Getting To Know You

Anyone who has seen the movie “The King And I” can tell you that the story is set in Siam.  But the viewer may not realize that she has learned a great lesson about interpersonal relationships from the lyrics of a much-beloved song in the film. As those words reveal, Anna determines who is her cup of tea by getting to know them “day by day.”

Our society today suffers from a fast food mentality.  The faster something is obtained, the better.  We want burgers, cash and even relationships speedy quick.  Getting a machine to instantly spit out cash to you and having a hamburger handed to you minutes (perhaps even seconds) after ordering it is doable and desirable.  But can we really have a good relationship with someone whom we became acquainted with in the fast lane? Who has time to take days, weeks or even months to get to know anyone?  We want to become fast friends fast.

To expedite the getting to know you process, people typically turn to a question and answer format.  Search the Internet and you will find any number of articles telling you the best questions to ask to get to know someone.  What’s their favorite food?  What would they change about themselves if they could?  Where would they travel if they could go anywhere in the world?  So, you spend an hour asking the magic 50 questions suggested.  Do you really know the person you queried?  Or do you just know about that person?

In my job I regularly read profiles and home studies on prospective adoptive couples.  After reviewing this documentation, I know plenty of facts and figures about them–age, income, number of siblings, years married, etc.  But there is a world of difference in knowing things about someone and knowing the person herself. Actually spending time with someone is the best and really only way to get to know that person. You learn about a person from interaction and observation, not by interrogation.

Singles may use speed dating to determine if an individual is a good prospect for a date.  Apparently they believe that quickly gathering facts about someone is a reliable tool in determining whether he/she is worthy of your time and effort for a relationship. This method seems destined to produce a relationship as short as the time spent getting to know the other person.

My father often told me, “Nothing good ever came easy.”  As far as relationships go, that saying is spot on.  Taking time to do something is hard for most of us.  Why would we want to wait days to have something when we could have it in a few hours?  Why not speed date rather than take time to really get to know someone not just know about them?  You can read a dating profile and learn what Possible Mr. Right does for a living, but that does not tell you how he reacts under pressure, what sets him off, what touches him, etc.  Those are things that are learned through experience–time spent actually being with that person and sharing bits of life together, not just bits of information.

Whew!  Getting to know someone sounds like lots of work.  But if you want a relationship to work, then you have to work at it by putting some time in to get to know the other person.  Spending time together will reveal whether that person is your cup of tea or simply a sour lemon slice simply floating in your cup of life.  Just like a tea bag must steep in hot water to produce a good cup of tea, people must spend time together in the hot water of life and experiences to determine if they will produce a good blend.  You don’t dip a tea bag in the hot water for a few seconds and expect a perfect cup of tea to result.

Will anyone on this earth ever really get to know you?  Maybe not.  But there is someone who knows you intimately.  In fact, He know you better than anyone does or could because He created you.  He knows all your vital stats and even knows the number of hairs on your head. (Matt. 10:30.)  He knew you before your even took a breath; in fact, he knit you together in your mother’s womb.  (Ps. 139:13.)  He doesn’t need to get to know you and get to like you.  He knows all about you and, despite what He knows, He loves you.

Unfortunately, many profess to know God.  They can relate information about Him (He created the world, He is a loving God, He is a part of the Trinity, etc.), but they don’t know Him.  Why?  Because they have never taken the time to get to know Him.  They engage in “speed dating” by spending an hour at church on Sunday and then wondering why the relationship just isn’t all that fulfilling.

When it comes to a relationship with God, the King of Kings, advice from “The King And I” is appropriate.  We only get to know Him through spending time with him day by day.  We need to take the time to get to know all about Him.

JUST WONDER-ing:  Can you really get to know someone without spending time with him/her?  Are you likely to know more about someone the more time you spend with him/her?

 

 

 

 

 

Throwing Babies Out With The Bath Water

Imagining anyone throwing out a baby with the bath water is sure to bring a smile to your face.  Why?  Because the idea is silly and absurd.  Certainly you wouldn’t toss a precious baby out with dirty bath water.  Unfortunately, a recent international news story provides a real life example of such a ridiculous situation.

Throwing a baby out with the bath water is a well known idiom conveying the idea of losing something important while trying to get rid of something unwanted.  Bath water is dirty and unwanted and should be tossed.  The baby, clean or dirty, is a family member who needs to be kept around,  To get rid of the baby with the bath water indicates that whoever was doing the tossing was not paying attention to what he was doing and did not think his plan of action through.

While no news stories about bath water have made the headlines, one story affecting lots of babies has.  Earlier this month the Ethiopian parliament approved a proclamation banning foreign adoptions.  In advocating this move, the minister of women and children reported that well over 25,000 Ethiopian children had been adopted by foreigners in the past 12 years.   But almost one-fourth of the adopting parents were not reporting to Ethiopia on their children as required and could not be located.  The concern was that child abuse and child trafficking was occurring.  So, of course, the logical thing to do is to throw out foreign adoptions, right?  WRONG!

