Friday, July 7, 2017

Eat this!

In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, onions, and garlic. But we’re starving out here, 
and the only food we have is this manna.
Numbers 11:4-6 CEV

Way, way back in the day, while trailing through the desert on their long, long journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites gathered manna for food. They were commanded only to gather what they needed for that day. People being people, some tried to hoard it to save themselves a day of scrounging in the dirt. Later when they went for a snack, they found a moldy, inedible mess. They were told to collect double on Friday to see them through the Sabbath day of rest. And of course some went looking for manna when God said there wouldn't be any and came away empty. And because the chosen people are people just like us, there was the inevitable, recurrent bellyaching about the bland fare God had given them to eat.

Through it all, God patiently dealt with them, disciplined them, and trained them to trust Him for provision each and every day. It was for their good and ours too, for He was setting an example for us to follow. God also wants to feed us each day—not just physically, but spiritually as well. The amazing story of how God touched me 'that time at the revival meeting' works great as a memorial, but I can't maintain an active spiritual life with that. To truly live, I must eat, and only what is fresh will nourish me. We need our Father to touch us with His presence, His love, and His guidance 
every day. That is the example of Jesus, who frequently went to pray alone. He sometimes spent all night in prayer. He wasn't demonstrating His piety—Jesus knew He needed immersion in His Father's love to fulfill what He was called to do. Refreshed and refilled with the Spirit each day, Jesus knew who He was, where to go, what to do, and received the power to do it.

As heirs of God we too have the resources of heaven at our disposal, accessed by the Spirit of God. We too can eat what God provides fresh each day, gaining the spiritual nutrients necessary to strengthen and sustain us. Each day we can experience His presence, an evidence of our adoption, a tangible confirmation that we truly belong to Him. Each day we can eat the same spiritual food Jesus did while on Earth. That is good, encouraging news. 

God's wonderful Holy Spirit comforts us with peace in troubling times; gives us power to resist the enemy; illuminates Scripture; warns us when we stray; and guides us when we do not know the way. His presence is a quiet voice, a loving touch, a firm nudge, and a kick in the pants, when needed. God's presence puts the real in reality, anchoring us to our faith in ways that simple book learning cannot. Food for our souls indeed!

Scripture is necessary to feed and renew my mind but isn't enough. Simply accumulating knowledge can lead to arrogance (I Corin. 8:1). Bible knowledge must always lead to God Himself, for He didn't send His Son in order to have a cadre of Bible scholars; He came to create a family of sons and daughters. I must have confirmation that I am God's child, His beloved, His own, and that comes from the Spirit's touch. Then God breathes on His words so that I am not just ingesting information, but a burning reality which indelibly marks my soul.

The world loudly advertises a tempting buffet for the hungry, but it's mostly empty calories. Spiritual life cannot come from such food. When I am feeling famished and weak, I want to quickly remember that my Father provides fresh, nourishing manna each and every day on my desert sojourn. Just like the ancient Israelites, I must trust God when He say, Eat this. That food, freely given from above will sustain me, if I will simply take the time to eat it.  

"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you
in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, 
to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments 
or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna 
which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you 
understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives 
by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Unfriending Facebook

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It's a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, especially those I don't have much opportunity to see. I can keep tabs on events and people, see their kids, enjoy their vacations and accomplishments. I can share recipes and find some to try. News stories I might not otherwise see often show up on my page and I also love the many funny and quirky memes, pictures and videos. But Facebook is also full of misinformation and anger. People feel free to rant and rave and bully in ways they never would if they were face to face with another—at least I hope they never would. And I've found it strangely addicting. 

Two months ago I set myself to quantify my Facebook time—kind of like writing down every penny spent when beginning to create a budget. I was shocked to find out just how much time I'd been spending. I reluctantly confess that I found I was checking my wall six to ten times per day, spending an average of twenty minutes each time I checked. So I was spending as much as two to three hours—HOURS—each day on Facebook. Holy Cow! It had become a compulsion to check my newsfeed, then re-check and then check again. I had to see if others liked my 'likes' and 'shares.' I had to read comments, then comment, then read the comments on my comments and then explain my comments. It's a wonder I got anything else done in a day!

I told myself I was staying abreast of current events and 'connecting with my friends.' Facebook seems to to offer that. It provides a platform for expressing ideas and opinions; it allows us glimpses of other lives; it permits dialog (sort of). So at first blush Facebook seems to answer our deep need for connection, for friendship, and meaning, but looks can be deceiving. Facebook offers community, but it's a superficial, artificial community. I can come away from a Facebook session feeling I am more connected than I actually am. It places me square in the center of my own story, giving me much more importance than is good for me. It also tempts me to present a sanitized version of myself and my life. This is dangerous for a person called to live a life of transparent vulnerability—to confess my sins and walk in the light. And I confess it's lovely to be able to edit my comments before pressing 'post,' an option I rarely choose in real life, in real interactions, with real people. 

I guess I could toss out all my technology and go live in a cave. Sometime I feel I should, but Facebook is not the devil. Technology is a useful servant but a terrible master. I had permitted Facebook to command my time and order my day, but taking down my account would not fix my problem because it's a human condition problem. I have a regular propensity to grab whatever is available to prop up my ego—grab it, use it and abuse it. Fortunately God is faithful to eventually knock my props away to get my attention and draw me back to Him. My humanity wants to be approved and 'liked,' and Facebook is only one of many crutches I might use.

Since God hard-wired humans for relationship, we are always hungry for meaningful connection. Ultimately this is found in friendship with God...that deep, intimate, loving communion in which we are completely known and accepted as we are. Part of being made in God's image is that potential for deep relationships with other people... loving others and permitting them to love us in return. That requires vulnerability; it requires time spent face to face; it requires account-ability. Our deep friendships are one of the ways God heals our brokenness and polishes out our rough edges. We need the laughter and encouragement found in friendship. We also need the loving smack on the behind a good friend will give us when necessary.  

The good news going forward is that God has always known that social media was something I would use and misuse. It's no surprise, nor it is an insurmount-able obstacle to my faith.  I just want to use it more thoughtfully, aware of its limitations. I want to keep God first and foremost in my affections. I want to protect the humanness of my friendships by resisting the temptation to keep a screen between me and other people. It's hard to affect the world when I'm not in it. It is impossible to affect other people without having real relationship with them. That means getting into the down and dirty of their lives, feeling their pain, bearing with their weaknesses and doing life with them. Facebook is just a social could never carry a load so heavy.  Selah.

Show, don't Tell

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