Mile 4

Pat Schneider’s writing is inspiring. Needed attempt at brain pressure release.

Unsuspected I approach

They meander

Pacing and pecking, flapping and feeding, united and unique

Unsurprised I pause

They pass

busy and bothered, noticed and noted, caught and captured

Unhesitant I acknowledge

They came

sent and selected, happy and harmonious, celebratory and committed

Reflecting on seeing the flock of ibis on my run this morning, the day after my birthday, and my friend who joked I work like them. “The family flew in.”

“They Changed My Life”

Twice in the last 24 hours I’ve heard the same accolade given to a man: “He changed my life.”

One was in an episode of “The Good Doctor.” A character, grieving the loss of a coworker, said he had changed her life. Her grieving caused her to see it.

The other was in a devotional. A high school senior gave this praise to a teacher. Many teachers get this opportunity-to change a life.

As you read this, I’m guessing someone in your past comes to mind. A teacher? A coach? An employer? A family member? A pastor? A friend? A coworker?

This person, although living their life with purpose, most likely didn’t look at you and determine, “They need changing. I’m going to change them.” Not that literal. What they most likely did was simply see you. Listen to you. Answer you. Value you. Honor your place in the world. Give you a place in their world. And it was enough to foster change.

May we all see, listen, answer, value, honor, and give enough to foster change. May we all have said of us, “They changed my life.”

Photo by Zazen Koan on Unsplash

Grace to Fake It

I was called a liar yesterday. In jest while proofing my email, my colleague accused me of not being honest by expressing appreciation for a phone call that they understood I wasn’t really thrilled about having received. They were right, sort of.

My reply, “It’s called grace.” Amy Cuddy would call it “faking it till you become it.” (From her book Presence)

Let’s be honest. We don’t always have grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, trust-all the things we want to have, to be, to give. It’s that fruit of the Spirit list (Galatians 5:22-23) that we strive for, that we judge ourselves by, that we possibly believe just isn’t attainable.

Although Cuddy wasn’t making a spiritual statement with her suggestion, I’m suggesting we can adopt it when it comes to producing spiritual fruit. Following the Spirit’s lead, we can give grace, even if it feels less than 100%. We can forgive, even if it isn’t 100% pure…yet. Does that mean we are lying? I’d say it means we are “walking more in the Spirit than in the flesh” (back up to verse 16 in Galatians 5).

We have to start somewhere. Maybe what we all need is grace-grace to allow ourselves to fake (submit to it when it isn’t 100% what we feel) the fruit until we become it. Sorta like when your parents made you say you were sorry and you loved your sibling as part of their discipline tactics. 100%?

P.S. The reply email I received produced better results from faking it than not.

Participating in Mystery

Recently a colleague referenced this book by Pat Schneider:

After doing my usual thing of sampling it on Kindle, I purchased it. (NOTE: “Usual thing on Kindle” means if I’m enticed to highlight while reading the sample, it’s more than likely an eventual purchase.)

At first I wasn’t enticed, but then came these two lines from the same paragraph:

When I achieve true waiting, true listening, something happens that I experience as a gift…If I am made in the image of the creator, then I am myself a creator, and my acts of creating participate in mystery.

That first line grabbed my attention. It aligns with several messages I’ve heard recently, the most recent while driving to Orlando yesterday. (NOTE: To radio DJs, your words carry power.) I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I’ve taken on a burden when someone shares intimate stories with me. I’ve been eased and encouraged lately to see these sharings as gifts, completely altering how I listen and experience the moment.

And that second line, it’s a different way to say what I’ve often told others. We are creators. We are creative. We were created to create. Opening our minds to that truth and expanding our definition of creativity frees us to “participate in mystery.”

16 more chapters. What light awaits?

A Few Lines from Presence

I posted about Amy Cuddy’s book Presence on January 31. I finally finished it today. What a great read.

