Regarding following your heart…where does it lead?

Image result for follow your heartSitting at the dinner table the other night, my dad mentioned how our school system of taking the summer off can negatively affect children’s expectations about life. Kids grow up expecting to use the summer for “fun” and this expectation of the summer being simply for that purpose leads him to struggle at work. When he spends his summer putting in normal hours he feels like things aren’t the way things are “supposed to be,” he feels like it’s time for him to be having fun–like he deserves this chance at play.

Just because you recognize some blatant influences of culture doesn’t mean you’re safe from its influences. Just because you realize the over-the-top, self-serving aspects of advertising (you recognize sex sells, you see that the product claims to satisfy your deepest desires, you understand some of the manipulative devises) doesn’t mean it doesn’t change the way you think. Just knowing it’s there doesn’t shield you. I believe our culture affects us more than we know. It tells us we deserve to–and therefore always Book, Bored, College, Education, Female, Girl, Learnshould–feel good. If something doesn’t feel good, we shouldn’t do it. We see this in the big picture, but do we realize how this attitude affects us as it sifts into the less obvious places? What about your spiritual life?

I will admit that I am guilty of setting aside my Bible because it isn’t as entertaining as other things, cutting prayer time short because I’m just not “feeling” it, and turning down a chance to love a neighbor simply because I don’t want to spend my precious time on someone else. In these areas I have accepted culture’s message and have missed chances to make my life count.

In considering this, I was inspired by what a fellow blogger said in one of his posts: “Our feelings will lie to us. That is why we need the facts of the Bible and the Holy Spirit in our lives to lead our faith walk.” Faith is not a feeling. Faith is an action, a lifestyle, a choice, and a commitment. It is something we need to work at, even when we aren’t “feeling” it.

warning-2284170_1920Now I don’t want to be that stony, beat-you-over-the-head-with-the-Bible (or any other available object, for that matter) Christian who immediately proclaims that God will bring down judgement on you if you do anything fun or enjoyable. I mean, seriously, folks, you’ve read my posts; I’m a hard-core believer that life should be brimming with joy and that we can find contentment, hope, and joy in every single situation–even at work 😉 I’m a tell-tale fun-lover.

So how do we balance this? My friend continues his thought in a way that allows for feelings, but places them in perspective: “Feelings can take a backseat. That’s not saying we shouldn’t have emotions at all, emotions are what helps us connect with each other. They make us human. But emotions shouldn’t be the decision maker in our faith and beliefs.”

Quoting a pastor from Moody Radio, my fellow blogger stated these factors should influence decision-making in the following order: Fact, followed by Faith, followed by Feelings. Feelings are in there, but they are at the end. While culture might tell us otherwise, it is important to open our eyes wide to what culture is communicating and, in doing so, to do a systems check–making sure we are oriented the way we want to be.

hand heart bracelet fashion accessories silhouette sea water reflection sunset outdoor landscape view Ecclesiastes 11:9 explains it well: “You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” It is not wrong to follow your heart–so long as you aren’t following your heart to places that will bring judgement upon yourself. You were born with a sinful desire; not everything you feel like doing will be the right thing. 

Joshua Harris again states this clearly: “‘The heart is deceitful above all things…’ we read in Jeremiah 17:9. ‘Who can know it?’ Though the advice of many well-meaning people today is to ‘follow your heart,’ the Bible warns that your heart can lead you in wrong, even deadly, directions. Our hearts lie. Something can ‘feel’ right and be completely wrong.”

Culture has been wrong before. I’m not asking you to become emotionless, but I am challenging you to consider what your emotions are prompting you to do before you act on it. And I want to remind you that you have control over your feelings.

Please share your thoughts. I would like to know your reactions 🙂Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, outdoor

Also, though long, I like to believe it proves interesting and a worthwhile read…here’s a link to my testimony of how pursuing happy feelings almost led to suicide and the lesson I learned from it.

P.s. So that you don’t have to constantly question whether or not you may have missed one of my essential posts, you should just hit the “follow” button on the top left of the page. That way you’ll be notified when I post a new post 🙂

 

Still waiting for life to start…: Finding contentment right now

watch clock time hour minute second men accessory bracelet “I’m going to college to be a… *looks both directions nervously, leans in close and whispers in a foreboding, secretive tone*…a garbage truck driver!” 

