I don’t want to be afraid; A desperate cry to the God of the Universe

Children's Eyes, Eyes, Blue Eye, Emotion, Feelings

“I don’t want to get stitches.” Pupils dilated with pain, my six-year-old little brother lay tense on the couch while we waited for my parents to take him to the hospital. I gently pressed a rag to a gash on his chest that had long ago bled straight through his shirt. The tough little guy hadn’t shed a tear, but his shaky breathing declared his pain. I looked down into his pleading eyes. He could be a man through the pain. He could be deal with a trip to the hospital. But the one thing he asked was that we protect him from stitches.

My little brother is a beast–he doesn’t let fear stop him and, at the age of six, he had the pain tolerance of an adult. But this attitude landed him in the ER four times between the ages of four and six. By the time this episode happened, he was familiar with stitches. But I had witnessed his blood-stained shirt when my little sister brought him up the stairs, saying the boards he’d been playing with had fallen over on him and gashed him with a 0824172031 - Editedprotruding bolt. I knew what was coming. No matter how much bravery and pain shown through those six-year-old eyes, I couldn’t lie by telling him he would avoid stitches this time.

That was more than five years ago, and yet I still remember the sincere, helpless way he pleaded to not get stitches. In past blog posts, I’ve admitted my fear of the future. I’ve admitted my insecurities and my irrational worries. I can deal with not knowing what’s coming. I can deal with a change of plans. But one thing I am so tired of carrying is my dreadful fear of the future.

Tenth Avenue North wrote a song called “Afraid” which has really spoken to me. Since hearing it, I’ve taken the words on as my own and cried out to God in a helpless, pleading, painful voice: “I don’t want to be afraid!”

“When the world shakes
Feel my heart race.
When the voices start again
Oh, the panic’s creeping in
Who will I listen to?
Fear never told the truth.

“So I’ll wait on You tonight;
Worry’s only wasted time.

“I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna be afraid anymore
Not like before, oh
I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna be afraid anymore
I’m safe in Your love, oh, Lord

“…This world cannot take my treasure
This world doesn’t own my tears
My hope is alive in heaven
I will not give into despair!
I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna be afraid anymore
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to be afraid anymore”

And, despite my struggle with fear, I know my God is real and I have experienced that inexpressible peace that he offers me when I am most desperate. Don’t be afraid to cry out to God, even if all you know how to say is, “I don’t want to be afraid!”

 

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Well, I’m ready to call it a life: Persevering with Purpose

dog-2532610_1920.jpgRecently I was making my way through another day. At about 5:30 PM I sighed and commented, “Well, I’m ready to call it a life.”

While I feel far inferior to Paul in most of his godly approaches to life, one attitude of his that I can relate well to is the way he sees our time on earth: “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing…While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh… we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). 

Or one of my favorite verses, which has been scattered as a reminder to myself throughout my journal pages: “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phillipians 1:21). Dying is Image result for to dogain and when the Lord takes me away, won’t I ever be rejoicing! But as I learned through years of asking questions, we are granted life on earth for a purpose. While there are many days I wish I could be relaxing and rejoicing in God’s presence right now, I have to remember that I have a purpose right here, right now. While it’s not necessarily fun living on earth, we have many blessings and many tasks to accomplish. Each day we’re alive, God wants to be working through us. That is a very encouraging thought; the Creator of the universe has a plan for each day you’re alive. He’s using you for his great purposes.IMG_0711

So, while we do want to be heaven-focused, we also have the privilege of serving God here, and we can’t dismiss this opportunity.

Therefore, until that day of rejoicing when the Lord takes me home, I am determined to use this gift of life that I’ve been given to serve God and others–through my work and through my attitude, by being positive, joyful, and intentional. If I can’t be home now, I might as well make the most of this earthly adventure.

