Maybe Get By With Less

September 30, 2019

John the baptizer was quite the interesting character in the Jesus story. A wild man. Dressed simply, yet unconventionally. Ate a simple diet. Preached a simple and direct message. Turn your lives around. Stop living like you were. Start living in God’s spirit. And, oh by the way, someone is coming right after me who will be greater than I.

A couple of hundred years later, the Desert Fathers took his example to the extreme, just as some humans do, and fled the cities to desert monasteries. They live simple lives with simple diets with few possessions. They focused their entire lives on God. Remnants of that tradition live on.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh…we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

We don’t have to mimic John and the Desert Fathers. Bringing something of their spirit of simplicity and focus would not hurt us any. Simplifying our diets would be healthier, if nothing else. Fewer possessions makes life easier.

Most important is the attention and intention of turning our lives from pursuit of more stuff to pursuit of more Spirit.

Death By a Thousand Digs

September 27, 2019

John Mellencamp wrote a little ditty ’bout Jack & Diane. “Oh, yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.”

I am out on a Saturday morning, usually driving to referee a soccer match and pass by a bar. And there are a dozen cars in the parking lot. And the unkind thought just pops into consciousness–don’t they have a life?

The teacher who started my meditations on trust (see yesterday’s post) discussed relationships. He talked about how women want love and men desire respect.

Love typically implies stability, security, someone there to listen, help, provide, get through life.

Respect is, well, respect. Looking at the opposite, it’s not constantly putting down the husband. How many couples do you see where you wonder how they stay together with the wife offering a constant stream of criticism and negativity toward her husband?

Perhaps the “thrill of livin’ is gone” when it’s killed by a thousand digs.

The spiritual disciplines of the day, mind your awareness and watch your tongue.

Trust

September 26, 2019

Once upon a time, I needed to hire two salespeople. I had a good track record for hiring, so I guess I got cocky.

The first guy turned out to be quite insecure. Never made a sale.

I slightly knew the second guy and should have seen the red flags. He was quite up front about going around his last three bosses to the owner or president of small companies and forcing out his boss so he could get the job. I hired him anyway. Yes, he did it to me. The caveat being that I had already seen the future, and it wasn’t with the company I was with. The market passed us by, and we were soon to be toast. So, I also had emotionally checked out.

People have said that it’s within my personality type to offer trust until someone proves me wrong. Usually I’m right. At times, like the guy above, I am burned. The thing is, I’ll probably never trust that person again. But I keep on trusting people at some level.

Other people have trouble trusting another until deep into a relationship–whether work, or friend, or romantic. Most likely there is a reason in their past that is the cause. It must be depressing to always be distrustful.

Somewhere in the middle between that person and me is a balance.

Offering some openness to trust, but with eyes wide open. Then, with experience, closing our eyes a bit to the other person’s faults while we have learned to trust.

They Are Manipulating You

September 25, 2019

I am not a conspiracy theorist.

Dad believed there existed a small group of men who met in Paris who controlled what happened in the world. All the politics. All the beliefs. All the religions. I forget their name, but many thought they were Masons. Many are gullible.

That theory has existed for perhaps centuries. It is so strong that Umberto Eco wrote a novel spoofing the idea called Foucault’s Pendulum. Eco was a professor and author from the University of Bologna (in other words, not American).

But there are companies utilizing every psychological trick they can uncover to manipulate your thoughts and actions. These are Facebook and Google. And today I saw a news item that says McDonalds wants to join the data gathering and “suggestion” ecosystem.

Read Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee.

If we are to be fully human, we need to live with intention.

We need to eat with intention not just mindlessly reacting to stress or while watching TV.

We need to use social media with intention. I heard on Silicon Valley guy on a podcast say, “I use Facebook; I don’t let it use me.” I am only on it to keep up with friends and family. But so much peripheral to that pops up in the news feed that is designed to stir up my emotions, start liking and reposting crap, and (oh, by the way) spend more time on site so that I’ll see more ads.

Usually I search for people I want to keep up with rather than rely on the newsfeed.

