Are We Too Connected?

We live in digital and technology-driven age. This is obvious considering that rather than reading this as a printed article or pamphlet, you’re currently reading this post on a computer, smart phone, tablet or maybe even your TV. Technology is everywhere and some even say that technology is actually making us dumber and that human evolution is reversing. I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on our technology-driven lives and why it’s important to intentionally unplug.

I would like to say that I’m very grateful for technology. I love it. I love my iPhone, my iPad and my Mac that sits in my office at work. As a web designer, I wouldn’t even have a job if it wasn’t for technology. Computers, phones, apps and social media are all very useful in our lives. However, there is one question that we need to ask ourselves…

Are we too connected?

We have the ability to be in constant conversation with people all around the world and right down the street through texting, Twitter, Facebook and the other countless social networking outlets. It really is great. We can have our questions answered at any given time and we can also encourage one another instantly with a thought or verse. The trouble though is that we can also neglect the face to face fellowship we’re having with one another by interrupting a conversation to reply to a Tweet. This is where our connectedness can affect and even harm true human interaction. We can be with people in person but yet be miles away as we sit in silence fumbling through our phones. We should make it a point to ignore our phones, tablets and computers so that we can have true interaction with our brothers and sisters. To put it bluntly, we’ve become enslaved by our phones and computers.

Our face to face fellowship with people isn’t the only area of our lives that can suffer. As a follower of Christ, it’s in our new nature to desire Jesus. Because of Christ in us we pray and spend time intentionally seeking God one on one and apart from distractions. I don’t know if we’re simply afraid to be alone or what exactly the problem is, but we’ve lost the art of being alone. Being by ourselves with the Lord is something that Jesus spoke of in word and in action. He would frequently leave His disciples and crowds to go off by Himself and pray. Jesus even said that when we pray we should get alone in a closet. It’s clear that being alone with God is important. This is a practice that we have to retrieve if we hope to be able to encourage and build up each other and if we hope to simply know Christ deeper. For this, we have to learn to how to unplug.

The point is this: Being connected to loved ones is great. There’s a handful of people who I consider real brothers in Christ that I have only conversed with through this blog and on Twitter. I appreciate it all and thoroughly believe that God uses technology. We have to be careful, though, so that we don’t get distracted from God and authentic fellowship with our brothers and sisters.

This is something that I’ve dealt with and am still dealing with now. I’m a Twitter addict. I don’t care about Facebook as much but I’ve spent lots of time Tweeting and scrolling through my feed on my phone. We need to learn that it’s ok to have unread emails, messages and tweets. We need to begin intentionally unplugging and recover the lost art of being alone with God and being with people.

Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

Gift a Goat

Earlier this week I read a post on Matthew Paul Turner’s site, Jesus Needs New PR, about a program called Gift a Goat from World Vision. My assumption of what Gift a Goat was before reading the article was exactly as I thought, you can literally give the gift of a goat.

These goats go to families in places like Uganda and become a huge asset to them for a long time. Goats can produce up to 16 cups of milk per day and of course provide cheese and milk as well. Going a step further, as the goat matures and has baby goats of its own, the families are then able to sell the baby goats. Gift a Goat seems like one of the best ways to spend money this season that I’ve seen so far. With all of the Black Friday ads popping up already I have yet to see a better deal than helping to provide actual needs for a family.

As I mentioned earlier this week in my post Christmas Blog Ideas, I will talking about all sorts of Christmas related issues this season on the blog. One of the things I want to include is information about better ways to spend your money for Christmas. If you’re interested, I hope you take the time to follow the links in this post to learn more about Gift a Goat and the other various gifts you can give through World Vision. They have much more information on their site about this program than I gave you, my goal was to simply raise some awareness.

If you want to participate in the Gift a Goat program but can’t afford it all on your own I suggest splitting the cost with a few friends and/or family members. It becomes more affordable for you and even throws in some extra bonding time with people you’re close to.

CLICK HERE TO GIFT A GOAT

Christmas Blog Ideas

So it’s finally start to feel like mid-November here in the Midwest, which in turn is putting me in the Christmas spirit pretty fast. Leading up to Christmas I plan on having a bunch of posts regarding various Christmas stuff. I’ve already written about what Christmas has become in our culture, basically how much of it revolves around the infectious disease of consumerism. In the same breath I mentioned how much I love Christmas and all that the winter season brings. So today I simply want to present you guys with a list of Christmas related topics that I plan to put on the blog this season.

Please note that when I use the word “alternative” I am referring to something other than the traditional status quo.

– Consumerism
– History of Christmas
– Alternative Gifts
– Alternative Ways to Celebrate
– Top Christmas Movies

To be honest I plan on writing about the negative and positive sides of Christmas. I also want to discuss the fun and light-hearted aspects of Christmas as well. As I’ve said before, I love Christmas but I also recognize all the junk that typically comes along with this busy holiday. This season I’m seeking to experience a Christmas that brings family and friends closer on a real level rather than just a superficial gift giving extravaganza. Above all else though I want to experience a Christmas where Christ is made central and is glorified higher than a fat man in a red suit. Which by the way, I plan to talk about the real Saint Nicholas as well.

The above list is far from finished. I need more suggestions about additional topics and sub-topics. Please comment below to give me some ideas so that we can find a better Christmas together. I would also love some guest bloggers on this site. If you have an idea for a post regarding these topics and want to write your own article about it please notify me either in a comment below or via twitter (@quincyzikmund) and I’ll review your post and put it up on the blog.

Thank you in advance for everybody’s help, I’m really looking forward to all of this.

Rethinking Christmas – Part 1: What it has become in our culture

Please note that I am not a scrooge, nor am I saying all parts of Christmas are bad and evil. Also let me start this by saying that I love Christmas, it’s honestly probably my favorite time of year. My purpose in this series is to simply get us thinking so that we can create better ways of celebrating. Ways that are centered around Christ and community. That being said, I can never wait until the day after Thanksgiving so that we can start watching all the great movies like Elf, Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause, Ernest Saves Christmas, The Christmas Story and so many others. By the way, it’s a rule for my wife and I to not watch any of these movies until the Thanksgiving meal is thoroughly digested.

I even think decorating for Christmas is awesome. Some people like to have themed Christmas trees but my wife and I prefer complete randomness. Anything we can possibly think of to represent us, our family and our friends goes on our tree. We hang the stockings and even have one for our dog Murphie. Driving and walking around to find all the cool house that are lit is always a blast as well. I even proposed to my wife next to a giant Christmas tree on the corner of Second and Main in our hometown after taking a carriage ride through The Fantasy of Lights, a local park turned winter wonderland.

As much as there is that I love about Christmas there are still things that really get under my skin. Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year really bugs me. Not just because I’ve worked retail on Black Friday before and can sympathize with what cashiers and stock workers feel, but because of the transparent greed that overtakes so many people, yes even Christians. People become so crazy on this day that they actually trample other human beings just to get a good deal on that camera they’ve wanted all year. People are literally killed on this day because of consumerism and greed. Remember the year of the Furbies? Ridiculous.

As soon Halloween passes everyone instantly gets into Christmas mode. Last night as Halloween was nearing its end I even started thinking about Christmas and how quickly it was approaching. We start making lists of things that we would like to have for Christmas to hand out to our family members in hopes that we receive that new device that we can more than do without. Sure, sometimes we get things that we really could use, but for the most part my wife and I didn’t need a single thing that we received last year. We loved it all and were very grateful for it all, but we didn’t need it.

Growing up I always got most, if not everything, that I asked for on Christmas. I would study the Toys R Us Big Book like my life depended on it, taking notes to carefully create my Christmas list. Just like Santa, I checked my list twice, maybe even three times before turning it in. Imagine if I would have been that careful about my work in High School, I could’ve been first in my class. But anyway, I rarely didn’t get what I wanted. I’ll be the first to admit that I was spoiled, maybe even more spoiled than my other friends that were spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were and still are great. They’re not just super giving to their kids but to everyone. If they have an opportunity to spend a ton on kids they’ve never even met then that’s exactly what they do. But even growing up in a Christian home I could still see how easily consumerism and the love for “stuff” affected  people. With that in mind I began questioning how our culture and the Church celebrates Christmas over the last couple of years.

I don’t believe that everyone views Christmas the way I did growing up, you may not do gifts at all and simply spend more time being with family and reconnecting around Christmas time. But I do know that without a doubt when Christmas is brought up many if not most people instantly think presents. We may love giving more than receiving but I think that by default we still love getting things that we want…and there’s always something more that we want.

The easy part is recognizing all of this in the culture around us. It’s even easy to notice it in ourselves and openly admit it with authentic conviction. The hard part is making a change. Perhaps the best way to allow change is to learn our history. I always heard growing up that if we don’t learn from history then we’re doomed repeat it. I always brushed this off as I didn’t care much for history class growing up. But God has used history in a big way to guide my wife and I in the direction we’ve been going for the last 2 years.