Living an Adventure: Learning How to Be at Peace in the Present

Image result for frodo baggins and the ring

Most of the times I cry myself to sleep, the tears were triggered by my fear of the future. I remember one night where I just wanted to fall asleep, to no longer be conscious of my pain. But I was crying so hard I couldn’t lay down and breathe at the same time. Ask me what I’m afraid of, and fear of the future always the first thing that comes to mind.

Everyone has questions about life and about the future. Why is this happening? Where do I go from here? What next?

These questions haunt me and I am often ashamed of this fact. If I were truly trusting God, wouldn’t I not be asking these? However, I’m come to the conclusion that these questions, in themselves, are not the problem. It’s not bad to ask “why?” or “what next?” That’s natural. But we need to be aware that these will not always be answered. The problem, then, appears when we are not content without knowing the answers to life’s questions.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoorGreatly inspired by the song “Wholehearted” by For King and Country, I strongly aspire to see life from a new perspective: “What great adventure ever played out just the way you planned?”

It is my goal to see life as an adventure; specifically an adventure novel. As you read an adventure novel, you don’t know what is coming and you only see the characters struggling. You don’t have answers. And yet, these are such a joy to read (or watch, for those of you who prefer adventure movies).

Right now in my life, I may only see my struggles, I may have no idea what’s coming in the future. But if I can read it in a book or watch a film and enjoy it there, wouldn’t living it out only be so much better? An adventure novel is fun because you know that, somehow, in the end, things will be okay–in fact, better than okay! For those of us who are saved, we already know the ending is bright, even if we have no idea how we’re going to get there. So instead of just worrying about what’s coming, we should appreciate the adventure we’re living right now.

“No telling where we’re gonna land
Isn’t that just part of our romance?”

What would adventure be without the unknown, without the hurdles one has to cross? We may think we’d like life without the struggles, but I have a feeling that would be somewhat of a boring read.

“On and on and on we’ll goImage result for the princess bride
And to our lives through the unknown
On and on and on we’ll fly
Write the legend of our lives…
For every day and every night
The greatest stories ever told
Were written with a heart that’s
Whole”

I believe that trust doesn’t require not asking these questions. But I believe the best way to ask these questions is with the attitude that, we may not get the answers. And we need to be okay with that. Because, in the end, life will work out for God’s glory. And the unknown may be just part of the romance–the mystery, the adventure.

When we ask the questions about life, realizing that the answers may remain unknown and being okay with that, we can focus on living the way we want to live in the present, regardless of what the future holds. We don’t have to cry ourselves to bed at night, but can instead live the adventure of the moment in a way that brings glory to God.

Image result for luke skywalker“When I’m stuck out in the cold
Let me be warm-hearted
When it weighs too much to hold
Let me be light-hearted
When all I have is not enough
Won’t be broken-hearted
Cuz you taught me how to love, to live to learn
To love, to live whole hearted”

We can ask life’s questions. It’s natural. But when we ask, we need to, in humility, understand that sometimes the answers aren’t for us to know. And, when this is the case, I believe it’s up to us to change our perspective, and look at life like an adventure–with a touch of mystery, to live in the present in a way that would make a good story line, to react to each circumstance as a hero would in a novel, even if in the present it doesn’t feel heroic.

To be honest, I’m convinced that if we take this approach–living each chapter as it comes, doing the right, heroic thing in the midst of struggles, we won’t have to worry Image result for narniaabout the future. Heroes don’t need to know the future to be able to act now. And that’s all we’re called to.

With this perspective, I believe that, in the midst of doubts and questions, we can remain living wholehearted.

This I Believe: There is Beauty, Even in This Dark World

Rain, Purple, Flower, Purple FlowerA cool drop of water tumbles downward. Falling…Falling…Then, suddenly, it hits my shoulder with a soft pressure. The droplet bursts, its cool wetness sifting through my shirt, hugging my skin. Around it hundreds more are falling, gently embracing whatever they land on. I duck my head and, like everyone else, begin to run to the next building, fearing the little droplets, wishing them away.

But suddenly, I stop.

The rain keeps pouring.

