Lent Explained: Tune in, Tune up, or Tune Out?

Lent Explained: Tune in, Tune up, or Tune Out?

Here in Germany, we have five seasons. At least according to some, when referring to carnival as the fifth season. There are numerous festivities happening over several months, but it all culminates in the week before Ash Wednesday – and then, just like that, on the evening of Shrove Tuesday, it’s over. You may be wondering what is the point to Lent? Below you’ll find Lent explained.

 

Now, the festivities are not just fun for kids, but encourage people of all kinds to let go of the everyday seriousness and enjoy themselves. So much so, that German carnival clubs sometimes have an insurance in case one of the members impregnates a woman during the many days of celebration.

Lent invites us to slow down and look around. To see that life has come after death, and that everything will be made new.

Actually, carnival is a fascinating phenomenon from a socio-cultural perspective – which is not the topic of this post. One thing that is not a coincidence is that it happens right before Lent.

 

Ah, yes, Lent. One can easily draw the connection between the days of over-the-top partying and the forty days of austerity: before our 40 days of fasting, let’s have one more big party!

It feels almost natural. Like some kind of balance. We don’t want to become terribly stuffy and religious, so let’s even out the fasting with some crazy celebration.

Tune Out?

In a time when Christianity in the West is not taken seriously, and unceasing progress lets us look with disdain on centuries of old thoughts and practices, many of us may choose to simply tune out Lent. Perhaps carnival was loud, maybe you’re just overwhelmed with your day to day obligations. It’s tempting to just skip over the “undue” hardships of Lent and save ourselves the hassle of doing anything special before Easter.

 

I wouldn’t be writing this post if that was my perspective. Because I know that Lent is actually a great time to tune in.

Choosing to Tune In

Similar to Advent, though with the difference that the days are getting lighter and warmer, Lent invites us to slow down and look around. As nature awakens from its wintery slumber, it serves as a visible and audible reminder of the truth we’re celebrating at Easter: that life has come after death, and that everything will be made new. That is the song of the Spring flowers and the warm rays of sun and the fresh blades of green grass and the hundreds of chirping birds.

We tune in into the majestic reality of God, who turns out to be a serving friend instead of a demanding dictator.

2 Questions For You to Reflect On

Lent also invites us to look inside: where are we at? With Easter ahead, it gives us opportunity to locate ourselves on a timeline, rather than drifting or floating through the year – and our lives. And since we see what’s coming, we can ask ourselves: Am I ready?

Lent: An Invitation to Rebalance our Year

The subtle irony is that we don’t need carnival to balance out Lent. Rather, Lent was put in place to balance out the rest of the year. Yes, religious people can have crazy ideas, but Lent wasn’t one of them.

As we tune in into Lent, we tune in into life. Into the mystery that surrounds us and underpins our very existence. We tune in into the majestic reality of God, who turns out to be a serving friend instead of a demanding dictator.

Our Need for Quiet

Much of our life distracts rather than focuses us. Or focuses us on the wrong things: the irrelevant, the transitory, the disproportionally elevated. Lent helps us to regain perspective. To breathe fresh air. To escape the trap of this-worldliness that has no place nor appreciation for the spiritual dimension.

The Danger of Lent

Of course you can turn Lent into a soul-killing act of self-denigration. We humans are capable of misusing almost anything to our own detriment. Taken seriously, though, and engaged in with some wisdom, Lent will actually help you tune in into the pulse of the living Christ, into the heartbeat of God.

That’s not all, though. Let me zoom in on a simple, practical way of how Lent can not only help you tune in, but also tune up – making sure your heart is in the right shape for the other 325 days of the year.

Lent Traditions and Practices Uncovered

A lot of traditions have developed regarding the 40 days before Easter. Catholics, for example, start seven weeks before Easter Sunday, because the Sundays don’t count as part of Lent (smart move, as you can still enjoy your Sunday roast and fix that sugar itch at least once a week!). When it comes to practices during Lent, though, all of the traditions have basically three things in common:

a focus on prayer,

a focus on fasting,

and a focus on alms-giving.

 But Shouldn’t We Be Doing that Anyway?

You might say: That’s just everyday stuff! Shouldn’t we be doing this all the time?

Answer: yes – and. Yes, we should be doing this all the time. As a busy parent (and a very analytical person), I am quite aware of the things I should be doing – and at least somewhat aware of the things I do instead. Of course prayer is not just for a season a year. Of course fasting has a high place in the teachings of Jesus and the early church – our affluence in the West might simply blind us to that when we read our Bibles. And of course generosity should mark our every interaction, with giving (or abstaining from consuming) so that others, especially the less fortunate, bear lighter burdens or may even prosper.

 

And.

