Listening

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Art:

I didn’t choose today’s Oil painting for its season. We’ve had enough winter! Agreed? This couple caught my eye in relation to the ‘thought’ for the week. Our need to actively listen is no respecter of seasons. Only love could motivate a young couple to choose the privacy of a fence gate at twilight in winter to listen…to each other. Reminds me of mid-winter visits Marj made from Michigan to Chicago while I was in college. Our ‘fence gate’ for privacy was walking the beach with strong mid winter winds off Lake Michigan. It wasn’t crowded! We actively listened; we shared and still do more than 60 years later!

Thought:

Sometimes it’s pointed out we have two ears and one mouth and that the math suggests listening twice as much as talking. Admittedly, and without criticism, that’s easier said than done for some of us.

Active listening is a pattern of listening that keeps you engaged with your conversation partner in a positive way. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.

Active listening adds new brushstrokes to the ever-evolving canvas of our paradigm. When we stop to consider our past, and the paradigms it helped us form, we realize how much active listening has been at work in our studio.

Below are some features of active listening based on research: Active listening is…

  • neutral and nonjudgmental
  • patient (periods of silence are not “filled”) give time to process
  • verbal and nonverbal feedback to show signs of listening (e.g., smiling, eye contact, leaning in, mirroring)
  • asking questions that will lead to understanding
  • reflecting back what is said in other words
  • asking for clarification
  • summarizing

Active listening serves the purpose of earning the trust of others and helping us to understand the thoughts and feelings being communicated. Active listening comprises both a desire to comprehend as well as to offer support and empathy to the speaker.

I was impressed with this quote from an article in the May 2019 issue of ‘Fortune Magazine’ titled Bill + Melinda Gates.

“If Bill’s superpower is speaking truth to the mighty, Melinda’s may well be hearing the truth of the unmighty—and then internalizing and sharing that secret often brutally repressed wisdom. For a generally soft-toned speaker, her voice has the command of a church bell. But those who know her say her truly uncanny talent is simply the ability to listen.” [Emphasis added]

Active listening benefits every relationship. In this example, it’s the second most wealthy couple in the world. But, active listening also enhances the relationship of a couple on top of a wintery farm gate at twilight and a couple weathering the icy Lake Michigan winds of January! Are we listening?

Prov. 1:5   Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance…

 

Seeing

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Art:

What do you see in this picture? Take a second look. Think again about your answer. What do you see in this picture?   While you’re wondering what thought I’m wanting to explore below, here is the backstory for this Oil. I completed it as part of a study with Jerry Yarnell’s Painting Inspirations, Volume Two. I liked it for a number of reasons, but I don’t want to influence your answer to the question: What do you see in this picture?

Thought:

“Ears to hear and eyes that see—the Lord has made them both.”   Proverbs 20:12

How do you see what you see, when you see what you see? Come again! How do you see what you see, when you see what you see? What’s the key word here? It isn’t ‘see’. ‘See’ could be replaced by ‘hear’: How do you hear what you hear, when you hear what you hear? Key word is ‘How’. Through what paradigm, or mental lenses, are you ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’?

The cumulative environment of osmosis and intent has trained our current paradigm. Our eye-gate takes in the image. But, how we see has more to do with our subconscious comparison to past experience than a picture taken by our eye-gate at the moment.

Often, we say ‘see’ when we actually mean understand or comprehend…do we get it? When our eyes gaze on the same image a decade down the road we may actually see something—understand or comprehend—differently than previously. Why? Cultural osmosis and intentional learning have given us a new—more-informed—paradigm.

Now take another look at the Art for today. What do you see? How you respond will have more to do with what experiences you have stored away—your paradigm—that what your eye-gate is posting to your brain at the moment. If you are an artist you may see a dozen different things ranging from composition to color scheme and more. If you are a camper you may see more about a wilderness location. History students may attempt identification of the Native American tribe. So, who has correctly seen the painting? Everyone? Probably.

I’m reminded of the story of blindfolded monkeys asked to define an elephant set before them for the first time. One bumped into the trunk another into a leg. When asked for their definition the first said, “An elephant is like a snake”. The second said, “It’s like a tree”. With blindfolds removed…who was right?

Are most of us too quick to jump to conclusions? Perhaps. We may all gain in understanding by ‘seeing’ through other paradigms along with our own.

Seek to understand before being understood. Ask questions to fully understand the other paradigm, then we may be better equipped to understand and express our own. I sense this to be true in life beyond the paradigm through which we view today’s Oil painting.

