You Get What You Pay For

pay

That isn’t a very original thing to say. Everybody has heard it at some point. I didn’t coin the phrase, but I sure believe it to be true. Now that I am looking at buying cars for teenage drivers, new instruments for teenage bandies, and college tuition for soon to be young adults pushed out of the nest, I am realizing that I have choices to make about where and how I spend this money.

Over and over again in life I have gotten what I paid for. At times I have bought something inexpensive hoping to get by or make due. Other times I have broken the bank and splurged for the top of the line and the best in the market. In every purchase or investment I have gotten exactly what I paid for. Sometimes I have been very, very happy with a purchase (new Taylor Made irons) and sometimes devastated by going cheap (upper deck tickets at Minute Maid on opening day 2008.)

The consumer in us has us immediately thinking products or experiences. Getting what we pay for makes us think of blue jeans, boots, cars, haircuts or television sets. It makes us think of vacations to Vegas or cheap hotels at the beach. It reminds us of good food we eat on our anniversary and average food with jacked up prices at the ball park (maybe not an example of getting what you pay for.) What we wear, what we eat, and where we go is directly related to what we have paid for that product or reality.

This saying though applies to many other areas of life if we under “pay for” something in terms other than monetary exchange. Sometimes our payment comes in the form of time or talent. Sometimes it comes in the level of engagement or enthusiasm we have for something or someone. Sometimes we pay by being present and being ready to participate. Our cost in those cases are not measure by a reduction of our bank account, but in the addition or heart, mind, and soul into a scenario.

Think about these “you get what you pay for” realities.

As parents we get what we pay for when we put extra time into the development of our kids character and not just their skill development or athletic progress. Our children understand the value of character better because we have given time and space to the topic with them rather than assuming others will care for that need.

As leaders we get what we pay for when we bring energy to our team and not just work flow charts or new objectives for success. Our team senses that we believe in what we are asking them to do because we are personally involved as we give ourselves all in to the assignment.

As pastors we get what we pay for when we avoid settling conflict in the church, keep doing the same old things all of the time because its easy, and/or refuse to consider how culture is shaping our people more than the gospel is. Our church senses a lack of care and concern for the health of the church and an overall indifference to how lives are being changed.

As friends we get what we pay for when we expect to be the center of attention with every friendship and have the final word on every topic tossed around in conversation. Our friends see us as self absorbed and therefore not trustworthy or approachable with their needs which keeps relationships on the surface and usually on very shakeable grounds.

As married couples we get what we pay for when we make time for each other, listen to what is on each others heart, pray over the big (and small) things in life, and consider our spouses feelings above our own. Our spouse will know they can rely us to be safe, supportive, and so concerned with the relationship that other details of life are always second place.

Of course when we pay very little as parents, as leaders, as pastors, as friends we end up getting exactly what we paid for it. Usually nothing, but rejection, disappointments, failure, discouragement, and/or loneliness. Conversely, by paying big for those things we find that our relationships are healthy, balanced, and usually exactly what we need (or even more.)

How can you get more (or get a better product) by paying more today? Now that is really a pay it forward idea worth pursuing. Don’t delay and don’t keep being cheap. Put your best- your everything – into it. You will be glad you did. You will likely end up getting exactly what you paid for and more.

 

Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.                                                 (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

Things We Can’t Unsee

vision

Sometimes we don’t see things as clearly as they really are. Sometimes our eyes are blurry to the atmosphere around us. Sometimes the air around is heavy and keeps us from seeing things 20/20. Sometimes our hearts are just too heavy to see the world as it really is. Sometimes we just can’t see what is right before us and obvious to all.

I am thinking about the way we are troubled to see our challenges in personal health, personal finances, and personal safety. These are areas that, in most cases, we should see problems well ahead of their arrival. But, we usually don’t. They just appear; catching us off guard. Millions of people are devastated by letting their health go, not paying more attention to their money, and/or forgetting to protect themselves from dangerous threats or problems. We just don’t see in time to prevent it the issue or event that is about to hit us hard.

