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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

grace so big

One of my favorite writer/bloggers, Jon Acuff, wrote a challenging post on grace on his site. Jon is hilariously funny as a friendly and comedic critic of evangelical Christianity. From time to time, he sneaks in a serious piece and I've found him to be piercingly honest, gracious, and Christ-filled. This is one such piece:

"Fearing We'll Out-Sin Grace"

I commented on his post:
I think we grow into (or shy away from) a deep understanding of grace.

There is grace we don't dare believe in.

There is grace we portion out and 'deal' for.

There is grace that we cut down to size (like you describe so well here).

There is grace that we take advantage of.

There is grace that is too big for us to possibly believe in.

There is grace that we brush up against like a toddler and the ocean, and every once a long while we glimpse the radically not-to-scale relationship of our sin and God's grace and are simply leveled by it... no words, no "how can I work this to my advantage," no fear of using it up. Just profound awe and wonder.
It is my own longing, as well as my prayer for others, that we have the opportunity to brush up against grace so big as this.

how to use twitter? - step by step guide (pt. 4 of 4)

In this series of posts I am focusing on the use of Twitter at the General Assembly. Accordingly, the explanations and applications I offer are not exhaustive, but directed toward that end.  The series is in four parts: 
1. An Analogy for the Non-Technical (and maybe for techies too!)
2. What is Twitter? - an introduction
3. Why Use Twitter? - 9 potential uses at GA 
4. How to Use Twitter? - step by step guide to getting started

HOW to Use Twitter? - step by step guide to getting started

1. Go to www.twitter.com – click “get started now” and fill in the info. Tip: choose a username that how you want to be known: maybe not “angry_Presbyterian”

2. You will be directed to your twitter “home page” – there you will see an option to “find friends” – this will help you identify what people in your usual e-mail contacts are on Twitter. Ordinarily, that would be a good starting place, but for purposes of General Assembly Twitter connecting we’re going to suggest something different:
a. Go here: http://twitter.com/breyeschow/ga219 - this is a list Bruce Reyes Chow has compiled and is maintaining of all people who will be using twitter at General Assembly.

b. Click “follow” – this will cause everything the people on that list post to appear on your home page. (In fact, you can now go back to your home page – log in to www.twitter.com and click “home” near top right of page or type www.twitter.com/__________ (fill in the username you created) to get to your home page. Now you should see posts from all your friends (which at this point will include Bruce’s ga219 list). These posts may have little to do with GA at this point, but will increasingly be relevant the closer we get to GA.
3. At this point, you can view the stream of posts to your Twitter account on your home page. There are, however, other ways of accessing this information.
a. Mobile phone: log in to www.twitter.com and click “settings” near the top right of the page. On the screen that opens, click “mobile” and follow directions to have all updates sent to your phone as a text message. **NOTE WELL: this may generate many text messages, so be mindful of costs if your cell plan charges you per text. You can turn Twitter notification on and off by texting ‘on’ or ‘off’ to 40404. TIP: Unless you find Twitter very helpful and want to follow it away from your computer, this probably isn’t an effective means of following the information.

b. Smart Phone or PDA: Blackberry, iPhone, and other smart phones may have dedicated “apps” for accessing Twitter. If you have one of these devices, you probably know what that means. If you don’t know what it means, you probably haven’t invested in one of these devices. Said another way, if you have one, you probably don’t need this tutorial. (But if you do and need help, let me know!)

c. Computer (free) program: this is what I would recommend to access the full potential of Twitter. There are several programs available for free download and installation. I am primarily familiar with “Tweetdeck” for Windows PC computers, but there are other options for PC or Mac. Tweetdeck and other programs don’t do anything you can’t do on the www.twitter.com website, but organize and present the information in a more concise and helpful way. Tweetdeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/desktop/), for example allows you to view multiple columns of ‘tweets’ organized by list, search term, contact name, and numerous other filters. On my laptop, for example, I am set up to simultaneously view tweets in the following columns:
  • Bruce’s GA219 list
  • all posts tagged with #GA219
  • a small group of Presbyterian friends whose posts I monitor (about 10 people)
  • all posts hash-tagged with #pc-biz OR #GAC OR #OGA (hash-tagging is a way of marking and sorting posts by topic)

**If you can't get set up with these instructions, please feel free to contact me at robert@gahelp.net and I'll try to respond to specific questions.

