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You wake up in the passenger seat of a car. The driver has abducted you. You’re in pain, and disoriented. After a moment, you realize you are bleeding badly. By the grace of God you overcome the driver within a few blocks of the hospital and take control of the car. If you don’t get to the emergency room soon, you could die. The problem is, you’re in traffic; pedestrians are crossing at the crosswalk ahead. If you don’t run them over, you know that your time is short, and you might not even survive to make it to the hospital. You are in this horrible situation through no fault of your own. Is there any way you could justify choosing to run over the innocent people in the crosswalk?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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When people say “before I was a parent, I expected _____ about raising kids, but now…” What it kind of sounds like to me is “don’t bother spending these waiting years preparing to be a good parent; you’ll only get it wrong.” Thing is, I sincerely disagree.

I know preparation isn’t the same as living it. But the solution to the barren thinking they would never let their kids throw fits in grocery stores is to share your experience, not put them down for trying to plan well and aim for good things. I think it is a huge problem that many people enter parenthood with so little experience, training (discipleship), or intentionality. They have no idea what are reasonable expectations.

On the other hand, believe it or not, many childless people have lots of experience interacting with non-ideal children. Some have seen lots of different homes and had more time and less personal investment (defensiveness) to synthesize what they’ve learned. It isn’t everything. It is NO justification for them being arrogant or judgmental. But God seemed to put parents together with non-parents, in community, so maybe we could learn from each other and encourage one another instead of silencing our companions.

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There is a popular idea coming out of our analysis of the new thing that is social media: that social media’s tendency to make echo chamber, confirmation-bias-reinforcing bubbles is a bad thing for growing as human beings.  I don’t think this concept is entirely without merit. But I think it may depend on the type of person you and your friends are.

 

First of all, I have observed the use of social media for things that have nothing to do with affirming preconceived ideas, unless it is the idea that one’s own children are cute and that their grandparents enjoy pictures of them.  There are other social media users who only exchange amusing morphed pictures of their faces with friends, or who only play games using the platforms, or watch and share Grumpy Cat memes. Some people basically only use their social media as a platform for marketing their business.  The lesson to be learned from this fact is that social media’s effect is, in part, a consequence of how you use it. This is hopeful, because it means we can choose how to act based on the kinds of outcomes we aspire to.

 

We can be the kind of people about whom the sociologists warn, who use Facebook only to get “likes” from people who agree with us, and to read the simple slogans of others who are stating thoughts we’ve already had (or adopted).  We can steer clear of anything that we’re not sure our group would agree with, and berate anyone in our network who dares to publish statements or photos or videos that the “group” hasn’t accepted.

 

Or, if we want to be the kind of people who learn and are able to be corrected, we can pursue that goal.  

I am struggling with the argument that in order to be this kind of social media wielder, one must network with people whose ideas are radically opposed to one’s own.  I believe my struggle comes from two main places: that I am a minority among my friends, when considering the kinds of topics I like to discuss on Facebook; and also that it is proper to discriminate in personal friendships against people who are fools.  

 

I know that, relative to Americans at large, my circles look like a very small-minded bubble.  Most of my friends are, like me, Christians, pro-life, compassionate, and lovers of freedom. But I am actually in a minority for my beliefs and morals even among my own several hundred Facebook friends.  My religious and political views, standards of human behavior, ideals for life and society, principles of economics – are all things that I am at odds with almost everyone about. The differences may be nuanced, but they are real.  This being the case, I experience being almost constantly challenged by my associates. And where I am not contradicted, I am exposed to aspects of the topics that I haven’t considered before, or haven’t delved into. I hypothesize that most people who are interested in thinking deeply on these subjects, and applying them to life, have a similar experience.  

 

Also, I have exposure to the larger world’s ideas through colleagues and clients at work, through shopping, watching TV and movies, and advertising – enough to know that there are ideas different than mine and different than what I witness on social media.  In addition to being a comfort when I feel inundated by foreign values and beliefs in my larger culture, it is also helpful to have some people closer to my values to help me evaluate and respond to these disagreements with the world around me in a constructive, insightful way.  

 

My familiarity with the “other sides” isn’t complete!  I still have moments where I realize I had assumed most people had a common experience or universal understanding of a thing – and it wasn’t true!  Everyone lives in a sort of social bubble, no matter how hard we try!

