Friday, October 26, 2012



noun |1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. 2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire. 3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.

     I Like this quote I dislike this quoteFreedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves

A brief but important idea for this week-
I need to have more integrity in my life in order to become more intuned with God. In other words, if I am out of integrity or not responsible for certain parts of my life, I will start to let those things control/consume me and therefore do a worse job on focusing on God and the big picture. My three areas I am going to focus on are:

Budgeting Time
Personal Health

So what do I mean by stay in integrity and be responsible for? In my case, I mean managing these three areas of my life effectively so that they do not manage me. An example of how I do not effectively manage one of these follows:

Many people in my life tell me I budget too many things into my schedule. I often ignore them and get a thrill out of maintaining a fast pace in life. I like to push the limit and see how much I can do in a week. However, I end up committing to too many things and running myself very thin some weeks. I put myself in a situation where I struggle to say no to anything. By being so busy, I end up straining relationships, worrying others about my well being, not following through on everything I said I would do. I also end up worrying myself, and not taking the time to focus on myself- which in turn affects my ability to relate to the world, God, others.

Make Sense? I believe that if I get these things in order, it will allow them to be background parts of my lifestyle rather than logistics blurring my vision. This will open up the space for me to better percieve the world, relate to others and listen to God and paths he might point me down I would have not noticed before in my current flurry and preoccupation.

What are things in your life that have control over you? What are the things that cause you to focus inward instead of outward and on your faith? Might be certain subconscious fears, certain assumptions or cynicisms you have. Or it could be as simple as you might be putting something else first. The ones we always hear about are Sex, Alcohol and Money. But what about just the simple little things? The habits and patterns. Ask yourself it in this way- what are the things you believe you need in life? Maybe that will provide some answers about what gets in the way.

Also, just think, what if we all did a good job of taking care of ourselves? If we were integrity with ourselves? We would be making a difference in the world just by taking care of our own mess! Like this quote below:
Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Here are ways I am going to tackle my three areas in the next week/month in order to clear up my personal integrity in these three areas:

1) For the month Save 20% and give 10% of my net income
2) Say no to at least 1 thing a day. Budget a couple free time hours each week
3) Average 8 hours of sleep per night. Eat a serving of veggies with 2 meals a day

maybe those things will open up new doors to being responsible for these areas as well. We shall see. I hope to see a new window in this clearing to becoming closer to God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

How to 'Witness'?

1: attestation of a fact or event : testimony
2: one that gives evidence; specifically : one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal
3: one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place
4: one who has personal knowledge of something
5a : something serving as evidence or proof : sign
   b : public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction <the heroic witness to    
     divine life — Pilot> (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

As evident by this blog (most who know me well also experience this first hand)- I love talking about faith. It is way more rewarding than politics, allows you to learn so much about others and has an endless plethora of controversial and stimulating talking points. For me, conversations about faith are fun, insightful and educational. I see it as a welcome challenge to find common ground with other people’s beliefs and spirituality.

An add campaign from Nike- inspiring through the message
we all have seen and know greatness by watching great
athletes in sports. Does this somehow parallel the idea
of witness in faith?

