The Parable of Waste Management

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:32

***

Each morning’s routine was different, but there was always a routine.

It went something like this:

Four o’clock wake-up call, two cups of decaf coffee (half teaspoon Splenda, one small splash French vanilla cream); 10 minutes of Seinfeld; 4:30 dress for run with all the attire perfectly placed on the guest bedroom floor the preceding night; out the door at 5 for a three-mile run; back in the door at 5:40 (give or take); think about breakfast for the twins; lay out their matching clothes for the day; shower; then wake-up call for everyone else in the family, and the madness begins.

Parable of Waste ManagementAnd Monday mornings were especially exciting since it was garbage pickup day.

Jenna was totally OCD.

***

Her organizational skills trumped all others. She was super wife, super mom, super friend, super bank vice president; super community volunteer and super everything. Schedule and a daily checklist were her inspiration, all coordinated from the calendar and notes of her mini Ipad. She managed an unmanageable schedule with total, masterful control.

Almost always.

If she could only control her garbage…

***

Weekly curbside garbage pickup came to Jenna’s quiet cove about 10:15 every Monday morning. Around 5 p.m., each Sunday, Jenna wheeled the garbage can to its proper place near the driveway curve and parked it at a proper 90 degree angle adjacent to the street. It brought a certain feeling of triumph each Monday morning when the garbage was picked up, and hauled away.

Checklist. Check.

The garbage was gone, hauled to a distant landfill, and never seen again. Sort of.

As much as she loved taking the garbage out and sending it way, one thing still really nagged at Jenna. It was her trash can. Specifically, the bottom of her trash can.

Every two weeks, Jenna made a trip to Wal-Mart to stock up on household supplies. Garbage bags were almost always on the Ipad list, and Jenna didn’t skimp for the cheap bags. She bought the 40-ply, scented bags that held everything and covered up the odors accumulated by a family of four each week.

But frequently, there was a problem with the bags, and for someone like Jenna, it was a nagging problem she could never quite release.

No matter how carefully, how strategically, how methodically, Jenna Parable of Waste Managementplaced items in the trash can, something always seemed to pierce the best bags money could buy, and what remained behind was awful.

Whatever pierced the trash bag on a given week facilitated the dripping stuff that quietly oozed to the bottom of the can. Spoiled milk, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, all the disgusting liquids that never stay in the tightly wrapped boneless chicken breast package.

They all made their way to the bottom – a collective, offensive concoction – the foulest of reminders of the family’s garbage – and it was putrid. Every week.

Each Sunday evening, Jenna would take the garbage out, pleased to send it on its way, only to come back to the trash can, see the remaining filth, stare it down, and curse it. She washed it thoroughly with bleach every week, but it always came back. Some weeks what remained was less grotesque than others, but, in some form, it was always there.

She often wondered what it would be like if there were a garbage bag that could hold everything. Everything? …and be sent away forever so she could move on to other things.

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The Parable of the Blessing Box

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” ~ Matthew 7:7-11

***

(Blogger‘s note: I’m not sure if it’s possible to plagiarize a parable, but just for the sake of full disclosure, this parable, or a form thereof, has been passed through the generations. It may be most noticeably found in Bruce Wilkinson‘s Prayer of Jabez. The parable takes on subtly different variations with each telling. This just happens to be mine.)

Blessing Box

William was 72, and he’d just died.

And he now found himself face-to-face with a man who greeted him as if he’d known him all his life.

***

On earth, William had been a good man. He was faithful to family, attended church regularly, and respected by all who know him. For William, life was pretty easy. Most days he felt blessed beyond what he deserved, and so for the many magnificent things in his life, he always felt a little guilty.

No one ever knew it. He just carried it around, and kept it in a place where no one ever saw it.

Lord, why have you blessed me with so much?” he often asked in his prayers.

And as a result, he mostly coasted through life, grateful all the while, never asking for much. To have asked for more would have been an insult, he thought.

Blessing  Box

At this moment, William stood face-to-face with Peter. William was in Heaven. Light was everywhere. Will saw colors he’d never seen before, and the music was so beautiful it took on a new dimension. William could actually see the music in the air.

Peter was standing by, waiting for William’s arrival, to give him a tour of the place.

