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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Filling Cracks


Ah, pothole season! Sometimes it takes a harsh winter on our roads for us to realize where those cracks are as they become exposed, opened wider, and in need of repair. I feel like I've been on journey these past 18 months as well, a winter of my own, that has seen me through some personal challenges. As I feel like I'm beginning to exit this winter, I too am surveying some cracks that were revealed, and in need of Repair.

For the past several days something has been placed on my heart that I want to address; social networking. While the topic of balancing and managing time spent in an electronic environment is not new, and almost exhaustively written about, I thought I'd share a bit of my own ponderings as I think my application is a bit different. So how is it different?

It's about cracks, fractures in my time each day.

I could talk about limiting time, the benefits of it, the obstruction it can cause, the amount of noise there is out there; but I want to focus on the tiny cracks in my time. The tiny cracks that find me on an elevator, in line at the store, waiting at a red light, waiting for my food to arrive at a restaurant, waiting on a friend, and perhaps even waiting (sitting?) in the bathroom!

These cracks are very often spent thumbing through my phone on some/most social networking sites.

I do like to set aside some quiet time each night to spend reflecting on Truth, my Creator, and His Word. However, the cracks in my day (and there are many) are simply filled with noise when they could be filled with Him. 
I sit here and try to imagine a day where I did things the other way around. Perhaps I take some time in the evening to relax, flip through some social sites, news, catch up with some people, share a few laughs, tears, and pictures. Yet that same day found me in the elevator scrolling through a Gospel. It found me waiting in line catching a few verses from Paul that could change my perspective. It found me at the restaurant table reading through some prophecies. It found me at a red light singing a psalm to myself in the car ...

What a different day that would be!

I certainly am not suggesting to replace quality study time with slivers of time, I'm just suggesting that perhaps those slivers of time, filled with Him, would glue my entire day together in love, peace, and joy.

Social networking isn't evil; it's quite relevant to how we communicate today. While apps may make it easy for me to flip through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, IG, there are also apps to make it easy to dive into His Word, prayer, and reflection. So I decided to make a minor tweak to my phone ... and one in my head!
  1. Move social sites off my home screen
  2. Remember why I moved social sites off my home screen
So I sat down outside for a few minutes with a couple of my children, and grabbed my phone ... my thumb didn't find Facebook, it found Luke. It also found me having a quick discussion. As I read the passage aloud, my son who wandered next to me asked and reflected with me. My youngest daughter just looked at my phone screen, and watched and listened as I read ...

Filling in the cracks ...

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ups and Downs


A few weeks ago, as I was backstage at church waiting to go worship, one of the youth groups walked into the green room and sat down. Shortly after they came in they began one of their regular discussions together, this time it was: "Ups, Downs, where did you see God?"

They went around the room each sharing a high point over the past week, a low point, and where they saw God. This simple routine sparked something in me that burned so brightly I just couldn't ignore it; what an awesome, short, focused, opportunity for reflection. You may be sitting there unsure why this was so impactful to me, but stop and think about the opportunities that this can bring; Spiritually, relationally, individually and communal.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
Our God is a God of memorial; in our own journey, in our families journey, and in the journeys of the past and those yet to come. He encourages us to reflect and remember. It reminds me of the "Ebenezer" stone we have on our fireplace mantle with the Scripture written on it from 1 Samuel 7:
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV)
God can show His face during incredible moments of peace, healing, power, guidance, and love (and countless other ways). Yet every day we are presented with opportunities to see Him and experience Him more. He does not hide, but He doesn't shout for attention either (even though it is impossible to truly ignore). We just need to look.

This little routine is not a childhood reflection. This is not a focus for the youth. This is a call to reflect and remember for all of us ...

So me? This weekend?

Ups: Clearly the taste of Spring! The weather, the garden, the sun ... it sparks so many emotions, and I am quite excited for the change of seasons!

Downs: Work was difficult this week. Saturday and Sunday both included some needed time on projects, and while I have a job that balances my work and home life well usually, sometimes, like this weekend, it calls for some extra attention. It was acceptable, but clearly not fun.

Where I saw God: Planting seeds! I could probably reflect for hours on this action, not only metaphorically, but physically as well. The amazing Hand of God that is seen in Creation speaks so loudly to me the more I reflect on it. Chaos and chance have no place here, and I see it more clearly each day. How awesome is our God.

So how about you? I encourage you to start this in your home, if you don't already. This has brought some amazing conversation with my wife, my children, and with God and I ...

Praising the Ups,
Matthew

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grow by Shrinking


For me, I often draw to John [the Baptist's] words when pondering my relationship with Christ:
"He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)
Or as some other translations read ... 
"He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30 NIV) 
I reflected back on this verse as I was reading Paul's words in his letter to the Romans about Abraham's faith, and how it was "counted to him as righteousness". First, let's see the passage (emphasis added):
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22 ESV)
Not only do we see his faith shown by being fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised, we also see how Abraham's faith increased; by him decreasing, and giving glory to God.

Do you want to increase your faith? Give glory God!

His,
~Matthew

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” - CS Lewis

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