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!

 

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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

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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.

 

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The Strange Dynamic of Facebook Friendships

What a complicated world in which we live. Those of us who remember life before social media, even before the web, can think back to a time when life was simpler. Not painless, but more straightforward.

In developed society today, with the advent of social media, it seems to me that navigating the world is a lot more complicated. The flip side of that is there are a myriad more opportunities for fame and fortune, but they come with a price.

I’ve thought a lot over the years about the strange situation in which we find ourselves in a world where Facebook commands so much of our social lives. In a short amount of time, it’s gone from a platform for college students to communicate, to a tech giant that has minimized or replaced our phone books, social email and conversations, and revolutionized the way we do business and life. It is pretty astounding.

Along the way, how we connect with others has been overhauled by Facebook as well. It has created an artificial context for relationships.

It is fascinating to think about how it has changed … just about everything. For this post, I want to focus on Facebook “friendship,” if you can call it that.

Real life friends vs. Facebook friends

Real life friends are the people besides your family that are closest to you. The folks you do life with: go to each other’s homes, exchange meals, go see movies, share in hobbies, talk about life, problems with. That is typically a pretty small group of people. For me, the friends I see regularly is fewer than 20. When you start to add in acquaintances and old friends, the list gets larger.

On Facebook, the list gets expanded dramatically. Suddenly everyone you’ve ever met, and everyone you just met, are eligible to become “friends” with you on Facebook. Depending on your philosophy for who you add, the list can get large and outlandish in a big hurry.

  • Friends of friends you met once or twice
  • People you meet at a party
  • People you go out on two dates with
  • Friends of your parents
  • Friends of your siblings
  • Distant relatives
  • Co-workers and other work contacts (sometimes even people you’ve never met)
  • People from schools you attended (friends, acquaintances, teachers, staff)
  • People who friend request strangers for reasons that no one can figure out
  • Those who you quickly find out are only on Facebook to spam you with the products they are selling

When you compare your in-person friends to the people you are connected to on Facebook, it can sometimes seem laughable. Many of these people you have nothing in common with, and yet somehow, they have become part of your digital community.

For those of us who are children of the 1980s, it would have been chuckle-worthy in our youth to think that we’d be sharing our vacation photos with our college science professor, posting about our engagement or anniversary so that our exes could see it, or telling 500 people what we are eating for lunch. I’m not knocking any of that, just pointing out how absurd that would have seemed to us, even at the beginning of this millennium.

Implications of anti-social media

It’s still a strange case study to me that you can be “friends” with someone on Facebook with no effort at all, just the click of a “request friend” button. Similarly, we can un-friend someone effortlessly, again just by clicking a button. In real life, making or losing friends bears no resemblance to that. We have to work hard to get to know someone and earn their friendship. If they offend us, it is much less sanitized to remove them than clicking them out of our lives. It can get messy.

But it’s messy in FB land too, sometimes. I don’t suppose I’m the only one who’s gone to message someone or see what they’re up to, only to realize I’ve been tossed to the digital curb, without so much as a “you can keep your opinions to yourself” parting shot. Depending on who it is, it can range anywhere from deeply hurtful to just a chin-scratch and move on.

For my part, I’ve unceremoniously unfriended dozens of people over the years also. My reasons vary from posting too much; posting too much that I hated; being a friend for a season that was ending; someone(s) I don’t enjoy in real life, so why be mandated to review their thoughts on life, and I’m sure plenty of other reasons.

I’ve modified my SOP over the years; I don’t unfriend people anymore. This is due in part to the glorious “unfollow” button, where you can remain friends without seeing their posts. So utterly passive-aggressive, yet so helpful. Judge me if you want.

Yet as I think on my various reasons I used to unfriend people without the courtesy of goodbye, I can’t help but think of some people who’ve ditched me that have hurt my feelings – especially those who I thought I was good friends with.

