Thursday, December 31, 2009

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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My Desires and God's Will When Should I Deny Them? When Should I Affirm them?

Malcolm hated his job as much as anyone I've known. Though many would find house painting enjoyable, to him it was just a means of paying the rent. He sat slumped in the chair across from my desk, bemoaning his lot.

Yet Malcolm was a Christian who wanted God's will. So I stopped him and asked, “If God rolled out the red carpet and said you could be in any career you wished, which would it be?”

He didn't have to think long. He shot back, “I'd like to be an English teacher.”

Malcolm had two years of college behind him. I was confident he could go back, finish and find a job in the public school system. So I said, “You're young enough to do it. Why don't you pursue teaching with all the passion and energy you can muster?”

His reply was unforgettable. “I know that God doesn't want me teaching. I'd enjoy the experience too much. And the affirmation of students would be more than I could handle.” Then he added the clincher: He was certain God wanted him painting houses, for he thoroughly disliked his work!

An extreme example, unquestionably. Yet it reflects a pattern of thinking that I've often observed in Christians and sometimes have fallen into myself. It's the notion that being in God's will means by definition choosing to do something unpleasant. God wouldn't possibly want you in a career that you find enjoyable, it's assumed, for unhealthy aspirations would surely get in the way.

Actually, I know of an example even more extreme than Malcolm's. A student about to graduate from Princeton Seminary decided to enroll in medical school. When an astonished professor asked him why he made this atypical choice, he replied that after considering all the alternatives, he found medical work the least appealing. He concluded, then, that this must be the profession God wanted him to enter.

Instincts Good and Bad

It's not hard to understand how Malcolm and the seminary graduate reached their conclusions about God's will. Scripture has plenty to say about the dangers of trusting our gut instincts. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” Jeremiah declares (Jer 17:9 NIV).

Perhaps the most notorious biblical example of the heart's deceit is David's attraction to Bathsheba. David was so devoted to the Lord that he is held up throughout Scripture as the ideal of a godly person. Yet he not only committed adultery but murder because of his enchantment with this woman. I suspect that David may well have rationalized his actions as being in God's will. Since his feelings for Bathsheba were so strong, he may have thought that God was prompting him through them to do something that he never would have considered in a less-crazed moment.

There was another occasion when David followed his natural impulses and got into trouble. He took a census of Israel. David's action was so repugnant to God that he punished the nation with a ravaging plague (1 Chron 21).

We might conclude from such examples that we're always on shaky ground to follow the instincts of the heart. Yet David demonstrates another and very important side to the story. His call from God to be king of Israel placed him in a role that he thoroughly enjoyed. He found military life stimulating, he thrived on making administrative decisions, and he cherished the opportunity to be a spiritual leader of the people. David did not in any way think of his position as--to use the modern and not quite biblical term--“a sacrificial vocation.” While there were plenty of sacrifices to be made within the position, he relished the role itself.

I'm certain that David's remarkable effectiveness as king was due in large part to the fact that he enjoyed his work so much. Because the job reflected his temperament so well, he was able to pour his full creative energies into it. Saul, his predecessor, had considerably less aspiration to be king (1 Sam 9:21, 10:21-22). His performance in that role was also much less impressive.

The Importance of Motivation

Think back over your life for a moment. Who have been the teachers who had the greatest impact on you? How about the pastors or spiritual leaders? I'm willing to guess it has been the ones who found the greatest enjoyment in their work.

I attended several different churches growing up but was never greatly influenced by any of their pastors or teachers. Many of them seemed possessed with a grim sense of duty and showed little zest for life. I wanted no part of such dreariness. When I began attending Fourth Presbyterian Church in college, the atmosphere was strikingly different. Those on the pastoral staff were exuberant and took obvious pleasure in their work. Their enthusiasm was stimulating, and my spiritual life grew by leaps and bounds.

Those who have been the greatest help to me have almost always been ones who enjoyed their work. Over a lifetime, we will each likely find that we most help others, and do our best work for Christ, when it's a reflection of what we most want to do.

The Positive Role of Desire in Scripture

While Scripture has plenty to say about the evils of the desires of the flesh, it also brings out another and deeply encouraging aspect of human desire that has received far too little emphasis in Christian teaching. It proclaims that God himself creates certain desires within us who follow Christ in order to guide us in certain directions.

In Psalm 139 David talks specifically about God's guidance in his life and how it relates to his own aspirations. He declares, “For you created my inmost being” (v. 13 NIV). The term “inmost being”--literally, “kidneys”--was the most significant word the Hebrews had for indicating the personality. David is saying that God has given him a unique temperament. This meant that God had put within him the inclination to enjoy certain work and roles. In speaking about himself, David conveyed a truth that applies to all people.

Paul makes a similar point specifically about Christians in Philippians 2:12-13, though our English translations often miss the full impact of his language. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work within you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (RSV). Paul urges us here to make responsible decisions--to work out the implications of the salvation that we already possess. We should make careful decisions that accord with God's will.

We are able to do this, Paul goes on to explain, because God is working within us to see that we carry out his will. Twice in the passage he uses the verb work, which in the Greek is energeo--the root of our word energy. Paul is literally saying, then, “God is energizing you.” God is giving us motivation to do what he wants us to do!

Motivation and the Holy Spirit

Scripture pictures this process of energizing as one of the chief functions of the Holy Spirit. Jesus implied this when he termed the Holy Spirit a “counselor” (Jn 14:16). The Greek term meant a military official responsible for giving fresh courage and inspiration to soldiers who had lost heart in the heat of battle.

Interestingly, the most common role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is that of a motivator. When the Holy Spirit comes upon individuals, he gives them passion and fire to do what God is calling them to do--a far cry from the placid understanding of the Holy Spirit emphasized in much teaching today and in so many of our hymns.

We should expect, then, that if God is leading us to make a major commitment of our lives, he'll give us some passion for what we're undertaking. We'll be motivated for the task. There's something neurotically misplaced about the notion that we ought to follow the alternative we least desire.

Healthy Self-Denial

But how does this possibly reconcile with the frequent biblical admonitions to deny our desires? Part of the answer lies in the quality of our walk with Christ. If I'm taking my relationship with Christ seriously and making an effort to grow spiritually, I can be confident that many of my desires are being inspired by him. I can trust, too, that many desires that I would otherwise experience are not coming to the surface.

This is only part of the answer, however. There is also a rule of thumb which is extremely important to understand. To best explain this, it helps to use the term vocation in its original Reformation sense. Luther and Calvin used vocation to mean not only one's profession but any major commitment or status in a person's life. In their understanding, not only is my job a vocation, but also my family relationship, my involvement with my church, and any other significant investment of my time and energy.

With this in mind, here is a principle that should govern most of our major decisions as Christians: A decision for a vocation should be based as much as possible upon our personal desires. We ought to read them as a vital sign of how God has made us and wants us to direct our energies for Christ. But in the day-to-day decisions made within vocations, we should deny ourselves in every way necessary to be an effective servant to others and to faithfully fulfill our responsibilities. In this case, then, self-denial takes place within our areas of motivation rather than outside of them.

Desires and Major Decisions

When Paul speaks about the vocation of marriage, for instance, he stresses that much personal sacrifice and discipline are needed to be an effective spouse and parent (Eph 5:21-6:4). Yet he also insists that we should marry only if our desire for marriage is strong (1 Cor 7). So self-denial occurs within an area of life where we truly want to be.

Or consider Paul's teaching on the qualifications for a spiritual leader. In 1 Timothy 3 he notes many marks of self-denial and discipline needed by an effective “bishop,” or spiritual shepherd. Yet often overlooked is the fact that he begins his instructions saying, “If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task” (v. 1 RSV, emphasis added). Paul simply assumes that the good spiritual leader will be strongly motivated for the role. Self-denial takes place within that overriding desire.

This same principle applies to other vocations we enter as Christians, to the extent that God allows us freedom of choice. We should follow our desires in choosing them, then deny our desires as necessary to faithfully carry them out.

This isn't to overlook the challenge often involved in determining what our most significant desires are. Considerable prayer, counsel and experimenting may be needed to understand them. Yet as we come to recognize which desires are deepest and most consistent within us, we gain a treasured window into how God has fashioned our life. As he allows us freedom of choice, we should make vocational choices that respect this insight.

God has made your life to be a gift to others. And a cheerful giver gives the best gift!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The EQ Factor

October 2, 1995

The EQ Factor

New brain research suggests that emotions, not IQ, may be the true measure of human intelligence


It turns out that a scientist can see the future by watching four-year-olds interact with a marshmallow. The researcher invites the children, one by one, into a plain room and begins the gentle torment. You can have this marshmallow right now, he says. But if you wait while I run an errand, you can have two marshmallows when I get back. And then he leaves.

Some children grab for the treat the minute he's out the door. Some last a few minutes before they give in. But others are determined to wait. They cover their eyes; they put their heads down; they sing to themselves; they try to play games or even fall asleep. When the researcher returns, he gives these children their hard-earned marshmallows. And then, science waits for them to grow up.

By the time the children reach high school, something remarkable has happened. A survey of the children's parents and teachers found that those who as four-year-olds had the fortitude to hold out for the second marshmallow generally grew up to be better adjusted, more popular, adventurous, confident and dependable teenagers. The children who gave in to temptation early on were more likely to be lonely, easily frustrated and stubborn. They buckled under stress and shied away from challenges. And when some of the students in the two groups took the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the kids who had held out longer scored an average of 210 points higher.

When we think of brilliance we see Einstein, deep-eyed, woolly haired, a thinking machine with skin and mismatched socks. High achievers, we imagine, were wired for greatness from birth. But then you have to wonder why, over time, natural talent seems to ignite in some people and dim in others. This is where the marshmallows come in. It seems that the ability to delay gratification is a master skill, a triumph of the reasoning brain over the impulsive one. It is a sign, in short, of emotional intelligence. And it doesn't show up on an IQ test.

For most of this century, scientists have worshipped the hardware of the brain and the software of the mind; the messy powers of the heart were left to the poets. But cognitive theory could simply not explain the questions we wonder about most: why some people just seem to have a gift for living well; why the smartest kid in the class will probably not end up the richest; why we like some people virtually on sight and distrust others; why some people remain buoyant in the face of troubles that would sink a less resilient soul. What qualities of the mind or spirit, in short, determine who succeeds?

