Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Impressing my phone

My phone thinks it's so smart. Some time ago I discovered the fitness app built into my iPhone. It has been recording my daily steps without my knowledge or permission. Now that I have discovered this trove of health data, I can also get snarky evaluations of my activity.

"You are not taking as many steps this week as last week at this time."

"Your average step count is about the same as last year."

It will also tell me about my "Walking Asymmetry." Right now that metric is 18.8%. Seriously. My phone thinks I walk like a drunken sailor staggering across the deck in 10' swells. 

This app also reports that I have climbed 3 flights of stairs. Really? I have been up and down the ladder to clean gutters (3x), up and down the stairs from the basement (4x), and walked untold hills at the farm. You think you're so smart.

For a while there I got addicted to my step count. Previously on vacation I would work for at least 10k steps per day. I would pace around the cottage late at night, just to break the barrier. Ha Ha! I then decided to keep the streak alive after vacation and have 10k steps every day for a month! I don't think I ever achieved that.

I caught myself going to the mailbox or the refrigerator without my phone, and lamenting: "I'm not getting credit for these steps!" Then I would pick up my phone and walk a few extra steps to make up for it. 

Last month I realized that I am trying to impress my phone. And my phone is rarely impressed. It doesn't give me confetti or cheers for, well, anything. It just says, "You are walking more this month, on average, than last month." Not sure I can handle such effusive praise. Besides, my phone is a lousy counter anyway. And I don't have (or want) a smart watch, which I assume would be more accurate.

So, when we went to the beach in early May, I put my phone in its place. I left it on the table and did not carry it all week. I still walked on the sand and rode my bike all around Oak Island. But my phone did not make the trips. My goal was to have days with "No Data." I achieved this goal three times. Take that, you nosy phone.

I broke the habit of trying to impress my phone. At this point I can tell when I have walked 10k steps in a day. I don't need my phone to corroborate. In fact, I had not even opened up my fitness app in a couple of weeks. (I just opened it today to take screen shots.) No longer do I reach the end of the day feeling bummed about a mere 9200 steps. I'm not really tempted to be a couch potato. I like to stay active. But I don't need my phone's approval.

Staying away from my fitness app has given me an unexpected sense of freedom.

And to think, 10 years ago I lived every day like this. I like being free again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Zero to 60

It took more than 5.7 seconds for me to get from zero to 60. They say that time goes faster as you get older. They are right. 

I kind of liked my 50s. It was a decade of realized maturity. Probably no one else realized that I was so mature, but I did. An age in the 50s sounds like you are old enough to be good at something, but not so old that you need help up the stairs. I try to be good at some things. Sometimes I fake it. Sometimes people surprise me when they say I'm good at some things.

Now, as I venture into my 60s--and really I have no choice--it seems like the "mature" thing might loom larger than the "being good at something." When people are in their 60s, people may be surprised when you just look good. Eyes open, no cane in sight, zipper closed, nothing to be wiped off your face. I generally try to look good, but I'm not sure I'm very good at looking good. No one has ever surprised me by telling me that I'm good at looking good. 

By now I should know what I am good at. I'm good at being on time. I was late for my haircut yesterday, and the barber was surprised. He knows I'm always on time. Sometimes I'm early. He's early too. Except yesterday, when we were both late. Good timing.

I'm good at waving at my neighbors. Sometimes I feel guilty if I'm too preoccupied to raise my hand. Some of my neighbors are good at waving and some are not. Some neighbors will keep their heads down, carefully avoiding eye-contact. They will only wave if absolutely forced to, like if they accidentally look right at me when I'm waving. They probably wish they were more friendly, so I'm glad to help them get there.

It's harder to prove my maturity. When you get into your 60s, people just know you are mature. In fact, they may be surprised if you don't act maturely. As I think about it, I surprise people with my lack of maturity. That might change tomorrow when I turn 60. 

I plan to make my 60s at least as good as my 50s. In some ways I think my 50s is my best decade yet. That's a good trend. I'm trying to get better at life all along. Some things can't get better, like my eyesight. Other things can get better, like my attitude. I think my attitude is better now than it was 20 years ago. I'm learning not to take myself so seriously.

So, welcome 60s! This could be a seriously fun decade! I just hope I'm mature enough to realize it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Casting Spells

All my life I've done it,
And to this moment I persist.
Now rarely with much malice,
And sometimes with innocence.

Syllables are spoken,
Strung together with a plan,
Characters on pages
With a purpose so they stand.

The mystery of thoughts expressed
By magic known as words,
Somehow makes a change in you,
And now you understand.

I take you to another realm
Or plant it in your mind.
We walk together in our thoughts
And find new space and time.

