The Language of Privilege Vs. the Language of Duty

My dear husband greeted me this a.m., with a big smile. “Why are you so happy?” I asked.

John snow-blowing the driveway Dec 11

“I had such fun last night,” he said.

“Tell me about it.”

“Those prisoners were so grateful. They hung on every word. At one point, one of them raised his hand and asked ‘Will you say that, again, please?’ I couldn’t have asked for a more attentive audience.”

Earlier in the week, because the roads were icy and the weather prediction was ‘more ice,’ John had thought about canceling his trip to the correctional center; he had actually tried to cancel, but his message was not received. So when the time to depart arrived (and the prediction of ice was cancelled), he left—happy for the opportunity to encourage some prisoners who, like him, love Jesus.

While talking to a friend over the phone, he joked, “I get to go to prison tonight. Pray for me.” John often uses the phrases “I get to” rather than “I have to”.  It’s what Michael Hyatt labels as the language of privilege. In this blog  post, he explains how the words that we speak to ourselves affect our mood and our relationships.

In thinking about it, I realized that telling myself that “I have to do something” works against me. It makes me not want to do whatever that something is. When I say “I get to” I immediately feel different about whatever that something is. For example, when my husband asked me what I was going to do today, I said, “I have to write my blog; I didn’t do it last night.” That comment did not make me feel inspired to write anything. Procrastinating, I checked my email, found Michael Hyatt’s blog and read it. Then, I said to myself, “I get to write my blog.” I immediately felt different—lighter, as if a load was lifted. Words do make a difference. Why? Because what we feel is determined by what we think.

For me, the “have to” phrase represents living under law. That’s the way I lived my Christian life for many years. The “get to” phrase represents living under grace. Perhaps, this poem expresses more clearly what I mean by that.

I never could because of should,
But now I can accomplish good.
My should was really not a must;
It was confused with pride and lust.

My conscience told me I was wrong,
And it condemned me all day long.
When led by guilt, demands increase
But meeting them does not bring peace.

God’s Spirit, though, is very kind–
When speaking truth, so I don’t mind;
I am not offended by his voice.
I want to make a proper choice.

For God the Father let’s me see
How good his pathway is for me.
And as I choose to do his will,
It’s not a chore; it’s a thrill.

Extending Valentine’s Day Beyond February 14th

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On Valentine’s Day this year, John bought me a beautiful bouquet of red roses; I bought him a card that had a message I knew he would like, and we ate lunch at the Thai restaurant. After four days, the rose bouquet, with the card standing beside it, is still setting on the table but it looks a bit wilted; Sunday lunch was long ago digested, and we are back to our usual menu. Unlike the roses, however, our love for one another has not wilted.

What makes Valentine’s Day most meaningful for us is the way that we express love to one another in the other 364 days of the year.

For example, this morning John has been plunging the kitchen sink, which has gradually drained more and more slowly. Last night, the water would not go down at all. Finally, realizing that plunging will not do the job, he went off to the hardware store to buy a tool and a new pipe. Hopefully, with a bit of ingenuity and a few hours of work, he will get rid of the sludge in the drain. Instead of feeling frustrated about not being able to use the sink and complaining about the inconvenience, I’m very thankful for his plumber skills.  A few hugs and verbal expressions of my gratitude help keep him motivated.

It’s the conscious choices that we make to handle the not-so-romantic challenges of each day in a caring and respectful manner that helps to extend Valentine’s Day beyond February 14th. 

It helps, also, to have a sense of humor. A few years ago, when John did not have the money to buy me roses, I wrote this little jingle:

I married a man who looks like Moses;
He gives me hugs instead of roses.

Here is this week’s revised verse with a few lines added onto it.

I married a man who looks like Moses;
His love is better than dozens of roses.

He’s plumber, poet, bird-lover, teacher,
Grandfather, skier—a remarkable creature

My talents are almost as varied as John’s;
But, of course, they differ; that has pros and cons.

Our love has grown deeper because of this fact:
We’ve learned to listen, instead of react.

Not just to each other but also to God.
It’s been forty-nine years; we feel thankful and awed;

So glad that we stayed when problems arose—
Kept our commitment–did not come to “blows.”

So thankful for grace to give and forgive;
So blessed and so eager for what lies ahead.

