Podcast5: Reflections on our 40 Day Evening Technology Use Fast and Digital Discipline

In this podcast, Shelly and Wesley Fryer share the genesis, goals, and results of our 40 day evening technology use fast that we completed together in the closing weeks of 2006. This was a very positive experience which drew us closer together as a couple and a family, and made us more aware of our abiding need to have digital discipline as we intentionally decide how to spend our time in the evenings together.

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Great questions about God

My now 9 year old son asked some great questions last night in the car to my wife and I as we drove home from his “celebration” birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Oklahoma City. We had actually spent quite a bit of time together yesterday, going to a Boy Scout Troop sponsored event in the morning to help cub scouts design and cut out their Pinewood Derby cars. In addition to getting his car designed and cut out (with a very nice band saw and power sander, the likes of which we do NOT own or have access to) we purchased some paint and a small hand saw we were able to use to cut out the back part of his car and make some “fins.” We were able to apply two coats of paint, and have his car well on its way to being completed in advance of “the big race” which will happen at an upcoming pack meeting in the spring.

I am struck by how questions like these seem to follow more QUANTITY time that is spent together rather than QUALITY time. I agree with those who observe “quality time” only comes when you spend “quantity time” with someone else, whether that person is a child or a spouse. The idea of “quality time” is a myth, whose source I’m not sure of, that says you can squeeze in equally valuable amounts of time needed to raise children between an overwhelming array of diverse demands and commitments. That may happen infrequently but I don’t think it happens regularly. When you spend quantity time together, however, quality time seems to happen more often.

Here are some of the questions Alexander posed to Shelly and I last night, which I think reflect some remarkably deep thinking for a 9 year old:

  1. Why doesn’t God speak to us in our dreams like he did in the Bible?
  2. When Jesus comes back to earth, is he going to be born again in a stable like he was the first time?
  3. Is there going to be a “Bible 2” when Jesus comes back and chooses new disciples?
  4. Do angels have to get permission to come down to earth and do things? Can they see us from up in heaven?
  5. Is heaven like a second world? Is God on other planets in other worlds?
  6. What is the purpose of life: Why are we here? (This last one was actually my question I had posed to Alexander a few days back, that we discussed some more.)

No doubt these ARE tough questions, and in trying to answer them last night in the car as we drove home, I was glad Shelly was there to help me attempt some answers. As I’ve written and noted before I don’t think either of us have “all the answers” when it comes to Biblical truth, but I do think and believe that God has the answers and He continues to reveal His truths to us as we read His word and seek Him in prayer, fellowship, and study. So these are some of the answers we shared with Alexander (and his listening younger sisters) last night in paraphrased form.

Why doesn’t God speak to us in our dreams like he did in the Bible?
God DOES speak to us today through the Holy Spirit. God sent his Holy Spirit down to earth at Pentecost after Jesus had gone back to heaven to be with God, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us as we seek God and pray to Him for guidance and direction. Most of the Bible (all of the Old Testament and all of the NT before Pentecost in the book of Acts) was written about times before the Holy Spirit came down to earth. God spoke to his people, often his leaders, through dreams and visions. God still speaks to us and calls us to live out our individual and unique calling– our “mission” on the earth. God sometimes still speaks to us in our dreams, and this is his Holy Spirit speaking to use. [I DIDN’T SAY THIS AT THE TIME BUT AM ADDING IT NOW: WE HAVE TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND KNOW HIM TO BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE HIS VOICE. WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO DISCERN OUR OWN VOICE, ASKING FOR ITS OWN DESIRES, AS WELL AS OTHER VOICES WHICH TEMPT US OR CHALLENGE US TO ACT IN WAYS CONTRARY TO GOD’S WILL. GOD DOES SPEAK TO US, BUT WE HAVE TO WORK EACH DAY ON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM TO KNOW HIM AND KNOW HIS VOICE.]

