Your leaving? Kay’s Story

Social-Media-People-620x350Yes, it’s true. I’m leaving Facebook. I posted a status letting people know that I would be leaving in a few days and asking those that wished to stay in touch to use the Contact Us button on this website. My thought was to avoid spammers by using this tool, but I had no idea how my email inbox would fill up or that so many would send messages through other means asking why or applauding the decision. I also didn’t know that Brett would decide to get rid of his Facebook account, too. Of course, for him the decision was not a big deal. He rarely gets on Facebook and his posts are even rarer. He also received numerous messages and decided to write a blog here explaining his decision and now I feel the need to explain mine. Our reasons are similar but not exactly the same, so here’s my take.

Unlike Brett, I’ve been on Facebook a lot and unlike Brett, I find many of the controversial conversations mentally stimulating and enjoyable. I have also received a lot of pleasure from reconnecting with friends long lost, so for the cost benefit analysis to tip was a bigger deal to me. I will say that this was a journey with a couple of “last straws” along the way.

The first one was the article that I read by the woman whose son almost drowned as she was editing photos of him and his sister on Instagram. Beyond the horror of that particular story, she pointed to a more common and subtle situation and that is the failure to be fully present in one’s life, substituting social media for real relationships. Too often I’ve found myself staring at my phone when in the presence of people that I love dearly. I’m just glad that my children were old enough to be lifeguards by the time I got on Facebook or I could have been in her shoes.

The absolute final straw came from my devotional reading this morning. Lately I’ve been reading 40 Days with the Holy Spirit: Fresh Air for Every Day, by Jack Levison. Today’s scripture reading was from John 4:23-24, ” “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The meditation focused on truth and, as has been happening every morning since I began this study, it spoke directly to the thoughts I had been having when I sat down.

Before sitting on the porch and opening the book, I had made that awful mistake that I make too often — opening Facebook on my phone while getting ready for work. I saw that someone had responded to a comment that I had made on one of my brother’s posts. It was full of hatred and lies and I was stunned. I didn’t even know this person, yet they felt free to call me names and accuse me of stupidity for believing the facts that I had posted. Okay, I know this sounds like a he-said-she-said situation, but the bottom line is that I had posted data supported by multiple reliable sources on a topic I did not consider particularly controversial and his response was nothing but an ad hominem attack.

This happens to me a lot. I work in government and I know how politicians misconstrue the data we provide, but I also know how meticulous and careful the government staff preparing the data really are. The truth is that there are some facts out there and not everything is opinion. It’s a fact that illegal immigrants in the United States are not eligible for Medicaid. I work for the state agency that makes those eligibility determinations and the eligibility requirements for state services are facts. Posts attacking the public servants who work so hard to do the right thing for the fellow citizens every day drive me crazy because they are personal. I often know the people producing the data being questioned or running the program being misrepresented and when I hear them attacked it drives me insane. Nevertheless, lies get as much, or more, traction on social media as simple facts.

That’s where my thoughts were when I read the verse in John and Levison’s commentary today. It reminded me of Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” I’ve often read things on Facebook that were true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Nevertheless, those aren’t the things I think on. I think on the lies, the dishonesty, the injustice, the impure, the ugly, and the bad reports. Those are the things that my mind fixates on.

So, I’m leaving Facebook. I don’t think everyone needs to follow my example. Some of you are much better than I at focusing on those Philippians 4:8 things. If that’s you, I know you will find a lot to think about. On the other hand, if you are like me, you might want to consider doing your own cost benefit analysis.

I will also say that as I pondered the meditation on truth it struck me that by participating in the conversations on Facebook I am facilitating the dysfunction. Even when I fact check the things I post, I help create the environment where those who don’t bother to distinguish between truth and a lie get to spread their dangerous dishonesty far and wide.

So, I spent longer explaining my last, last straw, but the truth is the one that moves me the most is my own inability to join in the Facebook conversation with any degree of moderation. I’m an addict and there is no negotiating with your addiction. So, I’m out of there.

Maybe I’ll see you here a little more often. Or, even better, maybe I’ll see you in person. We’ll grab a cup of coffee and share what’s really going on in our lives. At the very least, maybe I’ll get over my phone-phobia and use that ridiculously priced bit of technology to call you and see how you’re doing. That might be nice.

You’re Leaving?

So, what’s the deal with Facebook? In hindsight I realize that I should have posted something here before I listed doxology.org as a way to get in touch with me. But better late than never!

So Kay and I were having coffee and talking on the porch this morning as we do most mornings and the topic of Facebook came up, and our general lassitude toward it and, really, social media in general. And without a great deal of fuss we decided to end our affair with social media. This came about without much angst, hand wringing, or bombastic proclamations but more as something that we have both been considering for a while which seemed good to do on this beautiful summer morning.

