Saturday, January 19, 2013

Removing those i-o-u's!

Years ago I taught the Book of Proverbs to our young people in church. One of our lessons was on contentment, which is in such short supply in these days of overabundance and our entitlement mentality.

One of the best descriptions of contentment I've come across is this one: "Contentment is not satisfaction. It is the grateful, faithful, fruitful use of what we have, little or much. It is to take the cup of Providence, and call upon the name of the Lord. What the cup contains is its contents. To get all there is in the cup is the act and art of contentment. Not to drink because one has but half a cup, or because one does not like its flavor, or because some one else has silver to one's own glass, is to lose the contents; and is the penalty, if not the meaning of discontent. No one is discontented who employs and enjoys to the utmost what he has. It is high philosophy to say, we can have just what we like, if we like what we have; but this much at least can be done, and this is contentment,--to have the most and best in life, by making the most and best of what we have" (Maltbie Babcock).

So we're having a really bad day, or so we feel. Ah, we feel!  Over the years I've discovered that thought is a powerful weapon against our feelings. When I'm having a self-pity party (and we're lying if we say that we never feel sorry for ourselves), I bring my maddened heart to a halt and ask, how could this be worse? I mentally drag out my credit-debit sheet (see my devotion, "Life's Credit-Debit Sheet"), and discover that the blessings so far outweigh whatever is happening at the moment, that I thank God for all the graces in my life and get on with the current duty.

An example - a quite frivolous one, I admit: one day I was hurrying around trying to get organized and back to the hospital where my husband was recovering from surgery, and I noticed the house was getting hot (you folks in Michigan must be laughing). Our air conditioning - gone! We live in Florida, and how grateful I am to be here but, when it is hot, it is HOT. We need air conditioning like you folks up north need heat. So - thank You, Father, that it's not the middle of August; thank You, Father, that we have fans; thank You, Father, that we have so much to thank You for! That took care of the temporary discontent over the air conditioning. Call it God-conditioning.

"What a grand power is the power of thought! And what a grand being is man when he uses it aright; because, after all, it is the use made of it that is the important thing. Character comes out of thought; or rather thought comes out of character. The particular thoughts are like the blossoms on the trees; they tell of what kind it is. 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is'" (Sir Walter Raleigh).

Now let's see about those IOUs in our life. I truly believe these are a huge source of dissatisfaction. What we think folks owe us is tantamount to moral blackmail. Entitlements make up a large part of the federal budget, and I do believe that we start to think, well, "they" owe me - that ubiquitous "they". After all, I pay taxes! The problem is, WE are the taxes, and eventually this payout runs out. The pie is no longer there to divvy up.... Think about it - please!

As for relatives and friends, what really do they OWE us? I know the Bible says WE owe THEM love and faithfulness and forgiveness. I'm still looking for what they owe us....

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