And this is why we need this yearly tune up. To actually do what we should be doing.

Why Do You Fix Your Car?

Think of a car, if you own or drive one (or ever saw one). In Germany, we place a lot of value on cars. And not just on their looks, but also on the state of their internal workings. So every other year, every car in this great country needs to get a check-up to make sure it is still fit for the road.

Guess what happens when this time comes around? Right. Suddenly, people ring up a garage they hadn’t thought about the previous 23 months, and have them prepare their car for the big test. Headlight not working?

Fix it. Engine’s not running smoothly? Fix it.

Too little oil, tires getting old, brakes a bit rusty? Fix it.

Because you want to pass that test, since you want to drive your car!

 

Of course, this check-up isn’t meant so that the rest of the time you drive around a broken car.That would be a very odd – and silly – understanding of the whole thing! The point of the check-up is to make sure that the things that need fixing will get fixed at some point – and not never! And to find out early if something is going the wrong way before it gets worse and endangers your car, you, and others.

Your Lenten Check-up

Lent has a lot of similarities with that. Now, there’s no human authority that will give you a sticker that declares to the world that you’re still fit for Christian living. As you may have noticed, you could be a wonderful Christian right now even though you have never observed Lent!

The point is: Lent gives us some very practical ways to check where our heart is at – and at the same time they are they ways that can get our heart back into shape.

 3 Ways to Get Your Heart Back into Shape During Lent

1. Prayer

How is my prayer life? Do I pray? If not, what hinders me? Do I enjoy prayer? What would better describe my prayers: a sporadic monologue or a conversation between friends? And what do I want it to look and feel and sound like?

 

During Lent, many churches offer special prayer times. This can be a help for you to receive prayer, hear others pray, or lean into the century-old prayers of our spiritual predecessors. It can also help you pray for others, whether near and far, and so revive what might have become a stale habit of asking God to bless you, period.

 

2. Fasting

Ouch! Well, fasting does mean to give something up – and that something is food whenever fasting is mentioned in the Bible. Which provides the necessary oomph by affecting our physical existence as we ask: Who or what is truly important in my life? What do I think I cannot exist without? How might someone feel who lacks what I take for granted? What place does my physical existence have – and where do I need to adjust my priorities when it comes to self-care?

 

The way to go here is: experiment. Do try and fast food (that’s the opposite of fast-food, by the way). Do use common sense, though – medical conditions, pregnancy etc. can make it a bad idea to not eat! You can do that alone or with other like-minded people.

Also, abstain from something else. Some churches encourage fasting plastic during Lent to help us become more sensitive towards ecological sustainability and adjust our habits.

Or you may fast consumption: consider not buying anything (yes, anything!) except for groceries and gas during these 40 days.

 

3. Alms-giving

Where does my money actually go? Does my budget reflect the importance Jesus, His church, and my neighbor has –  or does it reflect my ability to spoil myself without noticing it? Who around me is actually in need? What can I do to find out? What are ways I can give to others that don’t involve money – or may come alongside giving money, in order to deal with root issues rather than symptoms?

 

When in doubt, there are hundreds of charities you can give to. The internet can even help you to find out if they are trustworthy. So can your friends or people at church. Do also make it personal, though. There is need in your neighborhood, your city, or your workplace – and it has a face and a name. Start meeting it.

Every now and then, I hear young Christian people contemplate whether they should have children. The implication, especially for the women, is that with children it will be impossible to radically serve God.

The point, again, is not to have a “spiritual high season” once a year. It’s to have that much-needed check-up to see where we are at.

To maybe fix it where things have gone the wrong way. And then, like a workout, start building those faith-muscles that enable us to actually do during the year what we should be doing. 🙂

Not because we want some kind of sticker that tells us we’re good enough. But because living tuned up for tuning in, we actually get what we truly crave: more life, more joy, more God.

Are you ready?

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Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

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Perpetua and Felicity | 3 Lessons Learned to Stop Idolizing Family

Perpetua and Felicity | 3 Lessons Learned to Stop Idolizing Family

Perpetua and Felicity aren’t names we are typically familiar with, especially in evangelical Christianity. But these two power-house women have a critical message for all mother’s today and the temptation to idolize the family. 

A young mother in prison, facing the death penalty under a bloodthirsty regime. Her father desperately trying to free his daughter; both of them heartbroken about the baby boy who might grow up motherless. It has all the trappings of an emotional court room drama.

Except that the young mother doesn’t want to be freed.

Introducing two remarkable women whose memory is celebrated today (March 7): Saints Perpetua and Felicitas. Looking at their story can help us regain some necessary clarity.

