In a time when we are more connected than ever, research is showing the growing problem of human loneliness We are starving for true interpersonal relationships. In Psalm 25, David reflects that heart-cry and reveals the faithful presence of God while giving us hints as to the tools at our disposal to fight against those feelings.
From the desk of Dr. David Swanson
"I will be with you always, even to the end of the age...." Matthew 28:20
As Hurricane Irma bore down upon us days ago, I found it sobering to hear Emergency Management Officials say, "If you need help during the storm, you're on your own until it's safe for our people to be out." In other words, for this period of time, you're alone. Certainly, some of us had family members or friends huddled with us, but even then, it was a lonely feeling. We can all experience such seasons in life - periods of time where loneliness is our constant companion - and it's painful. Studies have shown that loneliness is part of the same human systemic reaction as hunger and thirst. When essential food is missing, we get hungry; when essential relationships are missing, we get lonely. Unfortunately, our culture is forcing us into patterns of behavior that increase that loneliness. The New York Times recently called it an epidemic. We are losing the important relational connection of face to face relationship and replacing it with a screen - a smart device - and it's not at all the same. If we want to fight those feelings, or help others, it's time to look up from those screens and pay attention to the PEOPLE around us every day.
Scripture also offers us some hopeful words through David's wisdom in Psalm 25. David was a "man after God's own heart," yet he went through a season of loneliness - and he admitted it. I hope that will blow up any social stigma associated with being lonely. Unfortunately, some think such an admission is a sign of social weakness or a character flaw. Nonsense. David recognizes the problem and then recalls what he knows: God is with him. It is the underlying drumbeat of the Bible: I am with you. The advent of Jesus Christ is its fullest expression. God IS with us. Further, he has given us an earthly solution to the problem: His covenant as expressed through His Church. God makes a covenant with HIs people - not one person - but a corporate body - which now has its expression through the church. By faith, we ARE part of that body and as such, we become the incarnation of Christ to others. It should not surprise us that an epidemic of loneliness has arisen at the exact same time church attendance and commitment is dwindling. The church is God's gift for essential connection to Him and to others......so plug in!
FUNNIEST HURRICANE MOMENTS: The news reporter standing outside in Miami talking about the horrific conditions, only to have two bikers ride down the empty street behind him completely unaffected - pretty much negated his point; and the guy standing on the sea wall taking the photo who then gets taken out by a wave. #alwayskeepyoursenseofhumor
PROUD OF The Church: As we all know, the Church of Jesus Christ is made up of flawed, broken people. That's why we're there - we realize we desperately need a Savior. Even so, the Church has always seemed to be at her best in times of crisis. It's been true throughout history, and it's been true in the past month during both Harvey and Irma. First Pres has been one of hundreds of local churches that have served in the manner of Jesus - humbly, tirelessly, sacrificially - in order to help others. #shiningJesus
MARATHON METEOROLOGY: I am grateful for the meteorologists, both nationally and locally, who worked for hours on end to keep us informed. The local crews on most stations were up for at least 24 hours, and were right back on the air the next afternoon. I was grateful to have power in my home so I could watch them - all night.
THERAPY DOGS: I'm a dog person, and I was certainly glad to have her around during the storm. Our pets are often a source of calm, so it was good to hear a recent study that showed they indeed love us - and AT LEAST as much as they love food. #doesshelovemeorAlpo?
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF: All week, I heard people speak about the emotional whirlwind of the past two weeks. I call it "hurricane hangover." We had five days of buildup, growing anxiety as we watched the track shift. We then endured a frightful 36 hours as it roared over us. Then we had to clean up, assess the damage, check on family and friends, sleep through powerless nights and endure exhausting days - only to be expected to go right back to normal life as if nothing had happened. Something DID happen, so don't require that you be some sort of superhuman. You are emotionally and physically spent, so take some time where possible to process it with others, pray through it, journal about it, get some exercise, take a nap, or find a corner to have a good cry - whatever helps you grapple with hardship. Give yourself a few weeks to recover your sense of equilibrium.
In this new age of stainless steel appliances, I miss refrigerators that were covered with photos, children's artwork, invitations, honors, ribbons and notes. It was the chronicle of a family story. I could visit a family, look at the fridge, and learn a great deal in an instant. #bringbackthemetal
This is an excerpt from David's regular #MMM Monday Morning Musings on Facebook. Read the full post.
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The Rev. Dr. David D. Swanson is the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. In his spare time, Dr. Swanson enjoys reading, running, playing pick-up basketball and golf. More about David.
For many of us, it's been a long couple of weeks. We're grateful for the prayers and the way we've seen our church family and community come together before and after Hurricane Irma.
We will know more in the coming days about how you can help, but here are three ways we're getting started...
by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
She sat across the desk from me and looked at me like I had three heads. The word incredulous comes to mind. “You MUST let him fail,” she said. I think my chin dropped. I almost cried right there in front of her, but I knew she was right.
One of our sons had conveniently avoided keyboard instruction over the years and made it to seventh grade with zero typing skills. She was his English teacher, and had assigned his first paper for the year. He had already missed a couple of homework assignments (that’s another story) and so I offered to “help” by typing his paper for him. He had great ideas; he could write; he just couldn’t type. What a great solution!
