On Live-Tweeting

Lately I’ve been thinking about the swiftness with which I can exhibit my thoughts and actions to the world. Within seconds I can shoot my 140 character ideas out for the rest of the world to see, or I can post a photo of myself [or anyone or anything else I want] up on the internet, or I can write out [much like I’m doing right now] my thoughts in a very authoritarian manner for everyone to see and [theoretically] be impressed by my superior knowledge or insight or skill as a writer.

Recently I read the most hilarious article on Buzzfeed [which tends to pair gifs with one-liners to get the bang for their buck with every scroll of the key-pad] by someone who decided to live-tweet their first ever watching of the Harry Potter movies. It was hilarious. I wish I’d thought of doing something that funny. And it was good – because Harry Potter isn’t really a big deal.

Now [before you charge at me with pitchforks], I love Harry Potter just as much as any early-twenties-grew-up-with-Harry-person does. Several of my books have lost their covers. All of them have cookie crumbs sandwiched between the pages. I’ve pinned multiple recipes for butterbeer on my pinterest. But, sometimes I wonder if we bring that same live-tweeting attitude that this author brought to Harry Potter into the rest of our lives.

Perhaps some things shouldn’t be for live-tweeting.

I think we know this instinctively. We don’t often see instagrams of open coffins at quiet family funerals with the hashtag #rip. And at church on Sunday we don’t usually make youtube videos of our communion services. Some things are, quite literally, sacred.

Sometimes I feel like I should use my blog to write about things that are more serious. Perhaps I should talk about the horrific violence in the middle east, or the situation taking place in Ferguson, MO, or feminism, or politics. Or many other important things. The truth is, I probably should talk about these things. But I don’t think I should live-tweet them. Sure, live-tweeting is a great way to get short bursts of facts [facts?] out quickly to the general public. But it would not be a good idea for me to give you a play-by-play on my thoughts on sexism. Or my thoughts on healthcare. Or my ideas on education. These are important issues, worthy of my careful thought and, as such, I should take time to decide exactly what to say on the subject.

I could live-tweet my opinions, but, if I did, I think that almost every hour I would post a revision, or a disclaimer, or a retraction, or a rephrasing, or an update. Or, I might end up saying something totally embarrassing and ridiculous and then I’d end up posted all over the internet as a “Fail” and I’d never live it down.

So, for now, the hard and pointy-edged subjects will remain sequestered in my computer’s documents folder – snippets of phrases and opening statements ready for constant revision and rethinking. It’s likely that many of these subjects will never make it off the cutting board and onto the internet. And that’s ok.

Some things are sacred and I think that, in the same way we don’t instagram at a funeral of a loved one, we already recognize when we are in this situation. Some things are sacred and require our quiet concentration and reflection. Some things are sacred and I don’t want to belittle them by throwing unfinished and confused thoughts into the babble. This is how I feel about war and sexism and politics and crime – these things are important and deserve much more attention than what I can do with a 140-character statement, or [at this stage in my life] a 1,200 word blog-post. I’m not going to tell you what I think about these things because I’m not quite sure what I think of it yet. I do think of it. But I think a lot and it tumbles around in my head – but not yet out onto paper.

Maybe someday I’ll find words to put to what I see in the world. But, for now, I’m thankful for Harry Potter funnies to give my mind a break from the tumbling, confusing, complicated, sacred subjects.

Here are the Harry Potter funnies, in case you need a break too [advance warning: there’s some language in this]: http://www.buzzfeed.com/danieldalton/krum-like-it-hot#vxd1nr

Advertisements

Ring Out Wild Bells

Well, it is officially the Christmas season now, I suppose. I’ve been doing my Christmas shopping, baking Christmassy treats, and planning festivities. And yet it isn’t Christmas yet. It’s still Advent. Technically Advent is the time leading up to the arrival of Christ on Christmas day – but it also allegorically follows the suffering of the people of God who have been waiting for the coming of their salvation. The four weeks leading up to Christmas serve as a reminder of the difficulties of this life while waiting for the coming of the Messiah – the consolation.

