Words from Ephesians 5 for Thanksgiving 2020

But Instead Let There Be Thanksgiving

What passage from Scripture makes you cringe? I’ll give you one of mine – the word “cringe” is even scrawled in the margins of my Bible next to it:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

-Ephesians 5:3-10, ESV (emphasis mine) 

Wow. I find myself swallowing a little harder every time I read this passage. There are so many places where I have partnered with the dark in my own life, and it often seems innocuous enough that I don’t even see what it’s doing. 

But while this is a weighty passage and reveals a lot about what Jesus followers let slip into the cracks of their life, there is a part that has always struck me as an odd choice to include. Read back through the above passage. See what I bolded? 

In the midst of commands to get rid of sin, a seemingly oddly placed command is given: “…but instead let there be thanksgiving.” 

At first glance, it seems like an odd shift from speaking about sin, to urging thankfulness, back to speaking about sin. But when you think about this, it actually makes a lot of sense. Have you noticed that when your life is full of joyful gratitude, the dark lure of sin fades a little? 

I find it extremely hard to praise God for a beautiful morning and then curse my neighbor the next second. 

There’s a weight of conviction that comes when you praise the goodness of God with a family member and then slip right into a conversation laced with jokes that make it look like you don’t know him. 

A universal truth is that one becomes what they behold. Behold the goodness and glory of God constantly, and your life will start to align with his. And, from this passage, I think another truth can be implied: You’re drawn toward what you meditate upon. 

Think deeply about what makes your heart grateful and watch yourself be pulled away from dark lures toward the light of Christ. 

This Thanksgiving, turn toward Jesus and strive to put aside the sin that clings so closely. Instead, let there be thanksgiving. 

The 5 Stages of a Social Media Detox

Social media impacts the mind the same way a slow I.V. of poison impacts the body. 

At least, it does for me. 

Whether social media has such an obvious negative influence on you or not, I think everyone benefits from a social media detox. I regularly try to step away from social media for a day or two a week for my own sanity, but my brain and soul need a longer detox at least once or twice a year. 

If this isn’t something you’ve done before, let me walk you through the five stages that come with a social media detox: 

RELIEF

After the buzzing happening on Facebook and the fighting happening on the dumb bird site and the overhyped and overfilted life posted on Insta, deleting apps from your phone will feel like RELIEF. Suddenly, the political conversations you have will happen in person (and hopefully with a lot more civility). You can live in a moment instead of taking photos of it. People will just have to compliment your new look IN PERSON. Anonymous trolls would have to do a lot more to get your attention. The relief feels good. 

ANXIETY + EXCUSES

This is the most difficult part of a social media detox, and it highlights the very reason why you start one. The timeline is different for everyone, but it sets in at some point: A slight buzzing anxiety that you’re missing something, which leads to ridiculous reasons why you should log back on. Power through, it gets better. 

TWEETING IN YOUR MIND

If anxiety and excuses are the most difficult part of a social media detox, this is probably the most humorous part. This is the point where your brain starts coming up with incredible social media content. Seriously – I have come up with my best tweets before remembering that I couldn’t post them. I have taken amazing photos that didn’t end up on Insta. This too shall pass. 

SURPRISE

I love the moment when you realize that you’ve been off social media for a while and for the last few days…you HAVEN’T MISSED IT. It takes a while, but that surprising realization feels good. You recognize that you don’t need it, and it doesn’t need to dictate your day. 

PEACE

And finally, the best stage of a social media detox: peace. When the notifications stop coming, when you’re not constantly reaching for your phone, when the anxious twitching and longing for false connectivity fades away. The goal of a social media detox is not to simply step away – it is to reset. To reset with less dependency on your devices; with a clearer head; with a calmer heart; and with a better focus on Jesus. 

Let this be your encouragement to step away from social media for a bit – it’ll feel weird, but it’ll be great in the end.

You calendar could be your new favorite tool.

Why Your Calendar Could Be Your New Favorite Tool

When I was in college, the calendar on my iPhone raised some eyebrows. It perfectly color-coded and divvied up my life, from waking up and heading to the gym in the morning to getting ready for bed at night. It allowed me to make sense of all the homework, classes, work schedules, and social events that I was juggling. 

After I graduated, my weekly schedule got much more predictable. I wasn’t juggling multiple jobs and classes anymore. My work schedule was the same every day, and most events in my life happened on a weekly or regular basis. So, I abandoned my color-coded calendar. 

It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I brought it back. COVID-19 took away any regular routine I had for a very long time, and I was left floundering. Even now, with some of my schedule returning to normal, working from home and adapting to this pandemic way of life has taken away a lot of the external rhythms and routines that allowed me to function regularly. 

So, I brought my iPhone back out and plugged my week in. 

When I was heading to the gym. 

When I was writing. 

When I had appointments.

When I had meetings.

When I was working. 

When I had church gatherings. 

It all got entered back in. 

And you know what? I realized that I missed having this tool in my life. 

People who like flexibility may protest trying out a calendar habit like this. It may seem like it’s too rigid to allow for freedom. But having things laid out so clearly actually provides a lot more flexibility. 

You can move things around as you need while still  knowing that everything is accounted for and written out. You can meet a friend and know you’re not missing a meeting. You can schedule out convenient times to run errands because your calendar shows you where you’ll be and when. 

I thought that when I was out of college, I wouldn’t need a calendar like this anymore. But in getting rid of it, I got rid of my favorite tool. Life is a lot better with having such a clear-cut schedule back at my fingertips, and if you don’t already do this, I would suggest you try it out. 

You may just find it’s your new favorite tool.

hands typing on desk with text

5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19

How long has your community been in some sort of lockdown or quarantine? It’s been over six months for my area. 

What began as a doable “15 Days to Stop the Spread” campaign turned into a harder-than-expected cycle of lockdowns, isolation, and disruption of routines. As things begin to open, talking heads are professing this to be the “new normal,” but there is NOTHING normal about this season – it’s just weird. One day we’ll be back to normal(ish), but right now we live in the weird. 

But thankfully the worst type of weird can bring some good things with it. In an attempt to stir up gratitude within me, here are 5 positive impacts of COVID-19: 

MOTIVATION TO TURN MY HOUSE INTO A HOME

I had been in my house for less than four months when COVID-19 struck. And as the weeks since then have passed, it’s motivated me to get boxes unpacked, walls decorated, furniture rearranged, and really turn the space where I live into a home. It’s made me think more deeply about things like my workspace, how to keep everything cozy without being cluttered, and how best to arrange the space when hosting (something I have happily been able to do, albeit in small groups, throughout COVID). 

TIME SPENT WITH PETS

I have a rescue dog with separation anxiety, and my sister’s anxious little dog also lives with me. It has been so good for both of them to have so much time with me, and I have loved it. While it might be a little bit more challenging during work meetings (they don’t quite grasp my need for them to stay quiet during my Zoom meetings), being able to curl up on the couch and write while they sleep at my feet is a delight. 

LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS

I reignited a childhood love of reading a year or two ago. I LOVE books. But there are so many other things pulling for my attention on a daily basis. Having a lot of the special events, regular meetings, and reoccurring calendar items canceled has opened up time that (when using my self-discipline to keep me away from Criminal Minds on Netflix) can be used to devour book after book. 

EXTRA TIME TO FOCUS ON HEALTH

My commute is gone, and my time to get ready every day has been slashed. This means that when I don’t sleep well, I can really focus on getting enough sleep by setting my alarm for later. It means that I have the time every day to get a really good workout in. I have the time to cook healthy meals. And, if I’m not getting enough steps in during the day, I can pace around my house while on that conference call with zero judgment. 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE ROUTINES AND OBLIGATIONS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

I miss my alarm going off earlier than preferred on the weekend to wake me up for church. I miss a commute that guaranteed carved out time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I miss regularly meeting with others in the evenings, even if I was exhausted from the day. COVID-19 has breathed new appreciation into these regular happenings, an appreciation I would not have had otherwise. 

How about you – are there things that you can be grateful for, even in this weird and awful season? Let me know in the comments!

signing of the declaration with text

What Can Hamilton Teach Us About Learning?

For the past few weeks, one word has taken over the internet and the dinner table conversation across the country: HAMILTON. 

An on-demand world means that Broadway has now entered our living rooms, and the release of the live recorded production of Hamilton on Disney+ is the most recent development. However, this one show isn’t set apart simply because of its innovative music or diverse cast, but because it is based on historical events. While not perfectly factual, it documents the beginning of American independence by focusing on one Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. 

(Full disclosure, I have the soundtrack playing in the background as I write this. The music is VERY good.) 

Now, there are certainly people who watched Hamilton and took it at surface level. They watched it, were entertained, and then turned it off and walked away without another thought. And that’s okay. 

But the musical sparked curiosity in the minds of others. What were the actual political stances taken by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton? Why was Angelica so excited about Common Sense by Thomas Paine? After rapping about it so much, what role did the Marquis de Lafayette actually play in the French Revolution? 

In this capacity, Hamilton serves as a case study on learning. It doesn’t matter what form knowledge comes in – what matters is what is gained from it. If having rap music on repeat can drill important pieces of American history into our heads, all the better. But maybe we all can learn much through not only music, but movies, poems, art, podcasts, or anything other than lengthy books. 

To be sure, we should always fact check what we are learning, no matter the source. Alternative forms of learning can often take artistic liberties that make the facts less precise. But once we make sure our facts are in order, these resources are wonderful tools in growing our understanding of the world. 

We live in a culture where constant learning is undervalued. If things like Hamilton can help change that, we should be all for it. 

Kelvey's April - June 2020 reading picks

The Quarterly Reading Roundup: 2020 Q2

Anddd we’re back! As you know, this year I’ve started a new series (but can it really be called a series when it only occurs four times a year?) that highlights some of the best books I read every three months. 

