Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

When The Power Goes Out

May 15, 2017

Very unusual in this part of the world–I awakened to more darkness than customary. Hmm, the power was out. No electricity.

My small electronic devices were OK. Cellular service was still functioning.

But no coffee.

No lights to read the newspaper by.

I could check some news. Post the day’s message to Facebook about the local coffee shop.

But I started thinking about power.

In physics, power is the rate of doing work. It is the amount of energy consumed per unit time.

It would be trite to start talking about God and power, I suppose.

But power is related to energy.

Our energy must be continually replenished.

How?

Connection with the spirit?

Proper rest?

Proper nutrition?

Enough exercise?

So far today, for me, it’s check, check, check. Time to go out and get moving.

Living In An Always On Video World

May 12, 2017

You lose your emotional balance. Start yelling and screaming at someone. You do it long enough for at least one person, perhaps more, to point their smart phone and click video / record. One Facebook post later, and 2 million people see what a jerk you are.

You step outside, and someone could be taking your picture. If you have caused anger in your significant other, even in your house you could be the subject of a new “film at 11” on the Web.

You would think that all this surveillance would make us behave better.

I wonder if Biblical writers such as John, who often wrote about light and dark and things we do in each, or James, or Paul even in their nightmares could envision the public exposure extending their thoughts about doing good.

The problem is that we see one video over and over and our brain starts to think this is a common occurrence. It isn’t. I just completed two trips–two continents, 10 different flight segments, five airports. Not one thing worth videoing. Darn, I’m not going to be famous (he said facetiously).

Someone asked me last night, wouldn’t it have been better for the person shooting the video to step up and try to be part of the solution? Sometimes we can’t. But I bet most of the time we can.

What if someone videoed us doing an act of kindness? Of being a calming influence when tempers start to kindle? Of preventing a friend or neighbor from becoming the next Internet Star?

Don’t Be “The Good Student”

May 5, 2017

We all knew the good student. Sat in the front of the class. Raised his hand all the time. She always asked the obvious question so that the teacher would know they paid attention.

They were great at memorizing. Remembering all the stuff they were supposed to remember got them through school with high grades.

I was not that student.

I preferred the back of the class thinking about just about anything other than the class. I have memories of this as far back as 3rd grade. Even at the university where I learned the “game”, I read the required reading in the first couple of weeks of the quarter so that I could read what I wanted the rest of the time.

So, why do I love to study and teach the Bible and other spiritual writing? Those are my teachers. Outside of a couple of people in business who helped me along, it was books who taught me.

But that isn’t enough. They teach you how to live, but then you have to go do it. It’s not enough to be a scholar.

I just read this powerful illustration in John Fischer’s The Catch. I love his concept of “Grace Turned Outward”, by the way. But on to the picture:

My wife, Marti, has created an image of a dead Christianity that she often refers to as prevalent among all of us. In this image, everyone is on the front side of the cross. Maybe Jesus is up there on it, or maybe He is not, but we are all seated in folding chairs, looking up. On our laps are notebooks. We are there to take notes — someone is teaching — fill in the blanks. Its a study guide that leads us up to the cross, but never through it. In Marti’s illustration, no one ever leaves. It’s all well and good, this focus on the cross, but at some point, we are to get up and walk through the cross to the other side. The key is to get to the other side of the cross because that’s where the power is — resurrection power.

We may have different personalities–outgoing, reserved, friendly, cool–but we can live with power and freedom because we live what we learn.

At some point we must put down the books and hymnals and go outside and live with people. How we act, not what we know, is the key.

What a Jesus-Follower Look Like

April 4, 2017

I’ve been writing at the beginning of the year for several years that we should determine who we wish to be, what sort of person we want to become, and then choose actions and attitudes that support that outcome. Many people think this is far better than some of the Resolutions or goals that people make.

The last 13 verses of chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Jesus-Followers in Rome paint a great picture of what we should become. It’s like a list–and humans love lists. But it’s not like a checklist where you can compare your “score” with someone else.

Rather this is a description of a person.

I’d like to be that person.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I know people who resemble this person. I wish more of them were inside the church rather than outside. I pray that there would be more people like this.

Offering Ourselves As a Living Sacrifice

March 29, 2017

“I appeal to you therefore to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”

This was a summation statement by Paul in his discussion to the Christ-followers in Rome.

We are all sinners–that is, we all fall short of doing what we should at all times and can commit any number of acts that separate us from God and people.

