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Friday, October 28, 2011

Loving yourself...

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

This idea really has serious implications.

First, I must say, I don't find very many people that love themselves. This is odd since most people are selfish and narcissistic and indulgent. But what I mean is that most people at the core dislike who they are and have a hard time cutting themselves any slack. They beat themselves up, they believe horrible things about themselves, they refuse to receive affirmation, they are dismantled at the slightest criticism because it confirms their greatest fear(s)'s really quite sad.

I know, I you look about you, people are "in love" with themselves and their accomplishments. Their ego is an over-ripened watermelon splitting open at the slightest prick of a blade's end. People talk up themselves and interject stories of their own "awesomeness" whenever a break in the conversation allows for it. Humans are vain and vaunted vultures feeding on others to nourish their own sense of self-worth. This is also true. But I think less true.

I think what is more true is that people are ineffably insecure and nervous. Flitting and floundering about with the darting eyes of a child scared of getting caught. People are afraid of exposure and what would happen if others knew just how sad, sorry and sick they really were. Even people that "are confident aren't", is what I'm trying to say. Even people that look connected aren't. Individuals that appear sinless may actually struggle more with sin than those who wear their sin on their shirtsleeve. Those that talk big are quite likely to think very small of themselves using strong language to convince themselves of what they doubt very seriously in secret.

My experience of others, especially when you move beyond the "hey, how are you?"-"Good, how 'bout you?"-"Good"-"Good to hear."-"Great."-"Welp, have a great day."-"You too."-"Bye."-"See ya." kind of exchange is that people are quite enslaved to anxiety and anger directed mostly at themselves. They hate themselves; they hate their misbehavior; they loathe their lack of follow-through and their chronic co-dependance. They are nervous about what others think and obsessed with "conversations inside their head" before, during and after the "actual conversation". They crucify themselves for saying too much or too little after an interaction. They can't accept God's forgiveness when they sin and nurse a hidden fear that they aren't, in fact, really saved. People want penance if only for the feeling of doing something hurtful to themselves to pay for their moral misdemeanor. People want to pay for their crimes, they want to feel the justification that comes through doing time. And they walk about "serving time" for their daily crimes.

People hate themselves. They wish they were better at something. They wish they could be a different person. They dislike their personality and skill sets. They don't feel comfortable in their skin. Most people put themselves up on the butcher table of their own mind and dice themselves into little beef tips. They scrutinize and criticize themselves with mercilessness. They are haunted by their own impossible expectations they place on themselves...always falling short, always keenly aware of failure and futility.

And so what Jesus is saying is that we need to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Do you see the irony of this? No wonder people treat each other so horribly. No wonder people don't know how to reach out with grace or to forgive an offense. Road rage makes more sense. The use of the middle finger can be better explained. Rants and fits of rage provide a window into someone's soul. Fidgety awkwardness and vague answers to personal questions has an origin. Insecurity begets insecurity. Anger begets anger. Hurt people hurt people.

I am the worst of sinners when it comes to this manslaughter. I take things out on myself. I lie in bed chewing myself out, up one side and down the other. I always look at my presentation and performance through a microscopic lens of perfectionism. I turn on myself. I make mountains out of molehills. I throw babies out with bathwater. I know how to over-react to my slip-ups and punish myself with "suicide runs" for actionable or attitudinal tardiness.

The brutality with which people treat themselves makes it impossible to love anyone or anything.

I hope to be nicer to myself for the remainder of this day. It's not letting myself off the hook to actually say to myself, "I love myself and I love my life, Thank you, God."

Sounds vain, I know, but I wish I treated myself better. I think others would benefit from that.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Simple Life...

People want simplicity, but almost always choose complexity.

You ask how I know people long for simplicity? It's simple. I've heard people say it no less than ten times in the last several days. What with all the spam, dump-truck loads of ideas, multi-tasking applications connected to network devices that sync up with storage clouds that merge with blogs and facebook and google+ and twitter and pinterest and blah, blah, blah.

It makes you long for the days of cords that were attached to phones attached to walls that were attached to houses that served as someones home. Now everything is cordless, which is great and all, but don't cry the blues when you don't feel any attachment. As goes the cord, so goes the attachment.

We live in a wireless society with remote offices. Translated: A phone and a car. Cheaper, yes. But when you're feeling alone, please understand that comes with the territory when you choose to go "remote". And when you're enjoying the benefit of less overhead, don't be surprised if you're starting to feel like there's something "cheaper" about the quality of your life. Our lust for de-centralized models to save cost and hassle has led us to the slaughterhouse of isolation. So we have more wealth, but less richness. Hmmm.

There are days when I want to hoist all the connectivity and accessibility right out the window and go back to the days of simplicity. The days when you had to walk to someone's house to use their phone when you ran out of gas. The days when you had to let someone know where you were going before you left because that would be your last point of contact. The days when you had to go to a library to find a primary source or read a book to find a quote. The days when you had three channels on network television with Matlock or Murder, She Wrote as your entertainment options. The days when boys at least had to work a little bit to find porn and girls still had sleep overs where they talked instead of texted. The days when family dinners weren't interrupted by buzzing/churping cell phones and parents weren't trying to close a deal with an open laptop while listening to their child read a book to them.

