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Twittering My Week Away

texting abe uses technology by Jaaako via flickrUntil last week, I had successfully resisted Twitter like I had succesfully resisted golf— convinced that both were horrible wastes of time that had deviously enslaved millions of victims.

What, you say, is Twitter?  Launched in October 2006, Twitter is a “microblog”— a way of communicating publically about yourself over the internet in short sentences, spur of the moment.  You can post short updates about yourself (have to be 140 characters or less) by either website, web-enabled phone, or by text messaging direct to twitter.  There are over two million people on Twitter; many people send out these short postings (called “tweets”) throughout the day, informing the world of what they had for lunch, if they’re stuck in traffic, the latest project they are working on, how their meeting went, and on and on it goes.

So you can see why I steered way clear of such a horrible waste of time.  But one week ago today, I thought, Hmmm….. I’ll try it out, what could it hurt?  Well, so I’ve done 46 “tweets” in the past 7 days, I am following 26 people (most of whom I already had contact with as writers strung from Canada to Australia) and 13 people are currently following me.  I’ve tweeted both from computers and from my iPhone, on serious topics and not so serious ones.  I’ve also had twitter forward my tweets directly over to my Facebook page where they show up as Facebook updates.

It’s actually been an interesting & intruiging week of twittering.  I try to be cautious about what projects are worth my time investment, but I’ve decided Twitter is a winner for me.  It is a unique way of sharing life together, of building community, even in a limited way, with people that you never could in any other way.  Tweets tend to be informal, spontaneous, less guarded, more open and honest, less “image conscious” than some other ways of communicating.  It’s also a good way for me to communicate something that is on my mind worth sharing but not long enough to write up a whole article about.  Bottom line: I’ve enjoyed twittering my week away.

So what did I “tweet” about?  Here are some of my posts over the last week:

(First one) Can’t believe I broke down & actually signed up for Twitter. I am now fully a slave to the machine…

checking out http://culture11.com/ —-new online magazine/web 2.0 social community might have some possibilities

Just searched for people tweeting in Kingsport— 20 active in the whole town– do I live in a tech mecca or what?

Just installed http://tinyurl.com/5lf7n7 woo hoo! almost as fun as an iphone!

Pathetic geekness example: last night I dreamed I was telling someone how cool ubiquity is and then installed it on his computer.

Panera asiago roast beef sandwich for lunch– mighty tasty!

Lying in my hammock beneath a maple, gently rocking, listening 2 crickets & 2 Michael Card, watching my son–this is nourishment 4 my soul

As I face life’s challenges, its good 2 know that I will b more than I am now;I will continue 2 grow in strength & wisdom as I walk with God

Telling someone that they have cancer is such a hard thing. For both of us.

Intruiging how the constraint of 140 characters limits my usual verbosity & causes me to think carefully how to creatively express myself…

interesting article on Governor Palin”s infant son with Down’s from Al Mohler: http://tinyurl.com/5zwun2

twittering is a little like doctoring, in that there is real value in sharing in the lives of others, even if it is in episodic snippets…

From a blog I like— “We have an unspoken integrity agreement with every other person on the planet that says, “I will not hurt you.” ”

sooo tired… exhausting day, exhausting week… but in the midst of the exhaustion a gentle joy, for I really do love to care for people

how about some Red Skelton to start off your weekend… http://tinyurl.com/5n9r77

Subtle, pervasive, disturbing– how often we connect with another person thinking “What can they give me?” Another sad effect of the Fall.

My son Andrew ran in his 2nd cross country meet this morning– I couldn’t be more proud of the man he is becoming.

When I go into Walmart now I think everything there is going 2 b pushed into trash piles by a spunky robot in a 1000 years.Thank you Pixar!

So many Christians see just a ticket for heaven later & a moral code for now. Life, transformation, growth, beauty– not even on their radar

Sitting in a swing watching my son Andrew cut the back yard with my john Deere stx38 lawn tractor for the 1st time. Doesn’t get any better!

