Social Media Guidelines

I recently decided to take a month off of social media.  It was one of the best decisions I made for that whole month.

Here’s the thing.  I really don’t know how to do social media “right.”  And by right, I don’t mean how to have my particular brand and get followers and post really cool things.  I mean, I don’t know how to do those things either.

But in this instance, when I talk about “right,” I’m talking about how to do social media in a way that feels healthy for my soul.  Maybe you’ve got a lock on this.  I really hope you do.

But maybe you're like me and you’re using social media but there’s a sneaking suspicion that it might be too much of a distraction or an addiction.  Or it might be feeding into a sense of narcissism.  Or it might be giving an eternal sense of FOMO.  Or it might be feeding into insecurities about why more people didn’t like and comment on that last post.  Or it might be causing jealousy and envy.

That’s a lot of ways social media can wreak havoc in my soul.

So I stepped back for a little bit.  In part just because I was in a season where I needed to create a little more quiet and a little more space for myself to process a lot of life that was happening.  But also in part because I wanted some time to think about what in the world I was even doing with social media, and what the real motives were behind why and what I chose to broadcast to the world.

I helped run a social media channel for a non-profit for a few years, and have a small role in helping with some of our social media channels for Saddleback Small Groups.  Basically, I’m nowhere near an expert, but I do know a few basics.  I know about the importance of building a “brand.”  Having a consistent voice/look/feel across channels so that followers know what kind of quality and content to expect and why they should follow you.

But I also kept wondering why I needed a brand.  I mean, I get it for a business or an organization or a ministry.  But why do I, Laura, need a brand or followers?  Why do I need to advertise my life?

Y’all, there were some major wrestling matches that happened with these questions.  And now as I slowly start picking back up social media, I can tell that I’m doing it pretty tentatively.  I actually miss the quiet and space it created in my soul when I took a break for a month.  I think I still have more questions than answers about how to do this in a way that is best for my soul.

But as with most things in life, avoiding it doesn’t actually bring resolution.  So I’m going to wrestle.  And I’m going to be oh-so-self-aware about what’s going on in my soul.  And I’m going to use it as a way to bring to the surface what’s really going on in my heart as I broadcast my life to the world.

As I move forward, I’ve given myself a few guidelines to help keep me on track.

Reasons NOT To Post

1.  To get more likes or more followers

I’m sure you’ve never done this, but there’s been times when I post things just because I think it will get a lot of “likes” or will help me attract more followers.  But…why is that a good thing?  Again, I’m only talking about the scope of an individual, not for an organization.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you want more followers?

Popularity?  Influence?  Ego?

As a follower of Jesus, I’m not called to make myself popular.  Getting 1,000 followers means NOTHING if the character of Christ is not being developed in my heart.  So I’m trying to avoid posting just because it’s something that is trending.

2. To impress you, make you think I'm cool, brag about my life, or pretend to lead a life different than I actually do

I’s a pretty normal human thing to dream about how our lives could be different.  It’s another thing to pretend and actually try and convince the world (and ourselves) that our lives are different than than they actually are.  There is a very real danger of falling in love with a fake life.

You are exactly who God made you to be.  He didn’t make a mistake when he made you the way he made you.  You are loved exactly as you are.  And if you spend all your time pretending to be someone different, you might never do the important work of self-awareness and growth that will help you reach the full potential of who God made you to be.

3. To entertain myself

Waiting in line at the store?  Why not post to Instagram?  Wait, what?

I’ve done this so many times.  And it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I wonder what it would look like if I used time when I’m bored to text something encouraging to a friend, read a few verses on my Bible app, or take a few minutes to pray for people.

Reasons it's OK to post

1.  Mark important moments in my life

I live far away from a lot of family and friends, and one of the greatest gifts of social media is keeping up with the Taekwondo tournament my niece participated in, or the new project my dad just completed in the backyard.  You better believe that when I ran a marathon this last year I posted about it, and it was so sweet to get to share and celebrate that moment with people far away.  Tell me when major events happen in your life, because I want to celebrate with you!