I turn my head, looking around; what have I against these gentle patterings of water? I close my eyes and feel the little splashes tenderly bursting across my face, softly running down my neck. As everyone else huddles indoors, I listen to the joyful music as the raindrops dance against each surface they hit, as they form delicate streams across the sidewalk. There is such mystery, and even greater beauty in all of it. Yet everyone else simply does their best to ignore it.

I believe in being deliberate. Deliberateness causes us to be genuine, to stop taking things for granted, and to see the abundance of beauty in the world. It allows us to be more content in life. When I take a moment to be deliberate, I take a moment to be genuine. When my sister asks, “What do you think of my hair?” it’s tempting to answer, “I don’t know” or “It’s great.” But when I focus on being deliberate, my answer is so much more real. “It’s interesting, but I liked the pony tail better,” or “Wow, that really makes you look professional” are answers that will mean so much more to both of us. Relationships aren’t built on the “It’s great” answers, but on the deliberate thought that goes into a conversation.

Image result for world war two prison campsWhen I take a moment to be deliberate, I take a moment to appreciate what I have. As grisly as they are, I like to read books about how Jews were treated in concentration camps during World War II. For when I grimace at their pain, I finally notice my lack of. And then, as I chew my food, I wonder at its marvelous taste. As I lie in bed, I sink deeply against the feel of clean sheets. And even as I argue with a sister, my anger diminishes, as I realize how grateful I am to even have her.

When I take a moment to be deliberate, I take a moment to be awed by beauty. Every snowflake that falls is a diamond crystal. Every sunbeam that shines is golden warmth. Every smile that’s given is a priceless treasure. Even as I shiver painfully in the cold fall morning, I don’t have to get upset as I wait for my brother to unlock the car. I can focus on the glistening, silver frost covering the grass.

There is beauty in every ugly circumstance. There is joy, even in this dark world. When I take a moment to be deliberate, I find myself more content. I feel a genuine world, a grateful heart, and a beautiful life. I believe in being deliberate.

Why Today Stinks: The Dangers of Complaining

edouard-tamba-138814.jpgI don’t always like life. One journal entry I wrote describes this well: “This morning I awoke in my normal weekday mindset…and completely detested life.” Some mornings I look at the day ahead and say, “Gross. I’ve already had one of these and I’m so done with it already.” It doesn’t seem so wrong to say this, really. But let me give you the same scenario from a different perspective:

Every breath you breathe is a gift from God. Picture this with me: you wake up in the morning, God looks at you lovingly and hands you a new day. “Whadya think?” He questions, eyes glistening with excitement.

“Gross. I’ve already had one of these and I’m so done with it already.”

Seeing as how I’m writing to millennial college students, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that we all fall prey to complaining. I’ve already admitted that I complain sometimes, so I have first-hand experience. However, as a comm major and psych minor, I’m also familiar with some aspects of how what we do influences how we think…and vice versa. With this background, I sincerely hope to shock you with some of the dangers of complaining, and thereby inspire you to complain a little less each day.

Bad for you: Some of you may recognize that complaining is bad for you. Others may feel that complaining is okay. I mean, you’re just “venting” and if you don’t “vent” you’re going to keep all your problems hidden inside of you until you burst. Well, nice try. Really though, complaining is bad for you.

Image result for brainSteven Parton (n.d.), in his article The Science of Happiness: Why Complaining is Literally Killing You, explains how the brain has the ability to rewire itself. When you practice something, your brain literally rewires itself, making new neural connections and shortcuts. Just like how learning to play the piano makes piano-playing easier, complaining makes negative thoughts more prominent and easier to come by. It physically changes your brain. Travis Bradberry (2017), Ph.D. and co author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, backs up this claim, concluding that complaining can become a default, regardless of outside circumstances, when you practice it on a daily basis.

Bradberry (2017) continues on to note that complaining also increases the stress hormone cortisol into your body. Think about that for a minute. The act of complaining actually biologically increases your stress. When you wake up in the morning and gripe about the day, you are physically setting yourself up for a tougher day–you’re setting yourself up for stress. And everyone knows the dangers of stress: it makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Not good. Just sayin’.

