Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Struggle to Escape The Web

On July 30th I deactivated my Facebook account for an unspecified time. I'd like to think I can last for 30 days. I'll be happy to last a week. What drove this decision? Let's just say I received several signs, although, maybe it was more like a billboard.

On a trip to Arkansas to pick up my granddaughter and to see my son I ran across a library book sale and picked up a half a dozen books for $1.00. Several were Christian books. One of these I'd been looking for but it is out of print. Interesting, huh? A second I'd never heard of but it struck a cord.

As soon as I started reading the first book several things began to happen. First, I was hit with problems I didn't understand. The devil knows where the chinks in my armor are located and he managed to get his spear into them. It was two days before it dawned on me and although I was upset, at least I understood. Sometimes, knowing makes painful things bearable, sort of like an analgesic.

I finished the first book very quickly, but the second one I'm still working on. I'm totally blown away by the content because it is filled with things I've wanted to know, prayers I've actually prayed.

The second event the billboard. God wanted my attention. While in Arkansas a woman I have never seen before, whose name I do not know, and who I probably will never see again walked up to me and made a statement of two sentences. Then she walked away. I won't share what she said but there is no way she could have known what she knew. I've prayed about it and gnawed on it but I can't find any sense to it. She knew something about me she shouldn't and couldn't possibly have known. In fact, there is not a single soul in the world who knows what she knew but me and God. She didn't know the people I was visiting and we did not converse outside of her statement to me. It disconcerted me.

Why now? Well, for the first time in a long time, I was without the ability to get on social media for a week. What do you know, I hear a Voice. One I should have heard all along. If I'd been paying attention to something besides memes, politics, or the endless stream of meaningless status updates.

The cumulative impact of these events propelled me. I wanted to go home. As soon as I got home I knew I had to make changes. I decided I needed to cut out as many distractions as possible. I want to finish the book I'm reading and I want to explore the ideas in greater depth. I want to increase my time reading and studying my Bible. I want to pray more. I want to listen even more. I'm setting some goals in regard to these and my writing. I have to factor in dirty dishes, laundry, cleaning the house, my illness, my pain, and naps.

I'm three days in. I wish I could say the last few days without Facebook have been a breeze. They haven't. Things present themselves with the tag, "You could put this on Facebook if you hadn't deactivated your account." It is annoying, so much so that I am using it as a tool to keep me off. That statement alone tells me how much Facebook has wrapped itself around my life, into my spirit and mind.

A friend once told me he smoked and I was surprised. I told him that I never thought he'd be controlled by anything. He wrote me later and told me he was trying to quit smoking because of that statement. I've reached that same place. I refuse to allow my mind and spirit to be trapped and distract me from what is really important.

Yes, I miss hearing from family. I miss contact with my "friends". I miss sharing special things with them. And yet, have I really been doing that? Do I actually hear from anyone? Does anyone really "contact" me? Who exactly am I sharing with? I don't want to admit that I don't really know. I no longer even know my family. Do I know people on facebook? No, I can count maybe 20 people that I've physically met, that I am unrelated to and some of my relatives, I've never met.

The truth is none of us have ever shared anything real on Facebook. We post photos, memes, other people's opinions, other people's values, and other people's ideals. We've offered condolences, prayers, and encouragement. But how sad that we've never felt a real pat on the back, a real hug, a real smile and thumbs up. We've said it is because of distances. But how many of us are sitting in a room with someone right now and we're all staring at a computer or phone screen? We are fakes. The more apropos name for Facebook would be Fakebook. Even the name is false. It is neither a book nor a real face.

As a writer, I'm told that I'm required to have a following on social media, the bigger, the better. Do the "followers" even realize they're nothing more than a number? They have no value outside the internet. Oh, they're told they do... by form emails and sales pitches. But the truth is, it is the numbers that matter. We are just a number in "You have X numbers of friends". Shut off the computer and you're nobody.

I'm not saying you can't develop relationships online. There are dozens of folks I've had internet conversations with, some for more than a decade, that I have come to call friend. I've made an effort to learn more about who they are, what is going on in their lives, their troubles, trials, and triumphs. We've talked on phone calls. I appreciate their sharing themselves. Many I'll never meet face to face but I value them. But there are far more I don't have a clue about.

What I'm saying is that any object or hobby that demands so much attention without offering anything to improve me as a person, that takes away from improving my life or the life of those around me, and that prevents me from living a real life doesn't deserve my attention. Any app/program that insist I drop real interactions to follow the latest drama of someone I don't know or even someone I do know is not profitable and a waste of time.

