We’re turning into iPhone zombies

I love the TV show The Walking Dead.  I don’t know what it is about the show that fascinates me.  It certainly isn’t the gore and the violence, but the character development, and the lengths that they will go to in order to survive is fascinating.  Sure the idea of a zombie apocalypse seems far-fetched, but that doesn’t temper my fascination with the “what would life be like” scenarios.

But as far-fetched as the idea seems, the reality is we’re turning into a society of zombies, controlled by our iPhones.  I’ve had this nagging angst over the past few months – I’ve been unable to escape the idea of the level of control we’ve given over to technology.  The amount of our social dynamic that we’ve mortgaged to our handheld devices is astounding, and it’s only growing exponentially worse.

There are a handful of articles and videos that have started to address this plague – and it IS a plague.  There’s this article that my friend Scotty Smith posted last week, from the Desiring God website.  The key statement – we feel like if we’re not obsessively scrolling through Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, we’re going to miss out.  My only regret in the article was that I read it through my Facebook browser.

There’s also this incredibly telling article about how our phones have changed the way we experience a restaurant….

How about this article – where we are actually CALLED iPhone zombies…

There’s this video that is one of the most convicting pieces I’ve watched in a long time….

Then there’s this…

and finally, this…

We’re becoming a society obsessed with “everything else” instead of being fully present in whatever we’re doing.  As has been written many times before – we create fictional versions of our lives in order to gain validation and affirmation, instead of seeking after the only one that can offer both.  We’ve elevated tweets and status updates to the level of heightened debate that we used to reserve for only the highest-level thinkers.

I went last year with my wife on one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken.  Part of why the vacation was so great was that we actually completely disconnected from everything else – social media, work, email, phone… Our destination was one of the most exquisite places we’ve ever been.  We spent a week in what we could easily call “paradise.”  But we started to notice a disturbing trend.  We were watching couples sit at their dinner tables in silence.  They had nothing to talk about.  There were honeymooners there that were incapable of talking – so they’d pull out their phones and engage with “anything else…”

I was on my Alma Mater’s campus around the first of December last year for a convocation.  I was taken aback as I watched class dismiss – and the first thing everyone did in the room was take out their phones.  How do these kids create relationships that exist in real life?

I’m struck at how many times I’ll see folks out at dinner on a Friday night, obsessed with “anything else” that might be happening on their phones.  What is happening to us?  Are we really becoming this zombified?

I want more.  I want more for my kids.  I want them to grow up learning about the world that really exists, and not what we have put online… and I have to be willing to model that.

So, like I’ve done with most things in my life – I’m going cold turkey, trying to wean myself away from the zombie-esque nature of the smartphone, and the influence it has in taking me away from actual, real life.  If it means missing out, i’m ready to miss out.  The irony is – as we try not to miss out, we’re missing out on what’s actually going on.  If it means not being up on the latest controversial statement from a Facebook friend that got 145 likes, then I’m ready.  I THINK though, that it’ll mean being more present in my actual relationships, marriage, and parenting.  I THINK that it’ll allow me to fully experience here, and now, instead of “anything else…”

Happy Birthday to Drake

It’s #1’s 10th birthday today. I’ve posted his story a couple times here. I’m gonna post it again, because it serves, to this day, as a constant reminder of how God radically changed our hearts on what we knew to be true of his character.

He was born at 6:01, on a Friday – June 15, 2001. This was after 30 hours of labor, 3 doctors, 5 nurses . . . and then she pushed for 3 hours. They were about ready to do a C-section when the doc saw the head.

He came out grey . . . and not breathing. Mandy’s uterus wasn’t clamping back down, and she was losing so much blood that they were going to transfuse her. They hit the red button on the wall, and my parents, and brothers and her parents, and sister watched from the waiting room as every doctor and nurse on the floor ran into the room. RAN into the room. Apparently that’s what the red button did. At some point, a nurse came and got me and sat me down in a chair because I was standing in between the bed my wife was on (watching the doctor literally kneeling with all her weight on top of my wife’s belly to get it to contract and stop bleeding) and my son on the little baby inspection bed, with nurses beating him with this suction cup hammer thingy, trying to get him to breathe – and all I could do was cry – not knowing which bed to go to.

