The “me” blog (why I write)

Until recently, I hadn’t posted much in 2012. I’m not going to make some lame excuse about how busy I’ve been or how my priorities have changed. It’s not that I haven’t had any thoughts about ministry, culture, Malawi or bursts of creativity. It’s not even that I haven’t been writing.

To be honest a day hasn’t passed where I haven’t thought, “ahh, remember that blog you were gonna post?” I don’t let it beat me up, but it does bother me. So I will just come out and say it; I need to be more disciplined.

As self-serving as this may sound; blogging is good for me.

A few years ago a friend argued that Foursquare painted the perfect picture of how self-involved and focused our society has become. Become the Mayor! Get as many badges as you can!!! Checking in at the hippest hangouts gave individuals the chance to shout to the inter-webs, “Look at how cool I am!” Soon enough Facebook realized they were behind the curve on letting location determine your status on the social spectrum. And now there are a ton of ways you can post pictures, write reviews and tell everyone that you are the most important person in your own little world.

I wanted to argue her point, but I couldn’t. It hit me. The entire blog/twitter/facebook world is often less about connecting communities than about being a platform for personal projection.

A publicist who runs a blog for a band you love uses one of your flicker photos and, all of a sudden, you are Guns N’ Roses newest photographer. Former high-school athletes who never dabbled in journalism become “experts” in sports culture. A random person takes one online seminary class, starts a blog and they are a master theologian. Someone famous retweets a tweet and BAM, you know them.

There are, of course, exceptions to the network of narcissism. Social media has often been ahead of radio and news stations with disaster warnings, traffic updates and worthwhile news. And Facebook and Twitter help us to stay connected in a way email never did.

The honest truth is, in our world today—as a business, church or individual, if you’re not up to speed with where our culture has gone then you aren’t going to grow or meet new people. This is true whether you are keeping your information in the cloud or a Trapper Keeper.

But where do we draw the line?

Those who have thrived have figured ot how to walk it gracefully. They don’t post everything about their life, but enough to document their interests and connect with their friends and family. They feel they have something to say that others will want to hear, but have also learned that there is actually an appropriate etiquette to social media and blogging.

But why do I write? I can’t candy-coat it…it is good for me. It’s a discipline that helps me to reflect on where I am and what’s happening in the world. Words are something we often use without thinking; having a blog helps me to think before I speak (or write). I’d hope it’s a discipline that seeps into other ares of life. If, somewhere along the way, one of my online thoughts or rants sparks one for someone else then great. If not? I’ll keep writing.

The Cost of Rain

We were told it would come at some point. Every day, for the last month or so, we could see clouds in the distance. Aggressive clouds—the type that you look at and think, “those things are angry and will dump bucket loads on this dry and crusty land.” We had a small foretaste of what African clouds could do last week, but today the main event commenced.

The rainy season is here.

Before moving to Malawi, I had never lived in a place that relies so heavily on rain. Shoot, for most of my life, rain only meant I couldn’t surf for a week (due to pollution) and that my bike rides were going to be difficult and uncomfortable. But rain also meant mud football, reading in coffee shops and nights at the movies. And it came so infrequently that it didn’t infringe too much on normal life. I cherished the rain, as rare as it was, because it was a change of scenery and pace. I’m sure, had I grown up in a place like Seattle my sentiment would be very different.

I once heard a sermon by Rob Bell where he said that people who live in ‘seasonless’ places are robbed of fully experiencing the ebb and flow of God’s creation. Along with this, he argued, such people aren’t given a predetermined time of year for rest, working extra hard or celebration. As a native San Diegan I want to argue with him, but I can’t. He is right. Ecclesiastes is clear that there is a season for everything. The creation story reeks of a timely order. And one cannot read many of Jesus’ parables without having at least a small grasp on agrarian culture. It could be argued that human innovation and modernization has hindered our ability to live balanced and healthy lives.

Electricity, transportation and the Internet are wonderful inventions. Each has had a positive impact on the way in which our world functions—but at what price? Some may consider it a silly question and argue that progress is simply just that—moving forward in a logical manner. Fine. But does progression have a cost? I would say it does.

Take the Internet. I love it, use it daily and am in no way against further development of social media and web entrepreneurship. But the truth is, it can hurt just as much as it can help (in the past 5 years 81% of divorce cases used facebook/twitter as evidence—risky tools or neutral toys?). It spreads just as much misinformation as real information (ask your doc what s/he really thinks of WebMD). And much of the counter-productive functions of it take up more of our 168 weekly hours than we’d like to admit.

Years ago the rainy season in Malawi began in September and continued through March.

drippy leave

During the last few years the rainy season has started later and later (the last week of Nov. the last two years), while still ending in March. Two fewer months of rain is a big deal when your only export completely relies on it. Climate change is far from a political buzzword here—it is a harsh reality.

I don’t have any answers, just plenty of questions. Does further development have a cost? And if so what, how much can we really afford to spend? Should we make any attempt to slow things down? Why? Why not? What do you think?

The joy, pain and (un)reliability of technology…

It has been close to two weeks since Hailey and I returned from Ireland. Since returning from our trip it seems that every piece of technological equipment we own has had something wrong with it.  Well, thats not entirely correct; our ipod touch and my blackberry both took a huge hit while we were in Ireland. Yes Ireland was wet, but I figured that a completely sealed pocket in my waterproof jacket was a very safe place for said pieces of equipment.  I took apart my blackberry and, though some of the buttons took longer than others to completely recover, it quickly became usable again.  The same cannot be said for the ipod. More annoying than the fact that we lost a couple of blog entries I had written and had not uploaded (really a journal of our trip) is Apple’s refusal to believe that we did not submerge the ipod in water and hence their refusal to replace the Ipod (a call to their corporate offices is coming soon enough).

Upon returning home we were reminded that our dishwasher had decided to stop doing its job and now it has resorted itself to a very expensive drying rack.  However the frustration of the blackberry, ipod and dishwasher pale in comparison to what ensued the night I began copying our pictures on to our computer. Suffering from a bit of jet lag, I started coping photos over in the late evening. The first 2Gb card worked perfectly. When I put in the second card, a 4GB one with 410 photos on it, an Aperture (usually an amazing program) error sign popped on to my screen.  Before I knew it half of the photos we took were gone. After a few choice words, Hailey woke up and I threatened to throw my computer.  As she tried to calm me down, telling me its “just stuff,” I grew more agitated–I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night. A few hours later I found a program that said it could find deleted pictures. I downloaded it, the process began and after an hour of watching the progress bar move a millimeter I gave in to my wife’s lovely advice and tried to sleep. I woke up two hours later, and the progress bar had moved, maybe, twice as far as it was two hours earlier. But now I realized my camera batteries were dead. 4 am, no pictures and dead camera batteries–now where could that card reader I once used be? I restarted the process and, literally, 16 hours and 30$ later the pictures were recovered.

Our dishwasher and Ipod are still broken and now our air conditioner is sounding more like a trash compactor than anything else. As I think about how angry I was that night and how much more time I spend washing dishes now I can’t help but feel spoiled.  I am spoiled by technology, spoiled by stuff. And the truth is I am not alone. We have forgotten the days of film, washing dishes with hands and writing in an actual journal. Our kid’s have no idea what life is like with out myspace, facebook, twitter or blogs like this. Our society has become so engulfed in the technology that surrounds us that we forget that life exists outside of it. My reminder has come through the failure’s of the technology I rely on all too frequently. I was forced to step away from things that make my life ‘easier,’ but I am glad for what has come around