Shut It Off!!!!

I get my hair cut about an hour from my house. Partly this is because I love Amanda, the girl who does my hair…she does a fantastic job. Partly, though, I love the drive. It gives me some time on Saturdays to listen to the radio and to think and to just be alone for a little bit without needing to talk. Usually I listen to NPR on this drive…I love the game shows on Saturday mornings, and This American Life. Today I was out a little later than usual and I caught the TED Radio Hour.

The conversation today was about the impact of technology on our humanity; a conversation I have heard multiple times and even engaged. An important conversation, and especially for those of us of faith…how do we communicate our faith well in this age so dependent on technology.  This discussion was different, and the whole hour is worth hearing. If you have limited time, listen to the first speaker and the last. The show is called ‘Do We Need Humans?’

The first woman who spoke, Sherry Turkle, caught my attention immediately. She shares the story of a robotic seal that is made to be used with elderly patients in nursing homes. She tells of an experience watching an older woman who had lost a child holding this robot and stroking it, speaking to it and hearing the ‘animal’ make comforting and responsive sounds. While this is fairly amazing, she was more struck by the group standing and watching, including herself, who were so impressed that they had come up with a robot this woman could relate to and feel comforted by….and Turkle realized that this was the role we as humans were afraid to fulfill. One of the lines was that we are lonely but we fear intimacy. She gives many scenarios where we are engaged with our technology more than we are with the those physically in our presence.

 

The last speaker, Dr. Abraham Verghese   brought the hour to a close in such a tender way. He spoke of the good things of technology in the medical field, but he shared with such a compassionate wisdom that there is nothing that substitutes for the doctor’s hand. The physical touch and the discerning eye can catch things that no technology can understand. The physical touch can also convey so much that will never be replaced by the interaction of social media or technology.

 

The touch of a hand can overcome our resistance to grief and allow the outpouring of cleansing tears. The embrace of a loved one can stir deep joy and love. The touch…there is nothing that can substitute. 

I have to admit that technology plays a large role in our household. The boys love their x-box, Zach his ipod and all love my ipad. Nate is on the computer whenever given the chance, and I can find myself spending hours in front of the screen.

 

It is easy to say that I am connecting with people…that I am expressing thoughts here on this blog or through conversations on FaceBook or other blogs…and I am developing relationships. There is some truth in that, but there is also truth that those relationships do not require the intimacy or vulnerability of physical relationships. I can edit myself and I can ignore without repercussion. I can make sure that what I put forth is exactly what i want it to be, and I can practice what I say before I put it out there. I do not have to engage if I do not want to, and I do not have to show my weaknesses. I can delete those who annoy me and I can search out those whom I enjoy. I can give as little of myself as I want.

 

I have just finished reading a few books on different aspects of World War II. One about the French resisters and a group of women who ended up at Auschwitz together. Another about the experience of the Czechs. The story of the Dutch Resisters. Each of these stories had a common theme…the depth of the relationships and how those relationships helped people to survive through the horrors of that time. Those relationships were physical, hands-on, tested relationships.

 

I wonder if we have lost something with the immersion in our social media…if we expend too much of our energy on those who we know only peripherally while those in our midst who could be deep relationships suffer. It is easier to maintain a friendly and entertaining relationship with those we do not have to actually do life with…those we do not have to face.

 

Still…social media is such a part of life. I see the boys beginning to engage with texting and chatting on their games. They are developing friendships in a way that is completely foreign to my childhood. There are blessings and dangers, just like with everything…but I am well aware that the technologies they embrace without hesitation need to be faced with intentionality.

 

We can be whomever we like in our social media and there are few who would check us and test us. There is an aspect of our humanity that suffers with the lack of the human touch, the lack of the tone in our voice and the lack of our eye contact. When we learn to relate predominately through an avenue that is so devoid of so much of humanity, I wonder what the long term impact is on our physical interactions. If we will have the patience and the willingness to invest in the difficult prospect of ‘real’ friendships that just might save us some day in our times of struggle.

 

I’m thankful for the show I heard today, and for the challenges that they suggested. Some of the other speakers were more encouraging about technology’s impact…but the two I mentioned caught my attention the most. Again and again I come back to the fact that we have to engage our world with great intention or we are swept along with trends which may bring more harm than blessing to our souls. And as I watch the kids…I am well aware that they would easily spend the entire day in front of a screen if given the opportunity, and miss out on the wonder that is just outside the door. Mindlessly entertained, thinking that they have a multitude of friendships when they have little more than virtual playmates.

 

So…again reassessing the ‘rules’ we have in place, and remembering that they need to apply to myself as well. Opening the doors and remembering that this faith we participate in requires us to face fully toward our God and not be distracted…and to be a part of His People with intention and compassion…and even touch. To be present.

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Messy Mondays meet….I don’t know

I cannot think of a catchy title to convey the idea of Intentional Mondays. Um. Not Motivational Mondays, because…well, just because. Absolutely not Momentous Mondays because that is just intimidating and Mondays are rarely momentous for me.

