Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Develop a Gratitude Mindset

November 25, 2020

Peter Diamandis is an interesting character. He’s an engineer and physician, founder of the X-Prize, and founder of the Singularity Institute. His passion is to develop an Abundance attitude in people in place of a scarcity mindset.

However, his recent newsletter included a portion of his class called Abundance 360 called developing a Gratitude Mindset. This seemed appropriate since we are discussing gratitude in this Thanksgiving week. Try these on for size.

With a Gratitude Mindset… 

(1) You know that being grateful enhances your mood and makes you feel genuinely happy. Expressing gratitude causes our brain to release dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. They make us feel “good.”

(2) You recognize how incredibly lucky you are on both a personal and professional basis, and you take the time to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation.

(3) As a leader, you understand the power of encouraging your team to be grateful. You know that being thankful and appreciative improves the relational well-being for both individuals and the overall group.

(4) You invest in relationships. As my dear friend Joe Polish says: “Time is not money. Relationships are money.” You have to develop and nurture your relationships. Every day, you try to be as useful as possible to those around you. And in your leadership role, you focus on what positive results you can create for others.

(5) You have created daily routines that allow you to reflect on how lucky and thankful you are. And you share those reflections with others in your life in a way that brings you joy, and uplifts those around you.

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.

To Listen Is To Lean In Softly

November 13, 2020

To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention completely and freshly to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.

However, when I am giving myself to listening, I have expectations of the speaker.

I can rejoice with the joyful, mourn with the hurting, provide encourage the discouraged, provide an ear for those with burdens to unload.

Where I have trouble, and I perceive it’s not only me, is to listen to those who with belligerent attitude try to force lies, innuendo, deliberate twisting of facts upon me.

How do I keep my defenses and my BS detector and my wish to push back under control.

Perhaps those people feel like they are not heard, so they need to talk louder. Sort of like when you are talking with someone who does not speak your language and you talk louder thinking that then they will understand.

I am convincing myself that even then, it’s important to lean in softly. Maybe I learn something—maybe not from their words, but from their hurt.

You Are To Blame

November 11, 2020

Andy Stanley likes to bring up this thought nugget, “Do you know who was present at every bad decision you ever made? You. You were present at every one.”

We learned something from Jeremiah yesterday that our heart is deceitful above all things.

Advertisers and marketers are geniuses at using this knowledge. They know how easy it is to present something in such a way that we believe it. And then we act.

And then later we wonder why.

Why did we buy that? Why did we call her back? Why did we go there? Why did we get suckered into believing her or him?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a pause button? Before we decide to trust her; before we decide to go there; before we decide to send that note on social media that will make us look like a fool; before we buy that–we pause, breathe deeply, tell our deceitful heart to back off.

We are also present at our good decisions.

Andy never says that. But it’s true.

Wisdom comes from gradually recognizing situations and hitting the pause button and then making the good decision.

Where Is Your Heart Pointed?

November 9, 2020

We watched a dramatization of an Agatha Christie Miss Marple story last night. The sub-plot behind the main plot of uncovering the murder mystery concerned the decision of a beautiful young woman who must choose a husband from between a man who does foolish things out of a deep love for her or a man who is a political climber, member of Parliament who has not the capacity for love.

She, of course, chooses love.

The Desert Father, Abba Poeman (the Shepherd), once said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”

We are in the aftermath of a hard-fought, yet strange, election season in the USA. Some who won are not positive they won all they hoped to win. Many who lost are mired in bitterness and despair.

If you give your heart to politics, you are doomed like Sisyphus to cycles of elation and despair.

Giving your heart to God is “like a rock”, stable, secure, dependable.

Life will provide you with plenty of cycles of up and down. God is always there to stabilize. Daily disciplines focus your heart firmly on that which never changes.

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?

The Joy of Sinning

November 3, 2020

The Apostle Paul writing some of his most poignant thoughts talked of how he gets upset with himself when he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants.

Augustine (au-GUS-tin, the city in Florida is au-gus-TEEN) of Hippo wrote in his Confessions about a time when at age 16 (the brains of 16-year-old boys were just as undeveloped in 360 as 2020) when he and a group of other boys stole a large quantity of pears and then wound up just throwing them to the pigs. He was puzzling why he did it.

The real pleasure was simply in doing something that was not allowed.

Sometimes I think I’m like Augustine where I can suddenly remember seemingly every stupid thing I’ve done like that. People thought I was a good boy–I wasn’t. At least, not always.

That carries over even until today, I fear.

Often when I read current news, I have the feeling that there are many in our society who are acting out that same inner drive toward sin–the pleasure lies in the knowledge that it is not allowed.

Augustine mourns that he did not know God when he was 16, and he wishes that he would have. I bet most of us are in that same boat.

But today is a new day. Life will put before us this very day opportunities to do things not allowed yet pleasing to our hearts. Or–we could pause, re-focus, calm down, and derive pleasure from being part of the Kingdom of God.

We can pick up Paul’s challenge and sometimes do what we know we should as Jesus-followers.

Maintaining Focus and Equanimity

November 2, 2020

Sometimes I lose track of special days and holidays when I sit in meditation. But something reminded me that today is the Eve of the Election in the USA. Without a memory of our history and listening only to candidates and media, you would think this is an unprecedented election. It isn’t.

It might be instructive to check out the 1850s and the rise of the Know Nothing Party. I was taught as a young student that the party got its name from adherents answering “I don’t know” to questions about the party, its leaders, its tenants, and so forth. This party was an attempt to organize American Protestants mobilizing anti-Catholic (by implication anti-immigration), anti-black people, American nativism, and so forth.

Yes, today the election is bitter, divisive, as are almost all elections. Although not all involve strident language as much.

St. Anselm of Canterbury, who lived in another wild time from about 1033–1109, offers some good advice for Americans this week and for everyone at every time, “Flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put aside your laborious  pursuits. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in him for a little while. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek him.”

I do not allow myself to dwell on the hype and divisiveness. I acknowledge its existence. It is not my foundation. Seeking God in quiet is my foundation.

Oh, and I’ve already voted. And donated money. I’ve done what I should and can. Now to focus on what I need to do for today.

Discipline Restrains Dissipation

October 30, 2020

Augustine of Hippo wrote in his Confessions about how difficult were his Greek studies when a student. He wrote many times of the cruelty of his teachers who were quick to strike him with ruler or rod when he did not apply himself diligently or learn quickly enough.

With the freedom of curiosity, he thoroughly learned Latin, the everyday language of his time. Later when he appreciated Greek literature, he pondered why he hated learning it so much. He blamed his teachers.

Still later as he looked back on his life he realized a couple of things from this episode: “…free curiosity is a more powerful aid to the learning of languages than a forced discipline. Yet this discipline restrains the dissipation of that freedom.”

He then points to God’s laws as a discipline that prevents his straying into the dissipation of an excess of freedom.

Similarly the men who wrote the documents that formed the USA were concerned even back in the 1780s that people would forget that responsibility and discipline are a necessary complement to freedom.

We have teachers and preachers and politicians who perhaps veer too far toward discipline and adolescents in their 20s and 30s who still try to live too much into freedom without the balance of discipline.

Each of us must seek and find that balance of freedom and curiosity with discipline and responsibility.