So they whisk drake off in an incubator, and take him to the NICU at northside (in atlanta) which is where we were. and mandy finally stopped bleeding, and then the neonatologist came in to sit down with us and tell us that Drake is in the NICU, and they’re not sure what’s wrong, and he couldn’t tell me for sure that he was going to live (i asked him).

He then informed us that Drake couldn’t stay at Northside, because the NICU was full, and they were moving him across the street to Children’s hospital (scottish rite).

They moved Mandy to her recovery room – and they wheeled Drake into the room in the ambulance incubator. He had hoses and tubes and all sorts of stuff plugged up to him, and he had his eyes shut – a respirator in, and a feeding tube. Mandy stuck her arm out and put her hand on the glass, and called his name, and he opened his eyes and looked at her – but then had to be quickly rolled away because there’s only so much O2 on those rolling buggies.

He took the ambulance ride to the hospital. I stayed with Mandy. We had several friends come to visit. I remember Eric and Shea coming down. They had no idea the situation. Shea said “I told Eric that I just felt that we needed to come see you.” They wanted to buy our family dinner. No one wanted to eat. They were gracious and bought dinner anyway – and I’m pretty sure it sat in the bags . . . Sorry Eric and Shea. Our pastor (that we had known for a brief 4 months) came up from Newnan.

The next morning, I went over to see Drake, and he had already come off the respirator, which was great, and the nurse was feeding him from a bottle. The doctor said that things were going to be OK, and we could go home on Monday (this was saturday).

Mandy was having an extraordinary time recovering, what with all the blood loss, and the 30 hours labor.

I stayed with Drake. took some video. Took some pics.

The next morning, I called the doc to check-in – per his request, before going over to be with Drake. The doctor said “Mr. Sears, I’m having the lab re-do this test, because according to his bloodwork – called a CBC, his white count dropped from 13,000 to 3000, overnight. I’m sure it’s a mistake. Call me in 30 minutes.” I called in 30. He was now having them do a hand count, because he couldn’t believe it. “I’m not sure what’s wrong, but he’s going to be here for a while.” I lost control. I said “Doesn’t an infection mess with your white count?” the doctor said “yes, but it drops when the infection is winning.”

Mandy wanted to go over to see him, so she got in a wheelchair, and we rolled out of Northside hospital and across the street to scottish rite.

We weren’t able to hold him, and he was hooked up to machines, and this was Father’s Day – Sunday. Awesome Father’s day. We had to check out of the hospital the next morning, and we didn’t want to go back to Newnan without Drake

I went to the Ronald McDonald house – because I heard they had a room available. I can remember sitting in the little office with the lady that ran the place, and she asked me how long I thought I would need to stay, and through that gagging, choking tears thing, I told her I didn’t know, and that my baby was in the NICU at Scottish Rite, and they didn’t know what was wrong. I toured the house with her, and it was a nice house, and there lots of families there, having to stay for various reasons. We ended up not staying. With Mandy’s recovery issues – still major, there was no way she was in any shape to share a single bathroom with 10 other people . . .

So we checked into a hotel next to Scottish Rite. Her teacher friends took up a collection at the school, and somebody knew someone that worked for Marriot, so they dropped our rate to a ridiculously low rate. So we’d get up early every morning and go be with Drake, and watch the monitors, and the heartbeat, and the blood oxygen sensor, that would FREAK out every time drake would kick his foot. And we’d return every night and hit our knees, and thank god that drake lived another day – and acknowledge that even the best kids doctors in Atlanta didn’t know what was going on – but He did . . . and that was going to HAVE to be enough for us . . . And when I say “hit our knees” i mean it. We weren’t a praying couple until then. We had our own prayers – but not together, as a married couple. It changed that week. We’d pray, together, and out loud, and intentional, and heard each other’s hearts, and joined together to plead, and beg, and thank, and plead . . . We continue to this day.

