Distracted and Divided from the Good Life

Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

In an article entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr wrote:

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do.[1]

Studies have actually shown that not only are we becoming more distracted these days, but the power of distraction and multi-tasking are making us less productive in our work, more anxious, struggling with relationship-building, and often more lonely.[2]

Our Problem: Distracted from the Good Life

Our problem with distraction is that it divides us up, confuses us, and leads us away from life at its best. While we have more information than ever before, tremendous amounts of technology with greater capacities than ever before, and greater ease in life than ever before, we are simultaneously struggling as much as ever – if not more – with attaining to the good life.

The good life is that life the we would like to live; the life that we most desire and long for. Unfortunately, the good life seems to be slipping through our grasp even as we have more access to information and ease than ever before.

I’d like to take us some initial exploration of what it means to live life at its best; that is, how do we attain the life we really desire? This will require some degree of self-awareness. We will need to know our own selves well, and what is hindering us from the good life. Specifically, we will need to give attention to distraction, both the distractions that come from outside us and the distractions that come from inside of us

It will also require some God-awareness. Awareness of God is the key to the good life, specifically how to move from division to unity – or integrity – as people. Let’s look at Psalm 86:11:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart
to revere your name.

Beginning with awareness of God will help us access the good life. Increasing our awareness of God as revealed in the Scripture, and preeminently in Jesus Christ, will lead us into transformative understanding of some basic truths. First, the good life is what we were made for. We were created by God, both individually and as the human race, for His good pleasure and for experiencing the good life with Him. Second, the only way to enter into the good life is through right connection with God. That right connection with God requires that our hearts that are focused upon Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and undivided by both inner and outer distractions. The good life requires undivided hearts with God. Over the next few weeks, i will spend some time here at the blog exploring these themes. I invite you to join me in that exploration.

 


[1] Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, The Atlantic, July/August 2008, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/; accessed January 3, 2019.

[2] Eric Westervelt, “Learning in the Age of Digital Distraction,” NPR, November 5, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/05/498477634/learning-in-the-age-of-digital-distraction; accessed January 3, 2019; and Harriet Griffey, “The Lost Art of Concentration: Being Distracted in a Digital World,” The Guardian, October 14, 2018,  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world; accessed January 3, 2019.

 

 

The Promised Lamb of God [Name Above All Names]

NAAN-Series-GFX_App-Wide.pngI continued our new series, “Name Above All Names,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This series began with our Christmas celebration of Jesus as the light of the world, continued in the last two weekends with Jesus as “Friend of Sinners” and “The Gate” (Thanks, Pastor Dan Ryan!), and now turns to Jesus as the “Promised Lamb of God.”

This message leaps off from John the Baptist’s description of Jesus in John 1:29:

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

The message then looks at four “clues” to Jesus’ identity as the Lamb of God found throughout the Hebrew Bible: the ram provided on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22), the Passover lamb (Exodus 12), the daily sacrifice (Leviticus 1), and the suffering servant (Isaiah 52-53).

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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A Prayer of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa, Calcutta, India

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

By Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity.

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 January 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

lamin sanneh“Professor Lamin Sanneh, 1942-2019” – I was saddened to hear about the sudden and unexpected death of Dr. Lamin Sanneh of Yale Divinity School. His insights about faith, culture, and mission are invaluable to the church. A great introduction to his work is Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture or his memoir Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African. You might also enjoy reading reflections by Christian leaders on Sanneh’s life at Christianity Today[Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this link.]

 

cyntoia-brown“Pastor who talked to governor about clemency for Cyntoia Brown will walk her out of prison” – “They met for the first time a few weeks before Christmas — the woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex as a teenager, and a pastor who believed in her. At the time of their meeting, high-profile advocates had been calling for clemency for Cyntoia Denise Brown, including a US Congressman and A-list celebrities like Ashley Judd. Gov. Bill Haslam had heard from both sides on whether to grant her clemency. Members of Bishop Joseph W. Walker III’s congregation were working with Brown through a Tennessee Department of Corrections faith-based mentoring program. Days after meeting her, Walker joined the chorus of people lobbying the Republican governor. He spoke to Haslam about forgiveness and second chances, Walker said.”

