Friday, December 22, 2006

Dave's Thoughts

My friend Dave recently wrote a article on "What is a Christian." Here is what he thinks:

As other writers have already noted, it's a little odd to ask people what Christianity is to them, as if the label was just an empty shell that we're given the opportunity to fill with whatever we think would make a good "Christianity." Such a man-made religion is simply a philosophy and has little ultimate bearing on questions of our life now, and our life after death. But Christianity is a faith founded by Jesus Christ and a life lived in prayer with him.

And again, as been already pointed out, the most obvious thing to do is to study Jesus's teaching in order to find out what is Christianity. And by the way, those who are so easily inclined to insist that the Scriptures were written by the apostles in order to "hold power and instill fear" need to consider for a time why these same writers looked so bad in their own writing, and how it was that they happily suffered hardship through the last years of their lives.

During this Christmas season, Christian rejoice – an activity all too lacking in our culture – because we believe God has entered into human history as one of us, and poured out his life for us, so that we can share in his life in this life and the next.

Read the "Our Father" prayer offered by Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 to find out what Christianity is like. Worship of God and knowledge of him as not just Master but as our Father, trust of a child in him for our life's needs, acknowledgement of real sin, seeking of pardon connected to our pardon of others, (and not denying the reality of sin in either case,) and prayer for deliverance from real evil.

Saying "This is what I think Christianity is" is as misguided an effort as going to McDonalds and saying, "This is what I think a cheeseburger is." The thing already is what it is before you arrived. Go ahead and study it or reject it, but don't presume that you can sort of fill in the blanks with you own ideas and then claim, "I'm kind of a Christian."

And yes there are hypocrites in Christianity. That's perfectly reasonable to expect, isn't it – that some people would try to obtain the benefits of a particular faith without having to actually go through the conversion of life that that same faith might ask for. And there are hypocrite atheists, too – but since they don't exactly represent anything substantial they don't end up embarrassing or failing anyone when they offend their own sensibilities; and no one reports on their personal downfall as indicative of an entire people-group.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Free Will

Why does the Lord give me free will? Sometimes I would rather not have a free will so that I would not choose against God, but most of the time I am very glad I have free will.

I have been recently reflecting on why God gave me free will, what it really means, and how I should respond to this generous gift. Why God would make creatures that could chose something other than Himself, I don't have a clue. Better yet, why would a creature of this marvelous creator want to choose something other than Him? Why would God create pride? In theory, before God created, He was. All was God and God was all. When God created, all was part of God and God was part of all. There was nothing outside God. So why would He make creatures that could conceive of something outside of Himself? In reality there is nothing outside of Himself (except for the lack of God, which is not anything existential).

Regardless of His reasons, He made it this way. From this choice of His, He created free will. We can choose God or lack of God. But it never seems like that is the choice before me. When I choose to eat fries instead of salad, how am I choosing God or lack of God? It seems more obvious with the commandments, but free will is more than the commandments or the beatitudes. ALL our choices are either for God or not for God in some small way.

Life is good when *my will* falls in line with God's will. When our wills diverge, I may think life is good, but it is dreadfully not. I usually don't figure that out for a while, but thankfully I usually figure it out eventually.

Now on to another dear topic. The free will of others. If God gives us ALL free will, that means that the person who leads the "not-so-ideal" lifestyle has free will AND GOD RESPECTS IT!!! Sooooo, should we respect it? (Yes) But how do we go about bringing the love of God to people who choose not God? Well... maybe we can't. At least not right now, or perhaps not directly. (This is why praying for the conversion of people is REALLY important). If we respect their free will and love them in ways that they can receive, perhaps they will slowly become open to the love of God in other more direct ways.

In Scriptures, love is described in a number of ways, one of them being patient. When it comes to the conversion of our loved ones (and all people for that fact), we must respect their free will and be patient and live in the Hope that God will touch their hearts and draw them near. God was patient with me and respected my free will, and I believe that I should follow his example.

The BIG picture

What do the little things we choose throughout our day matter in the BIG picture?

Very much actually... If one was to view life as one long test, with each individual choice as an opportunity for choosing right or wrong, for or against, then all of the little choices do matter. But how much? Does the last question on the test mean more than the rest of it? (since we are talking about life here...)

I don't know. I can't know. But we have a pretty good guess. Yes, and ... yes. Sort of. From a christian perspective, if getting into heaven is the BIG deal, then it means a lot to get in. But as Catholics, we believe there is more than merely "getting in."

