Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Patterns of Life

January 21, 2022

My wife and I just finished a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. When I closed my eyes, I saw the puzzle pieces pattern. When I went to bed before sleep, I saw the pattern. I could stare at my computer screen and if my eyes were defocused, I would see the pattern overlaid.

What if we mentally stepped back and looked at the pattern to our lives. Perhaps over the past year. Perhaps projecting to this new year. What are our daily habits and routines? Our routine interactions with other people? What to we read, watch, and see?

Are these routines serving us in our quest for a life with-God?

Pause…breathe…reread that last question.

What one little thing could I change starting right this moment to make things better? One habit? One thing I allow into my consciousness? One interaction?

Decide and act. Now. Today.

Pause and reflect periodically. Maybe monthly. Maybe weekly. What pattern am I following?

You Have Enough To Worry About

January 20, 2022

Ryan Holliday writing in the Daily Stoic about Emperor/Philosopher Marcus Aurelius pointed out that too often we worry about other people when we have enough to worry about with ourselves.

Be open to the idea that people are going to be fools or jerks or unreliable or anything else. Let them be. That’s their business. That’s not inside your control. Leave other people to themselves. You have enough to worry about.

Ryan Holliday

I believe Jesus had something similar in mind when he asked why we worried about the piece of dust in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in our own.

If we follow Jesus’ advice on living with love, we will improve ourselves. By improving ourselves, we improve those around us.

Procrastination

January 19, 2022

I am finally seriously focused on this blog post. Should have been done four hours ago. I have two posts to do for my other blog. There is a book to read about consciousness lying on my desk. I have sketched out four podcasts, but I have not recorded one since the first part of October.

Procrastination.

I bet no one else suffers from that malady.

Psychologists may tell me that the problem is fear. I’m afraid to start because it may not be good enough. I’m afraid to start because the initial idea may not carry through for the entire piece. I’m afraid to record the podcast because it is also video and my hair looks terrible. What will people think? If I read that book, I may learn something that changes my view of the world.

But, if I take the first step from fear to uncomfortableness I know the momentum will carry me through. There–here is the first one done. Now for the next step.

What is holding you back?

Uncomfortable and Uncertain

January 18, 2022

You got up at the new time. You face the treadmill or Peloton. But the desire to get fit hides behind the feeling of being uncomfortable getting on the machine and the uncertainty that it’ll be worth the effort in the end.

You decide that you need to study the teachings of Jesus this year. But you’re uncertain about where to begin as you take a chair and hold a Bible. Or you read the beginning of the parable and you’re uncomfortable with where this is going in relation to your life.

You must be able to withstand being uncomfortable and uncertain for a few minutes as you move past those initial misgivings and emerge into a new and improved you.

Try it; you may like it in the end.

So Much To Know, So Little Time

January 17, 2022

The Internet is overflowing with information. One could spend a lifetime on Wikipedia immersed in things to learn. Just trying to remember everything in the Bible could take more than a lifetime.

Interested in health? The chemical and biological systems within just the human body, or even just one subsystem of the human body would take a lifetime to learn. That leaves no time for philosophy, psychology, the interoperability of the environment with life, or how computers work, or how to stop the VCR from flashing 12:00.

The best alternative is to choose what to study with intention. Instead of the entire New Testament, how about just being an expert on the Sermon on the Mount? Instead of reading 50 books this year, perhaps study one good book—maybe The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky? Or Shakespeare? Or NT Wright?

Maybe making this a year of focus would be worthwhile.

Exploit the Simple Ideas

January 14, 2022

I picked this up from yesterday’s reading:

Sports writer Andy Benoit on how geniuses work: “Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.” Source: Sports Illustrated

From James Clear Newsletter

A couple of items of news germane only to me came my way yesterday. Doesn’t matter specifics here. But the point was how different types of Christians pick up and hold views that disparage or outright reveal hatred toward other humans—even other people who are trying to follow Jesus.

We humans devise complex theologies and rationalizations to justify to ourselves that our belief are OK.

But…

When I see this, it drives me back to the unrecognized simplicity of following Jesus—

He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

All we have to remember is that love is an action verb not an emotion.

Love God with such actions as study the word, converse, contemplate, worship, serve.

Love our neighbor by putting them before us, doing acts of kindness and service, holding them up (not bringing them down).

Like many simple things—it’s hard to do. It requires practice. Like the young violin player lost on the streets of Manhattan who asked a fellow pedestrian, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The reply, “Practice.”

