Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Giving and Receiving

April 12, 2019

Some people just cannot give.

Who knows why? Perhaps they thought they were poor when they grew up and now they have something. Or maybe some other deep need.

But they want to keep what they have.

Some people receive from others with the attitude of entitlement.

Who knows why? Perhaps they were given so much as a child that they just expect it. Or perhaps they grew up envious of what other people had and now think that they are owed.

It doesn’t matter. It’s all about attitude. And attitudes can be changed with a discipline of mindfulness mediation.

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.

Finding Fear

April 11, 2019

There exist people who see their job in life to seek out things and people to fear. Not content to just seek people groups to fear, they must spread the fear as far as possible.

Fear breeds hatred.

We must cultivate the awareness to discern which are the true things to fear and which are merely in the minds and guts of those spreading hate and fear.

Reflective experience and education help us individually toward discernment. We can see when someone has been bamboozled and tune them out.

This need for discernment is ancient in humans. That’s why the fable of Chicken Little preaching “the sky is falling” was created. It spoke to the need to seek out the wise.

We can find fear everywhere. And along with that, we can find groups of people to hate. This feeling and those actions are everywhere in the world today.

Our spiritual practice of this age is intentionally developing awareness and discernment. Start with a breath.

Over-Informed Yet Under-Reflective

April 10, 2019

How often do you update your news source. In the course of my lifetime, it has gone from daily newspaper and nightly TV news to every five minutes.

And we can go from getting emotionally upset twice a day to continuously every waking minute.

Only a century ago, it was much less. You might get one news update. And you might think about it and sit and discuss with family and friends.

Before that, humans had time to sit in the evenings and contemplate the stars. And think.

We have become the most over-informed and under-reflective society in the entire history of humans.

It is time to mindfully slow our news intake. Instead of continually being in reaction mode, it’s time we devoted some time to reflecting and meditating. Maybe we might even quit being so manipulated by others trying purposely to stir things up.

At least become aware of what others–politicians and businesses–are doing trying to capture our attention and money.

Travel For Spiritual Development

April 9, 2019

Travel broadens your outlook in ways impossible to accomplish otherwise. I remain so sad for people who never travel outside of their self-appointed boundaries.

Last week we traveled the Columbia River from its mouth inland to the Snake River and ended in Lewiston, Idaho. I crossed two states off my list of “never-visited”–Oregon and Idaho. Now I only have four left. Business will probably never take me to Alabama (although I almost went to a conference there), Arkansas, and Oklahoma. I guess I’ll just have to be intentional about a long road trip someday. Then there’s Vermont.

Travel broadens, but only if you go for experiences, and meet people, and open your mind. It is the reflecting on the experiences that deepen you spiritually.

The Lewis & Clark expedition of discovery was one theme. I thought I already knew a lot, but there is always more to learn in life. The other theme was salmon–a fish I really don’t care to eat.

You can’t escape the trip without an understanding of the complex interplay of natural resources and the cultures. I knew nothing of the Nez Perce nation until this trip.

From their story I was again reminded of the imperfections of our story and the wrongs we perpetrated either from fear or hubris (sometimes opposite sides of the same coin).

It was a week of experiences to meditate upon for some time to come.

Fix The Process

April 5, 2019

When I worked in an engineering department in the 70s, I ran across this all too true description of a project

When you get to phases 4 and 5, stop.

Fix the process, not the person.

Some document is not getting out on time. Look at the entire process, not the person on the end doing the copying.

The project is running late; check the process.

Production is up to quota; better evaluate the process from start to finish.

Usually the individual is at the mercy of the process.

And when you’re building an organization or committee or project–lay out a clear process plan before jumping in.

Training As A Spiritual Practice

April 4, 2019

Paul the apostle often uses the metaphor of an athlete training. He even talked about keeping our body fit since it is the temple of God.

Recently, I was drawn into a conversation with another editor who has strongly conservative religious views. Yes, I know, his bad luck or timing. But I mentioned meditation and that a side benefit relates to neuroplasticity of our brains. Even as we age, we can do things to maintain healthy, growing brains. He was shocked.

Yes, we train our brains with the food we eat, by learning new languages, through practicing a musical instrument, by reading, through experiences of travel.

Just as we should train our bodies with movement, weight lifting within our capabilities, stretching and strengthening through something like Yoga or Tai Chi, and getting sufficient sleep.

We train spiritually through serving others, meditating, reading books oriented toward spiritual growth, developing relationships.

