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Overcoming Suburban Idolatry to Reach Others

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
July 2, 2020 2:00 am

Overcoming Suburban Idolatry to Reach Others

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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July 2, 2020 2:00 am

Ashley Hales identifies the idols of suburbia – including consumerism, individualism, and safety – and describes how we can ensure God is our top priority, along with His mission of sharing the Gospel with our neighbors. Ashley offers encouragement and practical steps we can take in a discussion based on her book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much.

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I think a lot of it is to ask ourselves how's that working out for another busy life where you are just in and out in your team take out the car and you are you feeling that this abundant life that Jesus promised, probably not now and in we're not probably really loving God and loving our neighbor Ashley Hills joins us today on Focus on the Family and host president Dr. Jim Daly, thanks for joining us I'm John Fuller, John. You have to remember those stories of mission traveled overseas to assure the gospel. I remember sitting in hearing Elizabeth Elliott KC 83 that was a big white college gathering tens of thousands of people were there. Elizabeth Elliott spoke. It was riveting to hear about her husband. The other men that died and how they then came back and won the hearts of those tribesmen and many became Christian and then you have Hudson Taylor who witnessed in China and really brought the gospel into China's amazing to think of those big, almost like glamorous Christian endeavors right you think of it in such grandiose ways and I'm sure they were thinking were just doing what the Lord called us to do that today there are many impoverished areas around the world that need the gospel were so grateful that missionaries are going but Christians often forget that what's happening sometimes desperately what's happening right in their own neighborhoods right right here in America and the idea of poverty and downtrodden.

Those that are not doing well and what can we do to bring the gospel to them. It's convicting to think about that in today's guesswork to talk about the city, the suburbs and what our attitude should be in this environment yeah Ashley Hills is with us. As I mentioned she's a writer and speaker and pastor's wife and she's written a book called finding holy in the suburbs. We've got that online click the episode notes and you'll find out more. Ashley, welcome to Focus on the Family such a pleasure to be with you Already intimidated. You have a PhD in English from Edinboro University Scotland right while. Why did you do that very young and newly married and it sounded super adventurous and amazing Sally that he went off to do his seminary degree and I went and started my PhD can I just ask a question when you hear us talking like John and I do say oh that's a dangling participle. Okay, now I'm sure with a dangling mentioned in the gym was a part. I was in public school for a long, it is great to have you here and you and your husband were in Scotland. First of all was that like living overseas adventure and it was great because we are poor graduate students and yet because things you can find great student deals we can travel we were with a bunch of people from all over the world that came to studying Scotland and said it felt like that's really vibrant community and very cosmopolitan like we are poised on the brink of something like this got going to do with S9 education in Lucknow, where overseas where primed and ready to do big things for the gospel and then we went back to what I was saying in the set up this idea of Hudson Taylor and Elizabeth Elliott rendered ventures into these lands of intrigue, but in your thinking maybe it will be something like that or even we were working with a small church Scotland Paris Tarrant maybe with Patrick staring cross-cultural ministry. In all these sorts of things, or at least taking a go take this experience back to the US and in a work in an inner-city or something so you come back to the US where did you settle in Salt Lake City and that we ended up first in Pasadena, California and then we were in here in San Diego and my husband did when the housing market crashed. We moved to psych city and because people weren't really planting churches and giving bunches of money towards planting churches at that point and has been a campus ministry for six years at the University of Utah and then after that we moved back home to Orange County, California. Now this is where we pick it up in this wonderful book you written finding holy in the suburbs living faithfully in the land of too much. So this is as the moment it started to ball for you because you had a lot of city living yet and then you move out into the suburbs. Why did that strike you. Why did that catch your attention. Why was it different in other places really tell stories and a lot of city urban places we can tend to specialize questions to say okay I'm going to really live this kind of very full or gospel life. I am working with people in poverty are I'm working with justice initiatives are I'm working to help create really great high-profile dialogues months the elite and leave a sense of how we operate discussions in the city and a lot of that really is come in the last 20 years before that said he wasn't really a focus of Christian ministry and mission. And yet suburbia often can tell us the story that we can. We have the ability to withdraw from these issues and so the question I found as I move back to suburbia analyzing how can I live out the gospel story here in a way that makes sense for this place and yet leaves me not away from people that towards interacting toys.

Loving my neighbor. It's towards loving God, you mentioned the book. I think a fair way to say this kind of your alert went on about living in idolatry.

I really want to dig into that because I think you know 50%. I believe your book stated that about 50% of people live in the suburbs.

That's half of no English you know that it does feel comfortable. It's kind of a retreat yet pull out of the messiness of the city.

If you work in LA a great example. Yeah drive 60 miles to get your house four hours later you pay a price for that.

