Technologically Challenged.

New Jersey was cold in the winter (That’s putting it mildly if anyone remembers the blizzard of ’96. Good year for the Olympics. Bad for weather.)

So I remember the first signs of warmth. I was the first one in the house with the blinds up glued to a sunny window. The first one with a blanket out on the somewhat wet grass to lay out and soak up some warmth in between shivers. The first one to ask when we could picnic, and swim in the lake, and ride bikes until I couldn’t see anymore because it was so dark outside.

I remember the moment school let out one summer. The blanket was laid out under the huge tree at my neighbors house that crept over their rock wall and left a perfect canopy. We would lay under it and stare up towards the sky through the sun-illuminated leaves. I couldn’t even tell you how long we would lay there. It didn’t really matter.

I was drawn back to those days this week watching the sun shine through the trees walking with my girl listening for birds.

There were no cell phones.

There was no agenda.

As kids we’d be gone for hours until the parents would phone one another to get the other’s child home for dinner. We’d scarf it down and beg to go back out to soak up the last minutes of the sun (and secretly wait to hear the ice cream truck and promptly beg for a few quarters.)

Something robbed my kids of those carefree days. Something robbed me of those carefree days.

I could say it was 9/11. I could say that parents got smarter locking in on their kid’s every moves. I could say the world’s a better place because everyone is more careful.

But I’d be lying.

Somewhere in the jumble of growing up and becoming an “adult”… while we put on our big kid pants and go to college, and get big kid jobs, and mortgages, and insurances… we take off carefree exploration, and stopping to savor, and creativity, and adventure. We’ve taken on immediate communication and “on-demand” and sacrificed the anticipation and joy of waiting.

I never thought I’d say it, since I was one of the first kids begging my parents to get AOL to IM(that’s Instant Message), but I miss only having a home phone. Getting mail. Being legitimately bored. Having 2 TV’s… not like 7 screens (phones, iPads, laptops, computers…and the 2 TV’s).

All this instant access has corrupted the beauty of family and community. What’s instant access if you have no one to share it with?

We wind up trying to talk to each other between pings and walls made from tech screens that have our attention glued. I read a post somewhere this week that I totally needed to hear: We love our gadgets and use our people. (Ok God, you’ve got my attention.)

Jesus and his group of followers were intentional. Jesus invited, the disciples came (Matthew 9). They ate meals together (Jesus various teachings to the people included shared meals, and don’t forget the last meal they shared). They did life together. They hung out with the outcasts (tax collectors, thieves, prostitutes), and stopped to spend time with kids(Mark 10:14). Jesus own home town didn’t accept him, but he frequently plugged into places that would accept him.

Possible offenses aside, I really need to ask myself: Is my current use of technology helping or hurting my relationships? Am I watching My Little Pony and playing Fruit Ninja with my kids… or catching up on The New Girl and trying to get the high score on the latest word game with my kids dancing around (no, most likely hitting each other) for my attention? Maybe I can stand being a little more difficult to get a hold of, leave the cell phone at home, and possibly delete a few apps to communicate the old fashioned way… log on to my computer. (Or even waiting a few days until I see so-and-so to talk to their good-looking face). Go on a run with no playlist or iPhone. Watch a DVD, or play a board game.

Maybe even play outside with my kids until the sun disappears.

#SigningOff

 

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Silence.

Lack of finances will totally take you through some situations you filed under “I’d rather not”.

This year, almost half way through, has definitely fit the phrase “Things I don’t want to do.” In reflection of all the situations I have come up against I am pretty certain that the one common denominator is fear.

Isn’t it amazing? Human beings seem so fearless at times. My daily schedule isn’t exactly Evil Knievel style (packing a healthy snack for a 1st grade boy is quite a daring task though. I mean c’mon… He could get made fun of for having an orange instead of Gushers.), BUT thinking about some of the tasks I took advantage of daily, compared to the last month… you really start noticing when you live out of fear instead of faith.

My pastor in the program I attended in Utah at 17 frequently said “Life always looks better in hindsight.” We can look back and reflect on the good steps and faulty ones, and make decisions on how to move forward.

At my church, our pastor has been teaching on contemplative spirituality. For a big phrase, it’s quite simple. It is definitely one of the things I had unknowingly feared the most. It’s the silence around us and in our minds. Have you ever gotten really quiet? I mean so quiet you aren’t even thinking? Until yesterday I thought it impossible. I can’t even walk to the grocery store for 3 minutes without thinking or singing in my head.

