Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically

I just read A.J. Jacobs' book, "My Year of Living Biblically" and I am pleasantly surprised. I am not surprised that I enjoyed the book. How can you not enjoy reading about a guy who attempted to live one year by taking every command in the Bible literally? From not "trimming the edge of his beard" to not wearing clothes with mixed fibers, Jacobs rises to the challenge. I love the humorous ways he tells his story but I mostly love that he actually did this.

What makes it so encouraging to me is that AJ Jacobs has a normal job, a wife, and one boy with two more on the way, and he still does something so crazy. Granted, it was for a good story and something to write about but most of us do more talking and dreaming than actually "doing". Even more encouraging is that his wife goes along with this. Even when she heard that he would not sit on any chair that she sat on during her "cycle" because it was unclean, she did not get upset, she simply systematically sat on every chair in the apartment leaving Jacobs with no other options. Throughout his antics she reminded me of my wife on how she could be supportive (or tolerant?) of me while offering "eye rolls" as her only commentary.

I guess I identify with AJ Jacobs as someone who wants to experience this life to its full. Maybe reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, like Jacobs did in his previous book "The Know it All", does not seem like living life to its full, but at least it is words put into action.

This thinking is what led me to move my family to Israel, to return and begin a new church, to jump from airplanes, ski off of cliffs, ask my wife out (before she was my wife), eat things like grasshoppers and African Crocodile, and even to apply and now work at a local Starbucks. I see life as a gift from God that is worth living and I am more interested in following where I believe God is leading me than in over-thinking each move only to remain stuck in one place.

Don't worry, I am not on the verge of selling the house on moving to Des Moines, but I do feel the urge to live a radical life where I am today. I am excited to see what will come in the next year at Soma Church of Orange County, I am eager to watch my boys continue to grow and learn how to love life, and I am happy to know that wherever this life leads my wife and me, we will experience it together. (Of course she will mock me and probably even write a book one day called, "My life of Living with a Nutcase" but even that would be a great experience). So my thoughts for all of you (or more appropriately, both of you reading this) is to take some chances, check off some bucket list items, and experience the wonders of this world.

For those of you who follow Christ, quit thinking that His leading must sound rational. Like a New Yorker trying to live Biblically for a year, our faith often is not totally rational and it doesn't have to be. The joy of following and "doing" what you know you should do is worth the effort.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This is a Bustle

This is my second week of trying the "choose a random book, open to a random sentence, and then write about it" post. This week I opened some book about American Politics and the first sentence I read said, "This is a bustle".

I can honestly say that I have never heard this word used in this way. I have heard "hustle and bustle", and the city is "bustling", but never, "This is a bustle". So I looked up "bustle" and discovered that when used as a noun it is "an excited activity or movement".

I think my life the past two and half years have been a bustle. We had our third boy, quit a good job, moved my family to Israel because I wanted to see the Western Wall, I saw the Western Wall, we moved back, began a new church, and now work 2-3 jobs. This truly has been and is "excited activity and movement".

I guess with this definition, I could say that our 2 year old is a "bustle". He is the most easy-going of our three boys, but he never stops moving. He wakes up and begins the process of exploring the world from his little 2 foot high perspective. He plays with his brothers' toys, he terrorizes the dog by chasing him with a spray bottle or by sticking things in his (the dog's) nose, and he constantly searches for candy. We literally had to purge our entire house of candy because he would search through every drawer and cupboard until he found some. He even found old Halloween candy that we hid from the older boys years ago. Because our 2 year old is a bustle, he does things the others never did but he constantly entertains us.

I don't want to "spiritualize" this too much, but I see God's work in my family's lives as a "bustle". It is exciting this year to see people move into new faith in Jesus, to see families fed through a "food box" project led by people in our church community, and to see friends work on giving up harmful addictions and turn towards Jesus. It has been amazing, and challenging, to see God provide all that we need this year even though the economy is struggling and my jobs pay less than before. It is great to see the "excited activity" of God as He gives us vision and strength for each day and the internal peace that is content to see what the future holds.