Let’s briefly visit North Africa in the year 203. After initially tolerating Christianity as a Jewish sect, the Roman Empire started to crack down on it. It now was considered a new religion – actually, Christians were considered atheists, because they didn’t believe in the gods (only in one God). What really upset the Roman Empire, though, was the staunch refusal of Christians to worship the emperor as a god. To many Romans, this was merely a symbolic gesture, a minor part of being a good citizen. 

But the Christians stood to the claim that only God is God, in a way the emperor could never be. Consequently, the wrath of Rome fell on them.

Which is why Perpetua and Felicitas found themselves in prison as they were preparing to get baptised. At that point, Perpetua was about 22 years old, married, and had an infant son. Felicitas, her slave, was pregnant.

In our day and age, the social media channels would be brimming with this story. We can imagine tear-jerking headlines and articles complete with photos of the young mother and her baby. Our heart would go out to them, and many of us would leverage what legal and political influence they have in order to free these women.

So the actual response of these women to their situation baffles us all the more.

Perpetua and Felicitas were not interested in being freed. Their sole interest was in being faithful to God in their situation. And if that meant death for their faith, then they were ready to face it.

[Reframing our thinking about family] provides a much needed corrective to the individualistic tendencies that come more easily to the nuclear family. It’s ultimately about following Jesus, not living out the ideal family.

“But what about their children?”, you may ask. Here’s their response:

THREE WAYS THESE WOMEN CHALLENGE OUR 21st CENTURY WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

1. Serving God comes before family

Perpetua and Felicitas were not cold hearted or without emotion. Perpetua’s thoughts and feelings are well documented in her personal journal.

Every now and then, I hear young Christian people contemplate whether they should have children. The implication, especially for the women, is that with children it will be impossible to radically serve God.

 

We know her heart was torn by her father’s pleas to consider the fate of her child. For a short time, she had her baby boy with her in prison, and it looks like she loved him like any mother loves her children.

But even for the love of her baby, there was one thing she would not do: deny Jesus Christ. Repeatedly, Perpetua declared herself a Christian before the Roman officials. Both she and Felicitas managed to be baptised before their martyrdom, and it is evident that Jesus was the real center in their lives.

How different is this from what you might see or experience today! Every now and then, I hear young Christian people contemplate whether they should have children. The implication, especially for the women, is that with children it will be impossible to radically serve God. On the other hand, we know families who keep Jesus as a part of their lives, like a beloved piece of furniture. But there is no element of risk, of going out of their way in discerning God’s call and obeying it, because “the children”, “school”, “too busy”, and so forth.

Perpetua and Felicitas demonstrate that one thing, and one thing only, is ultimate: clinging to Jesus and honoring Him in every circumstance – even if that flies in the face of conventional wisdom and means heart-breaking decisions.

2. Spiritual family is real

Felicitas’ big concern was that she might miss the martyrdom with her friends. According to Roman law, no pregnant woman could be executed (side note: obviously, this ancient pagan culture had a higher view of life in the womb than we have in our Western nations today!). In the end, she didn’t; her baby girl was born shortly before the day of execution and given to a sister to nurture and raise.

This highlights an important fact: we are tempted to think of family in narrow, suburban terms of parents and children.

The New Testament, particularly the Epistles, challenge us to re-frame our thinking. Because all followers of Jesus Christ are declared brothers and sisters; they form one big family and are expected to live as such.

Perpetua and Felicitas were evidently much more sisters in the Faith than mistress and slave. And it seems that this meaningful bond extended to the four young Christian men who were to be executed on the same day as Perpetua and Felicitas. It shows us that spiritual family is real. It doesn’t supersede or replace the natural family. But it provides a much needed corrective to the individualistic tendencies that come more easily to the nuclear family. It’s ultimately about following Jesus, not living out the ideal family. When we are so inward focused and only concerned about our blood relatives, or aspiring to be the happy family that smiles at us from billboards and ads, we come dangerously close to idolatry: raising up something other than Jesus and giving it our devotion.

3. Happiness is an eternal thing, not a temporary one

After months in prison, and separated from their babies, one might expect Perpetua and Felicitas to face their martyrdom subdued and distraught. The opposite was the case: the two women and three men (one had died in prison) were composed and at peace when thrown into the arena to be killed by wild animals.

 

 Are our first thoughts regarding happiness pictures of smiling family members, in good health, pursuing our favorite activities … Or is there room for bliss that we can but taste here on earth?

Injured by a crazed cow, yet not fatally wounded, Perpetua even asked to fix her hair before her throat would be cut by a gladiator – because she didn’t want to look sad or in disarray on the joyful occasion of entering eternal life.

In this, she holds a mirror up to us. Where do we see true happiness located? Are our first thoughts regarding happiness pictures of smiling family members, in good health, pursuing our favorite activities – and thus thoroughly this-sided? Or is there room for bliss that we can but taste here on earth, a joy that is so surpassing that we know it will make our earthly happiness pale in comparison?

