Summer 2019 Highlights & Reflection

With the entrance of fall, I thought it worthwhile to compile a list of the highlights of fun things we did this summer. Not only so I can show them to the people who look at this post, but so I also have a reference with stories and pictures all in one place.

This won’t be a very long post, because this summer was short on outdoor adventure as compared to others.

I make no secret of the fact that summer is my favorite season. No, not because of my name.  As a solar-powered individual, I long for the warmth of the sun. I eagerly wait through the dreary nine months of the other three seasons for the time when jeans, boots, and sweaters begin to gather dust as tank tops, shorts and sandals move to the front of the closet.

Furthermore, as an avid outdoorswoman, I long to hike, camp, swim, kayak, cycle, and all the other things that are best enjoyed in warm weather. Summertime is the time I feel most alive and invigorated.

I stated above that this post will make clear the fact that outdoor adventure was a little shy in 2019. That is for a good reason. After several years of dreaming, and a solid year of planning and pre-work, with 2019 came the birth of my freelance writing and marketing company, SummerTime Communications. As it turns out, starting a company is a lot of work. It takes an enormous amount of time.

Like a small child learning to ride a bike, teetering and wobbling as they peddle, building a company requires one’s utmost attention, holding on to keep things steady, lest the small child tumble and fall. I am delighted to have the opportunity to build a business; it just means more work and less play than I am accustomed to. That is an exchange I am happy to make for the great joy that comes from the freedom of self-employment.

With that long introduction, I now present to you, the fun stuff we actually did over the summer! Some stories and pictures to follow.

I had blogged previously about the insanity of June 2019, which included equal parts fun and work (a little too much of both). You can read about that here.

July 2019

Like most months, July came and went quicker than free donuts in the break room at work. We were pleased to have the opportunity for several get-togethers with both Mike’s family and mine. A Fourth of July BBQ, pool party, birthday parties and more broke up the grind with frivolity and quality time.

August 2019

Somehow August always tends to get jam-packed with activity. This year was no different, but we made sure to block out some time for fun stuff on the calendar, lest we waste away the best weather month of the year doing all work and no play.

If you haven't packed floaties for a hike into a remote mountain lake, you really haven't lived.

If you haven’t packed floaties in on a hike to a remote mountain lake, you really haven’t lived.

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Hiking & swimming with our fun-loving cousins, Dean & Rylee. This was the same trip pictured above.

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Why hello there, Mt. Rainier, you sexy thing. The memories are of higher quality than the picture. We spent an enjoyable afternoon cruising around Puget Sound in Mike’s Aunt & Uncle’s boat while camping at Penrose Point State Park.

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The crew of friends that only gets together 3-4 times per year made a weekend trek down to Roseburg to hang out with the Armstrongs, who are usually the ones making the drive to Vancouver.

September 2019

September usually yields the last splash of summer weather, and we try to capitalize on it by squeezing in one more camping trip, often with our friends the Worthingtons. Well, the weather wasn’t very summery, but we still made our trip, and had a blast as usual, taking in the sights of the beautiful Deception Pass State Park.

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Group shot from the start of our hike in Deception Pass.

The color of the water that runs through the pass is quite magnificent. You’ve got to see it for yourself.

Miscellaneous

Throughout the summer, I made sure to focus on the fact that even in the midst of both of us working two jobs that together tend to eat up a lot of our free time, we still could enjoy the simple pleasures in life. We regularly enjoyed home-cooked dinners outside in our backyard oasis, listening to the sound of birds, watching the trees sway and soaking in the warmth of the evening.

Team cooking became a semi-regular thing, where we each contributed something to make a delicious meal. I have to brag on Mike: with the produce from his garden, he made some killer bruschetta, pesto, marinara sauce and more that turned into some succulent cuisine. We had fun making food to meet or exceed what we might find in a restaurant.

In conclusion

As I look and think back on what we did do, I see that the exercise served its purpose. I’m smiling thinking about the fun and enjoyment we had. Yes, we worked a lot of weekends. Yet, we managed to enjoy ourselves along the way. Taking each moment as a chance to be grateful for what we have, and the opportunities we’ve been given seems to me to be the path to contentment and a fulfilled life.

Thanks for reading! What did you do over the summer? Feel free to one-up me if you did something cool or went on an excellent vacation. I’d love to hear it.

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Picking Blackberries as a Life Analogy

Recently, my husband and I were on a hunt for wild blackberries in a natural area close to our home. If you’ve ever picked blackberries, you know that flesh wounds are nearly inevitable as the juicy berries are nestled among sharp thorn bushes.

I was reminded of that afresh as I incurred scratches all over my arms and legs reaching for the sweet, fruity reward. All the memories of picking blackberries as a child came rushing back. Suddenly I was upset with myself for wearing a tank top and shorts, rather than at least jeans to help shield my skin from the unforgiving thorns that seem to pierce it regardless of how careful I am to avoid them.

It occurred to me that the pursuit of a bounty of delicious, sweet blackberries is a fabulous analogy for the struggles of life.

Fruit, of course, refers literally to the harvest of antioxidant-rich blackberries. Fruit can also be defined as “the result or reward of work or activity.” E.g. “The fruit of her labor is increased profits.”

When we view fruit as the figurative term in the second definition, the analogies flow freely. Just as the physical work of picking blackberries yields real fruit, comparing the potentially painful labor to the figurative fruit demonstrates noteworthy comparisons. Allow me to enumerate a few.

Little blood, little fruit

It can be frustrating to be the latecomer to a blackberry bush. You arrive with a bucket in hand, hoping to collect a bountiful harvest with little effort. Instead, you find that all the easy pickings upfront are gone, and you have to reach into the thistles to get the fruit that remains.

Was the fruit that was easy to grab plump and delicious? Maybe, maybe not. But it is gone, so you’ll never know. All that remains is to start your first of many long reaches, hoping to grab the ripe fruit that is nestled among the thorns that tear your clothes and skin.

Getting to the best fruit can incur injury or risk

So it is with the best figurative fruit that life has to offer. Most of the easy stuff is picked over before you arrive on the scene, so you must decide. Will you keep looking for easy pickings: the job that doesn’t challenge you, the romantic relationship with the first person who shows interest, the friends that are quick to take and slow to give, or the college that is eager for students, but may not be the best choice for your career path?

Those opportunities are bountiful, but they get snapped up by average and underachievers. You can keep walking to the next bush to find more of the same, or …

Will you risk reaching into the unforgiving, sharp brambles for the juicy berries at which the lazy people can’t be bothered to grasp? As you reach for them, no matter how careful your moves, branches will unexpectedly snap back at you and draw blood with startling rapidity.  As you begin to load your bucket with delicious fruit (life experience), the wounds will add up.

That job for which you are qualified, but seems like a reach from your current position, for which you stay up all night customizing your resume … you might never get the courtesy of even a callback.

That person you’d love to have as a friend, that you think would make your social life complete, might show disinterest at your invitation to get to know them.

The person you’ve been crushing on, for whom you research all their interests so you have something to talk to them about, could reject your request for a date.

The promotion at work that is a no-brainer: given to someone else because they have the right connection to the decision-maker.

These scenarios and countless more are the sharp bushes that wound us as we reach for the better things in life.

The risk, payoff and learning process

My contention, as I survey the bloody scratches on my arms and legs, and see an unsatisfactory amount of blackberries in my bucket, is that I want more fruit. That means reaching back into the danger zone with more cuts a probability, if not a certainty.

As soon as I get home, however, the pain of the cuts fades into the background as I begin to enjoy the harvest of delicious blackberries.

So it is with striving for higher goals. Temporary setbacks and discouragements abound. It’s wildly intimidating to switch careers knowing that you are back at the bottom of the learning curve. I imagine it takes a tremendous amount of courage to ask someone out for a date that you think is out of your league. (I’m so glad my now-husband did that, because if he hadn’t taken that first step, we’d never have even started dating. And as it turned out, I was dying to get to know him, but willing to wait for him to make the first move.)

The point

I am confident you’re catching the drift of the analogy. The point is, the best things in life require effort that costs us something. It may leave a scar or three in the process. But what we eventually get in return is a sweet bounty of that which we’ve pursued. Whether it is meaningful relationships, a satisfying career, working through our own psychological baggage to be healthy, or any number of challenges that seem insurmountable before we start.

The work is worth it. Would you agree?

If you have comments or want to share a story about your triumph over a figurative sticker bush, I would be honored to hear it.

 

 

 

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Mass Shootings, The Human Heart, and God

With the recent news of not one mass shooting, but TWO in 24 hours in the United States, it can be challenging to know what to say, do, or how to pray. In the last quarter-century, shootings have gone from virtually unheard of to, tragically, painfully frequent.

Make no mistake: each and every shooting is a terrible tragedy; each victim lost is a beloved image-bearer of God who is to be mourned; each perpetrator should receive the most severe justice possible.

What is so unpalatable to accept is the increased frequency with which the shootings have happened in the last decade or so. They happen so often anymore that it is difficult to process and grieve each one with the level they deserve. That alone is a tragedy.

As an internally-processing introvert, I reel with news at yet another act of wicked, senseless violence, but my personality prevents me from saying anything if I don’t know what to say. With two deadly shootings on the same day, I got to thinking about the “why”? No one can fully answer that, but this post is my attempt to do some analysis that will hopefully lead to some introspection for you, my dear reader.

An unprecedented level of gun violence

When the school shooting took place in Columbine, Colorado in 1999, it took the entire country by surprise and left us in shock. This was the first massacre in the United States that I remember. It was practically unheard of in this country, at that time twenty years ago.

Without going through all the mass shootings, I will say in general terms that as the last twenty years have unfolded, such horrific events have tragically become more common. It is gut-wrenching to note that there have been so many, even in the last several years, that it is tricky to keep track of all of them.

How did we get here?

The staggering levels of evil represented in each event, and in every single shot fired is hard to fathom. In just two short decades, mass shootings have gone from an anomaly to an event that happens with such regularity that we must fight against desensitization. How did we get to such a dark place as a nation, and so quickly? This post will pose some ideas.

I am convinced that there are several factors at work in the demise of the moral fabric of our society. Whether they are independent or intertwined, they all work to undermine the America that those from Generation X and older recognize as the country we love. There are multiple things at play, depending on who you talk to. The factors, as I see them, are postmodernism, the human condition, and our nation’s collective rejection of God. I’ll expand on each briefly.

Postmodernism

Postmodernism, at its core, rejects the notion of absolute truth. It instead replaces it with “your truth,” “my truth,” and the permissiveness to do and be whatever is desired by the individual. In the late twentieth century, it quickly moved from a fringe to having a hold on the mindsets of a great deal of Americans.

It has been noted by many great thinkers that this worldview is self-contradictory. For example, how can you be absolutely certain that there is no absolute truth? None, that is, except for the one absolute that forms the basis of that viewpoint? I see.

Delving deeper into postmodernism, we see that if there is no absolute truth, there cannot be a creator. Therefore, the evolutionary viewpoint reigns and everything that is and has come to be is not the result of Divine design and intention, but all a cosmic accident. If that is the case, life has no purpose or meaning. As depressing as that is, it follows that adherents to postmodernism would be prone to depression and hopelessness.

If life has no purpose, then what we do doesn’t matter, and human life ultimately has no intrinsic value. You can begin to imagine how such a mindset could be a breeding ground of entirely different behavior than a mindset that believes they are an image-bearer of a creator and made for a distinct purpose.

The human condition (unregenerate heart)

The Christian worldview plainly teaches that each and every human being was not only created by God but separated from Him through the original commission of sin by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The result is what is known as “the fall”; the stain of sin on a world that God created to be perfect.

Thus the reasoning goes that all pain, suffering, disease, and even the existence of natural disasters are all ugly repercussions of mankind’s rejection of God’s commands. We are born under the curse, as sinners in rejection of God and under His wrath. By His great mercy, He chooses to save those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Him through Jesus Christ. (For more information on how that works, check out this post.)

Christ teaches us in Matthew 7:13-14 that we should Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Knowing that most will reject God’s offer of redemption, they remain in a state of hard-heartedness toward Him and continue as slaves to sin (Romans 6). Thus, the wicked behavior and brokenness we see all around us – including when we look in the mirror if we are honest.

God Bless America?

Prior to the popularization of postmodernism in the late twentieth century, Judeo-Christian morals were understood as the basis for right and wrong in this country. That is not to say that the United States was “God’s people” and that great evils weren’t committed here until recently. Obviously, that is not the case. We were a nation full of sinners that, collectively, were willing to admit that we were beholden to the Almighty.

That has changed.

As moral relativism has begun to reign as the new cultural ideal, “In God We Trust” as a common sentiment is now more like, “In Me I Trust.” We have replaced the wisdom of God and His word as our source of truth with our own thoughts and feelings. As noted above, those sentiments are mired by the sin and selfishness to which we are enslaved as a result of the fall.

So great is the depravity of the human heart that we see things like murder, rape, the slaughter of innocent unborn children, domestic violence, rejection of obvious biological and anatomical categories, and the list goes on and on. As it pertains specifically to the United States of America, the last fifty years or so have seen a systematic removal of God from the public square to even numerous laws being written seeking to punish churches that choose to teach God’s word as authoritative, and businesses owned by Christians who wish to operate according to their convictions.

All that to say, America is undoubtedly a secular nation with a religious history firmly in the past. That is why I wince when I see “God Bless America” emblazoned on bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. America has unequivocally rejected God. How can He possibly continue to bless it?

In light of that, what can we expect?

Romans 1:18-32 lays out the case that God places the knowledge of Him within each of us. It goes on to say that those who reject the knowledge of God will ultimately be allowed to continue in that rejection, to their own destruction.

As God sees the wickedness of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10), Romans 1 goes on to describe a giving over to our own lusts. Thus, the restraint He has graciously given us in the form of conscience gradually gets eroded until we self-destruct. This is the path I see the United States on, as a society.

Concluding thoughts

As we contemplate the devastation of a mass shooting, it rightly grieves and angers us. We inherently know that it is evil. We hunger for justice for the perpetrators and mourn the loss suffered by the victims and their loved ones.

Let us consider our desire for justice and our anger towards evil not only gifts from God but a reflection of His image upon us. Let us allow that to shape the realization that there is an ultimate Source of right and wrong. Let us NOT dodge the sobering reality that our sinful hearts are capable of as of great of evil as we condemn in others (see again Jeremiah 17:9).

As post-modernism has steadily eroded our morality, our sinful hearts have been left to feast on our own depravity, while our nation continually moves farther away from God. The destruction we see in things like mass shootings is one of the consequences of this chain of events.

The most important thing is for each of us to examine our hearts to see where we stand before the God to Whom we will all give account (Romans 14:12, 1 Peter 4:5).

This is one of the most sobering posts I’ve written. I welcome questions, respectful comments (even from those who disagree), and other thoughts on the “why” of mass shootings. Thank you for reading!

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Variety: The Spice of Life … and Writing

I am a fan of good advice.  I delight to hear it (especially when I ask for it), ponder it, and if it makes practical sense for me, to act on it. Not all advice can or should be adhered to, however. Below is one such piece that I choose to ignore.

Many well-respected bloggers and other thought leaders suggest unwaveringly that as a writer/blogger, the path to success is to find a niche topic and stick to it. If you are not already an expert on it, research, learn, and write until you become an expert. Then, the reasoning goes, you will begin to be heralded as a thought leader on that topic. People will seek you out for your advice in that area. Your readership could swell. Potentially book deals and speaking gigs could emerge from your sharply-focused area of knowledge.

That all seems well and good. I can point to numerous examples of folks who have made that formula work for them. I recognize the truth and the wisdom of such advice. But I Just. Can’t. (For the Millenials.) I’ve thought long and hard about it, and have decided that I am unwilling to focus in on a particular area. At least for now.

Yes, I would love to be acclaimed as a blogger, and make a living from writing blog posts. That would be a dream come true for me. But my rebellious side refuses to pick a niche and go with it. My problem is that I love variety too much. My interests and passions spread too far and wide to narrow my focus down.

The about page of this site goes into some detail about the scope of topics I typically write about. The following is a bit more detail about my approach to writing and life.

The categories of my passion

1. Christianity

First and foremost, I am a gratitude-filled Christian, enamored by God and His generous gift of reconciliation to Himself through Christ. This love for the triune God is at the core of my soul, and it colors every aspect of my life, for better or for worse. The most frequent topics on this blog are issues about living out biblical Christianity faithfully.

2. Self-Improvement

As one who is always seeking to do life more effectively, efficiently and in a way that maximizes joy and fulfillment, I am regularly reading and trying new things to that end. I get a thrill out of not only learning but sharing what I have learned with others. Thus I write blog posts on productivity, #lifehacks, etc.

3. Health, Fitness, and Recreation

Similar to #2, the pursuit of maximizing the quality of life through healthy eating, exercise, and recreation is a recurrent theme of my reading, writing, and doing. A good portion of my hobbies are movement-related. Preferably outdoors. I’d just as soon leave the dishes in the sink and jump on my bicycle, head out for a hike, or splash around a swimming hole whenever possible.

Likewise, I get great enjoyment out of running, lifting weights, and finding ways to increase the healthiness of what I eat. Since all these things are such a big part of my life, I’m bound to write about what I’m up to and what I’ve been learning.

4. Travel

Wanderlust consumes what is probably an inordinate amount of space in my brain. Thanks for nothing, Instagram. My burning desire to see new places cannot be quenched. I’ve had the good fortune of visiting numerous amazing locations, both domestic and abroad, and I have no plans to stop any time soon. Thus, a new trip means at least one blog post with pictures and stories. Perhaps multiple. The travel blogosphere is rather crowded, so I doubt I’ll ever pay the bills in that space. But that won’t stop me from documenting my adventures in a way that others might enjoy.

5. Humor/Random

Life is full of delightful ridiculum. I love to laugh, make others laugh, and enjoy the humor and absurdity that gets dished up regularly in the course of  day-to-day living. In that vein, sometimes I’ll write something that has no point other than being silly.

Then there are random posts that don’t fit easily into any of those categories.

As you can see, my tastes are pretty far flung, covering multiple topics. As much as I acknowledge the value in narrowing it down, I’m not going to at this point. That could change down the road, but for now, I’ll keep writing about whatever I want. That being said, I’m always open to ideas to write about. What are your favorite subjects to read about?

Thanks for reading!

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June 2019: A Clown Car of Activity

June 2019 was a month that I can best describe as biting off more than I could chew. Or as the subject of this blog suggests, existing in a clown car – a month so jam-packed that all I could do was survive in bemusement as the overloaded contents of the month spilled out. This is not to complain in the slightest. It is merely a descriptor of what I subjected myself to before I realized the implications.

I’ll briefly list the things that filled my month, then get on to the fun part: pictures and stories. Because evidently, I need to remind myself that, yes, I do like to sleep sometimes, my June contained:

  • My part-time job of 15-20 hours per week
  • Regular activity for growing my newly launched writing/marketing consulting business
  • Prep and execution for a substantial client project for said business (about 18 hours total)
  • Taking an online class that had to be completed by July 5
  • Attending a two-day professional development conference
  • Keeping up on an inordinate amount of homework and training for my business networking group (BNI)
  • Getting both of our cats spayed, a week apart, and dealing with the drama of having to separate them because one cat didn’t recognize the other and wouldn’t stop hissing at her
  • Three delightful nights at the coast with my in-laws, and all the prep that goes into taking turns cooking meals
  • Three and a half days visiting a friend in Southern California
  • Family BBQ with visiting out-of-state relatives
  • Attending a fundraiser for a business associate
  • Mother-daughter night out for my mom’s birthday
  • Classic movie night with my folks (a monthly occasion)
  • A church youth group event
  • Whatever time was leftover after that is what I had available to do life in survival mode (grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.)

You might look at that list and notice that a lot of those things are fun. I agree. I’ll admit that June was bursting with fun as well as frantic with work and education. When all taken together, it was overwhelming. I usually like to plan my schedule carefully and spread out activities evenly, because I prefer to build margins into my weeks. It just wasn’t to be in June, and that is quite OK.

As much as I like to maintain tight control over my schedule, I also recognize that it isn’t always possible. Sometimes things pile up all at once, and people are available to visit at times that aren’t ideal. In the final analysis, I’d prefer to run myself into the ground taking advantage of enticing opportunities than pass them up for the sake of margin. Even though I put pressure and stress on myself in doing so. As a wise guy once said, “YOLO!”

Now, onto the fun part: pictures!

Movie night

“Easy Rider” was the film for June’s edition of our monthly Classic Movie Night with my folks.

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We decided to splurge a little for a home with an ocean view for our annual Sorensen family beach weekend. Totally worth it.

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Getting a picture with seven adults and two kids not only present, but looking at the camera, and mostly smiling, is more of a production than one would think.

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It’s always delightful to spend time with my mom. Our Panda & Pedicures outing was no exception.

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Marge (left) and Velma, our cone-headed cats after they were spayed.

The next series of pictures is from my trip to San Diego to visit my friend Kim.

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Biker babes, cruising the boardwalk at Pacific Beach with our motorized bikes. It was a total blast, after some initial hiccups getting going.

Coronado Bridge

The Coronado Bridge, an engineering marvel, seen from the water aboard our cruise of the San Diego Harbor.

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The famous Hotel Del Coronado.

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Enjoying perfect weather on our harbor cruise.

In-N-Out Burger

A visit to In-n-Out Burger is mandatory for any trip to California.

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Grateful that I got to squeeze in a quick lunch visit with my dear college friend, Megan, while down south.

A quick video compilation of goofing off at Pacific Beach (original video shot by Kim Sharp):

I’d much rather be overloaded with work and fun than the alternative. So even though June was filled to the brim, I am incredibly grateful that I have abundant opportunities to live life to the fullest. My philosophy is, whenever possible, to frolic instead of walk; say yes instead of no; be silly instead of serious; and focus on the positive rather than the negative.

Everyone has their own flavor of busy, this happened to be mine last month. Thanks for reading!

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My Christian Commitments in a Post-Christian World

Growing up in the west during last few decades of the twentieth century, I took for granted that Judeo-Christian ethics and morality were the social norms and that even many of those who chose to ignore them at least acknowledged their existence and might be willing to admit that they “should” live by them.

It has become increasingly evident that those days are gone. As post-modernism has crept its way into the minds of so many over the last few decades, the previously common understanding of objective truth and a creator God has been diminished and replaced with “your truth” and “my truth” and “if it works for you, do it.”

A careful analysis of the decline of human flourishing in our society might well make a correlation between the statements above and what we see in western thought and behavior currently, but that is not the point of this post.

My goal here is to describe how I see myself as a Christian functioning in a society that has left Christianity behind. I will lay out a series of things I am committed both to do and not do to that end.

By the grace and through the power of God, I will:

  • Set apart Christ as Lord in my heart, and always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks for an account of the hope in me, with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15 – a paraphrase)
  • Treat others with kindness and respect, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle
  • Apply a biblical Christian worldview to all situations, acknowledging that:
    • Human suffering is a direct result of the fall and subsequent curse (Genesis 3)
    • Humans are separated from God as a result of the fall and sin
    • The world is under God’s judgment, and His day of reckoning will come
    • He provided a way to reconcile humans to Himself through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is part of the triune God
  • Model my life after that of Christ, seeking to glorify Him by serving others
  • Speak the truth in love, even if it is perceived as “hate speech”
  • Continue to read the Bible every day and strive to understand the intent and meanings of its divinely inspired authors, and rightly apply it to my life
  • Hold the Bible as the authoritative, sufficient word of God – the standard of truth for living a life pleasing to God
  • Seek to prayerfully, humbly correct and instruct others who unintentionally or deliberately misrepresent the word of God to advance unbiblical viewpoints and agendas
  • Walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), doing all things for His glory (Colossians 3:17, 23)

On the other hand, these are things I will NOT do, again with God’s help:

  • Be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16)
  • Commit slander or libel towards a fellow human and image-bearer of God (even when that courtesy is not extended to me)
  • Engage in conversations that are inherently divisive or bound to bring offense to others, unless they are about the truths of God and the Bible – I’ll save the hot button topics for things that are of eternal significance
  • Compromise on what I know to be right for the sake of “keeping the peace”

Reading warnings in the New Testament that Jesus’ followers will suffer and be persecuted for His name’s sake seemed like a far-off warning in my youth. No more. After what God has done for me through Christ, it is my joy to live my life for Him, despite the cost.

If you are a Christian, I’m curious what you thought of the list. Would you add anything? If you are living in rebellion against God, I pray this will give you pause to consider your eternal destiny. Regardless of your relationship with God, I welcome any comments and questions. Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

Posted in apologetics, Biblical insights, Discipleship, Opinion | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Interacting Online with Differing Opinions: To Engage or Not to Engage?

Today’s digitally-connected world is more polarized than ever. As one who came of age before the proliferation of social media, I still sometimes sit back with amazement to think about how we can now easily interact with people and content channels all over the world.

While this has its myriad of benefits, it also creates a more substantial opportunity for conflict, as people with different religions and political ideologies converge in the digital space. Further complicating this is the reality that with social media we are apt to share more information about our deeply held beliefs than we would have previously. Especially for those of us who are introverts, prone to keep our thoughts to ourselves unless prompted.

As a result, we often learn more about people’s positions and ideologies by merely observing what they post, share, and how they comment on things. This has the opportunity to either unite us or divide us.

As I’ve gotten older, my introspective nature has become even more dominant, causing me to think longer about which opinions to air, what topics to comment on, and who to interact with on controversial issues. My general distaste for conflict finds me opting not to comment on a majority of posts with which I disagree. The phrase “pick your battles” comes to mind.

With these things in mind, here are a few principles I use to filter my willingness to engage.

1. Do I have a relationship in good standing with this person?

Furthermore, do I feel confident that they know that I respect them even though I disagree with them?

This filter also depends on the platform. These days, I’m more reserved on Facebook, where I personally know all my contacts, and odds are I’ll see them in real life. On the other hand, many people I interact with on Twitter, and to a lesser extent, Instagram, are folks I’ll don’t know and may never meet. That tends to help with my candor.

Please note, I don’t use the unfamiliarity to treat someone less respectfully than I would at any other time. I just feel freer to share my thoughts in that setting.

2. Is this issue a “hill to die on?”

In other words, is this of so much importance to me that I am willing to stick my neck out and risk ridicule, disrespect from others, and even potential de-platforming to comment on it? When I think in those terms, the number of issues I’ll argue about drops dramatically.

3. Do I know enough about my position and the other person’s position to speak intelligently about the topic?

In the world of the 24-hour news cycle, quite frankly, there is just too much information and too many scandals cluttering our newsfeeds to stay up on all of it. It can be overwhelming. I’ll admit, many times I’ll just skim headlines for the majority of trending stories without taking the time to read the details. I’m not a news junkie, so other things rise higher on my priority list than being conversant in the scandal(s) de jour.

I’ve tried unsuccessfully to engage on topics about which I was under-informed. It’s not pretty. Inevitably, the person I strike up a conversation with on such a topic can type circles around me, leaving me cramming articles to try to catch up and respond accordingly. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Do I have the time to have a meaningful conversation?

Has anyone else gotten into a debate online with someone, only to discover that for every one-paragraph comment you make, the other person replies with several mini-essays? Within a terribly short amount of time? When that happens, I can’t help but wonder, “Do you have the day off today?” “Do you have any other tasks to do or other people to visit with?” HOW DO YOU HAVE TIME TO WRITE ALL THAT?

It is nice to be able to go away for a while, think, research, and write something thoughtful in my own time. It just seems that Murphy’s Law often dishes me up with someone whose full-time job for the day is typing insanely long responses. That overwhelms me, and I want to be able to represent my side thoroughly, respond to them thoughtfully, and it is challenging to carve out large blocks of time to do so. Thus, I often remain silent if I can’t or won’t spare the time to do it well.

5. Is it a matter of eternal or significant moral importance?

In other words, is it someone whose soul is in danger of hell, who is espousing clear evidence that they do not know of the saving message of the gospel? Or is it a moral issue that is eating away at the collective soul of society? Is someone mispresenting the Bible? These topics are of utmost importance to me. I’ll engage with someone about salvation over politics any day. I’d much rather talk about a moral issue than about the latest bickering among D.C. elites.

That being said, it is true that immorality and politics are becoming more and more intertwined, as government becomes more evil and corrupt. That only serves to give me more pause. With eternity and the souls of individuals at stake, I pray that I choose my battles wisely. Sometimes I’m too cowardly and remain silent when I shouldn’t. Often, I think that chiming in on an issue won’t help or change anyone’s mind. In those cases, I  choose to save my discussions for matters of eternal life or death.

Conclusion

Those are the primary considerations that run through my mind when deciding whether to interact on a topic with someone online. Do you have any specific guidelines you use? I would love to hear them. Please comment with your thoughts or suggestions. Thank you for reading!

 

Posted in apologetics, Opinion, Political Musings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Do More Better: A (Christian) Productivity Book That Changed My Life

“Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” by Tim Challies is a short, information-packed book that delivers exactly what the title promises. Books and tips for productivity flood the marketplace. This book has a more unique premise. It is about productivity for the Christian. It focuses not only on how to get more done, but how to order one’s life for productivity in a way that honors God.

There may be other “Christian productivity” books out there, but I can’t see needing multiples; this one is sufficient for the task. When I got this book upon its publishing in 2015, I was desperately in need of creating a system to be more organized in my personal life, after using all my organizational mojo at work and having none left for home.

The beauty of this book is that it teaches productivity that can and should be used for all areas of life, and systems that function well across home, professional and extra-curricular disciplines. I will first briefly touch on how “Do More Better” addresses purpose, planning, tools, implementation and maintenance for productivity. Then I will provide a short testimonial about how this information has impacted my life for the better.

1. Purpose

Before we can be productive, we ought to determine our life purpose. Not only that, but go through the mental exercise of aligning our life purpose with how we structure our productivity methods in light of all our responsibilities. I must start with the 10,000-foot view before I zoom into how to best use my Tuesday afternoon.

Since this book is geared towards Christians, Challies orients it toward the priorities that a Christian ought to hold. He defines productivity as, “effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.”

I found this definition to be refreshing, yet novel and a little convicting. Adopting that framework brought a whole new perspective. Making the good of others and the glory of God the primary focus of my productivity was a paradigm shift.

2. Planning

We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” True words indeed. In “Do More Better,” Challies lays out a simple structure for planning that leads to productivity.

3. Tools

Being productive and organized can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are tools available, many of which are free, that aid us in the process immensely. For those of us that are naturally random, creative types, these tools help us stay focused.

The book suggests three tools.

  • Task management (e.g., Todoist)
  • Scheduling (e.g., Google Calendar)
  • Information gathering/storing (e.g., Evernote or OneNote)

Before reading “Do More Better,” I had never even heard of a task management app. Todoist has since revolutionized my life and organization. So much so that I wrote a post about it. I could go on and on about how helpful a tool this is to keep me organized with the never-ending to-dos.

Scheduling is a bit more straightforward. Most of us have a calendaring system that we use. Regardless, this book shares some insights on the topic that were new and helpful to me, and they might be to you as well.

The book also covers using an information storage system such as Evernote or OneNote. It is difficult to overstate how useful such a tool is for keeping notes organized. More on that shortly.

4. Implementation

When taking in new, novel information, it always helps me to have examples of the processes being described to help me wrap my head around how I can apply it in my own life.

In “Do More Better,” Challies excels at introducing new ideas, explaining how they work in plain language, then providing real-life scenarios about how one might put this knowledge into practice. His suggestions are easy to implement. Just what I need.

5. Maintenance

It is painful to admit, but even the best systems we lay out need regular attention and maintenance or they will eventually descend into disrepair and stop functioning correctly. The same is true for organizational plans. Challies addresses this situation (which I would otherwise be prone to overlook or ignore) and offers a proactive solution to keep the system maintained.

Personal breakthroughs

I mentioned above that this book impacted my life for the better. It has done so by introducing me to new philosophies, methods, and tools that I may not have learned or implemented otherwise.

Todoist gave me back control over my unruly to-do list. It proved to be a superior system for me over hand-writing to-do lists, only to have to re-write them the next day. I won’t go into excruiciating detail, but I will leave it with a glowing review, and heartily recommend you check it out if you like the idea of having an electronic to-do list.

Using Evernote in the way Challies recommended brought an astounding amount of order to the way I store information. No more frantically searching email archives for recipes, or scouring search results for the link I was looking at previously. When I come across something that needs to be saved, recorded, or written down for later retrieval, I have a system in place through Evernote where I can easily find it.

Conclusion

Overall, the practical strategies and tactics Challies lays out for the reader in “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” helped me get more organized from the top down. I am grateful for this book, and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone (especially a Christian) who is looking to get more productive, for the glory of God.

If you have any questions on the topic covered here, I would love to try to answer them. To purchase the book, look here. To find out more about the author*, who is also my favorite blogger, look here.

*Tim Challies did not request or sponsor this post in any way. I am writing about it simply for the joy of sharing something that I found helpful.

Tim Challies "Do More Better" "A practical guide to productivity, productivity, Christian Productivity

Posted in Advice, Lifehacks, priorities, Productivity | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Jesus is God: 8 Reasons from the Bible

The question of “who is Jesus Christ?” has been a subject of discussion since not long after the world timetable flipped to A.D. Since, at the time of this writing, we are in the midst of Holy Week, culminating in Easter, it seems like a good time to cover this topic as we prepare to celebrate the historical resurrection of Jesus.

Though the theories on who Jesus is vary, I would like to summarize a compelling treatment I heard in a sermon recently of eight reasons that Jesus is God, from the Bible itself. When I say God, to be clear, I mean capital G. Yahweh/Jehovah. The one true God. The points I will outline below are taken from a sermon by Phil Johnson at Grace Life Pulpit.

Before I begin, however, let me offer this consideration. If you want to know about someone you may not have direct access to, you ask people that know him. Just as a potential employer calls references for a candidate, or a customer reads reviews about a product or service before they buy, to find out about Jesus, the best source of information is that which was written about Him by his closest friends and disciples. Those who traveled with Him, learned from Him and captured His words day in and day out. Incidentally, those are the people God chose to use to write the books of the New Testament. They are the ones with the most direct knowledge. So let’s see what they, as well as various Old Testament (OT) writers, have to say about Jesus Christ.

This is going to be a Scripture-dense post, with some narrative between verses. Some verses I will quote in full, some I will merely drop references for additional study. The sermon from which these points were pulled is linked to above if you prefer audio over reading.

Eight reasons Jesus is God

Important note for reading the Bible is the term “LORD.” It often appears, especially in the OT, with a capital “L” and smaller caps “O-R-D.” When you see that, it is an English translation of the Hebrew word for Yahweh (YHWH) or God. For this post, I will denote that as LORD.

1. The Old Testament predicted a Divine Savior

In Psalm 2, a messianic psalm, written centuries before Christ’s incarnation, we see the following verses.

“Worship the LORD (note, “LORD” refers to God, remember that) with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that he not become angry, and you perish in the way.” Psalm 2:11-12

In that text, the writer uses parallel phrases, which are meant to be logical equivalents. Thus, the LORD and the Son are equivalents.

A few other messianic prophecies:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

It is worth noting that Isaiah gave this child these titles, and assigned capital letters for His pronouns, declaring divinity to Him in doing so.

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.” – Micah 5:2

From this passage we see Christ’s birth in Bethlehem predicted (again, long before it happened), as well as a clear statement that Christ is an eternal being.

2. Jesus is called Yahweh (YHWH)

Psalm 23:1 states, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

In John 10:11, 14, Jesus applies that title to Himself:

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” – v 11

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know me.” – v 14

The prophet Joel, writing centuries before Christ, says this of the coming Savior:

“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered…” – Joel 2:32a

After Christ’s death and resurrection, more than one New Testament author apply that promise to Jesus.

“And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
– Acts 2:21

That is a quote from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, recorded by Luke in Acts.

“for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved'” – Romans 10:13 (the apostle Paul, also applying it to Christ).

3. Titles reserved for YHWH are given to Christ

The LORD speaks through the prophet Isaiah and on multiple occasions declares who He is. These declarations are freely applied to Christ throughout the New Testament. Just a few examples below.

Example 1:

“I, even I, am the LORD and there is no savior besides Me.” – Isaiah 43:11

“…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” – Titus 2:13

Example 2:

“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the awesome God, who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.” – Deuteronomy 10:17

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are the called and chosen and faithful.” – Revelation 17:14

Examples for further reading:

Isaiah 44:6 –> Revelation 1:8 & Revelation 22:13

Zechariah 12:10 –> John 19:37

4. Jesus possesses all the incommunicable attributes of God

There is A LOT here, so I will just list the attributes and their supporting verses so you can read them on your own if you wish.

  1. Eternal
    1. Micah 5:2
    2. Revelation 22:13
  2. Omnipresent
    1. Matthew 18:20
    2. Matthew 28:20
  3. Omniscient
    1. John 16:30
    2. John 21:17
    3. Revelation 2:23
  4. Omnipotent
    1. Philippians 3:21
    2. Hebrews 1:3
  5. Immutable
    1. Colossians 2:9 (this is a mic drop verse)
    2. Hebrews 1:10-12 (quotes the Psalms)
    3. Hebrews 13:8

5. Jesus does the works of God

  1. Created all things
    John 1:3 – “And all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”Colossians 1:16-17 – “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” 

    See also John 17:1-2 and Ephesians 1:22-23

  2. Forgives sin
    See Matthew 9:2-7 and Mark 2:5-10
  3. Judges the dead
    See Acts 10:42, 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:1

6. Jesus receives worship

The Bible makes it clear that only God is to be worshiped (Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20). Therefore, to worship something other than God is idolatry. For someone other than God to accept worship is blasphemy. So when we see multiple examples in the New Testament of Jesus receiving worship, we have to conclude that either He was God, or that He was an idolater and blasphemer. Here are some citations.

Matthew 14:33 – His disciples
John 9:38 – The blind man He healed
Matthew 28:9 – The Marys
John 20:28 – Doubting Thomas
Hebrews 1:6 – The angels
John 14:1 – Jesus asserts Himself as the object of our faith

7. The Bible says Jesus is God

John 1:1-3: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Note: some religions, to dilute or undermine Jesus as the one true God, claim that 1:1 says Jesus was a God. It is imperative to note that the article “a” does not appear in the original Greek manuscripts. Per Mr. Johnson, to translate it that way is not only bad Greek but bad grammar. Furthermore, if you insert that incorrect article and try to apply it to the rest of the chapter, that reading comes unraveled as non-sensical.

See also:

John 1:18
Romans 9:5
Philippians 2:6
Hebrews 1:8 – God the Father calls Jesus “God.”
1 John 5:20

8. Jesus claimed to be God

Just as Jesus receiving worship would automatically allow us to discredit Him if He wasn’t God, if He claimed to be God and weren’t, He would be the worst of all blasphemers. We’ll see that He did, emphatically, claim to be God.

John 8:53-58 (verse 58 is the focal point)
John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.”

