Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Practicing Mindfulness

December 12, 2017

We are reading in the gospel of John in a small group. John has been talking about these tough spiritual concepts about “being in the Father” and “the Father in me” and “Jesus in me” and “being in Jesus.”

I mentioned the long tradition of meditation as a method of experiencing that union with God. I’ve been at it for more than 50 years. I can testify that it will change your life.

Contemplating these things this morning, I rested in the question of what it means to be “in the Father” or “with-God” life.

The image of the fruit of the Spirit rose in my consciousness. Paul writes to the community of Christ followers in Galatia, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Being in the Father means that we these words describe us–the type of person we are, the type of actions people see in us.

During this season of the year, joy and peace are words thrown around sometimes casually. Patience, kindness, gentleness, and (especially) self-control are other practices that certainly would help us and those around us navigate through the season.

While discussing meditation as a way to experience union with God, the question was posed, what about mindfulness? We hear a lot about that.

The mindfulness practices we are hearing about, especially from therapists, strips away New Age clutter or spiritual meditation, and just takes us back to the practice. People began noticing decades ago that people who meditate experience many favorable physical and emotional benefits. So, therapists have taken the technique to help people cope.

The number one app in the Apple App Store in 2017 is called Calm. It’s one of probably hundreds of apps that help you:

  1. Slow down
  2. Breathe deeply
  3. Focus on a word, or body part (my feet and legs feel warm and relaxed, for example)
  4. Reconnect body, mind, and soul
  5. Find sanity in a sometimes insane world

Peace.

From Whom Can We Learn

December 8, 2017

“Have you read that essay that went viral on the Internet about how women can’t be engineers?” someone asked a radio interviewer, who happens to be a woman who earned a Ph.D. in engineering.

“No,” she replied. “I am careful what I fill my mind with. Thoughts can determine attitudes.”

The other day, before I was distracted, I wrote about keeping our eyes wide open this Advent. That’s called awareness.

Do we go through life unaware of the things around us–the good works of some, the grief and misery of others?

The next step is attention. To what or to whom do we pay attention?

Better, from whom can we learn if we but pay attention?

From a professor? Maybe.

From a child? Probably. Consider that a child with few preconceived ideas, observes things from an entirely new perspective. They are curious. Listen. Pay attention. She may rock your world.

From a person with little education? Often, if we pay attention. It’s still a different perspective.

If you are a specialist in one area, listen to those in another area.

We can be intentionally aware of all the Christmas preparations, but we need to watch what we pay attention to. It determines our attitude.

Advent With Eyes Wide Open

December 5, 2017

The attack fizzled. The defending team won the ball, played it forward. The new attack was on. It’s now a 70-yard sprint. The referee had to turn, changing direction from one attack to catching up with the attack going the other way. That is the way it goes for 90 minutes in a competitive soccer match.

We are evaluating the referee. As he sprints, we notice he is looking down at the ground ahead of him. Had there been a challenge for the ball in those crucial seconds, he would have missed it.

He needed his eyes wide open watching the developing positions of the players, anticipating where the attacker was going relative to his teammates. He needed to see potential challenges. All this information while running at full speed.

We find ourselves at Advent changing direction from Thanksgiving to Christmas. We put our heads down and run hard for four weeks. Worrying about presents to buy, parties to attend, places to go, plans to make.

We fail to notice the developing “play” (to carry the analogy).

We fill our minds with the advertising images of delighted children–and increasingly adults–finding presents.

Perhaps our eyes should be open to signs of the celebration of the coming of the Prince of Peace, the one who brings righteousness and justice.

In this time of global xenophobia, fear, and distrust, we really need this bringer of peace, justice, and unity with God.

Curiosity For a Fuller Life

December 4, 2017

Why, if Jesus came as the fulfillment of prophecy about God’s peace and justice, are so many of his followers so violent and have been throughout much of history?

Why did Jesus pray that his followers would be one with him and the Father and one with each other only to have millions of people claiming to follow him yet divide themselves into smaller groups in order to argue and fight with other groups of people claiming his name?

We have a few stories about Jesus entering the world. What was it really like?

Why did I accept certain teachings only to grow up and discover that they really were not in the Bible after all?

