the friday features: july 29, 2016.

The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You Just Can’t with the RNC/DNC Anymore: Which Came First: Bad Politicians or TV Shows About Bad Politicians? by Kaitlyn Schiess for Christ and Pop Culture

For the Sad Girls: Why Do These White Women Look So Sad? by Laura Barcella for Pacific Standard

For When You’re Saying Peace Out to the Mommy Wars: The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On by Katelyn Beaty for Her.Meneutics at Christianity Today

For the Burb Dwellers: Suburbanites, I Need You! by Ashley Hales

For When Your Kid Asks Where Babies Come From: 5 Lessons My Parents Taught Me About Sexuality by Jaquelle Crowe for The Gospel Coalition

For the People with Open Arms, and Those Who Need Arms Opened to Them: When Honesty Is Our Invitation by Alia Joy Hagenbach for Grace Table

For When You’re Feeling Like an “Intimidating” Woman or are Intimidated by a Woman (and/or When You Need a Laugh): 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women by Sarah Cooper for The Cooper Review

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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Twitter, Temptation, and The Golden Rule.

I wonder how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I wonder how many times you have. As I think back on childhood Sunday School lessons, friendship advice, and teenage devotionals, it seems that the answer must be in the thousands. Whether you grew up with those words echoing through your home, church, and community, or you only stumbled upon them through the occasional pop culture reference, it’s likely that you consider them to be familiar, part of the common ethos.

“The Golden Rule” is what we call those words. Many think of the “rule” as the ultimate guide for how humans should treat one another, for how we should filter our words and actions before allowing them to spill out and impact relationships. The Golden Rule is found in The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12. Jesus said these words as part of the Sermon on the Mount, stating that they are “the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, they are a general summary of God’s call to us and hope for us, of what He sends His Spirit to equip us to do.

These words call us not only to act a certain way, but to view humanity and its value in a certain way. Christians are not simply to operate according to our own desires, nor are we permitted to act or speak in such a way that merely serves ourselves. We are to consider how we treat people, even how we think of them, through the lens of how we would like for people to think about and treat us.

This is a huge task, one we are ill-equipped to undertake without the power of the Holy Spirit. I have not a bone in my body that desires to think of others as fondly as I think of myself. Only by the power of regeneration do I care much at all for the treatment (or mistreatment) of others. (This, by the way, is not meant to be a post about whether or not those who are not Christians can or can’t have positive intentions toward others. A topic for another day!)

In my day-to-day life, I try to remain conscious of The Golden Rule, whether by remembering its words specifically, or by meditating on the general way of life and pattern of thought the Christian is called to adopt. When I want to do all I can to get ahead, when I want to say the thing that will be funny but will also potentially hurt someone, when I want to parent according to selfish desires rather than loving sacrifice, I remind myself that, because of the blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, I don’t have to give into those desires.

Sometimes, though, when I log onto Twitter, this whole thing gets a lot harder.

Here’s the thing about Twitter, the thing that’s the reason why I’m writing about it specifically rather than including other social media sites (which I plan to address in the future, but you’ll have to wait for that!). The thing about Twitter, I suppose, is really three things:

  1. It moves so fast.
  2. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters.
  3. Sometimes it feels like the wittiness Olympics.

Last week, during the Republican National Convention, I typed and subsequently deleted (before publishing) a load of tweets. Some because of over the top snark, some because they took me too long to compose and I felt that the moment had passed, some because I couldn’t decide if they were as funny as I wanted to believe they were.

And some I kept from sharing, by God’s grace, because they didn’t pass the test of The Golden Rule.

Hidden behind our avatars, the illusion of safety and shallowness can sometimes keep us from thinking that what we say online actually matters. This is discouraging, at times, to those who are attempting to write something meaningful, but (far more tragically) it seems to all too often loosen the bonds of civility and reduce people to their most snarky, sarcastic, arrogant selves.

I want to be clear that I follow a lot of people who share a lot of humorous, snarky, pointed content, and I love it. I think they do it well. I think that sarcasm and even snark have their appropriate places. I think that many people are skilled at using their words to make a person laugh just enough and also to think about something that’s meaningful. But I don’t always trust myself to be that person, and I’ve had to set up a little filter for myself that helps me keep my presence on Twitter roughly halfway sanctified.

In case this is something you struggle with as well, here’s a little system I use:

  1. Are these words intended to build others up or to puff up my own image?
  2. Am I continually tweeting about myself, my content, and my ideas, or am I going out of my way to share the words and thoughts of others, building them up by promoting their hard work?
  3. Am I using my words to try to get noticed or to bless those who read?

I want to be clear that this filter of mine does not keep me from tweeting about hard things, or from sharing many a news story or opinion that is likely to make people uncomfortable. But the way I present such things, even the way I present the most lighthearted of things, are pushed (at times begrudgingly) through the above filter, which in a way could summarized as “serving others.” Sometimes my hope is to serve through silliness, sometimes through prompting deep thought, sometimes through charitably asking a question about a seeming point of disagreement, and sometimes through sharing the work or words of another.

It all becomes very simple, very Kindergarten level, in a sense. In all dimensions of my life, including Twitter, I want others to teach me. I want others to read my words and respond to them charitably. I want others to see the words I string together and find enough meaning in them to share them with others. I want others to converse with me when they agree with me and when they don’t. I want others to encourage me.

And so, I seek to do unto others as I desire them to do unto me, even in a space like Twitter. And whether or not I’m treated the same way in return (and I so often am), it’s worth it, and it helps me believe that even the Twittersphere can be a space for redemption, that nothing is beyond His dominion.

And I, for one, can use that reminder as often as possible.

the friday features: july 22, 2016.

The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You’re Thinking about the 16-Year-Olds in Your Life: A space for struggle, an answer of hope: The kind of culture churches really need by Alan Noble for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

For The Parents Staring at Athletic Sign-Up Forms: The Youth Sports Myth: You Owe It to Your Child by Margot Starbuck for Today’s Christian Woman

For When You’re Writing: God Will Give You the Words, So Don’t Steal These by Lore Ferguson Wilbert for Her.Meneutics at Christianity Today

For the Curious: What’s It Like to See Ideas as Shapes? by Alissa Greenberg for The Atlantic

For When You’re Struggling to Act: Just Hang the Darn Curtains by Bronwyn Lea

For the Souls Tempted to Shrink Back: Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel” by Barnabas Piper for The Blazing Center

For When You’re Thinking about Gender Roles: Katelyn Beaty: Despite the Cost, I’m Proud to Be an ‘Intimidating’ Woman for The Calling at Christianity Today (this one is a brief article + an excellent podcast)

For the Stalling and/or Anxious: For the One Who Procrastinates by Heather Caliri

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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one way that I see Him when the world turns grey.

A few weeks ago, I taught a class for The Influence Network called “When Suffering Abounds.” In it, we talked about how one of the first questions the Christian often asks during difficult times is, “how can I relate to God right now?”

This leads quickly to other questions:

  • Who even IS God in this season?
  • Is God real? If so, is He in this chaos? Do I want Him to be? If He was real, wouldn’t He DO something?
  • If I’m going to believe that God is real even in this, how do I find Him?

These are all questions I’ve asked myself, some muttered under my breath more recently than I’d care to admit. These are questions I ask in my own moments of darkness, and questions I ask as the world around us seems to be crumbling. These are questions I ask as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile breathe their last at the hands of violence, as police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge fall to the hands of murderers, as Turkey and Nice and cities the world over, some far from this American land and some with roots burrowed inextricable into its soil, cry out for an intertwine of justice and mercy, gasping their need for comfort.

How long, Oh Lord?

There are moments in my life, moments that have occurred both when pain has been inflicted directly upon me and when it orbits around me, threatening my rose-tainted images of the world, that I have questioned the power of Scripture and prayer. Essentially, I suppose, this means that I have questioned the power of God Himself.

I do not mean that my perspective of God’s power should be limited to reading the Bible and praying. It really shouldn’t. What I mean is that I have often been skeptical of the power He proclaims and reveals in those pages, the power that calms wind and wave, the power that creates, beckons, and cares for souls. I have wondered where that power is.

In my more bitter moments of inquiry, moments marked by questions that do not actually desire answers, I am obstinate toward the Word, stubborn against prayer. I hate that this is true. I love, though, that there is a passage that near-always calls me back, a passage that seems to soften a place in me, makes the invitation of the Spirit seemingly irresistible. That passage is Psalm 40.

More succinctly, I suppose, that passage is Psalm 40:1. Fourteen words of David embedded in a book of prayer, lament, praise, thanksgiving, and heartbreak. Fourteen words that beckon me back when I am unsure of Who God is, of Who He says He is.

“I waited patiently for the Lord,” the Psalmist writes. “He inclined to me and heard my cry.”

I’ve read this verse many times, sometimes comforted by it, sometimes experiencing it in that rote way, that way carved out by years of growing up in the church, of having to remind myself that the Word is alive and active (because it doesn’t feel that way), the strange blessing and burden of having been born into a life with Scripture all around me, always. But one day, for some reason, a four word phrase within Psalm 40:1 leapt out at me, taking root in my mind and sprouting new thought, like the theme word in the midst of a brainstorm cloud.

“He inclined to me.”

And suddenly, Psalm 40 became prophetic.

I had always thought of God the Father as the inclining One, His ear bent toward me in prayer. And while I still think this is true and good, while I have no intention of relinquishing that image in exchange for another, the picture has become more robust, new layers added.

Now, when I read, “He inclined to me,” I think of Jesus as the inclining One, bowing to the Father’s will, condescending from His rightful, perfect place.

The image is crystalizing and cementing, I think of it so often now. Yes, God inclines toward me in prayer, in the everyday movements of my life. But He also inclined by sending His Son made flesh to dwell among us. He inclined to me in a way that was ultimate, a submission leading to death on my behalf.

The inclining Jesus came alive to me in Psalm 40 one day, and I cannot unsee Him. I think of Him condescending to earth, I imagine Him touching the sick. I think of Him bending down, stooping low from heaven to earth, I imagine Him knees to the dirt, stooping low to embrace a child.

Thousands of times I have walked into one of my babies’ rooms, during the days when they could not yet pull up on the side of the crib. They lie on their backs, or they sit, waiting for me to pick them up out of their cribs. Waiting for me to respond to their cries. Waiting for me to incline toward them.

This idea of the inclining deity, the inclining God made flesh, brings life, brings a new light. This week, I’m thinking of what Christ’s inclination says about His character, about His goodness, His humility, His love, His desire for us. I’m thinking of how I do not need to lose myself in worry over whether or not I am enough or too much, because His inclination draws my eyes upward. I’m thinking about what it looks like to wait patiently for Him, certain that He has inclined, is inclining, will incline.

And I’m giving thanks for Jesus, the ultimate inclining One, condescending toward me when I held no power to ascend toward Him. I’m thinking of my babies in their cribs and how their dependence is only a degree or so different from mine, though I fancy myself self-sufficient. I’m thinking of how my life depends entirely on the inclining One, and how that must mean His power and goodness are greater than I’ve known.

I’m thinking of how He inclined, He inclines, and He will incline.