Be In The Present Moment

August 8, 2019

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.

God is with us in the present moment. The decision about what to read. Or how to react to another human. Or where to go. It at this moment. That is where we find God.

And there is only the moment.

Moments in the past are gone. Learn and forget.

Moments in the future have not arrived. Why worry?

What we do in this moment determines much of what will come in the future.

Give us this day our daily bread.

We pause in the moment to be fed by God. We must renew every day. And be filled every day, for we will use up the portion in service to the Creator.

And forgive us our sins.

Just as we are filled each day by the bread of God, so we ask for forgiveness for the things done and left undone that were part of our mission.

Every day is a new day. We live only in the todays. We ask to be filled with God’s spirit with the rising of the sun. We ask to be forgiven for yesterday’s shortcomings so that today we begin fresh. A new day. And there is only the present.

Freud Did Not Invent Psychology

August 7, 2019

Freud may have invented psychotherapy. Not sure about that. Some psychologists think that he could have used a little therapy himself.

Early Christian writers probed deeply into the human soul and the many emotions and drives and desires. Their language may be a little weird to the modern ear. But if you pursue their meanings without cynicism, you will learn much.

For example, try explaining how people can take a thought that seeming springs from sound Biblical advice and twist it into cynicism, hate, dissension, and the like.

The anonymous author of the medieval classic The Cloud of Unknowing translated writings from the earliest Christian sources into Middle English. Some of the essays are translated into modern English and compiled into a The Pursuit of Wisdom and Other Works.

He writes (allow for ancient words, probe for meaning) in Discernment of Spirits:

Writing about the spirit of the world–Hence it is very necessary and helpful to know his cunning tricks, and not to be ignorant of his crafty deceits. (He) will sometimes change his likeness into that of an angel of light, in order that, under the color of virtue, he may do mor mischief. However, if we pay careful attention, what he does is to sow nothing but the seed of bitterness and discord, though at its first appearance it seems ever so holy and good.

We need to discern, that is become aware, of when we or others cloak dissension, bitterness, discord, and other such thoughts under the guise of sweetness and light.

Are we sowing peace and love as taught by Jesus, or is it more like “peace and love for me, but not for thee”?

This Is Going To Tick Some People Off

August 6, 2019

Thus began the social media post–This is going to tick some people off, but….

What a great place for a pause.

Before continuing, a moment of awareness.

Why would I continue to write something to intentionally upset other people?

As a Christian person, especially, why do something like that?

Check out the advice of the apostle Peter in his first letter who expressly advises against such behavior. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles…”

You could plead freedom of speech.

But the free speech movement from the late 18th Century presupposed rational and responsible discourse. Definitely not the volleying of inflammatory opinions back and forth like cannon fire in a 19th Century battle.

A pause for the rise of awareness of myself and how I affect others is often called for.

Of course, you could be like a friend who followed the “but” with “I put pineapple on pizza.” Now that’s just simply gross, not offensive. And yes, the pepperoni (sorry those of you in Italy, that’s an American attempt at being Italian) and mushroom fans rose up in rebellion!

And sometimes a good laugh, or even just a chuckle, is the right response.

Opinions Are Merely Opinions

August 5, 2019

When we hold an opinion with aggression, no matter how valid the opinion may be, we are adding to the total aggression of the world.

Sometimes opinion merged with aggressions leaves us open to the spirit of evil.

Perhaps we don’t believe in the spirit of evil. We can believe what we want, but it does exist.

And sometimes that spirit of evil fills our minds and hearts. And we pick up weapons and begin acting out our aggression against those of whom our opinion tells us are hurting us.

People who practice nonaggression spread peace. The era unfolding before us invites us to be open to the spirit of nonaggression and peace.

The Hands of God

August 2, 2019

Martin Buber was a Jewish philosopher and one of my early mentors through his books introducing me to the contemplative life.

He said once, “God’s grace consists precisely in this, that he wants to let himself be won by humanity, that he places himself, so to speak, into human hands. God wants to come to his world, but he wants to come to it through men and women. This is the mystery of our existence, the superhuman chance of humankind.

A saying becoming popular in certain evangelical circles challenges people to “become the hands and feet of Jesus.”

We are challenged to pause and look at what we have done over the past day, week, month, year.

What is it that we have done that brought God into the world?

What will we do today to bring God into the world?

We remember the words of Jesus, whatever you have done for the least of these, my brothers, you have done for me.

Grace That Reaches Out

August 1, 2019

I spend very little time scrolling through Facebook any more. Recently I saw one of those picture things that pass around instead of personal updates. Upon reflection, I sensed that here was an opportunity to refer to both AC/DC and Led Zeppelin in the same blog post on spirituality.

Someone compared “Highway to Hell” and “Stairway to Heaven” to the relative traffic toward those two destinations.

It’s supposed to bring a knowing chuckle to the “saved”.

But let’s reflect for a moment.

Why should we get satisfaction that we are on the stairway while the majority of God’s children are on the highway?