There is like a decompression of the is that wrong is bad or what was your conclusion there and connect that alter the idolatry, hate, you know, I think a lot of it.

It's not to say that things like safety or having many bad things and that anything that we hold up as something ultimate can easily become an idol you knifed it. This is where we find our identity. If this is where we find our ultimate satisfaction. If it's because I live in a safe neighborhood. I feel safe instead as I feel safe because I am in the story of Jesus moment by moment. And that's an item and so I think what hired as suburban idols you know they don't like as flashy as maybe someone earning a ton of money or fame or power. All these things that we can easily kind of do's and other people in on a TV screen and that to be able to pay attention to the ways in which our own hearts are so prone to idolatry. This will help me with examples of suburban idolatry. Yes.

So I think a lot of them really tell us the story that the good life is found in centering myself right this kind narrative of American individualism which we know we we believe right as Americans as Christians. That freedom is important and yet when we take that to the nth degree and that happening is that all we care about our own personal freedoms and we don't actually care about the freedom of other people are.

We end up dying in order to feel loved and valued. Consumerism is a huge issue and so okay, but we have a project on the target yeah you confess you can say yes I open them the story about target. I think I think I realizes it's easy to say will not like all of those other suburban mom's right they go to target all the time and I just go once a week or something.

So it's really not a problem for me it's a necessity right my family and that while and then I'm also going to do, go to the sale racks enough and there's a sense in which even we start going down the aisles of target.

For instance, in St. okay if I buy this water bottle, then I'll be healthy know this is kind of the story in our heads, or if I buy these cute shoes or if I buy these crafts than them and become the site really amazing crafty mom right and were using all of the things that we purchase to try to make us into something that we value is some of that okay though.

I am trying to balance right. I just think most of us are still unaware that that were doing when we got so what does that awareness lead you to. So if you're feeling like you and I think in the book. The opening of story. I thought the grid connection there that you mentioned became a model for you became a crutch and became almost like you are medicating breakthrough shopping right now. I hate shopping, so I don't understand. Help me understand why that was bringing you comfort right distance right and just our normal lives right or we get overwhelmed we feel depressed with anxious we just feel stressed out. We we don't know what to do with ourselves on my children went off to school and is like I have all this free time on skin wanted aisles of target. Why not and so I think what were end up doing when were doing that is more likely looking for something to like bring us more alive and we are maybe a little bit scared of going to the Bible of praying some of those desires to God that feels a little scary. We don't really know why were feeling Inc. Steve there's nothing really that might point to that and so just easier to say I'm in a go get my coffee and I'm going to go shopping so as not that you're constructing this idol that you can worship it's more that you're finding satisfaction and fulfillment were God should be providing that right and something else that you know we often though. Think of these things and very solid constructs like words that line if you're in a black-and-white thinker. How do I stay below the line. The red light idolatry records as a Christian I don't want to.

I don't want to be an idolater yes so when is this much okay and that much is not okay to determine a lot of time in prayer right but I think that we want to be just right, just underneath that line guilty of ShopRite ended in to say we want to be able to buy things that are beautiful to bless people you know we want to create in surprise your children with a gift or something so as not to say that purchasing is is bad, but I think just even ask ourselves the question what is underneath. Right this part and that's a healthy thing. What's motivating me, why am I doing this was always good questions right, let's move to the other will many aspects of the book but safety was another one. This is hilarious because men dads and moms will relate differently than we had issue in our parenting early on when the boys were learning to ride bicycles going to the park. It was bubblewrap mom yet and punch the bubbles that we doing right where are their helmets rent that's always smart to let your kids right and make your kids whereby, when the writing bikes. Sometimes I was a little relaxed about that but speak to the safety issue and again where that line is where you know we don't want to be over safe with our kids will will shape them in such a fearful right you know it's really fascinating is that a lot of children who tend to grow up and suburban contacts that tend to be a little bit more affluent and safe. We have this combination. Now of kind of overinvolved helicopter parenting that generally nonplussed like the resources to be able to do something with it. That's actually me making suburban kids more at risk for suicide and mental health problems than children in poverty and that so sediment that is unhealthy. Let me ask you, just before move on to some parents might be in that spot. They're concerned about the children. What can you do to unwind that to allow some pressure off of your children. What are things you can do this great and I think obviously if you're needing counseling or mental health help. Do not be afraid to go and seek out and for us as parents and I'm even realizing it's really helpful to speak to a counselor myself and my own issues that I'm not putting on my children embed to create safe spaces for them to continue to affirm that you love them that their choices are not defiant. They don't need to earn your love I think are just some of the really important messages to credit playsets and safety, but not in the safety in a sense that I'm going to protect you from harm because we can't protect our children from harm. Ultimately we have to release them into the loving care of Jesus and that he will direct their swelling is great advice. And that's one of the reasons the biggest reason we have counselors here so people can call and get help and it starts the process, especially if you have some reservation about taking the first doing that over the phone is a great way to start. Our counselors are wonderful German kitten who heads up the counseling team does a fantastic job and does some really great insights today from Ashley Hills. She's our guest on Focus on the Family and we do want to commend her book finding holy in the suburbs stop by our website to get a copy and find other resources to help you as a mom or dad.

