Morning Prayer

Twice a year I have the joy of doing a week's worth of morning prayer homilies at my school. Usually I am pretty 'pastoral' in my approach, but this week I decided that there were a few things I needed to get off my chest. I framed these as three "yells" that should be taken in the spirit of something that might be said at halftime in a lockerroom when a team has just been flat. The first was a message to the young men (and to myself) to wake up to reality, to the mystery of being alive and to what God is doing in the world. Yesterday I followed that up with a reading of the Pharisees (via Matthew 21:23-46 and 25:31-46) as those who were simply not awake to the reality of what God was doing in Christ and were therefore left out of the Kingdom. Today I announced the second of my three yells and this one I wrote out ahead of time, so I though I would just share it here.

Feel free to comment if you like it, hate it, agree, disagree, find offense, find inspiration or find a grammar error.

Here it is:

OK, last night I remembered why I was going to have to yell this in the first place and recovered my vigor.

Do you know what I hate? Do you know what really makes me mad? When I see it in other people and when I see it in myself? (Because I do. I do see it in myself. Hear that very clearly.)

What I hate is this slouching, YouTube, Facebook, hang out, entertain me, fantasy football, professional Texas-Hold-'Em boredom we call a culture. We are filling our lives with stupid things!

You can go home tonight and sign on to Facebook so you can ‘poke’ your friends or find out Jerry is playing Scrabulous and Marybeth has changed her profile picture. Bob posted on your wall and Janet is ranked 7,195,713th in the Never Ending Movie Quiz. You could even buy her a digital gift to congratulate her.

You can go on YouTube and watch old Saturday Night Live clips, other people’s photo montages set to your favorite songs, videos of kickboxing injuries, people falling down, girls dancing and someone filling his mouth with Mentos and then drinking Diet Coke.

Now, I recently got high speed internet access, and believe me I know the lure. I could sit there all night watching someone fill their mouth with Mentos and then drink Diet Coke. Or, not just stupid things. There is some good stuff on YouTube. Not junk. Not trash. We use it in our home school curriculum. It’s great to study snakes and then go watch a boa constrictor try to swallow a small pig. I love the internet. It’s a great tool.

But it’s also a sucking whirlpool of stupidity and easy entertainment that mirrors a broader culture that is also great but is also threatening to become a sucking whirlpool of stupidity and easy entertainment! And going to the mall is no different. Turning on the TV, even the news, is no different.

This is not what we were made to do!

I would rather people were sitting around in a coffee shop plotting to storm the Minnesota capital and secede from the union than spending their evenings watching YouTube videos.

Look, in the beginning, the earth was without form and void. It was a shapeless blank. Then God created. He separated the light from the dark and the land from the sea. He made animals, birds, trees, grass. And then He gave it to us. This is the largest land grant in human history! Wide open spaces, deserts, fertile valleys! And He said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.” Be creative with the earth I gave you in the same way that I was creative with the void. Take this earth and make it a world the way I took clay and made you human.

So get out there and create! Make something!

Write a poem.
Write a short story.
Write a symphony.
Write a protest song.
Write down your ideas.
Write your memoirs.
Try to write your memoirs in six words.
Write a letter to your congressman.

Make art.
Paint a picture.
Take a picture.
Make a collage.

Build a shed.
Build a trebuchet.
Build a bigger trebuchet.
Build a ballista.
Make a sword.
Make some chain mail.
Make a longbow.
Then make up a game.

Build a scooter.
Build a hovercraft.
Build a car.
Build a computer.
Build a robot.
Build a birdhouse.
Build a chair.

Build a community.
Build a state championship team.
Build a raft and sail down the Mississippi.

Start a club.
Start a bible study.
Start a discussion group.

Start a revolution.
Start a political party.
Start a campaign.

Start a non profit organization.
Start a business.
Start a garden.
Grow some tomatoes.
Grow some zucchini.

Learn how to sculpt.
Learn how to weld.
Learn how to drywall.
Learn how to cook.
Learn how to sew.
Learn how to make shoes.

Create! Create!! Create!!!

Fill the earth!!!

Name your creations!!!

Be like your Father in Heaven!!!

But for God’s sake do not sit there and entertain yourselves to death!

It doesn’t matter who wins American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. It doesn’t matter whether or not you win your fantasy sports league, keep your Sim-city going or move your way up the rankings in Facebook’s “Never Ending Movie Quiz.”

But it does matter if you let creation slip back into chaos because you didn’t care enough to create!

If you want a grim vision of what it looks like when people cease to create, cease to be who God called them to be in the world, I recommend (if you're over 16) that you read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. There is a great deal on the line here.

So let's create.

And let's pray.


Mike Z said...

AMEN - can you yell that loud enough to be heard in South Bend? I'll open the windows to hear you! I'll yell back AMEN - IT"S TRUE.

Nicely said, Jon. Thank you. (Too bad you only get to preach for two weeks of the year!)

Justin said...

Jon, the perfect place for this yell is out here in the blogosphere. While we are out here reading it, we are all convicted. Thank you!

This will be put to good use.

Tom Bowar said...

Brother, this is absolutely wonderful. I get antsy every time I stop doing creative things (like photography or music or SOMETHING) for awhile and fall into the trap of finding ways of entertaining myself.

This is a great reminder that the restlessness is no accident - I was meant to be creative!

Paul & Beth said...

uhhmmm...someone already took my word...AMEN! I am going to let my kids read's a wakeup call to us all to take note of what we spend our time light of eternity...are we doing what matters?

Thanks cousin,

Lizz said...

when are you going to write a book?

Rus said...

Well played.

There's a lot of fodder for the Holy Spirit in this.

2nd half:"leave it all on the field."

Unknown said...

