When Robots take over The Church

Over the holidays, I started reading an interesting book entitled “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly. It claims to help us understand “the 12 technological forces that will shape our future.” Interesting enough. I am not quite through it yet, but am always up for learning something new, so what the heck. Kelly is a techno big wig, and I am not, so I am breezing through the jargon and trying to glean insight as I go. Grains of salt and all that…

I have already stumbled through Chapter 2, entitled “Cognifying”… a technical force involving artificial intelligence (that means machines that can think — for those of us over age 25… ahem…) and am stuck on the following quote from pg. 37:

“Every time you type a query, click on a search-generated link, or create a link on the web, you are training Google AI. When you type Easter Bunny into the image search bar and then click on the most Easter Bunny looking image, you are teaching the AI what an Easter Bunny looks like.”

2016. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly pg. 37

And so, I muse… what are we teaching Google about GOD?!

Most of the visionary thinkers of our day say that technology is here to stay. We rely on it daily, hourly, even minute by minute in some cases. The next generation won’t know what life was like without the internet. Google, Alexa and Siri have become our best friends. I check my phone before I eat breakfast. Rightly or wrongly, the constant “feeds” are shaping our future… and our spirituality.

Kelly says that technology moves us forward by a force he calls “Becoming”. It is not that technology is driving us to something improved… but something entirely new. Our views are evolving and growing and eventually will change the present thoughts and opinions into something entirely different. Could this be true of our vision of God? Of the church? Of salvation? Of our morality?

Are you prepared for the technology that is changing our view of spirituality?

I am certainly no expert, and I don’t have any definitive answers to my technological muse, but I do know, through simple observation, that the average 7 year old has more knowledge of what Fortnight is than who Jacob and Esau are. So what are we to do? How do we catch the inevitable train and be sure to add spiritual insights to the list of stops?

Number one, I think we have to be aware. Be present. Try and understand. Know that the future will be shaped by this never ending force we call technology. Never stop learning. Unfortunately, our churches are way, way behind. We need to catch up. And Fast.

Perhaps your church has the technological budget and know how to be current in today’s fast paced world. Good for you! But do we then just go crazy with technology and let robots take over our pulpits… since they are going to anyway? Who’s idea of morality is correct? Who gets to make the decisions? No easy answer there, either.

Max Tegmark, an “expert” from MIT, says that before we let AI take complete control, we have to make sure we get it right — the first time. He says we need to certainly be pro active versus reactive. We must make sure that our moral and spiritual goals are aligned with what the robots are going to tell us (because, yes, eventually, they will indeed be smarter than us…)

For example, when technology advanced and we got cars, (and then faster cars) we learned from our mistakes and created seat belts, traffic lights and highway speed limit laws. According to Tegmark, we must think of the mistakes first and plan for them accordingly. I hope I am well equipped. I fear, however, that I am not.

What about you? Do you feel you are equipped for when Robots take over your church? Has your church taken steps to follow the technology movement? Let me know your thoughts….

How to Re-pot a Cactus (Without Getting Poked!)

Re-potting CactiGreetings!  It’s been a hectic week and I am just catching up on a few things (like laundry and housecleaning… what an exciting life I lead, eh?).  We are almost into our third week of our 30 Days of Blessings challenge and I am being so encouraged by how people are being blessed!  One of the challenges we recently enjoyed was to discover all about plants!  Now, I am no green thumb, but I do like plants.  It’s just crazy how diverse they are.  So many colours, shades and textures.  I garden a bit… but I’m really too lazy to tend the land a whole lot.  Houseplants are my jive.  I don’t have the space for a jungle, but we do have a few potted beauties hanging around.  The recent prompt encouraged me to buy two more little succulents… they are all the rage right now!  Seriously… How many Instagram pics have you seen with that tiny green thing on the perfectly clean office desk?  It’s so unreal, people.  Do computer desks look like that?  Not mine.   Although I must say, one of my new little guys looks like he needs some googly eyes and a sombrero… it’s so funny!

succulents are fun!

