“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”Matthew 6:33 NAS
Why do we lose our direction … our focus? It seems that we frequently lose sight of what is really important in our lives. Oft times we convince ourselves, rationalizing what we are fixated on, is the best thing … even when we know in our heart it will lead us astray. Why do we do that? We’re human.
Decades ago, my career led me to the Publishing Industry, working with a small start-up in Philadelphia that was a cornerstone in the Desktop Publishing Revolution. We were engulfed in my first “Industry Disruption”. Every day was a new adventure in how this new technology could, and would, obliterate technologies and entrenched practices. One of my favorite experiences during my career, was the two weeks spent at the National Enquirer offices in Florida. My job? Interview everyone involved in the paper’s production … from writers and editors to page compositors and color specialists. We even talked with the legal department that protected the paper from lawsuits. The experience was eye opening at so many levels. It set the stage for my unique understanding of the industry.
Media mogul, Generoso Paul “Gene” Pope Jr., creator of the National Enquirer that we know today, had recently succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 61. After his death, his family sold the paper to a publisher in New York City that was one of our best customers. At our customer’s request, we were sent to prepare a proposal bringing the manually created paper, into the Twentieth Century with automated publishing.
During my interviews with the Enquirer staff, there was story after story of their founder they lovingly referred to as Pope. By all accounts, Pope was a genius. Like most geniuses it has been my pleasure to know, he had some idiosyncrasies. For example, people told me that he had never made the internationally distributed newspaper a corporation, paying personal income tax on the multi-million-dollar company instead. When asked why he didn’t just incorporate and save the potential millions of dollars in tax relief, he quipped, “How many Cheeseburgers can you eat?” There was clearly no greed nor guile in his heart. His focus was not on the money, nor power. He had a vision that guided his steps and he didn’t see the lost money as a problem.
Humans are problem solvers. Whether you believe in God or not, the human history of solving problems has given our species a unique track record of accomplishment. Non-believers look at the invention of fire, the wheel, and the industrial revolution as huge milestones in the human quest to become the dominate species on the planet. On the other hand, people that believe in divine creation, when asked, will typically point to God as the architect of all human innovation. Even though believers can oft times be found patting themselves on the back for human progress, thinking “look what we, or I, accomplished!” After all, don’t we often show our arrogance in how humans treat our planet and other species? The cliché “Holier Than Thou” always comes to mind. Whether it’s a kid stepping on an ant hill or grown men betting on a dog or chicken fight. Our superior, “haughty,” view of the world is sometimes pitifully crystal clear.
In elementary school, prior to accepting Christ as my savior, my favorite subject was Native American culture. At the time, my studies focused on the Oglala and Dakota Sioux Nation of the great American Plains. The North Plains Nations spawned Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Red Cloud – the leaders of a huge indigenous culture. These Nations, against all odds, took on the invading armies of the East. While they were no match for the onslaught of man and machine that was bearing down on them from Europe, those primitive people put up such a valiant fight, their tactics are still talked about and are taught in military schools today.
Who Was Savage?
In the same vein as William Wallace of “Braveheart” fame, the Oglala and Dakota Nations were not fighting to hold onto wealth or belongings. They were fighting for their culture, their very existence. Regrettably, both were swallowed up by technologically-advanced invaders. The supposedly civilized invaders were focused on the complete dominance of their culture over all others. Anyone, or culture, that got in their way, was assimilated … much like the haughty spirit of the child stepping on the ant hill. The invading forces didn’t understand that while they were acquiring more land, they were annihilating an entire culture.
When God introduced me to the Oglala and Dakota Nations while writing a book report about General George A. Custer, and his defeat by the so-called savages, something wonderful happened. God showed me who these great people really were, and they were anything but savages. In relaying my newfound wisdom in class, the giggles began. Students and teachers alike would ridicule my comments, teaching me lessons that altered my life. Lessons that might warrant another story or perhaps even a book of their own.
