Tag Archives: twentysomethings

I’m still reading email while Trump can’t stop tweeting

One of my New Years resolutions this year was to write a letter each week to a significant person in my life. I mean a poorly-scribbled, pen-to-paper letter. (And you may be saying, “So where’s my letter?!”) I also use Facebook messenger, texting, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, and all sorts of other innovations. But, like so many people, social media is losing its lustre in my eyes. The platform seems to dull connection rather than heighten them. So I am trying to get more basic.  I have my own farm-to-table approach to communication; I want those I love to know who grew their note in a palpable way — I sign my letters with my own hand.

More devices, less communication

The more communication devices we have, the more distance there seems to be in the world. Some days the disconnection we experience in the church is palpable. We are getting forced apart by choices to connect at minimal levels with quick, minimal devices [old Sherry Turkle Ted talk]. As a church, we keep talking about this surplus-opportunity- yet-dearth of communication all the time. Because we are fully adapted to the devices and the  social networks that dominate them, and we wonder if they will quench the Spirit, if they haven’t already. The newness contained in one cell phone (which is probably giving you cancer) is downright terrifying. Facing the overwhelming pressure of rapacious capitalism applied to communication is hard to combat. But Trump’s tweets are sending people for the doors — he’s so bad we can’t miss how the systems are set up to abuse us.

Image result for anza-borrego desert
Anza-Borrego State Park

Some people among Circle of Hope advocate severely restricting all use of machines to interact. They have a point. And I am not judging them when I note, “There are Amish in every age of the church.” Lord knows I often wish I were living off the grid in the Anza-Borrego desert somewhere collecting dew for my garden. And I am back to handwriting letters! So I relate to that application of “resist and restore.” Newness is usually suspicious and often frightening. The Amish said “enough” in about the 1880’s.  But I think we have to admit that the newest form of the same old evil is much scarier than the old evil to which we already conformed. For instance, the old school farming practices of the Amish pollute the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They might feel righteous for not adapting to new ways, but their old ways had some evil in them too.

I am usually more on the other side of the argument. I want the latest technology with which to communicate and to work. I can’t get it fast enough. I am even Google-ized now. I even downloaded (and used!) Venmo this week. I want to discern what evil the technology  carries and resist it. But I also want to seize the opportunity it gives me and use it. As a church, talking about technology is hard. We have been talking about coming up with a “theology of technology” for years. But we can’t quite get there. I suppose it is because we are like Asian carp — too busy adapting to our new environment to think about what it means to be an invasive species.

1) We’re too busy mastering the changing technology. We don’t have time to think about whether we have anything to say about it. That’s pretty scary since it means that the technology already runs us, we don’t run it. [Not over Smashing Pumpkins].
2) We are too small-minded to have a group project like coming up with our own thoughts about what new technology means to us. We are doing very individualized stuff and don’t see group thinking as possible. Our thoughts can be as small as our screens. If you wonder why we can’t connect and break up shortly after we do, don’t underestimate how technology has atomized us and how we have adapted to the illusion of togetherness the media perpetrates. We are sitting ducks for huge forces because we inept at getting together in real time.

Seven years ago, a 25-year old blogger from the East Village wrote down seven things a twentysomething can’t do. Now he’s 32, but I think things may have become even more pronounced. Six of his seven things had to do with building decent relationships, mostly about communicating. We’re all losing our capacity to connect. We want to do it. The many devices we are being sold to communicate could increase our ability to connect, and in some great ways, they have. For instance, I really like texting about where I am and when we are meeting, and about what laundry detergent to buy. But my experience is that people who fully commit to the phone screen for communicating are too small to really do it. They may be wired, but they are not always connected.

My “big” discipline: read email

The powers are determined to make us all rats in their cages. They dominate the devices and conform them to proper rat-usage. SO, I think we should sit down and read our email.

