Friday, September 28, 2012

#Facebook Fix For Private Messages

In a world of instant access and social media, we sometimes have to sift through messages to determine what is true and what is a hoax. 

The latest (that proves to be true) is that Facebook messages for the years 2010 and earlier appear on your public timeline. That means if you have messages sent to you privately, they can be found on your timeline. 

To fix the situation look at this blog. 

Thanks Kristen for the info. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dragon Feet

My wife Sara said to me, "Instagram makes everything better".  I've heard the same said of whipped cream, margaritas, and Betty White, but giving such prominence to a computer app seems a bit of a stretch.

To understand Sara's statement you should know that she places the value of photos just below the actual experience to which the photos represent. Read this previous post for a full description of this philosophy. 

I love this about my wife and have learned to accept the fact that she needs the photo for the experience to count. As I look around our home I see photos from all over the world that "prove" blissful moments captured in time. The images satisfy Sara's thirst for nostalgia and they serve as check marks in my selfish and never-ending "to do list" for life. But this is not the point. 

Today Sara used her new best-friend, Instagram, to document her day. My favorite is the photo of our five year old wearing his new dragon feet that they made out of old tissue boxes. Though my wife loves the photo because it give evidence of their experience, I was struck by the fact that my son had dragon feet. 

His dragon feet are in honor of the letter "D" which is the letter Sara and Ben are studying this week. As a mother, she is doing a brilliant job at making learning fun and in helping Ben see the usefulness of letters but something much better is happening. 

What excites me about the dragon feet is that it teaches so much more to our kids. It reminds them that in an instant a kleenex box may transform into dragon feet which is useful because just as quickly the carpet may become lava. The berries on the bushes in the backyard might just make a potion strong enough to transform our dog into a lion and with just one drop, we could be invisible. If he can have dragon feet then it is reasonable when my boys tell me the trampoline is the surface of the moon and that carefully stacked couch cushions make the perfect hiding place for the "tickle" monster. 

We live in naturally pessimistic and cynical world that has no time for dragons. But this is not the world that God created. When we help our kids know that this world is still filled with wonder and it is a place flooded with beautiful places, interesting people, and exciting adventure we invite them into the adventure that God places before us. All of creation declares the glory of God and pleads with us to join in the chorus of praise as we live with expectation that God is in this place. 

When I look at these dragon feet (which do look amazing courtesy of Instagram) I know that Sara is helping our kids develop hearts open to faith. Their worlds are expanding and the belief that there is a God who can create is not so far fetched. The call to join with this God to represent His image to the rest of creation is not regarded as a tiresome act of futility but rather an interesting endeavor. And the freedom to truly live with our hearts wide open is perfectly natural because there is clearly more than what meets the eye.

So thank you Instagram for making the Dragon Feet truly look amazing. Thank you Sara for reminding us that the God of adventures, and dragons, is the most real thing of all. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Am I Missing Something?

This week the world is blessed once again to have President Ahmadinejad visit the U.N to provide entertainment. Usually he gets the world stage to spout off hateful statements towards Israel and the United States but with very little consequence. 
In an interview this week he said that Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be "eliminated". He went on to say, 
"We don't even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they (the Israelis) represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated."

This sounds like an insult to Israel and the Jewish people but that is impossible because he later said no one has the right to express their opinions about Islam if those opinions are negative. He says that freedom of speech does not apply if the speech is insulting. 
"Freedoms must not interfere with the freedoms of others," Ahmadinejad said. "If someone insults, what would you do? ... Is insulting other people not a form of crime?"
Yahoo News reports that, "Since the controversy over the video erupted this month, some Muslim leaders have reiterated calls for a U.N. measure outlawing insults to Islam and blasphemy in general."
So let me get this straight. You can say that the Israeli people are "tumors" that should be wiped off of the face of the earth. You can say that they are small disturbances that will be eliminated. You are able to say anything negative against the United States and its people. You can also degrade Jesus Christ with blasphemous movies and rhetoric against Christianity. But the world is up in arms and demands that an international law is passed that prevents negative comments towards Islam. 
I think I must be missing something. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Didn't Build that on Your Own

