Archive for the ‘Freedom’ Category

Watch Out For Your Tongue (and Fingers)

May 2, 2018

Our mentor, James, brother of Jesus and author of one letter that we still have, advised us to watch out for our tongue. If he knew about keyboards and social media, he’d no doubt include your fingers.

You know the person from elementary (grammar) school. The person who says pointed and even hateful things about someone else thinking they are funny. Sadly, they are not. But they get a following from those who pray that they won’t become a target.

Today’s political climate in many countries breeds the popularity of such people broadly. And across the political spectrum.

It matters not what “side” you’re on, there is no excuse for hateful speech. The First Amendment, which I adore, gives us “freedom of speech” but it does not absolve us from responsibility. You could also check what the writers of the constitution and the first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights, in case you forgot) wrote in the Federalist Papers. But consider also the words of James.

Shall we follow our good guide, James, and be responsible in our speech?

Leading When Things Are Going Well

March 20, 2018

He was the leader of his organization.

In this case, the plant manager of a manufacturing company. He was responsible for overseeing 650 people producing the company’s products.

He was bored. Wandering around aimlessly. Unsure what to do. There were no emergencies. No one was calling about parts shortages or quality problems or production behind schedule.

What do you do when things seem to be going well? His assistant, the plant engineer, told him, “Just relax. When there are no problems, just enjoy it.”

This could have been any organization.

What if you are the leader? You’ve organized the project or process and things are proceeding according to plan. What do you do?

Ah, but we are talking human endeavors. When we begin involving many people–could be 6, could be 600–circumstances become complex. We could bet that somewhere, sometime, the process will begin to drift from stable to unstable. Something to do with the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

At this stage of a project or process, there are things we had best be doing or we’ll soon find ourselves under water.


In Lean thinking, we call it Gemba. A 1980s guru called it “Managing by Wandering Around.” Go out to the scene. Check the data.


Study what other people are doing. Read about current technology trends. Are there ideas from somewhere that would make the product, process, or people better? Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can save us from a disintegrating situation.


Gather some people together from an area of the plant or process. Encourage thinking about how to improve. Hint: things can always be improved.


A leader’s job isn’t just “putting out fires.” Leaders must be looking ahead and behind. Observing people and process.

Freedom Must Be Lived In Terms of Responsibleness

November 8, 2016

Freedom is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl knew something about freedom–and being deprived of it. He was incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II.

He watched people react in the face of great deprivation and facing death. He discovered that the key to survival from a mental health perspective was having meaning in life.

He also saw the reaction to freedom.

I’d have to imagine he’d be cringing at the attitudes of people over the past few years who keep screaming for freedom–as in leave me alone so I can do what I want to do–with no companion thought of responsibility. Or to paraphrase an old movie, “Responsibility? I don’t need no stinkin’ responsibility.”

Jesus often set people free. And usually he gave them something to do, some responsibility.

He was walking one day and ten guys with very serious and debilitating skin diseases approached him. Jesus had sympathy. He said, “Go and show yourself to the priests and you will be made clean.” (You had to have a priest certify your ritual cleanliness so that you could be admitted back to the community.)

They did this with great joy and were healed. Healing… responsibility.

That story has a peculiar ending for us to ponder in this racially charged era we find ourselves in.

One of the ten came back to thank and praise Jesus. One! And that one–he was a Samaritan, a person of a different “race.” That story was designed to rock the world of the Jewish listeners. What!? The good guy is not one of us?

Unless we become responsible people, our freedom degenerates into self-absorption.


Freedom But Not Opportunity For Self-Indulgence

November 2, 2016

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. –Paul (Letter to the Galatians)

Three sentences. So much wisdom packed into them.

For those who wished to get right with God or the gods at the time of Paul, the work was all on you. You had to do things to make the gods happy with you. If you were Jewish, that meant following each one of the 600+ laws. Every minute of every day. You had to be worried about breaking a law. Other gods had their requirements.

Then Jesus came and set us free from worrying about following laws and doing things to earn God’s favor. In fact,  we can’t earn it, he said. But, God will grant us his grace if we but believe.

So, we have gained freedom. To this day, people everywhere are hoping to gain their freedom however it is defined in their culture.

But Paul knew. Like little children who first taste freedom, we take that freedom as permission to do whatever will satisfy our desires. That is why Paul teaches not to use freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.

We see results around us. Jails and prisons are full of people who went too far and then lost their physical freedom. Therapists and counselors are kept busy with the emotional/psychological results of too much freedom spent too freely.

People throughout the centuries have hated that word “slave.” They thought it taught weakness. Loss of freedom. They are wrong.

Paul shows us the alternative. To be successful at life, we use our freedom to help others. It is the spiritual lifestyle.

It is also practical. We know–and teach–in business and marketing to focus on solving a problem for our customers. Make the customer’s problem our problem. In that sense, we are becoming a “slave” to our customer.

If we are in a family, group, organization where everyone is a servant, then we have a successful experience. Life in the Spirit trumps living in self-indulgence.

Power To Decide What You Say

August 15, 2016

Garbage In, Garbage Out. — Ancient Computer Science Wisdom

God In, God Out. — Eileen Hix, pastor

What food do we feed our bodies?

Does this reflect in how we look and how much energy we have?

With what do we fill our minds and our attention?

Does this reflect in our attitudes?

Are we perpetually angry or bitter or envious or sarcastic or negative or hateful?

Or, are we perpetually helpful, gentle, kind, gracious, filled with joy, peaceful?

What we fill our minds and attention with will relate directly to our outlook on life.

But our outlook on life determines what kind of person we are. And that determines what fruits come out of our lives. And often to what we say to others.