Quickly in, among the majestic beauty of golden streets and sidewalks of pearl, William noticed a facility resembling what a warehouse looked like on earth.

“What is that place?” William asked.

“Nothing we’re interested in seeing,” Peter replied.

But William was drawn to the warehouse.

William will have nothing of Peter’s ongoing tour until he can see the warehouse.

And Peter, as he has so many times before, finally relents.

He opens the door and William almost trips over himself to see what’s inside.

 He sees millions of white boxes with red ribbons wrapped carefully around each one. Each box has a name on it.
William runs to the “J” aisle (his name had been Jones on Earth) and finds a box with his name. He opens the box and Peter hears the familiar deep sigh, he’s heard so many times before.
Inside the box, William’s just found all the blessings God wanted to give him. But they remained in side the box because JOE NEVER ASKED FOR THEM.
Fortunately, for William, there no regrets in Heaven. Just more wisdom every day.
Blessing Box
“Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that you would bless me, indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from the harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.” 1st  Chronicles 4:10
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The Parable of Two Doors: Not a Choice, But a Point of Entry

Door of Perceived Opportunity

Photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins

Joseph had taken every personality profile assessment you can imagine, and multiple times.

Eventually, he thought, the results would come up different, but they never did.

Joseph was driven, intense, introspective and a strategic thinker. He also had a compassionate heart, and the latter only added to his internal drive for change. He’d always believed, that together, with a like-minded group of friends, they could change the world.

He worked at a small company, independently owned, and somewhat entrepreneurial in culture. Joseph loved the diversity in his colleagues, especially because they were smart in so many ways he was not.

For two years, every morning around 7:20, Joseph arrived early for work, each day entering through the front door.

***

For all its forward thinking and self-proclaimed image to embrace new ideas, each day Joseph walked in the front door, he quietly wished his colleagues would turn their culture upside-down and get really radical. He wished they’d take on a genuine “what-if” mentality, because the world was changing, and changing fast.

Some days, Joseph did what he could to impose a new way of thinking, but it never quite took hold, and he wasn’t senior enough to come right out and say some things. Imposition of change never works anyway, he’d learned.

On occasion, when he was bold enough to cross a certain line, his thinking was listened to, but not really heard.

The days, weeks and months went on, and the culture eventually took its toll on Joseph. He’d becoming something he really was not – accepting of the status quo.

So Joseph walked through the front door each day at 7:20 a.m., and privately felt as if he were betraying his own heart.

***

One day, hope arrived.

Before 8 a.m., (everyone in the company was an overachiever), a senior company team called Joseph in to take on a major project for which he’d previously solicited leadership responsibility. They told him to go with it, and to use his own creative gut instincts to get it done.

So Joseph was elated.

Creative freedom was offered, accepted, and now, he started once again to feel true to himself. His strategies were bold, radical and counter to anything that’d ever been done, and he was thrilled with all the possible outcome scenarios.

They might just change the world after all.

At some point, a company client got wind of the culture change to which Joseph had been assigned, and they called senior management with their disapproval. “Things have been just fine for 30 years now,” they said. “Let’s not go and start changing now.”

Yes, the client had been with the company from almost day one – and with that came a certain freedom to call some shots.

***

Quickly, senior management back-tracked, called Joseph in, and asked him to call the client explaining the new approach wouldn’t be so radical after all.

The follow-up meeting brought only one phrase to Joseph’s mind: “Thrown under the bus.”

Door of Perceived Opportunity

***

Prone to sometimes quick and emotional decisions himself (after so much bs), Joseph got up, and walked out the door that gave him safe passage every day.

For years, he obsessed in disgust, and for years he never went back, until one day something prompted him to go back and visit old friends.

His parking space, long-lost over the years to multiple generations of new “idea” guys, Joseph parked in the back lot, and took entry through an obscure warehouse door.

Oddly, Joseph noticed, the back door was slightly cracked.

He was warmly greeted as he walked the warehouse aisles en route to the area where all the real thinking went on. Around the next corner, he bumped into an old adversary who “managed” the company’s entrepreneurial culture.

Then the adversary asked something interesting.

“It’s just you and me here in the back of the warehouse. Since we’re here, would you remind me about the vision you had for the corporate culture change?

