Create Love, Not War – Day Twenty-Six

art is nonconformity

The history of humankind as resident on this earth depicts lands riddled with the puncture wounds of markers moved and the battles fought to place them. In 1967 alone, there were 67 conflicts underway. In Saigon the Second battle of Bàu Bàng went down in March, the ongoing Vietnam War advanced, Che Guevara’s Ñancahuazú Guerrilla, the people of Portuguese Guinea fought the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, equality was at stake in the Chicago Freedom Movement, and the War over Water (Jordan river) was only one issue behind the Six-Day War over territory Israel and Arabs claimed—to name only a few.

A common theme underpinning these clashes is a human one: recognition of identity as part of a distinct community, and a desire for basic regard—the dignity—to freely live that out. Many were fights for independence from colonizing nations that were concerned more for their own interests than that of the people whose home they entered. Others pertained to the assertion of basic rights as human beings, rights that were not afforded them based on arbitrary indicators (skin color, religion, etc). And religion, well, the number of wars justified by religion cannot be quantified. Wars motivated by religion are most heinous because it assumes a god who would prefer one human being (or ethnic group) over another—and that preference implies the other is dispensable.

I recently finished a science-fiction trilogy (my guilty pleasure) that rather purposely speaks to societal structure in relationship to religious belief. The central character commented on whether members of one powerful group were gods, stating, “They are not. Gods create. If they are anything, they are vampire kings.” His point, rulers that suck the resources out of a place (or peoples) to prolong or enrich their own lives are no different from parasites. True, it is no easy thing to be part of organizing a society that honors the social contract while keeping basic human dignity in tact. War is easy. Peace is not.

Peace is ongoing, organic, necessitates effort, is hard work. It entails collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, listening. Cooperation assumes sharing, and sharing means giving something up for the good of all, so that those who have none may have some. The issue in war is always that someone is holding on to control, to power, unwilling to yield, disinclined to take the moments necessary to really see the other. Because once I see you, know you, I begin to love you. And if I love you, oh how I want to share with you in my life.

I began this entry because I was interested in the Israel-Palestine concern regarding boundary lines and the 1967 map frequently referenced these last few years. Obviously, I got a little sidetracked when I noticed there were so many other places that suffered over similar aims, as are so many current disputes equally significant to those affected. And I am increasingly concerned about a leadership that is so self-interested and preserving while there remain dire needs worldwide – and in our own country. And it is difficult to keep from wondering how this leadership can continue to be supported.

In my (nearly) 50 years of life, I still believe in a God that creates. I believe a God who communicates that making right relationship between God and us, and among us is God’s purpose—from the very first spark of creation to the kingdom of on earth as heaven revealed in all its fullness. I believe we are created to be for one another, that we have grown as people in technologies and the insight and knowledge of each other – that I am capable of seeing God’s character reflected in you and your culture. That by knowing you I know God more, and together we can more effectively, productively lead – collaboratively, creatively, peacefully. It is possible. With God, all things are. I believe that. Jesus, help my unbelief.

 

I write about one way to lead collaboratively in my book, found here.

Let’s Talk About Hormones – Day Five

interaction is vital

Our bodies are constantly shifting, changing. Eat a piece of candy and you experience a brightening of cognition, a sugar rush. Not enough sleep and muscles are slower to respond, thinking is muddled. A teenager experiences wildly fluctuating hormones that can induce at once utter despair and elation at the touch from the object of her infatuation. A retiree notices more pain yet can contemplate eternity. While every human being experiences these changes that accompany movement through the life cycle, I wonder about one particular change medicine has labeled menopause.

coconut heads

When menopause is mentioned, a certain image seems to appear. It is always a woman. One thinks: hot flashes! irritability! hormone therapy! cancer! cancer! heart attack! No wonder I am tempted to freak out a bit now that I am turning 50 in 35 days! Except . . . Except one recent study suggests much of what women experience during menopause is related to her attitude concerning its onset. Another demonstrates that even the measure behavioral science has typical used to describe the psychological effects of menopause is flawed, inaccurate.

