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Today I Believe

Lord, You have always given
Bread for the coming day;
And though I am poor,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Strength for the coming day;
And though I am weak,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Peace for the coming day;
And though of anxious heart,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept me
Safe in trials;
And now, tried as I am,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
The road for the coming day;
And though it may be hidden,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
This darkness of mind;
And though the night is here,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
When time was ripe;
And though you be silent now,
Today I believe.

Lead by Example

I recently experienced what it means to lead by example in a powerful way.  Two leaders and I were in front of a group of 90 international students explaining small group Bible studies.  The situation was set up in such a way that we were asking the people in the audience to volunteer to join.  We explained the ideas behind Bible study, and told them where on campus each group would be meeting.  Then we called for anyone who lived in a certain part of town to please stand up and go with a leader….

Silence.  Motionless.  Blank stares.

I probably started showing signs of uneasiness and started sweating and my face turned red.   I seriously began to question what we were doing, why wouldn’t anyone get up?  Worry, frustration, doubt, until a single girl meekly rose out of her chair and half raised her hand.  “I would like to join”, she managed to say.  Not three seconds later five other hands shot into the air.  All it took was one person to break the ice.  She had blazed the trail for other people to follow and made it OK to volunteer.  The ensuing meetings saw record numbers signing up for Bible studies because one person was brave enough to say, “I will go.”

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Another popular story crafted by Fran Kick which teaches about leading by example goes like this:

The best definition of leadership I can share is by way of an example. At a leadership conference before it began, one person saw that the room was kind of a mess. There were papers on the floor, a Coke® can in the corner, and other miscellaneous remnants indicating that an entire day of classes had occurred in this lecture hall. Before we started the session, one person got up out of his chair, picked up a piece of paper and the Coke® can, threw them out and sat back down. Not less than maybe 30-60 seconds later, two other people got up, went around and picked up trash near their chairs, threw it out and sat back down. That first person was leading by the most effective form of leadership possible, leading by example.

For the rest of the story click here!

As leaders we wield an immense power with the example that we set.  Take a moment and think about each of your leadership roles and how people perceive you.  What example are you setting?

Have you experienced an example of someone leading by example?  Share in the comments below!

The Answer to Our Question

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” -Matthew 4:18-20

I remember talking to my dad about my future a while back. “I’m still not sure what I want to do with my life.” I said. I was very frustrated (as most college kids are) about the fact that the choices I make now seem to pigeonhole me into one vocation or another, seemingly permanently. I didn’t feel prepared to answer the question: “What are you going to do with your life?” I was surprised by my dad’s response to my request for guidance: My dad, a successful doctor (with a Master’s Degree in Architecture on the side), who has all of the signs of cultural success, said,

“Adam, I’m 50 and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”

I share this moment with you all because I think that the question as to our purpose here on earth is one that is burned deep into the soul of all human beings. Most often, we seek to find our ultimate significance through what we do. Isn’t it true that one of the first questions asked of us when in college is “What’s your major?” and, once in the workplace, “What do you do for a living?” I think (and I think that you’d agree with me) that our culture places immense value upon our occupation because it has nowhere higher to look when trying to answer the question:

“Why am I here?”

Enter the Reversal. Look at Matthew 4, where Jesus begins his ministry on earth and calls his first disciples to follow him. “Follow me” he says. You see, without some source of significance, without a caller to give us a calling, we create it on our own. For Peter and Andrew, their purpose on earth was probably something along the lines of “To be an honest, hard-working fisherman, God-fearing Jew, and steady provider for my family.”

Sounds great, right? Not when compared with what Jesus had in mind. You see, he calls us to so much more than a vocation or even to his mission. Jesus’ answer to our Question isn’t even on our level. He doesn’t answer primarily with a task but with himself. He gives more than a calling. He gives the opportunity to walk with the caller. True significance in this life can’t be found in a job, but in a person.

