Lesson #6: God Wants the Whole Pie

God Wants the Whole PieWhat follows is the sixth (and next-to-last) installment in the series “7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from my Husband.” This concept is key to understanding the Christian walk.

I grew up believing I should put God first in everything:

  • He wants the first part of my week, so I should attend church every Sunday.
  • He wants the first part of my day, so I should read my Bible each morning.
  • He wants the first part of my produce, so I should tithe on every penny I earn.

As with so many other matters, when I got married, my husband really challenged my thinking in this area.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with attending church or reading the Bible or supporting missions.

Quite the contrary.

But worship services and quiet times and charitable giving cannot be where it ends.

God should be more than the top item on my to-do list.

When we think in terms of putting God first, then by definition, something else comes next. It implies that once God’s been given His fair share, the rest of my resources are mine to do with as I please, to pour into family, job, hobbies, or whatever else might be on my list.

But that’s not entirely accurate. This whole hierarchical way of thinking is fundamentally flawed.

God will never be satisfied with a trifling token of our time and talents. Our service to Him should not be ranked alongside dental appointments and PTA meetings and Little League games — just one more thing packed into an already overcrowded schedule.

God transcends our to-do list, and our devotion to Him must be all-encompassing.

If life is a pie, God doesn’t just want the first piece. He doesn’t even want the biggest piece. He wants the whole thing.

But what does this sold-out sort of living look like? And how do we get from here to there?

We do it by following these five simple principles:

  • Love God with all your heart:

    The Bible states our goal plainly: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

    Loving God with our whole heart does not mean we have less love left over for our fellow man, as if our love supply could be diminished or depleted. Rather, the opposite is true. Loving God wholeheartedly compels and enables us to love others as Christ loves them, which is why Jesus follows that first command with a second like unto it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

    As with the loaves and the fishes, when we give our love wholly to God, He multiplies and increases it many fold, so that there is an abundance of love left over to share with those around us in soul-satisfying ways.

  • Serve God with all your strength:

    The Bible commands us to serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2) and with the strength that He provides.(1 Peter 4:11).

    Unfortunately, Satan has duped us into believing that only certain activities “count” as “service” and that everything else is just stuff we need to rush through so that we can have more time for “real ministry.”

    We live burdened down with guilt over all the things we are NOT doing, instead of viewing all the things we ARE doing as opportunities to joyfully serve, knowing that even washing dishes and folding laundry and changing diapers and chauffeuring children can be a spiritual service of worship and a sacrifice of praise when done “as unto the LORD” with a renewed heart and mind. (Romans 12:1)

  • Honor God in all you do:

    As Christians, we have taken the name of Christ; let’s make certain we don’t do so in vain. We must live lives of integrity and sincerity, praying that the words of our mouths and the the meditations of our hearts would be acceptable to God. (Psalm 19:14) Our faith should not be superficial, but should sink deep into our beings, transforming and molding us into the image of Christ. If we belong to God, then everything we do should be done for His glory. (Romans 14:8, 1 Corinthians 10:31)

  • Acknowledge God in all your ways:

    Our lives should point others to Jesus. In all our ways, we should make Christ known, and He will direct our paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

    I do not know who wrote this little rhyme that I memorized in my youth, but it is just as convicting today as it was the first day I heard it:

    You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
    By the things that you do and the words that you say,
    Men read what you write, distorted or true,
    What is the Gospel according to you?

  • Trust God with all the details:

    God has promised to “work all things together for the good of those who love Him,” (Romans 8:28) and He can be trusted to keep that promise. Time and again throughout scripture, we are urged to put our full trust in God, to depend fully on Him instead of leaning on our own limited understanding or putting our faith in human reasoning:

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

    “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)

So, there it is. These are the areas that come to my mind when I think of handing all of my life over to God. What does sold-out living look like to you? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Lesson #5: Always Tip Your Waiter Well

Alway tip your waiter well.What follows is the fifth (and long overdue) installment in a series I started late last summer called “7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from my Husband.” It’s an important one, so take notes!

My husband and I entered marriage with very disparate attitudes toward tipping.