Thank you John! Praise god for those who share their words! Let us bring back the ways of old, that aren't really that old, but they are being forgotten at a much faster pace that ever before. To turn off that computer or TV and open your mouth and talk to someone and pick up a hobby that needs to be brought back.

JPB said...

Thanks everyone.

Tom, keep shooting, brother!

Paul and Beth, let me know what my double first cousins once removed think of it. :-)

Lizz, you haven't read my latest yet?

Russ, today I read a section from one of my favorite Shakespeare scenes to that effect. Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1.

The scene, if you don't know the play, takes place before the gates of a town that Henry and the English are trying to take and begins:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.

That's my all time favorite version of leave it all on the field!

for the entire speech:

Paul & Beth said...

I like it. You very thoroughly just described all but 2 of my friends, ironic. Do you have the plans for building a trebuchet or balista, or should I look on the internet. I'm not sure the CCR's will allow those to be built where we live but I can always go to Grammpa Danny's. As for Henry V , have you scene Kenneth Branaugh's version? best one I've seen.

double first cousin once removed

JPB said...

Jordan --

That was a bit of an in-house reference. We have two brothers who have built a trebuchet for the past several years, each year getting larger and larger. This year they fired a football 200 yards with it.

As for Branagh, I was going to post (ironically but I hope not hypocritically) the clip from his version on the blog! I love that movie.

My vision of following Christ is mirrored in the St. Crispin's day speech. That's how I want it to be.

God Bless!


Paul & Beth said...

It could not have been said any better! Lately I have felt very convicted about the way I spend/waste my time and had just got done deleting my myspace and facebook acounts before I read your post. It is amazing how easily we allow ourselves to be swept into our "all-about-me" culture! Thanks for this very encouraging reminder!

God bless,


Paul & Beth said...

Hey Jon this is Travis (Beth and Pauls second)

I know exactly what you mean here. It is something we all get sucked into. Entertainment is what bought and sold these days just like you said. Whether it is the internet, tv, computer games, (or any other video game). And it is very sad.

Though I do my share "Facebooking and Myspacing" and "youtubing" haha. I dont considered myself obsessed but use it as more of a means keep in touch with friends that are out of town or moved.

Another NEWER black hole of entertainment is this harmless thing called text messaging. And EVERYONE knows what I am talking about. You see kids, adults, EVERYONE, holding there phone, dropping their current live conversations or looking down at the table while eating just so we can tell our friends a line or two of usually rediculous information about our evenings that could most definitely wait till later.

Often what I see in my friends, and unfortunately myself, is not only not doing what we were created to, but neglecting what we are supposed to do. For example, reading the Bible, or any spending time with God for that matter.

On another unfortunate note, there is not much we can do about this problem. But as we all the most effective thing for us to do is use the "power of prayer" (not to sound cliche on that).

The sooner we (as Christians) drop our personal thoughts of self importance and our needings to be imediately entertained, the sooner we will all make a difference. And who knows, we might even spread like a disease.

Thanks for this post. I hope other people will read it and spread it around. Good food for thought with what we waste our times on. Take it easy and God Bless!

(my email is, feel free to drop me a note)

Unknown said...

So Mr. Balsbaugh, I like the way you talk. I do however feel the solution to what you are saying is a problem, quite well written but maybe a little nonspecific. I am college student at IU and check facebook maybe once a month because people are upset with me for not responding to shit. Not to say that I disagree with your caterwaul; I feel empty with most of what I spend my time doing. I am not so sure some of those things should be on the list though. Regardless, this is not a nit-picky critique of what should and should not be on the list, this critique is more of in general how loosely you describe the use of our time. I feel as though we are on borrowed time and being so everyday should be a desperate search for how to use the time that is really not ours in the first place. We are free agents, but as Christians we are slaves to love. The list you have given seems too simple a solution to this confusing paradox and far be it for me to say I have the answer either, for although I may not be inside the electronic rage, I feel your bellow encompasses me as well. Really what I think the problem with your solution is there is simply not enough stress on what criteria we use in how we spend our time. This is the sole reason I find the things I do empty. The criteria (although I do not have a formula) I am sure has a good deal to do with love. And all of our actions, all our creations or time-squanderings, should be based off of love.

Miss Mary Virginia said...

Thanks, Jon! I really enjoyed this. In response to Alex, I think that a great way to approach this list is by asking Jesus what he wants to do with you! Maybe Jesus wants to build a trebuchet with you, preach at IUPUI, or serve the poor. I look forward to continuing to ask Him what He wants to do with me!

God Bless,

JPB said...

Thanks all.

To Alex's point, I definitely agree with what you wrote. (Though unfortunately I don't think I know who you are ... should I be able to put a face to a first name and I'm just blanking?) We should be reflective and intentional in our decisions, given that our time is not long in this world and our task is great.

But for this particular morning prayer, I think I was trying to reach back behind the fallenness of the world just a bit to God's original sub-creative charge to us. It was and is a mission simply to fill the world, to be makers in the image of the Maker himself.

And somehow this Edenic mission girds and permeates all our seemingly more urgent tasks of evangelizing the world, caring for the poor, building our families, warring against the world system -- all of which are critical and serious and demand the intense devotion, discernment and dedication.

Nonetheless, beneath all that urgency is the steady reality that we are made for something else and all our work is towards an end of peace. Shalom not only for ourselves but for the entire world. And in that peace we call the Kingdom of God finally realized, what fun we'll have building trebuchets, making movies, writing poetry, debating policy, etc! What rest from long labor!

Anonymous said...

ummm... well u say create yet the internet is probably one of the most creative places these days. and yea there is stupid stuff but it won't be the demise because if you truly believe we are creating in godlikeness then you will realize that we like him want to create.