Teachable Moments

Do It Again

“Memory is the diary we all carry with us.” -Oscar Wilde

We are what we remember. Our memories are the framework in which we paint our current life. When we forget or we choose not to remember, we are similar to a sailboat who has lost its sail out in a stormy sea – no direction, no control, and you don’t know where you’re going to end up. You hope you’re going to land in a good spot, but there are no guarantees.

Memories serve to anchor us.  Memories should be harnessed; we should use them to learn from and move toward growth. This is true for us as individuals; it also applies to our love lives.  We fall more in love with one another as well as navigate conflict resolution, time management, financial decisions and even romance when we learn from what we have already done.

It’s no surprise that at the beginning of our love life, we intentionally do things to attract and enjoy our partner.  We put a great deal of focused energy and make choices to nurture the relationship, to flourish both in our behaviors and our emotions.  We do what we do so love can be grounded and grow. We want to make it work, usually at all costs.

This focus is exactly what Revelations 2 talks about in regard to the church of Ephesus.  The relationship between the church and God isn’t about their ability to do the necessary hard work that is required for all relationships to survive nor their ability to survive the hard times; it is that they forgot the winsome, adoring behaviors that were done in the beginning of their love life. “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Rev. 2:3-5

Reviving our love lives means we take a hard look at what we did in the very beginning. We learn from HOW we fell in love and repeat that which made our love thrive.

 

  1. Communication – “Lots, frequent, consistent about everything” are how we could honestly assess our conversations at the beginning of our romantic relationships.  I remember my husband and I spent hours in the middle of the night talking on the phone as we started seriously dating. We could not get enough “air time” as we wanted to know everything about the other person. And it wasn’t about bullet point facts – we wanted to know who the other person was in their being, in their heart, mind and soul.  
    • In our relationships today, do we put the same effort and attention into wanting to understand and explore the other person’s thinking and desires? Is my attitude one of “I still want to know you more?”
  2. Time investment – It takes time for relationships to become established.  It takes time to preserve our relationships and help them become healthy and strong.  Quality and quantity of time are not enemies, nor do we choose between one or the other. Both quality and quantity of time are required for relationships to prosper.
    • In our relationships today, do we invest the time both in quality and quantity that is required for our love to develop in a resilient and sustainable way?
  3. Focus on the “lovely” – When I was dating my husband, if you had asked me what I loved about him, I could have gone on and on for days. And honestly, I still could. Yet, like most relationships, it is easy to get into the habit of a critical viewpoint and notice the challenges more than the charms of the relationship. By nature, we as people can be very judgmental. Making sure that our negative judgments are not larger than our positive ones is a key to a thriving love life.
    • In our relationships today, do we practice the discipline of positive regard in which I build up the one that I love more than tear them down, both when I am speaking to them or when I am thinking about them?

Dear Reader, I encourage you to think back in time and to remember what you did in the beginning that caused you to fall in love in the first place.  Make your memories work for you both in your love life with people and with your God. Let us be doers of the word in Revelation 2, not just hearers. What wisdom we can glean from our memories if we but take the time to inventory what “we did at first” when love was new and awe-inspiring?

Praying this year’s Valentine’s Day brings joy to your soul. You certainly bring joy to mine!  

Blessings and Love Abundant, Elizabeth

 

 

Teachable Moments

Our Children are Watching

What’s the quickest way to get children wanting to follow God?  Let me propose that it has much more to do with “being through doing” than “knowing through saying.”  If I want my children to want to know and love Jesus, then they need to see that I want to know and love Jesus.  My heart has to be on my sleeve – they have to see that my internal passion for Christ results in a servant’s life for the Kingdom, “being through doing.”  I can’t espouse what I “know through what I say” and leave it at that.  How I live my heart of faith on a daily basis means much more in the long run than any confessions of faith to our children.

Observation and imitation is the lifeblood of childhood learning.  This is why children will giggle up a storm and jump in readily at early ages when you play Peek-a-boo with them as babies, Follow the Leader as toddlers and Simon Says as preschoolers.  Children watch and learn from the time they are born. What kind of faith we live out in front of them is building their everyday theology.

Parents ultimately reflect to their children what is in their hearts. So, what is in our hearts and how are we living it out?  What are our children observing and imitating in us?

  • Examine your calendar.   Scripture is clear that our life should involve times of fellowship with others, being taught by godly teachers, using our spiritual gifts for the body, and living a life of faith out in the world to show those who do not know Christ yet who He is.  Do you do this? If the audio of your life was turned off, and you were a video alone – how would they see you spending your time?
  • Examine your speech.  Slander and gossip is a contemporary epidemic which shames the church and is a poor reflection of the grace God has benevolently given to His children.  How often do your children hear you criticize others? A life that loves Jesus is a life that loves others, even when they aren’t in the same room. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
  • Examine your attitude.  A book published in 2009 discussed the “relentless rise of narcissism, a very positive and inflated view of self” (Twenge, Campbell).  Research has shown that domestic violence, verbal abuse, and bullying have all risen in national statistics; this view of self begets an attitude which allows me to treat you in sinful and abusive ways without fear of consequence.   Humility is the opposite of narcissism and best tested at home behind closed doors. It is easy to “fake it” to the outside world, but not in the long run in front of your family. Humility is a key trait that allows grace and patience.  How quick are you to repent, confess and then listen to how you have wronged others and hurt them? How quick are you to seek the advancement of others over yourself or to give others the benefit of the doubt? Do your children see you “in humility considering  others better than yourself”? (Phil. 2:3)
  • Examine your wallet.  In Luke 3 when John the Baptist calls the crowds to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” and they ask “what should we do”, he gives 3 answers, all having to do with money.  Don’t take more than you should, be content with what you have, and give to those in need. The word picture in 1 Timothy 5:18 commands us to support our pastors and local churches.  And 2 Cor. 9:7 says God loves a CHEERFUL giver. All of these scriptures are only just words unless we are living them out faithfully with a smile on our face.

