Friday, June 26, 2009

Blocking "HolyGod"

About a year ago, I finally caught up with the twenty-first century and joined Twitter. For those of you who have been living under a rock, or perhaps are not technologically inclined, Twitter is a social messaging website where you post short updates (140 characters or less) that can be viewed by your “followers,” people who have permission to be included among those who are able to receive a regular feed of your posts.

At the advice of Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson and cutting-edge business leader, I began viewing my Facebook and Twitter accounts not only as ways to keep up with my friends and family, but also as opportunities to begin building an online “brand.” In his blog on the subject, Hyatt reveals, “By the way, I accept all friend requests on both Twitter and Facebook. Period.”

A few weeks ago, I took Hyatt’s advice and began accepting all “follower” requests on Twitter. The results have been fun! I’ve discovered many other people involved in the publishing industry, church planting and ministry, and families just like ours. I’ve also accepted follower requests from marketers, real estate agents, life coaches, and completely random people I have nothing in common with. And you know what, it’s been fun to read their updates and begin to get to know these people in a casual way.

Now, I’ve gotten a few bizarre follower requests along the way, but the one I got yesterday tops them all. Literally.

Yesterday, I was contacted by “HolyGod”—who requested to follow me on Twitter.


I checked out the Twitter profile, and sure enough, it’s someone who is pretending to be the Creator of the universe. He (she?) tells people when to expect rain, gives status reports on his ongoing fight with Satan, etc. Surprisingly, in the post-Christian Twitterverse, “HolyGod” has more than ten thousand followers.

Before I go any further, let me assure you that I do have a sense of humor. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I appreciate tongue-in-cheek biblical humor as much as the next person.

But to me, what “HolyGod” was posting on Twitter crossed the line. It wasn’t just satire; it was sacrilege. (Note: this is my own opinion; I am in no way criticizing anyone who does follow HolyGod on Twitter. Please, no irate e-mails.)

Fortunately, Twitter has a function that allows you to “block” people from being your followers. So instead of hitting “Follow” (in return), I simply clicked the option that says “Block.” After being prompted by a screen making absolutely certain I want to block this person (yes, I did), I then got a bold, large message scrawled across the top of my Twitter page:


I couldn’t help but snicker at the irony of the message. And then I thought…

How many times in my own life do I actually block Holy God? (The real, almighty Creator of the universe, not the Twitter version.)

When I sense God’s nudging to pray for someone or call a friend, do I act on it—or do I “block” Holy God, thinking I’ll get to that later, when I have more time?

When I have the opportunity to share the gospel or help someone in need, do I act on it—or do I “block” Holy God from using me in that way?

When I have the time to study God's Word or deepen my faith through our church's growth groups and Bible studies, do I joyfully take advantage of these opportunities—or do I “block” Holy God from growing my faith through these outlets?

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. So here’s my challenge to you (and me) today:

Today, and in days to come, when you sense God nudging you,

will you “block” Him, or will you “follow” Him?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Never Too Late to Finish Well

My life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.
--2 Timothy 4:6-7 NLT

As most of you have heard by now, this week marked the passing of three American icons—Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. Last night, I read a few online news stories as the nation mourned the loss of these celebrities—some of the most recognizable names in television, movies, and music.

Though death is a cause for remembrance and celebration of lives well lived, as I began to read some of the obituaries of these three celebrities, I realized that their passing also presents us with a very real challenge: What will others say about us when our time on earth is over?

In an AP article announcing his death, Michael Jackson is described as “the sensationally gifted child star who rose to become the King of Pop and the biggest celebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freakish series of scandals.”

Farrah Fawcett’s obit describes one of her last television appearances, viewed by thousands on YouTube, as incoherent and disjointed, with the 50-year-old actress giving a series of rambling answers to the bewildered David Letterman.

Ed McMahon's obituary notes financial problems that kept him in the headlines in his last years, including possible foreclosure on his Beverly Hills mansion and legal action involving other alleged debts.

Yikes! Would you want any of these words etched into your tombstone?


