Tag Archives: Facebook

Ancient Vengeance Cloaked in Modern Technology

“Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee.”
Numbers 35:6 (NIV)

Last night as Wendy and I sat on the couch she expressed grief and frustration over a pattern of behavior we’ve been observing on social media. It is quite common for the discourse on Facebook and Twitter and online forums to sink into petty jabs, unnecessary name calling, and a general spirit of anger, hatred, and conflict. And this, we routinely notice, from many whom we love and who eagerly claim to be followers of Jesus.

For the past month or two my chapter-a-day journey through the book of Numbers has taken me back to an ancient times. I’ve been mulling over the lives and times of Moses and the Hebrew tribes. It was, without a doubt, a very bloody and ugly period of human society. Ancient tribal societies lived in a time without laws, law enforcement agents, and a system of justice. It was a time of blood feuds, vengeance and “an eye-for-an-eye” free-for-all of individual retribution.

I can’t help but think of the stories we know like The Godfather in which warring families get embroiled in ever escalating acts of violence and murder against one another. The Tataglia family attempts to kill but only wounds Vito Corleone. Vito’s son, Sonny, actually kills Bruno Tataglia in retribution. But, that’s not enough. Michael Corleone also kills the man who orchestrated the plot and the Police Captain who protects him. But that’s not enough. Everyone goes to the mattresses. But that’s not enough. Michael eventually kills the heads of all the other mafia families to protect himself from retribution. The violence and vengeance never ends.

As Sean Connery famously quips in The Untouchables, “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!”

What Wendy was observing last night is an example of the old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” We’re still embroiling ourselves in petty, ever escalating feuds between political, religious, and social clans. Now, however, we do it from a safe distance and use words as our weapons. Somehow, we believe that this is better on the grading curve of human society. Name calling on Facebook isn’t as barbaric as literally sticking a knife in someone’s back. Or is it?

I’m reminded in the quiet this morning of Jesus words:

“For the mouth speaks [and the hand types] what the heart is full of.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

In today’s chapter, God through Moses is leading a radical step forward in human history. It is a formalized system of justice. The priestly clan of the Levites are scattered to live among all the other tribes. Within those tribes the priestly Levites create “cities of refuge” to which murderers and those who commit manslaughter may flee. The priests gave sanctuary so that a trial, complete with witnesses, could be conducted and a just verdict could be rendered. The accused was required to stay under the protection of priest in the city of refuge. But get this: If the High Priest died, a period of amnesty was unleashed. The accused were free. Any blood feud or vendetta of vengeance was to end.

What great foreshadowing God gives in today’s chapter for what He is going to do on a cosmic spiritual scale in the Great Story. Jesus, High Priest (Heb 6:20) in the mysterious order of Melchizedek, comes to live among us like the priests sent to live among the tribes. [cue: Silent Night] To Jesus we may flee for refuge with all the accusation, guilt, condemnation and social vengeance nipping at our heels. When Jesus, the High Priest, dies then amnesty reigns. Forgiveness and grace (literally, favor we don’t deserve and didn’t earn) are poured out to the accused and condemned. Prisoners are freed. Vengeance ends.

Wait, there’s more. Those of us who follow Jesus are called “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Spiritually, I become a Levite of our time. I’m a priest in the order of Jesus. I am to be a person and place where “others” (even those of other tribes I don’t particularly like) may flee to find protection, understanding, kindness, mercy, grace, compassion, and justice.

So, I have to ask myself: When I allow myself to get stirred up  and let that f*ing, clueless, ignorant, MORON on Facebook know just what a #*&%-eating, #@)#-faced, #)@(#* they are… am I extending the royal, priestly rites handed down to me by Jesus? Am I being marked by the Spirit of protection, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and compassion that I claim to have received from Jesus, my High Priest? Am I fulfilling my calling to be part of that royal priesthood? Or, am I perpetuating a deep, very entrenched human part of me that is given to bloody, feudal vengeance cloaked in 21st century technology?

Ugh.

