MALCONTENT

David Geffen, of Asylum Records fame, in an interview, called Don Henley, of The Eagles fame, a “malcontent”. Their close relationship was long gone and had ended in ugly lawsuits over music rights.

I don’t know either of them to say who was right or wrong, but it dawned on me that all of us, probably at one time or another, have not been content with our lot in life… even after receiving more than our fair share of blessings.

I was accused of this very same trespass this week. She didn’t use the word, but that’s exactly what she was driving at. She thinks that sometimes, I too, am a malcontent.

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She was the “go between”, caught between another person and myself, in a business negotiation. The other party referred to me as a “tough negotiator”. That’s business talk for “cheapskate”.

The other party and myself have known one another for a long time, around thirty years. I’ve known him long enough and have had enough dealings, or what they business world calls, “run -ins”, to know that he’s a tough “negotiator”…

Last week I wrote about the power of words. I was reminded how true that was again since then. T, (short for the poor lady caught between the cheapska… make that tough negotiators), told me that M, (short for the other valiant negotiator), had passed on some kind and complimentary words about me.

Of all the words she said, there was one line that caught me. And it caught me by the soul. All the kind words meant nothing because all that I could dwell on was the line that brought out the malcontent in me.

“M said you came from nothing,” T said.

I’ve lived long enough to let most of the ugly, and sometimes downright nasty, comments about me roll of my ego like water off of a duck’s back. But that one stuck in my craw.

I might have had nothing, but to say that I came from nothing insinuates that my roots aren’t worthy.

I drilled T about the comment. So much so that she concluded that M and myself were crazy and she only wanted out of being trapped in the middle between the two of us.

To say I come from nothing is to suggest that my parents are nothing.

I took the comment personally. Not for me, but for my mom and dad. You can curse and mock me, but my parents are off limits. The comment brought out the fire in me that once marked most of my days as a younger man.

Anyone that knew my dad knew he was a man of integrity. They would also know that he was a man who would stand, by himself if he had to, to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves. He was a man of God. A humble man.

It’s not a remotely exaggerated statement to say that I would be considered closer to nothing than my mom or dad. What we know is that all of us deserve nothing, but we have been shown and accepted the free gift of grace that means we’re somebody to the One whose opinion is the only One that matters.

After the third degree T explained that she’d been paraphrasing. M told her that I “started with nothing.” To those of us that pay attention to words, know that’s a far cry from “he came from nothing”.

The hard truth is that if this were a test… I failed. Even if it was out of love and respect for my folks.

I’m pondering the idea that those of us that have been given more blessings might tend to be more apt to fall into the “malcontent” category.

THE PEN AND THE SWORD

When I first heard the old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword”, I scoffed. After all, I have siblings. Older ones. Two of the three are brothers. They could punch holes through doors… and I could write fairly well. While math wasn’t my specialty, I could solve the equation regarding my brothers with ease; their brawn verses my pen, or yellow pencil, as it were, and I’d come out on the short end of the stick every time. And twice on Sunday.

With time I’d come to grasp what it was the person that wrote that pen and sword adage meant, but, being slow on the uptake, it didn’t find the heart of what that author was aiming at. Some things take the better part of a lifetime to learn.

By now it’s been a while since I’ve begun to grasp the power of words. The Word changed the history of this world. Words can change, motivate, inspire, and bring perseverance to those who believe in the words.

I was reminded how powerful words are this week. I have some fairly long time friends that I met for the first time Thursday. I realized that I’ve known my friends for around eight years.

Ace and Betty Draper are servants of God. Missionaries. And I knew them, or have been in touch with them, Betty in particular, since they were fresh off of the plane from serving in Papua New Guinea with New Tribes Mission that is now Ethnos360.

For pushing up against a decade we’ve been trading comments on each other’s blogs as we’ve shared our life stories. We’ve poured out truths; fun ones. Hard ones. Real ones… and sad ones. We’ve prayed for one another, and more importantly one another’s children. But in that time, through merely words, we’ve come to know each other just by long distant words. That changed this week.

