Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Energy For The Christian Life

November 22, 2017

Remember the old advertisement for a sugary soda, “The pause that refreshes”?

I was thinking about that attitude while thinking about our American holiday of Thanksgiving we will celebrate tomorrow. “Let us pause and give thanks…OK, carve the turkey.”

Rather we should let this natural rhythm of our calendar remind us to cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving as an intimate part of our waking life. Gratitude and thanksgiving indeed are the energy that drives a Christian life.

Energy seems to be a bit cyclical, like ocean waves on the beach that come and go.

It’s not the pause. It’s returning to the source (God) to rejuvenate our energy.

We need these rhythms of the calendar to remind us of things. Ancient peoples knew this.

If we are slipping into today’s culture of the world which is entitlement–“I deserve it”–it is time to let the rhythm of the seasons bring us back to God to refuel our gratitude energy supply.

Thanks Giving

November 21, 2017

How often do you stop and give thanks?

I have a ToDo app that allows for tasks to pop up regularly. I have a task that pops up in my priority list every week. It says, list six things that I’m grateful for and practice gratitude.

There are times when that task comes to my attention, and I find it difficult to take just a few minutes and focus on my blessings.

I’m too busy. Or, I’m not feeling blessed. Or, my mind wanders. I am cursed with thinking too much–I think.

I think about being socially awkward and the latest social gaffes I’ve made.

In America, we are reaching the day on the calendar that comes to our attention once per year. It is a harvest celebration. Most, if not all, societies have some kind of harvest celebration. Farmers live on the edge. Rain comes too early. Or too late. Or too much. Or not enough. Plant diseases sweep through the area. Just having a harvest is cause for rejoicing, celebration, and yes, giving thanks to the God who provided after all.

Or

In America we are reaching the day that marks another day of family tension as we (or some of us) gather to have a meal, complain about things, and leave. It is also the day that marks the beginning of the “holiday season” with Christmas and New Years celebrations coming. And the beginning of shopping for Christmas presents for ourselves and others.

Song lyrics come to me at the weirdest times. I’m just now thinking, “It’s time to stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

As we plan and worry and prepare for travel for Thanksgiving, take time to stop. Listen. Give thanks.

I Am In The Father, The Father Is In Me

November 20, 2017

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

Understanding what John is saying in chapters 13-15 of his gospel can be as confusing as this thought from the Beatles song “I Am The Walrus” goo goo g’joob.

Jesus says, I’m in the Father. The Father is in me. You can be in the Father. I’m in you.

As one person in my small group said, “Why would any sane person tell a new Christian to read John? He is so deep and complicated.”

Amen.

I have been haunted by the pop psychology that grew up following Freud. It used to be rampant in university English departments. Don’t know if they still teach it. The idea is that “it’s all in your head.” There is no truth. No spirit. You and Jesus, together? It’s all in your head.

But I go back to ancient tradition. Science teaches us that if someone experiences something and writes down the event and the process, and then other people follow the experiment and find the same thing, then we have uncovered a fact–a truth.

We can read thousands of years of human experience about being one with God. They come from a variety of cultures and a variety of geographies. And they all discover the same thing.

Jesus tries to explain with the analogy of the vine. (Chapter 15) He is the vine, God the Father is the cultivator. We are branches.

This means to me that we draw our energy, spiritual food, “Living Water” from Jesus. And we bear fruit.

That makes it simple enough for me to grasp. That plus experience.

Following the spiritual disciplines in our lives helps us to come to the same experiences as those people over the past couple of thousand years.

Kind of an awesome thought.

Hungry and Thirsty for the Spirit

November 17, 2017

Blaise Pascal

We do not grow tired of eating and sleeping day after day, because hunger and fatigue return; without them, we should be bored. It would be the same without hunger for spiritual things; we should be bored.

Source: Pensées, as quoted in A Third Testament

People who research such things are discovering the power of boredom. We try to fill our days with stimulation. Or we fill our kid’s days with stimulation and busyness.

It is in boredom where our mind is free to roam. We can imagine things. Explore with our minds.

Perhaps that is not quite what Pascal had in mind.

But out of boredom, God can speak to us. We are not busy. We are not filling our minds with meaningless stimulation.

