Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Social Media, Selfies & Jesus

The other day I was sitting down at my electric piano attempting to write worship music. I had started to play maybe only a few notes when all of a sudden I had this epic idea: I was going to take a photo of how 'beautiful' I've made my creative space. I mean, check it out... all the different coloured lights (sorry, colOr if you spell it the American way ;) Look at my cute little dandelions that I picked up from Ikea... and a painting I painted a few months ago... and my bright pink journal. Hashtag #HappyPlace. And you know what? My mind shifted from a place of creative focus to a less productive and more narcissistic way of thinking. What could have been a personal, intimate song-writing session with the Lord turned into a scheme of how I could get others to look into my life and one by one give me their stamp of approval. I mean, I didn't actually THINK all these things intentionally, I wasn't consciously looking for validation from anyone but if we are honest, a lot of the times, that's exactly what's going on. The reason I stopped in my tracks and decided not to post the photo was this thought: "Amy, why does anyone need to see a photo of your creative space? How will it enrich their lives? Is this about adding beauty to the world? Or is this a meaningless, 'I'm bored or need some attention from others' kind of post." I mean, there could be a million unsaid reasons why we post. The point of this blog post however is not to bash social media, but rather to start asking myself the more important questions that have to do with heart posture. Do I live my life in such a way where everything I do needs to be seen through the lens of Instagram? Am I living in a way where I'm addicted to capturing all the perfect moments (or at least on the surface they appear perfect) and broadcasting them to the world as if to say, "Hey world!! I'm alive!! I am awesome! My life is awesome!!" 

How many times have we been in mid-conversation and someone says to us, "Hahaha!! That was so funny! You should make that your status" Or, "I'm gonna tweet that". I've done this too. Now please understand me, there is NOTHING WRONG with tweeting or status updates. I get that we are all looking for human connection. However, we can abuse the system and actually be falling into the trap of self-absorption when we filter every momentevery conversation through a "is this tweet worthy?" filter. The subconscious way we live, always keeping an eye open for our next instagram-worthy photo or that clever facebook status, says many things, but one thing strongly in particular: we are always thinking about ourselves. Now maybe you're reading this and you're thinking, "I don't care what people think of me. I don't compare myself to others or seek their approval". Well then try this experiment: post a photo, or a status and then don't check it for at least a day. We say we don't care but we're constantly checking to see who gave us the thumbs up. It's a disease we have. The average person checks their phone about 50 times a day. For some, I'm sure the number is twice that.

The word Selfie became an official word in 2013. We've become so addicted to taking photos of ourselves that this very action got it's own name/definition in the dictionary! 

  1. a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.
    "occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn't necessary"

How Interesting, that within the definition itself it  says, "typically shared via social media". So not only do we take a photo of ourselves, but we need to share it with the 878 friends we have on Facebook. The question is why? What does showing our face to the world whether all dulled up or #natural say about us? Whether or not we agree, or even realize, the truth is we are communicating. Unfortunately we're probably not communicating the things we really hope to. Perhaps we've been lead to believe that posting a photo of ourselves every day says, "I'm confident in who I am". But actually, and I love this quote, "Confidence is silent, insecurity is loud... And true beauty isn't a try-hard, it just is". Insecurity is always screaming out for attention. Insecurity is always needing to prove itself. Let me take a moment and speak to the ladies: how hard is it for us girls when we go out somewhere, whether on a date, or go out with friends (and we look good!!!) ... how hard is it to resist taking a photo of ourselves? We think, "Dang... I look good. It would almost be a crime NOT to take a photo!". Haha!! And I'm laughing because I'm a woman! I know how it goes!! It is so hard for us to just be. It is so hard for us to embrace the moment, let it come, and let it go. We constantly need the proof. We're not beautiful until we have the proof.

Okay, so please know, selfies are not the devil. In fact, when you have friends and family living on the other side of the country or globe, seeing their faces can be a treat. What is more, you can still be completely self-absorbed and not take any selfies. You can be that person who posts scripture verses all the time for the purpose of trying to get people to believe you are the most spiritual person around. You can post pictures of your food 24/7, or your workout sessions so people know how well you cook or how fit you are. Even those stay-at-home moms who post a dozen photos of their adorable children and every happy moment with their husbands and family to show how picture perfect their life is. Really, we can turn ANY POST into a selfish endeavor. It all comes back to our heart posture and the WHY.

I may get into trouble for writing this blog and perhaps it will rub some people the wrong way, but let me stress, this post is not to cast judgement. Remember, I'm talking to myself. I'm navigating through the world of social media alongside all of you. God stopped me in my tracks a few days ago and I've been impacted ever since. I need to stop allowing social media to be a source of validation. If I never post another photo ever again, will I still believe I am having fun? What if we just stopped thinking about ourselves all together, would we have more space in our brain to see the people around us as people we could serve and heal, instead of people we are in competition with? Depression and anxiety are running rampant in this day and age. I believe a lot of it has to do with the sin of comparison. Constantly evaluating our lives, our worth, by comparing ourselves to those we see every single day through the screens of our smart phones. 

Life is beautiful. I understand we want to capture some of these beautiful moments. In fact, I love Instagram for that reason. It's a collection of memories that are special to me. But everything must be done in moderation and with intentionality. Just because it was a good time doesn't mean I need to share it publicly. Lets discern with the Holy Spirit how to function with this new modern technology. Lets let our lives and our Instagram feeds scream, "Jesus first, others second, me last..." And how about this, how about instead of posting every time we have the urge, why not posting every other time we have the urge? Why don't we be really picky about what we post so that we're not just throwing up all over social media absolutely everything we think/feel/do. 

God's heart for you, for me, is not that we remain insecure. Girl, you ARE beautiful already. When Satan told Eve "You will be able to be like God if you eat of the tree" it was the greatest deception in the history of our world, and she fell for it. Because guess what? She was ALREADY like God. She was made in His image! What a sad, sad story. Eve failed to see who she ALREADY WAS. The enemy gives us empty promises, tries to get us to sell ourselves only to obtain something we already have and already are. We are beautiful. We are loved. Our lives are beautiful. This same principle can of course be applied to men. You are ALREADY enough. Lets stop all of our striving. 

True beauty isn't a try-hard... it just is. And YOU ARE.

Friday, February 5, 2016



It's not a sin that gets a lot of attention in the church. Many people don't notice it- whether they're delivering gossip, or being told gossip. Unfortunately, many Christians justify gossip with thoughts like, "I just want to know how to properly pray for so-and-so... can you tell me everything he said to her?" Or, on the receiving end, "I probably already know what you're going to tell me so you might as well go ahead and say it..."

I don't know what sort of mental gymnastics we go through to justify gossip, I'm sure it's different for each of us, but lets be honest: many times we say things to our friends or neighbors that we would never say to the person we're talking about. Social media certainly opens the doors for gossip and judgment as we brows through photos on instagram and facebook, judging people's weight, clothing, decisions, friends etc. We somehow get life out of the fact that we are more 'holy' or more 'mature' or 'humble' than the person who constantly talks or posts about themselves. Sure, we all see people online that do things we would never do, or perhaps just shouldn't do (since none of us are perfect), but do we really need to verbalize to other people our thoughts? What if Jesus was in the room with you and your friends, would you still say things about Rachel's terrible makeup and laugh amongst yourselves? Would you still judge Jennifer for the 101 daily selfies, or would you talk about something a little more meaningful?

What about strangers in the street? If you were taking a stroll in the park with Jesus, would you crack jokes about the "ugly", awkward body-shaped people you saw? Or the mother who can't seem to control her child having a temper tantrum? Would you verbalize your disgust for the overweight alcoholic sitting on the park bench and go on about how lazy or pathetic they are? Or what about that woman who you know has had plastic surgery on her face and boobs, prancing around in a skin-tight dress and high heels too high for any human being- would you whisper to Jesus about how outrageous she is? Now all y'all are sitting here thinking, "of course not", and yet we all have inner dialogues with ourselves when we're out in public, and some of us unfortunately verbalize it, and way too often at that.

I want to challenge us (yes, absolutely including myself here), to remember that Jesus is always present. He hears every word we say. If you could physically see Jesus, I'm sure it would be an effective tool to help us all tame our tongues. God sees value and beauty in everyone and so should we. I'm not saying that we need to praise everyone's decisions or call decisions that are clearing damaging, "good", but we all need to remember- if someone is not a Christ follower, we cannot expect them to act like one. Why would we judge the people that don't know God? We are called to LOVE those people. Judgement or "accountability" in the Christian sense, is reserved for people you have intimate, close relationships with. If you see your brother or sister stumbling, you have the responsibility to care for them and bring to light sin or harmful decisions they are making so that they can be restored. And even then, before you do so, you need to examine your own heart. If you do not have a close, intimate relationship with a person, unless you know Holy Spirit has called you to do it, you have no right judging others or pointing out their faults. Without a real friendship, these people won't even hear you. They won't consider what you have to say.

"The tongue has the power of life and death" (Proverbs 18:21). Words have power. If you consider yourself a Christ follower, speaking life giving words should be a priority. There's no need for us to slander anyone. No matter who they are. Even if it's celebrity gossip. Celebrity gossip is some of the lowest talk. We don't know any of these people. Jesus wants a relationship with every person- even the ones in Hollywood. You are no more valuable to God than the actor or actress on the latest netflix phenomenon- even if they are on their 6th marriage and have a drug problem. That's none of our business.

Col. 4:6 says "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt..."

Jesus died for each and every person on this planet we call earth. Every person has unsurpassable worth in God's eyes. It should be the same in our eyes.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Two Books to Read in 2016

Dear bloggers:

As perhaps some of you know, one of my goals towards the end of last year was to become a more  dedicated blogger and that's still a goal of mine that's pushing into 2016. Not only do I want to start writing more consistently but I want to also spend more time Vlogging (talking into the camera, as un-exciting as that sounds!!) I feel like there are some cool journeys God has been taking me through and it would be great to hear from all of you and interact with you more on the Interwebbies as I like to call it, but you have to say it in the accent of Flula to get the full effect ;)

Anyways friends- let me cut to the chase here: I need to tell you about two incredible books. One is called "7" by Jen Hatmaker, the other is called "the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. My husband gave both of these to me at Christmas (he knows me so well), since I've recently been on this quest to simplify my life in order to have more time for what really matters and to bring Jesus into every decision I make so that I can be a good steward of all God's given me. As someone who is an active abolitionist (fighting human trafficking and slave labour) I've realized more and more that my purchases and lifestyle do not just affect me, but they affect a whole chain of people. From the children who work long hours to pick cotton for my clothes, to the women who have to abandon their families all day to work long hours at sewing mills to assemble countless items of beautiful, (yet inexpensive) items to feed my greed.

I have another task for you this year. Find the time and courage at some point to watch the documentary, The True Cost. I watched in on Netflix not too long ago and it is probably one of the most eye opening documentaries I've ever seen. I quote one young girl from the film, "What the people in America don't understand, is that they are wearing clothes that were made with our blood... Our tears and our blood..." The 2013 building collapse of a sewing factory in Bangladesh killing over 1 thousand people, leaving 2,500 injured is just one example of what happens when greed triumphs compassion and justice. Unfair working conditions, forced labour, slavery, these are things that in some shape and form I enable by making uninformed purchases.

What is worse, who of us can say that we regularly make clothing purchases we NEED? For what purpose are we enslaving others? As Jen Hatmaker exposes from her own wardrobe in "7", (but this could be said of any of us) before starting to"simplify" her clothing, she found over 327 different items, and a decent percentage of those clothes she hardly wore. Some even had the tags on still.

There are several ways to fight against slavery, one of course being to do your research and figure out if the items you are buying were made in the U.S. or if they are Fair Trade, but another great way to make a positive impact is just stop buying so much! Just because Forever21 has buy two get one free, or tank tops for $2.99 doesn't mean you need to get it. Just remember, the cheaper it is for you to buy, the cheaper it was to make, because the reality is,  slave labour cuts costs. Do you know who has made YOUR clothing?

For the sake of this blog I want to focus on this idea of buying LESS and refusing excess. When I moved this past November into a smaller apartment, God really broke my heart over this issue of excess. Why did I have boxes (plural) of shoes when my brothers and sisters in India or Ethiopia walk around bare foot? Why was I okay with the fact that I could hardly fit all of our possessions into our home when I've been to Brazil and other poor countries where the entire family eats off of one plate? Well obviously I am no longer okay with this. It's not enough for me to give $40.00 to Compassion International each month to sponsor a child. It's not enough for me to 'pray for the poor' when I stuff my face with 6 million different varieties of food. If you'd like to be challenged this year- if you really want to dive into Jesus words about 'loving your neighbor as yourself' or learning to live the simple way Jesus did, I highly encourage you to read this book.

This past October / November when I was on tour in Alberta, my good friend Dana Marie started talking about the book, "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up". She exclaimed right away how this book has changed her life. She's been posting regularly about the life-giving, "keeping it simple" lifestyle changes. So how does this book fit into the topic of this blog you ask? It fits because it encourages a life style that is minimalistic, and a minimalist life is not only good for our spirit and our mind (too much mess, clutter and excess can be very stressful), but it's also good for the environment and the 29 million people that are enslaved in the 21st century.

What is more, I cannot deny, Jesus was a minimalist:
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven...." ~Jesus
"It is more blessed to give, than receive" ~Jesus
"Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." ~Jesus
And lets not forget the over 300 verses on the poor. God obviously thinks very highly of the poor, and we cannot turn a blind eye towards them. How does my life style affect the weak or poor? How does my lifestyle enable or disable the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in my life and to advance His Kingdom on this earth? As someone who battles anxiety, I cannot tell you how liberated I've felt these past few months as I've cleaned house and simplified what I wear, what I own and what I eat. Clutter is my worst nightmare. Mess creates stress. Too many options in the fridge wastes time.

This year I choose to simplify. Simplify everything. It is only after I learn to simplify will I actually have more time to do what is important and to do it well. I believe minimalism will become the new fad. I believe it is the way forward, because it is the Jesus way.