Training in Righteousness
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Tuesday
Dec232014

Turn down the volume

I like the music of Switchfoot. They have catchy tunes. One of the songs they sing, "Adding to the Noise," is appropriate for today's world where we're so plugged into technology.

"If we're adding to the noise
turn off this song." 

Another group I like, The Punch Brothers, recently released a new song called "I Blew If Off," which has a similar theme, and a chorus reflecting the loss of face to face contact:

"There's nothin' to say
That couldn't just as well be sent
I've got an American share
Of 21st century stress."

You can click here for the rest of the lyrics.

We all know how technology affects our lives daily. I'm sure I don't feel any different about it at 49 years old than a woman of a similar age felt when the telephone came along; or when the radio became popular; or the television.

I think a woman like myself in 1950, for example, probably felt the lack of silence as I often do.

My kids are all home and that means there is a lot of talking, game playing, laughing, movie watching, and of course, music. My youngest has been playing Debussy on my neglected piano, and my other son has been up in his room with his guitar. The two of them, along with my daughter, are singing on Christmas Eve, and the boys are writing an original composition for the event. Last night, as I was trying to figure out an issue with getting some photos on a memory stick for development, I realized how poor I am at concentrating with a lot of sound around me. I've become rather used to the quiet.

Silence is good. I love music, the sounds of nature, laughter, listening to my children talk, or in the nursery at church hearing the toddlers talk to one another. But I love silence, too. I realized in the past week or so how much more of it I need. It's possible to have no audible sound, but a lot of noise. Too much social media and news can become noise, especially when the ones doing the reporting are saying nothing new, saying it badly, or revealing their ignorance. There's a lot of ignorance out there. Why do people with no real understanding think they have anything to contribute? It boggles my mind. And Christians are not immune. Just because we know the Lord, and know the bible and theology doesn't mean we know everything about a situation. More and more this past week I'm thinking that context is crucial. I live in my context, and there is a very limited ability for me to understand others outside of how they live. Truth is real, and principles of God's word are applicable to every situation, but that does not mean I understand someone else's life.

I'm becoming more and more concerned that here in Canada, Christians are checking out. Rather than understand how our life of faith relates to our culture, we look to other cultures and ignore our own. I live here. This means here is very important to me.

I realized recently that there are too many voices dragging my attention every which way. I re-visited my Facebook friend list and who I follow on Twitter and pared things down. I want to return to thinking longer about fewer things than imagining (erroneously) that I can somehow be fluent about every situation. No one can live everywhere in the world. I want to give myself 100% to fewer things rather than 10% to a myraid of things.

And yes, that may mean I am left out of the conversation. Well, I won't roll over and die if that happens, will I? The thing is to be in the conversations where God wants me, not in the conversations that will keep me with  the "in crowd." It may mean being in obscure conversations, or the conversations that are not making the rounds on social media. That's just fine.

If I'm adding to the noise, what's the point? I need less noise in my life so I can hear what I'm supposed to hear.

Saturday
Mar012014

Super Smash Brothers or Twitter?

I confess that my sons play video games. We allow them to do so in our house. 

I've heard a lot of commentary about young men not growing up and how it's related to video games. I will admit to not understanding the appeal of video games. I don't play them, and I don't have any plans to do so in the future. However, my sons have always liked games. Whether it was Yahtzee with me or chess with their dad, they liked games growing up, and they still do, especially ones that require a lot of thought and strategy. Axis and Allies and Risk are favourites here.

I have seen where boys who play video games are considered immature and silly. Instead, they should be out shooting squirrels or perhaps engaging in football. Since my boys don't like tight pants or own B.B. guns, that isn't happening any time soon.

I've heard that young girls aren't going to find video game playing an admirable quality in a search for a spouse. Does this mean my boys are never going to find wives?

My boys are 21 years old and 19 years old. They're growing up to be young men. They aren't as mature as a 40 year old man (unless that 40 year old plays video games?), and that's to be expected. While they still get a little crazy when they're home together, they're growing up. Playing video games may relegate them to the "future unappreciated men of the universe" category some day, but I can say this about them:

My boys don't get on Twitter and get into arguments with total strangers and then refuse to let someone else have the last word. Neither do they tour blogs and stir up debate in comments boxes. They don't feed the trolls.