When Jesus comes back to earth, is he going to be born again in a stable like he was the first time?
The Revelation of John, which is the last book in the New Testament, tells that when Jesus comes back to earth He will come riding in the clouds and come to judge the nations. Jesus won’t be born again in a stable like He was the first time, when he comes back to the earth physically He’ll come back in power. This is one reason why it is so important for us to tell others about Jesus and about the Good News that he offers to every one of us. When Jesus comes back he will take those people who know Him and call Him their Savior up to heaven to live with Him forever. This is one of the most difficult things to remember and understand: God made us all to live forever. We are all spiritual beings living in our bodies right now, but our spirits will live forever. What we do in life is a preparation for eternity. We need to remember also that we don’t know the day and time when Jesus will return. Some people claim they know when Jesus will come back, but the Bible reminds us that no one knows. We should always be ready. As Christians, we can have confidence that no matter what happens– whether some tragedy strikes us and one of our family members is killed, or anything else bad happens– wars, or crazy times– we know that in everything God is in control. God will provide for us and take care of us no matter what happens.

Is there going to be a “Bible 2” when Jesus comes back and chooses new disciples?
I am not certain, but I don’t think so. Most Christian and Biblical scholars today believe that the era of Biblical revelation is over, when the books of the Bible were written and shared with God’s people, although God DOES continue to communicate and speak to his people through his Word, prayer, and his Holy Spirit. As we read the Bible, we see that Jesus rarely did things like miracles in the same way more than once. When Jesus healed blind people and gave them sight, he did it each time with a different method. The Bible says that Jesus will return to judge the nations, not to lead another life of teaching and ministry. It is our job now to tell others about Jesus and share his his love. [I DIDN’T SAY THIS BUT WILL ADD IT NOW BECAUSE I’M THINKING OF IT: JESUS CAME TO EARTH AND PAID FOR ALL OUR SINS BY DYING ON THE CROSS. JESUS DID THIS FOR US ALL ONE TIME, ONCE AND FOR ALL. IT IS DONE, AND IT IS FINISHED. JESUS WILL NOT RETURN TO LIVE A REPEAT OF HIS EARTHLY LIFE, BECAUSE HE HAS ALREADY DONE THAT– SHARED HIS TEACHINGS, AND GIVEN UP HIS LIFE, AND THAT PRICE FOR OUR SINS HAS BEEN PAID IN FULL.]

Do angels have to get permission to come down to earth and do things? Can they see us from up in heaven?
Again I will admit that I don’t know the answer to this for sure, but we do know that angels are real and are the messengers of God. I think that angels are the servants of God, and do what God tells and asks them to do. If we think about the angel Gabriel going to Mary to tell her that she was going to have a baby, and he was going to be the Savior of the world, we see that God told the angel to do that. The angel Gabriel didn’t decide on his own to go to Mary and tell her something. I think that one of the main things which differentiates us as humans from the angels is that we have “free will,” we can choose what we want to do: whether to do good or evil. Some people will say that we really don’t have free will because God knows everything and has already decided for us (God is omniscient.) I do believe God is omniscient and omnipotent, but I believe we still maintain free will amidst that reality, based on what I have read in the Bible and in my own spiritual walk of faith. Yes God knows my choices before I make them, but that does not change the fact that he lets me choose. So to answer the question, Yes: I think angels do have to get permission for everything they do here on earth. I think angels are God’s servants and messengers on earth, and they do what God commands. Perhaps angels can and do look down on us from heaven. I think that everything they do, however, is something that is within God’s will. Angels don’t have free will.

Is heaven like a second world? Is God on other planets in other worlds?
I think we have to remember that heaven is a place and a concept that we really can’t fully understand and grasp with our limited human minds. As humans we live in time, which moves one direction (forwards) and has a starting point and an ending point. God is not like this, and neither is heaven. We know from the Bible that God has always existed: He had no beginning and will have no end. God is infinite. Our minds can say “infinity” but we can’t really comprehend what it means. So I am not sure about a lot of things when it comes to heaven. We know that heaven exists, that God lives there, and that we will all go one day to live with God if we claim Jesus as our Savior. Maybe there are parallel universes in the world, like we’ve discussed in talking about physics and the universe. Yes, we believe God is the God of the entire universe, not just our world here on planet earth. I believe there are other worlds, and yes– God is the God of those worlds too. The universe is an enormously huge place, and we are barely able to comprehend and understand its enormous size. There is a lot we don’t know about the universe, but we do know that God is the creator and ruler of all of it.