I once heard an analogy that goes like this: We are like containers capable of holding the love of the Lord. While the Lord desires to fill all of us up (and He does just that in heaven) not all of us can hold the same amount. Some of us have bigger containers than others. Does that make some people better then others? No. Simply different. In heaven we will not experience jealousy or hatred. We will not compare ourselves with each other like we do so often here. We will be fully content on being filled to overflowing with God's love. But nonetheless, some are like thimbles and some like lakes.

So do you want to be a thimble or a lake? Perhaps I should be concerned about merely getting in, regardless of how much I can hold...

Perhaps getting in is weighed a little heavy on the last question on the test, but the size our capacity for God's love will most likely be determined by all the little choices we made throughout our days of the living. Don't be content to simply get in, shoot for the stars and perhaps you'll reach the moon.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Muze of the week

I have found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to understand the other person. Our first reaction to most of the statements (which we hear from other people) is an evaluation or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling, attitude or belief, our tendency is almost immediately to feel "that's right," or "that's stupid," "that's abnormal," "that's unreasonable," "that's incorrect," "that's not nice." Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of the statement is to the other person.

Adapted from Carl R. Rogers, On becoming a Person (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961), pp. 18ff

Friday, November 17, 2006

Counter Intuitive

Last night I was discussing the behavior of "fitting in." Reflecting on this, I remember what I was a child and so greatly desired to "fit in" with all the other kids. When I think of it a little further, I realize that I was trying to fit in not just at school, but at home, in my extended family, pretty everywhere I went. I have heard that this is fairly common for children. It has something to do with growing up.

Like usual, I try to fit everything into my religious view of the world, and I came to the conclusion that God made us in such a way that we want to "fit in", or to "belong". But in God's great creation, we are given the desire to belong not simply for earthly reasons of survival, but so that we would desire to "belong" to Him. I believe that our wanting to "belong" here, is a reflection of our longing to belong to God's community. Ultimately we want to "fit in" in heaven. We want to be part of a group of people who all have a common thread - unbounded love of God and being loved by God in return. (perhaps I got the order of those two loves backwards, oops).

Anyway, the discussion led to the topic of differences among people. Here in our American culture we easily get so caught up wanting to belong (which nastily turns into conforming) that some people coerce others. We almost all have had experiences where an 'adult bully' at work or elsewhere tries to be the one that everyone must conform to. They get really mad and out of control when someone resists them or crosses them. It's often "my way or the highway," and they have no problem making your life hell unless you conform to their ways. This view on life is sad because it does not take account for the blessing it is to have differences. These people act like "If the whole world were like me, it would be a better place." What pile of crap, huh?

We talked about how differences are a great thing and should be lauded and cherished. The Catholic Church teaches that the Lord made us all in His image, but unique and unrepeatable. So why focus on only the commonalities? Of course this little piece of revelation hit me pretty hard. At school we talk about management styles and so forth, and I have been convicted that my style is not very good (not very developed is more like the truth.) I tend to instinctively have a "conform to me" style. That is, I like to think through everything as thoroughly as possible, make some conclusions, and base my decision on that. There is nothing wrong with this as long as I live in a world by myself. In reality, other people think differently than I do and respond to things differently. So what may be best for me is not always best for others. Further, what I conclude may not line up with reality - it is only guaranteed to line up with my perception of reality - very different things most of the time. So I have been learning to surround myself with people who are like me in the big fundamental things, but very different than me in the the way they perceive the world. I am learning to appreciate these differences and rely on the diversity to help me grow in my understanding of people and God. In management I will need to rely on this diversity to help me make recommendations that I may never have come up with on my own.

It seems that our culture could use a little more appreciation of difference and a little less focus on similarity. It is a difficult uphill battle because of the way this country was founded. We were a bunch of people from different cultures, histories, and backgrounds, and we had to come together to build a nation. We needed to focus on what brought us together, those things that bind us. Because of the division of Church and State, religion could not be a national binding factor, we had to find other things, and we did. Because of this, as Americans are brought up with the value of finding the commonalities and minimizing the differences. But this has now come back to plague us as a people. Perhaps in the early founding days of this country, the differences were so huge and obvious that they were properly utilized. But now, we have our own American culture and "sameness," and difference gets lost.

In the big scheme of creation, God made us different so that we would need one another. So that we could do things in cooperation that would be impossible on our own (America would not exist if not for diverse cooperation.) To more perfectly reflect the image of the Trinity.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Conversation to Conversion

How often do we talk about stuff, get excited about it, then go away and do nothing about it? It seems all too often in my life.

I was talking to myself today on the way to work today (shut-up, all people talk to themselves) and I made a slip of the tongue a couple of times and said "conversion" when I meant to say "conversation." This led me to think about those two things together.

Yesterday I had a couple of great conversations with people that led to a deeper insight about myself, my life, and the Lord. I let these thoughts linger in my mind for a while as I drove home, but by the time I arrived at my house and started working on a school paper, all those great ponderings simply disappeared in a *poof*.

So as I was driving this morning, I wondered how often this happens to me. As I reflected I sadly came to the conclusion that I talk more than I act when it comes to this great spiritual stuff. I have developed a great capacity to think and ponder deep spiritual things, but I often don't allow it to make it down to my heart or into my actions. As sad as this is, it is convicting to me that I may be a "poser." I dread the thought that people may see me as a big mouth that continuously spews forth. With that conviction in mind I have resolved to talk a little less and act a little more. No one likes the talking head.

The way that I'll know I'm successful is that those people around me will notice a change.

I must never get contented with where I am in my spiritual journey. I must constantly press on to greater depth. I need to let these conversations lead to conversions.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Politics and Leadership

With all of the Election stuff going on, I have taken some time to reflect on the leadership of our country.

It seems to me that “leadership” is something that I cannot identify with politics. I was recently ranting about my opinions about politics when a friend of mine said, “Why don’t you run for office?” That was a good way to shut me up, but also to get me thinking about it. Here are my conclusions:

When I was in philosophy class we talked about Plato and his ‘Philosopher-King’ idea. Plato, the extremist that he was, believed that most people do not know what is good for them, so it takes a special kind of person to rule over them as king – it takes a philosopher he said (convenient, since he was a philosopher). Of course, he lived in a time where there was a clear distinction between social classes and anyone not in the noble class was considered ignorant of what is best for them.

We have a bit of a different social system going on here in America. We believe that everyone, regardless of creed, race, or other differences, has equal rights to freedom and knowledge. While we still have some social class divisions, we not longer hold that anyone who is not ultra-wealthy is ignorant of what is best for them. With that in mind, I personally believe that as a culture we have strayed too far from the Truth. Of course, as a actively practicing and believing Catholic, I believe that “truth” is what God has revealed to us as a race over the last several thousand years. Our American culture has strayed far from this truth and we continue to get farther and farther away. If we do not understand these revealed truths, then it is impossible to know what is best for us.

On that point, I believe that many people in America do not know what is best for them.

Back to the point at hand: Leadership and politics are not coinciding anymore. I believe that at one point in history they did, but not anymore. Why do I say this? I define leadership (in this narrow context) as leading people in a way that keeps their best interests in mind. A parent leads a child by doing what is best for the child. Does the child know what is best for it? Usually not; the child only knows what it wants and doesn’t want. Our American culture has produced a bunch of adult children who do not know what is best for them, they only know what they want and they cry when they don’t get it. A true leader would do what is best for them regardless of the whining and screaming. Our current politics is set up on the right idea – our elected politicians are supposed to represent the people. But this assumes that the people know what is right for themselves, and I believe that assumption is not being met. So what we get are political representatives doing whatever a mob of angry adult-children want, not true political leaders.

So why won’t I run for office? Because I refuse to give into the whims and wants of the mob; I would instead insist on doing what I know is best for them. But since it is the mob that elects its representatives, I would never get elected because it would be abundantly clear to them that I would not do what they want. Democracy fails when the people are longer in touch with the Truth and what is best for them. This is the state I believe we are in here in this country. As much as I disagree with many of Bush's choices, he has at least given an effort to be a true leader by doing what he believes is right for the country, reagrdless of what the mob is screaming. He may not be popular, but what good leader is in times of distress?

This failure of democracy is one of the many reasons why I respect the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They do not suffer from these problems in the same way we do.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bring on the segregation!!!

LOL. What a scandalous title huh? Well I needed something to get your attention!
I have recently been fed up with the "let's include everyone in everything" syndrome and the "let's empower everyone to equality" syndrome.
I was recently having a conversation about "labeling" and "grouping" things. I noticed that when it came to "judging" things like style of clothes, people do not get all bent out of shape, but when I talk about "judging" people, they get all crazy and unreasonable. They often spout something about Christians not judging people and such, but I think they misunderstand me and misunderstand what the Church actually teaches. So let me take this moment to clarify:

Judging people is not right according to the teachings of Christ, only God can judge a person. We are called to "love the person", but not their bad deeds. So when a person is doing something that goes against me or my beliefs, I should love them as my brother or sister in Christ and pray for them, but condemn their actions and call them on to greater accountability. That is true love of a person - to care for the betterment of their entire being. So there is nothing wrong with judging peoples deeds/choices; as long as people understand that to judge someone actions does not mean judging the person as a whole. Hate evil, not people.

