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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The Day I Should Have Kept My Mouth Shut

I was in the passenger seat, and my friend was behind the wheel. At least, I wanted him to be my friend, if I could manage it. He was new on my dorm at university, and I was keen to be on good terms if at all possible. The trip was long enough for good conversations, but they weren’t happening the way I expected. My best questions were being answered with a few short words, and my most interesting conversational topics were slipping away like so many wet bars of soap. The trip had hardly begun and I was already struggling for something to say. Silence grew in the space between words. Suddenly, an inspiration: I saw a funeral home. 

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Sometimes The Best Way To Support Me Is To Thwart Me

Growing up, I was part of a Boy Scout Troop that met in an old converted house. I have a lot of good memories associated with that building, some of which stand out so vividly that I can almost smell the musty walls again—like the time the Scoutmaster told me that I had failed my Board of Review and would not be progressing to the next rank. Meanwhile, my friends passed. I can still taste the embarrassment of that moment, but today I count it as a good memory, along with all the victories and laughter of those years. The fact is, I earned that failure. I went in overconfident and underprepared, fully expecting to be the best of the bunch by just showing up. When they asked me about the things I was supposed to know, I didn’t. So I really did fail, and they let me. They could have bailed me out and given me the rank anyway to spare my feelings, but I’m glad they didn’t.

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If They’ll Do It For You, They’ll Do It To You

If you really want a loyal friend
Then find someone who’s loyal when
The friend they’re being loyal to
Isn’t you

If you want a friend to keep your secret
Find someone who will not gossip
Even if the one who asked them to
Is you

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To The Girl With The Sad Eyes

I saw you at the bus stop, waiting. Your eyes were the only crack in your disguise—small pools of emptiness surrounded by perfection. I’m sure it took you some time, to put on that mask. I’m sure if you could have, you would have covered your eyes with it as well. If I wasn’t a stranger, then I’d love to ask, what do you do it for? Who do you do it for?

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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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A Real Acrobat

When “The Greatest Showman” came out in 2017, our daughter was five years old and especially impressed by a song that was sung with perfectly choreographed aerial acrobatics. When that same song came on during the credits after the film, her hands shot up, ready to dance, so there was no choice, really. I picked her up high, spun her around, and realised suddenly that the two of us had just twirled our way into a moment that would haunt me with happiness forever after. 

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Unless

Christianity is full of surprising reversals. Just think of Good Friday, where the King of Heaven abolishes the power of death—by dying in our place! He said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And that’s exactly what he did—first the dying, then the bearing much fruit. Now, he calls us to follow him in the same way: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking a lot about this–what does it look like for me, right now? How is my own life reshaped and redirected by these reversals? These are the things I was thinking of when I wrote this poem:

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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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