And finally, an unmistakable claim of Deity:

John 8:24 – “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

If you’ve read this far, dear one, thank you. If you’ve honestly engaged with the words here, you will prayerfully come to realize that Jesus is the Christ, Savior, God, the prophesied Messiah. Crucified, resurrected, ascended to the Father, and returning soon to judge the world. What you choose to do with Jesus determines your eternal destiny. I pray you won’t take the decision lightly.

If you have any questions, let me know. I will do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Advice, Bible / Christian Living, Biblical insights, Easter, Reliability of the Bible, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planners and Spontaneous People: Honest Thoughts from a Planner

Like oil and water, those that like to plan their schedules in advance and those who operate with nothing but spontaneity don’t mix well. At least under natural circumstances.

Planners, of which I am one, like to know what is coming up in the week or month ahead. While I obviously can’t speak for all planners, I like to carefully arrange my schedule around the fixed commitments I have each week.

The thought process of a planner

I have certain evenings of the week that are spoken for. Of the two or three that are taken, date night is flexible, able to be moved to a different night to accommodate things that come up, but by default, it is Friday or Saturday night.

With the remaining evenings and weekend time available, I plug things in like chores, hobbies, get-togethers with friends and family, side business projects, etc.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I need recovery time between events. Thus, I no longer pack every evening after work with an outing like I used to. I’ve also found that if I’m not careful, my calendar gets fuller than I intended in a big hurry. So I have to be selective about the things I say yes to if I want to keep from getting myself overloaded.

Something I don’t always do, but have found is most helpful, is keeping one or two unscheduled evenings per week to relax or catch up on projects with which I am inevitably falling behind. These nights have become more necessary over time, considering my regularly scheduled activities. I’ve come to rely on them, and without at least one in a week, I feel tense and overloaded, even if my packed week is all things that I enjoy.

In short, I like to know my plans for the upcoming week early so I can work in the unscheduled stuff around them. It helps keep me sane. Enter the spontaneous person …

The thought process of a spontaneous person

I can’t say for sure, but here are my guesses on how a spontaneous person operates. They take great delight in having the ability to be flexible and seize great opportunities when they come up last minute. They hesitate to plan ahead because something more appealing might come along in the time slot already committed to something else. They may be slow to sign up for anything that requires a regular time in their schedule. Something unforeseen could always come up, and put them in a bind, unable to attend to that which is more desirable. If you are a spontaneous person, I welcome your edits and additions to this.

When the two worlds collide

My husband is a naturally spontaneous person. Between marrying a planner and the realization that some outings need to be arranged in advance for optimum results, he has become more likely to plan since we’ve been married.

We’ve been blessed to have multiple dear friends who are almost 100% spontaneous. This could be highly problematic under certain circumstances. See my explanation above about preferring to plan my week in advance.

When last-minute invitations for things ranging from dinner, sporting events and even camping trips come through, it has the potential to get me ruffled. The selfish part of me thinks, “But, but … I had such and such planned! How about 24-48 hours notice? Please?”

But when I step back from my control freak episode, I am usually able to think more clearly and 1) recognize and appreciate that people I care deeply about want to spend time with me; and 2) evaluate what in my schedule can be rearranged to accommodate last-minute invitations. By the grace of God, I am learning that people are more valuable than to-dos so I can put that into practice by saying “yes” with little notice if I can when control freak me would rather say “no.”

But the unfortunate reality of being planners amidst so many impromptu types is that we do have to turn them down a fair amount when they spring a fun idea with no notice on a night that has already been spoken for.

As an aside, planning and preparing go hand-in-hand to me. If I am invited to do something for which I am not prepared, I am prone to resist. For example, if I get an invite on a Thursday night to go camping that weekend, but I know that I don’t have camping food in stock, and maybe the gear needs some TLC, plus I had already set aside Thursday night to get “X, Y, and Z” done, that is problematic.

As much as I would love to jump on any opportunity to go camping, I had already planned my Thursday night. Truthfully, the things I intended to work on are probably overdue. So when I am put in the position of doing those things or running to the store to get items for camping and frenziedly packing, putting those tasks off and claiming my weekend, I hit a crisis and am apt to say no.

Oddly enough, the same invitation given just two days earlier could make a big difference. With a couple days lead time, I can add camping items to my shopping list (for when I grocery shop Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. every week – see I’m a planner), move things around accordingly and make it happen if at all possible.

With that being said, I’ll offer a few points of advice to both types of people.

Advice for spontaneous people with planner friends

I imagine you cherish spontaneity as much as we cherish planning ahead, and that is OK.

  • If you recognize that some of your friends often have plans already when you make a same-day invite, try giving them a one, two, or multi-day notice once in a while. You might find that you’ll have a higher success rate.
  • If your friends turn you down, don’t be discouraged. Keep inviting. It’s likely that they would love to join you if they could and will take you up with the right timing.

Advice for planners with impromptu friends

I covered two main points above so I won’t repeat them here. Additionally:

  • Be flexible when you are able.
  • Honestly evaluate if your schedule is too rigid or self-serving. (E.g. you have too much going on, are unable or unwilling to make accommodations, or you are binge-watching a show and don’t want to be interrupted.)

Conclusion

God wired us all differently, and those differences add life-enriching variety. I firmly believe we are better off when we surround ourselves with people who think and behave differently than we are naturally inclined. It helps give our personalities and character more depth. So regardless of which camp you find yourself in, I hope you’ll embrace your natural tendencies while being willing to accommodate those who do things differently.

Are you a planner or a spontaneous person? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic or any ideas I didn’t think of for how to interact with the other type.

 

Posted in Advice, Blogging, For Entertainment Only, Opinion, Random, Self-Improvement, Social | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments