Discovering why we do what we do and the guts to change

Most of us spend some time wondering why we do the things we do and not always finding answers.

There is an ancient Christian spiritual discipline that I know of as ‘examine’ in which the believer is encouraged to take time out during the day, consider the activities and emotions they have been experiencing, reflect on them with the assistance of God’s leading, and hopefully receive insight and awareness into why we do what we do.

This is in keeping with the Biblical imperative of 2 Corinthians 13:5 – ‘Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…’

I am always fascinated when I find concessions to a deeper or spiritual life in unexpected places. Such as a marketing blog on the internet. While Seth Godin is not your usual marketing writer in any case, it was still a surprise to discover his recent blog ‘The places you go’ which I’ve quoted in part below:

‘Occasionally we encounter emotions at random. More often, we have no choice, because there’s something that needs to be done, or an event that impinges itself on us. But most often, we seek emotions out, find refuge in them, just as we walk into the living room or the den.

‘Stop for a second and reread that sentence, because it’s certainly controversial. I’m arguing that more often than not, we encounter fear or aggravation or delight because we seek it out, not because it’s thrust on us.

‘Why check your email every twenty minutes? It’s not because it needs checking. It’s because the checking puts us into a state we seek out. Why yell at the parking attendant with such gusto? Teaching him a lesson isn’t the point – no, in that moment, it’s what we want to do, it’s a room we choose to hang out in. It could be something as prosaic as getting involved in a flame war online every day, or checking your feeds at midnight or taking a shot or two before dinner. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do, because going there takes your emotions to a place you’ve gotten used to, a place where you feel comfortable, even if it makes you unhappy.

‘…you realize that there are some [emotional] rooms you’re spending way too much time in, that these choices are taking away from your productivity or your happiness. Why are you going there again?

‘Every time you go to that room, you get unhappy, and so do we. Every time you go to that room, you spend more time than you expected, and it stresses out the rest of your day. Every time you go to that room you short-circuit the gifts you give to the rest of the team.

‘Once your habit becomes an addiction, it’s time to question why you get up from a room that was productive and happy, a place you were engaged, and walk down the hall to a room that does no one any good (least of all, you). Tracking your day and your emotions is a first step, but it takes more than that. It takes the guts to break some ingrained habits, ones that the people around you might even be depending on.’

Go for it Godin. This is the beatitudes of Jesus packaged in a 21st century medium and preached by a secular prophet.

‘You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.’ Matthew 5:8 The Message Bible

Practical tips to avoid information overload

Futurist Alvin Toffler popularised the term ‘information overload’ in his book, Future Shock, written in 1970. He highlights the negative impact of vast amounts of information on making decisions: ‘When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation… his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correct assessments on which rational behaviour is dependent.’

Read more at Suite101: Practical Tips to Avoid Information Overload.

Nature, nurture and the spiritual life

Nature versus nurture is an ongoing debate in the scientific community but what implications does it have for the spiritual life?

Is our identity, personality and behaviour fixed by our genes or is the raw material of ourselves molded by the environment into which we are born – our family, parenting, experience.

Likewise does a person’s spiritual origin determine what they look like or is it more to do with spiritual environment in which they live?Read More »

How will Julia Gillard appeal to Christian voters?

Julie Gillard’s rise today to Prime Minister came just a few days too late for the thousands of Christians who watched Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott perform in the Make it Count webcast on Monday night.
Now it is back to the drawing board for Christian voters with a new Labor leader and Christian leaders, churches and commentators will be anxious to see where Gillard stands on various issues of importance to the Christian community.
Learn more about our first female and first foreign-born Prime Minister at Australian Christian Voter.

God dethroned, humanity is next

The ABC’s Q and A program last night gave a rare display of the logical outcome of secular humanism.

Having begun discussing the relative merits of saving whales verses chickens, the show ended, under the guidance of unethicist Peter Singer, considering that it might not be so bad for humans to have sexual relations with their pets.

While most people on the panel and in the audience couldn’t even engage with that outrageous final topic, it did show us where popular secular thinking is taking us.

Having dethroned God, the next logical step for secular atheism is to dethrone humanity. If there is no God to say that human life is sacred, made in His image, then people are just animals, right and wrong mean nothing and euthanising children and oral sex with dogs is acceptable.

If you don’t believe me, read the transcript. It happened on national television and while hugely offensive, was at least an honest viewing of the dismal trajectory of the thinking of Singer and the secularists.

If you have been flirting naively with some of their ideas, take a good look at the whole murky monster and flirt no more.

Apple, Wikipedia push back porn

Apple CEO, Steve Job, fresh from launching the Ipad and Iphone 4, has apparently taken a stand to keep pornography out of applications for these devices.

In doing so he has been congratulated by many who support his aversion for porn, but he’s also raised the almost maniacal ire of the rampant ‘don’t you dare censor my internet use’ community, made up largely of pale men in their 30s and 40s.

‘…we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy an[d] Android phone,’ he is reported to have said in an email.

He defended his position when criticised by the Gawker blog, saying the Apple ‘revolution’ was about freedom, including ‘freedom from porn.’

At the same time, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, has come under fire after personally deleting ‘many’ images he deemed pornographic from the digital encyclopaedia.

Just when you were losing hope for humanity… PH

Political leaders to address Christians across the nation

If your ear is aching, it probably has more to do with a fast approaching federal election than the onset of winter.

But don’t give up now – it’s time to cut through the wordfest and consider seriously how Christians should act as the nation decides its immediate future. If you are passionate about issues ranging from R-rated games to refugees, millenium goals to marriage support – you need to keep your ears and eyes open!

An excellent opportunity to do this has been organised by Australian Christian Lobby who have confirmed June 21 as the date for the Make It Count election webcast. 

Make it Count 2010 will see Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott address Christians and answer questions from Christian leaders in a live webcast to churches throughout Australia from Canberra’s Old Parliament House.

A similar event held before the 2007 federal election saw John Howard and Kevin Rudd address 100,000 Christians meeting at 846 churches across Australia.

ALC hopes to triple those numbers in 2010 – to register your church visit . PH

Wellbeing snapshot shows huge divide

Imagine you were asked to rate your current life between zero and 10 and your life in five years time? As you chose a number to describe your sense of wellbeing now and prospects for the future, would you be thinking of how you are feeling today (not enough sleep last night… stressful meeting at work today…) or rather the underlying factors (good health, housing, employment, stable government, personal freedom). How might your faith affect your view?

Social researchers at Gallup have collated a global snapshot of wellbeing using data collected in 155 countries or areas since 2005. Gallup classifies respondents as ‘thriving,’ ‘struggling,’ or ‘suffering,’ according to how they rate their lives based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale:

Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (ladder-present) On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (ladder-future)

According to separate research, people tend to answer these questions from the perspective of life evaluation (judgements of life) rather than daily affect (feelings). It is called a self-anchoring scale because it allows people to interpret their wellbeing from their own perspective rather than external measures such as how much money they earn, levels of education or political conditions.

In other words, if the research is to be believed, people across the globe are saying, ‘this is how I feel about my life’ not on the basis of  ‘I have a headache today’ but on the basis of ‘I feel my life looks like this’. A poor person in Africa might actually feel very happy in the midst of their poverty but when stepping back and assessing their prospects, they realise they are up against it and so report low ladder scores. A rich person in Denmark might be feeling gloomy in the midst of their wealth but when stepping back to view their life, realise they have plenty to feel confident about.

So what were the results of Gallup’s global wellbeing research? It reveals a vast divide that underscores the diversity of economic development challenges around the world.

Read More »

Living a life of action

To some, living a life of action might suggest bungy jumping and skydiving. But according to dynamic-speaking-duo, Jeremy and Catherine Hallett (Eternity, March 28), it runs much deeper than extreme sports.

The ‘why’ of living a life of action is to glorify God and see his kingdom advance.

The ‘what’ is to move from apathy (going through the motions) to action to kingdom by identifying ourselves as followers of Christ and stepping into a new boldness.

The ‘who’ of a life of action is everyone, or more specifically, everyone who makes themselves available. The ‘when’ is now and forever, in season and out of season – providing we have taken time out to hear what God wants us to do.

The ‘where’ of living a life of action is to start at home – our relationships, family, daily lives – and allow God to grow it from there.

Finally, the ‘how’ will be different for everyone but starts with rejecting fear and embracing the truth that God gives us abundant life.

Hear anything good at church today? Add it as a comment! PH

Watch our for weird links

Utterance is a WordPress blog, one of the biggest blogging platforms in the world with literally millions of blogs and posts. It is an excellent choice for blogging but one of its little quirks is that it adds, below some posts of mine, automatically generated links to other WordPress blogs that may cover related content. I can’t control these links so can’t guarantee their suitability. Please feel free to ignore them. Any link in the body of a post has been put there by me so click away. I’ll stick this note to the top of the page for a while to guide people who are new to the blog world. PH

Finding our way forward

“Scars remind us of where we have been but do not have to determine where we are going.”
David Rossie (Joe Mantegna), Criminal Minds

“What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Leaders order their hearts and minds so as to acquire more than what they currently need, because they know they will need more than they now possess.”
Pastor Timothy Jack

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:12

“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 26:39

The naked face of human emotion

“The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink.

He is referring to the discovery by researchers that not only does our face spontaneously express our emotions, but that our emotions are impacted by the expressions on our face.

Scientists working to collate the full range of human facial expressions spent hours perfecting facial muscle movements, including those that would usually express, sadness, anger and other negative feelings. They began to realise that on those days, they began to feel terrible emotionally.Read More »

Off to Bali with strings in tune

Tomorrow I join a bunch of young people from our church community, and later from other churches, on a short trip to Bali where we partner with local people to run a very special children’s home.

We go with great humility to encourage, support, learn from and, hopefully, contribute to an awesome team of people – Indonesian and Australian – who make Eternity Blessed Children’s Home a reality.

We’ll take the kids to the beach; visit disadvantaged rural families; paint a wall; share in church; listen, laugh and cry with the workers and hopefully get a few moments to soak in the beauty of Bali. 

We are taking a guitar because music is a universal language and some of our team are gifted in this area. For years we’ve just tossed our acoustic in the back seat, no case, and never thought twice. Suddenly we realised this would not be good on a plane!Read More »

Action interrupted, truth stumbled

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. Chinese proverb.

What have you stopped doing because of a voice, internally or externally, saying  it can’t be done, you can’t do it or you can’t do it well? Avoid these interruptions.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened. Winston Churchill

As opposed to the interruption of doubters, truth is worth taking note of. What truth have you stumbled over, even and embarrassing or inconvenient one, that you have done your best to ignore but keeps tapping on your shoulder. Stumble back to truth, it always set you free.

Incidentally, I came across these quotes while reading Organic Church by Frank Viola. Still trying to decide if this book is interruption or stumbling truth. Probably a bit of both… PH

What are you growing this year?

We grow what we feed. We feed what we see. We see what we choose.

Rediscovered roseI have a miniature rose in a pot in the front courtyard of our home. I had paid it little attention in the past 12 months until late October when I decided to move my tomato planting efforts to this same courtyard (inner city vegetable growing is a ‘particular’ art).

Each day as I watered, fertilised and generally yearned over my tomatoes, I would give a similar treatment to the random plants that happened to be in the same location.

The tomatoes plants duly bore fruit but what really surprised me was the literal revival in the other plants, especially the long neglected rose. It grew bushy and is now covered in about a dozen flowers.

Which illustrates well: we grow what we feed; we feed what we see; we see what we choose.

What will you see in 2010? Your choice. You may have something in the courtyard of your life waiting to flourish, but unnoticed.

Having seen it, how will you feed it? Your words, your prayers, your faith, your time, your action.

Having fed it, there is no question – it will grow. So make sure what you focus on and feed is the very will of God.

Strangely, my rose is flowering because I focused on the fruitfulness of my tomatoes and there was enough focus and feeding left over for something beautiful.

Follow the fruitful callings of God in your life and something beautiful will spring up in the midst. PH

Check out my full message on this theme titled “12”.