I’m here at the NEXT Conference, which means a very full schedule the next few days. I brought along a big spiral notebook that I use to take graphical notes. I thought in lieu of blogging the conference each night I would upload a photo or two of these notes.
The image below is actually from Saturday’s transformation training, but it’s an insight I’m bringing with me today:
To exist at all, we must be somewhere. And as embodied creatures, we are implaced in specific contexts. Yet in contemporary culture, this aspect of human existence is threatened by what Bartholomew calls a “crisis of place” created by several elements of our technological society. To fully flourish as human beings—and to flourish as entire communities—Bartholomew argues, we need to recover the lost art of placemaking.
I especially like the spiritual/incarnational practices he suggests to recover a sense of Place.
Interesting videos with George Carlin and Louis C.K. (one of my favorite comedians) about truth-telling, authenticity and creativity. Obvious warning: both have potty mouths. If that bothers you, don’t send me letters clutching your pearls. Just don’t watch.
The statistics in infographics always needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the basic assertion is this: despite a dizzying number of media options today, 90% of what we read, watch or listen to is controlled by just six corporations.
h/t Keith Snyder. I love maps, and this one is especially fun to look at.
I’m off to Big D on Sunday for the NEXT Church conference. I’ve been so focused on getting my workshop ready that I haven’t had a chance to get excited about seeing old friends and getting inspired for ministry. It’s going to be great! And if any of you Blue Room readers are coming, be sure and say hello.
First, a big welcome to those of you who’ve made your way here thanks to the Fellowship of Prayer! Come on in and stay awhile. This blog is named after the Blue Room in our house, which is the arts and crafts space we set up in what used to be our dining room. We are well stocked with everything you need for your stay: glitter glue, play-doh, googley-eyes and more.
Two articles crossed my screen recently about the Internet and its effect on community. First:
My editor passed along this link in response to some of stuff I wrote in Sabbath in the Suburbs about my experience taking a tech Sabbath each weekend. The article describes a very vibrant, supportive community that formed via Facebook in the wake of a friend’s death in Iraq.
I noted that there was a physical dimension to the community—it did not take place solely online; in fact the author actually moved so she could live closer to several community members. Certainly there are online communities that get along and get deep without ever meeting face to face… but most of the ones I’ve been a part of are either physical friendships that are kindled and stoked online, or online friendships that deepen to the point that people want to meet face to face. Examples of the former include my group of friends from Rice, who have had an e-mail list for going on 20 years now. Examples of the latter include the RevGalBlogPals and the Young Clergy Women, both of whom have annual conferences now.
Second is this article about digital Sabbath that my mother sent me:
The blurb summarizing the article says, What if our technology isn’t the problem? A look at “Digital Sabbaths” and the dangers of holding our gadgets responsible.
But the article isn’t really about that. I thought from that description that the article would pooh-pooh tech sabbaths, but in fact it’s a fairly good synopsis of the ins and outs of them. Here is the vital bit:
When we make a Sabbath and push back against the many claims on our time, we are, in some ways, rebelling against this speed-up and the intrusion of work and labor into our domestic sphere…
It’s for all these reasons that a Sabbath, digital or otherwise, can be reinvigorating. When we take a day away from our tools and create a day entirely under our own control, we create that “palace in time” where we can meet our friends and family and, finally, connect.
If one concedes the point that a Sabbath for restorative reasons need not proscribe technology, it may seem pointless to argue against the digital sabbath. What’s the harm?
The reason is that if we allow ourselves to blame the technology for distracting us from our children or connecting with our communities, then the solution is simply to put away the technology. We absolve ourselves of the need to create social, political, and, sure, technological structures that allow us to have the kinds of relationships we want with the people around us. We need to realize that at the core of our desire for a Sabbath isn’t a need to escape the blinking screens of our electronic world, but the ways that work and other obligations have intruded upon our lives and our relationships.
I think that’s a little facile, and this issue of “blaming the technology” is strange. Yes, putting away the phones and iPads isn’t enough to make a radical change in one’s life and world. But I’m almost willing to say that radical change is impossible without putting them away now and then.
I think about this from an incarnational point of view, which comes from my faith tradition: the Word becameflesh and dwelt among us. Technology, by and large, connects us with people across the miles (which is valuable) but it distracts us from the physical world immediately around us. Setting aside these gadgets is the first step to reconnecting with the real fleshy people right there with us.
Several months ago I posted about a new practice I’ve undertaken: to record tidbits about the kids in individual journals, one sentence per day. You can read about the project and rationale here. Since there were quite a few people who were interested in the practice, I thought I’d provide an update and some thoughts.
The Blue Room is a place for inspiration, but also truth telling: I am still at the memory project, but if I manage one entry per week I’m doing well. This creates a mental struggle. I envisioned these journals as a place to record the everyday jewels of parenthood that are easily forgotten over the years. But if I let too much time elapse between entries, I end up wanting to make sure the Big Important Milestones are recorded. This requires more mental energy than I’d expected the practice to require. The whole point was to write the first thing that came to mind, no matter how ordinary, but if I’m having to sort through the past week to find the most journal-worthy thing… well, that’s too tough and becomes a barrier to doing it at all.
Also, the fact that there are three of them, and I feel the need for some parity, works against me. Part of what’s fun about the journals is that they’re not just baby books, which means the thirdborn’s should have just as much content as the girls’. (I love Erma Bombeck’s old bit about her kids’ baby books; by the time her last child came along, the sole contents of his baby book consisted of a pie crust recipe torn from the newspaper and tucked into the otherwise empty pages.) I feel like I should write in each journal each night, but sometimes there’s more going on with one kid than with the other two.
Like most spiritual disciplines and parenting practices, I see this practice evolving. My ultimate hope remains the same: to present each child with a handwritten book of quotidian wisdom and observations from their childhood. And if I end up handing them a book with 15 months of memories followed by a lot of blank pages, well, that communicates something worthwhile too: that life is about experimentation—starting more projects than one could possibly finish. Completion can be an elusive thing in life, but there’s something valuable in the undertaking.
I have done a variety of things for Lent, ranging from nothing special to taking on an additional discipline, such as morning prayer or devotional reading. If you are inclined to add a spiritual discipline, may I recommend my friend Mary Allison’s practice of writing a letter each day? If you’re in Memphis you can even take a workshop on the topic!
I was recently drawn to this blog that describes “speed creating,” in which this inventive fellow spent 30 days making an amazing new thing each day. What would it be like to have Lent be a season for tinkering? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, like the thread light:
I like the idea of creating something for Lent. It speaks to me of the tradition of repentance, but in a novel way. One definition of repentance is to “go beyond the mind that you have.” What could be more in keeping with that than to repurpose the things of our lives? After all, we are moving toward Easter, the ultimate story of transformation and repurposing. Death gives way to new life. An instrument of violence becomes the place where God’s forgiveness is proclaimed.
But as captivated as I am by these practices, I will be giving something up instead. I am in a Meister Eckhart-ish place, who said that the spiritual life is a process of subtraction.
The truth is, I am feeling like Bilbo these days: “thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread.” I am feeling the need for some space, friends. So something is going to go.
I’m a little wary of Lenten fasts as nothing more than self-help couched in spiritual terms: I’m going to give up sweets so I can lose some weight! Self-improvement is a good thing, but is a new exercise regimen during Lent really devotional at heart, or is it a second chance at the New Year’s resolution? (That said, I think some people take the hand-wringing a bit far.)
When I give something up, it is a reminder to breathe and pray, to experience radical contentment, and to remember that the object of my fast is not the “one thing needful,” as much as I may crave it in that moment.
An example: a friend of mine is going to give up bread, so that the only bread she consumes during Lent is communion bread, what we call the bread of heaven. I’ll bet you good money that she will lose weight during this time. But do you see how weight loss is not at all the focus?
I still haven’t decided what I will be giving up, but it’s been a topic of conversation in our house. The girls have suggested we all give up desserts. I think we’re going to do this. Dessert has become a point of contention in our home—I am soooo tired of the constant needling, the negotiating, the comparing of cookie sizes. Having that whole issue off the table (pun intended) feels very spacious to me. But I’m still pondering how it connects us to Spirit.
What do you think? Those who observe Lent, what will your practice be?
One final thing. To those folks, mostly non-religious or de-churched, going around saying “I’m giving up Lent for Lent”…