Monday, July 28, 2008

Technology Meets Scripture - Episode 2

"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" Psalm 46:10-11

A few weeks ago I got an offer from in the mail from my cell phone carrier (let's just call them Horizon, shall we?). They told me I could go ahead and upgrade my cell phone even though I am not due a replacement for a couple of months. This was rather timely, seeing as how my cell phone battery had a life of about 5 minutes. Last week was the first chance I had to get my phone. I had decided I wanted to get a Palm Centro. I had a Palm Pilot which was years old and I was ready to streamline so that I don't have to carry 2 different devices with me all the time. My main purpose for my Palm has always been more about calendar & contacts & being able to sync with Outlook.

When I called Horizon to order my new phone, they said that I was required to get a data plan added to my cell phone service if I got the Centro. I asked if this data plan was a requirement for being able to sync with Outlook or operate the calendar function. I was told no, but that it would be required for browsing the web and checking email. I said I had no interest in browsing the web or checking email from my phone. I was told that it did not matter; I was required to have the data plan. I told the customer service rep that I would have to reconsider. After I hung up, I went down to my local Horizon store, where a sales rep hooked me up with a new Palm Centro with no data plan. I left the store happy with my new phone and irked that the phone rep had tried to force me to be able to browse the web and check email.

Of course, then I began to think, "Maybe I do need that capability."

You know, we are sold on the concept of being able to access anything from anywhere. We consider ourselve as "out of touch" when we turn off the cell phone, but we excuse checking email or checking out our fantasy football team. Yesterday, a young lady sang in church "Be Still and Know". When I went back and looked at the scriptural context of those words, I realized that the whole command to "be still" is tied to the continuing presence of God with us. I do not need to go searching for contact; God is already in constant contact. I need only be still from my searching and discover His presence already with me.

I think I need to be reminded from time to time that "being still" means getting away from searching and checking and calling and browsing. "Being still" means being open to the communication of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is always searching the deepest part of my heart and crying out with words I do not even know how to speak. In a world that sometimes wants to force us into being in constant contact, I need to be reminded to be still.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Technology Meets Scripture - Episode 1

"Universal: Fair use is still infringing" on
(Notice the statement: "... no one knows if the use is fair until a judge actually rules")

"The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?' Moses said to his father-in-law, 'Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.' Moses father-in-law said to him, 'What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone." Exodus 18:13-18

So a mom sees her child dancing a silly dance to an old Prince song she was listening to. She videotapes it (many parents would) and puts the video up on YouTube so others can laugh about it. Next thing you know, some huge studio mails her a legal warning that if she doesn't take the video down, she could face stiff penalties. Why? Because the studio didn't give her permission to use the song in the video.

First off, I think Universal is kind of missing the point. I think most people who were watching the video were watching the child dancing, not to hear the Prince song. It is not as if the mom edited the song into the movie. It was playing in the background. Can we loosen up just a little?

Now, I understand that the mom put this up on the Internet where everybody could look at it, which gets to all that fine print before sporting events and in your CD case about not rebroadcasting or retransmitting without express written consent from Major League Baseball (or whoever). From what I understand, when one purchases a CD, one has the ability to make "fair use" of the music without repercussions. So, for instance, you can make a copy of that CD for yourself in case the original is damaged. What jumped out to me as I read the story about this mom and Universal was the comment by the story's author that no one knows if the use is fair until a judge rules.

As soon as I read this, I thought of Moses sitting there, everyday, while the people of Israel brought to him their disputes for him to settle. Jethro comes along and says, "What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you." I wonder if Jethro would have the same observation today about a legal system that is being asked to determine whether or not it is fair use for a mom to post on the Internet a home video of her child dancing to a Prince song. Is this really what our judges should be concerned with?

Jethro's solution to Moses was that Moses should appoint other judges to help him with the smaller issues and bring to Moses only the really important cases. As our technology changes, maybe it is time for our legal system to begin to change as well. If these kind of issues are going to have to be settled by legal means, then there should be an established system for separating out the small stuff (moms shooting home movies) from the bigger issues (people selling pirated copies of movies and software for profit). That way, you take the big, scary stick out of the studio's hands where it is not needed, and you better educate the public on policy.

Or maybe we should all learn to chill out, use some common sense, and just be able to laugh at a child's silly dance.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What I Am Up To

I thought I would just share for a few minutes some odds & ends of what I am involved in right now. Perhaps other folks might be interested in some of this.

1) I am reading an awesome book right now, John Swinton's Raging With Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil. One of Swinton's arguments is that Christians have gotten too caught up in the wrong questions when it comes to responding to evil. We often try to come up with defenses of a loving, caring God. Unfortunately, most of these defenses create their own problems without dealing with the actual suffering that evil can cause. This is a very readable book so far, no real deep unfamiliar theological terms. To check out more on Swinton, click here.

2) I have been invited to be a part of a panel discussing collegiate ministry and churches on Saturday, August 9 at First Baptist Church of Greensboro. This is part of a larger conference being provided by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of NC. The conference is 10-2:30. I have attended this conference in the past and found it to be a worthwhile opportunity to interact with other people who have a passion for ministering with college students. For more info, you can go here.

3) The next meeting of the Religious Community for Public Transportation is this Thursday at 7 PM at First Baptist Church of Elon. This is a group of religious leaders who are coming together to discuss the need for an expansive public transportation system in Alamance County and how churches can be a motivational force in this movement. I would encourage any pastors in Alamance County to come out Thursday night for this meeting.

4) Not only am I on Twitter ( and Facebook, but I am also using FriendFeed now ( There has been a lot of discussion online about FriendFeed replacing Twitter because of a slew of technical problems Twitter was experiencing. I for one am not sure this will happen. For one thing, Twitter has been much more stable in recent weeks (maybe feeling the pressure from FriendFeed?). Second, I think they serve 2 different purposes. The brevity of Twitter is perfect for sharing quick thoughts and updates, while FriendFeed is a much better option for more involved interaction with ideas. I invite you to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed. I am not posting directly to Friendfeed much yet because no one is following me there. However, as I add users, I will begin putting more there.

5) Finally, on a technical note, I downloaded Firefox 3 a couple of weeks ago. Can I just say that I absolutely love it! If you are not using it yet, it is definitely worth downloading if for no other reason than some of the addons are great. I especially recommend Yoono, an addon that compiles and updates Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, and all kinds of other social services.

Talk to you later!