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Life lessons from Twitter


The Life Less Traveled


January 19, 2011
I'm embarrassed to admit this to you, but I've just started tweeting. For those of you who are into Twitter, I'm embarrassed because it's taken me so long to get started. For everyone else out there, I'm just embarrassed to be a grown man using the word "tweet".

If you're as clueless as I was about Twitter, here's the lowdown. Twitter is a social network that allows you to post 140-character messages, or tweets, about whatever you want. It's like Facebook for people with ADD.

Most of the tweets I've seen fall into one of three categories:

5 percent are useful information.

20 percent are someone promoting something (their book, their blog, the Hair Club for Men, etc.).

70 percent are a running commentary on the details of daily life that only your mom would want to read. Make that your mom and apparently millions of people on Twitter.

My tweets, of course, fall into the useful information category that no one could do without. But maybe I'm biased.

Actually as much as I like to make fun of Twitter, I've learned some valuable life lessons over my past couple of weeks of tweeting.

1. Following is a choice.

In Twitter, you don't see everyone's tweets, just those you choose to follow. You subscribe to follow an individual or organization. Their tweets (and other tweets they pass along or "retweet") are the ones that stream across your feed.

In the real world, we all do the same thing. We choose who we listen to and who we don't. We all choose our influences. A guy named Solomon once wrote that people who hang out with wise people grow wise and companions of fools suffer harm.

2. Every word is precious.

On Twitter, you only get 140 characters per tweet. It forces you to carefully consider each word. If only I used the same economy in my day-to-day conversations, maybe then my mouth wouldn't get me into so much trouble. I guess that's why the Bible says to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

3. Once you say something, it's hard to take it back.

It is possible to delete a tweet, but by that time a boatload of people have already seen it and passed it on to their friends. Again, this is just like my real-life problem with my mouth. Things tend to pop out of it when I'm angry, frustrated or just trying to be funny. Way too often these are things I regret.

4. Everyone wants someone to care about the details of their life.

Why does Twitter have an estimated 145 million registered users? People have a deep desire to connect and be known. They want someone to notice and care about all of the silly little things they tweet.

The reality is that long before Twitter, there was a God who knew us even in the womb, a God who knew every detail of every one of our days before even one of them came to be, a God who is for us, not just in the big events but even in the minutia of everyday living.

What would happen if we invited that same God into our mundane moments by "tweeting" short prayers to Him about every little thing?

God, this coffee is so good. Thank you. God, that show was hilarious. God, I can't believe he just said that. How am I supposed to react? Hey, God, nice sunset. God, I'm so bummed out, but I have no idea why.

A 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence called this practicing the presence of God. He believed that we could keep company with God throughout all of the small, seemingly insignificant tasks of the day.

It sounds crazy that a great, big God would care about little, old me and my boring life. But the more I try tweeting these tiny prayers, the more I'm convinced that not only am I following God, but He's also following me.

So, whether or not you ever try Twitter, try dashing off a handful of tweet-like prayers this week and see what God will do.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more from Byerly, visit www.jasonbyerly.blogspot.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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