Am I Using My Phone — Or Is My Phone Using Me?

We all feel it, our smartphones grab more and more of our time, changing us in subtle ways over the years. For well-reasoned counsel to help us thrive under the new pressures of the digital age, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a wonderful help, in these 12 ways.

  1. The book is God-centered. Many technology books lack any serious talk about God — his character, his word, and his Son. But this book clearly addresses the questions of the digital age with a solid awareness of the Creator and his full intent for creation. God created us to enjoy him. God has also created a myriad of means, including the technological progress of the digital age, to help us enjoy him more. God governs over all technology, and this book shines the light of God’s sovereignty over the technological age.
  2. The counsel of the book is wisely nuanced. Different readers will need to hear different messages, and the author is firmly aware of it. “So I cannot tell you to put your phone away, to give it up, or to take it back up again after a season of burnout,” Reinke writes. “My aim is to explore why you would consider such actions in the first place” (21). Given the diversity of our smartphone habits, we are called to carefully understand our own personal wiring.
  3. From the first page, the back-and-forth nature of our smartphone habits is made humorously clear. This is not a one-sided book (pro-phone or anti-phone); it balances our habits well. As the preface begins: “This blasted smartphone! Pesk of productivity. Tenfold plague of beeps and buzzing. . . . Yet also my untiring personal assistant, my irreplaceable travel companion, and my lightning-fast connection to friends and family. . . . This blessed smartphone!” (15). The spectrum of what we do with our phones — from scrolling through witty response GIFs, to our nested conversations on Twitter, to personal productivity apps, or using pixels and podcasts to feed our souls — all of it is on the forefront in the book.
  4. The message of the book is passionate, and not muted by drab truisms. For example, chapter three (on our craving for immediate approval), ends with this warning: “As we fight against the lure of self-glorification, Jesus, Paul, and Peter all plead with us: don’t waste your approval. Don’t crave the approval of man online. Don’t flaunt your righteous deeds in the cyber world. If we miss their warnings, we will make a cosmically foolish mistake, with eternal regret to follow” (78). The book is sometimes humorous, sometimes serious — but always earnest, with eternity in view.
  5. The architecture of the book is ordered by an ancient poetic effect. I won’t give it away, but let me just say: Pay attention as you read. The entire structure of the book is woven together. (And if you don’t see it, don’t worry, Reinke will give it away in the end, making the entire content of the book a little more memorable, too.)
  6. The book raises a lot of questions for personal evaluation, and those questions are theological and practical. There are suggestive helps for self-criticism, to help think about our own patterns of behavior, but they always come back to concrete and applicable questions. Using Paul’s guidelines in 1 Corinthians 6:12–13 and 10:23, the book asks us to think about our smartphone habits in three ways: (1) What is the end and aim of my life? (2) How am I influencing others? (3) Does my phone serve me, or do I serve my phone? Answering each of these three questions will revolutionize your habits by bringing clarity to your priorities.
  7. The writing style in this book is delightful. Apart from the introduction (“A Little Theology of Technology,” which is panoramic in scope, but also too brief and perhaps a bit clunky), the prose style of the book is enjoyable, memorable, and beautiful. “Life online is a whiplash between deep sorrow, unexpected joy, cheap laughs, profound thoughts, and dumb memes. Our social media feeds give us what is sometimes riotous, sometimes amazing, sometimes dizzying, and sometimes depressing. But the disjointedness is something we have welcomed on ourselves” (178–179). Quotable gems like this are scattered on just about every page.
  8. The book is thoroughly researched. Over the course of three years, Reinke — an author and the host of the Ask Pastor John podcast — crafted a couple dozen interviews with some of the most influential Christian thinkers. He also read about 50 books on technology and over 1,000 articles on smartphone research, all while keeping his attention focused on the spiritual effects of our habits. The result is what you would expect from a respected researcher and journalist. Reinke skillfully packages his far-reaching findings in a way that is concise and engaging.
  9. The book focuses on eternity. There’s no shortage of books and studies on the physical and psychological effects of screen-time on our lives, but this book focuses on the long-term, the long-est-term — the eternal consequences of our smartphone habits on our souls. This is what makes the book most unique. Our phones demand our attention, and we willingly give our attention to them. But what do we really want? And what does that say about our own desires and cravings in our hearts? The goal of the book is simple: To get us “to move from being distracted on purpose to being less and less distracted with an eternal purpose” (52).
  10. The book’s tactics are holistic: it appeals to our heads, our hearts, and of course our thumbs. But it is also balanced: it speaks to both digital consumers and digital creators. Do you need intellectual arguments and data and research? Do you need appeals to your longings and answers to your fears? Do you need immediate practical changes to your phone habits? Do you need inspiration to use social media for a strategic purpose? The book has them all.
  11. The book is communal. Reinke is skilled at breaking through norms to show how, for example, our social media habits obligate others. “If I’m a social-media junkie, my lack of self-control feeds the social-media addiction in you,” he writes. “And the more I text and tweet and Snapchat, the more I drag you and others into the digital vortex of reciprocating obligation. This is the secret to how social-media giants grow their valuation into the billions. They need me to entice you” (198). This fresh perspective helps break us from the individualized consumer model that the personal electronics industry is built on. On the flip side, we need one another. We need to find our place in healthy local churches, and to that end, I can see this book being a great one for group discussions with church leaders and small groups, to talk about smartphone behaviors and to brainstorm personal changes for healthy Christian living.
  12. Finally, the book’s cover image is epic! As explained in the acknowledgments, the iPhone guy on the cover stands 6-feet-tall and weighs 250 pounds! Designed and cut from hardwood and assembled by a guitar maker.

