Waiting and Dwelling in a Digital Age

Waiting & Dwelling

We are in a time collective hand-wringing over our digital addictions, vices and escapism. Whether a follower of Jesus or not, this is an age where one and all is wondering the effect of our romance turned co-dependency on a digital device. What effect is this having on our marriages? What does this do to our children and parenting? Are we literally altering our brains in ways that are a very real and present danger?

Putting guilt and condemnation aside, this season of Advent is the perfect time assess my place in this digital journey.

Advent is a Season of Waiting

Advent is a season of waiting, anticipating, expecting. Seasons of waiting are pregnant with possibility to dive deeper into our relationship with God and others. More than ever, our times of waiting are filled with the temptation to distract ourselves into our phones, i-pads or other devices.

Not all of our distractions are useless. In fact, “waiting” can become small gaps of time to fill up with “useful activities”. It is common to hear Christians say we need to “redeem the time”. So instead of waiting quietly at a doctors office, you can “redeem the time” by writing an important e-mail or listening to a podcast to learn something new.

The undercurrent is that simple, quiet waiting is wasted time.

The truth is that God repeatedly extols the virtue of simple waiting even when it has no clear- marked goal in sight. Mary and Elisabeth both waited. One for a long-desired birth. The other during an expected birth. Both waited for the coming of the Messiah.

What would happen if you embrace times of waiting instead of distract yourself from it?

Advent is a Season of Dwelling

Advent is also a time of reflecting on the incarnation, when God literally dwells with man. The magnitude of this event on our own lives is rarely understood. We accept that God became flesh all the while trying to escape our own fleshly living. We live in an age when dwelling in the flesh is the antithesis of our normal lives.

Skye Jethani reflected on this,

We may have no problem celebrating Jesus’ incarnation during this season, but we have great difficulty accepting our own. We live in an age that is in active denial of our bodies. Digital technology, for example, offers us the illusion of divine omnipresence. Through our devices we are no longer limited to our physical location. Any given day we may offer more of our attention to people and events on the other side of the planet than to what is happening in our own homes. Christ may have come to “dwell with us” but we prefer to dwell with the people on our phones.

Waiting and Dwelling

And so this season is both a time of waiting and a time of dwelling. Two things that digital devices cannot help us with. They are good for so much but in waiting and dwelling they hinder.

What would it look like for you to embrace quiet waiting and physical dwelling as you head in to Christmas? What practical steps could you take to avoid diving into digital distractions? How could you be more physically present in the location God has placed you each and every day?

Waiting and dwelling, may this advent season find you doing more of both.

Photo Credit: Joe Hunt

Immigrants, Orphans and Jesus

My maternal grandparents were immigrants from Norway. My Grandma Edie would enthrall me with the story of her first sighting of American soil. As a young girl, she peaked through the window of the ship and there stood the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, New York City.

When Grandma Edie and Grandpa John fought around my sister and I, often they would do it in Norwegian so we couldn’t understand what they were saying! My grandmother made fish-balls and lutefisk and lefse. The town they lived in was full of Norwegian immigrants and it’s official motto is still officially, “Little Norway”.

Being surrounded by so many Norwegians brought the inevitable Swedish jokes. I just thought it was like an old high-school rivalry. I didn’t know why Norwegians and Swedes teased each-other, it’s just what we did. In fact, my Grandfather posted a sign at the top of his drive-way that said, “Norwegians Only! No Swedes Allowed!” Little did I know that this rivalry came out of a deep-rooted history. But, it was all good fun for the family in those times.

The last two weeks I’ve thought a lot about my precious grandparents. I was always acutely aware we were a Norwegian-American family. But, there was so much I never knew to ask them. They were immigrants. The family didn’t know english when they came, I know that. But what else? What was it like to be foreigners in a strange land?

The reason I thought of this was because I’ve been surrounded by a whole new set of “foreigners” here in South Africa. My husband and I bought a house and we are doing a few renovations this month before we move in. We’ve had the privilege of hiring a number of men from Malawi to help us with some of the work.

In talking with them, they’ve told us stories of living in a country where they are not always wanted or welcome. Just this morning I dealt with a situation where Victor and Dave (two of these men from Malawi) shared how they felt targeted for bad treatment in our area. I’m a foreigner here too. People often make fun of my accent or make known to me their distaste for America. But I’m not unwanted like them… that is the painful truth.

