Sunday, January 31, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 31


Congratulations! You finished the 30-Day Phone Challenge. I hope you found this series helpful.

There are many more areas that could have been addressed in our use of technology. If you want further resources, here are a few I recommend. (Affiliate links included.)

Surviving the Tech Tsunami by Gary Miller

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

How To Break Up With YourPhone by Catherine Price

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’d love to hear from you on what you have found helpful in controlling your phone. And if you are my friend in real life, I welcome you to ask how I'm doing in controlling my phone.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 30



Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

After thirty days of talking about technology and phones, you might feel discouraged, as I was when I researched this subject. But note the verbs in these verses: Create, Restore, Renew, Uphold. These are positive action words. 

Whatever the regrets you have about your phone use, God desires to reshape your life into His image. He can take what is ugly, worn-out, and corrupted--and transform it.

Today’s Challenge: Meditate on Psalm 51: 10-12. Ask God for His restoration in every area of life.

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 29


We’ve talked about a lot of things this month. You might have decided that you don’t have a problem with your phone use. But if you are like most women I talk to, you see room for improvement.

So what's next?

You might want to streamline your time online. Maybe unsubscribe from email newletters or unfollow people on social media to help manage the digital clutter. It might be a good goal to take a few minutes on the first day of every month decluttering your phone from apps that are draining your time.

Or maybe you need something more radical. I admire those who have chosen to get rid of their smart phone and go back to a dumb phone. Or who have their social media apps blocked for all but a few hours on Saturday. Or disabled their phone from ever getting onto Youtube.

Only you can know where your problem area lies and what might be a good solution. Do you need more accountability? A regular fast from your phone? Or just a bit more moderation?

But one thing I do know is that we all need more of the Word of God. I haven’t talked to anyone who wishes they spent less time in their Bible.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

Today’s Challenge: Review the challenges from the last few weeks and brush up the ones you missed. Remind yourself that this isn’t just to make your life miserable. Our goal in controlling our phones is to get more of the riches of God’s Word and less of the world’s rot.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 28


Why do we want to use our phones wisely? Because we all have goals in life that won’t be met if we waste our time. We know we have been given only one life and are responsible for how we use it.

Often an effective way to change a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. If you are disturbed by how much time you are spending online, it can be difficult to stop unless you are replacing those hours with something else, something better.

Ask yourself, “What would I enjoy doing if I had more time? Then take a step toward doing that thing.

Do you want to do more art? Set your art supplies on your desk and maybe sign up for an online watercolor class.

Would you like to play more music? Pull your guitar out of the case and prop it by the living room couch.

Do you want to read more? Remove your phone from your bedside table and replace it with the book you have been wanting to read. Or download an ebook or audio book from the library onto your phone and place the library app on your home page instead of social media.

Would you like to meet a friend for coffee? Message them today and set a date.

Would you like to exercise more? Set your sneakers beside your bed. Or download an exercise app.

Think about the things that inspired you when you were a child. Was it cooking? Bird watching? Crossword puzzles? Making up stories? Maybe if you fed those activities you would rediscover a fulfilling hobby.

If you have something to look forward to, you may find it easier to lay down your phone.

Today’s Challenge: Come back to real life. Choose an activity that you wish you had time for and make a plan for adding it to your life.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 27


My amount of self-control can feel limited. I wake up in the morning with great intentions, but my resolve crumbles by night.

We know we shouldn’t go grocery shopping when we are tired and hungry. It isn’t wise to browse online when we are tired and lonely.

One Sunday afternoon this summer I had a headache. I took my laptop to my room planning to quickly look up something then take a nap.

An hour later I had watched several Youtube videos on (I hate to admit this) fashion, specifically “How to not dress frumpy after 40.” I wish this wasn’t a true story.

Somehow in my exhaustion, I lost my good sense and swapped unprofitable media for a nap.

James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, “If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have a bad system.”

