Tag Archives: spirituality

8 ways to audit my (spiritual) time.

If God isn’t on your radar, you can avoid this list. And if you work through this list, make sure that you take into account ONLY what the Bible actually says God says, rather than what someone said, or what you think you heard, or what people on TV say that God said, or any of those odd things that get us confused.

1. How much of my time do I spend thinking about the things God said not to think about? (“don’t worry about tomorrow” “Don’t be anxious for anything” “don’t lean on your own understanding”)

2. How much of my time do I spend thinking about the things God said to think about?

3. How much of my time do I spend doing the things God said to do?

4. How much of my time do I spend doing the things God said not to? (e.g. “Don’t judge” “Don’t fret”)

5. How much of my time do I spend avoiding what I should do?

6. How much of my time do I spend avoiding what I shouldn’t do?

7. How much of my time do I spend to bring me delight?

8. How much of my time do I spend to bring me numbness?

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For a day-by-day journey through anticipation during Advent, join me at advent2007.wordpress.com

For more 8 ways…

To waste your blogging time
To ruin your day
To be thanked
To increase your stress

To explain 2.0 friends to 0.0 parents
To lose your faith
To make yourself angry
To make yourself jealous
To make yourself depressed
To ruin your marriage

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Deep in the heart of New York City a few weeks ago, I discovered that several trains going different places run on the same set of tracks. There are lots of tracks, that is true. There are layers of trains. But you can walk to the same point on the platform, and look at the same set of tracks, and still have to make a choice about which train to ride, about where to go.

I talked with a person today who was struggling to choose whether or not to talk with someone who had (unintentionally) hurt them. There was a set of tracks of reaction and response. But there was a choice about how to handle the situation, whether to confront in love or confront in pain or overlook in love or overlook in bitterness.

A friend resigned from a position this week, presenting a boss with the opportunity of climbing on the train of betrayal (“You are abandoning us”) or of celebration (“What a great opportunity!”). Another friend is looking at a serious situation with a child and trying to decide whether to accept the child’s behavior as right or God’s behavior as right. Another friend stood at the platform next to the tracks of death and wrestled with whether to climb on the train of grief with stops at despair and depression, or the train of faith with stops at short-term pain and celebration.

Usually the trains are pretty clearly marked, but the destinations aren’t always clear. And in the moment, when the train pulls into the station, there isn’t much time to decide. So we have to spend some time picking the right platform, look at the map, deciding where we want to go. That way, when the crisis happens, we have pre-decided our response.

Or we could just pick random stations and random tracks and random trains. Somehow, however, that feels like a huge waste of energy. Especially when the difference between wildly different parts of Manhattan (or life) is the difference of 4 minutes and one step.

so how do you connect?

I spent a lot of time yesterday aware of teenagers.

The Fort Wayne Youth Chorale invited the Indianapolis Youth Chorale and two local high school choirs (Concordia and Northrup) for a day of singing. They rehearsed together and gave a concert at 4:00pm. Each choir performed individually, then the two youth chorales, and then all four choirs. Nearly three hundred voices. Together. Focused. In tune. Inside music.

A few hours later, the drama department finished their final performance of ‘leading Ladies’. After 8 weeks of rehearsal, the 20 or so cast and crew pulled off three strong performances.  Good audience response, some great characterization, and, of course, wonderful co-student directing. (Complete objectivity, but full disclosure: related to co student director–oh, and do you like the banister? We builtit, Hope and I).

Of course, as always happens with drama, the wonderful set which was created with patience and ingenuity, was gone within two hours of the last shot.  Those same 20 students tore it apart, put most of the pieces away, and headed to Steak and Shake for the traditional party. And then we’ll start it all over again in January as we start working on the yet-to-be-announced musical.

Three hundred high school kids involved in hard work and creativity and high performance standards and cooperation and fun and doing what they never thought possible. It was an amazing day.

What puts it in interesting perspective for me is the time I spent last week reading a book titled UnChristian.  I’ll talk about it later, i think, but in brief, it reports that 16-35 year olds find church, among other things, hypocritical and sheltered. It seems irrelevant, unconnected to what matters. They tend to have had some expereince with church but to have found it pointless and left.

