Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick and Good (lies in Being Prepared)

A Quick and Good Society
"And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17)
I remember a time when many people, including Christians, lambast our culture of instant gratification. They complain about the way people rush through life expecting immediate returns for instant gratification. They lament the deterioration of relationships that were impacted by such a instant mentality. Whether it is through the pen or via the pulpit, the effect is similar. People despise instant gratification mentality, yet they often are the very practitioners of such an attitude. When the pack of chips fail to be released within 5 seconds, we start rocking the snacks machine. When a web page fails to load quick enough, we re-fresh the same page several times. When we ring customer service and if the call is not picked up within 3 rings, we get irritated. A complaint typically goes like this;
In our culture of instant gratification, instant news, instant download, instant coffee, instant everything, who has the time to practice the virtue of waiting?”
Even movie stars, whose lives are hyper-busy, learn to inject humor amid the sarcasm. Meryl Streep, an emmy award movie star says:
"Instant gratification is not soon enough."
Not to be outdone, Carrie Fisher claims,
"Instant gratification takes too long." (Carrie Fisher, of Star Wars fame)
JK Jones, a Professor at Lincoln Seminary gives a typical evangelical response to the topic of instant gratification.
"Our society does not tend to applaud the long obedience required to conform to the image of Jesus. We live in a time of instant gratification. If something can't be done quickly, we often find ourselves uninterested. The computer, as wonderful as it is, has helped to foster a spirit of importance. If we can't get on-line quickly or find that web site immediately, we become frustrated, even angry." (JK Jones, Reading With God in Mind, Heartstring Publishing, 2003, p49)
Essentially, the key point in his book is that one reads in order not to be alone. In other words, when we crouch up on our favourite chair to read, we are participating in the words and lives of the author who write the book, as well as the Spirit of God leading our thoughts. Jones applies this instant mentality to the way that we read books. I feel that we can also apply the same principle to how we read modern culture. Are we reading our modern culture with a learning attitude? Are we reading modern culture with Someone in mind?  One famous quip among my business colleages is:
"The deadline for this project is yesterday." (meaning you're already late so hurry up.)
Let me offer a futuristic equivalent. "The LIFEline of our project on earth is tomorrow." (meaning, we need to live our present lives based on a hopeful tomorrow.)

Indeed, we cannot live on the fuel of yesterday. Neither do we concern ourselves only with the matters of today. We live on the basis of a better tomorrow. In other words, if there is no tomorrow, why hope at all? We prepare ourselves in our heads and hearts for the kingdom of heaven to come. We get ready for our Coming King who will arrive in glory and full honor. When the time comes, we must be ready to be quick-and-good for the Coming king.

Positive Side of Quick-and-Good
If you are like me, you will recognize the negative fallout of a quick-fix society. People become more impatient, in turn testing the patience of others. Drivers insist on their right of way, leading to rude honks and ugly stares. Customers demand immediate and high quality attention, else they walk. However, let us pause and think. Is quick-and-good mentality all bad and absolutely no good? No. There are still some virtues. Key to a quick-and-good story is something very elementary: Being Prepared.

Quick-and-good makes good business sense. Who wants to queue up for a plate of fish and chips when one can get another faster? Just take a look at the popularity of fast-food restaurants. If we were to think about it, restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC pride themselves as specialists in the business of quick-and-good. Quick-and-good is a highly important attribute for businesses that operate within a tiny window of opportunity. If 80% of the daily revenue comes from the lunchtime crowd hours of 12 to 2pm, will it not make sense to maximize production at these hours? A quick look at the processes behind fast food production reveals a trick behind their efficiency. Many things were pre-cut, pre-packed and even pre-cooked. Pop drinks like Coca-Cola and Sprite come in ready to use canisters. Timers constantly beep when each batch of French fries are ready. Meat patties were ready cut and the oven kept at a temperature for immediate cooking. Bread is pre-sliced and ready to be served. Kids’ toys are all prepacked. The whole process is so meticulous that even cleaning duties in the entire restaurant is regimented at frequent intervals. Leaving nothing to chance, many fast food restaurants pride themselves in a quick-and-good image, to satisfy the cultural craving of instant gratification.

Be Prepared
Although I dislike a culture of instant gratification, there is also much to learn from the quick-and-good wisdom behind the successes of McDonalds, KFC and other fast-food corporations. (Maybe some people may say quick but not good, but that is another story altogether.) Businesses often do scenario planning and different what-if’s situations. What if a busload of schoolchildren rush into the restaurant during lunch hour? What if a slow inexperienced cashier is holding up the line? What if the bread runs out? For these reasons, I admire business corporations for their aptitude in addressing these different scenarios. Sophisticated planners will even examine the daily sports page to anticipate surges in demand from delivery calls or rushing traffic to a nearby stadium where the restaurant serves. Key to every success in fast-food restaurants is the attitude of readiness and an aptitude of "Being Prepared."

What about our own spiritual lives? Are we readying ourselves for the coming kingdom of heaven? How prepared are we to answer the King of kings and the Lord of lords?
  • Have we prepared our first words to Jesus, when we see Him?
  • Have we prepared our first dollar to give to a needy person?
  • Have we prepared our first hug to give a family member?
  • Have we prepared a phrase of asking for forgiveness, while waiting for the right moment to appear?
  • Have we prepared a place for our children to grow spiritually?
  • Have we lived a life so full of thankfulness that our family and friends will remember us in terms of how we love the Lord, rather than how much we love our things or riches?
  • What will be the words you want engraved in the obituary page, or on our tombstones?
Thought: We have many deadlines to meet in our often packed calenders. What about our deadline for the sharing of the gospel of Christ? What is our LIFELINE for our project of sharing the love of God?

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