Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

People Are The Problem

November 22, 2022

I was a certifiable geek. Lacking social skills, my thoughts revolved around science, engineering, philosophy.

The school where I was studying dropped the graduate program in the middle of my first year. Newly married, course work complete, looking for a thesis topic to complete a Masters, I accidentally got a job in manufacturing. Stayed there for a career.

My boss told me that the engineering problems were easy, or at least solvable. People are the problem. Great. My weakness faced the biggest challenges of my new career.

He was spot on. Whether business, church, school leadership, other organizations—working through people problems became the real task.

It’s not theology; it’s people. Jesus knew that. He debated theology with the religious lawyers of the day. But it was people he focused on. Healing, teaching, leading.

Happy New Year, We Hope

December 31, 2021

Welcome to the last day of 2021, or maybe the first day of 2022 depending upon when you get this. We hoped 2021 would be an improvement over 2020 when we had the shock of the first major pandemic perhaps since the Spanish Flu of 1918. It has caused immense changes in how we live and interact.

Still, a year end is an ideal time for reflection and gathering ideas for change in our lives–and maybe our thinking. We, the people, seem to be woefully short on reflection. Since most people have a few days left of holiday, use yours to set aside a few hours to just sit and think. That is called reflection.

What good did you do last year?

Where could you have done something and didn’t? No guilt. No excuses. Just a short list.

Who did you lose track of, perhaps due to Covid or not?

Where did you grow last year?

Then we can project into the new year.

What one thing can do in 2022 to grow intellectually, spiritually, or in relationship? What trigger can I set up to encourage it? For example, setting out workout clothes at night so that in the morning they are right there to be put on getting you in the mood of exercise.

What good can I do in 2022?

I stopped doing New Year’s Resolutions many years ago. I think of what kind of person I’d like to be and what changes I can make in my daily life to assimilate it.

I started this blog in 2008 as a service to my local church with another person. She left to go to seminary. The pastor was transferred to another place. I changed it in 2009 and then took it seriously a year later. Eleven years and 2,600+ posts later, it’s a part of my daily discipline. The blog never caught on to the tune of hundreds of thousands of readers. But I only promote it on Twitter. I seldom try to hit a “click bait” issue to trick people into clicking. And still there are a few thousand readers. If you care to pass it on, I’d appreciate it. I have no income from this. It’s as much for me to organize some thinking as anything.

What Old Ideas Do We Still Carry?

November 8, 2021

Let’s say that we’re writing a document using Microsoft Word. We wish to save it so that we can come back later and finish. We know that there is an icon, a picture that represents something, for saving documents. If we click on that icon, we know that we won’t lose that document.

Quick! What is that icon a picture of? It was once a real, physical thing.

Right. A 3.5” floppy disk.

Most likely fewer than half of the people reading this today have ever seen one of these. Or even know what an advancement they were over 5.25” floppy disks, which were, in turn better than the 10” ones. But then came CDs (with video, DVD), USB “thumb drives”, and then simply links to directly download from a Web site.

Two weeks ago at a trade show, a marketing guy gave me a thumb drive with the company’s press kit on it. None of my computers have a hole big enough to fit that sucker into. I once had to carry thick bundles of paper and photos from a trade show. Now, just give me a link, I say. Totally did away with the need to travel with a briefcase.

But the picture of the 3.5” floppy disk remains in many of our computer applications.

This morning I contemplated—how many things in our lives are we carrying over from the past that no longer have meaning? Things? Ideas? Relationships?

Is it time to move on in our lives? Time to relegate certain things to the past and embrace today?

The Apostle Paul once said something like, when I was a child, I thought like a child, but then I became a man and put away childish things.

Someone recently remarked to me that reading through social media is much like revisiting conversations of 13-year-olds. Many of us need to put aside childish things and become mature. We may not want to admit that to ourselves, but it is true.

Successfully Driving People Away

May 27, 2021

Andy Stanley, co-founder and senior pastor of Northpoint Ministries in Atlanta, calls that group of people the “nones.” When filling out questionnaires and coming to a question on religious affiliation, they check the “none” box.

During the podcast conversation, one of the men said that he was not a theist. Not an a-theist. Just no concept of a God. He was raised that way.