As our minds explore, we can settle in on God. Get in touch with spiritual things.

Of course, Pascal took the meaning the other way.

Because we do not hunger for spiritual things, we let our lives drift in boredom.

Maybe as Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

If you find yourself bored, it is time to feel the hunger. Don’t fill up with junk food. Find substantial food.

I Have This Rule of Life, Women are People

November 16, 2017

I can’t analyze why I grew to this way of life. But I view women as people.

I’ve had breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, even dinner meetings with women. I have worked with women where I needed one-on-one meetings.

Never was there ever the slightest hint of extra-curricular activity.

With few exceptions, I innately trust the people I deal with or meet. Almost always (unless there are strong signals) I will trust you until you prove me wrong. And that happens.

Andy Stanley, the popular speaker and pastor, has a rule about never having any sort of meeting alone with a woman. He has never had lunch with his admin. He spoke once that he was invited to speak somewhere. He was to be met at the airport by a driver. The driver was a woman. He almost refused to get in the car. He called his wife.

I’ve recently heard that Vice President Pence has the same rule. Here is an article by a professional woman published in The New York Times about this subject from her point of view.

How demeaning that is to women.

Here’s the conundrum. Men in power use that power to gratify their sexual urges. Men in power use that power to exclude women from meaningful leadership.

One is more abusive than the other, but both attitudes miss the point. What is the common denominator? Men in power.

I think that it is scriptural to treat women as people. And other men as people.

It is possible that people with suspicious minds would try to make something of seeing a man and woman at lunch together. But in my world, it happens all the time. No big deal. Just as it shouldn’t be.

When we respect each other, life is good.

There Are No Perfect People

November 15, 2017

I was taught to write in a positive, forceful manner. At least, to write like I know what I’m talking about. You have to do this in business whether you are reporting on progress of a project or trying to persuade others on a course of action.

So I write these blog posts in the much the same voice.

Then I worry. I hope people don’t think that I think I’m perfect. I’m not.

Still I’m amazed at the number of “professing” Christians who continue to be exposed (so to speak) as downright nasty people. Aren’t we supposed to be trained in the spirit?

It’s no wonder that so many early Christian writers repeated and emphasized one point in their writings on the spiritual journey. They warned of the power of “the flesh” or as we might say, “being overcome by our urges and desires, failing to place them under the power of the spirit.”

That is universal, that problem of subjecting the flesh by the spirit. The New Testament is full of warning and advice. Then read also the Desert Fathers such as John Climacus or The Confessions of Augustine.

You realize, you’re not alone.

That is where humility comes to play. We all struggle with one thing or another. When we succumb and then fail to acknowledge it–confess is our word–then we compound our problem.

I think I need a break from the news. There just is so much of this being revealed.

So, I’m at a conference in Houston this week. The company sponsoring the conference, Rockwell Automation, led the media day presentations yesterday talking about how its employees responded to the severe problems caused by the hurricane. The company manufactures an electrical component called “drives” that control the speed of electric motors that are used in turn for pumps. When the electrical components were destroyed by all the water shutting off the water supply in areas, they worked extra hard to find, ship, and install new drives to restore drinking water. Then there is the training program it has initiated that trains veterans to be engineering technicians so that they can find good employment in manufacturing. And they help them find jobs.

Thank God that the good people seem to outnumber the bad.

Humility

November 14, 2017

Don’t you wish that these guys who do illegal and/or immoral things would just admit it with a huge dose of humility when they inevitably are exposed?

That they would cease looking for an out?

Or an excuse?

Or going into attack posture and begin accusing the accuser?

I just saw this article “Lack of Intellectual Humility Plagues Our Times, Say Researchers.”

This fits with other research I’ve seen on how rampant narcissism is in our society.

And research on the paradox where we have more and bigger stuff in America than in any time in history, yet we feel deprived, poor.

Humility doesn’t mean being weak like a sheep (often the image pulled from the Bible that men shy away from). Humility in this case means being strong, being a true man.

Humility doesn’t mean in-your-face public displays of religion. It comes from` the heart. And for most of us, well, we need that change of heart that begins with humility.