The Next Generation is watching and waiting to see a faith that is real.  It starts when they are babies and continues as they grow. We are producing in our children a platform for them to consider the truths of scripture and how they will respond.  We can’t start too early or too late in living a life worthy of our children’s observation and imitation.

Dear Reader, will you take a look in the mirror at your heart?  What do you see? Ask God to show you; turn to Him for His gracious forgiveness and abiding love, walk with His  Spirit and watch as He produces a heart in you that humbly desires to live a life of faith with your children as your audience.  Our God is glad to give to those who ask. Will you ask with me?

May all our children observe our lives and see that we live a life of worship to our Great King that is worthy of their imitation!  Blessings and grace abounding to you, friends.

As always yours, Elizabeth

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

A Christian Guide to Technology Part 1

I’m officially terrified.  Not the normal-everyday type of terror as when I hit every single red light on the way to the train station and I’m afraid I might not make the train I need to get to arrive at work on time.  Not the “’oh no – I just ate another plate of Christmas cookies and I haven’t exercised in over a week” despair. And not the, “I haven’t gotten 7 -8 hours sleep since…..I’m too tired to remember” anxiety.  Nope – this is the “what is the world coming to; I think the world is getting exponentially worse moment-by-moment” type of terror.

Here’s why:

  • The Royal Society for Public Health in the UK asked 14-24 year-olds how social media platforms impacted their health and wellbeing.  Results showed all forms led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness.
  • Teens ages 13- 17 send an average of 3364 texts per month, while 33% state they send more than 100 texts a day.
  • 11 hours per day, 11-18 year olds spend over 11 hours per day exposed to electronic media
  • Recent research is investigating the negative effects of cumulative screen time (phone, computer, ipad, TV, etc. minutes combined) which shows children and teens’ relational and emotional development is leading to more negative behaviors, depression and an overall decrease in the satisfaction of life

Bottom line, technological use is eroding the happiness, critical thinking, relational connection and compassion in a large majority of the next generation.  And none of the research indicates it is going to move in a positive direction; instead, experts believe it will only get worse and we have yet to understand the full negative ramifications.

What do we do in light of such a discouraging forecast?  We do what we always do; we engage in “God-first” thinking.  We remind ourselves of the mandate that God gives each of His people; we are to invest in relationships with one another that engage in heart and Kingdom matters.  Too often technology is a distraction from relational connection as it engages the gratification centers of our brain, pursues bullet point facts or information and allows us to insulate ourselves away from hard conversations, which lead to effective conflict resolution.  Relationships require BOTH quality and quantity of time and our time is compromised when I invest in a relationship with my devices more than I do with those around me.

Intimacy is the characterizing attribute we are working to cultivate between one another.  Intimacy grows in a relationship when we disclose vulnerably to one another in safe and trusted ways; intimacy grows when who I am is valued as a person no matter my flaws.  We value one another with honor when we take the time to engage in non-distracted conversation, listening and encouraging one another in consistent and dependable ways. Just like God does with us.

God is always with me; God is always listening to me; God is unchanging in His devotion, attention and care for me.  To grow as a believer is to be conformed to the image of God in Christ and to do that, I need to choose intentionally to invest my attention and effort into my relationship with God, which will then flow into my relationships with those around me.

Practically, pursue intimacy with God and others by considering the following:

  1. Remember, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Cor. 10:23) Choose to use technology only in ways that profit and edify your soul and the souls of others. This requires self-reflection and self-assessment and won’t look the same for everyone; think edification over legalism.
  2.  Media can be missional when it advances Kingdom matters, which can include a right understanding of man’s relationship with God, wisdom to flourish in the God-given lives God has given us and advance the world’s understanding of God and His gospel message.  Choose wisely the words you post in social media; if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face and it is not first loving, don’t say it.
  3.  God has given you a set amount of moments in this world; consider how you will be accountable for all the time you spend on electronic media and make sure you teach your children to do the same.
  4. New is not always better; consider giving more money to your local church, missions or a worthy organization that is teaching God’s word rightly rather than buying the newest technology.

Reader, the key to making sure we are using our technology wisely is both an internal and external matter.  We start with the internal by prayerfully reflecting on our choices, habits and needs. We then have our internal convictions and priorities result in careful consideration of how and when I use technology.  We take responsibility that if I am to impact the next generation to thirst after God, then I must first live a life myself that is obviously displaying a thirst for God myself.

Psalm 63:1, “You, god, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

Until next we meet here in Teachable Moments, may the lover of our souls Himself give each of us discernment in how we pursue His kingdom in a digital world.