I have a few other succulents, too, which I love to share as they are so easy to propagate.  If you need some help with that, you can read about my simple teacher’s gifts here.  I once “adopted” an Aloe Vera plant that was huge when I got it.  I have shared that one so many times that I only have a few sprigs (apparently the correct term is “pups”) left.  I will have to leave it alone for awhile to grow back.  But, I digress, we are here to talk about my cacti!  I received two little cacti as a souvenir from Arizona.  The hubby brought them back from a trip he took several years ago.  Recently, they were beginning to look a little sad.  One was definitely leaning over (yes, I stuck an old knitting needle in the soil to prop it up!) The other was starting to spot a tad in the middle where it had touched the other one.  They had grown too big for the shallow dish they were in and needed to be re-potted for more space… only issue… they are very prickly!!

I had tried once before to re-pot my cactus using tongs to prop it up and some gloves… but the spines went through the gloves!  Someone told me a towel would work… but the spines stuck in the towel.  And so… YouTube became my friend once again.  A lovely expert from California (all things cacti there!) re-potted a huge, tall, spiky beast using bunched up newspaper… and voila!  It worked!   I carefully dug around the bottom with a fork and used my oven mitts and some crunched up newspapers to lift the cactus out.  It’s pot partner immediately flopped over in shear depression at the thought of being left alone forever — but was soon rescued as well, and placed back with it’s beloved in a new home.  Unfortunately, because I had procrastinated moving them so long, the roots had grown slightly sideways, so the plants are still slightly leaning and currently propped up again.  I am hoping with more room to grow, they will grow fat and healthy!  Newspaper hugs did the trick!newspaperhugs

What about you, my friend?  Ever get stuck in a pot too small for your liking, but too afraid of getting poked to move on?  Ever feel like you are being prompted for something bigger, somewhere you can bloom and flourish,  but doubts and fears keep you leaning over because you’ve procrastinated too long?  Or are you afraid to get poked by people who want to see you fail?  The Bible tells us to “Be Strong!  Be fearless!  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you.  He won’t let you down and He won’t abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 (CEBA))  How encouraging!  I know, I know, you are right — easier said than done.  So how do we turn the hard parts to our advantage?  Take the example of our plants.  Even though the spines are added protection for the plant, cacti use their spikes to retain water as well — a necessary resource in the desert (because they lack leaves).  Our struggles often produce defensive spikes that keep our predators at bay.  We must learn that even though times are tough, our defenses can become our greatest assets.  They help us survive in the desert of life.

Sometimes, we forget.  We get stabbed with the consequences when we are not protected.  I got a jab by one tiny spine through my oven mitt as I propped up my leaning cactus without the added protection of the newspapers.  I tried to do it on my own.  When our Godly defenses are down, we sometimes react without being properly guarded.  And it hurts… let me tell ya!  So use your newspaper to wrap one another in love.  Hug a cactus with all the encouragement and grace you can find!  Cushion them with space and then gently lift them forward.  Only then can you begin to see them flourish and bloom in their new space!  bloom & flourish

Emily

I met a little girl named Emily today.  I really can’t tell you much about her, except that she wore a purple, fleece, zip up hoodie with unicorns on it, and was in the grade one/two split class I visited this morning.  I don’t know her last name, I don’t know who her parents are or where she lives.  I don’t know anything about her home life or what her reading level is.  In fact, I don’t even remember her answering questions on the carpet or visiting my center.  She wasn’t one of those keen to learn students with her hand up in the front row, who smiled pretty when she answered the right questions.  She wasn’t even one of those kids in the back row who wasn’t paying attention either.  She didn’t poke or giggle with her friends like a typical grade one elementary schooler.  She seemed to be “just Emily.”

Come to think of it, this little invisible girl only appeared on my radar after the class was over and I was busily packing up my equipment to head home.  The rest of the class was tired and hungry and eager to get on to the lunchroom.  They had obviously had a delightfully engaging morning — full of hands on science and learning, taught expertly by yours truly.  (Ahem! 🙂 ) They had even given up their class snack time to learn!  Emily, however, seemed to doddle about busily nibbling on a cucumber slice that her teacher had given her earlier from the class lunch bin.  Her mousy, long brown hair was disheveled slightly and wisps of it got in the way of her field of vision,  the way it does for a grade one girl who seems to be forging her own way in life.

microscope

She casually sauntered up to me, brushed aside her hair and inquired about my bins.  Where did all the things come from?  Where was I going now?  Did I live at the science centre?  I politely answered her curious questions and began to shoo her off to lunch with her friends.  Emily had other plans, though.   She picked up one of my microscopes and proceeded  to “help” clean up.  (ack! …slight panic… heavy, expensive equipment slung about by a seven-year-old is a disaster waiting to happen!  It’s one of those things they tell you about in classroom management courses!)  “Oh, no, no, my friend… thank you for your help… but off you go to lunch now…” As I gently removed the microscope from Emily’s grip, I hear an assistant say that Emily is not listening — again.

Suddenly, I feel the need to rethink my purposes.  It’s probably true.  Emily probably doesn’t listen much to instructions.  She probably doesn’t follow the rules easily.  Maybe she doesn’t sit and do all her homework and hang her coat on the hook.  She probably forgets to her to change her indoor shoes and tie back her untamed locks.  But at this very moment, Emily wants to help.  And so I let her.  I ask her to collect all my pencils and stack the pencil bins so they fit together.  I ask her to pile the books so I can pack them away.  We spend the next minute or so tidying up together.

I don’t remember the moment Emily decided to go off to lunch.  Suddenly she was invisible again… a purple unicorn hoodie blur in the mass of grade ones and twos filing out the door.  Dumbfounded for a moment, I was struck by the realization that we so often meet Emilys.  People seemingly invisible — but there.  The cashier at the grocery store.  The elderly man on the bus.  The teenager plugged in to headphones at the back of the class.  Do we take the time to simply engage them when the spark of opportunity arrives?  A smile as they open the door for us?  A thank you when they hand us our bags?Emily

Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.  A unique image crafted with personalities so complex and diverse.  None of us are the same.  And yet, we function somehow as a whole. We strive, like Emily, to do a little good now and then.  Even when it is hard to follow the rules.  My little moment with Emily taught me, that maybe, just maybe, the key to engagement is not always in grand productions full of magic and wonder.  It’s often not in the polished presentation with flash cards and perfectly laminated worksheets.  Perhaps it is simply taking the time to answer a few curious questions, and the chance to be polite to those invisible strangers as they reach out and stack a few pencil bins for us.

 

 

 

 

Extra! Extra! Read all About it!

Welcome to the special weekend edition of mittonmusings!  My weekend has been super busy already!  In fact, I am plum tired out ! (or is it plumb?… fruit or copper fixtures…neither get tired…I am confused…hmmn…will have to muse about strange idioms one day…)  Nevertheless!  I just wanted to let you in on the reason why I have been working so hard.  I am super excited that our 30 Days of Blessings! challenge is completed and ready to launch on Monday, Oct. 15th!  That is only two days away!

I have been working on and praying about it for some time now and really want it to fly!  To launch and soar from the nest to heights unknown — like a baby bird discovering it’s wings for the first time…. okay, okay, you get the picture…  Lemme just ask you to pray that all the learning curves work out and that the daily emails get sent as planned!  If you will remember, the purpose of starting this blog was to learn technology.  This challenge is a continuation of that goal, but has blossomed into a true heart ministry for me.  I have been promoting it like crazy around Facebook, and hoping that lots of friends sign up.  We’ve teamed up with my local church and they are backing me up as we reach our community here at home.   And so, please take this as your personal invitation to join us as well!  I would so love for my blogging community of friends to join in the fun.  30 Days of Blessings!Coming Monday!

