Andy Crouch – The Tech-Wise Family — A Review

Andy Crouch. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017. 224 pp. $11.00.

Modern families who care about their children must consider how technology impacts their lives. Andy Crouch recognizes this truth, and shares with us some strategies that he and his family have tried to implement in order to manage the challenges of 21st century living.

I read this book upon my wife’s recommendation. She had heard Any Crouch on a podcast, and she thought that his book could offer our family some well-needed guidance. We have 3 little ones in our home, all of whom love their devices. How can we help to keep our house from becoming one of those places where a family communicates more through texts than through conversation?

Crouch offers some lovely and lively looks into his family and their decision-making process regarding technology. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this book is that Crouch suggests a God-centered approach to keeping all of the parts of life in their place. It is wise for a family to determine how, when, and where they wish to use technology. Once those decisions are made, it is helpful for a family to structure their home, even in its shape, so as to make this strategy more possible to pull off.

One example is that the Crouch family has made parts of their home sort of tech-free zones. In those places, the family makes sure to have other things available to occupy minds. Musical instruments, art supplies, and books to read help make certain parts of a home places where a child may not feel the immediate pull of a device on his or her young mind.

Another beauty of this book is that it is not a couple hundred pages of horror stories. Yes, there is a chapter on the dangers of sexually explicit content on the Internet. But even that chapter does a great job of pointing out that the heart behind being careful here is a heart of godliness.

The weakness in this book is a weakness that I find almost unavoidable in such a work. Crouch, as he shares his family’s standards, can tend toward a tone of legalism. For example, the book demonstrates a Sabbatarian shape, and the rules that he promotes regarding tech and the Sabbath are surely not for everybody. At the same time, as a non-Sabbatarian, I find Crouch’s handling of that theological topic unconvincing.

Other categories of Crouch family rules could be made legalistic if readers are not discerning. The author tells us of their family standard of 1 hour per day, 1 day per week, and 1 week per year when technology is put away. This is a good practice, but readers will need to be careful not to receive it as a universal rule. Similarly, the Crouch family tries to avoid tech while in the car. Again, this is a good rule, but it may not work for every family.

If you can read this book without receiving recommendations as rules, The Tech-Wise Family will be of great help. The ideas are creative. The concept of having everything in its place is wise. And, for sure, Christian families need to do some very real thinking about how to manage their technology instead of letting their technology manage them.

Advertisements

Why My Kids Do Not Believe in Santa

My children do not believe in Santa Claus. To some, this is an obvious move. To others, this is a shock. What’s the deal? Am I some sort of anti-holiday Scrooge? Am I some sort of overzealous fundamentalist? Why in the world would I not have my little ones believe in Santa?

 

I am probably asked every year about what our family has decided to do about Santa at Christmas time. And, every year, I share a version of this post to try to explain the process that my wife and I went through in deciding our answer to the big question: To Santa or not to Santa.

Since you know the answer already, let me very briefly tell you the reasoning that made the no Santa policy in my home. Then, I will share with you a bit of how we deal with Santa.

 

Christmas is a holiday that has been highly over-commercialized in the US for years. People focus on winter, on trees, on lights, on gifts, and not on Jesus. And you know what, none of those are the reasons why my family did not tell my children that Santa was real.

 

Here is my bottom line reasoning: If I tell my children to believe in a figure that they cannot see, that he watches them from afar, that he judges their motives and actions, that he has supernatural powers, and that he will visit them with gifts every Christmas, they will eventually find out that I have intentionally told them to believe in something that is not true. This fact will not do much for my credibility in telling them true things about God, who is invisible to them, who watches over them though they cannot sense it, who judges their thoughts and actions, and who will bless them with eternal blessings if they will follow Christ. So, simply put, my wife and I have determined that we will never tell our children that something is true when it is not, because it is far too important that they be able to believe us when we tell them some things are true that they cannot see.

 

How do we deal with Santa and Santa stuff? It’s quite simple. Ever since Abigail was tiny, we have worked to distinguish the difference between true stories and pretend ones. In our house, if a story begins with “A long time ago…,” it is a true story. If a story begins with, “Once upon a time…,” it is a pretend story. The kids have done surprisingly well making those distinctions. They can still enjoy the stories that they know are not real just as any children can.

 

Since my children have no trouble enjoying that which they know not to be real, my wife and I do not get all crabby when a family member wraps a Christmas gift and puts “From: Santa” on the label. We do not find ourselves upset when they want a musical Rudolph toy from Wal-Mart (well, no more upset than we are when they want any noise-making toy). We do not get bent out of shape when a Santa ornament makes its way onto a tree near us. We don’t even mind taking snapshots of them sitting on the knee of a portly, bearded guy in a red, fuzzy suit once a year.

