Getting In The Correct Balance

June 6, 2019

I’m still studying Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. These concise writings pack much to think about.

Try this:

Also, by demonizing one nutrient—fat—we inevitably give a free pass to another, supposedly “good,” nutrient—carbohydrates in this case—and then proceed to eat too much of that instead. Since the low-fat campaign began in the late 1970s, Americans actually have been eating more than 500 additional calories per day, most of them in the form of refined carbohydrates like sugar. The result: The average male is seventeen pounds heavier and the average female nineteen pounds heavier than in the late 1970s. You’re better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on “lite” food products packed with sugars and salt.

We have witnessed religious/political campaigns that also sprung up in the late 70s. Maybe there was backlash from the 60s that promulgated bad, but viral, ideas?

All that latter campaign succeeded at was dividing Christians, making Christianity unappealing to the general public, hurting (and even killing) people.

We need to take food in balance. We need to take physical exercise in balance. We need a balanced spirituality.

Thanks to Jon Swanson this morning for reminding me the important conclusion from the prophet Micah, “To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Spiritual Rules—A Riff

June 5, 2019

Check out this book by Michael Pollan, Food Rules. He had previously written several books researching nutrition including the large study, Omnivore’s Dilemma. In his latest book, he basically summarizes the findings of his 1,000-page work into 64 “rules” or practices.

First, he summarizes in 7 words–Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Then he points to two basic facts he had discovered with a corollary third fact:

FACT 1. Populations that eat a so-called Western diet—generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables, fruits, and whole grains—invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

FACT 2. Populations eating a remarkably wide range of traditional diets generally don’t suffer from these chronic diseases.

There is actually a third, very hopeful fact that flows from these two: People who get off the Western diet see dramatic improvements in their health.

Previously, I had read a study by philosophy professor John M. Cooper called Pursuits of Wisdom. I imagine that there was a lot of wisdom discussed in this book about how six ancient philosophic traditions focused on how to live (Socrates, Stoics, Epicureans, Platonists among them). The book was almost impossible to read. It was the most poorly written book I’ve waded through since I left academia.

What a contrast.

But I thought, how could I summarize something about spiritual development so clearly like Pollan in place of all the theology I’ve waded through that reads like Cooper’s.

I’m just playing with the thought now. Ideas?

Maybe:

Pray. Meditate. Serve others. Teach.

And a corollary–don’t overthink.

Why Worry

June 4, 2019

I grew up with worry. My mom worried every day of her life as far as I could tell.

My barber from years ago who was a genealogy fanatic told me it was a German thing. All of us who had German heritage from 19th century immigration were worriers.

But it’s really just a human thing. Worry is so prevalent that Jesus had a teaching (Matt 6:34) about “why worry”.

I searched for pop songs about worry. There are several. I liked the Travelers Insurance commercial with the little dog worried about losing his special bone to the tune of Trouble by Ray Lamontagne.

I made a deliberate decision many years ago to put worry behind me. It took time and effort. Your brain will believe what you tell it. If you focus on something pleasurable or positive when some worry-causing thought pops into consciousness, then you can divert the energy.

It’s a discipline. A life-improving discipline.

Survival of the Fittest

June 3, 2019

Darwin’s observations led him to describe how species survive with a phrase that became known as survival of the fittest. But, I’m not here to discuss Darwinism.

What we find upon examination is that it’s not the strong who are fit, nor the most intelligent. It is those who are most adaptable to change.

The Google hiring criteria once instructed to look for not only intelligence, but more importantly, look for people who are curious and adaptable to change.

One way to encourage your own adaptability is to develop high quality connections to other human beings.

The idea of the rugged individualist who survives and thrives totally alone is a myth.

Learn and apply one new thing every day. Teach someone else. Nourish a connection. Become fit.

We’re All In a Rush

May 31, 2019

I was driving at about the speed limit on a business area street in the early morning. The woman in the SUV behind was crowding my rear bumper as if to spur me on to higher speeds. There’s no traffic, as is typical for 7:30 am. Although there is often a policeman waiting for the unwary just ahead.

This is a small town. It takes 10 minutes to drive from one side of town to the other plus or minus a minute. You can run red lights, drive at 5-10 miles per hour over the speed limit, try for shortcuts. It’s still 10 minutes plus or minus one.

Why rush?

Why rush through meals? You only give yourself indigestion.

Even people in ancient times figured this out. Yoga, for example, teaches slowing down and being mindful of what we’re doing.

Meditation, what today we’re popularizing as mindfulness, helps us to slow down and raise awareness.

Rushing is a state of mind. Sometimes a result of a lack of planning. Or a lack of preparedness. We’re always trying to catch up.

It doesn’t work.

Meditation, mindfulness, taking things as they come–this is all good for the body and soul.

Or, as Paul Simon said some years ago:

Slow down, you move too fast 
You got to make the morning last 
Just kicking down the cobblestones 
Looking for fun and feeling groovy

When Our Blessings Are Another’s Curse

May 30, 2019

“Those tornados last night were destructive.”