Lord, have mercy on me. Help me lay down my weaponized words; My vengeance which I try to costume as “justice” and “righteousness.” Make me a refuge for “others” – all “others.”

Social Media, Rights, and Responsibility

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV)

Just yesterday morning my daughter was sitting in my office and we were discussing how much life has changed in the past ten years. We were musing on how life has changed simply in our circumstances, but I also marvel at how social media and technology have changed the landscape of our daily lives.

Like everyone else, I have my own thoughts and opinions about all sorts of topics. I am also a huge proponent in every American’s first amendment right to free speech. In ten years I’ve published over 3,300 posts on this blog sharing my thoughts on all sorts of topics. In many ways social media is like the soap box that sat on the town square back in the day. Anyone and everyone was welcome to stand up and have their say to any who wanted to listen. Hear, hear. That’s freedom. God bless America.

However, I am increasingly aware that instead of one soap box sitting in a corner of the public square, today everyone has their own soap box within easy reach. Whereas I once had to make a point of going to the town square if I wanted to listen to what others had to say, today I can’t look at my phone without being barraged.

I find that as I read posts on Facebook and Twitter, as I read comments to blog posts and on-line news articles, I am struck at the vehemence, the snarkiness, the disrespect, and lack of meaningful discourse that takes place in this most public arena. The color of Christmas cups blows up into national debate. Jabs and insults are hurled non-stop from behind the disguise of pseudonyms and avatars. So much time, energy, and emotion gets wasted on things of such little consequence.

That’s the thing we once taught our children about rights: rights come with responsibilities. Because I have a right to my opinion and my say in the public square of social media doesn’t mean that it is beneficial for me, or anyone else, that I entangle myself in the endless petty conflicts, arguments, debates, and  that erupt ceaselessly in my feed.

Three times in today’s chapter, the wise mentor Paul gives first century advice to his protegé Timothy which rings with 21st century relevance:

  •  Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
  • Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
  • Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

This morning I am mulling over the fact that I am more and more willing to have meaningful, face-to-face discourse and debate with respectful individuals who share very different opinions than my own. I am less and less willing, however, to waste my time and energy entering the ceaseless petty quarrels in the arena of social media.

chapter a day banner 2015featured image: jasonahowie via Flickr

Top Five Tuesday: Distractions

 

Speaking of distractions, here are the top five outlets feeding my appetite for distraction:

  1. Facebook: Who’s doing what, where, with whom right now?
  2. Twitter: #losingmyselfin140characters
  3. MLB At Bat: All things baseball and the Cubs at any moment.
  4. Photos: So many photos, so little time.
  5. PSVita: Inside the man is a boy who loves his games.

Super Tom! (Not)

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

When historians look back on these times that we are living in, one of the major themes that they will address is how social media has changed the world. Society has changed dramatically in the past ten years and I’m not sure we can fully realize in the moment the breadth and depth of the change.

We live in a Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook culture in which thoughts are reduced to 140 characters or a 400×400 pixel image. Please do not read in this post what I am not writing. This is not a judgment on social media, merely an observation.

One of the things I observed is that in reducing the message to fit the medium, the context of the message can change dramatically. Take Paul’s words to his friend in Philippi in today’s chapter. The more well known translation is ” I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Talk about Pinterest quote material.

Yet, in isolating and reducing the message of the verse it appears to be a promise of unlimited potential. I might as well photoshop your face on the body of a comic book superhero to use as the background of my Pinterest post. SuperMe to the rescue. I can do all things!!

But when I read Paul’s words in the context of the previous sentences, the message of that phrase takes on what I believe is a significantly different meaning. Paul’s life journey has taken him to high mountaintops of earthly success and deep valleys of death. He has experienced “the good life” and he has found himself shipwrecked on an island like a real life episode of Lost. When he writes, “I can do all things” he is saying, “I will survive. I will be okay. Whether it’s a good day or bad, I can be content and trust that God will give me the strength to get through.

Today, I’m thankful for context. I’m glad that Paul was not writing an empty promise of superhumanity which does not fit my reality. I may be typing this post in my Batman boxer shorts, but that’s where my super hero capabilities end and I know it. To hear Paul’s encouragement to walk today’s journey knowing that whatever comes my way God will give me the strength to endure…well, that’s a message my heart can really use as I begin my day.

Texas Weekend

I think my brother is taking the looking like Jesus thing a bit too far 🙂

Wendy and I spent last weekend in Texas. Some of have commented as they followed my Foursquare and Facebook posts that it was obvious we had a host of travel problems, and that is true. The weekend was originally a two-client business trip. We had a two day project scheduled in the Dallas area followed by a Sunday morning presentation for another client in San Antonio. When the Dallas project was scuttled at the last minute, we were stuck with the flights we’d purchased and had little choice but to make the trip and enjoy a few days in Texas.

My new chapeaux from The Hat Box in Austin

Friday we drove down to Austin to visit with my brother, Tim, who is living and working nearby. We arrived in the afternoon and went down to Austin’s famed 6th Street where we enjoyed a leisurely stroll. Even in the late afternoon the strip of pubs and bars was buzzing with activity. Texas’ roadhouse blues was pouring out of different establishments as we walked by. Wendy and I happened upon a great haberdashery called The Hatbox, and I felt compelled to support my desire to bring the hat back by purchasing a nice little brown pork pie to add to my small collection. We also found a little hole-in-the-wall cigar and coffee shop which hand rolled their own cigars, which was fun to watch (and I opted to support them as well). We also couldn’t pass “Shakespeare’s Pub” (Their motto: “Two beers? Or not Two Beers? That is the Question!” without stopping to enjoy some cold refreshment.

Wendy on the balcony of Shakespeare’s Pub in Austin, TX

We met Tim at a great Tex-Mex place called Chuy’s and feasted while enjoying some catch up and great conversation. The food was gone but the conversation felt like it was just getting started, so we went next door to a mirco-brew called Uncle Billy’s. We sat out on the porch there and talked late into the night.

It was a pleasurable evening, but after that the trip quickly descended into travel hell. In Austin we were only an hour drive from Saturday’s destination in San Antonio, but we had plane tickets from Dallas to the Riverwalk city so we made the three hour drive back to Dallas in emerging thunderstorms. The storms wreaked havoc on all air travel in Texas and the DFW airport was shut down for periods of time that afternoon and evening. Long story short is that our 5 p.m. flight to San Antonio on United turned into a midnight flight to San Antonio on American. We got to bed about 2:00 a.m. before my 8:00 a.m. client presentation. Our trip home through Houston Intercontinental Airport was also delayed because of weather and in stead of getting home at 6:00 on Sunday evening it was after midnight.

Gate B84 in Houston is the armpit of air travel. Flight crews call it “the litterbox.” I’ve been in nicer Greyhound stations. Wendy and I spent a week at this gate on Sunday evening.

Despite the time in travel purgatory, Wendy and I loved the time in Austin with Tim and look forward to a return trip when we can spend more time exploring all the town has to offer.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 18

Thank You Trash...
Thank You Trash… (Photo credit: Daniel Slaughter)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 18:1 & 29 (NLT)

Wendy and I found ourselves in conversation yesterday about our blessings. We were discussing a person whose Facebook posts seem endlessly full of “glass half empty” angst at how difficult life is for them. It prompted a great discussion between us about blessing and thanksgiving. Even looking back at my blog posts and Facebook posts, I think about what they say about my attitudes in every day life. I’ve been griping a lot about the travel industry lately as I’ve gotten delayed and rerouted in my business travels. It’s so easy to fall into griping mode in my momentary frustration and ignore the fact that I’m so grateful for a great job and wonderful clients who hire me.

Everyone’s life is full of hardship on different levels, and we all need to vent once in a while when we’re feeling burdened. God tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. But, even when I’m going through a tough time I try to remind myself each and every day how abundantly blessed I am. In a land where Thanksgiving is celebrated as a once a year holiday, I attempt to celebrate it every day in my spirit through my prayers and my attitude.

Today, I’m thankful for the abundant blessings I take for granted. Things like life, health, safety, home, loving family, wonderful friends, good community, clean water, food, air conditioning, and choices.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 1

source: Michael M Kenny via Flickr

Jesus replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.” Acts 1:7 (NLT)

One of the more difficult aspects of going through a divorce is the struggle to know when to speak, and when to be silent, with your children. This is especially true when they are teenagers. Seven years ago, as I walked that painful stretch of my own journey, I found two easy temptations with regard to talking to my girls.

First, I discovered the temptation to say too much because the breakdown of the marriage is affecting them so acutely and I wanted desperately want to provide some reason, understanding, and context. Second, I recognized the subtle, self-centered temptation within myself to want the girls to take, or at least to understand, my side of the story. What teenagers, in their stalwart belief that they are both fully mature and completely omniscient, fail to understand is that information without context, knowledge, wisdom, and discernment can become both a burden and a curse. It is said that ignorance is bliss, and sometimes that is true. Sometimes it is the very least appropriate for the situation. 

As children, we often feel that we have a need to know things. We will even go so far as to think that we have a right to know certain things. We live in a culture steeped in First Amendment rights and the Freedom of Information Act coupled with an almost instantaneous access to any piece of arcane trivial information you could desire. People even publicly post the most mundane and salacious facts about themselves on Facebook and Twitter. Television programming projects an endless hunt for the most juicy, private personal gossip about celebrities 24/7/365. It is no wonder that we feel so entitled to know so much about so many.

I found it interesting in today’s chapter that Jesus deflected some of his followers’ questions. Father God knows things we don’t know. He holds certain things close to the vest, and as His children we are all on a need-to-know basis. For some children, this seems terribly unfair, unjust and spurs fits of childish rage and rebellion. Personally, I find comfort in the fact that He’s got it under control and I can trust Him with that. Someday, when I’m ready and it’s appropriate, He’ll perhaps share some things with me. Perhaps by that time it won’t really matter. Until then, I can let it go and experience the freedom that comes from not having to know certain things.

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2003: The Nativity
Image by DUCKMARX via Flickr

A few months ago my pastor asked me how many people read my blog. The honest answer was that I didn’t know. I can see how many people are subscribed. I can see how many “hits” my blog gets, but I rarely look. Besides, the question of how many people actually read it can’t really be answered. The posts go out through email, through feed readers, onto Facebook and Twitter. They get forwarded and passed around.

What I do know is that it’s relatively few people in the grand scheme of the blogosphere. I know a small circle of family and friends read regularly. I hear from some of them that they know this person or that person who reads my posts regularly. Apart from the few who comment now and then, I simply don’t know how many people will read this post. 

Besides, I think the question my pastor was really trying to ask was “Why do you do this?” The answer is no less difficult to answer. The truth is that there are multiple reasons. It’s an easy way to keep loved ones up to date on our lives. It’s a way to express things that are on my heart and mind. Knowing that a few people out there will wonder why I haven’t posted my chapter-a-day provides a little accountability. I like to write. I like the creative outlet.

Anyway, whoever might be reading this wherever you happen to be, I want to take a moment to say thanks for tagging along and for taking the time to read a post now and then. This morning, I’m thinking about you and praying that God’s peace might surround your heart and mind in the midst of holiday craziness and family dysfunction. I hope that somehow we can all have at least one moment in our day today in which we catch a glimpse of the “peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” that came wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.

Merry Christmas.

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Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 65

Add as friend. "I've made myself available to those who haven't bothered to ask. I'm here, ready to be found by those who haven't bothered to look. Isaiah 65:1 (MSG)

If there's one key thing I've learned about relationships it is this: you can't have a genuine relationship without two parties. Relationships require two who are willing to interact with one another. If I reach out to someone on Facebook and add them as a friend, we can only truly interact and share if that person confirms me.

When Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for the sins of all He, in effect, reached out to click "add as friend" for each of us. We don't truly enter relationship until we, in our hearts, confirm Jesus as our friend and reach out to enter relationship with Him.

"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you." Revelation 3:20 (MSG)

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and livingos