Less Than You Are

It’s common for many to grow up with phrases repeated over and over to them: “Who do you think you are?” “I don’t want you to get a big head” and “You don’t know very much do you?” These get stuck in our heads and affect what we think of ourselves and how we do life. Unfortunately, they are only partially true. We don’t really understand our worth. I’m reading through the Bible’s New Testament and came across a very interesting phrase. It’s in The Message translation; it offered me a fresh perspective. “I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself.” That’s what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christ-followers at Corinth in Greece. Because we don’t understand our worth, we engage in thoughts and activities all the time that reduce us to less than ourselves. Lying, cheating, exaggerating, hating, fighting, despising, bragging, withholding, clinging, being arrogant and selfish. All these are practices that reduce us to less than ourselves. It’s why things like pornography are so insidious. (You really are better than that.) You were created for real relationships, not fake ones. What are you thinking or doing that reduces you to less than yourself? Are you in a toxic relationship? Do you engage in unhealthy behavior? Are you stuck in a job that’s killing you? You have incredible value. You have aspects of the divine in you. The planets, plants, animals, and angels are awesome. But they are not made in God’s image as you are. Consider your worth. Then consider the things that reduce you to less than yourself and make changes.   1 Corinthians 10:20 in The Message Royalty-free image by “beermug” (real name not listed); retrieved...

Real Food

The irony was overwhelming. I walked into a popular fast food restaurant to use the facilities while traveling. It was a small town in Kansas surrounded by lush, fertile farmland. I immediately noticed that almost every person in the place was overweight. The crowd was not dining on fresh fruits and vegetables full of rich nutrients, fiber and life. Instead, people were munching on highly processed chicken nuggets, deep friend potatoes, soda, and Big Macs made with standardized ingredients shipped from thousands of miles away. The contrast between the surrounding land and the sight in the restaurant was jolting. I can imagine the diet-related diseases many in the place struggle with: heart disease, diabetes, diverticulitis, gout and who knows what? We have bought the lie. We have traded the goodness and power of a juicy strawberry and lush, alive salad for fast, cheap comfort food with a long shelf life. The conventional American diet consists primarily of corn, white flower, sugar and mass-produced meat. I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about our food. I’ve found it shocking to realize most of it is controlled by a handful of multi-national agro-conglomerates. As I drove further, I landed in the city of my birth in the heart of the American Midwest: Iowa. I passed miles and miles of growing fields. Instead of crop diversity that encourages a balanced ecosystem, the fields have two crops that are rotated endlessly: corn and soybeans. Farmers are forced to buy hybrid and GMO seed from big corporations and get sued if they try to save any seed for replanting. They grow “Roundup-ready” seeds that won’t die when the weeds are sprayed with chemicals. That’s a scary thought. It’s hardly the scene that greeted my great-grandfather who landed here a...

There is no map

Does the thought of finding your own way in life excite you or freak you out? Some people are very comfortable with rules. They would prefer someone to just tell them what to do. Are you like that? Do you take comfort in just doing what’s expected of you? Do you long for a clear path that has already been cleared? I think there is great pressure in society to conform. From the time we start school, we are expected to perform in certain ways. We are rewarded when we behave, color within the lines, and serve as good members of the group. Life is not like the childhood chance game of Candyland. As Seth Godin wrote in his book, Linchpin: Are you indispensable?, “You pick and card and do what it says; repeat. This is early training in agenda-following; indoctrination in obedience. We teach kids that the best way to win is to endlessly pick cards, follow instructions, and wait for it all to turn out ok. What a disaster!” We think if we stay on the track, life will go well. Then it doesn’t. The fact is, life if hard and unpredictable. Shit happens. There is no map. There is no one standing over us to constantly tell us what to do. You were born with a brain, a heart, freewill, creativity, and the opportunity to make your life what you want it to be. You have the chance to create your destiny. Nobody is going to give it to you. You have to work for it. We accept a different scenario when we follow others’ expectations, try to hard to fit in, or give up. Yup. We try to do the right things, but life knocks us down. Knowing when to...

Delayed Gratification...

