A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part III–FREE GIVEAWAY

Missed the first two posts? Get Part I here and Part II here.

6.  Love = Telling the truth.In love. Is a status update artfully alighting upon all my strengths the same as telling the truth? Like a camera, we all choose what we zoom in on. But is it possible we’re airbrushing our lives, and creating a climate of unnatural expectations? (Check out this post on perfectionism vs. pursuing excellence.) Though we may look for sympathy when our kid smears poop on the wall or throws a fit in Target’s housewares aisle, our lives on social media generally lean toward the photoshopped side of things.


We might also justify “telling the truth”—but subtracting some of the grace, which—take it from a writer—can be pretty stinkin’ hard when you don’t know what frame of mind someone will bring to the table when Facebook pops up. Fox News commentator AndreaTantaros writes,

Just because you’re being real doesn’t mean you aren’t being a real jerk. You can be authentically wrong. I realized that my potency is something I needed to be acutely aware of and something to apply selectively.

There are a bunch of people reading my feed—and writing, even for a writer, is a remarkably turbo-charged method to screw up a relationship. (Personally, I take my husband’s advice of saving all conflict, as far as it depends on me, for a face-to-face meeting; no written word allowed.)

P.S. This post was also helpful to me: How Should Christians comment online?

7. God needs to be present in social media, too. I commended friends of mine recently whose son is slowly making his way in the film arts. A lot of Christian parents I know would be wary of their children entering the arts professionally for both financial and cultural reasons. Unfortunately, there’s a vacuum in this field—and trust me, our entertainment industry is our greatest export from the U.S.

I talk in this post about “plundering the Egyptians”—turning things that the world uses to enslave us into tools God uses. As Christians, we can’t afford to step away from social media either. We need light so desperately there, too.

But it’s challenging to do this well. Colossians 4 says,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Everyone’s got different questions they’re asking about faith, different biases from past experiences, different phrases that jar them or encourage them. Loving well in social media means deep sensitivity to this. In his recent post, Do Not Add to the Offense of the Gospel, R.C. Sproul writes,

People are extremely sensitive about how they’re approached on matters of religion. Many of us who are so excited about our faith in Christ want to share it with everyone we love, and our intentions are good…But…so often we come across to these people as saying, in attitude if not in words, “I’m good and you’re not.” People are turned off by that, and rightly so….

Many more times people get angry not because they’re offended by Christ but because they’re offended by our insensitivity toward them as people.

8. Don’t let it sap your depth. Social media can saturate us with the inane–from “here’s me eating goulash” to “my cat has been sick for three weeks” to “check out this video of a guy dancing with his gerbil!” Of course life’s full of the mundane and commonplace, and  social media is sometimes going to mean the Gerbil Guy gets 3 million hits. (Um. I made him up, just in case you’re hopping over to YouTube now.)

I’m not saying our lives need to be so uber-intentional that we can’t laugh till Sprite comes out our nose, or that we can’t “friend” a Facebook page that only posts cat jokes. But the superficial, the self-absorbed, and the meaningless can chomp up our lives and time. Our minds are being trained into the equivalent of Brain Cheetos–mostly air, with a little sticky cheese powder thrown in for (fake) flavor.

We’re cautioned in Ephesians to make the best use of the time, for the days are evil. As I mentioned Wednesday, worship’s about getting stuff in its proper place, social media included. Consider whether your social media’s driving you further into enjoyment of God–or further away–and what amount of time helps you be faithful to the rest of your life. Then have some fun with your Brain Cheetos.



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HELP US OUT! How do you keep control over your social media–and not the other way around?

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How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part II

Missed Part I on Monday? Grab it here–and make sure to come back for the social media giveaway on Friday!

4. If social media is to love others, it’s gotta stay in its proper place. I highly value this post on 6 Ways Your Smartphone Is Changing You, in which the author asserts that our smartphones can take the place of embodiment—of simply being fully present with the real, live folks around us.

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How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part I

Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

Love: Part of it feels like that old gameshow, “This is Your Life” (though I confess to only seeing the Sesame Street version with Guy Smiley). I love connecting to people with whom I attended Sowers Elementary, when I had eighties hair. To my refugee students whose wide, blindingly-white grins I miss from Refuge and Hope.

Hate: The other part, I think, feels about as fun as trying on bathing suits one size too small, in one of those dressing rooms an adorable, exuberant size four thought really needed mirrors on three sides. Sometimes I feel not enough.

Love: Well, I love the love element. I love connecting with friends around the world. Blogging clearly floats my boat. And I love knowing what’s going on in people’s lives—exclaiming over their cute babies more often than on Christmas cards, knowing to pray for a friend as she waits for a diagnosis, and rejoicing when that friend flies through the finish line on a goal.

