Archive for July, 2011

It’s Not Your Day

I am amazed at how difficult it can be to keep up a blog when life keeps you away from a keyboard. I shouldn’t be, I suppose, and it’s my own dang fault. It’s summer (please ignore the rain clouds trying to pretend otherwise), and I’m taking advantage of it to do some fun events and trips. Makes it a little more difficult to write!

Some years back, a friend who knew that I like signs with funny sayings gave me one that says, “I can only please one person each day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good, either.” To be honest, at the time, I didn’t think the sign was all that funny. While somewhat true (can’t make everybody happy, that’s for sure!), it seemed a little on the rude side. But, hey, I appreciated the thought, took the sign home, and hung it up.

It so happened that I hung it up where I could see it. Since it was in eyesight on a regular basis, every once in a while, I’d spend a few moments thought on the annoying puzzle represented by that sign. Like I said earlier, it sure is true that you can’t make everybody happy, but confining it to one person seemed a draconian and rather stingy measure. It stung me, because while I don’t think I’ve ever been all about making everybody happy, I have absolutely at times spent myself trying to make specific people happy, and I’d reached a point where I wasn’t very happy with myself over what it cost me to try to make those folks happy. Got all that? I’d stand there and wonder why some people just couldn’t be happy, or how many people I should be trying to make happy, or why I was so unhappy with the whole thing. It was like a sore tooth that I kept busy worrying. I kept thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it.

One reason it bothered me so much is that I couldn’t reconcile my fascination with keeping up my efforts to make those special people happy with meeting God’s command of putting Him first or – even more difficult – loving God with all that I am. Please feel free to disagree, but I honestly believe that when we’re all wrapped up in making other people happy, like when our sense of self or identity is dependent on their moods, and we’re sacrificing self, others, and what we know to be right, we’ve crossed the line of loving them as ourselves over to idolatry and worshiping somebody or something besides God. They’ve become god. See why I got so squirmy and bothered? Packing about the conviction that you’ve made other relationships more important than God Himself is not and should not be a comfortable thing.

Not knowing a way out of that mess makes it even more discomfiting. It wasn’t just me getting all crazy and gooey and donning a door mat costume because I thought it was Halloween. Those were people for whom I cared deeply. These people mattered to me. In fact, people in general should matter, because God loves them, too, right? They’re all created in God’s image just like me. It was so confusing, and I bugged God about this a lot. How was I supposed to do all this? How was I supposed to love them and love God and love myself? Bleah! I had no idea.

God, as is His habit, answered those prayers. I was looking at that sign one day, and I realized what was truly true about it. It is true that I can only please one person each day. The awesome thing is that I only need to make one person each day happy. God really does tell us to love Him with all that we are. If I really wanted to live my life well, instead of trying to keep up my juggling act, I could try for that. Loving all those people didn’t mean that I had to keep tying myself into knots to make sure they knew I loved them. I didn’t understand how that was supposed to work, but I did decide to give trusting God with it, myself, and those people was worth a try. Eventually, that path led me into a lot of new freedom. It’s amazing, when I stop to consider, how much bondage I lived in trying to make others happy.

So, should I ever tell you, “Hey, I’m sorry, but it’s not your day,” please don’t be offended! I love you very much. I just need to put God first and trust Him with you, which I’m convinced is the most loving thing I can do for you, anyway.

Besides, today is Jennie’s day! Tomorrow is looking good for her, too!

Life is Coffee

Life is coffee; coffee is life. For those of you who know me well, you know I appreciate coffee. If you’ve been fortunate, I may have even shared some of mine with you. Not much beats a good cup of Sister Coffee Company’s French pressed Black Butte Gold, unless, of course, you have a cup of their Kabum dark blend. The Kabum, which I think would make a fantastic dessert coffee and would be superb with a really good chocolate cake (must make chocolate cake), is supposed to be a better than fair trade deal for the Ugandan farmers growing it. It’s also an excellent product. I’ll still be mostly drinking Black Butte, though. At this point, for everyday consumption, I prefer it over the Kabum blend.

As you can see, I do like my coffee. Still, it’s a bit silly to say that coffee is life, and life is coffee, or whatever it is I said. My life doesn’t truly revolve around cups of joe. What might be fair to say, though, is that coffee is useful as a yardstick. It’s my defacto measurement of value. It took me a while to realize I was using it like that (and I laughed at myself when I figured it out), but it actually works quite well in helping me determine the worth of something.

Let me explain this a little bit. In a typical month, I purchase 2 pounds of Black Butte Gold. That costs me somewhere around $13 a pound, so that would be $26 a month. I don’t drink that all by myself, just so you know. Carey and other occasional guests help me drink it, which is important to my thoughts here. If you’re drinking Folger’s or Yuban, $26 might seem steep, but if Starbucks (please notice the “bucks” in their name) keeps your caffeine needs satisfied, $26 is probably looking cheap. It’s all in your perspective, hm?

