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

 

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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.

 

Posted in apologetics, priorities, Theology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

Posted in Blogging, Opinion, priorities, Social | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Question for fellow bloggers: Best word count range for engagement?

Hey there fellow bloggers! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

A question for you. In your experience, what length of post has the most engagement for you?

In today’s information-overload culture, with ever-shortening attention spans, it seems prudent to keep posts as short as possible. But to cover a topic with any depth requires a minimum of 1000 words or more, at least that is what I have found.

Do you get more engagement with short posts? Do your longer posts get less or any? Curious to know specific stats, as well as general informed opinions about the matter.

It is not possible to make all posts brief, but I could certainly redouble my efforts at brevity if it is recommended to do so.

Looking forward to getting your feedback!

Cheers,

Summer

Posted in Blogging | 3 Comments

Pros vs. Cons of Christianity

I’ve been a Christian since I was seven years old, and I can see undeniably how that has changed me and shaped me as I’ve grown, both physically and spiritually. I’ve thought a lot over the years about the many ways in which Christianity both enriches life and makes it more challenging.

As such, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to write a list of pros and cons of being a Christian. So, here goes!

Pros:

1. Assurance of salvation and eternal destination

This is probably the most common, yet significant reason. Everyone is plagued with the question, “What happens after I die?” The Bible lays out the answer plainly. There is either eternal reward with God in heaven, or eternal punishment with Satan, in hell, for all who reject God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

For as much as Satan hates us (1 Peter 5:8), he does seem to embody the phrase “Misery loves company,” because he has used and continues to use countless deceptions, excuses and false, manmade religions to trick people away from the simple message of salvation.

… if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.'”
– Romans 10:9-11

For the Christian, knowing that our future is secure through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the best feeling in the world.

2. A life that is astoundingly wonderful in the here and now

“Life is hard, then you die.” This realistic, depressing phrase illuminates the grim truth for those who are unsure of their eternal destination. Yet, as stated above, the reality is very different for the Christian. Getting the soul secured is just the beginning. Then comes the lifelong adventure of living out the Christian life.

Any seasoned, authentic Christian will tell you that it is a difficult life; not for the faint of heart. The real work begins once you accept Christ. But with that work comes help from the very presence of God through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). It also includes benefits that continually unfold as you walk with God. Such as:

  • Peace
    God promises to give His children peace in the midst of a turbulent life. Those who trust in that promise receive peace that cannot be explained or duplicated apart from a right relationship with God.

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

    “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
    – John 14:27 (The words of Jesus, as denoted in red)

  • Joy
    Apart from Christ, it makes no sense to have joy even in the thick of life’s struggles and heartbreaks. But as a defining characteristic of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22), it flows naturally. Christ Himself promised it also:

    “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” – John 15:11

  • Wisdom
    Living life as God designed brings clarity to things (Psalm 111:10) that can’t be gained elsewhere. Furthermore, God gives it as His kids ask for it.

    “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5

  • Freedom from sin
    The power of God at work in the Christian does innumerable miraculous things, not the least of which is giving him or her the power to say no to sinful behavior (Romans 6), which, before conversion was impossible, as we are all born in sin and slaves to sin by birth (Romans 3:23).
  • Friendship with God
    It is no small matter that the Creator of the universe and all it contains extends mercy and grace to those who call on Him through Jesus Christ. No less significant is His offer of friendship extended to the same. (John 15:15)
    To complete the trifecta of amazing potential intimacy with the Almighty, He welcomes us into His presence (Hebrews 4:16) and invites us to share our burdens that He may take care of them (1 Peter 5:6-7). Simply astounding.
  • Royalty
    While we won’t see the full of expression of this in this life, the reality is amazing to ponder. God, our heavenly Father, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). And we, His kids, have been adopted into His family. That makes us heirs to the kingdom (Romans 8:15-17). Royalty. Mind. Blown. As they say…

3. A worldview that makes all the pieces fit

In addition to the benefits listed above, following after the God of the Bible just makes sense. An honest, thorough examination of the Bible reveals its historical & archaeological authenticity, right diagnosis of the human condition, clear instructions on how to live as well as the consequences of wrong living, and shows us who God is, what He has done, and how all of human history was written by Him long before it came into being.

The worldview that flows from the Bible provides answers where others only uncover more questions that cannot be satisfactorily answered.

