Change? For most of us, too risky!


1Change"If change and growth
are not programmed into your spirituality, if there are not serious warnings
about the blinding nature of fear and fanaticism, your religion will always end
up worshiping the status quo and protecting your present ego position and personal
advantage…although Jesus’ first preached message is clearly “CHANGE” (as in
Mark 1:15 and Matthew 4:17), where he told his listeners to “repent,” which
literally means to “change your mind,” it did not strongly influence Christian
history.  This resistance to change is so
common, in fact, that it is almost what we expect from religious people, who
tend to love the past more than the future or the present.  All we can conclude is that much of organized
religion is itself living inside of “first half of life” issues, which
coincides with where most people are in any culture.  We all receive and pass on what our people
are prepared to hear, and most people are not “early adopters.”  Yet even the intelligence of animals is
determined in response to new circumstances. 
Those who do not, become extinct.”
 
Richard Rohr, Upward Falling p. 11

Change…not
necessarily a topic that most people want to talk about.  Researchers tell us that most of us are only
willing to call 5% of our present information and lifestyle into question at
any given point.  Why is that?  It is easy to get stuck.  During last year’s Christmas season I read
another book about the crucible of change. 
Most of us pattern our lifestyles and behavior off of unconscious habits
and actions.  Sooner or later, what we do
on a repetition basis eventually becomes habit and, you know as well as I do,
that habits are hard to break.  Now, I
have to admit, some habits are constructive even good for our lives.  No one would debate that a healthy dose of truth
and goodness, kindness and love, service and sacrifice does not sharpen the
ability for most people to live a fulfilling life.  Even so, it is not the good habits that mess
up our lives.  It is rather the
destructive habits that we have in so many instances fallen into over
time.  Sooner or later, even the most
faithful of us would have to admit that there are areas in which we are plain
stuck.

For some,
their “stuckness” comes in an inability to break a habit of anger or resentment
in relationships.  For others, stuckness
reveals itself in some sort of chemical or psychological abuse (for negative
self-esteem and self punishing is abuse that originates not from without but
from within).  Others are stuck
spiritually…they haven’t moved beyond and deeply implanted sense of narcissism
and ego gratification.  Neither have they
seen a steady increase of the harvest of God’s fruit of the Spirit over
time.  Many of us haven’t picked up a
book that would challenge and inform our lives and hearts in decades.  We barely understand the scriptures so we
ignore them whenever possible. 

You know
what causes growth?  Creative tension…a
bit of discomfort…a tragedy…taking a risk…entering into a new
relationship…experiencing something you never have experience before.  Let me say this, if you are what some might
call, “risk adverse” or you are overtly or covertly rigid…if you desire to
“circle the wagons” around your source of superiority or preferred group or
those who seem preoccupied with “clothing, titles, perks and externals of
religion” than you aren’t  going
anywhere.  As Rohr explains, “You won’t
experience a world beyond your own control or explanation.”  You want to know what that “world” he refers
to is all about?  You want to have a hint
of what you would be missing!  You would
be missing God!  You would be missing THE
LIFE WE ALL WANT IN COMMUNION WITH THE LORD GOD and LIVING ACCORDING TO HIS
PURPOSES AS HIS KINGDOM MAKES ITSELF REAL IN OUR LIVES.  Security and stuckness keep most of us from
hearing the voice of the Spirit in our hearts. 
That’s why those who take the step in trusting Jesus for the adventure
of discipleship grow. 

I want to
end this devotional with another quote from a Jesus follower from
antiquity.  Here are the words of St.
John of the Cross:

 “…God has to work in the soul in secret and
in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery,
transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to
take charge (a move of the false self) or stop the whole process (a move of
fear and stuckness).” 

Where are
you?  

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A Culture of Sociopaths

1purple_sociopathA Culture of
Sociopaths

Sounds
depressing doesn’t it?  Just think about
that phrase for a minute…it’s outrageous isn’t it?  Why don’t you do a little “Google search” for
a few minutes and read a few things I did earlier this week.  Check out the following: 

http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissocial_personality_disorder#ICD-10

Let me say
as I continue here – I’m not going to get “overly religious” with this short
post.  Although there are obvious
conclusions and statements of faith that could be (and, truthfully, should be)
spoken, I’m looking at the PURE realism of something that is fast becoming a
reality in contemporary culture – that being, systemic sociopathy.  You know what that means?  Essentially, moral and ethical anarchy. 