What is more, nearly all of our physical and psychological experiences are significantly impacted by how we think about them. A surfeit of research has shown that mindfulness practice positively affects cognitive health and well-being, and alleviates a range of psychic and physical pain. It modifies addiction and anxiety in all stages of life, from the youngest primary student to the frenetic teenager to the angsty mid-lifer to the delighted grandparent. And, one might notice that everyone touches these stages to some degree or another—irrespective of gender.

Yes, even men go through menopause. Men experience a decline in testosterone with aging. While the decline is slower than the hormone decline women usually experience generally between 45 and 55, it does begin around the same time, and results in lower testes function. Symptoms are also quite similar in both men and women: decreased libido, depression, fatigue, insomnia and loss of bone density. And though it will likely not be as dramatic as is often with women, men may also experience hot flashes.

I ponder these things and write about them not as part of some militant feminist manifesto. Rather, I write to process my research, and to suggest that perhaps we might practice compassion more freely because we understand that all of us undergo uncomfortable changes. At the same time, each experiences these changes uniquely. And every one of us longs to be seen—deeply and authentically seen—as who you are, who I am, presently. In this moment.

How can I be present to myself, Jesus at the core, with what I am experiencing in this moment? How can I be present to you with the same affinity?

You can read more about mindfulness and gender issues in my book.

Lenten Prayer Practice – Day Twenty-Seven

with so that love is known

Journey #with each other so Love is known. Jn17:21-23 #tobeknownistobelovedandtobelovedistobeknown #makelovenotwar

Holy Trinity, center me now that I may notice Your creative intention, nest in the broad, safe space of Your presence, and intentionally nurture another with the same.

What word or phrase do I notice on which I may center:

Eph 5:8-14 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord and then do it. Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. This is why it is said, “Wake up from your sleep, climb out of your coffins, and Christ will give you light.” [NLT/MSG]

Line the nest of God’s presence with this prayer for _______ and myself:

Jesus, thank you, for the energizing life of your light. Holy Spirit, thank you, for the light you shine on who_______ is most truly. Help me to pull down the façade of what I think others want me to do. Help ________have the strength to climb out of the coffin of other’s intimidations. Give ________ the courage to be exposed by your light and energized by that life. Amen.

How will I intentionally nurture ________ today:

REMEMBER (3Ns)noticenestnurture

PRACTICE (Lectio Divina)

lectiodivina

Mindfulness and the Car Radio

writing-is-lonely

Writing can be a very lonely vocation. The struggle to craft words that faithfully describe thoughts, an epiphany, musings, a deeply formulated conviction . . . and effectively communicate even an approximation of the idea to the reader . . . well, it can be excruciating and exhausting. The process does not even begin to cover the vulnerability exposed of the words just lain in wireless space; that space where the radio waves of Wi-Fi tech make all information—good or bad—available anytime anywhere.

A writer has to write. Thoughts and ideas must get written and dispersed. But those thoughts and ideas are a part of the person who writes—they are a part of what makes me, me. So if the reader flippantly comments with a criticism, replies out of anger, or (even worse) doesn’t like my writing, it hurts. Here is where I must engage the mindfulness practice of holy indifference, holding the words loosely with the understanding that God will do with them what God wills—and I am being faithful to God’s work in my life.

The reader, then, is responsible to engage the practice of spiritual reading—taking time to breathe and to listen.

That is why when Howie brought the Twenty One Pilots song, “Car Radio,” to my attention, we both made the connection to our need for disconnection. In the case of the artist—his car radio stolen—he found that in silence, the “quiet is sometimes violent . . . forced to deal with what I feel.” And forced to see who he truly is . . . and linger there.

Here is the song and lyrics. Linger with me. And trust that what you will find about who you are truly is one who images the very being of God.

