A stack is a term commonly used among computer scientists to describe the collection of tools and technologies that one uses. Stacks, by their very nature stacks are a mix of personal preferences and the core essentials. A famous example of an unusual stack is George R. R. Martin’s writing computer for the Game of Thrones novels. His writing computer is an ancient DOS computer from the 1980s that runs Word Star. While most people may look at this as outdated, he is more comfortable using Word Star for its simplicity. While it is not his primary intention, George R. R. Martin works on an air gaped computer system. His writing stack is not Internet comparable which means he is immune to modern computer viruses and hackers. The DOS machine also protects his attention as he is able to write on a computer without the distractions that come with an Internet connection.
Computer programmers and writers have custom designed stacks for their needs. So what is preventing us from having a custom designed spiritual stack? After all it is impossible for technology not to interact with our spirituality. Sure some people may use old technology but they still use technology. If we own or even use a Bible, we are making use of some type of technology. This holds not only for electronic Bibles and audio Bibles but also paper Bibles. Even a series of clay tablets written with a stick would be making use of the technology of writing.
So I ask you: what is in your spiritual stack? What technologies do you use in your spiritual life? I assume you are using a Bible of some shape or form. This may be supplemented by another book be it a daily devotional booklet, hymnal or formal prayer-book. You may use a calendar, planner or to-do list to help keep yourself focused. There are also various newsletters you can sign up and either get them in your postal mailbox or your email inbox. You may also make use of some type of inspirational artwork or other materials. This may take the form of religious Icons, posters, or desktop wallpaper. You may have meaningful Bible verses cross-stitched on a pillow, a wooden plaque or post-it notes. Who knows you may have taken Deuteronomy literally and written Bible verses on your door frames and fence posts. We are surrounded with ways that we can make use of technology to benefit ourselves spiritually. Yet all too often we get hung up on the negative that we lose sight of the positive. So please take the time to reflect upon the ways that technology can and has already blessed your spiritual life.
“The Internet is like alcohol. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect.” ~ Esther Dyson
When it comes to the role that material objects in our lives, computers are one of the most complicated. While a computer is a physical object, it is primarily a gateway into the more abstract digital world. So when it comes to a more focused and simple life, computers can be either a blessing and or a curse. It all comes down to how one interacts with computers. More likely than not computers are a mixed blessing in your life that at times both helps and hinders you.
At their best computers are powerful tools that make our lives easier. When used mindfully computers can greatly improve our lives for the better. The modern minimalist movement was only made possible by laptop computers and smartphones. Think about all the devices that a laptop computer and smartphone can replace … alarm clock, bookcase, camera, CD player, DVD player, filing cabinet (via computer scanner) GPS, library card, television and video camera. This alone allows one to not only save space but also money thanks to the virtue of the multipurpose nature of computers. Computers also allow us to streamline our workflow to get more done in record time. Not to mention how much information computers can store which rivals even the most advanced paper filing system. Digital file storage is also easy to backup which greatly lower the risk of losing things. Of course, this is not to say that computers are not double edged. If one is not organized in their file storage structure computers can enable a new level of disorder. Information is only useful if it can be found in a timely manner when needed. Digital clutter and disorder can multiply much faster than physical clutter in our lives. Not to mention computers can also make it possible to lose things faster than ever before if one neglects to keep proper backups. Finally, computers can only help one be more productive when they are used mindfully. Digital distractions unfortunate allow us to take procrastination to a new level.
As a society, we have reached the point that it is unrealistic to avoid computers due to their potential pitfalls. Thus as Christians, our spiritual lives need to be inclusive of computers. Anything that plays a large role in our lives has the potential to help or hinder us spiritually. Ideally, our spiritual approach to computers should be positive and focus on the strengths. So what are some ways that computers can support your spiritual life?
It is not uncommon for people to view single friends as a problem that needs to be fixed. The feeling that singleness needs to be fixed is especially common around Valentines Day. These attempts to help set up people who they see as having potential with each other are well-meaning. The debate over how helpful this is another matter that I am not going to address here. What I am is that this efforts to get new people interacting with each other. This of course results in a lot of first impressions being made.
First impressions leave a lasting impact on one’s views of others. This is especially the case when we are told something about the person before we meet them. Given that what we know in advance will determine how we approach the other person. In the same way, first impressions also play an important role in how we relate to God. In that, the initial way that somebody introduces us to God has a profound and lasting effect on our view of God. So this got me thinking about how obvious the messed up nature of the anxious bench is in this context. The Bible has many different images used to describe God, including a king, judge, parent, and spouse. This is because different people and cultures find some images more helpful than others. The image of God as a lover is currently one of the more helpful Biblical images in our culture.
So let us consider a single man who a friend is trying to help him find a meaningful relationship. The friend starts to tell him about a certain wonderful local woman as an ideal match. He goes on to tell his friend not only how beautiful she is but also how she is a very loving person that is full of compassion. On top of that, she is playful and very fun to be around which makes her the most desirable available woman in town. So far everything sounds great, right? He then mentioned that there is just one little thing that his friend should know about. She has a short violent temper when it comes to rejection or her partner looking at other women. He goes on to caution his friend that it is very important not to ever consider breaking up with her. In fact simply passing over her now for another woman would be just as bad as she already knows that you are single. In the past, she has described as going berserk and lashing out big time against the last guy that scorned her. People say that she kicked him hard enough to knock him to the ground. Then once he was on the ground she continued to kick and stamp on him with her heels. Yet that was only the beginning as she then hauled him off to a hidden room in her basement and chained him to a wall. Rumor is that she has a whole room filled with loser guys that she makes sure to torture every night. Yet the friend reassured that it is nothing that he should be concerned about. As she is such a wonderful woman and her love is so great that it is unlike anything else that a man can experience. At this point, I am sure most people would feel that crazy, lunatic and or psychopath would be a more accurate description of her. In fact, they would likely question their friend’s sanity. As what type of person would insist that a person whose actions come off as so messed up is actually a very loving and compassionate person?
This is the reality of how the anxious bench distorts the image of God. The anxious bench twists one’s perception of God into that of a monster that demands to be viewed as loving and compassionate. This is what most evangelism efforts come off as thanks to the use of the anxious bench. So it makes perfect sense why a growing number of people do not want to have anything to do with the church. In my opinion, the biggest tragedy of American church history was the rise of the anxious bench. This is why it is essential to reevaluate how we talk about God to others. As the last thing that we want to do is to give somebody a negative first impression of God.
“If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.” ~ Foster Huntington
“Do you enjoy God’s Word more than television? More than the Internet? More than your phone? If you find yourself turning off the television, unplugging from the Internet, or ignoring your phone to study the Bible, you have developed a healthy addiction. That’s a true expression of how much you value God’s Word.” ~ Christy Bower