Well, it is another one of those pink and red holidays.

My wife and I have never, and I pray will never be bound to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We have Christmas, both of our birthdays and our anniversary within three months of each other.  By the time we get through all of those, our schedules and our bank account are tapped out.  We know we love each other pretty sufficiently without V-Day.

But, I still tried to give a little love to…love this week.  And I really appreciated all the great stuff that was written about the nature of love and relationships this week.  Here’s a delicious taste:

Two Choices Today

I think Valentine’s Day must be one of the most hated holidays of all.  Somehow, even Christmas can’t rankle naysayers the way February’s lovefest can.  I haven’t been a fan of the holiday since I stopped getting cards and candy in elementary school (though I kept the one from a “secret admirer” for a good long time, never finding out who dropped it in my shoebox.)  Ally Vesterfelt gives her V-Day rant, but tells us we really have two choices when it comes to the holiday.

On Marriage Idols

You know, we all have idols.  And as much as we are loathe to admit it, the American church is full of them.  And one big idol is marriage.  There are innumerable churches putting on mixers this week to get all their sad single people fixed up.  In that light, I really enjoyed Jessica Dickson, guest writing for Renee Fisher about how marriage became her idol.

On Giving Up

Countering that, of course there are a lot of negative statistics when it comes to marriage (though somehow, all of the positive statistics get buried).  Christen at The Uncontainable Truth tells us why we shouldn’t give up on marriage on V-Day.

One Small Change

Finally, perhaps the most positive of all the posts I read this week came from Amanda Edwards guest writing for Addie Zierman (two guest writers?)  Addie has been hosting a series called “one small change,” and Amanda nailed it.  A perfect encouragement on what we should do every single night (it’s not that, guys).  Especially timely in light of my post on Wednesday about people paying for hugs.

That’s what filled my blog reader and fueled my mind this week.  What about you?

Did you know that there are people who make a living by cuddling strangers?download

Yes, professional cuddlers.  People who snuggle with perfect strangers for money.  It’s like a massage or a therapy session.

Or maybe it’s like prostitution, except, you know…platonic.

Yes, I know this sounds almost unbelievable, but the Sunday Morning Show ran a story last weekend about just such a phenomenon.  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it.  You can check it out for yourself if you do not believe me.  People spend up to 120 dollars for an hour or so of snuggling.  It might start with a standing hug.  Then a hug lingers into an embrace.  Then it moves to the couch or a bed.  But nothing sexual.  Just prolonged human touch.  Even Mo Rocca who was doing the report seemed incredulous.

And by the laws of supply and demand, since there is a supply of professional cuddlers, then there is some contingent of customers demanding professional cuddling.

And on this day, just before the national celebration of love, what does it say about us that professional snuggling is a thing in today’s America?

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What does it mean to be an artist?

To be creative?

There is a great divide between people who consider themselves “creative,” and those who do not.  We live in a very creative time, when more people than ever are able to express and commoditize their creativity.  It is a great thing that so many people have the ability to be creative.

But at the same time, the commonness of creativity may have a strange effect on us.  Maybe with everyone flooding the market with creativity, the outsiders feel more “out” than ever.  Maybe with such a crowded marketplace, where we can all share our ideas, we still feel at the end of the day that we have not been heard.

Most tragic of all, I think, is the easy trap of the creative to turn creativity into a “platform.”  Suddenly, everything becomes an attention-getting device, a way to attract more followers, more fans.

And it is in this that I turn to the words of a creative who was altogether ignored in his time.  Vincent Van Gogh was a lonely man, alienated from those closest to him.  He was dismissed by critics.  He could not even find acceptance in the church.  Nothing about his art was about attracting fame or fleeting attention for himself.  He was a disenfranchised person who simply wanted to reach out to people.

Perhaps this thought is even more timely with the impending pink and red holiday coming up this week.

lovesomeone

What if our creative energies, our talents, our skills, all went to the place that Jesus commanded us that all our energies go?