My home country, the United States, is consumed with this same word, “immigrant”. The headlines are filled with a conversation America is having on the presence of immigrants in her land.

In fact it seems everywhere I looked this week, immigrants or immigration was being talked about.

This is what brings me to my Grandpa John and Grandma Edie and my un-asked questions. What was it like for them to be an “immigrant”? How were they treated? Did people target them for ill-treatment? Did they get accused of stealing jobs? Did people make fun of the way they spoke English? Were they refused service because they couldn’t yet speak english? What was it like to walk their journey and be the outsider?

Each day these past two weeks I would make Victor and Dave (and others) their lunch. Each morning I would bring them tea as they got the day started. I contemplated what they would like for a tea break and lunch. What was my obligation to provide for them? God dropped a thought in my mind the first day, “Remember Lindsey, the majority of the time in scripture, immigrant or foreigner is mentioned with two other groups… orphan and widow.”

This wasn’t a new thought to me. I actually read through the Bible one year and circled the word “immigrant” or “foreigner” every time it was mentioned. I was shocked. God see’s immigrants the same way as widows and orphans. Not as weak, not to be pitied… but they are vulnerable and deserve a special place of honour and care in the Christian community.

So every time I made mid-morning tea and lunches I thought, “What would I make if a widow was eating this? What would I want provided if it was for an orphan?” I let that guide me. I then realised, “What would I make if it was my Grandpa John and Grandma Edie”? This was once them and their parents. They were once the immigrant worker.

I wonder if people gave my great-grandparents the worst mid-morning tea and and the cheapest lunches. I wonder if they even fed them anything at all? I wonder if they paid them a fair wage?

Then I thought of Jesus. Not his heart or his values. I thought of his life. Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus fleeing to the foreign land of Egypt. I wonder if people made fun of the way Joseph and Mary spoke the local language. I wonder what sort of lunches Joseph’s boss made him… or if he even fed him at all?

Foreigners, exiles, aliens, immigrants. Let us not forget that these people’s names are always mentioned in the same breath as orphans and widows in God’s living word. “The alien, the orphan and the widow”… the trinity of the vulnerable.

Let us remember that these precious people are somebodies parents, grandparents and great-grandparents… they were once mine. Let us not forget they have other names: Dave, Victor, Grandpa John, Grandma Edie, Joseph, Mary… Jesus.

When you make lunch, mention their status, read headlines about them or have to summon the patience to truly listen as they stumble along in broken English… is your heart shaped by God’s heart for these precious people? Would you speak of an orphan and widow in the same way as the immigrant? Would you post Facebook memes about orphans and widows the same as we do of immigrants? Would you post a sign in your restaurant that said, “Orphan who doesn’t speak English? No Service!”

Immigrants, orphans and widows… God’s precious people. Full of dignity and value even if it’s not always recognized by those who profess the name of our own Egyptian-immigrant saviour, Jesus Christ.

Top Relationship Books of 2014

It’s coming to the end of 2014 and I’ve been reflecting on some of the top books and writings that I’ve enjoyed this year. This is a list of my favorite books on relationships of all types! I hope you get some ideas. Is there a relationship orientated book that you’ve loved this year? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.


Best Book on Relationship with God: With by Skye Jethani

This book wins far and away as my favourite book of 2014. Jethani is both engaging and penetrating as he looks at the false ways you might be relating to God. He takes on the false belief systems in Christian culture and our own individual lives, you will be left seeing things in new ways. The best part is that you are left with a deep and fresh hunger for Jesus. During a season of my life that I was struggling with stress, anxiety and fear… this book was a shining light in hard times.


Best Book on Marriage: Fun Loving You by Ted Cunningham

My husband and I both loved this book. A great read for those who have been married for a few years and need to re-focus on the fun and friendship that bring so much life to your marriage. As a bonus he gives a ton of practical ideas for dates, fun get-aways, and ways to just have fun together.


Best Book on Parenting: Boundaries With Kids by Cloud and Townsend

The “Boundaries” series is a classic in Christian and counselling circles. I had never read the parenting version and it came at just the right time for me with an 8 and 9 year old. There is a ton of helpful advice and practical tips. I think you could read this book at each stage of parenting and come away with key wisdom to apply.