 

I think that you can tell from what I’ve already written, but just in case it is not clear, Mitzi and I do not look at our decision about Santa as the only possible one. This is a matter of conscience and preference. There is not Scripture that states, “Thou shalt not ho, ho, ho.” I grew up believing in Santa, and it really didn’t harm my worldview that much (so far as I can tell). But, for me and my house, we have simply made a decision that we want our children to know that Mommy and Daddy will always tell them the truth, and that trumps our desires to have beaming little people listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.

 

Oh, and in case you are wondering, we also try our best to keep our children from being the ones who spoil it for others. Abigail and Josiah have both been told in no uncertain terms that they are not to make it their mission to correct the Santaology of other children. They have answered truthfully when asked by other little ones, but they, to my knowledge, have never tried to be anti-Santa evangelists. So far, so good. We’ll have to see how Owen handles it when he is old enough to play the spoiler role.

 

Hear my heart as I wrap up this post. I am not here attempting to change any family’s plans for how to handle Christmas. Nor am I asking any person not to do Santa things with my little ones. Nor am I suggesting that, if you have just watched a Claymation special with your kids that you have ruined their spiritual chances for the future. So, please, no cranky comments defending your traditions. Santa stuff is a lot of fun. I love fun stories and the joy of imagination. (We even watch Harry Potter every year around the Christmas season simply because the music feels Christmassy to us; so obviously we are not the strict, non-fiction parents that you might be imagining.) But, since many ask, here is the answer: we have made a choice to be able to tell our children that, when mom and dad say something is real, we fully believe it to be real.   

Why My Kids Do Not Believe in Santa

My children do not believe in Santa Claus. To some, this is an obvious move. To others, this is a shock. What’s the deal? Am I some sort of anti-holiday Scrooge? Am I some sort of overzealous fundamentalist? Why in the world would I not have my little ones believe in Santa?

Though most of my blog posts are either connections of things I find interesting on the web, book reviews, teachers’ notes, or personal devotional thoughts, I thought it might be worth a couple of minutes simply to share the process that my wife and I went through in deciding our answer to the big question: To Santa or not to Santa. Since you know the answer already, let me very briefly tell you the reasoning that made the no Santa policy in my home. Then, I will share with you +a bit of how we deal with Santa.

Christmas is a holiday that has been highly over-commercialized in the US for years. People focus on winter, on trees, on lights, on gifts, and not on Jesus. And you know what, none of those are the reasons why my family did not tell my children that Santa was real.

Here is my bottom line reasoning: If I tell my children to believe in a figure that they cannot see, that he watches them from afar, that he judges their motives and actions, that he has supernatural powers, and that he will visit them with gifts every Christmas, they will eventually find out that I have intentionally told them to believe in something that is not true. This fact will not do much for my credibility in telling them true things about God, who is invisible to them, who watches over them though they cannot sense it, who judges their thoughts and actions, and who will bless them with eternal blessings if they will follow Christ. So, simply put, my wife and I have determined that we will never tell our children that something is true when it is not, because it is far too important that they be able to believe us when we tell them some things are true that they cannot see.

How do we deal with Santa and Santa stuff? It’s quite simple. Ever since Abigail was tiny, we have worked to distinguish the difference between true stories and pretend ones. In our house, if a story begins with “A long time ago…,” it is a true story. If a story begins with, “Once upon a time…,” it is a pretend story. The kids have done surprisingly well making those distinctions. They can still enjoy the stories that they know are not real just as any children can.

Since my children have no trouble enjoying that which they know not to be real, my wife and I do not get all crabby when a family member wraps a Christmas gift and puts “From: Santa” on the label. We do not find ourselves upset when they want a musical Rudolph toy from Wal-Mart. We do not get bent out of shape when a Santa ornament makes its way onto a tree near us. We don’t even mind taking snapshots of them sitting on the knee of a portly, bearded guy in a red, fuzzy suit once a year.

I think that you can tell from what I’ve already written, but just in case it is not clear, Mitzi and I do not look at our decision about Santa as the only possible one. This is a matter of conscience and preference. There is not Scripture that states, “Thou shalt not ho, ho, ho.” I grew up believing in Santa, and it really didn’t harm my worldview that much (so far as I can tell). But, for me and my house, we have simply made a decision that we want our children to know that Mommy and Daddy will always tell them the truth, and that trumps our desires to have beaming little people listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, we also try our best to keep our children from being the ones who spoil it for others. Abigail and Josiah have both been told in no uncertain terms that they are not to make it their mission to correct the Santaology of other children. They have answered truthfully when asked by other little ones, but they, to my knowledge, have never tried to be anti-Santa evangelists. So far, so good. We’ll have to see how Owen handles it when he is old enough to play the spoiler role.

