Why I Blog

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years. For nine or so of them, my posts were few and far in between. I often had ideas I wanted to write about, but I found it very difficult to develop the discipline and make time to sit down and write. I’ve been trying to make up for that the last year.

Some might consider it a waste of time. I don’t. I wouldn’t have kept it up all these years if I did. I thoroughly enjoy it, and in fact, would love the opportunity to do it even more.

So why do I like blogging so much? Allow me to elaborate.

I love to write

Maybe this one is obvious. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve gotten a thrill out of expressing myself with the written word. Talking about personal experiences, even writing papers in school (though less so), is a chance to practice one of my favorite sitting down hobbies. I never get tired of it, nor run out of ideas of things about which to write.

As an introvert, it is a good outlet

I’ve written about the inner workings of introverts in the past. Without re-hashing the contents of that post, I’ll just briefly say that we don’t speak up as much in groups as extroverts do. It is just the way we are wired. My relative quietness in a group in no way means I don’t have anything to share, but it more likely means that either there wasn’t a sufficient opening in the conversation, or I didn’t feel prepared to talk, or likely, by the time I thought of something to say on the topic, the group was already talking about something else.

Thus, when I write, I have all the time I need to lay out my thoughts in an orderly fashion and edit as needed. The keyboard doesn’t mind long, awkward pauses. Writing is a way for introverts like me to express myself.

Additionally, I find that often my own thoughts on a subject aren’t fully known to me until I take the time to write about them. Somehow, taking some quiet time to tap out some words on a keyboard or write in a journal gets my mind working in a way it wouldn’t otherwise. Fragmented thoughts begin to flow together, and a coherent idea often begins to develop. Works well for personal therapy, professional and spiritual ideas and more.

I like to share ideas

I’m no spring chicken anymore, as much as it stings to admit. But with the miles and years I’ve experienced, I’ve found that I have grown in knowledge and, by the grace of God, in wisdom (James 1:5). With a head and heart full of insight from lessons learned and insights gleaned, I find that I am eager to share some of those things with those that care to listen. Turns out that is not many people, but hey, the least I can do is put them out there and see what sticks.

I don’t want to explode

I mentioned above that I often don’t express my ideas when talking to others. Nevertheless, they keep stacking up in my mind. Like a balloon can only take so much air before it reaches its limits and pops, I find that I need to get my thoughts down “on paper” before something explodes inside me.

Wrap up

That is a brief look at the reasons why I blog and believe I will as long as I am able. I hope that you, the reader, have identified something you are passionate about; something you do for the sheer joy of it. And so that you also don’t explode.

What is your passion? I’d love to hear! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. Blessings and thanks for reading!

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Posted in Blogging, Opinion, priorities | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mythbusters: The Self-Made Man (or Woman) – Examining the Claim & A More Humble Perspective

It is sometimes said of or by successful people that they are a “self-made man” (Or woman.) This, to me, seems to indicate that those who report them as such are of the belief that they achieved their mountaintop status all by themselves. That they alone are responsible for their outstanding accomplishments.

I personally think that is a load of hooey.

Enough so, that I deemed it worthy of the second installment of this blog’s “Mythbusters” series. The first post in the series was on the false belief that it is possible to get everything done.

Now I’ll grant that there is a school of thought, found none other than on selfmademan.com, which determines that one becomes self-made:

“the moment you decide to shape your world, rather than be shaped by it.

It is a spark… A decision… An internal will that can never be given by another, and that can never be purchased or borrowed.

In that moment, you become the sole architect and artist of your life – a Self Made Man or woman, where the rest of the world serves as the hammer and chisel you wield in order to shape it to your desire.”

That makes sense, and I am even inclined to agree with it.

What I take issue with is the mentality that one can get to where they are with no help at all. That one can forge their destiny out of sheer determination and brilliance.

My belief is that is arrogant, and fails to acknowledge formative influences in one’s own life.  The quote above describes the behavior of someone who has chosen to take control of their life. But let us give credit where credit is due.

Everyone’s story begins in a fashion that is beyond their control: where and to whom they are born, and how they are raised. It isn’t until one’s brain is developed and they begin making deliberate, independent choices, that the trajectory of their life gains some autonomy.

Some examples:

The person born in poverty to poorly educated parents. They may stay in the cycle into which they were born. Or perhaps they will encounter an outside influence that ultimately leads them to complete a higher level of education, go on to have a successful career, or even start a wildly successful company and end up in the “1%” club.

An individual with parents who have no interest in a healthy lifestyle, who raise him or her on processed and fast food, loads of sugary garbage, and provide no model for exercising. That person may follow the example they are given, or they may realize their inherited lifestyle is leading to trouble, and end up being a health-food junkie marathoner.

Or how about a rank-and-file worker bee who marches through the rat race for years, enduring terrible bosses, low pay, and a dearth of growth opportunities. Discouraged, they begin taking classes to beef up their education, and eventually switch careers to a job about which they are passionate.

Are all these folks “self-made?” I would argue, no. Not entirely.

The first person may have had an inspiring teacher who their potential, and encouraged them to break the cycle of poverty. Or a sibling who reminded them that there are other options, and it wasn’t necessary to maintain the status quo. Or a friend who had grand ambitions, which opened their eyes to other possibilities.

Perhaps the second person witnessed a parent struggle with health problems caused by poor lifestyle choices. Researching how to treat and prevent such issues lead to the discovery of the vast world of resources out there to help one get and stay healthy. They team up with a friend and join a gym, where they meet others who pursue health, and their life takes a different turn.

The third person may have endured poor or cruel management, being overworked and underpaid, all the while carefully taking notes about “what not to do.” They see in other leaders qualities they admire and seek counsel from them and other co-workers about how to best navigate the situation in which they find themselves. In their next position, they take what they have learned and use it to forge a more rewarding environment for themselves.

The point

The bottom line and the point I am attempting to make is that we all have people in our lives who, for positive or negative, help shape who we are and who we become. We are ultimately responsible for who we become, but the end result was not created in a vacuum. It was forged by the input we received from others every day of our lives.

My mental exercise

I’ve had this topic on my “blog ideas” list for quite some time, but a recent exercise of mental gratitude for specific people in my life is what pushed it to the top, and with greater focus.

Just today I was thinking about a particular individual who started out as a respected supervisor, who eventually became a friend with whom I have stayed in contact even years after we last worked together. We’ve since often commiserated, worked out together, shared the struggles of our various goals and dreams, and helped each other along the way. At least I know she has helped me. She is one of the dozens of examples of people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, whose skills and outlook on life have impacted and shaped my perceptions and abilities.

As I began to think about a handful of other such influential people in my life, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude. I give the credit to God and His kindness and providence in guiding my life to allow me to cross paths with so many fabulous people. Not to mention giving me an outstanding family in which to grow up.

When I reflect on where I am today, I am keenly aware that who I am has been shaped in a big way by the influence of others. Some good, some bad. But all have contributed to my current outlook on life.

Conclusion

That is why I scoff at the phrase “self-made man” and find it arrogant when someone believes they got where they are all by themselves. As I said earlier, I prefer to give credit where it is due and embrace the gratitude for the people and battle scars that have contributed to my success.

What are your thoughts on the “self-made man?” Do you agree or disagree? I am guessing you could name at least one person who has made an enormous impact in your life.

Posted in Mythbusters, Opinion, Professional Development | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Things I Constantly Have To Remind Myself About Productivity (Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist)

As a recovering perfectionist*, I tend to be too hard on myself when I think I haven’t gotten enough done on a particular day. Can anyone else relate?  Especially on a day off. I have grand visions of checking things off a long and aggressive to-do list.

At the end of the day, my husband will often ask, “How did things go today?” Almost without fail, I say some variation of, “Well, it was OK, but I didn’t get as much done as I wanted.” This happens so regularly, it almost makes me crazy.

My first reaction to such a realization is to feel bad for myself like I failed. This is my perfectionist nature, which can never be satisfied. Fortunately, I’m slowly coming to realize the trap that my perfectionism continually sets for me. I outlined a few things I learned in a previous post about productivity. Building on that, here are a couple things that I often need to remind myself.

Communication counts as productivity

One of my trademark moves is forgetting to account for the time it takes to communicate, and the necessity of it for getting things done. Not many of us accomplish things entirely in a vacuum; we must work with others in one way or another.

A big mistake I often make is limiting my sense of accomplishment to only tasks that appear on my list. When I don’t count human interaction item(s), I am setting myself up for disappointment in the amount I have gotten done, when in fact, I have done much more than I think.

For a work example, let’s say I walk into the office at 9 a.m. From there, I greet my co-workers, check my email, and write my to-do list for the day. Then a co-worker stops by my desk, and we chat for 10-15 minutes about an upcoming project. Afterward, I proceed to reply to time-sensitive emails from clients and employees, which gets interrupted multiple times due to incoming phone calls, and a text from a co-worker which requires a thoughtful response. In the midst of all that, I get an urgent, drop-everything-and-do-it-now email from the boss. To respond to it, I need to do some research, check with employees on various items, and take the time to write a well thought-out, detailed reply.

Next thing I know, it is pushing 11 a.m., and I haven’t gotten a single thing on my list done. Have I been utterly unproductive? No, quite the opposite. I’ve been humming with productivity and collaborating with others to help them get things done as well. My problem, at least partially, is failing to acknowledge the task of communication as a thing achieved. If I would re-frame my thinking, I would realize that I have in fact gotten quite a bit done. Just different things than I planned.

Caveat: I know there are 100s of articles and books out there from high acheivers on how to set up your day for productivity. That is not the focus of this post.

Make room for the unexpected

Just like that surprise email from the boss that can change the entire trajectory of the day, there are unlimited amounts of other surprises that crop up to veer me from the path I planned for myself. An older relative needs to be taken to the doctor. Traffic is worse than normal, and it takes an extra hour to get home. I run into an old friend at the store, and end up chatting for a long time in the parking lot. Etc, etc., etc.

Everything takes longer than I think it will. Everything.

Not much explanation needed here, other than expanding on the obvious. Take a simple task, estimate honestly how long it would take to do it while thinking vigorously, without interruptions. Then add 50% or more. That is how long it may actually take with all factors.  The one who knows to build in a cushion for the unknown when estimating a time budget is wise indeed. Now multiply that process for every project. It suddenly becomes clearer why I don’t get done as much as I think I will.

Conclusion (*)

I started this post with a * next to recovering perfectionist. That is to denote that I have learned that perfectionism, left unchecked, leads to perpetual dissatisfaction with one’s performance. There is always 1-12 more things that should have been done, and of the 78 things that were done, they weren’t done well enough. This type of thinking is a joy-stealer.

I am not advocating that we all loosen our standards of hard work, or pat ourselves on the back after a lazy day. What I am saying is that, if you struggle as I do with often feeling like an under-achiever, despite working hard constantly, it may be time to take a closer look at some of these items. Realize that communication is work, and worthy to be acknowledged as such. Acknowledge that unplanned items will pop up, and that is OK. Realize that everything might take longer than you think, and plan for it.

Once you’ve done all these things, adjust your expectations accordingly and give yourself grace when you don’t get as much done as you thought you would. Tomorrow is another day.

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

Running, the Christian Walk

The analogy the New Testament uses comparing running to the Christian walk has become more poignant to me recently as I have reignited my love for running in the last year or so. As I wrote about in my most recent post, I am all fired up about running these days.

By the grace of God alone, I am also all fired up about using all I have for His glory. Thus, the fondness for the analogies. First, let’s look at a few of them.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” – Hebrews 12:1

“Do you know know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win … Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24,26

Considering the comparisons drawn, here are a few takeaways.

Both take discipline

When starting out running, or living the Christian life as a new convert to Christ, it can seem overwhelming. How do I become a proficient runner? How do I grow in my relationship with God through Christ?

The answer boils largely down to discipline. Someone who is serious about either pursuit will get after it with regularity, perhaps even every day. Just as the runner pounds the pavement each day, the Christian prays and pours over the Scriptures daily to get to know the God of the Bible, who has revealed Himself to us in its pages. What seems as a great gap in physical ability or knowledge is slowly, systematically chiseled away by persistence and discipline.

Endurance is built over time

Just as the new runner will probably not be able to run a 10k race the first week, the new Christian will by no means immediately have the answers to all their questions, or have a solid grasp of the coherent story of human redemption woven throughout the pages of the Bible. These things take time. An inordinate amount of time. A lifetime, in fact.

There is always another fitness goal to reach. There is always another question to answer, another passage to scour, another sin to forsake.

As the runner and the Christian continue to plod away toward their respective missions, things begin to change for the better. What once was maybe only two minutes of running before stopping to walk becomes three, then five, then 10, then 45. What once was a mystery about the ways of God becomes a fascination, then a foundation of knowledge as truth after truth is revealed in Scripture and through prayer and fellowship with other Christians. The progress each one makes with consistency is truly remarkable. Which brings me to my next point. 🙂

Progress is established with endurance

In the trenches, sometimes progress goes unnoticed. We want to give up because we don’t see the results of our faithful plodding. Then, miraculously, one day we find that we’ve reached our first fitness goal or that we are getting awfully close, and we think about how far we’ve come.

One day, we may be having a conversation with a friend and a passage of Scripture pops into mind with which we can encourage our friend. Or we find ourselves reacting to a frustrating situation in a way that is far different than how we used to; in a way that shows God’s handiwork in our life.

It is those situations that show us that we do not labor in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Our discipline creates endurance, our endurance produces progress.

Conclusion & Encouragement

If you find yourself in either or both of these challenges, be encouraged. You’re getting better all the time, whether or not you realize it.

To the runner, I recommend you keep a log of all your workouts: distance, time, how you felt, etc. Seeing your stats over time gives a realistic and encouraging look at how far you’ve come, especially on those days when you are questioning your progress.

To the Christian, similar advice applies. Keep a journal of your spiritual progress. When you learn something new in your time with God, write it down. When you’re struggling with a certain sin, write it down. (Also, confess it to God and ask for His help in overcoming it, of course.) When a truth from God hits you in a fresh way, write it down. This journal, just like the runner’s log, will provide immense encouragement as you look back on all the ways God has been working in your life.

Don’t give up. Keep running the race. Keep plodding along. With an eye on the great things already accomplished, know that it just keeps getting better.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:14

Posted in Advice, Bible / Christian Living, Health, Opinion, Running, Self-Improvement | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On (Almost) Reaching a Long-Held Running Goal

I’m the type of person that prefers tidy endings. I like it when a story wraps up neatly at the end. I use that same preference quite often in the stories I choose to tell: I don’t like to share them until they have a neat little bow wrapped around them, with all the details in place.

This post, then, is a departure from the norm for me. It’s about a story that is still in process.

To bring you up to the current point as briefly as possible, I’ve been running off and on since high school. I started because I figured it was the quickest way to shed a few pounds, and I was right. Once I started, I realized I enjoyed the challenge of it, and I adored the hard-to-quantify feeling of “being in shape.” So I kept at it. (The need to run increased dramatically as I found the “freshman 15” in college, that just didn’t want to go away.)

Fast forward many years, and multiple seasons of running regularly, then not, then back at it, etc. The ebb and flow of my fitness seemed to naturally coincide with not only the busyness of life but how that busyness managed to impact the priority I placed on exercise.

After a couple years of highly inconsistent exercise, I decided it was time to step it back up at the beginning of 2017. I set my sights on the lofty goal of a running pace I had achieved after months of practice in my late 20s when my pant size was smaller and lung capacity larger.

Fast forward to now

Since that time, I’ve been reasonably faithful in pounding the pavement multiple times per week, save for exceptions like being out of town, and the occasional day (or week) when I let the laziness or doubt and fear in my head keep me on the sidelines.

Just this morning, I completed an eight-week interval training program (it only took me 16 weeks! ;)) that excruciatingly takes the user through guided running and sprinting workouts. I’ve used it in the past to shave some time off my pace and opted to employ it again to attempt to blast through the pace plateau in which I had found myself. What follows is the motivation to write this post.

Just a few weeks ago, I did a three-mile run where I came within 14 seconds of achieving the overall pace goal I’ve been working towards for the last year and a half! I was unbelievably amped! Then the next run I did, despite my best efforts, I logged times like I was doing at the beginning of the year. Buzzkill.

Even though I realize after months of logging my times that they fluctuate wildly, I still allowed myself to be discouraged by an average run on the heels of a record run. The head games took over, and I didn’t run for almost two weeks. (Granted, I was doing other exercises, but I was avoiding running because I was spooked.)

Today, I finished the last run in the interval program and was reminded afresh that I need to keep pounding the pavement with gusto if I want to achieve my goal. It is truly remarkable how going for even one run can help push through the emotions that fight to keep me from getting after it.

Conclusion

I’ve been working towards this comeback story long enough to know that the moments of record-breaking victory are infrequent, and they come hard-earned on the back of countless average days, where I choose to show up and do the work that lays the foundation. The mountaintop is breathtaking on its own merits but made even more so by the dramatic contrast of the valley below, and the grueling climb it takes to get there.

If like me, you’re in the middle of hustling for a goal (fitness or otherwise), I hope you’ll be encouraged by this. Don’t let the average days be the end of the story. Push through the sweaty, unremarkable portions of the journey and get ready to celebrate the sweet view from the top. Each step gets you closer. I’ll keep taking steps if you will.

Posted in Advice, Opinion, priorities, Running | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Happy 4th of July, I Guess (A Brief Account of My Waning Patriotism)

A month before Independence Day, store shelves, as usual, began to don red, white and blue USA flag-printed everything: kitchenware for BBQs, patriotic shirts, garden flags, you name it. Seeing these types of items used to get me amped for the upcoming Fourth of July and all its festivities.

I hesitate to report that I felt an indifference this year when I saw all those items rolled out. My Independence Day attitude has become steadily less enthusiastic as the years have marched on, which I noted in a similar post four years ago.

It is not that I don’t love my country. I do. It’s not that I am ungrateful for the blessing of living here. I very much appreciate it. It’s just that … the state of America is much different now than it was in the height of my fevered patriotism of yesteryear. As the United States continually transforms into a nation I recognize less and less, it becomes more and more difficult to get excited about celebrating it.

Debbie Downer posts aren’t typically my thing, but I wanted to get this off my chest, in the event anyone out there can relate.

I won’t go into detail about the many things I find disheartening about the direction our country is headed. That would be too long, contentious and depressing. And I doubt anyone would read it.

To briefly summarize, the theme “God Bless America,” in all its forms (song(s), saying, bumper sticker, etc.) rings painfully hollow. It seems disingenuous at best, and scandalous at worst, to proclaim “God Bless America!” when America has all but abandoned God. It seems more like we are living in the reality of Romans chapter one than the rosy sentimentality of a Lee Greenwood song (which I used to listen to every July 4th and get teary-eyed, I’ll sheepishly admit).

So, What To Do?

Never one to stay in a negative mindset, I’ll end on a more upbeat note. The American Experiment was in its time a radical, unique one that has created unforeseen flourishing, freedom, and prosperity for millions of people over the years. I am profoundly pleased to have been born and raised here and have lived in freedom my whole life.

Even as I see this great nation head towards the types of government that have been tried and failed countless times elsewhere, I still count myself fortunate to have been alive to witness and enjoy all that freedom holds.

I’m eternally grateful for an everlasting hope that transcends government, politics and all the triumphs and troubles of this life.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Posted in Holidays, Opinion, Political Musings | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Facebook Messenger’s Read Receipt Feature

If you use Facebook Messenger, you’re likely familiar with the “handy” little feature that shows the sender of a message when the recipient has read it.

On a web browser, it just says, “Read Thursday 1:23pm,” etc. On Facebook Messenger mobile, it shows the recipient’s profile picture when they have read it. My conclusion about this feature is …

It is creepy.

I don’t think I am alone in that sentiment.

This feature has at least two ways to make people feel anxious or uncomfortable.

First, if you send someone a message, you see they read it, then they don’t respond immediately, or even soon. If you’re feeling or are naturally insecure, this feature may amp up that sensation. “What the hey! How come they haven’t written back yet?!”

On a side note, I find that to be one of the major cons of the digital & social media age – a new unwritten expectation of being available constantly.

Second, the other side of the equation is more of a burden in my opinion. I DON’T THINK IT’S ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS TO KNOW WHEN I READ YOUR MESSAGE. For one, it breeds the insecurity I mentioned above. I always thought read receipts on regular email were invasive, too. Perhaps that is why they were never widely adopted.

Why I Could Do Without Them

I resist the notion of read receipts because I find them to be an invasion of privacy, as well as an invitation for the message sending party to expect an instant response. Perhaps that is a faulty perception on my part, but that is how it seems.

Many of us lead busy lives and try to fit social media in amongst the cracks and transition periods in our schedules. (As an aside, it is easy to spend way too much time on social media without meaning to, as I wrote about earlier.)

Let’s say I read your message in the downtime right before an appointment. You see that, but then the remainder of my waking hours that day are already accounted for, and I don’t plan to get back on social media.

Or, let’s say your message includes a solicitation or a question that I need to think about, research, or check with other people, who also have busy schedules, before getting back to you. I may not have time to do that research in the next 24 hours, but I know you know that I’ve seen your message. Ah, the dilemma.

My desire to be a reliable friend, family member, and colleague compels me to respond to messages as soon as I can — sometimes even pushing aside things I had planned to take the time to reply — and sometimes because I feel an unspoken pressure to do so.

Wrap Up

That captures the heart of why I so dislike read receipts. I’d prefer to reply to messages with a thorough, thought out response, on my terms and timeline. Not just because someone sees that I’ve read it and expects an instant response.

All that to say, I wish there was a way to turn off read receipts on Facebook Messenger (particularly on mobile). In looking into this, I did see some helpful articles on the topic; one that contains some workarounds, and another that has an idea for how to turn it off on a regular web browser.

Anyone else out there think read receipts are creepy? Comments always welcome.

 

Posted in Opinion, Social | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Why I Love the Bible (and Keep Loving it More All the Time)

As a Christian who is committed to growing in my relationship with God through Christ, I’ve been reading the Bible for many years. While I haven’t always been as consistent as I would prefer, I always come back to it after an absence, whether a day or a few months.

In an earlier post about sanctification, I expressed my amazement about how God works in our lives as we follow Him. One such way is giving us a greater love for Him and His word, the Holy Bible. I liken it to drinking water. If you haven’t been drinking enough water, you may not even know that you’re dehydrated. But once you start guzzling, it is remarkable how quickly your insides thank you, and then how a natural thirst is born. This thirst can only be satisfied by drinking more water.

Such is reading the Bible to a Christian, is what I have found. I’ve gone for weeks at a time in the past without cracking open the word. Other times I have hurredly rushed through a few passages, out of a sense of obligation, to “get it done.” I had only a vague sense of how thirsty I was. 

A Love That Has Unfolded Over Time

I am so grateful to report that, through that process of sanctification I mentioned above, God has graciously prompted me to become more and more faithful in reading His word every day. As I have done so, its treasures have become more and more evident, and my thirst has become stronger.

Matthew 13:44 comes to mind:

” The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Or the following parable in vs. 45-46:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Taking the term “kingdom of heaven” to encompass all that God has for His children both in the present life and the one to come, it makes perfect sense that becoming a student of His words given to us in the Bible fit naturally in the seeking of the kingdom as described.

If I were to attempt to fully explain how God’s word has shaped me, and how it continues to get better all the time, this post would be unbearably long. And I might still be sitting at my keyboard as a skeleton, unable to finish before my time on earth is up. So in the interest of relative brevity, here are:

Three Points About Why the Bible Rocks My World

  1. As the living and active word (Hebrews 4:12), what I learn is always dynamic.
    No matter how many times I read a passage, it is fresh and new when I read it again. Because of its active quality, it speaks its wisdom consistently regardless of the frame of mind I’m in, or my circumstances. I may glean certain facts and applications while reading, then when I return to that same section much later, what I learn may be entirely different.
  2. There is more to it than I’ll ever be able to know in full in this life.
    The more I read it, the more I realize I don’t know. The layers are unending, it seems. There is so much interconnection, so many fulfilled and yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies, I can think of no better term for it than mind-blowing. With each layer I peel back, it gives me greater anticipation of digging to find the next layer.
  3. It is self-authenticating.
    It not only claims to be divine but shows itself to be divine by the way it works in our lives, hence, this post. For a quick explanation on self-authenticating Scripture, check out this three-minute video.

