Author Archive

Be Transformed By The Renewing Of Your Mind

February 20, 2018

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

–John Milton

I am in the midst of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson. This is not an easy read. (just a warning) But digging into it is worth the effort. I especially loved his rules regarding to parenting. Millions of people should read those.

In this chapter (rule), he says “Always Tell the Truth, At Least Don’t Lie.” Peterson, in his study of Milton (the English poet–if the name wasn’t familiar, get a book of English poetry and read him), says “Milton believed that stubborn refusal to change in the face of error not only meant ejection from heaven, and subsequent degeneration into an ever-deepening hell, but the rejection of redemption itself. Satan knows full well that even if he was willing to seek reconciliation, and God willing to grant it, he would only rebel again, because he will not change.”

Peterson practices and teaches clinical psychology. His book is full of examples. He further notes, “Those who have lied enough, in word and action, live there, in hell–now.”

Years ago I embarked on further study of depth psychology and brain science in order to understand one thing–how can people continue to tell themselves a belief even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it? This is something we still see today. And probably will tomorrow.

We allow our minds to be captured by emotions or by stubborn clinging to past opinions. We miss the opportunity for grace. We miss the opportunity for living a more full life filled with spirit rather than by narrow-minded law.

Paul quite consciously, for he was consummately logical, begins his section of the letter to the Romans (chapter 12) on how to live a Christian life in community by saying

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

How To Read A Book

February 19, 2018

Only an open and empty jar is useful. Just so, our mind. In order to learn, we must empty it of preconceived ideas and open ourselves to new learning, new wisdom, new understanding.

I talked recently about praying with open hands. We must read with open minds.

It is important that we know the overall context of what we are reading, and the outline of chapters, then how the paragraphs fit within the argument (or story) of the chapter and finally how the sentence fits within the paragraph. Sometimes we must study the structure of the sentence in order to decipher the meaning.

When I was in high school, I was introduced to How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. Amazingly, that book is still available on Amazon.

In Lent, perhaps we devote the 40 days to opening ourselves to God in preparation for understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus in the context of the Bible and world history.

Rather than grabbing at sentences as the “final answer,” let us devote ourselves to understanding and discernment. The Bible was perhaps only written and compiled over a period of 500 years, but it covers the context of people trying to figure out how to live with-God over a period of some 2,000 years.

It takes time to read in context. Great understanding comes from reading from the outline to the specific and then back to the outline. But only if we empty ourselves in preparation for God to speak to us.

Approaching God–with open hands and open minds.

Sometimes Life Requires A Shift From Us

February 16, 2018

Contemplate the tea kettle.

Traditionally the place provided for your hand is directly center. When you tilt the kettle filled with boiling water thinking of the delicious coffee or tea you are about to brew, your hand goes directly over the spout. You experience anything from discomfort to mild burning pain from the steam directly below your hand.

Shift your hand to the back, and now it is out of harm’s way.A simple shift of geometry, solves a problem. Maybe a little weird looking–or maybe that’s modern?–but interesting function.

Sometimes life presents us with a challenge, or opportunity, or dilemma.

Sometimes a shift in attitude gives us a different perspective. We discover where to go for help. Or we see from another’s perspective. Maybe we see that what we thought was a challenge is really an opportunity just by a gentle shift in attitude. Maybe that person we scorn and say derisive things to or about we can see in a different way through a gentle shift in attitude.

Try it. Perhaps you’ll like it. Discernment, and then wisdom.

Your Biggest Challenge

February 14, 2018

Today is the confluence (or coincidence) of Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day. Probably a better happenstance than the coincidence of Easter and April Fools Day coming up in six weeks. (No Easter eggs for you…April Fool.)

Henri Nouwen wrote a little book on prayer called “With Open Hands.” I see it on my bookshelf occasionally when I’m looking for some book in my library. He talks about approaching God in prayer.

What is our biggest challenge in living with-God?

One of the disciplines, such as study, worship, prayer, service?

Perhaps it is the same challenge as in relationships–like your Valentine (if you are fortunate enough to have one)?