Best Blog Post on Dating and Engagement: “Sex & Engagement” by Ron Smith

I haven’t read any great books on this topic this year but a great article is buy a close friend and mentor, Dr. Ron Smith. Ron and his wife did our own pre-marriage counselling. He is honest, straight forward and so excited to see people find their love for a lifetime partner. This article is honest and direct about the sexual relationship of an engaged couple.


Best Beach Read: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you read my husbands book list for 2014 you will see he also listed this book (along with 2 others I mention here!). I would just like to state for the record that I was the one who tipped him off to this great read. It’s the captivating story of ultra-marathon runners. You don’t need to be a runner to love it, though. It is a true-story adventure that takes you from the headquarters of Nike to a stone-age tribe in the hills of Mexico. The characters are funny and totally engaging, you will get sucked in. This is a great Christmas idea for someone that loves running, adventure or just a great read!


With-God-Devo-logo

Best Daily Devotional: With Daily Devotional by Skye Jethani

I recently had the privilege of meeting Skye Jethani. He was speaking out our Community Gathering at our campus in South Africa. I was chatting to him afterwards and told him that I was aiming to sign up as many as possible for his daily devotional, it is one of the best kept secrets on the internet. For $1.99/month you get a daily devotional e-mailed to you with scriptures to read and a prayer to meditate on for the week. It is short, engaging, challenging, personal and helps you focus on Jesus more than ever. This would be a wonderful gift idea for yourself or others!


Bonus: Favorite Music Albums

Mali Is… by Mali Music

Ok, little known info about me, I’m a huge Jazz, Black Gospel, R&B and Rap fan. I’m listening to one of these genres most of the time. My first CD was the Winans Brothers… not Bibi and Cici Winans, that’s black gospel for the masses. I was in to the real deal Winans. I seriously am tempted to do a whole post on my top ablums in these genres. But, it’s not the point of this blog… sigh. But, if you love any of these genres or want to love them, run, don’t walk, to your computer and buy this on Amazon or iTunes. Ok, you are sitting at your computer. So click on the link above. Do it. This guy is the real deal. Best relationship track on the album? “Heavy Love”. You will at least start chair dancing while he extols the beauty and power of love that lasts a lifetime. As he says, beautiful love is that “great-grand-mama and grand-daddy love ya’ll”.


The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger

So now that you know my tastes, this album is out of my norm. Most worship albums I listen to involve Fred Hammond or Donnie McClurkin (if you just said, “Who?”, hang your head in shame and go take a time-out for 10 minutes). This album is minimal, contemplative and personal.  I found myself surprisingly drawn in. Steffany has an amazing voice, that is undeniable. But, it’s more than her voice that draws you in. Each song seems to be taken straight out of her personal journal in the best of ways. For those days when you need to hear the heart of Jesus more loudly, this album delivers exactly that.

The Road Less Traveled

Last week I left my house for a late afternoon run. I’m a hoofer who plods along slowly. Seeing me run would probably evoke less images of a light-footed deer and more images of a stray elephant looking for it’s herd. But, I digress.

road-less-traveledThat evening was beautiful; still, cool air and beautiful clouds. I love running at that time of day, the streets are full of people walking home after a long day at work. There are large groups of gossiping Mama’s noisily giving the updates of the day. Weary fathers, pushing their young daughter home from pre-school. Dusty men returning home after a hard day of manual labour.

That evening I took my normal route along the busiest roads, past the buzzing taxi ranks and weaving along semi-crowded sidewalks. The next morning I woke up to learn that 30 minutes after I had run, there was a shooting along my route, killing several. It was part of week of rising violence in our neighborhood.

I told several people how close I had come to witnessing the violence. Several replied, “Why do you run there? It is not a safe area!” I could choose another route that takes me through quiet and calm neighborhoods. But, here’s the deal. Those quiet and calm neighborhoods feel dangerous to me because I’m alone. There is safety and security for me as long as I’m surround by the noisy Mama’s, weary fathers and dusty laborers.

I have changed my running route for now, until the violence calms down. But I’m looking for other busy paths that take me along roads where others travel.

There is an old saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear.” It’s not in scripture but we like to think it is. It’s not even true. There’s five words missing. Those five words make it more close to what scripture says all the time. Those five words are: “with the help of others”.

