Saturday, March 15, 2014

Overdosed on Bad News

     I am having a much harder time than I anticipated writing this blog on a weekly basis. Schedule and the ongoing challenge with my wrists have combined to hinder my aspirations! But here I am, and today I am "writing" via my dictation program, so we will see how that works, eh?
     One of the topics that I mentioned a few weeks ago as one of my target subjects is the tendency in our culture for all of us to overdose on bad news. In a sense, this is a continuation of what I wrote last time about the tendency of technology to become a tyrant. Because we live in a world of media overdose, it is painfully easy to become captured and captivated by the constant flow of news through all kinds of outlets. And because of the human penchant for bad news as opposed to good news ongoing exposure to the media means that our minds are constantly being filled with negativity.
     I am fairly convinced that the extreme overdose of bad news works against living a peace-filled and faith-filled life. Paul's words to the Philippians in Philippians 4:6-9 began and end with the word "peace." Even at cursory look at those words from Paul reveal how important it is for us to set our minds on things that are peace-giving. Consider his words, paraphrased by me in places as indicated by italics:
     Don't go on being worried about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be constantly being made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, be carefully and intentionally thinking about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9 ESV with TW paraphrasing).
      I think it's fairly obvious that there is a connection between freedom from anxiety and both prayer and intentionally focusing our minds on positive things. I know for me personally God instructed me quite a while ago to avoid excessive exposure to any source of negativity, especially the flood of bad news that is always around us. I found that when I chose to ignore Him in this both my peace and my ability to trust him were noticeably and painfully diminished. I have also noticed that when my friends, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, expose themselves to a lot of ongoing news the same thing happens for them.
     So what if the Bible is true? What if Paul's words here to the Philippians are absolutely trustworthy and reliable? How will that change how we interact with the culture around us, especially the technological part of our culture? I believe, of course, that Paul's words are true and that we will do best in terms of peace and faith when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide what we expose ourselves to. I am not talking about hiding from everything bad, I am not talking about ignoring trends and things in culture and society that we need to track in some way. What I am talking about is overdose: the almost compulsive following of negativity that can happen to anyone who pays too much attention to the various news sources in our culture. And, of course, there are other sources of negativity which probably won't pass through Paul's grid for us as well, but that's another.subject for another day. For now I offer to you a challenge: why not take the next two weeks and allow Holy Spirit to guide and inform what and how much exposure you have to the news? I think that in doing so you will be making an important adjustment, and adjustment needed because our culture is different from any that has ever existed before. In times past it took a long time for any kind of news to reach people, whether bad or good. Now we are flooded constantly by overwhelming amounts of information, much of it "bad news." Doesn't it make sense, then, to allow God to lead us in a way that cooperates with our desire and His desire for us to live peace-filled and faith-filled lives? Try it, you may like it! 

Pursuing Him who is Good News,

Tom, one of Abba's children

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Technology: Tool or Tyrant?

     I am hoping to get back on schedule with my once-per-week entry here, but I have been wrestling with what appears to be carpal tunnel syndrome, so my return may be a bit more spotty than I had hoped. (I am contending for healing while also cooperating by using a brace, etc.)
     So for today, I post a few thoughts (fewer than I had hoped) on keeping technology from tyrannizing us. Several things of late have triggered these thoughts, including the carpal tunnel issue (I use my Macbook Air a lot!) and an article on how teens are being tyrannized by texting.
     First, how is it that technology so easily becomes a tyrant? Others have probably written better thoughts about this, but it occurs to me that with texting, for example, we have broken into a strange new world where everyone who has our number has access to us 24/7 if we allow it. Indeed, with much of technology of late instant and constant access to one another seems to be the theme. This can't possibly be healthy, and I will make a few suggestions as to how to deal with this new reality in the paragraphs below. But another way that technology has tyrannized us is by its seductive ability to pull us away from others into our own self-centered, entertainment-overloaded world. We live in a time when children from a young age are learning to isolate and fixate! Ironic, isn't it, that these two tyrants are polar opposites! What can we do to ensure that we don't fall under such tyranny? Here are a few thoughts.

  • Above all else, keeping technology in its proper place is a matter of personal maturity and healthy discipline. If you have never been able to set boundaries for yourself and others, you will not be able to do so in the realm of technology. So if you need healing and maturing, find a healthy loving community who can help you mature in Jesus!
  • But assuming that you have a measure of health, the way to prevent texting or instant messaging from tyrannizing you is simply to set boundaries for those who have access for you. In my last blog entry, I jokingly referred to DFN (Done For Now!) as a new texting abbreviation, but I was only 1/2 joking. Healthy relationships always require healthy boundaries and "tech relationships" are no exception. So come up with your own list of ways to set boundaries, but set them. I personally choose not to respond to texts, etc., unless I feel it's appropriate. And if necessary, I will who text me that I am not available 24/7 and feel no compulsion to answer. This is especially true when I am in my Papa time (it has to be an emergency) or at times when others deserve my undivided attention. It is also true when I simply need space. Remember, it ain't natural for human beings to have instant 24/7 access to one another, and when some of those who do have access are broken people, it can set up some very unhealthy situations. Bottom line, set boundaries without feeling guilty about doing it.
  • In a similar vein, feel free to educate your friends and family about healthy boundaries and what that looks like. And on your end, give thought to whether you need instant response to everything. And if you really want to be healthy, consider a call or set up a Face Time connection, etc. 
  • Regarding the seductive tendencies of technology, it is again boundaries that save us from tyranny. My sons remember (I trust) that there were limits to electronic game times, TV times, etc. I place those same limits on myself in conversation with the Holy Spirit. I choose not to be tyrannized by something that is supposed to be my servant by asking the Holy Spirit to help me value that which has eternal value. And no, I don't do this perfectly, but it's amazing how much progress one can make with this if he/she is serious. Remembering that every minute wasted is lost forever helps to motivate me in this--maybe it will for you, too.
  • Consider, too, reviewing your values and how they are expressed. If we value our children and grandchildren we will be sparing in how we use games and media to babysit them. We will monitor whether or not they are being drawn away from healthy social interaction by the Siren's song of the latest addictive game or by the constant stream the latest new video. And if we value others, we will weigh how helpful it is to disengage from one another by watching too much of this or that. (Be warned here, though, that the watching of TV is just a symptom, not the cause! It takes some intentionality to engage with other people, some effort as well. Think about it!)
     I am sure there is much more to write here, but perhaps this will stir up your own thoughts and ignite an inquiry in you as to what role the wonderful world of technology plays in your life and the lives of those you influence. My prayer is that you will find Tool, not Tyrant, stamped on your devices! :-)

Living free from tyranny...

Tom, one of Abba's children