Hate: I hate that sometimes social media casts the illusion of having relationships, in the form of 140 characters or so. I’m wary of adapting a culture of

  • contrived plasticity (we take perfect vacations and perfect selfies with our perfect children!),
  • trolling for online affirmation (if you love me, you’ll copy this into your feed!)—myself included, and
  • unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves, inundated with Pinterest perfection and carefully angled, filtered, and selected profile pictures. Part of me enjoys that in Uganda, it is perfectly acceptable that I have light fixtures that belong in a retirement home, or that I pour lemonade from an ugly plastic pitcher.

And personally, I dislike that if I want to write non-fiction, many publishers desire a following of 10,000+. That ratchets this thing up to a whole new level, and honestly makes me want to throw in the towel/keyboard.

At the Breathe Writers Conference I attended last week, I hopped into a lively discussion with one of my fave fiction writers on one side—who got in before publishers hoped for a following—and lovely Christian social media maven of sorts on the other. I sought to reconcile the “platform” portion of my craft without compromising the simple fact that I want my life to be about worship. Ahem. And not worship of yours truly.

As part of a curriculum, I frequently teach the story of the Tower of Babel from the Old Testament. Every time, a phrase gets me: Let’s make a name for ourselves. The critical reader will see the vast difference in results from their approach—and God’s, a handful of chapters later, who will make a name for Himself through Abraham.

Sometimes, the question for me in social media boils down to just that. Am I making a name for myself? Or is God’s name being made great through my social media?

No, I’m not suggesting all of our social media be hyper-spiritual. I just think it’s all pointing one direction or the other.


Social media is a tool, right? We can use it to feed our idols of popularity,  of sex, of perfection. Or we can use it to breathe life and truth; to further God’s Kingdom in the world.

What does godly social media look like?

Some thoughts.

  1. “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). This changes everything. It means that instead of an opportunity to make myself look good, it’s a platform to care for people, and to relate authentically. It strikes through the humble brag, the nasty comment via the anonymous avatar, or the politically-motivated (even faith-motivated!) agenda. Love as my motivator also means I step away from competition in my heart; I’m not using social media to plug the sucking holes in my heart. As Fox News commentator Andrea Tantaros puts it, “Smart, secure women elevate other women.”[1]

This post quotes Dr. Douglas Groothius, author of The Soul in Cyberspace:

We need to have integrity when we are online. We should do it prayerfully. We need to resist impulses. And I don’t always successfully do this. I have deleted not a few Facebook posts.

But remember that we are doing this before the face of God and we are interacting with eternal beings. We are having an effect on people’s destinies, even through a Twitter message. I think if we take that kind of approach it gives us a sense of gravitas and we are less likely to become flippant.

HELP US OUT! How do you keep control over your social media–and not the other way around?

Please comment below!

In celebration, c’mon back later this week for a small SOCIAL MEDIA GIVEAWAY.

Catch part II on Wednesday!

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[1] Tantaros, Andrea. Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable. New York: HarperCollins, 2016, p.25.


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Love Says No: How Boundaries Express True Care, Part II

Missed the first post? Grab it here.

4. Boundaries esteem the image of God in me and the people I love. They say Hey, both of us were created in God’s image. So that means justice is pursued not just on your behalf, but mine, too. (Check out this post on burnout…and this one on martyrdom.) If I’m not to think more highly of myself than I ought, it means not only am I not lazy—it also means I’m forbidding an unhealthy perspective about how much I’m needed.

We see it when we don’t stand up for the image of God in people we love, too. It could be in the isolated, ashamed wife whose husband neglects stand up for her when she’s consistently berated or made fun of.

5. God’s jealous, and it’s appropriate for me to be jealous for what counts. And just like with God, a disordered love–Romans describes it as putting created things above the Creator–is stealthy. The holes in me disguise themselves as truly good uses of my time, my energy, my cash, my love. Unfortunately, anything out of its proper order is robbing someone; it steals. Kills. Destroys. Most often, it’s not just me.

And in the case of boundaries, I’m robbing the person I think I’m “helping”–because their love stays disordered. The neighbor who needs to respect dinner time doesn’t better understand how to love when someone doesn’t say no. The unchecked, snarky teen misses out on a respect for authority that could serve him during his entire life–as well as an idea that his parents have feelings and a lot of skin in the game. The wife who doesn’t stay within the budget–and come to embrace that the right image doesn’t equal her acceptance.

Get jealous.

6. Boundaries protect future victims. We’ve all encountered powerful personalities who continue to leave a wake simply because it takes so much to say no to them. I’m guessing you’ve also known those entirely shocked when someone confronts them–and so wish someone had the guts to tell them earlier. Sometimes someone telling the truth in a loving way makes all the difference for people who would be affected in the future. If you don’t care enough to be honest, who else might be hurt or used?

