Go, go gadget!

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My car is running on fumes. But I need to deposit a check and drop off tax papers before work. It can wait until I get off. I know I’m driving but let me check my calendar first. Oh, no! I forgot this is my carpool week, I have a conference call at lunch, and the kids are staying after school. If I’m only 5 minutes late to work, I can still run my errand. “Ding!” Who is texting me? I’ll check it at the gas station. While pumping, I watch the TV provided by the gas company. Today, Steve Harvey talks to married couples on the cusp of divorce. Wow! A TV at the pump. I pray for those couples. Let me check this text. Remind text from your child’s teacher, “Genetics test tomorrow.” I hope she’s ready. We’ll need to go over it with her tonight. She was working on Punnett Squares yesterday. Let me put that in the calendar.

The traffic lights are against me today.

“Ding!” That is the tone I get when someone likes or comments on my blog. I wonder if it was my hubby. I like getting those but they’re kinda obligatory.

“Ding!” Weather alert: Snow predicted in our area. I’ll need to go get provisions. I have a few minutes before work.

What is the other thing I am supposed to do before going to work? I know it’s important.

 


 

In this current age, we are constantly in touch with technology –literally and figuratively. Technology has blessed us by making us more intelligent. We know way more than prior generations. But are we smarter and at what cost?

In researching this topic, I was inundated by information. Most of it negative. We have markedly increased our internet usage over the past 5 years. In a Kaiser study, 8-18 year olds are taking in almost 8 hours of media daily. Even more disturbing is due to concomitant use of devices (e.g. tweeting while watching TV), they are getting in 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content. Heavy media users (>16 hours, 21% of test group) are more likely to make C’s, become bored, get into trouble and experience sadness than light users (< 3 hours, 17% of test group).  

An article in the journal Addiction, Hormes et al found that 10% of the college students studied experienced disordered social networking use: an addiction-like condition. Also, alcohol misuse was more likely in this group.

This affects more than kids. Regular social and mobile media users age 35-64 spend more than 13 hours a day with media.

The most disturbing result from too much internet time is brain shrinkage. The areas impacted control our attention spans, emotional lability, and empathy/compassion—among other things.

Increasing gadgetry usage also generates side effects that have a global impact on resources.  The US is less than 10 % of the world’s population, yet we consume 1/3 of the world’s energy.

Technology has made our lives more enriched. But like any other tool, it must be used wisely.

1 Corinthians 6:12New Living Translation (NLT)

12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

Simplifying our amount of media usage will make us smarter, healthier and happier.

Be well, Beloved!

Connection…lost

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Matthew 14:29-31New Living Translation (NLT)

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Storms will come.

This scripture is about faith, but it is also about distractions. As long as Peter kept his focus on Jesus he could do the miraculous. In this journey of the simplified life, distractions must be brought to a minimum. Of course, there are things not under our control, but much of what distracts us is the byproduct of our choices. Choices that lead to self-sabotage.

My biggest distractor -and I’m not alone -is the amount of connectivity I have to the world through gadgets. They can be a useful tool. For example, I am dictating this post into my phone. But checking the screen every time there’s a ding, using it as a replacement for memory or connecting with it instead of real people, are simple illustrations of it being a task master. When problems arise, do we go to our phones or to our knees?

Storms will come.

Like Peter, if not affixed, we lose sight of Jesus too. The side effects are quite deleterious. The sequelae, a lack of faith. We check with our gadgets and TVs and computers and Facebook posts and apps to see if we were in right standing instead of checking with the One who knows. We get distracted and start to sink. We sink under the weight of the problems presented. Problems we were never meant to carry.

Philippians 4 tells us exactly where our focus and thoughts should be.

Philippians 4:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Are these the thoughts that fill our days? Our conversations? Our prayers? Our minds?

Or are our thoughts crowded with Faustian ideals?

I don’t want to spend another day with more time fixed on a gadget than time I spend in prayer. Let us be slaves to it no longer.

Be well, Beloved.

 

 

Day 8 – Why Do I Keep Touching the Stove?

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As a child, like most others, I was taught to dangers of touching hot things.

Mom: Mayisha, don’t touch that eye. It’ll burn you!

Me: Ok.

