Archive for the ‘Doing’ Category

Try To Be Good

November 15, 2022

Sometimes the harder we try, the less we accomplish.

The good person accomplishes good without trying. It comes from within.

The fool tries to accomplish good without results. There is nothing within to reveal itself

When Luke Skywalker tells his mentor, “I’ll try,” Yoda replies, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Nurture your inner good and you will one day reflect on the good you have left in your wake.

How To Get Out of a Rut

October 21, 2022

Jim was my boss. He was an engineer and an engineering manager. He ate bland food, was never excitable. He got more done than anyone I ever met. He tackled one thing at a time giving it his full attention.

It took years for me to incorporate that idea into my own workflow. I just finished a 3-month project. It entailed figuring out how to get all the assets distributed communicating with many people constantly. The only way I kept my sanity was tackling the next right thing. One at a time I finished.

Oliver Burkeman, writing in his newsletter The Imperfectionist, “In the end, it isn’t really a question of ‘breaking big projects down into small chunks.’ It’s more a matter of seeing that ‘big projects’ are nothing but psychological constructs, quasi-illusory entities summoned into existence by taking a particular view of what our lives really consist of – which is moments, and the actions that unfold in them.”

I got through the project and through the pandemic the same way—one day at a time. It’s not trying to comprehend a major long-range project. Just live in the moment.

Measured By Actions, Not Results

October 6, 2022

Epic heroes in ancient and not-so-ancient stories were measured by their actions, not by their results.

Jesus, likewise, measured a person by actions done with a right heart.

Do we measure a church leader by the size of his or her congregation?

Do you feel bad because you only reached a few thousand people rather than millions on TikTok?

Perhaps reaching out to help a young mother juggling coffee, an infant, and bags held more worth than all the Instagram fans you might accumulate.

When you pause to evaluate your day before bed tonight, think of what you did today, not wins and losses.

Are You Smart?

September 21, 2022

I picked these ideas up from Seth Godin. He is an acknowledged marketing guru. But his thinking is broader than that. An example follows.

Smart is no longer memorization. It’s not worth much.

Smart is no longer access to information. Everyone has that.

Smart is:

• Situational awareness

• Filtering information

• Troubleshooting

• Clarity of goals

• Good taste

• Empathy and compassion for others

• The ability to make decisions that further your goals

The good news is that smart is a choice, and smart is a skill.

This thinking applies broadly. People memorize great amounts of the Bible. Yet, nothing in their lives reflects any awareness of this knowledge. Jesus confronted the Pharisees of his time on this very point.

The question for us today. Where have we stopped with mere memorization? Where have we acted like someone “smart” putting the knowledge into action?

It Is A Practice

September 20, 2022

Vitaliy Katsenelsen emigrated from Soviet Russia with his family when he was 18. He was thoroughly indoctrinated into the Soviet system with a few difficulties because he was Jewish. He is now a successful financial analyst and CEO of an investment firm in Denver called IMA. I follow him because of his financial analysis writing. He also calls himself a “student of life.” I like that phrase. I resemble that remark.

He published a book called Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life. He talks of family life and also of his discovery of Stoic philosophy. You may wonder about bringing the Stoics into this blog. I have done it before. Seneca’s writing sounds so much like Paul’s that Christians in the 4th and 5th centuries thought he was a Christian.

Katsenelsen writes, “Stoic philosophy is not an academic distraction; it is a practice.”

Those words should also describe following Jesus.

Christ-followers for a couple of centuries after Jesus were known by how they lived, not by what they said.

Then Christianity became political in the middle ages. Then a proposition to agree with rather than a way of life.

Rebellion to this spurred the “Jesus movement” of the late 60s and early 70s. But the movement was co-opted by commercial interests. This gave us the mega-church movement of the last 40 years with its rock concert followed by a TED Talk.

I’ve always pictured following Jesus as like those scouts in the American West during the 1800s. Pioneers. Out in front of the trail. Showing the way with wisdom and foresight.

Following Jesus is not an academic distraction; it is a practice.

Doing More Than The Minimum

September 7, 2022

A department of the US government establishes something called Minimum Daily Requirement for a number of nutrients.

(Poor) Students ask the teacher, what’s the minimum amount of work I need to do to pass this course.

Laws establish the minimum requirements for staying out of trouble.

Religious laws also establish the minimum requirements, as well as, offering means of comparison with others.

Some people in the workplace get by with the minimum amount of work to avoid being fired.

