Eye to Eye

Last week I wrote about the effects my cell phone has on me. This week, continuing to draw from my pastor’s wisdom, I want to provoke your thoughts regarding how our cell phones affect other people.

We’ve always lived in a world of distractions—the rooster crows, the baby cries, the phone rings, the car breaks down… Distractions have changed, though, since the advent of the smart phone. First of all, that handy little pad is always there. It’s myriad of sounds and flashes pull us out of thought, work, or conversation. Worse yet, even when our phones are silent, they implicitly call to us with a waiting world of information and entertainment. The statistics regarding how often we access are phone are staggering. You can take a look at a few of them here: how often do we touch our phones – Bing. I hope they don’t apply to you, or to me, yet…

  • Some of us text while driving, or at least take a call while behind the wheel. That takes our minds off the road. The National Safety Council says, “There’s no save level of distracted driving.”[1]
  • We go to the park with our kids, or dinner with someone important to us, and we can’t seem to keep our phones in our pockets for the duration. What does this say to those we love? (Remember, a couple of decades ago, whoever was trying to reach us managed to survive without us until we got home.)
  • Our minds get clogged with information about things that really don’t matter. (Who was that actor? What was that score? Have I seen the latest video by…) Then we fail to focus on the importance of someone else’s need or request. Could it be we even pray a lot less with all that trivia swirling through our thoughts?
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Attraction to Distraction

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My pastor has been challenging us to rethink the way we use our cell phones (and tablets, and televisions and…) I’ve been an avid member of the “watch what you watch” club for years, but his thoughts have made me go even deeper into my evaluation of screenage. The questions I’m about to ask you are the same questions I’m asking myself. I need to make some changes, not all of which will be particularly easy, but I think the payoff will be worth it.

How much have we given up eye-to-eye, or even voice-to voice relationships to our detriment?

  • Texts and emails may be efficient—or not. Too often, I’ve texted back and forth with a friend or colleague only to determine that, by the time I’ve typed and read a dozen missives, a phone call would have been faster and maybe even more effective.
  • Sometimes I stop what I’m doing to answer a text, but then decide to “take a minute” to check Facebook, confirm the weather forecast, look at a few favorite photos…I don’t ever finish everything I’d like to get done in a day! So, it’s time for me to be more careful about how I spend my minutes.
  • When I actually hear someone’s voice, let alone meet them in person, I reconnect on a much higher level than most tech can provide.

So, this week I’m beginning a new habit. Whenever possible, I’m stepping away from my desk to stretch my eyes and make a call instead of typing out a text or email.

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Because You Asked

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A couple of good friends asked me to write about marriage and parenting. As you will see, some of this may be familiar to those of you who know me well. In that case, consider this a refresher course. Some of you may be neither married nor parents. If so, consider this a course in how to be a good friend, exuding kindness, patience and compassion. In most cases, you’ll discover the same words that apply to a good marriage usually apply to good parenting.

My favorite sermons, podcasts, and advice books are filled with clear instructions, sentences I can turn into actions. So, I’m going to offer clear, actionable advice here, and I’m going to do it in bullet form—way, way too many bullets for anyone to tackle in a week or a month. I’m hoping you’ll go through this list and prayerfully choose areas where you think you ought to improve. Focus on those until you’ve mastered them well enough to move on to a few more. If this list leaves you wanting to ask a question or get more details, let me know.

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John, Ed, and Pat

When I attend the funeral of a man or woman who loved the Lord and sought to follow Him, I come away with a heart full of encouragement and a notepad filled with challenging quotes. Here’s the latest batch from, yes, the latest batch of funerals. I remember when most of the big events Steve and I attended were weddings. While we still get to enjoy a few of those now and then, more often we’re reminded that life doesn’t last forever—not here at least—and that eternity awaits.

I hope these lines will sink in, tweaking the way you see life, and even the way you live it.

John:

  • He was cool under fire in his faith. He trusted God in spite of his circumstances.
  • He was sacrificial—this is true faith, not putting his own life ahead of his faith.
  • We offer time and talent to advance God’s purposes and glory. That was John.

Pat:

  • She taught me about forgiveness.
  • I loved her, and there was never a doubt that she loved me.
  • It didn’t take much to make her happy.
  • She truly trusted in the faithfulness of God.
  • Her commitment was to Dad and to us, and she never wavered from that commitment.

Ed:

  • He was such an excellent parent because he loved my mom. They were on the same team and made decisions together, solved their problems together. They were a united front.
  • He copied down, and leaned on, this quote from Swindoll: “Nothing can touch you that hasn’t first passed through the hands of God.”
  • He was content.
  • His main hobby was his family. He put his family first and left his fingerprints on their lives.
  • He always lived in his purpose.

And from a eulogy my brother-in-law penned for his grandmother, Lenore:

  • She got the most out of this life by giving everything she could.

