Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Month: January 2017

Why Satan Loves Social Media

Ok, so admittedly the title of this post is a bit extreme—in part to grab your attention (did it work?), but in part because as jarring as that title sounds, I believe there’s a lot of truth to it.

Not convinced? Just take a moment to open up your phone or computer and peruse Facebook, Twitter, news, etc. for a few minutes … in just a scroll or two, I’m sure you’ll notice the evidence in harsh black and white, in the sea of hate-filled rants, comments, articles, tweets, etc. etc. etc.

Like many of you, my heart is dreadfully heavy over what I’m seeing online these days … so heavy that I very nearly decided to forgo a post this week in favor of chucking my laptop out a window. We don’t seem to be able to agree on much these days, but I’m fairly confident that we could agree it’s been a rough week in cyberspace.

I’ve witnessed more vitriol and division in my schizophrenic Facebook feed than I did even back in November. And the never-ending spinning torrent of opinions and word-daggers breaks my heart, because it’s only pushing us farther away from one another. I don’t believe we can fully understand each other in black and white pixilated words on a screen.

When this is our primary means of communication, we forget something: our humanity. Our Facebook accounts don’t have emotions, but you and I certainly do. We each have deeply held convictions and beliefs that dictate how we vote, what laws we support, what marches we attend, and so on.

Y’all, our enemy is somewhere bowled over laughing right now—laughing till his belly hurts. He’s probably sipping a Mai Tai under a palm tree, because the endless supply of hate-filled rhetoric bouncing around cyberspace has given him a chance to go on vacation. Listen to a few descriptions of his character:

When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 NIV).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV).

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

 It’s quite a wake-up call, examining what we’re up against in this world—and I feel that pull towards discouragement, and wanting to walk away and hide out in a cave until it all blows over (if it all blows over) …

… but then, I’m reminded of our call as followers of Jesus, per His very own words:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV, emphasis added).

For better or worse, social media and technology in general is a part of our lives—it’s woven into our place in history. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a step back from time to time—indeed, I think that’s an excellent idea (and I’m contemplating taking a break myself!).

But in this turbulent time, when it feels like our only options are to either spew our opinion in a hateful, arrogant manner or run away from it all, may I encourage us to apply the words of Matthew 5 to our lives, both real and online?

This world of social media—which can be so damaging—has the potential of being used by Jesus followers to shine a light into the ever-creeping darkness in which we find ourselves. With our words, our actions, and our opinions, we can shine a light onto truth, love, kindness, humility, and the grace that builds bridges.

I’m not urging anyone to censor his or her opinion … but I do urge you, as I urge myself, to value people and relationships above opinions and rhetoric.

Let’s not take the enemy’s bait. Let’s follow the beautiful, wise words of Proverbs instead:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

Amen, right??

My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is simple: use social media to bless one person today. Offer up sincere words of encouragement in whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you. Let your light shine, and together let’s make our enemy squirm … and perhaps cut his vacation short.

Be blessed, dear one—

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Bright Spots

Happy Friday, readers! Admittedly, today’s post is short and coming to you without my usual round of edits. This week, I find myself knee-deep in potty training both big kids, because it’s past time and it has.to.be.done. The 3-kids-in-diapers thing is wearing me out … then again, so is scraping poo out of tiny underpants. As you can see, it’s a no-win situation [insert tired laugh here] …

… At any rate, since returning to blogging after Anni’s birth, I haven’t crafted or planned out any themes … but as January progresses, I’m seeing the theme of thanksgiving emerge. Perhaps God has placed this on my heart because He knows how desperately I need it—and how key it is to walking the life of faith:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV, emphasis added).

Not long ago, I found myself in the middle of a “stress cluster.” You know, when Murphy’s Law operates in full effect, and you want to shut yourself in the pantry or somewhere quiet (and within reach of chocolate).

There was relational stress and outrageous toddler behavior and the physical fatigue of pregnancy. There was work stress and car repair delays and giant-sized messes everyday. And as a final wispy straw to break to camel’s back, our gas cooktop began clicking in a wonky, unstoppable manner. I think listening to that little clicking sound could be added to the list of torture tactics used to squeeze information out of terrorists (right alongside sleep deprivation and crying babies).

Nothing major, nothing life-shattering—just lots of little pebbles that fused to form one annoying boulder in my shoe. I’m guessing you can relate, as we all seem well acquainted with “first world problems.”

To my great relief, the maddening clicking cooktop issue turned out to be no match for a YouTube tutorial, a Q-tip, and a little acetone. Yes, in the midst of this cluster, the bright spot turned out to be the resolution of this small problem—a minor but very welcomed respite! We laughed at how this was the highlight of our week … but truly, my heart rejoiced that at least one problem found a swift remedy.

