Gabby Douglas and What We Say on the Internet

Gabby Douglas and What We Say on the Internet

Social media has made a way for strangers to share their opinion, often anonymously, and with little to no accountability. It’s awfully strange to me. I’m not setting myself apart from the crowd. I’ve definitely shared my opinion through social media, but it isn’t typically with strangers or even people I don’t know that well especially if my feelings are strongly negative. There’s a difference, which I think is often missed on social media and blog comments, between critical thinking and downright unkindness. That vitriol and lack of restraint reared it’s ugly head recently when Olympic champion, Gabby Douglas, chose to stand at attention rather than place her hand on her heart during the National Anthem portion of the gymnastics team medal ceremony. Her mother commented that if people knew what Gabby was going through, they’d think twice about criticizing her. She also called it bullying.

As massive as the Internet is and given the number of people who attacked Gabby, I can’t help but wonder if Christians were among the attackers. I think we have a tendency to pile on and so when the seed that Gabby was being less than patriotic was planted, perhaps those who would profess Christ jumped on too. Gabby isn’t the first to be affected by this and she won’t be the last. We will find someone else to tear apart, and for what? For their benefit? In hopes that they’ll be encouraged in the Lord? After prayerful consideration of our words?

What if when we approached social media (as we hope to with all of life) we allowed God’s Word to be our guide and instruction rather than our emotions? It seems that we are often given to piling on and following the bandwagon of what I believe is shameful bashing, fear mongering, and bullying. God has much to say to us in His word regarding our words, but one verse that stands out to me is Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” I believe this challenge to us fits the occasion. I’m, obviously, not challenging those who don’t adhere to the Word of God as Truth. Instead, it’s the Christian who Paul is most concerned with in these passages. We have been given a new life and this new life should be reflected in our speech. It’s hard—no doubt—but it’s what God has called us to. I fail in this and need Jesus. We all do and He’s available to us.

Experiencing the internet as a place where there’s more encouragement and good news than there is discord and strife seems like wishful thinking. But that being said, if the internet is going to be a place where we find ourselves spending time, what if we, as Christians, overwhelmed it with words that were edifying? What if we led the way and changed what the history books will write about the internet’s impact on culture and the psyche of its partakers?

I’m not 100 percent sure how to do this. But for my tiny part of the social media world, perhaps we can begin by resisting the temptation to pile on and shame others. Maybe the next generation will do a better job at handling the instant news and the instant access to others and the instant ability to share what one thinks largely without consequence. But maybe, just maybe, our Father can be glorified by our interactions today. That’s my prayer and I hope you will join me.

 

Can You Be Hospitable with Little?

Can You Be Hospitable with Little?

I love to host people in my home—the more the merrier! The idea of one day owning a bed-and-breakfast and preparing a meal for strangers who have traveled far and wide, preparing all the Southern fixin’s you can imagine (eggs, bacon, grits, biscuits, gravy), makes this Tennessee girl jump for joy. Hospitality is a joy for me—not a burden. But a recent move has left me with far less space to host. It’s easy to excuse our inhospitable attitudes due to inadequate space or messy homes. Yet during this move I’ve been reminded that hospitality is a matter of the heart, not square footage or neatness.

My family recently moved from a three-bedroom, full basement, ranch-style home across our long state and into a two-bedroom apartment. The apartment is spacious enough but definitely smaller. When we first moved into the area I hesitated to say that I lived in an apartment when people would ask me where I lived. Instead I’d say something like, “I live in the neighborhood off the major interstate.” It wasn’t long before the Lord convicted me of pride and fear of man. Worldliness and covetousness had crept into my heart. Thank you, Lord, for that revelation and the repentance that followed! But then visiting friends began to request to stay in our apartment.

There’s a temptation to want to wait until everything is “perfect”—as in a large, clean, beautiful home—before allowing someone in. Our new home felt like it was too small to truly be welcoming. And because of the lack of space, boxes were still piled up in public places. So we lived in a box, filled with boxes, so I thought. Did I mention that we have two children? So it’s a box, filled with boxes, and toys. There’s no way, I thought. As we are about to begin the school year and holiday season, I imagine many others share my concern about whether we can adequately care for guests.