And our task flows from Him; to be his humble disciples, spreading his word to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:12-20), in whatever vocation we find ourselves. He doesn’t just say: “Follow me” He gives a completely new level of significance to the familiar task of fishing.  You know what I love about these verses? He didn’t say : “Come with me, I’m going to make you a Rabbi” as would have been the custom for a Rabbi to do when gathering disciples. Translated into today’s terms, he didn’t call them necessarily to be “Pastors.” He called the fishermen to be… fishermen. Brilliant, right? Jesus called them to do what they were already doing, but to do it with Him and For Him and in a way that Honors Him Alone.  Not all are called to be preachers, but all are called. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on the fact that the Lord has bigger plans for your vocation than you currently imagine, be it student, businessman, engineer, janitor, whatever.

And there’s the reversal: Jesus calls us to be… us, but to do it for Him. And that is the trick to deep significance in this life. Follow the Call closer and closer to the Caller. Jesus answers our question with nothing but himself.

Glossophobia? (Part 4)

Throughout my years in school, I have experienced numerous interesting anxiety/stage fright stories. Looking back to my junior year in high school, I was chosen to be a drum major for the band. A drum major, in a nut shell, is responsible for conducting the band during performances. One day during rehearsal, my band director had to leave class for a few minutes and asked me to conduct the Star Spangled Banner. This was my time to shine. For my first time conducting the band, I wanted to make a spectacular first impression. As I made my way toward the podium, I could feel my heart beat begin to thump in my chest. The butterflies were taking flight in my stomach as I stepped up to the wooden podium. My arms felt like they weighed 50lbs each as I lifted them up to start the song.  During these few moments, I was experiencing the phenomenon known as “stage fright” or anxiety.

Merriam Webster defines anxiety as, “painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill.” See, the definition of anxiety is anxiety’s problem. Our mind becomes uneasy because it senses an impending or anticipated ill. The fact is, that impending or anticipated ill has the potential to be an AMAZING experience. The problem is that our brain tends to seek out the worst possibilities that could happen, which in return cause us to feel apprehension. While in my communications class over the summer, my professor explained to us the process of stage fright and how we can cope with stage fright. I listed his advice below:

The process of stage fright:

  1. It starts with a mental thought known as fight VS flight.
  2. Adrenaline is pumped into the blood stream.
  3. Our heart rate increases and then because of that, we need more oxygen so our respirations increases.
  4. Digestive system is suspended so that…our blood concentrates in the large muscles in arms and legs. Our arms and legs may shake and we may feel butterflies in our stomach.
  5. Finally, our temperature increases so we may sweat a bit as well as feel cold, sweaty palms.

How do we cope with stage fright?

  1. Self-fulfilling prophecy (Positive Thinking) – If the mind can make you feel anxious, it also has the ability to put our thoughts and bodies at ease.
  2. Animate arms and legs. This encourages blood flow throughout the body.
  3. Great posture (chest out, shoulders back, chin up). Be confident in yourself.
  4. Practice, practice, practice! “Winners practice until they get it right; champions practice until they cannot get it wrong.” – Anonymous

In the end, the most important piece of advice for you to overcome glossophobia is to have courage in yourself. Believe in yourself! As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or
think you can’t – you are right.” I always say, you are what you think, and if your mind can cause you to feel uneasy about public speaking, it can also give you the confidence to prevail
over glossophobia. To wrap up my Glossophobia Series, I want to leave you with a Simple Truth’s video about courage entitled, “Courage doesn’t always roar.”

LINK: http://www.movieofcourage.com/

In the comments below, share a story or experience where you had to find the courage to overcome a fear such as public speaking or stage fright.

<< Glossophobia? (Part 3)

4 Christian Songs That I Learned Something From

I know that Christian music can be bad.  Many songs try to have a message and lose the essential parts of a song in the process.  Some songs however, present a powerful message, a new way of thinking, and encourage us to fight the good fight.  I hope that some of these songs might do just that for you.  Enjoy!