Thus we have the awkward anti-social element of Facebook. It’s even worse than breaking up with someone via text. You don’t even have to notify them. One day, you just see a former pal on the “suggested friends” list and realize, “HEYYY! I see what you did there. What did I do??”

Facebook friendships are easy come, easy go. I’ve come to conclude that, in its relationally primitive way, that is what it comes down to. My ditched “friends” never got an explanation from me, nor did I get one from my rejectors. It all comes out even in the end I suppose.

The point

My scattered, rambling point is mainly to highlight the sometimes ridiculous and artificial nature of Facebook friendships that have now become the norm.

There are myriad benefits to being connected to so many people. I personally enjoy keeping up with folks from all stages of life that I would probably never see otherwise. The drawbacks are real and awkward, however. I’m just here to point some of them out and chuckle about them when possible.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Who is the most random person you have on your Facebook friend list?

 

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No, Christianity Isn’t at Odds with “Science & Facts”

There is a growing liberal sentiment in the world today that having a Biblical worldview means compromising on or even disbelieving science. Phrases like “science denier” or “Christianity and science are incompatible” get thrown around a lot.

As Christians, we often get taken aback or find ourselves on the defensive when confronted with attacks such as these. In this post, I hope to provide some reasoning that not only levels the playing field a bit but makes those who doubt the Bible think about what they believe and why.

The primary issue of discussion here will be the subject of origins – creation vs. evolution.

First, let’s define science. Here are two similar definitions:

“the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
– google.com

“systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” – dictionary.com

Science, at its core, involves things that can be observed and repeated through experimentation. Many scholars have noted that the origins of the universe are thus outside the realms of science. Regardless of whether you believe: evolution, creation, or something else, it is clear that no one was around to observe the universe coming into being.

What we have left are theories. The theory of evolution, the big bang theory, and the theory of creation (though it pains me to call it that; I am trying to be fair in my treatment of the subject).

When there are competing theories, and no way to prove any of them, any viewpoint that is taken necessarily involves faith. Just as the Bible-believing Christian holds to the Genesis account of how the universe and all within it came to be, so the irreligious person places their faith in Charles Darwin and secular work attempting to explain origins.

Presuppositions

It is helpful to start by identifying the presuppositions, or assumptions, both perspectives bring to the table. The secular person often presupposes that God is not involved in origins at all. It may be fair to say they believe there is no God, and the universe came into existence through the Big Bang some billions of years ago, and things slowly evolved into the state they are now. Everything we see began as cosmic ooze, and over billions of years, turned into life, a well-ordered universe, complex beings, relationships and the like.

Creationists, on the other hand, see the astounding complexity of the universe and humanity and find the only reasonable explanation that there is an all-powerful Creator who orchestrated all of it.

Authority

Beyond presuppositions, the issue of authority I believe plays a role in which theory someone subscribes to. The Christian submits himself to the power of the Creator God as described in the Bible. When Genesis chapter one and two speaks plainly about how God brought the universe and people into being, we believe it.

The secularist, on the other hand, finds it distasteful or even laughable to believe that an all-powerful Being exists and created everything we see. They clamor to find other explanations, unwilling to concede the idea that the Biblical account is correct. As a Bible-believing Christian, there is a simple explanation for why someone would come to that conclusion. It is found in the book of Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:18-21

In that passage, we see that failure to acknowledge God as the Creator is a matter of “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” I’ll admit that God, in His kindness, has granted me faith to believe His word (Ephesians 2:8). I can also see how a secular-minded person could push back with all their might against such an idea. Why? Because to admit the possibility of an all-powerful Creator is a scary proposition. If God exists, then having to answer to Him becomes something to grapple with, and that prospect is frightening.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” – Hebrews 10:31

Even those who know and love God can at times be overwhelmed at the thought of standing before Him one day. We have the comfort of the whole of Scripture to ease our fears, however (1 John 4:18). It is difficult for me to imagine how terrifying that would be as one who has rejected God or is choosing to ignore Him.

