The Irony of a Name

We have plenty of Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers but we are becoming too isolated and we are the loneliest that we have ever been.  When I discuss this topic with others, we all agree that the social media aspect of our lives must be balanced and yet many find themselves glued to social media, rarely venturing out to interact with others.  Confined at home, they seek to fill a genuine void by hopping onto social media, which should probably be referred to as “un-social” media, where they will view the illusion of the perfect life being lived out by others.  This perception of life going on without us, only makes us feel more and more lonely.

 

Let’s look at the cause of loneliness.  We each desire a certain amount of connection to other people.  Loneliness is the chasm that separates us from the connection that we desire.   We can be lonely because we leave work alone and go to an empty home but we can also be lonely even while another person is in the same room with us.  We can feel deeply lonely in a room full of people at a social gathering.  In each of these examples, it is the lack of meaningful human engagement that causes the loneliness.  Looking for meaningful human connection on social media is like trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip.  It’s just not there and this can leave us feeling empty.  It’s the disconnection that causes us to feel lonely.  Also, loneliness is not the same as solitude.  We all need solitude on a regular basis to think, pray and create.

 

Social media is here to stay.  We now live in an electronic society driven by initialisms, the meme, gif and short video clips.  Many believe that giving or getting likes and comments, somehow demonstrates that we have friends. These are not necessarily friendships.  It is fun being active on social media but it is impossible to build true relationships there.  There’s the rub – as humans we need relationships but on social media we can keep people at a safe distance, never really letting them into our lives.  We have conditioned ourselves to only allow others to see us through the filter of the social media facade, never letting them get close enough to know our whole story.

 

Social media is fantastic for staying in touch with family and friends that don’t live near us.  I really enjoy social media and I’m definitely not advocating that we stop using it, but it does not replace spending time with other people.  Genuine friendships will be born out of this time investment.  Since we might be a little rusty, let’s discuss what a friend looks like.

 

>Someone that invests in your life and you invest in theirs?

>Someone that we spend time with in person, on the phone or even writing.

>Someone that can be trusted with our hearts and feelings and secrets.

>Someone that lets you see their flaws and you let them see yours.

>Someone that checks up on us.  You are not out of sight – out of mind.

>Someone who knows us well enough to pick up on our moods.

>Someone who follows up with us to show that they care about us and our problems.

>Someone who is strong when we are weak and vice-versa.

>Someone who pursues the friendship just as much as we pursue the friendship, although it may be in different ways and at different times.

>Someone who stands up for you and their friendship with you even when it’s difficult or inconvenient.

>Someone who lift us up and encourage us.

>Someone who tells us the hard truth but we still know that they love us.

>Someone who has our back and never gossips about us or listens to gossip about us.

>Someone who doesn’t try to manipulate us or manipulate others about us.

>Someone who rejoices with us.

>Someone who shares the load of our burdens.

 

Not every friendship will have all of these characteristics but a genuine friendship will have several.  These true and trustworthy relationships are rare and special, especially in this current fast paced and artificial society.  Sometimes we need to learn how to be this kind of friend.  When you find this friendship, cherish it and friend well with them.

 

One caution.  If you choose to make changes and put social media in its place in your life, don’t judge others who choose to continue using it for all or most of their interactions.  Each of us are in a different place.  They may have reasons that you don’t understand.  Try reaching out to them but don’t criticize them for relying social media.

 

Have I given you some thoughts to consider?  If you have noticed that social media is leaving you feeling empty, push yourself a little and get out to make connections with others.  I hope that you’ll find a treasure called true friendship.

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My Significance

How many ministries do I have?  How significant are they?  Do they get as much recognition as that other person’s ministry?  If we struggle with these questions, we must also ask, does God measure the value of our work for Him, by the size or notoriety of a ministry?

 

If God gives me something to do, that is, if He places me in a certain era, locale, circumstance or relationship, then it is significant, no matter how it is measured by humans.  The woman that puts her career on hold to stay at home and nurture her children, the husband that goes to an unpleasant job to provide for his family, the church helper that cleans the toilets and runs the vacuum, the friend that carries a burden and faithfully prays, the daughter-in-law that cares for her husband’s aging Mother.  Most of the time, these are not recognized as ministry, at least not by other human beings, but God sees.  He knows every difficulty.  He sees the sleepless nights, the exhaustion and the self-sacrifice.  He appointed you to this ministry, and He will see you through it, all of the way to the very end.

 

If this is really true, why then do we feel so burdened in this God appointed ministry?  Simply put, we might believe that we are somehow responsible for the result.  In reality, we are only responsible for faithfully doing the work each day and God will take care of the rest. There is freedom and peace when we finally strip down to the simplicity of doing our best with each moment and trusting God to bring beauty out of our efforts.  You are His hands here on Earth, but just remember that He is God.  He is the same God that spoke creation into existence.  He is still seated on His throne.  He is God and we are not.  Phew, what a relief!

 

No matter how small or hidden the ministry – if God calls us to it – it has great significance in God’s economy.  Focus your passions on things with eternal significance and don’t squander the opportunities that God places before you.  Work with excellence and intentionality.  Do the work each day and then rest and watch Him bring great, great beauty.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus Christ

With the End in Mind

What do you want to be known for and how do you want to be remembered?

 

I want to be known and remembered as a courageous woman.  Since the day that I put my trust in Jesus Christ, courage is probably the character trait that God has transformed the most.  Like many of you, I have been reminded throughout my life of everything that I am not capable of doing, what would be too hard to do, what I shouldn’t do or what wouldn’t be normal to do.  Now, at this stage of my life, I am no longer content with living a safe life.  Jesus came and sacrificed, so that we could have abundant life – I want to live life abundantly.  I want to do great things so that God will be glorified.  I want to be courageous so that others will see the difference that Christ has made in my life.  I want others to want that difference in their own lives.

 

This looks different in each Christian’s life, but here is what it looks like in mine.

 

>I am fighting life’s battles using God’s weapons rather than my own.  Instead of manipulating people and circumstances, I am fighting battles for the people that I care about, with the power of prayer and the influence of genuine unconditional love.

>I am expecting and believing that God will bring good out of difficult or horrible circumstances for those that love Him.

>I am challenging my children to become independent of me – to work hard and take on responsibilities that stretch them and cause growth, respect for others and maturity.

>I am learning to love others based on how God calls me to love, without putting requirements, demands or expectations on the relationship.

>I am loving others even though it means that I will get hurt and I am loving even those that have hurt me.  This doesn’t mean that I like everyone and it doesn’t mean that everyone is worthy of my trust and my friendship.  Trust is earned and sometimes destroyed.

>I am learning to do what is best for others, even when it requires that I sacrifice my own desires.

>I am confronting legalistic religiousness in myself and others, because it seeks to extinguish a thriving relationship with God and others.  I am no longer hiding my true self out of fear that I will be judged by others who are using unbiblical standards.

>I am writing and getting the word out about issues that I am passionate about.  Sometimes, I tackle controversial subject matter and hitting the post button can be scary, but even if I take it in the chin, which I already have, I will do this until He makes it clear that I am done.

 

Often, I look back and remember a younger version of myself – a young woman who could be paralyzed with fear and dread of the unknown, and I am so thankful that God didn’t leave me there.  When I became a mother, I couldn’t imagine ever letting go of my children and not only allowing them, but actually encouraging and sometimes pushing them to spread their wings.  Along the way, He prepared me for each new step that they would take.  When my husband had a massive heart attack and my children, 5 & 9 years old asked me if “Daddy was going to die?”, I found courage that I’d never had before.  I told them that no matter what happened, we would be alright and I knew in my heart that it was not a lie.  In an age, when our world seems to have turned upside down and fear threatens to consume my mind, I can turn my eyes to God, the Creator of this very same world and know that He is still on His throne.