Awhile back I wrote about Messy Mondays. Mondays have become a bit of a challenge for me in the homeschool experience; I’ve realized how difficult it is to switch gears from the laid back weekend mode to school mode on Monday morning. Our weekends tend to be busy, so that also means the house needs attention on Mondays. Plus the menu for the week. Oh, and the lesson plans. The dog usually realizes he was neglected over the weekend as well…and the needs start becoming apparent quickly.

Sometimes it is difficult to find that few moments of silence to start the morning with some focus. I’m very thankful for a rainy Monday today and kids still sleeping, and good coffee. The quiet is welcome and gives me a few moments to read and to adjust my thinking and my attitude to what is required for today.

Today I am aware that the description I just gave for Mondays is frighteningly typical of my life. I fly by the seat of my pants far too often. I have the lesson plans done and a general idea of what the week holds and what is required…however, I often do not have the same plans in place for my kids lives. My oldest is almost 12, the youngest almost 2. In between are almost 7 and 9. Within that spread there are a whole wealth of needs, and needs that require focus and intention and planning. Not fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants parenting.

We’ve been dealing with attitude around here lately, and I know that mine has not been stellar. There has been more name calling than normal, and more back talk. Just a general “attitude” that is not pleasant and is not honoring to one another or to God. Today I realized that much of it comes from living in a reactionary way…instead of setting up the focus for the day and the intention of the day, I’ve been reacting. Playing catch-up to all the activity instead of directing.

We can’t live that way with our kids. We’ve got to be intentional and we’ve got to be focused and we’ve got to pray. We can’t pray in a vague and distracted way, but we have to pray with intention and with insight and with vigor.

Part of my Monday ritual is now going to include this element of desiring focus and desiring to set the tone and the direction of the week. Every week is going to be busy with this many living together. I don’t know about you, but it is so easy to fall behind for me, and then I’m just frustrated and things start falling apart. Instead, my hope is to read from those who are thinking about how to raise Godly kids in a world that does not care about their integrity or their innocence…and my hope is to feed my thoughts to be focused and intentional. I need to see beyond what today’s needs are so that the preparation is there for the needs of next year, of next month…

I know that what I am saying is really common sense, especially as a Christian. Still, sometimes I need to say common sense things to myself and put it in writing. I need to remember that there is no substitute for prayer and discipline in seeking God and being intentional. Sometimes I need some help, and reading others’ thoughts helps me…I hope it helps you as well.

So, give me ideas on a title for Mondays….and suggestions on blogs to read for insights into raising kids with intention and focus and….most of all….hope and joy. (Whew, there’s a whole post right there!)  Here is what I read today….

Raising Kids in a Pornified Culture

Got the Grumpies?

What I want Adeline to Know

You’ll Find Your Way

Stuck in the Upper Room

The last couple weeks have been strange. I mentioned the other day that I have felt more emotional…felt this need to weep coming on at moments. I’ve been more down than normal, and it has affected the days. The boys have noticed and have been frustrated because I have been more short with them.

I was called out on something and I had to walk away because they were right and I knew if I started talking with them I would just begin crying.

I don’t do that. I usually am not that emotional. Ever, really.

I realized, though, in the midst of this that there are more times than not that I am negative or that I see the challenges rather than the blessing. There are more times that I am aware of the brokenness and the suffering and the challenges around us than the hope…although I strive to seek the hope and the wonder. Sometimes I don’t verbalize the negative, but it is there with me.

When I was rocking Maddie last night, which tends to be my best time for thinking, I thought that I am stuck in that upper room the time after Jesus was crucified and before His resurrection. That time when they did not understand, when they wondered what would happen to them and when they wondered if the suffering and the challenges had been worth the cost.

The world is still broken and although we have the hope of and the knowledge of the Resurrection…I don’t always grasp the reality of the Resurrection. That moment when the hope came into fruition and stood before the disciples and confirmed that the suffering and the cost was worth it.

Sometimes I am stuck in the waiting moment. The austerity of Lent and the discipline of facing toward Jerusalem can be exhausting. The reality of the brokenness and the cost of what it will take to heal that condition. Sometimes I find myself just putting one foot in front of another and staring at the ground…when I should be walking with the awareness of the Resurrection.

I need this rhythm of Lent and Good Friday and Easter each year…the discipline of remembering the cost, the silence of Good Friday and taking in the sacrifice….and the joyous celebration of Easter. The shouts of joy and the music and the celebration and the release from the waiting.

Hope. But not just a vague hope that is unknown…Hope placed in a reality that is difficult to get my head around. I have to learn to watch that door while in the Upper Room…waiting for Him to walk through. Trusting that He will. Remembering all the times that He did what He said. I need to not get stuck in the waiting.

It’s okay sometimes to feel the weight of the brokenness and to long for heaven. I think that is good, actually…Paul understood that well. Things did not become easy after Jesus’ Resurrection, but they changed. The hope is more secure and the cost is seen in light of the victory. I have to live in that balance…not just in the upper room waiting and wondering.

Music that moves my soul…

The other day I wrote about the care taking of our souls. Part of that is simply paying attention, part is making room in our routines for silence and for meditation…for listening. There is another part, as well, though, and for me this has always been an important element.

Music.

I wish I could say that I was a great songwriter or that I played an instrument well, but I do not. I have, however, always been moved by music, and now as I am well into my 40’s I find that to be all the more true.

There are songs that can move me to tears within just a few chords, and songs that can make me want to dance. Songs that bring joy and songs that bring a release to the emotions that sometimes I keep at bay.  There is something rather remarkable about music, and there is something about those who create.

I firmly believe that we are created by a Creator who among other things is marked by an amazing imagination. Imagination that created all that we see…the colors and the plants and the animals and the birds and the fish and the….countless things. Imagination that created belly laughs in babies and tears that release not only cleansing liquid but cleansing emotions.
We have a Creator. And we are marked by His image. Part of that mark is imagination and creativity and…music.

Music that moves our emotions and gives us all a vehicle for worship. Music that can make a two year old light up and dance, and music that can bring us to our knees in wonder with a burning desire to express that wonder to something beyond us…to the One who created it all.

There is so much I could say on this, but for now it was simply this. In the midst of the season of Lent when things are more stark and when we contemplate the sacrifice made by Jesus…when we face with Him toward Jerusalem and we recognize how broken our world is and how sinful and broken we ourselves are…we look forward to that moment on Easter Sunday when we cry out and rejoice that He Is Risen! Part of that rejoicing will be enabled by music.

Part of my caretaking of my soul is enabled by music.  And so I am very thankful for those who are diligent in their gifting to bring us chords and words and melodies that move our souls. That’s what I wanted to say the other day, but it would have been a bit too long!!

Just for kicks, here are a few artists moving me at the moment…

Andrew Peterson, because, well, he combines story telling with music in a way that captures even my kiddos imaginations. There is the range of playfulness in his songs, to the understanding of what it is to feel the Silence of God. His Behold the Lamb of God tour is a staple for bringing us into focus for the Advent season.

Charlie Peacock. Another story-teller, and one who gets me moving. Somehow Charlie’s music is always connected to events in my life and when I hear a song from him I can place where I heard it first and what was happening in my life. There is great joy in much of Charlie’s music, but it is paired with understanding of the struggles of life. Check out his new music, like Let The Dog Back in the House

Over the Rhine, because, well how can you not be moved by Karin’s vocals?!

Sam Moran. Okay, this one takes a little more explanation. Most of you who have kids probably know who Sam is…he is, or, er, was, the Yellow Wiggle. Yep. The Wiggles. We watched them some with the boys, mostly with our Sammy which was about when Sam Moran took over that position (long story…google it on your own). Well, Miss Maddie has been completely taken by the Wiggles. She lights up with joy at certain songs, and yes I firmly believe the music moves her. Sam put out a solo album a few years back and I thought I’d listen to it just for fun because I enjoy his voice. The album has become one of those that are marked in your playlist because of the timing of their discovery…this album has brought not only a bit of laughter in the light hearted songs, but also a soothing backdrop in some of the moments of thinking about Mom’s decline. I don’t know if he’ll ever put anything grown up out again, but I’m thankful for this project…and Maddie is thankful he sings kids songs.

Classical music is always part of the mixture for me and I am slowly introducing the boys to various composers as we work through our home school day.

Taking care of our souls…

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Saturday morning with some snowfall, a warm coffee shop and good books. Restoring to the soul.

The last two weekends I have been away from home, and this weekend I find the routine falling back into place. Plans for things to teach the children, books to read for myself and for them, field trips and soccer practices. The business of life.

Part of that routine is the care-taking of our souls. Sometimes I forget that and I try to just plow through the days. Not living, not really embracing but just getting through the day. Finishing the duties to be able to relax. There are days like that, but I do not want them to dominate.

Wednesday night at our homegroup something happened that surprised me. During our time of taking prayer requests I updated everyone on my last trip home and as I was telling about how my Dad sees caring for my mom as his delight and not obligation, I choked up. I don’t cry publicly. I mean, like never. I could feel the well of emotion right there, though, and that awareness that if I began to cry I would not be able to stop.

All the writing of joy in the midst of walking through this season, all the lessons learned, all the things of trying to see God in the midst does not negate that this is my Mom and this is terribly painful to watch. And sometimes I need to weep about that. I’ve written about that before…that this dementia is a long mourning without release and sometimes you have to just be a bit removed or you would find yourself overwhelmed with emotion.

But sometimes we just have to weep.

This world is broken and is filled with so many who are holding that well of emotion just in check as they try to get through the duties of the day. That maybe why they look so angry or distracted. But I wonder if it is partly because we do not spend time in care-taking our souls. Not just talking about having moments of prayer or of Bible reading, although that is part of it….but having moments of weeping and moments of embracing what is our life in this time. That may be joy or grief or fear or hope…or more likely a mixture of it all.

I want to write a bit about how music plays into all of this, because it is an important element for me, but this post is getting long already. Maybe tomorrow…

For now…maybe it is stealing away some time on a snowy morning at a coffee shop to think and read and pray and journal. Or maybe it is weeping in the privacy of the shower. Letting the emotions and the experience of life be felt before they become a tide we can’t hold in check.

It is okay to feel…and sometimes we need to make the space for that in our routines….to take care of our souls.