We got all the details in the episode shown else internationally as we've come out of this pandemic thing and you know we had time sheltered in place.

Everybody kind of slowed down and some of that was really helpful. It was positive even though it was in a negative context right and it did help me to reflect on what's important what you concentrate on bit as we begin to unleash the schedules and things are getting back to some kind of normal. I'm reminded of another idle that you talk about for the suburban life, which is this busyness thing that we mark ourselves and measure ourselves in business speak to that. Yeah, I think the busy idling. If you ask anyone hey how you doing I'm fine or I'm busy right and this writer that right and that the thing with busyness right is that we use that basically say I'm worthwhile and valuable because I'm so important that I have to be running around even if our many factoring some of this running around and just realizing we don't have to live a busy life and often the things that Jesus talks about his parables are small things yeast nets you know and the pearl of great price. There are small things. The kingdom is like a little seat right that a mustard seed and so I think for us to be want to be able to pay attention to small things. We have to be able to slow down. One of them, but that can be difficult in your book you mention becoming the mommy show for some even taken the kids to know how many direct soccer practice. What's the practical way to not be overly committed. When you have four kids site I want to do this right. I think you know we've tried to tell our children a cake and have one extracurricular activity per season. But even that with Arkansas. My mom is still too much and we've had to list the grandparents, and I think is for me to realize my children are my goal is my pet. As a parent is not to make them happy or give them every possible opportunity is really to help them land belong to family and so that they can belong to the family of God and so choosing to say, you know, maybe you're not can be on that travel soccer team because you know you won't be able to go to church or organa. We don't want the whole family to revolve around you that you can supply soccer is maybe one of countercultural. In today's environment enough youth sports culture that can help us let him is so true. I mean, I have friends that the children are in trouble), sports teams, yet I'm so thankful trend toward the direction you pressure them. Either way, yeah, but when I talked to them they're exhausted and spending thousands of dollars to travel past the country baseball guy while at a friend whose son did that in baseball and they were quite hopeful that he would go into baseball and he's not doing scratch that was it was a hobby at the time, but it wasn't applying for and you know you want to pursue those dreams wrangles and again back to that idea what's appropriate what's not, so there's no easy answer.

Now that at all. Let's move into some deeper issues related to the suburban life you use words like sin and repentance in the course of things make us a little uncomfortable as Christians. I don't want to be there. Describe what true repentance is and why is it important to acknowledge the different ways we chase that fulfillment and I think even as we slide down as a practice paying attention to our places as we pay attention to the lives of our families and our churches in our neighborhoods. We preying on the spirit of God to show us guys you are going to target to fulfill this deeper longing and and you don't feel content you know you're only as happy as the next protest or the next thing on your calendar. Even just what this pandemic in the sense that we kind of felt really stir crazy don't know what to do with ourselves when we have our world kind of changed upside down one of the anchoring things I can and crest of the story of the gospel and so I think Jesus invites us into repentance to re-anchor us into his story in saying that now. Actually your deepest identity is as a beloved child of God, and you can only really got there through the doorway repentance and seeing how Jesus not only forgives our sin that gives us his perfection on our behalf. One of the things that that caught my attention in your book that I think is maybe the core thing is that living in the suburbs. It allows you to hide you. Can you put your garage door you go in and do you interact with your family and the next morning Dora began a new driver you waived any threat to some of the neighbors, but very little interaction sometime so you should write right and some Christians do great job in the textbook.

Most of us managers to the wife yet… we live our lives and oriented to the backyard instead of the front yeah how do we break out of that and really do.

Jesus calls us to do. Hate you know I think a lot of it is to even just ask ourselves how's that working out for you in on this busy life where you are just in and out in your intake out in the car and you are you feeling like this abundant life that Jesus promised us probably not you know and and we're not probably really loving God and loving our neighbor and so even just taking small steps outward into our neighborhoods. I like to always say it's important to have awkward conversations with his neighbors like in the sense that we've been living next door to you for five years, and we waved and I forgot your name, you know, I'm Ashley I'm so sorry that I don't remember your name, will you tell me your name again and beginning to step sorry. I wish I had failed my neighborly duties and we can start over and appreciate that we think of Col. to some of the activities you're talking about just getting over that first step of awkwardness. I've struggled a bit, Ashley and help me out here, and I thought we should have a neighborhood Bible study or we should do something in the backyard, but it looks really bad right now I don't do anything quite right so I sort of think I have to have a big thing going on about how do I do with it. Yeah, yeah, I really think even small, starting places feel doable because right like organizing the neighborhood block parties feels overwhelming and then we don't do anything them with a guilty and then we just hide behind our garage doors, so even to say no chemicals are locked like a 30 minute walk twice a week in my neighborhood and introduce myself to neighbors. Let's try for a month and then you know maybe then one or two of them that you're actually getting to know them a little bit you like me their dog and then it might be.