When the food was cooking, I had little to no interest in approaching. I mean the eye was glowing red hot and looked to almost want to come and get me. But when turned off and the pot removed along with my mother’s presence and attention, it seemed to beckon. “Touch me, touch me. I’m not hot anymore. Don’t you want to see for yourself? I promise I won’t hurt you now. Look! I’m loosing my glow.”

So what do I do?

I touch it.

And what happens?

It burns me.

It hurts me.

It teaches me.

And what happens next?

My mother tends to me.

She covers to heal.

She reminds me of her words.

 

My curiosity was and still is a gift. The way I viewed the situation was problematic. I did not recognize the danger.  I did not trust the instruction. I did not accept love’s “constraints”.  

For too long, I believed only bold, red, hot “supersins” were dangerous and that the enemy is dressed as someone in a red suit with two horns and a tail. In reality, he is far more subtle and successful in promoting a salubrious nature. He is likened to a charismatic leader clothed in divisive rhetoric, false humility, comparisons, and judgeful mentality. He is the accuser of the brethren, tricking us to see ourselves as deficient. When that occurs, we look to false gods for answers. Addictions develop while our faith wanes.

This is how we complicate our lives. This is how we lose focus. God wants to change how we view things.

Romans 12:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

 

He does not want to change us or others.

Psalm 139:14 King James Version (KJV)

14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

 

He has inundated us with His grace. All deficiencies were nullified on the cross.

Ephesians 2:8-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

 

All these exchanges teach me to have faith in God.  Faith in who He made me to be. Faith in His instruction. Faith in His love.

Living simply means learning my standards are not His. I learn my standards are arbitrary and His are obtainable only through His son. I learn that following my standards leads to defeat and to follow His son leads to victory in this life and the next. I learn that throughout life I will continue to “touch stoves” and that His grace and word will always cover, tend, and heal.

Be well, Beloved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 – A Damning Delusion I Control Things (ADDICT)

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Matthew 26:41 King James Version (KJV)

41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

No doubt you have heard of or know of someone effected by the opioid crisis. As a PM&R physician, this is close to my heart as we are specially trained in treating chronic pain. As a consultant for a worker’s compensation company, I’ve been on the two sides of this issue. (Thankfully, I haven’t been on the patient side). In this role, my duties are to review charts, deem whether I think the dosage meets or exceeds the patient’s needs, and discuss my findings with the team and the prescribing provider. I also treat addicts. As you can imagine, it’s all been quite a learning experience.

What have I learned?

We have all succumb to addictions.

Our addictions are vast: money, screens (TV, phone, computer), substances, complaining, shopping, food, exercising, likeability, rationalizing, etc. Be they strange or otherwise, are the offspring of entitlement, comfort, self-righteousness, anxiety, fear and pride.  

In scripture, addiction has different names.  Paul called it the old man or old self. We are instructed to put off the old self. Thankfully, scripture gives us guidance on how, the reward is great and we’re not alone.  

Romans 8:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So, let’s hand over the reigns to the One who saves us. Only then can we be free from our addictions.

Be Well, Beloved.

Day 6 – Someday, I’m Gonna Have One of These

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Matthew 6:21King James Version (KJV)

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

My dream car in college was one of those old school boxy Range Rovers. Paint color didn’t matter but I’d change the interior to peanut butter nubuck leather.  After getting the aesthetics finalized, a visit to Circuit City for sound system installation would be in order. I wanted to have one the cars LL Cool J rapped about “drive[ing] by with the booming system.” My affinity for this car stayed into my thirties. This is peculiar because I’m not a car person. I just need a vehicle to be reliable, have good gas mileage, affordable, and enough room for my family. Whether it’s an e class, LX, or XXX is of no consequence to me. So why, this car?

Growing up, I lived in a middle class suburban neighborhood as the third of four kids. Unlike many of my classmates, both of my parents worked full-time jobs. They also worked for the state and got paid once a month. I’m not sure if you’ve ever gotten paid once a month but it requires quite the financial acrobatics for a family of six.  Don’t get me wrong we were blessed.

 

But we didn’t live like them.

 

They lived in the neighborhood with the golf course and country club.

They all got cars when they turned 16.

