cutting the cord with technology

perhaps by coincidence – or perhaps not – John Eldredge’s blog had a great piece about removing ourselves from the addiction of technology.  Take a minute and read this …

I feel I need to begin this article with some sort of confession, like in a recovery meeting.

“Hi. My name’s John.” [The small group responds, “Hi John.”] “And I’m a user.” [Group leader says, “This is a safe place, John. Tell us your story.”]  Shifting a little uneasily in my chair, I continue: “Well…I need it first thing in the morning.  Every morning.  I need it right before I go to bed.  I have to get a fix even when I’m out to dinner with my wife.  Or on vacation.  I feel agitated and uncertain when I can’t find it. When it looks like I’m about to run out, I get panicky and look for some place to plug in, if you know what I mean.”  [Group responds, “We understand.”]

Last month I was basically in paradise.  My wife and I had slipped away from Colorado’s January snowstorms to the North Shore of Kauai. It is, without question, the most gorgeous of the Hawaiian Islands, maybe one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Volcanic cliffs covered with lush tropical forest spill right down to the water’s edge.  Hibiscus blossoms fall onto the peaceful rivers that wind their way through the jungle.  This isn’t your tourist Hawaii.  Apart from Princeville, the North Shore is way laid back, and after you cross a couple one-lane bridges, you feel you really could be on the edge of Eden.

Anini Beach is one of our favorite spots—far from the crowds, east of the Princeville scene, along a quiet neighborhood street that still has rural pasture and horses, if you can believe it.  There is a reef about a hundred yards out which creates a massive protected lagoon where you can swim, snorkel, spearfish, SUP, hang out with the sea turtles.  It is an utterly peaceful and enchanting place, made even more magical this year by huge winter surf which created 25-foot waves thundering out on the reef.

Sitting on the quiet beach there, with no one to our right or left for more than 200 yards of pristine white sand, it was so luscious I kind of expected Adam and Eve to go strolling by.  Now—you’d think this would be enough to delight and enchant any soul, but as I took a stroll myself, I passed a guy sitting under a banyan tree… watching videos on his iPhone.

Wow.   You can’t unplug from your technology even in a place like Kauai?

Now, to be fair, I bet this is what happened: He had his phone with him—because everybody always has their phone with them—and somebody texted him a funny YouTube video, and he couldn’t resist the urge, and that was that.  He was glued to a little artificial screen watching some stupid cat sit on a toilet when all around him was beauty beyond description, the very beauty his soul needed.

And I saw myself in him.

Because I, too, had brought my phone with me to Anini, and I, too, responded when the little “chirp” alerted me to an incoming text. (We always have our excuses; every addict does. I was “keeping myself available to my children.”)  The thing is, I’ve seen this all over the world. Fly fishing along a stunning stretch of water in Patagonia, and some dude has a rod in his right hand—line and fly out on the water—and in his left his cell glued to his ear, chatting away. I’ve seen people checking their email at the National Gallery of Art in London.  And of course there are the users who can’t even turn it off at the movies.  I’ve climbed a ridge to check my phone while hunting; I’ve kept it on the table out to dinner with my wife, “just in case.”

Neo was never so totally and completely plugged into and hopelessly dependent on the Matrix.  But our umbilical cord is a lightning cable.

You know what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about our attachment to our smartphones—an attachment that goes way, way beyond “necessary tool” or “helpful device.”  Do you have the courage to read on?

Knowing that denial is one of the stages of addiction, let me ask a couple questions: When your little Chime, Glass, or Swoosh alerts you to an incoming text, do you easily ignore it and go on with the conversation you are having, or reading what you are reading, or enjoying the back seat view as you drive through the desert?  I’m serious—when that thing vibrates in your pocket, do you regularly ignore it?  Or do you automatically reach to see?  Can you shut your phone off when you get home in the evening and not turn it on again until morning? When you first get up in the morning, do you allow yourself a leisurely coffee and bagel before you look at your phone?  Or is your phone the very first thing you look at every morning?

Yeah—me too.  And I hate cell phones.  Which only shows how powerful the attachment is.

What blows my mind is how totally normal this has become.  I’ve got a friend who decided to break with his addiction; he now turns his phone off over the weekend. I text him, and he doesn’t reply until Sunday night or Monday morning.  And what’s fascinating to watch is my irritation. Like, C’mon, dude—you know the protocol. Everybody agrees to be totally available, anywhere, anytime, 24-7. It’s what we do.  What does it say that you look like some sort of nut job when you turn your phone off?!