I remember when I listened to 570 WSYR on AM radio soaking in Yankee baseball games and Syracuse basketball like a brittle sponge. The static airwaves crackled like an old record. No HD, no six-lane bandwidth, no connection to what was happening on those distant courts or fields other than the frequency coming through that little radio sitting on the apple crate that served as my nightstand and clothes drawer. One connection. One medium. One.

Family nights consisted of board games, singing around the piano, reading books on our parents laps (we were their laptops opened up on their knee), wrestling matches in the living room, circus with dad on his back flipping us over his head while humming a little loop like you'd hear at a merry-go-round, playing catch out in the yard, or walking down by the lake. We couldn't go online, browse DVR'd shows, check Facebook, text, tweet, or play tidily-winks with the world wide web. It was just us, a few options and what we made of them.

It is not unusual to see a household all split into different rooms of the house each connected to some technological device taking them far away from where they are and putting them in touch with something and somewhere else in the world. One will be on the internet, strike that, one parent will be on the laptop while one of the kids will take the desktop, another child will be watching Phineas and Ferb episodes that have been TiVo'd and stockpiled for convenient consumption, another will be on their ipod listening to a recently downloaded song off of iTunes, another will be on their Nintendo DS while another is playing Wii in their bedroom which can also serve as a Netflicks conduit to the world of movies. Dad is out in the driveway pacing around on his cell phone since the service isn't real great in the house. Mom is on her iPhone scrolling through status updates and making sure she doesn't miss anything. This is the "Modern Family" and we're wondering why we're making passing comments about "wanting life to be more simple"?

I know this is the trail of a rabid rabbit at best, but do you see my point? We flippantly chatter something about being busy and longing for simplicity, but our lives leave no room for that longing to be realized. None whatsoever. If only just wanting simplicity is all it took. We'd be all set.

I know it's more than longing for the "good old days" which are more old than good truth be told. But there is something to the bare naked, stripped down, unplugged age of yesteryear that beckons us backward. I fear that if we don't do something "amish" about our scatterbrained lifestyles, our lives will get away from us. We will be robbed blind while sitting in our own home. We will be pick-pocketed and won't know it until we try to make our next transaction, but by that time, it'll be too late. Your credit cards are gone, your license is gone, your social security card is gone...there's no going back.

Maybe that's why some people hook a chain to their wallets. Maybe this is why some people keep their rotary phone. Maybe this is why people won't get a Facebook account. Maybe this is why some people won't cave in a get a cell phone.

And you know what? We hate these people for not keeping up with the times.

But I wonder if right underneath our anger at the inconvenience they cause by not climbing on the bandwagon, I wonder if we're kinda jealous of their joy. The joy that comes with not knowing what you don't know. I wonder if they are the ones who have the time, space and energy to have some life in their living.

Could it be that simple?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Cheer-Leaders and Lead-Cheerers...

I don't know if you've picked up on this lately, but people are dying for leadership everywhere you look. They wouldn't necessarily name it that, but that's what they are starving for.

They would probably express their need for it in sighs of cynical resignation:

"You can't trust those in power."
"The hypocrisy of authority is sickening."
"The people who are supposed to be looking out for you only look out for themselves."
"All parents say they won't get in a divorce to their kids, and then do anyway."
"Pastors aren't any different than any other leaders, they are in it for vain-glory and money."
"It doesn't matter if you're from the Right, Left or Center...politicians are crooked."
"All leaders are liars."
"Teachers don't care anymore, they are just serving time in the prison of their tenure."
"Church is just a bunch of grown-ups who are really cover-ups."
"People aren't motivated my altruistic love anymore, there's always an agenda or angle."
"The best way to not be hurt is to never give your heart to anyone for any reason."
"Even if people say differently, you're on your own and it's best you start accepting that."
"People will take advantage of you given the opportunity. Don't close your eyes."
"Families - a bunch of fakers trying to look pretty in public while being ugly in private."

The vomit that comes out of people's mouth shows a "values-virus". They instinctively know it shouldn't be the way it is, but the best they can do is tell you so. Few are chiming in with a path to "what should be", and fewer still are living the change they want to see giving a picture of "what could be".

I love Jesus statement in Luke 4..."The Scriptures are fulfilled in your very presence." Leaders read what is longed for and prophesied and "become the change", actually "become the fulfillment of the longing" in the presence of the people.

We don't need more people skilled at pointing out the problems. We don't need more people joining the "critic choir", this is for the clods and curmudgeons. We don't even need more leaders to speak on, write on, blog on and carry on about "what's wrong and why". We need leaders who embody the pining cry of society, the ache of humanity. We need leaders to rise up and become the change they are peddling.

And you know what we need more than anything these days..."cheerleaders".

Leaders who are cheering people on. Leaders who are yelling out phrases of encouragement to the players on the field and the fans in the stands. "Let's go, let's go, L-E-T-S-G-O, LET'S GO!!" "D-FENCE. D-FENCE. D-FENSE." "Be Aggressive. B-E Aggressive. B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E. Aggressive!!"

We need leaders who will be the cheerleader, but even more, the lead-cheerer. The person who will cheer when everyone else has left the stadium in the 4th quarter. The person who will shout from the top of their lungs and live to the soles of their feet the words of life, hope, solution, action and passion even in the jaws of defeat.

Our world is crying for and dying for leaders.

They needs cheerleaders. They need lead-cheerers.

We have our fill of trouble-shooters, problem-solvers, ax-grinders, hair-splitters, and belly-achers. We need vision-casters, team-builders and cheer-leaders.

Man, do we need them.