Reading has fallen on hard times. Between the computer and the smartphone, people do not read as much as they once did. Or rather people don't read books or longer works as much as they once did. Despite the statistics, there are still people that make time for reading.
I've had a number of friends ask me over the years how I find time to read so many books. On any given year I read an average of 15-30 books, and I often share about books that I've read here and via social media. I love sharing book recommendations and talking about books with others, which is why I often get asked about how I find time to read and how I can read as much as I do.
To answer simply: reading is a discipline that I find valuable and enriching. Therefore, I prioritize time for it.
We make time for things that we think are important. Take exercise for example. We carve out time for it in our days and try to keep a regime and routine. We feel guilty when we don't keep up with it. We feel more energized and less stressed when we do keep up with it. Just like exercise takes discipline, reading takes discipline as well.
The way most people feel about exercise is how I feel about reading. (In fact, sometimes I do both at the same time. Hello treadmill!) Reading is something that I find to be valuable and important. Therefore, I make time for it.
Just like 15 minutes of exercise is better than no exercise, 15 minutes of reading is better than not reading at all, which is why I aim to read at least 15 minutes or roughly 1 chapter of a book a day. I find that reading a chapter a day motivates me to read and depending on the book length, I can read a book in a week or every two weeks.
Another thing that helps is reading multiple books at one time. I have a friend that reads one book that is a leisure read, one book that is spiritual growth related, and one that is job training related. I have since adopted this friend's method. Reading multiple books at one time creates variety and gives us different things to read at different points in the day. I am more apt to read a spiritual growth book in the morning and a leisure read at night time, because it is harder for me to concentrate later at night.
Reading is a discipline. If we want to read more and we find value in reading, then we need to make time for it. I could write an entire post about the value of reading (which I might do). It is a very helpful discipline for growth, mentally and spiritually, and it's a discipline that we should make a regular part of our schedules.
In the twenty minutes that we might spend on social media in the morning, we could spend that time reading a book which will actually be more encouraging and valuable than mindlessly scrolling through content. One way that you can make reading a discipline in your life is by replacing your time on social media in the morning with reading for ten minutes.
If you've been wanting to read more, the first step is deciding if reading is something that you view as valuable and important and then making the time for it, even if it's just 15 minutes a day to start. Ultimately, my hope is that you would find reading as something that is profitable and would make it a regular discipline.
If you want to make reading a regular discipline, but you're looking for good books to read, here are a few recommendations:
Circle Series 4-in-1 (The Circle Series)
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson
The Magnolia Story
Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing)
Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World
Today I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman and reflecting upon the things that I learned this past summer. It's a time when a community of bloggers share the things that they are learning whether silly, sacred, serious, or practical. You can read what other bloggers learned over at Emily's website.
I was journaling the other day and reflecting upon what God has been teaching me and what I learned this summer, and I was amazed by how much a person can learn and grow in a short amount of time.
I'm sharing today about the things that I learned this summer and would love to hear some of the things that you learned as well!
Here it goes...
1. Decorating a House Takes Time
When it comes to decorating (and most areas of life), I struggle with impatience. When I look at a blank wall, I feel a mix of anxiety and excitement, wanting all at once to figure out how to perfectly decorate the space and not knowing where to begin. It takes time and patience to decorate a space when you have boundaries financially, and that is okay. I'm learning to be okay with Brandon's and my new apartment not being "put together" yet, and I'm learning how to have patience in the process.
2. How To Navigate New York City Transportation
Between Brandon's and my anniversary and a trip with a friend, I had two opportunities this summer to navigate NYC transportation. Now that Brandon and I only live an hour and a half plus a quick train ride away, we've been thankful for the opportunity to travel to New York to explore when we can. And now, we can navigate the Metro, which is something I never thought I would know how to do. It was a small victory to take the Metro from Central Park to Greenwich village to go to Do (the edible cookie dough place) with my friend.
3. Sometimes You Just Need to Take a Break From Your Phone
This summer, I took multiple weeklong breaks from my phone and even took time away from social media. Friends, there is life when your phone is off and your social media apps are deleted for a time. In fact, taking time away from my phone and social media gave me time to think and pray and prioritize and actually care better for the people in my life that I love.
I think I'm going to start taking a week off from social media every season moving forward as a helpful reset and regularly taking time away from my phone throughout the week. You can read more about what I learned from time away from my phone (Consecrating Our Phones To the Lord and When Your Phone Changes You) and even from my social media fast (Social Media, Vanity, and Abundant Life).