It all works together as we live in the Dominion of God.

Overthinking The Topic

April 3, 2019

Google can be one of the biggest time sinks.

I was looking up a person to learn a little about him. In reading his story, references were made to words I’ve long since forgotten. Dispensationalism, Covenant theology, New Covenant theology.

So, I started refreshing my memory of these theologies. And each has one or more sub-groups. And I lost an hour of productive time.

There are many people who are much smarter than I who have way too much time on their hands who begin with an arcane assumption and build a huge edifice on the assumption. And people go to war over these ideas.

And I think, why did they try to make things so complicated.

We have four Gospels who each tell us two things. First, there was this guy called (in Greek) Jesus who took Jewish Wisdom teaching and the Laws and gave them a new interpretation in teaching us how to live. And, second and most important, this Jesus was killed and yet came back to life after death.

Then there was Paul who explained the Jewish scriptures in light of this new teaching and resurrection. And James and Peter who taught us how to live in this new Dominion of God.

I’ve been down all these paths of theology and more. Yet, I’ve not seen how they help me become a disciple of Jesus. And that’s the real point.

I feel like the guy in Noel Paul Stookey’s song, Hymn (Sunday morning), where the guy visits a church.

Passing conversations where they mentioned Your existence
And the fact that You had been replaced by Your assistants.
The discussion was theology,
And when they smiled and turned to me
All that I could say was “I believe in You.”

Prepare Yourself

April 2, 2019

Yesterday, I discussed John Wooden’s cornerstones of success–industriousness and enthusiasm. I told you that the only impediment between those characteristics and attitudes is you.

However…

Sometimes we do have to look at our own processes to see where the impediment truly lies.

We all have a rhythm to our days. I write better in the morning. It is best if I rise early and after some meditation and coffee (or the other way around) begin writing. My afternoons are not good for that kind of productivity. If I don’t get done in the morning, then I struggle with the afternoon. I can have another creative peak in the evening. Then I need to go to bed early.

You must discover your rhythms. They will be daily. And also weekly. Perhaps even seasonal.

A huge contributor to energy throughout the day is nutrition. Discover the correct foods for the time of day. A lunch too large will destroy the afternoon. Dehydration slows thinking.

And get outside to walk or run or cycle. Exercise plus outdoors boosts energy and creativity.

The Cornerstones of Success

April 1, 2019

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden thought about success. Not just a passing thought. He pondered. Tried out ideas. Discarded some, kept others.

He found two characteristics to be the cornerstones of the foundation of success.

Industriousness

Enthusiasm

We must work at what we wish to be good at. We can take breaks, of course. But, we must apply ourselves diligently to the tasks required for mastery.

At the same time, we do our work as though infused with spirit–God’s Spirit within us, giving us energy, positive outlook.

We don’t want to be that person. You know the type. Complains about everything and everyone. Someone else is always to blame for their lack of promotion or status.

The only impediment to industriousness and enthusiasm is the person we look at every few minutes in the mirror.

A Rock Concert and A TED Talk

March 29, 2019

I went to my first motivational, self-help seminar in the late 70s. I think we knew even back then that these things have little or no staying power. But by the 80s people were out on the circuit earning a lot of money doing these seminars–Dennis Waitley, Brian Tracey, Steven Covey, Wayne Dyer, and many others.

That’s a little like the evolution of evangelical churches. They went from a choir and preaching conversion to, as I heard this week from Keith Giles, “a rock concert and a TED Talk”. The question that goes begging is, do these gatherings have any more impact than the momentary boost we got from the motivational speakers?

[Note: all of you from liturgical backgrounds can just smile at this. Still, where does your budget go?]

Giles was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister but, as he says, he left the church to follow Jesus. He started a church where 100% of the offerings went to people in need. Since there were no funds for rent, they met in houses. Since there were no funds for staff salaries, he got a job.

When I had positions of influence in a church, I liked to propose evaluating the budget based on disciplines. How much of the budget just goes to support the status quo–staff, buildings, denomination, and the like? And then, how much do we use from the model of the early church described in Acts and 1 Corinthians to people in need? It should be noted that I have seldom had positions of influence in churches.

I suppose it is our responsibility to find and nurture a place where spiritual formation is nourished and service to others come first. Or, we can find a place with leaders with big egos, budgets targeted internally, and people as numbers.

Originally it wasn’t a church organization, but ekklesia a gathering of people. They met in houses, gave their offerings to those in need, and worked on spiritual formation. Sounds good to me.