Another reason to avoid complaining is because communication creates reality. That Image result for coffee spillwhich you see you are more likely to look for and that which you look for your more likely to see. If you start complaining about something, you will start to see all there is so complain about, which leads to a dangerously downward spiral. I bet if you give it some thought, you can remember a day where, after one thing went wrong, the whole day seemed to bomb. This happens partly because once one thing goes wrong, you’re more likely to have that negative attitude and perspective.

Bad for your friends

Just as colds can be contagious, comm students are aware that emotions are contagious as well. Emotional contagion–the act of catching another’s emotions–comes into play with complaining as well. When you complain it easily brings your friends down as well. Bradberry compares complaining to smoking: “Complaining [is] a lot like smoking–you don’t have to do it yourself to suffer the ill effects.”

Image result for smokingThe first time I went to Frederik Meijer Gardens was years ago as a family trip designed to honor my mother on Mother’s day. For whatever reason, all six kids were determined to have the worst time of it ever. We complained and whined until it nearly drove my parents insane. Looking back I see how that attitude completely ruined my mom’s celebration and also fed more grouchiness. I still have bitterness toward Frederik Meijer Gardens to this day and because some of us decided to complain, nobody could have a good time.

Bad for your relationship with God

The third, and most significant, reason complaining is dangerous is because it’s bad for your relationship with God. As evidenced in the introduction, complaining is dissing God’s creation and gifts. It’s very true that the world is broken so obviously not everything on earth is good nor is life on earth what God wants it to be. But, even in the brokenness, God has given us gifts and when we complain, we completely ignore those gifts. We whine about homework, but we forget that we are lucky to be in the 7% of people nationwide who can even get to go college (100 People, 2016). Image result for cafeteria foodWe gripe about the cafeteria food, but we forget that 815 million people in the world are going hungry (UN World Food Programme, 2017). That’s considerably more people going to bed hungry each night than double the entire population of the US and Canada combined. Students on Cornerstone’s campus moan about having to walk the long way around the construction to get to the library, but we never thank God for working legs in the first place.

Not only are disrespecting God when we complain, we are actually called–it is our duty–to be joyful. We are instructed to be positive. The New living translation of Phillipians 2:14 says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:16 states it very simply: “Be joyful always.” Our God is the God of love, peace, and hope. senjuti-kundu-349426.jpgWhy would we not be joyful? Why would we complain when we have an unimaginably bright future in God’s presence waiting for us?

So. Stop complaining. Stop. And start being on the lookout for what you are grateful for. If today stinks it’s because you are letting it stink. Complaining is bad for you, it rewires your brain toward negativity and adds stress, it’s bad for your friends, and it’s bad for your relationship with God.

Guys. This isn’t an innocent past time. Take this seriously.

Stop making life harder than it has to be!

 

 

 

 

Am I Proud of or Ashamed of Who I am?

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I wrote a post on surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you, be a good influence on you, and challenge you. For me, as a Christ follower, that means finding close friends who are serious about their faith and are pursuing a relationship with God hard core. But then the question plagues me: how can I tell if someone is sincere in his/her faith?

As I wrestled with this thought, I had to ask myself what I am doing to show my passion for Christ? This can be a painful question. This post is written as much for myself as it is for you

To get a practical application of how I could see Christ in others or how I could demonstrate my faith myself, I considered people around me who I admire to see how they show their passion for Christ. As much as we might prefer a glorious, mythical answer, the truth is, in those who I admire, I see Christ lived out in the little things.

1 Thessalonians 4:11 commands: “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.” 1 Timothy 2:2-3 repeats the idea, “…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…”

Big glorious things for Christ matter, but it is the simple, daily, living-life things that we are commanded to submit to Christ if we really want to live out our faith.