With this though, my hiatus from social media reinforced the value of not just posting but also calling or texting or setting up a coffee date to keep people updated on my life.  I went to a Dodger game during that month off, and while my friends were posting to social media I sent a picture to my dad and brother because they’re also big Dodger fans.  Not every moment has to be shared with the world; it might be better shared more personally.

2. Inspire other people

A surprising number of people have mentioned to me that they love seeing how I do so many outdoor adventures.  They say it inspires them to do it themselves, or it gives them ideas of places to go and things to try.

The world will be a better place when more people do more of the things that make them come alive.  So post the things that give you life, and inspire people around you to do likewise.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Post the kind of things that will spur your followers on to live a life filled with meaning and purpose and joy.  Jesus came to give us an abundant life; don’t be afraid to live it.

3. Share resources and ideas that have helped me grow

I love books and podcasts, and I love sharing about what I’m learning.  I love when other people share resources that have helped them grow, because I’m always on the lookout for a good book or podcast recommendation.  If I’ve found a new podcast or book that’s been particularly helpful, you’ll be hearing about it!

4. Talk about things that matter and people that matter

As someone who struggles with FOMO, I always hesitate when posting pictures with friends because I hate to inflict a fear of missing out on others.  While being sensitive to this, I also think it’s really important to celebrate community.  It’s a good moment for me to check my motives and make sure I’m not trying to make myself look popular, etc., but I love getting to celebrate and express gratitude for the amazing people God has put in my life.

I also think there’s times when it’s important to talk about hard issues.  Specifically, there are times when I make a point to talk about things I struggle with.  It’s not because I’m looking for sympathy, or trying to get some group therapy or social media therapy.  It’s just that we all struggle and sometimes it’s good to be reminded that you’re not the only one, and that God’s grace is sufficient.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

There’s an appropriate way to boast about our weaknesses.  I always find it so interesting when I’ll have coffee with a friend and an hour later read something she posted about a personal struggle she said nothing about when we were meeting.  Social media is never the place to work out your problems.  Social media therapy is never the best way to share.  It’s not “just being authentic.”  True authenticity is looking someone in the eyes and sharing, and opening yourself up to their response in person.  That being said, I do think there are times when it’s helpful to share honestly and appropriately because you never know who else is struggling with the same thing.  I just make sure anything I post to social media is something I’ve already been talking out with a real live human face-to-face before I broadcast to the world.  I don’t share hard things because I’m looking for a response; I share hard things because I know someone else is struggling and might need to know I’ve been there too.

5. Share the story of my life in such a way that Jesus is the hero.

I hope you’re still with me because this is the most important point.  I don’t want to craft an image on social media that makes me look great.  I want to tell the story of my life in a way that only points to how great Jesus is.

 

What about you?  What are reasons you think we should post or not post to social media?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Do No Harm

When it comes to the dating game, no one seems to know the rules anymore. And it’s hard to play a game when there are no agreed upon rules. But what if we all agreed on one rule: that we would try to leave people better than we found them?

It’s really hard to play a game if you don’t know the rules.  It’s even harder if everyone is making up their own rules as they go, and no one is playing by the same rules.

I love playing sports, and one of the things that makes a sport a sport is an agreed upon set of rules.  It’s how I know if I’m playing soccer (where there are penalties for anyone but the goalie using their hands), or if I’m playing basketball (where a kicked ball results in a turnover).  There are such things as out-of-bounds, fouls, and goals.  In sports, rules actually make the game more fun to play.  Without rules, everything quickly dissolves into chaos and the likelihood of someone being injured is high.

When it comes to the dating game, no one seems to know the rules anymore.  And it’s hard to play a game when there are no agreed upon rules.

  • Who should ask whom out?
  • Who should pay?
  • If we hang out one-on-one, is that a date?
  • Should men open doors for women?
  • Is it appropriate for a woman to make the first move?
  • Can dating be just for fun?
  • Should I only date someone I can see myself marrying?
  • How long should we wait to kiss?
  • How long should we wait to have sex?
  • How long do I wait to call or text?

