Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

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.

Ease of Use

May 5, 2021

I got up this morning, and, as always, I prepared for making coffee and taking my supplements then grabbed my iPhone.

No, I don’t check social media or email–except to see what Jon Swanson’s latest thought is. I awaken my phone with a tap and face ID, tap an app icon and check the weather, tap another app icon and pop up my Hey email client and check out 300 Words a Day, and I tap a third app and get a report on my night’s sleep from my Sleep Number bed.

This morning there was a flashback to the early days of personal computers. I used to buy a motherboard, serial cards, graphics cards, display cards, and whatever else I was playing with. I’d assemble into a case (I must have rebuilt a half-dozen computers using the same case). Then an operating system was installed. Then applications. Each was time consuming to install and tricky to use.

And Steve Jobs said in the late 80s that he wanted to build a computer that anyone could easily use.

The iPhone came in 2007 with the app store not long after. And he did it. Grandmas pick up an iPhone and click apps and send and receive messages, check the weather, FaceTime (or Zoom) with friends or grandkids, check on the stock market…

When I get stuck trying to remember the exact Bible verse or song lyric for this blog, I pick up my iPhone and do a quick search of the Internet.

I think of Jesus as sort of that Steve Jobs type. He came along and said we didn’t have to assemble the computer and add the operating system and tinker with things to get it to run. He said we didn’t have to memorize all 613 (or whatever the number is) laws of the Jewish scriptures and then live our life in fear that we may have broken one.

Jesus left commands and instructions that were easy to remember and follow. Love God and love your neighbor, love one another as he loved, go into the world and make disciples. Pretty much it.

But first, when we get up every morning, we have to turn on the operating system by getting into sync with the Spirit. Prayer, meditation, reading are the key, even if only for 15 minutes. It sets our hearts in the right direction. We are ready to just live the day. No worries about eating the wrong thing or touching the wrong person. Just live in the Spirit with Jesus as a guide.

Although I do miss tinkering with the electronics 😉

Try Not, Do or Do Not, There Is No Try

April 28, 2021

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

This is quoted to the best of my memory from Yoda in the original Star Wars trilogy. Note: I read once that there are two types of sci-fi movie people: Star Wars or Star Trek. I am the former.

This line of thinking began with someone telling a gathering that he was a Christ-follower.

So with no commentary about that person, I started thinking that if you must tell people you are a Christ-follower rather than that just being obvious by the way you talk and act, then perhaps something is amiss.

We should see in someone’s behavior what they are.

Then, in my imagination, I had a conversation with someone where I said, “I try to be a disciple of Jesus.”

That’s when I was condemned by Yoda. There is no try. Do or do not.

That is the question for me…and for you. What do we do?

I gave up fighting a long time ago as a youth when I saw the futility of it.

I gave up arguing a long time ago because I saw the futility. The last time I let someone push my button is burned into my memory from about 15 years ago.

I gave up protest marches 50 years ago because I thought they were futile.

I just make an effort to treat everyone as a person formed in the image of God. When I slip, I vow to not let it happen again.

Doing is a way of life–as in following the command of Jesus to love just as he loved.

Getting A Reboot

April 27, 2021

I am writing this on my older iPad Pro, because my new MacBook Air is getting a software update and is rebooting.

That sort of means going back to the source and starting over—only with new or updated software or operating instructions.

Sometimes I go in for a reboot, too.

I’m currently reading a book that made an impact on me 2-3 years ago. If you are curious (and I highly recommend the book), it is Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. He is answering the question, what makes the American Christian church so resistible in our culture?

Reading the book of Proverbs from the Hebrew Scriptures every January is a form of reboot for me. As is going back to read Matthew chapters 5-7 from time to time.

You have to return to the source from time to time for refreshment.

Then you must venture forth to practice what you preach in the world.

There is a rhythm to life. We must find it for ourselves. A rhythm from silence and solitude to service and love—not love in the sense of so many American religious and political leaders, but love in the agape sense that Jesus, John, and Paul talked about. It’s a doing for others as Jesus did for us.

Find your rhythm. There is one for daily life. There is one for yearly life. It takes practice.

