Love Interruptus?

by Jonathan

About a month ago I realized something had to change. I was too tied to my phone. Too distracted. Too stressed out. So I put my phone away for three days. Literally, I locked it in a safe, and it was awesome. And then I decided to stop sleeping with it right next to me on the nightstand. I need the alarm, though, so I just put it on the dresser on the other side of the room.

And then I read this:

“In a much-discussed 2014 study, Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra and her team monitored the conversations of 100 couples in a coffee shop and identified ‘the iPhone Effect’: The mere presence of a smartphone, even if not in use — just as an object in the background — degrades private conversations, making partners less willing to disclose deep feelings and less understanding of each other, she and her colleagues reported in Environment and Behavior.”

And this:

“…as relationship researcher John Gottman has documented, the unstructured moments that partners spend in each other’s company, occasionally offering observations that invite conversation or laughter or some other response, hold the most potential for building closeness and a sense of connection. Each of those deceptively minor interludes is an opportunity for couples to replenish a reservoir of positive feelings that dispose them kindly to each other when they hit problems.”

Those “unstructured moments” and “minor interludes” are what smartphones destroy. And that’s really sad, because today’s hurried marriages and friendships could really use those moments and interludes!

I don’t want to be “absent present.” I don’t want to photograph my kid’s childhood instead of really seeing my child. I don’t want to be thinking about how this will look on Instagram when I should be thinking, “I’m so glad I get to be here.” Am I doing this thing with my kid so my Facebook friends can see it?

I want Elizabeth to feel listened to and heard, down in her soul. I want “spending time together” to mean more than “browsing Facebook together.”

What about you? Is your smartphone your first love? Really? Do you need to ban all smartphones from the kitchen/dining room?

I’m afraid too much tech use is like carbon monoxide poisoning: the first symptom is that you stop recognizing symptoms.

Do you need to recognize symptoms? Do you need to try shifting things for a week or two?

Is it possible that you don’t even know what you’re missing?

Try it for a week or two and see what happens. And then FB message me and let me know how it went. : )

all for ONE,
Jonathan T.

photo-1462038468000-f8efca43aaadedit

Both quotes above are from the article, Love Interruptus, which appeared in the August 2016 edition of Psychology Today. It is available online under the title, The New Menage a Trois.

Taking Out the Trash {a toolkit for fighting fear}

Here are some practical ways to fight fear that I’ve never shared publicly before. I talked about them during this year’s Velvet Ashes online retreat and wanted to post them here in the hopes that someone out there might find them helpful in their battle against fear. I’ve reprinted all the quotes and Bible verses for easy reference, or you can simply scroll to the bottom for the video testimony. ~Elizabeth

garbage-can-1111449_960_720a

I used to take my pulse to make sure I was still alive. Because the ability to breathe and move my fingers to my neck weren’t evidence enough of life?? Thankfully by the time I realized why I did that and could verbalize it, I could see the humor in it.

And it was mostly health reasons that made me not want to come to the field in the first place. I’m a recovering hypochondriac [read: I’m still a hypochondriac, but it’s not out of control anymore].

Living here still plays tricks on my mind sometimes, and I have to consciously choose not to follow the rabbit trail my fears are digging. But I’ve got more practice at it now, and someone to keep me accountable (my husband), so it doesn’t take over my daily life the way it used to.

My go-to passage on fighting fear was always Matthew 6:25-34. I even committed it to memory 13 years ago when I was pregnant with my firstborn and finances were uber-tight, and I’ve returned to these words of Jesus again and again throughout the years:

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

But what really helped me several years ago was reading a book designed to help kids with OCD. It’s called What To Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck, and it teaches kids (or in this case, me) to identify “brain junk,” which is basically the thought patterns we have that are false and hurtful and don’t belong in our mind. After we identify the brain junk (the lies, the fears, the negative self-talk), we can throw it away, literally discarding it from our lives.

For me, following the advice in the OCD book has been a working out of the truths of Hebrews 5:14, which says the mature have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil, and Titus 2:11-12, which talks about the grace of God that teaches us to say “no.”

I had to practice distinguishing the good from the evil (or unhelpful) thought patterns. But I recognize that it is the grace of God that helps me to say no to those irrational thought patterns. And it all came about from a children’s book on OCD.

Another thing that helped tremendously was a section in a book that Cindy Morgan wrote, Barefoot on Barbed Wire, which was all about fighting fear. I “randomly” picked it up at the library when I was pregnant with my 3rd child (when the fears were the most out of control they’d ever been).

“Fear can have so many faces. We can never really escape from the things that cause us to be afraid. For everyone we secure ourselves against, there will be another waiting to take its place. The world is not under our control. So it all comes down to learning to trust God.”

Her book and this quote in particular really convicted me that fighting fear wasn’t about addressing my specific fears and trying to talk myself down from them and over-researching on the internet and reminding myself of the science.

No, my fear was actually something broken inside me. It didn’t come from risk factors on the outside. It came from within. The OCD strategies helped enormously in fighting my fear on a practical level, but I also needed this heart-level truth as well.

