Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Be the Most Intelligent Person in Any Room

There's nothing worse than going through life feeling that your talents are unappreciated and that your intelligence is undervalued.

So I've heard, anyway.

The good news is that by following my patented four-step system, you can rest assured that never again will anyone doubt how smart you really are.

How to Be the Most Intelligent Person in Any Room:

Step One: Only discuss important topics. And by "important," I mean topics that you know everything about.  Because, let's face it: if you don't know anything about it, it's definitely not important. This point is key, since it takes constant and skillful conversational manipulation to ensure that the topic never veers toward something trivial (that is, something that you know little or nothing about). Be warned: this requires assiduous concentration and great power of will, but I trust that if you apply yourself, you will be able to accomplish this. 

Step Two: Always talk loudly.  You know what they say: he who talks the loudest, wins.  The fact is this: it really doesn't matter what you say, as long as you sing it out loud and proud.  That way nobody will ever have to stand across the room wondering about all of the intelligent things that you must be saying, because they will be able to hear you even if they made the vastly foolish mistake of choosing to sit way over there on the opposite side of the room. 

Furthermore, following Step Two ensures that even if there may (by some stretch of the imagination) be someone more intelligent than you loitering about, if you're talking loudly enough to drown him out, no one will ever be the wiser. 

Step Three: Routinely hang out with ESL/EFL learners. The beauty of hanging out with English-as-a-second-language learners is that due to their limited vocabulary and stunted range of expression, they're severely hampered in their ability to convince anybody (let alone themselves) that they are more intelligent than you. Forget the fact that they are (at the very least) bilingual and that you are pretty much monolingual: if they can't express it clearly in English, it doesn't count.  Period.  

Besides, it's fun to use obscure idioms and slang on purpose just to confuse them. Doing so will give you a rush of mental superiority that is seldom equaled elsewhere in the natural world and will give you that little confidence boost that you need to pull off Step Four. 

Step Four: Never pass up an opportunity to allow pearls of wisdom to dribble from your lips. No matter how attentively you follow Step One, there still might be a few people laboring under the delusion that they are smarter than you are.  Therefore, as a preventative measure, be sure to talk as much as you can, as fast as you can, to as many people as you can, for as long as you can.  This will leave no one in any doubt as to your intellectual prowess.

The truth is that no matter how hard you try, there still may be someone out there who remains unaware of how glowingly brilliant you really are. 

But that's okay.

You know.

And in the end, that's all that really matters.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Being in Ministry is Awesome

As I type this, it's Sunday.

All around the world, people involved in church ministry are doing their thing: preaching, singing, leading worship, teaching, playing instruments, directing behind the scenes, and taking charge of a host of other tasks.

If you minister on a regular basis and think that you're already well aware that Christian ministry is awesome and that you could probably write this post yourself with half your brain tied behind your back, you should probably keep reading anyway, because we all need a friendly reminder now and then.  If you are not in Christian ministry, and are just a regular church attender who finds himself looking around and wondering why the rest of us look so happy all the time, this post is also for you.

Why Being in Ministry is Awesome:

1. You get to learn to learn patience. No matter what your role may be, to work in ministry is to work with other people, and you know what that means: the need for bucketloads of patience. Because let's be honest for a moment, shall we? People--even Cristian people--are often annoying and frustrating, and working in ministry does not exempt you from this reality. Since almost all you do in ministry is work together with other people, many of whom will be volunteers (and I'm not knocking volunteers, but sometimes it is true that you get what you pay for), being in ministry will give you plenty of opportunities to exercise patience with others, some of whom will struggle to follow through on designated tasks, will demonstrate the need for constant reminders, and ask many pointless, irrelevant questions.  Just think: if you weren't in ministry, where else would you have the chance to learn such patience?

2. You learn not to put people on a pedestal.  One of the best aspects of working in ministry, especially if you work with the same ministry team long-term, is that you and the people you serve with get to know each other really well. The good news is that getting to know people this well generally aids you in removing them from any pedestal that they may otherwise have occupied in your mind. The reverse is also true: you get to see their feet of clay, and they get to see yours.  It's a mutual dis-admiration society!  Don't get me wrong: it's good to respect those with whom we serve, especially those who are in spiritual authority over us; however, to imbue them in our minds with sinless, godlike qualities that they do not possess will only lead us to eventual disappointment.  This is yet another reason why being in ministry is so awesome: you are in a position to be constantly reminded that nobody is immune to human frailty, even you.

