Community, Courage, freedom, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Racism, Social problems, Uncategorized

“Sleeveless Arms and FB Rants”

Source: NIKE.com

I went for a quick run during my daughter’s piano lesson earlier this week. It was a chilly 13 degrees Celsius and a bit windy. Even though it was cold, I ran in 3/4 length leggings and a tank top as I knew I would warm up quickly. With my headphones in and the sun beginning to drop down behind the orange and pink clouds over the headland, I was in my element!

Just when I passed a few walkers and saw some kids playing basketball in front of their houses, I noticed a silver-haired woman moving slowly toward me with her little fluffy white dog. I prepared to step to the left, gave a little wave and smiled. As I passed her, she snarled up her face and yelled out angrily, “You’ll catch pneumonia!”

My back was to her before I realised I had been chastised. I guess I broke some unspoken rule about what’s appropriate to wear on an afternoon winter’s run. True, no one else was wearing a tank top.

The whole scenario made me laugh!

It also reminded me of the social media posts by white people ranting about their whiteness to whomever innocently scrolls past. (Except those are no laughing matter.)

What did Mrs. Granny gain by yelling at me about my clothing? Was she really concerned about my health? Did shaming me make the world a better place? Did she feel satisfied after she said it? Justified? Like she had done her good deed for the day, educating this younger gal about the detriments of running while showing off shoulders?

I’ve seen Facebook posts by people who are sick of Black Lives Matter and, by golly, they will never apologise for being white (did anyone ask them to??). They preach to their followers about how white privilege doesn’t exist. They also know that if “black people would just follow the law, they wouldn’t be brutalised by police” (as if a DUI should end in a fatal shooting or black people’s lived experiences can be negated just because their white counterparts haven’t been profiled by a cop). Or how about the fact that these white folks were once poor too? They came up from some difficult circumstances, yet look at them now, resenting that word “privilege” while enjoying everything for which they worked so hard to get.

Those posts read like an old lady trying to reform random runners on the street. It can’t be done! I didn’t feel the need to put on a jumper and readers of those posts aren’t warming up to bridging our racial divides. If anything, these cold posts make me shiver.

I realise FB rants aren’t meant to bring us together; in fact, the chasm grows wider with every one. (Just read the comment sections.) The posturing on socials, the public denial of systemic racism in America is liken to the grey lady talking to herself out loud as much as she was talking to me.

She wasn’t engaging me in an actual conversation about my health, the weather, or what’s best or right. I can’t presume to know why she felt the need to spout off her judgement any more than I can presume to understand why some of my white “friends” like preaching to their choir of followers who already feel the way they do. It might feel good but what’s the point?

I am scrolling on by, feeling sad for the small-mindedness, rolling my eyes with my bare arms and elevated heart rate. I am unfollowing, praying, and grieving as I trod along – endeavouring to empathise and understand the black perspective. I am exhausted from miles of legwork and fatigued with pressing my own limits but it’s worth it. It’s actually long overdue.

I am re-defining racism while educating my kids afresh, at my own pace. Wrestling with those who sit high on their soapboxes of supremacy, I’m personally slowing only for those whose minds seem open to growing and stretching too. Like a good workout in the cold, it hurts to admit my own biases and question my motives. But the results are worth it to become a healthier member of society.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:7-11 (MSG)

** I’ve allowed my toes to be stepped on a lot lately and it’s been good for me. I’m interested in debate that leads us to more unity, not a greater divide, so I welcome comments and challenges as long as they are respectful.

divine appointments, God Speaks, Uncategorized

Day 19: “Dream State”

Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: “Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection—don’t let evil hurt me.” God gave him what he asked.

1 Chronicles 4:10 (MSG)

Billie Eilish recently became the youngest artist at age 18 to win four of the top Grammy awards including Best New Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Record of the year, and Song of the Year. She also took home a 5th on the same night winning Best Pop Vocal Album. In interviews with her, she interestingly explained how much of her songwriting came out of various dream states: Night terrors, lucid dreams, nightmares, and sleep paralysis. Isn’t it fascinating  that the world is giving so much credit to a young girl who wrote an entire album flowing with ideas coming out of her sleep?! Her music has an eerie alternative vibe and if you watch one of her videos you’ll believe it came out of some sort of dream because outside of a hallucination they make little sense.

You have embraced 2020 as a “Year of Possibilities” and God has done a work in your spirit over these past few weeks. You’ve spent time meditating, praying, thinking, and hopefully dreaming about your own future, allowing God to speak to you. Even if you don’t have a 54.6 million Instagram followers and a stack of awards for your talent at putting your fantasies on paper, setting them to music and then uploading them to a YouTube channel, you can tune yourself into your dreams and use your sleep time as a time to allow God to speak to you. Billie might not give credit to her Creator for her experiences in the night, but you can!

You dream during your REM sleep even if you wake up with no memory of it. Tonight, ask God to speak to you after hours; have a journal next to you so you can write down anything you remember when you wake up. A lucid dream is where you become aware that you are dreaming while you’re still partially asleep. You can have an idea or experience so amazing in this state that you have the impression it’s real. If this happens to you, imagine yourself alongside Jesus and let him encourage you for your future.

Like Jabez, ask God to enlarge your territory. Envision your family and your work flourishing. See yourself flying high in your calling and gliding through your days with ease like a duck on water. You can transform yourself by renewing your own mind, even while you sleep. With the Holy Spirit’s help and a bit of concentration and awareness, greatness might just flow out of you too!

*Read Romans 12:1-2 and meditate on it for five minutes. What part of your mind needs to be renewed? Aligned with God? How can you transform your thinking today? Are you willing to focus your attention, even when you’re drifting off to sleep, on Jesus and what he wants to say to you? Be willing to put aside your worries, fears, and insecurities; let the Holy Spirit flow freely through you as you seek him at all times during the day.

Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 16: “A Worthy Foundation.”

Photo: cbc.ca

Our pop culture can easily package up your faith in handy Instagram images, retweets, or reposts. On the outside, you seem all deep and meaningful, perhaps even well-read. You scroll through articles and images “liking” and looking. “Amen” to that. Another one minute snappy sermon, tick.

You normally spend time skimming the latest news and most popular trends. However, this time of fasting has taken your microwave content and slow cooked it. The YouVersion “verse of the day” has come alive and God is revealing truths to you beyond the Christian-ese some around you are speaking. This will sustain you beyond your snack packet, low cal, fillers into a wholesome, healthy base upon which you will continue to build.

What truths have resonated with you most? Are you easing into that place of peace you find when you tuck into Jesus and his Word?

You are satiated and satisfied when revelation makes it’s way inside your spirit.

You’re strengthening the foundation of your faith. Like insurance that pays out upon unexpected tragedy, you’re putting your policy in place, depositing extra moments of God time into your spiritual account. When winds come and the Earth shakes beneath your feet, you can cash in because Jesus’ words are ready for redeeming. You stocked up on truth. You’re freezing his words, ready to thaw under the heat of life which is sure to manifest one day.

Keep setting aside time. Keep journaling, reading, asking, praying. Fill yourself with more and more of your Heavenly Father’s words in place of that meal or social media. Whatever you gave up is an empty space waiting to hold your deepest, most desperate cries.

Let your vulnerability before God break open something worth spilling out. Your life is more stable than ever because you know your foundation is secure.

“That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 (MSG)
Contentment, Devotion, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Day 4: “Rest.”

restDo you ever feel like your spiritual life is relegated to a check list with items that weigh you down like a household chore? Pray. Read your Bible. Go to Church. Serve. Finding a rhythm of spending time with God is about as easy as eating dinner with a two-year old. Sometimes it’s nice and everything stays on the plate. Other times, you look at your life and like Spaghetti Bolognese flying off the high chair tray, you see the messy pieces of what you desire to have in order smashed and messy and someone is crying.

Failure. Again.

Somewhere, you lost sight of companionship with God and felt like your worth and spiritual growth should look like a high school exam table, all laid out in neat rows with a time allotment and every subject neatly labelled.

Life screams at you to ‘do more’ and ‘be more.’ List off your achievements and post them on Instagram. Get more initials behind your name. Make more money. We take these action verbs and insist that Jesus expects the same level and pace that the world demands.

Guess what? He doesn’t.

He actually gives us rest as a gift. Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality says, “Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the wold can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us.”

Jesus models an un-hurried life spending time with the people he loves and a slowness that allows him to hear the Heavenly Father’s voice, whispering what matters most, (not a demanding cry for a better performance).

Why not take today and practise resting?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Pictures, Social problems, Uncategorized

Tooting Horns

“I love my husband so much! He is AMAZING!  Look what he bought me!” “I ran 25km, aren’t I AMAZING?” “My kids are the cutest. They are JUST AMAZING!” “I ate dinner at the best, most expensive, AMAZING restaurant.” “Look, I’m hanging out with someone famous. Amazing, right?” Spruikers are everywhere these days.

We promote our own “causes” now more than ever.  What we cook, what we wear, how we look, where we are on vacation, our politics. We post and pin.  Tumblr and Twitter, Google+ and WordPress.  Connected to circles and friends, we can be LinkedIn with anyone from anywhere in the world.  We Skype and we blog.  We “like” and we re-post.  We troll famous people and people we wish would follow us all in hope that someone will read our status update, look at our Instagram, comment on our newest post, and validate us in some way.

By the time we get up to speed on how to use one arena of social media, we find out we are behind on the next one that those on the cutting edge have already mastered.  But why?  Why the incessant need for approval and validation, oftentimes from perfect strangers or acquaintances?  We are on the computer or our mobile devices, checking in and checking out what everyone else is doing.  In some way, we feel connected, needed or better about ourselves.

Sometimes, though, it makes us feel worse.  Sometimes I see the party to which I wasn’t invited.  I see friends hanging out when I’m lonely.  I see quotes from people smarter than me.  I find out so-and-so is much more popular and “liked” than I ever will be.

Social media is the new “norm.”  It’s this generation’s way of communicating.  Bosses can vet their potential employees.  One can stay connected with her friends across the ocean if she moves away.  I’m encouraged by my favourite preacher and informed about upcoming events and promotions happening in my network. I like to share what I’m reading to encourage my friends.

You and I can also waste a lot of time.

I’m reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church while teaching them to have an answer for those who brag about having a “spectacular ministry” rather than a sincere heart.  Like anything else, too much of a good thing can take away its goodness.  For goodness’ sake, PLEASE don’t tweet all day long.  Have a genuine phone call with a friend.  Read a book start to finish, not just the Cliff’s Notes online.  Teach your kids to find their self-worth in who God created them to be, not in who re-pins their cool outfit or “likes” their provocative picture on FB.

I have to wonder how sincere our society has become when everything we see is someone else’s highlight reel.  I like to brag about how beautiful my city is (click here) and how precious my kids are.

But I know that I have bad days too.

My kids are bratty sometimes.  Runkeeper doesn’t post to Twitter every time I skip a run or overeat.  I have friends I only see on FB which gives me a chance to stay connected and see their kids grow up.  I have people I admire on Twitter who inspire me.  I look at your pictures on Instagram to enjoy what you find beautiful.  I roll my eyes when you complain.  I un-follow you when you have too many personal conversations and force me to read them.  I Pin recipes and that’s about it.

There’s no harm in connecting on social media; in fact, I think we will be left behind if we don’t.  But let us use our time, our voices, and our talents to encourage one another and have sincerity of heart as we brag about our AMAZING, spectacular lives God has given us!