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I continue to learn from Tim Challies through his book, The Next Generation: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion.
Chapter 5, “Life in the REAL WORLD (Mediation / Identity)” has had me mulling for days now. In it, he defines “medium” as “something that stands between.” Then he discusses how “medium” is at the root of the word “mediator”, so when we talk about mediation in reference to our communication via digital technology, we are talking about some kind of “device or tool or technology that delivers some kind of data or information. It stands between the one who creates sounds or images and the one who receives them.”
That all made sense to me, but then he pressed on with two thoughts that I can’t shake:
“1. Never before in human history have people lived their lives so thoroughly and consistently mediated as we do today.
2. Mediated contact is a lower form of communication, one that is intended to be a mere supplement to our lives. The best relationships we can have are not those that rely on mediation, but rather the ones that allow for unmediated contact and communication … Face-to-face contact between human beings is inherently richer and better than any mediated contact.“
Of course, this is not to say that a telephone call can’t be rich communication—it can! Even email has its place, as does FaceBook, Twitter, etc.
But unmediated contact is better.
I keep thinking of how my comediators and I through the years have set up every single mediation room … initially, the chairs all point towards us and our flipchart. But if the Lord graciously grants repentance, confession, forgiveness, the rebuilding of trust, fair and honorable negotiations, gradually we turn the chairs away from focusing on the mediators and towards focusing on one another. Face to face. No mediator in-between because we are no longer needed.
Oh! The joy of saying something along the lines of, “We’re just going to step out and get a drink of water. We’ll be right back. You guys keep going.” Because the parties are talking with one another redemptively, respectfully, even lovingly, hopefully (full of hope).
I’ve also seen this in my own life when real friends have pressed in to make sure I was really OK or that I was getting the help I needed if I was not OK. (And I do the same for them.)
Friends to “have a plan” for how to help one another. And often, the foundation of that “plan” is simply showing up. Face to face. Eye to eye.
Thanks, Tim Challies. And blessings to you all!
“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’ Lamentations 3:21-24
[A repost from 2011]
Wow. Don’t miss this read over at byFaith Magazine:
It’s long–but worth the read.
I’ll tempt you with just a few excerpts:
– How do elders approach women in ministry in their congregations? ‘Men are afraid of women. We’re often content to be at arms’ length from them.’ A prominent PCA pastor says it simply. .
… The unease between elders and women’s ministries is not always active. Instead, it can be a function of disconnection. ‘While there are isolated examples of abuse in this relationship, usually it’s much more subtle,’ said Jane Patete, women’s ministries coordinator for the PCA’s Christian Education and Publications (CE&P) Committee. ‘It’s benign neglect.‘
Having prayed and wept (and conflict coached and mediated) with hundreds of women in the PCA who have been silenced by men who are afraid of them, and neglected and abandoned by PCA teaching elders and ruling elders who are completely disconnected from them, all I can say is …
This is so true. So sad. Infuriating, even! And SUCH a waste of Kingdom resources.
May God help us all.
Let’s try hard to be discerning and grounded without always looking for the next theological misstep in our friends, our family, or the songs we sing …
Loved this post by Kevin DeYoung:
But be sure to follow his advice and read to the end. If you only cheer at the first few paragraphs, you may miss some important insights about yourself in the last few paragraphs.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Fred and I went through a surprising and frighteningly isolated/lonely/despair-filled season of marriage around our fifteenth wedding anniversary.
(I say “surprising” because if you had asked me years ago if we would ever feel so distant from each other and struggle so much in our friendship and marriage, I would’ve said no. When we met and fell in love, during grad school, I don’t think I was naive enough to ever presume that we wouldn’t have some level of struggle and suffering as a couple, I just never thought it would get SO BAD. But it did.)
Thankfully, after running away/ignoring the problem for too long, and having reached pretty much rock-bottom in how we related (or, more accurately, DIDN’T relate) with one another, we started being more open about needing help. And God graciously brought us timely, faithful, grace-based love and counseling from wise and spiritually mature friends.