Same evidence, different conclusions

I find it interesting to note that our presuppositions and source of authority lead us to interpret data in a way that supports the conclusion our worldview finds most comfortable to believe in – whether we realize it or not.

For example, let us consider dating the age of the earth through fossils. Educators from all different worldviews access the same information, yet come up with vastly different conclusions. Some conclude billions of years, some only thousands. How can that be? The worldview, or interpretative lens through which the person views the world colors everything.

Do you remember the highly-publicized debate in 2014 between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Answers in Genesis’ Ken Ham? It was a valuable exercise showing how the two men, who are each famous for their respective views, lean into their worldviews to explain the way things are. If you are interested in it, it is a good watch, available here. (Note, it was recorded live so you can forward through the countdown.)

Creation as dismissable foolishness

Many holding the viewpoint of evolution are quick to dismiss creation without much thought. Many even look disdainfully at creationists as non-intellectuals. Those who do that may fail to acknowledge, as discussed at the beginning, that their worldview is also unprovable based on the definition of science. Every single person is biased, whether or not they realize it.

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.– 1 Corinthians 2:14

What will you believe?

I have encountered numerous people who dismiss the Bible without even considering their own biases and presuppositions. Evolution is taught in schools as an assumed fact, but that has only been the case for around 100 years, by some accounts less.

I primarily want to challenge the notion that Biblical Christianity is at odds with science. Before Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, published in 1859, the Genesis account was widely held, believed and taught in schools. There is a vast body of scientific work that corroborates the Noahic flood account in Genesis 6-9 and sheds light on a young earth and a worldwide flood to explain many geological discoveries we find today.

My goal in writing this post is to highlight some of the foundational issues that can go unnoticed in the debate of evolution vs. creation. Clearly, my goal is not to present a scientific case to back up my beliefs. I will leave that to people that are a lot smarter than I am.

The foundational question we all must ask ourselves is – what do I believe about the origins of the earth and why?

For Christians, I want to encourage you to not be intimidated by antagonistic assumptions leveled by non-believers.

For non-Christians, my hope and prayer are that you honestly evaluate your presuppositions about God and His involvement in the world. The Bible presents a compelling, logical, geological, historical and archaeological case for how things are and came to be.

A closer examination of these principles reveals that in fact, Christianity is NOT at odds with science and facts.

Regardless of your viewpoint, I would love to get your comments on this issue. Please be respectful. I will do the same. Thank you for reading!

 

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Repentance and Fridge Cleaning

Recently, I cleaned out my refrigerator. A DEEP clean. The type where you pull out every single item, and every single shelf, and scrub clean each shelf one at a time before replacing it and the food.

In the process, you find things that are disgusting, like rotten food that has gotten shoved to the back and long forgotten. Half consumed containers of various moldy items, and even worse, rotten produce in the bottom of the crisper drawers. As if that is not enough, there are stains from food spillage, and sometimes even crusties caked in the bottom of the fridge, and on the edge of the glass shelves, hidden by the plastic racks holding it.

I do a deep clean of my fridge 2-3 times per year. My OCD friends might gasp in disgust and proclaim, “You do it THAT INFREQUENTLY?? Not once a month??” On the other hand, the stereotypical bachelor might look at me oddly that I do it at all. Just being honest, people. Let he who has a spotless fridge cast the first stone.

As I was deep into the filthy task, I thought of a fitting parallel between that and repentance of sins for the Christian.

As my OCD friends might rightly point out, if I cleaned my fridge more often, it wouldn’t be as big and disgusting of a job. I can’t deny that.

In the same way, when as followers of Christ we ignore our sin and let it build up for long periods, things get … gross.

Contempt for those we don’t like and showing partiality to those who we think can give us something in return leaves a stain.

Pride and self-righteousness, looking down our noses at detestable sinners (like we once were) reveals the putrid, repulsive contents of our hearts.

Lips that are quick to talk about others behind their backs and call people names are fouler than a moldy jar of … whatever that black disgustingness is that I just pulled out from the rear of the fridge.