The phrase "emotional intelligence" was coined by Yale psychologist Peter Salovey and the University of New Hampshire's John Mayer five years ago to describe qualities like understanding one's own feelings, empathy for the feelings of others and "the regulation of emotion in a way that enhances living." Their notion is about to bound into the national conversation, handily shortened to EQ, thanks to a new book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam; $23.95) by Daniel Goleman. Goleman, a Harvard psychology Ph.D. and a New York Times science writer with a gift for making even the chewiest scientific theories digestible to lay readers, has brought together a decade's worth of behavioral research into how the mind processes feelings. His goal, he announces on the cover, is to redefine what it means to be smart. His thesis: when it comes to predicting people's success, brainpower as measured by IQ and standardized achievement tests may actually matter less than the qualities of mind once thought of as "character" before the word began to sound quaint.

At first glance, there would seem to be little that's new here to any close reader of fortune cookies. There may be no less original idea than the notion that our hearts hold dominion over our heads. "I was so angry," we say, "I couldn't think straight." Neither is it surprising that "people skills" are useful, which amounts to saying, it's good to be nice. "It's so true it's trivial," says Dr. Paul McHugh, director of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But if it were that simple, the book would not be quite so interesting or its implications so controversial.

This is no abstract investigation. Goleman is looking for antidotes to restore "civility to our streets and caring to our communal life." He sees practical applications everywhere for how companies should decide whom to hire, how couples can increase the odds that their marriages will last, how parents should raise their children and how schools should teach them. When street gangs substitute for families and schoolyard insults end in stabbings, when more than half of marriages end in divorce, when the majority of the children murdered in this country are killed by parents and stepparents, many of whom say they were trying to discipline the child for behavior like blocking the TV or crying too much, it suggests a demand for remedial emotional education. While children are still young, Goleman argues, there is a "neurological window of opportunity" since the brain's prefrontal circuitry, which regulates how we act on what we feel, probably does not mature until mid-adolescence.

And it is here the arguments will break out. Goleman's highly popularized conclusions, says McHugh, "will chill any veteran scholar of psychotherapy and any neuroscientist who worries about how his research may come to be applied." While many researchers in this relatively new field are glad to see emotional issues finally taken seriously, they fear that a notion as handy as EQ invites misuse. Goleman admits the danger of suggesting that you can assign a numerical yardstick to a person's character as well as his intellect; Goleman never even uses the phrase EQ in his book. But he (begrudgingly) approved an "unscientific" EQ test in USA Today with choices like "I am aware of even subtle feelings as I have them," and "I can sense the pulse of a group or relationship and state unspoken feelings."

"You don't want to take an average of your emotional skill," argues Harvard psychology professor Jerome Kagan, a pioneer in child-development research. "That's what's wrong with the concept of intelligence for mental skills too. Some people handle anger well but can't handle fear. Some people can't take joy. So each emotion has to be viewed differently."

EQ is not the opposite of IQ. Some people are blessed with a lot of both, some with little of either. What researchers have been trying to understand is how they complement each other; how one's ability to handle stress, for instance, affects the ability to concentrate and put intelligence to use. Among the ingredients for success, researchers now generally agree that IQ counts for about 20%; the rest depends on everything from class to luck to the neural pathways that have developed in the brain over millions of years of human evolution.

It is actually the neuroscientists and evolutionists who do the best job of explaining the reasons behind the most unreasonable behavior. In the past decade or so, scientists have learned enough about the brain to make judgments about where emotion comes from and why we need it. Primitive emotional responses held the keys to survival: fear drives the blood into the large muscles, making it easier to run; surprise triggers the eyebrows to rise, allowing the eyes to widen their view and gather more information about an unexpected event. Disgust wrinkles up the face and closes the nostrils to keep out foul smells.

Emotional life grows out of an area of the brain called the limbic system, specifically the amygdala, whence come delight and disgust and fear and anger. Millions of years ago, the neocortex was added on, enabling humans to plan, learn and remember. Lust grows from the limbic system; love, from the neocortex. Animals like reptiles that have no neocortex cannot experience anything like maternal love; this is why baby snakes have to hide to avoid being eaten by their parents. Humans, with their capacity for love, will protect their offspring, allowing the brains of the young time to develop. The more connections between the limbic system and the neocortex, the more emotional responses are possible.

It was scientists like Joseph LeDoux of New York University who uncovered these cerebral pathways. LeDoux's parents owned a meat market. As a boy in Louisiana, he first learned about his future specialty by cutting up cows' brains for sweetbreads. "I found them the most interesting part of the cow's anatomy," he recalls. "They were visually pleasing--lots of folds, convolutions and patterns. The cerebellum was more interesting to look at than steak." The butchers' son became a neuroscientist, and it was he who discovered the short circuit in the brain that lets emotions drive action before the intellect gets a chance to intervene.

A hiker on a mountain path, for example, sees a long, curved shape in the grass out of the corner of his eye. He leaps out of the way before he realizes it is only a stick that looks like a snake. Then he calms down; his cortex gets the message a few milliseconds after his amygdala and "regulates" its primitive response.

