Training in Righteousness
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Tuesday
Oct112016

Don't pick the scab

Did your mother ever warn you about picking at a scab? Mine did. And she was generally right about why I shouldn't: it will slow down the healing process; it will bleed again; it could leave a scar. But we did it as kids, anyway. Scabs itch sometimes, and it was irritating.

Something has been bothering me the past couple of weeks. And, no, it has nothing to do with American Politics (although that's downright scary) or Trinity debates. It's watching people online pick at things.

When I first began blogging and reading blogs, I got really annoyed with people who seemed to reject discernment and theological thinking (not realizing, of course, that I was ignorant myself, and had much to learn) and I would read their content. I would churn. I would rant about it to my husband, and more often than I ought to have, online. He would say to me, "Why do you read her/him?" I would decide that I wouldn't do that anymore, but I would find myself being drawn to the drama like the proverbial moth to the flame. Sometimes, there's a little rush when we get indignant and then let fly with criticism. 

Why do we follow online those we ultimately cannot abide? Is there not enough negative content that we can't control without making a point of following it somewhere else? Is there an energy that comes with taking our morning coffee and going in search of something with which we disagree so we can refute it? Yes, I'm probably exaggerating that description, but how close do we come to doing that? There is a big difference between engaging with someone's teaching and just looking for things to criticize. Yes, by all means, address the error, but making someone's questionable teaching the main staple of our reading diet just feeds our desire to complain. I've done it. Now, please don't understand me: I am not saying we should not address error. But surely while error is being pointed out, some building up could be going on.

I still struggle to fight the temptation to churn over things I've read online. I long to be an encouraging person, a gentle person, and a person who thinks before she speaks. For those writers who do spend time thinking before speaking, I am grateful. I admire that. I enjoy so much the good teaching of men and women whom I read. I am sharpened by it, and edified by it. But it's disheartening to see men and women throw unconstructive rhetoric at one another through cyberspace. Surely we are better than that.

The blogger I admire the most is a lot like my husband: little is said on a regular basis, but when it is said, it is sound, and worth listening to. There is patience, and thought before speaking up. I've longed to be like that blogger, and I long to be as restrained as my husband. Learning when to speak and not to speak is something I continue to strive toward.

Perhaps some would react to this post with disgust and lump me in with the capitulators and those who are apathetic about theology and orthodoxy. I can't stop people from thinking that about me, but those who know me well know that isn't true. I know how I react to someone who never seems to have anything but a combative word to say, and I don't want to be that person.

Friday
Sep162016

I you can't stand the heat, and all those clichés

This is a rather quick post. I have three chapters of Millard Erickson I want to have read by Monday, and I want to get well into Confessions today, in addition to replenishing my rather empty pantry and fighting off the puppy mania that is running rampant around here this week.

I have three older brothers, and as a young girl, I was a mouthy little thing. I was also too easily offended (why is it that some of the most sarcastic, nasty people are also easily offended?). My mother would warn me that if I wasn't prepared to do the battle, I shouldn't get into the fight. Mama was right about that one. I was the one who ended up in tears.

I have noticed a similar situation online. People who are out there in the public, using their voice balk at criticism and are eager to point the "you offended me" finger. Explanatory posts fly through the internet as each side is sure that his or her post will be the one that changes everyone's mind. And when those posts don't, and another appears to challenge them, things get heated. And yet again, someone objects to having been treated badly.

I have learned through being married for 29 years that very often, just because my husband doesn't agree with me, it doesn't mean he "doesn't understand." He may very well understand; he just doesn't agree. It is only my ego which contributes to the notion that in order for him to have perfect understanding, he must come around to my way of thinking. That has been a valuable lessons for me.

There's been a lot of debate online over the summer. In between school and other responsibilities, I have paid attention a little here and a little there, and each time I give a little attention to it, I see it again: participants getting offended and crying foul. And sometimes, the online diaglogue is not befitting what Christians ought to involve themselves in. Yes, speak truth, but seriously, some of the writers I have seen over the past few months know less about courtesy than my children did as teenagers.

We had a bit of a discussion about a passage in Romans yesterday in class. The prof was talking about differing views of Romans 2:12-14 and how it contributes to biblical evidence for general revelation. One of my classmates spoke up and asked for clarification of the view my prof presented. The discussion which ensued was civil and well done. Perhaps my prof having been teaching for 40 years contributes to the knowledge of doing debate well. Plus, we were all face to face. There is simply no way the dialogue would resemble some of the ranting I've seen online.

