Friday, December 9, 2016

Young and Pressured | idolatrous obedience

For this series' introduction, see this post. For more posts in the series, here's post one, two, three, and four. For background of where this idea came from, read my Rebelution article.  


<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | five >>


7:50am seemed to come too soon each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (although I actually am a morning person).

It was the penultimate class session of Honors Systematic Theology, and if you thought your mornings were unusual, try discussing the intricacies of Calvinism, the problem of evil, and human freedom with about twenty other about twenty year olds when you've hardly been awake for half an hour.

It was my turn to lead discussion. White paper crinkling with my page flip, I read my fourth question aloud:


"The author gives Abraham as a positive example of living: "he was willing to risk everything, in order to be in obedient communion with God, having faith that God would provide a sacrifice (Gen. 22:14)" (190). We're further told to live a "given over" lifestyle of self-sacrifice, following the example of Jesus (193). Has the concept of "risking everything," being "sold-out for Jesus," and being tapped into the Gospel's power grown out of proportion?


Her hand immediately shot up from the back of the room, and my blue-squared-glasses, black-brown long bobbed (not) Calvinist candor-spewer spoke up: This is something I'm really passionate about. I think this concept has gone way out of proportion.

Red Christmas-sweatered, orange haired graphic designer spoke up, too. Do we have the wrong concept of obedience?

You see, if we are so frustrated that we're not living "sold-out," what's behind this frustration? Do we think that, if we are not "sold-out," then we are not pleasing God -- that this "sold-outness" is what obedience must look like?

This seems much more likely.  

Not sold-out "enough" (not going to that foreign country, not talking about Jesus profusely to every person we meet, not having "profitable enough" quiet times), we are not obedient enough. Lacking obedience, we are displeasing God (the last thing we want).


You see, our desire to obey and please God may be taking away our ability to actually do precisely this. We desire obedience to the point that our "obedience" isn't what it could be. 


Instead of speaking kindly (and thanking the One who is the most kind), we chastise ourselves over how we could have spoken more kindly and then maybe we would have had that conversation that would lead us to our ultimate, "fulfilled" destiny of moving abroad and helping orphans (because this is the destiny most pleasing to the Lord).

We are never "good enough" in our obedience, and it keeps our obedience from being focused on the Savior as we focus on us, the sinner.

To put it bluntly, our obedience is becoming our idol.

We can become more concerned with achieving the God-pleasing level of obedience that we neglect being focused on the God we are trying to please.

To put it bluntly, in our idolatrous excuse for obedience, we are loving ourselves more than we are loving the Lord.

"If only we served him more deeply..." "If only we lived a life a little more 'sold-out'..." What's in those questions? We. We is central.

Our idolatry requires repentance, and it requires a change in the way we think. What if we stopped keeping such close tabs on ourselves to the point that all we see is us and our tabs? What if we decided to simply commit each day to the Lord and trusted that, as He knows our hearts are set on obedience, He's going to continue to guide?

What if we simply accepted the idea that God has placed us where we are for a purpose, and maybe the biggest "missing it" with our lives is when we miss Him and what He has for us in each moment?

  • What if we chose to obey in our minds? Obey by thinking of what is right, excellent, and worthy or praise (Philippians 4:8)? 
  • What if we let our "good enough" or "not good enough" actions take a secondary role?
  • What if we let the reality of His goodness give us peace despite our "striving"?
  • What if we accepted we are not perfect but this gives us a perfect opportunity to be perfectly dependent on Him?

I don't know exactly what this would look like, but I say let's find out.

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Young and Pressured | false start

For explanation of this series, see this post. For more background on this idea, see my Rebelution article.



<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | four >>



Maybe the inclination has always been here--here, within me: to question the meaning out of life and to question the life right out of myself.

Questions.

They've been fodder to the fire of my life, sometimes fueling dreams, goals, and actions and (other times) burning thoughts, attitudes, and choices that were meant to remain.

I asked more this week.

The Student Government meeting went shorter than usual, and we cared to spread the care of the school's care packages. Over a hundred KitKated, trail mixed, and gatoraded boxes later, we moved upstairs and grabbed orange plates and dinner food. We then sat, and the conversation led to a place I'm all too familiar. In the context of having the desire to do something for God but taking on the pressure to do something for God, I asked.

