The Next Chapter

All through this period of unemployment, I have been asking God, “what would you like me to do next?”

I will admit, I had been wearied a bit by the many years of ‘giving it all I’ve got’, every day. But I took away a quiet satisfaction in bring able to look back on that effort and to know that God honoured it with gainful employment and the satisfaction of a job well done, at the end of every day, every week, every month, every year. And I took away a great recommendation from my former boss, a guy who had some serious moxie as VP of HR. (It’s not worth asking how MarComm got put under HR. Really.)

But I still have that spark within me to go out and do good. Last night I read a quote in Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life which really sums it all up nicely, and I’ll paraphrase here:

God gave me the gift of certain talents.  My giving back to him is to offer those talents as a gift to his glory.

And it looks like I’ll be starting work on Monday. My hand’s in yours, Lord. Let’s go do good things together.

 

A brief update: I’ll be starting mid-week; it takes a while for the Agency to get my account set up and ready to use by all three of us: my Client, the Agency, and me.

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The Opposite of Listening

At our Men’s Breakfast this morning, the New Testament passage was Luke 10: 38-42:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a]Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We got to talking about the Marthas (doers) and the Marys (observers), and one of the more humorous things said was that ‘if we didn’t have Marthas, we’d never have Marys. Or if we didn’t have the Martha type, then we’d have no food to eat, roads to drive on, and so on.

But one thing struck me: Martha had ceased to listen to Christ. Instead, she chose to get upset and argue.

It was at this point that one of our group who had been in Management, and so had facilitated and participated in many different labor and union negotiations, chimed in: “It’s a known fact that when you get angry or emotional, the blood leaves your brain and goes elsewhere in your body. Any time I saw emotions start to get out of control, I stopped everything and sent everybody home to come back the next morning. When you get emotional, you lose significant, significant, reasoning power. And it’s at that point that I know we’ll never get anywhere. For today, at least.”

So when you start to argue, you stop listening.

We admitted that we all know people who like to argue, some of them just for the fun of disagreeing. And when we got to thinking about it, we realized that these type of people tend to be the most hard-headed among those we know, and, in an interesting twist, this type of person often tends not to be too much fun to be around.

Now that made for an early-morning attitude check.

“Do you always have to be right?”

In the course of building this post, I made 18 revisions to it, all of them because I didn’t convey the right message. I clicked ‘Publish’ on this posting some two months ago, and it’s been bothering me ever since.

Well, I’m going to have one more run at it this morning, because with time, I think I may finally have the proper perspective. It’s a quiet, rainy morning (some two months later) and the right words are finally coming.

First:
I can finally say that this judgmental statement was uttered with the deliberate intention to hurt. (And the punch carried plenty of extra weight, because this person is respected in his church.)

It has been on my mind ever since, and worse yet, it interfered with my prayer life; getting between me and God. I literally could not get into my quiet time devotions because this was in front of me.

I have been examining myself ever since, and have put lots of prayer into this. And here’s where I am: God brought me to this point in my life to write. He gave me a curious mind, and the ability to share what I’ve found. Reflecting the title of this posting, I actually enjoy being wrong.

Wait, what?

I enjoy being wrong, because it is an opportunity to learn, and to pass along what I’ve learned. Maybe I can help someone save some time, avoid a mistake, or even more, to avoid being hurt or injured.

Second:
I believe that we all have gifts from God, and to deliberately misuse these gifts is a grievous sin.

From 1 Peter 4:10:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Notice: ‘to serve others’, not to judge others. The only time we get to judge anyone is if they are in our employ (for instance, when I was running television crews, I had to judge performance and adherence to the script on a moment-by-moment basis) or if they are our slave. Seems safe to say that neither case applied here.

Third:
What you say in a heated moment reveals a lot about the darkness in your heart. This is also why I don’t care to listen to every-day political stuff. This got the Ephesians into really hot water with Paul.

From Ephesians 4:

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Pretty rough treatment from Paul, there.

Since we’re also talking about gifts here, one of the other ways I’ve been wired to do things also kicked in and ran like a computer program:

I connect things.

I suddenly saw the connection from this person thinking he recognized something in me (because we see our own faults in others first); and it ran along to other things:

The need to be right is only the visible tip of an iceberg.

