Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Be Kind

September 4, 2019

Tim Ferriss always asks guests on his popular podcast, “If you could put a message on a billboard seen by millions of people, what would it say?”

Catherina Fake, tech entrepreneur and investor, said on a recent show, “Be Kind.”

What a succinct statement of the need of our time.

All over the world there are people and leaders stirring up the most base emotions and instincts rather than leading us with the example of Jesus toward a society of grace and peace.

Humans exhibit some amazing traits. They can be kind to a neighbor who looks like themselves and simultaneously speak with such hate and disparagement toward others.

That Be Kind thing? Perhaps we need to learn to make it an intimate part of our own lives. Be Kind to ourselves. Then expand in ever widening circles until it encompasses the multitudes of the Earth.

Be Kind.

Spiritual Life Is Like a Marathon

September 3, 2019

No matter the pace, running a 5K (for me) or a marathon requires putting one foot in front of the other for some period of time plays with my mind.

I prefer sprinting with the forwards in a soccer match to even just the 25-30 minutes or whatever that it would take me to run 5K.

Life is not like that.

How many people we know who have sprinted out of the gate only to run out of energy and falter?

They were quick in school. Rushed through. Played the game. Got the M. Div. or MBA or master of whatever. Then grew no more. They think, “Here I am 26 years old and still not CEO of the company; I’m a failure.”

Sat down and began meditation. Did not reach enlightenment that first week. Quit.

Maybe physically we shun the idea of running 26 miles plus.

But spiritual life, like life in general, is not a sprint. You are in it for the long haul.

It is practicing day after day after day. Putting in the time and effort. Rewards that come too quickly are corrupting. The wise person, the superior CEO, the enlightened monk, they all put in the daily time and effort over a long period until one day came the realization.

True Change

September 2, 2019

OK, so it’s a holiday weekend. I watched some European soccer on TV yesterday afternoon, and then a couple of episodes from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives while awaiting dinner.

The old reality show Restaurant Impossible has been renewed. Someone writes the producers and asks for help. Chef Robert and his team swoop into town and evaluate the problem.

They revise and simplify the menu;

Organize the kitchen;

Organize and motivate the servers;

Clean and beautify the physical interior;

Install good business practices such as cost control;

And work with the owner/manager–especially on attitude change and people skills.

The crew packs up leaving behind happy and motivated people with a formula that should make a profit for some time.

Six months later, many of those recipients of Chef Robert’s grace have reverted back to their old ways and gone out of business.

Sometimes people change; sometimes they don’t.

Same in spiritual matters. Sometimes people listen to the preacher and are baptized into a changed life. Six months later, they’re the same old person they used to be.

Changing requires a set of practices (habits) that we can follow intentionally until they are instilled deep within and we’ve left that old person behind.

Chef Robert can only stay a week. That’s not long enough to help the owner begin to work those practices into their lives.

Same with churches. Sometimes they don’t stick with the new person long enough to instill practices that truly change lives.

Expending Energy on that which Does Not Matter

August 30, 2019

See how much this observation applies to your church, or a church that you know:

You are fond of contention and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation.

Change a word, and the observation applies to the marketplace as well:

You are fond of contention and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to success.

How often have I witnessed this very thing.

Small churches have divided in acrimony over some issue that should never have been a point of contention. They forgot the goal–“go into all the world and make disciples”. The goal instead became about doctrinal points that are often akin to the splitting of hairs. Or about pride and ego. Or simply a contentious personality.

I once hired a guy despite several red flags in his past who immediately set out to divide the company and remove me so that he could become manager. He succeeded in the small thing. I, meanwhile, had seen the imminent demise of the company. Our product was old in electronics years and the anticipated market did not develop. I was moving on anyway. But still, I could have done without the drama.

That observation?

It is from Clement of Rome. He was with the Apostle Paul at Philippi. He wrote this about the very early church in the first century.

The human condition has been with us a very long time. However, recognizing the problem is the first step to correcting it and returning to the goal.

What has gotten you off target?

Describing A Way of Life

August 29, 2019

I am currently reading from Ante-Nicene Fathers. Letters and documents dating from the time of the Apostles to the second century.

Check out this description of Christ-followers at about the time of Paul written by someone called Mathetes to someone called Diognetus–thought to be the tutor to Emperor Marcus Aurelius the noted Stoic philosopher.

How many observers would say this about present-day Christians?

To sum up all in one word—what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.

In the earlier chapter, Mathetes says:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines.

But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.

They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

They obey the laws and yet surpass the laws by their lives.

