Asking the Right Questions, Worship 1

Dot Syndrome

“Have you ever heard of the dot syndrome? Look at a newspaper photograph and notice that it’s made up of many dots of ink. Now focus on only one of those little dots. See how you miss the ‘big picture’? The dot syndrome is just like that. You make a little mistake and keep replaying it in your mind, crucifying yourself over and over for it. It’s a loss of perspective. Instead of looking at the big picture, you’re obsessed with one tiny dot. For the perfectionist, one thing gone wrong means everything’s going wrong” (Noland, 1999, p. 124)

When I create, my chord progressions must perfectly match with my ideas, my lyrics must be crisp and clever, and my riffs must be somewhat original. When I record, each piece must sound as I want it to sound, each instrument must be in tune, and each track must sound good with every other track. When I paint, my work must reflect the beauty that I imagine, each stroke must be considered, each shade chosen to blend with the next. This is how I see the dot syndrome in my life as an artist.

However, I’m afraid that it has outgrown artistry and has also taken over many other things in my life. It shows up when I am working on my homework assignments, gets cooked into my food, is overheard in the prayers that I pray out loud, and creeps into my relationships with people.

For example, when I was interning in New Orleans, I worked on a team. Most of the team was incredibly nice and accepting of me. They complimented my guitar playing. They affirmed the ministry that I was doing among the people who had lost their homes. They enjoyed spending time with me, and I enjoyed spending time with them. However, there were two girls who sometimes acted like I didn’t exist. This began a downward spiral of me not thinking that I was good enough to be on the team, that I was not a good enough Christian to even be there, that I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile, that I wasn’t worthwhile…all because these I thought these two girls were ignoring me. I began to think that everything was wrong. I couldn’t find anything positive about the situation that I was in – it was all negative.

Towards the end of my internship, I sat down with these two girls and told them what they were doing and how it made me feel. They didn’t realize that how they were treating me was hurting me. Things started to get better after that talk, but I learned something valuable from going through such pain. I needed to count my blessings.

So today, as I sit here and type, I am blessed to be drinking hot cocoa in a warm apartment while it is cold outside. I am blessed to be receiving a wonderful education and to have relationships with the people here. I am blessed to have roommates that put up with my quirkiness. And if I really think about it, I am blessed that God gave me a tongue to taste the hot chocolate, nerve endings that feel cold when it is cold and hot when it is hot, a mind full of analysis and creativity, and a heart that gives and receives love.

How has the Lord blessed you today?

Asking the Right Questions

Why Splenda Is Hurting the Church

  • The biggest biblical idea about sin, expressed in a riot of images and terms, is that sin is an anomaly, an intruder, a notorious gatecrasher. Sin does not belong in God’s world, but somehow it has gotten in. In fact, sin has dug in, and, like a tick, burrows deeper when we try to remove it. — Cornelius Plantings Jr

Sin is like artificial sweetener.

Let me back that up, please, before you go crazy. Sin is an anomaly. Cornelius Plantings Jr said it himself. Sin is a fake, a falsehood. Sin is the guy who shows up to the party and eats your food and drinks your beer and pretends to know the friend of your wife’s sister from way back, don’t you remember? It’s Mike, from high school? Right? We had 6th period science together? Oh come on man.

Sin is artificial sweetener. Sin might even be corn syrup, because hey, that’s a little more applicable. Sin is in everything. It’s in baked goods, sodas, fried chicken, ketchup. It’s as if you can’t get away from it, unless you decide to grow your own food and never make jellied candies. But sin is dangerous. Sin is tasty. Drink a diet soda once, and you’ll probably dislike it. But say you’re like me, on a diet, and diet soda is your only chance at bubbly swill. You get used to it. It’s no longer a question of preference. It’s the choice between apathy at the singularity of the choice and habituation at your surroundings.

But that’s not all folks. Sin has a market. Sin has analysts and CEOs and Marketing Directors and great graphic designers. Name your poison, and sin can glamourize it. You really like shopping? Don’t worry, your kids can wait, that purse is only on sale for the first 3 minutes of Black Friday! Do you like passion? There’s nothing wrong with drunken debauchery during your college years! It’s expected! Nobody gets hurt! You can even pretend like it never happened! Or maybe you like something innocent, like food, or God forbid, smoking. Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you have a heart attack at 28 or lung cancer by 30, it was God’s plan for your life! He didn’t need you here for the next 80 years. He used you all He could, and it’s okay to leave early because at least it tasted good, right?

But that’s the thing. You can trick yourself, you can alter the light and add some vapors and even color correct later on, but your portrait is off. You can say you prefer Diet Mountain Dew or Coke Zero, you can even pretend like you’re actually being healthier, even if it means you drink 4 cans instead of 1 every night, because it’s not hurting you. It’s not taking years off your life to have a cigarette. It’s only a day or two, right?

But sin is a fake. God does not delight in fakes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a knockoff t-shirt with “Call of Duty: Spiritual Warfare” or edited Game of Thrones, or even Diet Soda. It’s not the same to pretend to care about a death in the family, because you made your casserole and moved on with your life. It’s not the same to only look at porn just this once, because nobody’s getting hurt. This is a falsehood. God does not delight in falsehoods.

But Josiah, how do you know?

Because Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the light. Jesus is the way. Jesus is not a diet, a fad, a just this once. Jesus is an all day caller, asking you “How is your day really going?” Jesus is sugar, and sin is sucralose.

As a caveat, I find it funny that Jones Soda (made with real sugar!) fills me up with a can, as opposed to Coke Zero. But you can take that as you wish.

So here’s the truth guys. I love aspartame. I enjoy sucralose. Splenda is my friend. Because I am dieting and this is the only way I get close to sweetness. But when it comes to spirituality, when it comes to God and People and Relationships and the Church, the only way to go is real sugar. Don’t get caught up in the chase for something sweet and fleeting, when something filling and real is knocking at your door, asking to come in and eat dinner (or cake).

~ Josiah