Friday, February 25, 2022

Lord, Have Mercy

 One of the things I hate about social media as it exists at this moment in our cultural context is that when something Big happens in our country or in the world, those of us who are on Facebook, Twitter, etc. feel a compulsion, almost an obligation, to respond, and to respond on our personal timelines immediately. You start to feel that if something Big is happening, and you choose not to post about it then you aren't Doing Something or you aren't Caring enough. Unfortunately, what you see from many who post their support, chagrin, grief, whatever the response, is that they tend to come off seeming like they are jumping on the bandwagon, but often people don't really understand the issues, but, hey, posting about it is Doing Something. Because to not post anything will be interpreted by all the followers that we Don't Care. 

Here is the thing, though, I think we need to be careful not to assume that just because someone who is active on social media isn't posting about the Big Thing, does NOT mean we aren't at home praying, watching the news, caring a great deal - we just choose not to jump too quickly to share an opinion or stance on the bandwagon of social media until we can suss out all the nuances and complexities. And even then, sometimes social media IS NOT THE PLACE for all of our reactions to be shared. 

The longer I'm on Facebook and Twitter, the more I'm realizing they are hurting our ability to think deeply about serious issues. Most Big Things are not summed up in pithy soundbites. Most Big Things have many complexities and angles to them, and in order to understand them sometimes we have to move away from black and white, stark right and wrong snap judgments, to a place where we can hold two or more thoughts in tension at once. There usually isn't one totally good actor vs. one totally bad actor.  Very often there are complex issues. And social media is tending to lead us to think we can soundbite our way through understanding and it is narrowing our abilities to have nuanced discussions, and that is also polarizing us into various camps that end up unable to understand each other or even able to assume the best of each other or find common ground with each other anymore. 

That was all very vague, I know. the first part of this post isn't about one specific instance, but more my view from the perimeter as I have been on social media for more than 10 years now and as I've been watching how these things play out. 

But now, more specifically, I am thinking about this most recent Big Thing, the Russia invading Ukraine thing, that we are all watching unfold before the world stage. Early on, I saw some amazingly stupid reactions on Twitter and Facebook and saw some colossally stupid hashtags in response to it all. My daughter was bemoaning  how frustrating it is when the teenagers and influencers she sees on Instagram start hashtagging and posting and it's obvious they think they are so morally superior and Doing Something with their posts, yet they obviously don't really know what they are talking about at all. I agreed. Frustrating for real. And the sad thing to me is that people don't seem to want to go beyond the initial Do Something kind of reaction to think deeply and start to really understand the issues - of this or of whatever the next Big Thing may be. It is Enough to have made a post, preferably one that goes along with the popular narrative. Allie Beth Stuckey said the other day something along the lines of how liberal progressive white girl social media is the worst.  I tend to agree with that - most of the stupidest of the stupid hashtags and responses I saw were from that quadrant, two of which left me just gobsmacked at how embarrassingly naive and ignorant they were, and I'm being vague on purpose. My point isn't to call out anyone, just to make an observation. And I am acutely aware that it is a bit hypocritical of me to post my qualms about the nature of social media discussion media. 

Anyway, now that I've got my rant out of the way, I did have some thoughts about the whole Russia invading Ukraine thing, but I'm not going to make the mistake of thinking my sharing this is Doing Anything, except that it helps me to hash out my thoughts in this space, and I am not going to assume I have any kind of solid grasp on what is a fluid and evolving situation. My son is pursuing a double major in Russian Language and Culture and History - where he tends to focus on European History, and he has been really helpful to me in trying to get some understanding of what is happening in our world. The thing is, that help is coming in the form of very long and complex conversations, because these things are not easily understood, and not easily explained in a sentence or two, and certainly not in a hashtag or soundbite. 

I tend to process heavy things with music, and there are two songs that often come to mind when Big Things come across our attention and I'm trying to process them. The first one is this:

I like this one because, honestly, when I go to pray about things - and though right now it is Russia and Ukraine that are weighing heavily on my heart at the moment, there are also many other things going on in the world that I'm feeling heavy about as well (like what's been going in Canada, for one, wowza, and many other things, too) - often I just do not know how to pray, and my most urgent prayer is often, "Lord, have mercy." I am thankful that the Holy Spirit groans with groanings that are too deep for words and when I do not know how I ought to pray, He intercedes for me. The greatest comfort that exists is to know that God is sovereign, He knows what the need is and what the desired outcome is much better than I could ever imagine or put into words, and if He allows even this, He has a purpose in it, and I can pray for His mercy, and I especially pray for His people who are in the midst of turmoil today.

Next is this one:

I can't listen to this one without tears, because whenever there is turmoil in the world, children and the vulnerable will suffer most grievously. We are already seeing heartbreaking things from Ukraine, and it should hurt all of us who hate tyranny and the immorality of what is transpiring there. 

So, I guess my thoughts I'm processing today, if I sum them up are:

1.) Maybe we would all be wise to be slow to hashtag respond and quicker to seek to understand the issues.

2.) For myself, I need to be slow to judge those who are quick to respond and assume the best - we really do care, maybe it isn't just for show.

3.) For all of us, don't assume that just because someone doesn't post about Important Things on Facebook that they Don't Care. Many of us are watching the news and caring and praying deeply, but, I know for me, I just don't choose to use my Facebook for it most of the time.

4.) Learn to think deeply about things. Don't just listen to the headlines of one news source or the hastags of so-called influencers. Look at complexities and realize people and motives are more complex and nuanced than hashtags, and ALL media outlets have biases, I do not know of any neutral sources, and, to be honest, there are very few trustworthy voices left these days. Learn to weed through bias and seek to understand.  It will take work and time. 