Over time, things have slowly and gradually improved. So I was quite surprised when my heart was SO tempted to pull back again after we had a difficult, frustrating conversation over (of all the silly things!) a CAR SEAT.
But there I lay in the darkness, paralyzed by how much we were missing each other. A part of me wanting to work through it. A part of me wanting to just keep my back to Fred and go to sleep (or at least lie there until HE went to sleep and then get up and do more filing/organizing—my oft’ drug of choice).
Thankfully, instead, I remembered one of the first things our friend said to us last summer after we had both unloaded a bit of our story re: just how AWFUL things were. He looked at us with love. He wrapped us in compassion. And then he said:
“I know this is extremely painful for both of you and you’re both feeling hopeless that it will ever change. But I want to encourage you that I KNOW it WILL change. Things will get better. But not in your own strength.
Neither of you has the resources to “fix” this. You can’t make these problems go away and return your marriage to a safe, loving, open relationship.
But there are resources beyond you! God is real. He is with you. He has and is everything you need for life and godliness. He has given you Himself. He promises to always be with you.
You’re forgetting Him right now. But He never forgets you.
You’re forgetting His promises and His help right now. But He never falters. He never wavers.
What are the resources you have that are beyond yourselves?”
As I lay there in the dark , so tempted to run away emotionally, so tempted to NOT TRY … I did pray.
I prayed that God would please help us. That He would give me the faith and grace to remember Him and trust in His promises. That by relying on Him, on His resources, on His character (goodness, faithfulness, kindness, compassion, omnipotence, holiness), we would please FIND A WAY through this silly, but not-so-silly, fight.
And even though it necessitated a trip to the garage at 11PM, with lots of time looking for a car seat instruction booklet (that I’m FAIRLY certain our paper-eating-addict-of-a-Golden-Retriever ATE) and then rebuilding and reinstalling a car seat … we did go to bed feeling a little bit connected, talking a little bit, and NOT even dipping one toe into the dark, escapist waters of non-communication that truly drown marital friendship and love.
I am grateful. Still not all “lovey-dovey-feeling” inside. But grateful—mostly that God is real; He cares about little ol’ Fred and Tara in Billings, Montana; and He truly is at work conforming us to Christ and building His Kingdom:
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!'” Luke 17:5
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purposes.” Philippians 2:13
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me.” John 17:11
He does. He truly does.
Hope you have a blessed Monday and a wonderful week.
[A repost from 2009]
When our three year-old was processing all sorts of deep three year-old thoughts, she wanted to stay up with the three of us and keep cuddling (rather than going to bed, alone, at an appropriate time for a three year-old). Our conversation went something like this:
E: “I know that it’s OK to be sad and cry, Mom, but I’m also remembering that it’s not OK for my sadness to “go off of this path of sadness” (she held out her right hand; in our family that indicates the path of faith, righteousness, wise choices, blessings, and safety) “and onto this path of anger and having a fit” (she held out her left hand to indicate the path of sin, disobedience, foolishness, selfishness, painful consequences, DANGER). “But Mom? I just don’t know how to CHANGE—to get off of ‘this path’ (sinful anger) and onto ‘this path'” (sadness, but not sinning).
Me: “Oh, dear, lovely child. Isn’t that the question of the ages? Did you know that every person we know struggles with this question? Mommy. Daddy. Friends. At different times, we all want to stay on the path of self–the path that leads to danger and pain. And there is only One Person in the whole world who NEVER wanted to go down that path and NEVER DID go down that path; He always delighted to do the will of the Father. Can you tell me Who lived a sinless life?”
(She pointed straight up to the sky.) (Yay for Q.49 in the Children’s Catechism!)
I said: “That’s right, Jesus.”
She said: “I pointed to the sky because Jesus is God. One God in Three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (Yay again for Children’s Catechism! Q.6-Q.8)
Me: “Yes, He is. And He is the way that we change, E. When we put all of our faith in Him and His perfectly staying on the path of righteousness; when we believe that He died for our sins and was raised from the dead (“Easter!”); when we cry out to Him for help? The Bible says that God always hears our prayers and He helps us in our hour of need. He gives us everything we need for life and godliness: His Spirit lives in our hearts, we have His Word (the Bible), the church (being fed by the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, and built up by the fellowship of the saints) … we have hope and confidence for change!“
That calmed down my little love-bug, we snuggled a bit more, and then she happily went back to her bed and was asleep in moments.
What a wonderful child. And what a sweet reminder of how we change! I think I’ll go and pick up a few of my (well-worn) CCEF books and do a little re-reading on this topic:
- How People Change
- Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change
- Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection
[A repost from 2013]
From Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Heaven: A World of Love”:
“There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!”
“In heaven all things shall conspire to promote their love, and give advantage for mutual enjoyment. — There shall be none there to tempt any to dislike or hatred; no busybodies, or malicious adversaries, to make misrepresentations, or create misunderstandings, or spread abroad any evil reports, but every being and everything shall conspire to promote love, and the full enjoyment of love.”
“None are unsocial or distant from each other. The petty distinctions of this world do not draw lines in the society of heaven.”
“There are many principles contrary to love, that make this world like a tempestuous sea. Selfishness, and envy, and revenge, and jealousy, and kindred passions keep life on earth in a constant tumult, and make it a scene of confusion and uproar, where no quiet rest is to be enjoyed except in renouncing this world and looking to another. But oh! what rest is there in that world which the God of peace and love fills with his own gracious presence, and in which the Lamb of God lives and reigns, filling it with the brightest and sweetest beams of his love.”
From one of my favorite books published this year … William P. Smith’s Loving Well Even If You Haven’t Been:
“People are lured into church by hearing the language of intimacy, authenticity, and genuineness, but when they experience their absence, they are left feeling even more hurt than before. They had hoped finally to find a safe place where they could experience being loved, only to realize that Christians are not really all that good at it. Instead of being welcomed and embraced, often they can end up isolated and alone. So they walk away discouraged and cynical—with good reason.”
[A re-post from 2012]
Oh my STARS! But I just LOVE this book!
I first learned about Professor Johnson back in law school. (He was a University of California Berkeley Law Professor until he suffered a series of strokes back in 2001.) I heard him speak at a Christian Legal Society Conference (he became a Christian later in life, I think in his forties, after he had been a tenured law professor for many years), and I was immediately impressed not only by his brilliance, but also by his humility and wry humor.
I started reading his books at that conference and I’ve loved every one I’ve read.
If you enjoy logical, dispassionate, rhetoric/name-calling-FREE discussions about eternally important topics (like evolution), then I strongly urge you to read his works.
In re-reading Darwin on Trial this week, I was trying to keep track of quotes to share with you but OH MY there are just too many. I’d really like to quote the entire book to you—but instead, I’ll just (hopefully) tempt you to read it yourself with a few lines from the Epilogue:
“One thing I am not doing is taking sides in a Bible-science conflict. I am interested in what unbiased scientific investigation has to tell us about the history of life, and in particular about how the enormously complex organs of plants and animals came into existence …
The philosophically important part of the Darwinian theory—its mechanism for creating complex things that did not exist before—is therefore not really part of empirical science at all, but rather a deduction from naturalistic philosophy. In brief, what makes me a “critic of evolution” is that I distinguish between naturalistic philosophy and empirical science, and oppose the former when it comes cloaked in the authority of the latter …”
(I think one of the reasons I love this book so much is because it hits my dual-love of law (rules of evidence!) and philosophy and does so in a very readable, logical, I would even say enjoyable manner. But Fred said I should probably warn you that he found the book to be a bit dense/hard to read.)
