Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let the fasting continue

It's been a week since my first fast. A week with no fasting. A fast from fasting, if you will.

It was lovely.

However, my week-long fast from television made such an impact on me (I'm watching Extreme Home Makeover as I type this post) that I decided another fast was in order.

I'm going to up the ante a bit this time and fast from something I like even more than television: sweets. I'm going to give up all dessert/candy/snack/cake/sugary goodness type foods. No more cookies, no more donuts, no more chocolate, no more happiness.

For some of you, this may not seem so difficult. That's because you don't work in a church.

Let me explain something to you about working in a church. People are always dropping by the office and about 87% of the time they leave something sweet behind. I mean, I would tell them that donuts and cookies don't count as a tithe but I can't because my mouth is full of sugary perfection.

Also let me tell you that I was raised on dessert. Don't get me wrong, my mom was a great cook and always had well-balanced meals for us, but I could also always count on dessert. I'm used to eating something sweet after meals, especially dinner.

I have so many opportunities to eat sweets. As I write this, I am realizing how bad of an idea this fast is.

The fast begins tomorrow. My first day back to sweets will be Monday, August 30th.

Expectations:
-I'm going to really want sweets the entire week
-I'm going to find some sort of healthy replacement for sweets (smoothies come to mind)
-Someone is going to randomly make puppy chow (perhaps my favorite sweet) and I won't be able to eat it

Wish me luck. I dare you to join me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Life begins again

Well, tonight is the last night of the fast and let me tell you, I am a completely changed person!




Okay, so maybe not.


But I will say I am glad I fasted and there will be some changes in my television viewing habits.

First off, as far as my predictions go, I was pretty much spot on. I wrote more (this is the third blog post in a week--that's gotta be a record), I read more (including getting a jump on my reading for school starting in dos weeks), I spent more time with Julie, I did get bored and had momentary lapses of thinking the fast was a stupid idea. I will say that I never forgot about the fast and slipped up. The closest I came to watching TV this week was seeing the screens inside a BW3's as we drove by and walking through a room with a TV on several times (I did laugh at a joke I heard, please don't judge me).

I had written that my goal was simply to create space and see what I filled it with. For the most part, this was the most disappointing part of the fast. Although it's true that I did read more, I did write more, yada yada, I also wasted time in other ways. I didn't even waste time in novel ways. Just bumming around the interwebs, checking out CNN.com and ESPN.com and fastgames.com and blah blah blah. If I could do the week over again, I would be more intentional about spending the freed-up time in more intentional pursuits.

The highlight of the week was opting out of watching Friends on TV with a group of people to share a great conversation with two real friends. I'd like to think I would have chosen this even without the fast, but the fast gave me no choice, and it was great to connect for a good half hour at least with two good friends.

As far as what impact this week will have looking forward, there are a few.

1. Julie and I have decided to stop watching TV during dinner. We still want to, but I think we both feel like we shouldn't. We'll see if over time, the desire to watch TV during this time lessens.

2. I think I will at least really think about how I'm spending my free time more. I might still watch TV with no real purpose, but I think it will be more difficult for me to do so. My hope is that I really only watch shows that I really like, and get rid of the "let's see what's on" mentality.

3. I'm thinking about doing another fast with a different element. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 13, 2010

These are my confessions...

Habits are hard to break.

Coming into this TV fast I didn't anticipate any problems. I mean, it's only TV and it's only a week. And for the most part it has been easy so far.

The hardest thing has been fasting from the time when I almost always watch TV: dinner.

I was too ashamed to include in my previous post that my wife and I are one of the 66% of Americans who watch television during dinner. I never really did this growing up, nor did Julie, but it has become an evening tradition. I'd like to blame it on our first apartment when we moved to Columbus. We didn't have a lot of kitchen space and our table wasn't really big enough even for the two of us to eat on comfortably, so we spent most meals on the couch.

However, now that we've moved into a house and have a bigger table, we still eat in front of the TV. I guess now I blame Chandler, Monica, Ross, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe for being so funny.

I must admit that on the first day of the fast I was surprised at how much I really wanted to watch TV during dinner and the amount of disappointment in not being able to. I am so used to watching TV during dinner that I actually sensed a craving to watch TV I can only compare to hunger. Not to over-dramatize the feeling, it really wasn't a big deal, but there was some sort of physical or emotional response in my body. I could sense the disappointment.

