Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Watch Ourselves Watch Ourselves

May 20, 2022

Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass by with ugly and spiteful words, with wrathful heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and your image, revolting and godless, may remain in his defenseless heart. You don’t know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow, all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively benevolent love. Love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but forever.

Fyoder Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

If you were going to read just one book over for the rest of your life, you would not go wrong with The Brothers Karamazov. I refer to the story of the Grand Inquisitor often.

Imagine you’re walking down the street and can see yourself as if from outside yourself. See how you act. What you say. Facial expressions.

Then imagine seeing someone experiencing you. What impact did you make on that person?

That’s what Dostoyevsky saw. And how your act or words could send a child on a wrong path. At least in America we seem to think that we should have the “freedom” or “right” to act and say however we feel whenever we feel. But that is the attitude of an adolescent. As the apostle Paul told us, there is a time for us to grow up and act like mature adults.

Pause To Reflect

May 19, 2022

Jon Swanson wrote something the other day that caused me to pause and reflect. Maybe because I was trained as a percussionist as a youth, but I have a feel for patterns and rhythms. Jon talked about the rhythm of God in Genesis 1.

God created something. Then he paused, considered what was done, and pronounced it good. At a higher level, he created six “days” and then paused on the seventh.

We rush from task to task on our Getting Things Done to do lists. Check one off and rush to the next. Breathless. Focused on work.

Have we lost our rhythm? The rhythm of a day from rising to bed time? The rhythm during a day of task and reflect? The rhythm of a week of actually having times during the seven to pause and reflect? The rhythm of a month? a year? a life?

Tools of the Trade

May 18, 2022

The first soldering iron wound up in my shopping bag at around age 13 or so. That was not my first trip to Ted & Mary’s Hardware Store to buy tools. Tools have been a fascination since I was a child.

Computers are a tool. Many of the things I’ve done over the past 30 years would have been difficult to impossible without a computer as a tool.

Software, also, can be a tool. I’ve written using outliners (at least three different ones). I’ve used Word and Google Docs and a variety of text editors.

How about you and your spiritual disciplines?

Do you need a meditation cushion, incense, a cross or other ikon? Do you need a special edition of the Bible and a favorite chair in order to study? Can you pray without that special shirt or jacket?

I have wasted so much time and energy searching for the perfect tool.

Sometimes we make too much of something when simplicity is the key.

We can meditate in a special room–or in the waiting area at the airport with all the noise and movement around.

We can study at a special desk with perfect lighting–or wherever we have a half-hour to read and think, maybe reading on our phone while waiting for someone at the mall.

We can wait for that perfect service opportunity–or we can help the next person we meet collect something or pick up something.

The opportunity is right here with us. The tool is whatever we have at hand. Are we prepared to act?

How Politics Harms Our Discipleship #NotInItToWinIt

May 17, 2022

Feeling back in the groove, I was lifting weights in the fitness center. Someone had turned the TV to a news channel. I saw a number of ads for local Illinois political races. Oh, how I love not watching commercial TV and enduring a steady diet of those!

Which brings me to a book I wish to promote. I read a galley proof some time ago. Although thoughtful for anyone, this book targets evangelical Christians concerned about how they are driving people away from the church in huge numbers because of politics.

Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church, by Andy Stanley is the book I wish I had written–except that where I reach 1,000, he reaches 10,000,000.

In his words,

To be honest, I didn’t want to… nor did I have time to… write this book. But my heart is broken over the division in our nation, but even more so, the division in the church. 

Division.

Division is the very thing Jesus was most concerned about—the thing we seem completely unconcerned about. 

Jesus did not command us to agree on everything. But he did command us to love one another the way he loved us.

​​​​Let’s get back to doing that.

All I Want To Do

May 16, 2022

Apologies for those who stop by daily. I’m affected by seasonal allergies. Some years are worse. This was a bad one. Sometimes there’s only a headache or two. A few times the histamines unleashed by those little yellow buggers wiped me out for three days. I didn’t have much energy from Wednesday morning through Friday.

While in an anti-histamine-induced fog, I contemplated several years of writing this blog plus 45 years of teaching Bible, prayer, and other assorted bits of knowledge. We exist in an era of theory. What if, we opened the gospel writers’ recordings of the words and actions of Jesus? What if we opened the book and read as if for the first time? What if we believed that Jesus meant what he said?

Oh, for a mind like a child–open to new experiences, forever curious, thirsty for learning. What new thing will tomorrow bring?

Discover Yourself To Help Yourself Grow

May 10, 2022

People misuse personality evaluations continually. I’m a (something) in astrology. That means I’m like (something). Or the Myers-Briggs types me as this or that, and that’s the way I am. Or, I’m an Enneagram (1-9) and that defines my personality.

We need to discover who we are. But we want an easy answer. Give us one name or number and we can go away either happy or with an excuse.

But it’s not that easy, and that’s not the purpose. Better is to have a starting place from which to grow.

