Tag Archives: Social Media

noisy

cinema-dark-display-8158

This morning, as I am often apt to do on days that I blog, I woke up and thought to myself, “What in the world am I going to write about today?” I’m sure there’s some fancy phrase for this dilemma like writer’s stymie or writer’s barricade…but anyway.  As one is apt to do in this situation I turned to my trusty friend social media to see if I could find inspiration and was immediately inundated, nay overwhelmed with commentaries, discussions, opinions, etc. on everything under the sun. It’s as if social media has become an interstate clogged with billboards intended to either bottleneck traffic or have you swerve off the road entirely. Trying to make sense of all that is coming at you could almost be a full-time job and I was looking here for inspiration…? I wonder how often we step into the social media fray hoping to come away inspired and bettered by what we encounter there? And in the same vein how often do we come away feeling like we’ve encountered nothing but noise?

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament revolves around the prophet Elijah. Elijah is a titan of a prophet who has an amazing showdown with over 400 prophets of Ba’al and sees YHWH answer with fire from Heaven. And then as if that isn’t enough he declares the end of a drought and then outruns a royal chariot on foot. Then in the midst of all the noise he receives a death threat from the queen and runs and hides for fear of his life. To answer Elijah among all of the noise God takes him to a solitary place and here is where we pick up in scripture. “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

The phrase in the scripture for “gentle whisper” is actually best translated “sound of sheer silence”. This is where the prophet, who has been surrounded by noise and craziness and even good things, encounters God. This is where the prophet finds the ability to keep going. This is where the prophet finds inspiration. And I began to think about how often I disengage from the noise. How often do we turn off our devices? How often do we turn off the news? How often do we turn off our echo chambers that affirm how we think in order to listen to the One in whom we believe? My challenge to myself and perhaps to you as well today is to allow the noise to be the noise. May we also give space in our lives to the quiet so that perhaps we may have that same encounter in the “gentle whisper” which is the space in which the Spirit often speaks.

Advertisements

virtual insanity

pexels-photo-123318.jpeg

Sometimes I find myself really caught up in a book I am reading. And what I refer to as caught up, my wife would refer to as obsessed. I have trouble putting it down and I often find myself looking for excuses to get back to it. The book I am referring to currently is called, “Ready Player One” and it is set in the not too distant future and the entire premise is built around virtual reality. I don’t want to give anything away for those who might be interested in reading it, but the reason it is so much fun for me is due to the fact that much of the virtual world is built around 1980’s nostalgia. From Saturday morning cartoons, to TV commercials, to music and movies…it’s got everything. But the hang up in the book for many of the characters is that they often can’t seem to parse out reality from the virtual reality that they often find themselves plugged into. For many of them reality is terrible, as the planet has been depleted of resources through an energy crisis, overpopulation and wars. So their actual day to day existence is pretty terrible. Thus the reason they take comfort in escaping to a place where their problems aren’t always before them.

Don’t get me wrong, but some days I feel like that could be a pretty sweet deal. Lately it feels like my family and many like ours jump from one miniature crisis to the next. Strep throat, flu, house repairs, car troubles, etc…it seems like no one can catch a break. And so we lament our current realities on social media hoping to find solace, or at least compatriots, in the virtual world. It seems like Facebook and the like have become places for that very thing. We log in to these virtual communities and we celebrate our best and lament our worst and for a moment take comfort in the arms of a virtual community. Yet when we are approached in the real world and asked about how we are doing our reply is simply, “pretty good”. Pretty good? It’s almost as if we are forgetting what reality is, or at least what it could be.

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer there is a line that should be incredibly trans-formative when it comes to our realities, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10. We are literally praying that God’s kingdom become a part of our actions in the world around us today. And yet, when we actually engage with culture around us, all we can manage is a mundane “pretty good” or “fine”. I like that word “mundane”, by the way. The dictionary defines mundane as, “common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.” And the second definition is even more profound,  “of or relating to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly.” If anything, we as believers are called to bring God’s kingdom to this worldly/earthly hemisphere. Our lives should be the opposite of unimaginative. And so maybe perhaps we need to reengage. Maybe we need to realize that although the virtual world can be comforting, it does not bring the Kingdom. And maybe with the apostle Paul we can refocus our energy in the actual world around us, “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” – Philippians‬ ‭4:8.‬ Maybe then we would find comfort in affecting actual reality instead of escaping into the virtual landscape. After all, we have a mission to bring the Kingdom. Maybe it’s time to get plugged in.

 

 


run its course

runitscourse

I have a trait that my wife absolutely hates (man that’s a harsh way to start off a blog post). But it’s true. Although she loves me completely, she hates that I am an anti-panicker. What I mean by this, is that in situations in which she thinks I should be reacting quickly and highly stressed, I actually am taking my time and trying to think through every possible outcome and scenario…thus, an anti-panicker. Case in point: yesterday our 5-yr-old was on his 5th day of the flu and didn’t seem to be making any improvements whatsoever and we were getting worried. Also, thanks to the compiling voices and paranoia from social media we were getting even more worried, so we decided it might be good to take him back to the doctor/ER. As soon as my wife decided, that meant it was time to go and since she was sick herself, I needed to take him. But here I am thinking about all the other scenarios. What about the other kids? What about me being at school? Should I just wait a bit? You know…not panicking. Eventually she prevailed though and I ran him to the ER to find out that it was still just a terrible flu and that it needed to run its course (which is still never fun for a parent to hear, but I suppose is better than pneumonia).

