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I’ve Been Exposed

I’ve Been Exposed

Facebook. What a great tool. A place to connect with friends, rekindle long lost relationships, engage in meaningful conversation, and a place to be grossly misunderstood.

When I first joined Facebook, it was an amazing place. For the first 20-50 friends it was a place where I could really be myself. I could say what I was thinking or feeling without having to worry about how it would be received. After all, these were my “friends.”

Now, over 700 “friends” later, Facebook has fundamentally changed. Every single person on that list, all 807 (when did that happen?!?) of them are people with whom I desire some form of a relationship. But therein lay the problem.

That lists consists of former employers and current employers. Grade school friends and college friends. Army buddies and seminary classmates. People who know me only from the context of my past and people who know me only from the context of my present.

I find myself weighing every status I post. Who could this offend? How could this be misconstrued? Do I really want to be *that* authentic? The moment I start asking those questions, I can no longer be myself. So what is the point? I don’t have any desire to live in a world of sketchy, saccharine, surface interactions. Not to mention the inherently narcissistic aspect of assuming y’all are even interested in my pictures, statuses, and comments.

So, I’m done with Facebook. At least in the way that I’ve attempted to use it these past few years. I’m not going to pull the plug and deactivate the account.* I know myself—it wouldn’t be long before I’d sign back in to see how y’all are doing. But I am intentionally withdrawing from Facebook as a place where I can attempt to be myself and be relational with 807 people who all know me from vastly different arenas. It isn’t productive, and misunderstandings abound.

So, my 807 friends, what does this mean? It means if you want to connect with me, ask me a question, carry on a conversation, or just see how I am doing, you’ll have to pick up the phone or send an email. My Facebook updates will no longer grant insight into the life and mind of Sten-Erik Armitage (after all, that’s a scary place in which to find oneself).

I hope to hear from you—and as a result of not having to filter my thoughts through 807 potential perception filters, I trust that our relationship will grow. So there it is. Facebook, I’m breakin’ up with you. I trust you’ll get over me in time.

Socially disenfranchised,

Sten-Erik Armitage

P.S. Lisa’s done too, same reasons, same decision.

* I reserve the right to completely deactivate the account in the future. If I disappear, that’s what happened. I would still want you to email or call though!

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Mirror of Truth

Mirror of Truth

The comparison game. It is dangerous, destructive, and deadly. How often do I find myself saying, “Yeah, but I’m a better husband/father/Christian than…” The reality is I will not be judged by the standard of “that guy.”

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations. ~ Psalm 100:5

Frederick Brotherton Meyer
(1847-1929)

F.B. Meyer rightly suggests that we must stand before the mirror of truth—Christ. He is the light that dispels darkness, He is the truth of the rightly guided conscience, He is the incarnate Word. He is our standard, and our most “stringent test. With unfailing accuracy we will discover our true selves as we come face to face with him, who is girt with righteousness.” He is the standard towards which we must always push and which has no room for complacency or compromise. As one of my good friends often says, “we need to walk like Jesus walked, live like Jesus lived, and love like Jesus loved.” Jesus is the incomparable standard. The comparison game of self-adulation and other-degradation cannot be played when we have our eyes turned toward the mirror of truth. Thomas à Kempis speaks of this mirror in the opening words of The Imitation of Christ:

He who follows me can never walk in darkness, our Lord says. Here are words of Christ, words of warning; if we want to see our way truly, never a trace of blindness left in our hearts, it is his life, his character, we must take for our model. Clearly, then, we must make it our chief business to train our thoughts upon the life of Jesus Christ.

It is by training “our thoughts upon the life of Jesus Christ” that we will be able to use this mirror effectively. If I am not daily saturated by the truth of Scripture, if I am not running my daily activities through the grid of discipleship as taught by Jesus in the gospels, the mirror of truth will become fogged by the steam of distraction. He should be my first thought, my first love. When faced with that standard, I fall woefully short—but I press on.

The momentary self-satisfaction I feel from being better than “that guy” is fleeting and false and ultimately leaves me flat. Yet having the standard of Christ before me, the unattainable standard, is paradoxically motivating. One would think that comparing oneself with a standard of perfection would be crushing. Yet once again, Jesus breaks all the rules. Rather than being crushed, one is counterintuitively given hope, peace, and strength to continue pressing on toward that standard. I close with an exhortation from Meyer:

Then let us, in the name and by the power of Jesus, put away all that has been shown to be inconsistent with His character and claims, and let us submit in everything to His control. It will cost us something. We may have difficulty with our judgment warped and injured by self-preference. We may have to contend with our will, reluctant to sign the death warrant of some favorite habit. We may feel powerless to carry into effect what we know in our loftiest moments, to be our only safe and blessed policy. But happy are we, if we dare to catch up the trailing robes of self-indulgence, and restrain them under the umbrella of inexorable truth and purity.

