Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

There Between Passion and Prejudice Lies Jesus

December 6, 2016

Human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet. And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger he must be laid – and they will be the first to fall on their knees before him. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simple poverty, self-abandoned to God. — Evelyn Underhill

I love this picture. It captures our inner condition and ties it to the Christmas theme.

Making the mistake of scanning news this morning, I saw yet another example of Christians proudly wearing their prejudices. Why do we make everything political? Even theology?

I figure that to follow Jesus I must study Jesus. How do I know if I am doing what he wants and being the kind of person he wants me to be unless I study?

So I study.

And nowhere do I find Jesus telling me to do or say the things that millions of people who call themselves followers do and say.

Noel Paul Stookey, the “Paul” of folk singing Peter, Paul, and Mary, wrote a song with the title “Hymn.” He talks about a person who shows up at church occasionally and finds things sterile and political. He says about when they passed the collection plate, “I just had time to write a note, and all I said was ‘I believe in you’.”

It is the simple things that are so hard. What inhabits your stable?

What Have The Years Wrought With You

November 29, 2016

I knew a woman who was kind and funny. She got a job as a police dispatcher. Within a couple of years she became negative, cynical, joyless.

She dealt daily with criminals, people with stories about how they wound up  on the wrong side of the law, drug dealers, drug users. She seldom saw beauty and truth. There were no random acts of kindness.

I felt so sad.

When I reflect on the last year, one thing stands out–how many people have lost their kindness, their grace toward others, their joy.


I came across this thought while reading through my eclectic information gathering.

How have circumstances affected us?

Have we become more hardened, resentful, afraid?

These actually go together. Fear is at the root of many negative emotions. Fear of loss. Fear of the future. Fear of someone taking my job. Fear of others whom I do not know. Fear of the future.

However, we all know people (I hope) who have grown wise and understanding as they age. They no longer have anything to prove. They see that others have struggles, too. They see evil or foolishness and avoid it. They walk with God.

The Dalai Lama points to a wisdom that we also find throughout the Proverbs. It is our choice.

Every day we arise and we begin making choices. We can fill our minds with words of wisdom. We can fill our minds with the news headlines. Our choice.

We can choose how we react to the news. Do we allow our emotions to go crazy and get all worked up? Do we take a breath and allow the perspective of God to let us see beyond the news.

It’s not that I wish to ignore bad news and act as if it didn’t exist. That is a sign of mental illness. It’s just that I choose what I focus on.

We become what we think about.

Anticipation Or Making Me Ready

November 28, 2016

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

Carly Simon

I was still coming out of the season of Thanksgiving–focusing on gratitude–when it hit me like a bug meeting a truck. It’s Advent already. The season of anticipation.

Carly Simon wrote a love song. But the raw emotion is real.

Sure, we know all about Christmas. A billion people who barely know who Jesus is knows about Christmas. They can probably recite the passage in Luke popularized by Linus in the Charley Brown Christmas movie. You know, a little boy was born and placed in a manger.

What if we could imagine not knowing the story, yet? What if we were sitting in the evening every day discussing the possibility of a Messiah–the Anointed One, King?

We realize that we can’t know about the days to come. Not even the end of today. What if we’re just chasing after some finer day?

It’s making me late. It’s keeping me waiting.

I sit in meditation imagining sitting out under the stars of a clear desert night. Staring up, wondering. Are the stories from long ago just fables? Let’s put it in perspective of today. Those stories back then of a coming Messiah were older than the entire length of time of European settlement in America!

Then we can meditate on the story of Jesus. How he gathered people around himself. Taught them. They didn’t understand. The night he went to his death, they still didn’t understand. The day after he died–they still didn’t get it.

Imagine the mixture of anticipation and hopes crushed.

But then they got it.

Anticipation. It makes me late. It keeps me waiting.

Inheriting Eternal Life

September 19, 2016

Just walking along the road. Minding his own business. And a young man walks up to him. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Something must have been bothering him. What was it? An uneasiness in the gut? A whisper? Some uncertainty?

Something compelled him to approach the famous teacher and ask the pivotal question.

The teacher asked if he knew the commandments from his Scriptures. “Yes, I’ve followed them all my life.”

Well, that should have done it. According to the orthodox teaching of his faith, one earned his way into eternal life through following all the commandments. The young man should have felt assured.

He didn’t.