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What Do I Know of Holy
by Addison Road

When asked what the greatest commandment of all was Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:17).  A way to think about this is knowing God.  Addison Road sings a great song about our limitations of knowing the Creator and our own short sightedness in “What Do I Know of Holy.”

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

Chorus:
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be

Another great resource is the book Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

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What It Means To Be Loved
by Mark Schultz

This song is a picture of what it means to be a parent, and to love your child.  A song about hope, and overcoming the odds.  Powerful things happen when we bring our concerns to God in prayer!

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What Faith Can Do
by Kutlass

This song is powerful to me because I have had the exciting experience of faith moving a mountain.  Remember Jesus’ words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”  (Matthew 17:20).

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

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Praise You In This Storm
by Casting Crowns

Great truths about God and holding fast to him even in times of trouble.  This song reminds me that God does not always “step in” and make everything better even if we would like Him to.  God uses trials in many ways, always for our good.  As such we should praise Him in every storm!

I was sure by now, God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it’s still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
“I’m with you”
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

Chorus:
And I’ll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Do you have a favorite Christian song?  Share in the comments below.

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Glossophobia? (Part 3)

“Are we to be the master of language or will language be our master?”
Lewis Carroll  (Alice in Wonderland)

Last week, we discussed three central ideas that every successful speaker should utilize when giving an influential speech. The three ideas, thought of by Aristotle, include ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic or reasoning). This week, we are moving into a new concept called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, thought of by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Their concept states that language has the ability to create, distort, or destroy a person’s perception of reality. When I first read their definition, in a way, I was amazed by the idea. I began thinking about our blog, news articles, Facebook posts/statuses, music lyrics, poems, movie quotes, movies, my everyday interactions with people, and the list could go on and on! I was extremely intrigued by thinking about how these different forms of language have impacted my life and the lives of others around me.

The foundation for the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is built off the use of words (Verbal Language) and nonwords (Nonverbal Language). For my post today, I want to focus on nonverbal language and how you can effectively utilize four primary areas of nonverbal language when communicating. The four areas we will be discussing today include proxemics, kinesics, haptics, and paralanguage.   

Proxemics is defined as the study of space and distance. When delivering a speech, talking with a group of friends, or simply communicating with an individual, one must keep Hall’s Spatial Zones in mind. First is the intimate distance, which is reserved for closest friends and family (from touching to 1.5 feet). Next is the personal distance which could be used with the rest of your friends, family, and strong acquaintances (1.5-4 feet). Third is the social distance which is used for meeting people for the first time (4-8 feet). Last is the public distance, which is the preferred distance from total strangers (8 feet or more).

Kinesics deals with bodily movements of all types. The three primary areas of kinesics include gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. Our gestures are either conscious or subconscious and have the ability to add or take away value from our speech (“okay” symbol, arm movement, habits such as playing with nose, ear, chin, etc.). Eye contact is a learned behavior and many cultures exhibit different rules when using eye contact. Use eye contact to your advantage and show your audience or speaker that you are interested! Last, our facial expressions have the ability to show what we feel, more than what we feel, the opposite of what we feel, and they sometimes show nothing! My professor said in class, “Never trust the face!”

Haptics deals with touch and uses it as a communication variable. For example, there are five levels of “touching behavior.” The first is the functional professional touch such as a doctor performing a patient examination. Next is the socially polite touch which is often seen in first encounters (handshake). Third is the friendship warmth touch which is used to express ongoing interpersonal relationships (a hug). The fourth level is the love intimacy touch such as holding hands or kissing. Last is the sexual arousal touch which is the most inmate form of touch. Communication by touch can be very powerful so use these five levels to your advantage when conveying your message to another person.

