Social Media Shakeup: Living A Beautiful Adventure For Lent

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Fifteen years ago this February, I opened up an account on Facebook.  It was probably a Friday night and one of my friends felt like I would fix all of my problems by finding friends on what was then called The Facebook.

Flash forward to 2011 and I decided to give up Facebook for Lent.  I was living in Guatemala and I used the heck out of Facebook to stay connected to all of my friends and family back in Colorado.  Forty some odd days off  of Facebook was freeing.  I stopped feeling the need to post my every thought.  But I also felt like I lost contact with certain people and to a certain extent I don’t feel like I have ever reconnected with everyone.  But I had wanted to give God my time that I typically gave Facebook.

I also wanted to make funny videos of my time away from Facebook (they used to be posted to this blog, but have since vanished).  I think I wanted my time off Facebook to make me a popular blogger.  Maybe my dream was for people to finally see all the awesome things I was writing about in Guatemala.  Nine years later and I am still not sure if anyone is reading.

But I don’t blog so that I get found.  At least not anymore.  My goal for my blog and for everything I post is to help spread joy.  In the past fifteen years, along with Facebook, I have joined Twitter and Instagram.  Typically these networks are very positive elements in my life (I tend to stay away from harmful interactions).  If I post a picture on Instagram, as I have for nearly every day over the past six years, it is meant to help people see something fun, beautiful, and joyful.  When I blog I’m hoping to tell a story about God’s goodness in my life so that my readers (you amazing few) might see God in their own stories.

Yet tomorrow Lent starts and I want to shake up my life on social media.  Lent, for me, is all about surrendering something to God so maybe when I crave what I surrendered I seek His comfort.  I want to be hungry for Christ this Easter.  I want all of me to long for him to be resurrected.  So I am going to step away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Posting a daily photo is a challenge for me because it forces me to look for joy and beauty so now I am going to have to find a way to see beauty without needing to take a picture and share it.  I will have to trust that people will find joy and beauty without me.

As I write this I know it feels a little odd to be talking about how I am letting go of social media for Lent on a social media platform, but I want everyone to have an adventure and so I blog.  Maybe by surrendering things I love I can find the freedom God has for me and inspire those around me to take a risk and trust God too.

So no story about how I saw God’s beauty in the trash or how I experienced Him in the wild, maybe those will come in my next blog.  Tonight I want to leave you with a beautiful image of a door.  I am going to open that door and seek out more of the beauty God has for me and I hope you do too.

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(well I won’t be opening this particular one in the picture because I would have to travel back to England and go to the Cotswolds where this door sits at the North End of a Church and many years ago inspired J.R.R. Tolkien)

 

 

March Madness: How To Be A Winner

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I know all of my faithful readers have been wondering why I haven’t been posting?  Don’t you know that March Madness has taken over my life?

The games have started.  My bracket has been filled out.  And by the end of today my predictions will have amounted to a pile of slop.  I have Indiana winning it all in one of my brackets and my very own University of Colorado winning it in another. Both will probably be wrong.

But the tournament isn’t what has really been keeping me busy.

My March has been a little maddening, no not because of all the Harlem Shake videos out there, but because of school.  On March first I thought I had my positioning set for student teaching, only to have it fall through.

I have been in and out of so manny classes this month for school, I’ve gone a little mad.  From watching kids read Dr Seuss to teaching vocabulary and writing lessons, I’ve been busy!

By the second week in March I was scrambling to find a new car.  I bought a Nissan Sentra.  It has a squeak in it that is driving me mad, but I think it will turn out better than my basketball brackets.

And through all of this madness, (are you going mad because of my over use of the word mad?) I’ve started each morning doing the same thing.

For Lent I decided to spend each morning reading a devotional.  I’ve quoted the Jesus Calling devotional a couple of times, and I really think it’s helped me stay sane.  Yesterday I read this,” Thank Me for the glorious gift of My Spirit.  This is like priming the pump of a well.  As you bring Me the sacrifice of thanksgiving, regardless of your feelings, My Spirit is able to work more freely within you.  This produces more thankfulness and more freedom, until you are overflowing with gratitude.  I shower blessings on you daily, but sometimes you don’t perceive them.  When your mind is stuck on a negative focus, you see neither Me nor My gifts.  In faith, thank Me for whatever is preoccupying your mind.  This will clear the blockage so that you can find Me.

Through all of these maddening events in my life this March, God has assured me that he loves me and is in control.  I know I have a lot going on in my life right now, but I wouldn’t stop reading my bible and doing this daily devotional just to have some more time to relax.  I need to have this in my life so I can rest in God’s hands.  He is reminding me daily that he is in control.

Yeah, March is a maddening month, but we can be thankful for that, because when all seems mad, we can remember that God is in control.  So take time each day to look for God’s blessings, and know that God has his hand on us.  He is in control and will set our adventures down a path leading to him.  So take the time to thank God for all He has given you, because if you do so, your life will be a grand adventure and you will become a winner.  Maybe not with your bracket, but in life, and that’s what counts.

What To Do When It Snows

Out My Back Yard

I woke up to the sound of my phone, church had been canceled.  My parents are flying back from Tulsa today, and if their flight get’s canceled it will be due to an act of God.  So, can you say God canceled Church?

It's Cold Out!

After I made a couple phone calls to let the rest of the people at The Neighborhood Church know it was okay to stay at home and worship at home, I decided to figure out what to do with my snowy day.

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I decided to attend Lifechurch.tv online and read a devotional, the same devotional I quoted when I wrote about my worst Valentine’s ever.  Here is what Sarah Young has for us today,

“Be still in the Light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you.  There is no force in the universe as powerful as My Love.  You are constantly aware of limitations: your own and others’.  But there is no limit to My love; it fills all space, time and eternity.”

Snow Art

God’s love seems to be as big as the snow storm that is howling outside.  His love, according to Craig Groeschel, is also big enough to forgive our sins.  If I have been forgiven, then I need to forgive as well.

Snow days are a great reminder of forgiveness.  When the snow covers the ground in a fresh white layer, it always reminds me that God can cover up my dirtiness and brokenness.

Today seems to be a great day to be still and know that God loves me and has forgiven me.

It’s also a great day to take a couple of pictures.

Let It Snow

I tried to use the snow-blower, but it is still broken.

The Snow-Blower

So I had to shovel.

Lamp Post To Narnia

Winter-Wonder-Land

Little Windy

Through The Trees

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, and if you are here in Denver, stay safe, and be still and know that God loves you and will forgive you.

Let’s Get Spiritual: Retreat from Facebook!

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What to give up, what to give up, what to give up.  The other week I was reading my dad’s blog as I prepared to take the high school and middle school students at IAS off on the annual three day Spiritual Emphasis Retreat in Reu, Guatemala.  The retreat is a time where we step away from our regular classes and challenge our students to grow spiritually.  It is also a time to get to know the students on a more personal level.  I love everything about retreat, even all of the pranks that the kids like to play.  Anyway, my dad wanted to know what his readers were giving up for Lent.  Typically I only give up silly things for Lent, like lint or I give up on giving up things.  So, what makes this year different?  Spiritual Emphasis Retreat challenged me to take my time with God a little more seriously.  On Tuesday Mr. McNabb (The school’s director who has no relation to Donavan McNabb) challenged all of the students to be salt and light.

Fun fact there are 14,000 known uses for salt and one of the most interesting is that it has to be present in all Jewish sacrificial offerings.  When Jews fast for God they do not give up salt because you cannot give up God, so they continually add God to their lives.

So, I felt challenged to give something up for Lent.  I wanted to feel challenged in my daily life and see how God added himself back into it.  But what to give up, what to give up, what to give up?

As I finished reading my dad’s blog all of the high schoolers and middle schoolers boarded big chicken busses that would take us down to Reu for the retreat.  As we bounded down the Pan-American Highway, sometimes passing slower moving cars when no sane person would pass, I committed myself to leading my students by good examples.  My hope was that they would see God in me, through my actions.  The theme for our time in Reu was New Beginnings.  I believe it’s hard to start anew if I first don’t give up something old.  How can God speak into my life if I am too busy with the daily routine or worrying about who’s commented on my Facebook wall.

