A {Very} Short Word on Entitlement and Gratitude

Yes, I’m alive and posting again (more writing to come soon–all will be explained)! This is short and sweet but I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me about this issue after church Sunday. Perhaps it will speak to you as well.

**************************************************

     It’s impossible for a person to be grateful when they possess an attitude of entitlement. Entitlement stifles gratefulness which further fuels attitudes of entitlement. And when people finally get tired of dealing with the entitlement attitude and draw boundaries, the entitled person becomes resentful, blaming everyone else for their misfortunes rather than accepting personal responsibility. Long story short, be GRATEFUL and refuse to believe you’re “owed” something from anyone. Work for what you want. Make your own way. And when you’re in a good place, turn around and help others as you’ve been helped. An attitude of gratitude is evident in one’s actions not just words.

Advertisements

The Worst Illness a Christian Could Get….

It’s one of the worst illnesses a Christian could get. Evidence of this cruel disease has popped up everywhere over the past several decades. No doubt, it has infected more believers now than ever before. Perhaps you have already contracted this disease without even knowing it. The symptoms are silent and deadly, spreading through thoughts and rationales. And how am I qualified to speak on such an illness? What gives me the right to draw attention to its ravages amongst the bride of Christ? Well, as the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” I, too, have been infected with this deadly virus.

Where it all began…

Recently my husband, daughter, and I went to a favorite restaurant. We were quickly seated at the table where we proceeded to browse the tempting appetizers, entrees, and deserts colorfully displayed throughout the menu. Our mouths watered with anticipation. As the waitress approached I smiled as I usually do, getting ready to show my best Christian politeness while ordering. But the waitress kept on walking. She hadn’t even looked at me. A little disappointed I reasoned, “She probably has another table that was seated before us. No biggy.” But over the next fifteen minutes servers walked by our table, nary a one looking us in the eyes. My husband was irritated as my five-year-old grew increasingly hungry and restless.

“I think they’ve got ‘Somebody-Else Syndrome,’” I told my husband.

“What?” He asked looking confused.

“Every single one of them seems to think ‘somebody else’ will take care of us. And because they all have that mindset no one ends up helping.”

Eventually I went to the hostess at the front of the restaurant and explained our plight. It was still another five minutes before a server came to our table. As annoying as that situation was, God used it to speak to my heart.

So, what now?

I have no idea if any of those servers were Christians or not. It doesn’t really matter because the principle lies within the thought process. It goes something like this: the preacher brings attention to a need within the church and you nod, even pray about. “Lord, please meet this need. Please bring the right person along to help.”

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a prayer, but it fails to really address the issue. Whether consciously or not, it has an underlying tone of, “Lord, let someone else take care of this, because you know I can’t do it.” Obviously there are legitimate needs that cannot be met by every individual. I know when my pastor shows slides of the orphanage our church funds in India that I cannot fly there and personally get hands on. I understand these things. So, before you post an angry comment, this is not about giving people a guilt trip. As I said before, I too have prayed such prayers and thought such thoughts.

But what would happen if we prayed, “Lord, what can I do to meet this need?” You see, such a prayer puts the ball in our court, and that makes us uncomfortable. Because the reality is, in most circumstances there is something we can do.

Here are some of the excuses I have used to rationalize away any personal responsibility in helping others in a hands-on way.

“I don’t have enough money. God wants me to get out of debt first before I donate financially.”

In this day’s economy, I have a feeling I am not the only one who has used this excuse. It’s tantamount to saying I need to stay at home and study the entire Bible inside and out before I go in to the world and share my faith or serve in the church or surrounding community. It’s a clever ruse tempting to keep us in the stagnant waters of selfishness.

“I don’t have enough room, I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have enough time.”

Once again I refer to the above explanation. If we wait until we are “ready”, until we have enough, are enough, or own enough, then we will never—I repeat—never make a tangible move forward because we will never be “ready”. There will always be more bills to pay, more books to read, more personal “needs” to gain. I am convinced this is one of the single greatest deceptions among believers and it has immobilized the church. While some are willing to write checks, few are willing to get their own hands dirty. Like I said, I have been there too.