Paralanguage is defined as sounded, non-verbal communication such as variations in vocal pitch, volume, and rate. This could include special vocalizations such as laughter, cries, and groans. Also included, which many of us use every day, are the common breakers such as err, um, uh, or ah to fill gaps of silence while we think. Here is an interesting story about paralanguage, one of my professors from school wanted to eliminate her use of “um’s” in the classroom. One day during class, she brought in a bowl of candy and said to count how many times she said the word “um.” At the end of the class, who ever had the most tallied won! Keep that idea in mind if you are trying to eradicate your use of um’s :)

I know most of these ideas occur subconsciously, but I hope I have surfaced something from deep within your subconscious that will allow you to apply these ideas when communicating with others! Next week, I have saved the best post for last. We will be discussing how you can have a successful speech delivery and together, tackle this crazy idea of Glossophobia!

<< Glossophobia? (Part 2)   Glossophobia (Part 4) >>

A Leadership Fable – Anger

There once was a boy who was 12 years old.  The boy was of average height, but a little on the skinny side.  He liked school and was not popular, but not unpopular either.  He was involved in Boy Scouts and one day his fellow scouts decided to make a nickname for him.  Sadly, they settled on a name he did not particularly enjoy.  They called him “Squeeky”.  How humiliating!  Couldn’t they have chosen something more appropriate like “Dragon Slayer” or something?  He did not even know the reason why they chose the name.

The boy made it obvious that he did not like the name.  He wanted everyone to know so that they would stop!  He decided he would tell the other scouts off every time they used it.  This only added fuel to the fire, encouraging the other boys.

At a Monday evening meeting the situation came to a boil.  The scouts had been teasing him the entire meeting.  He could do nothing to make them stop.  Everything he tried made them redouble their efforts.  He was extremely frustrated.  As the flag ceremony ended the boy was full of anger.  Every part of his body was tense and he wanted to hit something, right now!  He marched past his mother and punched the wall with all his might.

Unluckily for the boy, walls do not take kindly to being punched.  The boy broke his pinky finger at the knuckle, ouch.  It was even on his right hand!  The boy and his mother spent the rest of the evening in the emergency room.  She helped him do his homework because he couldn’t write anymore.  The next day at the doctors office the doctor told him, “Next time punch a pillow.”  “Ugh”, how stupid he felt, “thanks doc….”

Because of the cast, the boy carried around a reminder of his mistake for six months.  He had time to think it over.  He thought, “why didn’t I punch the kids who were making fun of me!?”  He decided that wouldn’t have solved much.  More importantly he thought, “why did I hurt myself over what other people do or think?”  The day he got his cast off, he promised himself that he would never let people’s actions shape his opinions about himself again.  The boy’s name was Tyler, and he has kept his promise.

Did you learn any hard lessons when you were young?  Share in the comments below!

Visualizing the Bible

This is a cool visualization of word frequency in the Bible done by Sixty-Six Clouds.  Check out their website here: http://www.66clouds.com.

Glossophobia? (Part 2)

Greek Philosopher Aristotle

Last week in the comments on Glossophobia? (Part 1), one of our authors, Adam Fifield, commented on the impacts of Aristotle and communication. I was excited to see his comment because the first chapter in my textbook, Communication Opportunities by Ron Howell, is entitled, “Beyond Aristotle.” Aristotle (384BC – 322BC) was a Greek philosopher who wrote about many themes (math, science, music, logic, poetry) including communication. He believed that a master communicator makes use of three elements:  Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Ethos is defined as credibility. When thinking about communication, credibility is one idea that could be easily overlooked, yet it carries high value when making an impact on your audience. There are two types of ethos that a speaker can obtain. The first is Antecedent Ethos, which is developed prior to the actual communication. Examples could include a speaker’s reputation, occupation, or situation. A university professor who has been teaching for 30 years is going to carry more credibility than a graduate fresh out of college.

The second type of ethos is known as Present Ethos which is based on actual communication of what is said and developed by borrowing sources. When hearing a speaker for the first time, audiences have no impression about his/her credibility. During the speech, the audience will develop an opinion based on that speaker’s use of facts, resources, research, conversational styles, and presentation style. “The critical thing to remember is that we listen more carefully and better when we can trust the communicator than when we cannot.”