However- conversations about faith can also be difficult. Some people really don’t want to talk about what they believe- and would rather keep it a private matter. Others would rather to stick to what they believe and not consider new ways of seeing things as it makes them uncomfortable. And then the worry comes up for me, how do I balance conversing with others about faith and pushing beliefs on others? Where is the line between sharing conviction and respect for them? I think where this becomes especially uncomfortable to me is when I hear about ‘witnessing’, and about how we are supposed to share and inspire Christianity in others. I think this scares me because it makes me feel that I am required to evaluate where others are coming from, and then show them ‘the right way’ rather than be open to their views and absorb new wealth from where they are coming from.
Here is a quote that makes me uncomfortable: "How to Give Away Your Faith" defines witnessing:
"Witnessing is that deep-seated conviction that the greatest favor I can do for others is to introduce them to Jesus Christ." – Paul Little.
Part of why this makes me uncomfortable is I see some of the truth in it. Of course if you believe something to your core- you are inspired to share it. And I do want to give to people in the ways that are the best benefit/favor to them! But what does it mean “introduce them to Jesus Christ?” per say? And how do I know that whatever that means is always the greatest favor to them? I personally can see how Jesus and his new testament message is beautiful, awe inspiring and revolutionary. I also see how it could bring so much relief and joy to others. But does this idea mean I need to convert people? To temper their unique inspiration and views of what is spiritually beautiful? I would appreciate some insight into this.
Here is a link with tons of verses on it about witnessing and how to share one’s faith. I think a lot of them require some navigation and unpacking- but overall they express some important ideas about sharing in faith from the bible:
It is good themes like listening, leading by example and sharing with others who are interested in listening that are all lessons within these versus that help me with this concept. Additionally this next quote really reassured me on the idea of sharing faith:
Yes, let God be the Judge. Your job today is to be a witness.
I love this idea- as it separates the evaluation aspect of someone else from sharing your experience and faith. Taking the judgment portion out of faith conversation allows you to give to others out of conversation in a way that makes a difference to them- along with sharing genuinely your own experience and convictions.
It would be helpful to hear how others deal with this idea in their lives. I would predict it is an especially difficult topic for Minnesotans, as we are so good at keeping to ourselves and being respectful/nonjudgmental of others it risks becoming a fault. I do want to continue to grow in my sharing with others in
A) a way that reflects God’s purpose, will and desire and B) in a loving way that is a genuine contribution to others.
I will close with a message from Paul on giving to others from 1Corinthians 9:
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Work and Money

I wanted to look at this week the idea of working, wealth and money. I think this is an important topic and one that holds a lot of significance for me. The questions arise, is money a bad thing? Is being wealthy? Can you still be wealthy but do a proper job of prioritizing faith/god? It can't be as simple as Rich equals bad and Poor equals good can it? I found this verse and in its entirety it was informative and fascinating in its nuances and complexity regarding the topic. I pasted the chapter and some summary points below.
1 As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don't be a fool who doesn't realize that mindless offerings to God are evil. 2 And don't make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few. 3 Just as being too busy gives you nightmares, being a fool makes you a blabbermouth. 4 So when you make a promise to God, don't delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. 5 It is better to say nothing than to promise something that you don't follow through on. 6 In such cases, your mouth is making you sin. And don't defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved. 7 Dreaming all the time instead of working is foolishness. And there is ruin in a flood of empty words. Fear God instead. 8 If you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and justice being miscarried throughout the land, don't be surprised! For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice only get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. 9 Even the king milks the land for his own profit! 10 Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth -- except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers! 12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night's sleep. 13 There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, 14 or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one's children. 15 People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born. 16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into this world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away. 17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud -- frustrated, discouraged, and angry. 18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work -- whatever they do under the sun -- for however long God lets them live. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life -- that is indeed a gift from God. 20 People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5
I would usually paste only a verse or two from the bible, but this passage I think is important in context as a chapter. A lot of the versus effect one another and I think there is meaning to be gained from reading the whole thing. Here are my biggest take aways from it:
·         Being Busy can haunt you and literally give you nightmares (I have experienced this unfortunately)
·         Important to keep your word and stay in integrity. If you take on too much/promise too much you become a fool quickly and making empty promises can ruin you.
·         Don’t make excuses for promises you cannot follow through on.
·         Leaders with power can be selfish and Bureaucracy can mask injustice or misused power
·         Wealth does not bring true happiness and if you love money you will never have enough
·         People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives empty handed
·         Working for self is like working for the wind- it leaves you with nothing when you die and causes you to live frustrated, discouraged and angry
·         It is good for people to eat well, enjoy pleasures (aka wine) and take satisfaction in their work in whatever trade it may be.
·         It is a good thing to receive wealth from God and good health and enjoy it.
·         To enjoy your work and to accept what you are given is the ultimate and is one of the ultimate gifts from God, as people who do this rarely have regrets and have lots of reasons for joy
·         Those who work hard sleep well whether they have a lot or a little (aka, it is not about what you have/accumulate, it is about how you live your life and how you do your work)
I would be curious to hear about peoples reaction to this verse and my analysis.
What is this chapter warning us of? What is it telling us to prioritize? What is Surprising about this chapter? What about this chapter makes you uncomfortable?
I feel this passage provides an interesting perspective of how to live our lives that is very directly applicable. My prediction is that this makes the verse important but also potentially a cause of discomfort and tension. I would love to hear people’s thoughts.
I have read the bible a lot, but likely haven't spent as much time with it as some. I guess the book itself was never the major emphasis of my faith. Coming from that background, it is fascinating to turn back to the bible and read it with new perspective and an open mind. There are many discoveries I am making of its contents that surprise me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gratitude for the Little Things

