Archive for Life

Fruits of the Spirit Dying on the Vine

I took the summer off church. The last few weeks of my time in church in late June and early July were becoming increasingly painful. At the root of my discomfort in church was a deepening questioning of the vaildity of the idea of Fruits of the Holy Spirit and in turn the actual concept of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the trinity and so on.

I grew up in the church. Not from a super young age but starting at the very impressionable age of 11. Early on I realized that following the acceptance of Christ you were inbued with the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Holy Trinity, sent to us after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to help guide Christians once the physical person of Christ was no longer amoung mankind. In Romans 8 the role of the Spirit is outlined as:

As Christ has set us free from a life served in bondage to the law, we now walk according to the Spirit. And the Spirit of God dwells in us, the believers. And anyone who does not have the Spirit does not belong to Him (vs 9). The chapter ends celebrating the adoption into the family of God by through the redemption of our bodies and displaying the Fruits of the Spirit. Displaying the Fruits of the Spirit are central the demonstration of a changed life in Christ, The thing the sets us apart from non-believers and the sign for the hope of things to come. At the core of my current spiritual crisis is my doubt in the existence of Fruits of the Spirit within the Chrisitian community.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are outlined in the episitle to the Galatians in Chapter 5 ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.’ (vs 22).

I look around me, at the many many Christians I know, some displaying the fruits of the Spirit more prominently than others. Many, many, myself included, barely displaying most of the fruits, even some of the time. That would be okay, as we are all a work in process. But where my doubts really begin to break down is when I examine the many non Christian friends I have. Many of them don’t display all the fruits of the Spirit either, or at least not most them, but many they do display some of them. And some of these friends display these attributes far more strongly than many of the people who profess a life in Christ and are purportedly given over to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

So my mind began to ponder this and I racked my brain for those among me who displayed a life changed, a life evident of a transformation into living according to the Spirit and not by the law. And when I examine those Christians around me; my lovely and amazing sister with kindness beyond measure, the elderly spiritual giants at my church, displaying wisdom beyond years lived, my father transformed from a life of drugs and other temptations, transformed to a man of God, and lastly my amazing life partner, who displays the entire list everyday of his life. But when I look more closely at these individuals, and others, what I really see are personalilty traits that leads them to be kinder, more patient, less forceful people. And when I look at the the non Christians in my life who also display what looks like Fruits of the Spirit and I see the same thing, personality types, not a decision or a life changing event that sets them apart.

So then the true test should be a display of Fruits of the Spirit in those who do not already have a personality that lends itself to kindness, and goodness and self control. To peace and patience, to love and joy. And I turn my gaze to myself. I have a text book type A personality; driven, outspoken, critical, opinionated, fearless and prone to taking over. I have spent my entire adult life trying hard, very hard, with all my might, to fight this person inside me, in order to display the Fruits of the Spirit. And to my great sadness, try as I might to beat down my type A self, it always comes roaring back with a vengance, stomping all over the poor struggling vines of the Fruits of Spirit. And not just me, so very many Christians display deeds of the flesh. Described as ‘immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissessions, factions, envying, drunkness, carousing, and things like these.’ (vs 19 – 21) Capital letter ‘C’ Church loves to focus on the items at the beginning and the end of this list, immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkeness, and carousing. But so rarely do we hear much on the items in the middle of the list, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions and envying. In fact judging by the daily deluge to my email inbox from my family members that love to rail against anything democratic, supporting Obama, worring about the socialization of our society by promoting any form of welfare or caring for those less fortunate. Judging from my Christian friends who are quick to judge and rail against types of people, they don’t know. It is evident that there are many Christians who are exceling at this list at a much higher rate than the Fruits of the Spirit.

Fruit Dying on the Vine

I think the genesis of this doubt started with the display of fear and mistrust as our church went through a building campaign. Watching so many people being afraid to step out in faith, unable to imagine a facility that would serve people other than ourselves. Lastly not even willing to be incovienced to park elsewhere during construction phases even at the expense of visitors curious about the changes in action but never to return and the lack of parking was a sure sign of a closed door to them. So many of the people I church with every Sunday have a laundry list of complaints about any and every little thing, a spirit much more similar to mine, one of judging and criticism, instead of kindness and gentleness.

The media has been ripe with hints of this from the blog post on CNN about how Christians can be so mean online. Just google the phrase ‘Why are Christians so Mean’ you will be sadden and amazed at the amount written on this very topic.

Another example is the recent decision by Anne Rice to ‘leave’ Christianity.

