Stepping out of the loop

My television gets two channels. I thought I was doing pretty well to cancel my expensive subscription to Dish Network and put giant rabbit ears (or as 7-year-old Ben calls them, "antenners") on top of my tv. But I still have DVDs numbering in the dozens, some of which, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, I've seen 20 times. This is a stewardship issue.

I get anxious when my apartment is quiet. Partly it's a coping mechanism, because having a fan running or music playing blocks out, at least in part, the madness that is my downstairs neighbor's stereo. But partly I've trained myself to have ADHD. I struggle to sit still long enough to finish 5 or 6 chapters of my daily Bible reading. I listen to music and watch tv and cook supper and clean my apartment all at the same time, bouncing from one half-finished project to the next. This is a discipline issue.

I check my email obsessively, and have a list of blogs I visit daily. I read news, opinion, and gossip on MSN, Slate, MSNBC, and a host of other sites. I surf for all sorts of information, ranging from airline ticket prices to financial advice to the current situation in India. I play Spider Solitaire every day. This is both a stewardship and a discipline issue.

I'm behind on my school work. I haven't kept up with the reading assignments for a single class, though I've begun them all. Luckily enough for me, the class in which I have to turn in reading reports required a book that sold out in the bookstore, so I got a temporary reprieve from my professor. This is also both a stewardship and a discipline issue.

I overspend every month. My parents have been very kind to me, recognizing that there's only so much a person can do with ten dollars left over after I pay my rent, but I struggle to say no to little purchases: five dollars here, three dollars there, a movie rental, a new candle, gourmet something or other. I plan my finances poorly. Now that I've gotten a new job (Praise God!), I should actually have enough money to make ends meet every month, but only just. My new budget does not include little splurges that I justify, since they're only a few dollars. This is also a stewardship and a discipline issue.

So why have I confessed all this on my blog, publishing my sins in the areas of stewardship and discipline for all to see?

Well, it's because I want you all to know that, in keeping with the tradition of Christians for centuries, I'm taking Lent, which begins on March 1st this year, as an opportunity to step out of the loop. I'm replacing entertainment and aimlessness with edification and focus. So, to accomplish that, tv is out. So are movies. So are internet and computer, with the exception of things related to school and family, and an accountability update on this blog. They'll be replaced with books, first Scripture, then textbooks, and then literature. Good stewardship and discipline will be the goal, with God's help.

I have to admit that the idea of giving up tv and movies sends a little wave of terror through me, but it's that very chill of fear that makes this venture all the more necessary.

So here we go, kids. Beginning Wednesday I'll post an update regularly.

Join me, or pray for me, or both.

Forty days of being out of the loop. What do you think might happen?


Gerard Manley Hopkins

God's Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.



Over my computer is a poster, a map of the world with certain countries highlighted to indicate "Hostile Areas" and "Restricted Nations." It's only a map, a piece of paper with some photos and outlines and letters on it, but it represents hundreds of thousands of believers whose daily lives involve facing torture, imprisonment, and death because they bear the name of Christ.



Chiapas, Mexico






Mindanao, Philippines

North Korea




Sri Lanka
Saudi Arabia


United Arab Emirates




The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed...

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." -- Tertullian

I will write more on this topic later, but for now, pray. I was shaken and sickened as I read through the latest issue of "Voice of the Martyrs" magazine, which came today. Well, I'm sure you know how I feel if you've ever taken the time to find out the situations of believers around the world . . . beaten, tortured, raped, jailed, kidnapped, killed.

Pray. Pray for me as I wait for God's next instruction. Pray for yourself that you might be driven to as strong a sense of urgency about spreading the priceless treasure of the Gospel as our persecuted brothers and sisters. Pray for God's church in the West, that it might be shaken out of its sleep and selfish complacency. And most of all, pray that the blood of the martyrs will not have been spilled in vain, that the Gospel will go out with even more power than ever before as the Enemy tries to rein it in with terror and anguish.

". . . and you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me. . ."