Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

Repaired

September 8, 2021

I’ve heard this story several times lately. That must mean it’s time to share it with you. This one comes from Ian Morgan Cron, an Episcopalian priest, therapist, and Enneagram whiz.

In Japan, when a valuable tea bowl or piece of pottery breaks, the owner doesn’t throw it out. 

They take it to a craftsman who gathers the shards of the broken vessel and mends it with lacquer dusted with 24k gold powder in an art form known as “kintsugi.”

The result is an object that is imperfect but paradoxically more beautiful than it was before it broke.

What we can learn from kintsugi is what the Japanese call “the perfection of imperfection.” 

When mended, the owner displays the kintsugi bowl in a place of honor in their home where visitors and guests can see and admire it. The display reminds them that imperfections are not only okay–they can even be made resplendent!

So the next time your Inner Critic tells you that you’re beyond repair, incapable, or even unworthy of love and relationship, turn to it and say, “No. God has made me perfect in my imperfection.” We can overcome the many forces that conspire to keep us from fully living our lives when we believe that God can make our damaged hearts beautiful.

“Repaired” is also known as “Grace.”

Beauty

September 2, 2021

Sitting on my patio this morning, my thoughts drifted to the juvenile things I’ve recently seen and heard adults do. Then I lifted my eyes, as the Psalmist would say, and saw the beauty of the trees and grass and coffee cup (well, thinking of the direct trade coffee in the cup).

Far better it is to contemplate beauty than lose myself in negativity. My friend Sarah commented on a Facebook picture I had posted, “You live in such a beautiful place.” I had thought, beauty is where you look for it. My friend is a beautiful person. I am blessed to know many beautiful people. This place is beautiful. So is where I’m from. So is southeastern Ohio where we often vacation. Or Norway, Ireland, Hungary and the many other places I’ve visited.

Such a far better attitude to carry into the day ahead with the many problems I will have to solve. Sometimes we just need this perspective to survive.

Frustration

September 1, 2021

Frustration grows within us when things just don’t conform to our will. Or people don’t conform to our will. The bottle cap doesn’t screw on right away. You flip a switch and nothing turns on. You tell your kid to do something and they don’t.

Or life just doesn’t work out. You want to go to the store like you did a couple of years ago. Without putting on a mask. But now you’ll either spread a virus or catch a virus. Whether you believe in the reality of the virus or not. It doesn’t care, because it is. Or whether you think you are invincible or not–you’re not.

Frustrations often play out at sporting events. Especially those involving our kids.

We are half-way through the second week of the high school soccer season in Ohio. We already have three incidents of ejecting groups of spectators from games for unruly behavior.

Frustration. Leads to anger. Leads to behavior we’ll live to regret.

It’s hard to take that deep breath. Pause. Remember that life does not bend to your will. You must respond to life.

It reminds me of the first paper on philosophy I wrote as a college sophomore. Henrik Ibsen’s concept of truth as described through Peer Gynt. He called it a creative response to life.

I think Jesus would be happy with that idea. He certainly responded to life creatively, with great stories and teachings, and with how he lived (and died, and lived…).

Perhaps we could learn the hard lesson. It definitely isn’t easy. But give it a try.

Dystopian Prophetic Voice

August 24, 2021

In the year 2525

If man is still alive

If woman can survive

They may find

Zager and Evans

My wife tunes her car radio to Sirius XM 60s on 6. (Except I’ve been driving it lately and switched to Margaritaville. A little Parrot Head music will be good for her.) They played In the Year 2525 the other day. I remembered that era. About the same time Barry McGuire sang PF Sloan’s Eve of Destruction. People thought things in the world looked pretty bleak. It’s been 52 years, what goes around, comes around. We’ve been through bust and boom and now people thing things look bleak.

Yesterday’s post was my number 2525. Coincidences are interesting. I started thinking about the song.

In the year 9595

I’m kinda wondering if man is gonna be alive

He’s taken everything this old earth can give

And he ain’t put back nothing, woah, woah

Zager and Evans

We read prophecy–maybe the Hebrew prophets or Nostradamus or some contemporary wannabe prophet. Rather, we often misread them. Usually they are using if-then-else logic. “If you keep doing this, then this bad thing will happen, else changing your ways will bring better things.”

That last verse I quoted has many meanings. It hits (the old church word is “convicts”) each of us. How much do we take every day? How much do we give back?

Do we take love without giving back? Do we accept gifts without ever giving?

This idea is worth pausing for reflection. And maybe changing our ways, woah, woah.

Nice and Friendly People

July 26, 2021

My wife and I are wrapping up a road trip. I wanted to attend a memorial for one of my aunts. She was a great blessing to my mother. She also tried to teach the town’s geek (me) some social graces. (note “tried”). Once the pandemic cleared enough to have a gathering, the family settled on last weekend in the rural Arkansas area that had been her home before Ohio.

I had this brainstorm. I’ve visited 46 of the nation’s 50 states. Three of the four remaining were almost contiguous–Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Today, we’re in Tulsa wrapping up a week of travel and vacation.

We’ve been in rural areas and small cities along the way. The church where the memorial service occurred was in the middle of the countryside several miles from a town. We accidentally arrived quite early. There was a man giving food boxes to people in need when we arrived. He let us in to wait. First of about 50 people from the area we met all friendly and helpful. The same everywhere we went.

We were close to Little Rock, so we visited the President Clinton library. We’ve been to a few of these. Always interesting to remember the conflicts and successes and failures of the times. I was struck by the many displays of letters from people in the various conflict areas. They expressed wishes for peace. I thought about how (well, almost) all of us want peace.

We can choose to see friendliness, smiles, wishes for peace, and live much the better for it.

Is Your Attitude Lowering Your Altitude?

June 17, 2021

There was the Christian podcast. The interviewer is not polished or articulate, but the heart is pure gold. The guest a learned person. Most likely more letters following his name than I’d have ever dreamed of having.

There is something I’ve discovered about those advanced degrees, though. They are not a guarantee of anything other than the tenacity to work through the system and a lot of knowledge about a narrow field of study.

My problem was that I had not the tenacity to work through the system and I wanted to know everything about everything.

But, we didn’t come here to talk about me. Or what that learned guest knows.

It’s all about attitude.

I came away from that podcast discouraged for a bit. The guest was so negative. It’s the old thing “the world doesn’t agree with me so everything is going to hell in a handbasket.” I was thinking of donating to the charity and came away from the podcast thinking that I’ll never send another dime.

Upon reflection, though, I thought about different attitudes.

Maybe it’s where I work versus the guest. Even though I am not meeting many people in person, I work with overall the nicest, most intelligent, hard working people. And I stay far away from deep involvement in church politics. These two things reinforce my generally optimistic outlook on life.

That guest’s altitude will never get above the clouds, whereas your attitude could have you soaring. If, that is, you choose the right attitude.

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.