Discipling the Body


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Why I’m being anti-social.

I deactivated my Facebook account a couple of months ago and yesterday I deactivated messenger and Instagram. I’m still on Twitter for the time being, because I have a particular need for it, but I’m hoping to be able to ditch that as well by year’s end. I’m keeping LinkedIn for professional reasons, at least for now.

Despite being a fairly early adopter of a lot of technology, I was one of the last to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. I was skeptical of the service and wondered why anyone would voluntarily put that much personal information out there for people to see. But, feeling like I was missing out, I joined. And was immediately sucked in. I posted pictures and statuses, hoping for the red like button to illuminate. I won’t say I was addicted by any clinical definition, because quitting wasn’t really that hard, but I was definitely a heavy user and loved getting the little hits of recognition (likes, comments).

After many years of indulging in various forms of social media, I came to realize that it was not having an overwhelming positive effect on my life. Indeed, I now believe that the positives did not outweigh the negatives.

So, here are some of the primary reasons, I decided to let go.

1 – It’s a time suck that prevents me from getting more meaningful things done. I recently finished reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. In it, he makes the case that most of what we find useful about Social Media has legible ROI on our lives, and should be eliminated in favour of pursuing more worthy work (note: work doesn’t necessarily mean our employment. It could be a hobby, etc.). I also recommend his other books, particularly, *So Good They Can’t Ignore You*

2 – I’ve read some research that indicates were only meant to have a small number of close friends and despite the rise of social media, most of us only have 2 or so close friends. Social media gives us the illusion of being closer to others and knowing more about them, then maybe we really do. Long before social media came around, we lost the concept of an acquaintance. Merriam-Webster defines this as: a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend. We’re all supposed to be super friends, because we can share the most intimate (or close to it) parts of our lives online. It can be stressful to think you need to keep up with your feed, so you know what’s going on in other people lives. And, let’s face it, we all know social media is largely a lie. Or least, only a partial truth. We post the best of everything and rarely the worst. So, time to step away from it and get back to some reality.

Also, when I looked at my actually messaging, I realized that out of the 200-300 friends I have, I only message about 10 of them with any regularity. If I didn’t have their contact info, I sent them one last message asking for it. I can now phone, text, or email, when I feel I have something to say or ask, and not just because they pop up on my list and I think “Oh, I should message them, they’re online now”.

3 – I recently watched the movie Snowden and the documentary Citizen Four. Both recount the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden as he revealed the extent of the US Government’s surveillance programs. He also revealed details of the PRISM program, where it was revealed that the various spying agencies have virtually free access to the servers of multiple technology companies, including social media sites. So, my original unease with social media was correct, they really are watching us and more than perhaps we thought at first.

I’m not a paranoid person, I just believe in the rule of law and the concept of human rights. And while it is a common refrain to say, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about”, I think that misses the point. The government has no moral right to our information without our informed consent. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing anything “wrong”, they shouldn’t be looking in the first place. (But, seriously, if you do nothing else, cover up your webcam).

Jesus had 12 apostles, not 300. We weren’t biologically designed to manage this level of relationship with as many people as social media would want us to. When I emailed my friends and told them, many of them expressed support and a desire to do the same thing. There’s something that keeps us there and I don’t think it’s healthy when it can be that hard for people to quit. FOMO is a real cultural phenomenon and should be heavily scrutinized.

I am aware that this has implication for this blog. I can’t just publish it to all the various for the world to see, but that’s okay. I write this for me and whoever finds it.

So, those are some of my primary reasons for ditching social media (or most of it). My friends are still my friends and we will still email or phone or meet in person or whatever. But, the world doesn’t need access to children’s photos, or my every thought (no one really cares). Plus, I’ve got this blog, so if you want to know what I think, just stay here and you’ll get more than 140 characters of thought. Hopefully, that’s more worth reading.


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I didn’t sign up for this . . .

You’ve been up all night and day. Not a wink of sleep. Whenever you have a moment to sleep, you are torn between cleaning and tidying up your messed up dwelling or trying to catch some zzz’s. Whenever you choose the latter, the second you hit the pillow, the cries of your newborn wakes you just seconds after you close your eyes.

Through your tears you hold your baby, bouncing, soothing, whispering to them that it’s ok and they can stop crying. Why won’t you stop crying? Are you dirty? I’ll change your diaper. Are you still hungry? I’ll feed you one more time. I’ve done all that, why won’t you stop crying? Do you have gas? I’ve been trying to make you burp for an hour. I heard a couple of small burps, even a big one, but you still won’t stop crying.

Please Lord, I just want to sleep.

I didn’t sign up for this.

Parenting is hard. Especially your first. Especially the first three months.

While I believe there is lots we can say about the awesome responsibility and privilege that is raising a child, it drives me beyond insane when I see people overly romanticize parenting; especially those initial three months. You can be told over and over again that parenting is hard, but until you endure it, you can’t truly be shown to an adequate level of understanding what that means. Unless you’ve been through painful, prolonged sleep deprivation, you can’t know what it’s like. You certainly don’t know what it’s like when the reason you can’t sleep is the cries of your child. The cries of this child who has only one way to communicate with the world and it’s through their tears and their silence.

