Posts Tagged ‘unique

31
Oct
17

The Real Deal

“To thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, in Hamlet

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,
and that is what we are.”
– 1 John 3:1, NRSV

“Authentic” is a word that has been crossing my radar screen with increased frequency lately.

Naturally, authenticity would be a theme that would come to mind on that annual holiday we spend dressing up as someone – or something – else.

It also popped up this morning on a local radio talk show. The guest was the owner of a restaurant in town that specializes in Ramen noodles. Yes… that is apparently a thing. During the show, many syllables and much air were employed in identifying the difference between authentic Ramen and… I guess the inauthentic variety.

Over the weekend I had the honor of officiating at the memorial service of a friend of my son’s who died of pancreatic cancer. He and many friends in attendance had spent most of their lives outside the institutional church. However, in the last months of his life, this young man experienced something powerful and convicting that led him to ask me to baptize him a month before his death.

I found myself wrestling deeply with the question of what an “authentic” celebration of his life might look like…. And then not being terribly sure I even understood the question.

Often we give very high “authenticity” marks to people in the public eye who don’t really take the time to weigh and carefully consider their words before speaking. We applaud them as “genuine”… “unfiltered” and “authentic.” We say that those folks are a breath of fresh air in comparison with the carefully crafted words of professional “spin doctors.”

And then it makes me scratch my head and ask, “So then what does the word authentic actually mean?” And then I follow up with myself and ask, “And how has authenticity become such a paramount virtue today?”

One answer I hear is that the word authentic must mean something like “core,” or “essential,” or “foundational.” It’s what is left over when you strip away all of the mystical window dressing.

hotfudge_sundaeBut then I have to ask, “Does that mean all of our efforts to enhance or improve something are fraudulent because they take us away from its ESSENCE? Should I just leave my vanilla ice cream alone and not add the chocolate syrup, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry… in the name of authenticity?”

I also hear authenticity being defined more along the lines of “raw” and “unprocessed” or that other phrase currently in fashion, “… like it is.” The implication here is that the more spontaneous and unplanned something is, the more authentic it is.

I am not going to lie… as a guy who writes and re-writes and tries to think carefully about words and what they mean, this definition offends me. I am sure it offends me because it seems to assign a higher virtue to unplannedness and spur-of-the-momentness than to thoughtfulness.

And personally, I think that is one messed up set of virtues.

MYRIAD are the examples I can give of times when my ill-considered, spontaneous words caused hurt and complication in a situation.

MYRIAD+ are the examples of times when slow, deliberate, thoughtful consideration of words brought light and healing.

Think about it: what would it look like if we all really followed Polonius’ advice to be “true” to our own selves?

The next, natural question is: which self are we talking about?

  • Is it the self that feels like punching a hole in the wall when the home team fumbles the opening kick-off?
  • Is it the self that can’t resist taking a second helping of apple pie?
  • Is it the self that has deep doubts about its talent or worth?

And are we really the ones to be trusted to choose which of these “selves” we are supposed to be true to?

I believe personal authenticity is all about being the fullest, most complete version of ME that I can be.

And so for me, that includes being every bit of the goofy, thoughtful, impulsive, tender-hearted, self-centered, creative, emotional, dim-witted, spiritual, energetic, joyful, deep, shallow, inconsiderate Russell Brown God made me to be.

But mostly, it means going back to the Source and reclaiming my identity as a Child of God; infinitely beloved by the One who created the whole Universe.

THAT is really who I am.

And it is really – authentically – who you are, too.

Blessings;

18
Apr
17

Wasps?

I’m not sure it is bad enough to call it a wasp problem.

Even the word concern gives it a little more gravity than it deserves.

So let’s go with either the phrase wasp vexation or wasp annoyance.

It all starts with our little, elderly, deaf terrier mix Molly Dog. It seems her legs are no longer strong enough to allow her to go out through her dog door when she needs to answer nature’s call. And so… being the caring, yet fundamentally lazy dog parents we are… my wife and I will occasionally prop open the back door so that Molly can come and go whenever she needs to; without our having to get up, walk over, and open the door.

The only problem with this approach is that we regularly look up to see a solitary wasp has entered our house… bumping along the ceiling of our breakfast room, trying desperately to find a way back out.

And so we freak out.

Totally.

Because we both thoroughly and perfectly HATE WASPS! With a red-hot PASSION!

I mean, look at them! They look so evil with their sleek, black and yellow bodies, pointy stingers, and malevolent eyes! Wasp photoWasps look like they are made with equal parts menace and malice… buzzing around looking for an innocent person to swoop down and sting, purely for the sport of it.

I was stung by a wasp once as a kid and remember the experience vividly to this day. As a result I have a MUCH greater aversion to wasps than to just about any other stinging insect.

Yes, bees also sting, but I get bees. Bees pollinate flowers. They make honey. They are kind of chubby and slow moving so they have to be armed with a stinger to keep birds and other insect-eating species from gobbling them up.

honey beeBees have an important job in the Overall Scheme of Things.

But honestly… don’t you have to wonder why wasps even EXIST?

So to answer that question, I did what anyone with a computer might do. I GOGGLED it. And here is what I found: from the website thoughtco.com: “As a group, wasps provide extraordinarily important ecological services, including pollination, predation, and parasitism. Put simply, without wasps we would be overrun with insect pests, and we would have no Fig Newtons.”

On another part of that same site it said that wasps have a unique ability to carry live yeast cultures around in their stomachs. And so when they go and feed on grapes in a vineyard, they give the grapes the necessary ingredient that allows grapes to ferment into wine!

And so a waspless world would be a world overrun with insect pests and a world without Fig Newtons or wine. In other words, a world not worth living in.

It was then I realized: that little bit of internet research provided yet another reminder of this essential truth about life: if it exists, it has a purpose.

We can then extend that lesson and say because YOU exist, you have a purpose… a purpose that cannot be fulfilled by anyone else.

It is a lesson that echoes the wisdom in Psalm 139:14 – “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are all your works; that I know full well.” You can’t see it in your Bible, but in mine there is a little asterisk after the word “works” and it says at the bottom of the page: “Even wasps.”

And as Psalm 24:1 reminds us: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it…[including wasps].”

Jesus even got in on the act during the Sermon on the Mount when he told his listeners: “Look at the birds [wasps] of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NRSV).

Never ever forget the lesson of the wasp: you fit. You belong. You have a unique and God-given purpose in the world that no one else can fulfill.

Today you may not know that that purpose is, or you may have forgotten it. It may take a little more digging than a Google search to discover that purpose, but you can be 100% confident it is there.

My hope is that in some small way this devotion might take a little of the sting out of any doubts about your purpose that you might be harboring today.

 

Abundant blessings…




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