12:30 Project – October: offline presence month.

So a long time ago, when I came up with this plan for a monthly focus each month for a year, I thought I’d go meatless for October.  And while I may still move that to a different month, I’ve decided to reduce my intake of something a lot more addictive and delicious, and detrimental: the interwebs.

Now, I’m not saying the online world is a bad place, but I saw these ads recently and they looked sadly familiar:
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I wish they weren’t representative of me, but I kind of think they are.

So I’m going to set some stricter boundaries on my phone/internet/social media use.
I want to be present for the people around me. Really, actually present.
And while it doesn’t sound like that should be hard, I think it is.

SO here are my rules:
1. No phone at mealtime. Ever.  It can wait. No matter what it is. It can wait.
2. No checking phone while I’m in bed.  Not right away when I wake up, not when I’m going to sleep.
3. If I’m going somewhere with my little or my hubby, the phone either stays at home, or in my pocket (unless I’m taking a picture, or it’s an emergency).
4. If I’m talking to someone, my full attention on the conversation, unless they ask me to look something up or put something in a calendar.  If they come into my office, I close all windows and stop what I’m doing.

All of these focus on presence.  And I think, as much as it would be interesting to go meatless for awhile, I think the impact of my presence will be greater than my not eating meat.

I actually think #2 is going to be the hardest.  I have a tendency to wake up and grab my phone first thing, to check all the various social media outlets and emails, to see who texted after 9 (I have a do not disturb function that turns on at 9pm and off at 8am).  I get sucked into the black hole of posts and interesting emails and suddenly my morning becomes rushed instead of relaxing.

So there it is.  October is offline presence month.
Anyone want to try it with me?


James Chapters 4 and 5

Yes, I promise I completed my in depth month into James, but I didn’t post on it for the last couple of weeks.  So, better late than never, here are my posts on James 4 and 5.

James chapter 4 is like an 80s CCM lyric explosion.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” “Come near to God and God will come near to you.” “Humble yourselves before the Lord.”
I almost cannot read it without breaking into song.

But, at it’s bottom line, James 4 is the same as the two that have come before – it’s about acting rightly.  Doing good, seeking God.
James 4 begins with words and warnings on fighting with others – and reminds us that our poor behavior towards others begins within ourselves.  This is not an easy thing to wrap our minds around, since we like to blame others and see the worst in those around us.
The chapter comes to a head at verse 7 – reminding us to submit to God.  Again, I think we recoil at this imagery, because we’ve been raised in a culture where being on top is best, being powerful is important and being dominant in all things is seen as a strength.  James challenges this ideal of dominance, and calls us to put God where God belongs and us where we belong. And if it weren’t clear enough, James concludes his 4th chapter with a reminder that in the grand scheme of things, we aren’t actually that big of a deal.  “what is your life? You are mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (14)
Wow.  Way to bring down the room, James.
But really – as harsh as it seems – it’s an important reminder of who is in charge (HINT: it’s not you or me).  I think we need the harshness, the bluntness of James here.  It’s not comfortable, but it’s truth.

Continuing on into chapter 5, James has harsh words for the wealthy that make money on the backs of others.  We should listen to these words as well…for we play roles in this same system that James is talking about.  It’s important for us to know where our food and clothing come from, and if the people helping to make them are being fairly compensated. Why? Because their lives matter to God and should matter to us.
James writes to just those people who are being mistreated as well, and reminds them that God is coming to be with them, to rescue them, to show them love and compassion.
James concludes his whole letter with a reminder that no matter what the circumstance, we should pray. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (16)

So there is James.
A book of action. And the kind of action that I want to try to actually do. Not just read and say that sounds great and then go back to doing what I always do.  No – James calls us to change, to be aware and open to the actions of God at work in the world and then not to just stand there watching but to GO AND JOIN IN with what God is doing in the world.
I’m in.
Are you?

Two Words I Needed Today; Or – My Friday Uplift After Another Shooting.

But I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.
(Psalm 59: 16-17)I’ve been on a kick lately of finding verses about morning meaningful, and this one came to me today.
It’s probably because I’ve never been a morning person, and yet lately I find myself up early, before the sun, day after day.
This part of psalm 59 reminds me to sing of God’s love in the morning.
Even when I’ve gotten bad sleep or wake up sick, I sing.
Because how I start my day matters.
And starting with a song of praise to the one who is with me each and every day is the hardest and, dare I say, best way to begin each day.
Yes, even better than coffee.

There are two words that appear twice each in these two verses. The first is “chesed” (heh-said) which we see translated as steadfast, and the other is “misgab” (mis-gahv) which we see translated as fortress.

Man, on mornings like this morning, where we are faced again with someone walking into a school and killing innocent teachers and students, I need these words… both of them.

I need the reminder that God’s love is “chesed” – steadfast.
That God’s love cannot be conquered.
I need to be reminded that God’s love is like the morning, always there, and new every day.
God loves constantly. Without fail.
Even in the midst of what feel like attacks.

The other word, Misgab, means “high place” and although it is a generic word for us, it’s an actual place. It’s in Moab, a large flat desert place, and Misgab is a high point, a mountain in the middle of the plains. From the top you can see for miles, so an attack against someone would be difficult. It’d be like us picking the highest place we can think of, or our most secure building, a place very difficult to be attacked by enemies, and say that God is that place.
God is our Air Force One
God is our Pope-mobile
God is our Mount Everest

I need this word today too.
I need to be reminded that God is strong.
God is a safe place.
And I can come to God when I am in need of those things.
When I’m feeling weak or under attack, when I question whether or not hate is gaining a foothold, I need these words.

Even in the midst of anger or sadness or fear, we can still come to our loving, fortress God.  So if you’re like me, and need these words, especially today, for whatever reasons – let them be a balm on your heart:

God’s love is steadfast: never-ending, never quitting, always present.
God is a fortress: a place we can go when we need to feel safe and secure.

And then, safe in the fortress and surrounded by God’s love, we can still sing.