Unplugging, time, and who is my Master?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

After six months unplugged... here we go...

It's 8:36 am on a cool August morning and the kids are making a fleet of paper airplanes to ambush Daddy.  I glance out the back window - a small row of golden sunflowers sways in the breeze and the quiet cluck-cluck of five hens warms my heart right up. The leaves are already falling, we're picking tomoatoes, and the pumpkins swell.  I'm reminded to smile, to breathe, to give thanks.  I jot the gifts down in my journal, usually open somewhere in the kitchen.

I'm reminded of the truth that has shaped the past several months, if not years, of my life.  Time is precious.  Yes, Cass, remember the truth revealed over and over,   I think about it now - we are all gifted with time as long as we breathe in and out.   I gaze out on a country backyard and breath deep sighs and sip warm coffee only because God Almighty lends me the time to do so.  I am not my own.  I hold no control about how much time I have left.  Only what I do with it.

It isn't a new or earth-shattering concept, but how many of us hold fast to it?

It was this thought and this challenge that caused me to pull the plug on blogging and all social media six months ago.  I was wildly burdened in my soul about how I spent my time.  I knew Christ Jesus was speaking to me in the whispers to unplug it all and surrender what I held so tight.  So much prayer and many tears brought me to write my 'farewell' post where I said I didn't know when I'd return.

Over the past six months, I've spent whole evenings writing love letters to God and bowing low and listening hard.  I've spent hours in the late night, curled on a couch with my husband, reading the Word and sharing hearts.  I've seen the joy and freedom that comes from never needing to turn on the screen.  From sharing my soul with the Lord rather than every body else.

And over the past six months we've seen God work.  I mean really, really work.  I've seen and experienced precious wonders, gifts from Him.

We've seen all kinds of miracles:
Ugandan miracles.
Kenyan miracles.
Reuniting miracles.
Home Church miracles.
Soil miracles.
Wood miracles.
Passover miracles.
Chick miracles.
Duckling miracles.
(Yes we have chickens, and we had ducks... that's for another post...)
Heart miracles.
Camp miracles.
French miracles.
Grandma miracles.

I hope, Lord willing, to share many, many of these stories with you here on these pages.  I want to shout out loud how awesome God is and how He draws so near to those who draw near to Him. No matter how imperfect and messed up that person is. How much He cares for every aspect of our lives, even the tiny, seemingly insignificant.  How he covers us with His never ending grace and leads us.  How he answers the simple prayers of children and works in mysterious ways.

I click on the computer screen and stare blankly.

It's like there are two universes for me.  The Literal Universe, and The Spiritual Universe.  It's easy to feel spiritual when I'm belting out love songs to Jesus, reading His word and feeling Him close, hearing Him speak, and pressing in during those quiet, divine moments.

But what about now?  When the boys are arguing over who owns which Lego piece and I'm scrolling through Facebook? 

One thing I've learned over the past six months is this - everything is spiritual.  If we believe the bible is true, we have to embrace this reality.  There is no distinction between my spiritual self and my mortal, literal, physical self.  They are one in the same.  That means everything I do has spiritual implications.  Yes, even scrolling through Facebook.  Or posting an image to Pinterest.  Or if I even choose to be on Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter or ... well whatever other social medias are out there.

Sometimes, the spiritual implication is this - when I'm consumed with the screen, I'm missing something better God had for me in that moment.  Sometimes, it's what I post will touch a heart who needs encouragement at the right time.  It's up to us to seek and find that guidance.

If we view all as spiritual then it drastically changes the way we view our time. It's kind of like the truth about our treasure and our wallets.  Track my time, see my heart. (Matthew 6:21-24) 

How am I investing my heartAm I distracted?  Or am I living purposefully?

How am I spending my 'time currency'?  Is it well spent in light of eternity?  Do I listen to the Holy Spirit's guiding about how I invest my moments? Am I spending more time on Facebook than I am with my face in His precious Holy Book?  Am I wasting more time watching TV than I am investing in relationships with people who need love?  Does my cell phone distract me so much that I forget the people (the little people too...) who are right by my side, in the flesh?

