Miscarriage, Facebook Posts, Doorbell Ditchers and our “Do Not Disturb” Culture

After experiencing bleeding for a few days, my wife Danielle made a doctors appointment to examine the baby.  I arrived just as she was just exiting the hospital.  She wiped her eyes and shook her head left to right. There was no heartbeat.

We sat together, side by side, in our aging Honda Odyssey.  She had parked in a nearby stall with a white sign over it that read, “Parking for Expectant Mothers”.  She cried.  I held her hand.

Less than a week had passed since we posted this on facebook. Announcement.3

She was well into her second tri-mester and we felt it wise and safe to share the good news with our facebook friends.  Deciding to have a third child has been quite a journey for us.

As afternoon arrived we discussed how we would now share the bad news on facebook.  It sucked. We wish we didn’t post the picture. The next day, Tuesday, Danielle found the words to post on Facebook.

As of today, Danielle and I have received over one hundred loving and compassionate facebook comments; along with numerous texts, calls, visits, and private facebook messages. New friends and old.  High school friends from Benicia High she hasn’t talked to in 20 years.  Even a girl from her childhood whom she thought hated her.  People who know the pain of miscarriage and others who don’t.

People wrote some beautiful things.  “That baby was loved by so many already.”  “May the God of shalom let it rain on you and your family.”

People wrote some powerful things.  “Losing our son was the hardest thing we have ever endured.” “I know your pain, having lost our son to premature labor at 22.5 weeks.”

sad-emoji And lots of people sending heart-felt prayers and support. And lots of emojis. Lots of emojis.

Tonight, we got door bell ditched. #MiddleSchoolNeverDies. I looked down and I saw a plate of homemade cookies, some flowers, and a card. This made me feel good.

As many of you know, I am both a student and a scholar in the art of community.  What is true community and how can we obtain it?  Why has our society become so individualistic and do we have to live this way? Do we have the courage to live interdependently with others, and how do we even do that?

These last two days, we have been loved by you, our community. Some of it came in an unexpected manner, through the gift of Facebook, but the love was real, and was received.

I overheard Danielle say to a friend on the phone, “All these Facebook comments help me so much….I would have felt really alone.  I had no idea there were so many people who have experienced this.”

do_not_disturbOur culture is teaching us to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the front doors of our lives. Neighbors don’t know each others names. People park there cars in their garage, close the door, hire a gardener to maintain their front lawn, and they never come out. They live anonymously in their neighborhood.  And alone.  Some people go to churches where they hear a lot about Jesus and Paul, but never hear about their church friend’s struggling marriage, or hear more than the superficial. It’s common for us to connect with others about our favorite reality show, but never connect about real life.

“How are you?”  “I’m fine.”

461076_538307459540881_2025160809_o We need community more than ever.  Because sometimes, we aren’t fine.  We need long coffees and long hugs.  We need door-bell ditchers and surprise guests.  We need lengthy dinner parties and short chats with old lady walking her dog. We need more people parking in their driveways.  We need a front yard gardening revolution. We need facebook posts and compassionate comments.

We need each other.

Thank you for your prayers, love and support,

Sean Donohue

Vanity – Our Secret Romance with Ourselves

Vanity.   America, we have fallen in love with ourselves.  We have a passionate romance with our mirrors, our camera phones, our selfies, and our Tweets.

Vanity is defined as “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.”

This love affair is a secret romance.  Unspoken, private, hidden from others.  American taboo.

There are three reasons we don’t talk about vanity.

1)      We don’t know what vanity is anymore. Burgundy-bigdeal

Vanity is described as excessive pride or admiration in….yourself.  Let’s all agree it’s healthy to have a certain degree of pride and admiration in yourself – it’s important to like yourself – that’s not vanity.

The defining word here is excessive.

Question: Who gets to decide what is normal admiration and what is excessive?  Who gets to decide if an action or a sentence is vain…or a person is vain?

If I post a picture to Facebook posing with a new haircut, is that vain?  What if I post five pictures, with five different angles of my new hipster fade?  What if I post fifteen? At what point does my posting pictures of myself cross the line from normal Facebook sharing to the excessive point where the person looking at my Facebook profile says to themselves, “Wow, Sean really likes himself.”

Vanity

How would you respond if you had a friend who regularly posted Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pictures of themselves?  This is of course a trick question.  We all have friends who do this.  (Unless you only have like 8 friends, than maybe you don’t.)

2) The second reason we don’t talk about vanity is because it has become one of the last remaining taboo topics amongst friends.

We have a very open conversation culture.  This isn’t the 1950’s.  We can discuss politics and religion.  We can approach our friend about our concerns about their drinking, their romantic choices, or their spending habits.   But approaching our friend about our concern with their “excess admiration”?  Not happening.  We aren’t comfortable with that yet.