What if the things most precious to us were not actually about us, but about everyone else?  Imagine what a difference that would make.

Does it feel like this week didn’t really happen?

Maybe it does if you’re like me and you had snow days for most of this week.  You know how “absence makes the heart grow fonder?”  I’m pretty sure the opposite of that is happening to a few million Midwestern families.  At least, my wife and I are feeling a little cabin fever these days.

With snow blocking us in for much of the week, more of my attention went to fueling my brain via books and blogs.

Here is what fueled me this week.

On My Bookshelfdownload

A few months ago, I supported a friend who was on the path of self-publishing a book.  It’s all about how he got his life back on track after nearly dying of self-neglect.  Today, not only is his physical, mental and spiritual life back in order, but his book is a reality, and I could not be happier for him.  I love the guts it takes to not just pull yourself up out of the valley you might find yourself in, but then share your story with others.  ICU to Marathon is an everyman’s inspirational story.

In My Blog Reader

I will admit it.  I bristled at Don Miller’s post this week.  Yes that one, the post that doesn’t even need mentioning because everyone rushed in to crucify the man.  I didn’t know quite what to do with it.  I was conflicted, a little offended (like I even know why).  But Tyler Braun, a pastor himself wrote what I think is the most fair-minded, grace-filled response to Don Miller not going to church that often.

For all of the “vulnerability” that is celebrated in blogging, I think it’s really a difficult discipline to let yourself be exposed online.  We’d rather paint ourselves better than we really are (which might be why the internet reacts the way it does when it sniffs out actual authenticity).  And that’s why Jeremy Statton’s permission to live an imperfect story was so perfectly timed for me this week.

Finally, I really appreciated Ed Cyzewski’s thoughts on the generation we are raising.  We raise kids on violent TV and games.  We inculcate them in a church culture that is often steeped in conflict.  They look up to us while we engage in daily online battles.  And it begs the question if we have turned our children into a generation of antagonists.  I don’t have kids of my own, but this was still an important read, as I recognize my own influence over other children.

I’ll be honest, I hated watching the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.  I couldn’t take much of it.bill-nye-ken-ham-debate

It’s not because I don’t believe God created the universe.  He did.

It’s not because Bill Nye is not a childhood hero of mine who helped develop in me a love of science.  He is.

From the moment I learned the debate would be happening, I knew I would not be able to stand it.  I have not been able to stand looking at the torrent of tweets being written in anticipation of it.  Yes, it was probably the strongest show of willpower I have exerted in quite a while to do anything except avert my eyes.

Maybe I failed as a Christian by not cheering my “team.”  Maybe I failed as someone who is supposed to be “informed” about current events.  But I’ll be honest, I think we are all poorer for this debate happening, not richer.  We have not gained deeper knowledge, sounder wisdom, or greater insight.

This is why I wish the debate had never happened.

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I used to think I had to be a bunch of things.

I used to believe I had to emulate a bunch of people.

Like, I had to be like my parents.  Then I had to be like my best friends.  Then I had to be like some famous person.  In college, I wanted to paint like a student whom I admired.  In seminary, I wanted to be able to speak like a pastor I envied.  Then I wanted to teach like my favorite teacher and write like my favorite writer.

And still today, I think we are subtly told that we have to reach certain benchmarks, do certain things, emulate certain people.

And if we do that, we will be…

…successful?

…acceptable?

…admired?

…envied?

The thing about success is that it doesn’t come just from envying the gifts other people have.  It goes beyond emulating our heroes.  We have to accept that we will not teach like that teacher, preach like that preaching, write like that writer, paint like that painter.  (And my God, that’s been a tough lesson for me to learn).

We have to let ourselves become good at being…ourselves.  Whatever it is that makes us…ourselves.  Because trying to be a knock-off version of other people is a lousy way to live.

beagoodone

It is only when we become good at being ourselves that we ever become the objects of inspiration for others.