Thursday, February 13, 2014

A lack of Grace: 5 Things we can Learn When Someone Expects Perfection in us

Learn from the past and quickly leave it there
to look to the future
When we seek or expect perfection in others we encounter in life we set ourselves up for disappointment and the other person for failure. This past week a customer made that abundantly clear to me.

As an internet or e-commerce director, my responsibility is to drive my store's profitability through a digital medium: To put our best foot forward through a customer's perspective via our website, email communication or the phone. A basic part of the email standpoint is to use effective email directly to each individual per their inquiry (basically to ensure we answer any question a potential customer may have given us) or to use a mass emailing to elicit a response. Mass emailing must be targeted unless I want to run the risk of a high opt-out rate which would lead to ISP's or Internet Service Providers like Yahoo!, MSN and AOL to view our IP address as a SPAM generator.  This I do and have done for years. In fact, I have probably sent out more than 500,000 emails in my career to prospective and current customers. This week was much the same as any other communication.

For those of you in a position of responsibility, you know you have many distractions- your people, contemporaries, supervisors, owners, manufacturers, customers, your daily process, etc., etc., etc.  In other words, MANY distractions. For those of you who are not supervisors, you have many distractions as well: Life, home, friends, etc. I am no different.

With the Christmas holiday right around the corner and then the end of the year next, I had been aiming to send out a mass email to our unsold prospects, and had been trying all day to get it written and compiled before it was too late in the day on Monday the 23rd of December. Unfortunately, I had been unable to complete this task due to many distractions until around 4:00 that afternoon. Long after I knew people would be reading this email at their morning break at work.

A couple of hours later, I received a very threatening voice mail on my mobile phone that if I wanted "my side of the story" to be heard on a "national article about the dealership" and to be named in it myself, I was to call back before the end of the night.  I normally don't do well when people try to threaten me- after having been under direct fire before words have little effect in causing me any anxiety. Out of managerial duty and curiosity I returned the call and the person confirmed it was him- we shall call him Larry.

Larry started on a line of questioning like he was an attorney so I was quickly on the guard, and I asked him what he in fact did for a living. He informed me he writes articles for national magazines like Time and such. Terrific.

I asked how I could help him and he started to tell me how I had lied to him. Okay sir, you now have my attention.

"How did I do that to you?" I asked.

"By emailing me that I had previously made an inquiry by email to buy a car.  I had not had I?"

"No sir, you did not. I see you were in for service previously, and had not made an inquiry about a purchase. That was my mistake."

But he persisted and again said I lied to him. I told him I had made a mistake and it was an oversight for which I held myself responsible.

The third time he called me a liar I pushed back hard. "THAT is enough!" I said. "You will not call me a liar again. I have owned up to the mistake, I have apologized repeatedly, what more can I do? What more do you want from me?"

It was at that exact moment I realized I was being attacked by evil. God had given me the patience and words to endure this withering assault against my character, my store, my job and my family.

His mood instantly changed and we spent the next 30 minutes talking about his experiences while photographing various topics. I viewed his website and some of his images and I couldn't help but think to myself "I'm the liar?" Every one of his photos were no doubt photographed with high performance SLR cameras with filters to capitalize and emphasize the lighting. Perhaps even digital manipulation.

In other words, every one of those photographs, as they were depicted, never truly happened.  Ironic.

I even went on to edify him, lauding his vast experience and accomplishments, and thanked him for his insight and bringing this to my attention. I don't think he knew quite what to do.

After hanging up I was quite upset, not quite angry, but still shaken. Surprisingly, I was not nearly as agitated as I would have ordinarily been.

When my GM came in the following day, I knew he was going to be calling the customer back so I gave him back-fill from my experience and he just smirked, shaking his head.  He went on to tell me how this "gentleman" came to be our customer.

He had come in just a couple of days before I started in August, and complained about how he was not treated well with two of our competitive stores, one of which has written a book on customer service. He had come in for a major service and insisted on meeting the mechanics whom would be working on his car. Not a bad idea.

Bending over backwards to earn his business, Ken asked the customer if our manufacturer had offered him any sort of coupon for his experience and he said no, they had not. So Ken then directs the service department to sell the service at cost for him.  Then right in front of Ken, this person pulls out a $500 coupon from the manufacturer and hands it to the service writer.

"Wait, I thought you said they didn't give you a coupon" my GM asked him.

"Oh yeah, well, I bitched a little more and they sent me one. I just want to get the best deal possible."