Without these emotional reflexes, rarely conscious but often terribly powerful, we would scarcely be able to function. "Most decisions we make have a vast number of possible outcomes, and any attempt to analyze all of them would never end," says University of Iowa neurologist Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain. "I'd ask you to lunch tomorrow, and when the appointed time arrived, you'd still be thinking about whether you should come." What tips the balance, Damasio contends, is our unconscious assigning of emotional values to some of those choices. Whether we experience a somatic response--a gut feeling of dread or a giddy sense of elation--emotions are helping to limit the field in any choice we have to make. If the prospect of lunch with a neurologist is unnerving or distasteful, Damasio suggests, the invitee will conveniently remember a previous engagement.

When Damasio worked with patients in whom the connection between emotional brain and neocortex had been severed because of damage to the brain, he discovered how central that hidden pathway is to how we live our lives. People who had lost that linkage were just as smart and quick to reason, but their lives often fell apart nonetheless. They could not make decisions because they didn't know how they felt about their choices. They couldn't react to warnings or anger in other people. If they made a mistake, like a bad investment, they felt no regret or shame and so were bound to repeat it.

If there is a cornerstone to emotional intelligence on which most other emotional skills depend, it is a sense of self-awareness, of being smart about what we feel. A person whose day starts badly at home may be grouchy all day at work without quite knowing why. Once an emotional response comes into awareness--or, physiologically, is processed through the neocortex--the chances of handling it appropriately improve. Scientists refer to "metamood," the ability to pull back and recognize that "what I'm feeling is anger," or sorrow, or shame.

Metamood is a difficult skill because emotions so often appear in disguise. A person in mourning may know he is sad, but he may not recognize that he is also angry at the person for dying--because this seems somehow inappropriate. A parent who yells at the child who ran into the street is expressing anger at disobedience, but the degree of anger may owe more to the fear the parent feels at what could have happened.

In Goleman's analysis, self-awareness is perhaps the most crucial ability because it allows us to exercise some self-control. The idea is not to repress feeling (the reaction that has made psychoanalysts rich) but rather to do what Aristotle considered the hard work of the will. "Anyone can become angry--that is easy," he wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics. "But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way--this is not easy."

Some impulses seem to be easier to control than others. Anger, not surprisingly, is one of the hardest, perhaps because of its evolutionary value in priming people to action. Researchers believe anger usually arises out of a sense of being trespassed against--the belief that one is being robbed of what is rightfully his. The body's first response is a surge of energy, the release of a cascade of neurotransmitters called catecholamines. If a person is already aroused or under stress, the threshold for release is lower, which helps explain why people's tempers shorten during a hard day. Scientists are not only discovering where anger comes from; they are also exposing myths about how best to handle it. Popular wisdom argues for "letting it all hang out" and having a good cathartic rant. But Goleman cites studies showing that dwelling on anger actually increases its power; the body needs a chance to process the adrenaline through exercise, relaxation techniques, a well-timed intervention or even the old admonition to count to 10.

Anxiety serves a similar useful purpose, so long as it doesn't spin out of control. Worrying is a rehearsal for danger; the act of fretting focuses the mind on a problem so it can search efficiently for solutions. The danger comes when worrying blocks thinking, becoming an end in itself or a path to resignation instead of perseverance. Overworrying about failing increases the likelihood of failure; a salesman so concerned about his falling sales that he can't bring himself to pick up the phone guarantees that his sales will fall even further.

But why are some people better able to "snap out of it" and get on with the task at hand? Again, given sufficient self-awareness, people develop coping mechanisms. Sadness and discouragement, for instance, are "low arousal" states, and the dispirited salesman who goes out for a run is triggering a high arousal state that is incompatible with staying blue. Relaxation works better for high-energy moods like anger or anxiety. Either way, the idea is to shift to a state of arousal that breaks the destructive cycle of the dominant mood.

The idea of being able to predict which salesmen are most likely to prosper was not an abstraction for Metropolitan Life, which in the mid-'80s was hiring 5,000 salespeople a year and training them at a cost of more than $30,000 each. Half quit the first year, and four out of five within four years. The reason: selling life insurance involves having the door slammed in your face over and over again. Was it possible to identify which people would be better at handling frustration and take each refusal as a challenge rather than a setback?

The head of the company approached psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania and invited him to test some of his theories about the importance of optimism in people's success. When optimists fail, he has found, they attribute the failure to something they can change, not some innate weakness that they are helpless to overcome. And that confidence in their power to effect change is self-reinforcing. Seligman tracked 15,000 new workers who had taken two tests. One was the company's regular screening exam, the other Seligman's test measuring their levels of optimism. Among the new hires was a group who flunked the screening test but scored as "superoptimists" on Seligman's exam. And sure enough, they did the best of all; they outsold the pessimists in the regular group by 21% in the first year and 57% in the second. For years after that, passing Seligman's test was one way to get hired as a MetLife salesperson.

Perhaps the most visible emotional skills, the ones we recognize most readily, are the "people skills" like empathy, graciousness, the ability to read a social situation. Researchers believe that about 90% of emotional communication is nonverbal. Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal developed the PONS test (Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity) to measure people's ability to read emotional cues. He shows subjects a film of a young woman expressing feelings--anger, love, jealousy, gratitude, seduction--edited so that one or another nonverbal cue is blanked out. In some instances the face is visible but not the body, or the woman's eyes are hidden, so that viewers have to judge the feeling by subtle cues. Once again, people with higher PONS scores tend to be more successful in their work and relationships; children who score well are more popular and successful in school, even when their IQs are quite average.