Free stock photo of man, person, dirty, constructionWork

Especially over the summer, the idea of using everyday work to glorify God spoke to me. 40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work?40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work? is a heart-felt post I wrote explaining how our time at work is a chance we have to serve others and find purpose. Work is not simply a wretched torture we must suffer through to supply our needs; instead it is an opportunity to engage with the people and tasks around us–to use the gifts and talents God has provided to serve others.

People will see Christ in me when I do my work passionately, go above and beyond expectations, and work as if it really matters. For my job as a tour guide at Cornerstone University, this means not just leading tours and saying what I have to say, but adding sincere energy. It means memorizing the names of the students on my tours. It means asking what they would like to know about, caring about their needs. It means arriving early to work and being willing to stay late sometimes. It means smiling while I work and going out of my way to find answers to questions. Is that the attitude I have when I head to work?

I want to be a Christian who has a great reputation at work because I am going to work looking to serve others, and not just looking out for myself.

Time management

Blue sand falls in an hourglass on a rocky beachThe way we prioritize also speaks volumes to what we are living for. Am I making time for one-on-one time with God daily (severely important!!!)? Am I making time to spend with others? Am I being responsible with the tasks I have to accomplish?

Everyone needs to waste time sometimes, but when I am tempted to binge watch Rhett and Link, I have to question: is that really the best way to use the limited time I have on earth? When I stay up late and am grumpy at work the next day, it’s not just myself who is affected. Am I viewing my time on earth as a temporary loan, or am I just looking to use it for myself and my personal pleasures? Am I wishing time away or am I looking to use the most of each moment I’ve been gifted with life?

I want to be a Christian whose time management points to a purpose above my own.

Respect for Others

A Christ-follower should believe that each individual possesses at least some aspect of who God is. I believe those who call themselves Christians should not gossip, should not tear others down, and should, in fact, do quite the opposite. The Christians who I admire do a great job of seeing the positives in others and serving others. As Christians, we can speak so much of God’s love by serving those around us. Sometimes this means opening doors for others. Sometimes it means befriending that lonely kid in your hall. Sometimes it means helping a classmate with homework. Or writing an encouraging note to someone. It can mean not dissing a professor, not speaking poorly of that one kid in class, not watching that film that the others are into. It can be small, but respect shows.

I want to be a Christian who radiates respect.

Image result for brokeMoney

How a person spends his/her money will show exactly what that person prioritizes. Again, it is absolutely okay to spend some money on yourself from time to time just for fun. But am I tithing? Am I giving some of it to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom? (Compassion International is a great organization to donate to, you can sponsor a child and see how much that one sponsorship can change the world for a child on the other side of the world!)

I know I’m speaking mostly to college students here. I know that we have very minimal amounts of money to spend. So maybe the question isn’t so much about how you could spend your money differently, but how about considering how much energy you waste worrying about your money? I want to learn to trust God so that, when I’m doing as much as I can, I can lay aside the worry and not let money stress me out.

I want to be a Christian who has enough confidence in my great God that when money is tight (i.e. always), I will never stop giving and will trust God to be in control.

Attitude

I hope that if you’ve been following my blog even halfheartedly that you’ve been slapped in the face with my passion for having a joyful attitude. Attitude is such a choice and it has the potential to be such a huge witness! I believe in a God who grants us hope, peace, trust, and JOY! As I Christ-follower, it is my sincere hope to represent some of God’s great attributes through having a joyful attitude.

Going out on the mission field, draining your savings to support a Christian organization, adopting a whole family of kids from the other side of the world: these are things that glorify God. But walking into work with a smile, writing an encouraging note to your roommate, working hard on your homework: these glorify God just as much.

The majority of our time and energy on earth is honestly spent just trying to stay alive; eating, sleeping, and breathing. It’s exhausting. But God put us on earth to live. And these things are what living takes. It is even these things that glorify God.

The way we do the simplest aspects of everyday living is what truly communicates to the world about our passion for Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Journalling 101 (don’t you dare skip this one just because of it’s subject!)