We acknowledge our belief that God brought Jesus back to life after he was killed.

We are brought to understanding that there are no divisions within the community of Christ-followers (the church). We are all the same.

Then Paul says, “therefore.”

That means given all these facts, we must do this next.

But what does this mean?

We do not come from a culture of killing live animals on the alter at the Temple.

First Jesus, then Paul, revolutionized the way we think of temples by referring to our bodies as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (that is, God).

Then not only did Jesus revolutionize relationships–basing them on love instead of power, Jesus also revolutionized what we think about God. God does not live in some stone building where we bring animals for a ritual slaughter.

Instead, we see it that our bodies are a temple in which the Spirit dwells. And we offer it to God as a sacrifice–not as one who is killed, but as one who lives.

I’m not sure what all Paul had in mind when he wrote that. But I’m guessing it has to do with things such as

  • Doing things that are pleasing to God
  • Putting into practice the teachings of Jesus about love
  • Putting others ahead of me
  • Giving not only our tithe, but also offerings, generously

As we try to focus during Lent on a Jesus sacrificed and resurrected, maybe we move beyond (at least in America, if not western culture) the Easter bunny, new clothes, candy, and other trivialization of the holiday.

Maybe an act of service. At least once a day. Or, maybe, just as a natural part of living every day.

We Choose Our Response To Life’s Little Stresses

February 3, 2017

“Smile, Breathe, Go Slowly.” –Thich Nhat Hahn

The harried mother at the checkout line in the grocery trying to corral her small children.

The man in the queue at the airport gate agent’s podium because weather has caused yet another flight delay.

The sports official who must deal with an angry coach. On live TV.

The sales person dealing with a disappointed customer.

Parents who are blessed with teen-aged kids–need I say more?

Back in my early years as a spiritual seeker, I immersed myself in Zen Buddhism. Partly because I read about the Beatnik culture (cool, Zen, espresso–I still like espresso sprinkled with a little cinnamon).

I was never Buddhist by religion. But the old Zen masters had much to teach about living. Thich Nhat Hahn is in that tradition.

I’ve found myself at that gate agent’s podium. She’s frustrated. People all around are frustrated. To be honest, I’m not happy. But usually you can’t change anything, so you must just go with the flow. I must have a nice smile, because I take a deep breath, release, smile, and approach the one person who can help me in that situation. I can see her relax a little. And find the best alternative.

This Friday with a week behind us where maybe we haven’t done all we set out to do–this Friday where we can get frustrated with life with political nonsense all over the world–this Friday where we face another weekend like the weekend before–

Pause; Smile; Breathe; Thank God for your blessings; Go slowly.

You Have a Choice

January 23, 2017

You cannot always chose what life will throw at you.

You can choose your response. Maybe after an initial outburst of “Why me, God?”

I teach soccer referees, give the player or coach leeway on an initial emotional exclamation. You get kicked. It hurts. You exclaim something. It may not be nice. But it hurt. After that, there is a choice. Keep it up or shut up.

Sometimes what comes at us is a result of choices.

We can choose lots of fried food and sodas.

Where did that overweight come from? The stomach and digestive tract issues? The cancer of the gall bladder (or elsewhere)?

We chose.

Our friend suggests something fun to do. We choose. We get into trouble. (What person who has survived being a teenager can say that never happened?)

We chose.

We devote ourselves to helping other people.

Another choice.

Sometimes someone you know is not aware of their issues. But to offer unwanted advice is never welcome.

You choose to be quiet until the appropriate time.

Choices. We make thousands per day. Choose wisely.

Ten Lessons for Long Life – Something We Need Now

November 30, 2016

I have published this slide before, but I thought that some of the points needed an emphasis these days.

Let us consider “More Laughter; Less Anger.”

Some people may say, “But times are bad, we need to express anger at ( fill in your favorite hate here   ).” You can’t talk facts to emotion, but we are actually in general much better off than previous generations. Even “poor” people can go to Wal-Mart and buy cheap stuff–but still stuff that the middle class or wealthy have. We live in much larger houses. Most of us have plenty of cars. Many of us have storage sheds either in our back yards or that we rent to hold our stuff.

We can choose to find humor and laugh more.

Let us also consider “More Giving; Less Wanting.”

We want so much stuff. We want higher paying jobs–without putting forth the effort to learn new skills or deepen our knowledge. People who mindfully set aside money to give to specific charities find they can live on the rest adequately. They find that they actually have plenty.

