Book Review: Greater Expectations: Succeed (and Stay Sane) in an On-Demand, All-Access, Always-On Age – Claire Diaz-Ortiz

framesIn Greater Expectations: Succeed (and Stay Sane) in an On-Demand, All-Access, Always-On Age , Claire Diaz-Ortiz discusses a particular problem and one that constantly tempts me. Diaz-Ortiz laments the time and soul sucking nature of constant information and social media. She honestly admits that her responsible and vocational intentions often fly out the window due to the appeal of one more tweet to read or one more video to watch or one more comment to write. She wisely realized that if she didn’t develop a plan to intentionally bring prayer, personal enrichment, exercise and planning to her day, the technology tidal wave would take over and she would be at its mercy. So she developed the PRESENT method, which stands for Prayer – Read – Express – Schedule – Exercise – Nurture – Track.

Being a person who loves a plan to follow, I dove into the PRESENT tasks with gusto. Here are some of my observations:

– The express component has already paid dividends. This is where you write in a journal or send an encouraging note

– Diaz-Ortiz is clearly working out of a work from home, freelancer environment that may not apply to many people’s working existence

– Scheduling before I even step foot into work has given me direction and focus

– Diaz-Ortiz seems to want to emphasize doing these things before turning on any electronic device. So obviously, the preferred time would be in the morning. If you were to take her suggested allotment for each section it would take you around 85 minutes to complete. Who has that kind of time during the morning routine?

– Here is how I organized my PRESENT plan :

    – Prayer – 10 minutes (usually over a cup of tea)

– Read – 15 minutes (I have been reading books on the Spiritual Life. I don’t read the Bible  because I usually listen to scripture while I run.)

– Express – 10 minutes (I have written notes to family members, worked on these reviews, or gone through spiritual exercises in one of the books I am reading)

– Schedule – 15 minutes (I use Donald Miller’s Productivity Plan to map out my day)

– Exercise – 20-30 minutes (I run or lift weights or both)

– Nurture – 20 minutes (During my lunch break, I will read a non-fiction book or magazine)

– Track (I haven’t been doing this much as it is simply a review on how your PRESENT plan is going)

As I consider what needs to be part of my devotional life – prayer, reflection, study, and silence – this plan helps make this possible. Again, all of this is designed to be done with our devices turned off. It has been enriching to me, though challenging, to focus on truly meaningful things as my day begins instead of gorging myself on the latest news, sports, and social media firestorms. Diaz-Ortiz maps out a solid path to take back our own personal growth. Though plans are often too involved to truly be followed, any intentional person could take some of Diaz-Ortiz’ ideas and bring benefit to their personal and spiritual life.

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Why Today Should Change Your Life

I know many in my circle wouldn’t know Ash Wednesday from Waffle Wednesday but this day marks the start of Lent (again one of those foreign concepts to many). Why is this important? It is a time set aside for Christians to pray, fast, and reflect on their life and need for repentance and forgiveness. Lent ends when Easter comes, as the church celebrates the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
The following, from the Book of Common Prayer, struck me as deeply powerful.
“This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church.”
Did you catch that? Those who have been “separated from the fellowship” because of their own sin are “reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,” and “restored to the fellowship of the Church.” Maybe you have been cut off from the church through your own choices or the wrong of others. Let Lent be a time of restoration and reconciliation. Those of us who are in the church, lets focus on these high goals and leave the ephemeral and superficial of society to others. I am grateful for Lent and what it reminds me of and what it convicts me of.

Book Review: The Hyperlinked Life: Live With Wisdom In An Age of Information Overload – David Kinnaman and Jun Young

barnaDigital addiction, in my opinion, is kind of like what smoking must have been in the early 20th century – completely ubiquitous with little thought to its harmful effects. Seventy years ago, the death causing aspects of smoking were fairly plain to see yet few people seemed to make much effort to remove its sway on society. Similarly, the harmful effects of digital addiction are noticeable yet little has been done to rearrange our priorities when it comes to technology.
I have been concerned by technology, and its negative influence for some time. I am concerned, not because I am afraid of it or a Luddite that sees it as the beginning of the end of civilization. I am concerned because I know its negative power in my own life. Physically, I suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that has already been operated on once. Socially, my ever-present need to be “in the know” and aware of what’s relevant has me clinging to my devices for the IV drip of information and entertainment; all the while, distracting myself from the present and persistent needs of those who are right in front of me and the God who may be speaking to me.
The hyperlinked life, as David Kinnaman and Jun Young call it, is a like a train that we are on that we may not need to get off of entirely but we do need a different way of riding. Christians need to develop, according to the authors, a theology of technology. Just as Christians have an approach and particular practices concerning daily matters such as sex, work, and family, they also need to think intentionally about their use of technology.
I appreciate the Barna Group and their consistent assessment of trends and movements. So much of the Christian world is hopelessly behind the curve when it comes to the latest trends but Barna, now led by Kinnaman, are one of the few organizations that speak to issues that are relevant to the now. The Hyperlinked Life, though short and lacking thoroughness and deep scholarship, is a key book in getting Christians to assess their personal use of technology.