4. Confessing Sin Leads Fellowship With God and With Others
I spent most of the summer, thinking about 1 John 1 and thinking through how to grow in my fellowship with God and with others. This chapter has impacted my life in significant ways and has proven true as I have repented from sin and confessed it to God and to others in my life. Not only has it sweetened my fellowship with Jesus but it has also deepened my friendship and fellowship with others. If we want fellowship with God and with other believers, we need to confess our sins, because we walk in the light by doing so and God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us.
5. Some of The Sweetest Memories Are From Unplanned Adventures
This summer Brandon and I took a weekend trip to Boston to visit one of our students and friends. It was a short trip, but filled with a lot of little adventures. We stayed in a hotel fifteen minutes from Concord, Ma, and during the free part of an afternoon on Sunday, we spontaneously decided to drive to Concord and visit Louisa May Alcott's home and Walden Pond. It was a sweet time with Brandon just exploring without an agenda, and it made me want to make more time on days off for unstructured adventures.
What are some things that you learned this summer?
I was talking with a friend the other day who just got Snapchat. She is older than me by a number of years, and we were talking about the purpose of this avenue of social media. She shared about a few snaps that she had received and how she was surprised to see the things that people shared on their snap stories. We talked about social media and how it affects our lives and the way that we live.
Prior to this conversation, I had been thinking a lot about social media. As someone that grew up with the beginnings of social media, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and Myspace, I've seen my fair share of social media over the past decade. Specifically, I've seen the vanity of hours spent using a medium that will fade with a few years time. I will never get back the hours spent creating and coding the perfect Myspace page, a page that doesn't exist today. Those hours spent now feel meaningless.
I've seen the vanity of writing Facebook statuses to appear witty or smart, only for them to be hidden in the depths of time, new statuses, posts, and shares.
I've seen the vanity of time spent taking a perfect photograph to share on Instagram only for the photo to be eclipsed by newer content.
I've witnessed the vanity of sharing a few photos from my day on Snapchat that fade faster than grass in the summer sun. I've had Snapchat streaks with friends only for a trip away with my family to end weeks of streaks.
I've experienced the disappointment that comes after hours of scrolling only to feel like I've wasted precious hours of my life on meaningless and trivial content.
So if I keep seeing the vanity and meaninglessness of social media, why am I still lured into posting and sharing and commenting and liking?
If I'm honest, social media makes a lot of promises to us. It tells us that when we post or share, we're seen and we're known. It rewards us for posting and sharing and liking. It tells us that it will make our lives better, that it will connect us to more people, that we'll be able to stay in touch with friends. But if we're honest, it often leaves us feeling lonely, less than, and left out. Not only does it make a lot of promises to us, but we also expect a lot from it.
Now, social media can be used for good and for God's glory. It can be used to connect us with old friends or new friends. It can be used to inspire, encourage, and allow us to love others. All of these are good uses for social media, but we should be mindful of the ways that social media leads to chasing after the wind.
I'm cut to the heart every time I read the book of Ecclesiastes as King Solomon lists the things in life that are meaningless and vain. He lays out everything: wealth, riches, wisdom, trying to create something new, and more. This is a man that has it all, and he says that it's all meaningless and vanity when it comes to the grand scheme of our lives.
Reading and being reminded about the vanity of life in Ecclesiastes made me think of the vanity of social media:
"All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after."
Ecclesiastes 1: 8-11
"The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." How true is this every time we scroll through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or check Snapchat?
If social media is vanity, why do we still use it? I keep asking myself this question. If I know that it is not going to satisfy me, make me feel lonely or sad, or feel like I'm not living up to a specific standard for my life, or even that I'm not honoring God with my time when I use it, why do I still use it? I think it's because I believe the lie that things are going to change, that it will satisfy me and make me happy. But friends, only one thing will satisfy us and fill us with joy, and that's union with Jesus Christ.
We expect a lot from social media and it cannot live up to those expectations. It cannot give us abundant life or a meaningful life. But Jesus can. Jesus even says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
What would it look like if we stopped looking to social media to give us an abundant and meaningful life and instead looked to Jesus? What would it look like if we stopped ourselves when we mindlessly scroll and instead look to Jesus or spend time in the Word? What would it look like if we took time away from social media and instead focused on the relationships around us? I bet it would look like abundant life.
Only Jesus offers abundant life and makes good on his promise.
