I’m leaving Facebook, and not for the reasons you suspect.

It’s a turbulent time in our country. The election. The hatred. The frustration. The protests. Coincidentally, I’m stepping away from Facebook, but it isn’t for the reasons that so many of my other friends are leaving the social media world.

I’ve decided to step off of the Facebook platform and social media in general, not because I’m offended, which I am. Not because people have exhausted me with their non-stop complaints, which they did. Not because people are out of control, which they are. But because I realized how much of my precious time I’m wasting in the virtual world that keeps me from being in touch with the real world. For every hour spent in virtual relationships, I’m missing out on so much time with face-to-face interactions and meaningful encounters.

I’ve been pondering this move for quite some time. It isn’t a spur of the moment decision. But there was a moment today when the decision became clear, when it hit me square in the face. As I walked through the cafeteria today from my table in the back corner I saw that every table had someone who was not engaged with others but instead, looking down, and thumbing their phones, checking email, commenting on Facebook, viewing videos, Twittering and Snapchatting. This is no exaggeration. It was EVERY. SINGLE. TABLE. In fact, I passed one table in which a woman was actually surrounded by people with their phones out while she was reading the newspaper. It didn’t even look real and I nearly went over to congratulate her for the bravery and outlandish behavior.

Nearly nine-years ago a movie named Wall-E came out. It was a big hit. You probably remember it. But I hated the movie. One of the most troubling aspects was the image of disengaged humans who were depicted as massive blobs too lazy to walk, with giant cups of some drink in one hand and video screens poised in their pudgy other paw. They were over-fed and over-entertained. In this anesthetized state of ignorance they floated along on reclining chairs, completely disconnected from the reality of their situation.

As I walked through the cafeteria today, I realized we are only a hovering chair away from this pathetic reality.

I want to read from books that have pages. I want to look people in the eye as we meet one another. I want to eat a meal without being interrupted by someone’s social medial emergency. I want to turn off the tube. I want to shut down the screen. I want to escape the pattern we’ve created for ourselves.

And so today, as a first step, I’m leaving Facebook. I’m removing the app from my phone. I’m removing the link from my favorites on my computer. I’m stepping away from the vortex that is social medial.

Of course, I’m not going away entirely. You can still chat with me via Messenger. You can still see my pictures on Instagram. You can text or call. Or, and this is a radical idea, we can meet for coffee or share a meal. We can even go for a walk if you prefer.  We can play cards, work on a puzzle, discuss hard topics like (gasp) politics. You see, it isn’t personal. It’s survival. It isn’t anti-Trump. It’s pro-meaningful life. It isn’t against you. It’s for us. As hard as it is to remember, there was a time before social media. There was a time when we engaged one another in the real world.

That’s my goal and I invite you to join me. Pull your noses away from your screens. Straighten your backs and lift your heads to the beauty that is this world. It’s a site to behold.

Service With A Smile

Ken earned five dollars for impressing us with his singing and his service!

Occasionally, you stumble upon someone who has that certain sparkle, that extra flash, the “it” factor.

Ken is one of those people.

You might miss the special quality if you concern yourself with the freshness of the post-wedding salad, the seasoning of the chicken, the snap of the green beans.  Talking with other invited guests at the table, you might not look up from the dinner to catch the enthusiastic grin and skip in your server’s step.  But, if you watch him work the table, if you follow him around the room as he serves the meal and clears the dishes, you will be impressed; you will be amazed.

It was my delight to take a moment to talk with Ken and discover that his is more than a talented waiter.

Many young people serve food because it is nothing more than a starting point in a life of greater, more meaningful employment.  But not Ken.  He doesn’t do this job out of necessity.  He serves at banquets, celebrations and social events because he loves people.  He gets jazzed by the work.  He lights up when he serves.  He enthusiastically ensures that the guests are well cared for.

I suspect that Ken won’t work for this catering company for very long.  My guess is that in a very short time he will OWN this company.  His work ethic, charming personality and firm handshake guarantee that he will use is degree to quickly rise to a place of leadership.  He will blaze a path to the top and in the process, he will make many, many people very happy.

Ephesians 1:18 – The Hope

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,”

How many times have you heard it said, “It’s hopeless.”?

