A Simple Way to Pray

Prayer can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be.

I’ve heard many lessons on the subject of prayer, seen different approaches to use while praying and participated in countless prayer activities.  For me, simple heartfelt prayers are the way to go.  Here is a small slide show of two very simple techniques that I use and want to share.  Here’s a link to my Haiku Deck as well.

The Pain Body

Eckhart Tolle describes dysfunctional mental and emotional life which he calls The Pain Body. This body is more than occasional negativity and unhappy feelings–he describes it as a parasitic entity that seeks to gain power and control over us by feeding upon our negative energy states.  The following slides describe the process.

https://www.haikudeck.com/e/5NZB8Wktqs/?isUrlHashEnabled=false&isPreviewEnabled=false&isHeaderVisible=false

The Pain Body – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The Pain Body (PDF presentation download)

Arriving at My Core Values

Two years ago I attended a leadership workshop about the importance of leading from values.  The facilitator taught us that the best leaders lead from a strong sense of personal values. We learned that when what’s inside of us matches what we do on the outside we have integrity. That makes sense.

Now,  I’ve long known about the things that were important to me.  The troubled was, I had never really brought focus To all of these ideas.  In an easy to do exercise, I was able to reduce my larger value system into six more manageable core values.

Here’s how we did it.

  1. First, we looked at a long list of values and circled the 30 to values that mattered most. Here’s a link to such a list.
  2. Next, we reduced all of  these values down to a mere 10 values.
  3. Finally, we were required to decide which of these ten were our top six.

I’ve been living and referring to these six values for the past two years.  I remain satisfied that these six values best represent what is important to me.  No, they don’t represent all of the things I believe in–but I’m amazed at how most of the things I feel strongly about can be reduced to these six categories.

I created a slide show of my core values below.If the slide show doesn’t show up, Click this link.

https://www.haikudeck.com/e/axtStI6ypQ/?isUrlHashEnabled=false&isPreviewEnabled=false&isHeaderVisible=false

Core Values – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The Box

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A few minutes ago, as I was walking through the building, I came upon a giant box. I was drawn to the box–indeed I went out of my way to look more carefully at it.  Believe it or not, I’m not even a little curious about what contents used to be in the box–I’m excited to find a box!  All that I can say is that for some unexplained reason I felt an old sense of joy returning. I found myself thinking What fun it would be to play hide and seek and maybe crawl into the box. That’s when an old set of memories begin to come forward.

As a kid I used to love to play with boxes. I don’t know if kids still do this anymore but it was great fun for me at the time. We lived behind a shopping center that had a furniture store. Every day there would be large cardboard boxes ready for disposal. This was before those large industrial box crushers that you see everywhere.  I would take these boxes and use them in a form of imaginary play.

When I was ready to build a fort, construct a home, or use my imagination, I would go and snag a box. My favorite memory of boxhood fortune was the time I constructed a three-story apartment. I set one box on top of the other and cut holes big enough for me to climb from one box to the next. When I reached the top I discovered that I was almost as tall as the roof on the house! Sir Edmund Hillary could not have been more thrilled!  There were other times that I would drag boxes to the creek and pretend that I was building a fort.

I’m pretty sure that kids of all ages have vivid imaginations–but it seems to me that very few children have the freedom I once had to scavenge for boxes and other treasures. Parents watch their children more closely today than yesterday–and they should I suppose. Even so, I would not trade the freedom I had to ride my bike and to examine the trash cans behind the shopping center for who knows what kind of treasure.

If you have a large box that you don’t know what to do with–look out!  I might just turn it into a man cave, work shop, or space ship.

Gratitude

No matter how terrible you think your present situation may be, rest assured that at least 5 billion people would trade places with you—no questions asked—in an instant! According to census data, the world has nearly 7 billion people living on it. Of these, 80 percent, or some 5.6 billion people, live on less than ten dollars a day. Two and a half billion people live on less than 2.5 dollars a day. Yes, the world can be a cruel and desperate place; even so, billions of people around the world would be most willing to trade their problems for yours sight unseen! Think about this these things the next time you feel like murmuring or complaining. The truth is we have almost every reason to give thanks and almost none to complain.

Gratitude Defined

I define gratitude as a conscious way of living where one remains alert for opportunities of expressing appreciation, thankfulness and praise to God and others for the people places and things in their lives. Grateful people realize that every breath is a gift of the Lord and that all we have is a gift of His mercy and grace. A grateful person doesn’t take the kindnesses of others for granted. They notice the little things as well as big things.

Gratitude lives with eyes wide open and constantly says “Thank You!”

A grateful person has an awareness that blessings are everywhere around us. People without an attitude of gratitude take people places and things in their lives for granted. They hardly notice the great abundance about them. A grateful person doesn’t need to be reminded of their blessings—they notice them as they occur. They live in amazement as they experience the rich blessings of family, friends, relationships, work, health and spiritual blessings. And, as they experience these blessings, they cannot help but respond in thankfulness to their God and those about them.