I think I’ve been living in my own personal advent season for the past several months. It’s like an ‘almost winter but never Christmas’ feeling that comes when hope is deferred. I guess it happens to everyone now and again – that feeling of being constantly in a waiting-mode and unable (or, at least, too afraid) to get out of the cycle. All the Advent carols are in minor keys. Perhaps it’s just me, but it’s so much more fun to play songs with minor chords.

But I can’t live life like that – constantly playing a mournful melody and scraping the ice off my car with no Christmassy reward. Eventually I need to change key – eventually Christmas day will come. Eventually the winter will end.

I suppose what I am trying to say here is that Christmas is a promise – that life can have peace to end the suffering, that joy will come in the morning, and that “Aslan is on the move.” Maybe my own advent season will not end this Christmas day, but the promise of Christmas is that this time will end – that there is never a winter without the promise of Christmas for the Child of God.  And so, for this reason, there is a thaw in my winter – a major chord thrown in my minor melody – Christmas is a reminder that our suffering will end, that it has been portioned out, that it has been borne by another.

So, child of Christ, if you are like me and feel the weight of the world – the longing for relief – do not despair. Despite the rampant commercialization of Christmas, the cheesy song-lyrics, and the over-abundance of shoppers on the streets, let each sparkle of this season remind you that we do not suffer as those without hope – for Christ is coming, and He has come, and someday soon your Christmas morning will dawn – bright, new, and filled with hope.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,

For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,

And ancient forms of party strife;

Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

The faithless coldness of the times;

Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

On Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is my favorite American Invention. What a great idea: a day to think of all the good things that you have, a day to spend with your family, and a day to eat great food. Does it really get much better than that?

Often I take my blessings for granted. Well, I am always thankful, I think. I hope. I just don’t usually think about it. So, I thought that it would be profitable to make a list of some things that I love – things that I am thankful to have. Perhaps this will encourage you, reader, to think of your own blessings and remember them as we go into the Thanksgiving season.

Anyhow. Here is my list of thinks I am thankful for. Things I love:

  • Gotta start this list with the glorious redemption that I have in Christ – without Him this list would be impossible
  • My wonderful family – who love me all the time regardless of all the super-stress that I’m sure I cause them on a regular basis
  • Friends who love to talk, encourage, and never give up on me
  • Chocolate (is it possible that I haven’t mentioned chocolate on my blog yet? – this needs to be remedied)
  • That moment when it is raining and the sun comes out and shines through the rain-leaden trees and glistens on the leaves
  • The ability to get out of bed in the morning and look forward to what is going to happen during the day
  • The inexplicable confidence I have that there is always something good coming around the next life-corner
  • Pearls
  • A really great key change for the final verse of an ancient hymn
  • The really stunning pale shade of green that is only found in a hill of Pine Trees in Maine
  • Long conversations
  • That He is making everything beautiful in His time (Ecc 3:11)
  • When the moon is out and the sun is still setting and the leaves are golden and the sky is pink
  • Funny moments around the dinner table, or driving with the boys in the car
  • Dusty Pink Roses
  • Good books, preferably hardcover, smelling like second-hand bookstore or pipe smoke
  • That sanctification is a work of God’s Free Grace and I don’t have to figure out how to do it all by myself

Well. These are by no means all the things that I am thankful for – and I’m sure that I will come up with a lot more things, but if I saved this post until I’d finished my list I think I’d be writing forever. And that is an encouraging thought, is it not?

On Nobility

Truth suppression is an epidemic. We all do it to some extent – even about silly things.  Yet one of the most frustrating things that I have come across recently, especially within the visible Church, is Christians who are dealing in the suppression of the truth. Throughout this blog post I am primarily speaking of Christians.