You get the idea.

As Christians, who have been justified by faith (Romans 3), repented of our sins and trusted in Christ for the redemption that comes through His sacrifice, which paid the price for our sins once and for all, Scripture assures us that we are clean before God (Romans 5:1).

As Christ alluded to in John 13, while washing His disciples’ feet:

So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,”

– John 13:6-10a

On a purely physical level, Peter was hesistant to have his Lord and Savior perform a servant’s task for him. But when Jesus insisted, Peter went all in, even to the point of bossing Jesus around, not understanding the point.

On a spiritual level, the foot washing could be understood as a metaphor for a provisional cleansing, for lack of a better term. The disciples, as followers of Jesus, were already spiritually clean. But as they, and us, move throughout the day, dust (sins) accumulate, which still need to be cleansed.

Just as a person who rarely washes his feet can become stinky to those around them, so one who avoids the cleansing that comes from regular repentance can become spiritually odious to God (and often to others as well) as his or her habitual sins pile up, gathering stench in their lives.

God calls the Christian to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). One of the key ways to do that is to identify, and repent of, sin in every area of our lives, regularly. As we are cleansed “by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26) and continually seek God in prayer, He kindly reveals to us specific instances and areas of sin in our lives.

Confessing and repenting of those things in light of a perfectly holy God is a humbling experience. As is tossing rotten jars of food and scrubbing nasty stains off shelves. The analogy falls short and may be perceived as irreverent, but it seems somewhat fitting.

Just as waiting for months to clean out the fridge yields a lot more scrubbing, so putting off the task of humbly coming before God makes it all the more humbling and painful, both unnecessarily so.

My fellow Christian, I hope you see the point. My sincere prayer is that you do not hinder the process of your sanctification by avoiding regular, heartfelt time in prayer, allowing God to search your heart and show you how you err (Psalm 19:12-13, Psalm 139:23-24).

The joyful fellowship with God that comes as a result is worth it.

Comments, questions – holler! As always, thank you so much for reading!

 

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The Weight of the World vs. The Weight of Glory

As Christians living in the world, awaiting the fulfillment of Christ’s promises to return and collect the elect for His kingdom, life can sometimes feel full of tension. We see the hurt, terror, injustice, and misery that occurs throughout the world (sometimes we experience it to one degree or another) and we feel helpless to do anything about it.

Broken families.

Natural disasters.

Corrupt governments made up of corrupt politicians.

Disease.

Terrorism.

Mistreatment of innocent people.

Slavery and human trafficking.

Sinful people hurting one another because all they know how to do is serve themselves.

It is too much to take, as we begin to dwell on it. The inescapable tragedy of the human condition is too weighty for words. It is more than enough to cause despair that can’t be overcome if our perspective is man-centered.

But for those of us who have repented of our sin and trusted Jesus Christ as our gracious and forgiving Savior, we have a different perspective. One that gives hope and meaning to every day and allows us to be full of gratitude and joy regardless of what life hands us or those around us.

The weight of the world is burdensome. But the weight of glory …

“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; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

As we live for Christ, and study God’s word, we see an unmistakable perspective that teaches us to look beyond the pain and suffering of this world and look to the unshakable hope we have, not only for the future, but for each and every moment.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:2-3

Troubles of the world that come crashing into our lives can take our eyes off our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and all too often they do. But they needn’t, and they shouldn’t. If we believe that “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28), then we can rejoice in all circumstances (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Thinking on these things is a great solace for times of trouble.

Thinking of the great joy that awaits us as one day Christ ushers us home to enjoy perfection and the end of all suffering in the presence of the Father, Son and Spirit for all eternity ought to give us reason to praise God day and night. And as we look to Him and cling to His promises, we find that our own troubles pale in comparison. And that is just as it should be.

If you have any questions about this topic, please leave a comment – I would love to talk more about it. Thank you for reading!

