Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

When God Speaks and We Don’t Hear

November 19, 2020

She was in rural West Virginia negotiating to buy a farm. She assured the sellers that she was not going to develop the land. She was going to farm it to grow pumpkins. Sarah Frey had purchased her family’s family farm in southern Illinois before she was 20. She grew pumpkins and watermelons. She had not yet been anointed America’s Pumpkin Queen.

Back in West Virginia, she was thinking about how some people get a sign from God about what they are doing. How do they get a sign? How do they know God is talking to them? She was asking God for a sign sitting alone at dinner in a cafe/tavern. It was some kind of theme night, and people were dancing.

Suddenly it happened. A big guy on the dance floor dropped his pants. Staring her right in the face were two large orange tattooed pumpkin Jack o’Lanterns–one on each cheek. Had to be a sign from God! She asked one of the girls with him to take a picture.

Sometimes God speaks and we aren’t listening. Like the times we pray for big things like maybe becoming the senior pastor of a megachurch. And we have ignored the opportunities God put before us to serve someone in the grocery store parking lot struggling with bags of groceries and two small children.

Then sometimes there are two pumpkin tattoos on some guy’s butt and you become America’s Pumpkin Queen.

It’s best to keep our eyes open and awareness tuned. Don’t ignore the little things or the absurd. God has a sense of humor. And sometimes we are surprised by his message.


November 16, 2020

The word of the day came to me in a vision…oops, sorry, I’ve been reading in Daniel and his chapters on visions.

But the word comfort came to me as I pondered the renewed spreading of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. And the response I have noticed in a few people.

And the word comfort. Like a favorite old leather chair that’s been molded to our contours. We settle in. The physical reminder of a partially remembered past. Partial because we often only remember good times. We wish for that security of the way things were–at least, were in our deficient memories.

Given a little freedom to go to restaurants, churches, some sporting events, we naturally go too far. How much we want it to be like last year!

But it is not last year. And we went too far. We went to our favorite gathering places–churches, taverns, ball games–and we went unmasked into the future. And we got boisterous. And we spread whatever viruses we were carrying. And we spread disease.

It’s natural, comfort is.

Once upon a time, we couldn’t afford comfort. Relax and our enemies may sneak up and get us. Once they were human enemies. Now, enemies we can’t see. Maybe don’t even believe they exist.

But they do.

Vigilance. That is the antidote. The good old days weren’t. And today is a new beginning. Be vigilant and strong. And stay safe.

I pray you’re all well.

The Heart Is Deceitful

November 10, 2020

Yesterday I looked at advice for you to set your heart in the right direction.

But we must beware and be aware–as the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Prophecy in the scriptures does not equal telling the future. It does equal bringing a message from God that speaks to the times–and sometimes to all times. Perhaps here we first meet God the Cardiologist. Jeremiah quotes The Lord, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Sometimes we may look at ourselves and think how beautiful we look when indeed it is vanity talking.

Sometimes we consider ourselves and judge ourself as a “good Christian” when indeed God (and other people) look at our conduct and deeds and judge us as wanting.

We can overcome that deceitful heart. But only by working on the machine that is us and becoming brutally self-aware.

We realize at some point in our lives, hopefully sooner than later, that no matter what that inner voice tells us that when we mentally and spiritually take a step back and look at ourselves as God and others truly see us that we are lacking. We fall short of how smart we think we are, or how wise we think we are, or how much a servant we think we are.

It’s not pure theory or pure knowledge that God is searching us for. How did we treat the server at the restaurant or barista at the coffee shop? How did we treat the least of the people we met?

Will God search us and find us not worthy?

Humans Haven’t Progressed Too Far

November 6, 2020

There was a cigarette advertisement (if American, are you old enough to remember those?) in the 70s that tried to play off the idea that women had progressed a long way in society–“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” they proclaimed saying women deserved their own brand of death-in-a-package.

I’m currently reading in Augustine of Hippo. He talks of his teen years in what we’d call University.

These studies of mine also, which were considered perfectly respectable, were designed to fit me for the law so that I might gain a great name in a profession where those who deceive most people have the biggest reputations.

Augustine, Confessions

In America, as well as in many countries of the world, we have come through a season of political campaigning and elections. Sometimes we get the feeling that 2020 resembles 380.

Although Augustine did turn his considerable rhetorical abilities into working for good, so it is possible to change.

Augustine was discussing his past, the time prior to his focus on God. This is part of personal awareness, when we can look back and see where we were deficient and sinners. Then we can see where we’ve grown and where there is still room for growth.

Only when we see can we understand that we are not yet model citizens in the City of God.

A French psychologist once taught a phrase to repeat, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

When we think we’ve arrived at our best, then we’ve turned those powers of deception upon ourselves. Augustine saw it 1,600 years ago. Ancient writing dating back 4,000 years also contain the same warning. It seems we either train to deceive others, or we are professionals at deceiving ourselves.

Coming to awareness brings us one step closer to living with-God.

Have we come a long way? Well, yes, and no.

God Is With Us If We But Look

November 5, 2020

I’m currently reading again in the book of Daniel. I do not read it because of interest in future-telling. I know that some have woven fantastic and captivating stories about some future end-of-times. That’s not a new phenomenon, by the way.

No, once again I am captivated by stories of how a group of four friends, captured as teens, taken away to a foreign land, taught the language and culture of the foreign people, continued to live with God in the face of occasional grave danger.

The king has a dream. Won’t tell anyone what it was, but he wants an interpretation. His wise men tell him it cannot be done. The king says, then kill all of them. Daniel and his buddies learn about their imminent demise, turn to God, and God tells Daniel the dream and interpretation.