What about us? There is a current teaching reaching back a couple of hundred years or more that Donald Miller, back when he was writing stories, called “propositional Christianity.” Just say that you agree with their propositions, and you are saved–that is, you inherit eternal life.

But many, like the young man still have an uneasy feeling. Is this really the way? Why do I feel this little nagging in the gut?

The teacher says something to the effect of, well, you know the commandments, there must be one more thing in your way. Sell all you have and give the money to the poor.

At this the young man went away sad. For he was quite wealthy.

The teacher had disciples. His name was Jesus. He was always baffling his disciples–those who were trying hard to learn from him.

They looked at Jesus, puzzled. He said that it was almost impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. This was shocking. Everyone was raised to believe that the rich had it all. They could buy their way into anything. They were especially blessed.

“Who can enter the Kingdom of God if not a rich man?”

“With man, it is impossible. But for God, nothing is impossible.”

(Mark 10:17-23)

When we let go and trust God, then we find the Kingdom.

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.


Spiritual Discipline: Overcoming Emotions

July 6, 2016

…if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. — Jesus (Matthew 5: 22)

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They just are. How we handle them, well, that’s the subject of many books, advanced degrees, time spent in therapy, time that should have been spent in therapy.

I wrote a series of posts a few years ago based on the book, Emotional Intelligence. I’ve spent a lifetime overcoming some of the emotions I was exposed to as a child–anger, anxiety. I bet you all have your own set of emotions that, when they capture too much of our energy.

When it’s time to grieve, grieve. And when your friend grieves, grieve with her or him. When it’s time to move on, move on. And so it is with other emotions. Sometimes it is right to be angry.

But out of emotions riding unchecked, come things that hurt others and ourselves. We say things we shouldn’t have said. We expose our lack of maturity.

Don’t we all see things, read things, hear things that can ruin our day–or at least set us back a little? The other person was just giving vent to unbridled emotions.

I was on the Internet before there was a Web (yes, there was such a time). And there were groups (called UseGroups) where people gathered to share information on a topic. And, lo, there came “trolls” who would say hurtful things. And then came the Web and blogging. And people shared information and thoughts. And, lo, the trolls followed to the new medium. And hurt people deeply. It’s so easy when it’s late at night and your emotions are riding high, and it’s just words on a screen.

And then came new ways of sharing such as Facebook and others. And lo, we could all become trolls in general, venting forth our anger, fear, hate.

And people have not changed despite teaching, research, books.

2,000 years ago, Jesus dealt with this:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.’

Keeping your peace when you feel like venting is a Spiritual Discipline. It’s that moment between the urge and the keyboard or mouth when you have the opportunity for a deep breath. In the pause, you can reflect, “Of what use is this that I am about to say? Does it uplift? Or tear down?”

In that pause, we have the opportunity to show the true status of our hearts.

Inappropriate Explosions of Emotion

April 19, 2016

I had a conversation with a coach yesterday describing an inappropriate explosion of emotion I experienced over the weekend. And no, it wasn’t me!

It dealt with a coach explosion on the sideline of a game and subsequent venting in public. The coach I was talking with said, “Hmm, I’d better learn from that. Take a deep breath. I can get carried away at times.”

There actually exists a time for anger. Sometimes you just have to show emotion. There is a referee I know who is very good. Her weakness? She is always too nice. Sometimes you have to have “the look” that tells players she’s unhappy with that action.

I bet she develops “the look” when she gets married…OK, we won’t go there.

The deep breath comment is worth digesting.

Most times our anger is not that of an honest response to a wrong. It rather springs from sources such as wounded pride or excess of ego. Some of the angriest people are also the most insecure.

Andy Stanly discusses “what have we got to fear” on his current Your Move series.

Security comes from a deep relationship with God. Usually that was modeled by secure parents. If you were not so fortunate, perhaps a spouse or other relationship. Perhaps you could be that model of relationship to help someone overcome the fear and anger that resides deeply within.

In normal life, the deep breath before shouting at the kids or referees will save both us and others injured feelings and discord.

I go to my model. Jesus dealt with all manner of interruptions and even hate with patience and even-temperedness. However, when he was unhappy with the way the religious leaders were ripping off pilgrims to the Temple, he did not hesitate to show his anger at the sacrilege.

Deep breath. Slow release. Ahhhh. Now go face the day.

Speaking That Leads To Anger

March 14, 2016

He would say something about another person. That would lead to something else. Another thought would pop into his mind and out of his mouth with no filter in between. His face would get red. He’d grow agitated in movement. More, and worse, stuff would flow from his mouth.

