Friday, March 20, 2009

A Good Life Guaranteed: Skill, Credit, Hope

In a country that provides endless possibilities and free public education there is a basis on which you can be guaranteed a good life. This is a base. There are innumerable additions to ensure a happy life, fruitful life, secure life, purpose driven life, etc. but these three things, with no other efforts, motivations or requirements will see you through a good life.

Have a skill. This is best decided early in life when there is more time, choices and fewer commitments on you personally. This skill can be developed in many different ways. Not everyone is college bound but if you are get good grades in high school because they equal money in college. Many high schools offer tech classes and/or opportunities to apprentice in the field such as mechanics, drafting, construction, beauty school to name a few. There are many technical schools offering two year programs for; medical lab specialists, x-ray or records, blood banks, legal assistants computers etc. If schooling isn’t for you find an area of interest and be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. The McDonalds Restaurant Corporation has its own Hamburger University for manager trainees; United Supermarkets have baggers who worked their way up through Dairy, Produce and upward to store manager. In a country with endless possibilities develop a skill that will assure you a steady income.

Create and maintain a good credit rating. Credit is the economic merry-go-round and a good credit rating is the fee to ride. Begin a credit history by obtaining a loan or credit card and paying off the loan or purchases promptly. When you begin providing evidence that you will pay for what you purchase, in a timely manner, companies want to extend you credit. With a good credit rating you can purchase a house or car, begin a business, fund college, etc. A good credit rating can be damaged by one incident of late payment or default. A bad credit rating can be reversed and will take time and patience but is WELL worth the effort. A poor example of fiscal responsibility belongs to one who never has enough money, never money when it is needed, constantly looking for the next dollar, always wanting, wanting, wanting. A GOOD example will include a savings account, there may not be much in it but the plan to save is in place, staying on time with credit payments, saying “no” when a purchase will over extend the budget, taking another job and being patient towards a large or desired purchase. Observe the behavior you want to exhibit and pattern your financial life accordingly. Build a good credit history and protect it.

Have hope. Hope is defined as ‘the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.’ Psychological studies of prisoners have proven that without HOPE the will to live or survive dies and generally the individual dies shortly after. Without hope there is no motivation to develop a skill, no need to have good credit, no desire to enjoy life, no need to be a productive member of society. You can hope in many things; yourself, country, government, popular figure, parents, God. Your hope in any one, or more, of these is that they will provide you with what you want in your community, society, life; you expect they can affect your life in a positive way and so you place your hope in them. Hope moves you forward when there is no evidence or reason to move. Hope keeps you trying through the dark of circumstances when there is no light at the end, hope helps a neighbor, lends a hand, makes you vote, keeps you working. Hope feeds the soul and without it your inner light expires. The Christian life is based on hope; Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If you lack hope, or would like to be more hopeful, I would be happy to share more on this topic with you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The god of Selfishness

In the midst of the negative news that abounds and the disintegration of relationships around us I began to wonder if we, as Christians, are as guided by the god of selfishness as the pagans. The pagans have no need to be ashamed of this possible truth but as Christians should we not be burying ourselves in sack cloth and ashes? 1 Corinthians 13:13 “and the greatest of these is love.” Given this truth would the greatest sin be selfishness?


love-noun 1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

Selfishness-adjective 1. Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

Is there a sin that does not stem from selfishness; orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension, jealousy, greed, gossip, theft, murder, anger, lust? As a list these sins can seem very far removed from us. Put this list into our perspective. What about divorce because we cannot get over anger at our spouse. Our jealousy we carry because others can afford a bigger house, better car, expensive vacations. The lust we don’t control that pushes us into an affair. Gossip that destroys a friendship. Greed, that we justify with need, that causes us to steal money from the vending account or petty cash. The continual drunkenness on college campuses causes death due to alcohol poisoning. The debauchery that leads to embarrassing pictures posted on Facebook. Murder of an ex-girlfriend or family members because they didn’t do what we wanted.

How often have we sacrificed others on the altar of our selfishness? When have we chosen to show profound tenderness and passionate affection to another person IN FRONT OF our primary concern for our own benefit? I believe that God has placed in all of us the ability and desire to behave in love but selfishness is strong and difficult to battle, but it can be done.

Changing poor behavior (sinning less consciously) follows a process similar to the 12 step recovery program for addictions. Dr. Bob, a co-founder of AA characterized the 12 step recovery as "Trust God, clean house, help others." To begin to change selfish behavior (or any negative habits or behaviors) follow the same basic steps; recognize and admit your selfishness, pray and ask God to help you to change, examine past errors, make amends for these errors, begin living with a new code of behavior.

Recognizing bad behavior at the outset allows for you to implement change. The more vigilant you are towards identifying negative behavior the quicker you are to change the behavior and the easier it will be to overcome and reduce the occurrences of bad behavior.

Selfishness is rampant and seeing it in others often increases our own selfish behavior. Be an agent for change. Be the first to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to forget, to step aside for someone else or to be last . Be the first to love.