- Are Siri and Alexa Becoming our New Best Friends?
In an increasingly isolated world where we are constantly normalizing decreased social interaction, if you were to take a moment and consider your own social dynamics and friend groups, you would probably discover the same thing that I have: your social life has likely drastically diminished. In a post pandemic world, as people try to put the pieces of their torn apart sense of normalcy back together in a way that fits their new reality, we are discovering new depths of loneliness and isolation. Do not believe me? Ask yourself: “When was the last time I had a full in-depth conversation with someone I would consider a complete stranger?”.
I am not suggesting that we should ignore the cornucopia of American society: ‘Stranger Danger’, however, what I am saying, is that gone are the days of just striking up a conversation with a random. Every day since the pandemic has started, I could probably count on one hand the number of meaningful conversations I have had over the last year with people outside of my immediate sphere of influence. And in a world that is increasingly propagandized with anti-social sentiment, filled with socially dependent humans, the question within its context becomes how do we satisfy our need for socialization in the 21st century?
Now I will say, that isolation and loneliness have varying trends among different people and age groups. Normally and historically every human being before they breathe their last breath on planet earth will experience some type of loneliness. In a lot of ways, the historical trend is rather cyclical: young adults tend to be lonelier than when they are in their late teens, and the elderly tend to be lonelier than when they were middle aged to advanced adults. When discussing loneliness, it is important to point this fact out as to not to distort its reality.
And while some people groups are just more likely to live lonely and isolated lives, the issue I am highlighting is more severe in that it is defying those trends. Last year over 60% of Americans identified as feeling lonely. That is a 7% increase over the last two years. In the study that uncovered this data, it was also found, that young people between the ages of 18-22 self-identified as being/feeling lonelier than those people ages 70+. The rhythm of this issue is changing meaning the ramifications thereof are also changing.
The main contributor to this global pattern interrupt that is taking place is obviously the times that we are living in. isolation has a direct causation of loneliness. A person who is in a room by themselves, is a person who is in a room by themselves. Solitary confinement in fact, is one of if not the cruelest forms of punishment. Humans are social beings. We require social interaction like we require food in our stomachs.
A Lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder. Social isolation has twice the impact on our mental and physical health than being obese. That’s right, you’re better off being medically overweight than feeling lonely. Additionally, you are more likely to die from social isolation than many other predominant physical health risks (think preexisting conditions). With this all being the case, what are we to do to mitigate our need to have a social life, while at the same time being socialized by society to not socialize?
- What the Heck is Resurrection Power Anyway?
Happy Holy Week! The Easter season is here, and Resurrection Sunday is fast approaching. I love this time of year. Do not ask me why because I would not be able to give a full in-depth answer at this point in my life however, Jesus is the reason for the season! This coming Sunday people around the world will celebrate Jesus doing the literal impossible and getting up from a death bed.
I do not know about you, but admittedly, I have never witnessed a human being that looks like me, eats food like me, uses the restroom like me, feels like me, and breathes air through their nose and sends it to their lungs the same way that I and the other 8 billion people on this floating rock do; Die, and then suddenly, while their blood is coagulating, their skin is growing pale, and their body is starting to stink, just get up and pretend like they were taking a nap.
Miracles happen every day, and as a recipient of many miracles I am not saying it is not possible. There are several stories of someone being brought back to life on a hospital bed. CPR and defibrillation are examples of how we resurrect in the natural. What I am implying here today however is, there are some things in our lives that are dead, and we simply cannot just jump start them like a car.
What do you do when we are in a season that represents things coming back to life, but those things that you once had faith for still lie dormant and dead? You see, the only way for something to come back to life is if at some point in its existence that something once lived. These are the types of things I think about in this season because if we were honest with ourselves for a minute, how many times have you worked for something only for it to die anyway?
Maybe you had a vision to start a business, or get married, or to move to a different state/country. Maybe you have always wanted kids, and you have tried and tried and tried but that area of your life has remained perpetually barren. Eventually, after all of your trying you get tired and ultimately you give up. When that happens, what was once an aspiration, becomes a pipe dream – There is no chance that it will come to pass, and even if it does at this point in your life… you rather resent the thought.
