Thursday, January 31, 2013

The 10% Tithing Note Controversy

There's a post going around on Facebook about an Applebee's waitress that took a photo of credit card slip upon which a note was left by the customer, a pastor that reads: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” If this wasn't enough, the signee seems to stress her point by authoritatively writing “Pastor” above her signature. According to News who picked up the story, the waitress states she found it funny, thus her reasoning for posting a photo of it, not expecting it to go viral. Evidently the pastor got wind of it, became upset, called Applebee's to complain, which resulted in the waitress being fired. The article quotes the pastor as being surprised by the firing, as well as acknowledging she had a “lapse in character and judgment” in leaving the note.

After reading this Facebook post, I shared it as a statement of my protest of a Christian leader using God to place herself above another by virtue of her tithing practice, and the effort she went to to make her point via the note on the receipt. There is no question the waitress used very poor judgment posting the receipt; however, one choice begets another, productive or not. The originating choice in this situation showed poor judgment in leaving what appears to be a pious self-righteous note intended to put someone in their Christian place. And our choices create our reality. In this case, the pastor's choice to leave the note created the reality in that momentary lapse of judgment, her character was revealed for all the world to see. The waitress's choice to post the receipt and its message created the opportunity to file for unemployment.

After sharing the FB post with my thoughts, I opened up Pinterest to find the photo of this same receipt, and with it almost two dozen comments of varying opinions! Fascinating that this one person's decision to leave a nasty-gram for whatever reason has spurred quite the debate on social media!

One friend commented on my FB share that regardless of whether the person was a pastor, a farmer or a purple people eater (I love this!), "a Christian is able to make a mistake," which is true. In fact, if you are human you will make a mistake, no matter your religious or spiritual beliefs. I think many tend to forget this fact. Both the waitress and the pastor made poor choices in this situation and both are suffering the consequences of those choices. My beef is that someone who is suppose to be a Christian leader and role model of Christ teachings is using God as their rationale for not leaving a tip. Not cool. I've waited tables and it is for the most part a thankless job. I've been stiffed tips a time or two, and that's the risk of the job because you will on occasion wait on stingy frugal-minded jerks. But I am thankful for those teachers because they taught me to be generously abundant as a tipper.

The opinions generated on Pinterest run the gamut. I find it interesting really how Christians are quick to come to the defense of another Christian who makes a mistake; yet, when someone else, especially someone of a differing faith makes a mistake, they are quick to call them out for their non-Christian-like behavior. Its fascinating. In some comments, Christians call out the less than Christian action on the part of the pastor. Those who obviously have a strong bent against Christianity are as equally less forgiving as those Christians who have a strong bent against those who don't believe as they do.

One comment suggests that the pastor thought herself “slick when she wrote it and later embarrassed she was caught.” Its not uncommon that when we make a choice that yields less than positive results, we are left feeling embarrassed, perhaps even ashamed. Another pinner states that “As a server, I find this appalling. How dare she eat out and not compensate appropriately!” Actually the dinner bill automatically added an18% gratuity (scribbled out on the receipt) because the pastor's party had more than eight people, so the waitress was in fact compensated appropriately. The receipt offers the guest an option to add more tip. Another pinner notes about the pastor: “not very christian of her to make people with "lesser" jobs suffer/struggle more than they already are.” Puh-leez. The suggestion that this gal is in a “lesser” job is in and of itself an insult to all waitresses and waiters! We need them and they are valuable to our dining enjoyment! How can their willingness to serve others, a Christian principle I might add, be “lesser?”

Another pinner gets that the 10% really isn't about God, stating “God is asking for it to show obedience not because he needs money, he has everything.” The 10% tithing often goes towards church expenses, including a pastor's salary, and various mission service projects the church supports. God invites us to share our abundance with others (the Law of Circulation). While I recognize the Christian point of view is that God judges us by our actions, I don't believe that God judges us at all, never mind by how much of our money we give in His name, but rather witnesses the intentions within our heart. One pinner defends the waitress, stating, “I'm a Christian. Unless service is lousy or the server rude and unfriendly, I always give 20% tip.” I like her way of sharing the abundance!