On the other hand, we as humans need a way to deal with the barrage of colors, shapes, and other input our senses receive every moment of every day. Think about a newborn baby: to them they know nothing of shape and pattern - everything is a conglomeration of colors constantly moving and changing (so say the "experts"). In order to deal with their new world, the human brain starts categorizing patterns of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. It even starts relating certain patterns in one sense to patterns in other senses by cause and effect relationships. All said and done, when a person reaches a certain cognitive threshold, they are able to cope with and interact with the world around them. They learn by putting things into categories, which requires that they make a judgment about anything and everything. Is 'a' like 'b', or more like 'c'? How about 'd'? Adolescence is all about pattern matching and categorizing. It is the only way that we can make sense of the world around us. So why is it that when a person becomes an adult they get torn apart for categorizing people? This is only a natural way of dealing with the world around us. Some people are old, some young, some male, some female, some heterosexual, some homosexual, etc., etc. There is nothing wrong with this as long as we don't judge the people within the groupings. We can judge their deeds, but not the people.

So bring on the categorization and "segregations" of a population! It is a good and useful thing to do by helping us cope with our world and making sense out of it. Just don't go too far with the whole condemnation thing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wants versus Needs

I have been recently thinking about wants versus needs. It seems to me that many people in this western culture (specifically the US) have this obsession with wants. I personally have fallen victim to this way of thinking for many years, and I still fight to get beyond it.
As I get older, I realize more and more that life is not about wants, but about needs. When I focus on wants, I am focused on myself. When I admit that life is not about me, I can start focusing on others and contributing to the world around me.
Most people I know talk about "just surviving" out there in the world. What they mean by this is that they would like to make more progress on getting what they want and spend less time on struggling to make ends meet. This whole view point, while common and seemingly innocent, is based on selfishness. I used to say this kind of thing all the time, but now I try and take the perspective that life is about making ends meet, not about getting past that so I can get those things I want.
Joy and happiness can be found to a great degree in "making ends meet". I believe that more happiness can be found in the "mundane" activities of life than in the pursuit of self-fulfillment. When we work to get what we want, we are often disappointed and unhappy - when we work to serve others and make ends meet, we can find happiness and fulfillment.

I say, forget about the self-focused wants, and start doing what you need to do.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jung Word Test Results

Extroverted (E) 64.29% Introverted (I) 35.71%

Sensing (S) 67.65% Intuitive (N) 32.35%

Thinking (T) 56.25% Feeling (F) 43.75%

Judging (J) 72.41% Perceiving (P) 27.59%

ESTJ - "Administrator". Much in touch with the external environment. Very responsible. Pillar of strength. 8.7% of total population.
Free Jung Word Test (similar to Myers-Briggs)
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Big Five Word Test Results

Big Five Word Test Results
Extroversion (60%) moderately high which suggests you are, at times, overly talkative, outgoing, sociable and interacting at the expense of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity.
Accommodation (68%) moderately high which suggests you are, at times, overly kind natured, trusting, and helpful at the expense of your own individual development (martyr complex).
Orderliness (74%) high which suggests you are overly organized, neat, structured and restrained at the expense too often of flexibility, variety, spontaneity, and fun.
Emotional Stability (90%) very high which suggests you are extremely relaxed, calm, secure, and optimistic.
Inquisitiveness (34%) moderately low which suggests you are, at times, overly small minded, traditional, and conventional at the expense of intellectual curiousity, possibility, and progress.
Take Free Big Five Word Personality Test
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Career Inventory Test Results

Career Inventory Test Results

Extroversion ||||||||||||||||||||| 63%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Orderliness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 76%
Altruism ||||||||||||||| 50%
Inquisitiveness |||||||||||| 33%

You are an Administrator, possible professions include - government employee, pharmaceutical sales, auditor, computer analyst, technical trainer, project manager, officer manager, factory supervisor, credit analyst, electrical engineer, stockbroker, regulatory compliance officer, chief information officer, construction worker, general contractor, paralegal, industrial engineer, budget analyst, data base manager, funeral director, cook, security guard, dentist.
Take Free Career Test
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Enneagram Test Results - My Favorite Test

Enneagram Test Results
Type 1 Perfectionism |||||||||||||||| 66%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||||||| 54%
Type 3 Image Focus |||||||||||||| 58%
Type 4 Hypersensitivity || 10%
Type 5 Detachment |||| 18%
Type 6 Anxiety |||||||||| 38%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||| 34%
Type 8 Aggressiveness |||||||||||||| 58%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||||||||||| 86%
Your main type is 9
Your variant is social
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

Main Type
Overall Self
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

Maslow Inventory Results

Maslow Inventory Results
Physiological Needs (20%) you appear to have everything you need to survive physically.
Safety Needs (14%) you appear to have a very secure environment.
Love Needs (30%) you appear to be content with the quality of your social connections.
Esteem Needs (57%) you appear to have a medium level of skill competence.
Self-Actualization (36%) you appear to have a low level of individual development.