Then he turned the table on the host and asked, “What religion are you?”

The host paused a moment and said, “I would have said Christian up until 4-5 years ago. Now, I’m not so sure.”

What did he mean? It was the vocal evangelicals whole-hearted embrace of the former president. That turned him off. What he didn’t mention was that the church he attended (I knew because of a reference he once made) had something of a sex-related scandal amongst leadership. That probably didn’t help.

This is more of an American cultural thing than the rest of the world. Perhaps Europe and Britain are similar in many ways. Certainly in Asia and the Middle East and Africa things are different. There, Christians don’t think they are (and should be) the dominant culture.

I have 50+ years of experience watching churches being more successful driving people away than in attracting them.

Perhaps that is why I write often about the Acts 2 church and how the early church grew by attraction. Then the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the Official religion. And then it all went downhill.

But that early church didn’t grow to be a mega-church. Just many small house gatherings. Ekklesia. They would grow and divide. And they attracted more people by the way they lived. I think that was Jesus’ idea. Attract people by the way you live. Don’t drive them away with a strident voice.

Are You A Pilgrim or a Tourist?

February 11, 2021

This question appeared in my reading the other day. What a marvelous question to ask of ourselves if we look at our spiritual formation as a journey.

Do we travel around, visiting here and going there? Sample a little of the sights, perhaps in the comfort of a tour bus? Try the food–a little, perhaps with trepidation? We have no expectations of staying. Of meeting people and making friends. Of learning some of the language and customs. Adding to our personal cuisine.

Perhaps we have a destination. A journey to a sacred place. The journey has meaning. We pick up new habits along the way. We learn new things. Our minds expand from formerly provincial attitudes. We learn about new people. Perform large or small acts of kindness along the way–growing more frequent as we journey farther.

Perhaps we pick up our little notebook and a good pen and write some notes. Where are we now on the journey? How have we been a tourist? How have we been a pilgrim? What new attitudes can we work on to spend more time as a pilgrim, less as a tourist?

I love that question. It reframes the journey. I desire pilgrimage, not sight-seeing trip.

Forcing Yourself Into a Category

February 11, 2020

Yesterday I wrote about how we construct theories and categories and then shove people into them. It’s easier to deal with people if we can make them a “type” and then dismiss them if they don’t fit into “our” category.

However, I started a new book on the Enneagram during yesterday’s flight to Germany. (I’m sitting in my hotel room overlooking the famous “fair grounds” of the Hannover Messe as I write this. Oh, yes, and on probably 4 hours of sleep on the plane. If this is incoherent, we’ll blame that…)

The purpose of studying the enneagram is not to determine your type and stop there. Or even to arbitrarily assign someone else to a type and stop there.

What really happens to us is that we categorize ourselves. We’re stupid. Or clumsy. Or unattractive. Or didn’t have the breaks that rich kids had. Or…whatever.

If we just had but a wise guide to lead us through the enneagram, we could develop an awareness of the tactics we adopted as kids in order to survive our circumstances. Further, we could see that we are still locked into those tactics and strategies and feelings, and that these are inhibiting our growth and our relationships.

I think every spiritual writer I have studied has at some point taught the importance of self-awareness. What a spiritual gift we have when we can see ourselves from the outside in and then change from the inside out.

Grow Your Brain

April 22, 2019

Myth: You only use 10% of your brain.

Myth: Your brain stops growing after you reach adulthood.

Your brain can continue to grow until you die. And you have influence over either growing or atrophying.

I’ve read several books on brain science. Some get pretty involved and technical.

Here is a book that combines brain science written by a PhD neuroscientist who has devoted a lifetime (so far) researching the brain with practical advice for your own personal brain development. The book is approachable for anyone. Younger students, even.

Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain & Do Everything Better, by Wendy Suzuki, PhD.

Here’s a hint about a great deal of the story–she is both a leading neuroscience researcher as a full professor at NYU and a certified fitness instructor.

The foundation of the story is neuroscience. But the real story is one of personal development about how she discovered how exercise leading to better eating leading to meditation leading to developing a spiritual side all played a part in her growth. And led to more research in the lab on brain plasticity–how it continues to grow.

