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circadian oscillation November 29, 2010

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EmPulse for Week of November 29, 2010

circadian oscillation

Daily life-patterns are a facinating thing. We all live by them with little thought. We get up in the morning, head for the coffee, or brush our teeth, or throw cold water on our face. Some of us are in a daze for the first hour: others, up ‘n at ‘em! I had some friends who were circadian opposites. Keith would get up and announce, “Good morning God!” Rusty would follow with “Good god, morning.” Where’s the coffee?

Circadian rhythms (literally, around-the-day, or clock) vary from person to person. Most species on the planet move in response to the celestial dawning of light. Light serves as a trigger to get us moving. Some of us are more productive in early morning (diurnal); others of us don’t click in ‘till noon, or two, or even after dusk (nocturnal).

There are many factors that affect our daily rhythms. The second most influential is circadian oscillation— our biological clock’s responses to changes in our environment, especially seasonal changes. Depression runs rampant in winter seasons when the earth is further from the sun, lessening our exposure to it’s light. Warmer climates require adjustment for snow-lovers, and vise-versa. Spring promises new life and growth. Fall, though vibrant, heralds the coming of winter, along with its psychological, indoor isolation.

Both daily rhythms and seasonal rhythms affect our abilities, internally and externally, to perform at our peak. So when you feel a lack of motivation, no interest in life, and a general lack in energy, it could be a factor of circadian oscillation. (It could also be a chemical spiral into depression. Get it checked out!) The same oscillations can wreck havoc with our spiritual lives as well. Feeling far from God? It could be seasonal. Of course, it could also mean that you are the one who has distanced him/herself from God. The point is that none of us are truly, level, unruffled, steady, consistent people. Life is full of little surprises that throw us off-kilter. One of my governing axioms has been, in mathematical terms— Constants aren’t: variables won’t. Meaning, things don’t always work the way they’re supposed to.

The point is that ultimately we are not in charge. To be sure, there are many things in life which fall under our control, but not all. And that is the way it should be. We are part of something so much bigger, much grander than ourselves. So being a team player becomes a critical imperative. Forming relationships with those who hold different skill-sets than yours, and being able to hear the criticism of others, is tantamount. When your spirit is down, find someone whose spirit is UP! You need them NOW. Do Not forget to reciprocate!

Our Creator designed us all differently, partly to reflect His multi-faceted personality, partly to force us to form meaningful relationships with one another (and, as a corollary, with Him). We are all truly part of something greater than ourselves—the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Get used to it. Learn to trust one another, to depend upon one another, even to depend on the God who made you.

Have a nice week.

Gary

no thanks November 23, 2010

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EmPulse for Week of November 22, 2010

no thanks

‘Tis the season to be thankful; to accept the invitations to dinner, parties, and celebrations of all kinds. Americans have Thanksgiving, as do Canadians (a month earlier), the Chinese their August Moon Festival, the Brits their Harvest Festival, and the Koreans, Chu Suk. Of the countries that celebrate a day of “thanks” most direct their thankfulness to the heavens, to a god or gods that they consider the source of their bounty.

Nonetheless, hidden among our masses, across cultural lines, are those select few who have a serious problem with being thankful. Some believe that everyone must pull themselves up by their own boot-straps, to be dependent upon no one. This group also has difficulty with giving. They are subtle isolationists, unable to give without serious calculation, if at all. Others are more cautious with their finances; saving for a rainy day, storing up as much as possible—because you never know when catastrophe might hit. There are also those who simply do not believe in giving, period. They have no reason to not give; they just don’t. It’s a matter of principle, they say. To this day I have no idea which principle that might be.

Then there are some who do not like to receive charity. [charity ¹ love] They see it as a hand-out, a bribe for some future favor; accepting a gift, an invitation to dinner, whatever, would place them in a position of being beholdin’ to another, like an un-tethered prisoner. Even-Steven, that’s the way it should be. I keep what’s mine, you keep what’s yours. We need those fences to keep things in proper perspective. Receiving a gift, an invitation to dine out, a service of any kind, implies that I am less, and that the Giver is more. I lack something that someone else provides. This threatens my self-esteem as deeply as any caustic criticism or slanderous comment. Or, maybe they’re just sucking up to me in hopes of a future favor from me? What a way to live!

What is it with us that we find it difficult to give or receive from someone else!?! And to receive a big gift, a grand act of generosity, why that’s just an insult.

Research (for example- http://www.cignabehavioral.com/web/basicsite/bulletinBoard/effectsOfHumanKindness.jsp ) has shown that people who give, and graciously receive, live longer, fly freer in their spirit, and are more full of LIFE than those who cloister themselves away in self-insulating safety zones. In most cases, these people have a rich relationship with the God who made them; they live their lives in deep appreciation for all He has given them (or so they believe).

I encourage you to take a RISK—receive a gift for what it is, a gift. Do not look for hidden strings or agendas, just accept it, no matter if it is a Gerbil or a Jaguar (the car, not the cat). And be thankful.

