3 Ways to Make Room for God

“Since I cannot govern my own tongue, tho’ within my own teeth, how can I hope to govern the tongues of others?” – Benjamin Franklin

Taking a stand doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room, especially on social media. Follow God in making a positive impact in your community and stick close to Him during this time. Trust Him.

I know it’s hard with everything going on to feel like you have no control over what is happening in the world, and that speaking out gives you a feeling of control. But, like this flower, you can bloom. We’ve been so blessed as a country to live in a prosperous nation, and maybe now we see the reason why we are here? It’s been so easy to live here versus other parts of the world (from what I read). I wonder sometimes, as we chafe against what is happening, why we still want our old habits?

Let God use this time to change you into a new creation and set aside the old. On this 4th of July may we look at ourselves and see what God wants us to do going forward (and not the God we have invented for ourselves, but the God as represented in the Bible). Maybe it’s time to start a new Bible reading and prayer habit?

Here are 3 suggestions to help you form new habits:

  • Get up earlier than your normal hour if your day is full. A story from missionary history reminded me that spending time with God means rising early for some people. When my work schedule changed after I started a new job, I continued rising at the same hour each morning to make sure my relationship with the Lord wasn’t neglected. Maybe you are an evening person? Stay up late. Perhaps your lunch hour works best for you? Bring your Bible to work.
  • Use Your social media to stay accountable to your walk with God. The first sentence in this blog was, “Taking a stand doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room.” This followed a quote from Benjamin Franklin. What you write on social media is what you are and reflects your heart. The posts online can either make you bitter or you can start controlling your dietary intake of what you read. Keeping your heart healthy means learning how to use social media in a way that benefits both you and your readers, followers, and friends. Perhaps share what you are learning on Sunday, in Bible Study, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the Bible online. Be discerning in whose answers you accept by comparing the answers to what you are reading. Commentaries can be helpful in this.
  • Bible apps are wonderful. You can fit them on your phone and your phone can fit in your pocket. Grab a bottle of water and take a walk with God. Find a quiet place to sit and read a chapter. Ponder that chapter. Focus on it for the rest of the day. What did you read? What did you just learn about Bible history? How can you apply it now? What did it mean then?

Take care of your heart during this time and make God a priority. Talk to Him. As Benjamin Franklin said, you can’t control what others post (or how their posts make you feel), but you can control what you post.

*Picture taken on a trail in Arizona.

humility

Why Your Social Media Strategy Should Include Humility

“How we think of the people we work with and for. Our willingness—or lack of willingness—to consider their well-being, not simply focusing on how they can benefit us. Of meeting them at their point of need rather than our own. Of treating people like Jesus treats people.”Lead Like Jesus, Humility

The pressure of having a social media platform and being a “voice” or what some call an “expert” puts me as a Christian in an awkward position. Digital ministry needs more humility, not more experts.

Since COVID19, several “experts” online have divided the world. In some ways, each of us with a social media platform are suddenly experts in everything and we are leaders. When I received the Lead Like Jesus devotional in my email this week, I was struck by the above quote. To put into social media speak, here’s how I would re-write it:

  • We must admit there is more to leadership than we think, and to ask for wise accountability in our lives as we serve on social media. Ask a couple of people to hold you accountable to how you act online. My pastor is one of those people as is my husband and a mentor.  
  • Consider the well-being of those in your social media list who follow your posts. What do they need to hear? How can you serve them? Don’t focus on how they can benefit you. Listen to their voices. How is God calling you to serve them?  
  • As you gain knowledge and experience online, help others who may struggle with technology use their social media in the most beneficial ways possible to transform their communities.

Just today, I was reading a report put out by Visual Story Network. In it, I was struck by how people in digital ministry need a help center as they experiment in digital discipleship. Another part of the report shared how their supervisor directed them to the training and how only 15% implemented a media strategy immediately following the training. What struck me about the report is how we need to help each other. There are no experts, but you do have some people with more experience than others, especially in social media and marketing.

Asking for help, getting quality input from those you’ve set as accountability partners in your life, and learning how to listen online are important steps in digital discipleship. A drive fueled by a deep desire to share the Gospel with people and see them transformed through Christ should motivate you to serve. Everyone seems like an expert in something on social media. How many are humble on social media?

