Author Archive

Travel For Spiritual Development

April 9, 2019

Travel broadens your outlook in ways impossible to accomplish otherwise. I remain so sad for people who never travel outside of their self-appointed boundaries.

Last week we traveled the Columbia River from its mouth inland to the Snake River and ended in Lewiston, Idaho. I crossed two states off my list of “never-visited”–Oregon and Idaho. Now I only have four left. Business will probably never take me to Alabama (although I almost went to a conference there), Arkansas, and Oklahoma. I guess I’ll just have to be intentional about a long road trip someday. Then there’s Vermont.

Travel broadens, but only if you go for experiences, and meet people, and open your mind. It is the reflecting on the experiences that deepen you spiritually.

The Lewis & Clark expedition of discovery was one theme. I thought I already knew a lot, but there is always more to learn in life. The other theme was salmon–a fish I really don’t care to eat.

You can’t escape the trip without an understanding of the complex interplay of natural resources and the cultures. I knew nothing of the Nez Perce nation until this trip.

From their story I was again reminded of the imperfections of our story and the wrongs we perpetrated either from fear or hubris (sometimes opposite sides of the same coin).

It was a week of experiences to meditate upon for some time to come.

Fix The Process

April 5, 2019

When I worked in an engineering department in the 70s, I ran across this all too true description of a project

When you get to phases 4 and 5, stop.

Fix the process, not the person.

Some document is not getting out on time. Look at the entire process, not the person on the end doing the copying.

The project is running late; check the process.

Production is up to quota; better evaluate the process from start to finish.

Usually the individual is at the mercy of the process.

And when you’re building an organization or committee or project–lay out a clear process plan before jumping in.

Training As A Spiritual Practice

April 4, 2019

Paul the apostle often uses the metaphor of an athlete training. He even talked about keeping our body fit since it is the temple of God.

Recently, I was drawn into a conversation with another editor who has strongly conservative religious views. Yes, I know, his bad luck or timing. But I mentioned meditation and that a side benefit relates to neuroplasticity of our brains. Even as we age, we can do things to maintain healthy, growing brains. He was shocked.

Yes, we train our brains with the food we eat, by learning new languages, through practicing a musical instrument, by reading, through experiences of travel.

Just as we should train our bodies with movement, weight lifting within our capabilities, stretching and strengthening through something like Yoga or Tai Chi, and getting sufficient sleep.

We train spiritually through serving others, meditating, reading books oriented toward spiritual growth, developing relationships.

It all works together as we live in the Dominion of God.

Overthinking The Topic

April 3, 2019

Google can be one of the biggest time sinks.

I was looking up a person to learn a little about him. In reading his story, references were made to words I’ve long since forgotten. Dispensationalism, Covenant theology, New Covenant theology.

So, I started refreshing my memory of these theologies. And each has one or more sub-groups. And I lost an hour of productive time.

There are many people who are much smarter than I who have way too much time on their hands who begin with an arcane assumption and build a huge edifice on the assumption. And people go to war over these ideas.

And I think, why did they try to make things so complicated.

We have four Gospels who each tell us two things. First, there was this guy called (in Greek) Jesus who took Jewish Wisdom teaching and the Laws and gave them a new interpretation in teaching us how to live. And, second and most important, this Jesus was killed and yet came back to life after death.

Then there was Paul who explained the Jewish scriptures in light of this new teaching and resurrection. And James and Peter who taught us how to live in this new Dominion of God.

I’ve been down all these paths of theology and more. Yet, I’ve not seen how they help me become a disciple of Jesus. And that’s the real point.

I feel like the guy in Noel Paul Stookey’s song, Hymn (Sunday morning), where the guy visits a church.

Passing conversations where they mentioned Your existence
And the fact that You had been replaced by Your assistants.
The discussion was theology,
And when they smiled and turned to me
All that I could say was “I believe in You.”

Prepare Yourself

April 2, 2019

Yesterday, I discussed John Wooden’s cornerstones of success–industriousness and enthusiasm. I told you that the only impediment between those characteristics and attitudes is you.

However…

Sometimes we do have to look at our own processes to see where the impediment truly lies.

We all have a rhythm to our days. I write better in the morning. It is best if I rise early and after some meditation and coffee (or the other way around) begin writing. My afternoons are not good for that kind of productivity. If I don’t get done in the morning, then I struggle with the afternoon. I can have another creative peak in the evening. Then I need to go to bed early.

You must discover your rhythms. They will be daily. And also weekly. Perhaps even seasonal.

A huge contributor to energy throughout the day is nutrition. Discover the correct foods for the time of day. A lunch too large will destroy the afternoon. Dehydration slows thinking.

And get outside to walk or run or cycle. Exercise plus outdoors boosts energy and creativity.

The Cornerstones of Success

April 1, 2019

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden thought about success. Not just a passing thought. He pondered. Tried out ideas. Discarded some, kept others.

He found two characteristics to be the cornerstones of the foundation of success.

Industriousness

Enthusiasm

We must work at what we wish to be good at. We can take breaks, of course. But, we must apply ourselves diligently to the tasks required for mastery.

