Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Throw Out The Bad

May 25, 2023

Do you catch yourself rummaging through drawers looking for your “good” knife? Or, patting your pockets searching for your “good” pen?

That means you have “bad” ones. Throw those out.

[Note: I picked up this idea from a new book from Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier.]

This thought can extended. Do you find yourself sitting thinking bad thoughts about someone or something? Do you catch yourself in a bad habit? Are you associating with people who lead you into bad attitudes?

Throw also those out along with the knives and pens. Clean house of bad tools, thoughts, relationships, habits. Simplify life. Live cleanly.

To Whom Are You a Slave?

May 23, 2023

Anyone capable of angering you becomes your master.


You open Facebook (or Twitter or email or whatever). You see a post from someone you know. The facts are completely wrong. The words are skewed to achieve maximum emotional impact. Your emotions are triggered. You immediately reach for the keyboard to respond.

You are a slave to that person.

You are in a conversation. The other person says things that seem like a personal attack. You respond personally. You attack. Your personality buckles into angry responding. 

You are a slave to a new master.

I have learned the pause—that moment before my fingers reach for the keyboard. That pause that lets me scroll past the nonsense.

I’ve talked of the pause before. It is one of the hardest things I’ve learned to do. Of course, the best way is to avoid needing the pause at all by simply realizing that I can control most of what I see. I can refuse to spend time in Facebook and Twitter. I can choose those people with whom to meet.

There are things in life that I cannot control But those I can control, those I had better exert effort to control.

Finding A Consistent Time

May 22, 2023

Research into when the best time in your day for strength training popped into my morning reading. Morning? Midday? Evening?

It turns out that it doesn’t matter. The best time of day for your strength training is that time that fits best into your lifestyle. It’s that time of day when you can consistently go to the gym or basement and face your weights.

Some people insist that you must rise from bed early in the morning for your meditation and prayer time. You must have a thick pillow upon which to sit. Perhaps light candles or incense. Play a chime.

The best time is the time that you can consistently find some quiet space in your day. The best place is where you are. If you have a ritual, fine. If not, great. You can sit anywhere not too comfortable. You can lie on your back or side. You can walk (keeping your eyes open, of course).

I have taught on the method of Ignatius of Loyola, a founder of the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—within the Roman Catholic tradition. His method included morning, midday, and the evening Examen. That’s fine if you live in a monastery. For some of us (most?), that is a difficult discipline within our lives.

Benjamin Franklin, the American philosopher and statesman, also had a routine asking of himself in the morning “what good shall I do today” and in the evening “what good did I do today.” That’s a good discipline.

What time should you meditate, pray, work out, exercise, read? That time during the day when you can consistently devote time mindfully to the practice.

Perfection or Not

May 18, 2023

This nutrition information from the Arnold Schwarzenegger Pump Club newsletter actually fits a wider use. “If you fall off the wagon or just want the a nice meal out, eat, enjoy, and then return to your normal eating the next day. The way to better health is not accomplished by following a path of perfection and restriction. It’s about staying on a path of consistency.”

The same can be said about the path toward spiritual maturity. Much as the Pharisees of both Jesus’s time and our own time talk about holding others to a path of perfection and restriction, the better path is consistently (as Micah puts it), “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Epidemic of Anxiety

May 16, 2023

Everywhere we look we are told there is an epidemic of anxiety. It makes people anxious reading about anxiety. Youth are seeing therapists because of anxieties induced from either expectations from parents for success or from hearing parents arguing usually from stressing over money issues.

Religious people do not help when they today, like the Pharisees of 2,000 years ago, tell us how to live in every detail of our lives. One almost thinks it is a sin to breathe, since seemingly everything we do and think is a sin.

Jesus often reprimanded those Pharisees for piling burdens on people. I have to believe that even the Pharisees were anxious underneath their veneer of superiority lest they be discovered in a sin.

Here is one thing Jesus taught as reported by Matthew in the “Sermon on the Mount”:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6

Step back from your cycle of thoughts (I’d suggest daily) and seek the greater perspective. Look first at the big picture of God’s kingdom and what he does for you. You can with this perspective tackle the things you can control and live with those you cannot. Not that this is easy. The suggestion is easy, the practice is hard. And if you need a therapist, by all means seek out one.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

May 15, 2023


Web speak for an article—Too Long; Didn’t Read.

Several years ago an acquaintance who read this blog said, “You’re a pretty good writer. You should send posts to (a certain Christian website).”

I contacted them. They said, “You’re a pretty good writer. For us, just write a headline for search engine optimization. Then write in bullet points. Make it 7 steps to, or 5 things that, and the like.”

I don’t do that.  I also try to avoid negativity (not always successfully…). That sells, too. So this blog never hit the big numbers.

The thing is—spiritual formation is both easy and hard.

The easy part is that there are only a few things you need to do.

The hard part is maintaining a right attitude and doing the few things every day. 

And, if your attitude that morning sucks, well, do the few things anyway. The doing reminds you that you are the type of person who is growing toward spiritual maturity. And that adjusts your attitude.

It’s like a virtuous cycle.

How Do They Treat Servers?

May 12, 2023

Are you about to hire someone? Perhaps you’ve met a new friend? Want to know about them? Go out to dinner or a good lunch. Watch how they treat the hostess. How do they interact with the server? How do they treat the other restaurant staff?

How one treats servers in these unguarded moments reveals character.

By the way, how do you (I) treat servers?

Maybe it’s time for an attitude change.

Words Have Consequences

May 11, 2023

People want to be able to say anything that comes to mind. Unfounded opinions expressed to a friend at the coffee shop is one thing. Amplifying those comments through social media is a leap. 

Words have consequences. You may offend one friend. Or, you may stir a hornet’s nest of reaction. And you may be surprised at consequences—lost friends, lost job opportunities, lost position. 

Yes, we can say whatever we want. But there are consequences. We cannot avoid responsibility for what we say. Indeed, we need to assume responsibility. “Free speech” without assuming responsibility is merely the behavior of a toddler. A 2-year-old, or a 4-year-old, or even a 17-year-old. But an adult—they should be aware that what they say has consequences and sometimes we are advised by Wisdom to keep our mouths closed and our fingers still.

A World of Complainers

May 10, 2023

Somedays it seems that everyone is a complainer.  Others are always wrong. They inconvenience me. “What?! It’s not all about me?”

I thought about a useless complaint on a Facebook group. I thought about the complainer. She has a Facebook badge for contributions to the group chat. The posts are always complaints.

I reread some of my daily meditations. The words seemed bold and 36 point. Practice compassion.

Perhaps people just complain as cry to be noticed? Perhaps replying with compassion will eventually soothe the troubled soul? And my own.

Solitude and Community

May 9, 2023

Life exists in the tension between seeming opposites. Take solitude and community.

Our spiritual journey must include periods of solitude. Time in the desert—whether real or metaphorical. There we meet ourselves. There also we meet God.

We must leave solitude at times in order to complete the cycle. Whether it is to meet with one or two friends or students or a larger community, our spirit craves others. Where else can we fulfill our commitment to God through service to others?

Finding that balance leads to life.