Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Dealing With Anger

May 17, 2021

I drove up the road to pick up my pizza order. With a couple of pizzas nestled comfortably on the heated seat beside me, I headed south for the short drive home.

The road has three lanes of traffic through the business district, narrows to two lanes after crossing over an Interstate highway, then narrows to one southbound lane as we pass through a couple of miles of farmland.

Ahead were perhaps a dozen cars bunched tightly together. Not as bad as NASCAR, but you get the idea. Except that I’ve allowed several car lengths of space between the line of cars and me. Approaching the last merge there is a Jeep ahead of me closely following the dark car in front. A white pickup truck is in the right land and must merge or run out of road.

The pickup speeds up a little. There is no room between the Jeep and dark car. The Jeep does not yield. The white pickup does not yield. I am allowing plenty of room for the pickup. He does not back off and at the final instant is able to squeeze in. Triumph!

Did I mention the line of cars? We all are traveling at approximately the speed limit for the next mile to a traffic light. Where we all stop. Nothing gained for the moments of tension.

When I drive my car the media system automatically connects to my iPhone and plays the next podcast queued up. Andy Stanley is speaking on anger—specifically mentioning “road rage.” I love these little coincidences. He’s quoting from the letter from James.

“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Anger is not a primary base emotion. It has deeper causes. Insecurity, fear, greed, envy, wish to get ahead of others, pride. James gives some advice.

Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Humility, setting aside our striving to be one better, putting others first—these are antidotes. These are also a lifestyle pleasing to God, especially practiced in every little way.

What if

May 7, 2021

Perhaps the most powerful phrase for creativity.

What if…we didn’t live here, but elsewhere?

What if…I could work at a more meaningful job?

What if…Jesus meant what he said?

What if…I lived as if what Jesus said was meant for me?

What if…I didn’t comb through Paul’s writing looking for a list of rules but instead took Paul for what he said about living freely with love?

What if…I really practiced loving my neighbor?

What if…we all really practiced loving our neighbors?

What if…we became like a child and asked that question often?

I have two active blogs and two that I started for specific purposes and ended. Altogether I’ve written about 5,000 blog posts. That’s about 1.5 million words. What if I had not experimented with the first one back in 2003? What if I had turned them into a couple of books?

Try Not, Do or Do Not, There Is No Try

April 28, 2021

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

This is quoted to the best of my memory from Yoda in the original Star Wars trilogy. Note: I read once that there are two types of sci-fi movie people: Star Wars or Star Trek. I am the former.

This line of thinking began with someone telling a gathering that he was a Christ-follower.

So with no commentary about that person, I started thinking that if you must tell people you are a Christ-follower rather than that just being obvious by the way you talk and act, then perhaps something is amiss.

We should see in someone’s behavior what they are.

Then, in my imagination, I had a conversation with someone where I said, “I try to be a disciple of Jesus.”

That’s when I was condemned by Yoda. There is no try. Do or do not.

That is the question for me…and for you. What do we do?

I gave up fighting a long time ago as a youth when I saw the futility of it.

I gave up arguing a long time ago because I saw the futility. The last time I let someone push my button is burned into my memory from about 15 years ago.

I gave up protest marches 50 years ago because I thought they were futile.

I just make an effort to treat everyone as a person formed in the image of God. When I slip, I vow to not let it happen again.

Doing is a way of life–as in following the command of Jesus to love just as he loved.

Getting A Reboot

April 27, 2021

I am writing this on my older iPad Pro, because my new MacBook Air is getting a software update and is rebooting.

That sort of means going back to the source and starting over—only with new or updated software or operating instructions.

Sometimes I go in for a reboot, too.

I’m currently reading a book that made an impact on me 2-3 years ago. If you are curious (and I highly recommend the book), it is Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. He is answering the question, what makes the American Christian church so resistible in our culture?

Reading the book of Proverbs from the Hebrew Scriptures every January is a form of reboot for me. As is going back to read Matthew chapters 5-7 from time to time.

You have to return to the source from time to time for refreshment.

Then you must venture forth to practice what you preach in the world.

There is a rhythm to life. We must find it for ourselves. A rhythm from silence and solitude to service and love—not love in the sense of so many American religious and political leaders, but love in the agape sense that Jesus, John, and Paul talked about. It’s a doing for others as Jesus did for us.

