What You May as Well Forget

deleteHe snarled and complained about his job.  A friend of his, who worked for another company, had recently received a promotion.  “Some people get all the breaks!” He went on to talk about his friend who didn’t have to work near as hard as he did.  There was no sense of joy for his friend.  Nor did this man seem to take responsibility for anything related to his own career. Rather, he complained about how everyone else seems to get all the breaks.

I have learned there are some things in life that are best forgotten.  Now I haven’t always practiced this.  I can think of years in which I was stuck in unproductive thinking.  I allowed too much futile thinking to take up space and time.  Yet, how I think and what I focus on really do impact my life.

I want to suggest that some things need to be forgotten.

Forget what might have been.

Some people spend much of their energy focused on what might have been.  For them, life would have been great “if only.”  They are stuck in the past.

“If only my wife (or husband) was different.”

“If only I had taken a different job.”

“If only I had been treated fairly in my career.”

“If only I had gotten the breaks my brother-in-law received.”

Forget the entitlement.

Some people go through life believing they are entitled to a certain life.  This may be the young couple who believe they are entitled to a certain lifestyle (that may have taken their parents 35 years to afford.)  Others believe they are entitled to happiness and seem willing to break whatever commitments they’ve already made in order to experience this.  Years ago, a woman used this very expression in a conversation with me.  “I’m entitled to be happy” she said.  Two weeks later she left her husband and children.  People who are focused on their own sense of entitlement will break commitments and abandon relationships if they seem to stand in the way.

Forget the focus on someday.  

Some people are preoccupied with “someday.”  They speak as if life begins in the future.  Someday they plan to save money, get their finances in order, and live within their means.  Many people speak of changing their lives someday and quitting bad habits someday.  Yet life is experienced today not someday.

Each one of these approaches to life is a dead end street.  No progress is made when I am focused on any of these.  Life is happening today, not yesterday or someday.  I am entitled to nothing. Whatever good thing I experience in this life is a gift of God to be received with gratitude.

Question

What else needs to be forgotten?

 

 

Ministry Inside.133

thankful (1)I am very thankful. (Each Thursday I write a post with church leaders in mind. However, today I want to focus on what I am grateful for. Perhaps this will simulate your thinking and even your gratitude as you consider your own life.)

I am grateful for my family.

  • I am grateful for Charlotte who dared to move to Memphis at this point in our lives to begin a fresh new chapter in our ministry. I am blessed.
  • I am grateful for Christine, mother of two wonderful little boys. I can’t imagine a more attentive mother. So thankful for Phillip, a good and devoted husband and father.
  • I am grateful for Jamie, the social worker with such a heart. Thankful for the way she is thoughtful to so many. So thankful for Cal, an unassuming, gracious husband and man.
  • For those whom I’ve known for so many years. So grateful to receive those texts, e-mails, and handwritten notes. I take none of this for granted.

When You Fail to Show Respect

respect-dotRespect.

I suppose it may not a word that immediately gets your attention.  Perhaps it doesn’t have much buzz or flair.

Yet the importance of showing another respect is huge.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

  • A young husband is condescending to his wife, making her feel as if she is less intelligent than he is.
  • A teenager has a confrontation with his dad.  He tells his dad to “shut up” and walks away.  Thirty minutes earlier the boy was in a Wednesday evening Bible class.
  • A young woman is disrespectful to her mother-in-law, speaking to her in way that is demeaning and hurtful.
  • A man disrespects his wife, flirting with women at the office.  One woman at the office remarks, “You mean he’s married?”
  • A minister degrades the elders to others in the congregation and then kisses up to them in an elders meeting.  Disrespect.
  • An older man in the church abruptly approaches a young minister and says something insulting and crude in front of a visitor.

I am not suggesting that people needed to be “nicer.”

Is Your Gratitude Obvious to Others?

GratitudeA few years ago, I read everything I could find by Henri Nouwen.

His writings were formative and very encouraging.  On one occasion, I read his book Gracias.  The book is actually a journal chronicling Nouwen’s time spent in Peru and Bolivia.  Near the end of the book, he writes:

The title of this journal summarizes what I found, learned, and heard.  The word that I kept hearing, wherever I went, was: Gracias!  It sounded like the refrain from a long ballad of events.  Gracias a usted, gracias a Dios, muchas gracias — thank you, thanks be to God, many thanks!  I saw thousands of poor and hungry children, I met many young men and women without money, a job, or a decent place to live.  I spent long hours with sick, elderly people, and I witnessed more misery and pain than ever before in my life.  But in the midst of it all, that word lifted me again and again to a new realm of seeing and hearing: Gracias!  Thanks!  (Henri Nouwen, Gracias!, p. 187)

Question:

When have you felt particularly moved by someone’s gratitude?  What made the situation particularly moving?

