Sunday, July 17, 2016

Looking Up and Out - Why I'm ditching the "smart" part of my smartphone

I'm fresh off of a week of camp in central Michigan followed by a week backpacking in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Both of these of these trips were great, both were exhausting; and both were ironically refreshing. The refreshing part may have to do with something else these two weeks shared in common, -during both weeks there was limited to no cell phone coverage.

That's right, no emails, no texting, no weather reports, Pokemon Go, face bent into the cool glow of a three by five inch screen. Last week the upper left corner of my phone's screen held steadfast to it's "no service" stance, every one of the 5000 thousand times I checked, ...the first day. 

It was weird. 

It was weird because there were more people saying more things around me. There were more clouds, more trees, more conversations, and more going on everywhere I looked than there usually is. I had more time. I sat and chatted with real people about real things we did that day. I read a whole book in just a couple evenings by the light of a headlamp. I sketched a view of the forest right in front of me on a coffee filter. Cell phone service must affect a lot more things than I thought it did. 

Admittedly much of what I experienced had to do with where I was and who I was with. Being at camp with my family and the student ministry team I work with is one of my favorite places in the world, and being out in nature, up in the mountains, with my daughter and friends is in the same category. But being free from the incessant beckoning of the flat rectangle in my pocket was a major factor as well. 

It felt like losing all the life-enhancing features of my phone was, well, life-enhancing. Being disconnected felt like being connected. And all of this really got me thinking. What exactly am I trading for the attention I'm directing toward my phone? Am I trading presence where I am? Am I trading irreplaceable moments with my kids? Am I trading instantaneous knowledge for wonder? Immediacy for patience? I think many times I am. I've always felt we're so busy asking if we can do something we forget to ask if we should. Anyone can get my attention at any point anywhere, but should they be able to? We can know anything at anytime but is it good for us to? I'm starting to think the answer is no. 

So I'm ditching it. 

I'm turning my smartphone into a dumbphone, or just a phone anyways. Turns out it's easy to do if you have an iPhone. I'm sure the transition will be a bit rough. I'll still be on email all day at work, but nearly everyone I know uses text as the primary mode of communication. If it doesn't yield big pluses in my life it won't be worth it, but I'm betting it will.

So here's to my neck bending upward and my eyes looking out. Here's to being where I am, when I am. Here's to connecting by disconnecting. Here's to spending more time on what really matters. I'll let you know how it goes...  Oh, my phone number is 616-481-9299, if you want to talk.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You Can Only Talk About Doing Something For So Long

"Where does the Grand River go?"
"To Lake Michigan."
"Well how do you know?"
"Someone told me I guess."
"So you don't really know...
but I do."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Painting

I finished a new oil painting.  It's called " the place I belong."  It is a painting of the log circle at Grand Rapids Public School's Zoo School.  My daughter Ellie is attending this 6th-grade-only school and is in the painting.  It was a gift for Mr. K (Dennis Kretschman) who has taught there 39 years and counting.  Prints were also auctioned off to raise money for the school and their annual auction.

While picking Ellie up from Zoo School one fall afternoon I was particularly moved.  A sequence of observations followed… 

·      The symbolism in the scene, -covered and surround by the very nature they are studying and captivated by. 
·      The significance of moments like this in the lives of these kids as they grow into adults. 
·      The devotion and heart the teachers put into these kids that extends far beyond their “jobs.”
·      The sheer beauty of the setting.

The lyrics of the song “County Road,” often sung at this spot with Mr. K playing the guitar, came to mind.  Country roads take me home, to the place I belong.

“ the place I belong” just seemed to describe all of these thoughts. 

I snapped a couple of pictures.

It didn’t take long to think of painting the scene.  But I wanted to paint it a way that was more timeless and less specific.  –Like it could be any class, any year and represent the thoughts above.  I attempted to represent years and lives and memories in this frozen moment. “Life is old here, older than the trees” and “all my memories gather ‘round” are a couple more lines from Country Road that seem appropriate as well.

