Faith Requires Doubt

October 10, 2019

“I believe; help me in my unbelief,” the father cried out to Jesus.

It’s a paradox. Faith requires doubt. Certainty kills spirituality.

When you know everything, there is no room for God.

An ancient wisdom holds that a jar is useless for you until it is empty. There must be room before you can use it.

We must empty ourselves in order for God to fill us.

Faith means that, in the face of doubt, we hold fast that there is a God who surrounds us with his spirit of love.

Peace

October 9, 2019

Sometimes God chooses unique ways to tell us something. I don’t spend very much time on political news. But in reality, it’s not something easily avoided. And sometimes the drama is enough to upset my equilibrium.

And sometimes God speaks.

Here, through Jon Swanson who is a great writer, even though he has a Ph.D., yesterday:

The better way? The better way is from ancient and true poetry:

I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, 

I have abandoned the frantic for the contented, the argument for the action. Or better, I am choosing and learning to live in the choice of keeping my eyes and heart committed and content with caring for the people and needs in front of me. Loving the one who God loves in the way God loves, welcoming then into the contentment of the presence of God. I’m following the nudges God lays in my heart, not the loud voices screaming on my screens.

From my daily Plough email yesterday:

St. Francis de Sales 

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in him and I am helped. He is not only with me, but in me, and I in him.”

OK, I get the message.

Good News?

October 8, 2019

If the Greek root word for evangelism is “good news”, why does the world at large not see evangelism or evangelicals as bearers of good news?

Many people, according to one survey 1 in 2 millennials, see the word as a negative. It stands for people who are bitter, negative, divisive, and who take delight in telling other people they are going to roast in hell.

Why?

If you are evangelical or practice evangelism, would you agree?

If not, what would you do to correct the perception?

Or, should I separate the words evangelism from evangelical? One is an action verb, the other describes people with a certain set of beliefs. Would that matter?

Just curious. I ponder such questions.

You Can’t Just Read It Once

October 7, 2019

Ryan Holliday is a modern Stoic. The American Founding Fathers were well versed in Stoic philosophy, for example, so an American Stoic isn’t that far afield.

I recently heard an interview where he was promoting his new book, Stillness. That’s on my “to-read” list. He’s a good writer and the topic fits my direction, but I can’t recommend the book, yet.

If you are not familiar with the Stoics (and it is worth picking up Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or something by Lucretius), they pondered a philosophy. Not a religion. As always, some people tried to make it into a religion of sorts, but that would not be in the spirit of the philosophy. They tried to figure out the best way of living.

Back to the interview, Holliday made an interesting statement worth thinking about in your quiet time. “Philosophy is something you do. It’s a practice. You need to read the same thing many times to bring it into your daily practice.”

Immediately, I thought about reading something like Paul’s Letter to the Romans. You could read it once. Check it off the list. Pick up a couple of sentences that reinforce your beliefs. And go on.

But really, Paul laid out a justification for his philosophy and then he left us with a practical guide to living the good life with-God.

I look at it like there are two parts to Jesus. And many, if not most, people pick one side or the other. There is the resurrection side–the belief side. And many people stop there.

On the other hand, there is the teaching side where Jesus taught how to live the good life walking with-God. There are actually many people who stop there, forgetting about that resurrection thing.

My recommendation–pick something, maybe Matthew 5-7 or the last few chapters of Romans. Read it. Then read it again. Read it until your life resembles the teaching.

There is faith AND there is practice. Let balance be your guide.

Be Kind

October 4, 2019

Be kind.

How hard can that be?

I saw a conversation thread on Twitter last night. The camera was pointed straight down at the legs of two people in an airplane. There were the woman’s legs squeezed against the outside arm of the seat. There was a blue-jeaned clad leg pushing against her leg.

Seems the guy sat in the middle seat, immediately slouched, his knees seeking space spread out into the seat space of his neighbors. The woman was, quite appropriately grossed out.

She asked, “Could you please move your legs back into your space?”

He replied, “What, you have a problem?”

Suggestions on the thread ran from calling the flight attendant to accidentally spilling a hot coffee to kicking him. Flights today are often filled, so moving is seldom an option.

Who raised that guy?

Be kind and considerate of others.

How hard can that be?

What Do You Feed Your Mind

October 3, 2019

I admit it. Proudly. I’m Gary and I’m a supplement taker.

I acquired a daily packet of supplements from a company that I trusted for years. Vitamins, minerals, herbs–stuff to make up for deficiencies in the food I eat. Then the company sold its supplement business. I just switched to Athletic Greens. This is not an endorsement, more like a testimonial. I’m happy with the results of what I’m feeding my body.

I try to avoid sugary (autospell just changed that to surgery, well I try to avoid that, too) foods. Sometimes at the coffee house I am tempted by a donut, sometimes I succumb. It is never as good as my imagination.

