Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

On Overcoming Avarice

July 13, 2018

That’s a word you don’t hear much these days–avarice. I actually looked up definitions to assure myself that I knew what it meant.

John is on step 16 (out of 30) of his “Ladder of Divine Ascent”. Want a sneak peek at the end? We arrive at discernment, stillness, prayer, and faith, hope, and love.

He devoted many pages to discussing fornication. The discussion of avarice is brief. Maybe greed wasn’t as rampant in those days. Perhaps limited to only a few?

Avarice isn’t just greed–it’s defined as extreme greed.

A miser meets a charitable man. Later the miser says the charitable man lacks discernment.

I have run into people like the miser. Have you? Someone who mocks living generously.

Beware saying you are generous and then acting otherwise. I’m surprised John doesn’t bring in the example from the first days of the church–Ananias and Sapphira. Where they told the church they gave all the proceeds of the sale of their property to the fellowship, yet they held some back.

The sin was lying. Lying exposed greed. Greed exposes idolatry. Idolatry places material things above spiritual. It says God is not all powerful and I had best place some of my trust elsewhere.

Developing a generous heart and giving your wealth however much that may be is difficult. It is also an essential step toward living the with-God life.

As I’ve said before, it’s not your belief that makes you better, it’s your behavior.

Your Beliefs Don‘t Make You A Better Person

July 11, 2018

…Your behavior does.

You can tell me what you believe. But I’m watching how you behave.

You can tell me you are a Christian; but if your actions are not those of a disciple of Jesus, I will think you are not a Christian.

On the other hand, you may wake up in the morning not feeling very Christ-like. But you help someone with a bag at the store, or open a door, or let someone pass in front of you on the road to work, or some other small blessing to someone else.

You can “fake it ’till you make it” or better you can intentionally choose your behavior and discover a Jesus-like attitude toward life.

Jesus said to follow him and love…God and our neighbor. Love is an action verb, not a noun describing an emotion.

You go out and do love by how you treat other people. In so doing, you are following Jesus. After all, he often said to go and do.

Beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.

Gluttony Is A Spiritual Problem

July 10, 2018

Gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach, says John Climacus. And he adds this advice applicable as much today as 1,500 years ago–Control your appetites before they control you.

This is a spiritual problem as much as physical. We can practice diets, complain about heredity, have a hormone imbalance, but the problem is a spiritual imbalance. A long time ago, not having today’s words but with the same insights, they called these emotions demons. Demons were spiritual beings.

The problem with gluttony is that it is never satisfied. John talks of eating the entirety of Egypt and drinking the Nile dry and still not be satisfied.

To overcome gluttony one employs the spiritual discipline of fasting. In this we place the primacy of God’s spirit over the demon of the belly.

Speaking as the demon of gluttony, John with great insight discusses its “children”. Today’s psychologists might say something similar using different words.

“My firstborn son is the servant of Fornication, the second is Hardness of Heart, and the third is Sleepiness. From me flow a stream of Dirty Thoughts, waves of Filth, floods of unknown and unspeakable Impurities. My daughters are Laziness, Talkativeness, Breezy Familiarity, Jesting, Facetiousness, Contradiction, Stubbornness, Contempt, Disobedience, Stolidity of Mind, Captivity, Boastfulness, Audacity, Love of Worldly Things, followed by Impure Prayer, Distracted Thoughts, and sudden and often unexpected Catastrophes, with which is linked that most evil of all my daughters, Namely Despair.”

How much of that describes the times in which we live? Look in a mirror, and see the reflection as if for the first time.

A research paper just came my way ascribing the problems of our times to technology. As in much research about human behavior, there is some truth. I think these ancient sources point to much deeper, spiritual roots.

Remembrance of Wrongs

June 22, 2018

Do you carry grudges? Do you dwell on past hurts? The times someone metaphorically stabbed you in the back? When someone promised and didn’t fulfill or broke a contract?

