Thursday, February 27, 2014

All I have to say today is:
Pictures from The Seabrook Trip 2014 are now up on my smugmug.
You can find them here: Seabrook Adventures

That's all.
Oh, except for one more thing.
If you look through the pictures, please comment. That keeps you from being classified as a stalker. Well, sort of.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Setting aside temptation...or, "Bye for now, iPhone!"

You’ve all heard someone say they think they were “born in the wrong century.” I’ve said it, I’ve had people say it about me, and I’ve heard people say it mournfully about themselves. (Note: If you intend to employ this inaccurate statement in the near future, be sure to add a sad shake of your head, and heave a sigh. Make it as dramatic as possible for optimal results.)
This century has all kinds of things I love, though. Modern conveniences and such... I’m fairly certain that a more accurate statement would be not that I was born in the WRONG century, but that I do a poor job of doing right in THIS century. I’m not convinced I would do any better morally in another century. When you are prone to waste time, and totally depraved, you’re going to find a way to ruin things no matter the historical era.
(On a silly and useless note, though-- curly and dark hair would’ve been handy to have in another age. Frankly, I’m convinced I would have done perfectly well in the 19th century in some ways. I would’ve been born a clergyman’s daughter, never had a bad hair day, and probably eaten a much better diet than I do now.
I’d also be blind, from straining my eyes at books too much. At least now I have a shot at eye surgery. Nor would I have any spare pocket change, because they didn’t have drive through espresso stands back then for me to work at...)
But I’m rambling and distracting myself. (How ironic) Where I was leading with this was to two beautiful words: Modern technology.
It’s blissful, this modern age of the 21st century.
It’s also killing me.
It’s the smartphone, you see. It’s become my best friend, always there at my side, right with my firearm. However, unlike my gun, it doesn’t aid my attempts at protecting myself. Instead, it makes me vulnerable. Vulnerable to ruining my eyes, collecting more germs, and staying up late trolling social media that has very little edification to offer.
My computer holds those same potential problems (Well, it’s not as germy as my iphone), but is less of a distraction. If I wake up in the night, I’m not going to reach for my computer. No, I reach for my iPhone. Once I might have reached for my Bible to read a Psalm, but instead, all too frequently now, I say “Oh hello twitter feed, let me read the three posts that have gone up since I went to sleep. What, a new instagram comment? I must respond to it at once!”
One of the major problems I face with my phone is that whenever I have a spare second, I grab it. Waiting in line for coffee two years ago, I would not have been making myself motion sick scrolling through my phone. Instead I would have looked up and around me, known what drink I was getting by the time I got up to order, and had the right amount of money already out. In that amount of time, I may have also managed to use my brain to actually think. Think about issues, plan ahead, remember things I needed to accomplish, and maybe even turn my mind to important theological things. Imagine that... 
My iPhone is a wonderful tool, but many times it becomes detrimental to real thinking. Instead of letting my mind be active, and think more of other people, I reach for my beloved brain blocker, and go mindless and wireless. It can engender a lack of thought, and encourage a short attention span. I shudder to think of the hours I have squandered on my phone, accomplishing nothing.
I recognize that I can’t sit here and say “Ban smartphones! They unequivocally ruin people’s brains!” Because that’s simply not true. They have amazing benefits, when used in the best manner, and I have some apps that have been extraordinarily helpful to me, both in practical ways (i.e. navigation), and educational ways. (iTunesU!)
The problem here is that I am beginning to recognize that for me personally, my phone is a barrier between me and the life I need to be living. It’s a sad lack of discipline on my part. I can readily admit that.
And as such, I am having to make a very strong conscious effort to step away from it. It is easy to say, “Well, just cut down your time on it! Remove yourself from Twitter and Instagram and tell your friends you don’t want to text much!”
But the fact is, sometimes we need to remove temptation entirely for a while. Because I recognize my propensity to time wasting weakness when my phone is around, I need to be a little more drastic for a short time.
But let’s be realistic. I have a job, friends, and family that need to get a hold of me. I can’t simply be unreachable.... However, this next week I am off of work, and have told important people that they can email me if they MUST get a hold of me.