As a high school senior and college freshmen, I did not know what I wanted to major in nor did I know what I wanted to do with my life (and even currently as a college junior at Cornerstone University, while I have major figured out, I’m still stuck on the “life” part…). And yet these two questions seemed to be the FAQ of FAQs! They were innocent small talk conversation pieces but the constant questioning made me feel a great amount of pressure. These questions made me feel like like I wasn’t living right if I didn’t have an answer. I got so sick of being asked what I was majoring in and what I wanted to do with my life that I prepared to answer with the beginning quote–just to get people off my case!

sea ocean water mountain highland nature landscape sky clouds golden gate bridge travel view Young adulthood is commonly known as the bridge. We’re moving from being kids to being adults in a crazy world. Our focus is on our future: our future careers, our future relationships, our future plans. Our culture seems to shove down young adult’s throats the focus of the future…which isn’t entirely bad. However, like everything else in life, we need balance. Too much future focus can cause us to be so involved in the future that we aren’t enjoying the right now. To get too caught up in the future is to undermine current contentment. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 offers the idea of “seasons.” Life has it’s different seasons that we pass through each has it’s goods and bads. Getting the next joy involves giving up a current joy–which is the way life works, and it’s a good thing–in it’s proper time. But what good is the current joy if you’re not appreciating it right now, while you have it? Sure, right now you might not have the stability of that career, house, family, etc., but you have access to a freedom and flexibility right now that you won’t have when you’ve settled into each of those things. At college you have the opportunity to spend 24 hrs/day in the midst of young adults all in a similar boat as you. 

Image result for seasonsJoshua Harris says it well: “Just as spring’s role is different from that of fall, so each season of our lives has a different emphasis, focus, and beauty. One is not better than another; each season yields its own unique treasures…God has many wonderful experiences He wants to give us, but He also assigns these experiences to particular seasons of our life. (italics mine)” If we want to learn contentment, we need to start right now–because if today’s blessings aren’t making you happy, tomorrow’s won’t either. 

I often find myself waiting. Waiting for something big to happen. Waiting for my future to arrive. Waiting for my life to start. I go through high school, waiting to make it through college. I go to college waiting to make it through the semester. I go through summer waiting to make it back to school. I’m waiting for my career. Waiting to have a family of my own. Waiting until I have my future planned out. Once I check all of these things that is when my life is going to start. That is when I’m going to really live. And that is when I’ll actually be content.

That’s what I believe. Not because it’s true, but because it’s what culture tells me and I haven’t questioned it until recently. Studying communication teaches us to question what we unconsciously accept. It gives us control because it makes us more aware of what we are taking for granted or what we are accepting as true.green grass lawn field nature outdoor road travel horizon sky

Honestly, I think the belief that one’s life is really on the horizon and has yet to truly start, is what a lot of young people believe, whether or not they realize it. We are told to work so hard towards the future that we expect that it is the future that will provide us the contentment and fulfillment that we are searching for right now. When we feel like life is missing something right now, we push it off, believing the future will fulfill us.

But life isn’t going to get inherently “better.” It’s not going to randomly “start” when you graduate or get married or get that job or anything else. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and the blessings you have today are different from the blessings that you are going to have later. This current season of your life has unique blessings. Please, please don’t be so busy staring off into space, waiting, that you ignore these blessings.

people girl alone sitting wood reading book bible blur And if you are discontent right now, there may be a reason for that. You might want to consider how you are living your life and what you are living for right now. I believe if you truly commit your life to Christ, you will be capable of finding fulfillment during any stage of your life–even the right here, right now without that dream spouse, dream career, or dream family. Your life has already started.

Please feel free to leave comments. I love hearing from readers and would appreciate hearing your thoughts 🙂

Relationships 101: It begins with knowing God

rocks people man happy worship sunset view clouds sky dark silhouette A twitter post by CommonWhiteGrl stated, “Being 18-25 is like playing a video game where u’ve skipped the tutorial & you’re just sort of running about with no idea how anything works.” Tell me about it. At this age we often feel overwhelmed, trying to figure out our lives: our educations, our careers, our relationships.

Of all of these significant aspects, I would argue that relationships are the most important. The relationships you form today are going to affect who you are tomorrow (more so, I would argue, than the career or educational path you chose). Most college kids are hungry for good, close friends. So to solve our problem, I wrote a post revealing the deepest, previous-to-now unknown, rocket-science, doctorate-degree-level, what-you-never-knew-before secrets about how to form and maintain a good relationship.

Okay, okay, maybe it’s not quite that secretive…and maybe it’s not quite that complicated…yeah…it might actually be common sense. BUT, I know this because I do it all the time: the common sense is so often forgotten. So, in this post I took up the menial task of reintroducing it–for my own sake if for no one else’s.