If all of us sitting in the pews on Sunday are infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome, the needs of our communities, even the needs of our brothers and sisters, will never be met. And what a shame that is. Indeed, I know many unbelievers who are far more generous with their time and resources than Christians. And this becomes a roadblock for them. After all, why should they believe in God when the people who say they follow God are so self-absorbed and inward focused?  If that is what God is all about, just judging, pointing fingers at sins, and not actually doing anything else, then what is the point?

Service not Serve-us…

A couple of weeks ago my pastor used this phrase, “service instead of serve-us”. How true is this, though? If we had a mindset of “what can I do, Lord” instead of, “Lord, let somebody else step up” more needs would be met.

If it sounds like I’m worked up, I am. I write this with high emotions as I watch a friend in need being turned away. Too many Christians infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome. Initially, when I heard of her need, I prayed, “Lord, please meet her need.” You know what He said? He said, “You can meet this need.”

He reminded me of a verse I had recently posted on facebook and twitter:

“I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.” Is. 58:7

“But Lord, you know this type of situation has turned out badly in the past. You know our circumstances, finances…blah blah blah.” It was clear what God required. I was given an opportunity to practice what I preach, to get my hands dirty; to sacrifice comfort and resources. And I admit, I hesitated. But I am glad that after a few minutes of spiritual wrestling I submitted.

But here we are again. The same friend in the same situation and I am left wondering, “If this person was a missionary or speaker, or someone famous, the same people who say they cannot help would be willingly opening their doors.” Maybe that is too cynical, but it’s what I am left with after weeks of watching my friend struggle.

Once again I know what God requires of me, and I am willing now because I have seen the blessings and spiritual rewards for following His voice. But I am still reeling over the occurrences of Somebody-Else Syndrome that has infected many believers today.

Who is willing to sacrifice comfort, time, and resources to meet the needs around them? Who is willing to take a dose of God’s word, God’s truth, and eradicate this disease lurking within? Who is willing to serve Him by serving others instead of serving self? It’s time we rise up and get uncomfortable. Our brothers and sisters are hurting and are being rejected by their own spiritual families. This ought not be! It’s time we say “Lord, I want to share my food with the hungry and bring right into my own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.”

“First-World” Problems

**Published on Encourage 365, November 2012**

On Sunday my Pastor showed a riveting video called “First World Problems Rap” and the irony of this video should be evident to any viewer.  I appreciate the message and encourage you to watch it (it’s only two minutes).

 

(Here’s where you click the link to watch the video before reading on…)

 

So, yesterday our church launched a 30-day challenge to start a “First World Problems” complaint jar. You guessed it, every time we catch ourselves complaining about a “problem”–much like what is depicted in the video–we have to drop some money into the jar. At the end of the 30 days we turn in our jars to the church benevolence fund so the money can be used to help others. Immediately I knew I needed to participate (and I hope you’re challenged to do the same—donating the money to your church or charity).

 

Making a “complaint” jar is a great idea and something I hope to continue beyond the 30 days. Even in one day both I and my daughter have begun to realize how much we gripe about trivial things. Let’s face it, waiting in line at Starbucks really pales in comparison to the trials most children face in third world countries. I am ashamed to even admit how often I forget to pray for those children. Most of us will never get the opportunity to travel to a destitute country and personally help, but most of us do have the capability of helping out through active service in our communities.

 

The church I attend has several outreach groups that work with homeless people, foster children, disabled children, hungry families, and more. Even if your church does not offer these things, there is something somewhere that you could probably get involved in. Even if it’s just dropping off canned foods for a food drive or hygiene supplies to homeless communities. The needs are there, we just need to open our eyes and look (and pray) for opportunities.

 

All of our situations are unique. My situation requires me to be home much of the time. I’m a wife, I home-school my daughter, I’m a full time student, and a freelance writer. I am in my home a lot! But a few months ago I prayed for God to show me what I could do to get “hands-on” and He was faithful to immediately answer that prayer! Sometimes we are fooled in to thinking we don’t have the time or resources to make a difference when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. We may never know what impact our small acts of kindness could have on another life.

