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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Life Change

Written by: on February 14, 2015

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I remember my first home computer – a Texas Instruments TI99. It used a cassette recorder as the hard drive and the TV as the computer monitor. I spent (wasted) hours of time programming and playing games. This first computer started my journey into the “I’ve got to have it now lifestyle.” Now thirty years later, I own several computers, ipads, Smartphones, TV, etc… I cannot imagine my personal or business life without these items. Like many others, I have become dependent on these and other tools to help me be productive and to entertain me.

According to Al Gore, “we live in a culture of distraction.”[1] Over the years, Western cultures have systemically consumed more and more of the worlds natural resources to fulfill our ever-increasing needs/wants from technology to toys. We believe that it is our right to possess every new gadget that comes out. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Sony produce all types of items to entertain or make our lives easier. New technology sells and is adopted at alarming rates by consumers.

My family is very passionate about the environment and caring for God’s creation. I have had to recognize my own materialistic attitude. I was raised in a poor household, and we didn’t have much. So, when I began to make my own money, I was easily drawn to the mindset of having new and plentiful things. In many ways, things represented my success. They also represented my downfall. I had to learn that my success and happiness in life come from the Lord. My success and happiness cannot come at the expense of others. This means that my entire way of thinking had to change from the world’s understanding of success to understanding what true blessing means.

“There comes a point in many adventure stories when the man characters have seen the true nature of the crisis they face and it is far worse than they’d previously imagined. It is not their own lives that are at stake but also a community they belong to, a value they cherish, a cause larger than themselves.”[2] This is exactly the point that I found myself in. My life’s adventure was based on materialism, and had a negative impact on those whom I loved and on the environment. My environmental footprint was toxic. I quickly realized that all the things I loved and cherished were being destroyed due to my selfish behavior. We all want to live in a beautiful world, where we can have time to enjoy and relax in relationship with each other. Western cultures spend mass dollars on vacations each year, because we have destroyed our own environments and require a break from them along the way. We continue, like robots, in a manufactured world that strives to make us work hard and harder. Even our enjoyment or relaxation has become manufactured. Life no longer “just happens” – it is always controlled and planned. When is the last time that you just had a weekend to take in God’s beauty and spend time with your loved ones – no agenda and no technology? Often, we even forget how to have real and engaging communication with each other. We forget how to just be with each other.

Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone , in Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy, remind us of the need to pay attention to our inner self and spiritual wellbeing. By doing so, we will be able to separate ourselves from the craziness of the fast world around us. The first step of making a difference is to step back, reflect on our own lives, change where needed, and then get refreshed so that we can tackle the challenges that Christ lays before us. We need to prioritize and recognize that our world and ways aren’t always the best. Are we being good stewards of resources, our things, and other people? Money and technology aren’t always the answer – and our way of life isn’t necessarily the best.

[1] Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012), 25
[2] Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012), 1

About the Author

Richard Volzke

11 responses to “Life Change”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Richard, what a wonderfully thoughtful post. As I read this, I kept thinking: This doesn’t sound like Richard! I was expecting something more polemic and hard-edged. Inside, you provided some wonderful reflections. It sounds like you have come a long way on your journey, and especially someone so in tune with technology, to say that money and technology is not always the answers, would indicate that you have indeed grown tremendously over time. This is a very wise and thoughtful post. It is wonderful how God refines and refocuses us if we truly seek Him and His ways. Thanks for sharing your personal journey!

    • Richard Volzke says:

      John,
      There are some that would think I am hard-edged when it comes to fighting against materialism – especially in the church. We can have all the money and technology we could need or use, and still lose our souls in the end. If we do not grow and change in Christ, then we will die. You are either moving forward or backwards in your walk with God. There in no such thing as standing still.
      Richard

  2. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Richard, this line… “Western cultures spend mass dollars on vacations each year, because we have destroyed our own environments and require a break from them along the way.”- soo good! Such a good point!
    Are there any specific steps that you have taken to combat materialism and to have a right view of success?

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Stefania,
      It is a daily struggle for me when it comes to materialism. Like many other Christians, I want the latest and greatest smartphone or computer. I must continually die to myself through Christ when it comes to wants and desires (and check with my wife before buying). There is nothing wrong with wanting things. The problem comes when we are willing to hurt others or to sacrifice our relationship with Christ to get things. Success isn’t about money or position. We must ask ourselves “are we doing what Christ would have us to do each day, and are we doing our best to serve Him?”
      Richard

  3. Richard,

    I love your honest post. Thanks for sharing your story here; that means a lot.

    You say, “Western cultures spend mass dollars on vacations each year, because we have destroyed our own environments and require a break from them along the way. We continue, like robots, in a manufactured world that strives to make us work hard and harder. Even our enjoyment or relaxation has become manufactured.” That is exactly true! I never thought about it that way before. The irony is that most of the people in our world don’t even know what a vacation is. They never “get a break” due to poverty and inequality.

    We are destroying our world and destroying ourselves through our “need” for more and more and bigger and better. So what am I doing about all of this? That is a good question. Our text this week offered some helpful insights into our dilemma.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Bill,
      Like you, I am still trying to figure out what I can change in my sphere of influence. I believe that if each person did a little, it would add up to great change. The problem is that we are often unwilling to change our ways, but are more than eager for others to make changes in their lifestyle. We come up with all kinds of reasons why we cannot change. This is the mindset of “the rules should not or do not apply to us.”
      Richard

  4. Miriam Mendez says:

    Richard, thank you for sharing your journey throughout the technological age! Indeed it is interesting how we become distracted by and attached technology. But as you say, it is part of our work environment, home environment and even our spiritual environment. Perhaps is not that we have all these things is the “hold” that these things have on us.
    Thanks for your thoughtful post, Richard.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Miriam,
      In church this morning, the pastor made the statement that “get out your Bibles, tablets, or smartphone and turn to Romans 2:17. If you don’t have these with you, the Scripture will be on the screen for you.” How our lives have changed in that very few individuals still carry paper Bibles.
      Richard

  5. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Richard, what humility and vulnerability you brought here! I love it! This…

    “When is the last time that you just had a weekend to take in God’s beauty and spend time with your loved ones – no agenda and no technology? Often, we even forget how to have real and engaging communication with each other. We forget how to just be with each other.”

    That is like a punch between the eyes. Can you imagine setting down your phone long enough to “be”? I can have a text conversation with the person sitting next to me almost easier than I can just face them and speak. What does that say about us? I crave my international traveling, simply because I can put down the phone and “disconnect”. It allows me to be undistracted with the person in front of me. Yet with the international plans available now…I find myself more connected than ever…no matter where I am. Oh…I feel exposed here, Richard! 🙂

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Ashley,
      It is an undeniable reality that we are connected no matter where we go in the world. I have to wonder (jokingly) if when Christ returns we will get a text, Skype, instant message, etc. This week, my daughter sent my son birthday wishes from the bush in Tanzania. Our lives are so intertwined with technology that I find it hard to remember what is was like before I was so connected to the world around me. My family tells me I have the fastest phone in the west. It has become such a bad habit to pull it out of my pocket to check mail, news, etc. I’ve been intentionally avoiding taking my phone out in public and trying to have conversations with people instead. I’ll admit, it is difficult at times. It is easier to connect with my phone than people.
      Richard

  6. Richard…
    You wrote that the authors remind us to pay attention to our inner self and well being… I think I can add that you have as well. 🙂 Reading this book I was reminded or perhaps it is just that I became more aware that God continues to speak to draw us toward a sustainable life and that God will use whoever and any means to try to get us to pay attention. Was there anything in particular in our reading this week that you thought “I need to take steps toward this” or “this is something that I can do?”

    Thanks for your insights and personal reflection…

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