Tag Archives: Considerate

I’m an Epic Fail at Gift Giving

If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven, it is to consist of the finest flour: either thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in or thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil.
Leviticus 2:4 (NRSV)

I have a confession to make. I am generally an epic failure when it comes to gift giving. In fact, forget the “generally” and just call it epic fail. The procuring and giving of gifts doesn’t come naturally like it does for others I know and love. I have to think about it. I’m forgetful about special days. I constantly second guess myself. I agonize over what the recipient would want and enjoy. Once the gift is given I am insecure about the gift I gave and agonize over whether I should have given something else.

The truth of the matter is that my agony over gift giving is, in part, because it points to a core self-centeredness in my soul. It feels like an inability to know and love others better than I love myself. I hate that. I need help.

In today’s chapter, God’s ancient rules state that a blood sacrifice should be accompanied with a gift. The grain offering was basically a loaf of bread made with the finest ingredients. It required that the giver remember, think, set aside time, prepare the gift by making and baking it, then bring it to God at the altar. The blood sacrifice was about atonement, the grain offering was about gratitude.

For forty years the nation of Israel wandered around the wilderness in search of the promised land. Each night God sent a gift known as Manna. It arrived with the dew each morning. It was bread from heaven and it sustained them in the long march.

Now God says, “if you want to say thank you, make me a nice loaf of bread.” It tells me that you remember the manna. It says to me that you appreciated my gift and were grateful. It is consider-ate. I appreciate the thought. I value the sacrifice of time and effort you took to think of me in this way. It’s a tangible expression of your love.”

This morning I’m feeling, once again, repentant. I’d like to think that I’ve made progress in this spiritual journey. I know I have. Nevertheless, God’s ancient prescription to be a good and grateful giver of gifts reminds me this morning of core changes that have yet to be made; work still in progress after all these years.

This is a reminder to me that no matter how much progress I’ve made I still need help. I still need a savior. I still need forgiveness, and mercy, and grace. And, it strikes me that this is exactly the point of God’s ancient law in the first place. The law was given to ultimately make our need perfectly clear to us. To which, God responds with a gift. You will find it wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

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For Your Consideration

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

It’s when I’m hungry and ready to eat that I seem to be most consistently inconsiderate. It’ usually about half-way into my sandwich or meal prep that Wendy looks across the island.

Wendy: “Did you get a plate out for me?”

Tom: Uh…[he stares blankly in shame at her]

It would be really easy for me to make some lame excuse about a man being driven by his stomach. The excuse conveniently pops to mind and sits waiting on my frontal lobe waiting for me make its argument. It would be inappropriate to do so. I was simply inconsiderate of what Wendy was doing in that moment, if Wendy was hungry, what Wendy planned to eat, and if Wendy might also need a plate.

Believe me, this example is just the convenient tip of the iceberg. I have plenty more patterns of inconsideration that I could reference. I am honestly ashamed at just how self-centered I am.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned being a work in progress, and I meant it. I am literally and actively working on my personal and interpersonal development on an on-going basis. One of my big goals of late has been to work on being more considerate of others, and I’ve been really focused on the word consider-ate. I’m finding that, with me, it takes discipline to proactively set aside my “want” of the moment to consider others persons, thinking about what they need, what they desire, what I can do to help them. It then takes initiative to act on it.

Today, I continue my desire to consider the needs of others ahead of my own silly whim or fleshly appetite of the moment. I’m once again taking a moment to consider the example of Jesus, who considered my spiritual need of salvation as more important than His comfortable position in heaven, and considerately came to die in my place. Please forgive my not being a better and more grateful, tangible reflection of that kind of consideration.

I’m working on it.

 

photo:  tjgehling via  Flickr

Being Watchful

people in a mall

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

Back in college I had an assignment for my Acting I class that took me to the local mall. The assignment was simply to watch people. Not just to merely look at them, but to really watch them. Acting is about creating believable characters on stage, so our assignment was to watch how real people walk. We were to observe how different people move and carry themselves. What are their quirks? How do they relate to other people.

I thought about that assignment as I read the admonition to be watchful in today’s chapter. I have found that people largely make their way through life’s journey unaware. People are neither observant nor considerate of others. I find people giving little thought to what is happening around them nor how they are engaged in what is happening.

Jesus was fond of saying, “They who have ears, let them hear.” The lesson is clear that there is a difference between merely hearing and really listening and understanding what is going on around you. We just finished going through the Book of Acts and it ended with Paul quoting the prophet Isaiah on this same subject:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.