Now that I’ve given you a glimpse of what Christmas has been like at times in my life I want to explore why it’s been that way. I’m going to take a look at where many of our Christmas traditions came from and even how December 25th came to be the day we celebrated Christ’s birth. After exploring some history I want to continue by giving my opinion about how we can center Christmas around the living Lord Jesus instead of just a manger scene and a fat old man with a sweet beard and red suit. I’m honestly not sure how long this series will last or how long it will take to complete each part of the series, but I plan to continue it. In fact once this series is done I will probably put all the posts together into one essay to make it available for download.

What has Christmas been like for you? What are the positive and negative traditions that you’re use to, if any?

Please make your voice heard during this series, its purpose is much for my reading and learning as it is the readers of this blog.

Aidan’s Monsters

I don’t usually do blog posts like this but I couldn’t help myself today.

This afternoon a friend of mine posted a link to an online store that was setup on Etsy in order to sell a 5 year old’s monster drawings. Aidan is 5 years old and has leukemia, he’s selling prints of his artwork to help pay for his chemotherapy. I got super bummed and excited all at the same time. It’s so sad to see a 5 year old with this disease like leukemia, but so refreshing to see all that he is doing and the joy he still has. Aidan’s aunt has a blog for Aidan where she shares his progress with everyone.

Click here to shop Aidan’s Monsters

Click here to check out Aidan’s aunt’s blog

Click here to stay informed via the Aid for Aidan Facebook page

This is such a cool idea and I can’t wait to support it!

Below are a few of Aidan’s awesome monster drawings.
(From Adain’s Etsy shop)

Red Monster by Aidan - Print (Allow 6 to 8 weeks for shipping)Gill-man By Aidan - Print (Allow 6 to 8 weeks for shipping)Gorilla and Robot by Aidan -  Print (Allow 6 to 8 weeks for shipping)

BOBS and TOMS – Skechers’ Big Plagiarism

Yesterday I came across a post on the Stuff Christians Like site about this new product called Bobs, that’s right, I said Bobs. And no, It’s not a division of Toms, as a matter of fact it’s a complete rip-off. Bobs is a new shoe that’s been been released by Skechers. From the name, to the design and even the cause behind it is identical.

Here is a photo the BOBS shoe from Digital Mom Blog (great site, check out her stuff)

Sketchers Bobs not Toms

 

And of course here is a picture of TOMS

https://i2.wp.com/www.sharplily.com/wp-content/022807_toms_shoes.jpg

See the difference? (neither do I)

When I first saw the post written on Stuff Christians Like I was extremely annoyed. It bothers me to see such a lack of creativity and originality. As I did some more reading and searching online I learned that Skechers has partnered with Soles4Souls, a great organization that’s given away over 10 million pairs of shoes in over 125 countries. Now that’s really cool, so cool in fact that I can actually be a bit more supportive of what Skechers is doing. This has to be a huge opportunity for Soles4Souls as well and I truly hope everything goes well. I just wish they could have been more creative, or rather creative at all, in naming the line of shoes as well the entire design of the shoe itself. I haven’t been able to find any more information about Bobs so far. They’re not mentioned on the Skechers site of the Soles4Souls site, but I’m sure more information will be released in the near future.

After clearing my head a little bit and putting more thought into this I realized that the good outweighs the bad in this situation. Yes, Skechers completely ripped off Toms in every way possible, but more kids will be getting shoes on their feet, and that’s awesome. I realize how easy it is even as a follower of Christ to instantly look at the negative in a situation over the good. The truth is that people and companies copy each other all the time. Sure, most aren’t as obvious as Bobs, but it happens. That doesn’t justify it whatsoever, but I think it helps us to deal with it and let it go a little easier. Although it’s still very difficult when it’s something you care about, something that started underground and independent of big corporations.

I can’t really imagine that the founder of Toms Shoes is very upset about this though. He seems to be extremely passionate about getting shoes to kids, and though annoyed at the plagiarism of his product, probably very happy that more kids are going to get shoes out of the deal.

Do I hate how badly Skechers ripped off the Toms name and design? YES

Am I happy that there will be less barefoot children in the world? YES

So although my wife and I will stick to Toms and never buy a pair of Bobs, I know something something good can and probably will come of this for people I will never meet. The people who are receiving these shoes don’t care about fashion or the politics of business. They’re happy that they don’t have to walk barefoot on glass and rocks. They’re stoked that they have a pair of shoes period, and that’s humbling.

More information about Soles4Souls

Soles4Souls

 

More information about TOMS

Toms Flag

More posts from around the blogoshpere about Bobs and Toms:

A Wife, A Pug, And A Blog

Stuff Christians Like

Digital Mom Blog

Trash Society

If you blogged about Toms and Bobs and would like to share your link on this post please send it to me through the comment section and I will add it to the the above list, thanks.