I have
listened intentionally to the major stories in the news over the past weeks. From
Lance Armstrong to the Notre Dame football player to the continual discussion
in sports about P.E.D. (performance enhancing drugs) and to the droning effect of
our nation’s divisive and hostile political climate…from the Bernie Madoffs of
the world to the Presidents who look straight into a camera and argue about the
definition of “is” – it is all the same story, different day.  Sociopathology.    You tell me…here is a “short list” of what
is now called, “antisocial personality disorder (short for sociopathy):

Anti-social
personality disorder is characterized by at least 3 of the following:
 

1.    
Callous
unconcern for the feelings of others;

2.    
Gross
and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms,
rules, and obligations;

3.    
Incapacity
to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing
them;

4.    
Very
low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression,
including violence;

5.    
Incapacity
to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment;

6.    
Markedly
prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior
that has brought the person into conflict with society.

Hard not to
jump to conclusions, isn’t it?  For
example, I read some of the transcripts of Lance Armstrong’s now famous
interview with Ms. O.  Mr. Armstrong did
not have a bit of shame for promoting years of lying, bullying and deceit.  In fact, the only reason he felt badly about
anything is because it was going to cost him money (at least temporarily).  He said he felt like he was getting an
unjustifiable “death sentence” and that it wasn’t fair for people to critique
his life and behavior.  Now, there are
many who are willing to look the other way because the guy is famous and rich.
In addition, his foundation has raised a half a billion dollars for cancer
research.  So, in some eyes, the “ends
justifies the means.” 

Now, again,
I will walk away from the temptation to explore the philosophy that the “ends
justifies the means.”  That will have to
be a discussion for another post.  Without
even making one statement of critique, let me say this, a lifestyle of
believing that “the end justifies the means” has become a mantra for
contemporary living for many people. 
From resisting personal responsibility for an inherent laziness to
addictions to video games and video violence…from people blaming fast food restaurants
for their weight problem to students who blame teachers for their “less than
average” grades (every, single semester in my college teaching career I have a
minimum of 20% of students who want to argue their grades despite the fact that
they did not do the work).  We have
starlets who aren’t in jail for repeatedly driving drunk and we have football
and other sports stars who are so spoiled by the constant adulation and a
culture of “fame worshippers” that they feel that they are above personal guilt
for any of their actions.  All these
examples have one thing in common – they all fit within the above description
of sociopathic behavior. 

I heard the
other day on a television show (a panel was discussing current events and the
history we have in the most recent decades of denying truth, boldface lying and
deceit-filled living especially among those public figures whom we are
challenged to trust) some shocking but true words:

“Being famous and being cool is more
important than being moral.  Having fame
and coolness is more important than shame.”

I must
admit, I wasn’t carefully watching the show. 
I was actually on the floor playing some tug-o-war with my dog but that
phrase SCREAMED at me as if I had a massive speaker system blaring over 120 db.
straight into my ears.  I paused for a
moment and without a hesitation or rationalization I said “YES, that’s
true!”  I guess that being cool gives you
a personal pass these days to do what you want. 
Fame and narcissism allows you to do anything and say anything and act
anyway you want without the potential of negative repercussions.  It is simply THE excuse, THE rationalization
and THE way that most people live their lives – it is as if they were “giving
the finger” to the world as they prepare to tell their next lie, blame the next
person, or act in another irresponsible manner. 

This is NOT
a proclamation of fatalism nor am I attempting to judge culture…all I am
attempting to do is observe what we see taking place around us.  I think we have “cried wolf” enough times
about lying that it is now inculcated into our existence in a manner where
shame and guilt does not alter the story. And friends, that is simply sad. What more is
that it is an epidemic that has crippling implications.  There is a level of cynicism in society that
is palatable…there is a level of distrust that actually perpetuates or “juices
up” the problem because if everyone is a liar and out for themselves (without
guilt or shame) then it is every “man and woman” for themselves and the “end
does justify the means.” 

So, I’m
going to stop here…not very uplifting but an observation that I am in the
process of processing.  Call it what you
will this is a well-embedded cultural dilemma of which there is no simplistic
answer.  You would think enough lessons
from the school of hard knocks would correct the listing of the ship but that’s
not what I have experienced.  Sociopathy
births more sociopathy.  And you know
what?  We might not see a change until
the whole system implodes.  If that is
the coming scenario, God help us!  

Growing in 2013 – Hopes for Living


585752fa5c2d-xlGrowing in 2013 – Hopes for Living

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man" Luke 2:52

Here's a shocker – Jesus grew up!  Yes…think about that.  Jesus was divine, that goes without actually saying.  But Jesus also, as Philippians 2 says, "emptied himself" to take on our humanity.  In other words, Jesus grew up just as we do.  Now, what does that mean?  It means Jesus didn't come into our world as a "complete package."  He had to learn things…he needed to grow in knowledge…his body had to mature.  Picture this, Jesus had to make decisions that enabled his growth.  Consider this – wouldn't it simply make sense that you and I would have to do the same?  

2013 has dawned in our lives.  You and I will be making decisions and living our lives in one of two dynamics – either we put before ourselves challenges that help us grow OR we stay with habits that keep us stuck.  I don't know about you, but I would like to grow as a person and as a follower of Jesus.  So, here several practical suggestions on how you might stretch yourself and grow in 2013.  You don't have to DO them all…ask for God's grace, leadership and inspiration as you make decisions through the year. Allow the Lord to guide you into growing!

1.  Do something really nice that NO ONE knows about.  Find ways to humbly and anonymously serve others.  Don't always look for the limelight and recognition. Sacrificial service is a key spiritual discipline.

2.  Spend more money on OTHER PEOPLE then you do on yourself.  This is one way to "love your neighbor as yourself" as well as becoming more and more like Jesus. God so loved that He gave…do you?

3.  Laugh often – choose joy!  Have any of you heard of GRUMPY CAT?  Check out that website and ask yourself, "is that me?"  Christ followers have every reason in the world to be joyous!  Smile a bit!

4.  Learn a new life skill OR teach someone else a life skill that YOU know how to do.  

5.  Love a few people well.  Don't be a relationship addict…just because you have a lot of friends doesn't mean that you are loving well.  You can have tons of friends and still be lonely.  Invest in relationships – or as the bible says, "give and it will be given to you."

6.  Write a letter to someone to say "thanks" or "forgive me."  Writing is a lost art. Personal cards and letters make a HUGE impact.  

7.  Track down a critic or someone you disagree with and take them to lunch.  Love and acceptance are just concepts until you put them into practice.  It's easy to love those who love you…stretch yourself with those you know might not see life as you do and practice acceptance.

8.  Compliment someone you have a hard time complimenting.  Put down the grudge.

9.  Choose life – do something regularly to build life into life.  Remember, you and I incarnate the presence of the resurrected Jesus in and through your life.  As you encounter "dead" areas of life, see if there is some LIFE that can be proclaimed and encouraged in that arena.  

10.  Pause before every potential crisis that you know will "wind you up" and ask, "will this matter in 5 years?"  Remember, we have a tendency to blow things up…we focus on issues and they get bigger and bigger.  Think about things before you get all upset and obsessed.

11.  Go outside occasionally and look up into the sky and say "WOW."  One of my favorite new books is Anne Lamott's book, "Help, Thanks, Wow-Three essential prayers."  Life is magnificent and as you look around, you will see the glory of God!

12.  Lastly, believe in miracles.  God is the God of impossibilities.  Also, live in a manner that you may necessitate one.  In other words, you might be the means that God uses to bring a miracle of His love and presence into another person's life!  Lastly, remember, we experience God's miraculous love in numerous ways through the daily routines in our lives – when you read the bible, a miracle of the Spirit's presence is alive in you. When we worship as a community, we experience the miracle of God's presence and mercy through communion.  When we gather with other followers of Jesus, Jesus is present…that's a miracle!  

GOING DEEPER

Changed  

Kirsten Carlson and her family (Mike, Emma and AJ) are part of our faith community @ Peace.  Kirsten is not only a mom, author, Little Dove's "Little Ones" teacher/leader, and exceedingly well trained former Air Force Pilot but a passionate follower of Jesus.  In her blog she posts suggestions on how to LIVE OUT an "out" value within our lives (click on that line to go to her blog).  I read it and decided as soon as ingested it that THIS IS WHAT WE ALL NEED TO DO! Here's where I am on this…part of our faith community's values is our prayer and lifestyle to live "OUT" in the world with the presence of God's Kingdom.  I could go on and on about this but I'm simply going to allow Kirsten's words to speak for themselves.  THIS is what joining God's mission is all about.  I'm going to be posting EVERY week's challenge for everyone of the 52 weeks here on our devotional page! 