Poll a random sampling of 20’s and 30’s, and you would get vastly different answers.  And this, I think, is one of the greatest difficulties of dating today.  How are we supposed to navigate dating if no one is playing by the same rules?

It’s a confusing time to be single.  I have my own set up assumptions and guidelines I bring to dating, and I personally know how I would answer all of the above questions.  But I can’t assume that someone I’m interested in would answer them the same way.

I’ve dated men who insist on opening doors for me and paying (which I appreciate, by the way).  But I’ve also dated a guy who didn’t open doors for me because a girl from his past refused to let him open a door, accused him of chauvinism, and needed to prove that she was more than capable of opening her own door.

I know women who would ask a guy out if she’s interested in him, and I know men who would be completely turned off by that scenario.  (By the way, if a woman asks a man out, is she obligated to pay?  Should the asker also be the payer, since the date was her idea?  See, it’s so confusing!)

In the midst of all the chaos that comes from the absence of agreed upon rules, I’d like to suggest one dating rule that I hope we can all agree on.

 

Leave peoplebetter thanyou found them

Leave people better than you found them.

When I was a kid, my parents drilled into me that if I ever borrowed something, I should return it in as good or better condition than I borrowed it.  What if that’s how we thought about dating?

What I want to keep in front of us is the simple reminder that all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  But somehow, when we date, we can lose sight of this simple fact.  Instead of seeing one another as humans, we can slip into thinking of the person we are dating as the sum total of all of our dating expectations and they become an object instead of a human.  Rather than thinking about how our actions affect another human, our selfishness comes out and we only think about things from the perspective of what we want out of the situation.

Leave peoplebetter thanyou found them-2

How is the way you date forming your character?  How are the patterns and habits you reinforce now in dating shaping you to be a better spouse one day in the future?  If your goal in dating is to find the person you want to marry, then the way you date is creating patterns for how you will treat your eventual spouse.  Even if you’re dating just for fun, I doubt you intentionally want to date with the purpose of hurting another human being.  And yet, when it comes to dating, there is so much pain and so much baggage.

We’ve all either hurt or been hurt in dating relationships.  Some of that is a necessary risk that comes with all matters of the heart.  A break up is a break up, and no matter how you slice it there will be some pain.  However, there are ways to date and even break up with someone that still communicates their dignity and worth as a human being.  The worst pain I’ve experienced in break ups didn’t come from the break up itself, but how the break up was handled.

When we love someone, we should be willing to put their interests and well-being above our own.  Love is meant to be sacrificial.  This is the kind of love it will take to have a healthy marriage one day, and selflessness is also the kind of character trait that takes time to build.  Thankfully, dating provides us the opportunity to practice learning to treat others the way we would want to be treated, and to practice selflessness.

We know we’re supposed to treat people the way we would want to be treated, but somehow when it comes to dating we seem to throw this rule out the window.  If we just stick to this basic principle, I think we’d see a lot less emotional damage being done.  I suspect, too, that if we treat people with dignity and affirm their worth as a human being throughout every stage—from initial meetings, to texts and phone calls, to first dates and first kisses, to committed relationships, and to breaking things off — that we would make a lot of progress towards leaving people better than we found them.

Let me leave you with 5 practical ways you can leave people better than you found them:

1.  Avoid the silent treatment

If someone has called you, texted you, sent you a carrier pigeon, or used one of the 100 other ways we have these days of communicating with one another, honor them with a timely reply.  Even if you’re over them, even if you don’t want another date, they still are a human and no human deserves to be ignored.

2.  Follow through on your promises

Did you say you would call?  Then you should call.  Did you ask for a second date?  Then take them on a second date. Don’t get in the habit of telling people what they want to hear with no intention of following through.