Pathos is defined as emotion and is based on affecting the receiver through emotional appeals. The best way to fire an audience up is to impact them emotionally! You want to be passionate about your subject and communicate it with a story. Think back to one of your favorite teachers who left a positive impact on your life. What made them so special? Now, think of the teacher who all the students in your school wanted to avoid, the teacher who taught with the same vocal pitch, volume, rate, and projection all year-long! Why did most students try to avoid that teacher? Because that teacher lacked pathos and was as fascinating as an escalator escalating in real-time!

Logos is defined as logic and is based on reasoning, claims, and argumentation. Often, speakers misuse logos by attempting to force their opinion upon their audience. These situations can occur when a speaker believes that his/her audience does not understand unless they agree with his/her particular point of view. This can become dangerous when trying to leave a positive impact on your audience. Remember, a person can understand your particular point of view without directly agreeing with it. Your job as a speaker is to present your ideas logically with supporting claims in hopes that you may persuade/influence your listeners.

This week, we have looked at three elements that every speaker needs to become a successful communicator. Next week, I will be discussing the delivery and structure of your speech, bringing you one step closer to conquering Glossophobia! For now, take a look at two speakers from our past who demonstrated the mastery of ethos, pathos, and logos:  Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

“I Have a Dream”
Ranked the top American speech of the 20th Century
Delivered on August 28th, 1963
Given to over 200,000 civil rights supporters
Link to speech:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk

Gettysburg Address
One of the best known speeches in United-States history
Delivered on November 19th, 1863
Around 15,000 spectators in attendance
Link to speech:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvA0J_2ZpIQ

Can you think of a speaker who demonstrates the use of ethos, pathos, and logos? Post their name in the comments below and if possible, leave a link to one of their speeches!

<< Glossophobia? (Part 1)  |  Glossophobia (Part 3) >>

Conquering Recursion

This guest post is by Dean Zhang author of Bamboo Updates; you can find it here.  He is also a floormate of Tyler and Adam at the University of Illinois where he is studying Computer Science.

We’ve all seen the relapse phenomenon. It’s happened in friends and family. Sometimes it is a joyous thing and other times it is too painful to watch. Whether it be a habit or a serious addiction they always seem to find their way back to us as time passes.

Most of our lives, we’ve been told what not to do. Out of love, our parents tell us not to do certain things in order to be a good person. We listen to this out of good faith in our childhood but eventually, we put most all these properties into question. Perhaps it is at this time that we are told what not to do the most. I remember that in youth group at church, my youth pastor almost spent more time telling me what not to do than my parents did. Which leaves the dangling question: Why? Why is it bad? The most common answers we receive are:

“Because it is/I told you so”

“Because It’s in the bible”

“Because it’s against the law”

While these are legitimate answers for the most part (bar the first response as a default parent answer), they don’t give real basis for not doing any of these things. Being told what not to do doesn’t really prevent people from doing any of those things, they just instill guilt as they carry these actions out. Our hearts have never been seeded with the proper motivation.

Jesus gives us a parable in Mathew 12:43-45

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

This can be applied both literally and figuratively in many cases. We are often tempted to restart bad habits and addictions after we have just let them go but look at the reason: “When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. …” We tidy ourselves up after getting rid of bad things in our lives but we forget to replace the evil. “Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.” Recursion occurs and things get worse.

So what fits in this house that has been swept clean and put in order? The answer is God’s spirit.  He’s big enough to fill the whole house…if you let him. It is a challenge as it requires transforming our selfish will into His will but everybody has the capability to do this because we were made for this.  God should be our motivation.

Allowing God’s spirit to inhabit all of you is also a frightening decision to make. Many times we find ourselves giving him 50% of the house, leaving the rest for our assets. Often, we don’t even want him to be our all and if it comes to it, do not be afraid to pray to want to want him to inhabit the whole house.

God must not only become the dominant figure in our hearts (house) but the only occupant as he is the pivotal part in permanently ending the recursive cycle.

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