Some Christmas Perspective

“From the Christian point of view there is no special about Christmas in a prison cell.  For many people in this building it will probably be more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but a name is kept. That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt mean something quite different in they eyes of God from what they mean in the judgment of humans, that God will approach where men and women turn away, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn–these are things that a prisoner can understand better than other people; for him they really are glad tidings, and that faith gives him a part in the communion of saints, a Christian fellowship breaking the bounds of time and space and reducing the months of confinement here to insignificance.”

– D.Bonhoeffer from  Letters and Papers from Prison

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You’re No Superman

Sin is sinister. Our trials come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and shades.  But when the trial overwhelms us, when the temptation overcomes us, it seems that we are led in one of two directions–pride or  despair.  Both pride and despair comes from a rejection of the savior. Both pride and despair is rooted in the conviction (however momentary) that Jesus is not quite enough.

Sometimes we despair.  That means we start to believe that Jesus is not powerful (or loving) enough to remove my guilt, heal my brokenness, or to free me from some plaguing sin. Sometimes we become prideful.  That means we that, though we may say we believe all those things about Jesus, secretly we slip on the messiah-cape do our own work to fix the problem, restore “it” to health, or otherwise save the world from sin (including ourselves). It is difficult to remain Christ-centered when you believe you have the power to redeem anything.

When one finds themselves in the meat grinder of life, dealing with hard “things” it is sometimes difficult to believe what Paul teaches about Jesus in Colossians, that he is the creator, ruler, reconciler, and sustainer of ALL THINGS.  Whenever sin touches real life,  rather than hold tightly to an immovable cross, we’re apt to jump on the swinging pendulum between pride and despair.  Whenever a relationship, a family, even an entire church is devastated by sin, you either throw up our hands in despair because you can’t see how things can get better.  Or, just as bad, you start to using your hands to fix everything because you believe you are starting to see nail holes in them.

So, if you  find yourself in despair right now, know that nothing can separate you from the love of your Savior–not your sin, not their sin, not any sin.  And, if you’re prideful right now, believing that you have the power or obligation to save, redeem, or restore, know that the Savior job is already taken.

A Return to “Dumb”

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Co 6:12).

I’ve finally done it.  I have deactivated my “smartphone” phone, at least for a while.  So this is goodbye games, goodbye navigator, goodbye news flashes, goodbye Google Sky, goodbye in store price-checks, goodbye  Facebook updates, goodbye  Twitter notifications, goodbye email, goodbye calendar, goodbye  weather reports, goodbye  verse of the days, goodbye  YouTube on the toilet, goodbye location check-in, goodbye  lightsaber-phone, goodbye blinking light, goodbye obnoxious chime.  I won’t miss you, I am going back to “dumb”.

Why would I do that?  Frankly, I think I was becoming enslaved to technology. And though there are perhaps a thousand arguments as to why people might “need” their phone, I think we all might be a bit delusional. We’ve been fished in, hooked on, and otherwise persuaded to believe we need a bunch of APP crap that does little more than help us to waste a lot of time like children doing childish things.  In fact, I am starting to believe that the “smarter” we get technologically, the more harm we may be doing to ourselves and our relationships.

For the last couple years, I have felt enslaved. I have found it difficult to unplug when I am (seemingly) connected all the time to everyone.  And because I am constantly “connected”, my mind is constantly in engaged in the world outside, whether that is with my work or whatever everyone else is doing–but never in the moment right in front of me where I actually am.  What it created was a man who was physically present but emotionally absent. If you’re at all like me (which I hope you are not), I have found using my smartphone feels like an addiction–I feel empty if I don’t get my fix–like I am missing out on something.  Invariably, it creates a man, husband, Father, and friend who is constantly looking away from everything else and at his phone every chance he gets.  It creates an addict who interrupts, even starts to destroy “real” relationships to   engage with online friends, to the extent of anxiously looking forward to (even wishing for) the next little light to flash or chime to sound indicating that “something is happening.”.

I know many will say that complete abstention is extreme but, for me, right now it is necessary. I challenge a lot of you to turn off your smartphone for a week (even a day) and see how much “smarter” you actually start to become.  It’s ironic, but I think the use of my smartphone began to make me really dumb. There are many layers to this, but none more obvious than simply the different times I decided to look at the stupid thing.  I looked at it in the middle of conversations, during a group prayer, when I was driving, when watching my boys place soccer, when I was eating, when I was bored, when I was exercising, and even when I was pooping.  Dumb.  Dumb. Dumb.  So, I am returning to the simple life when a phone was a phone, when everything did not need an immediate response, when time away from “friends” was good, when talking to someone was better than messaging them, and when I had a bit more of a meaningful life that could not be summarized on a status update every 15 minutes.

Please know I am not expecting or hoping others to follow, though I believe everyone needs to ask themselves some hard questions about how they spend their time on their stupid phone.  For me, I am hoping that my refusal to  lose myself in a 2 1/2″ x 6″ plastic portal into a cyber-world will actually help me to live and be more present in the real one.