Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Life Without TV

***This post is an answer to something in the comments section of yesterday's post, What Will We Do With It? Please read that first, in order to understand this response. ***

<<<<Just a question for you women without sounding silly or naieve. I'd like to get an idea of your day without tv. I know this sounds ridiculous. But I come from a family of non-Christians and was raised on radio and tv. I guess I'd like to know what your day is filled with doing? When your husbands come home from work, how do they relax? What do you do together when they come home at night? A couple more questions come to mind. The internet has alot of the same things as TV does, how do you filter all of that? We have a presidential election coming up. How do you research the candidates? The computer? The Library? Do you even involve yourself with voting?>>>>

Let me begin by assuring you that you do not sound silly or naive. You sound like a person who has lived so long one way that you cannot imagine life another way. You sound like a person who has been indoctrinated by 'the world' to hate silence. You are expressing the typical Western mindset of our day. I too, was raised in an ungodly home with all forms of media blaring morning, noon and night. I remember summer vacation from public school being a blur of HBO and MTV. I also remember wondering how I would ever live without them. You, my dear, are not alone.

Next, I do not believe you really want to know about my day ~ it is filled to capacity with homeschooling seven children, running a farm, cooking from scratch, etc., and I am at a point where I now wonder how people have time to watch television. I am on the other side of the spectrum from where you are now (and where I once was). I believe that what you are truly wondering about is what in the world YOUR day would be like without television/radio/etc. So I will attempt to answer from that perspective.

The first two questions are quick and easy to answer:

Internet is a tool that we have weighed and found to be enough of a benefit to our family that we allow it here. Not by default, "because everyone has one", but because we believe it to deliver a net gain (and not all technology does). Our computer is a servant for us to use, we are not at it's mercy.

  • Our computer is double-filtered with Norton and BSafe filtering software, therefore, opportunities for evil uses of our computer have been greatly diminished.

  • All adults in our family know how to examine the history files of internet use, and further, Bsafe keeps a back-up record of the same.

  • Time limits, strictly adhered to, are a help if amount of time spent online is a concern. Accountability is also a helpful tool. .

  • We have our home page set to Blank, instead of AOL, MSN, or any other "news" sites.

  • Our children do not go online alone. Ever. Period. We are sitting with them at the computer screen at any time they are online.

  • We do not allow the internet to be a "boredom buster". We don't go there just because there isn't anything else to do.

Regarding elections...I always vote. I have never missed an election, and our children go to the polls with us each year. In our home, you may not complain about anything that you do nothing about. Since I love to fuss about politics, I have to vote to retain my room to "discuss" such matters. That said, I do not trust politicians. I believe that even the "good" ones put a spin on their image, and therefore what they say about themselves and their positions cannot be taken at face value. "When we see a political figure on TV, we are not seeing the person as he necessarily is; we are seeing, rather, the image someone has decided we should see" (from How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer). So, I go to a slightly more objective source to research candidates: their voting record. Here is a site where one can look up voting records, but there are many others.

Without television or radio, you will be bored. Flat out, you will experience monotony-filled days of emptiness. You will long for Egypt the media like your very life depends on going back to it. I believe this emptiness would be a great gift to you. "Out of the boredom, the suffering, the barrenness, and the silence would grow a vine called focus. Our thoughts would begin to modulate more in the direction of a few central themes. We would stop thinking about where we left the hairspray, what time the Superbowl starts, or whether we have enough Parmesan cheese for spaghetti. We would start thinking more and more about Truth, about life and death, about existence, and about God", (from The Overload Syndrome by Richard Swenson, M.D.) The media causes a dilution of anything of importance because of so much extraneous information, and distraction via an unrelenting flood of interruptions to our thoughts. My belief is that without the constant bombardment from the media, we can finally get a moment in edgewise to think a coherent thought, to listen, then hear from our Father, and to have a time margin to allow us to respond in obedience. Again, Richard Swenson said, "Essential to spiritual thinking is the ability to focus".