My prayer is that this truth would affect the way that we use social media. I pray that we would look to Jesus for abundant life and see the meaninglessness of hours spent on social media, and that we would instead use it as a tool to love God more and to love others as a result.
Over the past year I've been learning a lot about myself and the way that God has so intricately made me. One thing that I've been learning recently is that God made me with a gift for gathering and inviting. I should have known this about myself, but sometimes it takes a friend pointing out your giftings to know how you're gifted. And so I'm learning and seeing how the Lord has made me to be an inviter by nature, and I want to share and invite you to read some articles and posts that have ministered to my soul.
Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me from the Rabbit Room // Stories can point us towards a greater story. Andrew Peterson shares how Harry Potter pointed him towards Jesus.
Beware (and Embrace) the Power of Story from Tim Challies // Stories and experiences have more power than we realize, and we often use stories to persuade others. Tim Challies discusses that power that stories have over our lives for good and for bad.
To Rest is to Leave Unfinished from Lore Wilbert // Sometimes resting means that we cannot finish things. Sometimes resting means that we disappoint people or even disappoint ourselves, but resting is essential for our souls. Lore Wilbert shares reflections upon learning how to rest well.
The Day I Was Supposed to Move from Sophie McDonald // How do we respond when God does things differently than we expect or when He changes plans or callings? Sophie McDonald shares how the Lord changed her plans, but is using them for her good.
Eat Real Food from Faith Thomas // I don't know about you but I often feel surrounded by different ideas on what foods that we should or shouldn't eat, but what I keep coming back to is the idea that God made food and he said it was good and gave us everything we need in real and whole food to be nourished. Faith share's a similar sentiment: when it comes down to what to eat, eat real food.
Are there particular articles that have been ministering to your soul lately?
There are times when a song comes across our path at an intersection in life. The song Hills & Valleys by Tauren Wells came into my life on a Sunday morning when I was feeling particularly discouraged by the valleys that I was facing: adjusting to a new town, a new community, and a new season and place in life. These same valleys have also lead to hills and mountains with the Lord. In all of it, God is in control of the physical valleys and hills, but also the spiritual valleys and hills in my life and in your life.
We might sing God's praises when we're on the mountaintop whether it's his provision financially, in a new job, a new relationship, a new friend, or a sign of his particular love and care. And we often struggle to praise Him and see his particular loving hand in the valleys: illness, broken relationships and friendships, loss of a job or a loved one, or even just struggling emotionally. But God is the God of the hills and valleys, and He loves and is caring for us in the valleys as well as on the hills.
If whether you're walking through a valley or standing on the mountaintop, I hope that this song by Tauren Wells ministers to your soul, and reminds you of the God of the hills and valleys.
Listen here: Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells.
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Brandon and I moved to a new apartment two weeks ago. We traded in a 650 square foot, wood paneled basement for a 1150 square foot top floor apartment. Our main motivation for moving across town was for more space and more sunlight, but if I'm honest my soul also needed a change of environment. So after apartment hunting for a few months, we ended up here. While the space and sunlight are making room for the Lord to encourage and re-invigorate my soul, a new struggle is making it's way to the surface.
As I sit in my new living room, I'm well aware of the things that still need to be put away, things left to organize, things to buy, or even ways that I would like to decorate the space. And I feel overwhelmed by a feeling of wanting it to swiftly and suddenly be perfect and complete. I'm struggling to have patience with the process, but the process is precisely what this apartment and my soul need.
I spent two weeks staring into our second bedroom, which will double as a storage room and guest bedroom for friends and family. In the meantime, it's primarily storage. Boxes were everywhere, and things we didn't know what to do with in the moment were spread about the room: tennis rackets, kitchen appliances that we don't use very often, and office supplies. I spent two weeks staring into the room, wanting everything to finally be put away and organized but not knowing where to start. Two days ago an idea came to my mind about how to use an old closet organizer to organize all of the big items into the closet. The majority of the odd items are now neatly organized and all that remains is an empty bed and office supplies that need a home. Patience with the process.
How tempting is the struggle to not be patient, to not wait for the process to do the work. My apartment is an example of a normal inward struggle. How often do we struggle to patiently wait for the process? Waiting for the package or mail to arrive. Waiting for that guy to ask us out. Waiting to hear back from the job interview. Waiting to see the number on the scale go down. Waiting to see our health change or waiting for healing. We're all waiting for something, and it's so hard to be patient in the process.
