Posts Tagged ‘maturity’

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.

Solve Disagreements Within The Church Family

November 2, 2015

“What happened to that couple?” she asked. “I haven’t seen them in a while.”

“She got mad at something someone said and quit coming,” I replied.

“Well, we should settle those things in the family instead of just quitting,” she replied.

Problem is that no one within the family reached out to them. I told a pastor who had a better point of view to address the situation than I. But neither one ever contacted the other.

Both Jesus and Paul addressed settling things within the family. They addressed a similar matter about taking a brother to court. But the point still was that we should settle matters.

Check out Matthew 18: 15-17 and the first verses of 1 Corinthians 6.

Let’s take a look at both sides and see if there is some discipline that we should apply

Jesus also told us a couple of time that if we have something against a brother or sister (meaning within the fellowship) that we should make things right before proceeding with worship. I think even modern psychologists and therapists would tell us that we bear some responsibility with initiating reconciliation.

Often people say things that they have no idea would be offensive to anyone else. If you don’t go tell them, they’ll never know. And everyone will wonder.

Sometimes you say something and think “Oops, I didn’t mean that.” Or sometimes you get upset and say things. Self-awareness brings the conviction of having hurt someone. It’s important to put pride aside and go make things right.

Letting things go never works. Don’t go off and pout. Confront with love. Respond with love. Work things out within the family.

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.

There Is Wisdom and then There Is Being Wise

October 19, 2015

Read the Proverbs every year. This spiritual  discipline keeps the wisdom of how to live well deep in your mind.

The book was written and compiled by Salomon, the most successful Israeli king.

The story goes that he became king due to his mother succeeding in palace intrigue in the court of King David. He moved quickly to consolidate power and kill off his adversaries. Sometime later, he had a vision of a conversation with God in a dream and asked for wisdom as his gift.

God was happy with that request and granted it. And King Solomon’s reputation for wisdom was a great as was his wealth.

God promised that if he would walk in His ways, his sons would continue to sit on the throne and the nation would be blessed.

I find it interesting that nowhere in 1 Kings does it state that God selected Solomon. David selected him upon the request of Bathsheba (remember their story?).

So, the king possessed great wisdom. He used wisdom to rule.

However, his rule also sowed the seeds of his eventual destruction.

God’s wisdom from the earliest entry of the Hebrews into the promised land was “Do not marry wives from the tribes living in the land.” Great wisdom. Women bring their culture and gods into the marriage. Solomon married 700 princesses from tribes all over the region. He allowed them to maintain worship of their own gods. Eventually Solomon himself worshiped those Gods. Imagine that! The builder of the Temple as a residence for God.

Speaking of the Temple, Solomon worked and taxed his people heavily so that he could build the Temple and then a huge palace for his residence (imagine having enough rooms for 700 wives and 300 concubines). The people were not happy as we find out in the story of the next (and last) king of a united Israel.

Let us take a lesson. There is amassing a great knowledge of wisdom sayings.

Then, there is being a wise person.

Don’t be like Solomon. Don’t just know “wisdom”. Practice being wise.


October 8, 2015

I woke up this morning and did a quick check of email. Since I quit working for organizations, I no longer dread checking emails and finding long chains of inane “conversations.”

But whatever I was going to write about vanished from my head after reading two reports from a soccer referee about examples of very poor sportsmanship in high school matches by a coach who is also a referee.

I’ve searched the Bible. There is very little about games and sports. Paul uses training for sports as a metaphor for trainig for the spiritual life. 

So, I’ll consider our actions in that light.

Whenever I read these reports or witness them in person as a referee, I have multiple flashbacks of utter chagrin about the many times I’ve acted about as childishly. My first two years as a soccer coach were highlighted (in my mind) by the times I yelled at the referees. Then I took a class and leaerned the Laws of the Game. Oops.

It may go with being introverted or touched by Aspergers or having a mom who had issues–but I tend to remember times when I acted poorly.

I wonder if others ever do that.

There was a report from a referee who was followed to his car in the parking lot by parents after a game last night passing along their judgement of his limited capabilities. There was a coach who yelled and screamed the entire game and then instructed his players to feign injury to try to delay the game (I suppose he must have been up a goal and wanted to find a way to not let the other team attack).

One of the pleasures I’ve had from my involvement with soccer for the past 30+ years is the development of young people. We’ll get kids at 13, 14 or 15. We teach them the Laws. We teach and assist them in learning how to apply them in a game. The kids must learn responsibility (boy if I’ve had one conversation I’ve had a hundred about showing up for your games and on time). They have to learn decision making. They develop confidence. 

I’ll teach an introductory course and then maybe not see the kid for 2-3 years. They grow up. Their confidence is obvious. We taught them life skills.

What are these parents and coaches teaching? How to blame others? How to cheat? How to take shortcuts? How to behave like children? I’ve seen 12-year-olds act more maturely than their coaches and parents at times. 

We forget. We’re each training for success in our spiritual lives. Sports is a metaphor. Some of us grow. Some of us don’t. Some of us look back at our lives and shudder–much like Augustine in his Confessions. But I would hope and pray that we all mature in faith and spiritual development.

All The Stuff I Put Up With

October 6, 2015

“You can’t believe all the stuff I had to put up with.” 

That was a person justifying an adulterous relationship that was quite public and resulted in the breakup of two families.

The relationship was not abusive. One party just got frustrated with the other. Actually, they were  both frustrated. Communication was nonexistent. 

Then came the opportunity for passionate sex. Emotions–dangerous things if not handled.

To this day the people who initiated the affair fail to see where there was sin in the situation.

They had put up with so much stuff, they couldn’t take it any longer.

