Daily Proverbial, from Ecclesiastes, 13 August 2012

All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6, verse 7.

What fills you up? I’m trying to lose some weight. Throughout the first half of my life, I was a really thin guy. In fact, when I entered the Air Force in 1985, I was at my weight MINIMUM of 118 pounds. It wasn’t that I was sickly, though I was weak: I was simply thin. I always had been even though my appetite never suffered. These days, I’m trying to lose weight. My frame isn’t huge; I’m not obese, and I reject those government weight standards that seem to lay guilt on us for the way we look. Carrying around extra weight saps my energy, though, and I don’t like the way I look. That and I don’t want to end up diabetic. Consequently, I’m watching what I eat, reducing what I drink and not drinking alcohol during the week anymore, and changing my physical activity. Food fills me up, but when my body stores it wrong, it isn’t always a healthy thing.

Sometimes I try to fill up my life with habits. Cleaning up around the house, writing these words, my movie collection, never ending yard repairs, and a litany of other reasons: all of them ask for my time. Usually, I give in to them. I like days when I get a lot of things done; it’s a satisfying thing to look back on many jobs accomplished. The thing about them that leaves me a little cold, though, is that there are always more. Fold the laundry and there will be more laundry to do. Washed dishes don’t stay clean forever. There’s always another TV show I’d like to watch. The words can always demand more of me. I think you get the picture, and I think you know why that is.

Pride also fills me up and this is a dangerous thing. Last week, I was flying home from Minnesota. It’s no secret that I feel annoyed at the security inconveniences posed by the TSA. One of those annoyances was on display last Saturday. While in line at the scanner machines, the agents (rightfully) made two people wearing ball caps take them off before entering the machine. Those are the rules and they’re designed to minimize where people could hide weapons. Immediately afterwards, however, a man walked through the machine wearing a turban and the agents did nothing. It made me mad; either the standards should be equally applied or they shouldn’t. When I got through security, I pulled the TSA agent aside and grilled him. Why did you rightfully make those people take off their hats but not the man wearing the turban? The agent responded by saying “it’s his religious right to wear what he likes” and I responded “what if it’s my religion? Will you make me take it off?” His response: a snarky “I’ll bet it’s your religion.” As my blood started to boil and I contemplated smarting back at this over-empowered smart aleck, I simply walked away and got mad. I had a flight to board and it didn’t seem worth the extra trouble (and likely full body search) that would ensue. In other words, I gave in.

Why did I start the fight? Was it a moment of heroic civic pride? Was I making a point for the benefit of untold others? My friend, I wish I could say it was such a moment. The truth is that I wanted to stir the pot a little. The way the agent wrongfully applied the rules made me mad and I wanted to make a point not really to fix the problem but instead to simply puff myself up. That’s pride. Telling you about it now, I’m ashamed. It was right to point out that the agent was mis-applying the rules (and endangering others). I should have done so in respect and determined love. Instead, I botched the moment and just made an idiot out of myself.

I’m not going to use these words to cite reason after reason as to why you should tank up on God’s word. The reasons are valid and I respect your intelligence to check them out and decide for yourself. If you don’t know where to start, try the New Testament book of Hebrews. Or, even better, read the words in red in one of the four Gospels. Go to the source yourself and open your mind, then see what happens.

That’s a good recommendation because it works; glory to God for it, not to me or anyone else. A few weeks ago, my friend, Patrick, challenged his congregation to spend more time in the Word, at least a half hour per day. Not long afterwards, my friend, Mark, also challenged the congregation to spend 5 minutes per day simply listening to God, being with Him and letting Him speak. I’m living proof that those things really do work. God works on us, changing us from within, our motivations, our thoughts, our patterns, our willpower, our choices, our attitude and our hearts. All these and more are affected by how He works on us when we spend time reading up on His Word, talking with Him about it, and simply being still to listen for how He is going to move us in each moment.

I’m finding that, in each moment, when I’m full on God I’m hungry for more but satisfied with my hungers of the world. Have my many bills disappeared since this started? Nope. Have all temptations flown from my door? Nope. Do I still have to walk through ‘the naked scanner’ at the airport, have all troubles stopped, days gotten easier, stresses ended, or reasons to get angry gone away? No, on all accounts. What is changing, however, is how I look at all those things. Even when I mess up (like I did at airport security), rather than dwelling on it I get the privilege of taking those cares to God and having Him point things out to me. The next step is then to let Him tell me of better ways, then going forward to do them.

A few days ago, the Ecclesiastes verses talked about how it would be better for someone to have never been born than to live life and not enjoy it. Since this entire Book contrasts our human side with our need for God, I believe this verse is a small explanation of just why that is. Filling up on anything other than God still leaves you hungry, unsatisfied, always wanting more, craving more. What’s more, when you incorporate it in your life, you never have to diet on it.

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