This simplicity challenge is not going so well for me.

Wait, what?  I thought I was all about reducing distractions – about living more and being more conscious of the world around me!  Awesome, right?  Turns out the world is sorta scary and overwhelming.  So going onto Facebook, reading stupid meme websites, and getting sucked into some mindless sitcom was like a lullaby for my brain and letting me check out of this stressful thing called real life.  I failed after only 4 days.

The days after that have been trying to mitigate the super restrictions I put on myself and find something more sustainable.  I went back to reading my RSS feeds, but deleted at least 25 of them – including some that I read every day but I found were not impacting or improving my life.  I originally said no TV unless it was with the whole family but I went back on that for a show or two, because no one else watches them.  I find myself clicking on ads and news stories just to have something else to read – something to soothe my pixel-starved soul.  Then I click around for a few minutes, with a niggling voice in the back of my head asking me where the line is between “checking something” and “mindless surfing”.  It’s pretty ambiguous so far.

I still didn’t put anything back on my phone, and I think I’m going to keep it that way.  Maybe I’ll bring back a few apps, but I really like *not* having Safari or Email with me every second.  I still carry my phone around like a baby though and tend to use the timer and calculator a lot.

I’m working on it.  Homework makes it hard not to be with the computer all the time, but it’s almost summer and then maybe I can manage to unplug myself for real.

I wonder…

May 6, 2013 — 1 Comment

Why do all all subatomic particles have the same charge?

What is a soul, quantifiably?

Can you tell an element’s melting point by it’s point on the periodic table?

What Bible verse supports alien life?

What was the deal with the tower of Babel?

What home tests can you do for chemicals in your water?

Where can I get a good microscope?

Can light go slower than the speed of light?

When people talk about a “young earth” do they also mean a young universe?

What is that conference we saw with the astrophysicists?

What religious views did Michael Faraday have?

Why can’t we put metal in the microwave?

How do parallel universes mesh with my view of God?

How did Christianity change the treatment of slaves in ancient Rome?

Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?

 

In Celebration of Discipline, the first four chapters (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study) are categorized as the Inward Disciplines.  All of them are solely practiced within your own head.  You can share your thoughts if you want, but no one can really know what is going on in your deepest thoughts.

I can’t say whether or not the past four months have changed my insides.  I would like to say so, but how can you quantify your spirituality?  I am more peaceful than I was last year?  I don’t know.  I feel it’s just an extension of a long journey I’ve been on for my whole life.  Brent said he thinks I am more focused, at least.

The next four months are the Outward Disciplines.  They involve the choices you make and what others can see of your life.

May is Simplicity.

Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.  We must clearly understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic.  It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality.  We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.

I would like to say we’ve made it a priority to live a pretty simple life – we have minimal possessions, I have very simplistic clothing, we try and not have many commitments and spend way above average time together as a family.

However, I do have one addiction.  And that addiction is the same medium by which I am writing to you right now.  Brent and I have joked that we’d go without food before we’d disconnect internet.  Funny ha ha but sort of sad too.  It’s been 5 years since I haven’t had the internet at my beck and call every single moment of the day.  The only time I’ve had no phone with me is when I was out of the country.  Even then, when we found a restaurant with wi-fi it was like a kid in a candy sore.

Anyway, I’m cutting myself off.  Not completely, obviously.  I deleted almost every app off my phone – saving only grocery list, budget, Bible, phone and text (and the undeletables).  I even took Internet off.  I signed off of Facebook, Twitter, and my favorite message boards.  I deleted quite a few of my blogfeeds, and probably will delete more later.  I’m limiting myself on the computer to homework, blogging, and essential info I need to look up and have no other resource.  I finished a book I was reading on my Kindle, and then I shut that down too.  Simplifying media.

Now I’m left alone with the real world.  Scary!

I have finished my month of Study, with more questions than answers.  The book recommended that I read a short portion of the Bible every day for a length of time, so I chose Philemon.

Philemon is a letter written from Paul to Philemon regarding a run away slave.  Paul found Philemon’s slave, Onesimos, and led him to Christ.  Then Paul decided to send him back with a note asking Philemon not to kill him for running away.