The Backstory

You know that passionate love and connection you feel between yourself and your best friend and/or significant other? No, seriously, think about your excitement to spend time with this person. This love and closeness is something we desire in relationships and it is delightful when we can make such connections. But, even if you think you have the closest of BFFs or the world’s best girlfriend, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If you think you’ve felt love, passion, or belonging from any human before, I want to remind you God created that passionate love and if you think it’s strong between two humans, imagine how much stronger God feels that way toward you. As much as it means to wake up to a simple text saying “good morning” from your lover or best friend, it means so much more to God for you to wake up and say “good morning!” to him. He pursues you, desires you, and wants your love more than any human possibly could.

Therefore, if you really want good, fulfilling relationships, you have to start with getting to know God. 

I know God is so big, so unimaginable, so vast, so…everything. It seems impossible to know God and he sometimes feels so very distant. I know it. And I do not want to downplay God–he is way beyond us. I readily admit he is far too vast to understand. But, at the same time, he’s created each individual to be capable–in fact only fulfilled–when he/she has a close relationship with God. So in the face of this aspiration, I want to offer a variety of ways to stay connected with your creator.

Talk

We think we’re so technologically advanced when we can text someone anywhere in the hands clasp pray person people ring still bokeh portrait black and white world and they can receive it in a matter of seconds. How much cooler, though, is it that we can talk directly, without any time or technological boundaries, to the creator of the universe? And what kind of friends don’t talk? Realistically, how many of us, if asked about our relationship with God would have to answer–if answering honestly–“Well, we aren’t really talking anymore”? Let me tell you, in relationships, that statement is never a good sign…

Talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Tell him how your day was. Tell him what is bothering you. Tell him what you’re excited about. Tell him why you are angry with him. Like a patient lover, he’s standing right by your side, just waiting for your attention. He wants your heart and wants your real self. Talk to him–even if you are only saying stupid things. He knows already, but he wants to hear it from you. Sometimes you and your best friend talk just to hear from each other what you already know. That’s what God wants.

Listen

But good friends don’t just talk, they listen. Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, in their book Lady in Waiting, do a great job of describing this: “Even when someone is very special to you, you do not get too excited with a steady monologue. Listening is an important part of developing closeness with someone else. If you want to get to know the Lord, you must seek Him not only with a whole, clean, and pure heart, but also with a listening heart.”

mountain valley hill cliff rocks landscape blue sky clouds people man sitting alone mountaineer hiker hiking climbing sunny day daylight travel outdoors summer adventure Very few people would argue this point. But how does one listen to God?? One obvious answer is through reading his word. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: God’s word is a love letter to you. I bet it’s been a while since you’ve read God’s word as carefully as you would read a love letter… But you can also listen to God through a sermon, through reading inspirational books and blogs 😉 , or even through admiring creation (which he spoke into being). Sitting outside and staring up at the clouds, thinking about who God is definitely counts as listening to him.

Hang Out

The intense desire you have to spend time with a best friend or significant other is the way God feels about you. He looks forward to shared time and loves for you to be aware and accepting of his presence even in menial tasks. Just as even washing dishes is more fun with a friend, being aware and accepting of his presence in any circumstance can count as “quality time.”

And just as you enjoy spending time with your BFF or significant other in groups, you can hang out with God in groups–that’s what churches, discipleship groups, and worship nights are for. These are marvelous ways to celebrate God with other friends. mountain nature sky sunny sunrise summer sunset sunlight sunshine green grass sea water ocean lake man people reading book bible sitting alone bench But, also as you enjoy spending time with that one friend one-on-one, so you ought to spend time one-on-one to really connect intimately with God. Set aside some alone time* to talk with God, to listen to God, and just to sit silently with God. You’d do it with your boyfriend/girlfriend/bestfriend. Do it with God.

*Are you really alone if you’re chillin’ with God?

Become Obsessed!

You know how lovers are obsessed with each other and simply can’t get that special someone off their minds? Well, God’s obsessed with you and would love for even a small portion of that obsession to be reciprocated. Thinking about someone is a way of bringing that relationship into the present (see my post: Relationships in the 3-D). Randomly thinking about God throughout the day is a way to evoke passion in your relationship. Take your prayers before meals more seriously, place Bible verses in obvious places to randomly get your attention, think about a time when God has come through for you.

Many of us feel so overwhelmed about deepening our relationship with God that we tend to simply push it off. Or we forget how desperately God is pursuing us, waiting for so much as a little awareness from the humans he created in his image to share his love with. Or we get so caught up in life that we get distracted. But life is short and unpredictable. And God is waiting. So please, don’t let God’s greatness be an excuse for starting or growing deeper in the best relationship of your life.

