Is Technology Bad for Kids?

Man Holding Cell Phone Camera

I wrestle with this all the time. My kids are 4, 10, and almost 12, and they all love gadgets. (So do I.) They don’t have any other than MP3 players, but they love playing with my smart phone, reading with my Kindle (just the boring kind, not the Fire), and playing other people’s tablets. We don’t own a video game system and their screen time (for non educational things) is limited to an hour a day.

One reason we’ve been kind of struct on this is because we want them to be creative and play outside and build models and things. I still think that’s a good move. And they are creative and they do play outside and build models.

Trying to homeschool the older two and keep my 4 year old productively and safely busy   has been a HUGE challenge. He doesn’t play on his own well at all. So I took the plunge and signed him up for a trial of ABC Mouse. He likes it and can do it independently. It’s better than him watching TV. And it helps me stay sane. So I try not to feel guilty about it.

I also think we’re going to be getting all 3 kids Kindle Fires for Christmas. (Yes, I’m jealous – I want one too.) Even the 4 year old. Because he will make my life miserable if I don’t get one for him too. And he’ll love it and benefit from it.

We’ll still have strict limits on non educational material and will make sure they still play outside and build models. I see them as largely beneficial when I need them to just be quietly occupied – in the doctor’s office, on a car trip, at a model contest awards ceremony, etc.

I’ve struggled a lot with this, feeling like I’m copping out, or giving in, or that I’m going to produce zombie children who don’t know how to interact with other humans.

But the more I think and pray about it, the more I realize that technology itself doesn’t have moral value. It’s a tool to be used carefully and prayerfully. It’s not something to run from, but something to use to our advantage. It’s incredibly handy to have my Spanish/English translator on my phone available while I’m going through the kids’ Spanish lesson.

There are some awesome educational apps out there that make learning fun. I wish ABC Mouse was around when my daughter was younger. She’s a very visual, interactive learner, and I think would have benefited from something like that. What’s there to feel guilty about?

Too much being glued to a screen and interacting with people only through social isn’t good for anyone. I have to limit myself on that as well. (Can we say Candy Crush addict?) But I think with some strict guidelines, we’ll do OK.

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The Bema Seat and Plastic Model Contests?

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My husband and two older kids build plastic models for fun. They also enjoy entering their models in contests. We recently returned from our family vacation to Virginia, where the three of them entered the national contest. There were 1600 models there with contestants from all over the country and some from outside the U.S.

The models were divided into different categories and judged against a set of guidelines. The judges look for how well the models are constructed, the quality of the paint job, as well as the scope of the work. Did the ship include rigging? Did the plane have a camouflage paint scheme? Did the modeler build certain pieces from scratch?

At the end of the convention, there’s an awards banquet where each person finds out how their models did. The winners receive awards.

This year, our daughter did not place in her category, much to her and our disappointment. Our son won first place with one model and third place with his other. My husband won first place in his category and then went on to win the best ship award.

Our first Sunday in church after we got home, the sermon was on heaven and the different judgments for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and those whose names are not. (Revelation 20:11-15)

For those who know Jesus and are written in His book, our pastor was trying to describe how it’s not a judgement of punishment, since Jesus already paid for our sin. What he described kind of sounded like the awards banquet at a model contest – just on a MUCH grander scale. This judgment is also known as the bema seat of Christ. The word “bema” refers to the the platform where the winners of athletic games went to receive their victory crowns.

What we do for God here on earth will be rewarded, like my son and husband were rewarded for their work. My daughter didn’t earn an award and she was very disappointed, but she wasn’t rejected or punished. She just didn’t get rewarded.

When Jesus rewards us for our work on earth for Him, thankfully there will be more than just first, second, and third place! In Virginia, we were able to peek at the possible awards before they were given out, but we don’t know what kinds of rewards Jesus will have for us. Maybe when we get to heaven, before the awards banquet, we’ll get to peek.

We are saved by grace, not by works. But we are rewarded by what we do.

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Revelation 22:12

It’s a challenge to me to spend my days wisely, following Jesus and living, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the way He would have me live.

 

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I Can’t Handle Any More Tragedies!

It’s a privilege to pray for others. Absolutely. But as I surf my facebook page, read my email, and watch the news, it’s overwhelming how much pain and heartache there is out there. I recently saw a facebook post about a family who lost a young child to a tragic drowning accident. Someone in my homeschool support group has a strange brain virus. If I see another picture of that adorable toddler left to die in a hot car in Georgia, I’m going to scream. Nigerian girls kidnapped and sold into slavery or married off by force to Muslim men. I just can’t handle it all!

I can turn off the news, but what about the shared prayer requests from Christians all over the country and around the world? I’m coming to the conclusion that my heart can only hold so much. If I fill it up too much then I tend to become callous just to protect myself from becoming a complete nervous wreck.

