Four quotes on excellence in the ordinary

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” (Henry J. Heinz)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

“The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.” (Blaise Pascal)

Five thoughts on faith, hope, and love

1. We admire faith, hope, and love in children before they’ve even developed a critical discernment between good parenting and bad parenting. They seem like virtues to be cultivated and protected.

2. Discernment has a place in the maturity of faith, hope, and love: love “rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

3. It is impossible to be neutral with these virtues. We seem either eager to have them or eager to avoid them.

4. Because of #3, we must be resolute in choosing, resolving, intending, and determining to have faith, hope, and love. Or else we default to a *disposition* of cynicism, suspicion, and lovelessness.

5. Resolve isn’t enough to change our deepest desires. We need God to recreate and shepherd our hearts. “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:25)

Why you should reconsider that MLM

mlm

At the risk of losing some friends, but to the benefit of those vulnerable, let me describe what makes for a good MLM (multi-level marketing business). It:

  • Dignifies hard work. It does not mock daily hard work.
  • Avoids sensational health claims.
  • Doesn’t tap into a dieting fad.
  • Doesn’t exploit the placebo effect.
  • Doesn’t depend on conspiracy theories about the competition.
  • Doesn’t encourage you to sever relationships with dissenters. I have seen this in the body of Christ and it is tragic.
  • Won’t burn bridges with friends and family.
  • Doesn’t sell the idea of being rich.
  • Doesn’t have drama with the FTC.
  • Don’t distract people, especially those in a season of life most common for starting a career, from responsibly developing a marketable skill set or getting a vocational/college education.
  • Doesn’t financially depend on long nested chain of signups / resellers. There is nothing wrong with the manufacturer/distributor/retailer model. But MLMs blow this up and exploit people at the bottom of bigger pyramids.
  • Doesn’t require buying products with a short shelf-life.
  • Doesn’t prey on the struggling or the spiritually empty.
  • Doesn’t over-spiritualize involvement.
  • Doesn’t soil one’s social circles.
  • Isn’t something you would be ashamed to have your children do.
  • Doesn’t depend on people feeling sorry for you.
  • Competes well with getting a “normal” job. A paycheck from an MLM isn’t “success” if you could have earned more responsibly and sustainably elsewhere.
  • Has a good success rate of its participants.
  • Capitalizes on reduced shipping costs.
  • Has synergy with existing needs and social activity. People already need and buy it, and seller becomes distributor of said product. Perhaps it is a fun catalyst for social events that people benefit from regardless of purchase.

I have a seen a few good examples of direct sales (cleaning products, bags, scrapbooking, craft supplies, candles). But the vast majority of MLMs do not pass muster. Most people think their MLM is the exception. Maybe yours is, but the bar is high.

I am not trying to judge you. Good, intelligent people have soiled relationships and wasted thousands of dollars on MLMs. I am trying to help you. Your best friends may feel reluctant to critique your MLM. They love you. They don’t want to lose their relationship with you.

If you need to provide for a family, then responsibly develop a career, cultivate a skill set, get an education, look for an internship, or start an entry-level position. If your family needs supplemental income, then look for part-time or contract work. You probably should not waste your time on MLMs. If you want residual income, then develop a residual skill set lucrative to the marketplace of dignified, daily work. Your family and friends and children and church and local community are cheering you on!

Further reading:

Five reasons to avoid “evil suspicions”, false reports, and reviling

slander

1. Even if a report is true, is it not merciful to contain its impact, to regard the reputation of another as precious? “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

2. Love comes with an optimism: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Optimism about another can be undeserved — even eventually disproven — but gracious. Better to be wronged than to wrong. Better to be lied to than to lie about another. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:19) “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7)

3. Love isn’t safe: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis)

4. The only realistic human alternative to giving each other the general benefit of doubt is hypervigilant cynicism. What an awful climate for love! To walk on eggshells, to constantly judge, to be on guard, and assume others are judging you. To constantly think of yourself, and be convinced that no one loves you. To be hypercritical and assuming — this makes for a resistant, quarrelsome, reviling, rude misery.

5. But no! True Christians are a forgiven people. Here is the most beautiful part. He was so good to us, so gracious. How can we not love others with an undeserved submission, obedience, gentleness, and perfect courtesy? Watch how Paul brings it all together:

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:1-5)

Respecting others by assuming their inconsistency

It seems like we should respect people by assuming they don’t actionably believe many alarming things they say they do. To respect them is to charitably assume that their common humanity is more fundamental than some of what they say they believe.

Consider heated arguments. Someone you love says something alarming and dramatic. But you dismiss it as “breath in the wind”, something that he didn’t think over, that hasn’t percolated through his life and worldview. You love and respect him by charitably assuming he is incoherent. He is not fully consistent with the implications of his words.

This follows a positive ethic of, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and a ‘negative’ ethic of, “Do not judge lest you be judged.” You want people to give you the benefit of doubt. To be gracious.

This gives us breathing room to talk out loud, to say tentative things and have them bandied about and put under scrutiny. To engage what someone says seriously, but with patient courtesy. This is what keeps us from being reactionary or hyper-vigilant or hyper-sensitive to offense, or overly worried about what someone will actually do.

It doesn’t make words any less irresponsible (especially reckless accusation or slander), or worldview any less a driving force for life, but it is a reason to slow down and be at peace. It also makes friendships and conversations with people very different than you (even ideological and religious enemies) much more fruitful and satisfying.

“To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2)

When Christian Intellectuals Eat Grass

Nebuchadnezzar

Like reducing Nebuchadnezzar to a beastly state of eating grass on hands and feet, God humbles Christian intellectuals to a desperately low state of singing lullabies and whimpering, “I don’t know, I don’t know. I will trust you.”

Oh Lord my heart is not lifted up
My eyes are not raised to high for Thee
I do not think on things to great or marvelous
Or matters too difficult for me

But I have calmed and quieted my soul
Like a weaned child is my soul within me
I have calmed and quieted my soul
Like a weaned child with its mother is my soul within me

O Israel trust in the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore
O Israel trust in the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore

Psalm 131 / Waterdeep lyrics