3. You no longer have to wonder whether or not people think you're doing a good job. This is mostly because people in the church are going to tell you pretty much immediately how they feel about what you're doing. Being in ministry isn't like those jobs in which you have to wait all year for your annual performance review. No, being in ministry means that the feedback will be pretty much instantaneous.  For workshop leaders, the feedback comes before the last notes of the closing song have even died away, and that first eager church member comes over to express his strong feelings (either positive or negative) regarding that week's song selection, how the band sounded, why the church should/shouldn't still have a choir, or some other little aspect that seems to be missing from the service that would make everything just perfect. For the pastor, evaluations regarding both your preaching and leadership abilities begin as you shake hands at the door and will continue throughout the week through phone calls, drop-in visits to your office, and occasional passive-aggressive e-mails. On and on we could go through each aspect of church work. The point here is that if you're in ministry, you never will have to wonder how everybody feels about what you're doing, because they're just going to go ahead and tell you.

In some ways, it’s true that just like with any other job, ministry comes with all sorts of highs and lows and that in the end all it really amounts to is just a lot of hard work.

But it's more than that: being involved in church work means that you will not only have to work hard every day to fulfill your ministry, but that you will also face spiritual resistance from forces that desire to see your ministry fail.

So, fellow ministers? Take heart. The responsibility given to you by God is indeed awesome.  See that you take heed to the ministry that you've received from the Lord. Ask for the strength to fulfill it with grace.

And fellow non-ministers? First of all, what are you waiting for? Ministry is awesome. Get involved. You'll learn patience, humility, and endurance. Second, be sure that you're supporting in prayer those who serve at your church. They need it. Third, be sure to take some time today to thank one of your church workers, because no matter how awesome ministry might be, everyone needs a word of encouragement from time to time.

For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints—and you continue to serve them. - Hebrews 6:10 (HCSB)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Kids are Useful

I'll go ahead and tell you that as a single woman entering mid-life, I'm finding it quite convenient not to have any children. For one thing, I consider any week that goes by in which I haven't had to deal with another person's bodily functions a good week. For another, I can't stand to be talked to before I've had my coffee in the mornings (and occasionally after I've had my coffee as well). So not having any kids underfoot tends to work well for me. 

But I've spent enough time around my family and friends to realize that having kids isn't all bad. In fact, having kids around can occasionally be quite useful.

Why Kids are Useful:

1. Having kids means that you'll never need to set an alarm clock again. Ever. Over the summer, I wound up doing some overnight emergency babysitting which resulted in my sleeping on the couch at my brother's house.  Not knowing quite when my brother or his wife would come home, I didn't bother setting an alarm, figuring that one of them would wake me up in the wee hours by opening the front door and flipping on the lights.  In the end, neither one of them came home until much, much later in the day. But as it turns out, I needn't have worried about setting an alarm clock anyway: my five-year-old niece woke me just before 5:00A.M. by poking me really hard a few times in the spine, breathing snuffily through her nose down the back of my neck, and sucking her thumb at me until I found the presence of mind to get up and pour her some Cheerios.1  Parents of small children deal with these sorts of shenanigans all the time, meaning that they never, ever need to set their alarm clocks. Think of the money that they'll save on batteries (or the energy they'll save by not having to set their phone's alarm function!) because they know that they can rely on being poked, jumped on, steamrolled, or jolted awake from the crashing, banging knocking, and ungodly shrieking of their children in the room next door every single morning.  


2. Having kids means that you won't want for a Facebook status. And I'm not just talking about the pat status updates about the latest adorable thing your kid has said, how many bananas your son ate for breakfast, who is vomiting, and who just blew out a diaper.

