Friday, November 19, 2010

When Everyone Has A Cookie...

About two weeks ago I heard a saying that I have not been able to get out of my head. My friend, Paul Atkinson, said this in a meeting, “When everyone has a cookie, no one has a cookie.” I LOVE it. I have used it probably 50 times in the last two weeks.  In the context of the conversation Paul was saying that if we give everyone something special all the time, special becomes the new normal and it is no longer special. As the weeks progress I began to think about what this phrase means in regards to relevancy. “Relevant” is a scary word. Within the circles I  run, the fight for relevancy is a primary concern. It bothers me. I always feel that the idea of being relevant would only be discussed in an environment where relevancy has already been lost. Saying that you want to be relevant is tantamount to saying “I am no longer relevant.” In an effort to attain relevance we start measuring ourselves against others whom we perceive to be relevant. Then we start taking steps to emulate them. Now we are convinced that we will finally be relevant. The truth is that the best we will ever achieve is the status quo. It follows that at some point the current relevant will become irrelevant.

       Don’t try so hard to be relevant that you become irrelevant.
But what is relevant? Is it “new” or “fresh” or “edgy”? Is relevance in style or in philosophy? Is relevance in age? I argue that real relevance is found in a combination of variables. Variables that are arranged just right for the surrounding society and it’s response of culture to jive in perfect harmony. The most important component of this chemical mixture is, wait for it, originality. That’s right, folks. If you want to be relevant in whatever endeavor you are undertaking you must be original. Don’t think that you can gobble up a bunch of different sources and their previously executed ideas, let ‘em rumble around in your creative intestines and proceed to poop out a gem. We have all tried it. We’ve all created things that were complete regurgitations of someone else’ good idea.

      The best way to be relevant is to be original.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be the cookie that everybody else is already eating. Be the flavor that comes to you naturally. Granted there are other variables that make the flavor of your cookie the one that everyone wants at the moment, but what is more important; being real or being popular? We must face the facts and realize that much of what we call “relevant” is really just a discussion of what’s hot, hip, cool, now, fresh or whatever you want to call it. But popular isn’t in anyone’s control. Don’t try for popular. Try for real. Try for original. The only way to be original is to be authentic and genuine. Try for authentic. Here is a thought progression to contemplate: Authenticity begets originality begets relevance. Scripture shows us exactly how to think on this topic. Read it:

Romans 12:6-20

6 let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else;7 if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching;8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.18 If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.19 Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”20 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.

I am loving this passage. It tells me exactly how I should be living and how to treat others. Moreover, It shows me how to be responsible in regards to the talents and skills with which I've been entrusted. These are just my random thoughts on relevance, creativity and the inherent dangers in pursuing creativity for a specified outcome other than just to create. I hope it starts or continues a great communal conversation. TMF

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lost In Translation

Just the other day, an important friend of mine posted a verse on twitter from the Biblical book of Lamentations. As soon as I saw it I had a memory from about 15 years ago (I know it's going to be distracting to you that I am remembering something from when I was 5 years old, but stay with me). At the time, I was really focused on a specific group of verses in the Bible from the Book of Lamentations, which I felt was a life theme for me. The passage was Lamentations chapter 3, verses 27-31. Here is what it says in the New International Version (NIV):

27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.

29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.

30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever. 

The NIV was the preferred version of the scriptures used by the church I grew up attending. I didn't exactly understand the context of this verse, but for me it meant that I should seek God as a young man and that it is ok if it is difficult. God would meet me in the midst of seeking Him - even through life's confusion. One day, I told the pastor of our church about this verse and how I was latching onto it. I quoted it to him and he said, "Yep, it's good to work hard." I thought to myself, "Is that what these few verses mean?" 
Flash forward to the present. As I was having this memory as a result of my friend's post, I decided to read those verses again. Maybe 15 years of life would give me the experience and perspective to be able to understand them the way the author really meant them to be understood. I hopped over to my YouVersion bible app and found the passage I was looking for. This time, I read it in the paraphrase version of the Bible, The Message. Here is what I found:

27 It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.

 28 When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.

 29 Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.

30 Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.

31 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.

Wow. This isn't at all the "work as hard as you can" theme that my pastor from 15 years ago communicated. It's more like, well, what I originally thought. It basically says, "Life may be tough, but if you are faithful to sit and wait on God, He'll always show up." Love. It. 
At this point I had a few thoughts. First, I wish that I had been exposed multiple sources and translations or versions of the scriptures so that I could more thoroughly understand the principles being communicated. Second, I wonder at the incredible ways that scripture lives and breathes, allowing us to access deeper and deeper parts of who God is. Third, I am so thankful that I live in a time and place that gives me the chance to find God's grace, mercy, love, leadership, mastery and wisdom in so many different translations and versions. 
When I read these old familiar verses in a new way, I am overwhelmed by the truth of those scriptures. The 15 year old me was finally at peace knowing he understood in his mind what he suspected in his heart.  Back then the true meaning was lost in translation. Now, I understand more and more as I myself become lost in translation. TMF

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Ad Hominem Fallacy

If you are a patient person and enjoy a good humorous essay and are not easily offended by moderately course language in a literary composition, follow this link. You'll laugh.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dirty Laundry

1 Corinthians 1:26-30

26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

This weekend we are kicking off a series called Dirty Laundry. We will be looking at a few of the different ways our junk or “laundry” can keep us from loving God and Loving others.
It’s a cool parallel between what Paul says about god ‘using the foolish and simple things to shame those who think they are wise’, and our using the idea of something foolish, like dirty laundry, to illustrate a very important concept.

Often times we feel that we are no better than dirty laundry and are ill equipped to do the work at hand – telling others that they matter to God.  The cool thing is that we have the reassurance of scripture to tell us that “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” And, “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God”

It is by his grace and his guidance that we can look ahead to a weekend like the one coming up and be confident that He will be glorified!