Facebook Fast

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Okay.. It wasn’t a fast. I straight up wanted out. Out of the drama. Out of the posts that were less than authentic. Out of the arguments. The back biting. The passive aggressive warfare meant to injure with wit and snark and the ever revealing emoticons. Off the breeding ground for competition.

So, I got off. No explanation. No “don’t you wish you were this pious” statements. I just left. Status hanging in mid air, comments left unmade, posts unliked and liked. I agree that originally my emotions led the choice, but my mind kept the commitment. And it was hard… At first.

I felt out of the loop.
People would text me and say “Did you see such and such?”, and I hadn’t. People would start conversations about something they saw in a status and all I could do was listen and silently agree or disagree. Articles posted would be fodder for discussion, and I wouldn’t have a clue.

I felt isolated.
Here is the sad truth of it, most of my friends stopped communicating with me. Not sure if it’s just more convenient to chat through Facebook or if it was an “out of sight, out of mind” thing regardless, my phone stayed silent.
A lot.

I felt limited.
Take this blog for instance… You either stumbled upon it by chance, saw it on Pinterest (because let’s be honest what woman can live without that!!?) or happen to already follow me. There is something about having a cyber megaphone. Those lessons become group sessions and those words of hope become anthems! But, without Facebook, my ability to project was severely limited. I felt like a lion who suddenly became a tiny mouse. Where was my voice?

But, despite those inconveniences, here is what I found.

Time to read.
My Bible Study time increased exponentially. I’ve always been a reader and studier but now I was reading and studying simply for me.. Not to share a scripture or what God was teaching me. My lessons became truly my lessons not rolling through a Rolodex of names thinking who would benefit from my study.

I found more time for my girls to play or to talk or just to enjoy a movie or show on Netflix without interruption. It is amazing how much more “quality” that time becomes when half of it doesn’t consist of scouting out “I need to put this on Facebook” moments.

I came to appreciate Silence.
I realized that without a half dozen notifications popping up on my screen every 30 minutes I could actually set my phone aside. Like, in the back bedroom, far from my sight and from my ear. I actually missed texts! Can you imagine!? Remarkably, the world did not end.

I found less need for validation.
Did you know that research has found that the endorphin rush of getting a “like” on social media is akin to an addiction? Test yourself. Do you find yourself constantly checking likes, shares, and comments and feeling extreme disappointment when they don’t show? You might have a problem. Suddenly what we liked and what we need is based on what everyone else thinks what we should like and should need. Approval is a drug. And I can be an addict.

I faced Reality.
There was no hiding behind poignant posts to mask my feelings. Talking to my soul became quiet.. One on one.. And I found my soul without the encouragement of the Body, was significantly less empowered. There is a reason why God said it isn’t good for man to be alone, and whereas Facebook has it’s major hang ups and distractions, it can also be a beacon of hope to the desperate the discouraged and the hurting. Reality bites. It’s good to have those who recognize that taste.

I will find my way back to the Book of Faces in a few more weeks, but I am wiser having released myself (even if momentarily) from it’s hungry grasp. I challenge you to try. Break free. See what you’re missing and return with a purpose for being there.. Because it isn’t there to create a pretend life, it isn’t there to take out your anger based on insecurities on those who would be exposed, it isn’t there to aid you in posting pictures and being validated and bragging on our kids (which certainly impacts them more if we SAY it not tag it), but it IS about belonging, finding a place to share your voice, to grow in faith and understanding. If you’re a Christian, it’s a place for ministry and mission work. Just don’t get lost. Because in a world of faces, we need to see more of you… Literally.

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Waist Deep

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It’s that moment.

I’m standing waist high in the ocean..mere feet from shore, with my feet planted. For the longest moment I stand, face lifted upwards, the glow of the sun feeding my weary soul. I could stay here forever, basking in the peace of its rays, but just as I get comfortable, inhaling the ocean scent as I watch the gulls lite upon the shore, I hear the roar rising up behind me, the crash of the crest of the wave as it barrels toward me, and in that moment, I have a choice – dig my feet in the sand and brace for the impact or run.

Somehow I know if I move I will be overtaken, sucked under, swept up in the mighty wave never to find that spot on the ocean floor again. The sound of the crested wave crashes toward me, and I stand still, arms outstretched, legs locked, awaiting the connection of body of water and body of soul.

I’m unprepared for the fullness of the tumult, but my feet stand firm, refusing my knees the freedom to buckle. As the wave pushes me forward I find the strength to push back, against it’s current, against the pull to push me forward and back toward the shoreline I worked hard to get past. I close my eyes as the wave personified fist pummels my back, challenging my position, doing it’s best to defy my resolve.