I admit, I don’t seem to know how to have this discussion yet. One time the Cell Leader Coordinators talked about it and they had what, for them, amounts to a spat. I said that I need to read my email on a big screen, which gives more honor to the writer and their art. I don’t think we should do major communicating as the body while we have ten seconds at a stoplight to scan an email or blog post.

I know, that mentality seems unrealistic, kind of Amish. Nevertheless, right now, part of my discipline of communicating is to read my properly filtered email, daily. As you know, I send quite a bit of it, as well. Circle of Hope feels like a major inbox loader for people who haven’t shut off notifications to their phone and feel like they are holding a pulsing, overstuffed screen in their hand. Some people unsubscribe from the Covenant List because they count it as clutter! Some of the cell leaders don’t even read the the info email from their pastor each week, or all the way through. Some of the Leadership Team don’t even take time to read emails they use to lead the church with some integrity and vision. It is a challenge to be that disciplined and committed, but it makes a difference as to whether we are knit together meaningfully.

These are four reasons I still read email and don’t  encourage people to use my cell phone for texting, even when I give them the number, unless it is a texting subject (like “tacos or pho?”).

1) I’m trying to communicate.

To me, communicating is about relating, not just data. I want to say something I actually thought about and receive a thoughtful reply. That seems more like love is growing in the world. I don’t want to merely pass out info and have data hogs sniff around to see if it is something they want to consume. Dialogue creates deeper community. When we can’t be face to face, heartfelt writing can be a decent replacement.

2) I want to hear more.

It is hard to keep up with my email. I would rather talk face to face or in a meeting or even over the phone (although I’m not always that great over the phone). But those ways of communicating are hard to keep up with too. Communicating is hard. But I still want to hear more and connect more with more people. To be the church, we need to listen to one another and listen to the Spirit in one another. That takes quite a bit of listening in quite a few ways.

[The opposite is also true, of course. If you are addicted to checking email because you think some life-altering message is in you inbox, that’s not so good. More is usually the enemy of something. Checking email more does not necessarily mean you are listening more. Here’s a link for the addicts.]

3) It is good to slow down and connect.

All this sounds kind of strange, I guess, coming from a person who was there when the original email was sent back in the 70’s. It was so amazingly fast then! Now, sitting down in front of a screen and composing something thoughtful and loving seems like it is kind of old fashioned. Maybe this is my nod to the “Amish” types. The new Amish-types are often people who still know how to write in a language other than textese.

Being alone, concentrating, and writing, are all good, meditative ways to be who we are in Christ and live a life of love. I am writing this with love, too. It takes time. Even as I write, I am facing the cost of acting this way — there seems to be so much to do! But the writing is helping me to be. The way you pause to read and respond is helping you to be, as well, I hope.

4) I am committed to good infrastructure that extends the kingdom.

At this point, email has been a great way to connect the disparate elements of Circle of Hope. Every year, as we grow larger and add more congregations, we have a big challenge to be one church. We are always pushed to be smaller units, if not just random individuals. Holding together by speaking the truth in love is a major counterattack on the powers that want to dominate us. Our cells and Sunday Meetings are the major ways we express our commitment to being an incarnation of Jesus. But by the time they are over they can instantly be run over my the next media avalanche. We need a daily means of togetherness. Our computers and email can help us if we think about what’s going on.

Hey, if you got this far in this blog post, I feel loved. Thanks. You honor me, like I have tried to honor you with my time and thinking. That is splendidly weird and Jesus-like, and it won’t go for nothing.

Redux #10 — Six Things I Did in My 20’s that Made All the Difference

At the beginning of the year I want to repost “top ten” posts. On Friday, I’m reminding people about some posts before 2014 that people have kept reading — there is a “top ten” of them!

This one is about all the important things I did in my twenties that have served me well throughout my life. Like it or not, in our twenties we seem to harden into what our next twenty years are going to look like. If you want to be a faithful person, start now. Something is going to harden you into your adult self — better that it is Jesus.

