Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

What Am I Doing Here?

March 17, 2023

Have you ever found yourself somewhere only to ask yourself, “What am I doing here? How did I get here?”

We can think geographically or socially or emotionally.

I immediately had flashbacks of being somewhere between 17 and 19 riding in a car on back country roads with a crazy guy going 100 miles-per-hour (160 kmh). What am I doing here?

Perhaps you were at a dive bar or other place where only trouble happens.

It could be a relationship. Or a job. Or a church. Or lack of any of those.

Now is the part of a normal religious writing especially for the Web where we offer 10 things you can do to improve your life or 7 sure steps to leave the rut. Or, if I were a fundamentalist, I’d just say “Find Jesus and all will be well.”

To quote George Costanza from Seinfeld, “I got nothin’.”

I wish I had a formula about how awareness grew within me. I became aware of where I was. Then I became aware of something better. And aware of someone or something that was trying to help.

Sometimes awareness follows a significant event. Sometimes awareness is like a small seed that grows within until the mature plant blooms within. “Ah ha,” we say to ourselves (or to a significant other person). “How could I have been so blind?”

I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

What did I realize? I made choice that led me there. I could make other choices to lead me out. Maybe I just needed to recognize the pointers to help me with those choices.

Revealing The Passions of the Soul

March 16, 2023

Evagrius observed, “The spoken word or some movement of the body is a sign of the passions of the soul.”

He was writing to monks who had left society for the desert in order to find and live with God. Perhaps it helps to have visited one of those places in the desert in order to fix the scene in our modern minds. Seeing the world through their eyes as a battle between those forces that would have one or another of our passions control us versus the force of God. We can also get a sense from the story of Jesus going into the desert to face some of those temptations directly and thus solidifying his relationship with his Father.

Evagrius continued in this teaching, number 47 in the Praktikos, to discuss how the forces trying to undermine us use those signs against us while God knows our hearts at all times.

But we also can use those signs as we reflect at the end of the day on what we said or did in order to discern the state of our soul.

Only in that way can we further our spiritual development.

People who know us and care for us also use those signs to perhaps encourage us to find help when we might need it—a counsellor, therapist, pastor, workshop, 12-step program.

What goes on inside us inevitably reveals itself to the outer world. Guard your thoughts.

Someone Plants an Idea

March 7, 2023

I heard someone (actually, I’ve heard this many times) tell another person, “our church only teaches from the Bible, and yours doesn’t.” And the receiver of that “wisdom” goes off believing it and questioning their place.

It happens in politics. One comment embeds itself–say “that group is out to get you”–and the next thing you know every time you see someone of that other group you are wary, then worried, then fearful and angry.

It only takes a few words to plant an idea. It is more easily done when it strikes at an insecurity.

It is likely that I became an acute observer of life because my mother had some emotional health issues at times.

Should I hear one of those we are better or we do it differently conversations as an observer, I’ll think “but you’re actually quite similar. There’s only a slight difference in emphasis.” But if that idea is planted that there exists a difference of kind rather than degree, it could change a life direction.

That’s why I teach always returning to the source. Especially in spiritual matters. Have you fit reading the gospels (not just Paul and Peter, but the actual record of Jesus’ teaching and actions) into your regular routine. Return often to the basics that Jesus taught.

  • Change your life because the kingdom of heaven is here
  • Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself
  • You will be known as my follower if you love one another
  • You have seen me heal, when you are with the Spirit, you also will heal people

That last one made me wonder–when is the last time (if ever) that I have said or done a healing act for someone else? Or, even for myself? It may not be a miracle like raising Lazarus from death. But it could be just the words to help someone along the path to healing a relationship or calming an anger.

Weigh people’s words. Take care not to let a comment get into your mind like a musical ear worm. Observe similarities. Return to the first principles of being a disciple.

A Moment Missed

March 6, 2023

I sat at my desk at 6 am cup of coffee in hand turned looking from my window across the little par 3 golf course at the houses on the far side of our development. The sun will officially rise in half-an-hour. The moon is waxing gibbous, almost full, as it sets almost matching the sun rising.

My eyes closed for it is meditation time. But I looked out only a few moments later. The moon was gone. 

It was only a moment. And the scene was gone.

How often for us. There is the moment.

  • We could greet someone new at our community or organization.
  • We could say a word of consolation.
  • We could open a door or take a load for someone.
  • We could give a hug or a smile.
  • We provide food for someone, buy a cup of coffee, or give a homeless person the extra food we’d boxed to carry out from the restaurant.

There was the moment. Staring us in the face. And, as they might say to me at the golf course, we whiffed—missed the ball. The moment is gone. We didn’t act. We missed the moment.


March 3, 2023

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

Carly Simon

My two weather apps have predicted a large snow/ice event for today for the past week or more. One app started about 7-inches and eventually predicted 12-inches. Then settled back to 7 then 4. The other not so much, but still plenty. We postponed a family gathering for today pushing it back to Sunday. Yesterday in the morning a National Weather Service “Watch” was posted suggesting 5-inches to 8-inches of heavy, wet snow. Suddenly in the evening, I noticed the Watch disappeared without so much as a whimper.

So, we spent a week of anticipation of a snow event that evidently is not going to happen.

I can’t seem to help myself. Especially for whether that might happen, the anticipation gives me a slight amount of nervousness. I can’t sit for long. There is a need to get up and wander around a bit to relieve the subtle tension.

Christians are now in the season of Lent leading up to the weekend of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We know from the Gospels that at least some of the close disciples of Jesus were nervous with anticipation during that last walk to Jerusalem. Then, events happened so quickly. Then there was the death. And a day of anticipation. They actually were anticipating a knock at the door by the authorities coming to arrest them. They were not anticipating seeing Jesus again.

