My 500 Words: Day 2

I remember one time in particular, while conversing with a group of parents about the types of things that families contend with when it comes  to maintaining intimacy within the home when it comes to the condition of everyone’s heart that words like laziness, appreciation, entitlement were place on the table.  Deep into the conversation, the subject of media in all its forms generated such an emotional response from one mother of four, that her bodily reaction to the subject caught my attention.

She seemed flabbergasted to the point of desperation at the frustration she felt about not being able to make a breakthrough with her family, and what seemed to be an awareness that they all couldn’t seem to break away from the constant flow of information that comes through pixelated in its many forms.  I could tell that this issue was something that perplexed her, and saddened her in many ways.

“What can I do to just get my kids to join the family, and put down their iPods?”

All of this is not to say that technology is only area of our lives that distracts and complicates.  However, in this day and age, it does provide us with something that most of us can related to as a symptom of a bigger issue: there is a hunger in our culture that has made us all vulnerable to complication and distraction.  It is a poverty of the soul.

This poverty does not recognize social or ethnic lines.  It is not concerned with age or sex.  This hunger is common among those with degrees as well as those who are not educated at all.  The size of a person’s bank account is not a conditioning factor in this type of poverty.  It knows no geographical boundaries and is not concerned with what side of the tracks you may live on.  It affects those with an impeccable reputation as well as those who are the outcasts of society.

It is a poverty that strikes us when we are surrounded by all of our stuff… and find ourselves feeling empty inside.

It is a poverty that strikes us when we are surrounded by little… and find ourselves comparing our lives to others.

We ‘plug in’ to whatever we can find to fill a void that is present due to our lack of contentment.  It’d be too simple to say that this is all about Facebook or texting.  It’s much deeper than that.  This is a matter of contentment in who we are… no more… no less.  It is then that we are able to discover that we own things that money can’t by.  It is then that we are able to discover that we know things that can only be felt.  It is then that we are able to discover that we do not need things that we do not have.

Whether its another piece of information about such and such, or who’s doing what… or that third trip to the Walmart to retail therapy the emptiness away for a bit… each of our lives are in need of an overhaul that simplifies in such a way, that we have space to find true happiness and intimacy.

My 500 Words: Day 1

I spent a number of years as a youth pastor for a local congregation.  One of my favorite things to do with the kids was during what the Church calls, ‘Holy Week.’  On the Christian calendar, this is the time in which the memory of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem was made before the well known Crucifixion and Easter stories took place.  It is also during this week that Christians remember the last supper.

Each year, myself and any students who wanted to would begin a fast on Wednesday of that week after our gathering that would last until Friday evening.  We would end our fast by watching, The Passion of the Christ and then heading over to the local subway for whatever our hungry bodies desired.

I always enjoyed this time of the year with the kids because it was interesting to observe the students as they would respond to the hunger pains that they felt.  Some of the more mature students really took the matter to heart, and they would pick up on deeper issues of how easily it is to be gratified with food in our culture of plenty.

Some of the ‘less mature’ students usually provided an element of entertainment as they would innocently take on a bit of a pious roll during their lunch hours at school by explaining to their friends in their best fake British accent that they couldn’t eat, because… they were fasting.

In the end, most students would agree that this was an exercise that was beneficial to their perspective on life and usually walked away grateful for the things that they do have in their life.  While their were pains associated with giving up food for a few days, it was manageable and a memory that made an impact that would hopefully last for years to come.

One year, I had asked the students if this was something that, as a group, they would like to do more of.  A large group of them did want to participate, and so I began expanding the scope of fasting beyond food, in an effort to show them that there are many things in life that can create a false comfort, and that it is possible to fast from those things as well.

During a brief brainstorm of other ‘things’ that we could potentially as a group fast from, I took the liberty to bring to the table the idea of giving up technology for a time.  Their eyes began to glaze over at the idea of giving up their iPods for a several day period.  From their perspective they would rather starve than give up music or videos (keep in mind, this was before the current culture of facebook and twitter being readily available at our fingertips.)

Sad to say, the fast from technology was not as well participated in as the giving up of food, but it did provide me fodder for further discussions with many parents over the years, as well as a starting point for my own kids as they grew to be teenagers… as a people we have an addiction to things, and are at least, entertaining ourselves to death.