Aftermath

Well, after taking a week break from browsing, I am trying to figure out what was gained. If the point was to reduce the amount of time wasted in our house, we failed miserably. We can always find other ways to “waste” time. If the goal was to step back and evaluate the place for browsing in our life, it was a success. Much of our communication with others is through blogs, and that was sorely missed, but much time is also lost in blogrolling of pointless blogs. One of my first tasks when I jumped back on was to thin out the blogs that I read regularly. I don’t really need to read 30+ food blogs. The other area of reduction is the mind-numbing trolling via StumbleUpon, and chasing blog and google trails. After stepping back, it disturbingly resembles channel-surfing. So, I will try to be a little more purposeful about browsing, and when that purpose is achieved, or seen as unachievable, I will get off. I hope.

weak attempts

Areas of action (not yet fully implemented). I will admit that I do not do a very good job at these things, but I have adopted the Japanese concept of Kaizen (continuous improvement) or, maybe more aptly the Chinese Gai Shan (improvements that benefit others). I feel the burden of our choices, and want to change everything, now. It is a weight that seems impossible to handle. So I make small continuous changes toward a life that benefits others. Well, I try to.

  1. Personal:
    I am trying to take those things that I say I believe, and making my actions agree. This means, that if I believe that mass produced food is generally bad for me, I will not buy it, or eat it. It also means that if I think that large corporations have too much power, I do what I can to avoid buying from them. If I believe that creation is something God values, and wants us to take care of, my use of resources should reflect that. Every day. I should be aware of how my lifestyle reflects my values.
  2. Social:
    I have to keep asking myself if my interactions with others help them to become better people. Do they help me as well? It means that I should strive to speak only good of others. This does not mean that nothing is ever bad, it just means that I should find ways to respond constructively, and directly. I should not just ask what response would seem loving, but put on a attitude of love, and respond accordingly. Love is a choice, and I should choose it more often.
  3. Global:
    I should remain aware of my position globally, and in time. I am blessed, and I should not take that for granted. I should respond to this knowledge by being content with what I have, and using what I don’t need to help those who have less. I should be aware of how my lifestyle effects others, and how my choices contribute to suffering elsewhere in the world.
  4. Spiritual:
    My first priority should be to please God, but it is sometimes difficult to determine how to do that. So I strive to listen to God, and trust his promptings. I question what I do, and see if my activities make me more or less aware of those promptings, or more or less aware of the influence of God. I try to act accordingly, giving preference to the activities that make me more aware.
  5. Integration:
    All these things are the same. They are all spiritual, social, global, and personal. For me there really is no difference. My purchase decisions have spiritual and social implications, and my desire to please God will inform all other areas of my life. The real goal is to make my life pleasing to God, and in order to do that I need to try and see the world the way he sees it, and respond to it in a way that reflects positively on him. In every way. Parenting, shopping, sleeping, eating, driving, walking, working, playing, writing, helping, living.

Resources:

Buy foods locally:

Local Harvest – Find a local farmer’s market, or CSA

Slow Food

Eat Well Guide – Another site to locate farms, stores, and restaurants that provide local, sustainable, and oganic food.

Stewardship/Activism:

Ex-Consumer Project – choose not to buy.

New American Dream – times change, and so should the dreams.

Everyday Activist – a good start for small changes.

Mennonite Central Committee

Help others:

Kiva – micro lending for entrepreneurs in developing societies

Modest Needs – national needs assistance.

Volunteer:

Get a Mission – find short or long term ministries.

Volunteer Match – volunteer locally.

A note about Kiva: After living in a developing country, and seeing how aid programs can be abused, and the way that donations do not always produce responsibility, I am encouraged to see a program that provides micro loans and accountability. I don’t have any illusions that this is a perfect system, but I can see how it has potential to help develop communities and families in a way that normal aid programs do not.

Turn off Internet week

This is turn off TV week, but since we don’t own one, we will turn off our real time waster: The Internet. Well, not the whole Internet, just the bit that connects to our house. Personally, I think one week is not enough. It takes closer to 4 weeks to form and break habits, and one might just give you a hankerin’. Yes, the Internet is a bad habit in our house, and we need to take it down many notches.

I will still be somewhat connected at work, since that is sort of my job, but it will be greatly reduced. At home we might allow checking of email, but even that is on the chopping block. Perusing blogs is definitely out, so the best bet for connecting with us is a phone call.

I will leave you with a challenge to shut off whatever is the greatest distraction from thought in your house, whether TV, radio, magazines, newspaper, netflix, or Internet. Step back, see what fills the void. Enjoy the silence and space.

Provocation #8

It is a proud thing to dive into danger, and it is a proud thing to battle with untold horrors, but it is also wretched to have an abundance of intentions and a poverty of action, to be rich in truths and poor in virtues.

This is something I feel every day, as I drive my 30 miles to work and back 5 times a week, and rarely am out in the world doing what needs to be done. Stay tuned for some ways that we can act and live virtuously.

Provocations are taken from Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

ity-bity feature

Recently B and I have been getting almost all our blog fixes via google reader. I stumbled on it a few weeks ago when I was playing around with searches on Google, looking through robot.txt files to see what some websites don’t want indexed. I looked at Google’s own robot.txt file, and noticed a bunch of sub directories that I had never seen before, one being “/reader”. I had a look and thought it was rather nice! Up till then I had been using my.yahoo.com for watching blogs and feeds, and was not that impressed. It was clunky, and sometimes it took hours to be updated. It seems that Google reader was released back in October, and did not get such great reviews. I am glad I found it later, now that it seems to have settled down into a nice little service. What does it do? You pump in the URL of each of the blogs (or other sites that offer rss or atom feeds) that you read regularly, and it tries to autodiscover the feed. If it does, it gives you a chance to subscribe, and shows you all the recent posts. Once you subscribe, any new entries will show up on your reader home page. This means you don’t have to visit every blog/site in order to find out if they have updated. Now, some sites can be tricky to find the feed for. Here are a few hints:

  • Try appending ‘/atom.xml’ to the end. This works best with blogger sites
  • Try appending ‘/feed’ or ‘/?feed=rss2’ to the end. This works with WordPress sites
  • Try adding ‘index.rdf’ to the end. This works with sites that might use older rss implementations
  • If none of those work, you can try ‘/rss.xml’, or ‘/?feed=rss’

You can also subscribe to the comments, so that they also show up in your reader. This is a little trickier. Some sites have a link that says ‘Subscribe to comments’, others don’t even offer that feature. Blogger sites only offer comment feeds if the site author (or a friend) is geeky enough to figure out how to set it up. If you want to know, email me. To get WordPress comment feeds, try appending either ‘/?feed=comments-rss2’ or ‘/comments/feed’. So there you go, a web-based feed reader.

Now, the ity-bity feature? There is now a ‘Favorites’ link on the menu bar that lets you take a peek at my favorite posts from my favorite blogs. It only goes back a few days, so there is not much there yet. It is easy for me to look through and remove things that are no longer appealing. Enjoy!

worship growth

Corporate/group worship is an odd thing. If I recall correctly (which I will not claim to do), in the Bible it was usually done within a context of a shared experience. After the flood, when God performed some miracle, when the early church met secretly, and that type of thing. We do it as part of a routine, not necessarily because we have experienced God first-hand. I think that group prayer is similar, only more awkward. I have a hard time talking to more than one person at a time, so talking to someone who already knows my heart in ways I cannot express, in front of mostly strangers, or even in front of family, is somehow less than open, and more speechy than heart-to-heart talking. You know you are being listened to and that is difficult to just ignore. I feel the same way when someone is standing next to me while I am having a conversation with someone else. I cannot really express myself because of this observer off to the right, who is listening, but since I am not talking to them, I am not reading their responses to see if they understand. I could just not care, but I do.

Growth as a sign of health. Understandable, living things grow when they are thriving. What about organizations? Sure, I think it is true there too. But here is the tough part: what kind of growth? Not all growth is healthy in nature, take mutations, tumors, and cancer for instance. So, in a church, some type of growth is good, yes? What type of growth? I suppose it depends on how you want to measure health.

Measure is the crucial word. We want to measure things, and reason tells us that you cannot claim any objective knowledge about something unless you can measure it. In a church, what does healthy mean? I would think our primary concern would be for healthy relationships with God and each-other. How do we set about measuring that? Here is the rub: you can’t.

Think about it, if someone asked you to measure the health of your marriage, how would you do that? You could measure in years, but that only tells you one thing: endurance. You could measure in how many gifts/fights, but that says nothing about the actual growth, only how volatile it has been. You could come up with a survey, but that is only measuring your perceived relational health at that point in time, and is subject to the wording of the survey, and the last week or so of the relationship. If you combine all those things, you might be able to extrapolate some scale of evidence of relational health, but that is the closest you can get, and it still does not quite tell you anything. Yes, measurable results, and a desire to obtain them, has reduced my spiritual health to numbers. So, if the health of the church cannot really be measured objectively, how do we know if it is healthy? Hmm… good question.

Let’s try a more subjective approach. Are the people in the church known for their love for one another? Are there tales of the ways that those people have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and cared for orphans and widows? This to me would speak of a healthy church, even if it consisted of 20 senior citizens with blue and magenta hair that like organ music and have been meeting in the same building for 50 years. It would not be a dead church. To contrast, a church that grows from 180 people to 1000 in 10 years, but is only known for their music, their new age building, and shocking promotions; is that really growth? All those new-comers to the faith, that find Jesus, but never take Him out past the church doors, do they count toward health? Sure, there are great programs for the kids, and musicians that do wacky stuff, but how would you measure healthy growth there? Offerings? Weekly attendance? What do those have to do with the way we relate to God or each-other?

In the end it comes down to pleasing God. I have heard that phrase all my life, but not until I was a husband did I really understand it. I see how much B wants me to be pleased with her, and I realize that the way her desire to please me makes me feel, is probably similar to how God feels when we desire to please him. I want to protect her, and provide for her every desire. I want her soul to flourish. So far, that type of feeling, and my own desire to please God, has not been able to understand the purpose of church. There are parallels; I want B to expand her influence because I know she is a good woman, and I want her to influence others to also strive to do good. I am sure God desires the same from us. But what is this institution of the church?

Feel free to comment, but if you have something debatable to say, just email me direct.

A tip

If, when preparing to drive your car, you inadvertently pull the lever on the left instead of the one on the center console, do not drive away. Get out of your car, open and shut your hood, then get back in a proceed to drive.

Yes. This is from experience. You could head down the highway, and have your hood fly up, smashing into your windshield. It really is rather disturbing. It is also rather expensive to have your hood replaced, and your fenders repaired where the metal arms of the hood twisted grotesquely under the strain. Probably what your knees would look like, were they forced to bend in the direction they are not supposed to bend. Or elbows, I suppose. Either way, it was not pretty, and it was just plain stupid.

That was in January. I can talk about it now.