Monday, April 26, 2010

why use twitter? - 8 potential uses at GA (pt. 3 of 4)

In this series of posts I am focusing on the use of Twitter at the General Assembly. Accordingly, the explanations and applications I offer are not exhaustive, but directed toward that end.  The series is in four parts: 
1. An Analogy for the Non-Technical (and maybe for techies too!)
2. What is Twitter? - an introduction
3. Why Use Twitter? - 8 potential uses at GA 
4. How to Use Twitter? - step by step guide to getting started

WHY use Twitter? - 8 potential uses at General Assembly

Close to 1000 Presbyterians (and a couple hundred people going to GA219) are already on Twitter, commenting and looking ahead to GA. Ok, fine, what are the real world (and specifically General Assembly) applications for this digital means of conversation? In no specific order…
1. Breaking news with live coverage: multiple, live notices of events AS they happen
  • News will break at GA and across the country instantly with Twitter. While news sources can offer more well thought out reflection overnight, it will be those on Twitter who get the word out and have the first word. With the amplification of that word through Facebook and blogs, news will disperse very, very quickly. Further, while there is the 140 character limit on a single tweet, people will respond and have short conversations that can quickly add up to quite a bit of content, especially with many people involved.
2. Group commentary on a shared event
  • There will be a constant stream of commentary/conversation on everything happening at GA, from plenary to committee to hallway conversations. I think there are multiple implications for that commentary stream being public and real-time.
  • The best analogy I could give to this effect would be to huddle ten people together in the back of a room at a GA event on TV and have them all talk at the same time about what they see going on… except they are actually dispersed throughout the room, can all hear each other while they are “talking”… and instead of ten people, it’s 100 or more. The effect is fascinating and an exciting, dynamic conversation. Waiting for the analysis to come the next morning will be like a parent shouting instructions to a teenager flying by at 60 mph in a convertible with friends.
3. Direct communication with specific group
  • Whether set up ahead of time (or on the fly), one could send one text message through twitter and it would go publicly or (I think) privately to a preset list, like “Charlotte presbytery commissioners” or “Christian educators.”
4. Feedback, invited and otherwise
  • Prominent publications or events like GA lunches will get Twitter feedback whether they ask for it or not. This can be a good way to generate “buzz” though it is nearly impossible to manage – you get what you get. In many cases, those using Twitter will be alerted to a given article or event first by the online feedback, then trace it back to the original article or event.
5. Research
  • Want to check a quick Book of Order reference and you don't have yours with you?… put the word out.*
6. Polling
  • While I don’t think this will happen officially alongside advisory votes, I think it will happen informally and have at least as profound an impact on commissioner voting. It will be interesting to see what guidelines OGA gives commissioners with regard to looking for public opinion prior to voting.*
  • Moderator and my own technological Obi-Wan, Bruce Reyes-Chow has the definitive lists of Presbyterians and GA219 participants who are signed on to Twitter; his lists are currently public and accessible by anyone.
7. Marketing and Sales (esp. information in the case of GA): viral effect
  • Check out the newest article in the Layman here: http://bit.ly/cmhrhT 
  • “Get your free rainbow scarf; stop by the MLP booth.” Etc…
8. “Tweet-Up” and make new friends
  • Presbyterian Outlook lunch today; come to _____ to hear about today’s issues.
  • “Anyone who wants to meet for dinner and talk about _______, meet at Red Lobster at 7pm tonight.”

*The Stated Clerk's office is providing instruction and guidelines for commissioners on the appropriate use of social media during the Assembly - found on PC-Biz under the 'Resource' tab: open PDF HERE and duplicated on the GA219 website HERE.  In some circumstances, it would not be advised (or even possible) to seek this kind of information from "outside."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

what is twitter? - an introduction (pt. 2 of 4)

In this series of posts I am focusing on the use of Twitter at the General Assembly. Accordingly, the explanations and applications I offer are not exhaustive, but directed toward that end.  The series is in four parts: 
1. Twitter: An Analogy for the Non-Technical (and maybe for techies too!)
2. What is Twitter? - an introduction
3. Why Use Twitter? - 8 potential uses at GA 
4. How to Use Twitter? - step by step guide to getting started

    WHAT is Twitter? - An Introduction (pt. 2 of 4)

    Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. That simply means it allows you to publish information as short messages through a number of digital media. By its nature and usage it has a strong social element, inviting participants to share this information and filter it by topic, interest, relationship, or geography.

