Posts Tagged ‘actions’

To See Ourselves

July 27, 2016

I interviewed a man recently for a project I’m working on recently. He said, “You are always smiling and upbeat. I can’t even imagine you angry.”

It’s one of those moments when we get jarred out of our self-absorption and think about how others watch us, evaluate us, consider us.

What sort of image do you wish to project? Angry white man? Anxious mother? Bitter, negative?

Many times when I stop and consider how I looked to others in the past, I’m embarrassed. And, I have much to be embarrassed about.

I think about poor Peter, the apostle. He had one of those experiences where you are consciously outside your body looking at yourself. It was in the courtyard during Jesus’ trials. The third time he denied Jesus the cock crowed and he saw himself and was ashamed.

Seeing ourselves in the situation can get us out of situations.

Say we are standing in a queue. Maybe it’s for customer service. I see it often in airports. Could be somewhere else–the coffee shop, the grocery. Some obnoxious person is arguing with the employee. Getting nowhere, of course. We see ourselves in that situation and think, we don’t want to look like that. We put on a smile and treat the person kindly. Thank you Jesus for letting us get a glimpse of how we could look and changing before we have something else to be embarrassed about.

It’s not that I don’t have my moments. Last night at a busy intersection–lots of pedestrians–I was waiting for the crosswalk to clear before making a right turn (British readers must picture this in reverse, of course). Woman in a large SUV must have been in quite a hurry. She turned left in front of me with the crosswalk still full of people. Maybe I hit my horn button to alert her 😉 . I can get annoyed.

Anyway, after talking about Mr. Negative yesterday, I’m relieved to know that somehow my life has been molded so that I’m not that way.

And it’s not too late for you no matter what your age. God gave you consciousness and the power to choose. Peter reshaped his life and became a courageous and respected leader. You can become a better you.


Persevere In Practice

July 20, 2016

“I know how to hit” exclaimed the kid to his baseball coach.

“Yes, but that just makes you a coach. Hitting makes you a player,” replied the coach.

Yesterday’s topic was focus. I thought I’d, well, focus on focus for a few days.

So, I did a search for the word “focus” in my translations of the Bible on my iPad. Digital books have much to commend themselves.

Focus does not appear in the Bible–at least my English translation. I figured Paul’s writings would be full of the word. But, alas, no.

He does tell us to persevere, though. And there is a similarity. In Romans, he advises, “Persevere in prayer.”

I take this to mean–do it; concentrate while doing it; make it a practice.

I thought of a little kid learning to hit a baseball. “I know how to hit,” he says. But knowledge only gets him so far.

Actually hitting a baseball gets him on the team. To hit a baseball requires focused attention, consistent practice, and perseverance over a period of time.

Many people know the Bible. Many people know about prayer. But what do they practice? Do they practice studying the Bible with the focus on improving their lives? Do they consistently focus on prayer to bring the Spirit into their lives (and into others’ lives)?

It’s like the person who knows CPR but can’t do it when someone needs help. (I worry about that. I take a refresher course every two years. Will I remember and keep my head if I’m in a situation?)

We’re in a game. Life. Are we just going to sit on the bench and watch others play while we do nothing? Or are we going to apply that knowledge to actually going up to bat?

“Batter up!”

You’ve Got Some ‘splainin’ To Do

July 5, 2016

“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Desi Arnaz to Lucille Ball

One of the earliest of TV comedies was the Lucille Ball show. It featured a crazy “housewife” and her Cuban band director husband–Lucy and Ricky. She was forever getting herself into impossible situations and then Ricky would discover the scheme of the week.

Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, was speaking Sunday on Paul’s second letter to his mentee Timothy (2:14-17). Paul instructed Timothy as a pastor and leader to warn people about the destructiveness of empty chatter.

Carter proceeded to pull up Facebook on his laptop (projected to us all, of course), and showed some of the more sanitized of his “news” feed. The loudest response came when he mentioned that many posts are made late at night. “There’s nothing you have to say at 11:45 pm that the world needs to know,” he stated.

It is hard to count the number of times I want to respond to the lies, exaggerations, innuendos, and hate I see spewed by people I know who call themselves Christians. If “by your fruits you will be known” means anything, perhaps more of us should be looking at the fruits of our hearts as broadcast to the world through our Facebook posts.

Well, then I stop, let it sit for a while, and then realize that nothing I say will have any impact on the person. It’s best to just not read it in the first place (you can unfollow people who continually violate that “mindless chatter” stuff and save yourself a few points of blood pressure increase). If by happenstance you do read the stuff, just let it slide by.

But the thought came to me picturing these Christians (especially) on this topic facing God someday and hearing, “About that Facebook thing, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

It Takes A Golden Attitude

May 12, 2016

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” –wisdom of Jesus recorded by Matthew

The “Golden Rule.” It presages the later saying of Jesus when he was asked about the greatest commandment. He responded with the “Shema”(worship the Lord with all your heart, mind, body, and soul) and added “and your neighbor as yourself”.