I think all of us have experienced those two lines of computer code (since we began with that topic):

100 Open Mouth

200 Insert Foot

I’ve seen people commenting in places like Facebook or Instagram about how they should be able to have the freedom to say anything they please. This “political correctness” where they can’t speak derogatorily about groups of people “cramps their style.”

Then I think (like I think about ALL the freedoms of the US Bill of Rights), with a freedom or right comes a responsibility. If you have a freedom to speak, you have a responsibility to do so properly.

Paul is all the time describing what a person should be. In Ephesians 4 he says, “living a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”

Between the thought and the voice (or fingers on a keyboard) is an instant. In that moment of time we determine what we are going to present to the world as our being. The type of person we are. In that moment, we have power. The power to choose what we say.

This will reflect what we’ve been feeding our awareness. Will we spit out garbage? Or speak in a way to help and uplift people? We have that power.

Or maybe we need another line of computer code:

300 Beg Forgiveness

We need a lot of that!

He Came To Set Us Free

December 23, 2015

“He had come to set people free, and like Moses with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, he was confronting the powers that held people captive.” — N T Wright, Simply Good News

We are only a couple of days from celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world. It’s not really his birthday, as some sects believe and shun the day. It’s not a pagan holiday, at least for us, but it was certainly adopted as an alternative to the pagan Roman holiday celebrated about the same time.

I don’t care about all that. We just simply celebrate the coming.

Why did he come?

I like what NT Wright says in Simply Good News, “He had come to set the people free.” Pope Benedict XVI wrote essentially the same theme in his book titled, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

I like the Gospels–Mark for his great literary style of simplicity and movement; Luke for his attention to detail and lifting up women and the Holy Spirit; John for his devotion.

But Paul captures this idea of freedom especially in his letter to the Galatians. “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”

I’ve come to see among a great number of Protestant denominations and even among some Catholics the tendency to have it all in the head. It’s agreeing with the right statements, saying the right things, judging people according to whatever law they ascribe to. And the number of people searching the scriptures for hidden meanings and fortune-telling the future simply amazes me.

When I was young, I wanted to be an “intellectual”, whatever that meant. I studied broadly into different fields of inquiry. By personality, I’m one who thinks too much.

What I’ve learned is that most of us think way too much. The meaning is right there in front of us in plain sight just waiting for us to see.

Jesus began his ministry quoting, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“Release to the captives!” Who are they? They are us–all of us. Paul would say we once were captive, but now we’re free.

Who wouldn’t want to go out into the world teaching this? Why do we corrupt the message with too much other stuff?

Jesus came, now we are free.

Free To Be With God

October 29, 2015

“The purpose of the spiritual disciplines is to make you free.”

Both Dallas Willard and Richard J. Foster warn about the proper use of the practice of spiritual discipline. The point is not to be able to say that I fasted so many days, or read the Bible every day, or prayed diligently. To have that attitude is to return to that old human attitude of works being the way to get right with God rather than trusting in God’s grace.

This morning in my meditation, my thoughts turned to freedom. It’s a topic I’ve pondered and written on for my entire adult life. I was greatly influenced by a book by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin I came across at age 20 or so. He looked at philosophers of freedom and divided the concept into two–freedom for and freedom from.

Without chasing the squirrels of various philosophical traditions, I’ll just ponder Paul.

He said that God’s grace and our response in faith does both!

Grace frees us from the tyranny of our emotions, our self-imposed boundaries, our jealousies, fears, worries, greed.

The discipline of meditation that I’ve practiced for more than 40 years has calmed my emotions, freed me from worry (something passed down from my mother and who knows how many generations), helped me deal with the winds of emotion which can enslave.

That is just one example. The discipline of reading the Bible or great thinkers about the topic such as Augustine or Henry Nouwen or many others has added depth to my understanding and guidance for my direction.

Paul does not stop there. Grace frees us for service. Why are we here? To serve others in love. That is Jesus’ command. That is what Paul repeats. Many times.

These are words that I never wanted to hear as an adolescent. I can still remember being 17 or 20. No bounds. Discipline is a bad word foisted upon us by conservative old people. Service to others is slavery.

Trouble is, many people today have yet to outgrow those adolescent urges.

Adolescents hate paradox. I’ve always been fascinated by paradox. Here’s an important one–discipline leads to freedom. Who would have understood that at 17–or sometimes 57.

Freedom Does Not Equal Doing Whatever You Want

October 27, 2015

Americans love to talk about freedom. Scan Facebook and you’ll see many posts about rights and freedom. Never one about the responsibility that goes along with it.

What you do with your freedom is more important than having the freedom. And, by the way, even the Founding Fathers when discussing freedoms postulated that they originated with God.

And who better to help us understand God than the apostle Paul.

Check out the letter to the Galatians–my in-depth study object for the next few months.

Writing (Galatians 5:13-15), Paul addresses this directly.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”

Americans, and actually also western Europeans, have trouble when Paul uses the word translated into English as slave. I remember writers such as Marx and Nietzsche stumbling over that word. Paul didn’t say to become “unfree.” Remember the commandment that Jesus left us with? Love one another. Take that as what Paul meant.

When Paul talks about slave, he talks about being a servant. Like when Jesus took off his outer robe and washed the feet of the disciples.

When we in America get all caught up in interpreting whatever we want into the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and so on through the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution, we should be really discussing what our (personally) responsibilities are with that freedom.

When we talk about freedom in Jesus, our discussion must center on the idea “now that we are free from having to worry about following every little item in the law, what are we going to do with that freedom.” That discussion must focus on what we will do for others as servants in love.