Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why I don't use Twitter

About a year ago, I signed up for a Twitter account. Some ministry leaders recommended that I start tweeting as a good way to network and for people to read my thoughts and ideas, which they believed had some value for other leaders.
Twitter Icon
I tried it for about two weeks several months ago, but haven't used it since. In fact, I just deactivated my account. I've been thinking about why Twitter is not for me, and here is what I have concluded:
  • To be an effective Twitterer (Tweeter?), you have to do it regularly. You truly have to integrate it into your daily life. It's useless to tell people to check Twitter for updates when you don't post them. But I don't have the time or desire to post that often. It feels like pressure to me, to keep up with it.
  • I am an introvert (more on that in another post sometime). I am learning that writing for an audience, while a silent activity, is still an act of extroversion to me. For me, Twitter was an energy drain, as it also took away from my emotional recovery/"down" time. 
  • I honestly don't want to spend time learning a new tool. I feel that as I get older, I have to be more and more choosy about which new technology I will embrace and learn. I only have so much time in a day.
  • The rap on Twitter is that it is an egocentric marketing tool disguised as a social networking platform. The ten most-followed Twitter users as of this writing: 
    1. Britney Spears
    2. Ashton Kutcher
    3. Lady Gaga
    4. Ellen DeGeneres
    5. Barack Obama
    6. Kim Kardashian
    7. Justin Bieber
    8. Oprah Winfrey
    9. Taylor Swift
    10. John Mayer
  • Advocates of using Twitter for ministry claim that the platform has value for communicating ideas and making connections, and for learning how to condense your thoughts into 140 characters or less. While I think some people might be disciplined enough to use it this way, I don't buy that the majority of people on Twitter exercise that much self-reflection and control. I personally believe that celebrity-watching is just as much an obsession in Christian ministry as it is in sports or entertainment. "What did so-and-so write now?" "Did you know that famous-preacher-person is following me?" "I read on celebrity-leader's Twitter feed that... (fill in the blank)." It's too easy for me to get caught up in that world as a follower or a writer, and I want to minimize the temptation.
  • The biggest reason I don't use Twitter is that for every minute I spend sending updates on my activities and thoughts to the rest of the world, I am potentially missing an opportunity to minister to the people God has put right in front of me. I am deeply troubled when I see ministry leaders who pay more attention to their iPhones than to the person sitting across the table from them at lunch. I don't want to be one of those, so I am working to minimize distractions in my life. 
You may use Twitter. You may find it to be an exceptionally useful tool for your life and ministry. That's great...for you. For now, I've chosen otherwise. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I love my church

It's true. I love my church, the Chapel Hill Bible Church.

I love my church even though it is not all about bells and whistles and lights and flash on Sunday mornings. In fact, I love it because it's not like that.

I love my church because it's full of Republicans AND Democrats, with a healthy portion of Libertarians and unaffiliated and many non-Americans thrown in. I love that we don't preach or support one political party or system.

I love my church because it has Catholics and Presbyterians and Methodists and Brethren and Baptists and non-denominational and non-churched and even non-Christians. We are broadly evangelical in the best sense of the term.

I love my church because at last count, we had 42 countries represented in our body. I have a friend who attends an international church in Jordan, and even that church did not have 42 countries. At my church, we sometimes sing in Spanish or in African languages I can't even pronounce. That's what we'll do in heaven, which is why I love that about our church.

I love my church because we have old people and young children and every age in between. We don't cater to just one age group. I love that our worship is not "traditional" or "contemporary" or "blended." It's just our church, and it's different all the time. In fact, we're not even very "churchy." Some weeks we have a full orchestra and choir, other weeks we have three people on acoustic guitars. We sing songs that convey Truth, wherever that Truth can be found.

But those are the things I love about my church. I also love my church on a much more difficult, much deeper level. I love my church even when I don't like my church -- and trust me, there are a lot of things I don't like about my church.

I love my church when the people in it are mean and impatient and decidedly un-Christlike to each other.

I love my church when the people in it are mean and impatient and decidedly un-Christlike to me and I have gotten hurt, sometimes supposedly in the name of Jesus.

I love my church when the leaders make decisions I don't agree with -- and when they don't make decisions.

I love my church even though we don't have a Lead Pastor right now and it sometimes feels like things are uncertain and unsettled.

I love my church even when it feels like it would be easier to go somewhere else and start over, or to sit back and wait and see before I commit to anything.

I love my church, so I am committed to it, and to loving the people in it: for better, for worse; for richer, for poor; in organizational sickness and health.

I love my church because it is the body of Christ, an organization full of sinners, and as such it is messy and tiring and hurtful and disorganized and full of personal agendas and slow to change.

Just like me.

Jesus established his Church and then died for it. If He loved it that much, I want to as well.

