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Facebook, Gracebook?

Why I Won’t Kiss Facebook Good-bye (But thought a lot about it.)

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?  
John 5:43

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. 
1 Corinthians 10:31 

I’m done. I deleted it. My Facebook account is goneThat was a month ago. I saw Lynn today and asked if she’d had second thoughts, if FOMO (“fear of missing out”) was getting to her. Never, she said. I was hooked and now I’m free


Addiction comes when a person engages in a pleasurable activity, but with continued action or use the activity becomes compulsive or harmful. You post a pic and look for likes. The number in the little red circle on the little blue square goes higher, higher, higher. Breathless, now you press it. The buzz of praise feels good. But it’s fleeting. More, more, more. So pose the kids and post again and push the little blue button for more.

Some of my friends don’t ever drink. They can’t safely have even a sip. Some say they can’t ever bring Cheetos home because they’d devour the whole bag alone. And I have friends who don’t ever go on Facebook. One look and temptation would have it’s way. Facebook is addictive for some.

Christians’ chief end is to glorify God. In our joy and in our love. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. And if I have a thousand friends and three hundred followers but have not love, I am nothing.

And if your right eye causes you to sin, flee. Fly you fools, warned Gandalf. But if Facebook helps you to chief end-makes God look big and extends love’s hug-by all means, use the tool.

Use The Tools

3 Right Reasons To Use Social Media

We use tools help accomplish tasks. The right tool for the job, we say. Tools are a means to an end. Facebook is a tool. We’d best treat it as a means to these God’s good ends.

1. Give Grace
For the Christian, the purpose for any post or tweet or like or comment is to give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Our main motive for any comment- because God knows motives are mixed- must be to give others grace. So when a friend’s birthday notification shows up, give grace. Dig out an old photo and make her day. Or scrolling shows a friend’s died dad a year ago today. Send a card. Build each other up

2. Give Thanks
The right end, the will of God? In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Are your posts and comments an overflow of a thankful heart? Do your posts express entitlement and discontent or gratitude to God and friends? Do you thank God for the kind soul who drove your lost wallet home and paid your Girl-Scout cookies forward? Do you thank the one who write posts that encourage and instruct you in good? 

3. Give Glory
In all we meet, at all times we are to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:10). That, by the way, takes manifold, glorious forms. Photos of funky fall fungi or brilliant spring tulips both point to God’s glory as Creator. So can status updates of cancer-cured or God’s-with-me-in-my-weakness. And just plain merry old posts, like when a kids says your do looks like a Chia Pet and your sap turns to amber candy. I share those. Because a merry heart is good medicine and laughter is God’s gift. 


Fly, You Fools

3 Reasons To Flee Facebook

Facebook’s temptations are many. We all stumble in many ways, and are tempted in different ways. Some fall to sloth’s drift-along ease and some to the pride’s self-adulation.  Others are prone to pride’s flip-side, to the self-pity and envy that come with comparing.

1. Undisciplined Drift
Distraction and entertainment and floating along are not Biblical virtues. They are marks of the godless. For people will be lovers of self…without self-control…swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:2a-4) Disable, delete, disconnect- because the disembodied can’t show love as well as real bodies. Deanna has four kids under ten. They need her now, and Facebook takes her downstream away from her kids. Deanna is not on Facebook.

2. Green With Envy
My friend Jess has told me how envy sneaks in whenever she joins the Facebook fray. The athletic kids, the bouquet-bringing husbands, all the witty words provoke Jess to envy. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passion and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy…Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Titus 3:3). Jess is guarding her heart from envy’s bitter root. Jess is not on Facebook.

3. Slaves to Man’s Praise
For by what a man is overcome, but this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:19b) That slavery bit- that’s why fast from it time to time and nearly kissed Facebook good-bye. Because I know my sinful, selfish, double-minded heart. I love to be liked. I like to be shared. I feed on comments and replies. I know this. So Abigail fasts from Facebook. And follows some Facebook rules.

Facebook Rules

I’ve learned that these self-imposed boundaries help me use social media as a grace-giving tool:

1. Not before the Bible. I won’t log into Facebook any day until I’ve spent time in the Word. First things must come first. Or I might drift.

2. Not in the bed. Fight both urges: To intimize technology and technologize intimacy. Enough said.

3. Not if I don’t know you. Following lives of friends we really see, gives us a place to start when we meet face to face. Following others on-line lives can show genuine care.