I had always calculated my tips according to exact (minimum recommended) percentages, with a little extra thrown in if the service exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly high, so it rarely did). My goal was to spend as little as possible, which explains why I also ordered only water to drink and steered clear of exotic (read “expensive”) menu offerings.

My husband tips generously regardless.

I’ve even seen him leave a 25% tip at a self-service buffet for a waitress who was blatantly rude to us, took our receipt and never returned it, and didn’t refill our drink glasses a single time throughout our meal.

If you were to question him about it, he’d explain the rationale behind this practice:

  1. Servers Depend on Good Tips -
  2. People don’t just wait tables because they enjoy getting chewed out when the steak’s overcooked. More often than not, they are waiting tables to make ends meet. What’s more, they only get paid $2.13 an hour to do it — the rest is (theoretically) made up in tips.

    Servers depend on the generosity of their customers to make a living wage. They need tips to pay the rent, to put food in their children’s mouths, or to cover their college tuition. Additionally, many waiters are required to share a fixed percentage of their tips with bussers, runners, and hosts. When a customer stiffs them, they must pay the difference out of their own pocket.

  3. Good Service Deserves Good Tips -
  4. Waiting tables is grueling work. Servers are on their feet all day. They must multitask continually. And they have to bust tail to keep up with all the demands, especially during busy times, like the lunch hour rush, Friday nights, and Sunday mornings. And they do it all with a smile on their face.

    There are orders to be taken (while patiently waiting as 4-year-olds deliberate indecisively between chicken strips and grilled cheese), drink glasses to fill (and refill and refill), piping hot plates to serve up promptly, bread baskets (or chips and salsa bowls) to replenish, desserts to proffer, tickets to tally, to-go boxes to fetch, and change to be made.

    Most servers work hard to earn their tips, so leave them a nice one.

  5. Bad Service is Improved by Good Tips -
  6. Servers are only human. Your waiter has bad days, just like everybody else: His car breaks down. His girlfriend dumps him. His bills come due. His last customer sends her order back to the kitchen three times before she is satisfied.

    The discouragement, distraction, and/or despair that accompanies such stressers can adversely affect his job performance. Of course, you are in no way obligated to reward lousy service with a large tip, but if you choose to do so anyway — to extend grace where it is so obviously and desperately needed – you might just turn a server’s crummy day (and attitude) into a great one.

    Your tip will be appreciated and remembered, guaranteeing you better service next time, should the same server be assigned to you again. But it will also give him hope, which in turn will lead him to render better service to all the customers who come after you.

  7. It Reflects Well on You to Leave Good Tips -
  8. Successful CEO’s know something obnoxious restaurant patrons don’t: The way you treat (or mistreat) your waitress says a lot more about you than it does about her.

    This fact, commonly known as “The Waiter Rule,” is what leads savvy business owners to conduct luncheon interviews of potential hires in a restaurant setting. That a prospective employee is courteous to the person conducting the interview — the one who will determine whether or not he gets the job — says very little. That he is patient with a waitress who gets his order wrong or spills ice water in his lap speaks volumes.

    More revealing still is how a person treats his server when he thinks no one is watching — including (and perhaps especially) when it comes time to sign the check.

  9. You Share God’s Blessings When You Leave Good Tips -
  10. It is common knowledge in the service industry that Sunday morning shifts are the absolute worst. The Sunday lunch hour is insanely busy as restaurants fill to bursting with church-going folks fresh from worship, and tips are minimal or non-existent.

    This may be, as one sweet waitress conjectured, because those customers gave all their money to the church and have nothing left for leaving a nice tip, but such reasoning fails to account for why they’d be eating out in the first place, and it certainly doesn’t explain why so many of them treat the waitstaff with frequent and unjustifiable rudeness while they’re there.

    “Out of the same mouth come both blessings and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be so.” (James 3:9-10)

    We who name the name of Christ should demonstrate His character in how we treat others, including our waiters and waitresses. The fruit of His Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control — should be evident in our every interaction (Galatians 5:22).