This knee jerk reaction is erroneous for various reasons.  First, it is using a nuclear bomb to act when a hand grenade might do.  If a problem exists with reporting, why not tweak the foreign adoption process rather than doing away with it entirely?  Impose penalties for non-reporting.  Require adoptive parents to provide more information/ways for them to be contacted.  It is extremely hard to believe that these adoptive parents could not be located based on the plethora of information about them in the in-depth home studies required in order to be approved to adopt.

Second, this action is being taken by leaping to unverified conclusions.  Because a couple has failed to report as required does not ipso facto mean that they are not doing so because they are abusing their adopted child.  Maybe, being wrapped up in raising a child from another country, they simply forgot to check in.  Perhaps they misplaced the form they were supposed to use or could not locate the proper address to which to send the form.

Yes, an Ethiopian child, Hana Williams, was abused (starved and beaten) and murdered by her U.S. parents back in 2011.  That sad situation doesn’t mean that ALL foreign parents are child abusers.  Why Angelina Jolie adopted her daughter Zahara from Ethiopia.  Does that mean that Angelina, a foreigner, could be a child abuser merely because she adopted a child from that country?

Third, bad apples can be found in ANY system.  The fact that some abuse might occur is not a compelling reason to chuck the entire system.  The Ethiopian government’s response is basically that if we can’t have a perfect system, we just are going to have any system at all.

Fourth, doing away with foreign adoptions is a disservice to the children the Ethiopian government is trying to protect.  So there’s no adoption.  Then what?  How are these poor children to be cared for?  If there’s no viable alternative in place, Ethiopian kids have been thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire.

According to statistics compiled by William Robert Johnston, 15,319 children were adopted from Ethiopia by U.S. citizens between 1999 and 2016.  These figures establish that there is a large number of Ethiopian kids who have a chance to be raised in a stable and loving home that could provide for their basic needs who are now left to scrape by in their home country.  Ethiopia’s population suffers from poverty and poor sanitation with more than half the population lacking access to clean water.  The country has a shortage of health care workers and health care facilities.   But hey, if there are no foreign adoptions Ethiopian kids have been saved from possible abuse by foreigners.  Hallelujah!

The bottom line is that Ethiopian children have been tossed out with the bathwater of a flawed foreign adoption program.  Closing down foreign adoptions from that country allows us to say good riddance to unethical child harvesting.  But what good will come of this change for orphaned children who have no viable alternatives?

The plight of the Ethiopian children emphasizes just how broken our world is.  Unethical people have preyed upon and abused some Ethiopian children; now ALL Ethiopian orphans will have to pay the price.  No, we aren’t in Ethiopia, but this is OUR problem because all children, “red and yellow, black and white,” are precious in His sight.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this–to look after orphans in their distress. James 1:27.  Don’t look the other way when someone is trying to throw the babies out with the bath water.

Just WONDER-ing:  Do you feel that something that happens in another part of the world is not your concern?  If it is your concern, what could you do about the situation?

 

 

 

 

 

A Word For The Wise

Failing to plan is planning to fail–or so my mother told me.  With the start of a new year, plenty of folks are making plans which are doomed to fail.  These “plans” are resolutions.  Perhaps resolutions are not the right plans to be making; maybe we simply need a word.

The dictionary definition of a “resolution” is a firm decision to do or not do something.  Unsurprisingly, according to statisticbrain.com, the top resolution made at the beginning of 2017 was to lose weight.  See how skinny everyone is at the start of 2018?  No?  Well, that tells you how successful the losing weight resolution was.  Sure, the resolutioners had the best of intentions, but who can resist Valentine’s candy?  Of course, that’s assuming that the resolution even lasted until mid-February.  Raise your hand if you were watching the Super Bowl at the beginning of February while quaffing water and snacking on celery sticks.  Didn’t think so.

One way not to break a resolution is not to make one.  If Statisticbrain.com is to be believed, 42% of Americans NEVER make a New Year’s resolution.  While these non-committal Americans did not go down in flaming defeat, they did not achieve any goal either because none was identified.  You simply can’t reach a goal that is never set.

On the other hand, 41% of Americans, at least so statisticbrain.com says, usually make a resolution.  That’s less than half of our fellow countrymen who even make a stab at achieving some goal.  Aren’t we a motivated lot?  The inspired 41% who do make a resolution do not have good results from having done so.  Only 9.2% of that 41% felt that they were successful in achieving their resolution.

What’s up with this poor success rate?  Well, we may aim high by setting a goal, but perhaps we are aiming TOO high.  One is doomed to failure if the set goal is unrealistic.  While you may want to lose 30 pounds, perhaps 10 is more doable and might still allow you to gastronomically enjoy the Super Bowl.

I’ll confess that I’ve had varying results with past resolutions.  A few have been successfully achieved.  Others were mere pipe dreams.  I’m hesitant to say that the blame for the lack of success is my fault.  Surely it is more likely that the problem can be found in the plan I used to set/achieve my goals.  Yeah!  The problem is with the method (resolutions) and not me.

Apparently some other smart cookies have reached the same conclusion as I have.  Cue the trendy effort to choose a WORD for the year.  Who needs a bunch of words, i.e., a resolution, to help us?  Let’s simplify and make things easier to grasp and follow.  All we need is one word.  If you fail, then you probably didn’t select the magic word.