Today our church launches a ten week small group experience designed to allow people who have not yet connected, to find a place to freely express doubts, fears, and struggles on their journey of faith. One of the best things about these groups is the fact that these are about "community". We believe the radical concept that faith is not simply an individual thing.  Check out Mark 2:1-5. 
Today I wanted to share an excerpt about what it means to be shaped through a collective effort. The original post is from a great writer and pastor from the Seattle area. Sara worked for him during the college years and we both appreciate his thoughts. You can find the whole post  here.
Your faith is never yours alone – My aunt invested in my dad.  My dad invested in me.  I invest in my children.  And so it goes.  Of course, the circle’s of influence are actually much more complex than that, as my dad’s faith was formed by hundreds of people and a long family tree with roots clear back in Sweden, among the Lutherans.  So too for me; I’m shaped by pastors, parents, my sister, a very good friend or two, the house church family in the mountains, the Bethany family in Seattle, peers in ministry around the world, and more.
This, I believe, is what Paul is talking about when Paul tells Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” because Paul’s rationale for such kindling is the faith which dwelt in his mom and grandma.  Paul’s telling Timothy, in other words, to be mindful of the inheritance he has in the faith and not to squander it.  The book of Hebrews talks about the “cloud of witnesses” which is basically the same thing.
When I’m tempted to toss my calling in the ditch and enjoy the indulgence of total irresponsibility, an entire host of faces pass before me, including my dad, but o so many more, including seminary professors, people who invite me to speak here and there, friends in the Torchbearer community, and the whole Bethany family.  It’s tough to ponder trashing the investment these people made in me.  Sure, if I were convinced that the faith was a lie, but mostly, my temptations aren’t intellectual.   Being mindful of the clan, knowing that they don’t expect perfection of me, but are cheering me on, helps me choose obedience more often.
I’m pausing to note this here, because when I talk about this, people sometimes say, “cultures that have high conformity demands also have high suicide rates” as if they think I’m advocating a North Korean model of discipleship.  All the while, the people building this straw man seem utterly blind to the hyper individualism of our culture and the “it’s my life and I’ll do what I want” mentality that’s so destructive for everyone.  Our real mentors, and those who love us and have invested in us don’t expect perfection from us; they just want us to keep on the journey, including getting up after we fall.
The other complaint I sometimes here is this: “You’re fortunate!  Nobody invested in me.”  Really?  If you’re reading this, I’m investing in you.  Maybe other authors have too, or a pastor or two along the way, or a young life leader, or coach.  Were there bad eggs in there?  Perhaps.  Were they all bad eggs?  I doubt it.  Look for those who represented Christ in some measure, give thanks for them, and live in the light of their investment in you.  Your faith is just another example of what you didn’t build alone.
Of course, by the time you’re twenty, you should probably start thinking about WHO you’re investing in.  I put that in all caps because we’re tempted think about WHAT we’re investing in.  But clean water is not a person.  Neither is ending malaria or human trafficking.  All of us are invited to be a blessing to other people, and this requires investments, large and small, over and over again.
My dad’s Bible is sitting here next to me as I write this, and I pause to express gratitude to God for a man who, having received gifts from others, passed them on so freely to me.  Now it’s your turn:  Stay in the game – give thanks for those who’ve gone before you, for those who’ve invested in you, and invest in blessing others.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We Want Our Empty Promises Too!

One frustrating thing about living in California during a presidential election is that we are completely ignored. Our state typically votes for the Democrats so neither party takes the time to campaign here. 

On one hand, it is nice that we do not have to endure campaign ads on the television and radio but on the other hand I wonder how democratic it really is to focus presidential campaigns on the issues that are only pertinent to a few states. 

I see grand promises each candidate has for creating 12,000,000 jobs for factory workers in Ohio, free drugs (prescription drugs) for retired people in Florida, increased home prices for the people of Nevada, and promises of Super Bowl victories for the people of Wisconsin. I may have exaggerated those promises a bit but that is how these candidates behave during the campaign season.
I guess I am just jealous. I want some empty promises given to the 38 million people who live in California (which is more than 12% of our country). I would like to hear that all of the 2.2 million unemployed people in California will get jobs building solar panels and silicone, I mean silicon products. Is that so hard to say considering this represents the entire population of Nevada and half of the population of Wisconsin? 

After some job promises, how about guaranteeing free tuition to students in California, free electric vehicles to everyone who drives a truck with a "Hemi" engine,  and tax credits for exercising regularly and eating whole grains and nuts. 

Our system doesn't work that way so I will happily press on knowing my vote for president is more of an act of futility than an act of democracy... but since we are not a battleground, why should it be any other way? 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Polar Bears Storm Wall Street

On the anniversary of the movement that's goal is to avoid going to work or class  thwart the ability for corporations to enjoy record profits without paying a larger share to the masses, protesters attempted to block all access to Wall Street.

Reports from New York say that protesters aimed to shut down wall street in order to begin the deconstruction of American Capitalism. Never mind the fact Osama Bin Laden and Al Qeada also wanted to strike a blow to wall street and bring down American capitalism, it seems like this plan is not well constructed.

Surely these protesters felt the global effects of faltering economies in Greece and Portugal but for some reason they still think destabilization in the U.S. is a good thing.

At least they have convictions and they have passion, not to mention some cool outfits. This morning they dressed in polar bear suits (presumably to go unnoticed in Lower Manhattan), they crafted colorful signs with catchy phrases such as, "Banks suck", and they attempted to prevent anyone from going to work.

Before you criticize this plan, don't forget that this is the same group that blocked our shipping ports in protest of our rising debt. If you ignore the fact that this prevented millions of dollars of exports to leave the country and it actually contributed to more debt and loss of pay for the middle class workers waiting to move these products, then the plan seems revolutionary.

I sense you are becoming condemnatory of this group so I will remind you that they are fighting for the small business owners who are not part of the 1%. I will also ask you to ignore the fact that the protesters in Oakland were so disruptive to the flow of customers near their "revolution" that several small businesses went bankrupt and had to close their doors. At least the large corporations were strong enough to continue on despite the lack of customers in that area. Oops. Disregard the previous statement about large corporations not being affected by the revolution. That is not the point.

Okay, so the planning and execution of this movement are struggling but at least they have enthusiasm.

So the next time you see someone wearing a cow costume while chanting "Death to American business", take a moment to admire their zeal and their courage for making a difference in our country. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Morning Conversation

The following is the conversation I overheard from my kids this morning. 

The oldest to the youngest, "Did you wipe after using the bathroom?"

Youngest, "Yes".

Oldest, "Did you wash your hands when you were done?"

Youngest to oldest, "Yes, smell my hands". 

Not much to say about this. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Redefining the Middle Class

Both Presidential candidates define the "Middle Class" as those with an income up to $250,000 per year.
At first glance it seems so out of touch to think "middle class" extends all the way to 250k.

I did some research and found that 19.9% of American households make over 100k with 5.9% of those making over 150k, and  5.3% making over 200K. Places like The Northeast, Coastal California, and Urban centers in the West, make up the largest percentage of these higher incomes. Not surprising that these are also the most expensive places to live. (Lucky me).

In fact, if a person made 100K in 1990 they would need over 170K to maintain that same standard of living today and the aforementioned regions have seen the cost of living rise even more dramatically. This means that a person making 200k certainly will have anything they need but if they live in the higher expense areas in the nation, their standard of living will mirror those making significantly less in places like Shaboygin, MI.

So apparently our presidential candidates are not as off base as I thought. Perhaps you can be Middle Class and make 250K per year.

I guess it is as Yogi Berra once said, "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore". 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Ethics of Modern Day Robin Hood

Today four bank robbers were pursued by police as they drove through neighborhoods in South Los Angeles. During the pursuit, the bank robbers threw piles of money out of their car creating a huge scene while people flooded the streets the get a chance at attaining some money.

Some are saying these robbers are the modern day "Robin Hood" stealing from the rich and giving to the poor and others say that they were simply getting rid of the evidence of their crime.

The police are hoping that people will return the cash in acts of good will but I have a suspicion that they won't see much "good will" on this one.

I do not endorse robbing banks but I found this even as extremely amusing. Something about the fact that these men knew they were caught so they might as well distribute their wealth made me laugh and I secretly (secretly before I wrote this) wish I was on the side of the road catching a glimpse of this event and maybe even catching a few hundred dollars in the process.

I wonder if I would have the courage and will power to turn in any money that I found during this chase. How would you respond? 

Sunday, September 09, 2012

How Much do You Pay for Baggage?