Find your rhythm. There is one for daily life. There is one for yearly life. It takes practice.

Doing What I Can

April 26, 2021

I don’t ignore the news. That is hard to accomplish and probably not wise. However, I don’t immerse myself in it. That, also, would not be wise.

The easy thing for a Christian is to pretend to be an ancient Hebrew prophet and expound on hypocrisy and godlessness and the evil of people who disagree with me.

But that is merely ego-centric.

The news and pictures I’ve seen coming from India regarding the impact of the failure of the government to tackle the Covid crisis with the resulting deaths have moved me to deep sadness. And that is repeated with perhaps less drama in some other populous countries.

As an adolescent student and young man, I harbored a great dislike for the writings of the Apostle Paul. Later, I discovered that it wasn’t Paul himself, but the way people went through his writing and picked out parts they liked and build legal frameworks around them.

So, as a civil rights and anti-war person, I totally misunderstood what Paul wrote in the 13th chapter of Romans. Here, he expounds a view, not that the government is always right (and I wondered what he’d have written had he been living under Nero at the time), but that government is placed here by God to bring order and justice and the like to society.

We can see throughout this pandemic the differences in political leadership and the various impacts upon the societies. Leadership in the government is important. All the leaders made mistakes–just some learned and adjusted and some, well, failed.

But I’m not here to be an ancient Hebrew prophet predicting God’s judgement upon them all.

Instead, what is the response I can make when I learn about all this immense suffering. I cannot write a check with enough zeros to provide vaccines and healthcare for the world. But I can write a check. And I can encourage those I meet. And I can support good leaders.

Living in the dominion of the heavens that Jesus had announced doesn’t mean that I change the whole world. I can change me and influence those around me. And so can you.

It’s kind of like Arlo Guthrie singing at the end of Alice’s Restaurantand it’s a movement, yes the Alice’s Restaurant Massacre movement. We can participate in the share the kingdom of heaven movement and learn from Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. Help where we can.

The Golden Rule

April 20, 2021

Jesus is wrapping up his teaching on the hillside. I’ve visited the location that tradition holds to be the location. I can’t read Matthew 5-7 without visualizing that hillside by the lake. That helps me.

Anyway, Jesus has hit the crowd with many revolutionary ideas about the good news of living in the kingdom of the heavens. Then he hits a number of short, memorable sayings.

“In everything do to others you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

Yesterday I was contemplating his teaching on anger and contempt–not only don’t kill someone, but also don’t dwell on the thought of killing them; don’t call someone a fool; don’t hold others in contempt–and I wondered about overcoming those attitudes.

I guess if we were to get up in the morning and treat the first person we saw with respect and then the second, we could build up this habit muscle. And that changes our attitude. And then we begin living in the kingdom of the heavens.

Because Jesus said that this simple rule of living our daily life of respecting others–doing to them as we would have them do to us–leads to doing the law and following the teaching of the prophets.

Try it beginning now. The next person you come across, treat with respect. And the next. And if you feel anger or disrespect visiting, remember the new muscle we’re exercising.

It’ll change your life.

Do Not Hold Others In Contempt

April 19, 2021

I am once again deep into Matthew 5-7 popularly called the Sermon on the Mount. I am not a professional Biblical scholar, but I have to believe this wasn’t a one-and-done talk. Jesus probably taught this whenever he had a crowd of 10 or more. Based on some research, I also think that this is not a random collection of sayings that Matthew heard during his time with Jesus. It fits together too well and leads to an obvious conclusion.

After he talked about how various people among his hearers would be blessed through his introduction of the nearness of the kingdom of the heavens (as Dallas Willard likes to say), he tackles what we would call Root Cause Analysis–anger that leads to murder and contempt.

It is becoming socially acceptable in many cultures today to openly hold people of different races, tribes, and religions in contempt. A paper is openly circulating in the US Congress right now upholding this. It is even acceptable in many places around the world by some people to openly discuss and act on killing those whom we hold in contempt.

What spiritual disciplines could we bring to bear to counter such thoughts and actions?