If I’m honest, it hurts.

I think within my mind that is made of mere common sense that I could be safely on the shore riding this wave instead of fighting it, but the Voice that echoes peaceful “stand still” assures my mind that isn’t bound by fear that the best is yet to come.

All at once the wave breaks completely, stillness once again flows, and shaking the wet assault from my hair and face, I open my eyes. The sun still shines bright, the advance of the Oceans arms around me never blocked it’s rays, only my feeling of them, and the Voice that held me firm, beckons, “Deeper.” And I find my footing gained and take a step forward before the next strong current has me again longing to run back to shore. Because though the shore may be safe, life is found in the wrestle with the waves.

Psalm 93:3-4
“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!”

Happy Holidays… Not so much.

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Just about the time my heart gets excited about all that Christmas holds and the celebration of Jesus, Christians everywhere ruin it for me. See, instead of rejoicing in the holiday, we make it a war against words and hatred of tradition. I’ve seen just as many rants in the last few weeks as I do during election time. Suddenly we pride ourselves on being better, more attuned, and more sincere than others and because we do it in the name of Christ we consider it okay. We start a holiday jihad and anyone who doesn’t stand with us is a religious terrorist. How does that look to a world that is looking for hope? How does that settle in the hearts of those hoping to be proved wrong in their evaluation of us? How does that look to our forefathers in the faith that sacrificed everything for us to have the freedom to share the gospel? How does that answer a call to love our neighbors? We look like self-righteous, joy squashing, peace stomping hate mongers.

I know I’ll get grief from this blog. But before you take me out to the woodshed and rake me over the coals of faith and the gospel, I want to point to these words:

I am a free man, nobody’s slave; but I make myself everybody’s slave in order to win as many people as possible. While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law. Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 GNT)

Paraphrase: By whatever means possible, I become subservient to those around me, not to bombard them with my beliefs but to win them to the love of my Saviour.

I ask you, what part of this holiday battle is based on servanthood? Because I see it more like feigned humility and exaggerated worship then about winning the lost to Christ.

In a culture where “bullying” is defined as using “superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants” – we are dangerously close to that in our religious expectations. And the sad thing is, we don’t just turn our anger outward to those who don’t believe, but we accuse our own of hypocrisy because they choose to do things differently. We make “believing in Santa” akin to worshipping the devil. We refuse to appreciate the tradition in our angst over the commercialism. I confess, it is upsetting that consumerism has threatened the sacredness of the celebration, but is it my fault? Is it the fault of my unbelieving neighbor? Is it the fault of the story of Santa and his elves.. Some of which make daily journeys to our homes to observe our kids? No. It’s the fault of the almighty dollar… Which we don’t seem to be warring against, and I don’t suggest boycotting Christmas like we have Disney (since that was so successful) or JC Penney (which was equally so), because those actions aren’t making a difference except to further paint us as prejudiced elitists.

So what is my suggestion?
Love.
I’m not saying give in and give up, but you can lovingly disagree without looking self-righteous and judgmental. Loving your neighbor should be most significant this time of year. It should be more than giving others gifts or helping out hurting families. It should include putting your differences behind you, reaching out a hand of love that says, “I love you and no matter what you believe or what you don’t, I will put aside my preferences to make sure you know that this season is about grace. This holiday is about a God that loves you and whether you know Him or not, nothing can change the fact that He paid a price that you could never pay, and gave a sacrifice you could never make, not so I can lord my beliefs over you but so that you might know love and have life.”

After all, if restraints and laws could change hearts, Jesus would never have had to be born. His advent ushered in Love, Joy, Peace… And requires our patience. So, let’s be Christ this Christmas – Ambassadors instead of Gestapo. The Angels declared it best, “Fear not. I bring you good tidings of great joy. A Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ The Lord.” Good tidings. Great joy. A Saviour. THAT is the reason for the season. We would do well to live up to that, humbly. All year round.

Carving out monuments

The minute I walked in the doors of the church his presence was felt. Or was it the Holy Spirit? They echoed the same. I walked forward in a line when someone extended a hand, “Here, you first.” I smiled. Knowing. This person had been touched by the life of Robert Ammon Warner as well. He had been touched, and in that small gesture, was showing homage to a life lived well.

Today I started the day by contemplating my epitaph. Strange yes, but not random. I am going through a Bible Study that asked it of me. But, I realized it was fitting as I walked into a room of people that I didn’t know. I may not have known their names, but each held meaning and purpose and a destiny whether they were aware of it or not. Each life touched in one way or another by an extraordinary man of God, a man we affectionately referred to as Brother Bob. He was revered and loved and remembered, and this memorial was more of a testament to the work of Christ than any other I’d been to.

Bob Warner was a saint. No doubt. But he’d never say it. He was a kind man, prone to emotion, and filled with love. I will never forget our first encounter as he handed me a book, “The United States of America was built on hope and faith!” He said with a loud and passionate voice. He was so convinced of this that he asked each and every member of our church to read that book, “The Light and the Glory”. He evoked passion for our country for the founders and for its purpose in the Kingdom of God. I admit with a frown that I never read through the book. In fact, it still sits, collecting dust, on my bookshelf, dog-eared about a fifth of the way through.

I will also never forget the sincerity in his voice as he shared how Jesus met him in the cockpit of a fighter plane in World War II and how his life was never the same. It was with great grief that he shared of the many friends that had lost their lives, and the eternal question of “Why me?” was whispered in his heart as he still possessed his life. It was out of that deep understanding that he then gave his life over to God, and that is the place that God took an ordinary man to the man of distinction that we remembered today. He wasn’t proud of the violence of war, but he never insulted his military. One year, a missionary woman from Japan came to our church, and with her she brought one of the native pastors. With tears in his eyes and love in his voice, Brother Bob spoke: “I am so sorry for what we did to your country and for the bomb. Please forgive us.” All that were there that day were touched by two things: his repentance and the acceptance of the Japanese man that represented a country that had been ravaged. It exemplified the heart of Christ, and the truth of the Body that sees no lines of distinction.

If I posted his picture, you wouldn’t know his face, most likely. But if you took that picture to a group of people who were uneducated and poverty stricken, those he taught to read and thus gave them hope, they would most likely weep. He was an educator by design much less than occupation. He believed that every person had a chance to an education and that education would bring them confidence. He offered tutoring at no cost. He hosted it for a few years at our church with others of our congregation, and it was a blessing. In fact, he was so committed to education he also taught in the prisons and fostered a ministry there. I will never forget the time that I joined them. Yes, me. A young woman in her early twenties went into a men’s prison and ministered. I sang. They listened. And I remember quite keenly that I had no fear. Brother Bob also invited my husband to go. We each went once. But, they were remarkable memories. Sadly, the ministry fizzled out and others came in and we never had the opportunity to go again, or maybe it is that we didn’t make the opportunity.

As Brother Bob’s son gave the eulogy he said that more than any other characteristic his father exemplified love. Yes. He didn’t live his life worrying whether or not he was in the Father’s will or if he was a part of the right group or wondering what anyone thought of him. He simply walked this earth giving out love. No one had to ask him, “Are you a Christian?” With one look at his outstretched arms and the smile on his face, the answer was clear. This man was a follower of Christ.

I left the church thinking. Seeking peace and understanding in my own circumstances and the ministries that I am a part of…when I heard the Voice that governs my days and my nights say, “Peace. Live. Love. This is what I ask of you.” And, the realization hit me, if no one speaks another word about me on the day of my memorial, may the love of God ring out! May it fill up the room, and may the truth of my life be exemplified in my love for God and others, and may my gravestone read, “This woman was a follower of Christ.”

A Mighty Wave

One of the things I loved most about working at the radio station wasn’t meeting the Christian artists that came through town… it was hearing their stories. I loved to hear what the Spirit of God did in their hearts to create and form the music that we all love to listen to, the music that speaks to us, the music that says what we need to say, that asks us to do what we cannot fully understand. Not too long ago we talked with Sarah Reeves…a precious young woman of God, who writes music that reaches into our souls and begs us take a listen. I want to share with you a piece of what I remember of her interview about the song, “Mighty Wave.”

The chorus of that song says this:
“Even when I’m walking thru the valley of death, even when I’m broken and nothing is left, You lead me on, You lead me on… So I’ll pour my tears in the ocean, and I’ll leave my pain by the shore, and with a might wave You’ll sweep them away til they are no more.”

This is the story Sarah tells:
This song came to me in a dream. I saw this picture of the beach and the waves were rolling in, strong but peaceful and sure. In the distance, I saw a woman and she was carrying a basket in her hands. I watched as she approached the shoreline, wondering what she would do; then, I observed in fascination as this woman emptied the basket, and as these huge waves licked the shore they took with them the contents of the basket – her tears. Mesmerized I kept my gaze on her. When the basket was emptied her bowed frame stood up, and freely she walked back up the beach away from the waves, carrying an empty basket. She faded out of my view but the water with all it’s magnificence still rolled, carrying those tears, that heartache further and further out to sea, until they were no more.