 

The Bible teaches that the people that we spend a lot of time with will have influence over us.  It warns that “the companion of fools will be destroyed” and “he who walks with wise men will be wise”, that “evil company corrupts good morals”, and “what fellowship has light [those made alive by the work and grace of Jesus] with darkness [those who remain in rebellion against God and its corresponding delusions and weaknesses]”.  Thus, I think it is wise to exclude from among my frequent influencers and counselors those whom I discern to be wicked and foolish. I lament that this is the state of our nation: that there are millions who would debate about simple and obvious things like whether to allow murder of some humans; that there are people so given to their own pleasure that they do not care to evaluate their desires or philosophies (but talk about them anyway).  I wish that we could instead be pooling the wisdom (or at least humble curiosity) of God-fearing and thoughtful* people in order to solve harder questions.

 

*Not every God-fearing person can be classified as thoughtful, and that’s just fine, as long as it is moderate, and as long as non-thoughtful people aren’t trying to have public, in-depth dialogue on subjects where thought is needed.  Being a thoughtful person, I believe it is good to have at least some substantial portion of my acquaintance also be deep thinkers.

 

I believe it is OK, if you are using social media for discussion of important topics, to have some friends who aren’t wise and good.  I’m not a strict isolationist. I would advocate that we keep a prayerful, vigilant watch on the balance of friends and those we follow or subscribe to who are, on the one hand, able to sharpen us and, on the other hand, those who pull us away from good thinking and good acting.  This is true even if social media is, for you, a less profound venture, because any shared experience can build bonds that sway your priorities, even shared fun or simple everyday comments. It may be fine for the proportions to be different if you use the platforms for more lighthearted purposes. But because of the power of words and precepts, it is more important to have the majority of those whom you engage on that level be good companions.  If the majority of your interactions on these deeper issues are outside of social media with a group of friends whose influence is more positive, it may also be acceptable to dabble in social media exchanges with less upright people.

 

I tend towards viewing interactions with wicked fools as condescending (hopefully with as little hypocrisy as possible), and as rescue missions.  This can be a good way to guard against taking them in as “companions”. But, since even “blind squirrels find nuts” – and because in many ways, I am yet also a “blind squirrel”, it is useful to be open to new revelations brought through these people.  At the very least, conversing with them can improve our understanding of them and the experiences that have formed them (and may have formed others in our society, including ourselves).

 

How do we know if we are discerning which people are wise and good, versus which are foolish and wicked?  That’s not something I want to write about right now, but it is something worth considering, with an allowance that we may not be perfect at it, in principle or practice.  

 

In conclusion, I appreciate my social media (primarily Facebook) experience, but also benefit from reminders to be careful that I am using it to build wisdom, rather than pride.  And I hope that others can, as well.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Love.

On the surface you think it makes sense.  You love someone because you click, or because it’s convenient, or because they love you.  And you do the things that go with love: you spend time, you give things, you make sacrifices.  But then time goes by and it’s become something else, too…

It isn’t that you’re lost in it; you become something else, maybe.  You go through seasons when you can’t remember any of the reasons.  You feel like you don’t have anything in common. You feel like so much of your relationship has been you hurting the other person, and you can’t take those things back, and maybe all the other love-things weren’t worth it.  You can’t think of anything about the person that inspires you – you can’t even bring to mind things that used to inspire you.

But in the middle of all that – and you feel like you’re drowning, feel like you’ve been crazy to have ever thought differently – in the middle of it, you realize there’s still love.  It’s there with a pulse, abiding even when you have nothing to feed it, no reason to believe in it. And it’s hard to even define what it is that’s present that we name love, but you know it is love.

Opportunities come, and they’re wrenching ones, to see some things that this love does.  The person you love gets sick and you’re surprised that all you can think about is rushing over to hold the puke bucket and rub their back.  Or you’re half awake but the first thing you think about is whether they’re ok. You hear them say that they don’t feel loved, don’t believe they’re lovable – and sometimes they don’t even say it, you just find it out – but you get the sensation that you were made for this: to prove that someone is loved, and you want to prove it with everything you have and are and do.  Or they’re in such a dark place spiritually and you can’t stop praying, and the only things you can pray are that God will rescue them.

There are border-lands of this feeling, where you’re conscious of some reasons, where you enjoy loving them, even though it’s still hazy.  You’re not sure what you’re dealing with, so you’re not sure how to act, but love isn’t about figuring everything out and making a plan.

