2011

What Sunsets Were Made For

My generation is not one for stopping, in fact, the word “stop” is probably the most vulgar one out there, next to the “f” word, “failure.” These days, we have to tell our iPads and seasonal coffees to dream for us. We are too busy being connected to the world. As I type this, I am sitting on a porch miles from home overlooking hills, valleys, and mountains of trees with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. Why, at the age of 24 has it take this long to have found such a scene that would make Nathaniel Hawkeye of Last of the Mohicans jealous?

Today was the fall day anyone could dream of. My family escaped to Blue Ridge, a quaint town in northern Georgia. Here, there are shops, cafes, and restaurants galore and Starbucks, while it does have a presence, it is respectfully hidden in an Ingles grocery store. This town is made for those who move to a slower pace, one that begs people to make memories. It offers enough comfort for Generation Z and the time of the life for the Baby Boomers and Generation Y.

Getaways are not always easy these days. Families are busy with mom, dad or the step-parents constantly vying for your attention or dragging you off with them somewhere you’d rather not be. And when they do have the time to pay for a family retreat, however you might define family, it is a cookie-cutter vacation. An all inclusive trip to the “happiest place on earth” or the modern lodge in the mountains.

I am blessed to have the family I have. We realize that we are of a rare breed. While we are not perfect and let our needs and wants sometimes hurt each other, we bask in the good moments. The sunsets of the past few nights have been one of those moments. My mother, one night, snugged up in her jacket pokes her head out and whispered, “I agree, I don’t ever want to leave.” Our family needed this. Too much has gotten in the way of our hearts, we are like a gutter, once or twice a year we need to be cleaned. This is our purification.

God gets the backburner a lot these days, but, with these sunsets, he has triumphantly made us recognize his presence. These are the weekends spent apologizing to him for your selfishness and the next second standing in awe at what he has created. The temperature is perfect. The leaves subtly blow in the wind, creating a melody that only those who have “escaped from the every day” can hear. Bats zig-zag in the night and the crickets begin their melodic finale as the winter draws near. Scents of wood-buring fires and dreams of cider and hot chocolate engage the senses. If you have ever felt this, you will know that you have finally been set free.

Life is for these weekends. It is for the disconnect and reconnection. It is for the small things. It is for examining your heart and moving on. I am grateful for the escapes and such a loving family that loves me. I don’t ever want to forget the sunsets, because God made them for me.

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What Do the New Facebook Changes Mean for Your Ministry?

This post is aimed specifically at the youth leader, pastor, and the influential Christian. Facebook today has jumped into a whole new world of being social. As a person who is involved in the ministry you have been hesitant in the past to post pictures, videos, “likes” and other updates on who you are when you are not under the steeple. Facebook is making this harder and easier at the same time.

Some of the new things announced Thursday at the F8 Conference, Facebook’s “Tell-All” event, were the OpenGraph integrations, timeline, and newly upgraded apps. No longer can you click on an item in privacy, if JoAnne is listening to “Desperado” by the Eagles, Jessie Grace who is in your 6th grade small group will see.

Do not worry, privacy and sharing settings are all still there and are all becoming easier for you to filter what you do not want others to know. But, the point Facbook is trying to make, and where we are heading is that who you are will come out somehow and someway.

As a Christian, this is accountability and discipline at its finest. You can tell it not to show you are playing Farmville, listening to the Eagles, and reading Mary Higgins Clark’s bestseller, however, Facebook has presented two thoughts on why you should not keep these activities from the world. 1. Facebook is integrated around you and what you are doing so that people can be inspired. 2. Others who are with you when you are doing this activity can post that you are with them.

You are probably saying that this is not fair, and it may not be acceptable for someone who wants to just see what others are doing, but we are called to be disciplined as followers of Christ. Who you are and what you are struggling with will come out eventually. Facebook will best reveal the things that lurk in your heart through their timeline and its pattern integration.

Timeline will show all activities you are doing. You will be able to customize this as much as you want. You can show music you have listened to, books you have read, trails you have run, and food you have eaten. Lets say that you have been listening to music and reading material you should not have. If you are listening to or reading the content on a website or app connected to your email or Facebook, Facebook will begin to establish a pattern of what you are doing.

Bob is a dentist. He tells people to eat healthy, exercise daily, listen to motivational music and watch innocent movies. Everyone loves Bob, but what Facebook is starting to show is that Bob eats McDonalds about four times a week, has not run a mile in two weeks, listens to Eminem’s newest album and watched Saw V yesterday. Bob apparently is not practicing what he is preaching.

So what does this mean for you? It means that this is your time. This is the time for you to come clean and check if you are living a double-life. You may be outraged at Facebook, but know that even if Facebook crumbled, this is where we are heading.

Are you who you say you are?

A Great Inheritance – 1 Peter 1:3-5

[This was actually written in my study journal on 1/13/10. Writing each post twice may not be necessary, but it allows me to really grasp and revise what I have learned from historical truth. In other words… I am an overacheiver.]

I promised a year of digging deeper. I do not really want to call it a New Year’s resolution because those are silly and always broken promises. Really, this is born out of a thirst for more from God. It sustained me for quite a while after BigStuf and with the help and encouragement of my brother in Christ, Zack, and other friends who got me through the fall. Passion 2011 in Atlanta refreshed my spirit to where it was at last summer when God awakened it like I had not felt in such a long time. Both of these times I have come to God ready to learn and attentive to His voice.

Like I said in my previous entry, “365 Abba” is my year of disciplining myself to spend 30 minutes to an hour each day with God. This is not my personal journal, but my questions, scribbles, guesses, and observations. I am no scholar, but that is my long-term goal. I am no Piper or Driscoll, but they are who I strive to be, deeply rooted in my faith. And so I have chewed this week on three verses. Yes, only three. But, my father asks me to study his word; to think on it.

RC Sproul says that we fail in our duty to study scripture not because it is dull or too hard to comprehend, but that it is work. “Or problem is that we are lazy,” he says. John Piper says that, “the point of Christian learning is to understand God’s two books – scripture and the world – and, with that understanding, to glorify God.” It is not enough that we simply attend the best churches and listen to the best podcasts. We can attend the best conferences and camps and still never know God. A.W. Tozer says in his book, The Pursuit of God, “How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by teachers.”

God asks for us to seek Him. So, maybe now more than ever,  I am. My heart is eager for scripture and no pastor or band can fulfill this need. I almost want to divide this into two parts, for your sanity and make the time between this entry and the next less, but I will not dilute what I have learned from these passages. So grab some coffee or tea and let’s continue. (more…)