Posted by: Jack Brown | November 30, 2012

Ask Big

As we get close to the Christmas season I remember all the excitement this time of year would bring when I was a child. So many memories flood my mind: advent calendars with peppermint candies, the smell of a real Christmas tree, stringing popcorn with my grandmother…good times to be sure. Many of my happiest memories are of the holiday season–it was definitely the most wonderful time of the year in my mind. And there was one thing each year that I think I looked forward to more than anything else (which says something about me, but oh well): the arrival in the mail of the new Sears catalog.

Anyone else remember those? It was pure magic in paper form–the back section, anyway, which was where you found the TOYS. Oh my, the toys. Old toys, new toys, big, small…you name it, all printed in full-color glory on slick, glossy paper that before long was stained with saliva as I drooled over each page. On the day it arrived I would carry that thing in from the mailbox as if I was Howard Carter gingerly removing treasure from King Tut’s tomb. And of course, once the catalog arrived that meant it was time to make THE LIST. Although with my greedy little mind it probably would’ve been easier to just tear out the whole toy section and just mail it to Santa with a three word note: “ONE OF EACH.”

I’m probably a little hard on myself. I don’t think I was that greedy. And even if I was, I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. After all, back then I had no concept of Christmas budgets, layaways, and credit card bills that arrived in January. In my mind you were supposed to indicate everything you wanted, and you simply had faith that the “big guy” would be able to deliver. And boy did I have faith–my lists were long, detailed, and full of expectancy and hope. To put it simply, I asked big.

Lately I’ve come to a realization that as I’ve gotten older I’ve also gotten less expectant and hopeful. Not with regard to holiday giving (since I’ve come to see that Christmas isn’t about presents), but just in general. And as I reflect on my childhood I find myself feeling wistful as I consider that young boy, pen in hand, writing out in careful strokes the things he wanted to find under the tree Christmas morning. So trusting, so sure that the magic of the season would come through. I’m not that boy anymore. I’ve grown cynical and suspicious, more inclined to expect the worst than the best of the season, of people, and sometimes even of God.

Not that I consider God a cosmic Santa Claus, mind you. I don’t think we’re called to approach God with a list of stuff we want and expect that He is somehow obligated to provide it. That’s my problem with churches that teach a “name it and claim it” theology–they treat God as if He is somehow beholden to our desires if we just ask and have enough faith. I think that’s a complete misinterpretation of Scripture, and in its worst form has more in common with witchcraft than the teachings of Jesus.

But here’s the thing–even though I don’t believe we should treat God like Santa, I fear I often whiplash around to the other end of the spectrum and end up not asking God for anything out of the ordinary or beyond what I think is “reasonable.” I approach God as if He’s on a budget, and I’d better not ask for too much. My expectations of Him are limited, and my hope for anything extraordinary or supernatural is minimal if sometimes not completely absent. To put it simply, I ask small.

And yet the words of Jesus point me to a different reality: the reality of a loving Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children, who responds to the requests of His people with abundance and generosity flowing from a heart of perfect love. And those words of Jesus pierce my cynical heart and remind me that while I shouldn’t make demands of God, at the same time I shouldn’t hold back in what I request of Him. After all, Scripture tells me that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). And what’s more–He’s not only able, He is also willing.

So as we enter this season that reminds us how God gave us far more than we could have ever deserved, expected, or asked for, I find myself being challenged to approach God from a place of greater expectancy, hope, and trust. I’m not going to tell Him what he needs to do (as if I even could), but I am going to approach the throne of grace with confidence in God’s great love as I pray for my family, my church, my community, and my world. I’m going to be bolder as I come to him with my requests for healing, for peace, for intervention, for provision, and for guidance. To put it simply, I’m going to ask big.

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening.”–1 John 5:14-15 (MSG)

Posted by: Jack Brown | November 12, 2012


(If you’re here hoping it’s a review of the new James Bond film, sorry. Haven’t seen it yet (but will soon).)

“President Obama is not the Antichrist. But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.” –Robert Jeffress, First Baptist Church, Dallas quoted 11/8/2012

“In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Just like water in a pond, your mind should be at peace most of the time. And it should only react when something is thrown into it. Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? Water reacts exactly in proportion to the object thrown into it – with a big splash for a big rock, or a little ripple for a small pebble. And when the reaction is over, it goes back to a state of peace/calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact. Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does.” –David Allen, author and productivity guru

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” –Chicken Little

We all remember the story of Chicken Little, the panicky little bird who had an acorn fall on her head and wisely deduced that the sky was falling and the world was coming to an end. She gathers up all her bird friends and draws them into her panic, and they journey to warn the king that the “end is near.” The cunning Foxy Loxy, however, takes advantage of the stressed-out fowl and tricks them into his lair, where….well, things do come to an end, just not as Chicken Little predicted.