Perhaps it is listening.

We pray–but we consider talking to God as praying. But, it does not end there. Just like talking to (or at?) your spouse won’t cut it with them.

Nouwen shares a story about an elderly woman transported from home to the hospital by the emergency squad. One hand was tightly clenched into a fist. When the medical staff was finally able to open her hand, they found she was clutching a quarter. It was as if she were clutching on to her last tangible belonging.

Opening our hands in prayer is a physical act that relaxes us, opening us up to the Spirit, a posture of listening.

We cannot listen while tightly clinging to our own cares and opinions and thoughts.

We must open ourselves to the Other. Focusing all our senses. Mentally alert in anticipation of hearing something important.

We are entering the season of Lent. Perhaps this can be a time of learning to listen to God with open hands.

It Is All In The Doing

February 13, 2018

Do or do not. There is no try. –Yoda

It is an easy trap to fall into.

Talking, that is.

Back in the day when I often sang Christian folk songs, there was this one that went, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

That is a direct reference to the words of Jesus.

He didn’t say, you will know we are Christians by our political shouting. Or by our going around telling people how to behave like Christians (which then we don’t do). He didn’t say you’ll know my followers by the congregation they attend where everyone agrees on the same propositions.

It’s when you look at a person who has spent years doing small tasks to make other people’s lives better and think, “Wow, that person is really full of face.”

It’s the person who finds ways to search out and heal someone else.

It’s the person who slips a little extra money into an envelop to help an orphanage.

It is the guide or mentor.

A follower of Jesus looks like Jesus. That’s how you know. They choose to do.

Don’t Rest On Your Laurels

February 12, 2018

Søren Kierkegaard–The path of an honest fighter is a difficult one. And when the fighter grows cool in the evening of his life this is still no excuse to retire into games and amusement. Whoever remains faithful to his decision will realize that his whole life is a struggle. Such a person does not fall into the temptation of proudly telling others of what he has done with his life. Nor will he talk about the “great decisions” he has made. He knows full well that at decisive moments you have to renew your resolve again and again and that this alone makes good the decision and the decision good.

Who have been people older than you that you respect?

Probably not people full of pride. Nor people who boast of supposed accomplishments.

Nor is there retirement from a life spent living with-God.

Kierkegaard was a precursor to the people we knew as existentialists. At university perhaps my favorite was Albert Camus, the French writer who gave us The Rebel. Playing off fellow French writer Descartes (“I think, therefore I am.”), Camus said, “I rebel, therefore I am.”

They saw humans as defining their lives through their major decisions–or maybe even decisions that we may have thought were minor but turned out to be major. “I’ll just have one little drink…”

There is no one decision and then coasting–an idea easily picked up from certain theologies. Life is a never-ending series of challenges and opportunities forcing us to make yet another decision.

But that is not Sisyphus continually pushing a stone. It’s life with-God.

Sunshine Blogger Award

February 10, 2018

I have no idea what that award is, but I appreciate being noticed by Ashwarya Angadi. She is an engineer and a blogger “Beauty and Smiles”. Who would have thought of that combination? Oh, maybe I know. Anyway, thanks. Go check her blog out. I don’t get into these memes here or on other social media. Maybe too reserved 😉

Ethics Count

February 9, 2018

Much of my career was devoted to selling products and making a profit. I worked in product development trying to figure out better ways to provide a product that would enrich the lives of our customers. I became an expert in cost analysis–figuring out how and where to improve the cost structure without impacting the quality of the product.

I also learned marketing and later earned a nice income thanks to advertising.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with venturing into the world in faith?

This article in The New York Times (I forget if I link to an article if you can see it without a subscription, but check it out however you can) about a South American country which has had enough with its (ahem) growing problem with obesity. “In Sweeping War on Obesity, Chile Slays Tony the Tiger; New regulations, which corporate interests delayed for almost a decade,require explicit labeling and limit the marketing of sugary foods to children.”

The industry fought the regulations for a decade. It still contends that regulations are confusing and unnecessary. We should just have consumer education.