In conclusion, of late I’ve found myself growing more and more delighted by God and His word, by His grace. This delight, while it has been present off-and-on over the years, has become more intense and more intentional as I have been faithful to follow him (also by His grace). If you struggle with reading God’s word, be encouraged. He will show up in its pages as you read through them.

Comments or questions? Bring them on!

 

Posted in priorities, Reliability of the Bible, Theology | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts from Ligonier Ministries’ Defending the Faith Conference

Over the weekend, my husband Mike and I were privileged to attend Ligonier Ministries‘ west coast “Defending the Faith” apologetics conference in Redmond, WA. It was the first conference of that type we had ever attended. Mike often listens to audio from Christian conferences after they occur; a habit I have picked up as well.

I thought it appropriate to attempt to put down a few thoughts about what I learned. I often find that writing is how I process things. Without taking the time to write, it is just a series of jumbled information that I cannot fully articulate.

Granted, I should admit upfront that culling two packed full days of lectures into one brief blog post is not possible. I have eight full pages of notes. Even the most dedicated reader probably wouldn’t want to power through the unabridged version of my notes. So I will attempt to make a few brief points.

To start, I will cite the most common biblical call to apologetics (defending our faith), found in 1 Peter 3:15:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

The command for Christ-followers is stated plainly. If you didn’t read the verse above, do yourself a favor and read it. If you did read it, read it again.

“Sanctify” is the only potentially unclear word in that verse. Put differently, sanctify could mean, set apart, honor, or revere. Read one of those words into it if that helps.

As Christians, we are expected to live out this verse just like the rest of the commands in Scripture that apply to the new covenant. So as a means of breaking this down as the heart of apologetics, I’ll use the standard analytical tool of identifying the five Ws. Or in this case, four Ws and one H. When, who, what, how, and why.

The Case for Apologetics

When: At what time should we defend the faith? Always. Not just when you are fresh from a retreat or time in the word when your faith is resilient and strong. Not just when you feel like it. Always.

Ouch. I’m guilty of failing the always test. What does it take to always be ready? For one, it takes knowing what you believe. For another, it means studying the word, day in and day out, being “diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Who: To whom should we defend the faith? Everyone. “Everyone who asks you to give an account…” That means people who ask sincerely, as well as people that ask with sneering, sarcasm, and disbelief. Even those who are in a position to do us harm (loss of job, friends, etc.) if they don’t like our answer.

What: Hope. The idea of the gospel as hope is simple, yet profoundly powerful. As those who have escaped the wrath of God through the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), our hope is unquenchable. We should be able to succinctly, confidently explain it to others who are curious.

How: With gentleness and respect. Most of us may be able to point to a time or two when we’ve seen the gospel shared with harshness or disrespect. Maybe we’ve even been guilty of being the ones doing the verbal (or written, or online) bludgeoning. Thankfully, the Lord is merciful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) when we fail and misrepresent Him. But we need to do better. That is where the constant reading of the word comes in and helps shape our character, as we learn more about God through His word.

Why: This is a big one. Why does all this matter? Well, as we covered above, God commands it. He commands it because the gospel itself is at stake.

Just as Jesus’ disciples, after being eyewitnesses of His resurrection, received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and went on to spread the hope of the gospel throughout the known world, we too, as benefactors of His amazing grace, and the continuance of God’s redemptive work in the world, are obligated to share the hope we have that has so transformed our lives.

Conclusion

Obviously, there is much more that could be and had been said about the topic of defending the faith. I only summarized one session of many from the conference here.  This lays a groundwork for the method and motive of the wonderful work which God has entrusted us through Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer that this will encourage you to examine where you stand and honestly evaluate if you are being faithful to honor God in this way. I pray the Lord would increase my opportunities and yours, to share of the glorious hope we have in Him.

Thank you for reading! I always welcome comments and questions.

 

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Facebook Addiction: A Pushback Experiment

I will be the first to admit that I spend too much time on Facebook. It sucks me in, and I find myself spending more time browsing it than I ever intended. Often many times throughout the day. I haven’t accessed any stats to see how much time I spend on the beloved social media site, but I suspect I would be mortified if I saw them.

