Another Day, Another Post

Of all the blog posts I’ve ever written in all my life, this will be one of them. In other words, it will probably not be my finest.

I sat at my Mac Book and opened up my WordPress website. 30 minutes later, I’m checking all these Facebook posts and haven’t written a single word.

Some days are great. Some days are terrible. Some days just are.

God keeps reminding me that any day that I’m alive and aware is a good day. Even the days when the worst case scenario happens, like losing my beloved Lucy. That was one of the hardest days of my life, but I still saw an abundance of grace and joy on that day and I felt every one of your prayers carrying me along and getting me through.

All in all, this was another good day. I worshipped with The Church at Avenue South, had a fantastic Greek omelette at Athens, found a couple of good buys at Grimey’s Preloved Music, then later went to another stellar Kairos Greeter outing in Spring Hill.

I suppose i’m just pooped from all that activity and my brain is too tired to be all creative and artsy and blog-post-y.

I did have some vintage Allman Brothers Band music to be the soundtrack to all my journeys today. That’s something noteworthy.

“[A]lmost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement” (from Joe Vs. the Volcano).

 

The Return of Mr. Irrelevant

Yes, the NFL draft was upon us yet again. I watched parts of it but not all, since I thought it might be better to actually have a life today and not live in front of the television for hours and hours.

I did see where Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly (nephew of former great Jim Kelly) was the last player drafted in the last round of the draft. At least I knew who he was and the school he was from.

Frankly, I’m not a fan of the term Mr. Irrelevant. It’s a bit of an insult to the player who gets taken last. At least he got drafted, unlike multitudes of others who would probably ┬álove to be in his place.

It got me thinking again. Social media can be a tough place for those who feel the constant need to be approved and admired. It can be a lonely forum for those who base their identity by how many people like and comment on their posts, pictures, memes, updates, etc.

I know because I used to be there. It took some time away from Facebookland to get my head straight and my thinking right.

You might feel like Mr. Irrelevant when you post something witty or inspired and you can almost hear the crickets in the background from the lack of responses.

You might even feel like nobody appreciates you or even knows you exist as you go about your normal daily existence. You wonder if what you do (or even you yourself) matter to anyone.

God says you matter. The cross says you count. Jesus literally thought you were to die for.

I’ve found that God always puts people in your life who will see you. They will be witnesses to your life and testify to the fact that you have value. You probably won’t have very many of these people throughout your life, but those will be your true friends.

You are not irrelevant. You do matter.

 

In Response to All the Nonsense on Social media

“O God of every nation,
of every race and land,
redeem the whole creation
with your almighty hand;
where hate and fear divide us
and bitter threats are hurled,
in love and mercy guide us
and heal our strife-torn world” (William Watkins Reid, Jr.)

If you’ve been paying attention to social media, you know there’s a lot of hate and fear dividing this nation. It seems to me that both the hate and fear are bipartisan as both seem to exhibit both, but in different ways.

Some days, it feels like there will always be a divide running through the land. It seems like people will never cross the political aisle to at least try to see things from a different perspective.

Lately, there is no middle ground of any kind. The mantra is that “my side is 100% right and holy and just and righteous, and your side is 100% wrong, therefore you must not only be wrong but stupid and evil as well.”

This is where believers step in. Jesus calls us to be one as He and the Father are one. He doesn’t give us any loopholes. This isn’t optional.

It means praying for your enemies instead of bashing them on Facebook. It means loving them instead of publicly wishing them harm. Again, that goes for both sides.

Above all, it means realizing that as a believer in Christ, your ultimate allegiance isn’t to a political party or a platform. It’s not to an ideology. It’s to a King and a Kingdom that will last beyond all the kingdoms and republics of the world, including the one we’re currently living in.

Maybe instead of casting blame, it’s time to look in the mirror and start repenting of hateful attitudes and critical spirits. Maybe it’s time to start being the change we want to see in the world.

And that change starts with love.

 

Get Away

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden).

Sometimes I think Thoreau had the right idea. Lately, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information coming at me from every direction at literally every waking moment. I deliberately stay away from watching any kind of news programs, yet I still feel like I’m drowning in a flood of images and stories, mostly tragic and sad.