When life feels cloudy and dark, the slightest flash of light is a welcomed reprieve.

That little experience had me ruminating on the truth that in our everyday annoyances—both big and small—we still have reasons to give thanks. There are still bright spots waiting quietly to be discovered, like little gifts.

To see the stars shining in their brilliance, we have to turn out the surrounding, competing lights … and when we do? Then our eyes are able to download the majesty of God’s creative handiwork.

I’m finding the same is true in our lives: to see those bright spots, we’ve got to cut the competing negative, blinding lights that inaccurately signal everything is wrong, everything is broken! And isn’t it so often the small, frustrating annoyances that vie for our energy and ruin our joy?

I don’t know about you, but all too often I’m guilty of turning up the brightness on my negative thoughts and self-talk and self-focused perspective. I am reminded of how far my heart can stray from the life-giving words of Paul:

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation … I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV, emphasis added).

What a reality check. If Paul learned contentment in the midst of his unending clusters of genuine stress and physical danger, then certainly so can I.

In her devotional, “Treasures & Riches,” author Rachel Crawshaw writes that—

Contentment is a matter of attitude, cultivated by living in the present—by being aware of and savoring the scents and smells and sounds and textures of your life.

I love this definition and find it both accurate and convicting. How guilty am I of missing the good right in front of me, right before my eyes!

This week, I challenge us both to search for the bright spots and savor the sensations of our days. May we turn out the competing lights of negativity, frustration, and self-pity, and comb the horizon for flickers of light, tangible evidence of God’s goodness to and provision for us His children.

In the meantime, you can find me searching the horizon while keeping close tabs on two precious, pant-less children ;-).

Blessings,

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Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

It was a beautiful fall day, and despite having a 3-week old and two difficult toddlers, a trip to the park followed by some light shopping sounded like a good idea. Chalk it up to post-baby hormones that leave you feeling overwhelmed one minute and like superwoman the next.

Per usual, it took about 15 minutes simply to undo the stroller, stuff all the bags underneath (you might have thought we intended to campout for several days), and unbuckle aforementioned toddlers. Nevertheless, there we were at the park, all four of us. And I was only sweating a little by this point.

But before I could give myself a nice pat on the back, the meltdown commenced … the meltdown to overshadow my son’s previous meltdowns. In front of two other moms from his preschool, no less.

#winning.

So I did what I’ve learned to do so well lately: pack it all up, scoop up my screaming child, and try to make it to the car before bursting into tears of frustration, embarrassment, and sheer fatigue.

Better days ahead … there are better days ahead, I hear it said from an endless source of people, so it must be true …

But what does it mean for these days, these sometimes grueling, painful, and long days? How are we to carry the joy of light-hearted days into the darkness of difficult ones?

I’ve written before about our struggles with Isaiah and his speech and sensory processing issues, all of which seem to have come to a head over these past 6 months. It’s been exhausting, particularly on top of the intense lack of sleep accompanying the arrival of a newborn.

I can think of few things more heavy than watching your child struggle—and not knowing what to do or how to help. These struggles have illuminated the fact that my children are a direct line straight into the center of my heart. When God needs my attention, nothing grabs it faster than circumstances impacting my babies.

In every trial and hard day with my son, I am challenged by my resolution to live in gratitude more fully, to speak with fluency the language of thanksgiving. To sing praises to God, even when my heart is heavy and hurting. As I’ve wrestled with these issues, I keep coming back to one particular scripture:

I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the Name of the Lord (Psalm 116:17 NLT).

I can’t seem to stop meditating on that phrase, “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” and even finding comfort in it—because sometimes, giving thanks feels like a sacrifice.

Like when the news isn’t good or the bank account doesn’t add up or the loneliness is deafening or the anxiety is palpable.

Or when our mama hearts are heavy for our children. I think of my son, who always asks me to sing “Good Good Father” to him before bed (or “Good Good Good Father” as he calls it, precious thing). And the significance isn’t lost on me—singing those words over my son, when my aching heart is struggling to believe in God’s goodness…it’s a humbling and gracious reminder to sing those words over him:

You are perfect in all of your ways.

Even when those ways include doctors appointments and therapies and heartache and pain.

You are perfect in all of your ways.

Even when the way is hidden and scary and the future uncertain.

You are perfect in all of your ways, to us.

Yes, Lord, even when we want to snap our fingers and make it all better.