Honestly, it's a little scary. I'm not sure how I feel about being that used to something, especially something so trivial. It makes me wonder what other habits I may overlook that could have some sort of minor grasp on me, my brain, my body, my heart.

I invite you to consider what habits you have. Not necessarily to attach some negative value to habits and eliminate them, but maybe just to be aware of influences we may be taking for granted.

I also invite you to comment and own up to whether or not you eat in front of the television. Do you think I should feel as much shame as I do?

Monday, August 9, 2010

No more happiness

I'm never watching television again.

Seriously. Only I'm actually never watching it again for a week...maybe a month.

I like television. I mean, I really like it. I like it enough to watch the Bachelorette with my wife...or by myself. I will turn on the TV and just pick the least boring show on and watch that (unless it's Dancing with the Stars, because c'mon). If we had cable, I'd probably be unemployed with bedsores.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. But over the past few months/26 years I've wondered what life would be like without television. There are many goals I have in life, both short-term and long-term and believe it or not, none of them involve watching television. And yet, I probably spend more time watching TV than working towards achieving those goals. I can't imagine lying on my death bed wishing I would have watched more television.

It's not that I think television is evil (although if you saw any commercials for ABC's new show "The Bachelor Pad" you may disagree), in fact, I think there can be some great things about television. But I'm ready to admit that I probably watch more than I need to. According to some random stats I found online (okay, it was from Nielsen, so these people know their TV), the average American watched 153 hours of TV every month in 2009. That's almost 5 hours per day. PER DAY! That's more than 20% of your day. How is that possible? So I'm not as bad as the average American, but I still want to watch less.

So I decided to make a little experiment of it. I'm going to fast from watching television. I originally wanted to try it for a month, but my wife (who knows how many ideas I have like this that start out with gusto but last only a few days) suggested I start with a week. So, starting tomorrow (August 10th) I will not watch any television for a week (August 17th being the first day back to television). On the 17th I will decide whether or not to go the whole month. I realize for some of you this feat is not impressive but I'm not doing it to impress you so relax. Blogging about it does have two big advantages though:

1. I have the accountability of everyone who reads this (all three of you)
2. It gives me a reason to write blog posts.

A lot of times fasting isn't just about what you give up, it's about what you replace it with. This fast isn't necessarily like that. I'm not intentionally taking the two hours I might normally watch television on Tuesday night and replacing it with saving puppies (at least I'm not planning on it). Really I'm just creating space. I want to see what I will fill my time with when I don't have the default of television.

Here are some expectations for the week:

-I expect to read more than normal.
-I expect to write more than normal.
-I expect to spend more time with my wife.
-I expect to forget I ever decided to do this and accidentally watch three minutes of something.
-I expect to get bored at some point and really think this was a stupid idea.

One exception I have to allow for:

-If something BIG happens (like they finally find Bigfoot and he's got a lot to say) I will allow myself to watch news coverage.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Better or Worse?

I'm not sure what I find more ridiculous: how big of an event was made out of Lebron James deciding where he will play next (If you missed the hour-long special on ESPN entitled, "The Decision," go ahead and pat yourself on the back) or the fact that I actually watched it (at least until he told us he was going to Miami).

When I heard how much hype was going to be involved in this announcement (C'mon, an HOUR long special to say essentially one city's name!), I instantly thought it was pretty silly. I also immediately knew that I would be watching. That's the gravitational pull of media, I guess. No matter how silly I may find something, if the media makes a big enough deal about it I feel like I'm missing something if I don't watch. So I do watch.

That's a lot of responsibility for the media. In a very subtle yet creepy way the media tells me what I should care about. And as much as I'd like to say that I'm my own person and I'm not swayed by how the media directs me, that's totally bull. The media is good at what they do.

Unfortunately, what really drives media is money. The media wants to make a profit and so they don't really care about promoting issues of importance (unless there's money to be made).

The result is a lot of people caring about things that don't really matter.

A.W. Tozer wrote, "A game is something you do by creating a problem and then having fun solving it...One thing about a game is that nobody is any better or worse for whatever happens."

There are things I care about in theory, the things I like to tell people about in casual conversation, and then there are the things I care about in practice; what I watch, listen to, think about, and spend time doing things about. I wonder if anybody is better or worse off based on the things I choose to care about.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lebron James Calling It Quits?