I have turned the phone off. Not just on silent. Not just to “do not disturb”. All the way off, with the intention that it will not come on until the day before my next work day. My mom left the house just now and I reminded her to call the home phone if she needs me. Life will still go on without my smartphone, and I’ve already accomplished much more today than I normally would have on a Saturday. Removing some of the distractions I’m addicted to has been helpful.
Once in church, my dad was speaking about private prayer- it’s importance, the fact that it should not be neglected, it’s necessary prioritization in our daily life, etc. He began to speak about being disciplined, and the distractions we have blaring at us in the form of modern technology. I remember him leaning forward, and looking around more intently than normal, and saying firmly, “If you want to have a meaningful time of undistracted private prayer, then turn off your phone.”
It was one of those “I know he isn’t aiming this at only me personally, but boy do I feel like he just saw into my soul,” moments. He wasn’t saying “go live in a cabin somewhere like a monk and abstain from any modern convenience or technology,” but he did go on to talk about the importance of making sure our technology isn’t becoming a hindrance to our personal holiness, because of how frequently we allow it to distract us from what is truly important. It’s difficult to look back and realize that I have been very guilty of letting technology get in the way of meditating on and being edified by holy things.
Jonathan Edwards has a sermon entitled “The Preciousness of Time”, and for me it was highly convicting. He says at one point, “That you are accountable to God for your time. Time is a talent given us by God; He hath set us our days; and it is not for nothing, our day was appointed for some work; therefore He will, at the day’s end, call us to an account.”
Also, after speaking of how precious every second is, he says, “And if God, that hath given you your time, should now call you to an account, what account could you give to Him?...You have had much time of leisure and freedom from worldly business; consider to what purpose you have spent it. You have not only had ordinary time, but you have had a great deal of holy time. What have you done with all the sabbath days which you have enjoyed? Consider those things seriously, and let your own consciences make answer... Consider how much time you have lost already. For your having lost so much, you have the greater need of diligently improving what yet remains. You ought to mourn and lament over your lost time; but that is not all, you must apply yourselves the more diligently to improve the remaining part, that you may redeem lost time.”
And, finally, this one was particularly convicting for me, when I think of how many times I have (shamefully) put aside my Bible to reach for my phone to check that text that just couldn’t wait thirty more minutes... “Be especially careful to improve those parts of time which are most precious. Though all time is very precious, yet some parts are more precious than others; as, particularly, holy time is more precious than common time. Such time is of great advantage for our everlasting welfare; therefore, above all, improve your Sabbaths, and especially the time of public worship, which is the most precious part. Lose it not either in sleep, or in carelessness, inattention, and wandering imaginations....A time of the strivings of God’s Spirit is more precious than other time. Then God is near; and we are directed, in Isa. 4:6 ‘To seek the Lord while He may be found, and to call upon Him while He is near.’... Improve well your time of leisure from worldly businesses....When we are most free from cares for the body, and business of an outward nature, a happy opportunity for the soul is afforded. Therefore spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God. Waste them not away wholly in unprofitable visits, or useless diversions or amusements. Diversions should be used only in subserviency to business.”  (Emphasis added)
(Quotes above taken from The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 2, published by Banner of Truth, from the sermon, “The Preciousness of Time, and the Importance of Redeeming It.” pgs 233-236)

The gist of what I am saying is this: I have identified some serious problems that tempt me to be undisciplined. It is easier for me to STAY disciplined when I put away these things. After I have to go back to work, and my phone is back on, it is my intention to still have it turned off for several hours a day, lest I return to an overkill of unprofitable usage, and fritter away moments I should have used for my edification.  
My brain and time can’t afford the waste.
Neither can my soul.