No, you just wanted to lie and steal from a company in the auspices of good faith.

This made me even angrier than I was before. A low-life scum bag like this accuses ME of lying. Someone who has never amounted to much of anything, probably never will, trying to pull someone else down to make himself feel better. His inflated resume is just that- inflated. Surely someone whom has contributed to TIME magazine for example would rank somewhere in search results, but no. The ONLY references I could find for him were the aforementioned website of his and an introductory page about him on an equine-focused website.

It is clear this person is devoid of a moral compass and peace. He is clearly hurting and probably doesn't know why. All I can do is forgive him and pray for him.

Some lessons to take from this encounter:

  1. Hurting people hurt other people. 
  2. The more someone tells you how great they are, the less likely it is they have accomplished anything they are building up in your mind.
  3. Liars think other people lie. (Or at least think sales people will sit quietly and take it)
  4. God extends us grace though we do not deserve it. Some people expect perfection from others and extend no grace. Perhaps they enjoy seeing the other person fail or they are purposely creating an environment to exploit to their advantage.
  5. Even when confronted with a situation like this, with His word and guidance, a Christian can defend themselves AND not destroy the other person with their spoken word.



Friday, February 7, 2014

The 50/50 Proposition of a Marriage


Ask people recently married or are engaged to be married if they think marriage is a 50/50 proposition and odds are they will say absolutely. It takes effort on both parties' sides to make a marriage go.

Partially true. It does take effort from both parties involved, but it takes far more than 50%- it takes your all! Marriage is not about your half or your spouse's half; it's about ALL OF BOTH OF YOU. When two become one, that now equals 200% so for you math majors out there, 50/50 in a marriage means someone is missing in that relationship! All in is what it takes! (This is precisely why it is not for the faint of heart and should not be entered into lightly- it is a personal challenge to grow and improve yourself every day.)

All in is a popular term in the poker vernacular for when a player pushes all his chips into the center of the table on one hand thinking he has the best hand or hoping to bluff his way into winning. Either way, the saying is cliche's and perhaps a bit trite for this discussion, but I trust the visual image of someone betting a fortune on one poker hand by going "all in" is illustrative enough to make my point.

Marriage is all about being all in. If it were not then anyone could suffice with half-effort. Even athletes conditioning themselves for a game don't give half efforts. They run through the line every time or they get to do it again.  Why would we insist marriage be any different?

Marriage is defined in the Bible as the union of one man and one woman into one relationship. Perhaps this constructs a vision I am "half" of this marriage thus that is all I need to give, half.  Let us consider this for a moment to be fair. "I am going to give half of myself to my wife." Think on that for a moment. Is that fair and equitable or, is it selfish? Furthermore, if this is truly how marriage is "supposed to be" then which, pre' tel, half would any normal human being give to their spouse? Their best? Hardly. We would give our second best half. The leftovers. We are naturally selfish so this thought process is a bit awkward at first, contrary to the natural laws of survival. Thus the greatest commandment of all: Love your Lord with ALL your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbors as you love yourself.

Ask yourself if your spouse deserves your best or your second-best efforts. For me, that answer is plain as the sun rising in the east; she not only deserves my best, she deserves better than I can deliver, but that is a topic for another day.

It is by no accident the phrase "...for better or worse" are in most all wedding vows for God knows our hearts. He knows we are inherently selfish and will commit foolish selfish acts out of self-love yet we promise to love our spouse unconditionally through it all. The only way that can happen is if we are all in ourselves, having left nothing on the table as it were. For times when I am weak my wife carries me and I her.  In times of illness we nurture each other.We are magnificently different from each other yet equal since we are both completely and unconditionally devoted to each other. Because of this we both are secure in each other's decisions and abilities to be in society and not cause angst or jealousy in the other.

Jesus gave us illustrations of this principle Himself when He "married the church" or died on the cross. He did not leave anything on the table for us to do or to complete in his stead. He was fully committed to each of us and the church for He so loves us. There is nothing more we could do other than follow the example set forth. There is comfort in that thought for me.

