Archive for category Jim

A Simple Yes in a World of Noise


            Last evening a commercial came on for Happy Campers, think Pillow Pet that zips into its ‘home”.  At the end of the ad to a peppy tune, the seemingly hypnotized child’s voice sang “Happy Campers make everything better.”  While I am sure that Happy Campers add a bit of stuffed animal fun to life, I seriously doubt that they make everything better.

In our world filled with noise and words clamoring for our attention and our funds, these types of claims become more and more hyperbolic.  Recently after visiting our branch bank we received a call to ask about our experience.  As the questions proceeded the bank representative said “Could you imagine a world without our bank?”

Yes, as a matter of fact I can.  Having moved as often as I have I don’t tend to exude tremendous bank loyalty.  Yet, after the call I was astounded of the bank’s self importance and desire to give life to such a claim from satisfied customers like me.

In a world filled with noise we are all tempted at times to aggrandize a statement or two to get attention.  We may do this so that what we have to share might break through the cacophony of sound that floods our age.

We may do this for a completely different reason.  At some point we have felt the need to firm up our answer or add a bit more emphasis.  “I really mean it this time.”  Behind this assertion is the fact that in the past we dropped the ball or that we didn’t mean it last time.

“Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”* (Matthew 5:37)  Jesus in His continual desire to not merely address our behavior, but the heart behind it, prompts us to consider our verbal responses.  Any time we are tempted to strengthen our response we need to consider our motivation.

At times it is because we haven’t kept our word in the past.  Why not?  Sometimes it is because we have been unavoidably detained.  Other times it is because we have said “yes” too casually, when our true setting was “no”, or maybe we have said “yes” to so many opportunities that there is no possible way that our schedules would allow.  Either way we have a verbal integrity issue that stems from the heart.

Casual “yes” often means that we like saying “yes” to people.  “No” seems so mean, unless of course you aren’t going to follow through on your “yes”.  Often this stems from not caring enough for people to tell them the truth, but selfishly offering “yes” to appease ourselves in the short run. With a heart that is too concerned with people pleasing casual “yes” quickly erodes our verbal integrity.

The “yes” to everything can stem from inability to really assess our time or a covetousness heart that wants to do it all.  In the fullness of God’s love we for us we are entrusted with limited time.  This time constraint necessitates prioritization, seeking first, so that we can do the things that are most important.  “Yes” to everything can be a desire to live outside the bounds that God gives us as stewards of our time.  Filled with the hunger to do it all, we schedule three things as once and realize that one of the things we can’t do is be counted on.

In a world of noise we all need people who we can count on.  “Yes” may not ring with the bravado of our culture, but there is true blessing in consistently maintaining verbal integrity.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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People of Principle

Do you ever feel like not going to work?

Do you generally go anyway?

The answer to both of these is yes, but the second question begs another.

Why?  We may respond that people are counting on us and we don’t want to disappoint.  We may consider that we, for the most part, enjoy our work greater than our initial morning lethargy.  We may go to work because we like or need the money.  However you may answer this question isn’t as important to the reality that it represents.

What We Choose

These three questions reveal that we chose to be people of principle.  There is some principle or ideal that we are committed to living that shapes who we are and what we do, over and above how we feel.

In our modern world we struggle with what to do with our feelings.  Yesterday I talk with a man who talked about doing things far our side of his desired character justifying it all with “But you know how angry I can get.”

The Rightful Place of Feelings

Our feelings are real. Our feelings are strong.  An initial flash of anger comes on strong, but what we do with it is vitally important.  We have the choice to feed our anger and ensure that it remains inflamed or we can remember the principles by which we live.  Some count to ten. Others seek to apply Ephesians 5:26 dealing with the anger so that it doesn’t persist.  Although our feelings are real and powerful they are not the most important or operative reality.

If they were, our world would look completely different.   Imagine what it would look like to act on every feeling.  In a moment of insecurity we may write off good friends having misinterpreted a laugh.  In a flash of fear we can unreasonable restrain ourselves from reasonable risk and the blessings of an opportunity.  Recently the folks at Sprite encouraged us to “Obey your thirst.”  While our thirst is important, we process our thirst through a principled and relational reality to act on it appropriately.

There is a constant temptation to get swept away with our emotions.  We see so many others do this that it helps to be reminded that we choose to be people of principle.  On June 2, 2010 Armando Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, was throwing a perfect game.

No No Hitter

In the 9th inning a ball was hit, fielded by the first baseman and flipped to Galarraga covering first clearly getting the out.  The umpire inexplicably called the runner safe.  Fans booed, other players argued, but Galarraga show a flash of surprised, then smiles and walked to the mound to complete a one hitter.  A once in a lifetime opportunity for a perfect game derailed by a bad call wasn’t enough to derail this man of character.

