Tonight at Nomads we continued our annual tradition of participating in Operation Christmas Child (OCC). OCC is organized and run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit Christian organization under the leadership of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.
Each year hundreds of thousands (millions?) of shoe boxes are filled with simple gifts – toothbrushes, soap, wash clothes, toys, candy, pens and pencils, notes. These boxes are then shipped to locations around the world where they are distributed to impoverished children.
For many of these children this is a significant gift that meets real needs. No longer are they using a shared tree branch to brush their teeth – which can result in bleeding and communication of diseases – they now have their own tooth brush. Even the boxes (sometimes we send plastic) are usable for carrying water or any of a number of other tasks.
It is a very small way, but a tangible way to be part of something good and to demonstrate love to those in need…so I love Operation Christmas Child. I love the opportunity to get together with the teenagers and spend a few hours stuffing boxes full of gifts. It is a great privilege and blessing to us – not just to those whom we have the opportunity to bless.
Thinking of the Poor:
I’m not a fancy person in most areas. I try to save my money and spend it on things I think are worthwhile and valuable. For example, sponsoring a Compassion child. So, what am I doing spending $200 on a glorified alarm clock – the Zeo? I’m glad you asked. Individuals whose hearts for the poor and neglected like John Sherk and Rob Timlin may be especially interested…and, I’ll let them decide whether my thinking is valid or if I need to be lovingly taken to the woodshed. 🙂
What About My Sleep?
Let me provide a three word summary of my history with sleep: it wasn’t nice. But, most of my history of sleep is non-relevant to today’s discussion, so let’s focus in on a few relevant points:
- I can’t go to sleep before midnight or I wake up 2-4 hours later and then can’t sleep for the rest of the night (which is a real drag when you have to work the next day).
- I get inexplicably and overwhelmingly exhausted throughout the day – and without structure – will fall asleep…and usually remain asleep for 1-3 hours.
- No matter how hard I try, I repeatedly fail at getting up early in the morning so that I can have the time I want to have to get ready for my day…I end up pushing the snooze button and sleeping in, then hopping out the door in mad rush.
Now, sleep is apparently important to our health. We don’t understand all the underlying magic – just that bad things like insanity and death happen if we don’t get it. It does all sorts of great things for restoring our health, cementing our memories, and so on. Perhaps God created sleep b/c He knew we’d be so bad at take Sabbath’s otherwise?
I Want a Zeo!
So…I’ve wanted a Zeo forever (okay, okay, maybe its been like two years?) and have held off and held off…but Charity (wonderful wife that she is) in an attempt to get me to actually bill my freelance network clients (I don’t mind the work…hate the billing) suggested that I use part of the revenues from my next few checks to purchase a Zeo (incentives…they work with kids, and apparently me…)…well, guess who only waited another month before billing? Yup, that’d be me!
The Zeo Arrives
I bought my Zeo and waited painstakingly for its arrival. Finally, it arrived. I opened the shipping box and inside, low and behold, was another box! But this was one fancy – you know, like Apple aesthetically pleasing fancy. Everything inside was all nicely wrapped and fancy. Its amazing how the packaging makes the product feel premier.
Using the Zeo: For Information
The first aspect of the zeo is its’ information aggregation and analysis. You wear a comfortable headband on your head while sleeping (yes, as awkward as that sounds…I had no trouble adjusting) and this wirelessly communicates information to your bedside zeo about your sleep patterns. In the morning you can see your overall ZQ (a “score” of how you slept), how often you awake, when you were in deep sleep / rem sleep / light sleep, and view all sorts of fancy charts and graphs. Zeo also offers guided coaching that helps you modify your habits to get better sleep.
I found this information very helpful b/c it provided me with an objective gauge of whether I got enough sleep the last night. I could see patterns forming where I wasn’t getting enough sleep for a few days, and then when I made the endeavor to get enough. I could also see and record the difference in my feelings / energy / etc…though I’ve barely taken advantage of most of these capabilities at this juncture.
