Friday, April 24, 2009


I wrote this for a publication, but they decided not to use it. So I thought I would publish it myself on here! It is geared toward female readers, but it works for guys, too . . .

By Carrie Bevell Partridge

Facebook. There are not many phenomena like it in the world. Where else can you view pictures of your college roommate's newborn baby, read a funny article posted by your co-worker, beat your best friend's score on an '80s movie quiz, wish your high school lab partner a happy birthday, watch a hilarious YouTube video posted by your cousin, find out what your girlfriends are doing or how they're feeling today through their Status Updates, and peruse messages written on your Wall by any number of your friends--all while enjoying your morning coffee?

For the first few years of Facebook's existence, which began in 2004, its use was limited to high school and college students. Then in 2006, the floodgates were opened, and millions of 20/30/40-somethings and beyond joined the network and began reconnecting with friends from all over the world. I personally joined the craze in 2007 and was amazed at how quickly and easily I was able to find and reconnect with people from places I had lived in the past, from churches, from college, from high school, and even from elementary school. Of course, I also found a plethora of people I was already currently connected to, but it's fun to be friends with them on Facebook, too.

There are plenty of skeptics who claim that Facebook is a waste of time. (Interestingly, some of those same skeptics became Facebook members anyway.) Others claim that the network merely fosters pseudo-relationships and a false sense of community. Admittedly, there is some truth to each of these claims. Many hours can certainly be wasted on the site--toying with the vast amounts of Applications that can be added to your account, browsing all the different Groups and Causes that can be joined, playing games and taking pointless (though fun) quizzes, etc. Also, the Facebook world certainly should not replace person-to-person interactions and conversations, nor should it keep you from being involved in your actual neighborhood.

On the same note, however, Facebook can serve as a means of adult interaction for women such as myself, who are stay-at-home moms or simply work from their homes and are not "out in the world" as much as others may be. It is faster than a phone call, and you can be connected at any time of the day to a number of different people simultaneously. Many women, in fact, are using Facebook to solicit advice and tips on anything from parenting to cooking to relationships to researching products. I was amazed at all the feedback I received when my husband and I were in the midst of deciding what kind of flooring to put down in our living room. It was really helpful, because I was hearing from people that I knew personally, about the different products that were actually in their homes. How's that for research? And speed!

When I was preparing to write this article, I posted on my Status Update: "Carrie Bevell Partridge is working on an article and needs to know why women (particularly) like Facebook. Feedback, please! " Within a very short while, I received 18 responses! Many of these women confessed that they are a bit nosy and enjoy reading about everybody's lives. (At least they're honest.) Others said that it's a time-saver, an easy way to feel connected to people, a great method for maintaining friendships after you've moved, an easy way to get advice from others, and a wonderful way to share pictures and updates of your children. The fact that it is free is also very appealing!

"It makes me feel I'm a part of the lives of my Facebook friends, even if they live on the other side of the country," says Julie Ingram Moody (who is married to one of my friends from college).

"I like it because it's any easy way to keep in touch with people, especially that I've lost contact with over the years. I also like it because I love sharing about my boys. It's also nice to be able to 'get away' even if it's just in cyberspace," observes Emily Burgess Carlew (a church friend from my childhood).

Ashlee (who is married to a church friend of mine from Maryland but whom I have never actually met in person) claims, "Facebook allows us to keep connections with others and get support and encouragement at the moment we need it because someone is always available. It's also fun to keep up with people that you probably would not have been able to do so otherwise. You can show off your kids and fun things they do and how they are growing, and people can come look when they have time, so it allows everyone to connect on their own time since we don't both have to be here at the same time to share a picture, thought, or something."

On the subject of why women are particularly drawn to Facebook, Kim Morgan Latkovic (a friend from high school) comments, "My guess is that women, in general, are more relationship oriented and naturally enjoy connecting with others."

If you have not yet joined the Facebook phenomenon, you really might want to give it a try. I've heard the excuse from some women that they are "too old" and that they would feel silly being on it. I can assure you, however, that age is not a factor here. Privacy concerns also cause some people to hesitate, but there are many settings options that will keep you as public or private as you would like to be. As a general rule, only those with whom you agree to be "friends" can see your profile anyway.

Once you decide to join Facebook, you will most likely be incredibly overwhelmed for the first little while, because you will start getting "Friend Requests" from all over the place. If you like, Facebook will go through your e-mail address book to see if any of those people have Facebook accounts. Other Facebookers will also be able to see that you are a new member through your high school or college information or through the "People You May Know" feature.

After the initial tidal wave of friends rolls through, your Facebook account will become as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. Just like e-mail (or any other communication), the more you put into it, the more you can expect in return. You can add every Application the network offers, or you can limit your page to simple messages. You don't have to be like me and check it three or four times a day! However you choose to manage it, I think that you will find it to be a very fun (okay, and addicting) social tool. Who knows? You might even reconnect with your long lost best friend from kindergarten.

As fun and funny as Facebook is, though, I have sincerely found it to be a means of ministry and Christian connection for me. I am able both to give and receive encouragement from other Christian mothers, in which case the element of SPEED that comes with the World Wide Web is particularly appreciated! (We've been able to talk each other through potty training frustrations, first days of school, and other emotional occurrances.) I have also been able to reach out to those who let it be known that they are hurting, by sending them messages of prayer and encouragement. In fact, as I was writing this very paragraph, I received an e-mail about a childhood friend whose sister died of cancer yesterday. Immediately I was able to send my friend a message through Facebook, telling him how sorry I was for his loss. That may sound too impersonal and informal to some people, but the fact is that I haven't seen this guy for many, many years and would not have been able to communicate with him at all otherwise.