"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;"
1 Timothy 4:4 NASB
"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;"
Hebrews 12:28 NASB
"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24 ESV
First: I wanted to quick take a paragraph after two months of this endeavor to thank everyone who has commented, emailed, discussed and/or contributed in thought to this blog endeavor. My continual fear in writing is that I’m really only inspiring a one-sided conversation and that what I write is not contributing to those in my life in a real way. Any time I get a response, or hear someone in my life mention reading what I have to say I am temporarily relieved of this fear. And the overall backing I have received from acquaintances, friends across the country, family, and friends in my life daily is unanticipated and treasured. Several of the responses I receive pop up at unexpected yet perfect times and so many are genuinely moving. I newly realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who maintain such a variety of spiritual richness in their lives. I have found I know many individuals with dynamic beliefs about the nature of the divine and the world- yet all are still filled with curiosity, wonder and compassion. So thank you to all who read and respond publicly or privately. You are making a big difference in helping me keep my faith alive and present. I look forward to the continued discourse.
This week I had the privilege of spending a couple days at my friend Paul Buck’s cabin. It was an awesome fall escape with stunning weather, great food and wonderful company. The nine of us in attendance would gather around the table for breakfast and dinner, sing grace and then enjoy the meal along with stimulating conversation. I celebrated my Danish heritage with Paul by one morning making EbbleScheibers (sp?) for the whole group. During one our dinners, one of the women at the table began a conversation about the psychology behind gratitude, and how important having gratitude in life is for day to day happiness. One of the men at the table admitted to having a gratitude journal he wrote in every day, and another mentioned that the average happiness of an individual is proven to increase if they voice/note 3+ things they are grateful for in a day.
Fascinating that something that is considered so good for us on a psychological level is so present in the teachings of God and Christianity. Telling believers to give thanks is a huge motif in the bible, and a large part of prayer and practicing many faiths. “Thanks be to God” I think is spoken aloud at most every religious service I have attended in some way. What a great win-win this creates for believers; who are ordered to do something that will decisively improve our individual happiness. Therefore I am dedicating this blog post to practicing gratitude and noting the things I am thankful for out loud.
I thank God today for:
My view of Minneapolis on my drive to work, coworkers stopping by my desk to say hi at the office, my elephant throw pillow, fresh fruit from the grocery store, being busy with exciting things, windburn on my cheeks from a fall walk, home-made apple sauce, being able to search anything on Google, feeling connected to others, the sound of my car bluebelle unlocking, Good Earth tea, new learning opportunities, long hugs, the windy dry air of fall, having things to look forward to, creative musicians on the radio, the smell of libraries and old books, my sister making a St. Olaf choir, yellow fall leaves in the sunlight, friendly dogs, feeling appreciated, having an abundance of clean and delicious drinking water, Swing dancing, warm wool socks, creative and spontaneous dates, smiley face drawings, Caribou coffee’s always friendly servers, big windows at work, having friends only a text away, an abundance of bananas in MN, good quotes, glasses of chilled white wine, feeling understood by others , sketched smiley faces, clocks and hot chocolate with Oreos on top.
I encourage people interested in responding (especially people who haven’t before!) To respond with a short list of your own day to day things you appreciate. Also, consider writing down somewhere once a day for the next week or two 3 things you are thankful for. Might be interesting to see what the results are after doing it for a bit!