Today We’ve Disappeared by April Yamasaki

Today’s post for the series Return to Our Senses in Lent is written by April Yamasaki. April is a pastor and writer who blogs on spiritual practice, faith, and life at http://aprilyamasaki.com. Her new book is Sacred Pauses: spiritual practices for personal renewal available from Menno Media/Herald Press, Amazon, and your local bookstore.

A year ago, I was pretty much a stranger to social media. Once upon a time, I had joined Facebook to see some pictures sent by a friend, then promptly hid my profile since I hadn’t wanted to take the time to fill it in or find new friends. I had several invitations to LinkedIn that I had dutifully saved instead of deleting. Every so often, one of my sisters would send me an email signed from “your Facebook Liaison,” so I wouldn’t miss out on any family news.

But last May, I finally followed up on my LinkedIn invitations–and yes, they still worked even though they were a few years old. I signed up for my own Facebook, then Google+. I started blogging. By Christmas, I had signed up for Goodreads and Twitter too.

As Lent approached, I learned that one friend was planning to give up Facebook for his Lenten practice. “That’s not for me,” I said to myself. The world of social media was all still new to me. It was something I could dip into or out of at any time. I wasn’t immersed in it every day.

Then a Twitter friend said he was going to “disappear” for just one day on Feb. 27 in honor of the 27 million men, women, and children who’ve disappeared in slavery around the world. I decided to follow suit—no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn, no Google+, no Goodreads, no blogs. I posted this on my own blog the night before:

Today We've Disappeared

I didn’t think anyone would miss me. After all, I don’t blog every day. I don’t post something on Facebook or Google+ every day. Even my daily Twitter activity was just a few tweets. Who would notice?

As it turned out, I noticed—much more than I thought I would. I thought about the millions of people who have disappeared. I wondered about the people they were missing and that were missing them. I held them all in my prayers: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. That was the reason I had “disappeared” from social media that day. But I also discovered that I felt more focused. I felt freer from distractions. I felt less pressed for time.

I’ve been reflecting on that experience as I’ve been reading chapter 9 of Return to Our Senses on “Facebook, Blogging, and Go To Prayers.” Is social media “a wonderful tool, or a terrible distraction”? I can see the potential for both.

And so even as the end of Lent is in sight, I’m making a new commitment not just for Lent but for the future: for a once-a-week, social-media-free day, Saturday 6pm – Sunday 6pm, and I’m coupling that with a commitment not to look back endlessly through everything I’ve missed.

The truth is, a person is always missing something. It’s not humanly possible to know everything about everything. And that’s okay. God knows. God is sovereign. I’m resting in that thought.

 

Prayers for the Journey

earth touches heaven

Earth touches heaven – photo by Coe Hutchison

Here is the week’s round up of facebook prayers. Enjoy

Life is a gift from God,

Let us cherish it

Love is the language of God’s kingdom,

Let us practice it,

Jesus is the way to God’s heart,

Let us follow him.

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God of love and compassion,

God of hope and promise,

God of faithfulness and truth,

May we in all things see your face today,

That we might trust and obey.

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God of wonder and might,

God of glory and majesty,

God of joy and faithfulness,

Help us to see, to know, to trust,

That you are the One in whom all life holds secure.

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Jesus you say

Peace, rest in me,

Peace, hold firm to me,

Peace, trust in me.

You are the way the truth and the life,

May we trust in you and never be afraid.

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God your words are truth,

Your ways are life,

Your purposes are eternal,

May we look to you and never be afraid.

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Lead us Lord Jesus Christ into your ways of righteousness.

Let your truth go before us,

Let your justice stand behind us,

Let your love surround us.

Keep us Lord in the places where your presence shines.

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The glory of God’s presence surrounds me

The wonder of Christ’s love holds me close

The comfort of the Spirit makes me strong

God you who are the three in one, the one in three

Be with me forever.