And it would be easy to say that kids are to blame, that they don’t care about anything anyway, but then I spend a day like yesterday. I think that the problem lies not with the kids, but with church that tries to entertain rather than engage, that somehow doesn’t offer something that challenges and energizes. The choirs sing sacred music but may not connect it to anything or anyone sacred.

And that isn’t their fault.

But I guess that might be why Nancy and I spent most of our days yesterday with kids. Outside church. Because on some days, their generation is right about church as an institution. But I don’t what them to be right at all about church as related people.

And so, we are looking forward to the concerts in two weeks and the production in two months. Because it’s nice to be part of a church that meets (people) in theaters and concert hallways.

waiting

As you may remember, I’m working with Hope on the set for a high school play. Last Friday afternoon I figured out how to solve one construction issue. I brought home some pieces and went this morning to pick up the rest. When I got home about 8:45 am, I took the lumber to the garage, marked my cuts and then stopped.

Andrew was still asleep.

Andrew has class on Mondays at 11:00, which means that he likes to sleep in. (I would like to as well, Monday being my day off, but that’s a different post.) Anything I do with powertools is very audible in his room. So I had a dilemma: let him sleep and make Hope wait, or wake him up and get her work done.

Some dads would say, “Hey, it’s morning.  By 9:00 the day is half gone. Let him wake up.” Some dads would say, “the oldest child has rights. Hope will just have to wait.”

Those of you who have wisdom, however, are already saying, “What time does she need the work done? Can’t you use hand tools? How much cutting needs to be done? Why did you wait til the day it’s needed, anyway, Jon?”

And most of you are right, except for those who assumed I procrastinated. This time, I didn’t. What I ended up doing was waiting until this afternoon to accomplish the task. Andrew slept, Hope was pleased.

Why is this significant?

Because when we pray, we often don’t think that God may have a clearer–and kinder–sense of timing than we do.

I’ve been laying low, technologically speaking, for the last few days. It was part of some fasting, asking for clarity, asking for something now. And I’m not getting an answer now. Or maybe, more accurately, I’m not getting what I would regard as the most helpful answer now. Metaphorically speaking, my part of the set is not getting built now.

But perhaps, I’m not hearing what I want right now because someone else is needing rest. Construction on my project would mean disruption of their (whoever they are) rest. And maybe My part of the set isn’t needing for awhile. I’d like it done so I would know that it’s done…but I don’t get to do the scheduling.

As I juggle the needs of our children, I know better than either what they BOTH need and how those needs can be coordinated. (and, truth in advertising, Nancy knows better than I do).  And if I, in my finiteness, can understand that, then how much more my heavenly Dad knows what I need to know when I need to know it.

In the meantime, I will just keep doing what I know.  Including coming back to my online world.

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making me think – about learning.

Andrew (our son) today asked me whether I had watched the KSU students. Somehow he had looked at Chris Brogan’s post about the video which follows. In this video, a group of students in a cultural anthropology class talk about the connection between living and how education is done in classrooms.

Here’s what is hard for me about this video: I understand completely.

I was involved in higher education from 1976 when I started as a student at Wheaton (IL) College until 2000 when I left the University of Saint Francis to start working in a church. Twenty-four years. Six schools, from a 435 student Bible College to the 50,000 students at UT-Austin (actually, that particular move went the other direction, from huge to tiny). Student to Associate Vice President. And throughout that process I had this nagging in the back of my head: does this really matter?

Formal education does help, of course. There are some things that I learned. Mostly I learned ways to think, some of which help. I learned how to help people think. I learned something about relationship. And I learned that making structures relevant and significant is really really hard.

Now, here’s the hard part. I am part of church right now. As I watch this video, which starts with handwriting on the wall of a classroom, I think of handwriting on the wall which happens in the Bible, writing which comes from God telling a king that his kingdom will disappear that night. And I think about writing on the walls of church buildings where people say, “How does this matter?”

People are staying away from church in droves. According to some research, if there are 100 kids in the class in this video, 97 of them find church irrelevant, judgmental, hypocritical. And I don’t always blame them.

Structures tend to alienate people, particularly people who don’t exactly fit into the structure. And these students, who have been taught that they are unique, are finding that academic structure and religious structure don’t fit them because they are unique.

So if learning matters, if God matters, if learning about God and talking with God matter, What do we need to understand about how people are?