Today, I’m thankful for my education in theatre and the life lessons it provided, such learning to be watchful, observant, and considerate of what is happening around me. I am thinking about my progressive hearing loss, how each year the whole world sounds a little bit more like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and how important it is for me to consciously listen. I’m thinking about my need to be more watchful and aware of others, their circumstances, and their needs.

Five Ways I Try to Bless My Family

IMG_7694Then all the people left, each for their own home, and David returned home to bless his family. 1 Chronicles 16:43 (NIV)

This little verse at the end of today’s chapter hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. David intentionally went home to “bless his family.” It’s a simple truth: I can be a blessing to my family, I can be a curse to my family, or I can be a non-factor. Which I will be is determined by my daily life, words, actions and decisions. I have found through experience that being a blessing to your family does not happen without intention.

I am really imperfect as a husband and father, but I do approach the roles with conscious intention and effort. Here are a five ways I consciously try to bless my family:

  • Keep my own spiritual life healthy. It starts with me. If things aren’t right in my own heart and life, I will not have the spiritual reserves to pour out to my loved ones.
  • Be considerate. This one is perhaps one that requires a lot of conscious mental effort for me. It’s as small and simple as taking a second to see if they need anything when I get up to refill my own glass. I’m a dreamer and a thinker. I get tunnel vision very easily, get lost in my own world, and forget to think about anyone else. I’ve learned that being a blessing to my family requires me to constantly and consciously cut through the fog of my own self-centric thoughts to consider, in the moment, what my family member needs and wants.
  • Speak words of love, gratitude and affirmation. Along the way I have come to realize just how important it is that my family hear me actually say what I feel and mean. How simple is it to say a few little words that go a long way:
    • I love you.
    • You look good. That looks good on you. You look beautiful
    • Well done.
    • Good job. I’m proud of you.
    • Thank you for _________ (dinner, doing the laundry, taking good care of me)
  • Serve them with a willing heart. One of the customer service skills that I’ve taught for years is an “ownership statement.” It’s one thing to do what the customer asks, but it makes an even stronger impression on the customer when you say, “Absolutely! I can do that for you.” I’ve always tried to make it a point with my family when asked to do something to respond “I’d be happy to do that for you.” Serving my loved ones is not a burden, it’s a blessing.
  • Send postcards. When I was in college and away from home for the first time, I learned the utter joy that comes with going to your mail box and finding a personal letter or postcard from a friend or family member. Realizing that my friend or loved one had taken the time to write a personal note, find my address, put a stamp on it and put it in the mail to me, that postcard became a tangible symbol of love. Now that the girls are grown and out on their own, I still try to send the occasional hand written postcard or personal note via snail mail. E-mail is easy, but a postcard is a little blessing.

Learning to Please

Celebrating Wendy's Birthday with the VLs at the Lyric Opera
Celebrating Wendy’s Birthday with the VLs at the Lyric Opera

…and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 (NIV)

In many ways, Wendy and I are the epitome of the adage “opposites attract.” Several months ago, prompted by Taylor, our entire family took the Enneagram personality test on-line. Since that time we’ve often found ourselves in family conversations about how we are alike and how we are different. According to the test (and validated by loved ones) I am a #4 (Individualist) and Wendy is a #8 (Challenger).

While visiting a few weeks ago Taylor mentioned that someone had told her that 4s and 8s “should never get married” to which Taylor laughed thinking of Wendy and me. The truth is, there are challenges with almost any mixture of people and personality types. Part of being married is learning where there are gaps of communication, expectation and choosing to meet the other where they are at.

The first year of marriage, I made the mistake of being thought-less and inconsiderate about Wendy’s birthday. In my family, birthdays are never a big deal – but I’ve learned with my wife and with my friends that others view birthdays as a much bigger deal than I do. I’ve had to regularly retrain my thinking to realize how important it is for others in my life. I’ve learned that it pleases Wendy when I’m prepared for the birthday-Christmas-wedding anniversary trifecta that descends on us every December 21-31.

I was struck this morning by the little verse (above) that’s crammed into a chapter filled with meaty teaching about life and relationships. Having been reminded of my need to be more considerate of what pleases other key relationships in my life, I am now reminded to apply the same principle to God. How often am I thoughtless and inconsiderate of what pleases God? If I am motivated to change my thought patterns and behaviors in a way that shows love in a way pleasing to my wife and friends, wouldn’t I also be willing to learn what pleases my Creator?

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