Me neither. But then again, what will my obituary say? Am I living in such a way that the ones I leave behind will be encouraged, enlightened, and emboldened by my example? Or will my passing from this earth be a cause of relief, regret, or—worse yet—unnoticed by those I hold most dear?

It’s a sobering thought. But thankfully, it’s never too late to finish well.

I don’t know about you, but after watching the news this week, I really, really want to finish well. I want to be able to say, like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7).

But the longer I walk with God, the more I realize with startling clarity just how far short I fall from His glory. With thirty-five years behind me and only God knows how many more ahead, I have to cling tightly to the God’s promise that His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:15). And I am increasingly grateful that the Lord’s steadfast love never changes, and His mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22–23).

And someday—perhaps today, maybe years from now—when the Lord calls me home, I hope my epitaph says something like this:

“Jennifer Stair was a woman after God’s own heart. She loved God, was devoted to her husband and family, and faithfully shared God’s love with others as she fulfilled His plan for her life.”

What about you? Are you finishing your life well? What do you want your epitaph to say?

Should Kids Be Allowed to Watch Sad Movies?

Last weekend, our family saw the new Pixar movie Up. We’d seen the trailer, and it looked like something the kids would actually sit through in a theater. (With three kids ages seven and under, we don’t often make it to the “big screen”—we usually wait for movies to come out on DVD.) But my fastidious husband had collected enough Coke points for four free movie tickets, and he thought it would be a fun Father’s Day treat to see a movie with the whole family.

As I always do before our kids watch a movie (especially ones rated PG), I checked a few parent review websites (such as to make sure the movie was okay. Satisfied that it was suitable for our kids, we made plans for our Father’s Day movie excursion.

I happened to mention to a group of mom friends that we were taking the kids to see Up, and one of them responded, “Oh, I would never take my kids to that movie. I heard it’s sad.” A few other moms nodded in agreement. “I heard it even makes you cry,” one mom explained.

I was surprised at the number of online reviews for Up that mirror my friends’ opinion: “This movie has some sad themes, so it’s not suitable for children.”

Really? Sad movies are not suitable for children? What about Miracle on 34th Street? Bambi? Or for that matter, any of the Disney movies? (A friend once pointed out that in almost every Disney movie, at least one character dies. Think about it: The Lion King [Mufasa], Beauty and the Beast [Gaston], Sleeping Beauty [the witch], Cinderella [her parents], etc.)

As a kid, I remember bawling so hard while reading A Taste of Blackberries that I could barely make out the words. And when we watched Where the Red Fern Grows at school, even though I had read the book and knew the ending, I still cried for the rest of the day, so sad for Billy and the loss of his beloved dogs.

It got me thinking: in this helicopter-parenting age, have we possibly overprotected our children to the extent that we’re not allowing them to understand the full spectrum of life? Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we should tell our young children all the sordid details of adult situations. But have you ever sat down and explained to your children what it means when a person dies, or miscarries a child, or experiences a broken family? These kinds of things are happening to your kids’ friends (or perhaps even to your own children). Are you taking the opportunity to explain these situations to your children in a gentle, age-appropriate way? Or do you ignore or avoid them, trying to protect your children from things that are sad?

Maybe it’s because Brett is in the ministry, so when we pray together as a family, we often pray (without specific details) for members of our church who are experiencing health issues, the loss of loved ones, or other sad life events. Our children join us in praying for God to heal our friends’ broken hearts and help them experience His comfort and peace. And maybe it’s because our family has experienced our fair share of sad life events, including miscarriage, the death of loved ones, and even the death of a beloved pet. When these kinds of things happen, Brett and I explain them to our children in an age-appropriate, Christ-honoring way.

And yes, we have allowed our children to watch sad movies. We’ve cried together over Old Yeller and mourned the death of Matthew Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables. And when our oldest daughter recently read a book about the Titanic, she cried when she discovered the ending that we know, but she didn’t—not everyone made it to the life boats. It was a great opportunity for us to talk about the importance of giving your heart to Christ and the urgency of sharing the gospel, because even “the ship that couldn’t sink” did, and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

So what do you think: is it okay for younger children to watch sad movies (or read sad books)?

If so, why? If not, why not?