Entitlement Entanglement

A crowd of more than 10,000 people in tin and cardboard shanties cover the side of a hill.  One lone water spigot provides semi-fresh water for those people.  I can remember days without a shower and being excited just to get a bucket of water for a bath.

Hundreds of people standing in line for the chance at a pair of used eye glasses.  Panic ensues as the waiting people recognize the long line and the supply of glasses make it unlikely they will get a pair.

The above represent memories from trips to third world countries. In the midst of extreme lack I can remember seeing the extreme gratitude and contentment of the people.  They were even willing to share out of their lack.  In the midst of their impoverished existence they were grateful.

Can I just go ahead and admit that I am often challenged to be grateful for what I have because I want more?  If I am real honest I would even admit that I have spent masses of time entangled in the thought that I am entitled to have more than I have and as a result I am not content.  I expect more.

As a not for profit organization leader attempting to raise thousands of dollars every week, I often find myself in the crosshairs of being so caught up in the need for more that I don’t make the time to be grateful.  After all I am seeking to fulfill the mission of God and I need money to see that happen.  Said another way, because I am doing the work of the Lord I am entitled to more.

I might even get some support from my friends that would quote Jesus, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. “  (John 10:10 ESV)  Somehow I have been thinking that entitlement is not what Jesus meant.  Another question to ponder is do I define life abundantly or is that the Lord’s role?

I know I can sure enough spend a great more time expressing gratitude for the great grace of our Lord.

What do you think?   Do you find yourself entangled in entitlement?

Forever Forgotten Forbearance?

The reality is I want others to forbear my deal, but not so much me forbear their deal.

Quick to anger, easy to upset, minor molehills multiplied into massive madness mountains, able to flare up with the tiniest indiscretion, and ready to pounce like a speeding bullet.  It’s an offense.  It’s a blown out of proportion argument.  It’s a knock down drag.  No, it is forever forgotten forbearance.

My wife and I were discussing an argument witnessed recently.  Now granted we weren’t in the argument, so we weren’t privileged with all details or history, but we were both shaking our heads to see the war that seemingly came out of what seemed like nothing.  It just did not seem like it warranted the battle.

My dear Natalie then commented, “As super mentor and Godly woman, Jean Berry, warned me, we no longer have forbearance towards each other.”  You know Jean and Natalie are right.   I can’t remember the last time I heard someone encourage another person to forbear.   Like me you might be thinking what does it really mean?

Meriam Webster gives us the following:  to control oneself when provoked : be patient;  a refraining from the enforcement of something (as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due.  I looked in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and found that the word associated with forbear can be translated patient, bearing up, bearing, and toleration.  Forbearance definitely has the King James Version ring to it, but it is not for the weak in knees.

I give you the English Standard Version of Colossians 3:13, “bearing (forbearing) with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

It is about overlooking, dismissing, enduring, bearing, and forgiving what would normally be an offense of some sort.   I think we can all agree now this just does not come natural to the normal human being.   The reality is I want others to forbear my deal, but not so much me forbear their deal.

It is not the stuff of mere mortals.  However, it must be achievable or there would not be a biblical admonition to walk out forbearance.  The ability to forbear what is naturally offensive is the mark of a surrendered life.  It is the Christian life that Paul describes in Romans 12:9-21.

“…Outdo one another in showing honor.”  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”  “Live in harmony with one another.” “…live peaceably with all.”

Forbearance sounds pretty tough, but can you imagine the impact forbearing people could make on a culture.  In the words of Barney Fife, “This would be big.  I mean big.”

I am game to give it a fighting chance, but do I know I need some help…self sacrificing supernatural help.   Let’s put forbearance back on the map.

Questions:  When was the last time you forbear the actions of another person?

What do you think it would take for you to forbear the next offense towards you?

Successful Success

Merriam Webster defines success as:

1: obsolete : outcome, result 2 a : degree or measure of succeeding b : favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence   3 : one that succeeds

For the most part the North American standard of success is often defined like this:  big house, second big house in the mountains or maybe two,  two luxury cars no make that three, big boat, corporate ladder climbing, six figure income, impressive investment portfolio,  steaks on the giant grill, and nice new fashion threads on your back and bottom.  Am I against such?  No, but people will actually give their life for such.   In losing my life for the above have I actually experienced successful success?

I have been calling on donors to support an upcoming fundraising banquet.  I was enjoying catching up with one donor and he asked me about a recent short term mission trip.  We talked about the people I met along the Amazon River.

He said to me, “I bet their idea of success is not like our idea of success.  How many of them have a big house, car, or a 401K.”  I laughed.  He continued, “I bet they enjoy their success a great deal more than we do.”  This time I did not laugh, but I commented, “Their success in many ways is much more successful and simple.”

Not that I am knocking enjoying any luxurious associations with success, but you can have it all and never experience successful success.  I think it has something to do with having the character to do what is right even when it is difficult.  In other words, material wealth makes for an unsatisfying meal if it is gained in manner that carries no honor, cost you your soul, or your family.