I’m an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs. There are 31 points on each of the four scales. Depending upon the situation when you met me, you’d say that yes, you’re an extrovert or no you’re too quiet. Of the 31 points (must be an odd number so it can’t be 50-50), I’m 16-15. So, I’m neither an extrovert or an introvert. The T (thinking) part is pretty strong. Knowing that, I can see myself getting too bound up with thinking when I should just wing a decision.

My Enneagram type (5 with a strong 4 wing) reinforces that thinking aspect. The Enneagram can show me unconscious motivations that might have led to my strong dependence on thinking and allow me to work on that so that I become more balanced. That’s the idea. We don’t just say I’m a 5 similar to I’m a Scorpio. It’s not a pickup line. It is information that we can use to become more fully developed as a human. And to avoid the toxicity that happens when a number goes out of balance.

Know yourself, as the Delphic oracle supposedly said. But only in order to grow the good parts and leave the bad parts behind.

Mother’s Day Retrospective

May 9, 2022

I read several blogs about Mother’s Day this weekend. That is a US holiday celebrated on the second Sunday of May–for most of the past 26 years also celebrated by me during a youth soccer tournament. I was referee assignor for the 20th time of the 25-year history of the tournament last year. This year, I have no more affiliation with US Soccer. I “celebrated” at home with my wife and took her out for a light dinner.

My mom has been gone for more than 20 years. She was a very talented individual married to the wrong man who exacerbated her negative feelings about herself. She passed on her insecurities to her four sons. We all had to deal with attempting to overcoming these insecurities all our lives.

On the other hand, I was the oldest, and she taught me to undertake projects beyond my knowledge and experience. Dad was an accountant and insurance salesman. He didn’t know the difference between a regular and Philips screwdriver. He couldn’t use a hammer. His dad was a machinist and manufacturing operations manager. His grandfather was an early electrical engineer and built and flew an airplane in the 1910s. Ability skipped a generation and I had to pick it up the hard way. Mom learned by watching her two older brothers (she was fifth of six kids).

She would get the urge to fix something up. She’d corral me. We refinished the kitchen cabinets, laid tile in a downstairs room, did some switch rewiring, a bunch of painting, tackled some plumbing. I have since tackled many projects that I probably shouldn’t have, but you learn as you go. That’s indirectly what she taught me.

There was no expression of love in our house. The most poignant moment was the day before she died with us both in space suits in the hospital because she got that hospital-generated super virus. It’s the only time she ever said I love you. Me, I’m still handicapped with a semi-Aspergers personality from all that.

Grow By Subtracting

May 7, 2022

Growing through addition seems so obvious and logical. Kids grow by adding height and weight. Of course, adults grow by also adding weight although most of us try to keep that off. Business people think in terms of adding sales, income, products, customers. Couples think in terms of adding stuff–furniture, vehicles, art, bigger houses.

Personal and spiritual growth comes through subtraction.

  • Reduce weight
  • Eliminate senseless worry
  • Eliminate toxic relationships
  • Eliminate tasks that interfere with time for silence
  • Reduce waste
  • Eliminate toxic news sources
  • Reduce social media intake

What can you begin subtracting now?

The Spiritual Disciplines and Practice

May 6, 2022

When we get out the mat, whether alone in our bedroom or in a class, to begin Yoga, we call it a “practice.” Every time whether it’s five minutes of easy stretches, some planks and ab poses for core strength, or a 60-minute class, we are practicing.

We bring our mind, body, and spirit together to each pose practicing proper alignment, breathing, focus on the muscles we are working. And we practice, and practice some more, and one day we notice strength and balance and calmness that we didn’t know we could experience.

The same with specifically spiritual disciplines. Some people worry about proper posture for meditation or contemplation. Well, the idea is to relieve yourself of worry. So, lie or sit or walk. Eyes open or closed. The important thing is breath and focus.

If we are slouching as we sit, or our legs are crossed too tightly and we arise stiff with a sore back, well then we’ll learn to adjust our posture.

And if our mind wanders too much, well, that is what it does. It doesn’t want you to reach that sublime state of experience of God. We just relax, return to breath, maybe repeat our key word (God, love, spirit, Om, whatever). It just takes practice.

We learn not to be sloppy in any of our practices. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. But, we aren’t perfect. We just focus and come back tomorrow to try again.

The Daily Practice

May 5, 2022

We can drift through life. We can practice life.

It’s a daily thing. I’m no longer young. I don’t have a full-time job answerable to a boss or corporation. But I have daily practice. Meditate, exercise, eat a nutritious breakfast, write, read (maybe practice guitar on a good day).

As the itinerant Chinese Buddhist Layman Pang said:

My daily activities are not unusual,

I’m just naturally in harmony with them.

Grasping nothing, discarding nothing…

Supernatural power and marvelous activity

Drawing water and carrying firewood.

Layman Pang, 740-808

Live in harmony with nature, with others, especially with yourself.