Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

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.

Jesus Turned Power On Its Head

March 8, 2021

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:42-45

The Roman-ruled world where Jesus and his followers lived was structured on power. At every level of society, someone had power over some others. And they were expected to exercise that power, brutally if necessary.

We often overlook the Roman context of the 1st Century and its influence on the writings. It is likely, for example, that Paul never saw the end of Roman power until the end of the age. John’s vision with which the Christian Bible is ended places that vision in metaphorical language.

Jesus turned that all upside down. Leaders were not to exert power over followers. Leaders who followed him were to lead with the attitude of serving. This is a teaching that leaders who call themselves Christian often seem to forget judging by their words and actions.

Jordan Peterson has published a new book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. He discusses this power relationship.

Those who are power hungry–tyrannical and cruel, even psychopathic–desire control over others, so that every selfish whim of hedonism can be immediately gratified; so that envy can destroy its target; so that resentment can find its expression. But good people are ambitious (and diligent, honest, and focused along with it) instead because they are possessed by the desire to solve genuine serious problems.

Peterson, Beyond Order

These describe a human condition. Political leaders, bosses, CEOs, parents, pastors… If you thought of someone immediately when reading this, that may be true. The most important person to consider from this point of view is the one in the mirror. How do each of us, you and me, handle ourselves when we have authority at any level? Are we following Jesus’ teaching?

Choosing To Look Forward

March 1, 2021

The calendar app icon on my phone showed “1”. I can’t believe February is gone. It’s March.

A year ago I had completed all the financial transactions for selling and buying a house. I was feverishly making trips to Lowe’s and Mennard’s buying boxes, and more boxes, and packing tape, and packing material. You get so busy at life change moments that you don’t have time to reflect.

A year ago also the beginnings of the pandemic were rising to our consciousness. Little did we foresee the way we’d live this past year. I imagine many of us felt a little like MacBeth this year:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
— MacBeth, William Shakespeare

That is the first thought that came to me as I settled into my chair to contemplate these thoughts. March 1. Another month. What did I do with February? What will I do with March?

The thing is, I get to choose. Whatever happens, I can choose my response. I can choose how I view the new month. Like a tabula rasa, a blank slate, to write the next month of my spiritual formation, with what I do, think, write.

Perhaps we can see an end of the worst of the pandemic dawning and a new day appearing. It’s all in our attitude. We can choose that, too. We can sing with Annie (from the musical):

The sun will come out

Tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar

That tomorrow

There’ll be sun!

Annie

Love Is the Foundation

February 25, 2021

When I read the early Apostles and Church Fathers, I often think of the joy balanced by responsibility of these people trying to find the proper way to organize a church that Jesus started but left almost no instructions or rules for.

Reading Origen of Alexandria on Bible study, he emphasized reading within love for God.

I realized that Jesus instituted only two rules for us–love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Then later he added a mission statement (for you management consultant geeks out there)–Go into all the world teaching what I have told you and baptizing.

First, we must bring our awareness to ourselves and come to love ourselves. Perhaps this is the most important–and most missed–step. We must deal with our passions, fears, anxieties, prejudices, recognizing the evil within us just waiting to erupt. Sometimes we can heal over time with prayer and study. Sometimes we need help–a mentor, friend, professional, whatever it takes.

Then we can truly love others and love God with purity and a whole heart.

Then we can go and help others, continuing in our own spiritual formation as we love more deeply setting aside ambition. We can truly live that attitude of loving others–surely the most difficult command in the entire Bible. Sometimes we have to love even though we have the feeling expressed by a business acquaintance at dinner in his one and only tweet on Twitter including me in his bunch, “I’m having dinner with a bunch of idiots.”

Still, we must love. Only then can we truly begin our Bible study.

Are You A Pilgrim or a Tourist?

February 11, 2021

This question appeared in my reading the other day. What a marvelous question to ask of ourselves if we look at our spiritual formation as a journey.

Do we travel around, visiting here and going there? Sample a little of the sights, perhaps in the comfort of a tour bus? Try the food–a little, perhaps with trepidation? We have no expectations of staying. Of meeting people and making friends. Of learning some of the language and customs. Adding to our personal cuisine.

Perhaps we have a destination. A journey to a sacred place. The journey has meaning. We pick up new habits along the way. We learn new things. Our minds expand from formerly provincial attitudes. We learn about new people. Perform large or small acts of kindness along the way–growing more frequent as we journey farther.

Perhaps we pick up our little notebook and a good pen and write some notes. Where are we now on the journey? How have we been a tourist? How have we been a pilgrim? What new attitudes can we work on to spend more time as a pilgrim, less as a tourist?

I love that question. It reframes the journey. I desire pilgrimage, not sight-seeing trip.