Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category


October 23, 2018

That was always my question. Or phrased differently, how do you know that?

By the end of my second year of college, I finally learned the “game”. It is the other four of Rudyard Kipling’s six honest serving men–what, who, when, and where.

They said they were encouraging thinking. They really wanted memorization.

My grades significantly improved.

Pursuing why is a career.

Why did they say that? Why did they choose that story in their narrative? Why do we care?

Or as the famous philosophy exam had it–question: why; answer: why not?

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it makes us more fully human.

His Heart Just Was (or wasn’t) In It

October 22, 2018

I stand at the beginning of the trail staring down the mile-long stretch that starts the run. I just don’t feel like running that opening mile. My heart just isn’t in it today. That’s the phrase we use.

I blow the whistle for the kickoff. The next hour is devoted to chasing soccer players around the pitch. Even for 12-year-olds I’m running the equivalent of a 5K. Didn’t even notice it. My heart was in it.

The middle of the Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus’s teachings on the heart. It is the attitude with which we give. The attitude with which we pray. The attitude with which we serve.

God looks at the condition of our hearts. He sees whether our heart is in it or not.

It is better for us, and better for the world around us, if our heart is in it.

You Mean I Have To Use The Tools

October 19, 2018

Tony Robbins told a story about a friend who owns a gym.

He sees people join the gym. They get dressed and show up many times each week. They stand amongst the equipment. They take selfies of themselves and the equipment. They leave.

These people never use the equipment. They just have a need to show their followers on social media that they were there.

You mean that we can’t just look at the exercise machine and become fit????

A guy at my gym told me yesterday about a couple who invited their pastor for dinner. Following a nice dinner and conversation, the pastor left. As the couple finished cleaning, the woman noticed that a spoon was missing from the pastor’s place setting. “Did he take the spoon?” they wondered.

About a year later, they invited the pastor for another dinner. During dinner, the wife quietly noted that they were missing a spoon from last year’s dinner. “You didn’t happen to take it with you?” she asked.

He smiled. “While you and your husband were busy in the kitchen, I placed the spoon in your Bible,” he said.

We have many great books. We have meditation apps for our smart phones. We have prayer guides. We have myriad opportunities to serve.

But we must actually do the work.

We Can Be Too Trusting

October 18, 2018

Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher. He probed into the depths of his motivations. He was a Stoic. He was also Emperor of Rome.

He also had a flaw that almost cost him his life. He was too trusting.

His first response was to trust people. He assumed that they had the same goodness and kindness as he. Yet, he was constantly betrayed. He wife, his brother, his son, his general.

My first response is to trust when I meet people. Maybe within certain contexts I would be wary, but in general that is I. And…this tendency to believe people good has led me astray on occasion or cost me money or emotional grief.

I also know people whose first response to others is distrust. They are cynical and distrustful people. I have observed them.

I’d rather be me. Maybe with a better dose of realism. Because many people are like the second type.

Under The Authority Of

October 17, 2018

We are under the authority of someone or something.

We may think we are not–especially the devout libertarians among us.

But we serve something or someone. We may think it is ourselves. But…

We can choose, or we can just drift according to the whim of our emotions or the influence of our peer group.

The Kingdom of God is near us, Jesus said.

Some people stumbled thinking Jesus to be the regent king of a geo located kingdom–say, Judea.

Jesus really seemed to be saying something like, The kingdom is here just not equally distributed. (Apologies to William Gibson.)

We can choose to live under the the authority or dominion of God. In other words living according to God’s will, trying to live up to the wisdom teaching of Jesus.

Or, we can choose to drift along at the whim of our emotions. Or choose some other leader–Jesus suggested the other alternative as money, or stuff, wealth. And certainly we publicize and worship (often from afar) wealth.

Living under the authority of God, we do those acts of kindness and grace I’ve been discussing. We reap the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The Paradox of Doing Good

October 16, 2018

Can you hold two opposing ideas in your mind simultaneously?

That is called a paradox.

Yesterday I pondered Jesus’ teaching about doing your good works in secret.

He also said that we should let our lights shine like a city on a hill through our good works.

Which did he mean?

Well, both.

That is the paradox.

Except when it isn’t.

What is in common? Attitude.

Do we do good works just out of kindness as an extension of who we are?

Do we do good works in order to gain praise?

Who you are speaks more loudly than what you say.

Striving For Right

October 15, 2018

Companies pay large amounts of money to consultants to help them define a vision statement that describes the company and its mission.

We also as individuals can have a vision that describes what we wish to be.

Jesus gave us an idea for such a vision for our lives. In his sermon on the mount he stated, “Strive first for the dominion of God.” In other words, we would be wise to choose to live in such a way as to be pleasing to God.

Just prior to this, he told three little stories contrasting people who do things with great publicity.

There are those who do good deeds only when there is a great deal of publicity at stake, or they give money in such a way that their publicists can get it recorded in important media, or they pray with many and beautiful words just where there are many people to notice.

For these, Jesus says they already have their reward.

Then there those who quietly do acts of kindness and generosity as a matter of course. When they pray, they do it quietly in private.

These people God will richly reward.

Try Easy

October 12, 2018

Try easy.

The motivational, self-help guru market is saturated with now-wealthy people who travel from conference to conference motivating people with their (sort of) unique take on pop psychology and quips.

They are all following in the footsteps, and often just repeating, Napoleon Hill and Earl Nightingale. For the record, I grew to love Nightingale’s teaching and research.

The first one I ever heard was in 1976. It was at a management conference. This guy wasn’t famous. Even then. But he was a good speaker. He introduced me to DayTimers for productivity.

His message to these alpha males was, “Try easy.” Think of this…that was 42 years ago, and I still remember.

He motivated us to achieve. But not to over stress our lives on the way to a heart attack rather than achievement.

This week became a sort of personal productivity week in writing.

I thought I’d leave you with this thought. Do the “try” part. For which he meant get up and work. But also do the “easy part. Tackle things. Take breaks. Eliminate the negative stress. In the immortal words of The Eagles, “Take it easy.”


October 11, 2018

We can’t focus on the next activity. We may have decided to tackle this activity. But we worked on it the day before. And the day before that.

It will never get done. I can’t do this. We tell ourselves the worst stories about our ineptitude. We are not smart enough. We don’t have the resources. It’s too much.

We are trying to understand a book we are reading. We are lost. But we look just at one paragraph. It’s too obtuse. I’m lost. Then I notice a key sentence. There is one word in the sentence. I study that one word. What does it mean in various contexts? What is this context? Oh, I see.

My next action is actually too broad.

Maybe the next action is in reality many next actions.

We list the steps to solve that next action.

Then we tackle one step at a time.

One by one. One word. One step. We focus. We understand. We accomplish.

Indecision Kills Productivity

October 10, 2018

The ability to focus on one task at a time is the key to getting things done. Or the key to learning new things.

I teach soccer referees to learn to use focus wisely. To widen focus and take in more area when a play is developing. Then to narrow focus to just two or three players when a challenge for the ball is about to occur.

Young referees (and many fans) often cannot decide where to focus. They watch too many things. Or the wrong things. And miss the play.

That indecision of where to place focus kills my productivity. I use my Nozbe app to list all my “next actions” as defined in David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Then I can’t decide to check the app.

Life is decisions. Indecision causes us to drift through life unaware and unproductive.