How many times have you felt hopeless?

How many times has it seemed hopeless?

A few situations come to my mind from this past week’s news that would leave a person hopeless…And yet, Paul mentions this Hope to which we are called.  He offers a glimpse of something better.  He teases us a little with his words.  We are called to Hope?  We are called to riches?  We are called to inheritance?  We are called to more than this?

On a day when you feel darkest and down, one a day when there is no hope, pull out this passage and read it carefully.  Read it slowly and let the words sink in.

We are to know, deep down in our very heart-of-hearts, that there is a hope to which we are called.  Life doesn’t have to be one of struggle and pain because there is hope.  Life doesn’t have to be a guessing game because we have hope.  Life doesn’t have to be filled with sorrow and frustration because God calls us to a life filled with hope.

And that is very good news, indeed.

Ephesians 1:9

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,”

Here is an interesting thought:  God made known to us the mystery.

How many times have you heard someone say (or perhaps you’ve said yourself), “When I get to Heaven, I’m going to ask God about this…or that…or that other thing...”  There are too many mysteries and we want answers:  Why am I always left with the green M&M’s?  Why does the price of gas go up around holidays?  Why isn’t Season 3 of Downton Abbey available on Hulu Plus?  What is my dog thinking when she chews up my wife’s Chap Stick?  Why can’t my family put the toilet paper roll on so the paper hangs the right direction?

These are good questions, a little shallow but good questions none-the-less.  But Paul isn’t suggesting that these questions and so many more are answered now because of God’s redemption and salvation.  This mystery is a little different, slightly deeper and of more eternal consequence.  You’ll have to save those other questions for a later date.

This is a mystery that is open to those who are club members.  This is a mystery that is available for the in-crowd.  These answers are for those who have their ticket punched and are getting ready to ride the ride of their life.

In short, Paul is stating that the mystery of Salvation was once maintained in heaven alone.  God, in his power and reign, held the keys to heaven.  But now, these keys and the mystery they unlock, is available who all who ask.  It isn’t just for the Angels and Prophets.  It isn’t reserved for the chosen people; the Jews.  This mystery, this love that sets us free and pays our price, is available to any and all who desire to receive it.

Ask and it shall be given.

Knock and the door will be opened.

Seek and you will find.

Yes.  That mystery.  No longer hidden from view, God, through Jesus’ sacrifice has handed you the key to the greatest mystery of all.

Galatians 5:22 – Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

Yesterday we looked at Love, if only briefly.  The Fruit of the Spirit we will look at today is Joy.

It is hard to understand this word in its true meaning.  We tend to relate joy to the thrill of a ride in a fast car (joy ride) or seeing people after a long absence or a happy event of some sort.  The problem is that this just doesn’t cover it.  The Joy mentioned by Paul is more than a happy feeling.  It certainly isn’t circumstance based.

You see, the problem we have in defining Joy is that this Joy is the result of the Spirit active in us.  It is only related to our experience with God.  It comes from Knowing God.  The Fruit of the Spirit which is Joy is a result of God living and working in us.  Joy is present when God is present, despite the circumstances in our lives.

I had a discussion the other day with a man who desperately desired to experience the Joy he witnesses in other followers of Christ.  In fact, the realization that he did not have this Joy made him even more sad.  As we talked, I soon learned that he doesn’t believe what they believe and honestly, this will be a real road-block for him.  If a person doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ or his death and resurrection then experiencing a Spirit-filled life is not obtainable.  If this is the case, then experiencing the Joy of the Spirit is also not obtainable.

From this gentleman’s viewpoint, the Joy he witnesses is either mystical beyond his possible experience or a false presentation and too good to be true.

I suppose a person who has never been married doesn’t understand the happiness (and pain) that comes with that relationship.  A person who has never held their newborn in their arms cannot understand the sense of love and responsibility that comes in that moment.  A person who has never lost their child cannot understand the overwhelming grief associated with that event.  So a person who cannot release their skepticism and doubt and accept God’s greatest gift, they may never know the pure Joy that is found in the Love of God as we live is the full presence of the Spirit.

But for those who do, there is nothing like it.