Strap Yourself In. The New Apple Watch.

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A while ago I wrote a post called “The KISS Principle. Why Dumb Devices are the Smart Choice“. In this article I talked a lot about the iPhone and how sometimes a device with so many features and internet connectivity can be very distracting. I contrasted the iPhone with ‘single function’ devices and how overall I seem to enjoy these more.

Last week Apple introduced the world to it’s new Apple Watch and, like the iPhone, I have a few reservations. On the one hand (no pun intended), it’s not surprising that wearable tech is becoming the next big thing. An internet enabled device that you can strap to your wrist seems like the next logical step in a connectivity-obsessed culture. The iPhone has allowed us to do this for years. Now the Watch is taking it one step further. Now you don’t even have to take it out of your pocket. This is similar to what Google is trying to do with Google Glass (internet glasses). But here, instead of a Google head’s up display, you’re getting an Apple head’s down display. You wear them on different parts of your body but it’s the same concept really- making the internet available on a moment’s glance.

But I have issues with this sort of technology. Call me old-fashioned, or a traditionalist, or just simply slow to adopt new things. But I’m of a very different philosophy. The simple fact of the matter is that the one thing that these devices promise to do, namely bring the internet to you fast and NOW, is the one thing I actively try to avoid in my life. Constant internet, accessibility, is not something I want in my life. I like my space. I like room to breathe. And being strapped to the internet, which is what the Apple Watch allows you to do, is not something I want to add to my lifestyle. Whether you realize it or not, in subtle ways it creates a dependence. The connection becomes more than just an enhancement. It becomes a lifeline. I think it’s worthwhile to fight this dependency. One way to do this is to keep the internet in it’s place. To me the internet is and always will be compartmentalized. It fits into a little box in my life. I go to it when I need it, and turn it off and put it away when I’m done. It’s not something I want to keep ON at all times, and heaven forbid strap to my body. Like I said, I like my personal space and freedom.

So my initial reaction to the Apple Watch, like the iPhone itself, is one of caution. I won’t be surprised if in a couple years wearable tech really catches on. But for me I will always choose personal space and freedom over a constant barrage of information and connectivity. That to me is the smart choice.

Jogging Through the Country

I’ve been running and biking again and it’s been enjoyable to be outdoors. We’re living with my parents here in Wisconsin and I just can’t get enough of the beautiful country landscape. This morning I was out jogging and couldn’t help but marvel at the quiet and stillness all around me. How is it that I can see for miles and nothing within my line of sight is moving except for an occasional bird? How is it that the roads are so empty and motionless? I can stand in the middle of a four way intersection, turn in all directions, and yep, I’m still the only one there. Imagine that! Ah, the joys of country living. It’s a luxury I’ll not soon take for granted.

A recent entry from the Daily Post challenged me to write about and describe a place I’d like to be, or someplace I’d like to go if I could just transport myself there. I think about the places I’ve already been this year- Indonesia, Orlando, Indiana and Wisconsin. Each has it’s own advantage and a memory to put a smile on my face. But it’s been wonderful to be back in the Midwest again. I love the cool weather, the breeze coming in from outside, and the sound of birds. I love the corn that stretches for miles, the farm houses, and the empty baseball fields.  There’s just something so enchanting about it all. I’ve been all over the world but there’s something unique about this place. It’s worth grabbing a hold of. Don’t let a good thing slip by! So for now it’s pretty easy to talk about where I want to be. It’s here, right in front of me.

Discipline Begets Discipline

This is a statement I heard the other day that has really stuck with me. It’s also a concept I’ve thought about for quite a while but didn’t have the words to put it so succinctly. “Discipline begets discipline”. What this basically means is that discipline in one area of your life leads to discipline in other areas. It’s a spill over effect.  A little bit of discipline in one area of your life will spill over into other areas too. I’ve found this to be so true. For example, I’ve been trying to reduce my coffee intake lately, and only have caffeine on weekends. I find that if I am successful and can say “no” to coffee it has a ripple effect and I’m able to say no to other things too, like video games or TV, etc. which frees me up to spend time doing more important and worthwhile things. I am more successful in other areas. A little bit of discipline can go a long way and have lots of positive effects on your life. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Addiction is the opposite of discipline because it’s the loss of control. It’s the inability to say ‘no’. Sometimes it’s helpful to take stock of how many things I’m addicted to. How many things can’t I say no to. And if discipline begets discipline, what about addiction? Perhaps the opposite is true too: addiction begets addiction. Now that’s a scary thought.

I realize that me trying something relatively simple like not drinking coffee isn’t an isolated incident. There’s something larger at stake. It’s about control. It’s about drive. If I’m unable to discipline myself in one thing watch out, because it’s likely I’ll be unable in others as well. But a little bit of discipline can go a long way. Personally, I’d rather have an overflow of control rather than a lack of it.

Here’s to fewer cups of coffee!

Worship Music

I kind of don’t like the label “Christian music”. To me “Christian music” seems kind of limiting, as if there are only certain kinds of music that Christians should listen to. How unfortunate. I think a better label should be “worship” music.

Worship music, to me, is the kind that makes me worship God and admire Him more. Non-worship music on the other hand makes me think about people and forget God. I think there’s a whole spectrum of music out there that is worshipful but not labelled as Christian. In other words, it’s not played on Christian radio. But that doesn’t make it bad. Far from it! It might not be explicitly about Jesus, but I enjoy it nonetheless. It’s kind of like the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon isn’t explicitly about Jesus but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it, and giving thanks to God for it. That’s how music is to me.

Music is, after all, a gift from God. It was His idea. I give thanks to God when I hear a great song. I don’t think we as Christians have to be so narrow in what we choose to listen to. If it causes us to dance, if it causes us to sing. . . than we should! Let’s just enjoy His gifts and not be so divided about it.

Here’s a final thought, something I wrote in my journal several years ago: When Andrea Bocelli sings God smiles. His music paralyses me, leaves me breathless for air, and gives me my life back as a love story.

What a gift.

Thank you Lord for music. Another reason to worship you.

The Results Are Coming In.

Kim and I are in the middle of career assessments here at Wycliffe headquarters and thus far it’s been a lot of fun. This service is offered to us at a greatly discounted price because we’re members and we’re jumping in head first. I think we have somewhere around 7 assessments to take ranging from personality tests, career values, and natural abilities inventories. This is the most comprehensive set of tests I’ve ever taken about myself. We’re only just getting started but already the results coming back are really interesting.

I can already tell that our experience(s) overseas are greatly shaping my responses to these assessments; my answers are colored by recent events. For example, in a ‘career values’ test I had to sort cards based on what I valued the most about a job or career. It was interesting to note my top four answers. Work-life balance and location were my top two values, followed by recognition and exercise competence. ‘Work-life balance’ says to me that I want a job that will fit into it’s proper place in my life and not completely dominate it. One of my biggest struggles overseas was that my life was NOT balanced. The job was life and life was the job. There was essentially no difference and that was hard for me.

The ‘location’ value is tied to this. Location indicates that I want to live in a place that will be conducive to my lifestyle and allow me the freedom to pursue hobbies and other interests; a comfortable home base to operate from. Apparently this is a high value to me.

The other top two values were recognition and exercise competence and these are also related. ‘Recognition’ simply means that I desire some recognition for my work. I think I reacted so strongly to this career value because I feel that I didn’t have recognition overseas. So much of what we did was on our own. We basically had to be our own bosses on a day to day basis. But recognition is a high value to me. I need someone to care. I need someone to notice and value what I’m doing.

And lastly, the ‘exercise competence’ value says that I want a career where I can truly use my skills and abilities and have competence on the job. I want to put in a hard day’s work and have something to show for my time and effort. I want to be good at what I do and be recognized for it. It’s not that I crave praise or attention for myself, I just want to do what I’m good at and get a little affirmation for it. I want to know I’m in the right spot.

So the results are coming in and I’m learning new things about myself. I think these assessments will be very helpful in determining the kind of job that is a good fit for me. Like I said, I’ve never done career counseling this thoroughly before. I’m having fun with it!

Making a Blog Book. A Trip Down Memory Lane.

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So I have a new  little project I’m working on. .  . I decided to try to turn this blog into a BOOK. Yeah, kind of a neat idea. I’ve heard of people doing this, and that it was possible, so I decided to check out my options and see how easy or difficult it might be. It’s really not that hard. I’m chugging along at full speed now and have really enjoyed the process.

I’m using a service called Blurb and their book making software Booksmart. Blurb is the online interface where you upload and order from, and Booksmart is the software you install and use on your computer to put the book together. I’ve been using the Booksmart software for a few days now and I’ve been impressed. It seems pretty flexible. You can drag and drop blog posts into different pages of the book and there are dozens of different layouts to choose from. It also provides quite a few embellishments- backgrounds and graphics- to throw in too. But I’ve been impressed most with the ease of use and power. It’s relatively easy to import your blog into the interface and customize it. All you do is point the program to your blog (at wordpress.com or blogger.com, etc.) and it pulls all the info in, pictures and all. You can even specify a data range or category. Like I said, pretty powerful.

I’ve enjoyed the process of preparing this book. Over the last several days I’ve been going through all my old blog posts, fixing little typos here and there and adding photos. It’s been fun to reread some of these entries, revisit some old times. My blog covers about a five year period, our whole time in Indonesia. I forget many of the details. I’ve never really gone back over old blog posts before so it’s sort of interesting to reread these.  My how times change! I can tell a difference in my writing too. I think it’s gotten better over the years, less random and more cohesive.

It’ll be nice to have a hard copy of some of these thoughts to pick up and read from time to time. This book will be a nice companion to my journal. My writing style is different than my journal, so perhaps I slightly different story will emerge- or at least a different rendering of that story. That’s the benefit of multiple mediums. Each one gives a slightly different flavor. So why not, right? I’ll give it a try and see what comes out of it. Whether it’s a success or not, the process has been worthwhile.