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Balancing Humor and Gospel Sober-Mindedness

I love to laugh, be silly and spread humor and ridiculum. It gives me great joy to discover or think up something funny and share it with others. If it makes me laugh, or smile, I figure it might do the same for at least a few other people.

When left to my own antics, I am naturally inclined to be a silly person. When life gets stressful, that side of me can take a backseat, unfortunately, but silliness is my default.

In recent years I’ve noticed that as I have continued walking with the Lord, and have become more committed to in-depth Bible study and prayer, I sometimes find myself going through more weighty thought patterns. After all, the world out there is getting crazier, darker, more depressing and evil all the time.

People need the hope of redemption through Christ, and there are only so many hours in the day. There are so many pressing concerns for which to pray, so many passages to read, so many relationships to invest in, so many people to serve. There is always a tidal wave of urgent matters for which the Christian can and should concern himself or herself.

In light of all that, it is easy to get lost in the thoughtful nature of living the Christian life to the fullest for the glory of God. For me, I entertained the idea that gospel sober-mindedness (that is, being alert and obedient to God’s work – 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8, 2 Timothy 4:5) can squeeze out the humor and silliness that I find so delightful.

This is a dilemma that I have wrestled with recently. In doing so, I was tempted to think that one has to dominate over the other: be immersed in work for the kingdom, or be silly. It is true that these things don’t naturally seem to fit together. After all, when I am defending the truths of God’s word, cracking jokes seems to fade away for the time being.

While it might be two different mindsets, I have ultimately concluded they are not mutually exclusive by any means.

If I believe that God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), then I must acknowledge that humor is a gift from Him. If it is a gift from Him, then He has a purpose for it, and it is to be enjoyed (1 Timothy 6:17). That being the case, suppressing humor in light of “serious” work seems less like an either/or and more like “both please!”

The Bible teaches that we are made in God’s image (see Genesis 1, James 3, Psalm 8). It follows therefore that characteristics we have that are positive, such as an appreciation for, or the gift of, humor is a reflection of God Himself. He can’t give us humor if he doesn’t have it to give.

Application

In light of this reasoning, the question then becomes, what do we do with this knowledge? Like other ontological issues, the answer is to use what God has given us for His glory (Colossians 3:17, 23). If I have a sense of humor, I am to use it for the good of others and the glory of God. This in and of itself can be a service to Him, and could also be useful in kingdom work.

I’m not suggesting that humor should be as prioritized as equally as earnest gospel work. I am of the mindset that engaging in the spiritual disciples of Bible study and prayer take the highest priority.

Like anything, gifts from God such as humor are obviously misused for evil and corrupted intent just as certainly as worldly comics use vulgar words as adjectives. But knowing from Whom we received such a kind endowment and its intended use, we don’t need to worry about leaving it behind in favor of “serious” work.

Thoughts on this subject are always welcome!

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Traveling New Zealand: South Island Majestic Beauty

The first two weeks of 2019 found my husband Mike and I taking a road trip through the stunningly beautiful South Island of New Zealand. The how and why of our ending up there went a little something like this.

2018 marked a milestone birthday for me (the big 4-0!). To celebrate, I wanted to go on a memorable vacation. Mike and I both love to travel, and we use special occasions as a reason to go on bigger trips than we usually would (like our fifth anniversary trip to Australia in 2015).

We’d been saving up air miles from our Delta AmEx card for four years, and finally had enough to buy one round trip ticket anywhere in the world. We’d also been nursing our travel budget back to health after our last big trip a few years ago. I was initially planning to do a week in South Florida in the spring of 2018 (closer to my actual birthday) because we could have paid for both our plane tickets with air miles. But New Zealand has been pretty high on our travel bucket list for quite some time. So I figured early in the year that if we waited until closer to the end of the year, we’d have a chance to save enough to make it happen. By the grace of God, we did.