If you have to be right, then that means you stop listening to others when their point of view disagrees with yours.

Here’s where I try hard to differ with this person: You listen, you learn about the world around you, you learn better ways of doing things. But you have to listen to the person’s whole point of view!

But what if I find I disagree with you? Should I stop listening there? Of course not. We’re all entitled to our own opinions; this is one of the very few entitlements in this world. Besides, unless I listen, I’ll never learn anything new.

Just because I might disagree with you doesn’t give me the right to stop listening and start arguing with you in some high-handed pretense of making you change your mind.

And please notice that you have to stop listening in order to think up clever-minded ‘zingers’, like the above. There’s also the aspect of simple human respect.

Cultivating this churlishness has a subtle and destructive effect upon your personality, beginning with attempting to find a way to disagree about every little thing. Quickly you graduate to being unable to accept favors, advice, and works offered in love. Eventually, nobody wants to be in your presence for fear of being judged.

Being unable to accept others the way they are builds neither your faith nor your wisdom; nor the faith of your brothers and sisters. God does his best work with open hearts and open minds.

I am forgiving you for failing to listen to me, for failing to honor the person that I am, the way that God made me; different from you. It’s a long process, as evidenced by the need to go back and edit this post.

Eighteen times. Strike that; Nineteen.

Aston-Martin recalls 75% of post-2008 vehicles

I’ve been saying for some time that it’s difficult to trust items from China as being of high quality or safe.

I’m even so set in this attitude that I don’t shop at certain *Mart stores, except when I can’t find something somewhere else. I’d rather keep a neighbor in a job than give dollars to people whose integrity is questionable.  I don’t mind my dollars going places where I can trust the quality of what I’m getting, but when buying something from China becomes a calculation of risk, then I’d rather skip the risk, thank you.

Chinese materials and manufacturers have disappointed in the past, and now do so again. It appears that there are few scruples in their culture of ‘making an extra buck’, and indifference as to what misery it causes for others. Witness the dog food recall of the past – the makers of certain dog foods were importing ingredients – many from China – and they ended up with an inferior and adulterated product that caused pain and suffering for thousands of innocent animals that had trusted us to take good care of them.

And now Aston-Martin has learned this lesson the hard way. Their gas pedals, of all things, were supposed to be made of a DuPont compound and molded in China. Instead, the Chinese manufacturer has substituted inferior and adulterated materials, and Aston-Martin has to pay the price. Fortunately nobody’s been hurt or killed, but hey, the Chinese subcontractor doesn’t care.

Seriously, what’s trust worth? What price do you put on integrity?

Does the profit from that pain and suffering a world away feel good in your pocket?

The Noble Task to which we must call Congress

The Greek Tragedy of this last couple weeks has left me astounded. Allowing one person from a Greek chorus of what in any other time of common sense would be called ‘a bunch of nut-cases’ to hijack what should have been a simple process has greatly shaken my faith in the Legislative branch of our Government. What bothers me most is that they were willing participants in this Joe-McCarthy-in-an-Elmer-Gantry-disguise tragedy. I would have expected these people to be more objective than to just follow fantastical falsehoods.

And as of today anyway, not ONE apology. NO APOLOGY for screwing up people’s credit ratings because they couldn’t pay their bills. NO APOLOGY to people who couldn’t feed their families. NO APOLOGIES to the children in Head Start who have been set back; for their parents who are both working and so use Head Start as a daycare. NO APOLOGY to the millions of people who had their lives disrupted and will be paying the price of this shutdown for months.

Shame on you people. Shame on you for being so small-minded. Shame on you for letting so many millions of people down! SHAME ON YOU!

I want to direct your attention for a moment to the times when the Temperance movement was strong in this country: it was essentially the same thing. Government was hijacked by people with high-sounding ideals, yet the only thing they wanted to accomplish was to push forward their personal agenda in the form of the 18th Amendment. Prohibition. And we all saw how well that worked.

The parallel here is that a very small but vocal group, in listening only to themselves, essentially hijacked the economy and negatively affected the well-being of hundreds of millions of people. The Volstead Act was actually vetoed by Woodrow Wilson, who was very principled and a person of deep faith – because he saw and understood the dangers. But the veto was overridden.

