Sunday, December 12, 2010

Technological Contemplation & Presence @LifeDiscipler @FCStores

Since I read Present Perfect a few months ago, I've been looking for some way to remind myself to remain present intermittently throughout the day. In that book, Boyd talks about how he gives himself reminders to stay present and attentive to God. Staying present is something that is very difficult for me, as I can become easily distracted. I searched for some applications for my Android phone, but nothing quite worked.

Then a short time ago, in a Family Christian Stores brochure, I saw a listing for the LifeDiscipler. It is a little gadget that feeds you a Bible verse every 15, 30, or 60 minutes (of your choice). At the selected interval (and you can turn the device off completely), it beeps at a soft or loud volume (or you can silence the alert) to let you know you can read another verse.

In many ways, this is exactly what I was looking for, so I purchased one from a Family Christian Store. I currently have it set to 30 minutes, which feels generally perfect to help me remain mindful of and stay in God's presence. I would really love if it could have a vibrate setting. Working in a mental health setting where all devices have to be silenced, I simply have to leave the LifeDiscipler in my office. While I wouldn't be able to read the verse during a therapy session, just the vibration would help me remember to be present. Additionally, even the loud setting can be too quiet at times (I missed it going off doing some Christmas shopping). The vibration option could help prevent this.

They are developing iPhone and Android application versions of LifeDiscipler, so we may see the vibration feature there....

The other really neat benefit is that the 1500 verses from 5 translations (NIV, TNIV, NKJV, NLT, CEV) are broken up into 44 categories, so you can choose what theme you want to receive verses from. This helps meet individual and immediate needs more effectively.

The LifeDiscipler goes for $30 on the LifeDiscipler website, although they are advertising a 20% coupon code (CHRIST20) through December 17. They are offering a 30% off coupon code (LIFE30) via the Facebook page. Family Christian Stores had it for $25 when I purchased it, although it's on sale for $20 right now. Ultimately, this seems overpriced. The basic technology is simple, and the plastic does not seem like the highest-quality. However, it does not feel like it would break in the time I've used it. It seems more like a sub-$10 product, especially compared with various youth games with more detailed screens and controls. At the same time, the price seemed worth it to me for the benefit I got (although I almost didn't purchase one because of the price).

[I provided the creator of the LifeDiscipler with a preview of the review, and he provided this clarification of the product manufacturing process and resulting cost:
The LifeDiscipler is actually made with high density ABS (very tough plastic - more expensive as well) and the lens is protected by a polycarbonate lens (best clarity and most durable)... we selected the best plastic possible (the weight of the product is light and oftens gives the impression of a lesser quality part - so it's understood why you said that). And the price is a direct correlation to our cost and the volume we produce. Since we are a brand new company with one product, our product costs are much higher than a company that produces 50k units. Many of the games you mentioned started out at double their current retail price (like 20Q for example).
The LifeDiscipler is a way that emphasizes how technology can truly help us become more contemplative and practice the presence of God.

However, the name implies we can become a disciple simply by reading Bible verses occasionally. As I discuss on this blog, that's obviously not true. The packaging and website also advertise how it can provide life answers as we need them. I think that's an overstatement, especially as the verses are not read within the larger narrative. However, they are chosen well to be able to stand on their own as much as possible.

Nevertheless, I think the name is clever and fine. It's good marketing. And as long as we don't over-rely on any one tool, the LifeDiscipler can help us become better disciples by reminding us of God's promises, God's presence, and God's word. I will continue to use it on a daily basis.

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