Posted tagged ‘Facebook’

Blogging For the 955th Time

September 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              September 16, 2018

                                         

Today marks the 955th time I’ve sat down at my laptop and pecked out a blog post. 955! That’s almost a thousand! Okay…it’s 95.5% of a thousand! When I was in high school I longed for 95.5%. I would have considered it perfect if I had ever received a mark that high!

At the rate of my writing I’ll hit “the summit”…I mean my thousand blog post about the end of November. Since I’ve been substitute teaching quite a bit so far this school year (16 out of 22 days) my frequency of posting has dipped…but I receive so much of my writing material from being with the students that it’s a good tradeoff…kinda’ like continuing education!

When I write my 1,000th blog post I’m not sure what I’ll do. In the world of print, newspapers know how many copies they sell and subscribers they have. Authors know how many book copies they’ve sold. I, however, don’t have any idea who reads what I write and who doesn’t. Last week I sent a Facebook birthday greeting to a former college classmate of mine. She replied with a thank you and then said she enjoys reading my blog. 

Didn’t know that! The parent of a player I’ve coached said the same thing to me. I barely know her, but she reads the words I write that often bring chuckles and sometimes even profoundness. 

955 times. 

How did I get into it? The seeds for my blogging sowed back in 1980 when I went to be a part of the staff of First Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan. The church had a weekly newsletter and I began to write a column each week for it. It began a discipline for me where I’d be called upon to create something in writing each week. 

When I went to pastor First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan the newsletter column habit continued…plus I had to come up with a sermon every Sunday. Some weeks the words flowed out as smoothly as breathing and other weeks the words seemed like elusive air bubbles that I couldn’t quite grasp.

36 years of ministry with the last 31 of those being the senior pastor resulted in the writing of about 1,300 sermons…and now 955 blog posts!

My first blog post was on December 30, 2008. It was entitled “Missing Mary”, and it focused on the fact that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had come up missing in our church’s nativity scene. 

The seed thought for my last post, before today’s, came from the Japanese science fiction movies we used to watch, where the dialogue was about three seconds ahead of the moving of the actor’s lips.

In between those two blogs I’ve written about having coffee with Jesus, psycho parents of young athletes, substitute teaching, growing old, my parents, middle school church camp, friends who have died, being a grandparent, coaching, pastoring, and questions about how churches function. 

People ask me where I get my ideas for my blogs and the answer is…from watching and pondering about life. Not very profound, but that’s it.

How much longer? Who knows? At the rate the world and technology are changing it could be that blogging will be about as relevant as cassette tapes in a couple of years, but until that happens I guess I’ll keep writing about life and the pursuit of it!

The Good Samaritan Pusher

June 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      June 25, 2018                              

     “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34, NIV)

The Washington Post heard about it and had to do a story about the incident. They needed something that had a “feel good” effect to it, something that didn’t involve scandal or accusations being hurled back and forth.

And so two unlikely people- one trapped in the consequences of her disability and age, the other a 24 year old amateur boxer out preparing for a training run- became a story that gradually received national exposure. 

67 year old Belinda Walker was sitting in her motorized wheelchair by the side of the road. The battery had died and she was stuck! When the wheelchair suddenly came to a halt with a jerk she had fallen out of it to the ground. Someone passing by had helped her back into her chair, but then went on their way. Now 45 minutes later she was still sitting in the same spot, a good 30 minute walk away from her senior adult apartment complex. 

She prayed, “Dear God, dear God, please find somebody safe to help me out!” The next thing she knew Bilal Quintyne showed up. He asked if he could help and she asked if he could call someone to assist her getting back to her apartment. He replied, “I’ll do you one better. God blessed me with an able body. I’ll push you home.” 

It wasn’t easy. The wheels had seized up on the wheelchair so the going was difficult. Bilal’s trainer drove up, expecting to do a training session with his boxer. He saw what was happening and started filming “the push” on his cell phone. When Bilal reached Belinda’s apartment complex he was drenched in sweat. Belinda hugged him and he went on his way. That may have been the end of the story, but Bilal posted the video from his trainer on his Facebook page. It garnered three and a half million views!

