The Cult of Stuff

Much of life is filled with stuff. This stuff invades our lives, consuming our time, our money, our energy, and our strength. The stuff tells me that I need more of the stuff, and that in order to get this stuff I need to work harder, consume more of myself, and move further into the cult of stuff.

My interests push me further into this cult. I have tablets, laptops, the latest iPhone, and each of these items make my life easier (I think), but they also cause me to crave another piece of technology. Guess what, in six months to a year, there will be another device that will be better, and I WILL WANT IT, because I have bought into the cult. Every year I think I will finish my desire to get a new device, but every year I want something new. In recent history, an iPad was going to solve everything, next it was going to be a new phone, then a new tablet, then a new camera, then a new computer, then a shiny new iPhone. The craziest part about this, is that many of the items that I NEEDED are either no longer in my possession, or are just sitting in a desk drawer not being used.

Even the things, outside of this cult have been infiltrated by technology. I cannot remember the last run I took without a wire attached to my body telling me if I need to go faster, slower, and filling my head with music, podcasts, all while telling me how far and how long I have run. I love writing and photography, and I believe that these devices essentially will help me do that more, do it better, and do it more efficiently. Maybe technology does make it better, but the amount of time consumed lusting and coveting the new tech probably balances out the efficiency gained.

The evidence that I have bought in shows itself blatantly, as my wife can attest, when I go to church. By church, I mean the Apple Store. I look at their new devices, and I lust after them, I look at the 27″ iMac, and I covet. Further, I entertain the thought of going into debt to bring home the box, THE BOX THAT WILL BE OBSOLETE IN MONTHS!!!  This is pure craziness.

I am reminded that I am so terribly consumed by these things, and I burn so many calories thinking about what I want, and that this takes away from the energy I should be putting into my job, my family, and even more importantly my God. There is hope, because I don’t have to be consumed by this, and I am reminded that I have carved out a space in my heart for tech that rightly belongs to The Almighty, and that I can be redeemed. Tech isn’t everyone’s cult, but so many of us put so much effort and energy into so many other things. The Almighty God offers us peace and freedom from the pull of whatever it is that consumes our energy in ultimate futility.

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A Time for Listening

This time of Lent has reminded me and taught me to be a better listener, and made me aware of how I feel when I am not being heard. This time of going without is not merely an attempt to get in tune with the people that God wants us to be, but also allow ourselves to hear the voice of God speaking to us. Tune out the grumblings of our stomach, tune out the entertainment and other items that vie for our attention, and really listen to the voice of God speaking to each one of us in this season.

Not only have I tended toward the corruption of the season by a focus on self, but I listen to my yearnings for the things that keep me from hearing God. Ecclesiastes 3:7 ESV says, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” I have learned that silence is something I’m bad at, and speaking is something I do to fill that silence. I need to learn to be quiet more, and just simply listen.

Anyone with me?

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Lenten Reflection (Ash Wednesday)

ImageAs we have sprung into the season of Lent on this Ash Wednesday it begins on a different note for me. Usually this is the first day of my fast from my usual luxuries and indulgences, such as fast food, Starbucks, ice cream, soda, and various other fun food items. This “sacrifice” is meant to draw me nearer to God and carve out a space in which to turn my whole self over to the Almighty. However, much of the time this act of giving up my indulgences turns into an act of false piety. I have probably unconsciously decided that I wanted to give those things up to be healthier during the season of Lent, and less about my relationship with God. In fact, I remember a time in college when I was probably close to 300 pounds and I decided that during Holy Week I would fast from all food. Certainly this began with the best intentions, as the fast got hard, my mind was not disciplined to turn to God in prayer, but rather I turned to consuming the “permitted” juices I allowed myself. That fast, just like many I have begun during Lent, became more about the act of fasting than the fact that I need to be clearing out space in my life for God.

While I have seen many Facebook posts and tweets about the various items my circle of friends are giving up for Lent, I thought long and hard about giving up something for Lent. I knew I wasn’t going to do the usual suspects, because that has become the routine that I wish not to repeat, and besides in the past year many of those things do not have the same grip that they once did. If I were to give up food, I would need to replace that food with something nourishing my body. That led me to the biggest drain on my time, television. It has a weird hold on me, not that I just sit in front of the television and zone out, it is mainly on as background noise, but it diminishes the quality time spent with my loved ones and God. Tonight was the first night that we didn’t turn the television on, and instead I danced with my daughter, had a conversation with my wife, read my Bible, and blogged here. By cutting that one beam of distraction out space was carved out for God to move.

God has not called me to give up television. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice is empty, and it is a luxury that I am “sacrificing”, and it is vital that I understand that God HAS called me to give my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole strength, and my whole self to worship. Let’s remember that, in this season of Lent and beyond. 

Making Resolutions…

Today I turn another year older, and every year I get older, and older, and older. I apologize to my parents, because I am sure that statement really makes them feel older, but really, I remember when my parents were my age and I thought they were old at that time. So I guess that my kids probably think that I am really old. Although I woke up this morning, and did not think of myself as old, as I got up and ran 8 miles, something I definitely would not have done ten years ago. Although, I probably needed it more ten years ago than I needed it today. However, I think that today as I turn thirty-five I am an adult, not old, but an adult, and I am viewed by the world as an adult, and my wife has been reminding me that I am middle aged now.

This prompts the question, what now? Something I regularly do on my birthday is set goals for the following year. Most people make New Year’s resolutions, but since my birthday is only a few days into the New Year, I get a few days to prepare myself for “the new and improved” version of myself. As I read an article about “How Life Won’t Begin At Your Next Milestone” on Relevant I brought this practice under scrutiny. While this didn’t directly address the making of resolutions, it does point out that we aren’t supposed to wait to make good changes in our lives, because by waiting until this milestone or that milestone to really live, or grow up, we often miss the life happening all around us.

I have certainly been guilty of looking forward without looking at now. Tomorrow things will be better, right? Why wait until tomorrow to make the change you need in your life today? When I first joined a gym it was a January, and I stuck to regularly going to the gym for less than three months after that. However, when I first became intentional about getting myself in better shape, it was an August, and as I stated in a previous post I have made that life change permanent as of this moment.  So why wait?
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I used to think that I have given myself the leg up by postponing my resolution timetable by eleven days, because most people fail at their resolutions within the first month, but in reality I have just procrastinated an extra eleven days at working to become the man God desires me to be. Don’t get me wrong, there is great value at taking inventory of our life and looking at the things that we need to do more of, or less than, and things we need to quit, or start, but once we take that inventory, we should start right away. Don’t put off until tomorrow, the things that God is calling you to do today.

There is hope in this for all of us. Some of us have already lapsed in our resolutions we have made for the New Year, and most of will fail at some point, but the good news is that it doesn’t mean we have to give up and wait for another year to make that resolution again, we have the power and the call to make that change RIGHT NOW. Maybe this post comes too early in the year for many, as there are a good number of resolutions being held onto, but come back to this in a month, or two, or more, and remember that failure is only a temporary setback, and that change happens one step at a time.

This process of making ourselves into the people God desires us to be is the process of sanctification. While we have been redeemed by a magical, mysterious, miraculous, and magnificent event with Christ, our sanctification takes our whole lives to achieve. So do not be distraught by missed resolutions, but rather pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue along the path toward the Lord’s sanctifying grace. One thing though… Don’t wait, do it today. Embrace God’s grace in your life now, and make the change today.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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Fully into the season Advent, we come closer to celebrating the birth, and the coming of the Christ-child. Exploring how we are to approach this season, we look at how we are meant to treat one another. Instead of the images from Black Friday, where people were trampling people for a cheap big screen television or laptop, we are called to bring peace to our fellow man. Instead of waging wars and battles with our fellow man, God desires us to be the mediators and creators of peace among all mankind.

Jesus calls these peacemakers blessed.

Matthew 5:3-12 ESV
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Peace and hope, hope and peace, they lead us to the coming of the Lord. When we engage in active peace making with our fellow humans, we allow for the Holy Spirit to use us to bring hope to all mankind. Peacemaking is not an easy task, at least not for me, I can tell you even the smallest irritants have led me away from being an instrument of peace, and led me toward a person that breaks down relationships. At least three times before noon today, I became irritated at something somebody did at the office and, at least in my heart, held onto frustration and failed at bringing peace to my location.

Peacemakers bring blessing to those around them, and in turn the Lord blesses them. Lord, I pray that you work on my heart to be a peacemaker in my family, in my job, and in the lives of those around me.