I believe good questions can help focus our own paradigm.

 

Learning

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Art:

The HGTV series “If Walls Could Talk” was a favorite of mine. Homeowners uncovered artifacts in their walls, under the floorboards, under the house or in the yard that revealed an amazing history about the house and its previous residents. I loved it! This second of my Victorian Ink houses reminds me of that series. It put me to thinking about my ‘Thought’ for the week.

Thought:

The second question I’m working on: “How can I Improve My Learning Skills”, sent me into the ‘walls’ of my mind to see what artifact might speak to me on the subject of my learning skills. Here are samples…

…My maternal grandfather, with whom I lived through the 2nd grade, following my mother’s death at my birth, once encouraged me, “Son, get an education. It’s one thing no one can take away from you.”

…“First Question: When has the teacher taught? Answer: When the student has learned. Second Question: When has the student learned? Answer: When the student’s behavior has changed.”

…The best definition I’ve heard for ‘selling’ is: Causing someone to do that which is in their own best interest. In his classic book The 5 Great Rules of Selling, Percy H. Whiting lists and expands on this sequential process: Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire and Close. All five are essential.

…Selling is a form of communication designed to persuade to action. I feel teaching, also, is communication designed to persuade to action—learning or changed behavior.

…To educate is to communicate (teach) with intent to cause a person to want to do that which is in his or her best interest. First, this requires getting the student’s attention away from distractions, then his or her interest in the subject, plus a conviction that having this knowledge, or how to do this task, is really important to the student, followed by the personal desire to have this knowledge and or skill. Making the commitment to do the work is the close. The learner’s ‘changed behavior’ (i.e. knowing how and actively practicing that which was taught) is the life-long reward for both the student and the teacher!

…Here I believe are four key avenues in pursuit of answers to my second question: First: Prepare to Study, Second: Write to Focus, Third: Read to Understand, Fourth: Explain to Retain. Think about each one. What artifacts do the ‘walls’ of your memory bring to light?

“If Walls Could Talk”

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10, I believe God sometimes speaks from the artifacts in the ‘walls’ of our mind and heart.

Who Am I?

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Art:

I don’t recall the reference I used to create this Ink with Pen and Brush. I like architecture and one of my favorites is Victorian.   This is the first of two Victorian houses you’ll find in the Menu under ‘Pen and Ink’. This one puts into my mind a grandparent’s treasured home. Or, perhaps, in keeping with todays thought, a Victorian home now serving as a residence for a few Senior Citizens.

Thought:

At this threshold to a new decade in my life, I have a keen interest in two questions:

First, ‘Who am I?’ Second, ‘How can I improve my learning skills?’. This week’s thoughts are to the first question: ‘Who am I’? Is it a worthy quest?

Research tells me the Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself”, is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the forecourt of the  Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek writer Pausanias. The phrase was later expounded upon by the philosopher Socrates who taught that: ‘ The unexamined life is not worth living’. More than a dozen philosophers have been credited with having originated “know thyself” without conclusive evidence as to its origin. Nevertheless it continues to be a philosophical challenge.

“Who am I?” Easier asked than answered. Where do I go for an answer? Myself? Other people? God? Or, is it all of the above? Probably all. God says “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made..” Psalm 139:14. And in Ephesians 2:10 Paul said, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. That’s a great start to the answer!

Other people, on the other hand, is perhaps too broad a category. Those closest in relationships may have a more accurate answer to the question. Emerson once put it like this, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”

Myself, seems possibly a bit self-centered and perhaps less reliable. Nevertheless, the Psalmists expressed their conviction well: “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.” So, I began by reviewing documents I completed over the past two or three decades. They were tools to help ascertain who I am: my natural and spiritual gifts, temperament and a lot more. I began writing a summary. Eleven page later I could see a pretty good, and more or less objective, answer to my first question: ‘Who am I?’.

“A well known story is told of Margaret Thatcher during the time she was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She was visiting an old people’s home, going from room to room and meeting senior citizens who had lived there a long time. One old lady showed no sign of realizing that she was shaking hands with a world-famous politician. “Do you now who I am”? Asked Mrs. Thatcher. “No, dear,’ replied the old lady, “but I should ask the nurse if I were you. She usually knows.”

Who will be ‘nurse’ in your quest for ‘Who am I?’: God? Other people? Yourself?

