Bet you can’t eat just one! Remember that slogan from the Lays Potato Chips advertising campaign? They knew that if they could just get us to try one, we’d find the rest of the bag hard to resist. These days, satisfying our cravings has gotten more complicated; we feed not only on a steady diet of processed foods but also consume a constant stream of print and online media. Those producing it know that once we click, we’ll find the rest of what they have to offer hard to resist.
While most of us know that too many chips are bad for our waistline, most of us don’t know the risk to our minds when subjected to so much media. That’s because brain science is a newly emerging field. Just twenty years ago our text books taught that the structure of the brain never changed. “Alcohol kills brain cells,” I used to admonish the college students I taught, “and you won’t get them back.”
Now, thanks to new techniques available to study the brain, we know the textbooks and I had it wrong. The brain is actually a highly ‘plastic’ structure; it is changing all the time in response to the stimuli in its environment. Our brains actually create new pathways when we explore new things and establish preferred routes for things we think about the most. As remarkable as it sounds, our brains are constantly being sculpted by how we use them.
No wonder scripture advises us: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) Perhaps Descartes in proclaiming, “I think, therefore I am,” was more right than he knew. Of course, the God who designed us knew it all along.
So, as the apostle Paul writes to the believers in Rome,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:1-2
encouraging us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we don’t just set our minds aside. That’s where the renewal happens! Especially during this season of Lent, as we draw closer to our God by His invitation, we ask, how can I offer my body and mind in ways that are holy and pleasing to You? In doing this, we make ourselves fully available to His sculpting hands and shaping will.
What a joy to discover that we are designed with renewal in mind. Setting our minds on the things of Christ will help us test and approve what God’s will is for us. That doesn’t mean that the world isn’t going on out there. It simply means that what’s going on in us and in front of us – where we can have the most impact — will get accomplished by our efforts, in accordance with the will of God. Thy Kingdom Come.
What if, instead of consuming the news, we set our sights on making it? Surely, that would be a sacrifice both holy and pleasing to God.
Consider fasting from all online and print media today and, instead, make your own news. Then share it with your friends, family, neighbors or community.
Author’s note: This writing appears in the 2018 version of the Lenten Devotional booklet published and distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Methodist, in Vienna, Virginia.
You know it when you read it.
You haven’t heard from this friend in a looong time, but it’s nice that they are trying to reconnect. You accept their friend request and they respond pleasantly enough. “Thanks for accepting my request. How are things going with you?”
You send a brief reply, intending to follow up more later. They come back with sloppy grammar (could be keyboarding error) but also phrasing this friend wouldn’t use. They end with a question, “Guess what?”
OK. She’s been hacked. How do I know? I’ve learned to recognize deceit when I read it. When we write, we expose ourselves. What we’re like, how we feel, where we’re from, what we’re up to.
Isn’t it magnificent that words can do that?
Biggest challenge going. When I put myself in print, I expose everything about myself. Do I have the boldness this hacker has?
News happens fast. It’s happening all the time. Get it in progress. Don’t wait. Be the first to know. The kids are all over it. Facebook, twitter, newsfeeds, friend’s posts, discussion boards….emails? They are like the Pony Express. Who has time for the land route when there’s air travel?
We consume news. And we are gorging ourselves. We have to either chew it up and spit it out or swallow it whole and hope it doesn’t get stuck on the way down. Force feeding leaves little time to breathe.
Which is why we glom onto the ‘spiritual path.’ Take it easy. Take it slow. Take your time. Meander. Just breathe. It feels so good to slow down. But that’s not life. At least not the life that comes at me fast. I need resources for this life. Rest and recovery just feels like a cold towel over the head in our neutral corners. When the bell sounds I have to head back into the ring.
I believe God is in the ring. He sends us in, sits in our corner, cheers us on — all at the same time — because he was the first competitor. But He doesn’t send us in without resources. Oh, we aren’t to bring anything with us. No, our ammunition and weaponry is in our hands, and our heads and our hearts. Hard fought and hard won. We come prepared.
I’m afraid that inviting people into the ease of a faithful life is a lie. It’s a nice image, but it doesn’t last. That, to me, cannot be God.
But a life that sprints from here to there, to yonder and back, that worries and hurries and puts down roots only to tear them up again. That doesn’t sound like God either.
So what gives?
I’m being called into a writing life. I want to right goodness on the page. Not just for acclaim or praise, but to make people feel better. About themselves. About their world. About life. I want to write the happy ending. But I don’t live in a place of endings. I live in a tangle of pathways.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8
I see the straight path. I wanna point my finger and say, but friends this way is the right way. Think about a world like that! Full of nobility and right, pure loveliness, nothing but praise. Just imagine!
How can I live this in a world as disjointed and spastic and dishonoring as mine?
I have to move at its pace. Perhaps even faster. Now that’s frightening. But really, can God not take that pace? My worry comes from my standing at the center and shooting out in all directions at once. Let me do this and that. Let me go here and there. Each time, back-pedaling to the center like I’m tethered by a rebounding rope. A puppet on an elastic string. That is not God.
I read today, “Reverence requires a certain pace. It requires a willingness to take detours, even side trips, which are not part of the original plan.” Yes! But we mistake that to mean we are to do this slowly and gently. To meander. What if we detour – at the pace of the world? Could we so trust the rightness of the True Path, that we would dare dart to and fro for the sake of collecting the dirt and grime of the world? That there we would dig into what’s in error, investigate harsh practices, correct misconceptions, re-orient those who are mis-guided, in the complete confidence that this, too, is God’s way. Of sweeping all whom He loves back to Himself.
And He has sent us. Quickly. Right now. Because time is short. In fact, our destination is just around the bend. Let’s not shy away from the pace, or worse, chastise those who are keeping up. Let’s go there thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, not as carriers of a banner, but as bearers of good news. Lets get dirty, for God’s sake.