Belinda’s pastor saw it on Facebook and took it upon himself to bring the rescuer and the rescued together. 

In the video Bilal looks at the camera as he’s pushing Belinda up a hill and says, “When God calls you to help, you help, PERIOD!”’

I hadn’t heard about that story until my friend, Ed Stucky, shared it with me yesterday. I then found it online, complete with the video, and it made my day. 

When Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 the most unlikely person is the hero, the rescuer, the one who in all likelihood has the least responsibility to lend a help. Bilal didn’t expect to be called upon to help that day. Being called upon to lend a hand if rarely based on how convenient it fits into our plans. He didn’t know that HE was the answer to HER prayer. As he said, “When God calls you to help, you help, PERIOD!”

            “Lord, I pray for eyes to see the one you put in my path today! And when I see that person…draw me to him/her, not decide to take the wide route around! Amen!”

(Details of this story appeared in The Washington Post in a story written by Tara Bahrampour on June 19, 2018)

The Wisdom of Moderation

January 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              January 9, 2018

                                         

Two of Apple’s largest stockholders are asking the company to help curb the digital addiction of children and youth. A ripple effect of the iPhone’s popularity, as well as SnapChat, texting, Facebook, and other forms of social media, has been the increasing amount of time the younger generation is “hooked” on their digital devices.

At the middle school that I substitute teach and coach at digital devices are part of the educational tool shed. Students are told to get online on their devices and sign in at Google Classroom for the reading assignment or questions to answer as they read. Research gets done at their desk on their iPhone.

Last spring, however, I experienced the other side of the digital addiction age. Several eighth graders focused on their iPhones when they were to be reading a textbook assignment. They attempted to keep their devices hidden from sight, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I recognize that sneaky look from my days of trying to hide cheat sheets in high school Spanish class.

Social media and iPhones are just the latest of a long, long line of products and vices that grow to the point of being obsessions and addictions. The average American teenager receives his/her first iPhone at the age of 10 and spends four and a half hours a day using it, not counting texts and phone calls. Recent research is connecting the risk of teen suicide with the amount of time teens spend using their digital devices. Adolescents who spend several hours a day using their digital devices tend to feel more isolated and depressed. Teens that spend less than two hours a day on their devices tend to be happier.

We should not be surprised at the negative implications of over-consumption. It fits with the scheme of things. A healthy life- physical, spiritual, emotional, mental- has balance to it. An unhealthy life is often out of balance in some way or several ways.

Several years ago I discovered Chinese buffets. I’d go there for lunch and gorge myself. The afternoon was spent feeling lousy, and I added several pounds to my body weight. I finally wised up and swore them off. I now have not been to a Chinese buffet in about ten years and, I don’t want to say it is the only reason but, my cholesterol has dropped.

There’s a great proverbs of Solomon’s that says this, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)

When we become obsessed we become vulnerable. We see in our culture today that obsessions come in different forms and in various venues. There’s greed, drunkenness, gluttony, sexual addiction, workaholic-ism, laziness, and on and on. Any obsession leads to a “broken wall’ where some kind of enemy or evil can enter in.

Pretty much anything in our life is to be practiced, consumed, or done in moderation. There is wisdom in moderation, and there is usually trouble in excessiveness.

It will be interesting to see how Apple and social media companies respond to the request about digital addiction. Apple may simply see it as a way to develop a new product designed for adolescents. In essence, it could be a new way to make money for them. The real question is what will the social media companies do that rely on consumption, exposure, and screen time to make their profits?

Companies, also, more often than not, have no self-control!

The Illusion of Facebook Friends

June 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            June 25, 2017

                                    

I’ve crawled up close to a thousand Facebook Friends now. I’m almost impressed with myself! I am easily fooled into thinking that they know me…or, even so, read my Words from WW blog that gets posted on my Facebook page. ..like this one!

