Surrender and Acceptance

 

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Infinite wisdom can be found in the art of surrender. However, few of us are actually good at it. In our self-centered, competitive, never-stop culture, we find fighting to be much more natural than surrendering.

Whereas surrender brings serenity, fighting against one’s life and one’s self ultimately leads to unhappiness. I am not saying that you should not strive for a better life or improve yourself; if you have the opportunity and the ability to, then you ought to do so, but if you expend enormous energy resenting the life you have, then you would do better to surrender. After all, as the saying goes, what you resist persists. The more energy you put into getting rid of something, often the greater a problem it becomes. If, however, you can accept a problem in your life, even to the point of accepting that it will never go away, you oftentimes are then in a better place to deal with it. It’s counterintuitive but true.

How many of us spend all our days fighting ourselves? Our inner self-talk tells us that we’re not rich enough or good-looking enough or smart enough. We find it difficult to be okay with who we are and instead wage war on ourselves. Of course, you ought to wage war with your sins and faults, but what if we practiced acceptance when we came to the things we simply dislike about ourselves? How different our lives would become if we were to practice regular, compassionate self-talk!

Another way to practice surrendering is to practice outcome independence. Outcome independence is being okay with something regardless of the outcome. It’s about doing something because it’s worth doing, not because you know you will succeed. It’s about taking risk. Ultimately, outcome independence is freedom.

 

 

Effort and Denial

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I’m picking up where I left off on my series of blog posts about writing romance, the last of which talked about the concept of mind mates. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how effort is honestly one of the most romantic elements in a relationship, more so than candlelit dinners, stargazing, or driving late at night with no destination. Effort is how a lover demonstrates that his beloved is a priority.

Ask anyone who’s been in a one-sided relationship, and they’ll tell you that there is nothing as unromantic as passivity. Real love requires something of you. It requires activity, for love must be nurtured over and over again.

As I write this post, I’m listening to one of my favorite love songs of all time, La Belle Fleur Sauvage by Lord Huron. One of my favorite lyrics is “I’d give it all to love that girl.” This lyric is talking about more than just effort; it’s talking about sacrifice, which is effort on fire. It is beyond romantic to deny oneself in some way for one’s beloved.

In romance novels, effort and sacrifice are exemplified in the “grand gesture” trope. The grand gesture usually takes place at the end of the novel and is usually enacted by the man. Examples include when Gilbert gives up the Avonlea school for Anne in Anne of Green Gables and when Mr. Darcy pays off Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. These grand gestures demonstrate to what great lengths the men are willing to go for the women they love. Even better, these grand gestures are done in secret. Gilbert doesn’t ask Anne if he should give up the Avonlea school; he makes up his mind and does it. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, Darcy pays off Wickham in secret. In both examples, the men are not motivated by public approval of their good deeds but of wanting the best for their beloved.

I once read that all romance novels ought to have at least three grand gestures. That seems a bit superfluous to me, but I think it’s wise to at least include one. After all, a grand gesture, especially when done selflessly and sacrificially, has the power to make a romance novel unforgettable.

Loftier Motives

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As I’ve written in other posts, I feel like the greatest battle in the human heart is to deny oneself so that one can love others. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how this mindset must be embraced in every relationship and with consistency. When I interact with other people, it is natural for me to think about what I want from them and how I can obtain my wants. Usually, I am seeking admiration, affection, and approval.

I’ll give you an example. I’m with my friends. I am engaging in banter with them so that they admire my cleverness. But perhaps endless banter isn’t what my friends need in that moment, and if it’s at the expense of one of my friends, that’s even worse. Maybe someone in the group needs me to follow up with her about what’s going on in her life, but I’m going on about some joke that may not even be that funny because I crave admiration, so I never do.

What if we viewed every interaction with other people as an opportunity to care for them rather than get something from them? What if we humbled ourselves and put others first? As much as the righteous part of me loves that, part of me finds it repulsive. After all, I have needs, and I want them met. I have things I want to accomplish. I am entitled to love and admiration from everyone in my social circle, aren’t I?

I’m not saying that you should let people walk all over you or be in one-sided relationships. That’s unhealthy. I’m calling for new motives. Loftier motives. How much more exciting and fulfilling would my life be if I awoke every morning with the intention to give more than I get? Even writing it now, it feels painful, but sometimes pain is helpful. The Art of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller is currently on my to-read-list. I will keep you guys posted on what I learn from it. I am hoping it will teach me how to do the work of active humility not just when other people notice but with consistency.

Progressive Victory: Personal Revelations Now Supersede God’s Word

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According to a study conducted by a trendy new nonprofit organization known as DUMB (Developing Unclear Morality Biblically), 9 out of 10 Christians now recognize that their personal revelations and convictions supersede God’s authority. The ideology of the organization, which is awe-inspiring in its ethics and justice, is based on a simple, yet enlightened idea.

DUMB founder Dwight Dunlap explained it this way, “I’ve realized that God can tell people that they can live their lives a certain way even though the Bible indicates the opposite on multiple occasions in strong language, so long as confirmation is received through a viable means, like inner peace.”