The best way we have discovered for this to happen is to invite God into our relationship to form a trinity in our holy matrimony. Three legs in your relationship will strengthen that bond beyond what might attack your marriage. Consider the rope below: It is made of 3 strands for optimal strength. Not two, not four or five, THREE. They are interwoven so one cord can lean on the other two in times of stress and to lend it's strength when all are challenged simultaneously while under a load of tension. There is another kernel of knowledge here, just below the surface: Tensile strength is a geometrically progressive function of diameter or cross section of the member(s) involved in the strength to resist tension. While it is obvious combining three equal strands of rope is going to be larger than an individual strand, the overall diameter is where this increase in strength takes place. Remember Pi(r2)? The surface area of a circle grows exponentially with an increase in radius? So too will your marriage when you increase your radius (or faith) and place a greater emphasis on relying upon God to help grow you and at the same time increase that radius as well.  It is also well to note ropes not under tension tend to last longer than ropes that are! You can see the ones that are under tension for they appear rigid and tight, perhaps fraying at one or multiple points.


My wife has been such a blessing to me over the years. We have literally grown "old" together. We met at the age of 16 and have been together ever since- over 30 years. We have grown emotionally and spiritually through the many trials we have experienced because we have chosen to. When faced with a challenge, we have two choices: face it head on hand in hand with each other or step aside and let our partner take the brunt of it. The latter of course is a selfish and unloving act, one more concerned about being right (the good half) than being supportive and leads directly to resentment and anger. (Not to mention heavy loads are always easier to bear with help!) We are all guilty of this from time to time, but at the end of the day wise is he/she who embraces his/her spouse at the expense of being right. 

How can you improve YOUR relationship and make room for God in it?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keeping Your Eyes on the Road Ahead



Our sermon today at Valley Creek Church had us listening to a guest speaker- one of our elders Don Manning.  His sermon had some great applications and refreshing insight to me as a father, husband and bread winner.  Several points stuck out but one resonated with profound clarity to me:

Keeping your eyes on the Lord!  We daily lose sight of God working in our lives and rush from one moment to the next, stuck in the past, worried about the future and losing sight of the here and now. Can you identify with that? I sure can!

I remember instantly thinking about the parallels between what he said and every day life. Rare is a day in which I drive to work and not see a traffic accident or a near miss.  We travel with it all the time- we see someone tailgating us or the cars near us, texting on the phone, eating, doing makeup, shooting across several lanes at once to make an exit, you get the idea. As a result, WE have to look out for them and make concessions lest we get a chance to meet them in person.

It struck me this morning (pardon the pun) how we take our eyes off Jesus and start looking at life by only what is directly in front of us; the exact same way so many people drive today. This is a reactive lifestyle and with the pace of life faster than ever it is even more vital for us to slow down and be more deliberate in our lives.

I remember a time in the 70's and 80's in which a third brake light was not on the back of cars, but legislators thought it prudent to create a law to help us avoid accidents by mandating that light be installed in all passenger vehicles. Would it not have been a better idea to teach us how to drive properly? By that I mean to look 20-30 seconds ahead of the vehicle in front of us. I learned this trick in a professional driving course years ago and an amazing thing happened when I did: I could not only see much further ahead but my periphery also increased. In other words, by simply changing my point of focus, much more came into clarity and I was better able to avoid an accident.
While we think we see a lot, from God's perspective our view is like   looking at the world between our hands like this image shows.
I always scratched my head at how the Israelites could not remember one day to the next the miracles God gave them to escape Egypt and be delivered from slavery. Of course they didn't have the benefit of the Holy Spirit to stay with them but I also miss how I forget every day what He has done for me and my family when I worry about something or don't pray for guidance. I am in effect, staring at the bumper of the car in front of me while I am traveling through life at a high rate of speed. (I touched on the importance of timing in your life in my January 27 article when I write about Jesus' never being in a hurry). Day by day I strive to change my focus onto God.

When we put our eyes on God literally and figuratively, we will as a result gain the vision our loving Father has for us minimizing any distractions, but we also can see rising distractions exactly as they are and be fully prepared to address or dismiss them as appropriate. This will permit us to live in the moment, leave the past in the past and welcome the future gracefully and never in a hurry, and allow us to smell the roses. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

The Importance of Timing in Your Life

Watching the videos below you can see some similarities between these two professionals and their swings. Each composes himself with balance and poise. One focusing on a moving object and the other on a much smaller stationery one. Each is noteworthy in their respective fields. Each is of a similar build, not over-developed muscular-wise.

If you have ever watched a natural hitter like Ken Griffey Jr, below, you notice a quick, fluidic, effortless swing which generates great batspeed and thus massive power.

Or perhaps you are more familiar with the phenomenon known as Tiger Woods:

Notice neither of these men are particularly BIG physically like Arnold Schwarzenegger for example. Rather they are tall and lean. There are few instances in which massive people like Arnold have the finesse for such skills as hitting a home run or a 400 yard drive.  Yet they make it look so easy.