4. Not at work. Some can. I can’t. When I’m paid for my time, Facebook is shut.

5. Not for debate. Multiple friends- mostly men-have told me that divisive debates about politics and faith have ended their Facebook lives. It has not been a Gracebook. So I do not debate. 

My Facebook use must keep in step with these or comes the kiss of death. For me, it’s the slave to praise piece. I must constantly be on guard, and asking, Is this post, this tweet, this like meant to scratch my itch for man’s praise? Is that what’s driving me?

Jesus’ words to the Pharisees are a splash on my Facebook face: How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:43) And Paul’s words shock me, too: that the true Jew-the real believer- is the one who receives his praise not from men, but from God (Romans 2:29). And, Woe to you if all think well of you. 

I want God’s doxa– his praise- more than man’s. But I am sorely tempted here. It’s why I take time to read posts like this and reflect on them. Because I don’t want to be addicted to man’s praise. I want to give glory to God and give grace to others. I will not be mastered by Facebook.

Used, Not Mastered 

Bruce Hindmarsh is an author and professor at Regent University. He says God can be found on Facebook and in all other on-line technology. I agree. He says, We’ve got to live in the presence of God online and off…My world of email and texting and Facebook is not simply a secular world. God is there. Scripture and prayer and Christian fellowship, all the things that constitute the Christian life, are present in my digital world. God is there.

But Facebook is not for everyone. I close with a loose paraphrase of Paul’s words to the Roman Christians, 

One person believes he may comment and post on anything, while others only scroll or will not log on. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who has a strong Facebook presence, has it in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we log-on or whether we delete our account, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:2-4a, 6-8).

Nearly as many people are killed in car crashes as by drug overdoses. Danger inherent doesn’t mean we stop driving. It means we’re mindful when we get in a car. It means we buckle-up and don’t text and use turn signals and lights at night. For many, though, Facebook is more like drug than driving. Euphoria and rock-bottom at the touch of one little blue button. 

But we are the Lord’s. And by his power alone, we will not be mastered by anything, including Facebook (1 Corinthians 6:12). Social media will be one of many means to God’s good ends. 

We’ll use it to give grace and glory. Or if temptations rise high, we’ll delete the apps and fly. 

All to the glory of God.
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Facebook, Friction & Growth

The appeal of digital fellowship often arises from the lack of friction, either keeping people together or holding them at a remove from each other…However, by holding me in relation with people who are unlike me and often opposed to me, the friction of materiality forces me to grow in healthy ways that I might not otherwise choose.       -Alasdair Roberts

Has this happened to you? 

You log-off Facebook to re-enter the “real world.” That’s where you brush real shoulders and shake real hands and listen to real folks talk. And where you might deflate a bit and be brought back to size. Smaller, most likely.

Odds are, if you have a strong social media presence-or wish you did– it’s happened to you. Maybe you felt it as you sat at a meeting or when you walked into church or sipped coffee with off-the-FB-grid friends. WhooooshThere you are, feeling shrunken, unnoticed, and undervalued. As in, These people have no idea who I really am. If they only knew about that last 50-like post. (Blush.)
Tony Reinke knows us, and he’s at it again-stirring us Christians up and forcing us to think deeply about the our use of social media. Tony’s whole article-his interview with British tech thinker and author, Alasdair Roberts- is well worth the 15 minutes it will take you to read. (Longer to digest.) 

But if time’s tight, here’s a 2 minute taste. Italics are mine.
[S]peak to the person who has a strong presence in social media, and they show up to church on Sunday where they feel undervalued, misunderstood, and unappreciated. What advice do you have for them to know that, yes, they are likely exactly where God wants them to be? 

I have been struck by how distorted an impression of social reality online media can give. The sharp sense of dissonance between our “strong presence” in social media and our seeming lack of “presence” in the Sunday morning meeting can be illuminating of this. When we experience this sense, it is perhaps a sign of our excessive self-regard that our first thoughts run to our supposed right to be more appreciated, rather than to the fact that so many of the people we worship with in our churches have little or no presence in our privileged and exclusive circles on social media. 