This problem has been on my mind for quite some time, but I didn’t know what to do about it. If you’ve found yourself dealing with a similar struggle, you’re far from alone. Read on for some things I tried, with varying success, and a few conclusions I came to on the issue.

A couple caveats:

I justify some of my social media consumption time in the fact that a decent percentage (estimated 40%) of my time is spent reading articles that I clicked through from sources & people I follow.

It has been cited that Facebook actively engineers their site to increase time users spend there. Though that is a common tactic for any site, or any media outlet for that matter, it is something to keep in mind. They prey on our often unconscious willingness to expand our browsing time far beyond what is necessary or useful.

A few things I tried that didn’t work out:

* I looked into apps that track social media usage but didn’t find anything satisfactory that I was willing to pay for.

* I tried setting a timer for myself at which point I would peel myself away, but that is only as good as my self-discipline at that moment.

The experiment that helped the most

I found that I was using the Facebook app on my phone for 80-90% of my browsing. As I do increasingly more day-to-day activities on mobile apps, I find many days that go by when I don’t even turn on my personal laptop in the evening after work.

The result is that, with my phone on or near my person 95% of my waking hours, I was “jumping on Facebook real quick” dozens of times per day. The “real quick” part is where things got murky.

I was frustrated at how much time I perceived being wasted, so I took a drastic step: I deleted the app from my phone. Without access to the time drain at my fingertips around the clock, I was able to log in just on my laptop, and I only did so for brief periods in the evening.

Helping matters was the fact that shortly after I deleted the app, we went on a mini-vacation to the coast with my in-laws, where the focus is on family time anyway, and the temptation to mindlessly browse diminished.

Full disclosure: this was a temporary experiment that I have since concluded. What happened, and what I learned, follows.

Here was a big surprise: I didn’t miss Facebook as much as I anticipated I would.

I can’t explain the psychology behind it, but I know that my brain had somehow trained me to constantly flip open various social media apps throughout the day; during lulls between activities, when I was taking a break at work, before I got in the shower, and so on… Being aware of my nervous tendency to check Facebook, I was surprised that when it was no longer an option, it didn’t bother me … much.

Discarding my most used app made me even more painfully aware how often I had been using it. At those times when I would typically open it, I suddenly had unscheduled time with which I could do other things. During that time, I started:

* taking a few moments to pause and reflect on all manner of things
* saying spontaneous prayers
* getting a jump on chores — you’d be surprised what you can get done in 5-10 focused minutes!

Those things alone provided a noticeable increase in peace and order in my life, which proved more valuable than learning who had checked in at which restaurant during that time. (Not knocking restaurant check-ins. I do it too; it’s just a handy punching bag as an example. :))

I was thrilled with this new found free time, and began to feel a little self-righteous about it (just being honest). I even discovered that when I did log in for a short while in the evenings, it didn’t seem that I had missed out on much over my constant checking. That may also be a tad self-righteous.

The end result

In giving it more thought, and talking it over with my husband, I chose to re-evaluate my priorities and reasons for checking Facebook in the first place. Here is what I concluded:

* It does have a tendency to take up too much time, especially if I am not mindful
* A good portion of what I see on there is of questionable value – HOWEVER:
* I take pleasure in staying in touch with a great many people that I don’t get a chance to talk to or see regularly
* Keeping up with the happenings of those I care about is of inherent value (I know it means a lot to me when someone I haven’t seen for a while mentions something in conversation that I posted on Facebook)
* I desire to not only be a present, observant friend but to also provide content that may be of interest or value to others

The final analysis is that even considering its drawbacks, it is worthwhile to be on and engaging with what people post on Facebook. My time without the app on my phone was about two weeks. I enjoyed the found time, but most of all, I enjoyed pushing back on my “addiction,” and realizing that I had the power to overcome it.

I have since reinstalled the app, but going cold turkey helped me to moderate my idle time spent browsing. I’m not suggesting I’ll never get sucked back in, but so far I am exercising a bit more self-control and trying to be more purposeful about how long I spend, and how I engage with others while using it.

 

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