At the core of my new understanding was a deep respect for the way of life enjoyed on the plains before the European invasion. Sure, indigenous plains living was void of luxuries; houses, furniture or ready-made clothing. Still, every individual in these tightly knit communities supported one another, unconditionally. Some were hunters, some made tents, while others served the tribe with whatever skill they were blessed with. Being human they were intelligent and had a very human violent side. The brutal tactics used in their protection were the foundation of all the “savage” stories propagated by the invaders. Why were they so savage? They were being invaded. For the most part, the stories in my studies talked more about protecting families and a way of life, than the unrestrained destruction and gruesome violence we learned about in school, or at the movies. It was their way of life that attracted me to better understand who these “savages” were. Simply said, they were loving, kind people that always served one another, and ALWAYS gave glory to their creator for the gifts provided to them. It seems we Christians could learn a thing or two from them.
Reading story after story of these people’s love and respect for each other, and the unquestioning love and respect for their creator, drew me close to their way of life. Nothing was wasted, all life was sacred. When the hunters would bring home a Buffalo, every bit of the Buffalo was used for something. Meat to eat, tents and clothing made of hide, even cooking utensils and weapons were fashioned from Buffalo bone. In honor and respect of the gift, everything was used. Like my Mom always said, “Waste Not, Want Not!” It was this culture that taught me to be a conservationist, full of love and respect for our beautiful planet.
In All Things Give Thanks
The foundation of the culture was a populace that gave thanks for everything from the sun rising and setting each day to the ground that they walked on. Initially, some were thankful for these new neighbors from the east. Well, until we taught them otherwise. You may be wondering why these great nations could not find victory over their oppressors. My belief is they were not fighting an oppressor, they were fighting for their sacred lifestyle. It wasn’t important to them to hang on to property and belongings. Instead, their lives were dedicated to staying in harmony with their creator. Life and all the gifts of their world were cherished above any and all possessions. This led to compliance with their invaders, and eventually they were defeated and absorbed into western culture.
Not unlike the Israelite’s, some held on to their culture and passed it down through generations in folklore and storytelling. The culture is still understood and practiced today. Today we see a proud people reclaiming their position from within the imperious capitalist culture that engulfed them. While most have lost their focus, the way of life is still alive. If Sitting Bull knew the culture endured, it would bring a smile to that stone etched face.
You might be thinking, “What does any of this have to do with Cheeseburgers?” Simply said, the Eastern invaders were chasing Cheeseburgers, and the great Native American cultures were seeking to protect their Paradise.
Given a choice, wouldn’t most of us choose quality of life over quantity of things? Would we give up our fast cars, smart phones and $5 coffee for a blissful life? Spending everyday living in harmony while honoring our creator. Could we find joy? Regrettably, we are what we eat.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 1826
Would we choose Cheeseburgers or Paradise? We love our fast food. Paradise seems like a great idea, but is it fun? Can we get there Right Now!? Leaving our stomachs out of it for now, isn’t what we focus on everyday consumption as well? If we spend all our time thinking about the next fast car, the next generation phone and the need for that expresso, don’t they consume us? So often we hear “As a man thinketh, so is he.” We believe the mis-quoted scripture is all about changing our thinking, recreating our brain. It’s not! The Bible teaches us over and over that we are consumed by what is in our heart, not our brain.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:…”Proverbs 23:7
You might be wondering, “if living a blissful life means total annihilation by your enemies, no thanks.” Do you believe if the native Americans had only focused on their enemy and the destruction of their culture, they could have stopped it? Much like a “back-seat driver” screaming before a car wreck, the outcome was inevitable. As humans, we often believe we can control an outcome. As Christians we should know, as scripture tells us:
“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”Mark 10:27
It seems the hardest thing for humans to do is to let go of the things of this world, and, with unconditional faith, let God handle it. Like those native cultures that focused on their creator, and the blessings they were given, by keeping our eyes, thoughts and desires focused on our God, we will find the Love, Joy, and Peace promised in His word.
Reprinted with permission, © God’s Good News Gazette 2020
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