Archive for March, 2013

He dug his own grave

You’ve heard the idiom, “He dug his own grave.” It generally means a person was responsible for his or her own demise.

For example, the employee who talks back to the boss. The husband who lets a boundary slip. Lance Armstrong.

But how would it change my perspective on life if I literally spent the money, time and energy to dig my own grave? It would obviously have to be done while I still had strength, so I would presumably have life to live after the digging was done.

The idea comes from a biblical patriarch. In Genesis 50, Joseph quotes his father, Jacob (a.k.a., Israel), “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Did you catch it? He dug his own grave.

If I spent some time with a shovel in the city cemetery, would the stress of modern life weigh less? Would irritating people not bother me as much? Would my wife’s beauty shine brighter and my kids bring me greater joy?

It’s spiritual law that we learn more at a funeral than a party.

Once I looked for a sponsor for my son’s little league baseball team. The parents of one player owned a funeral home. With the jersey printing deadline approaching, I asked them to sponsor the team.

They, of course, were happy to help, assuming we didn’t mind playing with a funeral home on our backs all season. I didn’t mind. As the coach of a team of unknown talent, “The Walking Dead” could be a fallback mascot if we didn’t win a game.

Plus, it never hurts to teach kids early, and remind adults often, that there’s more to life than winning and baseball and stuff and ourselves. “Begin with the end in mind,” Stephen Covey said. The 7 Steps of Highly Effective People author came to his own end last year. I assume it didn’t catch him off guard.

Back to baseball. Unbeknownst to me, a lawyer had already committed to sponsor my son’s team. I let the mortician down easy.

Speaking of death and lawyers, this week we recall a man who was put to death by religious lawyers.

He had breathed life into the people who took his. He dreamed the steer that provided the leather that licked his back. He conjured the ore that formed the nails that pinned him to the tree, a tree he had seeded.

And, he shaped the rock that would one day hold his lifeless body. Like his forefather Jacob, Jesus dug his own grave.

Lucky for us, the one who held the strength to surrender to death also had power over it. He crafted the cotton that laced the linens that were left behind in the empty tomb.

All of us have dug our own graves with mistakes we’ve made. We are responsible for our own downfall, our own ruin. We cannot ourselves put the pieces back together again. That’s why the Creator dug his own grave, then entered the flesh, suffered its shame, and rose in freedom.

To share his freedom with us. O glorious day.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 

Are you a producer or consumer?

The old quip states, “Pro is to con as progress is to Congress.” A modern variation: Pro is to con as produce is to consume.

Mass marketers think of you and me not as people, or even numbers. We are, fundamentally, consumers. Consumption, they would have us believe, is our purpose.

Consumption takes many forms. A morning shower, an afternoon fuel up, a midnight snack. A trip to the mall, a walk through Wal-Mart, a showdown at the Golden Corral. Whenever you ingest, utilize, use up or take in, you consume. Sometimes it’s so easy you don’t even know you’re doing it. Until the account statement comes in or the account balance goes low.

“Oh, yes. I remember now. I did go by Dick’s Sporting Goods for that.”

The brilliance of corporate marketers is not just that they get us to consume without thinking about it; it’s also that they get us to consume and consider it a necessity.

“I did go by Dick’s for that, but my son needed it.”

Maslow indeed made a Hierarchy of Needs. “Batting glove” was not on it.

“I just had to drop by Sonic or my blood sugar would get low.”

I wish I felt so adamant the other direction: “I just had to get to the gym or my arteries would get hard.” Unfortunately, production must go uphill. Consumption simply rolls downward.

Production requires strength. Consumption needs but a bit of weakness. Hence, many people find themselves in a consumer’s pickle. Too much debt, too little wealth. Too much weight, too little health. Too much pollution, disorganization and chaos. Not enough stability, sustainability and order.