Make decisions concerning media when you are clear headed, not when you are weary. Set up systems that will encourage good habits without draining your self-control. My choice to keep my phone out of my room at night was partly because I was much more likely to scroll aimlessly when I was weary than at other times of day.

Some people use an app like Freedom, SelfControl, or Offtime to block certain apps or maybe the whole internet during certain hours of the day so they can focus on their work or family. For example, you can decide to give yourself one hour every afternoon (or once a week) to check Instagram and block it the rest of the time. Or shut down the internet after 10:00.

Building systems take time and should be done slowly so they become part of your lifestyle. But once systems are in place, they should take less thought which means less stress and self-control for you.

Today’s Challenge: Set up systems for success. By now you may know the triggers that make you reach for your phone. Start with small things, such as turning off notifications, deleting apps, and moving the phone from your bedroom. Consider a blocking app. Allow the small successes to spur you on to more steps.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 26


But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

Maybe you don’t want to do a regular phone fast, but you want to put priority on God’s Word.

A few years ago I committed to not check email or get online until I read my Bible that day. I announced this goal here on my blog which provided accountability. It was a simple goal, but because it was specific, I found it effective. The goal had clear boundaries. Either I read my Bible before I opened up my laptop, or I broke my commitment.

Now that I have a smartphone, I find this goal harder to keep. Somehow the phone can be in my hand and opened before I think twice. But since I moved my phone out of my bedroom, it has become easier to pick up my Bible first.

Good intentions can quickly get derailed. We must have a firm plan, preferably not just in your head but written, to increase our success. Sharing it with someone else makes success even more likely. Somehow the act of committing to another person makes it rise in importance in our mind.

Today’s Challenge: Do you have a good routine of Bible reading and prayer? Building a new habit works best if it is clearly defined.

What do I want to do? Where am I going to do it? When will I do it?

For example, fill in these blanks. “After I____________, I will read my Bible ____________.”

For example, “After I make myself a cup of coffee in the morning, I will read my Bible on the red chair.” Or “After my children leave for school, I will read my Bible at the kitchen table.” Or “After I tuck the children into bed, I will read my Bible at the desk.”

Then place your Bible at that spot in anticipation for tomorrow. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. It can take time to build a new habit. Just try not to miss twice and do it the next day.

Monday, January 25, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 25


How did your 24-hour phone fast go? What did you learn?

Several years ago a friend and I made a commitment to read nothing but the Bible each Tuesday. No books. No email. Nothing online. Nothing in print. It was HARD. I didn’t realize the depth of my reading addiction until I found myself reading junk mail. I found that I can’t not read, so I learned to set my Bible open on the counter so I would read it throughout the day.

But as time went by, I found those Tuesdays were valuable. I learned to look forward to a day with my Bible. I’m not really sure why we quit that habit. Probably life just got busier and more complicated for both of us. It is more difficult, though certainly not impossible, for me to detach from the web now. Back then, Ed checked email and texts on Tuesdays and alerted me if anything needed immediate attention. (It usually didn’t.) Now I feel like I need to stay connected to the world. But that isn’t a good excuse. I could still shut down my phone except for the actual calling and text service.

Phone or media fasts aren’t easy, but many worthwhile goals demand sacrifice.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Today’s Challenge: Are you ready to set a regular phone fast or a digital Sabbath? Write down your goal and share it with a friend. This might be simply that you are going to leave your phone off every Friday evening (or every evening) to enjoy time with your family. Make it a treat, not a punishment, to enjoy time without your phone.

And if you did a phone fast this weekend, or some other time, I'd love to hear what you learned from it.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 23


Have you ever forgotten your phone? I have. And I’ve turned the van around to go back home to get it.

We think it necessary to be constantly available to our children and others. And maybe it is. (Though the other Sunday, when I realized I forgot my phone, I figured all my children were with me and if we had a flat tire, many Good Samaritans would be passing us on their way to church so I didn’t go back and get my phone.)

Anyone born before the ‘90s should know that not having a phone is not a crisis, but many of us live like it is. We may get twitchy after an hour without our phone.

Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism recommends taking a thirty-day detox with the goal of doing a digital declutter. During this detox, you take a break from all optional technologies on your phone and computer. The first week is expected to be difficult as you adjust to life without apps and the web, but by the end of the month you should have a greater clarity on what technology adds value to your life and what is a distraction to the life you really want to live.

While I’ve never done a thirty-day detox, I’ve done several short media fasts.

This spring, my brother challenged all of us siblings to take a one-day phone/internet fast. I didn’t tell the children, but before I went to bed that night, I hid all our laptops and phones.

We found our screen-free day challenging—I assume that proves we needed it. My children and I definitely experienced withdrawal symptoms. But we survived those twenty-four hours, and, when I got back online, I hadn’t missed anything important.

Since then, I’m been wondering if I should make a media fast day a regular routine, maybe once a month.

Today’s Challenge: Sometime this weekend, turn off your phone for 24 hours. I know, the thought is painful, so don’t overthink it, just do it.

You may have a job that requires you to be always on alert. If you are a midwife or a firefighter or if the lives of others depend upon you answering your phone, then please keep it on. Or maybe you are a mom that needs to stay in contact with your husband or children. Can you keep your phone calling and messaging on but turn off everything else?

I will not be posting tomorrow, Day 24, so you don’t have to get online to read here. I’ll be back on Monday, Day 25 of our phone challenge.

Friday, January 22, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 22


Would you consider working if your boss refused to pay you? Probably not.

We must consider cost vs. profit. No business will continue to sell a product for less than it costs them to produce it. They would eventually go out of business.

When you begin tracking your phone use, you may find that you spend many hours online with very little value added to your life. We must ask questions such as “Is the joy I get from my phone worth the time I’m spending on it?”

Another way to look at it is to ask, “If Facebook (or other site) charged me by the minute for the time I spent on their site, what would it be worth it to me?”

Ephesians 5:16 says that we are to "redeem the time, because the days are evil." Life is precious; let’s not waste it.

This summer, a young woman I didn’t know well invited my two little girls and me over for coffee on a random Friday afternoon. For a few hours, we talked about books and writing and motherhood while our girls played. She told me that she had recently deleted her Instagram account and was finding better ways to use her time.

What would happen if more of us cut out some social media time and replaced it with intentional face-to-face communication? How could our churches be transformed if even one hour of phone time a week was replaced with Bible reading and prayer?

Today’s Challenge: This weekend I will encourage you to do a 24-hour phone fast. Prepare today for this fast. This may include letting others know that you won’t be using your phone, printing off directions if you will be traveling, or getting a book from the library. You may want to get the rest of your household on board since it is easier to do a phone fast with your whole family. 

Make plans for how you are going to use all your extra time. If you have something enjoyable planned, you’ll have less time to miss your phone. 

You might even want to set an automated phone greeting or text message response to let others know about your phone fast and give an alternate way to get in contact with you in case of emergency.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 21


When you reach for your phone, ask yourself, “What do I want?” Do you want your phone for a specific purpose or are you bored? It is easy to get into the habit of reaching for our phones in the pauses of our day.

One of my friends made the decision to check the news only once a day. When she found herself checking the news, she’d ask, “Do I want to spend my one time now or would another time be better?” Often she found that she didn’t really want to read the news, she was just avoiding something else—maybe something as simple as cleaning up the kitchen.

Today’s Challenge:

Do some phone housecleaning. After you have deleted the apps you don’t want to use, tidy your remaining apps. Only keep a few necessary apps on your home screen, such as gps and your actual phone. Organize the other apps in folders on the second or third page so they are accessible but not too handy.

If you are really serious about hiding temptation, change your screen to grayscale which makes it appear like a black-and-white photo and cuts the visual appeal. Imagine browsing Instagram without any color. It sucks out the joy. If it isn’t fun to pick up your phone, you will stop using it. (I admit, I only lasted in grayscale for a few hours.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 20


There is nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional order of fries or bag of Doritos, but, once we start eating junk food, it is really hard to stop. Junk food does not meet our nutritional needs.

