Fasting and Feasting

21 11 2010

My youngest's Turkey Hat

So, this post marks the end of a 2-day media fast suggested by a small group lesson I had on Thursday night.  No TV, email/web only for work (and I also used it to read the bible… is just too darn fast compared to finding verses in the bible.) :), and only positive/”christian” music.

The idea is that by doing these types of fasts, we do a couple of things:

1) Recognize our reliance (and often, addiction) to these things.

2) Take more time to do quality, personal interactions instead of vegging out in front of a screen.

3) Pay more attention to what’s going into our heads/hearts through media saturation.

I also finished recently, with a 30-day social media fast.  I would check facebook for no more than 5 minutes a day, and only about once per week, (just to ensure no one was trying to get a hold of me, that couldn’t otherwise), ZERO twitter, and tried to generally avoid anything that was very self-centered, online-wise.  I ditched the Frontierville, stopped trying to one-up my friends quirky comments, and all that jazz associated with the very me-centric life of an online social network.

From these two experiments, I have a couple of reflections and remarks:

1) I found that I am too dependent upon these technologies.

I don’t think it’s right to say that there’s anything inherently bad about them.  I just think that like money, there’s nothing wrong with it.  It’s when we rely too much on money, or social networking, or media, that things get dicey.  With my 30 day experiment in social networking, I found that I was actually having to literally force myself in abstaining that first week or so.  I would walk to the computer, sometimes even get to the point of booting up the browser before I said to myself, “Wait a second, I’m not doing this.  I agreed to not do this.”

That’s pretty sickening.

2) My reliance on these mediums did decrease with my abstinence.

Meaning, that after that first week with the social media, and after not using the television as much, or the internet for more than work, I found that I simply COULD deal with it.  That my life didn’t fall apart, and that while sure, there were some “boring” times, I tended to fill those times with what I could do, which was read (sometimes even, GASP!, the Bible!  Go figure!).

3) The time I would normally be consuming television especially, was the time I found I interacted more with my children.

The last two days have been busy and interesting, but mostly because my kids have taught me how to use my down time.  I’ve made more crafts and spent more time reading with my children in the last two days than I have in the last three weeks, easily.  Which is not to say I don’t do those things normally… I do.  But I don’t give as much time and effort to that.  I don’t take the time to grow my kids’ creativity.  I just sit down with them, set them up so they can color or paint or whatever, and leave them be.

This weekend, I found my eldest daughter has an amazing creativity in her.  She came up with “turkey hats”.  Now, you may not know what a turkey hat is.  That’s because she created them.  What you do is you take a one-inch tall strip of yellow (in retrospect, it would probably make the effect better with brown) construction paper, measure it to fit on your head.  Then, in the center of it, you glue or tape two googly eyes, a small orange triangle, and a little squggly strip of red (the gobble-gobble, as my daughter called it, but I think it’s called the “snood” or “wattle”…can’t find consensus online) to go on the side of the triangle to hang down.  These parts are glued or taped on under the eyes, with the triangle protruding down past the head-circumference strip.

Next, you cut at least four “feathers” out of blue, yellow, red, and orange construction paper (you get a great feather effect by “fringing” the sides, by the way), and glue or tape those sticking up off the back.  You join the strip in a circle, and voila!  You have a turkey hat!

The point is that my daughter designed, crafted, and proudly wore this cute thing all by herself.  We all joined in.  We all have turkey hats now.  I love it.  I wouldn’t have taken the time to get all the supplies for my daughter and helped her glue/tape some of these things (most likely, at least) if I was sitting and watching TV or checking my facebook, or whatever.

Over all, I think my conclusion here is that I obviously love technology, the opportunities it provides and the conveniences of these things.   But I need to be more aware of the impact on my life.  These conveniences don’t come without a price.  I’m grateful for what my experiments taught me, and I think I’ll be a more informed consumer of these technologies in the future.  (And I have a turkey hat now.  Bonus!)


Christian FAIL

18 11 2010

Are you familiar with  It’s not a Christian site, and definitely some pretty crass stuff goes there.  But the overwhelming majority of the stuff is just plain funny.  And why?  Because it helps us laugh at ourselves.  It laughs at the pride and overblown egos of those of us who think we’ve got it all together.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, first off, it has a lot to do with where we are as a church.  No, I don’t mean Parkview Community Church, where I work and attend (Although I readily accept that as truth there too).  I mean church with a “big c”.  The body of Christ.

The truth?  All too often we’re failing miserably due to our pride, our bloated sense of self-righteousness, and our desire to “save the world”.

I’m been reading some pretty awesome books over the past year (well, a couple) and what I’m excited about is that there is a growing movement inside Christianity that is starting to recognize our failures.  That we’re starting to really grasp what it means to live in a “post-Christian society”, and more importantly, that the reason we’re in that post-Christian society is our fault entirely.