Our online contexts are dominated by relatively affluent, cosmopolitan, Western, highly educated, literate and articulate, young, middle-class persons. Children, the elderly, the poor, those with less education or lower levels of literacy, and persons from less cosmopolitan and non-Western contexts are largely invisible. That is, the majority of the human race.

How do you break free from the constant lure of online likemindedness in order to jump into the awkwardnesses of embodiment? What do you tell yourself?   

In resisting the lure of online likemindedness I have been spurred by a recognition that homogeneous communities tend to have exaggerated blindspots and unaddressed weaknesses. Exposure to the challenge of people who perceive, experience, inhabit, and understand the world differently is a necessary spur to growth. To the extent that online communities are homogeneous or homogenizing, it robs us of this. 

I have also come to appreciate that the problem isn’t solely with the “likeness” dimension of likemindedness, but also with the “mindedness.” Social media is an abstract realm that consistently privileges the mind over the body. However, the Christian faith has always been grounded in the life of the body. As Christians we don’t just share beliefs, open up about our feelings, and give opinions: We share meals and open our houses to others; we give to those in need, we meet together, and are physically present to each other. A “community” that lacks these elements is hardly worthy to be called a community at all.

To any of us who would bask in the glow of our social media presence, Roberts says, Embodiment is better. Carefully worded posts and posed pictures don’t often frustrate or rub us wrong. Which means they don’t help as much to grow us up into Christ. 

Presence among iron-sharpening, sometimes wrong-rubbing people can grow us in godliness more than our presence in a homogeneous happy-happy, like-like Facebook community. Which isn’t to say we forsake Facebook.* It is to say, however, that we don’t forsake physical assembling of ourselves together.

Physically present love grounds the life of the body

Follow the way of love. Love. Beyond word or tongue or comment or post. To action and truth. Frets and rubs– a bit of friction-help us grow in love. Let us not love in word or tongue but in action and in truth

Duly convicted, I’m, um, posting now and dashing off to bed. I want to be ready for morning. I want to welcome the warmth and growth that flesh-and-blood friction bring. I want to be ready for church. 

There, Lord willing, I’ll bring my embodied, none-too-smooth self and worship the Lord. A body that builds itself up in love

In friction-making, growth-stirring flesh-and-blood love. 
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25

*This is not to say we can’t express love and build the Body online, by being present in social media. More on that in an upcoming post. 
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Count Each Other’s Blessings?

Threesome

Is it ever right to count another’s blessings?

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Johnson Oatman, 1897

I could barely hold back. Airing, venting, bemoaning her stay-at-home mom status- short nights, short showers, short of funds, cluttered closets, laundry without end. Amen. 

Blessings flooded my mind. I was counting blessings, all right. Her blessings. Like her hard-working husband and retired parents the next block over. And her four kids and the chance to stay at home with them. Blessings she didn’t seem to see. But I didn’t mention these.

Should I have? Should we ever count each other’s blessings? Before you answer, let me explain.

No Songs For Heavy Hearts

Let no corrupting talk come out of your moths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

I absolutely don’t mean this: I don’t mean telling a friend who just lost her Mom, at least you’ve got your sister. Or “reminding” a friend who recently miscarried again, at least you’ve still got Emma and Ben.  I don’t mean saying at least your house is paid for, to a friend who lost his job yesterday.

That is not what I mean. That is pouring vinegar on soda, stealing a coat on a cold day. That is singing songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20). Counting blessings over fresh wounds is mean. That’s not what I’m asking.

No, that’s not the right time. Then is time to weep with those who weep, to live in harmony. Then is there ever a time when it’s okay to look a friend in the face and tell her how good to her God’s been-to her? Is it ever good to remind disgruntled friends how kind God’s been to them?

Churchill said, Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Call it courage, or wisdom from on high, to know when hold ’em and when to play those blessings down. To know the word that will sustain the weary, or if the weary are blind.

The song says, Count your blessings. We get that. We Christians are called to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s revealed will for us. That we know for sure.

But what about counting for others?

Priming The Thankful Pump


May the word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…with thankfulness to God. Colossians 3:16
I do mean to ask this: Does she have to come to her senses alone and see that she’s the one complaining about having no shoes? Or can we prime the thankful pump? 

We all can get blind to the familiar. Blind to blessings. Blind to common and special grace, both. We can so easily take God’s goodness for granted. And when we are is a friend right to remind us of our blessings?

