Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

An Invitation or a Threat?

September 22, 2022

Jesus began his public ministry proclaiming, “Repent and believe in the Good News.” Trevor Hudson writes in his new book, Seeking God: Finding Another Kind of Life with St. Ignatius and Dallas Willard, that when Jesus said this it was an invitation not a threat.

I ask of us, everyone who says they are either Christian or Jesus-Follower, how do we sound as we talk to people, post on social media, or write publicly?

What tone lies within our voice?

What does our body posture say? Is it congruent with what we say? Or, is it telling a different story?

I’ve read yet another study revealing further decline in the numbers of people in America who admit to being a Christian. Has the public messaging of some Christians turned off one or more generations?

What can each of us do about it wherever we live?

And, I agree with Hudson that both St. Ignatius and Dallas Willard can be great mentors to us. I have writings from each in my library. And, yes, I’ve read them. Reading is the easy part. Living out their words takes courage and discipline.

Are You Smart?

September 21, 2022

I picked these ideas up from Seth Godin. He is an acknowledged marketing guru. But his thinking is broader than that. An example follows.

Smart is no longer memorization. It’s not worth much.

Smart is no longer access to information. Everyone has that.

Smart is:

• Situational awareness

• Filtering information

• Troubleshooting

• Clarity of goals

• Good taste

• Empathy and compassion for others

• The ability to make decisions that further your goals

The good news is that smart is a choice, and smart is a skill.

This thinking applies broadly. People memorize great amounts of the Bible. Yet, nothing in their lives reflects any awareness of this knowledge. Jesus confronted the Pharisees of his time on this very point.

The question for us today. Where have we stopped with mere memorization? Where have we acted like someone “smart” putting the knowledge into action?

A Humble and Contrite Spirit

September 19, 2022

From Isaiah 66: 

But this is the one to whom I will look:

    he who is humble and contrite in spirit

    and trembles at my word.

We are watching a Scottish (supposedly) police drama series called Rebus. Rebus, a detective inspector, talks with a murder suspect at the end of an episode. The guy killed his father while the father was hitting the guy’s sister who was 9. The killing was never reported. Like most trauma buried in childhood, it came back to bite those involved.

The boy grew up to be successful in business and started a movement to help the poor globally. But the killing haunted his life. He told Rebus the killing was justified, seeking sympathy. Then he got in his expensive car and smirked as he drove away. At that, Rebus pulled out his mobile and called the police station. He gave description and registration of the car telling the duty sergeant to detain the driver for murder of his father.

I wonder if the “up yours” attitude of the killer tipped the scales.

I have done that in soccer matches. I was referee of an “Elite Eight” boys tournament contest one evening years ago. With the first half in its final few minutes, a defender committed a hard foul. I blew my whistle and ran to the spot. Yellow card or talking to debated in my mind. I approached the young man, “That was a hard foul.” He replied with a measure of pride in his voice, “Yes, it was.”

Yellow card / Caution. Or as they would say in England, he was in my book.

Pondering this, this thought from Isaiah entered my mind. A humble and contrite heart may not let you avoid all punishment. But it is a far better response than pride. And God’s grace will follow.

Opportunity for a Kindness

September 16, 2022

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness–Seneca.

Many people follow Vitaliy Katsenelsen for his insights into value investing. He calls himself a “student of life.” He reflects this in his latest book Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life. Katsenelsen was born in Soviet Russia and is a Jew. He emigrated to the US, has a masters degree in finance and runs a financial investing firm. This wealth of experience infuses the book.

He describes meeting with an economist/writer on a trip. “The second thing I learned from John: Be kind to everyone, all the time.” They walked into a bar to continue their conversation. John greeted every person in his path. He devoted his full attention on the server he chatted with as they sat.

How do you treat your servers or baristas? How do you treat everyone in your path?

Sometimes I think our politicians are still junior high kids. What if they all began to treat people with kindness?

What if, today, I treated everyone I meet with kindness?

Be kind.

The Anger Test

September 15, 2022

I’ve missed a couple of days here. The 2022 edition of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS, formerly the International Machine Tool show) is running this week in downtown Chicago at McCormick Place. I have moved to the greater Chicago area commuting from home rather than from a hotel far enough away to escape $500/night rates in downtown.

I last wrote about anger. I decided to leave home at 6:00 am to avoid the heaviest of rush hour traffic. The plan didn’t work. There was an accident ahead. Google Maps kept routing me off I-90 onto surface streets to go around tight spots on the freeway. Still, the trip took 40 minutes or more longer. I arrived at the parking lot later than my plan allowed. I lost writing time at the McDonalds on the lower level of the North Hall. Breakfast with Ronald was possible and catching up on soccer referee news. But not everything I had planned.

There was a time the traffic slowdown would have frustrated me. Coming from rural west Ohio where a slowdown on I-75 meant going at the speed limit, 5 mph was slow. And then the loss of writing time. All the plans gone.

I’ve learned over the 20 years of driving through Chicago. The two podcasts I listened to were entertaining and informative. I adjusted to doing what I could and not worrying. After all, the experience of meeting old friends and making new ones was ahead of me. And learning what was new in the industry.