Hey, let's just gather and outside my house is on a Friday night.

The Connecticut conversations play lime games and then you know you can take intermediary steps before you have in the whole neighborhood over for the big backyard barbecue and then you can actually make them into that into our homes into our massive real real life yeah Ashley. I think this one. This may be the question for for a friend of mine, but no one things do you know talk about from time to time is nice. Our lives that the stage not very chaotic and she was wonderful to feel God's shalom, his peace yet. There's just my luck chaos going on. The boys are finishing school there relaunching everything is in a good space is in this nice not feeling guilty. Maybe it's because I'm not out there that are not. He made JJ Michaela, my dear roommate and I guess the question is do I need to put myself in more uncomfortable places with neighbors with community, heaven forbid, should I run for the HOA that what you know what's again what's the balance I feel comfortable where I'm at right now is that okay right well I don't think you know that I deftly don't advocate the sense that like we have to always do for God. You know that we have to be running on full throttle and were not valuable unless were like doing the block party in the Bible study and all these sorts of things that I don't want to like fill up our schedules with Christian things either. So I think a lot of it has to be in what ways are you in a practicing your Bible reading and prayer in ways that you're asking God to show you what he would have for you.

Who's right in front of you that needs to be seen. I've noticed just myself. Note during this pandemic, especially at the beginning I was like if I start thinking, way ahead and trying to figure out plans. It was really hard to be able to not just felt like very scary and anxiety producing.

But if I could just think about today. What do I need to do today reading my Bible, praying, praying with her church community of resume and notes helping my children and like you, and being open to foods in front of me today. Who's the neighbor that I can reach out to and that became a way to live into a neighborly posture of hospitality that felt doable but also you gotta probably push me out of my comfort zone and had to pay attention at the end here actually speak to the importance of vulnerability.

I guess maybe an example of how you experience it yourself and your family. You know vulnerability.

I love how Andy Katz talks about as exposure to meaningful risk and rather than just kind of emotional transparency and in sales because sometimes our fungibility looks like emotional transparency, but sometimes it's having a really hard conversation with someone and so I think for us as a family and the vulnerability often looks like in a suburb that everyone seems to have more have nicer, bigger houses right being vulnerable to say come into our little 1800 square-foot house and I know that you make eight times is just my husband and that you're welcome here. And so even saying that's a risk right to risk judgments or that you're somehow not successful or good enough and that you are welcome here and I think a lot of our vulnerability looks like hospitality as well and generosity and being present with people so good Ashley. You've done a wonderful job in this book, finding holy in the suburbs living faithfully in the land of too much to get it kind of caught me by surprise and you know I'm thinking okay this is a comfortable place to be thank you Lord for your blessing right then there is like okay but there's stuff to do right in this environment and we need to be sensitive enough to realize that, understand it, open our hearts to be vulnerable pursue our neighbors, not in a weird way. Stop your neighbors or something, but you're really just you know Shirley gospel way to be involved that takes courage and takes energy in a text message right. It does take my say and you know the good news is that the gospel right will be able to handle arresting is a nicely fumble along and make false starts and that he really welcomes us into a bigger story. Well done.

Let me turn to the listener misses that kind of resource that really will make you think about your life and how it integrates or doesn't integrate its challenging and it's one of things that we want to do your focus to us to make you think about what God is doing through you and you and wants to do through you and in you and remember if you can order this resource to Focus on the Family all those proceeds go right back into helping strengthen marriages help save a baby's life and the good things, and as always, if you can make a gift of any amount will send the book to you is our way of saying thank you.

Contact us today and request your copy of Ashley's book and will be happy to send it to you and you know right now we have a special very generous matching gift opportunity provided by friends of Focus on the Family.

So your donation today is can go twice as far in meeting those needs to be matched dollar for dollar. So do hope you'll consider joining us in ministry today. Contact us to make your donation copy of finding holy suburbs got that online episode notes and you find out Ashley thank you for being with us this was really good because I think you and thank you for joining us today.

Plan to be with us tomorrow will be celebrating Independence Day weekend with Texas offering insights about this great nation. America is an experiment in order to liberty America is an idea when an ethnic group Jim Daly of the entire team here.

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