What is the meaning of life? What is the guiding principle that influences the choices you make?

  • We talked about pressure: self-put pressed that's made all the weightier through twisted-biblical basis
  • We talked about self-condemnation: of hanging onto the pressure so much that you are never enough but pressured to do more better faster.
  • We talked about decision: that we can continually go in circles without ever finding a way out because there's always more factors we could use.

The end of the conversation exposed one concept, a concept that may be the beginning of the key to freedom from the twisted pressure to make a difference and change the world.

Jesus.

"Salvation is found in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
 
I have so (so so so) many thoughts of the implications of this one word and am honestly not even sure where to start.

But maybe that's just it. We are prone to starting in the wrong place in this discussion of world-changing pressure.

What do we start with? We start with the commands to go, do, surrender and apply them to our individual existences. How do we apply these ideas? What do they make us think? What do they mean for us?

Yes, these questions can be healthy. Analysis can lead to very good results. However, they betray a deeper reality: an anthropomorphic worldview, a man-centered way of viewing reality.

It's self-centered.

"Then Jesus said to all of them, if anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24).

We put the pressure on ourselves to figure out how we need to best serve the Lord to the point that we forget to honor the Lord of whom we are trying to serve in everything--even in our questions.

We allow the questions to pile up as we think that we're actually doing some higher calling, as we're just "figuring out what the Lord wants," as we are just seeking to serve Him more.

But this can lead to disobedience: to sin.

We get so stuck in wanting to please the Lord that we get suck in our minds in places that aren't pleasing to Him: as we are consumed with all things about how we are doing and not enough with what's He's already doing and the privilege it is to follow Him.

We can neglect joy that's totally unrelated to our performance.
We neglect thankfulness for what the Lord's given.

Perpetually exploring the unknown of how to better, best, perfectly do our lives, we forget to honor God, the giver of life. We forget this: that we know who He is. His majesty. His greater purposes beyond the individual.  

Maybe we need to start with re-evaluating what we think we know (these commands that give us such pressure) and start with what we actually do (Jesus, and the humbling reality of who He is).

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Young and Pressured | the picture

For explanation of this series, see this post. For more background on this idea, see my Rebelution article.


<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | three >>


Young people feel pressure to change the world for Jesus, and this is actually keeping them from acting to change the world (see post one).

Yes, they feel such world-changing pressure, but they don't know how to do it. This means that they are not only often living much more inactive than they could but also feeling purposeless (see post two).

However, these ideas aren't coming from crazy sources: hints of them are actually found within the pages of the Bible itself.

Isn't that how these things often go? Just enough truth is packed into the powerful punches of thoughts and makes for a pile of thoughts that starts to lean the wrong way (and lead the thinker down the wrong path).


Truth comes out: truth is being twisted and forming the basis for a lot of these thoughts.

I NEED TO CHANGE THE WORLD

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10). Shouldn't we have to find all of these good things that God has us to do? What if we don't find them? Then aren't we wasting our lives? So we'd better hurry up and find them and do them so we can do the next and the next so the world can be changed more and more.

"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature'" (Mark 16:15). We need to go into the world with the message that can change the world. We've been commanded to do this! What are we waiting for? Is our not going (since we've been commanded) disobedience even if we are doing other good things? We need to finish up and go, go go.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). We've been commanded to go. There's good things in store for us to do. We can do anything through Him. Why are we holding back and not going, doing, changing the world?

 I NEED TO SURRENDER EVERYTHIG

"Then Jesus said to all of them, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24).  We must surrender everything. What if we are still holding back? Is He just waiting for us to surrender more? to surrender more deeply? What if we don't know how?

"More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8). What if we still feel torn? What if we still want these things though we want Christ, too? How can we choose them more?

Don't get me wrong, I believe that striving to make a difference in our world for Jesus is a very good thing. In fact, I think acting from our faith is healthy and a sign that our faith is real (James 2). Surrender is so necessary! We need less of us and more of a knowledge of God.

Bible verses tell us the truth of difference making and a surrendered lifestyle. However, twisted, they can twist our view of who we are, who others are, and what it means to live a life following after Jesus.