Paul thought so. He often helped Christians count their blessings. Blessings they might not have seen.

Paul prayed the eyes of Ephesian hearts would be enlightened so they would know their great hope, and God’s power and the riches of his grace. He reminded Colossians how they were dead in trespasses and now made alive. He reminded the Romans they’d been set free from sin. Spiritual, sure. Blessings, indeed.

But Scripture does describe counting others’ physical blessings, too. As, when in the dark days of the judges, Ruth bore Boaz a son.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter in law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (Ruth 4:14-16)

All The Good We Can Do

Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

Counting each others’ blessings can be a subset of Hebrews 3:13. Matthew Henry wrote on 3:13, We should be doing all the good we can to one another while we are together, which will be but a short and uncertain time. If Christians do not exhort one another daily, they will be in danger of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. It’s a do-unto-others sort of thing. 

No one wants a hard heart. But sin is deceptive. And since grumbling is a sin (1 Corinthians 10:10), and since many of us find it easier to count problems and worries, it might be incumbent on friends to help us count our blessings. Because sanctification is a community project.

But, yes, timingand intent-are everything. Don’t sing songs to a freshly wounded heart. But if the Spirit leads, and you have a heart to help, count your sister’s blessings. Restore gently, testing your own heart for envy and pride. Then start counting. You might surprise her what the Lord has done.

And much as we might not want to hear it, ungrateful grumbly hearts can turn to hardened, sinful hearts. I for one don’t want a heart like that.

So, friends, don’t hold back on me. If you catch me in a grumbly rut, please start singing.

Recount my blessings to me.

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
Psalm 9:1

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Love’s Frets and Rubs

Woman blowing pink rose petals

Enduring loves welcome frets and rubs. They look beyond this life. That’s how they rise to heaven.

I think that’s what C.S. Lewis meant about how love becomes holy charity. About how natural love for our kids and friends and mates turns into the unnatural-supernatural-agape love. 
As in, the greatest of these is love. Charity. 

When Love Isn’t So Sweet

Lewis’ last chapter in the Four Loves is called, “Charity.” Here’s how it starts:

William Morris wrote a poem called “Love is Enough” and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly in the words “It isn’t.” Such has been the burden of this book. The natural loves [affection, friendship, eros] are not self-sufficient. Something else…must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.  

To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies. It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not fence and weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor roll and cut its own lawns…It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it. (p. 276) 

So what is it that keeps love sweet? Not just married love, but friendship love and parent’s love too? What is it that turns it supernatural, that can transcend earth to heaven? 

It’s not a monthly date with your girlfriends or your kiddos, or speaking the language of your mate. It’s not weekends away or card and gifts every special day. It’s not these things. 

What Lets Love Rise Above 


It’s easier-and harder- than these. Easier because the way up is ever-present. Harder, because it comes at the cost of frets and rubs, of irritation and disappointment and frustration. 

It’s easier- and harder- because we need God to turn our natural loves around. 

We are, however, much helped in this necessary work by that very feature of our experience at which we most repine. The invitation to turn our natural loves into Charity is never lacking. It is provided by those frictions and frustrations that meet us in all of them; unmistakable evidence that (natural) love is not going to be “enough”– unmistakable, unless we are blinded by egotism. When we are, we use them absurdly. “If only I had been more fortunate in my children (that boy gets more like his father every day) I could have loved them perfectly.” But every child is sometimes infuriating; most children are not infrequently odious. “If only my husband were more considerate, less lazy, less extravagant”…”If only my wife had fewer moods and more sense, and were less extravagant”…”If only my father wasn’t so infernally prosy and close-fisted.” 

But in everyone, and of course in ourselves, there is that which requires forbearance, tolerance, forgiveness. The necessity of practicing these virtues first sets us, forces us, upon the attempt to turn -more strictly, to let God turn- our love into Charity. These frets and rubs are beneficial. It may be that where there are fewest of them the conversion of natural love is most difficult. When they are plentiful the necessity of rising above it is obvious. To rise above it when it is as fully satisfied and as little impeded as earthly conditions allow -to see that we must rise when all seems so well already- this may require a subtler conversion and a more delicate insight. In this way also it might be hard for the “rich” to enter the kingdom. (p. 286)

-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, VI “Charity”

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  

Romans 5:3-5