My sons use social media, but they don't become consumed with the latest controversies. They recognize when they're not informed, and don't feel the need for everyone to hear their opinions. As far as social media goes in this house, the person who is most present on Twitter and Facebook is yours truly.

They are hard workers and well thought of by their teachers and employers. They are well-liked by their friends, and are respectful and kind toward their grandparents. 

There is any number of ways to waste time. Video games is one of them, and so is my sitting at my computer partaking of social media.

Yes, I believe there are certain dangers with a kid playing video games obsessively. And yes, I think that social media may be deterimental to how our kids communicate. Time will tell. But I also think it's problematic when a grown man (or woman) behaves badly and then chalks it up to "speaking truth." I am firmly in favour of speaking forth truth, but please do so without the hurling insults online at one another. Some of those exchanges remind me of the times when the cat from three doors down appears in my yard and my cat immediately rushes around marking his territory on the shrubs.

And of course, not all people behave this way. I'm thankful for men and women who conduct themselves well online. I learn from them, and I recommend them to others. I'm also thankful my husband is a model of discretion and self-control. Given a choice, I'd rather have my sons sitting in front of Super Smash Brothers than getting online and throwing insults at total strangers. If being mature means they have to become obnoxious, maybe I'd rather they stayed immature.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)

Thursday
Feb132014

"I'm praying for you."

Are there any sweeter words than those? When someone tells you that, don't you feel blessed and encouraged?

Yesterday, someone sent me a message with those words. It's not that I solicited those prayers. It's not that I put out a call for them, expressing a particular need. It is because she cares for me. She knows me, and she knows about the burdens of my heart. We have never met face to face, but we have known each other online for a very long time.

One of the benefits of the internet and social media is the ability to offer prayer when it's needed. Facebook and Twitter are excellent when a need arises and one wants to get the saints praying. The old fashioned tool of email works just as well, too, and has the benefit of discretion.

It's so easy to reach out to someone, write a word of encouragement, say a prayer, and let them know. I think it's important to let others know we are praying for them. It is not so that we can feel important or self satisfied. It is because it helps the person to know that someone is praying for her.  Sometimes those four little words are the difference between feeling alone or feeling encouraged, the difference between a good day and a bad day. We don't need to be lengthy or profound. We just need to let that person know that we are aware of their need, that we care, and that we're lifting them up before the Lord. 

Those words from my friend yesterday made my day. It bolstered me to know that someone not only prays for me, but reaches out. Social media makes it so easy to reach out, but how often do we capitalize on it for that purpose? We may be quick to use Facebook to ask for prayer, but how often do we use it to tell others we are praying for them? We like to use social media to let the world know what we're doing, but how often do we use it to inquire after others? Instead of using your iPhone for Angry Birds, or Flappy Birds, or whatever the latest distraction is, send someone an email saying, "Hey, I'm praying for you. Hope you are doing well."

Reaching out is so easy, so simple, and takes so little time. Yet the benefits for the person who receives the hand extended can mean a great deal. We often sit behind our screens like casual observers but we don't reach out. James 5:15 exhorts us to pray for one another. The end of the verse says this: "the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (ESV)." 

Knowing someone is praying for you is prayer power in action.

Monday
Jan202014

It's either social media or quilting

Quite a few years ago I was in the process of making a baby quilt for someone who was expecting a baby. I also had young children. I interspersed my sewing time in between caring for them, the house, and my husband, and that semester, I believe, a course in British History since 1603. 

The house we lived in had a huge family room for the kids. My sewing machine was in that area, so I could sew and supervise at the same time. The room, with its ample space, could also become, in record time, nearly impassible because of the toys on the floor.