Gratitude is a new way of living

Imagine a new life based in gratitude. The first thing in the morning as you wake up and open your eyes, you thank God for protecting you during the night and blessing you with sleep. You thank God for the bed you slept in and the roof that covers your head. As you bathe, you thank God for the clean water and soap—so many people don’t have these things you know. As you put on your clothes, you thank God for the fact that you have clothes to wear. You thank God for your education, work, and relationships. You thank God for the transportation you have; and, as you travel to your first appointment of the day, you thank Him for the beauty that you see around you. You thank God for each person he brings before you during the day and you thank him for the acts of kindnesses that others show you as well as the acts that you can show to others. As you go to bed, you thank God for another day of care and blessings.

There are three ways we may receive something.

Gratitude is an attitude we carry as we receive God’s wonderful gifts. Sadly, many people go through life unaware of the blessings God has given them. To hear them pray you’d think God never did a thing for them. They are always aware of needs that aren’t being met and focusing upon what they don’t have. These people take much of their life for granted—never stopping to say thank you. Like the ten lepers Jesus healed, only one of them returned to say thanks. The other nine were wrapped up in their own affairs. We can be like these people as well.

Others receive with arrogance. They seem to expect good things to come their way. They blame God and act indignant if their lives don’t go as they think it should. Their prayers, if they pray at all, instruct God about how He should best go about meeting their needs. It’s as if they see God as some coin operated being who should do as they ask; but, a grateful heart and arrogance cannot exist in the same place.

The third way we can receive God’s blessings is with awareness and thankfulness. This is what God desires of us. He wants us to become aware of the care he bestows on each of us. As we become more aware, we marvel at the completeness of God’s love for us. We stop taking things for granted. We marvel at His nature and the people places and things he brings before us. We feel blessed. We stop telling God how to bless us and start thanking him for what he’s done for us.

Finding Gratitude in the Mundane

What could be more mundane than a daily cup of coffee? Yet, for every cup of coffee there are any number of people, places and things that deserve our thanks.

First we can thank God for the rain, soil, plants, growing season and coffee crop. We should also give thanks for the people who grew and cultivated the coffee on the plantations and farms. And, we can give thanks for others who worked long and difficult hours to create a product for us to enjoy. Further, we have untold thousands of people to thank for complex system of transportation that is to deliver our coffee to the store.

Equally, we should be thankful for the personal means of transportation we used to go and buy our coffee. Finally, we owe a debt of thanks to God, our family, an educational system and our employers for all the skills and finances available to us that we might purchase our coffee. Yes, even in the mundane we have innumerable blessings to be mindful of.

A grateful heart understands the power of contentment.

It lives in the realization that it doesn’t need people, places, or things to make it happy. Instead, it finds pleasure in whatever circumstances the Lord may bring. As the Apostle Paul once said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” A grateful heart feels contentment because it understands the great abundance of physical and spiritual blessings it has received from God in his mercy and grace.

Gratitude is based in a healthy perspective.

It knows that everyone suffers trials; and, whatever trials we are going through, others have it worse—some much worse. It understands that even when we feel fear, pain and anxiety, we can say, as Psalmist David did, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil—for thou art with me.” Gratitude understands that we are never abandoned by God. Grateful hearts have little room for murmuring, complaining, or thoughts of victimization.

Gratitude is based in optimism.

This optimism continues even when as we go through strenuous trials. As a refiner’s fire makes gold more valuable and pure, so we too, become more fit and useful as we pass through our difficult trials. Gratitude helps us understand that the things we once cursed and feared are the very things that make us strong once we pass through the fire. Gratitude helps us see God’s plan through our pain and suffering. It realizes that what appears to be an unanswered prayer today may become one of our greatest blessings tomorrow.

Treasures in Heaven

My dad used to say

That teaching was a wonderful profession because of the lives you could touch. I don’t doubt that teachers change lives—they do—but sometimes I have wondered if the touch lives aspect is a bit overstated. Most of my classes and interactions with students are professional and subject related. I try to be available to all of my students-but I’m not sure the degree that my caring is seen or understood—muchless seeps in. I think about these things as my career draws to a close. It’s not fully over for me—but the end is in sight.

Yesterday, a young woman from this semester’s came in to my office to record an interview for the Talon—our newspaper. I asked her how things were going and my usual question, Is life good? She looked sad and was slow to reply and I instinctively said, Is there something you need to talk about? I’m here for you.

That simple question started a flood of tears and before long I was listening to her side about a few problems she was facing. I listened and tried to be encouraging. After she left, I though about all of the times I’ve had conversations like this—at least a hundred times—maybe more—over the years.

Suddenly,  a thought entered into my head that I believe was nothing more than the grace of the God I love. It was related to Jesus words,

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

A Simple Truth

The thought that entered my mind was this: My students are my treasures in heaven! I was reminded that what matters most is whether I try to make a whatever difference to those I come into contact with each day. I may not meet thousands of people each day—but I will meet (and I have met) thousands of people over the course of my life.

My students, my family, the men in my support group, the people in my church, and my wellbeing are my treasures in heaven. Any kindness I show to my friends, the poor, the earth or those I barely know are also small but important treasures. Each day is an opportunity to lay up a new treasure in heaven. Over time, treasures mount up. All of us can be very rich indeed.