We read in the Acts that the Christian movement grew mostly because of the way they lived their daily lives. People around them wanted what they had. Today too often we just try to talk others into believing exactly what we believe and then pile up rules.

These people? They quietly lived out their faith.

Drawing to Think

August 28, 2019

You may have heard of “back of the napkin” thinking where some people are talking at a diner. One pulls out a (hopefully paper) napkin and draws something to explain a point.

Supposedly according to myth, President Reagan’s economic policy known as the Laffer Curve or “Trickle Down Economics” was drawn on the back of a napkin and to this day explains the economic theory of some.

Drawing out thoughts helps us think through a problem. Maybe we won’t set government policy, but maybe we will understand something better or help our organization solve a problem or raise funds.

This book has been around for a while. I’ve heard the author interviewed on several podcasts. I’ve read a little in the past. I recommend this book. Written with wit and insight, it will help you think.

I also use a form of drawing when I take notes during presentations or interviews (like I’ll be doing this afternoon about an Internet of Things survey). I’ll jot down a thought and then use lines or circles to connect thoughts.

By the way, I use pen and a notebook. I love the Uniball Signo Micro 207 pen. It is inexpensive and writes first time, every time with a smooth line. Studies show people writing by hand have better retention than those taking notes on a computer. Plus, it’s hard to draw connecting lines on a computer.

I also recommend learning to use mind maps. Better than traditional outlining for organizing a longer paper.

Reminders Of Good Character

August 27, 2019

Saw this while browsing LinkedIn. I like these little reminders to keep me on the right path. There is something in here for everyone.


August 26, 2019

“Often injustice lies in what you are not doing,” said Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and philosopher, “not only in what you are doing.”

Marcus was blunt and to the point. The Hebrew prophet Amos was much more poetic:

But let justice roll on like a river,

righteousness like a never-failing stream!

My personal political philosophy does not revolve around being liberal or conservative, but more around justice. Calling BS on greed, pride, and arrogance. Acting on justice for the poor and oppressed.

I think of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. When the man still didn’t feel like he was doing enough to earn righteousness with God, Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. One point Jesus was making was the right use of wealth. And not to let wealth stand in your way as an obstacle to salvation. Rather, let the just use of wealth be a path to receiving God’s righteousness.

What are we holding back from doing? Where are we being unjust by not doing?

Nassim Taleb said, “If you see fraud and do not say fraud, then you are a fraud.”


August 23, 2019

Yesterday’s contemplation centered on mission and vision. As in–having one. And remembering it. Doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple statement or description is OK. In fact, probably better than something crafted by a consultant.

That caused me to have an epiphany.

The banner with the mission statement of the church I attend suddenly disappeared from the wall. Along with everything else. I had heard that the contemporary worship team wanted to build sight barriers and eliminate all visual evidence that it is a Christian church.

That is sort of a 40-year-old theory of why younger people don’t come to church. It has been superseded by research contradicting those earlier findings.

However, they all miss the point.

Usually we should look in the mirror to discover problems of accomplishing our mission, or making the sale, or making enough profit to stay in business, or attracting more people to our worship.

Perhaps in many cases people don’t come because they don’t feel welcome and the worship team and speakers don’t connect. I’ve been in groups of several thousand where the musicians and speakers really connect with the audience. And I’ve witnessed groups of 50 where even in the intimate setting the connection is not made. It’s an Ethernet plug trying to fit into a USB port.

Same on a personal level. Some people try to force feed opinions instead of making a real connection. It’s about eye contact and listening. And empathy. Disciplines we sadly fail to practice well.

To Dream The Possible Dream

August 22, 2019

A pastor was sharing that he worked in the business world before becoming a church leader. His favorite part was the annual planning meeting. The older people would come to the meeting rolling their eyes talking about here was another waste of many hours only to compile a notebook that would sit on the shelf alongside its predecessors, unopened.

But the pastor, being a young guy, was enthralled with the possibilities of a new future that they discussed in the meeting.

Typical, right? We have a corporate mission statement or a personal mission statement. It’s written somewhere to remind us. But in the chaos of the moment each day, we work on the short term problem and forget about the long term direction.

That is a subset of the Don Quixote de La Mancha problem–To Dream the Impossible Dream.

In our personal life as well as corporate we need to remind ourselves daily of where we are going. Why we are doing what we’re doing. Ask, will this activity move me toward my vision or just suck up valuable time and energy?

We were created to do. Not only to do but to pursue activities that we were created for.

Meditation and prayer are excellent activities.

However, like the Zen master said, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”