Four days after Christmas, we went wheels up. In doing some looking at various flight itineraries, and knowing that we wanted to wait until after Christmas to go, I planned our route so that we would have a stopover in Sydney, Australia for New Year’s Eve. Sydney does a massive, world-renowned fireworks display to ring in the New Year, and I figured since we were going to be in that part of the world then anyway, it would be our only chance to catch it live.

It was mayhem, but it was totally worth it. NYE is big business in Sydney. They shoot off fireworks from the Sydney Harbor Bridge, as well as several places on the water throughout the harbor. Prime viewing locations are along the water, and they have figured out how to block access to the public from those locations, so they can charge a steep admission price for viewing. We talked to a couple that paid $400 per person! Since the fireworks were only a bonus on our trip, and not an essential piece, we opted not to pay for a prime spot. We decided to take our chances of finding a free location.

The fireworks start at midnight, so after taking a post 14-hour flight nap (an essential), we headed out around 9 p.m. to make our way downtown. We ended up on a street with a view overlooking the Harbor Bridge, with obstruction of another freeway overpass. The crowds were starting to get thick in the area, and we figured this was about the best we’d find for free.

In the video below, the crowd gets amped for the fireworks … then a short clip of them.

It was exhilarating to be able to witness the iconic event, even with the obstruction. Adding to the thrill was the happy, hyper crowd of thousands of strangers with whom we rang in 2019. (You can get a better view of the fireworks by googling it for a YouTube video.)

The next day, we had until mid-afternoon to wander about town, gawk at the Opera House and grab some lunch before we got on our flight to … Christchurch, New Zealand!!!!!

Our flight got in at midnight, so the following morning we picked up our rental car and embarked on the first day of our 12-day road trip covering the South Island. I had spent dozens of hours researching the sights to see and had put together an itinerary of how far we’d drive and where we’d stay each night of the trip.

Our first destination was Hanmer Springs, a lovely hot springs tourist town surrounded by rugged, tree-lined mountains. Spoiler alert: almost everything we saw was made more beautiful by rugged, tree-lined mountains, so that phrase and ones like it will come up a lot.

We paid the admission price for the hot springs resort and spent an evening soaking in various tubs of hot mineral water, with a great view. Quite relaxing. The largest pool also had a “lazy river,” which was more like a “raging river” and we had a riot being carried along by the current alongside strangers who were also having a fun time.

Hanmer Springs, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pool and Spa, New Zealand

A peek at the view beyond the hot springs

The next morning we made a side trip out to Kaikoura, where we had been told we could see whales and possibly penguins. No dice, so we continued on our way to Nelson, where we were highly anticipating not only a charming bed & breakfast but the warmest beaches on the island. Neither disappointed.

Nelson, New Zealand

Enjoying a little float in the ocean at Nelson

The pale greenish-blue water of the sea was slightly chilly but highly swimmable. The B&B was a beautifully restored old farmhouse on an eclectic farm tucked away in the mountains, but 15 minutes from downtown Nelson and the beach. The host was an entertaining fellow who was eager to chat with us about New Zealand and give us his unique spin on a myriad of topics. His partner was a former restauranteur, who made us a delicious breakfast the following morning.

Retiro Park Lodge, Retiro Farm Lodge, Nelson New Zealand

The digs at Retiro Park Lodge – Nelson, NZ

A little bit more time on the beach the following day, and it was time to head to our next destination of Westport, to begin the West Coast portion of our trip.

Westport turned out to be a mediocre beach town, with a beachfront that was nothing to write home about, especially compared to the beach we came from, and the beautiful beaches on the West Coast of the United States. We did find a cute B&B to stay, with a super nice older couple.

Lonely Planet ranks the 63-mile drive from Westport to Greymouth as one of the top 10 coast drives in the world, so we were excited to be driving it the following day.  Lush, green hills with rainforest-like vegetation greeted us on one side, the light blue ocean water on the other.

