Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

If It Doesn’t Kill You, It Will Make You Stronger

February 28, 2023

That title is, I believe, a paraphrase of something Nietzsche said. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but there is truth. We need a certain amount of stressors in our life to make us stronger.

Women of south Asia, Africa, South America who carry loads balanced atop their heads have stronger bones and better posture than other women (and men) who don’t have a physical stressor.

I am about to leave for the gym as soon as I hit “publish” on this post. I will be doing a series of dumbbell and ab exercises after a little cardio. Those weights (a fly, curl, row, squat, plus ab work) will stress the muscles and bones of my body. Sarcopenia is the medical term for muscle loss. The description says it comes with aging. That is not necessary, though. I am over 70 with perhaps more muscle mass than ever. It’s the not having stressors for the muscle and bones that causes problems.

A little bit of stress helps us grow. Sometimes causes us to flex our learning and spiritual muscles. Something happens to us or to someone we know. We learn all about it. If things in life are going smoothly, we may become complacent in our spiritual life. A little stress comes along, and suddenly our spiritual life awakens and becomes quite important.

Not too much stress, though. That could send you to my daughter, the therapist, or to a cardiologist.

Thinking this through brought back memories of times of stress. And how I dealt with them. And how I grew stronger each time. Better able to handle the next one. But those were all random. Nothing to plan or prepare for. One day the owners come in and tell me they are closing the business. I’m out of a job. Well, nothing to do but suck it up and get stronger. And so it goes.

Perhaps that is a message we can get from many stories of people in the Bible who spent time in the wilderness being tempted and growing stronger.

Upon Further Investigation

January 2, 2023

You hear something about someone accompanied with a judgement. It’s not exactly gossip. It’s news with a view. The subtle, or not-so-subtle, intent of the speaker is to influence how you think about the target.

Then you engage in a conversation with them—the target. You listen to their story. They tell you how they felt. Their emotions. How they dealt with whatever the situation was.

Then you understand.

And the judgement had been rushed, but it will stick with the originator. Will they ever change their attitude? Some will; some won’t.

But as s second-hand hearer, I can disregard the judgement and understand.

Some psychologists trying to figure out the human personality will say it depends upon what number you are on the Enneagram or your something-something on the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator.

I think it’s growth. The development of wisdom that comes from reflecting on experience. Some of us grow. Some of us do not.

I’m reading through the 31 chapters of Proverbs, as I do most January’s, to establish a firm orientation for the new year. In the Wisdom of the Proverbs, we learn about the wise and the fool and the scoffer. Read, learn, practice.

For me, fifty-five years of contemplative practice helped with perspective.

May this new year afford you opportunities for growth. May you accept them and emerge the better for it.

Wisdom Establishes Tone For the New Year

December 30, 2022

Annual reminder to self (and anyone who listens):

Begin the New Year on the right foot. Not with “resolutions” that will never be kept. Not even for a week. Immerse yourself in Wisdom for 31 days for orientation. There are 31 days in January. The book of Proverbs from the Old Testament has 31 chapters. One chapter a day for a month.

Beginning in Proverbs 8 we begin to see a portrait of Lady Wisdom as God’s agent on our behalf. She takes her stand at the crossroads, near the city gates, crying out (8:1–3). The point is that wisdom is widely available knowledge. God cares for us and wants to keep us out of trouble. So virtue is not a matter of arcane knowledge or obscure teaching. It is accessible to everyone.

From the Life With God Bible, Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, et. al.

A few additional thoughts to set the tone for the year—and perhaps a reminder every day:

7 Things Mindful People Do

  • Practice being curious
  • Forgive themselves
  • Hold their emotions lightly
  • Practice compassion
  • Make peace with imperfection
  • Embrace vulnerability
  • Understand all things come and go

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.