I've been facing a shortage of time for a while now. Autoimmune diseases rob you of everything. I got more done when I had a full-time job than I do now. I accomplished so much when my husband was driving a truck and I was a full-time student with two adolescents. He was home twice a month for three days. I had to do it all but it got done. I remember getting up at 6 a.m., putting the boys on the bus at 7:30, getting to class by 8 a.m, home by 3 p.m. cooking supper, helping with homework while I cleaned house and got the boys in bed by 9 p.m. I started on my homework then and my bedtime was 1 a.m. 5 days a week. We had time to play games and read stories. Saturday was laundry day and Sunday was God's. Know what was different back then? I didn't have any social media. I graduated with honors and went to work and still did all that work. And the world never knew.

I suppose it boils down to priorities. I'm resetting mine today. When I hear or see things that are blatantly the voice or presence of God despite my lackadaisical attitude, I need to pay attention. I should have been paying attention. Time is in OUR control. How we use it is up to us. Everyone has 24 four hours a day - 168 hours a week. The average job is 40 hours a week. That leaves 128 (equivalent to 3 more full-time jobs) for God, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and family time. And in my case, college. If something isn't getting done, we need to reset our priorities. What is going on that required 168 hours a week?

For anyone calling themselves Christian these things can be counterproductive spiritually. I need to ask questions: What did I neglect today in favor of social media? Did I read my Bible today or Facebook? Did I pray today or check Facebook? Did I spend time with my family without social media or my phone? How much time did I actually spend on Facebook compared to the real world demands of living and time I spent with or for God?

How dedicated are you, really? I can't answer for you, but I know I can do better.

They call it The Web for a reason. It is a snare, a trap for the unwary. Being wrapped up in a web is one step away from death. The spider eventually spears the victim and sucks the life out of them. I'm cutting myself loose. I refuse to be ensnared by social media or anything else. I refuse to have my life become a tangled cocoon that can't carry on a conversation with the people in the room with me. It is both insulting and disrespectful and the cocoon looks stupid. I want to experience life, with living breathing people.

More than anything else, I want to keep having these conversations with God. Pardon me while I cut the web away.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Hiding Place

My morning started pretty rough at 8:30 a.m. I felt awful when I got up. Even now, at 5:30 p.m. my hands are still swollen and holding certain things hurts. I knew I wasn't going to make the 30 mile round trip to Henderson today. The steering wheel is one of the things that bother me and Mike was working today. So, I had no one to drive for me.

I sat down and felt sorry for myself. I've been praying about this issue for a while now, trying to decide what to do. I don't function for nearly 2 hrs now when I get up in the mornings. There are times when I have no problems but those days have become fewer and farther apart. In the last few months, I haven't been to church but two or three times.

After about 30 minutes of moaning over something I couldn't fix, I decided to visit another church about 15 minutes from my house. We attended there for about 8 years when we moved here from South Carolina in 1988. Their Sunday service starts at noon, plenty of time to get my body to cooperate.

I took my time dressing and getting my hair fixed. This is now a task I don't like but I also don't like not fixing it. Hair loss coupled with clumsy hands takes more and more effort  and it can be painful. Once I was patched together, I sat down with my coffee to give my body time to catch up with my brain. By 10:30 I was feeling better. No, my hands still hurt but I could cope. Some days I can't even do that and some days that's all I can do.

I drove to McDonald's, where I ordered juice and breakfast and drove to the cemetery to visit Jerry's grave. I think I wanted company. He offered no advice. I ate my breakfast there. It was a pretty day.

After a quick stop at home to brush my teeth and take a restroom break, I got to church around 11:30 and could hear the service from the parking lot, two house from the church. That's a good sign. They've redecorated since I was there last and it looks good but what was nice was seeing familiar faces and having them say hello. Mike and David's former babysitter, now a mother herself, came and hugged my neck. She looked so much like her mother, who has already gone to be with the Lord. She is still such a sweet girl.

I can't tell you how wonderful it was just to sit and listen to the service. Yes, I prayed and I worshiped and I sang a bit but it felt so good to just sit and listen to the Word preached. If you aren't a person of faith, I can't make you understand. When I've been too ill to go to church, I've listened to YouTube ministers of my faith and in a pinch, that's a huge help. I'm grateful for it. Only, it isn't quite enough.

There is nothing that can replicate the experience of God's presence when believers gather to worship Him.  It is true there is strength in unity. You can have an experience on your own. You can worship, you can praise, you can be blessed in isolation. But the Church is designed to broaden that experience and to serve as a hospital where the weary, the wounded, and the battle scared can heal. I came home feeling much better, not physically, but less stressed, less frustrated, less anxious.

The Church is not a social club, although it is an enormous comfort to know people care about you and are actually interested in you. That isn't the real purpose. The Church is a retreat from a world that has gone mad, a hiding place for those pursued by chaos.

I've had my share of insanity and chaos in recent years. What a relief when I can escape for a brief time. I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord."