". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Girls' Night Out

I went to a rock concert Friday night. A friend and I took our daughters to see Owl City. Owl City is actually Adam Young, a young man from Owatonna, Minnesota, who started recording electronic music in his parents' basement because he couldn't sleep. His personal story is interesting. He began uploading music onto his MySpace account, developed a huge following, began selling songs on iTunes, and was eventually discovered and signed to a recording contract. He does not bill himself as a Christian artist but he does not downplay his Christianity and it comes through naturally in his music and on his blog. The song "Galaxies" on his most recent CD All Things Bright and Beautiful was inspired by the Challenger space shuttle disaster and contains these lyrics:

Dear God, I was terribly lost
When the galaxies crossed
And the sun went dark.
Dear God, You're the only North Star
I would follow this far.

Oh telescope,
Keep your eye on my only hope,
Lest I blink and be swept off the narrow road,
Hercules, you've got nothing to say to me,
'Cause you're not the blinding light that I need.
For He is the saving grace of the galaxies.
(Galaxies, galaxies, galaxies, galaxies)
He is the saving grace of the galaxies.

In the concert this song was preceded by a recording of President Ronald Reagan's televised remarks to the nation after the disaster. I doubt I will ever attend another rock concert where that occurs.

My daughter has been an Owl City/Adam Young fan for some time now. I have only listened to a few of his songs. But I am impressed by her taste and discrimination in music. The poetry is compelling and the music fresh and enjoyable. Although the recorded music is computer-based, the live shows are not: the live band included piano, keyboard, drums, guitar, cello and violin. My friend remarked that the music is the type that that makes you feel good--light and uplifting, not dark and depressing. And I was terribly impressed by this concert. The venue was a smaller one--the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago (here's some fun history)--and the ticket price was incredibly reasonable: $28 for general admission, standing room only (there was some second level balcony seating for special guests and, I assume, those who could pay higher prices, but most of us either stood or sat on the floor). Owl City is quite a phenomenon but is not yet commanding huge venues and astronomical ticket prices. At the concert Adam repeatedly--repeatedly--told the audience how much he appreciated their support. It seemed sincere. I think he really is amazed and appreciative at what he has wrought. There was nothing objectionable in the entire show--no dirty jokes, no foul language, nothing. The affection between singer and audience was obvious. The concertgoers were well-behaved and there was no smoking of any kind (thanks in part to the tight security at the Aragon). The predominant age group was high school/college, but there were some oldsters like us there as well as some families with young children. And, although some might disagree, the volume was not painfully loud. (I have suffered through painfully loud, and this was not it.)

Here's the song that propelled Owl City to platinum status:

And here's a picture of my daughter and her friend listening to "Fireflies" at the concert.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Acolyte Picnic

For many years my husband's responsibilities as cantor have included overseeing our congregation's St. Andrew Society. The St. Andrew Society is a group of junior high and high school students who volunteer their time to serve as acolytes for our worship services. Some churches require this work of their Confirmation students; neither our current church nor our former one, which also had a St. Andrew Society, do so. We find that if the acolytes are convinced of the value of their work they will willingly and joyfully serve. When they become high school students they are designated as senior acolytes and receive a special cross to reflect that distinction. Many of our acolytes continue serving until they graduate from high school.

Yesterday was our annual St. Andrew Society "picnic." Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 acolytes turned out. The day was rather bittersweet for our family in that it was the last one that Trevor will participate in as an acolyte (he is going to college) and will also likely be the last one my husband will plan. Our congregation is in the process of calling a third pastor, and the job description for his position includes heading up the St. Andrew Society. So my husband will no longer be doing so as that responsibility passes from him to someone else.

Because I think my husband does such fine work with our acolytes, and because it was the last time Trevor and Caitlin will be together in the St. Andrew Society, I thought to take some photos of the day.

This is called "Acolyte Jeopardy." Notice the categories. As in real Jeopardy, contestants (in this case playing on teams) pick a category and an amount. They get an "answer" for which they have to provide the question.

A sample "answer." Do you know the "question"?

The day included a time of teaching, prayer and reflection in the place where the acolytes' work is done.

There were also "wacky acolyte games." This one is a race to see who can change a taper faster. (The more experienced of these two won.)

And yes, there was feasting. The menu is the same every year: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, biscuits, and of course, dessert.

