Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Some of you know the adage:

We judge ourselves by our intentions; others judge us by our actions.

This morning I received an email “judging my actions” or at least my blogging. The author suggested that my blogs are:

“self-serving, braggish, tacky, whining and childish.”

People that know me well might agree (at times) with childish and whining, willing to debate tacky but would argue (I’d hope) the accusation that I am self-serving or braggish. Typically I’m accussed of the opposite.

Still it’s feedback and it was signed (I don’t read anything anonymous) so that I could attempt to respond to the sender (who unfortunately has a deactivated email account). Most importantly it’s given me a pause to think about blogging (and a topic to write about).

I included in a recent post a quote by Rob Bell (whose writing really inspires me)

You have to be so totally disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging and twittering are somehow a redemptive use of your time.

I suspect Rob might agree that blogging (and he adds twittering) are self-serving activities but still I wonder:

Can blogs, twitter, facebook and whatever the next new thing in social media connect us and become places to exchange ideas?

I regularly read a small handful of blogs from church leaders (Mark Batterson, Kem Meyer, Carey Niewwhof) and a few written by friends (especially newly published author Christina Dudley). I also follow a variety of people on Twitter. From both I regularly find insights or news on things profound and things mundane and lots of things in between.

So for the moment I’m going to continue to give blogging a try but I will be mindful to try not be self-serving or whiny!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

King of Pop

On Tuesday afternoon I was one of the more the 31 million who turned on the television to watch a portion of the memorial service for Michael Jackson (and who knows how many more were watching online). I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into the heart and mind of pop culture.

I grew up with the Jackson 5 and then the solo careers of various brothers and sisters. MTV was launching as I was starting college (and actually was 24 hours of music videos in those days). Martha Quinn was my favorite VJ, the BugglesVideo Killed the Radio Star (which was the first video played on MTV) is still one of my favorites and when the videos for Michael Jackson’s Thriller album began to appear I was hooked. His previous album Off the Wall was great but think of all that Thriller contained beyond the title cut: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Billie Jean, The Girl is Mine (with Paul McCartney) P.Y.T., and Beat It. It was music made for video. (I also remember losing Kim’s Thriller cassette – a media for music between vinyl and cd – I still owe her a replacement).

Whether you like the music or not and regardless of your opinion of how Jackson lived his life there are lessons in how the world responded to his death and celebrated his life. Here’s what I “learned” about pop culture watching the memorial for the King of Pop.

We believe in life after death.
Even while remembering the past, almost every speaker or entertainer spoke of Michael in the present and with some sort of acknowledge of heaven. Stevie Wonder captured it most succinctly, “As much as we may feel we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more.

We believe that helping others is important.
Much of the service was about music but Jackson’s charitable work was equally celebrated. One speaker noted that he holds the Guinness World Record for Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star. We care that people care about people

We believe that we are each born with a purpose.
Martin Luther King III, quoting the eloquence of his father, noted that each of us is born with gifts and a challenge to use those gifts to please God. His sister, Bernice, added the only reference to Jesus I saw (though I missed Lionel Richie’s Jesus Is Love) with a wonderful paraphrase of Romans 8.

I’m sure there were lots of other insights I could have gathered – but I didn’t watch the entire service and honestly was paying perfect attention to what I did watch. I will confess that after watching I downloaded Thriller to my iTouch.

For those of you who watched the service – I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

N.T. Wright suggests that we live in a world where there is an echo of a voice that speaks of beauty and justice and joy. It is what stirs in our hearts a “longing for things to be put right.” We hunger for something “just around the corner, out of sight, the echo of a voice.”

There were echoes of the voice throughout a memorial for the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, but no one named the voice as that of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

16 years ago

Yesterday a friend reminded me that it was exactly 16 years ago (yesterday) that I left an architectural career and headed off to seminary. She asked me:

Are you were you thought you'd be 16 years ago?

Great question - I'm still working on the answer.

I put the question back to her and also asked if I am where she thought I'd be 16 years ago. Her answer really surprised me - "No. I thought you'd be back practicing architecture by now."

That gave me even more to ponder - so now it's your turn.

Think back 16 years ago - it was 1993 - today are you where you thought you'd be then?

Would Jesus Twitter?

A few days ago our Communications Director, Cameron, posted a question on the Grace Presbyterian Church facebook page:

Would Jesus twitter?

She included a quote from Rob Bell:

You have to be so totally disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging and twittering are somehow a redemptive use of your time.

I’m a huge fan of Rob’s writing. Velvet Elvis and Sex God have been significant influences on my thoughts around church and faith. I find the NOOMA videos to be incredibly well done and have used for both teaching and just to watch for myself.

But I think Rob’s being a little hard on social media. I wonder is watching a NOOMA video is really any more redemptive than posting or reading a blog on a similar topic.

Perhaps there’s a question behind the question – would Jesus twitter? Does social media connect or distance us from one another?

I'm still figuring this out but so far I've found social media especially facebook and twitter (blogs a bit less so) to be highly connective. I've reconnected with old friends, received and shared pastoral concerns from people around the world, learning of causes that touched my heart, been introduced to new ideas that challenge and inspire, shared experiences with family and friends.... somehow that all begins to sound like a redemptive use of time.

In fact right now, if you are reading this blog, we are engaging in a dialogue we might not otherwise have had – well “engaging” if you comment.