Gratitude Day 411

Sat., Feb. 22, 2020

Romans 12:2: Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

Yesterday, Hubby Rick and I stopped a visited his 101-year-old Aunt Mil. Mil never married and never had children. Her mother, Rick’s grandmother, immigrated to the United States as a young woman from Czechoslovakia. In 1911, Grandma Vielhuber had a ticket for the Titanic. Circumstances happened and she did not get on the ship. Later, she came to American with her sister. Their goal was to make enough money to return to the old country and open a bakery.

Grandma Vielhuber never left the United States. Instead, she was married twice. After her first husband died a mysterious death, she married the man who was Rick’s Grandpa Vielhuber. She gave birth to six children; one which died as an infant. She worked hard and raised a family. Later in life, Grandma Vielhuber built a house in Madison, which is where Mil lived until she moved into an assisted living a couple years ago.

Mil still speaks with a broken old country accent. Her room is intentionally sparse, with only the absolute necessities. As frugal as the day is long, Mil has lived a life focused on finding pleasure in the simplest of things: a beautiful flower garden, lunch with those she cares for and recording the weather EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Imagine a person who has never had a cell phone. May not know what the internet is. (Mil worked for the University of Wisconsin-Madison but retired before e-mail and the internet were necessities within the workplace.) Facebook and Instagram are as foreign to her as an African safari. She does not need 144 characters on Twitter to let anyone know how she feels about something. Just ask her and she will tell you. Point blank.

Yes, Mil is old fashioned. Set in her ways. Opinionated. Yet, she can recall events at 101-years-old that most of us have only read about. Not in an encyclopedia but on Google.

It is amazing to watch a woman who has lived her life basically the same way for decades … and is completely comfortable with it. Does she know what she is missing out on because she doesn’t have a smartphone … let alone any phone? Nope. Is the value of what she feels is important to her influenced by those who purposefully try to influence trends and stances by social media? Absolutely not. Will what she value today be any different today than it was tomorrow? A most certain and emphatic, “No.”

As I sit at my laptop and type these words, I am very much aware how technology, the internet and social media are tools that I depend upon. Tools that I have embraced and utilize and leverage. Yet, I hope and pray that I see them purely as “tools” and not the “end all” for what is important to me.

Yet, the question begs to be asked: “Is there a point when all these ‘tools’ that we embrace, and use become counter-productive to our culture?”

You bet.

I get tired of the fake news that is quickly re-posted and repeated without any vetting or discernment. I know that I spend too much time on social media and let it pull me away from nurturing deeper and more meaningful real-life relationships. Do I enjoy seeing what is going on in other people’s lives? Yes. But do I need to scroll through more sponsored posts and ads than actual real-life content to find those few valuable nuggets of content that comes from real people that I know?

There’s a bane between today and yesterday. A struggle between how much technology/new-fangled stuff/screen time/the latest and greatest with a simpler, more wholesome time when people had real conversations and didn’t depend upon text messages. Too often, I see us hiding behind our safe and comfortable screens rather than making an actual phone call to a person and have a real-life conversation. I know that I am as guilty as the next person and that I am calling the kettle “black” right now.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this nearly 2,000 years ago; long before we relied upon things held in a person’s hand for a barrage of information. “Be careful,” Paul said. “It’s easy to conform to what the world says is important rather than challenging your mind to dig a little deeper and see what God says.” It’s not just the source of our information that Paul is challenging us on. It’s the depth of what we ponder and think about that Paul wants us to explore as well. Will our faith and interaction with culture be an inch deep and an ocean wide … or are we willing to look deeply into our souls, relationships, minds and experiences and see where God is leading us? Do we take time to really listen to God, explore God’s word and see where we are being led? Or do we depend only upon what culture says?

Personally, I do not think Paul says we should ignore culture and what is happening in the world around us. Theologian Karl Barth explained it this way: hold the newspaper in one hand and scripture in the other and make sure one influences the other. With fewer actual newspapers being read these days, maybe our 2020 interpretation of this might go something like this: it’s OK to have a smartphone with lots of access to news and information and Google. But let’s not forget to run all of this information through a lens of God’s priorities as well.

Some may say Aunt Mil is living in a time and place that is no longer relevant for today. And they may be right. Yet, there is a poignant lesson for the rest of us as well. When technology/the internet/social media/search engines/platforms become the center of our focus and universe, then it’s time to re-evaluate. We can have quality time with each other and leave our phones behind. We don’t have to have immediate access to information and entertainment and what is going on in everyone else’s lives that we forget to live our own life.

Yes, I will be using technology today. I’ll check e-mail multiple times throughout the day. I’ll post something on social media and smile when someone else thinks the content I post is worthwhile. Yet, I hope that I also am fully aware that there is more to my life than staring at a screen. I pray you know and embrace this today as well.

For opportunities to learn from our elders and embrace culture with our faith, I am grateful.

Blessings –


Holy God – it seems that Paul’s words to keep culture and faith in the appropriate tension are even more appropriate than when he wrote them nearly 2,000 years ago. May we not see the tools of today’s culture as a means to an end. May we embrace knowing You as the center of our faith and life. Amen.

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