Because if we view our time as sacred, then how we spend it is sacred business.  And if all things are spiritual and all experiences are to be spiritual ones with eternal value, then how does this shape my attitude on a daily basis?  If where my treasure is, there also is my soul - then just where is my treasure?  What does the time-trail tell?

Yes, I've had six months and more to pray and ponder these truths and to learn that this computer, the only screen in our life, can either own me or be owned. 

 It says it right there in Matthew, no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate one and love the other.  I was reluctant to call a computer or a blog or Facebook a "Master".   I mean, really?  I know most people see it as extreme but when you desperately want to follow Jesus, you are desperate for the truth.  Even if the truth seems completely weird.  Because I've come to realize that the Lord's truth WILL look weird to the world.

I prayed and started to see the spiritual reality.  If we allow our screen time and our use of technology to master us, than doesn't it become our Master by default?  I needed to really, truly know the answer: Who was my Master?

Was my go-to the Holy Word of God or the computer screen?  Was I viewing my time and my habits as holy experiences?  (I finally fully understand the title of Ann's blog...)

I really entered in to the truth and realized what God was whispering.  Yes, everything is spiritual, everything is connected to Him because we are His earthen vessels.  He is in us and works through us and we are to offer our bodies, minds, souls, hands, and feet for Him.  For His worship and service and by grace, He fills us with light and we share that light with others.  And when we miss this, others will miss His light.  Ah, the wonder of the Christ-life.  I'm brought to my knees.

So, wait... how I respond when my daughter beckons me has eternal value?  Yep.  And how I speak to and reach out to that Mom who is desperate for help matters?  Of course. 
And how I choose to speak to a stranger really has an affect on him? 
And whether I ignore that man on the corner?
And how I start each day?
And how I teach and guide our children?
And how I speak to my husband?
And how I view that sunflower out the window?
And how I speak of the gloomy, rainy morning? (Did you know in Job, God calls himself the Father of Rain?)

These things have eternal value?

Yes and yes and yes.  When it comes to the Lord and His word and Truth and our time, everything matters.

What I watch matters.
What I read matters.
What I write matters.
How I speak matters.
What I 'share' matters.
What I 'like' matters.
How I view blogging and Facebook and all the rest of those potential distractions matters.
Screen time matters.
How my children view screen time matters.
Endless texting on a cell phone matters.
How many beeps and bings I allow to pull me from my family really, really matters.

Because all these things pile up and up and form the mountains of how we spend our time and where we invest our hearts.


Taking time away from blogging and being online was a gift.  So much truth was revealed to me, by the complete grace of Jesus.  I was reminded what writing was supposed to be about for me.  What God has called me to do through this little space.  To write truth and to share the journey of walking with a personal, loving God.   To share how He challenges and embraces me, no matter how unconventional or weird. 

And also, a surprising discovery - how social media can be used for so much good.  Yes, it can be a huge distraction, but it can also be a gift.  A way of connecting with family, friends, and so many of those precious souls you never would normally never meet. 

Just last week, I got together with a beautiful Mom and her children - solely because we knew each other through blogging and Facebook.  We are kindred spirits, no doubt.  My kids are begging to get together again.

I'm brought to tears reading messages and love notes from all the cherished readers of this blog who whisper encouragement to me. Thank you.  I'm honestly so humbled and blessed that my words touch your hearts.  That when I share God's whispers about home education and our journey and faith, others are deeply moved!  What?  I'm just on my knees, friends.  Only through God's grace. All glory to Him.  And, might I suggest this truth?  The inspiration you feel is not from me or by me by through the Holy Spirit and His whispers.  And I pray He would continue to use me in this way, my hands are His.

And the very day I logged back onto Facebook (reluctantly, I'll add), I was (I believe) supernaturally connected to a post about hosting French students and we ended up hosting a beautiful young girl for most of July - which was an answer to prayer in the craziest of ways.  My parents also had the chance to host a student and we knew that it wasn't by chance they were with our families. What a gift.