This is what makes this pressured, purposeless situation all the more dire: it is finding a foundation in a twisted version of scripture.

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Young and Pressured | of purposelessness

For explanation of this series, see this post. For series post one, see here. For background on why I'm writing this series, see my Rebelution article


<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | two >>


Our three clear, glass plates sat onto the grey-brown dining center tables in the back room. We were across from the windows, and I was looking for windows into the issues of my mind and heart.

I'd met both of them early last year: one from the friend of a friend of an art friend, and the other the friend of the first. Fast forward a year and a half, a Cold Stone honors seminar run and Student Government campaigning cookies later, we'd learned more about life as we did it together.

"Do you think you, or people you know, have experienced this immense pressure to change the world? How do you think it affects them?"

She shifted her fork against the sun-yellow pineapple and grass-green kiwi. She spoke of motives and missions, guilt and comfort, co-opts and shame cover-ups. One word stuck out amid the piles of discomfortable realities.

"I think our peers feel purposeless."

Purposeless. 

Purposeless, amid a reality of the purposeful life that we are supposed to be living: the pressure to live the sold-out "good life."

Reality is, I don't think this is because we do not know about a purpose: to know God and make Him known, to not waste a single minute of our life in pursuit of this sold-out good life.

I think that what we are actually missing is practicals.

  • We want to change the world, but sometimes we have no idea how to tangibly get started.
  • We want to be all-in for Jesus, but we see how often we are sinful and sometimes can't seem to see how to ever accomplish anything big.
  • We are obsessed with the big, but we see that our life often isn't big; we don't know how the smalls matter or how to "make them matter."

The sold-out, "good life" pressure is resulting in the opposite of what it could. 

Instead of fueling us with purpose, it's making people feel purposeless. They don't feel like they know how to practically live with such purpose. All they see is that they don't feel like they are "making it"; they must, then, be living without the purpose actually meeting their life.

This pressure > purpose > practicals continuum is meaning that we are living without more. 

We are being robbed of many pleasures of the dailies, of knowing God and making Him known as we are known by Him. This means we are getting caught up in our own frustration at our lives, and our presence is being taken out of the present as we forget to rely on the Presence.

This, my friends, is a painful problem.


© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Young and Pressured | Dealing with the Religious Drive of Difference Making

For explanation of this series, see this post. For more background on this idea, see my Rebelution article.

<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | one >>


I don’t want to waste my life.

Sitting on the wooden steps in my Illinois home, I faced the front door and seemed to face the door to the rest of my life. I held the fair-trade, polka-dotted, crème paged red journal as my Piglet pen recorded my words: “Tomorrow, you’re going to be eleven. You’ve probably lived about an eighth of your life, Deborah. What do you have to show for it?”

I didn’t want to waste my life. I wanted to change the world.

At age twelve, I proceeded to read bestselling, Christian “make the most of your teen years” Do Hard Things in reformation of my un-productive ways. I needed to know how to make the most of the teen years before I even reached them.

As I grew, wasting my life stopped even being an option and living sold-out, “big” for Jesus became an obligation. I over-analyzed everything in a desperate attempt to just find God’s will.

Because if I really believed in Jesus, wouldn't that affect more of the way I lived? If I truly grasped I'd been given access to the Holy Spirit Himself and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, shouldn't I be doing more (John 14:26; Ephesians 1:3)?

Thus, my chronic illusion developed: I need to single handedly change the world (and do this for Jesus).

But I never felt like I found God’s will but only self-frustration, fear of any action (because it could be the wrong one), and a life of dissatisfaction at my inability to figure out how to fix my failures.

I started asking last summer. Was I the only one who’d developed this unhealthy, out of proportion pressure to find God’s specific will for my life and change the world?

Apparently not. Responding to my thoughts about this on the Do Hard Thing’s “Rebelution” blog, my peers spoke out.

“Yes, I am also obsessed at not wanting to waste my life… In fact that is my biggest fear. Living on this earth and not impacting it in some way. I feel all this pressure to make a difference and to be productive in my teen years … [it can] make us feel like we are on stress ride” (Bekah14).