What is the purpose of life: Why are we here?
When I asked this question to my son again last night (yes we did have a lot of lighthearted conversation at dinner, but this was one of the more serious moments) he responded as probably many people in our culture would and do today: “To be happy?” In responding to his ideas, I was reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” that is part of his speech and sermon series I purchased on iTunes about a year ago and am listening to again. In that letter, he reminds us that our purpose here in life is not to merely be happy and seek to satisfy our own desires and needs: Our purpose is to understand and do the will of God. God wants us to be happy, but there are times in our lives when we will not be happy. There are things which are worth struggling and even fighting for that will not bring us earthly happiness, but rather may bring us earthly suffering. Ultimately, we are called as God’s people to do God’s will on earth, and that is our purpose. We are here to worship and glorify God, and do His will.

That was a lot of heavy conversation for a late Friday night! I was amazed by the depth and thoughtfulness of Alexander’s questions about God, and was also thrilled to have him asking us (his parents) questions like these that he is working through. As we prayed together last night when he went to bed, I thanked God for Alexander’s inquiring mind and the questions he is seeking answers to. I prayed that God will continue to bless him in his life, and provide answers to these questions as He continues to reveal himself to Alexander.

40 days of evening technology fasting

My wife, Shelly, and I have started a 40 day fast in conjunction with a pilot project our church is doing. From November 15 through December 24, 2006, we are intentionally engaging together in a program of prayers, action, and fasting. The guidelines from the church on this include:

  1. For 40 days, pray daily, accomplish an action to glorify God (pick up trash, help someone… something big or small), and fast (give something up for God of worldly worth)
  2. Record for no more than two minutes a day (less is ok) and include your prayer and an up-to-date status on your actions and fasting.
  3. For video purposes, talk to the camera like you would talk to God. If you feel uncomfortable with the camera, you can put the lens cap on and just use the audio.
  4. Pray for an action during the day to glorify God and/or reflect on your actions of the day before (be specific in the action)
  5. Pray about your fast and how God can help you.
  6. Pray for something specific in your life that you have been struggling with or need help with. Ask for God’s guidance and wisdom.
  7. Be as animated as you want to be… you can walk around, scream, yell, hug the camera, etc.
  8. Before you start recording, write on a piece of paper or white board the day number and date. e.g. Day 1, Wednesday November 14th.

I don’t think we’ve been too animated yet and we haven’t hugged the camera, but we are three days into the “fast” and already this is proving to be a very good activity for us as a couple. I’m debating whether or not to post our short video clips online to YouTube or just turn them all in to the church and see what the editor comes up with when he pieces all these together. I think there are about 5 other couples or individuals doing this “fast.” Our church youth leadership team is in charge of putting this together, I think for Lent next year as they discuss fasting and focus.

I have had friends who have fasted for short periods of time (generally fasting by not eating during the day) and have found it to be very worthwhile in terms of helping them focus and renew their commitment to something. For me personally, I knew that what I needed to give up in my fast was computer use during the evenings. I love to read, write, podcast, etc., but technology use in the evening has also become an obstacle to other things that I need and want to do– spending time in conversation with my wife after the kids are in bed, reading books, just being quiet and still and enjoying a cup of hot tea.

Another thing that is immediately apparent is that this fast is going (and has already) gotten Shelly and I praying together regularly each evening. We’ve been married for 11 years and have known that we need to pray together regularly– we do at meals, but the efforts we’ve made in the past to pray together at night have not been sustained. Generally I go to bed later, we are both quite tired at the end of the day… the reasons go on and on. It is wonderful to be connecting with each other in the evenings now and being more in touch with what is going on in each other’s lives to a much greater degree.

Shelly commented last night that time like this together each evening is what she thinks she wanted more than anything in the first year when we were married. Perhaps this is what every bride wants. It really is great. I realized last night that part of what this is teaching me (and we’re just 3 days into the fast) is to be happy with doing less. Simplifying life means REMOVING things so that the things which are “left” are important and worthy of valuation. I think this is true for material objects as well as activities. So, even though I have a ton of podcasts to publish from the recent conference I attended, and lots of blog entries I want to write… I am having to do more prioritization and just be content not “doing” so much.