At the same time, we do our work as though infused with spirit–God’s Spirit within us, giving us energy, positive outlook.

We don’t want to be that person. You know the type. Complains about everything and everyone. Someone else is always to blame for their lack of promotion or status.

The only impediment to industriousness and enthusiasm is the person we look at every few minutes in the mirror.

A Rock Concert and A TED Talk

March 29, 2019

I went to my first motivational, self-help seminar in the late 70s. I think we knew even back then that these things have little or no staying power. But by the 80s people were out on the circuit earning a lot of money doing these seminars–Dennis Waitley, Brian Tracey, Steven Covey, Wayne Dyer, and many others.

That’s a little like the evolution of evangelical churches. They went from a choir and preaching conversion to, as I heard this week from Keith Giles, “a rock concert and a TED Talk”. The question that goes begging is, do these gatherings have any more impact than the momentary boost we got from the motivational speakers?

[Note: all of you from liturgical backgrounds can just smile at this. Still, where does your budget go?]

Giles was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister but, as he says, he left the church to follow Jesus. He started a church where 100% of the offerings went to people in need. Since there were no funds for rent, they met in houses. Since there were no funds for staff salaries, he got a job.

When I had positions of influence in a church, I liked to propose evaluating the budget based on disciplines. How much of the budget just goes to support the status quo–staff, buildings, denomination, and the like? And then, how much do we use from the model of the early church described in Acts and 1 Corinthians to people in need? It should be noted that I have seldom had positions of influence in churches.

I suppose it is our responsibility to find and nurture a place where spiritual formation is nourished and service to others come first. Or, we can find a place with leaders with big egos, budgets targeted internally, and people as numbers.

Originally it wasn’t a church organization, but ekklesia a gathering of people. They met in houses, gave their offerings to those in need, and worked on spiritual formation. Sounds good to me.

Do It For The Least of These

March 28, 2019

Sometimes you contemplate on the Bible or other spiritual writing and even though you’ve read it many times before, coming back to it you receive a deeper and more meaningful understanding.

In Matthew 24-25, the disciples asked about the end of the age or the coming of the Son of Man. There are so many theories floating around about that, I gave up trying to understand that part of it.

However, concluding his teaching, Jesus tells this story about the coming of the Son of Man. He says all nations will be gathered before him. I presume that “all” means, well, “all.”

And they, meaning each and every individual person from all the nations, will be judged and separated into one of two groups–the sheep (good) and the goats (bad).

What are the criteria used to determine which group we all have selected for ourselves? For, we chose the group by our life.

To quote (in English, of course):

“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Jesus says many will call him Lord, but they won’t be saved. Jesus says many will try to follow all the 600+ rules but with a hard heart, and they won’t be saved. It’s what you do when you actually become a disciple that matters.

Service is one of the spiritual disciplines. I guess there’s a reason.

Faithful and Wise

March 27, 2019

Toward the end of Matthew’s story of Jesus (chapters 24-25), he tells of Jesus having a battle of wits with the various factions of Jewish religious and secular leaders in the Temple courtyard. He gathers his followers to leave for the evening and remarks about how the Temple will be totally destroyed.

The thought shocked his followers (although it came true in 70 AD) and they asked about the Day of the Lord (or End of the Age, or Coming of the Son of Man).

I quit being a student of eschatology many years ago. You can take whatever view of the various obscure writing you’ve wish with tribulations and raptures and stuff.

However, Jesus did leave us with instructions.

He first talked about watchfulness. I would call that awareness today. Like Anthony deMello’s book, it’s about being awake.

Then Matthew gives us three stories about the topic. Sort of like when Luke put three stories together about being lost and then found. These are stories of what we do while the Master is away in anticipation of his return.

The story of the faithful and unfaithful servants; the story of the 5 wise and 5 foolish bridesmaids; the story of the talents (or huge amounts of money).

In the age between when Jesus ascended and physically left Earth and the time when the Son of Man comes (end of times) we are to live in a certain way. This is, of course, applicable to us.

The wise servant does his job with energy and humility. He treats others well.

The wise bridesmaids were prepared and watchful. They thought ahead and planned for the wait.

The wise servants were industrious going out to do their jobs growing the wealth of the master.

In our spiritual formation, therefore, we should be doing our work in God’s Dominion (Kingdom) with energy, humility, industriousness, and thoughtfulness. Doing what is good and wise. We must avoid being lazy, self-centered, self-indulgent.

Still Making Assumptions

March 26, 2019

The sound of car door locks activating.

A black man crosses the street at a city intersection.

There are experiences I’ve never had and find hard to understand.

Like being stopped and searched on your way home in your own middle class neighborhood.

Like having a neighbor woman call the police because she saw a black man in the neighborhood. Oh, he lives here?

Like being in fear for your life during a traffic stop. (Another white policeman acquitted last week for killing a black man running away from him with the excuse that he felt threatened.)

Many live in a state of fear and judgement that infuse their experience of a situation.

Like the woman in Justice Sotomayor’s story from yesterday, false assumptions corrupt our mind.

Yes, it pays to be observant in public. But constant fear is debilitating for both people.