For example, let’s say you have a friend who is driving you nuts with all their selfie posting or self-promoting posts.  Most people would say they only have two possible options on how to handle this.  Option 1) You Unfriend/Block them (Goodbye Ms. Duckface!)  Or Option 2) You quickly scroll past their posting and try to ignore what you just saw/read. (“Ok we get it, you’re on vacation!  Enough already!”)

For most people, there is no other way.  No Option C: Addressing the vanity and asking the person to stop.  I am willing to bet money that you have never written this on someone’s facebook page, “Whoa there Mr./Ms. Selfie, can you slow down with all the picture posting?  I’m sick of looking at you.  Hope you are well, we should get coffee soon.”  (If you have ever said this to a friend than you are my personal hero, SuperVanityAddresserPerson, and I want to buy you coffee.)

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3) The third reason why we don’t talk about vanity is that we can only talk about what we can see.  We can only fight an enemy who we know is there.

Vanity is that horrible smell that hits you when you walk into your dog-owning friends’ house.  You can’t breathe.  It’s stinky and unbearable.  You work hard at not gagging.  All you smell is wet, dirty dog.  Your friend?  They smell nothing.  They think their house smells like gingerbread cookies.  They have grown so accustomed to that nasty odor they don’t even notice it anymore.

Let’s flip this blog upside down: If our goal was to increase vanity in our young people and our culture, how would we do it?

Tell the young person, “Everyday, pick up a camera, and as you go about your day take a few pictures of yourself.  Then, delete the pictures that make you look less than fantastic.  Next, write a catchy caption that tells your “followers”, (cause you are worth following), about how great your life is.  And finally, post the pictures to numerous sites online so everyone can see.”

Have them spend time at  www.mtv.com and www.self.com and www.gq.com and www.seventeen.com .

And give him/her a healthy dose of this….

Mission accomplished.

Allisvanity

Charles Allan Gilbert became famous for this double image drawing entitled, “All Is Vanity”. Can you see it?

America, this romance with vanity can only end badly – and I am concerned.

I am concerned that we are raising a generation of young, vain narcissists.

I am concerned that we are teaching young women that vanity is profitable for romance and attention.

I am concerned that we are teaching young men to love their face more than they love others’.

I am concerned that we are handing our toddlers iPad cameras teaching them vanity at a young age.

I am concerned that social media has given us a garden where self-love can grow and grow.

I am concerned that we can’t smell the dirty dog.

Hmmmmm.   http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/19/living/selfie-word-of-the-year/

The-Devils-Advocate-Keepcase-1997

In the film The Devil’s Advocate, Satan, (played by Al Pacino) says that “vanity is his favorite sin”.

Vanity has been our secret lover for too long.  We mustn’t sit back and allow her to seduce us, our children, our culture anymore.*

Let us turn to God and echo the prayers of the ancients before us who recognized the danger and the evil of excessive self-love.

Psalms 119:37 reads, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Your ways.”

Let’s break up with our mirrors.  Let’s aim our lenses from our self and onto others.  Let us exchange self-love for our First Love (Revelation 2:4).

And when our old lover comes knocking on our door let us instead choose to say, “Revive me in your ways, Oh God.”

 

 

-Share your comments with me below if you’d like-

* After I wrote this I found this interesting report online:  http://www.policymic.com/articles/86287/a-psychiatric-study-reveals-selfies-are-far-more-dangerous-than-you-think

The Least Reported, Most BEAUTIFUL Story of the Week – A Lesson in Peacemaking

Jesus once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”.  With news streams so often filled with stories of conflict, hostility, and violence, we need to recognize and celebrate peacemaking when we see it.

I don’t hate much, but I do hate a few things.

I know I hate the actions of the people of Westboro Baptist Church and their decision to picket public events, concerts and funerals.

Evil.  Gross.  Shameful.  Deployable.   Image

They have hurt so many.  They continue to hurt.  They spread a message of human and spiritual hatred.

As a Christian, for me the worst part is that they are doing all this in the name of the most wonderful, loving, caring, gentle, intelligent person this world has even seen – Jesus.

Their actions are portraying a horribly twisted and grotesque picture of the real Biblical Jesus to a culture where many are trying to discover who the real Jesus is.

Because they claim to be Christians, you can’t blame people for wondering, “Is this how all Christians are?”

Guilty by association?  Holy crap, I hope not.

Last week the founder of Westboro Baptist Fred Phelps passed away- and something surprising happened.

America, this was our chance.  These people have hurt so many of us, have poisoned so many funerals, concerts and leisurely strolls in the neighborhood, this was our chance to get them back.  Revenge.  This was a great opportunity to hurt them the way they have hurt us.

What did we do?  Did we picket their special funeral and give them a dose of their own medicine?  Did we spew hatred from megaphones and hand posters to our children?

I guess the big question was, “How did we handle all of our hate?”

Well, I didn’t do anything.  You probably didn’t either.  But a few people made the news recently because they stood outside of a Lorde concert with a sign.  The sign was big and bold.

