Author Archive

Think About What You Read and Hear

March 10, 2023

Here comes a tale of two news sources. I read this week about a “study” done about whether a certain substance found in some artificial sugars could cause cancer. One source published the press release that stated a correlation between the substance and some cancers. The other source looked at the details of the study. It (the study) did not screen out for variables. The results were poorly reported by the researchers and by the media. In effect, one could not draw any worthwhile conclusions from the study.

This happens often. We only get a superficial report of a study. We do not received enough information about the study in order to draw an informed opinion. In fact, most media copy editors are looking for the most hyped headline possible in order to draw readers.

This trend can be found among US Congresspeople and others seeking celebrity. They try to be as outrageous as possible on social media in order to generate more “likes” each of which gives a dopamine hit.

Why do we see so many outright lies by so-called free speech advocates? Well, to generate “likes” from their intended audience (not me).

If you see or hear someone talking about the Bible, please take my advice. Suspend judgement until you can go to the source–the Bible–and research for yourself.

A popular writer in the 70s wrote a book on the letter to the Hebrews from the New Testament. I started to read that book. After a couple of chapters things started sounding a bit weird. So I went back to the beginning and opened my New Testament to the book of Hebrews and started a comparison. It didn’t take long before that book found a dark and dusty spot on my bookcase, and I began to read more honest and reputable works.

People unfortunately cannot all be believed. Think before leaping into unknown territories.

Fooled By Perfect

March 9, 2023

You don’t have to be perfect.

I don’t have to be perfect.

Perhaps we need reminders like little Post-It Notes stuck everywhere. 

Perfect is the enemy of good. It’s also the enemy of relaxed, calm, confident. Perhaps also joy.

Sometimes we build a church with expectations that everyone within is perfect. Maybe we try to hide imperfections. We don’t want our imperfections to be found out.

Pretending to be perfect helps us when we want to point out some group of people and say, “We must exclude them, for they are sinners—they are not perfect…like us.”

Face it. The perfect life is beyond our power. We are not going to have

  • The perfect diet
  • The perfect workout
  • The perfect prayer life
  • The perfect relationship

Relax. Eat well, and if you eat something not on the perfect diet, well, so be it. As long as you mostly eat well. A little mistake while cooking may lead to a better taste. And trying to make other people perfect, well, that is only annoying to them and frustrating to you.

Look at the people Jesus surrounded himself with. Not a one was perfect. Even after the resurrection and receiving his final instructions, they still were not perfect. And they wrote books and letters showing they were not perfect. Yet, they changed the world.

Relax. Live in the moment. Build healthy habits. Orient yourself in the right direction. And if something slips once in a while, live with it.

You and I? We’re not perfect.

Why Did They (I) Make That Decision

March 8, 2023

Birds sit in the bushes or on the electric cables. They suddenly fly off. I watched two robins in the yard outside my office window this morning. The hopped along the ground together. Then one flew one direction and the other went the opposite.

I wonder, what makes them decide to fly off? What makes them land somewhere, only to rest a few seconds and then fly again?

I joined a Baptist church for a few years. I had two uncles who were Seventh-Day Baptist ministers. I married a Baptist. I guess there was a magnetic pull. The Baptists are all about “The Decision.” All preaching is supposed to be about getting someone in the congregation to come forward to publicly announce they have made “The Decision.” (Note: I was raised Methodist. We didn’t sing all 127 verses of “Just As I Am”.)

I wondered. Do they do that due to persuasive, emotional preaching? Peer pressure? An internal nudge from the Spirit?

We all see people every day and wonder, “Why did they make that decision?”

Then we look in the mirror reflecting our life as it is now and wonder, “Why did we make that decision?”

Was it the TV detective Columbo who used to say, “It’s complicated”?

Well, it is. Or maybe not. Maybe just an inner urge to move, do something, go with the crowd. Or maybe respond to an inner prompting from God.

I hope it’s the latter.

Someone Plants an Idea

March 7, 2023

I heard someone (actually, I’ve heard this many times) tell another person, “our church only teaches from the Bible, and yours doesn’t.” And the receiver of that “wisdom” goes off believing it and questioning their place.

It happens in politics. One comment embeds itself–say “that group is out to get you”–and the next thing you know every time you see someone of that other group you are wary, then worried, then fearful and angry.