I would really like to have an iPad. In fact, I’ve thought about this quite a lot in recent weeks and spent a fair amount of time researching the models and scouring the Internet for the best prices. But do I really need one? And is it a priority? Of course I could use one, and my lizard (animalistic) brain is successfully justifying my “need” for one. But the more developed parts of my brain (and character) are trying to overrule the impulse. Sometimes we need to choose to wait– delay the gratification.  In the 1960s, psychologists at Stanford University conducted a study in delayed gratification. They gave children a cookie. The kids were then told if they did not eat the cookie when left alone, they would get two cookies. Predictably, most ate the cookie and only few got the second. In tracking these children, researchers found those who were able to resist the temptation to eat the cookie immediately did better in school and were more successful in life. Delayed gratification seems to be a key for success. Self-control is not easy. We are naturally selfish and impulsive. And we are constantly bombarded with marketing campaigns trying to convince us to buy buy buy, eat eat eat, and consume consume consume! Poverty is a complex issue. It’s not a lack of things, but a lack of life skills. Certainly many people in the world live in places where systems keep them down. Others choose to live self-sacrificially to invest in others. But a very huge contributing factor to poverty is a lack of self-control. People live paycheck-to-paycheck because they spend money as soon as they get it. Many are unable to think long-term; they give in to immediate gratification. They can’t pay the...

Germs

We need to have a healthy view of germs. There are good bacteria that are essential for life. They make is possible to grow food, break down that food in our bellies, build our immune systems, and compost plants in the life cycle. However, there are bad bacteria and viruses that make us sick. Some people are germaphobic, washing their hands dozens of times a day and using antibacterial cleaners on everything. Overuse of antibacterial soaps are actually harmful as they destroy good and bad germs. People associate bathrooms with germs, so they clean the toilet and sinks. But what about the door handle, faucets and light switch? (Consider that 10% of people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet.) Here are some items we often forget to clean and should: Cell phones: When is the last time you cleaned your cell phone? Think about all the places your cell phone has been: on public counters, in pockets with money, in the bathroom when you use it to pass the time. Your cell phone has 10 times more germs that the average toilet seat. Remote controls: We grab and use them when our hands are in various states of cleanliness. Remember to wipe them down next time you clean around them. Door knobs and handles: We touch them; our friends touch them. Yet we forget they are even there when we clean. Give them a good wipe down with an antibacterial spray as part of your cleaning routine. Car surfaces: We jump in our cars after shopping, running errands, handling money and meeting people. Use cleaning wipes on that steering wheel, shifter and other things you touch often. If you use public transportation, be aware of what your’e touchng and clean your hands...

How Do You Take Your Scriptures?

Varied interpretations of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian scriptures have been the center of controversy for centuries. Sunni and Shiite Muslims view the Qur’an very differently and defend their positions to the death (the cause of much us-vs- them hatred). In Jesus’ day, Pharisees and Sadducees rarely saw eye to eye. The sheer number of Christian denominations shows how people interpret passages differently. So how do you take YOUR scriptures? As a communication teacher, I know everyone interprets every situation through their own lens of personality, experience, culture and other variables. As a Christ follower, I understand people view passages differently. They even view the bible itself through different philosophical and cultural lenses. I know people who think that every time they open the bible, God directly talks to them in that moment. Instead of learning from the stories and trying to glean the principles, they over-personalize every passage to be some narcosistic work of God for them in that moment. As biblical professor emeritus Dr. Gordon Fee used to say, “It cannot say what it did not say.” In other words, you have to consider the original audience and intent of the author when reading the bible (or any text). I think a balanced perspective is well articulated in the following passage from a little book called, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God by Bryan Berghoef: “The Bible—or we might say, each book within the Bible—was written by a particular community of faith, for a particular community of faith. It was written in history, by human beings, each and every one of whom had their own agenda, bias, and perspective. Does that mean it is not from God? Not at all. But it does mean that its message is not always going to be clear, unified, and simple. There are texts that don’t just appear contradictory—they are contradictory! For those with a simplistic view of the Bible, this is a problem (that some go to great lengths to explain away). But for those who see the Bible as voicing the experiences of people who have encountered God throughout history in a diversity of ways and over hundreds and thousands of years, it should be expected. “The reality is, I love the Bible—it’s my favorite book in the whole world—and I think it has impacted our world more than any other book, and I think it continues to speak powerfully today. And if it is such an important book, an avenue through which we access the divine, then we ought to take it that seriously. Taking it seriously does not mean we just simply say, ‘There it is—God’s Word! If it says, ‘Jump!’ we’ll jump.” That might appear on the surface to be taking it seriously, but it is also a bit naïve (taking it literally is not the only way to take it seriously). “It is actually more respectful to the Bible to care it about it so much that you are willing to take it on its own terms, as an ancient text, as something that was written in a particular historical setting, in a particular language and in a specific context.” Pub Theology is available from Barnes and Noble and other...