Great Coast Road New Zealand, Westport to Greymouth

A view from the Great Coast Road from Westport to Greymouth

Besides pulling off at viewpoints for pictures and video, we stopped at Punakaiki’s “Pancake Rocks,” a series of curious rock formations along the coast that looks like giant stacks of pancakes. There are also some impressive blowhole crevices among the rocks that showcase the fascinating landscape amidst frothy churning ocean water below.

"Pancake Rocks" at Punakaiki

“Pancake Rocks” at Punakaiki

Another stop that day involved driving about 30 minutes off the beaten path. Hokitika Gorge is a scenic, narrow river gorge where regular water mixes with glacier mineral sediment to form a captivating bright blue for a short section of the river:

Hokitika Gorge, New Zealand

Hokitika Gorge

I had seen it on my research and was eager to make the trip to see it in person. Well worth it.

It was also around this time in the trip that we were introduced to an obnoxious insect: the sandfly. Before I knew its name, I called it the bitey fly. I bet you can guess why. Many of my pictures were made blurry because of jerking the camera as every inch of exposed flesh became a sandfly landing strip when standing still. Their bites itched like crazy during the duration of our trip.  It was like camping by a Pacific Northwest lake in July. But I digress. On with the progression…

A turn inland lead us through the tip of the unbelievably beautiful Mt. Aspiring National Park. Once again, we drank in beautiful steep tree-lined vistas with more waterfalls than we could count, along a raging river. I could have caught many bugs in my mouth because it was agape as I looked about in disbelief at the scenery.

Roaring Billy Falls, Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

Roaring Billy Falls, Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

That night we stayed at a lovely Airbnb room in the gorgeous hills 20 minutes outside of the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka. (More on Wanaka later in the trip.) Our hosts were a delightful couple who had recently moved to this gorgeous home from the bigger city of Christchurch for a change of pace. They had converted two bedrooms to Airbnb rentals, and we were pleased to have found this quiet, scenic locale to relax after some long days of driving and sightseeing.

We were pleased (for once) to wake up in the middle of the night, for we found that the clouds had burned off, revealing the majestic Southern Hemisphere night sky, which features an entirely different view and set of constellations than we see in the Western United States. We silently star gazed and admired the beauty and vastness of God’s creation.

Next up, the long, beautiful drive to take a peek at Milford Sound, the gorgeous, famous fiord that often serves as the pictorial icon for New Zealand. Also, it was recently featured in the opening scene of Mission Impossible: Fallout, which we had just watched before leaving on our trip.

Milford Sound, New Zealand (Fiordland National Park)

Milford Sound, New Zealand (Fiordland National Park). Two cruise ships showing as tiny white dots on the lower right show the scale of the fiords.

We shot pictures and video like the tourists we are, then made our way to our lodging in Te Anau on the eve of the highlight of our trip: an overnight cruise through Doubtful Sound, another sound in the massive, remote Fiordland National Park.

A fjord (or fiord as spelled by Kiwis), is defined as “a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway and Iceland, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley.” If you are not familiar with this, do a google image search to get an idea.

No words can describe the majestic, unspeakable beauty we beheld over an afternoon, evening and morning. Even pictures don’t capture the sheer scale and beauty of this natural wonder. Three thousand foot cliffs with waterfalls galore towered on either side of us as our ship cut through the serene waters of the sound until we reached the churning Tasman Sea. The whole experience was like a prolonged worship service, praising the power and creative brilliance of our Creator God who made such a stunning display for us to enjoy. Not to mention, we were fed like kings and queens on this short cruise!

Doubtful Sound was rightfully the visual climax of our trip. We knew that it would be difficult to surpass its beauty. However, we still had five days to go and were pleasantly surprised at the fantastic stuff that we were yet to see.

Our next stop was Queenstown, a bustling adventure city at the base of picturesque mountains, on the shores of the blue-green Lake Wakatipu. I’d really been anticipating this place, one that I had dubbed “the Bend (Oregon) of New Zealand” based on my research.

