Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Fear Less, Love More

May 4, 2022

Lately, well almost forever, news writers strive to position content so as to strike at our primal fears. We read or watch and then get that tightening of the muscles in the gut the constriction of breathing and perversely the desire to keep reading or watching.

Even though I vet my news sources, I still had a couple of those moments.

Then I recalled this Swedish proverb;

  • Fear less, hope more
  • Eat less, chew more
  • Talk less, say more
  • Love more, and all good things will be yours

That seems to be plenty to ponder for today.

Beliefs Don’t Always Work Out

May 3, 2022

The effect of our actions can be quite different from what we believe.

Some small number of people not only in the United States but across the world proclaim a belief in Jesus but their vocal, even strident, political voice alienates at least half of the people they are supposedly trying to reach.

They may drive many people out of their gatherings.

Perhaps their beliefs align with Jesus’ command to love one another as I have loved you and to go into all the world teaching what I have taught you and make disciples.

The result is that a majority of people do not see people acting like that as loving, welcoming people.

Jesus followers of the first 200 years of the movement won followers because of the way their actions were congruent with their beliefs. People said, “I want to be part of a group like that.”

How are our actions? How different from our beliefs are they? What needs to change?

An Exercise In Futility

April 29, 2022
Sprinkling the sidewalk

Someone set this sprinkler head to assure that my path was well watered yesterday morning on my walk. The only grass it watered was from runoff along the walk.

I thought, what an exercise in futility. All that water just running off the paved path and into the street and down into the storm water system.

Sometimes we may feel that meditation and other spiritual practices are like this—an exercise in futility.

One way to look at this is that at the edge our work does set an example for others we may not even know and help them grow.

Or, maybe with just a slight change in our direction we can provide nourishment for many others and find the true purpose of our life.

Sometimes while fulfilling our purpose for others around us we find satisfaction, joy, kindness for ourselves.

Check your direction and then go out and spread some joy.

Next Best Thing

April 28, 2022

Jon asks, “What do we have time for? For what do we have time?”

Oliver Burkeman leads us through time and the use of time in his latest book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.

Perhaps you went into the rabbit warren of time management and productivity gains like I did. Some ideas were admirable. Choose your goals, and that sort of thing.

Burkeman warns “productivity is a trap.”

David Allen of Getting Things Done fame has us make a list and do the next task.

As Burkeman summarizes his research, he lifts a thought from psychologist Carl Jung, “Do the next best thing.”

What is the best thing you could be doing in the next half-hour?

Take a Breath

April 27, 2022

You’re trying to get somewhere and there is a queue at the entrance.

You’re focused on finishing a task around the house and one of your children needs immediate attention.

You’re coaching a youth sports team and one of the little ones needs a shoelace tied.

You’re Jesus hurrying with concerned parents to save a child from death and a woman with a need interrupts your hurry for a healing.

I imagine the scene and see Jesus momentarily annoyed that his journey was interrupted. I see him taking a breath. Pausing. Treating the woman with respect while assuring her of healing. Then, proceeding to bring life to the child.

There is no reason that we, fallible as we are, cannot also train ourselves to pause, take a breath, deal with the interruption respectfully, and continue.

There is a reason that Ancient Greek used the same word for breath and spirit. Think about that. Better yet, practice it.

There Are Two Types of People

April 26, 2022

There are always two types. It makes for great preaching. I once had to listen to a pastor every week build a straw man (one type) and then demolish that one with a Christian (type two).

There is a type of person who proclaims being a Christian. They post on Facebook or Instagram, say all the correct words, believe in the correct propositions.

There is another type of person who just follows what Jesus told, tries to live according to his teaching, serves others with strength and humility.

Sometimes the first type of person tries to follow Jesus living in service and humility. Others of that type apparently divorce their daily lives from their proclaimed faith.

Circumstances arise at times that remind me of painful experiences I’ve had with that latter type—the divorced type. That led me to construct the Gary Theory of Doing Business with Christians. When you find yourself doing business with an overtly Christian business man, take a firm hold of your wallet lest you have your money siphoned away.

I’ve had four experiences that have taught bitter lessons costing a lot of money.

Don’t be that person. Ethics are such an important part of living in community. And leaving a legacy to be proud of. As Andy Stanley likes to tell it, your decisions and actions tell a story. What story would you like to be able to tell your grandchildren?

A Failure to Communicate

April 25, 2022

My wife will ask, “When should we leave to arrive on time?”

I may reply, “Oh, between 5:15 and 5:30.”