The media have become masters at packaging stimuli in ways that our brains find irresistible, just as food engineers have become experts in creating ‘hyperpalatable’ foods by manipulating levels of sugar, fat, and salt.” - Matthew Crawford

Much of social media isn’t sinful. We can enjoy the eye candy of Instagram, but, when we create an appetite for endless words and images, we dull our appetite for enjoying God.

In Surviving the Tech Tsunami, Gary Miller says that technology has affected how he sees God. Google gives an instant reply to all our questions. We can begin to wonder why God doesn’t respond to us as quickly as Google. The ease of technology can decrease our desire for the hard work of studying the Scripture.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. John 6:35

We use our phone for many useful, necessary activities. But most of us waste more time on our phones than we spend praying. Probably far more.

Today’s Challenge: If you are trying to diet, you don’t stock your pantry and fridge with junk food. Delete the junk food apps from your phone. This may vary for individuals, but will likely include gaming and social media apps, maybe even email.

Deleting apps from your phone feels radical, but, if you’ve been following these challenges this month, you know how easily you reach for your phone and start scrolling. So delete them off your phone and see if it gives you more control over your phone. You can always reinstall them if you find they are necessary.

I enjoy checking Instagram and Facebook occasionally (which for me is about monthly), but I’m rather certain if I had the Instagram or Facebook app on my phone, I’d be on those sites far more often. I have better control over these sites if I check them only on my laptop. I have other friends who found freedom in canceling their Instagram or Facebook account. I won’t tell you what will work for you but I do encourage you to make sure you are controlling social media and not social media controlling you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 19


Some days we might know we need more Jesus, but we feel too weak to move toward Him. Instead we use our phones to hide from pain, to bury our hurts, to distract us. When Ed was sick, I sometimes felt too empty and too stressed and too tired to move toward God. That is when we need a friend to bring us chicken soup. To lead us by the hand to Jesus.

Though our phone can be a hindrance, we can choose to use it as a crutch to help us walk toward God. We can WhatsApp a friend and ask them to pray for us when our own prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling. We can turn on the audio Bible app and listen to the Psalms when we are too weary to even read. I often listened to worship music and hymns, hoping that the truth would subconsciously sink in.

Our phone is a tool. Use it to bring yourself and others to Jesus, who is our real source of comfort.

Today’s Challenge: Make a list of ways you can reach out to others, and yes, it can be with your phone. Maybe send a text or a card to someone in a nursing home. Post a verse or inspiring quote on social media. Call someone who needs encouragement (which, as a friend told me recently, is everyone who is breathing). Write a note of thanks to a teacher, minister, or mentor.

Choose one and do it today.

Monday, January 18, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 18


What do we reach for when we are bored or lonely or when we want to avoid washing a stack of dishes or tackling a hated project? Maybe past generations scooped a bowl of ice cream or reached for chocolates, but I’m guessing many of us pick up our phones.

Catherine Price says, “Most addictions stem from a desire to feel better or to make a bad feeling go away. If you try to cut back on your phone use without first figuring out what you’re trying to achieve or avoid, you’re dooming yourself to failure.”

For the next several days, I challenge you to think about how you feel before and after time on social media. What emotions prompt you to pick up your phone? Maybe boredom? How do you feel when you set it down? Anxious? Guilty? Jealous? Depressed?

When you want to pick up your phone, ask “What reward am I seeking? What discomfort am I trying to escape? Do I believe that spending time on Instagram will make me feel better?”

Jesus has offered us an amazing invitation. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

My phone will never give me the rest that Jesus gives. Gorging ourselves on chocolate or scanning Instagram is a weak replacement when what we need is more Jesus. If we become aware of what we are seeking, we can choose to give our souls the needed nutrition. Maybe we do need a break from a task but will scrolling give us a better break than taking a walk, calling a friend, or sitting on the porch? There is nothing wrong with a bit of junk food, unless we mistake it for nutrition.

