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It’s that time of the year again!

Dr. Christopher Hall holds many titles here at Eastern. He is the chancellor of the University, the Dean of Palmer Theological Seminary and a professor.
While this last title may appear to be the least prestigious, it holds a particular responsibility Hall does not take lightly. He believes “that the undergraduate years are an absolutely key period for character formation.” As a theology teacher of undergraduates he plays a pivotal role in guiding and assisting students in said character formation. With that in mind, three years ago, Dr. Hall began a voluntary activity that was monitored solely by the student and could potentially improve a grade by five percent. The idea originally came from a Canadian philosopher who had experimented with a “media fast” in his classroom. He was met with pleasing results, including a lower rate of anxiety, a higher number of regularized sleeping patterns and improved GPAs. Helpfully, the fast also tied in nicely with key themes of Dr. Hall’s course, entitled “Foundations of Christian Spirituality,” such as the disciplines of solitude and silence. Thus, the media fast, as Eastern students know it, was born.
So what exactly does the fast entail? It’s really quite simple: during a six-week period, which began March 17th and will last until the last theology class of the semester, participating students are not allowed to listen to music, watch television, use the internet (this includes Facebook, Google etc.), watch films, use Twitter, text or play video games. Basically any form of media one could think of is banned. However, because the participants are college students there are a few exceptions to the rule: five to ten minutes allowed for email and ten to fifteen for the phone per day (Mom and Dad still need updates), as well as using the Internet for school purposes.
Perhaps, the first word that came to mind when reading that list was: impossible. However, while it may be difficult, the goal is not to drive you crazy or deprive you, but rather to create an opportunity you probably would not give yourself otherwise. As Dr. Hall sees it, the media fast is “a chance to build some quiet into our lives and get a better look both at the terrain in which we live and at ourselves. I think God tends to whisper rather than yell, and in the silence we can learn many things.” What would we hear from God or realize about ourselves if we were allowed the time to truly listen? Dr. Hall’s intentions are for his students to discover the answer to that question.
For those students who have begun the fast, and are already tempted to pull their hair out, Dr. Hall believes there are many practical and positive ways to spend all this new found extra time. Try a face-to-face conversation instead of texting or chatting online. Search out the sounds of nature as opposed to the newest additions to the iTunes store. Sleep more! And devote time to developing spiritual disciplines like meditating on the Bible and praying regularly.
This process may not form habitual patterns that last a lifetime, but as Dr. Hall believes, it will present a positive experience that shows you what can result from disengaging from the things that distract us the most. Jenna Cauley, a junior at Eastern, looks back on when she participated in the fast, saying, “For me it opened up my eyes to how cluttered your mind can become. When I stopped listening to music, for instance, I had a much clearer mind. Because I had more time with God, too, it changed how I wanted to spend my time in the future.” Fellow junior Genna Schultz agrees stating, “I really learned to time manage better. I learned that all that media was really distracting me from schoolwork. It was hard but it showed me I could stick to a goal and follow through.” Students have consistently walked away from the media fast refreshed, with a greater understanding of themselves, God and the world around them. Through resisting digital media, they learned to distinguish between what is important in life, and what seems to be important in life right now.
Time is slippery. It is one of those few things in life that we cannot buy or get back once it has slipped from our fingers. It is one of the most valuable blessings individuals have been given. Along with that gift, there is the responsibility to spend it wisely and use our time to its fullest capabilities. Dr. Hall holds the hope, stating that he wishes “none of us would live a distracted life for 80 years and then realize that the gift of years that God has given us is gone; we became too distracted and busy and forgot the most important things.” As the old saying goes “Life is gone in the blink of an eye,” so why waste any moment of it?

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