For myself, I’d say $26 is pretty cheap, and it’s a good value. For one thing, it’s relatively cheap entertainment. I do like to make a good pot! I figure in a month’s time, I’ve spent at least 7 hours making coffee. That by itself means it’s costing me less than $4 an hour to enjoy myself making coffee. That $4 an hour doesn’t take into account all the yummy cups of coffee that I’ve produced, consumed, and shared, either. The best part, of course, is the sharing. Lots of times when I’m making it, I’m standing there talking with somebody. When the coffee’s been poured, a lot of times I’m standing there chatting. Share coffee, share life – it’s awesome! It’s a great opportunity to reconnect and build relationship. As tasty as the coffee is, the opportunity to reconnect and relate is the part I truly savor. I can spend less than $30 a month and a few hours of my time and put smiles regularly on the faces whom I love. Isn’t that a great way to spend my money?

I really do think it is, and I am so firmly convinced that some time ago, I began to measure other ways I spend myself and my money by the value of coffee. I’d look at something I was thinking about buying, trying to decide if it was actually worth it. I’d ask myself if I wanted to spend the money. Did I like it? Would I use it? Would its intended purpose fulfill my need or desire? Would I use it enough to make the purchase worth what I was going to spend on it? Coffee was a definite yes for me.

I wanted that same value from other purchases, so I started looking at stuff while holding coffee next to it. I’d look at a DVD that seemed interesting and think, “I could buy a pound of coffee for about the same price. Will I enjoy this DVD as much as I would enjoy that pound of coffee? Will this be as much fun to share with my mom as a good cup of coffee?” I’d see some new gizmo for my camera. It would be $120 and have shiny, shiny bells and whistles. I would WANT it, but then I’d stop and think, “Man, I could buy, like, 10 pounds of coffee for that price. Is this gizmo really going to be that wonderful?”

I must say that, like many other people, I like to spend money. I like new stuff. I like shiny gizmos and clever gadgets. If something has enough bells and whistles, I can totally get sold – hooked, really – before my budget has a chance to catch up with my wallet. What’s been awesome about my coffee yardstick is that it’s quicker than my budget! It can catch my wallet and ask it pointed and delaying questions to help me sort out what I really want to do.

So how about you? Do you have a shortcut that helps you determine how you spend  your resources, like your time, your money, your energy, and so on?

ESP, Telepathy, Mind Reader!

Have you been wearing your tin foil lately? I’m not sure it’s necessary. If I remember right, it’s supposed to help keep those sneaky, telepathic aliens from plucking thoughts from your mind like blueberries from a bush. However, I suspect reports of telepathy are highly exaggerated and are primarily the province of sci-fi and fantasy authors. I must say that it is a fun and popular ploy, too. Humans, aliens, and demigods all with unusual and interesting powers of the mind make for some curious and fascinating plots.

I was thinking about this on my way to work one day this week. It was all mixed up with the topic of conflict. Lurking in the back of my mind was a series of memories, of being stuck in some dress that I didn’t like (it didn’t matter which dress – I didn’t like ’em!), sitting in a hard, wooden pew, and listening to the pastor talk solemnly of communion and the necessity of being pure in God’s sight before partaking of communion. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there was some passage (I’m being too lazy to go digging for it) that would be always be read that talked about the importance of clearing your conscience and making right of the wrongs you’d done before jumping in and gobbling away. It was solemn, sacred, a purity to be honored. I recall much soul searching on my part to make sure I was right and clean.

Regarding conflict, in my early years, that was the passage I remember most discussed, probably thanks to communion. Apparently, it wasn’t one I memorized for Awana, since I am not remembering where to find it, but what did stick was the idea that it’s the responsibility of the wrongdoer, of the offender, to make amends. The doer of badness is supposed to repentant and all that razz-ma-tazz.

Ah, but you know what I discovered later on in life? It ain’t that simple! Let me give you an example here. Matthew 18:

15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.

That’s the NIV’s take. Here’s the ESV:

15(W) “If your brother sins against you,(X) go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

Isn’t that interesting? The burden of confrontation (and by confrontation, I don’t mean knock-down, drag-out fight. I mean stopping with someone to have a conversation about something that’s more likely to be dodged) also rests on the offended, not just the offender. I don’t know about you, but that’s scary. It means if I’m mad at somebody for doing something that hurt me, I also have a responsibility to approach them about the matter. It’s not okay for me to sit wounded and pouting on my high horse in the corner and wait for them to humbly come and beg my forgiveness. Stink in a bucket, doncha know?!? Seems, oh, dangerous to make the victim also responsible for the conflict’s resolution.

It also, after thinking about it for a while, makes some sense. We don’t read minds. Far as I know, there’s no mass telepathy available to the human race. We’re pretty much locked into our own skulls with all the limitations on data observation imposed by our senses and all the constraints on interpreting that data imposed by our personalities, values, and experiences. That means that even when there’s evidence of offense right there, we sometimes don’t see it, and if we see it, we won’t necessarily interpret appropriately. I may not figure out that I just stomped all over your toes if you don’t actually tell me that I did. If nothing else, I’d guess this passage is there to help iron out the accidental offenses, the ones occurring by mistake. It gives the guilty innocents (innocent can also mean unaware) the benefit of the doubt and a chance to quickly repent before more injury occurs.

So maybe it is not horribly frightening. Maybe it’s great.

And maybe one day, we will all read minds and won’t have to do it. 😉