You are “Here”

Welcome back to another week of the weird way I think. Can I start by saying I appreciate you reading my quirky little posts? It helps to know that someone, somewhere, thought about the same things I think about and took time to comment. It gets noted in my heart. Today is a rainy, chilly day in the depths of October. The weekend, though, was beautiful — and we reveled in the warmth of a delightful fall Saturday and Sunday! Guess life is about balances, eh? We met friends (yeah for meeting friends again!!) and found a new walking trail to explore with the dog. Which is where I start my muse for this week. Have you ever been to a new location and about to start out on a journey and you consult the official map board posted at the entrance? They have them in the mall, provincial parks, large buildings, amusement parks… those signs that say this trail is 45 minutes long and loops around the pond, or your favourite shoe store is next to the donut shop on floor 2, or the five public washrooms are located here, here, here and here and here, but there is only one that is family friendly, and it’s back at the entrance….

One thing that all those map signs have in common is the “you are HERE” spot. That red dot or arrow indicating the location you are standing at right now. The central location you currently understand — and the spot in which you navigate the rest of your journey from. That little dot is your orientation. It’s your point of beginning. It’s also sometimes your final destination! The goal you want to get back to after the day of exploring. And so I began to muse… where is “here” in life? Where are you “at” right now, compared to the big map board of your journey? Big questions. Perhaps big answers.

My searching didn’t help much in answering the big questions of life. I did find a little tidbit of random information, though, about the “@” symbol…. commonly called “at” in modern day computer language… originally penned by medieval monks, the symbol became standard in commerce in the 1800’s to mean “at the rate of”. It wasn’t until 1971 that a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson needed a way to connect his computer programmers to one another…and “randomly” chose the obscure symbol on his typewriter. The rest is email history, as they say! Bloggers will tell you it’s where they are “@”. Okay. Moving on.

Let’s go back to where we are at. The “we are here” dot. Are you happy where you are? I think about this a lot. I like to set goals, but I find I rarely meet them. Am I content? There’s a big theological discussion waiting to happen.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Philippians 4:11

What did Paul mean when he says that he has learned to be content? Was he financially secure with investments to keep him happy well into retirement? Or was he simply sharing thanks for the gifts the Philippians sent him? Does it mean we can’t ask for more? Should we be striving for more? The verses before remind us to “present your requests to God” and “think on things that are noble and true”. I don’t know. I am HERE. On this dot. Yes, I can be content here, with God’s help and blessing. Perhaps this is where He wants me to be for now, in order to serve a greater purpose in His plan that I don’t know about. I’ve been thinking about Hannah — who wanted a son so bad it ached. Was it wrong for her to pour her heart out to God in prayer? Was it her faith that God would answer her prayers that led to Samuel’s birth? Should she have been content to be greatly loved by her husband and not need more? Her husband thought so.

As usual, I don’t have all the answers to such questions. I struggle with them too. Yet, I think it is important to take note of the “you are here” dot in life. To look at the big board and figure out if you can go around the pond and still make it back to the “you are here” dot in time for lunch. Or should you wait here and not go to the donut store on floor 2? Are you looking at the map, my friend? Are you staring at the possibilities with excitement? Or are you learning to be content “@” home base? Where people know where to reach you. It’s all part of the journey, and worth the muse.

I Challenge You!

Finally had a little break from the busy work schedule of last week! I escaped North to visit the oldest beloved. It means I will have lots of work to do when I get back home, so it may not really be too much of a break, but for now, I am relishing the quiet. An introvert needs her time to recoup, you know!

Today, we worshiped at her church… a younger crowd of Jesus followers meeting together to praise the Lord with a little more flash and flourish than I am used to, but a great Bible based message was given, and I am thankful she has found a place where her faith can continue to grow away from home. The pastor’s sermons are relevant connections to the group living there, intended for their special circumstances and neighbourhood. It is different from ours at home… and that is okay. Which got me thinking about an activity I saw in a classroom about a month ago.

The teacher had a bulletin board displayed with challenges that the students made up for their peers to attempt. Simple things like “write a poem like me”, or “play the game I made for you to try” or “make up a cool emoji to use to describe your feelings”. My understanding is, that it was an exercise to create some student choice, as well as an activity that allowed the students to interact and learn from their peers. I thought it was quite a noble concept for public school — and got me thinking about the world as a whole.

I have many friends who have chosen to home school their children. Others who choose to send their children to private or religion based schools. When our eldest was born, we explored various options as well — even considering Montessori learning. As parents, we want the best education possible for our kids. We also want our values and culture to be relevant and present in the lives of our beloveds as well. For many of us, this includes our faith. Especially at a stage where their development is so poignant to their future lives. Let’s face it – whatever we have exposure to when we are young, we tend to use as part of our future lives also.

But let’s get back to trying to condense my muse into something more concrete. I guess what I am trying to say, is that no matter what our background, no matter what our culture, no matter where we grew up, or what kind of life we have led, we come to the cross on the same level. Yet — we need to learn from — and be challenged by — our fellow humans. Our peers. Different cultures. Different methods of learning. Different methods of worship. To use our five senses in worship, thus allowing our faith to grow in whole body, soul, mind and spirit. Fellow students of Biblical learning, challenging one another in love, to go beyond what we know, to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron. It’s a Biblical concept that instructs us to learn from each other, to meet together to fellowship, to share ideas and grow in our relationships. It’s part of who God made us to be. The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s day knew the law — but Jesus was always challenging them to live out what they learned… with grace and love.

I will be the first to admit that this is not easy for me. I am quick to be negative. I am quick to criticize this or that as not a “proper” method of worship. I, too, have my own biases and preferences. Therefore, I too, must do my research and discover if something is simply tradition, or is it a biblical practice? Can I learn from my peers and be challenged to try something different? Do I choose to hide from the “grey areas” of the faith world and not engage in discussions about difficult topics? Can I learn from someone else’s background? Or worse, will it strengthen my children’s faith by allowing them to be exposed to hard questions? To be confronted by their friends? Or do I hide and protect them from it all? It’s not an easy answer. Are you up for the challenge? I’d love to hear from you! In what ways have you been called to give an answer by others? Has it been easy or hard? Share in the comments!

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….