What do those tears mean? That is for you to detect and figure out. Sometimes there is no answer.

May the Lord have mercy on you if your child has colic.

Our first child (we have two) had colic. Hours long, virtually non-stop crying episodes in the middle of the night. How many times I saw my wife, after trying for hours to calm him, would walk out of his room in desperation. Tears spilling out, wondering how she’s possibly going to deal with this one more minute. There was little I could do to support her, other than listen and comfort. I had to work after all, and that requires driving, so I needed my sleep too. At least a modicum of sleep.

That’s not being supportive, some say. You should have taken turns, swapped out and given her a break.

Maybe. Maybe, you’re right. This is the reality of parenthood. Someone does the lions share of child care and one does the lions share of making money so the roof stays over our head, the food stay in the fridge and the oven and lights turn on. Sometimes, this means an unequal distribution of the hard stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of early morning drives where I would take our son on a drive, which would settle him. I would take him 15 mins south to the lake. The sun would dawn and we would both sleep. It was exhausting, but I also knew it was giving my wife at least a couple of hours of sleep she desperately needed to get through the day. Then I would go home and sleep. Missing a day of work. I used half my yearly allotment of sick leave in one month.

The first days of your first child can be extremely difficult. Or they could be easy. But, if you tell me they were easy, I’m not going to believe you. If for no other reason than I don’t want to think it could have been easier. The 100 days of hell were just that. We became the living, walking dead. Able to function on an almost primal level, but not much beyond that. Work, when I was able to go to work, because I had had enough sleep and could safely drive, became almost like respite care. A time to get away from the terror of the screamer.

I love my son. And my other son. I learned that you can love someone even though they cause you so much grief and hardship. Intended or not. Love is a choice you make. Every. Single. Day. In those 100 days however, it seemed that the spectrum of time was sharply reduced and it became an hour by hour decision, if not minute by minute.

The reality is that holding a screaming baby close to your chest, puts their mouth right next to your ear, making the screams that much louder and visceral. They cut you to the core. You want to simultaneously fling the baby away from you and at the same time hold them closer. Holding them closer: hoping that you can make them stop if they just feel your breath, your heartbeat, your love a bit more. It doesn’t help. Sometimes love isn’t enough to make someone else’s pain stop.

This is the beginning of compassion.

Compassion is a desire to end someone’s pain, yes. But it is more than that. It is the willingness to sit with them through the pain. To take on some of that burden for yourself. To let them know they are not alone.

Love demands compassion.

In those 100 days, we learned about compassion and devotion. I learned by watching my wife consistently recommit to our son. Bounce. Tears. Bounce. Tears. Repeat. I think that must be God’s cycle sometimes. He teaches, he prods, he pokes. We disobey. God cries. Repeat. Never giving up, never stopping, never imposing.

You can’t impose on a newborn. They don’t know what they’re doing themselves, let along what you want them to do.

I suppose in a way, I was her Aaron to her Moses. I played a supporting role. That doesn’t denigrate fatherhood or manhood. It recognizes the supreme sacrifice that mothers make and the resultant sacrifice fathers must make. Food needs to be made. Bills need to be paid. You know, the necessities of adult life. Just help her get through the next hour. The next day. Eventually those days add up to a week and a month. Then finally, 100 days hits and a switch is flipped.

You start sleeping again. You feel human again. The tears subside. You take a deep breath of relief and start thinking long term again. You’ve made it through survivor without being voted off and now you can get on with the job of raising a family.

Parenting is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You can’t know how hard it is if you don’t have a child, and that’s a good thing. If you knew would you really do it. Parenting is a reflective exercise. Yes, there is planning. Sort of. (Can you hear God laughing?), but it’s ultimately a reflective exercise. So is much of life, I suppose.

If you are not a parent yet, are pregnant or thinking about being pregnant, I want to encourage you. You’re on the rollercoaster as it slowly rises to the top of the first curve. You’re about to drop super fast down that first mountain and you’ll feel like everything is out of control. You will get through it though. Almost every has. Spouses, remember each other. Have each other’s backs. Husbands, remember to “love your wife, just as Christ loved the church”. Support her. Love her. Cry with her. Make sure she knows you’re there for her.

If you have just become a parent and are saying “I didn’t sign up for this”, I say with love “yes you did”. There’s just no way to tell you that in advance. It gets better. It really does. Screw the fairy tales you were told. This is hard stuff. But you will learn so much about yourself, your spouse and God, if you only keep your eyes open and pay attention.

In the end, this is so worth it. Seeing your child grow and develop and learn, is one of the most awe-inspiring things I have ever witnessed or been a part of. My love for my children and my wife, continues to grow and deepen. But, there are the hard bits.

Parenting is amazing, earth shattering, terrible, horrible, and wonderful. All at the same time. Enjoy the ride.


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What is your relationship?