Gym and free time! The day was topped off with a water balloon fight--I didn't get pictures of that one. As usual, there was one wet cantor when it was all over.

Trevor and Caitlin will acolyte together one more time in August. The following week Trevor leaves for college. Sometime this fall, God willing, we will welcome our new pastor, and my husband will pass the leadership of the St. Andrew Society on to him. Just a few more of the "lasts" we are experiencing this year that we pray will turn into some wonderful "firsts."

Monday, July 25, 2011

"We must risk being taken in, if we are to get anything"

From C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

I have also refrained from describing the sort of reading I approve as 'critical reading'. The phrase . . . seems to me deeply misleading. I said in an earlier chapter that we can judge any sentence or even word only by the work it does or fails to do. The effect must precede the judgement on the effect. The same is true of a whole work. Ideally, we must receive it first and then evaluate it. Otherwise, we have nothing to evaluate. Unfortunately this ideal is progressively less and less realised the longer we live in a literary profession or in literary circles. It occurs, magnificently, in young readers. At a first reading of some great work, they are 'knocked flat'. Criticise it? No, by God, but read it again. The judgement 'This must be a great work' may be long delayed. But in later life we can hardly help evaluating as we go along; it has become a habit. We thus fail of that inner silence, that emptying out of ourselves, by which we ought to make room for the total reception of the work. The failure is greatly aggravated if, while we read, we know that we are under some obligation to express a judgement; as when we read a book in order to review it, or a friend's MS, in order to advise him. Then the pencil gets to work on the margin and phrases of censure or approval begin forming themselves in our mind. All this activity impedes reception.

For this reason I am very doubtful whether criticism is a proper exercise for boys and girls. A clever schoolboy's reaction to his reading is most naturally expressed by parody or imitation. The necessary condition of all good reading is 'to get ourselves out of the way'; we do not help the young to do this by forcing them to keep on expressing opinions. Especially poisonous is the kind of teaching which encourages them to approach every literary work with suspicion. It springs from a very reasonable motive. In a world full of sophistry and propaganda, we want to protect the rising generation from being deceived, to forearm them against the invitations to false sentiment and muddled thinking which printed words will so often offer them. Unfortunately, the very same habit which makes them impervious to the bad writing may make them impervious also to the good. The excessively 'knowing' rustic who comes to town too well primed with warnings against coney-catchers does not always get on very well; indeed, after rejecting much genuine friendliness, missing many real opportunities and making several enemies, he is quite likely to fall a victim to some trickster who flatters his 'shrewdness'. So here. No poem will give up its secret to a reader who enters it regarding the poet as a potential deceiver, and determined not to be taken in. We must risk being taken in, if we are to get anything. The best safeguard against bad literature is a full experience of good; just as a real and affectionate acquaintance with honest people gives a better protection against rogues than a habitual distrust of everyone.

It's An Acquired Smell

Today we had some friends stop by for breakfast--a pastor and his wife and their four children, ages (roughly) 8 months, almost 3, 6 (I think), and 10. They are on the road for vacation and it was an opportunity for our families to get together. Some of you who read here may know the mom as "Untamed Shrew." :-)

Anyway, we were all sitting around the breakfast table when Evan, my 7-year-old, announced, "I don't like that smell."

"What smell?" I asked.

"I don't know. That smell."

All I could smell was breakfast: biscuits and gravy, crock pot egg/ham/cheese casserole, cinnamon cake and coffee, so I asked, "Is it something we're eating? All I smell is the food."

"No. . . . I think it's babies."


I told him that some day when he has his own babies he will love how they smell and that when he was a baby I used to want to smell him all the time.

"I know. But I'm not a daddy yet. I have to grow up and get married and have a wife before I'll like how babies smell."


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sending a Kid to College

I always knew the day would come, but there was a part of me that didn't believe it. And now it's almost here. In about 3-1/2 weeks I will send my firstborn to college. In another state. Eight hours (plus stops) away.

I am actually feeling pretty good about it. Six months ago I was panicking over the prospect, but right now I am just so proud and excited that I think those emotions are overshadowing the sadness. We are keeping busy planning and preparing and I am trying not to think about that moment we hug him and actually drive away. But every once in a while it does creep into my mind and I momentarily lose my composure. It usually seems to happen when I'm alone, such as while taking a shower or driving in the car.

