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News That Illustrates for Sunday, September 28th – October 5th

Addicted to Cell Phones, Bono and Billy (Graham, that is), and a Joyless Football Victory

Welcome to the Cuisine of Have-It-Your-Way
Customized dining has never been easier, according to a recent Washington Post article outlining the proliferation of tell-them-what-you-want food chains. Similar to burrito joint Chipotle (where diners watch as an employee builds them a custom Mexican-inspired meal), new franchises bring the ultimate in custom-food to Korean, 5 minute cooktime pizza, tacos, Indian, and Mediterranean restaurants. It's a great thing for diners, but also prompts us to ask—in a culture where everything is convenient and exactly how you want it, what will happen to the spiritual growth experienced when we think of the world as a place where we don't get our way?

PREACHING ANGLES: Choice; Individualism; Preference; Sanctification

Cellphones: The Invisible Addiction
Baylor University recently released new findings about college students' cell phone use. Their shocking finding? Using cell phones is more time consuming for modern college students than any other activity—including sleeping. "Women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones and men college students spend nearly eight, with excessive use posing potential risks for academic performance …" As researcher Dr. James Roberts says, "As cell phone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility." Dr. Roberts called this "a paradox in that it can be 'both freeing and enslaving at the same time.'" No one argues that modern technology can bring with it benefits of information, human connection, and time-saving. But like most things, it can come with a shadow side, addiction and enslavement that can make a good thing deeply unhealthy or even harmful, sabotaging the lives of users. What good thing in your life is in danger of enslaving you? It might be as close as your phone.

PREACHING ANGLES: Addiction; Communication; Culture; Technology; Young People

Introducing the 'No-Phone'
Feeling that cell phone addiction yourself? A smart little piece of social satire, this Kickstarter campaign offers a functionless square of plastic for tech-addicted people. The No-Phone promises to be "a surrogate to any smart mobile device, enabling you to always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch without forgoing any potential engagement with your direct environment. Never again experience the unsettling feeling of flesh on flesh when closing your hand."

Originally shared by Paul Pastor in the PARSE Newsletter. Find it and subscribe here!

PREACHING ANGLES: Addiction; Culture; Insecurity; Satire; Technology

Harry Potter … More Influential than the Bible?
A recent survey (by Facebook) asked users to rank their most influential books. The results? For those who participated, Harry Potter was mentioned more frequently than the Bible—which ranked sixth (after To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Pride and Prejudice). We're a little suspicious of the data gathered (since anecdotally, Christians sharing the status via the viral posting studied often assume the Bible is on that list, and exclude it from the list), but it's still an interesting snapshot of what titles are shaping the imagination of our culture.

PREACHING ANGLES: Bible; Culture; Influence; Influences; Popularity

Bono and Billy: The Power of Encouragement
In 2002, famous singer Bono received an encouraging phone call from Billy Graham during an extremely busy tour season. In appreciation of Graham's gesture, Bono wrote a poem and flew to Graham's home in North Carolina to deliver it himself. Bono's poem, "The Journey from Father to Friend" reads:

The journey from Father to friend
is all paternal loves end
It was sung in my teenage ears
In the voice of a preacher
loudly soft on my tears
I would never forget this
Melody line
Or its lyric voice that gave my life
A Rhyme
a meaning that wasn't there before
a child born in dung and straw
wish the Father's love and desire to explain
how we might get on with each other again …

What a great display of the impact we can have on others by taking the time to encourage.

PREACHING ANGLES: Encouragement; Example; Influence; Leaders; Mentor; Mentoring; Mentors

The Old-Fashioned Phone Call's Not Dead Yet
For many people today, the phone call is dead—replaced by text messages, email, Twitter messages, and other "asynchronus" (not at the same time) means of communication. But just when the really late adopters among us are finally learning how to send those pesky text message thingies, The New York Times reports that the humble, old-fashioned phone call may not be as dead as we think. There's been a strong uptick in the number of voice calls in the past year, a trend that writer Jenna Wortham attributes to a surprisingly human dynamic—the longing for personal connection over convenience. "My friends started picking up their cell phones for an unusual purpose: They wanted to talk." She writes. "And I started answering when they called." It's an illustration of just how much we long for human connection and relationship today. Let's never lose our taste for real-time conversation, for the sound of a friend's voice, for the "Hello?" on the other end of the line.

PREACHING ANGLES: Community; Connection; Relationship; Technology

The Joy-Sapping Power of Stress
One would think that leading a football team to a national title victory would give a sense of satisfaction and celebration. But Urban Meyer, former coach of NCAA football champs the Florida Gators, was depressed and empty after his team won the 2008 title. According to a new interview from ESPN:

Meyer said after Florida won the national title after the 2008 season he didn't—and couldn't—enjoy the victory. He began recruiting literally minutes after the 24-14 win over Oklahoma in the BCS title game ended.
"I was in a panic situation," Meyer said. "We just won it. We got to do it again. I close the door. And I started just recruiting. One of my friends came and said, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'Enjoy, what's wrong with you, man? Enjoy this.' I tried."

The context? Profound stress, including Meyer's hospitalization for unexplained chest pains. I'm not saying that in Meyer's case his stress and overwork outright prevented him from celebrating a victory, but isn't it interesting that even at the high moment of this man's career, he was unable to pause even long enough to look around and enjoy the moment? How many of us are so fixated on our goals, insecurities, or futures that we cannot the joy of the present, the sacred moments where Jesus meets us now, and asks us to rejoice with him?

PREACHING ANGLES: Celebration; Joy; Rejoicing; Stress; Victory

Editor's Note: Emily Pastor gave editorial assistance for "Bono and Billy: The Power of Encouragement."

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