Archive for May, 2013

24
May
13

What I deserve

DESERVE. What does that word mean to you? I had two encounters with it in close succession last week that set me to pondering.

            The first was while I was waiting on hold with my trash pick-up company. I was calling (again) to complain, er, I mean, OBSERVE, that they had not picked up my yard waste bags. The recorded voice reassured me by saying, “Please stay on the line and our customer service specialist will be right with you to give your call the attention it DESERVES.” I remember thinking, “I hope their definition of the attention I deserve is the same as mine”

            Then, just a day later, I sent a congratulatory email to my son as he started his new job. In the body of the message I used the phrase, “You deserve great things.”

            I thought, “Hmmm. There’s that word again. What does that mean anyway?”

            What are we saying when we say we deserve something? Obviously we feel we are ENTITLED somehow to something, whether it be great customer service, to a wonderful job, to clean air, to democracy, to be loved, to have beautiful and compliant children, or whatever else we might come up with.

            But do we? Do we really deserve those things? Or do we DESIRE them and then somehow come to treat our desires as entitlements?

             The more I think about it, the more I find the question of what you and I actually deserve from life to be a surprisingly difficult one to answer. In the first instance can any of us really say we deserve ANYTHING? Life itself came to us as a gift. Parents who did not immediately take us to the river and throw us in were a gift. Today I am sharply aware of just how huge is the gift of an intact roof over my head.

            And just between you and me, I am not sure I actually DESERVED any of those gifts.

            Looking back on the people I have known in my life, I can safely say that those who have been the angriest, the most distressed, and most out of sorts with the world, in general, were those who carry with them a LONG list of “things I deserve.”

            Because you see, when you feel that you DESERVE a thing and you do not receive it, you feel cheated. Inevitably those folks look around at other people who have that thing – many of whom are much less skilled, talented and deserving – and feel there is something tragically flawed about the world’s BDS… Benefit Distribution System.

And so they get angry.

It is a whole different conversation when I am considering what YOU deserve to receive from ME. I feel that you deserve my full attention, you deserve my very best effort to fulfill the commitments I have made to you… you deserve love, respect, honor, and hospitality. Those I can control. What you decide to extend to me… not so much.

OK, so I guess this was not such a short meditation after all. But then again I felt that you DESERVED a fuller development of the basic thought… so there you go! The bottom line is this: the more we think we deserve from life, the less we view life as a gift. And the less we see life – everything in life – as a gift from God, the less joy we experience.

As we are reminded in James 1:17 – “…every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

10
May
13

Got safety?

ImageA question for you: How safe do you feel… right now?

            Looking back, it seems like an odd question. And so if safety seems like an odd thing to discuss, it must be because I feel very safe. How about you?

            I ask this question because SAFETY seems to be the topic du jour in the news these days. We see it popping up during the hearings about the Boston Marathon bombing; we ask, “How could this have been prevented?” and, “Why wasn’t more done to share information among agencies and nip this in the bud?” At the root of all of these concerns is the question: “How can we help make this country SAFER?”

            Safety also seems to be the question at the root of the gun control debate. Gun advocates want the unimpeded right to have firearms in the home as a way to ensure their safety… I guess safety from those rampant bands of outlaws roaming the plains randomly breaking into homes and stealing our womenfolk. (sorry… I couldn’t help myself. Forgiveness, please?)

            This week’s recent tragic murders of the people in Ottawa, KS, seemingly out of the clear blue sky certainly do not do anything to increase anyone’s overall feeling of safety.

One of the problems is the daily news we consume. Journalists necessarily focus disproportionately on acts of mayhem and violence. Recent studies have shown that the incidents of violence in this country (person-to-person) per 100,000 population have trended steadily downward over the last 200 years. And yet when they happen they are NEWSWORTHY, so they receive media attention.

The impression we get from these stories, however, is that of a land gone wild… with brigands and renegades slashing and shooting their way up the street, heading straight for our front door! Small wonder people live in an attitude of fear.

The other problem is the WHERE problem: we have collectively erred in answering the question, “Where do I find authentic safety?”

When we leave that answer up to the forces of the federal government and law enforcement, we come up with answers like, “More thorough surveillance!” and “Better information-sharing between departments!” and “Encouraging the public to ‘see something… say something’!” or “More secure borders!”

When we let the NRA and its henchmen answer the question we hear, “Armed guards in schools!” or “Free, unfettered access to all types of firearms!”

It is time for people of faith to weigh in on the WHERE question. Fear only breeds more fear. Arms breed more arms. Thick walls breed thicker walls. It is a cycle that has no end and produces exactly the opposite of what it seeks to produce.

But it takes me back to a conversation I had not long ago with a woman who was dying of a particularly lingering form of cancer. In one of our last conversations before she lost the ability to speak, I asked if she had any fear of death. She said, “I am certainly sad when I think about what my family will go through when I die, but I have absolutely no fear at all for myself. I know I belong to God and always have. I am just getting ready to go home.”

As Matthew 10:28 reminds us, “… Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body…” Yes, we should make sure we take steps to prevent criminals from harming innocent people. But we should always remember that our REAL safety and security comes from knowing we have an eternal Creator and Redeemer who has claimed us as his own and who will never, ever leave us… no matter what manner of mayhem we might face outside.




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