Today’s Challenge: Ask, “What discomfort am I fleeing when I pick up my phone? How can I find the rest I need in Jesus?”

Sunday, January 17, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 17


Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Quiet doesn’t often exist for a homeschool mom, except maybe the early hours of morning.

But how do I spend my few quiet moments? With my phone nearby, I can fill every moment with noise. Some of it is good noise—music, conversations, information—but maybe silence is better than good content.

Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism says that our generation is solitude deprived. We fill every moment of our day with communication. We have lost our ability to think deeply and creatively because we have constant input and noise.

Today’s Challenge: Make a plan on what you will think quietly about in your next moment of solitude, so you will have an alternative to reaching for your phone.

During Ed’s radiation and frequent MRIs, two places he had to lie perfectly still and quiet, another cancer patient told him that she chooses what she is going to think about beforehand. It might be a verse to mediate on, a specific prayer request, or a song to sing in your mind. Ed found this very helpful. Instead of allowing worries or frustrations to bubble to the surface, he had a proactive plan for that time.

Even if your day is very full, it likely has some moments of quiet. How about choosing a verse or a song or a prayer request for today? Think on it while washing dishes, showering, standing in a check-out line, driving, or falling asleep. You might want to pick a song for the month, a verse for the week, or a person you are going to carry to the Lord in prayer at every opportunity for a day. When you would normally reach for your phone to fill those quiet minutes, reach out to God.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 16


My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. Psalms 5:3

Can I say this? Or would it be more accurate to state “In the morning I reach for my phone. I check the news and my messages, and my heart drops.”

Like many people, I used my phone as my alarm clock. But after reading an article about the value in not having your phone by your bed, I bought an alarm clock.

And hated it. It was loud and obnoxious and the tiny button was hard to use—so I kept using my phone.

Each night, the last thing I did was check the news, which is a depressing way to end the day. Each morning I turned off my alarm and began the day with the phone in my hand, checking Whatsapp before my eyes were barely open. I knew this wasn’t the example I wanted for my children. I knew it wasn’t healthy for me.

This summer I mentioned this problem to a friend, and she said, “If you get your phone out of your room, I will too.”

Oh, no. I’d much rather talk about my need for change than actually do it. Now I was committed. After procrastinating for a few more days, I moved my phone charging cord out of my bedroom.

I was shocked at the immediate change. I began reading books before going to bed. I went to sleep earlier. In the morning, sometimes an hour or more would go by before I’d pick up my phone. I started reading my Bible before checking my phone, a habit I used to have but had lost.

Sometimes the most ridiculously simple steps have immense value. I still hate my alarm clock, and should buy one I like, but I don’t think my phone is ever coming back to my room.

Today’s Challenge: You know what I’m going to say, if you keep your phone in your bedroom, change where you charge it. I know, it is hard. It took me over a year of knowing that I needed to make this change to do it. So please, just try it for a week or two. I think you’ll find that the benefits to your spiritual and emotional (maybe even physical) health will be worth it.

Friday, January 15, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 15


As moms, we all want to build good nutritional habits in our children for their long-term physical health. However if we tell our children to eat their vegetables, while they watch us binge on junk food, our example will speak louder than our words.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

When I see a small child, unable yet to talk, swipe through her mom’s phone, I wonder what habits we are allowing our children to form. Do our children see that we always have time to check email but not time to read them a story?

Do our children even have a chance to form healthy relationships with media? This scares me. Our generation is facing a challenge that our parents didn’t face. And with our children, we don’t get a chance for a rematch.

When I turned sixteen, I never considered getting a phone, but my oldest daughter just got her driver’s license and, of course, considered a phone to be a necessary accessory.

I’ve been dreading this for years. Do we cave to the expectations of society and get our teens their own smartphone with full capabilities to hold the world in their hand? Is a phone necessary for their safety? Will the phone bring temptations that a teen isn’t capable of handling? Can I use this the phone as a teaching and training opportunity? What expectation am I setting with my oldest child that will be carried to her siblings? I’ve certainly wished that I could have thrown all these decisions on Ed.

Maybe in ten years I’ll have answers to these questions. And maybe that is what is difficult, we can’t go to the older generation and ask, “How did you handle phones and teens?”

We don’t have the benefit of years to see the results, but we know that the default setting on phones is to trap our children. We must be aggressive in addressing the pitfalls. While I don’t know the answer of successful training for our children, I think it includes deliberate teaching, good examples, and accountability.

Today’s Challenge: Think about the example you are setting for your children. Would you want your child copied you?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 14


In my research on technology, I came again and again to the need for accountability. Because of the addictive and manipulative nature of phones, many people say it is impossible to get victory over our phones without accountability.

Smarter people than me, whole teams of them backed with billions of dollars, are purposely manipulating technology to make it addictive. This isn’t a reason to feel like a victim; it should be motivation to help each other evaluate and control our phone use.

But accountability is scary. Can I trust this person to be confidential? Do I really want to tell someone how I fail? Can’t I be strong enough to battle this on my own?

Is accepting accountability weakness? NO. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Brene Brown

Today’s Challenge: Ask someone to hold you accountable for your internet use. This could be your husband, a close friend, sister, or a mentor—someone who will ask hard questions and not allow excuses. It could be informal, someone that occasionally asks you how you are doing, or formal with regular meet-ups. You can even set up an app such as Qustodio or Covenant Eyes that emails a report of your internet use to your accountability partner.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 13


In years past, Mennonites were tested during times of war to demonstrate nonresistance. They struggled to love their enemies during times of persecution. They often lived among people who hated them.

Today, our test may be to live out the principles of the Sermon on the Mount even when on social media. We must speak the truth in love when we disagree instead of proving our point with arguments. We must love our enemies instead of mocking them.

Rather than slander someone who sins, we must seek to obey Matthew 18. Slander is not necessarily speaking an untruth, but the goal of slander is to hurt, not to heal. Jesus called us to love and bless and pray for and do good to those who have done evil. This doesn’t mean ignoring the evil, but fighting evil with Jesus’ love.

A few years ago a minister at our revivals preached on Matthew 12:36. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Idle refers to careless words – word spoken without thought. The minister applied this verse, not just to the words we speak, but all words. Sometimes we write, text, post, link, or share words that we would never speak to someone’s face. Spoken words vanish into the air in an instant, but God said that we will give account of each word. How much more will we be accountable for the words we write on social media that can be read, reread, and shared?

Today’s Challenge: When I think of this topic, I hurt so much I can’t even think of a challenge for today. So I’ll simply ask you to consider this question. Do my words (spoken, written, shared) push eternal souls toward God or away from God?

Note: In a few days, I’m going to ask you to get your phone out of your bedroom. So if you use your phone for an alarm clock, purchase an alarm clock today to get ready for this challenge.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 12


Have you ever used Philippians 4:8 as your guide for online reading?

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

We can’t see the defiled and think on the ugly and believe lies without it affecting the health of our souls. Not that we need to stuff our heads under the bed and only think about rainbows and fluffy kittens (or dust bunnies); sometimes the truth will be uncomfortable. But all online reading needs to be done with discernment through the lens of Scripture.

The internet is immensely helpful, and I value it for research. But Google remembers what I’ve read online and will continue to give the same kinds of information in future searches. This is helpful when searching for a local restaurant, but less helpful when seeking unbiased information. I need to be aware of how gullible I can be and how my bias can make accurate research difficult.

Today’s Challenge: When you read online, pause to ask questions such as “How do I know this is truth? Can I verify this data, research, or statistic? Is this opinion being stated as a fact? Does this person have the qualifications to teach on this subject? Does this line up with the truth of God’s Word?”

Note: I wrote this 31-Day Phone Challenge over a month ago, but, as some of you have mentioned, current events make this even more needful. What would change if all the believers in the US spent more time in prayer for our country than we spent reading the news or sharing our opinion?

