Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

Big Mouth Little Ears

November 4, 2015

The dental hygienist was cleaning my teeth with some sort of high-pressure water hose. She told me, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, because you don’t.” 😉

You have to think of something while you’re at your annual visit to the dentist. Sitting in the chair that’s tilted far back. Your mouth open as wide as you can get it and stuck in that position for 30-40 minutes. It hurts my jaw.

The thought popped into my mind about what James says about the pain that a big mouth can cause in others. You open your mouth. Words come out. Sometimes without a filter between impulse and speech. Then you see the pain on the other person’s face. At least I hope you are not so self-absorbed that you don’t notice other people.

Once said, the hurt is there. Never to be entirely undone.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “When someone else talks, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

That reminds us that most of the time it is better to keep our mouth closed and listen to the other person. Yogi Berra once said that you can hear a lot just by listening. Yep.

My problem in this regard is that I can be content to not say anything at a gathering. No, really. However, if you ask me a question, I’ll answer it. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I’ll really answer it.

But, I’d rather be quiet. No regrets that way.

My lesson–when all is said and done, the less said the better.

Free To Be With God

October 29, 2015

“The purpose of the spiritual disciplines is to make you free.”

Both Dallas Willard and Richard J. Foster warn about the proper use of the practice of spiritual discipline. The point is not to be able to say that I fasted so many days, or read the Bible every day, or prayed diligently. To have that attitude is to return to that old human attitude of works being the way to get right with God rather than trusting in God’s grace.

This morning in my meditation, my thoughts turned to freedom. It’s a topic I’ve pondered and written on for my entire adult life. I was greatly influenced by a book by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin I came across at age 20 or so. He looked at philosophers of freedom and divided the concept into two–freedom for and freedom from.

Without chasing the squirrels of various philosophical traditions, I’ll just ponder Paul.

He said that God’s grace and our response in faith does both!

Grace frees us from the tyranny of our emotions, our self-imposed boundaries, our jealousies, fears, worries, greed.

The discipline of meditation that I’ve practiced for more than 40 years has calmed my emotions, freed me from worry (something passed down from my mother and who knows how many generations), helped me deal with the winds of emotion which can enslave.

That is just one example. The discipline of reading the Bible or great thinkers about the topic such as Augustine or Henry Nouwen or many others has added depth to my understanding and guidance for my direction.

Paul does not stop there. Grace frees us for service. Why are we here? To serve others in love. That is Jesus’ command. That is what Paul repeats. Many times.

These are words that I never wanted to hear as an adolescent. I can still remember being 17 or 20. No bounds. Discipline is a bad word foisted upon us by conservative old people. Service to others is slavery.

Trouble is, many people today have yet to outgrow those adolescent urges.

Adolescents hate paradox. I’ve always been fascinated by paradox. Here’s an important one–discipline leads to freedom. Who would have understood that at 17–or sometimes 57.

Have We Become Voyeurs

October 28, 2015

One of my Spiritual Disciplines is fasting–fasting from TV news, that is.

No, I’m not a flaming conservative who thinks all the media has a liberal bias. Nor do I think about whether there is a conservative bias. TV news has a distinct sensationalism bias.

It’s all about how each network can get the largest number of people to watch for a long enough period of time to serve up plenty of advertisements. Don’t kid yourselves. You get sucked in to your news source of choice because they have figured out ways to get you to watch. This is simply a business model.

We fall for it.

The TV in front of me the other day while I was running on the treadmill showed off some so-called “expert” speculating about the motives or mental health of someone who injured and killed a number of people with her out-of-control car.

What good was that speculation? There was no fact discussed. Merely opinion. And not even informed opinion. Just the fantasy of speculation about someone they don’t know and really don’t care about. And a million people watched it. I even read the closed caption for about a minute to see what was up.

This is what you get when someone thinks that showing news 24-hours-per-day is a good thing. They quickly discovered that filling all that time with valuable information was either too costly or too boring. They have to hook you and reel you in. Not enough viewers means not enough advertising which means not enough revenue.

But people watch. And not just in North America. It’s a human trait.

Why do we get so wrapped up in idle gossip and speculation about others when there is so much of ourselves that we need to pay attention to? Maybe that’s too hard.

Practice the Spiritual Discipline of fasting from TV news. You might just discover your blood pressure dropping, your emotions more centered, your friends and family more understanding, and your attention fixed upon others whom you can love and serve. I call that a good thing.

Not For The Purpose of Quarreling Over Opinions

September 17, 2015

Yesterday I pondered what kind of church, indeed what kind of society, we’d have if we could incorporate Paul’s 29 definitions of love from Romans 12.

Then I glanced over a page and saw Romans 14: “Welcome those who are weak in the faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.”

We live in a society of people filled to overflowing with emotional opinions that are shallow and not thought out. Just check the majority of Facebook posts. Or check the comments to blogs over the past 10 years.

Andy Stanley recently taught a series called “Christian” where he voiced general society’s view of Christians as a quarrelsome lot. He nailed it.

I long ago gave up on the idea of having an intelligent conversation based on well-thought-out ideas among people willing to listen to reason. Actually, I have had a few business dinners where that sort of good conversation broke out. But it rarely happens among Christians.

What if? What if those of us who identify as Christ-followers, those seeking to live a with-God life, what if we chose not to quarrel with those weak in the faith over opinions? What if we asked questions out of the depths of love? And then listened to their stories with the depths of love? And what if we could quietly share just what great things happen personally when we live a life with God?

John Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.”

I’d love to see more than a few of us. How about you?

Don’t Live in Denial

August 5, 2015

“Every day ain’t a happy day.”

Have you ever met someone who is perpetually happy? They are always smiling. Do you wonder if they ever crash?

I was listening to Harvey Carey speak at Willow Creek on podcast from the Aug. 1 gathering while taking my annual run along Lady Bird Lake (Colorado River) in downtown Austin, Texas. I’m attending a technology conference and had a long day on Monday. So no post yesterday.

He told a story about a “testamonial” service at a little Baptist church in the south. 

A woman stood up and said she would like to give her testamonial. “Ever since I accepted Jesus 35 years ago, I’ve never had a bad day. The enemy has never entered my life.”

The pastor said to the congregation, “Let’s pray for this woman.” She said, “Why?” He replied, “When you are walking with the Lord, you will face headwinds from the enemy. If you are not walking against him, then you are walking with him.”

Carey said, “Every day ain’t a happy day.”

When I meet someone who is a little “over the top”, my internal sensors go on alert. 

We will all have bad days. Stuff happens. The key isn’t that we are happy 24/7. The key really is living through the bad days in the hope of the joy that will come.

That is reality. Living otherwise is living in denial.

Who Influences Your Mood?

July 16, 2015

Do you remember when Facebook researchers wanted to see if what you read in your “news” stream influences your mood?

They wanted to see what you posted after being exposed to either a stream of negative posts or a stream of positive posts. There was a huge uprising against their methodology–they essentially manipulated your news feed for research (not that they don’t manipulate it now).

They did find a correlation between what you were exposed to and what you posted.

Negative people can drag you down emotionally. Positive people build you up.

Both Paul and Proverbs warn us to be aware of whom we hang out with. Other people can influence us in ways we may not even realize.

Doesn’t it feel great to hang out with energetic, positive people? I was working at a coffee shop this morning and two women who exhibited those characteristics were involved in an animated conversation. I have no idea what they were discussing, but I think that they lifted my whole day. This was one of the most productive days I’ve had for a while.

This leads me to ponder two different things.

First–how do I become aware of the effect of someone? How quickly do I discern the attitude of the other? How quickly and decisively do I extract them from my life?

Second–how often am I the positive, energized person spreading light and energy to others? How often am I the doom-and-gloom person who drags people down? How quickly do I realize that in a conversation?

Perhaps a good practice would be to establish a trigger that makes us stop and consider our attitude and our words. We can modify them on the fly if we are only aware.

A Mind Like Water

July 13, 2015

We read in Proverbs (14:30) “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh.”

David Allen, author and consultant of “Getting Things Done” fame, talks about having a “mind like water.” That is actually a phrase he learned in Karate class that may come from Zen. The metaphor is of a pond of still water that absorbs the disturbance of a pebble or rock thrown in with the ripples gradually going away to nothing.

In Getting Things Done (all about personal productivity and effectiveness), this means writing down everything that you are holding in your head. Empty everything, every task, every commitment, everything you are trying to remember by writing it and putting it in a trusted space.

I’ve written before that I love Nozbe for doing this. It is a hard discipline to write things down. But when you empty your mind, you have “mind like water”–still, tranquil, waiting to handle the next disturbance.

James Altucher, a Silicon Valley investor, just wrote about productivity. He quoted Albert Einstein who once derisively stated, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk a sign of?” Altucher says, “that’s OK, Albert, I’d like an empty mind. That way I can fill it with what I choose.”

A tranquil mind means that I can concentrate on my Bible reading and other reading early in the morning.

A tranquil mind means that I can meditate with a clear focus on God far from all the distractions of clutter.

A tranquil mind means that I can come up with creative ideas for my business and my ministries.

As the wisdom teacher says, “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh.”

What Is The State of Your Heart

July 8, 2015

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” — Jeremiah 17:9-10

I heard John Ortberg once refer to Jesus as the first cardiologist for he was always concerned with the state of your heart.

We should all be concerned with the state of our own heart.

Where is it today? What is it full of?

Is it fearful? Look deep inside at it. Ponder. What is it that I am afraid of? Sit down and have a conversation with God. Lay out your fears before him. Then listen. God will lead you to a writing or will whisper a message that lets you know that with God in your life, you really have nothing to fear. You have a life beyond this one.

Perhaps your heart is full of bitterness? You have suffered a wrong, or at least believe you have suffered a wrong. People are bad. They are all out to get you. Your life is shriveled. People avoid you. God is there to heal the bitter heart and bring warmth.

Perhaps your heart is filled with joy. You smile easily. You are comfortable with yourself and your relationship with God. And God smiles with you, spreading the joy to all you meet.

Perhaps your heart is filled with love. Everyone you meet says, “There goes a true follower of Jesus.” And their lives are enriched.

Where There Is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love

June 22, 2015

Make me a channel of your peace…where there is hatred let me sow love… –prayer of St. Francis

Sometimes it seems we are living in the old Wild West. Everybody is carrying weapons. It feels as if violence exists everywhere.

Part of the reason is that we get news from all over the world, now. Once news was mostly local with a smattering of regional, national, and international news. TV now brings us, indeed floods us, with instantaneous news produced and directed for maximum emotional impact.

Still, how could a young man sit in a Bible study for an hour with a peaceful group of spiritual seekers, then coolly pull out a handgun and kill nine people. A quote I saw had him saying that they were such nice people he almost hated to do it.

All because they were born with a different color skin than his.

Yes, there is evil in the world. I had a deeply spiritual conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago who denied the existence of evil. But, it exists. Where else would someone learn to hate?

I had hoped that the civil rights work of the 60s would have yielded much more progress. I went to graduate school in the south in the early 70s. My Southern classmates all thought that with the new generation racial relations would be improved.

Overall, we treat people of other races, religions, and nationalities much better than we used to.

When it comes to healing the hearts of humans, though, sometimes it looks as if we’ve made no progress from the earliest times written in the Bible.

But we have. Despite all the fear-mongers and incessant media attention we are much safer in much of the world than we used to be. There are substantial places where peace needs to come.

Mostly we need to work and pray to heal people’s hearts.

What Is God Like?

April 21, 2015

“He is an old man with a long, white beard.”

“He is angry, vengeful, and if we don’t do the right things to satisfy him, we’ll go to Hell.”

“He is so full of love that he blesses everything and everybody.”

“She is the creator giving birth to the universe.”

“He constructed the universe and developed all the physical laws that run it.”

None of these, of course, can be found in the Bible without the use of much imagination. Jesus said Father. John said spirit and love.

The old man and many other myths come from the Middle Ages and its particular blend of fears and incorporation of pagan ideas into Christianity.

We must be mindful of how we come to God.

If our emotions rule us, they will construct a God in the image of whatever prevalent emotion we may have: fear, sympathy, love, disinterest.

If our intellect rules us, it will construct a God of distance, impersonal, giver of physical and other laws.

We work out our relationship with God bringing our whole self before the Father pleading for wholeness in our mind, body, soul. We move, as Paul put it, away from childish ideas about God. 

As in all relationships, this relationship grows over time. We discover more and more about each other. We grow closer, then more distant. We correct each other (well, maybe we don’t correct God, but we certainly try, don’t we).

Take care what rules us. Every morning ask for God to rule our emotions, thoughts, and actions during the coming day.