The last two chapters were worth the wait. Chapter ten addresses what she called self-nudging. Here are a few quotes:

Presence is about approaching your biggest challenges without dread, executing them without anxiety, and leaving them without regret. We don’t get there by deciding to change right now. We do it gently, incrementally, by nudging ourselves – a bit further every time.

Focusing on process encourages us to keep working, to keep going, and to see challenges as opportunities for growth, not as threats of failure.

The more you reframe your anxiety as excitement, the happier and more successful you may become.

And chapter eleven captures the point of the whole book. “Fake it till you become it.”

Leaving Secrets

Posthumous secrets.

Some are good. We find out things that the person did that mattered, that impacted, that altered courses, that showered generosity without attention. We read things they wrote, produced, created that uncover meaning. The world is blessed by unexpected surprise.

Some aren’t good. We find out things that the person did that shocks, that hurts, that damages, that produces unanswerable questions. We hear things they chose, hid, manufactured that defy understanding. The world is grayed by unexplainable bewilderment.

May we live lives that leave good secrets.

Photo by Nathan Hanna on Unsplash

Too Comfortable?

This quote is a screenshot from a Sunday morning message given this past week by Pastor Jordan Easley of First Baptist Church, Cleveland, Tn. He’s in a sermon series entitled “How the Church Acts.” In this message, he addressed that the church is to be made up of people who live with purpose. It wasn’t a message that churchgoers haven’t heard before, but this statement shed a different light on the message.

What is a non-negotiable anyway? My words-something that a person won’t budge about. For instance, I’m an Alabama fan-not going to budge on that one. I don’t eat brussels sprouts-pretty sure that’s not going to change. You get the point.

So when it comes to churchgoers, how is it possible that they have non-negotiables? According to Pastor Easley, it’s possible because they’ve become too comfortable. He wasn’t necessarily referring to being too comfortable in our lifestyle; he’s referring more to our view of God, our relationship with the Giver of Life both now and forever.

This statement made me think the rest of the day. Made me question what non-negotiables I may have. Made me wonder if I could be drawn to making some and what would be the result. Made me wonder enough that I’m sharing it with you.

Non-negotiables won’t exist in heaven. Makes me want to eliminate them today.

A Time for Preaching and Listening

I came across Amy Cuddy‘s book while browsing in Barnes & Noble. The cover intrigued me.

I ho-hummed through the first two chapters. Then came #3, “Stop Preaching, Start Listening.” Highlighter activated. And mostly because of the illustrative work she retold of Boston minister Reverend Jeffrey Brown. Follow this link to his Ted Talk.

His story of turning around gang violence in Boston in the 1990’s definitely brings light to the definition of presence. You could say that he defines presence as simply showing up. But how you show up is what Cuddy emphasizes with this statement:

When we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In our research, my colleagues and I have referred to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively.

She ties warmth and trust together, competence and respect together. And whether we realize it or not, we first check a new acquaintance’s trustworthiness before their competence. Yet, when people are asked which they’d rather be seen as, most choose competent. Cuddy believes that desire can lead to costly mistakes.

To avoid that mistake, she encourages us to focus on the value of listening. Here are five reasons why:

  1. People can trust you.
  2. You acquire useful information.
  3. You begin to see other people as individuals-and maybe even allies.
  4. You develop solutions that other people are willing to accept and even adopt.
  5. When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.

In order to get somewhere with the gang members, Reverend Brown had this attitude: The youth have to be looked at not as the problem but as partners. How much farther might we get in all life’s arenas if we adopted this mindset? In our families, in our offices, in our courtrooms, in our churches, in our schools, in our legislative bodies, in our town halls, in our social media posts, in our spotlight moments, in our journalism, in our prayers?

There is a time for preaching and a time for listening. How much further might we get if we honored those times?

