Responding to the Latest Twitter Outrage is Not My Job

From Alan Jacobs (way back in January 2016!):

  • I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.
  • I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about.
  • I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response.
  • I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge.
  • If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent.
  • Private communication can be more valuable than public.
  • Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction.
  • Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.

Repeat after me: It is not my job to respond to every outrageous news story. It is not my job to respond to every outrageous news story. It is not my job to respond to every outrageous news story.

Jacobs’s last three points, for me, are the most freeing (and perhaps slightly condemning). We need to find more value in in-person, private, delayed, thoughtful conversation over online, immediate communication. Those conversations are not only less likely to be heated and fruitless — they are more likely to be meaningful, beneficial to our smaller communities, and more likely to effect change.

Music and the End of the Year

I always love looking back on my music-listening at the end of the year. I use Spotify frequently, and for the last two years, it has provided me with a list of my most-listened-to songs. They also added a few other features by letting me see my top artists, amount of listening minutes, and so on.

While I wasn’t completely surprised by my list of top artists, there were a few things that caught me off guard. The primary one? Yo-Yo Ma was my top played artist of the year. He beat out Kendrick Lamar, Chris Thile, Lorde, and Mutemath. I couldn’t help but wonder how that could possibly be — I don’t remember listening to Yo-Yo Ma quite as much as I listened to the other artists. And then I realized that a large portion of my listening in the spring and summer revolved around non-lyrical music. I was doing a ton of reading and writing for a couple of my classes, and needed music in the background that wouldn’t distract me. Thus the Bach: Cello Suites album by Yo-Yo Ma took up a bunch of my listening time. This little bit of data analysis helped me to remember a significant part of my year (listening to Bach coupled with research) that was buried in memory.

Another thing I love about the end of the year lists is listening to those top 100 songs on shuffle. It’s a little jarring as it jumps from “DUCKWORTH” by Kendrick Lamar to “Still Feel Like Your Man” by John Mayer. But something about it feels right. I have always loved the eclecticism of my music tastes — on any given day I’ll listen to a bluegrass album, a hip-hop album, and a pop album. The shock of jumps between these genres in the space of a few minutes reminds me of the diversity of music I enjoy.

A Good Dog Died Today

We named him Pedro Sanchez Daugereau because my brother and I loved Napoleon Dynamite.

In the summer before my senior year of high school, my mom surprised my brother and me when she got a tiny puppy Italian Greyhound. He was small enough that he almost fit in my two hands clasped together. On the first day we had him in our home, my brother and I were playing with him in the living room at the top of our stairs. I got him riled up, and he tumbled down them like a rag doll, end over end. I can still remember the yelping and the way my little brother cried and was terrified that something terrible had happened. But Pedro was okay.

1004_508332880313_1652_n

I can also remember Pedro being my responsibility at night. We attempted kennel training, and my patience was thin as a 17-year-old. I can remember getting up in the middle of the night to try and get him to go outside, and him refusing to do so, especially when it was freezing cold. I would toss him out in the snow and not let him in until he went. Not my proudest moment.

I can remember him sunbathing in the Alaskan summer months in our backyard, the way he lazed around during those long summer days when the weather finally got warmer.1930599_29867328831_1385_n

DSCF0649

I remember the time when Pedro stuck his head through the posts in the railing of the stairs leading up to our front porch. The rails were further apart on the bottom than they were on the top, so when he lifted his head up, he got his head stuck and lost his mind. You could hear the yelping throughout the whole neighborhood – it sounded like we were torturing him.

That was how Pedro was. He was quiet and lazy and loved sleeping under blankets. I mentioned we struggled with kennel training – mostly because I ended up just letting him sleep in the bed with me. He wouldn’t want to get up in the mornings, so when I tried to wake him up he would stretch his legs out and push against me as if to say “Not yet, five more minutes!” But then he was kind of a weenie. Any slight pain or scare would make him yelp.

I can remember when he somehow learned how to smile, and he only did it to the people he was really excited to see. Every time I came home from college, he would stretch his whole body out to reach up to me, and then raise his lips and show his teeth in the excitement in a way I had never seen a dog do.

10399318_23737028831_9805_n

Pedro was a good dog.

I’ll miss you Pedroboy.

A Thousand Voices

Twitter has a much stronger draw for me than Facebook does. I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s the constant flow of information or the thought that I have access to a world of thought completely outside of my own normal circles (my Twitter feed is generally much less conservative than my Facebook feed).

I actually quit Twitter for a little while. I used it for a few years very regularly and then got tired of how much my attention was being grabbed by it right around the end of the 2016 election. I also remember being disappointed in myself for constantly thinking in “tweetable” thoughts. I.e., anytime I attempted to chase down a line of thinking, I couldn’t help myself but find ways to tweet about it, which inevitably stunted my ability to flesh out my thinking on pretty much anything in a meaningful way. So, I archived my entire Twitter account and deleted it completely.

That was fine for a little while until I felt the need to return. My hope was that, having had some time off, I could better manage my attention and my thoughts and who I followed. Some of that has been true. I’m much more careful now about what I say and how much time I spend on it look at that feed daily. Something is still not quite right though. I see a lot on Twitter about how it has changed — that the way we interact with one another is far too insular, that we are especially reactionary on it as opposed to other platforms, and so on. But I’m not convinced that Twitter is changed (besides bumping us up to 280, curse the name of Twitter forever) so much as American culture and thought life has changed. Twitter is reactionary because we are reactionary. Our experience within Twitter is stunted and insular because we are stunted and insular.

My concerns with Twitter abound, and after experimenting with it for a second time, I don’t know that I’m any better off than I was the first time around. I might personally handle it better than I did a year ago. But as I told my wife recently, I can’t help but feel like when I log in to Twitter, I am greeted with a thousand voices that are demanding that I care about the political issue that just occurred, or the new sexual harassment revelation in Hollywood or D.C., or today’s theological controversy. The fact is, for the most part, those things are not my job to care about. There is literally nothing I can do about them, despite the fact that those thousand voices lay an infinite demand on me each day that I can and should. The better, more effective work that I can do is right here in my own tight-knit community.

A Mundane Holy Week

Every year when Lent rolls around, I tell myself that I really want to do something different this year for Lent/Holy Week/Good Friday/Easter Sunday. I internally say that I want to have a little more focus, maybe use the daily lectionary, maybe pray a little more, maybe do something to better understand what the atonement is and what Resurrection means and how it fits in this life of mine.

And then, you know. Work, kids, TV shows, new music, grass mowing, herb gardening, reading, visiting family, coffee roasting, and on and on.

image

None of it is bad. I actually AM trying to find ways to enjoy and just be in these daily and weekly rituals. This time with my girls and my wife that I will never get back if I keep checking my phone for Facebook and Twitter updates. Mowing the lawn is a lot more fun now that I’m an adult (Chris from ten years ago would look at me with such disdain).

So I can look back at this past couple of months that I gave up Twitter for (most of) Lent – only to replace it with constant Facebook checking – and be disappointed in myself. I can look back and be frustrated that I didn’t spend time in prayer nearly as much as I wanted to.

Or

I can be satisfied. Content. Happy that I actually do have a fulfilling life. I can use this next few days to reflect on my failings and faults and successes over the last few months and change something about myself, about how I see the world and parenting and being a husband and a Jesus follower.

Is that the point of all this? To try and fail but try to not be discouraged but see where I can do better and see how the Spirit might be working in me and in the people around me that I love so dearly? I think so.

Maybe this Easter Sunday won’t feel special in any real way. Our family will go to church, hopefully have some time to reflect, both on what the Crucifixion might mean and what the Resurrection pulls us toward. We will do so while one of us bounces a five-month-old so she isn’t fussy and we both worry about how our two-year-old is doing in her little classroom. We’ll leave church and eat ham and play in our new backyard and maybe, even if for only a moment, we will experience a taste of the Kingdom of Heaven in our seemingly mundane lives.

Breaking Bad and Neglected Kids

I’m a pretty big Breaking Bad fan. I know, who isn’t, right?

Anyway, I’m re-watching the series here and there if I have extra time, and I recently came across an episode that I had forgotten about. It’s a part of a two episode series where Jesse goes to the house of a couple of meth addicts that have stolen money from him to get his money back.

Long story short, he ends up breaking into the house while (he thinks) no one is home to wait for the addict/thieves to show up. While he is waiting, he is surprised by a small red-headed child, maybe three years old. Without acknowledging Jesse, he walks into the living room to turn the TV on. The child has obviously not been bathed in a very long time; he has dirt on his face, his hair is untidy, he is wearing a raggedy pajama shirt and what looks like very old underwear. This is not to mention the condition of the house. Random crap is strewn about everywhere, and the house is in an obvious state of disrepair. When Jesse finally gets the child to talk, he only says two words: “I’m hungry.”