Over the next 7 days, he was seen by a cardiologist, a hematologist, a neurologist, an infectious disease doctor, several neonatologists really every kind of -ologist. Literally. No one could tell us what was wrong. We got to know the nurses well. There were lots of babies in that room, with lots of problems. It takes an unbelievable soul to work in that environment. They liked Drake, because they believed he was going home soon – and they don’t get many that do go home “soon” or at all . . .

I can remember one night – probably day 5 or 6. We had left the hospital pretty late that night, and ended up sitting at a red light for over 10 minutes because something had malfunctioned. Neither of us said a word. I didn’t react. At the time – nothing was worth reacting over. Nothing seemed important – even sitting at a red light at 12:30 in the morning.

we took him home the next Friday. He was actually circumcised on the 8th day – which was cool. The entire day preceding (Thursday) they took him off all of the monitors and wires and tubes. I FREAKED out. My response was “how am I supposed to know if he’s ok!?!” One of the nurses looked at me and said “Look at him. Does he look ok?”

He was discharged with a low, but climbing white count, and we were told that if he runs even the slightest fever, we were to bypass any other doctor or hospital and get him back to Scottish Rite as fast as possible. He was sent home with a follow-up appointment with the hematologist the next Tuesday. We went in. They drew blood. Tested it. Results came back. Doctor said “He’s completely normal.” I think we were actually shocked. I remember looking at the doctor and saying “What do we do now?” He replied “Treat him like a normal baby.”

By the way – i asked how we could keep him from getting sick, and the doctor said “just wash your hands.” hence the hand washing problem that I have.

Anyway – he’s 10 today. And buck-wild.

Time to create?

I taught last week at a conference for church planters. Guys (and gals) from all over the country, spanning 20 different denominations, in all different stages of church planting. One of the parts of my talk is finding “the guy” to lead the worship ministry.

In laying out “suggested criteria” i mentioned that he/she needs to be creative. Regardless of WHAT they’re doing to create (writing music (or words or poetry or narrative), painting, drawing, blogging, videographing (that’s just NOT a word), photography – “the guy” needs to be setting aside intentional time to create – every week.

I saw this morning on Facebook (facebook is this start-up company that’s trying to do a social network thing. don’t know if it’s really going to take off) one of my friends posted “first day all week with no meetings – time to create.” What a great post! Are you finding ways and times to create?

Trash TV

I’m just gonna say this. I hate trash TV. And let’s face it – stuff that falls in this category (for me at least) are shows like:
The Bachelor/Bachelorette – conveniently, starting back up tonight, Survivor, Big Brother, American Idol, Top Model, anything on MTV, a lot of things on Fox, blah blah blah, etc. You get the point. Usually, if it’s called “reality,” then i automatically turn it off. Except for Pawn Stars. I LOVE watching pawn stars. Kind of a mix between antiques roadshow and american chopper.

Anyway – the bachelor is on, and I have to configure my knees just right so my MAC sits and blocks most of the TV… but here’s what bugs me. This guy is going to send how many women home at the end of this night’s party? 8? 10? And he gets to base that on… wait for it… LOOKS! Wowzer. The epitome of what we’re dealing with in society and in the church. We’re (as a church) striving so hard to let the Gospel shine through – for the Gospel to be the truth – which tells us that we are whole, loved, true, and pursued by the Father, because of Christ – because of His beauty… and because of that, we are made beautiful.

But on one of the most “popular” reality shows – scores of women are “sent home” because of a first impression. How does this end up translating to church? To the masks we wear? To the pretense we try to live out? We start, continue, or intensify the thinking that our mask is how we are evaluated, that our appearance is how we’re defined. It ends up burying our truth, inflating our shame, and obscuring our view of true beauty.

