Thinking Out Loud

January 8, 2010

E-Mail Forwards and Theology

Filed under: internet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:17 pm

Two unrelated things about e-mail forwards.

First, there are the ones that announce that the FCC is going to remove all religious broadcasting, referencing some petition (number 2493 actually) and urging me to sign and forward a counter-petition to as many people as exist in my computer address book.

While handily refutes this — 2493 having been resolved decades ago, and having nothing to do with taking James Dobson off the air — I’ve always regarded this discussion as being totally limited to my online world.  In other words, nobody in the “real world” has ever gotten even close to this subject.

But then, out of the blue, at a wedding reception last month, I was asked by someone how the removal of all the religious broadcasting from radio and television would affect interest in Christian books.    He was, I think, serious.  It was so very strange to encounter this subject without either my keyboard or monitor close at hand.   In a face-to-face conversation.

Someone had sent him the information and he had taken it at face value.   I assured him it was a hoax, something he was smart enough to accept.   (Accept at face value!    Doesn’t anybody check anything?)   Anyway, if that one reaches your in-box anytime soon, send them the link above.

My other observation on e-mail forwards concerns the ones that are sent containing philosophical platitudes combined with cute stories and breathtaking photography, and an encouragement to send it to everyone you know.

I got one of those today.   It was a PowerPoint presentation containing the aforementioned high resolution pictures which fill the whole screen.   But it also contained practical advice for living.   Frankly, I’d rather see the photograph.  I don’t need a shot of the Grand Canyon spoiled by graphics reminding me to brush my teeth after every meal.

(I don’t think any of them actually said that, but there were forty of them, and for the life of me, I did not remember a single one.    It was sincere, but it was drivel.   And it was wrecking the pictures.)

All of these are sent by Christian friends, and it occurred to me today that very, very rarely do any of them contain scripture.   Hey, I’d settle for a bad paraphrase.   It’s just empty, pop psychological advice splattered over shots of sunsets and oceans.    A Biblical quotation would be a refreshing change.

That got me wondering how much time Christian people spend mentally ingesting somewhat shallow online content that could be spent reading the Bible online.

The Bible comes with a guarantee that its words don’t just bounce off the walls.  If we believe in the inspiration (God-breathed origin) of scripture, then this is what the Bible is saying about itself in Isaiah 55:11 –

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   ( ~ NLT)

So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them  (  ~ Message)

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. ( ~ Amplified)

Thus it is of my word which leaves my mouth:  It does not return to me without effect;  without having carried out my will and achieving my intentions.   ( – Louis Segond, trans.)

If you really wanna ‘bless’ someone today, forward them a hand-picked Bible verse just for them. But do this quickly before all the Christian programs are taken off the air, and then they decide to remove all Bible portions from the internet.

October 13, 2009

Same Old Con Game

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 pm

clock spiralI take no pride in the fact that I get more junk e-mail in a day than some people get regular e-mail in a month.    It’s just a consequence of keeping the same address over a long period of time and having an address that’s “out there” in dozens of different contexts.

But I’m thankful that my ISP does such a good job of separating the e-sheep from the e-goats and placing the unwanted messages safely in quarantine.

Reading the subject headers of the junk mail reminds me of what it might be like to walk the downtown streets of Philadelphia or Miami or Baltimore back in the early part of the last century.

Guys in trench coats whispering, “Hey kid, wanna buy a watch?”

I get more solitications to buy timepieces than all other forms of e-junk combined.   It just seems so old.   I want to climb on a mountain and shout to all the junk mail senders, “Is that all ya got?”

You would think that with all the advances in technology, somebody would come up with some new thing that is worthy of all this presumed economic activity.   But no, the wristwatch remains the business opportunity of choice.

…And somewhere else on the planet a snake is telling someone to have a bite of the magic fruit.   “Hey kid, wanna be like God?   It will make you oh so very wise.”   Offering what is not his to give; promising what is not his to promise.”

Hopefully the discerning temptee can say, “This is so old.” And, “Is that all ya got.”

But the oldest con jobs don’t die easily.

What do you think are the biggest lures and temptations people face in 2009?

August 27, 2009

It’s Not Your Circumstances, It’s How You Respond To Them

During the past year I have been directly responsible for a number of relational train wrecks involving myself and others.    While each of these is a story unto itself, beginning with something that I did not precipitate, I either responded in a way that was less than clear, or I responded out of anger and frustration.

Who ever said, “Don’t shop at the grocery store when you’re hungry,” could have equally said, “Don’t write e-mails when you’re angry.”

Furthermore, if I examine the situations analytically, often the person or organization met by my vent or rant is not the person or organization that has caused me to have a bad day, a bad week or a bad month.

As someone who has come through periods of physical illness, I have also discovered, sad to say, that I am a mellower person when I am also dealing with something that has left me broken or humbled or aware of weakness.   It’s when I’m feeling  “good” that I sometimes through caution to the wind and say things I shouldn’t.

Yesterday, I spoke with a former pastor who described to me the feeling of not having to care what people might think about a particular course of action.   While before some things might have mattered a great deal, now he simply doesn’t have to factor in the opinions of a church board, church staff, or church membership.

I can’t speak fully for him, but I know that lately I have simply “shut down” trying to build on interpersonal relationships.   While in a couple of cases I have been the one to seek reconciliation and restoration of the relationship, in several other cases I have found myself simply no longer caring what people think of me.   In fact, I think that lately some of my best “relationships” have been with people who don’t really know me at all; insofar as I have achieved a depth of mutual communication, empathy and understanding with people I’ve only met a short time before.

I want to “learn my lesson” in this department, but I have come to regard any relationship that I had over 90 days as just about to reach its “best before” date; I’ve come to almost expect that something will go wrong, relationally; and I’ve decided those relationships aren’t worth consideration because they’re probably minutes or hours from disintegration.   And I fully acknowledge that — without specific intention — it has often been entirely my fault.

Twenty-four hours ago, I returned from a long day at work — eight hours without even so much as a restroom break (too much information, I know) — and found a business e-mail waiting for me containing information that was contrary to what I thought we had committed to.   Because of past history with this company, I assumed this was just another in a long line of broken expectations.   So I typed a short, angry, over-the-top e-mail figuring, “Maybe, just maybe, this will get their attention.”

What I didn’t factor in was that the person I sent it to may not have been responsible at all for what happened.  I was simply building on the anger of some contact from previous in the week.   In fact, without going into details, in my mind I was being the ‘good guy’ in the broader exchange, as I was going along with his assumption that I would enter into a certain venture that I had previously indicated I would not.   So having jumped through their hoops, how could they possibly then mess it up on their end?

But I also didn’t factor in — though I was aware of it in our earlier e-mails at the start of the week — that this person has just come through a personal crisis dealing with the sudden loss of a family member.   He didn’t need the stress of my letter.

So now, in more specific terms, I must write an apology.   I’ll leave out the background analysis.   It doesn’t really matter.   What matters is hitting the “send” button before thinking it through more carefully.   What matters is that other people have feelings, too.   I’m sorry.

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