Suggestions for Serving:

  • Lead your efforts with prayer.
  • Accept correction and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Study your social media follows and friend list. Pray for them.
  • Help your church by serving with them online.
  • Study both secular and Christian marketing sources, but ask yourself, “How will this help me make disciples and share the Gospel?” Adapt what you learn to your context.    
opportunities

Of Lost Opportunities

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.Read Ephesians 4:11-32

Originally, I was looking for verses online around the topic of “reeds blowing.” In my mind, I visualized social media campaigns and the people who are susceptible to follow them like reeds being blown by the wind, or as it states in Ephesians 4:14, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Social Media campaigns are like that. We click, we share, and we vent, even to the sacrifice of shutting down conversations with others or rupturing friendships.

In seeking the right verse for an image I was creating, I decided to read the whole chapter of Ephesians 4. David Guzik breaks it down to 3 subtopics: “A Call for Unity Among God’s People,” “The way God works unity: through spiritual gifts of leadership in the church,” and “Putting off the old man, putting on the new man.”

How does this look on social media?

  • “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (vs. 1) – Answer the temptation to yell online, insult others, or use trigger words with Trapp’s saying to Satan, “I am a Christian.” The Bible exhorts us to walk as a believer, not act like the unbelievers. This includes postings online. Let’s not shut down conversations unnecessarily. This is to the benefit of the reader or listener who may not know Christ. It may even be to our benefit, too.
  • Keep the peace. Bear with one another. We need to forgive each other so we can work together for a greater purpose. People will post status updates we disagree with, join a political party we don’t like, or support causes that frustrate us. Keep the peace. Change happens when one or both parties listen to each other. Change happens inwardly as the Holy Spirit guides us.
  • We all have a role to play in face-to-face and online. People like to use the Spiritual Gifting verses as a reason not to do something. With probably half (or more) of a church congregation online, the Christian is already exercising one of his or her gifts in some way online. Most congregants post out of boredom or with a political agenda, but what if we posted more intentionally with someone’s eternity in mind? To keep a conversation from shutting down, a lot of self-control is exercised, even a giving up on being right happens for the sake of a person coming closer to the Father.
  • Being silent online is not an acceptance or rejection of a cause. It is not weak. A person can’t listen to others if they are busy talking all of the time. Silence allows for speaking the truth in love. May we “grow up” into Jesus.
  • The chapter ends on a note of forgiveness. Church is messy. People are messy. We’ve all offended others and been offended.

Two people recently shared with me how they went off Facebook. The stress of the online vitriol was too much. It made me wonder how many non-Christians felt this way and went offline or to other networks. I also wondered how many opportunities are being lost because we can’t see the forest for the trees? During these turbulent times, it distresses me to see the lost opportunities as well-crafted social media campaigns blow us like the wind from one issue to another. In between the gusts of wind are notes of normalcy and people in pain.

Here is a video on how to serve online in times of turbulence. If you do this challenge, would you message me on your progress and how it changed your perspective or helped others?

prayer

How to Pray When You Can’t

Every Monday, we get on Zoom to meet with people across the country and study the Bible. A thought-provoking question stirred our hearts and minds two weeks ago, and it was around Colossians 1:9a, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you…”

Paul’s struggle in Colossians 1:29 caused Gaye Austin, our teacher, to ask, “Paul says he is struggling for them but he is in prison…Paul’s purpose for his struggling: Paul wanted them to be unified especially now that the ‘heretics’ had sought to disarm their faith.” She asked us if we struggled for others.

The screen sharing paused. I turned off the recording. Normally, I don’t record our Bible Studies. The space is sacred to encourage sharing in a secure environment. We recorded this one for those who were out for Memorial Day.

Silence followed on the heals of the question of prayer. Some shared their heart on how they struggled to pray and asked their questions about how to pray

Prayer is worship. It’s a conversation. A lot of great resources exist online to guide you deeper into a prayer life. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Daniel Henderson runs a prayer ministry. A former pastor taught me to start with praise because God is praiseworthy and make your asks last. You can check out Daniel Henderson on Facebook and here on his website. He wrote a book called, Transforming Prayer.
  • Meditate on the Bible. When you have no words, think of Romans 8:26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. It’s okay to sit in a dark room before the day begins and just listen to what God might say to you. Just sitting in His presence, He knows our hearts. He knows our needs.
  • Some amazing people shared how God gets them up at 3 AM. They didn’t know why. The Spirit led them to use that time to pray for the names He put on their hearts. What’s amazing about this act are the answers to prayer in those situations.
  • Pray the Psalms.