We do well to remember these precious women. They are examples of exceptional courage, but much more: they point us to the uncomfortable truth that Jesus is worth both living and dying for.

And they shake our assumptions, challenging us to consider whether we serve God, even as parents and families, or whether we use our families to avoid taking risks for Jesus.

 

 

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Today I'm handing over the proverbial reigns to a friend of mine, and a fellow sister in Christ, Christine. She is going to challenge us today to take social media to a new level as she explains her journey of developing the spiritual practice of using Instagram. Can...

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Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Today I’m handing over the proverbial reigns to a friend of mine, and a fellow sister in Christ, Christine. She is going to challenge us today to take social media to a new level as she explains her journey of developing the spiritual practice of using Instagram.

Can I really consider my social media habits a spiritual practice? May that’s a bit too far fetched? Might it even be heresy?

Bear with me a moment while I turn back time a little…

Towards the end of November last year I started to get frustrated.

Yes, I was doing well with my Christmas preparations. I had bought most of the presents. I was in full swing. But now the moment had come in which it dawned on me: despite all my willpower and strong resolution I was facing another advent that would run through my fingers like grains of sand. Just like in recent years, I was afraid it wouldn’t leave any impact on my heart.

The process invited my soul to dance, breath and expand – not just for an hour in the morning during my quiet time, but interwoven within the ins and outs of my daily life.

This thought was upsetting, because since childhood advent had been my most cherished time of the year! For most of my life it had never failed to fill me with joy and excitement. So whenever I had heard a mother complain about this season, and even – God forbid! – uttered that she hated it, I vowed myself to never end up like this!

Yet, with a growing family and an ever expanding amount of obligations those weeks of December had lost some of their meaning and wonder even for me.

Instagram can Change Your Inner World

Through writing I’m able to order my thoughts and make connections in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

About a month prior to this sobering realisation I had started using my Instagram account for more than just scrolling. I had begun posting pictures and random thoughts and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Nevertheless, I would have never thought how much those pretty squares and little captions would rock my inner world! Being on a mission to experience the pre-Christmas

season in a more meaningful way, I stumbled across the #adventword challenge.I jumped on: meditating over the daily prompt word, choosing a picture, writing about it. I embraced this daily habit, and in turn it started to embrace me. The process invited my soul to dance, breath and expand – not just for an hour in the morning during my quiet time, but interwoven within the ins and outs of my daily life.

On 24th December my caption read as follows:

 

Having the #Adventword Challenge accompany me through the weeks leading up to Christmas has been incredibly enriching. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I would love to experience the season of advent in a more meaningful way, and also about my longing to feel more grounded and calm in daily life. With a word each day to meditate on just that has happened: it added a certain spark to this time of waiting for Christmas, slowed me down inwardly and kept on reminding me of the liberating truth that God speaks into my life. The process of writing down my thoughts, of putting them into words, of not wanting to miss a day, of digging deep and being surprised by what I found – the process of having a focus and outlet each day has been such a blessing to me! This year’s advent felt to me so much more calm and meaningful than in the past. Well, it’s hard to freak out over to-do-lists, be stressed by imperfections of a family home or take siblings arguments personally when you preach to yourself such beautiful truths. It helped my heart and mind to actually live in a place where their theoretical beliefs became a tangible reality in the way I felt, thought and acted. Thank you, for this initiative and thank you to all who have taken the time to read my posts!”

… and, as they say, the rest is history!

Being Intentional with Daily Takeaways with Instagram

I still post a picture and some thoughts each day. This practice continues to help me to be open and alert towards myself, the world around me and God’s Spirit. It encourages me to watch out for the meaningful takeaways each day has in store. Sometimes they seem trivial, at other times the depth of my musings surprise me, as I excavate many layers beneath an issue that’s on my mind. Once in a while beautiful childhood memories rise to the surface and present their relevance for my present life. Through writing I’m able to order my thoughts and make connections in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Along the way I regularly even feel God talking straight to my heart through the words I find myself putting down.

Does it Have to Be On Social Media?

Naturally I have asked myself if all this needs to happen on social media. Wouldn’t a notebook do the trick too?

While I still ponder confidential matters in my journal, the public platform has proven to be an advantage for me personally. A big part of it is the sense of accountability that motivates me not to break the chain of daily posts. The sense of accomplishment is so rewarding to me! I also have discovered this new

 I’m learning first hand that honesty breeds connection and freedom, and not shame.

routine of mine as a way to practice vulnerability, to put myself out there, and to find my voice. In doing so I’m learning first hand that honesty breeds connection and freedom, and not shame. This lesson has already started to gently infuse the way I approach my real life relationships. Moreover, seeing others resonate with what I share may occasionally bring some much needed validation to an idea that so far only existed in my head. All in all my daily posts have helped me to get to know myself better and experience God in some wonderful and significant ways.

