This Explains a LOT… (a PINK Tuesday post)

Walking through a favorite store last week, this sign caught my eye.

Sharing my name with a line of filter products hasn’t really affected me much, but there are times – as on this particular day – when my life parallels the life of my inanimate siblings on the shelf.

Temporary Price Cut. 15% Off. Brita.

I had to giggle as I stopped to capture this photo and I walked away thinking that this explains a LOT! There are certainly days when I am 15% off… Off-kilter. Off-target. Off-my-rocker. 

I even wondered what I might have 15% less of? Energy? Focus? Enthusiasm? Patience? (Stop me, please – I could go on & on!)

For the bargain price of 15% off, you could possess Brita – an indicator that demand must be lower than supply right now. Isn’t that why products receive temporary price cuts – to generate demand for the stockpiles of product lining warehouse shelves?

If so, I have to ask – then what? What happens, once the sale has ended, and everyone wants a piece of me? I suspect you’ve had days like this, where it seems everyone is after you for something. On these days, by the time we collapse into bed for the night, we feel like there must’ve been a sale going on that we weren’t notified about. We feel as if we gave ourselves away to the hungry consumers in our lives. We wonder if we might have been taken advantage of, since we know that we’re worth the full price on our sticker (right?).

There’s an innate, defensive reaction to giving our lives away that flows from our personal value perception (like my personal response to this 15% Off sign). I have to admit that my initial reaction to the Brita sign was – Are you serious?! You (not sure who I was talking to) couldn’t even afford me! You can’t put a price tag on Brita! Go ahead and TRY!

Now that I’ve settled down a bit, I realize that it’s the world that puts a price tag on what we have to contribute. It’s the culture around us that dictates value based on our gifts and talents, making us feel as if we must hold out for those who will pay full-price for our abilities and resist any urge to give ourselves away for less. But in God’s economy, to withhold our full value because others can’t ‘afford’ our sticker price is to thwart the work of the Spirit, making my life something that it is not…

Mine.

When I worked for the YMCA years ago, I was very much aware of the organization’s policy to offer its services on a sliding fee scale. The reason for this is simple: they believe that they have a product too valuable to withhold from anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay.

God teaches us this same concept, reminding us not to withhold any good thing from others if it is in our power to provide it for them.

“…get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (The Message)

Pour yourself out for the Kingdom!

I picture our Savior on the cross, with a price tag attached that has been edited to read:

His Life for Yours – 15% Off25% Off75% OffHis Gift to You.

This is no temporary price reduction – this is grace.

Jesus’ gift of salvation is not free, but paid for.

This explains a LOT.

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The Great Efficiency (a PINK Tuesday post)

woman

Image by Alessandro Vannucci via Flickr

 

The Proverbs 31 woman is doing me no favors today.

While she was up before the sun, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day, I was nestled under cozy covers, recovering from another week of seeking that elusive state of being: The Great Efficiency.

What exactly is it that tugs at the heart of a woman, convincing her that there is no higher goal than to be eternally busy? Are we reading the scriptures correctly when we picture this industrious gem of a woman as she appears in Proverbs chapter 31 – the epitome of relational genius – famed possessor of The Great Efficiency?

We are told that she is trusted completely by her husband because of her goodness and generosity toward him. She is a bargain shopper and finder of treasures, both in the stores and in the real estate market. She is a gardener and homemaker who is never too busy to reach out and help the poor. She is moving from sun-up to sun-down, and apparently even then she’s in no hurry to call it a night. She wakes up ready to roll and burns the midnight oil, and somehow she always manages to face tomorrow with a smile.

Her words are filled with wisdom and her work is always worthwhile. She never doubts her usefulness or her importance in the life of her family. She is predictably kind, perpetually observant and possibly the most elegant woman who ever lived.

When our households – like hers – run like a well-oiled machine and our scheduled lives flow effortlessly from Sabbath to Sabbath, will we have arrived?

Is this how they will know we are Christians – by our smiling faces from behind sewing machines; the click of knitting needles in our nicely manicured hands?

Is this the woman God created ME to be?

Part of me wants to blame Ms. Proverbs 31 for the annoying Marthaic impulse that pulls me down this path. After all, wasn’t it Martha who inadvertently earned poster child status for the cause of The Great Efficiency when she made her famous scene during Jesus’ visit to her home, admonishing her sister Mary for an apparent lack of interest in the ways of the Proverbs 31 woman?

If Martha’s dedication to running an efficient household and making her guests feel at home was actually the best choice, the way to be, then how are we to take Jesus’ response to her temper tantrum?

“‘Martha, Martha’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42

Who told Martha that it was more important to be efficient than attentive?

Who tells us that we can somehow be all and do all, for all (and still have something left over to offer at the feet of the Lord)?

You see, the problem with The Great Efficiency is that we come to see ourselves as capable. And equipped. And completely able, by our own efforts, to meet the needs of those around us.

As we master living efficient lives, the danger is that we will begin to believe that we are the solution to the problems around us. If we just work harder; if we just put in longer hours; if we just set our minds to it, we can not only do it, but we can do it all.

Every day I watch the women around me strive to live efficient lives. I watch them work multiple jobs to put food on the table in single-parent households. I watch them give up carnivals and cable in order to pay the rent and clothe their growing children. I watch them juggle To-Do Lists which, by virtue of their length, are disappointments just waiting to happen. I watch and I listen, and sometimes I hear words like these:

“I had been feeling frustrated and weighed down lately by society’s expectations of me: “Put your son in after school care and go get a job”, “quit needing charity and go get a job”, “work 9 to 5”, etc.

The reality of it is that I have a job. I have many, many jobs.  My first job is being a mother. The time and dedication and schedule that I am able to give to my child is not found in a larger paycheck… is not found in fulfilling my parents dreams… is not found by fitting into the box of society’s norm; rather, it is found right here in our home.  It is evident in that I am able to put his needs for consistency, structure, schedule, and routine above conveniences and material things… it is evident in his eagerness!

So it IS all a matter of perspective.  And it IS difficult to keep appreciating my gifts and joys when society wants to tell me I am poor, when society wants to shame me for having shut-off notices… I have a renewed perspective that each late notice is my reminder that I am staying true to myself and I am meeting my child’s needs.”

Whatever your wake-up call, it’s time to expose the lie of The Great Efficiency and embrace The Great Sufficiency of Christ.

I’m not enough, but HE IS.

I can never do it all, but HE CAN.

My light may go out before the day’s work is done, but even as I put my To-Do List to sleep, “He will quiet (me) with His love.” Zephaniah 3:17

His grace IS ENOUGH for me.