The early Desert Fathers fled civilization for their monastic outposts because they knew the “world” was corrupting their souls—in an age when everyone walked to work, there was no artificial light to extend the daytime late into the night, there was no internet, Wi-Fi, TV, Facebook, Youtube, no technology whatsoever.  No smartphones.

What have we become accustomed to?  What have we become dependent on?  And what is it doing to our souls?

What does the constant barrage of the trivial, the urgent, the mediocre, the traumatic, the heartbreaking, the buffoonery do to us when it comes in an unending stream—unfiltered, unexplained, unproven, unexpected, and most of it unworthy—yet we pay attention on demand?

The brother of Jesus was trying to offer some very simple guidelines to a true life with God when, among other things, he said, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).  That unpolluted part—that’s what worries me, when 81 percent of smartphone users keep their phone on at all times, even in bed (I’ll bet the number is much higher for Millennials, probably around 98 percent), and when we check our phones somewhere between 46 and 150 times a day.

The idea of forming a spiritual life is to create space in your day for God—to intentionally put yourself in a space that allows you to draw upon and experience the healing power of the life of God filling you.  Over the ages, serious followers of Jesus have used stillness and quiet, worship, fasting, prayer, beautiful places, and a number of “exercises” to purposefully drink deeply of the presence of God. A nd to untangle their souls from the world.  No one will care for your soul if you don’t.

So here are a couple steps I am taking:

I’m turning my phone off around 8:00 p.m.  I’m choosing not to turn it back on first thing in the morning—not till I’ve had some time to pray.  I’m putting it on silent mode during dinner and ignoring the buzz if it does vibrate. (Get this—it just buzzed while I was finishing this article, and my eyes started to glance over.  Good God.)  Last Saturday night Stasi and I went out on a date, and we left our phones at home.  When it chirps or vibrates I’m not instantly responding like Pavlov’s dog; I’m deliberately making it wait until I am ready.  In these small ways I am making my phone a tool again, something that serves me, instead of the other way around.

Gang—it’s time to cut the lightning umbilical cord.


Brad Hicks video from this morning

Brad did a great job this morning sharing his testimony of what God is doing in/through him.  The power of a man’s testimony is amazing – it is good and Holy to tell your story.  Broken, wounded, not-yet-fully complete, 1/2 the man I want to be … whatever … your story of what God is doing in your life has power to it.  Brad demonstrated that today.

Ephesians 4:8 “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: “When he ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” – and it goes on and talks about some would be apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, etc.

You’ve been given gifts – each one of you – and Christ gave them to you for a purpose — so that, you would bring the Kingdom.  Brad is bringing the Kingdom in his world.  Men around him are seeing God’s transformation in Brad and responding to it.  He’s being obedient to follow God’s call.  He’s living Excurvatus Ex Se – a life lived outward (and I might add … Upward) 


Best of Manschool – Branch to Vine (2) – how to draw your life from God…daily

scenes of life  Attached << are some slides that I wanted to show this morning of “scenes of life” – they are pictures I’ve taken through the years from times where I got outside and was restored by God.  Here are the notes from this morning…

Navy seals undergo brutal training.  It is actually quite kind.  It prepares them for the reality.  It gets them ready for the question, “Would I go to war with this man?”  There is something about seeing Seals in action that stirs us as men – the same that Gladiator, Braveheart, etc. stir us – powerful, swift, silent and effective, someone to be reckoned with, oh to be that man.  And yet, very few men give any thought what it entails to get there.  Christianity is the same way – we are clearly in a world at spiritual war and few of us have a clear plan for how we are going to draw upon the life of God – the Zoe.

There are things we need to cease doing and start doing.  Cease the things that drain you of the life of God…

Busyness – a brilliant plan of the enemy.  We live insanely busy lives running trying to make it all work.  The whole world runs like rats and it wears you down.  It makes you an easy target for an affair, an addiction, depression, discouragement, loss of heart, checked-out, angry at God = an easy target.  We have to unplug from the madness of the world.  Remember the graveyards are full of men who were at one time, “indispensable” people.  The duties and expectations of the world will all continue to function if you part ways with them.  If they don’t bring you life, if you dread them, if they suck the life from you, get out of them.  Stop trying to please the world and instead draw upon the life of God.

Worry – it simply chokes the life out of us.  Fear consumes. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with the anxieties of life.” Ask Jesus about both of these – “Lord, help me deal with these.  What do I fear?  Why do I worry?  What’s beneath the surface, what wound am I dealing with here?”  Get these weeds out of your life.  They choke off life.

Technology – we live in an absolutely toxic environment for humans.  Scientists are determining that long-term exposure to computer screens, iPads, cell phone screens really damages the brain.  Over-exposure to the internet is now a clinical condition.  Just think how you feel after a day sitting on the sofa watching TV or after a few hours of playing a video game.  You feel terrible.  It doesn’t restore or refresh.  It makes you lethargic, numb, flat, listless.  TV is an invasion of my home.  It feels chaotic to me.  It stirs me up, churns my soul.  I think that’s a reflection of the pounding I take during the day and I just have no energy to fight the TV.  John Piper once said, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”  Ouch.

If you want life, you’re going to have disentangle from some of this stuff.

Relief or Restoration – all of this we’ve covered, the madness, the treadmill of life, the cellphones, the tyranny of the urgent – when we come home from this world, most men just seek some relief.  We drink a few beers, eat a bag of chips before dinner, pound cookies after dinner, plop in front of the TV for a few hours, spend an hour on Facebook, turn to our wife for sex – or – men turn to porn.  What drives this?  Relief.  We just want some relief.  We want an escape but these escapes do not restore us.  None of these things bring us life.  In fact, they only drive us further in the hole.  No, we need restoration.  Restoration.  We need the healing of Living Waters.

So, what does that look like?  The things we need to start doing to get that restoration

Seek stillness and silence every day – Jesus “went off to lonely places” i.e. “alone”.  Alone, quiet, still.  My morning habit … I never turn a TV on.  I am in silence as I shave and get dressed.  Silence from “man”.  Instead, I am listening to praise music or spiritual podcasts.  I never turn on CNBC or Fox News.  I don’t try to “jump-start” the day to get ahead of curve.  That’s just a start.  Not near enough.  I draw upon a “trickle” of life.  I need more.  Much more, but it is a start.  I have to be intentional.  Many nights when I come home, I am often outside watching the sunset on my driveway.  Just still and silent.  I breathe.  I soak God in. Create silence and stillness and invite God in.  Branch to vine.  Receive His life.  Choose restoration.  At the end of the day – let it go.  Let go of the people.  Let go of the demands and the madness.  Let it go.  Give it over to God.  Practice this daily.

Community/Tribe – Joe Morrow pointed this out in our small group – Community/Tribe is crucial to this.  Man should not attempt to do life alone.  We need a band of brothers in/around us who we trust, who know our story and who are willing to fight for us.

Regular source of truth – Journal.  Daily.  Jot down what God is doing.  Where God is moving.  What you’re hearing the Father say.  Document it.  Start developing lists of your favorite verses.  Start documenting the truths God says about you.  That you are a beloved son. That He adores you. That you’re a son with the full inheritance. That as the prodigal that wandered off, once you turn back home, you see Him there sitting on the porch looking for your return.  Get these down and spend time in them.  In the years to come, these journals will be incredibly valuable to you.

Spend more time with the real than the artificial – Get alone with God outside and just let God speak to your heart and pour out some great things on you.  God gives us these incredible senses and He gives us the incredible natural world and the two fit together beautifully.  There is nothing like a red tail hawk against a crystal clear blue winter sky.  Sunsets.  Sunrises.  Thunderstorms.  Freshly cut grass.  A new garden and dirt beneath your fingernails.  There is nothing like the Colorado mountains or a long walk on the beach.  God gave us all those things and they restore the soul.  Compare two hours at the mall or playing Halo to a walk in the woods.  There is no comparison in what each of these do to your soul.  Touch real things – tree bark, dirt, grasses, animal fur, a lake, a seashell, a hand in a creek, a smooth rock vs. touching plastic or polyester.  Life is creation.

