Give Your Phone A Rest

The public transportation company in Aargau is putting out a new safety campaign. The ads show videos of people and cars with near tram mishaps. Some of the videos show a car or van turning onto tracks, unaware of the tram. Others show people with headphones in or focused on their phones wandering into the path of an oncoming train. According to the tram drivers, the biggest problem these days is the way people are distracted with their phones. Their plea to people, “Put down the phone and watch where you are going.”  It’s easy to take a shot at the overuse or overdependence on technology, especially phones. However, being constantly connected or constantly ‘checking’ has an impact on our overall well-being. Researchers are starting to come up with some clear evidence of how this can affect us and most of it is not healthy. Many schools this fall are now requiring students to put their phones away for the day. The negative impact on learning is significant for young minds.  What about adults? Truthfully most of us need to be connected to the internet for work purposes. It is hard to avoid. But are we spending too much time just scrolling or being on social media? Is your weekly screen time increasing or decreasing? Are we developing unhealthy habits?   What about taking a phone Sabbath? Sabbath, as we know from scripture is a day of rest. The principle of a day of rest is important for Christians. We honour God by ceasing from our labour, worshiping him, and enjoying life. I know it might be unrealistic to not check your phone for a whole day but what about giving it up for several hours?   In Deuteronomy, the Israelites were told they could take a day of rest because they were no longer slaves. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” (Deuteronomy 5:15) It was a sign of freedom, and liberation from control. When we recognize that we are being controlled by our need to check the phone, it’s time to put in some boundaries.   So, what would a Sabbath break from technology or your phone look like for you? How long can you go without checking your social media and updates? Start slowly. Can you leave it alone for an hour, or two? What about all of Sunday afternoon so you can read or play or nap? Practicing Sabbath is a spiritual discipline. The benefits of regular practice take time to build up but ultimately set us free.  

Invitation for a Wedding

Poor Arti Mala went to a lot of trouble and expense to fly from her home in Scotland to attend a friend’s wedding in Washington, DC. How embarrassing then when she discovered she was at the wrong wedding. After a 3,000-mile flight and a taxi ride, she realized her mistake when she read the wedding program and didn’t know who the bride and groom were. Double-checking her invitation, she discovered the correct venue was just six miles away. In her defense, the name of the wedding venues was very similar. But she was a little mortified at crashing a wedding. I admire her commitment to travelling so far for her friends. She’s the opposite kind of person from the ones Jesus talks about in Matthew 22. A king prepared a wedding banquet for his son and sent out invitations. But when the time for the wedding came, the guests refused to come. The king grew agitated and sent his servants to collect the guests. “But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business.” (Matthew 22:5) It’s hard to imagine that people would so carelessly ignore an invitation to the wedding of a royal. And yet, that is exactly Jesus’ point. The king of heaven has invited us into his kingdom, and many people chose to ignore him. In fact, they get angry at the messengers who bring the invitation. It’s hard to share the gospel message with people and see them reject it. So, the king called his servants and said, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. The servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find…and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:9-10) Like the servants in the parable, you will encounter people who are not interested in Jesus or even reject him outright. It can be discouraging. Remember that God’s kingdom will be filled. There are still many more people who need to receive an invitation. Don’t stop inviting people or sharing the message. You just never know who may say ‘yes’.

World’s Best At Something

A Montrealer has been named the ‘Fittest Man on Earth.’ That’s quite the title and I was interested in knowing how or who could determine this kind of distinction. Jeffery Adler won the title at the CrossFit Games, an annual championship for people involved with CrossFit gyms which offer high-intensity workouts. So, the pool of contestants for the title might have been a little limited. To win he says that his daily routine was the same. For three to four hours in the morning, he trains, eats, and then naps. He repeats it in the evening and says he has little time for anything else. This goes to show that if you want to be the fittest man in the world, you need to be focused. Of course, that’s just the title CrossFit gave him. They defined what a fit person looks like. Other gyms and programs might have other ideas. There are other titles to be won, like Miss Universe, the fastest runner in 100 meters, best actress, world billiards champion, and most successful CEO. Even Moses was called the humblest man on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3) To achieve something of note involves natural ability for sure. And hard work. But mostly one needs to be intentional about moving towards a goal. I don’t think there is anything wrong with devoting yourself to pursuing some development goals or achievements. As long as we don’t miss what is really important.  As followers of Christ, what should we be devoting ourselves to? Paul makes a simple and clear proclamation in Colossians 4:2 that is worth noting: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” What a simple reminder about taking events and happenings in our life before God. I’m sure that I will never win the ‘most prayerful man in the World’ award. But I do want to be more intentional about my prayer life. Some things are temporal and will soon be forgotten. Some things are eternal and worth pursuing.

Ten Things Jesus Said

Reading through the gospels on a regular basis should be a consistent part of discipleship. It’s in the gospels where we meet Jesus and get a clearer picture of who he is and what he teaches. All scripture is written for our benefit and there are no verses more important or more inspired than others. But there are some powerful verses that stand out and remind us of the most basic elements of our faith.   I’ve picked ten of Jesus’ sayings that I think are helpful. Meditating on these verses and getting them deep into our spirits builds us stronger spiritually. Take a moment and think these over.   What sayings would you add? 

Are You Impressed?

Here’s a promising lead. You can rent a fake private jet for $49.99 per hour to take pictures for your social media accounts. This way you can pretend to be fabulously wealthy and impress the people who follow you. You can also sign up for one of the many tutorials that teach you how to pretend you are on an elaborate vacation when you’re really just in your bedroom. Thanks to the magic of the modern age, you can create an amazing impression of yourself and have others looking up to you, all at a low cost.  Maybe that’s not to your liking. But it is true that we far too often like to put our best image forward. Not many of us post a picture of ourselves when we first wake up in the morning. We don’t show off the boring and uninteresting parts of our day. Reporting our mistakes, conflicts or failures on social media doesn’t happen much.   Why do we want to impress others? It’s nothing new. Proverbs 13:7 says, “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” The impulse to project a certain image is an old one. Rooted no doubt in our fleshly nature. It’s never been easier to create an image of ourselves, to blur the line between what is real and what is fake. We want others to have the right impression of us. The problem comes when we start to believe our own posts.  Facing our own reality can be frightening. Not only what we might really look like on the outside, but what’s on the inside. God reminded the Prophet Samuel that he looked at the heart, not the appearance. He knows what is really going on inside of us. He is aware of our motives and desires. There is no fooling God by putting on appearances.   Another Proverb puts it this way, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2) Humility isn’t a popular virtue. Except, it’s one of the most necessary if we want to have an authentic relationship with God. Since he already knows the truth, we might as well face up to it. Confessing our mixed motives and confused desires is the first step.   He doesn’t just see the negative. He also sees the positive and the potential. God is in the business of refining and reframing our lives. Our role is to let him into those places and let him do his work. When real change begins to happen, we don’t need to post about it, people will see it in real life. His work is hard to fake.