Like other emotional skills, empathy is an innate quality that can be shaped by experience. Infants as young as three months old exhibit empathy when they get upset at the sound of another baby crying. Even very young children learn by imitation; by watching how others act when they see someone in distress, these children acquire a repertoire of sensitive responses. If, on the other hand, the feelings they begin to express are not recognized and reinforced by the adults around them, they not only cease to express those feelings but they also become less able to recognize them in themselves or others.

Empathy too can be seen as a survival skill. Bert Cohler, a University of Chicago psychologist, and Fran Stott, dean of the Erikson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development in Chicago, have found that children from psychically damaged families frequently become hypervigilant, developing an intense attunement to their parents' moods. One child they studied, Nicholas, had a horrible habit of approaching other kids in his nursery-school class as if he were going to kiss them, then would bite them instead. The scientists went back to study videos of Nicholas at 20 months interacting with his psychotic mother and found that she had responded to his every expression of anger or independence with compulsive kisses. The researchers dubbed them "kisses of death," and their true significance was obvious to Nicholas, who arched his back in horror at her approaching lips--and passed his own rage on to his classmates years later.

Empathy also acts as a buffer to cruelty, and it is a quality conspicuously lacking in child molesters and psychopaths. Goleman cites some chilling research into brutality by Robert Hare, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. Hare found that psychopaths, when hooked up to electrodes and told they are going to receive a shock, show none of the visceral responses that fear of pain typically triggers: rapid heartbeat, sweating and so on. How could the threat of punishment deter such people from committing crimes?

It is easy to draw the obvious lesson from these test results. How much happier would we be, how much more successful as individuals and civil as a society, if we were more alert to the importance of emotional intelligence and more adept at teaching it? From kindergartens to business schools to corporations across the country, people are taking seriously the idea that a little more time spent on the "touchy-feely" skills so often derided may in fact pay rich dividends.

In the corporate world, according to personnel executives, IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted. Goleman likes to tell of a manager at AT&T's Bell Labs, a think tank for brilliant engineers in New Jersey, who was asked to rank his top performers. They weren't the ones with the highest IQs; they were the ones whose E-mail got answered. Those workers who were good collaborators and networkers and popular with colleagues were more likely to get the cooperation they needed to reach their goals than the socially awkward, lone-wolf geniuses.

When David Campbell and others at the Center for Creative Leadership studied "derailed executives," the rising stars who flamed out, the researchers found that these executives failed most often because of "an interpersonal flaw" rather than a technical inability. Interviews with top executives in the U.S. and Europe turned up nine so-called fatal flaws, many of them classic emotional failings, such as "poor working relations," being "authoritarian" or "too ambitious" and having "conflict with upper management."

At the center's executive-leadership seminars across the country, managers come to get emotionally retooled. "This isn't sensitivity training or Sunday-supplement stuff," says Campbell. "One thing they know when they get through is what other people think of them."

And the executives have an incentive to listen. Says Karen Boylston, director of the center's team-leadership group: "Customers are telling businesses, 'I don't care if every member of your staff graduated with honors from Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. I will take my business and go where I am understood and treated with respect.' "

Nowhere is the discussion of emotional intelligence more pressing than in schools, where both the stakes and the opportunities seem greatest. Instead of constant crisis intervention, or declarations of war on drug abuse or teen pregnancy or violence, it is time, Goleman argues, for preventive medicine. "Five years ago, teachers didn't want to think about this," says principal Roberta Kirshbaum of P.S. 75 in New York City. "But when kids are getting killed in high school, we have to deal with it." Five years ago, Kirshbaum's school adopted an emotional literacy program, designed to help children learn to manage anger, frustration, loneliness. Since then, fights at lunchtime have decreased from two or three a day to almost none.

Educators can point to all sorts of data to support this new direction. Students who are depressed or angry literally cannot learn. Children who have trouble being accepted by their classmates are 2 to 8 times as likely to drop out. An inability to distinguish distressing feelings or handle frustration has been linked to eating disorders in girls.

Many school administrators are completely rethinking the weight they have been giving to traditional lessons and standardized tests. Peter Relic, president of the National Association of Independent Schools, would like to junk the SAT completely. "Yes, it may cost a heck of a lot more money to assess someone's EQ rather than using a machine-scored test to measure IQ," he says. "But if we don't, then we're saying that a test score is more important to us than who a child is as a human being. That means an immense loss in terms of human potential because we've defined success too narrowly."

This warm embrace by educators has left some scientists in a bind. On one hand, says Yale psychologist Salovey, "I love the idea that we want to teach people a richer understanding of their emotional life, to help them achieve their goals." But, he adds, "what I would oppose is training conformity to social expectations." The danger is that any campaign to hone emotional skills in children will end up teaching that there is a "right" emotional response for any given situation--laugh at parades, cry at funerals, sit still at church. "You can teach self-control," says Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "You can teach that it's better to talk out your anger and not use violence. But is it good emotional intelligence not to challenge authority?"