Oh, and if you’ve never heard of Phillip E. Johnson/Darwin on Trial and decide to google either, be further forewarned that MAN! Is he MALIGNED. Especially on the (I’ve found it to be QUITE biased and I wouldn’t trust it for anything more than a starlet’s birth date and even then I’d be skeptical) Wikipedia. Nothing like TRUTH to bring out irrational, ill-informed critics.
Let me close, then, with just a few more lines on that topic. Again, from the Epilogue, beginning with how Professor Johnson responded to a scathing attack he received from Stephen Jay Gould in Scientific American:
“Gould listed a string of objections about matters that had nothing to do with the main line of argument (see the research notes following this chapter for a summary of Gould’s specific objections) …
None of this would have impressed anyone who had read the book, but most readers of Scientific American would not have done so and would be likely to assume that Gould was describing it accurately. They were not likely to hear anything to the contrary because the editors refused to print my response or any letters from readers, although I know they received many.
Far from being discouraged by this treatment, I was elated …
Everyone who was following the controversy assumed that Gould was the most formidable adversary I would encounter and many were waiting to see if he would come up with a devastating response. That he could do no better than a hit-and-run attack was an implicit admission that he had no answer on the merits. As one biochemist friend wrote me in congratulations, “Judging by the howls of pain from the back pages of Scientific American, I think you must have struck a vital spot.”
And so I had …”
Oh oh oh! I know I said I’d close with that topic. But please indulge me just a few more lines because Professor Johnson’s own close of the Epilogue is just so great:
“My primary goal in writing Darwin on Trial was to legitimate the assertion of a theistic worldview in the secular universities …
Darwinian evolution with its blind watchmaker thesis makes me think of a great battleship on the ocean of reality. Its sides are heavily armored with philosophical barriers to criticism and its decks are stacked with big rhetorical guns ready to intimidate any would-be attackers. In appearance, it is as impregnable as the Soviet Union seemed to be only a few years ago. But the ship has sprung a metaphysical leak, and the more perceptive of the ship’s officers have begun to sense that all the ship’s firepower cannot save it if the leak is not plugged. There will be heroic efforts to save the ship, of course, and some plausible rescuers will invite the officers to take refuge in electronic lifeboats …
The spectacle will be fascinating and the battle will go on for a long time. But in the end reality will win.”
I can move forward in love for others and not be so devastated by others’ (de)valuation of me because of Christ.
I take absolutely no pleasure in the suffering of my friends—so I was brought to my knees this past week when I learned how deeply and terribly my dearest sister in Christ was being hurt, not by unbelievers, but by Christians. Christians in her own church. Her own church leaders for whom she has faithfully prayed and submitted to (with joy) for years and years!
How is it possible that you, “a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God”(Psalm 55) could speak so ill of my friend behind her back? Malign and attack her character while giving her no opportunity to be heard? Betray her confidence? Judge her weaknesses and hold out not one word of encouragement or grace or the “covenant love” their church’s membership vows specifically reference?
It made me mad. It made me sick. It drove me to pray—so that’s one good thing. Plus! I’m getting to email more with my friend, which I love. Although the topics are still making me pretty sick to my stomach, even just typing this quick blog post.
But her words today were so rich with biblical truth—
So PERFECTLY combatting of devilish lies—
SO beautifully what I WISH she were hearing from her church leaders and (so called) “friends” in her church—
… that I asked her for permission to share them with you and she said, “Of course! Anything to encourage anyone!”
(That’s the kind of person she is—even in her suffering, she is always thinking of others—even the very people doing her harm. Amazing!)
Plus, she referenced one of our mutually-favorite books: Ed Welch’s Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection. And I wanted to be sure to draw your attention to that, too. (I have a number of blog posts in my “perfectionism and shame” category that might also be a tiny blessing to you if you can’t access the book right away.)
So here are my friend’s words. I pray that they will be a balm to you as they have been a balm to me this very day:
“One thing that has been so helpful to me has been slowly walking again through the last couple days of Christ, as Dr. Welch recounts them in Shame Interrupted. I simply could not read those words without being reminded of all of the shame that Christ absorbed for us.
