Wednesday, September 12, 2007

all that we can't leave behind

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin

Harvest time is always an interesting time for me. It is a time for counting blessings and for counting the cost.

I am a blessed man... but I do not believe that my blessing is in any way in direct proportion with my faith. There are some who think this... and I think they are wrong. There is only one gift from God that matters... the gift of Grace through His Son... the rest is gravy.

I am blessed. I have a wonderful wife... and great kids. A supportive family and some really special friends. I have a job [sure I moan about it... but it pays the bills] that has enabled me to buy a nice house and some great toys.

My blessing is my people. The material things... the house... the iPod(s)... the Manhattan Portage bags and Pro-Keds trainers and Sony headphones... they are all nice-to-have. They are the gravy. They complement the stuff that matters but are an added extra... a bonus. I'm glad to have them... but wouldn't miss them if they were gone.

This is where I think of the cost... I can live without the gravy... I am assured [although I have never actually experienced it] that the train journey into Glasgow takes just as long without music as it is with.

Ironically I have been using my new shuffle as much as my 80gb iPod... I can live with less.

I can't live without my wife or we'ans... and hope never to have to. I have always told Olly that I am going first and that Wipeout by the Safaris and Kite by U2 should be played at my funeral [I want one of those eco burials - I want to feed a tree!].

I can't live without my family and friends. I have been dealing with the loss of friendship recently... and it is such a horrible experience. It still hurts.

Coming back to the iPod... we can live with less. Just because Steve says so... doesn't mean we need it. Consumerism poorly disguised as progress is killing people with debt... and destroying the planet.

Last year I blogged about Neil Boorman burning his brands last year. His action offended me but I respected the rationale for his actions. The BBC recently wrote about his life... one year on... and asked him to describe living without brands.
I suffered from a condition known as obsessive branding disorder - a combination of compulsive shopping and a reliance on status symbol brands for the maintenance of one's self esteem.

I didn't buy clothes, gadgets or even food for the basic functions that they performed. I bought them for the way they made me feel.../

By banning myself from the shops I hoped to cleanse myself of a destructive addiction. But the prohibition became a kind of experiment, I wanted to find out if a person living in modern Britain could survive away from the chain stores and supermarkets that dominate our lives.../

Emotionally, I had a lot of re-building to do. Without my beloved brands as confidence boosters, I had to search for new reasons to feel good about myself.

My psychotherapist encouraged me to confront my negative self-esteem and to stop judging myself by the impossible ideals that confronted me in the media.

Accepting the real me, as opposed to camouflaging with brands, was key to the long-term disconnection from the culture of consumerism. The advertisements for Selfridges said "I Shop Therefore I Am", but I began to know better.
Its not what we have that makes us who we are.
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Matthew 26: 30-33 :: The Message

Where I believe Neil Boorman falls down is that he is still reliant on stuff. What I mean by this is that his reality is still based on material things... his self-esteem now comes from NOT having branded goods. Its an inverse of the situation. I commend him for breaking free... but his obsession and, dare I say, his identity comes from what he doesn't do. I don't shop for branded goods, therefore, I am!?!

We should be reliant on God. I believe God does the best for us... even in our darkest of days... we just don't know the full story.

If we are blessed with stuff then use it... for His glory. If we don't have stuff... then don't worry about it. We need to seek Him first... steep our lives in Him... and the rest comes afterwards.

We need to focus on all that we can't leave behind. Build a legacy of kindness and thoughtful stewardship of that which He has entrusted us to keep for Him. We need to invest in the people He has surrounded us with [our community] and work together for the betterment of the community and the wider populace around us. In giving away our lives... I believe we find true life.

Instead of burning our brands this Harvest... we should be counting our blessings and giving away our lives.

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