I also encourage you to GIVE— not to feel good about your act, but because it is right, decent, and purely generous. Do it solely to honor the other, without seeking any recognition other than Thank you. In so doing you honor the God who made you and set fear and greed on their heads.

So, thank you. That’s just the way it is.

Have a nice week.

Gary

size matters November 18, 2010

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EmPulse for Week of November 15, 2010

size matters

The innuendos’ of the catch-phrase size matters run the gamut. It has been found on billboards, advertizing new mini-computers, on coasters, prompting us to try a new beer with a richer head, and even on local charter air services that provide the only way to reach some of the Caribbean islands. It’s a wonder the Cooper Mini hasn’t sued the world.

In the world of Business, size matters: the larger the conglomerate, the more resources available to throw at a problem and produce a viable product:  or, in the smaller company, with a more efficient and specialized the workforce, refinement and dedication find their greatest recognition. In Art we find a gargantuan colossus like Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse ;  or the truly diminutive IBM logo impressed on a minuscule plate of electrons. And in Medicine we run the gamut from genetic manipulation to organ replacement. Size matters.

Size matters with people too. Taller men tend to get higher level jobs. Petite women are viewed as frail, needing some form of masculine protection. (Don’t ever refer to my wife as the little woman, if you value your life). The obese are thought of as lazy, unintelligent, couch-potatoes. Too skinny? You have an eating disorder.

When it comes to personalities the stereotyping gets even worse; extroverts are emotionally immature, introverts- thinkers, reflective. Shy people have no personality; BIG people are insensitive to the feelings of others. Quiet people might be considered smart, or devious. Boisterous types- full of themselves, arrogant, and definitely insecure. All of us know somebody who fits in some category of personality typing. Eh?!? And, to be sure, some people are truly unpleasant, if not impossible, to be around. Ugh!

The point is this— if you are a quiet person, why is that? What are you afraid of? What keeps you inside yourself? If you are LARGE…, ever consider being smaller? You might make space for those around you who are quieter that you never even notice. [Confession—  My wife’s entreaty to me for years has been Be smaller.] It’s not that we all have to do a 180° and become someone we’re not. But just a little concession to the personality, to the size, of the other person, or business, or nation, can go a long way to building trust, relationship, and a future.

End-thought—  What kind of concessions do you think God our Creator makes every day, to put up with us?!?

Have a nice week.

Gary

Quarter Century Quatrain November 14, 2010

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NON-emPulse Check-in—  November 14, 2010

Quarter Century Quatrain

It’s early. Today finds me on a flight to Las Vegas to take actionable steps to solve NEED’s budget crisis. Not really. I’m heading west to work with one of our Board members there for a few days. And I don’t like Vegas! So don’t think I’m going off to play, to have fun in the sun. Just not like that.

But as our flight clears the horizon, which is quite clear at this hour, it hits me that this is the 25th anniversary of the founding of NEEDinc. Has it been that long? It’s gone by so fast. It seems just yesterday that Starr and I were sitting on the floor of our living room with Steve and Lori Zarichniak musing about the need for a truly culturally sensitive approach to evangelism; one that would be culturally specific, regionally specific, and generationally appropriate as well.

Most Evangelical Christian evangelism of the time was methodological in nature, using some form of a four point outline, which the Christian would read through (sensitively, of course) as a “witness” to the nonChristian. Having done their duty, the Christian would move on or pray the sinners prayer with the new believer and invite them to some form of Christian meeting. It was the moving on part that always bothered me. It seemed so impersonal.

1985 was an intriguing year—WE ARE THE WORLD was recorded in Hollywood, Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Commodore launched the Amiga Personal Computer (PC), “NEW COKE” was released, as was the revolutionary FORD Taurus, and Robert Ballard finally found the wreckage of the TITANIC. Of little note in 1985 was the incorporation of New England Evangelism Development— NEEDinc, on November 14th.

In 1989 we started our first international training efforts with consulting in India and Mexico. In 1990, we spread our ideas across America and Canada through the Arrow Leadership Ministries of Leighton Ford and Carson Pue. Since then NEED has worked to help Christians learn to express their faith in culturally appropriate ways in China, the UK, Australia, and Latin America. We continue to minister not only with individual churches and groups across New England, but also larger Christian bodies—United Presbyterians, Episcopalians, InterVarsity, through numerous seminary lectureships, and online publications. [Check out our WEBsite- www.needinc.org].

We are just about to release a new book titled—PARADIGM LOST: Christians living in a postChristian culture, dealing with the difficulties we will face as we attempt to communicate our faith to a clueless for Christ society.  Six courses are in process of becoming an internet video training series of 4-6 hours each, with three more in the wings. [ALL at our WEBsite.]

We reached our lifetime goal of helping 600 churches come to grips with the new approaches to evangelism necessary to meet the mindsets of postModerns at year eight. Since then, I come across our ideas almost everywhere I land; somebody knows somebody, who knew somebody who attended a training course a year ago and… . Exactly how we wanted it to happen!

