Top 10-#7 God Is Not A Monster...

God has been misrepresented to many of us. As children we may have received a picture of God that is vengeful, boring, uncompromising, angry, arbitrary and narcissistic. As adults we were told clichés like, “God is trying to teach you something,” “When God closes a door, He opens a window,” and “You can trust God because he knows what’s going to happen anyway.” The problem is, these simplistic explanations for why stuff happens paint a picture that is limited at best and inaccurate at worst. God is often likened to either Frankenstein or Santa Clause. Frankenstein is out to get you. Santa Clause gives you everything you want. God is neither. What is your concept of God? Is it due for a makeover? Have you lost hope that God is knowable, touchable, relatable, and a best friend? Do you think he sits above with a really big stick ready to whack you every time you screw up? I often hear that people like Christ; they just don’t like Christians. I get it that the old testament of the bible is violent; it hits me every time I read it (as I have again the past few months). But as a communication scholar, I know there are pieces of the puzzle and context that have been lost on us thousands of years later. There is some great stuff there, but we don’t have the full picture. Despite my limitations to understand, I also see an image of God that is kind, patient, longsuffering, humble, persuadable, and more like a lover than a monster. Those passages are also there. Jesus is often looked up to as a model person. Even religions and philosophies that don’t consider him divine like him and think his teachings are beneficial...

Top 10-#6 The World is Complex...

Icebergs are beautiful. They can also be deadly (think Titanic). The thing about icebergs is that you only see a very small portion of the whole thing. Things happen and we try to understand. It’s human nature to try to fit life into our mental schemata; it’s how our brains are wired. We categorize things based on our personality and previous experiences. When things don’t fit, we assign explanations. We often assign false reasons because the world is too complex for us to grasp. There is no way we can understand everything. We say things like, “what a coincidence,” “the devil made me do it,” “it’s their fault,” and “God is punishing me.” I once heard an analogy that not only do we not see the tip of the iceberg, but we don’t even see the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Of course that is a metaphor for the complexity of life. There is a theory that to understand why any two cars pass on a road at any one time, you would have to understand the entire history of the universe. Why were they there? Why at that exact time? Why were they going where they were going? What kind of car were they driving? Who designed it? What kind of engineering limitations did it have? What was the condition of the road and why? Where did the weather come from? Why were those people even living in that place? Etc., etc., etc. You get the point. In my post, “Think Flexible,” I made an argument for viewing the world as flexible or open, as opposed to fixed. There is a world full of possibilities and complexities. For example, many people of faith pray. Then they assume the only influence on...

Top 10-#5 Communication is important...

You are a communicator. You are different than the rest of life on earth. The plants live by cause and effect. If you put a seed in the ground and it receives nutrients from the soil, warmth from the sun and moisture from the sky, it will do what is in its DNA. Plants are involved in a give and take cycle that is about exchanging energy. Animals seem to live by instinct. They know what to do and spend their whole lives doing it: eating, pooping, sleeping (they’re really good at that one), reproducing, etc. People are different; we’re much more complex than things that live by instinct or cause and effect. We have the ability to reason, have emotions, possess freewill, are creative and communicate. I think we can do all these things because we’re made in God’s image. Communication has been around a long time; it’s right from the beginning of the bible. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God.” The word for God is actually Gods; it is plural. It presumes that God has always existed. If God consists of multiple persons that have existed forever, one has to assume they have communicated forever. You cannot have relationship without communication. God used communication to make the world; He spoke the world into existence. Jesus was called the Word. Jesus told stories and asked questions more than anything else. He was a master communicator. Good, healthy, effective, loving communication is essential for healthy relationships. When we withhold affection, say harmful words, withdraw, or even focus on what we want to say next, we are being selfish and unkind; we are not honoring the other person. Communication is about well-chosen words, how words are spoken, and what we say through glances and...

Top 10-#4 Think Flexible...

In 1956, actress Doris Day recorded the hit song, “Que Será Será.” It was introduced in the Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much and later used as the theme of The Doris Day [TV] Show. “Whatever will be will be” is what the words mean. Other popular expression are, “it was meant to be,” and “everything happens for a reason,” as if someone or something is driving the universe. These expressions reflect a worldview that is fatalistic and predetermined. The problem is, the world doesn’t work like that. I believe there is someone bigger than me, a being referred to as God. I’m not a Deist who believes that God created the world and then left it. Neither am I a determinist who thinks God causes everything. (If that is so, you must conclude that God is a monster, a topic I will address in a later post.) The world is not on some pre-determined course. There are too many variables. There are too many possibilities. There is human freewill. Animists believe spirits inhabit everything (trees, the ground, everything) and humans are mostly powerless to fight them; people live in fear. Muslims say, “nsha’Allah,” which means, “God willing.” Behind this saying is a belief that nothing happens outside of God’s will. These ideas have invaded Christianity as far back as Augustine in the 4th and 5th centuries. However, life shows us that things can change. In the bible, there is great evidence that God changes his mind. I have free will, so I can choose my path—and change my mind. If I see the world as fixed, then I am either in the right or in the wrong. I am either on the merry-go-round or I am off. I’m either in God’s...

Top 10-#2 Ask Questions!...

If you’ve ever been around toddlers, you know they have a favorite word. “Why?” Little kids are naturally inquisitive. But something happens when we grow up. We are compelled to conform; it’s one of the strongest pressures in the world. We are told what to think. We start to accept the way things are. We stop exploring. As I travel the world, I see that some cultures resist change, critical thinking and asking question. In fact, asking questions is sometimes seen as rebellious or obnoxious; sometimes it’s even punished. Perhaps you grew up in a family that was always pushing your mental boundaries. Or perhaps you didn’t. I think some of us need to be given permission to ask questions. Has it been awhile since you had an original or creative thought? Is your mind full of cobwebs? I am privileged to have a life-long friend who taught me critical thinking skills. He’s an engineer, so he questions everything. He gave me permission. Asking questions is good, healthy and reasonable. And contrary to popular belief, God likes it. Jesus asked a lot of questions. I used to think that life was all about the end, about finding truth and holding on to it. But then I realized life is about the journey, always learning and growing.  Life isn’t easy. We have to struggle and wrestle to find solutions for life’s challenges. I think it’s how we were designed. So here is permission. ASK QUESTIONS! Think creative thoughts. Escape whatever boxes you have built in your mind or have been imposed on you. Allow yourself the freedom to resist the status quo and rediscover inquisitiveness. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter…” Matthew 18:3 The Bible (NIV)...

Top 10-#1 Laugh!

Five years ago I gave a talk in Argentina listing 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life. I will be blogging on these lessons every day for 10 consecutive days. I hope they will inspire you and motivate you to come up with your top 10! #1 Laugh a lot It’s so easy for us to be overly serious. We stress. We’re tired. We are overwhelmed. We feel guilty about the stuff we did and the stuff we didn’t do. We need to lighten up. The cliché is true that laughter is good medicine. Research proves it. Paul E. McGhee spent 22 years researching the health benefits of humor; he concluded: “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” He thinks laughter is so important, he calls it “the laughter remedy!” In his book, Health, Healing, and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training, Dr. McGhee promotes an 8-step program: Determine the nature of your own sense of humor Become less serious and cultivate a more playful attitude in life (this is the basic foundation for your sense of humor) Develop a more hearty and healthy belly laugh Improve your joke-telling skills Create your own spontaneous verbal humor Find humor in everyday life Laugh at yourself, and Start applying these skills to cope with stress. So chill out, lighten up and...

Death by Password

According to InformationWeek, IBM predicted back in 2011 that in five years we will not be using passwords to access secure resources like ATMs and computers. While we may be on our way to voice, fingerprint or eye recognition, we’re not there yet. And we’re stuck using passwords. My computer is a mess. I have too many unopened emails and too much clutter on the desktop. I need a week to get my photos organized and put on an external drive. All these are on my “round-to-it” list. However, one area that is NOT a mess or stress is managing my passwords. And I have a LOT of them! I use a little program that effortlessly manages them for me. I’m amazed when I see friends or colleagues struggle to remember passwords, look around their desk for various little pieces of papers, or use one or two passwords for everything they do online. Bad ideas! There are multiple little programs to keep track of your passwords. Some you buy; some are free. A password program works like this. You input all the web sites you visit that require a password. You either enter the password you want to use, or let the program generate one. You only have to memorize ONE PASSWORD! Then every time you visit a web site, you double click on that entry and the program does the rest; it brings up the site, enters your logon and password, and logs you into the site. No copying and pasting. No forgetting passwords ever again. Password managers are available for your computer, tablet and smartphone. I personally use 1Password on my Mac and iPhone. (It’s also available for PCs, Androids and iPads.) I easily sync all my passwords between my devices, so a change in...

Gratitude

Watch this beautiful short by video artist, Louie Schwartzberg. He motivates us by getting up close with nature. The video celebrates life, love, beauty, art, nature, and especially people. It draws me to the one who made it all. Nature is incredible. People (made in God’s image) are even more spectacular. We and nature were made for our enjoyment and the honor of the highest Being. “You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day, it’s the one day that is given to you, today. Its given to you; it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response, is gratefulness.” Spoken word and music montage created and composed by Gary Malkin. Narration written and spoken by Brother David Steindl-Rast....