Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

All In Your Mind

June 1, 2021

I am currently reading through the teaching of Epictetus. He was Greek mostly living in Rome. His main teaching period was perhaps from 85-120 CE. I am fascinated at how the problems with growth within individual human beings has little changed in thousands of years.

Society has no doubt improved. We don’t have the extreme cruelty, although we still retain too much. But humans, we still struggle to mature.

Reading Epictetus is as fresh as reading some of the current literature from the airport newsstand to occupy time on a flight.

He talks right away about rational mind and attitude. That made me think.

I rise in the morning from sleep. Arrange my nutritional supplements and medications for the day, drink my greens, pick up my book and notebook. Then, I fix a cup of coffee.

Many people say they need a cup of coffee to wake up. Do they really? Or is that attitude a result of a 50-year-old advertisement—“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”?

I know that it matters not whether I have the coffee or not as to how I’ll feel the rest of the morning. On the other hand, I really enjoy the taste of a well-roasted, direct trade coffee.

I have a bed filled with sensors connected to the “cloud”. I wake up and almost always feel awake and fine. But some days, the bed tells me I had a great night of sleep, perhaps 85 out of 100. Most days I’m at around 73. This morning, I awakened alert and ready to get up. The bed told me I had a terrible night—in the low 60s. Whom should I believe? Do I let the bed change my attitude toward this morning?

A person tells me they cannot do mathematics. I assure them that someone put that negative thought into their mind. They may never be a professional mathematician, but they could if properly trained be thoroughly proficient at a necessary level in algebraic and statistics and probability thinking—essential thinking skills for modern life.

Right Attitude.

Humans figured that out as the essential for a successful life 3,000 or even 4,000 years ago. Each of us must figure it out for ourselves anew every day.

Successfully Driving People Away

May 27, 2021

Andy Stanley, co-founder and senior pastor of Northpoint Ministries in Atlanta, calls that group of people the “nones.” When filling out questionnaires and coming to a question on religious affiliation, they check the “none” box.

During the podcast conversation, one of the men said that he was not a theist. Not an a-theist. Just no concept of a God. He was raised that way.

Then he turned the table on the host and asked, “What religion are you?”

The host paused a moment and said, “I would have said Christian up until 4-5 years ago. Now, I’m not so sure.”

What did he mean? It was the vocal evangelicals whole-hearted embrace of the former president. That turned him off. What he didn’t mention was that the church he attended (I knew because of a reference he once made) had something of a sex-related scandal amongst leadership. That probably didn’t help.

This is more of an American cultural thing than the rest of the world. Perhaps Europe and Britain are similar in many ways. Certainly in Asia and the Middle East and Africa things are different. There, Christians don’t think they are (and should be) the dominant culture.

I have 50+ years of experience watching churches being more successful driving people away than in attracting them.

Perhaps that is why I write often about the Acts 2 church and how the early church grew by attraction. Then the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the Official religion. And then it all went downhill.

But that early church didn’t grow to be a mega-church. Just many small house gatherings. Ekklesia. They would grow and divide. And they attracted more people by the way they lived. I think that was Jesus’ idea. Attract people by the way you live. Don’t drive them away with a strident voice.

Dealing With Anger

May 17, 2021

I drove up the road to pick up my pizza order. With a couple of pizzas nestled comfortably on the heated seat beside me, I headed south for the short drive home.

The road has three lanes of traffic through the business district, narrows to two lanes after crossing over an Interstate highway, then narrows to one southbound lane as we pass through a couple of miles of farmland.

Ahead were perhaps a dozen cars bunched tightly together. Not as bad as NASCAR, but you get the idea. Except that I’ve allowed several car lengths of space between the line of cars and me. Approaching the last merge there is a Jeep ahead of me closely following the dark car in front. A white pickup truck is in the right land and must merge or run out of road.

The pickup speeds up a little. There is no room between the Jeep and dark car. The Jeep does not yield. The white pickup does not yield. I am allowing plenty of room for the pickup. He does not back off and at the final instant is able to squeeze in. Triumph!

Did I mention the line of cars? We all are traveling at approximately the speed limit for the next mile to a traffic light. Where we all stop. Nothing gained for the moments of tension.

When I drive my car the media system automatically connects to my iPhone and plays the next podcast queued up. Andy Stanley is speaking on anger—specifically mentioning “road rage.” I love these little coincidences. He’s quoting from the letter from James.

“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Anger is not a primary base emotion. It has deeper causes. Insecurity, fear, greed, envy, wish to get ahead of others, pride. James gives some advice.

Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Humility, setting aside our striving to be one better, putting others first—these are antidotes. These are also a lifestyle pleasing to God, especially practiced in every little way.

The Golden Rule

April 20, 2021

Jesus is wrapping up his teaching on the hillside. I’ve visited the location that tradition holds to be the location. I can’t read Matthew 5-7 without visualizing that hillside by the lake. That helps me.

Anyway, Jesus has hit the crowd with many revolutionary ideas about the good news of living in the kingdom of the heavens. Then he hits a number of short, memorable sayings.

“In everything do to others you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

Yesterday I was contemplating his teaching on anger and contempt–not only don’t kill someone, but also don’t dwell on the thought of killing them; don’t call someone a fool; don’t hold others in contempt–and I wondered about overcoming those attitudes.

I guess if we were to get up in the morning and treat the first person we saw with respect and then the second, we could build up this habit muscle. And that changes our attitude. And then we begin living in the kingdom of the heavens.

Because Jesus said that this simple rule of living our daily life of respecting others–doing to them as we would have them do to us–leads to doing the law and following the teaching of the prophets.

Try it beginning now. The next person you come across, treat with respect. And the next. And if you feel anger or disrespect visiting, remember the new muscle we’re exercising.

It’ll change your life.

Talking It Out

April 12, 2021

Note: This thought is a little late today. I was up and at my computer at 6am listening to a press conference in German (fortunately translated or I’d have only understood about 25%). Three more followed. I’ll follow it up with a 2-hour soccer referee training session this evening. I “should” be in Hannover, Germany, but, well, you know how travel is these days. Perhaps by fall, I’ll be back attending in-person conferences.

I appreciate Nicholas Kristof’s thought pieces and reporting in The New York Times. The article I linked to discussed how two sides of the lumber industry in an Oregon town came together to solve a problem–whether or not the town would survive due to the closure of the last sawmill and the end of logging.

No, they didn’t all smoke something now partly legal and sing “Kum Ba Yah”. They didn’t group hug and decide to love one another. But two bitter enemies–loggers and environmentalists–sat down and discussed the problems at hand. Each discovered that the other was not evil, just that they had disagreements. And they could work out an acceptable, if not joyous, resolution.

They said that food and alcohol didn’t hurt anything. They’d talk and have dinner.

There’s something about a meal and breaking bread.

This should happen in Christian circles, too. In fact, shouldn’t these be the example? But sadly, they are not.

I have been a long-time member of the (now) DisUnited Methodist church. Since I’ve moved, I probably won’t be again. But I’m grieved that some people bring a theology and then the politics break out. No one can agree. The whole idea of being a disciple of Jesus and following his command, the last one he gave us, “Love one another as I have loved you,” seems to have been lost in translation into action somewhere.

But it’s not just the Methodists. The Southern Baptists have been skating around issues for some time and now have a public division. Presbyterians divide (I know of three denominations). Roman Catholics have their own problems. And getting Catholics and Methodists and Baptists and Independents and the rest together remains a huge problem.

But those lumber people in Oregon. They could figure it out. Perhaps Christians could take a lesson. It’s not easy work. It’s not all soft love and gentle songs around a campfire. But it is possible as humans.

I Am The Kind of Person Who

April 7, 2021

Some people would take that sentence and say I am a person who does the right things, follow the rules, watch others to make sure they follow the rules (or else condemn them in my conversations). In the first century, they were called “scribes and Pharisees.” Today, they are still Pharisees. We just don’t call them that.

Some people don’t care and disregard all the rules. These things are for dull people. They don’t apply to me. Or, I just don’t care.

Some people are the kind of people who get a good night’s sleep, get up and spend time in prayer and meditation, study from helpful texts, look for opportunities to serve, do their work with joy.

Jesus spoke harshly to those whose outlook was following rules, making sure everyone knew they followed rules, and harbored contempt for those who didn’t.

Jesus talked about the kind of people who would live in the kingdom of heaven. The kind of people whose hearts were attuned to God. Who thought of others first. Who served when the opportunity presented itself. Who lifted the spirits of others. Who spent time alone and in groups aligning their hearts to God.

These people didn’t need the rules. They just lived them.

I’m reflecting again (and not often enough) on what we call The Sermon on the Mount found in the gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7. This needs to be read as a single passage, a single teaching. And it needs to be read often.

Holy Week or Spring Break

March 29, 2021

This is Monday before Easter. Where are you? I mean physically, mentally, spiritually?

It used to mean new, spring clothes and anticipation of Easter eggs and chocolate. And, everyone in town would be in church on Sunday–looking good.

The Easter gifts came a little later in the generations.

Maybe now you are in Florida getting drunk and spreading viruses. Like Easter used to be a thing for everyone to do, now Spring Break is a thing everyone must do (or so I read in the media).

Somewhere in the mist of history, this is a week of remembrance and in the end–celebration.

