Opinion

Thoughts on Jogging...

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I’ve looked far and wide to describe my disdain for jogging.

Here’s a little help from Frederick Buechner:

IT IS SUPPOSED TO be good for the heart, the lungs, the muscles, and physical well-being generally. It is also said to produce a kind of euphoria known as joggers' high. 

 The look of anguish and despair that contorts the faces of most of the people you see huffing and puffing away at it by the side of the road, however, is striking. If you didn't know directly from them that they are having the time of their lives, the chances are you wouldn't be likely to guess it.

 -Originally published in Whistling in the Dark

Ten Years Ago Today...

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Ten years ago I experienced a highlight of my short life. Not all that usual and something most people experience. If you’re reading this… it happened to you. I witnessed the birth of our first daughter, Samantha.

Every year on March 13th, we celebrate the birth of our sweet-Sammy-girl. The seared images in the hospital room haunt my mind. Samantha’s chubby cheeks, wide-Pelton-nose, much like her brother Owen and great-grandpa, and lots of hair, thick locks of red hair. Watch out for those redheads they’re not messing around.

But while most people prepared to drink green beer and inhale Shamrock Shakes in 2009, we celebrated with heavy hearts. Those images of hospital rooms, beeping machines, visiting family members, and tears, lots of tears, had a different edge.

The entire pregnancy was one of uncertainty. Would Christy make it to full term? Would there be complications with Samantha? We had prepared ourselves for the worst. Most families are preparing a room with decorations and color schemes matching a boy or girl.

We were preparing our hearts for burial.

Read the rest on Medium…

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. 

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)

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

Will Our Boys Thrive or Starve with the Current Models of Christian Leadership?

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Is it time to consider the Master Leader for next-generation leadership in the 21st century?

The engine of the predominant leadership model in the modern world needs more than a tune up, it needs an overhaul. The leadership ethos of power, control, efficiency, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and Law; is ineffective and left wanting.

Is it time to consider a new path and a way forward for the upcoming generation of boys soon to be men? Can we in good conscious say the current models of leadership in business, politics, media, entertainment, church, and home, are worthy of imitation?

Every day we hear of a new scandal in the White House, an abuse of power in the boardroom, a sexual predator in Hollywood, and inappropriate behavior of our clergy. Are these the role models of leadership we want to hand down to our kid’s? Can we do better?

I think we can, but it will take a kind of leadership that is so countercultural and against the grain of our modern sensibilities most will reject it. A leadership that embraces and embodies the Master Leader’s wisdom that critiqued our models of power and said (my paraphrase): don’t lord over others (like the world), don’t use your authority to control and manipulate and abuse, become a servant. That’s what I came to do, and it’s the best way to live and lead (Matt. 25:25–28).

I’m speaking to males (not because this doesn’t apply to females), rather, I am a man, and don’t like the hand we’ve been dealt for male Christian leadership in every sphere of life. Let’s say I have a particular soft spot for the next generation of men. Why?

We have a generation of boys pretending to be men. Men who aren’t ready to take a wife, to lead her, love her, serve her. Men who think playing nine hours of video games is a healthy way to live out our existence under the sun. And men who don’t think pornography is harming them or anyone else. Men who think the world owes them something because they are a special snowflake.

We have too many men who aren’t equipped and ready to lead a company or church or family or themselves because the models of leadership handed down in our modern world are built on sand. It’s time we rebuild the foundation with steel.

So what could countercultural Christian leadership look like in the 21st century? What beliefs, practices, and habits are essential for a new way of being and leading in the next generation?

Henri Nouwen in his book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, examines the temptation of Jesus to navigate a way forward for Christian leadership. He suggests three shifts, and three disciplines, for empowering the next generation of leadership:

Shift #1: From Relevance to Prayer

When Jesus had fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days Satan tempted him. The first temptation was:

“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread,” (Matt. 4:3).

The temptation of relevance is the air we breathe in our culture. Here’s Jesus being tempted by Satan two thousand years ago. Do a trick for us Jesus… turn those rocks into whole wheat. Show your relevancy and give us what the market demands. We’re hungry, fill our bellies, you’re a difference maker, and impacting the world. Don’t prove to be a square.