But let’s be honest! Very few of our Facebook friends are actually friends. They are more like acquaintances, people that we know and are interested in to some degree. I graduated with about 210 classmates from Ironton High School Class of 1972. There are 76 of us on Facebook. About 50 of those are my Facebook Friends, and about 5 of the 50 are my real life friends. That isn’t to say that I don’t care about the others, it’s just to say that friendship means more than giving someone a “Like” sign, or sharing your latest vacation pictures with them.

There has been some neat reconnections for me with people on Facebook. Kids I led in youth groups over the years, former basketball players that I coached, college teammates, cousins, and young adults whose weddings I performed. Those are awesome connections that I treasure.

An old friend of mine named Harold Anderson once said that “He had a number of acquaintances, but very few friends.” A couple of months ago Carol and I met up with the Anderson’s as they traveled through Colorado. We hadn’t seen each other in about twelve years,  but it was like we hadn’t missed a day. Our conversation was constant and meaningful for a solid three hours. Harold is in that growing list of friends that I was categorize as “non-resident friends”, people that I don’t get to see on a daily…or even yearly basis, but still hold a special place in my heart.

Friends value each other. We value what each of us brings to the life of the other. We value meaningful information about life events. We value the humor and the heart cries. Friends can sit down on the deck and have long conversations, or also feel comfortable just sitting there in silence. Friends can call each other up at a moments notice to check on how the other is doing. Friends use Facebook as only one source of connecting with the other.

Friends respect each other. Differing opinions do not necessarily divide them. Facebook has become the dumping ground of how people feel about issues, and the reaction ground of others who disagree with them. There are not clear boundaries on what is acceptable communication and what is venomous rhetoric. It’s like a verbal mixed martial arts slugfest! And here’s the thing! People say things on Facebook that they would never say face-to-face, or say to their parents…or perhaps now, let their kids hear them say. Friends are respectful of the other. To use a term of one of my old seminary professors, they see each other “with equal regard.” Friends can agree to disagree.

Friends check in on one another. One of those high school classmates, a guy who was my best man and I, in turn, performed his wedding ceremony, lost his 34 year old son less than a month ago. I dialed his number and let him grief on my shoulder for a few minutes from 2000 miles away. Two weeks later I called again and we talked for a long time. In another week or so I’ll check in with him again.

One of my best friends in ministry lives in North Carolina now. We check in on one another by phone. He reads my blog, and will probably send me a reply. When I was having a rough stretch of ministry he’d call me to see how I was doing. When he was having a similar stretch I’d call him. That’s what friends do! I don’t really care about what he ate for breakfast, but I do care about how his rotator cuff is healing from the surgery he had, and how the expected arrival of his second grandchild is looking.

I’ve got another friend in San Antonio who I need to call back today. He left me a voicemail to see how my dad is doing from the surgery he had this week. I’ve got to carve out about an hour of time when I do call him, because that’s how long we’ll talk about life, family, and friendship.

If I use those criteria for friendship my Facebook page would probably be 90% acquaintances and 10% friends…and that might be high! Either way I’m thankful for all the 976 who “friended” me. There’s a lot of blessings in those faces!

Adventures In Substitute Teaching: The Cell Phones

April 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             April 30, 2017

           

I was driving to school last week for a day of substitute teaching. I’m like an educational handyman…science class one day, language arts the next, physical education the day after, and social studies right before those. On this day I was headed for another day of language arts. As I approached the school I noticed one student crossing the street while looking at his cell phone. My first thought was “That kid could get hit and he wouldn’t even know it!” My second thought was “What is so urgent that it needs to be texted by a middle school kid at 7:00 in the morning as he’s crossing the street in heavy traffic?”

I’ve noticed it quite often. Students walking to school with their eyes focused on their cell phones. Cell phones have become what could best to described as “technological alcohol!” They are tech crack! People can’t live without them, but more than that, they can’t live without them for the next five minutes.

The school I mostly substitute teach at has a program called “Face Up/Face Down.” Students know that “face down” time means their devices are face down on their desks. When it’s ‘face up” time they can use their devices to look up information for class assignments or view relevant videos connected to their study focus.