 

What is a Gracious Person Like?

Gracious. coffee_cup (1).jpg

Now I like this word.

Like you, however, I have been around some people for whom the word “gracious” doesn’t seem to fit.

It was a busy evening. This particular church was attempting to feed a lot of people. Volunteers had been working in the kitchen in their church building throughout the day to prepare for a big crowd that evening. Other volunteers had come the day before after purchasing food at the local Sam’s. Here were lots of people working together. Again, all were volunteers.

One couple came through the line. He complained because his portion was smaller than what he wanted. The person serving apologized and explained that they were trying to give small portions of this particular dish because they wanted to make sure that everyone got some before they ran out. The man was visibly displeased and muttered something about the volunteers needing to do a better job of planning. No thank you. No gratitude.

That is not graciousness.

On the other hand, I have known gracious people. For example, I witnessed one gracious man interact with people many times in social settings. He would never humiliate, embarrass, or in any way communicate displeasure over something like the above example. He spent his time thanking people and expressing gratitude to them for the work they had done. At such dinners, he often wandered through the kitchen complimenting people and thanking each person for their service.

Graciousness is reserved for people who recognize 
that they are privileged to receive what they have been given. Or as Fred Craddock once said, “The final act of grace is graciousness.”  

So what is a gracious 
person?


A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise.

A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another. Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary. (Please don’t say something that humiliates another and then try to escape responsibility by saying, “I was only joking.”)

A gracious person is always thanking others. Do you go through an entire day without thanking another?

A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Someone else has something to offer.

A gracious person doesn’t try to play one-upmanship. (“That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!”)

A gracious person pays attention to people. Sometimes people come away from such conversations saying, “He made me feel like I was the most important person at that moment.”

A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate. (There is no redeeming value in emptying one’s mind of whatever fleeting thought has happened to land at the moment.)


A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others. 


A gracious person looks for the good. Maybe 
you are visiting a friend who lives in another place. Instead of 
pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are 
constantly finding things that are good. “This cafe has outstanding
 peach pie! That was delicious.” “I just love the way you have planted
 your garden. It is beautiful!”


I believe that in so many of us, there is a genuine hunger 
to experience the beauty of graciousness. After all, this is nothing
 more than grace lived out. And — that grace originates in the heart of God.


Question:

What else would you add to this list? What have you observed about gracious people?

  

Grateful People Are Refreshing

Now this was refreshing!gratitude.jpg

The other day I was in Wal-Mart. I had my three or four items and found a checkout counter with no line. The checker was a Hispanic woman in her late 30s. I asked her about her day;

“I’ve had a fantastic day!” she replied.

Then I asked her, “What happened today that would cause you to say that the day was fantastic?”

She said, “I have two jobs and the Lord does provide.”


Gratitude is refreshing.


Some of the most grateful people who I have ever met were just getting by financially. On the other hand, I have known some people who had a lot of possessions including the latest technology gadgets and yet expressed little gratitude to God or anyone else. Such people can unfortunately be stingy, self-centered, and miserly with what they have. Some of these people even seem to resent being asked to give to the needy. Ingratitude has a way of shrinking the heart.

Some examples:

  • The man whose idea of tipping at a restaurant is to leave as little as possible.
  • The woman whose good friends treated her to a birthday party. She complained afterward that no one gave her the present that she really wanted.
  • The man who is aware of needed work in his home and then manipulates his wife into doing it.
  • The couple who took expensive vacations and yet could be stingy when it came to giving to the poor.

There is something refreshing about gratitude. I really think that grateful people are often gracious people. They are not tight, stingy, and self-centerd. No, gracious people have a way at looking out for the best interest of others.

Some years ago, I became very intentional about paying attention to gracious people. I have tried to learn from such people.   There is a stark difference between someone who is gracious and someone who is not. I suspect that some of this graciousness is rooted in that person’s sense of gratitude.


Conclusion:

Think about the people who you know who are gracious and those who are not gracious. What characterizes these people?