Some psychologists go further and challenge the very idea that emotional skills can or should be taught in any kind of formal, classroom way. Goleman's premise that children can be trained to analyze their feelings strikes Johns Hopkins' McHugh as an effort to reinvent the encounter group: "I consider that an abominable idea, an idea we have seen with adults. That failed, and now he wants to try it with children? Good grief!" He cites the description in Goleman's book of an experimental program at the Nueva Learning Center in San Francisco. In one scene, two fifth-grade boys start to argue over the rules of an exercise, and the teacher breaks in to ask them to talk about what they're feeling. "I appreciate the way you're being assertive in talking with Tucker," she says to one student. "You're not attacking." This strikes McHugh as pure folly. "The author is presuming that someone has the key to the right emotions to be taught to children. We don't even know the right emotions to be taught to adults. Do you really think a child of eight or nine really understands the difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness?"

The problem may be that there is an ingredient missing. Emotional skills, like intellectual ones, are morally neutral. Just as a genius could use his intellect either to cure cancer or engineer a deadly virus, someone with great empathic insight could use it to inspire colleagues or exploit them. Without a moral compass to guide people in how to employ their gifts, emotional intelligence can be used for good or evil. Columbia University psychologist Walter Mischel, who invented the marshmallow test and others like it, observes that the knack for delaying gratification that makes a child one marshmallow richer can help him become a better citizen or--just as easily--an even more brilliant criminal.

Given the passionate arguments that are raging over the state of moral instruction in this country, it is no wonder Goleman chose to focus more on neutral emotional skills than on the values that should govern their use. That's another book--and another debate.

Extracted from

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Be egalitarianism in people but an elitism in ideas

Only in biblical terms do we see how God is able to humble each of us without humiliating us and to elevate all of us without flattering any of us. The West today lives off the capital of the Christian faith without realizing it. The work ethic of the West and the belief in the dignity of labor are biblically based. And the same equality applies in matters of race and gender, two turbulent conflicts of our time.

Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, elaborates on this marvelous truth of equality that retains a difference. He demonstrates that in -God's economy there is egalitarianism in people but an elitism in ideas. By that he means the equality of all humanity but the inequality of ides. While human beings am equal, ideas are not By contrast, in the world's way of doing things we have created an elitism among people and an egalitarianism of ideas: We have made some people superior to others and rendered all ideas equal. The end result has been the exploitation of people and the death of truth. And that is why we have an epidemic of evil that denudes people but fights fix ideas.

Extracted from Ravi Zacharias' Deliver Us from Evil.

10 year old inspires adults at D.C. Mayor Barry's prayer breakfast

At the 1995 Mayoral Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., ten year old Ashley Danielle Oubré, delivered a memorable speech that brought the audience to its feet in two standing ovations. The brief mind-stirring text follows.
Good morning, Mayor Barry, platform guests, ladies, and gentlemen. I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the leadership of the greatest city in the world on behalf of the children. I wondered what I would say to you when I was first asked if I would make a presentation. Being young limits the experience you have in most areas, but not as being a child.

Jesus said, “Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the kingdom.” When I think about my friends, who are all young people like myself, many things come to mind.

If you would like to be a child in God's kingdom, I will share some of what we think about and do.

Children play together, have lots of fun, and sometimes fight, but the very next day we make up and play again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, neighbors and our leaders would be more that way? It hurts us when we see you fighting and not making up.

When you tell us something, we believe it, and we don’t ask many questions. We have faith and trust in you until we grow up and find it's really not that way with adults. I think you tell us Bible stories because we are children. The Bible stories do us a lot of good, but you don’t tell each other Bible stories. Are they only good for children?

You teach us that when we have a problem, we should talk it out with others and with Jesus. You say that we should pray about it and keep our hearts right for Jesus. You say that Jesus can solve all of our problems, both big and small. But we notice, when people get older and have problems, they are embarrassed to talk like that among themselves. We wonder if you really mean it, or is Jesus only for kids? I am still young enough to believe that Jesus knows how to solve my problems, the problems of the city, and of the world. I hope I never grow old enough to stop believing and that you all become like children in search of God's kingdom.

Thank you very much for listening to me. God bless you all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

How Millionaire Athletes Go Broke

On, Pablo S. Torre wades deep into the waters of players going broke and comes up with all kinds of interesting specifics.

Whatever the percentage, certainly too many millionaire athletes end up broke. One of the themes, of course, is trusting the wrong financial people. And players are surrounded by people, from a young age, who want to invest their money for them. Would the best and most reputable financial advisors, I often wonder, invest time and energy getting close to athletes? If you get great results managing people's money, you wouldn't need to go to all that trouble. I suspect that a good portion of those who target this market are those whose businesses rely on people with deep pockets and a lack of financial sophistication.

Magic Johnson -- widely seen as a shining example of handling his money well -- tells Torre some of the lessons he dispenses.

"That's the killer," Magic Johnson says. Johnson started out by admitting he knew nothing about business and seeking counsel from the power brokers who sat courtside at the old L.A. Forum, men such as Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz and Sony Pictures CEO Peter Guber. Now, Johnson says, he gets calls from star players "every day" -- Alex Rodriguez, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, Plaxico Burress -- and cuts them short if they propose relying on friends and family. "It won't even be a conversation," says Johnson. "They hire these people not because of expertise but because they're friends. Well, they'll fail."

Says [Torii] Hunter, "They'll say, 'I got this guy, a cousin who's an accountant.' But he's usually an accountant in the 'hood. You hire him, you're doing him a favor."

