Friday, February 8, 2013

My Tip of the Week

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. – Buddhist Proverb

I saw a news item the other day that captured my attention. A waitress was fired for posting a customer’s receipt online. The customer had been part of a larger party where an 18% gratuity was automatically applied. The customer scratched out her portion of the gratuity and wrote, “I give God 10% Why do you get 18?” (sic)

Several things bothered me about that report. First of all, I know it is customary for restaurants to charge 18% (in most cases) for large parties. Standard tips are 15-20%, so the charge is reasonable and the custom is broad enough that no one should be caught off-guard. Furthermore, if the service had been substandard (which it likely was not), the customer had every right to ask to speak to the manager about it, but didn’t.

Secondly, the person who posted the receipt online said they did it as a “joke.” It never ceases to amaze me that when one is caught doing something abominable, they call it a joke and push the blame on others for “not getting it.” Jokes are a catch-all excuse used by bullies. She did not like the customer’s breach of custom, and so she posted the receipt fully intending the world to know the customer was a cheapskate (at best). That’s not a joke – it’s a malicious act.

Thirdly, it just so happens the customer is a church pastor. Does one’s gift to God negate one’s opportunity to be gracious? Even if she does not agree with having a mandatory gratuity added to her bill, why would she refuse to tip a server who earns less than $4 per hour? In her state, the employer is exempt from paying minimum wage. Tips, whether you receive them or not, are counted towards servers’ wages, so not only did the pastor breach proper etiquette, she stole wages from the young woman who served her.

How does one respond to this story?

First, I confess this embarrasses me as a Christian. The Bible teaches us that of all the gifts God has given the world, the most important is the gift of love, by which the Bible means the charitable, gracious giving of self.

When I give my head to the barber, I do not discount the bill or tip just because my head needs less work than many other heads in town. I seek to be generous instead, because the one who serves me has a family to feed. Whether he or she is a millionaire or a pauper is immaterial. They provide me a service I need, and they do a nice job, and they are deserving of my respect. The dollars I offer her are simply tokens of my appreciation.

So my first tip: when in doubt, be generous.

Second, this story reminds me of the dangers of acting out of anger or mean-spiritedness. I am hard-pressed to recall a time I ever acted out of anger where the consequence was worth it. I am sure somewhere in the annals of my life’s story there was a time I was angry and was entitled to say or do what I said and did, but I will be darned if one comes to mind.

Whether one is a Christian or a heathen, one is wisest when exercising restraint of pen or tongue, especially in this day and age of instantaneous communication. Once we press Send or Enter, our words and actions will take on a life of their own. One cannot “unring the bell or unsee that which has been seen!”

So my second tip: when in doubt, be restrained.

Third, if you have a problem, deal with it directly. Face it immediately. Fix it properly. If you do your part and respect those around you, your life’s words and deeds will be less likely to be toxic, let alone go viral.

So my final tip: Life is hard enough; Be kind, generous, and forgiving in this, our valley, and for heaven’s sake, tip your servers!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Th Nature of God's Love

Fr. Keith shares the Gospel story where Jesus is removed from the synagogue by a crowd intent on killing him. Instead, he passes through the crowd and continues his ministry. This is a picture of God's perfect grace, which Paul fleshes out ever so beautifully and clearly in the reading of First Corinthians - the great chapter on Love (agape).


Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Art of Being Wise

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. – William James

Modern cars; don’t you just love them?

Driving home the other night I needed to dim the lights on my dashboard but found myself looking everywhere for something that would do the job, but I couldn’t find it. I pulled over and grabbed the owner’s manual for some help, but it was a thousand pages of gobble-dee-gook and an index that has never heard of such a thing as a dash board dimmer switch (or any other term I could think of in the middle of the night).

It turns out that a little plunger on the dash that does other things (and which I have used regularly to do those “other things”) also serves as the instrument panel’s Light Adjustment device. Next to it was a symbol I had always assumed to be a small gear (it looks like a circle surrounded with teeth) is actually supposed to be a light bulb (radiating light). Ah, now it makes sense!

Most of us know most of what we need to know in order to hop in a car and drive off the lot, but there are times it would be wise to sit down with the owner’s manual and peruse it just for those little things we don’t need often – but when we do, it is nice to know where to find them.

Life and faith are a lot like that. Most of us know what we need to know by the time we get out of kindergarten (as one book happily puts it), and yet there are times it would be wise to sit down with our owner’s manual to read up on ideas and stories that make living lovingly and faithfully a more likely outcome.

It all starts (and ends, I suspect) with Attitude. Our attitude colors almost all of what we see. If we are fearful of the future, then we will curl ourselves up into a fetal position and try to protect anything and everything we’ve got. The Bible tells a number of stories of people thrown into prison for one reason or another (generally around matters of faith, and not so much for crimes of stealing or killing or such what-not), but instead of crying in their beer or bemoaning their predicaments, we find them dimming their fear and gazing “out” at a future that may be bright instead.

One lad (Joseph) became the savior of those who sold him into slavery; three prayed quietly and were delivered from both hungry lions and a fiery furnace; yet another couple of fellows sang psalms and songs and, when an earthquake broke open their prison, they not only chose NOT to escape, but stopped their jailor from committing suicide!

These are not unusual stories. They are tales of people who are not afraid of their world; people who are not afraid for their future. They do not look to swords, assault weapons, or armies to deliver them; instead, they look only to the generous hand of God that has delivered countless generations in times of trial, and trust he will deliver them from the “valley of the shadow” as well.

I have lived in fear and I have lived in faith and of the two, I find faith far preferable. In faith I can be me. In faith we can be we; in faith we can find love, strength, and comfort. In faith, I can overlook things that scare me and find people and things that give me life and hope when I travel through the valley of despair.

In faith, I seek out the ninety-nine things that are good, and dim that one thing which may irritate me. I focus on the silver lining and dim the cloud. I do what I can now, and dim down what I cannot control – like the past or the present.

In faith, I choose to live and will dim down and overlook all that does not promote peace, growth, or hope. Dimming the trouble lights, you see, helps me see better what my headlights are shining on in this, our valley.