See, I've learned that what can be a distraction can also be a blessing.  It's all in how we allow our time to be used.  We own media or it will own us. We choose how much time we spend online and we chose how we spend it.  We pray and we listen to God's leading and we cling to the eternal and the love-centered and the honest, pure, and true.  We fight the temptation of distraction and turn off the screens and shut down everything that needs to be shut down when He calls us.  When we see ourselves slipping into the place where media becomes a Master - we shut it down and refocus.

We refuse to miss God.  To miss the point.  To miss our very purpose.  To lose our chance to really live and love because our life what spent pointing and clicking aimlessly.  We choose what we do with this gift of time and we must, in light of all eternity, choose wisely.

Praying we will all seek and find this wisdom every single day and walk then in the freedom of Christ's unending love and grace.

Big hugs.  *breath*

You are loved.

So yes, I'm back to writing this little blog and sharing my heart here and there on Facebook, but I'm walking on tip-toe.  Carefully, prayerfully moving forward and trying hard to be intentional about how and when I log on, write, and do all other screen-related things.  Because God's whispers, His Word, His purpose, and these precious ones around me mean too much to me to miss.  (smile)

The real unplug.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How do I breathe deep enough to say goodbye?

This blog has been my heart and soul for a long, long time but I know it has to be surrendered.

Because when something takes hours of our time away from where you know it should be instead - it begs questioning.  Even the things that can appear so good can truly pull us away from where we need to be-  from focusing on the things that push us closer to our true purpose.

Yahweh doesn't take things from His children without reason.

He doesn't ask us to give something up unless it is best for us.

He gives us the opportunity to hear His voice and exchange what we grip tight for that which is exceedingly more abundant.

Toss Facebook?  Toss all Social Media?

Give up the Blog?

Yikes, Lord - in 2014, those are biggies.

Exactly, child.

But when we give up something the Lord is asking us to surrender, He always (always) replaces it with something so much better and so much deeper and so much closer to Himself.

I don't preach this - I know this.

Because God has shown me over and over this year, He is trustworthy.

The Lord beckons us to pay attention.  Our time is short.  This life is so, so fragile.  We are here for but the blink of an eye.  And yet we watch countless hours of TV, we fiddle around on Facebook, we do this and that and hours are wasted, for what?

Friends, I'm doing what I've always known in my heart was the best for my soul.

And you can join right in.

Exchange the busy for the meaningful.

Exchange the distraction for deep relationship.

Exchange the rat race for the slow, intentional walk.

Exchange the screen for what is real.

Exchange entertainment for conversation with the Holy God, Yahweh, who desperately wants us to want Him.

So, maybe this isn't goodbye, as much as it is my deepest encouragement to keep on.

Keep on pressing into the things of God.

Keep on remembering - we get one life.

Keep on unplugging.  Thing after thing until there is nothing left to distract you from why you're really here.

Because when you call yourself the 'unplugged family' and you pray the hard prayers, God does transform and eventually something shifts.  And what worked before just can't any more.

I just desperately want to live my one life well.

Intentionally choose how I fill my moments, days, weeks, years.

We were never created to live in front of screens; never made to be slaves to technology.  Christ came to bring freedom, life to the fullest!

Real life, real relationship, real Christ-communion, these things happen face to real face.

So, I humbly encourage you to consider your minutes.  Consider where your time goes.  When all is said and done, will you have regrets?

Will you have lived full-out and full-on?

In love with Yahweh, the Creator?

In love with your spouse, in love with your children, in love with life?

In love with the gospel and the message of freedom in Jesus?

In love with helping the lost, the lonely, the hurting?

Will you shake off the 'ways of this world' and exchange them for Christ Jesus Himself?

Friends, I've spent too many days distracted and too many nights uploading photos and ignoring my husband.  I've spent too many minutes scrolling Facebook and browsing Pinterest.  These things won't matter - they are not eternal things... and I've come to see them as distractions.