In the past week I have watched with amazement and concern the Christian response to last Tuesday’s Presidential Election. I have seen the Christian flag flying at half mast, countless tweets about “dark days ahead,” and extreme reactions like Mr. Jeffress’ above. I have had conversations with worried believers who fear intense persecution is just around the corner for Christians, and who express a belief that the American way of life is coming to an end, including the religious freedom we enjoy. And in the back of my mind…I hear, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

I know I am potentially angering some folks by comparing such responses to Chicken Little. I do not mean to belittle legitimate concerns that our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to people of faith, and I share with my friends the sadness that comes from watching many values we hold hear being openly ridiculed and tossed aside. And I grieve deeply for the ways our culture’s shifting sands erode the precious gift of life and community at the heart of God’s plan for humanity. But this belief that last week’s election was some sort of “final nail in the coffin” is, in my opinion, a completely disproportionate response, an overreaction that threatens to control us if we let it.

The Christian church has forecasted “dark days” before. Many things…elections, policies, cultural trends…have been seen by believers for centuries as harbingers of doom. Some have proven true, but many have not. But I keep coming back to a simple truth: until something happens, it hasn’t happened. But I’m seeing Christians across the country reacting as if the worst has already taken place, as if the writing is on the wall and nothing can change what’s going to come. And I’m just not there. God is bigger than that.

Yes, things are changing. They were changing before last Tuesday, they will continue to change. Some of the changes will be bad. Some might actually (*gasp!*) be good. But what happens in Washington, D.C. does NOT set the agenda for God’s kingdom, and what never changes is the call of the church to be the people of God in good times and bad. Our task is to respond appropriately to what God places across our path TODAY, not fret and worry about what might or might not happen tomorrow. Jesus himself said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34, NIV), and he said those words to people who would come to know what real persecution for their faith looks like. Is such persecution heading our way? I can’t say, but I can say that it isn’t here today.

Some will argue with me that the Bible encourages us to prepare for times of tribulation, that the prophets of the Old Testament often brought a word of warning to the people that difficult times were ahead, that Scripture encourages us to “live wisely” in light of the continued descent into darkness that precedes Christ’s return. But doesn’t “living wisely” include responding to things as they actually happen, not as they might? What if God has a great revival planned for the coming years…will we be able to recognize and respond to it if we are convinced last Tuesday rendered such a movement of God impossible (which…um, it didn’t)? And I would caution the church that wisdom would also remember that we, like Chicken Little, have an enemy who would seek to take advantage of our panic and fear. If we don’t want to be eaten alive, we need to take heed–satan would like nothing more than to render the church powerless in its obsession with what might or might not come out of Washington.

The sky is not falling, my friends. It may fall tomorrow, it may fall a year from now or a hundred or a thousand. But the timing of it is not determined by politicians or elections or cultural trends. It is determined by God, and I trust him with it.

Posted by: Jack Brown | November 11, 2012

The Ebba Compline

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone:
my hope comes from Him.

Come I this night to the Father,
come I this night to the Son,
come I to the Holy Spirit powerful:
come I this night to God.
Come I this night with Christ,
come I with the Spirit of kindness.
Come I to Thee, Jesus.
Jesus, shelter me.

I will lie down and sleep.
I wake again,
because the Lord sustains me.

By day the Lord directs His love;
at night His song is with me –
a prayer to the God of my life.

Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.

This dwelling, O God, by Thee be blest;
and each one who here this night does rest.

May God be in my sleep;
may Christ be in my dreams.
May the Spirit be in my repose,
in my thoughts, in my heart.
In my soul always
may the Sacred Three dwell.

May the Father of heaven
have care of my soul,
His loving arm about my body,
through each slumber
and sleep of my life.

The Son of God be shielding me from harm,
the Son of God be shielding me from ill,
the Son of God be shielding me with power.
The Son of God be shielding me this night.

Sleep, O sleep in the calm of each calm.
Sleep, O sleep in the guidance of all guidance.
Sleep, O sleep in the love of all loves.
Sleep, O beloved, in the Lord of life.
Sleep, O beloved, in the God of life.