One my all-time favorite ways to pray is…

  • Grab a backpack with water and snacks. Pack a Bible or make sure you have a Bible App installed on your phone and plenty of battery power. Budget in a few hours off from your day and hike to a place that you love. Sit a few hours in the presence of God and read the Bible. Have a conversation with God.

Zoom is one of many ways to use video conferencing to have face-to-face meetups in this 24-hour world, post-COVID19. I have attached a printable Zoom how-to guide to this prayer guide. It includes visuals and suggestions, plus links to Zoom. You can print it and keep it nearby. The guide answers some of the common problems that happen during a Zoom call from the invitees’ point of view.

Free How to Zoom Guide

Download Zoom Guide Here

How to Create a Digital Small Group

If a church is not engaging online with people viewing their live broadcasts, it is like turning on the television to watch a show or opening a newspaper. Church people are consumers. Naturally, most of our online churches over Mothers’ Day experienced a dip in attendance. As one social media expert said, the newness wore off. Online church is no different than the face-to-face church in that, when we go away on trips, when we sleep in, we miss church.

Here’s how to deepen the engagement of your church and reach people online:

  • Talk to people in the chat during the service. Train your congregation to talk to each other.
  • Share the live broadcast to local Facebook groups, but not in a spammy way. Instead, utilize a friendly introduction to invite conversation. Please make sure to check group descriptions to see if lives are allowed by the administrators. Respect admins of any groups.
  • Do a watch party later in the week of that Sunday’s service on your profile. Invite someone you are discipling to watch with you and discuss the sermon afterwards.
  • For people who do not like the distraction of the chat during service, encourage them to watch an earlier service and participate in the chat of another service. Be cross-generational.

Other ways…

  • Start a Facebook group for your church in collaboration with your pastors to compliment the work on the church Facebook page and other social media sites.
  • Start Whatsapp groups or text groups with your small groups to keep in touch more intimately during the week.
  • Have your Bible Study leaders do Facebook Lives in the group to talk about a weekly lesson. This can grow the Bible Study and keep the congregation in the Bible, too.
  • Use Zoom or Facebook Messenger to meet up if meeting in person is out of the question. Use them for one-on-one meetups so you are making eye contact rather than just a phone call. Even when we can meet in the face-to-face, video calls are great to do when it’s just not a good time to make the commute to see someone.

The point of social media was never to grow the church (though it can), but to reach people with the truth of the Gospel so they can grow in Christ. You can reach people all over the world, but you must desire this. Otherwise, online work is hard. It will wear you out without the right heart attitude.

The above picture is from a weekly small group that meets via Zoom every Monday. This Bible Study has been ongoing for the past few years.

How to Add Depth to Your Postings With Photography

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange

Stock photo sites provide a wealth of beautiful photographs for your blogs and social media. We should strive to provide our own photos. They tell a better story. As the Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, I have access to photos from all over the world. For WorldVenture, they make ideal Scripture image posts, support blogs others (or I) write, and give depth to updates and prayer requests.

Two years ago, I bought my first professional camera. I had been on social media for years. The massive libraries on Pixabay, Stocksnap, and Unsplash served my many blogging adventures well, but I wanted to go deep in my stories. I wanted to capture real people, real landscapes, and I wanted to tell their stories with detailed, good quality shots a smartphone was unable to provide. Authenticity is about transparency. In the church or mission organization, this is an important part of storytelling.

A picture of a door accompanying a verse about knocking is just a door until you realize it is a door of an ongoing ministry who sees answers to prayers all the time. A Scripture image comes alive, especially to those that know that ministry.

When I teach churches and individuals to use photography in their own social media posts, I don’t discourage the use of their smart phone. People connect emotionally and they connect even with the less polished posts as long it is emotional.