We’ve heard forgive and forget. But can we really forget? More importantly, do we continually think of them?

John Climacus says, “Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind.”

Whom do you know with a ruined life because of the poison in the mind that just cannot get over the wrong done? I hope that isn’t you–or your spouse.

John also says, “The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent.”

Think on that sentence. There is deep meaning.

Such is the ninth step. Let him who has taken it have the courage henceforth to ask Jesus the Savior to free him from his sins.

Obedience As A Spiritual Discipline

June 11, 2018

Obedience is a term not heard often in America. Our politics are, and have been, a politics of rebelliousness.

We are told by people themselves in surveys and interviews that they see the parent’s role as that of friend, not one who guides and corrects their children.

Children mature physically but not emotionally lacking discipline and obedience.

John Climacus recognized 1,400 years ago a problem with men entering the spiritual life of the monastery. The next step after renunciation was obedience.

As spiritual seekers, obedience to God’s commands is crucial.

John includes an image. He discusses training for an athletic event. He paints a picture of an obedient seeker standing strong with one foot forward in service and the other foot anchored back in prayer.

The posture of an obedient disciple.

June 5, 2018

Elton Trueblood

The church is never true to itself when it is living for itself, for if it is chiefly concerned with saving its own life, it will lose it. The nature of the church is such that it must always be engaged in finding new ways by which to transcend itself. Its main responsibility is always outside its own walls in the redemption of common life. That is why we call it a redemptive society. There are many kinds of religion, but redemptive religion, from the Christian point of view, is always that in which we are spent on those areas of existence that are located beyond ourselves and our own borders.

Elton Trueblood is one of my theologian/mentors who helped me figure out the Apostle Paul. Since Paul wrote to early Christian fellowships, he included a variety of instructions that he said weren’t from God but were things that he instructed out of common sense for the good of the fellowship of these new Christians.

I presume well-meaning Christians have been tempted to lift a sentence, one instruction, from something Paul wrote and build their life around it, or build a theology around it, or build a church around it. They had been doing it for about 1,800 years, actually. And I didn’t like anything that I heard. I thought that in the light of Jesus’ teachings, this couldn’t be true.

Trueblood helped me broaden my view of Paul. N.T. Wright completed my journey.

I like this thought from Trueblood (which I received in the Daily Dig from Plough Publishing) in this day of people bringing their own agendas loosely based on a statement from Paul or otherwise into churches and denominations.

As a friend said yesterday, so many people go to church general meetings with an agenda.

And I replied, “Yes, an it’s not the one Jesus gave us.”

Our challenge…are we inward looking or outward?

Two Men Walk Into A Coffee House

May 30, 2018

And they get thrown out.

Not the beginning of a joke. Today Starbucks is closing stores to provide training to associates on how to interact with people of all races and genders.

The corporation has a policy. Not an unusual policy. I’ve experienced it in many countries and many establishments. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

It became one.

Morgan Freeman makes jokes and comments about the physical features of women. There was a time that was pretty common. Men never stopped to think about the effect of the comments on the women. It’s just “joking” around. But, who knows, maybe they’d “get lucky.”

It now became a big deal.

Roseanne cracks a crude joke on Twitter. There are lots of crude comedians–in comedy clubs. Not that I like those. Putting it out in the public for everyone to see? Within 12 hours she was dissed by a co-star, had her series cancelled, had the actions dealing with her confirmed by the CEO of the corporation, and she lost her agent.

It became a big deal.

We have ancient teachings that can guide us, if we but choose.

Jesus spoke 2,000 years ago and quoted something from 2,000 years before him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Or we can look for guidance from the Apostle Paul who advised his friends in the churches in Galatia, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Time after time people in organizations are making decisions that they think upholds company policy but act in a wrong manner.

Following these guidelines (commands) you cannot be wrong.

Unfortunately those acts to not make the news. We only hear about loud-mouthed, bigoted “Christians” and acts of great insensitivity. As for me, I’d just as soon not be in the news.

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?