You mentioned, <<<<We have gone down to basic cable channels. I am happy we did, but I have teetered with the thought of getting rid of it altogether. It's no wonder I'm so sad sometimes. The news channels are filled with disgusting portrayals of war, shootings and other issues of this world and majority of prime time is very sexual, has gossip and everything that God doesn't want for our minds. >>>>. May I humbly exhort you, that if this is something Father is laying on your heart, that you obey Him? Understanding follows obedience. Do what He is telling you first, then you will understand why. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" James 4:17. Trust Him.

Have you ever been stuck home without electricity ~ maybe because of a snowstorm? What did you do then? Without the media, folks do what they did in the days before TV. They read, studied God's Word, worked, talked with their loved ones (how much of that goes on with the TV on?), women did handwork sewing, visited with family or neighbors, and went to bed early and slept soundly without soundbites running over and over in their heads. There are plenty of things you will find to do once you get past the initial delirium tremens! You may even feel as if you have gotten your life back. Allow the Lord to fill this time of yours as He deems best.

One more thing regarding what to do with your time without TV, and what your husband could do to relax. There is a reason that, when discovering that we have seven children, folks ask us, "Don't you have a TV?"

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What Will We Do With It?

Often we are met with incredulity from folks who find out that we have no television reception in our home, we do not listen to the radio, nor do we take the newspaper. Exactly two seconds before the revelation, had you asked one of these people if we seemed backwards, uninformed or out-of-touch with what is happening in the world, they would have answered, "No, of course not". Yet, immediately after discovering this fact about us, they ask, "Well, how do you keep up with what is happening in the world?"

Mr. Visionary, when faced with this challenge, will often ask a person to name five things (non sports-related) that they saw on the news last night, then to explain how their life profitted from acquiring that information. They cannot answer. When we discovered many years ago that we couldn't answer either, we purposely stepped out of the world of media influence. I remember the day I found out that Diana, Princess of Wales died ~ it was on the one year anniversary of the date. On September 11, 2001, I awoke after being up all night at the ER with Napoleon, to a call from a girlfriend about the morning's events. The first time I ever saw footage of the attacks was eight months later on a PBS documentary. I will make a bold statement here, that I believe my life is the better for not having been bombarded with the images of it at the time.

Last night, I could see in Mr. Visionary's eyes that something had happened during the day. Having to be out in the world four days a week, he is not as insulated from the media as me. Events at Virginia Tech hit fairly close to home for us ~ several family members claim it as their alma mater, and Mr. Visionary and I tell the children of our (mis)adventures spelunking in the caves around Blacksburg while dating.  When he showed me an online news article about the murders, my first thought was, "I wonder who will be sent over the edge by watching this?" Judge me if you must, but my first thought was not about the victims of the first crime, the murders, but the victims of the second crime, the besieging of homes with the images of the event.

As much as I desire to sermonize the effects of media overload (and I may one day), and fuss about it's resetting the shock and moral acceptability threshold, I will refrain and ask an important question. When assailed with the images, soundbites and emotional hoopla of the news...what will you do with the information? What is your plan for effecting change in regards to that which you are watching? My intention is not to be fatalistic, just realistic. To quote Neil Postman from his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, "In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one is informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information). [snip]
Thus, we have a great loop of impotence: the news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing. "

At best, we can determine to pray for the families involved, for the police and for the students. But will we? Would it even be any more effective than, "God bless those strangers"? At worst, we will do nothing  ~ acting in complete apathy as if we had no knowledge of the tragedy. Somewhere in the middle is that state of fearful worry and helpless despair that dishonors our Father. By our willing involvement in the world of media, we allow it to dictate to us what our emotions should be. The television tells us when to be sad, when to despair, when we should feel guilty for our better circumstances. Why else would we "need" up-to-the-minute reporting if not to hold us spellbound in emotional upheaval?

I submit that, assuming we are even aware of the news, (which I am unwilling to concede is a need), it would be better to allow the Holy Spirit (rather than the news anchors) to lead us into action or intercession. Information for the sake of information is lunacy.  Knowing about all the problems in the world when you are incapable of changing them is a recipe for emotional turmoil. Yes, we need to be aware of the needs around us ~ for the sake of ministry. But when we know more about the war across the world than the needs across the street, why do we wonder at the sorry state of the world? We must be selective about where we spend our emotional and physical energy as well as our time.

