Monthly Archives: January 2014

Back to the Future Grocery

Question: Is the new “connected world” where a corporation can track your preferences etc. to target you with specific adds really that much different from the “old days” where your local grocer knew what you liked and offered that to you?

I’m listening to KCUR’s “Up To Date” and they are talking about how Meijer chain in Michigan and Indiana is developing an in-store wi-fi system to assist shoppers with their grocery (and everything else) shopping. The example that was given is that you are walking around the store – the system notices that you are looking at peanut butter – it tells you that there are 10 different types of PB at the store and three are on sale – you can access reviews etc across the internet to make an informed choice – then, the system generates a coupon for Peter Pan PB and Welch’s Jelly.

On the one hand, it’s creepy that the store could know you that well. However, my question stands – is that really all that different from “back in the day” when you might go into your local grocery store (the good ‘ole days when you had a relationship with your grocer) and talk to the owner who knows you and your needs. He takes you to the PB and notes the pro’s and con’s of each brand while offering you a deal on one particular one.

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Granted, one is big business and the other is local but based on personalized service alone, its actually very similar. Frankly, in a world of choices, it’s nice to have some information with which to make a decision. As someone who came into the internet age as a teenager, I like the idea.

Also, as a parent, the idea that I can hand my children a tablet on which they can happily watch Netflix while I shop?? Thank you. Really. Thank you.

Is that a fair comparison?

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Back Pain and Soul Pain

There is a lie that floats about in our culture. It goes something like this – “healing has not happened (or worked) unless I do not feel pain any more.” As an Army prison chaplain, I experience it most in relationship to mental/spiritual anguish or “the dark night of the soul.” 

It goes something like this – the individual’s coping methods to dealing with pain land them in jail. They continue down this path (substituting alcohol, sex, drugs with ego trips, anger/rage, prescription meds) until they realize that they are still suffering greatly. They first reach out to mental health for relief and then, after realizing that drugs “won’t fix it” or that their counselor is encouraging them to work through their stuff reject it and show up in church. 

Here, they start reading the Bible furiously. Or, they start praying (at least in church) until something offends them at which time they either approach me about changing it or drop out all together. I challenge them on it and they say something like, “well, it didn’t take.” 

Another scenario that happens all the time is that someone will be the best Christian you ever met until they are denied parole. Then, clearly, God hates them and does not keep promises. (That they made to themselves on God’s behalf)

By the way, this is a common line of reasoning outside of prison too…

Which then introduces me mantra – people will not change until the pain of change is worse than the pain of staying the same. 

Somewhere along this path, they reach out to me for help. I introduce the above idea and say something like this, “I will not carry your burden. I cannot heal for you but I can and will join you and suffer with you if you want to really heal. You should know that it’s going to take you through some very dark waters. I’ll walk with you but not for you. I will be asking very hard questions and if you really want to heal, it’s going to be a little worse before it gets better. AND, it may actually NOT get better! In fact, your family might not be down with your growth and won’t like who you are becoming. You need to ask yourself if it’s worth the sacrifice.” 

Silence follows. 

Then a sigh and “I’ll give it a try.” 

Then we’ll enter into a pastoral care relationship. 

We explore the pain. We analyze why it’s painful. We struggle through how that pain might actually be a good thing and not something to be avoided. We seek to integrate it into life in a healthy way so as to not “cope” with it or avoid it but use it for positive growth. Those with enough courage hang in to the bitter end and experience great growth. Something people fall off. It happens. Either way, I’m there. Christ is there. 

What fascinates me on a regular basis is that the aforementioned lie is so prevalent in our culture. “Whatever you have to do to get rid of the pain…” 

What if pain wasn’t something to be avoided but embraced as God’s gift to guide you to healing? 

I heard this article on NPR this morning – loved it. It’s about managing back pain. 

“…along the way, she’s learning not to be afraid. “It’s learning not to fear the pain, learning that you can live with pain,” Wertheimer says. “Understand what that pain is, but then put it aside.”

In essence, sometimes the pain we experience both physically and emotionally is pain about the pain.

I teach my inmates to live with the pain, use the pain, make it a part of their spiritual strength and thus take away it’s power. 

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus

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Keeping Warm

I was looking for a good quote about being warm, first one I found, no kidding, was,

“The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.” – Thomas Jefferson

But here’s the thing, if you have money, you can buy a space heater or just about any other way of conducting heat so…. You can have your warm thoughts. I want BTUs!!

Here’s another thought for this morning – on the warmth of friendship.

“Love is not just tolerance. It’s not just distant appreciation. It’s a warm sense of, ‘I am enjoying the fact that you are you.” – N. T. Wright

From Prov. 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, and family is born for adversity.

Bring the warmth of true friendship to someone today. Amen.

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I love it when sports gives me the best illustration ever…

Disobeying a team rule.

Not an NCAA rule. Not a law. Not even a MSU rule. An undisclosed team rule.

It was for that, Coach Mark Dantonio benched his best player, his team captain, his undisputed leader of his tea. An undisclosed team rule.

That’s principled coaching.

I’ve been teaching the 7 Habits on the Inside (this is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People applied to prisoners living prison life) twice a week for 6 months now and once a week for over a year before that. It’s safe to day (as I am not deep into my 10th class) I am fully immersed in the 7 Habits lifestyle/program/cool aide…

Most basic to the program is living by principle.  Not living by indulgence, need, or want – principle. The idea that I know who I am, what I want, and what legacy I am leaving – I live to that. I live by my thought about, analyzed, tested principles.

This is why I loved watching the Spartans tonight. They played their football. The knowledge that they benched their best player on no less than the biggest game they have played for two decades, the 100th Rose Bowl, national television, Stanford. They benched their Player for an undisclosed team rule on the biggest game ever for everyone on that team.

That’s a principled team.

Then, there is Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind – living your life according to your vision. Seeing your legacy and then living according to that legacy rather than the one that comes by living out the default setting.

A year ago, Mark Dantonio walks on to the Rose Bowl field. Stands in the endzone and sees it all happening. His daughter captures the moment on a cell phone. He tells his team in the video that this is where they are going. A year before it happens, he stands on the field and sees it all before it takes place. Then, he takes his team there.

Vision.

Living by Principle and Vision.

Thanks Coach. I’m going to get a solid 20 minutes of great discussion out of this…

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