July 12th, 2014

My Idolatrous Digital Life: Part Two

(Read Part One, Introduction)

The first thing I check in the morning is my phone. Sure, it’s mostly because I have to turn off my alarm, but checking Instagram and Facebook and my email is not, last time I checked, required to turn off my alarm. The last I thing I check before I go to bed? My phone. When my phone fell into water (read: dropped it in the toilet) I didn’t have it for a week. Imagine! Someone so addicted to their phone that it comes with me into the bathroom (yech) being without for a WEEK! I was like an addict, jonesing for my next touchscreen fix, forced to stare at the car in front of me at red lights and have no idea what anyone was eating for lunch. It was unbearable.

Last week, we took took a bunch of high schoolers from our church to the beach for an annual youth summer conference. I have deep love and appreciation for teenagers, so what may sound like a nightmare to you was actually one of the highlights of my summer!

Part of the week-long conference involves a main speaker and the other parts consist of elective classes and, of course, the beach. With hundreds of youths. I was mostly looking forward to the main speaker (and he was awesome) but I was shocked by how much I enjoyed one of the elective classes: ‘Digital Christianity’ taught by a youth pastor from Alabama named Kurt Cooper. What I’m gonna expound on over the next few posts is a brief, totally not-as-winsome recap of his 3 talks. If ever the conference posts his talks online, everyone should take a listen.

"Man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols." While this was said originally by John Calvin, anyone who has ever met or has ever been a teenager knows that statement personally. And while we’ve been perpetuating idols since long before Calvin wrote those words, nothing highlights these little idol factories quite like technology and namely, social media.

Technology is anything created to fulfill God’s creation mandate— that we are to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Tech can be anything from the alphabet to medicine to boats to your smart phone. We create things as humans in order to subdue, conquer, and navigate the earth. And because these creations help us fulfill our mandate… They can easily take on monumental roles in our lives.

Tim Challies wrote an incredible book several years ago about technology and its effect on our faith (“The Next Step: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion”) and in it he describes something called Mythic Tech. Mythic tech is tech that is so ingrained in our lives that it seems to have always existed and is impossible to change. When something is mythic, we think the tech itself can’t be wrong. Mythic tech takes on a god-like role— we have to adopt to it. We have to serve it. We can’t live without it. This is the definition of idolatry.

Back to me and my phone addiction. All the ease and convenience of that phone… It has a cost. I am always connected (I’m never alone.) I am constantly reminded of what I’m not doing/capable of/achieving (hello Instagram weddings/babies/dinner parties/lake trips!) I am able, at the push of button, to see how well received I am online (Likes! Favorites! Reblogs!) The cost is that I now worship a device. I worship my online persona. Technology shapes us. My phone has taken on mythic proportions.

Listen, ok. I love my phone. It’s probably not going anywhere. I love Instagram and blogging and seeing my friends and their beautiful babies on Facebook (seriously I love them babes.) I’m not going anywhere. But we need to remember that we were created to hear the words “well done good and faithful servant” from our Lord and not from our screens. Everything has a price— what are you willing to pay?

July 9th, 2014

My Idolatrous Digital Life: Part One (introduction here

I once broke up with a boy because he “wasn’t that into the Internet.” Read that sentence again and if that’s not the dumbest thing you’ve ever read in your life, you need to make better book choices. It should be the dumbest thing you’ve ever read because it is the dumbest reason to do anything, ever. (There was, of course, more to the story… but that was the crux of it. Commence cringing.) 

It was the time of my life when I felt “internet famous” in my own little way because of this blog. I can’t even write that without feeling incredibly lame and squeamish, but it was true: I would often meet people who would say things like “Oh, I know who you are. I read your blog!” or “Oh! You’re Morgangster! Cool!” Much like any compliment, I liked the sound of those words… and those deep, dulcet tones of self-importance drove me into a pit of narcissism: I am important. People listen to me. People know me. I’m not fleeting or worthless. I matter to these people. I am somebody. And it was honest-to-goodness total self-righteous garbage. 

Around the same time the Self-Delusion Train was pulling out of the station, a met a Great Guy. When I tell stories about past relationships and I get to This Guy, I refer to him as my “List Guy.” A List Guy is the guy who completes whatever arbitrary list you’ve made in your head (or possibly actually on paper) about what kind of partner is ideal for you. This Guy was my List Guy. He checked off all the blocks of everything I thought I ever wanted. He was perfect, really, save for one thing: He just wasn’t that into the Internet. 

And that was a problem for me, as I was really into the Internet. And what I mean by that is… I was really into who I was on the Internet.

It seems weird to me now that I didn’t see the complete stupidity of my thoughts and actions towards The Guy. Here was this Flesh-and-Blood-So-Called-Perfect-For-Me-Human who didn’t give a crap about my Internet persona but in turn actually liked my Actual-Flesh-and-Blood Self. My actual face. My actual sense of humor. He liked spending time with my actual person in actual places having actual conversations. But I felt like since he didn’t care about my online life, he didn’t really care about me.  I didn’t see the error of this thought process: Who I am on the Internet is not Actually Me. (I’ll be addressing this problem another day as it’s a doozy.) I wanted him to like the Perfectly-Crafted, Humorsly-Self-Depricating, Online-Version of Morgan… but he didn’t care about her because, well, she wasn’t real. She was a shade of who I really was, and he liked the real me. And yet that wasn’t enough. Who I was online was a growing, hungry monster and he wasn’t feeding it, so I wasn’t feeling it. I ended things because my ego couldn’t handle it. I needed him to approve of me— in real life and online.

I now see just how crazy that all is. Like, an actual crazy person might read this and think “wow, that’s messed up.” It is. My online persona was so important to me that I couldn’t fathom sharing life with someone who didn’t care about it. What’s even crazier is that it didn’t seem crazy at the time but instead totally justifiable! I could no longer separate my online life from my real one and so it felt like a denial of some deep part of me that he didn’t follow me on Tumblr. Do you understand how insane that sounds?! And yet… I still want people to like and envy and adore my perfectly crafted online existence. That was years ago, and how much different do I treat my social media now?

You see, idols aren’t necessarily bad things. In fact, they’re often good things (which makes them sneaky and hard to miss sometimes.) But idolatry happens when we take good things (or bad things) and make them Ultimate Things. Anything we worship, love, and adore more than God himself is an idol, plain and simple. I broke up with a boy once because he “wasn’t that into the Internet”and this is the story about how I realized I needed to break up with Internet because I was too into myself. This is the story about how I became an Idolator of Self, of Approval, and of Pride. 

And List Guy… if you’re reading this: I’m sorry. But you’re probably not reading this. Because you’re probably still just not that into the Internet. And I commend thee for that. 

July 8th, 2014

This week marks the end of my month-long hiatus from blogging. Like most things in life, there is danger in having too much of a good thing— blogging is awesome and fun, and I love awesome and fun things… and soon it really consumed me. It was a monumental idol in my life that I gladly served day-in and day-out. I have had smaller moments of clarity and withdrawl like this before throughout my bloggybloggin’ tenure, but never have I given up bright lights of the internet for so long. 

I learned a few things during my time away… about myself, about my heart, about notoriety and anonymity, about sin, about fear, about the simple joy of having a moment all to myself that no one sees or hears about— not one Instagram, not one tweet, not one post, not one word.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some of my thoughts from my hiatus. I realize it’s a little hypocritical to want to share this unplugged experience with you by plugging back in… but I don’t think that blogging or the internet is evil. It just became such a driving force behind why I did a lot of things and just like anything that you realize is controlling you… I wanted to step back. And it was so eye-opening and good for my soul that I want to share (isn’t that what blogging should be about, anyway?)

Technology presents us with a unique spiritual challenge. Because it is meant to serve us in fulfilling our created purpose, because it makes our lives easier, longer, and more comfortable, we are prone to assign to it something of a godlike status. We easily rely on technology to give our lives meaning, and we trust technology to provide an ultimate answer to the frustration of life in a fallen world. Because of this, technology is uniquely susceptible to becoming an idol, raising itself to the place of God in our lives.
― Tim ChalliesThe Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion

June 4th, 2014

"It was beautiful not despite but because of the friction it has had to endure. It had been thrashed around, but instead of being destroyed, it was improved with every scratch and scrape, sculpted. In fact, the scuffs themselves are what gave it its quiet splendor; they are responsible for turning a simple piece of glass (which could have just as easily been trash) into a gem. It wouldn’t be the same without the wear and tear; it wouldn’t be something pretty enough to be turned into jewelry if it hadn’t been damn near broken. I closed my fist around this tear-shaped gem and thought about my own uneven edges, my own abrasions, and things I have endured that have, instead of breaking me, completed me, prepared me for the next tumble. Its odd beauty was hard-won. It came from reinventing itself. From having risen to the top of the discard pile. Like a phoenix, from victim to victor." #firststateyall (at Primehook Beach, Delaware)

May 23rd, 2014

Weekends should always be spent with such love and adventure. To kick it off for ya this week, here’s a new edition of the Friday Mixtape. Enjoy! 