    Surely those of us who have been forgiven so much should be willing to overlook the offenses of others (Matthew 6:14), especially such minor mistakes as a server’s filling our glass with sweet tea rather than unsweet or forgetting that we ordered our salad dressing on the side.

    And we who know personally the Creator of the universe should be able to look past a waitress’s tattoos (or body piercings or unconventional hairstyle or the fact that she is working on Sunday), and see a person created in the image of God — one who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, especially by those of us who call ourselves Christians, and especially if we are to have any hope of sharing the love of Jesus with her in a way that rings true.

    Yes, Christ’s redeeming love is the best gift anybody will ever receive, and yes, those of us who have experienced that love firsthand should share it with others at every opportunity, but if you want your server to actually read that gospel tract you’re leaving behind on the table, you should first slip between its pages the most generous tip you can muster.

So there they are in a nutshell: The reasons my husband insists that we always tip our waiter well. It’s a philosophy forged while he was waiting tables himself through high school and college.

He has always maintained that his experience waiting tables during that season of life makes him a better physician during this one. Doctors, like waiters, must be willing to get their hands dirty; they need to know how to multitask, how to interact with a variety of cultures, personalities and backgrounds, and how to deal with an oftentimes demanding and unreasonable public (whether they’re sick or they’re hungry, people want to be taken care of fast and can be downright difficult until their physical needs have been addressed and their pain or hunger alleviated).

Also in medicine, as in the food industry, one’s success or failure depends on a combination of both skill and personality. One must be both competent and courteous to do well. These lessons are best learned early in one’s career, which is why our son Samuel, who’ll be starting medical school this fall, is spending his last semester at home waiting tables (parttime, at least, when he’s not teaching biology labs at the junior college). He hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Tip WellAnd, just in case you’re wondering about my own current tipping practices, my husband has completely won me over to his way of thinking. Now, on the rare occasion that I dine out without him, I never scrimp on the tip or try to see how little I can leave without feeling guilty. Neither do I calculate a fixed 20% and leave it at that.

Instead, I think to myself, “How much would my husband tip on this tab?” Then I leave that amount, plus a little bit more — just to be safe.

The Flowering Grass

The Flowering GrassOne of my children discovered an old video of home movies in our media cabinet last night, and soon the entire family had gathered around to laugh at the grainy footage of Mom and Dad back when we had fitter bodies and fewer kids — and that same great sense of style our offspring have long found so amusing. Big hair and short shorts, anyone?

Midway through the movie, I turned to my husband and said, “That really doesn’t seem so long ago, does it?”

“It was only yesterday,” he agreed.

It brought to mind the Bible verses (1 Peter 1:23-25, James 1:10-11) that compare man to grass. God took care to make the flowers of the field. He clothes them in beauty, sends sunshine and rain as needed (Luke 12:27). He must have a purpose for doing so.

Yes, tomorrow the grass will wither and the flower fade, but for today, its roots protect the soil from erosion, its green shoots provide food for itself as well as nourishment to others, its blossoms beautify the landscape, and its seeds allow for reproduction, so the cycle can continue.

Life is short, so perhaps we should take a lesson from the withering grass and use our days on earth to protect and preserve the communities in which we live, to nourish those with whom we come in contact, to beautify our little corner of the world, to rely on God to supply our needs, and to reproduce so that this mandate can be passed on to the next generation.

How May I Help You?

I  was having trouble with my Internet connection at home today, so I called customer service and was promptly connected with tech support in India. I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with a very helpful Indian man who asked me lots of questions about my connection problem.

Before I hung up, I said, “May I ask you a question? Has anybody ever told you that Jesus Christ loves you and that He died for your sins?”

“No,” the man answered without hesitation. “Nobody has ever told me that. I’ve heard the name Jesus before, but I know nothing about him. I’d be very interested in learning more.”

So I shared the gospel with him, then directed him to the section of our family website that outlines “Our Beliefs,” which he promised to read.  Of course, we are praying for him, as well.

Incidentally, our Internet is working again. It came back on about an hour after that phone call, as mysteriously as it went out earlier today. Do you believe in Divinely disrupted Internet service? How about providential phone calls?