Relevance is tempting because at our core we want to make a difference. Seen as someone who has the answers, knows what’s going on, and appears to be in the loop.

But Jesus’ way of being and living and leading is not bent on relevance. He need not prove anything to anyone. He doesn’t have to be in the know and have all the answers (even though he has all the answers being the Son of God).

Jesus is secure in the Father’s love.

Notice how he responds to Satan:

“It is written… Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matt. 4:4).

Bread is nice. Getting things done and making a difference is fine. But man can’t live on relevance alone. Man is built for more than our cultural moment. He needs something greater than accomplishments, success, money, and power. Men need something greater and better and more satisfying.

Man needs God.

Men need to hear a word from Someone that’s not temporal and the latest fad. They need to hear someone say: you’re loved regardless if anyone knows your name, business, or ministry. Your relevance doesn’t predict your acceptance, and your relevance doesn’t tip the scales of my love.

Discipline #1: Prayer

So how do we cultivate a leadership and a life that’s not bent and obsessed on relevance? We pray. Not just pray, but pray like a mystic. Hang on and don’t get weirded out.

Nouwen defines a mystic as someone who’s identity is rooted in God’s first love. Some have called it, God’s one-way love. Prayer is not just asking God to get you out of jams. Prayer is cultivating a relationship with a person. Prayer is the avenue to cultivate an identity rooted in God’s love, and not relevance.

The dirty little secret of Silicon Valley is the suicide rate is sky high. No one talks about it. In all the efforts to paint a picture of Apple, Facebook, and Google, being the company to work for, what you find under the hood isn’t pretty.

Yet, young men are being lured into these jobs because they are the relevant place to work. Who doesn’t want to be relevant, right?

But right now in cubicles, board rooms, and pastor’s offices, are men who hate themselves, feel irrelevant, and wonder why no one seems to notice them, or their work. They won’t voice it, but it’s real. I’ve been there.

Prayer is how we cultivate and experience the one-way love of God. Prayer is how we fight the temptation of relevance.

Shift #2: From Popularity to Ministry

Who doesn’t like crazy stunts on You Tube? When I was a kid, we used to ride bicycles off roofs into our friends pools. One of my favorite shows growing up was That’s Incredible, filled with crazy things people did and lived to tell about it.

Jesus tempted a second time is asked to become a stunt man. Satan says:

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down…” (Matt. 4:5–6).

Come on Jesus, you’re the Son of God, throw yourself off the Temple. The angels will come and save you, right? Pull off this stunt and you’ll be the most popular Rabbi in the land.

Every day we’re tempted to be popular. To prove we have what it takes to do the job, get the girl, and make stuff happen.

Jesus wouldn’t play that game. But instead he says:

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” (Matt. 4:7).

Jesus didn’t need popularity to live a full life. He didn’t have to prove himself as popular by jumping through the test of Satan.

In fact, every time Jesus did a miracle or something amazing, he’d deflect the act, and tell the recipient of divine grace to keep it under wraps.

When Jesus completed his ministry and resurrected from the dead, he only had 120 followers. By the worlds standards, Jesus was a failure. His popularity was abysmal. 120 followers on social is loser status.

But these 120 disciples changed the world.

Popularity is a fools errand because it’s an isolating act. Seeking popularity is about the Holy Trinity of: me, myself, and I. When you only care about being seen, known, and respected, we push others away. Instead of ministering to others, we’re consumed with perception, or if we’re living up to our standards.

Popularity breeds a belief we have all the gifts, knowledge, and ability to make stuff happen. We possess no weaknesses or faults.

Like Jesus, when we have our identity rooted in the Father’s love, we have no reason to prove ourselves worthy to others. We don’t have to become the mythical stuntman.

So what discipline do we need to fight off the temptation of popularity?

Discipline #2: Confession and Forgiveness

The next generation leader needs a healthy dose of confession, forgiveness, and repentance. No man, woman, or child sees everything, knows everything, has no weaknesses, and can accomplish everything. We all have a sin problem and live in a fallen world. We must acknowledge our sins, tell God, others, and keep short accounts with both.

