Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

Personality

August 4, 2022

The woman next door dressed most of the summer in the back yard in very skimpy bikini swim suits. Yet, she did not exude sensuality–that special personality.

A teenage girl talked with me about a career in entertainment. She possessed a marvelous singing voice. Her posture, however, portrayed defeat. I tried to guide the discussion into the areas of self-assurance, personality,

I was a nerd as a teenager with no particular personality until I was almost 30.

Listening to Guy Kawasaki’s podcast interview with Abraham Paskowitz about surfing brought out a key component of personality–that inner joy with being and with doing what you love.

I think Jesus had that characteristic–doing what he was meant to do and enjoying it immensely (well, except for those three days).

The Apostle Paul’s preaching was so bad that once he put a young man to sleep. He was unfortunately sitting in an open second floor window, fell out, died, and had to be revived by Paul–who went on preaching. But he must have exuded that inner joy of doing what he was meant to do.

Having a personality infused with the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, and so forth–shines through the personality. People can tell. We can tell. It’s quite a way to live.

Tips For A Stable Life

August 2, 2022

Fear less, hope more

Eat less, chew more

Talk less, say more

Love more, and all good things will be yours.

Swedish Proverb

I wrote about some of my disciplines recently. These four thoughts speak volumes with few words.

Let me be quiet and allow the meanings to sink in.

Extreme Discipline

July 29, 2022

The original theme of this blog concerned spiritual disciplines riffing Richard J. Foster and Dallas Willard. I read their books many years ago and even taught a couple of classes on the subject. 

It was discipline that brought me through the pandemic plus moving to a new state in reasonably good shape. The discipline of consistent bed time. Rising early for workout and meditation—even when the workout had to change because I had moved to a new community and all the gyms were closed due to Covid. Specific writing times. I did gain some pandemic weight which is all off now. Working on dropping more, although my doctor told me I was doing fine two weeks ago.

One of the few news sources I trust (even though I sent a reprimand to the CEO about too many adjectives in headlines at times) is called Axios. They use a technique called Smart Brevity, which I applaud. They’ve started a new newsletter called Finish Line focusing on life lessons. 

Here are thoughts from today. I endorse all of these.

1. Our diets: There are countless good ones, but let’s face it — most boil down to limiting things (sugar, simple carbs, booze, processed food) and starting things (more water, greens, fiber, healthy proteins — peas, eggs, fish). Try extreme dieting discipline for one week and measure how you feel.

2. Our faith/mind: It’s hard to center your brain and soul without some daily meditation, prayer, reflection. I try to meditate twice daily for 20 minutes and pray afterwards in the a.m. For me, this only works when I am extremely disciplined about it.

3. Our bodies: To me, every person should find a daily exercise habit, even if it’s walking, air squats, planks or biking. The body and mind vastly underperform without it. Start young to make it an extreme habit. But better to start now than tomorrow.

4. Our careers: All of the above give you a massive edge at work. But if you really want to crush the thing you spend the vast majority of your hours doing, you need to be more disciplined and self-demanding than others. There is no easy way to be great.

5. Our goodness: This might seem an odd coda. But few things fuel contentment and inner joy more than giving to others. If you think about the benefits (helping others + the psychic lift of doing it), it’s a very efficient use of extreme discipline.

The big picture: Start small. Pick a passion — practice extreme discipline for a few months. You’ll find it gets increasingly easy to apply it to other parts of your life.

Why Meditate?

July 22, 2022

Mindfulness meditation infuses all manner of psychological and New Age counseling. Varieties include thousands of apps on your phone, Zen, Yoga, and, yes, our Christian tradition going back to ancient times.

Regular meditation of whatever variety will change your personality. You become calmer. Centered. Aware of people and circumstances. That has been my experience. If your meditation is focused on God, then you are given occasional glimpses of life with God.

Spiritual writer Eberhard Arnold points to another benefit coming from meditation, if we but dare to go there.

Eberhard Arnold

The only justification for fleeing the confused and hectic whirl of contemporary culture so as to withdraw into the inward self is if doing so will increase our fruitfulness. The goal must be to unite with eternal powers in order to gain a strength of character that is ready to be tested in the stream of the world and is equipped to meet the demands of our day. Our watchword is not “Retreat!” but rather “Gather for the attack!” 

Eberhard Arnold

We retreat into the silence of meditation to prepare ourselves for life outside when we meet people who are at odds with us. How will we deal with people and circumstances? With a solid core of spiritual strength, we can face the challenges.

Pause and Enjoy

January 28, 2022

When you are a young person, you are like a young creek, and you meet many rocks, many obstacles and difficulties on your way. You hurry to get past these obstacles and get to the ocean. But as the creek moves down through the fields, it becomes larges and calmer and it can enjoy the reflection of the sky. It’s wonderful. You will arrive at the sea anyway so enjoy the journey. Enjoy the sunshine, the sunset, the moon, the birds, the trees, and the many beauties along the way. Taste every moment of your daily life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

We had a death in the family this week. There will be grief expressed in many ways.

But for us all, this reminder from Thich Nhat Hanh points those of us still here to meaning. We get so worked up in our opinions or miseries or worries. In the end, it is so meaningless.

Living long can be good. Living well is better. Best, of course, is both. Pause, enjoy, do good, be kind, go with the flow.

Wisdom, Or Be Careful What You Ask For

January 3, 2022

Solomon as an adolescent knew he would be king after his father, the famous King David. He talked with God, who told him he would grant a wish. Solomon asked for wisdom.

I often recommend reading the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament) during the month of January in order to set off the year with good momentum. It’s the writings of Solomon’s wisdom teaching. 31 chapters—31 days in January. Read a chapter a day.