Before this crazy age of technology and information overload through things like facebook, twitter and the internet in general, we only knew about the needs that were in our sphere of influence. That’s do able. There’s a guy from my church who is married with two young kids who recently had a double lung and heart transplant. I follow his facebook posts loyally and pray for him and his family daily. He’s within my circle. I can handle that.

Another family from my church recently had five kids left as orphans because the parents died in a car accident. That’s horrific and tragic, but within my circle. I didn’t know them personally, but they’re still part of my church.

So, I think I’m going to try and limit my exposure (as much as possible) and involvement  to local tragedies and needs and things within my natural sphere of influence. I’m not saying I won’t pray for people around the world. Information has its advantages. We support a boy in Brazil and an orphan girl in South Sudan. I’ve brought them into my sphere of influence and pray for them. I also have friends who live out of town. I would also consider them in my sphere. It’s the random family across the country or even across the state who I’ve never met – I just can’t handle it all.

The other thing is that with local situations and other people I’ve chosen to become involved with, I can do something tangible as well as praying. With my transplant friend, I can support his wife’s business by purchasing from her. I can go to fundraisers for the five orphaned kids to raise money for their care. I can write letters to my kids in other countries and send them care packages. I can make a meal for a family with sick parent.

I can’t do everything. Nor can my heart hold everything. If I focus my efforts and prayers on people within my circles, I can do just that – focus. I can do more good that way rather than stretching my heart and hands thin over every problem that exists in the world.

Maybe there’s a cause that really tugs at your heart – abortion or human trafficking or children with cancer. Get involved! Dive in and pray and serve. Invite that cause into your circle of influence and do some good. Just don’t try to do everything and don’t feel guilty when you just say no.

Am I being  callous? I’m actually trying not to be. Is God more likely to work in a situation because 10,000 people across the country are praying for them rather than their 100 closest friends, family, and church family? I suppose this could go in a whole other direction of how prayer works and why we pray and all. I don’t understand it all well enough to even begin to go there. I just find it hard to believe (and support Biblically) that before the age of technology and mass communication that God worked less because fewer people were praying about a given situation.

What do you think? I’m curious how other people handle this…

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Staying Grounded in the Word

Bible

I’ve been reading a great book by Beth Moore called “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things”. It’s not what I expected. I was thinking it was a book about how, as an innocent bystander, to deal with it when godly people do bad things. Rather, it’s about how godly Christians can be seduced by the enemy and led into sin and how we can avoid that happening to us.

She mentions several weaknesses that we may have that can be used of the devil to lead us astray. One of them is having spiritual passion but not enough grounding in God’s word. How true! There seems to be a lot of that in our world today. I got a letter from some missionary friends of ours in the Middle East who told about a new believer who was approached by Mormon missionaries. He was too young in the faith to know the difference. Thankfully, he was quickly informed of what Mormons actually believed and steered in the right direction.

I’ve also seen it in other scenarios where someone is convinced that the Holy Spirit has told them something or led them in a certain direction, but that direction is clearly against Scripture. The last thing I want to do is not give the Holy Spirit credit where credit is due. But the Holy Spirit will never lead us to do something or support something that is contrary to God’s word. Our hearts can easily deceive us and what we think is the Holy Spirit may not be. If the idea doesn’t line up with the Bible, out it goes!

The whole thing has been a wake up call to me to make sure that I am continually grounded in God’s Word. Regardless of how long we’ve been following Jesus, we still need to continually be feasting on God’s Word and staying grounded there.

Not only that, but I need to encourage my kids toward an appropriate balance of spiritual passion and a renewed mind in His Word. We don’t want the scale tipped too far in either direction – either all head knowledge and no passion or all passion without the head knowledge.

How do you best stay grounded in God’s Word? How do you make time in your day to spend with Him? How do you stay balanced between the two extremes?

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The Voices in Our Heads

Stressed Businesswoman

Do you hear voices in your head?

I’m not talking about a serious case of mental illness (I don’t think so, at any rate!), but we all have voices in our heads. Call them what you will – negative tapes that play or our inner brat. It’s all bad stuff that bounces around in our heads, frequently without us even realizing it. I think they’re probably a combination of our own sinful nature and spiritual warfare. Regardless of the source, they mess us up.

You don’t have it all together.
You can’t do this.
It’s all a mess.
Nothing is working. 
You’ll never get to do what you want to do.
You’re messing them up.
They’d be better off in school. 
It will never all get done.
There’s no point. 
It’s all useless.

Been there? I’ve found myself spiraling into the pit of despair when there really isn’t a good reason. Things aren’t really going that badly. The thing I’m upset about isn’t that big of a deal. When I stop and force myself to form words out of what I’m feeling, I find that it’s the type of things I’ve listed above. Those words aren’t true or edifying. They’re paralyzing and extremely depressing.

Sometimes those voices feel like a warm blanket, as twisted as that sounds. It’s comfortable to wallow in despair, frustration, and depression. It feels like a worn out security blanket that’s a little hard to give up. Maybe it’s a prideful search for attention. Look at me and all I’m suffering. I’m so messed up…

That, of course, isn’t healthy or Biblical, either. And deep down, I’d much rather have peace and joy.