The Importance of a Thank You

Today, I heard a “Thank you.”

The gentleman who said these words did so as a weekend of training for our small group leaders came to a close. He thanked the speaker, the leaders of our small group ministry, and all of the life group leaders. I really appreciated what he said. Expressing gratitude to these people was important–very important.

Far too often men and women serve in a variety of ways only to hear nothing. Absolutely nothing!

They serve and serve and the response is…gratitude.jpg

…Silence.

Or, they may hear something like this: “Uh the next time we have a seminar, let’s do this instead of that.”

Really?

No thank you. No gratitude. Now the guy is going to make suggestions to these people when he has not even thanked them for what they did?

I suspect that a “thank you” is long over due for some people.


Question:

Can you think of people in your world who really need to hear a word of gratitude from you? Name a few people who really need to hear this.

The Apology

I used to drive a UPS (United Parcel Service) truck. dallas.jpg

Really.

This was the job I had when I one day received an apology.

I had been working for UPS during college. I was a student at the University of North Texas I worked at the Dallas location in the evenings, loading and unloading trucks. Each day, I drove from Denton to Dallas and then back again. I usually got home about midnight.

I was a business major with an emphasis in management. As graduation came nearer, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life. However, I worked hard at my job and received some degree of satisfaction from it. I was offered the opportunity to work full-time with UPS. It was an opportunity to get into management with them but meant that I must first drive a UPS delivery truck. So after graduation, I delivered packages each day to downtown office buildings in Dallas. Most of my days were spent in high rise buildings going in and out of offices. Then in the afternoons, I would return to about a dozen different businesses and pick up packages that were being mailed out that day.

On a given day, I might deliver to a restaurant, a drafting supply company, a uniform company, a jewelry store, a sporting goods store, a convenience store, a large hotel, a library, a movie distribution company, etc.   Each day, I interacted with many, many people.

I learned to respect the people who quietly went about their work. For example, I regularly delivered to two older English ladies who owned a small travel company. They seemed excited when I came into their office. After handing them their packages, they always wanted me to have two lemon drops. These lemon drops were from England and I sensed that they felt like they were sharing a bit of their country with me.

I also came to admire the many receptionists, clerks, and administrative assistants who worked very hard in the many offices to which I delivered. I was impressed with the people who were cheerful to this non-descript UPS guy coming into their office each day.

Then one day, I made a delivery to a small cosmetic jewelry manufacturing company on the 5th floor of a smaller office building. The company was located at 500 S. Ervay, a historic building in Dallas. It was a company that I delivered to occasionally. On that particular day, I got off the elevator with three or four large packages. A clerk had obviously been instructed to get his supervisor when I arrived. The supervisor came out of his office and began yelling. Apparently, he had been waiting for many other packages and they had not arrived. He went on and on about how frustrated he was over not getting the packages that he needed.

I apologized for his inconvenience. (I really had nothing to do with his predicament but I was the physical face of UPS at that moment.) I gave him a direct telephone number and the name of a supervisor. He ignored this.

He kept yelling.
He got louder.
He became animated.
He went ballistic.

People stopped what they were doing and came over to see what was happening. It seemed like more and more people were stopping to watch.

The guy had a complete meltdown.

Finally, people who had been watching this awkward situation began to leave. I apologized again to this guy for his inconvenience and then I left.

The next day, I made another delivery at this company. This time, as soon as I stepped off the elevator, I was met by a man in a suit who said that he and another gentleman would like to visit with me in an office. I followed him down a hallway to an office. He introduced me to the president of this company and then he closed the door.

I looked at both of these men and they seemed very somber. Then the president said, “I want you to know how sorry I am at the way you were treated when you came here yesterday. This is very embarrassing. This is not the kind of company that we want to be. We will deal with Mr. Smith. There is no excuse for his behavior. That kind of behavior will not be tolerated. If you ever have any problem from anyone in my company, I wish you would let me know about it.”   

I never forgot that moment.

I was 22 years old and had little or no direction in my life. But for a moment, these two guys in the office of a small manufacturing company, communicated to me with this apology that I had value. For many years, I have been grateful for that moment.
     
Question:

Can you recall an important lesson that you learned from an earlier job? (Perhaps this is a job you had in high school, college, or beyond.) How has this particular lesson impacted you?


Thankful

thankful.jpgToday, I am thankful.