[Former NBA player Erick] Strickland realized that all too late. In 2001, when a "friend of a close friend" of the nine-year NBA vet proposed a real-estate deal in Georgia, Strickland turned to his business manager: his dad, Matthew, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. The paperwork on the plot of land, which was on sale for $1.8 million but supposedly had been appraised at as much as $3 million, appeared legitimate, and Strickland bought it. "I trusted my father to help look it over for me because I was hooping and didn't have time," Erick says. "He checked it out. But he didn't go that extra length."

The land wasn't worth anything close to what Strickland was told. "I had to take that hit," he says. "I wish my dad hadn't been put in that position. He just didn't have the knowledge." As for his close friend? Strickland says the man secretly got a cut of the deal, and the conflict caused a permanent "falling out" between them.

Relatives are not the only ones foolishly trusted with athletes' money. One up-and-coming guard in the NBA allows his entire fortune to be managed by his former AAU coach, who has the player's power of attorney. In a meeting with Butowsky in December, the guard's dad admitted that he has no idea who the son's accountant is and said he wanted a financial "intervention."

That last paragraph is, to me, wholly shocking. I mean, I understand that players don't want to take the time to manage their money.

But there's no need to give anyone power of attorney.

As a drastic example of extreme simplicity, you could, in about five minutes online, set up automatic investments in some low-fee very broad index funds. You might not hit a home run, and you might miss out on some tax trickery. But that's a small price to pay to spend very little time watching anything, and to be in control of your money without having to trust anybody who could swindle you.

As comes clear in this article, is that they seek risky investments. Rather than boring mutual funds or bonds, it's all about private equity investments in startups and risky land deals. Those are high-risk even for sophisticated investors.

(Read the whole article. From devices that make your furniture float in a flood, to mouthguards that make your brain work better -- athletes have invested in it all.)

Another costly error many athletes make is having all kinds of relationship troubles. From child support payments, to divorces, some kinds of athlete lifestyles can prove to be extremely expensive.

One thing that comes up is pre-nuptial agreements, which are not very common in the NBA -- but Dikembe Mutombo is said to have called off his wedding at the very last minute, at tremendous cost, when his then fiancee wouldn't sign one.

The Present Crisis

    [Written in 1844, this poem provided inspiration for the leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. When deciding on a name for their new publication in 1910 they agreed that the name of their magazine should be The Crisis.]

    WHEN a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth's aching breast
    Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
    And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb
    To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
    Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.

    Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
    When the travail of the Ages wrings earth's systems to and fro;
    At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
    Nation wildly looks at a nation, standing with mute lips apart,
    And glad Truth's yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future's heart.

    So the Evil's triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
    Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
    And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
    In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
    Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.

    For mankind are one in sprit, and an instinct bears along,
    Round the earth's electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
    Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity's vast frame
    Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;-
    In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.

    Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
    Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
    And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.

    Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,
    Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?
    Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet 't is Truth alone is strong,
    And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng
    Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.

    Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,
    That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion's sea;
    Not an ear in court or market for the low foreboding cry
    Of those Crises, God's stern winnowers, from whose feet earth's chaff must fly;
    Never shows the choice momentous till the judgement hath passed by.

    Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record
    One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;
    Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,-
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

    We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
    Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn this iron helm of fate,
    But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's din,
    List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,-
    "They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin."

    Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,
    Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,
    Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
    Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;-
    Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?

    Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
    Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 't is prosperous to be just;
    Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
    Doubting in his abject sprit, till his Lord is crucified,
    And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

    Count me o'er the earth's chosen heroes,- they were souls that stood alone,
    While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,
    Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline
    To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
    By one man's plain truth to manhood and to God's supreme design.

    By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I track,
    Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,
    And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
    One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned
    Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.

    For Humanity sweeps onward: where today the martyr stands,
    On the morrow, crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
    Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,
    While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return
    To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.

    'Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
    Of a legendary virtue carved upon our father's graves,
    Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;-
    Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?
    Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that make Plymouth Rock sublime?

    They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,
    Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past's;
    But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,
    Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee
    The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.

    They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,
    Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom's new-lit altar-fires;
    Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
    From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away
    To light up the martry-fagots round the prophet of today?

    New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
    They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
    Lo, before us gleam her campfires? We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
    Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
    Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted key.

    James Russell Lowell


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-P.B. Shelly

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A thought about 2 Cor 6:14 application

A more difficult case is presented by a text such as 2 Corinthians 6:14,"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." Traditionally this text has been interpreted as forbidding marriage between a Christian and non-Christian. However, the metaphor of a yoke is rarely used in antiquity to refer to marriage, and there is nothing whatever in the context that remotely allows marriage to be in view here.

Our problem is that we cannot be certain as to what the original text is forbidding. Most likely it has something to do with idolatry, perhaps as a further prohibition of attendance at the idol feasts (cf. 1 Cor. 10:14-22). Can we not, therefore, legitimately "extend" the principle of this text, since we cannot be sure of its original meaning? Probably so, but again, only because it is indeed a biblical principle that can be sustained from apart this single text.

Extracted from How to read the Bible for all its worth, 2nd edition - Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hounds of Sins

A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the hunt, told me the following story. "Rising early one morning," he said, "I heard the barking of a number of dogs chasing deer. Looking at a large open field in front of me, I saw a young fawn making its way across the field and giving signs that its race was almost run. It leaped over the rails of the enclosed place and crouched within ten feet of where I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, and the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round, fought off the dogs. Just then I felt that all the dogs in the West could not and would not capture that fawn after its weakness had appealed to my strength." So is it, when human helplessness appeals to Almighty God. I remember well, when the hounds of sin were after my soul, that at last I ran into the arms of Almighty God. -A. C. Dixon

Extracted from E.M. Bounds' Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

What Would Your Painting Be Like?

