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Posted on November 30, 2017 by Michael Pearce Donley

When I was growing up, TV was central to home life all across America. Walk by any house on a weekday night, and every window flickered blue.

In the 1970s, binge-watching meant turning on the TV when you got home from school and leaving it on until bedtime. On mostly one channel. Afternoon reruns of Gilligan’s Island and I Dream of Jeannie rolled into primetime shows like Happy Days and Love Boat. Days of the week were defined by the TV shows that were on that night.

In the 90s, Must See TV Thursdays really meant you MUST see those shows ON Thursday, or you’d actually miss them—unless you were lucky enough to have one of those fancy new VCRs. Miss a show, and you missed out on all the inside jokes your friends knew.

By then, more and more dramas became serialized, with storylines progressing throughout seasons, and cliffhangers were common and cruel. By the early 2000s, if you watched 24, you had to wait AN ENTIRE WEEK to know what happened next. You couldn’t watch “just one more;” you went to bed and suffered.

There was a running joke with my wife, Joy, and me, back when we watched 24 week by week: We would go to bed after a particularly tense episode, and just as we were falling asleep, I would softly say, “Dear Lord. I just pray for Jack Bauer. Lord, you know he’s been having a really hard day. Help him find some time to eat, and Lord, help him in his relationship with Ramon Salazar, help him make wise choices and stop torturing people.” And we would melt into giggles and hope that a lightning bolt wouldn’t strike our bed.

In the past decade, DVDs have given way to Netflix and on-demand TV, and that’s changed everything. Now cliffhangers are barely speedbumps on the way to the next episode. And boy, is it hard to stop once you’re hooked.

Last year, Joy and I got addicted to a TV show I will not officially endorse on my church’s blog, but let’s just say there was a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who looked a lot like the dad in Malcolm in the Middle who became a notorious drug dealer. There were 62 episodes over 5 seasons, and every time I thought it couldn’t get any more intense, the bar was raised even higher.

But here’s the thing: The more I got wrapped up in the show, the more I’d find myself thinking about it during the day. Thinking about the characters, the moral implications of their decisions, wondering how on earth it was all going to turn out. And though I wasn’t fake-praying for Walt Jr., my mind kept lingering there.

It got me wondering—what are my brain and heart filled with? The Netflix of my heart keeps a Recently Played list and offers constant suggestions, assuming I must want more of the same. So what am I watching?

This isn’t just about TV, or whether particular shows are good or bad. It’s about anything I allow to shape my vision. If my Recently Played list is only filled with articles I find on Facebook, news websites, and podcasts, there’s no doubt those things will affect how I view the world.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

I should give my heart and mind a fighting chance. Make sure my personal “Queue” always includes things that point me toward Christ, that help me greet the world with love and compassion and goodness.

The current message series at Eagle Brook, “If I Could Just Be Free,” is about the negative thoughts that infiltrate our brains and what true freedom looks like. I’m putting the messages on the top of my playlist.

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