Car Radio

“Car Radio”

I ponder of something great
My lungs will fill and then deflate
They fill with fire
Exhale desire
I know it’s dire
My time today

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It’s on my sleeve
My skin will scream
Reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me
I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

I ponder of something terrifying
‘Cause this time there’s no sound to hide behind
I find over the course of our human existence
One thing consists of consistence
And it’s that we’re all battling fear
Oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here
Oh my,
Too deep
Please stop thinking
I liked it better when my car had sound

There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win
And fear will lose
There’s faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

Faith is to be alive.

Breathe. In, two, three, four, five. Out, two, three, four, five.

Be still.

Breathe.

And know.

Breathe.

That God. Is.

You can find more on mindfulness spiritual practices in my book, Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone. bit.ly/justLTM

Mindfulness and Parenting

mindful-parenting

A recent study showed that adolescents are influenced by parents’ prejudices—toward immigrants, specifically, and concerning difference, in general. Behavioral research is famously unsuccessful in clearly demonstrating causality. Still, a strong correlation is valuable for insight and consideration. This research happened to be well constructed (consistent measures, valid data, accounting for confounding variables, etc.) Being intuitive that young adolescents tend to express similar attitudes to their parents’ toward others augments the findings.

The effect seems to shifts, though, in older adolescents, particularly if teenagers are in a setting that includes immigrant teens (e.g., public school). In this case, prejudice tends to decrease. Interesting were the lower scores for markers of empathy prevalent for those expressing greater prejudice. And empathy markers in adolescents were clearly correlated to the same trajectory as for their parents.

Now, it is important to note that while empathy is other-perspectival it is much more comprehensive than the put-yourself-in-her-shoes instruction we heard and tell our children. It is also “critical for maintaining an identity that honors one’s socio-cultural heritage.” To possess authentic empathy for another is not to lose oneself in the service of another. Rather, it is to notice and be aware of my own self, with all of the discomfort or hesitation I might initially carry when faced with another’s need. Only then can I recognize that discomfort for what it is and then let it go, free to see the one in need for who he or she is: a beautiful person created in the very image of God.

There are many factors that influence whether and how empathetic we grow to be. Indeed, another recent study showed a strong tendency for those who visited other countries to develop a broader perspective toward cultural rules they were initially shown to follow. Empathy can also be taught and developed by engaging in mindfulness spiritual practices in quiet isolation, as well as, with others—including our children. While writing this I am reminded to be more consistent with the time my son and I often take after school to strike the singing bowl and center on God’s presence. (Thank you, to those who read this for these opportunities to remind myself!)

We can learn to develop empathy and become better equipped to make things right in this world (righteousness and justice). How much more powerful the impact when we intentionally model and teach our children—with their beautifully plastic brains and storm of firing neurons!—to notice what is going on inside, and then notice the need of another who also bears God’s image. Truly, we will see with greater clarity the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth as heaven.

 

Breathe in God’s unconditional, unending love for you.

Breathe out the irritation of being interrupted by your child (or spouse, or cat…).

Breathe in the grace and peace that extends beyond anything you can comprehend.

Breathe out that same grace and peace over this beautiful person in your care.

 

You can read more on mindful parenting in, Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone.

bit.ly/justLTM

Mindfulness and Power

power-dynamics

In an isolated system, according to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy always increases. That is, the energy contained in that system becomes increasingly less available to do useful work. When power is contained within a system, entropy always occurs, and usually to disastrous effect. For example, if a room is not tidied or cleaned, it will become increasingly messy unless an outside force (effort) is made to clean it. If no energy crosses back into the boundary of the system, there will be entropy. Increasingly. Forever. Think: 2008 stock market crash.

In a similar way, energy is neither created nor lost. Consider Newton’s conservation principles that describe how an object gains the momentum lost by another. The principle does not perfectly translate to human behavior, but does suggest a perspective on how we view leadership and power. When we speak of empowering others it is implied that they will be enabled to do what they were equipped to do. That is, the empowered will be equally able to do your job. If I value diversity in leadership and I am like the majority of that cohort, someone needs to step down to make space for difference. I am that someone.