I am thinking about the way that relationships aren’t cared for properly until distance has built a wall between us and the ones we love. Married couples who grow apart; fathers too busy to spend time with sons; brothers too consumed with growing up to enjoy the few years they have together; friends too competitive to appreciate what they have in genuine friendship. We just don’t predict that we are – day by day – losing the gift of a person/people that make our world better, happier, and easier.

I am thinking about how many of us give very little attention to how we are really living. We weren’t designed to work all the time, but we are gifted for good works. We weren’t designed to pursue only pleasures in life, but we can’t live too seriously either. We weren’t designed to put ourselves in the center of every situation, every story, every scenario, but we sure do think a lot of ourselves. Our sight of just how shallow we are living is clouded by the temptations of living the good life and winning at all costs.

I am also thinking about the way we see God. Our view of God is too often shaped by religion and with religious guide rails. God is more dangerous than our Sunday School mind will allow us to see or wants us to see. We hold onto a vision of God that is good; loving; compassionate; helpful to us; and He is all of those things. But He is more than that – much more. He is fearless in the face of our faults. He is able in the places where we are undone. He is gentle in the way He affirms our faith and forgives our failures. He is mighty in the moments of our terror. He is holy, and we are helpless to the flesh.

Yet again, these are not things we can always see. We have to believe them to be true and trust in Him to come in ways that change our stars. Our way to faith is in knowing what (who) we cannot see and living in that knowledge, that revelation, that truth.

How do we know this to be true? Jesus. He is the one that comes to correct our vision from dark to light, from cloudy to clear, from jaded to joyful. He is the one who casts away the clouds of our doubt and clears our view with his eyes of faith, hope and love.

And when we are free to see Jesus as the image of God – creating, saving, sustaining us – the whole world appears different. As we look upon the image of God and stay fixed on that light, we not only see the way in His holy illumination, but we walk in fellowship with the source of all light. “Blurry vision” and “cloudy skies” may try to creep back into the corners of our lives. But when are looking in and through the eyes of God, we can see right through those things that try to distract us from seeing life clearly.

Some things in life we can’t unsee. It seems like Jesus is one of those things. Once we see him in his beauty and majesty, we never forget it. We might look away, or we might focus on another object for the moment, but we never forget that first glimpse of the One who casts heavenly light all over and into earthly darkness. His life is a sight to behold for every generation and every era.

May our eyes be open to the imminent presence of Christ, who has come to help us see the world for what it is, so that we may be free to follow him fully and with perfect vision. May the church proclaim the arrival of the One who has come, so that everyone may see the kingdom that God is bringing today and forever more. May we look past every other image in life and towards the ONE image that we never want to unsee – Jesus, the face of God who has come to set us free, give us life, and give us a new vision for his kingdom.

For the Last Sunday of Epiphany / February 15, 2015:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus sake. 6For it is the God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4)

Hey Buddy, Watch Where You Are Going!

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.  –  GK Chesterton

You can’t travel any distance on the road without stopping for gas, a bathroom, snacks, or all three. You just can’t. Don’t even try it.
When you finally give in and pull over: beware. There is a tourist trap waiting. A tourist trap is the kind of place that draws you in under the assumption that you will be given or provided something of need (or want.) What really happens is that the trap actually takes more from you than it ever gives back. You enter as a tourist in search of something to help continue the journey. You depart from the trap feeling like you were shaken down and wondering why you stopped at THAT place to begin with.

tourist trap

Every highway, in every county, in every state has them. You have seen them and their fancy advertising to lure you in. Your pockets are still empty from the last time you stopped in. Mine are, too.