Anyway, in getting the college guy ready I have consulted several sources, including the school he is going to, a number of friends, and the Bed, Bath & Beyond store (they actually have lists tailored for most schools and they are happy to give you one when you stop in to shop). Below is the exhaustive list I have come up with based on all of those recommendations. My son will not have need of everything on the list--it would be too much!--but I thought I would include it here for anyone else who has a son or daughter going off to college in the near future. This list, of course, is intended for young people who will live in a dorm. Someone who is going to live in an apartment will need even more (and someone who is living at home won't need nearly so much).

I would be interested to hear any items you can think of that are not on this list!


Dishes/Utensils, dish soap, dish towel


Cleaning supplies: Clorox wipes, Swiffer, air freshener (also supplies for bathroom if the room has its own), hand broom/vac



Laundry supplies – hamper/basket/bag, soap, spot treatment, dryer sheets, quarters, iron, ironing board

Shower caddy, shower shoes/slippers, robe

Towels – bath & swim

Over-the-door towel rack/hooks

Bedding (check with college for bed size) – mattress pad, sheets, blanket, bedspread, pillows, pillow protectors


Small printer

Flash drive

Cell phone


Alarm clock

Music player



Photos/posters/room decorations

Desk supplies – stapler, pencil sharpener, paper clips, push pins, rubber bands, paper, pens/pencils, ruler, calculator, scissors, highlighter, tape, glue, white-out, desk-top caddy, drawer organizer, bookends, desk lamp, white board and/or bulletin board, trash can

Tissue/Paper towels


Stacking crates/cubes/chest for storage


Earplugs/Sleep mask

Extension cords

Nail clippers, tweezers

First aid kit – bandages, antibiotic cream, anti-itch cream, painkiller, cough/throat drops, Pepto-Bismol/antacid/ Immodium, antihistamine (Benadryl)/decongestant, vitamins, melatonin, hand sanitizer, thermometer

Small appliances: Hot pot/coffee-maker/crock pot/popcorn maker/hot plate


Can opener

Local honey from the area you are moving to—start taking months before

Water bottle



Sewing kit


Netflix streaming subscription

Under bed storage

Shoe storage

Tool kit or Multi-tool (like this)

Oodles of socks and underwear!

Telephone/Address Book/List of important dates

Local bank account

Credit card

Phone to plug in if there’s a land line

Light bulbs


Smart pen

Book light

Flash light

Lock box for cash/important papers

Money management software for computer


And of course—clothing, toiletries, personal belongings

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Measuring Our Words and Those of Others

Rebekah has a thought-provoking post at the CSPP blog right now. It reminds me of this one I wrote a few months ago. I think both posts make the point that when it comes to that thing we call "best construction" we can be decidedly selective in how we apply it. We will move heaven and earth to read the words and actions of our friends in the best possible light but when it comes to those about whom our feelings are more, shall we say, ambivalent, we don't always look for the most positive "spin." With our friends, we readily tolerate, turn the other cheek, forgive, and explain away whatever we must to maintain harmony, but with those we feel less charitable towards we are sadly inclined to look for offense.

The question, then, is what to do? The theme of my post linked above is taken from a story my husband tells his music students: "just play." In other words, don't worry about how you are going to be perceived because no matter how you play your friends will cheer you and your detractors will point out what you did wrong. I think it's good advice. I have a problem with caring too much about what other people think--about me, about my family, about my church--and I am working on that and realizing there is not much I can do about it--they will think what they will think, regardless of what I do, whether it's based in reality or not. But I also think when it comes to internet communication there are things we can all do to make it more likely that our interactions will be positive. We have all experienced online disagreements, both those handled well and those handled poorly, and if we are honest with ourselves we have at various times contributed to both. Of course, there are some people who seem incapable of the former and who always do the latter, and they are the ones we learn to avoid at all costs because when we disagree with them we will invariably have our heads handed to us on platters. But most people are more reasonable than that, and since we do so much communicating on the internet these days, isn't it worth our time to take the extra care that we can rather than toss words out thoughtlessly and carelessly, putting the onus on others to read them in the right way and pleading "you are so sensitive" and "you can't take a joke" when they don't?