Slow Is Fast

January 12, 2022

James Clear wrote Atomic Habits, a worthwhile companion to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. He wrote this in a recent newsletter, “Slowing down enables you to act in a high quality way. Kind rather than curt. Polished rather than sloppy. It’s hard to be thoughtful when you’re in a rush.”

These thoughts when incorporated into our daily life change our effectiveness and maybe even our health.

Imagine acting with quality in every interaction and everything we do. Our work improves. Our relationships improve. Slowing down while eating quality foods impacts our health.

When we slow down, we will notice other people. Not being in a rush, we can take time to be kind rather than curt or brusque.

Imagine yourself turning in polished work at your job or nonprofit organization or your church. See the impact quality work has on others and on your own self-esteem.

Some people set a goal and find a guide to reading the Bible in a year. You must go through many pages every day. What if you took one gospel, say Mark, or maybe part of a gospel, say the Sermon on the Mount, and read through it slowly and thoughtfully over the course of the year? Or maybe a deep spiritual teacher like one book of Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen or even an ancient like Augustine of Hippo?

I think before I have quoted a former Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, who advised, “Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.”

You could do worse for yourself in 2022 than bring this into your life. I know from experience.

Intellectual Discipline

January 11, 2022

The man sat next to me at lunch at the conference I attended last month in Florida. He is a reliability engineer. His professional life has a foundation built on numbers. He began talking about Covid and how he and his wife had both contracted a bad case of the virus. She took a medication recommended by few doctors. She did recover. I’m not talking about medicine here.

He quoted statistics from India to support their decision.

I was surprised. He has far more training in numbers than I, yet he quoted statistics that had a spurious rigor. If he used numbers like that in his plant, some very expensive equipment would be broken.

We all get suckered in by statistics that are incomplete or misleading. And we all can miss those numbers that tell us something important. Just like we should apply intellectual discipline when studying the Bible, we should also stop and consider when we see numbers thrown around in the news or even from the pulpit.

Soon after my conversation, I ran across The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics by Tim Harford. This book does not require a background in math. It is readable. Packed with stories about people who famously got the numbers wrong and those who got them right. This book will help you not be fooled by every number you see flashed at you.

I suppose I should hint at the ten rules (dare I say 10 Commandments in a spiritual disciplines blog?).

  • Stop and notice our emotional reactions
  • Combine the “bird’s eye” statistical perspective with the “worm’s-eye” view from personal experience
  • Look at labels on the data, do we understand what’s really described
  • Look for comparisons and context
  • Look behind the statistics at where they come from
  • Ask what is missing
  • Ask tough questions about algorithms and the big datasets
  • Pay more attention to the bedrock of official statistics
  • Look under the surface of any beautiful chart or graph
  • Keep an open mind

And finally, Harford’s “golden rule”—a good trait to develop for life in general—Be curious.

Further Questions of Ourselves For Guidance for the New Year

January 7, 2022

A couple of days ago, I asked a number of questions to guide us toward health for the new year. Let’s take it deeper with some questions from today’s reading in the Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community.

  • Why do we call impossible what God calls possible?
  • Why do we call unforgivable what God has forgiven?
  • Why do we compromise with what God calls sin?

How we need to know God’s heart, and reach out in His love and wisdom to others.

Maybe those are questions we can write on a note card to place on our desk to remind us daily. Especially when we are discouraged. Or when we are judging others harshly. Or when we are tempted.

How Can I Improve My Overall Health, Part 2?

January 6, 2022

I asked many questions yesterday for us to consider regularly to keep us on a healthy spiritual, intellectual, physical path. Today I’ve compiled a list of suggestions from a number of sources. They are all good, but way too many to implement all at once. Just consider them as suggestions. Pick one or two deficiencies and begin a habit to correct them.

Longevity and Mindset

  • Prioritize sleep
  • Build muscle mass, begin resistance weight training
  • Move (walk, run, bike, swim)
  • Minimize sugar intake
  • Socialize more
  • Adopt a diet more rich in plants (Eat food, not too much, mostly plants)
  • Practice gratitude daily
  • Find your passion and purpose
  • Consume optimistic and future optimistic content (turn off TV news and other negative sources)
  • Practice data-driven experimentalism
  • Take ownership of your health decisions
  • Practice simple habits
  • Practice change as lifestyle

Drink water

  • After waking up
  • After workout
  • Half-hour before a meal
  • Before going to bed (this has been a great change for me)
  • When you’re feeling sick or tired
  • When surrounded by sick people

Work smarter

  • Have a weekly plan
  • Focus on what you’re doing
  • Get organized
  • Have a routine (but be flexible)
  • Take breaks
  • Turn phone off
  • Prioritize

Hope you find some good ideas within.