A Space for Dialogue – The Ongoing Conversation

So yeah, I started writing. But I’ve done that before. And I’ve learned that I’m okay with starting things, but ultimately it doesn’t count unless it becomes an ongoing part of my life. (More on this in a future post.)

Like I said, I’ve started writing before. But how many of you knew that? And if you did, did you also notice that it trailed off after a time?

You might say, ‘no’ and maybe you’re just being gracious.

Either way, I’ve come to realize that for me it isn’t enough to just start writing. I have to keep going. And that means I’m going to try to keep on writing.

What does that mean for this site?

It means I’m going to keep at it. And there isn’t much of a directed purpose than to be regularly recording my thoughts and perspectives on a variety of aspects of life.

You’re welcome to come along for the ride.

Listen in.

Observe.

But more than anything, interact. Without that, I’m just another unnecessary noise.

Besides, this isn’t an exercise in futility for me. I need to improve in the way I communicate–what I say and how I say it. And that involves listening and having meaningful dialogue.

This is a space for that.

I don’t have some grand vision of what it will all be. But this is really a space more about becoming than anything else.

For example, I don’t know why that last blog had such a lousy layout. I tried changing it several times, but the paragraph spacing just never resolved. I think it’s because I originally wrote it in another app and copied and pasted it here–somehow that screwed up the overall layout. (As an aside, I think there’s probably a metaphor there to explore.)

So, I’m going to work to keep writing. And if this site goes silent for too long, you have the right to ask me about that.

Some of the things I write might be really mind-blowing (wishful thinking), but most of it is just going to be a record of my own observations and introspection.

It will probably be a bit too personal at times. And awkward. I’m good with that one. Not The Office level of awkward, but just be warned that sometimes it might be more than you wanted to know.

And it might seem trivial and simple, too. But I think I’ve got a lot of that to weed through in my life in order to get to the truly significant. And, I believe much of the truly significant is found in the things that seem trivial and simple.

Hopefully in all of it, I’m honest, humble and teachable.

So, thanks for reading and extending that grace to me. After all, grace is contagious.

 

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TMI (Part 3)

Maybe it’s ironic I’ve used three posts to say all I want about information, making my series on TMI too much information. Or maybe it’s just redundant.

Nonetheless, I’m finishing up the series with these last thoughts.

Information itself can become a danger—we can end up knowing too much.

We’ve all used the catchphrase: “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Not seriously though. Well, most of us. If you’ve ever used that phrase seriously I want to encourage you to stop reading and never visit this site again. You’re scaring me.

We have held to the idea that knowledge is power. And that those who are in the know have an exclusive advantage over those who are not.

I used to believe that knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone. An idea first introduced to me by a high school friend through the rap group Boogie Down Productions.

Both of those ideas are reinforced through popular culture, that knowledge is key to having power and control over others.

So we make and keep secrets.

And we gossip.

Have you ever wondered why gossip is so powerful? Why we are so susceptible to listen to it? Because it draws us in with some secret word that is being exclusively shared with us, but not with others. We’re drawn in and accepted.

But I’ve come to realize that information and knowledge aren’t truly the greatest source of power. By themselves, they are merely tools used to manipulate and maintain the illusion of control.

You see, there is a great danger of knowledge without appropriate action. Maybe that’s why we keep secrets. We’re afraid of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.

We live in a world full of information. There is too much to ever think we’d be able to consume it all; we can’t keep up with what’s served up to us each day.

That is our new reality, and it demands that we come to grips with how we are going to handle and interact with that plethora of information.

When Apple introduced the iPhone, it changed the way we interacted with information. It put more information at our fingertips, and shrunk the globe.

It became a blessing and a curse.

The danger is that we can become intellectual foolsacting as though we had power, but really only had a piece of information.

The world is already full of these people; and I fear we have assumed their posture by hunching over our phones, both hands gripping tightly as we ignore the reality around us. We have recreated Plato’s cave and furnished it with comfortable seating around the fire.

Knowing more has never been enough. But the lie that knowledge alone is enough has been a subtle deception from almost the beginning of time. The serpent used a lie about knowledge to trick Eve into doubt and disobedience.

Knowledge is only a piece of the puzzle; the key comes in knowing where it fits. This moves us from knowledge to wisdom, acting rightly with the information we have at our fingertips and frontal lobes.

So those who know more hold a greater responsibility to act rightly.

Exposure to the plights of the world around us demand we act justly. Knowing my friend is hungry forces me to feed him. Recognizing another is weighed down under the burden of life necessitates me to step in and relieve her load.

Information is really only too much if we continue to consume it without acting on it. As if holding it would mean power and control. Living in light of it—demonstrating grace and forgiveness, justice and mercy—that is where true power comes. Not because we use it to manipulate the masses, but now we are able to love and serve and grace others.

Grace is active, not passive. We can’t roll up our sleeves with our thumbs still searching for more information.

What will we do with our Twitter and Facebook feeds? What good and humble use can come from us holding CNN and Wikipedia in between our two hands? At some point, don’t we have to put the devices away to lend our hands to another?

TMI (Part 2)

In my last post, I sought to draw attention to the overwhelming amount of information we are exposed to. Then I asked whether my adding a blog to the mix was just too much, just more ‘noise’ in an already loud world. But I also asked whether there might be grace enough for me to seek to write and find my voice anyhow.

This time I’d like to look a bit closer at all of our involvement with this information overload. Because we’re all partly responsible. Yeah, all of us.

Are you a Facebook user? I am. And the emphasis is probably on user. I probably overuse the site—abuse it, really.

It’s a place we both love and hate, isn’t it?

We use it to keep up with old friends, connect with family, read odd news, stalk people, and waste time.

But my issue today isn’t with all of those various uses, but on answering the questions: Do we share too much? Do we reveal too much about ourselves in a public setting?

Well, the quick and easy answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Otherwise we wouldn’t find ourselves sounding off about some people’s overuse, “unfriending” people that have irritated us, and generally complaining about how cluttered our timeline is.

And let me be quick to say that Facebook isn’t the only place this happens, but it’s definitely the most popular of the various social media sites. But my aim isn’t at Facebook as much as it is at us, the users and subscribers.

But what is the problem exactly? Why do we think people post too much? Why do we post too much? And who defines what is too much? Because I don’t think I do, but I certainly think you might.

What’s behind this information overload, both the desire to consume and the desire to share things that complete strangers can discover about us?

Wait, you only post those things on your timeline and only your friends can see them because of your privacy settings? Did you forget that this is all on the Worldwide web?! Nothing is deleted. Nothing is hidden. It’s all there—for anybody with enough time, energy, and desire to dig it up.

But I’m getting distracted now. Surprise, surprise.

So what’s the basis for this behavior?

Here’s my thought: at the core of this personal information overload is the desire to be known. We all want to be loved. To let others see who we really are and then to be accepted for that reality. So we seek opportunities to have our voices heard, our pictures viewed, our kids adored and ultimately, to be loved for and through it all.

But somewhere along the way we get swept up in it and the desire to be accepted wins out over authenticity and we begin to project the best versions of ourselves. Instead of just desiring to be loved, we move to a space where we want our lives envied. We become discontent with others loving us for who we are and instead want them to love to be us. It becomes a non verbalized sort of competition. A dangerous and graceless competition. But it isn’t real life. We’ve set up highlights of ourselves which turn out to be veneer covering an either truly shallow existence or deep wounds we are afraid of revealing.

We post more, to be loved more.

Once again, the problem isn’t Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest . . . okay, maybe Pinterest is the problem.

The sites will change. Culture demands that. Todays Facebook is tomorrow’s Myspace. Whatever the forum, we’ve got to learn to leverage these spaces for opportunities to connect in meaningful and vulnerable relationships, with noncompete clauses. Life is hard enough without having the pressure of competing with friends through social media.

Instead, might I suggest we use these sites to engage with grace?

To recognize that sometimes it isn’t the content which speaks loudest and clearest, but it’s form and frequency.

Let’s seek to understand the content, but accept and love the person behind it. Let’s be those who are so winsome and free with our grace that the Spirit uses us to draw people into Jesus, where full acceptance, satisfaction and validation are found.

We don’t have to muster up this love on our own. We don’t have to fabricate feelings. We merely need to pass on what is already our’s in Jesus. Let’s be conduits of the grace we’ve received from the Father.

Do you agree? Do we share too much? Is it possible to continue to share our lives, but to move towards it happening in a meaningful and encouraging way?

TMI (Part 1)

Writing

One thing that’s true about the internet is that there’s plenty of information. It’s an easy place to go and waste time, but also to rationalize the time spent by recognizing all the knowledge we gleaned and how much more we “know.”

With that realization, what difference does it make that I should have a blog? After all, aren’t I just adding to the noise? Am I so important that my two cents and my opinions need to be shared with the masses?

These are questions you may not have asked, but I certainly have.

I don’t think it’s important to say something just to make my voice heard; I’m not arrogant enough to think that the world is missing out if it doesn’t hear me speak. However, I also realize that each one of us is given a voice and we ought not be afraid of speaking with boldness and clarity, grace and charity.

And so this is going to sound incredibly self-centered, but it’s the reality which I’m operating from:

I don’t write so much so that you’ll hear me, as much as I write so I can find my voice.

But giving too many details has long been a struggle of mine. An English professor from college once wrote on a paper, “Summarize, my friend.” That advice has echoed throughout my life in numerous contexts.

Even now I’m tempted to say more, to elaborate further, to be sure to clarify so that you understand the point I’m trying so desperately to convey.

I know, I’m beating a dead horse.

So what’s the point with this post anyways? I guess I’m just asking for a little grace. I know I might write too much, use too many words in a post, overly repeat the same idea with incessant redundancy. But I’m trying to figure it out, to find my voice–and maybe the meter and frequency that will best accompany.

Really, grace is that thing we all need. We’re trying to figure out this thing called life. Whether its a blog, a relationship, a career path, parenting, whatever, we all need a little grace to keep us going.

We need permission to try, to fail, to get back up and keep on going.

So while information itself has become a sort of commodity, grace has not. It cannot. It is, by it’s very nature, free.

Give it away.

No More Masks

IMG_3570Yesterday was, of course, Halloween. A day filled with costumes and candy, carving pumpkins and classroom parades, tricks and treats. But in some circles (you should see my Twitter feed) it was also filled with theological discussions and debates. You see, it was also Reformation Day, a day marking the anniversary of Martin Luther standing up to the Catholic Church. (For more on that, go here.)

But that isn’t the only debate happening on Halloween.

For as long as I can remember, Christians have been wondering, debating, and arguing over whether it is right for followers of Jesus to observe/celebrate Halloween and to what extent. At times, and in certain circles, that debate regularly becomes heated.

But this post isn’t actually about any of those things. It isn’t about whether it is right or wrong to wear a costume today or whether your church should hold a Trunk-or-Treat event or whether we ought to be promoting “Harvest Parties.”

Halloween costumes aside, there are far more dangerous masks being worn within the walls where the church gathers that have nothing to do with Halloween. They are widely accepted and even encouraged. Halloween becomes a time when we merely trade one mask for another.

We pretend to be something we are not.

We pretend to have everything together. We dress up on Sundays and get the family there (nearly) on time. But underneath we hide great brokenness. We pretend to be the picture perfect image of what we perceive people believe a Christ-follower is supposed to look like.

And why? Because we are ultimately afraid. What kind of irony is that?

Yesterday, my kids encountered masks that were scary and had the potential of causing nightmares, but the masks we often put on are just the opposite. They are safe and calm and reassuring. We don’t wear them to cause fear, but because of fear. The only similarity is that we are hiding our true selves in both cases. This is hardly a new revelation. Each one of us can quickly realize that we are prone to do this ourselves.

A while back I tweeted the following thought:

Fake smiles help sell plastic lies. The truth can be hard to find when these are the masks we hide behind.

We all want to be known and to be loved. But we wear these masks because we are afraid of being found out to be incomplete and imperfect. And so in hope of preserving ourselves, we have cultivated a culture filled with falsehood. And there is nothing that threatens to undo us as giving ourselves over to fears and falsehoods.

We talk about the need for authenticity, but I think most of us are waiting from someone else to be that first. But genuine authenticity (redundancy, anyone?) demands courage and vulnerability. It means someone is going to have to take their mask off first and risk being known for who we really are. Can this actually happen?

I believe it can. But that kind of courage isn’t something we just muster up, it’s a recognition and reliance on the truth that God has already spoken to us: that we are known intimately and loved completely . . . by Him. His presence is to give us strength. Think Joshua 1:9–“Be strong and courageous . . . the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

It is time for the Church to finally be a place of no more masks. We must speak grace and truth to each other and foster deep relationships that drive us deeper into trust and love of the God who rescues us from these fears.

When we finally begin to rest in He who made us, knows us fully, and loves us endlessly, we are able to removed the masks, drop the charade, and be ourselves. We are no longer dependent upon other’s validation and perceptions, but on the eternal value of the One who is sufficient for all these things.

What kind of masks have you worn? What kind of fears were you trying to hide?

A Lent Confession

The season of Lent began just ten days ago, but already I have struggled to keep pace this season. I have been “off the grid” in several ways over the last ten days and it seems Lent has fallen victim along with several other disciplines.

