Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blockbuster and God.

Blockbuster and God.

About a week ago I got an email from Blockbuster. It opened by saying, “we hope you’re enjoying your Blockbuster Online Membership!” They then proceeded to tell me why I was about to not enjoy my membership.

Basically, whenever I brought back an envelope with a DVD in it to the store, they would mail it back to their distribution center and give me a free rental on the spot. It was a great deal and was there attempt to win back customers from Netflix. Since they don’t have stores, Netflix can’t compete with this business model. And so I switched to Blockbuster and for $9.99 a month enjoyed unlimited movie rentals.

But now that enough customers have returned to Blockbuster, they’re not concerned about Netflix anymore. That means, programs like unlimited rentals are no longer necessary to generate consumer loyalty. So now, instead of infinite movie rentals a month, I now have the ability to rent 2. My plan went from infinite to 2. I’m not a math whiz, but that’s got to be a 99.999999% reduction in quality of service.

Needless to say, I hate Blockbuster. The interesting thing is that I think a lot of times I assume God is going to treat me just like they did. Right now I’m writing in large part about how nonsensical the story of the prodigal son feels. (He spends all his father’s money on hookers, comes home expecting punishment and instead receives a party.) The world just doesn’t work the way that story does. When someone gets what they need from you, they tend to change the way they treat you. People are always more interested in your jokes when you’re interviewing them for a job. Car salesman treat you like the most important person on the planet until they close they deal. Advertising agencies win new business with their best creative talent but then make their B-teams do the client work once the client has signed on so that the best and brightest can focus on finding new business. Blockbuster woos you with unlimited rentals until their main competitor is weakened and you don’t have another option to choose.

I think the fear of that happening with God forces me to miss a lot of the good stuff he’s got planned for my life. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. I’m into month 11 of the best year of my life but rather than enjoy it, I find myself with an uncomfortable sense of weariness. I feel like someone in a horror movie thinking, “this is quiet, too quiet.” I keep waiting to get Rocky Mountain Tick disease or get fired from work unexpectedly.

But I don’t think that’s how God works. At the bare minimum, it’s not how his word reads. Here’s something I found in Psalm 126: 1-3 the other day:

1 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

I love those verses, in part because I don’t think there’s enough focus on laughter in Christianity. But more than that, I love that there’s not a “but” in there. It’s not “the Lord has done great things for them, but once He knew he had them he moved on to focusing on finding new people.” It’s not a one time event, joy is a life change.

And so far, I’ve got to say, that joy feels very unlimited.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Given the chance, I would make worse decisions than Britney.

Given the chance, I would make worse decisions than Britney.

I’m a bit of a rebel, so I’m going to come right out with it - Britney Spears has made some bad decisions of late. And by “of late,” I am referring to the last five years or so. She had a quickie marriage and divorce in Vegas. She married Shar Jackson’s baby’s daddy. She then had two kids with perhaps the most successful backup dancer in the history of people that pop and lock for a living. She shaved her head. Jumped in and out of rehab and continues to make tabloid headlines with frantic antics. All in all, she’s pretty much been a mess. But the more I think about it the more I realize that given the same set of circumstances, I would make worse decisions than her. Here’s why:

1. So much money, so soon.
There appears to be a direct correlation between money and how big of a jerk I am. I can be a punk to people if I have a dollar in my pocket. I can’t imagine if I had millions. I once asked a friend with a Corvette I was riding in to rev the engine so some random stranger at a convenience store would see me. My “look at me” antics would far outweigh Britney’s.

2. The Promised Land is dangerous.
If you grew up in rural Louisiana and one day found yourself with millions and millions of dollars you’d feel like you were in the promised land. And that’s where the Israelites really messed things up. As soon as they got their hands on stuff, they started to turn away from the Lord with a quickness. They ended up sacrificing their children to pagan Gods. I completely get that driving with you baby on your lap instead of a child seat is a dumb thing for Britney to do, but at least she didn’t kill him for Molech.

3. The Successful Ex Factor
It’s an accepted rule that if you break up with someone you secretly hope they either become absurdly fat, enter a monastery, or move to Greenland never to be heard from again. At least in the unhealthy dating relationships I’ve experienced. And Britney got body slammed by perhaps the second worse case of Successful Ex in recorded history. (I think the first is the guy that had a child with Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling before she became the world’s first billionaire writer. Tell me that guy doesn’t want to weep over not maintaining that relationship.) But while Britney’s stock has continued to plummet, Justin Timberlake’s has soared like a Phoenix. (That’s such a cheesy description, but it’s 6:37AM on a Saturday morning and I’m about to describe how awesome JT is so my fear of looking cool has clearly not woken up yet.) He single handedly brought sexy back. (It was in Prince’s basement.) He’s had two platinum selling albums since leaving his boy band. He’s made a few movies and been part of the best Saturday Night Live skit in the last five years. Everything he’s touched has turned to gold. That has to have been a painful thing to watch from the sidelines. I don’t care how famous you are, seeing an ex succeed is never an easy thing. I probably would have shaved my head and my eyebrows and eye lashes in response.

4. The weight of what now.
There has to be a terrifying sense of “what now” when you accomplish everything you’ve ever wanted to accomplish. When years of the Mickey Mouse club, touring in malls, posing for tens of thousands of photos and a billion other brand building activities suddenly pay off. Where do you go from here? What do you do next? If you capture what you’ve always wanted, in this case fame and fortune, and it hasn’t really changed you, what now? I haven’t experienced that moment, but if a publisher offered me tons of money and a multi-book deal tomorrow, I’d probably do something foolish. At the bare minimum I’d act like the people did in Hosea. God says in 13:6, “They were filled , and their heart was exalted; therefore they have forgotten me.” And although I haven’t hit the top of any career, I’ve definitely had successful moments where I’ve told God, “I got it from here God. I’ll give you a call later if it crashes down.”

This is longer than I ever intended to write about Britney Spears but in some ways she forced me to examine my own life. Which is really the opposite of what pop culture is designed to do. It’s empty and flashy and interesting so that I can hide in it. And throw bricks at it and laugh at the antics of Lindsey Lohan while the issues in my own life go ignored. But now it’s hard to look at Lohan and not wonder what I would do in that situation. If I was untethered from reality would I revolve my way through rehab?

Maybe. I’d like to think not, but maybe.

How about you? Given the chance, would you make worse decisions than Britney?