the circumstances: “for better or for worse”.  Perhaps we need to start spelling out the possible “worse” case scenarios so that we are more equipped to work toward reconciliation when those days arrive.

If you have had a failed relationship, this article is not intended to shame you, but rather to encourage you.  If you are struggling – it is intended to refocus and strengthen you; if you are in a good place in marriage – to commend you.  It takes work to be married!  Paul even says, “So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows–it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am.” 1 Corinthians 7:8  But for those who must marry, it is important to know that the marriage will be a journey of “for better and for worse”.  There will be glorious, blissful days and there will be heart-crushing difficult days.

When our spouse strikes a chord in us, if we let our minds – our creative, active, image-making brains – take over:  we will be taken far away from the Truth in the Philippians 4:8-9 admonition to meditate on truth.  We will let doubt and lies creep in and our husband (wife) will be hung without a jury.  And even if we don’t say anything to him about it, we will have an edge to our voice, we will have resentment in our heart, because in some odd, twisted way we believe what our mind has made up.

Advice for staying married:

Be Forthright – our brains have a need to fill in the gaps.  Do not leave information out or your spouse will fill in the blanks with all matter of possible negatives.  Because in his/her mind, if it were positive – you would have shared it!

Extend Grace – do your very best to think positive thoughts of your spouse, until given concrete evidence, even if you have a history. If there has been progress-extend grace, as much as possible.  Study Exodus 11-17, take note of the forgetful, grumbling, ungrateful Israelites and their persistent, merciful, grace-filled God who continued to lead and provide and did not strike them down.

Empathize. How would my spouse respond to me if the circumstances were reversed?  Does he/she have a different love language or personality style?  Is this conflict a misunderstanding due to our differences versus a conscious breach of trust?

Do something you don’t like to do JUST because your spouse likes it.  This goes a long way to show that you care about her and you are willing to sacrifice on her behalf.

Talk it out.  When there is a cloud of doubt, talk it out.  Ladies, this does not mean ‘whenever’ you feel like it.  Your husband may process things differently than you and may need some time to go to his man-cave to let off steam or to process.  But as you pray you will sense a leading to know when to bring up the soreness and humbly approach your husband.  Men, don’t just stuff it and move on!  Your wife needs to know that you care!  How will she know if you seem like it is ‘no big deal’ – that translates to her that SHE is no big deal.  Talk it out.  Seek first to understand the other person’s perspective and then seek to have your side understood.  Be sure to engage in genuine empathic listening and to reflect what you are hearing.

Pray – there is no greater marital strength than prayer.  I know there is evidence of marriages that make it without prayer, but I know from first hand experience that prayer has been the most powerful ingredient to bring joy and cohesion than any other element in our marriage.

My prayer for you:  Lord, thank you for your provision and leading to pair imperfect people in the perfect way.  Thank you that you use the good and the bad for your glory, and help us to rely more on your strength than our own weakness.  Lord, I ask that you bless each marriage represented by each reader and their extended families.  I ask that you impart humility and grace upon the hearts and minds of each spouse and that your Holy Spirit will unite these loved ones and that you will provide a protective Shield over each marriage keeping the enemy at bay and your powerful grace-filled, love at the center of their hearts and mind’s for each other. Lord, I also believe with those who are estranged from their spouse, that you are able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine – fill each one with faith and hope in You. Amen.

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Wide Waist Warning

Unfortunately, a wide waist is not just bad for your belly’s belt line, and your self-image: research shows it is hazardous to your brain.

University of Michigan scientists studied 1350 people and found that those with the thickest middles were 90 percent more likely to have mental-processing slowdowns and memory gaps than those with the slimmest waistlines.

French researchers gave word recall tests to over 2200 women and men, aged 30 to early 60s and then repeated the test ten years later.  The people with the wide waistlines performed 35 percent worse than those who were svelte.

Kaiser Permanente researchers in Oakland, California tracked the health of more than 6,000 adults for 30 years and found that those who had the biggest waists in middle age were 65 percent more likely to develop dementia 30 years later than those with trimmest waists.

Take Action:

Get moving

Add strength-training

Banish bad fats

Add good fats

Eat more fiber and fewer refined carbohydrates

Soothe stress

For more information, see No More Brain Drain, Proven Ways to Maintain Your Mind and Memories by Reader’s Digest.

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