Tag Archives: Needs

The Path to Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

Our friend Tony Harris published a book this past year entitled FADS Marketing. Tony is an expert marketer and his book is a fascinating insider’s view of the world of big marketing. The book opened my eyes to the way I am being sold a bill of goods every day with regard to food, alcohol, drugs, and sex (F.A.D.S. Get it?). If I’m blind to it and if I’m not paying attention, then I will fall for it over and over and over again. What big marketing does is take the field of my basic human appetites and then sows discontent.

Contentment is a recurring theme in Paul’s later writing. I find it interesting that it seems to have become a more important topic the further he got in his own spiritual journey. He takes a rather balanced approach. “I know what it is to have plenty,” he writes, “and I know what it’s like to be in need.” In either circumstance, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves (because it can change rapidly in ways we don’t control), we should seek to be content.

That’s hard to do if I’m blind to the fact that every advertisement and marketing ploy (and they’re all over the place) is trying to stir my appetites’ discontent until I have what they tell me I want and need.

The further I get in my life journey the more I find myself pursuing contentment. I’m not perfect at it by a long shot. I confess that. Like most paths to growth and maturity, the road to contentment often finds me repeatedly taking one step forward before falling two steps back. Looking back, however, I can see the progress. More and more the things of real value to me are relationships, conversations, laughter, time, quiet, a shared meal, life together.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself once again honestly taking inventory of my wants and also taking inventory of my haves. Along the path to contentment, I’ve discovered that if I focus myself on gratitude for, and enjoyment of, the latter then the former takes up less room in my heart and mind.

And so, I contentedly enter another day of the journey.

Earthly Entanglements and Eternal Purposes

2012 06 02 Becky & Courtneys Wedding173I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. 1 Corinthians 7:32a (NLT)

Wendy and I live in an unusual situation compared to most married couples I know. We work for the same company and we both work from home. In our spare time we both serve on the Board of Directors for our local community theatre, operate the virtual box office together out of our home, and are regularly involved in shows and productions together on stage. On Sundays, Wendy and I serve together in the visual tech ministry of our church either directing video production or serving behind a video camera. The bottom line is that with the exception of some business travel, Wendy and I are virtually around one another 24/7/365.

Today’s chapter is a virtual web of situational and circumstantial advice, suggestions, and commands surrounding marriage, singleness, and relationships. It’s a little confusing to try and sort out all that Paul is saying and still get the context in which he’s saying it. Whenever I wade into a chapter like this, I try to look for the crux of what the author is getting at. I think the sentence I pulled out from verse 32 is it. Paul’s personal preference is for people to be single like he was, and to be free from earthly concerns so they can focus on eternal matters. He personally saw it as a good thing for people to be free to follow God’s calling without the complications of earthly responsibility.

Being married, and being around your spouse all the time, it’s easy for me to relate to the point that Paul was trying to get through to the believers in Corinth. Marriage creates earthly entanglements. Perhaps this is even more clear to me because my beloved and I are around one another so much. Because of me and the girls, Wendy’s mental focus is constantly shifting from what she needs to do herself to managing the house and the needs of others in the family. She never complains (okay, she rarely complains), but there is no doubt that I am a complication to her existence. The same is true on my side of the ledger. Besides the day to day priorities of making sure I’m looking out for Wendy’s needs, being married carries added responsibility of thinking about provision, planning, and legacy. I’m not just responsible for myself but for my family and the probability that I will leave this world before them.

Marriage creates earthly entanglements. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is an honorable thing and Paul acknowledges that those who are in marriage are called to serve their spouse well. Nevertheless, one must understand that marriage carries weighty and far reaching consequences. You can’t always do the things you personally desire or perhaps to even to do things to which you feel called because your higher priority is looking out for and meeting the needs of your spouse. As a single person, Paul observed the freedom he had to serve Jesus wholeheartedly without the entanglements of marriage, and he obviously thought it a good thing to do if a person could pull it off.

This morning, I’m thinking about Wendy and me and one observation that Paul didn’t make. Sometimes two are better than one because there is a better return on their labor. I am convinced that Wendy and I together accomplish more and do a better job than either of us would alone. We compliment one another’s strengths, sharpen one another’s dull edges, and protect one another from our weaknesses and shortcomings. The marriage brings earthly entanglements, but it also brings tangible, eternal strengths to our earthly purposes.

 

Chapter-a-Day Jonah 4

god
god (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. Jonah 4:10 (NLT)

When I was a kid, I remember that talking to God generally consisted of begging for things I desperately wanted and making all sorts of bargains with God about what I would do if he delivered on my selfish pleas. Some of my most fervent begging came when my Minnesota Vikings were playing in the Super Bowl. I retreated from the family room into the adjacent furance room during commercial breaks (not sure why I did that, but I always went into the furnace room to talk to God) to beg God on the purple people eaters‘ behalf.  We all know how that worked out.

Girls, sports, and toys I wanted; When I was a child I prayed like a child, and my heart and brain held self-centric focus on childish things. Jesus said that it is out of the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks. Even my conversation with God reveals a lot about what is important to me. In today’s chapter, Jonah’s angry rant to God revealed that he was more concerned about his personal comfort and the silly plant which provided him shade than he was with the lives of the men, women, and children in Nineveh.

Today, I’m taking a little introspective inventory of my conversations with God. What do they reveal about what is important to me? When I was a child I thought, spoke and prayed like a child. I hope that at this point in my journey I’ve put away childish things.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 22

Hamster wheel
Image by sualk61 via Flickr

Climb the Abarim ridge and cry—
   you’ve made a total mess of your life.
I spoke to you when everything was going your way.
   You said, ‘I’m not interested.’
You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you, 
   never listened to a thing I said. Jeremiah 22:20c-21 (MSG)

The further I get in the journey, I perceive with greater clarity how blind I am to the entire concept of needs and wants. Life can be so materially easy, that spiritual need doesn’t even register with me.

When it comes down to it, we really are a people of wants and needs. And, we always mix up the two. Our needs are so well covered that the only thing left is wants. Because we have no concept of what it truly means to be in need, we feel our wants and tag them as needs. And so, our basic needs met without conscious thought, we spin in our little wheel of the rat-race cage, chasing after want after want after want.

How deaf am I to God’s still, small voice trying to speak truth to me while I, like a silly rodent, endlessly rattle on inside my little spinning wheel? How blind am I to the true needs of my soul and the pile of discarded acquisitions that lay broken and rusting in my wake? How am I going to see my true spiritual need, and the true needs of those around me when I am fixated on the perceived “need” of my next “want?”

Lord, have mercy on me. Help me discern clearly my true “needs” and selfish “wants,” and grant me the wisdom today to make choices accordingly.

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