So, what about you? Believers, how have you handled this issue? Have you thought it through? I’d love to hear your reasoning for the choice that you have made or will make for your family.

[The above is a nearly annual post, so if you think you’ve read it before, you indeed may have.]

My Disney Experience

On Saturday, June 12, my family and I made a trip to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando.  Yes, everybody told us how hot and crowded it would be and why going in June for only 1 day was a total waste of time.  You know what, those people were wrong.  My family had a wonderful day.  Here are some of the highlights.

 

Attractions

 

Usually what people want to know first is what attractions we were able to experience.  So, let me get that list out of the way with a comment or two as appropriate.

 

Park Opening Ceremony – I had no idea that they actually put on a show to open the park.  This was very special.  I still can hear the sound of Josiah shouting “Mickey!!!” when he caught his first glimpse of the big mouse in the opening number.  If you’re going with kids who love the characters, don’t miss this as all the characters show up.

 

Dumbo’s Flying Circus – the ride is dull for adults, but my kids loved the fact that they could use the stick to make Dumbo fly higher or lower.

 

    Mickey’s PhilharMagic – One of the best ideas a parent can have is to take their kids on attractions that involve air conditioning.  This is a 4d experience.  Kids watch the movie with 3d glasses and puffs of air and sprinkles of water add feeling to the experience.  Josiah was jumping up trying to catch the flying instruments as this show was taking place.

 

Breakfast with the Princesses in Cinderella’s Castle – This was just Abigail and Mitzi.  At the end of the day, Abigail told me that this was her favorite part.  She took pictures with Cinderella and met Bell, Ariel, Snow White, and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). 

 

    Peter Pan’s Flight – there are several experiences at Disney that involve slow moving rides that take you through a theme.  This is one of them.  These rides are things that don’t scare the kids, generally, and which are inside in the cool air.

 

It’s a Small World – see Peter Pan

 

Mad Tea Party – My mom wanted to ride the tea cups, so , we road them while waiting on the kids to come out of something else.  Yes, just me and my mom.

 

    The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh – See Peter Pan

 

The Haunted Mansion – It was too scary for my kids, but it’s so fun.  They seemed to get over the fright.  Otherwise, see Peter Pan.

 

The Show In Front of Cinderella’s Castle – This show was wonderful.  Several characters, both good guys and bad guys, showed up for this one.  Josiah told me when he saw the characters, “Maybe I should go over and meet them.”   (

Dumbo’s Flying Circus (second time)

 

Pirates of the Caribbean – See Peter Pan

 

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – This ride is Dumbo with a different theme.  But there was no waiting, so we rode it.

 

Chef Mickey’s (Dinner with characters ) – Holy cow!  Worth the time—no question about it.  Mickey, Mini, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald were all there.  Each character came to our table and interacted with the kids.  The food was pretty good, too.  No, it’s not cheap.

 

Light Parade – Very nice, but it was crowded. Get a spot early, at least 45 minutes before parade time.

 

Fireworks – the fireworks above the castle are breathtaking.  They have music and character voices that make this much more than a fireworks display.  Tinkerbelle actually flew over the castle during the show (a real person on a wire).

 

Other Observations

 

My kids were absolutely wonderful—no melt-downs, no real wining, and they were very happy and excited all day long.

 

I can’t believe how happy it made me to experience my kids being happy.  I almost cried at the opening when Josiah saw Mickey—ditto the show in front of the castle and Chef Mickey’s.  I’m not weepy, so if you know me, you know this was special.

 

Accessibility was excellent.  The park gave me a device that gave me audio descriptions of many of the attractions.  I’ll describe that later.

 

I haven’t been that hot and stinky in a long, long time.

 

Fast pass is wonderful.  We would have never made it on so many attractions without it.

 

Accessibility

 

As I mentioned, the park gave me a device that was a little larger than an old video IPod that I wore on a lanyard around my neck.  When I entered an attraction, let’s use for example It’s a Small World, the device told me what was going on through a pair of headphones.  So, as I got ready to get on the boat, my headphones were describing to me the look of the room and the size of the boats.  It even told me that diners in a particular restaurant had a view of us as we got on board.  As we sailed through the ride, the headphones described for me the different children in their costumes and what they carried or did.  Clearly the device was activated by sensors in the ride, so it never got ahead of itself, even when the boats seemed to sit still for loading. 

 

This device also told me what happened on the movie screen in Mickey’s PhilharMagic.  It talked me through Peter Pan’s Flight, Pooh, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean too.  I was truly able to enjoy the rides with my kids, talking with them about things they saw or should look for.

 

The park staff was also extremely nice and helpful to me as I got on and off of rides like Dumbo with just myself and Abigail or Josiah.

