When Time is Irrelevant: An Analogy of God’s Perspective

jan-kahanek-184676-unsplashWhen I was in high school, I attempted to write an adventure novel. Admittedly, it was quite cliche; the King died, and this peasant boy discovers he’s actually the prince (hidden in a foster family to preserve his life in the time of war). He doesn’t inherently want to, but for the sake of the nation, he must fight for his rightful place on the throne. I had lots of struggles and even more fun writing it, even though, honestly, it’s pretty darn bad.

However, it was this experience–of being an “author” and creating characters–that enthralled me in another analogy, one that I found in C. S. Lewis‘ book MiraclesI cannot fathom how God can care about each individual out of the millions and millions who have lived, can listen to each of our prayers, and can know my name before I was born. alessandro-cavestro-559170-unsplash.jpgDude, God has a lot on his hands. Even if I dismiss all the other people who have ever lived or ever will life, right here and right now there are more than 7 million people alive. That’s a lot of people for God to be intimately, constantly working with.

But C. S. Lewis said it like this: life is like an adventure novel with a complicated plot and many characters and with God as the author. To the characters in the novel, everything seems to happen in time, in succession, and without breaks. We wake up in the morning, go to work, keep house, interact with others, eat, and sleep with no breaks. Even if we take breaks, life is still going on.

But the author of the book doesn’t see time at all the same way. The author of the book is free to be working on a script for BethAnn and to stop, put down the pen and think. He can think for “hours” about this one sentence of BethAnn’s life. He can pause time for her and plan a great many specific details. He can decide where she’ll work, who she’ll interact with, what she’ll say three chapters from now.  For as long as he desires, he can consider his character, what she thinks and how she feels, even though the book has so many other characters. He can do that because he’s the author. She’ll never be aware of this pause in time, but the author can make it last for as long as he desires.

And the author isn’t restricted to working through the book sequentially, the way the18424132_1209085189217242_3477933893854710313_n.jpg characters are in the finished project. He is welcome to skip from the fourth chapter to chapter 22. He can move ahead or behind and life for the characters will never be changed in the published book.

Quite obviously the way time works on earth is not at all the same as the way time works for God. This is a very abstract concept, but imagining God as the Author of the book that we’re living right now helps me to start somewhere.

Friends, our God is so great, he is beyond understanding. Let us praise the God of the universe who, in ways still unknown to us, is always with each and every one of us–his dearly beloved.

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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!

 

 

 

 

This is a phenomenal post (!!): harnessing the power of emotive language

Image result for emojisI would describe one of my high school teachers as lax, wishy-washy, careless, and too lenient. He comes to mind when I’m asked which teachers I’ve had a hard time respecting. Yet, other high schoolers adopted him as their favorite teacher, finding him accepting, open-minded, flexible, and easy going.

Though we are talking about the same man, our word choices (all of which do describe him) leave completely different impressions. This shows how much impact emotive language (language that naturally feeds a specific emotional response) can have. Even when we believe we are simply “stating the facts,” we can be doing so much more than that, declaring to the world exactly what we think of something. And–you know it–communication forms reality.

Image result for teacherBecause of this, using emotive language can cause some problems. For example, because of self-fulfilling prophecies, stereotypes, and our tendency to cling to first impressions, I can do someone’s reputation a whole lot of harm if I advertise them in a negative manner. If I told a student going into a specific teacher’s class that the prof was distractible, yielding, emotional, high-strung, and arrogant, and that his expectations were severe and demanding, that student would certainly join his class with set caution. As the semester began, she would probably notice things the way I described them (at least to some extent–self-fulfilling prophecy) and be more willing to describe them in such a way to the next student. Doing this isn’t fair to neither the teacher nor the student, really.

Emotive language also applies beyond describing teachers or classes; it can effect the way we view other people, situations, and goals.

Therefore, it is wise to learn to recognize emotive language. When others are using such language, realize that their opinion is subjective. They obviously have their own viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean you will end up seeing things the way they do. Image result for smileSimilarly, after recognizing emotive language, try not to use it as much yourself. It is fairer to others if you allow them to make their own decisions.

Be careful about what you’re saying and what you’re hearing other people say. To those who call themselves Christians: our goal is to build others up, not tear them down. Speak positively. And be aware. Now, go out and find some emotive language!

Leave a comment! I want to hear your perspective 😉

 

My Communication Testimony: how learning how to communicate saves relationships

IMG_20170708_170348990I lay in the top bunk, trying to calm down my younger sister as she exploded, “I hate you! Every single day you make me so angry at you!” I could hear her crying as I responded to her, “I don’t understand; you never make me angry. Why do I upset you so much?” I could sense her frustration in her reply: “Everything you do makes me angry. Every single day. I hate it!” “Well, tell me what to change. If you tell me what to do differently, I’ll do it. Then I won’t make you angry. I can’t change until you tell me what I am doing wrong.” I lay calmly on my bed listening to her sobbing in frustration with me. “It’s just everything, BethAnn, you make me feel so worthless.” Although I was calm in my bed, I will admit I was hurt to know I was hurting her. “Well, goodness, just tell me how to Image result for confusedchange. I’ll change for you! Just tell me what you want! You have to give me specifics or I’ll never be able to stop making you angry. What do you want me to do? I know it’s not your communication style to be so blunt, but I can’t speak your language if you don’t adjust and speak my language sometimes. You’re going to have to do something outside of your comfort zone so that I can speak your language. What do you want me to do?!”