Do you love your church?

Monday, July 12, 2010

I love my city

I do. I totally heart Durham, North Carolina.

When we lived in Minnesota, we started out in the first-ring suburb of Roseville, just outside St. Paul. Three years later, we moved a few blocks south, into St. Paul proper. St. Paul always had a "second-class city" reputation compared to Minneapolis. Mpls was the gleaming big city with the skyscrapers and the hip urban scene. Mpls liked to be known as a "big city." St. Paul was indeed smaller (by around 100,000 people in the city limits but a bigger discrepancy once you counted the suburbs) and did not have the tall buildings. Instead, it had domed cathedrals, a great science museum, and old brick homes. In my opinion, St. Paul had much more charm, and I liked it much better. I felt safe and at home there.

I feel the same way about Durham. Our neighbor to the east, the State Capital of Raleigh, likes to think of itself as the big city. (Even though, trust me, it's really not.) Raleigh likes to compare itself to Charlotte, to think of itself as important, to boast of its skyline. (Again, I've lived around big cities. Raleigh is not a big deal.)

Durham is content to be a hidden treasure. It's true that Durham has a lot of bad history. The city boomed during the heyday of the tobacco industry, then the industry and the downtown fell apart in the 1960s and Durham became synonymous with run-down buildings, poor schools, and crime. But that's no longer the real Durham.

You can still see remnants of that reputation in pockets around town, but the new Durham is a thriving city of 225,000, a regional and even national destination for foodies, shoppers, social entrepreneurs, and the arts. (Our new performing arts center has blown people away; "Wicked" drew 85,000 visitors to town.) The downtown is becoming a very cool place as old tobacco warehouses are being converted into lofts and hip office space. The reputation of our school district is ill-deserved and based on a few underperforming institutions, not on the big picture. We've got a gleaming new transportation center, dozens of new restaurants, great shopping, and a beautiful trail and park system. 

Durham is a great place for singles and families, young and old. It's a place where you can still buy a decent house for around $200,000, and where the employment and economic base is diverse enough that it was named one of the best places to ride out the recession. Durham is charming and cozy and growing.  It's cutting edge and comfortable at the same time. Durham is my home. I love it, and I plan to live here a very, very long time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thy kingdom come

This summer, the teaching team at the Chapel Hill Bible Church is going through The Lord's Prayer. On Sunday, Dave preached on "Thy Kingdom Come." (Click here to listen online.) I know I'm biased and think Dave is always a good preacher, but this one has especially stuck with me, and I'm still ruminating on his sermon and the concept of the kingdom of God.

In Eugene Peterson's The Message, Matthew 3:2 ("Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand") is paraphrased, "Change your life. God's kingdom is here." I LOVE that interpretation and have been thinking about it all week.

Change your life. God's kingdom is here. 

Jesus never gave a specific definition of the kingdom. Rather, he talked about what the kingdom looks like. It's like a farmer sowing seed, a man hunting treasure, a woman kneading dough, a fisherman casting a net. It's like yeast and a small seed. (Dave listed inspiring examples from within our church community.) The kingdom is present and future, now but not yet. It is on earth and in heaven. It is forcefully advancing, yet not violent. Jesus established the Church as the primary agent of the kingdom, and we as his followers are to be working ceaselessly in these last days to advance God's rule and reign in our little sphere of influence. 

Change your life. God's kingdom is here. 

Really, the kingdom changes everything. There is absolutely no way you can subscribe to a health-and-wealth gospel (sorry, Joel Osteen) under a kingdom theology. Life is not about us or our happiness or success; it's about us advancing the kingdom here on earth through small, counter-cultural revolutions, while we wait for Christ's return when the kingdom will be fully established for eternity. 

Change your life. God's kingdom is here.

How does the reality of the kingdom change my life? The question is not whether, but how. You cannot make the kingdom "your primary concern" (Matt 6:33) without it completely changing your life. How does putting the kingdom first change how I approach relationships with friends and strangers, how I parent my sons, how I love Dave, what kind of house I live in, what kind of car I drive, how I handle money, how I think about my church, and what I do with my free time? These are hard and convicting questions to wrestle with. 

Change your life. God's kingdom is here.

The kingdom changes everything. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vijam Tar Heel Jackson Ward, 1996-2010

I'm guessing the majority of you know this, but last Friday, we put our dear Jackson to sleep. He was 13 1/2 and his health had declined to the point where this was the humane thing to do.

Jackson had several health issues, including thyroid disease, joint problems, Cushing's disease, and the usual elderly ailments such as poor hearing and eyesight. The Cushing's made him have a lot of accidents around the house. On Monday when he soiled his dog bed and had an accident while lying down, I knew it was time to finally make "the call" to the vet. I called on Tuesday and scheduled the appointment for Friday afternoon.