Now when it comes to the state of the world around us, I guess I am a bit of an anti-panicker as well. Which drives others around me nuts. I have friends who are incensed about the political state of things. I have friends in the church constantly terrified about where things are going. I know people who think we have to have some sort of drastic resolution yesterday to heal the state of our planet. But I have a slightly different approach. At the conclusion of the Montgomery Bus Strikes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted 19th-century abolitionist and Unitarian minister Theodore Parker when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I like to remind myself of this quote when it seems like everyone around me is falling into borderline hysteria. The arc, the whole, the entirety, the full story bends towards justice. Maybe after all, there is no need for panicking, but for allowing the moral universe to run its course.

Now I’d like to clarify something. Does anti-panicking mean we do nothing? By no means. I like to remember a quote from John Wesley on the matter of engaging the ills of the world, church, society, culture, etc. when it comes to this. “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” In the gospel of Luke, Jesus said it in this way, “Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” – Luke‬ ‭6:27-28, 35-36 I don’t think panic and hysteria and unhinged anger ever accomplish what we wish they would. But I do think goodness changes everything. And I’m reminded once again that the arc of the moral universe may be long, but it bends towards justice and as we do good we can safely let it run its course.


misplaced curiosity

I love the curiosity that comes with childhood. You see it evidenced all the time if you are ever around small kids. If they have a question; they ask it. It doesn’t matter if it makes the situation socially awkward. Their immediate need to satisfy said curiosity is going to be made plain. I’m sure like me, those parents of small children always cringe at those social encounters when you notice your child catch something strange or different and you see the wheels inside their little heads begin to turn. It’s only a mater of time before, “How…” or “Why…” turns into a, “I’m so sorry…” from you. But we have all been there before. I remember being a very inquisitive child. So much so that often my parents would just turn me loose on our set of encyclopedias for answers (yes, I was that kid). But it seems sometimes that as we get older, our curiosity seems to wane or become misplaced and we just become indifferent to the lives of those around us.

Oh don’t get me wrong, we still like to know things about people…but rarely directly. We love to find out about people from the safety of our own homes and read about their stories from our digital screens and not have to worry about potential socially awkward moments. Think about it for a minute. One of the fastest growing industries over the last couple of decades is celebrity gossip. I can know all about their story, feel like I even know them, and yet I have never had one conversation with this person. Or even the advent of social media. Here we can look at people’s likes, dislikes, kid photos, workout plans, dinner plates, etc. and never even have to talk to them in real life and feel like we are the best of friends. But what is really occurring is that our natural curiosity that creates true and lasting relationships with others has been replaced with something inauthentic, ineffective and indifferent.

I think we are made to get to know one another. I think we are made to be neighbors who love each other like God has called us to. I think that natural inborn curiosity is a way for us to engage one another so that we begin to understand one another and ultimately so that we might be able to share Christ with the world. But when that curiosity is displaced, or stifled, or lost…then what? We keep to ourselves, we engage only those like us and we leave this world looking much the same as it did before we got here. In his epistle to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul says this about engaging others, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” – 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 In order for Paul to share the gospel he became like those to whom he was called. In order to become like those to whom he was called he probably had to get to know them. In order to get to know them he had to be curious about their story and who they were. Are we curious about the stories and circumstances of those we encounter everyday…or have we become indifferent?

My prayer is that God renews in you and I a sense of curiosity that defies difference and social limitations or awkwardness so that by all possible means Christ may save some.


overload

Once upon a time it was just the newspaper. Then with the advent of radio everything changed. A few decades after that technology gave rise to the television. As the digital age grew we found ourselves with email, social media and the birth of the 24/7 inundation of headlines and bulletins from every corner of the globe in the ongoing pursuit of information and the need to stay currently aware. And all of a sudden we find ourselves in the thick of an ongoing exhaustive media stream and we have become overwhelmed. At any moment of any given day we can open our smart phones, computers, tablets, etc. and find some sort of an article, bulletin, or blog post that is sure to arouse feelings of anger, frustration, fear, paranoia, hatred, anxiety, etc. and leave us feeling overloaded. There is so much wrong in the world and we just want/need to set it right…

As Jesus was preparing to leave his disciples in the latter part of the book of John He gave them some last words of comfort. He knew that they were about to be overwhelmed by all that would take place in the next few days and so he issued a promise to them of the presence of the Holy Spirit and before He prayed over them He said this, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33. The Greek root behind the word for trouble in this passage is best defined as ‘pressing’ or ‘pressure’. Jesus was saying to His disciples and ultimately to us that this world will weigh in on you, pressing you, overloading you, overwhelming you…but take heart. I am leaving you with this promise of the presence of my Spirit so that you may have peace, harmony, in the midst of the overload. The last phrase in this passage refers to Jesus being Lord (overcome) over the kosmos. And although we translate that as world, it literally refers to everything there is.