 

So, what do you want to be remembered for?  Whatever it is, live each day intentionally with the desired end in mind.

Tending to the Details

I’ve been busy in the garden these last few months.  As I have spent time weeding, fertilizing and watering, I’ve had a lot of time to consider the similarities between the garden and the marriage.  Even if you don’t don a funny hat and gloves, go into the heat every day and work in the soil, I’m sure that you are aware that gardens can be beautiful and bountiful if maintained, or ugly and unproductive if neglected.  Our marriages are very similar.  With daily effort to maintain a marriage, it is beautiful to enjoy but with neglect, the marriage relationship withers and the ugly intrusive weeds begin to grow and eventually take over.  Sadly, once this happens, many find the work overwhelming and they give up on their marriages, either divorcing or staying together in a miserable existence.

 

What are some common areas of neglect in marriage?

 

>The critical eye.  This person tends to be super observant but they lean toward being negative.  They can quickly locate and emphasize the flaws in any person or situation.  Unhealthy criticism negatively impacts self-image and can crush the spirit of others.  Often those exposed to this type of criticism, will feel emotionally unsafe and will learn to bottle things up and distance themselves from their critical eyed spouse.

>Failure to leave and cleave.  Putting extended family before your spouse or allowing extended family to interfere or control, communicates to a spouse that they are less important.  A spouse become resentful over time.

>Unhappiness or loneliness in the marriage.  No marriage is perfect but some desperately need help from a trusted mentor couple or counselor.  Keep communication open between you and your spouse.  If you are struggling, please communicate this to your spouse.  If things aren’t right, get help before you wake up one day and decide that this is the day that you are leaving.

>Over sensitivity or self-centered behavior.  This is the spouse that believes that all offenses are aimed at them and they are easily hurt and offended.  Sometimes they brood or are pouty and they can also be demanding.  Think of the term “walking on eggshells”.  This spouse creates tension and robs the marriage and household of peace.

>Controlling and manipulative behavior.  This can manifest itself in different ways.  A know-it-all spouse, or a micro-management spouse.  A spouse that receives attention because of their attractiveness or charm and uses it as a threat.  A spouse who uses a past mistake committed by their spouse, to control the relationship.  All of this is about using power to control another human being and essentially it damages self-confidence and causes another to be motivated by fear and guilt.

>Failure to offer encouragement.  Humans crave encouragement from the most important person in their life whether it be for trivial things or big accomplishments.  Without encouragement from a spouse, a person becomes defeated and loses their zest and motivation to live life abundantly.

>Disrespect.  A spouse that talks negatively about their spouse or ignores a request to discontinue an unsavory behavior or teases their spouse even when they know that it hurts.  A spouse that makes major decisions without the consent of their spouse or despite the way their spouse feels. This communicates a lack of value to the other spouse.

>Conditional love and support.  This spouse believes that they deserve a flawless spouse.  They make their loving contingent on the way that their spouse performs, behaves or looks.

>Unwillingness to serve.  This spouse believes that they don’t need to extend themselves, or learn to serve and love in ways beyond what they are comfortable with.  In men, they might not give emotional support and in women, they might believe that sex is needed only as frequently as they choose.

>Disunity in parenting.  The spouse that undermines the parenting of the other spouse.  In order to parent well, unification is necessary and each parent should support the other.

>Emotional misplacement.  The spouse that places more emotional dependence on the children or on others.  This robs the marriage of emotional intimacy.

 

Many marriages will survive in a neglected state, simply because one spouse is committed to doing their part, but these marriages will not thrive.  A healthy marriage is all about giving and sacrificing and it requires 100% effort from both spouses.  My hope is that each of us will examine ourselves, commit to make the changes needed, and reap a beautiful and bountiful harvest in a well-tended marriage.

 

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