What’s the Difference

same workI love this. It was posted by a person involved in an organization encouraging life change.

I immediately thought of two people my wife and met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia the other day. One, a driver, was miserable about everything. One, a woman struggling with mood swings, was looking forward to rejoining her family. He had no hope. She was optimistic that she would continue to get better at managing the turmoil of her own soul.

Hum. I read one time that Truth is like a cat. There are hundreds of ways to grab a cat but only a couple are helpful if you want to carry it. What makes the difference between those who take a step and those look at a useful Truth and do nothing?

Change

A M Laos Buddha Park Frog Eating the MoonWhat do you think of change? I remember talking to a fellow who said, “All change is to be deplored, even change for the better.”

When I was 15 change meant freedom like driving a car. At 40 I was looking to buy my business. I knew many who were looking for that “big promotion” they had worked on for years. At 70 change probably means more visits to the doctor.

As I Christian I believe that the world both reflects God’s intention and is fallen. That is true of families, work groups and friendships. I am eager to look for what is right and to celebrate it both in your life and in mine. However, I also expect to see things that need change.

Now that is the rub – recognizing those things about myself that are not what God intends for any of us. Understanding why I do things that hurt others or frustrate myself means acknowledging my own pain, my part in perpetuating that pain and the harm I cause others. Having been through the process of change and healing literally hundreds of times I know in my head it is all good, but in my heart it is upsetting. Why go through it?

Why indeed?

Why Talk About It?

KEP pool smallerMy wife and I are in Cambodia where the people are as beautiful as the country. I am teaching Exodus to native Christian pastors and also Christian meditation practices to ex-Buddhists. I get asked, Why?

I read recently, “As atheist Penn Jillette said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” 1.

Well, first of all, I don’t hate people. Some of the people I love think I am way to opinionated and am doing this for some sort of ego deal or guilt or something. They certainly are strong in their own outlook and a couple think that I am a closet “cultural imperialist.” I thought people gave up on “cultural imperialism” as a reason for doing/not doing things with the fall of the Berlin wall, but I recently discovered that I am wrong again. Oh well.

Secondly, I have no greater personal joy that to watch someone’s eyes light up as they grasp something for the first time. I loved that in the US. I love that when it happens with pastors or teenagers or grandmothers in Cambodia. Why would I want to cheat myself out of such joy?

Travel through Cambodia and you will be touched by its beauty. Travel through the heart of another and you will be touched by the burden that karma, ancestor worship and the fear of demons lays on their hearts. To help lift a burden from another fellow human being, a sister or brother, is a beautiful thing.

1. Strobel, Lee; The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives (Case for … Series) (p. 174). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Rushing By

riverWhat was your greatest joy yesterday?

Would you have remembered it or even noticed if you had not just read the question and taken time to reflect?

We all cherish those who make us laugh, are unexpectedly generous or who really see us. People who are safe to share with stand out in our lives. One of my toughest bosses expected nothing short of the best from each of us. She also created an environment in which we knew that what was expected was possible. She had absolutely no need to reassure herself at other’s expense. Therefore, she celebrated our achievements sincerely.

She took time, about 10 minutes in the morning and about 10 minutes after lunch, to meditate. She would ask, “Lord, what is working?” then allow thoughts or images or impressions to come to her. Then she would ask, “Lord, Who do I need to see?” and did the same. Harriett never “puffed” people for a cheap “feel good” nor did she ignore negative moments. She was careful, however, to notice what was working. She reminded us of pushing thorough other difficult situations. She was know for sitting for a private moment with those who were struggling. She was wise.

When I owned my own business I continued her practice. By the time I retired I was known among my colleagues for having an exceptionally profitable business with extremely competent people. Actually, the two go hand in hand. Exceptional businesses are built on the foundation of its people.

To be one of those people that pick others up, we have to see the world differently. Taking time to ponder the river of life as we are experiencing it, asking a simple question like, “When did I see Your love this morning?” does at least two things. Time in listening prayer helps us remember our own life experience and be grateful for what is right. Listening prayer also help us see the people we live or work with.

You may be intuitively great at this, but if not you can learn. You will be amazed and where God leads you if you take time to find the Divine in each day. If you would like further help in the art of listening prayer, you might want to check out www.prayerforbusypeople.com/wordpress. So what was great about your yesterday?

Who Are You?

Who Do You Say that I Am?
Who Do You Say that I Am?

I was reading Emotional Intelligence 2 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Breaves the other day. One of their suggestions is to review the feedback about yourself that you receive from others. I already know that an important part of being an effective leader is knowing what page you and others are on. This way of troubleshooting those images was new to me. And so simple. So I did as they suggested. And Wow.

I discovered that I am experienced by others differently than I see myself. For instance, though it is true that I hurt people at times it is also true that I encourage them. Though it is true that others hurt me at times, they mostly enjoy my company and affirm my value as a person. So the notion I have that relationships are almost always problematic is just not true. My actual experience is that relationships are occasionally problematic, generally affirming and that mistakes others and myself make are usually correctable. Wow. It is really a good deal. This “troubleshooting” technique has already begun saving me time and energy replacing anxiety with joy.

