What is Enough?

By definition, greed is the intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power or food. When you Google the word “greed”, you will find 111 million results. Say what you want about Wikipedia, I love their definition – “Greed is an inordinate or insatiable longing for unneeded excess… greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs.” The phrase “more than one needs” really struck me on this subject. It makes me think about living a life of contentment. One of my brothers and one of my sisters were talking about him being a minimalist – he really doesn’t want a lot of things for his house. I’d say that he is content with what he has. As the wealth gap in the United States continues to grow, I know that it is hard not to want a little more than we have at this moment.

By definition, a minimalist is someone who’s lifestyle is centered on less. When you Google the word “minimalist”, you will find 299 million results. I was immediately overjoyed by that number but as I researched a little father, I found that minimalism is also a form of art or an Art Movement. So much for an advanced degree! In any case, my point is that contentment should always outweigh greed and minimalism should be greater than excess. There is no “one answer fits all” solution to this subject. Each of us are faced with circumstances that drive our ability to be content. Someone with no food is content with what someone else might leave behind. I’m simply suggesting that you examine your own situation and determine “what is enough”. The opposite of selfish is selfless and we could use a little more of that these days.

“Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’ ” Luke 12:15

Jesus is reminding us that greed is not just about money. Think about the things that people want more of – better event tickets, a bigger TV, a better car, a bigger house, newer furniture, etc. It is very hard today to avoid being “greedy” about something. Times were different during Jesus’ ministry on Earth and people had very little and wanted more, so one could argue that greed was greater “back then”. Today, we have more and greed is just as great today, we just want more of the things that we do have. When we start to focus on gaining more we stop focusing on the things that are important, like our relationship with God.

This world is being overtaken by greed and care only for oneself and we seem to be losing sight of our ability to demonstrate God’s love to each other. When we start focusing on ourselves, we stop caring for others. We stop living our lives as Jesus taught us to and we start to please the devil as we turn away from God’s teachings. “Watch out!” was Jesus’ warning to us. He didn’t sugarcoat it. If we aren’t careful, we will fall away. Start sharing your abundance of blessings with others (spiritually and otherwise) and who knows, maybe the world will become a better place.

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Blessed

It doesn’t matter when you see my wife, if you ask her how she’s doing, her answer is always – “blessed”. Even at 4:30 in the morning when she is arriving at the gym for her daily work out, she is always cheerful. She is the only morning person in our family. The rest of us are night owls. She is filled with joy and peace and everyone knows it. What do people see when they speak to you or watch you at work? I certainly wouldn’t suggest that you be “on” at the wee hours of the morning but it is important to know what time you function best at. There have been a number of studies that show that early risers are more productive. Again, I’m not suggesting that you change your peak performance time; just know when it is. My peak usually hits around 1pm and lasts until 4pm but I can also have a second peak about 9:30pm until after midnight.

Knowing your optimum time is important so that you don’t tie it up in meetings or traveling between locations. This should be your time to focus on high-level work or your strategic/creative thinking time. Your peak time is when you should turn off your email and cell phone so that you can concentrate. This will allow you to achieve more at work while expending less mental energy since you are working when your mind and body are most ready. Back to the question of what do people see when they speak to you? If you are in peak time, they should see the best you have to offer and when you are in off-peak times, they should see a person of joy and hope who knows the best is yet to come.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

A number of years ago there was a story out of war-torn Sudan about a pregnant woman who was sentenced to death, by stoning, for becoming a Christian and failing to renounce her new faith. I can’t help thinking about how strong she was. Here is a new Christian, someone who believed so strongly in what she was taught that she was willing to be persecuted. It’s a modern day story of St. Paul or John the Baptist. She was not only filled with joy but had enough peace to trust in Him that the power of the Holy Spirit would be with her. I cannot imagine what she must have gone through. It was rumored that one of the Columbine shooters asked a girl if she believed in Jesus as he held a gun to her head. When she answered yes, he moved on sparing her life.

When my daughter was younger she was asking questions about faith when this came up. I reminded her that it would be better to die knowing that you kept your faith to the end than it would be to deny it and spend eternity without Him. There is no doubt that there are others suffering for their faith today. Please join me in praying for everyone who is being persecuted for their faith; asking that their faith remains strong and that they be filled with joy and peace to trust in God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Also take this time to pray for yourself; that you will be filled with joy and peace so that you too can overflow with the hope and power of the Holy Spirit so everyone will see that you are blessed.

Kindness

I recently watched a TV comedy show in which one of the main characters, the husband, was asked by his wife to say five things that he liked about her. For men, we can instantly see the comedy potential in this premise. I’m sure the women are thinking that this is a brilliant bonding concept, but I digress. Predictably he struggles to come up with five things on his own but eventually, unconsciously, he does during the argument that follows. When we are forced to identify these types of things, we often freeze and draw blanks no matter who the subject is – a spouse, business partner, friend or family member. We never really understand how our words and actions affect those around us. What if your kind words were the only kind words that people hear in their lives? Would you go out of your way to speak them then?

There is a story called “The Blue Ribbon” that tells of a father who was given a blue ribbon by someone at work because they identified him as being important to them. He was the challenged to give the ribbon to someone else who was important to him. He struggled to find that one person, particularly at work and put the ribbon in his briefcase before heading home. Once he arrived home, he found his son sitting in his room as he walked by. He returned with the ribbon and gave it to his son, explaining what had happened that day. He explained that while their relationship hadn’t always been the greatest, he wanted him to know that he was special and important to him. The son started to break down uncontrollably. When he was able, he explained that he had been sitting there contemplating suicide because he thought that no one cared. Go out of your way today to speak a kind word to someone, you never know what your impact will be.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

There is a lot to be anxious about these days. I seem to be writing a lot about worry and anxiety but they are everywhere and can take over a person’s life. However, those strong in faith know to send those worries and fears to God in prayer. What about the other people in our lives who do not have the confidence or assurance to do that, what can we do to help them? Well placed kind words can mean a great deal to everyone we encounter. Last week we discussed compassion and leaving people feeling good after we see them. Consider this the warm up act for compassion. When we are simply nice, generous with ourselves and offer kind words to others, we will make a difference in people’s lives.

Jesus never spoke poorly about anyone, not even those trying to persecute and kill Him. He teaches us the real meaning of compassion. Jesus was always uplifting even in the face of terrible times. If we compare our lives to His, we have it pretty easy. Share your grace and peace with others as it has been shared with you. A kind word will cheer up an anxious heart.

Good Work

I’m in the middle of a re-election campaign for City Council. There are three incumbent candidates and two challengers. We have a pretty benign political landscape in our city of just under 75,000 people. We all run “at-large”, which means we represent the whole city not just districts or precincts. There is nothing of controversy happening and we remain a vibrant, growing,and upscale community. I have no idea why we have challengers, most of the time they just want to run to see how it is. I was given some great advice when I decided to run the first time, “always run like you are ten points behind”. I’m never so self-confident that I would believe that I’m that well liked; besides medium speed is not a pace that you will find me at very often. These campaigns are very hard for me because I hate asking for help, I’m usually the one helping others. This weekend, the ENTIRE family pitched in to get the last details completed before we make the final push into the election. Today, my wife, son and I spent almost five hours driving around town in two cars  maintaining the campaign signs spread throughout the 120 square miles of our city. We relocated signs, fixed those knocked over and reinforced the signs against the wind. We all gave up our Sunday afternoon to do what was right for the campaign. On Saturday, our college senior spent most of the afternoon and several hours of her Saturday night putting the final touches on the graphic designs for the door hangers and a banner. As I write this tonight, ALL of the preparation is done thanks to the teamwork of my family and their support of me. I’m not really into bragging but they reminded me why I am a truly blessed man (not that I needed it). My lesson-learned in all this, don’t wait until it’s all over to thank those that help you along the way. Thanks to my great family!

“…the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does…” Ephesians 6:8

In this verse, St. Paul is in the middle of telling the church at Ephesus how masters and slaves should treat each other. What he is saying is that we as human beings, do not get to judge or reward what we think is right or righteous. St. Paul is telling us that since God is faithful and just, caring and compassionate and, the one true judge that we should be more like him. Practice forgiveness, compassion and working hard, just as our Father in Heaven does, are the principles of St. Paul’s message. The Lord, our God will take care of the rewards for hard work. There is no mention of building up “credits” to win God’s favor, no amount of works that needs to be preformed, no amount of money to be tithed; simply living as God would. God became man to show us the way, the truth and then gave us eternal life with him in heaven through His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will reward the good that people do; we don’t need to judge the lives of others. We do however, need to thankful, to God, for the people in our lives who make things better.

Giving Thanks?

This week the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time that Pilgrims were thankful for the help that they received from the Native Americans. The Pilgrims were known for offering a prayer of thanksgiving following a blessing such as the end of a war or a successful harvest. Thanksgiving became an official U.S. holiday in 1863 during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. For Americans, this is day for the three F’s – family, feasts, and football. It is also the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. Each year, the local paper in Stoughton MA prints the list of things that local leaders are thankful for; a nice reminder of the holiday. For many of us, this holiday is an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings in our lives much like President Lincoln had intended. I hope as the year has passed, that you have taken the time to give thanks everyday for the blessings in your life and that you aren’t saving up your thanksgiving for this one day. You should have noticed that I started this post, as I usually do when there is a holiday, “this week in the U.S. we will celebrate…” I do that because I am blessed by having readers all over the world. The power of the Internet is unbelievable but I believe that it wasn’t the Internet that connected us, it was God. Above all, I am thankful for my relationship with God and that He has chosen me to be share His word and be the source of some insight into it so that you too can have a stronger relationship with Him.

“Mercy, Peace and Love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2

This chapter actually starts with: 1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. Jude 1:1. He offers this message of hope for all of us. Conventional wisdom tells us that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings that we have received but we rarely acknowledge where they come from. President Lincoln knew whom to thank but as a society, we’ve lost sight of that. I would offer that this simple verse is what God wants for each us – mercy, peace and love. If we have more than this, we are abundantly blessed; most of us are. There is no promise of good health, big homes, great jobs, fine clothes or anything material. God wants us to have peace, know mercy and feel love. We can find all of these things in His word given to us through the bible. We should remember that our needs are small and that God provides what we need, everything else is overabundances given by a society that has forgotten the one who gave it all to us. Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving thanks, remembering who made it all possible and seeking the comfort found in the gifts from God – mercy, peace and love. Happy Thanksgiving!