Maybe What I Thought I Saw Was In My Mind

May 24, 2018

There were three male Mallard ducks. Just hanging out by the pond. Strange. Unusual. Three male ducks never just hang out in that neighborhood. Maybe they are up to no good.

Then I notice one duck is limping. I’ve never seen a duck limp. Obviously something is wrong. He must have tangled with something. Maybe a fish hook in the water left behind by an errant caster. Maybe a cat had big ideas.

Most likely the duck’s two friends were looking out for him.

It reminded me of the story Jesus told about the man who was an outcast from the local society stopped to help a wounded man from the majority culture.

Yesterday (link above), I wrote the same scene from one perspective–my initial reaction to three guys hanging out. Today, the same scene, except I was more observant.

I know nothing about duck culture. I am projecting human behavior on animals.

However the two views of the same scene offers another teaching moment.

At least three times in the past couple of weeks I have read news items where a white person has called the police to investigate black people who a) were in that place legally b) doing nothing wrong or even suspicious.

It was all in the mind of the caller. Their brains composed a story based upon some prejudice or past encounter or just fear of others not like themselves. They (not surprisingly) believed their brains’ stories. Panicked. Called the police for protection–from nothing.

Be honest. If you saw three strangers, what story would your brain create? Would you be emotionally intelligent enough to pause and question the thought? Make a further observation? Even offer help if needed?

We know that we believe whatever we tell ourselves to believe. Motivational speakers use that trick all the time telling you to just tell yourself that you are great–and eventually you will believe it.

Politicians use the trick all the time, as well. Repeat the same story over and over and pretty soon people will believe the biggest lie is really the truth.

Be careful what you choose to believe. It may be all in your head. And wrong.

The Companion of Fools Suffers Harm

May 23, 2018

Like a scene from a late ’50s movie.

Three guys. Hanging out on a downtown street corner. Wearing the uniform of the day–blue jeans, white T shirt, pack of cigarettes rolled into one sleeve. Plenty of hair creme combed into slicked back hair. Cigarette dangling loosely from the corner of the mouth. Motorcycle in background. Bored. Nothing good will happen.

Every day for the past week when I go to the park to exercise I pass three male Mallard ducks. Unusual. They are always in pairs. Maybe three couples. Never three males alone. They form a little circle. They scrunch down. They watch almost bored not moving as someone approaches. I think of this scene from an old movie (James Dean?).

And I think of this saying from Proverbs:

Walk with the wise, for the companion of fools suffers harm.

Just Show Up

May 22, 2018

Just show up…sometimes that’s half the job.

When we have trouble getting started

Just show up…sometimes that’s all it takes

To support someone

To mourn with someone

To rejoice with someone

Just show up…and let God

Do his thing

Give you the next step

Teach you something

Use you

Where do you need to be today?

What If Jesus Visited Again

May 21, 2018

It was a time of political and religious turmoil. People in general were hungry spiritually. They often felt empty. But also confused. There were many strangers walking through the land.

There were leaders intent on devising ever more laws, rules, and regulations telling the people how to live their lives down to the smallest details.

Then a guy appeared. He taught people how to live with freedom–from blindly following rules; from the things that kept them from God like their emotional hang-ups, addictions, blindness (physical and spiritual), rigidities.

He constantly called out the leaders for their hypocrisy.

He talked about God as his father, with whom he was very close.

People loved him. Leaders (for the most part) hated him.

They killed him.

The Bible tells this story.

Dostoyevsky retells it in the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the story of the Grand Inquisitor within The Brothers Karamazov.

What if he came today. Would we kill him again?

For Pentecost I was meditating on the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus’ followers when the meditation started to focus on Jesus coming–not like we expect him. Sort of like 2,000 years ago.

Watching Out For Our Tongue

May 18, 2018

Imagine a community of people. A church, a neighborhood, a town, a society.

Imagine incorporating a teaching from James (the brother of Jesus found in 4:11 of his general letter)–

Do not speak evil against one another.

Morning Routines

May 17, 2018

We fall into morning routines whether intentionally or not.

We can waken to an alarm, rush around, grab a breakfast bar to eat in the car, and hurry out to work.

We can train ourselves to rise without an alarm early enough so as to avoid rushing. Read something inspirational. Meditate. Eat something healthy. Be ready for the day.

People who have asked a wide variety of people about their morning routines find that successful people have definite, intentional routines. Curiously, for the most part executives rise early and exercise and prepare for the day. Creative types, for example writers, rise early and write then exercise a little later.

I have a routine for when I’m home and one for when I travel. The difference is that when I travel I need to fit into the rhythm of the conference or host or vacation or whatever.

I never use an alarm (exception, catching an early flight or have an early meeting following a late night). Make coffee. Read and meditate. Do some writing. Eat a light breakfast. Exercise.

And I have a routine for exercise. These warmer days, I head to a local park to walk or run. Then the Y. Three days I do strength training. Everyday 15-30 minutes of Yoga. Then the sauna.

