24 Jul

Consider This: The Power of Words


Prominent in the news this week was the story of USDA employee, Shirley Sherrod, who was fired after a blogger/commentator posted a video snippet of a speech she gave 20 years ago without first reviewing the entire speech. In other words, Ms. Sherrod’s words were taken so far out of context that it ended in her being fired! Half truths compounded by irresponsible laxness in fact-finding, led to a major change in her life.

I am not encouraging a political discussion or even commentary on the media’s failure to thoroughly investigate before broadcasting in this age of 24/7 news What I DO want to discuss is the art and science of communication in this technology driven, socially networked era.

A little personal history…
My own experience with internet communication began way back before the advent of the WWW, SocNets(social networks), and even email as we understand it today began while I was in the USN, using Arpanet to send email and files. Honestly, at the time I had no real understanding of how it worked. What I DID know is that what was sent was reviewed, edited and scrutinized by lots of folks before that button was pushed.

Later, while in college, I was doing research for a paper. Earlier, my first PC was a TRS80-III and now I needed something much better. With the new computer: a sign up floppy for CompuServe. Needless to say I now wanted a modem! The fastest out there was a 1200 Baud; and yes we used a phone line/dial up!

Inadvertently, I discovered an area of CompuServe called “CB Simulator”. Essentially a group of “channels” of various interests, where people actually chatted Real-time! In case you’re wondering-this was back in 1988 or so. OK so I’m aging myselfJ. (BTW, this is also where my beloved and I first met- A long time before eHarmony!)

More recently, I spend most mornings as a volunteer at CHURCH Online which features chat to accompany the Worship Experience. I serve with a great group of people from all over the world. To make it really exciting, we also get many who discover the ministry via AdWords after searching for uh, other things.

Many of our visitors and volunteers are relative newbies to Church Chat, though they often have experience with IM or some other text-based live chat application. Of course there’s also FaceBook and Twitter, where we can share our lives in 140 characters or less!

In recent days, how we communicate in this chat has led me to discover what I believe is a problem in every day communication…which is not thinking before we share as well as not fully realizing that the people on the other end may take something we type in a way other than what was intended.

In the olden days when it was all ASCII text we used a lot of the same emoticons that are in use today. These little symbols coupled with abbreviations (<s>mile, <gr>in, etc) helped us to put our words in context, giving them the intended “flavor” we were trying to express. Additionally, fully understanding the ENTIRE conversation taking place was a given before pushing the ENTER key. In other words, scrolling back to see what was taking place before and ALWAYS keeping it in context.

Lessons from Scripture

James ( James 1:19 ) gave some great advice that I’d like to see practiced more often, in all our online communications: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”. Later, in James 3:1-12 he provides a lesson about how powerful our words can be.

What may seem a quick, “witty” line may be mis-understood by others new to the environment. While regulars know what is going on, visitors don’t. Even those who frequent the room can be taken out of context by others who are also regulars, if they just entered.

The bottom line- THINK before you push that enter key! Be aware that the words you type may not be how others see and understand them. Get a grasp of the conversation in its entirety-not just the immediate lines you see. Consider how others who aren’t familiar with you or the conversation may perceive your words.

Whether its Twitter, Facebook, IM, or a chat room consider your words! Philippians 4:8 is something to take to heart as we communicate, regardless of the medium. Following this advice can never go wrong!

15 Jul

Christmas in July

Ever had one of those spontaneous and uncontrollable urges to hear a song NOW? I’m talking about a real and powerful urge to drop everything and hear it! Today it happened to me and I’d like to share a little of how it came about.

My daily devotional readings for this year come from The 365 Day Devotional Commentary by Larry Richards (a part of my Logos Library). Today’s reading begins the transition from OT to NT with Matthew 1-2.

Matthew begins, first showing Jesus’ human lineage and then quoting from Old Testament prophecy to show that Jesus IS indeed King of the Jews. The long promised Messiah.

As I read, I came to the passage where Matthew refers to Isaiah 7:14, and that one Word that got me going: Immanuel! (And I bet you know the song, too.)