It only takes a few words to plant an idea. It is more easily done when it strikes at an insecurity.

It is likely that I became an acute observer of life because my mother had some emotional health issues at times.

Should I hear one of those we are better or we do it differently conversations as an observer, I’ll think “but you’re actually quite similar. There’s only a slight difference in emphasis.” But if that idea is planted that there exists a difference of kind rather than degree, it could change a life direction.

That’s why I teach always returning to the source. Especially in spiritual matters. Have you fit reading the gospels (not just Paul and Peter, but the actual record of Jesus’ teaching and actions) into your regular routine. Return often to the basics that Jesus taught.

  • Change your life because the kingdom of heaven is here
  • Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself
  • You will be known as my follower if you love one another
  • You have seen me heal, when you are with the Spirit, you also will heal people

That last one made me wonder–when is the last time (if ever) that I have said or done a healing act for someone else? Or, even for myself? It may not be a miracle like raising Lazarus from death. But it could be just the words to help someone along the path to healing a relationship or calming an anger.

Weigh people’s words. Take care not to let a comment get into your mind like a musical ear worm. Observe similarities. Return to the first principles of being a disciple.

A Moment Missed

March 6, 2023

I sat at my desk at 6 am cup of coffee in hand turned looking from my window across the little par 3 golf course at the houses on the far side of our development. The sun will officially rise in half-an-hour. The moon is waxing gibbous, almost full, as it sets almost matching the sun rising.

My eyes closed for it is meditation time. But I looked out only a few moments later. The moon was gone. 

It was only a moment. And the scene was gone.

How often for us. There is the moment.

  • We could greet someone new at our community or organization.
  • We could say a word of consolation.
  • We could open a door or take a load for someone.
  • We could give a hug or a smile.
  • We provide food for someone, buy a cup of coffee, or give a homeless person the extra food we’d boxed to carry out from the restaurant.

There was the moment. Staring us in the face. And, as they might say to me at the golf course, we whiffed—missed the ball. The moment is gone. We didn’t act. We missed the moment.


March 3, 2023

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

Carly Simon

My two weather apps have predicted a large snow/ice event for today for the past week or more. One app started about 7-inches and eventually predicted 12-inches. Then settled back to 7 then 4. The other not so much, but still plenty. We postponed a family gathering for today pushing it back to Sunday. Yesterday in the morning a National Weather Service “Watch” was posted suggesting 5-inches to 8-inches of heavy, wet snow. Suddenly in the evening, I noticed the Watch disappeared without so much as a whimper.

So, we spent a week of anticipation of a snow event that evidently is not going to happen.

I can’t seem to help myself. Especially for whether that might happen, the anticipation gives me a slight amount of nervousness. I can’t sit for long. There is a need to get up and wander around a bit to relieve the subtle tension.

Christians are now in the season of Lent leading up to the weekend of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We know from the Gospels that at least some of the close disciples of Jesus were nervous with anticipation during that last walk to Jerusalem. Then, events happened so quickly. Then there was the death. And a day of anticipation. They actually were anticipating a knock at the door by the authorities coming to arrest them. They were not anticipating seeing Jesus again.

We worry about so many things that never happen.

Then, something good happens. That can range from the daily mundane of a nice day without snow to the gigantic surprise of talking with Jesus again.

Anticipation in the form of preparation can be a good thing. Anticipation in the form of worry drains our energy and emotional life.

Quoting Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” seems a bit frivolous. A grain of truth hides in those words. Prepare with an optimistic mindset; don’t worry yourself into a cringing mess.

The Answer With The Fewest Possible Complications

March 2, 2023

Occam’s Razor guides us to seek explanations with the fewest possible set of elements. Often we paraphrase it as the simplest explanation is usually the best.

I went from one rabbit hole to another. First a discussion on LinkedIn where I thought the explanations missed the point. Which led me to a search for the meaning of Occam’s Razor. If you follow all the arguments by philosophers on the Wikipedia page I linked, you will find yourself in another massive rabbit hole. Funny that these philosophers take a maxim about simplicity or fewest elements and write paragraph after paragraph.

We do that when explaining Christianity, too. Or, too often.

When Jesus was pressed for an explanation, he cited his scriptures to love the Lord and he added from a different location to love your neighbor. At the end of his ministry he left one command for his followers–to love one another.