I fully acknowledge that this art is a poor reproduction of the real thing, -of being there that day.  But I hope as years pass and people grow up it helps bring them back to this place, “…to the place I belong.”


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Look You in the Eye

There isn't necessarily any theological basis for this or anything, there isn't even any reason to think this would ever happen.  But what if you spent eternity in the kind of heaven you designed while here on earth?  What if heaven operated on the laws and rules you live your life by?  What if people treated each other just as you've treated others in this life?  

Would you want to live in a heaven like that?  

I think it might look way too much like this world.

I pretty much spent most of my life living a sort of Christian "escapism" life.  One where Good is unattainable. Where we're no good, but forgiven, and heaven will be a place where it all gets better.  

I think those things are true but...  

I think this can be toxic thinking for a Jesus follower if it leads to some sort of fatalism about our potential in this world. Or believing we simply can't actually do any good that our Father would be proud of.  

Listening to one of the songs on the new Switchfoot album, Vice Verses, called "Where I Belong, -a couple of verses made me think.  They go like this:

And on that final day I day I die
I want to hold my head up high
I want to tell You that I tried
To live it like a song

And when I reach the other side 
I want to look You in the eye
And know that I've arrived
In a world where I belong

For most of my life I felt so strongly that there is nothing I could do that I would ever be proud of in front of the Lord for.  According to at least one parable Jesus told, the character representing God says, "well done good and faithful servant.". This has always bothered me because I could just never see God saying anything like that to me.  But I guess now I'm starting to think there is such thing as doing a good job in the kingdom of God.  Not a perfect job, or a job that saves our souls, but a job that is good, verses bad.  

These lyrics have really challenged me to live a life that I can at least say "I tried my hardest" about.  There is a certain honesty reached that we don't have to feel ashamed of when we try our best, regardless of the results.  My best may be terribly ineffective but it is still my best and far from my worst. And I can live with the truth of knowing I tried.  That truth really appeals to me. So, inspired by the idea that all is not lost already I will TRY like the lyrics say, to life my life "like a song," -this one.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ellie's Forestry Projects for Zoo School

Ellie had to do a forestry project on a tree and she picked the Ohio Buckeye.  She had to do a bunch of stuff on the tree but one of the things was 2 creative types of literature.  She chose a recipe and a magazine article.  Here they are! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Like Trees

From the ground, life rises up in a massive collective of praise to its creator.  The trees spread up and out their leaves together, reaching to give glory to the one that gave them life.  The view of a valley, is a symphony of greens fighting toward the sunlight.  A open field expresses its own mosaic of colors and textures rising to their maker. It is their purpose.  Like the rest of the earth, we were created to rise and extend the reaches and efforts of our lives up and out in praise to the one who made us.  It is our very purpose.  If the efforts of your life are not growing up and out to praise the one who made you are, quite simply, missing the reason you exist.  You may do some interesting things but understand, you will miss the whole point of life.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Great Post by Artist Evie Coates

Hazel’s Granddaughter
POSTED BY Evie Coates
3263887429_3c6ffa1f2b_oAs I sling imperfect measurements of flour and brown sugar into a big enamelware bowl this morning, as I sip my coffee out of the Swede coffee cup (”you can always tell a Swede but you can’t tell him much”), as I drag my brushes through the vibrant liquid colors and commit them to the paper, my grandma is with me in the kitchen today. Hazel was my mother’s mother. Her middle name was Fern.
She loved her family and was a consummate homemaker. She loved the nothingness of the Arizona desert. She loved the pink, cloudy evening skies of the West. In her opinion, the Tetons were God’s most extravagant gift to his children. She was an artist and took painting courses by correspondence. She had a real gypsy spirit and didn’t mind moving around, wherever the winds of opportunity blew her and her family. She was a rascally tomboy when she was young, and kept a healthy portion of that feisty nature as long as she lived.
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