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:

Unhappiness, Obsession, and Strength

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I feel like I constantly have to relearn the lesson that trying hard to make myself happy makes me extremely unhappy. I have always been an ambitious, goal-oriented type of person—not the type who likes to wait around. Basically, I like to make things happen. I like checking them off my checklist or deleting them from my calendar. There are many things I desire from life, and although I have been trying to do a better job of not being so selfish with my time, I’ve realized that I need to go a step further. I need to transform my mind. I hope to do so by reducing the amount of mental energy I spend obsessing over getting everything I want from life.

I truly believe that I need to wage a war on my mind. While having a thought in itself isn’t necessary sinful, I believe obsessing can be. And while none of my desires in of themselves are bad (i.e. getting my book published), putting too much hope in the happiness I will get from obtaining them is. It makes me self-centered and anxious, both of which make it impossible to pursue God and His righteousness single-mindedly. And that is what I truly desire more than anything; the only problem is that my lesser desires get in the way of this.

I don’t know about you guys, but I really want to be strong. Not physically strong but virtuously strong. I want godly virtues to be so prominent in my mind that whenever I encounter a stressor—i.e. sleep-deprivation, worry, or loneliness—I automatically react to the stressor in a virtuous manner. Virtue won’t have to be yanked out of me but rather will arise naturally from within. I wholeheartedly believe that anchoring too much of one’s happiness to something of this world counteracts this aptitude. You can’t be strong when the thing that’s grounding you is anything other than God because only God is everlasting.

Unless you cultivate a mind focused on the pursuit of virtue, your actions won’t be virtuous. You cannot expect to think one way and act a different way. You can’t focus on ungodly things and expect your actions to be godly. That’s just not how it works. So, my friends, let’s join together in focusing on the good.


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

 

Passion, Sacrifice, and Banter

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I’ve been thinking about romance a lot lately. One of my friends and I had a conversation about it a few months ago, and she was telling me that she dislikes a lot of romance in the books she reads. Also, my pastor has recently talked about how problematic the portrayal of romance in our media is. It has really gotten me thinking because I’ve always loved romance stories. I have read articles before about how too many romantic novels can be bad for the soul. I would say I agree with that. Usually, too much of anything is bad. Also, I really think it depends on the type of romance that you read/consume. I like to read romance that is cute, not erotic, that has substance, and isn’t cheesy.

As a matter of fact, the young adult romance book that I wrote five years ago, which I am currently reworking, talks quite a bit about how being obsessed with romance can be destructive. The protagonist’s obsession with romance makes her incredibly self-absorbed and causes her to make poor decisions.

I think the main issue with romance stories is that they can be self-indulgent. They feature a whirlwind of passion but often lack meaningful connection. I liked something that my pastor said recently about romance. To paraphrase, he said that the passionate, early stage of romance isn’t real romance. Real romance is drawing close to one another again and again over many years. I really liked that. The concept of fighting for intimacy in the face of difficulties, despite the costs, year after year—that sounds incredibly romantic to me. It’s the sacrifice that’s involved that really gets my heart racing. And I think that type of romance is good because it reflects God’s sacrifice and persistence in loving us.

As far as writing goes—I really enjoy writing romantic chemistry. I love putting my protagonist and love interest in opposition with each other. But most of all, I love writing the banter. I love making my characters argue with each other, surprise each other, and bond over inside jokes. The sillier, the better. If I had to give up writing action scenes, I’d be fine. But give up banter? No way!

I think romance storylines can be beautiful when done correctly, but it is good to remember that they are just that. Stories. And stories can never compare to real-life love.

On Singleness

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The other day my friend asked me how I deal with being single. Especially when it seems like so many people my age have already found someone. I’m 27, by-the-way, so it’s not like I’m that old but still. It is starting to feel a little harder being single than it did when I was 26. For some reason, 27 seems to me to be the age by which one should be married. When people ask you if you’re single and you respond in the affirmative, they often say, “You still have time.” And, at age 24, 25, or 26, I agreed, but for some reason, when people say that to me now, at 27, it doesn’t feel like I have as much time. I had been feeling a bit down about being single, but I’ve been feeling better about it and much happier overall the last few weeks. (See my previous blog post—The Person I Want to Be).

My friend asked me if I did the whole “why me” thing? Like, why me? Why am I still single? Why am I not good enough? And honestly, I don’t really do that. Sometimes, yeah, but not much. I feel like I have a pretty good view of singleness, so I thought I’d share it on my blog to encourage others.