So if you are like me during this turbulent time of knowing everything that happens in every corner of the planet thirty seconds after it happens you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed, overloaded. How can I make a difference in this world that is so chaotic? Do something with me for a moment. Take a deep breath…go ahead, I’ll wait. You feel that? It’s a gift from God. God has given you this moment. Maybe you can take it to hug a family member. Maybe you can use it to engage in conversation with a stranger. Maybe you might use it in intentional service to someone who is less fortunate than you. But however you use it may you take comfort in the fact that Jesus has given you His peace through the power of the Holy Spirit and we don’t have to give into the pressure that comes from the exhaustive amount of media that comes our way. God has called you to be His disciple right where you are. Now go, breathe deep in The Spirit and see how God will use you to bring the Kingdom of God in your own backyard.


trivial

I can’t help it. I guess it is the Southern in me that can’t look away from tragedy and its’ various responses. Last evening I found myself glued to news sites and to social media as the weigh-in began on the tragedy in Moore, OK. My heart is still sickened by the extreme loss and the pain some of the families are experiencing. I honestly can’t imagine that kind of hurt. But in the midst of responses around the internet, a few posts struck me. Some people felt the need to point out that they didn’t want to post their normal trivial family stuff in the midst of such a tragedy and all I kept thinking was…these things aren’t necessarily trivial. In fact, I am sure many of the parents standing around the rubble of a descemated elementary school longed for trivial things. They longed for goofy Facebook posts about their kid’s drama. I am sure they are pining for pictures of stupid things their sons or daughters had done. They’re wishing back time that was once perceived as trivial.

We sometimes look at things in our lives as less than in the face of something so horrific, but I am sure that the victims of this tragedy would scream at us and say that nothing is trivial. Every moment, every conversation, every touch that you have with your loved ones rings with the echoes of eternity because they are a gift from God. If there is one thing tragedy can possibly help to redeem for those not immediately effected by it, is the fact that life is short and we are only given so much of it. In writing to the church the apostle Paul said, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) Everything we do is to be done in the name of the Lord. All of a sudden everything we do carries weight. It carries substance.

I look around at the situation right now and I don’t think I even have words that can help comfort those who lost people in Oklahoma. All I can possibly do is offer my prayers and support.*But I can speak to those of us on the outside looking in. Life is a gift. Each moment loaded with possibilities for the greatness of God to shine through. Cherish each moment. Regardless of how trivial it may seem….one day it won’t. May we be so bold as to hold on to each moment and encounter life knowing each moment is precious. Pray for Oklahoma. Grace and Peace

* One tangible way we can support is by offering up our resources to those who are meeting the immediate need. I encourage you to do so as well:

https://secure2.convio.net/cn/site/Donation2?df_id=5320&5320.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=vs6iy8zzb6.app214b

http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations


longing

So for those of you who don’t follow me on other forms of Social Media let me enlighten you as to my activities for the last five days. Last Thursday my wife and son left on a trip to visit a close family friend, leaving me and my daughter to fend for ourselves for five days. Although this might be a daunting dilemma for a lot of dads I was looking forward to our time together. The best part about it was that the weather was uncharacteristically warm and so we were able to fill our days with various outdoor activities and ice cream (you know a daddy has to spoil his daughter). But one of the main motivations behind our busyness was to somehow distract ourselves from the longing for mommy and brother. And for the most part we were successful, but there were still times where their absence was overwhelmingly evident.

Now for the most part we attempted to fill our time with things that were good. We went on bike rides, runs in the park, visits to playgrounds, etc. But then there were other times when we would just veg out in front of the TV or waste time in some other fashion. But the most rewarding time was the time spent in preparation for my wife and son’s return. Whether it was doing special projects around the house, cleaning, or even taking a bit more time in shaving…well, these became the most fulfilling. Why? Because the longing we have for my family to be complete can only be cured by their presence and so the anticipatory activities planned for their arrival become the best use of our time apart.

This reminds me of a passage out of Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” It’s important to define the word evil as spelled out in the Greek text here. The word is ponēros which is probably best defined as pressing, hard, difficult. The apostle Paul, in speaking of our days on this earth, defines them as hard, difficult, pressing, filled with longing. And what are we supposed to do to redeem them? By making the most of every opportunity! Sure we could fill our days with activities that just busy ourselves to distract us from the fact that God’s Kingdom is still to come. Or maybe we could fill our days in the anticipatory activity of bringing God’s Kingdom to Earth. Maybe each moment is an opportunity for redemption as we await the return of the Bride Groom. 

The one thing my family’s separation has taught me is that longing affords us a choice. What choice will you make today?


%d bloggers like this: