Why I Kicked My Smart Phone Out of The Bedroom

When I awake, the struggle begins.

I use an old clock radio for my alarm so that I can get my phone out of my bedroom and  tucked in a corner somewhere. I am trying to avoid beginning the day with mindless scrolling through the overnight feeds, sport scores, and news happenings.

My success or failure at this temptation usually sets a tone for the rest of my day. Will I approach information in an intentional way that is helpful to my growth, work life, keen interests, moral values or will I just fall headlong into consuming the surface of headlines, articles, and updates? Will my notifications be all that I read and take in or will I choose that which has redeeming value and feeds my soul? Will I seek a dopamine quick hit of distraction, outrage, and reaction over a long approach of growth, progress, and formation? All of this plays out in the first five minutes of my day.

man holding phone grayscale photography

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

In Life Without Lack, Dallas Willard says:

When we get up out of bed in the morning, among our first thoughts should be this: Lord, speak to me. I’m listening. I want to hear your voice. This is not because it’s a nice way to start the day but because the only thing that can keep us straight is being full of God and full of his Word. If you do not do something like this, you do not have the option of a neutral mind. Your thoughts cannot be empty. As the old saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. If you are not entertaining God’s truth, you will be entertaining Satan’s lies.

On those days when I begin with prayer, meditation, scripture reading, and essential Christian reading and study, I have a well to draw on the rest of the day. I have lessened anxiety, a more focused heart, I can fight off whims and base distractions. The things I end up paying attention to on these good days turns out to be closer to what really matters. Not just for me but for those around me and those I am responsible for throughout my day.

Where we place our minds really is our first freedom and the path that determines how our days and weeks will go.

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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.

How Would Jesus Use A Smart Phone?

Just as hurry has made the present a place that few people are satisfied living in, technology and its communicative ability to transport us digitally someplace else and with someone else has made us more and more distant from the people who may need us right where we are.

Mark Galli, in a piece entitled “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?” expounds on this point, “I often find myself so drawn to my Blackberry and laptop that I fail to be present with the flesh and blood person who is standing before me. I look at them and pretend like I’m listening, but my mind strains to get back to my email. The technology is obviously undermining my ability to be present in an embodied way to the real person in front of me.” [i]

Have you ever noticed how much Jesus, as presented in the Gospel, never seems to lose sight of the present moment? Consider the story of Jesus when his mother and siblings are trying to reach him (Mark 3:31-35) or the way the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter progresses (Mark 5:21-43). Jesus is never in a hurry and never loses sight of an opportunity to minister in the very present moment.


[i] Galli, Mark. “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?” Christianity Today 4 June 2009. Web.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Our Digital Lives Damaging Our Spiritual Lives?

Technology Use, Southampton City College

Technology Use, Southampton City College (Photo credit: jisc_infonet)

It must be trendy to discuss the ubiquitous nature of technology and personal connectivity. A new term has even been coined for it – connection addiction. I saw this term first as a part of the headline for Newsweek’s latest cover story. Just a few months ago, The Atlantic cover story asked, ” Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”

A few years ago, I grew fascinated with the spiritual ramifications of all of this connectivity. I am convinced that the church needs to address this issue for the spiritual health of its members. I have included some of my writings on the topic below. I would encourage discussion. More to come.

  • The Ever Connected

Modern people are finding it harder and harder to unplug themselves from their electronic devices. Consider these recently documented findings:

– International studies tell us that “people would rather lose their wallet than their cell phone.” [i]

– Two thirds of 8,000 respondents in a 2009 poll go to bed with their cell phone nearby and refuse to switch them off because they are afraid “they’ll miss something.” [ii]

– an average working parent spends twice as long dealing with email as playing with his or her children [iii]

The Results of all of this Connection

Some people may be proud of their connectivity and ability to multitask but according to a 2009 Stanford study those people who are exposed to multiple streams of information have trouble paying attention, have poor short term memory, and can not switch from one task to another effectively.

Clifford Nass, a Communication professor who helped conduct the study, states that habitual digital multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy” because “everything distracts them.”[iv] Who would have thought that we would become addicted to distraction?


[i] Fahmy, Miral. “People would rather lose wallet than cellphone.” Reuters 4 Sept. 2009 [Singapore] . Web. 26 June 2010.

[ii] Stone, Brad. “Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online..” The New York Times 10 Aug. 2009. Web. 26 June 2010.

[iii] Honoré, Carl. In praise of slowness: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed. p. 9. HarperCollins, 2004. Print.

 [iv] Gorlick, Adam. “Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows.” Stanford University News 24 Aug. 2009. Web.

What Has Technology Done To Bible Reading?

I have done it. Me, a harbinger for the book and critic of the misuse of technology, almost decided to bring my daughter’s iPod to church yesterday because the Bible app would be a simpler choice over the oversized Bibles I seem to have at the house. I have often scoffed at the people in our Bible Study class who followed along with the passage for that week on their smart phones. Now, I was about to become one of them.