How does this word way work?  Assuming you want to lose weight, you might want to choose the word “exercise.”  If you want to quit smoking, you might choose the word “breathe.”  If you want to get your act together, you might want to choose the word “organize.”  Unfortunately, this approach seems a bit too simplistic to me.  A word is good for the big picture, but don’t you need a few more words with it to achieve success?  Wouldn’t some definitive steps for reaching your goal be helpful?

I’m going to keep an open mind and try the word approach this year.  Settling on one word is difficult, but I have cleverly chosen one with more than one application.  My word is “word.”  Yes, “word” is a four letter word, but I think it is one of which my mother would approve.

So what do I mean by “word?”  The first application of “word” is with my writing.  I love to write, and writing, of necessity, involves words.  Lots of words.  In a previous year I wrote a manuscript with approximately 81,600 words.  I want those words to be published so everyone can have the opportunity to read them.  Publication won’t occur without great effort and probably some rejections along the way.  But on my word, I am going to give it my best shot to see my book in print.  Not only will I need to market my words, but I’ve got to get all those words out of my brain and down on paper for several other writing ideas I have.  My word, I’m going to be busy with words!

The other meaning of the word “word” relates to my faith.  I want to read through God’s word again this year.  I want a deeper relationship with The Word who was there in the beginning.  I want to spread the word about The Word hopefully through both my written words and the words that I speak.

Upon reflection, maybe having a word of the year is the wise way to the word “success” in achieving goals.  We might be getting so bogged down in details and planning for our goal that we fail to focus on the goal itself.  It should be easier to remember and focus on a single word.  Will you give me your word that you’ll take this challenge to have a word for the year with me?

Just WONDER-ing:  What word would be a good focus for you this year?  Why?

 

 

 

Alpha And Omega — It’s All Greek To Us

Happy New Year!  January 1st marked the beginning of a new year–2018.   But for there to be a new year, an old one, 2017, had to end.  We said good-bye, and possibly good riddance, to 2017, but we welcomed 2018 with open arms.  Baby New Year knocked, and we raced to throw open the door and admit him.  2017 was tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage in our rush to grab a fresh start.  The end and yet a beginning faces us.

Beginnings and endings may be opposite, but they are inextricably linked.  If one considers beginnings in the cold sober light of day (as opposed to the delirium and likely intoxication of New Year’s festivities), only one conclusion is reasonable.  Beginnings aren’t possible without something ending.

This thinking isn’t rocket science.  I mean, can you name any beginning that isn’t preceded by an ending?  A baby is born; a pregnancy has ended.  A child graduates; her formal educational period has ended.  A couple gets married; their days as singles are over.  A worker retires and begins a life of leisure; his work days have ended.  A meal is served; food preparation is completed.  The sun rises to signal a new day; the night has passed.

Not only does an ending inevitably precede a beginning, but an ending doesn’t simply go away; it impacts the beginning.  A beginning is built on what has ended.  If a marriage ends in divorce, an ex-spouse may enter the world with a bad taste for romance and a cynical view of the opposite sex.  The beginning of single life and any new romantic encounters will undoubtedly be affected, perhaps even tainted, by that past ending.

How typical and appealing it is at the start of a new year to focus merely on a beginning and a fresh start.  But without considering what came before, i.e., what has ended, our likelihood of success at whatever we are resolving to do is minimal.  Perhaps we should ask what came before such that a new beginning is needed or desired.  If our resolution is to lose weight, we should consider how we got to the point where extra pounds have been added.  Were our eating habits at the end of the preceding year undisciplined?  Was food being used to feed an emotional need?  Only by taking into account the ending will the beginning have a good chance for success.

Alpha and Omega are bookends for the Greek alphabet.  Alpha is the first letter, and Omega is the last.  Alpha denotes the beginning while Omega denotes the ending.  Alpha and Omega may be 22 letters apart (yes, the Greek alphabet is only 24 letters long), but they are linked by the letters in between.  Alpha and Omega are at opposite ends of the alphabet, but they are both necessary for a complete listing.  The bottom line is that there is no whole without a beginning and an end.

Referring to Alpha and Omega when speaking of beginning and endings underscores that the past does matter.  The ancient Greek civilization ended, but its accomplishments affected the beginning of others.  I may not grasp all that the Greeks did, but I understand that their alphabet had a beginning and an end.

As Christians, endings and beginnings are important, and they aren’t always tied to a calendar.  Becoming a Christian is a new beginning resulting from the ending of the old sinful man; we are new creatures in Christ.  (2 Cor. 5:17)  Our gratitude and joy in this new state is impacted and even greater when we consider how hopeless our previous state was.

While it might be fun to debate when the world actually was created (DUH–in the beginning) and when it might end (the end is near! or not), what’s even more important is WHO is the beginning and the end.  Revelation tells us three different times (1:8; 21:6 and 22:13) that God is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is the first and the last.  He is the beginning and the end.  He is the whole and the One who can make us whole.  If we begin this year with Him, He will see us through to the end.  2017 ended, but His presence in our lives does not even as a new year begins.  Now that makes for a happy new year.