Here are my picks from quarter two of 2020: 

The Vanishing American Adult by Senator Ben Sasse

To be totally honest, I’m wrapping this book up right now. But Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is not only my favorite person in Congress – he is also an amazing author and historian. His diagnosis of America’s coming-of-age crisis is analytical and accurate, and his ideas on how to chart a new course are phenomenal. As a young adult, this book has left me not only thinking about how I want to raise my future children but how I can set a better path forward for myself even though I’m already in my twenties. 

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

I am desperately in need of grace at every single moment of my life, and Wilson writes for those of us followers of Jesus who are thankful that Jesus has it all together because we know we never will. I don’t usually quote Amazon summaries, but a line about this book (from the Amazon link above) was accurate: “For the believer who is tired of quasi-spiritual life hacks being passed off as true, down-and-dirty discipleship, here is a discipleship book that isn’t afraid to be honest about the mess we call real life.” 

50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe

To start with just a small critique, the targeted audience for this book is obviously pastors and many of the people featured are pastors most of us have not heard about. However, even with that knowledge, this book was extremely encouraging. I loved being able to read short biographies of so many giants in the faith, and have resources listed if I wanted to learn more about specific figures. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so we should allow their lives to urge us on. 

What books are you reading?

crates with white text

Let’s Take Ideas Out Of Their Boxes

Okay, pop quiz. What box would you place the following ideas in? 

The best solution for hate speech is more speech, not less. 

Demilitarize the police. 

Excessive and wasteful taxation is theft. 

Climate change is a real problem. 

The right to bear arms shall not be infringed. 

Drug legalization/decriminalization would lead to a more equitable criminal justice system. 

Religious liberty should be protected. 

Immigrants built America and we should knock down barriers to legal immigration. 

Free markets lead to freer people. 

Okay, what boxes did these check? Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? 

I don’t know – I pulled them all at random from a box titled “Kelvey’s political beliefs.” 

Have you noticed that shoving ideas into strict boxes makes us reluctant to pull from the boxes that wear labels we don’t like? We prejudge the idea based on what it falls under instead of on the merit of the idea itself. 

Instead of right or wrong, factual or nonsensical, reasonable or radical, we let the labels do the talking. And these labels often make us swerve away from an idea if we deem it too out-of-step with the rest of the boxes we like to dig through. 

And you all know the feeling of agreeing with an idea that is boxed in with a label you don’t like. You cringe a little bit, wondering, “Did I really agree with something that ____ thinks?” 

We like our boxes because it takes the hard work of analyzing ideas one-by-one away. It’s much easier to sort boxes than it is to sort all their contents. It allows us to lazily claim whole boxes as our own instead of pulling together a worldview composed of individual ideas. 

Let’s make things harder on ourselves. Let’s think some more. Let’s take ideas out of their boxes. They were never supposed to be labeled and sorted like this anyway.

Just because you're moving and living doesn't mean you're growing or progressing.

All Motion Is Not Progress

Smack dab in the middle of a public education policy diagnostic summary, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) writes in The Vanishing American Adult, “All motion is not progress.” 

Simple. Profound. True. 

Have you noticed that humans tend to act like we’re sharks? While some sharks are certainly able to stop moving and still get oxygen, there are many species that must keep moving in order to pass water through their gills and get oxygen. If they stop moving, they stop breathing. They move just to stay alive. 

We often act like the latter. 

We think that as long as we keep moving, we’re living, even progressing. Whether this is in the personal habits of the everyday citizen or in the halls of Congress, mere action is equated to growth and improvement. But is that accurate?

Motion isn’t necessarily progress. Pulling from a larger perspective, just because Congress passes a bill does not mean things are progressing or improving. The bill could certainly be (and often is) something that is burdensome and regressive, offering more problems than solutions. 

On a personal level, just because we’re going through our days and weeks does not mean we are progressing at all. How many of us get to the end of these time periods, wonder what we actually accomplished, and write it off as okay? I know I am too often at peace with stasis instead of analyzing it for opportunity to actually move forward. 

Movement doesn’t mean that something is actually happening, changing. We need to, I need to, start questioning ourselves on this idea. Where are we going through the motions in our lives, expecting that to propel us forward? Where are our lives static? Where do we need to compel ac? 

Left to our own devices, we would all fall into meaningless motions and become blind to the lack of progress those actions produce. Let’s challenge ourselves to become more intentional in our ways, our motion, and look forward to the growth that produces.

We need a functional life, not just one dedicated to achieving goals.

Let’s Work Toward Functionality, Not Just Goals

I remember a time in my life where I would regularly get up at 4:45 a.m. and be at the gym by 5:15 a.m. to grind out a hard workout. 

Oh, the ambition of younger me. (Yes, four years qualifies as ‘younger.’)  Continue reading “Let’s Work Toward Functionality, Not Just Goals”