CLICK HERE FOR THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE

“The Specialness of each moment and why it should make a difference in our lives”

1-beaver-creek-wedding-photography"The Specialness of each moment and why it should make a difference in our lives"

I don't want to sound pessimistic, depressed or negative. I'm going to try to make a point that is uplifting and challenging but I have to go a place or two before I get to my conclusion. I'm in relationships through our faith community in Monroe with several people who are in questionable health. Two are having issues with their hearts, a few have serious "aging" issues. The word for each of them is that "ever day is a blessing" and I know it. I see them weekly and I talk to them regularly. Every time I walk away from the conversation a little thought skips through my mind, "this might be the last time I see this dear person." And its true…in everyone of their physical cases is life threatening. Two are living day by day with heart valve issues that are inoperable. Others cannot be treated for the plethora of physical issues that they have. They simply live moment by moment.

The bible is pretty clear about the precious nature of life. It is one of those truths that in our complicated world and lives is easily ignored. Especially for those of us who are constantly envisioning the future…attempting to stay ahead of the crowd or curve…we have that tendency to believe that the miracle of today is one that can taken for granted. Why? Because there will always be another tomorrow. I believe that many of you know how this works…there are always evaluations and systems embraced that we believe keep our future prospects looking promising. We plan for retirement and vacations…we save money for future purchases and build relationships that have a "hope" for being all that we dreamed they could be. In other words, the specialness of today only has meaning because we have the guarentee of tomorrow.

And that is what brings me to my life in these moments. Since two days after Christmas Eve, Vicky and I have been in Colorado. What appeared at first to be a celebration to anticipate with family has become a scenario that many would call a horror story. My dad, all 77 years of him, had a complete physical meltdown. I walked into my sister's home to visit him for the weekend and within hours had him strapped into his car headed for the ER. Within 5 hours, he was on the way to the ICU…within one hour in the ICU we almost lost him to massive kidney failure, acididocious, heart failure, pulmonary distress and the list goes on. The ER doctor said he had never seen a person come into the ER with as many presenting issues. Within three days in ICU he almost died three times. And even as we sit in the hospital now (for over a week) it is a day to day battle. Every day has as its "general rule" a potential of my dad's lung "flashing with fluid" and taking his life. 

I was sitting with my sister last night for a quick meal before returning to the ICU and she said something I cannot get out of my mind, "You know Rob, this might be the last time that we see dad; he could die any day." That's true, generally speaking, for all of us. In his case though, it is a harsh reality. To say that that statement stuck with me for the night would be an understatement. I thought of the many relationships that I have and cherish where that scenario is reality. No, not in a crisis sense vis a vi my dad. Rather on a general basis…why? Because we live in an unpredictable world. Yet, there is something else that rolled around my heart for a while that simply has to be shared. My relationship with my dad has changed…there's an urgency and specialness to moments we share. Comments and conversations don't have to be deep or life changing because moments and minutes are special. And what's just as true is that the need to be contentious or spoil the moments with self-centered idiocy or ridiculous hostility or petty narcissistically driven demands are not just pushed to the sideline but, frankly, have no right stealing the precious nature of the relationship in the NOW. 

So I thought, what if…what if we attempted to live in all our relationships (routine, family, or otherwise) as if those moments might be the last? Would that make a difference? I can't believe that it wouldn't make a difference (how's that for a double negative!). I would be much more apt to move on and away from pettiness. I would be much more apt to ignore hurtful comments and not dwell on them because of their toxic nature that spoils life's joy. I would be less sensitive to the decisions that other's make that appear to be purposely aimed at hurting my feelings. And grudges, what's the point unless I really want to destroy the preciousness of what could be ripped out of my hands and heart at a moment's notice (or even without notice).

Here's a challenge – how about it? Today, live your life in relationship as if it might be the last time you see that spouse, friend, family member, mom, or team member at work. Do you cherish that relationship? Then live as you do. What would your life be like if that relationship were NOT in your life? And if you think, "wow, that question makes me uncomfortable" then let that feeling activate you and move your participation in that relationship to something healing. Let all your relationships be marked with grace, redemption, mercy, and understanding (OR as someone by the name of Paul wrote, "let all your life be known for its love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness and self-control"). I think I'm going to just do that…