4. Our playbook was written by God Himself

The Bible has been under attack since not long after the resurrected Christ ascended back into heaven. Skeptics and non-believers consistently ridicule and undermine it, and make many claims against its status of the Word of God. Many, many books have been written on the subject. As such, there is no way to summarize such a big topic in one blog post. I will briefly touch on a few points.

  • It claims to be the Word of God. All throughout its pages, it boldly declares that it is God-breathed. God inspired men through the Holy Spirit, to write what He wanted to communicate. If it were so easy to prove that it is a scam, as some people claim, the Christian church would have long evaporated. Yet we see the opposite is the case. The church is continually growing, especially outside the Western Hemisphere.
  • It contains a cohesive message. Despite being written by dozens of different authors, encompassing multiple types of literature, over thousands of years, the whole of its words present a message that flows logically and tells the story from the Creation of the universe to its future destruction cohesively. The only way to explain that is its supernatural origin.
  • It passes scholarly tests in flying colors. In recent years I’ve begun studying the authenticity of the Bible. One thing I’ve learned is that to determine the authenticity of an ancient text, scholars rely on the number manuscripts that can be found containing its material. The more manuscripts exist, the more likely the work is authentic. As it turns out, the Bible has more manuscripts than any other ancient work. Many, many more times than any other ancient work. It easily meets scholarly standards for authenticity.

These points don’t begin to scratch the surface on what could be said about the Bible as the Word of God. This is just a starter, to hopefully pique your interest in the subject.

Now that we’ve looked at four significant pros to living the Christian life let’s look at a few cons.

Cons

1. Haters gonna hate

Just as the Bible has been ridiculed for centuries, so have its adherents. Christians have received hate and persecution since the first century A.D. Jesus predicted that, however, and warned His disciples and future followers.

“You will be hated by all because of My name.” – Luke 21:17

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

While this fact is inconvenient, we know to expect it. We also know that the outcome is worth it:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
– Matthew 5:11-12

2. A life of self-denial and sacrifice is the expectation

The Christian life, for all the pros listed above, is anything but easy. The point of it is to fold our lives into God’s mission to redeem humanity while bringing glory to God and living a life of service to Him, as Christ modeled for us in His time on earth. This necessarily means dying to ourselves.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:34-35

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” – John 13:15

As we identify with the life of Christ, we follow His example in living lives devoted to God and to others. Everything we do, we seek God and His ways first, putting aside our own selfish desires in favor of that which is of eternal value. This is a process God works in us throughout our whole lives as we follow Christ (Philippians 1:6, 2:13).

Conclusion

I realize this post very quickly blasts through several hotly contested issues. Issues over which hundreds of books have been written through the years. You’ve likely gathered that my aim in writing this post is to give an overview, not to give a thorough analysis of any particular topic.

I also realize that there are multitudes of people (many of whom I know) who would vehemently disagree with some or all of the contents of this post. I don’t doubt that, nor do I shy away from it. I am always pleased to get comments from those who disagree with me.

This is a partial list, based on my experience walking with God through Jesus Christ, and reading His words in the Holy Bible. If you’re curious about Christianity, I can tell you with sincerity that what God says about Himself and His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ is true. I would also love to answer any questions raised here.

It is my prayer that you would trust the God of the Bible. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day.

Posted in apologetics, Bible / Christian Living, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Delicious Kale You’ll Ever Eat

First of all, I’ll admit that is an outrageous title. (I’m only a little bit sorry about that.)

Why is it outrageous? Of the several reasons that come to mind, the first is that kale is not delicious. If someone tells me, “I love kale!” they will not only get the sideways eye from me, I will also instantly know that I can’t trust them.

Why? Because no one actually likes kale. It’s the food equivalent of saying you enjoy getting root canals. In its natural state, it embodies tough, hard to chew, untasty disappointment.

Since it is so healthy, we just keep finding ways to squeeze it down. The good news is, I discovered a way to make it that elevates it to the status of dessert. Not joking. Read the following, try it, and prepare to dish up seconds. Food & recipe posts are far from a focus for me, but I felt this needed to be shared.

I’ve got to give some credit to my cousin and chef extraordinaire, Jake. This idea began as a creation he brought to a family dinner. I just added to it for extra flare.

