Why You Should Do a Technology Cleanse

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 1
Have you ever sworn you got a text message or heard your phone ring only to pull your phone out of your pocket and realize there was no notification or phone call? This phenomenon is called phantom vibration syndrome, otherwise known as “ringxiety”. These hallucinations have a variety of possible causes such as attachment anxiety to your phone, the fact that your phone is a part of you (much like a pair of glasses you wear everyday), and even having an addiction to your cellular device. While there’s tons of research that goes into this strange occurrence, the point is, sometimes it’s good to put our technological devices aside for a brief time to improve, and even test, our mental and physical health. 

In college I was required to do a one week technology cleanse as an assignment, meaning no TV, no computer, no phone, and even no music for a week. We couldn’t entirely escape from these forms of technology though since we needed it to do homework for our other classes, so we got a slight cheat for that, but the idea was we couldn’t use technology unless it was absolutely necessary. Although I knew I would get through the week using minimal technology and be fine, I didn’t expect to go through physical and mental side effects along the way. 

Just over the course of that week I experienced everything from withdrawal, headaches, panic and anxiety, loneliness and isolation, restlessness, and exhaustion. This exercise wasn’t just to test my ability to go without entertainment, but it forced me to go through the mental and physical consequences of the dependence I didn’t even know I had on technology.  

Ever since this assignment, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more impossible it feels to separate yourself from technology, the more it probably means you should (at least for a brief period). 

A few benefits of doing a technology detox are:

1. Better Mental and Physical Health

Social media along with many other forms of technology is often used to avoid social interactions, especially ones we feel unsure about. On the flip side, we go to social media to engage in those social interactions, however because we aren’t forced to have these interactions in real time we speak, act, and treat others in ways that are unrealistic to how we would in person. This is often why so much unkindness happens on the internet. We get to hide behind the facade that is social media and be whoever we want to be, suffering minimal consequences for our actions. 

Social media and technology is also unfortunately an easy escape from reality. It becomes a place we run to when we want to numb or distract ourselves from anxiety, depression, anger, and sadness. Most of the time this leads to a habit of turning to social media as the medicine to our problems instead of actually dealing with those emotions head on. This leads to an increase in mental health problems like anxiety and depression as well as a cycle of bad habits. It not only affects our ability to have fruitful social interactions, but it also negatively impacts our eating and sleeping habits. 

And while you may think you have your relationship with technology under control, it only takes a few days away from it to tell you if you really have it under control or not. Why? Because you will physically and emotionally react to its absence if you have an unhealthy dependence on technology to get you through your day, much like having caffeine withdrawals. 

2. Less Comparison to Others

It’s easy to turn to social media as a template for how we should look, how accomplished we should be, how much money we should have, and how well liked we are. This frequent act of comparing ourselves to others often negatively affects our mental health. If you take social media out of the equation, at least for a brief period, you can begin to see people for who they are, not the best, and oftentimes, fake versions of themselves they display on social media. This not only lowers the expectations we place on ourselves, but we get a realistic picture of the people around us and even of ourselves. It also lowers the amount of anxiety and depression we can feel as a result of this comparison, which helps us instill a greater confidence within ourselves. 

3. Better Approach to Technology

When we know we can step away from technology and still function regularly, we have a much healthier approach to technology itself. We can take advantage of the great benefits of technology while still taking into account the risks of it. This changes our whole approach and actually improves the effectiveness of our technology use as a whole. 

4. Developing Good Habits

If you’re anything like me, you tend to choose picking up your phone and scrolling for a few hours over doing anything else. Technology has oftentimes prevented me from starting or developing hobbies. Instead of reading, which I love to do, I find myself picking up my phone. The same goes for exercising, connecting with my friends and family, sleeping, spending time alone, cooking or baking - basically anything I could be doing, instead I choose to check my phone. 