Another big benefit is that I am getting and will be getting a lot more sleep. Interestingly I have noticed the last two nights already that I am remembering more dreams– I don’t know if this is a function of sleeping deeper or what. I rarely ever remember dreaming at night– so it will be interesting to see how this (or if this) continues.

The fact that we have a wood-burning fireplace here in our Oklahoma house makes evening time even better. I LOVE making and enjoying wood fires, I’m not comparing or trying to say that my old stuff is better than you new “ SmartlyHeated” homes or anything like that.  Now that it is cold at night, the combination of a wood fire, a hot cup of tea and my wife to converse with is a great combination. I am very glad we are participating in this “fasting” for 40 days project, and look forward to learning and growing even more as the project continues. 🙂

The Age of Reformation: 1517-1648 (Seeds of Reform)

These are my notes from Ken Rees’ presentation at FPC Edmond, 10/25/2006

The point we have been making up to this point in this class is that roots of Christians in reformed traditions go back much further than the reformation

In 1517, the world was quite different: (1517 was when Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door)
– 4 nations of Europe (Spain, Portual, France and England) have strong monarchs
– Germany was more a collection of states with German speaking people, hadn’t been
– Italy more like city-states of ancient Greece (one is Vatican City)
– Renaissance was in full-flower (hard to put a date on it, people do argue about what it meant and means) – Michaelangelo and Da Vinci were at work
— in Medieval times, people were encouraged to stay where they were with their thinking
— now you have people thinking in new directions, starting to adopt the idea that the human is the center of the universe (growth of humanist movement)
— people becoming more interested in the human side of things, idealistic conceptions of humanity

Key technologies into the West
– gunpowder from China
– compass (had really limited mariners before this time)
– most important: printing press (just around for 60 years) – turned
– “America” recently discovered by Columbus, Cortez just starting conquest of Mexico, age of exploration

Muslim world: In last 50 years they were kicked out of Spain (Iberian Peninsula)
– occupy north Africa, Middle East, most of Greese and into Eastern Europe
– Ottoman Turks are a rising power

Africa is an unknown continent except for some posts where traders stop

Eastern Orthodoxy
– Constantinople: Fall meant that eastern Orthodoxy suffered a huge reversal
– center of orthodoxy has now moved to Russia, which had been evanglized by
– Russia had been ruled for a time by the Mongols, have shaken them off and emerging as a strong
– Moscow developing as replacement for Constantinople as center of orthodoxy

Other roots leading up to 1517
– 14th century: had been rival popes
– John Wyeclif became leading Oxford professor in 1372, entered the controversy about whether all authority over humans flows from God through the Pope regardless of the morality of church practices
— argues that the English king can discipline corrupt church officials
— rejected the idea of levels of sanctity for believers
— argued every righteous believer is equal in God’s eyes (dominion founded in grace)
— he was a zealot

These were novel ideas that the church hadn’t been
– Wyeclif “got this” message by studying the scriptures, going back to the source
– he wanted to see the whole church structure shorn of its wealth which had corrupted it
– felt the church didn’t need to be ruling like princes
– went beyond that: Said Rome doesn’t have all that authority vested in one person
– started studying Revelation and came to believe (and preach) that the Pope was the antiChrist

Focused on idea that God knows all the believers who will be in his church
– if that is true, how could we bargain with God via indulgences and penances?
– Wyeclif claimed these acts didn’t and don’t have anything to do with our salvation, because God knows who the ‘saved’ are
– encouraged focus on good preaching, not the sacraments
– at this time many priests were largely illiterate, many learned their job
– had some powerful friends among the nobility

Stayed at Oxford, and eventually crossed the line and argued that in scripture no where did it say for communion that the bread and the wine literally become the body and blood of Christ
– that caused his supporters to finally kick him out of Oxford
– preachers he taught went out into the countryside, sharing the message that everyone is equal in the eyes of God
– peasants started to question paying
– group was called the Lollards, were harshly put down by the English government who feared a broader peasant revolution

John Hus was a professor at the Univ of Prague
– picked up on Wyclif’s ideas in 1396 and began preaching them
– was excommunicated
– pled his case at the Council of Constance but was handed over to the Inquisition
– refused to recant and was burned at the stake in 1415

Biggest reason Martin Luther was able to lead the reformation starting in 1517 was Guttenberg
– by 1517 there were not only printing presses, but also publishers
– other reasons: Luther was fortunate to be in a good position
— may have been a more persuasive preacher, persuaded some princes that gave him sanctuary

Another important transitional figure: Erasmus
– was a scholar’s scholar
– didn’t have the zeal to overturn everything, he had a zeal for truth
– in the universities there was an argument that the Renaissance leaves you open to search for truth wherever you can find it
– Erasmus learned Greek to translate the New Testament from Latin into Greek
– published “A Handbook of the Christian Soldier”
– he stayed within the church, because he felt his mission was to reform the church
– later he was accused of laying the egg that Luther hatched as the Reformation

Another thing that happened in 100 years is the Papacy lost more of its power and influence
– had lost a lot of moral authority when there were two popes, three popes, some popes going to battle
– Pope wanted to be a partron of the arts like other Kings were, wanted to me a Medici
– cost a lot of money to build the Basilica of St Peter, church resorted to selling indulgences
– offering people the chance to buy salvation, and buy salvation for others to liberate them from purgatory

All that is left now of the temporal power of the Pope now is Vatican City
– that is the remnant of the former power and authority of the Catholic church

First time Luther heard the sermon on indulgences and become enraged
– had been a monk, and also a professor
– Luther was overburdened by the power of sin in his life early on
– in 1515 he began to study the book of Romans, when he found “the just shall live by faith”
– came to understand it is not something you have to DO to become free of sin: justified not by your own doings, but rather by the act of Christ on the cross

Luther decided the entire idea of “treasury of merit” was a crock
– idea was that the “saints” had stored credits in heaven, who had more than they needed
– that was and is why many people appeal to the saints for help

1517 Luther posts 95 theses to Wittenberg church
– argued that authority does not reside with humans
– we are invited to approach God through Christ on our own
– we have that level of freedom: we don’t need the intercession of people living and dead (priests and the Saints) to approach God
– source of authority was and is NOT the church
– says scripture is the authority for our faith and practice

University training in general at this time did not have different degrees
– Wittenberg was not a theological seminary: but everyone studied theology
– everyone who obtained a university education probably until the last century had a background in theology from the university

Popes at that time were paying large bribes for their positions
– parish priests tended to be less literate, and just knowing the liturgy they’d learned on the job

as we moved into the 16th century, more people were learning to read and had access to the written word

Earlier Popes going back to Benedict said there were 7 sacraments
– Luther said he could just find scriptural support for 7 sacraments: The Lord’s Supper and baptism

Luther called for the priesthood of all believers
– tried to narrow the gap between the priesthood and the pew
– before that time often, the cup was only taken by the priest
– now, both the cup and wafer were taken by the people
– in the past during communion, the priest used to take communion facing away from the people, similar to how the priest would go into the holy of holies

Luther did NOT have the radical idea that Wyclif had that the bread and wine were just symbolic
– Catholic church believed in transsubstantiation (trans: cross over from physical elements to the literal body and blood of Christ)
– Luther came up with idea of consubstantiation (con: idea of “with” – elements maintained their physical characteristics but also become the bread and body of Christ.

Luther was immediately attacked by the church, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther
– German king declared Luther an outlaw
– Duke of Saxony hid Luther, during which time he translated the Bible into German and got it to a printer

Luther was a Renaissance man in many ways, he was also a musician
– said we shouldn’t just listen to a choir doing chants in Latin, he said in the early church they sang hymns
– he introduced congregational singing into the life of the church
– he wrote several dozen hymns, including “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Luther viewed salvation as NOT mediated by a sacrament

KEN ACTUALLY CITED “I FOUND A WEBSITE THAT SAID LUTHER DID NOT ADOPT BAR SONG MELODIES” – NO INDICATION OF THE WEBSITE SOURCE!