Many people have given up on churches because of some event in the past. Some keep attending services and/or keep leading in some capacity but with an incredible amount of bitterness or hurt from some past event. Anytime humans are involved there will be moments of disappointment and conflict but there is hope. 

I love the following from Louie Giglio as he speaks about his perspective on dealing with past conflict. 

"the truth is we all have baggage. We all lead out of disappointment in some way. There is something in the bent part of our humanness to prove something: “Well, I was hurt and disappointed, so I’m going to prove this.” Fill in the blank. 

I have some of that, but there was a point in those early days at First Baptist where it all became about Jesus for me. And when it did, everything was OK. I placed whatever baggage I carried through my Jesus filter. I settled it early on in my life that Jesus is perfect; the church is imperfect. And I still believe that. I still believe the church is jacked-up. But I have more passion for Jesus than I have baggage about the church and all its shortcomings.That’s the well I want to pull from. "

So is your understanding of Jesus bigger than your need to carry your baggage? 

Friday, September 07, 2012

America's Problem with Food

Today I read a news article that suggests we skip certain foods if we want to avoid necessary weight gain. Maybe I am ahead of the times, but for some reason I was not surprised when the article said, "Some of the best-tasting foods are actually some of the worst in terms of fat and calories". 
Really? Could it be true that an ice cream sundae might be worse than a bowl of fresh green beans? I am shocked to hear the news that a Big Mac and fries might have more fat and calories than an apple but again, I do pride myself with being on the leading edge of scientific research. 

Perhaps this is why America leads the way as the world's most obese country. The fact that this article presumes the information given is news to someone reveals that we still have have a problem with our food intake. 

Maybe the other problem with our country's weight problem is the fact that these foods are really good. Of the 25 foods mentioned as foods we "must avoid", 19 of them made my mouth water. 
 Who could resist this? It is a hot dog (or a sausage for my non-American friends) wrapped in a pretzel. Is this why we are obese? We have high sodium and fatty meat and then make it better by wrapping it in buttery, fat filled bread. Just don't add a cheese filling or I will not contain my lust for this creation. 

How about this beauty. This basket full of fried onions and jalapenos can't be all that bad. Sure, it is 2100 calories, but these are vegetables we are talking about. We don't really have to avoid eating vegetables do we? 

Just when I thought that this ground-breaking, informative article could not divulge anymore shocking health news, it turns out that eating pre-packaged, preservative laden breakfast bread that is fried and then stuffed with brown sugar is not actually the best way to begin the day. With just 420 calories, 16g of fat, 26g of sugar, and 66g of carbs, this article suggests I may have to take these pop tarts out of my daily routine. 

So please excuse me as I take a break from writing. I am feeling hungry and my Velveeta cheese is all melted and ready to be poured over some broccoli. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Using God to Win Votes

This year the Democratic National Convention put forward the official party platform and for the first time, removed all language about belief in God.
When asked if God was intentionally removed from the platform or if it was an accident, one party chair kept saying, "These are our convictions". In other words, the official platform did not want to mention belief in a God or the conviction that the existence of a Divine Being gives us shared values.

Though I believe the United States was founded by people who believed in God and wanted this country to give some evidence of that belief, I am not all that offended of the DNC's omission. I actually was glad that they put an honest display of where they really stand.... until yesterday.

Word got out that the DNC intentionally omitted God and voters in states that will make a difference in the upcoming election began moving away from the party that did not believe God exists or that this belief should influence decisions.

Yesterday, when the convention was somewhat empty, they voted to change their position. Actually, it appears that they voted to not change their position but because the chairman knew this was a major problem, they changed their position anyway.

Herein lies the problem with the United States campaign season. Politicians make promises that our system will never allow them to accomplish and they become "all things to all people". The truth is that most of this country's top politicians use their belief in God to win votes, but not to lead their lives and their decisions.

Because I believe God has called His followers to represent His image, I admire candidates who are led by those convictions. This means we are called to help the orphans and widows. We reach out to the poor and the oppressed. We walk in forgiveness and a desire to create unity. Yes... I believe it also values the sanctity of life (but if you want these children born into the world, you better adopt them, and shower these babies AND the mothers with your love, support, and finances).

This year the Presidential campaign is the opposite of seeing people who believe in God and allow that conviction to guide them. Yesterday's vote by the DNC demonstrates that God wins votes but, in politics, doesn't always change lives. This is an embarrassment.