“God will not give you more than you can bear with the help of others”

This idea that we are radical individuals who should do everything on our own is a lie. So many of us desperately cling to this lie as if it is a life vest or a badge of pride. The reality? It’s like trying to swim down a white water river while holding on to a boulder. This go alone strategy can become our undoing.

We need people. And with the help of others… together we can bear so much. With others holding us up, we exchange our individual weakness for the the strength of community.

Jesus did this. Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing his darkest hour, he asked the disciples for help. Think about that. The Savior of the world wanted friends to help him carry his burden.

Today we glorify the famous words of Robert Frost and seek after “the road less traveled.” While loneliness and difficult decisions are certainly part of our journey at times, going it alone should never be the ideal we praise.

Traveling on a road less traveled sounds so heroic. But I’m taking my strategy from Jesus. I’m choosing a road well traveled with people within shouting distance. When something feels too heavy to carry, I can bear it with the help of others.

In what areas do you need to reach out and ask for help? What’s stopping you from doing that today?

Give me Jesus.

“But it’s not my fault!” Words heard by parents around the world. Grating. Aggravating. True. So much of life is “not my fault.” It’s not just a phrase for kids, it’s true for adults also. Unfortunately the people who’s fault it is do not stick around for a cup of tea to discuss our emotional angst. So then what do we do?

I recently stepped back from many of my ministry responsibilities. I’d like to say it was simply in obedience to God (it mostly was). The fuller reality is that I was not able to cope with the sheer number of my commitments for much longer. If I didn’t choose to make changes then they would be forced upon me by my own inability to cope.

In these last few weeks, the fog of stress has been clearing. I’ve begun reflecting on the past years. I’ve looked at the glorious successes and the cringe-worthy failures.

When I reflect on the difficulties, failures and challenges of the recent past here are 3 things God has been teaching me. Especially in regards to things which I could say, “It’s not my fault!”.

More facts and information won’t help.

Very rarely does more information about a past situation help. It is so tempting that if only we truly understood what happened, then things would be different. This is a trap. We are trying to shuffle the facts of the situation to somehow come out with something other than what it is: a bad hand. Let a bad hand be what it is. I can’t be trapped into re-playing out each situation in my mind… trying to make the cards I was dealt into a full house.

It may not be my fault, but it’s now my responsibility.

Counsellors and authors Cloud and Townsend said,

This is the bad news in life: Even when we are unable to help ourselves, we still have a job to do. If you are hit by a car, you’re a victim- but you still have to hobble to the physical therapist and do the exercises. If your best friend moves away, it’s not your fault- but it’s your job to find other people of character in whom to entrust your heart. There are very few “boulders” in life in which you have no responsibility at all

These words both sting and bring comfort. They sting because what I want is to be a toddler who just dumps the blame on someone and walks away. I only hurt myself with this thinking. The comfort is that I am not stuck. Blame is a prison where my power is gone. The truth is I have power to deal with past and make changes towards the future.

I’m more deluded than I imagine.

The book of Isaiah get’s me every time. It is full of people falling down in front of idols saying, “You are so awesome!”. I feel deeply convicted of my own tendency to do this. In Isaiah 44, God hits gut level honesty about this tendency and says,

“Their deluded hearts led them to worship idols. Now they can’t get out of it by themselves. In fact, they have the idol in their right hand, they look right at it and say, ‘I don’t see a thing!'”
(My paraphrase)

This is me. I’m deluded about my own idols, sins, and flaws. I don’t see myself accurately in a situation. Even when I’m staring it in the face I declare, “I don’t see a thing!”

When reflecting on past situations and challenges I’ve been praying, “Lord, in what ways have I deluded myself? I need your light to see the light”.

Give me Jesus.

This is my biggest focus and prayer. When processing past challenges, stressful situations and hurts… Jesus is my biggest need.

  • I don’t ultimately need more information.
  • I don’t just need to take responsibility.
  • I don’t need to just own my junk.

I need to see Jesus more clearly

  • I need to know Him more deeply.
  • I need hear Him more clearly.
  • I need to know his grace beyond what I know.

That’s my prayer. “Give me Jesus.”

When I’ve let go of the details. When I’ve stepped up to the plate. When I’m ready to see things clearly.