Now certainly, big boys and girls should be able to disagree on matters of principle without getting mad at one another. And they do--I see it done well all the time. So what is it that turns a difference of opinion into something in which at least one person has taken offense? Usually it's because the difference of opinion has somehow become personalized. So the question is how to keep that from happening?

The best way to do that is to keep the focus on the substance of the disagreement. You like Mac and I like PC and we ought to be able have a discussion about it and go on peacefully coexisting. However, if the substance of the disagreement is akin to "Your daddy is lazy and your mama is fat and you all go to a stupid church" it's probably time to walk away from the discussion. :-) You can ask for clarification, but if the same thing comes back a second time you will have to decide if you want to argue the point (probably not advisable) or just let it go (bingo!).

If, however, you decide to continue a discussion in which there is a substantive disagreement, the avoiding of offense usually boils down not to the "what" of our words but the "how" of them. And therein lies the challenge. It's that elusive thing called "tone" that is easy to hear in speech but hard to pin down in writing. Certainly it can be identified--as a writer and teacher I would not argue otherwise--but it can also be easily misinterpreted, especially when one is predisposed to do so. This is where Rebekah's point about the hearer comes in. If we feel secure with the other person, if we feel trusting, if there is a friendship there, we tend to hear the words one way. If the person is someone we don't know or like or trust, we are more likely to hear the words in another way. I don't know how to get around that--it's just the way it is. But it is why, more and more, I question the use of sarcasm and snark and the like in written communication, especially communication that we intend to be substantive. It is just so easily misread. If we are really interested in meaningful communication leading to understanding, our words need to be chosen with the utmost of care and delivered with the greatest level of reasoned objectivity that we can muster. We should avoid what is known in the study of rhetoric as "loaded" language--words with high emotional content. And as hearers, we need to take time and care and go above and beyond in trying to understand one another. We need to ask, "Did you mean to say?" and withhold hasty judgments and turn the other cheek and proceed in caution and gentleness at all times.

All easy to say but harder to do. Here are some examples of utterances that are not conducive to achieving understanding, followed by suggested alternatives that keep the focus on the subject at hand rather than redirecting it to the individuals involved:

If someone says something you find surprising, don't say "You have got to be kidding" or "You should have your head examined" or "It's sad to see that some people still believe that silly notion." Instead say, "That surprises me [focus on you, not the other person]. Why do you think that?"

If someone appears to be getting worked up, don't say "Clearly I have touched a nerve." It sounds like you are enjoying feeling as though you have the upper hand. Instead, just continue in as calm a manner possible. Maybe the other person isn't getting worked up at all. Maybe you have misread the situation. But if emotions are starting to run high, you may be able to diffuse them by not calling attention to the fact and by remaining humble and carrying on as reasonably as possible.

If someone mentions a book or movie or song you can't abide, don't say, "You're reading/watching/listening to/singing that piece of crud?" Instead say "That's not my preference" or "I'm not sure about that. Why do you like it?"

If someone says, "I don't understand" don't belittle him for not understanding something that you think everyone ought to easily grasp. Ask, "What don't you understand?" and then try to explain it to him.

If someone expresses dislike/disapproval for something you are fond of (a certain fashion, perhaps, or maybe a particular decorating theme), don't take it personally. Sometimes I see people wear things to church that I would never wear or decorate their homes with items I would never choose. It doesn't mean I dislike them or think less of them for the choice they have made. We have a difference of opinion about what is appropriate or attractive. We can still be friends (as long as I don't attack their choice derisively by saying one of the phrases above!).

Realize that, ultimately, criticizing someone's tone is a red herring. That's not to say tone doesn't matter--we should all aim for the highest possible level of discourse. But once you have leveled a charge of "I don't like your tone" you are abandoning the substance of the argument and turning your attention to its execution. Perhaps that is what you want to do. But it is a different issue from the one at hand.

Finally, this may run counter to what you might think, but with the advent of more and more written communication I think people tend to go overboard in their efforts to lend expression to their words through the use of capital letters and punctuation and colorful turns of phrase. My advice, if you are communicating with someone you don't have an extremely close relationship with, or if you find yourself disagreeing online with anyone at all, is to err on the side of less, rather than more, expressiveness. Be formal rather than informal and objective rather than subjective. If you truly want to come to understanding and a harmonious ending, make every possible effort to inoculate your words against misunderstanding. Exclamation points, capital letters, and colorful expressions draw attention to you and your personal voice rather than keeping the focus on the subject at hand and are as a result generally not helpful.