I needed a quote for the “Morning Son” Yoga class (aside: there exists a segment of Christians who worry about everything including whether Yoga is Hindu worship–sheesh). I went to Jesus’ teachings found in early Matthew. This seemed appropriate.

Later conversations and a few Facebook updates reminded me that the church denomination I belong to–United Methodist–is holding its General Meeting currently. This is the body that gathers every four years to decide on policy matters.

People I know who are, well, rather conservative, are living in great angst for this week concerned that the church might officially proclaim that “homosexuals” are people.

That made me think how easily we throw labels around. A coach at the soccer tournament last week (from a wealthy Columbus suburb toward the fans of a less-wealthy suburb) yelled across the pitch, “They’re just a bunch of hillbillies who should get in their pickup trucks and get the hell out of here.”

Similar to “we don’t want no homosexuals in the clergy” or whatever their worry du jour is.

Well, these groups are people. Yep. Believe it or not. And neither chose it. They were born it. And, by the way, thanks to Jeff Foxworthy the contemporary word for hillbilly is redneck. As in, who cares? He can make being a redneck funny. But the coach wasn’t trying to be a stand-up comedian, even if people did laugh at him.

It is an age-old practice. Put a label on someone, then they don’t seem like people. Then I’m free to hate, disparage, discriminate.

We get so worried. Then we forget these simple little commands of Jesus. Other people are also creatures of God the Father. And he loves them. So should we. There is no need to get all worried. Just practice love. I know it’s hard. But Jesus didn’t say it would be easy. He just said what we should do.

Leadership Means Establishing Responsibility and Accountability

April 22, 2016

Responsibility and accountability. These are both spiritual formation values and leadership essentials.

One of the organizations I work with has developed a system of diffused responsibility and accountability. When there is no one person responsible for a function, that task will be undone and the function will not grow and prosper.

Think about Jesus. He made people responsible for themselves and for certain roles. His last instructions to his followers we call the “Great Commission.” He did not give the instruction to an organization. He gave it to those who follow him.

Then he told stories, such as that of the talents. The servants were given responsibility to make the most of the money the master entrusted them with. But then the master returned and held each accountable.

As a leader or part of the ruling board or committee, the essential task prior to oversight is to establish clear responsibilities and accountability. Do not put two different committees or point leaders in charge of the same thing. Now no one is accountable.

Establish point leaders for each important function that must be done. Start with the overall manager and then each functional area. There are certain things that must be done if the organization is to succeed. Assure that these are defined.

Just so in personal development. We are each responsible for our spiritual formation. No one will do it for us. We can search out guides and mentors. In the end, we are each responsible for what we did in response to Jesus’ commando–“Go into all the world and make disciples…” We are each responsible for deciding to be a follower and developing and using our gifts in the service to God and to all other people.

We cannot escape being held accountable for how well we accomplished our responsibilities in life. As Paul laid out in Romans, life in the spirit begins with faith and completes with how well we lived.

Let Your Light Shine

April 13, 2016

Still looking at the early teachings of Jesus that Matthew recorded. Jesus told us about letting our light shine. We don’t hide lights (duh). The reason we turn one on is to illuminate an area, right?

Whenever Jesus used a common physical story, it is always meant to describe our own lives.

So, he took the light metaphor and applied it to us.

Let your light shine, he said.


Some think that letting our light shine means to talk all the time. Light equals air. We are shining because we are always telling people about Jesus and ourselves. We tell it. And retell it. And even more.


That’s not what Jesus said. Check it out.

Jesus said that we should let our lights shine so that people will see our good works.

But not just to see that we do good things. It’s not about us. Jesus has lots of stories about people who do things just for show. It’s a little theater. Look at me.

No, Jesus said another so that. So that people will glorify God because of our good works.

It’s all about attitude. You don’t do good works to earn God’s favor. You do good works because you have this great relationship with God. And then you let people see them so that God will get the glory.

We make a mistake when we think it’s all about preaching. It’s all about revealing our right relationship with God through how we act and what we do. Don’t hide your light.

Taxes and the Pursuit of Spiritual Practice

April 12, 2016

Working on income taxes brings out so many spiritual issues that there could be a book. Or maybe spiritual practices and personal development practices (as if they could be separated).

I’m working on mine. Yes, I know they are due in less than a week. But mine are a little complicated. I have a business with income and expenses and the like. On the personal side, my wife and I are reasonably generous and have many charitable deductions–our major personal deductions.

While pondering all my receipts and expenses, I thought of all the ethical decisions based on each item.

Is this truly charitable? Well, in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, is it truly charitable and deductible? This is both an ethics and a legal question. Deserves honest answers.

There are so many ways for a non-rich person to ignore income that was cash only or came in a variety of “off-the-books” ways. Not illegal, but not reported. More ethical decisions.

I use a tax preparation program. Fitting things into the categories has always been an intellectual exercise calling for yet another cup of coffee.

Yes, tax time is definitely moral inventory assessment time.

It’s also personal growth and productivity time.

