"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shoeless Joe

Gratitude: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful: He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.

"Poverty taught me that all was not well under the sun; but the sun taught me that poverty was not everything." 
-Albert Camus

In today's world, during a time that is dominated by a hurried pace that is out of control, many, if not most, people are guilty of taking for granted the many luxuries they have. The fact that the people reading this piece that live in America and other countries that celebrate freedom are blessed beyond measure is without debate. And though the poverty rate in the United States rose to 14.3 percent (43.6 million) in 2009 signifying a family of four that has an annual household income of $21,954, we all would agree that as low of an income as that may be it still would be a fortune to the truly poor in many third world countries.

Poor is poor, but we in America really have no idea of what poverty looks like on a daily basis. Personally, Appalachian and coal miner poor is the worst kind of poverty I have seen in this country.

(A girl dances near smoke from fires of coal scavenged by 
her family in Jharkand, India.)
(Kevin Frayer/Associated Press)
Below are statistics and data provided by Global Issues.
  • Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
  • Half (1.1 billion) of the world's child population (2.2 billion) is living in poverty. 
And then there are the facts concerning the water....and I'm not talking about bottle water.

Only 1% of the world's water is available for human use.
(World Water Day is March 22nd)
  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. The world's population 6.5 billion. 
  • Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
  • Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
  • The average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day per person. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters (17.7oz.) a day per person.
  • Of the 1.9 billion children from the developing world there are 400 million without access to safe water.

The Journey
Gabra women in northern Kenya spend up to five hours a day 
carrying heavy "jerry" cans filled with murky water.
(Lynn Johnson, © National Geographic)

When you begin to internalize those statistics it really hits home how fortunate and blessed we truly are.

Psalm 115:14 states; "May the Lord richly bless both you and your children." I think we can all agree that many, if not all reading this, have been richly blessed.

All of this data, if anything, should encourage us to be grateful. Webster defines grateful as warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received. With that definition of grateful I believe if all of us were to be honest many of us would agree we could improve in the area of gratitude.

This past Sunday Pastor Ken of Cypress Wesleyan Church entered into part three of a four part series entitled "I Need a Hero" tackling the issue of gratitude and how this quality is increasingly becoming a lost virtue.

When we look at gratitude, what it is and what it looks like, I think it is important to note what it isn't. What gratitude is not is entitlement; entitlement is the polar opposite of gratitude. 

Everyday we are provided with fine examples of what a spirit of self entitlement looks like from Hollywood entertainers, politicians, professional athletes, professionals in the workplace and high school students alike. If we are not careful many of us can, and do, entertain and cultivate a spirit of entitlement ourselves.

The examples are not pretty.
As we look at what we can do to cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude Luke 17: 11-19 provides a great scriptural illustration of what gratitude does, and does not, look like.

 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
 -Luke 17: 11-19

After reading those words you immediately appreciate the healed mans gratitude as we see him throw himself at the feet of Jesus.  

When we dig deeper into the scene we realize having leprosy in biblical times is to become physically separated by 50 yards from people in the community. The physical separation can be felt emotionally, socially and relationally causing a living death sentence for anyone who was stricken with leprosy.

Leprosy created a desperate situation in a person's life. 

And as we identify with the one who was grateful and displayed his praise and thankfulness to Jesus we soon realize that there were a total of ten people that were healed. 

"Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" Jesus asked.

God expects and wants our praise, but as we see in this passage only one came back to show his gratitude. The question we need to ask ourselves is will we be the one that displays our gratitude? Will we cultivate a life that is gracious and full of gratitude?

Will you be the one?

Will you be the one... will I be the one to stop daily and give honor and thanks to Christ in heartfelt worship?

I'm sad to report that the odds are against us.

When we look at what prevents us from expressing our gratitude there are two basic reasons why we often fail to be grateful.

They are busyness and selfishness.

BUSYNESS has become an epidemic in our country. Families are over burden with family, work and social responsibilities. Children are over scheduled with everything from birthday parties to traveling athletic teams. And if we are honest most of the things we busy ourselves with are meaningless. Solomon starts the book of Ecclesiastes out with these words; "Everything is meaningless... utterly meaningless" and as you read the entire book, that consists of 12 chapters, you soon realize that Solomon has gained a perspective that is full of wisdom and understanding. He shares with us that there are many responsibilities and pleasures in life that we should pursue, but in the end everything is meaningless apart from God. Life is meaningless apart from God. And no matter how busy we keep ourselves by partaking in all of our meaningless distractions this simple truth will never be negated. In the end, when we become so busy with life we ultimately take people and many of our blessings for granted. We would all do well to protect our-self from this continuing to occur in our lives.

