Archive for the ‘Doing’ Category

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.)

Check Your Fruit

April 22, 2021

Jesus had been teaching. He pointed out a number of actions we should be doing. As he begins summarizing the teaching, he answers the question listeners may have had in mind–“how will I, or anyone observing me, know I am following your teaching?” He also answers the question, “Whom should I believe?”

So, he answers, you know people by their fruits. Good trees cannot bear bad fruit, and bad trees cannot bear good fruit.

Some people cannot gain insight through metaphor. I wrote recently about a chemical substance. Someone replied with the chemical formula and some actual physical effects. The concept of a metaphor is tough.

If you are an engineer and like things more concrete, then try substituting “results” for “fruits.”

Looking back on your life or that of someone who is trying to teach you, check out the results of what you’ve done and said.

Do you leave people better off than when you met?

Did you buy a hungry person a meal? Give a coat to someone cold? Provide transportation to a doctor? In your teaching, have you inspired people to help others or have you provoked people to harm others?

Your fruit is what you’ve left behind in others. Hope fully it’s a nice, ripe, juicy fig, not a rotten apple.

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

April 2, 2021

The thing about a good story, whether fact or fiction, is that it harbors truth in many layers.

When the first disciples of Jesus began telling the stories of this last week–the march into Jerusalem, the Passover dinner, the prayer in the garden, the arrest, trial, conviction, execution, and later the resurrection–there were of course many layers to the stories.

One layer begins with Jesus last command. Remember? Once he answered a scholar about the greatest command from God, and Jesus told him there were two. This time Jesus says, oh yes, I’m giving you one last command. Love one another as I have loved you.

In a bit, he goes to the garden to pray and takes a few guys with him. They are armed. We know for sure, at least, that Peter was. When the armed patrol comes to arrest Jesus, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of one.

Jesus rebukes him. He heals the severed ear. He lets himself be arrested without a fight. He says he lays down his life for them.

Setting aside theology and looking just at the story–Jesus did lay down his life for them. Had he told them to fight their way out of it, they would all have died on that hilltop.

Then they looked at the story and we look at the story, and we put it all together.

Jesus gave a command. Then he lived it by example. And there it is for all who call themselves followers. Can you love one anther even as Jesus did? Even up to giving up your life so that they may live?

We Are Known By What We Do

January 11, 2021

Rather than go down the rabbit warren of Resolutions or Goals, I practice and teach the method of visualizing the sort of person I’d like to be.

  • I am the person who rises early to read and meditate
  • I am the person who eats a healthy diet
  • I am the person who exercises with intention every day
  • I am a helpful person
  • …(you get the drift…)

Another practice I’ve adopted for many years is to begin the year reading Wisdom literature. Perhaps it’s the Proverbs which just happens to have the same number of chapters as there are days in January. One-a-day. Sometimes it may be the study of James. Another good one is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. This year for no rational reason, I’m reading Wisdom literature from a different tradition.

But saying I am a certain type of person or studying Wisdom literature is only a foundation. Jesus knew that. His challenge was “hear my words and do them.” Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived. He did not live wisely. And his child and heir destroyed the united kingdom in just a few short years. All those wise words Solomon had about raising a child–they never made it from his head to his heart.

How many people who have learned a hundred or more Bible verses and can recite from memory do we know whose life would never attract someone to God? How many religious leaders do we know who fail at basic morality? How many people have we dealt with in business who talk Christian talk but fail in fundamental ethics?

So, this year:

  • Get off your butt and actually exercise
  • Actually eat those foods that you know you should
  • Do something for someone somehow
  • Act with intention

Here’s a question you can carry with you along with your wallet and keys–Are You Being Served? Actually, that was a cute British sitcom from the 70s and 80s that I used to watch at times. That visualization reinforces the question we should be asking all the time–Are you being served? Oh, and then, serve.