It was really hard to explain everything to the boys. Taylor asked why we were going to pay somebody to kill our dog. Dave and I explained that Jackson was not just old, he was very sick, and seemed to be in a lot of discomfort even though beagles are very stoic. It was a hard week, with a lot of questions. I think Taylor was a little angry at us, and Jamison wanted frequent accidents to be "normal" so we wouldn't have to take action.

On Wednesday night, we all watched "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" with Jackson on the couch. When Jackson was younger, he would watch the movie and jump off the couch toward the television, baying at the wild animals on the screen. This time, he just snored through the whole thing. Homeward Bound is one of my favorite movies, and I start sobbing every time Shadow makes it back to his boy, Peter. This time, the boys started crying too, and we spent a lot of time just cuddling on the couch and in our bed.

On Thursday, our dear friend Judy came over for dinner. She was one of Jackson's favorite people, so she spent some time cuddling with him and also took the fantastic family photo below:

On Friday, we picked the boys up from school a little early, then stopped by the house to get Jackson before heading to the vet's office. It was a very somber car ride. At the clinic, we were blessed with a wonderful vet tech who also started crying when she saw Jackson. She explained that she had put her own dog to sleep last week, and that she wasn't sure she could handle taking Jackson when she saw his file that day, but that she had always loved him. Her compassion was very moving. She did a great job of explaining everything to the boys, especially that Jackson wouldn't feel any pain as he went to sleep.

She then "borrowed" Jackson (her words) to shave his leg and insert a catheter for the final injection. When she came back, she fed him some dog treats and a small jar of turkey baby food using a tongue depressor. Aside from a full jar of peanut butter, I don't think Jackson could have asked for a better last meal. He was in heaven and for a moment he was his old lively self again. But the vet came in and our time with him was quickly coming to an end.

I was proud that both boys chose to stay in the room with Jackson during his last moments. Dave and Taylor sat on chairs in the room (which was more like a living room than an exam room), while Jamison and I sat on the floor with Jackson. I sat on a fleece blanket on the floor, with Jackson draped across my legs. Jackson was just licking the last savory morsels of turkey from the tongue depressor when the vet gave him the injection. He went to sleep within seconds, and I stroked his velvety soft ears while we all told him what a wonderful dog he had been and that we were glad he was no longer in pain, but that we would look forward to seeing him again some day. When Taylor saw that I was crying, he lost his composure as well, while Jamison just quietly petted Jackson on the floor. I took his old green collar and tags off his neck to one last familiar jingle, and we left the room and went home to a house that suddenly seemed a lot emptier.

That was five days ago. I had trouble sleeping the first few nights, missing that familiar lump in our bed. I still miss the jingle of Jackson getting up to greet us when we come home. I miss rubbing his soft ears, and I really miss just hearing his breathing as he lay at my feet in my office. At the same time, I don't miss the constant care and cleaning he required the last few months. Jackson had become a faint shadow of himself and I know we made the right decision at the right time. He had lived a long and very full life. He was definitely MY boy, my firstborn, the best gift ever from Dave after we had been married a year and had just bought our first house in Minnesota. Thanks, Hon.

The boys seem to be doing OK. I think the hardest part was the buildup to the euthanasia, and watching the actual procedure. They miss him, for sure, but life moves on as it always does. They have not begged for an immediate replacement, but there is little doubt that we will get another dog at some point.

Rest in peace, Jackson. You loved us well and I hope you are looking down on us from somewhere in the skies, contentedly licking a large peanut butter jar as you reminisce about your good life and the family who still loves you so much.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gold: A Poem by Taylor Ward, age 11

Gold is the glittering gem from the earth
It's the light in the newborn's eyes after birth
Gold is the savannah's sparkling grass
It's the blazing sun's fiery mass
Gold is the marriage surrounding a finger
Gold's majestic sparkle always will linger
Gold is the taste of the voice from your throat
It's the shiny button on a fancy coat
Gold can fill a person with dread
It's the flowers on a grave of a person's who's dead
In dark, gold can pierce through the black
But black can come back with a simple attack
Gold is the sound of horns and of pipes
It's the taste of a fresh pear that is ripe
Gold can corrupt almost anyone's mind
But luckily it's very hard to find
Gold is a color, but also can be touched
And in opinion, I like it very much

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Next "Survivor" Series

Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and take either music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 3 kids, maintain his career, keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of 'pretend' bills with not enough money.

In addition, each man will have to budget enough money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time--no emailing. Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment.

He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Emergency Room.
He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a school function.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside, and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn themselves with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished, and eyebrows groomed. 

During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, backaches, headaches,have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings and church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:30 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size, doctor's name, the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear, and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if...he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years, eventually earning the right to be called Mother!

(HT: Laurie Josey)