Hospitality Is About Love

Peter got to the heart of hospitality when he urged his readers to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Hospitality was a matter of survival in the first century. So Peter reminded Christians not to complain during this common activity.

Surrounded by that Scripture on hospitality, Peter tells us to “keep loving one another earnestly,” and “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:810). Hospitality is a practical way to love your neighbor as yourself and fan into flame the gift that God has given you.

Hospitality Is About the Heart

It is possible to have a completely clean home, every room in order, large space, and a meal that a five-star restaurant would envy, and yet not be hospitable. Perhaps you’ve done it. Everything is neat and tidy, but you still run around like Martha “distracted with much serving” rather than sitting and enjoying your guests like Mary as she sat at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42). Love transforms hospitality. When we begin to think about serving others and sharing not only our spaces but also our hearts, we can open the doors with gladness.

Paul charged the early Christians to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Hospitality and caring for the needs of others marks our faith. Nowhere did Paul qualify his command. He did not say, “Show hospitality but only if you have a lot of room and all of your possessions are neatly stored.” We don’t wait until everything seems perfect—we offer what we have and trust God to bless our guests.

By the grace of God, I did not hesitate for long before we invited guests into our new home. In fact, we’ve seen more feet travel through our 1,200-square-foot living space than we ever did in the same short period of time in our house.

As fall ramps up and holidays approach, let’s remember that hospitality isn’t about the what, when, and where. It’s about the who. Hospitality is about the person we get to welcome in and love. We can trust that the Lord will bless those who come into our doors if we have hearts to serve and love them. Your guests might not remember your space, but they will surely remember your care.

Opening your home may seem like a major undertaking. But it’s small thanks to the Lord who gave everything to live among us and die on the cross in our place.

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(NOTE: This post was originally at The Gospel Coalition. I will be away this week speaking and attending the ERLC’s National Conference. You can join me along with Dan Darling and Steven Harris as we host a live stream. Tune in to watch all the great speakers and be encouraged as we think through cultural engagement and the gospel.)

Confession: I Love Motherhood

Confession: I Love Motherhood

(Note: Every now and then, I will post a short reflection. Something I might have thought to place in a Facebook status, but way too long for that format. So, today begins some quick thoughts about motherhood and social media.)

I have a confession to make. I love being a mother. There, I said it. In all seriousness, I do believe that in order for women to feel relatable or relevant when writing or talking about being a mom, there needs to be a bit of distancing oneself from motherhood. It’s more “authentic” to say that we can’t wait for our kids to leave for school than it is to say, “Man, I’m going to miss those little stinkers.” We do seem to be a people who make pendulum swings in extreme directions. In an effort to display “real life” and fight against the social media fakers (in our minds) who look happy all of the time, we swing towards bashing our kids. That’s more “real”.

Here’s the thing, motherhood is crazy hard. I’m stumbling most of the time and praying the rest (that’s probably in reverse order!! See, I need help.). My kids often say, “Parenting is tough, isn’t it, Mom?!” And I’m all like, yes, yes it is. Just last night, my son told me I was too strict. Why? Because I told him not to whine in my presence. Aren’t we glad Jesus isn’t like that! Yikes. And yes, there are times when I want to escape to the Bahamas and selfishly enjoy the beach without cleaning sand out of the many crevasses of another human being.

All that being said, motherhood is still a gift. One that I realize I might not have apart from the Lord. Perhaps it is the four miscarriages I’ve endured that cause me to have such great affection for this calling of motherhood (we are all “called” to mother one way or another). But, at the same time, I do believe it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done. And as a pro-life woman who believes in a holistic approach to pro-life, part of my love of motherhood is my God-given role to shepherd and care for these littles.

I’m not saying everyone who shares their motherhood woes is only seeking after relevance. Many stories are actually hilarious and oh so true. But I do think that the mom who truly does enjoy motherhood should have the freedom to express it without the fear of judgment. As it has been said, what we put on the Internet will stay in the cloud forever. We should seek to be true and honest if we decide to post and we should also consider what would be seen later.