I have nothing to add to the wisdom of those loved ones.  May you think on these things today!

Happy Veteran’s Day. My deepest thanks to all who have served.

photo credit: vlanka via unsplash.com

A Bit of Background

My connect group leader asked each member to write a few words of testimony to share. Once I was finished with that task, I realized that some of you don’t really know much about me. So, here’s a bit of my background…

Most people begin their testimonies by describing the day they met Jesus. For me, that would be like trying to tell you when I met my parents. I can’t recall a start date, but I can certainly tell you about seeing God’s hand in my life.

My Dad, Bert Smith, was in the Marines, and asked to be sent to Okinawa. Some other guy, also named Smith, was bragging about how he had pulled strings and was headed to a favorable base in Florida. Somehow, that guy got the surprise of his life when he headed to Japan. Meanwhile, my parents made their way to the Sunny South, where I was born and then stayed for the next two decades. And that made all the difference.

My parents were raised in the church, but their real walk with Christ began when I was about six years old, thanks to a small Bible study group that became their life-long lifegroup. About the same time, Dad was diagnosed with melanoma. Dr. Carver (no kidding) cut a huge chunk out of his back, then “comforted” my mom by assuring her that the end would come quickly. God had other plans: a vision, a healing, and fifty plus years. My dad is still around, and that story still colors my faith.

My childhood colors everything. Remember, I was raised by two brand-new on-fire Christians. My mom sang worship songs at the kitchen sink. She taught me how to be a homemaker and an encourager. My dad danced me around the living room and played chess with me. (I almost never won.) He taught me to save and tithe and plan. They both taught me to trust God from an early age, as did their life-long lifegroup. They prayed about everything, so I learned to do the same. My years at St. Mark’s Lutheran school (from third grade through eighth) bolstered my faith even further. Those teachers forced me to memorize a long list of Bible verses and classic hymns, a gift I didn’t appreciate until later on.

I’d been looking forward to attending Hollywood Hills High School with virtually all my friends from St. Mark’s and from my church. Weeks before school was to start, the school boundaries changed, switching me to South Broward High. I would know almost no one. A dear friend with political pull told my mom he could get me into Hollywood Hills. For perhaps the first time, I felt that “check in my spirit” that we all must learn to heed. That made all the difference as well, because I met Steve at the end of my freshman year in the South Broward library. At the time, he was a charming, moral boy who didn’t know Jesus. Six years later, we married. He was deeply in love with Jesus (I’ll let him tell that story) and deeply in love with me. That was forty years ago. We love each other, and Jesus, even more that we did then.

Then the details of adulthood crowd into my story:

  • A move to Texas. Hard work. Long hours. Good fellowship and discipleship.
  • An unborn baby with serious heart problems, until God fixed them weeks before birth.
  • A business that failed, but redirected our lives.
  • Two teenagers whom we came to love long before they married our own kids.

Do you see this uncanny stream of blessing? I nearly weep as I write it. For some reason, while certainly our lives have not been perfect, God in his mercy spared us many of the growing pains experienced by a host of other Christians. We do not take credit. But we do give thanks. Give thanks with me and, no matter what your story is, please consider sharing it with me.

Don’t Take the Bait!

‘Twas the night after Christmas and all through the house…

I was putting away a few of the inevitable post-party piles while fighting a cold and dealing with the emotion of everyone going back to real life, the life in which we don’t see each other as much as we’d like. I was tired, but still happy. It had, after all, been a lovely day.

Then it happened.

Steve, taking advantage of the extra male muscle still in the house, started rearranging our living room. He stepped back, surveyed the latest juxtaposition of couches, chairs and tables, and asked, “Do you like it?”

My answer was a definite no.

His response was, “Well, I didn’t like it the way it was before.”

And with that, the wind left my sails. Later, he mentioned how sharply he felt I’d answered. I hadn’t meant to, and had read unintended sharpness in his response as well.

This sort of brief encounter, which only seems to happen between us at times of low energy and high emotion (also known as right after major events), has derailed me for days in the past. This time, the Holy Spirit kindly whispered, “Don’t take the bait.”

I don’t mean that my beloved of four decades was baiting me. Steve cares deeply about me. Couches don’t matter. Unlike previous derailments, this time I finally took a breath and recognized my true enemy, the one who roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. That’s who was laying out false reasons to lose my joy, to cease my silent hymns of thanksgiving. That’s who wanted me to take the bait, to grow that verbal molehill into an emotional mountain.

But, I didn’t. And the pain passed. Our conflict, rather than escalating, dissolved. My joy returned.

How tragically often we take the bait! We choose offense. We harbor hurt. We let the devil win.

Let me encourage you to be on the alert for bait dangled by our true enemy. Don’t take that bait! Don’t let him set the hook. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. That is the way our Father has set out for us. And life is better when we follow His lead!

“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16).

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).

photo by Mael Balland via Unsplash.com