“A Year in Posts” challenge

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is arguably the most introspective week in Western culture. These few days spawn Top 10 lists like rabbits: books, movies, celebrity deaths, headlines, discoveries, “moments in sports,” even the Top 10 best performing penny stocks, for Pete’s sake.

Herewith, my own Top 10 list: the “Your year in posts challenge.”

I think it bears reflection, who we are in this public space. It matters. Paradoxically, our social media persona affects both fewer people than we think (we just aren’t that important, really), and more than we think (you never know who’s reading, who’s desperate for a word of Truth or a blessing or a laugh).

So here’s the challenge: let’s take a stroll through our 2016 social media posts and ask ourselves a few introspective questions. (Warning: navel-gazing about to commence, get your lint roller ready….)

1. Do my social media posts bless others? Or burden them?

2. Do they encourage a greater attitude of gratitude, or entitled resentment?

3. Do they lift up or tear down?

4. Do they promote peace or inflame negativity?

5. Do my posts reflect a pursuit of truth? Or do I propagate whatever strikes my fancy without bothering to conduct any due diligence?

6. How do I respond to threads on my post? With respect, or with dismissal? Do I listen to understand, or do I see “my” profile as an unquestionable platform for whatever soapbox (or business endeavor?) I fancy? Am I on this social media platform for dialogue, or for preaching?

7. Do my posts actually reflect what I claim matters most to me? (Here that “Your Year in Words” thing may or may not come in handy.) If I say “faith and family” are the most valuable elements of my life, is that what I talk about in this public sphere? Or is my profile a place to share meaningless dribble?

8. Am I honest, part I: Is my social media profile a place to practice subtle, sophisticated passive aggressiveness?

9. Am I honest, part II: What percentage of my posts are a smooth massage of my reputation? Or am I playing only the highlight reel because it feels like it will help me keep up with the Joneses? (Only the one asking this question of him or herself knows the answer, by the way.)

10. Would I say in person (and to that person) what I say here?

Don’t misunderstand me, dear reader. These are difficult questions for me, too (especially # 9). And I don’t offer them as a tool to heap guilt or regret; most of us got enough of those poisons in our system already.

It’s simply a list to help me think, critically, and hopefully help me better grow into, well, the person my (hypothetical) dog thinks I am. I hope it helps you too – what would you add to this list?

Happy New Year.



Published in: on December 29, 2016 at 3:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal

a review

Until about five years ago, I could count on one hand – maybe on one finger! – the number of people I knew from the Midwest (unless you count Missouri, which I don’t think you do?). My knowledge of the Midwest was limited to Garrison Keillor (Saturday night) and Packers fans (fall Sunday afternoons). But now, though I live in the Southeast, they seem to be swarming all around me like an invasive species.

kitchens-book-coverBut they’re a pretty neat lot. Some of them are even pretty good friends…so when I saw this title at the library I was more intrigued than I would have been five years ago.

The novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the story of how Eva Thorvald (honestly, how more Midwestern a name could you have??) became the most celebrated and sought-after chef in just about the whole world.

Stradal relates Eva’s development in creative and unique ways. Each chapter is devoted to the tale of how a particular ingredient came to be part of Eva’s palate. She makes at least a cameo appearance in each chapter, but is rarely the focus of it – and yet the story climaxes with a feast that brings all the people and ingredients together in a surprisingly sweet way.

Stradal explores just about every family relationship, Lutheran church suppers and chili cook-offs, deer season and farmer’s markets, high school garage bands and world-class sommeliers, rich and poor – all scattered across the American Midwest from the early 1980s to the foodie culture of today.

Some dog-eared passages:

“When Lars [her father] first held [Eva], his heart melted over her like butter on warm bread, and he would never get it back. When mother and baby were asleep in the hospital room, he went out to the parking lot, sat in his Dodge Omri, and cried like a man who had never wanted anything in his life until now.” – p. 7

What a sweet description of the fierce love of a new parent! (Alas, things do not go well for Lars, but, no spoilers!)

Eva the teenager on a date:

“When, after at least ten seconds, they let go of each other – him first – Prager looked at her. She now looked older, like a woman, a woman whose hand he could take and stride into the darkness with, because she was a woman whose darkness matched his own, and they could fix each other without even trying. They wouldn’t even have to talk about it.” – p. 111

And isn’t this how new love feels, and isn’t this the lie our culture perpetuates daily? “They could fix each other without even trying. They wouldn’t even have to talk about it.” Of course we would never say this outright, because it’s so naïve, but it’s precisely how we think love should work – “without trying,” without having “to talk about it.” From money to sex to in-laws to parents to those secrets from the past, we all too often believe that “love conquers all” means we don’t have to work at it. Sigh.

“Women look their stupidest when they have a crush on a guy who’s out of their league.” – p. 145

Just a good funny line.

“The thought of seeing her…again pruned every competing impulse, and the priorities of what now felt like a former life, once so bright and heavy, had fallen away. This commingling of obsession and simplicity was a surprisingly satisfying way to get by.” – pp. 274-275

And isn’t that the truth? I think of a life lived wholeheartedly for Jesus, and in it, there is obsession (to live in him and for him and pursue the things of his heart), and simplicity (not striving, not a seeking to fill an emptiness, not consumed by the temporal). Sweet!

Also in the book: a recipe for peanut butter bars that will turn you diabetic just reading it.

It’s a great read.

Published in: on December 16, 2016 at 3:48 am  Leave a Comment