Why do I read the Bible this morning? Duty? Inspiration? Routine? Analysis? Or realizing my need, & desperate for the life of God?

2Co 5:17 I am a new creation sounds great, but it presupposes v14-15 I have died with Christ, no longer living for myself but only for Him.

Threw away broken exercycle, computer, trimmer, & disposal today–all <8yrs old, all easier 2 replace than repair in this society… I wonder how much this easier 2 replace than repair ethos bleeds over 2 our friendships, our marriages, our churches in this use it then trash it society.

Trying out twitpic, here’s a worthwhile investment that the family has enjoyed, the koi pond I built last year. http://twitpic.com/9xcd

spent most of day doing yardwork, now I’m sitting back watching UT/UCLA football (INTERCEPTION TENNESSEE!!!!), & working on a blog post

I am reminded how natural it is to treasure happiness in my heart above all else- & no matter how innocuous it is always the path to death

Fighting poison ivy on right side of face. I wonder if this is what the first stage of a Borg implant feels like?

First soccer practice of the season with my son Michael. http://twitpic.com/a15c

Reading thru Ecclesiastes. Many want 2 peg Solomon as either in perfect sync with God or else totally reprobate… Maybe instead he was just somewhere in the middle, both saint & sinner. Just like me.

gal 5:23 “against” the fruit of the spirit there is no law. Greek “against” compares higher to lower; Paul says the Spirit is a higher way

This just in: How did Luke figure out what Darth Vader got him for his birthday? He was able to feel his “presents”!

Working on my next blog post… Guess what it’s about?  My first week on Twitter!

 

So, if you’re curious enough, you can check out my latest tweets by pointing your web browser to :

http://twitter.com/wiseasgandalf

As I said before, they’re also showing up as updates on my facebook page, and on the sidebar at the bottom of my website www.lightalongthejourney.com.  Or you can sign up for your own account on www.twitter.com and join the fun!

The Traps of Being a Knowledge Chaser

I admit it.  I read.  A lot.  About all kinds of stuff.

I scan dozens of blogs, I’m in the middle of four books, and I’m daily tracking what’s hot on several web aggregators like digg and reddit.  I am the 21st century version of a hunter/gatherer— except that instead of spending my day going from tree to tree picking fruit to feed my stomach, I’m going from web page to web page to feed my mind.

There’s a good side to all this information gathering.  I rightfully remind myself that gathering in all this information, sifting through it, and reconstructing it is helpful, both to me and to others in my sphere of influence.  Knowledge is a good thing.

But there can be a down side to constantly hunting for more information, more knowledge, more insight.  Slowly, subtly, the life of a knowledge chaser can become a trap.  Are you a knowledge chaser like me?  Then be sure that you’re aware of these knowledge chaser traps:

The first trap to consider is that chasing knowledge focuses my time and energy on accumulating more and more information instead of dealing with the information I already have.  Two fundamental facts of reality come into play here. The first is that I only have 24 hours in a day.  Every hour I spend chasing knowledge robs me of an hour I could have used elsewhere.   The second fact is that knowledge acquired does me no good unless I act on it, and acting on it takes time and effort.

Which brings me to the second trap: knowledge chasing inclines me to define success in terms of quantity of things learned rather than quality of a soul changed. We all realize that mere accumulation of knowledge can’t be an end unto itself, but it’s easy to lose sight of that truth.  Always has been.  I’m reminded of what the Apostle James wrote two thousand years ago: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Speaking of self-deception, here’s the next trap to consider: knowledge chasing can be the excuse I use to avoid the hard choices. It’s easier to read a book on how to be a good husband than to have that hard conversation with your wife.  It’s easier to check the latest blog on personal finance than to cut up my credit card.  And it’s certainly a lot easier to bookmark that article on nine ways to develop killer abs than to actually get up early and sweat.  But I can avoid all those hard choices if I convince myself that I’m learning something new and valuable.  Ouch.

Lastly, I think constantly chasing knowledge can encourage a “lottery” mentality of personal growth. The trap plays out like this: if I just read this new book on self-discipline or listen to this author’s lecture on joyful living maybe I’ll get lucky and find that simple key that will solve all my troubles.  If I keep learning surely I’ll one day stumble onto that one special truth that will revolutionize my life.  It’s a variation on the lottery mentality— instead of spending all our money on lottery tickets hoping for that one big payoff, we spend all our time on learning hoping for that one big payoff.  Of course, real growth, financial or personal, doesn’t come from a lottery, but from investing what we already have (or know) coupled with disciplined daily work.

Do you want a successful life?  Don’t fall into the trap of simply chasing knowledge, but instead strive for a consistent lifestyle of applying what you learn.  Don’t know how to start?  Then pick something you’ve learned that demands change in your life, and focus on it and it alone this week.  Think about how that knowledge needs to play out in your life, draw up some action points, talk to someone about it, and follow through.  Don’t move to the next project or the next book until you can honestly say to yourself that you have mastered the life change that you set yourself to.   Remember, the person who gazes with satisfaction from the mountain-top is not the one who read everything there was to know about mountains, but the one who set himself on the path & climbed, slowly, deliberately, one step at a time until he finally reached the summit.

Web Watch: wefeelfine.org

wefeelfine.orgFeelings… nothing more than feelings…

Sorry, couldn’t resist that intro to the most unique website I have seen in months: www.wefeelfine.org

This site is a fascinating example of an original idea with brilliant implementation that makes a unique contribution to the internet.  The idea?  Design software that automatically scans thousands of blogs every day, and populate a database that records the emotions expressed in the blogs, and then convert the data into easily accessible graphics.

Simple. Elegant. Funny.  Thought-provoking.  Moving.  wefeelfine is all that and more.  It is a unique window into humanity that is worth your while to peer into.

It is all too easy to get swallowed up into our own egos, problems, and little universe, and not seriously think about billions of other people, laughing, crying, searching, struggling, as they live out their lives.  As followers of Christ, we have a mandate to serve and minister to people, and the first step is just to realize there are people out there, whose souls need caring for.  Spend some time on the site and take an emotion like “sad” and read down the statements of people around the world.  Take an emotion like “happy” and see how often it is based on things that are transitory and superficial.  Spend some time thinking that there are people all around us that are living lives that we need to enter, with wisdom and love and humility, to show them Christ.

 

TomInTheBox News Network

There’s a new blog devoted to really funny satire on contemporary Christianity.  From denying that Greece exists to Calvinism internet blocking software you’ll find alot to laugh at on the TomInTheBox News Network!

New Feature: Current Cool Stuff

I just added a new feature to the website:  current cool stuff.  As one of my many weaknesses, I am a blog junkie—I currently scan over a hundred blogs daily from theology to Christian living to tech blogs to pop culture to blogs about blogs.  Now I have a new sidebar that is visible on the right about halfway down when you are in homepage view only that lists ten of the most interesting blog posts I’ve come across recently.  The current list has everything from “marine corps rules for fighting” to “the christian industrial complex” to “free online resources for raising godly children.”  I will rotate in new posts from time to time.  If you’re not on my homepage view now just click here to go there and see the new sidebar.  As always, I’m welcome for comments or criticism on site features by comment or email.  Have a great weekend!

