The Dangers of TMI in a 24/7 Digital World

The recent fires in Southern California, along with their 24 hour coverage on the internet, TV, and radio elicited in me a surprising reaction recently: frustration. Let me explain: I wasn’t frustrated by people’s suffering; I was frustrated because there seemed to be so little I could do about it. Of course, I can pray; I know that (I’m a pastor, after all!). I can also give. But that launches me into a spiral of discernment: do I give to each and every cause I see and hear?! How much do I give, if I give? Aargh!

As I mulled this over, I wondered about the effects of being exposed to so much suffering so much of the time. We are finite people who live in much smaller communities than the virtual world. For the most part, I think we’re wired for a very localized response—to reach out and aid those in our immediate network, those circles of influence and relationships which are part of our daily existence. I’m not sure we have the capacity to carry the world’s pain, to respond consistently and compassionately to the seemingly endless onslaught of wars, natural disasters, crime, etc, to which we’re exposed relentlessly. Sometimes it seems like the only way we can cope is to harden ourselves and quickly click past the images and headlines that greet us every time we launch our browsers and land on our home pages. Ugh.

The question for us as Christ-followers is how do we keep our hearts soft and pliable in a virtual world of information overload? How do we not allow TMI to harden us? Is it a matter of "Think Globally, Act Locally"? What are some possibilities for the disciple seeking to live faithfully in the information age? Tell me what you think!


I’ve been wondering about ambition lately. Could be because I’m entering midlife and re-evaluating myself, my vocational trajectory, and my discipleship. Anyway, I’m haunted by a saying I once heard: “I got to the top of the ladder and realized it was leaning against the wrong wall.” Have you ever felt that way?

I worry that sometimes we can pursue a prescribed path for our lives, live out a script that society or our family or someone else hands to us, which we assume is the right way to go…only one day to wake up and discover that, in fact, it had little resonance with God or even with our deepest wirings.

It’s so easy in Christian circles to sprinkle some Christianese into this discussion and talk about having high impact for the kingdom, seeking God’s glory, trying to be at the center of God’s will, etc—all good things if they’re genuine…but what if they’re more show than substance? What if they’re simply our ambition (or even our pride) shellacked with pseudo-spirituality? Am I being too harsh?

What if the gospel calls us to obscurity? Or even to what others might perceive as mediocrity? Is bigger (as in salary, congregations, etc) really better? Could there ever be a downward mobility to following Jesus?

I’m also haunted by what I’ve sometimes observed in those who excel—whether reaching the top rung in professional sports, business, entrepreneurship, entertainment, even church leadership—their paths seem too often littered with the debris of broken relationships, compromised integrity, and neglect. Am I over-generalizing? What does excelling really look like? Can we really excel when we neglect the things that make for personal integrity—nurturing a marriage, raising children, being a good neighbor, getting involved in the community?

I worry that sometimes in church circles (and among pastors, especially), we can bring in worldly ambition, dress it up in church clothes and call it zeal for God and his Kingdom. When, truth be told, what’s really going on is nothing more than the natural impulses of the flesh, which in any other profession or social circle would be named for what it is: ambition. Am I grinding an axe? Did my dinner disagree with me? What do you think?

Excess Baggage Fee

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”--Hebrews 12:1

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I tend to live my faith in a minor key. I seem to be hard-wired to identify with life's strain and struggle, not necessarily its triumphs and victories. Songs or instrumental music with a steady, persevering rhythm speak to me. Sweet notes of sadness tend to move me.

I think it's this wiring which draws me to the sport of cycling, with its often long and lonely hours of pain—and ultimately triumph. I think of this particularly on difficult climbs in the hills and mountains west of Boulder. Today was no exception. With the fall colors ablaze and the first snow around the corner, I wanted to tackle Flagstaff Mountain one more time. I’ll admit it, that ride never gets any easier. It’s a painful slog, kind of like hiking on a bike. As I approach the upper portion of the climb, I’ve learned to hide my full water bottle by the amphitheatre turnoff so I don’t have to carry it up the steep switchbacks cyclists here call “Superflag”—pitches that approach 18% in places. A large, full water bottle is more than an extra pound and a half to tote up the climb…and the climb is already painful enough without it.

There’s a metaphor here, of course. We go through so much of our lives toting heavy loads from our pasts and bad habits in our present. Our ability to endure in faith is slowed and our effectiveness as disciples is diminished as we doggedly drag all this stuff around. Unresolved issues from our families of origin. Resentments and unforgiveness. Old tapes about ourselves. Addictions. You name it. Whatever our baggage, when the challenges come (and they always do), we’re weighed down and our energy flags quickly.

If only we could ditch some of this baggage as easily as a waterbottle on Flagstaff Mountain! I know it’s not that simple. But I wonder: can we get to the point where we can at least identify what excess baggage we’re carrying, and begin to determine its weight? What’s a waterbottle-sized problem we can let go of? A duffle bag? A trunk? Oh, to go through life traveling light!