++As always, you can subscribe to all the Friday Mixtapes here ++

May 22nd, 2014

“who knows if the moon’s
a balloon,coming out of a keen city
in the sky—filled with pretty people?
( and if you and I should

get into it,if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we’d go up higher with all the pretty people

than houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away sailing into a keen 
city which nobody’s ever visited,where

Spring)and everyone’s
in love and flowers pick themselves” 
― E.E. CummingsCollected Poems

May 12th, 2014

Yesterday felt like summer. After spending too many days deep inside my own head, it felt freeing to dip my feet in the cold river water and drink a fountain beverage roadside as the sun went down. It’s the same feeling I had after walking down the hall and out the door in high school… the same feeling of rolling windows down and driving aimlessly around with the hot summer air tussling my hair into care-not knots… the first freedom-from-homework cannonball into the pool… the inaugural summertime skinned knee and sunburned nose…

May 11th, 2014

Last weekend I was a groomswoman at my cousin’s wedding. It was a very different wedding experience for me, mostly with it being a family wedding and of course the “standing with the bros” thing. It was also the first wedding that I’ve opted out of the crazy dance floor escapades and the customary bouquet toss to single ladies.

Part of me felt old and part of me was just enjoying sitting at a table with my parents and my relatives, holding my little baby cousin and watching the antics of the younger twenty-somethings. At one point, I had Baby Elsie bouncing on my knee as the music swelled and I looked over at my mom and I mouthed “I want one!” It startled me.

I’ve never really admitted anything like that out loud (even though, technically, it was barely audible…) and it was so bizarre that it even took me off guard. What, exactly, did I want? A wedding? A baby? A dance party with all my closest friends?

The wedding continued, cake was cut, toasts were given, sparklers were lit, family parted ways. I had a two hour drive ahead of me and all I could think about was that whispered admission I had made hours earlier: I want one. It scared me, honestly.

I had saved a few podcasts for the drive home— one of them being a Tim Keller sermon a dear friend had suggested just a day earlier. I drove home, barefoot and tired in the dark Georgia moonlight, listening to that sermon with the backdrop of my wanting and wishful heart pounding along with the pavement.

The sermon convicted and compelled me in a way I haven’t felt in sometime. In it, Keller unpacks the story of the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus to find out what he lacks. He is, by all accounts, a good person. He keeps the commandments. He has done well in his life and has the wealth to show it. But Jesus doesn’t just tell him the one thing he lacks— He tells him he lacks the only thing that matters.

"Jesus smashed this man’s religious views. He came knowing he was lacking… That he needed something to make his relationship right with God. He just wasn’t sure, so he comes and asks. He approaches it with the assumption that Christianity is something you can add and something you can do. He thought he could just furnish his life out with Christianity. Jesus in turn gives an outrageous request: it’s not something you add, it explodes what you have to make way for something new. You must be completely redone. You don’t need one more rung to get over the mountain. What Jesus has smashes through the mountain and makes way for something entirely different. He is not an edition. He isn’t another book on the shelf. He something completely different altogether."

"You obey all the commandments, do you? Let’s just start with the first one. Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Have no other gods before me. Ok then— Sell all your stuff and follow me. Is God first in your life? If so, everything and anything else is trivial. Do you have any other gods before him?"

This is where it really got me:

"I want you to be willing to live a single life, all of your life,for me. He comes to Abraham and says "I want you to take your son, your only son whom you love, and offer him as a burnt offering." To the rich young ruler, "I want you to sell everything and follow me." We have to surrender all our dreams. Jesus says "I want the most important thing in your life. I want the thing that, with it, you dream of a power and life without God. Until you do, we aren’t right, and it’s killing you."

Anything that you have decided will give you a life of joy and power without God becomes a monster. It drives you. Jesus looks at the wealth and says “this is your monster. Give it to me. Put me first. Be willing to part with anything and any idea. Be willing to walk away from it all, and let me decide.” Jesus says “surrender your dreams.” It’s not the dream per se, but it’s the dream before Jesus— Your deepest desire above and without him.”