May we be intentional about the principles by which we live, have a health approach to our feelings, be prepared for those moments when emotions swell and be found to be people of character.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading.

Jim

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The Challenge of Contentment, or Contentment in a Culture of Choice

As a boy I remember sitting in the car hoping that my favorite song would come on the radio.  Having just begun to care about music I couldn’t wait to hear the song that caught my ear.  Every other song that played filled me with hope that we must be getting closer to my song.

Then I discovered that it was possible to buy the record and have the ability to play my song at home whenever I wanted.  But the record was filled with other songs that I really didn’t want and I dreamt about some machine at the record store where you could buy just the songs that you wanted.

When Dreams Come True

It was dreams like this that have given rise to iTunes and personal listening devices to orchestrate the sound track of our lives.  (For the record I didn’t invent iTunes or get any royalties from my boyhood vision.)  Now we can have exactly what we want: the perfect song at the perfect moment.  Even in a car full of people listening to “Fireflies” for the thousandth time, we can satisfy our desire to hear that plaintive 10,000 Maniacs song that speaks to the moment.

The technological advances of our time are incredible and the abilities that we have been give to personally shape our world, or at least our experience of it, is unparalleled.   We have been given amazing power to manicure our lives through the abundance of choice.

Is This the Good Life?

It would seem that the logical end to this reality would be greater contentment and enjoyment of what is, yet I wonder if we haven’t inadvertently begun to focus on what is not.  The incredible array of choice gives us the thought that each moment, each meal, could be better, resulting in an epidemic of discontentment.

It was not that long ago that merely going out to dinner was a treat.  Now with the amazing panorama of cuisine at our disposal and the steady supply of cooking shows that inform us of what is “spot on,” we seem to be less satisfied with what once was considered a great meal.  I know that there are times that I finish a good meal and think, but the red sauce at the other restaurant is better.

Why Do We Seem Discontented?

The challenge of the culture of choice is that we are wooed into a sense that we can shape every moment and meal into perfection.  With our idealized perfection in mind it is not surprising that we feel disappointment and discontentment when things don’t meet these lofty expectations.

This modern malaise is problematic not only for moments and meals, but in relationships and our work.  When we apply our “perfected ideal” to others there is no room for another person to be the real them and little room for healthy relationships.  Occupational discontentment is exacerbated by the perpetual thought that the grass is greener—lavishly greener—elsewhere.

I am not saying that these technological advances or choices are bad.  Like all of creation, they are good. But we need to continue to beware how we let this culture of choice shape us.  The first step toward contentment is our awareness of how the abundance of choice impacts us.  Do we merely live in the plethora of options or do we being to expect the world to conform to our expectations?

True Contentment

The second step is intentionally focusing on being content.  In Philippians 4:11 Paul writes “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  This verse encourages us as contentment can be learned.  We can practice fighting our selfish temptation to shape each moment and letting the music play.  We can train ourselves again to enjoy the blessings of what is and not focus on what is not.  We can enjoy the freedom of a good baked potato merely being good.

Part of the cultural crisis of character is the wide spread lack of contentment.  May we discover both, the goodness of abundant choice and the richness of contentment.

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you think?

Jim

 

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Who’s Problem Is It?

Here in Michigan there is a playful ad as part of the State Treasury Department current tax amnesty program that features a man saying “You probably won’t believe this, but my dog ate my W-2’s.”  This classic excuse from our childhood sounds ludicrous and laughable from this man who is clearly behind in his taxes.

A Culture of Non-Responsibility

Part of the power of this ad, besides the humor, is that it touches on the culture of non-responsibility.  Recently I watched an interview with TV personality and creator of West Coast Choppers, Jesse James, about his divorce from Sandra Bullock and the challenges that have followed.  In the interview James departed from his earlier declaration, “There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me”, now saying, “God or whoever you believe in must have thought I was pretty strong to lump all of that on me.”  His initial desire has been harder to live out and now someone other than himself is the source of the brokenness that stems from his choices.

The Challenge

The challenge for James and all of us is to take responsibility for our actions.  There is such a great temptation to nuance our story so that we are the victim.  Such revisions make allow us to feel better about our selves and make us much more sympathetic characters in the eyes of others.

Victimhood As Lifestyle

Yet I wonder if we, in the end, aren’t victimized by this type of nuance as we slowly create a perception further from reality.  We can’t truly move past our faults and failings without honestly acknowledging them and taking responsibility for the messes that we make.  Forgiveness and reconciliation, both from above as well as from others, begins when we honestly face our fears and failures.  As tempting as it is to gloss over our painful chapters or concoct an alternate narrative, true hope, healing and character are found in taking responsibility for our actions.

What are your thoughts on “owning up”?

Thanks for reading,

Jim


 

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