I Feel Like I’m a Failure: Putting Feelings in Perspective

people man cry sad tree sunset bokeh outdoor nature

June 6, 2016.”This morning I awoke in my normal weekday mind set…” I read this as I looked back back in my journal from last year, “…and completely detested life.” Well, I guess some things just never change. Can anybody relate?

Interpersonal communication is communication between two or more people. This is what most of my school-year posts were about. Intrapersonal communication is the communication that occurs internally. It’s the conversations you have with yourself in your own brain. When working 40+ hours at a job I don’t necessarily love, I need to focus more on intrapersonal communication–which explains the last numerous blog posts…and this current one.

The battle I find myself fighting so hard for is that of having a good attitude, being content, joyful always, and hopeful–all the things I like to shove in my readers’ faces (yes, I’m a hypocrite). Truth be told, I write these blog posts to myself as much as to anyone else. But what happens after I write all these things, after I instruct you to look for the positives, to see work as a service and purpose-provider, to keep the future perfection in mind, to communicate the hope we as Christians have? What happens after I instruct all these things but don’t feel like anything has changed? What happens when I still Image result for waking upwake up most mornings and scowl at the fact that I’m still breathing? Where did I go wrong?

I could be wrong, but this past week I had a revelation.  It was one of those revelations that come in the form of a bold, random thought that shocks you because you didn’t think you had it in you to think like that. This is otherwise known as God speaking, I believe. Anyway, my thought was, “what if using feelings and emotions to measure my accomplishments in the area of joyfulness, contentment, hope, and peace is the wrong form of measurement?

Perhaps you roll your eyes at me and think, “Duh. That’s not a revelation.” But to me it was. I try so hard to think of work as being a service. I try so hard to think of it as being prep work for heaven. But I feel like I fail because I awake in the morning with my grumpy face on, I count down the minutes at work wishing time away, and happiness seems so distant and so desperately short lived.

But what if being content were different from feeling content? What if being joyful weren’t the same as feeling joyful? What if I can use my time at work as a service just by knowing it can be and not by feeling all warm and fuzzy for helping others? What if I am  using my time as prep for heaven simply by having heaven on my mind even if I’m not jumping up and down with excitement? What if trust doesn’t have to mean I feel safe? What if courage doesn’t have to mean I feel strong? What if love doesn’t have to feel romantic?

night blue sky stars galaxies trees plant silhouette light lightning storm Especially in our culture, we are told to “follow your heart.” We’re told that your emotions should determine who you pursue, what you pursue, and how long you pursue it. Granted, your likes and dislikes, gifts and talents need to be taken into account when making decisions. But emotions are not the end all be all. I love David Dunn‘s song “Lightning Storm,” as its lyrics make some good points in a culture whose songs normally preach following any and all feelings: “So stop existing for what you’re feeling. Open your mind up and let the truth in.”

If these things were true–that feelings don’t accurately measure how much I’m growing, it could mean I am trusting God, I am serving through work, I am prepping for heaven, I am living with hope, I have joy…even when I don’t feel it. That would mean that waking up angry doesn’t mean I’m failing.

Granted, recognizing this isn’t going to change anything. There is no easy fix to trudging through work. I have a feeling I’m still going to have an awful lot of bad days in the upcoming weeks. But it’s encouraging to think that this lack of positive feelings isn’t proof of anything really. Feeling like a failure doesn’t make me one.

Feeling unhappy isn’t fun. But recognizing that my feelings don’t define me, I can see them as they are: feelings. They don’t have inherent significance nor do they speak truth all the time. And a side bonus of putting feelings aside is that often if you force your feelings to give superiority to reality, your feelings will eventually submit.

Don’t let your feelings define you. Seek out the truth.

people man alone bible book wall bench I believe God has a purpose for each person he creates and that he loves you with a love deeper than you can ever know. You matter and he won’t let you fail life if you turn to him.

Let me know your thoughts. I love hearing back from readers 🙂

 

Prepping for the Ultimate Vacation: Keeping the Right Perspective on Work

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The other night I was saying good night to my little brother and he was complaining about how he wanted to spend more time with me. “I’m sorry buddy, I really wish I could,” I replied sincerely, “but I have to work and sleep and work and clean up my room and work…” I trailed off and tried to think some more positive thoughts, “Man, I want a vacation…the break I’m most looking forward to is heaven–I’ll have lots of time on that vacation!” “Yeah, will you go kayaking with me in heaven?” Reuben put in.Image result for kayak

We conversed a little more before I got up to go to my own bed. “When is he coming back? I can’t wait!” Reuben said as I stood up. I was confused because we’d been talking about my friends, but no one in particular. “Who, Reuben?”