It helped my heart and mind to actually live in a place where their theoretical beliefs became a tangible reality in the way I felt, thought and acted.

Besides all this there are at least four other useful life skills I get to practice while using social media:

1. Challenging my own motivation behind the way I present myself to others.

2. Observing how the feedback of others affects my self-worth.

3. Being intentional about the influences I put myself under.

4. Last but not least, this creative soul of mine loves being able to showcase some pretty photos.

at is your experience with Instagram? Do you think it’s helpful to use as a spiritual practice?

So, in coming back to the question whether it’s presumptuous to categorise Instagram posting as a spiritual practice, I’ll let you be the judge.

To close, I’ll leave you with a short a Wikipedia definition:

“A spiritual practice (…) is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of inducing spiritual experiences and cultivating spiritual development. (…)”

What is your experience with Instagram? Do you think social media can be a spiritual discipline? Why or why not?

Christine is a wife and mother of four living in Germany. She’s the type of person who never gets bored: keeping family life running, volunteering, enjoying nature and loving all things creative, like sewing, baking, sketching, crochet, crafting and much more. Within the beauty and chaos of daily life, keeping all her senses open to notice the divine is what keeps her going. So it’s “Life: ordinary, yet sacred”.

#

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Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Today I'm handing over the proverbial reigns to a friend of mine, and a fellow sister in Christ, Christine. She is going to challenge us today to take social media to a new level as she explains her journey of developing the spiritual practice of using Instagram. Can...

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When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

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St Valentine’s Story: Chocolates, Flowers, or Your Head Cut Off?

St Valentine’s Story: Chocolates, Flowers, or Your Head Cut Off?

For February 14, do you prefer flowers, chocolates, or your head cut off? Below you’ll find out what St. Valentine’s story and those things have to do with each other.

 

Maybe Valentine’s Day doesn’t elicit more than an annoyed sigh from you. Or it puts you under pressure to have a Valentine this year, or do something especially romantic (and potentially especially expensive). Whatever your reaction to the impending February 14, stopping to wonder what a 3rd century Christian saint has to do with flowers and greeting cards may offer a fresh and unexpected perspective.

 

You might have guessed it: spending in the name of romance wasn’t on Valentine’s agenda. It seems that the connection between St. Valentine and romantic love wasn’t drawn until about 1000 years after his death – by famous English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales). Since then, sending each other love notes on February 14 took off, until it evolved into the huge act it is today.

 So what about the actual St. Valentine?

 Turns out we don’t even know for sure whether the saint we are referring to was one person – or rather two different persons who were both martyred on the same day. Supposedly Valentine was a bishop who either healed a blind girl and subsequently converted a prominent Roman household to Christianity, or he secretly married young couples even though that was against the law, or both. And he wouldn’t keep quiet about the Christian faith. Which is what got him killed.

 

In light of the lack of information we have about his life, what can we glean from this saint as we look forward to February 14, the day his martyrdom is remembered?

For one, if the accounts of him secretly marrying couples in Rome are true, then this speaks to us about the nature of love. In today’s dating culture, you can have a “Valentine”, a “love interest”, or any other option from among the many forms or stages of “significant other”. The tendency is to use the word “love” loosely, and handle commitments to each other also fairly flexibly.

 

However, when Valentine married couples against the emperor’s edict (yep, we’re remembering a lawbreaker here!), he implicitly stated that marriage is the way to go for men and women who profess that they love each other. It makes an important point on the nature of God’s love, actually: namely, how does God love us?

 True Love

Quite often, we immediately connect the word love with a sensation, a feeling, a rush of hormones. Since God-Father and God-Holy Spirit do not have bodies and therefore no hormones, it begs the question as to how their love for us functions (and we can include pre-incarnation Jesus into that as well). As Scot McKnight has wonderfully explained here, the Bible shows us a God who loves us through commitment. God’s love is a rugged commitment to be with his people and for his people, so that their lives would be infused and enriched and transformed by His.

 

So you may know people who wouldn’t hesitate to send a text or a note that say “I love you” to someone they might have met yesterday. What we need to realize is that this is a far cry from the Bible’s beautiful perspective. From the vantage point of the Older and Newer Testament, we can see how God’s commitment to His people – before and in Jesus – lays the only foundation that can bear a lifelong relationship with all its complexities and surprises and mistakes.