I do not know about you, but after I have given up hope, the last thing I want is someone to encourage me to believe again. It hurts to believe. Its difficult to presuppose something that was never predestined. I do not want to have faith for something that my life says will never happen and is a waste of my time. I rather put that energy to good use and think about things that are more realistic, make sense, and is not a pie-in-the-sky idea.
This is truly a predicament.
Where does resurrection power come into play in this situation? Jesus was only dead for 3 days; your dream may have been dead now for over 30 years. It’s not much, nor do I wish to be accused of being the person that caused you to believe again however, within this context, I think it’s important for us to visit/learn from someone who lived out this exact scenario.
Sarah was the wife of Abraham in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Sarah and Abraham were well into their 100s when the Lord appeared to them and said that Sarah would give birth to a son. That idea was so outlandish, that Sarah laughed at God. Sarah thought that there was no way. She and Abraham had been married for a long time by the time God gave them this promise, and all Sarah ever wanted was to give Abraham a child. So much so, that she made one of her maids sleep with Abraham so that they may have a child together.
Giving birth was a desire in Sarah’s heart that she just could not shake; and so, once she was able to finally move past that failure in her life, the last thing she probably wanted to hear or believe from someone was that she was going to have a child. What do you do, when God tells you something contrary to your life circumstances? Sarah laughed.
But it’s not Sarah’s laughter that should encourage us today, it’s God’s response. When God noticed Sarah laughing, he said: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). At this point, Sarah had stopped menstruating for at least 50 years. For all intent and purposes Sarah’s womb was dead to the point where it had never known life and under normal circumstances would never know life again. But God declared that she would yet bare a child and in a year’s time. The story ends with Sarah having a child and her and Abraham naming the boy Isaac just as God had commanded.
God resurrected Sarah’s womb long after she had given up on it. Are there things in your life that you have “given up” on, but you still have a desire for? This Easter, I believe God wants us to experience His Resurrection Power. The interesting implication of resurrection is that what rises from the dead, is the same thing that was buried.
After Jesus was buried after being crucified, when He rose from the dead [resurrected] on the third day, He was exactly the same. He still had the piercings in His hands and feet, and He still had the pierced side. He was the same, but at the same time He was not. When Jesus rose from the dead, he said in Matthew 28:18: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”. Resurrection is not about old life being restored to an old vessel; it’s about new life being given to an old vessel.
If something has died in your life that you once had a real desire for, it’s not because it was never meant to live, but rather, it’s because God wants it to live differently.
What was so significant about Isaac’s life, that God was determined to bring him forth through Abraham and Sarah? God’s intention through Abraham and Sarah was to build a nation. Isaac, the only son of Abraham and Sarah meaning, the only way God’s plan was going to work, was the father of Jacob who became Israel, who had 12 sons that all had families and became the ‘Nation of Israel’.
If it was not for this first resurrection in Sarah’s womb, there would have been no resurrection of Jesus from His death on the cross. This is resurrection power. This is what the Easter season is really all about – bringing dead things back to life to fulfill a new purpose.
- The Value of Work
Labor is a cornerstone of the human experience. To live is to work. No matter what you do whatever you do can be classified within a category of work. When God created Adam, the first thing that He did was employ him. Work is a definitive part of who we are. When/if you socialize one of the most commonly asked questions is: “what do you do?” – implying an explanation of your occupation.
If you have been a reader of mine for a while, then you know that ‘I do not believe in work’. I used to think work was a bad thing because of its inherent fruitlessness. The Bible in the same story of Adam and Eve says that we [humans] are to eat what we cause the ground to produce, and that it -the ground, will produce thorns (Genesis 3:17-19). To understand the significance of this and why this scarred my view of work for so long, you must appreciate the context of the word “ground”, and the implications thereof in the twenty first century.
What does it mean to work the ground? Well back when this portion of The Bible was written it would have been used in a literal sense meaning; animal raising and agricultural work, Adam was technically a farmer after all. Today, the “ground” could be the company you work for, the store you work at, or the business you are part of. We all toil in some way to produce, so that we may sustain our individual quality of life.