My view on “churching the unchurched”

All over the country Christian organizations and churches are springing up with with the goal of “churching the unchurched”. I believe that the people who are starting these groups have a very good heart and great intention to back what they’re doing, but I strongly feel like they’re actions and mindsets are completely wrong.

One of the biggest problems that I’ve noticed stems from a false perception of what, or rather who, the Church truly is. To most Americans church is simply an event they attend once or twice a week in a special building that has been set aside for worship. This is wrong, period. The Church is so much more, to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “What you experience on Sunday mornings is not church.” We have made church into this machine that comes complete with its own hierarchy, rules, order and mission statement. This is simply wrong and not at all what the Church of Jesus Christ truly is. The Church is the body of Christ and His future bride. Church life is just that, it’s a life, a complete lifestyle that happens in the realm of community and sacrificial love. The Church receives its life from the indwelling Lord and without Him she simply could not function properly. The true Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t measure success by how big an offering was or how many said a prayer and filled out a contact card that year. The Church measures success by the experience of the Lord together, by experiencing the absolute headship of Jesus Christ together. This is the Church in a nutshell.

There are all sorts of evangelism methods that people hold to and would even take to the grave if need be. Some hand out tracts, some walk around festivals holding a large cross, some go out in groups and randomly pick people to share what Christ has done for them with. Then there are new “churches” that start up and proclaim that all are welcome, no matter your background or beliefs. They also advertise that their mission is to church the unchurched. They want to create a church for those who have been hurt by the church or have never known church life so that those individuals can feel comfortable. Again, they create something to reach people that hate exactly what it is they’re creating….that just sounds silly to me. Now, I firmly believe that God gives grace and uses a ton of different things. I also know that I don’t haven to agree with something for God to use it, but I also feel like our method and mindset for “churching the unchurched” is wrong. I believe that church should happen where life happens. I’m a firm believer in not inviting people to church but bringing the church to them (no matter what form of church practice we’re a part of). Essentially, living out an authentic Christ centered life in front of nonbelievers and befriending a nonbeliever simply because we love them and want to be part of their life, not because we want to sell something to them. I also don’t feel that it’s right to saturate someone with a flawed system, but with Christ alone.

Thanks to the reading of various authors and scholars, I think of different forms of church practice as wineskins. Recall what Jesus said concerning wineskins in Matthew 9:17:

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.

Something I notice is that when people want to make Jesus and the Church relevant (as if Jesus was never relevant on His own) they put all sorts of new ideas and add new programs that are filled with truth. They put more focus on community and culture but they don’t dare touch or change the traditional liturgy. They keep what is now the senior pastor as well as the order of service. They may change a few things here or there and make the service more appealing to a younger crowd, but essentially it’s the same. When you really look at it and examine it you can see that we’re putting new wine into old wineskins, something Jesus warned against. We’re creating new ideas that are based off of truth yet we’re implementing them into the same system that we originally came from. That same system is also the system that those we’re trying to reach despise. We need to show people Christ, not a flawed system. We need to show them Christ by doing life together with other believers and relying on the headship of Jesus Christ to live through us and to guide our lives together. We can’t keep putting God in a box, the traditional system of church is a box and we forget that God is not bound by that. To quote C.S. Lewis, “I want God, not my idea of God.”

If Christ is truly in us and flowing out of us then Jesus Himself will draw people to Himself. That’s not to say there’s no need for evangelism, but I believe evangelism is something different than what we’ve always done. I believe it’s simpler, so simple in fact that it becomes complex because we’re so use to putting so much human effort into it. We have to stop building things and inviting people to come. We need to go to the people and befriend them without an agenda. We need to stop trying to church the unchurched and start unchurching the church. Our church system that we’ve known for so long is flawed, I don’t just mean the imperfect people, I mean the system itself. Christ will build His Church, we need to be a part of that Church, that family, and make Christ Himself central rather than things about Him.

Again, please note that my wife and I have very close friends who are a part of a traditional form of church. I mean nothing negative toward any of them. I also have friends who have a goal of churching the unchurched to whom I also mean no disrespect or anything negative toward personally. I love the fact that I have brothers and sisters in Christ who believe things differently than me because what matters is Christ, we agree on Christ and His centrality and therefore we are not divided.

I would really love to see this conversation continue and grow as this is something that I believe is very relevant in our time and culture. Please don’t hesitate to add your input (respectfully of course) as I have a lot of growing to do and would love to your different thoughts and views and perhaps even more scripture to go along with all of this.