#FridayFive: 07/20/2018

You know the deal–let’s do it:

Teens are Flocking to Youtube to…Study?: If you’re a computer-based office worker like me, one of the most important elements of your workday is background music to drown out the sound of your coworkers loudly calling out to each other. Especially your boss, who has no sense of–oh, that’s just me? Sorry. So yeah, background music is essential. I sometimes listen to podcasts, but when I need to focus just a bit more on the less-data-entry-like aspects of my work, it’s distracting. That’s why this article turned me on to what is becoming a lifesaver in my particularly slammed workdays: lo-fi streams on Youtube.

The Trophy: An Essay on Fatherhood: As the daddy of an…almost-one-year-old [*choking back tears*], essays about fatherhood hit me hard. Goins’ posts are always a good read, including this one.

5 Weak Words that Make Your Writing Less Effective: Another Goins post, this time on the weak/filler words that creep into our writing and water it down.

Why You Don’t Need to Read Those Productivity Guides: Although the author drifts dangerously close to “not having an act is your act” territory, he makes some good points here about “enough,” a word that is almost anathema in productivity discussions.

A Choose-Your-Path Twitter Fairy Tale: This is SO GOOD that I furious with myself for not thinking of it. Every so often, there’s a moment–one shining moment–where we all stop and realize, “hey, social media is actually a pretty cool invention that can bring people together in an interesting way.” I think this is one of those moments.

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Your Turn: Any cool stories or blog posts you want to recommend? Throw ’em in the com-box below!

Vanity, 140 characters at a time.

Two (possibly contradictory) thoughts regarding social media (and Twitter in particular):

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I was all set to blast him.

I spent a few minutes crafting what I knew was the perfect, 140-character jeremiad against a political party leader. It was rueful. It was accusatory. It would surely be seen and echoed by others, gaining “likes” and “retweets.”

As my thumb hovered over the “send” button, I imagined this person somehow picking this tweet out amidst the thousands of social media comments he was surely receiving, reading it, and being struck by its truth and resonance.

And then I thought, “Wait–what if he does read this? What if this is the only interaction I’ll ever have with the man? Is this the impression I want to leave?”

I wrestled for a second…then deleted my perfectly-sharpened rhetorical barb.

Go ahead and laugh. I agree, it’s a patently ridiculous thought that my comment would be the one needle in the digital haystack that would actually scratch its intended target. But let’s bring it back down to earth a bit.

Rather than a major political figure, how about the random person on Twitter whom I have the chance to interact with sometime? In that one interaction, how would I want to be perceived? And would they be able to tell what I value?

If you knew that your only interaction with a person would be via 140-character messages, what would you say? More importantly, what wouldn’t you say?

The person you’re @-tweeting to, even if they’re a celebrity or political power player, is a real person with a living soul. Not just a face or a name or a persona.  A real person. (I know, I know, I’ve talked about this before.)

I guess I’m bringing up all this to say, sometimes I can be too much of a keyboard-cowboy. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m nobody from nowhere, and that Jesus is the only person who matters. Sometimes I need to be thumped in the head by the fact that every careless word I speak (or type) matters to God (Matt. 12:33-37). If I remembered that every time I pulled up Twitter, it would motivate me to represent Him better in that medium.

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On the other hand: If I’m not using social media for specifically spiritual purposes, am I guilty of sin?

A Twitter-buddy of mine posted a brave question the other day: “Based on the majority of my social media content, what do you think I value most?” From what I could tell, some of the answers he received disappointed him a little. I have to give him props for even asking the question. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the answers I’d get, especially lately.

That question may be useful as a litmus test for checking for secret idolatries–the tendency we sinful creatures have to value things far more than they are due and make them more important in our lives than they should be (what the sages call “disordered passions”).

But I think the answers we get to that question may be a little misleading, as well, due to the nature of social media itself, and how we use it.  Often, I use social media to connect to people who enjoy the things I enjoy, and get excited about the same aspects of art and culture that I do. So it wouldn’t be outlandish to notice a large part of my interactions on social media are about just that: movies, music, TV, sports, politics, books.

However, what you see on Twitter or even on this blog isn’t the totality of my energies and thoughts. It may give indications, sure, and I should take those clues  seriously. But there’s more going on than what we see on-screen, even when it comes to ourselves.

All this to say: If your whole life (both online and offline) is consumed with temporary things, then pay attention. Re-adjust. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and get your head on straight.

But if you tweet or post about Steve Rogers, Barry Allen, and Jake Arietta because the only people you know who would be interested in discussing these heroic figures are friends on the internet? Well, I don’t think that’s an indication that your heart’s grown cold to the things of Christ.

But what do I know. Maybe I’m another frog in the pot with you.

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Like I said–possibly contradictory. This is the push-pull that I feel when it comes to this issue. I want to represent Jesus well with my words and actions. But I enjoy this life He’s given me, with all its temporary pleasures and unimportant joys. Baseball and comic books and board games and karaoke with friends–these are all gifts from God. I am thankful to Him for them. And on social media, I geek out about all these silly things. I don’t think that’s wrong, as long as these unimportant things don’t crowd out the Main Thing in my life.

Ironically, last night, after I finished the first draft of this post, my wife suggested that we both take a step back from media involvement for a bit, to focus some extra energy on spiritual things. For her, that’s mainly TV. For me, it’s social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter).  She’s right. It would be good to take a break. Regroup. Focus on weighty things.

 

I will try to get back to regular Monday – Wednesday – Friday blog posting, next week. I just won’t be as visible on other platforms for a little while.

Have a good weekend, friends. Jesus is Lord. Give Him the glory due His name.

Wednesday Guest Post: Webster Hunt

[Hey readers–from time to time, I’m going to bring in a guest blogger, just to mix things up. So please allow me to introduce a Twitter friend, Jesus follower, and all-around good dude, Webster Hunt. Follow him on Twitter at @livingheart .] 

Thank you, Dave, for giving me a chance to test the waters of blogging, and thank you, readers, for deciding to continue to read after you discovered that your regularly scheduled blogger had turned the reins over to a complete stranger. My hope is that you’ll be edified, comforted, and encouraged in Christ, and not run over the side of a cliff by a man who obviously has no idea what he’s doing – though he may boast otherwise.

My name is Webster Hunt, I’ve been married for seven years (in May, technically), and for the last three years my wife has been severely sick.  She’s seen so many specialists that I can’t count them. She spent much of 2012 in the hospital. She currently takes about 30 pills a day to fight all her various heart and blood pressure complications. She also has a pacemaker. She’s 26.

This illness took us completely by surprise. I can still remember the night that would foreshadow all the suffering to come – her blood pressure had contually risen all night and peaked at 185/110, at which point we asked her uncle to run her to the ER so that I could take care of our daughters. From that night, her illness only seemed to get worse, and seemed to be one which no doctor could peg down nor treat effectively, and one which would force us to make life-altering decisions in our family. I’m tempted to go into all that changed, but I may unintentionally cause reproach by passing over massive amounts of detail that are necessary for fully understanding all that happened. But in short, that year, our daughters were kindly adopted into a family that could better take care of them than we could and we chose to leave our home church to mitigate the effect our daughters would feel in having to leave us. Those were the hardest parts.

By our Lord’s providence, we found an apartment close to where I work so that I could quickly get to my wife if she needed me to, and we’ve been there since. 2013 was a hard year filled with loneliness and regret that things had to happen the way they did. We missed our daughters, and although we were greatly thankful for our Lord’s providence and love toward us in providing for them two wonderful adoptive parents, we wished that the home they could have been in was ours.  We missed our life before my wife’s illness; the freedoms, the joys, the little things we took for granted.

But we grieved together and whenever one fell into deep sorrow, by the grace of our Lord, the other was able to lift up, weep with, comfort, remind the one whose strength seemed sapped of our Lord’s sovereignty as shown in His Word. Even my wife, in the midst of an illness that attacked her body and mind at various times, was able when I was broken down to give comfort and remind me of the truth that our God, Jesus Christ, had conquered death and sin and was seated at our Father’s right hand, and would avenge any evil done to us, and would take the evil done to us and work it to good.

And here’s where I’m going with all of that: I wish the men who counseled me before marriage (who, in their defense, did their best to prepare us for marriage with all the right intent in all the ways our parents did not or could not or would not) had posed this question to me –

“Do you want to keep your promise that you’ll make at the altar when the sickness is the worst it could be, and it happens before its usual time – after you’ve experienced the joys of marriage for a time and have been husband and wife longer than you’ve had a mortgage – and the normal joys and experiences given to normal young couples dries up, and you have to make sharp sacrifices to take care of her.  When there is no physical joy to be gained, when you have to work your day job and then come home and take care of her too, when all your money is going to treating her illness, and many creature comforts that you would have otherwise experienced is gone and you’re left with the charge from God in scripture to “Love your wife” and “to deal with her in an understanding way” and you understand that your reasonable service to Christ is to be gracious toward your wife and remain steadfast in righteousness and purity when, though your wife’s body belongs to you, you are no longer able to exercise the joy that normally brings, do you still want to be married to her? Are you willing to be a living sacrifice in order to bring glory to Jesus Christ in your marriage by loving her the way 1 Corinthians 13 says a Christian should although you may receive no rewards, no accolades, no praises, no recognition, no glory in this life? Will you remain her husband both because you want to and because you vowed to?”

– because I think it would have made me take marriage more seriously in the first four years. Praise God that He prepared us by giving us mature men and women who would train us up to understand on the far-side what we neglected in the beginning.

Now granted, when that question is asked devoid of actual experience, it’s probably easy to say “Oh, yeah. I’ll totally do that. So when do we get to the “I DO” part of this?” Nonetheless, that is what I want to give to you to think about from my guest-blog, because Ephesians 5 tells me that marriage is a most visible picture by which our God demonstrates the relationship between Jesus and His church, and it’s easy to remain married when all the benefits and joys are readily available – and praise God when they are – but should He decide to take away those benefits and joys, let me encourage you: it is for your good because it is for Christ’s glory, though it seems to be absolutely contrary. It has to be. Biblically, it’s the only way we can think about suffering in any context. But I think that there’s an especial focus when it’s within the context of a Christian marriage, because that’s the picture God has chosen to demonstrate how He relates to His people, His Church, Christ’s body.

As a bonus: If we want to make a slam-dunk argument for Biblical marriage in our culture and how they think about marriage, we should pray, pursue, and study to obey Christ’s commands concerning marriage without complaining, especially when there’s suffering involved. True enough, even a lost person can sacrifice much for their spouse in the midst of an illness – I believe that to be the image of God in man leaking out despite their best efforts to suppress the truth – but given enough time, and given enough loss, and given enough lack of recognition, glory, or return for their investment, they’ll give it up. Let’s not be like this crooked generation.