The change happened at Red Robin in the Tempe Town Square outdoor mall, just east and north of the ASU campus, not far from my youngest’s school and apartment, in Tempe AZ.

These dear folks drove from Sun Lakes, which feels like half way to Tucson, to meet with me. I was running late so Ace and Betty were inside waiting for me.

I pulled off my shades as I flung the red door wide open. Before I could see her, I could feel her. There, to my right, in the empty waiting section was my dear friend Betty… waiting to greet me.

It’s an odd thing to grasp; you don’t have to look into another person’s eyes to know them. Betty and I hugged like a family member you haven’t seen since the reunion of ’88. When I shook Ace’s hand, it struck me, and reminded me, of my dad’s firm handshake. The clutch of a strong man, not for show, but in respect.

I don’t know how long we were at Red Robin, but it wasn’t long enough. I had a million business reasons to leave, but none of them were good enough to make me want to leave the presence of my old friends.

It was a treasure of time to be in the presence of humble servants of God. Ace and Betty are the epitome of just that.

I pondered our meeting and, what is usually foreign to me, the fact that I didn’t want to leave. As near as I can tell, people love being around real people that speak truth in love and humility. We shared stories of our children and grandchildren, life, hopes and dreams. We laughed. I fought back tears.

Ace and Betty had to meet other missionary related people the next few days after the day we met. They were going to Buckeye, which seems like it’s half way to the Colorado River. And they were going up to a place close to Camp Verde, which IS half way to Flagstaff.

After all these years these fine folks are still sacrificing, seeking and serving…

Ace and Betty, and all the people like them, are my heroes. Those called to serve, and are obedient, are the heart, hands, feet, and face of God to a lost world… and even to those of us that watch from the safety of afar. The safety afforded us by God and the ones that He chose to serve.

You can catch up with Betty here. I think she’d agree with me; “The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.”

CUP OF COFFEE

It might be considered the Sabbath to some, but regardless of the day, the newly repaired coffee maker doesn’t get the day off. The only time it’s gotten a day off in the last ten plus years is when it breaks down.

As the coffeemaker ground the beans for another cup I was feeling relieved. It’s not too many mornings that I get to have coffee at home, or in an open top ceramic cup. It’s usually in a metal screw top cup with the flap on top the slides open to allow you to sip coffee while driving the beat up Phoenix streets and not end up with half the cup of hot coffee in your lap.

I’m sipping that coffee with the perfect dose of half and half mixed in while I type. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, much less read, anything. When I get busy, which happens a lot, I recall some other times in my life that I’ve been busy. I think about “Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy” phrases from childhood.

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I also have the “ox in the ditch” words from Jesus in Luke floating around my head. It’s amazing how most of us are prone first to justify or blame someone else for our circumstances. We come by it honestly. Adam blamed the “woman” and then God Himself. After the massive fail he was trying to blame everyone involved… except himself.

There was one particular summer, an extra hot one, I worked over a hundred and twenty days in a row. I took advantage of the long days of summer to work fifteen hours a day in the punishing sunlight framing houses, lots of them. I’ve never been a “40 hour a week” guy.

I have another appointment with the skin doctor in a couple of weeks. This time the spot flaring up that will have to be burned, actually frozen to the point of blistering, is on the back of my left tricep. Beats having it on my nose again.

Whatever I may have gained back then is gone like the dinosaurs. I’m still struggling with the whole “work smarter not harder” thing. And if I was younger, I might try to blame someone else. It was my parents that moved us to the “devil’s bedroom” after all.

But it’s on me. The skin issues, the “wearing yourself out trying to get rich” issues. The workaholic issues, they’re all mine.

Maybe the coffee maker breaking down is a sign? We’re appointed to take time for rest, to recharge. It’s good to get God given rest… instead of going without a day off, like that coffee maker, and breaking down. We all get down time… one way or the other.

I appreciate a day of rest. It’s a gift from God, literally. I’ll talk to Him today, read His Word… and have another cup of coffee. This one’s gone now.

HOGWASH

At the risk of sounding cynical, which I apparently fall victim to according to sources (like family), I think New Year’s Resolutions are a bunch of hogwash.

