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

Teachable Moments

What Puts The GRAND In Grandparenting?

“If I knew Grandparenting was so great, I would have been a grandparent FIRST!”  My Mom told me this after she had spent a delightful day playing at the park, having a picnic, and reading books with my preschool children and when they needed reigning in, she brought them to me; she had the fun, and I got to parent.  Grandparents often get the joys of being with the kiddos without all the hassle and worry. This doesn’t mean Grandparents don’t work when they are on child-duty, but it does mean that they don’t have ultimate responsibility.

Grandparents are in a unique role as there are benefits to their stage of life that they didn’t have when they were younger.  Now, of course this doesn’t apply to every Grandparent, but for many gone are the days of early alarm clocks, a 5-day work week, and evenings filled with soccer practices, piano lessons, and play dates.  Time can be considered more at the discretion of the Grandparent with a freedom of choice they haven’t previously enjoyed. Finances don’t have to be designated for orthodontic braces, prom dresses, college fees, or wedding receptions.  With these responsibilities behind them, Grandparents have a choice they can spend on their adult children and their growing families.

How best can Grandparents make the most of these precious years with their grandchildren?  How can the former generation influence the future generation?  It’s not a matter of making a “to do” list, but rather a “to be” list.  

  1. G – Get your wisdom from God.   Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, NIV)  God has gotten you this far, He can be there to help give you the strength and wisdom you’ll need to influence the next generation.  Ask God to give you the opportunities you need to have those teachable moments with your Grandchildren that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
  2. R – Remember those funny, fun and frantic life stories.  A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. (Proverbs 17:22, MSG) My Grandmother told me stories of having a goat-cart to get around town, putting rouge on her knees when she went out dancing the Charleston in the 1920s, listening around the radio to “The Shadow” in the 1930s, and remembering the first movie she ever saw (1915, “The Champion” with Charlie Chaplin).  What fun it was to hear about “ the good ole’ days” and how encouraging to know that the God that sustained my Grandparents would also see me through.
  3. A – Answer questions and Ask just as many.  Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, NIV) Take the time to engage in conversation.  Don’t let those teachable moments slide by!  Also, if you have a Grandchild who tends not to initiate conversation, take the time to seek them out and ask about their lives – what they are experiencing, what they think and what decisions they are  making.
  4. N – Never miss a moment to be an “encourager”. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV) Parents and children face many challenges on a day-to-day basis.  As a grandparent, look for the silver lining and the positive. You never know how your words of encouragement can build up relationships, help navigate conflict and encourage perseverance through tough times.
  5. D – Disciple the next generation.  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35, NIV) Your best gift to your grandchildren is loving them well.  Never miss out on giving a hug, speaking about your devotion to Jesus and showing appreciation for what makes them special.  Loving family relationships built on Christ is a strong witness to the world and a blessing that your Grandchildren will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Dear Reader, what a privilege it is to be a Grandparent.  Your relationship is a powerful opportunity to influence the next generation in significant ways. You’ve lived a lifetime – it’s now time to pass on all you’ve learned and invest in these young lives.  Look and cultivate all the Teachable Moments you can find – you’ll be glad you did and so will your grandchildren.

Fond blessings to you!  As always, Elizabeth

PS – do you know a Grandparent who may find this article helpful? Could you kindly consider passing this blog post on to them?  I’d appreciate it and I bet they would too. Let’s make every Teachable Moment count!

Teachable Moments

My Best Advice on…Advice

“NOW, what do I do?” is every parent’s nightmare question that is a living reality.  I’m sure if I had a nickel for everytime I asked that while raising my children, I’d be a trizillionaire (or whatever word works for being mega-rich because as a parent, I often felt clueless).

Those who either heard or saw my confusion and consternation loved to give unasked-for advice.  Their advice usually started with something like, “when that happened to me….”, as if they knew all about my life because they had already lived it.  OR, “what I did that worked..”, as if they had the magic answer to any parenting situation, or my favorite, “what you should do…”, which means there is a universal code of parenting that I should know and must obey if I want to raise children that aren’t enemy #1 to society as adults.

Most of the time, unasked-for advice works the same as asked-for advice; the key isn’t the advice, it’s the person who is listening to the advice.  I was the one who made the difference. There were times I learned from advice, and times I didn’t.  There were a few significant points of consideration that all had to work together in order for me to be counted among those “who have ears to hear”.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:30), has some wise words of advice about advice.  So – he’s our go-to guy on this matter and here are 3 things he has to say and my tidbits of commentary to enliven them for you.

Resolution to Receive

Listen to and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  (Prov. 19:20, NIV).   The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.”  Seeking wisdom from a variety of sources is the path to wisdom.  How can I do this?

  • Keeping a look out for those persons God puts in my path, so I can ask and listen to their opinions is a consistent and intentional goal.
  • Seeking advice which leads to wisdom is my responsibility (it isn’t someone else’s job to make me see reason – hopefully).  
  • Great advice won’t just drop in my lap; I need to seek it out.  
  • Living in our virtual realities with Alexa or Siri as my all-wise advice givers isn’t going to cut it.  Some good ideas and information from these techno wizards is expected, but no matter what algorithm Facebook comes up with, I can’t replace advice from people I respect, who love me, and will take time investing in me personally.  I am just one in many billion to Google, Alexa, or Siri but to the people around me, I am one in a million that they actually care about. Who better to seek advice from than those who know and love me best?

Facing Your Fears

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.  Prov. 12:15, NIV)  The Contemporary English Version says, “Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.”  Even though most of us would like to see ourselves as teachable and open to the opinions of others, what would stop us from listening to advice?  Our fears – we need to face them and then, face them down.