It always must begin with self-awareness. Whether we read in the Bible or other spiritual writings and biographies, circumstance must conspire to bring us to the depths of realization of how we have fallen short of God’s expectations. Then coming to the realization of how the kingdom of God is right here around us.

As we meditate on the nearness of God and his teaching, we can begin to recognize and act on our fears that drive anger that drive contempt.

Jesus closed his talk with a call to action. “Whoever hears my words and acts on them is like a wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation.”

We must hear; we must act. Each of us. Wherever we are.

Workflow, Practices, Habits, Becoming

April 9, 2021

I got up this morning and started my Friday morning routine–different because I take the trash bins out to the street for pickup.

I remembered my old Friday routine here of writing about leadership every week.

None of my reading sources contain “how to be a leader” writing any longer. Has everyone become a good leader? I think not. Maybe there’s not much more to say?

But leadership is a practice and a skill that must be exercised and honed.

Then I remembered the personal productivity fad where everyone (me included) wrote about Getting Things Done. It’s a practice and workflow and habit of writing down everything on your mind, sorting the things out, and eventually filtering into a list of “next actions” so that you know what to do and don’t waste time worrying about forgetting something.

This is great for projects. Even personal. Don’t simply write on a to-do pad “spouse’s birthday.” Think what are my next actions? Under the project “Spouse’s Birthday” write stop at bakery to order cake, call son A, call daughter B, call spouse’s sister, research for latest hint for a present online… Then, if you’re out, swing by the bakery. If you wind up with a little spare free time, pick up the phone and make the calls, and so forth.

I have a few things I do daily. After I mix up my vitamins and make coffee, I grab my latest book and the laptop and proceed to write this. For my technology blog, I copy interesting information I find or that comes to me into a Microsoft Word document and save to Dropbox the file name beginning with a keyword so that everything sorts out automatically. When it’s time to write that blog, I pick a topic, write it in Word, copy to WordPress, perform a few administrative chores, and publish. It’s all a workflow and regular practice that becomes a habit. Habits, of course, define the person.

Therefore, take care with your spiritual practices. Part of getting up (after the coffee) is grab the latest reading material, the cup of coffee (or tea), sit in your regular chair, and you are ready for some study, prayer, meditation. That little habit, which can be as short as 15 minutes or an hour or more, will set the pattern for the day. You’ll become a different person over time.

And The Point of the Sermon Is

April 8, 2021

A good keynote speech or sermon or presentation concludes with a point. Maybe an action item. Maybe a challenge.

Jesus had healed a bunch of people and talked with them. He then led them to a hillside by the Sea of Galilee and talked to them. The talk was about the kingdom of heaven and life there. That life was attainable starting right there.

He built through the talk that we call the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew chapters 5 through 7) and came to a conclusion. A summary point. A call to action.

There are two types of people–those who hear his words and act on them and those who don’t.

He illustrates.

The first type are like the man who builds his house on rock, on a solid foundation, a house that will withstand storms.

The second type are like a man who builds his house on sand, a weak and shifting foundation, a house that will be washed away.

That leaves every generation with the same decision. Will we be a disciple with a firm foundation? Or, will we drift like the shifting sands?

I Am The Kind of Person Who

April 7, 2021

Some people would take that sentence and say I am a person who does the right things, follow the rules, watch others to make sure they follow the rules (or else condemn them in my conversations). In the first century, they were called “scribes and Pharisees.” Today, they are still Pharisees. We just don’t call them that.

Some people don’t care and disregard all the rules. These things are for dull people. They don’t apply to me. Or, I just don’t care.

Some people are the kind of people who get a good night’s sleep, get up and spend time in prayer and meditation, study from helpful texts, look for opportunities to serve, do their work with joy.

Jesus spoke harshly to those whose outlook was following rules, making sure everyone knew they followed rules, and harbored contempt for those who didn’t.

Jesus talked about the kind of people who would live in the kingdom of heaven. The kind of people whose hearts were attuned to God. Who thought of others first. Who served when the opportunity presented itself. Who lifted the spirits of others. Who spent time alone and in groups aligning their hearts to God.

These people didn’t need the rules. They just lived them.

I’m reflecting again (and not often enough) on what we call The Sermon on the Mount found in the gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7. This needs to be read as a single passage, a single teaching. And it needs to be read often.