It was indeed a happening town: a hip, crowded downtown area on the waterfront, and very difficult to find a place to park. Our anticipation about the city was dampened when we discovered that the hostel where I had booked us two nights to stay turned out to be much more ghetto than the strategic, misleading pictures on the website had led me to believe. Let’s just say the mattress was several years overdue for replacing, and there were some pretty stunning safety concerns arising from deferred maintenance on the place. 😉

We got a good laugh out of it, but we were more motivated to find outside things to do until late at night, to minimize the time spent in our dingy room.

The hostel was a good value (we saw why a bit too late), and it had a great location just a few minutes from the action of the lakefront downtown. It was also right at the base of a tall hill with a gondola going to the top, with a panoramic view of the area. Upon discovering that there was also a hiking trail to the top, we opted the next morning to get some exercise in rather than pay for the gondola ride. Well worth it, not only because we love to hike, but the calorie consumption-to-exercise ratio tends to get skewed quite a bit on vacation.

Queenstown New Zealand gondola, skyline Queenstown

Looking down at Queenstown after our hike. Skydiver coming down in the upper right. 🙂

That afternoon, we drove up the other side of the lake to Glenorchy, where we were promptly proved wrong about thinking we had seen all the spectacular scenery already. The lake turned a dazzling turquoise and was framed by snow-capped peaks along the drive. The town itself was in the center of all that beauty, and we stared in amazement, cameras flashing like crazy.

Lake Wakatipu near Glenorcy, New Zealand

Overlooking Lake Wakatipu on the way to Glenorchy.

The next stop was one I was also excited about (like everything on the trip. Ha.): Wanaka, positioned on the edge of a beautiful lake of the same name. Since we’d seen it earlier in the trip, we anticipated our return. Mike had found us an Airbnb private cabin up in the hills overlooking the lake and the mountains. Just our speed, and a welcome change of pace from the broken-spring-mattress dump we had just left.

Since every previous day was filled with driving and sightseeing galore, staying parked by a beautiful lake for two days seemed like heaven. That is one of my favorite things to do on vacation back home, so it was the best of both worlds; having a summertime lakeside vacay on the other side of the world.

We swam (the water was very cold but easy enough to adapt to for a lake-aholic such as me), laid out on the beach, rented a kayak and paddleboard, AND discovered that the brewpub across the street from the lake was just our speed as well. To top it off, we learned that a famous tree sticking out of the lake that is well promoted on social media via hashtag marketing (#ThatWanakaTree) was within the range we could paddle to, so we did the obligatory tourist thing and took pictures.

Wanaka, Lake Wanaka, #ThatWanakaTree

Oh, look! It’s #ThatWanakaTree. I played along with their marketing gimmick.

Our two days at the lake were the last big items on the agenda, and we were left with two days to make it back to Christchurch, from where our homebound flight departed.

Even still, there was more amazing things to see: Mount Cook, and a couple more beautiful blue glacier-fed lakes. Our drive towards the majestic jagged snowy peaks of Cook and surrounding mountains was enhanced by the beautiful Lake Pukaki in the foreground.

Mount Cook, Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

Mt. Cook, with Lake Pukaki in the foreground.

Driving to Mount Cook Village at the end of the road, we wished we had a few more days to do some hiking in the area. But after our requiste amount of gawking, we headed out to the evitable end of our fabulous trip.

On our way back to Christchurch, we stopped at Timaru along the coast, the recent home of a colony of little blue penguins we were hoping to see. Turns out, they only come out after sunset, and we had to be in Christchurch that night for a super early morning flight, so we weren’t able to see them.

Summary

If you’ve read to this point, congrats and thank you-you are a champ and perseverer. This trip was a dream come true for us, and we marveled the entire time at the beauty we beheld. Our running joke was that we should have had helmets on the whole time, to contain the mess from our heads exploding daily at the sheer delight of the scenery.

If you want to chat further or have any questions or comments, I am all ears. I suspect I will be eager to talk about New Zealand for years to come.

Here is a map outlining some more detail about our route. Thanks again for reading!

 

 

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