I talk about these things (and more) in my 10-minute testimony for Commune, Velvet Ashes’ 2016 online retreat, which is re-published here with permission. If you missed the retreat earlier this spring, Velvet Ashes plans to make the entire thing available again sometime in the future. And if you’ve been blessed through the ministry of Velvet Ashes, consider donating to them here

The Insatiable Hunger of Comparison {a Bible study}

A few months ago I was asked to teach a Bible class on the topic of confidence and insecurity, and I was thinking lately that I’d like to share that Bible study with you all. I really enjoyed preparing for this Bible class, because I gained so much clarity on the life of the disciples and how they were just like us in all our pettiness — and also how much hope we can have for ourselves when we see the way that Jesus transformed them so completely. I didn’t convert my study notes to blog format, but they’re here for you if you’re interested in digging further into the always-relevant topic of comparison and competition. ~Elizabeth

birds-nest-765791_960_720a

Intro: Let me throw out some words and see if you’ve ever felt them:

insecure
insecurity
low self-confidence
rejection
rejected
unworthy
Fear of judgement
fear of not measuring up
competition
comparison

Maybe you can think of some others?? Because this is what I want to talk about tonight.

 

Warmup/Reflection Question: Who in your life do you feel you don’t measure up to? Alternatively, who in your life do you compare yourself to and find yourself better than? Think of that person and that relationship as we study these matters tonight.

 

Competition and comparison among the disciples:

  • In Mark 10:35-45, esp vs 37, brothers James and John are competing together against the other disciples. They are wanting more glory, fighting for their worth. And it wasn’t just their problem; when the other found out, they were “indignant.” What does Jesus do? (He will not grant their request.)
  • In Luke 9:46, all the disciples are arguing over who is most important. What does Jesus do? (He corrects their wrong ideas.)
  • In Luke 9:53-54, Samaritans reject Jesus and the disciples, and brothers James and John want to punish them with fire from heaven. Basically they want to reject the Samaritans for the rejection they’ve received. What does Jesus do? (Again, He rebukes them.)
  • In John 21:15-22, Jesus asks Peter a series of questions. How does Peter feel about this conversation? (His feelings are hurt.) How does Jesus respond to Peter’s question in verse 21? (He does not answer the question – says it doesn’t matter — and tells him to “Follow Me.”)

 

There was a lot of competition and comparison among the disciples! Even amongst the 3 most heavily invested-in, privileged, and “most important” disciples (Peter, James, John). So it’s not external success that drives out the fear of not measuring up. Glory and prestige and honor can’t inoculate us against the fear of being not valuable, unimportant, or unworthy. And what we look like on the outside doesn’t necessarily match what we think or feel on the inside. (But wait, because it all changes in the end!)

 

Of course that last example was from the book of John. I used to be so annoyed at the way he called himself “the disciple Jesus loved.” I thought it was arrogant, proud, to assume he was the one Jesus loved, almost implying he was more greatly loved.

And then he went and wrote I John. I could not even handle I John, it was such a heavy burden of shame and guilt and not measuring up, if I were feeling in a particularly non-loving way toward a brother or sister. There was so much in there about needing to love people – and if I didn’t, I was afraid I must not have been a Christian. I couldn’t force myself to love, and it depressed me. So much pressure to be perfect, I felt condemned, without hope.

Then I learned some things that changed everything, and now John is my favorite (well, along with Peter’s passion and impulsiveness). John was the youngest, so less important in the world’s eyes. And he was the only one not to die a martyr’s death, the only one who didn’t have the honor of dying for his Master. In fact, he was more like a babysitter to Jesus’ mother Mary.

To lack honor in the traditional sense, and to still follow Jesus wholeheartedly to the day he died, he had to be absolutely convinced of Jesus’ love for and acceptance of him (which is perhaps where “the disciple Jesus loved” came from). Walking with Jesus for those 3 years must have so utterly changed him from who he was before, that he was convinced to his core that Jesus loved him. And since he was convinced of Jesus’ love, he was freed to love others, and he could go on and write all about loving each other in I John.

He used to be insecure! He used to grasp for his worth. But everything changed because of Jesus. Years and years of following Jesus irrevocably changed him.

 

So I want to re-examine John’s writing in light of a man who knew deep down in his core that Jesus loved him

  • I John 3:1: See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 
  • I John 3:23: And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. (We BELIEVE, and then we LOVE.)
  • John 6:29: Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (there it is again, BELIEVE)
  • I John 4:16: We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (We simply trust in his LOVE.)
  • I John 4:18-19: Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. (I used to think that meant I was a bad person if I had fear or didn’t have enough love. Now I know it just means I haven’t fully experienced it yet, and just need more gentle, relaxed time with God. “Not there yet.”)
  • I John 5:1: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. (Again, no pressure here. Simply a timeline: first we believe in Jesus and His love for us. Then we are able to love others.)

 

Tell the Jesus Loves Me This I Sometimes Know story

 

Last year when I was going through all this, we were reading Ephesians 3:14-20 each Sunday at church. I already had a special love for the book of Ephesians because it was the first book of the Bible I read and truly enjoyed when I was coming out of a deep depression nearly 10 years ago (another long story).

I love the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:7-8: He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

And I love Ephesians 2:18: Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

I even grew up hearing a song set to the words of verse 20. But week after week I kept hearing verses 14-19 in a newer, deeper way than ever before:

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 

Conclusion:

This is what I want us to know: Comparison is a thief. It wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. It never stops wanting more, never stops devouring. God’s LOVE is the weapon that fights back against comparison and competition. God’s love makes us – all of us – worthy. We are all equally and incredibly unbelievably worthy in His sight, because of His love and because of His Son. He made us. He saved us. He forgave us. We’re His. We belong to Him. We are His children. That’s all we need to know, all we need to believe, to defeat comparison, rejection, unworthiness, low self-confidence, and insecurity.

Pray along with Paul in Ephesians 1:17-19:

I ask God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.