We See Your Heart Reflected In Your Face

July 14, 2017

He experienced a late-in-life conversion. Or maybe it was an epiphany. It was something. 

He quit his job. Started a ministry. Was religious.

Funny thing. He never smiled. His face was in a perpetual mild scowl. There was neither joy nor peace reflected in his face.

Rather than attract people, his countenance rather pushed people away.

Do you ever observe people and try to tell from their appearance/posture/face what their personality is like? You look and think, Whoa, I wouldn’t want to be married to that person!

Or like a salesman only out for the next sale who smiles with only his lips? Those are dangerous people.

Or there is the super attractive person. Well, attractive until they open their mouth.

How great it is to meet someone who smiles. Who greets you warmly. Who, even when they are concentrating on something else and you see them, still have an appearance of restful contentment.

There are people who think Jesus was political. Or to be a Jesus follower we must be political. And pursue politics of divisiveness. 

But Jesus turned all that stuff on its head. He criticized those for their outward displays of being religious–who smiled with their lips and not their eyes. He said it’s all about the state of the heart. And Paul later listed the fruit you’ll show and feel when you are in the spirit. Peace and joy–these should be reflected in a follower’s appearance. Not hardness, divisiveness, scowling, frowning.

Makes me afraid to look in a mirror.

When You Greet Someone, Do You Acknowledge Them

July 13, 2017

You are walking and meet someone you know. “Hi, how’s it going?” you greet them.

Do you care how it’s going for them?

Maybe, sort of. What if they stop and truly answer that question? How deep did you mean the greeting to go?

The greetings I was taught in both German and French are basically the same meaning.

Many of us as Christians are introduced to the Hebrew word Shalom from the Bible. We are taught that it means “peace” in English.

Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, last week was unpacking the meaning of the word and the nuances and meanings deeper than peace as the absence of conflict.

He was shocked on his first trip to Israel when people greeted him with Shalom. He asked about it.

This is an ancient word in the language. It has deep connotations of spiritual awareness of the other person, a greeting encompassing completeness, wholeness, the deep peace that Jesus and Paul also discussed.

I teach Yoga. We use the ancient greeting (as both “hi” and “good-bye”) Namaste (nah’-ma-stay). In the ancient Sanskrit, it also has spiritual connotations recognizing the spirit of the other person and the wholeness of God and people.

Of course, sometimes it is just “hi” or “bye”.

It all depends upon the attitude of the greeter. What is our attitude as we greet people. Are we greeting respectfully recognizing the other as another child of God? Or just a meaningless, quick “hi”?

Meditate for Life

July 12, 2017

I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night. Ps 63:6

I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Ps 77:12

I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. Ps. 119:15

Scientists continue to discover benefits from meditation or, as it is called these days, mindfulness. Being in quiet and stillness for even just five minutes a day can change your personality.

It slows you down–which is a good thing. You can focus on what is important learning to let distractions fade away.

You become quieter and calmer.

Now we are seeing how meditation helps “white matter” grow between the neurons in the brain. This aids thinking and learning. It’s also thought to have a positive effect in preventing Alzheimers and other brain disorders.

It also helps adolescents, as well as adults, improve their emotional well being.

We think this is new. It’s not. Humans have intuitively know this for millennia. David wrote his songs (Psalms) 3,000 years ago. And no one seemed amazed. The word already existed in the Hebrew language.

Jesus had a habit of withdrawing to be with himself and God. We call that meditation.

Paul reports once on the result of a meditation when he talks of being swept into third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12.

Mindfulness teaches one to be in touch with the body. That is good. Meditating on God is the next step. God leads us to visions and brings us to a sense of unity with creation. But that is for another time.

Mindfulness also grounds us in the present. We are not in the future worrying or in the past recriminating. As the Buddhist phrase puts it, “Wherever I go, there I am.”

I should add that we are now seeing evidence that coffee also helps you life longer. Meditation along with a cup of good coffee–that has been my morning habit for many years.

Defining Your Emotions The First Step In Dealing With Them

July 11, 2017

My granddaughter noticed something about me. I forget just what at the moment. But she asked if I were disappointed about it. I said, no that doesn’t describe the emotion. She proceeded to ask about six other emotions that were similar yet different.

For an eight-year-old, that is a good vocabulary of emotions. One of many indicators of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to define an emotion with greater depth than just “bad” or “good”.

Defining terms for problem solving has played a large part in my career. I’m in a meeting (or worse these days is getting caught in an interminable email chain) and find people talking around a problem. I’d attempt to shift the focus first to defining the terms. “What do you mean by that?” I ask. 

I might be interviewing someone. I move among many different technologies with many different buzzwords. Sometimes I just have to call a time out and ask, “We’d better make sure I understand how you’re using that word. Just what do you mean when you say that?”

It helps when we are emotionally out of balance. I love how the ancients treated emotions like a family tree. Something like insecurity is the mother of anger, for example.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify just what it is that causes the emotional pain or reaction.

Maturity is the ability to take the next step and not only define your own emotion but also to deal with it. Reading the news, Facebook feeds, watching people in public places, I’d say that most of us could use a good dose of emotional maturity.

The Value of Resting

July 10, 2017

It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness. –Thomas Jefferson

I’ve just finished another book. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. He published a companion book basically excerpted from this one Rest In The World: My Morning Routine in Kindle.