But, you guessed it, the addiction to their electronic devices has resulted in “sneakiness” as a developed student skill. One young lady was sitting at her desk with her backpack in her lap trying to look studious whenever I looked at her. But I wasn’t born yesterday. Her backpack was in her lap, for crying out loud! I knew she was using the backpack to shield her cell phone from view. I let it slide for a few minutes and then in one practiced move she simultaneously put her backpack on the floor and slid her cell phone into her pocket. She asked if she could go to the restroom, and I said yes. In essence, she probably had to text someone about where they were going to sit at lunchtime in the cafeteria. When she came back and started to place her backpack on her lap again I told her to put her cell phone away…that, even though I’m old I’m not entirely clueless. I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck! In fact, I was once gifted in the art of sneakiness!

In a different class I confiscated three cell phones- placed them on the teacher’s desk for the rest of class- because one was posting on Facebook and two others were playing video games. Here’s the thing about a student using his cell phone to play a video game in class! Others become interested in watching him play the game. There becomes this little audience behind the student! It’s not bad behavior, just behavior that students know is not allowed in class.

The two students who were playing video games ratted out the girl who was posting on Facebook. I hadn’t noticed her!

A study conducted by the psychology department of UCLA on a group of sixth graders concluded that students who were deprived of all digital media for a few days did much better in recognizing emotions than students who were allowed access of digital media. One researcher made the comment that a student can’t learn emotional cues from a screen like he can from face-to-face interaction.

Digital media has its benefits, but, like anything that is consumed too much, it has become destructive. It’s like Lay’s Potato Chips…you can’t eat just one…and suddenly you real;ize that half the bag is gone! MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle agrees with how our digital addiction effects other things. In her 2015 book Reclaiming Conversation she makes the argument that cell phones are greatly affecting people’s ability to have deep conversations. She says that 89% of Americans took out a cell phone during their last social interaction, and 82% say that it resulted in a deteriorating of the conversation they were in.

A friend of mine who manages a hair salon told me that she instituted a digital devices ban for her employees when they are working. She had noticed that their focus wasn’t on the customer entering the store, but rather on their cell phones. They fought her tooth and nail on the ban, but now are realizing how much more interaction they are having with the person whose business they need in order for the store to stay in business and continue handing them pay checks.

Back to middle school! Let me tell you! Students think that substitute teachers are essentially clueless and won’t pick up on their device activity. But you know something? I’ve been there many, many years ago. Oh, it wasn’t a cell phone used in forbidden ways, but rather “the passing of notes” in class. I could pass notes with the best of them and not be discovered. Back in the day this Wolfe was a sly fox!

Sharing My Opinion

September 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                September 22, 2016

                                  

I received an email from Time magazine yesterday. They want my opinion on different things! They must have received a rumor that I’m opinionated and have opinions to offer on anything and everything…from the election to the price of avocados to the end of “Mike and Molly.” It’s nice to know that someone values what I’m thinking.

Sharing opinions is a risky business these days. Facebook opinions have become the Jerry Springer Show of social media. People seem to get off sharing their distorted anger, while others get even more satisfaction at telling them what pathetic losers they are…and then back to you…and then I’ll reach for an even lower comment…and then…

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus had his challengers ready to pounce. Of course, the difference is that Jesus didn’t have opinions, he had the truth. The truth got lampooned, demonized, and criticized. Jesus would have been caricatured on the editorial page every day in some cartoon drawing.

Most of us have a hard time differentiating between the truth and what is simply our opinion. In my annual eye exam my optometrist does one test where two lines gradually come together. That’s how most of us see truth and our opinion. They have become two lines of thought and understanding that we’ve brought together.

And so sharing any opinion seems to be like lighting a fuse on a conversation ready to explode. Some of us like explosions. They seem to ignite us! Others of us shake our heads in disgust and dismay.

Just think about recent opinions that divide us like New England Patriot fans versus…well, everybody else! There’s been the election, National Anthem protests prompted by recent shootings, immigration, health insurance, the cost of Epi-pens, Ryan Lochte, concussion issues in sports, and the legalization of marijuana. Wow! Time could do a couple of issues just on the issues.

