Author Archive

Good People

May 26, 2022

I am at the Orlando airport on the way home from the largest conference I’ve attended in just over two years. Despite news concerning unbalanced teenage shooters and politician who are fools, I am reminded of how good most people are.

We were mostly technologists. 1,300 people gathered together. People were polite. Despite great diversity of race, gender, nationality, and probably politics, there were no arguments, shaming, racism. We all got along.

It is possible for most of us to live our lives together. If we can learn to avoid politicians and talk show hosts, it would be better. Stop giving money to those who divide rather than heal. Including church leaders if necessary.

This might be a good day to practice a smile rather than a frown. Take a walk rather than fill a mind with hateful thoughts.

Putting Love Over Theory

May 25, 2022

When Jesus battled wits with the Pharisees, the theme was usually love over theory.

To the Pharisees, the important thing was following their 600+ laws, their theory of how to get right with God. And you had to agree with them or you were on the heathen side, not God’s side.

Jesus evaluated everything in light of “You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.”

Life and one’s relationship to God depended on your orientation. How you interacted with God and with humans that you met. Theory didn’t get you far in his view.

We still have that tension. There was another shooting at a school in America yesterday. Some people react with theory–well, stuff happens, they say.

Where are the acts of love and peace and compassion and (the real business of Jesus) changing lives?

And I always wind up challenging myself for what I should be doing. But I know it lies in acts of love not spouting theory.

Feeling Competent

May 24, 2022

Yesterday’s post targeted that moment just as you are about to learn something new, that moment when you feel totally incompetent. The language app plays a conversation is a new language, and you can’t understand a word. You see the tabs for a guitar line and it makes no sense.

But, you struggle through the first feelings and try. You practice a few times, several times, many times.

Then, one day you suddenly feel competent with that new skill.

You understand simple conversations in your new language. You can pick out a blues line in E. You sit almost effortlessly and focus on nothing as you meditate open to any whispers from God.

Now you are ready for that next step. You are in that moment between competency and incompetency as you float on to the next level.

Life is a cycle. Perhaps more like an upward bound spiral as you grow your skills and knowledge.

And may it never stop.

That Feeling Of Being Incompetent

May 23, 2022

We decide to learn something. Hit a golf ball. Play a musical instrument. Meditate.

Just before we begin, we feel incompetent. What are we doing? Why? How?

We take a swing and miss the ball. We pick up the guitar and don’t know where to put our fingers for that first chord. We can’t find the right posture or cushion or find the way to still our mind to settle into meditation.

If we think we know it all, we’ll never learn.

If we feel incompetent, yet curious with a dollop of desire, then we can begin to be a learner.

A learner’s life lies in that tension of competency with where we are and feeling incompetent looking at the next step. And there should always be a next step.

Watch Ourselves Watch Ourselves

May 20, 2022

Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass by with ugly and spiteful words, with wrathful heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and your image, revolting and godless, may remain in his defenseless heart. You don’t know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow, all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively benevolent love. Love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but forever.

Fyoder Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

If you were going to read just one book over for the rest of your life, you would not go wrong with The Brothers Karamazov. I refer to the story of the Grand Inquisitor often.

Imagine you’re walking down the street and can see yourself as if from outside yourself. See how you act. What you say. Facial expressions.

Then imagine seeing someone experiencing you. What impact did you make on that person?

That’s what Dostoyevsky saw. And how your act or words could send a child on a wrong path. At least in America we seem to think that we should have the “freedom” or “right” to act and say however we feel whenever we feel. But that is the attitude of an adolescent. As the apostle Paul told us, there is a time for us to grow up and act like mature adults.

Pause To Reflect

May 19, 2022

Jon Swanson wrote something the other day that caused me to pause and reflect. Maybe because I was trained as a percussionist as a youth, but I have a feel for patterns and rhythms. Jon talked about the rhythm of God in Genesis 1.

God created something. Then he paused, considered what was done, and pronounced it good. At a higher level, he created six “days” and then paused on the seventh.

We rush from task to task on our Getting Things Done to do lists. Check one off and rush to the next. Breathless. Focused on work.

Have we lost our rhythm? The rhythm of a day from rising to bed time? The rhythm during a day of task and reflect? The rhythm of a week of actually having times during the seven to pause and reflect? The rhythm of a month? a year? a life?

