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Reclaiming peace by silencing the clamoring world

I’ve learned to trust that voice when it whispers a suggestion to silence the clamoring of the world. My soul reached a point of fatigue. The constant barrage of fake news and the assault of emotionally charged stories with a sole purpose to incite us persevered.

The prior week, God showed me the word strength repeatedly.

Psalm 84:5 “Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

Psalm 18:39 “You have clothed me with strength for battle.”

2 Cor 1:21 “Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us.”

Psalm 118:14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”

Psalm 138:3 “On the day I called, You answered me, you increased strength within me.”

Here’s what I’d noticed within myself – I was short-fused, quick tempered, irritable, highly anxious, and angry. I found myself reading the news and scrolling Facebook before spending time quietly with God. Then I’d enter my time with God mad that the world seemed to have lost its mind, angry at the state of disunity in our country, sad at the attacks waged on each other, and anxious about what all this means for our future.

I’d become as distracted as ever. Physically I shared the same space with my kids, but mentally and emotionally I focused on all the information my brain consumed around the clock.

Our souls were not created to handle the amount of information we are fed.

I love learning. I love being informed. Both of these became idols in my life.

I need Jesus today more than I ever have before. We never stop needing Him, but it’s easy to live in a way that pushes Him into the background.

I knew what I needed. A fast. A fast is the only way I’m able to break the addictions and idols that attempt to take root.

For a week I listened as God asked me to come back to Him to find the strength my soul needed for the calling He’s placed on my life. My flesh battled for control. I never want anything other than Christ to have control over me. So I said yes to God to come away from the news, the media reports, the documentaries, the constant stream of information, and the strong opinions filling my social media feeds.

As always happens when I fast from social media and screens in general, I feel like a new human. My chest moved out of my throat. My heart rate slowed to a normal pace. My skin stopped itching. I began to feel love and compassion for other humans again. But the best part, I began to hear God with clarity again.

Before the fast my prayer continued to be “God give me clarity.” All the news is so confusing. Who do we believe? What would you have us to do?

I don’t trust a single media source. One publication one day says the sky is falling. The very next day, the same source reports something that is the complete opposite. God is unchanging. He is full truth. He is faithful. He is just. He is good. Always. I simply need to focus on Him.

As I considered a fast, God gave me several dreams confirming a break would bring the refreshment and clarity I longed for.

So I posted a “see ya later” on social media. I deleted the apps from my phone to remove all temptation. And I haven’t read a single thing in the news in days. And I feel AMAZING!!!

I know this isn’t sustainable, but it is necessary.

The morning following my fast, I had coffee with a friend. We hugged, we chatted, we caught up, and I left feeling God’s sweetness poured out. The same night my family had dinner at a restaurant downtown. It was the 2nd time Steve and I ate in a restaurant since they began opening back up. It felt so normal and exciting, and I enjoyed that night more than I’ve enjoyed a dinner out in a long time. Over the weekend, I shopped in a few favorite stores. Again I was so thankful for the reopening of stores and restaurants. To see people, to interact, even to have small talk, which I usually despise, all of it I hope never to take for granted again!

Saturday night we had friends over for dinner. It’s the first time we’ve had people over since all the Covid chaos began months ago. Community is what we’ve missed the most. We hugged, and laughed, and ate, and played games, and stayed up much too late, but we dared not end a moment too soon. One thing I’ve learned in this season is we never know when a moment in time will be a last or a last for a long time.

My hope is to cherish people, relationships, community, physical contact, and freedom with a renewed spirit.

I know it’s likely time for my fast to end, but I’ve found ending a fast from the online world is harder than starting one. Enjoying real life again is so liberating. The joy the world stole was restored. And I’m so incredibly thankful.

During my time of fast, I asked God if I should silence everything or if there was an audiobook I should listen to which would be beneficial rather than informational. He brought to mind a book I’ve stored away on an app in my phone. The title is Competing Spectacles – Treasuring Christ in a Media Age, by Tony Reinke.


Within minutes I knew this was the message God needed me to hear in response to the cry of my heart regarding the state of our media’s handling of Covid and all the conflicting news we receive daily, which leads people to living in states of fear, stress, and confusion.

In a news age when blatant shock is the only surefire strategy for gaining viewers, cable news feeds our collective panic, and outrage becomes good business for the newsmakers who can keep our collective cortisol level, our stress hormone, high enough to maintain a constant fight or flight urgency. Christians must guard against these spectacle tactics that manipulate our senses.”

“We are now more media obese than we are physically obese and we are not happier. We are lonelier. We are more depressed.”

“Creation spectacles also demand a response for our worship. We are all made to experience awe, and God’s creation is eager to magnify the Creator in our eyes.” (We must escape screens to experience this.)

“We redeem time by reclaiming our attention.”

Our attention is ours to give as we see fit. The media has a job, steal our attention and keep it. They will use any and all methods, but mostly fear, shock, and awe. It’s how they keep us coming back. I’m over it.

I have a choice to give them my outrage or not. I’m tired of the news deciding I need to feel outraged, angry, sad, confused, or terrified.

I’m taking back my attention. I’m living out the life God has given me. He has called me to live life abundantly here and now.

I’ve been pondering the various aspects of Ecclesiastes 3, particularly “a time to speak and a time to remain silent.” I’ve asked God to clearly reveal to me if I’m to speak or remain silent as it relates to this Covid season of media manipulation. I want to share one of the ways He confirmed.

First, to clarify, I’m not claiming Covid isn’t real. I’ve been quite vocal on social media about this. It’s as real as any flu strain or other virus. For particular people, it’s extremely dangerous, as is the flu. It’s our media I’m so upset with. And I feel many don’t see what I feel God has revealed to me about the psychological war waged on us.

In Competing Spectacles, Tony Reinke says, “Christians must call out worthless things for what they are. We should boldly stand up and expose spectacles of politics, warfare, entertainment, and social media when we sense they are lies, propaganda, or flesh-driven. In the age of the spectacle, few people can see through the mirage of the spectacle industry to call out worthless things. Christians can speak and must speak prophetically to de-mask spectacles as the powerless things they really are. We are called to pull back the curtain and reveal the demonic forces that stand behind nefarious spectacles that dominate our age…”

Maybe you can relate. Maybe your soul is media-wearied too. Maybe this covid season has really placed a heavy burden of stress and fear and you are ready to reclaim the peace Christ promises. Maybe a fast would be good for you too? I’ve never taken a fast and wished I’d stayed plugged in instead.

 

 

8 Simple Ways to Get Life Back on Track

I’m not going to lie. Winter in Nebraska was hard for our family.

The winter seasons of our lives usher in discouragement and doubt, creating a sense of urgency to change everything and quick.

In the never-ending winter, I was tempted to make drastic changes, yet I knew it wasn’t wise.

Instead of making drastic changes that I might regret when the shining sun offers actual warmth, I decided to make slight course corrections.

Sometimes getting life back on track is merely looking at the small disciplines we’ve relaxed on and intentionally creating a plan to bring them back to life.

I found that over the winter I ever so slightly let go of disciplines and organization methods that have always helped my life feel less chaotic.

An intentional life doesn’t happen by chance. An intentional life is created and cultivated. It is nurtured and pruned. It is assessed and re-worked when needed.

If you find yourself lacking in motivation or energy, or stressed that you never have enough time, or feeling you struggle to bring things to completion well, you may find this post helpful in giving you a gentle nudge to try a few slight changes that may have a significant impact.

Here are a few things I have in place to keep my life running smoothly. When life runs smoothly, I have more time to invest in what matters most.

Clear the clutter

When you are surrounded by “stuff”, it’s actually hard to think clearly.

My boys do their school work on desks in their rooms. Each morning I have them make their beds and create a clean and clear work space so they can stay focused. They claim the mess doesn’t bother them, but I see a difference in the pace and quality of work when they have little around to distract.

I try to maintain a clutter free house as much as possible. When mail enters the house, I stand over the trash can and quickly discard what isn’t needed and file away what is important.

We have specified times of the day where everyone goes through the house putting away anything they’ve taken out that needs to find its home.

I purge drawers and closets once a season.

When I buy a new clothing item, I remove at least one item (if not more) from the closet.

As I go through my closet, I donate anything I haven’t worn in the last year no matter how much I think I love it.

Plan what matters

In our family, dinner matters. Almost every night we sit together as a family for dinner. It’s distraction free time where we all reconnect after long days. We share what is happening in our independent worlds, we discuss topics that matter in the world, and we laugh.

Memories are created around the table. If dinner is important, I need to plan for it. 

