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Big orange ball, sinkin’ in the water
Toes in the sand, couldn’t get much hotter…
…Now I know how Jimmy Buffet feels

Not really, but as I’m stirring on this silent Saturday morning, and I’m on Day 2 sans Facebook, it feels like forever since I’ve creeped on my kids and my friends. I awoke to the Kinney Chesney tune “Now I Know How Forever Feels” running thru my brain. It feels like forever, but it’s not been.

Last night, only being at the end of Day 1, my wife was talking about pictures and status updates she had seen that I had not. Way to rub it in, Little Frau, although that’s not what she was trying to do. I might as well have been in Margaritaville.

But there’s the rub on Day 2 of the “Facebook Fast”. I might feel like “the biggest loser”, but I’m not “wasting away”. Truth be told, I’m presented with opportunities. I can read. I can meditate. I can pray. I can exercise. I can do more of all of these things, and that is my goal. I could even get up and go do a load of laundry, but I digress.

So, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go do something now: something other than FB. Maybe I know how Jimmy Buffet feels, after all…

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There was a pop song in the 70’s that said “if a picture paints a thousand words, than why can’t I paint you?”. Thanks to a Facebook app discovered just this morning, I think I just did.

What an experience and personal story emerges from staring into a collage like this.

Friends. Family. People from a distant past. People you knew once, if just a little, that you have so much more in common with today. People you have gone into battle with (granted, in the relative, blessedly safe, life on American soil perspective). People you can count on. People you want to be there for.

If you are a Facebook user, I would encourage you to get on today, run the app, and just see what stories emerge for you.

There is another song, this one heard first by my ears from the Hardeman Auditorium stage of Oklahoma Christian University in 1985, that sums up much of the sentiment found today in this collage: Friends, by Michael W Smith. Friends, who will be friends forever, no matter what.

Before we share in those lyrics, there was another line uttered on the Hardeman stage just this past year, this one in a comedic sense: “So sad to be all alone in the world”. This picture collage is a great reminder today that “alone” is not the word of the day: “friends” is.

May you have a blessed day, in whatever day you may read this. I know mine has been already.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

With the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that now you show

But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us stron

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

Words: Deborah D. Smith
Music: Michael W. Smith

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I recently noticed an app on Facebook called “my top fans”, or “my top Facebook stalkers”, and noticed that my son had been tagged as a top fan of a girl.   Humm.

Intrigued, I thought “I wonder who my top followers are?”.    So, maybe against my better judgement, I ran the application, but did not allow the results to post.   

Not too many surprises in who my top 16 followers/stalkers were.   I have not included it here (the names are changed to protect the innocent).    Spouse, parents, the two daughters, college roommate, some other friends, and a couple of surprising characters made made up the listing.  If you were one of the surprising characters, you know who you are. 

But, conspicuously absent was number one son.    

What?   My son, not one of my top fans?!    Go figure.     I guess, truth be told, he finds hers more interesting than mine.    I guess that is to be expected.

But, maybe one day, when he settles down, he will be interested in dear old dad again.   One Day…

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Facebook: land of the parental creepers, or the digital front porch?    Maybe both.

In the south, there’s nothing like a good glass of sweet ice tea on a hot summer day.   I sometimes think it ought to be on the government’s list of controlled substances.   Back in the day, before there was air conditioning, people would share glasses and share time out on the front porch, enjoying a cool breeze and watching the world stroll by.

You see, before television, the internet, and Facebook, people shared their lives one moment at a time, person to person, face to face.     Here in 2011, things aren’t quite the same.    We work long hours, go to work out after work, run the kids to and fro to and fro, and then we come home, plop down in our recliners, and watch episodes of The Biggest Loser.

But we do something else, as well, here in the age of 2011; we stay connected – digitally connected.    In an era when we don’t see each other quite so often by the whites of our eyes (or the red, when times are just so), we keep up with one another in different ways.

The Facebook: that world-changing invention of the Harvard few.     What was not intended to be used by us 40 somethings has been embraced in unique and significant ways.      Sharing vacations, sharing pictures, sharing stories, jokes, and even digital vegetables (Farmville, anyone?), we trade time and information in ways that redefine the meaning of the word “connected”.

And I have to admit: I like it.     No real surprise there, for those who are my “digital friends”.

So before we close up this entry, let’s share a few suggested “rules of engagement” for our time together on the digital front porch (with a little country drawl thrown in, just for some 3D effect):

– Don’t just sit there; tell us a little ’bout yourself

– Honesty is still the best policy, even from behind a screen and a keyboard…

– Don’t hog the conversation; oftentimes, a good listener is a welcomed guest out here

– Don’t worry about the young-uns racin’ up and down the digital drive out front.     They’ll find the speed bumps, sooner or later, the easy way or the hard way, and payin’ em too much attention will just distract you from your guests in the other rockin’ chairs.    Besides, if you worry about what they’re doin’ too much, somebody might call you old and cranky, and that just wouldn’t do…

….not out here.    Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass, and tell us what’s on your mind.

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Day dreaming heads in the sand

Day dreaming, gee, but its grand

I’m in love with an ostrich

All the neighbors complain, ya see

But she loves me

Can’t help it if you don’t understand it…

Yes, it’s that famous chase scene song from Scooby Doo featuring The Creeper.   Who can forget him?   He followed those blasted kids around, trying to scare them away from his territory.    But the kids always emerged victorious.

Which brings ua to our topic today.    Facebook; that glorious land of TMI: too much information.    Especially when its coming from those blasted kids…!      

What exactly is Facebook, anyway?     Is it the proverbial “Digital Front Porch” for my generation, sharing with friends of our own age what is going on in our lives: challenges, victories, and defeats?   (more on that topic in a later post)   

Or, is it like wandering into a party to which we were not invited: an electronic techno pop virtual equivalent of our kids playing Dance Dance Revolution until all hours of the night?