Life is often a bustle for all of us. I just hope that in those moments of "excited activity and movement" that we take time to enjoy it and breathe it all in.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

These might be Interesting

I am trying something new today. Instead of writing about something I have observed, I randomly opened a book and wrote down the first sentence that fell before my eyes. I am fortunate today because the sentence is “These might be interesting”.
Think of how many things might be interesting. In order to truly appreciate the sentence we must dissect this sentence. First of all the subject “these” is plural. Then we have a modifying word “might”. This word is subtle but it might make all the difference in the world. It implies an unknown, a hope, a possibility. Finally we have the word “interesting”. A lot of things are interesting. Interesting only denotes interest, not a favorable or unfavorable opinion of that thing. So without further ado, what does this sentence mean for us today?

“These might be interesting.”
Who might we hear uttering this sentence?

A family at a movie store picking out the Godfather series.
A teenager with a six pack of beer.
A husband and wife holding handcuffs.
A teacher holding a pile of completed final exams.
A border patrol officer following a line of 1979 conversion vans with curtains covering the windows.
A child with a book of matches.
God, when He created Platypuses.
The Nobel Prize committee when they decided this year’s winners.

Today’s profound thought is free of charge.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Narcissists and MyFace

My wife told me about a story she read on the news about the dangers of "Facebook" and "mySpace" as it relates to creating a generation of people who are narcissistic. The theory is that these "social network" sites are used by millions of people who's online cultures allow them to continually post thoughts about "What they are doing" and of all of their current photos.

These web-sites are great for re-connecting with lost friends and for getting actual updates from people's lives. The issue is that these sites have become places where users almost compete for the highest number of friends and comments on status updates (of course bloggers never care about how many comments are left... if you agree make sure you at least post "likes this" so the tally goes up a bit for me) .

Are we encouraging a culture that wants to talk about themselves and that constantly takes photos of themselves so they have new user photos? Is it true that these social networking tools have caused people to lose a level of checks and balances that prevents too much arrogance or self-centered behaviors? Imagine 15 years ago if I called everyone I knew to say, "I'm watching a movie right now... and by the way, my relationship status is waiting for confirmation" and then I hoped to hear my friends respond favorably. Then imagine if every Monday morning I arrived at work or at school and handed out new photos of me and said, "this is my new profile picture... this photo represents how I want you to think of me". I'm sure my friends (and people who were friends of friends of friends) would have been fine if I tracked them down and asked them to "be my friend". I'm sure I would also think it a mistake when they choose to ignore my requests.

Okay, maybe the article might have had some good points.

But the point for me is that these tools are here and they are very much a part of our world. Although I still need my wife (and the occasional 6th grader) to help me with my Facebook account, I do use these tools and love that I have re-connected with friends from all over the world. I even love being able to share photos of my kids, my wife's and my travels, and my latest personal "head-shots".

So in an attempt to create a networking site for those of us who are not narcissistic, but just want everyone, everywhere to know who we are and what we are doing every 30 minutes, I am creating a new site that combines all the best of Facebook and of MySpace but disallows self-centered people. This site is called "MyFace". When I say "my face", that is literally what it means. Everyone's profile pictures are simply different photos of me that each person may choose for their very own. If anyone wants to share vacation photos, they can scroll through my own personal travels and substitute them for their own. You can still update your status but if you post things like, "I'm sitting at work and can't wait to get home" you lose one friend from your list.

Now that I have pissed off half of the world (okay 2 of the three people who read this), please know that I will not create a site called "MyFace"... because someone else already did. I also will continue to use Facebook and promise to log in at least once a week. I will also continue to keep up with my friends through this tool and I promise not to judge anyone who is addicted to updating his/her status, who posts all of his latest photos of himself, and who keeps asking to be my friend even though we really don't know each other.

So I now leave you because one minute ago my status changed to "I'm in the library and working on some research"..... oh, I will also leave you with a brand new profile picture to prove how hard I am working here in the library.