“Yes, we were blessed by the Lord that they didn’t hit us.”

“I don’t think the people who were struck would appreciate hearing that.”

–Conversation overheard at a coffee shop.

We were indeed fortunate that the series of tornados struck 35 miles west of us and others 35 miles south.

But to say we received a special blessing of God implies that those other people, who are every bit as Christian as we, are cursed by God.

Some sensitivity to others before turning everything into “all about me” comes from taking a pause before making an uncaring comment.

We do this so easily in prayers. We pray for God to bless us, or support us, or protect us. But in so doing, we unwittingly are praying the hurt, destruction, and even death of others.

Developmental psychologists can describe for us at what age we should be outgrowing the self-absorption we had at 2 years of age. But we struggle into and through adulthood to broaden our view beyond ourselves.

We, in our location, were quite fortunate not to have destruction visited upon us. Others were not so lucky. We need to reach out in aid. For, the next time the tables may be turned.

The Work Set Before Us

May 29, 2019

The key words of Jesus’ final instructions to his followers–Make disciples of all the nations.

We have our task laid out before us. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard.

Maybe we think of the honor and glory of preaching to thousands.

Maybe we have the hubris to try to lead political movements.

But Jesus said, go and make disciples.

That means doing the hard work of one on one teaching, leading, counseling, sharing.

It means firstly looking to our own spiritual development. After all, children only lead other children into mischief. We must continuously grow in order to help others grow.

Maybe it means bringing people into a church. Those can be good institutions. But often they are gatherings of like-minded people prone to ego and constant argumentation.

Beware of ego and pride. Solomon asked for, and received, wisdom. Yet, his life was a shambles.

How many leaders have made themselves into a household name first for preaching and then for the inevitable fall when ego and pride have sunk their talons deep into the soul.

Pray to God today that he brings someone into your life for you to disciple and to teach to disciple others in turn.

Putting Forth An Effort

May 28, 2019

When complimented on an athletic skill exhibited during a contest, the child asked, “How did I do that?” The answer returned, “Because you practiced it again and again.”

Do you want to run a 5K, 10K, or marathon? Better buy a good pair of shoes, get yourself outside, and start running. There is no alternative. Running the race in your head while sitting in your comfortable chair will not build the strength and endurance you need.

Heed these words from Pope Saint John Paul II–Some Christians think they are able to do without constant spiritual effort because they do not heed the urgency of confronting themselves with the truth of the gospel. So as not to disturb their way of living, they attempt to empty, and make innocuous, words such as: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

How many people do we know or read about who are still in their spiritual infancy? They may speak as if they are mature. They exhibit none of the marks of one who has done the real work of spiritual formation.

Maybe because that takes effort.

There is no substitute for serious reading, thinking, praying, meditating, and service.

At the beginning of the day, think–God, provide one enemy today for me to love. Provide one neighbor in need for me to serve.

At the end of the day, reflect–where were all the opportunities God placed before me and where did I do the work and where could I do better?

Faith and Grace

May 27, 2019

A person meets with a priest. “Father, can I confess a sin to you?”

“You can confess to me, but I merely help you to confess to God.”

“But I just want to confess to you. I don’t believe in God.”

“That’s OK. I still just serve as an intermediary between you and God.”

“It’s OK that I don’t believe in God?”

“Wouldn’t it be worse if God didn’t believe in you?”

Part of a conversation I read.

Is faith first; or is grace? Do we need faith to confess our wrong actions and thoughts? Or maybe we practice confession as a spiritual discipline. And grace opens the door to faith.

After all, few, if any, of Jesus’s followers believed in him until after the resurrection. They had to witness God’s grace and practice spiritual discipline until the Ah Ha moment when it all came together.

We practice confession, meditation, prayer sometimes just as seekers, not as gurus. It’s like that man told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my unbelief.”

Yes, it would be worse if God didn’t believe in us.

Becoming Aware

May 24, 2019

Have you ever taken a walk with a small child who stops and studies everything along the way?

Better still, do you remember being a child and stopping to observe things with wonder and amazement? An insect making its way across the blades of grass. The pattern of veins in a leaf. The formation of clouds in the sky.

The American writer Henry Miller put it this way, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Here we step into awareness. We are not trapped within an unfeeling, uncaring shell. We shatter the shell and bring such wonder and amazement into our experience.

We expand awareness to include other people. For so many of us, other people are an intrusion, an annoyance.

Pausing to become really aware of others, their feelings, desires, hurts, wisdom. There is so much to be learned and experienced.

During the Psychedelic Sixties many songs were sung about blowing your mind. They probably referred to chemical substances in one way or another.

Awareness blows your mind in a completely different way. At this very moment, I’m looking at the intricate arrangement of petals on the flower of a rhododendron. Beauty in fragility with multi-shades of pink.

The handiwork of God in everything.