Put quite simply, this recipe involves adding bacon, garlic, and onion and sauteeing all of it in bacon grease. Here are the specifics.

Serving for 2:

  • 4-5 kale leaves, stripped and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (fresh garlic adds more flavor than the pre-minced jarred stuff)
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/2 red onion

Directions:

  1. Cook bacon to taste in frying pan
    Bacon! I love bacon

2. Chop other ingredients while bacon cooks

3. Remove bacon to paper towels; leave grease in the pan

4. Add chopped garlic to skillet; allow to cook for about a minute

Garlic. Fresh garlic adds delicious flavor to just about any dish.

5. Add chopped onion and stir; cook until onion and garlic mixture becomes deliciously fragrant

Garlic and onions

6. Add chopped kale to pan, stir well to coat leaves with bacon grease. Cook until kale is heated through and begins to shrink (2-3 minutes).

Kale

7. Remove from heat into a serving dish

8. Consume immediately while vowing to never eat raw kale again

The finished product.

Here is the finished product, served with grilled short ribs (the Mr. handled those)

That’s it!

Often when I make sauteed veggies as a side dish, there are a few left over. In this case, my husband and I cleaned out the bowl and wished there was more. It is that good.

For a bacon-free alternative (I hear there are people out there who don’t eat it – strange!), try subbing the bacon grease for olive oil. I haven’t tried it that way, but I imagine it would still be reasonably good.

If you try this dish, let me know what you think of it. If you have other suggestions on how to make kale tasty, drop a comment!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Food, Ideas & Recipes, Nutrition, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mythbusters: You Can Do It All

I am starting a new, occasional series on my blog about “Mythbusters.” My purpose is to dispel common myths that permeate our thinking. Especially those which can affect the quality of life. Hopefully, the TV show doesn’t get too persnickety about people using their name. 😉

As an eternal optimist, I’ve always believed that I am capable of achieving whatever I put my mind to accomplish. While I still think that is true in principle, I’ve realized that there are limitations to it. That being said, here is the first myth I aim to tackle in this series:

Myth: You Can Do It All

My unquenchable optimism leads me to believe that, if I try hard enough, I can get it all done. I can cross everything off my to-do list. The fact that my reality wasn’t near that ideal just meant that I had to work harder, be more efficient and more focused. Or perhaps the right productivity tool/app was the missing piece.

I lived with this tension between my ideals and my reality for years. Yet, I never lost hope, because there was always a new book to read or software program to try that might make all the difference. (Side note, I recently wrote a post about Todoist, an app that certainly helps boost productivity, but it doesn’t solve the inherent problem.)

A Moment of Truth

One day at work, I was talking with a co-worker who I regard as one of the most efficient, effective professionals out there. She casually mentioned that she never gets her list even close to completed each day, because other things always come up.

That brought from my long-term memory a statement made years earlier by the pastor at my childhood home church, another imposing individual. He stated that if he started his day with a to-do list containing five items, and got two of them done, he was extremely pleased with his accomplishments.

A thought struck me – what if getting everything done every day is not realistic?

If these two people, who were the pinnacle of accomplishment in my mind, admitted that they couldn’t get it all done, why would I think I could? I realized then that my expectations for myself were out of line.

To realize that I was trying to accomplish a standard that was nearly impossible was incredibly freeing. It is not that I was underachieving, it is that I was setting a standard no one could reach.

Further Application

In the time since my original epiphany, I’ve concluded that the sentiment stated above applies to more than daily to-do lists. As priorities change and things get added, abandoned or deleted on the daily scale, so it is with the overall state of life goals.

There are so many, too many, things I want to do, accomplish, be, learn, read. There is not enough time in the day to do a fraction of what I would l like. Author Jon Acuff said it well in his recent book, “Finish,” in a section entitled, Choose What to Bomb. He opined that if you have your mind set on a particular goal, you have to decide what areas of your life you are going to let slide while you pursue it.

If you’re training for a marathon, it is going to take a commitment to run increasing miles over the weeks to get ready for it. That takes the time that you would have otherwise devoted to something else. Something has to give.

For me, I’ve been working hard to re-establish the per-mile running pace I hit when I was at my peak training ten years ago. It is tough, and it takes the time that I would otherwise spend elsewhere. Turns out, I can’t sleep in until the latest possible moment before getting ready for work and also go for a run. I have to decide each and every day what is more important to me.

This choosing of priorities is true for every element of life. If I am going to give 100% to something, I have to realize that something else (likely multiple things) will get less than that. I can’t do it all. As much as I would love to excel at my job, make amazing healthy meals regularly, keep my house spotless, work out every day, write a blog post three times per week, keep up with my volunteer activities and still stay in regular contact with all my friends, I have come to realize that a give and take is required.

It is not an admission of failure. Quite the opposite. It is realizing that my interests, passions, and responsibilities far exceed the capacity in my waking hours. And since maintaining my health through a proper amount of sleep is also essential to me, prioritizing becomes necessary.

Conclusion

My purpose in writing this post is not to be a Debbie Downer and tell you your dreams are unreachable. On the contrary, it is to share what I learned the hard way:

  1. Our own human limitations force us to be honest about what is realistic to get done.
  2. We might be disappointing ourselves unnecessarily by believing it is possible to “get it all done.” That is OK.

It might be time to re-evaluate your goals, figure out your highest priorities, and place them where they belong — at the top of your list. Then give yourself permission to let the other things slide a bit.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Ever met anyone who appears to be able to do it all? I am willing to bet they are letting some things slide that are undetectable to others.

 

 

 

Posted in Advice, Lifehacks, Mythbusters, priorities, Productivity, Self-Improvement | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Todoist: A Task Management App that Helps Boost My Productivity

I live by to to-do lists. Without them, I flounder helplessly and end up using my time ineffectively. With them, I am more likely to stay focused and task-oriented.

In recent years, I had started to become discontent with pen and paper lists for a few reasons. One, they got long and overwhelming in a hurry. I didn’t have a system in place to organize or prioritize them. Two, they quickly became outdated or sloppy as things got added or changed.

In an attempt to remember undone items, I would scribble new ones before, after, and in the margins. It didn’t take long before my already overwhelming list became unbearable and disheveled, which served to hamper my productivity mindset. It helped to rewrite the list, but for whatever reason, I loathed having to do that. I was stuck in this stage for quite some time.

An In-Between Solution

To ease the struggle, I started writing my lists on a spreadsheet, with a column for each day of the week, and tasks for that day underneath. This tactic helped not only in visualizing the week at a glance, but I also was relieved to be able to copy and paste items from one day to the next when needed. Pretty sure I am not alone in having undone tasks at the end of the day.

This solution was an improvement over paper lists, but after awhile it started to feel clunky because I still had to do a lot of updating and it was a challenge to implement a sense of task hierarchy.

Introducing a game changer

Discovering Todoist rocked my little old-fashioned world. It is an app/website that allows you to create project lists according to your needs, create tasks within each and schedule them by the due date. For whatever reason, the idea of a task management app had never even occurred to me. Don’t hold that against me, you ultra-techie types.

Once you’ve set up a task under its appropriate category, you can set a reminder for whatever time in advance you choose.

Project list view:

Todoist projects

Set up projects by areas of responsibility

List/calendar view:

Todoist

This is an overview of the next few days’ tasks

Since it has a calendar tool built in for scheduling, you can set up reminders as far in advance as you like. For instance, I set up an item that reminds me of a yearly charge to my debit card every January. It pops up a reminder a few days before the charge goes through, so I plan accordingly with my finances.

Or it works wonders when a project at work gets postponed to a date in the future. If I fear I might forget about a deadline six months out, a simple reminder with the proper amount of lead time beforehand eliminates any cause for concern.

This app has indeed helped me feel in control of the tasks I have, both at home and at work. A few more things I find nifty about it:

  • The web version and app sync up, so if I am doing more extensive updates on my computer, they automatically carry over to my smartphone.
  • If a task comes due that I am not ready for, I can reschedule it for a future date with just a few clicks. Much slicker than rewriting a paper to-do list constantly, IMO.
  • Setting specific due times triggers alerts when they are due, with advance notice as I direct. Helps me master my timeline and schedule.
  • For items that occur regularly, I can set up recurring tasks that reappear at intervals I set up, such as every Monday, or every other Sunday.

The ability to set up tasks at the beginning of the week, by day and time, is quite liberating. It takes my planning to a higher level, but still allows the flexibility that is often needed when things change. If you struggle with taming your to do list, as I did, I heartily recommend Todoist.

If you are already a task management beast, what is your secret?

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