Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Wizard of Oz

I was thinking about the Wizard of Oz – the story. Of how a little girl, Dorothy, a stupid Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion all journey together, anxiously trying to reach the Wizard of Oz in the belief that he will meet all their needs. Dorothy wants to go home; the Scarecrow desires brains; the Tin Woodman longs for a heart and the Lion craves courage.

When the travelers arrive at the Emerald City, where the Wizard lives, each perceive him in a different way: To Dorothy, the Wizard is a giant head; the Scarecrow sees a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a ravenous beast; the Cowardly Lion sees a ball of fire. Yet the reality of the Wizard is a disappointment: he is just an old man with no obvious magical powers. Nevertheless, he provides the Scarecrow with a head full of bran, pins, and needles ("a lot of bran-new brains"), the Tin Woodman with a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the Cowardly Lion with a potion of "courage", and promises to help Dorothy get home. (He doesn’t achieve this.)

Yet these useless items don’t, of course, provide what they promise. The characters survive and triumph through friendship and courage in adversity. Together, they protect and help each other, for each of them recognises the value of the others.
And that’s what I think it is all about: giving and receiving value.

Value isn't achieved through having brains, or a beautiful nature/personality (we are not all naturally kind-hearted, for example, though that is something we CAN learn to be), or being naturally brave - likewise, we can learn how to act bravely. Value is not about the kind of job we have - whether that's out at work, or at home; or how successful we are at what we do; or whether we are 'nice' or popular - it doesn't depend on what others think about us. It doesn't even depend on what we think about ourselves. We just have to know that we are of VALUE:

Valuing others. Philippians 2:2-4 says: (be) like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (NIV)

The Message: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

It sounds simplistic to have an attitude of helping others, but think of the opposite: disagreement, bad-feeling, antagonism, hate, enmity and rivalry; selfishness, unhelpfulness, self-centredness, self-seeking, self-importance, ambitious at the expense of others; pride, vanity, smugness, arrogance. Any one of these are enough to frighten us!

This might sound like a lot of giving, but it is also about receiving value. We treat others as of great value because we ourselves are of value.

Isaiah 43: 1 – 5 listen to the LORD who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
… Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (New Living Translation)

Again, in The Message: Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.
I've called your name. You're mine.
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.
When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you!
I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. (The Message )

And so I think, when we know how VALUABLE we are, how precious to God, it becomes so much easier to give value to others and to love others. To have this attitude of helpfulness, sharing and not needing to be first, or to be valued by others, or to achieve recognition.

How can we do this?

Believe God’s promises. Time and time again, in the Psalms, God’s people are referred to as precious to him. Psalm 72:14 He (God) will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. (NIV)

Psalm 94:15, The Message: God will never walk away from his people, never desert his precious people. Rest assured that justice is on its way and every good heart put right.

Micah 7:18 The Message (MSG)
Where is the god who can compare with you— wiping the slate clean of guilt, Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.

Zechariah 2:8 “Anyone who harms you harms my most precious possession.

Luke 12:7, 23 - 25 New Living Translation (NLT)
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows….Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!

Remind ourselves. Play praise and worship music at every opportunity; put relevant Bible verses where we will see them often: a post-it on the steering wheel, on your work station or desktop, on the mirror at home… a rolling screensaver…a significant piece of jewellery…

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