So for those of you who live in a internetless cave, there's this guy named Lebron James who is kind of a big deal. He's one of the best basketball players in the game today and many would say he will be one of the best of all time. Lebron's contract with his existing team (the Cleveland Cavs) is up and so he's currently mulling over which team to play for. Every team wants him and a handful of teams can actually afford him. While Cleveland can pay him millions more than any other team, he may be able to earn more through endorsements in a big market city like New York or Los Angeles. Another factor is the ability of a team to win a championship. Read more about it here.

Lebron has apparently made his decision, but instead of just coming out with it, he has teamed up with ESPN to bring us a one-hour special to reveal where he's going. He also opened a Twitter account. The anticipation of this announcement is dominating the sports world right now (unless you care about people kicking a ball instead of throwing it through a hoop).

I realize that tomorrow night when Lebron makes his announcement, he will probably just say a city and tell people why. But I like to think big. So in my dreams, I dream that Lebron is going to do something crazy like...retire.

What if Lebron said he's made so much money already and doesn't need anymore. What if he says that he wants to spend time pursuing his true passion of film-making or he wants to build a space freezer to re-freeze some glaciers. What if he wants to spend all his money fighting AIDS in Africa or bringing clean drinking water to people who need it. That. would. be. awesome.

So tomorrow at 9, while New Yorkers are hoping he's coming there or Miamians are hoping he's going there, I'm hoping that he's retiring and doing something really cool. That or staying in Cleveland. Go Cavs.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Birthday Blog

So a while back, in early February to be not exactly exact, a friend of mine offered to write a blog about anything I wanted as a birthday gift to me. I gave him a list of three choices, all implying that instead of writing a blog he should come visit me. He actually did both, which is just the kind of friend this guy is: awesome.

Well, not quite as far back, in the last week of March to be more exactly but still not exactly exact, I offered to write a blog post about any topic he wished for his birthday. Because my gift was offered a few days after his birthday and I used his own idea for the gift, he asked me to write about "punctuality and originality." Again this is just the kind of friend this guy is: snarky/sarcastic; we'll call him snarcastic.

So buckle up, here's my blog about punctuality and originality. It's a bit deeper than the first two paragraphs would indicate so put on the scuba gear.

Lately I've been in a bit of a spiritual funk. What I mean by spiritual funk is that I'm not sensing God's presence as much and my own passion to spend time in prayer or reading God's words through the Bible is a little flat. This has happened before and will happen again, so it's no need to alert the Pope or Dr. Phil, but it's still a bit of a bummer when you're knee-deep in funk.

My wife and I have been thinking and talking a lot lately about what it really means to follow Jesus. There have been times in life when the answer to that question seemed simple and/or easy, but it doesn't quite feel that way anymore. We've been confronted with the idea that following Jesus involves not only believing what he says but actually doing what he said to do. It's easy to believe something in your head, harder to believe it with your actions.

In the midst of this we have been praying for God to show us what he wants us to do. How can we follow Jesus better? It feels like we have been waiting for this answer for some time. But punctuality is apparently not God's priority in answering this prayer. Or maybe more appropriately, our own ears haven't been punctual in hearing his voice.

Just this week though, I have heard a few simple answers that have brought me peace:

One, is that instead of waiting to hear God reveal some world-changing mission to us, we need to obey his simple commands given through scripture. Why would God give us some huge mission if we can't even obey simple commands like "love your neighbor"? And at the end of the day, it's obedience to those commands that will change the world anyway. Thanks, wife, for speaking that truth to me.

Secondly, perhaps God doesn't care as much about what we do, but cares more that we care about what we do. That is to say, maybe God isn't as concerned that we end up with this crazy-amazing end product, but rather that in the midst of living our lives we have taken care to seek him in whatever it is that we're doing. Thanks to my mentor for speaking that truth to me, although it was not an original thought. It was unoriginal not in that he stole it from someone, but in that we have actually talked about this before when I was struggling with this same stuff before. He told me the same thing before. It was true then, it is still true. That's one great thing about having a mentor, they remind you about all the good stuff you're too stupid to remember (which if you're like me, is a lot). If you don't have a mentor, get one.

Lastly, stop waiting and start doing. This is almost a combination of the first two things, but sometimes I spend so much time agonizing over what God wants me to do, I miss out on all the doing I could be doing. Thanks, God, for speaking this simple truth into my thick skull on the drive home the other day.