Take up 12 Ways, read it, discuss it, and challenge one another as you pray that God will use this book to change us in profound ways, all for the goal that God will grow more and more glorious to our eyes.

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Katherine – 1 Year Old

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Katherine had her one year check-up and her stats are as follows:

  • Weight – 20.14 lbs | 42nd percentile
  • Height – 2 ft, 7 in | 97th percentile [whaaaat?]
  • Head – 47.7 cm | 47th percentile

Needless to say, she’s growing well. She took awhile to get used to eating baby food, but has gotten to the point now where I’m constantly surprised at how much she can eat in one sitting!

She is still army crawling along the floor, but also loves standing and walking along furniture. I’ll catch her rocking on her hands and knees a few times a day, but she still hasn’t convinced herself there’s more to that.

She says “mama,” “dada,” “buh-buh,” and a lot of other sounds and combinations. We’re not convinced that she is actually referring to me, or Bryan, etc. The one that’s most linked to meaning is “Buh-buh” as she waves so there might be some synapses firing there. The sign for “All done” is used a lot and I think she might actually get what it means because she’s pretty consistent to do it when she’s done eating or doesn’t want a toy, or wants you to stop what you’re doing (i.e. kissing her face).

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Her teeth make me laugh because she has three on top and two on the bottom. As you can see, this gives her an uneven, toothy grin and I just love it. Bryan’s mom has been saying she reminds her a lot of him as a baby. And Bryan always says it’s like looking at his baby sister all over again! So I think we got some stronger DeWire genes in this one.

She’s a passionate (read: intense) and fun-loving little girl and we love the bit of spice she adds to our family!

Mission Complete: The 2016 Reading Challenge

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December a year ago, I (Bryan) decided to take up Tim Challies’s 2016 Reading Challenge—and I loved it! I’m so glad I did it.

When I started, my hope was to push myself to read a lot, to read widely, and, yes, to still read some of what I wanted to read. In fact, part of the fun of this challenge has been figuring out how to prioritize what I want to read and then fitting it all into the categories Tim provided (though I’ll admit, I definitely stretched some of the categories).

StrengthsFinder tells me that one of my top 5 themes is “Achiever,” and it really manifests itself in my goal setting and book reading. I love to set high goals and then exceed them. So, of course, out of the levels Tim gave (Light Reader=13 books, Avid Reader=26 books, Committed Reader=52 books, Obsessed Reader=104 books, Extra Credit=109 books), I had to aim for all 109—and then add one more book for good measure. You can read the order I finished these books below (and I included how I finished them in brackets: print, Kindle, or audio; personal reading, work reading, reading with Sarah, or reading with the family).

My plan now is to make 2017 the year for reading big books. After finishing a lot of books this year (as you’ll see below) and last year, I am eager to switch my focus from the amount of books I finish to the size of books I finish. Obviously, “big books” is subjective. Overall, I am aiming for each book to be over 400 pages (though some will easily be over 1,000). But I’m sure numerous books with fewer pages will find their way to the top of my reading pile, simply because they looks so good. (Plus, I am a sucker for recommendations!)

And so, I present to you the 110 books I finished in 2016! (And now it’s time to have my first conversation with Sarah since 2015. . . .)