On one side of the street were members of Westboro who picketed Lorde with their typical hate-filled signs in hand.  On the other side of the street was this….

Image

Sometimes when I read Jesus’ words I get confused.  I like what He says, but I often can’t figure out how to apply his teachings in my everyday life- with my everyday thoughts, actions and emotions.

Like when Jesus said this…..

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43)

…and then I think of the people of Westboro, and all of the people they have hurt…I feel confused and don’t know what to do….or how to feel.

 With a simple sign, these creative humans showed the world how to love our enemy.  They didn’t just show the world, they showed me.

I have no idea if these people know or follow Jesus, but I think He’d be proud of them.

The next time we face an enemy, may we let the words of Jesus be like bold signs in our souls.

May our minds be filled with creativity and goodness.

May we be the peacemakers that Jesus desires us to be; to a world in desperate need of them.

 

The Least Reported, most BEAUTIFUL Story of the Week – A Lesson in Peacemaking

 

In Order To Live, We Must Kill Things

digitaladdict

We 2014 Americans have much in common.  We love our phones and our tablets.  We love our news apps, our Twitter, and our Facebook.  We love our televisions shows and our Netflix.

And these lovely things keep getting better and better, lovelier and lovelier.  These friggin’ geniuses from the Silicon Valley keep creating pure awesome-ness for us.

They are like real-life wizards with tall pointy purple hats who can go into their little straw huts and come out with magical creations for all of the dumbfounded townsfolk.

These wizards have changed what it means to be an everyday, normal-Joe.  Because of these wizards ingenuity, we townsfolk can’t even imagine what our everyday lives will be like in 10 short years?  The next universally loved app?  3D printers?  GoogleGlass?  (Whatever the wizards at SkyMall are selling, I’m buying!)

But I have been wondering recently, will all this awesome-ness ever be….too much?  Can we have too many of these lovely things?  Will there ever be a time when all this consumption will be harmful to our soul?

I am sure of it.

Why do I feel this way?  Because I listen to stories.

I listen to married couples who tell me that they are thinking about getting a divorce because there is no longer any intimacy in their marriage.  They tell me that after their kids are put down sleep that they don’t connect much but instead spend their nights quietly reading on their separate iPads.

-I listen to wives who tell me that their husband’s constant phone use isn’t just a bedroom problem, but a living room, dining room, and a kitchen problem; his love-affair of communicating with clients and co-workers is ending his family’s love-affair with him.

-I listen to teenage girls tell me about how they can’t help but feel unworthy and insecure when they log onto social media.  They tell me they can’t seem to escape the constant “showing off” that occurs as their classmates upload a non-stop stream of “Oh my god you should have been there- you missed out!” tweets and pictures.

-I listen to teenage guys who tell me that viewing internet porn is a part of their daily life, and that they don’t think it will ever be possible for them resist it because the temptation is simply too strong.

Hearing story after story like this, I can’t help but wonder, could theses enchanting inventions by the wizards of Palo Alto possibly be the death of us?  The death of our marriages, our esteem, our sexual integrity, our quiet prayer-life?

It wasn’t that long ago when Americans had a love affair with tobacco.  They smoked and smoked and smoked what they grew and smoked some more.  They didn’t know how harmful it was.

Will we one day view the Silicon Valley the same way we now view tobacco valleys of the South; A region that creates tempting yet dangerous-for-our-soul products?

Two weeks ago I held my thumb down to my phone and decided to kill two of my favorite apps.  I had a funeral for Instagram and Twitter.  They are gone.  It was a sad day for me as they have been a big part of my life for years.  They have been gone for over a week now, but I still think about them.  I wonder what they are up to.  What they are saying.  Who they are with.  I think I miss them.  There wasn’t anything special or weird about those two apps for me expect that I really liked them.  I invested lots of time into them.  I think I loved them.  But they have been killed, I need to move on.

Why did I do it?

In order to live, we must kill things.

It’s not bad or wrong that I loved those but it does reveal something about me- about how I want to live in this age of wizardry.

-I’d rather love people than love a news stream about people doing newsworthy things.

-I’d rather sit and laugh with friends than sit and laugh at pictures of my friends (and pictures of my friend’s food.)

-I’d rather have my soul filled with God and His Spirit and His Scripture than having my mind filled with hilarious short videos of cats being surprised.

I am in the process of discovering how much awesomeness is enough.  There are limits to most things, so this makes sense.  Too much candy, not enough broccoli.  Too much work, not enough laughter.  Too much screen time, not enough real-time.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Killing apps is one way we tell our hearts what we love.

What will I do with all my new time?  I’m not sure yet.  I may call some old friends and remind them how much I still care.  I may talk to my wife and children about the favorite moment in their day.  I may start a new hobby.  I may go for a long walk and talk to God, or just listen to Him.  I’m not sure yet, but I know I’ll be ok.