I think this pinner's statement really hits home on what we all tend to do, whether it's religion, politics, ethnicity, cultures or lifestyles: “The actions of this pastor are appalling. I am disappointed however, that (receipt pinner) chose to equate the reprehensible actions of one person with religion as a whole. That sort of blanket generalization is unfair and offensive.” Ironically another Christian pinner states, “Christians as a whole should not be judged by this one woman's actions.” I couldn't agree more!

Now if only Christians would remember this about Muslims, gays, etc. And Muslims would remember this about Christians, Americans, etc. And Americans remember this about Mexicans, welfare recipients, etc.

Well, you get my point.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

RelationSHIPs and Cargo

A relationSHIP is like a vessel in which two people sail together across a massive body of water (symbolic for emotion) into the horizon, and to places “out there” unseen. There can be rough waters, stormy seas to weather, and hopefully, more often than not, smooth sailing.

The relationSHIP's deck may offer a lot of wonderful things to make one's voyage enjoyable, things that on the surface may seem like everything is perfect; however, all the great things on the deck's surface cannot alone keep a relationSHIP afloat.  Every relationSHIP has a keel, the spine which serves as the foundation for the relationSHIP on which two people sail together.  Deep in the belly of the relationSHIP is the “ship's hold”. In the ship's hold can be found cargo, baggage left buried in the dark corners, untouched, unaddressed from many previous voyages, from many previous years. If left alone and unattended, the “ship's hold” can and will eventually become heavy with cargo, which will lead to the weighing down, even drowning the “beauty” seen on the deck's surface. The care and maintenance of this relationSHIP's foundation will determine if the relationSHIP stays afloat or sinks.

Both co-captains navigating the relationSHIP make up the travel package for this voyage; that is, how each person wants and chooses to show up on board the relationSHIP. The travel package includes all visible (conscious) and invisible (unconscious) intentions, which are seen in both the actions and words spoken by those steering the relationSHIP. Actions speak louder than words, and sometimes, (in)actions belie the words. Deep beneath the deck in the relationSHIP's hold, unknown cargo of voyages past influence the voyage package, thus disrupting the relationSHIP's course and its ability to smoothly sail forward. If this cargo is ignored and unaddressed, it will become the death of smooth sailing for the relationSHIP.

It takes courageous and brave co-captains to go deep beneath the surface, into the darkness of the ship's hold to scour the cargo that's unhealthy, heavy and threatening to a successful voyage. Until s/he is willing to do that, all relationSHIP voyages will sail aimlessly in the water, haphazardly bumping with great distress into other relationSHIP's passing in the night. No matter how few or how many relationSHIPs one has sailed on the high seas of love, one must realize that what's on the top deck of any given relationSHIP isn't what keeps the vessel afloat. One must nose around in the ship's hold, consciously checking not only one's own cargo, but paying attention and noticing the tarp-covered cargo belonging to the co-captain of the relationSHIP's voyage. If either co-captain is unwilling to pull back the tarp and take a hard look at the cargo that's taking the relationSHIP off-course, the voyage is at risk.

A key to a successful voyage is that co-captains have an idea, even an inkling as to their desired destination, and obtain a forecast that offers some insight as to what lies ahead of them in their voyage. Having this information allows for navigational redirection as needed by one or both co-captains in the event of stormy weather, in which decisions may be made to change course, decide on a new destination, turn back, or debark from the voyage all together. Without a forecast, co-captains cannot consciously and collaboratively make choices that facilitate a smoother voyage. Aimless sailing with a navigational course of twists and turns determined by random winds recklessly places the voyage into danger. Unfortunately, some co-captains in Titanic disasters wait too long to leave a sinking relationSHIP, unnecessarily drowning into the abyss of broken hearts, fear, and hopelessness. The only way back from the abyss is to ironically dive deeper into the ship's hold and address the cargo left behind from previous voyages.

More importantly, each co-captain must know his or her own ultimate destination when boarding a relationSHIP. For a part of the voyage, both co-captains may travel together, sharing and enjoying the same ports for a short time. Reaching the final destination of one's ultimate desire may require taking different relationSHIPs to get there, but if one knows where s/he wants to ultimately make landfall, it becomes easier to stay the course no matter the weather. In doing so, one will ultimately come to enjoy the most successful and romantic voyage of a lifetime on the USS RelationSHIP.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Old Baggage and Boogers

We as a human collective attach a great deal of value to the transitional shift of time in our celebration of the New Year. We take the past year and all it held, and put it behind us, sweeping it under the rug to some unknown place as we countdown the arrival of the new year. We look to the New Year as a fresh start, a new beginning to get things right, live happier lives, accomplish more, make better choices.  For me, I'm realizing I've seen each New Year as a rung on a ladder, another step in the journey of my life; but this is inaccurate. Every day of every year is a rung, a step in the journey. We place a great deal of stock, hope, and expectancy into a better and more prosperous New Year when if we held that same excitement, anticipation and motivation for change every day, our lives may be more fulfilling and happier. What an incredible burden we put on the shoulders of the New Year and Father Time!

Since my divorce, New Year's has historically been a bummer for me. Unless I had the distraction of a celebratory activity, I've spent New Year's Eve at home alone, wallowing in the hurt and lost of opportunity of New Year's Eve 1996.  On this particular night during what would be the last year of a struggling marriage, my then-husband called to inform me he wasn't coming home after work (we lived 45 minutes in the country) but rather going out his “friends” for New Year's Eve. I'd planned a nice dinner for us in the hope we could say farewell to a rocky past year that included a miscarriage, a regrettable purchase of a money pit, stressful renovations, and all the strife within our estranged relationship. I felt hurt and abandoned.

In the fifteen years since my divorce, I've spent more New Year's Eves home alone than not. In the past few years, I began the practice of making a list of all the positive things I'd accomplished, joyous moments, and positive experiences of the soon to pass year to help lessen the New Year blahs. Only this year, despite a positively wonderful year, I was left feeling unsettled, the blahs heavier than usual.  A couple of days ago, it was as if the spirit of New Year's Eve Past arrived to show me the vividness of New Year's Eve, 1996, bringing it to me front and center in the consciousness of my mind. The memory of my ex's phone call; the place I stood in the kitchen when he told me he wasn't coming home; the tears I cried over the kitchen sink; the realization (which I quickly shoved into denial) I was losing my husband.

For whatever reason, the Spirit of New Year's Eve Past took me back to this one night of heartache to face it after sixteen years; and to deal and heal this piece of my past.  Like so many others each and every New Year Eve past, I shoved it “under the rug," the depth of my unconsciousness, repressing the bad memory, the hurt without gleaning from them understanding, wisdom, or finding forgiveness and healing. I unconsciously hung my “pity party hat” each December 31st on this one event of my past for fifteen years.  I've been unconsciously wallowing in and/or running away from that one holiday eve experience, which in a sense is what we all tend to do as we ring out the old and ring in the new? Now it registers as an energetic blip on my awareness radar, and so my healing around it is a work in progress.   

The problem with running from our past experiences, mistakes and choices is that a chase ensues; the old baggage will not let up on us, and is always following us as we move into each new year. Only until we are willing to stop, turn around and confront that from which we are seeking to leave behind in the past year, it will chase us into each new year. We must embrace what we are running from for it is a part of and the point of our journey – to learn from it, grow from it, and choose anew as a result of it. 
Here's another off-the-wall way of looking at this: Old baggage that we drag into each year, most often unconsciously, is like a sticky booger we can't seem to get off our finger. Only until we stop and look purposefully with intent at the culprit to see what it is about and where we are in relationship to it, then we can figure out how to be rid of it, once and for all.  In doing so, we may go about the business of living our lives booger/baggage free.

Facing and acknowledging past hurts, disappointments, and less-than-stellar choices allow us to become friends with it, and leads us to forgiveness, and greater love and acceptance of ourselves and those players in our past.  It can also provide us with an appreciation of the insight of wisdom which frees us to move forward in our lives to bigger and greater experiences of joy, abundance, and love.