Problems to Society

“Beatitude people aren’t problems to society.” -J. Paul Nyquist, Prepare (2021 book #2)
Students of the New Testament understand that adjective beatitude. It’s a reference to the first part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew. Chapter 5 verses 3-12 contains a list of eight descriptors for people that Jesus taught are blessed. These descriptors run, just like they did then, contrary to society’s thoughts about being blessed, being happy. Take a look at this summary by Pastor David Jeremiah, and you’ll see why:
  1. The humble (those poor in spirit)
  2. The hurting (those in mourning)
  3. The harnessed (the meek)
  4. The hungry (those seeking righteousness)
  5. The helpers (the merciful)
  6. The holy (those with a pure heart)
  7. The healers (the peacemakers)
  8. The harassed (the persecuted)
A different worldview describes happiness and blessing by what you own, by getting what you want, and even more by what you deserve. That worldview potentially leads to a society full of self-indulged citizens who, unintentionally and intentionally, cause problems. For those hungry for peace in their hearts and in their world, we must take the lead. We must be beatitude people. Will we be perfect? No. So in those moments, we’ll need other beatitude people around us. People who say, “I’m for my society more than myself. My worldview is different. I am a beatitude person. I’m not perfect either, but God gives me grace. I’m going to share that grace and decrease problems in our society.” Photo by Sabine Van Straaten on Unsplash

A Toe-Dip Re:Christian Nationalism

I follow Pastor Jarrod Jones’ blog. His last post expressed his feelings following January 6. The title? No More of This. Pretty well expressed my sentiments.

In the blog, Pastor Jones used the term “Christian Nationalism” three times. This line of content and dialogue isn’t my normal pool, but I’m going to dip my toe in. Why? Because I believe most of my fellow American Christians need to enter the dialogue. And I’d rather not sit this one out.

I felt pretty good about what I understood the term meant, but I decided it would be helpful to read how others-more learned and versed-were defining it. And it wasn’t hard to find their viewpoints. In an article published in December by The Gospel Coalition entitled “Christian Nationalism vs. Christian Patriotism” by Thomas Kidd, Matthew McCullough was quoted to define American Christian nationalism as “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” 

I then found notes from Christianity Today‘s Quick to Listen podcast episode that aired January 13. The episode title was “Christian Nationalism is Worse Than You Think” and featured Paul D. Miller, a research fellow of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Miller said this: “Christian nationalism is a political ideology about American identity. It is a set of policy prescriptions for what the nationalists believe the American government should do. It’s not drawn from the Bible. It draws political theory from secular philosophy and their own version of history as well.”

These definitions are alarming. They are most alarming to me because they convey what I’ve observed more and more in my own experience in the church. I must add, in the American church. Why the addition? I haven’t traveled much internationally; but in the three nations I’ve visited (Belarus, Jordan, Guatemala), I had the opportunity to visit and attend worship with fellow Christians. On reflection of those visits as I returned to worship in the States, a glaring difference emerged. Those believers love their countries; they are proud to share about their cultures and accomplishments to the visiting American Christians. But that doesn’t lead them to expect what American Christians expect when it comes to politics and freedoms. They seem to know where the line is between worshipping God and worshipping country. For example, the idea of arguing over the placement of national flags in their worship center would be foreign to them and would never reach the pitch of causing permanent division in their church body. So imagine their reaction to seeing the usage of Christian flags in the Capitol’s desecration.

One day following January 6, Relevant, in an article about the rise of Christian Nationalism, recounted the April 2019 shooting in California where 19-year-old John Earnest walked into a synagogue and opened fire, killing one woman and injuring three, because he believed killing Jews would glorify God. We Christians, who love our country but love God more, have the opportunity to set things right, like Reverend Mika Edmundson. Reverend Edmundson is the Presbyterian pastor of the church where John Earnest attended. He expressed after the shooting that his church bore some of the blame for Earnest’s beliefs. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching. We can’t pretend as though we didn’t have some responsibility for him.”

Church leaders, American Christians, we can’t pretend we don’t have some responsibility for January 6. We can’t pretend any longer.

Photo by Štěpán Vraný on Unsplash