3.  Stop hooking up

Bodies are not commodities.  We are more than simply physical beings, and we need to stop using one another for physical pleasure outside of an appropriately committed relationship.  When you engage in any sort of physical intimacy with someone, you’re training your body that this action is okay to do with someone whom you associate your current feelings with.  If you make out with everyone on the first date, then you’ve taught your body that making out is casual.  If you want it to mean something when you kiss someone you really do like, then stop making out with all the people that you don’t really care that much about.

4.  Use clear language

If you want to go on a date with someone, use clear language that indicates this is what you want.  “I’d like to take you out”, “Can I buy you dinner?”, or “Would you like to go on a date with me?” are examples of clear language.  “Hang out”, “Meet up”, or “Grab a drink sometime” are less clear.  If someone asks me to hang out, I assume it’s not a date and act accordingly.  So if you actually want to go on a date with someone, use language that makes your intentions clear.

5.  Practice appreciation without expectation

One of the things that messes us up the most in dating is our expectations.  We all bring in a truckload of expectations of what we’re looking for, what we’ve been waiting for, what we want, and how we want to be treated.  When we place all this on the person we’re just going on a date with, it brings a ton of pressure and paves the road to objectify the person across table based on how they do at meeting your expectations.  And, let’s be real, you probably have some unrealistic expectations.  So instead of seeing how someone does at meeting all of your expectations, just be grateful and appreciative of what they do bring to the table.  I never assume or expect that a guy will pay on a first date, and I usually offer to split the check.  However, I really appreciate if he does offer to pay.  Expect less, and appreciate more.

 

 

The Most Valuable Thing I Learned in 2015

A couple months ago, a really wise person in my life introduced the importance of moving what we know in our heads down to our hearts, practicing it with our hands, and then once that cycle is complete we are ready to share it with others.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown puts it this way: “We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration — it is how we fold our experiences into our being. The Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has a beautiful saying: ‘Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.’”

  
When I write, or talk with others, I’m so often tempted to short-circuit this cycle and move from my head straight to my mouth, parroting out words without having tested them myself.   

I set out to write this blog about a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in 2015, but then I asked myself which of the lessons I wanted to write about was fully integrated into my heart and working its way out through my hands…and I came up as a still-very-messy-work-in-progress.

And so this, instead, is my biggest lesson from 2015: That I need to do more than just learn something in my head and repeat it back as a hollow echo.

A few weeks ago I was finishing one of the best books I read in 2015, Rising Strong by Brene Brown. And while I was reading this book about finding the courage to live authentically and vulnerably, I was going over a scenario in my head that I was really frustrated by. I’m naturally conflict-avoidant so rather than do the right thing of getting in touch with a friend to talk out how I’d been hurt, I just sat there, feeling more and more frustrated as I read a chapter about compassion, whole-hearted living, and being brave enough to tell others how we really feel.

I had one of those ridiculous inner-monologue moments where I knew I could either keep reading a book about the kind of life that I want to live, or I could actually go do the thing that would put into practice the kind of life that I want to live. And so, with a lot of eye-rolling and “Are you kidding me, God?” self-pity, I got over myself, put the book down, took the initiative, and reached out to repair a relationship.

There are a lot of lessons that I learned in 2015, but a lot of them are still in my head. A few are working their way down to my heart, and even fewer are working their way out through my hands. But when I think about the kind of person I could be at the end of 2016 if even two or three of these lessons actually became fully integrated into my life, I feel hopeful and excited.

As a follower of Jesus, I have the most incredible resource for wise living found in the Bible. I’ve got so much of it rattling around inside my head, and in 2016 I’m hopeful to see how God continues to use the everyday moments and lessons to establish these ideas more deeply in my heart and help me live them out in my day-to-day interactions with others.

And hopefully, this time next year, I’ll have a few more hard-earned lessons that I can share with you.

Jesus, I’m So Glad You Came

Last year for Christmas, I woke up early and drove down to Newport beach.  I sat on the sand by the pier with my Bible, journal, and a Christmas devotional book by Ann Voskamp.  I thought about how grateful I was that Jesus came to earth, and about just how different my life was because Christ was a part of it.