 St. Valentine, Breaking the Law for Love

So when St. Valentine, through his actions, declared that the covenant of marriage was more important than the emperor’s law, he was making this statement: that love is first of all a commitment, and only this commitment is the foundation strong enough for true intimacy and relationship – feelings ebb and flow, and romantic hopes can be dashed. Committing to each other in marriage is the way that shows forth God’s own character, and the actually best option to see our dreams of lifelong romance and faithfulness fulfilled.

Another thing we can observe in St. Valentine is his personal commitment. We don’t know whether he was married (probably not), but that’s not the commitment I am talking about.

Valentine was outspoken about Jesus and the need to commit (!) one’s life to Him. Depending on the source material, he even urged the emperor himself to become a Christian. Unfortunately, the emperor didn’t like that suggestion and had Valentine beheaded.

 

Being Committed

Here is something to think about: do I show the same commitment in my walk with Christ? To stick with my Lord even when threatened with dire consequences? How much easier is it to just keep quiet for a moment and avoid ruffling the feathers. After all, there are plenty of other people who would be more agreeable to the message of Jesus – right? Maybe I’ll just wait to share the Gospel with them…

 

Even in today’s supposedly tolerant world, there are plenty of voices that take offense with the Gospel message – and consequently with its messengers (read: you and me). As one of the many martyrs (the word simply means “witness”) is remembered this Valentine’s Day, maybe we can rethink where we stand. Are we more prone to bite our tongue at the slightest opposition to Jesus – or are we growing towards a wise and courageous sharing of Jesus’ message, regardless of whether we step on proverbial toes?

Feel Free to be Romantic!

By the way, if you are in a relationship, by all means go and get the flowers, the chocolates, the dinner and dancing, or whatever your time and budget allow. Romantic gestures are important – especially when you are committed to someone.

But in light of St. Valentine’s example, let’s reflect for a moment: if love is primarily a commitment, then how committed am I – to my partner, my neighbour, to God?

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Today I'm handing over the proverbial reigns to a friend of mine, and a fellow sister in Christ, Christine. She is going to challenge us today to take social media to a new level as she explains her journey of developing the spiritual practice of using Instagram. Can...

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

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Homeless for Christmas

Homeless for Christmas

As “I’ll be home for Christmas” is being played on the radio for the umpteenth time this December, most of us will not think twice about this - of course we’ll be home for Christmas! Meal planning, gift wrapping, church service - so much to take care of, so naturally...

4 Tips on Making Your Life Quieter (Even if You Have Kids)

4 Tips on Making Your Life Quieter (Even if You Have Kids)

In this particular post, we are going to look at four tips on how to create yourself a quieter environment, and become a steward of media instead of a servant.

Isn’t it an interesting thought that quiet and order DO NOT just happen. (Unless you are a hermit who lives in a box who doesn’t eat or sleep.) If you are around people, there is noise. If you sleep in a bed, you mess up the bed.

Actually, even if it’s just you and your phone you are still being inundated with noise – noise from advertisements, social media, news, picture noise from Instagram or Snapchat.
It seems in the beginning there was just chaos, it was “formless”, so no structure was put into place. Without God’s word and and intention, there was no creation or order.
In Genesis 1 it begins with:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

The Nature of Mess

In the nature of things, if you don’t act and use your “word” as God did at the beginning, life begins to unravel.
Messes pile up, communications are unresolved.
Without your action and initiative, nothing gets done. The same rule applies to your inner life. If you don’t take the time to resolve internal conflicts, sleep enough, or spend time thinking about your life, or simply being quiet, those things will just not happen. Those conflicts don’t get solved, the choices you make will not be thought through, rather they will be “acted upon”. And eventually you will burnout because your body will not physically be able to carry on that way.

For example, in my own life, if I did not purposefully stop and read my Bible in the evening, it would not float to me and lay itself on my lap and beckon me to read it. I have to take the step and do it myself.

 

Four Tips on Bringing More Quiet into Your Life

All that being said, one SUPER simple way to create order out of your chaotic life is to create more quiet space.  I want to encourage you to use your “word” as God used his, create yourself a quieter environment, and become a steward of media rather than a consumer. 

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Tip #1 Turn off your phone

And you said, “Shut it off!” and there was silence.
One giant hindrance to having “quiet” is the fact that most of us are accessible at a moment’s notice. Our culture right now values immediate gratification. That means, we expect an immediate response to messages and emails. And since we all have our handy best friend around (aka. our phone) , we are all accessible at any given moment.
I hope you can see the problem here. Those messages won’t stop automatically, nor will Facebook or Twitter stop their notifications.

It’s not just instant access that draws our attention, but the constant need to be entertained. Be it Netflix, or Youtube… our attention is being begged for at every corner.
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Tip #2 Have a Media Free Night

Why not instead of lounging around and flipping through your Facebook and Insta feeds, or watching TV you turn it all off for the night?