For anyone out there whom has played either sport and gotten THAT hit, the one where there was no resistance of the ball against the bat or the club. That hit in the "Sweet spot" where you weren't even sure if you made contact for everything met at just the right moment and the right space in time.

So what is it about these swings that make them so beautiful and desirous to recreate?

Watching these videos and even listening to the experts' analysis of Wood's swing we can glean these are finely tuned athletes with extraordinary muscle control, but there is one critical ingredient laying right before our eyes like an elephant in the room yet no one mentions it at all:

TIMING. 
The old cliche' "Timing is everything" is a cliche' because it is so true. There is nothing like showing up 15 minutes late to work, for your flight or to miss dinner at home with your family to make you realize that. NASCAR and NHRA fans understand timing. Expert marksmen and hunters understand it. Comedians and actors live and die by it.

With exceptional timing and being in tune with their body, these athletes show us what it is like to have the right timing for maximum result with less than maximum effort for they know by FORCING it or trying harder, they will fail to get the results they desire. In baseball it will be a pop fly because the tension in Griffey's muscles will squeeze the bat too hard and cause a slight drop in the bat angle leading to too much undercut. Or Woods will pull his hands in too close to his body and end up with a huge slice to the right. Instead, they realize by slowing down and keeping the proper timing, they will get extraordinary results.

The other thing I would point out too is once these athletes commit to their swing, there is no hesitation. No second-guessing. Once it commences, there is no reservation whatsoever. They are committed to it and execute it quickly.

Jesus of course realized the importance of timing also. For 30 years he labored as an obedient carpenter before breaking out into the role God had in store for Him. Waiting for His time and calling, Jesus was faithful, making the most of his craft while biding His time. He lived in the moment, not looking forward to the future. We humans are often looking to the future- to get off work, go on vacation, to eat, etc. Too often I hear people wishing their lives away by saying things like "I wish it were Friday" or "I am just killing time." These are powerful statements that provide us a glimpse into the psyche of that person.

But there's so much more to it than just Jesus waiting 30 years for His first miracle. Consider how He NEVER seemed to be in a hurry. Waiting for 30 years to perform His work. People would implore him to come and heal this person for they are sick and but he would deliberately take his time. This resulted in two ill people actually dying before He could arrive. But of course if He had hurried He would not have resurrected  Lazarus and Jairus' little girl in Mark 5:21-43. In Mark 4 we see Jesus and the disciples leaving a large crowd behind to travel to the far side of the sea. He spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness.

He was never in a hurry because He was on GOD'S TIME! As it turned out, we see Lazarus and the little girl raised from the dead not just simply healed, a much greater miracle. His waiting for God's timing made these larger miracles. Leaving the crowds hungry for His Word and works made them pursue Him rather than sitting back, having been satisfied and feeling as though they had heard all they needed to know. They knew there was more so they pursued Him out of faith and hunger.

You don't have to go THAT far out of your comfort zone to
see a Big return on your investment!
Too often we are satisfied and comfortable with our walk and thus will not get out of our comfort zone to grow. Growing ourselves can be a scary proposition for the truly experience growth, we have to get outside our personal boundaries and push ourselves into uncharted territory.

Be that as it may, it is clear to me, whether you believe in God or not, we are all in place as a part of a plan. One that is orchestrated with an intellect and perfection we cannot begin to comprehend, but can be obedient to. God places us in positions for a reason but this reason may not be immediately clear. It may not even be for our own benefit but perhaps for someone around us. It has taken me more than a decade to begin to appreciate the lessons God has intended for me as a disciple but I was too proud in my walk to hear what He would have me to hear.

I now realize I may have been in a storm, but it was really a season. A season of understanding and openness with myself and God.  What I am trying to say is, when I entered this stormy season, I was upset and asked "Why me?" and I now realize the time for that part of my life had come to an end though I desperately clung to it and I needed to  LET GO first before I could take the next step.  Unfortunately, I was disobedient, trying to hold on too long and ultimately had to be humbled before I could begin to hear the lesson He would have me to hear.  I had to be removed from one career path to one substantially lower in esteem than the one I was on. That was not the humbling part for me. It was to stop asking "Why me" and start asking "Why NOT me?" and to thank Him for the grace He extended to me despite my disobedience.