Monday, January 11, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 11


Most of us would not eat dinner out of the garbage can. It might contain some morsels of good food, but when it is mixed with garbage, it becomes defiled.

But what are we feeding our mind online? There is lots of good information online, but it is mixed with lies and deception. Unfortunately, anyone can write anything online. Many people purposely or unintentionally spread misinformation.

When I first got email, I forwarded an interesting email to friends. You can probably guess what happened. I found out the email was an urban legend. After a few similar mistakes, I learned to check one of the online sites such as to fact check. But it is hard to remember. A funny gif, viral video, or disturbing meme is so easy to share. It is almost impossible to avoid rumors, gossip, and outright lies online.

Social media doesn’t care about accuracy. They care about clicks. And the more sensational and controversial the post or video, the more it is remembered and shared—even if it is not true. Outrage gains our attention—and the goal of social media is to grab, and keep, our attention.

We must compare what we read and hear to God’s Word and to reliable information. But if we are spending far more time on social media than in God’s Word, how will we know truth?

Today’s Challenge: Read Psalm 1. How can we be like that well-watered tree? How can we avoid being wind-blown chaff?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 10


I don’t even want to address this topic. And I won’t say the word since I don’t want my blog flagged. But the statistics of evil online use in our society is appalling. And that includes Mennonites. Some of you have men in your life who have battled this addiction. But I’ve talked to women who are frustrated that sermons are always pointed to the men, because they too struggle with using sensual media, whether in images, movies, or books.

Satan tells us that we can indulge in sin in the privacy of our phone, and it won’t hurt anyone, but nothing is hidden from our all-knowing, omnipresent God. Someday everything done in secret will be revealed. Our browsing history is a permanent record before God unless we cleanse it by the blood of Christ.

James 5:16 gives us a battle plan. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Ignoring sin will kill you, just as ignoring cancer or signs of a heart attack doesn’t make it go away, but only allows it to become worse.

Victory can be found in Christ if we confess, repent, and become accountable.

Today’s Challenge: Pray for courage to confront the areas of your life that need changed. Confess any sin God reveals, and then tell someone about it.

I tell my children that if anyone asks you to keep something a secret (not talking about birthday surprises) then that is the thing that you need to tell your parents. And the same is true for us adults. If Satan is encouraging you to hide something from others, that is the thing that you need to reveal in order to break sin’s grip on you. Begin to pray that God will give you a trusted person to be accountable to.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 9


Social media can bring a sense of inadequacy. With the “like” button, we can compulsively check our score – to see how we measure up to others.

Of course we are usually comparing our worse day with the carefully curated display of our friends’ lives. One friend sent me a photo of a pretty plant in her dining room, then zoomed out to show me the whole room, which was a disaster. That kind of honesty isn’t often posted on Instagram.

Many studies have shown that the use of social media brings a lower self esteem and higher rate of depression. Depression rates increase with the more time that is spent on social media, especially for teens.

2 Corinithians 10:12 says that those who compare themselves are not wise. Most of us can quote the verse, but how are we living it? Do we continue to visit sites that feed our struggle with comparison? Some of us struggle with jealousy more than others, and your envy trigger will likely be different from mine, but do we knowingly put ourselves into places that I know will breed discontentment?

I need to be honest and say “When I get on this site, I struggle with fear (or envy, or discontentment, or anger, or…)” and then proactively take steps to avoid those emotions. Maybe the first step is to admit it to a friend. Then be willing to delete apps, unsubscribe, or delete what is not building the fruit of the Spirit on your life.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22

Today’s Challenge: Start a thankfulness list. (And yes, this list can be on your phone.) You could even give yourself a challenge such as “I won’t get on Instagram until I’ve added to my thankfulness list.” Ask a friend to hold you accountable. At the end of the week, you can even check your phone tracker to see how many times you were on social media to see if you met your thankfulness goal.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear says that the best way to start a new habit is to bundle it with a habit you already have. So if you want to start a new habit, such as be more grateful, connect it to a habit you already have, for example, social media. If you stop and give praise to God every time you reach for your phone, your spirit will have a greater lift than the dopamine that social media can give.