But you know you’re in this state where whether you get anything out of it or not, whether it seems successful or not, whether there’s hope for things to be better ever again.

Or.

Not.

Youknow that none of those things will change the fact that you care about them more than you care about yourself.

It doesn’t mean that your life will end up entwined with theirs, nor that you’ll be asas significant to them.  It just means that love doesn’t go away. You can choose to start loving; you might be able to choose to quit loving; I don’t know.  I do believe, though, that you can’t just fade out of loving a person. Once you’ve invited it, it’s there.

You can still do the not-loving things.  Your love can be weak or it can be caged by all sorts of other feelings and choices – but if it is, you’re going to be miserable, because the love will still be aching inside you.

It’s like a miracle, like begetting children: you do contribute, but you’re not doing it.  You haven’t a clue where to begin to create love, and you’re not powerful enough to do it if you did.  It’s a grace. God gives it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Priority

I had an emotional crisis a while back.  Not a breakdown or anything hospital-worthy.  Something confidant-worthy.  Due to circumstances, accessing a confidant was trickier than normal.  It struck me, for the first time in this way, that there is no one in my life to whom I ought to be a priority.  My friends ought to make their own spouses and children their priorities.  I still don’t have a pastor, though I have several acquaintances who serve congregations of their own.  I have a lot of friends, and they are the good kind who make sacrifices to love others well, even if we aren’t their topmost priority.  I even have parents who help me with car emergencies, or when I am too sick to drive myself somewhere.  So usually I can find someone to help single, grown-up me out if I need.

 

But this is what I was realizing: each time something comes up, I have to sort it out and select which people I ought to reach out to.  There is no one person that I ought to go to first.  That can be exhausting and lonely.  Just being honest.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Ethnic Privilege

Frequently when I’m reading/hearing about white privilege and minority cultures, I struggle to understand. One reason I think this is true is because I don’t relate to a lot of this dominant white culture that I’m supposed to be benefiting from. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to be ashamed of liking hamburgers and pizza, folk music and blue jeans – if those are included in my white privilege.

 

I like to think about the strengths and weaknesses of various aspects of our personal cultures: hospitality, hard work, musical rhythm, pace of life, family values, adventure, foods, medicines, styles, baby-wearing, theology, inventiveness, compassion, education, skills related to geography (surfing, snowboarding, fishing, farming, jay-walking, driving, catching a bus, biking, climbing trees). I like to think about the influences of family histories, like grandparents going through the Great Depression or immigrating from another country. I like to think about those other countries that shaped our specific families, and how we let go of some inheritances, held on tightly to some, forgot and found things again, picked up practices along the way. I think there is similar value to considering birth orders, the financial status of a family you were raised in, how large or small your family was. Did you travel? Did you move a lot? Who were the friends that shaped your grandparents, parents, and your own childhood? The diversity of these stories is fascinating.

 

On the other hand, I reject sexual promiscuity and unfaithfulness in any cultural context. I reject rudeness, but I think most of the rules about politeness (in many cultures) are silly reasons for offense unless they happen to be rooted in actual selfish inconsideration. I believe in Jesus and that His sacrifice is the only means of salvation. I reject demonic spiritism that is at the dark heart of pagan religions. I take a stand against rebelliousness in the hearts of people no matter our color or background. I judge lying and stealing; they have no validity in any culture, since they are opposed to the righteousness of God and the love of one’s neighbor.

 

I love the redemption stories, of individuals and of larger groups turning away from evil: becoming undeceived; turning away from division and hate and greedy war; learning to love and serve and create and eat and drink to the glory of God. I love that so many stories are in-progress, people still learning and repenting and growing.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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For a few years, I was an Awana game director.  I wrote the following to teach leaders what to do during Game Time at our beginning-of-the-year training meeting.  We even acted out some of the things!  

Cubbies:

Cubbie leaders, you are needed in the gym or play area with the kids.  As they enter the play area, they will all start with jumping jacks, until all the clubbers are present.  Then we’ll pick a (small) number and count that many more jumping jacks.  We then sing the Cubbie song, with motions, and when that’s over, everyone does high-fives to the game leader.  Then the leader will give instructions about the game.  This weekly routine makes the kids feel safe, and provides a buffer in case some kids are slower arriving.  During game time, there should be no escaping children, from either the group or the gym or play area.  Make sure the kids are not hitting each other or doing their own thing too much.  Cubbies will cry from time to time.  Don’t worry.  Just distract them with something (or take care of them if they’re hurt).  Rules for the games will be simple.  The big thing is that you help keep everyone together and involved.  The Game Leader can’t do everything.