The alternative – embracing Christ and the beauty that He gives to our lives.

I hate trash TV.

Not everyone’s addictions are private . . .

Some people’s addictions show up right on their faces – or their midsections . . .

I stepped on the scale 9 years ago today, at the doctors office, because the bathroom scale I had at my house would no longer register my weight. The number was astronomical. At my heaviest, i weighed around 380 lbs. That’s roughly half the backstreet boys.

I don’t blame anyone or anything except myself. My son had some issues when he was first born, and my wife thinks I was depressed because of that – so that manifested itself in eating. I love to eat. I still love to eat – and that’s the problem. Addictions – any addiction, are an attempt to satisfy a longing and hunger and thirst that only Christ can. It’s looking to other means of coping or comfort when the reality is nothing of THIS earth will satisfy.

Over the course of about 10 months, i dropped about 160 pounds. It was EASY . . . ALL i had to do was eat healthy and exercise. (i kid about the easy part – just in case someone doesn’t REALLY know me). Here’s the kicker – studies show that once obese – one has to exercise an hour a day to MAINTAIN a healthy weight. So part of my story is dealing daily with the consequences of gluttony . . . I tell people that keeping it off is as hard, if not harder, than taking it off.

Some things that I did:
1. I started walking. I had a membership to a golf course in town, and would go out and play 18 holes most afternoons, in an hour and a half. That’s right. 18 holes. 1.5 hrs. and I’d walk . . . i would approach my shot – figure out which club i wanted to hit before I got to the ball. Take that club out and at the same time, sling the bag off my shoulder and set it down. Line up, swing, grab my bag, and put the club back. It was insane to watch . . . That helped me take most of the weight off. Things I do now have included running 5 miles a day, P90x, and my routine now involves all the cardio portions of P90x – plyo, yoga, kenpo, core, ab ripper.

2. I quit drinking diet coke. I’m convinced that nothing is more unhealthy for you than soda in general – but Diet Coke has to take the cake. It has a chemical called aspartame – and I don’t care what anyone says – aspartame is bad for you . . . i read studies that show that aspartame makes you crave carbohydrates. I cut diet coke out – completely. Before that, i could drink a pitcher at dinner – really. It’s gross to think about now . . . I drank nothing but water . . .

3. I watched every bit of what I ate. Mostly some kind of salad with chicken on it – and that was it. Yeah – I know. It’s not an exciting, inspirational diet. There’s no “eat anything you want and lose 160 pounds.” It was hard work.

There were no surgeries . . . there was no magic button . . . I didn’t eat the same sandwich from a restaurant everyday for a year . . . it was focus. It was relying on strength other than my own.

Here’s the problem – like any other sin – we think that if we only try harder – or put our minds to it – then we’ll lick it . . . it wasn’t until i started relying christ to overcome this addiction that i found success – any other time it was me trying to pull up the bootstraps, dig in, eat less, exercise more . . . and those things are great – but unless they’re grounded in the larger principle of recognizing WHY I got this way, and WHO is able to deliver – then it just becomes a relentless fight, and results in disappointment.

It remains a difficult fight. I wake up everyday with the reality that the struggle starts over. I continue to want to eat – because I love food – and it will be that way for the rest of my life – but as with any other addiction/sin – my hope is found in a deliverance that is not my own. Am I mentally whacked because of it? You bet. Do I fret daily that i’ll be huge again – all the time. I’ve got a very close friend that struggles with other chronic health issues – it’s beyond frustrating for him – and he’s going to have to fight, everyday, for the rest of his life to believe that Christ is his deliverer, and not his “intent to become better.” We’re still called to fight. We’re still called to discipline. We’re still called to good and healthy habits – but that calling has to be grounded first in faith that Christ can deliver you from WHATEVER it is . . .