Saying we’re sorry is one of the most countercultural moves in the universe.
 When we can embrace the reality, we’re all pilgrims on the way, and we hurt God and others daily, and popularity is a dead end, we’ll confess our sins.

When we can be vulnerable and say we’re sorry: we no longer live in isolation of God and others. We enter our communities as equals, no longer needing to be top dog, and marveling at grace.

Shift #3: From Leading to Being Led

As men, this one is difficult. Men want to lead and be out in front. Whether it be at work, school, or home. Leading to being led, is a question of power.

Notice the third temptation of Jesus:

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me,” (Matt. 4:8–9).

Jesus knows power corrupts. Economic, political, and religious power are a threat to intimacy. If our life pursuit is power and control, it pushes aside anyone or anything that gets in our way. Most people on a power trip have a hard time developing intimate relationships with God or people.

Power always threatens intimacy.

Notice how Jesus responds to the temptation of power:

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve,’” (Matt. 4:10).

Jesus says, I’m good. You can keep your kingdoms, I will worship and serve God. Power makes for a poor God and threatens worship. Power blinds and makes us god-like. What good is it to have the whole world and forfeit your soul?

So how do we shift from seeking a leadership bent on power? How can we shift from always leading, to being led, and loved by God?

Discipline #3: Theological Reflection

Theological reflection is not about taking seminary classes. Theological reflection is a discipline rooted in shaping and forming a mind in Christ. The world will pummel every man with visions of true masculinity, success, and the good life.

Having minds sharpened and formed by the Scriptures, Christian teachers/pastors/family, and other good Christian literature, is a way to fight the temptations of a world allergic to grace.

Theological reflection is also about discerning where God is leading us, where he’s speaking, and how we can announce good news in a world falling apart.

When we take the discipline of theological reflection seriously we can live, act, pray, and work in Jesus’ name. For his glory, our joy and good, and for the joy of others.

What Nouwen has laid out for the future of Christian leadership is challenging. But a challenge the next generation of Jesus-loving men need to consider.

(Source: In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, by Henri Nouwen.)

*Originally published on Medium.com (faith hacking)

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.

Why Do We Struggle to Keep our New Year Resolutions?

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As 2018 comes to a close people will reflect and set new goals and resolutions for 2019. Some will balk at the idea and say they're stupid and a waste of time. Regardless of where you stand on the Resolution Train I think the practice is important for two reasons:

  1. Resolutions creates space to pause and reflect on the previous year and give thanks for the good, bad, and everything in between. And to adjust unhealthy patterns in all of life. Gratitude is the key to a happy life, but if we never pause to think about the good, we become cynical. 

  2. Resolutions fight against living a passive life. People often say: let go and let God. Or, just go with the flow. That’s fine. But God hasn’t called us to passivity. No one ever stumbles into godliness and joy, and no one ever loses weight, pays off debt, or grows their spiritual life or craft without a plan. 

We could add more reasons for the benefits of goals and resolutions but something larger looms in my head on the subject. Why do I stink at keeping them? What factors contribute to failing weeks into a goal?

I’ve gone down the weight loss rabbit hole and fizzled out around February many times. Other years I’ve planned to read the Bible in a year and lost steam around Leviticus. We’ve gotten our financial house in order for a few months before April came and the IRS said: pay up. 

So why is it hard to keep goals and resolutions?

Let me take a stab based on no research and mere conjecture and learning from past failures on my part:

1. Our goals and resolutions are too vague. 

Weight loss and getting healthy in 2019 is not a bad goal. But a better goal is to give a specific number and timeline. 20 pounds by July 1. When I think about failed resolutions and goals, they often swim in generic terms like: pay off debt, read the Bible more, get healthy, grow spiritually, or date my wife.

When goals are too vague, it takes the pressure off whether we fail or succeed. We have no way of measuring progress when possible. 

2. Our goals and resolutions have no plan of attack. 

Okay, so you want to read the entire Bible in the year. What plan will you follow? How many pages and chapters must you read per day to hit the finish line? Will you take days off?

Want to pay off debt... what is the plan? How will you determine the amount to pay each month? Will you get a side job to help? What do you need to cut back on?

Whether you are trying to lose a few pounds, spend more time with your loved ones, what is our plan of attack? Whenever I’ve failed on goals, I had no solid plan. 


3. Our goals and resolutions never go public.

Once your goals go public and shared with others things get real. It’s easy to downplay resolutions when you keep them to yourself. This doesn’t mean we have to share every detail of the goal. But having a community of people rooting you on is essential for keeping goals and resolutions. 

When you know your goals are not being attempted in isolation, it can be a huge motivator to keep going.When I’ve failed over the years I kept my goals secret.

My three reasons for not accomplishing goals and resolutions might seem obvious. We all know when our goals are vague we can take them or leave them. When a plan isn’t in place the probability of completing the goal slim to none. Not seeking accountability and support from others make them hard too. 

But one reason rises to the top. It’s something that has helped me accomplish goals and resolutions on a more consistent basis. And it simply is this: you have to know WHY?

Why do I want to pay off debt, lose weight, read the Bible, be more creative, build a business, or spend more time with the ones I love, serve my neighbors, and be more generous? Can you answer the question?

Losing weight is an obvious choice for many people in 2019. Most will say they want to lose weight to be more healthy. Okay. But why? Is there a bigger reason to be healthy?

How about so I can keep up with my young family? Health allows to serve other people and not be wiped out all the time. Maybe so I can play in the companies basketball league and get to know my coworkers. Being physically healthy also feeds into my spiritual life and the joy quotient. We are wholistic people of minds, bodies, and souls which work in tandem. They all feed off each other.

Knowing your WHY gives a weight and intensity to your goals and resolutions. I don’t want to just read the Bible for religious, academic, or guilt reasons. I want to read the Bible because it’s the avenue for cultivating a closeness and intimacy with God. It’s an opportunity to teach and encourage others to know God and follow his ways. If my only reason for reading the Bible in a year is because it would be good for me spiritually (which it is). You won’t keep going when Leviticus gets boring. You need to know your WHY?

I can’t answer your WHY? But this year if you’re so inclined and you jump on the Resolution Train. Consider your why, and may it be the launching pad to see these goals realized. 

If you’re not sure what your WHY is? Keep asking why… Why do I want to lose weight? To be healthy. Why do you want to be healthy? To keep up with our kid’s. Okay, why? If you keep digging and asking: why, why, why? You’ll find a greater motivation to keep going when times get hard. 

Find your why. Make it public. Get specific and have a plan. Do these things and you’ll amazed what you’ll accomplish in 2019. 

Now before I go, let’s practice what we preach. I’m going public with a couple goals for 2019. I won’t give the why, but you can hold me to these things:

1. Read 75 books. I read 55+ past year. 

2. Read the entire Bible in One Year. I didn’t do it last year, and instead read deeply in specific books.

3. Read the entirety of John Calvin’s Institutes. I read the whole thing in seminary, and would like to revisit this classic treasure of Christian theology. 

4. Pay off debts from 2018 (new kid, unexpected house expenses).

5. Be more generous than last year in money, time, and relationships. 

6. Okay, a cliche, but needed… get to 169 pounds.

7. Write 500,000 new words for the blogs, articles, and books. 

8. Reboot monthly date night with my wife. Finally out of the fog of a newborn.

9. Win the Super Bowl… got to dream big, right?

I have others… But here we go...

Happy New Year, and thanks for following along!

Ryan

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

I Want To Be Like George

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The eulogy from George W. Bush to his father was quite moving.

When all is said and done, what do we want to be known for?

Big houses? Cars? Fame and fortune?

Or, to be known as a kind, generous, and thoughtful person, who cared about their spouse, kid’s, family, friends, neighbors, and tried to leave things better than we found them?

Bush Sr. was not a perfect man, nor a perfect President. But the testimonies of his kindness and generosity toward his family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors is inspiring.

I pray our country will have more role models like Bush in the coming generations. They’re a dime a dozen these days.

Christmas, Doubting Our Doubts, and Hope

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Creative Commons (pixabay.com)

Most people love the cultural vibe around the Christmas holidays. Time with family and friends. Parties. Egg Nog. Vacation. Exchanging gifts. The Elf movie. Sledding with the kid’s. 

All good things.

