Saturday, March 11, 2017

Social Media



When I was a teenager, I read a book called The Keeping Days. It focuses on a deep, insightful girl named Tish who lives in Yonkers around the turn of the century. Keeping days are those days when everything aligns and you feel a strong awareness of unity and good.  This was a very important book for me.  So important that I bought it for my own girls.

I have keeping days too.  I had one at Christmas. One of the girls' friends came to stay with us a week. She is Jewish. It was Hanukkah. She asked if she could light the candles and pray, and we agreed. All evening, this makeshift menorah, a combination of tapers, votives, and tealights, sat on the dining room table. All of my children were home, Bradley was home, no one went anywhere. It was a rare moment.

It's hard to know what to do with those moments. Tish drank it in, recited it to herself, wrote it in her journal. I took a photo and put it on Instagram.

Funny thing about social media. We use it to be heard, to communicate, but our most meaningful thoughts tend to get lost in the flood of everything at once. Scroll, scroll, scroll.  It's a strange combination of loneliness and togetherness. Although, I suppose no one was reading Tish's journal, either.

Myself, I love social media. People are comfortable there, they reveal more, perhaps more than they intend. I learn a lot about a person's true nature by following them.  It's much easier than meeting them in person with all their noise and energy coming at me.  I take what I know of them in real life, pair it with what I see on social media, and gain a better idea what kind of human they are.

Plus, I find it easier to respond to people on social media. Real life conversations move so fast and only skim the surface. A lot of social media only skims the surface, too, but I tend to limit myself to people who go deep.  I've found good conversationalists online, and by that I mean people who listen as well as speak. Social media is a mixed bag, but if you edit your feeds and limit your time, it can be great.

I want to feel connected to others. I don't get that very often in real-life social settings. I connect when I'm one-on-one with a person, no one else there, they are focused on me and I on them and both of us on the task at hand.  A task is essential to good communication, seems like. For instance, in piano lessons. I learn so much about these individual souls that show up fierce and expectant.  Kids are such people. I love one-on-one teaching.

Group activities/tasks are a much bigger challenge for me. Needs and agendas clang against one another, it seems almost impossible to move forward without stepping on someone.  I hate stepping on people.  If we took enough time and went deep enough, I think we could negotiate outcomes that meet everyone's needs.  But people don't. They check off lists and go to the next thing, encouraged by the powers that be.  Stinking powers. I want a slower life. That's hard to find in a group.

I'm still deliberating about social media. I've thought all along that it simply magnifies what people already are. It remains to be seen if that magnification is healthy or destructive. Social media gives a voice to those who are trapped in real-life power structures.  There is a lot of pain in the world, beautiful rowdy people with something to say. We can learn a lot from those who are different. Lively online debate will certainly improve the accuracy of the picture, despite the false news that inflames peoples' fear and anger. If we exert ourselves to listen, we will hear the voice of the oppressed. This is a good thing.

Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. A lot of people wanted him to shut up. But fifty years later, we are so thankful for him and his ideas.  We realize, oh my goodness, he was right, and we couldn't see it. He said some very uncomfortable things. People told him to stop, he was making things worse. He upset the status quo, but in a good way. I hope we can use our social platforms the way he used his, with patience and grace and stalwart dedication to truth. For good.  He just kept speaking, not quiet, not shrill. He just kept speaking and would not go away, even when they arrested him.

There is beauty and there is truth. There is justice and there is mercy. Social media can magnify these things or it can diminish them. Depending on us. Me, I'm going to keep posting, praying my barbaric yawp is true enough, balanced enough, redemptive enough, and refining my choices as the picture becomes clear. Meet me there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Voice of the Dove


When we lived in our old house and I was alone most of the time with three small children, two doves came and sat on our back fence every morning. I heard their cooing as I changed diapers and fixed breakfast and got the wheels turning on the day.
Doves always remind me of God. It was a dove that brought news to Noah that he could leave the ark. After Jesus's baptism, God's Spirit alighted on him in the form of a dove. Christ and the church are compared to two doves devoted in the Song of Solomon. We are told to be wise as serpents... and gentle as doves.
Doves seem to me to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit which promises to come to us, to comfort us. I've always needed a lot of comfort. I'm usually fretting about something. As a young mom, I got to where I looked every morning to see if the doves were there. Every morning, there they were. Those two birds on the back fence comforted me.
We eventually moved from that house to a brand-new neighborhood. We built our home and watched other houses go up one by one. Lots of excitement for my 2, 5, and 8 year old children. I chose the bricks for this place, the carpet, the tile, the tree in the front yard. Bradley and I bought new furniture, the most important being a large dining room table which we placed in the center of the house. We used the front room for home school lessons, the front yard and bike trails for our playground. There was wildlife in this back country, but I didn't see doves. Perhaps the rough-and-tumble of building construction was too loud. I didn't notice their absence. I was busy making schedules and planning menus and reading to my children.
We've lived in the new house thirteen years, fourteen in September. This is no longer the new neighborhood. (I recently discovered it's not even considered the nice neighborhood.) The dust has settled, people have moved and left their homes to renters who don't pay HOA dues. But we're still here.
Our kids are mostly grown now, my baby is 16. The dining room table is as important as I thought it would be, the most important thing in our house. The finish is worn and sticky, but the leaves still work, extending the table into the walkway whenever we have company. We bought new chairs several years ago from an antique mall, sturdy cherry-finished chairs that stood the test of time, courthouse chairs. My grown children tilt back in these chairs and I haven't the heart to remind them to stop. They are telling me their dreams and adventures. Oh well, chairs. Sorry for you, but you are solid, I bet you can take it.
And the doves are back. I hear them in the early morning and late afternoon. I'm still home most of the time. It's harder to get the wheels turning in the morning without little ones needing something every other minute, but I work in the yard and walk the bike trails by myself. The front room is still for lessons, music students trooping through the afternoons and evenings, and for the ferreting out of books.
I don't see the doves; I see the renters' children chasing one another, so innocent; the teenagers who will do things they shouldn't; the parents driving fast to get to the next thing, outrunning failure. I hear reports of break-ins and shootings and the stupid politics of community. Then every morning the sun rises, and I hear a dove say, "I'm here, I'm here. It's not safe, but it's good." And I think, Okay. Okay, God. Thank you.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Honesty and Grace

How did we Christians get this idea that we shouldn't share the ugly scary problems that keep us up at night? We stay home alone, terrified, pretending, instead of getting ourselves to the church with our honest broken hearts. And if we do show up and take that risk, people sit silent or minimize the situation or level accusations of sin. Because Christians aren't supposed to have these wicked complex problems, we're supposed to be spiritual giants, able to leap tall crises in a single bound. But Christ-followers are struck down just like others. And where else do I want to be when I am falling, falling, except with people who share my hope of salvation? I don't remember signing up for a club where the rule is, "Pretend it's fine when your world is crumbling." I refuse to be bound by the rules of a club I didn't know I was joining. If my reality is messy and tearful, I may show up that way. Perhaps someone will be brave enough to meet me in the mess, awkward and stumbling and unsure how to respond. It's okay. We don't have to have all the answers. "Figure it out" is terrible theology. Instead, let's be together giving voice to our astonishment, knowing that while we can't leap tall crises in a single bound, we know One who can. Forsake appearances and join me. It's much better on the honest/messy side of the fence.