There was a time when I was a bright eyed participant in New Year’s Resolution proclamations. It seems to be a national and familial pastime to wait for the New Year to be and do what we really meant and desired to do and be year round.

Those bright eyes grew dim in the light of reality. And years of failing.

I’ve heard a lot of folks, some from my family, vow that this is the year to clean up that diet, give up the Hostess Hohos and get back in shape. I’ve heard some folks swear off fast food. They fell off that wagon faster than they could get through the drive thru…

I remember my parents make some New Year’s Resolutions to give up smoking… I just can’t recall how many times. And since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I had a few of my own misspeaking.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve vowed not to drive like a bat out of hell, to be kind and more gentle in traffic. I’m not sure I ever made it around the block… much less through the first day…

I did manage to go without Doritos, original flavor of course, for probably more than ten years… I had to go to the bank today, which happens to be inside the Fry’s grocery store. I did my good deed and picked up some needed bottled water… and a handy bag of Doritos… original flavor or course.

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None of us like to be weak, we have good intention… but alas, the flesh is indeed fallen. And not even the power and promise of a brand spankin’ New Year can change that.

I’m not suggesting that we’re a bunch of “liar, liar, pants on fires”, but we struggle to keep our vows, our contracts, or covenants.

Only God Himself has the Power to keep His covenant. To keep His vow paid for by the blood of His Son. And that’s really all we can count on for sure in the gift of another year; Him. His perfect Word.

It’s good to strive to be better. I think that desire in us is part of us “being made in His image.” But it’s only by His power that we ever succeed. And it gets easier, and possible, with Him in us and our will aligning with His.

Trying to change without the power of God, New Year or otherwise, is nonsense. Or what us old fashioned folks like to call “Hogwash”.

LET’S BE HONEST

Let’s be honest; somethings about the holidays we don’t really look forward to. In fact, I’ll bet, really just guess, I’m not much of a gambler, there are somethings about the holidays you and I downright dread.

Today, (which happens to be Sunday… so much for a day of rest), is the day the Christmas tree has to come down. I’ve been wrestling, punching, lassoing, and kneeing that obstinate fake tree back into its disintegrating boxes for fifteen years.

There will be cuts and scrapes I’ll have to nurse for the next couple weeks after we go another round this year. If I was a little more gentle with the ole tree its lights would probably still be working. And there would be less holes and little pieces of it to toss each year.

The tree is just the beginning. The lights out front are a couple stories off the ground and aren’t exactly a walk in the park either. Getting them down and putting them away is easy to dread too.

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I had a thought early this morning; instead of another year of dread, I should be thanking my lucky stars that I have another year to fight that tree. The reality is that it has nothing to do with stars. God made the stars and is the One responsible for giving us another year.

We got word this morning that a charity we support called FAM, Fighting All Monsters, a children’s cancer charity, lost a young man that’s been fighting cancer for fifteen years. Levi was nineteen years old.

And I dread taking down a tree?

Last night I went and plugged the heat lamps in to keep the oranges from freezing on the trees. “I’m glad I’m not homeless tonight,” I said as I walked back inside.

It’s easy to take God’s love, grace, and mercy for granted. Most of us do. I’m no exception.

I’m thankful for another year. I’m thankful for the physical ability to still be able to manhandle that tree, the agility to still climb ladders. I’m thankful that my family is healthy and has first world issues, not third world ones.

I’m thankful for the gift of free will that allows me the mental capacity to choose how I react in situations… like taking down the decorations from celebrating the birth of Christ.

I’m thankful for God’s protection and provision of another year. I pray His mercy and grace would overwhelm the families that have lost and are going to lose their children this year. May they find peace in their darkest hours. May we do what we can to be the heart and hands of God.

If you have an interest in supporting FAM it would be appreciated by a lot of suffering folks. Click here to get to FAM. More importantly, your prayers for the children and families are appreciated.

Let’s be honest; we have been blessed. And “to whom much is given much is required.” May God bless you and yours with a healthy and wise 2020 and beyond.