The peace of all peace
be mine this night
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Jack Brown | November 6, 2012

Five Things About the Man I Voted For Today

As a rule, I don’t share my political convictions with many people. A pastor I used to work with suggested that those in ministry should play their political cards fairly close to their chest, and I agree with that sentiment. I would never want anyone to think that the person I vote for is the “right” choice for a Christian, or imply that people of faith should agree with me. I’m human, I’m fallible, and I vote the issues that are important for me personally, and yet I know many wonderful people of faith who disagree with my choices. And in the end, I pastor folks on both sides of the aisle, and that’s far too important a privilege for me to let politics hurt those relationships.

That said, I did vote today. And I want to tell you a little bit about the man I voted for for President of the United States.  This is as political as I will ever get on this blog, so enjoy it. 🙂

Here are five things I think are important to know about the man I voted for today:

  1. I believe with all my heart he wants what’s best for this country. His detractors claim this isn’t true.  There are countless posts and tweets and columns and blogs out there that would have you believe he is the devil in disguise, out to ruin this country and implement his own agenda that will destroy our nation. I refuse to believe that. I believe the welfare of this nation and its citizens are at the heart of his policies, and that he believes his vision to be what’s best for America’s future.
  2. Although he and I would have many disagreements regarding theology and religion, I believe his faith to be authentic and a central part of who he is.  And even though I come from a different faith perspective, I respect how his faith has informed his life and his policies.
  3. He is not perfect.  But neither am I.  He has said some things on the campaign trail that have really frustrated me, and at times angered me.  There have been times he has been in “politician mode” and I have been left shaking my head.  But then there have been times when the real person underneath shines through, and I have found that person remarkably appealing.
  4. I don’t agree with every policy he proposes.  But then again, I don’t expect to agree 100% with my President.
  5. Regardless of what happens today, I will be praying for him and his family that God will bless them and guide them and make himself known to them.  And I think we all would do well to pray for him, even if we voted for the other guy.

Think you know who it is?  Think you can figure out who I voted for? Before you draw any conclusions, let me share one last thought with you:

6.  Everything I said about the man I voted for, I would also say about the man I didn’t.

Posted by: Jack Brown | July 6, 2012

Closing Time

I often find God does things in my life with very precise timing. I’m not talking about changing traffic lights to get somewhere faster (personally I think he’s more likely to give me a red light to remind me to stop rushing about), I’m talking about the way certain events line up in ways that are freakily connected. In small examples of this songs come on the radio just that speak directly to something I’m praying about at that moment, or a coupon comes in the mail from Firestone just as I need to have that particular thing done to my car (call it coincidence if you will, I see it as provision).

Sometimes, though, the connections are larger and more significant, and are meant to get my attention in a big way. One of those happened just recently. As I’ve shared on this blog, I’ve been in counseling for the past few months processing instances of sexual abuse in my childhood. It’s been an extremely productive time of reflection and self-realization (“Oh…THAT’S why I react that way”), and I’m very thankful for the counselor I’ve been seeing. I can honestly say I’m a different person now than I was 9 months ago, and those weekly times in her office were eye-opening, heart-opening, and tools in the hands of a healing God.

A couple of weeks ago I came to the realization that my time of processing, at least this particular season of it, was drawing to a close. I had an appointment with my counselor for Friday, and I decided to tell her I didn’t need any further appointments for now. Now some of you may recall that this whole journey began for me with Jerry Sandusky’s arrest last year for molesting young boys while part of the Penn State football program. Sandusky reminded me strongly of the man I encountered in my youth, and the news stories of his arrest hit me like a brick wall. So it seemed appropriate to me that on that Friday, just a few hours after I told my counselor I felt I had moved on enough to end my sessions, Sandusky was convicted of almost all counts against him. The headline “Sandusky Convicted” also hit me like a brick wall, but in a good way. The timing just seemed to much to believe. I sat by the television and cried for those young boys, now young men, and what they had to be feeling at that moment. And I prayed they would also find good people to walk alongside them in their path to healing. I knew what I experienced was only a shadow of the evil they encountered, but then again when you run into evil who quantifies? I wept for them and I wept for myself, but my tears were different than they were last autumn. Then they were the bitter tears of facing truth, now they were healthy tears of grieving loss. The first tears stung, these tears healed.

As I got ready for bed that night I sensed a strong feeling of closure. I felt a release to move on and see what the next steps of this journey look like. Now, of course I’m not suggesting that God timed the Sandusky case for my sake, but I do think the opposite may be true: it’s possible he timed my journey to coincide with the case. I don’t bother trying to figure that out. But I am thankful that it seemed like he was telling me, “I’ve got this under control. I know what has happened…and I know what needs to be done next. You can trust me.” That was a good feeling.

