Loftier Motives

adorable-bench-blurred-background-1767434.jpg

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

aerial-belief-bible-1437872.jpg

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

board-game-challenge-chess-1083355

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

app-browser-coffee-6335

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.

Customer Service Representatives are People, too, Study Indicates

adult-beard-business-845451

At long last, compelling new research has debunked the age-old belief that customer service representatives are a non-human species. While the research has been well-received by many, some refuse to believe that it is conclusive.

Such is the belief of long-time shopper and cynic Victor Harkley, who asserts that customer service representatives are robots. “This wonky research has me unconvinced. As far as I’m concerned, nothing is changing in the way I treat those customer service robos, which is with utter disrespect, not to mention blatant animosity.”

Sociologist Katherine Everton, who spearheaded the study, maintains that it was conducted with the utmost integrity. “We surveyed thousands of customer service reps at hundreds of different companies, asking them questions to determine if they had were, as once believed, soulless robots. We questioned them about the matters that have throughout history most tugged at the heartstrings of human beings, including how broken up they were over Brangelina’s split or the discovery that Pluto was not a planet. To further quantify their empathy, we brought a randomized cohort into the lab and tracked their brain activity as they viewed images of other heartbreaking happenings, such as the introduction of this year’s new Starbucks holiday cup or the invention of Windows 10. What we found amazed us. It turned out that these customer service reps actually felt something in response.”

A customer service representative for a high-end nourishment corporation, Ashley Flannery, was moved when she read the results of the study. “I feel… stuff. Oh, and would you like fries with that?”

 

A Feeling Unlike Any Other

bind-blank-blank-page-315790

So, I had this little problem a few months ago. Basically, I realized that I wanted the primary theme of my book to be something other than what it was [insert face palm]. Unfortunately, that realization is necessitating months upon months of rewriting my manuscript. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was hoping to have my book ready to send to an editor by the end of this year, but there’s no way that’s going to happen anymore.

Truth is, I don’t really even mind that much. I had been really ambitious about my manuscript last spring and summer, but since then, I’ve been able to calm that ambition, which, honestly, has been for the best. While I like that I’m an ambitious person, I also dislike it sometimes. I got so caught up in accomplishing everything I wanted to with my writing that it made me very stressed and a little crazy. It’s been refreshing to put my writing in its proper place. As much as my soul yearns to share my work with others, I know that isn’t essential to my life; there are more important things in life (i.e. God, relationships.)

Also, I am much happier now that I’ve taken a new angle on my story, so it’s worth it to me that it’s taking longer to finish than I had intended. Honestly, ‘taking a new angle on my story’ probably isn’t strong enough language to describe the changes that I’m making. I am revamping the entire thing. For starters, the book is no longer for the Christian market but for the general market. It does, however, have Christian themes. While the inner journey of the main character hasn’t changed a whole lot, the plot has. It is much more intriguing and powerful than it was. It’s also a bit of a mystery now. The new plot really makes the theme resonate much more loudly than the old one did. My book was originally about the soul’s journey to becoming less self-absorbed and more selfless, which, while still thematically present in my book, no longer serves as the primary theme. The primary theme is the contrast between love as an action and love as a feeling and how both must be expressed if one wants to love virtuously.

Another big change is the character of the protagonist’s love interest. Originally, he was a gentle, quiet, deep-thinker, but now he is a snarky, neurotic, quiet, deep-thinker. I didn’t make the change because I enjoy writing snarky characters, although I do. I made it because it enhances the theme. While my protagonist embodies love as a feeling, he embodies love as an action. Although he is aloof and insensitive, he has a servant heart. My protagonist, on the other hand, feels great empathy and love for people but is selfish in her actions towards them. My protagonist and love interest’s different views of love are interesting and attractive to each other yet they are a big source of conflict. I also had to change the interest level of the love interest. I am a sucker for a second-chance romance (i.e. The Notebook), and that was what I had planned for my novel, but that no longer made sense once my theme changed. The love interest originally was crazy for my protagonist, but now she spends a lot of the book guessing whether or not he likes her. I also had to change his sense of humor. I naturally tend to give the main characters my own sense of humor, but I think it’s important to make the humor of the protagonist and love interest slightly different. Obviously, they both have to have a similar sense of humor for there to be chemistry, but they can’t be the exact same. Basically, I had to put a little extra effort into giving the love interest a snarkier, darker sense of humor than I’d normally give a love interest. And I’m not going to lie—that has been incredibly fun for me.

In other news, Splickety Publishing included my short story, A Very Bad Girl, in their Halloween issue of Havok Magazine. It was very exciting for me to be published because I had never been paid for my writing before. It felt so special to receive compensation for my creativity. When you get paid for your art, it affirms that your art has value. I’m not saying that art doesn’t have value if it’s not shared because I believe it does. However, when you get paid for your art, it makes you feel like your art has value to society, and to an artist, that is a feeling unlike any other.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the magazine, you can purchase it here.