 

Most Important Thought

 

The Bible tells us that every good gift comes to us from God.  Yes, I grasp the materialism and self-focus that is often present in the Disney experiences.  I don’t know that we will ever spend money like that again for a theme park.  But I also know that God, out of his grace, gave me a nearly perfect day with my family to laugh and enjoy the park together.  I am grateful to God for that kindness, and would be remiss if I did not make this the most important point of my experience.

Some Insights from a mini-Vacation

            This weekend, my wife and I took a night away from the kids.  It really felt like a mini-vacation.  For today’s blog, I want to share a few things (not necessarily spiritual) about our experience.

 

Getting away is good – It is funny how much one night away can do to relax parents.  I love my kids very much, and really enjoy being around them.  I also love my wife very much, and it is very nice to be around her without us needing to watch out for the kids.

 

Priceline rocks – We decided, on a whim, to see about getting a hotel for our night away.  So, the night before, we put in what we thought was a ridiculously low bid of $50  for a four star hotel.  Our bid was accepted, and so we were able to stay at a very nice hotel just a few blocks from Busch Stadium.  (Also note, nice hotels are good things.)

 

Ballgames – Sitting in the ballpark actually opens up lots of opportunities for conversation with your spouse.

 

Bratzels – At the ball park, I ate a bratzel.  Imagine a bratwurst wrapped up in a pretzel.  This is a good thing, though it does not lend itself to all the traditional bratwurst toppings.  So, all-in-all, I am glad I tried a bratzel, but I won’t have it next time.

 

Sluggies – If you decide to go to the ballpark on Sluggie night, get there early.  Fans were lined up for a long time in order to make sure that they got their little Cardinals blankies with sleeves.  Sluggies are spiffy, but if it is Sluggie night, get there early.

 

People’s language surprises me – In the ballpark as well as around the city, I found myself regularly surprised by the constant stream of profanity that flows so freely from the mouths of folks.  My time spent so often around Christians made this kind of language really stand out to me.  If you are given to the use of foul language, let me say to you that you sound very empty-headed to those who are not accustomed to hearing it.  And, Christians, if you do not notice the profanity of the world around you, why not?  Are you hearing foul language so much in your entertainment that it no longer gets your attention?

 

Guys on cell phones at the ballpark can be really annoying – The guy sitting immediately to my right at the game spent three full innings on the phone with a friend who was also in the park.  They were trying to see if they could see each other.  So, for a full third of the game, I heard this genius saying things like, “No, look at the tarp.  I’m in the second section back from the end of the tarp. . . You can’t see me?  Oh, did you see where that foul ball landed?  I’m one section over from that. . . OK, stand up.  No, I don’t’ see you.”  For the love of baseball and for fans everywhere, I want to say to anyone tempted to do this, “Watch the game!”

 

Storms – Our game was delayed at the middle of the sixth inning due to rain.  Before the stoppage, we experienced a lot of lightning with accompanying thunder.  Thunder sounds really fascinating when you are in a full stadium.  Lightning is a better light show than fireworks.  But it is creepy when you are in the park and you realize that you’ve been listening to the tornado sirens for the last five minutes.  Yep, we were in an open-air stadium with tornado warnings all around us.  Oh, and I have discovered that wearing  a poncho is better than fighting with an umbrella.

 

Chipotle is not as good as Qdoba – We went to a Chipotle for lunch.  I love big burritos.  Qdoba is simply better than Chipotle in every way.  Qdoba has better flavor and more options.  So, if you want a big burrito, look for the Q.

 

Linder Chocolate Truffles – We picked up a bag of these little treats at Target.  They are yummy.

 

            Well, there you have it.  I hope you now feel enlightened.

A Significant Date in History

Two things of major significance happened on this date in history.  According to a post I recently read, it was February 18 when the wonderful Christian allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, was published.  This book has impacted millions all over the world, and still stands as one of the great works of literature that every student, Christian or not, should read.

 

            But there is something even more significant that happened on this date.  IT was ten years ago.  On February 18, 2000, Mitzi agreed to marry me.  The story is a cute one that I might tell someday.  It involves a cleverly concealed ring, a fancy dinner, several surprises, and sappy songs on guitar.  But, we’ll leave that for another post.

 

            What I wrote in this post on our 9th anniversary is very much still true.  God has blessed me with a godly woman who is willing to serve, to share, to sacrifice, to give, to work with me regardless the cost.  Mitzi has shown me a great devotion to God, to me, to our children, and to the work of the ministry.  She is a genuine helper and a person that people simply want to be around.  I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that Mitzi is the one of us that people like and keep liking, even if I don’t always have that effect on people.

 

            Yes, I know that Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most widely-read works of literature in history.  I know that it is a book that can dramatically open the eyes of people who have a difficult time understanding very important things.  And with that said, I still know that, in my world, the far more significant February 18 occurred when my wife-to-be finally told me “yes.”