“God! I want to go to heaven!”

The sincerity with which Reuben proclaimed that sentence stirred my thoughts as I lay in my bed. As I mentioned in my last post, 40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work?, a lot of us college kids working our tails off this summer are waking up every morning thinking, “there’s got to be more to life than this…” Admittedly, I’ll put myself in that category.

But for those of us to who believe in an everlasting, perfect life in heaven, there really is something more to life than this. And we need to remember this so that we can live it out. Those of us who label ourselves “Christian” are called to communicate this hope, but we can’t do that if we don’t regularly remind ourselves of how temporary this life is.

I don’t really care what you believe the afterlife is going to be like. There are many differing views and we can get caught up in the details of this. But I don’t believe what it will be like is half as important as the fact that it will be (and it will beImage result for bed head good). It will be and it is where we are meant to be, ultimately. It’s going to be the perfect world where we won’t have to deal with this daily hatred toward work.

It might help to remember that there is more than this daily grudge when you wake up in the morning and sigh, glaring into the mirror, wishing someone else could step into your skin and play your role, while you literally disappear from life for a while. But, while there is more to life than this, living through what you are living through right now is part of that plan. Just because there is something better in the future doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place right now. In fact, where you are now has a purpose; it’s the only time we’ll have to influence what happens on earth. It’s prep time.

Use this prep time well. Planning a vacation takes a great deal of work. My most recent vacation was a camping trip. We had to plan what to eat, where to camp, how to get there, and what to do. Then we had to actually buy and prepare the food, gather all the 18403285_1754038291279700_3994285769559169567_n (2).jpggear, print out maps, squish everything all into the car, do all the driving, and make sure everyone who was supposed to come along met up with us. The trip was amazing, but if we hadn’t used our prep time, we couldn’t have had such a rewarding trip.

Our time on earth is that prep time for the ultimate adventure in heaven. Everyday the decisions you make influence yourself and others and ultimately can bring you farther away from or closer to who God wants you to be. Use this time to grow. Work for it. Store up treasures in heaven. Get your hands dirty. Glorifying God through working is how we find purpose on earth. But as you struggle through this prep work, work with anticipation, knowing there is something more. Keep this on your mind, so that you can communicate the hope, joy, and excitement that we who call ourselves Christians ought to radiate. We are called to be witnesses and how much better used is our time on earth if we spend it inviting and inspiring others to come with us on this adventure? Believe that what we are living through right now is temporary. Believe that there is more coming. And then live it out. Communicate through your joy, hope, and anticipation the reality that we ought to share.

Daily remind yourself of the upcoming vacation and use this time to prepare for it so that, like a young child, you too can ask, with sincerity, “When is he coming back? I can’t wait!”

Please share your thoughts, comments, and arguments. I would love to hear from you!

What if Judging Your Neighbor = Judging God?

Currently I am sitting in the “Corum”–an open area where students regularly gather around the scattered tables, couches, bars, benches, and Golden Eagle Cafe to work on homework, chat, hangout, or play pool.  From where I sit, I can see three sets of people involved in conversation, four people working quietly by themselves on computers, a handful of people flipping through textbooks, and a small line of students waiting at the cafe. Everyone is different, caught up in different tasks, busy with different thoughts, living a different life.

What fascinates me, however, is that each person is a reflection of the God who created them. This thought has been in my mind ever since reading the following quote in David Livermore’s What Can I Do?: Making a Global Difference Right Where You Are last week: “If you want to get a glimpse of what God looks like, look at the person next to you.” The complexity of differing personalities in the midst of differing goals, is a reflection of the complexity of God.

It’s easy to look at others, to see their differences, and to judge them for it. It’s easy to let thoughts like “I would never wear that!” “Too much makeup, girl!” and “did you know your hair makes you look like an alien?” run through our minds when we are people watching. But this is the wrong way to people watch–for moral as well as logistical reasons. I would never want to encourage such an attitude.

Instead, what I hope to accomplish through my blog is appreciation of people (and more so of God) through the watching of others. I want to encourage you to look at the differences of appearances and be in awe of the amazing creativity God put into use when creating that many different faces. I want you to see the friendships others have and be thankful for the way people can connect with each other. I would love if you could smile at the random personality traits of others. I believe people watching can be a way that we can see greater beauty in the world and worship God through this appreciation.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with this perspective initiated by David Livermore? Do you tend toward a more judgmental or appreciative view when watching people?