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

Learn What We Already Know

I remember as a little girl getting ready for “the event.” We circled it on our calendars, canceled any other activities, made bowls of popcorn and got our pajamas on early.  Every American family basically did these same things. No child balked at eating their vegetables, siblings were on their best behavior and homework was done immediately after school, as no child would dare risk being punished and missing out. Am I talking about Christmas? Halloween? Maybe putting teeth under our pillows for the tooth fairy?  Absolutely not – it was the annual broadcast of the renowned movie, The Wizard of Oz.

Part of the movie magic of the Wizard of Oz is captured when Dorothy’s world goes from black and white to spectacular technicolor once Dorothy lands in Oz, stopped the Wicked Witch no less, and she steps out into a fantastical new world filled with over-sized flowers and under-sized people.  Every time I watched it as a little girl, I was amazed and awed at how radically her life changed in a moment.

Even at a young age, I understood through the visual feast of this movie that Dorothy didn’t learn anything new in her journey on the yellow brick road.  No, the point of Oz was for Dorothy to really know what she already knew.  It wasn’t enough that she was told that her home was where she belonged; she had to live out her fears, face her challenges and embrace new relationships in order to get to her teachable moment in which she learned what she already knew, “there’s no place like home”.

We are all like Dorothy to some degree.  We can say what we believe, but until we work out that truth through life, we are only living a Sepia toned existence. It would be apt to say, until I live out my faith, I really don’t know what I truly believe.

Let me give you a “Dorothy” example from my life.  I had learned from childhood on that prayer was a key Christian discipline.  I studied prayer, I valued prayer and I prayed.  I thought I knew what prayer was.  UNTIL, I entered the teenage years of parenting.  In one of those crucial moments when after having tried everything to get across to my adolescent what needed to change in their attitude, I finally gave up.  I threw my hands in the air and said adamantly, “That’s it!  I am done.  I have tried everything to get you to see what is wrong.  Nothing has worked.  So just, go to your room; while you’re there, pray for God to help you and don’t come down until you’ve met with Him.  While you do that, I’m going to pray that God opens your eyes.”  I angrily turned around and walked away as my teen headed to their room.

I prayed and I cleaned.  And I cleaned and I prayed – for 3 hours.  Just as I was finishing scrubbing the kitchen floor, I heard footsteps coming downstairs.  Having been in concerted prayer, I went much more peacefully toward this next conversation.  When they turned the corner, they were crying and with heartfelt repentance, told me where they had been wrong and sought my forgiveness.  In response, I burst into tears, immediately hugged them and declared all was forgiven.

In this case, there was indeed a happy ending.  However, more than having the problem solved, I learned – I mean, I really learned – about prayer for I had lived it as I had never lived it before.  That was my “Dorothy” teachable moment about prayer and better yet, I have never forgotten it.

Moving from a black and white world of faith to one of living color isn’t easy, but it’s an adventure none of us should miss.  Dear Reader, where is your Oz and are you ready to embrace your inner “Dorothy”?  Until next time, may you be brave and seize your teachable moments by learning what you already know!

Blessings to you always, 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.

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

Teachable Moments, Young Adults

A Christian Guide to Understanding Social media

As a parent of young adults, Professor of emerging adults and yet a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, trying to navigate my way through this new world of social media is a bit like tip-toeing through a mine (or mind) field.  I am aware that not all social media venues are the same; their respective differences are important to keep in mind or what I try to communicate may just blow up in my face. Yikes! To try to ensure safe passage, I find that my brain translates the various social media platforms into associations with which I am familiar.

  •         Twitter: Thoughts in the shower. I think best under water so this is one of my favorite platforms.  Yet, I have learned to withstand jumping out of the shower and immediately throwing my “brilliant” thoughts out there for the world to read.  I try and live with “no regrets” as a motto, and so I shut-up as much as post up.
  •         Pinterest: Post-It Notes.  Organizing all my random, creative ideas into different categories is so helpful to me, and hopefully others. For the “Tigger” in me who loves to jump from idea to idea, this is an ideal social media tool.
  •         LinkedIn:  Water-cooler Conversations  We don’t have a water cooler at work, but we do have a coffee station; it’s the same idea. I can share my experience, educational background, new career aspirations and ideas with colleagues who are like-minded.
  •         Facebook:  Coffee with Friends.  This is catch up time, random thoughts, funny moments, prayer requests, family photos, what I ate for lunch Tuesday afternoon, and what’s new at work all rolled into one.  Close friends and new acquaintances alike, I share my life, my passions and my family moments.
  •         Instagram:  Sharing photos with clever quips at a family reunion.  I share my life with others to laugh, cry and cringe over; both my very special and my everyday moments are included.  Who doesn’t want to see what I ate last week for breakfast as we sit down to a family get-together?!

Social media is a new way to do an old thing.  From the beginning, we as people were created to communicate and connect with one another.  We are created in God’s Trinitarian Image (Imago Dei). While what this means has been debated throughout church history, we find that whether we focus on our qualities, our functioning, or our relational attributes that we share with God, we are inherently meant to communicate and connect with one another.  Ultimately, this is the goal of social media – to communicate in order to connect.

As a Baby Boomer, none of these sites existed when I was a child, adolescent or young adult.  They are new to me – but not to my adult children. These are common, everyday ways to communicate and connect for them.  And, this next generation coming up will never know a time when Social Media did not exist. That is a mind-blowing thought.

Dear Reader, I hope my above guide helps you navigate the ever-morphing technological world.  I wanted to communicate my quick and quirky guide with you, to connect in fun, helpful and ever-more meaningful ways.  It means the world to me that you read this blog.

Until we next communicate and connect, Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth