That Time I l Left Social Media for a Week//Jocelyn

——————————————————————————————————
Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that this isn’t some huge feat ; )
Some will read this and may think “big woop,” and others may think “I could never.”
Wherever you’re at, I hope you’re able to take something away from my experience!
——————————————————————————————————

taylor-swift-gif-253I started to become increasingly aware of how social media is SUCH a huge part of my life, especially now that I also run/contribute to multiple social media platforms for ministry.

There’s always a notification popping up for some reason. Comments, mentions, likes, snaps, new followers, new video uploads, yada yada yada. Isn’t it all just too much, when you really think about it?

I began to feel this longing to connect with the Lord more. I was already doing that, sure. But was it the kind of quality (and quantity, let’s be honest) that it should be? I don’t think so. There was this repeating thought in my mind of, “If I want to connect with the Lord more, I have to disconnect from everything else.” And honestly, the part of me who genuinely enjoys social media had the feeling of “Would I really have to?” But I knew it could only benefit me, so that truth had a stronger influence on my decision.

How would I do this practically? What started out as an idea to dedicate specific hours during certain days of the week as my time to disconnect pretty quickly turned into a desire to take this seriously. One week. Cold turkey. So that’s what I did. Last Tuesday evening, I officially signed out of all accounts and completely went off the radar.

A week later, I won’t say I now have the absolute greatest pieces of wisdom and advice on this. A week really is not as long as we may think/feel like it is {seriously guys, anyone can do this!} But I did learn a handful of things.

My initial thoughts? Right as I first signed out of everything, I would say I felt a bit more.. free? I found myself thinking “wow, I don’t even have to check anything right now!” while simultaneously telling myself, “you never had to in the first place, ya dummy.”

Throughout the rest of the week, I will say I had to deal with some slight FOMO, especially when others would say “did you see what so-and-so poste-” and then quickly realize, “ohhh right, you’re not on social media right now..” #awk. So it was a bit odd to want to have intentional conversations with others, but yet not be able to participate if it was related to something happening online.

I love the creative aspect of social media, but time away from it forced me into finding other creative outlets – and moments for that were actually provided! I got to read, write, paint, and even transform my & my roomie’s faces into 70-year-old versions of ourselves for Halloween.

I also realized that I had to learn to deal with silence. {It isn’t really something I prefer. I’m the person in the car who asks if we can turn the radio on/up because it’s just a bit too quiet.} Instead of coming home for lunch or in the evening and watching a couple youtube videos (or 10), I sat in silence and read a book. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad.

That brings me to another big thing. I read. A lot. At times I couldn’t help but think “hm, so this is what people had to do for entertainment back in the day…” (And all of the non-millennials let out a unified groan.) But for real though, I do genuinely enjoy reading, but it was insightful to realize just how much I would reflexively go to tap on an app without a second thought, and have to consciously choose to read instead.

Sometimes it’s good to be left alone with our own thoughts. Maybe we use social media to avoid that. Maybe that “maybe” is more of a definite. We seem to have to be entertained and stimulated in some form at all times. I’ve realized that sometimes I just don’t feel like putting the mental or emotional energy into diving into my own brain. Admittedly, social media enters the picture as an easy way out of that.
img_3022-3

“Unfortunately, the outbreak of technology and social media has not simplified life, but rather complicated it to the point of fatigue. It is becoming harder and harder to remain focused on any level of cognitive thinking for longer than a few minutes … In this culture we are finding it harder and harder to spend any appreciable time meditating on who God is or developing a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of God.”

– Glenn Jago, Deeply Rooted Magazine

Being away from social media allowed me to be more introspective, way more introspective than I would have been had I spent time watching videos and double-tapping instas.

It also coincidentally seemed like every book/magazine I dove into had something to say specifically related to this fasting experience, as if the Lord used these wise, Jesus-loving authors to help me evaluate my life during this week-long dare that I challenged myself to. What a gift.

So have I concluded that social media is this evil thing that is stealing my time? Of course not. Social media isn’t evil. I wouldn’t even say it’s bad. It’s a great tool for staying connected and expressing creativity, and it can be used for fantastic things! But is it the bestway to spend my time? Ehhhh, no, not always. Another great magazine I found myself drowned in talked about the difference between good and better things:

img_3120-2“Did you know there are good things, and then there are better things? I didn’t always know this. I knew there were good things, and there were bad things. I knew that there were things that the Bible called sinful. And to spend my time gossiping or being lazy or something like that is not only a waste of time but displeasing to the Lord. We all know this. But then there are things that are just good. They are not sinful or even questionable. Often times, the good things are necessary and important, and they’re things like having a clean house, doing the laundry, tackling home improvement projects, being in a book club, or even taking a break and watching TV. There is nothing condemnable about them, but there is nothing eternalabout them either. The things that are eternal are the things that are best. And there are three categories for things that will last for the rest of time: God, God’s Word, and the souls of people.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

My life has been given to me to utilize it in (hopefully) the best way. With social media, how much of me is being utilized? My thumbs, for sure. So that’s covered. But what about the rest? Technology savvy or not, anyone can post an instagram or send a snap or post a status. What about the specific ways that God has gifted me? The things that make me distinct from everyone else. How are those things being used and cultivated?

I don’t find my worth in social media & instagram likes. But is it an addiction for me? I’m not sure, because I think if that were the case, this fast would have been a whole lot harder than it was, and it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. But I do turn to it anytime I have a moment to waste, or even when I don’t. Is it a type of drug for me?

img_3119-2

In her book Present Over Perfect – yes, the fourth piece of writing I’ve drowned myself in this week – Shauna Niequist says, “You can make a drug – a way to anesthetize yourself – out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while – that’s what drugs do. And, used like a drug, over time, shopping or TV or work or whatever will make you less and less able to connect to the things that matter, like your own heart and the people you love. That’s another thing drugs do: they isolate you.”

Maybe social media isn’t even a problem for you. Or maybe you would say it’s a problem and you couldn’t fathom signing out of your accounts for a single day. Whatever it is, what is your good but temporary thing? How are you spending time? Even free time?

If you find yourself being similar to me in this area, or you want to do this for yourself just to see what would come from it, I encourage and even challenge you to do it! Maybe it’s just for a day, maybe for a week, or maybe you want to get real crazy and go off the radar for a month. Come up with a time frame, and just commit to it.

If it helps, bring others around you in this! Maybe a friend or two can do the same thing. Even if they don’t, though, I’d encourage telling a few close friends what you’ve decided – and giving them permission to call you out if you don’t stay committed!

Again, social media isn’t sinful. I’m still a huge fan! And you’ll still see me on just about every platform. But my perspective is different. Sometimes you have to step back from the good-but-temporary for an amount of time to allow yourself to see where your perspective should be. Other times it does mean stepping back altogether. It’s a case-by-case thing, and taking at least a little time to step back can allow you to discern where you’re at.

Since I’d love to keep this perspective fresh in my mind as much as possible, there are a few practical things I have implemented since my week-long fast. Feel free to ask about them!

If you’re thinking through something like this for yourself, let this last quote encourage you, and perhaps even help you decide:

“The perishable, temporary, good things will burn away. All those dishes I cleaned? Burned. All those hours I watched Downton Abbey? Gone. All the time I spent cultivating the perfect yard, the perfect house, the perfect body? Yep, burned and gone forever. BUT all those small moments spent on eternal things? Rewarded. Those moments I spent worshipping God with my mouth, with my prayers, and with my work? Rewarded. The hours spent reading Scripture and in Bible study with other women? Praise. The chapters from the Jesus Story Book Bible I read and reread and read again to my boys at bedtime? Glory. The times I stopped to snuggle or cherish or meet a need for my boys? Rewarded. The risks taken to broach spiritual topics with my neighbors? Rewarded.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

I would personally love to hear about anything you’d like to challenge yourself to do, and what came from it if you decide to do so!

Praise God for moments of silence, for moments of reflection, and His ability to refresh or completely change our perspectives when we make ourselves susceptible. More reasons to sing His grace.

Hosea: relentless pursuit//Sarah//VCU

Over the last couple months I have realized something about my heart, well a few things actually, but the first allows the others to follow after. I believe lies about who God is…I believe things about His character and about how He works. In reality they are the polar opposite of truth. They aren’t statements I say aloud, consciously think of or dwell on but they are often reflected in my attitude, thoughts and behavior.