No, I'm talking about awesome stuff like this:2

  • You guys know how I sometimes joke about taping my kid into a box for a few hours? Today may be the day it stops being a joke.
  • This just in from daycare: [my daughter] has taught the new girl how to pick her nose.
  • My son graduated to a half size violin yesterday. This has inspired him to practice--starting at 6:15 this morning.
  • Yesterday was made more interesting by [my younger son], who Monday night decided to wrap my keys up in a box and paper and give them to me as a "present." Except he forgot to give them to me, and apparently forgot that he had ever, in fact, seen them. So Tuesday when [our friends] arrived to babysit, I was frantically destroying the house trying to find my keys. [My friend] very graciously loaned me his (manly) minivan for the day. Found the keys later that night when [my older son] knocked the box off a shelf and we heard them. [Younger son] was very excited about presenting them to me at that point as his "gift" to me--so how could I be upset? 
  • My five year old just managed to put her shirt on upside down. You read that correctly. Waist thru the neckline, arms in sleeves, hem around neck. She was very frustrated she couldn't get it to meet the beltline of her trousers.
  • Daughter: Mom, can you twist my bones in? Me: ....... what? Daughter: Can you TWIST my BONES in? Like this: *grabs side and twists at the ribcage* Me: ............. Why? Daughter: So I can do a super-duper-ally-ooper bounce!

And so on. 

The salient point here is that once you have kids, you will never have to sit around trying to think about something to post on Facebook that will make your life sound interesting. In fact, you will never have to post anything about your actual life again.  Well... you will... but only because your actual life is now, you know, your kids.  So... yeah. There you go.3

3. Having kids means that you will stay humble. Unless you don't find the following situations humbling (and in that case, there really is no hope for you):

  • Realizing only once you're already out in public that you have vomit/poo smeared on your clothes (or, in the case of at least one of my friends, a dirty diaper stuck to the seat of your own pants).
  • Having one of your earrings yanked out completely, causing you to shriek bloody murder in the middle of an otherwise rational conversation at church.
  • If you're like most of my female friends, being out shopping and belatedly wondering if you've combed your hair yet.  If you're like at least one of my man friends, being out shopping and realizing that you're still wearing your soft, moccasin-like house shoes.
  • Dealing with the social awkwardness perpetrated by your medium-sized son, who points at an elderly shopper across the aisle and proclaims, in tones so carrying that even her elderly ears can hear, "SHE'S SO OLD!"
  • Resigning yourself to the knowledge that if you have children, your house will never look as neat as you want it to look, reminding you that you are not and cannot be in control of everything in your life. 
  • Acknowledging that the way in which your children won't always listen to your instructions mirrors your own relationship to your heavenly Father, a sobering reminder of how he must feel when you ignore his promptings. It also reminds you of grace, and to be gracious to the children in your life who have much more cause for this sort of foolishness, being much younger and less wise than you are.4
  • Realizing that if such a tiny person as your own toddler can get under your skin and cause you to lose your temper so quickly, you must not be as long-suffering as you thought you were. 

4. Having kids means that you can remove the word boredom from your lexicon. Between keeping them fed, clothed, and away from most hazards that can kill them -- not to mention making sure they grow up moderately well-behaved and non-stupid -- the one thing that parenting is guaranteed to do is to keep you busy. 5

The truth is that even if you--like me--don't have children of your own, you have all no doubt experienced the dubious wonder of being important in the life of a child. If your experience has been anything like mine, you have found it equal parts thrill, hilarity, mayhem, refreshment, exasperation, terror, revelry, diversion, enchantment, and conviction. 

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that kids prove their usefulness in that one point: that they alone bring to the universe that mingled sensation of confusing, glorious bafflement that both tests us beyond measure and helps us to understand that we are, beyond measure, blessed.

1. My confusion at finding myself still babysitting at 5:00A.M. was compounded by the fact that there was no coffee in their house.  THERE WAS. NO. COFFEE. IN THEIR HOUSE.  I fed the kids, dressed them for the day, got them to their Summer Bible Club program, and drove home all without any coffee in my system.  I'm still amazed that nobody died.  
2. Cribbed from some of my friends' actual Facebook statuses.  Because my friends are awesome. 
3. Don't worry. This awkward transition confuses me too. 
4. Special thanks to Holly Dove for this beautiful perspective. 
5. Just because I like it and didn't have any other place to link it, you get this: 27 Reasons Why Kids Are Actually the Worst. Enjoy!