So, go out and do your motherhood thing in faith! And if you are weary, know that you are not alone! And if you are filled with joy and delight—also know you are not alone!

Don’t Wait to Encourage

Don’t Wait to Encourage

I woke up smiling this morning after the most pleasant dream. My oldest sister, Alicia, has been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks. In my dream, she was hunting for something odd and, if I remember correctly, it was a device that measures body temperature. Yep, odd. We were at a restaurant and I had lost her. While I was searching for her, I bumped into an old high school friend. We chatted for a minute, picking up where we had left off as usual and then he scurried off to grab his child who was running away—as children do. As he left, there was Alicia wandering around still in her hunt. I ran up to her and squeezed her tightly. I said something like, “We’ve been searching for you. I’m so glad I found you.” and I wouldn’t let go of her. Oddly, her face was turned away from me and I never once saw it—I didn’t want to see it. I actually remember thinking, Please don’t turn around, I don’t know what your face will look like. I was slightly frightened by the thought. She didn’t turn around but if she would have, I imagine my next words would have been, I love you! Instead, I just continued to hold on tight.

Alicia passed away now four years ago on what would have been her 40th birthday. The early morning of today is the first time I remember having dreamt about her. And it’s so appropriate to me that my response when I saw her was to hold her tight and not let go.

I’ve heard senior adults say that they spent their younger years attending weddings and the latter years attending funerals. Now I’m not close to the senior status, but I’m finding this notion to be true. These past few years, I’ve almost equally attended funerals and weddings and I have a feeling the funerals will only increase as my friendships to the younger generation decreases (with that said, one of my last weddings was to watch a 50+ and 60+ wed, so who knows!?).

Don’t Wait to Encourage

I don’t have many regrets in life. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I do believe that the Lord has used them to refine me, teach me, and make me more like His Son. I know the art of repentance, as I’ve had to repent quite a bit. But if I could go back to the Sunday night before my sister passed away, I would have shared something encouraging to her. I would have told her how much I loved her. I would have been less busy with my own schedule and more attentive to her needs at the moment. I would have listened to her that night. I, obviously, didn’t do any of these things.

We don’t know the time or day when our loved ones and dearest friends will no longer be with us, but if we have them today, then we have an opportunity. I no longer want to wait for a eulogy to tell those whom I love so dearly why I love them. They need encouragement today. They won’t need that encouragement in eternity. By the grace and mercy of God, they’ll be standing at the throne of grace and our words will no longer matter. But as they live and breath on this earth don’t wait to encourage them.

An Encouragement Challenge

Today, I’d like to start a challenge that I believe will be worthwhile and pray you’ll believe the same. Find five people who you think could use some encouragement today. Perhaps it’s the friend you haven’t spoken with in a while or maybe it’s the estranged brother. Maybe it’s your spouse or children. What would you tell them in their eulogy? Tell them today. And if my pleas aren’t enough to motivate you, perhaps Paul’s words can.

Paul instructs the Thessalonians to continue in the encouragement that they have been doing as some, it seems, need assurance of salvation (1 Thess. 5:1-11). The Lord will return and we will not know the time or day. But, if we know Jesus and have placed our faith and trust in His finished work on the cross, we are not in the dark, and will not be surprised by his returning. In the end he tells them, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). Encouragement isn’t ultimately about telling one another how good we are but instead reminding each other how good God is. We must remind one another of his promises so that we continue to fight the fight of faith. Reminders like, “God will finish the good work he began in you” are promises we need to hear. And things like, “Thank you for your faithfulness to…[fill in the blank]” is a reminder to others that they image our faithful God—even if they don’t realize that the particular characteristic they have is a gift from our Lord.

However the encouragement and whatever the encouragement don’t wait. Get specific. Build one another up today.

So, who are your five? What might you say to them today—don’t wait.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24).

Are Olympians More Than Their Sport?

Are Olympians More Than Their Sport?