I remember one afternoon, during the boys' nap time, and while my daughter was at school, looking at the room, with toys everywhere, empty juice glasses, and little dishes from where little fingers had eaten Goldfish Crackers, and decided to sew rather than clean it up. I paid for that later in the day, after we ate our Generic Frozen Food Dinner, and after I had to clean up a mess at 9:00 that night, and fold a load of laundry I had put in the machine that morning, but avoided all day.

There was no social media at this time, yet I had allowed something to distract me. It is always easy to blame everything on social media. The reason I can't concentrate is because I'm on it too much; it's so nasty on social media, and it's put me in a bad mood. The evils of the world are encroaching through social media. When it comes to teenagers, we like to blame all of their immaturity on social media and video games, forgetting that once upon a time, young people were just as easily distracted (and maybe still are) by sports, music, or television. 

Social media itself is neutral; it's the people who make it what it is, good or bad. And if we weren't being distratced by it, we'd be distracted by something else. Maybe there was no Facebook when my kids were toddlers, but I am sure I am not alone in saying that I was occasionally on the phone too much.

It's a choice to either turn off social media or keep it on. There is no harm in taking a break from it now and then. I find that I don't enjoy "live tweets" from television shows or sporting events, so when those tweets come through, I often ignore Twitter until the furor is over. Facebook has ways to filter what people share on their feed, or you can turn a friend's feed off for a while, perhaps during that acrimonious election or after the season premier of Sherlock.

We are the ones who need to practice self-control and find things to occupy our minds with. Twitter cannot be held responsible if we fritter away forty-five minutes getting worked up about what social media is saying about whatever the issue of the week is. Twitter doesn't have a big hand which reaches through the screen of my computer or my iPhone and grabs me, and holds me down, refusing to let me leave. It's a choice. And if I find I can't control my impulses, then I suggest I get that under control. If I have a struggle doing that, it says more about me than the media itself.

Wednesday
Dec182013

Becoming distracted from our own lives

It's easy to become distracted by social media when life is really good. Or maybe you're the type of person who finds the distractions of the internet a helpful way to cope with difficulties. Either way, real life is always there, no matter how easily we get distracted.

My friend and I are both encouraging one another to spend less time online over the month of December. She is doing better than I am. I am trying to limit my time to the morning hours and late evening. So far, it's very helpful. I do get a lot more done, and spending less time on things like Twitter, especially, means I'm not distracted by things that either irritate me (like those Twitter people who re-tweet over and over again the same article. Don't they know that repetition can be over done?) or are none of my concern.

I shared with my friend via email this week that I found that the biggest temptation with social media was its ability to distract us from our own lives. Whether we find ourselves constantly comparing ourselves with others or seeking ways to draw attention to ourselves, we can so easily get wrapped up in things that we neglect important things like our kids, our homes, or our friends.

I was reminded of this last night when my father called me to say that my mother has been hospitalized. She has some health concerns, and while this particular incident is not really serious at the moment, the woman is over 70 and has some chronic health problems, and any hospitalization is something to take note of. 

As I listened to my father's words, anything and everything that drew my attention during my late evening foray into social media immediately flew from my mind, and all I could think about was how I wish I could be there with my parents. Now. Today. They need me. I need to be there with them. 

It occurred to me that thousands upon thousands of people live with illness and things that are so much more important than the fleeting distractions we get so easily entangled with. It is a reality that men and women everywhere, at Christmas time, deal with sick parents, sick spouses, sick children. Or dying parents, dying spouses, and dying children. 

I've heard people say, "Of course on-line life is real. It's filled with real people." And that's true. But more often than not, when I get to consumed with online drama, it's not my life I'm living; sometimes, it's someone else's, someone I will likely never meet.

When I got of the phone, a thought went through my mind: thud. Reality.

I'm not saying that I hate social media or that I plan to stop using it. It's a useful and enjoyable tool for the most part. But I was reminded that life continues on all around us, and sometimes, if we don't look around, we might miss something.

After last night, I don't care about Christian ghost writers, hard-line Christian feminists, or what the best books of the year are as attested to by total strangers. I care about my mother, and what's happening, and about the seriousness of an ill mother who is outside of Christ. That's a distraction to my social media viewing, and I think it's probably the good kind of distraction.