Retreating from Pop Culture with Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers Brunch, Panera BreadAs much as I post about the entertainment options around me, I can’t immerse myself in them 24/7. Sometimes they disappoint or frustrate me. Sometimes they demand more of my time and attention than I care to give. Sometimes the idols among them remind me how their previous versions guided me through childhood. While I grew up and improved in a way or two, too many of those idols lost their luster, descended into mediocrity, or had their Reset buttons punched to turn them into different creatures with the same names. Ultimately they’re undependable as worldview building materials.

Hence my weekly one-man retreat. Every Sunday morning after church I isolate myself from my loved ones and collections, hole up in a local chain eatery that has plenty of loitering space (it’s not too hard to identify if you know the place), clear my mind, and spend an hour-plus with caffeine, snack, Bible, spiral-bound notebook, and a copy of the late Oswald Chambers’ devotional collection My Utmost for His Highest.

For those newer readers who’ve been wondering to themselves for months: I assure you the “faith” mentioned in the site subtitle isn’t a typo.

Mind you, I’m not great at shoehorning gratuitous mentions of my beliefs into every post, but they inform my choices more often than I remember to admit. For weird, awkward reasons, they’re frequently harder for me to articulate than my opinions or sarcasm about things I encounter on screens or in books. Consider it one of the drawbacks of spending an entire life collecting comics and watching moving pictures, but not “finding God” (so to speak) till three decades later down the road. That’s why there’s a considerable disparity between my writing skill sets for each side of that divide.

Hence my weekly coffee-‘n’-bagel retreat — a sort of catch-up on what I consider important with a capital I (and not “I” as in “me”), away from my house that’s made entirely of pastimes and distractions, governed by our PC as the Emperor of the Distractions. Not do I remove myself from leisurely temptation for a while, I also force myself to capture my thoughts and impressions of the day’s reading matter by scribbling them longhand in the notebook. Value-added bonus: it’s a great way to remind myself how to use a pen for more than signing a credit card terminal. Sometimes I write up to two or three pages per sitting. If this neglected talent ever comes in handy, I imagine I’ll be better equipped for the challenge than the average keyboard addict.

When I first started this site, I’d considered trying a regular site feature called “Chambers Reloaded”, in which I’d rehash whatever thoughts or ideas had occurred to me during the day’s Bible study. I like doing regular features and loved the title, but I’m not sure it would’ve been more than constant paraphrasing of Chambers’ original insights. That felt like a disservice, and it might’ve been difficult to find regular, non-repetitive illustrations for accompaniment.

Also, I have inadequacy issues to overcome. My wife and I cowrote a couple of simple Bible lessons years ago when we belonged to a study group, but in those collaborations she was the Simon to my Garfunkel. In this genre she’s the vastly more experienced and talented hitmaker.

On the other hand, that’s another benefit of these studies: they require me to do my own work and develop my own reasoning without her around as a friendly teaching assistant, sifting through my thoughts with guidance through Chambers’ points coming only from the Word of God. For that reason above all, these appointments are a refreshing intellectual exercise that can be (and should be) much more fulfilling than lambasting a sequel or protesting a reboot.

4 responses

  1. Oh geez, I haven’t read my Utmost for his Highest in quite a while! I had however been thinking of it last night after my Mother thoughtfully left, Hinds Feet in High Places on my coffee table with a few jam cookies and said, “Don’t forget to incorporate this into work this week.” Followed by a kiss on the cheek and, “Who is your favorite war strategist again?” I replied, “David.” She smiled and said, “Then be fortunate to have the Lord delight in you as he did David.” I think I should reflect with some Chambers today- I’m doing change management for an incredibly toxic work environment this week- I could use some wise encouragement in the right direction!
    Thanks for the reminder!

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