Taking care…

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I remember a counseling professor, back in my grad school days, making the point that we are physical (as well as spiritual) beings… “So if you have a fever of 104, how’s your spiritual life?”  Our bodies and our minds are connected.  We’re not platonic ideals, we’re a complex mish mash of id and ego, temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex hopped up on hormones that are affected by what we eat, what we drink, when we sleep…  So just the way there’s no way to have a healthy spiritual life (or a life of the mind) when you’re hopped up on cocaine, there’s actually no way to have a healthy spiritual life without taking care of how you eat, sleep, and exercise.  This is especially true if you’re planning to do anything difficult in life… Continue reading

Emotional blackmail

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“If you break up with me I’m going to die!” is a clear example of emotional blackmail.  The idea is: I’m going to FORCE you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do …by inflicting guilt, or putting you in a situation where you look like the bad person.  It’s the jilted boyfriend or girlfriend who says to someone who wants to break up, “how can you do this to me?  After all the time we’ve been together?” In other words, you’d be a horrible person to do this after leading me on.  It’s the parent that says, “I will never be happy again unless you do this…”  It’s the same with the child who holds his breath or refuses to eat unless he gets his way.  I’m pretty sure everyone has experienced this at some point, and anyone who’s ever loved anything has probably dabbled in trying to control others this way…  Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because people sometimes think this is what God is trying to do: “look I DIED for you, and this is how you treat me?  How can I ever be happy when YOU do sinful stuff like that?”  Some people who grew up in churches even “like” that feeling; someone once told me, “a good sermon is supposed to stab you with that pang of guilt.”  But this is NOT what God does, and here’s why… Continue reading

Fear not…

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We don’t talk about “fear,” but  we often feel “pressure,” or “nervousness,” “anxiety,” “stress”; but these are just other words for “fear.”  Your day can feel fine until you remember something you have to do and you feel a little knot in your stomach.  That’s fear.  It’s a small version of what you’d feel if you had to jump out of an airplane without a parachute.  But even though it’s just a little bit, it adds up.  Not only is stress a problem for lots of people, these small fears and anxieties add up to shape our lives.  As modern people we are sometimes the sum of our fears… tell me what makes you anxious and I can pretty much know how you live.  But God has a better way… Continue reading

Going to God twice for everything…

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In a rear wheel drive car, the rear wheels supply the power to make the car go forward.  Meanwhile, the front wheels turn to steer the car in the direction you want to go.    So here’s a dumb question: “which is more important, the front or rear wheels?”  Duh, of course you need both the ability to power the car the move AND the ability to steer it.  It can’t be one or the other, it has to be both.  So it’s funny that when it comes to having God in our lives, people usually go for just one or the other… Here’s what I mean… Continue reading

Being reflective practitioners of life…

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There’s a bit in the Simpsons where Grandpa Simpson’s best friend gets his beard stuck in a pencil sharpener. He tries the crank and it pulls his beard in more. So he thinks about it for a second and tries the crank again, and it pulls his beard in even further. Grandpa Simpson comes around, studies the situation, and tries turning the crank and it pulls the beard in even further. I love that bit. I tried to find a video of it, but no luck today. The goal in life is the opposite of this: not to repeat the stupid choices, but to think about it, reflect on it, and do something better. But most of the time we just try the same old thing again hoping for a better outcome. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith”  It doesn’t mean do all the dumb things other people do because they’re your leaders – but “consider the outcome of their way of life…” Continue reading

Teachable vs. Unteachable

I know this stuff first hand because I’ve been both (teachable and unteachable) at some point or another: when you’re “Teachable” you can learn from ANYBODY.  You can learn from people younger than you, less educated, people who know less, people who don’t speak your language, dress funny, people who can’t even fathom what you do for a living…even when they are talking about things that are not relevant to you.  When you’re “unteachable,” you have trouble learning from people who are telling you exactly what you need to hear, people who know more, have experienced more, who are speaking you language, who understand exactly where you are and what you’re going through… Instead of learning you’ll be rating their performance (if it’s a presentation) as though you’re an Olympic figure skating judge.  Instead of learning you’ll be thinking of ways to make yourself look smarter when the opportunity arises.  Like I said, I know what it’s like to be unteachable.  So how do we open up? Continue reading

Why it doesn’t matter that Christians differ on evolution, homosexuality, guns, politics…

Ask me what I think about any of those things and I’m probably too quick to tell you what *I* think… But what I often forget to make clear is: even though there can be important issues behind these things, it doesn’t really matter what Christians think about these things.  “Why the heck not?” someone asks.  Because whereas other religions are about having the right morality (you must worship Allah like this, and not HaShem like that, grrr that makes God angry), and many religious factions are about “being right” (atheists are convinced Christianity can’t be true because many Christians today don’t believe in evolution – that’s like believing your accountant knows nothing about taxes because he thinks Miley Cyrus is the name of a new constellation), Christianity isn’t about being right about one particular issue, or religious code…  Christianity isn’t even about morality – you can be perfectly moral without religion.  Instead, Christianity is about Sin and Redemption, a God who sacrifices Himself for people, so that sinners can become sons.   Continue reading

What do you want for Christmas?

Christmas gifts are stupid, I know, yada yada…but I still want my gift!!  I love that God meets us where we are: He doesn’t expect us to be selfless saints right out of the box, but knows we are people with WANTS and needs.  So part of what Jesus came to do is free us from Sin…both the penalty and power.  But ALSO…having done that, what Jesus came to do was give us a rich and powerful Father who wants to shower good things on us! “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24).  So what do YOU want this Christmas? Continue reading

A good gift…

There are gifts you think you’ll use FOREVER, and then you forget about it in a couple of days…  Then there are gifts you think you’ll use once or twice, and then one day you realize it could help and afterward you wind up using it every day.  I think repentance is one of those things.  You think you’ll use it just once…but then at some point you realize you need this every day.  Having been a Christian for a looong time, and being CF’s resident theologian, I get to spend more time studying the Bible and learning of great teachers, and I have the job requirement to pray (although I don’t actually have *more* time to pray than any of you)…and YET, I’m often reminded how silly, shallow, unspiritual I am!   Continue reading

The world is ENDING tomorrow! (or maybe not)

But what if it were?  What if the world (or just your world) was going to end in a few weeks or months and you knew in advance.  What would you do with the remaining time?  I think it’s a question worth asking…because it highlights what’s really important to you: Would you quit your job and travel?  Would you go back home to be with your family?  Would you get things straight with God?  Now here’s the next question you need to ask yourself once you figure that out: “Why aren’t you doing these things now?”  Maybe there’s a good reason why, but then again maybe the reasons aren’t so good.  Why not build your life in such a way that you integrate the important things into your life every day?  So that what you’re doing every day is so meaningful…that you wouldn’t change anything if it were your last.  Because otherwise, it means that what you’re doing right now is not quite meaningful enough… And I think a life that’s not worth living on the last days is not good enough for you. Continue reading