Humility recognizes God. And how I failed to aim for the target. And how I hurt other people by my actions. And how I accept responsibility for what I’ve done. And if my career is over, well, that’s the consequences. I can always build another career with my changed heart as the foundation.

Yeah, I wish…

Some Things Just Don’t Last

November 13, 2017

Most of the jobs I’ve had lasted only a few years.

The graduate school department shut down the program. Economic forces (and maybe some bad management) forced several more jobs to end. Then I left one position for a better place. That better place lasted 10 years but then changes occurred that were going to undo everything I’d built, so I left that one. What I’m doing now is not designed to last.

I thought about that while contemplating the growth of the disciples of Jesus. Our small group has been studying the gospel of John. We’re still puzzling through Chapters 12, 13, 14. The story of the last supper and “final” instructions.

They are puzzled. Where are you going? Just who is this Father you keep talking about…and to? Why are you talking about your death?

It had barely been three years. Great years. They were traveling around. Crowds followed them. Surely this would last a long time, right?

Jesus seems to be saying that it’s all over. But something new is coming.

Sometimes reading through these stories, we need to maintain some perspective.

It’s only 40-some days from these stories to Acts 2.

Those 40 days were packed with growth. They finally understood what was happening. Those 40 days changed the world.

Henry Cloud wrote a book called “Necessary Endings.” It’s on my recommended reading list.

Sometimes it’s good that things don’t last. Because ending one thing can lead to something much better. Not unlike a caterpillar going into a cocoon and a butterfly emerging.

I am in Jesus, and He is in Me

November 10, 2017

Yesterday I talked about Barry McGuire’s interview with John Fischer on The Catch.

McGuire mentioned at one point, “People ask if I’m a follower of Jesus. I say, no I don’t follow him. He’s in me, and I’m in him.”

That’s an interesting take on the spirituality of Jesus. I’m puzzling through chapters 13-14 of the gospel of John. Jesus keeps repeating that language. And if it’s repeated, it must be important. He talks of being in the Father and the Father is in him. And he is in us, and we’re in him.

And his followers don’t understand…yet.

Show us the Father, one commands.

Where are you going, supposing a physical location.

We get a hint in the gospel. It comes alive in the early chapters of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. There it is recorded that they and thousands of others learn what it means to be in Jesus and have Jesus in them.

And if I’m in Jesus and he’s in me, what does that mean?

It means that we recognize each human we meet (physically or through some media) is a child of God and we are to love them whether they are worthy or not. Thomas Merton said that it isn’t our job to determine worthy.

It also isn’t easy.

And we have to remember that love doesn’t mean condone their thoughts and actions. It means treating them with the respect that sometimes they didn’t show others.

And with every new revelation of sexual misconduct, especially when men in power force sexual incidents upon teenaged and younger girls, it just grips my stomach. Yet, how am I supposed to show grace in the situation? No one ever said it was easy.

But twice in today’s devotional reading I was told to show grace and God’s love to everyone. So, I begin by not writing mean and vindictive things. And hopefully I will remember this thought with everyone I meet and in every conversation I have today.

We Used To Take Jesus Into The Street’s

November 9, 2017

If you are around my age, you may remember a 1965 protest song from folk music singer Barry McGuire–The Eve of Destruction.

By 1971 he had joined the incipient “Jesus movement” and was singing a new type of Christian music.

My training as a percussionist began when I was around 7 and lasted through playing in the University of Cincinnati marching band (with all those College Conservatory of Music geeks). Then I ditched drums for guitar and got into folk music and early rock. There was Christian folk music at the time that I learned from Catholics. And then that early Christian music.

I grew up with country music, but then it went big time with the “Nashville sound” and I grew bored. Christian music went from the Jesus movement to “praise songs” that repeated 7 words 11 times (a friend referenced the convenience store chain–7/11 songs) and then bands performing big concerts. Money could be made–for the labels if not for the performers.

Back to McGuire. He was just a guest on John Fischer’s (another Jesus movement pioneer) The Catch podcast. John has been trying to figure out what happened to the music.

He thinks it was money.

McGuire said that it used to be that they took the music to the streets. They were ex-hippies who discovered Jesus and took the joy out to the people. Then “we all went indoors”. The music went into the churches and got lost.

What have we lost by huddling together in our buildings instead of going out into the world?