Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Energy For The Christian Life

November 22, 2017

Remember the old advertisement for a sugary soda, “The pause that refreshes”?

I was thinking about that attitude while thinking about our American holiday of Thanksgiving we will celebrate tomorrow. “Let us pause and give thanks…OK, carve the turkey.”

Rather we should let this natural rhythm of our calendar remind us to cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving as an intimate part of our waking life. Gratitude and thanksgiving indeed are the energy that drives a Christian life.

Energy seems to be a bit cyclical, like ocean waves on the beach that come and go.

It’s not the pause. It’s returning to the source (God) to rejuvenate our energy.

We need these rhythms of the calendar to remind us of things. Ancient peoples knew this.

If we are slipping into today’s culture of the world which is entitlement–“I deserve it”–it is time to let the rhythm of the seasons bring us back to God to refuel our gratitude energy supply.

Thanks Giving

November 21, 2017

How often do you stop and give thanks?

I have a ToDo app that allows for tasks to pop up regularly. I have a task that pops up in my priority list every week. It says, list six things that I’m grateful for and practice gratitude.

There are times when that task comes to my attention, and I find it difficult to take just a few minutes and focus on my blessings.

I’m too busy. Or, I’m not feeling blessed. Or, my mind wanders. I am cursed with thinking too much–I think.

I think about being socially awkward and the latest social gaffes I’ve made.

In America, we are reaching the day on the calendar that comes to our attention once per year. It is a harvest celebration. Most, if not all, societies have some kind of harvest celebration. Farmers live on the edge. Rain comes too early. Or too late. Or too much. Or not enough. Plant diseases sweep through the area. Just having a harvest is cause for rejoicing, celebration, and yes, giving thanks to the God who provided after all.

Or

In America we are reaching the day that marks another day of family tension as we (or some of us) gather to have a meal, complain about things, and leave. It is also the day that marks the beginning of the “holiday season” with Christmas and New Years celebrations coming. And the beginning of shopping for Christmas presents for ourselves and others.

Song lyrics come to me at the weirdest times. I’m just now thinking, “It’s time to stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

As we plan and worry and prepare for travel for Thanksgiving, take time to stop. Listen. Give thanks.

Gratitude Is A Choice And An Attitude

May 16, 2017

So much of life is a choice.

We may not choose what comes at us. We certainly choose how we respond. Rather, I should say we can choose how to respond. Or, we can let our emotions choose for us. And lead us into a downward spiral like a bathtub draining or a toilet flushing.

We discover that waking up early and taking a few moments to focus on gratitude for that which we have starts us with the right attitude for health and success.

That is why we start with God who created the world and provides for us.

And people who have helped us.

And our abilities that we can use to serve others.

And food and shelter for those of us who have.

This keeps us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced.

Quality Questions Lead To Quality Life

January 31, 2017

Quality questions create a quality life. Tony Robbins

God definitely wants my attention. For what seems to be the millionth time, the teaching about asking questions pops into my awareness. That quote from someone I normally wouldn’t quote comes from a short chapter in my current reading, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferriss. This is a good enough book packed with hundreds of ideas. If you read it, just remember that Ferriss, like Robbins, can be way over the top.

But questions. What a good reminder.

Remember yesterday where I discussed growth? Getting out of our cocoon?

Unlike the butterfly who aches to get out of the cocoon and change from a caterpillar that crawls around nibbling on leaves to a beautiful flying creature that communes among the beautiful flowers, humans seem to crave the cocoon.

The butterfly successfully completes its growth through extreme physical work. Beating its new wings against the shell that enslaves it until it get strong enough to break through into freedom.

Questions are the extreme work that we humans use to grow, get stronger, mature.

I have a personality problem. Well, I have many, just ask those who know me. But this one can prevent my growth, and probably others. I’m generally content in groups of people to be quiet and listen. Well, unless they’re talking about people. I tune that out.