Probably all three!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signals

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Art:

Our oldest son’s interest in sailing ships was an inspiration for this painting. It’s based on Clipper Ships popular in the mid third of the 19th century.   I actually did two oils of this ship. The second is with white sails in daylight. Both are in the Menu under ‘Oil Gallery’.

I selected this painting in keeping with the illustration in today’s central thought.

Thought:

Thoughts I’ve shared in past weeks may have raised questions. That’s a good thing. Sometimes, I think we may learn from our 2-year-olds. They seem constantly to ask, “Why?”. They may not be ready for the best answer, due to their limited arsenal of understanding resulting from previous “Whys?”, but they are learning.

At some point they (and we) experience a ‘paradigm shift’. It may be seen as that ‘Aha!’ experience when, based on new information, we see (comprehend) something clearly, for the first time.

[1]    An idea of the reality—and the impact—of this experience can be captured in a paradigm-shifting experience as told by Frank Koch in Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute.

“Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” The captain called out.

Lookout replied, “Steady, captain.” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to another signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course advise you change course 20 degrees.”

Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”

The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.”

By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”

Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.”

Is experiencing a paradigm shift admitting I have been wrong? Good question. I see the answer is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Think about it. The paradigm—or view—you held until now was the best you could do based on your knowledge. It was not so much being wrong as being under-informed. Our whole learning life we have experienced hundreds, if not thousands, of paradigm shifts. That’s how we grow!

Paradigm shifts may create a fear of rejection by colleagues. Unfortunately, that may transpire. Love them. If they become open, then dialogue on the topic. Live hopeful that both are looking for the best paradigm currently available.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:25 NIV

[1]   The 7 Habits of HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. .Covey, p. 33

Righteousness

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Art:

I completed this Pen & Brush Ink of Saint Paul Cathedral in 2009. I was drawn to the European design of Renaissance and Classical themes. The current building opened in 1915 and was added to the National Register of Historic Place s in 1974. It’s also a contributing property to the Historic Hill District of St. Paul, Minnesota.

I chose it as the ‘Art’ piece this week because the key word in ‘Thoughts’ below is most often associated with religion in general—‘righteous’.

Thought:

‘Righteous’ and ‘self-righteous’ are not unfamiliar in English vocabulary. Where do they originate? What do they mean? Greeks used the word di/kai/o/su/ne we translate ‘righteous(ness)’. It was their attempt to define a condition difficult to translate in a single word.

Dallas Willard gives this meaning. “What that is about a person that makes him or her really right or good. For short, we might say ‘true inner goodness.” Stop for a bit and think about what you just read. Read it again. Can you put it in your own words?

To my understanding, righteousness (di/kai/o/su/ne ) is: Trinitarian love (a/ga/pe) expressing or manifesting in and through followers of Jesus via the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit.

As we saw last week, when we ‘automatically’ respond to people and circumstances in ways that are actually the Holy Spirit in us reaching out in word and /or deed to our sphere of influence, that condition is ‘righteousness’—God working through us to extend a/ga/pe love. Love, described by Thomas Aquinas, that is “love born of an earnest consideration of the object loved”. That is ‘righteousness’.

Jesus spoke to this. “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them…” Matthew 6:1. Others may see what you are doing as you are guided by the Holy Spirit, but, being seen by others is not your motivation.

When our actions (even when they bring benefit) are motivated by anything other than the Holy Spirit, in and through us, that may well be described as ‘self-righteousness’—born of a consideration of what’s going to be best for me—how I will be rewarded in praise, position, power or finances. This is ‘self-righteousness’.

Jesus taught that the kind of righteousness He seeks is to ‘surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law”. Their motivation appears to have been self-righteousness to be seen by others for personal praise.

Jesus also said, “ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33. Neither is our motivation material things.   God promised to supply all we need materially when allowing the Holy Spirit to work through our lives for God’s will to be accomplished.

The habit of allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our daily activities develops when we work at spending time with Him daily. We will not be perfect, but we will be growing in righteousness with a/ga/pe love fluent through our lives for His glory and our “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control”.

Where is the Holy Spirit directing righteousness through you today?

 

 

 

 

Habits…

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Art:

This Oil painting is inspired by a photo of a retreat center in Israel. I was struck by the sunlight reaching through arches into a place set aside for spiritual light to increase. I can imagine a picture of God’s natural sunlight streaming into a place dedicated to increasing the stream of God’s supernatural Sonlight into His creation.

