How Rich are you?

Our church is looking at Overload. Last Sunday our Pastor spoke on Financial Overload. Here’s a segment from the video we viewed.

Go ahead and plug your annual income into this website. You are rich.

As someone who claims to be evolving into a global citizen, I am compelled to rethink my attitude toward my wealth and how I use my resources. The following verse comes to mind:

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

The Pursuit of Holiness

It’s been a while since I blogged here so I figured it’s about time.

God has been dealing with me lately about my responsibility as a believer. To that end, I starting reading The Pursuit of Holiness, a book I read years ago. The book helps us see clearly just what we should rely on God to do-and what we should accept responsibility for ourselves. The best analogy in the book is that of a farmer. Certainly there are many things the farmer must rely on in order to prosper but although ultimately it is God that provides the conditions for growth, the farmer must do his part.

Another great lesson in the book is what our attitude towards sin should be. Too often the phrase “victory over sin” is used and we tend to think of it as a personal victory. Sin needs to be viewed firstly from God’s perspective. He hates it. It is first against God that we sin. David, after committing adultery said,

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:4

Understanding what sin is and how God sees it is critical for us in our pursuit of holiness.

I saw the movie The Pursuit of Happyness last month. It’s a great story about perseverance and hope. The author in Pursuit of Holiness says, God is much more interested in our holiness than our happiness. He has not called us to be happy but holy. That doesn’t mean we can’t be happy but it can’t be our ultimate goal. That line of thinking is very contradictory to the world we live. Most people when asked what they want out of life will respond, “I just want to be happy”. I want to be happy too but am learning it shouldn’t be my main pursuit.

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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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. 🙂

Simple but Powerful

I’m always amazed when someone takes a simple idea and makes it into something powerful. The one red paperclip story hit home for me since the final trade occurred a couple of hours from my home.

As Christians we are equipped with a book that contains simple, but powerful ideas. I’m continually challenged but things I heard, read, see and do that on the surface seems simple and often rarely something I haven’t heard hundreds of times.

This video is a classic example. A man decided to offer free hugs in order to appease the sadness and hurt he observes in the world. At first, the site of a long haired young man holding a sign that says, “FREE HUGS”, would seem a bit odd, maybe weird and possibly scary. But as you watch the video, you’ll see that it moves to something powerful. Can you picture Jesus doing this?

PS. Couldn’t get WP to embed the video even after turning off visual editor. Any thoughts?

Not sure Dean– I got the embedded video to work but I put it in using Safari on a Mac. Not sure why it was not working before….

Zero sum time and priorities

Chris Craft asks some very important questions about time spent blogging and in the virtual world, and the critical need our families, friends, and even casual acquaintances have for us in the face-to-face (F2F) world. He writes, in the context of time spent blogging:

But at what expense? Whose daughter wants mommy to trade the computer monitor for a picnic? Whose spouse is wondering what time her husband will stop coding and come to bed? I hope not mine.

So this topic of relationships has been circling in my cerebrum for some time now. Simultaneously I have chosen to undertake the daunting task of creating learning communities in my own classroom. I toyed with a number of ways to do so with a dozen or so open source software programs all supposedly interested in helping me create community. I will spare you the exhaustive list because the software itself is irrelevant; it is the underlying principle up for discussion.

The bottom line to this is simply that my own thoughts on relationship are centered on a need for face-to-face connectedness. I am not saying that there is no place for online community, rather that there needs to be time and attention given to intentional relationship building in a live environment in person.

I do not have the answer to this, but this is certainly an issue with which I contend and need to contend with more. I know at times my wife does resent my time on the computer. Late evenings (which tonight is an example) are the prime time when I generally blog– and the exclusive time when I blog here about my personal journey of faith. (I’m called to fulltime ministry like all other believers– but blogging about my walk is not something I think my employer would metaphorically “smile on” since it is not directly job-related!)

Time is zero sum, and it can be argued that it is one of our most precious resources. How are we spending our time? Are we blogging our lives away? If we are, is this time will spent? (I suspect it can be.) But are our families bearing a tangible penalty for our prolific writing and virtual work? On the basis of sheer prolific posts alone, I know Miguel deals with this question too when it comes to blogging.

I think the issue is one of balance and “digital discipline,” a term I hope to flesh out in an actual book sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have even gone so far (several years ago now) to reserve a domain name… but for now that remains a lower priority. Balance. Perspective. Time invested in the lives of those I love, and those I care for most deeply. These are critical questions with very tangible consequences. I guess I should ask my family to chime in on this one– they’re the ones whose opinion matters the most in this regard!

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