But if someone asks me a question, I’ll answer it. And if it is a topic I’m passionate about, I can dominate conversation. That is, until a little voice inside interrupts the train of thought to remind me to ask others what they think.

Questions are the basic requirement of growth in my profession as observer and analyst of manufacturing technology. And in my study of theology.

Jesus asked once, “Who do you think I am?” That question alone should start our chain of questions. What has he said? What has he done? What have been the effects of his ministry? What does that mean to me?

What questions are you asking today?

The Generous Receiver of Gifts

December 8, 2016

How we receive gifts also tells much about us.

I have been thinking about the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus. The one where Jesus got to the point of his problem. He had too much stuff, and he couldn’t let it go. Maybe he was like a hoarder. Maybe he was like Scrooge McDuck (for those of you old enough to remember) who was mostly pictured sitting in his vault with piles gold coins and sacks of gold coins.

But if someone is going to give generously, then that means someone must receive.

How do you receive?

I learned a long time ago to adjust my wants to reality. Growing up in a family without much money can form you in one of two ways. In my case, I wanted things, but learned that many were beyond budget. So, I adjusted my expectations. On the other hand, I know of people in similar situations who grew up only to crave the things they couldn’t have as children even more than when they were little.

Do we adjust to reality, or do we expect reality to adjust to us? 

Maybe we have seen way too many advertisements (and they date back to the early 1800s) of the joyous kid opening presents. And we think that if we can’t capture that picture in reality, then Christmas is ruined. I have even heard pastors equate a joyful Christmas to the number of presents under the tree!

I’m sure for many not receiving the gift, or not receiving enough gifts, is disappointing.

But maybe that is because the anticipation of Christmas is misplaced. It focuses on quantity of presents.

What do I appreciate? I appreciate that someone thought of me.
I bet that is true for most everyone. Except for those whose focus is on the wrong place.

Then it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

That Spark That Helps Others

November 25, 2016

Who is it who has helped you grow in your career and as a person? Perhaps you didn’t even know it at the time.

I was pretty clueless about working with other people when I started out in my career. But there were John and Jack and Alex who saw something and put me in positions where I could contribute and grow. Of course I am grateful to them.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Then there are teachers who taught more than their subject matter–Mr. Johnson who taught logical thinking that I still use, Mr. McCarty who pushed me to go to science and engineering summer camps, Mrs. Maxwell who taught literature and writing (she’d probably be shocked to see me doing all the writing I’ve done over the past 20 years!), Mrs. McGowan who told my parents I was smart and ruined my next six years (every time report cards came out, I got “the lecture” from dad about how my grades didn’t reflect my intellect–I don’t know, maybe they did 😉 but actually when someone compliments you that can be the spark.

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

So, I hoped I sparked some good memories for you. And a sense of gratitude for what others have done.

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard

The challenge before us is to try to get even with those people. Many are gone now. But you can still get even by passing the torch. Who can I help today?

Gratitude is Attitude

November 23, 2016

Tomorrow is a US national holiday–Thanksgiving. It is national “go home to be with family” day. Or in my case, go to the Chicago ‘burbs to be with family.

We have a somewhat romanticized recollection of the first English settlers in Massachusetts who came over here totally unprepared. They were helped by the natives who already lived here (and whom they would subsequently kill off) to survive that first winter. They had a banquet in gratitude for the help.

So, I’ve been turning to a collection of gratitude quotes to end my Yoga class.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

I was quite a shy kid and often was afraid to speak up. Yes, that was a long time ago. I’ve made up for it. But I think back on those times when someone did something for me and I didn’t speak up to thank them. So now, I try to thank everyone for everything.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G. K. Chesterton

That is a lot to say from one of the leading thinkers of his time–or any time. Many people are lost in search for happiness. That is the wrong way around. Happiness finds us when we are most focused on gratitude for what others have done.