Abraham Maslow authored the Hierarchy of Needs theory, stating that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower needs have to be satisfied before higher needs can be attended to. It is debatable that needs fulfillment occurs in as linear a fashion as Maslow presents (or that Maslows needs structure is entirely accurate), but you can decide that for yourself. Also, higher needs tend to be more complex and vague in what qualifies as need satisfaction. The following results are listed in the order Maslow defined.

Physiological Needs : you appear to have everything you need to survive physically. Maslow speculates that without satisfying basic needs (food, shelter, health) one cannot achieve higher levels of development. This generally makes sense, but the history of starving artists and successful artists who tanked after they became wealthy is important to note.

Safety Needs: you appear to have a vert safe environment. Maslow speculates that without enviromental stability (security, safety, consistency), you can't progress to higher levels of development. Neuroscience research would appear to support this, as higher stress contributes to higher cortisol levels, which impair memory and thinking functions. However, low stress can also lead to obesity and cardiac degeneration. The lazier and weaker you become, the more stressful the most minimal tasks and stimuli become.

Love Needs: you appear to be content with the quality of your social connections. Maslow speculates that discontentment in your connections with others stalls development. Whether the resolution of love needs comes through good relationships and/or learning to be more internally fulfilled is a question Maslow does not answer. But history would suggest many advanced minds had few relationships so this stage would seem to be more about resolving internal perceptions than as a call for measuring/achieving happiness by quality of external relationships.

Esteem Needs: you appear to have a medium level of skill competence. Maslow speculates that until you develop a good skill set (talent, trade, expertise that you excel at) you will be unable to develop further as an individual (much less reliably support yourself financially). This could mean being a good musician, painter, doctor, carpenter, etc.. On some level this stage also requires getting over the need to be appreciated for that skill, internally and/or externally. Even if you develop a skill, you still might be hung up on the need to have other people validate you or you might internally doubt yourself. Then again, you might not be appreciated, or appreciate yourself because your skills are still too undeveloped.

Self-Actualization: you appear to have a low level of individual development. Maslow speculates that individual development is the pinnacle of existence, this means pursuing a career/life that really fits who you are and want to be internally (not based on external and societal expectations). The self actualized person is free from superficial concerns and is internally honest.

Take Free Maslow Inventory Test
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Cattell 16 Factor Test Results

Cattell's 16 Factor Test Results
Warmth ||||||||||||||| 50%
Intellect |||||||||||| 38%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Aggressiveness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 78%
Liveliness |||||||||||| 38%
Dutifulness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 78%
Social Assertiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 66%
Sensitivity ||||||||| 26%
Paranoia |||||| 18%
Abstractness ||||||||| 30%
Introversion |||||||||||| 34%
Anxiety |||||| 14%
Openmindedness ||||||||| 26%
Independence ||| 10%
Perfectionism ||||||||||||||| 46%
Tension |||||||||||| 34%
Take Cattell 16 Factor Test (similar to 16pf)
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Friday, February 10, 2006

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Ahhh, the Olympics!

I grew up in a household where it was tradition to watch the opening ceremonies. I'm not sure what it is with tradition, but as a kid I really disliked it. I can remember thinking that tradition is something that my family does that requires my to be there, therefore something that takes away from my "me" time (this is the time where I get to do whatever I want to do). Thus watching the opening ceremony was something to be despised.

This is unfortunate because I still hold a little of that resentment in my heart these days. While I may not be so self-oriented, I still cringe at the idea of watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I recall it being really long with many many people walking into a big stadium and singing various national anthems (or other songs) and then a big fireworks and light show, then ... nothing. By that time two hours had passed and it was my bed time.

I enjoy watching some of the sports, but I just cannot get into the opening ceremonies. I still liken it to watching grass grow or paint dry. Now that I have gotten a little older I have come to realize how political the games are. Various countries boycott games (or the whole thing) and they try to gain face in the international community by being represented in the games. I dislike all of the political overtones, but in the end, it is one of the few places where nearly the whole world tries to work together peacefully. I applaud the spirit of the games and I hope that the good things that come out of the games bring the people of this world closer together. But as for me, I prefer to achieve world peace in other ways.

So God bless the Olympics, and may he bless all those who aren't into it.