Finishing the Job

November 8, 2017

Did you ever start something and then walked away? Maybe you had a vision for a little vegetable garden where you could harvest fresh vegetables all summer.

But, you never got around to tilling the soil, planting seeds, cultivating the plants, pulling weeds.

There was no harvest of fresh vegetables to grace your table and enhance your health.

I see churches and other organizations do the same thing.

Initiate a program. Get people excited.

But it never becomes part of the culture or workflow or daily life of the organization.

Jesus instructed us many times that blessing lies not in the hearing of the word but in the doing. Noted Catholic activist Dorothy Day said, “We talk about the Sermon on the Mount. It is amazing what happens when we start living it.” She did.

I just finished “Hit Refresh” by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Part of the book talks about his personal journey toward gaining empathy. Then he expands by talking about how he went about changing the notoriously noxious Microsoft culture. Good reading for leaders of any type of organization who wish to move the organization forward and not merely exist. (“Hit Refresh” refers to your browser when you want to update the page.)

The Word does us no good unless it becomes an integral part of our everyday life.

So Focused That We Just Can’t See

November 7, 2017

I was just starting down the trail along the pond beginning the day’s exercise, when I startled a kingfisher. It had been staring down from a tree limb probably contemplating breakfast. 

It knew the direction I was coming from, and it flew 30 yards or so ahead. Again as I approached, it flew another 30 yards ahead. Repeated again. 

What if it could see patterns? After two times, it could have thought, he’s coming in a straight line. If I go back to the original tree where I had scoped out breakfast, he will be long gone.

But it didn’t see the pattern and instead just flew to the end of the pond and then away.

Our small group is immersed in chapters 12-14 of the gospel of John. This includes the “last supper” and many instructions.

Jesus, of course, sees the big picture. He knows what’s coming. He tries to alert his team.

But they are so focused on the way things have been the past 2-3 years and also on what they think is supposed to happen, that they cannot see.

“I am going, and you can’t follow?”

“Where are you going? Bethany? Bethsaida? Nazareth?”

They are thinking physical reality.

Jesus, as always, is thinking spiritual reality.

They didn’t get it until they all met again on the other side of the crucifixion. 

We can read ahead. We read the other end of the conversation before we understand the beginning.

Are we so focused on the Jesus we think should be that we can’t see the Jesus that is?

Are we so focused on ourselves that we can’t experience the Holy Spirit?

Are we so focused on ourselves that we forget that Jesus told us that those who love him will follow his commandments—Love God with all our being and love our neighbors (even the despised foreigners)?

We focus so hard on seeing that we just fail to see.

My Thoughts Convict Me

November 6, 2017

I read an essay in the news yesterday. Must have impacted my subconscious.

I woke up this morning with bad thoughts about political leadership, people who drink certain kinds of beer (that ad still rankles), and probably other negativity.

People of some religious persuasions like to use the term convicted. As in, “I was convicted.” As in, found guilty.

There it was in today’s email inbox, 300 Words a Day from Jon Swanson. Convicted

I am dissatisfied with the quality of reflection that I am hearing these days.

There is the kind of name calling that I find demeaning and diminishing of people. Words are chipped from blocks of ice and dropped with freezing precision on dreams and new ideas. Adjectives are measured into saucepans with tainted sugar, brought to a boil and then simmered until they are as sticky as caramel, bitter as aspirin. Then are they poured over naming nouns, forever modifying that one to “Foolish”, that one to “mindless” and that one to “bigoted”.

He reminds us of David’s words from Psalm 19 and verse 14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Careful of the difference between reason and excuse—what I often teach about watching what we feed our minds returned to haunt me. It is said that you can’t help it when certain thoughts pop into your mind. It’s the dwelling upon them that is sinful.

However, if the thoughts are a direct result of what we choose to read or listen to, then they are our sin.

I knew a preacher who began every message with that prayer. It never occurred to me before, but that is a great prayer to begin each day.

Thanks, Jon. Hope you have a blessed day.

There is so much Misinformation and Exaggeration

November 3, 2017

We turn religion into politics and politics into religion. 

We turn the foods we eat, should eat, shouldn’t eat into both politics and religion.

Following up on the areas of spiritual formation that includes your body, I have meant to talk about food a little.

I’ve read so many books and listened to many podcasts and I find too much religion (not in the sense of the Old Testament and pork) in the whole debates.

There was “How we get Fat” which discussed simple carbohydrates explaining how bad they are for us. He spent a paragraph on better carbohydrates. Turning the page, he based the entire premise that an anthropologist, who I guess had been there and studied them, said our distant ancestors ate meat and whatever fruits and vegetables they could pull from the ground or trees. 