So that's it for now. This blog is neither punctual, nor original. Maybe I'll get around to another post next month.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pineapple

You may have recently asked yourself, "Self, what has blogging done for me?"

Well, if you're me, you would say, "Self, blogging has brought a good friend to town."

If you're Josh, you would say, "Self, blogging has brought me to Columbus, Ohio...maybe I should stop blogging."

Josh is sitting in my living room blogging. I said, "I should blog! But I have nothing to blog about."

Josh shared this blogging wisdom with me, "It's not so much about having a good topic to blog about, it's more about sitting down and writing."

Well, Josh, here I am. Let's see where this blog goes.

For this blog, I will share with you why Josh is at best indifferent to Columbus, Ohio, and probably more accurately, isn't a big fan. In his first trip visiting us since moving here, the mighty Scioto river ate Josh's disc golf disc. But not any disc, his Rocket 2x which Josh has had a long relationship with. It has probably done more for Josh than I have. And Columbus ate it.

However, through the magic of blogging I tricked Josh into returning, and he rolled in today. As he was approaching Columbus, wife and I ran to the bank to switch up some accounts, you know, make our money really work for us (if you don't understand what this means then you are probably not filthy rich like us). Anyway, due to the poor economic times, our former bank National City got ate (don't even think about it) by PNC. Due to this, it was required that we spend over an hour trying to make our money work for us. Josh got in town towards the beginning of this escapade so we had him wait at Kroger. In my defense, our Kroger is pretty boss, with TVs playing March Madness (not all the times, just during March Madness times) and even a jewelry store. Anyhow, Josh was waiting for an hour before I got there. Needless to say, he probably still doesn't like Ohio too much. So hopefully we can do something in the next few days to change his mind.

But what does it say about Josh that he is willing to endure a city that eats things he loves in order to spend time with his friends? It says that he's a pretty cool dude. Hopefully Columbus doesn't eat him.

The moral of the story: Seriously, PNC, you need to get it together.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seth goes back to School

I went to class for the first time in about four years last week. It was absolute bliss.

For about a year I've been tossing around the idea of going back to school, seminary more specifically. I don't really think I want to be the pastor of a church or anything but I do love studying the Bible and thinking about God and what gives life meaning (don't belive me? read the rest of my blog posts (you'll want some caffeine)).

There is this seminary in town that offers not only Pastor's licences (aka Masters of Divinity or MDiv, if you're current with your seminary lingo) but also several other courses of study. One is called a Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries, which would allow me to get a legit counselor's license of some sort. While I do love studying the Bible and thinking about God and what gives life meaning, I also love people and relationships and have a heart to see people experience healthy relationships. So this counseling thing sounds like a pretty good idea.

Like I said, I toyed with this idea of going back to school for a year, kind of like a cat knocking around a mouse with its paw instead of killing it right away. I kind of wanted to see what this idea was going to do. Well, thanks to a few students from this seminary interning at the church where I work, I can audit a class for free.

So, that's how I ended up in a classroom last week, eager to learn about Church History (that's the course I'm auditing).

This is the first time I've ever audited a course, and let me tell you, this is what education should be. In high school and even a bit in college, there was always this focus on the grade. All I knew was that I wanted an A. While I certainly learned a lot in high school and college, the actual concept of learning was merely a means to an end. Give me that A, give me that diploma! I think that's how it is for a lot of students. I'm not going to study or read or think any more than I need to. It's sad, looking back, thinking about some meaningful insights I may have missed out on due to my focus on mere grades.

Auditing, however, is different. I don't have to do any of the assignments or projects. I'm only allowed to talk or ask questions if no one else in the class is talking (admittedly, this is a bit of a bummer. We'll see how well I stick to this; I already asked a question in class about day one's lecture). My only motivation is to learn. And I love it. The topic I'm learning about is one in which I'm incredibly interested and invested. I can see myself using this information outside the classroom and in my current and potential future professions.

I wonder how we could change our education system to make students in high school and undergrad truly value learning. I'm sure some do already. Is that because they know the material they are studying is going to apply more directly to their professional careers? Are grades a valid way to measure learning or do they merely measure memorization of facts? How much value is there in learning about topics which at the end of the day one will not utilize professionally? These are the things I'm wondering right now.

I'm still playing with this mouse for now. I'm pretty sure I will be going to school full-time (and working full-time, yowza!) starting this fall, but that depends on a few things. But I know that I'm going to enjoy this spring class.