Sunday, March 20, 2011

Making Connections

It always amazes me how not alone we are. In contemporary society, with access to the internet, cell phones, iPads, etc., out world has become smaller in many ways. If I meet a person in class, in a coffee shop, or even on the street and we happen to strike up a conversation, it would not be surprising to get home later that day and have a friend request from them on Facebook. It really is amazing how simple communication has gotten. Take my Facebook friends for example. I have “friends” in Malawi, Uganda, Central Asia, Hungry, South Korea, and China among others in addition to the Untied States. Now granted I have been to many of these countries, and of the ones I have not been to, I know people currently living there. Some of the countries where I have Facebook friends though I have never been to in my life! Yet in my travels I have met people from these countries who have returned home and added me as their Facebook friend. We are connected, even if it is just through a series of signals and wires that ties us ultimately together. In fact, this blog is regularly checked by at least one person in Japan!

We live in an age where it only takes a day to get to the other side of the world and make new connections. I do not consider myself a well traveled person and yet there are only two continents that I have not been to. It really is mind boggling to think of the access we have to other cultures and other ways of thinking.

These are very tumultuous times. With political unrest all across Africa and the Middle East, the devastating earthquake and tsunami that recently crippled Northern Japan leaving them in a nuclear crisis, and oh yeah, the rest of the worlds problems it is a wonder that I still find time to complain about high gas prices. Here we are, living in a world that is so intimately connected in so many ways, yet more often than not, we choose to live as hermits, concerned with nothing but our own well being, pretending that we are alone. We act as though everyone else’s problems are unwelcome when in reality, everyone else’s problems should ultimately be ours as well.

Now I’m not saying we should all take on the burden of caring for every person who is going through a hard time, in that regard we need only care for those close to us or for whom we feel burdened to care for. What I am saying is this: Large scale evil happens in our world every day and as a people intimately, intrinsically, and easily connected to each other, we have a responsibility to address the evil that we see; the evil of hurting people in Japan; the evil of malaria in Africa; the evil of the devastation in Haiti; the evil of child sex trafficking all across the world.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. – Colossians 1:19-20

God is working to bring back and restore everything to the way it was originally intended to be. As the people of God we are responsible for working toward this reconciliation. In fact the apostle Paul tells us that Christ has given us the “ministry of reconciliation” (Romans 5:18), he has given us the responsibility to continue what he began and to take care of the broken people regardless of whether or not we like them or whether or not whether or not they share our beliefs and convictions. We are called, we are invited, to be making connections.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

No Joy in M&M's

I recently sent this e-mail to the people who make M&M’s after having a conversation about miscellaneous things.

To The Wonderful People Who Make M&M's:

It is a well known fact that M&M's help to make the world a better place. The various varieties of chocolaty delicacies created and sold by this company have changed the lives of millions and brought smiles to countless people in need of a quick chocolate fix. That being said, I have an idea.

It is no secret that the Pretzel M&M's have been a raging success in the mouths of so many Americans. Also the Peanut Butter M&M's, the long time favorite of many, have been gracing the tongues of young and old alike for many years. This has helped to lead me to an idea for an M&M unlike any other.

Last night while enjoying a peanut butter filled pretzel from a local grocer I couldn't help to ponder the possibility of how tantalizing it would be to taste this same delicacy covered in chocolate and coated with a candy shell that melts not in your hand, but rather only in your mouth.

What would it look like for the makers of M&M's to create Peanut Butter filled Pretzel M&M's thus combining both a new and an old favorite into one super candy! Imagine the possibilities!

What would it take for the makers of M&M's to consider producing this creative concoction? Even if only in small batches for limited release! The potential is endless the value immense, and the joy it would bring to the world is invaluable.

Imagine M&M makers! Believe! You have the power to make dreams come true! I hope that you choose to, and as the Bible says, "hope does not disappoint."

With All Legitimate Sincerity,

Scott E. McGhee

A little dramatic? Yes. Heretical?…it might dip a toe in the water. Entertaining and creative? I thought so, as did my co-visionary (co-conspirator?), Heather Sherwood, who helped come up with the idea in the first place, as also did the other various people with whom I have shared this e-mail. The people at M&M’s however did not feel the same way. In fact they went as far as to say that I am unoriginal.

Ouch, talk about killjoys.

John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I only have one thing to say about that. Thank you Jesus.

There are times where it really feels like we cannot have fun or enjoy this life that we have been given. It feels like there will always be someone hiding around the corner to steal the enjoyment from anything we do. Take the e-mail I sent to the M&M peoples. Was I serious? Yes. I most definitely was. Did I have a lot of fun with it? I sure did. Yet in the end, the big corporation on the other end of the internet connection had the option to respond in two ways. They either could have entered into the fun that I was clearly having with the e-mail and let me down easy, or they could be a stereotypical organization and give a cold response that shuts off all fun that may be taking place…I was disappointed to receive the latter response.