I guess they lived long and healthy lives.

Yet, I wonder why humans didn’t develop civilizations, cities, long lives (at times), cultures until they learned to cultivate grain. They could now settle down. A few people could feed many. Life was better (except maybe when politics and religion got out of balance, but that’s a different topic).

I read about white sugar. I’m betting those people have never been in a sugar refinery. Their assumptions are entirely wrong.

The real problem with sugar is we eat way too much of it.

The real problem with grains in bread is that we no longer ferment bread with yeast, but give it a chemical to quick rise and bake fast.

Other grains we cook too quickly and not thoroughly.

I read about the evils of processed meats. Then they include burgers and sausage. Those are just ground meat sometimes with added spices and herbs. One problem is that they can have too much fat—another thing that is good for us, but we eat too much. Some processed meats are also injected with a variety of chemicals that are not healthy.

You can go argue any of this stuff. But 90% of the “science” I see is incomplete or even wrong.

Eat a balance of good carbs, protein, and fats. Your body needs them all. Eat real food. And not too much of it. And exercise. We discover every day even more reasons to exercise. Go for a  walk. Or even a run—at any age. After all, our ancient ancestors had to run to chase their dinners. And the whole tribe from old to young, male and female had to run along with the hunters.

There Is One God

November 2, 2017

Mother Teresa

There is only one God, and he is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.

Source: A Simple Path

This quote came in a daily meditation I receive from Plough. It seemed timely. Sometimes we let any of a variety of negative emotions rage through our bodies and minds and we forget to return to the one God, residing in his Spirit, giving us power and assurance.

As the apostle Paul said, “…one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (1 Corinthians and Ephesians)

I am blessed to be at yet another international conference where I meet people from many cultures. Talking with them, I can go beyond stereotypes and see that people are people. And that God created and cares for each.

With All Our Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength

November 1, 2017

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus responded with the Shma, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.”

I have been thinking about the different ways of spiritual formation. Paul talks about body, mind, spirit. Jesus talks like that, too. Paul talks about our bodies as the Temple of the Spirit.

I could go into strains of philosophy, but it is enough to say that we as a Western people have been guilty of splitting these aspects of our spiritual life into compartments.

What if every day we tried to develop and improve ourselves in each of these categories that Jesus repeated?

What if, at the end of every day, we asked ourselves these reflections?

Heart

What have we done to help someone else today? Did we pass someone by who needed encouragement or a helping hand?

Did we love someone?

Soul

How long and with how much intention did we pause and meditate and pray today?

Mind

What have we read today? Something from the Bible? Something difficult to stretch our brain? Something fiction or poetry to strengthen our imagination?

Strength

What have we eaten today? Was it the best thing for our bodies? How much did we exercise (walk, run, swim, cycle) today? Did we get sufficient rest today? Did we do something to build strength (Yoga, weights, and the like)?

Did we do it all to honor God?

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

Standing At The Intersection of Art and Science

October 30, 2017

Last week I was in San Francisco at the GE Digital Minds + Machines conference. This is part “thought leadership” and part user seminars.

These conferences always have general sessions where they bring out company leaders to talk about how the company is doing or explain all the great features of its new products. In this case, we got to hear John Flannery, the new CEO of GE, talk a little about his strategy.

Then there is the keynote where they bring in some well known speakers/authors/consultants. These are designed to get you fired up and learn something outside the technical box we’re in.

So GE brought in two famous authors for a conversation—Charlene Li (Groundswell) and Walter Issacson (biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and lately Leonardo da Vinci).

Talking to a room including about 3,000 engineers, Issacson talked about how Steve Jobs described standing at the intersection of art and science. Engineering is good. But the sensibilities of an artist are also needed for a complete life. And for developing great products.

And I’d add—for gaining a more complete understanding of the spiritual life.

You can practice the methods of meditation (I’ve learned many). You can read and read and read. You can pray. But you also need music, painting, sculpture. Do your own, as well as appreciate others.

Another thought from the conversation.

Smart people are a dime a dozen. It’s those with imagination that stand out.

Can you remember being a kid and letting your imagination wander wherever it wanted? One thought led to another and to another?

You can still do that. 

Do you think Einstein just sat down and worked out a lot of advanced math? No. First he imagined a universe. And imagined the movements and how different bodies moved relative to each other. That gave him the insight to go back to the math and say Ah! Ha! That’s how to solve those equations. And they were elegant. And they worked.

Bring that practice to your spiritual discipline. When you read, let your imagination take you there. And imagine your conversations with the text.

Stand at the intersection of art and science.