Part of this has to do with the dopamine that’s released every time we turn to social media. It feels good to us and often serves as a “rewards system” or “reward loop” every time we check our phones. When we’re forced or compelled to choose to do something else, it’s easy to feel that urge towards technology again. For me, sometimes it’s just the reality of being alone with my thoughts that makes me want to turn to technology instead of doing something I actually truly love doing. 

But, when we take technology out of the equation, even for a few hours out of our day, we can develop a good habit of productivity. Technology often distracts us from our thought processes. It then takes us twice as much time to accomplish something that should have only taken a short while to complete. We often waste our lives away using technology which diminishes the potential God has given each and every one of us. 

Taking a break from technology also gives us the opportunity to make new memories with our friends and family, allows us to have in-depth conversations with others, and to develop new unique, creative, ideas! 

5. More Restful Sleep 

The blue light that emits from our phone screens actually disturb our body’s natural production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle, which helps us feel sleepy at night and causes us to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. This means when you spend that hour or two laying in bed scrolling on your phone instead of trying to fall asleep on your own, you’re actually making it harder to fall asleep and preventing your body from getting the rest it needs. Again, this leads to insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness which are all harmful mental health problems. 

There are tons of other reasons why taking a break from technology is good for your overall health, but here are some tips for having a successful technology detox. 

1. Be Realistic 

Don’t expect yourself to be able to quit cold turkey for a week and then give up the moment you accidentally use technology again. This is about improving your mental health and giving you the tools to take control of your technology use. 

Some people choose to get rid of all technology for a week or for a day. Others choose to take it a little at a time such as going without social media for a week, or even simply going without a specific app or just TV for a week. You can tailor it to your needs or to what you may be specifically struggling with at that moment in time. 

It’s also best if you spend some time planning or preparing for your technology cleanse. Don’t do it spontaneously because you’ll be just as tempted to start it back up spontaneously. If you can prepare for it, you can get into the right head-space before you begin. This also gives you time to let others know you’ll be doing this cleanse for a day or for a week, to remove any distractions, and to fill your time with other things aside from technology. 

2. Set a Limit

A wise decision might be to ease your way into a detox like this. What I mean is that it might work out better for you to start taking a break from technology for a day before you try it for a whole week. It’s also easier to achieve a goal like this when you have a clear idea of when it will end. As you set limits and achieve those goals you’ll find yourself naturally putting aside technology for longer periods of time because you’ve developed a healthy relationship and habit with technology. 

3. Let your Family and Friends Know Beforehand

Letting your family and friends know by text or sharing it on social media before you take a break from technology will solve a few problems. First, they’ll be less likely to text you or send you something through social media if they know you’re trying to take a break from it. If they don’t know about it they can’t support you. Second, by letting them know you’re taking a break from technology they won’t think you dropped off the face of the earth, which will also put them at ease and prevent them from texting you. 

4. Remove Distractions

It’s pretty hard to take a break from something if it’s still in front of you, taunting you, and reminding you of how much you want it. Just like when people remove caffeine from their house so they can take a break from soda, you’ll want to take away the temptation to use technology altogether. Put your phone in a drawer, have someone take or hide your remotes, do whatever you need to do to remove the temptation. The whole “out of sight out of mind” mentality is real. It’s much easier to stop using technology if you can forget about it altogether. Instead fill your environment with what you DO want to do such as books if you want to start reading more, go out with your friends if you want to build up your connections more, or be intentional about exercising every morning with a friend or family member. 

5. Repeat the Detox

It’s not enough to do this once in your life. Make it a regular occurrence. Some people choose one day out of the week to go without technology (or at least social media). Others choose one week out of the month. Whatever works best for you! Just be honest with yourself and discipline yourself to go without it based on what you need mentally and physically. 