The question I came away with, after reading it dozens of times, was – what exactly was Philemon supposed to do?  Obviously give him a second chance.  But as what?  Was he supposed to hire him as a worker, or bring him back as a slave?  Was he supposed to let him go free – if that’s the case, would that have been worse for Onesimos?  What would his other slaves think?  Would they all defect and then come back as “Christians” in order to garner favorable treatment?  Shouldn’t Philemon be treating his slaves nicely regardless of if they are Christians or not?

I guess Paul did imply that he would like Onesimos to come back and help Paul in his ministry.  I guess that would help Philemon save face.  Unfortunately I could not find anything anywhere about what actually happened in that situation.

The whole study made me more curious about how the spread of Christianity influenced the treatment of slaves in ancient Rome.  I didn’t go much into it yet, but I wrote it on my list of Future Studies.

I think the next thing I will get into will be how String Theory meshes with my view of theology, and I’d also like to read the New Testament chronologically alongside a history book and see how they influence each other.  All in all, I just love studying and wish it could be my job, so I really enjoyed this month.  :)

Today Brent hooked us into water and we turned our water heater back on!  And there was much rejoicing!

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Our regular summer park opened last Friday and we were ready and waiting to take back our permanent spot.  Unfortunately because of the wonky weather, the water was not turned on yet.  There was a bit of nail biting wondering if we’d make it on our current tank of water, but we instituted paper plates and baby wipe showers to conserve what we had left.  Thankfully it warmed up enough days in a row for all the pipes to thaw and we have water!  We also decided that the weather was warm enough to turn the hot water heater on.  Brent had diverted the valve last November so we didn’t have to burn tons of propane all winter heating water.  No more bucket baths!  No more heating water for dishes on the stove!  No more getting frostbite just washing my hands!  It’s like heaven in here!  And, the entire winter we never ran out of water once, we never over filled our tanks and we did not freeze to death!

This RV gives us so much to be thankful for, that we never even think of!

The last two posts I wrote were partially inspired by some people I know.  They’re people who have had some complicated pasts, some big hurts, some sad situations.  None of them are living the stereotypical Christian life.  None of them are at God’s best for them.  But I do believe that all of them are held dear next to God’s heart.

“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

People’s journeys in their spirituality are deeply personal.  Brent knows me more than anyone but I don’t think even he knows the twists and turns and thoughts and pains that my soul has been through.  Maybe I don’t even know.  No one can ever know the depths of another persons heart, and no one can guess or say how close or far from God someone else is.  Whether they are a dead branch in the ground, or the most fruitful and blossoming biggest tree.  Whether the president or a televangelist.  Whether a middle class mom or a pastor’s wife or a prostitute in Vegas or a nurse at Planned Parenthood.  Whether a CEO or homeless drunk.

We are to love others the way God loves us.  And even then, two people might have totally different ideas of how that should be lived out.    A person can only work on their own heart and their own actions.  I don’t even really have say on Andrei’s heart.  I’m his mom, but what is more important to me is how I react and when he makes mistakes.  If I can’t be an example of love even when he’s being his worst, who am I to teach him anything?

This is part two of the post I posted the other day.  What if you become a Christian, but then never go to church?  Not like you’re homebound  or have a house church or live somewhere in the world where there are no Christian churches, or some other reasonable answer to why you wouldn’t be able to attend church.  Just a normal every day person who has plenty of access to church, but refuses to go.

Perhaps you’ve been hurt by church in your past, or you can’t find one that lines up with your beliefs, or you just have no real reason – you just don’t want to.

What if you go to church for a while, and then quit.  How long before your Christianity comes into question?   Technically not going to church is not a sin, but it’s pretty much expected.  The verse cited is “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25) but does this mean traditional wear a dress, sing, offering, preaching church?  Or does it mean that you should not cut yourself off from other Christians in friendship and mentoring.  (But maybe you don’t do that either)

What if you go to the wrong church?  Is there such a thing?  How wrong is too wrong?

What if you go to church but never read your Bible?  Or never pray?  Or never tithe?  Or never do any of the other million “required” things that Christians put on each other?

Does it really only come down to “pray that Jesus will forgive you” and that’s that?  (I won’t get into the proposed lifestyle change that is supposed to come after conversion, because I would assume that if you truly become a Christian, there will be some change.  But not everyone agrees on what exactly that will entail.)