Obviously, this isn’t one of those posts that will demonstrate how I’ve got it all together. Because I don’t.

The problem for me with Lent this year hasn’t been a matter of the difficulty of giving up as much as it has been the intentional aspect of meditating on the life, humility, and sacrifice of Jesus. No, the giving up has been fairly easy—perhaps I aimed too low and gave up something that had little effect in my life to begin with. Perhaps I gave off the top instead of giving sacrificially. I’m still sorting this aspect through.

What I do know is that my giving up has been little more than a dietary decision at this point. And that isn’t the purpose of observing Lent. Jesus didn’t leave his father’s throne because he just needed a little space. He gave up his rightful place at the Father’s side in order to make it possible for us to gather there as well. While that space was his right, it is ours’ only by grace.

Lent then, is a season that ought to be entered intentionally to consider that exchange and the grace that has been poured out on us. It isn’t that we don’t contemplate these things through the rest of the year, but now we do it collectively, recognizing that his sacrifice was not solely for me as an individual, but for the sins of the whole world.

So as one representative of those sins, I reenter this season confessing I have made too much of myself and too little of Jesus. And this has not only been during Lent.

Can we journey together?

The Blame Game

There’s a short circle in our house. You wouldn’t notice it the first time you stopped by, but after a couple of visits, you might notice it’s presence. Its formed by something I’m learning about myself from my kids’ behavior. Of course, it’s a circle because they first learned the behavior from me. And if I don’t stop the behavior myself we’ll end up wearing it into a groove so deep it’ll become a rut.

The circle is called the blame game.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the rules, it works like this: you do something wrong and when confronted about it, you simply blame someone else. It’s really fairly easy. Often, you choose the person who’s in the closest proximity to you and while the unsuspecting individual is left fending for themselves you try to slip away. It’s the ultimate diversion tactic.

It’s a circle for another reason, too. Usually what ends up happening is that everyone present just points fingers at each other. The brother blames the sister who in turn blames the brother and when that doesn’t work she blames the dog. You get the idea and you’ve probably seen this played before.

Now, to be fair, this game is played a lot more frequently by my kids than it is by me. (Do you see what I did there?)

Our kids learn a lot from us. And if there’s one poor behavior that doesn’t have to be taught, it’s blaming someone else for our own faults. Blaming others has been around nearly as long as there has been someone to blame.

You know the story: Eve ate the forbidden fruit (from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) and then gave it to Adam who also ate. When God confronted Adam about this, Adam blamed Eve and Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent. And so the game began.

Of course it isn’t a game at all. That’s just one of our ways of trying to rationalize it. Maybe we call it that because you’ve got to be quick on your feet to implicate another person before they suspect it—the slyest fox wins. Regardless, we’ve damaged many relationships by not admitting our faults. People get hurt when we try to divert the blame on to them.

One of the major problems with this game is that if you keep playing, it doesn’t end. If I blame you, you may in turn try to blame me, or whomever else might be a worthy scapegoat. Down the line it’s going to come back to haunt us both because that other individual is likely going to bear a grudge for having to deal with our throwing them under the bus.

The only way to stop the game is by quitting. That is, somebody has to decide not to shift the blame onto another person and instead own up to their own wrongdoing. But this is hard to do, especially when that seems counterintuitive to a game that we’ve been playing so long that we’ve forgotten where and when we first learned the rules.

But this is where grace comes in.

Grace doesn’t just step in and say everything’s okay and that nobody has to confess anything and there aren’t going to be any consequences. No, when grace enters in it is accompanied by the truth. And in this way, it is most clearly the gospel.

We play this game because we’re afraid of the consequences for our actions: they are far greater than we are willing or capable of bearing. But the gospel, good news if there ever was any, says that we are fully at fault and fully accountable. This is the truth and though we try to shift the blame, it stills falls directly on us. The diversion only works as a temporary distraction to ourselves, but it has no way of altering the truth.

But the gospel does not stop here. In grace we hear the full truth: that there is one who stopped the game by willingly taking our blame upon himself. Jesus knew we were at fault, but insisted on bearing the consequences that should’ve fallen on us.

There’s a model here for us to follow. But not a model only—it is also the means by which we are able to break the circle. And so we need to just stop playing this game. We need to give up the charade that we have done nothing wrong. We need to humble ourselves and take full responsibility. In doing so we will both see that we are unable to bear the full burden and that we don’t have to. There is one who has taken our blame and shame upon himself and offered us forgiveness and grace instead.