People, usually the ones feeling threatened by the truth, panic when they are confronted with a truth from the Bible that they have previously thought was false. They then become confused because the Bible appears to contradict them. When they realize that they cannot refute a point of theology with a Biblical argument they are either frightened or embarrassed, and shut down their intellects by retreating into emotional responses. We’ve all seen this happen in numerous topics – it’s not my goal to bring up a specific area of debate at this time.

Part of the problem is that no one knows how to debate anymore. Few know how to formulate a Biblical argument, arrange it into a coherent sentence, and defend it academically by citing Scripture. Typically I find that those who cannot formulate the argument are those who have suddenly found themselves on “the wrong side of the coin” – they can’t defend their view because there is little or no defense for them. They’re wrong.

When this unfortunate soul discovers that they might be wrong they have two choices – they can either lash out in anger and confusion; put aside the questions as “too divisive,” “academic,” or “one of those things we can’t be sure about;” or they endeavor to learn the truth. Sadly many chose the first, foolish option. Why, when we come across something we instinctively disagree with, do we lash out irrationally, passive aggressively, or emotionally? Is it so bad to be proved wrong? If you are wrong about something, wouldn’t you like the opportunity to become right? If you are right about something, why are you scared to explain it to someone else? (I speak to myself, too, in this area) Perhaps we do not understand what we ourselves believe well enough to defend it.

I think the problem here lies in two areas. One is a little more honorable than the other. The first is fear – fear of being wrong, fear of being right and unable to explain it, fear of looking silly or confused. This is a genuine fear. One we must all learn to overcome. Is it not better to look a little uneducated now, for the sake of learning the truths of the gospel of Christ, than to avoid the important questions and so learn them before the throne on Judgment Day? Don’t hide from the argument – find what is true.

The second problem is tied all up in the first. Pride. The business of those who suppress the truth, the business of those who refuse to defend their beliefs in proper debate and discussion, is usually not because they can’t – it’s because they won’t. They won’t defend their views because they do not want to lose. Or, they do not know why they believe them. Even in the Church of Christ this is the case – Christians who remain ignorant by refusing to encounter and understand something that is opposed to what they have previously understood.

So, I challenge you, Christians, do not hide from the truth of the gospel. Learn. Do not allow yourself to dwell in ignorance, do not allow yourself to remain contentedly uneducated when debate sparks. Learn what it is that you believe and why you believe it. Make sure that what you believe is what is taught in Scripture. Do not be afraid to learn that you have been wrong – there is no shame in discovering the truth. Do you not trust that your God, who has known you and who has called you by name, will defend you? Don’t you believe that if you strive after truth, that He will ever lead you into that truth – into joyful, peace-bringing truth? So don’t be afraid – He is your strongest argument. If you are defending the truths from His Word, why would you ever imagine that you are fighting on your own?

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Grievances

Lately I have been feeling aggravated and grieved by people who teach the wrong things. Specifically I have been frustrated at people who teach false doctrine to faithful souls. In conversation with friends I have found them to be struggling with similar frustrations. At the beginning I was annoyed at pastors and church groups who teach that women are second-class and are only useful in the home. I then became frustrated at people who think they understand the gospel and yet exemplify or teach little or no practical grace to the people they minister among, but instead deal in judgment and legalism, as if they are somehow better than anyone else. I then became frustrated at people who are part of the visible church who are involved in abuse, or exploitation, or tangles of lies. What kind of witness is this to the world? And to the people of God?

All these things, and many more like them, have been bothering me because they are so counter to the beauty of the Gospel. This blog post has taken many forms in my mind over the past weeks as I imagined how I could best revile these people; how I could make them see the error of their ways, how I could best say to them – how dare you? How dare you trample up on these little ones of Christ? How can you who claim redemption treat people in this way – people who trust  you?