I feel like the people at M&M’s acted much like the thief that Jesus was talking about, attempting to steal, kill, and destroy the enjoyment I had gotten out of the idea I presented them with, and to be entirely honest, they did a pretty good job of it. Jesus on the other hand says that he wants to do the exact opposite of that. He wants us to live full lives, and even more than that, he wants us to live the fullest lives, full of joy, excitement, adventure, and all around fun. Will things be hard? Yes, he never says they will be easy, but he does say that a life with him will be the fullest kind of life, and I have to believe that after all is said and done, fun will be a big part of the scenario.

Now I do not want to give M&M’s a bad reputation. They were acting in the best interest of their company, and let’s face it, they have a great product, but in this instance I feel as if they were trying to steal all of my joy. But here is another message for them:

To the Wonderful People Who Make M&M’s:

You failed. You can call me unoriginal if you like, but you cannot have what is not yours. My joy lives on in something greater, something that you cannot take from me, and you are also missing out on a great product idea.

With All Legitimate Sincerity,

Scott E. McGhee

P.S. I still love your product and if you ever want to send some free Peanut M&M’s my way…I will not put up a fight!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The End of the Story

I have found that when I finish reading a book I am left with one of three feelings. 1) I am relieved to finally be through with it 2) I find myself wanting to keep reading more desiring that the story continue, or 3) I find myself completely satisfied and wanting nothing more than what the author has given me. Of the three of these scenarios, I believe the third to be the best.

Usually, if I finish a book with the first of my reactions, I did not want to be reading it in the first place (i.e. 99% of the books I “read” as an undergrad). If left with the second, though I may have really enjoyed the book, the author has probably left some loose ends untied and I really just want them to finish what they started. But if I leave a book feeling completely satisfied with it, I feel like the author has done their job; everything started was finished and they were not being presumptuous by trying to set themselves up for a sequel (and everyone knows that the best sequels could have been stand alone stories all by themselves!)

I recently watched the last page of a story turn. It was a story taking place inside of the grander story of my life, taking place inside of the grander story of God. The pages were filled out with true events and the ending was not necessarily a happy one, but it was the right one. The story ended just the way it was supposed to; in a way that left everyone involved satisfied with the part they had played and better off at the conclusion.  This story however did not have a “happily ever after.”

The fairy tales of our youth have a tendency to teach us that every story should have a “happily ever after” tagged on the end of it. This is a lie and worse yet, this is a boring ending. Have you ever stopped to think about what possibly could have happened in the years following the marriage of the Prince and Princess in these fairytales that we idealize so much? What were Cinderella and the Prince like after being married for fifteen years? Did the mice still take care of their homestead? The Prince would probably have been made king and Cinderella queen, what if they had differing ideas on how the country should be run? What if their children were spoiled brats and their eldest son already making plans to usurp his father’s power? Did Cinderella still remember how she attained such a prominent position, or had she been blinded by authority? And despite all that has happened in their lives, were Cinderella and the Prince able to find a way to love each other through it all?

I hope the characters in the movies we grew up watching struggled. I hope they faced new challenges and overcame them. I hope they had disagreements, and experienced tragedies. I hope they lived out their dreams and fought for the things they cared about. I hope they lived in a manner that challenged the status quo in order to bring justice to the people who were hurting.

 A life without struggle and opposition is no life at all. A life without ambition and passion is no life at all. A life without risk, without adventure, without that feeling deep in your gut telling you “this could be a very bad idea but you should probably go ahead and do it anyway” is no life at all.

Sometimes a story needs to end with “and he lived to fight another day” or “after living a full life, she embarked on the grand adventure of eternity” or “but not even that could stop them from chasing their dreams.” These are the real endings that inspire us.

There is a story in the Bible about a woman named Esther who was very beautiful. Esther had kind of a Cinderella experience and one thing led to another and she became the queen of the most powerful empire in the world. She however was a member of a minority group that this guy named Haman hated. The problem here is that Haman was the king’s closest advisor and he convinced the king to order that this entire minority group be killed. Esther had a decision to make. She could sit back and let her people be destroyed or she could take action. Wait a second; I thought this was a Cinderella story. She is the queen now; she should be living “happily ever after,” but then again, that is not reality.

Esther had a cousin named Mordecai living in the king’s city who sent a message to her saying this:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai saw the potential Esther had to make a difference, and called her out of her “happily ever after” ending by pointing out just how unhappily that story would have ended. Instead he challenged her to fight for an ending greater than the one she had been presented with, and when push came to shove… she decided to throw punches.

The end of Esther’s story may have said something like “And Esther was esteemed as a hero of her people for generations to come.” Not “happily ever after.” Better than “happily ever after.” It ended the way it was supposed to, leaving the readers completely satisfied with it. I would imagine that in the end, Esther was pretty satisfied with the ending herself.

I recently watched the last page of a story turn, and I am glad there was no “happily ever after” at the end. I think this one ended like this: “He smiled wryly. Even though he lost this round, he knew the best was still yet to come.”