Using the Zeo: Smart Awake
Honestly, the feature that has been killer for me thus far is the Smart Alarm. I tell the Zeo when I want to wake up and it wakes me up to 30 minutes before that time. Crazily enough, I usually feel better – even if I get 30 mins. less sleep, than if I’d slept right to the end. See, the Zeo tracks what stage of sleep I’m in and wakes me when I’m in light sleep rather than deep sleep – reducing my feelings of grogginess.
This has made a huge difference in my sleep habits. I’m now much better at getting out of bed on time. I’d estimate that I’m “gaining” 30 minutes to 1.5 hours each day due to the Smart Alarm feature. Granted, some of this may be placebo effects – time will tell.
Doing the Math
Now the question is – can we justify such an expense in light of the needs of the world? This is always a hard-pressing question upon my heart. For the past year or two I’ve taken a more dynamic approach to this question than I had previously (where the answer was almost always to sacrifice everything, whenever possible). I’ve begun to do little auto-magical (e.g. made up) calculations within my head to try and estimate the value of my time and how much money I am “saving” by “spending.”
For example, the Zeo cost me $200. Let us say my time is worth $10/hr.1I’d certainly hope its worth more…but I’m just being conservative. Lets take the conservative figure of time gained each day (30 minutes) and multiple that times a year (30 mins. x 365 days / 60 mins.) – 182.5 hours. Now, lets multiple this time gained by the amount my time is worth per hour (182.5 hrs. * $10/hr.) – $1,825.
Over a years time, I’m “gaining” $1,625 for an expense of $200. Granted, my time gained does not automatically translate into productivity…but to break even I’d only have to spend 20 of those 182.5 hours being “productive.”
The equations make sense to me, but do they to you? I use similar equations when deciding if I should purchase a video game, continue or cancel a subscription to Netflix or Grooveshark, and so on. My goal is optimal stewardship at minimal expenditure…but I think I’m trying to move beyond thinking of stewardship primarily in dollars to whole being…
Thus, while x might cost x amount, if it enables me to function x% better on an average day, I need to consider whether “indulging” will in the end “return” a value greater than the expenditure? e.g. How do we quantify the value of a honeymoon or romantic getaway for a husband and wife? Can we, should we, factor in the cost of a divorce down the road if the marriage is not indulgently cared for along the way?
This said, I think as Americans (including myself) we are grossly overspending. If we do adopt such a paradigm for measuring return vs. expenditure we must actually take the time to calculate the return, rather than using it as an excuse for gluttonous fulfillment of our pleasures.
Some Interesting Stats…I Don’t Know What They Mean…
I received a baseline report from Zeo on my sleep habits…I thought the findings where fascinating, though I’m not sure what they mean…here are the highlights:
- I currently sleep an average of 6:01 hrs. each night, this is 1:19 hrs. less than the average for my peer age group.
- Despite the significantly lower time spent asleep I show a significant front-runner status in both my REM and deep sleep.
- In REM, I spend 1:49 hrs. while my peers spend 13 mins. less.
- In deep sleep, I spend 1:50 hrs. while my peers spend 27 mins. less.
- How is this possible that I get less sleep but more of the “quality” sleep? Its because most of my peers spend nearly twice the amount of time in light sleep (4:22 hrs.) as compared to me (2:23 hrs.).
In Case You Are Interested…
This is mainly if some sleep doctor happens to stumble across this post and is interested, here are a few other idiosyncrasies of my sleep habits:
- I get very tired while driving or while in a car at all. Despite my hardest endeavors, if not driving, I almost always fall asleep on drives – oftentimes even relatively short ones (e.g. 30 mins.).
- Exercise does not seem to significantly reduce my tiredness or help me push through it.
- I get sleepy when I have been thinking a lot, this means I have a tendency to nap more on the weekends – b/c I tend to do a lot of reading/thinking.
- While napping during the days I oftentimes prefer to sleep with as many lights on as possible…but when sleeping at night I am bothered by even the smallest of lights.
Amazon is holding their “The Big Deal” which goes through February 2nd and offers up to 85% off over 600 books. When my brother told me about it, I was hesitant. I’m trying to pair down my library – but ebooks do take up less space than physical books…so maybe I’d take a peak.