Friday, January 8, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 8


We can connect online, but we rarely have real conversations. Conversations need real voices with inflection and listening and context, even if they are sent by Facetime or a phone line.

A real relationship is two-way. You not only know them, but they know you.

I enjoy learning from people online—reading book reviews, trying recipes, and being inspired in my Christian walk– but those online personalities won’t point out inconsistency in my life or show up at my door with a meal when I am sick. They don’t know me. Only the bit of myself that I choose to show online.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17

Online relationships can be easier than the messy real-life relationships where people may have annoying habits and rub me the wrong way. On social media, I can choose who I interact with and just block or unfriend someone who I find annoying.

I’m grateful for my friends who use social media to say “When can we get together?” and then set a date and time instead of pretending that status updates will nourish our friendship.

We want community and we need it, and our phones can be a tool to connect us in good ways, but without deliberate attention, we won’t have the conversations that build community.

Today’s Challenge: Set a No Zone for your phone. Maybe “no phone at meals” or “no phone when I’m talking with a friend.” And we all know that we shouldn’t be on our phone while we are driving. You might need to get a little radical and hide it in your bedroom at dinner or lock it in the trunk when you are driving (if not using GPS). And at first it might make you feel a little twitchy to be away from your phone if you are used to having it in your pocket. But try it for a week before you give it up. You may find you love it and purposely lose your phone more often.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 7


If I asked you why you are using social media, you’ll probably say it is to connect with family and friends. That is a valid reason. I love the ease in communication with friends around the globe.

But we can be connected to hundreds of people on social media and still be lonely. Connection online doesn’t always result in community.

Gary Miller in Surviving the Tech Tsunami writes, “Just as our hunger for physical nourishment can be falsely satisfied, so can our relational appetite. That normal need for relationship begins to gnaw deep inside, and out comes our electronic device . . . We are falsely satisfying our inner need for healthy dialogue and relationship with virtual interaction—relational candy. Keeping up with friends online can create a false sense of intimacy and temporarily quench that inner desire for face-to-face interaction.”

God gave us a desire to belong, and He designed the Church to fill that need. But today many of us are using social media as a substitute for the local Church and real relationships in the Body of Christ.

For hundreds of years, human interaction consisted of the people that lived within walking distance—the neighbor you could talk to over the backyard fence or meet when walking to the village well.

Today I can find my “community” anywhere in the world. I can seek out those with the same hobbies, interests, beliefs, and dreams. If I have a passion of knitting scarves with llama motifs, I can probably find a community of llama-motif-scarf knitters. There are communities for special-needs children, scrapbookers, runners, and every other conceivable category.

This can be a blessing. I love the support networks of the online community, especially for believers who don’t live near a local church. But in seeking out those who are like me, I can lose the interaction with those who are different than me, maybe those of a different age or with different interests.

I can talk for hours with a sourdough-baking, book-loving, gardening, homeschool mom. But I learn a lot from my single nurse friend who has been battling Covid in a nursing home. Or the elderly, or urban-dwellers, or adoptive moms—those with life experiences that I’ve never had.

If I only surround myself with those who think and act just like me, I could get a warped view of the Body of Christ. And this problem is magnified online, where categories and interests easily separate us. I might not even realize that there are vast numbers of people with very different views because I’ve chosen my own bubble.

From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16 NIV

We need each other. The Body of Christ is incomplete without each of us working together. That fact should make us rejoice in the diversity and variety of women in our local church.

Today’s Challenge: Set a goal to have a real conversation (not texting) with a friend today (or this week.) Set a date and time to meet for coffee or Facetime or simply talk on the phone. And maybe even call or meet with someone outside your normal circle of friends, someone older or younger, someone with different interests and goals, who can broaden your view of the Body of Christ.


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