Art + Culture

Art Is For Paying Attention

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Literature, painting, music—the most basic lesson that all art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things. -Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark

When Did Leisure Become a Curse Word?

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Leisure

W. H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep cows.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Life in the West is utilitarian and practical (not in the good sense). We punish people for stopping to breathe, stare, and take in things that don’t equate to monetary gain, or getting things done. 

Long lunches and conversation turn into business meetings and strategy sessions.

The intake of art, music, nature, literature, and poetry frowned upon, because… oh what a time waster. The Protestant Work Ethic has a stronghold on most, me included.

When Christians take a day to rest and worship and celebrate being alive in light of their Creator. They're seen as lazy and idle because the boss needs one more spreadsheet and email sent. No rest for the weary.

With all the problems in our society albeit political, educational, religious, morally, or name the category. One problem is dismissed: leisure. We speak past one another. Bowed to the god of productivity and personal development.  We often miss out on the little gifts of Grace all around us because we don’t know how to stand and stare. 

This is not a Christian or atheist, urban or rural, rich or poor, black, white, or brown problem… it’s a human problem. 

What is this life, full of care, if we have no time to stare?

A good question worth considering. 

Malcolm Muggeridge on Fame and Faith

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“I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets–that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue–that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions– that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time–that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you — and I beg you to believe me–multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing–less than nothing, a positive impediment–measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.”

– Malcolm Muggeridge

(source)

Kurt Cobain on Identity

“I don’t blame the average seventeen-year-old punk-rock kid for calling me a sellout. I understand that. And maybe when they grow up a little bit, they’ll realize there’s more things to life than living out your rock & roll identity so righteously.”
 — Kurt Cobain, 
Rolling Stone

Living and getting older is a great gift. Young people only see the world in small windows and incomplete frames. Everything is black and white and complexity isn’t a thing. Years allow us to be more gracious on things we simply didn’t understand in our youth. Unfortunately Cobain didn’t learn this soon enough.

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pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

Jackson Pollack's Letter to His Teenage Son

A Jackson Pollack painting (Public Domain)

A Jackson Pollack painting (Public Domain)

Well Jack I was glad to learn how you felt about your summer’s work & your coming school year. The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life.

(Source: American Letters)

What advice will I give my sons and daughter?

Stay awake, pay attention, the world is bursting with the glory of God. The more you “see,” the more joy can be had.

The Joy of Missing Out

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The fear of missing out, FOMO, is killing us. That all we have is now, the next opportunity for growth or experience is guaranteed to fix our boring and joyless lives.

Ask the attendees to the Fyre Festival how that worked out.

Svend Brinkmann, a Danish psychologist, has written a new book warning about FOMO, and her cousin, the personal growth movement. He says the movement is a:

“… rampant development culture that knows no boundaries.”

Brinkmann argues that FOMO goes against the nature of our humanity. People can’t be plugged in all the time. Humans have boundaries and limitations. Sorry Tony Robbins, there’s a limit to human potential. We’re not God.

Instead, Brinkmann argues for disengagement, and what Aristotle suggested moderation in all things. A culture with overwhelming amounts of choice is psychologically damaging, and what he calls the hedonic treadmill.

Missing out is an ethical necessity Brinkmann suggests:

“We are only able to live up to our obligations as human beings if we are willing to miss out on something in order to be there for other, specific, people.”

Missing out requires sacrifice for the greater good. The good of the people and responsibilities right in our midst. That somewhere else is where we find gold and hidden treasure is just a narrative we build in our heads to deal with our ordinary lives.

But in the ordinary and mundane and routine we find much joy and grace. I think it’s time we get off the treadmill and unplug a bit.

*Originally published on Medium.com.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/06/the-joy-of-missing-out-svend-brinkmann-review

How We Destroy Lives

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An interesting take from David Brooks on the Covington High School fiasco:

Within living memory, political polarization had at least something to do with issues, but in the age of social media it’s almost entirely about social type. It’s about finding and spreading the viral soap operas that are supposed to reveal the dark hearts of those who are in the opposite social type from your own.

It’s about finding images that confirm your negative stereotypes about people you don’t know. It’s about reducing a complex human life into one viral moment and then banishing him to oblivion.

The problem with social media is everything is instant with no room for reflection and dialogue. Everything is now, you must decide, now, and better not be on the wrong side of the argument. The nature of social media loses the person behind the post or tweet. People become a nameless face defined and described by a moment, picture, or statement.

In my opinion, we have too much time on our hands to make this story national news. We give too much attention and weight to things that will be forgotten by the end of the week. Also, pointing to myself, we don’t give enough attention to the stuff that matters in our own lives and communities.

Social media will destroy many lives, and has, because you can’t tell a compelling story, or give a true impression of someone in 180 characters or less. True understanding and connection takes time, effort, and proximity. Something social can’t and doesn’t offer.

(Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/21/opinion/covington-march-for-life.html)

What Did Martin Luther King Jr. Think About Walls?

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In a speech given in 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his thoughts about the Berlin Wall. Seems timely in our current political climate:

“For here on either side of the wall are God’s children and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”

Source: http://time.com/5504826/martin-luther-king-wall-history/

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Pursuing Peace, and 3 Documentaries Worth Watching

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If you live in a America, today is the Martin Luther King Day Jr. holiday. The civil rights leader of the 50s and 60s was a complex man who did much good for equality in America. One of the things I want to instill in my kid’s as followers of Jesus, is to be peacemakers. When they see injustice from the little going ons on the playground, to bigger issues of society, they should speak up and pursue peace.

We often watch the famous MLK, I Have a Dream speech, to remind us the ideals of King are right and good, and also to remember they won’t be fully met this side of heaven. Total justice and equality won’t be realized until King Jesus, “makes all things new.” Knowing these truths keeps us humble and kills the pursuit of a utopian society. We understand the problem of racism and other evils are found at the heart level of every human, and fleshes itself out in other systemic sins of society (my take at least).

But we’ll still work toward peace, justice, and love of neighbor, wherever they are found. Jesus has no problem telling us the heart is wicked and the source of all sins (Mark 7:14-24), and simultaneously calling us to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).

Also, if you have a few minutes in the next couple of weeks, these documentaries are worth a watch. MLK was complex, but it’s important to remember the issues surrounding the Civil Rights Movement were complex as well.

  1. King: A Filmed Record . . . From Montgomery to Memphis, 1970, an older doc worth a watch.

  2. King in the Wilderness, 2018, saw this HBO one last year, and it was fantastic.

  3. In Remembrance of Martin, 1986, this one is from PBS, and they always do a good job.

Mary Oliver on Instructions for Living a Life

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Mary Oliver, the famous Pulitzer Prize winning poet died today. She left behind a large body of fantastic poems. Here’s a line from “Sometimes”:

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

I wonder if we’re living in a day where paying attention, astonishment, and talking about it, is being replaced with: distraction, boredom, and isolation?

(Source: https://readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/sometimes-by-mary-oliver/)

Is Tidying Up with Marie Kondo Helping or Hurting Us?

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My wife watched the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Somehow I got sucked into the vortex of the organizing guru and sweet Asian lady who doesn’t speak English. The premise is simple:

Step #1: Identify reality: you’re a hoarder. You can couch it as sentimentality or memories of the past. No, you’re a hoarder, you have too much stuff, stop playing games.

Step #2: Smell your clothes, hold up your shoes still in the box, and raise up the porcelain clown to the sky. Now ask one vital question: does it bring you joy (What kind of weird voodoo is this?)?

Step #3: Throw out all the crap that doesn’t give you joy. If you can’t, see Step #1.

Step #4: Find some tiny boxes, fold your clothes into the size of a quarter, now place the clothes in the tiny boxes of your drawers. Find more tiny boxes and place the rest of your possessions inside. You should now have nine things to your name.

Step #5: Now celebrate your new life. With your nine things…

Okay, so I’ve taken liberties on how the show works. Nothing against Ms. Kondo. But you get the gist.

Confession time: I took Kondo’s advice, kind of. My wife told me I needed to go through my closet. It was time to purge clothes. Am I a hoarder, maybe?

It felt good to let go of the shirt I bought ten years ago for an Easter Service. The pants with a stain on the butt, but oh so comfortable, needed to go. And yes, my fat man pants, from when I was carrying holiday weight from the mid 90s.

Now, I didn’t take Kondo’s advice verbatim: does this item give me joy? Instead, I asked: is it stained? Does it smell? Does it fit?

I wasn’t ready to let some weird organizing voodoo and self-help mantra enter my soul. Too practical for that.

I’ll say, it was good to do this exercise of purging and simplifying. It always is.

I can’t say my marriage is better. It was good before. I’m not sure if I’m happier. But it is easier to find clothes and not be overwhelmed with options in the morning. When you have fewer clothes, you tend to not only wear what is near the front of the closet. I wear like five things anyway, so thanks Kondo!

The exercise was also good because it revealed how I buy things I don’t need, or get attached to things I don’t wear, or the ways I tell myself I need something, when I don’t.

Good, I guess.

But here’s what I don’t like about shows like Kondo’s, and others. I’m aware that some of these couples on the show need help in organizing and tidying up. Yes, some of these people are hoarders, and have an unhealthy attachment to their stuff. If you watch the show, you see marriages on the rocks because of the amount of junk and mess in their homes, and lives. I get it.

But is tidying up our closets the answer? Is that going to get us where we need to go?

The culture in the West is in a moment of an unhealthy obsession with efficiency, productivity, technology, and yes, organization. The message goes: if I can get organized, find the right app for accomplishing my goals, and of course, eat the right foods, I will be a good person, I will find the joy I’m seeking.

If something is wrong with me or society, we throw money, technology, education, legislation, or mere grit and will at it. I’m not a problem, it’s everything around me.

Is Kondo hurting people, or helping?

Here’s the thing, our culture runs on Law, not Grace. If you follow the rules, whatever we deem to be the rules, you are a good, worthy, and righteous person. If you don’t, well, your life is a mess, and it’s time to ask: does this sweater bring you joy?

Law.

Our foodie obsessed and healthy eating culture is running on Law not grace. If you eat Kale, you’re good, Big Mac, not so much. What is that a Bud Light? Come on, only good people drink craft beers.

Law, and more Law.

So the couple who organizes their home is now in the graces of… what? Not sure. You’ve met the standard by placing your underwear in a ring box. Good job.

The grace of Jesus, is something different all together. Wait, what? A Jesus juke?

Yep, here’s why. All the shows, blogs, and books on productivity, food, organization, goal setting, and the stuff like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, are the product of a Law based culture.

Humans have been trying to make sense of their lives since the beginning; with Law. Whatever standard I set for myself, whether it be God’s Law, or otherwise, is the determining factor if I’m doing well, or failing at life. My law keeping is the factor of my happiness and joy, or not.

The scales of my life are constantly shifting between goodness and badness based upon how well I’m keeping God’s Law, or My Law. I recycled this week, the scale shifts in the right direction. Threw a can into the trash and now a whale will die in the ocean. Scale, wrong direction. Time to get back on track.

Christian people, and non-Christians, do this all the time.

Here’s the scoop, the Law is designed to be a Revealer, to shine a spotlight on how we fall short of God’s commands, and any commands we build for ourselves. The Law is a grace, yes, because it shows where joy is found. When we walk and live in line with God’s best, His Law, things go much better. Stealing, lying, cheating on your spouse, and worshiping things that can’t satisfy, is always the path of despair, death, and disintegration. We know that in our bones.

So we have an entire culture living separated from the God of grace but seeking satisfaction and rightness in how well they’re killing their goals, tidying their homes, or drinking and eating the right foods. It all looks so nice on the surface. Who would shame a person for wanting to lose weight, eat right, and yes, simplify their closets to four pairs of jeans, a shirt, and one pair if undies?
 But it’s a facade, smoke and mirrors, only deals with the surface of our lives. Doesn’t get to the gut, heart, and the soul.

The gospel says: come and eat all who are thirsty and need of drink. You don’t have to have a clean home, kept all your New Year Resolutions, or only eat Kale.

God’s acceptance of us is pure and beautiful and unmerited grace. God’s gift of grace is not because we’re worthy or awesome or drink the right beer. We’re failures when we get honest with ourselves. But God did something about it. He took our place and covered our inability to keep his commands. Everyone needs a Savior, and we can look for it in Jesus, or in tidying our homes, eating the right foods, or voting for the right candidate.

Does that mean we shouldn’t care about what we eat, if our homes are a mess, or have a few goals for improving your life this year, of course not. But that comes later. And whether we’re staying on the diet or eating Big Macs like mints, God’s love and acceptance is still runs on grace.