I have never forgotten that conversation. I think it was the first time someone had the gall (courage) to tell me the truth: unless I was willing to let my child fail at something, he would never have an opportunity to move the needle on the responsibility scale. This was a constant struggle. Good intentions layered with procrastination and great excuses amounted to mediocre grades for an otherwise really smart kid. When would I stop rescuing him and let him hit the hard pavement of reality?
I didn’t type the paper, partly because I knew he needed to do it himself but mostly because I was terrified of her. I watched in agony as I walked past him, seated in front of our old desktop, pecking away and boiling with anger and frustration. It was not easy, but it was the right choice. And I could relay countless other stories about our children--watching their disappointment over defeat, their frustration from failure, their heartbreak when friends were heartless.
These are things parents want to fix. But we can’t. We need to let our children experience their deep need in order to help them see a God who loves them more than they even realize. When we rescue our children from disappointment and failure, we deny them the opportunity to gradually grow into adults who can deal with the inevitable disappointment, failure and suffering in life. When their disappointment and fear and pain threatens to overtake them, part of our job as their parents is to point them to Christ, who has faced these foes at the cross and overcome them all.
We stand in agreement with the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Our failure and disappointment (self-inflicted or not) is a built-in opportunity, courtesy of this tired old world, to look to Jesus for what only He can give: security, peace, strength to face whatever it is, no matter our age. He can give us the willingness to face our own sin and repent. He can give us contentment and relief from envy. He can give us forgiveness so that we may forgive others. He can give us a change of heart to love the unloveable.
Only our deep need can show us these truths because unless we need Him, we’ll go on believing that we can fix it. Children face constant disappointment, which is a sure training ground for what’s ahead. At some point, we will all face something we can’t fix: a medical diagnosis, a lonely heart, a job loss, the list goes on. As parents, we need to guide our children toward a dependence on Christ and His mercy and grace that will never fail them, no matter how many times they fail. This one reality is our supreme comfort when everything else can’t be fixed.
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.
What’s in a name?
by Tanner Fox
Some people are “name” people. Even if they have only been introduced once and spent 2 minutes talking, they will never forget a name. Other people have the hardest time remembering names. I am in the latter group. Moving to Orlando made this reality all the more evident. My wife has lived in Orlando all her life and knows just about everyone in town. Many of those people know of me because of her, and therefore I am constantly asking Ashley to remind me of their names. When she is not with me I resort to the cowardly, “Hey bud,” because there are few feelings worse than calling someone the wrong name, or being called by the wrong name.
What happens to us when our name is forgotten? Why does it hurt? I think it might be because it represents the most elementary level of being known. Dr. Swanson referenced what he said may be the two most fundamental desires of the human heart, to be know and to be loved. But what does that mean exactly?
I think it is easy for us to understand the idea of being loved. I believe myself to be quite lovable. People love me for what I can offer them and what I might ad to their lives. But this love is conditional and superficial.
There is a deeper more true kind of love that I long for - that I believe we all long for. A sacrificial sort of love that bears with me each day, electing to think well of and care for me, no matter the cost. This idea of love leads us towards what it means to be known.
To be known, truly known, is a vulnerable place to be. Scripture tells us that we are all sinners and fall short of the grace of God, but just because we know our sin is in there, doesn’t mean we want anyone else to know about it. What I want others to know of me is only the good stuff. That is why our resumes don’t include our greatest achievements alongside our largest shortcomings. We have been trained to reveal the good and bury the bad in order to be accepted and loved. However, to be truly known is to be known entirely, fortunes and flaws alike. And without this kind of knowing, we will live in fear of being found out.
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman who is well known by her peers, but not loved. She has had many husbands and now sleeps with a man whom she is not married. She comes to the well at midday because that is when she can go alone. She is full of shame and tries to deflect every question that Jesus asks and yet his words pique her interest. Jesus tells her that she can have “living water” that will quench her thirst forever. The water he speaks of is the salvation that he brings through his life and coming death, resurrection, and ascension. You may say, “Yes of course Jesus brings eternal life, we all know that.” But don’t miss to whom it is offered. Salvation is offered to a woman known only by her flaws. Jesus loves her despite her flaws.
The woman cannot contain her excitement over the news she has just heard. Maybe for the first time in her life, all of her secrets are known, and still she has felt loved. So much so that she runs back to town to exclaim... “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” - John 4:29
There is no feeling quite like being known and loved all in the same moment. It wipes away fear, it fills our hearts with joy, it invokes a sense of worthiness, it restores our soul. When we meet Jesus we recognize that to be known by him is to be loved by him.
Who in your life fully knows and loves you? Are you truly known by anyone, or do you resort to hiding for fear of not being loved? Who do you extend love and grace towards even when they are at their worst? This is the love of the Jesus, that we care for others without expectation or condition.
Tanner Fox is the Minister for Mission at First Pres. He’s a recent grad of Reformed Theological Seminary and holds deep affection for people, movies, sports and Jesus Christ. As Minister for Mission, he leads the charge to help you love and serve the city and the world. email@example.com