What if someone in a western country only read the four Gospels (or only one even), decides it’s true, prays that Christ would forgive him/her, strives to live the way Christ lived (love, mercy, etc.) but does none of the other expected things? Is it good enough?

What I mean is, can you become a Christian and then continue to sin.  Well, obviously, right?  We all have sins in our life, even after accepting Christ.  That’s the burden of being a Christian – trying to live our new life in Christ while still being pulled by the desires of the world and the flesh.

But what if you knew it was a specific sin you dealt with, you were convicted of it, and you maybe didn’t try as hard as you could to correct it.  What if you just kept doing it?  Would that negate your salvation?

What if I said, I have anxiety and anger problems.  I say nasty things to my family.  I drive wedges into our relationships.  I fly off the handle sometimes and completely shut down some other times.  Will that keep me out of heaven?  I would guess that most of you would say no, but I’m not doing much about it.  I mean, I am trying to be a nicer person, but I could probably go on Prozac or do yoga or some other things to “try harder”.  It’s a sin in my life.  It’s keeping me from God’s best for me.  But when does it cross over into “this person’s sin is so bad that I doubt his/her Christianity”.

What about a new couple that started coming to our church that is living together and has no plans to stop?  What about that alcoholic who just can’t seem to stop binging every other weekend?  Or the pizzahaulic who binges every other weekend?  Or the gossip, or the kleptomaniac, or the liar.

Grace covers it all, right?  ”But shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?  By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (Rom 6:1-2)   But, how hard do we have to “try to stop sinning” to be good enough to be a Christian?

The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person.  They aim at replacing old distractive habits with new life-giving habits.  Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen in the Discipline of study.  The apostle Paul tells us that we are transformed through the renewal of the mind.  The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it.

 

Finally a subject I can really enjoy!

I love picking apart and studying anything and everything.  Sometimes I feel like my brain is a vacuum cleaner or a sponge  - just willing to soak up every fact and connection and store it away for some later use – it’s a huge hobby of mine.  So I was really looking forward to this chapter.  It listed at least a dozen books to add to my reading list, my mind was drooling.

Let me get started already!  The book suggested one way was to pick a shorter book of the Bible, and read it every day for a month.  Think about it, savor it, figure out what the author is saying and the cultural implications.  Not application – that’s doing a devotional – this is purely academic.  So I chose Philemon.  I chose this book because the only think I knew about it was that it was super short and I didn’t need to add an hour of daily reading to my already full schedule.

I could have not been more disappointed.  Philemon has got to be the most unspiritual book in the Bible.  Let me summarize it for you:

 Dear Philemon,  It’s your buddy, Paul.  I’m in prison and I ran across your run away slave, Onesimus.  I know he ran away and all, but he’s a Christian now, so I’m sending him back to you and asking you not to punish (kill) him.  I’m not telling you what to do, but I sort of am.  Maybe I’ll come visit you later.  Everyone here says “hi”.  K thx bye.  Paul

That’s it.  No depth or spiritual lessons.  Nothing to go off of really.  Just reading the book over and over is not going to cut it.  I will have to find some supplementary material to make this more interesting.  Because on the surface, this looks like it will be much more of a boring month than I had hoped.

Well, I’ve been trying to keep up with January and February too, but March is much more difficult and impacting.

I did end up deciding to do a weekly fast.  I eat lunch one day and then fast until lunch the next day.  So it’s 24 hours, but I’m sleeping most of the time.  It’s not difficult in the sense that I have to force myself to not eat, or forget about it, but at the same time, I do feel much more tired and quiet when I’m fasting.  I made a pact to not complain about being hungry, so I find I’m not saying much of anything ;)

So far when I feel hungry during the rest of the week I comfort myself with the fact that it’s only 45 minutes until meal time instead of 8 hours. :P

I’m not sure it has necessarily brought me closer to God – maybe I have to go much longer for that – but I do find I’m being much more of a servant when it comes to making meals during this time.  Not like in an arrogant way, but more like I’m less to complain about cooking while trying to avoid the fact that I’m not eating with them.  And when Brent remembers, he graciously will make his own breakfast.  So it gives an opportunity to love on each other.

I did take a week off because it was Easter but I’m looking forward to getting back to it.  Maybe.