Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

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.


May 5, 2023

If you were on a long train ride with the smartest person in the world, what would you ask her?

How long would it take before you returned to doom scrolling on your phone?

How long can you maintain thinking without diversion?

What don’t you know that you would like to know?

I knew a teacher of the Bible who would get to a point where there were questions. He would say, “I guess we’ll have to save that one up to ask God when we get to heaven.” What if we had the patience and attention to ask God now and then wait for an answer?

I was taught to express myself as if I knew. These writings are the results of exploring. Searching for answers to many questions. Mostly, how to live in a healthy, positive way with-God. Every day brings a new wonder to consider.

Church (or organizational) Growth

May 3, 2023

According to the evidence at our disposal, the expansion of the churches was not organized, the product of a mission program; it simply happened. Further, the growth was not carefully thought through. Early Christian leaders did not engage in debates between rival “mission strategies.”

Alan Kreider

As one grows older and stays observant, recurring patterns of behavior occur. I took a “church growth” class in the late ’70s. I later knew several pastors with advanced degrees with that speciality. Same basic knowledge.

What I learned—it’s all about leadership, not so much knowledge.

Many businesses and churches have vision statements and mission statements. (Side note: I wonder why have both. Seems both redundant and confusing. Which are the people to follow?)

My studies over many years agree with Kreider’s. Many people joined the new first century movement because of the types of lives they saw among the believers. I’ve read histories of the plagues in Rome under emperors such as Marcus Aurelius where Christians came out of hiding (a dangerous thing) to serve the sick and dying in whatever way they could. These acts of selfless love also spurred tremendous growth of the movement.

I don’t think Jesus was confusing. Matthew says that just before he ascended, Jesus just left one mission statement—

GO into the entire world,

TEACH what he taught,

MAKE disciples (that is, followers who would presumably do this same thing),

LIVE knowing Jesus is still with them (us) guiding the way.

The question to us—are we content to sit in our little circle of friends or are we living an inviting life of service and joy?


May 1, 2023

Simplicity—we are approaching travel season. How do you travel?

When Jesus sent his followers out on a training mission, he told them to take nothing with them.

Thanks to laptop and digital files, anti-microbial marino wool T-shirts, water-(and red wine) shedding slacks, I’ve learned to take a 3-4 day business trip with only a backpack. I can do a week’s vacation to most places that way. The reduced load on my mind (and my back) by learning to get by with less is freeing.

This, of course, is a metaphor for living a simpler life in general. What can you reduce, throw out, unclutter? How much emotional crap are you carrying that should be disposed of? How many physical objects are getting in your way?

Beware the Complainer

April 28, 2023

People at work or at church or wherever gathered in clusters to listen to someone complain about something—leadership, finances, systems. The complaining fed on itself and the impromptu gathering could destroy attitudes for hours.

Social media has amplified the circle you can reach with your complaints, criticisms, unfounded and not-thought-out opinions. You have no responsibility to fix anything. No responsibility for the effect your words have on others.

Beware those who constantly criticize. Don’t join their little clusters at work or wherever you are. Mute them on social media so that you don’t see their rants.

Associate with those people who lift you up. Or associate with those whom you can serve.

Clear your mind. Take the road of positivity. Take the road of service. Most of all take responsibility. Life is much better that way.

The Black Magic Marker

April 26, 2023

Once upon a time there was a guy who, when faced with difficult passages in letters from the Apostle Paul, would say, “Get out your black magic marker and cover over this passage.”

He was joking, of course. As a sort of fundamentalist, he wouldn’t advocate modifying scripture. But he was serious in the sense we all are when we read something in biblical writing with which we disagree. Rather than say “I don’t know” like I mentioned yesterday, we  choose to ignore it. Treat it as if it were non-existent.

At university and for many years following, I disliked the writings of Paul. He was anti-female, anti-gay, anti-sex. He was used by Christian preachers in southern US from before the Revolution to justify slavery. At a time when many of us were upset with the promoted racism and war of our government, he had written Romans 13 about supporting your government (something today’s American fundamentalists also ignore).

One day I said to myself, I don’t know. I took a deep dive into scholarship around his letters gaining some respect and insight into his thought.