I think He’s not going to fully satisfy my heart.

I think He’s angry with me and He’s going to treat me with a spiteful attitude.

I think He’s going to give up and turn His back on me.

Ouch. To admit these make me cringe. To read them makes me tense up. To confess this way of thinking to the Lord Himself makes me want to run and hide. I hate that I believe these things. I hate that these lies have clouded my thinking. The Spirit of God inside me rises up and reminds my heart that these things are just that, lies. And I don’t think I am alone in believing them.

A few weeks ago I started studying the book of Hosea (**insert praise hands here**). It quickly showed me a mirror into my own life. (I am not sure if you are familiar with it but I highly recommend it, but forewarning: the book will change your life if you let it.) To give a bit of background, Hosea is one of the minor prophets of scripture–which is a fancy way of saying he was a man who spoke the truth about who God is and pointed people back to obedience to Him. The book starts off with God telling Hosea to take a wife of whoredom (a woman of promiscuity and waywardness) and have children with her. Sounds romantic, right? If you continue to read on, you may be able to see the parallel between Hosea and God and Gomer and the Israelites/you/myself. In Hosea 2, God makes this vow-like covenant to the Israelites.376a9a992b18d17353972e4fcf4261e3

“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”

{Hosea 2:19-20}

From chapter 3 until the end of the book, we read the story of Israel’s rebellion and idolatry and God’s response of wrath and love for them. It’s a dramatic cycle of sin, judgment and restoration, over and over and over. By chapter 6, I’m ready to yell–How dare they turn their back on God? Hellooooo?? Do they not see how much He loves them and cares for them? Why would they make idols of silver and gold when they could have a real relationship with their Maker? Why would they look anywhere else but to Him? And why doesn’t God throw up His hands and walk away?

The Israelites were God’s chosen people. He pursues them so clearly throughout the whole Old Testament. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” {Hosea 6:6}  God wanted their hearts, all their hearts, not their sacrifices. Sin takes over the Israelites and they begin to be apathetic towards Him. My heart aches when I read, “For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces.”  {Hosea 8:14} It aches because I see myself in their idolatry, their selfishness, their apathy, their immorality. How often do we forget our Maker?

Like the Israelites, I so often believe that God alone isn’t enough, without even realizing it. I dwell on the approval of others, affirmation from my new relationship, the feeling of accomplishment when I run enough miles or speak eloquently to my small group girls. Not that those things are bad, but when they become the source of my worth and validation, I rip Jesus off His throne and start making idols made of modern day silver and gold. When we put something above the Lord, our worship goes to something of lesser value. It leads us to sacrificing burnt offerings, such as daily Bible reading just to check it off or attending Cru so you’re not badgered by friends. We offer our works to God instead of our worship. As a result, when I recognize my sin, I fear His wrath. I fear that He will finally get tired of redeeming me. I am scared He won’t be willing to buy me back again and again. I wonder if and when He will finally give up and walk away. This adulterous heart of mine doesn’t deserve such a faithful God.

And yet,

that is not who He is. Even though I don’t deserve Him, He is still faithful. He remains good even when we aren’t. Look back at Hosea 2:19-20 with me. He betroths us in righteousness and justice,
steadfast love and mercy. He betroths us in His faithfulness, then we shall know the Lord. Because of His faithfulness and His righteousness, not my own, He is eager to take us back, despite our idol making and wayward hearts. When I grow in my knowledge of His true character, I see how false my beliefs are about Him. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’. He ‘satisfies the desires of every living thing’ {Psalm 145}.  ‘His going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.’ {Hosea 6:3}.

Through the pages of Hosea I see my story, our story sister, of sin, judgement and restoration. As I read, I recognized their deep need for Jesus, and quickly
my deep need for Jesus. He lived the righteous and idol-less life that you and I can’t. He took the Father’s wrath so that we don’t have to. The sacrifice of His life was sufficient in that when God looks at us, He doesn’t respond in anger or hostility but abounds in love and mercy. Jesus’s death and resurrection makes God’s purchase of us final and complete. Jesus made the restoration and reconciliation fully possible. The only thing that changes is who sits on the throne of our hearts. Our hearts pursue idols of silver and gold, while our Maker pursues the devotion of our hearts. I’ve seen in my own life that it’s exhausting to be tossed to and fro and it’s disappointing to look other places other than Him.