Beauty – the soul responds to beauty.  Your brain responds chemically.  Art, music, mountains and wide open landscapes repair you.  Listen to great classical music.  Build you a worship song playlist – peaceful, restorative songs that speak to your soul.  Take up photography.  Find the beauty in nature and capture it.  If you ever really look at a stand of pine trees, they are beautiful.  Rocky creeks – take some pictures and take your shoes off and let the water run over your feet.  Soak in beauty.  Feel it.  Appreciate it.  Let the Master Artist speak to you through His work.  How does that sound compared to two hours of The Walking Dead or an hour of Bill O’Reilly?  Which one will restore your soul?  Which one will draw upon the life of God to restore you?

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an art but a habit.”

You are what you repeatedly do.  We reap what we sow.  This is so hard to do.  It’s so easy to fall back into Bill O’Reilly every night.  So easy to forget all these things we’ve listed here.  This is a world at war against your heart and it is so easy to lose by attritionAttrition?  See if this sounds familiar … “The action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone through sustained attack or pressure.”   Bingo.

Is that you?  Has your strength and stamina to fight this war been gradually worn down.  Has your effectiveness?

It is because you are under a sustained attack.  It is attrition.  So back to the Navy Seals – all of us are drawn to “that man” – to be that man, swift, silent, effective, a force to be reckoned with – and yet few of us give any thought to what it takes on the front end to get there.

George McDonald said, “All of the growth the Christian is the more and more life he is receiving.”  Your growth – all the growth (or lack of growth/fruit) of your branchwill reflect the life you are receiving.  If you are this dried up branch waiting for the fire, it is because you’ve cut yourself off from the vine.  The man you see that is lush and vibrant and bearing much fruit, that is a man that has made this a priority in his life.

The Christian life was never meant to be easy.  You were never promised an easy, pain-free life.  If you want “this” we’ve been talking about, you’re going to have to work for it.  You’re going to have to be intentional to push back time – push it back away from you, create a vacuum to allow the Living Waters to come in and restore you and to push back the enemy and the tyranny of the urgent.  You need to breathe.  You’re a tree and you need a stream of living water to feed your roots.  You’re a branch desperately in need of grafting back into the vine.  But you – and only you – have to make this the priority in your life.

So, what’s your plan?  What is your process going to be to draw upon the Life of God?


Do you want to get to know Bart Hansen?

Bart will be with us in person on Wednesday morning.  I encourage you to join us.   Attached is a great talk with Morgan Snyder interviewing Bart inside Bart’s workshop at his ranch in Colorado.  If you have about 45 minutes, watch this video.  It’ll help you get to know Bart’s story and will make Wednesday more meaningful for you.

Please pray that the Lord will move and bring men into our midst that need to hear Bart’s message.

comments from you…

Here are some recent comments from you on “The Vine…”

Yancy Helton – Thank you so much for getting this out so quickly . . . have shared the highlights with others this morning . . . now they can get it all!!

Joe Morrow – Hi brothers…..sorry I missed the entire message and group time.  What I did catch stirred in me immensely all day yesterday and I struggled most of the night with it as well.  Like almost every aspect of my life, including my Christian walk, I find that I am inconsistent in relying on God and God alone for the “life” which He so freely offers.  I run hot and cold and while cold it definitely degrades the quality of my existence and of those that rely on me to be plugged in, branch receiving, fruit producer that I was intended to be through Him.  Pray that I might really make strides in this area by simply letting God…….

Robin Carr – As I see the sunset picture and view the videos and countless mental videos of glorious places I have been privileged to see, I am reminded of the creation story in Genesis and its direct parallel to John 1.  God made light, and He made us – His sons – with eyes that can see all this that He made, and marvel at His greatness, and we rejoice in the ability He gave us to enjoy it all.  How lavish He is with us. I feel indescribably special and cared for!   Then in John, the Maker of light, is the Light, and has come to us – in person – to shine into our eyes in person and into our hearts.  Remember, there were 400 years in Egypt before the redemption at Passover, and there were 400 years from the Prophets to the Living Light of redemption coming to us.  The Father – our Father – does not forget us in our present distress; He always comes through!

And then, back from a post in April on “the wound” – we have a few people outside our community that have found our blog and follow it.  This comment came from a woman who follows us … Thank you so very much for this.  After being saved for almost twenty years, I developed such anger that I started fighting with my family and have been running away from the situation and at the same time disregarding God’s command of honoring my parents.  Thank you because I do realize that I didn’t deal with my past hurts but was a posing woman in a wounded girl.   I am now going to invite my savior to heal those wounds and receive my freedom.  To God be the glory.

I thought all of these were encouraging and are worth sending out to you,