Saturday, October 24, 2015

Lonely in a crowd

~Saturday Stories~


  The bus is full of noise, coming from myriads of directions. Laughter rings out. Apples to Apples is played a few rows up and on the left side. Chatter in a different language fills the double seat closer to the middle. An unallowed phone is being played on. Someone belts out a song. But also...

   People read books. People stare out windows. People listen intently to what is said in the seat behind them in case someone might actually speak to them. People glance around, hoping that someone will take that as a cue to let them join in.

  Have you ever been in a situation like that? With all the chatter everywhere but you weren't a part of it? Or were you part of a group when you spied someone looking totally out of place? What did you do?

What would Jesus do?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Don't Let It Go: Thoughts on Past and Present Friendships

~Friday for Friends~

    
        In Russia children play a game where half of the crowd stands in a line and holds hands. A kid from the opposing team charges between one person and another. They, in turn, have to hold on to each other and not let go. I have learned the importance of sticking with family and friends no matter what after I gave up on a friendship back in seventh grade. 

This friendship bloomed in first and second grade. We hung out at school, visited each other, and wore matching clothes. I could tell you in a heartbeat that she meant a lot to me.

A quarter into second grade I moved. Dad’s “home assignment” as a missionary drew to a close, and we flew back to Russia. Certain that this friendship could handle anything, I typed up emails for Dad to send. Even when after a few years she stopped writing back, I envisioned my next trip to the States. I hoped that proximity would lift the barriers between us and make our friendship solid again.

The June before seventh grade our family flew to the States, and the long-awaited meeting came. However, time had passed. She had changed; I had changed. We both sat in the swimming pool only a few feet from each other, but a world apart from one another’s hearts. Both pretty shy we hadn’t yet acquired the skill of small talk so indispensible in such situations. Mom encouraged me, saying it would get better as time went, but I didn’t take the time.  

I gave up. I chose comfort over reconnecting and avoidance over perseverance ultimately letting go of that friendship. We didn’t see each other more than half a dozen times over the seventh-month stay.

Mistakes productively manufacture guilt, hurt, and fear.  However, I know that God can break this chain. He presents us with forgiveness (1 John 1:9), heals our wounds (Psalm 147:3), and calms our fears (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT). He also gives second chances (for example, John 8:1-11).

The same year I made the mistake of giving up God brought a new friend into my life. Then, once again, I moved. For a long time fear crept into that relationship. The fear of a repeat kept me awake in bed, crying, wondering if this friendship would end in the same way. 

Despite my past mistakes, God has helped me and has pulled me through. This year, four and a half years later, I have come back to the States. This month I had the opportunity to see my new friend again. We met and we scraped up enough words for an almost-normal conversation. We went to the same party and laughed at the same jokes. I emailed her my fears and she answered with a certainty that quieted me. The fear my mistake created is being eased down. 

From this experienced I learned more than just not giving up on relationships. I have also learned the importance of constant communication, the value of keeping in contact over long distances, long years, and hard times. Now in the States, I purposefully try to keep in touch with my friends half way around the world. I see it as vital enough to be worth the effort.    

Letting go of one person doesn’t mean I’m destined to fail at friendships. Although my shyness and the decision to not overcome it lost me a friend, through His grace God gave me a new one. Now I strive to keep in contact with others and to not give up on relationships.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What are you thinking about?

~Tuesday Thoughts~


"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 (NIV)



What do you think about most of the time? Is it true, lovely, admirable? Let's pray about it. What should we stop lingering on so often? What things should we think about?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Waiting for the Lord

~Monday Movies & Music~


"Everlasting God" is a song here sung by Lincoln Brewster. Here are the lyrics.

  "Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord."
Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

How about you? Are you waiting for the Lord? When was a time you waited for Him and the wait proved worth it?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Worth the Time by Laura Jackson

~Saturday Stories~


Typical Lindsey: "I’ll figure a way out; I always do."

Required volunteering is one of the last things Lindsey wants to do. But then a certain guy catches her eye. A certain guy who won't even look at her. This is new. And that's not the only new thing because now, at almost eighteen, Lindsey gets to meet her dad for the very first time. What is he doesn't like her? And, really, is being vulnerable, honest, real, and without the mask worth it?


Worth the Time tells the tale of a typical "mean girl" changing. We get to see Lindsey's backstory, her hurt, and her fear of being rejected. Slowly, she opens up to others and to God. The book has two main settings in it, which gives it new layers and is nice. I'd have really liked it, though, if her newfound dad wasn't so "perfect." However, Laura Jackson did a great job at having faith integrated in the story.


This is the second in the Waltham Academy series. The first is Worth the Wait.

For more on Laura Jackson, visit her blog and Facebook page. You can also find her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Paige on Self-Respect vs. Conceit

~Friday for Friends~


Today I'll do something different, which I hope you don't mind.

There's this pretty good blog, In Real Life, and yesterday it had a post: Paige on Self-Respect Vs. Conceit. This is something I've been thinking about lately.

"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

What do you think about the blog post and the Bible passage? Does the passage mean we should like ourselves? Respect ourselves? Love ourselves? Or not?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

10,000 hours with Jesus

 ~Tuesday Thoughts~


The Bible clearly states who Jesus is. He is God (John 1:1), He created the world (Colossians 1:15-16), He is the Messiah (John 20:31), He is the way (John 14:6), and He is King of kings, Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). When we recognize this, it is pretty amazing that God has called us to be His friends (John 15:14-15). He has called us to follow Him (Matthew 16:24). The thing is, sometimes we think we’re so crammed time-wise that we don’t have time to communicate and listen to the Creator of the World.

It is thought that 10,000 hours pursuing something- whether that be surfing, writing, or knitting-  makes you a professional at it. We often spend more time doing something like that than we do getting to know our Savior. Jesus, in His three years of ministry, spent well over 10, 000 hours proclaiming God’s kingdom, pouring into His disciples and others. And He is still alive today (Revelation 1:17-18)! It is time we got more serious about our relationship with Him.

Personally, I don’t spend enough time reading the Bible, meditating, praying, or serving. About half of the mornings, I’ll read the Bible, which takes about 15-40 minutes. I pray throughout the day - mostly selfish praying and crying out - that altogether might add up to about 15 minutes. At 45 minutes per day, I spend 5 ¼ hours doing this a week, about 22 ½  per month, and about 274 per year. What about you? How much time do you spend with Him a day? How much does that amount to in a year?

            Let us consider today the beginning of our counting.  With this pretty slow progression, in 6 months I will have spent about 136 hours doing these things. In a year it would be 274 hours. Looking ahead, when I’m 30, 40, 50, 60, and 75, I’ll be at about 3400, 6200, 8900, 11600, and 15800 hours respectively. To get those 10,000 hours said to be needed I’ll need approximately 36 ½ years! How about you? At the rate you're investing into your relationship with Christ, how long will it take you to get to 10,000 hours? 

            Obviously, this is not the most effective way to invest in my relationship with Jesus. Some things that would be good to change include spending time listening to God, reading more and applying the Word, and serving. I can take steps toward this even now, like helping in church and taking 10-15 minutes a day to just listen to God.

            Even if I only make the 45 minutes per day into an hour per day, that can add up to a lot. 10,000 hours would still take me more than 27 years, which might not seem like a very ambitious goal. However, it’s doable. Like already said, I can find opportunities to serve at church and spend time listening to God. What are ways you can invest more into your relationship with Christ?

            It’s a well-known idea that it helps one change if there is someone(s) he/she is accountable to and that will take the journey with him/her. With this in mind, I might ask my best friend to help me in these areas. Who can you ask to help you?

            Our God and Savior cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). Are we ready to put away our agendas and spend time with Him?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shining through

~Monday Movies & Music~


"Wake" is a song by Hillsong Young & Free. Here are the lyrics.

""By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”" John 13:35 (NIV)

God's love is so amazing. Are we letting it shine through us?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"True love doesn't have to make headlines" and more quotes

~Saturday Stories~


“True love doesn’t have to make headlines.” - Gracie, Skinny

"Thankfully, ALL of us have Jesus to lean on, no matter what! On some days, it seems like He’s the only one who understands. . . ." - Catie, Catie Conrad



"Everyone needs to see a Jesus kind of love - that's like love in action." - Andrea, Harsh Pink

""Just let yourself trust Him. He’ll prove faithful.”
“What if He doesn’t?”
“That’s what makes it trust.”" - Mrs. Santana & Lindsey, Worth the Time

How about you? Which quote stands out to you? Do you have a quote you can share?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Be patient!

~Friday for Friends~


God's Word repeatedly tells us to be patient:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. " Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

"And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone."  1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NIV)

How about you? Did any verse stand out to you? Who can you be patient with today?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Too much technology?

~Thursday Thoughts~

  
Sorry I didn't post on Tuesday. Here's the "Thursday Thoughts." This was written as a response to CGP Grey's video "Humans Need Not Apply."


   Life today differs greatly from life a century or two ago. One of the biggest changes is the machines. We no longer use horses as the major source of transportation, nor do we need as many people to work in agriculture. We have made machines that drive us, that work the ground, that carry things from place to place. This all has made manual labor less in demand and mental labor more in demand. Now we might be coming to an age when even mental labor is not needed that much.

   It might seem that machines with minds and at least some of the five sense are science fiction. Indeed, there have been many predictions about them that have not come true. An example of this is the film Back to the Future. However, some things are not just objectives and goals of programmers anymore. They are reality. From self-driving cars to virtual doctors to coffee made entirely by machines in a network that remembers your favorites, we are entering an entirely new arena. As we do we need to remember that, as creatures made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), we will always be loved by Him (Romans 8:38-39). He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11); we need not be afraid for He is always with us (Joshua 1:9).

   I’ll look at two professions that have a prospect to change dramatically and soon. High school teaching can be very much affected by automation. More and more classes can be done online, making the need for teachers less.  It is said that employment will increase 6% over the 2012-2022 decade, which is less than the average1. The reasons said to be behind it were a smaller student-to-faculty ratio and an increased number of students. However, the webpage didn’t seem to take under account the numerous possibilities and challenges online learning has brought upon us. Today one teacher can teach many students without having to ever engage with them personally. This has impacted education at the college level, and we should be ready for it to impact high school also. Teachers need to understand technology and how to implement it in the classroom. Some should be ready to enter online teaching. However, as Bill Gates said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

   Writers and authors have an even smaller projected growth, only 3%2. It is thought that the publishing industry will decrease. However, there are online outlets available to almost anyone from self-publishing to websites to blogs. There are, supposedly, machines that can even make creative work. However, God has made us in His image (Genesis 1:27). I believe that no machine will ever completely annihilate our creative expression of ourselves.

   New skills and abilities will be important as we enter the age of even more technology. If/when I become a teacher, I hope to learn technological skills to keep my classroom up-to-date. However, the person factor is just too important for all teachers to leave the classroom altogether, and I’m not planning on doing that. As a writer, my first priority is to produce good material. If I do not do that, there is no purpose to learning where to post it and how to promote myself. These are important things, but they are secondary.

   As we are enveloped by technology we need to remember that technology is not God. It cannot do everything. Another Bill Gates quote says, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Many stuff will still depend on people, and we know that everything depends on God (Romans 9:16). Everything is in his hands (Job 12:10).

References:
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014, January 8). High School Teachers : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 3, 2015, from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-6
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014, January 8). Writers and Authors : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 3, 2015, from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm#tab-6

What about you? What do you think about the amount of technology around us? What is some other area that you feel afraid of but know that God is in control?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sold out

~Monday Movies & Music~


"Sold Out" is a good song by Hawk Nelson. Here are the lyrics.

Everything we do should be done for God's glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Let's live for Christ!

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
How about you? How can you be different from the world and help the world in a way that portrays Christ?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sorry I'm Not Sorry by Nancy Rue

~Saturday Stories~


Typical Kylie: "I was going to be totally cool because, like my mom said, we were just there to humor her. I could do humorous. I could do cooperative. I could do irresistible. I could do anything."

Everything has been taken from Kylie -her cheerleading position and her popularity - and it's all because of Tori, Ginger, and their so-called Tribelet that stands against bullying. Like Kylie ever really bullied. Whatever. As long as she still has her friends and her lawyer-dad figuring stuff out, this is all no sweat. But then her friends turn on her, she has to help out with six-year-old wanna-be dancers AND she's in constant contact with Tori and her group. Can life ever get better again? Or, even harder, can Kylie change from the "princess" she has been for so long?


Sorry I'm Not Sorry is deep and powerful. Kylie is a great character that changes a lot and yet the change doesn't seem forced. Kylie's transformation is absolutely beautiful and is one of the best parts in the book. Her mentor gives her lots of good advice that can apply to many of us readers, like "there are no rivals." There wasn't much about God, which was a disappointment. Also, the ending seemed drawn out. However, it's still an awesome read.

Bullying isn't a joke. It's real and it's out there. Sorry I'm Not Sorry is Nancy Rue's third book in the anti-bullying series. It is told from the bully's point of view. It shows how bullies can be made and how with some help they can soften up and learn to be themselves again.

If you want some great fiction with an even greater message, you might enjoy this series. The first book - So Not Okay- is told from the bystander's point of view. You Can't Sit With Us, the second one, is told from the bullied girl's point of view.

If you'd like more information on the anti-bullying campaign you can visit the movement's website. For more on Nancy Rue, visit her websiteFacebook page and blogs for tweensteens and new adults.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rejoicing, weeping

~Friday for Friends~


"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."  Romans 12:15 (ESV)

Who can your rejoice with today? Who can you weep with?