I'm learning that there is work being done in the process of patiently waiting. Waiting doesn't mean that nothing is happening. As I stared into our spare room, I was tempted to despair that our apartment would never be tidy and organized, but I needed the time for my brain to think of using the closet organizer. As I look at my own life, there are so many things that I'm waiting for, and so many processes that are going on in my own heart, but God is doing a work in the process.
I spent most of the winter and spring working through illness. What ended up being gastritis (an inflammation of my stomach lining caused by stress) led to a four month process of waiting for the Lord to heal my stomach, but it was also four months of God using the process to root my joy and hope not in being healed physically but rather in the healing that Jesus can do in our hearts spiritually. I wanted an end result, but what I needed was the process.
Nowhere is this more true than in the spiritual life of a Christian. Those that are in Christ hope for the end result of their faith (eternal life with Jesus), but in the meantime we endure the process of fighting sin and growing to become more holy like Jesus. We want the end, but in order to get there we have to go through the process. And while the process can be difficult, it's worth it for the glory that is to come. When I think of this process, I think of what Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. This is my prayer for us: that if we are waiting for something in this life, that we would wait for it with patience, looking for how the process might be preparing us for the end result.
If you are in Christ, there is an ultimate hope and end in sight for your waiting, whatever your waiting might be. If you're waiting for healing, there is a physical and spiritual healing ahead in eternal life with Jesus. If you're waiting to see those pounds go down on the scale, there is the hope of a redeemed body ahead. If you're waiting for the end of your sufferings, there is a glory that has yet to be revealed. There is hope in the process, but we have to wait for it with patience.
Today I'm seeing glimpses of that hope while patiently enduring the process of moving and in my own physical healing. I'm not sure what being patient in the process looks like for you, my friend, but I'm praying that the Lord helps you to patiently wait and that you would be encouraged and reminded of the future hope of glory with Jesus.
If you're a regular around here, you know that I often share about books that I'm reading and what books have impacted my life. But what I have never shared are the ways that I get books free/for a discount. There are a number of resources that I would love to share about in a future post, but today I came across an Amazon Prime deal that might encourage you to buy a new book or two.
Today only, Amazon is offering a discount of $5 off of a purchase of $15 for books and many of their books are discounted today. To secure the deal, you just need to put in the code PRIMEBOOKS17 at checkout. The coupon code is valid until tomorrow July 12. You can learn more about the coupon code here.
But I also wanted to share a few books that I would recommend buying with this sweet deal! So here are some top picks to pick up:
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin - she explores 10 ways God is different from us and why that's a good thing. I keep giving this book as a gift to friends. See a review here.
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson - great book on humility and how humility brings peace into our lives.
Made for More by Hannah Anderson - ever wonder why you were made and what your purpose in life is? Great book exploring this topic.
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin - helpful book on how to study the Bible with your heart and mind. See review.
Side by Side by Ed Welch - loved reading this book with a friend on campus last semester. It gives encouragement and helpful ideas for relational ministry.
A Praying Life by Paul Miller - read this book in college, and my prayer life has never been the same ever since. If you've ever wanted to grow in communing with the Lord in prayer, this book is for you.
Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller - it's all about how Jesus loved people and how we're called to love people as Jesus loved. If you want to feel refreshed by the amazing love of Christ, this here is your pick. Review of the book.
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke - just finished reading this pick, and it's probably one of the best books that I've read in 2017. Couldn't recommend it more highly. See a review here.
Cinemagogue by James Harleman - this book shaped the way that I viewed filmmaking and watching movies and television in college - helpful book in thinking through how films shape how we view God and how God should shape our viewership.
It's Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke -addresses common misconceptions about being a Christian, and addresses things that most Christians do not think about, like what eternity will really be like. See review here.
My husband's recommendations:
Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley - helpful book for those that want to learn more about church history.
Circle Series by Ted Dekker - just finished reading this after Brandon's request and OH MY! Such a great book series.
Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin - In the words of Brandon, this is a book that everyone should read. He has found it particularly helpful as he thinks through leading musical worship and why worshipping God matters.
Hope that you find a new summer read that you'll enjoy and expand your mind. Don't forget to put PRIMEBOOKS17 at the check out to receive the deal.
The links to the books above are affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing a book or other products She Laughs Without Fear receives a small commission. When you buy books, you allow me to buy more books for review. Thanks for helping to fund my reading habit and supporting She Laughs Without Fear at no additional cost to you!