We worry about so many things that never happen.

Then, something good happens. That can range from the daily mundane of a nice day without snow to the gigantic surprise of talking with Jesus again.

Anticipation in the form of preparation can be a good thing. Anticipation in the form of worry drains our energy and emotional life.

Quoting Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” seems a bit frivolous. A grain of truth hides in those words. Prepare with an optimistic mindset; don’t worry yourself into a cringing mess.

We Betray Ourselves

February 16, 2023

A friend talked about his preacher from when he was a kid. The preacher managed to work the subject of the evils of sex into every sermon. Then one day the preacher left town with the wife of the chairman of the Board of Deacons.

A man was known to have abusive attitudes toward women. He touted a book his daughter suggested he read written by two women who discussed abusive relationships. He seemed unaware that the book was meant for his own understanding.

I once listened to a pastor every week on a podcast. One day I realized that he was really self-centered and unaware of several shortcomings. His deeper vices did remain hidden…until they were brought to light. And I realized he had been telling us without realizing himself many of his faults.

Makes me think of the Scot poet Robert Burns, (not in Scot dialect) “Oh what a gift he gives us, to see ourselves as others see us.”

Makes me wonder what I’m saying that I don’t realize. How about you? What are we blind to about ourselves. Maybe time to stop and consider.

Awareness Is Such a Beautiful Thing

February 13, 2023

I don’t know all of my weaknesses. But I know some important ones.

I can easily be addicted to computer games. I had a little handheld football game in the late 1970s. I was on that a lot. Gloria Mark in her recently released book Attention Span says that can be a good way to relieve cognitive stress. But, games have become so immersive that I’ve avoided them for many years. They can lead me beyond relieving stress into addiction.

My emotions are easily aroused. I’ve learned (mostly) not to reply to lies spreading around social media. But awareness tells me to severely limit my exposure. My mental health and stability have been greatly improved.

I am aware of the state of mind of people around me. I learned that at a very early age thanks to an emotionally unstable home life. That’s often a good thing. I can respond appropriately. On the other hand, sometimes I can misinterpret (see above about emotions).

Developing awareness has improved my life a bit at a time. I’m aware when I’m with God and when we’re apart. I’m aware when I’ve become too withdrawn and need to interact with others.

Awareness is a beautiful thing. It helps me live a better life and probably makes things better for those around me.

Tossed Between Belief and Unbelief

February 3, 2023

Does it ever happen to you? One day you feel great. Everything goes well. The next you feel depressed with seemingly nothing going right.

Think of Jesus’s friend Simon whom he nicknamed Peter (the rock).

One day Simon blurts out a sentence of amazing spiritual depth. “You are the Messiah.” Jesus calls him a rock.

Soon after, maybe the next day, that rock was more like a rolling stone. The newly crowned Peter blurts out that Jesus can’t possibly be right, that things won’t happen the way he says. Jesus calls him Satan telling him to get out of his way.

Not only Peter but the whole crowd of them seemed to oscillate between euphoria with Jesus doing great things reflecting back on them and depression with some of the hard and weird things Jesus said.

So, we’re not unique feeling that oscillation.

Gradually we learn calm, awareness, perspective. We realize that stuff happens. Like a pendulum given a push and left alone, the swings gradually reduce until we reach the still point. That point of understanding. That point where we can be like Jesus (a little), the calm port in the storm.

This only happens with deep spiritual understanding and experience. That’s why we practice the spiritual disciplines.

Beware The Yeast That Infuses The Mind

February 2, 2023

Jesus and the group that followed him packed up what they carried with them. They left to go to another place. They were always wandering from place to place. You’d think they would have the packing thing down to a habit.

They forgot to pack the bread. Did you ever start out on a trip with that funny feeling in the back of the mind? That feeling that suddenly bursts into “Oh my god, I forgot to pack the ….”?

Well, the guys were probably blaming each other as they realized they had left a pile of bread behind. “I thought you had it.” “I thought he had it.” “Didn’t you pick it up?”

Jesus said, “Forget the bread. Beware the yeast of the Pharisees.”

It took two times for the message to sink in that Jesus wasn’t reprimanding them for the bread. He used this simple real-life example as a teaching moment. 

Don’t let the wrong ideas or teaching infuse your brain and soul. Use awareness and  discernment to filter those out as you do your daily reading and listening. 

Let the words and actions of Jesus be the yeast that infuses your soul and grows into a beautiful bread.

Liars and Dopamine and Social Media

January 30, 2023

Day 30 of reading a chapter from the Proverbs a day. Reflecting upon how often liars are despised.

Perhaps you were kids on the playground. Perhaps it was later in young adulthood. Someone gets angry and wants to fight. All the people around encourage him. They are not going to fight. But the angry one grows ever more belligerent and ready to go into the fight.

Liars on social media are in search of “likes”. Each like is a hit of dopamine for the mind. Like the encouragers in the mob encouraging the one to fight, the “likers” obtain some joy watching someone else play the fool. The “liked” person feels vindicated and backed up ready to go further.

We may think this is a new phenomenon—all this lying on social media. But literature from 3,000 years ago containing sayings most likely passed down from many generations before show us that lying is not new. It is as old as humans in community.

Yet, we also have the examples of the wise, the truthful. They existed at the same time.

Community, society, exist in tension between the wise and the fool, the truth teller and the liar.

Our choice, my choice, your choice is to become aware and then choose—within which side of the tension shall we reside?