“I’m 17, and I feel like I’ve wasted so much time that could have been used productively” (Andrew).

“In the first years as a teen I had really great ideas, and I still feel a bit guilty sometimes that I didn’t do something big, or that I’m not doing something big” (MusicalRagmuffin).

“Just under a month ago, I turned 18… I’m just realizing that my teenage years are almost over and I feel like I’ve wasted them. And I don’t want to feel the same way when I get to the end of my 20’s, 30’s and so on … I do strongly feel the pressure to not waste my life” (Sarah A).

“Distorted (and enormous pressure) pretty much sums it up for me!” (Haven Asnip).

Apparently this problem really is bigger than just me. Church-raised and indoctrinated young people are feeling it: a distorted pressure to change the world.

If we could only find God’s will and then act completely sold out for Him. If only we would be more productive in our obedience and impact all our spheres of influence. If only we wouldn’t waste our lives.

Sometimes we need to hear the good messages to surrender more, do more for Jesus and be sold out. However, apparently some of us are taking it too far, and it hasn’t taken us very far in actually living productive lives.

Maybe letting our desire to “change the world” morph into an obligation to do so is the very way we keep ourselves from doing just that. 

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images) 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Series | An Announcement


What is being a Christian like for young, church-raised Americans today?

This question isn't a unique inquiry into today's millennial generation. However, it is a crucial question as its implications have effects for both Christians and non-believers today.

Christian young adults often have the desire to "live for Jesus," but they can get lost in what this means (although they are desiring nothing more than living "sold out"). This pressure to "live the good life" can actually harm the life they're living.
What misconceptions do young adults have about God, other people, themselves, and life that are (actually) keeping them from living "the good life for Jesus" even as they seek to do just that?

Welcome to a new series: In Pursuit of the Good Life.


Questions will be asked | Opinions will be given | Millennials will be interviewed


These questions matter because the Bible matters and how it impacts our lives is so (so) important. These questions are just the beginning.

  • What makes a successful, Christian sold-out "good life," and do young people feel like they're reaching it?
  • What is one essential element to "making the most of life," of having this "good life"?
  • What does this "good life" teach (about happiness, sacrifice, meaning, purpose, relationships)?
  • Where did this idea of "sold-outness" come from, and is it helping or harming young people's day to day choices?
  • What is affecting young Christians' lives if they feel like they're not reaching this?

You see, I cannot speak for everyone in my demographic of Christian raised, Christ-pursuing peers. However, I am a part of this population, and I have seen peers struggling to make decision to follow God's will. I've heard them talk of how they feel like they're just "missing something" in their life. I've witnessed their conversations of guilt, feeling like they never are doing enough for the Lord.

I've experienced versions of all of this in myself. However, I am becoming more and more convinced that it does not end with myself. This pressure-filled mindset is larger than just me. 

Young Christians are feeling the pressure of never achieving this sold-out "good-life." But it's harming more than just them.

It's harming those they interact with: co-workers, family, friends, acquaintances. You see, how we think affects what we choose to do; what we do affects tangible actions that influence other people.

We are harming more than ourselves. It's time to take a closer look into this sad, un-biblical situation.

Here's to the pursuit of truth.

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images) 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Exciting News || Odyssey Edition



Sometimes, elements in your life have a really hard time coming together.
Other times, it's really, really cool to witness the hand of God at work when you are faithful to obey Him.

I'm among the first to admit that results like what I'm about to share definitely don't always occur when you're being faithful. Actually, they often can feel like the exception and not the norm, so if you are feeling like you're in a difficult place right now don't give up or lose hope.

I want to encourage you with a small God moment.

It was a regular Wednesday, and I was walking back from a class a little tired, a little discouraged, and just ready to call it a day (but knowing that that was nowhere near happening).

My phone started it's threefold continual vibration. This meant I was getting a call. I pulled it out and smiled to myself. The number wasn't programmed into my phone, but it was from New York, New York.

If you know anything about me, you may know that my heart is in the city, and my dream is to be able to move there upon graduation. Seeing that pop up on my screen felt like enough in itself. I figured the call wasn't actually for me (somebody just ended up with my number), but I thanked God for that little smile He's so good at giving.