Progressive Christian Annalise Elliott shared how DUMB has helped her become better at discerning God’s will for her life. “I felt God told me in a dream that it is okay to get drunk every weekend while I’m in college. Because I wouldn’t want to do anything that contradicts God’s will, I did some deep searching inside myself and found good vibes confirming the dream, and so I knew I had literally heard from the voice of God. It gave me chills, honestly. It was such a spiritual experience.”

When asked by a conservative pastor about the relevancy of reading the Bible to determine a code of conduct for one’s life, Dwight said, “I really like reading the part in the Bible where it says God is love. Because true love means that you can act however you want around other people as long as it makes you happy. But outside of that, I don’t really read the Bible. It’s too restrictive. I like to think of the Bible as more of a create-your-own-adventure story. It gives you limitless possibilities, but you are not bound by any one truth.”

My Throne

I watch a lot of music videos, and so I have authority to say that this is one of the best music videos of all time:

Be prepared to be moved. To feel chills. To be inspired to live an outward-focused life.

I’m not sure if this band is Christian, but this song perfectly illustrates Matthew 20:26-28

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

If only more of us with power and influence could embrace this mindset! How much better a world it would be! Of course, this call to humility does not only apply to people with leadership roles. It applies to everyone. What an extraordinary contrast this offers to the modern frenzy of trying to sell our image to others on social media, podcasts, blogs (yup) etc. etc.

This kind of selflessness requires letting go. We have to let go of compulsively living for our own glory and gratification. And as we better learn how to do that, we will find a new, hidden type of joy.

I have alluded to this before in my blog, but I feel like if I could care less about what happens to me, I would be a lot happier. Lately, I have been thinking about my suffering, and how it helps me to do just that. When you encounter great suffering that leaves you feeling helpless, you learn to care less about yourself. This is because suffering well requires acceptance of loss. When you can accept your loss, you let go of whatever you had hoped to keep or gain and so die to yourself, often in a big way. Suffering, therefore, loosens your grip on your own personal happiness. You learn how not to care so much about what happens to you.

To paraphrase Leslie Ludy, when you are suffering, it is a good idea to find someone whose suffering is worse than yours and serve him/her. Even in your suffering, you ought to serve. But I would go even farther than that and say that because of your suffering, you are well-positioned to serve.

With 2019 upon us, I pray that we would suffer well and serve well.

Also, I LOVE this version of the song:

Mind Mates: More Thoughts on Romance

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I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on romance in literature, but as I’ve been making more progress on the rewrite of my young adult romance novel, I’ve had a few more insights into what makes a good romance.

In popular romance, the soul mate is the one person who can offer a character complete fulfillment and happiness. Frankly, that makes me want to puke. Therefore, I would like to propose the replacement of this trope with something far superior— the mind mate.

I abhor romances that are all fluff and lack substance. This is especially evident in elemental romance but can also be seen in romance as a genre. The romance overflows with butterflies and weak knees, but all of that comes across as contrived when the leads are lacking a deep connection. I would much rather read about the mutual exploration of two minds than the magnetism of a new crush.

Intellectual stimulation is rarely featured in popular romance, which is a shame because intellectual stimulation is incredibly stimulating. However, even if the characters aren’t intellectual, they can still participate in mind mating. They can doubt and inspire one another and learn and reflect together. Such connections not only deepen their relationship but also enhance the likeability and realism of each individual character. A romance based on a shallow character connection is not interesting, and likewise, a character that cannot connect with other characters is not interesting.

In my young adult novel, the romantic leads’ cognitive functions cause conflict between them. Rationality drives Marty’s actions whereas harmony drives Jordan’s, and they must both learn to harness their strengths while developing their weaknesses, but the fun (conflict) is in that journey. My characters don’t drool over each other or even touch one another, but they still manage to have romance and, dare I say it, an extraordinary romance, due to the mating of their minds.

In conclusion, real romance requires the syndication and resultant strengthening of two minds in the face of highly discordant cognitive functions, biases, and thought patterns. *Insert heart pounding*

Being Spoon-Fed Opinions by Media Rather Than Developing Own Convictions Deemed Bedrock of American Virtue

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Once upon a time, American virtues used to include liberty, justice, and honor, but, as Bob Dylan sang: the times are a-changin’. Being spoon-fed opinions by media has recently been deemed the bedrock of American virtue. According to a revealing new study, four out of five Americans don’t like to come to their own conclusions about current issues. Like the person who would rather retweet than tweet, the typical American lacks the capacity for innovative thinking.

“Between having strong convictions about the design of Starbucks cups, the abomination known as Windows 10, and whether I heard Yanny or Laurel, who has had energy this year to invest time in the critical thinking required to understand societal issues?” bemoaned Raven Watson. “I’m sorry, but there are way more important things to think about.”

“I believe strongly in potatoes,” declared Katrina Keeley. “You can eat them so many different ways. I have strong convictions about potatoes and the way they ought to be prepared. But when it comes to an issue like abortion, my mind just goes blank. I have zero opinions.”

“When it comes to something like chairs, I can tell you my opinion about them,” stated Victoria Onessa. “I LOVE chairs and really believe in them. I believe in their greatness. I believe in everything they stand for! Comfort, luxury, stability. And yet—truth be told, I could care less about refugees or religious liberty. Even just thinking about thinking about those things hurts my brain.”

For those who find being spoon-fed information to be too mentally taxing, some social media gurus suggest that they will begin offering straws for those who would rather slurp their opinions.