Archive for the ‘discernment’ Category

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.

Think About What You Read and Hear

March 10, 2023

Here comes a tale of two news sources. I read this week about a “study” done about whether a certain substance found in some artificial sugars could cause cancer. One source published the press release that stated a correlation between the substance and some cancers. The other source looked at the details of the study. It (the study) did not screen out for variables. The results were poorly reported by the researchers and by the media. In effect, one could not draw any worthwhile conclusions from the study.

This happens often. We only get a superficial report of a study. We do not received enough information about the study in order to draw an informed opinion. In fact, most media copy editors are looking for the most hyped headline possible in order to draw readers.

This trend can be found among US Congresspeople and others seeking celebrity. They try to be as outrageous as possible on social media in order to generate more “likes” each of which gives a dopamine hit.

Why do we see so many outright lies by so-called free speech advocates? Well, to generate “likes” from their intended audience (not me).

If you see or hear someone talking about the Bible, please take my advice. Suspend judgement until you can go to the source–the Bible–and research for yourself.

A popular writer in the 70s wrote a book on the letter to the Hebrews from the New Testament. I started to read that book. After a couple of chapters things started sounding a bit weird. So I went back to the beginning and opened my New Testament to the book of Hebrews and started a comparison. It didn’t take long before that book found a dark and dusty spot on my bookcase, and I began to read more honest and reputable works.

People unfortunately cannot all be believed. Think before leaping into unknown territories.

The Noon-Day Demon

February 24, 2023

Have you charted your energy levels at various times of the day?

I have good energy early in the morning. I typically meditate, read, think, and write this early–before 6:30. Then some kind of physical workout. Then more reading and writing until about 11 or 11:30. Then I need some sort of break and lunch. Then I have little energy for a time. Somewhere around 4:00 pm I pick up again and can last until bed time.

Ancient Greeks wrote about akedeia which became Latin acedia — the “noon-day demon.”

This is a state of listlessness, torpor, feeling perhaps a little lost. Perhaps this is the time you post or re-post those cynical, negative thoughts on social media? Perhaps this is the time your thoughts are most prone to dwell upon sinful image and urges?

When the ancient Christian writers were teaching monks acedia outranked some of the demons (as they called them) such as gluttony or sloth. It was a time when monks might wonder why they were even there. Isn’t there somewhere better to be?

I find a short (hopefully) nap to be quite useful. Perhaps a walk for a bit out in nature. That might be a good time for some weight lifting.

The first thing is to recognize the condition. And to realize that the condition was recognized millennia ago. Realize it. Deal with it. Schedule your work day around it–do phone calls not deep work if you’re in an office. Don’t let it overpower you into making bad decisions.

What Can You Believe?

February 23, 2023

I did a search on the Web (easier than grabbing my Bibles and searching through) for teaching on false teachers. There was more than I was looking for. I did find where Jesus and the Apostles Peter and John warned us about people (teachers) who tell us false and made up things.

Perhaps these teachers did it to sow seeds of discontent (sound familiar?) amongst the people. Or they did it to make themselves more important at the expense of a rival. Whatever, in the first century when they were teaching, it was evidently difficult to tell who was spreading lies and “untruths” or partially truths (the worst kind–they take part of what someone says and then twist it around).

I also discovered that often a Website would have other comments. I could tell that “false teacher” meant anyone who disagreed with the writer of that Website. Hmm, what to believe?

Then I read Seth Godin this morning. He warns of the new technologies that now exist such that any video and/or audio on the internet can be altered. You may see your president talking, but the image may be superimposed on something else and the words may be made up by ChatGPT. (This blog by virtue of being on the Web has readers from around the world. But this applies to you no matter where you live.)

We already know (or should know) that much of what got pushed to us by the algorithms designed to keep us on site by Twitter and Facebook and others that that “information” may often be lies or exaggerations. Now it will become even more difficult.

It is more important than ever to choose your sources of information wisely. Go to the source. Instead of Facebook, start a group chat with your friends.

Learning and practicing discernment becomes even more important.

Solomon, the king, asked God for wisdom. He got it, but it didn’t help him in the end. I’d suggest in place of wisdom, ask God for discernment–preventing as much as possible being fooled by those who seek to sow discontent and dissension and fear.