 

I am thankful to God who is the giver of everything else I am thankful for.  I’m grateful to him for the relationship that I enjoy with him.  Through it all, he has stayed with me, sustained me, prodded me, and has shown his grace in so many ways.

 

I am thankful for my wife Charlotte.  I am grateful that I can honestly say that our marriage is enjoyable.  She has loved me through years of life — and that says a lot!

 

I am thankful for two daughters, Jamie and Christine, and our son-in-law Phillip.  I am tempted at this point to tell you the many, many reasons why I am proud of them.  Perhaps what means the most to me is that I see in each of them a love for God that is real and genuine.

 

I am thankful for encouragers.  I can remember the encouraging words and actions of others from decades ago!  These moments of encouragement are stored away in the safety deposit box of my mind.

 

I am thankful for sweet moments in which someone has taken the time to call, write a note, or in some way express care.  What a nice moment when someone has initiated in some way: "Hey you are on my radar screen today!"  (By the way, this happens so frequently on this blog.)

 

I am thankful for the smell of hot coffee, the taste of cinnamon, and the sound of children laughing.  What else?   Dark chocolate.  Guacamole.  The smell of anything on the grill.    

 

I am thankful for anticipation.  How I love those moments just before one of my daughters comes home.  Many, many times I have looked through our kitchen window waiting to see them drive down our street toward home.  Finally, I see that familiar car and I hurry outside to greet her.

 

I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  It is a yearly reminder that I have so many reasons to be grateful to God.   

*****

These reflections were written in response to an invitation by L. L. Barkat

 

You are cordially invited by L. L. Barkat to join a Thanksgiving Celebration
Just post about a Thanksgiving memory, something you are thankful for
this year, a special family Thanksgiving tradition, your favorite
"thanksgiving" Bible verse, or anything else you can dream up.

Be
serious, spiritual, creative, beautiful, humorous, whatever … it’s a
celebration and good celebrations welcome all kinds of expression!

Grateful Today

coffee_cup.jpg

I am grateful today. 

 
I am grateful as I pay attention to what I can see God doing around me.  I am grateful as I see what God is doing in the midst of people I love and value — people who are in the middle of my life.  I am grateful not because everything is wonderful in my life.  I am grateful because I often get a front row seat as I witness person after person being used by God to encourage another.

 
Our younger daughter returned from Scotland on Thursday of last week.  She told stories of the graciousness and kindness of the good family she was with.  I am very grateful to them.

 
Our older daughter and her husband are a part of such a good church in Franklin, Tennessee.  She regularly tells stories of men and women who encourage them.  I am grateful.

 
My cousin Lynette is caring for my second cousin in Memphis as she is under hospice care.  I am grateful to Lynette for her care and ministry.

 
Last weekend, wonderful people from our church helped put together a special gathering for our church that took place late Sunday afternoon in our Community Center.  John, Joann, Donnis, Tom, Billy, Brian, Lane, Randal, Kevin and Michelle, Jack, Joy, Bage, a host of volunteers from our life group, and thirty-three "table coordinators" who helped with each table where people were sitting were among those who served in special ways.  I am grateful for these people. 

 
In my e-mail inbox are seven encouraging e-mails expressing gratitude and joy regarding that same event.  (We called this "Family at the Table.")  I am grateful to these people for expressing their own gratitude. 

 
A great guy wrote me such a meaningful note on Sunday afternoon regarding the message that morning.  I am so grateful for his encouragement.

 
On Sunday, I watched as one of the elders in our church talked with several people in our church.  I could tell, even at a distance, that he was encouraging people.  He was smiling and laughing and seemed full of joy.   Earlier in the day, he prayed with me and another one of our ministers about the day’s events.  I am grateful for this man (and so many other encouragers like him).

 
Today, I will meet with nine wonderful church leaders representing a number of congregations for a time of prayer, discussion, and encouragement.  I am grateful for these friends and encouragers.

 
I like this wonderful line, spoken by David, in I Chronicles 16:34:  "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."

 
As I begin this new day, I want to remember to be grateful to God for his good gifts.  I pray that I might pay attention to the sweet, wonderful moments that God provides each day.  I pray that I will not get wrapped up in anything unwholesome, anything discouraging, or anything that in some way might cause me to miss what God is doing all around me.

 
Now I suspect that, like me, you have much to be grateful for as well.  So, what are you grateful for today?