  • First, you can go to Google Drive on your phone and create folder to store your photos for quick and easy access to them for on-the-go posts. Create sub-folders named Spring, Summer, Sadness, Happy, or whatever will help you find specific photos for specific updates.
  • During the week, if you don’t use a social media poster like Hootsuite to schedule them, you can post your thoughts and add the appropriate image from your Google Drive folder.
  • Take the best photos you can, keeping your hands still, and getting familiar with the camera settings on your smartphone. Experiment with different light settings.

Don’t worry about having a plan for your pictures. Take pictures because something is beautiful. Take pictures because it brings you joy. Pictures intensify an experience and help you notice things you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. Pictures are a visual story. Whatever you post online, make sure the picture supports your words and your words support your picture, like a children’s picture book.

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Help You Through COVID19

The first time I went shopping during April’s COVID-19 shut down was like a scene out of M Night Shyamalan’s Signs. The family went to town to get out of the house after their strange crop circle and encountered surreal face-to-face conversations. The only thing normal in April for me was being home and hiking. Going out to do errands added stress to my life due to several factors, including the mask or no mask people, the shortages of food or toilet paper, and the many rules associated with some shopping centers. Fear felt like a dark cloud over our small town and impacted social media. Afterall, social media is a visual expression of a person’s heart.

What if the only thing you can control is you and your environment? And, what if doing that helps other people fight their fears and live a faithful and fruitful life?

It starts with your social media.

  • Post statuses that remind you what God has done in the past and what He is doing now to keep your heart focused on the only calm in the storm.  “Joshua also used stones to help God’s people remember His goodness. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites experienced the power of God to roll back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua then commanded them to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God had done for them … stones that would remind them to keep on praising Him.” (The Stones of Remembrance)
  • Snooze or unfollow sources that contribute negatively to your mental health. At least, severely limit your exposure to that news cycle if you wish to stay informed. Stay informed to only know how to pray or how to help. Change your reason for watching updates as fuel for you to exercise your faith in the community. A great example observed online was how a church dropped by goodies to an older couple suffering from severe exposure to the COVID19 virus.
  • Get outside. In some countries, rulers have greatly restricted people’s movements. If you can get outside, it’s important to make the time. While outside, use your pictures to capture God-moments, like a bird, a family, or something that makes you smile. Post about it online and tell people why this was a happy moment for you. Post about it slowly. Don’t photo dump. Instead, use the photos on your phone to post each day and to share about that photo. This goes back to the first point in this list.
  • Use technology to build connections both new and old. Use video conferencing to just hang out with your church friends, to read together, cook together, or just hang out and talk. Watch a movie together. Use this time to go to your friend’s social media and comment on their stuff. Participate in your church’s page or group’s online conversations. Your words can disciple at this time. If you are focused on others, you are less focused on what you cannot control.
  • Mind your own business. Resist the urge to post about what other people are or aren’t doing. Resist the urge to comment on posts that complain. Snooze them.

How can I support you in prayer? Leave a comment or message me on social media.

Not a Happy Ending For The Donkey

Like with election time, a pandemic, as it turns out, creates even more division and negativity. A post in a local Facebook Group reminds me of Aesop’s Fable, The Man, The Boy, and The Donkey.

If you don’t recall how the fable went, click here to read or hear it. In short, a man and his boy made their way to town on a donkey. At every turn, someone had an opinion on their mode of transportation. The boy shouldn’t be riding the donkey, the man shouldn’t be riding the donkey, nobody should ride the donkey, and towards the end, both the boy and the man carried the donkey tied to poles until the donkey panicked, got loose, fell over a bridge and drowned.

Not a happy ending for the donkey.

The moral of the story was: Please all and you will please none.

In looking through the Bible, I can’t seem to find verses that support social shaming, but these days I resonate with this story because so much of social media is filled with people policing other people, social shaming, and judging. In the wake of this, is hopelessness, fear, anxiety, and anger. If anything comes from this pandemic, let it be a new normal in line with the Bible. Let Philippians 4:4-9 guide and permeate our hearts through this pandemic:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

People need hope. They need encouragement. As a practicing Christian, I don’t think the donkey should drown because of my decisions being heavily influenced by society. It’s been a tough week watching people grieve, get angry, point fingers, and yet, change is usually messy and painful.

John 15:1-2 says,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

When we come out the other end, I hope this new normal is a new church still interested in using whatever tools are necessary to reach the lost, the hopeless, the unchurched, and the unreached with the Gospel, including social media and Virtual Reality. I hope the Lord uses this time to create a new heart in each of us.

How to Transition to a New Normal Starting Now

Every day that I peruse the local Facebook groups, I see distressing comments, hopelessness, fear, and anger; a lot of anger. People are threatened by what they can’t see. It makes them irrational, reactionary, and even hoard leaving many facing product shortages. The home chef must get creative with the ingredients they can find, and the future looks dire with long food lines, more government restrictions, unemployment, increased homelessness, and heavier business and individual debt. There’s a lot to be angry about. We can’t control what’s happening, but we can control how we respond. I believe we are missing the lessons God has in this current COVID19 season in order for us to prepare for a new normal.

Right now, WHAT we do is critical to HOW we transition to the new normal at the end of this COVID19 season.

This includes…

  • Learning new tools in technology. Some are now isolated, leaving it to the church to find creative ways to keep the congregations connected for those marginalized by technology. There’s no shame in asking for help in getting online.
  • Sharing memes isn’t enough. Conversation is more important. How are you holding conversations online with cultural Christians, non-believers, and your church family? Private and public communication means are available. Don’t be afraid to be you online.
  • Create new Bible reading habits. Many free or low-cost Bible studies are available right now to download. Hold an online Bible study with a friend, one-on-one. With many out of work, there’s plenty of time. Grow your faith during this dark time.
  • Double-check your information. We can take five minutes to do a Google search to find out if what we are sharing is true. A recent conversation about a quote reminded me that even something as simple as a quote found online needs research to ensure that what I am sharing is true. Check multiple sources with good reputations. If people can’t trust us with information unrelated to the Bible, how can they trust us when we share the Good News?
  • Audit your social media. Does it reflect your face-to-face life and does your face-to-face life reflect a Biblical life? Are we right with God?

What are you consuming online and how is it feeding your soul?

A BBC show inspired me to lose weight. They had a family keep a food diary for a week and afterward, the BBC put all the food on a table for them to see. Because of this, the family changed their eating habits and became different people physically and mentally. We are what we consume online. Use your social media to meet the needs of your audience during this COVID19 and as a tool for yourself to grow closer to the Father. This is a time for nonbelievers to see how we respond to a crisis as people of faith in person and online. At the end of this season of life, maybe we can emerge a better person than when it started.

Maybe it’s time to start some new habits? Thoughts?

______________________

Two people shared their responses to my Facebook post related to this blog:

“I had been working on being mindful of my words and posts; so this just makes me more aware. I want to be a light in this darkness and exude calm to a frantic world. Are the two compatible? Somehow I believe that they are.” – Trudy

“It is my hope and prayer that the better habits, the compassion for others, the stronger faith would not dim over time after this trying time. It is my prayer now, that the dark world would see God’s light shine through and that people would come to Jesus Christ. That God’s word would continue to be proclaimed throughout the world. That many workers come to the fields to spread God’s truth.” – Boots

Jeremy’s Courage

(picture was taken in Georgia)

When I first “met” Jeremy in 2019, it was on my friend’s Facebook Live of their church service. I heard his soulful worship of the Lord, and from my friend, heard about his heart and how it beats every day for God, his family, and his church. In flying out to Georgia to train his church in digital discipleship, I was looking forward to meeting with him.

What is so amazing about Jeremy?

In 2019, he used a flip phone to type out bible verses to his friends, family, and neighbors. If you don’t remember or have never owned a flip phone, that is dedication! When we met, we talked about how to do that more efficiently. I encouraged him to seek out responses to his texts. After my visit, he eventually got a smartphone.

Today’s text from him references 2 Corinthians 12:9:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The following prayer from him is emotional, humble, and shows how Jeremy draws his strength, not from himself, but from the Father.

“Dear God, I experience many moments of weakness in my daily life. I thank you that I can totally rely on your strength to move forward and do the work you have called me to do. I take glory in my moments of pain and weakness, because you give me the strength and resolve to carry on, the same way you did for the apostle Paul and the rest of the believers who proclaimed the gospel. I choose not to give up because I know you are always with me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”

People don’t connect with the cerebral. They connect with the emotional. So, bear your heart in the little things. Do things for others because you love the Lord and the Lord has taught you to love them. Be courageous enough like Jeremy to be vulnerable with others.