Willi Ossa was an artist who worked as a janitor at night in a church on New York's West Side to support his wife and infant daughter. During the day he painted. German by birth, Willi grew up during the war years and then mar­ried an American girl, the daughter of an officer in the occupying army. I got to know Willi when I was a theologi­cal student working at the same church as an assistant pastor.

Willi liked to talk about religion; I liked to talk about art. We became friends. We got along well together and had long conversations. He decided to paint my portrait. I went to his house on West 92nd Street a couple of afternoons a week on my way to my work at the church and sat for thirty minutes or so for my portrait. He never permitted me to see what he was painting. Day after day, week after week, I sat while he painted. One day his wife came into the room and looked at the portrait now nearing completion and ex­claimed in outrage, "Krank, krank." I knew just enough German to know that she was saying, "Sickl You paint him to look like a corpse!"

He answered, “Nicht krank, aber keine Gnade”-“he's not sick; that is the way he will look when the compassion is gone, when the mercy gets squeezed out of him."

A few half-understood phrases were enough for me to guess correctly, without seeing the portrait, what Willi was doing. We had often argued late into the night about the Christian faith. He hated the church. He thought Chris­tians were hypocrites-all of them. He made a partial ex­ception for me for friendship's sake. The Christians he had known had all collaborated with and blessed the Nazis. The Christians he had known were responsible for the death camps and the cremation of six million Jews. The Christians he had known had turned his beloved Germany into a pagan war machine. The word Christian was associated in Willi's experience with state church Christians who had been baptized and took communion and played Mozart all the while they led the nation into atrocities on a scale larger than anything the world had yet seen.

His argument was that the church squeezed the spirit and morality out of persons and reduced them to function in a bureaucracy where labels took the place of faces and rules took precedence over relationships. I would argue the other side. He would become vehement. Willi's English was adequate but not fluent; when he got excited he spoke German. "But there is no mercy in the church, keine Gnade, no compassion." He told me that I must never become a pastor. If I became a pastor, in twenty years I would be nothing but a hollow-eyed clerk good for nothing but desk work.

That was what he was painting day by day without my knowing it: a prophetic warning. A portrait not of what I was right then, but of what he was sure I would become if I persisted in the Christian way.

I have the portrait. I keep it in a closet and take it out to look at from time to time. The eyes are flat and empty. The face is gaunt and unhealthy. I was never convinced that what he painted was certain to happen-if I had been, I would not have become a pastor-but I knew it was possi­ble. I knew that before I met Willi Ossa. I knew it from read­ing Scripture and from looking around me. But his artistic imagination created a portrait that was far more vivid than any verbal warning. The artist shows us what happens be­fore it happens. The artist has eyes to connect the visible and the invisible and the skill to show us complete what we in our inattentive distraction see only in bits and pieces. So I look at that portrait, then look into the mirror and compare.

Extracted from Eugene H Paterson's Run With The Horses

Am I a soldier of the cross

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.

Isaac Watts

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: 'Weak' players make for risky signings

Frenchman says managers forced to gamble on players' off-pitch antics...

1 Nov 2009

By Edward Pearce

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has spoken about the risks managers face when recruiting talented but temperamental players in a fiercely competitive market.

Marlon King's conviction for assaulting a woman in a nightclub and subsequent sacking by Wigan Athletic has once again highlighted the need for players to show discipline on and off the pitch, especially away from the gaze of their managers.

Alex Ferguson was once famous for driving round his players' homes to check up on their partying, but Wenger admitted that it can be difficult to gauge a player's social habits, especially in the race to secure a signing.

"You can't be in management as long as I have and not have that dilemma," he told the News of the World.

"I can give you a list of big names who I have faced this problem with. It is not always because they are bad guys, it can be because they are sometimes weak guys," said the famously transfer-shy Frenchman.

"They go out and they don't know where to stop. They do not master their life. In London it's impossible to keep track of a player's every move.

He added, "Let's say you have a guy who drinks. He can drink at home, so how can you control that? He can have parties at home. Twenty years ago, the players went to the pub on a Tuesday and so on but now it's not so public.

"In ideal conditions no boss would make a mistake. It was always a race against time with opponents who may also want to sign the player.

"Sometimes you have to go blind and play poker."

Wenger's remarks throw fresh light on his well-known reluctance to gamble on big-money signings - and who can blame him when a King can turn player and quickly go bust?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

He Cares For Me

Our God is far greater
Than words can make known
Exalted and holy, He reigns on His throne
In infinite splendour He rules over all
Yet He feeds the poor sparrows
And He knows when they fall

His power is great and will ever endure
His wisdom is peaceable, gentle and pure
But greater than all these glories I see
Is the glorious promise that He cares for me

He rides the wild heavens
He strides through the sea
The high mountains tremble
To hear His decrees
His voice with great thundering
Sounds from above
But to His own children
He whispers His love

The earth and the heavens
Are the works of His hands
And billions of angels
Obey His commands
He guides the great galaxies, spinning through space
Yet He gave us His Son as a gift of His grace