Every now and then, it’s good to get away from all things electronic and technological. Every once in a while, it’s good to lose yourself in the beauty of nature and drink in deeply the silence of the woods.

I love Radnor Lake State Park because it is as close to Eden as I can get these days. It’s as close as I can get to how we used to be before we became social media junkies, craving the next Instagram or Facebook fix. I saw a woman walking through Radnor with nature in full bloom all around her who would not look up from her phone. That’s a sad commentary on what we value and where our priorities lie.

Nature has a way of resetting the default on our brains to where they’re not always running like a computer with 50 tabs open at the same time. I still believe that nature is a place where we can better hear the voice of God, away from the distracting noise and clatter that constantly demands our attention.

I think I could live in a place like Walden Pond for a year or more. I could use a break from all the media madness. Maybe I’ll settle for reading the book.

 

The Lost Art of Face-to-Face Conversations

  
I have a list of memories of events that fundamentally changed the core of who I am today. Almost all of them involve conversations where I looked the other person or persons in the eye. Almost none of them involve staring at a text or post on a screen.

There is so much healing and release that happens when you’re able to look into someone’s eyes and find true acceptance there. There’s truly something transcendent that takes place when you’re able to hear the words and read the facial expressions and catch the totality of what’s being communicated.

Yet these days I see a lot of heads constantly buried in smart phones and other devices. Even those sitting across from each other literally within touching distance will choose to communicate via text.

The upcoming generations are probably more advanced when it comes to texting and posting yet almost completely inadequate when it comes to actual social interaction. That’s sad.

I am most certainly not against social media or smart phones. I have both. I am against them when they entirely replace the old-fashioned conversation.

As a pastor that I greatly admire once said, God didn’t see our dire need of salvation and send a text. He didn’t look at our predicament and tag us in a social media post. He sent a person. He took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood and met our greatest needs face to face. Because that and that only is where healing and forgiveness and restoration can take place.

It’s ironic that in the present age where we are more connected than ever that so many feel cut off and neglected. So many feel ignored and unwanted. As Mother Teresa once said, the greatest poverty is that of not feeling wanted by anyone.

The cure isn’t more connectivity but community. It’s not in having more Facebook friends but in cultivating the few real ones you have. It isn’t tagging more people in your posts but being more intentional about including them in your schedule for those face-to-face conversations.

That’s still what we need most.

 

Blog #2,062 Or Day 29 of Lent

I’ve loved my break from social media. I suddenly find I have all this free time and I’m actually engaging in the world around me.

Unfortunately, I also feel out of the loop on current events. I don’t know what’s going on in the lives of my friends.

When I’m Facebooking or Instagramming, I at least feel somewhat connected to what’s going on around me. I’m able to keep up with all my friends’ activities, what they’re eating, who they’re dating, who’s engaged, etc.

Now I have no clue.

Still, it’s a small price to pay for giving up social media. I highly recommend everyone who reads this to fast from social media (if you’re not one of those who already abstains from it). It’s extremely refreshing.

I always have Netflix to get me through. I’m up to season four of The Wonder Years (and loving every minute of it). I got to the part where Winnie cried when she broke up with Kevin. It almost made me cry.

Think of the time that The Wonder Years is set in. There was no social media, no cell phones, no computers (at least not personal ones), and only the basic channels on TV. Yet they somehow managed to survive.

There are days when I think society as a whole would be better off without so much reliance on social media and technology. Just don’t ask me to give it up for very long.

Also, I have my blogging outlet to get me through the absence of social media. I can still share what’s going on in my world. Sometimes, that can be very therapeutic.

Most of all, I am being reminded yet again that God is enough. He more than fills any absence of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. He more than makes up for the lack of a wife or kids. He alone is sufficient for every day of the year, no matter what the season.

 

My Lent Plans for 2016

Here I am, typing this on my laptop in Starbucks and already thinking about Lent. If I’m not mistaken, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday, which occurs during Mardi Gras.

My plan as always is to fast from social media during this time. As much as I’d like to use the extra time to be all productive and stuff, my main goal during this season is to reboot my brain and get my head right again.