From that spot in the sand, watching a few ambitions Christmas morning surfers and the slow steady crashing of the waves, time slowed down and I had a moment to soak in what felt like a real Christmas moment.

It wasn’t about presents, decorations, parties, or Christmas cookies.

It was a moment of peace, and a moment of knowing that Jesus had come to earth and was making all things new.

It was a moment where the holiness of God trumped all the hard circumstances in my life, and for a few moments I found that I could let go of all my questions and unmet expectations and trust that God really was on the throne and He really was good.

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This year, I’m working at 4 Christmas Eve services, going home, packing, and waking up early to catch a flight home to Oregon.  I’m looking forward to seeing nieces and nephews open their presents, meeting my brand new nephew Bradley, hugging my parents and siblings, and getting to be all together as a family.  And yet in the midst of travel, presents, and the Christmas goodies my mom and sister are known for, I don’t want to lose sight of that moment at the beach last year.

This last year has been crazy and chaotic, and the peace of Christmas is something I’m in serious need of right now.  Since last Christmas, I’ve gone through a tumultuous year of changing jobs and churches, and moving and adjusting to living with new roommates.  I’ve seen a best friend get married and two other best friends get engaged (along with countless other friends getting engaged, married, pregnant, etc.), while I’ve experienced a string of dating disappointments and heartache.  I travelled to Thailand and Cambodia and had my eyes opened to the brutal reality of the sex trafficking industry.  It feels like I’ve been in a constant state of transition, and God continues to break down everything comfortable in my life.

And yet, in the midst of all of the hard and all of the change, I know that God is up to something good.

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At Christmas, we celebrate that Jesus came to earth in human flesh.  We celebrate that our God is near to us, that He too has walked this earth and shared in our experience of what it is to be human.  We celebrate that Jesus has shown us more of what God is like, and that He is loving and kind and full of grace.  And we also remember and celebrate that with Jesus coming to earth, God is breaking into our story so that He can make all things new and bring about redemption and reconciliation on earth.

It is a time to remember that Jesus has come not just into our world, but also into our lives.  And just as Jesus coming to earth is all about how God is doing something REALLY BIG to make all things new on earth as they are in heaven, God wants to do the exact same REALLY BIG thing in each of our individual lives to make all things new in our hearts just as they are in heaven.

I can look back at this last year of my life and see the hard, and the growing pains, and the ways I’ve had to die to my old ways of living, and die to my old hopes and dreams.  I can see the brokenness and the disappointment and the moments of loneliness and confusion.

Or I can look back at this last year of my life and see that God was with me in every single one of those moments, and that for every time my heart was broken, God healed it and made it a little bit more like His heart.  He made me a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more understanding of the hard things others are going through, a little bit more trusting, and a little bit more brave.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

At Christmas, we remember that God is with us.  He wants to make a home in our hearts, and sometimes it’s going to get harder before it gets better.  But through it all, we have the promise that God is with us.  That Jesus has come so that we can be reconciled to God and that every hard thing we’ve gone through is being redeemed and used by God to build His kingdom here on earth, and also in our hearts.

And so this Christmas, I look back at a hard last year, and forward to year full of unknown, and yet I say,

Jesus, I’m so glad that you came.

 

Finding What I’m Made For

For a few months while I was in college, my friends and I were engaged in a full scale (yet friendly) prank war.  It was guys versus girls in a game of who could out-do who, and it escalated to a point where, to preserve our friendships, we actually drafted and signed a “Prank War Manifesto” to make sure we didn’t go too far.

One of the girls had this 3 foot tall wooden fork and spoon set that hung on the wall in her kitchen, and the guys managed to smuggle them out of the house one night.  To get even, the girls rallied a few days later and went over to the guys’ house when we knew they would all be in class.  We shimmied in through the bathroom window and ransacked their kitchen, making out with all of their silverware—even grabbing the dirty ones from the sink and dishwasher—to hold as ransom until the other items were returned.  For a day or two the guys got by eating their cereal with large serving spoons before they finally agreed to make the trade.