Our culture is tired and worn out. A little secret no one wants to admit. Modern society is not kind because it runs on Law and not grace. Everything is a competition and everyone is trying to meet some standard that on our best days; we fall on our faces.

Grace is so contrary to the default mode of our hearts and minds. So whether you have four items in your home after taking Marie’s advice, or have newspapers stacked to the ceiling. Grace is still available, and it’s a holy and crazy grace, most of our culture knows nothing about.

Is Kondo helping or hurting us? Not sure, but I’m going with Grace.

*Originally published on Medium.com.

Year in Review: Top Ten Books I Read in 2018

I like challenges. One of those challenges for 2018 was to read 50 books. Well, I did 54, and wanted to share a couple reads I found enjoyable. These are fiction and nonfiction titles.

Nonfiction

#1 The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

I’m a grace junkie, and have always enjoyed Manning’s work on the love and grace of God. This book is a quick and easy read for spurring our affections for Christ.

The Furious Longing of God
By Brennan Manning

#2 Art and the Bible by Francis A. Shaeffer

Shaeffer is somewhat of a hero of mine. The way he connects art, culture, creativity, and the Scriptures is really helpful. If you are a Christian and an artist of any kind, this is a short and encouraging read.

Art and the Bible (Ivp Classics)
By Francis A. Schaeffer

#3 Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

In a distracted world digital technology is not helping our cause. Newport cautions about the overuse of social media, technology, email, and other time wasters, for doing our best work. Very challenging and practical.

#4 The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

Calling all reader’s… please read, and read often. Don’t feel guilty about it either. A great book about the pleasures and necessity of reading.

#5 Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

This book is thirty years old, and prophetically predicted what media would do to our souls and culture. Fascinating and important read.

Fiction

#1 The Body by Stephen King

I’m a sucker for a coming age of story. The Body is a short novel and the inspiration for the 80’s movie Stand by Me. Stephen King is known for horror novels, but his non-scary stuff is some of his best work.

The Body
By Stephen King

#2 Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

A Sci-Fi thriller where a guy is kidnapped and finds himself caught between two worlds. It is sparsely written and fast paced story, with tons of twists and turns. Great book! Check out Crouch’s other work too.

Dark Matter: A Novel
By Blake Crouch

#3 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is my favorite children’s author of the past. I picked this classic up again, and it holds up even as an adult. Great for the kid’s!

#4 Finders Keepers by Stephen King

A crime thriller about a retired detective Bill Hodges solving a case involving stolen books. The book is part of a trilogy. It’s a deep dive into the lives of the characters and fast paced story. Lots of twists and turns. King at his best.

#5 Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

They’re called "brilliants," and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in - and betray his own kind.

Great book, and part of a trilogy.

Clemson QB on Faith and How to Fight the Post Holiday Blues

Freshmen quarterback Trevor Lawrence for Clemson University explains how he keeps calm in stressful situations. It’s part personality and part his faith in Christ. Lawrence nails the heart of Christian faith by finding an identity greater than football and circumstances. He knows his God and knows he’s loved regardless of the final score of the game.

Lawrence taps into something we all need to hear this time of year. Our identity shouldn’t be wrapped up in our performance or things that are temporal. 

Christmas and the holidays are coming to a close. We feel the hint of depression as the hustle and bustle of parties, gift buying/gift giving, school programs, church events, and work parties wind down. The schedule once full in December now empty in January. 

We reflect on 2018 and see the trials and everything in between. Did we lose the weight? Finish our Bible reading plan? Accomplish our financial goals? More time with real humans, and less time staring into the abyss of a screen?

How did we do? Good, bad, average…

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We look to 2019 and set new goals, move on from the past, and focus into the future. Not all bad things. But they are all based in our performance. We base our worth and value and existence on how well we achieve, perform, and find success in whatever we’re trying to accomplish. 

Lawrence is right, we need an identity greater than our accomplishments and the roles we play. We need to know the Christ who performed on our behalf and loves us despite what the scale says, or how much the kid’s liked their gifts, or whether the family got along during the holidays.

I spiral into Post-Holiday-Blues when my identity is rooted in something other than Christ. When it’s planted in the temporal or the roles I play as a husband, father, pastor, writer, friend, son, and neighbor. 

