10.11.2014

How to Have a Discussion Online Without Making Jesus Sad

This is something I've been wondering for awhile. Now that we live in an online world, every time something rocks the church, Christians go to bat for their theological camps on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.

And y'all, we can all see it gets ugly.

So how does this help our witness? How can we enter into messy places and have discussions that are driven by honor and respect rather than anger and indignation?

How do we not compromise our convictions while being loving online? Where there's less margin for error. It's possible, sure, to get to know someone online, but is it really possible to know them fully? Where does this leave us, as Christians? How do we defend a faith that is becoming pretty counter-cultural in a culture that is becoming increasingly isolating?

I love writing. I love blogs. I love the ability to discuss how the Christian faith saturates every facet of our lives, and what that even means. Motherhood, the environment, politics, third-world relations, roles in marriage, etc.

I just wish we could do it in a way that would honor the Man we claim to worship.

So these are a few things I've come up with, some are more practical, some are more principle. I'd love to know your thoughts as well!

Here we go:

1. DO NOT TYPE IN CAPS TO EMPHASIZE YOUR POINT.

Even if it's EVERY FEW WORDS. Typing in caps really does sound like YOU MIGHT BE YELLING. Or at least speaking VERY FIRMLY. This does not help the situation. Would you speak like this IN REAL LIFE? With a COMPLETE STRANGER or with someone you know but are having a SERIOUS DISCUSSION WITH? Probably not.

It adds tension because the chances of them interpreting that in an unnecessarily aggressive way are pretty high.

2. Try not to respond when you are having all the feels.

Can I just say this is my worst habit? If you're about to rip into someone because they said something that bothered you, sit back for a minute or thirty.

Don't get me wrong, it's important to pay attention to why something made us feel sad/angry/hurt, and be able to express that. It's just that we may not be doing our own emotions justice, or writing in the most grace-filled way when all we can see is rage. And we might fall on using all caps to try and rage-type our emotions onto the screen instead of using the English language.

3. They will know you by your fruit... so be a little patient, eh?

Be patient. There's roughly a 95% chance you'll be misunderstood. It's incredibly hard to be concise, coherent, and communicate an appropriate tone when writing. If you're misunderstood, brush it off. Take another stab at explaining your viewpoint from a different angle.

Be kind. Give people dignity, honor, and respect. Especially if you know they're wrong. Don't mock their ignorance if they happen to get in over their heads in a discussion. And seriously, brothers & sisters, do not ever call someone a derogatory name online. We are not in preschool.

Have self-control. Know when to bow out. There comes a point when you have to realize that nothing more can really be done by continuing a discussion.

Be peaceful. Don't respond to low blows. Don't give any low blows yourself, and that includes passive-aggressive ones.

4. It's all about the journey, not the destination. 

Realizing that comment threads are rarely places that someone's theological or belief-system-forming journey ends is helpful. Sure, we want to give people something to think about, to chew on, as well as process different ways of seeing an idea ourselves. That's the whole point. I think the power of discussion (and, particularly, the written word) is immense. That's why I feel it's so important to know how to do it well.

I just don't think people are going to change their entire value system because of someone's ability to out argue them on a comment thread.

5. Apologize when you have done something wrong. 

Did you assume something about the person that was wrong? Could you have communicated your point better? Were you condescending? Did you call someone a name? Then own up to it.

I have several more but that would make this post unbearably long, plus I really do want to hear other people's thoughts on this.

What do you think? What should our online behavior look like, as Christians?


9.14.2014

Living By The Spirit

Trying to enjoy as many of these sunsets as possible before it gets cold (and by cold I mean below 70 degrees). I don't know what sunsets have to do with living by the Spirit, but look at that sky!
This semester, I would like to grow in living by the Spirit. 

Which, for me at least, is one of those facets of Christianity that has been more about word than deed. 

And I don't mean my speech is perfectly spirit-filled, so now I just need to focus on my actions. No, that's definitely not what I mean. Maybe I'll get there when I'm eighty or never. 

I mean I talk about living by the Spirit, or being "out of the Spirit" a lot, but actually don't have a great tangible hold on what this looks like in day-to-day life. 

Like when my two year old starts rough housing and kicks me right in the chest while I'm putting him to bed, 

or when Kyle is cranky because he hasn't eaten in 12 hours and I'm like, "All we have are cheese sticks and peanut butter crackers because I subsist on toddler food while you're at work," and then we get in a low-blood sugar fight, 

or, in ministry, when I see people heading for a brick wall and because there's this pesky thing called "free will" I can't stop them, and they won't listen to me (since, duh, I'm always right). 

I've definitely experienced living by the Spirit before. When life feels a little bit like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard, and I'm unnaturally (supernaturally?) at peace, rested, able to love those around me in a way that is beyond my own ability. I have compassion for people, I have grace, I notice people, instead of brushing humanity under the rug of my own life and agenda. 