They went on two week vacations and during the school year!

They were a one income household.

They knew how to declare bankruptcy, open a new business and still live in the big houses.

They drove boxy Range Rovers.

I wanted to be them. I wanted to have what they had. I wanted the status. If I could get that car, I could have a piece of that life. All I needed was a piece and I’d be okay.

I’ve heard similar stories to mine. A man went around to pawn shops buying up Atari consoles and games. His childhood may have been deficient but his adulthood was going to be rich with Atari.

The Range Rover and the Atari, while useful in their own way, represent status symbols. When we focus on achieving a certain status, wisdom is no longer used to make decisions. Indebted, we compromise to conform.

Mark 8:36 English Standard Version (ESV)

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

 

In simplifying, we sacrifice to condense. There is a draw toward usefulness and away from superficiality and status.

John 3:30 English Standard Version (ESV)

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

 

It can be difficult to tease out the difference in real time. A good way to test a decision is to ask a question?

Fashion: Will this outfit, jewelry, pair of shoes, etc. become part of the rotation? Can I borrow or get from Goodwill something to wear for this special occasion instead of purchasing? Do I already have what I need? What is the difference in warmth between that North Face jacket and the down jacket at Sam’s Club? If I don’t have a prescription, why am I wearing expensive glasses? Why buy boots that I can’t wear in the rain or snow?

(My child made me laugh the other day when she told me she needed ANOTHER light jacket. Who needs one light jacket? This winter I dare you to find a light jacket donation drive. I blame Members Only for starting this whole light jacket craze. Shame on you Members Only!)

Furniture: What is the difference functionally between an Ethan Allen couch and a Costco couch? Do I really need to switch out my perfectly functional brass fixtures for oil rubbed bronze? What purpose are custom window treatments?

Social media: While there is rarely money exchanged, time is spent. Is it time well spent?

Leisure activities: Will this boat and or vacation home be a money pit? Should someone without a sponsor acquire a $3000-$5000 bicycle? Should someone who is not a professional musician purchase a $10,000 guitar? Should a child who prefers indoor activities and doesn’t have a job possess Jordan’s?

Must everything I purchase be brand new?  Will they become obsolete, like a boxy Range Rover, Circuit City, Members Only jackets and Atari?

Beloved, we are to enjoy this life. I want to enjoy and I want you to as well. We can’t if what we consume is for show. It’s like eating empty calories. Once the show is over, are we fulfilled?

Be well, Beloved.

Day 5 – FOMO “That’s so 2016!”

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“You can’t kill fashion!” Zoolander

“Fashion has already killed itself.” Mugatu

(Zoolander 2 movie)

 

It died! It just up and died! I can’t believe it. It had all my contacts in it and my grocery list! My latest book’s notes! Did I back them up on the cloud?

I’m at a loss but have faith the geniuses will fix it. Unfortunately, diagnostic testing shot blanks on both my screen and their faces. The Golden Delicious is now an Arkansas Black. What is going on? This has never happened before. Historically, our mutual possession always ends with a choreographed handoff.

1,2,3 make sure everything is backed up to the cloud

4,5,6 walk into electronic store

1,2,3 go straight to counter with exact make and color in mind

4,5,6 peruse cases for new companion while clerk gets ALL the paperwork sorted

1,2,3 make purchases

4,5,6 donate old companion with feeling of accomplishment

But today, I was robbed of this. I was robbed of planned obsolescence. And while planned obsolescence is a noun it definitely provokes action. Action fueled by fear. Action fueled by FOMO:

Fear Of Missing Out

Fear Of Mythical Obsolescence

Fear Of Me-tooism Obviation

Fear Of Muted Overweening

Fear Of Milquetoast Ossification

Please don’t misunderstand, it’s fine to have things. So many live in lack and that’s not God’s will. Detriment occurs when things have us. Planned obsolescence can breed a love of wealth, covetousness and self-reliance/selfishness while insidiously fostering oppression.

What percentage of our things do we let totally wear out before replacing them? Is it the exception or the rule? I know we touched on this yesterday but let’s tease it out a little more. Visiting a friend, I noticed his microwave has dials. It works just fine. Actually, it works very well. And no offense if you have one of these. But why do refrigerators need French doors? The house we moved into has one. If you have a regular side by side that’s functional, keep it. We can’t have one door open and get ice out of the other door at the same time. First world problem for sure but I hope the point is made.