Success can be measured in intimate, caring, and mutually desirable family relationship.  Saying I love you to your teenage son or daughter and getting their mutual admiration, now that is success.  Humbly acknowledging you did something wrong to a family member or friend, demonstrates often uncommon but great success.  Making the ballgame, dance, or time for your expecting child is there any greater success?

Maybe Albert Einstein had it right.  “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”


Do you think successful success has an identity problem?

What are some measures of successful success for you?

Don’t Ask The Question When You Don’t Want The Answer

Parenting has its challenges.  I enjoyed seeing I am not the only parent that has erred by asking questions to which I did not want the answer.  My wife spent almost the entire toddler years of our older two children laughing at me and helping me to break free from the calamity I often now only witness in others.

For example:  Do you want to take a nap?  Are you ready to take a bath?  You want to jump up in the car seat?  You want to sit in my lap?

These questions are so innocent.  They are great opportunities for a toddler to gleefully participate in a wonderfully carefree parent child interchange.  There was only one small problem.  Every one of the well intended questions were answered contrary to this parent’s intended outcome.

Do you want to take a nap?  Well I was expecting a gleeful and maybe even a worshipful response, “Why yes father I would love to take my nap now.”  I can tell you I never got that answer.  Instead, every time I received a respectful, gentle, and innocent, “No”.

I have often commented that expectations of others are premeditated bitterness.  I always had an expectation for the questions I should not have asked.   When I did not get the desired response I became upset with my child for their genuinely frustrating answer.

My wife, would often smile and sometimes laugh, while she said, “You asked the question.  Now you get to live with the answer.”  She sometimes offered a brief tutorial on how to handle it which usually was as simple as state the outcome you desire and enforce it.  Don’t ask a question when you don’t want an answer.  Natalie lovingly helped me get through. (another blog post).

It seems like so long ago, as I actually was able to master this parenting faux pas.  Of course, hundreds of new challenges have replaced the one mastered skill.  Now I get to enjoy watching others step into homemade frustration.  From time to time I get the opportunity to share Natalie’s parenting tip and attempt to free parents from the frustration.

Question:  Do you find yourself frustrated with answers to questions which you have asked?

Have you ever noticed that you were asking question to which you really did not want the answer?

Serve-Centric Sensitivity Soaring?

Cultural Sensitivity, Gender Sensitivity, Spiritual Sensitivity and the list goes on dowsing you in the sea of sensitivity you’re expected to espouse.  I thought I would toss another stone in the ocean with my own serve-centric sensitivity.  Maybe one day serve-centric will be a word.

What is it?  During a sensitive moments I came across the following verse in Matthew 20: 25-28

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave ;  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.””

Jesus presents service to others as a key character trait.  He contends leadership is demonstrated in service to the point of giving your life.  I believe this ideology presents an eternal paradigm shift.  In other words, “lording over” seems to be the fall back paradigm, thus creating an eternal shift to leadership as a servant.

I don’t know that I have truly seen this mastered in the way Jesus described.   I have had some goods hours, days, or maybe even a good week, but a life of serving anyone in the locale, everyday, seems rather fleeting for mere mortals.

In conjunction, with this recent eye opening expose of servant leadership, I was preparing for a mission trip.  I communicated this passage to our team and challenged with the following:  What if we spent our entire trip looking to out-serve everyone around us.  Literally to fight for the opportunity to serve before anyone asks.  We made a commitment to have high serve-centric sensitivity.


It made a difference.  In past trips we would make duty lists and remind team members if not once, but maybe twice or more. I can’t remember one time where I had to plead for service.  Of course, one of the reasons for the lack of pleading was I was ready to out-serve, but the reality is they were busy out-serving each other.

Was it a euphoric paradise perfect in all ways?  Not exactly, but it was a great demonstration of what a group can do if they really strive to live the character of Christ.
Was it easy?  Believe it or not the answer is both yes and no.  Doing what is right even when it is difficult does not come easily.  It is a choice.  It is a demonstration of the will to do what is right.  Anyone can say, “I will serve you.”  It just takes a pulse and a voice to communicate.  To actually take the steps, get up, take the time, give effort, and serve, is a choice of the will.

If you are like me it is much easier to be served than to serve.  If napkins are needed at the table, it is easier to ask someone else to get them for me.  Something needs picked up or the dishwasher is full of clean dishes to unload.   Someone will get it.

What if a family decided, “I am going to do everything in my power to out-serve you.”  Can you imagine?

What if a team of employees, a church, a community made the commitment to turn up   serve-centric sensitivity and out serve each other?


My first thought is if I really become a servant I will be a slave and even worse a doormat.  How does becoming a door mat compare to the example of Christ?  He literally died a terrible death to serve us at our greatest need.  So far, I have not been in that situation.  I bet you haven’t either.

What I have found is that it is just the opposite.  The really great outcome is you feel great.  Could you be used?  Yes.  However, the blessing and favor that come from serving will long outweigh any ill effects.  Save those truths for another time.


Have you had some opportunities to serve, taken them, and what have been the outcomes?

What are some areas of your life that need the paradigm shift to serve-centric sensitivity?