Over time, I let go of the planning. We still sat together, but I found myself frantically figuring out dinner too close to time to eat. This only created stress for me.

I bought a large calendar dry erase board to hang in our pantry. I took 30 minutes over the weekend and planned out 3 weeks of menus, writing them on the dry erase board.

This one tiny shift offered me breathing room every single afternoon when I wrapped up school with the kids. It gave my brain space and actual physical minutes. I used that time in the late afternoons to sit on the couch and read or do absolutely nothing at all. I found the boys would join me with a book or conversation.

I loved planning more than a week at a time. It means I don’t have to think about it each weekend. I no longer hear “what’s for dinner?” Pretty much loving that.

Schedule time for exercise

I don’t love to exercise at all; yet, I realize I’m happier and healthier when I get plenty of intense exercise.

At the same time I planned my dinner menus, I wrote in actual times I would go to the gym. And I actually stuck to it!

When we exercise, our bodies release happy hormones and decrease our stress hormones. The hardest step for me in exercising is the first step. The one that actually gets me out the door.

Something about writing out my intentions held me accountable to them. The very fact I exercised and cooked healthy meals at home brought me more joy than I realized it would. When mama is happy, well, everyone else seems to be as well.

Take a social media break

Another slight course correction I made was getting off of social media. It’s amazing how much time a quick scroll here and there takes up in a day. Or how much of my brain space it occupies. I reclaimed physical minutes and hours to my day.

Because of this redeemed time and mental clarity, I was able to become much more intentional with my boys. I felt no need to rush away from time sitting with them. I listened more clearly and noticed things I’ve been missing.

Remove one habit that takes up time yet offers little benefit

For some this might be watching tv. Some reports say the average adult watches 5 hours of tv a day. Imagine gaining even just one hour a day, but five can be life changing. It could give you the time to pursue that new business or hobby you’ve been dreaming about.

For some this could be removing social media apps from your phone.

For some it’s playing games on your phone or computer.

Use a timer for daily duties

One of my boys began taking longer to do tasks that shouldn’t have taken so long. I realized he needed defined boundaries and limits to function productively. He needed a goal to work towards and visuals to guide him.

We scheduled out his daily tasks, placing them in prioritized order and setting time limits on each one. I instructed him to set the timer for each task based on the time we determined was appropriate. When the buzzer beeped, he was to stop the task and move to the next. We scheduled in time at the end of the day to go back and tie up any loose ends. Turns out he hasn’t needed that extra scheduled time because working with a goal and action plan moved him forward to completion. He gained hours of his life back each day by this one slight change.

This proved invaluable to his time management skills. It also solved his tendency to procrastinate. It eliminated his stress. It freed him.

Schedule in what you feel is missing

Is your prayer life lacking? Set an alarm for a specified time each day. When the alarm sounds, stop and pray. For each person this will look slightly different. For some it’s stopping right where you are and praying a 30 second prayer. For others, it’s going to a quiet room and kneeling for 5, 10, or 20 minutes. The point is simply to go a step beyond where you currently are in your prayer life.

Do you need to spend more time reading your Bible? Set your alarm to wake you 10 minutes earlier. Don’t hit snooze. Get out of bed, leave your phone where it is, pick up your Bible and read. This one habit will change your life forever. Guaranteed.

Do you want to spend more time with your kids? Write it on your calendar. Set an alarm to remind you. You will be surprised what a 10 minute game or 5 minutes reading aloud will do.

If it’s important to you, schedule it in. We tend to do the things we write out. Sometimes it only takes the slightest correction, a small sacrifice of time.

Reward yourself

At the end of the week, reward yourself for creating a new discipline that helped your life either run more smoothly or offered more richness or joy to your days because you did the things which matter most to you.

I’m longing for spring. Yet I find that God grows me most in my winter seasons. When the season of life draws us in more than we prefer, we have an opportunity to turn our gaze back to Him. At the same time, when we find those small, subtle shifts which make life flow a little more smoothly, the pain of the season lessens its intensity.

If you would like to read more posts like this one on breaking bad habits and creating a disciplined life, check these out:

Do You Want God’s Best This Year?

Three Ways To Begin Loving God More, and It Won’t Happen Overnight

 

Very soon, I’ll be releasing illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word. For the person who wants to grow in their discipline of spending time with God each day, this is a great step towards that. It’s 14 days of audio devotions centered around God’s character, prayerfully crafted to bless your soul.