I reach my dorm and continue with my day, setting my phone down and not looking at it for quite a while (as I have a not always beneficial habit of doing). When I came back, I saw the New York number had left a message. The call actually was for me. 

You see, a couple of nights before this, I'd read an article that someone had sent me. It was from this online media platform called Odyssey. I thought it was cool, and I'd actually researched their company before and had this desire to somehow write for them. How that would happen, I didn't know because their submission process seemed... unique. 

The next day, I'd seen a Facebook post. My school was opening a team of Content Creators for Odyssey. I could request an invite, so I did, and provided some information to seek to join the team.

The called I'd received was from an Assistant Managing Editor located in the city itself, and after a half an hour conversation filled inquiries such as what is the value of media today? what does it take to be a successful content creator? what is the role of social media in media society today? I was invited to join the team (which I did).

I proceeded on board with Odyssey for quite a few weeks, weekly contributing articles to the site and learning more about how promotion works with social media.

Then, amid another God story, a role as my school's group's editor-in-chief opened up, and I was asked to fill this role (which I am).

Now, from a girl smiling about a NYC call to a content creator turned editor-in-chief, I'm happy to share that I'm on board with Odyssey and would love to share some of the content I've been producing for them with you:













I'd love to share a simple message with you, too.

Don't you ever, ever give up. Keep on keeping on (even when it's dark). Keep on keeping on even when the results seem to be nowhere in sight. I'm not telling you to keep on keeping on simply because you hope that you might see the results soon (though I hope that for you, too).

I'm asking you to keep on keeping on because He who calls you is faithful, and He asks for your obedience. Keep on keeping on because you are keeping on keeping on serving the King, no matter the results because He is enough.

Keep on keeping on enjoying whatever comes as you keep on (keep on).

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Story of Burnout || apparently no one is immune

"I lost the desire and ability to keep going. I didn't see why I was going in the first place. No, I saw reasons why I had started, but they no longer had the value they once did."

 

<<PART ONE>> 

 

I'm honestly unsure of how to start this post. I'm unsure because I'm sure of this: so much has been swirling in my mind for so, so long.

It's been over a year. 

It's been over a year since the intense thought-swirling started. It's like having an ocean of thoughts inside your mind, and you--walking on the edge of the water--are being incessantly hit by the waves. They're heavy. They're cold. They keep coming as long as you are by that edge. You somehow have to keep moving forward despite being hit and hit and hit and hit.

Let me go back to about two weeks ago.

I was coming off of a lot. I'd completed my first move-out on my own where I'd finished two semesters of maximum credit loads and maximum basically everything else.

Instead of making sure balance was happening, I jumped directly back into essentially a thirteen credit summer load, a freelance writing position with weekly deadlines, a summer internship with more deadlines on top of my existing commitment of four contributing author positions, one attempt to relaunch an online magazine, various queries to write for additional publications, and research into my biggest dreams.

If that wasn't enough, I'd also planned on finally getting to all that stuff that I've been wanting to do for a long time. Think a massive list of anything from finally reading through my over fifty issues of TIME magazine, watching about 100 saved TED videos, researching ancient philosophy and apologetics, learning various skills, and finally simplifying my almost storage maxed out computer.

Plus, I was going to articulate answers to some of the deepest questions of my life once and for all:

why am I here, what is life actually all about, who am I and what does that matter, who are other people, what is the most efficient way to change the world, what is my deepest passion, how do I actually want to live my life, what is life, why is life, what is happiness, where is meaning, how do I live whole-heartedly, what is whole-heartedly for me, what can I do, how do I keep myself back, how do I change that and go forward, where is forward for me.

I'd been doing all this (more or less) for about two months. It basically felt like I'd been doing it all very inefficiently, and words that my brain decided described my situation were along the lines of self-condemnation, regret, guilt, indecision, doubt, control, frustration, and lack of love.

That last one dared to delve deeper. It reminded me of a very unfortunate facet of my reality.

I was now living (and had been living for a very long time) without love - that state of hesed loyal obedience - and even just enjoyment of life. I was not "loving" (engaging in with all my heart) my life, my God, or other people.

And I'd started to slip. My high-achieving lifestyle was (scarily) approaching a crashing halt faster than I thought. My productivity started to diminish.

