Hey, Look at Me

June 16, 2021

We live in a “I need to be noticed” culture. And not only in the United States. It seems to be something that spread globally faster than the need for tattoos.

We have several Congresspeople whose politics center solely on getting noticed. “Hey, look at me” they shout. Until the past few years, new people in Congress kept their heads down and learned the ropes.

Some of these even proclaim themselves to be followers of Jesus. Or, at least Christians.

But Jesus warned us about such behavior.

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.

Matthew 6:5

Getting a social media “like” is a dopamine hit. One makes us crave more. This trick is used by social media companies to keep you on their site or application. Even LinkedIn, the business social site, uses many of the same tricks as Facebook to keep you there and show you more ads.

And we get sucked in. “Hey! Notice me…”

Once again, it’s about attitude and intent. Let us be aware of ours.

Single Channel of Communication

June 15, 2021

I changed my schedule around this morning to go out for aerobic exercise at 5:30, breakfast at 6:30, so that I could attend a press conference and presentation on a new technology. I suppose in a different year I might be in Frankfurt, Germany attending a conference called ACHEMA (chemical industry). But, I’m watching from my patio just like all conferences since March 2020.

Did you know that there was no Christian Bible for the first 300 years of the movement? Bishops and teachers used documents that circulated through underground channels as source material for teaching. The actual fact is that there was a single channel of communication—to God through Jesus.

The Bible was assembled from a variety of documents in the 4th Century (mid-300s) when the church became an official religion of the Roman Empire.

As the Church grew more powerful and then as the Bible grew in importance (especially with the Protestant Reformation), it seems there were multiple channels of communication to God. For some, the Bible became more important than even Jesus himself.

I was jarred into these thoughts by the press conference I just attended. Twenty years ago, engineers were looking for better ways to communicate from the control system to the instruments in the field in large process plants—refineries, petrochemical plants, chemical plants.

Some hoped for a single, standard “fieldbus” for the communication. But every company wanted its own “standard” technology. So, we have been living with many “standard” fieldbus technologies much to the chagrin of the original engineers.

The topic of today’s press conferences was a new technology that allows all those other fieldbuses to come together into one new technology. If you’re curious, it is called Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer.

My connection—there seems to be a movement in its early stages to bring Christianity back to a focus on a single channel of communication—Jesus. We have so many channels now, and even with a single Christian Bible we have myriad interpretations of what it says.

May we bring all of our channels of reaching God together into a new (but actually old) channel—Jesus, the Messiah, himself! For 300 years, Christians experienced Jesus in their midst as they gathered for prayer and teaching and worship. How often does that really happen today where you are? Can you make it happen?

Observe, Think, Test, Revise

June 14, 2021

This has been an unusual 16-17 months for most of the population of the world. One thing is that we have witnessed science being done in real time. And it’s a messy process. While people were looking for certainty, scientists had to follow the scientific method.

  • Observe
  • Think
  • Test
  • Revise

Everyone was caught by surprise. Observations started pouring in, but no one knew exactly what was going on with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Scientists would think about what they observed. They compared the observations with known viruses. Then they had to test the ideas. New facts inevitably came in causing revision to the ideas. And then iterate.

I hope we all learned that everything we read and heard about the situation from news outlets as disparate as The New York Times or Washington Post, or Fox or CNBC, or Facebook or Twitter was all wrong.

I don’t think I’ve met or read a journalist who really understands science. Especially when writing or speaking to an audience where the main objective it to get a story published that will attract readers. They think the more spectacular the story line, the more readers will come. Of course, more readers means happier advertisers. And so goes the wheel.

But this process helps us with our spiritual lives if we are self-aware and observant. We observe (or listen when a wise person close to us mentions an observation) and compare to where our spiritual life ought to be. We can consider what went wrong and make corrections. Then we live it out. Then we observe ourselves and our effect upon others. Are we becoming the kind of person we desire to be? Perhaps we need further course corrections.

It’s the way of growth. It’s the way of life.

Where Our Practices Take Us

June 11, 2021

We do things. Some things we repeat daily or several times daily. We must beware unless these little daily practices take us where we don’t wish to go.

I had my first face-to-face interview this week in 16 months. That is over a year of developing certain practices. This one is training my eyes to look at the camera on my device rather than the image of the other person on the screen. If I look at the person, it appears on the other side that I am not looking at them.