The apostle James (1:19) tells us to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

I never connected the speak –> anger continuum until I read this thought and then remembered a guy I knew.

How often we get ourselves wound up. And the more we go, the louder we get. The louder we become, the more violent our language.

I still remember with much shame the last time it happened to me. It was years ago. I knew it was happening. I couldn’t stop. I can advise others; I can’t do it myself.

News reporters continue to talk about how presidential candidate Donald Trump uses inflammatory speech that appeals to the “angry white man” foundation to his campaign. I don’t know how true it is, but it makes sense. I know many “angry white men”. Not all will vote for Trump, but all are sympathetic.

Now I read about how violence among supporters and detractors breaks out at his campaign appearances. It works from the outside, too. One person getting more and more belligerent incites others to become more belligerent.

James is right about our words. It is useful in life to be careful what we say. Words reflect emotions. Then they incite emotions. Then we get angry. Anger leads to regret.

Most people need to be listened to. Be swift to hear, James says. Help other people feel worth something. After all, they are all God’s children, too.

Be swift to hear. Learn what bothers them. What brings them joy. Why they are in sorrow. Just listen. Most of the time there’s no need to commentary or advice–especially advice. Just look them in the eyes and nod your head.

James was wise. Follow his advice, and you’ll fool people into thinking you also are wise.

Conquering Fear

March 8, 2016

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away–

Buffalo Springfield

Why is it that every time there is an encounter with God or a messenger of God, the first words are, “Don’t be afraid”?

I wrote yesterday about conquering emotions. We really need to recognize them and come to grips with them. Psychologists will tell us not to bury them acting as if they don’t exist. If you do, then you will be visited with even worse conditions.

Many writers and analysts believe that the emotion of our time is anger. Therefore the attraction of Trump and Sanders. Each is playing to very real emotions of “common people” who believe that the political establishments have let them down. It’s hard to believe the numbers about the economy growing when we aren’t making as much money and the world is exploding  worse than the 60s.

This is not to discuss politics. I studied that in graduate school–and left it behind to go into engineering, computers, and manufacturing. Something more understandable!

But the mood of the times is important. It’s important to know how many of the people around us feel. It’s important to know how we feel inside. It’s important to recognize and then deal constructively.

Fear leads to anger? “It starts when you’re always afraid.” The writers of the song nailed it.

How do we cope?

There are many ways, of course, but let’s turn to Jesus, who as a teacher leading us into living a better life now as well as in the future, always caught just the right edge.

Try Luke chapter 12.

“I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food….”

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for you Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Meditate on those. For where we fix our minds, so shall our thoughts and emotions follow. We have the power to choose.

Overcoming Our Reaction to Emotions

March 7, 2016

Emotions are not bad, or good, in themselves. They just are. They happen to us.

When we dwell in our emotions and let them dominate us, then it’s time to see a professional.

But that is hard. Very hard.

When I first started meditating regularly in the late 60s/early 70s, I was seeking an experience of God. In the East they talk of words such as nirvana or enlightenment. Sometimes in Christian history, the term used was ecstasy. (not the drug)

I’ve had  mystical experiences. Mostly I don’t talk about them. What I did learn was the truth of the old Zen phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”

You may have an intimate experience of God. But the next day, you must go back to work.

As I went deeper, I discovered the works of the Desert Fathers. They were a weird group overall. But there were many masters of faith among them. And they have much to teach a willing student.

Eventually I ran across John Climacus–St. John of the Ladder. He wrote “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.”

Bet you think that this would be a step-by-step guide to enlightenment. You’d be wrong–sort of.

John shows how one emotion leads to another one–worse usually than the preceding one. He was actually a psychologist. He studied and learned more about the human psyche than Freud.

What I learned more than how to meditate was how to recognize the emotions overtaking me. What their roots were. How to deal with them (admittedly not always successfully).

I probably started down this path of thought reading my facebook “news” feed. Lots of opinions. Almost no facts. Lots of emotional reaction. Almost no reason. Pretty much not what the Founding Fathers wanted to see in a new democracy–but what they were afraid of.

It reminds me of the utmost importance of observing ourselves. Recognizing our emotional reactions. Tracing them to the root. Dealing with our own problem first. Then maybe helping others fix theirs.

Sometimes we just have to chill out a bit.