The challenge will be a daily prompt or thought to help us focus on a way to be blessed or to bless others.  I have already learned so much through the preparation, that I can’t wait to see what will happen when we launch!  A word of caution though… be prepared for some spiritual push back… Satan doesn’t want to see our fruit flourish!  I have already been feeling the doubts creep in.  I’ve been emotionally scattered and tired.  Yet, I know that our great big God is in control, and He is just waiting to use us to make a big impact in our communities.  Will you join us?  Will you stand with me and take up the challenge?  Follow our link below to sign up, and we will see you on Monday!   Happy weekend from the Mitton crew 🙂


30 Days of Blessings!

Epic Felting Fail

Life is back into full swing here, and the lazy days of summer are dwindling away.  Unfortunately for me, that means less time for leisurely activities like crafting.  Before all that disappears though, I wanted to share with you one of my big crafting tragedies.  My epic fail.  My fibre flop.  My defeated disaster.  Perhaps it will encourage you.  If not, well, I might just make it to a Pinterest fail compilation, for “I nailed it”  — not.FELTFAIL

If you are a Pinterest junkie like me, you will know how easily one can be swayed by the allure of beautiful craft pieces, created by highly skilled individuals displaying their wares.  Or perhaps Instagram is your game… and a perfectly plated dish is drool worthy for you.  Maybe you play it old school and appreciate a fine, handmade quilt tucked away in some quaint antique store; or a fashionista who spends hours finding that perfect accent for your well coordinated outfit.  We are such fickle creatures, aren’t we?  We love to create, and often spend our entire lifetimes perfecting our work.

Which brings me back to my fail.  I recently discovered the delicate art of dry felting.  It involves stabbing raw or “roving” wool with a fine needle until it becomes “felted” or matted together.  By layering colours and textures, detailed works of art can become so lifelike, it is difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not… and the pieces are so adorably cute! I first featured some felting artistry at mittonmusings here.  So, eager to try something new, I found a little felting kit at my local craft store and attempted a rather wonky llama.  He’s not bad, but he doesn’t quite stand.  His little legs are not very sturdy.  Okay for a beginner, I suppose.  More recently, I attempted a petite pig with inspiration from a felting book I was pleased to discover down in the States.  It did not go as well.FELTBOOK

The book’s directions had me lay out all the various parts, and following the preliminary instructions for a “dog body” shape, my cute little piglet should have come together beautifully.  My wool was a little too pink — more candy floss shade — but I was going to blend in some browns and whites to make him him look more realistic.  I could do this, right? Several hours later, after stabbing away at my little foam block and folding and fluffing wool… I had all my shapes ready.

Well… my cotton candied porker was not too well proportioned … and he ended up looking like a sausage shaped cat with lopsided legs.  I attempted to give him a whimsical expression… but my features were too thick and my cat-pig ended up all drag-queen-gone-bad.  Epic fail.  My beloveds tried to encourage me with kind words… but we all managed a laugh as Mr. Pig joined Wonky Llama in my misfit menagerie of sad looking felted friends.  I am afraid it is back to the drawing board for me.Shapes all laid out...things so far so good...

What about you, my friend?  Ever attempt a “creation”?  Are you a fine artist? A crafter?  Are you a fabulous cook, or can you rebuild a car from scratch?  I would love to hear from you!

Alas, my fellow beginners… there is always a lesson in our trials!  Are you encouraged, as I am, that the Bible tells us God doesn’t make mistakes (unlike us!).  It says that God created…  and it was good.  I will say it again:  He doesn’t make mistakes.  No epic fails.  No beginner blunders.  Everything was perfect.  Just as He designed.  We recently visited the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio.  It was a helpful reminder in simply appreciating the vast diversity we have in this created world — from the tiniest creepy crawly to the towering dinosaur of yesteryear.  As a scientist, I can appreciate the subtle and profound differences in a world of creatures.  And I continue to be amazed as the various disciplines peel back the layers of this place that God called “good”.  Oh, my friends… We’ve barely scratched the surface!

But do you want to know what is even cooler than that?! He created us!  You and I were created in the image of the Almighty! He breathed life into dirt and “felted” us together — delicately weaving our personalities, our gifts, our talents, and our passions into something spectacular!  You have been perfectly crafted by the most talented artist of all!

