Archive for the ‘Doing’ Category

Responsibility Can Only Be Borne

March 20, 2023

I remember the rise of Vaclav Havel—poet, playwright, anti-communist dissident, president of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic. His observation was true then and still true today.

An enormous conflict between words and deeds is prevalent today: everyone talks about freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, about peace and saving the world from nuclear apocalypse; and at the same time, everyone, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, serves those values and ideals only to the extent necessary to serve himself and his “worldly” interests, personal interests, group interests, power interests, property interests, and state or great-power interests.…

Vaclav Havel

Many people claim to follow Jesus in most places of the world today. Each of us must reflect on what ideals we are really serving—with our money, feet, beliefs, soul.

And what to do?

So the power structures apparently have no other choice than to sink deeper into this vicious maelstrom, and contemporary people apparently have no other choice than to wait around until the final inhibition drops away. But who should begin? Who should break this vicious circle? Responsibility cannot be preached but only borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself.

Vaclav Havel

Just as “free speech” does not imply irresponsible speech, merely saying you are a Christian does not cut it. Jesus himself said so, “Many people will call Lord, Lord, but I will not know them.

Just like parents preach to their youth responsibility yet live irresponsible lives as a role model, so we cannot either preach or learn from preaching. We must seize responsibility and act as true disciples.

And, yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’m writing these words—a form of preaching. But I’d rather hope that I’m encouraging self-reflection and then right action.

Don’t Just Do It–Finish It

February 10, 2023

Consider this story told by Jesus.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

I heard someone say that there are many books and teachers instructing with tips on how to begin. You know, get busy and get started.

How often have we been taught how to finish?

How often are we like the first three “seeds” in Jesus metaphorical farm?

  • We get an idea—write a book, cook a meal for someone, do a project—then the idea flits away like finches in the bush.
  • We get an idea. We’re going to take up painting. Or write that novel. Or prepare that meal to take to someone. We purchase the supplies. We’re all set. Then, something else comes to mind. All those supplies gather dust while we, well, flit off like those same finches.
  • We get an idea. Friends, neighbors, relatives, strangers even, tell us we’re crazy. We can never do that. We worry we’re not good enough. We never finish.

Jesus was right—again. We must learn to finish what we start. That makes for a satisfying life. Don’t be like the shoe slogan—just do it. Be more like—I did it, and I’m happy that I did.

Reading Proverbs Understand the Meaning of the Picture

January 24, 2023

Sometimes the writers of the Proverbs include a saying that is blunt. Do not do this…for this will happen. Sometimes the sayings are little pictures. Sometimes, like Jesus, the stories require work on our part to understand.

Once I quoted from the German writer Thomas Mann, “If everyone swept in front of their house, the whole world would be clean.” An engineer wrote to me and explained how that was impossible. He was thinking of a literal broom. Mann was most likely thinking of what would happen if each of us got ourselves in order first, rather than trying to fix everyone else.

Sometimes, like this one, the story is pretty clear.

“I passed by the field of one who was lazy,
by the vineyard of a stupid person;
and see, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,

and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want, like an armed warrior.”

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Proverbs 24

Avoiding laziness pops up often in the Proverbs. This is a nice little story to illustrate.

Get your 7-8 hours of sleep. Then get up and work on your field–whatever that field may be. I wrote a few days ago about the Japanese theory of ickigai–having a purpose to get out of bed in the morning. Find your purpose and work at it.

Seeing What Is Before Us

December 14, 2022

We pray for God’s guidance for the day.

Have we done the little things set before us that reflect God in us?

It’s Advent. We sing carols and pray for peace, hope, joy.

What did we do yesterday and what will we do today to reflect that peace, hope, and joy?

We must beware that praying becomes mere words in a formula.

Prayer sets an attitude and perhaps a communication with God. But attitude just sets a direction. What we do when we leave our prayer mat or chair is what pleases God.

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.