  • “I’m afraid of what you would think of me if I ask for help.”  This person believes asking for help is a weakness, not a strength.  The opinions of others are more important than the opinion they have of themselves.  This needs to change.
  • “I have to pretend to know what I’m doing so you’ll still believe in me; I’m afraid if I don’t act like I have it all together, you won’t respect me.”  This person believes that the only reason someone respects them is because they can do something well without anyone else’s input.  This takes independence way too far and actually weakens the position of the person.
  • I’m afraid you won’t like me if I ask for help; I’m sure I’m a bother.”  This person believes that if asked, others believe that giving help is a pain, not a privilege.  This is actually not the case. Most people love being a help when they can be. Bonus verse:  Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. (Prov. 27:9, NIV)  Part of friendship is being there for one another; don’t push your friends away when you need advice, draw them closer.

Self-Protection is really Self-defeat

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Prov. 11:14, NIV)  Trying to live a godly life in which we flourish daily is tough.  How does advice get me what I need and what I want out of life?

  • Be Open and Open-Minded.  Ditch the self-protection and be vulnerable in sharing what is really going on in your life.  Tell the truth to the counselors you trust and seek out their honest opinion.
  • Be a Systematic Theologian.  Look at the WHOLE of Scripture and how it puts together a bigger picture of our life and who God is in it.  An “abundance of counselors” would indicate that we shouldn’t just take one verse and run with it; instead, take the time to study a topic or idea thoroughly from a full-biblical perspective to make sure it is well-informed.
  • Be Patient. Whatever goal we have set for ourselves, we need to remember that it may take a while to get there.  Getting advice from a number of different counselors takes time and patience in order to persevere to the right answer.

Dear Reader, “Once a parent, always a parent!”  And no matter how old my kids get or how long I am at this parenting-thing, I still need encouragement and advice.  If you will take one piece of advice from me, face your fears, defeat your self-protection and seek advice from an abundance of counselors you trust and who want to invest in you personally so you can receive their advice and flourish in the life God has given you.  Seek wisdom and you will find it.

Blessings to you – and thanks for taking the time to read my advice…on advice.  Fondly yours always – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

What Traveling Can Teach You

I just got back from traveling overseas.  I enjoy the chaos of travel – its unexpected trials, my new best friends that I sit next to on the plane, and the airport food that is twice as expensive but just as satisfying.  I like looking at possible souvenirs I won’t buy and rifling through magazines I would never have time to read in my “everyday” life. I even enjoy the waiting for delayed flights.

When our children were younger, we traveled with them.  We loved showing them new places and teaching them to navigate the airports, unique travel challenges and meeting people who spoke different languages, wore unique clothing and had traditions that had little to do with their “everyday” life.  They even enjoyed waiting for delayed flights with us.

We all learned a lot about ourselves and who we were as family during our travels.  Our trips’ Teachable Moments are our souvenirs that we still enjoy remembering and using today in our “everyday” lives.  These souvenirs bring a wisdom that only comes through travel.

SOUVENIR #1 – Plans Always Go Awry

You can plan; you can obsess; you can detail every second, but I guarantee you, something will go awry.  There is no perfect plan and there are no guarantees. The only one who is perfect and knows the plan is God Himself, “I make known the end from the beginning…” (Isaiah 46:10).  

T.M.:  Having the expectation that the journey of life as well as any travel routes will never end up being what we initially expect is a wise truth to remember, especially when the unexpected arises.  Get ready to be surprised, uncomfortable and interrupted and remember – all of these build character.

SOUVENIR #2 – Picking Your Travel Partners

Not everyone is built for travel.  Some do it much better than others.  Some struggle with the confinement that is inevitable when you are negotiating how to get from point A to point B.  Some hate the amount of time it takes to reach one’s destination, no matter the mode of travel. Some feel edgy thinking of all the other things they could be doing until they reach their destination.  And some HATE figuring out out of all the stuff they own what stuff they need to take with them. These types of worried, anxious individuals who usually expect the worst-case scenario and have no hope that they will enjoy life as they travel make the journey more difficult than it needs to be.  Proverbs is correct when it says “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down” and Proverbs is also correct when it says, “a merry heart makes for a merry countenance”.

T.M.:  Besides packing a toothbrush, pack a good attitude that is hopeful and leans upon God for contentment!

SOUVENIR #3 – Perspective Matters

My husband has said as long as I’ve known him (over 30 years now) that it is not perfection, but the direction of our lives that count.  Focusing too much on having the “perfect” trip or focusing too much on where we are going and not where we are currently at are both perspectives that will kill any decent travel plan.  Focusing too much on any moment of time other than the moment we are currently in is a great waste of time.  I can’t change either the past or future, but I can influence this moment – and since a trip is just a series of moments – it’s wise to make every moment count.  As for considering just “getting there” as the very definition of success, that is a misguided idea that process is inferior to results. It’s just not true – how we get somewhere, what we learn and enjoy as we get there, the relationships we build as we get there – these are all significant in their own right.  

T.M.: Realize the current way being made for you (Isaiah 43:18-19) and celebrate the moment you are in (Romans 14:17).

Dear Reader, if you travel, you have a whole bunch of Teachable Moments that direct your life.  Recognizing what God has taught you and how it informs your life is an invaluable collection of souvenirs. Have you shared with your children what you have learned from life’s journey and specifically, your own travel experiences?  What has God taught you? What Teachable Moments are your souvenirs? Next time you come home from even a day trip, start a conversation with your family that begins with, “On my trip, God taught me….” and let them see how God had been at work within you as you had been away from them.  

May you enjoy picking through your collection of Teachable Moments and giving testimony and thanks to God for each one.

Blessings to you as we travel this life together.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth