Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Who Is A Fool?

January 26, 2023

Today’s chapter in Proverbs hit the fools, the lazy, and the “whisperer.” So, I thought, who is a fool? Is there a picture of a fool? How would I know one, really?

Wow, did that ever send me down into a rabbit’s warren of Ecosia searches. That was 12 hours ago. A busy day and several zoom meetings later, here I am after dinner still thinking.

Perhaps I am the fool?

Speaking of fools, I thought about our politicians in the US. A big group of them keep trying to run every detail of our lives. Many of these were youth and adolescents of the 70s.

This 70s song by Jonathan Edwards (Sunshine Go Away Today) appeared on our Sonos speakers

Sunshine, go away today
I don’t feel much like dancing
Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life
He don’t know what he’s asking
When he tells me I better get in line
I can’t hear what he’s saying
When I grow up, I’m gonna make it mine
These ain’t dues I been paying

Well, how much does it cost?
I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost
I’ll try it
And he can’t even run his own life
I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, sunshine

The song is packed with teenage rebellion. On the other hand, I was impacted by the line–he can’t even run his own life I’ll be damed if he’ll run mine.

How often do we, yes we, you and me, try to tell other people how to live yet our own lives leave so much to be desired?

Once again a use for the discipline of pause, breathe, consider, be quiet.

When Love Meets

January 19, 2023

When love meets pain, it becomes compassion.

When love meets happiness, it becomes joy.

Joy is an expression of the awakened heart, a quality of enlightenment. When we live in the present, joy often arises for no reason.

Jack Kornfield

When I came across these thoughts, I was compelled by the spirit to pause and consider. I love that thought of “when love meets…” What a powerful picture.

And I thought about how joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit according to the Apostle Paul.

Then I remembered this little folk song from the time when I sold my electric guitar and bought a nylon-stringed acoustic one and sang folk songs. Many from Catholics in the mid-to-late 60s. Like this one written by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, Joy Is Like The Rain.

I saw raindrops on the river, Joy is like the rain.

Bit by bit the river grows, till all at once it overflows.

Joy is like the rain.

Perhaps today I can rest in joy. Care to join me?

Offering An Opinion Lacking Understanding

January 18, 2023

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.”

Proverbs 18

Sometimes I wonder if Solomon had the power to look 3,000 years into the future and view today’s society. We often hear “I’m entitled to my opinion” but never “I’m in need of understanding.”

But, no, obviously this condition of mindlessly spouting off unfounded opinion is as old as human civilization. Maybe older.

What do we admire about some people?

Is it not that they have deep understanding and yet they do not metaphorically bludgeon us with it.

Wise people share their insights derived from their understanding at a time and place where we can effectively apply it to our situation.

We admire them, perhaps even while also disliking them for the uncomfortable feeling of our own need to change. For, we hate to change–our minds, our lifestyle, our habits.

I think of people who met Jesus and understood the wisdom of his words and yet walked away sadly knowing that they had not the courage or energy to change.

And I wonder, where do we need to change beginning today? And what? And how?

The rest of Chapter 18 talks of problems we cause through our talking. Similar to cautions found in the letter of James in the New Testament. Perhaps that would be a useful change for us beginning today–how and what we communicate?

I’ve made progress and yet much work remains. How about you?

Light and Dark

January 4, 2023

I’ve wandered so aimless, life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord, I saw the light

From the David Crowder Band

The gospel writers each had an individual motif. Matthew’s sub theme dealt with fulfilling Jewish prophecy. Mark emphasized action. Look under the covers of Luke’s gospel and you see the working of the Spirit and the importance of women. But John, ah, John, he is the writer of the contrast of light and dark.

I thought of him as I read this pair of thoughts from the Proverbs this week

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,

which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;

they do not know what they stumble over.”

Some of us stumble around until we see the light. For some of us it’s like the phrase “it suddenly dawned on me”, wisdom came gradually as the dawn until the brilliance of the sun of full day illuminated everything.

In my case, there were glimpses of light when I was yet a teen. But the light dawning with some bit of maturity didn’t hit until my late 20s. Psychologists would say, “Duh.” That is about when a male human’s brain finally develops. (Females a bit earlier so they say.)

I still have lapses of maturity in some social situations, but glimpses of the light became more frequent and even blinding as years and seeking rolled on.

