Ebenezer on the Internet

I.

Eben-Ezer - (Hebrew: אבן העזר‎, Even Ha'Ezer, lit. stone of help)

Nearly one year ago, I sat barefoot in the thick carpet of the Rock House living room and watched Titus vomit another meal into an over-sized plastic bowl. We were at wits end, feeding him through a tube that was taped to his ghost-boned cheek, ran up his nose, down his esophagus, and emptied into his unstretching stomach. A formula bolus was pumped through a syringe at the end of the tube, and as it pooled in the pit of his stomach, he squirmed uncomfortably, body readying itself to reject it all.

We were watching the slow wither, his energy waning until the light in his eyes was dimming tired and faint. He was a malnourished native, a passing soul, an emergency. We were frightened--all frightened--and rocking on the edge of the mantel, feet balling up the carpet again, and again, and again. I would like to say that I prayed the fervent prayers of God-ward saints in those hours. Truth is, I didn't pray much at all.

We made our way to Arkansas Children's Hospital where a good doctor said he was sorry, but he had no good answers--not really. There was an egg allergy, yes. There was a slight brain issue, sure. But these things didn't account for Titus' inability to grow. It had come down to prayer and luck; these were our last and best ditch efforts.

We were discharged, and I feigned offense at God for some number of months. "Why Titus?" I asked, daring a deified storm to materialize on the horizon, to rush up on me like an Oklahoma wall cloud and thunder-boom

Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?"

That voice never came, in part because I had not yet endured the hardships of Job, and maybe in part because there was a kinder, gentler way.

There was a feeding pump. There was a special formula. There were slow feedings, patient feedings. There were weekly weigh-ins and checkups. There were the prayers of saints. There was the laying on of hands by the church elders. There were good friends who brought warm supper and supple wine. And slowly, we began to see real Goodness in the land of the living.

Nearly a year ago. Impossible.

Wednesday night I rocked Titus to sleep singing an awkward mix of pre-school silly songs and hymns. (Have you ever heard a playlist that included "B-I-N-G-O" and "Step by Step?") He began to doze during the second verse of "Come Thou Fount," and when I reached the line "here I raise my Ebenezer," I was struck by the notion that Titus was the personification of that truth. The sleeping proof of a meticulously patient and gracious God.

Ebenezers are real things. Do not doubt it.

II.

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Allow me to segue with a bit of a flourish. Allow me to come out swinging.

I am growing weary of the internet and social media. There is the good stuff, no doubt. There is also the clanging clamoring, the ranting and railing, the shaming words. The words. There is no great lack of words for consumption. Words. Words. Words. There are Tweets upon Tweets and statuses upon statuses. Words. Status. Words. Tweet. More words. Status. Tweet. Blog post. My blog post. My tweet. My status. Advertisement. Tweet tweet.

And there is nothing innately wrong with any of it. In fact, some of it I quite rather enjoy, and some of it is rather useful. But at times I find myself distracted by the thought that it is my by-God obligation to be in the middle of it all--ah, the siren call of attention's center. And often (here comes the confession), I sacrifice content quality to dive directly into divisive, subversive banter.

Let's call a thing a thing. Let's find these lines of division and blot them out with a metaphorical eraser. Let's stop talking about people and events and start talking about ideas, about concepts, about Gospel.

Gospel.

What is it?

III.

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" -Psalm 103:8

The good book tells me that my God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. While I whined about the waning son, the Heavy Hand could have snuffed me out like a wick; he could have returned me to dust and ash. There was another way, though. Instead, he gathered the elements of faith, formed minerals from them, formed minerals into rock and rock into Ebenezer. Instead, he showed me his enduring patience with my lack of faith, and in time, restored it all gently.

I am thankful for my Titus. He is the reminder of my "Stone of help."

This is the Gospel--that while I was still sick and broken, while I was faithless, there was a patient and gracious way made for me.

IV.

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” ― Chief Seattle

The sections of today's piece may seem somewhat unconnected, but bear with me. There is a great pull to become wrapped up in the latest and most polarizing issue, malnourishing though it may ultimately be. There is a great pull toward sounding off. This is not a bad thing, necessarily. I think God created us with these  sorts of bents (even if we misuse them from time to time) because, truth is, certain events need discussing; the words and deeds of others sometimes need a little vetting.