Heaven knows there’s more to life on earth than producing. Unbridled driven-ness is as distasteful as uncontrolled consuming. But most of us have greater tendency toward the latter than the former. And, on balance, our society needs more producing and less consuming.

Some thoughts on how to do that:

Become aware of your consuming. Take a day and write down everything you consume. Water, shampoo, toothpaste, toiletries, food, drinks, chewing gum, gasoline, office supplies, air conditioning, cell phone minutes, online purchases, convenience store snacks, medicines, entertainment.

Then, fast from some consuming. It is Lent, after all. Fasting was once so commonplace that we named a meal after it (break-fast). Today, we only associate it with sports cars and download speeds. But fasting exposes the hankerings that drive our consuming. I don’t realize how much I “need” that drink until I try to go without it.

Fasting breaks habits and breeds self-control. And self-control is the seed of productivity. Many can tear something down, or just let it degrade by gravitational force. Only a few can build something up. That is, turn consumption into production.

When resources are put to good use and for a greater good than merely the self-focused engorgement of the consumer, positive production happens. When not, garbage in, garbage out.

America succeeds, businesses succeed and families succeed when producers outnumber consumers, when providers outnumber the provided for, when givers outnumber takers.

Consuming is certainly easier than the hard work of education, discipline and, ultimately, production. But only with producing come the rewards of dignity, prosperity and true independence.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

This one’s for the kids

I have been alarmed of late by some ways I’ve heard parents speak to their kids. The incidents have been within public earshot. I cringe to imagine what transpires in private.

 

I have low tolerance for belittling little ones, though I admit my own patience runs short at times. The one who said, “Let the little children come to me,” had compassion at the bottom of his patience bucket. Jesus knew for certain the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as them.

 

The rest of us need frequent reminding, particularly the man at the sit-down restaurant I patronized recently.

 

Surrounded by his wife and three teenage children, he took a cell phone call in which he colorfully demanded that the person on the other end return an item that had been taken. The call lasted five minutes or more, included various profanities and attracted the attention of tables around.

 

After the phone call concluded and the family rose to leave, the man’s son expressed disapproval of the scene his old man had made. With fervor near equal to his performance on the phone, the father loudly disparaged the boy for questioning his authority.

 

“You’re so ungrateful! I take care of you and this is how you treat me? I can quit taking care of you. You think you’re such a know-it-all. Get out of here.”

 

It was enough to get me out of my chair. I stood up and followed them toward the door but didn’t say anything. Perhaps I should have.

 

A few weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, I did say something. This time, I overheard a father (or at least a father-figure) deriding his 8-year-old son in the public restroom of a community center.

 

“Every time we bring you here, you act this way. Every time! What’s wrong with you? You can’t do anything right. Quit your crying or I’ll spank you right here!”

 

And then, the dagger: “It’s your birthday. You still have cake to eat at home. But if you keep screwing up, you’re not getting any of it! You hear me? You got five seconds to quit your crying or else I’m gonna spank you.”

 

My heart sank for this child, born on Valentine’s Day, but not always treated with love.

 

Outside the bathroom, I introduced myself to the father. He was cordial. I complimented the boy for wanting to participate with a group of kids I was working with at the center. He still had tears in his eyes and a shell-shocked look on his face. That night, I prayed for peace in our homes.

 

My friend, Dr. Terry Smith, says that children are the world’s best recorders but the world’s worst interpreters. Children have no idea how tough it is to make ends meet. They’re unaware of work stress, rising expenses or marital struggles.

 

They simply record: “The man whom I instinctively know is supposed to protect me from threats is somehow threatening me.”

 

And interpret, poorly: “There must be something wrong with me. I must have a dark heart.”

 

Enough wrong interpretations and the weeds of hopelessness, recklessness, addiction and promiscuity sprout from the perceived dark heart. When they do, it is certainly possible for the light of truth to scatter the darkness before it’s too late.

 

But how much better when the lights of love, patience and compassion shine brightly from the beginning?

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

 


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