It's an internet jungle out there. It truly is, and hiding behind every tree is a wild animal waiting to pounce or some quicksand ready to suck you in. If at all possible, when you sense danger turn around and go the other way. It is possible to come out alive, but realize if you venture in that you probably won't completely escape injury. But with some care you can minimize the risk to both yourself and others and along the way you may encounter enough beauty to make the trip worthwhile.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fun Facebook Games

This is from a pastor friend of mine. I respect him for all sorts of reasons, most recently what he has taught me about Facebook. Thank you, Pastor Cwirla, for helping me put things into perspective.

Pastor Cwirla's Fun Facebook Games, or How Not to Take Facebook Too Seriously

#10: Instigate endless threads. Award prizes for milestones such as the 1000th comment.

#9: Defriend someone who insults a friend of a friend of a friend of yours. Relive those great junior-high social dynamics.

#8: "Like" posts and comments you obviously disagree with. The parliamentary version of this game is speaking for motions you actually intend to vote against.

#7: Respond to every post as though it were written about you. Narcissism is self-rewarding.

#6: Pick an arbitrary friend and "like" every comment on his or her wall for a month regardless of content. Creepy but very affirming.

#5: Post a link to your recent brilliant blog, then defriend everyone who doesn't like it. Easy way to trim down that bloated friends list.

#4: Hijack every thread and turn it into a discussion on bacon.

#3: Post a snarky comment and then get offended because everyone is offended. Embrace the passive-aggressive beast within.

#2: Make a post on how people waste too much time on Facebook. Revel in the irony.

#1: Ask for an opinion on something and then tell everyone why they're wrong. Epic fun.

Facebook Thoughts

A few days ago I read this article on National Review Online:

It concerns increasing age stratification in our culture and the long-term effect it is having on us. One of the areas the author considers is online communication: social networks, texting, email and such. He provocatively compares Facebook, specifically, to C. S. Lewis' description of Hell in his book The Great Divorce:

Lewis envisioned that the damned suffer not a fire, or any physical torment or confinement, but absolute dominion and inalienable rights: the liberty to roam an infinite and borderless land, and to freely and instantaneously build castles wherever they like.

Lewis’s damned enjoy this freedom by abandoning locations and acquaintances the moment they become inconvenient. The awkwardness of an exchange with a neighbor we think has slighted us can, in Lewis’s Hell, be evaded by simply moving away. So after a few years’ stay in Hell, each of the damned is thousands of miles away from any other, pacing solitarily in his castle.

The political moral is that unchosen obligations, restraints, and dependencies are the things that push people together, despite our irritableness and our inconvenience to each other. Our limitations and inadequacies counter our selfish bent, and become a foundation for community. (Lewis’s cosmic allegory, then, doubles as theodicy, showing how it can be good for us that we do not always get what we want, and are sick and feeble.)

We’ve been making Lewis’s Hell for ourselves for a long time, expanding autonomies in ways that cause social separateness in general, and generational separateness in particular. . . .

Facebook appears to have been modeled on [it]. It is the acme of modernized society, allowing us unrestrained control over our relationships — we literally choose the face that others see, and can start or end a friendship by tapping a finger. These friendships never become inconvenient, because no obligation can impose itself through the digital medium. The irony of Facebook, and of modernity’s expansion of social autonomy generally, is that total, unlimited cosmopolitanism in the end produces more parochialism, homogenization, and even chauvinism than geographical confinement does: I can now commune with people all over the world of all nationalities and tongues and races who are just like me. As human interactions become less contingent on geography, and more on the preferences of digital cosmopolites, communities became more horizontal — incorporating similar kinds of people across broad territories — and less vertical.

When I read this I found myself objecting in part. I have all kinds of people in my Facebook friends list, from all age groups and walks of life. I will admit it is heavy on the Republican and homeschooling and Lutheran fronts. :-) But Facebook has allowed me to create connections with many people I would otherwise have not been able to connect with. It has enlarged my world by giving me a peek into the days of others, many of whom are leading lives very different from mine. I live in the Chicago suburbs but I have Facebook friends who live on farms and ranches, in small towns and big cities, overseas, even in third world countries. So I think Facebook gives me a broader picture of the world than I would otherwise have. And when I think about all those people out there, living their lives, carrying out their vocations just as I am, I find comfort in it. I kind of like knowing they're out there, drinking their cups of coffee, enjoying time with their families, going to their respective churches on Sunday. So I would say that my Facebook experience has overall been positive as I have learned and laughed and prayed and been prayed for by others.

