What If I’m Not The Best At Anything?

I took a workplace assessment once to determine my strengths and weaknesses and find better ways to integrate them with the strengths and weaknesses of my teammates. When the results came back, there was one thing that stood out about my strengths, and that was that nothing stood out. There were a number of areas where I scored well enough, but nothing I was particularly good at, though I know myself there are definitely things I’m particularly bad at. The assessor hastened to reassure me that this can be an advantage. I’m a good all-arounder, passably good at a lot of things, even if I’m not excellent at any of them. That’s fine, and I see his point, but in that case I’d at least like to be an excellent all-arounder. Like the best all-arounder around, you know, if I can. 

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The Mind Behind The Art

The mysterious Mona Lisa has been sitting on a secret (with a smile like hers it was obvious, wasn’t it?). But now, with the help of multispectral infrared reflectographic camera technology (whatever that means) researchers can see under her, and what they’ve discovered is that the famous lady actually began as a sketch—and here’s the thing—the original sketch was made somewhere else, because the lines were transferred to Lisa’s now priceless poplar panel by means of a technique known as spolvero. 

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John Newton’s Advice On Christian Controversy

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail…but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations…

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Me, Dorothy, And The Kung Fu Panda

Dorothy Gale (of the Wizard of Oz) and Master Po (the Kung Fu Panda) have something in common. As different as the two characters are, and as different as the styles and storylines of their films are, they both still end up in the same place. Master Po opens the legendary Dragon Scroll expecting power, but finds instead that it is simply a reflective surface. He learns from this that the power he needs is actually in himself, the one being reflected. Similarly, Dorothy travels the Yellow Brick Road all the way to Oz, only to discover that the famous Wizard is just a regular guy and that all along she had the power in herself to achieve her dream. Different stories, different genres, same point: if you’re looking for answers, look inside. 

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Celebrities Don’t Get Enough Love

The ancients worshipped a pantheon of little gods, who in turn provided them with good harvests and entertainment. If they fed the gods properly with their sacrifices, they would get help for themselves, and then they could sit back with full bellies and be entertained by stories of how these powerful beings would fight, betray, and claw their way over each other to the top just so they could use all their advantages to destroy themselves.

Now the temples of those little gods are in ruins, and we no longer retell their stories (except Thor, who was lucky enough to join the Marvel universe). Over time, we’ve advanced as a society, so now we look at screens and watch celebrities who are larger than life fight, betray, and claw their way over each other to the top just so they can use all their advantages to destroy themselves. 

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We’ve Inherited More, But That Doesn’t Make Us Better

Humans don’t fly. Every human in the world knew this for most of history—but I’ve flown. I’ve flown many times, over long distances, at heights and speeds that boggle the mind. How did I do it? I have no idea. I know it had something to do with aerodynamics and jet propulsion and lift and thrust and stuff like that, but mostly I just stepped through the door and when I walked out I was on a different continent. In my pocket I carry a small computer, which I know does something with invisible waves and towers and space satellites and stuff like that, but mostly I just know I can talk to my friends and family through it. I turn the key in my car, and I know there are belts and gears and little petrol explosions that push pistons, but mostly I just sit down and push a little pedal with my foot and wish the other cars would get out of my way. In the kitchen I have hot running water and cold food, and I can make the cold food hot in minutes with some kind of micro-radiation cube.

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Five Kernels Of Corn

Growing up in America, Thanksgiving Day was one of the highlights of the whole year. Some years my family travelled to feast with others, other years guests came to feast with us. I remember the leaf piles, laughter, and Atari games with my cousins, and when we were home, I remember the five kernels of corn. 

We would sit at tables that had been fully extended, knowing that the biggest feast of the year was waiting in the kitchen. We could smell it. We could nearly taste it. The tables were dressed up with the best tablecloths and plates, and on each one of those plates were five carefully counted kernels of corn. Before we ate them, my mom reminded us why they were there: she told us about the Pilgrims who landed in the new world seeking religious freedom, and how they struggled to survive those early winters in the wilderness. She told us how local Native American tribes helped the struggling Pilgrims, teaching them the right times and ways to fish and grow crops in a new environment. But then, just when they started to get ahead, a ship full of new settlers arrived without food supplies. To keep themselves alive, the entire settlement was reduced to a ration of just five kernels of corn a day. Could you imagine? Somehow, they made it through that winter and lived to bring in a good harvest the next year. As they celebrated that harvest with the local tribes who had helped them, they began their feast together with a reminder: five kernels of corn were placed on each plate, “lest anyone forget”.

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What If We Honoured Integrity?

It can be hard to find good role models these days. Often the people who are famous and the first to promote themselves as the ones we should be following are the last people on Earth we should be following. The world has no shortage of role models and leaders who are leading us astray. 

Unfortunately, this is not only true of leaders in politics and entertainment, it is far too often true of Christian leaders as well. Celebrity culture has made itself at home in the church, and some of the people who rise to the top of Christian organisations and mega churches and TV ministries and yes, even regular local churches, get there for all the wrong reasons. They have charisma, but lack character, they have business savvy, but lack integrity. Maybe that’s why so many Christian leaders fall in scandal and shame—they never should have been there in the first place. They were good at building organisations and personal fame, but they were bad at living like a Christian. In their ministries they made disciples, but not disciples of Christ—they made disciples of themselves, teaching others to look at them and compromise for them instead of looking to Christ in trust and obedience. We need better role models for the church, but how do we find them? 

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What Star Trek Missed

I grew up when Star Trek: The Next Generation was popular, and now I’ve lived to see many of their imagined technologies become real. We’re still not quite there on warp drives or teleporters, but we’re getting closer to the holodeck with virtual reality, and we already have touchscreens, computers you can control with your voice, wireless communication that is constantly available, and handheld devices that can do all sorts of things. I’ve lived to see yesterday’s science fiction become today’s reality.

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