Twice this week, the fitness center at the Y has been crowded with someone on almost every machine. Yesterday, I looked at the possibility of standing around waiting for a machine to free up. Decided not to wait. Went up to the running track area where I do Yoga on the mats. Already out of sorts, I blew that off and went straight to the sauna.

All day I was unsettled. Couldn’t sit and focus at all until preparing for an interview late in the afternoon.

Amazing how creativity and deep work actually craves order and routine. Body, heart, mind, soul–they all need to live in harmony. Throw out one, and all of you is out of balance.

Pride Creeps In and a Fall Ensues

May 16, 2018

I’ve been contemplating the sin of pride lately. Pride is an insidious thing that creeps into us posing as a friend only to take over our lives driving us from God.

You can pick up a book of psychology or get The Ladder of Divine Ascent by my old friend the 6th/7th Century monk John Climacus, also known as St. John of the Ladder.

Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God’s help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God, It is the root of blasphemy.

I think John didn’t like pride. Note some of the symptoms we can see such as anger, hypocrisy, lack of compassion.

Many men have crossed my path who were captured by this passion. Proclaiming to be evangelical Christian (and they may well be, not for me to judge), they were captured by this enemy, pride.

An old man, very experienced in these matters, once spiritually admonished a proud brother who said in his blindness: “Forgive me, father, but I am not proud.” “My son,” said the wise old man, “what better proof of your pride could you have given than to claim that you were not proud?”

A person must usually experience a fall, an event that brings many things to light, in order to realize the extent to which pride has entered into life. John says recovery is hard.

A help to the proud is submissiveness, a tougher and humbler mode of life, and the reading of the supernatural feats of the Fathers. Even then there will perhaps be little hope of salvation for those who suffer from this disease.

If we find ourselves needing to be in charge, in control, often angry, judgmental toward others, it is time to go to prayer and seek God’s help to end these passions before they grab us too deeply. Or find a good friend or advisor. Ask if you are showing signs of pride. Seek help.

Getting Perhaps a Moral Result With Immoral Actions

May 15, 2018

A TV series featuring detectives solving old cases (from England) shows the detectives narrowing in on the motive and people involved in killing someone. The motive they are uncovering concerns revenge for past wrongs.

People vote for a publicly immoral political candidate hoping for a morsel of moral outcome from that candidate.

These explore an ancient conundrum. Does the end justify the means?

If we put this in Biblical terms, is it OK to break God’s Law now hoping for a result that might glorify God?

Asked another way–

When I begin to do immoral things, how long before I am intentionally immoral? What happens when I am an intentional sinner (to use a church word)?

Paul the Apostle asked, “Should I sin more in order to receive more grace?” He said, “No.”

God told kings who tried that tactic he wasn’t happy because–they didn’t rely on him.

Peter drew his sword to protect Jesus on the night of the arrest. He struck and wounded one of the arresting group. Jesus told him to put away the sword and went on to heal the wounded victim. That was not the right “means”. The cross was the right “means.”

I have been amazed since I was quite small that so many people who profess great faith in God have so little confidence that God wins in the end.

Including A Wide Spectrum of Acquaintances

May 14, 2018

“Meanwhile [Peter] stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

It’s just a sentence that is a transition from one story to the next in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Rest assured that it wasn’t just thrown in to fill up space. But Luke’s purpose for including this little tidbit isn’t really known.

We, however, can look at this little sentence and get a glimpse of how we should be living.

This Simon was probably Jewish, but he was ritually unclean. Does that sound familiar to those who have read the gospels? It should. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with people who were ritually unclean.

We read a lot of things into the writings of Paul the Apostle and use them to divide people. But try actually reading all of Paul sometime. Read those “afterthoughts” where he lists all the followers of Jesus.

These first groups of followers were quite diverse. They seemed to accept leaders from all walks of life. Women, slaves, tanners, whomever.

Is it time for a self-awareness check? How inclusive are your circles? Churches, business, social?

Maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to separate us, we should be looking around us figuring out how to be more inclusive and accepting.

Getting Ready for the Next Action

May 11, 2018

In Getting Things Done methodology, one of the most important things is to determine and write the next action.

Yesterday I wrote about how posture influences how we feel. Posture can also prepare us for the next action.

We teach infielders in baseball to assume a posture with their feet ready to move quickly and their gloves toward the ground. Their next action most likely will be to field a ground ball. If they are in a posture to react quickly, their chances of success are enhanced. If it is a pop fly, they have time to react.

I use a pose called Downward Facing Dog in Yoga both as a pose in itself and as a transition from standing poses to poses on the mat, say plank. When we get to Downward Facing Dog, we know we are prepared for the next pose.

When I sit in a particular chair, I know that I’m there to meditate. At another chair or at my standing desk, I know the next action is work.

I also know that if I sit in another chair in my office that I won’t be reading. I’ll wind up taking a nap.

Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit calls these “cues.” If I’m an infielder in the proper posture, it cues me to be alert for a ground ball. If I’m have my book, sitting in that chair cues me to be ready to read or at my desk to study and take notes.

Choose your posture with intention. It will determine your outcome.