Motorcycle Maintenance

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Every once in a while I have an opportunity to speak to a group of men.  The topic that I love to talk about is the meaning and purpose of life.  Often I will start those talks by asking how many people have read Pirsig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I love the blank stares that seem to accompany the apparent randomness of such a question.  I proceed to tell them that the book has much to teach us and it is worth the time and energy.

Pirsig raises the question of knowledge….how do we know what we know?  Philosophers call this question epistemology.  Some might answer that question by saying that someone told them the answer. Or some might say that they just know.  Here they are referencing that body of knowledge called experience.  Or, quite often it will be a combination of being told and experiencing the lesson, that allows them to reach their conclusions and their depth of knowing.

Pirsig would suggest that all of life is a series of chatauquahs.  These ‘class room’ experiences that life seems to give us are the window of all knowing.  To the extent that our experience lines up with the cognitive (head) knowledge we are acquiring….then we know, without a doubt.

What is most interesting about  the classroom called life is that most any person can become my professor.  That concept starts to change my encounters.  When I see you as a professor, than it is critical that I investigate what it is that I need to learn from you.  You are the teacher, I am the student and everything starts to change.  I try to see the world through your eyes and I try to understand how you reach your conclusions, make your decisions and find meaning and purpose in your day.  Implicitly, I am honoring and respecting my teacher. You, my teacher, will be valued.

Scripture encourages us to serve one another and to honor one another (Romans 12:10).  Often, I am not sure how to do that.  But when I start to see you as the teacher and I am the student, than my role is to learn from you….then I start to have a practical idea as to how I might love, serve, honor and respect you.  You become the Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid2) in my world and both of our worlds are enriched.

Today, who are your mentors?  Who are you learning from?….are you seriously asking the questions that allow the university of life to mold you into the person God has designed you to be?

Discover the teachers! Embrace the University of life.  Amp the joy!

D

Rewire the Day

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As a young boy I would wake early and snuggle into my blanket and wait for the day to begin.  The day always began with my mother coming into my room and singing: “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  My response was always the same…..I would burrow deeper into my covers.

Now, many years later, I am totally convinced there are better ways to start the day.  Launch into the new day the night before.  The new day needs to begin as I am shutting down the day that I have just finished.  This way I can rejoice in the day I have been given and I can prayerfully get ready for what is beginning.

Ten months ago I was reading about creation in the book of Genesis.  At the end of each creative event, we are told: “There was evening and there was morning-the ___ day.”  As I started to look at this wording I came to understand that, a long time ago,  a day started in the evening and went until the evening of the next day.  In some ways this was not new…..I always finish a day in the evening.  But what was very new was the concept of starting the day in the evening.  This idea has  changed my routines and impacted the way I think.

The greatest change might be the way I bring closure to my day.  I now end my day in review & prayer.  I look back over the events of the day.  As I do this I am looking for places where I encountered God and His spirit at work.  I look for places where I was able to contribute, to serve, to encourage and uniquely care.  I want to be in a position to learn, to grow, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.  The daily review is something that I do in my journal. This written record feels and sounds like a prayer.

At the end of the daily review, I bring the new day into focus.  I look at all that is on my plate for the new day. I think about the appointments and the activities that will define my day and I make notes about what I need to do.  Then I close my notebook & prayerfully reflect on the opportunities ahead.   I have come to realize that just getting everything out of my head and down on paper (David Allen: Getting Things Done) helps me move into the most  significant event of the new day: sleep.

I have repositioned sleep into the first hours of the new day. Therefore I treat it with greater respect.  I start to make sleep a priority because I understand the rest of the day will reflect the success of this energy enhancing event.

So, I encourage you to rewire your day.  Start and finish your day at different place.   Allow your energy to be enhanced and your joy to be amped!

Embrace Life!  D

You Choose!

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The restaurant was quite elegant and the menu was very complex.  The number of choices was overwhelming. Faced with the opportunity to make a decision, I wanted to make the right decision.  I made my decision and I am sure I made the right one….at least I enjoyed the meal & the rest of the evening. Yet, I will never know if I made the ‘best’ decision or if I made the ‘right’ decision. I made a decision.  I got to choose and that is a luxury!

