Holiness Stems From Thankfulness

Still very busy, but I’ve just read some great food for thought—HOLINESS STEMS FROM THANKFULNESS.

This one’s actually from Spurgeon. He says that we strive to live lives that please God because we are thankful for His love, mercy, and grace. Any attempt to live a holy life that pleases God, that is not an outflowing of our thanksgiving to Him, will be short-lived and will surely fail.

Hmm…good meat to chew on…

Have a blessed day. May it be full of reasons to give thanks to God

Meditations on my Finger

Well, my finger’s OK now, though it really had me worried Saturday, the night of the accident (my original post on the accident is at How Long, O Lord?). Portions of the skin had turned blue and numb.

So on Sunday I went to St. Luke’s Medical Center to have it checked. They gave me a hand x-ray and a complete blood count (CBC). Finally, the doctors said I was OK, there were no fractures, and I had no infection. They said the discoloration and numbness were just normal for the type of injury I had sustained. Thank God!

Still, perhaps morbidly, I got to wondering: what if I HAD lost my finger?

This accident had driven home to me the folly of taking things for granted: my fingers, hands, tongue, and eyes; my legs, my short-term memory, my health, my life. I go merrily through life frittering away time at trivial pursuits. I squander opportunities, procrastinating and putting off the more important in favor of the “urgent”, the comfortable, and “the usual”. All without realizing that, if I lost just one finger, or my hand, or my sight, or my short-term memory, then the chances of my accomplishing the things that are really important would be severly diminished, maybe even be lost forever.

Jesus said, “We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over.”*. He was of course referring to working for the spread of the Kingdom of God. But I believe the command can also be applied to working at one’s life mission, working at the relationships that are really important to you, so that when something happens and you cannot work on those things anymore, there will be no regrets.

My ambition now is to be like St. Paul. When he knew that he was about to be executed, he was able to say “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race”**. No regrets for wasted opportunities. No remorse for unforgiven sins. No wasted time.

My dear, dear wife recently received this email from a friend***:

TWO GLASSES OF TEA

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of tea…

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. 

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two glasses of tea from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.”

The pebbles are the other things that matter; like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there will be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Take care of the things that really matter****.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the tea represented.

The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of glasses of tea***** with a friend.”
 

* From John 9:4 (The Message)
** From 2 Timothy 4:7 (Revised Standard Version)
*** The source of the email did not say who was the original source of this story. If anyone knows, please tell me so that I can attribute it properly. Thanks!
**** I would include here feeding one’s spirit and developing Christian hedonism.
***** Personally, I would much prefer mugs of coffee, but hey, that’s just me 🙂

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What Would Jesus Buy?

It’s Thanksgiving! It’s Christmas! Time to get alone in a room and meditate on the spirit of the season, time to think seriously about…shopping!

Just in time to call us away from the gods of consumerism, comes Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. Christianity Today quotes him: “The Shopocalypse is coming! Who will be $aved? Let me exorcise your credit cards! Changellujuah!”

Rev. Billy is featured in the new documentary What Would Jesus Buy?. It’s directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock, the same guy behind Super Size Me. It’s based on VanAlkemade’s earlier documentary, Preacher With an Unknown God, which won an honorable mention award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. CToday says:

“The film…takes a unique look at the epidemic of over-consumption in America, most egregiously evident during the Christmas shopping season—which begins in earnest next week. Reverend Billy and his “Church of Stop Shopping” are on a mission to apply the WWJD ethos to our shopping habits—forcing audiences to consider the implications (for themselves and for the world) of what they consume.”

Rev. Billy is the first to claim that he’s not a Christian. He says he grew up Dutch Reformed but abandoned the faith as a teenager. His real name is Bill Talen. And, of course, he’s not an ordained minister.

But renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann considers him a a modern-day prophet. He says “I have no doubt that Rev. Billy is a faithful prophetic figure who stands in direct continuity with ancient prophets in Israel and in continuity with the great prophetic figures of U.S. history who have incessantly called our society back to its core human passions of justice and compassion”.

Dr. Brueggemann says that Rev. Billy has four marks of a prophet:

1) He employs a dramatic “performer” style to call attention to his message. “That style of the prophetic… consists in parody that teases and makes fun of both corporate seductions and the long list of consumers who sign on for lattes and much else“.

2) Rev. Billy uses an identifiable rhetoric. In his case, he uses rhetoric and conduct which are usually found in a church setting, particularly in crusades and campaigns. Use of rhetoric stems from the need to stand apart from, in fact, to be easily identified as opposing, a dominant ideology of the prophet’s time, in Rev. Billy’s case the “totalizing consumer ideology”.

3) His pronouncements are context-specific and appeals to a specific constituency.

4) And, most important of the four characteristics, Brueggemann claims that Rev. Billy proclaims a truth “rooted in God and enacted in society”. Doc Walt says:

“The divine judgment Rev. Billy pronounces concerns a condemnation of religion that has been “hijacked” by the right wing, the resignation that we have “nothing to love but fear itself,” and the self-deceptive illusion that commodities can make us safe and happy. The shopping he assaults is seen to be an ideological practice whereby we keep “the demons in the zoo.” All of that will come to a sorry end for which he uses the term “shopocalypse,” a play on “apocalypse,” that imagined end of the world in a divine judgment as a great conflagration. Like every good poet, Billy has no interest in when or how that may happen, but only a conviction that this ideology that drives our society can only end in failure and raw disappointment.