Trevor Lawrence is only 19 years old. I wish I had half the wisdom and faith he does at such a young age. 

When our identity is secure in something eternal and rock solid is doesn't negate the desire to accomplish great things. It doesn't make us passive. But when things aren’t going well, our goals aren't met, and the pass falls to the ground as the clock expires, we aren't crushed either. 

That is the beauty of the gospel. And that’s what will carry us through 2019. 

Thanks for reading in 2018,

Ryan

Christmas Eve, 50 Year Anniversary of the Earthrise Photo, and a Reason to Worship

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Today marks the fifty year anniversary of the earthrise photo taken by Apollo 8 in 1968. The first NASA crew to land on the moon.

Today is also Christmas Eve where millions of people will gather to remember the day the God-Man was born in Bethlehem. The one who made earth and the entire cosmos (John 1).

Most see this anniversary as a historical event to celebrate science and technological advancement. God sees it as a gift. A gift to the world to remind them who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. The one who deserves all glory and honor and praise.

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2 Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge. -Psalm 19:1-2

Merry Christmas!

Say No to the Algorithm Gods

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I’ve blogged consistently since 2004. A variety of topics from angry seminary student and pastor-in-training explaining why the American Church is anathema. Later in 2007, I switched to post-seminary pastor focusing on leadership, theology, and productivity.

Now, I blog on whatever interests me. It could be the family, the writing craft, latest book projects, theology, technology, art, productivity, book reviews, or silly church signs I find along the journey. My blog is now a digital scrapbook for documenting life under the sun. An extension of what I’m thinking about, trying to understand, reading, or creating.

In the heyday of blogging from the early 2000s to 2008, blogs were a platform for people to share a bit of their lives, expertise, or something in between.

Now, blogging and personal websites are giving way to yes, you know, social media. Blogs are no longer documenting family trips and thoughts on your favorite band. The cemetery of neglected blogs is growing and growing with every new social media platform.

Social media is becoming the new blogging.

Is this good?

Yes, and no. Yes, people can still share family photos, favorite recipes, and interesting links to articles. Not a problem.

If the spirit should move you, share your thoughts on God, politics, or why your favorite football team needs new ownership. Freedom of speech makes America great.

But just like blogging platforms that used to be seemingly innocent with people sharing their photos from their trip to Canada. Now social media is a place where trolls and other sociopaths congregate to give their harsh critique on any opinion given from the existential things of God, philosophy, and politics, to why your opinions on movies are way off.

Sometimes this has a place, most of the time it leads nowhere good.

Before social media people did the hard work of finding and engaging with the content, they found interesting and important. You loaded up your RSS feed with blogs and websites you read on a regular basis. You controlled the content.

Social media is now algorithm based. You’re fed the things the gods of the algorithm think you will enjoy based on your likes, comments, and searches. We are no longer in control.

So now, our consumption of content from the social webs is determined on an outside force. This doesn’t mean we don’t have control of who we follow or not. But your feed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is driven by the algorithm machine.

Again, this doesn’t mean we have to interact, like, and comment on what comes into our social feeds. But it also means our temptation of jumping into the fray and commenting and lashing out and not having control of our media is lessened. That’s human nature.

So back to blogs and websites. Despite the billions of social media users blogs are making a comeback. And I think for good reason. People want control over the content they create and consume.

I used to post articles from my blog on social and they would get a lot of interaction. This was before the algorithm gods changed their metrics. Now 1–5% of my followers even see the stuff I make. The algorithm gods determine the worth of the articles based on the previous interactions of my content, likes, comments, and even whether they have images or links.

I’m at the mercy of the social media gods.

This doesn’t mean blogs and websites aren’t read. They’re now read primarily through links on social media sites.

Hossein Derakhshan argues what we have now is The Stream:

“The Stream now dominates the way people receive information on the web. Fewer users are directly checking dedicated webpages, instead getting fed by a never-ending flow of information that’s picked for them by complex –and secretive — algorithms.

The Stream means you don’t need to open so many websites any more. You don’t need numerous tabs. You don’t even need a web browser. You open Twitter or Facebook on your smartphone and dive deep in. The mountain has come to you. Algorithms have picked everything for you. According to what you or your friends have read or seen before, they predict what you might like to see. It feels great not to waste time in finding interesting things on so many websites.”

Is The Stream good?

