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On The Upper Room Discourse Re-Release For Lent 2024

The Freedom of Unplugging

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

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the news of the day and all that is happening in our world of COVID and confusion? I often do, and think of the words of William Wordsworth two centuries ago: “The world is too much with us; late and soon.” I remember that my ever-present smartphone had been designed to command my attention and sell it to advertisers. The 24/7-news cycle is edited to stir my anger and fear for a financial motive. That is just the time I realize I am long past due for unplugging, for recovering precious time think, to listen, pay attention, pray, and just to be.

 From ancient times the people of God have practiced fasting as a way of spiritual cleansing and renewing, symbolizing the need for repentance and change of direction. I talk to more and more people saying they feel the urgent need to frequently “fast” from news and media and pull off the crowded information highway. So, in order to center their lives, they often pull the plug on email, text messaging, television and the Internet.

We might look to our Lord Jesus as a model for “unplugging”, and taking time away from the world He came to save. Consider His example in the following scene from the Gospels: 

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’”       
Mark 1:35-36 

Even with ‘everyone searching’ for Jesus and wanting Him to stay in touch, Jesus knew His need for time offline. 

You might consider the following ideas for how you might want to frequently unplug in order to be more present to God and to others:

  • Set aside one day a week to be as media-free as possible (i.e. unplugging from the TV, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
  • Create a physical space where you put your smartphone as a way of saying to family and friends, “I want to be present to you.” You might place your smartphone in that space when you enter the house, and it stays there for the night unless you have “good reason” to access it. 
  • Listen to music or recorded Scripture as you drive the car rather than the news or talk radio. 
  • Make the Bible the first thing you read in the morning rather than the news or emails.
  • Go for a walk; read a poem; talk to your spouse or friend, even when “everyone is searching for you.” Unplug and let yourself be!

After trying some of the above suggestions, reflect on how they work for you and/or adapt them to work for you. Talk as a family or couple on how you use the media and perhaps the media’s use of you. Above all, ask the ever-present Holy Spirit to guide and help you as you follow Jesus’ example in unplugging.

A fellow traveler,

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