Give me Jesus.

Let me see Him, know Him, and hear Him more deeply, clearly and truly. Just give me Jesus.

I shouldn’t have said that.

I was tired.
My husband was travelling overseas.
Both my young boys were adjusting to the start of the school year.
I had an incredible amount of stress I was dealing with.
I was carrying hurt.

In the midst of this I was sitting in the front row of our local Civic Hall. About to get on stage to speak to a few hundred people, all I could feel was the swirling thoughts of all I was dealing with.

I did speak that night and it went ok. It wasn’t a disaster… in the eyes of most people. But, 9 months later I was still dealing with my sense of failure.

Why?

Because I was a people pleaser and was insecure? No. (Well, yes, but not the main issue that night.)
Because people threw rotten fruit at me and booed me off stage? No… thankfully!
Because people criticised what I had to say? A full 8 people came and felt to point out that I wasn’t my normal self when speaking. Although hard to hear, it wasn’t the main thing.

The main thing was this: I shared out of my hurt instead of my healing.

This was a deep lesson that I learned that whole year: there are different rules for hurt people and healed people.

Eugene Peterson powerfully said, “We are travelling in the light toward God who is rich in mercy and strong to save. It is Christ, not culture, that defines our lives. It is the help we experience, not the hazards we risk that shape our days.”

The journey of a whole person is moving from being shaped by our pain and wounding to being shaped by our healing and healer.

In this journey I must be very careful to know where I am along the path so as not to cause more wounding and hurt to myself and those around me.

Hurt and Healed people do three things differently because of where they stand.

Whom We Trust:
When we are actively working through our pain we need to be very careful that we walk with very trustworthy people. Our pain is precious, if we give it to people that do not treat it as such… we will only experience more pain. The slightest wrong response can prick us but it will feel like a mortal wound.

When we have experienced healing we are not in nearly as much danger. I have so much pain in my past, the kind that makes people respond with “scary eyes” (as I call them). You know the kind; their eyes get very wide, they look both shocked and horrified, you can see them trying to plan an escape route out of the conversation.

I am in a place of healing with so much of my past. Sometimes I entrust my story to someone who can’t handle it. They make a comment that is so insensitive that it defies reality. Because I have moved into healing it does not devastate me nor make me feel deeply wounded. I have grace for people who turn out to be untrustworthy (or just too immature to know what to say).

When We Share:
Timing makes a difference in our journey of being shaped by our wound to being shaped by our healer. I shouldn’t have gotten on stage that night. I shouldn’t have shared publicly about things which I myself hadn’t fully dealt with.

After that night a wise women came to me and said, “How are you doing? You looked so vulnerable that night. My heart went out to you.” She discerned that I was in a season of my life where I should not have gotten on stage and shared such vulnerable things.

In the Church it can be very common to encourage people to share publicly. But, if you haven’t experienced Christ as your healer, a public “testimony” could end up feeling more like a public shaming, violation or humiliation. It has nothing to do with how the group responded and more to do with the internal pain being worked through.

Even in a smaller group, I find I need to be careful to discern if the timing is right. Perhaps a group of friends is gathering to just have some laughs and fun. If you open up about something painful and they simply move on to conversing about the latest movie they saw… you will be left feeling vulnerable, exposed and unvalued.

How We Help:
Healed people can help. Wounded people can just further wound. It is not about intention as much as reality of our situations.

When we are healed it is because we have encountered our Healer. This is what we have to pass on to others, a revelation of Jesus.

When we are moving from being shaped by pain to being shaped by our Healer we should be extremely cautious about “trying to help others with my own experience”. One wounded person helping another wounded person so often does more damage.

From my experience, when someone is primarily defined by their healing and healer… they have a wise caution about jumping in to help other wounded people. They know that only Jesus initiates, shapes and enpowers this journey. My presence doesn’t necessarily help the process.

That night as I stood on stage I broke all three principals. I trusted a crowd of people I didn’t know (wrong people), shared my pain publicly and in a hard season (wrong timing) and tried to help them when I myself had not fully received help.

I found a wise friend that helped my identify all three. I cried quite a bit about the situation. I learned something that will only safeguard me in the future.

What about you?
In your life circumstances are you more shaped by your pain and wounding or your healing and healer?
How does this shape these three areas of your life?