It makes me wonder “How much?”

How much could we have in savings?

How much could we support causes important to us?

How much less would we say “they need to do…?

How much more freedom?

How much would our faith grow?

How much more peace would we have?

How much could we bless others?

How much of a stranger’s tuition could we pay?

How much simpler would our lives be?

 

Be well, Beloved!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Decluttering

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I want that
I want that too
What is that you have?
Let me try it
I’m saving mine for later
I think I like yours better
Mine is okay
I’ll really liked it at first
But now…
Wow! Yours is REALLY GOOD!
No, I’m not hungry
But I don’t want to be hungry later
You know a bird in the hand …
I wonder what I’ll have tomorrow
There’s so much in my fridge and garage freezers
Half of the stuff I need to throw away
It’s been in there too long
No, it’s still good, I’m really just tired of it

Plus, I need to make room for new stuff

By the way
Did you hear about Larry losing his inheritance?
It’s a shame
His parents worked so hard to leave him the old soda shop
I loved going there as a child
Well, I saw him the other day
He looked so pitiful
I avoided him so it wouldn’t be too embarrassing
He and Frank used to be good friends
I didn’t want to run the risk of talking about how well our business is doing
Well, would you look at that
We finished all of yours and some of mine
Whew, I think I have a stomach ache

  • Me

I am hot
I have fought
My tummy is a knot

Am I thirsty?
Am I hungry?
Or am I just grumpy?

My tummy feels funny
And my nose is runny

I ache in all places
And can’t even walk two paces

My throat is soar
And my mouth is dry
I can’t sing even if I try

Mommy gave me Benadryl
Which makes me hazy
But my tummy still felt crazy

Until I get sleepy and out like a light
My tummy ache left after I said goodnight

  • Ivey

My daughter Ivey and I wrote these poems using the prompt Stomachache. Both touch on the effect of affluence. Recent days decluttering her room remind me of writing them. I couldn’t help but notice all this stuff! Some of it unused! Gasp! 

Half of the stuff I need to throw away
It’s been in there too long
No, it’s still good, I’m really just tired of it

Her well-appointed room serves as a microcosm of our culture right down to the two twin beds for one child. (It just looks so good in the Pottery Barn Kids’ catalogs!) We strive to have the latest, while what we have still does the job. How much do we own that we neither need nor enjoy? Affluence, the taskmaster, has the ability to stifle and disorient. 

Richard Foster calls this psychotic and I’m apt to agree. The psychosis lies in the fact that this lust separates us from what’s real.

Am I thirsty?
Am I hungry?
Or am I just grumpy?

In his article “The Discipline of Simplicity,”Foster further surmises “this psychosis permeates our mythology. The modern hero is [one] who purposefully becomes rich rather than [one] who voluntarily becomes poor. Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry.” Believers are then lead on a duplicitous path. 

Matthew 6:24 New Living Translation (NLT)

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

Duplicity convinces us to think we are the car we drive, the neighborhood we reside, our educational level, our accomplishments, where we were born, who we were born to, failures, or financial acquisitions.

Simplicity teaches that those in Christ are a new creation, a royal priesthood, his workmanship, not condemned, an overcomer, a fruit bearer, transformed, His friend.

Be well, Beloved!

Day 3 – Identifying complexities

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Matthew 6:16 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.

Where does my value lie? What gives me worth? For so long, I found my value aligned with my accomplishments. Initially, it was being deemed an academically gifted student and making good grades. The type of company I kept also took part. I wouldn’t dare be friends with those not in my social standing- taking honors classes, same or higher tax bracket, married parents, name brand clothing, etc. I can remember my friends and I covering our notebooks with clothing tags. As if to say, “We’re better and you’re not us. Don’t you wish you were?” We were such snobs!

And while I grew out of that over the years, feeling worthy via accomplishments has remained a constant companion.