How NOT to outgrow your faith in your thirties

You’re not a twentysomething anymore. Now what? Are you outgrowing your faith like the fashions of your youth? It happens.

In their thirties, a lot of people consolidate a circle of friends that still feel right (and hope they don’t move away), get married, find a halfway decent job to which they commit for one reason or another, and save their money for fun. Jesus gets squeezed out of their limited time. He was one of their many twentysomething activities. But he never became the friend, the partner, the vocation, the fun.

If any of that is even halfway true of you or someone you care about, is there any hope for having faith when one grows up? I think so. Here are six ways to keep or restart your faith if you find it lacking in your adulthood.

1) Start over, even in the church you’ve got.

The other day a friend said she wanted to do something…finally. She was over the trauma of moving to town. She had the new job. She had found her favorite restaurants. She even had a boyfriend. Then she realized she had to get started! She now needed her life and she was sure that life had to do with Jesus.

If you are inspired like she is, it means changing; and change is hard. The need for change uncovers how lazy we all are — it is like the original sin. M. Scott Peck’s famous quote says that evil is laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme.

Truly evil people … actively rather than passively avoid extending themselves.  They will take any action in their power to protect their own laziness, to preserve the integrity of their sick self. Rather than nurturing others, they will actually destroy others in this cause. If necessary, they will even kill to escape the pain of their own spiritual growth. As the integrity of their sick self is threatened by the spiritual health of those around them, they will seek by all manner of means to crush and demolish the spiritual health that may exist near them (The Road Less Travelled, 1978).

My friend has the insight to know she needs to start over and has the guts to do something. She is also kind of scared not to! You don’t have to move to a new state, new church or new friendship circle to start over. You have to not be lazy.

thirties2) Learn to pray. Now is the time for contemplative prayer.

Many twentysomethings love the church because their friends do. Any number of people in Circle of Hope like to be a part of our community even though they don’t like the founder of it: Jesus! But they get to a point where the relationships change, there is conflict, or people just grow up. Then they need a relationship with God, not just nice people. It is time to learn to pray. We need to learn a method for connecting with our natural aptitude for “the inner life, that simplicity of our childhood once our adult minds have become overly complex and busy.”

That’s what Cynthia Bourgeault says in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (2004). Some people have never read her book or any book about spiritual disciplines. They have never personally learned to pray and rely on others to do it for them. They come to a church meeting and let a leader make them pray. That’s not adult enough.

3) Get a spiritual direction

Repent. Turn a new, Jesus-following direction – not like you used to think about spirituality, but in ways your heart and mind tell you to move now. Think and feel about how you think and feel spiritually. Enough said, for now.

4) Get some spiritual directors.

Adult faith is not singular. Maybe in your twenties you needed to assert your own identity. Adulthood requires community and help. Therapy might be a good place to start. Retreat centers often have someone who wishes someone would come by so they could listen to them and help them listen to God. Our Pastors, Cell Leader Coordinators, and Cell Leaders can listen or help you find someone who can. Your cell or another group you form will help. Having a good friend in Christ will help, too, but we cannot always rely on people who are attached to us to be detached enough to see and tell the truth we need. Your spouse can be helpful, but not enough. Make a life-giving connection somewhere.

5) Get some buy in.

Like I said, adult faith requires community. The biggest reason people back-burner their faith, and often lose it altogether, is because they have to fight for it — and they are sleeping with the person with whom they are fighting!  Any number of spouses have decided Jesus is the lover with whom they are in competition and they say, “Jesus or me!”

So have an honest talk about your desire to be a Christian with your intimates and get their support. Even if they are unbelievers, they probably love you enough to help you. If your faith is secret or private, it will probably end up strangled.

6) Serve. Give. Commit.

The thirties are sort of a proving ground. It is time for integrity. Do you count? Does what you say matter? Do you know for what God has laid hold of you?

Time is short. The assignment of transformation takes a long time. We need to do something. (If you are a twentysomething reading this, it is not too early. If you are past forty, it is not too late). Plus, our resources are limited. We need to make the most of them. When we are up against sickness, addiction, relationship problems, or failure, it is hard to have faith. And who is not up against one or more of those things on a given day? We need to make the most of our time and limited resources to live in a way that matters.

The easiest way to look at doing this is to “give what you are given.” Sometimes we want to wait until we have what we should have or we are who we should be before we give. That’s a long wait. Serve where you are stationed. Waiting for the ideal situation or job could be a long wait. Make indefinite commitments now. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Engage your heart in the present, not in the idealized future.

The thirties are often a very difficult era. But they don’t need to be a time to endure with gritted teeth. For the Jesus-follower, they are often the beginning of their richest era of spiritual development. But you’ll have to grow into it, not just outgrow your previous faith.

 

Alternative views…

Why I Still Read Email

Some days the distance between us as the church is palpable. We are getting forced apart by choices to connect at minimal levels with quick, minimal devices. We keep talking about this, as a church, because we are fully adapted to the devices and the “social networks” that dominate them, and we are wondering if they will quench the Spirit, if they haven’t already.

Some people among Circle of Hope advocate severely restricting all use of machines to interact. I am not judging them when I note, “There are Amish in every age of the church.” Newness is always suspicious. The newest form of the same old evil can be more easily seen than the old evil to which we already conformed. For instance, the fact that the Amish use old school farming practices befouls the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They might feel righteous for not adapting to new ways, but their old ways had some evil in them too.

I am usually more on the other side of the argument. I want the latest technology with which to communicate and work. I can’t get it fast enough. I want to discern what evil it carries and resist it. But I also want to use the opportunity it gives me and use that. As a church, talking about technology is an overwhelming subject. We have been talking about coming up with our “theology of technology” for a couple of years, now; we’ve been totally unable to do it. I think there are two big reasons we can’t develop some lore:

1) We’re too busy mastering the changing technology to think we have anything to say about it. That’s pretty scary since it means that the technology already runs us, we don’t run it.
2) We are too small minded to have a group project like that. We are doing very individualized stuff and don’t see group thinking as possible. Our thoughts can be as small as our screens.

A 25-yearold blogger from the East Village seems to agree with me. He writes about seven things a twentysomething can’t do. Six of his seven things have to do with building decent relationships, mostly communicating. Twentysomethings, in particular, need good ways to connect. They want to do it. The many devices we are being sold to communicate could increase our ability to connect, and in some great ways, they have. For instance, I really like texting about where I am and when we are meeting, and about what laundry detergent to buy. But, my experience is that people who fully commit to the phone screen for communicating are too small to really do it.

The powers are determined to make us all rats in their cages. They dominate the devices and conform them to proper rat-usage. SO, I think we should sit down and read our email.

I admit, I don’t seem to know how to have this discussion yet. The last time the Coordinators talked about it, they had what, for them, amounts to a spat. I said that I need to read my email on a big screen, which gives more honor to the writer and their art. I don’t think we should do major communicating as the body while we have ten seconds at a stoplight to scan an email or blog post. (Maybe the devices would say, “You are so 29 seconds ago.”)

Being behind would not be surprising. Nevertheless, right now, part of my discipline of communicating is to read my properly filtered email, daily. As you know, I send quite a bit of it, as well. Circle of Hope is a major inbox loader. Some people unsubscribe from the Dialogue List because they count it as clutter. Some of the cell leaders don’t even read their weekly info email from their pastor each week, or all the way through. Some of the Leadership Team don’t even take time to read the working agenda email they are using to lead the church with some integrity and vision. It is a challenge to be that disciplined and committed, but it makes a difference as to whether we are knit together meaningfully.

These are four reasons I still read email and don’t  encourage people to use my cell phone for texting, even when I give them the number, unless it is a texting subject (like “tacos or pho?”).

1) I’m trying to communicate.