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The Parable of the Weary Traveler and Her Heavy Bag

“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” ~ Acts 10:43

***

It seemed just like yesterday that Matt snagged up last-minute travel deal

own it. but for god's sake stop carrying it around.

I’m always at my best when packing light. One bag for on the fly is usually all I need. And it feels good, because it’s not HEAVY.

straight from his inbox. Four days and three nights in Cozumel for cheap. Now it was quickly coming to an end, and all that remained was the logistics of a two-hour international flight home.

Passports, customs, what to declare. So many rules after so much fun.

Always on the lookout to break the daily grind, Matt and his free-spirited wife Chase, were prone to such whimsical adventures simply because they loved the unexpected.

Airport veterans, they now stood in the baggage check line some  70 frequent flyers deep among the back and forth rows of weary, but tanned and rested travelers.

Chase took note of a prominent sign just ahead that read:

“Cell Phone Use is FORBIDDEN in this line.”

It is Forbidden!

They shared a quick laugh and a couple of Soup Nazi jokes, and moved three steps ahead.

***

own it but for god's sake stop carrying it aroundOne young traveler about 30 up in line somehow stood out and caught Matt and Chase’s attention. An early 20-something with long blonde hair and an athletic build, she was toting about all she could handle. Two standard carry-ons and two bags for check-in. One of the check-in bags was quite large.

The young traveler seemed anxious as she approached a scale midway through the line – a scale permitting passengers to weigh their bags in advance of the counter. If a bag exceeded a certain weight limit, she’d have to pay extra.

With each shuffle step forward the young traveler scooted her bags ever so closer to the scale – her Moment of Truth.

A few minutes later she stood before the scale, and the dread was evident in her eyes.

Sure enough, one particularly large bag exceeded the limit. It was packed way too heavy.

The young traveler obviously owned a lot of stuff, and moreover, she’d picked up some additional keepsakes in Cozumel. So she had to pack those things too, on top of everything she already owned just to get it all home safely.

Matt and Chase were now focused on the young traveler to see what she’d do next.

steven w watkins

Appropriately unfocused and blurry, that’s exactly how I feel when I carry around too much baggage. Bogged down, and heavy.

Most of what the young traveler owned appeared quite frivilous  and unnecessary to live life comfortably while traveling on the fly. But because she owned so many things, she felt obliged to carry them around. Everywhere. Everywhere she went. And the things she carried were heavy and most burdensome beyond any benefit they provided.

***

Flinging the overpacked bag off the scale, the young traveler went on a frenzy. Unzipping this bag and that, shuffling swim suits and curling irons from one bag to the next. To avoid the weight limit penalty she’d have to distribute all she owned more evenly amongst all the baggage.

With any degree of success she’d still have to carry it all, but to get past this checkpoint, this hurdle, this moment, she had to redistribute and better compartmentalize.

So she repacked the baggage and placed the big bag on the scale once again.

Still too heavy.  Try again. Repack once more.

People behind her are waiting, and now she’s become the focus of everyone’s attention. Everyone wonders if the young traveler can manipulate everything she owns to get past the checkpoint without penalty.

She repacks. Underwear and dirty laundry fly. Literally. Others are now telling her how to shift things around. Everyone’s pulling for the young traveler. Put this here, put that there, they say. She’s almost oblivious and inwardly focused now. At all costs, she does not want to pay that penalty.

Restuff, rezip. It’s all back in. Another faceoff with The Moment of Truth. The scale reads 47 pounds. Proceed and move on. You’ve done it. This time.

All the young traveler owns is now properly packed for the moment – more evenly distributed to get past the checkpoint. The Moment of  Truth permitted her to pass in this circumstance. This time.

Funny thing though. Properly redistributed as her belongings may now be … it’s all just as heavy as it was before. Everything still weighs exactly what it weighed before. And it’s still heavy.

***

Today, whatever you’ve done, whatever burdens you may carry, no matter how heavy they may be – own them. For all that you’ve done, own it.

But for God‘s Sake, stop carrying it all around.

Stop it. Don’t do it anymore.

It is FORBIDDEN!!!

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Related posts:

Own It.