Btw, if you want detailed instructions on how to turn your blog into a book, I found helpful instructions here: https://blog.blurb.com/turn-selfhosted-wordpress-blog-blurb-book/

It’s a faceblog world.

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I’ve noticed that the internet has changed a lot over the years. When I first started this website ten years ago it was kind of a novelty. The idea of a personal blog hadn’t really caught on yet and back then blogs weren’t so easy to create. There were no such things as WordPress or Tumblr to make it easy on you so when someone got online it really was a significant achievement. Getting a site up and running required some technical know-how and most people didn’t bother.

When I first launched this website it got a lot of traffic. Because it was rather unique, friends and classmates posted thoughts, comments, and left me feedback. Yay! But that personal interaction has steadily decreased with the advent of Facebook and the other social networks. Conversations and posts that back then would have appeared on a blog are now exclusively reserved for the big social networks. It’s really all about connectivity and attention span. Someone who posts on Facebook will have lots more EXPOSURE than posting on a blog. And really, when you have to manage three, four, or more online accounts + email, there’s not much incentive or attention span left to ALSO view Joe Schmo’s blog. So I would say it’s been disappointing to see that conversation disappear from my site. I’ve enjoyed all the latest technology trends and tools that have made it easier and more fun to get a website online. But getting people to interact with your particular site is the hard part.

I think the key is adapting to the times. Instead of competing with the big social networks it’s better to USE them to your advantage. That’s why I post links to Facebook. That’s why people can comment on this site via Facebook. I won’t ever steal or capture the conversation that is happening on Facebook, but the more Facebook friendly my site is the more likely people are to interact with it. The rules have changed and you have to adapt to stay in the game.

But I hope that there will always be room for personal websites and blogs. More and more people are online because of Facebook and the like so that’s a good thing. Those who WANT to create a personal and unique blog still can. The big social networks may have taken over, but there will always be room for us creative types. Here’s to the little guys!

Inside the Picture

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Still. That’s the one word I’d use to describe living in America so far. Still, no movement, and quiet. Like living in a picture hung on the wall. There’s detail and depth. Color and shadows. All around me I see manicured lawns, perfect sidewalks, brightly colored houses. Fences and sidewalks. Blue skies. Perfect. A beautiful scene to behold, but very little movement. It’s almost like it exists in slow motion. . . or even no motion at all. But then a bird will fly by. The wind rustles the leaves in a tree. A car drives by. And then I realize I’m not in a picture anymore. I’m in the real world. This place that looks like a painting is actually real! And here I am, living inside it. How did I get here again?

I haven’t experienced peace and quiet like this in many years. I almost forgot what it sounded like. To be so quiet you can hear the creak in the walls- or pick out a sound in a room on the opposite side of the house. I forgot my ear could do that. My eyes too are taking in new sites. A rich tapestry of design and color. My eyes can’t quite make sense of it all. Everywhere I look is something beautiful and clean, perfect and quiet. How can this be? Does this place even exist? Or am I living in a perpetual picture?

I’m a stranger in a strange and beautiful land. It’s home, but somehow far more picturesque than I ever remembered. I think I’ll stay for awhile.

Office Space

It feels really great to be back in an office setting again. I have a desk, a little cubicle, a phone, plenty of quiet space to work from, and I’m just lovin’ it. I forgot how productive I can be if given a few hours of uninterrupted time. Simply amazing.

I’ve been needing this for a while. Our ‘work’ has very much evolved over the last several years. We started off doing a lot of ‘field work’- time in the village, time in relationships, time out of our home, making trips and talking to people. We really went deep in culture and relationships. And while that was great for a season we’re excited about this new chapter of more traditional ‘office work’. It sure is a switch from what we’re used to. And we’re excited to use our God-given skills and abilities in some different areas. Kim is picking up art and graphic design again. And I’m having fun with web development. So far full steam ahead.

I don’t think I take anything for granted anymore. We’ve lived pretty simply for the last five years. We’ve learned what it’s like to live without so many things. But now that we’re home it feels right to be here too. Trusting the Lord is always an adventure. Let’s go Lord!

Rest.

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It’s amazing how restorative quietness can be. We’re experiencing new levels of this in our new apartment here in Orlando. I forgot how healing to the mind and spirit peace and quiet can be. My thoughts are more free flowing, and contemplative. There are fewer distractions to disrupt a train of thought.

And now that we’re back I’m finding that we have so much more time on our hands than what we’re used to. This is a fresh start for us. So far we have no obligations, no appointments, no schedule. Think about it. How many times in life do you get to be anonymous? This is a special time that God has given us. I know it doesn’t last long. But for now I want to treat this time as a gift. God knows we’ve been in need of it for a while.

I hope that the peace and quiet of our time here will be restorative to our mind and soul. And we’ll learn how to connect better as a family and connect better with God.

“Lord, fill our time with good things. Fill our time with peace, rest and comfort. May we be restored in You and through You. Be near, oh God. Amen.”

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” -Psalm 73:28