  1. 1/1/16, Read-Aloud Bible Stories, Vol. 1 (ECPA winner) [print; with family]
  2. 1/6/16, How Prayer Impacts Lives (prayer) [Kindle; personal]
  3. 1/7/16, Life Together (UK publisher) [Kindle; personal]
  4. 1/12/16, Our Triune God (theology) [print; personal]
  5. 1/14/16, Lit! (read before) [Kindle; personal]
  6. 1/18/16, Everyday Church (church) [print; personal]
  7. 1/18/16, Caught Up in a Story (hobby) [Kindle; personal—though, Sarah read it too]
  8. 1/19/16, The Gadarene (graphic novel) [print; personal]
  9. 1/19/16, The Joy of a Peanuts Christmas: 50 Years (comic) [print; personal]
  10. 1/22/16, The Knowledge of the Holy (“changed my life”) [Kindle; personal]
  11. 1/30/16, The Mystery of Providence (Puritan) [Kindle; personal]
  12. 1/31/16, Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare) [Kindle; personal] (January = 12)
  13. 2/2/16, The Hound of the Baskervilles (detective novel) [Kindle; personal]
  14. 2/5/16, Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (title from a Bible verse) [Kindle; personal]
  15. 2/10/16, Killjoys (self-improvement) [print; personal]
  16. 2/11/16, Eight Days Devotional (100 pages or less) [Word doc; work]
  17. 2/13/16, The Unquenchable Flame (Reformation) [Kindle; personal]
  18. 2/14/16, The Owlings (worldview) [Kindle; personal]
  19. 2/15/16, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (martyr) [audio; personal]
  20. 2/16/16, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (classic novel) [Kindle; personal—though Sarah read the whole series too]
  21. 2/22/16, A Peculiar Glory (book about the Bible) [PDF; mainly personal/some work]
  22. 2/28/16, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (pastor recommends) [Kindle; personal]
  23. 2/29/16, The Things of Earth (Christian living) [audio; personal] (February = 11)
  24. 3/12/16, Jonathan Edwards On Revival (revival) [Kindle; personal]
  25. 3/13/16, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (NYT bestseller) [Kindle; personal]
  26. 3/18/16, Openness Unhindered (homosexuality) [audio; personal]
  27. 3/19/16, This Is Awkward (first-time author) [audio; personal]
  28. 3/26/16, Women of the Word (targeted at other gender) [audio; personal]
  29. 3/31/16, Journey to Joy, Study Guide (joy/happiness) [Word doc; work] (March = 6)
  30. 4/1/16, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry (by/about pastor’s wife) [audio; personal]
  31. 4/9/16, The Story of Everything (humorous) [audio; personal]
  32. 4/10/16, Side by Side (speaker at a conference I attended) [audio; personal]
  33. 4/10/16, Wheat Belly (food) [Kindle; personal]
  34. 4/14/16, The Whole Christ (published in 2016) [print; personal]
  35. 4/19/16, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (novel >400 pages) [Kindle; personal]
  36. 4/25/16, The Reason for Sports (sports) [Kindle; personal] (April = 7)
  37. 5/2/16, Too Dumb to Fail (a current issue) [audio; personal]
  38. 5/11/16, The Wright Brothers (by David McCullough) [audio; personal]
  39. 5/25/16, Journey to Joy, Study Guide (borrow) [Word doc; work]
  40. 5/26/16, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (magic) [Kindle; personal]
  41. 5/27/16, Of the Mortification of Sin (>100 years old) [audio; personal] (May = 5)
  42. 6/8/16, The Poets’ Corner (poetry) [audio; family]
  43. 6/8/16, Andrew Fuller by John Piper (church history) [Word doc; work]
  44. 6/15/16, Happily Ever After: Finding Grace in the Messes of (marriage) [Word doc; work]
  45. 6/16/16, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (psychology) [Word doc; personal/for a friend]
  46. 6/16/16, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God (library) [Kindle; personal]
  47. 6/18/16, The Songs of Jesus (music) [audio; personal]
  48. 6/20/16, A Conviction to Lead (leadership) [audio; personal]
  49. 6/30/16, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince (>400 pp.) [Kindle; personal] (June = 8)
  50. 7/1/16, The Ology (children) [print; family]
  51. 7/9/16, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (woman conf. speaker) [Kindle; personal]
  52. 7/14/16, Pastors in the Classics (started but never finished) [Kindle; personal]
  53. 7/15/16, Business to the Glory of God (business) [Kindle; personal]
  54. 7/15/16, The Dark Work of Abortion (abortion) [Kindle; personal]
  55. 7/16/16, The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God (photo essay book) [print; personal]
