Saturday, December 23, 2006

Computer Sabbath

Two things happened when I was in the eighth grade that greatly affected the rest of my life to this point:
1. My last sibling (my brother) left home for college.
2. My parents got me a personal computer for Christmas.

Another tidbit that would be pertinent to the point of this post would be that I was always the guy in school who had a lot of acquaintance friendships, but few, if any, good and lasting "let's go out this weekend" friendships.

So finding myself an only child, with few friends from school, and a nice computer in my room, I began to spend decent amounts of time on the computer...

...and I haven't stopped since. Twelve years (almost half of my life) later, I spend several hours a day most days on the computer. Lots of the time, I am quite productive. Lots of the time, I am very unproductive.

The computer has led me to some glorious things - I am quite adept with a number of computer programs that greatly add to my life and my ministry and with a wealth of information, history, pictures, music, and even surface friendships at the push of my fingertips, I have been a better person because of the computer.

But the computer has also led me to some vices - from a hard-gripping addiction to pornography, to a lesser-hurtful but worthy-of-notice addiction to games, to some fruitless and needless web browsing, I have been a worse person because of the computer.

So I am beginning some personal sabbaths from the computer. I will try it out beginning tomorrow evening, sundown on Christmas Eve, through sundown on New Year's Eve. Although a few of these days will be "vacation" days and it will be easy to stay away from the computer, being with family, I will return to a regularly-scheduled program later in the week, so it will be difficult to fill the four-eight hours I usually spend in front of a computer screen. It will also be difficult (though not really) to complete normal tasks that I now rely on the computer for (sermon preparation, worship folder making, and other tasks that I regularly complete in the church week).

I don't expect everyone to understand what I'm doing. But as I replace this time in my life - just for a week - with even more of what I want to do (reading, prayer, family, visiting people in my NSCC community), I hope that I am a better person.

I'll catch ya on the flip side.

Merry Christmas and may you and I both find Christ even more in the New Year.

- J

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eat, Drink, & Be Merry...

...for tomorrow we live.

I have a distaste for Blockbuster. I'm not a big fan of over-paying for something I don't get to reap the benefits of for more than an hour or two (hence my usual avoidance of movie theaters as well). Although, come to think of it, I'm hypocritical here, because I apparently have no problem eating out at restaurants...Anyway, I'd always walked right past the Red Box DVD rental machine at Stop 'n Shop. But last week I stopped just to see what it was all about and discovered that you can rent DVDs there for $1 a day. I figured this was a fee we could put up with.

So to try it out, Meghan and I rented Click, with Adam Sandler, on advice from Mike Lyle (thanks, Mike). Mike said he had cried when watching it. The combination of Adam Sandler and Mike Lyle in tears was enough to intrigue us.

It's not a great movie. I'd love to use it as an illustration some time, but there's needless sexual humor that many might not be able to stomach. There's also some pretty funny stuff you'd expect from Adam Sandler. You'll not see many awards for this one. But it did indeed make me emotional at the end, and it left me pondering things I've been considering recently.

The movie picks apart what I believe is a major deteriorating factor of our American society. The premise of the movie ends up being "family first, work second." But I want to carry it a bit further.

Once upon a time, I was a rather intense Dave Matthews Band fan. I went to my first concert a few weeks after I got my driver's license when I was 16. I was bobbing to "Too Much" and "Ants Marching" well before DMB took off in popularity like they did in my high school and college years. I actually abandoned listening to them on a spiritual conviction binge my freshman year of college (an action that was helpful at the time, but has since been rescinded).

Anyway, yesterday as Meghan and I were driving to our latest ultrasound appointment (by the way, the fluid levels are better), DMB's song "Tripping Billies" came on the radio. I remember when my friend Spen and I first starting listening to DMB, the week after Crash (probably still in my top three "most listened albums" and top ten "best albums") came out, he asked me what I thought about the song. I didn't really know. I mean, I knew what it meant, but I didn't really care. I just liked the way the song sounded.

The premise of the song is: "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die". The general American societal response to this is: "work hard then be merry," with the usual result that life is full of work and little merry-making. The general evangelical Christian response to this premise is: work hard for time is of the devil and Jesus might be coming back soon.

(As yet another side note, sometimes those perceivably anti-Xian bumper stickers like this one are well worth seeing because they challenge me to consider my faith in light of whatever they're mocking. Unfortunately or better yet, perhaps fortunately, the creator of the bumper stickers often has a good point. Another one that I've seen around Hingham is "Born okay the first time".)

Anyway, as we listened to the song yesterday, I was reminded of a statement I heard Jon Middendorf make several weeks ago - "[The Church needs] to count less and party more." He was speaking in terms of measuring church "success". I've looked a bit at scripture since then, and though Paul appears to think we should be working hard, Jesus takes a more relaxed role in the Kingdom. He often took the time to slow down. His first sign in John was to create a better celebratory atmosphere at the opportunity of a wedding. The last thing he did with his followers was sit down to a meal. And he has us re-member His Body in the act of a meal. I mean, he could of had us re-member remember the cross with the use of hammer and nails or the carrying of a cross. But he didn't. He chose the intaking of bread and wine.

Meghan, Brayden, and I spend a lot of time together. I admit that often I feel guilty that I'm not doing enough for the church or that I am missing out on something I should be doing at the office. But truly, I love the fact that we spend a lot of time together. We love to eat. Meghan loves to cook and I love to eat her cooking. Brayden loves to lay on my stomach facing the ceiling and throwing a ball up and down over and over again. After Brayden goes to bed, I love sitting in the same room as Meghan while she reads and I browse the Internet.

This past Sunday evening the a bunch of us from North Street went out Christmas caroling around the immediate neighborhood. After we sang together for almost two hours, we gathered back at our house for food and warm drinks. It was a lot of fun and I think the Kingdom is better for it.

I don't know, I guess I just wonder how much of the administrative tasks of life truly add to the Kingdom instead of taking away from the essence of the Kingdom. Life in the Kingdom is an incredible thing - we know that we get to live because of Christ. I think that's reason for celebration.

The concept of "eat, drink, & be merry" is indeed in scripture (see Luke 12:13-48, but take care to read the whole passage). Jesus tells a story about a rich guy who has a ton of crops, and not sure what to do with them, decides to store them up and milk their benefits for the rest of his life. So he tears down his barns and builds bigger ones to store more for a longer period of time. But God tells him that his life is over as of that day, so what good was his storage? Christ's conclusion: so it is with those who store up treasures on earth rather than being "rich toward God." And then there's a "therefore." Jesus tells the disciples that they shouldn't worry so much about what to wear or what to eat, "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing." So don't strive for the things of the earth, but strive for the Kingdom...and even then, the things of the earth will be there for you.