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Teach us to pray O Lord,

Draw us closer to you, to your world , to each other.

Teach us to pray, O Lord,

With compassion and love and forgiveness.

Teach us to pray, O Lord,

Until all that we are and all that we do,

Becomes a gift of prayer to you.

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Twitturgies by Gerard Kelly

This is the second post in the series Lord Teach Us To PrayIt was originally posted in 2009 as part of a series on What is a Spiritual Practice, but is is so good that I wanted to reblog it as part of this series on prayer.

Gerard Kelly and his wife Chrissie founded and co-lead The Bless Network, a growing family of talented and passionate young leaders working for the transformation of Europe. Bless uses short-term mission placements on mainland Europe as a learning tools, empower young adults to grow through ‘missional formation’: encountering the God of mission and finding purpose in the mission of God. The Kelly’s live in France, where bless are developing an intentional community and missional base on a former cider farm in Normandy.

Gerard prays on twitter at twitter.com/twitturgies. Gerard and Chrissie have co-authored ‘Intimate with the Ultimate’, a popular guide to the life of prayer published by Authentic in 2009. Gerard has published around 10 other titles, including ‘Twitturgies’ which is a collection of some of his Twitter prayers.

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Gerard and Chrissie Kelly

Gerard and Chrissie Kelly

As reported in London’s Independent and around the world, Ireland’s top Catholic Cardinal Sean Bray has urged his flock to use Twitter as a means of prayer. In a speech in honour of the late Father Patrick Peyton, the Priest famous for coining the phrase “the family that prays together stays together,” Cardinal Bray insists that a new movement of prayer can arise using new technology and social networks.

Publicity-seeking hype, or a genuine call to prayer? Can social networks genuinely become part of spiritual discipline in the 21st Century?

My own experiment with prayer on Twitter would suggest that they well might. At the end of February this year, I was reflecting on what value Twitter might have in my own life. It was just days after the Amsterdam air incident, when a Turkish jet crash-landed in a field a few kilometers from my home. Many people from our church community were involved in the rescue efforts and in treating the victims as they were rushed to local hospitals. And many others were astounded by the speed at which Twitter users were able to inform others of the crash. This was a week in which Twitter, in more ways than one, got everybody talking. And it got me thinking. Two things happened to me as a result. The first was a prayer that rose in my heart: “This day, Lord, be born in me. This day teach. This day heal. This day win, in death, surprising prizes. This day rise, this day rise in me.”

The second was a word: Twitturgies. Why not use Twitter as a means of prayer, all the time accepting the constraints of communication in less than 140 characters? In essence I simply took the Twitter question “What are you doing?” and translated it as “What are you praying?” taking the prayers I was praying in any case and crafting them into personal liturgies.

Two hundred and twenty-four Twitturgies later, the result has been an unexpected change in my own life of prayer. Others have expressed appreciation for the prayers they have received on Twitter, but the real benefits have been in my own spirituality. By allowing my commitment to Twitturgies to force upon me the regular question, “What are you praying?” the practice of writing Twitturgies has blown a fresh breeze through my prayers.

There are three key ways in which this has really helped me: Firstly, it has empowered me to pray frequent, short prayers, peppering my day with snatched moments of prayer, rather than waiting for the rare occasions when I can spend focused hours praying. I still seek out those times when I can, but I am praying more overall by adding these shorter prayers. I don’t update Twitturgies at fixed times, but they are often early-morning or late-evening “tweets,” with whatever opportunities I can find in between to use my computer or phone to pray.

Secondly, the forced constraint of 140 characters brings incredible focus to my prayers. On many occasions I have been surprised by the clarity that emerges. Twitturgies are shared with others, so they have to be interesting, accessible, and easy to understand—criteria that should be perhaps applied to prayer more often. Twitter posts are the new Haiku, and as the Japanese have known for centuries, the constraints of form do not stifle creativity: they give it depth. The challenge of expressing heartfelt prayers in such short sentences has been a new discipline in itself.

