Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What Are You Made Of?

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

~ I Samuel 16:7b

The following story made me think about the emphasis we place on outward appearances in our society. Not just on how we look (hair, weight, clothes), but also on the cars we drive or the houses we live in. Those things are all fine and good, but it’s a mistake to wrap your identity up in things so temporal and fleeting.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

~ Matthew 6:19,20 (NIV)

A Cup of Coffee
Author Unknown

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit, the conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in their lives and jobs.

The professor slipped away to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite. He invited his former students to help themselves.

When all the alumni had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, "You’ll notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is precisely the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee; in most cases it is just more expensive. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. . . and then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee. Your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life. The type of cup one has does not define nor change the quality of Life a person lives. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.

Remember, the happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

“God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and He is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions.”
~ Galatians 2:6


Did any of you see that news story about a group of people who were waiting in line in the freezing cold to buy the latest version of Air Jordan tennis shoes? Doesn’t that seem a little extreme?

Basically, we just need to keep in mind that we are not what we do (remember, my husband was a trashman for 17 years!), what we look like (this one really hits home since my mastectomy), what we weigh (this one also hits home), where we live, the color of our skin – whether we’re rich, poor, Irish, German, Baptist or Catholic – none of those things say anything about who we are on the inside.

Russian-born philosopher Ayn Rand took a dim view of the concept of judging people by external factors: “Modern racists attempt to prove the superiority or inferiority of a given race by the historical achievements of some of its members . . . There are only individual minds and individual achievements.” In other words, we really can’t take credit for the achievements of our forefathers, nor should we accept the blame for their shortcomings. We are not our ancestors – or our descendents, for that matter. We must each take responsibility for our own individual choices.

In closing, I would just like to add that parents often feel that it is a poor reflection on them if their children make unwise decisions. But most parents raise their children with a certain set of societal rules or codes of moral conduct. Once the children become adults, the choices they make – and the consequences that result from those choices – are theirs, and theirs alone. Like the law of gravity, the Bible teaches that we reap what we sow – and there’s nothing any of us can do to change that.

"Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. You are the miracle, my friend, Your life either shines a light – or casts a shadow.”
~ Anonymous

Note: I sent a copy of this week's column to our good friend, Scott. I'd like to share his response with you:

"Amen to that. I think it was in the third Indiana Jones movie (“The Last Crusade”). When Indie got to the hiding place where the old Crusader and the wide variety of chalices were, the Crusader told Indie he had one chance to select the one that was THE Holy Grail. There were gold and silver goblets, chalices encrusted with jewels, and so forth, but Indie’s hand went to a simple, unadorned vessel made of wood. The old man congratulated Indie and told him that surely a humble carpenter would chose to drink from a plain cup and not one decorated in a way that was inconsistent with the rest of His life. We—God’s children—truly are earthen vessels. We are weak and imperfect and prone to breaking and spilling. It is not the container that gives the clearest display of God’s miraculous power; it is the fact that he pours His unfathomable majesty into the weakest and crudest of vessels." ~ Scott