And I avoid all the emails from Amazon and Twitter designed to suck me into more time on those sites.

Use the Internet and Web with intentionality; don’t let it use you. That’s today’s spiritual discipline lesson.

It Takes a Child

September 24, 2019

Humans have been ignoring warnings forever. The Hebrew Laws and Prophets details many, many times God warned the people that if they kept turning away then something bad would happen. They didn’t, and it did.

th

Isn’t it amazing what one young person can do? Wherever you stand on the Global Warming issue (or water it down to Climate Change so we don’t have to worry), the example of Greta Thunberg, the young lady from Sweden who sparked a global uprising is inspirational.

I’m with the young people. Millennials and younger. I’m tired of old white guys who excel in drama or smoothing things over or wars. I like the spirit of youth. Go for it.

Covering Our Fears and Prejudices

September 23, 2019

I was sitting in contemplation.

An image presented to me. Two hands stretching a plastic wrap or rubber sheet.

The voice warned about covering our fears, prejudices, hates.

The image changed to a Bible being stretched almost beyond recognition.

Beware, said the voice, of stretching the Bible to cover our fears, prejudices, anger, hate by pulling out bits to justify our lack of love and compassion.

We are all convicted.

It’s time to turn our lives toward light.

My Story

September 20, 2019

We have a story. All of us.

We tell ourselves that we are the type of person who likes certain kinds of food. And that it is OK to over-indulge in them, healthy or not.

Our story is that we are the type of person who exercises and is fit. Or not…

Worse, we allow stories from outside us to capture our story.

Facebook changes our story to someone who supports certain politics. Or our story becomes one of consumerism.

Other people tell us what they think our story should be.

And we allow them.

Our spiritual discipline is to ground our story in our values, tried and tested by generations of spiritual masters.

That is why using consistent meditation to ground is in the present moment is so important.

Take care to know and develop your own story.

Are We Having Fun Yet

September 19, 2019

I’m writing this on an airplane returning from a tech conference in California.

I renewed a number of acquaintances on this trip. Many I have not seen since February, and some for a year.

There was a guy I’ve known for twenty years. He’s always full of energy. His company had developed a cutting edge product a couple of years ago. When I left him, he had the same high energy and enthusiasm as ever. He’s in his element. Having fun.

The husband and wife who own the company sponsoring the conference were still enthused and energized some 15 years down the road from founding the company.

When I talked with the host’s chief advisor, we chatted about the industry and how they were doing. He asked about me and then asked several times, But you’re still having fun, right.

Advice books abound telling us to pursue our passions and dreams. Many are full of just so much hot air.

But doing what you’re good at–that is fun.

Creating–that is fun.

The discipline to get up every day and do it–that, too.

Mind Grabbing

September 17, 2019

I have long proposed to my wife the teacher and others that a core part of the unofficial curriculum of schools should be understanding how advertising manipulates your desires and emotions in order to motivate you to buy.

Magazines were one thing, but TV ads really pushed the envelop.

Now it is the Web.

We get sites for free in return for our attention. Part of that attention is diverted to advertising. Often we don’t know what’s an ad and what is merely information. We click and the site owner gets paid.

Now we learn how the Web companies are using mind manipulation to grab our minds and keep us on site.

They grab all the information about us they can–and they can grab a lot.

They sell information about us to companies for various reasons.

They discover our hot buttons. Politics, sex, expensive toys. They manipulate what we see in order to drive up our emotions and desires. They can make us good and mad. And we repost things we don’t even know if they are true or not. But they sound good and they worked us up.

But people (companies, countries) can buy that information and do the same thing. Feed us stuff to get us upset. Stoke our fears. Manipulate us.

Discipline says that we maintain control over our emotions, desires, drives. We understand we are being used. We control our responses.

We ask, “Who’s in charge here?”

Grace and Discipline

September 16, 2019

God exhibits two sides.

There is grace for when we fall short or take the wrong path.

There is discipline for when we take the wrong path yet obstinately continue pursue it.

Just so, we should follow the example. Discipline ourselves as well as others when we need to get back on the way.

Offer ourselves and others grace when we stray.