IN THIS BOOK, I’ve argued that we should treat work and rest as equals; that we should treat rest as a skill; that the best, most restorative kinds of rest are active; and that when practiced well, rest can make us more creative and productive, without forcing us into a funhouse mirror of endless work and ever-rising expectations.

Pang is another writer from a long line of thinkers stretching back millennia who discusses the powers of habit, routine, and focus. His book is packed with examples and scientific studies. 

Structure your day such that you have specific times of focused work and then times of unfocused rest. Perhaps that is walking the dogs or just walking in the park. Put a question in your mind and then “forget” it. Go out. Walk for a while. Ideas will come to you. 

Another part of rest involves other physical activity. Most achievers have engaged in a physically and mentally challenging hobby. Anything from mountain climbing to tennis to sailing.

Writers and other creative people have structured their days to rise early and spend the first couple of hours creating–writing, painting, whatever. Then they seek release and rest from “occupation” as Jefferson puts it through some form of physical activity. Kurt Vonnegut swam–also finding that at around 11 am the pool was not crowded.

CEOs and other such leaders, by the way, tend to rise early and then begin the day with their physical workouts.

Another part of rest is to get away for a period of time. A week. Several weeks.

There is much more in the book. It is worth the read. I’ll just leave you with a discipline–rise early, prepare your morning the day before whether it be writing or exercising, take a break once in a while.

Thoughts Are Nice, Actions Speak Louder

July 7, 2017

Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

I like the little book of James. It is ancient Wisdom literature revisited in light of Jesus.

He talks about how we act and then again about how we should act.

We should accept people of different social classes and backgrounds and skin colors.

We should speak encouraging words being careful of how hurtful words can be.

We can be contemplative, but how we act with others reveals our heart.

I wrote recently about Christian business people. The problem is that they spent so much time outwardly “professing” their own faith that they forgot to care about others.

It’s sort of a Christian Narcissism.

It is not always the “big” acts that count.

Surely we need leaders. But I know a woman whose ministry is writing encouraging notes to people. She has more influence than the preacher. Or the guy whose ministry was hospitality and prepared coffee and cookies for people before and after worship for many years. There is the person who will drive people to doctor’s appointments. The person who will comfort those who are grieving. The person who slips some extra money to someone in need or gifts and orphanage with needed equipment.

We remember these people. The guy who talks a big self story–not so much.

What Or Who Is Your Savior

July 6, 2017

You know the song about the guy standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizonza, right? I stood on that corner once. No girl in a flatbed Ford, though.

C’mon baby, don’t say maybe, I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me.  — The Eagles

Rolla May, psychologist and author of a number of books including Love and Will and Power and Innocence, wrote that throughout history men have harbored the idea that a beautiful woman will be their salvation. 

They all didn’t understand the thought of that social philosopher from the early 60s, Jimmy Soul, who sang, “Never make a pretty woman your wife…she does things that causes his downfall.”

Think of the things you think will save you.

Everything will be alright if I can just get seven figures in my bank account, or if I just had that house in that neighborhood, or if I just had that car, or if I could have had that guy (or girl).

This isn’t new thinking.

More than 4,000 years ago a guy named Abraham had conversations with God. It wasn’t belief–he continued doing things that revealed a lack of complete trust in God. But he had those conversations where God spoke and he spoke back. It didn’t seem to surprise him that this special god spoke with him. 

But he’d slip into these moments when he thought his own ingenuity would save him rather than dependence upon God.

Think of all the other heroes in the Bible–Adam, Samson, David, Solomon, King Saul–who failed at crucial times.

Is it time for a gut check? What thing or person have you been focusing on for salvation? Time for a change in focus?

We Just Disagree

July 5, 2017

So let’s leave it alone, cause we can’t see eye to eye

There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy

There’s only you and me and we just disagree

–Dave Mason, We Just Disagree

We can’t just disagree and let it go.

We have to score points. Crush the opponent.

Split a nation. Split a church. Split a family.

People putting philosophy or theology above people.

We forget the basics–Love God, Love your neighbor.

In our hubris and narcissism we think we have all the answers.

We don’t. 

Happy Independence Day

July 4, 2017

To my American readers–Happy Independence Day.

Before the family and food and fireworks–you might sneak off for 30 minutes or so and read the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. With a little more time, you might read through the Federalist Papers to see the thinking behind the Constitution.

We tend to forget things we don’t review. I bet a reading of the first 10 amendments might surprise you with what you thought but were wrong!

Do Not Be Like The Hypocrites

July 3, 2017

Many times I have lost money in business dealings with self-proclaimed Christian business men. They wore religious jewelry, placed religious tracts in the reception area, and they talked the language of the religious–“Christianese” as I recently heard two men in a conversation put it.

On the other hand, I’ve dealt with many people whom I know were Christian–but I knew it because of their behavior. Ethical, moral, plain-spoken

Michael McCausland described the difference in a podcast with John Fischer as the difference between a Christian business and a Kingdom business. In one they say all the right things; in the other they do the right things.

As Jesus said:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)

And again he said:

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9-14)

So much relates to attitude. The rest relates to values. 

It is a choice. It is also a discipline and a habit. How do we build our daily lives including our business lives?