So my mind wonders, maybe, just maybe there is no such thing as the Spirit of God, or at least a Spirit that leads us to the Fruits of the Spirit. But so very much of the New Testament centers around a life with the Holy Spirit, transformed for the rest of the world to see. But if I can’t see this in the world around me, perhaps it isn’t really there. And if that isn’t true, then what else isn’t true? Jesus, the body of Christ, God the Father? And as you can guess the whole house of cards that is Christianity starts to come down around me. And since I have spent my whole life trying to live under these beliefs, you have no idea how disorienting and scary it is on the other side of these beliefs.

So sitting in church or among other Christians where it is inevitable that the topic will turn to how Christians should behave has become painful, so I have taken a break. Rarely do I get a chance to think through the deep complexities of what I am truly pondering but maybe getting this in writing will help me continue the journey to find out what is up with the Fruits of the Spirit.

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I’ve Been Bad but You Can Be Good.

Okay okay lomagirl had to shame me into it. She told me that my New Year’s Resolutions for 2010 should have included a resolution to blog often and she is right and there is no time like the present. So Happy New Years (okay Chinese New Years is in just a few days so I can pretend it is still New Years), happy year of the Tiger.

2010 Year of the Tiger

My random thoughts lately bring me back to some previous posts on things like the Tea Party movement. The lack of movement in the Congress (I am sorry but just saying no to everything and then saying ‘well they didn’t ask nicely, is not a winning strategy). The ever present spin machine trying to make the Obama Administration treatment of suspected terrorists look like a position that is soft on terrorism when they are doing nothing substantially different than the Bush administration. The sad state of the Health Care Reform Bill and many other topics that are covered ad naseum in other sites.

So instead of musing political in that vein I am going to head a slightly different direction and challenge you all to think about Empathy as a Social Movement.

I heard this very interesting conversation about a month ago on KQED’s Forum program with Jeremy Rifkin about his new book “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis” which posited the theory that our great nation and planet as a whole is still operating the Manifest Destiny philosophy and get it is time we change that mentality and teach a new lesson to the upcoming generations that prepares them for the ‘Third Industrial Revolution.

You can listen to that conversation here.

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New Years 2010 Plans

A quick look back at my resolutions reveals a mixed bag of success and inspiriation. As a reminder my list looked like this:

I generally don’t like New Year’s Resolutions but a new year also brings the thoughts about what new things we might want to explore or accomplish: So here is my list. I reserve the right to update this at any point.

1) Try a new local restaurant I have never been to each month.
2) Keep up with at least daily updates on Twitter.
3) Help my team write really good development plans for 2009.
4) Camp at least 4 times this year. (Hurrah for new camp stove).
5) Try a new beer each month at our regular WAP (Work Avoidance Program).
6) See a new foreign film each month (thank you Netflix).
7) Install a new floor downstairs.
Help John learn to drive my car before he gets his permit. (Hurrah for manual transmissions)
9) Help The Service Project become a vital ministry at our church.
and the long shot….
10) Get off the continent.

And how did I do?

1) Try a new local restaurant I have never been to each month. This was the best resolution ever, I highly recommend you try this one yourself. New restaurants are born each month and it keeps you from being in a rut, at least foodwise.

2) Keep up with at least daily updates on Twitter. – Well not so good on this one, but if you add Facebook to the mix then success. Not sure that is such a good thing though.

3) Help my team write really good development plans for 2009. – So so, some of them reached for the stars, others still can’t grasp the concept. A year of lots of changes though, and I think a stronger team than ever.

4) Camp at least 4 times this year. (Hurrah for new camp stove). – Utter failure, not one camping adventure last year. Sad face.

5) Try a new beer each month at our regular WAP (Work Avoidance Program). – Success but harder than it sounds. Since WAP occurs at one of three places each month it was hard to find things I hadn’t tried yet. But never the less a success. I discovered Smithwicks (and that it is pronounced Smiticks), love it. I discovered I hate Chimay Trappist Ale. Yuck. And that Stella Artois is way overblown and nothing to get your panties in wad over.

6) See a new foreign film each month (thank you Netflix). – Mixed bag, I did well the first part of the year and saw some great films. Nine Queens from Argentina. Children of Heaven from Iran. Pan’s Labryrinth from Spain. Character from The Netherlands. Mananagar from India. All great films and mind expanding. I recommend them all. Think I need to renew this one.

7) Install a new floor downstairs. – YESSSS! Thanks to the Mattman. Men I highly recommend you plan and do a big project for your honey. I will do wonders for your sex life.

8. Help John learn to drive my car before he gets his permit. (Hurrah for manual transmissions) – Well he can start, stop and shift from 1st to 2nd but so far he is afraid to drive a manual, oh well.

9) Help The Service Project become a vital ministry at our church. – Not so great on this one. We lost alot of steam on this one this year. Not really sure why. This next year I really need to find a new place at my church home. Couples group? Outreach? Not sure yet. Your thoughts?

10) Get off the continent. – Not yet, but at least I am headed to the other side in 10 days.

And now for 2010:

1) Try a new local restarant each month. Huge success, gonna keep it up.

2) Learn to cook Indian food. Curry, Rice, Raitas. Bought some books today for inspiration.

660 Curries

From Curries to Kebabs

2) Camping twice this year. Okay let’s scale this back and see what happens. It looks promising. The J’ohnson’s are at looking at Memorial Day for the annual trip to Yosemite. Hope it pans out.

3) Bartend an event. I want a new challenge and a chance to work on my muddling skills.

4) Finish The Prisoner series from Netflix before the new series debuts. Only have about 12 episides to go. So one or two a month should do it.

5) Persue a grad degree this year. Thinking about Human Resources. Let’s see what is possible.

6) Get new planter boxes for tomatoes and peppers built. Matt, hint hint.

7) Go one month as a vegetarian.

8) Take a once a week sabbaitical from the internet. I pick Sundays.

9) Okay try this again, one foreign film per month. I think I need to print this list so I can remember and be inspiried.

10) Read 25 books from my Shelfari list.

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Reincarnation TV – When Cable is Screwy

flat-panel-tv

Okay a little background to explain why we have what we like to call ‘reincarnation TV’.

In 2007 we decided to make a major life change and ditched cable. It was a somewhat monetary decision but was primarily based on an experiment to see how our lives would change.

We LOVED it. The most amazing thing was after just a few months of no cable, Christmas rolled around. Our lovely children deprived of endless commercials had a completely amazing gift wish list. There were tons of the useless things that were on endless commercials that they were no longer aware of. We loved it. They read more books, we read more books. We played family games together almost once a week. It wasn’t that we never turned the TV on, we did. Of course we still used it for watching DVDs, our Netflix cue was finally under control. We even plugged in the occasional video tape. We could get a few channels from the attenae, which meant we could still watch SNL whenever we got the urge. And perhaps most importantly we turned to places like CBS, ABC, and NBC online and then with great relish we discovered Hulu and other streaming television. We were in 7th heaven.

Fast forward to Feb 2009 and FCC had been pushing hard for a transfer of all broadcast stations to move to a digital format. And even though they pushed that plan out to later this year, one of our local stations (the one with Nascar on it) already made the move to digital.

Now even though we had made a major move away from consuming tons of TV we had upgraded our set to a flat panel HD. So we were ready and set the TV up to receive a digital signal. Now unbeknownst to me, the Mattman had negotiated an upgrade to our internet service with Comcast and since the price was cheaper to bundle faster download speeds with cable, we had signed up for cable again but never connected it to our TV.

Converting the TV to it’s digital input gave us amazing images and this led the Mattman to wonder if we would get any other new channels with our HD setup. He then remembered we had some cable service (we assumed the most basic kind) and he plugged the cable in.

And alas reincarnation TV was born. We get some basic local networks, most of the PBS stations and here is the weird part. No other typical basic cable channels, like CNN or TNT, Discovery, etc. We get MTV and Cartoon Network. But the best part is we get a bunch of channels that are either premium or pay per view. This past weekend we have confirmed the following movies:

Twilight

Twilight

Milk

Milk

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Australia

Australia

Madagascar 2

Madagascar 2

Changeling

Changeling

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia

Now we call it reincarnation TV cause we will start watching one of these movies and then all of sudden it will rewind or fast forward or switch to some other movie or network like CSPAN. It means that whenever we turn on the TV we never know what we are going to get or for how long. At first we were confused but I think we have decided we kind of like it. It lends a certain amount of adventure to watching TV that you just don’t expect.

I assume we are somehow connected to someone else’s system, either their dish or DVR set up and so we are at the mercy of what they are into (for example today the Handmaid’s Tale was on and it kept forwarding to the naughty parts). We had called Comcast to come and sort us out the first week but since they came on the wrong day and we missed them, we have decided we like this and we don’t want them to fix it.

And there you have it, reincarnation TV, because one show will die and another will come and take it’s place. It’s fun. Too bad you can’t try it.

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Death to America, Finally Realized?

https://i1.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2008/07/16/fl5.jpg

For many years we have watched as those in other countries protest and chant “Death to America”. I heard an interview with someone from Iran recently who was stating that this does not necessarily mean death to the people of America but to their ideals and vices which are contrary to the teachings of Islam.

I think with our current economic environment we might finally be putting some of these vices to death in ways that no armed conflict or attack could ever acheive.

And the one American vice most likely to change: Greed

I was having dinner with a friend last week and he brought up the fact that the new economic climate might mean a signigificant shift in the way we live our lives in America. It should come as no surprise to any walking talking citizen that we have been on a spend it now, pay for it later binge for far too long. Here are just a few statistics to prove my point:

According to an article by Stacy Mitchell at www.newrules.org:

“Between 1990 and 2005, the amount of retail space per capita in the U.S. doubled from 19 to 38 square feet, while per capita retail spending has increased by only about 14 percent. In the last year alone, developers built 143 million square feet of new shopping centers and bigbox stores.”

We have shopped and shopped. Bought cheaper and cheaper products (that break or fall apart sooner and sooner, necessitating yet another purchase). We no longer know how long a blender should last, what it should really cost and what it should cost to sustain a reliable work force.

We are completly caught up in newer, cheaper, smaller, and newer. Yes newer seems to be the overwhelming marketing strategy. How many new kinds of potato chips, crackers, oatmeal and any other number of food products, does the grocery store need to roll out each week to entice us back into Walmart?

As the recent bank bailouts have illuminated, we have been on the short side of make money now and worry about the consequences later. As much as we would like to say that the executives and stock brokers have been the ones to have the short view, it really has been all of us. We have been living large, buying cheap, throwing away and buying again like there is no tomorrow.

But sadly tommorrow has come. And for most of us things are like a really bad hangover. We all just want to jump into bed and go back to sleep until this is all over. But I think this change will ultimately be a good thing for America. We need to rediscover things like value, sustainability, reasonable consumption, and most importantly living within our means. And maybe, just maybe, we will put a dent in our Greed. And put to death one of the things that make us the target of those around the world.

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Want to be the person that isn’t laid off?

I have been a manager of people for over 10 years. I have hired and fired and sadly during this time, seen my fair share of layoffs. Some layoffs are clearly an opportunity to clean out deadwood but other are ones that cut deeply and competent, well intentioned people are let go. I have set in on many meetings where a group of managers have to make the gut wrenching decisions on who will get the axe. Have you ever wondered how those decisions are usually made? Well here is a little glimpse.

You could be on that list if:

You often respond to new ideas with “we tried that and it didn’t work” or “that won’t work” or “that will be too much work”.
Now this may be true but then again it might not be. The person who always poo poos ideas and is a general pessimist generally isn’t fun to work with and begins to be perceived as difficult to work with and perhaps even avoiding work. If there really is a good reason why you think an idea is flawed be fact based, quote statistics if available, outline other alternatives, and in a worst case scenario, let them discover for themselves why it was a bad idea.

– You often criticize others and rarely praise others.
Some people deserve criticism and no one trusts someone who never says something bad about someone else. But if your comments weigh too heavily to the critical side, then you are likely to be perceived as over judgemental, inflexible and generally people begin to want to avoid you. What better to avoid you than recommend you be one of those who is let go.

– You are a constant procrastinator or have be asked multiple times to complete something.
I am your boss, not your mom. I don’t want to nag. I hired a highly competent professional and expect that you can manage what I asked. If at the time I asked there was an unrealistic goal, you need to speak up then and renegotiate or at the very least renegotiate during the project if you feel the deadline will be missed. Waiting for me to ask you where something is, is too late.

– You are really quiet and afraid to make any waves.
Sure it is bad idea to be too negative or too vocal but it also risky to be too quiet. Everyone at every level in every position needs to have some element of marketing to their job. If others don’t know what you do, why and how you do a good job and can recommend improvements then I am not likely to be able to defend why you should keep your job.

Who is likely to make the cut?

People who are:

– Generally upbeat.
– Are willing to take on new tasks.
– Get things done on time.

You would think these ideas are a no brainer but you would be surprised how many people I have worked with and currently work with who just don’t seem to grasp the obvious.

Good luck in the next RIF.

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2009 New Year’s Promises

I generally don’t like New Year’s Resolutions but a new year also brings the thoughts about what new things we might want to explore or accomplish: So here is my list. I reserve the right to update this at any point.

1) Try a new local restaurant I have never been to each month.
2) Keep up with at least daily updates on Twitter.
3) Help my team write really good development plans for 2009.
4) Camp at least 4 times this year. (Hurrah for new camp stove).
5) Try a new beer each month at our regular WAP (Work Avoidance Program).
6) See a new foreign film each month (thank you Netflix).
7) Install a new floor downstairs.
8) Help John learn to drive my car before he gets his permit. (Hurrah for manual transmissions)
9) Help The Service Project become a vital ministry at our church.
and the long shot….
10) Get off the continent.

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