I mentioned the cost to benefit ratio. Here’s the calculation:

Benefit

  • I occasionally see cute and interesting things on Facebook; kittens, construction mishaps, grandchildren, etc.
  • I occasionally learn helpful things on Facebook; better ways to feed chickens, how to remove your name from the “watch lists” of certain foreign nations, etc
  • Occasionally I find myself in a situation where I could actually die of boredom without the distraction of Facebook.

Cost

  • I am exposed to the vitriolic angst of people I barely know, or don’t know at all most of which is expressed in reaction to the silliest of quasi-news reports or to the equally vitriolic angst expressed by other people in reaction to same.
  • I am exposed to the vitriolic angst of people I thought I knew well but could have done nicely without reading them distinctly NOT at their best.
  • I am provided, by Facebook, with the means to be absent from the body, where ever it happens to be, in order to be present in the ethereal world of social media. In other words, I can ignore the actual people I am with to pay attention elsewhere.
  • Facebook consumes time giving me the illusion of relationship while giving me almost nothing in return.
  • Since, in social media, it is practically impossible to keep my professional life and my private life separate; Facebook provides one more arena in which I find it necessary to keep my thoughts largely to myself while wishing that others would experience the same sense of constraint.
  • I am participating in, even if tangentially, something that I have come to feel is doing much more harm than good in society in general, and among those in my local communities in particular.

See what I mean? It just doesn’t work for me. Of course, it never did, but how can you NOT be on Facebook? To be honest, I have mostly avoided Facebook in order to avoid the negative costs, which, of course, meant that I mostly missed the benefits anyway. So why not just keep doing that?   It’s mostly that last “cost” on the list that motivates me. Maybe you too have been on the fence with social media and just needed a little nudge to make your exit. If so, consider yourself nudged. Sometimes we just need to feel like we have permission. If social media gives you more than it takes, feel free to continue to enjoy it! If not, you really don’t have to keep drinking from that hose.

An Open Letter to Houston Mayor Annise Parker from a Pastor

Originally posted on TitusLive:

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Dear Mayor Parker,

Most folks are a little confused as to why you subpoenaed sermons from some high-profile pastors who have opposed you. I’m not. I think your reasons are obvious and they are very political. I would expect nothing less from, you know, a politician. Also, between you and me, I don’t understand why the pastors don’t just hand the sermons over. Most of them probably have a podcast or sermon video on their websites, anyway. But I doubt you’re innocent in your motivations. I don’t think it is your intention, exactly, to possess these sermons for your own personal devotion time.

But that’s what I like to call Kingdom of This World stuff, and I’m not interested in that back and forth. Really, I was just writing to say one thing:

You can have my sermons. I’ll send all of them to your office.

I’ll send you the one about…

View original 948 more words

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Prayer for Independence Day

IndependenceLord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime–A Manual for Prayer (v. 1)

What role do spiritual practices play in your life?

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In recent years awareness of the role of spiritual practices, sometimes called spiritual disciplines, as an important part of the Christian life has been growing in many sectors of the Church. Two of my favorite books on the topic are Richard’s Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. I also really like James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful Series, though it goes beyond a strict focus on spiritual practices. So, what about you? Which of the spiritual practices below have you experienced? Take a second and answer the poll below and then consider talking about the role of spiritual practices in your life and how they’ve helped (or not) in the Comments section.

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May today there…

May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.”

― Teresa of Avila

Did I really just use Godzilla as a symbol of humility?

Yesterday I wrote about the first sentence of the prayer that hangs on the bulletin board above my desk. Today I will look at the second.

Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. Possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for You alone.

Thomas Merton

Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens.

tired

When you’ve used your strength in the waiting you need rest and not more burdens. Continue reading

Waiting

The prayer below is pinned to the bulletin board above my desk.

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Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. Possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for You alone.

Thomas Merton

It’s been there for months, but this morning the first sentence struck a chord. Continue reading

Gloriously Imponderable

Yesterday I learned that the universe shouldn’t exist. According to a new model that takes into account the properties of the newly discovered Higgs boson, the universe should have collapsed in on itself an instant after the Big Bang. I found the article and the discovery delightful to my soul.

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It’s not that I don’t appreciate the work of scientists. Continue reading

Peace Returned

This is a repost of a blog written on September 6, 2011.

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As I imagine spiritual relationships it is clear that I will not please everyone and will not be liked by everyone and (the startling realization) I don’t need to be.  Rather than dwell on those who do not see eye to eye with me I will do better to focus my attention and my energies where God’s favor has opened the way. Continue reading