5.) Pray for Ukraine.  That's never wrong to say, and for most of us it is very much the right and best thing we can do today.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Time is Weird, Sing for Joy

I was on my way home from dropping my daughter off at high school the other day and I saw a sign advertising for a local flag football team.  Out of the blue tears threatened and I thought, “We don’t have anyone in our house that can apply to anymore, and we haven’t for a while now.”  Here’s the weird part, do I want right now to be running kids around to flag football, upward basketball, and all the other stuff we were busy doing when they were little? Not really. But sometimes I am hit with a kind of wistfulness that we are past having kids that age now. 

Time is so weird. When I started this blog, my youngest was not even a year old. That little one is the 15-year-old high school student I was dropping off the other day, and her brothers are basically mostly out of the nest, away at college, the oldest just starting grad school this semester. In some ways the me I was when, with trepidation and trembling fingers, I hit “post” on that very first tentative venture into the great unknown of sharing my thoughts from my little corner of the internet and I started this blog seems a lifetime ago - so much growing, maturing, and so many moves and packings and unpackings and joys and sorrows and more great unknowns and just living were still ahead of us then. And even blogging was a whole different thing back then. The lonely mom with three busy littles at home needed that little blog community we had back in the day. That kind of blogging doesn’t really exist anymore, and sometimes I miss it a little.  

This song came on my play list yesterday and it took me back to when my middle boy was about 4 years old and he would sing this thing with joy while strapped in his carseat in the back of the minivan. I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments when I miss that little guy singing in the back of the minivan. One of the weird things about time is that when I get these wistful feelings I can sometimes spiral into wondering, did I make the most of those years? Did I enjoy them enough? Was I too serious about things I should have been able to laugh about more? Did I do all I should have done to train up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? But those wistful moments don’t last long. They don’t last long because I look at the young man that little guy has become and the young man his older brother has become and the sweet young lady their little sister is becoming, and I realize that these precious people have moved from being my littles who I got to raise to being friends I get to enjoy and to enjoy watching them spread their wings and shine, and I’m thankful.  So incredibly thankful.

Time is weird because in some ways it goes so slowly when we are in the moments, but when we look back it almost takes our breath away to see where we’ve come and how quickly it seems to have gotten here, and how different we are today from yesterday. I really can’t wrap my head around the fact that this little blog has existed on this little corner of the web for 15 years. I really can’t even wrap my head around how fast those 15 years seem to have gone. And I can't really wrap my head around how different I am from the me I was in those yesterday years. The days are long, but the years are swift. 

As I’m thinking about these things, I am also remembering a dear friend who went home to be with the Lord this week. She was one of the most joy-filled people I’ve ever known.  She loved Jesus so deeply, and she took her walk with Him very seriously, and man, she knew how to live.  She just overflowed with the fragrance of Christ and she lived and loved and laughed so well.  I want to remember my friend and I want to be more like her. 

I heard a sermon several years ago that very much has stuck with me, from Ecclesiastes talking about how we can enjoy the portion God has given us. My friend did that so well. 

When I was younger, I struggled a lot with some not great teaching from certain Christian circles about how we need to do big things for God, do more, try harder, do better. I wasted much time worrying about missing my calling and that I didn’t know what big thing I was supposed to be doing and I felt so much pressure about that.  Then one day I realized, my big thing was right here, raising my littles, being the wife my husband needed, taking care of our home so he was freed to do the things he needed to do to take care of us, and I realized, the big thing I need to be doing is to honor God in all I do, to live full out for Jesus right where He has planted me. As I look at my kids who aren’t littles anymore and who have become treasured friends, I realize this is has been, and still is, a good portion. 

So, as I’m thinking about the weirdness of time and that weird wistfulness I feel sometimes, I’m reminded again of the joy of knowing that I can find joy and glorify God with the portion He has given me today. I can live this life with joy and fullness, loving Jesus every step of the way, and in every season and twist and turn of life. What abundance His joy and grace and new mercies are every single day.  And I’m so very thankful. 

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Singing With Thankfulness in Our Hearts

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

After opening with singing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee and prayer, we got to sing this song today in church.  What a wonderful way open worship on this first Sunday of a new year! We were introduced to CityAlight at our last church and we have loved adding their songs into our repertoire of the newer hymns that are being written in recent years.  I’m thankful for the wealth of newer hymns that are rich in biblical language that we can add to our library of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs we can sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God.

I recently went through a bout of the blues where I felt low and couldn’t really explain it. 2021 was a year with a lot of challenges and griefs one on top of another that felt overwhelming at times. I have found that when that kind of pressure starts building and I may have trouble focusing on reading my Bible deeply and well in some of those moments, one of the best comforts I’ve found is to put good music with Christ-exalting lyrics and thoughts on repeat and fill my heart and mind with them. I am extremely thankful for the gift of music.  Often these rich spiritual songs minister to my soul in a deep and resonant way. I am thankful that God is bringing new hymn writers to us, people like Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend, Matt Papa, Andrew Peterson, CityAlight, Sovereign Grace and many others who are writing music we can sing, even when our hearts are broken, which take us out of ourselves and to the very throne of God, bringing light to adorn the darkness and lifting the sprit in times of trouble. 

Today was a good day to start this new year, also, because we were finally able to formally join our new church.  We have known for a while now that this church is to be our new home and church family, but life circumstances kept happening that hindered us from going forward. Today we finally got to make it public that we want Northwest Hills Baptist Church to be our new church family here. We are excited to join in the life and work of this little body of believers and we are thankful for the deep and solid teaching, gospel and grace-centered encouragement, and rich friendships we are already developing here. 

God is so kind to us. And I am grateful.