Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

Mother’s Day Is Coming

May 11, 2017

Interesting that Jon Swanson wrote about Mother’s Day this morning.

I got into a conversation with an Israeli journalist yesterday in Las Vegas at the computer conference I attended. The subject of Mother’s Day came up. He was staying in the States for a second conference, so he would be here for the holiday. But he was confused about it. His English was not fluent. We could not translate “Hallmark Holiday” into terms he could comprehend.

According to a Wikipedia article, a certain Anna Jarvis began campaigning in 1905 for a day to be set aside as a national holiday in commemoration of her mother–a Civil War peace activist. Some states began recognizing it by 1908. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1911 setting Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May.

But it didn’t take long….

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

Gee, sounds like Christmas all over again. And Easter. And Father’s Day (well, maybe not so commercial, you can’t buy for men, you know). Did you know Sibling’s Day? Grandparent’s Day? Groundhog Day? Ooops, I think that one is different.

It is certainly hard to maintain your focus on meaning in the midst of hype.

My mother passed away quite a few years ago. I still remember the last time I saw her alive. But my wife reminds me that she is the mother of my children, so I should remember and honor her. And I will. For the 17th time in the past 22 years, I’ll be overseeing the referees at a soccer tournament. So, I’m out of her hair and she can do as she pleases.

But, maybe dinner later.

And to my many international readers–perhaps you don’t have a national holiday, but you could still take a day and do something special for your mother.

Treat Each Other With Love

May 3, 2017

I heard words I never heard in the Bible. –Paul Simon

“Hi, Honey. How was the game?”

“(mumble, mumble)”

“What? And you seem to be home early.”

“I can’t believe it. They threw us out of the park. Me and my friends just had a few beers and started yelling names at the other team’s center fielder. Then one of us threw something at him. And then we were out of there.”

I often imagine conversations. How do you go home and tell your family that you’ve acted like an irresponsible jerk? And then suffered the consequences.

There is a story in this morning’s local newspaper about a guy who had too much to drink, chose to drive his car, caused an accident that killed someone. Now he has very public consequences–three years in jail.

We all do something stupid at times.

For some people, it’s a lifestyle.

It is possible to change.

 

Avoid Those Who Cause Dissensions

May 1, 2017

Some people just seem to love causing trouble. We knew them in elementary school. We knew them in high school. They are in our churches, our organizations, our businesses.

There are people who show up at your church with one agenda–raise dissensions and split the church.

Paul finished his teaching in his letter to the Romans. He was greeting people by name.

Then, while thinking about all the people, he must have had a thought about those he didn’t wish to greet. He gave a final instruction inserted in  his greeting people and his good bye.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.”

What was the teaching? First, believe that God raised Jesus from death to life. Second, love everyone always.

Does sowing dissension and splitting fellowships show love? Does that attract outsiders to a loving fellowship? Or, like Paul wrote, does it just serve to feed the ego of the sower?

Consider wisely.

Watch Out For Pointing Fingers

April 20, 2017

Our pastor somehow worked the evils of sex into every message. Then one day, he ran off with the wife of the chairman of the Board of Deacons. — Told to me by a friend years ago.

A “Mr. Morality” on TV is now looking for a job after years of sexual impropriety become public.

Hamlet:
Madam, how like you this play?

Queen:
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Gertrude says that Player Queen affirms so much as to lose credibility. Her vows are too elaborate, too artful, too insistent.

Shakespeare

Yes, sometimes we seem to affirm morality so much that others begin to doubt just how moral we are.

Have you ever looked deeply within? Just as Paul describes early in Romans, I have looked and discovered that within me, I am capable of many sins and immorality.

I’d rather spend my energy focusing on me, and my path. It is not for me to point out everyone’s wrongdoing. That is too easy.

As Jesus pointed out, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” [Matthew 7, but also Luke 6]

Or Paul in Romans [2] who is more prosaic and less poetic, “You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Like yesterday’s thoughts on an angry mom who tweets, it’s too easy to take shots at others. Better is to take care of our own spiritual house.

Don’t Miss The Starting Gun

April 18, 2017

No one told you when to run; You missed the starting gun. — Pink Floyd

I was thinking about all the people (guys and girls) gathered around Jesus after his resurrection. They were still thinking about the kind of power that comes from running the country and the religious establishment. (see yesterday’s post from Acts 1)

They almost missed the race.

Jesus told them about the different kind of power that they were to receive.

Read the next chapter. Acts 2 (Willow Creek Community Church, for example, is a church driven by the vision of an Acts 2 church) reports the power of the Holy Spirit in people as it settled inside the followers. And then many more followers.

The apostle Paul loves athletic analogies. He talks about running the race. You can’t run if you miss the starting gun.

What about us? Like Willie Nelson, have we been looking for love in all the wrong places? And then we never really got started in life? Just settled?

It’s not too late.

I just saw an article in The New York Times that discussed research into creativity. Turns out that our creativity does not die off once we hit the age of 30. Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) said at age 22 that middle aged and older people cannot be creative. “All I have is a mattress at home. I don’t have stuff to stifle my creativity.” I wonder if he thinks he has no creativity now. I bet with a wife and babies he has more than just a mattress in his mansion, er house.

The article featured a guy who is 91 and working to invent an entirely new battery to replace alkaline and lithium ion. Looks like he just about has it.

It’s amazing how people can embark on entirely new careers at 50 or 60, or even 70.

It’s not too late to get started.