 

Sparks and T&T:

I’d like to introduce you to several characters from my childhood Game Times.  The first is Mr. H, the game leader/director.  He has a mind for relays, and efficiency is his middle name.  As soon as kids arrive at Game Time, he has them lined up tallest to shortest, and is patting their heads, sending them red, blue, green, yellow.  He announces a game, gives a short time for teams to get set up, quickly summarizes rules.  After each heat, he loudly announces winners, POINTS – including points for cheering during events or silence during instructions.  Points are in the hundreds, because points are free, and a leader writes them up on a big white board everyone can see.  He lets the line leaders know if there are any disqualifications, so they can teach their team the rules.

 

His game lines function like relays.  Here’s how it works.  We all line up tallest to shortest (boys and girls separately).  The event calls for two girls (if segregated).  They play, and return to their line.  The tallest one will be standing now next to the shortest girl.  Then the next heat is boys.  They go back to their line.  And another girls heat.  They line up tallest to shortest behind the tall girls of the first heat.  See?  That way when Mr. H is trying to figure out how many more heats to call, he can glance up and see that there are three short girls and two short boys left.  Three more heats.  If you have been playing a balloon game, and now you’ll play something totally different, your line resets to the way it was at the beginning of the Mr. H relay: tallest at the front, shortest at the back.  (Sometimes to mix it up, he’d do it in reverse, and start with the shorter end.)  This “game” happens every week at Game Time, and you the line leaders are responsible for teaching it to the kids and enforcing it.  If there is a leader on your line who hasn’t “played”, teach them too.

 

You will ALL have a color line that is yours all year.  In case of absences, we will shift around.  But you’ll be assigned a color the first night.

 

Next I want you to meet Mr. V.  He is the line leader every week on Blue.  His team always knows the rules, and is never disqualified.  He carefully explains things like running laps, starting behind the line, and running AROUND pins without knocking them over.  When time for a heat, his team is always ready.  When the game director is speaking, his team is standing quietly.

 

On Red is Mr. D.  He’s an LIT (leader in training).  On his line there is no goofing off.  Everyone stands with their toes exactly behind the line.  If they are on the line, they get “stepped on”, because he goes down the line with his big teenage tennis shoes, stepping on toes.  No one is sitting.  Everyone on red team knows that they may earn an extra five hundred points for being the best lined up.  Winning means a lot to Mr. D’s team.

 

Over on Yellow is Mrs. T  Yellow is a horrible color, but that doesn’t stop Mrs. T from being the wildest cheerleader in the place.  She jumps up and down, does enthusiastic kicks, and has her whole team clapping in rhythm for their team.  During the week she notices things that are yellow, and incorporates them into her cheer.  Hers is the best line at game time, not because it wins, but because it is fun.

 

Mrs. C is the leader on Green.  She answers questions about rules from her kids.  She also learns each of their names, and makes sure the whole team knows their names so they can cheer for each other personally.  None of her kids leave to go use the bathroom without permission.

 

Mrs. S loves whiteboards, and she’s good at math.  She takes up her position at the scoreboard, writing huge numbers everyone can see.  Scores go in hundreds.  She adds quickly, erasing all but the zeroes as each score is announced, 200 points for first and 100 points for second and sometimes and extra hundred or so for good cheering or quiet readiness for rules.

 

There are other leaders.  Ideally there will be at least one male and one female leader on each line.  But you can talk to each other about games, and you can talk to both boys and girls.  Each of you must be actively keeping your team standing, cheering, ready for the next game, understanding the rules, interested in points, not fighting with each other, learning sportsmanship.  If we have an extra leader or two, they can help set up the game equipment between heats or escort clubbers to the bathroom so you, the line leaders, do not have to leave your line.  Never leave a line unattended.

 

There is no sitting at any time except for injured clubbers or injured leaders (and elderly leaders!).  Participation is expected unless a clubber is injured.

 

Please get the game leader’s attention if you have a question, if you saw a DQ on your line, or if they’re not loud enough for everyone to hear.  At the end of the night they should announce the winning team and hand a stack of Awana shares (or other small reward) to the line leader.  You make sure each child on your team receives one reward.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

 

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