After 16 months of that practice, I discovered I was looking beside the person I was with trying to find the camera. Then I remembered the old skill of actually looking at the person.

It’s amazing how we can train ourselves not to see.

We do the same with our spiritual development. How easily we train our eyes to look away from the goal at something we think is the right way.

How important it is to be aware of our practices and not become distracted.

Eschew Power

June 10, 2021

Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ “

Matthew 4

The Hebrew Scriptures, indeed all of ancient history, emphasize stories of power. By the first century, the Romans had perfected power as a cultural device. Everyone sought power over whatever domain they could control.

Unless you are Jesus. He turned the Roman view of the world upside down. It was not power he sought and taught. It was love. Not soft love. Not romantic love. Not erotic love. But a love through God extended to the neighbor out of strength and right attitude.

He turned the world upside down—until the church became part of the Roman Empire. And from the fourth century until today, leaders of the Christian church have faced that temptation of power and lost.

Our question for today’s living—at what point is there anything in my life that reflects what Jesus taught and how Jesus lived? Have I in my personal or political life succumbed to a quest for power? Am I instead living a life that reflects loving God and loving my neighbor?

Reciprocity

June 9, 2021

You make a big pot of soup and take a container to a neighbor. It seems that before you even return home, the container is waiting on your doorstep filled with some delicious food from her kitchen.

You do some act of kindness for a friend just to be of service. Before you can even settle back in, a return gift arrives.

Sometimes you wonder if what you are doing is a form of manipulation. I learn that if I do a small thing for someone, they’ll return the favor with something I like.

Or, maybe you are that person who reciprocates. You just can’t stand feeling like you owe someone something. Or, perhaps unlike me you were taught to return favors. (It would be a long post to talk about the social graces I was not taught as a child.) But, you become obsessive about doing a return favor.

Intention forms one of key attributes of our spiritual formation. Are we careful to check our intentions regularly to assure that we are following Jesus’ command to do things in love?

The Theory of Practice

June 8, 2021

Yesterday, I wrote about practice, or the lack thereof.

Here is a thought attributed to people as widely varying as Yogi Berra and Albert Einstein, but probably a Yale student called Benjamin Brewster writing in 1882 said, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”

That sounds profound, yet also seems a bit of nonsense.

However, I can (and do) have theories about practicing on my guitar. I know various scales to practice fingering, chord progressions for a variety of songs, maybe even a theory of tuning before I begin.

My practice should follow those theories.

I pick up the guitar. It is out of tune. I don’t feel like tuning it just then. I put it down. The theory might have been good. The practice sucked.

I sit to meditate. I know about posture. The theory of breath. Techniques of prayers and mantras. Some days I sit in a slouch. Can’t focus on my prayer verse.

I suppose there must be a phrase in all cultures uttered by parents and teachers, “Practice makes perfect.” But that is not accurate.

Perfect practice makes perfect. And that requires intention, attention, and energy.

Practicing Skills

June 7, 2021

He stuck his hand out to shake. I felt awkward realizing that it had been 16 months since I had performed that small social ritual. The whole process seemed surreal.

I guess it takes practice even to do that properly.

My guitar stands in a corner of my office. Some months I get it out for a time and run through chords and scales. Sometimes I go for months only looking at it. Needless to say, without practice, I cannot just pick it up and sing 50 songs anymore.

So, how is your prayer and meditation life? Need practice?

Truth Is Not Always In A Book

June 4, 2021

OK, there is some irony in this as I turn to the writing of one of my favorite mentors, Augustine of Hippo.

Some people, in order to find God, will read a book. But there is a great book, the book of created nature. Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice?

Augustine of Hippo

It is my habit to get outside for exercise at least five days a week—seven if a normal week. My body needs the work. It also needs the Vitamin D and other nutrients from sunlight. There are birds. Little furry animals (hopefully only the little ones).

From late spring through early fall I can find my morning reading and meditation time out on the patio.

To the one who notices, the presence of God can be found out in his creation.

Attention Is The Oxygen of Conflict

June 3, 2021

To what you direct your attention determines your attitude for the day or for your life.

It is said that attention is the oxygen of conflict. If you withdraw your attention from the source of the conflict with your sister or brother, the flames of passion will cool.

Conversely, feeding service to others with the oxygen of your attention results in equanimity and satisfaction.

We get to choose. That is life. Choose to feed your soul with the oxygen of conflict with others or of service to others.

Choose wisely.