Vaccination

April 15, 2021

I am fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This morning I realized that I don’t feel any difference from when I was not vaccinated.

What this means is that I was given something of the disease to teach my immune system to fight the virus. The science is deeper than that, but that is enough explanation for where I’m going.

There exists a “vaccination theory” of education. We are “injected” with some education in grammar school and perhaps high school. Even many college graduates I’ve come across. And now, we are immune from education. In the words of the inimitable philosophers, Pink Floyd, “We don’t need no education.”

And it is a sad fact of life. Look at how poor is scientific understanding among the populations of the western world. Even the journalists writing about it are, on the whole, sadly lacking in basic knowledge of the scientific method and basic facts of nature that scientists have uncovered over the millennia.

I observe a vaccination theory of Christianity. Many people have received an injection of Jesus–they uttered the magic words–and now are immune from catching the spiritual disease. They do not feel they need to follow the time-proven spiritual practices of study, prayer, meditation, simple living, praise, and the like.

Jesus’ invitation was clear. “The kingdom of the heavens is here, among us, available to us right now.”

We could live a life in the kingdom following Jesus’ teachings. But that is the “disease.” We are immune.

Or, we could live past the inoculation. We could live a life of continuous learning. We could live a life in the spirit of God.

Apostle Paul’s Shema

March 23, 2021

One God, the Father, from whom all things, and we [belong/live toward] him.

And one Lord, Jesus Messiah, through whom all things, and we [live/have been saved] through him.

1 Corinthians 8:6 translated by NT Wright

Jews pray every morning and and the Shema—a reminder of the basics of faith. Part of it is famous to Christians (quoted by Jesus as the greatest commandment), Hear O Israel, the Lord is one, you shall love the Lord Your God with all your hearts and all your soul and all your strength.

Jesus added a second when asked for the greatest commandment also quoting Torah, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The famous first century rabbi Hillel, whom Jesus often quotes, says that this summarizes the Torah, all the rest is commentary.

New Testament scholar NT Wright in his huge study of Paul—Paul and the Faithfulness of God—sees the thought quoted above as Paul’s Shema for Christians. Perhaps Paul would also cite Hillel as all the rest is just commentary. Note: the verbs do not appear in the Greek text. Wright suggests the two from the context.

My heart is saddened whenever I see Christians search through the writings and twist interpretations and pull things out of context and build cases against other Christians—or even against all people.

I all could be so simple. Hard to do. But simple. At the end of his physical life on earth, Jesus summarized the two commandments and left us one major one—Love one another as I have loved you.

We belong to God, living through Jesus, loving one another. What gives us the power to begin to qualify who is included in one another?

Here’s a discipline that is hard to bring into our life—when we go out today and see a human person who is made in the image of God (that is, everyone), treat them with respect. When we start to repost someone’s cute, but cutting, “picture” on Facebook, think, are we reflecting this command of loving one another. When we talk to someone about someone else, are we talking in love or (pick one: hate, anger, envy, lust…)?

Living In Encounter With God

March 3, 2021

Tevye is one of my favorite characters from the musical theater. He is the lead in Fiddler on the Roof. He is an impoverished dairy man blessed with several daughters. (Once I played Fyedka, the Russian who marries Chava, Tevye’s daughter, in a community theater production.) What impressed me about Tevye was his unpretentious continual conversation with God. He met God just as he was, with all his hopes and fears and wishes and concerns. He was never anyone beside himself.

I thought about Tevye while reading about the church father St. Gregory of Nyssa (brother to St. Basil). Gregory seemed to be a sort of Christian Tevye. He was meditative. He lived his life in daily encounter with God. Pope Benedict XVI in his teaching on the Fathers says of Gregory, “…this is the most important lesson that Saint Gregory of Nyssa has bequeathed to us–total human fulfillment consists in holiness, in a life lived in the encounter with God, which thus becomes luminous also to others and to the world.”

Richard J. Foster, who wrote the book on Spiritual Disciplines that I follow (Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth), called it the “with-God life.”

We can begin the day with meditation and reading that will focus us on God. Then pause during the day often to reconnect. Do that, and your personality and life will change for the better.