Luther-DVD-front

Join us in the Hall as we sum up our Luther and the Reformation study with a special showing of a travelogue specifically developed for the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation. “Luther and The Reformation” is produced and hosted by popular TV personality, Rick Steves! This is an excellent travelogue of the life and locations of Martin Luther and the Reformation. Here is what Rick Steves says about his production:

“The year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In 1517, the German monk Martin Luther collected 95 points to stoke discussion about the corruption of the medieval Church. He then nailed his famous “95 Theses” to the door of his hometown church in Wittenberg. With that small, symbolic act, Luther unleashed a storm of change, kicking o the most important religious event of the last millennium—the Protestant Reformation…With this documentary, I’m honored and thankful to make a small contribution to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thanks for your interest in this fascinating and important chapter in both the history of the Christian Church and the story of our Western Civilization. I hope you enjoy the show.”

Come and join us Thursday October 12@ 6:30 p.m.

 

A young man sitting on a bench, using his mobile phone

There is something quite remarkable going on all around us that is a huge danger to our very human existence, but it is not registering. This has nothing to do with terrorism, racism, or climate change. It has everything to do with a rectangle-shaped incubus sucking out the souls of most people today.

What is it?

Most of us are looking at the world today through a rectangle.

A smartphone, to be more precise.

In American today, over 2/3rd’s of all people now use a smartphone and the percentage just continues to climb. With the younger generations leading the way, I recently heard them called, “Generation Thumb.”

We all know there is a cost to smartphones, but we act helpless.  I am not talking about the the money we spend on these expensive handheld computers or their data plans. I am talking about the cost of the smartphone in terms of human relationship.

If joy is a live, face-to-face encounter with someone else where we are glad to be with each other, then to begin with, we have a less than human experience when we are not talking to a person in person. Instead we have a conversation by texting, or Facebook posts. We may not be communicating at all, but living a shadow existence anonymously online, taking in information like water swirling into a drain.

But, what about the positive aspects of using a smartphone to connect with our friends and loved ones through video like FaceTime or Skype? Better than calling them, I would agree. We do get the opportunity to see their eyes and facial expressions along with words and tone.  But there is more to body language than this. When we are face-to-face live, our entire body is involved in the communication.The giver and receiver find themselves in a nuanced waltz responding to the slightest effect of gesture or glance.

You just can’t do this over a screen.

It is no wonder there appear to be a constant call of alarm in posts and articles concerning the dehumanizing price of staring at the rectangle of our iPhones and Galaxies. Obviously, that’s what I am doing right now.

But, communication with live human contact is not even the biggest problem. The problem that is not registering for most of us is far more sinister with far more of a negative impact down the road. It is the dying out of self-reflection.

Consider this. For most people today from a very early age, every waking minute that is not being taken up by a function or task is being taken up by a screen. You see, whenever we have any down time to ourselves, just sitting or standing around with nothing to do, we aren’t doing much introspection. We are taking these breaks from day-to-day activity and spending them staring at screens. More and more, it is the screen of our very accessible and very addicting smartphone. We are starving ourselves spiritually, morally, and philosophically. I know this sounds a bit extreme, but think about it.

Spiritually, we don’t take the time to think about nothing, a great spiritual discipline related to silence and solitude. What has been called, “soul searching,” has taken on other forms of searching. In our reflective moments instead of simply listening for God, we may be be searching for blogs and articles about God or listening to a quick podcast of someone talking about God. We never seem to just sit there and listen for God.

Morally, as soon as we have any reflective time where it is possible to take personal inventory, it’s back to the screen instead. You don’t have time to check out your attitudes and actions in your relationships when you are checking out how your fantasy football team is doing. Instead of thinking about the abrupt way you handled a conversation with your co-worker this morning, you find yourself checking out the latest Facebook status of someone you knew in high school.

Philosophically, when do I have time to think about deep things during the day, making observations and pondering them? “When?” is a good question because, if I am observing at all, I’m not pondering as much as I am posting. Trying to take a photo and comment on what I see happening around me that has any entertainment or provocative value for my followers and potential followers in real time. Providing witty sound bites so I can get more people to “like” me. I am back to staring at my rectangle again. And the chances are people I am trying to connect with are doing the same. Together we are staring down into the abyss of our non-reflecting souls. We could see this if we actually looked up and if we took 15 seconds to think about it….

But, wait a minute…15 seconds is just about right to find someone ready to play Words with Friends…

Inside-Out-Movie-Poster-Joy

 

Imagine my surprise when I found out Jim Wilder, founder of Life Model Works, and co-author of their latest book, Joy Starts Here, is also a major Hollywood screen writer. Well, not really, but it sure seemed like he had something to do with the script of the recent Pixar blockbuster, Inside Out. Let me explain.

We had just hosted Dr. Wilder and his team for the Joy Starts Here! Conference in Los Angeles. The main premise of their teaching is based on the life and teaching of Jesus, let’s call that theology for short, and neuroscience. Dr. Wilder has coined the term, “neurotheology” as a result. What does this field of study look like?

 

According to recent brain research, we are wired to develop best in high joy environments, in particular during the first 18 months of life. Joy means “someone is glad to be with us.” These “glad to be with you moments” aid the brain to grow in strength and grow in its capacity to regulate pain, pleasure, and emotions in an effective way. With high joy in our parents and other caretakers during those critical months, our brains develop a resiliency that makes it possible for us to return to joy even when we are experiencing upset and crisis.

 

Now, couple this with a central teaching of Jesus and the Bible. What is the good news when Jesus breaks into our world? The great joy that accompanies Jesus.

 

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

 

What is a foundation of Jesus’ teaching? Joy.

 

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV)

 

The authors of Joy Starts Here make this strong claim as a result:

 

“In fact one group exists for the purpose of bringing joy to the world, and one in three people on earth claim to be a member. This book is a call to Christians everywhere to become joy starters.” (Joy Starts Here, pg. 3)

 

Back to the movie. Inside Out is about the life of an 11 year old girl named, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) . Particular the inner life of Riley. More specifically her brain life as represented by the emotions living in her mind. Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Joy is in charge. All the other brain functions are regulated by Joy and things go well as Joy goes well.

 

The research that Wilder and others are doing is strikingly similar to the film. Joy is in charge. Things go well as joy goes well.

 

In the film, when Riley is in upset, it is Joy’s job to help her have access to appreciation memories where she experiences high joy events from her past. Compare this to the key tool to help us return to joy according to the brain research reported in Joy Starts Here.  Using appreciation memories on a regular basis!

 

Wilder even teaches a specific discipline of five minutes of appreciation memories when you wake up, five more at midday, and five minutes before you go to bed. He is on to something as this is eerily similar to the ancient spiritual practices of the daily hours, worshipping and praising God (appreciation memories par excellence) during various hours of the day. These have been instituted for centuries in Christian tradition most often experienced in Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer and Evening Prayer.

 

Things aren’t all joy for Riley, however, and they aren’t for us either. According to Joy Starts Here, there are six unpleasant emotions our brains are wired to feel when something specific is going wrong. Fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and hopeless despair. We can learn to quiet these circuits separately during emotional distress and stay in relationship with others. Four out of six  of these emotions end up in the film, along with Joy. Maybe, adding two more would have put them over budget…

 

Others have written about Inside Out, comparing the movie to recent brain research and so I am not going to go into any further detail. I just find it striking that the biblical premise of the centrality of joy in our lives, along with the constant theme of returning to joy, especially through remembering with gratitude what God has done for us in the past, are main teachings of the scripture and-

 

The main themes of Inside Out.

 

Pixar, Brain Science and Jesus. Go figure…

PRIME TIME WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 5@ 10:30 a.m.

Social Media: What Difference Does It Make?

Pastor Dana will walk us through the world of social media. How this relates to us in our everyday life and what might be helpful for me to know.

We will explore questions such as:

What is the difference between a cell phone and a smart phone?
What is the difference between talking and texting?
What is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, Facetime and other video chat, and all the other ways people are connecting?
How could any of this be helpful to me?
What is the difference between a desktop, laptop, and laptop computer?
What is a blog?
What is a website?

What difference does any of this make in my daily life?

If you don’t have lunch reservations and you want lunch, RSVP@ office@lifehouse.la

Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

Summer is a time when many of us travel, take vacation time, or simply enjoy the different rhythm these months bring into our lives. What are you doing to connect with God this summer? Does this look any different than your regular spiritual practices? Does your prayer life change or your Bible reading? Are you still worshipping with other brothers and sisters even when you are traveling? Are you gaining a sense of wonder as you are enjoying outdoor activities which highlight creation?

I like to keep up my spiritual connectors and add a few new ones. For example, I have always enjoyed visiting art museums in the summer and get engaged with the gospel message the artist is communicating, in particular through painting. I was extremely jealous of our son David who recently traveled to Russia and had the opportunity to see some great works in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I especially appreciate icons and so was excited to hear of the icons David viewed.

I found it hilarious that he took pictures of many paintings in St. Petersburg, just in case they had significance, not realizing that one of his snapshots is my favorite Rembrandt, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” at the Hermitage! David has seen the original, I have seen the iPhone version…

What spiritual practices might you start today that aren’t part of your regular routine? Summer is here, so why not, right?