Web Watch: Internetmonk.com

If you asked me about 2 blogs that always cut to the quick and pull no punches about the state of American Christianity, I would think of two very different people and two very different blogs: one would be Douglas Wilson, and the other would be the Internet Monk, Michael Spenser.  Michael ends up saying so many things I am thinking.  He is brutally honest and real, both about the church and himself.  A few recent favorites:

his musings on how, although he is Southern Baptist, he really feels he doesn’t fit in anywhere completely.  I can certainly Amen that…I have felt like a fish out of water for years, and I know that many people who are earnestly seeking God and His ways feel the same way.

one of his rants on the choking, pointless materialism of evangelical Christianity.  It’s hard for me to pick up a Lifeway circular without either feeling sadness or disgust or both.

if you’ve never considered how American your Christianity is, and never considered how being an American may not be in your favor as far as your walk with God, you’ve got to read this post.

Disagree with him a bunch?  Sure do.  Think his theology needs some improvement?  No doubt.  But this man walks with God, and I’m very thankful he’s in the blogosphere. Give him a look today.

 

Amazon aStore Take 2

When Amazon.com first set up its “aStore beta” program a few months ago, I jumped in and tried it.  The “aStore” concept is great:  you have a website, blog, or other internet presence with hordes of loyal readers just chomping at the bit to waste money on purchases but you don’t want the hassle of setting up an online store.  Enter the world’s largest online retailer to make things easy and toss you a small commission.  If you aren’t planning on paying your mortgage with your profits, it’s a great plan.

I jumped in and set up a store immediately, finding it (A) very easy and (B) way too limited.  Such was the experience of most people.  Amazon listened, and to their credit have now brought the aStore “out of beta” with more flexibility.

So what improvements have been made?  Click here to bring up my aStore, and we can highlight a few.  The big change is in categories (the different sections that are listed in the right side navigation bar).  You can now add multiple categories and subcategories, and populate them in three different ways.  The first (original) way to put items to view in your store is to individually pick products like on my “Cream of the Crop” category, which is the “home page” that displays when you first land on the aStore.

The second way to put products in your store is to pick an Amazon category (like books) and then drill down further using keywords.  My pages for Piper, MacArthur, and Sproul are examples of this second method.  For example, I used the keyword phrase (including quotemarks) “by John MacArthur” to make Amazon just show books written by the BMOC at The Master’s Seminary.  It doesn’t perfectly match to only his books, but does a pretty reasonable job, especially in the first few pages.  The category keyword method doesn’t work well for people who haven’t written dozens of books, so my C. J. Mahaney page was created using the first individual pick method. 

The third and most intriguing way to put products in the store is to fill a category from a ListMania! list.  For people unfamiliar with Amazon, a ListMania! list is a list of Amazon products that anyone can put together and that Amazon will throw up on their pages as a way of (what else?) getting people to buy more. My “Picks for…” categories use ListMania! lists to populate the items.  What’s cool about using ListMania! lists is (a) you can edit the list at any time and have the changes automatically show up in the aStore and (b) you can use anyone’s ListMania list, not just your own.

The last new feature I will highlight is the subcategory feature.  This allows you to add pages that will display underneath a main category when it is clicked.  For an example, click on my John Piper category and you will see the link to a subcategory page “In My Library…” that was created by picking individual books that I actually own.  However, you can put products into subcategories by using any of the three methods.

So, poke around in my aStore, look at how the new categories and subcategories work, and convince my wife that I’m not totally wasting my time by buying a few stocking stuffers and that Piper book you know you can’t live without.  If you want to build your own online store, just go here and start following the directions, and in a few minutes you will have joined the wonderful world of online retailing!

Change is Good! (I think…)

pic by Lorrie McClanahan from FlickrPulbilius Syrus once stated,  ”It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.”  Keeping that in mind, RADICAL SITE CHANGE IS HERE!  I’ve been powering the site with a wordpress template based on Andreas01 for months, but was craving some change, and so…. I found a really cool template called durable and have hacked about on it and am really pleased with the result.