It’s probably safe to assume he hasn’t eaten in a long time.

The rest of the episode goes on, but that’s not what I’m here for. The entire scene with the child reminds me of a camp that I have been a part of for the last three years, Royal Family Kids’ Camp. The camp is a week-long camp meant for children in the foster care system that have been abused and neglected. You’d be surprised at the stories I’ve heard – about what these children have had to go through. The Breaking Bad scene puts a picture in my head of how these children have been forced to live. They are a part of families that have made them feel unwanted, they have been left to wallow in filth for days on end, they have been treated with such cruelty that most of us can’t even come close to imagine.

I’m not one to normally do this. Below is a link to the Royal Family Kids’ Camp page in South Dallas. It’s the one I have participated in for the last three years. The camp is intended to give these children a chance to see that there are people who really love them, people who would give up time just to hang out with them for a full week. It’s not much, but as our camp director likes to say, “If you were blind, what do you think a vision would mean to you?”

If you are looking for a place to make a charitable donation, or to give any of your time or resources (there are lots of ways to help), please just check out the page. From my experience, this camp is the kind of thing that can change a child’s life.

Royal Family Kids’ Camp of South Dallas

To My Friends and Family

I’m writing this post on the backside of a conversation I had with Elaine today regarding the content of my blog posts online. She and I had a constructive conversation about the (potentially) controversial nature of some of the content I’m writing about, especially regarding my more theologically and socially conservative friends and family.

First, I would like to say that I love writing, and I’m not going to stop. It is the manner in which I feel I can best express myself, my thoughts, and my faith. It also helps me to work through various theological and philosophical issues, and helps me to become a better writer overall. Nonetheless, my views are my own, and they are subject to change – as I think they should for everyone.

Second (and with complete honesty and openness), I recognize that many of the issues I have written about – and no doubt, will write about – are controversial (to some) in nature. To be clear, I am not simply choosing to write about topics that are controversial for controversy’s sake. I write about them because they are important to me right now, I find them interesting, and I want to have an open and honest discussion with people from all walks of life about these issues – whether you agree or disagree with me. However, while some of you may find my treatment of topics to be over-the-deep-end theologically, or too liberal or emergent or whatever, this is not the case with a large population of theologians and Christians across the nation.

In other words, to you, I might seem too liberal. To others, I am seen as too conservative.

I write because I love it, and because I love talking about God. I also love having healthy, constructive discussion and debate. If you agree or disagree with me regarding something I post, please leave a comment on this blog or on my Facebook page. If you would like to better understand where I’m coming from or why I think a certain way, respond by having a conversation with me – not by talking about how “concerned” you are for me, or immediately attacking my viewpoint. I don’t mind disagreement, but I won’t take any kind of belligerence or ignorant attacks seriously. This, I feel, is the way forward for all of us.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for being supportive. Grace and peace to you all.

Gordon-Conwell Acceptance!

I won’t be posting anything controversial today!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I received my acceptance letter (via email) to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the fall 2013 semester! Also, they included in the letter that I have received a $4,500 per year scholarship. I may also be receiving other scholarships, which I will find about later.  I’m very excited about the prospect of going to seminary, and especially for being about to continue on in my theological education.

 

For those of you who don’t know about seminary, here’s a little info: I plan on going to seminary to receive an M.Div., which is pretty close to receiving two master’s degrees – one in practical theology (basically ministry) and one in (I suppose you could call it theoretical) theology. The current goal for our family after seminary is to pursue church planting. Also, we plan to plant a church community that looks and practices on a much different plane than most churches do today. That’s something I’ll probably explain at a later time. Many of my thoughts on the subject are still abstract, but suffice it to say it won’t be “church” like people recognize it today.

Also, Gordon-Conwell is really cool because it is a well-respected, theologically-conservative seminary that is in the top tier of divinity schools and seminaries around the country. It is so well-respected, in fact, that it participates in something called the Boston Theological Institute, which allows for cross registration in classes at schools like Harvard Divinity School, Boston College, and other highly respected institutions in the Boston area.

Elaine and I are still in the middle of really deciding about this whole seminary thing, but I know it is a step in the right direction for our family (or will be at some point in the future). We will be in prayer over the next few months about making this decision and weighing the pros and cons for what moving would mean for our family.

As an aside, only 23 days until graduation!