As a Christian I often find myself translating secularist insights into Christian terms. My secular friends have been know the do the same in reverse, so turn about is certainly fair play.

The word “Shalom” often translated as “Peace” means “to be Whole.” “To be Whole” means in part being aware of the whole truth about others and ourselves and the character of our interactions. You probably know this already. Just in case you are a slow learner like myself give it a try. When you are meditating simply ask God, “Who do other’s say that I am?” Listen. Then ask, “Who do You say that I am?” Jesus asked these two questions of his disciples several times in the Gospels. You might just discover good news as you “troubleshoot” one of the great sources of effective leadership, your images of self and others.

Finally, living in the world that is is far better than that world I invented. I am liking God more purely. I am more willing to take risks in relationships, risks that generally bring fantastic results. If you have not already figured all this out, I hope you try it and have great blessing in your life.

So Cool

recordplayerThis morning I held the face of my first friend’s sister in my heart. I asked, “Lord, what do you want me to remember?” and released the question into the quiet flow of my thoughts.

This is what came to me. In my mind’s eye I saw my friend Brook going into her room and “borrowing” her record player. We were about 13. Being liked by girls seemed to demand learning new skills. Our mastery of slingshots and no hands bike riding just was not going to cut it.

Girls liked to dance so we were practicing the Bop. We were listening to one of those classics like “Tutti Fruiti.” At one point Brook got off balance and fell to the floor. He started laughing. I laughed so hard I had to sit down. There we both were, aspiring to be “cool,” sitting on the floor roaring. Then we got up and danced some more.

I am not sure what I thought then, but this morning I pondered the thought that when we are learning new skills, we are likely to end up dancing the dance of the elephants. But that is OK. This has been going on since we first tried to crawl. It has not been lethal yet. So laugh, get up and practice some more.

Who Is on First?

Be Still My Soul
Be Still My Soul

Who is on first? You may remember the Abbot and Costello skit about who is on first. Though humor, the question is a good one. Who is on first when we meditate.

A secular friend of mine said that she found “relief from everyday noise” when she meditated. When I shared with her how meditation allows me to gain new insights about my life and relationships, she smiled and said, “Yep, happens to me too.”

“Do you feel that you receive gifts of insight?” I asked.

“On, yes,” she said, “and they are often beautiful. That is one of the reasons I take time to do it.  I believe these insights are a gift I give myself.”

“Personally, I believe that what I experience as a gift is a gift and what I experience as the product of my own efforts is a product of my own efforts.” She smiled as I added, “The gifts I receive are one of the reasons I believe there is a God.”

So when you meditate who is on first? Yourself? God?

Rejoice Together Before the Thrown of God

two old friendsThe other day I had lunch with an old friend. He is a remarkable man, one who has lived generously.  He is facing one of the nasty forms of cancer. Yesterday was a good news day. His eyes were bright, full of life and his smile spectacular. We were simply together eating good Vietnamese food and happy for the time we shared.

Several times our conversation touched on wellsprings of divine intention and the Spirit drew us together in a remarkable way. As a professor he has a very active, analytical mind. These days I say to him often, “Let yourself just know what you know. This moment of Unity between us and with God is Holy. God is not a belief. God is a person we experience.”

When we parted he said, “Namaste.” That means literally, “I bow before the divine in you.” Often a formalized greeting in Hindu culture, he meant it in the liberal sense. He allowed himself to know what he knows, a wondrous thing to do.

Chats with Ourselves

resting childMeditation is a universal human capacity. It is a form of prayer common to all spiritual people including those with no particular faith system..

The question that separate one form of meditation from another is “What is the purpose?”

A common answer is “disengagement from our lives.” Many people do experience their lives as being a bit “too much.” They celebrate the relief meditation gives. I am one of those who deeply appreciate the sense of resting, “floating apart from the stream of my own consciousness” as one friend put it.

For me, meditation is cultivating the art of listening for God’s voice. I experience an intelligence beyond my conscious control, an intelligence that is caring, restoring and purposeful. Some call this type of prayer “resting in the arms of God.” In Psalm 131 David wrote,

“But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.” Ps. 131:2

People who meditate can experience such rest. One possibility so such rest is to hear God healing word, embrace the voice of eternal wisdom and engage in our live’s new possibilities. If you meditate already, when you experience distancing from the press of the daily churn of our minds, ask, “Lord, when have I seen your love lived today?” and listen.  Experience for yourself what happens.

Virtue and Vice: Who Do You Listen to?

I’ve been thinking about the difference between virtue and vice in Christian thought. I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

I looked at the related human behaviors, persistence and stubbornness and meditated on them for a while.

Persistence is the art of pursuing the same goal by different means until learning what works or learning to modify the goal. Persistent people learn from others  and their experience.

The Biblical expression for “stubborn” is “stiff necked.” The Israelites raised goats as well as sheep. Put a rope on a lamb and give it a tug and they will generally respond by following you. Now try it with a goat. This is “stiff necked.”

stubborn-goatNow persistence and the related idea of perseverance are virtues. Stiff-necked or stubborn is a vice. They are both about being consistent and pushing ahead in spite of obstacles.  So why does God recommend persistence but warns against stubborn?