I deeply long to be married. I want a family. Heck, I just want someone to go to weddings and dance with. If you asked me what my deepest desire is, I would say just that. I want one. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks… And I finally spoke. I want that.

I don’t necessarily think The Lord is calling me to be single all my life, but I know that I am right now and I hate it. I hate it so much that I desire to be rid of it above all else. I do find myself thinking “ok God, if I could just meet someone, then I’d be happy.” Then I wouldn’t need You. Am I willing to walk away from this monster that drives me? The monster that makes me think I will be happy and finally living…without Him who is true life and joy?

I don’t know what this looks like… To really live as one satisfied and totally surrendered to whatever He has for me… To say “yes Lord, if this is what you have for me, I will not waiver…” To never look back at the “treasure” I have left to follow Him… To hand over to Him my greatest desire and ask for a new one: nothing but Himself…

Listen to the sermon here//

May 10th, 2014
My Little Life
Korby Lenker
Nashville Film Festival 2012 Mixtape Sampler

I posted this just about two years ago and not much has really changed. New office that doesn’t overlook beeboppin’ coeds, but, otherwise… Still rings true. 


My Little Life - Korby Lenker

Sitting here in my office, watching the rain roll down the window whilst the young, carefree undergrads scuttle rainboot-clad across campus in the background… this song speaks so deeply to me. 

Plus he’s playing a uke. 

Plus it makes me realize that sometimes being an adult is boring but most of the time it is also good.  Sure, you’re expected to vacuum more and buy vegetables… but you also get to eat Yoforia for dinner and stay up super late watching re-runs of Happy Endings. 

Aint got a steady job
Aint got a smokin girlfriend
Aint got a fancy phone
Get my music from the FM
Aint got a private jet
Aint got a red corvette
Aint got a summer home
Just me in my apartment all alone
But that’s just fine

My Little Life
My Little Life
My Little Life 
is mine mine mine

Don’t mind the cherry coke
Don’t mind the country music
Don’t mind the being broke
Money’s just so I can use it
I like the sleeping in
I like the going to the movies
I got a few good friends
We like hanging out and doing nothing much at all

My Little Life is mine mine mine

Somedays I go to the gym
Somedays I go to the bar
Most days I wake up all alone
But that’s just fine
That’s just fine

My Little Life is mine mine mine

Reblogged from morgangster
May 2nd, 2014

Friday Mixtape: Mean Girls Edition 

Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of Mean Girls and the day a silly little movie changed my life. I was already a big Tina Fey fan from watching her on Weekend Update on SNL, but this was something altogether different. I’d never seen anything like it before, and knew that I was immediately going to memorize every line and spend the rest of my days quoting it like some deranged parrot. 

What I didn’t realize was that an army of people just like me would also become deranged parrots in their own right, and we all would go on talking incessantly about this movie, even 10 years later, as if it had just been released. 

So to celebrate this momentous occasion, me and a few of my best girl friends made some Hump Day Treats and threw the best Mean Girls Party/Screening since Chris Iso’s Halloween shindig where Regina was spotted canoodling with Aaron Samuels, complete with Kalteen Bars, buttered and un-buttered muffins, cheese and crackers for 8 people, and a cake made of rainbows and smiles. We definitely just say around and soaked up each other’s awesomeness. 

I also made a Friday Mixtape that’s pretty grool.

++As always, you can subscribe to all the Friday Mixtapes here ++

April 23rd, 2014

I have distinct memories of my mom wearing these exact shoes in the early 90s. She had them in several colors, but the pink ones stand out the most in my mind. I did a doubletake when I saw these in Target, and then I quickly noticed the jean vests and the overalls. For a second, I thought I was having a stroke and my mind was imagining it was 1992 and soon I was going to see Little Mermaid for sale on VHS. I kinda love how everything comes full circle, but if I see pleated, high-waisted acid- washed jeans on the rack, I’m not recovering. 

April 19th, 2014

Forget kale. Forget fresh flowers. Forget whole grain bread. Last weekend at the farmer’s market, I saw all these kids walking around with delicious-looking popsicles and I knew that I needed one immediately. I searched for a while and finally spotted the popsicle cart conveniently hidden behind a long line of children. Typical. I waited my turn patiently and finally bought what was actually the most delicious thing in the entire world: a strawberry honey pop. 