I lost the desire and ability to keep going. I didn't see why I was going in the first place. No, I saw reasons why I had started, but they no longer had the value they once did. 

I was actually helping out my sister as she was dogsitting, and they day had been a constant struggle; a constant struggle to try try try to keep myself focused so that I could finally move on and do what I actually wanted.

I saw that why in the world would I keep living in any other way than contented, purposeful, and peaceful because our days are chronically numbered. I saw how I wanted to live but felt incapable to get to that place. My self-reliance wasn't gonna get me out of this one, and I knew it.

I sent a text. "Hey, are you gonna be home when I get back?" My mom replied. She would. I didn't say anymore till I walked in the door.  

I functioned for a little while, then I asked if she would talk with me. My dad was ten minutes away, so we waited for him. Then, we had a ten minute slot (and they ended up giving me fifteen).

I sat on the wooden chair in the recesses of the cool basement while mom was cushioned by her favorite prayer chair and dad situated on the couch's leather.

I opened my mouth, not sure of what would come out but sure that something needed to emerge.

I told of the sea inside my mind. I told of how desire and ability no longer held meaning. I told of the total strength deficit to take any more steps. And I told them of how ridiculous I thought it all to be; how I (of all people) should be past this by now, how I'd been given so many tools in my life and felt the pressure to use them all and guilt at never doing it good enough, how I knew I should be able to function at this capacity.

My leather and prayer cushioned parents placed the possibility before me (one I'd staunchly believe I was incapable of reaching): burnout.  

My parents--they with years of counseling and ministry--stated how it seemed that I was in the beginning stages of it, something they traced back to long, long ago. If something didn't change, I was headed for a full on crash and burn.

We talked some more, and then they had to leave for another appointment.

I wanted a quick fix. I wanted a magic solution that would allow me to jump right back in to it all with ferocity.  
I didn't get that type of magic. I've (actually) been working through it all these past two weeks. It's bringing up that which I've been grappling with for over a year.

This story doesn't end here because my story didn't (and doesn't) end here.

I've found--no, I'm finding--a new way to live. I want to tell the rest of the story, to share it with you.

The story will continue in part two.
© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why You Need to Deal With it Now || of unfinished drafts and an unfinished life


I'm looking.

I've been scanning through all the posts that I have on my admin side of this blog. It turns out that I'm nearing having as many "drafts" as I have "published posts."

And that's ridiculous. I have posts that are half finished (some totally completed) and some that are actually posts about what kind of posts that I need to write.

Half-Finished. Half-Starteds. Half-Full of half formed ideas about this (not even) half of a normal life span that I've been living.

These unfinished posts and half-explored ideas are not where the incomplete ends for me, though.

I've started a lot of things.

I've started a new schedule for increased productivity.
I've started a new plan to actually engage in my quiet time more consistently.
I've started a new plan for how to keep pursing my dreams.
I've even started a plan of how to live a happy life.

And I know what you're thinking: "it's not how you started but how you finished that counts" (at least that's what I'm thinking). But I cannot stand clichés lately. And that is not where this post is going to head.

((Because, honestly, how you start really does matter. It's not just that you finished--what that cliché is really getting at. Starting can be ridiculously hard. Ushering up all that gumption to begin and having the courage to even risk the thought of failure is laudable. And sometimes, you can actually finish badly. You can finish more depressed than when you began. You can finish with worse relationships and worse health. Really, starting and finishing and which actually matters is a mute point. So much as to do with how you define your terms of "mattering" in the first place)).

Why you need to deal with it now, why unfinished drafts and an unfinished life are so detrimental, is because clutter can kill and ideas can leave and motivation can evaporate.

You have something in your heart, so you start; you write down the idea. You make the phone call. You write the post.

Yet one of the most scary realities that I am noticing is when we have an idea but let distraction distract us from the very power and beauty that can be found in the pursuit of these desires.


You only can learn some lessons when you are in the thick of pursing.


And, if you never start pursuing anything, you never can see how these desires you're pursuing may change. If you never start with that goal you've been having, with that experience you want to try, with that idea you want to explore, you're never going to see if this dream is really one that you have or find out what another dream might (actually) be.