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “look to Jesus” or “set our eyes on Jesus”. A technology cleanse like this is much like fasting. Not only can we fill the time we now have with prayer, reading Scripture, and devotion to Jesus, but we’re also able to determine what our idols are. For a lot of us technology and/or social media is that idol we put before Christ. It’s what we turn to before we go to sleep and the first thing we fill our minds with when we wake up. But, we’re called to look to Jesus who is able to help us in our struggles and doubts and who is worthy of our praise! 
Read more

We Were Made for a Another World

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 0
The longer I live and the more life I have to enjoy and wrestle with, the more my heart pangs with an aching desire for another place. One writer, Rhoison Harris, who wrote on this very topic, described the feeling of gazing upon a “radiant sunset”. He said, “It is in those moments that my soul is altogether satisfied and yet strangely lacking.” 

As a Christian, not only do these moments remind us of how omnipotent our Creator is, but the enjoyment of these blessings cause us to long for a place in which these moments are never ending - where true and everlasting satisfaction exists. When we have tasted a morsel of God’s goodness we can only hunger for more and feel empty when we cannot satisfy that feeling on our own. 

This is because we live in a world we were never made for - a world made perfect but then stained with sin. We are aliens, foreigners, and sojourners in this world waiting for that Kingdom to arrive and take us home. 

C.S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity:

“The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists...If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world...Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

I am convinced these beautiful moments and blessings we experience on earth, as a result of our Father’s grace and goodness, act as a shadow (or as a movie trailer, if you will) of what is to come. This “other world” or “true country” as Lewis describes has been called “the place of rest” by Saint Augustine and “the Celestial City” by John Bunyan. They’re all wonderful descriptions of what we have to look forward to and yet they won’t even come close to measuring up to what it will truly be like when we arrive.

John describes it in Revelation 21:1-4 like this:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

What a beautiful promise and picture of our coming home! 

Harris also shared in his article a reflection on these verses in Revelation by Dr. Phillip Ryken, “I love how Ryken describes these verses: What we find in these final few chapters (of Revelation) is a sanctuary for the heart of every lonely pilgrim who is longing for home…Amen, and amen!”

It’s easy to want to quench this thirst for satisfaction with things of this world, but the more we drink of the emptiness this world has to offer, the thirstier we will become. So set your eyes on Jesus and live like we believe and hope in this coming “true country”. Just from reading this passage in Revelation, we, if you are a Christian, can see the home that He has promised to us. If you are not a Christian, this is an encouragement and a warning. There is a better and satisfying world waiting for you if you submit your life to Jesus - a place with no death, no tears, full of joy, and where we are no longer separated from God Himself! 

1 Peter 1:3-9 describes this promise as an inheritance stored up in heaven for us: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

If you don’t know Him, you aren’t promised this Kingdom and you don’t have that inheritance stored up in heaven for you. So, I urge you to come before your Father in Heaven and give your life to Him, so that you may enjoy Him fully and have a hope that will never perish! 

I’ll end with the lyrics to a song by the Gray Havens called “Far Kingdom” that reminds me of this “other world” we’re promised our hearts so desperately long for. 

“There is a far Kingdom
A ways from here
Beyond the storm and the sea
There will be no need of darkness
And none for tears
When that far Kingdom I see
There's a river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King
And when we drink it, we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom
There is a far Kingdom
On the other side of the glass
And by a faint light we see
Still there is more gladness
Longing for the sights
Than to behold or be filled, by anything
There is a far, far Kingdom
There at the end of the sea
Where they know my name
And until that far, far Kingdom
Calls me home
Oh, my soul, I will wait
There's a river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King
And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom
And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom” 
Read more

Counting the Cost: When Sanctification is Painful and Confusing

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 0
Before continuing on with this article, I suggest you go and read C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, or at least for the purpose of this article flip to Book IV and read Chapter 9 titled “Counting the Cost”. 

Most of us, when we were saved, did so because we recognized a need. We recognized we were sinners, feeling that weight of that sin in our hearts, and realized we needed a remedy, a great Healer, and that was and is Jesus. Once we’re saved we fully expect Him to fix us and to continuously fix us as we continuously fail. As we sin again and again, as we fall from time to time, we look to Him to pick us up, help us learn, and to fix us where we were broken. That is in fact what a healer does, right? They make you better. 