And yet . . . .

I think what Mr. Shaffer says also has great merit. Facebook is not the real world and if we aren't careful it can skew our perceptions of how human beings should relate to each other. I worry that as people, especially young people, spend more and more time there, they may be learning behaviors on Facebook that they will end up applying in real life, behaviors that are not realistic and that are, in fact, harmful.

So here for whoever is interested is a list of suggestions for not letting Facebook get the best of you. I am really writing this for my children. It is not my place to tell others how to behave on the internet. But it is my place to guide my children and to help them learn from my experience. I have experienced some unpleasantness on Facebook and I would like to help them avoid that if possible and also encourage them to comport themselves in a way that doesn't cause unpleasantness for others.

Facebook - A User's Guide

1) Decide what purpose you want Facebook to fill for you and behave accordingly.

For some Facebook is a playground. For others it is all about business. For still others it is a way to keep in touch with close family and friends or a place to advocate for a particular cause. It could be all of these things at the same time, so it is worth deciding what role you want Facebook to play in your online life and then carrying out that decision in a way that is respectful towards others. If a church member sends you a friend request but you prefer to limit Facebook to business contacts, send a polite note back explaining that policy. If you want to limit Facebook only to those people you know in person, and someone you only know online friends you, again, send a polite explanation. If you daily spout right-wing politics and a family member that you know is quite liberal sends you a friend request, write back and explain the situation and suggest that if you become friends the two of you will avoid posting on each other's walls on political topics. Most people will understand and respect the boundaries you have set up and thank you for explaining them.

2) Keep in mind your audience. This follows logically from #1. For most people, talking on Facebook is akin to standing up and talking about yourself in church. Some of the people who are reading are your closest and best friends, while others are casual friends and others are peripheral acquaintances or near strangers, especially if, like me, you have a broad friending policy. You should not put your most personal "stuff" on Facebook for all to see. What is helpful here is Facebook's apparatus for creating sub-groups within your friend list. That way you can send family related posts to family, church-related posts to those in your church body, and political rants to those who are interested in reading them. Also, if you are going to post something that you think will be a "hot button" or sensitive topic for someone in your friend list, you can block him or her from that particular status update. Why cause that person or yourself grief? It is worth taking a little extra time to preserve some tranquility.

3) Think before you post. Post things that you think will be useful, informative, interesting, entertaining, edifying, and helpful. Try not to be a downer. Everyone occasionally does a little whining on Facebook, and it's a nice place to get encouragement from friends when you're having a rough day, but a steady stream of angry, snarky, complaining and negative posts gets old and ultimately reflects poorly on you. Don't give people a reason to hide you from their news feed.

4) Show good manners. Be ladies and gentlemen. Know when to walk away--it is okay to let someone else have the last word and it doesn't mean you "lost" the debate. Don't use foul language. Avoid posting potty humor, dirty jokes, R-rated pictures, and the like. People have different levels of tolerance for that sort of thing and again, the things you post say something about you. And there is no such thing as a "back" key on the internet. Once it's out there, it's out there. And once you have hurt someone's feelings, the damage has been done.

5) Don't put your dirty laundry on display for all to see. People do not need to know the details of your latest huge fight and breakup (or reconciliation) with your boyfriend or girlfriend. I'm not saying it's wrong to talk about your life--I certainly do it--but use some common sense and maintain a little dignity.

6) Avoid vague-booking. This is not to say that you have to provide every detail of everything you choose to share. But posting cryptic messages that no one or only a handful of people will understand or posting updates that will cause people to worry about you unnecessarily is a childish way of making you feel powerful because you are in the know and your reader is not.

7) Don't be passive aggressive. This can take many forms. It might be as simple as posting something like "Thinking of weeding out my friend list." If you want to weed out your friend list, fine. But why talk about? Just do it and spare your friends the grief of wondering, "Is she talking about me? Did I do something to offend her?" Another form of passive-aggressiveness is taking a veiled swipe at someone in your friend list that other people might not get but the target probably will. Now, it is possible that you will make a comment that someone will take as a slap when you didn't mean it that way. That's not your fault. But please don't consciously say something that, if understood, may hurt someone's feelings. It's just mean.