Don't wast the moment; Don't wait on your passions; Don't waste your energy.

Because the moment quickly passes; your passions can quickly fade; you energy is all too quickly spent. And your half-ideas will build up with a weight that can make pursuit of anything-later on-feel like a half-hearted chase. 

The halves have built up halves have built up halves have made you into half of what you could be. made your life into (maybe) half of what it should be.

When you're living "half," the world only gets half of you. Actual people you've been graced to regularly interact with only get half of what you are capable of giving.

This half-life isn't just a disservice to yourself. It's a disservice to those around you. It's a disservice to the King who made you capable to living (whole) in the first place.

I don't know about you, but I'm deeply to prone to half. I'm scared of going all in and the commitment that brings (because what if I'm wrong?). But I'm staring at a massive pile of unfinished drafts that reflect some of my unfinished approach at life. 

I'm sick of halves.
I don't want to invest in my life with half of my heart.

Here's to living (whole) hearted -- mistakes, failures, imperfections, fears, and all.
© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining

Friday, June 24, 2016

When It's Meaningless || of single-handedly trying to change the world


"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world" (C. S. Lewis). 
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The light brown, leathered seats of the (endearingly termed) fuel efficiently "leaf-eating"car supported my weight as the wheels turned along the road, the road leading straight to the city: the jewel of the midwest.

"We're gonna play the question game." The words exited my mouth as a coy smile appeared on my lips. I was anticipating her response.

"Uhm, what is that?" Her skepticism came as no surprise.

We were heading to five donut shops because... life.

"At each stop, one person will ask a question. The other has to answer. The question can be about anything; it just can't be dumb. It has to be good. Like, it has to be thought-provoking and deep..."

That sounds like a heck of a lot of pressure, but really, it wasn't. We knew we're on chill ground with each other, and insecurities about producing philosophical musings was unfounded. Just ask a question. Simple.

What did we ask? Think along the lines of "what would your life look like if you didn't have fear?" "what motivates people?" and "are you happy right now? what would it take for you to live with a little more happiness today?"

The sweetness of the creamy donuts contrasted the (sometimes) sour thoughts and honest words that such questions brought to light. But the conversations were sweet, so sweet.

By the end of the donut escapade, we'd moved onto park hopping, riverfront walking, bridge exploring, fountain water-testing, beach arriving, and museum pursuing. The questions hadn't stopped when the donuts did, though, and our conversations were dappled with observations of the awkward photography situation to our left and the depths of humanity's plight all around.

By the time we returned to our parking garage and (semi-complicatedly) located the pay machine and exited the building, much clarity had come.

But it wasn't the yay-I-can-now-live-a-fearless-happy-life type of clarity. It was the oh-my-I-am-a-fearfilled-dissatisfied-with-everything-whimp kind of clarity.

But this meant our trip's last hour and forty minutes in that leaf-eating car were some of the most direct words I've been able to articulate in a long while.

She'd asked before we'd entered what was the one thing I was living for right now, the one thing I'm searching for. I'd responded with one word: meaning.

"I'm searching for meaning, for a meaningful life. A full life."

Because that was it. I've been having so many side symptoms appear in my life for the last year. The fact I lost thirty pounds and some of my sanity along with it. The fact my relationships with my family were so much more... non-existent than I want because of my disengagement. The fact that I try to figure absolutely every decision out to this illusive "best." The fact that each decision of which shirt which words which look which action seems incredibly (incredibly incredibly incredibly incredibly) momentous. 

"Are you content?" Her words came to me, and I laughed (bitterly).

"Content? The question shouldn't be 'am I content?' it should be 'when are you not discontent?'"

Because the truth is, I've developed this habit of seeing through everything. Seeing how this affects that affects this affects life affects the reality that I am never satisfied because so incredibly much seems meaningless and nothing ever seems like enough.

Because if I really believed in Jesus, wouldn't that affect more of the way I lived? If I truly grasped that I'd been given access to the Holy Spirit Himself and ever spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, shouldn't I be doing more (John 14:26; Ephesians 1:3)? 

I have this chronic illusion that I need to single handedly change the world [and do this for Jesus], and (uhm) that underlying belief can really screw up your brain.

