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News That Illustrates for Sunday, July 13th - July 20th

Facebook (Sort of) Apologizes, YO! and YO! to You, and "The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows."

Facebook Masters the Fine Art of Non-apologetic Apologies
How do you say "I'm sorry" in a half dozen ways without ever meaning it? According to an article in the LA Times, Facebook has mastered the art of the "I'm sorry but not really sorry" process. The latest example concerns the company's 2012 experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users, which manipulated news feeds to see how it would change our moods. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg offered this anemic attempt at an apology: "This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you." The article continues: "Sandberg's statement falls right into line with the company's habit of mistreating or misleading its users and apologizing, lamely, only after it gets caught. Its strategy is always to plead guilty, with an explanation." Of course it's easy to castigate Facebook, but I wonder how many times we've pled "guilty with an explanation" to our friends, our spouses, our children, or to God.

PREACHING ANGLES: Apology; Confession of Sin; Repent; Repentance

You Say Granada, I Say Grenada: The Power of Words
After two years without a vacation, Edward Gamson, an American dentist, was excited to board his plane and do some site seeing in Granada, a province in Spain. But some nine hours later, he landed in the Caribbean island of Grenada (not Granada), 4,000 miles from his intended destination. Mr. Gramson told a newspaper, "I made it absolutely clear to the booking agent I wanted to go to Granada in Spain. Why on earth would I want to go to Grenada in the Caribbean if I was flying back to America from Lisbon? It's just so sad." He's suing the airline for $34,000. The judge refused to throw the suit out and then added, "This case proves the truth of Mark Twain's aphorism that 'the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.' Except here only a single letter's difference is involved."

PREACHING ANGLES: Speech; Tongue; Words

Yo! Context Is Everything
Yo, the hottest new app, has one simple premise: users send a single word—Yo. Yep, you load your contacts into the app, and then with the press of the button you can send one of your contacts a quick "Yo" message. Then they can send a Yo back. Amazing, isn't it? Yo currently has over 50,000 active users. Without ever having officially launched, Yo's co-founder and CEO managed to secure $1.2 million. This strange story does have a few interesting preachable angles. First, it shows our yearning for human connection. According to Tech Crunch, Yo is a noise that is used in almost any language, but it's generally defined as a way of directing the attention of two individuals to each other, as in "Hey you! Look at me!" It's all about human connection. Second, it also reminds us about how much context matters. "A call from your boss at 11 a.m. and a call from your boss at 11 p.m. can mean the difference between a simple question and a full-fledged professional emergency." It all depends on context—and that truth applies to relationships, Bible study, evangelism, and missions.

PREACHING ANGLES: Communication; Contextualization; Missions; Relationships

R.I.P Louis Zamperini, a True Christian Hero
ESPN reported, "Louis Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after his bomber crashed, then endured two years in Japanese prison camps, has died. He was 97 … Zamperini enlisted in the Army before Pearl Harbor and was a bombardier on a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber in World War II. He and his crew were searching for a downed B-24 when their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing eight of the 11 men. He and one of the other surviving crew members drifted for 47 days on a raft in shark-infested waters before being captured by Japanese forces. He spent more than two years as a prisoner of war, surviving torture." Zamperini's story of survival is being made into a movie directed by Angelina Jolie. "It is a loss impossible to describe," Jolie said. "We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly." Unfortunately, the ESPN article failed to mention the source of Zamperini's resilience, hope, and forgiveness—Christ. After the war, he spent years battling PTSD, alcoholism, rage, and bitterness towards his captors, especially a brutal guard named "The Bird." But in her book Unbroken, author Lauren Hildebrand describes how Zamperini accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade. Hildebrand writes, "He was [no longer] the worthless, broken, forsaken man that The Bird had striven to make of him. In a single silent moment his rage, fear, humiliation, and helplessness had fallen away. That morning he believed he was a new creation."

PREACHING ANGLES: Conversion; Forgiveness; Redemption

Study: People Prefer Electrocution to Quiet Time
We all crave a "little peace and quiet," from time to time, but a new study sheds (ahem) shocking light on how hard it actually is for us to deal with it once we've found it. "We, like everyone else, noticed how wedded people seem to be to modern technology, and seem to shy away from just using their own thoughts to occupy themselves," lead researcher Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia told The Atlantic. So, in a course of 11 experiments, the researchers asked participants to occupy themselves only with their own thoughts for 6 to 15 minutes. In the first experiments, 58% of participants said it was more than "somewhat" difficult to do. In another, done privately, over 32% admitted to cheating by distracting themselves with their phone, music, etc. The most dramatic results came when participants were hooked up to a machine designed to deliver a painful electrical shock. Though they had felt it before (some even saying they'd pay money to avoid a shock), a quarter of the women and two-thirds of male subjects voluntarily shocked themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts. So, having trouble with your quiet time? You're not alone. But the good news? Practice, the researchers hypothesize, may eventually help you enjoy silence … at least more than electrocution.

PREACHING ANGLES Contemplation; Devotions; Distractions; Spiritual Disciplines; Quiet Time; Silence; Peace

Is New Tech Making Us Antisocial? No, Just Revealing Our Hearts.
It's a commonly quoted sentiment that the day of the smartphone has destroyed human interaction. Similar critiques were levied against the newspaper in its day. At the popular PARSE site, blogger and minister Chris Ridgeway reminds us that the true alienating feature that we encounter in using technologies is internal (the heart), not simply external (the device). Ridgeway says, "Socrates recounts Egyptian mythology saying that the new technology of "external marks" (writing!) will "create forgetfulness in the learner's souls" (Phaedrus), and ever since it's been natural for us to levy some strong charges against the new-fangled invention of the day. But technology is not operating rogue. Screens are not stealing us, our phones are not making it impossible to have a conversation, and e-mail is not taking us away from people. These are not statements that deny the effects of technology in human lives (there are effects, and larger than we think), but phones aren't the cause, and putting down phones won't erase the effects. Humans are the cause of technology." If we're feeling adverse effects from Facebook or Twitter, we may well need to evaluate our habits. But we also need to remember that the real problems won't just go away with the flip of a switch. We're wired that way, not our phones.

PREACHING ANGLES: Heart; Humanity; Original Sin; Sin; Technology

"The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows" Puts Language to the Many Shades of Human Sadness
In an obscure Tumblr blog in an obscure corner of the internet, there sits as strange and sad a dictionary as any I've ever heard of. John Koenig's "Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows" is dedicated to invented words that capture the thousand fleeting gradients of emotion that most of us do not have language to express, but that all of us have felt. Words like "lachesism, (n. the desire to be struck by disaster—to survive a plane crash, to lose everything in a fire, to plunge over a waterfall—which would put a kink in the smooth arc of your life, and forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp, not just a stiff prefabricated beam that barely covers the gap between one end of your life and the other.)," "catoptric tristesse, (n. the sadness that you'll never really know what other people think of you, whether good, bad, or if at all ...)," and "sonder," (n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you'll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.)" They're vivid and human, but think of this—the God who made us and our ability to feel, felt the entire range of human experience himself, incarnated in Jesus. He can put ultimate expression to the human experience. He knows us—and every one of our obscure sorrows—because he became one of us.

PREACHING ANGLES: Humanity; The Human Experience; Incarnation; Jesus; Sorrow

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