The church we are now “attending” is doing one of those evangelical stunt things–dropping Easter eggs from a helicopter. I’m sorry, I keep having visions of Les Nessman reporting live from a shopping center parking lot in Cincinnati on the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati as the turkeys fell from the sky. The key sentence from the boss, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” I have these visions of eggs…

I’m sure it will be fun for the little ones.

Or maybe it will be a gathering on Thursday evening recreating Jesus’ Passover meal with his friends. Followed by a solemn service on Friday to remember Jesus being killed by the authorities for daring to buck the system. And on to the celebration of joy of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday.

So will the week be adolescent memory making, Christian tradition, first family gatherings in months?

No matter. Best is to read again the final chapters of the Gospels and have a right attitude for the week and weekend.

The Discipline of Looking Beyond First Impressions

March 26, 2021

Yesterday, I moderated a webinar discussion about automation of an assembly line. We were all guys and all European-looking guys except for one who was most likely Asian. Typical group of presenters in my field.

Later I tuned into another “virtual conference” where the moderator was a 30-ish woman wearing bold colors and outlandish glasses. One of the presenters had her boldly colored hair close cropped on the sides and longish and styled on the top (the modern style, I guess). The other presenters were a mix of females and males.

The contrast could not have been sharper. Same industry. Still discussing engineering and automation. I confess, I had to blink twice before settling into the flow of their conversation.

We can go back in time to the late 1600s in North America. William Penn was awarded a tract of land by the King of England upon which to build a colony (hopefully loyal to the Crown, but 100 years later…). He called the colony after himself–Penn’s Woods or more poetically Pennsylvania.

He studied the local tribe of indigenous people in what is now New Jersey. He found, to his surprise, “I find them of a deep natural sagacity. The low disposition of the poor Indian out shines the lives of those Christians, that pretend an higher.”

We too easily pass a quick judgement upon people we see or hear about. We may find that there is much to learn from and to love about each if we were to only open our hearts.

In these days of pandemic, we may not be seeing a great diversity of people. As we start to venture forth again, perhaps we can forge a discipline of second impressions–delaying the first impression for a bit until we really see the person.

I Choose Where My Thoughts Dwell

March 19, 2021

Many people are reflecting upon a year ago. Of course, I am one.

A year ago, we signed the papers and I transferred a bunch of money and we became property owners in a different state. While in Illinois signing papers, my hair stylist called from Ohio. The governor was shutting down businesses like hers and she had a spot open. My usual appointment was three days after the shutdown. I told her I was a six-hour drive away and couldn’t make it. I didn’t get a hair cut for fourteen more weeks. Even a former hippie needed a trim by that time.

We had two major changes–facing life in the pandemic and adjusting to the new reality of living in a community where we knew no one with only a superficial knowledge of the area.

I made it a priority to establish a daily discipline much like I had the past 20 years. Just a few adjustments. No gym. No Yoga classes. No soccer. The only thing that slipped for a while was strength training. Eventually I took care of that and the body is getting back into shape.

Had we not moved, two things are likely. We would have caught the virus (I estimate that 90% of the people we knew from where we’re from have had Covid), and we would not have seen our family.

When other thoughts pop into my head–nostalgia, missing something, adjusting to new surroundings, what if this or that–I choose to focus on what matters. I choose not to dwell on any “what might have been” random thoughts.

This advice from the Apostle Paul to the gathering called Philippians applies, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Savor the Flavor

March 10, 2021

I really enjoy the flavor of coffee. Some coffee, that is. There is a whole value chain from growing kindly and organically to picking at optimum times to proper roasting. Taking care along the way.

I enjoy the early morning, quiet, alone, reading and meditating with a freshly brewed dark roast direct trade coffee.

Some people say they cannot get up and start moving until they have a coffee. It’s like an addiction. I wonder if it is all in attitude, since I have never experienced that. I can get up and get moving just fine without coffee. But I won’t be as happy.

Spiritual development can be related that way.

I think of how McDonalds has changed its coffee roast. Once McDonalds coffee was a fine as any coffee shop. Then they changed beans and roast and the flavor was reduced. A few months ago I stopped at a McDonalds in the morning for a coffee to sit in the parking lot, get out the laptop or journal and pen, and write for a while. They changed again. And the flavor was reduced yet again.

Was your prayer and meditation and study once robust and full of flavor? And perhaps you’ve noticed that over time the intensity, the flavor, has reduced?

Or taking care with attitude and preparation at every step of the way, you find enjoyment from the subtle flavors of your meditation, study, and prayer? It takes cultivation and care and persistence and habit.

The best part of waking up may not be “Folgers in your cup”, but it might be the practice of savoring the flavor.