I don’t think so. It’s making us passive consumers who live at the mercy of our social media feeds. The gods of social are making guesses of who we are and what we like. Which can be so subjective especially when you consume something you wouldn’t normally interact with. Browse a book on Amazon you’d never read and watch how the same genre of books pop up in your search feeds.

They bombard us with content and images and video that form ideas in our minds. We make too quick of judgments, accusations, and assumptions because of the constant blasts of micro content.

The Stream will lessen our ability to think, reflect, and speak in winsome ways. The Stream will make our human relationships more shallow and our ideas about the world disconnected and fragmented.

Later Hossein says The Stream is just another form of TV:

“The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

When I log on to Facebook, my personal television starts. All I need to do is to scroll: New profile pictures by friends, short bits of opinion on current affairs, links to new stories with short captions, advertising, and of course self-playing videos. I occasionally click on like or share button, read peoples’ comments or leave one, or open an article. But I remain inside Facebook, and it continues to broadcast what I might like. This is not the web I knew when I went to jail. This is not the future of the web. This future is television.” (source: https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426)

TV makes us passive and consumption focused. Reading, writing, and thinking is active and creator-centric.

I believe the blog and other websites will find a fresh voice in the coming years. Not that social media is going anywhere. Not that The Stream is going anywhere either. But people are seeing the addictive nature and waste of time social media is. We’ve been lied to that if you’re not constantly on social you’re missing out.

But the best things in life never happen on the internet, do they? I hope not.

People will find their own content and not be controlled by the algorithm gods any longer. Who wants to be controlled inside a media platform of what I have to consume, what I have to interact with, I want my freedoms back. It’s coming.

I’ve taken steps in my social media consumption. Last year, April 2017, I fasted from social media for 40 days. From that exercise, it showed me the unnecessary need for constant social media interaction. I still post on social, but spend little time interacting, and scrolling.

Has my life worsened?

Nope. Still have a great family, friends, church family, still know what’s going on in the world, and people still find my work.

I’m not an alarmist and I think social media sites have some value. But I think people are asking bigger questions for how we interact with media. What are the long term ramifications of our obsession with social media?

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re trying to scale back social media. Alan Jacobs gives an eight point response for your consideration:

1. I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.

2. I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about.

3. I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response.

4. I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge.

5. If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent.

6. Private communication can be more valuable than public.

7. Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction.

8. Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.

(Source: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/the-8-point-social-media-apostasy-of-alan-jacobs/)

I hope we can have more meaningful conversations around dinner tables, cafes, and living room into the future. Don’t let The Steam win.

*Originally published on Medium.com

Neglected Christmas Songs, the Death of Trying, and Why the Baby Brings Joy?

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One of the most neglected Christmas songs of all time from a non-religious band is from The Band, Christmas Must Be Tonight. They suggest and ask the listener to consider a profound truth in the song:

(Chorus)

How a little baby boy

Bring the people so much joy

Son of a carpenter

Mary carried the light

This must be Christmas, must be tonight

How does a little baby boy bring so much joy?

I can’t answer that question for you, but it has something to do with what the baby came to do… namely save us from our sins, and heal the entire cosmos.

A great reason to have joy, right?

Another band, a favorite, is Big Star that sought to understand why we’re here, and what the life under the sun is all about. Unfortunately, they missed the heart of the gospel. Check out these lyrics from Try Again:

Lord, I've been trying to be what I should

Lord, I've been trying to do what I could

But each time it gets a little harder

I feel the pain

But I'll try again

Lord, I've been trying to be understood

And lord, I've been trying to do as you would

But each time it gets a little harder

I feel the pain

But I'll try again

Trying to be what I should… trying to be what I could…

The gospel is not about trying hard to please God, or striving to become something we lack. The heart of the gospel is Do vs. Done. We don’t earn or work for anything; it has been done for us in the baby that brings joy.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing we're called to do considering our renewed relationship with God. Grace is opposed to earning, not effort. We obey and honor the ones you love. But trying and striving to be something or earn something from God will only lead us to frustration.
Maybe that was the heart behind Try Again? A man struggling to become what he thought God wanted, and couldn't seem to rest in grace.

The good news of Christmas and the message of Jesus that brings great joy… is everything we couldn’t do for ourselves has been done by the Anointed Son.

That’s a song I can get in to!