Or as a Buddhist proverb says, “Enough is a feast.”

“More chewing; Less swallowing.” Let’s slow down. Enjoy what we have. We’ll eat less–something most of us need to practice.

We choose these lifestyles. We choose the path of unhealthy negativity. We can also choose the path of health, enjoyment, generosity.

These are all disciplines. We choose to be a better person that people want to be around.

Especially these days, let’s try the More Laughing; Less Anger route. You can choose to let the President-Elect get your emotions riled up one way or the other. Or, you can choose to walk with God secure in the knowledge that we know who wins in the end. And it’s not politics.

The Secrets Will Be Exposed To Light

October 12, 2016

Is a lamp brought in to be placed under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen.  –Jesus (Mark 4)

In America any boy can grow up to be President. That’s what “they” said when I was young. It meant we had a somewhat egalitarian society where preparation and hard work could get you to the top–if you were a white male, that is.

It was later in my life when “they” changed the boy part to person. And now we have an African-American President with a woman who stands a good chance of succeeding him.

But seriously–would you want to be a candidate for President? Or even US Senator? Maybe even county Commissioner?

Do you want your secrets to come to light? In front of the entire world?

Maybe yes if you did your good deeds in secret and they were exposed.

Give me dirty laundry.  –Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd nailed it many years ago. People like to hear about and read about other people’s dirty laundry. And political campaigns where the candidate is trying to portray themselves as perfect, well, they are an easy target for sleaze.

Let’s bring it closer to home. What if your dirty laundry were aired in public? I have seen numerous people who slept with someone other than their spouse. It became public knowledge in the town, church, business, or wherever. I’ve seen some react angrily that their dirty laundry became public. Well, what did they expect?

I’ve traveled over much of the country on business. Many times I’ve seen people I know from back home. Had I been with another woman (not a business associate–you can tell the difference easily), it would have been exposed even though I were 2,000 miles away from home.

And what about God? Think that your secrets are not plain for him to see?

I wish we were all perfect. Lacking that, we can take Jesus’ words for what they mean and try to live like we’re following him. And our shortcomings will be less.

Your Body Is God’s Temple-Take Care of It

September 20, 2016

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  1 Corinthians 16

Last night I still had some work to do. But I needed to eat. I had returned to the hotel from the conference and decided to just walk down the street for something rather than drive back for conference food.

There’s an Olive Garden about a half-mile away and I had not been to one in years. Although I know that diet is like religion–we get something we believe and cling to it against all evidence–I’m not opposed to carbs. Spaghetti can be OK, it’s a “slow” carb in that it digests slowly. Problem is quantity. I had salad and spaghetti with marinara. Ate almost half the bowl and two breadsticks (that is the bad stuff).

Walked back to the hotel and was in bed within a half hour. My energy was shot. Should have had no breadsticks and only a quarter of the bowl of pasta. My, don’t we make bad decisions?

Food–too much or wrong kind–has both an immediate and a long-term effect on the body. As Paul teaches, in this new religion of Christianity, God does not dwell in a temple that is a building as in all the other religions. God dwells within us. Therefore, we are a temple. Therefore, we should take care of it.

Kevin Meyer, formerly president of a company and a Lean consultant, writes about Lean and leadership. He also just published a book, Simple Leader.

He writes, “During that time, being overweight impacted my personal and professional leadership. It hurt my self-confidence, lowered my energy level, and complicated my life. Clothes didn’t fit right, so business travel and presentations took more planning.”

The basic pillars of Lean thinking are respect for people and elimination of waste. My food choice was full of waste. Loss of energy was the result. Meyer applied the Lean goal of eliminating waste to his diet. Stop eating wasteful things. Eat nourishing whole grains, vegetables, fruits. Portion sizes are wasteful. Take only a little.

Years ago there was a cartoon strip called Bloom County. Opus, the penguin, was always jumping on the latest fad. In one strip he was jumping from one fad diet to the next. Meanwhile, Milo, the voice of reason, says, “Eat less, exercise more.”

There are medical conditions that create weight gain, so don’t look at everyone and judge. But judge yourself. Am I eating less and only the right things while increasing my exercise? Am I making the decisions required about 50 times a day about the right foods?

How do I feel? That is good feedback about whether you’re on the right path or need an adjustment. As for me, today it’s off to better decisions. First, time for that run…