My New Blog

Hello! I have a new blog! I won’t be posting anything at this one anymore. The limitations of became too much to bear.

Thanks to all those who have participated at this blog! i look forward to more fun at my new site.

If you want to keep up with my work please go to

Cellphone Use as Infidelity in Parenting

A recent study published in the Pediatrics Journal describes how parents use their cell phones while in restaurants with their children. First the facts: most parents “used some kind of mobile device, either continuously or intermittently or at the end of the meal. Of the 55 groups observed in the study, only 15 had no device in play.” More surprisingly, 16 caregivers used their phones the entire time they were at the restaurant. This means there are 15 caregivers at each end of the scale, with the other 25 using cell phones intermittently.

This report from the study makes me sad: “The girl keeps eating, then gets up to cross the room to get more ketchup. Caregiver is not watching her do this; she is looking down at the phone…Still no conversation … Now girl’s head appears to be looking right at caregiver, and caregiver looks up but not at girl…”

I don’t believe that checking a text message while you are eating with your children is going to ruin their development, but mealtimes used to be one space kids could count on spending quality time with grown-ups. The importance of this time is demonstrated by studies which show that children perform better when meal times are regular and uninterrupted.

The timing of this study delighted me because of how it connects with what I have been reading this week: The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. In this book, the author compares our excessive use of technology to infidelity: a suitable word to describe parents who are more faithful to their phones than their children:

“Daydreaming” was once the temptation of romantics who knew their imaginations could disengage from the local scene and contemplate what life might be like somewhere else. Today it threatens to become a way of life for a society whose technology so easily wags it by the tail. The great advantage of a Facebook friendship, of course, is that it is so easy. I get to choose who I want to “friend” and whose friendship requests I respond to. We gather around our common interests, share the stuff we want others to know, and log off when we feel like it. In many ways what we have is connection without obligation. But intimacy without commitment is what our society has traditionally called “infidelity.” As with adultery in marriage, the problem of infidelity isn’t so much that it breaks a rule as it is that it destroys the fabric of trust that sustains a healthy community. (In a troubled marriage, no one feels this more intensely than the kids.) If our relationships with other people do not entail responsibility and obligation, they are easily reduced to self-serving transactions in a marketplace where everyone else is always trying to sell us something—or worse, to sell us themselves. Such a commodification of life denies in practice the fundamental claim of God’s economy—that all is gift and life is a mystery of divine love.

When I preach to families about technology I always encourage them to put their phones away during mealtimes. Its an easy thing we can do to honor our kids and encourage the development of positive social skills.

How Big is Your Drip Line?

This week I have been enjoying the book The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  Based off Psalm 1, he uses the metaphor of a tree to describe the stable life.

Look at a tree on the landscape out your window and you will notice that it is shaped something like a geyser, reaching up in the single column of a trunk to spray out in limbs, most of them bending back toward the ground. Follow the downward slope of those bending branches as if they were the fluid spray of the geyser, and you can sketch out a circumference on the ground around the trunk of any tree. That circle is called the “drip line.” Without digging below the surface, it offers a pretty good sketch of how far away from a tree its roots reach for the water and nutrients it needs to flourish. Trees vary a great deal in size, and any tree, given the time, can extend its reach through growth. But it is important for the life of a tree that its extension above the surface not exceed its growth below. Stability depends on a tree knowing that its root system beneath the surface limits its capacity to send out limbs and produce fruit. In short, everything depends on the drip line. For people on the go, the root system that a drip line traces may feel more like a limit than a gift.

As a young father, I often feel like the boundaries placed on my life limit my freedom, but this metaphor reminds me that by raising my children in a Godly way, I am actually expanding my root system. To put it simply: these boundaries are expanding my capacity to produce fruit! But don’t just take my word for it:

Paul Wilkes…reflects on his resistance to limits as a young person, saying, “I bridled at restraints; I moved again and again. There was always something more out there I wasn’t finding.” For Wilkes, this led to a midlife crisis about the true meaning of freedom. “I looked upon married life and children as punishingly restrictive and certainly not a path to holiness or heroism,” he confesses. “After my devoted attempt to be a man of the world, I swerved onto other paths, believing I needed to live with the poor, then to be a monk, do some work of great value to humankind. Something out of the ordinary.” All of this frenetic searching eventually led Wilkes to what he calls a “desperately unhappy existence.” Free to pursue any life he could imagine, Wilkes found himself unable to really live.Considering the practice of stability some two decades after this crisis, Wilkes is able to name how his own salvation has depended on accepting the limits of marriage. “With two sons embarking on their teenage years and a working wife, my freedom of movement is severely restricted, my own desires secondary at best. Yet I experience some of the richest days of my life.” No longer free to do whatever he wants, Wilkes sees that he is free to love particular people whose needs he knows. To be sure, that circle of people is limited, circumscribed by the drip line of his life. But as he establishes roots of love, Wilkes can see that he is now able to grow. The boundary lines of his life and love expand as his roots grow deeper.

This book won’t stop prodding me where it hurts, insisting that the grass on the other side of the fence is just that, more grass. In the long run, it won’t taste better than this grass, and the hassle of getting stuck in–or addicted to going through–barb-wired fences is just not worth the bother.

