Peculiar — September 15, 2011

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Words are not that different from birds–in the sense that they are quite capable of flying away and becoming extinct.  Such is the case with “peculiar.

I don’t think anyone anywhere would consider the word “peculiar” to be a positive term.  How about some examples?  “He joined the football team–he was a peculiar player.”  “I really like my new girlfriend–she’s so peculiar.” “I would like another serving of that lasagna–it has such a peculiar taste.”

See what I mean?  But when those King James boys were translating the Bible into English from the Greek, they inserted the word “peculiar” to describe a people who were followers of the philosophy of Jesus.  Future translators rejected the choice, favoring inserting “special” instead of “peculiar.”  (But I’m not so sure that “special people” flies in our society either…)

If I’m not the first to say so, let me at least be the second.  Without some peculiar people in our generation, we’re all going to lump into a great, big, hairball tumbling down the hill towards our own mediocre demise.  Peculiar people do unusual things, which through trial and tribulation, are decided to be outstanding and eventually garner the reward of being termed “normal.”

It was a peculiar notion that a man could fly–so peculiar that certain individuals who believed they could soar like eagles either ended up at the bottom of a cavern, smashed on the rocks, or were committed to sanitariums by their overly protective relatives.

It was a peculiar thing in 1861 to contend that black people were actually equals to white people and at least should have the right to be free.  Today it’s beyond our comprehension that anybody ever believed anything else. But at least 90% of the populous–both North and South–had some ongoing sense that the black race was inferior.

And I am constantly reminded by good Christian folks that I am doing a peculiar thing by traveling across the country and sharing my message of simplicity with a musical soundtrack for thousands of hearers, in hopes of dawning a better day.  Yes, I am peculiar–and you do not need to call me special.

I was just wondering today how willing YOU are–to transform your personal life into potential instead of a problem, and risk changing our society from its doldrums of dreariness, into a flowing river of possibility?  Here are four things I suspect will make you peculiar–but also potent:

1. Lead with “nice.”  I know this will give some people the creeps.  But I meet hundreds and hundreds of human beings every week, and the common profile seems to be suspicion and caution, which quite bluntly, only makes them look ignorant and vulnerable.  After all, if I were a murderer, I would not kill someone who was smiling and confident, but rather, that nasty individual who grimaced at me, standing in the shadows, afraid to make contact.  Okay–maybe some people don’t deserve “nice.”  Then you can quietly cool down and walk away.  But if you are rude to a child of God’s making who needed your encouragement, and instead you offered nothing more than your flat response, then you might have missed an opportunity to “entertain an angel unaware.”

2. Step forward.  Such a simple thought!  Don’t stand back and wait for things to happen. I have not seen less failure in those who are reticent than I have in those who are aggressive. Step into life instead of waiting for someone to draw you out and bring you into the mix. Intelligent, successful, prosperous folks are ALWAYS moving their feet forward instead of stumbling backwards.  I even notice it in the body language of people I meet for the first time.  They often stand several feet back, making me cover the distance.  Really?  I don’t think this profile will get anyone very far.  Step forward and take the chance that what you feel, believe and sense in yourself is worth sharing with someone else.

3.  Know what you want, but more importantly, want to know. I do meet people who are positive about their agenda–-but they become obnoxious when some point they made is proven to be useless.  I always know what I want.  Without knowing what you want, you walk into every discussion and frustrate your fellow-travelers with your lack of commitment to a cause.  Yes, I always know what I want–BUT it is more important to me to learn what is better.  Then I can quickly change that to my new want. The best way to become a viable and usable human being is to balance “dedicated” and “flexible.”  I am dedicated to what I want, but I am also aware that everything on this planet evolves, and I will always choose to move towards the better way. We are so afraid of “flip-flopping.”  But I will tell you this–you can’t cook a pancake on both sides without flipping it.  Maybe that’s why we have so many half-baked politicians.

4.  And finally, honor freedom.  Freedom is supreme.  I have told you before in these essays that freedom is above love.  God so loved the world that He gave us the freedom to stupidly kill His son, without destroying us for it, but instead, turning it into a symbol of his salvation.  That’s huge.  The best way to get on the right side of history is to always be the ally of freedom.  Freedom does not mean that I agree with you.  Freedom does not even mean that I give my unconditional support.  Freedom means that I will not interfere with your right to pursue your dreams.

Now THERE is peculiarity.  If you choose to lead with “nice”–stepping towards humanity and knowing what you want, but more importantly, wanting to know, while believing in freedom for yourself and everyone else without question–you WILL be peculiar.  But you will also find yourself in the favor of God and man.

Peculiar–an old-fashioned word, disdained by the masses, but embraced by this particular, overweight, traveling troubadour.

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