But then I realized what I really needed to say, and it hasn’t turned out to be a rant against injustice, liars, and ignorance – in fact it’s quite different. It’s a word towards the victims of these things, the confused, the hopeless, the violated, the guilt-ridden, and the fearful. The God who has redeemed you has not left you without hope or help – He is here, and He is working. He has not placed a law of rules and regulation upon your shoulders; His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He will not leave you drowning in the confusion of this dark world but will someday lift the veil from your eyes so that you can see in full. He has not left you in despair, but will wipe every tear from your eyes. The work of Satan is not winning any battles in our world, Christ Himself is waging war – and the gates of Hell will not prevail against Him.

So, although sin abounds, even in the church of Christ, grace abounds all the more. So do not lose hope. Do not give up, burdened ones, run ever to Jesus – he will carry the little lambs in his arms – and cling to Him. He alone is just. He alone is forgiving. He alone is pure. He alone is faithful.

Virtually Friends

Reach out and poke someone.  Be more than a virtual friend, do not be satisfied with virtual friendship.  It is not my intention  to slam social networking groups such as Facebook and Twitter, but I want to look at real friendship.

Just last night I was online, I wasn’t really doing anything, I was just looking around on Facebook. Suddenly, while writing on my friend’s wall, I noticed that the person who had written on her wall before me was someone whom I had met and spoken to once or twice.  At least I was pretty sure I recognized them from their picture.  I instantly clicked on the “friend” button next to their name.  Good, another person to add to my list of “friends” that I don’t know!

I have virtual friends.  So do you.  They are virtually friends.  I suppose that means they are almost friends – almost, but not quite.  That’s what the word virtual means.  Or we could say they are electronic friends, e-friends.

Something has happened to the word “friend.”  Something has happened to friendship.  The word “friend” is now not only a noun, but a verb.  We do not simply have friends, we “friend them.”   A true friend is defined by the New Age Elizabethan Reference Dictionary as “One attached to another by affection . . . an adherent  . . . a promoter . . . anything that helps one, especially in an emergency.”

Today I want to inspire you not to be caught up in what are merely virtual friendships, but to cultivate and value what is true, our real friends.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I am online I sometimes find myself talking to random people.  I just talk to them because they are there.

A friend is not defined by how many times a week you “poke” them, or how frequently they “like” your status.  Ben Johnson said, “True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value.”  Commenting on someone’s latest photo-tag, or following their witty tweets, may be fun, but it is trivial.  Mindless.  Frivolous.  There is little engagement of the mind.  There is no proving of worth and value in the living of real life.  There is only amusement.  And amusement is not friendship.  It is a subtle form of exploitation.  It is selfish.  In July 2007 MySpace booted out of its system 29,000 sex offenders who had signed up for memberships using their real names. There is no way of knowing how many sex offenders registered onto Facebook or MySpace under fake names.  Real friendship swirls around real values.

What is the value and worth in a friend when the most you know about them is that they are looking for “random play?”  Henri Nouwen writes:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

I ask you today, are you a friend like this one?  Are you willing to share the pain, sorrow, and confusions of the people that you care about?  Can you be that kind of friend?  Or are you satisfied with compiling a list of “top friends” and “liking” their Facebook status every now and again?

A few months ago I read an essay, published by “The New Atlantis Journal” called Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism.  One of the major points that the author, Christine Rosen, brought out was that social networking is the new form of self portraits.  Our online identity is a digital self-portrait.  Perhaps that is really me or perhaps that is what I want you to think.  Perhaps we are not really being friends as much as we are tweaking our online portrait and gazing at our own reflection in a pool.

I am, of course, not saying that there is anything wrong with social networking, but I am inspiring you towards something more powerful, a real friendship.  A good friend will bring you up when you think too lowly of yourself.  A good friend will bring you down when you think too highly of yourself and threaten to fly away.  A good friend is present in your life, there when you need them, a virtual friend is, by nature, an absent friend.  A good friend is a precious gift from God Himself, and ought not to be treated lightly, but with respect and love.  Ecclesiastes 6:14 says,  “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure.”  I encourage you to be such a friend as this, and to seek out friends who are like this.  Reach out and poke someone – go on, see what happens.