And so I tried to put aside thoughts of Facebook, man I hope they like my current status, and tried to enjoy the best thing about retreat; life with out distractions.  Spiritual Emphasis Retreat is a real time to focus on God because, besides all of the blackberries my students have, we are away from it all.  And on this retreat I really felt like we came together as one and did not let our normal everyday routines and addictions hinder us.  I mean it was a challenge at times because I just wanted to know if my little sister was on Facebookchat so I could talk to her.

Fortunately, I really enjoyed leading discussion groups with Hugo, Luis Pe, Oscar, Lenin, Jose Pab, Sani, and Kain.  I’ve taught most of these boys for the last three years and so some of our discussions were very deep.  Like who’s hotter Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz.  No wait–that was an argument I had with two grown men.  The boys and I talked about our choices and how they affect our lives.  They wanted to know why I have chosen to wait to have sex until marriage and that led into their thoughts on abortion and the responsibilities of being a teen father.  I might not have had all of the answers, but what I tried to tell them is, we all make choices and we must live with the consequences.  I challenged them to be the men God created them to be, which I believe means not backing down from the difficulties life throws at us.

And so how can I expect them to face the big challenges in life if I am not even facing the smaller challenges.  As retreat went by and maybe because I wasn’t getting any sleep (you try to stop six 14 and 15 year old boys from sneaking out of the room to go prank and manage to attain a wink of sleep as well) I felt God challenging me to give up something that I knew would be difficult to live with out; Facebook.  As funny as it sounds it’s a big part of my life and as I write this I am five days into my fast and it’s been difficult.

On Thursday, the second day of retreat, Miss Cromwell, the school’s principal, spoke about how media affects our lives.  Two years ago none of the students had blackberries or iPhones, now they are constantly connected.  I found myself in several conversations about what our lives would be like if we were not on Facebook.

I remember my life before Facebook and now I check it every day.  It has ingrained itself into my existence.  Like James Cameron it directs my daily schedule, yet my life is no Avatar.  I am a real human being who wakes up everyday and checks Facebook; my online life.  I fill my free time flipping through photo albums on Facebook, constantly friending and defriending, liking and commenting, chatting and thinking up witty statuses for people to comment on.  Facebook is a powerful form of media, it might even be how you found this blog.  Media as a whole influences everyone in many different ways, not all of them bad (my blog), but I am not sure I want Facebook to have the influence it has on me.  I do not want to live my life online.

At dinner on the second night I was sitting with Ale, Sharom, Dani, and Gaby.  We were talking about media and the importance of tuning out some of the lies it tries to sell us, what we should look like and what we should buy, and the importance of placing God at the center of our lives.  Right then and there I decided I needed to take a fast from Facebook, and what better time to do it than Lent.  How can I challenge my students to place God first in their lives if I am not willing to do so myself?  Only Ale took me up on my idea of giving up Facebook for Lent.  I am excited for both of us.

Retreat ended and we all went back to our normal lives, but I hope that the little break from normality stirs a desire for change in each of my student’s lives.  I do not know if they have decided to use Lent as a greater retreat and a time to focus on God, but I hope, even if they don’t give anything up, that they do start to add God into their lives in a greater quantity.

Even though we all are now back and in our separate homes and disconnected from each other (not a bad thing, I am enjoying not having to room with 6 high school boys) I hope what God accomplished on retreat keeps us connected on a spiritual level.  I hope my retreat from Facebook helps me realize more of what God has for me.

The worst thing, for me, about retreats is that they end and I go home and have to spend time alone.  Giving up Facebook has only magnified that feeling.  Right now I feel disconnected.  I will publish this blog and it will appear on Facebook, but I wont be able to log onto Facebook to tell people to go read it.  I can only hope people do.  Maybe that is the kind of faith God wants me to have.  He will keep me connected to him no matter what.  My life doesn’t have to be lived online to be connected to those around me.  And so I hope I am able to add a little faith into my disconnected life, which I am now living apart from Facebook.