God isn’t going to let me forget His goodness or allow me to let go of hard-won faith—and He isn’t going to let you forget either!

sometimes-giving-thanks-feels-like-a-sacrificeIn these times when we’re feeling the weight of a heavy burden, I believe the key to navigating the churning waters is found in offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving … to reach deep and squint to see beyond our circumstances and continue to trust. In our doubts, may we be like Job, who did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22 NIV). May praise ever be on our lips, even when it feels sacrificial and excruciating.

On the hardest of days, sometimes my sacrifice of thanksgiving is as small and meager as thanking Him for the rich color of falling leaves or the sparkling blue of an expansive sky. But I’m finding that recognizing these small, simple gifts opens the door of my heart, allowing Him to work in mysterious and beautiful ways.

What about you, dear reader—will you give thanks today, even if your heart is heavy? Will you offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving, no matter now small? I pray today that you and I find the courage and faith to raise up empty hands and offer up weary souls, to call on His Name and rest secure in His great love for us.

And even though the fire pops and cracks and threatens to burn right through us, may we offer up our sacrifices of thanksgiving to the One who loves and holds us in all things.

For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever (Psalm 117:2 NIV).

Blessings,

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Whole

Hello there, readers, and let me officially say Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a great start (and that you haven’t fallen too far off that clean eating wagon just yet).

And speaking of, nothing is quite as synonymous with “new year’s resolution” as “weight loss,” no? For countless Januarys, I’ve included “eat healthier” on my mile-long list of resolutions (and this year is no different, as I’m attempting to shed the remaining baby weight … and finding it much harder than it was with the first two, sheesh!).

As we’ve done for the past couple of years, Aaron and I decided to do the Whole30 for the month of January—or rather, our own version of Whole30, one that works best for us. Whole30ish, if you will.

While prepping and searching for recipes and meal planning these past couple of weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of wholeness and what it means to be whole. Generally, the majority of my focus this time of year tends to center around achieving physical goals—losing weight, eating cleaner, training for a race, dusting off my tennis racquet, etc.

Focusing on finding health, healing, and wholeness in our physical bodies is a worthy goal—indeed, the Apostle Paul writes:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV).

I love this scripture, and I enjoy pursuing health and wellness goals. But these days, I find myself desiring a different kind of wholeness—a spiritual wholeness. A wholeness of heart and soul.

On one recent and particularly challenging, sleep-deprived morning, I found myself pouting to God, whining, “I don’t even have enough time to have a quiet time!”

Yes, I was in a huff and irritated at my early rising children because I wasn’t able to do my devotion that morning as usual.

Attitude check on aisle 1, please.

In His kind and gentle manner, I felt God whisper to my frustrated soul, Your time is not your problem. Your heart is your problem.

Yowza. That one hurt. And it revealed how much work my sinful, fallen heart needs.

When I was able to sit quietly for a few minutes and read my devotion, the key verse came from Psalm 37:3, which says:

Trust in Jehovah and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness (ASV).

That little phrase, “feed on His faithfulness,” keeps ringing in my ears. How I would love to focus on allowing His faithfulness to fill those cracks in my foundation and crevices in my walls, until the rough places in my heart have been made smooth.

Until I extend forgiveness more quickly and freely.

Until I stop throwing myself pity-parties.

Until I learn to love more deeply, more selflessly, more fully, all those the Lord has placed in my life.

Until the high road, paved with grace and wisdom, becomes my natural first choice.

This is the cry of my heart for 2017—to be filled more fully by Him and let go of lingering bitterness, a hardened heart, baseless pride, and selfishness.

I want to become whole in Him—whole, secure, and truly living in how lavishly loved I am by Him. I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’m always working on moving the truth of His great love from my head down into my heart.

I long to live with joy no matter what storms are swirling and hovering right around me. I desire to become fluent in the language of gratitude.

If you’re a parent, you know firsthand how often parenthood becomes a big ‘ol spotlight pointed right into the deepest recesses of your soul. I’ll find myself harping at my children to be patient or loving or to share, only to feel a twinge of hypocrisy crawl up the back of my neck. Anyone else stepping in that with me?

If I’m going to teach my children to be whole, then it must be modeled for them—I have a sneaking suspicion such things are far more caught than taught. “You can’t give what you don’t have,” said Oprah or my mom or somebody wise. And I rather tend to agree.

So let the journey begin by feeding on His faithfulness and dwelling in His presence. Let us pursue physical health, but not to the neglect of our spiritual health. And may the words of Psalm 90:14 guide us this coming year:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (NIV).

Be blessed in this New Year, dear reader—be whole.

Blessings,

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