Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lessons my parents taught me: Part 2--Being grateful for what you have

"If you can't appreciate what God has already given you, why should He give you anything else?" This is what my mother told me a few years ago. This was during a time when I had graduated from grad school and was looking for a job, but by the 12th interview, I was given another rejection letter. Even a woman who knew me, saw me in action, and even prayed with me turned me away. I felt that I had a right to a decent job. After all, I worked hard in school and the part-time job at the time, I had a perfect GPA, I belonged to two honor societies (which I did not neglect to put on my resume), I was a Christian who went to church every Sunday without fail, I was an elder, a hymnist, a Director of Sextons, and I ran the acolyte program. I felt that I earned each job for which I applied and that any position for which I qualified was mine by divine right.

Thus, when I was rejected those positions, there was nothing left for me to feel but sorry for myself, and angry with God--so angry that I boldly rebuked a promise Christ made to His disciples: "Ask, and you will receive." My response was, "I have done nothing but ask, yet I do not receive. Were you just whistling Dixie or what? Here I am, Your servant, singing--bellowing--for my supper, yet you let others stuff themselves around me while I starve!" I was furious, doubtful, but above all, foolish.

Therefore, one day, I told my mother about what I was reading in the Book of Job, quoting things he lamented about his plight. I sided with him and expressed how unfair God was being to me. My mother reminded me that I still had a job, food on the table, and a place I could call my own. When all of that failed to get through my thick skull, she said what was quoted at the beginning of this post. Soon after, a man who has been like a father to me, Pastor Kluge, said in a sermon, "God is unfair for our own good." He elaborated by saying that if God were fair, Christ would not have been sent to suffer and die for our sins, and we would be damned for eternity. Indeed, we deserve nothing, but God is good, and He provides for us as He knows we need to be.

There is a Buddhist principle that applies to all people--especially Christians: "All life is suffering." Who is to blame for that suffering? Us! Our sinful nature is the cause of our own suffering, and the suffering of others. We as Americans especially! Our greed, selfishness, and desire are the cause of our own suffering. A man wants to live in a mansion and is tired of eating hot dogs and cereal when he feels he deserves to eat steak and lobster and drive a Lexus. So, he gets involved in the drug trade for more money, goes to prison, and his wife and children are forced to live on the streets. A woman wants a rich, macho Romeo who will feed her sexual desires and buy her expensive presents. So, she sleeps outside of wedlock with a man whom she knows does not love or even respect her, and she becomes pregnant and infected with an STD.

The irony of it is, when we think we are poor and unfortunate, there are those who are really poor who are content with what they have. You live in a studio apartment where all of your neighbors take no pride in their homes or their community? There are people living in makeshift houses with tin roofs, and they praise the Lord that it gives them shelter from the rain. You hate the rundown car you are driving? There are people who must walk 20 miles to find clean drinking water. Are you tired of eating Stovetop or not having enough hamburger in your Helper? There are people who barely eat a full bowl of gruel a week. We do not deserve riches and comfort, we do not deserve, Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, happiness, and we do not even deserve good health. We deserve nothing that is good. Anything remotely positive that we deserve is the right to claim what others hold from us--things society says we can have if we earn them. Mind you, we have the right to claim, but not to take. These things we are given by God all in good time, but only if it is His will.

"Though He giveth and He taketh
God His children never forsaketh. 
It's His loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

So, you're going to call someone who hates telephones...

I don't deny it; I have always hated telephones--since I was a child. They have caused me much anxiety and frustration (blast you, Bell and Meucci!) because every time the phone rang, my concentration was shot, dinner was interrupted, my plans were delayed, and family time was interrupted (and ultimately ended). If it were up to me, there would be no telephones--just letters, emails, and texting services. (Can I get an Amen, fellow phone haters?) In fact, I love getting letters!!! However, as I am a practical man, I know I need a phone for all types of emergencies.  

Be that as it may, there are a few things phone-lovers can do to minimize how much you irritate phone haters like me:

1. If it is after 9PM (or right before 9PM), I am probably winding down and preparing for bed. Don't call unless it's an emergency! The latter statement will hereafter be abbreviated to DCUE.

2. If it is before 8AM on a weekday, I am probably preparing for work. DCUE! If I am late because you interrupted my routine, we'll have a problem.

3. If it is between 8AM and 6PM, I am probably at work. DCUE! I probably won't answer, but I will be annoyed nonetheless.

4. If it is between 6PM and 7PM, I am probably just getting in from work and/or preparing/eating dinner. DCUE! Give me a chance to cool down and relax, or we'll have a problem.

5. If it is a Saturday before noon, I am probably still in bed. DCUE!  I work hard at a stressful job all week, so I deserve it. Wake me up, and we'll have a problem.

6. If it is on a Sunday before 1PM, I am at church or on my way. DCUE! Otherwise, the Lord will strike you down! Just kidding! Seriously, calling me when you know I SHOULD be at church is just annoying. Either send me a text or wait until later.

7. If it is Sunday between 7:30PM and 10PM, I am watching, or preparing to watch, Downton Abbey. DCUE! I mean it!

8. If you know I am tired or sick, DCUE, or if you are calling to check up on me. If you are calling about anything else, I am going to be angry and may have trouble hiding it.

9. If you are calling at a decent time, please keep it short. When I say short, I mean no more than 5 minutes (unless it is a complicated situation or I have not talked to you in a very long time). If you need to talk for a long period of time, let's meet in person. I don't know why, but long phone conversations seem to really torture me, and there are only two people I will allow to torture me in such a way: my mother and my future wife.

10. If you do call at a decent time and it sounds like I am busy, and it's not an emergency, please keep it very short. By very short, I mean 90 seconds or less.

Thank you for reading this and for understanding that I don't mean to be rude or unsociable; I just hate telephones. I do hope that you take my guidelines seriously. Otherwise, we'll have a problem!!!