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….

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