Lastly, the practice has made me newly conscious of my own prayers and longings. My aim is that Twitturgies be authentic—that is, that they genuinely reflect something I am praying about. They are prayers, not poems as such. I have to ask myself, “What do I want to say to God right at this moment?” “What is on my heart today?” The questions become part of the discipline. The result of this is that I am both a reader and a writer of Twitturgies; the construction of these prayers speaks to my heart also. And because they are short and sharp, they capture very succinctly what is going on in my soul at a given moment. I archive all the prayers so they are also a kind of spiritual journal. I can look back over a day, or a series of days, and see a pattern in the prayers that have emerged. “Reading” this pattern against the events of that day or days helps me to reflect on my own spiritual journey more deeply.

Twitter has become, for me, a vital part of my prayer life. Because it is intended to be a mobile medium (I write as often from my phone as from my laptop), it is a go-anywhere prayerbook. I have prayed “twitturgically” in between appointments, walking home from the office, during a coffee break, in a worship service, and in the last moments before sleep. Perhaps Twitter can become a kind of technological breath-prayer, a “pray without ceasing” application for any of us.

Soft-wired for empathy – Rifkin on the Empathic Society

A couple of days ago Scott Hackman left a comment on my post On Line Community: Does It Work.  He included a link to this video by Rifkin on the Empathic Society.  Evidently we are all soft wired for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship.  This I thought was particularly encouraging though in some ways it just confirms what Jesus has always told us. Love God & love your neighbour, befriend them, care for them, respond to their needs, recognize you are all part of the same family.

On LIne Community – Does It Work?

Yesterday I posted statistics on how social media is shaping our lives .  It is interesting to see the response to this and recognize the different ways in which we grapple with deluge of social media in relation to our faith.  There are lots of resources emerging to help us maintain a strong and vibrant faith in the midst of this.  I wanted to highlight a couple that I have found very useful

This interview of Mennonite Pastor and author of “Flickering Pixels“, Shane Hipps by Rob Bell is a great place to start.

For a more in depth interview you may like to check out this post on the Mustard Seed Associates blog

Lynne Baab’s latest book Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World is another great resource

Of course virtual communities are springing up all over too.  In light of that I thought that this post by Neal Locke was another interesting twist on the conversation:

Technology changes things.  But technology is a part of God’s Creation, and a gift:  We can use it for good, twist it to evil, or ignore it.  The last option, while always popular, has rarely been successful.  Gutenberg’s printing press changed the world, paving the way for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Because it made possible the Reformation, it also brought drastic changes to the church, changing almost every visible aspect of Christian worship and theology in just a few generations.   In our generation, the internet and digital communication have already brought about drastic changes, and will continue to transform the church in sweeping and dramatic ways in a short span of time.

In the past few decades, church participation in our culture has been in steep decline.  And yet, as millions of people leave behind behind their communities of faith, millions more are finding community online, in places that a few years ago wouldn’t have even qualified as places.  Worshiping communities of Christians are also beginning to appear online, especially taking root in 3-dimensional synthetic interfaces known as Virtual Realities, or Virtual Worlds.  The writers of this confession are among them.  Read the entire post

And my question once again – What do you think?  Does social media and our interaction on the internet strengthen or weaken faith?  Are we deluding ourselves by thinking this is a God given medium or are we appropriately taking advantage of the cultural tools God has made available?

 

Does Social Media Shape Our Lives More Than God Does?

I just found this video – latest in the series on Social Media Revolution thanks to Rev Gene .  Yes that’s right I used social media to find it!!! and it made me wonder how much of our lives now is shaped by social media that pulls away from God rather than towards God.  Now I use social media as much as anyone – start my day with looking at facebook and twitter.  post prayers & blog daily but I still wonder sometimes is this really helping me and others draw closer to God and to the purposes of God for my life?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.