I Thought We Were Friends…until you deleted me from Facebook.

After a couple of days of seeing a steady stream of statuses and pictures from a particular person on my Facebook timeline, I should’ve noticed when their notifications stopped appearing in my feed. When it finally crossed my mind I hadn’t heard anything from them in a while, I searched their name, found their profile, and, in my discovery, also found I had been unfriended.

It should be said this person and I weren’t/aren’t particularly close, just an acquaintance I’d seen around from time to time, yet anxiety still gnawed at my stomach. I was legitimately upset over this and the fact that I was upset over this fascinated me.

It’s not like I had never unfriended anyone before. I had – for multiple reasons. Whether it was the fact I didn’t know the person or felt it would be better if we didn’t speak, I’m no stranger to deed. In fact, it’s not like I hadn’t been unfriended before either. I have – for multiple reasons. Yet, for some reason, this one actually hurt. I’ll be the first to admit we often use social media as a way to paint our lives a particularly rosy hue and more often than not our Facebook friendships are about as deep as the kiddie pool in the backyard. But for all the reasons of why it shouldn’t have mattered, it did. Even if our friendship on Facebook was superficial, in this instance it felt as if I wasn’t even worthy the ambiguous hope of getting to know one another better.

Regardless of whether or not we’re close friends or distant strangers, to friend someone on Facebook is an invitation to join in relationship with each other. If I friend you it means I’m, at least, mildly interested in your life and open to inviting you into mine. As dumb as it is and as much as it shouldn’t affect our real life interactions, it does. To unfriend is to bar someone’s presence in your digital life and to express no interest in theirs (which is interesting because even though social media can be used to distort the picture of our lives, it’s still a window into our souls nonetheless).

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve become selective as to who I friend on Facebook. The one time I act in faith and friend someone, I find myself unfriended a week later. The worst part though is the betrayal. Someone crosses your mind, you try to let them know, only to find you’ve been deleted their life. No message, no explanation, no nothing. That hurts, man.

I recognize this post is ridiculous. Somewhere someone – if anyone – reading this is shaking their head at how dumb this is. I totally agree. It is dumb. I just needed a place to let that out. It’s like when the heartbreaker finally gets their heart broken and they realize they’ve inflicted this kind of pain on others and vow to never do it again. Getting legitimately and unexpectedly unfriended has somehow changed my view on the act. I don’t think I want to do that to other people. Not without an explanation at least.

If the person who deleted me happens to read this, though I highly doubt they will: well, this is awkward. Let’s make an agreement: you pretend as if you didn’t delete me and I’ll pretend like I didn’t write this. Deal?

It’s Been a Gift

Someone recently asked me if I had intentions of writing a book any time in the future. I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. However I’m constantly challenged by the fact I simply haven’t lived enough. If there’s one thing this blog has consistently shown me it’s that I don’t actually know a thing about anything (I just like to pretend I do). Every week has stretched me beyond my limits and forced me to put the complexity of emotions and ideas into words. Twenty-six blog entries in and if I had to pick one word to sum up my experience so far it’s that this blog has been a gift.

I’ve felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins as I rush to finish last minute revisions. I’ve woken up only to be humbled by likes, comments, and occasional shares. I’ve even found joy in the editing process (not to say I’ve always gotten it right). The whole point of this blog was to get me writing/producing regularly and for the past six months it’s been that. I’ve had a space to articulate thoughts and grapple with what I’m learning in my context, often finding that it’s in the writing of a thing I come face-to-face with what I’ve yet to unpack in a given subject.

One thing I’ve wrestled with since the inception of this blog is its duration: How long can I keep this going? I want to honor God with the talents and abilities he’s given me by growing in them but it can get exhausting to do this week after week. I want to give my all to my wife and my students. To say yes to blogging might also be saying no to something else more important. If I’m honest as much as it’s been nice to write my thoughts whether theological or philosophical, I really want to push myself to write creatively again. Right now there are a handful of ideas I’ve been meaning to pursue but I haven’t found the time. Perhaps, I’m just making excuses.

Nevertheless my intentions are to continue blogging with this frequency for another six months until it’s been a full year. After that it’s up in the air. That’s not to say I won’t write or update. One option is to write once a month but post longer articles, I might transition to a more specialized focus, or maybe I’ll just write here whenever I need to say something. If this year has been about discipline, I want the next ones to be about freedom (not to say the two are antithetical to each other).

I do, however, want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the people who have taken time to read this blog. Whether it’s been a consistent read or a casual glance, when I started this blog I wanted to feel heard and your attentiveness has shown me that I am. It’s been quite a journey but I’m excited to see what the future holds. Thank you.

Twenty-six down, twenty-six more to go.

Ten Books That Have Influenced My Life

This past week I took a break from social media and when I came back I found myself tagged, not once but twice, to share a list of ten books that have influenced my life in some way. Shortly after I saw a friend of mine posting his list to his blog I decided to steal the idea. So here we go (and the Bible isn’t listed because it’s a given).

  1. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

I was assigned this book as a senior in high school and even at the ripe age of seventeen it highlighted an existential crisis I was feeling. Here’s a man bound for success who burns it all to discover what it all really means. Whether you thought he was arrogant or misunderstood, Into the Wild was not only was it the first book I read I was willing to argue for, it was the book that catapulted me back into reading.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

It’s a story about a high school freshman struggling to fit in whom, with the help of some misfits friends, finds his place in the world. Something about that hits home with me. Not only do I love the way it’s written (a series of letters to an anonymous receiver) but it was also the first book I read where I felt with the character. I read it in a day and it still stands as my favorite book and, now, movie.