"No, I'm not content. Life seems meaningless, and it's incredibly monstrous to try and figure out where the meaning should be for you and how to get yourself there. I am so, so tired. I'm exhausted. I don't want to think anymore, and I don't get enjoyment from basically anything. There's almost always a flaw. And I don't feel like I have the energy to try anymore."

And that folks, is just half of the conversation. The other half is when she hit me back with hard truths, and I was faced with the hard action of having to admit them and speak more of how true they really are (and how many of them are already buried deep within me, but I've resisted digging them out).

But I'm not ready to write about that yet. I'm still very much grappling, and right now the thought of writing them sounds like spewing cliche after cliche after cliche onto the screen, and I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that to you.

I need to let them sink into my heart first. I need to let them become so much apart of me that I no longer need to write down my fleeting thoughts on this sticky note that paper that pages document that phone notes. I need them to be so much apart of me that I don't have to remember to remember them.

So until then, this post remains half finished. Because I'm not going to speak until I am speaking from conviction and heart-knowing passion. (Sorry for the delay; I'm learning life is [actually] a process..).

But, I would like prayer. Please, join me in seeking our Abba.

For He is the truth we need.
© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Yes, You Should Waste Time

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Image via Pixbay
Your time matters. Each second counts. Make sure that you are making the most of every opportunity.

We’ve heard it before. We know.

Our time is college is a beautiful thing. 

We should be engaging with all that is around us – people, ideas, places, opportunities.
 
Here’s the thing, though.

One of the most important things for us to do is to waste: to waste time.
Waste time in a way that your life is made more than it was before. Waste time regardless of how people want you to spend it.
Waste time to do this:
  • To do things that make you laugh a little more loudly.
  • To have conversations that have implications longer than the minutes you spend talking.
  • To chase the dreams that otherwise would fade to distant thoughts.
Because who defines what wasting time is, really?

We like to say that any time not spent “being productive” is such a waste. 

What exactly qualifies as “productive,” though?

Assignments? Projects?

Well, yes, we do have a responsibility to be productive with our time in those areas. Isn’t life more than just this, however?

What if we made our focus on being productive in (simply) life?
  • I want to make the most of my conversations.
  • I want to make the most of my goals and try something a little outside of my comfort zone.
  • I want to make the most of my future and take risks.
  • I want to spend time seeing the world more clearly and (as a result) seeing myself more clearly.
  • I want to spend time finding out what it means to live.
And, if this means some people might say I’m “wasting my time,” then I say okay.

I choose life.
© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
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This post was originally seen on Common Community 


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

God's Will Doesn't Matter


What place should God’s will have in our lives?
 
That’s a question I know I’ve asked and (let’s be real, here) am continually asking.

We wonder all sorts of things about God’s will.
  • Am I understanding His will correctly?
  • Can I step outside of God’s will?
  • How do I best know what God’s will actually is for my life and what is just my will?
We have a lot of questions.
Honestly, I don’t know how to perfectly answer any of those.
One thing I have noticed though: talk.

Sometimes, we’re too lazy to simply talk about God’s will.  Other times, though, we talk about it.  A lot. 
Ask someone how they’re gonna get involved on campus and hear that they’re “still seeking God’s will about it.”  Ask them about how they are going to pursue their interests and hear how they are not pursuing anything “until they have a more clear picture of God’s will for their life.”
Don’t get me wrong.  Seeking God’s heart and wanting to honor Him with our lives is more than important: it’s vital.

But theorizing and delaying and hesitating and second-guessing and doubting and questioning and continually analyzing and constantly searching aren’t a healthy approach to God’s will.

Waiting on God’s will is not an excuse for selfish living.

You see, some things are perfectly clear:
  • What’s most important? Loving God and loving people (Mark 12:30-31).
  • What’s solidly in God’s will, regardless of the circumstances? Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. “…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Let us stop this hyper-analysis.  Rejoice that God is good. Pray that we will act according to His heart.  Thank Him for the opportunities in our lives.
Commit ourselves to Him and go.  Go in faith that He will redirect but realizing that He cannot redirect something that never moves in the first place.
© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
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This post was originally seen on Common Community 


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