When “place” in leadership is determined by anything other than proficiency or giftedness, it is based on a mindset of desire and a struggle for power. “The example of the first church and its leadership—Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, who intentionally eschew power to nurture young believers in Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:5–8)—renders such struggle irrelevant to the lived reality of Christ’s body.”

To say that you believe in the God of the Christian tradition is to understand this God as Trinity. The Act and Being of this God is more than an idea or philosophy. It is relationship. The relationship is the act and the being of this Trinitarian God. It only works because each Member yields to the Other, making space for each to move and work in life-giving power. This is the One in whose image we are made. “The indwelling Trinity that gives space to the Other is made visible in humankind when one intentionally pays attention to the other and is present without harsh judgment.” With this disposition of holy indifference—giving space to another, making room for the thoughts and feelings of the other—one becomes more than, and is more human.

God is mindful of me (Ps 8). I am created in God’s image. I am created to be mindful of you.

Breathe in the reality of God’s attention on you.

Breathe out your striving to maintain control.

Breathe in the strength of God’s rest, God’s Love.

Breathe out with the peace that accompanies acceptance of your weakness.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt 11.29)

 

Excerpts from, Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone

bit.ly/justLTM

Mindfulness and Politics

lets-go-on-together

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines politics, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” It is concerned with the theory of governance, but is most often motivated by the status and power of individuals within a particular society.

The Ignatian principle of holy indifference, on the other hand, is characterized by an attitude of openness. It is a sense of holding a thing—or person or idea—loosely, as with an open hand. We speak of principles and convictions, taking a stand and making a statement. Yet by doing so the essence of what energizes that conviction or principle is bound, imprisoned, subject to entropy—if that principle is not held with holy indifference.

When one arrives at a conviction, the understanding of the principles involved meet at a discrete place and time. That is, when I believe I have received an important insight or perspective about a thing, I do so on a point in my formation field (age, season in life, era, socio-economic circumstance, culture, community, heritage, state of health, etc.). As I continue to be formed, transforming, my perspective adjusts and my view broadens.

If, however, I choose to hold tightly to what I believed as a child, or teen, or college student, or after a bad breakup . . . and refuse to be moved by the very real changes that occur in the brain as we grow that allow us to understand greater complexities and perceive nuances, then my brain stops making new connections, deepening entrenchments of thought, and my soul withers from starvation.

Uninspired politics is individualistic, implies the achievement of power and being “right,” not necessarily concern for the goodness of all members of the citizenry. Inspired (literally, “spirit-breathed”) leaders recognize that even in the midst of chaos and even war, leadership must be collaborative, involving a variety of talents and perspectives. When these conditions exist, each member must hold personal perspectives loosely with a willingness to be moved by others’ ideas.

The mindfulness spiritual practice of holy indifference necessitates the time and space to breathe the Breath of God:

Breathe in the peace and grace and wisdom and presence of God.

Breathe out the unproductive bits that make me think I alone have the answers.

Breathe in the power and mercy, healing and joy that comes from knowing God-with-us

Breathe out the sense that I am alone, that it might be hopeless.

What is that thing that Samuel Beckett said? “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

Let’s go on. Together.

 

For more on holy indifference and the sociological research in mindfulness, see my book,

Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone

bit.ly/justLTM

Mindfulness Versus Polarity

mindfulness-versus-polarity

My son’s army figures have overtaken our bathroom! But, I thought it a fitting (ironic?) backdrop for this quote. “To celebrate the particularity of individuals and cultures is to see and understand facets of God, but no single person or culture can contain all the facets of God in themselves, isolated from others. Rather, it is in the bond of peace, in love, ‘renewed in the spirit of your minds’ (Eph 4:23), that a more complete (and completing) image of God is found.”