My husband has reminded me frequently over the 11 years I have been blogging: if I don't want negative feedback, don't write. If I am too sensitive, be quiet. I think we can all learn something from that. There are some who cannot take as good as they give. Frankly, the energy expended continuing a battle day in and day out can be draining. Everyone needs a break now and then. Look at pictures of kittens, puppies, or bunnies. Spend some time with our family. Read a good novel. Watch a British crime drama. Sometimes, we just need to get out of the kitchen for a while.

Thursday
Apr282016

The value of face to face

Yesterday, I filled out the course evaluation for my hermeneutics class. I checked the "strongly agree" box for almost every question. Yes, it was that good. It sharpened me. My classmates encouraged me, and I learned a lot from them. I love attending classes weekly. There is great convenience in being able to complete a course mostly online; I did that in the fall semester. But I loved being in class weekly. In September, I'll be there twice weekly to take Hebrew. My other class, on Augustine, and taught by Michael Haykin, will meet for eight hours four times over the semester. Eight hours in a classroom may sound like a drudge to some, but the time passes very quickly, and I'm looking forward to it.

I don't know my hermeneutics prof as I know other people, but I know him more than I did when I began. Lord willing, I will be able to take another course with him. Next week, I start my course "The Old Testament in the New Testament," and we will meet every day, from 9:00 - 4:00 for the entire week. The prof is the one I had for Biblical Introduction, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from him, too. I'm looking forward to hearing other students share their insights. I'm sure there will be a couple of familiar faces.

Face to face is just better than online. Don't get me wrong; I love my internet friends. There are a handful with which I've been friends for ten years now. But the ones whom I have met face to face have a special place. To see their faces, to hear their voices, to hear the sound of their laughter, to embrace, or even to shake hands just adds something to the relationship. 

Being in school every week has reminded me that there is a limit to our online connections. Sure, we can text, skype, email, or do battle together on Twitter against a host of our detractors. But there is something far better about an hour over coffee, or sharing a meal. There are many times when I wish I could do exactly that with a few of the women I have met online. Over ten years ago, I met a fellow homeschooler online, and we only live an hour apart. Last summer, we met weekly. This summer, we are going to do it again. Blogs are great, but face to face is much sweeter.

I am thankful for things like Facebook to keep in touch with those I don't see regularly, but there is always the understanding that if we had our way, we would be face to face.

Tuesday
Mar102015

Pick your poison

Yesterday, at Out of the Ordinary, Melissa wrote some wise words about how Pinterest can be a stumbling block. As we take in the gorgeous pictures of decorating schemes, crafting, and food, we can end up comparing our lives to what is on Pinterest. Read the whole thing; it's good advice. I thought about it quite a bit yesterday.

Personally, I don't stumble over Pinterest. I love having a place where I can keep things to save for later. I like having other people to share things with. My Pinterest activity is very limited, mostly recipes and knitting projects, as well as a few pins for photography. I can go for days without checking Pinterest, I don't follow many people, and few follow me. What I love about Pinterest is that there is no drama.

However, that doesn't mean I don't stumble over something. Facebook is probably a bigger trip-up for me because it's the place where one of my biggest weaknesses can take flight: words; my own and those of others. I may get annoyed with what others say, and respond inappropriately, or say the wrong thing. I may get involved in useless debates. Facebook is also where my tendency to fear man's opinion can shine through, because if I do say something wrong, and I'm challenged, I feel uneasy. Thankfully, I'm learning to ignore; ignoring is very freeing. And it's necessary. It's bearing with others in love. If someone reads a bad book, do I really need to interject my thoughts? Is Facebook the place for that? Is the worst crime in the world reading a bad book?

Social media has great uses, but its worst feature is that it can be a distraction. And social media isn't the only distraction out there. We can all pick our poison when it comes to that which will drag our eyes away from our lives in Christ. Distractions are so subtle, so insidious; before we know it, we've wandered far down the road. We can all have our eyes taken from Christ in a myraid of ways. For some, it's the gorgeous pictures on Pinterest, or being a photographer on Instagram, or the drama on Facebook. But we all have our distractions. And those distractions like to pull us away from being the new creatures in Christ we're supposed to be.

Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be received with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1-3 NASB)

At root, the problem is not the social media. Actually, used properly, it can be a great thing. My father is thrilled to be on Facebook and click "like" when he sees things his grandkids are doing, or see what I'm doing. The problem is that we are so prone to being earthbound, focused on the temporal and not the heavenly. We struggle to look heavenward because we're creatures of flesh, and our thoughts are not always drawn in that direction.

I was inspired by a young lady in the young moms' bible study recently. She spoke about decluttering her home, and one of the comments she made was that she and her husband want to be aware that they are just passing through here on earth, and why do they need to acquire so much stuff they will ultimately not take with them? I thought that was quite wise for a woman who is only 30 years old. She doesn't want to be distracted  from her life in Christ with "stuff."

I don't often go around quoting pop music lyrics to demonstrate wisdom, but there is a song by Switchfoot called "The War Inside" which says it well:

Yeah, it's where the fight begins
Yeah, underneath the skin
Beneath these hopes and where we've been
Every fight comes from the fight within

I am the war inside
I am the battle line
I am the rising tide
I am the war I fight

I don't know if that's true for you, but it is for me. I am the war I fight. Whether it's my big mouth opening when it ought not to, or when my pride is wounded, or I fear man, I, ultimately, am the war I fight. But praise God, through the Holy Spirit, we can have victory over ourselves. Praise God, through Christ, we can keep seeking the things above.

Monday
Mar022015

Spiritual pride in rejecting social media

Last Tuesday, I taught the young moms' bible study. We looked at how to handle stress by examining Psalm 143, and then discussing things that contribute to creating stress in the first place. The topic of Facebook and social media came up.

I brought up I Thessalonians 4:9-11, as a reminder that not being focused on our own vocations, and being too preoccupied with the vocations of others is a poor waste of time, and can, indeed, create stress that is not needed. I reminded them that there is stress which we can't avoid, but stress which we can. Facebook is one of those things that can interrupt living quietly. Note I said "one." It's not the only thing.

Some people may need to de-active their accounts, and if they feel it's a good thing, then I say do it. What I have found curious on occasion are the voices that announce with great fanfare that they're leaving Facebook and social media because it's evil. Suddenly, it becomes a moral issue. There can be a risk of pride in making that decision. A while ago, I wrote a post about the tyranny of the recovered which is related to this notion.

Often, this rejection of social media is accompanied by nostalgic references to the halcyon days when there was none. I lived in those days as a young mother when there was no Facebook or Twitter. But you know what? There was the telephone; the television, books, hobbies, jobs, and coffee gatherings. Those could generate just as much distraction as any social media account. We had our ways of wasting time or getting involved in drama that was not ours.

I had a friend who would call, and when she did, I knew it would be at least 35 minutes before I got off the phone with her. She was also a homeschool mom, so when she called at 10:30, I was always a little surprised. One morning, I made the mistake of answering it. My kids knew when I said who it was, that the fun was to begin. They ended up frittering their time, and leaving the school room because I couldn't seem to get this woman off the phone. My kids reminisce that they knew that when this friend called, school was done for the day.  How's that for a waste of time? How's that for not living a quiet life? Shame on me.

Distractions surround us. And maybe your distraction is social media. And maybe you feel a certain spiritual pride when you forego it, and say, "Oh, I haven't been online in days," as you quietly pat your back. If you are able to find victory, good for you. But let's remember that the problem with social media is not in the technology per se. The problems are with the users. Just because we forsake social media, or spend little time on it doesn't make us better than someone else. If we're going to spend less time on social media, fine, but don't make a public service announcement about it. Just do it, and let others make their own decisions about its use.

I'm always a little amused at some well-known writers who proudly share their lack of Twitter accounts or Facebook accounts, while at the same time speaking frequently in a number of public venues. They're human beings; they are sinners. And I've seen them say stupid things without having a social media account. They just say them in another venue. A lack of Twitter or Facebook doesn't eliminate the possibility of spiritual pride or just using speech badlly.

We're all prone to taking pride in the things we forsake. I don't have a lot of use for popular culture, and I pay little attention to it other than the scan of a headline. I don't care who won a Grammy or an Oscar. I don't look for ways to sanctify the latest country music lyric and put it into a blog post. But that's me.  When others do so, I should not wag my finger at them, challenge them, or criticize them.

And now, I'm off to check my Facebook page.