Be Content With Today

January 31, 2019

Let’s do a “thought experiment.”

I come to you today and give you a million dollars. And a beautiful 5,000 square foot house (mansion). And a shiny new Lamborghini.

And you move in and live there for a time.

Then I return and take it all back leaving you just exactly where you were when we began.

How would you feel?

You would not feel the same as you did at the beginning. You would, in fact, feel worse even though your circumstances would be the same.

Which is why ancient wisdom sages from the ancient Hebrews (Proverbs, for example), the Stoics, and Jesus all taught that we should live in the moment and be happy there.

Perhaps good fortune comes our way. Then perhaps we lose it all, even our lives. We should appreciate the day and live in the moment. As the winds of life blow us one way and then the other, we can maintain stability and peace. It’s not deep theology. “Hey God, it’s you and me, right?”

Teaching

January 30, 2019

When I teach someone about solving a problem on their computer, I put their hands on the mouse and keyboard. “Try clicking on this,” I’ll suggest. Or show a hidden menu.

I figure that a combination of muscle memory and thinking it through will help them remember. And figure out how to solve their next problem on their own.

Someone asked me once (or probably many times), “Why didn’t Jesus just make things simple and tell us flat out what he meant?”

Let me answer this way.

A scholar tested Jesus. “What is the greatest commandment?”

Jesus gave him the stock answer of a student, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength, and all your mind.” Then he added, “And the second is just as important–you shall love your neighbor.”

The scholar not willing to let this lie, pursued, “Who is my neighbor?”

<pause>

Now Jesus could have given a list of types of people who would be a neighbor. That would have been like a rule or law.

People respond to laws in one of three ways: they forget them because there are so many; they ignore or flaunt rebellion to them; or, they become “rule followers” with little imagination or heart.

Jesus was in a battle with the “rule followers (Pharisees)” of his day.

<end pause>

Rather than speaking plainly, he answered with a story.

What do you remember? A list? Or, the story of the Good Samaritan?

2,000 years later, even people who are not Christian know the story of the Good Samaritan. Whether we follow it or not, that’s our problem. But we know exactly how we should act if our heart is in the right place with God.

Ancient people knew that if you teach by story or by questioning (the Socratic Method, it’s called) then people will understand because they’ve thought it out for themselves.

Unplugging

January 29, 2019

Three engineers were riding in a car. The car stopped suddenly.

The mechanical engineer says, “I distinctly heard a clunk sound just before the car stopped. I bet it’s the transmission. We’ll just have to wait for a tow truck.”

“Just a minute,” says the electrical engineer. “There was a flicker in the instrument cluster just before the car stopped. It is probably short in the wiring. Let’s just troubleshoot the wiring before we take drastic measures.”

However the Microsoft engineer looking much more calm than the others suggests, “Let’s just try getting out of the car, closing the doors, opening the doors, and getting back in. It’ll probably start then.”

[apologies for an old joke]

When our cable TV receiver acts up, we just unplug it, count to 20, plug it back in, and let it recycle through the startup.

When our WiFi access point seems clogged up, we just unplug it, count to 20, plug it back in.

Most likely at least once a day we also need to unplug, count to 20, and then re-engage.

Maybe every month we need to unplug for a longer period.

Maybe every year we need to unplug for a week or two.

I don’t mean just from electronics, but that, too. Just unplug from the daily routine and recharge.

  • Take a long walk
  • Get a massage
  • Take a day and visit a lake or woods or beach
  • Go to a library or coffee shop, settle in with a cappuccino and read something totally different
  • Visit someone you’ve been meaning to see

Then, refreshed, go back to making things happen.

[That counting to 20 thing? It is not mystical. It just allows for plenty of time for the capacitors in the circuit to all discharge.]

The Heart App

January 28, 2019

It’s not an obsession. No, really, it isn’t. But I do check my Health app several times a day to see how many miles/steps/flights I have moved.

The icon for the app on my iPhone is a white background with a red heart.

So, I was wondering. Wouldn’t it be great to have a heart app for my spiritual heart?

After all, Jesus was most interested in the state of the heart of people he encountered.

Maybe you’d get a haptic jolt if your heart was tending toward anger, hate, jealousy, bitterness, and the like.

Maybe you’d get a gentle approving buzz if your heart was empathetic, joyful, loving.

Instead of “FitBit” it could be “SoulBit”?

Instead of telling me to get up and walk (which is a good thing), it would tell me to think of someone and offer a prayer wishing them well. Or to take a deep breath, calm down, leave the hurtful emotions behind.

Maybe it’s time for me to learn Swift and rekindle my programming skills?

Or just learn Jesus words and rekindle my “heart” skills?

How about you?