I heard the quote the other day. I thought, gosh, we all put up with a lot of stuff. It’s called living with someone who isn’t 100% devoted to fulfilling my needs. I’m not so sure I could stand that, personally. But maybe a little would be nice….but I digress, and jest.

Paul spent much time on reconciling relationships. The letters to the Corinthians, for example. More to the point would be Philemon.

Adultry is a sin. It breaks relationships and draws the people away from God.

Paul spends the first couple of chapters of Romans talking about the ways we sin. Then he talks about how we have to recognized them, and our part in the situations, and then our confession, healing, and restoration.

I have a great deal of empathy–and even anger–with abusive relationships. The abused must leave, somehow. But for those who justify “lots of stuff” as grounds for adultry, well, that’s too much a stretch. 

God likes to see us grow in maturity. We work out stuff one way or another. That is what grown-up people do. Heck, even kids know that.

Top Ten Leadership Commandments

June 26, 2015

Organizers of the conference a couple of weeks ago gifted us with some books. One of mine was “The Top Ten Leadership Commandments” by Hans Finzel, President and CEO of WorldVenture.

The book itself is fairly autobiographical, but the list is good as lists go. The sub-theme of the book is taking leadership lessons from Moses and extrapolating to present day problems.

The Top Ten:

  1. Thou Shalt Cling to the Vision
  2. Thou Shalt Not Serve Thine Own Ego
  3. Thou Shalt Practice Servant Leadership
  4. Thou Shalt Be Opposed, Resisted, and Misunderstood
  5. Thou Shalt Have a Life
  6. Thou Shalt Sweat the Small Stuff
  7. Thou Shalt Spend Time in the Tent (get away and meditate)
  8. Thou Shalt Lead to Leave
  9. Thou Shalt Never Give Up
  10. Thou Shalt Keep Thine Eye on the Prize

Those of us who have been a leader of something during our lives can look at this list and cringe in remembrance of things we missed. Maybe getting a little too full of ourselves. Maybe ignoring details. Maybe not taking time to refresh.

One of the hardest, at least for me, would be number 4. “I’ve thought this out, what do you mean that you don’t think it’ll work????” Or, worse, when a clash of personal agendas takes everyone’s eyes off the prize.

In the end, Finzel is optimistic and encouraging, even when acknowledging the pain. Go forth and lead!

When Words Become Meaningless

June 25, 2015

Upon becoming a CEO, a former research scientist turned to obsessive reading of management books to help make the transition.

He found lots of memorable phrases (my favorite–“focus, focus, focus”) but very little actual help. The author of the focus phrase neglected one very important piece of the puzzle–just what should the manager focus on!

Some phrases were repeated so often and regularly misused that the words–for example quality and excellence–had lost meaning.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same think as Christians (or Jews or Muslims, too). We repeat phrases that lose their original meaning and their impact. They become just words. Sometimes just words that we can use to self-justify (remember my recent post) our actions or lack of action.

I’ve witnessed people who have a favorite phrase (“praise the Lord” or “I love Jesus” or “I’m saved”) and then flagrantly commit adultery. Or even worse, pick up a weapon and injure or kill someone.

One of the original “God is dead” theologians whom I read probably 50 years ago was merely trying to explain that when the word “God” loses its power and impact on people–when it just becomes a word that is repeated–then it is as if to those people God is dead. Indeed, He is dead to them.

The word is there, but the spirit is missing. Or, as we used to say, the lights are on, but nobody’s home.

When we use words without power or spirit, we devalue the word, the thought, the spirit.

And remember, adverbs are not your friend. And adjectives should be acquaintances who seldom visit. And yes, when I wrote that last sentence I paused and scanned to count adverbs. I think one too many. What do you think?

God is a real spiritual being who desires a relationship. Jesus was a human being who, being the pioneer of our faith, died and then returned to life. Real beings, not just words.

Words have power, use them wisely.

Character Development

May 18, 2015

I spent all weekend at a youth soccer tournament. Players ranged in age from 8 to 18. Parents ranged in maturity from 2-yr-olds to mature. Typical spring in Ohio, as well as much of the US.

My job was to recruit referees and assign them to games. I devoted many hours last week doing both of those. 

During the tournament, I check to assure that all the referees showed up and to cover for those who didn’t. This was a great weekend. The only problem was one I created by not doing the proper math about when one game ends and when another begins and how far the fields were from each other. I started the game as referee and then turned the game over to the assigned guy. 

That’s because once the tournament play begins, I become the appeals court for referee problems. I travel from field to field watching and evaluating and giving tips for improvement to the entire group of referees. I also travel around settling disputes. 

Sometimes referees need some extra instruction. Or I have to move them around to avoid situations. Sometimes coaches or parents get into arguments and I try to settle things down.

It is a joy in life to contribute to the development of so many young people. I have devoted the last 25 years or so developing young referees. They may not always last as referees, but through the process, I try to teach them life skills of observation, decision-making, handling people, confidence, and communication.

The most gratifying thing in these tournaments is the development of coaching. Coaches used to know little about the game, didn’t teach anything during practice and then figured they could get the kids to do what they didn’t teach them simply by screaming at them–and at the referees.

Now, I see coaches teaching basic skills, then team building skills. They give instruction during the game instead of berating the kids. Sure, they get upset with some calls. We all do. Sometimes I do even when I’m evalutating a referee. That’s life. The bad coaches are becoming scarce.

We need to practice this same character-building effort in the rest of life. Is there a child or young adult who could use a mentor? Intentionally seek out people like that. Invite them for coffee or lunch. Build a relationship and nurture tham. I have few greater joys in life than seeing people grow.

Have you found a mentee today?