A screen fast, you say?
The Lenten discipline we are encouraged to embrace this week is a 'screen' fast - to disengage from our phones, tablets, computers, etc. for at least one day this week. Or, alternatively, to be present in the moment, in the place where you are.
For many modern workers, our employment demands time in front of a screen. One of my jobs at Mennonite Church Canada's is managing its many social media feeds. We have 5 critical and several more less critical social media channels to manage. A screen fast seems impossible. News and prayer requests flow 24/7. For example, last night (March 27) I learned that Michael J. Sharp, a kidnapped UN worker and former MCC worker in Congo, and his colleague, have likely been killed. Urgent prayer support is needed by their families, friends, work and social networks.
It seems counterintuitive, but my response to the challenge of a screen fast is actually to embrace the screen more. I have had a life-long love affair with photography. More recently I have taken a stab at creating little snippets of poetry to accompany the scenes I capture. This is my way of exercising mindfulness - stopping for fleeting moments in between the seconds that tick off our lives.
I am especially enamoured of the prairie sky. It doesn't take long to look up and notice where the sun is, where the clouds are (or are not), how the light plays on snow or leaf or creek, or how it casts a long shadow. I capture these twinklings on my phone camera. Later, I'll look at these scenes and think about what has happened that day or week. Sometimes my reflection will incorporate an idea from a book, poem, or article I have read. I'll marry the image with some words or thoughts inspired by that God moment. Sharing these little wedding celebrations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is an encouragement to others to lift up their eyes and look around. I don't share these to seek compliments, but rather as an act of worship that helps lift up the spirits of those with whom I am virtually connected.
Our screens are often negatively labelled as distractions. But taking my eyes off the screen and looking around, looking up, pausing for just a moment to reflect on scripture as written in nature is a pleasant and rewarding distraction. For me, these mindfulness moments are not reserved only for Lent, but are a year-round discipline.
I encourage you to get distracted by God's book of created life that manifests all around us, every day, every second - and even in between the seconds. And if your screen helps you do that, so be it.
I see what I do not understand: dancing ripples in sunlight; arching heavens above; aspens anchoring shorelines. Things too wonderful for me to know. I know of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you. - words inspired by Mary S. Edgar, and Job 42
When the sun goes down, it's worth asking, "How has this day changed you?" Was there a moment of strength or weakness, a fresh word of clarity or thanks? When the sky's benediction fades to black, bestows its spray of stars across the vastness, what has recast your heart?
Time is a greedy thief when God lives only in between the seconds.
I was ambling along, staring at the ground, my feet stamping out the beat of a poem when I looked up and saw one.