Recipe For A Better Life

April 9, 2018

Remember “Pigpen” from the Peanuts cartoon series? Everywhere he went a cloud of dust enveloped him.

Know anyone like that emotionally speaking? Did you just look into a mirror? See gloom, despair, and agony? (Get the music reference? It continues “deep dark depression, excessive misery”)

What is your first response when someone with a perpetual cloud of negativity approaches?

RUN!!

What do you do when that person dragging the perpetual cloud of negativity is you?

Make some changes in your diet. Try fresh (when possible) vegetables and lean meat. Cut out foods high in sugar or sugar substitutes (high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners). Cut out highly processed food and deep fried food. Drink plenty of fluids–water, tea, coffee, some fruit juice (not too much–contains sugar).

Express emotional reactions honestly. Probably not on social media. But to a trusted someone. And develop a trusted relationship where you can confide the source of the negativity and who will encourage optimism.

Laugh. Intentionally change the focus of your mind. What you allow your mind to dwell on will determine your life. Go on a news diet. Download some good old-fashioned comedies–Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello routines.

At the beginning of each day, write down three things you can do to make a difference in your world today. At the end of the day, record 3-5 positive things that happened that day. Let that be the thoughts that take you to sleep.

Sleep well.

Exercise. Walk at least 30 minutes a day. Or cycle. Or run. Whatever gets you going–go.

Meditate. Either use an app (Calm was the 2017 number one app in the App Store last year, but there are many) or sit quietly focusing on your breath.

Don’t be an emotional “Pigpen”. Leave the cloud of negativity behind.

Be Careful of Praise

April 6, 2018

Someone praised me yesterday. It warmed my heart. I have to admit it. And the fact that it was public didn’t hurt anything.

Then I remembered it was only two days ago that I wrote about one of my spiritual heroes:

Teresa of Ávila–

Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

And then came the memory of someone I was counseling (not in a professional sense, I shun licenses and such). This person was filled with pride.

Realizing that in someone else (to use an old Christian word) convicted me, also.

The people who studied such things–I’m not referring to psychologists but to thousands of years of spiritual seekers–have traced the genealogy of sin. That family tree begins with pride.

Overcoming pride can be a life’s work. But only after recognizing it within.

Take The Next Right Action

April 5, 2018

We begin making decisions that determine our life while still in bed. Lying there, comfortable, we must decide to rise. We could stay in bed. Assuming we are not sick, it is in our interest to get out of bed. How else to serve?

From then on, we can either drift from whim to whim or from demand to demand visited upon us.

Or…

We can intentionally take the next right action.

Even with our morning coffee–maybe we have a choice to purchase ethically by finding direct trade or a good fair trade sourced bean.

How we treat spouse and family.

We may have our ethical grounding in Scripture, in what would Jesus do.

Life is all about that next action. Deciding upon our next right action…and then doing it.

Searching For A Little Humility

April 4, 2018

Teresa of Ávila

It is amusing to see souls who, while they are at prayer, fancy they are willing to be despised and publicly insulted for the love of God, yet afterwards do all they can to hide their small defects. If anyone unjustly accuses them of a fault, God deliver us from their outcries! Prayer does not consist of such fancies. No, our Lord expects works from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

Words from one of my favorite guides.

So often a couple of things seem to be missing from our discourse–social media or just social.

Responsibility and Humility.

I hear shouting about rights. But when it comes to talking about responsibilities that are the companion of rights, only ominous silence.

To this day, I hate writing the bio part of my Websites. It is meant to boast in order to bring me business. It seems like the “fake” part of an interview. “Tell us about a fault.” “Well, sometimes I work too hard.”

Right.

Or, “Honey, I took out the garbage.” Only to hear, “Yeah, you were supposed to. You’re expecting maybe a little doggie treat for doing your job?”

Maybe we pray along with Teresa, “No, our Lord expects work from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor.”

A Leader With Soul

April 3, 2018

“If you have to ask, you don’t have it.” — Popular response to people asking what is soul during the rise of “soul music” in the late 60s.

OK, where is this going, you may be asking. The last book I read is, “Awakening A Leader‘s Soul: Learnings through Immortal Poems,” by Gaurav Bhalla, published by Motivational Press. This is less a management how-to than a plea for enhanced leadership

“In today‘s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA), leadership success is a function of something deeper, something more enduring than technical knowhow and leadership skills. It’s a function of the leader’s humanity—who they are, what they stand for, what they are willing to fight for, and what they are willing to accept and endure. Because what’s in the leader’s head may be smart and potent, but what’s within the leader that guides what’s in the leader’s head is even more potent, because it is wiser. Accordingly, the most important asset of leaders is not the smartness of their minds, it’s the wisdom of their souls.”

This book is for leaders who want to take the next step up the ladder of effectiveness and fulfillment. A new humanity—consider not only yourself, but also employees, customers, community, suppliers, planet. Reminds of reading AP Martin some 30 years ago—Proactive Management. He introduced me to the idea of “stakeholders.” When constructing vision and goals and making decisions, consider all the stakeholders affected. Bahlla continues the thread of thought.

Try out these ideas. Leadership success is a function of the leader’s humanity—what’s within the leader that guides what’s in the leader’s head. The most important asset of leaders is not the smartness of minds, it’s the wisdom of their souls. Egotistical leaders suck the oxygen from the organization.

Outline

1. Who the leader is

ego

self reliance

Authenticity

2. How the leader thinks

vision

substance

doubt

3. How the leader acts

Risk

perseverance

perspective

4. Beyond the leader’s world

wider circles

employees & customers

communities

planet earth

5. Faring Forward

TS Eliot-Dry Salvages from Four Quartets

Sampling from poems

Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself—shifts from How I am the center of the universe to How I am centered in the universe.

TS Eliot—We are the hollow men; we are the stuffed men…

Albert Camus—But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

Alexander Pope, A Little Learning (I think this is especially important to ponder today, especially in church circles)

A little learning is a dangerous thing

Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain

And drinking largely sobers us again.

Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,

In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;

While from the bounded level of our mind

Short views we take nor see the length behind,

But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise

new distant scenes of endless science rise.

Rumi, Transcending blame, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Confucius, Asking, “The person who asks a question is ignorant for a few moments, The person who doesn’t remains ignorant for life.”

Herman Hesse, “Siddhartha listened…completely absorbed, quite empty, taking in everything…he had often heard all this before, all the numerous voices in the river, but today they sounded different.”

From the Bhagavad Gita, “Work for the sake of work not for the sake of rewards or material gains.”

Leonardo daVinci—every now and then go away and have some relaxation.

John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

Get a Guide, or Be a Guide

April 2, 2018

“Do you understand what you are reading?” said Philip to the Ethiopian. “How can I sir, unless someone guides me?” came the reply.

How did Philip know the Ethiopian government official was reading from the book of Isaiah when he approached him? People in those days did not read silently just to themselves. They read aloud.

Why did Philip, an observant Jew up until a few days ago, go to an “unclean” man–darker skin, sexually impure? God told him to. If you are around my age you remember the comedian Flip Wilson who had a routine, “The devil made me do it”? Well, God made Philip do it.

Side note–could you as a modern Christian go up to a person of another race and/or one who is not “straight” and guide them through the Scripture to a belief in Jesus? Could you accept them into the fellowship no strings attached–just like God does? Something to ponder.

Could you, like the Ethiopian eunuch, ask someone for help? Oh, and then listen to your guide?

Could you, like Philip, not only respond to God’s urging, but also be of such an open personality that someone different from you would actually ask you to sit beside them and guide them?

We only read about Philip in one chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Yet, he is a powerful example to us about reaching out to people we have been taught to hate and sharing effectively with them.

When God’s Spirit whispers to you, are you listening?

Good Friday

March 30, 2018

How is Good Friday “good”?

I guess calling it Bad Friday just didn’t have a ring to it.

Or Terrified Friday–since that is what Jesus’ followers were. That sounds like a horror film–although they didn’t have movies back then.

Or Give Up Friday–since Jesus basically just gave himself up to the authorities knowing the following few hours would be filled with pain and humiliation.

Or, in America, maybe we just call it a day off work.