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Glad News of Deliverance

Glad News of Deliverance

I recently wrapped up a four week series teaching for the Master’s Class at Fellowship Bible Church. It was a blessing to be with those folks while Kevin was out of town. On the first week I opened the class with a brief devotional from Psalm 40:1-10. At the time when I shared that devotional, I was empathizing with the psalmist as he wallowed in that miry bog. Psalm 40 is a beautiful hymn sung by one who “waited patiently for the Lord” to deliver.

I was empathizing with the Psalmist because on that morning my family was looking at an uncertain future. In less than two weeks we had to move out of our home of the last four years. The move out was certain; where we were going was not. At that point we had no idea where we would live after June 1st. One of the challenges in finding a place to live was our employment situation. The family that Lisa had been nannying for moved the last week of May, so that income was gone. Although I was actively looking for full-time employment and had some irons in the fire, nothing had yet transpired. It’s difficult to find a landlord willing to work with a family with nominal income and uncertain prospects.

To add to the stress, I had been accepted into the doctoral programs at both the University of St. Andrews and Dallas Theological Seminary. Neither program is funded, and my ability to pay for either program was nil. In short, we were two weeks away from being homeless, unemployed, and unable to move on to the next step. Things felt bleak indeed.

When I shared the Psalm with the class, I mentioned none of the above. From the devotional, I launched into my teaching. One of the key points that I brought out from the Psalm that morning was the psalmist’s reaction to his deliverance. In Ps 40:9-10 we see that the psalmist was not silent. He publicly praised the Lord for what the Lord had done. I exhorted the class to not rob God of the glory due to Him. When God provides, when God delivers, when God demonstrates His faithfulness, we are to proclaim what He has done!

I had no idea what God would do, or if He would do anything. My faith in Him is not dependent upon Him doing what I feel like He should do. If we ended up homeless and no work opened up, God would still be God, and God would still be good. His goodness is not dependent upon my skewed and selfish expectations. The silence of God is not the absence of God nor is it an argument for His non-being. Sometimes the silence of God is exactly what we need, as painful as that might be.

Two days after our scheduled homelessness, I had the opportunity to stand before that same class and do what the psalmist had done. I announced to the class what God had done. In the space of two weeks we went from being without a home, job, or educational future to having a home, a job, and a fully-funded educational future! To God alone be the glory!

Through my good friend and mentor, Dr. P., we were put in contact with the owner of a house in Garland who is serving as a missionary in Hong Kong. The house he owns met and exceeded all of our needs. The house was vacated the day before we needed to move, so we were able to drive our moving truck straight from our apartment to our new home. (There is more to this story that I will share in a later post.)

Earlier that week, I was offered a full-time position at the seminary. And not just any position. For the past four years I had served as a Howard Hendricks Leadership Fellow with the Department of Spiritual Formation at DTS. I loved every minute of it. The position I was offered (and that I subsequently accepted) was that of Associate Director of the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership. God provided me not merely with a job that would provide an income and benefits. God provided me with a ministry about which I am passionate, working with men and women I know and love, and serving the institution that has served me so well.

What about that uncertain academic future? One of the benefits of this new position at the seminary is a tuition benefit. My Ph.D. (with the exception of the required books) has become fully funded! This abundant and merciful provision is not what makes God good. If this were all to be taken away tomorrow, He would still be God, and he would still be good. Again – To God alone be the glory!

“I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”

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Sobering News

Sobering News

Yesterday afternoon we received some sobering news. Four days ago, we were finally reunited with our family dog. For the past four years we have been unable to have her as we lived in student housing. Thankfully, some good friends took care of her for four years. Amazing! That is friendship…

The friends have graduated from DTS as well, and they are moving to take a pastorate in the mid-west. God provided a home for our family last week so that we could once again have our family dog who is also, as cheesy as it may sound, our best friend. Kaiya has some cysts on her haunch and some small ones on her head that we assumed were sebaceous cysts. Essentially harmless. But out of caution, we took her into the vet. The vet feels the most likely diagnosis is that she has advanced cancer that has already spread throughout her system.

There is a remote possibility that these tumors are a symptom of a condition for which Kaiya had been treated in the past; Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis. We are starting her on a 30 day course of medication to treat that condition. Please pray with us that this will be the solution as the prospect of cancer is something I really don’t want to consider as a reality. For our family, the dog is no mere pet. She is a member of our family, valued and loved. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we lost another member of our family. Kaiya is only six and should have many more years with us. We appreciate your prayers!

 

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The Gift of Music

The Gift of Music

This video elicited an unexpected reaction from me. I found myself smiling with tears in my eyes. Music is a powerful thing, and it doesn’t hurt that this piece by Edvard Grieg has long been a favorite. This video is less than 2.5 minutes. Take a moment, enjoy, and imagine what would have been your experience had you been on that train! (If the video does not appear, refresh the page. It is a problem with the YouTube embed code.)

“A person who…does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” ~ Martin Luther (Foreward to Georg Rhau’s Collection Symphoniae iucundae, 1538)

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