Has technology been good for Bible reading? In some ways, yes. I can have a Bible passage and a devotional sent to my email box every day of the week. Web resources such as Bible Gateway make locating scripture a breeze. And those Bible apps mean that as long as I have the ubiquitous phone, I also have the Bible with me. Also, my wife has been pleasantly surprised by the impact that the scriptures she posts on Facebook have on her friends. Khloe Kardashian was even quoting scripture on Twitter a few weeks back.

But what are the downsides? In the July/August 2008 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, writer Nicholas Carr, who later wrote a book on the topic, described the effect that the Web has had on his ability to concentrate and think:

When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.

Carr then quotes technology and medicine blogger Bruce Friedman, “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print.”

At this point, pet peeves about the proper use of a smart phone and the loss of the printed word become less important when placed up against the reality of web use altering our brain’s ability to process information and handle what we are reading. Think about what this might do to our ability to read the Bible. Reading the Bible is best done in slow, meditative ways, not in the scan and click approach we take to our web reading. And since many of us are starting to do most of our Bible reading online, are we able shut off the scan approach and actually consider what the scripture is saying, not only to our heads but also to our hearts?

The fact of the matters is, Bible reading has to be handled differently from other types of reading. This will take proper teaching and direction and will force Christians to seriously consider their use of technology and how it affects their spiritual life.  Thousands of years of effective use of the scriptures now may be changing. Perhaps we should put down our technology and consider what the future of Bible reading should look like.

Sleep As A Spiritual Discipline

A child sleeping.

Image via Wikipedia

Have you noticed that you doze off easier than you used to? Is staying awake in church or in meetings more difficult than it should be? Does your prayer time often lead to your eyes getting heavy?

In our fast paced and constantly stimulated society we are so used to having our mind occupied and our attention titillated that the minute our mind concentrates on one thing or has to sit still for a few moments it shuts down trying to get the rest it desperately needs. I have heard many friends at the university where I work talk about falling asleep during prayer or times of solitude and silence. There are three ways that getting more sleep would help our spiritual life:

1. Improves relationships. Most of us are grumpy when we are tired; even more grumpy than we get when we are stressed or hungry. If we were better rested, we would have more energy to handle uncomfortable situations and handle our relationships better.

2. Shows our trust in God. Many of us, myself included, don’t get enough sleep because we feel as if we need to be getting up and doing something productive. We see sleep as a hindrance to our level of achievement and success. Sleeping more means we are interested in our well-being and willing to trust God for results. We work hard but we also let go of control of every situation.

3. Improves our focus. As I mentioned earlier, if we cannot concentrate while reading the Bible or fall asleep at every moment of stillness, then we are missing out on times with God and lessening our chance at growth.

So, get a good night’s rest or take a nap but don’t drain your body of the rest it needs. Your spiritual life may be depending on it.

How to Handle Technology

"Technology has exceeded our humanity"

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

Here are three steps to manage technology so that it does not become a detriment to your spiritual life.

1. Refuse to feel behind. No one wants to feel as if they are out of touch or behind the times. The truth of the matter is no one is completely up to date on technology. Even the person with the most advanced smart phone may not have a Blu Ray HD/3D Television with web capability. Make technology something that makes your life easier and more enjoyable but if you find yourself chasing after fads, you will quickly be stretched thin and constantly wanting. Be satisfied with what works.

2. Always choose relationships over technology. If you have a habit of texting during family dinners or checking Facebook more than twice an hour then you might be choosing technology over relationships. The people in front of you need your attention and time, especially if you have kids. Studies have shown that parents often spend more time handling email than time with their kids.

3. Read scripture slowly. The information overload of the internet era has made us all masters at skimming and scanning online material. We are losing the art of reading for deeper understanding. How is that going to affect our reading of scripture? Will we lose the ability to concentrate for long periods of time on God’s word? How are we supposed to fully consider and take in God’s word if we have no experience with meaningful reading.

Ways To Connect

I am working on a special post that maps out ways a Christian Life Hacker can use technology to enhance their spiritual life. Look for this post in the next couple of days. In the meantime, here are two easy ways that you can connect to this blog. First, click on the “Email Subscription” link to the right of this post. Once you filled out the proper information, you will begin to receive my posts in your email box whenever they are posted. Secondly, follow me on Twitter by visiting my @christlifehack feed or if you have a Twitter account, become a follower and get all of my Tweets in your feed list.

Good Words

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Blog: Don’t Eat The Fruit – A blog about technology and faith

 

Challenge: The Simplified Church challenges each of its members to spend at least five minutes on their spiritual health

Article: A homeless strategy that might work.

Tweet: @FrankViola Jesus never told us “Whoever dies with the most religious knowledge wins.”

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