Those are the moments I think, "THIS. This is what Paul goes on about." 

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

But for the most part these moments are few and far between. I want to develop the discipline of living by the Spirit. I wish it was like plugging into an outlet or flipping some secret "Spirit-filled" switch, but it's not. I think it's like working out, which, you know, I'm so good at. 

To be fair, Paul did try to warn us, right? All that talk about, "running a race," wasn't for nothing. 

To cease living in my own strength and begin to live by the power of the Spirit is a discipline. One that, as I take steps further into marriage, motherhood, and ministry I realize I cannot do without. 

Could Kyle and I have a decent marriage in our own strength? Sure, maybe. I don't know because I really don't want to try. I do know that I hope to understand my husband to a degree that requires us to love each other by the Spirit. To build our marriage into a place where both of us feel safe will require a level of forgiveness, and trust, and hope that I believe must be born and fed by the Spirit. I have felt what it is to be loved by the Spirit of God, and it is sweeter than anything or anyone. I think the Spirit can teach me to love Kyle better than any other person could. 

Could I be a good mom in my own strength? Sure, maybe. But I also know my tendencies. My bent toward perfection, my drive for achievement and self-glory. How unnatural it is for me to stop in the middle of a busy work day and hug my children. I desperately want my children to feel loved because they are here. Because they exist. Not because of anything they did or did not do. The one place I have felt this in my own life is in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I think the Spirit can teach me to be a better mother than any other person could.  

Could I do ministry in my own strength? Sure, maybe... for awhile. To be honest, I don't know if I will make it unless I learn how to access the infinite, available, in-Him-all-things-are-possible power of the great I Am. I can't tell you this for sure, but I believe laying among the ashes of many a burnt-out ministry is the tendency to try and be the hands and feet of Christ without the power of Christ. I know the Spirit can teach me how to be a better minister of His Gospel than any other person could... It is His, after all. 

In the end, it's just not worth the risk to try this life on my own. Even at the ripe, young age of 27 I see the collateral damage of a Spirit-less life. It is not something of which I want any part. 

So these are my verses for the semester, may my life become a reflection of them. 

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives." - Gal 5. 22-25 NLT

8.25.2014

From the Beginning

The students are pouring into town this week.

Even though it means I won't be able to eat at Panera for the next nine months because there will be a perpetual line out the door; or I will be surrounded by oversized t-shirts, exercise pants, riding boots, fishing shirts, and very, very loud trucks; or that driving around town on home-game weekends will be an almost nightmare, I love this time of year. For a few reasons.  

First, I love school. Like a lot. I loved the upper floors of Evans Library because I love the smell of old books. I loved class discussion and lectures and even how a blank Blue Book looked waiting to be scribbled over. Written testimonies of minds-in-progress, those Blue Books. A high calling.

So even though I am not in school anymore, I still enjoy being in a largely academic environment when the semester kicks off.

Second, I love freshmen. Every year draws me further away from that time period, but it was a pivotal one for me. I feel a warmth toward each wave of not-quite-adults that invades College Station every fall.

Freshmen, I think, are looking for a few things. They want to be taken seriously, and they want to be part of something bigger.

And by taken seriously I don't mean they want to be serious all the time. I think they just want to be treated like the adults they aren't yet, or more accurately, treated how they always imagined adults are treated, which I think is somewhere in the neighborhood of their lives looking like they are on the set of Gossip Girl, or Friends, or both.

That's how I remember feeling, anyway. I wanted to be so cool and mysterious and work in a coffee shop and listen to records.

I wasn't cool, or mysterious, and I spent a lot of money in coffee shops. I did eventually listen to (my friend's) John Denver records on (my friend's) record player.

I think Jesus answers this desire to be taken seriously in such an incredible way.

One of my favorite things to do is ask a freshman what they are hoping to do with their lives, not because they need an answer to that question, but because they're just beginning to realize that they're the ones that get to answer it. 

I wanted so badly for someone to take my passion seriously, even though it was yet immature and not channeled. Christ did.

I believe He takes our passions and lives more seriously than anyone or anything else ever could. Because He gave them to us. It is an honor to watch college students realize this.

More importantly, He takes us, His pursuit of us, very seriously. Watching college students experience the intimate pursuit of Yeshua of their hearts, souls, and minds is humbling.

Not only does Christ take freshmen seriously, but He invites them to be part of something bigger than anything or anyone else.

Bigger than finding the love of their life.
Bigger than achieving their highest goal.
Bigger than gaining any amount of recognition.
Bigger than whatever temporal measure of success they currently have.

So, while it is true many have begun this process long before they hit college, many are just now starting it. This is why I think freshmen are so cool, they are at the beginning of so many parts of life. They are at the beginning of most major decisions, and Christ is waiting for them.

Waiting to walk with them. To be their Savior & Lord. To give them a serious calling and bring them into a bigger cause than anything they could have dreamed up on their own.

Right there, from the beginning.