So if you were wondering if NEEDinc has made a difference; well, let’s put it this way—we’re not done yet. Twenty-five years and counting.

Truly humbled by a Holy God!

Gary

“…-ish” November 9, 2010

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EmPulse for Week of November 8, 2010

“…-ish”

“He seemed a stately elderly man, 60ish.:” “The time? Oh, 2:30ish.” “No, we’re not together anymore. Really—I’m kind of single…ish.” “At his first day on the job he wore a suit that was quite stylish…, but not exactly.”

Isn’t it funny that we seem to have grown comfortable with a lack of precision in our common everyday exchanges?!? We certainly wouldn’t stand for that in the airline industry—“The plane is now refitted and basically safe(ish) for travel.” Auto safety is another area where we would not stand for –ish standards. Nuclear physicists, heart surgeons, architects, and astronauts are among some other people who would not base their work on –ish criterion. And the train system in the UK!?! There is no such thing as late, let alone late-ish : yet some of us settle for a lack of specificity in our lives and relationships with others. Why is that?

Too much work?     Lazy?     Mental down time?

Not important enough?      Safer?    Muddles definitions?

This –ishness has also come to permeate our critical thinking. Precision in thought, in formulating ideas, in constructing a philosophy of life (weltanschauung) seems more like a photograph of London in a deep midnight fog. Or is that morning fog in LA? Too many of us are content with never implementing an idea, resolving a relationship, or finishing a thought-sequence. It’s just too much work. Thus, over time, we become less(ish) by default.

-ish now runs through every area of our culture— kinda-for-saleish, judgmentalish, sexually activeish, business savyish, politically cooperativeish. The suffix isn’t actually there, but it is implied. Even in defining our relationship with the God who made us, there is an –ishness to our description. We redefine how we want to relate to God in our terms rather, properly, on His terms. Since when did we set the perimeters and definers of how God Almighty is allowed to relate to the human race?!? This seems more than a sprinkling of arrogance of the dictum- man is the measure of all things. [Protagoras, pre-Socratic agnostic (490-420 bce)].

There is something to be said for tighter precision in our critical thinking, life philosophies, religious faith, business ethic, and personal moral choices, let alone in our airplanes and autos.

Hope you have a nice(ish) week.

Gary

inconsequential convictions November 1, 2010

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EmPulse for Week of November 1, 2010

 

inconsequential convictions

-Greek philosopher Socrates, age 70, abiding by the jury’s decision, carrying out his own execution for refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the State and for “corrupting” her youth (399 bce)

Why is it that so many of us commit our lives to a set of beliefs, a course of action, or a rich relationship and then act in a manner that absolutely cuts across the foundation of our commitments and convictions?!? We compromise, hedge a little, cut corners, shade the full truth, or cover the truth altogether. At other times some of us completely deny our basic life principles entirely. We pretend to be something we are not—rich, single, married, younger, older, confident, educated, smooth, players, etc. our so-called convictions bear little consequential weight when they are so glibly discarded.

Sticking to your convictions is very costly in a society where the bottom line and personal indulgences seem to govern so many of our decisions. Teen moral fiber is compromised throughout high school. Religious beliefs are strongly confronted during our college days. Honesty is called into question in the business world. Commitment is tempted in most marriages, even Christian ones. No matter who you are, what your faith or moral persuasion, you can count on everything you stand for being lured to the dark side in this society-without-consequence. Unless, of course, you give yourself over to the dark side freely; for you, then, convictions are merely momentary conventions. Truly, an intentional self-destructiveness.

What does it take to stick to your convictions in a post-moral culture?

1.      Being as certain of who you are as you can be, with the accompanying ability to adapt to the changing cultural climate without compromise of your convictions.

2.      The willingness to engage your critical thinking when investigating new ideas, emerging trends, or new life-narratives, without bias or prejudice. If your convictions are founded in real-reality they will stand firm. Being unwilling to consider new ideas or challenges to your convictions invariably weakens them. Do not be afraid.

3.      An openness to being wrong. If you must be right all the time you reveal an insecurity that will gnaw away at your soul and eventually consume your energies in proving yourself right. If you are right, it will become plain to all.

4.      A cohesive manifestation of your convictions throughout every aspect of your life. Convictions of consequence pervade a person’s character from dawn ‘till dusk, and then some. There is a unanimity to that person’s life that defies corruption and compromise all the way through.

5.      Intentional actions that make a difference. An intriguing quote is oft misattributed to Irish political philosopher, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) [More likely from Sergei Bondarchuk’s Russian film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE.]  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Yet the bell rings true for anyone who has put their neck on the line to genuinely live by their convictions and contribute to the needs of others, the improvement of their society, and to the victims of injustice and neglect of this world.

6.      Wisdom to know what is worth fighting for and what is not, when to fight and when to retreat, when to stand firm and when to walk away.

Please, live by your convictions, consistently, honestly and as openly as is safe. Inconsequential convictions will only lead to your untrustworthiness and eventual marginalization from your society.

 

Have a nice week.

Gary

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