Monday, January 19, 2009

If I Don't Number My Thoughts, I Get Confused

As many of you know, our church participated in a media fast last week. There were no hard and fast rules...just that we were going to abstain from secular media for a week. For our family, we decided to simply unplug the tube: no TV, no videos, no Wii. That kind of thing really wasn't too big of a deal for me, but giving up the internet was harder as it's my main source of entertainment. I gave myself a little breathing room to check my email and answer a couple of things on Facebook and participate in the first round of the Stuff Christians Like book club. But other than that, I hid my laptop from myself to help quell temptation. Here's a bit of what went on last week and what I learned.

1. We turn on the TV without even thinking about it. Since we don't have cable/dish/satellite and probably don't watch TV all THAT much I thought(make fun of the local news, Jeopardy, watch reruns of Scrubs, Seinfeld and an occasional House episode...bla bla), we still have it on at some point every day. Case in point was when we came home from church at the start of the fast and after the kids were in bed we automatically sat down on the couch and Frank flipped on the TV. Then it was like, "Oh no! We messed up already!" After that, the TV was unplugged.

2. Our kids spend too much time with media. They are very young to have a media dependency, but when we told Annabelle there would be no Wii for a week, she cried and cried. Yikes. Even worse was that she thought it was for one DAY and the second day it was the crying all over again. It's hard to explain to a 4 year old (even a pretty intuitive and smart one) the reason behind a media fast and in the end it came down to: We obey God and we obey our pastor, so we're doing this whether you like it or not. Plus we will do some fun extra things. (A little bribery, I know, but hey.) What was interesting was that as the week went on, I saw Annabelle and Joey gain more and more contentment with just going and playing together. By Friday, they played together most of the day and I didn't have to do anything extra to keep them occupied and they didn't ask me one time to play on the computer or play Wii.

3. It's good for ME to be creative and "hands on" with my kids (and it's good for them, too!). We did a lot more with play dough, games, art supplies and books this week. It seems like I was pretty good at this when I first started staying home and Baby Jay slept most of the day, but I had gotten to a place where I felt like I HAD to do these things to be a "good" mom and therefore I really resented it sometimes and tended to avoid it. Sometimes it was easier spending hours on the computer and letting the kids play video games on the computer or on the Wii....and then I wouldn't get my house stuff done but I still felt like I should spend quality time with the kids, so I would rush through the stuff they love like reading books or getting the play dough out. When I cut down on the computer time and take time to be a kid and just have fun with them...I still have plenty of time for the house stuff and I get to leave my adult cares behind for awhile.

4. I like to read. Well, ok, I knew this already. But it's been awhile since I read two whole books in one week, and that was nice. One book I read was the story about a ministry called Teen Challenge that was founded in the 1950's in New York City to help youth involved with gangs, drug abuse, etc. It was an incredibly uplifting and encouraging story of a pastor who chose to obey God's calling in his life against some pretty crazy odds. Terre Haute is opening a Teen Challenge house (in the same neighborhood as the youth center) to help young men recovering from addictions, so that is exciting. The other book was Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I will devote a post involving that book later, hopefully.

5. Media is good in moderation...and it can strengthen my relationship with God and others when used in the right ways. Perhaps I have used movies and video games to "babysit" my kids a little too much, but at the same time, I am very thankful there's some good stuff out there for my kids in these areas. They really have learned a lot from secular websites like PBS kids and Nick Jr. and we have some fun family times with movies and video games. Frankly, entertaining three little ones without any of this for a week was EXHAUSTING. Sometimes it's my only means of a little peace and time with my Bible during the day! I just need to learn where to draw the line...and I'm glad the Holy Spirit helps in that. I also realized that God has given me some wonderful and true friends through blogging. I really missed them(you!) and they(you!) missed me kind of caught me off guard how deep our friendships have become. When I caught up on my reading yesterday, I laughed a lot and cried a little, but mostly I was humbled. My little fast that I did pretty much because it was on the hearts of others in my church...had an impact beyond myself...because of media. It's wild that God uses media to convict people of the idol of media.

6. Here's where the rubber meets the road. What did fasting teach me about God, since this whole thing was for Him anyway? Well, it sounds nice to say God's number one in my life, but I have a lot of selfishness to get rid of before that becomes a true statement in my life. Yes, God really is on my mind a lot during the day and that affects most of my decisions, but I still find myself proud of the things I do for Him....and forget to give Him the glory and thanks for even giving me the ability to do anything in the first place. Or my other favorite is to do what God wants, with an ample amount of grumbling and complaining along the way. Honestly, staying away from the computer was hard, especially as the week wore on. Sometimes I wanted to yell, "Hey God and everyone else! Look how good I am today! Yay for me!" Sometimes I wanted to yell, "God, what's the deal? When I spend more time with you I just feel more convicted about...everything...and it takes a lot of work to obey you and I'm really tired right now so I'm going to pout for awhile. This whole thing is a load of crap. I miss my Seinfeld!" So, there's a lot about me in those statements I like to "yell" at God. Not enough God. But anger is usually my pre-cursor to change, so I'll take it as a good thing. Plus I know God loves me anyway and this is a lifelong process. And it wasn't a totally angry week. I had some good times in worship and prayer and reading my Bible aside from the yelling in my head at God. And our corporate worship at church Saturday was full of God's Spirit, and I don't toss out that phrase lightly. The fact that God even lets us GO to such a great church is amazing, let alone that we get to help lead it. I have never before attended a church where everyone just seems to "get" it. That's exciting.

Okay, in the interest of not becoming a hypocrite, I will end now so my kids don't spend the entire day on the Wii and I don't spend the entire day on the computer. :)
Good to be back!


Annie K said...

Hey Beth! We all missed you terribly but I for one am very proud of you for sticking to your commitment - or 'Vow of Devotion' as Helen has it. I think we've all realized how media dependent we've become...

Helen said...

Hi Beth! I am glad you are back. I have missed you. Sometimes the greatest gift of any fast is the reminder that we couldn't be perfect even if we tried and that God is and loves us anyways. At least that is usually how I feel at the end of Lent....

katdish said...

Please excuse the rambling comment:

Well, I'm for one am glad you did this (even though I did miss my fellow geeky church planter friend)! And you're right. I stayed off my computer most of Saturday and all of Sunday -- It was hard! Not so much that I wanted to write a new blog post or make sarcastic comments (okay, maybe the sarcastic comments part), but because I missed my friends! The more I see God's hand in my life, the more convinced I become that there are very few random acts and coincidences. Last night, the remnants of our old praise team played at an evening service at Jeff's buddy's church. Ben Merrill spoke, and it was great. Now, this was the first time we had ever played at this church. After rehearsal, the worship leader came in to warm up for a special she was going to sing. So who played guitar for her solo? My old roomate's husband and friend of mine from "back in the day". Who, incidentally, also happens to lead worship at another church! I share all this only to convey that I think there's a reason for certain relationships -- online or otherwise. And to let you know how much I value you all.

So as not to write a completely serious comment, I just want to quote Lisa Simpson:

"Of course us kids have short attention spans! We watch a disturbing amount of television!"

Pam said...

A couple of years ago, I did a 40-day devotion and I gave up watching television and at that time THAT was a big deal for me, I loved my DVR! Loved it! The first week was the hardest- then it was a little easier and finally I didn't even miss it at all, and I found I had a ton of time for all kinds of stuff (like getting closer to my Father) which of course, was the whole point. I did start to watch TV again but not with the *I'm gonna die if I miss an episode of Grey's Anatomy!* intensity that I had before. To this day, I rarely watch TV, though we do have cable. Of course, I stay on the computer a lot on my days off (like today) but I also do a lot of stuff with my church family and none of it involves media but it does include a ton of God's word, which, as you know, is AWEsome (as Kathy would say!)

~Sorry for my rambling comment too- It's good to have ya back.

Mare said...

Welcome back Beth! You were missed.

Great insights from the fasting. It sounds like it was time well spent. I feel like its been so much longer than a week!

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Beth, thanks for sharing your experience. All of us watching American Idol missed you. :) It's so hard to make yourself unplug, but it's always worthwhile!

WV: foodism. The worldwide religion of food.

Larry Swank said...

Thanks for sharing, Beth! It's neat to see how it affected other families in the church.

Steph at The Red Clay Diaries said...

Welcome back, Beth. And I'm now officially your mom's fan after reading on your SCL comment that SHE won the Bombeck writing contest. Awesome. I want to be your mom someday.

Okay, that didn't sound right. ;)