Frustration leads to anger leads to disrupted relationships and opportunities.

Chilling out reframes the situation leading to learning and building relationships.

It was a great two days. Now it’s nice to be in my office chair looking out at the grass and trees behind the house and thinking. Oh, yes, and typing on my new MacBook Air M2 in midnight.

On Anger

September 12, 2022

Marcus Aurelius, “How much more harmful are the consequences of anger…than the circumstances that aroused them in us.”

Anger erupted from within me usually when I felt threatened. The source was fear of loss of something–job, status, relationship.

Vitaliy Katsenelsen says in his book Soul in the Game, “The venom generated by anger, when allowed to spill into others, is always followed by regret.”

And yes, even to this day I have deep regret for some outbursts from anger.

John Climacus the abbot of St. Catherine’s at the foot of Mt. Sinai writing in the early 600s said that “anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.”

John counsels, “The fist step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

It’s that moment between thought and action when you have an opportunity to take a breath, perhaps count 3, 7, 10, 100. That pause is the freedom–the freedom to choose our best response. It is in breath that silence and calm have the opportunity to prevail.

I have learned this the hard way.

Lonely People

September 8, 2022

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Elenor Rigby, Lennon/McCartney

Not being lonely constitutes one path to longevity.

Have you friends? A friend? Someone?

I think of Jesus and how he was at times alone among friends. Have you ever been in a room full of people and still feel alone? Have you called that room a church sometimes?

Maybe a family? I have memories of being a child at home and being alone even with three brothers. My mom probably wished for alone time.

Being alone does not equal being lonely. I like times to be alone. I like times to be with others. I am both extrovert and introvert—like most of us.

But lonely? When that visits, we hope it intends a short stay hotel not an extended stay residence.

I wish I could advise you on being unlonely. If I knew, I’d practice it. Go to a coffee house, see someone and ask a question, I guess. Questions are your friend.

Personality

September 2, 2022

It’s 3 in the afternoon (15:00). I finished my workout and breakfast and sat down to write at 9. But since it is soccer season and I never know what emergency I may face, I scanned email. Oh, joy! There was a long email sent to the state sports administration. That created all manner of interpersonal conflicts that required a quick response. Then a second one. This soccer season (in its second week) is shaping up as one of conflicts.

The problem? It really boils down to a simple initial personality conflict that expanded to a full-page memo to the state. It needn’t have gotten that far.

How often we offer a quip in a moment that we think is cute or funny. And, how often that quip is received in a manner different from what was intended. And feelings are hurt. And things grow. And now people are not speaking to each other. And now they talk about the other person to third parties. And it grows and grows like mold on your onions in the pantry.

It could have been stopped. I can still see Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife in the old Andy Griffith show on one episode where he said, “Nip it in the bud, Andy. That’s it. You gotta nip it in the bud. Nip it in the bud.”

Yes. A lesson for us all. Nip it in the bud. Don’t let it sit and mold and spread disease everywhere. Fix it now.

Enough

August 31, 2022

Enough is a feast–ancient proverb.

We go to a buffet dinner. We could take a smaller plate and add just enough tasty food to satisfy. Or we could take a large plate, pack it full of food piled high, eat most of it, and with stomachs distended and bloated feel lethargic and ill.

In America, we have so much stuff that we have no place in the house for the new stuff we just had delivered from Amazon. A thriving business of storage garages serves the need to keep stuff that we may never see again.

We can’t get enough. We must have a larger house. Another car. More money.

Yet, we are unfulfilled.

Charitable Attitude

August 29, 2022

I told my wife this morning, “I’m going to the grocery to pick up a prescription this morning. Do you need anything?”

She replied, “You could pick up some of that wine I like–but only if it’s on sale.”

This is a cheap Riesling. It costs around $9 a bottle, $8 something with my discount card. If it’s on sale, it might save another $0.50. This from a woman who just spent $300 for a framed picture for our living room. (We moved during the pandemic, so she’s still in decorating mode.)

While I’m thinking about this typing on my $1,500 Apple laptop at a park, my thoughts coalesced around an incident during a trip we took with a church group that wound up in Egypt.

It seems that there is no toilet paper in the latrines at one of our stops. Women from the area sell toilet paper in order to make a little money to feed their children. The women in our group were aghast! What?? We get toilet paper for free back in America. Why should we pay? And they rapidly organized themselves into who had tissues in their handbags that could share around.

I thought at the time (and still remember with regret that I kept my mouth shut), what a poor example of Christian charity. These women were not “ripping us off.” It was partly custom and partly a way they’d worked out that could provide an income for poor people. It is similar to dropping a coin into the saucer in a German restroom as a tip for the cleaning lady.

It’s like a minimal charity. Although middle class people in America seldom feel rich, we are. There’s a frugal mindset and a cheap mindset (borders on greed?)–and there is also a charitable mindset. Charitable with money and with time and with encouragement.

What mindset do you (and I) cultivate? Does it need continual tuning?