What is just beyond YOUR comfort zone? What is just out of reach that God would hand to you? Reach out your hand and take it from Him for He is a loving Father and you are a beloved child of His. What father would deny his child anything beneficial for them? Commit to your swing right now. Take that step and watch what happens next in your life.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Five Lessons we can take from Christopher Maloney's X-Factor Audition

X Factor is an English talent show in which people sing before a panel of judges in the hopes of landing an invitation to join the show which challenges each performer to sing their best in different genre in music, trying to expose their inner weaknesses in which case the audience will vote them off or to keep them on the show.

In the 2012-2013 season, a young English man named Christopher Maloney auditioned for the show and stunned the judges with a performance that must be heard to he appreciated. If you have not seen it, even if you have seen it, it is still a heart-wrenching performance when you see how nervous he is on stage. Take a few minutes and watch his performance here:



Towards the end the judges ask him why he had not sang in public before and he says people told him he was not that good.  Huh?  That is when it struck me-  God had given this man an unbelievable gift and because of the people he hung around, that amazing talent was kept hidden from the rest of us. I want to examine five lessons we can take from the Christopher Maloney performance.

1. While we are all gifted in some way from God, some gifts are more obvious than others. Many of us admire the athletic prowess of a professional athlete, or the literary gift of an author like Hemingway. A gifted actor like Jack Nicholson or an accomplished surgeon like Dr Ben Carson. Christopher is gifted with the voice of an angel, much like fellow Brit Susan Boyle who exploded on the scene after her audition on Britain's got Talent in which much of the audience were clearly judging her on her appearance. What she unleashed was a lesson in not judging a book by it's cover. Unlike Susan, Christopher was beside himself with fear and doubt, literally shaking like a leaf. Yet he was finally convicted to share his gift. I believe it is incumbent upon each of us to use these gifts God has given us. In fact, it is required to use these gifts. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14) explains this. A master gave 3 servants talents or money. One whom was given the most, 5 talents, used it most wisely and doubled the money. The second received 2 talents but likewise doubled that amount. The final servant was more concerned about losing what had been given, he never truly received the money and violated the master's trust. Furthermore, he actually, unintentionally cost his master money! He deprived his master of a small gain or bit of glory if you will. Likewise, gifts from God when displayed, honor Him and bring Him glory. If a gift is not utilized but instead kept inside us, then it was never truly given nor received.

2. Christopher listened to the wrong people for too long. His mother encouraged him but his friends kept him down. If you have watched these shows, especially the auditions, there are plenty of people who audition who need friends like Christopher's for they couldn't sing to save their lives! Be that as it may, we must be vigilant about those with whom we associate and entrust with our secrets. Those who build us up or we them, deserve our hearts and time. Those who tear at us and try to keep us down must be taken in small doses or none at all, depending on your strength and faith. Short of that, prayerful reminders of them to find their gifts are the most appropriate action.

3. When all eyes are on you, put your eyes on God. God has promised He will never forsake us or let us down yet we let Him down and take our eyes off Him all the time. I have no idea how Christopher found the ability to start singing, but once he did he was lights out. He gained strength and momentum once he hit his vocal stride. I know from personal experience, if He brings me to it, He WILL get me through it! I have faced many challenges as a leader and a parent when sometimes much hangs in the balance. I remember once when my boys were adolescents, they had made a bad decision and my wife had to call me at work which is something she has done once in ten years.  I had no idea how to handle the situation or what to say until I pulled up in the driveway when God gave me the words I needed. No physical punishment was needed nor a profane tirade. Rather I was poised and quite gathered in my message of displeasure. The message was received and nothing further was spoken of the incident again.

4. Face your fears.  I believe there can be no courage without fear for fear is a reaction but courage is a choice. What we do with that fear defines us. Courageous people stare it down and attack like a lion. They confront their fears head on and grow as a result either through the accomplishment or through a failure. Firefighters are often confronted with very frightening scenario with structure fires and they courageously run into buildings everyone else is running out of. While they have the proper equipment and training the civilians do not, it is still a spectacle to see people swallow an instinctual response of fight or flight and choose to fight.

5. Follow your dreams! I don't believe God will give us a dream that does not align with our gifts. By that I am not insinuating a boy dreaming of becoming an astronaut or pilot can't aspire to do so. What I am saying is a dream to have a family and loving spouse, for example, is within the grasp of everyone if they follow God's lead and the right person who complements their innate personality traits and character. I realize there are many dreams which are never fulfilled; for example some people fail to score the minimum MCATs score to enter medical school or they never make a professional team for the lucrative contracts so many envy. I would submit either these dreams were self-manifested or misinterpreted. Someone wanting to be around athletes might have been called to be a coach or trainer. A person wishing to be a Doctor might have thought that was the path they wanted to be on in order to care for patients when they fail to realize Doctors have little time to share with a patient but nurses and P.A.'s are the cutting edge of medical care.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Why were the wise men "wise"?



