The Simple Pencil

It’s been said that back in the 1960s during the space race, NASA spent a whack load of government money on designing a pen that would write in zero gravity. After all, how will ink run down a page if there is no gravity to pull it that way? How would the astronauts make notes on all the scientific stuff they had to do up there? A new and improved writing instrument must be designed! The Russian astronauts took a simpler approach: they used a pencil.

Photo: Yoann Siloine

All joking aside, I was musing this week about the simple pencil. I’m not sure why… it just happened to come to my brain. So, I looked it up. Faber-Castell, the who’s who of pencils, has been producing top-quality pencils for over 257 years. The leads (both coloured and the typical grey) are made with a clay-graphite mixture that is mixed, dried and basically glued between a sandwich of wood. The wood has to be strong enough to not snap under the weight of the writer’s hand, yet flexible enough to bend slightly for the stroke of the letter. That wood can be shaped in the round, hexagonal or square shape that we all know and love. Not to mention, sharpened to the perfect “tip”. Final exam writers, rejoice!

I love a sharp pencil. It just evokes great memories of the start of something new. A blank canvas if you will. Plus, it makes for remarkable colouring and shading. (re mark able — see what I did there?) Anyway… Have you ever thought about a simple pencil and the possibilities it holds? A funny little muse, isn’t it? Did all sumptuous writers think about the ink or the pen or the pencil they used? Plain paper or ruled? A notebook? Does everyone use a keyboard now? Have we lost touch with the true art of letter writing and letter making? They don’t even teach penmanship in schools anymore (and believe me, it shows!)

The ancient scriptures are one of the most unique collections of writing on the planet! I have no idea how the writers penned the scrolls… ink? chalk? Graphite pencil? Whatever method they used, we can be assured that the words bring promise and hope from an eternal God who cares for His people. And the simple words are our guides for both now and for all future generations! It always amazes me that the Bible is timeless. People have been reading it for hundreds of years… and the words still ring true. It’s because there is something supernatural immersed in those written words. Psalm 119 tells us it is a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path… our truth and our hope”.

Nothing like a sharp pencil — and the words it can make!

I’m guilty of not diving into the Word enough. There is such richness in the written word, and I don’t take full advantage of it as I should. Perhaps I should write out passages. Does anyone do this? I hear it is a great discipline to adhere to, especially in these days of digital screens. Graphite pencils and loss of handwriting skills be banished! Please share in the comments if you’ve tried this. I’d love to hear how it impacted you! Perhaps you’ve journalled with coloured pencils and brought scriptures to life. Share!

And so, my faith journey continues as I think about simple things and how they influence the complex. Oh, and that thing about the space pen? Apparently, some guy named Paul C. Fisher did spend millions in developing what later became known as “the space pen”… which uses a pressurized cartridge to make the ink flow. Even the Russians began using them. Who knew? We earthlings can purchase one for about $50. Maybe I should get one for jotting down sermon notes. Nah, I’ll stick with the simple pencil.

Facebook Mom

In case you didn’t know, people lie on the internet. Social media is full of half truths, doctored statements and photoshopped images. Just in case you didn’t know, your mom is the only one who will honestly tell the truth about you. I’ve also become quite proficient at “creeping out” potential suitors for my teenagers. So be warned, my beloveds. (If you don’t know what that means…nevermind). And since my mom is not on social media, I can say that, without the consequences falling down on me. It won’t be long, though. Grandmas have had the highest percentage of growth in social media over the last four years — tripling their usage during that time. Heaven knows I admit to watching a few of those viral grandma TikToks. So much for the mom warnings of “too much screens”.

I’m going to blame it on this crazy 2020 year of global pandemics and killer viruses. Streaming has become the only “safe” thing to do. Throw out the notions of fresh air, hands-on learning and human connection, our brains must now process only through flashed images, text and emojis. No longer do we benefit from multigenerational gatherings and mentoring from the generation before. Parenting groups and “Friends” dominate our feeds… 75% of young parents use social media and turn to it for parenting advice. We Google before we call our mother. No longer can we worship corporately or pray at the altars. Please email your requests, or use the appropriate hashtag: #churchonline

Obviously, you can see what I’ve been musing about this week. Like many of you, I’m getting tired of online school, Zoom meetings and “nothing to do” but watch Netflix. Not that Netflix is complaining… their users have admitted to watching 80% more during this year than pre-Covid. It’s a new world and heaven help you if you can’t keep up. The hubby shared some interesting stats with me this week from today’s marketers:

  • the world wide population in December 2019 is pegged at 7.8 billion people; the internet has 4.54 billion users
  • on average, a person has almost 8 social media accounts
  • we spend an average of 142 minutes a day on those accounts
  • 78% of people who complain about a brand on Twitter expect a response within an hour
  • Google processes an average of 40 000 queries every second! 15% of those have never been asked before
  • there are an estimated 270 million fake Facebook accounts
  • people now watch 1 billion hours of YouTube videos every day
  • the most liked Instagram picture is of an egg (whoo hoo…see… chickens are lit)
world record breaking egg via PetaPixel

Those are staggering statistics. No wonder I hardly have any followers… they are all looking at pretty eggs and YouTube… or maybe grandmas on TikTock. Who wants to read about me and my faith journey? Or are Jesus followers lagging behind? I suspect this 2011 stat has changed drastically since March of 2020, but back then, only 60% of protestant churches in the US were using any forms of social media networks for the “promotion” of church. True, there is a lot of bad stuff out there. A lot. But how will the light shine through the darkness if we are hiding it under the proverbial bushel basket?