Education? What? We provide a few poorly written booklets about the evils of eating too much sugar while the industry spends billions on researching the best advertising techniques to sway people to pick up the box and how to add enough sugar to the product to addict people? We went down that road with tobacco.

Obesity is a huge drain on finances and a country’s economy. It also ruins lives.

Then we find out it’s not just physical health with its addictive properties. New information is exploding about the mental and emotional addiction from the social media giants. Their goal is to get people to spend more time on their apps so that they can 1) serve up more ads and 2) collect more information about you so that 1) they can serve up more ads (and sell your information).

It’s hard to have the strength to say no to Tony the Tiger, Chester Cheetah, Facebook, and Instagram.

But somewhere in the corporate world there needs to be a voice of conscience. Someone who says, morals count. Surely we can find a way to earn an honest living and live a moral and ethical life. My studies currently are in Romans 12. Paul lists 29 ways for us to live a moral, Christian life. (To my many friends who are not Christian–your religion has similar morality. It works for us all.)

Praying for the Right Thing

February 8, 2018

The interviewer asked his guest who was promoting his book on mindfulness what his teacher thought was the most important thing for people. “Discernment,” he answered.

Reading in Romans (chapter 12), Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Solomon prayed to God upon becoming King of Israel at a rather young age. God looked with favor on him and granted him one wish. “Wisdom,” said Solomon, “I wish for wisdom.” You have chosen well, said God, and so be it.

Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived. Read Proverbs.

However, at the end of his life, Solomon looked back and said that everything was meaningless. Read the end of Ecclesiastes. I think perhaps Solomon regretted not having discernment. He may have been wise, and he talked often of bringing up young men. But his son destroyed the kingdom shortly after assuming power.

Discernment requires the renewing of our minds–constant learning. Being open to changing if we’re wrong. Rejecting old teaching when we learn something new from God.

It requires observing and listening and casting off our preconceived prejudices to allow room for God to speak into our openness. It requires a certain space–time and distance.

And sometimes I think that God does not give us the final answer immediately. Perhaps there are steps along the way where we experience one thing for a season of growth and then God tells us to move on to the next season of growth. We need to be open to discern what God is telling us.

Meditation Can Change Your Life

February 7, 2018

Psychologists and therapists have discovered en masse “mindfulness” during the last few years.

There is a reason. It is good for your mental, spiritual, and physical health.

It literally rewires your brain. It helps grow new neurons, divert others, and add to the fatty layers between the neurons.

People will notice the change in you. Warning–not after one day. Or one week. Maybe a little after a month. It does take time. It is a spiritual discipline.

The change–you will calm down and gain perspective.

Meditation practiced daily for at least 15 minutes (best is twice per day) reduces stress. This helps reduce inflammation in the body which is a cause or contributor of many diseases.

I’m thinking about this after listening to a podcast interview with a guy who has written a book. I scanned the book–don’t recommend it. Just not helpful. But in his conversation, he talked about being meditation teacher to all manner of celebrities. I thought, heck, I know at least as much as what he’s talking about as a 40+ year practitioner. I could teach celebrities.

Then I realized where I live. The last time a celebrity came through town was probably when Rob Lowe visited his grandfather. Well, unless it was someone on tour and their custom motor home traveled on I-75. <sigh>

Americans associate meditation and mindfulness with either New Age or Buddhism. And those people do meditate. But there is a Christian tradition of meditation for enlightenment and experience of God that stretches back to the very beginnings of the faith. I have a shelf in my bookcase devoted to the writings of the Desert Fathers and many other “mystics”. I can testify that you can experience God if you devote yourself to that sort of meditation.

But the practice is not esoteric. You can sit, stand, walk, lie. You can close your eyes or leave them open (especially if you’re walking). You can repeat a word (mantra), or not. (I use “God”, the Hindu tradition is “Om” plus a bunch of other sounds, you can try “Love”.) You can imagine a scene in your mind. Perhaps walking through a meadow in a woods and finding a secret garden where you sit and bask in the warm sun. Or just sit quietly and breathe.

Try it. It’ll change your life.