And The Foundation Of My Faith Is…

April 6, 2017

We received a solicitation for donation recently. In order to stir up our passion and cause us to open our bank account to them, the solicitor assured us that the foundation of their faith was [pick the religious/political topic du jour].

Well, we decided right there that this Christian organization was not going to be the beneficiary of any more of our money.

You see, the foundation of our faith is Jesus. We are followers of Jesus who lived, died, and lived again.

I know, that’s too simple for some people to understand. They want more rules. More ways to separate “us” from “them”.

In the eyes of that organization, I am proudly “them”.

They hit me just as I was studying Paul’s advice about how to live in community as a follower of Jesus.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of another.

I ask and pray daily, why do we continue to do these things? Why keep trying to divide? Why put stumbling blocks and obstacles in front of people? Do they think that more people will become followers because of such hard-hearted attitudes? Or, do they care more about making points than living with-God?

The early church grew because people looked around and said, “I want what they’ve got.” Today, people look at the Christians who get all the publicity and say, “I don’t want that.”

The question is not “do you agree with me” but rather “how can I serve you.”

Thinking We Ought To Be In Charge

April 3, 2017

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think…”

“Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”

Paul had never visited the little community of Christ-followers in Rome. Yet,  I wonder what he must have heard about them.

Twice, in consecutive paragraphs, Paul offers these words of humility.

How often do we say, if only I were in charge, things would be different. Meaning, of course, better.

But, do we have the gifts to be in charge?

It is so much easier to criticize than do. Criticizing puts you above the doer, at least in your mind.

But, actually making the decision and living with it–that’s an entirely different matter.

That’s why we respect those who have accomplished something. They have something to say. Yet, they seldom do. They understand the difficulties.

It is so worthwhile to pause at intervals and “view ourselves with sober judgement”.

Those who know their gifts and use them are the happiest.

Our Inability To Judge Others

March 16, 2017

I grew up a Cleveland Browns fan. Save your sympathy. I am still sort of a fan, but it’s hard to be “fanatic.” (For those of you overseas from here, that is a team that more-or-less plays American-style football.)

When the team re-started after the owner moved them to Baltimore, the owners hired a succession of people who supposedly knew the sport and players to run the team. 24 quarterbacks later (over 18 years), they still have not picked one who is talented enough to play at the professional level.

The point is that even experts in a field cannot judge talent before hand.

How often do we pre-judge others? How often are we accurate?

All the time. And, seldom.

Yet, we still do it. It’s a rush to apply a label so that we know how to deal with the person.

We see a man with neatly combed hair, dark suit that fits, white dress shirt, and necktie. We meet a young woman with tattoos up the arm. Five piercings in each ear and a piercing through the nose. Unkempt hair.

Which is the person who can’t be trusted?

Actually, my guess goes toward the guy who is probably either a lawyer or politician 😉

We don’t really know, do we? Not until we talk with them. The preposition is with, not at.

One of the things I learn from Jesus, whom I follow and try to emulate, is that he gave people a chance to show themselves. He knew a lot about types of people. But he seldom said anything until they spoke and revealed their hearts. Then he would comment, help, or turn away.

There are so many things we prejudge. And so many ways we are wrong. About people. About talent. About schools to attend. About jobs to take or churches to attend.

Awareness of our weakness is the first step toward true observation.

Fill Me Up, Or Kindle A Fire

March 9, 2017

Enthusiasm is a fire to be kindled not a vessel to be filled.

So, this email proposal came my way. Register and come down to our conference and let our team fill you to overflowing with enthusiasm.

I’m sure these are great people. They no doubt believe in what they are doing. And, like all God’s children, they need to earn a living.

But enthusiasm leaks.

It leaves a trail behind of dribbles to puddles.

Have you ever been to a lecture, conference, church service, or whatever else where one of those speakers skilled at getting you fired up is leading?

How fast did you lose the enthusiasm? Could you remember much even the next day?

I did not attribute the quote at the beginning because I made it up. But the thought comes from many ancient and not so ancient philosophers. Socrates used the phrase regarding education. Steven Covey also borrowed it.

So how do you kindle the fire from within?

  • Work on something you believe will change the world for the better.
  • Work with people who are focused on the same ends and also a joy to be with.
  • Eat well–meaning appropriate nutrition, balance.
  • Exercise your body appropriately.
  • Exercise your mind–read inspirational things first thing in the morning before you get hit with the day’s bad news.
  • Pray/meditate several times per day.

How does that old song go? “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.”

Anger And Bitterness Disappears Before The Fragrance of Humility

March 8, 2017

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. –Zen proverb

Enlightenment. The direct experience of God.

I began meditating some 45 years ago with the goal of enlightenment. This meditation became known as Centering Prayer promulgated by Father Thomas Keating among others at the time.

Then I began exploring the Desert Fathers and came across John Climacus and his work, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.”

These writers and mystics went beyond enlightenment in a way. What they worked diligently on was bringing our entire life before God. Later, Richard J. Foster (“Celebration of Discipline“) called it the With-God life.

John Climacus wrote, “The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

There are people who seem to exist only to stir up those hearts, blow up those unclean winds.

Notice that John considers anger something that binds us, imprisons us.

He continues (this is Step 8 on the Ladder of Divine Ascent, by the way), “Just as darkness retreats before light, so all anger and bitterness disappears before the fragrance of humility.”

Humility–putting others before us in our attitude and awareness. When we leave behind being so wrapped up in ourselves and begin to consider others, then we have taken a step with-God.

The Zen proverb tells us that enlightenment is good, but we still have to live out our  lives every day. John Climacus is one of those guides who can help us.