To me, communicating is about relating, not just data. I want to say something I actually thought about and receive a thoughtful reply. That seems like love is growing in the world. I don’t want to merely pass out info and have data hogs sniff around to see if it is something they want to consume. Dialogue creates deeper community. When we can’t be face to face, heartfelt writing can be a decent replacement.

2) I want to hear more.

It is hard to keep up with my email. I would rather talk face to face or in a meeting or even over the phone (although I’m not always that great over the phone). But those ways of communicating are hard to keep up with too. Communicating is hard. But I still want to hear more and connect more with more people. To be the church, we need to listen to one another and listen to Spirit in one another. That takes quite a bit of listening in quite a few ways.

[The opposite is also true, of course. If you are addicted to checking email because you think some life-altering message is in you inbox, that’s not good. More is usually the enemy of something. Checking email more does not necessarily mean you are listening more. Here’s a link for the addicts.]

3) It is good to slow down and connect.

It sounds kind of strange, I guess, coming from a person who was there for the original email to be sent back in the 70’s. It was so amazingly fast then! Now, sitting down in front of a screen and composing something thoughtful and loving seems like it is kind of old fashioned. Maybe this is my nod to the “Amish” types. The new Amish-types are often people who still know how to write in a language other than textese.

Being alone, concentrating, and writing, are all good, meditative ways to be who we are in Christ and live a life of love. I am writing this with love, too. It takes time. Even as I write, I am facing the cost of acting this way, there seems to be so much to do. But the writing is helping me to be. The way you pause to read and respond is helping you to be, as well, I hope.

4) I am committed to good infrastructure that extends the kingdom.

At this point, email has been a great way to connect the disparate elements of Circle of Hope. Every year, as we grow larger and add more congregations, we have a big challenge to be one church. We are always pushed to be smaller units, if not just random individuals. Holding together by speaking the truth in love is a major counterattack on the powers that want to dominate us. Our cells and PMs are the major ways we express our commitment to being an incarnation of Jesus. But by the time they are over they are “so 29 seconds ago.” We need a daily means of togetherness. Our computers and email help us.

Hey, if you got this far in this blog post, I feel loved. Thanks. You honor me, like I have tried to honor you with my time and thinking. That is splendidly weird and Jesus-like, and it won’t be done for nothing.

Six Things I Did in My 20’s that Made All the Difference

Cake for the twentiesWhen I was on retreat last week I had a moment of wonder as my memory wandered back to my twenties. Some days I remember myself as the world’s dumbest 21-year old! So many of my present twentysomething friends seem so much better off than I was! As far as my soul is concerned I think it was like I was a spiritual refugee in my twenties who washed up onto the shores of Christianity. I made some big mistakes as I haltingly made my way into the strange new land of Jesus. But the good thing is that I also did not know that I shouldn’t adopt what appeared to be the best things about the ancient culture of my new homeland. I just kind of did things without a lot of insight or direction as I settled in. I “somehow” happened upon things that proved to be astoundingly important. Here are six things I did that have shaped my life for the better ever since.

I learned to live simply on purpose.

I was very poor. But I decided to stay that way on purpose. My cause was world hunger, apart from the mission of the church. Every extra penny I could get was designed to go to people who were starving. I became committed to not eating up other people’s resources in general. I ended up learning about the historic Christian discipline and even spiritual gift of voluntary poverty. It seemed strange then and it does now. But I managed to miss ever being tempted to live off fast food or to waste money on things that were meaningless. My resources have been purposefully used and that feels good.

I received the Spirit.

I was also poor in Spirit. “Receiving the Spirit” is what Pentecostals tell you to do to have a REALLY personal relationship with Jesus. I kept shooting for that no matter how uncool it seemed (and it did). A lot of Pentecostals are weird. But the best of them are radicals. If the Apostle Paul says “Be filled with the Spirit,” they are going to go for that. As I look back on it, some of their theology is so wrong that I’m glad I wasn’t paying very good attention! What I got was that I could and should have some experience of God’s Spirit in my life. I opened up to that and I met God personally. I thought it was thrilling then. I did not realize just how much more experience there was.

I conformed my lifestyle to the Bible.

“My lifestyle” is a pernicious phrase, it is so egocentric. But I was very egocentric in my twenties. I was forming my “lifestyle.” I was determined to be the best Christian possible and my teachers were all about the Bible. Thank God for teachers who got me to study the Bible! I’m not sure how they did it, but I sure thought knowing the Bible was crucial. I spent something like seven years doing 2PROAPT (which I still recommend to people) as my daily act of devotion. I got the basic material down. I must have pondered almost every line in the New Testament and tried to “apply” each of them “to my life,” as we said. I did not understand everything I should do about the Bible. But I filled my mind with the raw material of transformation that I have been using ever since. What’s more, I had a life-forming dialogue with the Bible writers about what is important and how I should live that formed my ability to keep having that dialogue.

I got married and had children, in that order.

These days, people are either wiser or more controlling, I can’t tell for sure. They wait a lot longer to get married. I did not wait. At age twenty, if I was dumb or dumbstruck about anything, it was the blessing of Gwen. And, I must admit, I became her very dumb husband at twenty-one. I knew very little about sex, myself, relationships, intimacy – name anything that would make me a decent partner. But being married improved me when I was available to be improved. Love shaped me instead of my career or my personal desires. Add the children on to that (I had four by the time I was 29) and that just deepened the requirement for me to learn how to love someone and to be responsible for something other than what moved me or pleased me. I don’t think I was too conscious of the benefits of my choice, but, as it turns out, it was nice to get a head start on being a grown up.

I lived communally.

In my late twenties we formed an intentional community that lasted for eight years and often had upwards to twenty people in it. Within that group of dear people I did some of my deepest formation and some of my stupidest things. It was a wonderful, irreplaceable experience. Even the people I lived with who are now geographically distant still feel like relatives. I think that is how the church should be. We took Acts 2 (see “I conformed my lifestyle to the Bible,” above) and decided to do it. Our “household” was a great environment in which to practice simplicity, too. Looking back, I think it was best for doing theology. We sat with each others for hours figuring out what God wanted us to do. Each year we would re-write our “statement of formation;” they are one-page works of theological art. When I was getting my first license with the BIC, I sat down with my household and asked them, “Here are the questions they are asking. What do I believe?” They could tell me. Christians don’t do much that is more countercultural than submitting themselves to love. Doing that with intention in my twenties shaped me.

I protested things.

It might be that if you never get over the edge to become a protester in your twenties, you lose the capability. Living simply in community was something of a protest in itself. Being Pentecostal was a statement, too. But I am talking about coming up against political philosophies and government actions that steer people toward destruction. I wanted to do something about hunger. I got (symbolically) arrested for trespassing on the weapons testing site in Nevada a few times. We picketed a new abortion clinic. We complained about Ronald Reagan. I evangelized, which, in itself, is a direct confrontation with the powers that be. I am glad I “got over the edge.” Getting over my fear of being vocal about my faith needed to get an early start. I think it helped to develop the habit of pushing against my fears before my brain hardened into the  habit of not doing faith that way.

There are probably more things that could be noted, of course. You are probably doing other things that you will note later. These are just the things that came to mind last week. I offer them as encouragement to my many 20something friends, many of whom are so much more mature than I was. I hope you don’t give up. If you are doing something that seems crazy for Jesus, now, it might be the very thing that will have made all the difference in thirty years. Do the best, most spiritual, most Christ-following thing you can think of doing with the capacity you have. You are equipping yourself to keep doing the word for the rest of your life. If you’re not twentysomething anymore, at least we’re not dead yet – neither is Jesus. Maybe some wild or difficult thing we are doing for love or truth right now will be very memorable in a few years!

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