It is OK to disagree. Even among ourselves. If we use that as a starting point for “I don’t know” and open ourselves up to deeper revelations.

I’ll leave you with this thought.

We are probably all familiar with the Shema, the Hebrew prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4. Jesus quotes it a couple of times—the part about you shall love the lord your God… NT Wright’s study of Paul pointed out what he calls Paul’s Shema. Meditating on this has led to new insights for me:

One God, the Father, from whom all things, and we (belong) to him.

And one Lord, Jesus Messiah, through whom all things, and we (live) through him.

1 Cor 8:6

Practicing The Gospel of Welcome

April 21, 2023

The gospel of welcome. What does it mean? It means the good news is good news for everybody. It’s a blanket, all-inclusive invitation. There isn’t anyone to whom it doesn’t apply. You don’t have to qualify for the gospel. You don’t have to get cleaned up first. There isn’t a particular sin that will make someone shut the door on you. If you’ve been rejected elsewhere, you won’t be rejected here.

This is today’s essay on The Catch by John Fischer. I probably sang some of his songs way back in the late 60s and early 70s when I learned some early Jesus movement music—mostly from my experience teaching in a Catholic school. Those were honest songs about finding a relationship with Jesus.

We hear so much gospel of unwelcome in mass media and social media. Leave that behind. Practice The Gospel of Welcome. Don’t divide humans into us and sinners. God decided, Jesus decided, welcome all who will come. There are no sinners v non-sinners. All are sinners.

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

April 20, 2023

Monday’s post looked at how many people want to know things about prayer, but they do not want to learn and practice prayer itself.

My wife was raised in an independent Baptist church. She was taught that all prayers must come directly from the heart. She was disturbed when a pastor had written a prayer and read it as part of a service. It couldn’t have come from the heart because he read it. But, I would ask, wasn’t it in his heart when he wrote it (Baptist, had to be a “he”)? 

Similarly, she was trained to be derisive about “reciting” the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father). If you are merely reciting words written 2,000 years ago, it obviously isn’t from your heart.

I would say that “praying” the Lord’s Prayer gave a structure to a prayer. It reminds me (us) of the different things we should be weighing on our heart. 

  • Oh, yes, there is someone I need to forgive.
  • Oh, yes, I can pray for something I need today.
  • Oh, yes, I can ask for protection from something bad that may happen to me or others.
  • I need to remember to acknowledge God as the power in my life as in others.

This Renovaré podcast conversation with Nate Foster (Richard J. Foster’s son) and Mon­i­ca and Jere­my Cham­bers about how they pray the Lord’s Prayer inspired me to go deeper into using this short and simple, yet deep and comprehensive, prayer template in my own daily meditations.

Here is a version translated by the ever thoughtful Dallas Willard:

Dear Father, Always near us,

May your name be treasured and loved,

May your will be done on earth in just the way it is done in heaven.

Give us today the things we need today,

And forgive us our sins and impositions on you

As we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.

Please don’t put us through trials,

But deliver us from everything bad.

Because you are in charge,

And you have all the power,

And the glory too is all yours—forever—

Which is just the way we want it!

Dallas Willard

Getting A Heart Checkup

April 19, 2023

I visited with my cardiologist the other day. They checked a number of aspects of my heart’s health. Then they sent a thorough report that came through my app. Excellent results. It’s nice when you can go to a doctor and chat about vacations to Iceland rather than your imminent demise.

The experience caused me to wonder about my latest heart check up from my spiritual cardiologist—Jesus.

There has not been an app update from the kingdom of God about the status of my heart. However, nudges come to me when I sit in quiet and pay attention. Sometimes the nudges are more like getting hit by a 2×4 piece of wood. 

Rather than open my app, I need to open my spiritual eyes and awareness listening to what God is telling me—either reproof or excellent checkup. And I can adjust my way accordingly.

I maintain heart health through diet and exercise and stillness (meditation). I maintain my spiritual heart health through study, meditation, prayer, service, worship. Notice a blend of stillness and action. Kind of like that old Motown Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston hit—It Takes Two. Let your meditations and prayers form the foundation of your active life.