So take heart.  If your llamas are a little wobbly, and your piggies are not quite pudgy… fear not.  Humans have to keep practicing.  God doesn’t.GODPRACTICE

 

 

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

Can you believe how fast the summer is flying by?!  It’s hard to fathom that it is already the last week of August!  Since we just returned from a little road trip to the USA, I thought I would share this late summer musing by blending a bit of American and Canadian content.

Since 1971, August 26th is celebrated in the United States as “Women’s Equality Day” — it commemorates the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the women’s right to vote.  I’ve taken it as an occasion to celebrate the ladies North of the Border as well.  (FYI, “International Women’s Day” is March 8th… perhaps we will celebrate then, too).  We walked along Rosa Parks Street on our recent trip to Cincinnati, and had a wonderful discussion with the kids about her role in Canadian history as well.  Racism. Women’s rights.  Environmental activism.  So many blog topics… so little time!  Let’s just look at one, shall we? Now, I’m not a big women’s libber… but have been musing about this topic since one of the books on my summer reading list was “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

handmaid

The book peaked my interest after seeing advertisements for the American Web TV’s series based on the novel.  I haven’t seen the television series (who’s first airing was in 2017) since my own imagination is probably less graphic than Hollywood’s visionaries… but it triggered my allure to the book, which I discovered was originally published in 1985.  It’s my first book by renowned Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.  The almost eighty-year-old famous Canadian is certainly well known to me, but I’ve never read her books until now!  I was not disappointed.  She is certainly a fine author, and definitely has a way with words.  I was immediately drawn in and devoured the book in less than a week.

The novel is written in the first person according to its main character, Offred.  It is her tale as a captive, fertile woman in the dystopian based realm of Gilead, which was once New England.  (She was captured trying to escape to Canada).  The “handmaids” are forcibly assigned to produce children for the ruling class known as “commanders”.  The handmaid name was borrowed from the biblical story of Rachel and Bilhah, from which Atwood quotes (Genesis 30).  It is not a tale for the faint of heart.  Atwood’s graphic (although brilliant) writing is what obviously sparked the movies and television series.  It is a twisted tale of power, steeped in the fundamentalist perversion of biblical old testament stories.  And so I muse… how many more women think of the Bible in this way?

From what I can gather, Atwood (a self confessed “strict agnostic”) does not see this particular book as a feminist work, but it nonetheless makes mention to the overall thought that women, as portrayed in (especially) the Old Testament Bible, are nothing more than vessels for bearing children.  I have often heard and seen many critiques of the Christian worldview, based on the fact that the Bible often makes references to this, and other “inferior” roles of women.  Does the God of the Bible condone such patriarchal views as Genesis 30? How do we explain the stories of Hosea or Sarah in a #metoo world?

This summer, I had the privilege of sitting under the words of Dr. Marion Taylor, the graduate director for University of Toronto’s Wycliffe college.  This tiny little lady, who got her PhD from Yale, came out on stage in this frocked and flowered dress, and yet spoke with such authority on women, that many of us sat in awe.  Her resounding message stuck with me:  does the righteous and sympathetic way we read the Bible reflect our understanding of how non-believers read the same stories?  Do we see Hosea as an intimate metaphor of Christ and the church, or as an abused wife who is told to love again after abuse?  Do we recognize the poetic language of Esther or Ruth in an ancient world or do we make current cultural flashpoint references in a confused society?

How do you read

As a scientist, wife, and mother of both sons and daughters, and as a believer … I am a complex mix in this world of feminist views.  I am compelled to see the old testament stories with a sympathetic view, and yet not compromise my beliefs that God has created a uniqueness in me, as an intelligent, gifted and competent woman.  I strive to raise my girls (and my boys) to be strong and capable.  I also choose to submit to my husband as the biblical authority in our home as a compatible wife.  Human beings are not perfect.  The old testament stories are prime examples of this.  Once we start to abuse Christ’s ultimate authority, and pervert His plan, it is no wonder we see the characters in the Bible as abused and enslaved.

And so, I must remember to see my bible studies not only as love stories to me, as woman, wife and mother, but to share them with others.  Others who may not yet understand their full identity in Christ as one who is honoured, loved and respected as one made in the image of God.