A little background: This last Christmas was my first time serving as a volunteer at church during the season. If you don’t already know, I serve at LifeChurch.tv-Church ONLINE. Their presentation of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” has, so I’ve heard, become a classic! And THIS is the song that played in my brain to the point where I just needed to stop what I was doing and play it.

I located it on You Tube, and closed my eyes and started singing, still in my head. Very soon, this just wasn’t enough..I needed to stand. Then raise my hands in praise, then dancing-and praising and worshiping until tears fell, and I cried out in love for all He is, for all He’s done, and for all the promises He made!

You see, I’ve been going through one of those dry spells. Not really a “valley” or dark time. Intellectually I know and believe that our Lord is always with me. Daily, I spend time in reading and study of the Word, I pray (sorta) and I journal. Truth be told, I have just been going through the motions lately. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. You know what I mean-impersonal, unconnected.

And so today, led by the Spirit, I celebrated Christmas! Not just the baby in the manger, but the truth that God IS with us-with ME, right here, right now, all day, EVERY day. So often, I think, especially at Christmastime, we focus on this wonderful blessing and all too quickly get back to the mundane. Why can’t we celebrate all day every day? After all, He is with us 24/7/365.

The glow of that brief time, fully surrendered in loving worship has faded. Ah how I’d love to just stay in His presence like that. Now I know how the Apostle John felt on Patmos-to be so thoroughly enthralled by our Lord! And like John my heartfelt prayer is AMEN! Come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)

04 Jul

Looking Within to Look Ahead

I can hardly believe it myself but it’s been 6 months since I’ve bothered to blog about this road called “life”

Back then I mentioned that the last day of the year was a day of reflection on what was behind, and goal-setting and planning in anticipation of what would lie ahead. As I wrote I also mentioned that seeing as how I’m now in the “mature” stage of life, that I had come to accept that I just couldn’t do it all as I had in the past. While I said it, and believed it then, well, ACCEPTING it just didn’t come as easily!
Soon after I wrote that and the family departed after the holidays, I was all excited and ready to get to all those things I mentioned. Well, that too quickly went by the wayside and my sense of personal integrity very quickly diminished with it.

There were a number of things that soon altered the path of those grand plans. First, the “Margin” series at church which really brought home the truth that MY plans had none. OK, so back to the drawing board…and just when I thought I “got it”, along comes the “Forgotten Virtues” series that again blew my seemingly wonderful goals and ideas out of the water and me into a spiraling emotional and spiritual crisis. As I cried within, and took it the One who knows me best, He provided a bit of guidance as I was reading one day. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says “Examine yourself…test yourself…” …and so, since then, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, even now.

As to accepting that I’m leaving one season of life and entering into a new adventure-well, it still isn’t easy. I feel the aches, and can forecast the weather by them too! I see the wrinkles starting to form around my eyes and realize I’m looking more and more like my mom. I’m also learning to appreciate the unscheduled afternoon nap which I find is needed because I can’t seem to sleep for more than 4 hours a night. And most of all, as I continue to get used to this “getting old” thing, I am (most of the time) giving myself permission to stop trying to do so much!

I, like most people, I think; am my own worst critic. I’m still quite a perfectionist in all I do and with that comes the procrastination. After all, if I can’t do it right, put it off until I can! I set lofty (can you say “unrealistic”) goals then beat myself up when I fall on my face. Did I mention that this has been a pattern throughout my adult life? Consequently, as another year and another birthday passed, I felt even more and more unworthy, useless, hopeless with each day that I didn’t accomplish what I wanted!

Along the way, the lessons I’ve learned are many. The greatest one is that I am loved with an everlasting love just as I am. I am accepted by God and need only love Him and my neighbor-even as He loves me-UNCONDITIONALLY! That being said, I’ve been a lot more into the Word, and more disciplined in prayer. Each day I ask only to accomplish what I can and trust God that this is all I can do and more so NEED to do. Best of all, I’m starting to like this “getting old” thing. There is a certain freedom in going slower, doing what I can and most of all believing that I’m right where God wants me.

My prayer is that you all have a safe and wonderful Independence Day. But remember that our only real freedom comes from knowing Christ! (Gal. 5:1 & Col. 2:8)

If you would like to see the messages from Church ONLINE that I referred to check out the archive