These prank war episodes were punctuated by midterms, football games, camping trips, and coffee addictions.  But in the midst of all of the fun and frivolity of life at Oregon State, we also were trying to sort out what exactly it was we wanted our lives to be about.  We had made our Prank War Manifesto, but the guidelines of how we would live the rest of our life seemed a bit murky at times.

Even now as I launch into my thirties, I sometimes feel like I could use a clear manifesto on just what exactly I’m supposed to be pursuing with my life.

As I make decisions about how I use my time, what habits and patterns I establish, the people I surround myself with, and the education and careers I pursue, do I ever pause long enough to ask what it is I’m hoping to accomplish when all is said and done?

Life can be about a lot of things.  At the end of the day, when I look back, I want to know that my life, my days, and my decisions were being used for the right things.

One of the verses I keep coming back to is Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act Justly.

Love Mercy.

Walk Humbly.

3 things.  I can try and do those three things.  I think the world would be a little bit better if all of us learned how to do these three things a little bit better together.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your life?  What do you need to say no to, in order to be able to say yes to the right things?

Micah 6 8

We > Me

I’ve found that when I ask “What can I possibly do?”, the answer is usually very small and discouraging. But when I start thinking about what WE can do, I can’t think of any problem that can’t be tackled.

The USA Women’s soccer team just won their 3rd World Cup ending a 16 year drought since their last time as World Cup champions in 1999, and becoming the first women’s team in history to win that many titles.

As I watched the trophy presentation, the commentators remarked on the amazing teamwork that led these women to victory.  When Abby Wambach came on as a sub late in the second half, Carli Lloyd handed off her captain’s armband to the former star and team captain in a show of respect to Wambach as she played her last match on the World Cup stage.  When it came time to accept the trophy, Wambach and Christine Rampone both accepted the trophy and then counted to three before hoisting it up together.  Rampone was the oldest member on the team at 40, and also came on as a late sub to play in her last match ever in the World Cup.  She was the only member of the 2015 team who had also played for the 1999 team, the last US women’s team to win the World Cup.

These small acts of deference were a small symbol of just how well these women worked together as a team, always looking out for the good of each other and eager to share the glory.  The victory accomplished was done as a team.

The first goal of the game came from Carli Lloyd—her first of 3 goals that would lead her team to victory—was off of a cornerkick from Megan Rapinoe.  That cornerkick was earned by Morgan Brian, the youngest member of the team.  Without Brian earning the corner, and Rapinoe setting it up perfectly, Lloyd doesn’t get her goal.  The point?  It was all about the team.


2 weeks ago, I was in the midst of my whirlwind tour through Thailand and Cambodia learning about the incredible work that Destiny Rescue is doing to rescue and restore children out of sex trafficking.  Confronted with an issue as big and evil as sex trafficking, I frequently feel overwhelmed and find myself asking, “What can I possibly do?”

What can I possibly do?

I’ve asked this question many times, and maybe you have too.  Maybe it’s about the same issue, or maybe there is another issue that you are passionate about.  You want to do something to help, but don’t know how you, one small tiny individual, could possibly make a difference.

But something shifted for me while I was on this trip.  I realized that maybe I was asking the wrong question.  When I ask “What can I do?”, I frequently feel small and overwhelmed.  But I started to change just one little word in that question, and I realized it made all the difference in the world.

What if, instead of asking “What can I do?”, we started asking “What can WE do?”

What can WE do?

I am only one person with limited time, ideas, and resources.  WE are a group with unlimited time, ideas, and resources.

I am only one small voice.  WE can raise a shout that will be heard around the world.

I am only one perspective and one piece of a puzzle.  WE are all perspectives and backgrounds and together can see the whole picture.

I am only two hands and two feet.  WE are a family with hands to reach out to all in need, and feet to go to every corner of our world.

I am only one part.  WE are a body with every part working together in harmony to accomplish great things.

I’ve found that when I ask “What can I possibly do?”, the answer is usually very small and discouraging.  But when I start thinking about what WE can do, I can’t think of any problem that can’t be tackled.

I have some good news to share with you, friends.

