Category Archives: life

What’s Your Angle

I remember reading an online article/blog post titled “Beware the Myspace Angles.” The author’s intent was to humorously warn guys who may be trying to meet women online (specifically Myspace), never to trust what they see in a profile picture. They demonstrated that those profile pictures are usually taken from an angle that most flatters the person pictured, who after further investigation, was found not to be nearly as attractive as the picture might suggest.

These women, I’m sure, were just trying to put their best face forward (after careful cropping and other photo adjustments).  You can see in a video posted here, how this same approach is used by the media as well.

In the relative anonymity of the internet, it is a lot easier to reflect who we want to be, instead of who we really are. This is not a new phenomenon. It predates the internet, and can be found in every social circle, and most especially in the church.  The fact is:

  • Christians have rarely been open and honest about their personal struggles.
  • This lack of honesty stems mostly from the fear being judged and/or condemned by other Christians, and partly from being too proud to admit to having problems.
  • Christians have a reputation of being quick to judge, and neither willing nor able to show mercy.

As a result, we have a lot of people putting their best face forward, while never getting the help and support they need to deal with their issues. They know what to say and do to give the impression that they are fine, all while fighting their battles alone.

As Christians:

  • We who are strong should bear the burdens of those who are weak.
  • We should confess our faults one to another and pray for one another that we may be healed.

We have a responsibility to help those who need it, and that we should not fear to be honest about our struggles, because our prayers for each other will bring healing to all of us.

I believe that the key component in this is humility, not the false humility that we display when we down-talk ourselves and refuse to receive complements from others, but the real humility that comes from the knowledge that we are inherently helpless to do anything to change ourselves;  that our lives are totally dependent on God’s strength. Paul the Apostle wrote that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness, and I believe that our inability to come to terms with our weakness keeps us from experiencing God’s strength.

My hope is that we all can find ourselves in a group of people with whom we can we can truly exercise these simple truths. That we can bear one anothers burdens, we can confess our faults to each other, and truly pray for one another.  That we can truly be ourselves, and stop worrying about the angles.

Things I’ve Learned From Books

It is widely accepted that the best kind of learning comes from experience. Andy Andrews, through his character Jones in “The Noticer” refutes this claim, saying it is better to learn from other people’s experiences.  I tend to agree with this assessment.  Especially since this approach has the potential to keep you from repeating the same mistakes that others have made.

Inspired by the real-life Jones, Andy Andrews has read over two hundred biographies, learning valuable life lessons in the process – some of which he has turned into a couple of New York Times bestsellers.  Imagine the number of lifetimes a person would have to live to amass the knowledge that he was able to absorb in just a few years, just by learning from the experiences of others.

When you think about it, most of the Bible is biographical, and many Sunday school lessons and sermons are based on this very same principle – that we can learn from the experiences of others.  The Bible is a great resource for this type of learning.

I have recently adopted this approach to learning. I’ve read several ‘spiritual memoirs’ written in the past few years. I’ve also read some books that are focused on specific issues of spirituality, but include elements taken directly from life experiences. I’ve also been reading some ‘classics’ from other Christian authors on a variety of topics.

As it happens, I think I may have actually have learned some things.  I will be writing about some of this newly-learned information in some upcoming posts called “Things I’ve Learned From Books” (catchy title, huh?) or TILFB.

I will say that the very first thing that I learned is – that you can learn things from books.  You probably already knew that.

Agree to Disagree

I’ve noticed something recently. There is somewhat of a phenomenon on Twitter among some of the people I follow, in which they post an update which almost immediately causes several of their followers to stop following them. This even happened to my friend* Jon on his Facebook (you can read about that here).

It seems that many people cannot disagree with someone, without then disassociating themselves from those with whom they disagree.  I see this occurring more among people who claim to be Christians, which makes this even more alarming.

Have our interactions on the internet turned us into the kids on the playground who get mad and say “I’m not your friend anymore!”, in some immature attempt at comeuppance?

I think the roots of this attitude extend much farther past the online world.  I’ve seen too many people leaving churches, churches firing pastors, or churches splitting in much the same way.  But it never seems to be an issue of outright heresy or theological inaccuracy, it is usually a difference of opinion.

I’m not saying that we should compromise our convictions. But, each one of us is responsible for our own life, and it is not our job to project our convictions on others.  And even if ‘our’ way is the right way, showing disrespect to the ones with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye us destroys our ability to influence them positively.  We can’t convict people of their wrongs, but our lives can reflect an example for them to follow.