Daniel prophesied that, in the last days, "...many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12:4), and Proverbs warns about curiosity in that, "Death and destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man" (27:20). My belief is that these verses apply to this state of media overload in which we live. It is always good to recognize where Scripture speaks to us.

The question is, "What will we do with it?"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How Does God Say Do It?

Apparently efficiency has no relevance anymore. Effectiveness as well, has left the building.The concept that the Lord has methods rather than just loosely defined principles is no longer accepted, either. From all appearances they have gone to the far country, never to return. They have been replaced by a new creature called simply, "ministry".

Let's think this through a bit with a few real life examples that I have experienced.

A single Mom I knew needed clothes for her children, a saving relationship with Jesus, and similarly, a friend and mentor. Four women discussed her situation gossiped, decided to clean out their attics, sell their kids clothes at a yard sale, donate the proceeds to their church, then have the church cut the woman a check so that she could "buy her kids clothes". In this process, four separate women spent four days each cleaning out kids clothes, pricing items, making signs, and having a yard sale. By the end, they were exhausted, their families missed them, and they had pizza delivered because they were too busy "doing ministry" to make dinner. Since the church mailed the check, there was no interaction, no gospel, no encouragement for a weary Mom, no friend, no mentor. The surprise about why the Mom didn't come visit the church "after all they'd done for her" was shocking.

May I submit that if the Lord's methods were employed, efficiency and effectiveness would have gone hand in hand? Might I suggest that we just pack up the clothes, take some cookies and coffee over to the Mom, and share with her not only the clothes we have, but our relationship with our Lord? Perhaps I am being too simplistic?

How about this one? (Please forgive me if I rant.) Say the Lord gives you a heart to help young women with eating disorders. And say you have a friend that, after adopting a child from an unwed mother, desires to help unwed mothers. Following the world's plan for "ministry", the next logical step would be to enlist a board of directors, start a non-profit corporation, buy a 1.3 million dollar 49 acre, 9500 square foot property, and begin to drum up funds to "start a ministry". Buying high-dollar designer clothing and jewelery at wholesale to resell would be a great way to make money for your ministry. Encourage donors that their names would be printed in "all appropriate literature", and engraved on the obligatory brick to line the front Gratitude Walkway. When the funds are ready, acquire a full-time staff to include round-the-clock doctors and counselors, and the necessary food service, cleaning , grounds maintenance and administrative staff. With the whole 9500 square feet, you would be able to maintain a 12 bed facility. Think of it: twelve young women at one time would be "ministered to". All this for only 50 billion man-hours and a multi-million dollar budget each year. Incredible. This must be God.

While I remove my tongue from my cheek, please consider whether there might be a better way. Has anyone ever heard of, "He setteth the solitary in families"? Someone dear to me recently shared about this new ministry started by some mutual acquaintances and was perplexed over my quizzical stare. I was dumbfounded, and still am.

Is it just the uneducated side of me that thinks that these situations could be more lovingly and effectively handled within the context of a family taking in an unwed mother, allowing her to share in family life, learning about how healthy families relate, learning child care...being loved? I understand that the average family may not know how to handle eating disorders and counseling ~ but they could drive her somewhere, and they could listen. Simpler is better. God is not the author of bureaucracy. When the Lord gives us a burden for something, perhaps He wants us to personally do something about it.

That is, if we aren't too busy doing ministry.

[End of rant. We will now return to the regularly scheduled (but not regularly updated) blog.]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When A Door Opens

Change is in the air. The grass is reappearing, leaves are budding, and the apple trees are in bloom. Although in some years the transformation  is more profound than others, this change never fails to come. He has promised that His seasons will remain. Spring in all its brilliancy will always displace the dark monotony of winter, and His timing is always perfect.

This has been a particularly long winter for our family. While seeming tiring and tedious to our flesh, from a spiritual perspective it's conclusion comes not a moment too soon, nor a moment too late.  I know this because I know Him who has directed this season for His glory and my good. Mr. Visionary and I have endured a season of darkness this winter longer and quieter than any before. We have endeavored to leave off the scratching and striving of making our own way, for the seeking and searching involved in discovering His way for us. Claiming the promise that if we seek Him diligently, we will find Him, we were looking for the answer to the question that many have asked, "What's next after selling the farm?" We began the process of getting the farm ready to sell, in faith, not knowing what lay ahead.