Beware The Expert

January 25, 2019

Someone once told me they appreciated hearing about books I’ve read. Well, maybe not this one. The topic is a study of randomness, or rather, random events. It is part math, part philosophy, part economics, part daily life. It is The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

A Black Swan is a seemingly random event that has great effect. Perhaps you could see something coming, but still the event precipitates suddenly. As we say in English “out of the clear blue sky.”

The economics part of the book discusses that Taleb, both a Ph.D. in math and a stock trader, protected himself from a potential black swan and made a lot of money in the 2008-2009 crisis.

One thing I picked up (and it actually reinforced observations I’ve made for years) is to beware the experts.

He actually began to suspect this as a youth. He grew up in Lebanon during the civil war. He had a close relative in the government. After talking with both the minister in the government and his chauffeur, Taleb discovered that there was no difference in understanding between the two. The expert and the “man on the street” had almost equal lack of understanding.

Taleb documents many times that Nobel laureates in economics got things wrong–about the economy.

Beware the expert!

Transferring the thought to our spiritual formation–look for practitioners who humbly share their insights. I have tuned in to books and podcasts by popular religious teachers and discovered that they are so full of themselves that I wonder if there is room for the Spirit.

Beware “experts” who know much theory and so little practical spiritual practice.

I am so influenced by a statement of Carl Jung the psychologist and opponent of Freud who, after years of personal experience, answered the question do you believe in God, “Believe? No, I don’t believe. I know.”

Or as the teacher Mike Breaux said in a podcast I listened to yesterday, “Don’t believe in God; believe God.”

Prayer Goes Dry

January 24, 2019

Do you find that sometimes you sit down to prayer or meditation and just cannot find peace.

Some advice from, Jeanne de Chantal, “It sometimes happens that you go to your prayer after having spent the whole day dissipated and without recollection; it is no wonder you are distracted, for you well deserve it. You follow your own inclinations, you are cross-grained and resentful in your obedience, lacking in sweetness, and condescending towards your neighbor, and then you go boldly to prayer in order to unite yourself to God and to have consolation and sweetness. If you find the door shut, why should you be surprised?”

Yes, the fault when prayer goes dry comes back to us. Remember the advice of Jesus about forgiving the brother before praying at the temple?

Go and do likewise.

Gratitude

January 23, 2019

Henri J. M. Nouwen, one of my favorite spiritual writers, said, “To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work.”

This reminds me of the words of Jesus who once said that even the pagans can be kind to their friends. It’s when you do the hard spiritual work of loving your enemies that your heart for God is revealed.

Sometimes we get lazy. We don’t want to do hard spiritual work. Being grateful for those experiences that have shaped us–the good and bad–takes that hard work.

Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and go to work.

 

When Others Cheat and Lie

January 22, 2019

Marcus Aurelius–Instead of talking about other people’s selfishness and stupidity, our job is “to run straight for the finish line, unswerving.”

Several times in my business life people I’ve worked with have lied, cheated, mistreated me.

My response? Of course, I have a brief “grieving” period. But then it is time to move on. Sometimes a memory pops up–like now when I read this advice from Marcus. But I remember, my job is to run straight to the finish line, unswerving.

Marcus was a Stoic not a Christian. But the Stoics left behind a lot of wisdom. And this suggestion sounds much like the Apostle Paul who ran the good race to the finish line.

Other people? Avoid those people with less than honorable motives and go do your own life.

Salt and Light

January 21, 2019

Richard Stearns–“As followers of Jesus, we are called to be salt and light – to form communities that are attractive, winning people to Christ through our lives of love and truth. We’re not called to shake a finger at non-believers or to coerce them to be like us.”

Sometimes we think we know everything.

And we want to tell everyone what we know.

As if they don’t know anything. Or don’t agree with us–so, they are obviously wrong.

That is so not attractive.

Better to try understanding other people. Rejoicing when they rejoice; sharing compassion when they hurt; leading them to study or prayer when called for.

We are salt to enhance the “flavor” of others and light to show the way. Not judging, which tries to make the other person feel inferior and ourselves superior.

Please pass the salt…

Forgiveness

January 18, 2019

How often should I forgive someone?

Peter the apostle in training thought he’d show Jesus that he was learning. He thought most people might say once. Or maybe twice. Peter thought, how about seven times. That should be lots.

But Jesus the sage and master always raised the bar to impossible heights.

Seventy times seven, he replied.

When I lead the Yoga class and I want to do six Sun Salutations to finish warmup, I often lose count.

Do you think I could remember seven times forgiveness?

How about 77 times (some translations) or 490 times (other translations)?!

Some teachers riff off this theme and try to add qualifications and complex psychological theories. Do not do that.

Jesus is describing a lifestyle. A way of living from the heart. And the heart is forgiving at all times.