Tools of the Trade

May 18, 2022

The first soldering iron wound up in my shopping bag at around age 13 or so. That was not my first trip to Ted & Mary’s Hardware Store to buy tools. Tools have been a fascination since I was a child.

Computers are a tool. Many of the things I’ve done over the past 30 years would have been difficult to impossible without a computer as a tool.

Software, also, can be a tool. I’ve written using outliners (at least three different ones). I’ve used Word and Google Docs and a variety of text editors.

How about you and your spiritual disciplines?

Do you need a meditation cushion, incense, a cross or other ikon? Do you need a special edition of the Bible and a favorite chair in order to study? Can you pray without that special shirt or jacket?

I have wasted so much time and energy searching for the perfect tool.

Sometimes we make too much of something when simplicity is the key.

We can meditate in a special room–or in the waiting area at the airport with all the noise and movement around.

We can study at a special desk with perfect lighting–or wherever we have a half-hour to read and think, maybe reading on our phone while waiting for someone at the mall.

We can wait for that perfect service opportunity–or we can help the next person we meet collect something or pick up something.

The opportunity is right here with us. The tool is whatever we have at hand. Are we prepared to act?

How Politics Harms Our Discipleship #NotInItToWinIt

May 17, 2022

Feeling back in the groove, I was lifting weights in the fitness center. Someone had turned the TV to a news channel. I saw a number of ads for local Illinois political races. Oh, how I love not watching commercial TV and enduring a steady diet of those!

Which brings me to a book I wish to promote. I read a galley proof some time ago. Although thoughtful for anyone, this book targets evangelical Christians concerned about how they are driving people away from the church in huge numbers because of politics.

Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church, by Andy Stanley is the book I wish I had written–except that where I reach 1,000, he reaches 10,000,000.

In his words,

To be honest, I didn’t want to… nor did I have time to… write this book. But my heart is broken over the division in our nation, but even more so, the division in the church. 

Division.

Division is the very thing Jesus was most concerned about—the thing we seem completely unconcerned about. 

Jesus did not command us to agree on everything. But he did command us to love one another the way he loved us.

​​​​Let’s get back to doing that.

All I Want To Do

May 16, 2022

Apologies for those who stop by daily. I’m affected by seasonal allergies. Some years are worse. This was a bad one. Sometimes there’s only a headache or two. A few times the histamines unleashed by those little yellow buggers wiped me out for three days. I didn’t have much energy from Wednesday morning through Friday.

While in an anti-histamine-induced fog, I contemplated several years of writing this blog plus 45 years of teaching Bible, prayer, and other assorted bits of knowledge. We exist in an era of theory. What if, we opened the gospel writers’ recordings of the words and actions of Jesus? What if we opened the book and read as if for the first time? What if we believed that Jesus meant what he said?

Oh, for a mind like a child–open to new experiences, forever curious, thirsty for learning. What new thing will tomorrow bring?

Discover Yourself To Help Yourself Grow

May 10, 2022

People misuse personality evaluations continually. I’m a (something) in astrology. That means I’m like (something). Or the Myers-Briggs types me as this or that, and that’s the way I am. Or, I’m an Enneagram (1-9) and that defines my personality.

We need to discover who we are. But we want an easy answer. Give us one name or number and we can go away either happy or with an excuse.

But it’s not that easy, and that’s not the purpose. Better is to have a starting place from which to grow.

I’m an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs. There are 31 points on each of the four scales. Depending upon the situation when you met me, you’d say that yes, you’re an extrovert or no you’re too quiet. Of the 31 points (must be an odd number so it can’t be 50-50), I’m 16-15. So, I’m neither an extrovert or an introvert. The T (thinking) part is pretty strong. Knowing that, I can see myself getting too bound up with thinking when I should just wing a decision.

My Enneagram type (5 with a strong 4 wing) reinforces that thinking aspect. The Enneagram can show me unconscious motivations that might have led to my strong dependence on thinking and allow me to work on that so that I become more balanced. That’s the idea. We don’t just say I’m a 5 similar to I’m a Scorpio. It’s not a pickup line. It is information that we can use to become more fully developed as a human. And to avoid the toxicity that happens when a number goes out of balance.

Know yourself, as the Delphic oracle supposedly said. But only in order to grow the good parts and leave the bad parts behind.