IMG_20171004_221824757 - EditedNovember 19, 2016 “…yesterday, I had a pleasant coming-in with cement…I may have been riding my rip stick while uploading a video on YouTube and carrying a water bottle with a backpack on. But then again, I may not have been; who does that? If I may brag a little, skinned elbows hurt a whole heck of a lot more than they look like they are going to hurt…”

Journalling is a form of communication that I believe everyone should try (men, don’t ignore me: this article about journalling is in the blog “The Art of Manliness“…). There are countless resources describing why journalling is a good habit. Let me explain a couple of my own.

Journalling helps me unwind

September 18, 2017 “Considering all, today has been a marvelous Monday…”

Nearly everyone will admit that life in the twenty-first century flies by and we don’t give ourselves a lot of opportunity to decompress. Journalling is my way of giving myself that chance. It allows me to take a breather, rethink my day and calm my mind (This is perfect for helping me to fall asleep 😉 ). Journalling reduces stress. Also, because I can be completely honest with myself, I can have a good sense of humor with myself, and I can talk about literally anything I’m in the mood to talk about, I normally come out of a journalling session a little more confident about myself and/or about my situation.

Journalling helps me think logically

Related imageAugust 20, 2017 “So often (well, maybe not, but definitely overwhelmingly right now), when I’m thinking big picture thoughts (i.e. moving to college), I think about how scary life is. Then I go curl up in a ball, pulling my knees against my chest (I wish I were that flexible), and crying hopeless, helpless tears alone in the night. I forget to look at how big my God is…Oh Lord, wrap your arms around me. Remind me that you love me through and despite my failures…that your strength and love is enough.”

Similar to talking it out with a friend, journalling forces me to rethink my emotions. Why am I upset with this person? What exactly is stressing me out? What about the day disappointed me? A journal is a safe space to think and vent (honestly, I could write my deepest secrets). Plus, as I write out my thoughts, I begin to see circumstances more objectively. When writing in my journal, I give myself lots of room for personal pep-talks (and, since communication forms reality, these can do great things for morale). Similarly, when I read past entries and see I was completely freaking out about a “massive problem,” I can gain encouragement by seeing that, as bad as it felt then, I did overcome the issue–and am likely to do so again this time.

Journalling teaches me about myself

18447672_1209095852549509_4222890287560671535_nJune 2, 2016 “If I had to use one adjective to describe myself, I find myself caught between ‘active’ and ‘adventurous.’ …recently I have discovered that I appreciate being hands-on outdoors…I also love people. I get no small amount of amusement from watching folks interact. Quirky people amuse me more than annoy me…”

Whether it be through reading old posts and seeing patterns in my behavior, or through stopping in the moment to consider why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, my journalling experience has taught me a lot about myself. Having a more accurate sense of self-concept, I can proceed to make wiser decisions as well as combat my weaknesses in a more educated manner.

My journal is always there

August 3, 2017 “Long time no see, dear!…I’m especially desperate to journal when I am lonely, in pain, and detesting life…[so today] I made a “B” line (why a “B” line? “B”s are not straight!) for your company.”

Ever get lonely and just need a friend to talk to? Your journal is always there for you. ‘Nuff said.

18451333_1697170693629944_1680720937309472440_oJournalling is just plain fun!

June 23, 2017 “BethAnn feels pretty moody…perhaps it’s just the bee poison that entered my blood through a still-stinging attack in my right, middle-finger, upper-knuckle. Yeah, that’s what I think of you bees: middle finger.”

Sometime my satire of the moment causes me to laugh. Not only is the calming experience of journalling enjoyable, reading past posts and reliving old experiences is a treasure. Often the best times of my life are recorded in my journals. I now have the opportunity to re-experience that joy and excitement and thrill all over again. It’s a sure-fire smile at least 🙂

You should definitely give journalling a shot; it’s super cheap and really easy. Let me know how it goes and be sure to leave me a comment! 😉