  56. 7/16/16, History: A Student’s Guide (ancient history) [Kindle; personal]
  57. 7/21/16, Art and Music: A Student’s Guide (art) [Kindle; personal]
  58. 7/23/16, Little House on the Prairie (female author) [print; family]
  59. 7/23/16, Philosophy: A Student’s Guide (philosophy) [Kindle; personal]
  60. 7/24/16, The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide (science) [Kindle; personal]
  61. 7/25/16, McCheyne’s Pastoral Letters (author less than 30) [Kindle; personal]
  62. 7/29/16, Living in the Light: Money, Sex, and Power (finance) [print; personal]
  63. 7/30/16, Hudson Taylor: Adventure Begins (missionary) [Kindle; family]
  64. 7/30/16, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship (ugly cover) [print; personal]
  65. 7/31/16, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (initials) [Kindle; personal] (July = 16)
  66. 8/9/16, S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: A Biography (World War II) [Kindle; personal]
  67. 8/9/16, A World Upside Down (by or about Martin Luther) [print; personal]
  68. 8/11/16, Destiny and Power (bio of a world leader) [audio; personal]
  69. 8/12/16, George Mueller: The Children’s Champion (a biography) [print; family]
  70. 8/13/16, The Writer’s Diet (writing) [print; personal]
  71. 8/13/16, Hope Reborn (different ethnicity) [print; personal]
  72. 8/19/16, A Walk with Christ to the Cross (recommended by family) [Kindle; personal]
  73. 8/24/16, Beginner’s Guide to the Gift of Prophecy (seminary textbook) [Kindle; personal]
  74. 8/31/16, Out of the Silent Planet (by C.S. Lewis) [Kindle; personal] (August = 9)
  75. 9/9/16, Adoniram Judson: Danger on Streets of Gold (country/city) [Kindle; family]
  76. 9/11/16, Perelandra (astronomy) [Kindle; personal]
  77. 9/12/16, Orthodoxy (one-word title) [audio; personal]
  78. 9/29/16, On the Banks of Plum Creek (natural world) [print; family]
  79. 9/30/16, The Scars That Have Shaped Me (suffering) [Word doc; work]
  80. 9/30/16, Beginner’s Guide to Receiving the Holy Spirit (theology you disagree with) [Kindle; personal] (September = 6)
  81. 10/6/16, The Reformed Pastor (published by Banner of Truth) [audio; personal]
  82. 10/6/16, The Death of Ivan Ilych (by a Russian) [audio; personal]
  83. 10/28/16, The Hawk and Dove (novel set in a different country) [Kindle; Sarah]
  84. 10/29/16, Adopted for Life (adoption) [audio; personal]
  85. 10/30/16, The Child’s Story Bible (twentieth century) [print; family]
  86. 10/30/16, This Is Awkward (relationships/friendship) [audio; personal]
  87. 10/31/16, The Advantage (productivity) [audio; personal] (October = 7)
  88. 11/1/16, The Short Stories of (Charles Dickens) [audio; personal]
  89. 11/1/16, Love and Friendship (Jane Austen) [audio; personal]
  90. 11/1/16, The Mark of the Christian (Francis Schaeffer) [audio; personal]
  91. 11/4/16, A Hunger for God (favorite author) [audio; personal]
  92. 11/7/16, That Hideous Strength (Christian novel) [Kindle; personal]
  93. 11/9/16, By the Shores of Silver Lake (based on a true story) [print; family]
  94. 11/17/16, Augustine of Hippo: Father of the Christian Church (by or about the church fathers) [audio; personal]
  95. 11/17/16, What Is the Gospel? (“gospel” in title) [audio; personal]
  96. 11/17/16, The Heart of the Five Love Languages (language) [audio; personal]
  97. 11/23/16, Gilead (novel that won the Pulitzer Prize) [Kindle; personal]
  98. 11/25/16, The Secret of Spiritual Joy (fruit of the Spirit in title) [print; personal]
  99. 11/28/16, Side by Side (Presbyterian) [audio; personal] (November = 12)
  100. 12/16/16, The Supremacy of God in (Preaching) [audio; personal]
  101. 12/22/16, Zeal Without Burnout (public speaking) [audio; personal]
  102. 12/23/16, Love and Friendship (Anglican) [audio; personal]
  103. 12/24/16, The Long Winter (memoir) [print; family]
  104. 12/26/16, The Bible (historical book) [mainly print; personal]
  105. 12/27/16, Practicing the Power (great cover) [PDF; personal]
  106. 12/29/16, You Are What You Love (owned, but never read) [Kindle+audio; personal]
  107. 12/29/16, Perfecting the Saints [James] (commentary) [audio; personal]
  108. 12/29/16, Letting Go (evangelism) [Kindle; personal]
  109. 12/30/16, Faith That Lasts (parenting) [Kindle; Sarah]
  110. 12/31/16, Seasons of Waiting (bonus!) [Kindle+audio; personal] (December = 11)
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