Archive for the ‘Intention’ Category

Running From and To

July 29, 2021

We often run toward solitude and away from people when our soul suffers provocation. Rather than confront and resolve, we run and hide. We wallow in self-pity fanning the flames of anger, jealousy.

When our soul is stirred by lust, rather than flee we run to groups of people. Perhaps we seek the solace of another body or encouragement in the pursuit of that which we lust for.

Famous people have observed that we are drawn to do that which we know we don’t want to do or don’t do that which we know we should.

How much better to run toward reconciliation to quell harsh emotions and to flee quickly that which draws us into doing what we know harms us.

[Thoughts upon reading from Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos.]

Whom Do You Eat With?

May 26, 2021

After Matthew gives us an example of how Jesus taught by detailing the Sermon on the Mount, he provides a series of brief vignettes of Jesus doing things. He heals, travels back and forth across the lake, chats with people. There’s Jesus teaching and then Jesus in action.

In one story, he tells of Jesus coming by his tax collector’s booth. Jesus offers an invitation, “Follow me.”

And he did.

Then, there was a large celebratory dinner at Matthew’s house. Jesus was there with his disciples (most likely the closest 12). Evidently everyone was having a good time eating, drinking, talking.

Large dinners were held in a courtyard of the housing compound. They’d be along the street where anyone could walk by and see who was at dinner.

The proper, uptight church folks came by wearing their scowls, I’m sure. They were offended. Here was a rabbi publicly at dinner with people who were not proper church society types.

They took some disciples aside, “Why does your teacher eat with sinners and tax collectors?”

Where I used to live there was a larger, famous bar called The Pub. It was a notorious hangout for men having dates with women who were not their wives, as well as other types of people not expected in one of the many churches in the area. We had a pastor who (with permission) took Sunday night church to The Pub. A Catholic friend of mine asked me if he could go. “Sure.” He wondered if he could have a beer while there. “Sure.”

I have known people who intentionally invite diverse groups to dinner regularly.

But I am wondering, who are we all seen dining with? Can we be strong with Jesus who said that it is the sick who need a doctor, not the well. Do we only associate with the church people? Or maybe have a beer with those in need of a kind word?

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.

On Being Content

January 5, 2021

Part of my career was devoted to the magazine business. Now I write blogs and other words call CON-tent. Appropriate filtering of all the CONtent that is shoved our way is one way to assist our being conTENT.

Thinking of the latter meaning of content, I began to wonder if we are living in an age of discontent. Everywhere I read, I see signs of this malaise. Then I turn in my chair and scan my bookshelves. Literature, history, philosophy–all point to times of discontent.

No wonder. We are inundated with content intentionally designed to feed discontent. If our emotions get aroused, we are more prone to longer engagement with the platform whether TV or social media. It’s a business proposition for them. More engagement leads to higher prices for advertising and thus to more profits and higher salaries.

We have the power to change that equation if we but chose to limit the flow.

Another practice includes pausing. I thought of the image from the Psalms (23) about lying by a cool, clear pond on a warm day. Wildlife, and flowers, maybe my favorite pet. The sun from the blue sky warms my body. My needs are cared for.

Many of us could only do that for so long before going crazy. Getting up and doing something which provides a service for others is another path to contentment.

I discussed generosity and kindness last week. I would add contentment to those as words to describe what I’d like to be this year.

Prepping for 2021

January 4, 2021

Welcome to 2021.

What we call things does not affect the thing. It surely affects us, though. Just having a new name for the year benefits our state of mind.

Some thoughts of preparing ourselves for the new year. This will certainly be a year of change from 2020. I don’t predict or prognosticate, but I do think that we’ll see a change in the pandemic for the better. Probably the change will happen before we realize it. Hopefully the vaccine helps.

Maybe we need to change the type of person we are. Or, maybe just reinforce the person we are becoming.

Eating

Did you pick up the dreaded “Covid 15”? That is 15 excess pounds–or more?

Start being the kind of person who naturally and normally eats a little less for each meal. Energy-boosting snacks become almonds, peanuts, apple slices, and the like. I buy little packets of green olives from Thrive Market and keep some around for a snack. Save sweets, salty processed snacks, and colas for “cheat day” if at all. Drop sodas, both sweetened and “diet”, from your shopping list and clean out the refrigerator.

Follow Michael Pollan’s advice from Food Rules: An Eater’s Guide:

  • Eat food;
  • Not too much;
  • Mostly plants.

Exercise

If you haven’t already, start moving. Be the sort of person who walks more or takes up jogging or running. Of course, exercise within the bounds set by your physician. But most of us can walk briskly. Make 30-60 minutes a day part of the daily routine. If your body is up to it, throw in a few sprints a few times per week for a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. That helped me lose a few pounds.

Buy some dumbbells and check out some YouTube instructors. I use 10 pound weights for a couple of shoulder exercises and curls and extensions for the biceps/triceps. I’m using 20 pound for standing rows and squats. Throw in some bench pushups and 30 minutes of Yoga stretches and ab work. 45-minutes to an hour three times a week in your bedroom (assuming the gym is still on limited availability) will work wonders.

Mental

Pick up a good book and read it. Be the type of person who expands and strengthens their mind. Take notes so that you think about it.

Spiritual

Feed your spirit with appropriate reading. I usually suggest January as a time to read the Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible. (Old Testament to most Christians) There are 31 chapters. Do a chapter a day for a month. Or perhaps the Christian book of James (another Wisdom writer). This year, I am reading an ancient Wisdom teacher from a different tradition. It’s good to see how alike we all are in our pursuit of spiritual growth and peace. I mean all cultures and all epochs. From 5,000 years ago to current Wisdom literature, there is a steady current.

Stop, pause your busyness. Meditate and pray at least once per day. Maybe twice–morning and evening. Do this and after several months people will probably comment about how calm you have become. Trust me. That has been true for me.

Blessings to you all for 2021.

Will I Be A Sitter Or A Follower This Year

January 1, 2021

Already yesterday I saw threads on Twitter about posting your New Year’s Resolutions.

Don’t.

They don’t work. Before January is over, you’ll have forgotten them.

This year, maybe we just decide to stop sitting and complaining. We choose to get up and follow Jesus. The first groups around Jesus? They weren’t scholars so much as they were followers.

Try this thought from Søren Kierkegaard.

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may be able to explain every article of our faith, yet remain spiritually motionless. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a contrast! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it spurred them to set out on a long, hard journey. The scribes, meanwhile, were much better informed, much better versed. They had sat and studied the scriptures for years, like so many dons. But it didn’t make any difference. Who had the more truth? Those who followed a rumor, or those who remained sitting, satisfied with all their knowledge?

Søren Kierkegaard

Maybe you were taught to be only a leader, never a follower be. But you follow something or someone. You follow those who promise riches. You follow those who promise power. You follow those who appeal to your insecurities and fears.

None of those satisfy in the end.

Make 2021 a year of choosing to follow Jesus who leads us (if we but do his teaching) to living a better life because we chose to live in God’s kingdom.

Maybe you will or won’t lose that 30 pounds. Or you will or won’t write that book. Or you will or won’t double your income.

But you can be a different kind of human.

Be Generous

December 31, 2020

A couple of years ago the US Government changed the tax laws to reduce the amount of money you could deduct from reported income for tax purposes for charitable donations. This year due to the pandemic they changed it back to be, well, more generous. Today is the last day of the year to be generous and reduce income taxes a bit.

That is a good thing. Take advantage if you are able.

I am thinking of generosity more in terms that define who we are. There was recently a thought passing around Facebook revealing the typical “it’s all about me” attitude of us Baby Boomers. But it’s not all about me. It’s all about us. Me and my neighbors Jesus put it once. And who are my neighbors, religious people asked him. And he told a story about generosity. Helping someone who happened to be born into the “wrong” community, tribe, race. That was generosity.

Thinking back on this year, when have I been generous even though hurting physically or emotionally? When have I been generous with time, kindness, gifts, caring?

Perhaps we can improve on that for the next year. We can choose to be generous, kind, peaceful, just. We can choose to be the person Jesus intended his followers to be–filled with the spirit and acting in love.