Do you find yourself craving to check for any new updates and notifications? Chances are you need to tell your body and brain that it’s okay to just BE. 


Make yourself purposefully unavailable. The world will not end and you will have a greater peace.

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Tip # 3 Save your Sanity - Three Dangers of Social Media, Phone, and Entertainment.

1. Our entertainment addiction affects all aspects of our society

It’s not breaking news that there are some serious adverse effects to your constant phone, social media use. In fact, already in the 80s there was a great book published called, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” which basically was a prophetic look at how entertainment would shape our politics, journalism, education and even religion.
Scarily enough, a lot of what Neil Postman wrote 30 years ago is  valid and happening today.

2. Too distracted to care

Brave New World is a startling dystopian novel where the population is too amused by distractions to realize that they had been made powerless. The truth is, that’s our reality. When times are tough, or if there is an overwhelming problem with no easy solution  there is a tendency for us to seek an escape. Escape often being in the form of entertainment and flicking through social media.

3. A filtered life

Another problem I see is the increasing false perception of the “perfect” life everyone leads on social media. Even if our images don’t have a filter on them, they are only a snippet of who we really are, or what we are really doing. This leads (more often than not) to feeling like you’re the worst!

Have you ever looked at those around you, and felt like you weren’t good enough because your pictures aren’t that pretty? Or you haven’t been to all those amazing places? Or your home doesn’t look like that.

Social media alters your perception of reality. And that’s a dangerous thing for our fragile selves.

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Tip # 4 Embrace Boredom

I love this Ted Talk from Manoush Zamorodi where she does an experiment with her Podcast listeners called “Bored and Brilliant”. They spent a week tracking how often they’d pick up their phone, and they were challenged to leave the phone alone. She argues that our boredom actually enables us to be our most productive and creative selves. 

 

When was the last time you were bored?
Are you ok just sitting and spacing out? Or do you instantly grope around for your phone?

This reminds me of a couple years ago, when my sister and I decided to together fast our phones once a week. The first time we ever did it was ROUGH! I kept feeling little twitches like I should be looking something up, or checking the weather, or checking the news. I would walk past where I put my phone and glance at it, thinking I should look at the time or something, but it was off, and it made me a little sad. I felt really strange. My sister had a similar experience.

Read about how our family turns off all of our stuff once a week: Electronic Free Saturdays

Media Stewardship

The idea of media stewardship is now so much more important than ever before. We have children growing up in age of instant gratification, instant entertainment, and social media distortion.  One comment from Manoush in the above Ted Talk was that in her Brilliant and Bored group she had young people commenting on being without their phone and feeling emotions they had never felt before. 

How can this generation and future ones learn to feel and deal with emotions when there is no opportunity to? 

I think Postman is correct in his insistence that we regain control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.

This is our ancient calling, straight from the Garden we were given the job to steward the resources we have.

Let’s start considering media a resource, and steward it to the glory of God.

 

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Today I'm handing over the proverbial reigns to a friend of mine, and a fellow sister in Christ, Christine. She is going to challenge us today to take social media to a new level as she explains her journey of developing the spiritual practice of using Instagram. Can...

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

A few years ago our family lead an outreach to Liberia, Africa with Youth with a Mission. We then only had two kiddos, both under the age of two. Perhaps many people would think of it as irresponsible of us to pack up our little family and lead a team of young adults...

Homeless for Christmas

Homeless for Christmas

As “I’ll be home for Christmas” is being played on the radio for the umpteenth time this December, most of us will not think twice about this - of course we’ll be home for Christmas! Meal planning, gift wrapping, church service - so much to take care of, so naturally...

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God


A few years ago our family lead an outreach to Liberia, Africa with Youth with a Mission. We then only had two kiddos, both under the age of two.

Perhaps many people would think of it as irresponsible of us to pack up our little family and lead a team of young adults to a developing country. We, however, were very confident that God was calling us there, and felt a complete peace to go. Of course we thought, “what if one of our kids would die? Or get totally sick?” But, we held firm to God and went despite the thoughts.

A few weeks into our outreach, things were generally going well. Of course, everyone in our team, one after the other got sick in some way. There was no running water, it’s way hotter than Europe, there were evil little mosquitoes everywhere, but we could handle it.

At one point I had a nasty pink eye infection from the dust that I went practically blind for a week and couldn’t take care of my babies… Thankfully some of the very precious local women who lived around us helped me so much. I ended up teaching at a women’s conference at the end of that week – with sunglasses so that my weepy, nasty, pink eye wouldn’t be so distracting.

Our nine month old at the time was teething. He had a fever on and off for about five days. I really thought it was just the teething, so I decided not to be overly concerned. I’m a firm believer that a bit of fever is good!