    By its nature, the information shared can be fragmented, though sorting tools and focused attention can sort and connect the information in useful (sometimes novel) ways. Fair analog comparisons include:
    • Bulletin board: with a broad glance, one can see information shared from a number of people on a limited range of topics (e.g. job opportunities or goods for sale)
    • Small group discussion: Twitter expands the group dynamic to allow multiple people to “talk” and “listen” and “respond” almost simultaneously. Further, it expands the practical number of people who can be involved (potentially into the hundreds), while giving each person equal opportunity to be heard.
    • Informal conversation: for many regular Twitter users, the ongoing conversation with a community creates a sense of friendship and relationship; those who are simply trying to sell something or use the system stand out like a salesman at fellowship hour.
    Said most simply, if one sees the importance at General Assembly of talking, listening, and responding, with a high value on relationships and community, Twitter provides a highly effective means to do so. Think of Twitter as a high-octane version of an ordinary conversation. If one communicates well with one person in the analogue world, there is potential to do so with 100 simultaneously through Twitter. (Conversely, if one doesn’t listen well or is simply trying to sell something, that trait will probably be amplified 100x through Twitter.)

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    twitter: an analogy for the non-technical (pt. 1 of 4)

    In this series of posts I am focusing on the use of Twitter at the General Assembly. Accordingly, the explanations and applications I offer are not exhaustive, but directed toward that end.  The series is in four parts: 
    1. Twitter: An Analogy for the Non-Technical (and maybe for techies too!)
    2. What is Twitter? - an introduction
    3. Why Use Twitter? - 8 potential uses at GA 
    4. How to Use Twitter? - step by step guide to getting started

      An Analogy for the Non-Technical (and maybe for techies, too!)
      (pt. 1 of 4)

      This analogy may be frustratingly vague at first, but that is only because it is trying to describe a technology with which many are completely unfamiliar. Imagine explaining e-mail to someone who has never used a computer. It’s like that… In fact, trusting that many of you HAVE used a computer and e-mail, we’ll use that as a launching pad for the analogy.
      Regular U.S. Mail is to E-mail
      A Conversation is to Twitter
      It used to be that you had to handwrite (or type) a letter, address it, stamp it, put it in the mailbox, and wait 2-6 days for it to be delivered to another person, depending on distance. E-mail allows for any computerized message or file to be sent instantly anywhere in the world with Internet, and to single or multiple recipients. To exchange a series of letters might take weeks, but with e-mail, one can exchange just about as many pieces of correspondence as needed, as long as both people have access to the computer.

      A conversation is, at best, talking, listening, and responding to another person in such a way that relationship, community, and trust are fostered. While there are other ways of imparting information, a good conversation can be both effective and rewarding as a means of exchange of information. Conversely (at worst), a conversation can be one-sided, manipulated, overbearing, and break relationship, community, and trust. I will assume that most of you grasp the dynamics that effect a good, healthy conversation and those that do not. Twitter is conversation gone digital, at the speed of the Internet, and with the accessibility of a cell phone or PDA (Blackberry, iPhone). What makes for and results from good conversation OR bad conversation can thus be amplified and multiplied quickly and significantly with this new means of conversing.

      As regards General Assembly…

      If you can imagine applications for a “good conversation” at General Assembly, then multiply and magnify those scenarios and you’ll begin to grasp the significance of Twitter. Yes, there is a time to argue passionately at a microphone. But what can be accomplished with winsome and persuasive conversation over a cup of coffee? What can an invitation to lunch conversation or a meaningful interaction with a table-full of colleagues accomplish? You can do so with 100 people with Twitter. Ever had an opportunity to have a private conversation with a political or theological “opponent?” You can do it in the middle of a crowd and even in the middle of a vote with Twitter.

      Mis-use is just as powerful – you can ignore, misconstrue, bully, and make a fool of yourself on Twitter and it will be seen by thousands. But what may be the biggest mistake is to go to an Assembly where thousands of people are having a conversation, and you are deaf and mute for lack of being “plugged in.”

      Some examples…

      Let's say I'm in committee and wish I could have a one minute conversation with Gradye Parsons, Tom Hay (Dir. of Operations at GA), Bruce Reyes-Chow, or one of the special interest groups... easily done.

      Don't believe me? Bruce RC will respond to a Twitter post directed to him, on ANY topic, usually within 10 minutes, and that's if he's NOT paying attention.  Now those folks will be busy come Assembly time, but they are not the only ones on – there is a growing list of people who will be using Twitter at the General Assembly (look HERE for starters). Any commissioner... anyone jumping into the #GA219*  twitter feed will immediately be in conversation with a growing group of people talking at and about General Assembly.

      Let's say I'm in a room of people and don't see anyone I know - a simple twitter on my location and perspective might quickly identify friends in the room and open up a conversation with them (for that matter might also identify 'opponents' and open up a conversation with them!). Want to know more? More coming on what this thing called “Twitter” is and how to use it…

      *#GA219 (the abbreviation for General Assembly 2010)

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