Thursday, December 24, 2015

Unplugged for the holidays

I feel like I arrived to this Christmas season on fumes. So many distractions and noises were fighting for my mind and attention. Careless words and posts -- and the fickleness -- all over social media haven't helped matters, either, and have grieved me so.

I also noticed something curious: what was being posted on social media wasn't matching the reality of what was happening in the lives of friends, or mine for that matter. Friends and relatives experiencing the most difficult circumstances sometimes put up the most cheerful posts. Granted, many are finding joy in the midst of a hard place. And social media just provides a view into a slice of someone's life. But for some (maybe for all of us, really?), social media seems to mask what is really going on in life. I dunno. Maybe I'm misreading it all.

I decided to unplug from all my social media pages this Christmas season until new year so I can be more intentional about living and also be truly present (with my attention, not just my body) as I do life with family and friends. No quick checks to see the popular story of the day, cute animal video or the best holiday cookie recipe a friend just made. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps from my phone.

I'm six days in and so far, it's been...weird. And revealing. The first few days offline, I found myself several times an hour unconsciously sliding to the screen on my phone where those apps used to be. This showed me just how reliant (and addicted?) I was to checking what was going on in the social media world. Like every five minutes. Yeesh.

The world suddenly feels quieter. Initially, that was a tad scary. Honestly, it still is a bit. Not sure why. But I'm learning to be comfortable with my own thoughts. I can think now. I mean, really think and process what's going on inside my own head -- not just consider someone else's thoughts or posts.

This experiment has been good. I'm not as disconnected from people as I thought I would be, thanks to email, phone calls/texts, and wonder of wonders, real, sit-across-from-someone, look-in-their-eyes face time. I'm finding that I don't miss posting about the trivialities of my life (or reading about them in the lives of others). It's beautiful.

I'm not poo-pooing social media as it allows me to stay connected with people whom I otherwise wouldn't be in touch. I also learn and share important news via that medium.

But I'm seriously rethinking the way I do Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I plan on maintaining a social media presence but I'm considering downsizing and simplifying. And maybe not. We'll see what 2016 brings.

Monday, December 21, 2015

On Suffering and Hope

In this season of Advent, waiting and expectation, I'm doing a lot of resting, reflecting and reading. I think of family members and friends who are facing this Christmas season with wounded and grieving hearts. Here are some life-giving words that sang to me today. They were recently penned by Ann Voskamp:

We may not know why God doesn’t stop all the different kinds of suffering — but we definitely know it’s not because He’s indifferent.
God is so moved by our being entangled in suffering — that He moved Himself into our world and entangled Himself in the suffering with us. God with us.
God knows suffering.
He chose to be born in the middle of a genocide.
God knows suffering. He chose to be born as a refugee.
God knows suffering. He chose to come from a place where people said no good thing could come from.
God knows suffering. He chose to be poor. He chose to absorb pain. He chose to be powerless. 
God penetrates the ache of our world through the willing yes of a poor, unwed teen. In both the Incarnation and the Resurrection, God reveals Himself first to the dismissed and disregarded and dissed.
Because the point is: Christmas is the end of division. Christmas is the beginning of the end of all suffering.
Continue reading at A Holy Experience.

Disturb us

Tempest, by Ivan Aivazovsky. Source: Joseph Donaghy ~ Art

Every so often, I read something that makes me go, "ouch!"
Such is this poem/prayer attributed to Sir Frances Drake, a British sea captain who lived in the 1500s. He was a guy with a checkered history -- which in and of itself is rather disturbing. I wonder how he reconciled the tension between his desire reflected in the poem and how he lived. It begs the question: what change took place in his life that compelled this piece?

When disturbing people write disturbing things, it's worth a second look:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
to venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery;
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 4, 2015

So many ugly things in the world and yet, beauty

So many ugly, difficult things in the world this week have made me sad:

The teenage acquaintance of a friend ended his life. Politicians using a dire humanitarian situation as an opportunity to spew hatred and sow discord. Another act of domestic terrorism, this time a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Careless damaging words strewn across social media, particularly on friends' pages. Rapidly growing cancer in the body of a friend.

It's weeks like this that tempt me to despair and wallow there. There is SO MUCH bad in this world.

And yet, it's times like these that I hear a constant Whisper in my spirit reminding me that hope and beauty abound even more...if only I have eyes and a heart to see them: This week, I've seen beauty in:

A tree refusing to surrender its leaves while laying down a welcome carpet of gold.

A magnificent rose-colored sunset following days of torrential rain and dreariness.

Where are YOU seeing beauty this week?

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." -- Romans 15:13