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 🙂

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?

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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.