Archive for the ‘Intention’ Category

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.

God Is Not Hidden Nor Does He Hide His Wisdom

February 1, 2018

I have not spoken in secret or kept my purpose hidden. I did not require the people of Israel to look for me in a desolate waste. I am the Lord, and I speak the truth; I make known what is right. Isaiah 45:19, TEV

James, the brother of Jesus and the wisdom writer of the New Testament, advised us that we can just ask God for wisdom and he will provide.

Can it really be that easy? We don’t need a special spiritual guide to initiate us into a secret society where the hidden truths are finally revealed?

Digest the words from Isaiah. God didn’t (doesn’t) hide from us. We don’t have to search in remote places. No, we don’t have to go to Sedona, AZ at the right phase of the moon to find God.

We just need the intention–we ask with intention for wisdom. It is best to ask also for discernment so that we can apply wisdom correctly.

If we but ask God daily for guidance, we can perhaps avoid the problems and wasted life of Solomon. He who asked God for wisdom and had it granted, failed to live his life as a wise man would. I’ve just finished my annual reading of his wisdom sayings, the Proverbs. But look at his reflections of his life in Ecclesiastes. All was meaningless, he said, because he failed daily to follow God.

God was not hidden. He’s right here beside us willing to enter our life. We can have wisdom and live a life of wisdom if we but just open ourselves.

“I am the Lord, and I speak the truth; I make known what is right.”

Avoid Those Who Cause Dissensions

May 1, 2017

Some people just seem to love causing trouble. We knew them in elementary school. We knew them in high school. They are in our churches, our organizations, our businesses.

There are people who show up at your church with one agenda–raise dissensions and split the church.

Paul finished his teaching in his letter to the Romans. He was greeting people by name.

Then, while thinking about all the people, he must have had a thought about those he didn’t wish to greet. He gave a final instruction inserted in  his greeting people and his good bye.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.”

What was the teaching? First, believe that God raised Jesus from death to life. Second, love everyone always.

Does sowing dissension and splitting fellowships show love? Does that attract outsiders to a loving fellowship? Or, like Paul wrote, does it just serve to feed the ego of the sower?

Consider wisely.

I Was Such A Mess, And Then

April 21, 2017

“I was such a mess,” said Radek, “and then I started studying productivity and became productive, happier, and found a great job.”

This is from The Podcast, a conversation between the developer and CEO of productivity application Nozbe Michael and the Nozbe Apple App developer Radek. Two Polish guys who speak English on the podcast better than some of my friends.

Episode 93 asks, Why is studying productivity a worthwhile pursuit? Many people assume it’s all useless — and much of it is! Like with dieting, it’s a field filled with charlatans promising amazing results with barely any effort at all. Yet, underneath all the nonsense is wisdom to be discovered.

They are correct. The first “productivity” or “self-help” seminar I attended was 40 years ago. I’ve been through DayTimers, ProActive Management, Franklin Planners, a series of software applications, and now Nozbe. I like Nozbe. The link above is an affiliate link (thank you to all who have downloaded or purchased the app).

But you have to use it to benefit from it. I ditched the others because I could incorporate Nozbe into my daily workflow better than the others.

I remember from my days of selling and installing automation in factories that if the technology got in the way of work, then it was turned off–quickly.

Radek and Michael agree–you don’t become productive overnight, just as you don’t lose 20 pounds and keep it off overnight. You start with one habit change. Do it for 30 days and see if it works. Then maybe go to the next habit change. Repeat.

Spiritual formation is the same thing. You don’t go from “worldly” to “spiritual” overnight. Perhaps you go from “not-God” to “with-God” overnight. You went from “who’s Jesus” to “oh, Jesus” overnight.

But then what. You were a mess. You’re still a mess. Just have a new awareness.

In my life, I’ve seen many (too many) people “get saved” but still remain the same person. The New Testament tells us over and over that we’re in a long-term race.

You change one habit. Bring it into your daily life (maybe reading spiritual books and the Bible every morning for 15 minutes). See how it works. Then add another habit (maybe prayer and meditation every day, maybe twice, regularly). Try it for 30 days and see the benefits of incorporating it into your daily life. Then maybe you begin to see little acts of service you can do daily.

Then one day someone says to you, “Wow, you’re really a changed person!”

That is going from a mess to a maturing Christian. People see it in your life and ask, How can I get some of that?