It goes to show scientifically that spiritual practices must involve the entire body. And, in so doing, your brain can retain some youthfulness and you can have a better life.

Perhaps we could think of these bullet points as sort of a progression layering upon each other for personal development:

  • Knowledge
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Meditation
  • Spiritual development
  • (Iterate)

Get the book, digest it, pick some of her practical tips for implementing the lesson. Grow your brain and grow your life.

Getting Into Balance

January 14, 2019

Personality type testing once again becomes a fad.

Are you and “ISFJ” or a “9”?

(The former being one of the types on the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator; the other one of the 9 types on the Enneagram.)

One use of the Myers-Briggs I have seen is for leadership teams to take the evaluation in order to figure out how to work together. [I have never seen that actually work…]

I took the test as part of someone’s doctoral research on how school board members work together. It didn’t help us any, but the guy received a doctorate.

Once I walked into my pastor’s office. “Our Emmaus team just took the Myers-Briggs to help us work together. We are all ‘FJs’ “(feeling-judgementals-look it up). I replied, “I’m a ‘TP’ ” (thinking-perceptive). He said, “How can you call yourself a Christian and be a TP?”

[Mis]use of the profile, for sure.

The Enneagram is getting popular in some Christian circles right now. It’s not “what’s your sign” but rather “what’s your number”.

Another [mis]use of the evaluation.

I’ve studied both Western and Eastern philosophy. I got rather deep one time into Ayurveda. It does “mind-body” types.

The thing of it is, you don’t study it to find out your type…and then stop. You study it so that you can change some ways you eat or exercise to bring your mind and body into balance. If you are a “pitta” then maybe eat some “kapha” foods to bring yourself into balance.

If you read deeper than your M-B or number, you find a lot of ambivalence. No one is 100% a “9”. There’s a little of every number in all of us. Maybe you are called E (extroverted) but you’re maybe only 16 out of 31 on the scale. One question differently answered and you’d be labeled “I” (introverted).

If you are going to go this route, do yourself a favor and use the tool to bring your personality (and your life) into balance.

He’s Gonna Find Out

December 18, 2017

He’s making a list; checking it twice.

Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

Whom among us ever behaved because of this threat from Santa Claus?

Even for a minute?

Or has been the parent who uses threats as the “easy” way to enforce proper behavior?

“Just wait until I get you home….”

“If you don’t stop that, I’ll ….”

Delayed punishment of children, actually even of many adults, doesn’t work as far a changing behavior.

Worse still is the threat that’s not enforced or even forgotten.

There are whole Protestant denominations founded on the premise of threats.

Back when Hartford, Connecticut was the home of most insurance companies Mad Magazine ran a caricature of a preacher who sold the first “fire insurance” in the US.

Today, we all get to find out who has been naughty when they appear on the front page of the newspaper, lead on the TV news, or at the top of your digital news feed. And, Lord, this has been the year of bringing naughty into light!

Or we can consider from another perspective–do we really want to raise human persons to be timid and docile? That doesn’t sound like the type of person Jesus developed. His initial group of followers–beyond the 11 considering the maybe 100 or more that were around all the time, too–all seemed to be strong, courageous, and faithful.

Boys to Men

August 3, 2017

Doesn’t it seem that over the past 20 years or so that the adolescent stage of young males has expanded? Where there was a time while in their 20s they married, got jobs, had children, and began contributing to society.

Then it seems that the growth from adolescent pleasures to maturity was put off until the 30s.

The problem of growth and maturity is not new. But we live in an age that seems to want to keep men irresponsible.

I remember being 18. A painful time of life to be sure. Rebellious. Pleasure-seeking. Being shy and geeky, perhaps I wasn’t as bad as others–but comparisons are foolish.

So I wondered about maturity. Here are some thoughts:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

 

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

What is lacking in the description of children is something to anchor the life to. Life is adrift from day-to-day. We live in the whim of the moment. We think that we can live without the fruit of the Spirit.

People will say, but it is good to live in adolescence all of out lives. But they are wrong. Growth and maturity is the way of the world. Only humans can choose the state of not-maturity.
And then at the end, you look and see that you’ve done nothing.