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.”

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Venting 101

felix-russell-saw-113844.jpgIt’s time for another immediately-applicable highly-concrete post. We’re still in that season of summer jobs and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who finds myself venting about work. But, what differentiates venting from complaining and/or gossiping? And, as we’ve already discussed, communication creates reality. If I start speaking negatively about my job, it’s going to spiral, and work is going to get worse. So how do I balance these risks with a need to relate my struggles and frustrations to someone who cares (*thanks Mom!)?

Rule #1: One of the most significant rules is vent to the right person

Ideally, it is best to vent to a person who is fairly removed from the situation. If you are venting about work, this person probably should not be a co-worker. If you’re venting about a relationship, this person probably should not be a mutual friend. Doing this is a set up for disaster. This is because venting to an immediately-involved person is likely to make that other person think worse of the situation as well and that is not fair to this person nor the person or situation you are venting about. Venting to a co-worker is likely to make us both more upset with our jobs. Venting about a mutual friend can easily turn into gossip and will make the relationships worse all around. At school if I have struggles, I vent to my mom who is at home and won’t get emotionally involved in the situation or get upset with the people I’m talking about.

Another factor to keep in mind is that you want to vent to someone who will downplay, aaron-burden-90144.jpginstead of create, drama–someone who listens more than he/she talks. Don’t vent to someone whose response will be something like, “Oh geez, that’s horrible. You’re right. Your boss or friend should never do that to you! I would definitely throw a fit if I were in your shoes.” We’re going for a release of negative emotions, not a shared pity party. The goal is to relieve pressure, not build it up! (FYI, a journal does a good job of listening and a pretty good job of not creating drama 😉 )

In case you’re having trouble thinking of someone who can fulfill these roles for you, let me suggest God. He’s not going to think any more negatively of the situation or person just because you vent about it. He’s great at listening and–added bonus!–he’s actually in control of the situation. If you’re asking with the right motives and it’s within his will, it’s likely he will actually change the situation in some way (even if it’s just by working in you)–which is more than a lot of friends or parents can do.

Rule #2: Be active, not passive

Sitting on your butt whining isn’t going to change anything. Use the time you spend venting as time you spend thinking. Is there any way you can change things for the better? Is there anything you can do to affect the situation? This might come in the form of not even changing the situation, but purely trying to change your attitude. Can you start viewing work as a service? Can you keep your focus on the eternal? Can you go out of your way to show love to your “enemy”? Can you work your hardest even when you really don’t care? Even if you use the experience just to get to know yourself better (what you can deal with and what you can’t), that is still a beneficial learning experience. Arguably this is the hardest rule. But if you aren’t seriously considering what you can do to make a difference, you’re really just whining about the situation.

sonja-langford-357Rule #3: Vent for the right amount of time

I’ve said it multiple times before, but it’s vital to keep in mind. Communication forms reality. The more time you spend complaining, the more you’re going to see that person, that situation, or that job as negative. So keep your venting short and sweet. Say what you need to say to get it off your chest. And then be done. Let the dead dog lie.

 

Rule #4: End on a good note

In the midst of the things that are bothering you, there has to be something positive. I find myself regularly fed up with specific things at work and am quite willing to vent lesly-b-juarez-220845.jpgabout them. But do I ever talk about the perks of my job? Do I ever mention the positives? You still became friends with that person for a reason and you still chose that job for a reason. When you are wrapping up a good venting session, be sure to verbalize the positives. It takes a strong soul to remember the positives, but it is an important step.

Another really good source that I would recommend: Anger Management: The Five W’s of Healthy Venting

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!

40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work?

Free stock photo of man, person, dirty, construction

A couple of days ago I was talking on the phone to a friend from Cornerstone University and we were talking about work. “I was so looking forward to summer,” she stated, “but now I’m working and I’m like, ‘oh yeah. This is what summer is like.'” Honestly, as much as we college kids complain about school and gripe about how we can’t wait for summer, how many of us working 40+ hrs/week getting paid minimum wage or working our tails off in manual labor jobs aren’t missing the late night “homework” parties just a little bit? I have a pretty sweet job, but I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely awake in the morning excited for the day of work. In fact, I’m pretty prone to grumble.

Matthew 12:34b claims, “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Our attitude greatly affects our communication. For those of us who claim to be Christians, in order to fulfill the commands to “be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and to be witnesses of the joy and hope we have within us, we need to have an attitude check in Image result for minimum wage jobsrelation to our work. One of the greatest inspirations I’ve had regarding my attitude towards work came from Evan Koons in his devotional series titled “For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.” The point that Mr. Koons made was that we are put on earth by God to serve. Our purpose and our joy comes from glorifying God through the form of serving others. Obviously sin has made work imperfect, but the ultimate goal remains. Work isn’t about me and my bank account (even though that is a relevant aspect). Instead, work is about me using the skills and talents which God has gifted me with to serve others. Work is an opportunity to bless those in my life and to glorify God.

Granted, getting paid is important. However, when I go to work, focused only on making money and getting out of there, every hour is pretty much a countdown until I have free time which can spend as I want to. It’s about me, and since I’m working more than I am not, it’s about how I’m upset to be working. I’m grumpy and I communicate that.

However, when I can view work as an opportunity to bless my boss, my co-workers, and my costumers, I can view my efforts as a positive way to impact the world. I can be grateful for the opportunity to interact with others, grateful for the chance to use my life for a bigger purpose than just myself, and I can praise my God.

Image result for lifeguardThis won’t mean I ‘ll be excited every day. It won’t mean I’ll suddenly be converting people left and right. But this attitude will be putting my heart closer to where it belongs and will allow me to more clearly communicate the love that should be overflowing from my heart. I have found that the less I think about myself and my happiness, the more joyful I end up being.