Posts Tagged ‘living’

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.

Six Things Productive People Do Every Day

July 14, 2015

This is a riff off a Silicon Valley investor (I follow many high technology bloggers and Websites) James Altucher. I think about personal disciplines a lot. I think about how developing a set of disciplines–or practices–can improve the way we live our lives. And enhance our spiritual journey.

Altucher was not thinking specifically about spiritual development. Many of his (more than) six things are (or can be) spiritual disciplines.

He says, “About six years ago I would say I was 100 percent unproductive. Everything I did would cost me in either well-being or money. By “well-being” I mean, competence, good relationships, and freedom. So when I say “cost me well-being” I would do things to specifically hurt the above three.”

Here are some good thoughts–especially when you see some of the stuff that gets passed around on Facebook. “Using that filter you can easily decide what is productive and what is not. For instance, do you respond to that negative comment on the Internet? No. Never. That person is dealing with his issues. Maybe he or she needs help from people who love him. But you don’t have to give that help. That would be unproductive.”

“A day is productive if I grow in competence. If I grow in my relationships. If I grow in my feeling of “choosing myself” – my freedom to make my own decisions in life instead of catering to the decisions and tastes of others.”

Here is his list. I love them. I may think of a couple more. What do you think? What would you add?


Reading is maybe the most productive thing you can ever do. Here’s what happens: when you die at the age of 100, you’ve just lived one 100-year life.

But when I read a book in a few days time, I just absorbed an entire life, curated, of someone I admire or respect. It’s like every book I read is a mentor. How many mentors do I have? 1000s.


I used to admire people who say, “I only need three hours of sleep a day.”

Only later do I find out that most of these people are borderline mentally ill. Think about the people in your life who say they only need three hours of sleep. Be honest. Maybe they are a little… (fill in the blank).

Why is sleeping productive? There’s brain science about rejuvenating neurons, etc. I read that somewhere. There are all sorts of studies that people who sleep more get sick less, have more willpower, are less at risk for cancer, etc.

But there’s something else. Dan Ariely, a guest on my podcast, says that the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after you wake up. So here’s what I do. I wake up at 5. I’ll read (or take a walk), until 7 a.m., and then I’ll start writing. Writing is the activity I love most. I’m a little kid again when I write. So I want my brain to be at it’s peak. So I’ll write from 7 – 9 a.m.

Then, I do a trick. Many days (when I can) I’ll take a 1-2 hour nap around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Then I know that two hours later my brain again will be peaking. Maybe not as much as before. But enough. So I’ll write again. This is why I do my Twitter Q&As at 3:30 every Thursday because I know my brain is supercharged then.

I know that if I do the activity I love most when my brain and body have the most energy then that will create the most value, create the most opportunities for me, improve my competence and improve my freedom (because of the opportunities generated).

Eat at Home

I don’t like to eat out. It takes so long. And then you have to wait for the bill. And I always feel bloated and I hate salads in restaurants.

So we make simple meals and we are done in about 10 minutes, two meals a day. I probably save an hour or two by not eating out or not eating junk that will bloat me and make me less productive.

Throw Stuff Out

A few months ago, my wife and I threw out almost everything we owned. What do we really need? I like reading on the Kindle. How many sheets do we need? We never have guests. How many clothes do I need? I was storing clothes I hadn’t worn in forever. Our house was totally empty. It was really nice. I felt like a breath of fresh air was going through my head.

It makes room for new things, new connections between my memories, new things for me to enjoy. Fewer things to obsess over. Cleaning the outside and cleaning the inside reduce stress. Every day I try to throw things out. It makes me feel good.

It also makes me feel like I need less. Throwing things out tells my brain, “you don’t need this anymore,” so my brain stops wanting things.

No News

Someone asked me a few weeks ago to comment on “the situation in Greece.” I guess they are going to default on their debt. So what? This gives TV people something to argue about. I’m happy for them.

People are wired to notice lions much faster than they notice apple trees. That’s why we are alive.

Since there’s no more lions chasing us down Main Street, the news tries to find other ways to trigger that fight or flight reflex.

No Meetings

I never went to a meeting where someone gave me a check at the end. I’ve never traveled to a meeting where it resulted in me making money or being happier. Most meetings can be summarized in a two-line email.

I’ll go to a meeting if it’s with my friends. That’s fun and improves my relationships. But I never go to any other meetings.

No Phone

I talk on the phone maybe once every other day. Again, the two-line email thing works in most cases.


I like Neil Strauss’s approach. He has one hour a day scheduled for emails. His wife has his password so he can’t even log on to email before that hour.

Again, if you’re an employee somewhere you might be in the habit of responding quickly to email from, say, a boss. But try to cut it down to end-of-day when your brain is moving a bit slower and you don’t need it as much. Only do the thing you love most during your peak productive hours.


We’re the sum of our experiences and not our material things. Experiences stay with us forever and build us into who we become. They add to our well-being. Material things get lost or thrown out or lose their usefulness.

A good experience for me is: where I meet friends, where I learn something new, where I learn something new that can increase my freedom.

Christian or Follower of Jesus?

June 18, 2015

Most of the time I just like to teach. Or point out some interesting or ironic observations. Or share something that (I hope) helps  people in their spiritual formation.

Then, sometimes I get into controversial things that cannot be explained in 300 words or less 😉

This may be one of those.

How do I describe myself?

I’ve just returned from a conference with an international focus. I count people from many cultures and many countries as friends (OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I hope they are). I am aware of history and its impact on perceptions people have even to today.

While contemplating a completely different subject for this post, my thoughts focused on the differences between the person I was going to quote (see a future post, I’m sure) and me.

He’s not expressly a Christian–or maybe not even consciously one.

But, I sometimes have a little problem identifying myself that way. I have absolutely no problem identifying myself as a follower of Jesus. His words have penetrated deeply into me for what seems like my entire life. I want to be like him (as a disciple should), although even while writing this, I’m painfully aware of how far from that ideal I am.

I know people from the Middle East. I’m aware of the connotation that “Christian” often has. Instead of describing someone who lives such an attractive life that people want to be like them, the term often recalls savagery, genocide, exploitation. Even in Europe, “Christians” massacred each other for hundreds of years. No wonder that so many throughout the world don’t care to identify with the name.


The Acts 2 church grew because the people lived such extraordinary lives that they attracted those around them to Jesus.

Last week I met (English names, not theirs exactly) people like Daniel and Joe and others who are living that kind of life. They are in areas hostile to “Christians”, yet the example they set is so attractive that people from a diverse religious and cultural background are led to learn more about that unique person from 2100 years ago.

I’m little interested in knowing if you identify yourself as “Christian.” I am more interested in whether your life reflects how you are a disciple of Jesus. I just used a quote at the end of my Yoga class, “As I grow older, I am less interested in what men say. I just watch them and see what they do.”

At the end of every day we should ask, “What did I do today that proclaimed that I follow Jesus” and “What should I do tomorrow to show that I follow Jesus?”

How Is The Life You’re Living Working

April 30, 2015

What are you doing right now? Well, aside from reading this.

What are your plans for the day? The week? The month?

How much time do you spend watching TV or movies?

He comes home from work, slouches on the couch in front of the TV, and gets up only to eat and use the bathroom until time for bed.

She uses every available minute to turn on her phone and check up on what her “friends” are posting on Facebook. Maybe taking time to text message a few virtual friends.

He sits for hours with the computer playing multi-player games and “hanging out” with his virtual friends.

How easy is it for our lives to slip away into meaningless activities! You look up at the end of a month or a year or a life and wonder where it all went.

Living a life with intention means that we relax when we intentionally mean to relax. And we choose our activities wisely.

Ponder on this question for a while:

Is the life that you’re living worth the sacrifice that Jesus made for that life?

Jesus made time for dinner parties with his friends and acquaintances. But he also healed, taught, mentored.

Try this. Sit and think for a while. Write a list of things you’d like to accomplish. Not so much a goal as a result. Or a place where you’d like to intentionally spend your time. Perform a service. Write a book. Participate in youth activities. Be a better employee.

Write your daily to do list based on what you want to be or what you want to do (hopefully the same). Review every month. What have I done where Jesus would be proud? Has my relaxation and entertainment been just a mindless waste of time or has it been physically/mentally/spiritually renewing? Have I connected with real people?

Live a life intentionally honoring the sacrifice made for us. 

Now What?

April 6, 2015

Easter is over. Many of us had beautiful worship experiences. Worship leaders went all out to provide music and speaking designed to lift our spirits and emotions.

How was your worship? Meaningful? Do you feel charged up, reinvigorated with the remembrance of the foundation of the Christian faith–the resurrection of Jesus?

Now, you’re up. It’s Monday. You’re returning to work. To normal life. With its difficult people, challenging tasks, things left undone.

Now what?

How do we take the experience of the risen Lord and live today? Live in this moment?

Will your life be different today from Friday?

Paul reminded us that we have to go back to work. We can’t live our lives totally in worship and meditation. At some point we have to go out and work. Provide for bodily needs–food, shelter. Serve others. Witness our changed lives.

We return to work refreshed, renewed. We take with us a deeper understanding of peace, joy, perseverance. And the presence of God.

Paradox of Faith

March 2, 2015

Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus is a powerful healer and speaker able to take on the most powerful men of his time and place.

Wait a moment. He’s meek, led to slaughter, bleating? Or, is he powerful, a healer, tremendous inner strength, leader?

I love paradox. I love how seemingly contradictory attributes can both be correct.

Some people need one or the other. There were some strands of thoughts in philosophy that began especially in the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries with disastrous results in the 19th century where the focus on Jesus was only as a bleating lamb not understanding the power of the gospel. 

Some people still fix their thoughts on one or another attribute. Sometimes we don’t understand people because often people are walking paradoxes.

Paul said that he often does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do. 

His actions, like ours, don’t always reflect our beliefs. We don’t always do as we say.

As long as we keep trying to do what’s right, that’s OK. We are born as a paradox and life is a paradox.

As a youth I was targeted to be an engineer. I loved technology from the time I was quite young. But I hated school. I’ve worked as an engineer. But I discovered I don’t have the typical engineer’s personality. They tend to like certainty. They like things to be black and white. I revel in shades of gray (not 50, that’s the topic of another article).

The point is, can we all come to grips with paradox? Can we accept a Saviour who is both meek and powerful? Can we be both meek and powerful? Can we live with people who are living through things and cannot be defined in just one word? And say, that’s OK.

Understanding that we all often fail to do what we want to do.

How Many Missionaries Have You

November 6, 2014

A pastor was asked, “How many missionaries does your church have?”

He replied, “Fifteen hundred.”

The questioner was amazed. “Where are they?” The reply was something like the coffee shop, a law firm, and so on. It led him to map where his congregation’s members worked and lived.

I don’t know if he included outreach missionaries scattered around the nation and world. But his point was, if you are a Jesus-follower, then you are a missionary. “And you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth.”

It used to be, and many may still live this way, that we hire a pastor and he (in the old days, always “he”) does the work of the church. The members come on Sunday to hear the choir and pastor give a performance. Then they leave to go to their jobs and homes.

I guess I know many of those people even today.

But Jesus never talked about a special class of people to do his work. He had a core group of disciples we call apostles. They were to make disciples, with the expectation that those disciples would make disciples, and over again.

And he said we would be witnesses. That means we must experience something. And then we tell others about our experience. We don’t go around talking theory. That’s OK in its place. But that’s not the point. The point really is telling people, “This is what I’ve experienced in my life, and you could experience this, too.”

So, after we have experienced God’s blessings, then we are called to be missionaries. It may be in the home, where we work, within the church to seekers who come in, or maybe to the ends of the earth. It all counts.

We do have to take care that we are not all talk. Unlike being a witness in a court case, being a witness to the power of Jesus in our lives means that people can see the whole life. That how we behave is congruent with what we say.

Go, and be a missionary.

Acting On What I Know

October 8, 2014

Paul, in one of his most complex yet simple passages, talked about how he found himself doing what he knew he shouldn’t be doing.

Every once in a while I perceive a person or situation and get a strong feeling that something isn’t quite right but then proceed to get involved anyway. It has happened in business a few times. I know that there is something wrong with the person I’m dealing with or the situation is too vaguely defined, yet I do what I know I shouldn’t do.

That just happened to me yet again. I knew better, but for a few emotional reasons, continued on. Then it didn’t end well.

Sometimes that feeling occurs in ethical situations. Or relational ones. I know that I shouldn’t go there. Or say yes to someone. But I do it.

I guess while pondering this, I don’t feel alone. If someone with the stature of Paul could struggle like this, then I’m not abnormal.

The key thing is that we reflect on those circumstances. Then we learn to recognize as quickly as possible the mistake and take immediate moves to correct the course.

Ending relationships, even dysfunctional ones, is always the toughest. No parting is smooth. But many are necessary. Looking back over the past 20 years of my life, I can see where the temporary tension of leaving an unhealthy relationship contributed to my health and growth.

Perceive, recognize, act.

Traits for Success in Life

September 23, 2014

Part of my daily morning routine is scanning some news and a variety of blogs using Feedly on my iPad. One blog I’ve followed for several years is Lifehacker.

Recently it ran a post based on a TED Talk that I had not yet heard about results of research into traits of successful people. From Lifehacker:

Lecturer Richard St. John traveled around the world for ten years to conduct face-to-face interviews with successful people like Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, James Cameron, Matt Groening, and even Dan Ackroyd. The list of successful, influential people he interviewed goes on and on. After analyzing everything he’d learned, he come up with these eight traits:

Passion: Love what you do.
Work: Really hard.
Focus: On one thing, not everything.
Push: And keep on pushing yourself.
Ideas: Come up with some good ones.
Improve: Keep improving yourself and what you do.
Serve: Serve others something of value.
Persist: Because there is no overnight success.

Somehow I think that most of us could have compiled this list with a little reflection. Contemplate on these virtues. No matter where you find yourself, isn’t it great to meet people with passion for what they do? Those whose orientation is to serve others?

But think of the trait of constantly improving yourself. This is a lifelong journey. Never stop growing. Never stop improving.

Like this list? Have others? Let me know. This is a great list to put in a journal or on a card by the computer to refer to occasionally just a a check up on how we are progressing on our journeys.

When Confronted With Reality

August 25, 2014

Colin Dexter wrote a series of detective novels based on the character “Inspector Morse.” They were adapted by BBC (and shown on PBS as part of the Sunday Masterpiece Mystery summer series) and then used as the source for the latest series “Endeavor” showing Morse as a young man.

Morse puts the pieces together, comes to a logical conclusion, then discovers he’s wrong. Unlike Sherlock Holmes who was always right, Morse is seldom right–until the end.

He figures it out, discovers he’s wrong, puts the pieces together again with the new piece of information, and then he’s wrong again. This continues until the final few pages.

I just spent a half-hour this morning fruitlessly searching for the source of the observation:

There are two types of people when faced with reality: those who bend the facts to fit with their preconceived view and those who adapt themselves to the new facts.

Which are you? Do you even recognize that in yourself? Can you change if you need to?

I am instinctively like Morse. I will adapt to a new reality. It may take me some time. I may have to digest the facts. Sometimes it’s a shock to discover that you’re wrong. Or that you’re not the center of the universe.

Some people seem incapable of adapting. They tell themselves a story of how things were. Convince themselves of that version of reality (which wasn’t real). And continue on.

Is there any way to deal with such people when they remain obstinately convinced of reality the way it exists in their imagination?

Probably not.

But if that person is us, then we eventually need to come to the realization that we’ve interpreted the facts wrongly and that it is us–not the facts–that need to change.

It says in Proverbs “A fool returns to his folly.” The book was written to be like a mirror held up to our lives where we see that we are the fool, and that we need to change. I’m not sure we can change someone else, but you might ponder these questions. Where is it in our lives that we hold on to a view of reality that is wrong? What can we do to open our eyes and see?