Should not we instead pray for God’s grace on all of these people?

I also have a feeling that many of people that one group would assume to be on the highway actually feel the same way in reverse.

Think of Jesus’ time. There were two groups–Pharisees and “tax collectors and sinners”.

The Pharisees thought they were the chosen few for the stairway (metaphorically speaking). Jesus never let an opportunity to poke at them pass. He, instead, hung out with the sinners and tax collectors.

Yes, I think instead of delight that our side is on the stairway while all those not like us–the majority–are on the downward highway, we should feel sadness and remorse and pray for God’s grace upon those of us with prideful thoughts and upon all who need it. That would be everyone.

I thought of ways we could pray:

God, please have grace upon all sinners. (That would include the prayer!)

God, please cure me of a vengeful and vindictive heart. Instead fill it with grace.

God, cure me of the pride in thinking that I’m on the stairway when it’s possible I’m not.

God, heal us from the taking joy in others’ misfortunes.

John Fischer teaches “Grace turned outward”. That’s a great thought. And an even better practice. Grace is not something to be hoarded within our small groups. It is something to share with the world.

10 Things That Require Zero Talent

July 31, 2019

On my other blog, I wrote about things schools should be teaching instead of focusing on subject matter. Typically they teach obedience. But they could be teaching creativity, thinking, communication, and the like and then apply to subject matter.

This list was floating around LinkedIn. I thought it was worth sharing. These are personal characteristics that require no talent. No matter what job or profession someone pursues, these characteristics will carry you to success. Not necessarily riches, but definitely to a successful life.

Most of these characteristics are things I talk about when I’m training soccer referees. These are relevant to anything. People who embody these are people you love being around.

  1. Being on time
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Energy
  5. Body Language
  6. Passion
  7. Doing Extra
  8. Being Prepared
  9. Being Coachable
  10. Attitude

Try To Meditate

July 30, 2019

People have heard of the benefits that come from meditation.

Many say, “I try to meditate. It’s hard.”

Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

I advise sometimes another phrase to turn the word try back on itself. Try easy.

Better is to consider meditation a practice.

Michael Jordan shot jump shots over and over. Every day. A golf pro hits a hundred shots out of the sand every day. It’s called practice. You begin with limited success until one day you make the shot almost in your sleep.

In Yoga, we come to practice, not to class. We practice our poses over and over. Then one day we realize that our hip muscles have stretched and we are effortlessly in the pose.

We sit to meditate. Or, we can lie on our backs. Or, we can even walk (just meditate with your eyes open if you try that one).

You don’t need a special meditation pillow to sit on. Or incense. Or a gong. Or special music. Or a dark room. Or even quiet around you.

Those are all nice, but not a requirement.

Gurus advise sitting erect in a firm (hard?) chair.

Why? So you don’t go to sleep.

But maybe what you need in that moment is sleep. What’s wrong with that?

Maybe it’s only a minute to start with. You don’t need two hours–but two hours is refreshing if you can do it.

All you need is to set aside some time and then practice. Just do it.

Be Holy

July 29, 2019

A small group I’m part of is studying 1 Peter. At the very beginning of the letter, Peter gives some tips for a small community of Jesus-followers trying to get along in a society that either doesn’t care or is openly hostile to them.

“Be holy,” he advises.

I asked, what is holy. Or, put it this way, if someone is described to you as holy, would you invite them to dinner?

No way!

Then obviously what we are thinking is not what Peter had in mind. For Peter was trying to build community–a group of people who enjoyed having dinner with each other.

We are thinking descriptions such as arrogant, self-righteous, sexually repressed, joyless.

Actually that is what was called a “holier-than-thou” attitude.

Peter says the key word to holy is love. Be like Jesus, act with love.

They Think Too Much

July 26, 2019

Throughout my life, I’m positive that many people have looked at me and said, “He thinks too much.”

Maybe true. Or, maybe I just spent the first third of my life withdrawn.

When I was first introduced to fundamentalist churches (now called evangelical, I guess), I expected a cult-like atmosphere filled with superstition. Same with off-shoots like Jehovah’s Witnesses or (once popular in my area) The Way International.

What I discovered was–they think too much.

Recently I was attempting to explain a few of the many theories drawn from The Revelation of John from the New Testament. And I stopped and said, “They all just thought too much. Each grabbed a few verses and then they thought out entire scenarios based on that. In fact, often they all go back and subtly modify translations from the Greek in order to make everything fit together in a nice, neat, rational explanation.”

The story part of the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ends with the hero in shock therapy. What happens when you think too much, suggests the author, is insanity.

Rationality devolves into rules and following rules.

I’m reading an ancient Christian church father who noted, “The spirit of discretion enables us to do the right thing at the right moment; it teaches us how to be zealous for divine justice and to offer pardon at one and the same time.” (St. Bernard)

Fifty years of contemplative life have mellowed rigorous rationality. Understanding of both justice and pardon–guilt and grace–supersedes rule following.

Stop thinking so much and get with the flow of God’s spirit.