I opened my phone this morning. The only time it’s first thing is during soccer season when I want to catch up on which referee is requesting a game or who is turning back a game. However, I found out that today is National Techie Day, and my friends at Hewlett Packard Enterprise wondered what I thought was an appropriate way to celebrate.

Worse, I check out Jon Swanson’s post. I discover that I missed National Son/Daughter Day. Now my son/daughter will think I don’t love them because I didn’t post on Facebook. Curses, Facebook.

This leads to thoughts of what I feed my mind. I try to feed my mind nutritious thoughts and ideas. With occasional treats of murder mysteries or other fiction. Not much TV.

I use Twitter and LinkedIn for business communication. I use them; I try not to let them use me. It’s easy to get caught up into endless scrolling. I’m trying to cut Facebook out of my life. It’s like the sugary treat–it plays with your emotions so that you’ll want more.

What do you feed your body? What do you feed your mind? Both require solid nutrition or they will grow flabby.

Now, on to the important problem–how do I celebrate National Techie Day today?

Predicting The Future

October 2, 2019

Here in west Ohio this Spring was very wet. Standing water everywhere. Everyone predicted an infestation of mosquitoes this summer.

I work outside on the patio (thank you inventors of WiFi) all summer. Saw maybe one mosquito.

It doesn’t even work always for the same or next day. “Red sun in morning, sailors take warning; red sun at night, sailors delight.”

The ancient Hebrews studied their writings searching for predictions. But, they missed all the contemporary ones–such as Jeremiah and others going around saying, “If you continue doing this, then that will happen.” They did; it did.

The first Christians were the same. Searching for signs of the second coming and the end of the world. It got so bad that even the apostle Paul had to tell them to go back to work. They would need to eat until the Day of the Lord came.

Now, people over here in west Ohio are predicting that after a very wet Spring and a very hot and dry summer (which, by the way is still with us into what should be Autumn), we will have a cold and stormy winter.

I don’t know. I prefer to just take one day at a time. If the rapture comes, it comes. If it snows, I go out and hike in the beauty of the quiet whiteness of nature.

There is discipline in not worrying about tomorrow. Just live in the moment doing what walking with God requires of me.

Don’t Buy Cheap Chocolate or Coffee

October 1, 2019

Seth Godin just warned us about buying cheap chocolate for Halloween.

It’s the same economic principles and outcomes buying cheap coffee.

These tend to become commodities.

World markets drive down the price of beans. Add the presence of a few “middle men”, and the farmer’s profits plummet. They become so indebted to the banks that they are almost indentured servants. To survive, they hire children to work the fields.

Farm workers eke out a subsistence living. Not able to afford extra children, they sell their daughters into the sex trade.

It’s a cycle of despair caused by our appetite for the cheapest (and not best quality) chocolate and coffee.

Buy better chocolates and coffees from direct trade sources.

I know a farmer in Thailand who brought 72 women back home from the Bangkok sex trade when he started selling coffee directly to a US roaster and earned a fair return on his product.

I met a farmer from Nicaragua who saved himself from dependency on the bankers and paid all his workers a living wage by selling coffee directly to a US roaster.

Don’t stuff your face with cheap chocolate this Halloween. Eat higher quality direct-trade chocolate. Give yourself a treat and help a farm family survive.

Sustainable economics is also a spiritual discipline.

Maybe Get By With Less

September 30, 2019

John the baptizer was quite the interesting character in the Jesus story. A wild man. Dressed simply, yet unconventionally. Ate a simple diet. Preached a simple and direct message. Turn your lives around. Stop living like you were. Start living in God’s spirit. And, oh by the way, someone is coming right after me who will be greater than I.

A couple of hundred years later, the Desert Fathers took his example to the extreme, just as some humans do, and fled the cities to desert monasteries. They live simple lives with simple diets with few possessions. They focused their entire lives on God. Remnants of that tradition live on.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh…we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

We don’t have to mimic John and the Desert Fathers. Bringing something of their spirit of simplicity and focus would not hurt us any. Simplifying our diets would be healthier, if nothing else. Fewer possessions makes life easier.

Most important is the attention and intention of turning our lives from pursuit of more stuff to pursuit of more Spirit.

Death By a Thousand Digs

September 27, 2019

John Mellencamp wrote a little ditty ’bout Jack & Diane. “Oh, yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.”

I am out on a Saturday morning, usually driving to referee a soccer match and pass by a bar. And there are a dozen cars in the parking lot. And the unkind thought just pops into consciousness–don’t they have a life?

The teacher who started my meditations on trust (see yesterday’s post) discussed relationships. He talked about how women want love and men desire respect.

Love typically implies stability, security, someone there to listen, help, provide, get through life.

Respect is, well, respect. Looking at the opposite, it’s not constantly putting down the husband. How many couples do you see where you wonder how they stay together with the wife offering a constant stream of criticism and negativity toward her husband?

Perhaps the “thrill of livin’ is gone” when it’s killed by a thousand digs.

The spiritual disciplines of the day, mind your awareness and watch your tongue.