Of course, there is an interesting story here. I’m off my RSS feeds for the week, so I would have missed this video. However, Andrew saw it at Chris’s blog. Andrew told me. I listen to my 20-year-old college-student son when he points me to stuff that makes him think. And so my internet friend captured my son’s interest and that connects back to me. Then common thread?

People.

Regardless of the medium, people matter. Educational structures are a pain, but you and I both know the couple of teachers who captured us. Religious structures and excesses make us cringe, but we do on occasion say, “but if that person is what Jesus is like, maybe I might be interested.”

We have generations of people who are incredibly insightful about what isn’t working. Some of them are actually interested in what might work.

So, who’s going to listen to them? And then talk with them?

Are you?

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gratitude

Started laughing the other night when I realized that one chain labels their baskets with far more accuracy than they intend. We spending inordinate amounts of time as the store getting things, getting happier, getting ready for events, getting poorer.

But “get” isn’t just about acquiring. Sometimes it can be about allowing.

We talk about getting to do something for fun after working. We talking about getting to take a vacation. We talk about how we get to use a friend’s vacation house for the week (okay, not us. But it would be a really nice thing, right). And I use that word when I talk with God.

At the end of praying (which, like conversation, doesn’t necessarily end), I at times say, “In Jesus’ name we get to pray, amen.”

If you have hung around in church much, you may have heard something close to that. We do this thing which sounds like code, praying in Jesus’ name. At times we treat it like part of the magic formula. If we say that, we get whatever we asked for. Except praying isn’t exactly like throwing magic phrases. It’s more like talking with someone.

But sometimes when you are talking with someone, asking them for something, you start looking for a connection, something that will give you credibility. “Tell ’em Sal sentja.” “I’m a friend of your uncle Maurie.” “Chris told me you would help.”

Sometimes we wonder about the connection; we really didn’t like Uncle Maurie that much. But sometimes, because we are so close to the connector, we treat the person like family (assuming, of course, that that’s a good thing.)

So we’re told by Jesus that when we talk to his Dad, we get to drop his name. And anytime some one lets me use their name, I want to remember that it’s a privilege.

And so that’s why I remind myself that this is something shouldn’t take for granted, I shouldn’t make a formula. I’m not acquiring, I’m allowed.

Get it?

discontiguous continuity

Nancy and I spent three hours today at a funeral.  I had only seen Mrs. Smith (her real name) once, and we hadn’t talked at all. If you are a regular reader here, however, you know that I did pray for her and put a spot of oil on her forehead.

She died a couple days after that, which really was no surprise. After 92 years and 9 children and innumerable grands and great-grands and great-great-grands (one of whom sat on my lap for part of the service), she had built a great cathedral of praise and it was time for her to stop all the working and just get to the praising part.

I cried during the service, which really was no surprise. What was a nice surprise was the realization that I was having almost exactly the same feeling of wonder, of awe, of being in the presence of something more than me as I had almost exactly a week before.

You may remember that last Saturday at about 1:00 pm, I was at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in NYC.  At that time, I walked in and was in awe. And in tears.

So think for a bit with me. It is 660 miles between True Love Baptist Church and Saint Patrick’s. It is much further in worship styles, in apparent theology, in average amount of melanin, in square footage, in almost every dimension you can identify. Stained glass to no windows, low ceiling to high church… forget it. I could keep making these cutsy verbal twists for hours. And get no where.

What is so compelling is that I, having little in common with either place, was overwhelmingly aware of being in the presence of holiness, of being in the presence of lives poured into God.

Mrs. Smith built a family. She was the kind of grandmother who you loved and feared and loved again. Family members told stories of her discipline (when they decided to get mouthy or stay in bed) and her prayer (when there was no food on the table) and her persistence belief that God was working. Three grandsons and a great gave us marvelous offering of gospel-tinged jazz, playing a couple of her favorite hymns. And then, in true jazz style, they embraced after they played, knowing that it had never been like that before, was only that way because it was for her.

And the preaching. Powerful, clear, confrontive. “You say she taught you to pray. But do you pray?” “You say she showed you Jesus. But do you know Him?”

Nancy and I sat near the back, just absorbing. It was, for us, completely outside our usual spiritual family, but we were completely at home.

Saint Patrick’s. True Love. Mrs. Smith.

Three different ways of saying the same thing: God grabs hearts and does amazing work.