Thursday, September 22, 2016

Keeping it real time (with my husband and Sir Paul)

About 10 years ago when my second daughter started college, she encouraged me to join a social media site called Facebook.

"It's mainly college kids," she explained. "But there are some people on it who are your age, and it will be a fun way for us to stay in contact."

I joined Facebook and had a great time inviting the college students I knew to be my friends. Our home computer at that time was upstairs and each night I would enjoy looking over the posts of my Facebook friends. It felt kind of like reading a news paper with stories about people I knew. I was shocked, however, why people would post pictures of their vacations and things like that. Why did they think everyone wanted to see their pictures of the Rocky Mountains, or Disney Land?

Over the last 10 years as the home computer has taken a backstage to the smartphone, it's become even easier to post personal details on multiple social media websites -- and I have followed the trend.

So much of this has been fun. I've kept track of birthdays and stayed in touch with friends and family in a way that doesn't happen by mailing letters. I can get regular pictures of my grandkids, and FaceTime allows me to see those dear to me as we chat. I enjoy keeping up to date on the events of my friends' lives. Sometimes I even like looking at the photos of what they ate for dinner (within reason).

But the whole social media thing has had an effect on me that I'm not proud to admit.

It's made it harder for me to "live in the moment."

I'm embarrassed to say that many conversations I have with my family and friends are at least temporarily disrupted with the "ping" of a text or Facebook message.

Whenever I have an extended time away from my phone, I'm swift to pick it up to see what I missed while I was gone.

At times when I am enjoying a night out with family or friends, instead of fully entering into the moment, I often think about capturing a photo so I can show everyone on Facebook or Instagram the great fun I'm having.

I want to be better than that.

I first became aware of this problem three years ago.

My husband surprised me with a road trip to Edmonton Alberta to see Paul McCartney in concert. As we sat in our seats waiting for the concert to begin, I pulled out my cell phone and started to take a selfie of the two of us in the midst of a swarm of Paul McCartney fans.

"What are you doing?" my husband asked.

"I'm taking a picture of us to post on Facebook," I answered.

"Dont do that!" he protested as he stuck his arm out to block my shot.

"Why not?" I said perturbed.

"This is OUR anniversary."


My husband's invitation for me to join him in real time hit me square between the eyes. It highlighted how I was thinking more about my "friends" in cyberland than I was about the person right in front of me.

We thoroughly enjoyed that evening. Sir Paul came back for 3 encores and the only photo I have to show for it is one I took at the beginning of the evening when we were standing in line waiting to get inside. I'm bundled up in my winter coat standing with a cut out of my favorite Beatle.

All the other pictures of the evening lay in the memories of my husband and I. We truly spent the evening together in real time.

Today my family will tell you I still spend way too much time on my phone, but since that McCartney concert, I'm more aware of the times I manage to live "unplugged" from social media whether it's watching the sun go down, enjoying a cup of coffee with my daughter, or just having a quiet day at home.

When all is said and done, I want to have really lived my life, and not just posted about it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Offensive prayers

I like to think of myself as someone who is normally pretty gentle and kind.

But recently in my life experiences and conversations with God I have been convicted to be more offensive in the way I pray. Let me explain.

A little over a year ago my family moved from a small village in the Canadian prairies to the booming metroplex area of Dallas/Fort Worth Texas. In many aspects it felt exciting to be in a place pulsing with activity -- along with every store and eatery known to man. But on a deeper level I felt like I had been plopped into the middle of oblivion. In the center of this swirl of busyness and business, I knew very few people, and I struggled to know how to connect with others in a meaningful way. Everything was huge. Our church, with all of it's campuses, had 30,000 people in attendance each week. I felt truly invisible.

I remember thinking that if it weren't for my daughter and my husband living in the same home with me, I could literally die in my house and no one would find me until my body had totally decomposed. No one would know to look for me because no one knew me.

During this time of felt obscurity, I was still praying to God every day. In some way I knew He was with me which made a big difference. He saw me alone in my house doing laundry, cleaning and watching Pioneer Woman and HGTV every day. I even believed that He had called our family to move to Texas. I just didn't know why.

I didn't stop talking to God. I told Him I was willing to do whatever He'd called me to. I asked Him to show me what I should do next. As I continued to check out small groups and Bible studies, I was perplexed as no prospective connections came from it. Everyone seemed to already have their circle of friends. I was tired, and fought a bad attitude when I had to re-introduce myself to people I'd already met several times.

One day as I returned home from my morning walk I was really battling a heaviness that told me that I'd reached my peak -- that this place of anonymity was what my life was going to be.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, "God, You didn't bring me to Texas to finish out my life in obscurity! The best years of my life are NOT over!"

The spiritual atmosphere immediately shifted. I could sense God's Spirit saying -- "That's right. Keep going."

I began to realize that while I had been asking God to do battle for me in this difficult place, He instead wanted to partner with me. He was waiting for me to take up my sword and fight.

As I look back on that hissy fit I had in my kitchen, I can see how I was actually screaming out God's truth back to Him. In a really raw way I was making a declaration about His character. I was learning to wield the sword of the Spirit -- the only offensive weapon we are given by God for spiritual warfare.

I'm beginning to realize that maybe there are times I've been spinning my wheels in prayer because I've been asking for some things God has already given me. For example, I have regularly prayed,"God, please be with me." But as I grab onto His Word from Hebrews 13:5-6 I can also declare, "God I thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me. You are my helper and I will not be afraid."

The shift from a passive request to an active declaration is subtle but powerful.

Declaration is NOT a magic bullet. It does not manipulate God to give me what I want. It's also not the only way to pray. I'm simply realizing for myself it's a piece that has been lacking in my prayer life.

Today as I consider my life here in Texas, I can see places where I am making positive connections through my work and also where my niche might be in this huge cow town. Although I still have days when I ask God why we are here, on the whole my prayer life is more expectant and hopefully more offensive:)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dance With Me

I am a recovering performaholic.

That means if I'm going to do something -- especially something in public -- I want to do it pretty perfectly. This quality served me well for making good grades in school and for being a good employee, but it has a downside as well.

I can recall multiple times in my life when I was given the opportunity to participate in an activity that I didn't do so well, like playing volleyball or trying to make it over the vaulting horse in P.E. class. Instead of just fumbling through it, I found a way to excuse myself.

Obviously one of the core ingredients of this is pride. In my adult years God has been faithful to lead me through many humbling experiences that have helped to peel layers off of this need to be flawless.

But underneath all of this performance was an even deeper layer -- the longing to be truly known and fully loved JUST AS I AM.

That's been my growing edge for my adult life -- learning how to authentically be myself and understanding how completely God loves me no matter what.

Last month I got smacked head-on with an experience that challenged me at this core level.

It happened when I danced with my husband at a wedding reception.

That may seem like no big deal, but I've never danced with my husband before.

That's probably shocking to some. I actually love to move to music. I grew up going to school dances. But at our Christian college, dancing was prohibited at the time, so my husband and I didn't dance then and never really took the chance after that -- until this reception.

The DJ asked for all the married couples to come out onto the dance floor. It was going to be incredibly obvious that we were NOT participating if we didn't go, so we did. We found a place over by the corner and tried to blend into the big bunch of couples swaying together to the music.

Then the DJ started asking couples to leave the floor who had been married 10 years or less. About half the floor left.

My heart started pounding. I could figure out this game. My husband and I have been married for 33 years, which means that we were one of the oldest relationships on this dance floor. Slowly as each decade of married people were asked to sit down, our dance circle became smaller and smaller until there were only about 7 couples left on the floor.

Suddenly we were very visible. I felt so awkward. I had bad hair, I felt fat and I hated my outfit.

We sat down soon after this, but not before one of my daughter's friends snapped our photo and texted it to her.

My daughter sent it to me. I was horrified. My awkward moment had been captured in a photo. When I got home I said to my daughter "Don't you dare post that anywhere on social media. I'm ugly."

The disappointed look on her face shocked me into reality. I had just danced with my wonderful husband for the first time in my life -- someone who knows me fully and loves me completely -- and the monumental moment was lost on me because I didn't like the way I looked. Instead of focusing on my groom, I focused on myself. God forgive me.

The last month, I've been eating humble pie. I've apologized to my daughter, my husband and God. I'm trying to learn and grow from this.

Last week when I was out for a walk by myself thinking about this experience, I felt the Holy Spirit say, "Will you dance with me?"

I started to cry. I knew this invitation wasn't because my performance had been flawless. I'd really messed up. It was an invitation to focus on the Him and let Him lead in a dance that celebrates our relationship -- one where I am fully known and completely loved.

It would have been really easy to keep this spiritual lesson to myself, but I am sharing it in case there are others who are sitting on the sidelines because they have disqualified themselves in someway. It's not about how imperfect we are. Is about how wonderful God is.

There's plenty of room on the dance floor.