I get it. Technology is hard. It changes fast. And there is some sort of balance we need to reach between filling our minds with good and pure things… and just filling our minds. Admittedly, there is not much Bible based stuff out there… comparatively speaking… and what is out there is lacking. Yet, the trends are changing. The newer, younger generation is gifted and used to life via the almighty screen. I’m encouraged by scripture posts and media streaming filled with “good” content. Perhaps God has given us a pandemic to kick start us into finding new ways to share the Gospel. Businesses have had to adapt their “marketing”… why shouldn’t the church?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I say these things, but I will be the first to admit that I’m terrible at technology. I’d love to learn how to create new Instagram Reels or YouTube instructional videos… but that takes time. And I struggle with my time already getting sucked into social media. I’m just as guilty of scrolling away my downtime as anyone else. Like any other discipline, though, I suppose learning new technology could be worthy of that time. Should I eat my own words? Am I part of the problem? Will my introvert self overcome my own fears for the sake of pressing the church into the 21st century? Okay. Maybe not.

I guess, like all parts of this faith journey, technology and the use of it will be another small step. I want to see more … I want to use it more for God’s Glory, but it’s one of those grey areas that can so easily entrap. 4.54 billion Internet users though…. What do you think? Share with me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter



Thanks to brandwatch.com and Facts&Trends for the stats in this week’s post!

Technical Difficulties

Well my friends, this post is going to be late. Apologies to those who read early on Tuesdays, but it just is what it is. I wanna say that I had “technical difficulties” and there was trouble uploading or downloading or syncing or something. Truth is, I’m just lazy and never got around to posting until now. But for the sake of saving my blogging status, let’s just say that there were technical difficulties, okay?

It’s what I’ve been musing about a little this week. That weird and wonderful subject again: technology. It’s a topic I chat about now and then, not because I am a big fan, nor am I techno-savvy or in anyway an expert, but because I am just the opposite. Self taught and struggling through. Our world is so automated now. Especially in this 2020 pandemic: Zoom chats, iphone messages, and let’s just take a moment to ponder how many students are now being educated via a screen! Bless your hearts, educators who have stepped up and had to put yourself out there “online” for all to see. If you saw my “unboxing” in last week’s post, you’ll note that technology (especially videos) are really not my thing. Leave me a printed note and this girl’s a happy clam. But, I digress.

The Mitton crew had a moment last week where we did have some technical difficulties, however. Minor, for sure, but our computer “upgraded” and suddenly we were locked out of our usual password. After numerous tries (why do we always check? It’s like pressing the elevator button over and over — it doesn’t make it work faster but we are convinced it does) we finally ended up changing the password and moving on. I’m positive ya’ll have experienced this in one form or another. Or you need to access an account you rarely visit and have forgotten the password? Or they make you change it — oh, and not to one you have used in the past, oh no, it must be new, with 8 letters and a symbol, but not an uppercase letter, nor your mother’s maiden name but contain the number 3 and be linked to your first pet… you get the picture.

I know, I know, Computer systems are there to help. Just think of all the advances we have made since the internet! Efficiency is the goal. Fast speeds and 5G’s. And it’s not the computer program’s fault if something glitches, it’s the user’s error, right? I’m learning a new system at work, and am struggling to remember the “steps” to get to certain screens. I know the information I want is there and available — but how do I access it? You hear me, right? I’m not alone here, right? All these thoughts have been swimming in my head this week and I’ve been trying to make connections (literally!). Are computer systems like our spiritual walk? We serve a perfect God who has all sorts of information available to us if we only knew how to take the correct steps. We are fallible humans who fall one too many times into the category of “user error”. We get “locked out” of blessings and joys because we haven’t linked in recently to the program and God’s plan for us.

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Perhaps you’re debating the pros and cons of physical, real life connections versus “online”. Does God still work via the internet? I hope so, or this blog is not worth my time. Are you and your church leaders struggling to serve your communities “from a distance”? Should you open up the building or continue on YouTube? Are you a parent trying to plan for a safe return to school, but still being supportive of your teachers and your child’s friends? I want things to be different. I want things to be “real” and not the polished Instagram version of faith. I want to have truth and not algorithm based “likes”. Yet, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I’m limiting God too much. Surely He works above and beyond the confines of the internet. Of course the one who created the universe is not limited by digital glitches and binary systems. My faith is small. For Christ does not have “technical difficulties”. May you and I both be encouraged by that thought this week.