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As previously mentioned here, I used to be fairly involved in live theatre and it’s still an interest of mine. I would much prefer to see a live play or musical, than a movie. I’m currently reading one of the classic acting texts “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff. Michael was a broadway casting agent for years and this books aimed to help actors avoid the most common pitfalls he witnessed over his years in that role.

I’m re-reading it partly our of interest, but also to see what lessons I might derive from it for work or life. After all, if “all the world’s a stage”, the maybe the acting world has some actual lesson we can learn. I’m barely into his first of twelve “guideposts” and I’ve already found something interesting. In guidepost one Michael is saying how important it is for an actor to know their relationship to the other characters in the scene.

Frequently I will ask an actress after she has read a scene: “What is the relationship?” and she will answer “He’s my husband.” “So?” I ask.
She looks consternated. “He’s my husband” is as far as she’s taken it. It’s not far enough. The fact that you are married to a man tells nothing about how you feel toward him at this moment in the scene. (p.34).

Are you married or else in a significant relationship? Or, do you have a parent or sibling? How do you define your relationship to them? “Who is that?” “She’s my wife.”. That tells me nothing than perhaps your legal status. I don’t expect anyone to provide a deeper answer publicly, but could you provide anymore than a superficial response to your spouse, privately? “Who am I?”, they might ask. “You’re my wife, of course”, you answer.

What defines your relationship? What do you think and feel when you look or think of them?

The fact that two people are married, is a fact, not an emotion, not content. Shurtleff goes on to write: That is what you need to explore. That is why the fact of relationship is of no value to the other actor unless it leads him to explore the feelings in the relationship now. Not how it was when you got married, now how it was last week when he got a raise (although this information is of value in creating an emotional past to the relationship), but how you feel now. The now is the imperative question you must answer.

How man of us try and ride the wave of high emotion, only to stop paying attention and realize that the feelings we felt early on have faded or dulled? Some of this is natural, if it s a maturing love. Relationship will change as the high emotion of love changes to the choice of love; real love. If someone were to ask you (and it wasn’t weird for them to ask you for some reason; say a therapist) how you felt about your spouse, would you give a canned response, would you give a response you believe to be true, but is in fact outdated/ Do you know how you feel about each other? I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with a marriage if you can’t answer the question, but it might be time to really talk and do the work so you can answer it.

Find the love in the scene. One way or the other it’s there. Love affirmed or love deprived. It’s there.


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Love is the light scaring darkness away.

 

The title of today’s post is taken from the song “The Power of Love” – You can read the lyrics here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/gabrielleaplin/thepoweroflove.html

I first hear the song when it was sung by the brother duo Richard and Adam on their album The Impossible Dream. I became aware of that album after hearing them on a youtube video of their audition on Britain Got Talent. It’s a powerful rendition of the son “The Impossible Dream” from the musical Man of La Mancha about Don Quixote.  Watch their audition here.

I’ve always loved this song. It’s a powerful call to action, for anyone troubled the injustices of the world. Give it a listen.

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true 
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star


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ProTip: Don’t use SSO

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A quick post to highlight a potential problem with leaving Facebook (or any other social media site). Many apps and websites offer the option or the requirements to create a user account to use that service. On more and more apps and websites, you now have the option of using your social media logins as what’s known as a Single Sign On (SSO).

The benefit is that it’s quick and skips the step of having to verify your email address and it automatically sets you up to share your data to those sites. The downside is that if you ever leave those social networks, your SSO will no longer work. I have a number of apps on my phone that I have previously used SSO for. I haven’t contacted the app maker to see if my user account can be associated with my email address and thus avoiding the loss of historical data, I instead have opted to simply created new accounts. I don’t really care what run I did a year ago, so loosing that data, for me, is no big deal.

So, here’s my recommendation: Don’t use SSO. It will just make it harder to leave social media if should so choose. It takes an extra minute to sign up with an email account. You can do it. I have faith in you.


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Miss what?

My friend Lindsey sent me an email about my departure from Facebook. It read in part:

I love that you have a facebook disconnect countdown. But really, why bring it back when your son is born. I challenge you over the next 50 days to find ways to share your ups and downs with another audience (not social media) to get stronger, more personalized feedback that you won’t need to rejoin facebook to gain the gratification of likes or comments. Thinking of ya!

Well Lindsey, challenge accepted! That is of course, mostly the point. What will I replace it with. For that matter, how much time will I discover I have been spending on social media that I can now spend on other pursuits?

Over the next many days, I want to relax, see what I notice about my time and about the world around me. What interests and passions do I want to pursue more of? What opportunities will present themselves and what will I learn about myself?

So far, I’ve noticed that I don’t miss it much. I really don’t. Every so often I stare at my iPhone, expecting a notification to be waiting for me. Finding nothing I move on with my day. What this tells me is that I don’t miss the actual content, it’s the spark of chemically induced happiness caused by a notification, that I miss.

So, first thing I’ve learned: I’ve gained some more time and some more peace. So, 2 days in, it’s going well.