The mystery of words is great
When placed together well.
You may not know that when you speak,
You also cast a spell.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Minority Report

I have been captivated by The Bible Project podcast, and I wish I had found it years ago. Around episode 46, the hosts describe the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as a minority report from the people of Israel. The majority of the Israelites did not perceive the nation's history as it was reported by Moses.

I have always thought that each generation of Jews would carefully teach the Torah to their children, as the highest priority. But alas, they did not. As important as the Torah was, it became lost over the years. Generations of Jews never knew it existed. Then finally around 600 B.C., during the reign of King Josiah, the scrolls of the Torah were discovered somewhere in the Temple. (See 2 Kings 22.)

When Josiah heard the scrolls read to him, he was so upset that he tore his robes. For generations, the Jewish people did not know their own history. They did not really know where they came from. It is no wonder that the Jews had so many evil kings. It is no wonder that the people did not rise up to find more righteous leaders. They did not know their own story. They did not know God's calling upon their nation.

The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, was carefully and providentially preserved in spite of the carelessness of some of its stewards. It only took one generation (although it was certainly many) to neglect the written history for the whole nation to lose touch with their identity. By the time of Jesus, Jewish scholars had put their Bible at the center of their faith. But they needed Jesus to show them what the scriptures were really all about.

When I read the Old Testament Bible stories of Jewish faithlessness, I need to remember that I may know more of their history than they did. 

I wonder what stories we are missing today from our own history.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Can Love Stop War?

It worked. I persuaded myself that Love is a Superpower. Last month I preached a series on Love, and more than ever I believe that Love works miracles. Love breaks through hard hearts. Love gets attention when all else fails. Love builds unity and community. Often Love takes time to make a difference, but Love makes a lasting difference.  I witnessed the power of Love, reaching hearts of those who felt forgotten, those who felt overwhelmed, those who felt rejected. A Loving response confounds those who practice violence and hate. Yes, Love is the Superpower.

Jesus tells us to Love one another. He also tells us to Love our enemies. And that's where it gets tricky.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine may be a test of the power of Love. The Church is strong in Ukraine. Christians in Ukraine and around the world are praying for the Russian invasion to fail. I have been praying for the invading forces to be confounded, disoriented, ineffective. I'm praying for equipment failure and confusion in strategy. I'm praying for other Russian leaders to stand up to Vladimir Putin and refuse to carry out orders.

And what if the invading Russian soldiers encounter such powerful Love that they lay down their arms? Could that happen? I believe it can. I also believe it would be a miracle. It is so unlikely that--if I lived in Ukraine--I would probably be pulling out my guns. I would be gathering up my ammo. I would be planning to respond in Love, but ready to protect my family. 

How far can we push these utopian ideas of Jesus? Do they work in the real, 21st century world? It's one thing to practice Love in the boardroom. What about the battlefield? A Loving response in battle may be one of the highest risk moves in the world.

But then Love always involves risk and vulnerability, in the boardroom, the bedroom, and breakroom. I can only imagine the heart struggle of watching tanks roll through my town. For me this is all philosophical, religious theory. There are real live people right now, grappling with these life and death dilemmas. May God have mercy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022


Which is the best superpower? I had to do some research to find the recognized powers in the Superhero world. Some of these powers are familiar.

  • Flying
  • Force fields
  • Invisibility
  • Time travel
  • Super speed
  • Super strength

Then there are more obscure powers like:

  • Elemental control
  • Absorbing powers
  • Intangibility

I would probably pick Invisibility for my superpower. I like to be sneaky.

But I want to make the case that there is a real superpower. It is a power that we can all wield. This power can:

  • Change a heart
  • Defeat evil
  • Get someone's attention
  • Turn enemies into friends
  • Reveal truth

And that's just scratching the surface. This superpower is Love.

Join us on Sundays this February as we dig into 1 Corinthians 13 and the power of Love.

February 6, Nothing Like Love

February 13, Looking at Love

February 20, Forever Love

February 27, Love Above All

Friday, January 7, 2022

Freedom and Violence

How did the U.S. Capitol stormers justify their violence on Jan. 6, 2021? In American history we learn that the first patriots took up arms against the British, fighting for freedom.

Our country has a long history of standing up against overreaching government. The violent crowd at the Capitol last year may have imagined that they were continuing that fight. 

What they failed to grasp was that the U.S. Revolutionary War laid the foundation for representative democracy. Within that system we have the means to protest government without violence. They ignored the system of American freedom while fighting in the name of American freedom. The rioters claimed to be fighting for the very thing they were fighting against. The cause of that day was doomed from the beginning.

We have to acknowledge that violence began this country. But real freedom lives where violence has no place.