Why Love is Better than Knowledge

100_9344My week started off with two special events. On Monday night, John and I enjoyed a dinner prepared by our friend, Marianne. She cared enough to find out exactly what my restricted diet included, and she prepared those foods in a tasty and attractive way. Even though she had been up early and had spent the day teaching, she greeted us with a smile. She was relaxed, organized, and gracious. In her small, simple, and yet attractive apartment, I sensed the presence of Jesus. I felt very much loved—by him and by her.

On Tuesday evening, the teens in our church dressed up in their” best” and served the seniors a Valentine’s Day dinner. They, also, took care of all of the cleanup chores after the meal was over. Using her culinary and artistic talents, and with the assistance of her husband, Deb prepared a delicious dinner. She lovingly catered to my dietary restrictions.  Diane, Roxy, and Lynn led us in songs on the theme of God’s love. Again, I felt loved by him and by my church family.

During the before-dinner conversations, a friend made this remark: “With the internet, we are so connected that we know everything; there isn’t much left to discover.”

Do we really know everything? And how important is knowledge? According to Paul, “knowledge only fills people with pride. It is love that helps the church grow stronger” (1 Corinthians 8:1 ERV). So does that mean knowledge has no value? No, just that it is limited. Ignorance certainly has no benefits, but according to Solomon, the pursuit of knowledge, in itself, leaves us wanting. After spending his life in search for knowledge, this is what he said:

‘“I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge. “What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.

Much learning earns you much trouble.
The more you know, the more you hurt”’ (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18 MSG).

Through knowledge, we make painful discoveries; yet, through experiencing love, we find healing. If we want to grow, we must embrace both knowledge and love. Yet, love is superior to knowledge, because our knowledge is always partial. This is what Paul stated: “All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).

Failing to recognize the incompleteness of our knowledge gets us into trouble. It produces arrogance; we become judgmental. Because we think that we completely know someone else, we determine what that person should do and should not do. Then, when he or she does not live up to our expectations, we become resentful. This arrogance, based on our limited knowledge, produces impatience because we think we know not only what that other person is capable of doing but also how fast he or she should be doing it. Yet, we don’t know anyone completely, not even ourselves. That’s why it’s important, at all times, to affirm God’s love for us.

God, who is all-knowing, all-wise, and totally loving is the only one who knows us completely. He loves us. He is patient. He is kind. He is forgiving and just. He, with his infinite knowledge, relates to us out of humility and love. When we—with our limited knowledge—become arrogant in the knowledge that we have, our knowledge destroys love. That’s why love is better than knowledge.

Whose Rating Matters to Us?

report card imageJust about everything in this world is rated; hotels, motels and restaurants; airlines, cruise lines, and cars; books, photographs, and computers; clothing, luggage, and umbrellas; mattresses, linens, and floor coverings; cleaning supplies, paints, and lumber; cameras, TV’s, and tablets. On and on it goes. Sometimes I feel like I don’t dare make a purchase unless a product has been given a 5 star rating by someone else. But who is that someone else? And why do I need the opinion of so many others to make a decision? Would I dare buy something that is unrated?

As a culture, it seems that we place an out-of-proportion significance on ratings. We love to get good ones; we hate to get bad ones. And what does it mean if we receive no ratings? To be unnoticed can be the most painful rating of all—depending on how secure we are in our identity, it might cause us to believe that we not worthy of consideration. If the approval of others is what we use to measure our worth; then, under the stress of constant evaluation, how can we retain integrity and not give in to angry-defensive rhetoric? This seems to be a challenge for all current political candidates. I’m tired of listening to their tracking polls.

Up and down their points go, and the emotional climate of our nation fluctuates according to these ratings.  I’m concerned that we might be making decisions based on approval points rather than on concrete facts about what the candidates believe and whether or not they live up to their values. How can they (or we) possibly stick to our values in a world where everyone else’s approval is the sign of quality?

What about God? According to the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, God’s perspective is different than ours.  When ancient Israel was in the process of choosing a king, Samuel, said, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT). Jesus, too, indicated that sometimes God’s assessment is opposite of ours; he said,” But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30 NIV).

In the light of these things, I hope that you will reflect on the following questions.

Whose acceptance do I value?
Whose approval will I seek?
The world applauds measurable strengths.
God sees the gold that’s far beneath.

Whose acceptance do I value?
Whose approval will I seek?
The world rejects the ones who stumble.
God restores his fallen sheep.

Whose acceptance do I value?
Whose approval will I seek?
The world discards the old or weak.
God upholds those small and meek.

Whose acceptance do I value?
Whose approval will I seek?
The world’s applause is for a moment,
God’s honors is for eternity.