Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

Searching For A Little Humility

April 4, 2018

Teresa of Ávila

It is amusing to see souls who, while they are at prayer, fancy they are willing to be despised and publicly insulted for the love of God, yet afterwards do all they can to hide their small defects. If anyone unjustly accuses them of a fault, God deliver us from their outcries! Prayer does not consist of such fancies. No, our Lord expects works from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

Words from one of my favorite guides.

So often a couple of things seem to be missing from our discourse–social media or just social.

Responsibility and Humility.

I hear shouting about rights. But when it comes to talking about responsibilities that are the companion of rights, only ominous silence.

To this day, I hate writing the bio part of my Websites. It is meant to boast in order to bring me business. It seems like the “fake” part of an interview. “Tell us about a fault.” “Well, sometimes I work too hard.”

Right.

Or, “Honey, I took out the garbage.” Only to hear, “Yeah, you were supposed to. You’re expecting maybe a little doggie treat for doing your job?”

Maybe we pray along with Teresa, “No, our Lord expects work from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor.”

It Is The Quality of Your Questions That Counts

March 26, 2018

“Bacon is the answer. Now, what’s your question?” So goes a popular quip.

“Jesus is the answer.” Seen on bumper sticker every day at the gym. It is implied, I guess, now, what’s your question.

If you begin with an answer, you will learn nothing new.

If you begin with an answer, you will be unable to help anyone.

I’m in the midst of recertifying in First Aid / CPR / AED. We begin with questions. May I help you? Please describe what happened. Where does it hurt?

Better than saying, “Jesus is the answer” is “How can Jesus help you?” This direction means that we must focus on the other person’s needs not on our “answer”. Maybe it is the need for food. Or shelter. Or peace. Or to be understood. Or it’s something you can provide in the name of Jesus. Now that’s a revolutionary thought! Maybe we don’t just sit back and shout “Jesus is the answer.” Maybe Jesus wants us to say, “How can we be the answer in the name of Jesus?” That is starting to sound like much of what happened in the Acts.

This is Holy Week. Reporting the details of this week from almost 2,000 years ago comprises a huge part of the Gospel of John. That must mean it’s important.

We could be asking better questions this week in our private time–and maybe even our discussions–than simply rushing from one event to the next.

How am I like the disciples?

How am I like the Pharisees?

How am I like the Jewish religious establishment?

How am I like the Roman soldiers?

How am I like Pilate?

What one thing would I like to learn from this Holy Week experience that had never dawned on me before?

Do Not Over Think

March 12, 2018

“Do not overthink. Call the simple fouls.” Advice to soccer referees preparing for the new season.

OK, this is odd advice coming from the guy whose basic life orientation is to think and analyze. But maybe it’s why I have liked the challenge of refereeing soccer for the past 30 years. When you focus on each challenge in a match, you don’t have time to think too much. It’s feel for the flow of the game, the reactions of the players, and what serves justice.

Do not overthink.

My morning reading in Romans. “The commandments…are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

When Jesus gave this command the Pharisees, those overachievers in thinking too much, started questioning. “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus responded with a story whose hero was member of a despised race of people–sort of like an illegal immigrant. In other words, everyone is our neighbor–even those we despise personally.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor.

Consider this when deciding what to do with your money.

Consider this with every person you come into contact with.

Consider this with your politics.

Consider this within your church and groups.

How do I live each moment as if Jesus and Paul actually meant for me to live this way? In the flow of the moment; without overthinking it?

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.

Do This In Order To Understand

February 5, 2018

Søren Kierkegaard — Christ says: Do according to what I say – then you shall know. Consequently, decisive action first of all. By acting, your life will come into collision with existence, and then you will know the reality of grace. Nowadays we have turned the whole thing around. Christianity has become a worldview. Thus, before I get involved I must first justify it. Good night to Christianity!

Peter delivers a major evangelistic sermon reported in Acts 2. On the day of Pentacost when the followers of Jesus were given the power of the Holy Spirit, they attracted the attention of crowds of people who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

Peter preached about the resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. It was a moving and powerful sermon. It lacked one thing a great speech of this type needs–a call to action. There must be a “to do” or a “so what” to conclude. But the people listening supplied the question, “So what should we do?” they asked.

“Repent and be baptized,” Peter said.

There is something to do.

Paul wrote to the Romans (chapter 12) after talking about grace and the unity of Jew and Gentile, goes into a list 29 items long telling us how to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. A “to do” list.

I’m reading a psychologist currently. Just started the book. Chapter One–stand up straight. Change your posture and change your life.

We know that we can often act our way into believing, or act our way into changing our attitude. When we perform an action repeatedly, it becomes a habit. And a habit defines us. It pays rich dividends to choose our actions wisely.

The Gentle Art of Asking

February 2, 2018

How about you? Do you feel like you know everything you need to know?

Whether you are in business or ministry or family–do you have all the answers?

Edgar H. Schein writes in his book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” that many people would rather fail than admit their dependency on another person.

How about succeeding together?

Try Humble Inquiry. Asking questions implies that someone knows something I don’t–even if they are a subordinate, or younger than I, or from a different background. I must humble myself to ask someone placing myself in a position of learner to someone superior to me in this situation. It is the opposite of what we are taught in our culture which places emphasis on telling.

I’ve talked often about the skills of listening. Often we need to ask questions to elicit something to listen to.

Schein says, “The kind of inquiry I am talking about derives from an attitude of interest and curiosity. It implies a desire to build a relationship.”

We must slow down to ask and then listen.

Again Schein says, “I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result from a mindless hurrying. If I hurry, I do not pay enough attention to what is going on, and that makes mistakes more likely. More importantly, if I hurry, I do not observe new possibilities.”

He points out in our “Do and Tell” culture, the most important thing we need to learn is to reflect. Before doing something, apply Humble Inquiry to yourself. “Ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do (Wow, there are hundreds of men right now who wish they had asked themselves that question)? On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent upon me?”

In other words, become more mindful.

“The toughest relearning, or new learning, is for leaders to discover their dependence on their subordinates, to embrace Here-and-now Humility, and to build relationships of high trust and valid communication with their subordinates.”

Schein was an MIT professor and business consultant. You can substitute parent for leader and use the ideas in family. Pastor for leader and transform a church.

Read and digest the book. It’s short and not technical. Good read.

What Breaks Your Heart — Church As A Club

January 19, 2018

Sometimes news comes to me in bunches of related packets. Most likely described by the mathematics of the Fast Fourier Transform. (Sorry, just had to do that.)

This week’s bundle of news seemed to relate to organizations called churches who proclaim to be following Jesus who draw dividing lines among human beings. It’s like a club. Yes, you qualify as a member. No, out with you. Your kind doesn’t belong here.

What pride we have as humans that we think we can know the mind of God and make those sort of proclamations!

I’m reading in the Proverbs today, “The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”

Andy Stanley suggested that in lieu of self-improvement new year’s resolutions instead we ask what breaks our heart. I wrote about that last week. Have you contemplated your own response.

One thing that breaks my heart to hear these stories of churches that are so divisive. They don’t ask “how can we help you” instead asking “do you agree with us”.

Bill Hybels led a group that grew into the Willow Creek Community Church to replicate the Acts 2 church. Then he discovered that even that was not intentionally inclusive.

Read about that early church. Study the list of leaders that Paul often includes in his letters–women, men, rich, poor, free, slaves. Everyone who was a spiritual seeker was welcome. And leaders grew up due to character and talent. Paul’s writings (especially if you just pull out one verse from amongst everything he wrote) are often used for justification of divisiveness. But if you study Paul, you discover that he did not intend that at all.

I don’t think I can fix that. But if I had a magic wand…

You Get To Choose

December 11, 2017

Two brothers grow up with an abusive, alcoholic father. One becomes a model parent and abstains from drinking; the other is a drunk. When asked how they turned out the way they did independently, each answered, “When you grow up with the father I had, how else can you turn out?”

John Rosemond is a psychologist who writes a column on parenting that always has excellent insight and advice. Today’s column contained the question, why is it that some people who grew up in abusive families can grow up to be great parents?

You actually get to choose your response to your situation.

My first college paper with a philosophical theme was an analysis of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s (later immortalized on Laugh In by the comedian who quoted poems by Henry Gibson pronounced to be similar in sound) concept of Truth as revealed in his play Peer Gynt.

[Note: we all had to give an oral presentation of our papers to the class. The guy before me compared Shakespeare to Batman comics. You can see already where I was going in life 😉 ]

Truth is a creative response to life.

We get to choose how we respond.

It’s a long tradition–Sidhartha Gautama, your thoughts will determine your direction; Apostle Paul, fill your mind with the things from above; Víktor Frankl, you choose your response; Jesus, choose to follow God.

It’s Advent. Aka, the holiday season (lumping in New Year’s Eve celebrations).

We can choose–be anxious about selecting gifts; be overworked with the thought of too many parties to give and attend; be overwhelmed with the commercialism; be excited by the anticipation of the celebrations; be thankful because of the remembrance of the coming of the Prince of Pease; be at peace and enjoy.

Take a deep breath and release it slowly. We get to choose.

Thanks Giving

November 21, 2017

How often do you stop and give thanks?

I have a ToDo app that allows for tasks to pop up regularly. I have a task that pops up in my priority list every week. It says, list six things that I’m grateful for and practice gratitude.

There are times when that task comes to my attention, and I find it difficult to take just a few minutes and focus on my blessings.

I’m too busy. Or, I’m not feeling blessed. Or, my mind wanders. I am cursed with thinking too much–I think.

I think about being socially awkward and the latest social gaffes I’ve made.

In America, we are reaching the day on the calendar that comes to our attention once per year. It is a harvest celebration. Most, if not all, societies have some kind of harvest celebration. Farmers live on the edge. Rain comes too early. Or too late. Or too much. Or not enough. Plant diseases sweep through the area. Just having a harvest is cause for rejoicing, celebration, and yes, giving thanks to the God who provided after all.

Or

In America we are reaching the day that marks another day of family tension as we (or some of us) gather to have a meal, complain about things, and leave. It is also the day that marks the beginning of the “holiday season” with Christmas and New Years celebrations coming. And the beginning of shopping for Christmas presents for ourselves and others.

Song lyrics come to me at the weirdest times. I’m just now thinking, “It’s time to stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

As we plan and worry and prepare for travel for Thanksgiving, take time to stop. Listen. Give thanks.