One thing my counselor was always good about was offering me something to drink for our sessions (water, tea, coffee if you’re wondering). I’m not much of a drinking man, so that may be the closest I’ll ever come to pouring out my troubles to a bartender figure. But now it’s closing time, and I need to head back out into the “real world.” And I know it’s a scary place, believe me–I know. But that’s OK. It may be closing time, but it opens up a lot of possibilities.

Posted by: Jack Brown | March 25, 2012

20 Reasons I Love My Wife

All I want to do in this blog post is list just some of the reasons I love my wife. Anyone got a problem with that? Good, now let’s start. 🙂

1. She is one of the most gracious and gentle people I know.
2. She pursues Jesus with all of her heart.
3. She makes me laugh.
4. She is insightful.
5. She lets me cry when I need to cry.
6. She gives me space when I need it.
7. She pushes me when I need to be pushed.
8. She listens to me.
9. She is kind. She is smart. She is important.
10. She is also hot.
11. She loves many of the things I love. When she doesn’t, she puts up with it anyway.
12. She provides care for hurting people in a way I wish I could.
13. She is a fantastic mother.
14. She stops to soak things in, instead of rushing to the next thing.
15. Did I mention she’s hot?
16. She is a joy to be with, even if we’re just sitting on the couch watching “American Idol.”
17. She sees things I miss.
18. She still likes to ride the carousel at Disneyland.
19. She loves me.
20. She has traveled the world with me, and says she would do it again.

This list is not exhaustive. It never could be.

Posted by: Jack Brown | February 21, 2012

Casting Out Fear

“Fear is the path to the dark side…”–Yoda

Twenty years ago if you had told me they’d be releasing a Star Wars film in 3D to theaters, and that I wouldn’t care a bit, I would’ve thought you mad.  But that was before (*whispered fearfully*) the prequels.  While nothing will ever take the luster out of the original trilogy for me (Ewoks and all), you can bet I won’t be running to the theater to catch the first couple of episodes in all of their 3D mediocrity.

I’ll say this, though…I think George Lucas may have stumbled into a rather profound truth with the above quote from The Phantom Menace.  The full Yoda quote (for you non-scifi types out there) is “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”  There is great wisdom in that little green guy.  The idea that fear is what sets on down a very dark path is one of the truths I’ve been sitting with the past few months.

As I said in my last post, one of my earliest memories is of the terror I felt whenever the janitor from my school was near.  I’m realizing now that the fear I encountered then has shaped so much of my life ever since.  Over the years I have struggled with depression and anxiety in various doses, and most of the time I would blame it on the circumstances I encountered at any given time: a horrible boss, financial pressure, stressful relationships…you name it, I blamed it.  But the thing was, even when I dealt with the circumstances (either by change, departure, or therapy), the lingering darkness was there.  Actually, it was more than lingering.  It was crippling.

One of the most profound moments of the past few months was when my wonderful Christian counselor encouraged me to picture myself as a young boy, hiding behind that pillar at the school, running down the hallway to escape “the closet.”  She asked me how I felt about that young boy, and the sense of sadness and loss was thick in the air.  But then as I talked about it, I slipped in the way I spoke of what I saw.  I said, “When I was hiding behind the pillar at the church.”  Not “the school.”  “The church.”  And she wisely pointed out my slip.  That opened the door for me to talk about the fact that although I am nearly 40 years older, I am still that young boy.  I am still hiding.  And I am still haunted by fear.  Fear that has impacted my family, my job, my relationships…fear that definitely led to the “dark side.”

I wonder how many of us are struggling with darkness that we attribute to our circumstances, when instead the primary need is to name the fear that opened the door to it in the first place?  Name it, then seek healing from it.  And you may ask, “Where does the healing come from?”  That’s a good question, especially this time of year.

In the past few weeks, as I have learned more and more what it means to walk in freedom and grace, I’ve noticed something very interesting.  I often wake up with songs in my head, and then they stick with me through the day.  Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but lately I’ve noticed that the songs I wake up with and have in my head are songs that focus on a common theme: the love of God.  Songs like “And This is Love” and “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”  On top of that, the love of God has been a topic that keeps coming up in conversation, and as I read Scripture and prepare for Sundays.  Then it struck me: a verse I know well but had yet to apply to what I’ve been processing.  It’s 1 John 4:18–

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

All my life I’ve been wondering how to escape the fear, escape the darkness.  But what I’m learning to live is that the only way to escape the darkness is to run towards the light: the light of God’s love.  That is where fear is cast out, that is where true freedom lies.  And how wonderful to be rediscovering this truth at a deeper level now–at the beginning of Lent!  The next few weeks are all about the love of God shown in Christ’s sacrifice.  And now I see more clearly where that is meant to lead–to the place where we are “made perfect in love.”  To see that as my journey now–running to something instead of away–is a huge shift for me.