“‘Enough’ is a feast.” Buddhist proverb

We traditionally have a Thanksgiving meal that is way too much to eat. We feel so miserable that we sleep through the football game. We call it a feast. I had a bad experience with poultry early in life, so I don’t stuff myself with turkey and stuffing. Even so, the temptation to over indulge is great. This saying implies much more than just Thanksgiving dinner. Are we on a quest for ‘more’, or are we content with ‘enough’?

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

And President Kennedy dove right to the core. Gratitude is not a one time expression of “thank you.” Rather, gratitude is the attitude with which we orient our daily lives.

Remembering And Running

May 30, 2016

Today is a holiday in the US named Memorial Day. No, I don’t think it was devised to celebrate the running of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race. For the past 29 years for me it meant being out at a park somewhere around Dayton, Ohio at the country’s largest 3-day soccer tournament.

I think “Memorial” springs from “remember”, as in remembering those who went before us. In many cases they paved a trail that led us to where we are.

My great-grandmother called it “Decoration” Day, and her tradition was to decorate the graves of family.

As a kid, I participated in the Midwest America tradition of a formal ceremony to place flowers on the graves of local military veterans.

There are people today who use it as an “in-your-face” political statement. But then, some people use every excuse to get in your face.

How great a cloud of witnesses…

Let us consider the thought from the letter to the Hebrews. “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” The writer describes many leaders of the faith who have gone before. Then he continues, “so let us run the race that is set before us.”

We don’t remember just to sit in sentimental reverie. We remember what those before us have done as a guide and motivator for what we are to do with our time on earth.

Remember and run.

I imagine that every society has some version of Memorial Day. That’s good.

Remember, looking for inspiration so that we can run the race set before us and leave a legacy for the future.

Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015

They set up camp in a new location not really knowing what to expect. The winter was unbelievably harsh. Many of the community did not live through it. Their neighbors showed them how to  plant crops and shared their bounty to help them. The people gathered for a celebration dinner to remember their blessings.

Thanksgiving

A time of commercial hype. “Black Friday” when the retailers begin to show a profit for the year resulting from early Christmas shopping. A time of overindulging in unhealthy foods. Sitting around. And not only in America. I just finished listening to a podcast featuring two Polish guys talking technology–and  Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

We can pause and check out how many things we can be grateful for. Mine:

  • Skills that can be used to educate and help people
  • A ministry that serves people
  • Friends who encourage
  • Family (well, most of them 😉  )
  • Living where I live, even if I don’t agree with the politics of those around me, we can differ without shooting each other as is happening in much of the world
  • Good health (well mostly)
  • Prosperity

Happy Thanksgiving. What are your blessings?

Disciplines For The Emotions

March 19, 2015

“She is a drama about to  explode.”

“Yes, and her friend is a walking drama.”

Talking about a couple of teenaged girls we know. And I thought, the mother of one is also a walking drama. Emotions worn on the outside. Voice always tinged with anxiety and, er, well, drama.

A friend recently wrote about fear being the source of anger. That is true. Especially fear born of insecurity.

On the other hand, Jesus showed anger. He made a mess of the Temple market. His anger came from a deep sense of what the Temple should be (a place of devout worship of the Father) versus what it had become (a sort of market system for selling animals to be sacrificed to pilgrims needing animals to sacrifice–probably with a comfortable profit margin).

We all have emotions. At least I hope we have not completely buried them. In that case, a trip to a shrink is in order. But the key is–how to we handle those feelings that seem to arise from our gut in a mature and helpful way?

I once had a lot of anger within. Mostly I dealt with it conquered it. The few times it bubbled up to the top over the past 20 years or more I remember with sorrow and repentance.

Remember, we are what we habitually do.

How can we change our habits to help put our emotions in their proper, healthy place?

One suggestion is to develop the habit of practicing gratitude.

I have now put it in my task manager software (I use Nozbe, you could use an outliner, or your calendar) to pop up once a week to sit in the morning and write those things for which I’m grateful.

This places things in perspective. One of my favorite sayings to remind me of perspective is, “In the scheme of life, just how important is this? Not so.” And then I’m reminded of the things in life that are worthy of my attention.