The definition of wise is possessing inside infor-mation, exercising good judgment, or to be informed about a particular matter.

For me, to be wise means to be able to apply your book knowledge with grace and love to your fellow man. This grace comes from the Lord, and thus wisdom, for me, comes from Him.  The Christmas story (Matthew 2:11) tells us the story of the 3 wise men who traveled to meet the new-born king.  At first blush, this seems innocuous, especially when we have long-forgotten the significance of the gifts. Pastor John Stickl's sermon last week at Valley Creek Church reminded me of the significance of these gifts and the import of the prophecy they foretold. I felt compelled to share these ideas with you to deepen your faith and hopefully get you to ask more questions.

The old tales we have been told of the "3 Wise men from the Orient" may not be entirely accurate. Some accounts mention Magi, which could have numbered 12, while the number "3" may refer to the gifts which were rendered to baby Jesus. This link to Wikipedia names three probable Magi- Melchior from Persia or modern-day Iran, Caspar from India and Balthazar from Arabia.  When you look at the current map of the middle east, it is apparent they did not all come from the east nor travel the same distance. Arabia is to the south and quite close to Jerusalem while Caspar traveled the greatest distance coming from India. It doesn't really matter HOW many actually made the journey to see the new savior, at least not in this article, but why they came and what they brought.

Since we can reasonably assume these wise men were from different nationalities, they intuitively knew by the new star in the sky symbolized something significant had just taken place, and individually decided to make this trek to meet this new king. We know they realized the newborn was a king for in biblical times gold was a gift for kings. We also know frankincense was used in preparation by the priests for communing with God for the atonement of sins and myrrh was used in conjunction with the preparation of a body for burial.  Combined, these three gifts are quite prophetic which of course indicates these men were wise indeed; so much so they prophesied the arrival of the King of Kings, the Lamb of God and the Savior all in the same baby, and 33 years hence that prophecy would be fulfilled.

To further illustrate the wisdom, in Matthew 2:, he writes King Herod received these visitors and was quite angered by the proclamation the King of the Jews had been born. Herod was after all, the King of the Jews and of course being a small-minded man could not appreciate what the wise men shared with him. Rather, he was threatened by this proclamation so he calmly asked the men to return to share with him where the baby lay so he too could offer worship and praise.

    Realizing Herod had ulterior motives, the Magi were reticent to tip their hand they were on to him and returned home a different way.  Pastor John made an interesting analogy here: They came before the new born king, received new wisdom and returned home on a different path. Likewise we are born of this world and, when we accept Christ as our savior, we too take a different path to our destination (assuming we become followers rather than just believers).

Word quickly spread later when Herod realized the Magi were not going to return and report to him the first-born sons of all residents in Bethlehem were to be sacrificed, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus fled for Egypt.  There they lived comfortably for several years off the proceeds of the gifts they had received.

Here is another sage piece of insight Pastor John shared: Those who are the furthest from God seek Him the most. People nearby in Bethlehem didn't even bother looking for the baby in a manger yet the wise men traveled a vast distance each to find an answer for themselves. God even announced the birth by sending angels to the shepherds in the fields and the gentiles, the simplest and furthest (spiritually) from Him. John added the lesson of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31) in which the son turns his back on his father, family and responsibilities, leaves home, squandering his inheritance before humbly returning home to live as a lowly servant. His father would have none of that and hastened his other son to welcome and honor his brother and his servants to prepare a feast. Angered by his father's not honoring his loyalty, the other son wanted no part of the celebration. His father had to share his wisdom with him by saying "It is right to make merry and be glad for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found." (v31)

John goes on to point out the prodigal son, like the the Magi and the many other instances (Lazarus, the sick daughter whom was resurrected, the bleeding woman, the prostitute, Zacchaeus are but a few examples) in the Bible where people take from Jesus first before they can receive.

You must first take before you can receive. 

In other words, before you can have anything to give to God or anyone else, you must first receive from Him for without God, we have nothing. The Magi realized this, sought the new born king, took wisdom from Him and then gave him the gifts of a king, a holy man and a man being prepared for a funeral.

What is Jesus wanting you to take from Him?