The Pharisees (rule-followers) asked Jesus what the minimum effort was to get them right with God.

Jesus continually told them that it would take their whole heart. Similar to Yoda’s words to Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Jesus said, don’t look back. Do–with all your heart (and soul, and mind, and strength).

Jesus does not want followers looking for the minimum daily dose of goodness. He wants people whose whole life is immersed in that goodness.

When You Are Empty, Then You Can Be Filled

August 16, 2022

I’ve been reading the Christian Bible, the New Testament, in a different translation. I like to do that. The new choices of words open my mind enabling deeper insights into meaning. These sentences are the first two “Beatitudes” or the opening words of the way Matthew presented what we call The Sermon on the Mount.

  • You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
  • Your blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you.

Both of these speak to our condition. When we are too full of ourselves, too full of our competence, importance, possessions, people, then we have no room for God.

The presentation seems to prepare us for all the teaching that follows throughout Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7.

We should not have the hubris to dive in and just read those teachings as if we can easily pick up the meaning. We must begin, much like the 12-step program, by recognizing our limitations, by emptying our self-importance. Then we can appropriately approach what Jesus is trying to teach us.

Scholars, both professional and amateur, miss the next point which is the conclusion of of the sermon:

Whoever hears these words and does them…

It Takes All Kinds

August 3, 2022

When I was an active soccer referee, we always referred to the players as “ladies” or “gentlemen.” Of course, once the opening whistle sounded not all twenty-two acted like ladies and gentlemen. Always a few hooligans in the mix.

I have met many scoundrels in my life. They lied, cheated, stole. Sometimes I anticipated the actions. Sometimes I should have anticipated the actions. Sometimes I was completely surprised.

People in the industry I serve are overwhelmingly good people. My interactions with good people far exceed the number of scoundrels I’ve come across. These people are engineers solving problems they hope will make life better for others. Many volunteer extra time toward solving these problems.

The world will see both types of people until the end of time. If we watch for the good in people, we’ll see that there are many more than you would assume watching never-ending TV news or your social media stream.

Look for the good that people do and you may be surprised.

And look in a mirror at the end of the day. How much good have you done that day?

When we rise from sleep, we can ask of ourselves, “What good will I do today?”

Just before we retire for the night, we can ask of ourselves, “What good did I do today?”

That keeps us on track.

Right and True

July 14, 2022

If it’s not right, don’t do it;

If it’s not true, don’t say it.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic

Preacher and teacher Andy Stanley teaches this simple thought, “Pay attention to the tension.”

There is a moment, often fleeting, between the impulse to do something and the action.Sometimes in that moment there arises a tension within us. This may not be the right thing to do. How often we ignore that tension, do the deed, then regret it.

If it is not right, do not do it. How, by paying attention to the tension.

The Apostle James teaches how the tongue is the mightiest muscle in the body. Just like a small rudder steers a great ship, the small tongue guides us causing all manner of mischief. Sometimes just before we hit “post” on social media when we are passing along something we heard, Stanley’s tension pulls at the back of our mind. If we pause before we post, we can save ourselves grief.

If it is not true, do not say it. Or post it on social media.

The Proof of the Pudding

May 11, 2021

It’s amazing where your early morning mind will take you. I began with contemplating Jesus’ words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. These point to the importance of doing what he says (by implication, doing what you say). It not what you say, but what you do, that counts in the end.

However, the phrase “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” popped into my mind as an analogy. But, I wondered, just what does that phrase mean? Fifteen minutes later, I was in Scotland with pictures of haggis and listening to Robert Burns and the joys of haggis and a dram of Scotch. Then I got thirsty (not hungry, I don’t eat organ meats on purpose). Then I remembered where I was going.

Does your mind ever wander like that when you are reading something Jesus or Paul or Peter or John said? Or when the preacher/pastor is speaking? Or even when your spouse is talking? Oops, I digress again.

Pudding in the old English (actually today, too) sense doesn’t mean a sweet desert. It’s some gross form of sausage. And you wouldn’t know if it was any good–or even going to kill you–until you ate some of it.

I’d really have to stretch to apply this to Matthew 7–except that the proof (test) of whether you are a follower of Jesus has less to do with how much you know and very much to do with how you treated the last person you saw and how you will treat the next person you meet. “Do to others as you would like them to do to you. That is the law and the prophets.”

(See, I didn’t waste all that research, although when I was dishing out my oatmeal for breakfast just now it looked sort of funny to me.)