Have you ever noticed how your day, time with others, sleep, laughter, forgiveness, are enjoyable when you decide not to worry about the outcome and rest in the moment? Maybe the better question to ask is, “Have you ever had a moment where you decided not to worry about the outcome and rest in the moment?” Some may wonder “how can I with so much to do?” Well, if it helps, I’m doing it right now as I write this piece. I felt led to write even though I have a million other things on my to do list. When anxious feelings and thoughts begin to build, I’m practicing to cast my cares.

Here’s an example:  What am I going to fix for dinner? That pile of clothes isn’t going to fold itself. How is it my family can walk right past the basket repeatedly and ignore it? I know my days are the most flexible but I’m trying to build a business, a blog, write a book, stay current with my medical knowledge, make sure the family calendar is current, remember what they won’t and remind them, and put out daily fires. Oh, how I miss full time patient care. I enjoyed the patient doctor interaction where we both come with needs. Mine- the need to feel helpful, to be heard, to accomplish. Their’s- the need to be helped, heard and accomplish.

God, please help, hear, accomplish! I need you to take this! Guide me to where you want me to be. Give me the strength and grace to endure. Show me the truth. Do what I cannot. Be with me. Hold me. Love me. Inundate me with your peace and joy.

Then He says, “I Am whatever you need.”

 

In order to live simply, we must define the process. The process is internal. The process is personal. The process needs no outside validation. 

John 15:5 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

 

The end result shows outwardly but isn’t showy. 

Matthew 6:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

As stated yesterday, simplicity is intricately woven with liberation. Duplicity does just the opposite. It leads us to use wisdom one minute and fear of what others think the next. Our lives then become unnecessarily complicated with fear and anxiety as parasitic ride alongs.

James 1:5-8New Living Translation (NLT)

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Our desire is to harness the singular focus of having Christ seen and not ourselves.

James 1:16-18 The Message (MSG)

16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

Liberation lies in knowing the end result is not up to us. And for that, I am grateful!

Be well, Beloved!

Day 2 – K.I.S.S.

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Isaiah 26:3 New Living Translation (NLT)

You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Keep It Simple Sweetheart!

During my prayer time, I like to talk to God about our triumphs together. I remember when I was in medical school, married and the mother of an infant. At night, my husband and I took turns studying and babysitting. My dad would would come and stay with us the week before and the week of tests. My father-in-law supplied us with a place to stay and a washer and dryer. That’s not even the summation of all the support we received. Help came to us from family, friends, classmates, church members, and the medical school staff. I am so thankful! God supplied through willing vessels. It gives me joy to remember. I guess that is what rejoicing is all about.

As you can imagine, even with all that support, it was a difficult time. It got even more difficult when we had our second child and we were interns in residency. But despite that, most days I felt peace.

Peace because of freedom.

Freedom to trust.

Freedom to not worry about the outcome.

I knew that we were following God’s direction. That’s the simplified life. The days where peace evaded me occurred when I forgot.

I forgot to keep focus. I forgot He has the last word in EVERYTHING. I forgot:

Psalm 116:6 21st Century King James Version (KJ21)

The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He helped me.

As I mentioned in the “21 Day No Complaint Challenge”, I feel the need to live a more simple life. The more simplicity takes hold the more freedom I experience. There have been too many times where I felt shackled to expectations – both mine and others. 

These expectations have proven-time and time again-to be the antithesis of simplicity and therefore freedom. There is no rejoicing in that.

Philippians 4:4 King James Version (KJV)

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Be well, Beloved!

Day 1 – Simplify

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Proverbs 27:1 New International Version (NIV)

27 Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what a day may bring. 

 

Hello Beloved!

Let’s continue our journey. My plan was to wait until New Year’s but as the license plate exclaims “Why Wait” for tomorrow is not promised. Plus, let’s not lose momentum from the “No Complaint Challenge.”

In preparation for writing about “Adventures in Simplification,” (sounds like a math book) it was going to be another 21-day journey. 

 Not this time. 

 This time we’re going to be more dynamic and organic. We’re going to experience and enjoy life by not focusing on details but on living freely and simply. I will not place expectations on you, nor you me.

If it ends up being 21 days, so be it.

Don’t misunderstand, discipline is always needed. Life is filled with entropy and work is needed to keep life simple. Over the next few days, let’s explore what that work entails.

Be well, Beloved!