But, the story of Solomon didn’t turn out well. He lived a dissolute life. Many of his wives brought pagan gods into Israel. His son was barely king when he caused a split in the kingdom due to his lack of wisdom. The huge kingdom was gone in an instant.

Think about this. What if…what if he had asked God to help him act wisely instead of just to have wisdom.

We can know a lot, but we can still act like a fool. We can be a couple of lengths short of a PhD, yet we can live wisely.

I don’t care how much of the book of Proverbs you have memorized. What matters is what you do after you rise from bed tomorrow morning. Ask God to help you live wisely and with kindness this year.

Much Ado About Nothing

November 18, 2021

A cold snap, the first of the fall, was beginning last week. The geese in the pond and the cornfield behind my house were in an uproar. They filled the sky with loud honking of directions as they organized into their traveling Vs.

This morning I went that way for my daily exercise of walking and sprints. No geese. None in the pond. None in the cornfield (they love it when the farmer picks corn and leaves some grain on the ground).

I found them a bit later. They covered the larger pond across the road.

Squawking, flying, forming travel patterns—all to go one mile.

Are we like that? We get upset with something. Post vile and untruthful things on Facebook to soothe our own anxieties. Then just go back to our day. Nothing accomplished. No growth achieved. No embracing God who hovers close to us.

We complain, squawk, stir up emotions—and accomplish nothing.

Following Jesus, one would suppose that we use words to heal and encourage people, use our time for growing more mature spiritually, use our presence to bring peace to those around.

Let us not look back and say with MacBeth, “Life is…a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Rather, let us follow Jesus’s invitation to join him in living a full life.

Have a Story?

October 12, 2021

My story today is a 6AM press event originating from France. Interesting story about sustainability, energy efficiency, automation for my other blog. Now, I’m behind for the rest of the day.

This is one of the retention ponds (the developer calls them “lakes”) that I pass several times a week on my morning exercise. We have many Canada geese. But, wait! What’s that? It looks like a domesticated white goose has joined the flock.

Ever wonder what story that goose might have had? How did it wind up with these “wild” geese?

Made me think of all those rural stories about the farmer’s teenage daughter who becomes infatuated with the boy from the traveling shows in the old days. She runs off to join the acting troupe.

Or maybe it’s like the Syro-Phoenician woman who came to Jesus and bantered back and forth with him about healing her daughter. He says, shouldn’t I heal my own people first? She counters, even the dogs get crumbs from the table. When I read this story, I visualize both of them with small smiles on their faces as they banter. I think Jesus appreciated that kind of conversation. I don’t see this conversation in the same manner as some of his conversations with Pharisees, for example.

Are you like the flock of Canada geese? Or, are you more like the outsider who somehow became part of the flock? How do you react as the former? How do you fit in as the latter? What is your story?

Achieving Balance

October 8, 2021

Just like ours, the ancient world was filled with people who had ambitious goals and trouble prioritizing them. Seneca said it’s one of the hardest balances to strike in life. We don’t want to be the person who can never sit still. “For love of bustle is not industry, it is only the restlessness of a hunted mind.” But we also don’t want to be the person always sitting still. “True repose does not consist in condemning all motion as merely vexation,” he wrote, “that kind of repose is slackness and inertia.” The work of the philosopher, Seneca said, is finding the perfect balance of those two tendencies. It’s about working and relaxing, not working and work avoidance.

Ryan Holliday, The Daily Stoic

There is busyness, and there is just being busy. I picked this quote and started at 7 AM. It’s 7:43 PM, and I’m just getting back to it. Usually when we are at the next-to-last week of soccer season, my referee assignments are pretty much done. Not this year. The worst of my 30 years. Only partly due to Covid. But there were more schedule changes than ever.

So I woke up this morning to a couple of problems. Then a couple of phone calls. I just finished taking care of tomorrow’s games about a half-hour ago. Now, for the calming, balance of relaxation.

When I first studied Asian philosophies, I discovered the concept of balance. In India, balance is the key. Yoga teaches physical balance. Ayurveda teaches balancing tastes and emotion.

I think that if you study the life of Jesus, you’ll find he sought the balance of teaching and quiet time with God. Peter, on the other hand, had a lot of trouble finding balance for his whole life.

During my busy season–this year from the first of July until October 16–I try to build in balance every day. A week to go. So far, so good.

Approaching Scripture

September 29, 2021

When we travel, my wife prefers a list view of the trip. Turn right here, turn left at the stop light, stay on Route X for 40 miles, and so forth. Now, I like the GPS woman to give me next turn advice when I’m driving, but I prefer having a map. I want a picture of the route. It helps me greatly to understand where I’m going and where I am at the moment.

Some people approach their Scriptures or other ancient spiritual writings as if they were a user’s manual for living. They seek to compile a list, like my wife’s trip. Just give me a set of rules that I can follow to give me assurance that I am pleasing God. Oh, and it also serves as a measure of me against everyone else. I’m getting a B while the class average is C. Great. I’m doing OK.

Another approach considers the writings as the story of the encounter of humans with God. We don’t care about historical or scientific fact. These writings are neither history the way we understand it today or science. Check out Abraham who encountered God, and re-encountered God after yet another failure. Great story of following and failing and following. Sounds like us.

Look at the New Testament people we follow. Peter–full of failure, yet persisted to become a great leader. John–stumbled at times, but became the theological guru. Saul/Paul–was a murderer of Christ-followers, encountered God, became a great leader and theologian. I love the story of the Hebrew Daniel who administered great empires yet kept his focus firmly on God.

Lists are hard to follow, in the end. And I have no wish to continually compare myself to others–I always hated grades. But when I fail, I get solace from realizing the stories of failure and triumph providing a picture of people of God on the journey. And it’s all a journey until we die.