Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Giving Up, Giving Out, Giving In

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8, NIV)
Tomorrow (25th Feb 2009) is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of 40-days of Lent, ending on the eve of Easter Sunday. It is a day where it is a Christian tradition to remember the sacrifices of Christ, how Jesus resisted worldly temptations by willingly giving up his self-desires. Instead of pandering to the wishes of the flesh, he put on the wishes of the Father and became obedient even to death on the cross. This week's meditation will be along the theme of giving. For that, I will cover three kinds of giving: Giving Up (deny self); Giving Out (helping others) and Giving In (accepting others as they are).

1) GIVING UP (Deny Self)
Deny yourself something for this period. Jesus despite his hungry physical state, chose to deny himself food, and found himself being strengthened only by dependence of the Holy Spirit to resist any temptations. By giving up worldly pleasures, he became spiritually aware of temptations that lurks on the background. He is able to resist deception with adequate recollection of the Scriptures. By giving up the things that matter to the worldly minds, he is able to fill his mind with the things of God, and obey the will of God. This helps loosen any unhealthy hold it may have on your normal lives. If it is smoking, try to start a program that allows you to wean out this habit. It could be Internet addiction. Factor in a day or more to go on an Internet-fast. Or it could be using your PDA, Blackberry, or cell phone. Tell your friends, family, colleagues or business colleagues that for that day(s) you will not be using your cell-phone. Use the normal fixed line telephone for all contacts. Some other suggestions on simple pleasures that you can 'give-up' during this Lent.
  • Your favourite ice-cream;
  • TV or Internet-fast for a day or more;
  • Giving Up Reading Newspapers for a duration of your choice;
  • Give Up a favourite beverage; If you drink coffee regularly, try only tea;
  • Give Up driving and take the bus/subway;
  • Give up taking the elevator to office and take the stairs instead.
2) GIVING OUT (Helping Others)
If Christ can willingly give up his life, how about giving out a part of ourselves to others in service to the community? Let out compassion take over, and we intentionally give preference to the weak, the under-privileged and the afflicted. Some examples are as follows:
  • Choose a new charity;
  • Respond to a cause you have always thought about but you procrastinated;
  • Make it NOW rather than later;
  • Give praises or encouragement to colleagues or subordinates saying: "Well done," "Good job," "I like your latest proposal." Perhaps adopt a maxim such as "A Compliment a day keeps the discouragement at bay."
  • Recognize birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions of your colleagues, friends, relatives.
  • Build teamwork by asking: "Who else helped you accomplish this great project? I like to thank him as well"
  • To your spouse: "I love you."
3) GIVING IN (Accepting one another)
Give others the benefit of the doubt. Even when you think they are wrong, give them room to prove themselves correct. Sometimes, we can get impatient with people who are less competent than us. By learning to accept them as they are, gently pushing them, perhaps they will grow better, with lesser bitterness and greater respect for a leader with a magnanimous heart. As the saying goes, we may not win the small battles (of small disagreements), but let us aim to win the bigger war (the big picture of teamwork, trust and respect). When we are most busy and stressed, we are prone to greater impatience.

Another way of 'giving in' is how Jesus gave in to the sick who needed healing, by paying attention to their needs. Note how he is patient with the woman with the alabaster vase. Remember how Jesus gently rebuked the sins of the woman at the well.

The table below lists some sinful patterns that we can pay particular attention to. The right column represents some suggested spiritual exercises or practices you can adopt to counter the negative patterns. Send me an email if you need additional guidance.

Anger and Bitterness Silence, Self-Examination, Confession
Anxiety and Worry Breathe slowly and Pray, Scripture Meditation
Chronic Busyness Taking breaks, casual walks, intentional rest
Discontent Check one's fleshly desire by self-control
Discouraged Find Someone to Pray with
Feeling Inadequate Time to learn greater self-knowledge; Celebrating one's giftings
Feeling lost Stay calm, pray and communicate with spiritual directors
Feelings of Selfishness Prayer and Worship, Give of one's time and resources
Guilt, Shame Confession, Renewal of State of forgiveness
Gossip Pause in Silence, Examine Yourself
Hatred Self-Control, Forgiveness
Jealousy and Competitiveness Solitude, Self-Examination
Lack of Direction Discernment, Listening
Lack of Faith Repeat prayer: "Lord, help me!"
Lethargy, Laziness Physical Exercise, Intentional Walk
Lust Flee, and do not attempt a second look
Over-confident Community Living, Friendship
Restlessness or Stress Silence and Solitude

Have a humble start to Lent 2009.


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