SELFISHNESS eliminates joy in more lives than most any other thing; show me a selfish person and I will show you a miserable person. A person that is selfish is a great example of a spirit of entitlement at its peak; nothing really matters in life but them. Luke chapter 15 is a great example of selfishness and it is a tremendous reminder that ungrateful people are always unhappy people. The reason for this is because a spirit of entitlement often leads to destruction.

Giving thanks is the beginning to becoming grateful.

Gratitude, like love, is a verb.

It takes action and cultivation for this virtue to grow in our lives.

There are two key principles in cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

The first key principal in cultivating a spirit of gratitude is to turn our blessings into praise. For this to occur in our lives we first have to see and understand how truly blessed we actually are. Ephesians 1:3 states; "Praise be to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." In the end, pride often stands in the way of having a heart that turns blessings into praise. When blessing are not turned into praise, it easily turns into pride. We would all do well to remind ourselves that everything comes from God.

The second principal is to work on it. What we don't use we lose. We all have the ability inside of us to display gratitude; it's up to us if we choose to cultivate and display that virtue. Philippians 4:11-13 gives us some insight and the secret to cultivating this virtue in our lives:

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
-Phil. 4:11-13

The easiest way to work on being grateful is to begin with a contented heart. 

Contentment is one of the greatest qualities we can embody, and like gratitude, it does not come easy... we have to work on it.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."

One of the quickest ways we can begin to work on being grateful is to make a list of people and things we are grateful for, and then express gratitude.

Express gratitude towards others... and do it early and often, like voting in Chicago.

Seek out a restaurant waitress or waiter, take notice of a policeman or firefighter and tell them you appreciate everything they do. 

Write, and mail, notes of gratitude and encouragement.

And as we express gratitude towards others it is paramount that we extend that gratitude to our Maker and our Lord. The things we can thank him for are limitless. We are so thankful to live in a country of freedom where we can pursue anything that the heart desires. Many of us are blessed with healthy bodies and healthy families and when we don't have that many of us are blessed with tremendous perspective and wisdom in that circumstance. We are blessed to have 2nd and 3rd chances, purpose and meaning in our lives and people to love and people to be loved by.

We are truly blessed and we should thank and praise God for all of it.

One of the greatest baseball players to play the game was a left handed batter by the name Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson played during the early 20th century for the Chicago Whitesoxs and is often remembered for his ban from baseball because he was a part of the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal for throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. For the record it has been stated that Shoeless Joe had nothing to do with the "fix" but because he was one of the featured players he was ban along with the others that were found guilty of throwing the World Series. Court testimony stated that he turned down money twice during the scandal. Jackson batted .375 and had 12 hits during the World Series. He also didn't commit an error during the series and even threw a runner out at the plate.

Jackson currently has the highest batting average in baseball history at .356 and ranks 6th all time for the single season batting average of .408. Most baseball historians consider Jackson as one of the 50 best baseball players to play baseball.

Many movies have depicted Shoeless Joe, but no one more popular than Ray Liotta's portrayal in the "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner.

Ray Liotta & Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams"

Equally as great as Jackson's skills is his legendary nickname. According to Jackson, he got his nickname while playing a baseball game at a mill in Anderson, South Carolina. Jackson had the misfortune to suffer from blisters on his foot from a new pair of cleats. The blisters were so painful that Jackson would bat without his shoes on. After a hit at one of his at bats Shoeless Joe rounded third base only to hear a fan shout "You Shoeless son of gun, you!" resulting in his nickname that stuck with him the rest of his life; Shoeless Joe Jackson

As I read the account of the shoeless baseball wonder I'm reminded of the 1.5 billion Shoeless Joes in our world today. The fact is that 22% of the world's population is without a pair of shoes and of those 22% without shoes 48% of have no sanitation.
To these people there is no legendary nickname or skill. There will be no movie made depicting there circumstance with a Hollywood ending. 

There is no field of dreams for these people.

Those 1.5 billion Shoeless Joes should be a reminder to all of us how truly blessed we are as a people.

The Latin word for gratitude is gratia (meaning favor) and gratus (meaning pleasing), both words are "closely associated with unmerited favor" (Watkins, et al., 2009).

"Subjectively, gratitude can be experienced as a sense of thankfulness, wonder and appreciation. It can be given inter-personally or trans-personally."

In other words, we all have the ability to be grateful and to display gratitude.

All we have to do is cultivate this virtue daily and then we will be on our way in becoming a grateful people.

We all are so blessed beyond measure.

Be grateful... praise and thank Him.

sbb  22.3.2011

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