Nobody owes me anything…

January 2006, I was in Los Angeles with theMoses & brother for a the National Foursquare Youth Leadership conference. One of the plenary speakers is my now District Supervisor, Ron Pinkston. Something he said that morning has stuck with me to this day, & I repeat it to myself daily.

Nobody owes me anything.

When he first said it, I smirked, & my internal response was, “That sounds good… &, even better, I don’t owe anybody anything…”

That thought was still on the tip of my brain (you know what I mean; it was still bouncing around, being pondered & whatnot,) when he said, “And don’t go thinking that you ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’ is the same thing as ‘Nobody owes me anything.’ Cause its not. I don’t owe anybody anything is selfish. It’s petty. It numbs us to our personal responsibility to love one another, actively. To do to others as you would have them do to you…”

I was floored.

You know the times when someone is talking & it seems like they are talking just to you? That the subject matter & the things that they’re saying specifically address you, where you’re living, right on the dot? This was like that. Except stronger.

My heart was in my throat & it raced 100 miles an hour.

I. Was. Convicted.

The rest of the speech is like a dream in my memory; I remember bits & pieces vividly, other details not so much. What I do know is that the whole time Ron talked, I was consumed in an inner-dialogue with the Holy Spirit.

It felt a lot like Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” (the George C. Scott version of course,) where the ghost of Christmas Past, Present, & Future view scenes from Ebenezer Scrooge’s life, & let him be an observer to himself & to the people in his life.

Unbeknownst to me (or at least successfully ignored by me for a time,) a virtual bastion of thoughts, strong beliefs, & feelings that I was OWED something by others had born ‘fruit’ in & through my life.

Anger. Resentment. Entitlement. Bitterness. Offense. Pessimism. Negativity. Biting sarcasm. An inability to enjoy people, relationships, & situations that SHOULD’ve been enjoyed.

Some fruit.

I saw:

  • A wife & family that OBVIOUSLY didn’t appreciate all that I did – from working hard to provide for them, working around the house, personally going without so that they could play a sport or purchase a ‘want.’ I was OWED at least a regular diet of “Thank you’s.”
  • Countless times where others, especially those closest to me, should have known what I was thinking, feeling, hoping for, only to let me down. I was OWED more consideration.
  • ‘Friends’ who hadn’t reached out, hadn’t called, hadn’t sought me out, hadn’t done ANYTHING, when it was OBVIOUS that I was hurting – I was OWED more attention from them.
  • Times where I found out that my friends had gotten together to do something fun, & that I wasn’t invited – I was OWED an invitation.
  • People that had left the church without a word, a note, or an email – people I had loved, cared for, wept with, & invested in – I was OWED more than silence.
  • Being overlooked for a series of special assignments within our church family – that I was BEST qualified for, & didn’t even get ASKED about. I was OWED more.
  • Disappointment at unmet hopes, dreams, & expectations, even feeling let down by some as though they should have been a part of making MY hopes, dreams, & expectations a reality. I was OWED that.

You get the picture.

A really bad part  of the ‘fruit’ of my entitlement was the collateral damage  it had caused to other people through my example, my frequent ‘sharing’ of my feelings (complaining? gossiping?,) thereby influencing them towards the ‘dark side’ of cynicism, negativity, & self-focusedness.

I saw that I’d given away, neglected really, the responsibility for myself. My feelings of peace, happiness, &  joy. My contentment.

People had to walk on eggshells around me, not knowing what to expect… Because the very worst part of feeling like I was OWED, was that I didn’t express my feelings or thoughts to the people I was feeling OWED BY.  In retrospect, it feels silly to me to look back; embarrassing even.

This last week I ‘tweeted’ that I’d be writing a blog on this topic – my friend Tim wrote me giving his take on it & I want to share it with you…

I just saw your twitter post. Wanted to chime in.

Nobody owes me anything. I started to try to intentionally live this way a few years back. There are many great results, but one of the most unexpected ones was this: I am more confident in my communication of who I am and more bold about what I would like.

It’s like this: As long as I felt like people did owe me stuff, I’d either:

1. Sit around and expect that they would know what they owed me and wait for it to come, or
2. Speak out the things I felt I was owed and have emotional turmoil about the potential response.

Now, I can freely talk about who I am and even the things I’d like to see without putting a visible or invisible expectation on anyone else to actually give it to me…

Nobody owes me anything” allows for a kind of detachment that allows me to fully express my heart, because I don’t believe my heart must be confirmed by anyone else. If it is, great. If it isn’t, it does not diminish who I am or the dreams I have.

Nicely put.

Bottom line, I know that what I have learned & am learning can be redeemed, & maybe someone, somewhere can learn from me & what I’ve gone through, instead of having to choose the ‘way of pain.’ That’s my hope.

Nobody. Owes. Me. Anything.

I’m sailing! I’m sailing! I sail…

NOTE & DISCLAIMER: I’m not sailing. Haven’t sailed. Don’t have any plans to sail. Not against it. Just wanted to share a What About Bob?! moment I had this weekend.

Last Saturday, I finished my 40th birthday celebration. I do realize that the date was February 13th, & that it was almost a full 5 months since my ‘real’ September 19th birthday… but a couple of scheduling conflicts kept the final celebration from taking place; most notably, Petey’s 6-week National Guard deployment to an unnamed location in the Middle-East.