Good-bye to 2020. Here’s to a 2021 filled with peace, justice, generosity, kindness. May our social media posts be filled with these thoughts when we, next year at this time, look back at 2021.

Practice Curiosity

December 4, 2020
  1. Practice being curious
  2. Forgive themselves
  3. Hold their emotions lightly
  4. Practice compassion
  5. Make peace with imperfection
  6. Embrace vulnerability
  7. Understand all things come and go

In my day as a child, a popular phrase murmured from mother to child was, “Curiosity killed the cat.”

For every child who enters the industrialized education system as a curious being, most exit as someone who has learned to memorize what the teacher expects and return it in the form of answers to The Test. Those of us who just wanted to learn because we were curious were either forced into the system or lived at the periphery.

I’m not criticizing teachers, many of whom say they want to encourage creativity. It is the system designed to prepare young people for a career as a cog in another system–first as industrial workers, then as “knowledge” workers.

Curiosity and imagination drive creative advances in science, technology, the arts. Those who buck the system and don’t mind how many of the cat’s nine lives they use up.

Mindful people practice being curious. We wonder all the time. I was curious about science things as a child. Then the curiosity settled in physics-types of things. Cars, especially engines. And electronics. Then guitars. Eventually curiosity about people leading to the study of psychology and then brain science. None of this had any relationship to school.

I got curious about spiritual writing and the people who experienced and wrote about it. And the Bible. And the historical times when the Bible was written.

To be honest, many of my brain cycles this week are devoted to curiosity about the impact of the large tech firms such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell Technologies, and Hitachi Vantara on the incumbent manufacturers in the industrial control and automation world. I absorb information, then search the Web for articles and people who can answer questions. And I think about it.

Practicing curiosity is a lifestyle. More than a habit, it is a way of living developed over time. It is intentional.

Do you wonder about God? Writers in the Bible and other places use words describing brilliant white light when referring to God. What does that mean? How am I to interpret that? Can I also experience that?

Can we use quantum physics to approximate an image of God? I’ve tried. I’m curious. I wonder.

Christians are in the Advent season. What does it mean to me, to the world, to culture, that Jesus came? That would be something to be curious about for the rest of the month.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but curiosity brings me to life.

A Mindful Advent

December 3, 2020

Advent, for Christians, is a season on the church calendar filled with traditions meant to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the coming of Jesus.

Advent, for many of the world’s cultures, is a season of bright decorations, selling and buying of gifts, and perhaps family gatherings–or the stresses of family gatherings as the case may be.

Most of this is done year after year. With busy-ness. With stress. With tradition without a thought about the meaning and development of those traditions.

I thought I’d spend a few sessions contemplating bringing mindfulness to the season.

Perhaps one at a time, we’ll explore the seven things mindful people do:

  1. Practice being curious
  2. Forgive themselves
  3. Hold their emotions lightly
  4. Practice compassion
  5. Make peace with imperfection
  6. Embrace vulnerability
  7. Understand all things come and go

Mindfulness requires a pause. We must pause what we are busy with, with our busy hands, our busy minds. Taking slow, easy breaths. We can lay, sit, stand, even walk mindfully. We gently bring our wandering minds back when we notice we’ve gone off. That’s OK. It’s the bringing back to awareness that is mindful.

Dwelling on Advent and Christmas in a pandemic with its loss of close family connections can add to stress. It is best to focus on the present moment and what we can do today with intention.

Your Beliefs Don‘t Make You A Better Person

July 11, 2018

…Your behavior does.

You can tell me what you believe. But I’m watching how you behave.

You can tell me you are a Christian; but if your actions are not those of a disciple of Jesus, I will think you are not a Christian.

On the other hand, you may wake up in the morning not feeling very Christ-like. But you help someone with a bag at the store, or open a door, or let someone pass in front of you on the road to work, or some other small blessing to someone else.

You can “fake it ’till you make it” or better you can intentionally choose your behavior and discover a Jesus-like attitude toward life.

Jesus said to follow him and love…God and our neighbor. Love is an action verb, not a noun describing an emotion.

You go out and do love by how you treat other people. In so doing, you are following Jesus. After all, he often said to go and do.

Beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.