Top 10-#10 Truth Is Truth No Matter Where You Find It...

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Augustine said, “Truth is truth, no matter where you find it.” Well I thought he said it, but now I can’t find it. Nobody has a corner on the truth. We think we do, which is why we are so often willing to die for it. The problem with thinking we alone have the truth is that it can’t possibly be true. We all have limited perspective and experience. We can’t possibly know everything. This is humility. As a Christ-follower, I believe truth is found in nature, in the bible, in people and in my conscience. I also think it’s found in paintings, great music, and pithy statements by people of insight. It’s found in pain, experience and wisdom. God likely speaks to you in many ways. Or maybe you don’t think there is a God or gods or anything bigger than you. Maybe you don’t even believe in truth. But I think you resonate with things that ring true, like justice, well-fed kids, spring flowers, stunning sunsets and freshly fallen snow. English author Algernon Blackwood (who died in 1951) wrote, “Let each philosophy, each world-view bring forth its truth and beauty to a larger perspective, that people may grow in vision, stature and dedication.” A guy named John once quoted Jesus as saying, “Know the truth and it will set you free. “ – (John 8:32) Look for it and you will find it. Yet know you will only see glimpses of it. Truth is truth, no matter where you find it, and it’s often found in unlikely places....

Top 10-#9 People Are Irreplaceable...

When you enter or leave a room, the room is different. That’s because you bring things no one else can bring. You bring the totality of who you are to every situation: your history, personality, gifts, passions, spirit–everything! You communicate you, and you do it all the time. In our business world of hiring and firing, one can get the impression that just any body will do. But’s it’s just not true. When you fill a position, you fill it like no other. And when you leave, your position really goes with you. Nobody will ever do the job like you do it. There may be close to 7 billion people in the world. But each one is incredibly valuable and unique. No one will ever take your place. You bring something to the world that no one else brings. That’s why figuring out who you are and what you bring are so important. If you don’t bring who you are and give the gifts only you can give, the world will miss out. That’s because you are irreplaceable.   The photo is of my dad, Marv Buenting, known to his grandchildren as,...

Top 10-#8 I Matter

According to astronomers, our galaxy—the Milky Way—contains up to 400 billion stars. You could fit a million of our earths in our sun; yet our sun is tiny compared to Eta Carinae, an enormous star that is a million times brighter than our sun. We are still finding planets and stars and galaxies. We are not even a spec on a spec on a spec compared to the enormity of the universe. So how could God manage the universe and still care about me? I am finite. Not only do I have a measurable beginning (birth) and end (death), I am very limited in my abilities. I have a finite capacity to multi-task, am terrible with details, forget stuff on a regular basis, and sometimes make bad decisions. I am only so smart; I will never be a brain surgeon or even a famous drummer. We often assign value to things that are rare. Gold and diamonds are considered rare (perception is everything), so they are expensive. People with unique abilities are looked up to because they are rare. Billionaires are a small minority. Twinkie snack cakes rose in value when it looked like they were going away. However, people are not rare. You only have to visit India or a big city to realize this. We are somewhere around 7 billion on the planet now. Wow, not rare. So how much value do I as an individual actually have? I’m not rare and I’m really, really tiny in the grand scheme of things. Imagine getting the most famous brains from history in one room: Einstein, Tesla, Jesus, Da Vinci, Polgar, Jobs, Neuton, and a few dozen others. Think of the brainpower you would have. Yet they would be limited. Imagine a being that...

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. I don’t think God is either. 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 God 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 understand that sentiment. I get it that the old testament of the bible is violent; it hits me every time I read it. 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 to...

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 (and reasoning) 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.” We also say silly things like, “everything happens for a reason,” as if some force beyond free-will is driving the universe. 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....

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. This morning the dove eggs in a nest outside my kitchen window are being protected by mama (or papa) dove as it snows. People are different; we’re much more complex than things that live by instinct or cause and effect. We have the ability to reason, can emote, 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; They 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...

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. Related 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 free will. 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...

Top 10-#3 Try New Things...

We have an English expression that one can be “stuck in a rut”. A rut in the ground is created when repeated activity takes place in the same location. If you walk or drive in the same place every day, you will create ruts or crevices in the ground. Over time, these can become huge. Our brains are no different. When you do things over and over and only occasionally deviate from sameness, your brain actually creates ruts. So the expression, “I’m in a rut,” is very literal. Scientists used to believe that the brain has little ability to change past childhood. But research since the 1960s shows the brain is like plastic; it has the ability to change as a result of new experiences. It can even rewire itself after suffering damage. I saw a documentary about a 95-year-old Japanese man who was still directing a preschool for special needs children. He had learned the Korean language in his 80s and was learning Chinese in his 90s so he could travel to China to share his expertise on children. This man refused to retire into a rocking chair; he continued to live by pushing himself and learning new things. I think he might have a key to staying young. I once took a creative communication class. We were encouraged to alter our daily routines in order to spark creativity: take a different route home or brush your teeth with your other hand. If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I often quote the famous American basketball coach John Wooden. He said, “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” So do something different today. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences....

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 live in a world driven by social norms, and sometimes those norms are less than helpful. 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 question-asking. 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, and it altered my life. 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....

Top 10-#1 Laugh!

A few 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...