(And as a side note–I’ve come to highly value the “red ink” in my life: the editors, the critics, the truth-tellers, the straight-shooters. I’m blessed with the gift not just of “yes men”, but with people who aren’t always my fans.)

7. Boundaries move me away from feeling out of control—so I can love deeper. Author and pastor Danny Silk writes,

Frequent use of the phrases “I can’t” and “I have to” is a hallmark of a powerless person…these statements say, “I feel powerless to take responsibility for my actions, so I will say that someone or something else is making me do it.”


Rather than feeling like I have no choice, that it’s just my role to follow, that I just need to sacrifice and obey—I can choose whether or not I want to say yes or no. I’m not forced, which breeds resentment and a bitter helplessness. I’m not controlled by others’ constant needs or demands. I can think carefully and make decisions about how best to love in this situation—and love a lot more deeply and voluntarily. Loving becomes a valuable choice, rather than an obligation.


Need help with boundaries? Get honest with someone who will help you advocate for what matters.

And check out books like the classic Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life,

and Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.

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Love Says No: How Boundaries Express True Care, Part I

I remember that summer vividly; pivotally. I was on my way into high school, and had finally wrapped my hormone-charged little brain around Jesus’ servanthood, His death to self. I remember leaning over my cafeteria tray, discussing with my camp counselor what that looked like. She looked alarmed, I think, over my fervor (I’m sure my husband can relate): But Jesus doesn’t want us to be doormats, she countered.

At the time, I just couldn’t see it. What did Jesus hold back? The concept of “boundaries” seemed a post-modern reflex against living radical and poured-out. I didn’t see a whole lot about boundaries in the Gospels.

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When Helping Hurts [You], Part III: When Aisha Died

helping hurts

The phone connection sounded a bit like Oliver, one of my closest Ugandan friends, was crushing newspapers on the other end; I held the phone an inch from my ear. But I didn’t miss what made my hand fly to my chest: “Aisha…she passed. It was just too late. Things were already too bad.”

Aisha. Perhaps you remember her from this photo, snapped from my phone two and a half months ago, outside a mud hut in the slums of Namuwongo. She’s the young mother of four kids. A twenty-something.

namuwongo family

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Secular to Sacred: Truth from Surprising Sources


Have you ever been in a disagreement with someone who was kind enough to hear the real questions you were asking, rather than just the (irritated, misspoken, inflamed) way you actually said it?

Everything changes.

A college relationship professor once taught me the 1% theory, and it’s changed the way I look at life. The gist: In whatever negative way someone’s berating you, find the percentage—however small—that’s true. Then choose to be 100% responsible for your percent, even if it’s just 1% of what they say that’s true.

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Cry: The Hidden Art of Christian Grieving, Part II



Missed Part I? Grab it here.

I’ve been grieving some losses lately. The other day on my jog, they seemed to bottleneck inside, trickling out my eyes as my feet kept pounding, step after step. I’m not sure what God’s doing, but as I described in the last post, grief seemed… appropriate.

Though God’s given me glimpses of hope I can’t ignore–it also seems to deny Him access to all of me when I’m ignoring I feel anything, and jumping right to “It’ll be okay.”

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Cry: The Hidden Art of Christian Grieving, Part I

It was one night several years ago when a couple of good friends were helping me sort action figures, Legos, and other kid-detritus into bins in my boys’ room following dinner together while our husbands were out of town. During the meal, they had asked candidly about how I was doing with our adoption—which is to say, the adoption we painfully decided not to complete.

Truthfully, my heart felt raw, as if it were beating outside of my body. My grief felt so vulnerable, so scraped and skinned and gaping, that privacy was all I could fathom to deal with it. I felt oddly embarrassed that we’d taken steps out of obedience to pursue this, and told people about it–and then, also out of obedience, backed out.

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Guest post: 5 Beefy Ideas for Moms of Boys

My dad used to joke about being a “minority in a sorority”. It was fairly legit: We were four girls, plus my mom—and even the dog was a girl.

Imagine my (joyful) alarm when the sonogram of my first child revealed that I was about to plunge into the world of testosterone, sweat, dirt, and Nerf weapons (the latter of which I have now lost count). In fact three of my four kiddos are boys.


So when my boys were still quite young and I had a term paper assigned for a class, I chose the topic of moms raising sons—you know, because I was, oh, a bit overwhelmed what with all the jumping off things, unprovoked aggression, and mysterious hygiene habits. Or lack thereof.

I learned a lot as I unearthed studies from researchers like Michael Gurian and others who have uncovered remarkable biological information about how boys take in the world. My goal is not to add fabric softener to my boys’ rough-and-tumble existence (though stain remover is fairly essential). Instead, I’ve become riveted by the plans God has for their courage, leadership, directness, and masculinity.

Happy to be posting again on my friend Kristen Welch’s site, WeareTHATFamily.com: 5 Beefy Ideas for Moms of Boys. Hop on over and check it out!

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