Reminding Myself

I was hanging out in one of the labs where I work, chatting about life and the like while packing up my things, when one of the grad students made a comment that has since been ricocheting around my head.

“You’re really on top of your [grad school stuff],” she said in passing.

I am on top of my stuff, I thought.  Look at me.  I’m totally doing a good job with my life right now.  I have a pretty good idea of what I want to study, I’m all over the making the most of my undergraduate years business, and I’m feeling pretty happy on top of it all.  Go me!

One of my most troubling faults is my difficulty with taking compliments constructively.  A lot of the time, when someone says something nice to me, I think “I totally am!” instead of, “I am- how can I use this for the glory of God?”

It’s fine to think that “Yes, I’m doing a good job” at something.  If I forever tell myself that I’m a failure at something when I’m not, that’s just as much of a problem.  If I think I’m an absolutely useless failure, then I won’t acknowledge any of my talents to use them for good.  And it’s just plain depressing.

The problem comes when I think I’m in control.  I might be working really hard and doing all the right things when it comes to getting ready for graduate school, but if God doesn’t want me somewhere, I will not be there.  You’d think I would have learned this before, since that’s exactly what happened with my college experience.  I forget so easily.

If God didn’t want me to write, I wouldn’t write.  If God didn’t want me to sing, I wouldn’t sing.  If I’m good at something, it’s by God’s grace.

One of my favorite chapters of the Bible, Philippians 3, starts off like this: “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!  It is no trouble to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.”  This is something that I’m writing to myself again.  I’m reminding myself.

The lesson of humility is one that I’ve addressed before, both personally and here on Parakaleo.  But I still need to be reminded- I still need the Lord to call me off of my frail high horse and back to Him.

And every time that I remind myself of things that I need to work on, I also remind myself of my greatest motivator- God’s love.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4:10-12.

That’s something to live for.  That’s something- something more true and more reliable than the lies I often tell myself, both positive and negative- to remember every single day.

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Let’s DO THIS!!!

For the past five years, I have had the incredible honor to serve on the Recreation Team at a magnificent Christian camp for 4th-7th graders for a week each summer.  The anticipation building up to that week is ridiculous- I’ve described it on Parakaleo before.  We can hardly contain ourselves for the month beforehand, so crossing the bridge onto the camp grounds is a big deal.  We culminate all of our excitement and preparedness into a tradition: blasting “Eye of the Tiger” from the car stereo and singing along at the top of our lungs as we roll up that much-loved group of little cabins in the woods.

After all of that, it’s nearly inevitable that we jump out of the car, radiating a general message of “LET’S DO THIS!!!!!”

Being on rec team isn’t easy.  It’s physically, spiritually, and sometimes emotionally demanding.  But somehow I’m rarely too tired to lug one more bin of water balloons to the truck and onto the field.

Fast forward to January.  Most of us have been on break, lazing about, or maybe taking on a winter job.  Either way, we’ve been away from the stresses and demands of a full semester.  Even though I’ve sort of stayed in an academic groove with my winter class and occasionally working, this has been no match for the crazy we have either already encountered or are soon about to experience.  A few hours of class, not even on every day of the week,  aren’t quite the same as Anatomy and Phys 2 (oh yeah- there’s a second part, and my syllabus warns that it’s no walk in the park like Anat and Phys 1… which I considered more of a swift jog up a jagged mountain…) and the other challenging classes I’m signed up for.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to make a list of ways to get motivated for a successful semester!  We might not get Rec Team Excited, but it’s probably not healthy to be constantly bouncing off of the walls anyway.

1.) Set your heart on God. More than I’m a student, I’m a Christian.  A failure of mine in the past has been setting my heart on grades, which is such an empty and frail thing to dedicate your time to.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33a)

2.)  Know what you want from your classes.  What are some reasonable things that you want to get out of your classes?  I think going to school should be about more than getting a degree- we can learn from each individual experience.  I’m really excited for my new lab/class- by the end of this semester, I want to have a better idea if the research topic I’ll be focusing on is what I want to do in grad school, and possibly afterwards.

3.)  Challenge yourself a little… I’ll be honest, early morning activities aren’t really my thing.  Sadly, one of my hardest classes is offered only at 8:00 a.m.  Motivation starts to dwindle pretty quickly.  So my challenge for this semester is to arrive at my 8:00 a.m. class on time, if not early, every day that I have it.  There.  It’s out.  Now my early bird mother isn’t going to let me forget it. This may be a good thing- external motivation isn’t as effective as internal motivation, but it helps!  Let someone else know about your challenge.

4.)  …BUT don’t overextend yourself. Anyone who knows me probably has a deeply furrowed brow right now.  Thank you, girl who is taking some ridiculous number of credits, working in multiple labs and elsewhere, and staying involved with a campus ministry, for telling me not to overextend myself. I’m talking to myself, here, too- this is another tough spot for me.  I definitely understand that sometimes, you just have a lot to do.  So what I’ll emphasize here is the importance of rest.  Leave a Sabbath to just take a step back, refocus, and rejuvenate.  And don’t be afraid to say no to some things!