I am thinking it should be closer to 5:15 when the car doors close and we’re about to leave. She is thinking that 5:30 is an approximate target.

How often lies that territory between sloppy thinking and misunderstanding.

I made a career from precise communication—from engineering specifications through technical standards development to magazine articles. Yet, I can be as guilty as anyone of sloppy communication.

Failure to say what we mean in a clear way reveals lack of clear thinking. Perhaps even lack of empathy with those we wish to reach.

One thing I love about Jesus is his ability to drive home a point with just a few words. Although, to be fair, sometimes he left behind a puzzle to contemplate.

Today’s lesson is to first think clearly, say what you mean and mean what you say. With kindness.

Noise Is The Enemy

April 22, 2022

German writer Hermann Hesse was perhaps the first modern storyteller. Take scenes from his novel, Steppenwolf. The protagonist always turns on the radio upon entering his apartment. He needs noise.

On a recent podcast Episcopal priest and therapist Ian Morgan Cron stated, “Noise is the most underestimated enemy of the spiritual life.”

Is the TV turned on in your house or apartment right now? Is it just background noise? How about streaming music?

Sometimes I like to work in a coffee house where I can derive energy from the conversations around me even though I have no knowledge of the conversation or the people.

But sometimes I like silence. Perhaps the silence of nature. Sometimes the silence in my office with no Miles Davis playing in the background. Just to sit with myself in silence.

Carl Jung wrote of a patient who was burdened with anxiety. He prescribed solitude and silence. The next appointment, Jung asked what the experience was like. The patient replied that he went to his study, closed the door, and sat. Then he grew bored. He stood, wandered around the room, picked up his violin to practice a little, looked out the window.

Jung chastised him. No, no, he said, you must sit with yourself in silence. “But I can’t stand myself,” was the reply. Therein lies the problem. We cannot just sit in silence with ourselves. Perhaps opening our hearts to potential murmurings from God.

How about you? Can you just sit with yourself for 10 minutes? 20 minutes? Half-an-hour?

Try it.

Joyless Urgency

April 21, 2022

Writer Marilynn Robinson (quoted in Oliver Burkeman’s 4,000 Weeks, said, “The spirit of the times is one of joyless urgency.”

How are we going about our days? Do we deeply embody the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—as we accomplish tasks at our job or around the house?

Do we just try to get to the end of the day?

Burkeman’s book discussed time management and productivity. But, he said, productivity is a trap. At one company I worked at my colleagues and I used often the metaphor of a gerbil wheel—the wire Ferris Wheel where the gerbil runs and runs and goes nowhere.

Are we trapped in a productivity gerbil wheel? Joyless urgency? Feeding the need to go faster and faster yet going nowhere?

Get off the wheel. Pause. Breathe deeply. Exhale slowly. Remember whom you are serving. If you cannot bring back the joy of serving and doing, perhaps it is time to move on.

Assume Responsibility For Yourself

April 20, 2022

Yesterday’s thought concerned taking responsibility for what we say. Many (most? All?) of us think saying whatever comes to mind, whatever we want, whenever we want to say it is perfectly good.

We don’t like constraints.

I wasn’t the best of parents. But one thing I would tell the kids as they went through the rebellious stages was that it was their job to push against constraints. It was my job to set and enforce the constraints.

We grow up. Hopefully mature. Then we learn to set and abide by our own constraints. We either learn to assume responsibility for ourselves or we remain locked in the little kids rebellious world.

I neither want to be two again or to be 16 again.

But we need to learn to assume responsibility for ourselves in other ways.

People interviewed on two podcasts I’ve listened to this morning learned constraints and responsibility for nutrition for health. One recovered much function lost to multiple sclerosis (MS) partly or mostly through a nutrition regimen. Another was an actor who talked of the initial struggle to learn to maintain nutrition and exercise while filming on location.

Throughout the pandemic beginning with the lockdown, I doggedly maintained as much discipline as I could with fitness and exercise. I lost some due to trying to find a place and equipment for weight training and Yoga. But, I took responsibility for rising between 5:30 and 6:00, meditating (over a cup of direct trade coffee), and walking briskly, jogging, or sprinting.

Now that the fitness center is open, I head over there. In addition to aerobic machines (in bad weather), there’s weights, the Yoga room, and then the whirlpool to get 20 minutes of healthful heat.

The apostle Paul talked of our bodies as the Temple of the Spirit. We should treat that Temple well. Nutrition, hydration, exercise, quiet time, sleep. A daily spiritual practice.