Suspending the Critic

6 05 2010

I fired my critic a few weeks ago. She was driving me crazy! Everything I did, or everything I heard, she was picking out the faults. Of course, she was generally right. And I have to give her credit – she didn’t nitpick. She usually reserved her critiques for the important things, and only pointed out one or two major flaws. She especially liked finding the flaws with logic or theology.

But a few weeks ago, she was hovering over one book I was trying to read. She wasn’t saying anything, just hovering with that watchful eye in a fairly restrained manner. But still, hovering. I could sense her breathing down my neck, waiting to find a major flaw in the writing, the ideas presented, or the author’s perspective.

So I fired her. I told her to get lost and never find her way back. I told her that I appreciate her caution, and that she is well-trained with a good eye and discipline. But I also told her I won’t be needing her services at the moment.

The amazing thing? She left. Instantly. Didn’t return stealthily or whisper negative thoughts in my ear. I haven’t heard a word from her. I know that if I ever need her, she’ll return at a moment’s notice. And she may even creep back when I’m tired or otherwise irritable. But for now…

The spirit of criticism left.


Why aren’t you?

5 05 2010

How do you change your behavior? How do you change a whole group’s behavior?  There are things you do that you shouldn’t, and things you should be, but you don’t. The problem is, most people start by asking the wrong questions.

I should eat healthier. Why? What are the benefits? Why is it important? Why should I?

That’s the wrong question. You already know you should. Here’s the right one:

Why aren’t you?

Find out what’s stopping you from doing what you should be doing, and take away the barriers. Like this:

I’m not eating healthier because I’m too busy to really care. Because I like the taste of junk food. Because I need my extra-calorie-laden mocha every morning. Because I really don’t know how to eat healthier. Because my body’s addicted to sugar or salt or fat and I don’t even know it. Because I don’t know how to cook. I don’t like to cook. I don’t like vegetables. I’m a meat-and-potato kind of person.

If you really dig down, you might be surprised what’s really stopping you from doing what you should.

You should fire the unproductive employee. You should finish that project on time. You should stop smoking. You should spend more time with your kids.

So why aren’t you?

The Vorpal Sword

4 05 2010

So, Jabberwocky is nonsense. And yet, it’s perfectly clear. There’s a story: a father gives a warning, the son sets out, conquers the Jabberwock and brings its head home to a proud father.

On the other hand, I saw a group of people clearly know their instructions one moment, then confess they were confused about it the next. The instructions were simple and clear, but one person simply claimed they were not and suddenly the group was unable to understand simple English.

It’s terrifying to realize that what a person knows one minute can be un-known simply by suggestion. This is particularly true in a group mind.

Communication has nothing to do with language. It has everything to do with willingness and desire to understand.

It has almost nothing to do with a desire to be understood.

What It Isn’t

3 05 2010

A testimony isn’t preaching. Preaching isn’t a theological lecture. And a lecture isn’t teaching.

Too often we confuse these elements. They all have their place and time, but it’s important to remember what each one does and use it effectively. To do this, you first have to know:

  1. What your audience needs
  2. What your audience expects (cautious with your advertising)
  3. What your public speaking skills are (or your guest speaker’s)
  4. What God desires you to present to the audience

Then know exactly what each one does by nature:

A testimony is personal, private, and usually meant to inspire.

Preaching brings God’s word to God’s people.

A lecture presents academic ideas and debates.

Teaching is transformational.

A great speaker may not be appropriate for your particular event. That’s okay. Either change the speaker or change the event.

Deviations in the Schedule

2 05 2010

I’m the kind of person that freaks out when the schedule gets interrupted. People not arriving on time? What do we do?!!! We can’t WAIT, because we’ve only got limited time as it is! Pressure. Stress. Call them all and see where they are and why they’re not here and when they’ll be here and how we can possibly manage to get anything done!

But I’m also spontaneous. I’ll get in the car and take a random weekend trip with only an hour’s notice. Or I’ll call someone up for dinner at 6 pm. I’ll take that schedule that rules my life and rip it up and do what I want. Unless, of course, I’m freaking out about it.

A few days ago, I disturbed the schedule. Actually, I blew it up with a stick of dynamite. I went hiking after work, barely made it to the top in time to see the sunset, then rushed down before darkness set it.

Nothing got done for the evening. I skipped my class. I didn’t clean or cook dinner. I seriously messed up the routine.

It was good for my soul.

We all need more spontaneity.

The System’s Broken

1 05 2010

I have a confession. I have student debt. Significant student debt. As in, enough to buy a house in a small town.

Yes, it was my choice.

No, I don’t regret it.

Here’s a graph that’s been floating around:

A lot of people are noticing that college is far more expensive than it used to be, and probably than it should be as well.

I don’t have a solution. I’m just saying there’s a problem. A lot of people are saying there’s a problem.

So, how do we address this? I think we’d better figure out a theology of education, then take a look at economics, politics, sociology, even psychology.

In other words, the answer’s going to take a whole lot of brilliant people in a whole lot of important fields. Well, that’s also true of global warming, international relations, poverty…

The Church’s role? (1)Prayer. (2) Having a theology to ground the answers we seek. If our theology says God created the world and it was good, then we have a starting place to deal with environmental issues. If our theology says that humans are made in the image of God, then we begin to address poverty.

The answers aren’t easy, but first, we need to see that there’s a problem.

Keep it Simple

30 04 2010

Been watching TED Talks on my lunch break at work. This one has given me something to think about.

The point: simplicity.

The definition: something functional, reliable, cheap, and inter-connectable.

The best quote: “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is all in reference to design, the Keep It Simple and Stupid (KISS) principle.

But isn’t great writing equally elegant in its economy?

And our faith? A theology as simple as possible, but no simpler? (Paraphrase of Einstein)