My parents bought my first cell phone when I was thirteen. It was a silver LG flip-phone that I carried on an eighth grade field-trip. It made my parents feel like I was safe, and it made me feel like I was cool. It took forever to send text messages to friends, and so I hardly ever used it for more than talking to my parents or making quick plans.
My little flip-phone was upgraded two years later to an LG with a full keyboard. I was moving up in the world and my fingers had the space to send longer messages and communicate more with friends. My friends still commented that I never returned text messages or calls but it was better than with my flip-phone. I was supposed to take this phone on a cruise trip with my school's music department, but I forgot it at home, so my parents mailed it from Pennsylvania to Florida overnight.
Two years later, I upgraded once again, but this time it was to an iPhone 4, and my cell phone habits haven't been the same ever since. While I was once known as the friend that never answered her phone or responded, I'm now known by my husband as the one that struggles to put her phone down at night. I still struggle with responding to friends, but it's no longer due to not using my phone. And I've never forgotten my iPhone at home while going on a trip.
My smart phone has changed me. For better and for worse.
Maybe you have a story similar to mine. Your smart phone entered into your life slowly, but has since then become a constant accessory.
I wrote in June about how I'm learning how to consecrate my phone to the Lord, and those thoughts were prompted by seeing the ways that my phone is making demands upon me that I never thought it could. These thoughts were further explored while reading Tony Reinke's new book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.
The title says it all: Reinke lays out twelve ways that our phones are changing us. The twelve ways are as follow:
I don't know about you, but my phone has changed me in all twelve of these ways and more. Before reading this book I had already thought about how my phone changes the way that I interact with others, how it makes me more lonely, and how it makes me feed immediate approval. But I had never thought about how it makes me lose meaning in that it disconnects me from what's actually going on in my life and how our phones make us lose our place in time.
If you have a phone, you should read this book. It is written towards Christians, but even if you are not a Christian you should read this book. After each chapter, I couldn't help but think through the ways that I've seen my phone change me and impact my life and what those changes mean going forward.
What I appreciate about Tony Reinke's book is that he does not make a case that phones are bad and therefore we shouldn't use them. He makes the case that phones are tools that we are called to steward and use with self-control or else they will control us. He ends the book with a chapter focused on thinking through what we might be called to do in terms of creating boundaries with our phones.
I've been thinking a lot about how to apply the principles from this book and how to exercise self-control over my phone, and I've come up with a few applications for my life. Now, these applications might not work for you, but I'd recommend that you would join me in taking a look at your phone usage, taking a gander at this book, and thinking through how you might be called to make a change in light of how your phone is changing you. Here are some of my applications:
There is more that I could share about this book, but in summary I would highly recommend everyone to read it and to think through the ways that your phone is changing you. If you don't believe me (or Tony Reinke) try not touching your phone for an hour. I bet it will be quite difficult.
My prayer is the same as Tony Reinke, that we would see our phones as a good gift, but one that we must steward. They allow us to do so much and they are so helpful, but they can also affect us in ways that are unhelpful. My prayer is that we would think through ways that we can use self-control with our phones, rather than allowing them to control us.
Have you ever thought about ways that your phone is changing you before?
I received a free copy of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You from Crossway in exchange for an honest review. The Amazon links to the books mentioned above are affiliate links. If you click on the links and purchase any of the books, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
When a thread or a theme keeps showing up in your life, there is wisdom in paying attention. There have been a number of themes that keep showing up in my life lately through various means and conduits, and one has been the idea of calling. By "calling" I mean finding your God given purpose in this life.
This spring I read Made for More by Hannah Anderson and You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons, and both women brought up the idea that calling is the intersection of your passion and the world's need.
I've been thinking about this idea over the past few months and then a blogger whose writing I've been reading, Edie Wadsworth, shared thoughts on a post titled On Giftedness and Calling (5 Clues to Your Calling). She shared a quote by Tim Keller that I'd love to share with you:
A job is a vocation (or calling) only if someone else calls you to do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person. ~Tim Keller
Your job can be your calling, but your interests and giftedness have to intersect with a need or (as Keller puts it) a mission of service for it to be your calling. Now that might sound a little confusing, but let me flesh it out for you in how I've been seeing this in my own life.
Right now my full-time "job" is being a missionary to college students, helping them to come to know Jesus and grow in their walks with Christ. My job has a lot of different facets and I do a number of different things, like meeting with students, leading Bible studies, or connecting with ministry partners. But my life's calling expands beyond my job.