This social network also provides easy ways for groups (such as Bible study groups, mission organizations, your circle of friends, etc.) to communicate with each other all at once. Many churches have their own pages, and I've recently seen magazine articles about the importance of pastors getting their own Facebook profile pages in order to be connected and communicate with their congregations. And to all you moms out there--if you have a teenager, you most definitely need to be on Facebook and become friends with your son or daughter and all of his or her friends, as well. (You can learn A LOT about a person through what is communicated Wall-to-Wall on Facebook!)

And as strange as this may sound, I believe that Facebook can even offer some chances for reconciliation between people. By that I mean that there may be a friend or acquaintance that you may have hurt in the past and have never apologized and made things right. If you have not been in communication with that person for a long time, you might be able to find him or her through Facebook and use that opportunity to do your part to mend that hurt, which could be healing for both of you. Not everything on Facebook has to be silly.

So whether you're 21 or 51, single or married, techy or technologically challenged, I would like to encourage you to get yourself a Facebook account. There are all sorts of great possibilities!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dealing with the Hard Stuff

I've been dealing with some pretty tough things lately. I read this article this afternoon in Today's Christian Woman, and it really spoke to me, so I wanted to share it. I need to read it a few more times!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Putting FEET to Your Faith?!

I wrote this a couple of years ago for an Easter week booklet that was created by my church, The Journey . . .

Personally I'm not all that fond of feet. Sure, they're very functional and necessary for things like walking and standing, but they aren't exactly lovely, in my opinion. In fact, they can be pretty gross at times--dirty, smelly, and adorned with a variety of lint and toe jam. And then there are the toenails. These can be pretty disgusting, too, especially if the nails are so long that they've started to curl over the ends of the toes.

Needless to say, I could never give anyone a pedicure, although I do enjoy being on the receiving end of one. Touching someone else's feet just isn't my gift. Of course, baby feet are a completely different thing. I've actually kissed the feet of all three of my babies many, many times! But that was when they were untouched, unworn. And I'm the one that washed them, so I knew they were clean! Washing an adult's feet, however, does not exactly get me excited. It seems to me to be among the lowliest of tasks. So when I read about Jesus voluntarily washing His disciples' feet, I am truly humbled.

Jesus said that He "did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). Nothing was ever "beneath" Him; He was never "too good" to do something like wash someone else's dirty feet . . . and He was the Creator of the universe! Nothing was demanded of Him; everything was given by Him. And it was always given in love.

On this particular evening, which was to be His last here on earth, Jesus was having supper with His twelve disciples. He knew that He was going to be put to death in just a matter of hours, yet He continued to serve those around Him. For most of us, when asked the hypothetical question about how we would want to spend our final hours, the answer probably wouldn't be, "You know, I really think I'd like to wash a bunch of feet." But this is how Jesus showed His love for these guys. "He loved them to the end" (John 13:1).

When it was Peter's turn to have his feet washed, he tried to make himself look good by objecting. "Never shall You wash my feet!", he declared. But when Jesus answered, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me," Peter was quick to recant. "Lord, not my feet only," he said, "but also my hands and my head." (Can't you just picture Jesus trying hard not to roll His eyes at these guys sometimes?! Instead, He always gives them a calm explanation.) "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you," He said.

When Jesus made this statement, He was referring to Judas, one of the ones who was closest to Him but who was planning to betray Him. If it were me, I probably would have made a big scene about Judas' plot and certainly could not have washed his feet. But that's me, and I am full of sin and pride. Jesus, who is full of righteousness and love, wanted to make sure that even this man knew how much He loved him. He didn't snub him and skip over him; in fact, He probably took even more care when washing Judas' feet, because that's His character. Jesus did let Judas know that He was aware of his intention, but even this was done in humility.

At the end of this foot-washing ceremony, Jesus does give some more explanation. He challenges the disciples to follow His lead, saying, "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you." At this point, they may have been wondering, "Does He mean for us to get up right now and do it, or are we supposed to do it later? . . . Are we just supposed to wash each other's feet or other people's, too? . . . He said we're supposed to do as He did, but I started daydreaming for a minute and didn't pay attention. I hope He does it again . . . "

I'm pretty sure that Jesus' example to His followers went beyond the washing of feet, though. As I said before, this practice just seems to be among the lowliest, so His challenge was for them to purposely place themselves in a position of humility, doing something that was not required of them, and doing it simply out of love for one another. I'm also pretty sure that Jesus' example was not merely for the twelve guys eating supper with Him that evening. It extends to all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ.

In our American society, it is not our nature to look first for ways to serve others before serving ourselves. (People usually only wash our feet if they are getting paid to do so!) We tend to reserve the "real" serving for week-long mission trips or special projects around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In between, it's all too easy to get caught up in self-service, making sure our own pedicures are flawless. All the while, there are people around us who desperately need their feet simply to be washed . . . or their hands to be held, their tears to be dried, their bodies to be clothed, their words to be heard, their feelings to be acknowledged, or their hearts to be encouraged. Service takes on many forms. Jesus is our ultimate example, and He did much, much more than just wash feet. And while we can't do everything He did, we can ask Him to show us how He wants us to serve those around us in daily, practical ways. And, yes, that might mean having to touch someone's feet . . . toe jam and all!