This book has wrecked my heart, in the best way possible, and torn down the lies that I have subconsciously believed and idols I so often build. Jesus is so needed and so sufficient, my friend. He extends us grace when we run away and allow our hearts wander. He is the Ultimate Lover of our hearts and shows us He is because He has paid a high price for them.  In the words of Hosea, “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” {Hosea 12:6} Let us fix our eyes and hearts on Him. Let us tear down the idols that we build. Let us allow scripture to dissolve the lies we believe. Praise God for His relentless pursuit.

 

img_8350Hello sweet friends! I am one of the many Sarahs of this world. Next May I will graduate from VCU with my degree in psychology and minor in religious studies. I am thankful for Cru, running, Jesus, cookie dough and YOU! Thanks for letting me share a little bit of my heart with you and how I have learned that Jesus is always better.

All Creatures Great and Small/Clare/CNU

Every Christian has probably heard the question before: how do you KNOW God exists?

When I am asked this question, I feel a thousand reasons rush into my heart all at once. But above all, I see God in every creature He created. I see God when dogs wag their whole butt because their sheer joy cannot be contained in their tail alone. I see God in the serenity of a cat’s purr after a stressful day. I see God in the gentle curiosity of a horse nose-deep in my pocket looking for snacks. In the playful heart of a goat who treats every meal as if it’s his last. In the fascinating way crows remember faces. In the bond of elephants mourning for their dead. As a cell biologist, I see the way intricate, microscopic cells somehow come together perfectly to form these amazing creatures and I can only believe there is someone Greater involved. Truly, I could go on for hours. But I didn’t write this just to talk about animals (or did I…?).

God has placed a desire in my heart to care for these animals from a very young age. In Luke 12:6, He reminds us that He remembers and cares for every living thing, even the sparrows who are sold for meager cents. I feel such a responsibility to care for God’s creation and I delight in the challenges of being the voice for a creature who cannot speak. But for a while, I felt guilty that I wasn’t using my life to serve God traditionally, as a global missionary or a church leader. I so desperately wanted to please God, and I thought in order to do that to my full potential, I have to drop my secular passions and work in a church for the rest of my life.

However, through prayer and patience, God is teaching me how the passions of my heart were put there through Him and can be used for Him. People may never make it inside the walls of the church, but that doesn’t mean they will never see God so long as people like you believe your job has a greater purpose to serve Christ. Treat the workplace as your church. Love your co-workers unconditionally like Christ loves you (John 13:34). Be diligent in the work set before you – even in school, as you prepare for your career – without grumbles or complaints (Philippians 2:14). Understand that every seemingly insignificant task serves a greater purpose (Romans 8:28). Share your passions with others and let them see the light in you (Matthew 5:16).

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

Maybe your passion falls for people, the other creatures of this earth that we are called to care for. Maybe it’s the beauty of the plants that keep us alive. Maybe you perform – music, plays, dances – as a way to bring joy into the hearts of others. Maybe you seek to use numbers and algorithms to bring sense and security into an ever changing world. Maybe you’re teaching the next generation. No matter what, you are sharing your passion with the world, and that is something to be celebrated. I pray you remember each and every day that God created you with this passion for a reason and that you may find joy in the day to day tasks that make the dream possible. Let your work ethic in school and in the workplace reflect the gift God gave you, and watch His kingdom come alive.

“Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.” A.W. Tozer

 

img_0134-1

 

Hello! My name’s Clare and I am a senior at CNU studying Cell Biology with a focus in pre-veterinary medicine. I play cajon (“that box-drum thingy”) for the worship team and marvel daily at the power of music to bring us closer to God. I love to spend my free time running and lovin’ on the shelter dogs at the SPCA. My family and my pup Maggie hold a special place in my heart. I am engaged to the love of my life and eagerly anticipate the adventures God has in store for us.