And Prohibition had long-lasting effects, beyond the short-term ones. Because of Prohibition, crime rates soared astronomically. This was the era of widespread gang violence, all driven by Prohibition. We see it now on Saturday night TV as black and white moves that seem too absurd to believe. For those who lived through it, it was sheer terror. The police were overwhelmed, because it came so fast and was so incredibly ruthless and violent. We would call it terrorism, today.

All created because of a small but vocal group who thought they knew better than everyone else.

Because of Prohibition, we went from a simple system of the Government able to keep itself and the country running through the collection of liquor taxes. It was a relatively simple system, where the greater the cost of the commodity, the tax was incremental to that cost. In short, if you bought more expensive booze, you paid higher tax. Guess what: that also meant that the wealthy paid more and the poor paid less.

But this entire system got hijacked by the 18th Amendment.

And because of the sudden lack of funds to run our Government, the Internal Revenue Service was created. I don’t need to say any more.

Taking this full-circle:
It’s been known since the 50’s that the United States needs some kind of universal health-care system. We need a way to care for those who are crushed by high medical bills; we need a way to care for those who are unable to care for themselves; we need a backup plan for our young people (who think they’re bulletproof) but are just as subject to the vagaries of our world.

I’ll state the obvious in saying that we already KNOW the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. But it’s a start. Let me quote FDR from when he began to get the New Deal enacted: “We have to start somewhere. But we have to start. We’ll make it better as we go, but we first have to get started.”

So instead of trying to kill the Affordable Care Act, let’s make it better. Let’s work within our system of Government and make the ACA better.

THIS is the noble task to which we must call our Congress.

Attitude adjustment, courtesy of the Men’s Shelter

This post originally began as a description of service and how I have learned through the shift I spent this year at the Men’s shelter. But there is a greater lesson at work, here. I humbly acknowledge this, and will continue to amend this post as the lesson works in me.

You’ll recall that in the past I’ve written that I’ve learned that it’s really important to let others work in their gifts – especially when they’re helping. This last weekend, I got to see from the receiving side what happens when this isn’t put into action.

We were working a different shift at the Men’s Shelter this year – the Saturday night shift. We’d heard that the guys usually come in pretty hungry, since they only have had breakfast (at the shelter) and a lunch (from another facility). So it’s been a typical thing for folks from our church to bring a few pizzas and bottles of soda for the guys. We were glad to do our share and pitch in. And in a fashion typical of our both our church and our ethnic heritage, we brought more than enough, plus a bunch more, just in case. Plus ways to make it all welcoming and nice-looking.

Let me just take a moment aside to mention that this type of service isn’t easy for us to do. Often the guys have raging colds, and just as often some virus or germ-thing gets passed on. Often you miss church the next morning because you’re just beat from the emotional effort of tuning in to, and caring for, this bunch of un-lovables, some of whom are mentally ill. Some people and stories haunt you for months, afterward.

Back to our story: We arrived with all this stuff in-hand (and more trips to the car to be made), along with the myriad ingredients for some really great green salad that my wife lovingly made for assembly there…

And entered with our armloads of contributions offered in love; but were bewildered to find a big crowd in the kitchen areawhere there should have been only the three of us who’d just arrived. A group of six or seven people from a completely different denomination had brought a bunch of stuff.

And an attitude. A joy-killing attitude. A really serious, hurtful one.

I choose to learn from this. I gratefully acknowledge their contribution. And I humbly hold them up to God so that he may bless them. I’ll just ask:  Is it not enough to know that the guys ate like kings that night?

I’m choosing as of right now to look beyond their theft of the ‘joy of service’ from our evening; which turned it into an evening of chores. All the sacrifices we made to be there (and are still making – sneeze!) are begging for my attention, begging for me to judge, because of them. But right now, I am choosing to not do so.

I am choosing instead to look beyond, and to ask God’s blessing once again on that night. With God, this has no power.

And so, this becomes a lesson’s reinforcement for me, as well as a lesson in attitude adjustment as I crafted this post. I must remember to let people help in whatever capacity they are given to do so.

God works through all things, even those we might deem as minor contributions.