30 November 2011

Drive-thru vs Family time

Australia Jews for Jesus: This is the 3rd in a series of blogs on Rest and R...: This is the 3rd in a series of blogs on Rest and Restlessness. What triggered it was a series of thoughts and readings beginning with T...

29 November 2011

This is the 3rd in a series of blogs on Rest and Restlessness.

What triggered it was a series of thoughts and readings beginning with Tim Chester's book entitled The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness. But I guess what prompted my reading that was considerable bother about not having time myself to do the things I like or want to do. I used to journal most days. Now almost never into the journal (book). I used to exercise very regularly in a gym. Now almost never. I used to read books regularly, and again that has dropped off to minimal reading. What is or was happening?

Chester lays out six main reasons why people tend to be busy, that is, too busy for me. They are 1) to prove themselves, 2) to meet other people's expectations, 3) to maintain control, 4) due to a preference of business/ pressure, 5) to provide capital by earning more and more, and finally 6) to make the most out of life.

He captivated me with his opening chapter. In regards to rest Chester said, "even our time off can be hard work... leisure has become a thing you 'do' or 'buy.' We relax by going to the gym, driving across town to a late enight movie or spending an afternoon shopping- and nothing is more tiring than shopping! We no longer stroll or ramble; now we hike with walking poles to propel us along. Leisure is no longer rest; leisure is consumption." (page 11) Wow, did that nail me. I play 18 holes of golf a week, and have to work hard to fit that into my schedule. I usually rock up just in time to hit off, while most of the guys I play with average arriving 30 minutes early. I tend to put an appointment on the back end of the round also, thus maximizing my day, but not ever really relaxing. And often will answer the phone while on the course.

We as humanity used to be regulated in work by the daytime and by the seasons. As the industrial revolution hit, we became regulated by the clock. Now we are self-regulated, or not, and thus day is night and winter is summer, and a man I met in Singapore works the graveyard shift in IT servicing the people in his work group who live in the UK and some in the US, on their time zones, not on his.

When I was a kid, in some restaurants, where a family would eat out together, they created a 'drive in' style. This involved the family getting into the family car, and driving to the car park, sit in the car, order a family meal, and then sit in the car to eat it, while a roller-skating server brought things to you on a tray which you affixed to your driver's window. 

But now the drive-in has become the drive-thru, and we cannot even spell through correctly. We are in too much of a hurry. We call it drive-thru and don't sit to eat, we rush to eat. We have to get to soccer or violin practice. We don't have time to relax together. Everyone has commitments. And thus we continue being time-poor.

God said to take the sabbath day off. Literally. Not a figure of speech. To seriously take your watch off, and chill.

It's a faith matter, not a 'works' matter. If I trust God to provide for me in 6 days instead of in 7, then I'm giving 14% of my energy/ time/ money-earning potential away. That's a lot of cash!

We rest, not out of exhaustion, but out of satisfaction. We are finished with the work; we take time to enjoy what we did.

More to come...


Texting by Rick Rock Radio
Texting, a photo by Rick Rock Radio on Flickr.
The series on Restlessness continues

This is now Blog #2 on the Sin of Restlessness.
The high speed collision in China reported here 

OK, maybe you don't have time to read it. Maybe you are doing a multi-tasking job of reading your emails, SMSing your mates, and pretending to be among the thousands of fans at the game. Honestly you can't do it all; why not admit that?

The expression is 'time poor.' We ran out of time to do everything, so we multi-task. By definition we try to do more than one thing at a time. I'm a male, so that can never happen anyway. But for some females, honestly, you simply cannot be both a fan and an SMSer. Not at the same moment. Really.

Why are we so 'time poor?' We have more conveniences and more things which do more stuff for us. We don't have to hand wash all our clothing anymore. We have a washing machine for that. All we do is toss the dirty clothes and some detergent into a box, and in an hour, the clothes and soap have teamed up for a cleansing. Voilá, all done.

