Teachable Moments

All I Want for Christmas Is a New Cell Phone Pt. 2

We continue our cautious investigation of the benefits of purchasing the newest cell phone that will certainly be available this upcoming holiday season.  If we pay attention to the eye-catching commercials that will flood our screens, we could be in danger of buying before considering all the pros and cons.

Referencing once more Tony Reinke’s book, 12 Ways Your Cell Phone is Changing You, we will consider 6 more ways that owning a cell phone with all the bells and whistles might be more of a detriment than a blessing.  Make sure and read Part 1 for the first 6 considerations.

7. It’s just a click awayEternal regret may follow private smartphone clicks happening right now. 

  • We have at our fingertips an instant opportunity to barrage ourselves with an epidemic of images that brings everything from mindless diversion to blatant sinful activity.  Our present moment can produce long-lasting remorse if we’re not diligent in guarding our “here and now”.
    CONSIDER:  Do you have the self-control needed NOT to click for images at every opportunity?  Do you have the godly fortitude to resist sexual temptation offered through your cell phone?

8. Chronological Snobbery The average output of email and social-media text is estimated at 3.6 trillion words, or about thirty-six million books – typed out every day… We suffer from neomania – an addiction to anything new within the last five minutes

  • With the amount of information available, Christian discernment is a must for anyone who seeks to use their cell phone wisely.
    CONSIDER: How will you determine what is worth reading and what is not?  

9. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) We worry that we might miss an important status update, an urgent news alert, the score of the big game, or even the latest offering on our preferred streaming service. 

  • FOMO is a cause of anxiety, especially for Millennials and Gen-Zers.
    CONSIDER:  Can you put yourself on a timer, purposefully making sure you are missing out?  Make sure you can live with not-knowing if you purchase a mobile device that allows for 24 hour connectivity.

10. Gossip is still gossipCrowd-sourcing verdicts and spreading unfounded conclusions online can destroy the reputation of Christian [and non-Christians]. This is when the script goes satanically wrong… Smartphones and social media help feed our generation’s outrage.

  • Gossip is telling someone else’s story without their permission, especially with the intent either by commission or omission to harm them.  We really don’t have the right to go around sharing our opinion about others. It hurts and is sinful.
    CONSIDER:  Are you able to only use your words for good and to be wise in how you share your opinions?  

11. Every word God will judge our digital conversations, private texts, and public tweets by the intentions of our hearts.

  • The book of James warns against the evils of the tongue.  If you can think twice and three times before you post something, then maybe the new cell phone will be a good buy after all.
    CONSIDER:  Would you say that whatever you are saying through your cell phone is God-glorifying, of Kingdom benefit, and is a blessing to others?  Do you understand the pain that can be caused by careless, judgmental, or harsh words?

12. Is it Beneficial? We must give our time to things that are godly, give us joy, or prepare us for self-sacrifice.

  • Everything we watch, look at, listen to, or read should in some way be graded by the question, “is this beneficial”? (“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything“–but not everything is constructive.  1 Cor. 10:23, NIV)
    CONSIDER:  We only have so many moments in each day – how willing are you to stop and purposefully think about what spurs on, encourages, or nourishes your soul?  And if it doesn’t, are you willing to turn off the phone and choose to do something else?

Buying a new cell phone will take a lot of work; we have to consider the price and all the features it has to offer from screens to picture quality to digital connectivity abilities. But accompanying all its features, we must reflect on our ability to handle both the benefits and temptations it offers.

Every time the cell phone is in use whether scrolling through data, searching through images, engaging in social media, or even calling a friend – Yes EVERY time it’s on -,  we must think critically with self-reflection and honest evaluation. 

Dear Reader, before you buy that cell phone – review this blog post and the one before (Part 1) to see whether it is an excellent investment for your soul.  Be willing to do without the newest and best cell phone if it is not in line with Kingdom living.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. It instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we await the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13, Berean Bible Study Version

Dear Reader, may we worship God daily through our careful handling of our cell phones.

Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

All I Want for Christmas Is a New Cell Phone Pt. 1

Tony Reinke has written a book called 12 Ways Your Cell Phone is Changing You.  In light of what he has written, I might suggest that if your child of any age or stage says to you, “All I want for Christmas is a new cell phone”, I might suggest you say, “No – you don’t!” or “Wait – we have to think about this…ALOT…before we make any decisions.”

From Reinke’s book, here are some of the troublesome things we should ponder before we are convinced that we just have to buy the newest and best of the mobile devices that are available for purchase this Christmas.  Let’s not be a mindless consumer but a mindful one, listening to wisdom more than the commercials that entice us to buy without thinking.  

What challenges do cell phones bring to us?

1. Enslavement The average American checks their cell phone 81,500 times per year (that’s 15 checks every waking hour). 

  • Our brains are wired to be attracted to things that are novel – we love new experiences.  The more your phone can do – the more novel experiences it can bring to you – the more likely you are to be enslaved to it.  
    CONSIDER:  Consider going for a phone that can do less, not more.  Get a phone that is limited in what it can provide and you will find yourself less a slave to it.

2. Echo Chambers In the online world, we can separate ourselves from people who don’t think like us and gravitate toward people who do.

  • Sadly, people choose where to find their news based on their pre-existing beliefs; “news that fit my views” is what consumers go to.  We gorge on media outlets, bloggers, podcasts and even memes that support what we already believe, staying away from perspectives that challenge us or conflict with our position.
    CONSIDER:  If you choose to get data on your phone, choose to challenge yourself to seek out other sources that do not conform to what you already believe.  Think diversity in sources that challenge you to use your critical thinking skills. Who knows, you may learn a different perspective and realize, if you always practice humility, you’ve been wrong all along.

3. Still in Jr. High The sad truth is that many of us are addicted to our phones because we crave immediate approval and affirmation.

  • Millennials and Gen-Zers are characterized by experiencing high degrees of anxiety.  One way this anxiety is often combatted is by seeking the approval and affirmation of others through social media.  Unfortunately, social media can also be a source for self-doubt and bullying. 
    CONSIDER:  Parents – I challenge you to consider either getting a phone that doesn’t allow the user to engage in social media (think “no data” or “no wifi” usage) or limiting how much time your child uses it for social media.  Be done by 7pm. Put it away. Protect your child from bullying, predators, and the feeling of being “less” when they compare themselves to everyone else out there.

4. Squirrel! We are called to suspend our chronic scrolling in order to linger over eternal truth.

  • Thinking deeply and critically over a sustained period of time is more difficult for today’s students.  Having had a steady diet of instant information (just ask Alexa or Google whatever you want to know with a voice command), video games and texting, students are finding it more difficult to think their way out of a complex situation or a not easily discernible solution.  To be able to linger over eternal truth, you have to give yourself uninterrupted space and time to do so – meaning, stop scrolling!
    CONSIDER:  How much time do my children or myself spend mindlessly searching for irrelevant information?  Whatever we own, we need to control; it should not control us.  What limits will you need to enforce if you get the newest and the fastest mobile device out there?  Do you have the time and strength to do it?

5. Living or Image Management? We must learn to enjoy our present lives in faith – that is, to enjoy each moment of life without feeling compelled to ‘capture’ it.

  • I’ll confess, I have to stop and enjoy the moment and put the camera down.  Stop with all the picture taking, already! Or take 1 and be done with it.
    CONSIDER:  If your cell phone has the best image quality out there, how much more self-control will it take to enjoy life’s moments vs record them on your phone?  To record a moment but not really live it – how sad that would be!

6. Well like, like... We are becoming like what we like.

  • You know the “thumb’s up” or “heart” or “wow” emojis that you can put out there on anything and everything?  Whatever you’re liking (approving of), it is having an impact on who you are becoming. If you say you like something, your brain will automatically program itself to be more like that.  
    CONSIDER:  Can you be more discriminating about who and what you “like”? That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, not to affirm random bits of information or trivia.  Be able to regulate your responses to people and information before you get the newest and best new mobile device.

Dear Readers, the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control (Galatians 5:22,23) and you will need a lot of it if you get the newest, fastest and most diverse mobile device out there.  Realize that when Paul tells the Colossians (3:2), “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (NLT) that to obey this command requires the ability to say “no” to the things your phone offers.  Do an honest assessment of yourself and your children and what you can and can not handle.  

BOTTOM LINE:  Choose a cell phone wisely with self-control, humbly and honestly assessing what would lead to the most godly and God-glorifying life.  

Praying we all make the wisest choices when it comes to deciding about the newest technology sure to be offered up for Christmas this year.  

Blessings Abundant,  Elizabeth

Children and Family, Teachable Moments, Uncategorized, Young Adult, Young Adults

Our Stories and Tears

When we put up our Christmas tree it always takes longer than I originally think it will, and that’s because of the number of ornaments we have collected over the years…and the tears that come when putting them up.  Oh, they’re happy tears; I oooh and aaah over each precious ornament, reminiscing over why it’s so beloved. My favorites are definitely the ones my children made or were bought with them in mind as they reached a significant milestone in their life.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m quite sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about.  What’s interesting to consider is why our stories are so important to us. The ornament may be cute or clever, but the story behind it is what makes it important.  