Thought:

Last week we looked at how we use our minutes—chronos time—to generate karos—seasons time.

Chronological, or chronos, time works automatically. Seconds tick by without effort on our part. Karos time is wrapped in Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world…in the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” How can we “let”, or allow, our light to “shine” seasons of love into our world automatically?

Automatically, our physical bodies perform certain functions. How often does a healthy person need remind the heart to beat, lungs to breathe or blood to circulate?   Exactly!

Spiritually, is it possible for the follower of Jesus to automatically live in a way that this light of love “shines” automatically? Yes, I believe it is. But, it requires work, not works. It’s not something earned through works. It’s a habit developed through work that will changes automatic responses. The Apostle Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15.

We have an active part in both physical and spiritual automatic responses. Both depend on habits we develop. Physically, the habits we follow, good or bad, affect how well our ‘automatic’ systems function. Bad diet and no exercise can cause malfunction in these systems: heart, lungs or circulatory.

Spiritually, as followers of Jesus, the habits we develop and maintain will affect how well we ‘automatically’ respond to our environment. How loving will our thoughts, words and actions be? A growing relationship with our love source—the Trinity—by the indwelling Holy Spirit, allows our responses to increasingly reflect what nurtures our life from the fruit bearing source: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Galatians 5:22.

Now, we see more clearly how to invest the minutes of—chronos time—to generate karos—seasons time of good physical and spiritual health for the maximum benefit to the world around us in keeping with our mission in this world daily. Working at a growing relationship with the Trinity results in the growing habit of automatically responding in love.

It isn’t enough simply to talk about love. It’s important to point to the places where it wears skin and flesh.

 

 

This Little Light

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Art:

I painted this scene in oil from a photo I took years ago while Marj and I were visiting Grand Marais. The sun had just set to the west over the Sawtooth mountain range running 30 miles along the western shores of Lake Superior. This combination put me in the right place at the right time. It is an inspiration for my ‘Thoughts’ today.

Thoughts:

Last week ended with a promise to address the question: “How does one go about deciding where and how to invest ‘minutes’ wisely?

The answer depends on ones purpose. Once our purpose is clear, we have insight into where and how to invest ‘minutes’ wisely. Daily, we’re faced with actions requiring our attention and our ‘minutes’. For the follower of Jesus there’s an overriding purpose for our existence here and now. Investment of ‘minutes’ for that purpose first provides wisdom in addressing all others.

I’ve been prompted to use my painting of the Grand Marais, MN lighthouse as a metaphor for the light of God’s love. Featured are two main sources of light—the setting sun and the lighthouse—in a transition of purpose.

During daytime the sun provides a brilliant light in the sky enabling navigation on Lake Superior and making visible a clear and safe passage for boats entering the protected harbor at Grand Marais. At night that purpose is transferred from the sun to the lighthouse. Here is the metaphor I see in three parts.

First: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” The daily sun is a metaphor for Jesus’ bodily life. For 3 ½ years he was light in the world, in bodily form, from the Trinity to His creation. Jesus’ purpose was light for a creation in need of His light—His love.

Second: Jesus said, “I am going to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you. And since I am going to prepare a place for you I will come back for you.”   The sun setting over Sawtooth Mountains is a metaphor for Jesus going away to prepare that place. The sun will be back in the morning for a new day. Jesus will come back and begin a new day—new kind of Kingdom—on earth where again He will be the light—His love.

Third: Jesus said, “You are the light of the world…in the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” The little Grand Marais’ lighthouse is a metaphor for followers of Jesus dispensing loving good deeds from the Trinity to the world in need of the light of God’s love for safe navigation until the light of Jesus returns.

The little lighthouse reminds me of the Sunday School chorus we used to sing, “This Little Light of Mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine… Everywhere I go I’m going to let it shine… All up in my house, I’m going to let it shine… Out there in the dark, I’m going to let it shine… Let it shine, shine, shine, Let it shine!

We have a wonderful light sharing love with which to serve God’s creation in the power of the Trinity until the Son returns!

 

 

 

What Time Do I Have?

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Art:   

This week we passed the threshold separating Winter and Spring. The season has changed. Most people I know here in Minnesota are quite pleased. Record snowfalls and record day-time lows are, hopefully, in the past. We look forward to the promise of a new warmer season.