Buc-ee’s Fun Store is a tourist trap promoting their cheap gas and clean restrooms so that you stop and buy their overpriced beef jerky and obnoxious t-shirts. (How else could they afford to pay twice the minimum wage for a cashier?) Disney turns from family fun to tourist trap when they route you through the gift shop after a ride that has everyone screaming “let’s do it again!” (How else could they afford to buy ABC, ESPN and anything else they want?) Starbucks is a tourist trap by advertising coffee and profiting from our music and food purchases. (How else could they afford to pay for college for employees?) And we love all of them enough to keep going back and empty our resources for an experience, an association, a memory.

buccees

Tourist traps like these and others are literal. They are real and the smart adult should be aware of their tricks, even if you willingly participate over and over. Tourist traps are also figurative, but just as dangerous and might even be more damaging because we don’t even see what is going on. We stop in a life tourist trap hoping to get a little rest and/or some fuel and find that we leave baffled, bankrupt, beaten down and brokenhearted. It would be helpful if someone could/would stand by on our life journey with a sign warning us “Don’t stop – Keep going -Danger on this exit” because we are too easily trapped by cultural norms that derail us from the best and easiest route.

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…
Pursue cash for work over our calling in life. Of course everybody else seems to be chasing the bigger check, but happiness is not found by making the most money. Our value to society is not our bank statement or balance sheet. Warning SIGN: Don’t trade your self worth for an increase in your net worth!

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…

Choose competence over character. What we can do is not equal to or higher than who we really are. Honesty, goodness, being genuine, reliability are all worth more than expertise in math, science, technology, even theology. Be careful not to spend your whole life becoming something that boosts your reputation or hire-ability while wasting away at the center of your soul. Warning Sign: Don’t do all you can do. Be all you can be!

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…

Mistake fellowship for friendship. We can have many associations that entertain and not have one real friend in life. Fellowship is for the party. Friendship is for when the party is over. We need friends who accept us as we are, encourage us when we are down, and speak truth into our lives when we are self-deceived. Fellowship avoids anything that is uncomfortable or awkward. Healthy relationships in life bring healing and help to us in the darkest parts of our lives while producing joy and laughter when the sunny side is up. Warning Sign: Don’t be fooled into thinking you can do life alone. Be a friend and make a friend!

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…

Follow the crowd instead of the small voice inside. Americans like crowds. It is why big schools, big restaurants, big churches are thriving these days while smaller ones shrink more every year. We like crowds because they give us confidence that we are going the right way or doing the right thing. If everybody else is doing it, then it must be right, right? Um…not usually. Crowds while popular are not filled with courageous thoughts, noble purposes, or pure intentions. It is usually the loner who acts and lives with courage, nobility, and purity. The small voice inside will tell us not to follow the crowd, but we aren’t good at listening. The small voice inside will serve as the affirmation we need to stand alone, but we aren’t asking. Listening to that small voice and acting independently of social or cultural influence may cost us something in the short run, but in the long run will almost always prove to be the best of our decisions. Warning Sign: Don’t follow the path that others are making. Find the path that was made for you.

There are many more tourist traps out there. Some are obvious and others are subtle. They are all dangerous and will empty us of what is rightfully ours. You will find tourist traps in your family, your church, your government, your circle of friends. Be careful. They intend to profit from your slumber.
When you discover that you are in a trap, don’t panic and don’t give up. Walk away. Drive away, if possible, but get out as quickly as you can. Perhaps you can’t get out of the trap alone. You might need a friend to help. You might even discover that only God can help you break out of the trap you are living in. He will. Ask Him. Then move quickly in the direction He shows you. It is the best way out of the trap and into a life that is full of faith, hope and love.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

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Reflect on this…
1 – Are you chasing a paycheck or chasing a dream for your life to have meaning and be meaningful to others?
2 – How much time and resources have you invested in the “person of you” compared to time/resources you have dropped on the “professional you”?
3 – Who are your real friends and how are you a real friend to them?
4 – When was the last time you listened to what your body, mind, soul was saying to you? What were they saying?