I also know the holidays elicit memories we’d like to forget. Loss of loved ones. Abuse. Abandonment. Divorce and separation. Loneliness. Pain. Poverty.

But in the shuffle of Christmas programs and Egg Nog and trips to Walmart do we ever ask: What is Christmas about?

No, not the commercialized and sanitized version we celebrate in America, with Santa’s, Elves, and Big Box Stores.  I’m talking about the Christmas that has roots in Christianity and the Messiah Jesus. 

It’s fascinating to think an entire culture celebrates a holiday that has roots in a baby born two thousand years ago to a virgin woman in Bethlehem, and yet most people say: pass the Egg Nog, and should we watch Christmas Vacation, or Santa Claus tonight?

What is Christmas really about?

Christmas is about all the things I mentioned above. Joy and sadness, community, and loneliness. The world is not what it should be, and we’re part of the problem.

The Christmas Story is wrought with the tension of life and death, joy and sorrow.

Jesus knew what he was getting into, he made the world after all. His own people rejected and abandoned the Light of the World. The Anointed One and his family ran for their lives from a Roman dictator. Jesus came into the world where it said: sorry, no room at the inn. 

Jesus came into a world we all know too well.

Yet, unlike us, Jesus didn’t throw up his hands, and say: good ridden’s. Instead, Jesus came with good tidings, of great joy!

God had not abandoned his people or world. He would not be a passive observer and sit on his hands. He would act. The Messiah born of the virgin came to save and restore what sin and death stole. The things that went against God’s original and perfect design. 

Jesus came to bring light and life, to heal, and restore all things. 

Christmas is about living with the tensions that we’re fatally flawed and the world is a dark place. Yet, we’re more loved, and have more hope, than we could ever imagine. 

The Story of Christmas is about deep sadness and extreme joy. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Christmas is about a gift that won’t fade when the next trash day comes. 

Christmas and Jesus says all of these things. 

I know people have a hard time with the whole virgin birth and babies saving the world. But nothing in the Jesus-story is asking us to toss our brains out the door. This is not a blind leap of faith into the dark. 

We have history on our side.

The prophets of the Old Testament had been telling the story of the Messiah who’d come as a virgin in Bethlehem seven hundred years before Jesus was born. God was not asking us to check our brains at the door. Christian faith is rooted in history, not fantasy, and rooted in a God who fulfills his promises.

Recently I read a Frederick Buechner quote that said:

“UNBELIEF IS AS MUCH OF A CHOICE as belief is. What makes it in many ways more appealing is that, whereas to believe in something requires some measure of understanding and effort, not to believe doesn't require much of anything at all.”

It’s easier to allow Christmas to just be another excuse to spend too much and drink too much. Christmas can be just another excuse to blame our terrible parents or a bad lot in life. It’s easier to not believe in anything, or just take Santa at his word. 

I get it. 

But I believe Christmas is an opportunity to consider the hope found in a baby born in a manger. We keep talking about Jesus, singing about him, and celebrating a holiday that has become more cultural and less spiritual, yet, is still all about the Messiah. 

Maybe this Christmas we doubt our own doubts and investigate the God who said: I am the Way, Truth, and Life. Anyone who believes in me will have eternal life. 

The world is too messy and beautiful to chalk it up as random chance and merely a science experiment gone wrong. 

I think there’s much more going on, and Jesus might have something to do with it.

Eye Candy, Smokescreens, and Accepting Mediocrity

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Do these numbers mean anything to you?

$219, 000, 000 +

$122, 000, 000 +

$118, 000, 000 +

They shouldn’t unless you’re a sports geek on cosmic levels. These numbers are the amount of money three NFL players have made in their career:

Eli Manning

Jay Cutler

Sam Bradford

Whether you watch football or care there’s something interesting about these salaries and the men who are paid gobs of money to play with a ball. It’s eye candy and smokescreens.

Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls, we’ll give him that. But has only made the playoffs 6 times in his career of 15 years. Will have a 59% completion percentage, and might have a 500 winning percentage.

Jay Cutler has also made gobs of money. Came into the league with much promise and natural gifts. But he has been average at best. Losing record 74-79, quite a few touchdowns, but a ton of interceptions. Played in 2 playoff games in 12 seasons.