Side note: In the past, I had considered starting a blog, but I thoughts along these lines—It’s arrogant to start a blog. To think that you have something important to say. That people actually care about what you have to say. But… it’s not arrogant. And, to my surprise, people keep reading my blog haha. Not a lot of people. But some do. And it seems like my serious posts get more reads than my humorous ones, so it seems like people in the world care what other people out there have to say, so that’s cool. I feel like before I would’ve felt weird or embarrassed about sharing my thoughts on the internet, but it feels kind of good, actually. Plus, blogging is really important if you want to be a published novelist, so I’m going to keep at it. 😊

Anyway, on to my thoughts about singleness. As a follow-up to my blog entitled The Person I Want to Be, this is The Kind of Woman I Don’t Want to Be:

  1. The kind of woman who is desperate to be loved.
  2. The kind of woman who puts all her energy and focus into finding a man.
  3. The kind of woman who compromises her principles to be with said man.
  4. The kind of woman who wastes her time and resources on a relationship that isn’t going anywhere because she’s afraid she won’t find anyone else.
  5. The kind of woman who is never able to give, serve, and love others because all she can focus on is how she can be loved by a man.
  6. The kind of woman who feels like she needs to “convince” guys to like her. Rather than let him find her while she’s busy living her life for God.

The Kind of Woman I Want to Be:

  1. The kind of woman who knows she is loved.
  2. The kind of woman who knows it’s better to give than to receive.
  3. The kind of woman who can be content in any circumstance.
  4. The kind of woman who does big things for God. Who doesn’t sit around waiting for her “life” to start when she gets married.
  5. The kind of woman who stays faithful to God even when it’s lonely and hard.

I just feel like marriage isn’t ultimate. God is. I may find someone soon or it may be later (and yes, I’m really hoping it’s sooner rather than later) but in the end, when I die, I’m going to God. This life is so fleeting. And it’s hard to wrap your head around that, but it’s true. And, what if I did marry someone in five years, but then he died or I died? Sorry that’s dark, but again, it’s true. There’s just no guarantees in life apart from the love of God, so why make your number one focus anything other than that?

Anyway, I know not many people are going to see this blog because I’m taking a social media hiatus and thus not posting it on Facebook, so I thought I’d share a little more. I was praying recently and felt like God was telling me that I will get married and have kids. And that it’s important for me to trust in the promise in the meantime. So, that’s what I’m going to do. Rather than question God’s goodness, I’m going to trust in His faithfulness. Someday when I am married and have kids, I will be able to tell them that I wanted them really badly and it was hard to wait for them, but in my waiting, I trusted the One Who Is Good.

I go to the library a lot (because all the cool people do FYI—seriously, though, libraries are my happy place) and they recently installed a playground outside the library. LOL. Like, the librarians got together and were like, we gotta trick all the lil’ rascals into associating fun with the library haha. Anyway, that’s likely not how it went down, but that’s what I like to think.

And so, there have been a lot of parents and kids hanging out by the library recently. And I would walk by them and think to myself—will that ever be me? Will I ever have kids to play with?

And now, I don’t question anymore. I trust.

I really believe that women bear the special responsibility of trusting God. I feel that the duty of trusting falls on both men and women but especially on women. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman at rest, right? When a woman is a peace-bearer? Rather than a controlling, worrying, nagger.

I feel like God is trying to teach me that He is good. I know this in my head, but I need to know it in a way that actually affects how I live my life. So far, I am loving this process of learning to stop questioning and start trusting. If anyone has tips in doing that, let me know. 😊

The Person I Want to Be

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For the past few months, I’ve been feeling kind of down. A couple of days ago, I shifted my perspective and have been feeling a lot better.

Basically, I realized I’ve been fixating more on what I want from life than on who I want to be. When you live from a place of want that starts to feel like a place of need, you can’t be happy or whole.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pursue good things in life. You just need to hold them with a loose hand.

This is one of my favorite verses:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

When you desire God and His righteousness above all else, you will finally find contentment. The best thing about the joy that comes from pursuing God’s righteousness is that it is available at all times and can never be taken away from you. To get myself excited about pursuing virtue wholeheartedly, I wanted to spend some time daydreaming about the person I want to be. So, here goes.


I want to be the kind of person who…

  • Is friendly even when it feels uncomfortable/awkward
  • Puts people over tasks/ambitions
  • Doesn’t need a romantic relationship to feel complete
  • Is easily pleased with the little things in life *cue major geeking out*
  • Is willing to do the right thing even when it’s the hard thing
  • Puts more energy into loving others than trying to be loved by others
  • Trusts God in my suffering (Aren’t the most beautiful women those who rest in God?)
  • Stands on truth instead of my emotions
  • Serves others without needing recognition for it
  • Values righteousness over my reputation
  • Is happy for other people instead of jealous of them
  • Has a “no-other-option” mentality about obeying God
  • Impacts God’s kingdom for good in a big way
  • Dies to myself every day
  • Has a joy so strong that it strengthens others
  • Lives a RADICAL life
  • Loves God more than anyone and anything

 

In the cold light, I live to love and adore you

It’s all that I am, it’s all that I have   -There Will Be Time, Mumford & Sons