Category Archives: standard

Crossing the Social Media Bridge

The following is also published in The Vermilion Standard

I have never personally seen Confederation Bridge but I hear it is something to behold. Spanning thirteen-kilometers, the bridge drapes the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait, connecting Prince Edward Island with the mainland (New Brunswick). It is an amazing feat of engineering and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the longest bridge over ice (winter).

In many ways, it is a perfect metaphor for social media and its ability to connect people like never before. For the first time in history, people have the ability to connect instantly with multiple people, in multiple places, across multiple devices and in multiple languages (using translation technology). In this way, social media is a gift to humanity and a bridge that has the potential to bring people together in unprecedented ways.

Although our hyper-connected world has given us the ability to connect with more people faster and further than ever before, paradoxically, people have never felt more alone. It is a phenomenon Sherry Turkle terms as, “Alone Together.”

In the midst of this unprecedented hyper-connected world, people are increasingly feeling isolated and alone. In many ways, social media has given us the gift of a bridge but we haven’t learned to cross it into the deep and meaningful relationships it has the potential to help facilitate. Just as a bridge is not the end but the means to the end, social media is a means to relationship rather than the relationship you need to have.

To put it another way, too many people have a relationship with social media rather than utilizing social media as a means to have increasingly meaningful relationships with others. Building on the bridge metaphor, we have gotten on the bridge and enjoyed the view but few of us have learned to cross it and experience the wonders on the other side.

We are challenged to then use social media as a bridge to friendship not the destination.

Consider this wisdom given in the Bible about friendship: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24, ESV

So many of us are “friends” with more people than we were before social media but we are still very alone. We have not experienced the gift of true friendship with others that social media has promised to provide. Therefore, my challenge for us is to use social media as the bridge it is destined to be rather than a destination of desertion. Let us use it to cross barriers and experience the deep community and friendships we were created for.

We were created to live on the other side of the bridge – in rich community – but too many of us are lost on it, unaware of what is available on the other side.

Using a Thermometer in Your Marriage

*This following will also be published in The Vermilion Standard

Wedding season is upon us and, like many pastors, my weekends begin to fill up with weddings as couples celebrate and commit to each other before their loved ones and their God. During this wedding season, I thought it would be appropriate to share some marriage advice for couples preparing to get married and for married couples who desire to grow in their marital relationship.

As I journey with couples preparing to get married, I always encourage them to spend as much time and energy preparing for the marriage as they spend on their wedding ceremony. Thus, in preparation for their marriage, I spend several sessions with couples working through some material that helps build communication, creates good conversations and offers good advice in an effort to create the best foundation for long term marital happiness and success.

One of the many lessons I try to instill in couples is how to take the temperature during an argument/disagreement/fight. In an effort to help couples fight well, it is important to allow a temperature check (for yourself and, at times and with permission, for your partner). To often, in arguments we react rather than respond to issues or situations, unnecessarily escalating conflict and shutting down communication.

For example, if your partner forgets to turn the lights off in the house, what is the appropriate response? A reactionary response often escalates the problem by reacting to it in a way that doesn’t match the issue or situation. Yelling and screaming or storming off in silence would not be a healthy response that reflects the issue and situation.

Practically, when arguing, I suggest couples take the time to do a temperature check on their reactions and responses. For example, when something happens and you react ask: “On a scale of one to ten, how serious was the offense? Then ask: “Is my response equal to the offense. If not, why not? Is there something else going on? How should I respond to my partner appropriately about this?”

As Proverbs 15:1 reminds us: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Too many times, arguments unnecessarily escalate because harsh words are used and tempers rage in a way that is unmatched to the situation/issue at hand. Therefore, next time you are in a fight with your significant other, do a temperature check on our reaction/response and ask: “Does it match? If not, why not? What else might be going on?”

In your marriage (as with all relationships), take the time to use the reaction thermometer and fight well. Endeavour to always respond rather than react – your marriage will be healthier for it.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

The following will also be published in The Vermilion Standard.

We live in a culture diluted by desire. In our relative excess, we incessantly desire what we don’t have even if it is something we clearly don’t need. This desire has led to an epidemic of discontentment. Much like Jesus’ parable of the man who wants to help his neighbour with the speck of dust in their eye while being ignorant of the log in his own, this epidemic is easy to see in others, but it also exists in us. This is our problem with desire; we see it in others while we blindly struggle with it.

This epidemic exhibits two symptoms. First is the disorientation of wants and needs. We become confused and disorientated with what we need and what we want, making poor choices as a result. Second, it creates a culture of worry. We worry about what we don’t have and we worry about what we do have. Worry becomes omnipresent, reminding us that, often, we don’t own the things we have but they own us.

The bad news is, this epidemic is pervasive. It is everywhere. We all want what we don’t have, leading to a mass hysteria of want and need confusion. This confusion is compounded with the onslaught of advertisers telling us that we should deserve the bigger TV, the larger house, the faster car, and the shinier diamond. We are drowning in want and need confusion and the current of desire is pulling us away from shore.

The good news is, there is a cure to the epidemic. It is a cure that takes time, effort and discipline but it is effective. Much like the farmer who cultivates his land to ensure healthy soil, we too can cultivate our hearts and reorient the direction of our desire. That cure, according to the Bible, is prayer, gratitude, and thankfulness. As we change the direction of our desire we begin to re-orientate our sense of want and need. As we cultivate an attitude of gratitude towards God we begin to filter our ceaseless thirst of wants replacing it with contentment, generosity, and peace. As the Bible teaches:

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.” Philippians 4:6-7, NIV

The Bible lays out an important cure for us that we all need to hear and begin to cultivate in our own lives. First, we need to put God at the center of our lives and bring our worries and confusion to Him. Second, we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude with God through thanksgiving. Third, we need to pray, bringing our worries and concerns to God. As we do this, God promises His peace and contentment in our lives. As we do this, not only will we grow in contentment but we will also grow in generosity.

Our lives are diluted by desire for stuff and we need to re-direct our desire toward God in our lives with thanksgiving and prayer leading to peace, contentment, and generosity. Allow God to redirect your desire and, with God’s help, begin to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It is time to take the logs out of our own eye, seeing the world more clearly and helping others who have sawdust in theirs.

The Beauty of a Messy Christmas

When we think of Christmas, it often conjures up images of perfectly trimmed Christmas trees, meticulously wrapped gifts and beautifully set tables. We love our picture perfect Christmases to be neat and clean with everything perfectly placed and arranged.

The irony of this image is that it is the opposite of the reality found on the first Christmas some two thousand years ago when Jesus, the Christ child, was born. Over the centuries, we have sterilized the reality of the situation in which Jesus was born and by doing so, have diluted the image God was displaying with the birth of Jesus.

Consider the picture the birth of Christ paints for us. Jesus was born to teenage parents at the end of a very long journey to a distant town. When they arrive, they discover that there is no room in the rustic first century “inn” and are offered a space with the animals. It is in this crowded dirty corner, with little privacy or protection from the elements, Mary gives birth to Jesus – the Son of God.

Jesus inhales his first breath in the company of animals. Jesus’ first smells are that of animal feces. Jesus’ first bed was a feeding trough. Jesus’ parents are teenagers who have journeyed a great distance together and are now sleeping in with animals. There is no crib, baby sleepers, diapers, nurses, doctors, showers, running water, bed, or heated hospital room. It is messy.

The God of the universe does not enter our existence in the sterile confines of a well-equipped hospital, but in the messiness of our world. This picture displays God’s love in the midst of our everyday broken and messy lives. The Christmas story communicates that our lives are not too messy for Jesus.

One of the common misconceptions for people about the church is that it is a place for clean and sterile people who have their lives together. This is not the case. Rather, the church is a group of people who are imperfect and broken but together we follow the God who entered our brokenness, bringing salvation in Jesus for all those who believe in Him. Your messiness doesn’t scare God or disqualify you from entering into relationship with him. The good news is, Jesus routinely enters the broken and messy places but He, also, never leaves them that way.

This holiday season let the reality of the Christmas story speak to you. Know that God isn’t scared of your brokenness and messiness but if we allow Christ into our lives by faith, there is new life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Discover Jesus this Christmas and never be the same.

Using Social Media As More Than A Window

Social media has impacted our world and our individual lives with wide sweeping effects. For the most part, we have enthusiastically and blindly entered this new reality, embracing the new abilities it offers. For the first time in history, social media has allowed us to see what is happening with our friends, family and acquaintances as well as to gather their thoughts and opinions in real-time. In addition, we can share our photos, ideas, thoughts and opinions with the world in real-time. Social media has provided equal access to a public platform that would have been, previously, only available to a privileged few.

This has led to a cultural critique of social media that people spend way too much time keeping up on what is going on with others through the large window that social media gives access to. Social media now allows everyone to be a celebrity in some sense, with our phones as paparazzi and us as the magazine editor taking clips from our lives and sharing them for the world to see. This reality also reverses itself and allows us to constantly look into other people’s lives with what seems to be an unquenchable appetite.

Personally, as an avid user of social media, I enjoy that I can see what is happening with my friends, family, and acquaintances, knowing about important life events (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, deaths, etc.) but also discovering how people are doing, feeling, and what is happening in their lives. Social media has provided a large window into my relational world, allowing me access into the lives of my friends, family, and acquaintances that would never have been possible before.

This phenomenon has created large metaphorical windows into our relational lives. We can gaze through them and observe what is happening with others as well as, through a self-edited lens, allow people to selectively peer into ours. This relational window has also caused a temptation to voyeuristically view the lives of others as passive consumers of relationship rather than as active participants.

In our stubborn stare into the lives of others, we are often oblivious to the fact that the large window of social media also has hinges – that the window we are gazing through is actually a door. The hinge of social media makes the window a door, opening up the possibility to actively love others. The invitation for us is to walk through the threshold of relational possibility with a cadence of love. Social media, like all technology, extends our reach. It can extend our reach to peer with interest and it can extend our reach to walk with purpose.

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12, NIV

What if social media extended your reach not just to know things about others but extended your reach to actively love others by genuinely being happy for them, mourning with them, encouraging them, sharing hope with them and building them up. Let’s use social media more as a door than just a window and extend love beyond us. Our world needs more love, hope, and faith (the things the Bible says will remain – 1 Corinthians 13:13); therefore, use social media to walk through the threshold of relational possibility with a cadence of love and change our world.