Theologians, or other people who think too much, might say “good” because of Sunday. But on Friday, they were not anticipating Sunday.

I am not necessarily on the side of Mel Gibson who seems to revel in every gory piece of the story.

But, we have to ask ourselves, how can we really identify as followers, as Christian, without at some level experiencing the struggle, loss, death, and then on Sunday experiencing the life?

Why do so many pretend to live a Christian life when it’s all theory and theology that has made no real impact on how we live our life. At what point do we experience the dinner before the arrest where Jesus gave us final instructions. “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.”

It’s all what makes Jesus different from all other spiritual teachers. It is possible to experience the risen Jesus and let that experience change how you live your life.

Beginning Our Day With Prayer

March 29, 2018

Thanks to the Plough for sharing this thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer recently.

The morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weakness and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with others, all have their own origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer.

He has it exactly right. How we begin the day is important. How we begin the week oft determines the week. How we begin a year sets us on the right course even if life intervenes forcing a course correction.

We can set an alarm to awaken just in time for a fast shower, grab a sweet snack for breakfast, and rush through the day. Only to arrive at bedtime physically and mentally exhausted.

Or

We can set our mind to awaken early naturally, enough time for a morning routine with prayer and centering, a few minutes of reading something for the mind and soul, eat a little protein to begin the day, and go out focused to tackle the day.

You Mean God Offers Repentance Even To Them

March 28, 2018

“If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Reading through the book of Acts of the Apostles, we come to the stories of what happened after Saul (later Paul) went on a rampage against the new Jewish sect. It’s the Law of Unintended Consequences. Step 1, the believers scattered and left Jerusalem. Step 2, they went into non-Jewish areas. Step 3, they taught and found willing converts among non-Jews. Some of those received the Holy Spirit.

So Peter was out checking up on this unexpected phenomena when he was visited with a vision from God. He was told that what he had been taught and how he had believed for his entire life was now upended–wrong.

He went to the house of a Gentile, went into the house, ate with them, slept (evidently) in their house. He also preached to them and baptized them with water and the Spirit.

Then he returns to the headquarters. The rest of the leadership confronted him with his wrongdoing.

Peter concludes his defense with those words quoted above.

Read that story from Acts 11, with feeling. See if you can express these last three sentences with the surprise and shock that they must have been uttered.

Then think of today. Think of fellow Christians whom you believe cannot possibly be “Christian” because they have different colors of skin or vote the “wrong” way, or don’t pray with the same words exactly or … or … or ….

Then say it, with feeling, maybe even with five-part harmony (if you get the musical allusion), “You mean God offers repentance that leads to life even to them!?”

Yep!

Hint–maybe you could invite them to your Easter celebration without hidden agendas. Just out of the love to share the risen Lord.

It Helps To Keep Your Eye On The Target

March 27, 2018

Every morning when I’m not traveling, I brew a pot of coffee in a French press. When it’s done, I pour it into an insulated carafe so that it will still be hot when my wife comes down for her cup.

I’ve discovered that first if I pay attention to what I’m doing (a big if) and if I concentrate on the small opening in the carafe, then I can pour four cups without spilling a drop even on the outer rim.

What an intriguing thought, that. Keeping our awareness turned on and our eye on the target yields desired results.

The pattern holds for work. Maybe you do “thought work” such as writing or actually thinking. Cal Newport called it Deep Thinking, where our awareness and focus are on the work for a period of time.

I’ve seen it in craftsmen from working on cars to building molds for thermoforming plastics to electronics. Their awareness is on the task and their focus is on the goal–what it is that they are trying to accomplish.

Those who are followers (disciples) of Jesus look to him for guidance on how to live. Since we are in the Christian season of Holy Week, it may be instructive to read the gospel accounts of his last week on earth as a human.

He had always been aware of his task and certainly his awareness was sharpened even higher this week. He seemed even deeper in concentrated conversation with God than ever. He knew the target. His eye was on it, unwavering.

Many of you will recreate that week this week. Maybe communion on Thursday evening. A somber watch on Friday afternoon. A quiet Saturday. Celebration on Sunday morning.

Awareness and target? Focused on the resurrection.