Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Settling The Monkey Brain

February 15, 2019

Sometimes thoughts just tumble through our brain like clothes tumbling in the dryer. We sit and try to concentrate on a book or even a TV show (which is designed for distraction) and our attention jumps from one thought to another. Usually totally disconnected from each other.

The meditation practice I was first taught involved not-trying to still those thoughts. “Just let them flit in and out of consciousness while minding to your breath.”

The “goal” if you will was enlightenment. When the thoughts fade away, the monkey brain ceases chatter, and God speaks. That can happen. Millennia of spiritual pilgrims have experienced it.

However, recently I heard a teacher describe the chatter as the brain working out its storehouse of thoughts and settling issues within itself. Sort of like letting worry resolve itself when we realize we are all uptight over the wrong things.

Decades, or even months, of practice of slowing down will have an effect discernible to those around you. Life slows. The constant jumping to conclusions begins to fade.

And even after 50 years of practice, I still must sit in quiet, relax, concentrate on breathing, and let the monkey brain work out its chatter and become quiet so that I can continue the day’s work.

Living In The Kingdom of God

February 14, 2019

Why do so many Christians not seem to believe they are living now in the Kingdom of God? Or another way, living in God’s Dominion–now?

Jesus said that the Kingdom is here. He pointed out what should have been obvious, but wasn’t.

It’s not that someday and somewhere else we will live under God’s dominion. It is available to us right now.

Play a mind game, a thought experiment.

What if all those who call themselves Christian lived as if they were in the Kingdom of God? They lived practicing the words of Jesus, their teacher?

Even if it is 1 in 10 in North America and Europe and maybe 1 in 1,000 elsewhere. The salt and light of God would infuse everywhere. Instead of polluting everywhere.

Instead of concentrating on whom and what we do not like, we concentrate on ourselves and how we are living. We will change, and those around us will change.

Not with a hammer, but with light.

Thoughts begun with a reading of Anthony de Mello, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.

And Then I Saw

February 13, 2019

Snowstorms raced across the country. We were in Chicago trying to return to Dayton my non-English-speaking Japanese colleague and me. Airline tickets were paper. There were no apps, no instant updates, no easy phone calls for frequent fliers.

There was only the queue.

Weather is the ultimate leveler. It doesn’t matter who you are or whether you are traveling on foot, bicycle, auto, or airplane. You will be disrupted. Sounds like an idea for a TV channel (wish I’d have had that idea back then!).

As I listened to person after person complaining about how the weather inconvenienced them, how it was “all about me”, I suddenly saw myself. There I was in the queue with my colleague, next up for the agent. And I saw the entire scene. And I understood.

We go to the counter. I smile. “Tough day, isn’t it? How can we get to Dayton?” I could see myself dealing with tact and humility and kindness.

And we calmly transacted business in the midst of chaos.

Self-observation and awareness. They bring a spiritual order to otherwise stressful days.

Spiritual Practice of Worship

February 12, 2019

Worship appears on the list of spiritual disciplines discussed by Richard J. Foster and Dallas Willard–my mentors in spiritual formation.

I seldom discuss this practice. Maybe because I grew up in a liturgical church. I suppose the liturgy was the worship. My wife grew up in an evangelical church. For her worship was singing hymns and having prayers and listening to the choir. Then the preacher used 40 minutes or more of the 60 minutes to exhort the people to come forward and be saved.

I don’t have national statistics for the US, but in my area which could realistically be labeled Bible Belt it would be a rare weekend for more than 25% of the people to go somewhere to worship.

Worship is tied to church membership in most minds and many GenX and Millennials shy away from all the negative images of church membership. In many ways I don’t blame them. I’ve lived the good and the bad. Sort of like an old child’s story, “When it’s good it’s very, very good; and when it’s bad it’s horrid.”

Psalm 95 refers to worship as joyful. Something that should warm our hearts as we acknowledge the existence of the creator God.

The psalm also warns us to beware of a hardened heart.

That brings me around to the core of the Gospel–it’s about the status of our hearts.

Spiritual Practice of Giving

February 11, 2019

Why do we practice acts of charity? Giving money to people or organizations?

This is definitely a spiritual practice.

Jesus told the rich young man who followed all the commandments (one wonders if he was as perfect as he let on) and who still felt far from perfect, “Go, sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”

The young man didn’t want to be that perfect!

I discovered the Jesuit priest and therapist Anthony de Mello more than 30 years ago. Recently one of his books was recommended to me, so I am reading Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality again.

De Mello can be brutal. He says to face it. We give out of two motivations. One is selfishness of feeling good about ourselves as helping people less fortunate. Or, we help others by giving to charity, but then we feel good about ourselves doing good.

Awareness of our motivations can help us to notice this trait. Then we can give with the intention of following Jesus. I say that awareness brings us to realization that we are far from perfect but that we are practicing the right things.