Sam Bradford, oh man. A guy who can’t stay healthy and has been paid money we all dream about. A backup quarterback at best. Losing record, only played a full season twice, no playoff wins.

Smokescreens and eye candy. What we can learn from these examples is choosing the easy route for your life and organization. It’s easy to allow someone to be mediocre for years when from the eye test, everything appears good. At least they aren’t difficult to work with and don’t make a mess of things. Or, maybe, the person is better than the other options available.

But in all these examples these men have not put their organizations in a better place. They have set their clubs back many years because the investment was so high for eye candy, smokescreens, and mediocrity.

High salaries are proven to not motivate even the best employees. Can even work against the worker who gets comfortable and relies on past achievements. Not pushing themselves to be better.

Nothing against Manning, Bradford, or Cutler. This is not an attack on their character or blaming them for taking these ridiculous salaries with average results.

I get it. Everything is a risk and not everything works out.

But when a guy is asked to do a job for 8, 12, 15 years with mediocre results, maybe it’s time to move on.

I think a lot of decisions we make aren’t based on seeing the bigger whole and vision and settling for mediocrity. Well, they're a good guy or gal. They went to a good school. Who cares?

It’s easier to let the eye candy and smokescreen test fool you. Paying a guy who appears to “look” like a quarterback for many years to get average results.

The Seattle Seahawks won a Super Bowl with Russell Wilson who was working with a rookie contract. Patrick Mahomes is a second year player with a 9-2 record, and an MVP candidate. More money doesn’t equal results. And the eyes can deceive us.

The Holiday Motel, Shootings, First Things, and the Human Element

I drive by the Holiday Motel every week. It’s on a street in Kansas City that’s rough, to say it nicely. And happens to be a street I live near with my family.

The Holiday Motel, Prospect and 53rd in Kansas City, MO.

The Holiday Motel, Prospect and 53rd in Kansas City, MO.

Whenever I drive by, I pray. I pray for the people I see going into her bowels. I know drugs and prostitution are rampant in the motel. I pray, and sometimes I don’t know what to pray. But when I drive by, I wonder about the stories of the people. What happened in their lives that they’d find themselves in The Holiday Motel. Which I’m guessing is no “holiday.”

This is not judgment. I know people who are prostitutes and they didn’t choose their vocation. It chose them because of the abuse and neglect they experienced as young people. If a different option and opportunity presented itself, they would be out. Everyone has a story.

Today, I heard of another shooting in Thousands Oaks, California. A seemingly safe and calm place. But here we are again, 11 dead. A man with apparent PTSD from the military shot up a bunch of young people hanging out in a country bar.

When I think about the Holiday Motel and the rampant shootings and political nonsense in our country, I think about humans, and the human element. We can talk about gun laws (important), we can talk about education (important), and we can talk about politics, sometimes important. But what about the human element? What C.S. Lewis calls first things:

“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

— C. S. Lewis

First things are loving God and people. Our first knee-jerk reaction is to go to politics and solutions and anger when someone shoots another person. These are second things.

First things are the human element. What happened in the life of a man that would gun down innocent people? Did anyone know of his struggles and dark night of the soul? Did he have friends and family to walk with (I’m not justifying his behavior)?

Why are people racist and angry? Who kills their wife and young children and shoves them in an oil barrel?

We want change in our world, and yet, we don’t want to love the people right in front of us. The families and neighbors who live next door, go to our kids schools, and image bearers in our churches and institutions.

Second things have become first things.

First things is about hearing the stories of others, entering their pain, meeting their needs, and not making judgements as a first response.

First things is about sacrificing our time, money, and energy for the benefits of others. In a country that majors on second things, lets become a first thing people.

Hope on Voting Day

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pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

When President Obama ran for office, he made promises of Hope and the Change We Need. Trump wanted to Make America Great Again. George W. Bush said, Yes America Can!

Underlying all the campaign slogans and promises is a message of hope. A vision for a better future predicated on a political party and execution of policy. Politics is a rallying cry to give people something politicians believe they’re lacking: hope. 