The Parable of the Enlightened Christian

Why Are You So Aggressive…

The Parable of the Enlightened Christian

leap of faith

Her most treasured photo, Dana calls this, “Leap of Faith.” I call it, “Enlightened Man.” Near Casablanca, Morocco.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation.” ~ Romans 10:9-10

***

All photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins

Two men.

Aydin, at 71, rests in a hospital bed. He’s just come to terms with an incurable diagnosis. It will take his life in days, if not, weeks.

Nabal is a Christian pastor, who for the last 40 years dedicated his life in service to the Lord. He’s led many flocks, built many churches. He updates his resume twice a year with an endless list of accomplishments for which he’s tirelessly worked. There’s a kingdom to build out there, and it requires a lot of work.

Circumstances prompt a meeting between the two men in Hospital Room 2008, and they form a kinship.

In the precious days to follow, Aydin opens up to Nabal. He describes a life of regret. Booze. Women. Foul language, and everything else you can throw into the kitchen sink. Aydin wishes his time had been more well spent.

But Nabal replies with a message of hope.

“What’s important is this moment,” the spiritual veteran says. “Have you made the decision to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? We can say a prayer right now and your scarlet sins will become white as snow.”

“I’m not ready, but maybe I will be soon,” Aydin replies. “I just need to think on things some more.”

Good News: Aydin now owns his sins and shortcomings.

No-So-Good-News: He’s still got baggage, and he’s carrying it around. Everywhere. And it’s heavy.

sunset near casablanca, morocco

Sunset near Casablanca, Morocco.

And so Nabal plants a seed. In the waning hours, the seed takes root, and grows in Aydin’s heart.

Days pass. Friends and family come to Aydin’s bedside for what everybody knows may be their final visit. The times are pleasant, good memories shared. There’s even laughter, and everyone who leaves Hospital Room 2008 senses something different. Something they can’t quite comprehend.

Despite the dire circumstances, Aydin seems relaxed, peaceful, happy, and not quite his former self. There’s a newness about him. Transparency. Freedom, if you will.

Three days later, something rouses in Aydin’s spirit. His new-found freedom stirs thoughts to acknowledgement, and acknowledgement, to action.

Aydin tells his faithful wife of 47 years he wants to be baptized.

And so Aydin’s wife, beside herself with joy, calls Nabal requesting that he come to the hospital right quick. No explanation of why. Just come, Nabal. Please come.

Nabal puts it on his list of priorities, but first preaches his Sunday sermon because he carries an obligation to his flock. He’s been charged with a duty he takes most seriously, and first things first.

He rushes through the normally relaxed three-point message, shakes a few hands on the way out and heads directly to Hospital Room 2008 where Aydin awaits.

Aydin’s faithful wife, meets Nabal outside the door.

over the skies of Greece

Somewhere over the skies of Greece.

“He wants to be baptized,” she says, smiling, knowing nothing else to say beyond just that.

“That’s wonderful. Praise the Lord,” Nabal replies, all the while, Aydin awaits anxiously in the bed inside Hospital Room 2008. “We’ll make the arrangements.”

“No, you don’t understand,” she says. “He wants to do it right now. He’s asked the entire family to come and witness, and everyone’s on the way.”

And Nabal goes silent. It’s a long silence before he offers a reply.

A baptism’s not possible in Hospital Room 2008, he says, because the Bible specifies the proper procedure, and it includes a “full-immersion.”

Aydin’s wife looks confused.

“We don’t care about the full immersion,” she says. “A sprinkling will be fine. He just wants to make the public profession of faith, and everyone’s on the way.”

“But he can’t be fully immersed,” Nabal responds. “I don’t conduct baptism with a sprinkling, or anything short of full immersion. It’s our doctrine.”

“But this is just for him,” she says. “It’s what he wants, and we don’t know how much longer he has left. It’s time.”

“I can’t do it,” he said. “He can’t be fully immersed.”

And Nabal returns to his home, and his flock. And he never sees Aydin’s family again.

Four days later, Aydin died, but he’s never been more alive.

TOMORROW: “The Parable of the Enlightened Church.”

For related posts see:

Days and My Dad

Forty Things You Feel 40 Days After Your Dad Dies

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