I’ve written about Getting Things Done, Evernote, and Nozbe (my to-do list capture and productivity tool).

The first practice is to capture everything–idea, receipt, income, contract–in one trusted place. I keep almost no paper. I use Evernote for documents. I photograph or scan all receipts or use the cloud where possible. Send directly to Evernote. I link important things that relate to next actions from Evernote to Nozbe. Nozbe is my daily (hourly) reference for what I should do next. This one is easy–sit down, concentrate, do taxes!

This collecting process is the one thing that helps that few people do. Looking around for scattered notes and odd pieces of paper is time consuming and will definitely lead to your missing important documentation.

Good record keeping circles back to help on the ethics issue. You have the document and know what sort of income or expense. Of course, you still have to make decisions and do the work. Where’s that extra cup of coffee?

Jesus Turned Everything Upside Down

April 11, 2016

Matthew had an interesting outline for how he wanted to present his friend Jesus to the world. He introduces Jesus and the scene. Then he skips to Jesus baptism and what we call temptation (actually a period of spiritual formation followed by facing temptations which always happen to us after a deep spiritual experience and we’re strong enough to deal with them).

Then he consolidates the core of Jesus’ teaching. Chapters 5-7. I have now decided to reread these annually along with my annual reading of the book of Proverbs.

If you can clear your mind, throw away footnoted, transport yourself back to the scene in your imagination, then read the teaching, perhaps the message will sink in.

Many of us need time to let things sink in and become part of our awareness.

Looking at the “blessed” statements with eyes open to the world of the Romans, you see how Jesus turned it all upside down. Instead of the powerful being blessed, it is the opposite.

Then Jesus proceeds to raise the bar on following the law. It was already hard for people,  especially common, ordinary working people, to follow every bit of the law. Then Jesus says, you have heard it said, but I say… He made it impossible.

Then you think about it. If you think you can follow the law to become right with God, you have set an impossible task. However, if you have the right relationship with God and people, then you will in fact be following the law. It’s all upside down–God’s way and our way.

So it’s sort of weird, our spiritual practices. They should help us maintain a right relationship with God and at the same time help us focus on being right with other people.

We don’t study just to be knowledgeable. That is useless. We study so that we know how to relate to others and how to help point them to a relationship. We also study (people have said in surveys) to achieve and maintain our own right relationship with God.

Same with prayer. Same with worship. Same with fasting.

Spiritual is not just what’s inside you. Spiritual is also how you manifest that which is inside to other people. Are you helpful or a hindrance? Generous or selfish? Thinking of others or all about you?

He Started a Revolution And We Almost Missed It

April 7, 2016

My morning studies now involve just reading the words of Jesus. I’ve been deep in Paul for a few years and felt like it was time to visit the source.

I’ve often taught over the years about how Jesus upset the philosophy, should I say spirit, of Rome. The prevailing spirit of the time was power. He who has power, wins. Even the Pharisees played along. They just defined power as following the Law better than others did. This gave them the feeling of religious power.

Jesus upset the whole thing.

Matthew records that Jesus began his ministry proclaiming repentance–turning your life around.

Then he proceeds in his compilation of teachings to what we call the Beatitudes. And who are the blessed of God?

  • simple people
  • merciful people
  • peacemakers
  • humble, meek people
  • those who mourn
  • those who are persecuted
  • Those who hunger for righteousness

None of these would be Pharisees. Even today, in most churches we do not consider these people in our midst blessed–holy ones.

When we sit in our chair in the morning for study and prayer, maybe we need to check our attitude. When we go forth to serve, maybe we should check our attitude.

The powerful and super-confident may seem to win for a while. In the end, they don’t.


Are There People Who Are Not Christians In Your Church?

March 30, 2016

I didn’t mean to miss posting yesterday. We had guests and then we were relaxing and I forgot all about writing. Yes, that’s hard to believe. And, I left at 5:30 am for a meeting on the other side of the state. In Ohio, that’s a 3-hour drive.

Looking at our Easter service and thinking about the early  church growing by attraction, I started to meditate on people in the church. Especially when I see posts on Facebook from people who claim Christianity, but their posts belie that stance. Meaning that there is precious little in what they say that sounds as if it were rooted in the New Testament.

So, I got to wondering, how many people were attracted to come to the church who are not followers of Jesus?

Then I thought, there are two types of these people.

On the one hand would be seekers. They know that they are not followers, but they are attracted enough to find out more. They feel a need and feel there’s something that other people have. So, they come.

On the other hand, there are members or regular attenders. They may even say that they are a member. On a questionnaire, they may even check Christian.

But one wonders. Are they really? As the old saying goes, if you were tried at court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?


So, I wondered. How many people around me are that second type? And why have I not attracted any of the first type?

And, how do my actions stack up?

I’ve been reading in an early “catechism” ascribed to the apostles themselves called the Didache (dee-da-kay). Many chapters are advice on how to live. Makes me wonder–if someone were watching my life unfold, would they know that I’m a follower of Jesus?