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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Party Pooped”

More so than lessons about hospitality and the goofy antics in this episode, the big lesson that was learned was to not take people for granted, especially those who we seem to think do something terribly basic and easy. That was demonstrated by Pinkie Pie. Normally seeming to be a fun-loving and irresponsible pony who does the antics of a party-planner or even a clown, the rest of the girls, who do things such as farming, running their own business, or even ruling over subjects, appreciated Pinkie’s talent for making parties but didn’t really think too much of it. That changed when suddenly they found themselves needing “the best party ever” in order to pacify some increasingly-irate diplomats and, after putting that burden on Pinkie only to see her disappear, tried making a party of their own that would have been subpar for a child’s birthday, let alone impressing folks enough to cancel a war.

In the end, the girls learned to appreciate everything Pinkie did into making her parties perfect, realizing none of them were just thrown together or “came easily” for her but were the result of a lot of planning and work. They also realized how wrong it was to simply tell Pinkie to “make the best party ever” and expected her to just deliver one as if she had the plan already tucked away somewhere in her mane.

Early in life, the easiest way to learn appreciation for little things around you that you never realized was a ton of effort is to move out of the house. 🙂 I had gradually made the transition to doing more chores and handling my own matters while still living at home, but the biggest new shock I got when I moved into a house to rent was the yard. Until then, the most amount of yard work I had ever done was mowing the lawn and weed-whacking (perhaps occasionally bringing out the chainsaw to cut up fallen branches). Yet I was soon in for a rude awakening when I tried tending to my own front lawn. Between the getting on my hands and knees to weed, trimming shrubs and grasses that are getting too tall, keeping the gutters clean, sweeping the pavement constantly, managing loose grass clippings, and, as an end result of all of this, the constant mud and bug bites…it could easily consume an entire weekend morning just for routine maintenance. (Worse yet, when I rented the house, I had two gumball trees right in the front yard. Anyone who’s ever owned property with a gumball tree knows how bad that is in the fall…)

It reminded me about how I thought I had relieved my mom of the burden of yardwork by taking over mowing, and I realized just what a small part of the whole thing that was. And all I try to do on my rental property is make the place look neat. To actually make it look attractive is a whole lot more work. And I never noticed how nice of a thing it was to have an attractive yard until I suddenly started to having to tend my own to try and make it look less dreary.

Of course, that was only one job of many that my mom took when I was younger. And while there was the occasional time she would get upset at us for not cleaning our rooms or the bathrooms, or not picking up our plates or trash, the fact is she just buttoned her lip and “did things” most of the time, and many of those times it was things for us that she could have told us to do or left until it got so bad we’d have to do something. And she never complained about it even when it was just another task on an already overflowing stack for her.

Similarly, at work, I have a co-worker who’s really something. He’s nice to everyone, always friendly, always in a good mood, and always helpful. He usually has quite a stack of work himself, enough to where he works overtime almost every day, but he always stops everything when people come by and ask for help. He always takes time out to help other people with their problems, even if it’s really not his job or the people aren’t really in his group. He’s a real asset and we’re all lucky to have him.

Yet I noticed something over time with this co-worker. Eventually, it got to the point where people who came over to ask for his help stopped “asking”. They just come over and tell him they need him to do something. If he looks really busy, they might ask if they’re interrupting, but otherwise they’ve gotten to the point where they just assume he’s available for them, even if they’re not from his group and they’re essentially stacking more work on top of him. While I appreciate his attitude and friendliness and helpfulness, some times I’m starting to wonder if other people are just abusing this whenever they feel like it rather than thinking about whether they’re inconveniencing him or stopping him from finishing his own work. No one, after all, would willingly “stay late” if they could avoid it, and in order to get all of his tasks done he often has to put in a lot of extra time.

Eventually, this got me to thinking about myself in terms of this episode, my mom, my co-worker, and everyone else. Do I not just take other people for granted, but are there some people who I actually exploit? Are there some folks I ask favors of simply because I know they “won’t say no”? Or some people I hang around because I know their own helpful nature will benefit me if I stay with them long enough?

The Bible has several examples of individuals who not only took blessings they received for granted, but ended up expecting them and took advantage of them. In the Old Testament, Samson grew so proud of his God-given strength that he expected that he could bait the Philistines into trying to take it from him, and yet God would always deliver him. (Judges 16:1-22) Eli’s sons weren’t satisfied with the priestly portion of the offerings that the Israelites brought to them (even though there were times in history in which the people wouldn’t even bring those, forcing the priests to abandon their duty) and took whatever of the offering they liked. (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36) Saul went from seeking God’s guidance in all decisions to eventually simply “making the decisions and automatically expecting God’s stamp of approval on them”, as when he had God’s priests murdered (1 Samuel 22:6-19) and slew the resident tribes in Israel who had been sworn by past generations to be allowed to reside among the Israelites (2 Samuel 21:1-2). And, of course, in the New Testament throughout the Gospels there were the religious leaders of the day who, both for John the Baptist and later Jesus Christ, thought highly of themselves simply because they were of the priestly line.

In all cases, these people met with the same fate: first their blessing was revoked completely, and then they lost their lives. A rather stark reminder for the rest of us. Even if we’re not dealing with a God-blessing and more of a “man-made” one, it still illustrates the same principle: exploit a blessing and you will lose it. One can’t expect people like my co-worker to remain helpful forever if it starts impacting his own work, and if he was gone those who have come to be dependent on him would be in for a rude awakening with whoever replaced him. That’s only one example of what happens when a helpful individual is exploited and those doing the exploiting suddenly find themselves without him or her.

My suggestion for today’s devotional is one that is kind of “old hat”, but remains important. I wish everyone reading this would take some serious time out to think about the people in their life who do a service for them. Not just family members, but everyone who gets underappreciated. Perhaps a most distant relation or friend who makes a point of calling and talking often, or even always responds encouragingly on a social media post. Maybe some worker you always see in a restaurant or bar who takes time out to smile and greet you by name. Perhaps a health care professional, legal professional, or any other person who provides a service who doesn’t treat you “like a number” and is always giving you individualized attention or always overlooks when you’re a bit late on a payment or appointment. As in my case, maybe a co-worker who’s “never too busy to help out”. Or maybe someone in your church; such as the pastor who always puts a lot of effort into his or her messages, or the praise and worship teams who always show up early and pour their heart and soul into every service, or the “prayer warriors” who always stay as late as necessary to pray for everyone and hear all of their requests, or just someone who always checks on you whenever you come in no matter how rude or unpleasant you may be on that morning. Please think of these people and remember to show your appreciation for their kindness.

And lastly, perhaps take some time out this week and do a little prayer and soul searching, and see if there are individuals you have been taking advantage of either consciously or subconsciously yourself. To paraphrase an old adage, “abuse it and lose it”.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I thank you that you have blessed me continuously more than I deserve, and even when I abuse these blessings or don’t show my appreciation for them as much as I should, you still don’t give up on me and continue to renew them each day. Help me to be cognizant of how many ways you have shown me favor, either directly or through others, and forgive me for any time I have wasted this favor or, worse yet, used it to my own advantage. Help me always to be honest, forthright, responsible, and, most of all, grateful with everyone, especially those who have gone out of their way to help me. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”