I know us Moms have said way too many, 'just a minute's to our children.  Too many times with eyes glued to screens instead of glued to our precious little ones who need our love.

I want to seek after Holy God in a way I never have.  No distractions.  No entertainment. 

But, oh - Joy!  Joy overflowing and bubbling everywhere!  I've never felt so much joy, peace, and love for the ones that surround me.  I've never felt so in love with Jesus.  And He has never revealed Himself so freely to me.

And I am deeply thankful for each person who has read this blog and found peace, joy, and comfort here.  My words have always been an authentic reflection of my journey.  If you were touched - I pray it was Christ in me who reached out and touched your very soul.  Christ in me is the only reason I can write, move, change, inspire.

But I know He is calling me to move away from this screen.

So, join me, and let's embrace a life free from flashing distraction.

Toss the TV.
Toss the movies.
Toss the radio.
Toss the handheld gizmos.
Gosh, even toss Facebook and Social Media.

You can do it.
You won't regret it.  How could you regret it?

Make Yahweh your every intake and His love your abundant overflow.

Seek Him and wait.

Wait and see how He will transform and renew.

He will make alive your every breath.

With every ounce of me, I pray the abundant life for each one who reads this.

Unplugging for real this time... not sure when the Lord will lead me back to this blog - but for now... the peace that surrounds me is far too deep and far to rich too worry about what is to come...



Too Much Stuff... for when your soul aches for less.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's the day after Christmas and we're in Toys R Us.  I feel my throat swelling inside of me.  It's the last place in the world I want to be after two days of massive, sickening consumption.  Our children received everything on their wish lists and yet, they want more.
And we're not alone.  The store is packed with children all marching through the isles, Christmas gift money in hands, dying to spend, spend, spend.  Never mind what's already lining their rooms - it's not enough.
My heart breaks inside of me as I whisper the truth to our children later:
Do you see it here, right here in front of us?  We have received everything we thought we wanted, and now, the very next day, we want more and more.  Because things can't make us happy.  Greed is never satisfied.
My heart has been troubled over Christmas this year for more reasons than one.  The consumption, the craziness, the busy, do-this-do-that nature of the season.  For the last week, I had literally no time to do anything but prepare for the 'celebrations'.  Yet the greatest irony is this - through all the preparation and stress, I found myself further from God, with less time to reflect, less time to pray, less time to focus on what matters to Him.
The focus shifts.  All of a sudden I find myself in a Mall.  I haven't been in a mall for over a year but oh, we have to celebrate Jesus - so a Mall-shopping we will go.  It just doesn't make any sense.  And my heart is heavily burdened, friends.
This morning we woke up to a house of mess.  Heaps of stuff lay everywhere.  Clothes spilling out of drawers, toys tossed in messy piles in corners of every room.  My head was aching and my soul crying out for relief from all this STUFF.

We've got new stuff.
We've got old stuff.
We've got toy stuff.
We've got clothing stuff.
We've got art stuff.
We've got building stuff.
We've got decorative stuff.
We even found stuff we never knew we had.
So, we cleansed.  For the millionth time, we took piles and piles of clothing and old toys and you name it away and tried to make space for fresh air.
These are the times my whole being laments.  I feel sorrow deep down, way down deep.  Sorrow for our very, very much and the millions with very, very little.  Sorrow that STUFF crowds out the Living God in our life until He's but a faint whisper.  I realize it wickedly deep this year:

At Christmas, I fear I'm teaching my children to consume until they are bursting at the seams.

Even though we do the Jesus-things, we focus on scripture, we have a little nativity set, we talk about grace and love coming down and all those Christmasy things.  But it feels misplaced.  We make hand-made gifts, we try and try to keep things simple, we bake, we cuddle, we enjoy family time and its beautiful.  But, somehow, everything shifts just enough to make room for sin.  The stuff crowds out the rest.  It's unsettling and I'm really starting to question.
Even though my heart wants desperately to live completely differently, the mess of this Christmas season seeps in and makes a home for greed and wanting.  Yes, no matter what I aspire to be, I'm not her and I'm a contributor to this earth's broken, unequal reality. 
Because we want and want and want, others have not, eat not, live not.
The truth is plain.  If we don't like it, it's because we don't want to accept that we are part of this broken planet's problem.  If there was no greed, there would be no one starving.  No child trapped in prostitution, no mother weeping over her dying child.
There's a popular Christmas message.
And because we fill with stuff - we empty of Christ.  And when we empty of Christ there is less of Him to pour out.  The more and more we pile up in our homes, the further and further from the Truth we travel.  The Christ-life was never about our earthly stuff - it was about caring nothing for the world and wanting Christ more than anything.
So, how can I claim to love God with all my heart, if I also love stuff?
I can't.  Something's gotta give.
And that's why my heart is bursting.  This whole world is broken and our hearts are broken and we try to mend them with all the wrong things.  Even when we say we don't need stuff or want stuff our actions tell a different story.  Even when we think we are living a simpler life, our life is richly abundant compared to most.  Even if none of our stuff runs on batteries - our child has 23 long sleeved shirts and a child in India walks naked.
Our daughter has over 25 stuff animals and all little girls dream of is snuggling only one special toy in their whole childhood.
People go hungry and I eat when I'm full.
We do love stuff.  Period.
Guilty as charged.  Of the sinners, I am the worst.
Oh friends, my soul is crying out for less stuff.  More of the Lord, less of everything else.  That is my passionate prayer for 2014.
Less stuff so there is more and more room for what really matters.
More of the One who cleans all slates and makes us new.  Because I need new beginnings this year.  I need a fresh start.  I need to be where Truth is found.
I desperately need to hold tight to the Peace He graciously embeds deep within.
In that place is where the things of this earth fade fast compared to the radiant glory of His mercy and grace.  What can compare to knowing and serving the Living God?  Yahweh - God unchanging?
Nothing.  Nothing compares.  No matter how many things we consume - stuff, entertainment, food, drink - whatever it is... it is empty.
He is the only true filler.
He alone can come and dwell in the empty places.  He alone can patch up the mess of our hearts.  He alone will realign the cosmos and set all this world right.
His justice will prevail.
Every once of anything earthly will be blasted away and nothing will remain.  I know this but do I live this?
Asking the hard questions tonight, friends... and praying we can all find wide open space for His love and His guiding today, this week, this year, and always.

Nurturing a Child's Soul...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

In his book Heartfelt Discipline, Clay Clarkson speaks about the importance of cultivating the soil of our child’s heart. He refers to the parable of the sower and the seed and compares it to how we, as parents prepare our children to live for God.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…” Matthew 13: 3-8
As parents, so many of us are tempted to focus mainly on the seeds. We try to give our children as many gospel seeds as possible – Church, Sunday School, Christ-centered literature, devotion times, times of service, etc. The truth is though, it doesn’t matter what way we ‘package’ it, we cannot add to the awesome power of the gospel.

The seed, is always good, because it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can not change the seed – the seed remains. It isn’t the seed that decides whether or not the truth is revealed and received, it is the soil.

To read the rest, join me over at The Better Mom today! 


Power and Light.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Hot Cross Buns were half-way cooked when the power kicked off two days ago.  The past hours have been a crazy mess of ice, wind, storms, falling trees, and no electricity for 30 hours or so.  Yes, we're smack in the middle of the ice storm that hit all across the states and eastern Canada.  The ice was built up so thick on tree limbs they bent and snapped under the pressure.  In our old neighborhood branches smashed through homes, cars, and knocked down more hydro wires than we can count. 

We pile into Grandma's for Sunday dinner, and we heat casserole dishes on the Bar-B-Q and talk about the damage and God's power and isn't it crazy what can happen when things go awry?

Now, it's Christmas Eve, our power has been restored, and I'm staring out a sun-lit window thinking about everything we've been through in the days leading up to now.

Being in the country and having no power - it can be a vulnerable situation in our time.  I think about the Pioneers who survived winters on the plains with babes and husbands and nothing but a wagon and a lean-to to, well, lean on.   Well, we've got a lean-to (some call it a shed) but, there's no way we're camping out there.  No, we're far more blessed - we have a home.

But see, with no power to turn on the computer or the lamps or the dish washer, you are forced to sit and wait.  We can choose to wait impatiently for the power to come back or we can wait on the Lord who holds all power in the palm of His mighty hands.

Sure, life is messy and we stress about sump pumps failing, basement's flooding.  We boot up generators from friendly neighbors, we can't flush toilets or run water or cook or have a tea.  Oh, and we remember how blessed we are when the lights are on and everything goes as expected.  Because in most parts of the world they live like this daily - they live worse than this daily.  I shake my head at my spoiled nature.

We stay quiet at night, grasping on to the still life.  Embracing that which can't be manufactured and sold for 40% off.  The complete darkness but a few candles.  The blankets piled around a cold little country house.  The kids try to play with new toys at the kitchen table, we read in dim light, and we tuck in, praying.

But a part of me doesn't want the power to pop back on.  Because this quiet- this complete stillness will pass.  This curling up and singing carols together and relying completely on God to fill the darkness and uncertainty with His Forever Light - it passes too quickly when we think we can figure things out ourselves.

When everything flickers and hums and pops back to life - our focus on His Light tips upside down.  The world whirs.  People fill up Wal-Mart and I return to 'life as usual', even though I'm desperately trying to mold a new 'usual' in light of this crazy culture.

I read from Matthew 6 about how we fuss over ourselves and become consumed with worry.  But our God is bigger than ice storms.  He has conquered the world, after all.    I read it:  "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving."

Because He gives sunshine and He gives the storm.  And it's when we are sitting in the storm spattered darkness we most realize how helpless we are.  Mere mortal humans on this massive green and blue sphere.  We cannot hold our own lives in our own hands - we are incapable.  No, there is a great set of hands who not only holds us but the whole universe.  He causes the rain (and ice) to fall on the wicked and the good.  He holds weather and trees and limbs in His palm.  We can wait for the earthly power to be restored but are we tuned into the eternal Power?  The One who is mighty to save?
The greatest Gift ever given, gives all good gifts and everything we receive is a gift, whether we perceive it as a mess or a miracle.  He decides.  God chooses.  God gives and He takes away and we respond.

How do we respond to Christ?

Jesus Christ - the child we are supposed to celebrate at Christmas. (But, do we really?)  The Holy One who came down and was Light and the Power of Heaven wrapped up in a swaddling bundle.

The country church is planning to have a candle light service in the, well - candlelight.  There probably won't be any lights, amps, words on screen, or heat.  The power still teeters in much of our area and people are getting stressed. 

After all, it's Christmas - where is the POWER, where is the LIGHT?

The Power? 

The Light?

Oh, that's the crazy irony - He's already here.

We stress about power while also proclaiming Him but the two are contradictory.  I'm deeply convicted and breathless with wonder at how He could love so boldly and completely and so lavishly.

He came down.  He humbled Himself to being born of a teenager in a smelly barn.  He dwelled among us - Immanuel, God with us.  He knew human struggle.  He knew fear, hunger, pain, sadness, joy, laughter - He knew these things and He knows us too.  In the darkness of life, we can know there is an eternal Light who never fails us.  Who never passes away.  Who never fades.  There is a Mighty Power who holds us and knows all and has all under His wing.  We never need to let fear grip us or let the darkness steal our joy.  He is our joy and He is complete.  In His love, there is fullness of joy, friends.  FULLNESS of joy!

Walk with The Light, and never find darkness again.

The wind and ice and the storms of life can take the earthly power down but our Heavenly Power stands forever.  No wind can move Him, no Power is above Him.

The lights might go out momentarily, but we have a Love-Light who's care for us can never be snuffed or stopped.  Christ, the Lord - The Light of the World.
Hold Light and Love close this season, friends. 

See you in the new year, Lord willing.


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