After reading the books above, I've been thinking through the calling on my life and I've been realizing that what I'm passionate about is helping others to know Jesus Christ and to grow in their walks with Jesus, and there is an incredible need for people to hear about Jesus, and Christians want to grow in their walks with Jesus. My interests and a need meet in my job, but I also live out my calling through this blog, sharing with others what I'm learning about Jesus. Writing this blog is one way that I live out my calling: I enjoy writing and communicating and talking about Jesus, and there are people that want to read about others' walks with Jesus.
What might this look like for you, my friend? What are things that interest you and gifts/talents that you have received? And where do they intersect with the world's need? I would encourage you to take time and think about your life's calling. In the words of Edie Wadsworth, "When you use your gifts in the service of others, you've found your life's calling."
Ultimately our gifts and our callings come from The Lord, and He has given us gifts so that we would serve others with them. And you know what? When we live out our calling in the service of others, we glorify God and image Jesus to a weary and broken world. We were made for a purpose, and our work is meaningful and it matters.
Brandon and I just returned from a week away in the mountains of Pennsylvania with our college students, feasting on God's Word at our week-long student conference called Focus. It was a refreshing week for my soul, studying the book of Isaiah and communing with the Lord through the Psalms.
A perk of having Focus in the mountains of Pennsylvania is that there is limited cell phone service. I didn't realize how much my weary soul needed a break from my phone and a severed tie to social media until this past week. It was just me, Jesus, fellow staff workers and around one hundred and sixty college students engaging face-to-face. Honestly, I did not miss the hustle and distraction of my phone.
I've been thinking about phone usage lately and I keep seeing the subtle ways that it demands our attention and affections. It takes up our time, steals our joy, and robs the delight that we are meant to find in the Lord. A technological gift that can connect us to others for the purpose of loving them better actually hinders us from loving others well.
I didn't realize how much attention my phone demands until getting married. You would think that my attention would be focused on enjoying my first year of marriage with my husband, but sadly I can count the times Brandon has pointed out how my phone distracts me during moments of connection with him. I don't want a phone to get in the way of my marriage, and I don't want my phone to get in the way of ultimately communing and connecting with my God.
One of our staff workers gave a talk from Isaiah 42 this past week and he brought up how idols make demands upon us. He shared, "Idols do not die for you. They make you die for them." It struck me how true this is when it comes to enslavement to our phones. We could be sitting somewhere quietly trying to focus on a task, and we'll hear that familiar vibration, letting us know that someone just sent us a text. We'll sit there, trying to concentrate on our task while feeling the tug to look at our phone. It's amazing how easy it is to be lured into dying for an idol, particularly a cell phone.
There were several missionaries that came to visit and spoke at the conference this week, and one missionary spoke about being consecrated by God for particular missional purposes. He spoke about how God consecrates us and makes us holy for God's glory and purposes, but he also encouraged us to offer up our belongings to God to be consecrated.
He shared a story of the car he bought after college. He drove it to a cemetery and prayed over it, consecrating it to the Lord, and asking the Lord to not let a car come between his relationship with the Lord. As this man shared his story, I thought of my phone. Had I ever asked the Lord to consecrate this piece of technology that I use daily for His purposes? It was a new thought, and I prayed that God would keep my phone from getting in the way of my relationship with Him and to use it for His purposes.
I haven't been out of the mountains for more than twelve hours, and I already feel the pull and tug of my cell phone, beckoning me to find my life in it. However, if there's one thing that this week-long break from my phone showed me, it's that I enjoy the freedom of not being attached to my phone. It frees me to focus on loving people and communing with God. It helps me not to feel mentally divided or distracted, and my soul feels refreshed. Does your soul long for this too?
I'm learning how to use my phone for the Lord's glory and recognize the subtle ways that it makes unhelpful demands of me. I share this with you because I hope that you would consider looking for these subtle demands as well. My hope is that we would learn to use our phones in a way that honors God, and I'm realizing that taking a step back from it helps us to put its purpose in perspective.
Abundant life will never be found in our phones. Our phones regularly ask us to die for them and to give up our lives. But Jesus does something completely different. He died for us so that we may have abundant life (John 10:10). My prayer is that we would remember this every time we hear that familiar vibration from our phones, asking us to pick them up. We can have abundant life, and it's found in Jesus.
P.S. I'm reading a book called 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. If you're struggling with the demands that your phone makes of you or want to learn more about how our phones affect our daily lives, this book might be a blessing to you too.
The Amazon links to the books mentioned above are affiliate links. If you click on the links and purchase any of the books, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
Shalom! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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