So, it is more important to me than I care to admit that my voice is heard. It is, of course human, that desire to be seen, to be known. After all, to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known. But, when my desire for my own voice to be heard is more important than truly understanding, knowing another person’s voice, the clamor of voices ricochets, polarized.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, it is crucial that we, particularly as leaders intentionally make time and space in mindfulness spiritual practice—together. Because of Jesus, we have personal access, freedom to hear with the same Spirit that witnesses to our spirit, God’s word to us. God speaks directly to us. And, God listens to us! Yet, do we hear God in and through each other? How can we know the fullness of God’s speaking if we do not also hear it through others—all of whom are made in that same God’s image.

Mindfulness spiritual practice is an awareness of being, by paying kind attention, on purpose, in the current moment, without harsh judgment, to things as they are. “It is a present-moment disposition of curiosity and openness to the Spirit ‘bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God’ (Rom 8:16).” Rhetoric or the regurgitation of ideologies is not useful to productive, transformative, life-giving conversation. Ideologies blindly cast about clang and clink, make a raucous noise, only serve to polarize. Instead, it is by listening to what comes from spending time together first listening to God—this God that is One, who reveals to us that we must (and can) love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbors as ourselves—and second, to each other—it is only then that productive, transformative, life-giving conversation is possible.

When I love someone, I must suspend my own perspective—not discarding my perspectives indiscriminately. But by doing so I make space (time) for another person to be seen, time for greater understanding behind the words. In that graced space there is more room to expand—in perspective and in love.

My son was born in South Korea. His country welcomed us and allowed us to make him our own. Clark is one of the most amazing human beings I know. I know God better because I have become better acquainted with South Korean culture. I know God better because I know Clark.

 

For more on this subject you can read my book,

Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone

bit.ly/justLTM

Listen!

make-space-and-listen

A friend recently mentioned the inherent difficulty in helping someone change, particularly if there is a presenting personality disorder (in the friend’s case, narcissistic). Not only is it difficult (some behavioral scientists think impossible) to treat or influence the attitude and behavior of one who displays the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it is very difficult to persuade a majority of “normal” people with facts. The problem lies with the issue of identity. When I believe something with any conviction, I identify with that position. Of course, if you think much about it, this is likely intuitive to most people. What happens is data that does not support ones view triggers negative emotion that hampers the ability to see another point of view. Exacerbating the problem, the data is often spewed ad hominem.

The trouble is we do most of our communication with words—tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube and article shares, and petition upon petition. All the while, these sentiments and “facts” (some absolutely based on scientific rigor, others, not so much—some even fake by design!) only serve to bolster ones own stance (“see, this article supports my view,” or “what a hack, I can’t believe they really buy into that”).

This is why it is even more crucial that we, particularly as leaders intentionally make time and space in mindfulness spiritual practice—together. The Shema, essentially the Jewish Lord’s Prayer, translates “hear” or “listen.” It is called the Shema because it is the very first word of the prayer, but it is also how the people are addressed most every time God directly speaks to them. Not only that, when God speaks, it is often that God interjects “I have heard their cry.” God listens to us!

Because of Jesus, we have personal access, freedom to hear with the same Spirit that witnesses to our spirit, God’s word to us. But how can we hear if we do not listen? How can we know the fullness of God’s speaking if we do not also hear it through others—all of whom are made in that same God’s image. I don’t mean listening to propaganda that seeps its way into the rhetoric, or the regurgitation of ideologies that may or may not be supported by current leadership. Rather, I mean listening to what comes from spending time together first listening to God—this God that is One, who reveals to us that we must (and can) love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The second part (to love our neighbors as ourselves) implies action. To love is to do so actively. And to love . . . is to know . . . and to know is to love. When I love someone, I must suspend my own perspective—I don’t mean discard my perspectives indiscriminately. But by doing so I make space for another person to be seen, time for greater understanding behind the words. In that graced space there is more room to expand—in perspective and in love.

It has to be intentional, though. We did some of this during my thesis project to beautiful effect. There is so much more possible! Who will make the first move? Let’s get together and try it out. Who is with me?

 

bit.ly/MGNZone