What I like:

  1. Top Menu Bar: all the experts say that our eyes float to the top of a web page and a top menu bar is the best way to go.
  2. Fluid column width: the site resizes itself to give extra room for larger monitors
  3. Kicking large latest post: displayed to really grab your attention
  4. ultracool minisidebar for the meta: the “meta”, or all the stuff about the post is now slotted to the right of the post.  I LOVE this.
  5. Other posts listed below in a 2 column summary display
  6. Other stuff typically listed in “sidebars” now in a dedicated bottom section:  this makes a lot more sense than the typical sidebar blog configuration.
  7. In your face colors:  Yes, orange and blue are loud, but they grab your attention too.
  8. No header image: yes, I’ve always used some type of header image, but I realized do I want it to compete with the content?  NO.  I realize that without the header image, you are drawn much more to the post and it’s image (which is a good thing!).
  9. It doesn’t look like just one more blog!

Ok, for all that goodness, what’s still in my wishlist?

  1. that the xhtml would validate without errors.
  2. cooler, more graphic top menubar.
  3. that the single post view would also show the two column summaries area.
  4. smaller area for the write comments pane.
  5. the css could use some work too.
  6. THREE columns in the bottom section would be awesome, but I don’t have the skill to hack that.
  7. better integration with the ultimate tag warrior plugin.

So, for the people that usually just use a RSS reader, pop over to the acutal website and see what you think.  I’d love some honest feedback on the change.

Savage Chickens

This week’s Friday Funnies comes originally from the blog random responses.  This cartoon is one of those thousands of hidden treasures that you just stumble across while you are wasting time on the world wide web:

 Read my blog?

 

Have a funny story or web site?—pass it along with the email link below.  Have a good laugh and a great weekend.

The Tension Between Studying the Past & Creating the Present

Mark Dever just wrote a post for the new Together for the Gospel blog entitled The Unbearable Lightness of Blogs. That post, which eloquently talked about the danger of blogs stealing “precious minutes” away from our reading theology of a more substantive nature, resonated strongly with me.

I actually hesitated to write anything about the post, not wanting to steal any more time from anyone with something that was not on the level of Bunyan or Anselm. But I wanted to briefly say that I share Mark’s concerns regarding the blogosphere. The instantaneous nature of the internet makes it much more alluring than even punching the TV remote. I castigate myself for how many times I “check in” on cnn.com during the day to learn things that are really pointless on the timescale of eternity. Far easier it is to justify reading “Christian” “edifying” “important” material on the internet that may be just as trivial on an eternal timescale. I remember having a brief conversation with Ken Boa after listening to one of his lectures about 10 years ago, and in the course of conversation he told me that he was very cautious of any time he spent online as to its eternal value(way before the first blog!). A man twenty years ago could face the same “temptation” of spending too much time learning material instead of living the Christian life with a library of Christian books and sermon tapes. However, the internet now makes it easy to have unlimited material much of dubious quality instantly in front of us.

In this age that we now live in, one of our tensions is between studying the past and creating the present. A local pastor could simply read aloud the transcript of a Spurgeon sermon that might be technically far beyond what he could compose, and yet we know that the Spirit can do things through a falliable yet submitted man in the present that he cannot do even through the genius of the past; that is why pastors prepare messages each week for their congregations. Part of building the kingdom is creating and communicating in the unique way that God has given each of us in the present, while listening to the Spirit illuminate and guide us through the Scriptures and the past writings of the saints and through what we sense to be the needs of the Body. I think this can hold true within the blogosphere as well—I think the Spirit can uniquely use this medium, just as He has the written word through books and the spoken word through sermons.

I have been challenged and blessed through some of the material I have read on blogs, which I would never have had the chance to expose myself to without the medium of the internet and through men of God investing time into this means of communication. I have also wasted much time which could have been devoted to other things. As with much of the Christian life, this tension of the past and present cannot be resolved by a simple rule, but rather is a path to be negotiated in humility and wisdom for the health of the Body and the glory of Christ.

So I would encourage Mark to blog on, in humility & wisdom, for God’s glory, as he writes and preaches and lives for His glory as well. May we all do the same.