Jesus always went away to a quiet place. I am really starting to think it wasn’t because He was holier then everyone else. Life gets loud. It gets chaotic. He had crowds and disciples following Him a lot. He was a teacher, a listener, a friend, a son, a brother. When we look at Jesus’ human side, and break it down, He’s quite relatable. I am not Jesus… but I can relate. After days of teaching kids, and listening to how days have been, and connecting with friends, and parents, and sisters and brothers… something inside me says slow down. Decompress. Breathe.

Put the phone away, drive away, find a quiet place, and inhale the creator of my inner most being.

It’s there, in the quiet place of reflection, my emotions can’t hide behind dusters, errands, and laundry. Up until yesterday I had no idea the silence could decompress my fears and bring out hidden motives without guilt being attached. It’s just a few peaceful moments of being with the creator of the universe.

It has made me realize something profoundly simple. I am an addict.

I crave background noise. Not to mention a good beverage or snack. I really can’t shake a finger at someone else for their drug of choice.  I have mine too. And if I bet to wager… there is a possibility you have one or two addictions as well.

That silence I have forced upon myself has done me good. It’s like accomplishing cleaning…on the inside (yup, I said it!). Much like the AM coffee or PM munchie, I am quickly realizing I can’t live without silence and solitude, but I can live with a lot less of the other stuff.

 

 

If you’d like a great source for this click here and view messages from 4/27/14-5/18/14

The power of perspective.

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought a lot of the people in the Bible were spiritually self-loathing/self-righteous I-can’t-ever-live-up-to-that kind of folk. I mean really… could you sing about how much you love Jesus while getting brutally tortured and say these trials are joy? I looked up to Paul, but legitly thought he may have had a mental disorder. 

Something changed.

I was thinking about that passage in James 1 I had read over millions of times in my own trials and challenges since I was 11. I had used this as my “life verse”. I had thought, at times (in complete arrogance now in hindsight), “wow, I am so close to God.”

Oh, Merissa.

That chapter, and the countless other letters written in the New Testament, were not written by spiritually advanced and worthy persons who knew God better than the back of their hand. They were written by men who were terrible human beings, were changed and overcome by the love of a God who became a human, like them, so they could be saved… and writing in their failures, torment, and unbearable situations.

These are not passages written by spiritually powerful, priests and pastors. These were working class men. These were men who beat and killed Christians. Men who met Jesus and were changed in unexpected ways. They didn’t sit in a church pew and decide they better choose Jesus at age 8 so mom and dad would be proud. They were mediocre. They were roaming around in their own lives, their work, their bills…and Jesus said “Follow me.”

These men were relatable. Because they failed as miserably as I do. 

They had no ministry agenda. No five points on how to save a “secular” and “sinful” neighbor. No ways to live long and prosper in happiness and wealth. They had no church building. No funds. No 17 Bibles in 17 different versions sitting in dust on their bookshelves.

They were broke. They were nomads (I think we’d call them squatters?). They had the reminder of the grace of Jesus over their lives. They had loving their neighbor. They grew community. They shared everything they had. They gave up all they had. Not because they had a savings account and 401 K to fall back on. They deeply loved each other. They memorized and lived and breathed Jesus and his acts. That love. That life changing core rocking act of Jesus spurred them on to live it out in every way possible even to physical death.

They did it because it’s what they were supposed to do. It’s what Jesus said would be worth it. They trusted that God was before, God was with, and God would lead the way in the future. 

It’s in the dust, the wreckage, it’s in facing a wall of financial uncertainty that we have the amazing opportunity to realize:

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

God is all powerful can he not stop or start whatever He pleases? Can He not withhold and bless in the same situation? Does He not know exactly what I need in this exact moment?

Why do I minimize Him to church classrooms and Sunday services? Why do I only allow Him into the moments that cause me the least amount of growing pains? Why do I not believe His hand is both in the bad and the good, for my good and my growth. To bring me closer to living heaven in the moments that seemingly hurt the most, or bore me with mundane and seemingly trivial repetitiveness?

All this is not trial. All this is God washing over, and protecting, cleansing, renewing and removing the cancer and growths that have penetrated my marriage, my family, and me.

He is finishing what He started…not abandoning. He is growing new and good things that I may not yet see…but know they are coming.

And while I wait in the unpaid bills and pending finances… I feel the wall of prayers and service of our church community. I hear the laughter of my unharmed children. I see the smile, the heartbeat, and embrace of my living husband. And I know without an unshaken doubt that God is here. He is alive. His work is not finished.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[a] 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,[b] will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[c] being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.