What Does Satisfy? Part 1: Spirit 


In honor of Easter, this Sunday, I’ll talk about God, religion, and spirit first.

No, religion does not magically make everything in life perfect and sunshiney. 

With all the suffering the world,  the only way to be perfectly sunshiney is to either be entirely ignorant and sheltered or to have such an “us vs. them” mentality that you lose all empathy for people who aren’t like you. 

Granted, there are ways to be happier,  to do all you can and trust God and other people to do the rest. I’m working on both sides of that:  really doing my best,  and really putting aside unhelpful worrying. 

Religion isn’t a magic feel good tonic (or it shouldn’t be), but connecting with a church that more closely matches my values  (and doesn’t promote things I actively think are wrong) really has helped. 

I even sang a solo in the worship service this past (Palm) Sunday, and I honestly didn’t know how much I’d missed that (The song is “Christmas had its Cradle, Easter has its Cross,” one of my all time favorites).

And spending quiet time disconnected from phones, tv and internet, focusing on and connecting with God, is also wonderful, when I keep my focus enough to actually do it. Whether this takes the form of self composed prayer, praying existing prayers (the Jesus prayer is my favorite), or simple wordless meditation,  it is always good. 

So, in a nutshell, 

Coherence and integrity between my spiritual values and my spiritual community

Reconnecting with and sharing spiritual songs that mean a lot to me (making a joyful noise unto the Lord)

Spending time away from the fragmenting distractions of the daily material world, focusing on God

Have all helped a lot. 

Happy Passover and Happy Easter. 

When Nothing Satisfies

DISCLAIMER: I  WROTE THIS BACK IN DECEMBER. I’M MUCH BETTER NOW. Also, the song choice is supposed to be funny.

It occured to me back in December that if I’m not actually enjoying all the things I’m doing that I’m supposed to enjoy, then one or both of two things is true: 

Either 

1) there’s a disconnect between what I (and everyone around me) thinks I enjoy and what I actually do enjoy.

    Or 

    2) I’m suffering from depression to the point that I really can’t enjoy anything. 

    I’m pretty sure #2 isn’t true, so I need to look more closely at #1.

    If #1 is true, it’s probably because I’m operating in bad faith, fooling myself and some of those around me, not being honest about:

    • my needs
    • The choices I’m actually making and why
    • The reasons I so often delay decisions to the point of advocating them
    • The costs of my choices
    • What I can and can’t do, really, in terms of my life

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about that (and working with it) over this year’s first three months. Next week, I’ll write about what I’ve discovered. 



      New Year’s Resolution: Self-Care

      Most New Year’s resolutions are about things we will do, things we will ask of ourselves.

      But I am tired of pouring from an empty pitcher. 

      My utter neglect of good and proper self care has negatively impacted me, my wife, and even my daughter, and it is time to fix that.

      This is the year. This is the time.

      I’ve been doing a good bit of research into self care,  and I’ve come up with some plans for different areas of my life.

      I’ll be writing an ongoing series about my efforts this year. 

      But for now, this is my public declaration. I will  take better care of myself,  starting now.

      Anger Metastasizes Into Contempt, Rage Into Disgust


      Anger can be righteous, when we are wronged,  when somebody we care about is wronged, or when we see injustice carried out. 

      Anger is a high-energy state.  It tends to either dissipate or harden,  metastasize,  into a lower energy state … like contempt. 

      Anger is an emotion of engagement. An angry person will push, even fight for change. Angry people are still in dialogue, still in relationship. 

      When that hardens to contempt,  all that goes away.  People are written off as incorrigible,  as useless,  as bad people,  as worthless,  as less than, as unclean, as other

      As Richard Beck noted in his book Unclean, contempt is the emotion of separation,  of dehumanization, the emotion that chokes empathy and hospitality, and justifies all manner of abuses and cruelties. 

      So fight for your anger.  Hold onto our until you are ready to let go and forgive.  Don’t let it turn into something vile and cancerous, something that takes settles into your heart until it feels like it belongs there. 

      But forgive quickly, and give yourself some distance  to heal, because there’s another emotion that can take hold, a high energy state even more destructive than contempt: 

      Hate.

      And we can’t let that one in. It’s the worst devil of them all. 

      Stress Part Two: Stressing Over Nothing

      ​https://youtu.be/rni41c9iq54

      Previously, I discussed Kelly McGonigal’s advice to tell yourself,  when you feel stress, that your body’s reaction (faster heartbeat and breathing) is preparing you to face the challenge ahead. 

      So what do you do when most of the stress you feel is rumination, fear of disapproval, frustration, or existential anxiety? 

      I think pat of the answer may be found in my post on love, fear,  and Frozen, or in 1 John 4:18 “there is no fear in love,  for perfect love casts out fear.”

      Try to act out of love for the person you’re worried about.

      If they love you, remember that love, and remember that they aren’t just waiting to judge you harshly. 

      If you are actually dealing with a harsh judge,  a perfectionist, externalize that to them. For the sake of your job or whatever, you may have to deal with their criticism and ridiculous standards, but keep that voice outside your head.

      We’ve all had to deal with people like that. I have in the past. Thankfully, I don’t now, but things could change for the worse. 

      And those people can leave deep marks,  especially if you encounter them when you’re a child. 

      It’s okay not to like or respect bosses, teachers, or even family members. You have to treat them respectfully, but they don’t get to define your real value. 

      Now, keep telling yourself that until you believe it. I’ll be right there with you. 

      Pressure, Stress, and Mindsets


      Kelly McGonigal spent many years telling people that stress was dangerous,  but it turns out that research shows that stress is only dangerous to people who think it is bad, dangerous, or harmful. 

      It turns out that people really can thrive on pressure. 

      Dr. McGonigal made this video to help correct some of the old perceptions. 

      Now,  why am I writing about this?  Because I’ve never been great at handling pressure and stress. I thought that was hard-wired, unchangeable,  but apparently changing your attitude toward stress can help change its effects on you. 

      So what now?

      Dr. McGonigal showed us one immediate,  easy to use stress intervention.  Whenever you feel stressed,  tell yourself “My body is preparing me to meet this challenge.  My heat is beating harder and my lungs are pumping faster to get more oxygen to my body and brain.

      Tell yourself that until your believe it and you can eliminate the cardiovascular dangers of stress (mainly blood vessel constriction) and make yourself less flustered and more energized. 

      Additionally, connecting with others,  especially caring for others, makes us more resilient to stress. Community and compassion can actually nullify the health damages of major life events. 

      Also, “chasing meaning is better than trying to avoid discomfort.”

      I’m going to try to our these into action. I’ll report back later and let you know how it goes.