5.)  Stay in touch. One of the other big semester mistakes that I’ve made is isolating myself.  Community is a huge part of the church, and it’s so for a reason!  Friends can encourage us when times are hard, make sure we’re having fun and not overstressing, and generally just be there when you need them.  We’re not made to do this alone.

6.)  Make the MOST of your time. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

Are you ready, college students?  LET’S DO THIS!!! Anticipate a checkup in a month or so. =P

p.s. Even if you’re not a student, these things still apply!  Every tomorrow is a new endeavor, so feel free to try them out!

Well, the 50th Time Around…

If you sing the words “I just nod” to my sister right now, she will automatically grow incredibly frustrated.  I was looking at a list of the best and worst music videos of 2010, and a song beginning with those lyrics had made the “best” list with a video for a song from his new solo album.

I watched the video and at first, was largely unimpressed.  The article had lauded the video as “a perfect picture of what a futuristic 2010 should have looked like,” and I just wasn’t feeling it (I still disagree with that description, actually).  But I thought the tune was catchy, so I watched it again, and it seemed a little cooler.  Then I watched some behind-the-scenes video (I love that sort of thing) and was fascinated.  Then I watched the video/listened to the song a ridiculous number of times a day.

Unfortunately for my sister, who doesn’t like the song to begin with, and therefore won’t watch the video, the artist also posted an acoustic version of the song, which I loved just as much and listened to it over and over.  The final sum of the number of “listens” in a two-week period is probably very alarming.  The more I listened, the more I noticed, and the more I wanted to listen.

I’ve found that the same principle applies to reading the Bible. (The difference between the Bible and my much-repeated song, however, is that the former is the word of God, who knows each of our hearts.  It is written to speak to us.)  A lot of times we read something and completely forget about it- you often can’t just read a passage once and gleam everything you need from it.  A few years ago, I read through the whole Bible- Genesis to Revelation, and before that, having grown up in the church, I was already fairly familiar with a number of passages.  In the years since that straight-through reading, I have found a surprising number of passages that I either didn’t remember or didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

For example, we know about a lot of the parables Jesus told and the miracles that He did through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But what I didn’t recall, until someone else pointed it out to me again, was the last verse of John reads, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

This past summer, I decided to reread the book of Acts after a friend and I chose to lead a Bible study on the connection between a quote that shows up in both Acts 13 and Habakkuk 1.  While I was reading through Acts 13 with her, I realized that I didn’t remember much background for why Paul was in this random place giving a long, but incredibly encouraging speech.  As it turns out, Acts reads just like a story.  When I got to the end, I commented that I felt like I had just finished a cliffhanger and was excited to continue on into rereading Romans.

It was definitely to my benefit to read both books again.  I walked away from Acts with two new favorite verses:

So keep up the courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” – Acts 27:25  (This is Paul talking to his shipmates, after telling them that the boat they were on was going to be destroyed, but all of the people on board were going to survive.)

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:23,24

I suppose, then, that my challenge to you is to reread a book of the Bible that you haven’t visited in a while.  You can put yourself on a schedule if you want (I didn’t- I just read a little every day).  You never know what God might open your eyes to this time. =)

New Beginnings

Happy New Year!

As we’re busy with our new beginning and thoughts of the potential of the future are swirling in our heads, joined by some great determination to fulfill our resolutions, I want to briefly remind you of something.

Having a fresh start- a new calendar year, a new school year, a new year of life- is incredibly refreshing to us.  But the best new beginning that we can have is the one that occurs when we become Christians.  It’s a real brand new start.

I’ve heard a number of people comment on the fact that nothing is particularly special about New Year’s Day in terms of the day itself.  If we didn’t have calendars or weren’t aware, we wouldn’t treat it any differently.  But when we’re born again in Christ, we have a genuinely new life.  No other new beginning can compare.

The fun thing about it is (though ironically this is also, very frequently, the incredibly frustrating thing) that we don’t acknowledge Christ as our Savior and then immediately skip off to heaven.  He makes us new- it’s a process, and we’re stuck on earth for a while.  But the good part of this is that every day, every second, we can be made newThat is where those resolutions might come in.

Ephesians 4:22-24 says that “you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

I think that we’ll get a lot further with the things that we listed to make this year great if we remember that their foundation is not the excitement and potential of just a new year; their truest and strongest foundation is the new life that we have in Christ.  Our goal isn’t just achieving things to make us stronger, better, or healthier in this life; it’s the prize for which we’ve been called heavenward in Christ Jesus.

It’s a wonderful reminder: I was not made for this world and the very best, the part that I’ve been working towards and waiting for, is yet to come.