But prophetic practice is not finally about judgment. It is about hope. Hope for Rev. Billy is the deep conviction that there is a viable, choosable alternative to shopping that will make possible a human community of neighborliness, peace, and justice”.

In this season of giving thanks and remembering the incarnation of the Savior of the world, maybe it might indeed be a good time to pause and think…what would Jesus buy?

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Related posts:

This is OBSCENE!

The Simple Life 

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Note:
Just found out today (Dec. 11 ’07) that the writer of the Christianity Today article has his own blog, also here at WordPress!. Cool!

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This is OBSCENE!

Obscene AND stomach-turning!

It’s incredible that people actually spend time and resources coming up with $1000 bagels and, now, a Guinness-record-setting $25,000 sundae!

This, in a world where 19.7 percent of the population of Europe and Central Asia, 24.5 percent of the population of Latin America, and 31.1 percent of the population in South Asia, live on $2 or less per day!

And where, in the Philippines, an 11-year old girl has committed suicide because of poverty!

 Mariannet (L) committed suicide because of poverty

Mariannet (L) committed suicide because of poverty 

(Here’s a Philippine newspaper’s account)
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The Bible gives a chilling warning:

Woe to you who are rushing headlong to disaster!
   Catastrophe is just around the corner!
Woe to those who live in luxury
   and expect everyone else to serve them!
Woe to those who live only for today,
   indifferent to the fate of others!
Woe to the playboys, the playgirls,
   who think life is a party held just for them!
Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain!
   those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles!
They could not care less
   about their country going to ruin.

Amos 6:3-4 (The Message)
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Update  as of February 7, 2008: I’ve just discovered that the video of the obscene dessert is no longer available from YouTube. However, you can still view the obscenity at this Reuters News page:
http://uk.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=70447

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Related posts:

What Would Jesus Buy?

The Simple Life

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The Simple Life

Now that the iPhone has been chosen by Time magazine as the best invention of the year, expect more pressure to own this or something similar, which competes as the latest, coolest product of human ingenuity. Ads already bombard us daily with enticements to buy the latest, neatest, coolest gadgets. We can certainly expect much more this Christmas season. 

Ads also allure us to go out to that place where the family will have endless fun and unbelievable bonding while eating burgers and fries (or fried chicken!). But of course that’s so pedestrian. “In” people hang out at Starbucks or Figaro’s or UCC, or wherever else they sell overpriced coffee with fancy names. “In” people will pay four to five times the amount for coffee which they can get elsewhere, to be seen at these places—and thereby impress the officemates they detest.

And even in the Philippines, where unemployment is 7.8 % and the official average family income is 3,440 US dollars per year, there are TV shows dedicated to showing viewers how to enjoy “the good life”, with guides to spas and reviews of various products for pampering oneself. 

But for now, the gotta-have-it status symbol is probably the iPhone, which is still not supposed to be sold nor usable in the Philippines. But, hey, hacking it (and not destroying it in the process) just adds to the status of owning it. But for those who really want to flaunt that they have “arrived”, the thing to own is the Hummer, which should be usable in about 1/10 of 1/10th percent of Metro Manila’s wide and traffic-free (NOT!) roads*.

The cost of four to five posings at Starbucks can feed an orphan or homeless child for a month. Here’s something to think about: what if we were content to hang out at places with less status, or to buy the cellphone model which may not have all the latest bells and whistles, but is enough to meet our needs?

This is not to say that people don’t really need the top-of-the-line cellphone models or the iPhone. I agree that, depending on the situation, job, context, etc., there are people who would really benefit from such advanced technology and where the benefits and actual usage of features would justify the cost. But what if, as a general rule, we refuse the temptation to buy much more than we really need and instead consistently, deliberately settle for what is best suited to our actual needs and context—and then we give the difference to a favorite charity, church, ministry, school, foundation, etc.? What if Filipinos did not buy Hummers or some such vehicles which are so obscene in the context of the grinding poverty of the majority of their countrymen?

Maybe less people would be hungry, homeless, or suicidally or homicidally desperate, if only those who already have more than enough would say, “Yes, we have enough”.

Here’s a “radical” “omg” idea. How about abstaining from purchases of new gadgets or clothes, or going to the movies or eating out, for a month? Challenge—can we do it for two months? For three months? Six months? For ONE YEAR??? (Wow, omg!) The money we don’t spend we can then share with the less financially blessed. What do you think will happen?

Here’s an excellent, excellent post on giving LESS a chance…
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/living_with_les.html

I suspect that this type of fasting—from consumerism—would be very good for the soul. Indeed, simple is beautiful!

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(*From my surfings, I gather that, aside from the iPhone, the current obsession in the West among those who love to keep up with the Joneses is high-definition TV. Wait til that becomes available here 😉 .)
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Related posts:

What Would Jesus Buy?

This is OBSCENE!

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