Imagine quitting your job tomorrow with no back up plan. How are you going to pay your rent/mortgage? What about food? And let’s not overlook your extracurricular activity spending. You may be able to get by a month or two on savings, but what happens on the third month when the well runs dry and your unemployment application still has not gone through yet? Work has woven itself into society in a way that can be burdensome. This is not a denunciation or repudiation of work however, I am setting the record straight by saying, that while I do not approve of all work; work in general, does have redeeming qualities that gives us insight into the human condition.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;Genesis 3:17-19
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
The current structure of work is that we do it to survive. If you or I do not work, we do not get paid. If neither of us get paid, then none of our responsibilities get taken care of. And if as humans we do not have responsibilities then we do not have meaning. Not to beat the bill analogy to death, but the only reason some people get out of bed in the morning is because they have bills to pay. The work we do produces thorns. What are thorns in the twenty first century? A Netflix subscription, paying too much for your internet and phone, or that shopping spree that you know you did not need to go on. Work breeds responsibility. You will not be responsible for something you did not work for.
Growing up, when I first started wearing contacts, I would always lose them. Once I started paying for them with my own money however, I made sure to never lose a lens. I felt responsible for the lenses because I felt the pain of having to work for them by paying for them with the money, I just finished earning by selling forty hours of my entire existence to someone. You see, when you put work in perspective, the act of work is a good thing in and of itself, the problem is the ground. Where you toil is sometimes more important than what you toil for.
To go back to our agricultural example, it is a lot easier to grow crops in nutrient rich soil than it is to do in soil that has lost all of its nutrients. In the same way, it’s better for you and I to make sure that we are working ground that is suitable for what we are trying to produce in our lives. Here is a secret that might break your paradigm: work is not just work. What you do [your work], is an extension of who you are.
Show me what you do for a living and I will tell you the kind of person you are. No this does not mean that you have to like your job; you give yourself away by what you tolerate. The Bible says that what we approve of is approved and what we disapprove of is disapproved (Matthew 18:18), as this relates to our lives – specifically our work lives, you may not like your job, but what you are willing to put up with at your place of work says something about your character.
What this all means is: If your work is unproductive, it is possible that it is because your environment is unproductive. After cursing the ground and telling us to toil over it, God declares that we [humans] will eat from the fruits of our labor. Is your labor producing fruit? Is your work yielding you are return, or are you toiling in vain?
Sometimes the ground is just bad. Regardless of the work that you do, it will be arduous, there is no getting around that, but at some point, in our lives we should come to a place of wanting to work smarter not harder. The smarter you work, the harder it will make you want to work. What do I mean? For example, as my writing intellect has grown the caliber of my written content has grown with it. There is a degree of pride associated with smart work that makes you want to produce at an excellent quality level. The easier you can do something the less someone else will appreciate it, but a smart worker knows, that the ease is in the expertise.
Is the ground that you are toiling over producing good food, or are you constantly growing sour apples? You see, sometimes it’s not our labor, but rather where we are laboring at. Yes, there will be thorns no matter where you plant: you will not always like your boss, you may not get along with every co-worker, or you could be in on the lower end of a higher income tax bracket. I stand by my belief that work sucks however, I want us to get that work was designed to produce responsibility and the way we handle responsibility is in direct relation with our character development. If what you are doing is not doing something for you, then maybe it’s time for you to find some new ground.
- the Simple Blessings of God
The human body is marvelous. The Bible says that its fearfully and wonderfully made. When I think about the beauty of expression, I am captivated by its simplicity. A small gesture can have a gigantic impact. All of us breathe without much conscious thought about it. When we break down and conceptualize breathing, we find that what is actually happening when we inhale and exhale is, our bodies take in oxygen molecules to energize our cells so that we may conduct ‘normal human functions’. Something as simple as breathing – that we tend not to consider, is the vitality of our lives. You can find this principle playing out in various areas of your life: Sometimes the smallest things have the biggest impact.
It’s important to understand this because without an appreciation for the small things, the big things wont mean anything. Some of the best movies I have ever watched started with a seemingly inconsequential series of events, that ended up playing out an entire plot. Our lives are merely a compilation of small “events” (used loosely). You cannot appreciate the wins of your life if you never had any losses. You can only really appreciate a good meal after you know what its like to have gone without one. It’s the small things that give life its meaning.