Wisdom, personified as a woman standing in the place with most people walking by in the city, gives us the light for our way so that we can avoid stumbling. It’s never too late to bring that light of Wisdom into our hearts and see the way. I can hear the echoes of Crowder, “Praise the Lord, I saw the light!”

See Visions

December 29, 2022

Contemplating on the “Christmas Story” still this week. Did you ever notice the number of visions Matthew and Luke record in their stories?

  • Elizabeth
  • Zechariah (more than one)
  • Mary (several)
  • Joseph (several)
  • The Magi (including one to avoid Herod)
  • Simeon (at the Temple)
  • Anna (at the Temple)
  • The Shepherds

There were probably more that didn’t make it into the stories.

What was the most common command in the Bible?

Had to be Fear Not whenever God was about to communicate with people either through an angel or directly.

Have you ever experienced a vision? How did or would you react? Fear? Disbelief? Thinking it’s indigestion?

Sometimes these come to people to break through their fears and anxieties. Sometimes people cultivate a relationship with God such that God does speak to them.

I’ve had some. Two had major impacts even unto this day. Much like Peter was shown every unclean food and told to eat, I was shown all forms of sin and evil and told that within me I was capable of all sin. And that I was full of sin. And I was left with a feeling of humility–not to think of myself as perfect. Sometime later I was shown a more positive vision of humans of every race, ethnicity, gender all together at a huge party and God said these are all my children. Love them.

I don’t teach cultivating visions, but if they come pay attention to them. It could change your life.

Light and Dark

December 28, 2022

Last night we visited the Morton Arboretum in suburban Chicago for their annual Illumination event. This park celebrates trees and the illuminations centered on groves of trees. Magnificent and creative.

This morning I am remembering the experience. And I thought of John’s Gospel. My favorite in many ways. It’s more philosophical and theological than the others. Mark is packed with action. Matthew and Luke pack in details. John tells the story weaving the theme of light and dark.

Jesus, of course, was the light. He brought the light. He wanted his followers to be light. Be the light in the world.

An iPhone is a poor substitute for a really good camera (which I didn’t want to carry). But this image captures some of the light and the dark.

Our question today is–how will I be The Light today?

Jesus and Politics

December 27, 2022

Thinking on the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, I was struck this year with just how political the birth was.

  • His birth is linked with Caesar Augustus (the census)
  • The magi were most likely politically tapped in their native countries
  • They saw the birth of a star linked to the king of the Jews
  • They talked with the incumbent king of the Jews (Herod the Great)
  • Visions surrounding Jesus talked of David’s throne (king of the Jews)
  • Herod had boys two and under killed in and around Bethlehem to stop any successor to his throne not his children
  • Jesus’ family fled to Egypt for a time, then settled in Nazareth to avoid Bethlehem
  • He was called Messiah / Christos / Anointed One — meaning King

Yet, in his ministry and teaching

  • He healed Jews and Romans and others alike
  • His only talk of Kingdom was the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God
  • He told the Roman authority that his kingdom was not of this world
  • The label on his means of execution said King of the Jews

I studied politics at university (along with lots of other things); got a very high score on the politics GRE exam; studied politics at graduate school. I’ve even studied the politics of the Roman Catholic Church in European governments from about 600 to 1700 CE. You cannot avoid church and politics if you live in the United States. I also have to recommend a book I read some 50 years ago called The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder–a pacifist take on Jesus’ teachings.

The fact that nothing was said in these stories about starting a church. It was pretty much kingdom, God’s kingdom, instituted and led by a man filled with God completely.

Do I have answers? No. I do think on what Jesus would like for me to do to a) live in the kingdom of heaven and b) lead others to live in the kingdom. And does it matter how I vote? Or not? And how you vote? Or not?

Jesus would ask, what is the status of your heart?

Tyranny of the Urgent v Try Easy

December 13, 2022

It happened back in the 70s. My unofficial title at that company was “the kid in engineering.” I was included in the management level whisked off to a company-wide conference. There I was introduced to the professional personal development and productivity guru genre.

I guess I’ll not forget the points the speaker emphasized–beware the Tyranny of the Urgent and Try Easy.

British writer Oliver Burkeman wrote in his last newsletter about Urgent. He calls himself the Imperfectionist. His book Four Thousand Weeks is worth the read…and re-read.