These conversations happened on a very regular basis over an extended season in time when my relationship with my sister hit a rough spot. Looking back I see how cruel I was in these conversations, speaking my conversational style in a pushy way, forcing the task-oriented, low-context side of things. But she hated me and I didn’t understand why she didn’t know that I loved her. I didn’t know what to do. Working our way through this extended and painful conflict was one of the reasons I am so passionate about communication today.

Communication in close relationships is like communication in any other kind of relationship except that everything in close relationships is so many times more magnified, intense, and important. This is mainly because in close relationships, we have IMG_20170620_115110749much higher expectations for the other person combined with the fact that we have regular, long-term interactions with the other. We expect the other person to truly know us and we expect love to conquer all. But when there is even one communication style difference, that one thing which gets on the other’s nerves really builds up over time. When one thing you do whispers a lack of care for the other, this one thing begins shouting a lack of care over time.

In this case with my sister, it turned out we were speaking different love languages. I speak words of affirmation and physical touch. “Tessa, we’re a great team. I appreciate how we compliment each other and I’m glad to have you as a sister” was my way of proving I loved my sister (I didn’t hug her–I already knew she has a large space bubble and can’t stand hugs!). But to my sister, whose love language is acts of service, these words were very shallow.

I actually asked Tessa to share her side of the story, and here are some of her thoughts: 0514171506What made it worse is that I would show her that I cared by cleaning our room, making her pancakes for breakfast, or collecting F Minus comics out of the newspaper only to be met with remarks like “Why does it matter if our room is clean?” “I actually felt like toast for breakfast,” or “Well, I don’t need all the jokes. And that one isn’t even all that good.” It seemed like all my attempts were getting met negatively, on purpose. Yet each time I would explode, she would try her best to convince me that she really did love me and she couldn’t understand what was wrong. Unfortunately, often actions speak louder than words in my life, and in this situation, it was very difficult for me to believe her words when her actions were conveying a very different message by my interpretation.”

It took me a long time to figure this out. It’s not that I didn’t believe actions mattered, I just didn’t realize how crazy much they really mattered. I really just wanted her to spell it out so that I could solve the problem quick and easy. Geez, Tessa, just tell me what you need! But to those of you who can relate to this, I have something to warn you: talking it out doesn’t always solve everything.

Consider the act of wishing someone happy birthday. If I remember it’s your birthday and greet you with a bright, “Happy birthday!” when I see you, it can mean a lot. But if we go through your birthday together without me remembering and you finally speak up and say, “You know, it’s my birthday today.” My bright “Happy Birthday!” isn’t the same. You can’t necessarily know if I was doing it because I cared or because I felt obligated.

Image result for pancakesIn the same way, I have to learn to communicate in Tessa’s love language on my own sometimes to show that it is genuine. If she had to tell me, ““BethAnn, my love language is acts of service and I’m not going to feel loved until you sincerely do occasional acts of service for me just to remind me that you do care. If you would only clean our room up sometimes and maybe make breakfast for me, or just do something for me…” for one she wouldn’t know how much I’m doing it out of concern for her happiness or how much I’m doing it out of a guilt trip. Secondly, this approach would likely make Tessa feel guilty for asking these things of me. Going out of my way sometimes to show my sister love is healthy. But if you’re the person asking for this, it feels needy, selfish, and wrong.

Tessa helped explain this too. “Another straw that was added to the camel’s back was the guilt that she would indirectly make me feel for communicating the way I did and for feeling the way I felt. There was obviously conflict in our relationship, but since she didn’t see anything wrong, it was apparently my fault. I was the one being annoyed; I was the one who couldn’t spell things out plainly; I was the one not feeling loved. But I felt guilty for telling BethAnn what I would like her to do and what would really make me feel like she cared because it felt very selfish of me and like as soon as I told her it would be fake.”

I had to figure this out the harder way: I had to pay better attention to what made her happy, I had to try different ways of proving my love, I had to go out of my way to speak in her love language. But doesn’t that demonstrate love much better than if she had just told me? So this is why I am so passionate about studying communication. It’s humbling to recognize that my way of communicating is not only not the only way, but it’s also not even a “better” way. Recognizing this fact is what allows me to truly demonstrate my love for my sister and it’s what allows me to have a better perspective of where I fit in IMG_3582this big world. And it saves a very valuable relationship in my life 🙂 

I hope that you will take communication seriously and will humble yourself to recognize that other ways of communicating are valid. Please let me know your thoughts and/or experiences. I’d love to hear how understanding the complexity of communication has made a relationship of yours stronger.