The needs in the world are great, but the power of God is greater (Genesis 18:14; Job 42:2; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26).

Christ has built his church, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).

Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 2:23, 4:4).

Christ has already won the victory over sin and death (John 16:33; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

We are the body of Christ, HIS hands and HIS feet, empowered by HIS Spirit (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

We ALL have a role to play (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 2:10, 4:7).

Sometimes I think we miss the point of verses like this, or we jump on the wrong bandwagon and then wonder why God isn’t doing anything.  Let me be clear:  I am convinced that there is no injustice in the world today that can stand against the power of the people of God who are being led by and dependent upon His Spirit.  I am convinced that if all the followers of Jesus decided to work together to end something like child sex trafficking, all of our resources and efforts combined could end this awful injustice within a few short years.  Or apply the same idea to orphan care, clean drinking water, or people dying of preventable diseases.  I’m not talking about political agendas and passing legislation; I’m talking about you and me being the hands and feet of Jesus to love people in practical and tangible ways.  No one is going to argue against us if we want to feed the poor, and we might even win some people over to seeing Jesus a little bit more clearly if we started doing things like this a little bit better.

So let’s learn how to play together as a team.

Let’s build one another up, and encourage one another.

Let’s learn each other’s strengths, and celebrate each other’s gifts.

Let’s get on our knees and pray together and seek how God is moving and how we can play a part.

It’s time to ask, “What can WE do together as the people of God?”.  And I think the answer is going to be pretty exciting.

It’s not just up to you.  So grab your closest friends, choose a cause you care about, and see how much greater of an impact you can have when you work together than you ever could on your own.

And leave a comment below with your thoughts, or your cause that you want to make a difference in!

WE > ME

Good Things Come to Those Who Work

If I knew what I was supposed to do, then I would do it!  If someone would tell me what I’m supposed to do, then I’ll get started on it!

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve shouted those phrases in exasperation.

Where should I go to school?  What kind of job or career should I pursue?  How can I give back?  Who should I be investing in?  Where should I live?  What or who should I be focusing on?  How can I help others?  Who should I spend the rest of my life with?

Most recently for me, I’ve been asking questions as I’ve become increasingly aware of the inequalities and injustices plaguing our world.  It’s atrocious and overwhelming and paralyzing all at the same time.

I’m leaving on a trip in a few days to Thailand and Cambodia to learn more about the work that an organization is doing to fight back and help rescue and restore victims of child sex trafficking.  As I was talking about this trip, and the related issues of human trafficking, my friend made the following comment:

“It’s horrible, but I feel like I can’t do anything about it.  It’s so overwhelming.  What can I possibly do?”

As he said it, I saw the compassion in his eyes and heard the genuine care in his voice.  And I think that is probably how most of us feel.

My guess is that, to the degree of which you are aware of the atrocities and injustices in our world, you DO care!  You DO agree that they are evil, and your heart DOES break for the victims.  But like my friend, and like myself most of the time as well, we frequently feel completely helpless to do anything about it.

We’ll look for opportunities to give resources or funds to non-profits who are on the frontlines, sponsor a child, or find opportunities to volunteer in some way.  These are all great things, and things we should all continue doing!  I know people who are doing incredible things to live sacrificially and help those who can’t help themselves, and I admire those people incredibly.

Recently, I’ve found myself in a bit of a wrestling match with God.  As I’ve thought more about the problems of injustice in our world, and as I open my Bible and over and over again come across verses that point to God as a God of justice, and a God who cares for the poor, and a God who deeply loves and cares for the orphans and the least of these, I’ve found that God has been pushing me and challenging me to think about what more I can do to take up the fight.