Luther’s message of freedom provokes a peasant revolt which was ruthlessly put down after he failed to support the peasants
– later in life, teaching veered into anti-Semitism

Augsburg Confession was written in 1530 without Luther:
1- salvation by faith alone, not works
2- All authority is from scripture, not Roman Church
3- Church is the priesthood of believers
4- essence of Christian living is serving God in any useful calling, lay or clergy

MY THOUGHT: LACK OF STRONG CENTRAL AUTHORITY IN GERMANY AT THIS TIME WAS CRITICAL TO LUTHER’S CONTINUED SURVIVAL AND THE GROWTH (EVENTUAL SUCCESS) OF THE REFORMATION

Ulrich Zwingly in 1519 in Switzerland, influenced by Erasmus and more radical reforms of Luther, lead movement toward austerity
– trying to avoid idolitry at all costs
– were first to get the principle of infant baptism
– couldn’t find scriptural support for infant baptism, so said it had to be for believers “of the age of understanding”
– were called “anabaptist”
– believed in freedom from state authority
– were pacificsts, believed in individual conscience, didn’t have a church hierarchy (congregationalists)
– setup confession in 1527: wanted to be witnesses in a transformed style of living
— saw themselves called to be Nazarites like Sampson
— foresweared accumulation of wealth
— this idea was so radical: no princes supported Zwingly
— tried to lead a popular movement, took a lot of heat
– pushed into rural areas of Eastern Europe, Jakob Hutter was one of those leaders (Hutterites)

1532 radicals under Jan of Leiden, similar to David Koresh and Branch Davidians

Differences between Lutherans and Anabaptists: Anabaptists were just surviving, not very widespread
– Lutheranism established itself as a force to be recognized
– Omish had their roots among the Anabaptists

Separation of Church and state, focus on independent thinking are roots of our form of government here

Man being qualitatively equal before God is rooted here

Next week: Calvin!

Need for authenticity

I want to avoid a tendency that often happens in Christian circles, for people to be “fake” and pretend everything is hunky-dory– and for “outsiders” to the body of believers to get the mistaken impression that either all Christians “have it all together” and don’t have problems with sins of multiple types– or that all of them are fake, ridiculous pretenders who are hypocrites that don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

The following paragraph from John Eldredge’s book “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” has a good paragraph on page 55 about this phenomenon of Christian “posers” at church:

That sort of thing goes on Sunday mornings, its just a different set of rules. Dave runs into Bob in the church lobby. Both are wearing their happy faces, though neither is happy at all. “Hey Bob, how are ya?” Bob is actually furious at his wife and ready to leave her, but he says, “Great, just great, Dave. The Lord is good!” Dave, on the other hand, hasn’t believed in the goodness of God for years, ever since his daughter was killed. “Yep– God is good, all the time. I’m just so glad to be here, praising the Lord.” “Me too. Well, I’ll be praying for you!” I would love to see a tally of the nubmers of prayers actually prayed against the number of prayers promised. I bet its about one in a thousand. “And I’ll be praying for you too. Well, gotta go! You take care.” “Take care” is our way of saying, “I’m done with this conversation and I want to get out of here but I don’t want to appear rude so I’ll say something that sounds meaningful and caring,” but in truth, Dave doesn’t give a rip about Bob.

There can often be a large amount of truth in what Eldredge is saying here. Many, many people are very sincere in the church, and I am not generalizing to everyone– but I do think this issue of “posing” is something we should acknowledge and address.

A Christian blog is a very interesting thing– even an experimental thing. This is the first “Christian blog” I’ve ever written for. No one taught me how to do this, or what the rules are. Because the rules are being socially negotiated constantly, I think. I wanted to write this post because I want people to know that from where I sit (which I acknowledge is a very limited frame) I think we have a strong need in our face to face as well as virtual interactions to be authentic. That won’t mean I’m going to blog about every problem and difficulty I’m having or have had. But it does mean I want to be honest and forthright at all times, and not give someone the impression that I have all the answers and have it all together. I certainly don’t. That is a primary reason why I want to write about and continually work on my own journey of faith.

Whatever your struggle, whatever your triumph, it is not too small or too insignificant to keep entirely to yourself and not share with someone else. Maybe not on a blog, but certainly with a friend and hopefully with other believers. As believers we are the body of Christ, and we’re called to support one another and hold each other up. I think we are also called to be honest and authentic.

Christians on the web

The movie short “What If God Had a MySpace” is a clever example of digital storytelling, but also raises some viable issues that are worth thinking about.

The scenes of the devil asking to be God’s friend, and having to be repeatedly denied, remind me of some of the friend requests I received on my own MySpace page before I wised up and changed my birth year to 1901. Based on my gender and age (when I was reporting my real birth year) I was getting friend requests that may not have been named “Satan” but were probably close in the thematic focus of their MySpace pages. 🙁

The scenes of people “asking for stuff” made me think about how many people view God, and how many people are missing a relationship with Him. Unfortunately I am too busy, quite often, and don’t spend the time with God that I need to and should be spending each day. Who do people think God is? That question seems to be raised by this video also.

The video also raises the issue of relevance to me– and exemplifies the need we have for more Christian voices on the web. What an amazingly exciting as well as shockingly horrible environment we live in today– in this flat world which can and does bring people together for common purposes, both good and evil.

iFilm (the site who owns the blog linked above) is quite an eye opener into the world of viral video. I first learned about iFilm a couple of summers ago, at the Digital Media Academy’s workshop on Digital Storytelling. Of course YouTube can be a bad place to explore as well– there is more there than any of us should go out and try to see and find. I have real mixed feelings about all of this. I guess in the online environment of the flat world, there are less “checks” and “boundaries” on individuals’ access to content of all types, good and bad. That is simultaneously exciting and horrifying. I wrote about some of this back in January 2005, in terms of the power of mere still images to powerfully affect the mind and the imagination.

Lots of thoughts raised here. We need more Christian voices on the web. Not because any of us have all “the answers” ourselves, but because we know where and to Whom we can and should turn for answers.

God is good

It has been pretty stressful at times to move from Lubbock, Texas, which I have called home for the past 13 years, to a new community and job in Edmond/Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The worst part was being separated from my family for about 1 1/2 months this summer, before they moved to join me in August, but many things about the moving process are stressful and challenging even when a family is all together.

Throughout this moving process, I have been encouraging my wife and myself with the words, “Don’t worry about the house. God is going to take care of it.” We actually had our Lubbock home on the market since March of 2006, because although we did not know then where He would lead us, we felt certain that we were called to move on to new jobs and new opportunities during the summer. The completion of my PhD coursework at Texas Tech along with many other factors contributed to this family decision. How joyful we were this past week to see the following sign in our front yard in Lubbock!

Our house is sold!

Last Friday we were back in Lubbock signing closing documents on the house. Yesterday afternoon, we received a phone call from our realtor indicating that the buyers had accepted and signed the contract, so at this point we are no longer homeowners. What a relief! Making a house payment along with a new rental payment has been challenging. Now we just have the rent!

I admit that although I KNOW from repeated personal experiences that God does take care of things, and that he does and will continue to care for me and my family, it was still a great relief to sell our home. It was also amazing to see how God worked through this situation. We were prepared to pay about five times more than we ended up paying to close our home– but it worked out that we did not have to pay nearly as much. Our realtor was amazed, and also said that “It was God,” not him. None of us predicted the sale would turn out as well as it did, in fact we all were bracing for a much worse outcome.

So, our challenges continue in our new home and situations, but my primary thought in writing this blog entry is, “Praise God!” God is good all the time, and yet again he has demonstrated his power to act in my own life beyond my own expectations.

I think some people have the mistaken impression that once you become a Christian, you do not struggle or go through suffering anymore. That is definitely NOT true. Struggles, challenges, and even suffering remain a part of our lives on earth for a variety of reasons– but becoming a Christian does NOT make a person immune from these experiences. Being a Christian and seeking to know God’s Son, Jesus Christ, does mean that in all circumstances I know who I can call on for help. Who I call on to take the burdens of my worries and stresses, and who I rely on to see me through each day. Praise God! I am so excited about being free of the debt of our Lubbock home I feel like dancing! 🙂

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