God didn’t leave.  God didn’t change.  God is constant, loving, ever-powerful, ever-glorious, and ever-faithful.  So what does that leave?  Who tarnished the influence of the church?  You and I did.  Big ole Christian FAIL.

First off, some are quick to get tense and feel like they need to defend the church, or themselves and say “well, MY church did THIS to help THESE people, and I gave THIS time/money/service to help THESE people and therefore you are wrong!”

You, sir or madam, are precisely who I am addressing.

Do you realize what the bible says when we read in Isaiah 64:6, when the prophet says:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

We are those people.  We are those who have been given generations of proof of God’s constancy and love.  We are those who have been given example after example of true followers of Christ.  We are those who have been given blessing after blessing.  And sadly, we are those who ignore it and say “let’s do it our way!”

There’s nothing wrong with trying to save people.  Unless you don’t realize that you can’t save anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to help people live more Godly lives.  Unless you don’t realize that a lot of people don’t believe in God and therefore think your rule-set is flawed from the word “go”.

The point I’m trying to make is that sure, the world seems to be in decline, spiritually.  But this is not some external force, some random “other guys” that are doing it wrong.  The world is not to blame for Christianity’s decline in reputation and followership.  We are to blame because we have forgotten what it means to love people.

We do a lot of things, us Christians.  We do a lot of good works.  And those good works are pretty awesome.  I’m not bringing those things down at all.  Digging wells to give needed water in remote areas of the earth is awesome.  Feeding the hungry is necessary work.  Clothing the needy is a great kindness.  Sheltering the homeless is perfectly rational and loving work.

But if we do it simply because it’s the right thing to do?  We’re missing the point.

We need to do these things out of compulsion from two sources of unimaginably powerful love:

We need to do these things because God loved us when we were unlovable (which, by the way, is still now, even after salvation.  You got saved, you got covered, but you still stink.  Me too.)

We need to do these things because we have ALREADY BUILT RELATIONSHIPS that had nothing to do with our service.   Relationships that weren’t dependent on anything other than God’s love for those people, and our desire to love them too.

Another important distinction here:  We need to continue those relationships after the service is complete.  After we dig wells, we can’t just say “Well, there’s God!  Enjoy!” and walk away.

A relationship is a maintenance thing.  A relationship doesn’t mean one person gives, the other takes, and then no one speaks anymore.  That’s a transaction, not a relationship.

We’ve been too preoccupied for far too long with transactions.  We’ve been so busy tallying up deposits into the kingdom that we’ve forgotten that our investments are people.  That we’ve forgotten that these people are no less than us.  That we are no better than they.  That we didn’t find them in a low place and raise them up.  That’s what God did, and we are fortunate enough to have participated in God’s glorious process.

We have forgotten the joy of service to God.  We do, however love service for “doing the right thing’s sake”.

You know what?  Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Satanists and anything else that is not Christian can do good work for good work’s sake.  In fact, Athesists would argue that it’s part of the propagation of the species.  That doing for others helps us, and therefore fits nicely into survival of the fittest (we all survive when we’re all fit, right?).

So what is a distinctive of Christianity?  What separates us from them?  God.  That’s the ONLY thing that makes our work different.  But only if we let God do His thing through us.  We toil, and we slave and we work SO HARD for nothing.  And we call it God’s work.  It’s despicable.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m pointing this finger right at myself, while I write this.  I’m ashamed at how long I’ve cowered under the banner of “just lead them to the church and all will be well.”  I forget that I AM THE CHURCH.  WE ARE THE CHURCH.  The pastor is part of the church, and a very useful and necessary one.  But he or she is not the church.  The worship band is not the church.  A really moving piece of worship music is not the church.  WE ARE THE CHURCH.

We need to love people.  We need to remember that Christ loves these people.  That he loved us when we had nothing to offer (again, this is now, not some time in the past when you were less worthy than now.  Newsflash!  We’re still not worthy!)

This needs to motivate us towards love and good deeds.  This is what we must do.  We need to stop failing, and start loving.  Start building REAL relationships in our communities.  Start loving people who we are certain won’t love Jesus.  Because Jesus still loves those people.   We need to love them also.  We need to love without expectation.   We need to love without preconceived notions of what will happen after we love them.  We need to pray for them, that God will soften their hearts, but hand-in-hand with that needs to come the prayer that he will continually do the same for us.

We need to stop failing and start loving.  Will you join me as I offer my breadcrumbs and fish heads?  It’s a gross offering, but it’s all I’ve got right now.  And I know God will do as he wishes with it and to Him be all the glory, honor, majesty, dominion and power.  Amen.