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Sunday Afternoon Salutations June 4, 2023

Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” -Luke 11:23

Each and every day citizens of the United States consume about 400 million cups of coffee. I know, I just likely lost some of our tea drinkers, but for those of you who are still with me - in 2021 Americans consumed about 85 billion (yep, with a “b”) servings of tea. Just stop and think about that for a second…

Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to be using this “Tidings” to warn you about the detrimental health effects of consuming too much coffee or tea. In fact, I want to warn you about the detrimental health effects of something else, “social media.”

On May 23, 2023, the Surgeon General of the United States, finally, (yes, finally) officially advised our country with these words, “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

Interesting, “profound risk” is language typically reserved for things like tobacco use or vaping. But I have yet to see age restrictions or warning labels on the app store where these social media platforms are purchased. The surgeon general has called upon policy-makers to, “urgently take action.” I’ll be watching closely to see how all that takes shape.

I do realize that these “Tidings” are posted each and every week on social media, but I’ll gladly own the hypocrisy if I can still be genuinely concerned.

The facts are that young brains are malleable and are still in the process of being formed. Over-using social media can compromise impulse control, emotional regulation, and introduce young people to inappropriate and harmful content. Not a big deal? Making too much of this? I don’t know, especially when the data indicates that over one-third of teens said they used social media, “almost constantly.”

I know that my reflections on this issue really won’t change all that much, but I am also convicted that any little change can make a difference. So…

Let’s admit that all of us need affirmation and encouragement, all of us… and that makes social media particularly tempting. Social media provides an easy and accessible way to establish a platform where we can be heard and seen and get, “likes.” Yet, as quickly as those “likes” pile up, there is also potential for stinging commentary from peers that can pulverize our sense of self-worth.

How do we contend with this? My suggestion? More coffee and more tea, or even a “caramel macchiato" (if that’s your thing).

And, then of course, enjoy that beverage with someone you love and care about. Do your best, at least for a portion of your conversation over coffee and tea to refrain from complaining about work, hold off on mentioning your aches and pains, and instead share how important that other person is to you. Take the time to hear them, truly see them, and then give thanks for the ways in which their gifts are making a difference. Tell them how much they are “liked,” loved, and appreciated.

I know, you think this sounds cheesy… maybe it does, but the fact remains, our Savior “gathered” and sat with people so that Christ could affirm these children of God and let them know how important they were to the kingdom of God.

Question for reflection: Do you think social media chews up a bit too much of your time, or have you found a healthy balance?

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dan

Gracious Lord, now that we have officially entered the summer season; we pray that you would keep us safe in our travels, give us moments of rest and renewal, and bless us all with a deeper appreciation of your gloriously beautiful creation. We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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