 

So my challenge to you is the same challenge my Pastor shared with the congregation. Make a complaint jar and keep track of just how often you complain about “first world” problems. The results will probably be shocking. Remember, the point is to change our perspective. Faith is supposed to be active. Jesus didn’t just sit in the synagogue all day and preach. He was out there demonstrating a hands-on faith, as were the disciples. And we’re all familiar with James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after the orphans and the widows in their distress and to keep oneself faultless from the world.”This is the kind of faith I want to demonstrate to the world; this is the kind of faith I ask God to create in my life.

 

A faith that moves.

 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

(Also see related article: Let’s Do Justice from Prodigal Magazine)

When Darkness Prevails (Or at least tries to…)

“How could I have let this happen again?” Oh the irony of failure. In that moment, gazing at my cut up wrist while experiencing a tremendous load of excruciating personal pain I realized that even in this I had failed. Isn’t it amazing how Satan traps the thinking? The darkness is always easier to analyze once the light has returned.

I know it was spiritual oppression, the same haunts burdening me my whole life had returned. I thought I had been “free” forever of such troubles, but the reality hit—the depression, anxiety, and temptation to escape the hurt will probably always linger to a certain extent. The Enemy knows how to push my buttons–not to give him too much credit–but he’s pretty good at it.

Writing about this less than 24 hours later is risky, I recognize I’m opening myself up to a world of further rejection, but I know there is someone out there who understands my pain and this, my friend, is for you.

Sobbing on the couch the emotional torture continued. “What have I done wrong this time? Why am I not good enough for them? Why must I fail at everything? I’m not loved, I’m not accepted, and I never will be. I’m destined to be a lonely outcast.” The record played over and over and while most days hitting the “off” button is a no-brainer, this day was different.

I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. But I knew if I didn’t reach out I may do something worse. Maybe I would get it “right” next time. Sometimes being well studied in the Bible makes it even harder to push through such oppression. An extra measure of guilt rushes in, “I know better, I shouldn’t be feeling this way, this is wrong…etc.” Satan pounces on the opportunity to condemn the already condemned spirit.

I texted my mentor, who was at that moment the only person I felt I could trust. Though we had only known each other a short time I knew she would not judge me, condemn me, tell me I was crazy, or say she couldn’t relate to me.   She called me and said three words. Though it wasn’t an instant fix, it was exactly what I needed to hear from another human being.

“You are loved.”

I felt nothing close to being loved that morning–I felt rejected personally as a human being. I needed that jolt of reality from another Christian. “You are worth something. I don’t reject you. I love you. I appreciate you.”

So this post is not to tell you I have figured everything out, I’ve been cured forever, or that I know the secret answer for every suicidal or spiritually oppressive thought. I know the word of God is always the first answer, but beyond that, when the feelings overwhelm, having someone you can turn to– whom you can trust implicitly–is the next best option.

If you have such a friend, thank them for their presence and support in your life. If you don’t have someone in your life whom you can be 100% open with, pray that God would bring one to you. I prayed for such a person for several months, and God answered only weeks before my spiritual “relapse”. He knew what I needed, He saw what was coming, and He indeed made “a way to escape” that I could bear the pain (1 Cor. 10:13).

This post is also for the people who hide their pain from their Christian friends in fear of condemnation, judgment, rejection, or abandonment. We need community, we need relationship, and we need Christians who don’t shy away from the spiritual lepers like me.  I’m not perfect, I struggle too. I refuse to hide it. One of my biggest pet peeves within “church” is the lack of transparency. We need to be able to walk in to church and say “No, I’m not okay.” Or even, “I want to die.” And know that we will be supported, comforted, and helped. I’m not the only one out there. Or maybe I am? Either way, God has sparked a new desire within me—perhaps a new focus. I hope to help and encourage others as I’ve always tried to do, but even more so, inspire others to live transparently. Trust me; there is someone out there who could be helped by you if you’d only be real about your struggles.

Let’s join together and stop pretending we’re walking on clouds all of the time. This is life, it’s real. No one is on cloud nine 100% of the time—even if they are a Christian. Ask God if there is someone in your life who simply needs to be told they are loved, appreciated and wanted as a human being. You never know how God could use that to lift someone out of a pit of despair.