The tiny ballet dancers that are front and center on a prominent branch with their tulle skirts and shy smiles, these little ladies remind me of the hours of dance rehearsal and Nutcracker practice I got to enjoy as a Dance Mom.  One tiny dancer is learning to stand with grace and strength in 3rd position and the other is pointing her toe – my daughter was doing the same thing at that young age and we were so proud of her as she persevered to improve her skills.

The Spider Man ornament holds a memory from the year 2000, while all 5 of us as a family were eating dinner, our boys who were 5 and 2 at the time announced that they were going to grow up and become Spider Man.  They believed he was the best because of how he could swing between tall buildings and they liked the color blue. It totally makes sense because, hey – who wouldn’t want spider webbing spurting out of their palms? And his superhero suit is super cool.

The last ornament I’ll share with you is a pair of angel wings.  In 1997, I had a miscarriage. This little life I was privileged to carry only lasted a few months and was born so prematurely, the sweet baby wasn’t able to survive in this world.  My mother-in-law bought us this ornament to remind us that we have one child already in heaven, singing God’s praises along with the angels. We honor all life and as such, are grateful for this reminder of God’s comfort and provision for us at that difficult time.

God himself has a story to tell of his son; we tell that story every Christmas as we remember the conception and birth of Christ.  Jesus’ best friend John tells God’s story at the beginning of his epistle this way, And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Every Christmas ornament we hang tells not only our stories, but points us back to His story as well.

Dear Reader, what an opportunity we have. As we share our personal stories about how we decorate and celebrate Christmas, we can also remember to share His story which is the reason we are celebrating in the first place. Let’s pray for these divine conversations. Listening to one another’s stories is one of the best ways we can honor one another.  Romans 12:10 says to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourself” and James, the brother of Jesus, urges us to be “quick to listen” (James 1:19). The world will know we are truly followers of Christ as we exemplify to them an other-worldly type of love and honor through the gift of listening well to one another.

As always, dear reader, thank you for listening to my stories.  May you have many divine conversations this week to share both the story of God’s son and to listen to other’s cherished Christmas memories.

Children and Family, Teachable Moments, Uncategorized, Young Adult, Young Adults

I want MUCH MORE for Christmas

I went to a major retailer in the area to pick up some milk the day before Thanksgiving.  As I made a beeline for the dairy department, I noticed a group of women who walked around in circles occasionally talking to themselves or one another…I couldn’t help but wonder if they were practicing a new dance, if they only turned left when they walked, or if they were planning a mission impossible. I covertly stepped into an adjoining aisle to stake out the situation. After just a couple minutes I knew what they were doing. And while I thought what they were doing might actually be helpful, I confess I also thought they were bordering on the obsessive. They were planning their strategy for what they would do at the beginning of Black Friday shopping. They were planning the hunt to make sure they bagged their retail prey the next day. They knew they would be up against fierce opposition and they were going to make sure they were in the best position possible to bring home the prize.

I will confess I love retail therapy and I can do it as well as the next person. But I have never seen so much time and energy going into buying a thermal sweater. Boots, handbags, Christmas pajamas, and new Bluetooth headphones were obviously on their lists as I tracked their strategy meeting throughout the store. I came to the store for milk and left with an appreciation for how people fill their time during the holidays.

This made me reflect that I might not be so different from them.  What random, unique, seemingly-unavoidable activities suck the time and energy out of my calendar and then, out of me?  We all know that during the busyness of the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of travel, volunteering at the food pantry or ringing a bell for those in need,  and worrying about which presents to buy for family members. For others of us, finances are tight and we strain ourselves the extra amount to make ends meet; family relationships are fractured and we have to navigate difficult choices. While I love cooking the turkey and making the cookies, the planning, shopping, serving and clean-up can sometimes feel like I’m crumbling just like the cookie I took out of the oven too early.  The season brings much joy but much stress at the same time. Let’s be honest, the song I’m really singing on Sunday morning could sound more like this:

Joy and stress to the World, yes, my Lord has come. Let earth receive her King (and the gift I just bought you). The glory of Buying the right Gift. Let Heaven and Nature Sing….while I try to get everything done and figured out.

Make up your own hymn with contrasting realities – excitement and worry. Good memories and Nightmares. Christmas brings such a multifaceted array of emotions that sometimes it’s hard to navigate through these emotions and focus on the meaning of the season.

Pause with me and reflect.  Isn’t it true that we can SAY “I put Jesus first” but how often have I spoken platitudes to that effect all day long, but what’s really going on internally is much more raw and disappointing than that.  I am thankful for my precious strategic shoppers who recently reminded me that there is so much more for me to fix my mind and heart upon during Christmas time than the worry and stress of the current calendar and circumstances.

Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest” states nicely that “we are never free from the recurring tides of the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in.” Like a flood these distractions will always seek to pull us away from time with our Savior. We shouldn’t be surprised that Christmas comes with life-distractions that will sneak in from every angle during the season to take our hearts and minds off of Christ. We have the greatest opportunity to focus on our Savior all the more during this season. I just need to grab onto this opportunity with both hands and I can’t do that without acknowledging the problem and then reminding myself of the amazing solution that awaits my attention.  My current problem has a remedy that was spoken over 2000 years ago.

Jesus teaches us, If God so beautifully clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:30-33)

But now – I suggest to you this same passage seen through the eyes of the author of The Message,  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Dear reader, when the much more of the season’s busyness tries to push out the much more of our Savior, let’s aim to praise Him and remember Him amidst our circumstances. Will you join me in striving to seek first His Kingdom, push away the worry and the stress, and dwell on the much more that He only can give?  Blessings to you dear Reader – I wish for you Much More of Jesus during this blessed season.  

Always His and yours – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments, Young Adults

Finding my Silent Night

December in Chicago is a big game of hide and seek in so many ways.  I hunt for my stash of gloves so I can help shovel the driveway, or at least give directions on how it should be done.  I hunt for my favorite movies on Netflex, TCM and Hallmark so I can DVR them. I hunt for perfect gifts, the right ingredients and a little bit of peace and quiet now and then.  I do love a Silent Night. But achieving the Silent Night is difficult.

Because I don’t want to miss the opportunities to enjoy the “all is calm, all is bright” moment, I am hunting for ways  to go about achieving more Silent Nights this season than ever before. If scripture is true, and I believe with all my heart it absolutely is, then perhaps Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19 in which God meets Elijah in a whisper has something to offer.

“So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him.” (1 Kings 19:11-13a)

How do I like Elijah put myself in a position to experience the gentle blowing of God’s spirit to my soul? What mountains do I need to climb? As Elijah climbed a real mountain, I have a journey to make, and like Elijah, I’ll take it a step at a time.

Step Number One:   Who I am on this journey is key to the success of finishing it; I begin by remembering my position in Christ.  You and I are not God’s workhorses, we are His precious children. We’re not human DOINGS, we are human BEINGS. If I don’t just acknowledge this truth, but truly believe it, I will cease striving and recover strength through quiet times. I have a hard time slowing down long enough for my soul to recover its strength; I often must schedule silence in my life or I will have none. I have to schedule time with the Lord in prayer or I will have none. Amidst the chaos – even good chaos – it is important to note that work for the Lord is NEVER more important than my relationship with Him. The discipline of rest through silence, prayer and meditation on scriptural truth is how I can begin to care well for my soul.

Step Number Two:  Soul care entails a sense of stewardship for everything God has so generously given to me. This means being a good steward not only of the stuff God gives me, but of my time, energy, and emotional stability. It is my responsibility to manage them well. I know that when I feel depleted, ineffective, or I can’t finish my sentences because I’ve “run out of me”, I need to pull back and restock.  That takes me making some adjustments in my schedule. This is NOT about saying “no”; it is what I say “yes” to. My “yes’s” need to be effective in Kingdom building and soul building. Some things we will do this season will drain us – that is inevitable.  Some people will drain us. But not all events and people need to. Feeding my soul through eternal worthy events and people who nourish my spirit, brighten my day and encourage who I am in Christ must make the list.

Step Number Three:  Proper soul care means we need to take time now to prepare for tomorrow’s trouble.  I am not a pessimist by nature, but even in my eternal optimism, I am a realist. I know that the time to get on my life jacket is before the Titanic goes down. Tragedies will strike and when they do, it may feel like the soul is suffocating beneath the weight of it all. I want to navigate hard times competently so God accomplishes His goal to do the work He desires to do in me.  We know His ultimate purposes for us is to love Him more fully, to know Him more clearly, and to be conformed more closely to His image. No one can escape trials, but we can miss the potential to learn how to rest more efficiently in Him as we endure. Given the union we have with God when we allow ourselves to rest in Him and be silent amidst our lives, no one should neither avoid resting the soul nor experiencing a difficult time.  We rest when we intentionally self-reflect on what we are thinking, why we are making the decisions we are, and choosing wisely those events and relationships we invest Him. Resting is an active, intentional assessment of our lives and making adjustments accordingly.

Dear Reader, are you receiving the rest and care for your soul that is needed to climb to the summit so you too can meet with God as He speaks to you? I challenge you to schedule silence into your life. Say “yes” wisely and trust Him to bring purpose out of pain.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”-Psalm 62:1