See, as a part of the inevitable ‘taking stock of life’ that my birthday always brings me, I decided that there were a couple of things that I would like to change – habits, patterns, ways of living. (When I was getting ready to turn 25, I read a statistic that said something to the effect that a person develops most of the habits & skills they will have by the time they hit 25. So, I decided that I needed to learn to play guitar. And I did.)

One of the things I decided to change this year involved a decision I’d made about a particular food that I had chosen not to partake of since a rather negative experience from 22 years ago. Sushi. I had it once, & I didn’t like it one bit.

I decided I’d try it again.

I’ve never been a fish or seafood guy. Don’t exactly know why, other than the smell of fish & fishy-ness sets me off. A fish market is the worst. (Actually, any really strong smell has the potential to do that. Fish. Chemical-ly & flowery perfumes. Floral ‘plug-ins’ that are supposed to make the air smell better. Most air-fresheners. Except for the new Febreze that is like the ‘clothes fresh out of the dryer smell…’ But I digress.)

Growing up, my family ate fish. Trout. Shrimp. Crab. Salmon. Halibut. You get the picture. I didn’t. I can remember trying a few of them, & feeling the repulsion, revulsion, the nose-wrinkling displeasure of EWWW!

I’ve heard from plenty of people that I just needed to try “fill-in-the-blank” seafood, prepared in the “fill-in-the-blank” way, & that I would be a convert. I tried a few. Always ended with EWWW!

My friends Petey & Debi kept encouraging me to try sushi again. Not just any sushi, but sushi prepared by Iron Chef Heif: Chris Heifner. My friend Chris is an artist in the truest sense of the word – amazing musician. Worship leader. Painter. Writer. And sushi chef.

And so, the combination of their gentle encouragement, Iron Chef Heif’s skill, & a willingness/desire to change created the perfect storm: a 40th birthday sushi celebration where I would once again give sushi a chance.

It happened Saturday, around our counter, in the company of a few friends, good music (theBean’s 40’s swing/big-band faves,) some Sapporo (as a shout-out to the real sushi-masters,) & a healthy appetite.

I don’t really know what I ate, other than I ate at least one part (portion? slicing? proper terminology would be helpful,) from every roll that Iron Chef Heif made.

My reflections:

    -I don’t like fish eggs. “Caviar.” Big or small. Black, brown, or pink. But I ate it. Salty. Like tasting a fishy part of the ocean.

    -Spicy is better. Jalapenos, wasabe, & the hot red sauce (don’t recall what it was,) were very much enjoyed & appreciated.

    -Soy sauce. The more the better.

    -Enough is enough. The pace of the eating, balanced by the time necessary for the preparation allowed me to know I was feeling full before I’d reached the proverbial “Super-Bowl” or Thanksgiving full-ness. Which probably made the whole experience more enjoyable, in that I didn’t have the “I can’t believe I ate so much” regrets. Other than the little fish-egg leftovers I was picking out of my teeth for at least 3 hours after.

I’ve been asked if I liked the sushi. It was good. Different. Don’t really have anything currently in my world to compare it to. Not a negative experience. Just don’t know.

But I’ll let you know if I end up craving it.

So… Thank you Chris, for your hard work & artistic preparation. And Pete-Debi, for your encouragement. And friends for celebrating with me.

Did you know what’s happening? I’m growing.

Purposing to Grow…

Watching college football on New Year’s Day is one of my favorite things. The full slate of Bowl Games provides a comforting & familiar backdrop for thinking, pondering, & musing – which, along with brown paper bags, wrapped up with string – are a few of my favorite things.

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution maker. I don’t want to make a bold declaration, only to not follow through… I’m NOT a judger of those that do make them; I’d just prefer that my life & how I live speak for itself… instead of just words…

The older I get, the more I am recognizing the ever-growing ease of resting in my own wants, likes, & preferences… & a propensity, a pull to settle in to the path of least resistance. Even if it’s not good for my long-term hopes & dreams.

I see that my good intentions & resolve to change, to grow, to be different melt away as soon as the smallest bit of relief comes. Like how the desire, purpose, & intent to diet & take off a few pounds/inches fades away in the amount of time necessary to change from a pair of tight jeans into stretchy warm-ups…

Wish I could say that that ISN’T true of me. That I have got the whole self-control & life discipline thing-y conquered. But I don’t. And therefore, I want to purpose to grow. I want to live on purpose, with intention & determination. To honor God, & ever be growing into His plans for me instead of shrinking from situations that are demanding, difficult, & challenging.

And so I purpose to grow:

    -to think & speak positively & hopefully
    -to spend more time with my wife doing her favorite things
    -to get to know my kids better. In 5 days, I will officially have teenagers (18, 15, 13.) This fact means we are entering a NEW LIFE STAGE – which means I better get to know them, & let them know me in the middle of the new-ness.
    -to continue my quest to be a lifelong learner, regularly & consistently stretching to know God & to be known. To grow in faith, & to read, study, research, dig, & wrestle.
    -to study, speak, & understand German
    -to see an increase in self-control & time management
    -to write
    -to live well, embracing life in its fullness – cause it’s not just going to happen by hoping for it.

When I look back at what I’ve written, I think that maybe someone would see this as a New Year’s Resolution list, & for a lot of reasons (pride being number 1) I guess I could be inclined to try & wordsmith an explanation or 10 of WHY this ISN’T one of Those Lists because I’m not one of Those People. But that would be silly, because really, how others perceive me & think of me can’t be paramount. Can’t. And won’t.

I’m purposing to grow.