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.

musings on a Friday…

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Philippians, especially chapter 4. It starts with verse 10 – Paul’s thankfulness that the Philippian church is financially & materially contributing to his care & well-being while he is in prison. What really catches my attention are verses 11 & 12 – where he says that he has ‘learned’ to be content in ‘any & every situation.’ Having everything & nothing. In times of feasting & famine, support & opposition. Learned contentment.

Which gets me thinking about some ‘opponents’ of contentment… ungratefulness. Complaining. Negativity. Critical-ness. A bad case of the “if only’s,” which signify that the only thing between me & contentment is a change in circumstances, environment, etc. (BTW: What are the “if only’s” that mess with you?)

Being content is a choice I make to be thankful for God’s provision, protection, & care. It’s recognizing that I’m responsible for me, my choices, attitudes, & responses. To not look to stuff, other people, places to ‘make’ me content. To not place blame for the unrest, storm, & dryness in my own heart, soul, & relationships on someone or something else. To really live out verse 13 – “I can do all things through Him Who gives me the strength;” meaning that there’s nothing, no one, no circumstance that can take my contentment… because my contentment is resting on the person & provision of Christ.

Wednesday night was Man Night @ Dr. G’s. We had a BBQ & 3 guys, brew-meisters if you will, gave us a lesson in the home-brewing process, from the boiling & mixing of the ingredients, to the filtration of the brew, to bottling. Truly inspiring.

My favorite part was the ‘art’ of the brewing of beer, which emerged as all 3 of the brew-meisters gave a list of their “beer making absolutes” – most of which they disagreed on. Meaning that someone like me could perhaps one day make beer. I’m thinking September-ish.

For the last 3 years, I’ve been attempting to get a DVR through DirecTV, which shouldn’t be that difficult. Except we need a 2nd line run from our dish to a place on the other side of our house (long story.) And the said 2nd line can’t be run. Can’t. Which we established with DirecTV 3 years ago. Which meant that in order to DVR, we had to get a side contract with TiVo. Which strangely only needs 1 line to use. But I digress.

The word in customer service, however, was that they could get around this need for the 2nd line with Advanced Technology. So last week, I confirmed with said customer service that I could, for free, get a DVR through DirecTV. Made the appointment for today, Friday, & waited for the tech.

Tim the Tech arrived within the convenient 4 hour window that he’d promised. I met him at the door & gave him a run-down of our history with DirecTV & told him I wanted to get all the info out there before he got started working. Annnnddd…

It turns out that in order to get a DVR through DirecTV, the dreaded 2nd line is still necessary. Drat. So the appointment had to be canceled.

Except… I got the ‘cancellation call’ from DirecTV customer service… & the person I talked to confirmed the cancellation, & then informed me that there actually WAS some Advanced Technology that would allow us to upgrade for free & to have a DVR. Better than that, the monthly cost would increase by only $7. Nice.

Sounded promising, so he connected me with the Scheduling Wing of DirecTV Customer Service. Who told me that one of the required units was free, but the other required equipment came to a total of $200. Which is more than free. Didn’t do it. Exploring other options, like U-verse. We shall see.

But I’m still content.

Came across an poll/article that discovered that 40% of American evangelical leaders “socially drink alcohol.” (The National Association of Evangelicals defines an evangelical as ‘one who takes the Bible seriously and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.’

Nothing really surprising in the poll/article – though one quote jumped out at me:

“While we understand one cannot defend abstinence from alcohol biblically, we have chosen to raise the standard for leadership in our movement,” said Jeff Farmer of Open Bible Churches.

Which begged the question: Raise the standard for leadership above WHAT?
ANSWER: The Bible.

And just when you thought every iPhone app you could think of was already in the App Store, there is now a free vuvuzela application. Which I have downloaded. And while I’m watching the World Cup, I’m playing the vuvuzela to my hearts content. Ahh.

wandering in Ecclesiastes on a slippery Tuesday…

Took theWeez to school this morning & slipped & slid all over the road, which had been deceptively hiding its icy-ness from me, causing me to think all was good, right, & safe in the world of driving this a.m. Thankful for AWD Subaru, & for no one in my way when the ‘slipperies’ attacked my tires. Goodness. Tricksy road.

Home again, looking at my 18 year old son this morning, watching him wrestle with the weight of the day – preparing to go to school while not feeling up to par… but pushing through just the same. For some reason, it inspired me to ponder the “meaning of life” stuff… which of course ends up sooner or later in Ecclesiastes. Read through. Tried to pretend it was my first time through it, to read & receive it fresh. Without the years of familiarity coloring the words, categorizing the ‘writings’ as that “bitter & negative” book in the Old Testament that says life sucks & most of it is a waste of time, energy, & resource.

And so I prayed for new eyes. And read. And noted what stood out to me.

The writer, “The Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem,” writes that “everything is vanity.” Some translations say, “everything is meaningless.”

And by everything, he means EVERYTHING. And then he tells us about it, as though we are supposed to learn from him & his experience, his attempts to find something, anything of substance in the world that we live in.

So he sought after wisdom & knowledge, only to observe:

For in much wisdom, there is vexation, & those who increase knowledge, increase sorrow. 1:18

Then he pursued pleasure & the accumulation of stuff.

Whatever my eyes desired, I didn’t not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, & this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done & the toil I had spent in doing it, & again, all was vanity, & a chasing after wind, & there was nothing to be gained under the sun… the lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth with gain. This also is vanity. 2:10,11 & 5:10

Makes me think of different things that people live for, focus upon, chase, even. Education. Wealth. Status (or even the appearance of it.) A title (or 10.) The perception of respect. Entertainment. Pleasure. Accumulation of stuff. .

Might be just that I’m feeling incredibly rich these days, the George Bailey, “no man is a failure who has friends,” kind of rich. Watching some crashing & burning of people who’ve been living the Ecclesiastes-life… looking for something MORE than they have, pursuing it as hard & fast as they can… finding vanity. Emptiness. Discontent. Pain.

Makes me want to wrap both hands around contentedness. Thankfulness. Check, & double-check to make sure that I’m chasing, looking, & paying attention to the important stuff – the stuff that lasts.

Knowing Christ. Deep & real relationships with the people in my life.

Not comparing myself to others – what they have accomplished. The stuff they have. Or bemoaning difficult, negative, or confusing life circumstances.

Embracing a life-focus & life-investment that is worth every penny.

Last week in LA, we opened our meetings with worship. Simple, 1 guitar & 1 keyboard, with familiar songs. One of them, a blast from 1980, was O Lord, You’re Beautiful from Keith Green. I’ve been singing it over & over, as a prayer… which is how I think it was written.

Thanks Keith.

Rain goes with coffee.

So say we all.