8) Avoid playing the blocking/unfriending game. It reeks of junior high and whether they admit it or not, hurts people's feelings, even if they don't know you well. It is only human to take such things personally. So be kind. If you end up friends with someone that is annoying but not dangerous, try hiding him or her from your news feed. You can also use this strategy for keeping your news feed of a manageable scope. But consider using that annoying person as an opportunity to practice tolerance, forbearance, and overlooking. Maybe in time you will find he or she is not as annoying as you thought. Maybe the inconvenience of being that person's friend will turn into a blessing. God does work in strange ways! If you must unfriend someone send a note explaining why and make the note about you rather than the other person: "I just don't have time to keep up with my contact list and I'm trying to narrow down to only my family and very closest friends" or "You make me uncomfortable but it's because of something I'm going through, nothing that you are doing." And don't block people for trivial reasons. It is simply immature.

9) If someone is truly harassing, stalking or threatening you, don't think twice about unfriending or blocking him. Your safety is paramount.

10) If someone blocks or unfriends you, think long and hard before you ask why. If you think you may have committed an offense against that person, by all means, ask forgiveness. But if you are puzzled by the action, it may be best to just let it go because it probably has less to do with you than with the other person. If you do ask, prepare for the worst. You may get it.

11) Remember that Facebook is all about perception. The "people" you see there are not complete people. They are snapshots in time. You may have a fuller picture of some of them by virtue of having relationships that go beyond Facebook. But the picture you get on Facebook (or other online forums) is a tiny, tiny part of a person's identify and life. Try not to make judgments based on one or even a few posts. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Put the best construction on their words. Ask for clarification. Measure your own responses. Avoid sarcasm--it is so often misunderstood--and express yourself with earnestness and sincerity.

12) If it seems like Facebook World is bringing out the worst in you or otherwise causing you distress, take a break from it. It is not real life. There are all kinds of people out there who don't "do" Facebook. Go read Pastor Cwirla's list of "Silly Facebook Games" (see next post) and put it all in perspective. Don't let Facebook make you sad.

In short, instead of trying to turn Facebook (and the like) into an ideal virtual paradise of which you are the supreme ruler with the power to condemn those whom you find annoying, strange or inconvenient, look upon it as a microcosm of the real world, one in which there are all kinds of people who are sinners just as you are, struggling to get through their days just as you are, and in need of love and acceptance just as you are. Block and unfriend, as a last resort, those who are harassing you, who are an obvious threat, or who are tempting you to sinful behavior. Otherwise look at Facebook as big tent, one that causes you to moderate your own comments in light of the broad audience and that expands your world by giving you more people to love. Even if you can't love them all in a one-on-one way, you can love them all in your prayers. You can love them by being open to them and tolerant of them. And you can love them by modeling good behavior and a generous heart and spirit.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Real Men

Today at church a friend presented me with a bright pink gift bag. She explained that the bag contained a high school graduation gift for my son and then smiled and with a twinkle in her eye said, "Tell him I'm sorry for the pink. It was the only bag I could find." Of course I told her not to worry about it.

After lunch I gave the bag to my son and passed along my friend's words, to which my husband responded, "Trevor is man enough to handle pink." Suddenly, Evan, my 7-year-old, popped up and, brandishing the pink ice pop that he was eating, said, "I'm man enough to handle pink, too!" We all got a chuckle out of that but the even bigger chuckle came when, without missing a beat, Evan turned to my husband and in all seriousness asked, "Dad, are you man enough to handle pink?"


(And for the record, the answer is yes. My husband loves his pink ties.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Fourth of July Prayer

Tonight at church my husband and I played an organ/piano arrangement of the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." Here is that recording with the words of the hymn. We are all in peril on the vast sea of life, but God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is strong to save and will never leave nor forsake us. A blessed Fourth of July to you and yours.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Hymn by William Whiting, Tune by John Dykes

Recorded at the Evening Service, Bethany Lutheran Church, July 2, 2011

Cheryl Magness, piano

Phillip Magness, organ

Arr. by David Schwoebel