The fog appears to be clearing for us. As the scales on our eyes are being removed layer by layer, several dreams and callings which had heretofore appeared unrelated are meshing into a picture. Just as many broken pieces are fit together by a skilled artist to form a beautiful mosaic, Father is piecing a mosaic in our life as well.  Our experiences, our trials and testings, our growth, our obedience (or lack thereof), and our desire to please and obey Him have all been used to bring us to this point of being prepared to hear His will for us in the next season.

For several years now, our family has been feeling led to the mission field. At first I attempted to logically decipher the most practical destination for us in the field: I love sweet potatoes, barefooted children, and farming, and I was (once) fluent in French ~ French speaking Africa seemed tenable. It was a perfect match on the surface. As a matter of fact, I spent many hours as a newly-saved teenager studying Africa, and longing to be sent there. But, we believe that He would not send us somewhere that would contradict His other clear instructions. In order to be obedient to Father,  our family would have to minister together, so no boarding-school-Mom-and-Dad-working-separate-ministry-jobs positions. Many opportunities have presented themselves, but none that would meet our convictions about the family ministering as the unit He designed. So we waited ~ trusting that if it was His will, then the perfect door would open.

A door has opened. We have opportunity, desire in the Spirit, a trembling in the flesh, and a few steps that we can take now as we await confirmation of His will. There are many issues that Father will have to work out for us, if He desires for us to pursue this work. We will need help to get the farm on the market in a timely manner, as, in the flesh, it appears to be too much for just Mr. Visionary, the children and me to accomplish.  If this part works out, it will definitely be confirmation. At this point, we feel led to look into a different foreign language curriculum, continue to purge belongings, sell anything that is not bolted down, and acquire passports for every member of our family.

Never has walking in the Spirit been so necessary, or praying without ceasing so natural. We covet your prayers as we seek further confirmation of His will.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Becoming Like Him

It didn't happen by accident. But happen it did, and the transformation has been profound.  I'm not saying that I purposed for it to happen by any stretch of the imagination.  I assure you that it was truly far from my personal aspirations or even desires for that matter. And while a psychologist may call it assimilation, the  Southerner in me would attribute it to the old adage, "If you lie with the dogs, you're gonna get fleas". Mr. Visionary would have me to understand that a more accurate explanation is found in Scripture as, "He who walks with the wise grows wise".

I don't even like the stuff. Sure, it smells good, and I don't mind a whiff of it every now and then, but I've never been terribly interested in putting it near my lips. Yet, when I caught myself yesterday drinking black coffee from Mr. Visionary's cup, and enjoying it,  I knew I was done in. I can recognize a nail in a coffin when I see one: the old me was gone, never to return. Interestingly, I was thoroughly content with that revelation.   I know it didn't happen in the beginning, as I was too busy trying to assert my independence from and (shamefully) superiority over said Visionary. But gradually, imperceptibly even, over the last eighteen years as I began to truly know my man, I have become like him in ways I never would have imagined.

As I pondered all the myriad of ways I have "assimilated",  I have surprised myself with the completeness of the transformations. When I met Mr. Visionary, I loved milk chocolate; he loved dark chocolate. His coaxing and cajoling not only won me over to the dark side, but I now care only for extra
dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is as reprehensible as a lick of the sugar bowl to me. There are other areas, some subtle, some overt, in which  I have taken on characteristics of  my visionary. Chocolate and coffee are just the ones the children giggle about the most.

Even without my active participation, just being with him, desiring to please him (i.e. always having some dark chocolate in the house), and enjoying fellowship with him, I have become like him. No striving, just assimilation.  I can't help but notice the similarities between my becoming like Mr. Visionary, and my becoming like my Lord. As I have been with Him, as I have desired to please Him (doing those things which bless His heart) , and as I have enjoyed sweet fellowship with Him, I have become more like Him. No striving, just assimilation. I can't think of a more natural way to become more like my husband...or my Husband.

Or to fall in love with them more.