I selected this painting from my gallery of oils because it reminds me of Spring. Clouds from a warm rain shower have just passed over highlighting brilliant greens and reflective puddles on a dirt path through fields. It’s a painting I did some time ago while working from Jerry Yarnell’s Painting Inspirations book.  

I’ve been thinking about time and seasons. The painting seemed to fit with this week’s thoughts.

Thought:

Do you think about time?

There are two Greek words we translated as time. The first is chronos  from which we get the word “chronology”. This is the idea of continuous time measured in hours, minutes, or seconds. The second word for time is kairos which is the idea of a fixed moment or a season of opportunity. The difference between these two words is the difference between a ‘minute’ and a ‘season’. A minute is measured by seconds on a clock. A season is measured by an experience or an opportunity.

There are few times when we hear someone say, “Do you remember September 3, 1990? Wasn’t that twenty-four hour period truly life-changing?” Or, hear anyone say, “Do you remember the special memory we shared at 3:13 p.m. three years ago?” I thought not.

But, with fondness we recall an event or relational encounter, not because of the date or time on the clock, but because of the meaning of that ‘season’ or experience. Days, hours, and minutes speak powerfully to our lives only when they have become the avenues of real ‘seasons’ or periods versus ‘minutes’ in the past. Our wedding day and birth of a child are examples of those “seasons”—kairos experiences we never forget.

I think of chronos time (minutes, hours, days) as a God-given resource placed in our stewardship to invest. When invested wisely they create opportunities for kairos—memorable ‘seasons’ for ourselves and for others. Truly these become life changing experiences we never forget.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.   Psalm 90:12 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up  Galatians 6:9 

How does one go about deciding where and how to invest ‘minutes’ wisely?

Thoughts next week will deal with this challenging question.

 “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”                                                                                                                              J. W. Von Goethe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whose Script are you Following?

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Art:

I created two original Inks with Pen & Brush of the Stillwater draw bridge from photos I took at the site. Here the bridge is in the “Up” position. The second (you may view it in the Ink Gallery) is in the “Down” position.

I see two perspectives here. You may choose to travel by water or land. If by water, the bridge must be in the ‘up’ position to allow passage. If by land, you need the bridge in the ‘down’ position to cross.

If God’s mission for my life is to travel by ‘land’, but, due to some other influence, I feel I’ve been following the ‘water’ mission, I’m probably not feeling fulfilled. Do I need a review of my values or my mission in God’s world or both? My research has brought me to the ‘Thought’ for this week.  I hope it may prove helpful.

Thought:

                        Whose ‘Script’ are You Following?   My Commentary on Concepts

                        From   Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

by Steven R. Covey

[1] Proactivity is based on the unique human endowment of self-awareness. The two additional unique human endowments that enable us to expand our proactivity and to exercise personal leadership in our lives are imagination and conscience.

Through imagination we can visualize the uncreated worlds of potential that lie within us. Through conscience, we can come in contact with 2universal laws or principles with our own singular talents and avenues of contribution, and with the personal guidelines within which we can most effectively develop them. Combined with self-awareness, these two endowments empower us to write our own 3script.

Because we already live with many scripts that have been handed to us, the process of writing our own script is actually more a process of “re-scripting,” or 4paradigm shifting—of changing some of the basic paradigms what we already have. As we recognize the ineffective scripts, the incorrect or incomplete paradigms within us, we can proactively begin to rescript ourselves.

Whether we are aware of it or not, whether we are in control of it or not, there is the mental 5first creation in every part of our lives and the physical second creation.

[Illustration: When building a house, the first creation is the concept and blueprints. Actual construction of the house is the second creation] We are either the second creation of our own proactive design, or we are the second creation of other people’s agendas (‘script’/ blueprint), of circumstances, or of past habits.

Which is it for you at the moment? Whose ‘script’ are you following? Is your bridge ‘up’ when it should be ‘down’ or ‘down’ when it should be ‘up’? How would you like it to be?

 


[1] “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person” p. 72. Between the event in our lives and our response to it we have the God given gift of choice. We have the ability to choose our response according to, or contrary to, our base values. Each choice has a consequence.

2For the follower of Jesus, I believe this to be ‘The Word of God’.

3 My ‘Personal Mission Statement’

4 Our paradigm is the way we “see” the world—not in terms of our visual sense of sight—but, in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting. P. 23

5 “Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical second creation to all things.” P. 99  The unique human capacities of self-awareness, imagination, and conscience enable us to examine first creations and makes it possible for us to take charge of our own first creation—to write our own script.” P. 100