When the rich young man came to Jesus asking about eternal life, he said he’d followed all the commandments since he had been a child. Jesus saw still an impediment to his loving others and told him to give away all his wealth to the poor. He saw that this got in the way of the young man’s opening of his heart. Rule following and attachment to wealth weren’t enough.

I follow this line of reasoning simply to go to the argument with the fewest elements–Jesus clearly taught us to guide our lives by love. Why do we complicate things like the philosophers and theologians? Maybe because love is too hard.

It Is Impossible To Feel Gratitude and Depression At The Same Moment

March 1, 2023

“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.”

I have lately found myself with deep feelings of gratitude lately. Not all decisions I made in my life were good. In fact, I’d hate to tally a score. But there are enough that I look at what might have been—and I am so grateful.

Gratitude is not a subject often enough here, I suppose. Wise people advise keeping a gratitude journal. I tried that once. Mostly it was repetitive. Nothing wrong with that. I strive for balance in life.

I’ve also seldom  been depressed. Even in a non-clinical sense. Problems? Sure. Wishing I could extricate myself from a situation? Oh, yes. But the emotion? Seldom, if ever.

Gratitude rests like a warm blanket surrounding you. You get used to it and forget to notice it. Until sometimes you become aware of a past situation and feel the warmth within and around.

And we pause and acknowledge deep gratitude. And in that warmth, how can we be depressed in the moment?

If It Doesn’t Kill You, It Will Make You Stronger

February 28, 2023

That title is, I believe, a paraphrase of something Nietzsche said. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but there is truth. We need a certain amount of stressors in our life to make us stronger.

Women of south Asia, Africa, South America who carry loads balanced atop their heads have stronger bones and better posture than other women (and men) who don’t have a physical stressor.

I am about to leave for the gym as soon as I hit “publish” on this post. I will be doing a series of dumbbell and ab exercises after a little cardio. Those weights (a fly, curl, row, squat, plus ab work) will stress the muscles and bones of my body. Sarcopenia is the medical term for muscle loss. The description says it comes with aging. That is not necessary, though. I am over 70 with perhaps more muscle mass than ever. It’s the not having stressors for the muscle and bones that causes problems.

A little bit of stress helps us grow. Sometimes causes us to flex our learning and spiritual muscles. Something happens to us or to someone we know. We learn all about it. If things in life are going smoothly, we may become complacent in our spiritual life. A little stress comes along, and suddenly our spiritual life awakens and becomes quite important.

Not too much stress, though. That could send you to my daughter, the therapist, or to a cardiologist.

Thinking this through brought back memories of times of stress. And how I dealt with them. And how I grew stronger each time. Better able to handle the next one. But those were all random. Nothing to plan or prepare for. One day the owners come in and tell me they are closing the business. I’m out of a job. Well, nothing to do but suck it up and get stronger. And so it goes.

Perhaps that is a message we can get from many stories of people in the Bible who spent time in the wilderness being tempted and growing stronger.


February 27, 2023

I wonder if geese become confused.

It’s northern Illinois in late February. We have warmer days and colder days. The ice on the ponds has melted in spots and remains in spots. Do you wonder what exactly geese see when they are circling above and coming in for a landing at a pond they know well? Have you ever seen them land on the ice and go skidding for several feet?

During my walk, I saw most of the flocks of geese swimming in the open water. There was a couple, though, walking on the water–well, the ice at the other end of the pond. Everyone else was contented. They raised a ruckus with their honking.

Were they confused? Looking for help?

I wondered about our confusion. Perhaps reading something from the Bible or some random spiritual writer. Inevitably we will read something confusing. What is our response?

Do we ignore it and hope it will go away?

Do we think of something we agree with that is similar and just push past that part?

Do we pause? Puzzle over the phrase? Grab our iPhone, go to Safari, search for what other people on the Web have to say?

Perhaps we stop and contemplate for a while. Opening ourselves to God for the spirit to bring us at least a partial enlightenment.

I used to rush through things. I’d try to do many things at once. Then I learned to slow down. Hit the Pause button. Instead of looking for immediate relief from confusion, stopping to think and contemplate.

We can wonder where the water is and honk our fool heads off. Or, we can pause and re-center ourselves and find the open water.