Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

How Is Your Spiritual Stamina

June 25, 2018

The score is tied. The game is in “stoppage time”, that time allotted by the referee to make up for time lost during the half to assure the players get their full 45 minutes of playing time. This is the end of the match. The players and referee have been running intensely for 90 plus minutes.

We are taught as referees many games are decided in the final two minutes. When the players are tired, one side or one player, may kick in a little extra for the win. If the referee is not fit he won’t be in the proper position to see the play and physical exhaustion leads to mental exhaustion and mistakes are made.

Germany attacks. Sweden makes a fatal error and commits a foul about 20 yards from goal. The German kicker bends the ball precisely around the defense, past the diving goal keeper, and the winning goal is scored.

Spiritual life likewise requires training for the long haul so that we do not falter at the end. A society long ago developed Yoga as a way of training the body so that it could withstand the rigors of prayer and meditation.

We need to be careful what we eat and drink to not overindulge lest it turn our brains into befuddled mush. Eat primarily vegetables with some meat and fruit. Drink wine in moderation.

Get some physical exercise every day. Perhaps just walking briskly. Or running. And add strength training and Yoga.

Don’t make fatal mistakes because of lax training. Keep body, mind, and spirit alert and strong.

Remembrance of Wrongs

June 22, 2018

Do you carry grudges? Do you dwell on past hurts? The times someone metaphorically stabbed you in the back? When someone promised and didn’t fulfill or broke a contract?

We’ve heard forgive and forget. But can we really forget? More importantly, do we continually think of them?

John Climacus says, “Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind.”

Whom do you know with a ruined life because of the poison in the mind that just cannot get over the wrong done? I hope that isn’t you–or your spouse.

John also says, “The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent.”

Think on that sentence. There is deep meaning.

Such is the ninth step. Let him who has taken it have the courage henceforth to ask Jesus the Savior to free him from his sins.

Including A Wide Spectrum of Acquaintances

May 14, 2018

“Meanwhile [Peter] stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

It’s just a sentence that is a transition from one story to the next in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Rest assured that it wasn’t just thrown in to fill up space. But Luke’s purpose for including this little tidbit isn’t really known.

We, however, can look at this little sentence and get a glimpse of how we should be living.

This Simon was probably Jewish, but he was ritually unclean. Does that sound familiar to those who have read the gospels? It should. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with people who were ritually unclean.

We read a lot of things into the writings of Paul the Apostle and use them to divide people. But try actually reading all of Paul sometime. Read those “afterthoughts” where he lists all the followers of Jesus.

These first groups of followers were quite diverse. They seemed to accept leaders from all walks of life. Women, slaves, tanners, whomever.

Is it time for a self-awareness check? How inclusive are your circles? Churches, business, social?

Maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to separate us, we should be looking around us figuring out how to be more inclusive and accepting.

Aware of Ourselves

May 4, 2018

The most common angelic greeting in the Bible? When a human meets the divine, what does the divine say?

“Don’t be afraid.”

Fear sometimes is right there with us. The first emotion upon meeting a stranger in the night in an unfamiliar place. We face an imminent weather event–tornado or hurricane, for example.

Sometimes fear is insidious. It enters quietly, like a thief in the night. We don’t know it’s there.

But fear influences our thoughts. We fear change. We fear the unknown. Worse, we project our fears on other humans who become the personification of those fears.

Fear breeds hate. We grow to hate those other humans–those other children of God.

We don’t even realize it. These evil emotions don’t just greet us like the angels in the Bible do. “Don’t be afraid.” They sneak in and capture the heart and mind.

Awareness brings things to light. So much of the theme of the Apostle John’s writing concerned bringing light into the darkness.

Sometimes in meditation and prayer, we must listen to God expose these thieves who have crept into our life and captured it.

Fear and pride–two things that will corrupt your life. Bring the light of the world to shine in those dark and web-infested corners, expose them, and expel them.

The light is called awareness. Pray often that God will expand awareness within us.

It Helps To Keep Your Eye On The Target

March 27, 2018

Every morning when I’m not traveling, I brew a pot of coffee in a French press. When it’s done, I pour it into an insulated carafe so that it will still be hot when my wife comes down for her cup.

I’ve discovered that first if I pay attention to what I’m doing (a big if) and if I concentrate on the small opening in the carafe, then I can pour four cups without spilling a drop even on the outer rim.

What an intriguing thought, that. Keeping our awareness turned on and our eye on the target yields desired results.

The pattern holds for work. Maybe you do “thought work” such as writing or actually thinking. Cal Newport called it Deep Thinking, where our awareness and focus are on the work for a period of time.

I’ve seen it in craftsmen from working on cars to building molds for thermoforming plastics to electronics. Their awareness is on the task and their focus is on the goal–what it is that they are trying to accomplish.

Those who are followers (disciples) of Jesus look to him for guidance on how to live. Since we are in the Christian season of Holy Week, it may be instructive to read the gospel accounts of his last week on earth as a human.

He had always been aware of his task and certainly his awareness was sharpened even higher this week. He seemed even deeper in concentrated conversation with God than ever. He knew the target. His eye was on it, unwavering.

Many of you will recreate that week this week. Maybe communion on Thursday evening. A somber watch on Friday afternoon. A quiet Saturday. Celebration on Sunday morning.

Awareness and target? Focused on the resurrection.

Are You An Important Person

February 27, 2018

Are you an important person?

According to this article in Big Think, “the answer you give may indicate to psychologists how narcissistic you are. And on a societal level, the answer people give is changing. In 1963, when adolescents were asked if they considered themselves important, only 12% answered affirmatively. 30 years later, that percentage had risen to 80.”

“Narcissfism is on the rise in modern Western societies and scientists are trying to figure out why. Some hypothesize that individual narcissism follows from the culture someone lives in: the more individualistic the culture, the more narcissistic people tend to be.”

A chance to study the effects of culture came with the reunification of Germany. Researchers questioned people from each side of the Wall.
“The results showed that the participants from former West Germany scored higher on narcissistic grandiosity compared with the participants from former East Germany, even after controlling for gender and age. Interestingly, however, individuals from former East Germany had higher self-esteem than those from West Germany. This demonstrates that narcissism and self-esteem are not the same thing.”

The researchers point out that:

Self-esteem, defined as global evaluation of the self, is related to narcissism. However, recent data provide evidence that narcissism differs from self-esteem in various domains. Narcissism and high self-esteem both include positive self-evaluations, but the entitlement, exploitation, sense of superiority, and negative evaluation of others that are associated with narcissism are not necessarily observed in individuals with high self-esteem.

I observe narcissistic behavior often. In others, of course. 😉 There are ways we can improve ourselves. “Developing mindfulness, honoring your promises, respecting other people’s space, needs and desires, as well as facilitating the process of self-acceptance and forgiveness are all good practices to start with.”

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.