Admittedly, our kids found and embraced Facebook before the older generation did.   Setting up a Facebook page for me was simply an exercise suggested by my wife; an effort to get to know our kid’s friends and follow up on what was going on with their lives.   

 But, a funny thing happened on the way to becoming Creepers.     We, or at least I, found that I liked this thing they called “The Facebook”.     A digital front porch, indeed.        And yet, each of our generations is sharing and embracing the Facebook world in a different way.    And, we each are equally adept at embarrassing the other with our posting and viewing patterns.    Need I say more?

I’m conflicted here.    Can you tell?    TMI is just that: stuff I’d probably rather not know.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’d venture to guess my kids would say the same.    Touche’?  

Maybe I am in love with an ostrich.    Day dreamin; heads in the sand.   Pretty earthy, huh?    But that’s what ostrich’s do best when they get scared: they hide.

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What hath God wrought is a phrase from the Book of Numbers (Numbers 23:23). 

“What hath God wrought” was a message in American Morse code sent by Samuel F. B. Morse to officially open the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line on May 24, 1844, launching the true birth of long distance communication.

We spent part of the holidays in the west Texas panhandle with Sherry’s family.   These trips always remind me of just how addicted to “The Social Network” we have become.    Internet access, especially wireless internet access, is almost non existent in the farming country.    But this trip was different.    Upon driving the 10 miles from my inlaws farm to the small town of Hedley to sleep at my wife’s grandmother’s house, I saw that little box in my iPhone that had been missing from all previous trips: “Wireless Networks Detected”.     Not only a wireless network, but an unsecured one.    Wow.   What a find.     Suddenly, friends, facts, and sports scores were only a few clicks away.    No more waiting for the Sunday delivery of The Amarillo Globe News to find out who had won the games from the previous night.

Not to overstate the experience here, but it pointed out to me just how much “wireless” has become a part of our everyday lives.     The birth of the internet in the early 1990’s and the birth of Facebook in the early 2000 are arguably just as large a development in history as the development of the telegraph back in the early 1800’s.     The number of people with accounts on Facebook in 2011 would amount to the third largest nation in the world, following behind only China and India.

It reminded me of a song from the Broadway musical “Titanic”, The Night was Alive:

Every day from G-M-O-M
‘Good morning, old man’
To G-N-O-M
‘Good night, old man’
My telegraph sends its messages to ships at sea

Sending out its
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit…
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit…

I was young and shy, detached and sad
Spent my days indoors, a home-bound lad
Hardly spoke, few friends
I kept myself to myself
Quite alone

Then I found Marconi’s Telegraph
It could span the planet’s width by half
Fifty yards, two thousand miles
The same!
Touch the spark…sound the tone

And the night was alive
With a thousand voices
Fighting to be heard
And each and every one of them
Connected to me…

And my life came alive
With a thousand voices
Tapping out each word
Like a thousand people
Joined with a single heartbeat

Tapping out our Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit
Dit dit-dah-dit dah
Everywhere…

So what’s the point here?    How will this change the world?    How can I use this to help make the world a better place?    Social media is a powerful thing.   What better way to share the love of God and the good news of Jesus?    The night is alive, with a thousand voices…and each and every one of them, connected to me.

Touch the spark…sound the tone!

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Our daughters, “all three of them”, moved back into their college dormitory today.    Hannah, Natsumi, and Rina packed their bags and headed out for the long one mile drive in the blowing snow back to the Oklahoma Christian University campus.   

Hannah has been a part of our lives for almost 19 years now.   Natsumi and Rina, not so long.   It seems that these nice young ladies from Japan have been claimed by the Binghams, and vice versa, for about 3 weeks now.    Last night’s Facebook newsfeed status entry by one of them said it all: “I love my new American family; I don’t want to leave!”.     There could be no greater compliment.   We shared food, fun, our faith, and the fellowship of the Christmas holiday season.    As the girls all loaded up in the car today to drive away, these two new daughters both hugged me and said “goodbye, Daddy”.

As the girls drove away today, I wondered “how could a short three weeks mean so much to us, or to them?”.

It reminded me of another day and time, a not so long 22 years ago, when I completed a three week stay with a lovely family, and as the father hastily helped me put my bags on a West German train, he quickly hugged me and said “Good-bye”.   As we speed away that day, I wondered if I would ever see them again, Manfred, Ingrid, grossmuder Heidi, daughter Iris, and their young son, Christian.    Thankfully, I got to do just that a year or so ago while travelling for work.    But as the years have passed, I never forgot that time or that family, almost every day of it holding some detail or fine nuance memory of my time with a German family.     The food, the fun, the faith, and knowing we were all children of a loving God.    I felt just as at home and comfortable 22 years later, seeing them again for the first time in a long time.    

https://jbinghamoc.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/on-the-other-side-of-the-world-holy-spirit-moments-things-we-fight-about-life-comes-at-you-fast-culture-compression/

When you are inserted into a family setting, everything changes, especially when you are made to feel at home and a part of the family when the culture is so foreign to you.    I guess that’s what happened with our girls, as well.     They were a joy to have with us in the home.   We shared some of our culture, and they shared some of theirs, cooking us dinner one night – Niku jaga ga (meat and potatoes): cho oishii (so yummy!).

These new friends are special, but that is true of the blessing of friendship and family for us all.    God’s blessings are amazing.     While we hope and believe 22 years will not separate the Binghams from our new friends and family, I’m quite confident that even if it did, an amazing reunion would await, whether here, or on the other side of the world.     “Whether foreign land, or neighbors, everyone’s the same.    Searching for the answers that lie within Your name”.

 I Thessalonians 2:19-20:  For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

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