“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
I have had something in front of my face a lot this year that isn’t the Lord: a screen. That’s not a problem in itself. I started a podcast, dove deep into writing, and stayed connected with loved ones during a pandemic.
But unless I’m very disciplined, I find the screen becomes a bit of a false idol–something I appeal to for a solution before I turn to the Lord or another local human for help and connection.
Maybe it sounds extreme, but I believe smartphones are to my generation what cigarettes were to my grandparents and great-grandparents: widespread, addictive, socially acceptable, and loaded with unintended consequences.
I’m not here to say that screens are evil and that we should go back to papyrus. One minister I know says, “Technology is neutral.” My phone and computer are tools, and it’s what I do with them that matters.
Continue reading Screen Time
I’ve had a humiliating year, in many senses of the word. Before 2019, my body was young, obedient to my wishes, and in decent shape. Thanks to a healthy childhood and easy young adulthood, my mental health was balanced. Looking back, I was kind of proud of myself for having it together–as if I’d done everything right and deserved my good health. I was even hard-hearted about others’ poor health. Pull it together, people.
But a difficult pregnancy and a rough postpartum has changed a lot. After the birth of my baby, I began to suffer from clinical-level anxiety, hypochondria, and pain more intense than childbirth. I could hardly recognize my body or my mind; I felt like a different person than 2018 me. I was so wrapped up in my own suffering that COVID and civil unrest barely registered on my radar.
I’d never been good at asking for help or admitting weakness. My primary emotion surrounding my situation was embarrassment. It was my fault, and my problem to hide. I must’ve done something wrong. What was wrong with me, that I couldn’t take care of myself, much less my family and home?
Continue reading Humiliation
Our local pool opened this month—the literal and metaphorical watering hole of the neighborhood. Moms gather to apply sunscreen to their tribes, hover over young swimmers, and chat. Mostly we stick to small talk. Sometimes we get into deeper topics like education or marriage. And sometimes we stray into gossip.
“I heard Mark’s wife just up and left.”
“Did you see Claire’s new haircut?”
“Ashley is having another baby, bless her heart.”
Are we supposed to feel sorry for Mark, or are we questioning his qualities as a husband? The remark about Claire’s new look could imply admiration, or it could be veiled criticism of her taste. And while I hope we’re meant to be happy for Ashley, the comment might mean she’s out of her depth and going deeper. Bless her heart.
I don’t often gossip, but when I do, I have a lot of fun doing it. Fortunately I know that fun does not always equal good. We can experience good delights and bad delights—a profound idea of the New Christianity.
Continue reading Pick A Little Talk A Little
I read books—mostly fiction—like most of us eat popcorn: frequently, in large quantities, and without much chewing. But there’s one I’ve been slowly nibbling on that has affected me more than any other secular book I’ve read in 2018: Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s changed the way I think, especially about my spiritual life.
Dr. Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University, asserts that way people view their talents, personalities, and skills affects the way they approach almost every aspect of life. According to her theory, people adopt either a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset. Those who take a fixed mindset approach—say, about learning to play the piano—believe that ability is static, that talent largely explains success. But those with a growth mindset believe that they can change—that effort will result in improvement. Dweck illustrates her theory with extensive research and neat anecdotes from the worlds of sport, art, education, business, and relationships.
To be honest, I almost stopped reading at the introduction because her idea was so simple. Most of us would say that a good attitude and hard work can get us places. But do we truly believe that? Dr. Dweck shows how insidious and damaging the fixed mindset can be. Continue reading Just Who Do We Think We Are?