The girls selling them (from 3 Porch Farm) saw my enthusiasm and said “they’re so good, right?! And they’re made with just strawberries and honey.” 

Naturally, I decided that I needed to be able to make these every day of my life, so I bought some strawberries and got to work. Luckily, I had impulse-bought some nifty popsicle trays a while ago at Target so all I needed to do was find an acceptable recipe. After some very scientific internet research and a survey of my honey arsenal, here’s what I came up with: 

  • 3 cups of hulled strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup of honey (I used key lime honey my mom brought me from Florida mmm) 
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice 

Put it all in a blender, fill the tray, and wait roughly 4 hours! It makes about 5-6 popsicles depending on your tray!

These were seriously so easy and so delicious— the hardest part was waiting for them to freeze. And, since they’re made of all good stuff, I justified eating them for breakfast, obviously. I ate it so quickly, I didn’t even get to use the handy straw feature on the popsicle stick. 

Also, wear your retainers, kids. My bite pattern is looking crazy…

April 18th, 2014

Friday Mixtape Ya’ll

Last night, I saw Lily & Madeleine perform at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur with some friends. It was the early show, so not only was the music phenomenal, but we were home in our sweatpants watching Netflix at a decent hour. Ah, adulthood. C’est la vie! 

Two of my favorite L&M tracks are this week’s mixtape in addition to some other stuff I’ve been enjoying lately. Since winter decided to return, bundle up and enjoy these tunes from the comfort of your favorite sweater. 

++As always, all the Friday Mixtapes are here++

April 15th, 2014

My uncle has been entertaining my mom’s side of the family (of infamous Pumpkin Roll Fame) since January with a daily email of stories and pictures from the family archives. One of the most fascinating stories to surface so far was the trip to Assateague Island, and so I share it with you now:

In April after the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, we took part in the insane expedition to Assateague Island. The pictures don’t do justice to that amazing ”drive along the beach and camp out” trip.

The group drove south to the mainland in Maryland and loaded the Shidner’s pick-up truck on a barge that was towed to the island.  Maybe there was a second truck.  Once on the island, the tires were deflated somewhat so the rear-wheel drive truck could ride over the dunes and down along the hardpacked sand at the surf-line.  Everyone rode in the back or on top of the truck.  Whenever the truck got stuck, we all got out and pushed.  We never saw another person on the island. 

The few existing houses had been ripped apart or washed out.  The men headed south to where the fence both barred access to Virginia and kept the wild ponies on the Virginia side.  However, the storm had destroyed the fence at the waterline and we drove out and around it into Virginia.  Along the way, we saw a half dozen skeletons of wrecked wooden ships that had been buried under the dunes for centuries, but uncovered by the storm.  The big keels and ribs remained.

The weather was cold and sometimes rainy, so the men took the extraordinary step of taking over the US Coast Guard Station that was evacuated and abandoned during the storm.  The station was atilt and the lower story was full of sand.  We cut open a fifty-five gallon drum and fabricated a stove, which they hooked up to the stovepipe inside the Coast Guard Station.  We slept upstairs in the barracks.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe we just invaded government property! 

The storm had not affected wildlife; we saw sea turtles laying eggs, raked clams and oysters, and tried to catch the wild ponies.  That was the trip where we found the baby raccoon, who became our pet, Racket.
In the photos you’ll see inside and outside the Coast Guard station (sand and the drum stove visible!), the truck that they rode down the beach in, my mom sitting in front of the Coca Cola cooler, and of course— Racket the raccoon. 
April 8th, 2014

One thing my Grandmom taught me about having a wildly spectacular life was that it’s fun to have things you love that are “special & yours”— blue & white china, walnut ice cream, sapphires, hot coffee, fancy rings, watercolors, big band music, tiny sandwiches, the beach.

For me, it’s mint chocolate, bike riding, pancakes, fireworks, fresh OJ, baseball games, shirley temples, Sufjan, stationery, red velvet cake, and ranunculus.

Thanks G-mom for teaching me right and to Gracie for bringing me these blooms after a sad weekend of saying goodbye.

m o r g a n g s t e r

a twenty-something breakfast enthusiast just trying to find my way in this crazy world. a designer by trade, a photographer by passion, a believer by grace.
Athens, Georgia