I listened intently as she told this story. She later said that she couldn’t get out of bed fast enough, that picture still clearly in her head, and the song that resulted is what you hear today. This song has played a lot in my heart the last few weeks. It has been a salve, a healing Truth that has helped me bear so much of what I’ve felt, not my own pain exactly, but the pain that I have watched my loved ones endure and persevere through. It hurts to see their eyes with tears and pain, their bent backs and shoulders, to watch them carry this basket that only gets heavier and heavier. And in some way, I suppose what I pray that I can do is to lead them to the shoreline, to help them carry their baskets, and rejoice as we watch the sorrows and pain dissolve into the Mighty Wave of God’s grace, and mercy and love until all that’s left is peace.

I love that story. I love that image. Listen to the song; may it bring you peace.

Remembering the day we will never forget

Remembering the events of 9/11 and the tragedy of that day is as simple as walking into my living room today, and seeing my ten year old, watching the same TV, legs criss-crossing back and forth with her chin propped in her hands, carelessly watching the Disney Channel. What a radically different picture than the fears and uncertainties that filled my heart that day…ten years ago.

I woke up early that morning. I was nursing and Maddie was a frequent eater. We’d gotten through our five o’clock, seen Daddy off to work, checked in with Grammy on our progress and played with fingers and toes and had just settled into our last feeding before morning nap. The clock on the VCR blinked 12:00 from the day before. I reached for the remote and turned on the morning news, my only connection to the world not consumed with diapers and pacifiers.

“A small commuter plane has accidentally flown into one of the buildings.” I listened as some lady gave her report of what she was seeing as the newscaster tried to determine how this could happen. Then as i was watching the smoke, we all saw it, those who did, the plane on the left hand of the screen plow into the parallel building. And I knew, though I’d never thought this word before, immediately my heart lurched, “terrorists.” Maddie became fussy, pushing and pulling, trying to get what my mind had accidentally, unconsciously shut off. I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe. We were under attack.

I watched in horror. As the story unfolded, but Maddie had to eat and I wasn’t letting down so I forced myself to turn the TV off. It dawns on me that I never called Brian, and he didn’t call me. My one concern in all the world was her – Maddie, the sweet baby girl trying to rest in my arms. I took her to my bathroom. I don’t know why. It was small and enclosed and I had spent most of my pregnancy there, it had become a safe place. I sat on the floor, rocking her and singing and all the while praying for her, for us, for our protection, for our country, for our president, for Jesus to come and get us.

I fell asleep there. I woke up about 30 minutes later to even more chaos. More planes and downed towers and debris and bodies and more fear and anger and questions gripped my heart. As I watched the smoke from the gaping hole in the ground and the same billowing out of the pentagon, and the ruins of the collapsed towers, I remembered the woman giving her report from the building close by just an hour before. I wondered, and I still do, is she gone? Her voice still haunts my mind at times, it was so free and light, no fear, just the thoughts and sounds of an observer. I cried. It wasn’t fair! I drove to mom and dads. I didn’t want to be alone.

I remember it was a picture perfect day. The sky was clear and blue and as I drove I watched the jets fly over head and helicopters in the distance. There was rumor that the president was an hour and half away. The military was positioning. This was war.

A million thoughts went through my head that day, a million voices, a million scriptures, and ten million prayers. Our lives were changed that day. Our feelings of unconditional security was stripped. America the beautiful was now America the compromised, America the vulnerable, and America the hated. Yes, our pride rallied and we held hands for about six months realizing our frailties and calling on God our only protector and keeper, but as our strength rebounded our faith dwindled.. We began to trust again in our horses and chariots and dismissed the need for a powerful God.

I do remember powerfully one other thing from that day. My faith in God grew and my hope in my destiny was grounded. I was ready. I would do whatever the end required of me and I would trust that there was a Hope that waited with open arms for when the fight was done. And with that knowledge came peace beyond human understanding, a peace that never waned, a peace that abides still. For the second time in my life when the question “what if this is it?” filled my heart, I was able to respond with powerful truth, “then we go Home.” And, my resolve became greater, my heart more moved, and my spirit more willing to help the unfortunate, the lost, the weak, and the hurting… So that they too might join me in that final homecoming. They too might experience His peace.

Maddie is up and about now, eating and playing and smiling and laughing. She is safe. And for that I am grateful… To God first who saves us all and to our troops and first responders who went into action that day and everyday before and since, who risked there lives, gave up their families, and allow us a look back 10 years to a day we will never forget.

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