We used to write letters which would take half an hour to compose and script with our free hand, but now we type with lightning speed the same letter, or shorten the whole thing into a blog or SMS or email of similar 'length.' Visiting a friend took time; now we ring or text. Want to find out about an historical event or personage, and you had to ring the librarian or investigate at the encyclopedia. Now you 'google it.'

All that convenience and still no time. Why? We don't extend to ourselves the privilege of silence and the freedom of doing nothing. 'Don't have time, sorry.' but really we just don't take time.

If you don't answer the phone, (so says my new friend Lewis in Singapore), they tend to stop ringing. I like that. The phone is a good tool, but a lousy master. It's a noose for many; it should be a servant. Answer it when you can; let the voice mail answer it otherwise.

Learn to relax. It's another world out there. Just watch the game, girl in the blue cap. It's restful. (OK, some say 'boring') But a bit of rest is good for us now and then, you know?

BLURRED... the world passes us by

BLURRED by Lauren Withrow
BLURRED, a photo by Lauren Withrow on Flickr.

Today I'm going to begin a series of blogs on the sin of restlessness. It's about rushing. The blur of the crowd. The keeping up with the Joneses. I've just returned from Singapore and over and over I saw this. The crowds are one thing, but I'm talking about an inability for an individual to rest.

You know the Bible says "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the 7th day is a day of rest in honor of the Lord your God. You shall do no work in it."

That seems so quaint, so out-of-date, so not with the times. The shops stay open 24/7. The people work less 'official' hours in some countries, but they take their laptop with them, and are ever connected with smart phones and such.

I sat in a meeting last week, speaking to a group of men. They were very enthusiastic to my message, but each man, at one time or another, answered his phone, replied to an SMS or email, and was distracted by the phone. I said, "The phones will wait. None of you is so needed that you cannot take an hour off, you know?" Wow, I saw the restlessness, not only with a day off, but even with an hour off.

The Chinese call this 'kaisu' a sort of 'don't let anyone pass you.' It's a driver, something which they use to keep themselves going and going. Like the Energizer bunny. If they stop, someone might take their place. It's a fear and an inordinate fear for a believer, to be sure.

If you live in fear, you are not living in faith. If you live in restlessness, you are not living in faith, in rest. More on that in the next blog.

Lauren Withrow on Flickr wrote: Via Flickr:
"This life I'm in,
moves by way too fast.
Blurring the edges until nothing is clear.
Someday things should just slow down."

Went to the mall with a couple friends and saw Push. It was pretty good.
Don't know how much I like this but oh well.

feb 8, 2009]

25 November 2011

Strange bedfellows and reality

Read the whole article here: NY Times 
Pictured are Hamas and Fatah leaders, smiling, but are they really smiling?

The NY Times today published an in-depth article about the strife between Mahmoud Abbas (pictured on the right), Fatah leader since 2004, president of the Palestinian Authority and his rival, Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas. They met in Cairo, Egypt, agreeing to go ahead with elections in the Palestinian territories next year, even though they failed to resolve differences over an interim unity government to prepare for the vote. 

This is not a new reality. Hamas, the terrorist organization, supported by Syria and Iran, refuses three things: 1) to acknowledge the reality of the state of Israel, 2) to denounce violence in pursuit of its goals, and 3) to agree with past Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements. Those three conditions are required if there will ever be peace in the Middle East, and certainly if Hamas wants to be recognized as legitimate by the US, the UN, or the EU. 

Fatah, the party of Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the Palestinian Authority, and ever dressed in military garb, is not the gentlest in the conversation either. They control the West Bank. A bit of nomenclature: Its name is the reverse acronym of Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Falastini, meaning the 'Palestinian National Liberation Movement.' The name also means Conquest or Victory in Arabic.

