Thursday, March 11, 2010

Widening the Porch

Introducing my friends to my blog has been similar to introducing my children to ethnic cuisine. They’re intrigued that I’m pursuing something new, but a blog sounds like something that potentially requires clean up afterward. They don’t know how to use one; there’s a reason they’ve never tried one before. Blogs are scary. Not just green and potentially not pleasing to the palate scary, I mean total cave darkness scary. Like walking past that really large teenager lurking around the food court in the mall, who managed to find jeans that were even larger, adorned with holes and chains that reflect the shiny skull design on his hoodie, not to mention the ski cap, in June. Yes, even though we know that there’s probably a nice young man in there somewhere, we just walk by, fast. Some things are better left unknown.

So it’s been interesting watching my friend’s reactions as I respond to the innocent query, “What have you been up to?” with an unexpected, “Well, I’ve just launched my blog.” This is often followed by “Really?” and awkward silence, or “Wow, I’ve never seen a blog. Good luck with that. See you later.” I completely sympathize with their response; mine was similar last November when I was introduced to the concept of blogging at a workshop at the Heart of America Christian Writer’s Conference. As I listened to the speaker inform me that I needed a blog, and a social networking venue and I needed to start blogging, seriously, fear welled up. I felt nauseous. New is scary. The internet, with all its possibilities and unknown quantities, is the ultimate “black hole” of things that could be bad. Asking people to view my blog, and leaving comments on stranger’s blogs - also cause for trepidation.

Change is always difficult. Jesus and the disciples must have met people with similar fears when He came with the message of repentance and salvation. Jesus challenged the Israelites to look at their relationship with God in a new way. He brought together familiar truths to empower them: that "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5), is demonstrated by the way in which we love our neighbor. (Lev 19:18) Legalism was out, and the definition of what it means to love God was forever changed.

Jesus came to fulfill the law, to bring a new covenant. He didn’t meet their expectations of a Messiah, and they were challenged to look for God’s kingdom in a spiritual realm rather than a physical one. For people who struggled just to survive and meet their daily needs, this was a drastic change in perspective.

His ideas were radical, they still are. To love sacrificially, to die to “self”, how can this bring us happiness? And while we are giving our “selves” up for the sake of the kingdom, who is going to make sure we’re taken care of? Without a true belief in God and His unconditional love for us, this is a scary prospect. But each day, we pray and we hope. We tentatively take that step toward heaven, by trusting, by practicing works of mercy, and leaving our fears at the foot of the cross.

For me, part of that walk now includes a blog. They way we experience community is changing, and as intimidating as the prospect of the internet can be for my generation; it’s also full of opportunity. We spend more time in front of our computer screens then on our front porches visiting with our neighbors. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, but it’s a reality. Hopefully, I’ll be able to balance both. Nothing will ever replace the affirmation we receive from eye contact and face to face interaction, but the opportunity to meet a wider variety of people through the internet is a blessing too. We have the ability now to widen our porches, to put out more chairs, and get to know neighbors we wouldn’t have had access to before. Blogs are the places where we tell our stories, laugh at each other’s jokes, and walk through hardships with one another.

I’m so appreciative to my extremely brave friends who have ventured out to visit the blog so far. Thank you all for the encouragement! May we each be challenged this Lent to ask God for the faith we need to reach out along the way and try something new, to stay and visit when we find ourselves with new neighbors, even when we’ve ventured onto an unfamiliar front porch.

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