Finally, after the fifth day, we notice the baby was quite listless, and quiet, and his breathing was particularly heavy.


With the help from our hosts, we found a clinic in the area that was open. It was the afternoon and where we were in Monrovia, we didn’t have easy access to transportation. We arrived at the local clinic and they were first of all angry at us for arriving at the “wrong time”, apparently one is supposed to arrive in the morning.  We paid extra for that.
They finally took us in to test the baby’s blood, while the nurse yelled at the baby to stop crying or she’ll “give him something to cry about”.


We waited and waited and waited… feeling very helpless, and completely foreign in this system. Praying for God to come and heal and deal with the chaos and confusion..


Maybe a doctor came, but I’m not sure he was a doctor since Liberia suffers under extreme lack of them. He and the nurses started giving the baby medicine, but not telling us what the problem was. I asked what they were doing, and what he had. They responded, “He has malaria of course!”.  By then, my husband and I were panicking, but they seemed completely calm.

“Everyone gets malaria, no big deal, just medicine, then it’s all good.” they said.
I kept thinking, “Oh God, what would everyone back home be thinking?”

We went back home, and prayed with our team for our sweet boy’s healing. The poor baby still struggled with breathing, still had a fever, and we went to bed.

My husband and I both woke at about 3am to one loud shriek of the baby.

He then fell silent and was breathing even more shallow, and labored. He felt cold and clammy. We both felt like death was near, and tried to figure out what to do. We could not call an ambulance, that didn’t exist. We couldn’t go hail a car, this was Monrovia at night – and we had no clue what we were doing. We didn’t have any emergency numbers or a vehicle. All we could do was pray.


So we prayed and prayed and asked God what we should do.
Then, there was a peace. It’s hard to explain, and it may sound horrible, but we felt like it would be ok to wait until the morning and we all fell back asleep, not knowing what would await us in the morning.

The next morning, baby was still alive, and we could find phone numbers and people to bring us to a different clinic. We found a German/Liberian one, and a local pastor drove us there (the only person we knew who had a vehicle).

At the hospital, they were outraged that the other clinic did not hospitalize the baby right away. They took his blood again and tested him.

I waited in a little recovery room filled with six other beds. The hospital beds were dirty, there were flies flying all around the window, and cobwebs everywhere. I just sat and reflected on God. Where was he in all of this? What are we doing here with this team? Are we crazy? Did God really say, “Go”? Was it really worth it to be obedient and risk our baby’s life?
These questions buzzed in and out of my head, along with the flies. I felt like a horrible missionary… doubting God, doubting people, hating my situation. It was a dark moment in my faith.

I had no internet anywhere, but I had my tablet with me. My Bible was on it and I decided to open it up. Just then, despite no internet, a message from one of my friend’s back in Germany loaded. Which was a miracle by itself.

Here is an excerpt:

“Girl now more than ever set your eyes on Jesus, I can only imagine that you want to call the whole world for a solution, I understand I would do the same; but what I feel in my heart right now very strong is TRUST THE LORD, please feel free to call around and find solutions and answers but SET YOUR EYES ON JESUS, hold on to the conviction you had to go there and be there now and you trusted God will carry you through, HE IS CARRYING YOU THROUGH even now!!.   We will be praying for you.  As right now I honestly don’t know what to tell you what you could do about it. “

 


This was such a miraculous encouragement for me. Still hearing from community even though there was no internet available to access my messages!

Finally, after hours and hours of waiting the results came back.

No malaria. We were convinced he was miraculously healed from it. How did he go from positive the day before to absolutely nothing?
But he did have some sort of other blood/lung infection, possibly from the same dust that gave me my pink eye infection. He got the appropriate medication, and got better very very quickly.

This moment is but one cornerstone of my faith.

Despite lack of faith, know-how, and abilities, it was and is always God who is our “strong tower”.

Even when you feel like a failure of a Christian – or in my particular case, a failure of a missionary.

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Instagram | Social media as a Spiritual Discipline

Today I'm handing over the proverbial reigns to a friend of mine, and a fellow sister in Christ, Christine. She is going to challenge us today to take social media to a new level as she explains her journey of developing the spiritual practice of using Instagram. Can...

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

When Our Baby Almost Died Because We Listened to God

A few years ago our family lead an outreach to Liberia, Africa with Youth with a Mission. We then only had two kiddos, both under the age of two. Perhaps many people would think of it as irresponsible of us to pack up our little family and lead a team of young adults...

Homeless for Christmas

Homeless for Christmas

As “I’ll be home for Christmas” is being played on the radio for the umpteenth time this December, most of us will not think twice about this - of course we’ll be home for Christmas! Meal planning, gift wrapping, church service - so much to take care of, so naturally...