Unfortunately, the promises of politicians and pundits and good-willed leaders of our country place their focus on transitory and flimsy and fading hopes. Ask any politician their definition of hope, and what they believe Americans need, and you’ll get as varying answers and broad cliches as a child trying to solve an Algebra problem. 

Hope is what we need, and yet hope is allusive and hard to nail down, and no one quite agrees when we see it. Are there any sure bets for hope? Can we say our future will be better than today because of the results of an election?

When I vote today, my hope is not in future leaders of this country, particular parties running the House, propositions passed to lower or raise taxes, or Making America Great Again. I build my hope on a living reality with backbone and grit and teeth and a secure and promised future. 

In the Bible, the letter of 1st Peter was written to a people who lacked hope. They were a marginalized community persecuted for following the Risen Messiah.  Each day was a fight for survival and their future was unclear. The dictatorship and oppressive regime, in which they lived in the first century, makes our situation in America look like a lazy Sunday and walk in the park. 

So what do you tell a people in this situation? What do you tell people who lack hope? Everything will be okay, despite a possibility they may crucify you in the town square, or toss you to lions in the Coliseum. What words of encouragement do you give a marginalized people that have no power, influence, or voice in their community? 

You tell them about hope. A hope not found in themselves or in government. A living hope. Hope rooted in history and secure in the present and future. Hope that makes dead people alive. A hope not bound by circumstances or economic markets or unemployment percentages. 

Hope found in resurrection. A resurrection of the God-Man Jesus Christ in time and space and history for sinners like us. A resurrection that opened the gates of hope and triumphed over our greatest enemies: sin, death, hell, sorrow, suffering, and the world. A resurrection that happened in history and the promise of future resurrection for all who are loyal to Jesus. 

This living hope can’t be taken away regardless of economic circumstance, who’s in office, color of your skin, or what side of the tracks you were born.  The miraculous hope found in resurrection is secured in heaven. 

On Voting Day, we need a hope outside ourselves. Vote and participate with our neighbors and community in your civil duty and right as a citizen of America. But don’t think for a second that the results of an election are the end or beginning of hope. 

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and his righteousness. 

That anthem will guard my heart and mind as I work through the ballot today. I hope it will be true for you too…

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” -1 Peter 1:3-5. 

Is Facebook Dispensable?

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Since last Easter I’ve taken a break from excessive use of Facebook and other social media networks. I know, I know, save your comments. I’m not better than you, but I will say, it has saved precious time for other relational and creative pursuits. And I’ll also say, it has been much harder than I’d like to admit. 

Back to my main point.

Cal Newport recently wrote an article called, “On Facebook’s Unique Weakness,” and made some interesting observations. 

He mentioned Facebook losing 120 million dollars last quarter and quoted from another commentator on the brilliance of Facebook’s business model. The other commentator compared Facebook’s business comparable to Apple, Google, and Amazon. He also said despite Facebook’s plummet in revenue, it would recover, and continue its dominance in the market. 

Newport disagrees. He said this:

“While Facebook’s value might be comparable to these other companies at the moment, it suffers from a unique weakness that I don’t think is discussed enough by the professional investor class: it’s dispensable.”

Facebook suffers from a unique weakness… it’s not essential and helpful like smartphones and personal computers of Apple. Google is one of the most important inventions in modern times for research and information seeking. Facebook is not. Amazon, well, what can we say, second largest search engine next to Google. Not to mention the Buy It Now button. 

Facebook is dispensable. 

It might recover from their monetary slump, it might not. But if Apple, Google, or Amazon go away, there will be larger societal problems, for a time, until something else comes along. 

If Facebook vanishes, I think we’ll be okay. 

Social media networks are a fun way to connect, share links, and sometimes, do business. But they are indispensable. They are not essential for the health of a soul, neighborhood, or society. I wonder if the addictive nature of Facebook and other networks keeps them in business?

My subtle move away from social networks is not a righteous act. It’s more about asking: Why do I need this technology? Does it add to my joy? Will it help build deeper relationships? What am I escaping by succumbing to her grip?

Nothing inherently wrong with social media networks. Nothing wrong with seeing how the family is doing on Facebook. But I wonder if our society will start seeing what Newport sees, the unique weakness of Facebook… it’s dispensable.