- Christ was devalued by his friends. (So when we are devalued by people we thought were our friends, Jesus knows our suffering. All of it. He understands what we are feeling. Listen to that, Tara! Hear it as though you are hearing it for the first time! Jesus absorbed shame so that we would never have to live in the shadow of shame. Never.)
- Christ was persecuted by “the good people” and “the religious leaders.” (‘Nuff said.)
- Christ reached out for help—he asked his (committed, Christian, close) friends to be there for him in his hour of need … and they could not even be bothered to stay awake. (More or less send a text. Leave a voicemail. Even the old-fashioned snail-mail-with-stamp or just stop by in person HUG. Nope. Nothing. Nada.)
- A procession of accusers attributed lies to him. (The One Truth)
- The good and loving things that he did were called wicked and mean.
- People who took VOWS that they would NEVER abandon him—disowned him and walked away.
- In summary? The people with all the power (those people are always the SHAMERS) treated the King of Glory, the Second Person of the Trinity Incarnate, as USELESS and DESPISED. They shamed Jesus.
So what do we do, Tara, when similar things happen to us in our Christian relationships?
I think we only have one choice: start again from ground zero. Camp out in Christianity 101 and never move on to 102.
- Jesus loves me. Jesus chose me. Jesus wanted me and wants me and will forever want me.
- People grow tired of me. People misunderstand me, misjudge me, attack me, don’t even care about me at all. But I am the apple of God’s eye. (He doesn’t just tolerate me, he delights to be my Father!) And I am FULLY PROTECTED underneath his wing (Psalm 17:8).
- No harm can befall me, even harm in the church, apart from the sovereignty and perfection of my loving Father. (Redeeming Church Conflicts has it right! Tara? We are going to be women who redeem these conflicts because we will intentionally depend on the humbling and heart-changing grace of Christ’s Holy Spirit and turn these (TERRIBLE! HORRIBLE! HEART-BREAKING!) relational crises into compassionate care by taking every thought captive to Him.)
- We are righteous in Christ. We are safe. We are loved. Nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8!). Not even this terrible, no-good, very bad, awful month we are both having, dear friend.
Though father and mother and spiritual father and spiritual mother reject me—God will never reject me; God holds me close (Psalm 27:10) even at, especially at, the very moment when people all around me are pushing me away.
This is where I’m camping out, Tara. This is how I am trying to (prayerfully!) WILL my heart to believe TRUTH again, rather than the lies that seem so easy to believe (that I am unlovable because certain people “should” love me have labeled me “unlovable” / “worthy only of rejection”).
I can move forward in love for others and not be so devastated by others’ (de)valuation of me because of Christ.
All of that is what has helped me and so I wanted to pass it on to you. I love you. I am praying for you. I’m so sorry for your suffering! I wish I could make it all go away. But God knows best, I know.
You are never alone! Call/Text/Email/Knock on my Door 24/7 and I am here for you.
I love you, my friend. G’nite. I love you!
(I love you, too, my friend.)
And I’m sending prayers for every single one of you who has written me such beautiful but heart-wrenching emails and comments on FaceBook and even texts, too, for my local buds.
In Christ our Only Hope,
[A re-post from 2012]
From Tim Keller’s post, Living Stones—Intense Community:
“… The Bible tells us we were built for covenantal relationships. We want and need to have other persons unconditionally, unselfishly committed to us, and we to them. Christian theology tells us we were made in the image of God, and that God is a Trinity. Jesus said he never did anything, said anything, or accomplished anything without his Father. The persons of the Trinity are absolutely one—each person does everything with the others. We were meant to live like that. Sin, of course, makes all human community difficult and at times painful. But it is suicidal to avoid all food just because sometimes some of it can be ‘bad’ and make you sick.”
From John 17:20-23 and John 13:35
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
If you are looking for an excellent resource to help your women build covenantal community, I encourage you to study Sarah Ivill’s most recent book:
It is a wise and encouraging book by a wise and encouraging woman.