 

Fred Rogers and François Clemmons in an episode of <i>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</i>, 1993“The Ministry of Mr. Rogers” – In The New York Review of Books, Robert Sullivan reviews two works on the life of Fred Rogers, both the highly acclaimed documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, by Morgan Neville and Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. “In December 2002 Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he died the following February. In his final days he read the Bible, which he had often read along with the work of his great friend Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest who wrote that being in a community was like being in a mosaic of stones, no single stone able to tell the group’s story. After receiving his diagnosis, Rogers had managed to give his last commencement speech, at Dartmouth. Still the preacher, he recited the lyrics to his song ‘It’s You I Like,’ and commented on the text, reminding the crowd not just how far he had taken TV from pie-throwing but how thoroughly he had illustrated the drama in the seemingly ordinary, the stage on which most of our adult lives are set.”

 

85745“Can Anger at God Be Righteous?” – “After I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I returned to the Book of Psalms anew. I started to pray with psalms that I had merely read before or had skipped altogether. While I was receiving intense chemo, a seminary student told me he was praying Psalm 102 for me:  ‘In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. (v. 5–6)’ My heart skipped a beat. As I read on, I found that the psalm contained a complaint and a petition that I felt deeply but did not know how to express.”

 

85807“The Gospel in Every Sign Language: Passion Raises $450K for Deaf Bible Translations” – “Though there are hundreds of sign languages, none have a full Bible translation, and just 2 percent of deaf people around the world have access to the Gospels in their sign languages, which is crucial for deeper understanding of Scripture, according to the Deaf Bible Society. Donations from the 40,000 students at Passion 2019 will go toward translating Gospel stories for the deaf in 16 countries: Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Moldova, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and Russia.”

 

david brooks selfismThe Morality of Selfism: The Gospel of Saint You” – David Brooks offers a bitingly satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach to our current cultural climate of fixation upon the self. “We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself! Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love. But now we know this is actually harmful!”

 

gallup integrity“Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics” – A recent Gallup survey identified nurses as the most-trusted profession for Americans. Way to go, nurses! Doctors, pharmacists, high school teachers, and police officers round out the top-five professions based on their integrity. I found this a little interesting given the sense of tension that exists in many realms about public trust in law enforcement. However, I was saddened to see that clergy had dropped down to position eight in trusted professions. Griffin Paul Jackson writes about this for Christianity Today, quoting from John Armstrong who speaks what many of us feel: “The kinds of scandals and authoritarian leadership that we saw this year among the clergy undermines the trust we place in them.”

 

john finnis“Petition Launched To Remove Law Professor For ‘Discriminatory’ Comments” – In another example of the utter inability for diversity of views within the cultural orthodoxy of supposed diversity, we have this situation at Oxford University. “A petition to remove Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy John Finnis from teaching has attracted three hundred and fifty signatures in five days. Finnis has been accused of having ‘a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people’, including the LGBTQ community….Remarks highlighted by the authors of the petition as particularly discriminatory include a comment from his Collected Essays in which he suggests that homosexual conduct is ‘never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life’ and is ‘destructive of human character and relationships’ because ‘it treats human sexual capacities in a way which is deeply hostile to the self-understanding of those members who are willing to commit themselves to real marriage’. This essay was published in 2011 but refers to arguments he made in a previous essay from 1994.” Read the article here to see Finnis’ rebuttal of the petition.

 

orthodox“From Russia, Without Love: Ukraine Marks Orthodox Christmas with Biggest Schism Since 1054” – “On January 6, it received the tomos of autocephaly—the documentation of its independence among Eastern church bodies—from one Orthodox heavyweight, the Patriarch of Constantinople, despite the vociferous opposition of another heavyweight, the Patriarch of Moscow. To understand the significance of the biggest Christian schism since the Protestant Reformation, unfolding since last fall and formalized this weekend as Eastern churches celebrated Christmas Eve, a brief history is in order.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]