  1. Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin

One of the first books I read when I first started to develop a heart for the Black community. While the story itself is interesting, what impacted me most was his ability to articulate what I felt but was unable to convey in words.

  1. The Fight – John White

The Fight was the first book I read as a new Christian. Practical and encouraging, it gave me hope in how to actually live as a follower of Jesus before my friends and family who may not have totally understood the change that took place in my life. To this day I still buy this book to any new Christian in my sphere of influence.

  1. The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling

Seriously, anyone my age who says they weren’t somehow shaped by Harry Potter is either deprived or lying. Even when I didn’t read Harry Potter was the exception.

  1. The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ was the second book I read when I came to faith and it’s still one I go back to. It opened my eyes to see the faith I’ve committed my whole life to isn’t just some “story” but a historical reality. The implications of this book still steal my breath away.

  1. The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne

Some books you love because it affirms the convictions you already hold deeply in your heart. Others you love because it opens your eyes to something new. The Irresistible Revolution does both and so much more. It’s another one of those books that I’m willing to fight for, as I believe so much of that book is vital to what it means to love Jesus. As much as I love apostolic imagination, prophetic imagination is just as beautiful. I recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike.

  1. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria – Beverly Tatum

If Black Like Me was my “what” for the Black community, Tatum’s book was the “why.” I saw so much of my own personal journey/struggle to embrace my ethnic identity in this book. It gave me vocabulary and terminology to explain the complexities at work in being a Black man in America and it’s changed my outlook on the Black community as well as life ever since.

  1. UnChristian – David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear the word “Christian?” Well, when asked that question, the words used to describe Christians are actually very UnChristian. As the third book I read when I came to faith, it challenged me to be aware of what people think about me as I share my faith and to do everything in my power to be different from the stereotype.

10. Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin

The essay that shares this title is the reason why I started writing nonfiction in the first place (Adrienne Rich’s “Split at the Root” reminds me of this as well). It’s the standard to which I measure all my nonfiction essays. Baldwin was the first writer that was able to articulate my feelings on what it meant to be Black in America. In general his thoughts are poignant and his writing is sharp and I want so bad to emulate that.

What about you? What are your ten?

“Different” by Mike Patz & Brian Sanders: A Review

“We have come to realize that imperfect churches can still be breathtaking churches, and that imperfect disciples can still turn heads, inspire, and remind everyone they meet of the God-man Jesus” (page 13).

While I still have two chapters left, in light of Different recently being released on Kindle for free (though it appears to no longer be) I wanted to recommend it here. It’s worth noting that the only way this review could be more biased is if I wrote the book myself (and even then I don’t think it would be as favorably partial as this). Not only have I been part of the Underground since 2010, but Brian Sanders is also my hero. I admire him as a follower of Jesus, leader, thinker, father, and so much more; and I’ve been waiting for new book from him since his collaborative volume, In Your Underwear. When I heard that he and Mike Patz were co-writing a book together, I knew we were in for it.

If anyone is familiar with Brian Sanders, it’s no secret that he and Mike Patz have been best friends since high school. They’d get in trouble together and, as Brian tells it, Mike would get away because teachers “liked him” whereas Brian would get punished. These two were tennis doubles and because of their friendship an unspoken chemistry evolved. Brian wouldn’t have to say a thing to Mike and vice versa, they just knew how to play off each other. In the same way this unspoken chemistry allowed them to dominate in tennis, part of what makes Different triumph the way it does is how well they work together.

As you read you get the feeling both voices are essential to this book. Both Mike and Brian bring something to the table that would otherwise be missing. For Mike, it’s his relentless love for Jesus that gives this book heart. It shows in his ability to wordsmith, creating just the right question that penetrates past the surface and etches itself in the soul of the reader. For Brian, it’s his contemplative philosophical musings that give this book a greater sense of structure. As someone relatively familiar with Brian, I do get the sense that all the work he’s done since Life After Church has culminated into this. There are familiar illustrations and stories from past sermons but the points don’t lose their poignancy. They are just as deep and cutting as when I first heard them (the beauty of truth is its timelessness). While both voices are unique in their own right, they blend harmoniously and vice versa.

If you listen to the author interviews on this book, Mike says this book wasn’t written to feed people as much as it was to make people hungry. They wanted to put our feet to the fire and put our feet to the fire they do. Different not only instills hope for what the church can be, it also reignites (to steal from Neil Cole, another great missional thinker, for a moment) a primal fire in your relationship with God. A huge part of that is the passion in which the authors write. They burn on the page and their heart’s cry becomes your heart’s cry. More than just solid writing, these are powerful principles on what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus in the 21st century in the West where the church is on the decline. This includes an abiding commitment to justice and the poor, a leadership that serves and empowers as well as a wholehearted commitment to Jesus and a longing to be filled with his Spirit. I personally couldn’t have thought of better people to write this book.

These men are more than theologians and missiologists. They’re practitioners, which gives the, unrivaled amount of integrity and authority.

Though Chapter Four alone makes the book worth buying, some of my other favorite chapters so far include one, three, nine, and ten.

Get it on kindle here.