But today--if only today--I'm asking if you'll participate with me in a bit of redirection, an internet slight of hand. Will you use today--if only today--to raise an Ebenezer? Will you share your Ebenezer story out loud? Do it here in the comments, or on Twitter (140 character challenge), or on Facebook.  Can we move away from the critical, divisive, issue driven internet? Can we participate in a better web for just one day--if only today?

It may not be your bag. If not, that's cool. But what if you gave it a shot? How would it feel?

Share with me your Ebenezer story. Raise it, and nothing else.

Who's first?

Social Media Soot and Good Writing on the Web

This morning I woke up to nearly an inch of snow on the ground. I say that for two reasons: (1) it's May and I live in Arkansas in the age of global warming, so this proves that God still has a miracle or two left in him; and, (2) my friend Jason has become particularly miffed that his social media feeds have been filled with pictures of snow in May, and I supposed I might throw him a bone and instead share words about miracles and global warming. Speaking of social media, I told some friends last night that I thought perhaps all the blinkering lights on the computer, iPhone, iPad, and telephone were starting to somehow make me sick. If a coal miner in West Virginia can catch the black lung from his labor, I suppose I might be catching a case of the black avatar from all my meanderings on the net. Perhaps I tend to be a coward in the brave new world; I don't know. But today, in an effort to celebrate some of the good out here is this prairie of blips and bits, I'm sharing some of the better watering holes I've run across this week.

My friend Malone has been writing about writing. Malone is one of the good ones. He has a beard down to his belly-button and a laugh that fills a room. He loves his wife, who has the best afro I've ever seen, and has a snorting pug that he named "Chicken Dinner." If ever there were a character, Malone is one. And if ever there were someone who knew a thing or two about good words, Malone is that one, too. Check out his citation to a Rolling Stone interview with Louis C.K. If you can pass by the rough-hewn language, there's some gold in this snippet.

This week, I stumbled across this piece on "Why Bad Writing is Almost Always Mistaken for Good Writing." It was written by a fella named Nicholas McDonald, and to be honest, I can't remember what led me to his place. After reading this piece, I immediately subscribed to his email service, thinking maybe the gent will teach me a thing or two along the way. Regardless, if you fancy yourself a writer, check out McDonald's post. It'll make you ask all the right questions.

Blase, here I go again. (Cue the Misery theme music... I'm your number one fan; don't bother with that board between your knees.) Yesterday, Blase dropped this nuclear bomb on one-dimensional masculinity. You may have to friend either Blase or me to see it. I'm not sure. Either way, it's by-gum worth reading.

Tonia is working through Walter Wink's book, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. I've got too many books on the old night stand to pick up a copy of this one, but you can sure-as-shooting know I'm going to use Tonia like a good set of Cliff's Notes. Why don't you run over to her place and keep up with this series.

Finally, this is just for the sake of nostalgia, justice, Woody Guthrie, and the notion that we all share humanity. It's for my friends who might appreaciate it--like him, and her, and her, and him.

Windchasing -- a Social Media Post

"The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net." ~Psalm 25:15

We've taken some time away from this internet space, Amber and I. It's been a time to rest, refocus, observe, let the land lay fallow. It's been good.

I've been writing a bit on my own, just a few thoughts about this internet space and the efficacy of "Christian living" in it. The Christ in culture discussion is interesting, especially when applied to social media. There are subscribers to be gained, followers to snare, friends to count. There are relevant thoughts to share, ideas to illuminate, "T"ruth to "E"xposit, heresies to combat, poor and sick people to save. There is a best foot to put forward. Always the very best foot.

Sometimes those things can turn the social media experience into a wind-chasing exercise. I could tell you I never chased the social media wind, but that'd be a lie.

These may sound like the rantings and confessions of social media deconstructionist. But I'm not. I'm here to stay. For a bit, at least. And in that time I just want to refocus on using this space well, on knowing how to be a friend of God in it. Not a facebook friend or a twitter follower. But a real, genuine friend who isn't ashamed to let some words go unsaid in "fear."

I'm mouthy, so... that might be hard.