Lewis doesn’t deny this aspect of Christianity or of God, but points out that Jesus said before we became Christians we were to, “count the cost, ” referring to Luke 14:28 which says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (ESV). 

But did we count the cost? Christianity isn’t about being fixed over and over again until we’re finally in paradise. If that’s the case then we will never learn, grow, serve, and desire God for anything more than a quick and temporary fix. He’s not Tylenol or, as Lewis puts it, when our tooth hurts we don’t just get something to numb the pain. We go to the dentist to solve the problem itself, not just to prevent something like that from happening again, but it actually looks and feels better. Being a Christian is about being made new, being made different, and being made more like our Father in Heaven. But did we understand what that process would look like when it began, what it would feel like, and what He would ultimately do in order to get us there? Probably not. And that’s why the pain and struggle of sanctification, the process of being made holy, is so confusing to us. We don’t understand what God is doing in our lives to make us like Him and why it sometimes comes with growing pains, struggles, and fear. 

God is satisfied with nothing less than pure perfection. The Christian might say, “How can I be perfect when the Bible says that I can do no good apart from Him and that I am in fact a sinner? I will always fail. How can I be perfect when He says I can’t be?” Well Christian, you’re right. Lewis points out that it is not perfection completed by our own work or will that He expects, but rather because He is perfect, He is the only one who can work out and complete perfection in us. Even though our effort will get us nowhere on our own, God expects us to walk towards Him in faith and trust and He will carry us the rest of the way. 

Lewis says, “This Helper [God], who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty”. 

He then presents an analogy of believers as a living house, which he attributes to a writer named George MacDonald. He writes:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Before becoming Christians, we were completely separated from Him. We were sinners and broken, just as we continue to be now, but before Him we had no hope. To use the living house analogy, the house was abandoned. No one was living inside able to peel away the bubbled, water damaged, wallpaper; dust off the cobwebs stretched from wall to wall and corner to corner; fix our damaged, leaky pipes, dripping with murky, brown, water; or repair the bones of the house that ache and groan with every gust of wind. And we couldn’t fix it on our own.

Then, when we were saved, God opened the door of our hearts and instead of grimacing at the horrific sight of it all or sighing at the amount of work that had to be done, He simply got to work. For most builders or house repairers, when the job is complete they pack up their tools, wipe the sweat from their foreheads, and with a satisfied feeling in their bellies they step outside never to return until the next problem arises. But God decides to lay up residence among the debris and keep working. Where others would say, “we have another job to go to” or “that’s just a waste of time”. He begins to design, add on, and make the space beautiful, not just livable or good enough. 

Because, you see, He isn’t satisfied with fixing us up and leaving us where we are. He’s an architect who wants to build something magnificent. In other words, something from nothing. While He does remedy us He’s also sanctifying us for the purpose of holiness and godliness. To us, the process of kicking down walls to build on and redoing those scraped up floors is confusing and painful to us at the moment, as we’re unable to see what He’s doing or what He hopes to accomplish at the end of it all. We haven’t seen the blueprints and we probably wouldn’t understand them even if we could. This extra work isn’t what we asked for. But, He’s determined to make something better, changing and redecorating every space of our hearts to look more like Him. 

In fact, instead of repairing our leaky pipes with a temporary fix or even replacing the pipes all together, He builds strong, enduring pipes and fills them with new water. No, not just new water - living water. He knows it’s not what we asked for, or even thought we needed, but it’s what He promised when we became His. And while the job is never complete while we’re here on earth, He’s so committed and in love with His own work, that as Lewis describes, God decides to dwell in us forever as He continues and completes His work. 

Lewis ended the chapter with this, 

“The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make us the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now image, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”

So even when that pruning process is painful, trust that He’s doing it not just for your good, but for the good of the Kingdom. The process of sanctification, being made holier and more like Him, is painful and scary at times, but without His work we would not grow or come to love Him for who He is - The Healer. The Builder. The Vinedresser. The Architect. The King of Kings who dwells within our hearts equipping us for His work on earth and preparing us for a world we have not yet seen.
Read more