Tuesday, September 3, 2013

With Reluctance...A Word About Miley

There is a saying on internet chat boards: don't feed the troll.

Now, a "troll" is a person lurking on internet chat boards who makes it his or her job to incite anger and fury, taking things out of context and blowing them up to be something larger than what is intended.  Or, the person intentionally adds a comment beyond the scope of the original thread simply to cause conflict.  The theory is if you don't "feed" the troll by responding, it will go away.

Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMA show qualifies as such behavior, I think, and I am loathe to even comment on it.  Yet, the performance achieved at least one goal--it raked in lots of viewers during and after the fact.  Advertisers are licking their chops with the revenue generated.  Such a thing, perhaps is at the root of the whole issue, by the way.  Money.  Money.  Money.

I generally don't watch any sort of award show.  It simply doesn't appeal to me, and I rather frankly don't care.  In my estimation, there are much more important things in life to deal with and worry about than who can best keep us entertained and out of our boredom.  For that is what such entertainment is all about, is it not?  Isn't that the reason people flock to the movies: to be entertained and escape reality for a while?  Isn't that why we tune into sporting events in record numbers?  I mean, the Romans perfected sporting events a couple of thousand years ago, and we've managed to ratchet it up entertainment wise while minimizing the amount of blood spilled.  And the business which has sprung up around these industries is amazing.  Billions upon billions of dollars are sucked out of the average Joe's and Jane's pockets to fund this stuff, and we keep paying it because we are bored with our lives.

And face it, we all like a bit of excitement from time to time.  Yes.  We really do.  We need something to get our hearts pumping and our adrenaline racing.  We need something to make us take notice and help us believe there is something more to our lives than simply earning a paycheck, being at home watching our kids, sitting in front of pixellated screens watching characters enact lives full of excitement, adventure, and cunning, and then going to bed only to step into the same routine the next day.

Heck, yesterday, with the kids out of school and not much to do around the house, I found myself actually going nuts a bit.  I wanted to be engaged in doing something besides just sitting at the house and watching my kids play.  I wanted to be active.  It was too hot to fish or hunt, and I've gotten to the point where playing video games no longer keeps me occupied very long.  I craved some adventure and excitement of my own.

I needed a reminder of that one line from the book of Hebrews--a line I read the past Sunday (that sermon will be posted tomorrow): 5Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ 6So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?’  (Hebrews 13:5-6 emphasis mine.)

Be content with what you have.

My God, what a concept!  It actually goes quite counter to what I've been taught most of my life through my schooling and society.  The spoken and unspoken mantra pulsing through our culture is: don't ever be satisfied; push on; attain more; rise through the ranks; there are no limits; don't allow yourself to have any boundaries.

And there is something to be said for such a thing, especially when it comes to rising out of poverty and becoming self-sufficient.  There is something to be said for "making it" and living the American dream.  And, of course, that involves some work on our part.  There is much satisfaction in creating and doing and earning something on your own.  Simply having it given to you or expecting someone to give it to you isn't quite the way it works.  And so, I think it important to draw a fine line between contentment and laziness.

And most of us should be more content.  Should be.

I think about my own situation.  I have a loving wife and three adorable children; a roof over my head; food on the table; a job I love; places to hunt and fish; congregation members who I truly enjoy working with and interacting with; plenty of "toys" to play with; good health; cushion in my bank account.  I should be content.  All of my needs are being met.

Ah, but there is that little voice which creeps in.  "Wouldn't it be nice if...
  • You had your own ranch.
  • You had a bigger church.
  • You had a better paying job.
  • You had more opportunity for upward mobility.
  • You had a better car.
  • You had a larger audience to hear you preach.
  • You had more opportunities to travel and get away.
Perhaps things might be nicer, but there is no guarantee.  Not at all.  In fact, things could get a whole lot worse in pursuing such things.  I might lose family time.  I might find another congregation to be much more stressful.  I might lose sight of the more important things in life.  I might not have time to hunt and fish.  I might find a congregation where the people and I don't get along so well.

Be content with what you have.

Miley Cyrus actually has it all.  She made millions as Hannah Montana.  If she and her parents invested wisely, she would never have to work again.  In the minds of millions of kids, she is/was a heroine of sorts.  Fame.  Fortune.  Millions of devoted fans.  What more could one want? 

Apparently a lot. 

Just like a lot of us want a lot more even though we've got what we need.

Some of us are much more adept at listening to that other voice within our heads that says, "Slow down.  Think.  Think about what you have.  Think about how you have been blessed.  Think about what you are doing and what you would like to do.  Think about what is most important and then think about what the best situation for you to achieve those things might be."

I am quite convinced when we stop and think about such matters, we will realize that we can indeed follow the writer of Hebrews' advice: be content with what you have.  And we can stop feeding that other voice which is pretty much a troll in disguise.

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