And here’s the thing! In our hyper-opinionated culture the thinking seems to be that I must totally agree or totally dis-agree…that I can’t disagree 60% and agree 40%, or admit that there is some truth in the opinion that i don’t agree with. We seem to think that people have to be all in or all out!

I’ve been reading a book entitled Washington’s Circle by David and Jeanne Heidler. What  I’ve been amazed at is the opinionated founding fathers. In today’s terms we would say that they were not all on the same page. They had their opinions about issues, as well as about each other…and they seemed to be able to talk about their differences and, in most cases, come to a consensus of agreement. Perhaps a slower way of communicating helped. In many ways the speed of our interactions these days is a positive, but it has also become a liability. People don’t think before they speak or comment or send a social media post…and then let the fire begin!

A wise person longs for truth and considers the value of their words.

Believing In What I Like!

May 29, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             May 29, 2016

                                    

“The Apostles’ Creed” came into its fullest and complete form about thirteen hundred years ago. It has been the church’s statement of faith ever since…kind of!

The statement begins with the words “I believe in…” (I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son…)

In recent times, especially in American culture…in the church and in general…what is believed has taken a tumble. What is believed resonates with personal choice. With the beginning words of the Apostles’ Creed in mind, today’s statement of belief could very well begin with the words “I believe in what I like, and I don’t believe in what I don’t like.” 

Like a six year old staring with a turned up lip at a serving of spinach on his plate, we are prone to judge something as unlikeable. We lump the “unlikeable” together if they are even remotely connected to what it is we really don’t like. For example, if Chris Tomlin comes out with a new worship song that resembles a hymn there will be some people who won’t like it because…follow the flow here!…Chris Tomlin usually composes praise and worship music, and the person doesn’t like praise and worship music.

At both Trump and Clinton political rallies protestors have tried to disrupt the proceedings because they don’t like the candidates. Freedom of speech has been demoted to the back backseat with Grandma in importance, compared to what people like!

“Likes”, a very small word, has taken on prominence, as well as become confusing. Every day on Facebook I’m faced with responding to someone’s post by clicking “Like.” A young lady I know just got hired on for a new teaching position, so I gave her a thumbs up and clicked “Like.” But a little while later someone else mentions that his brother just passed away. I want to come alongside him as he journeys through this, so I once again click “Like.” I was confused by the whole thing. Clicking “Like” sounded like I was delighted by his loss, when I was really just trying to be supportive.

“I believe in what I like” is fickle. It’s like a girlfriend you had in sixth grade, totally awesome and soon to be replaced! I used to like knee-high athletic socks to go with my extremely short athletic shorts. Now I look at those pictures and chuckle, as well as try to keep them hidden from family and friends!

Try this on for size! If a person doesn’t have a solid belief system, he/she is like the Sunday newspaper left outside to be blown one way or another by the wind. When I say “belief system”, I’m not just talking about Christian convictions, but rather life convictions…life beliefs that anchor me from being carried away by today’s biggest “like.”

For example, do we believe, regardless of our disagreement about a political candidate’s stand on health care, military might, Social Security, or education…do we believe in democracy? Do we believe in freedom of speech, or just when someone is saying something that we like?

Do we believe in freedom for all, or just for those who we agree with, or we like?

Do we believe in the grace of God, or do we believe in limited grace, dependent on if we think someone deserves it…or we like the person?

What are the beliefs that we hold that are non-negotiable, that we will always hold on to regardless of the winds of circumstances? Carol and I are two months away from celebrating our 37th anniversary, and there are things we don’t like about one another! What!!!!

I don’t like it when she picks a crouton off my salad, but I don’t slap her hand. She doesn’t like it when I use a piece of dental floss multiple times, but she doesn’t slap me in the face. Our love for one another anchors us even when we’re not always on the same page. In the next election we may even cancel each other’s vote out!

But our love for one another has become like that old oak in the park that is strong, rooted, and consistent. It may sport some scars from the storms of the years, but it’s solid and dependable.

Perhaps that’s a good picture of where our culture and our churches are right now. That too often we resemble sixth grade romances instead of 37 year old marriages!