I knew that if I did get any books I only wanted the best I knew I wanted to read. Everything else could wait – I’m really trying to only get the books I am going to read and read soon. So, here is my list…of those I bought as well of those I thought looked quite interesting (and actually, I left a huge number off my list, b/c I didn’t want to type all day).
I Bought It…
- If I find myself without work, my plan is to take a few years and be a hobo – so I couldn’t pass by Paul Stutzman’s Biking Across America: My Coast-to-Coast Adventure and the People I Met Along the Way.
- Thom S. Rainer’s I Am A Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. This book was recommended to me and since I have already tried (and didn’t like) Thabiti M. Anyabwile’s What Is a Healthy Church Member?, this seemed like a good option as a potential textbook for membership classes.
- J.D. Greear’s Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary – b/c I always need to be teaching myself the gospel, it has lots of five star reviews, and Timothy Keller wrote the foreword.
- Peter Haas’ Pharisectomy: How to Joyfully Remove Your Inner Pharisee and Other Religiously Transmitted Diseases. B/c I need more grace and gospel.
- Ravi Zacharias’ Has Christianity Failed You? because I’ve been through a lot of crap, and sometimes it feels like God has failed me (please read Job first and then you may make any criticisms you wish of that statement, e.g. “You shouldn’t say that!”).
- John R. Bisagno’s Pastor’s Handbook b/c I’m a pastor and sometimes I wish I knew how other people did x b/c as Piper wrote, “brothers, we are not professionals.”
- Carl Gallups’ The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith – b/c I find it better than the other options I’ve explored, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes struggle with understanding, explaining, and accepting my faith (I’m more interested in this book for defending the faith to myself than defending it to others).
- J. Clif Christopher’s Whose Offering Plate Is It?: New Strategies for Financial Stewardship b/c the way the church supports itself and carries out its purpose is changing.
- Gary Thomas’ The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry, But Why? I’ve read a good bit of Gary’s Sacred Pleasures book and it has been a good read. His Sacred Marriage has also come to me highly recommended, but I haven’t had a chance to read it.
- Lee and Leslie Strobel’s Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage – b/c a lot of folks find themselves in a marriage without shared spiritual beliefs.
- Paul David Tripp’s Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It. What I’ve read by Tripp (though only a little) I’ve enjoyed and he comes highly recommended to me.
- Susan C. Pinsky’s Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized. I already have enough tips and tools I think…but for those who haven’t explored how to cope with ADD, this might be a good option.
- David Hawkins’ Breaking Everyday Addictions: Finding Freedom from the Things That Trip Us Up. Because this seems to me to be one of the biggest challenges facing the contemporary church.
- Jay Adams’ How to Help People Change: The Four-Step Biblical Process and A Theology of Christian Counseling: More Than Redemption. I’m not a Jay Adams devotee, but I have read some of his works and find his thoughts interesting and well-organized.
- Everett Ferguson’s Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. It is really that last portion “in its cultural, intellectual, and political context” which makes this volume sound appealing.
- Jim Wallis’ On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good.
- Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President.
- Brian Dollar’s I Blew It!: The Biggest Mistakes I’ve Made in Kids’s Ministry…and How You Can Avoid Them…b/c kids are important.
- Scott Wilson’s Read, Set Grow!: Three Conversations That Will Bring Lasting Growth to Your Church. If anyone at CCC wants to get one of these and then share with the rest of us what they say – that’s cool. I just don’t have time to read more books on this topic – though I wish I could…
- Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. See above for reason.
- Gene Mims’ The Kingdom Focused Church: A Compelling Image of an Achievable Future for Your Church. See above for reason.
- Dr. John Kaiser, et al.’s Winning On Purpose: How to Organize Congregations to Succeed in Their Mission. See above for reason.
- Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner and Mary Lynn Dell’s The Elephant in the Church: What You Don’t See Can Kill Your Ministry. See above for reason.
- Rory Noland’s The Heart of the Artist: A Character-Building Guide for You and Your Ministry Team – On growth for those who lead the more creative elements of our church services (e.g. worship).
- John Burke’s Soul Revolution: How Imperfect People Become All God Intended. I already own a physical copy.