As I caught myself watching the Olympic handball competition, I knew I was a big fan of the Olympic Games. I’m all in! I’m sucked into every event and competition (gotta get stuff done but can’t stop watching!). It’s been a joy watching these Olympians compete and learning about their lives and stories. They truly are so much more than their Olympic sport.

That truth hit home for me today, as I walked and was thinking about the now infamous Michael Phelps stank face. Learning about the backstory of so many Olympians got me reflecting on my own childhood and the many sports I enjoyed participating in. Now, I was never Olympic caliber. I was, however, small college caliber, but I simply chose to head towards a major university. After all these years, and many trials, I realized that I somehow forgot about the moment I had to give up something I loved.

I took dance in elementary school (African dance!) and then I was a part of a few dance troops in middle school. I did gymnastics for a bit, and though I didn’t start until high school, I picked it up fairly quickly. I ran track and cheered throughout middle and high school. While I was good at both sports, I loved cheering the most. By the time I reached maybe my sophomore year, I was extremely competitive in the sport of cheerleading and after grueling tryouts made it on the senior team of a competitive cheer squad. (In case you are confused about why I’m calling cheerleading a sport, simply do a quick Google search for the competitions and you’ll get a glimpse of what’s required.)

What I remember from both my dance troop and competitive cheer days is that I had to quit both due to a lack of finances. I specifically recall rather clearly when I learned I would no longer be able to be on the competitive cheer squad. The two coaches brought me in the office privately, they didn’t want to embarrass me in front of the team, and they simply shared that I was too behind on the payments to continue. I don’t know that I realized that we were behind, but I lived in my home so I was aware that we didn’t have a great deal of money. I remember getting in my father’s car and weeping. I was so heartbroken. I loved competing. I loved the team and the girls that I got to compete with. We were good—really good—and it was terrible for my little heart not to get to do what I loved so much because of finances.

Throughout life, I’ve learned to pick up and persevere through obstacles. And thankfully, because of my local public school, I didn’t have to give up cheering. I was able to continue in it. Also, I had the joy of continuing in track and field through my high school team as well. I was a 100-meter hurdler and did the 4×100, 4×200, and, once in a blue moon, the 4×400. I’m short, little, but quick (at least I used to be!!). Our team was one of the best in my hometown. I share this not to toot my own horn, it would be false humility if I shared this and simply said, “I was okay”, but to shed light on the reality that for some, even the potential best, they won’t get the opportunities because of lack—lack of money, transportation, facilities, you name it. Thankfully, I had the support of family and the access to wonderful public schools. But not everyone even has those privileges.

There are so many ways that this post could go and perhaps someday soon I’ll explore: the importance of public assistance, the role of the church in poverty prevention or perhaps intervention, the need for public education in our current system, or even the gift of community pools and facilities that help those little potential athletes have access to pursue various sports. I could also write about why we might not see many minorities in the more expensive sports like golf. And of course, there’s the spiritual element to explore—nothing but Jesus can fully satisfy or fulfill our greatest need.

Those are different posts for another time, so instead I’d like to end where I began. Many of my friends would not have had any idea that I struggled so privately and so deeply as a child. I had a wonderful, joyful upbringing. But we went without quite a bit. And all of us have unique stories that make up who we are.

So during this Olympics I want to learn about the stories of the Olympians. I don’t want to give into simply watching the games and consuming for my own satisfaction. I also don’t also want to guilt you into learning about them either! Discovering that Simone Biles was adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife gives us great joy knowing the opportunities she has and how deeply loved she is by them. Reading that Yusra Mardini helped save twenty Syrian refugees by swimming while pulling a boat makes us want to jump out of our seat and cheer her to gold; there’s no doubt, she can swim! Or what about Daniel Dias, a paraplegic, who said of his disability and learning that he could swim: “It was God’s way of telling me: ‘This is your gift,’” Daniel says. “’Use it to speak of Me.’”

When you watch and enjoy the Olympics, do so remembering that these image bearers each have a unique story. They’d likely say that their sport is everything to them, I imagine. But they are also more than their sport.

 

 

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