Theologians have said that one aspect of being made in the image of God is our ability to choose.  When we make choices we are exercising a God like quality.  Yet, I am keenly aware that I make a lot of choices every day and I never think about the choices I make. It seems that I live a lot of my life on auto pilot and I miss the opportunity to see God’s gift of choice.

When I do not see the ability to choose as a gift, than I easily get stuck.  I start to see life through the lens of ‘have to’.  I ‘have to’ do this….and I ‘have to’ do that. Life becomes an obligation, it becomes a duty and it can easily morph into drudgery.  What is the antidote?  I must begin to see life through the lens of ‘get to‘.  Through the lens of ‘get to’ life can easily become an adventure.  I start to see this task, this event, this situation as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to serve and to become.

Victor Frankl lived through the horrors of Nazi concentration camps.  Through that experience he came to realize that everything could be taken from him, except for one thing.  That which could never be taken from him was his ability to choose how he would respond to the situation.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Man’s Search for Meaning

In our ability to choose our attitude to any given situation we also have the ability to find meaning in what we do and what we experience.  The simple tasks of every day…..cleaning my bedroom, washing the dishes, taking out the trash…everything I do can become a joy as I see it as a significant way to love and serve. Therefore, I ‘get to’ love and serve in this way.

Helen Keller said that, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”  The choice is yours!

The OT says it a bit differently.  “I have set before you life & death, blessings & curses.  Now choose life….that you may live & love the Lord.” Deut.30:19

Please engage, let us know how & what you are choosing as you embrace life!

Amp the Joy! Celebrate Life!

-Dick

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Expose the Heart

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Bob sat in front of me, nursing a cup of black coffee.  With down cast eyes and a monotone voice he told me about his encounter with his future father-in-law.  He was asking if he could marry this man’s daughter.  Normally such an encounter is ripe with all sorts of emotion……this is a high risk event, it is a true adventure and there was no emotion.   I wanted to understand!  As I asked questions and tried to understand, I realized that Bob himself did not understand.

I have come to believe that all good stories have at least two key ingredients.  Ingredient one  is represented by the facts……by the events. “I want the facts and nothing but the facts!”  This is where most stories start and it is where they end.  Most of us are trained to regurgitate facts because that is the bedrock of our academic system.  We believe that the facts represent the heart of the story.  They do not!

Ingredient two is the story of our emotions.  How did that event/situation make you feel?  What was going on inside of you?  This might be the most important part of the story.  It is certainly that part of the story that brings contrast and vibrancy.  It is the epicenter to laughter and tears.  It is the place where most stories seem to dead end.  Why, because we are not connected to our heart in any way that allows us to understand what is going on, inside.  Therefore, we sit alone with our interior chaos.

Stop right now and write down how you are feeling?  How aware are you of the topography of your heart?  What words did you use to describe your feelings?

FEELINGS

Read through this list and pick out words that describe how you are feeling right now!

This list is not complete but it is a beginning.  As you read through this list you can connect words to that which is going on inside.  You can help a person understand, as you begin to understand, the feelings that are swirling around inside.  This understanding of our interior topography allows us to connect to ourselves, to others and to our God.  This connection facilitates true intimacy!

The writers of the Psalms in the Old Testament were quite good at connecting words to their emotions and their communication with God was vibrant.  I challenge you to increase your feeling vocabulary.  Use that vocabulary to grow closer to your interior world, to selected others and to your God.

In case you are wondering, Bob looked at the list and selected: inadequate, apprehensive and confused.  These words seemed to summarize his current interior world.  His understanding brought a smile to his face! Then, when I summarized what I had heard him say about the events and the feelings, he sensed I understood and he knew I cared!

I challenge you to grow your feeling vocabulary and communicate intimately to your loved ones and to your God!

Share with us….what are you feeling right now?

Amp the Joy!  Dick