Where does this leave us? The things keeping us at odds with one another are affecting our ability to positively impact the world around us.  We’ve got to get over ourselves, love one another through our disagreements, and focus on what we can agree on: we have a message the world needs to hear.  It will be a lot easier to get that message out, if we can do it together.

[*Friend in the facebook sense. I don’t know Jon personally, but would totally be his friend in real life too.]

Dub’s Rules For Life

Every so often, something I see, read or experience prompts me to apply a lesson I’ve learned from it to my personal life. 

From each of these, I tend to create a short, simple phrase to remember the lesson. I call them, Dub’s Rules for Life (mostly mine, but you can feel free to use them yourself).

Some are humorous, some serious, some are just plain silly, but all are the honest truth (as I see it anyway).

I’ll be posting each one individually, sandwiched between the meatier posts, for your enjoyment and discussion.  Each rule has a number, but that number is no reflection on how important the rule is, or how many there are (just fyi).

Looking for a Window

There is an old saying: “When God closes a door, he opens a window”.  It gets passed around quite a lot, most often in situations when someone needs encouragement, but the would-be encourager has nothing to say that specifically fits the situation.  One of many cliches, that while it may be true (at least in some instances), it has lost its impact in a sea of many other well-worn fragments extracted from the wisdom of other’s experiences.

I spend a generous chunk of my mental energy in reflection, pondering the should-haves or could-have-beens, because “If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it.”  Another cliche, I suppose, but a person who aspires to leave this world better than he came into it, would do well to identify his missteps before running headlong into the future.  You know, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.  I really need to stop with the cliches.

I know I’m not the only person who has figuratively stood on the outside of a shut door, carefully pondering the next step.  It wouldn’t even be the first time. It’s the uncomfortable moment of uncertainty about what lies ahead that brings me to this moment of reflection.  No, this is not near the first time I’ve been in this place, and considering my past experiences has left me wondering if I will ever have a smooth transition to my next destination.

Previous transitions were never easy.  I’ve always been dragged kicking and screaming to the outside of the door, left to lament in the dust of what normal used to be.  Maybe it has been stubbornness, or an inability to clearly discern when and how to move on that has made this necessary.  But each time, I’ve found myself here, in the midst of the unknown, looking for a window.

Truth be told, I’m a little jealous.  I can’t even count the number of stories I’ve read lately from people in transition in their lives, and yet they share a common thread that my story does not.  They have a clear picture of where they are going, or at least, where they want to go.  They have a destination in mind, a plan, some purpose to achieve, and it is that purpose that lead them out of a closing door, and through another.

I can say that in this time I have found a world of encouragement and insight in several sources.  I’ve discovered several authors whose authenticity in telling their stories has helped to broaden my perspective on life, both through their books, and their blogs.  I’ve also connected with a number of people on twitter who are building a community through their genuine care and concern for others.  I’m not terribly outgoing on twitter; I’m naturally introverted in the real world as well.  Although I’m not saying much, it feels good to be a part of the conversation that is going on, even if I’m just eavesdropping.

So, I’m not without hope.  And this uncertain place I find myself in is not uncharted territory.  This place is well worn from the steps of many that have walked this way, all of them looking for a window.

Of What Value Is Sentiment?


via flickr - Jeff Belmonte
via flickr - Jeff Belmonte

I wonder sometimes if we humans attach too much value to objects.


From a recent news story:

A New Zealand man who promised his wife he would find his wedding ring after it fell into the capital’s murky harbor has succeeded — 16 months later.

To him, I’m sure, that little golden circle held a lot of value.  To anyone else, it’s just a piece of jewelry.  The value is all sentimental – created by emotions and memory.

But aren’t the feelings and the memories the real things of value? With or without the ring, he would still have those, wouldn’t he?

I can almost defend him for going after the ring, but what I cannot defend is those who hoard to themselves mountains of things that are of no real use to them, simply because of sentiment.  Houses, garages, sheds and storage units overflow with stuff, because people are too emotionally attached to inanmate objects to bear to get rid of them.

Some of it may be garbage, for sure, but many of those things could go to someone in need, donated to a charitable organization, or sold for cash to give away.  But most would rather hang on to the memories and watch the things that they love fade into disrepair and turn into garbage.

What they don’t realize, is that by using what they have to help someone else, they can increase the good memories and positive feelings, by knowing the blessing of giving.  And instead of a life cluttered with stuff, they could have a full heart.