So what do we do? “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2b) We need to find replacement tapes to play, words to tell our inner brat when she pipes up her voice. “Set your mind on things above, not on things of this world.” (Colossians 3:2)

For me, the first step is to realize that I have these voices in my head saying not nice things to me. When I’m in the middle of one of those downward spirals, it’s hard to recognize it, but once I do, I can cry out to God for help. Writing down what the voices say is helpful, too. They sound so real and legitimate in my head but look fairly ridiculous on paper.

Once they’re out of my head and on paper, I can counteract them with specific Scriptures that remind me of what is true and good.

“I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

“With Christ, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

For me, homeschooling with a crazy 3 year old running around, those two verses are great places to start.

How about you? Do you struggle with this? What are your favorite verses to remember when you hear negative voices in your head?

 

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Finding Joy Through Biblical Celebration

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My pastor (@jasonesposito1) has been teaching through the book of Nehemiah over the past several weeks and it’s been very interesting. This week we finished off the series by learning about Biblical celebrations. I thought that with Easter around the corner, it would be a great time to share some of what I got out of the message.

After the wall surrounding Jerusalem had been rebuilt, Ezra read the law. Initially, everyone was mourning and weeping because they realized how they had been falling short. But Nehemiah told them not to mourn.

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send to some who have nothing prepared. This day is scared to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'” Nehemiah 8:10

There are clearly times that it’s appropriate to mourn, but this wasn’t one of them. Everyone went home and ate and partied! Not long after that, they read about the Feast of Tabernacles, where they were supposed to live in booths or tents and have an extended time of feasting and celebration. It would be like camping in your backyard and having Thanksgiving all week long!

What was the purpose of all this? Why tents? And how can we apply it today? Celebrations have three purposes.

1. To look back. The Bible is full of admonitions to remember what God has done for us. The Israelites were to live in tents to remind them of the time they spent in the wilderness before God brought them to the Promised Land. God provided for them then and would continue to provide for them. We should also look back over how God has provided for us and allow it to comfort us that He will continue to provide.

2. To look around. Both the Israelites and we need to look around us and see how He has currently blessed us. Sometimes, when we’re going through difficult situations, we can get so caught up in what isn’t going well that we lose sight of all we do have and all that is good.

3. To look ahead. The Israelites were looking forward to the coming Messiah. We know that Jesus the Messiah has already come once but will return to make everything right. Whatever we’re going through, we know that He will fix it in the end. One day, maybe soon, He will return and there will be no more sorrow, tears or pain. Hallelujah!

We can find joy in all those things, regardless of our present circumstances. The joy of the Lord is our strength! God has provided, He is providing, and He will provide. He was, He is, and He is to come. Amen!

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Close calls and living without fear

Blurred Winding Road Sign

We were driving home from church yesterday, heading down a curving, two lane road very close to home. We were getting close to a large curve when another car came from the opposite direction. It came to the curve and didn’t turn, but rather crossed into our lane and almost ended up in the ditch on our side of the road before the inattentive driver realized her error and returned to her lane. I pulled over and waited until she passed. She was still looking down as she passed us! It was terrifying to think about the results if we had been just a few seconds further down the road when she came around the corner. She would have slammed into us head on.

The older I get and the more life I experience, the more I realize how easily life can change in an instant. We’re not invincible. Far from it.

Each Sunday in church, I find myself scanning the congregation to see if anyone looks like he’s hiding a machine gun in his jacket. Even in my “safe” suburban neighborhood, there have been armed robberies lately of gas stations and restaurants. I stay extra cautious as I am out and about. We’ve chosen (so far) not to get flu shots this year, but I’ve been hearing about people hospitalized and even dying from the effects of the flu. It’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to lay in a hospital bed next to a sick child wrestling with illness.

The world is a scary place. There’s no denying it. In spite of how random things may seem, God IS in control. He is sovereign. He’s not a watch maker who set the universe in motion and then left it to run on its own. He is intimately involved in His creation and knows every hair on our heads. Not only that, but He also loves us passionately. His plan is best. He is good.

I could spend the rest of my life in fear, waiting for the next illness or injury, looking for the next shooter or random act of violence. But what good does that do? Does it help me to avoid any of that violence? There’s benefit in reasonable caution. Take the kids to the doctor, keep your eyes out for suspicious looking individuals, and be a safe driver, watching out for drivers too busy on their phones to stay in their lanes. Aside from that, I can’t live in fear. It doesn’t accomplish anything other than sucking the joy out of life. I can’t dwell on the “what ifs”. I’ll drive myself nuts! Instead, I choose to place my trust in my Maker and Heavenly Father. Yes, bad things still happen. But He makes all things work for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) One of my favorite verses on this topic is Isaiah 8:12-14a.

“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear and do not dread it.  The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread, and He will be to you a sanctuary..”

God is the only one we are to fear and He is our sanctuary.

What do you fear the most and how to you deal with it?

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