Tattletales tell on the three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and the king orders them burned alive. When the king looks into the furnace, he sees four men. God is with them. They walked out unharmed.

The king gets mad a Daniel. Has him thrown into a cage with a hungry lion. God is seen with Daniel, and he walks out.

There are more–but do you get the drift. They live with God, and God lives with them.

Richard J. Foster called it the “with-God” life.

God takes care of his part. It requires awareness on our part. Even while administering a vast empire, Daniel had a rhythm to life of withdrawing three times a day to connect intentionally with God. Jesus also had a rhythm to his life of withdrawing to connect intentionally with God.

What about us?

Beware Smoldering Resentment

March 3, 2020

I confess, I have an addiction—to British murder mysteries on TV. I am grateful for Amazon Prime and BritBox 😉

A well written murder mystery probes into some of the darkness of emotions. In an old episode of Midsomer Murders, the writers probed the shouldering (guess I should use British spelling) resentment that two women had for their mothers. Both of the mothers had a deviant sexual side that affected the daughters for different reasons—but with the same effect, namely murder.

As we meditate and work on our own self-awareness, these smoldering emotions perhaps lying below consciousness but very real nonetheless can erupt much like a volcano with smoldering lava deep inside. These forces that can, with a subtle shift of rock and pressure, spew out destruction.

Often people outside us can detect deep-seated resentment in us. There is a stare of intensity, quickness to anger, inability to relate to others.

Check on your own state. Quench the smoldering embers within. Work on gratitude, forgiveness (for yourself as well as others), accepting grace.

Forcing Yourself Into a Category

February 11, 2020

Yesterday I wrote about how we construct theories and categories and then shove people into them. It’s easier to deal with people if we can make them a “type” and then dismiss them if they don’t fit into “our” category.

However, I started a new book on the Enneagram during yesterday’s flight to Germany. (I’m sitting in my hotel room overlooking the famous “fair grounds” of the Hannover Messe as I write this. Oh, yes, and on probably 4 hours of sleep on the plane. If this is incoherent, we’ll blame that…)

The purpose of studying the enneagram is not to determine your type and stop there. Or even to arbitrarily assign someone else to a type and stop there.

What really happens to us is that we categorize ourselves. We’re stupid. Or clumsy. Or unattractive. Or didn’t have the breaks that rich kids had. Or…whatever.

If we just had but a wise guide to lead us through the enneagram, we could develop an awareness of the tactics we adopted as kids in order to survive our circumstances. Further, we could see that we are still locked into those tactics and strategies and feelings, and that these are inhibiting our growth and our relationships.

I think every spiritual writer I have studied has at some point taught the importance of self-awareness. What a spiritual gift we have when we can see ourselves from the outside in and then change from the inside out.

Becoming Aware

May 24, 2019

Have you ever taken a walk with a small child who stops and studies everything along the way?

Better still, do you remember being a child and stopping to observe things with wonder and amazement? An insect making its way across the blades of grass. The pattern of veins in a leaf. The formation of clouds in the sky.

The American writer Henry Miller put it this way, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Here we step into awareness. We are not trapped within an unfeeling, uncaring shell. We shatter the shell and bring such wonder and amazement into our experience.

We expand awareness to include other people. For so many of us, other people are an intrusion, an annoyance.

Pausing to become really aware of others, their feelings, desires, hurts, wisdom. There is so much to be learned and experienced.

During the Psychedelic Sixties many songs were sung about blowing your mind. They probably referred to chemical substances in one way or another.

Awareness blows your mind in a completely different way. At this very moment, I’m looking at the intricate arrangement of petals on the flower of a rhododendron. Beauty in fragility with multi-shades of pink.

The handiwork of God in everything.

Learning to Live in the Present Moment

April 30, 2019

Bring our awareness just to the present moment.

It’s a decision. We are mindful that we are alive just for this breath.

Yes, we have much to do, places to go, people to meet.

We can allow ourselves to sit in a fog of worry, feeling overwhelmed by life.

But in the moment we have only now. This task. This call. This breath to take.

It’s our choice.

That is freedom.

Reading Wendy Suzuki’s Healthy Brain, Happy Life a story partly about brain science and partly about her life. She was totally wrapped up in achieving the next thing. Living in the future.

Then she discovered the present moment. Awareness.

And she actually accomplished more.

And lived a more healthy life.

And being a brain scientist understood that she actually changed the physical structure of her brain.

And you can, too, change your brain and change your life. And get more done.

Just take a breath and become aware of now.

Grow Your Brain

April 22, 2019

Myth: You only use 10% of your brain.

Myth: Your brain stops growing after you reach adulthood.

Your brain can continue to grow until you die. And you have influence over either growing or atrophying.

I’ve read several books on brain science. Some get pretty involved and technical.

Here is a book that combines brain science written by a PhD neuroscientist who has devoted a lifetime (so far) researching the brain with practical advice for your own personal brain development. The book is approachable for anyone. Younger students, even.

Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain & Do Everything Better, by Wendy Suzuki, PhD.

Here’s a hint about a great deal of the story–she is both a leading neuroscience researcher as a full professor at NYU and a certified fitness instructor.

The foundation of the story is neuroscience. But the real story is one of personal development about how she discovered how exercise leading to better eating leading to meditation leading to developing a spiritual side all played a part in her growth. And led to more research in the lab on brain plasticity–how it continues to grow.

It goes to show scientifically that spiritual practices must involve the entire body. And, in so doing, your brain can retain some youthfulness and you can have a better life.

Perhaps we could think of these bullet points as sort of a progression layering upon each other for personal development:

  • Knowledge
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Meditation
  • Spiritual development
  • (Iterate)

Get the book, digest it, pick some of her practical tips for implementing the lesson. Grow your brain and grow your life.