If you think about it, all of this relates to another thing George Lucas actually got right in Star Wars.  Because in the end (SPOILER ALERT, THOUGH IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN “STAR WARS” WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?), it’s the love of Anakin for his son that drives out the dark side and become the place of redemption.  And to George’s credit, he did set up that theme nicely in the prequels.  Hmmm…maybe I should go buy a movie ticket after all.

Oh, wait…Jar-Jar.  Forget I said that.

Posted by: Jack Brown | February 7, 2012

The Janitor’s Closet

Two weeks ago in my sermon I said these words:

“When I was nine years old, I encountered evil.
The effects of that encounter have been long-lasting and far-reaching.”

I didn’t go into detail from the pulpit (out of a desire to be sensitive to families with young folks in our church), but I did talk about the journey to freedom I have been on in recent months as I have been dealing with one simple, yet very complicated, fact: the janitor at my elementary school was a pedophile. For years (decades, in fact) I have ignored that reality and refused to face up to the impact it had on my life, but a number of factors last fall brought me to a place of realizing I needed to deal with it. The Penn State scandal was actually a big part of that realization, as I found myself not only obsessing with the story but also realizing the accused offender, Jerry Sandusky, reminded me of the janitor at my school. And as I watched that situation unfold, I heard a voice inside my head saying, “How long, Jack?” And for the first time in my life I found myself replying, “No longer.”

The main reason I have never dealt with this is that I spent all my life minimizing what had happened. My attitude was this: “What happened to me wasn’t as bad as what other kids go through, so I should just get over it and move on.” It wasn’t until a friend of mine pointed out to me that while it may be true I was spared the very worst possible scenarios, what happened to me would have been more than enough to send this guy to jail for a long, long time. She looked at me and said, “Jack, you were the victim of a sexual predator.” I never thought of myself that way. After all, who wants to?

I don’t know how long it went on, but I have numerous memories of being lured by this janitor into his little closet near the school bathrooms (I would later learn he had holes drilled in the wall to look into them). There he would show me things that a nine-year-old boy shouldn’t have to see, and try to get me to experience things a nine-year-old boy shouldn’t experience. And one my strongest memories is running as fast as I could to get away from that closet. In fact, it became a regular practice of mine to hide behind a pillar in the school near the closet anytime I needed to go past it. I would stand there, consumed by sheer terror, and then when I was sure he wasn’t looking I would run as fast as my little legs could carry me.

What I’ve since come to realize is that I have been running ever since. That janitor’s closet has come to symbolize for me all the things I’m afraid of, the greater sense I’ve always struggled with that there was something “out there” just waiting to get me. Most kids worry about monsters under their bed, but the image in my mind as a child was of a very real monster who has lurked in my subconscious ever since. I have always struggled with inordinate levels of fear and anxiety, worry and sense of being out-of-control. While I know it isn’t all because of that closet, I know that it begins there. And unless I deal with the root, the weeds will never stop growing.

So I hope you can understand as I attempt in my next few blog postings to process the journey I’ve been on. One of the very clear things I’ve learned recently is that I need to open up and share my story with others. This seems a good medium for doing that–I always think better when I type things out. And who knows…maybe there are others out there who have a “janitor’s closet”–a memory, a struggle, a stronghold that hovers in the back of their life and exerts too much control over them. And maybe we can make some progress on closing the doors together.

Posted by: Jack Brown | January 23, 2012

How Do We Remember Joe Pa?

Earlier today I read an editorial from a local sportswriter who made this declaration: “In my book, [Joe Paterno] always will be remembered for the child sexual abuse scandal and nothing more.” The question that came to my mind, after first uttering a few choice words in anger at his failed attempt to make this a “black or white, all or nothing” issue, was this: how should we remember a man who positively impacted countless young lives, yet failed to protect other young men at a time when they were most vulnerable and exposed to pure evil? And as I sat with that question an even larger one formed in my mind: what defines us and our legacy in this world? That’s a big question, but an important one.

Another sports commentator I listen to attacked that question from a different angle today regarding Paterno–he kept asking, “When all is said and done, does the good outweigh the bad or does the bad outweigh the good?” His attempt to work through the issues was somewhat more nuanced than our local personality, but in my mind it still missed the point. As if we could somehow quantify the whole of the man’s life and assign points in the “good” and “bad” columns, then add them all up and see what the final tally is. How do we begin to do that? How much is it worth, for example, the number of times Joe Paterno encouraged a young man who was failing to live up to his potential, or steered a player into a greater determination to make the most of every academic opportunity and expand his understanding of life beyond the gridiron? How many points do those get in the “good column,” and then how many “bad” points do we give for his various failings and shortcomings? And the biggest question–how many does he get for failing to act on behalf of the innocent victims who continued to suffer because he and the PSU administration did nothing about Jerry Sandusky?

I, for one, am not willing to even attempt such a grading task. Yes, without a doubt, what happened in the Sandusky situation was far more heinous, far more destructive, and far more painful that we can possibly imagine. And no amount of good Paterno ever did could “balance out” what happened to those kids. But it is also true that what Paterno did, or failed to do, in that situation does not automatically cancel out all the good he did in young lives and for his university community through the decades. To say the man deserves no credit or respect for that is to say that the only thing that defined him as a person was his role in the sexual abuse scandal. It was a huge thing, to be sure, but it certainly did not define him.

I suppose my thinking on this is shaped by my belief that defining a human being can never be as simple as a math equation. I am not the total of the “good things” I’ve done in my life minus the “bad things.” I am both. I am both the things I’ve done right and the things I’ve done wrong. I am both the things I’ve done for selfless reasons and selfish ones. I am both the remorse I feel for my mistakes and the pride I feel for my accomplishments. You cannot separate the two, not for me or not for Joe Paterno. And on top of that, whenever we bring this reality to bear on another person we need to remember that we have no insight into their heart. Who knows the remorse and grief he felt for what happened? Some are saying it killed him, and whether or not that’s true what is true is that you and I have no window into the man’s soul. And surely that must be taken into account when “defining” someone.

So how do we remember Joe Pa? I will choose to remember him as I hope I will be remembered: as someone who desired to do good, but didn’t always live up to that standard. As a failed and flawed mortal who cannot be defined merely by success or failure, but as an amalgam of both in varying degrees. In doing so we acknowledge that many lives were positively impacted by the man’s actions, just as many were harmed by his inactions. And ultimately I will choose to remember that what I believe or say about him pales in comparison to the grace and mercy of God, which should be the final word anyway.

Posted by: Jack Brown | September 26, 2011

The Real Problem With Facebook’s New “Ticker”

I will be posting less and less on Facebook until some changes are made to their new feature, the constantly-updating real-time news feed function called the “Ticker.” It seems that every single post, comment, and “like” I make on Facebook is now broadcast to my friends list regardless of my desires. Facebook presents this as an issue of privacy, their stock line is “We aren’t putting anything in the Ticker that isn’t already public on Facebook.” What they don’t understand is that it’s not a privacy issue really. It’s more of a comfort and control issue, where I believe I should have more say over how my interactions on Facebook are broadcast and displayed.

For example, suppose I have a second cousin once removed who lives in Nebraska. If I post something on his wall, it may well be public, but I think I have a reasonable expectation that the only people who will bother to read that post will be his other friends and family. I don’t expect every single one of my friends to pop by a total stranger’s page and read what I wrote. In the past when faced with situations like this, where I didn’t mind something being public but I also didn’t see a need for it to be shared with my friends, I would simply delete the “Posted to so-and-so’s Wall” that would appear on my profile and it was done with. But now, as I’ve already tested out, that apparently doesn’t work with the Ticker.

Another issue, one that is not as bothersome for me but certainly comes to mind, is that the Ticker broadcasts to the world, “Hey, so-and-so’s on Facebook RIGHT NOW!” Certainly there are times when we all would like to be on Facebook, but not have it broadcast to the world that we’re currently online. After all, Facebook gives us the opportunity to “hide” in the Chat feature, shouldn’t we be able to do the same for the Ticker as well?

Facebook tells me I shouldn’t post things I don’t want made public. That’s true. But I also think that I should have the ability to decide if something I post is transmitted to my entire friends list or not (and immediately, to boot). Facebook doesn’t seem to understand that just because something is publicly available doesn’t mean it needs to be broadcast to every corner of the earth. And for that reason, I will be using Facebook less and less until changes are made.

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