Limited edition

Do limits annoy you? Do you wish you had more money, time, brains or beauty? Consider that perhaps limits on our lives may serve a good purpose.

God sets the limits for all things. He sets limits for the sea so it does not encroach upon the land. He sets the times and seasons, He determines the orbits of stars and planets. He sets the length of life for all people and the times of rulers and kings.

God also limits each of us, setting the place where we will be born, the parents we will have, and the abilities we will inherit.

I seem to spend much of my life kicking against the limits within which my life has been placed. I’m not entirely sure what I am seeking to achieve, but often I push against the limited time available to me, burning through the quiet hours of my nights in the eerie glow of a computer display.  I hungrily read and consume from the fire-hose of information now available through the internet.

Oddly, my ‘problem’ is no longer the difficulty of locating information as it was a decade ago, now I have difficulty saying “enough”. I have information obesity (it is even a problem for academics).

Unfortunately most of what passes as ‘information’ is really just trivial. In fact, the best most popular blogs, websites, news outlets and social media sites are primarily experts in entertainment and how to hold a human being’s attention in such a way as to induce clicks, page views or divulging of credit card details.

This evening I read a book instead of opening the lid of the laptop. It felt good, undistracted, a cohesive argument to follow and well crafted words – quality workmanship. I need to read more books and browse the internet less. There is good reason for calling it ‘browsing’ or ‘surfing’ – both capture the skimming, superficial nature of how we interact with the web.

God created me with limits. I need to respect them and use the limited time I have wisely.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV)


(A re-post from the archives)
Image: iStock

Screen free time

retro-TV

A second goal I am making in my attempt to be a better version of myself is to avoid electronic devices for an hour before bed. There is evidence that the light from certain types of screens such as LCD computer screens and mobile phones can suppress melatonin release in humans, causing difficulty falling asleep for some people. I’m not sure that this is a significant problem for me, but I do know that using the computer in the hour before I’m due to go to bed causes me to delay my bedtime. I get distracted by social media, interesting stuff on the internet, games and even useful things such as writing a blog post.

I should be using that last hour of the day to wind down, read my Bible, pray and get organised for the morning.

For me it is a little complicated by working odd shifts – my work day can finish at midnight, or bedtime can be 9:30am in the morning. But the principle still works, nothing I would be doing on the computer or my phone is so important that it should be allowed to displace time with God or my wife. Yet this is what I have allowed to happen for some time now and the cost has been too high.

To make this work I need to know when my bedtime should be, and possibly set an alarm or reminder to prompt me to turn off whatever gadget is grabbing my attention an hour before bedtime.


Image: Shutterstock

Throw a bucket of cold water at me

Joining today in 5 minute Friday led by Lisa-Jo,  who posts a single word prompt. We write for 5 minutes without stopping to edit or fix up punctuation, then link with others who have written based on the same word.

Awake, he should not be.

I am looking at a wee boy who should not be – awake, that is. We drove 40 minutes to see some penguins and he fell asleep within ten minutes, fantastic! No bedtime struggle this eveining. No such luck, he woke up on the way home again.

I should be…

For years I have appeared to be awake from the outside, but in fact I’ve been fooling you all. Paul wrote Ephesians 5:14 to Christians, especially me. I have known the call of Christ to me, have ‘wanted’ to follow Him but always there has been what has appeared to be good reasons not to wholeheartedly commit myself into His hands. I have been like a zombie, walking around with my soul asleep.

I want to wake up. To breathe in the life of the Holy Spirit and to run and catch up with Jesus who called me to “come”. The time for sleeping is not now, I need to take care how I spend my time for the days are evil and the mission is urgent. Jesus has called me to do His will. His will is to feed His sheep, to find the lost and to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and lift up the broken hearted. Throw a bucket of cold water at me please! Stop

Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
(Ephesians 5:14-17 ESV)


Image of man with matchsticks holding eyes open: pappamaart (iStock)

Two wise women and a dull man

boy asleep on a big book

Within five minutes this evening the wisdom of two women brought the focus in my life back to where it should be. A conversation with my wife about how the last week has really been for me took her only seconds to zoom in on a key element of wellbeing that I have been ignoring. Then a blog post by a woman of thanksgiving who was feeling pressured carries a hint right at the end about goals for the year set and forgotten.

In January I wrote about making 2011 a year of essentials – one of the first non-essentials was identified as too much time spent catching up on internet happenings, a focus that has been lost in just a couple of months!

When I am finding the world and life all a bit much I like to retreat into the quiet spaces of my days and pursue ideas as they arise. Blog links and Google give extra leverage to such a process. However, the time spent has to come from somewhere, in my case it gets stolen – from my usual time with God and from time that should be spent asleep. This is actually stealing from God, or at least taking something God made as good and corrupting it for my own selfish ends. Consider the following extract of an article by John Piper:

A Brief Theology of Sleep

Why did God imagine sleep? He never sleeps! He thought the idea up out of nothing. He thought it up for his earthly creatures. Why! Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.” According to this text sleep is a gift of love, and the gift is often spurned by anxious toil. Peaceful sleep is the opposite of anxiety. God does not want his children to be anxious, but to trust him. Therefore I conclude that God made sleep as a continual reminder that we should not be anxious but should rest in him.

Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.

Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.
In quest of rest,
Pastor John

I think it is important for me to be humbled by the reality of my need for sleep. I also need to remember in whom I should put my trust as I sleep:

At the very least, sleep is a good opportunity to entrust yourself, your entire self, to God’s care. You’re trusting something when you lay down your body and, with it, the control of your conscious mind. That moment when you consciously choose unconsciousness, and let yourself go, is a daily opportunity to relinquish control to a God who you have to trust.
(Fred Sanders 2007, The Theology of Sleep)

I must admit that I don’t generally consciously entrust myself to anything other than my mattress and bed when I go to sleep – I have been blessed with the ability to go unconscious within minutes of my head hitting the pillow so sleep just happens. Perhaps I need to learn the prayer I was never taught as a child:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

I pray for my children before they go to sleep, that God will keep them safely in His arms whatever may happen, yet oddly I do not pray the same for myself!

Sleep is an essential element of being human. I need to thank God for sleep as a gift and also as a command to cease striving and rest, trusting in Him for things left undone and for His renewed blessing every morning. Perhaps one of the reasons we must sleep is to be awakened to the wonder of God’s blessing of a new day, every day.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)