In May this year, the rivals signed a historic reconciliation accord in Cairo, vowing common cause against Israeli occupation, a product of shifting regional power relations and disillusionment with American peace efforts. But how that plays out, and who leads the conversation in the next decade, that remains to be determined. Declarations are one thing, reality of living it out, that's quite another. The Times reported, "Israeli officials have withheld the transfer of about $100 million a month in taxes and customs duties that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians, in part waiting to see the outcome of the latest unity talks. Meanwhile, for Hamas, the Arab Spring has buoyed hopes of new opportunities for Islamist parties across the region."

So what is reality, as we have watched what they call "The Arab Spring?" Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria. What government will be there in a year, and what uprising will produce good and calm and happy citizens? The almost-nightly drama unfolds on our television sets as another country is riveted by unrest and hope for 'spring.' Spring, when everything comes to life and blooms. Spring when a man's thoughts turn to cricket and love. 

But the victory in Egypt was short-lived, and democracy is not an easy concept in which to live. It's easy to applaud, but hard to live.  

Hosni Mubarak was ousted after 18 days of demonstrations this year on 11 February. After 30 years in office (He took over after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981.) Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had resigned as president and transferred authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. But who will run the country is still in doubt. Just today CNN reports, "Kamal Ganzouri has agreed to become Egypt's prime minister and will form a new government, an Egyptian army spokesman said."
This development -- announced by Lt. Col. Amr Imam -- comes days after former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his government quit en masse, and days before Monday's parliamentary elections that Egypt's military rulers vowed Thursday would go on despite ongoing unrest.

Apparently strange bedfellows don't always produce reality. WWII had Mussolini in bed with Hitler, and the result was madness and chaos and destruction. Although the phrase, "strange bedfellows" originally had to do with Shakespeare's character in The Tempest, shipwrecked Trinculo, the jester, who happens upon the fallen Caliban, a deformed native on an uncharted island. Trinculo takes the garment of Caliban, and lies with him, thus 'strange bedfellows.' However we take the phrase to mean a partnering of unusual pairs.  Charles Dudley Warner said, "Politics makes strange bedfellows" And by that he meant that opposing forces often have to agree on one item, even though they might be at great distance on others. (That said, Groucho Marx said, "Politics doesn't make strange bedfellows - marriage does.")

God wants to be in relationship with us. He finds us deformed on our native and uncharted islands of life, and takes our nature on Himself, exchanges His life for ours, and dies in our place. That's the message of the Crucifixion and of eternity. Reality may be remote to you just now, in Spring or Autumn, on Thanksgiving or late in celebrating the Festival of Lights, Deepavali.  But God's reality is worth all investigation. He loves you and wants you to know Him. He sent Jesus to die, to bring you back to Himself.  It's not strange, really; it's love.

24 November 2011

Cheap tippers

Here's a report (at the end of the blog) from the USA ...on Thanksgiving no less.

Seems that some folks are being cheap and leaving Gospel information for restaurant servers instead of a gratuity (tip). Read the end first, if you must.

End of the day we should all be generous, happy to share with others, and especially with those who share with us.

Look I've been guilty of trying to get away with giving less, and admit it, but I don't think I ever left a Gospel tract IN PLACE OF a tip, only along with it. In fact, I would feel bad being known as a believer if I was not being generous.

Why is that? God loved the world so much that he gave his only son. That's generosity. And that's the spirit of heaven, and not the spirit of this age.

I'm writing today from Singapore, and one thing I find is that Singaporeans are very generous to those of us who are preachers and especially those who are preaching to the Jewish people. That generosity makes me want to be even more generous in response. So I find myself giving to others happily.

Last night I watched a TV episode on Channel NewsAsia in my flat. The host and the panel of 4 were unpacking the issue of graciousness and kindness. I was surprised that this was a topic of concern and of a tv special during prime time. Each panelist was asked at the end, 'What is one thing people watching can do to demonstrate graciousness right away?' The man had already talked about giving up one's seat on the MRT (subway system) for older and handicapped people, but gave another tip. The woman next to him mentioned asking her colleagues if 'they have had their lunch already." (that sounded like she was saying to invite them to lunch, but could be taken wrongly). The next woman, a school official, mentioned smiling. The final woman, a young government official, talked about having a good attitude and forgiving people who fall short of expectations.

All that said, I thought, come on, people, talk about giving money. Talk about giving clothing like people do daily at the Salvation Army where I am staying in town. Talk about giving food to hungry people. Graciousness is about visible kindness. And it's a function of Grace.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
Grace is getting what you do not deserve.

Mercy keeps you from hell.
Grace gives you heaven.

So in light of what God has done for you, in loving you, in sending Jesus His son to die for you and to give you the opportunity to know him personally, what kind of person ought you to be?

Let's be generous.
Gratuity, by the way, comes from 'grace' and that makes me more gracious to others, don't you reckon?

Here's the story that prompted this blog:

Waiter's Phony $10 Tip Includes Religious Lesson
By Claire Gordon Posted 12:35PM 11/23/11 Personal Finance

A $10 bill is a joyful sight for a server. But when one waiter went to retrieve such a note out from under a diner's plate recently, he reportedly noticed something curious. The tip it provided wasn't monetary, but took the form of advice. "SOME THINGS ARE BETTER THAN MONEY," it said on the back, "like your eternal salvation, that was brought and paid for by Jesus going to the cross."

The waiter, who makes $2.65 base pay an hour, didn't take well to getting so self-righteously stiffed. He posted photographs of the scene to the social newspaper Reddit, and wrote: "P.S. I have never been more atheist." "That's not very christian like behavior..." wrote one commentator.

But while that behavior certainly isn't the rule among Christians, it also isn't necessarily an exception. One waiter complained about the proffering of fake scripture-laden bills as tips on the "Friendly Atheist" blog in January 2009.

These phony bills appeared at least as far back as the summer of 2006, at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Greensboro, N.C. One blogger tells of going to a restaurant then and speaking to a waitress who was on the verge of tears. The convention attendees had been atrocious with their tipping, she said, but very generous with Bible verses and phony money.

"She asked us if we knew what it felt like to pick up what you thought was a great tip, only to find out that it was not real, and that the patron had actually been a cheapskate, after she served them well?"

Study: Christians More Likely to Stiff Their Server

The idea that Christians are poor tippers apparently has been whispered in service circles for a long time. Many waiters try not work Sunday brunch, so as to avoid notoriously stingy churchgoers, claims Justin Wise, the director of a Lutheran ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.

"Christians don't tip very well," he wrote for The Lutheran magazine in January 2009. "As a matter of fact, we're pretty cheap. What makes this worse is that we paint 'cheap' with a religious-sounding veneer and call it 'being a good steward.' Nothing like hiding behind the Bible to camouflage your stinginess."

One woman wrote back: "It was almost 100 percent true that the worst tips were on a check with a Bible verse or fish symbol."

This is a particularly uncomfortable phenomenon to face for a community that values generosity, justice and service.
"By leaving tracts and not tips, that person is saying to their waiter or waitress, 'You are not a person, but rather just a notch on my belt of evangelistic pride,' " explains Daniel Readle, a pastor at a Baptist church in Cleveland, on his blog "Christ and Culture."

An empirical study on this topic was conducted recently by Michael Lynn of Cornell University. He found that Christians are not in fact bad tippers; they gave an average of 17.3% for good service, well inside the 15% to 20% norm.

Only 13% of Christians left less than 15% for good service. That's a small minority of Christians, but still almost double the percentage of unaffiliated diners who left that amount, and more than six times the percentage of Jewish diners who under-tipped.

So while it is statistically false to say that Christians are bad tippers, it is true that Christians are more likely to stiff their servers than people of other religious (or non-religious) bents.

Because of these penny-pinchers, waiters are more likely to give bad service to anyone who appears outwardly Christian, Lynn suggests, or to call in sick for the Sunday shift.

Some things may be better than money, like trust, fairness, and tolerance. But a decent tip to your server can go a long way toward those goals.