He describes urgency as “a whole state of mind, indeed of body: the anxious knot in the stomach, the clenched jaw, the furrowed brow.”

We get that way. We try to force our way through tasks many of which don’t even need to be done.

The opposite is to know what’s important and work through these in a planned way. Of course, sometimes plans go awry, but the “imperfectionist” adapts and continues. She tries easy.

Reflecting on Advent and beyond in these terms, consider the anticipation of the entire region of a spiritual awakening and a new order. Among some, I imagine even a sense of that urgency. Especially among Jews anxious for the overthrow of Roman rule.

And Jesus was born. Thirty years later he began his ministry. And many men could not wait. Getting rid of Roman rule was an urgent task in their minds.

They didn’t understand. Jesus obviously spent 30 years learning and growing. He worked his plan by teaching and mentoring those who didn’t yet understand. Then came the crisis moment–death, burial, resurrection. But that was later.

We’re still in the anticipation moment. What will the future bring? How will it change us? Change the world? Maybe today we still need to live with some of that anticipation. Perhaps this Christmas celebration and remembrance will bring some change in us.

How Tied Are You To Your Digital Device?

December 5, 2022

I have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air. I could not have accomplished all the soccer referee administrative work I’ve done without these digital devices and the internet. I began with the digital world in manufacturing in 1976. It became a career. I’ve earned a lot of money due to digital.

Yet…

An early adopter of Twitter, I’ve all but quit using it–long before the current controversies. Facebook was a way to connect to cousins and other family I never got to see. But the message streams became so toxic that I only check it to wish people I know a happy birthday.

The “real” world is analog. This usually relates to getting signals (electrical) from the real world. There is no intermediary transformation of analog to digital.

David Sax reflected upon his experiences during the lockdown phases of the pandemic. If you recall, digital became a lifeline. Zoom for meetings or school. FaceTime for communication. Email, Facebook, Twitter, messaging. It all became digital. And digital became toxic.

Sax published his reflections in The Future Is Analog: How to Create a More Human World. Were I an editor or book reviewer, I’d pick at his style or writing. But as someone interested in spiritual formation, I recommend the book. It should open your eyes to the digital desert we’ve wandered into. It shows a way out.

Analog.

Remember baking sourdough bread? Walks in the park? Playing games? Talking with people outside socially spaced to limit the spread of germs?

I still use digital as a tool without which I could not do many of the things I want to do.

And unfortunately, I’ve moved and no longer have communities of Yoga, soccer, and church. But I get outside. See a few people at the fitness center. Meditate. Read real books. Get away from digital.

Reading, Writing, Thinking

November 30, 2022

I missed a day here yesterday. I had an outpatient procedure that necessitated leaving home about 5:30 am. I blamed the condition on past workplace stress. More likely it was hereditary given a bit of family history of my brothers. Also likely not as much genetic as growing up in the same household. We had plenty of stress there.

Glad to report that the operation was successful. I can’t praise the people at Advocate Sherman hospital enough from the receptionist to the nurses, doctors and support staff. By the time I got home yesterday early afternoon, my LiveWell app had been updated with all the blood test results, the results of the procedure, and the surgeon’s notes and commentary. Crazy good.

This sort of technology and follow up would be fantastic for service calls in my other job relative to manufacturing. Or even the service person who comes to your house. There’s the good side of technology when it’s a servant. Then there’s the bad side (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

This morning at 5:30 felt good. Back in the saddle. 

I read many thinkers and writers. Never stop learning. This thought came from Paul Graham’s monthly newsletter.

You can’t think well without writing well, and you can’t write well without reading well. And I mean that last “well” in both senses. You have to be good at reading, and read good things. By “good at reading” I don’t mean good at the mechanics of reading. You don’t have to be good at extracting words from the page so much as extracting meaning from the words.

Most people I read consider writing as part of thinking. To me, it’s core to education. They need to do more of it at least from middle school through grad school. I often begin with an idea that came from observation or reading then begin to write. Bless computers—it’s easier to backspace and begin again than cross out and re-write.

It’s a practice. It can be a spiritual practice. Read, observe, think. Begin to write. As you sort out your thoughts, you’ll find new wisdom percolating. You might even change your mind on some things through thinking rather than reacting. I know I have. Even (especially?) through somewhat critical comments.