When Jesus later explained his story, he pointed out that only God brings the grace that leads to perfection.

Sin—An Equal Opportunity Employer

February 8, 2019

Sin and stupidity know no bounds of politics, race, gender, or whatever.

Picking up a little news during my busy week, I chanced upon the turmoil of Virginia politics. Seems that top three elected Democrats are scrambling to defend themselves against late adolescence stupidity and sin. Then the Republicans choked on their chortling when the same stuff became public about the top Republican office holder.

Billionaires not to be excepted, there was news about Jeff Bezos and photos and lawsuits. How could someone rich and successful put himself in such a position that photos could be taken of inappropriate behavior? I guess there is business intelligence and then there is emotional and social intelligence, which sometimes don’t meet.

It is best to try to keep our own lives in order, something plenty hard to do. Pointing at one or another group of people gets us nowhere. Soon enough, the finger gets around to pointing back to us.

Spiritual writers of all traditions and eras of history shared the insight that none of us are perfect. And that we are better served looking after ourselves. What was it Jesus said about the speck in the other person’s eye and the log in our own?

Before you make that Facebook re-post about someone else’s failures proving the other side is bad, maybe you should thank God that none of your adolescent (or more recent) photos have popped up on Instagram.

What Is Your Sentence?

February 7, 2019

I missed a day this week and this post is late. It’s been a long week. I’m at a conference. Got up at 3:45 am Monday to fly to Orlando. Took a Lyft to the hotel. By 1:00 pm I was at a table with notebook out ready for 5 hours of press conferences. Every half-hour a company executive would come in and tell us the latest news.

Dinner followed that. I was back in my room by 10:30 pm. Up at 5:30 to make it to a 7 am breakfast meeting. 13 appointments with few breaks later, it was 7 pm and I headed out for a quiet dinner. Wednesday, same routine.

Good news–I learned much and made or renewed many good contacts. Maybe even stirred up some business. But it’s far from my normal laid-back days.

After the conference closed for the day yesterday, a man I know who owns and is CEO of a software company in Germany invited me for an adult beverage while we chatted business.

The point is–what is the point?

He laid out for me the programming basis for his totally re-written software application. He pointed out the four main benefits of his software.

He’s passionate and enthusiastic about his product.

But I told him, he needed to come up with the one main point that tells potential customers what his rather complex software is all about. One simple sentence.

Then I thought, “What is my one simple sentence that describes what I’m all about?”

What is your sentence?

Are you who you think you are?

Do Not Be Tricked By Average

February 6, 2019

Do not wade across a river with average depth of four feet.

What do you think when historians or anthropologists say that humans of a certain era lived for an average of, say, 30 years? Since many died before age 2, some most likely lived beyond 70.

When you read in mainstream media about an average Christian, do you know any?

What makes an average?

Some merely say they are Christian.

Some hold others to a certain set of rules of behavior.

Some even hold themselves to a set of rules of behavior.

Some proclaim a set of beliefs.

Some live out a life trying to follow Jesus.

This list is not exhaustive.

People reflecting this variety of beliefs and practices cannot be blended into a homogeneous batch of humanity.

I doubt that any phrase attempting an average Christian has any believability. It reflects an idea, and a poor one at that. In reality, average does not exist.

Dance of Dislike

February 4, 2019

A strange dance it is, when we are defined by what we oppose.

Some of us are so opposed to someone or something, that we are defined by it.

When that person or issue goes away, what becomes of us?

We are in this endless dance with that which we dislike or hate. We don’t know where our own soul lies.

Better is to be defined by a positive.

Choose what will define you…don’t be sucked into a vortex of hate and negativity.

Choose your master wisely.

I choose Jesus. He has words of life. As the old folk song says, “He is the Lord of the Dance.”

No Thank You

February 1, 2019

“Would you care for something to drink?” the host asked of his guest. “We have wine, beer, soft drinks, and iced tea.”

“I am a Christian. I don’t drink,” was the reply.

The comeback sentence, appropriately, could have been, “I’m a Christian, and I do.”

I’m thinking that the guest meant drink alcoholic beverages. I imagine she drinks water.

But how did that sentence strike you? Kind of like an in-your-face challenge of I’m better than you.

A simple, “Just water, please” would have been sufficient. And friendly.

I go to many receptions or networking events or dinners because of business. I’ve seen no one disrespected for what they drank or not. Only the person who goes out of control with drunkenness.

Paul, the apostle, freely gave lots of advice on living. Some of it weird. But he consistently opposed over indulgence. He hated drunkenness. He hated sexual passion. But he did advise his young mentee Timothy to take a little wine.

Or, as Jesus once said, let your yes be yes and your no be no.

No, thank you, is appropriate with no further explanation needed.