So how big is your drip line? Is it growing as you commit to a place, and to loving the people in that place? Or is it shrinking because you run away from your problems…

Don’t Follow Me, Stay Where You Are (And Follow Me!)

Sometimes it can feel like you aren’t a very good Christian unless you are a missionary half-way across the world. In the book The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, I found this meditation on what it means to follow Jesus in the place you live.

Just as Jesus’ movement is picking up momentum, he tells a man not to follow him. This struck me as odd the first time I noticed it. The man is naked when Jesus meets him. Stripped bare, his spiritual torment is unveiled for all to see. He is alone—without family, community, or the institutions of love that humans need to flourish…Jesus commands the demons to come out of him and go into a herd of pigs. Filled with the demons that had tormented the man, the pigs run off a cliff and into the lake. The point is clear enough: whatever just came out of this man is a force that will run living creatures to their death. When the townspeople turn back from watching the pigs splash into the lake, they see the man who had been possessed “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” No longer constantly driven to flee, this man has been healed. He is seated at the feet of the One who stands immovable. It’s an incredible contrast to the scene when Jesus first set foot on the shore and the man came running, every muscle tense. Restless and distraught before, he is now seated, in his right mind…Yet the sight of this man seated at Jesus’ feet puts fear in the people of the town. We are, after all, accustomed to our demons. Despite our frustration and occasional acts of resistance, we accommodate ourselves to the ways they limit our own lives and crush the lives of others. However terrible our demons may appear when we look them in the face, their presence along the periphery of our lives feels normal. Maybe the demons kill, but we’re often more comfortable with the frenetic forces that drive us here and there than we are with the radical new way of life that Jesus brings. The people of this little town on the other side of the lake ask Jesus to leave. Respecting their wishes, he does. But as Jesus is getting into the boat, the man who has been made whole begs to go with Jesus. His peaceful posture is disturbed by the thought of Jesus leaving. For the first time in years, he has found peace with Jesus. Like a good disciple, he wants to sit at Jesus’ feet. Indeed, he wants to follow Jesus’ feet wherever they go. But Jesus says no. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Stay where you are. In whatever place you find yourself, do not easily leave it. Jesus delivers the demon-possessed man and then offers him the gift of stability. Maybe the single most important thing we can do if we want to grow spiritually is to stay in the place where we are.

Many early Christian writers understood the principle of stability. For example:

Someone asked Abba Antony, “What must one do in order to please God?” After encouraging the pilgrim to keep God before his eyes and pattern his life after the Scriptures, Antony added, “In whatever place you find yourself, do not easily leave it.” Another of the desert fathers advised similarly, “If a trial comes upon you in the place where you live, do not leave that place when the trial comes. Wherever you go, you will find that what you are running from is ahead of you.”

I wonder how many Christians are called to stay!

How Your Diet Affects Your Appetite: Two Things Necessary for Revival

Why is it that revival only seems to happen in the history books, or in the stories of our parents or grandparents?

As I have been reading Worship Through the Ages by Vernon M. Whaley, I have noticed a pattern common to the revivals he reports about. God’s people, especially those leading the revivals, have made prayer and purity a priority.

First prayer:

If you haven’t watched Edwin Orr’s video explaining the importance of prayer for revival, this is a must watch, even though it is a little long!

In many revivals of the last two centuries, the phrase “praying through” meant spending extended time with God until you met him. In fact, many revival meetings had a pen built for this purpose! In light of this, consider this quote from a revivalist named William Chambers Burns in Scotland:

Many who do come into the secret place, and who are God’s children, enter it and leave it just as they entered, without ever so much as realizing the presence of God. And there are some believers who, even when they do obtain a blessing, and get a little quickening of soul, leave the secret place without seeking more. They go to their chamber, and there get into the secret place, but then, as soon as they have got near to him, they think they have been peculiarly blessed, and leave their chamber, and go back into the world. Oh, how is it that the Lord’s own people have so little perseverance? How is it that when they do enter into their place of prayer to be alone, they are so easily persuaded to be turned away empty? “Instead of wrestling with God to pour out his Spirit,” Burns concluded, “they retire from the secret place without the answer, and submit to it as being God’s will.

Second, purity:

Right now my wife and I have been doing a spending fast. This means that we are abstaining from spending money on things that aren’t necessary. One of the things we cut out of our life was Netflix; consequently, after three months or so, I no longer crave TV in the evenings. Instead, I now want to do more constructive things in the hours after my children have gone to bed. I believe this is a good example of the way your diet affects your appetite. When you give up junk food and begin to eat better food, your cravings eventually change as well.

I noticed this same principle in the leaders behind the revivals. For example, J. Wilbur Chapman, an American revivalist wrote this:

Anything that dims my vision for Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.

It seems obvious today that most Christians don’t have this kind of attitude about their leisure time. However, if we want to see a great move of God in our day, we should start with our diets. As they used to say at the revival meetings in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: “What is God pointing his finger at in your life?”

Is there one thing, that if you gave it up, you know would affect your appetite for Christ?