It started about 6 months ago when I was reading Isaiah 58.  In this chapter, Isaiah is calling out the Israelites.  The people of Israel are complaining that God has not noticed their fasting or answered their prayers.  God responds with a harsh rebuttal that their fasting has been completely misguided: they are going through the motions and only pretending to care about the ways of God, all the while persisting in their wickedness, quarrelling, and exploiting their workers.  And then God tells the people of Israel that if they want a guarantee that he will hear and respond to their prayers, a different kind of sacrifice will get his attention:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will appear quickly; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I…
“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
Isaiah 58:6-10

This passage in Isaiah, and so many more like it that I have come across in the last few months, keep tugging at my heart.  And while I still don’t know what exactly it is that I’m supposed to do, I know that inaction is no longer an option for me.

For lack of knowing what to do, I started reading and searching Scripture and talking to people who are already working against injustice.  I watched talks from Christine Caine and Gary Haugen.  I read books and articles and started becoming more and more aware of the intricacies and complexities of some of the issues related to injustice.  I dipped my toe in a little bit by trying to do a few fundraisers and volunteering for a non-profit.  I moved forward with plans for this trip to Thailand and Cambodia.  I prayed and kept looking for action steps.

And as I took these steps, even though I didn’t feel like I was taking any real tangible action to make a difference, I still felt deep down like these tiny steps were hugely important.  Instead of running away from how hard it was, or returning to complacency, I did what I could.  I started educating myself and pressing into this topic.

Too often in my life I’ve been concerned about a topic, but let lack of a clear action step keep me from doing anything.  At all.  I want the opportunity to change the world handed to me on a silver platter.

I wonder if the world isn’t changed yet because instead of making our own opportunities or figuring it out ourselves, we’re waiting for someone to come along and hand it to us.

And I wonder how different the world might be if we picked a topic we cared about and didn’t wait for someone else to tell us what to do about it, but we decided to start figuring it out for ourselves.

I don’t want all of us to care about victims of human trafficking.  I want some of you to care about orphans and foster kids, about at-risk teens and single moms, about victims of abuse and domestic violence, about poverty and clean drinking water, about teenage pregnancies and drug and alcohol addiction, about unreached people groups and illiteracy, about people with disabilities and the homeless, about family and raising healthy kids, about healthy marriages and healthy bodies, about the elderly and the widows, about the persecution of believers and the crisis in the Middle East, about church plants and Bible translation, about discipleship and prayer, about racial tension and gender equality, about justice and truth.  I want you to care about your little corner of the world and how the values and ways and love of God can best be lived out in your sphere of influence.

If you believe God is tugging on your heart to care about an issue, but you don’t know where to start, can I suggest you start with Scripture?  Can I suggest you start by building your confidence that God is passionate about the very thing you are becoming passionate about?  Can I suggest that if you think you’re willing to do the work for a cause you care about, that work might start by educating yourself?

I got tired of not knowing what to do.  And so while I still don’t know the solution to problems as big as human trafficking, not knowing is no longer an excuse.  I’m going to learn.  I’m going to study.  I’m going to put in the work, and travel, and talk to people, and figure out what can be done.

“If I knew what I was supposed to do, then I would do it!”

“If someone would tell me what I’m supposed to do, then I’ll get started on it!”

I’ve said these phrases so many times, and I’m tired of using my lack of knowledge as an excuse.  In my life, this looks like reading books about justice, having intentional conversations, and leaving for a trip to Thailand and Cambodia to immerse myself in these issues for 2 weeks.  It’s not a solution to the problem.  But it does get the ball rolling.

And something tells me it will be easier to be ready for the right opportunity when it finally comes along if I’m already in motion.

So if you find yourself asking questions about what to do, or you’re wrestling with what steps you should take, or you feel stuck with where you’re at in life and wondering what exactly it is you’re supposed to be doing, first, let me tell you that I feel your pain.  But let me challenge you with this:

What if what you’re supposed to do is put in the work to figure out what you’re supposed to do?

What if what you’re supposed to do is just start working — even if it’s not the perfect solution or situation — because good things come to those who work?

For those of you who are past this stage of figuring out what to do, what advice would you give?  What helped you move forward with pursuing your purpose in life?

What are the causes you have found worth fighting for, and what are the tangible action steps you are taking in that direction?

By the way, here are a few book recommendations to get you started:

Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

good things come to those who work