Walter Issacson has written a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. This follows previous biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. He discovered his curiosity leading to the research and books was about these unconventional, yet highly creative, men. I’ve heard Issacson speak twice in the last month. These men were all curious–about many things.

He relates how Da Vinci wrote in a journal one morning about thinking about woodpecker’s tongues. He was curious.

How much of these stories about Jesus have I just accepted, placed in a safe memory spot, and then just dusted off each December along with the Christmas tree ornaments?

Where did my curiosity about what it was really like, what did it really mean, how did people really react go?

We are in the season of Advent. The idea is that we are to prepare for the celebration of Jesus coming into our world.

Maybe part of preparation is to ask lots of questions. And seek the deeper answers.

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

Who You Are Speaks More Loudly Than What You Say

September 8, 2017

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it’s the only thing”, Albert Schweitzer believes this because it shows what kind of person someone really is. 

What parent hasn’t been exasperated by what their kids have done after being told not to do it.

Floyd had the most vulgar language of anyone in the shop. One day he’s talking at break time and says he had to slap his daughter for using one of those words I’m not going to print. 

We all looked at him and said, “Where do you think she learned to talk that way?”

There was a teacher who taught what was called in the old days Home Economics. Part of the curriculum was etiquette. You know, how to eat properly. In the cafeteria, she was a slob. She told the students around her, “Do as I say, not as I do.” How do you think that worked?

There’s the preacher who speaks passionately about the love of God thinking words will move the attendees. But what they see is someone who is aloof or arrogant. 

Humility is the key to character. Every time I fail in that trait I beat myself up (metaphorically) for a long time. But at least I’m aware of it. How many people slide through life blissfully unaware of their impact on others? Don’t be that guy.

Good Leaders Have Great Observation Skills

August 17, 2017

Leaders are observers.

I was a new college graduate. I thought it would be smart to take a year off before graduate school and make some money since I was paying my own way.

A teaching position opened. I had zero training for the position. But in those days, there was an acute shortage of teachers. All I had was a degree. No training. Protestant religion applying for a position in a Catholic school. No knowledge of the developmental psychology of 13-year-olds. Pure geek. And I became the new 7th grade social studies and writing teacher at a Catholic school.

So I went in to check out my room and met Mr. Carder, one of the other 7th grade teachers (the other two were nuns). We were each to have 40 students in our classes. Mr. Carder began talking about his previous class. It dawned on me that he knew the names and mannerisms of each of his previous 40 students.

Wow, I thought. That’ll be a challenge. And it was.

Somewhere in the Bible is the phrase “Looking but not seeing”. 

Aren’t we often afflicted with that disease.

We think we are watching the road as we drive, but then we can’t remember a thing about the route.

We thought we were awake while walking along the street, but we didn’t see the homeless person or the mother struggling with kids and packages.

We see the people on our committee or organization, but we really have no clue about where they are in life. Are they connected and committed? Is there an agenda? Or a problem?

Let that phrase not apply to us.

Finding Accountability in Our Work

August 16, 2017

Henry Cloud, psychologist and author, gave one of the best talks on leadership and accountability I’ve ever heard last week at Willow Creek Community Church.

He begins with a story.

Seems a man with a plan–to start a new company, that is–talked with a friend about his wish to start a company. The friend wrote a name on a card and told him to call this business consultant.

The consultant listened to him and asked him about advisors. I need a marketing person, a tech person, a sales person, said the budding entrepreneur. The consultant told him that really he should find five people he respected. He should ask them to meet with him weekly for breakfast. These people should hold him accountable for the actions it would take to start a business.

The guy thought, I need sales and marketing, not a support group. So he shunned the advice. 

He had funding. He had a business plan. He failed in a year.

Who holds you accountable. Who is your small group of advisors who ask how you’re doing on all the little activities it takes to succeed.

Interestingly, Andy Stanley talked last week about Solomon’s son Rheoboam who shunned the wise advice of the elders and took the advice of his young buddies–and lost his kingdom.

I’ve known many people who could have had small groups of accountability partners, a support group, yet they didn’t accept the advice. Usually it was through pride–they wanted to prove they could succeed on their own.

Tip: we don’t succeed on our own. I know.

Another tip: Listen to Henry Cloud any chance you get.