Not that I’m in a bad place. I just think that it’s easy to let social media affect how you perceive yourself and others, and stepping away from it all can be a good way to remind yourself that life is more than status updates, Instagram posts, and how many likes and/or comments you get.

I will still be writing these blogs, so fret not. They will still show up on all my social media outlets, as usual.

Ideally, I can spend way less time with my head buried in my phone. I can look up and see blue skies and sunsets and other people (most likely with their heads buried in their phones and tablets).

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. It’s also what happens when you’re checking your Facebook feed or updating your Twitter account. I doubt very seriously that you’ll get to the end of your life and regret all those hilarious memes you didn’t share or all the clever status updates you didn’t write.

You will regret not spending more actual real time with real people in face-to-face conversations about real-life situations.

You will regret not looking up from your social media to see all that life that’s passing you by.

So all that to say that starting Ash Wednesday, I will be (mostly) off the grid until after Easter Sunday. See you all then.

 

My First Blog of 2016

Welcome to 2016. It’s a leap year, so we all get that extra day in February that nobody knows what to do with.

I’m thankful once again that I got another day to be alive and another chance to see another year in, even if it wasn’t with a multitude of people and loud festivities. I’m okay with that. It was just me and my sister and her family in a low-key celebration that ended up with just me and my brother-in-law ringing in the new year.

Currently, it’s 12:59 am and I’m pooped. Even after that 2 1/2 hour nap earlier, I’m still tired. I guess I know what my cat feels like most of the time.

I hope to see more of my friends face-to-face and have actual, honest-to-goodness conversations, preferably over coffee, tea, or some other beverage at a Starbucks or other similar type venue.

I hope to lose the weight I gained back after getting down to a good size. And this time, I’m keeping it off. As long as there’s no chocolate or cheesecake or any other type of food to tempt me.

I hope to see the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, which I am apparently one of the few who hasn’t already seen it at least once. I’m thinking maybe of seeing it in IMAX 3D at some point in the next two weeks. Anyone want to join me?

As always, I look forward in anticipation to what God will do. As I read in a post earlier on Facebook, I’m trusting less in my own resolutions to do better and be better and trusting more in Jesus’ resolution to finish the good saving work He started in me way back when.

It’s now 1:06 and I am officially calling an end to this wild and crazy celebration. See you all later and may your 2016 be blessed and joyful.

 

Presence

14bc54934bd5226568e07a5601c0e066

I keep thinking about something I heard in a Kairos sermon. Basically, the gist is that the best gift you can give to a loved one, more than presents, is presence.

More than going to a store and picking up something that may or may not end up being regifted or donated to Goodwill, maybe the best gift you can give is you. Your time. Your attention.

Who in your life needs to see your actual face (and not just your profile picture)? Who needs a reminder that you haven’t forgotten them?

Is it a relative? Is it a friend?

You can send a Facebook post or a text, but the best is to have a face-to-face conversation, one in which you aren’t distracted by your phone or tablet, but where you fully engage the other person and actually listen to what they are saying.

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Not to be morbid, but you truly never know when it will be too late to have that conversation.

That’s really all I have. Maybe it’s something I need to do myself. Maybe I can find someone I haven’t seen in a while and try to reconnect.

Oh, and may all your traffic lights be green and all your checkout lines be short. Amen.

 

Still Not Forgotten

“From far across the earth I brought you here and said, “You are my chosen servant. I haven’t forgotten you.” Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong, as I protect you with my arm and give you victories” (Isaiah 41:9-10).

I posted this verse on Facebook exactly five years ago. I don’t remember what led me to post it or what was in my mind. It was probably the verse of the day for Bible Gateway and I liked it, so I copied and pasted it as my status. Now you know my dirty little secret. I copy and paste a lot.

But it’s still true. I am not forgotten. You are not forgotten. No matter how good people’s intentions are toward you, they get busy. They get distracted. They forget. But God will never forget you.

I think that more than qualifies as a reason to celebrate. If nothing else went right for you today, if your week has been a disaster of epic proportions, you are not forgotten by the One who matters most.

If you needed to know that you matter, that’s the best proof you’ll ever find.

If you needed a reason to keep going for one more day, that’s it.

For me, that’s enough.