Fear & Joy

Why do I let fear grip me? Why do I let anxiety tear at me, peeling my skin until I am exposed and shaking, freezing in the bitter, piercing cold of [the false]* reality [I choose to let myself believe in]? How can I allow my soul to be afraid when there is truly nothing to be afraid of?

I worry what others believe about me, what they feel about me. In turn, I fear their thoughts, I fear their words. I worry that my life will not be comfortable, rewarding, successful, joyful. In turn, I fear that which I cannot control. In pursuit of joy, I let my soul-shaking fear be the map and compass in a self-ravaging journey.

In order to find the joy that my fear is keeping me from, the fear must be put aside. I believe that happiness + contentment = joy. When I search for the key to contentment and hunt for the solution to happiness, I come to naught, though, because I will never find them. I may very well get close on my own, but I’ll never truly find them both, together.

I have found contentment, I have held it gently in my hand and felt the promise that in any circumstance, its presence will remain, if I do not snuff the light out. That is all well and good, but happiness (which seems to me less valuable than contentment, at this season in life) evades my grasp. It is often hard to keep contentment in one’s hand while reaching for something else, but I suppose that is expected. At times, I have also found happiness—those giddy, mischievous times growing up, when nothing else seemed to exist. The two of them, though, rarely seem to be seen together.

The truth is, the entire time I have been running from fear, looking for happiness and contentment, Jesus has been Here, waiting, holding the key in his hand, being the very key in and of himself.

The Lord (YHWH) will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Fear loses its power and every anxiety shatters in the face of YHWH, because there is nothing in this universe that holds its power under his all-pervading reign.

The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Again, why do I let fear grip me? The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-pervading God is in my very soul, the innermost part of my being. How can I begin to worry what others may think or say about me? He is my comfort and reward, he is the source of my joy. Fear doesn’t stand a chance.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.

I am not a good person. I am not wise. Jesus doesn’t ask me for this, though.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus doesn’t expect me to stand up to my fear; he knows I can’t do that on my own. I’m weak, I doubt him, I doubt his love for me. But he has the power to banish fear. Jesus doesn’t expect me to be a paragon of joy. He knows that, without him, I will revert to a twisted, contented depression, devoid of light. But with him, my heart can be happy, and my spirit contented in him. This is how he casts out fear, bringing the light of his joy.

**Scripture quotations are from the NIV, emphasis added. Shared here are the passages Exodus 14:14, John 14:26-27, Matthew 6:34, Matthew 11:29-30. For more on Matthew 11:28-30, see Anchors: an exploration of self-love, toxic people, and Jesus. [Pronouns reffering to diety are purposefully left uncapatalized, as this may sometimes be a meaningless ritual, and in place of this sign of respect for the Godhead, other linguistic changes are often mindfully used.]

*[Words in brackets were added 3/28/18 at 5:12pm.]

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A Student’s Guide to Time Management

Last school year, I was a fairly average example of a high school student: if something was due Monday, I was sure to get it done by Sunday night. I might need to stay up until 1 AM and consume some sort of caffeinated beverage, but I’d get it done. Almost all of my student friends follow this same model of procrastination. Some say it works best for them, that their best work is done under pressure, and/or they can’t focus during the week. This school year, though, things changed for me in some major ways, and I think most students would appreciate this shift taking placing in their own life, even if it seems ridiculously impossible at this point. (Before I go on, I must clarify that I am homeschooled and basically attend a one-day school/co-op, but some of my methods will benefit students of all sorts.)

Since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year in September, I have not done homework on a weekend. Sounds great, right? Since mid-October, however, I have not done homework on a Friday. And since early December, homework on Thursday has actually been a bit of a rarity.

Let me calm your fears before I go on. Yes, I do my homework, I study well, and none of my grades are lower than an 85% (which, particularly in a class like chemistry, is fine by me). I don’t skip more homework than most kids already do, and I’m learning thoroughly; yet, homework doesn’t loom over me constantly.

How is this possible? I’m honestly not too sure. It started as an accountability plan with one of my best friends, but at this point, it has grown way beyond what I hoped for, and he and I don’t really talk about it anymore. (I’ll also add that accountability partners have never been much of a help to me, but teachers as a form of accountability have majorly kept me on track during my high school years so far.)

As much of a mystery this is to me, there are still a few things that I know helped. I will explain them as Realization, Boxing (because I dislike the word ‘clump’), and Momentum. Parts of these methods will mostly be helpful to students attending the same style school that I do, but even if you’re attending a basic five-day school system, or even university, there will be something for you. And of course, if you’re expecting any success, you must have a good reason, a thought-out why.

Realization

Before you can work up the motivation to attack your homework with Tuesday Gusto, you might have to do some math. Write down your subjects, and think through the weekly workload. How much time per week do you usually spend on the homework for this class? Does the workload vary, stay fairly constant, or diambiate [I’m leaving this word here because my brain thought it meant something, I wanted to say a word that meant ‘ebb and flow,’ but that came out…] between twenty minutes and two hours? It’s okay to make liberal estimates; even these will likely encourage you and give you a dose of reality.

Now that you have your time estimates for each class, add it all together and divide by the number of homework days you have available, excluding the weekend because you should get your rest and sleep is not a mythical concept. For me, I have four days. Once you divide this number and realize that you really only need to work on school stuff for two to three hours a day, four or five days a week, (–it’ll be different for everyone–) you might just decide voluntarily to clump box this into three days instead of four.

Boxing

Draw up a schedule of your school days, take your weekly time estimate, and distribute it. If you’re feeling adventurous, cut out Friday and see what your week would look like if you did just an hour or so more the other days of the week, to make Friday part of a three-day weekend. Simply looking at this on paper can change your work habits overnight.

For me, this looks like packing American history into Tuesday morning and (late) evening, chemistry into Tuesday (early) afternoon, geometry into Wednesday (mostly the afternoon, because the later hours work best for me) and British literature wherever it will fit. Sure, I’m pretty much eating/sleeping/doing homework/going to a church group/working 24/7 (24/2?) those two days, but I like it.

Momentum

If you had four construction projects to work on of a given week, and you knew that each one took about four hours, would you visit each site every day of the week and work on it for an hour? [Not a story problem.] You probably wouldn’t. Okay, so why do we cut our homework up into chunks, then proceed to go after one project, then *hours of Instagram or Facebook scrolling later* to the next project, and then to the next? There’s an argument that this is helpful to keep the information in your head, particularly for math, but I honestly think that idea is for elementary school. Choose a day to do all or most of the homework for a certain class, and power through it in one sitting (with maybe a twenty-minute snack-and-YouTube break). If you need to study it a bit to refresh your memory before a test coming up, the good news is that you’re basically an adult now and you can do things like setting reminders for yourself and, like, have some semblance of organization. Would you like a badge?

Why?

Why finish your homework on Thursday? Because you have something better to do Friday/Saturday/Sunday. My goal is to use my extended weekend for writing, running, practicing piano/ukulele, activities with friends, and reading. Sadly, many weeks, this extra time has mostly been utilized to sleep in, consume entertainment, burn up time on social media; the generation Z usual. There is much room for improvement, but I’m getting there.

Every situation is different, and I know some students are functioning at a level wherein there isn’t even an hour of free time, and this would be an impossible goal. Wherever you are, work to become master over your time, but be content with what you have if that is the best you can do. That’s okay.

A Note on Procrastination

Planning always beats procrastinating. It gives the fulfilling feeling of getting work done, while basically just being a better form of procrastination. However, knowing what you have to get done and how you’ll get it done will easily knock out the ambiguity that keeps us from starting. Have a paper coming up? Outline the steps you’ll have to take to finish it, and you might just find in yourself the motivation to begin. Need to study for a test? Get some index cards and do some color-coding before you write out what you need to remember.

Questions? Comments? Wild success stories? Email me using the form below.

 

 

 

The Internet

We’ve all heard the fear-mongering about the internet. “This is destroying our attention spans, our thoughts, our brains!” “Social media is a comparison trap, a breeding ground for depression!” “Hyper-connectivity has brought an end to true connection!” Some of this is a bit over-the-top, but I must admit that the internet, on the whole, does concern me in a few aspects.

For one, recent generations spend a lot of time on social media, 27 hours a week, by some accounts, almost four hours every day. Just think about your own habits–count in your Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter (for the three people who still have one…), YouTube, messaging, music, podcasts/audiobooks, game-playing, Netflix-binging, article-perusing, Googling… the list really can go on for every individual user because the Internet is as boundless and infinite as the world which it has enveloped.

What purpose does this serve, what does it give us in return for our time? Greater connection, for one thing–I have a few friends, not to mention siblings, who live quite a distance from me, but I can, of course, FaceTime them and follow their lives on Facebook and Instagram. Much of the Internet also makes life more efficient, but I think we can all agree it swallows up more of our time than it saves.

In every generation, there will be wastes of time. Doodling, writing letters (people did that, right?), frivolous chat, reading, talking on the telephone, watching television. And now, the internet. What’s the difference? None of these time-wasters behave like drugs, at least, not in the way the internet does. One source says “One can be neurologically addicted to technology in the same way that they can be addicted to drugs or alcohol,” and The New York Post says that what may be happening with the internet is that it “is physically addicting like a drug.” If you’re doubtful, just do a bit of Googling. Anything can be addictive–excessive eating, smoking, even exercise–but what’s addictive enough that we spend four hours or more surfing, perusing, viewing, scrolling its vastness? The internet. And that’s not an accident. Creators of entertainment platforms (whether it be social medias, news organizations, or video-streaming) know how to get you addicted, and they do it quite purposely. This action is not fueled by malicious intent (hopefully–yet), rather, they’re just men and women doing their job to increase ad revenue, for the most part. However, as these CEOs find themselves holding more and more power, you can bet they will use this to their advantage in some way. It may sound bleak and unrealistic, but I’m just going to put it out there: totalitarian dictatorships in the west are getting easier with every step forward on this new frontier. As “the internet of things” creeps in, and we connect our heater, our fridge, our locks–even our toilets–to the web, we could easily usher in a controlling regime, which cannot be threatened, under penalty of shutting off our lovely toasters. Maybe consider that the next time you find yourself willingly whispering your secrets and thoughts into the web, whether that’s in a status update, or a private message. If you feel like this is an outrageous, unrealistic claim, just consider what is already happening–huge companies are using their data on us (gathered from practically anything you do with your smartphone or laptop) to target ads and even hide certain posts to further their particular agenda.

I’m not enough of an idiot to use my online platform to scream “the internet is dangerous, run little children, run!” at the top of my lungs. But I might whisper it, because this is freaky. Just think: how many hours did you spend on Facebook ten or fifteen years ago? And how much time do you spend on it today? You may enjoy seeing pictures of your family, or that friend you met out of state two years ago. And you may appreciate gifting your wit to the world now and then. But at least consider, what else could you be doing with your time? If Instagram is your thing, are you sure all of that scrolling is really making you happier and more fulfilled? If you’re on Twitter, must you really know all the terrible news of the day that quickly? And if you’re currently sending off your Snapchat streaks for the day, stop and ask yourself why that number matters, especially if that one daily connection is a general, impersonal one. You may realize that you have been blindly taking part in a system that delivers nothing but empty endorphins.

Steps moving forward: power down all your devices, smash them with a hammer, retreat to a cave without wifi, and never speak to anyone else who is still tied to the web. It’s not safe! Steps moving forward if you’re a normal person who has to, you know, live a life and stuff: be mindful of your internet use. Ask yourself, “could I go a day without using the internet? How does the time I spend on the internet make me feel? What could I do with my extra two hours if I slashed my internet use in half?” And set goals for yourself, like “every Tuesday, I will not use [insert addictive social media, or all of them],” or “from the time I get up to the time I get home from work/school, I will not use my phone except to text, or use non-internet tools.” When it comes to the realm of entertainment, try binge-reading like we did in the ancient days of the 1900s, (instead of binge-watching,) to grow your attention span. All of these changes could literally (as in, literally, not figuratively, that’s why I used the word “literally”) impact every area of your life. Small changes can make you happier, healthier, and even bring you closer to the people you care about.

While there are many benefits to what the internet has brought us, there are also things to be concerned about, like the amount of time we spend on it, our privacy, the safety of free thought, and general wellbeing. To combat these things, we must be aware of the threat they pose, and take steps to avoid the addiction of the internet.

How do you avoid being addicted to your smartphone? What are your thoughts on the issues presented, and how do you believe we can best face them? Share your ideas below, and you may be featured in a future blog post. You may choose to be identified only by your first name, or remain anonymous.

 

 

Christmas Thoughts

Merry Christmas, friends. It’s almost difficult for me to believe that we are all here again. Another year has passed by. Freezing, snowing, hibernation… thawing, rebirth, warmth… heat, growth, sunlight… death, cold, migration. And then, back to snow. This earth has come to the end of yet another cycle around the sun, in God’s Solar System. The year has been good, and bad. Joyful, and sad. Sweet, and bitter. Peaceful, and calamitous. It’s had its moments. And we are here, ever-continuing into the next year. (We’ll never stop the System–only God can.)

About two thousand and seventeen cycles around the sun ago, in March or so, Jesus was born. Everything people say about this sounds cliché to me, so let me get this through your head. Jesus was–and is–the incarnation of God. He is not like God, he does not possess attributes of God, he is God, and there was never a moment in all of time, all of history into infinitum, that he was not God. Yes, there are other parts of God, but Jesus is not less or more God than they are. The Holy Spirit, God the Father, and God the Son (Jesus) make up what Christians refer to as the Trinity, the Godhead, the ultimate unity that created the world together. And yes, they are plural (“let us make man in our own image”), but yes, the Trinity is quite hard to understand and we don’t have to get into it now. I’m just making sure you realize this dude is God.

Anyhow–God became a child, to experience life as a man and ultimately die on the cross for our sin. Jesus came and was crushed by his father in the Godhead. It’s not fair! No seriously, think about it, this isn’t fair at all. Jesus was perfect, and loving, and caring, and sweet–not weak–but tender. His ministry to us was constantly focused on healing people, and condemning the judgmental. Somebody like this deserves to live to be 107 and then drift off in their sleep. But he was crucified for us, because he loves us, and he wants to have each and every one of us in Heaven with him someday. If you weren’t raised in the church, or that’s just confusing to you, feel free to reach out to me. But the point is, Christmas is about Jesus, Forever Saviour, loving us in such a way that prompted this humbling act. Don’t ever let yourself forget what that really means.

In addition to the birth of Jesus, Christmas is also a time of year-end reflection. For me, 2017 was mixed. Bitter moments of dark depression, contrasted with seasons of friendship and renewal. Dull, quiet days, and world-traveling days. Summer laziness, Autumn busyness. And I suppose a year is too large a span of time to not be mixed, to some degree.

But overall… it was beautiful. Mostly because of the people in my life that lit the way through the dark times. In an awful valley, a friend came, just to talk, and walk, six or seven times around the block, and be my voice, until the tears subsided, and I knew life would be okay for another few days. A friend listened to me, even though I said all the same things over and over again, because he knew I had to get it out. A friend drove thirty minutes just to sit next to me, and look into my eyes, and ask “what’s wrong?” and cry because I was crying, and hug me until I could brave the rain again. A friend let me run errands with him now and then, playing music and just finding the time to be together, because I needed advice to face issues of the week. A friend asked “how are you doing?” in a way that told me “if you need to talk, or cry, or just hug, that’s okay.” A friend walked with me for two hours at midnight in a small town in the Summer, letting me tell him how I felt and what I thought, listening and caring. A friend had coffee with me, and assured me that God really did want to have a friendship with me, to have my love, and for me to have his love. So, even though this year was one of the hardest years of my life, it was the best year of my life, because of these people. Thank you, all of you that have shown love to me. I thank God for using you in my life.

Merry Christmas, friends. I love you. And I won’t forget, no matter what, the care you have shown me.

Anchors: an exploration of self-love, toxic people, and Jesus

If the entirety of your life is to give happiness to yourself, then it’s a pretty meaningless life. Isn’t it? Some people seem to have another view. You, it appears, should be placed at the center of the Universe.

Love who you are, embrace who you are. Love yourself. When you love yourself, people can kind of pick up on that: they can see confidence, they can see self-esteem, and naturally, people gravitate towards you. – Lilly Singh, YouTube personality

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. – Lucille Ball, American actress and comedienne

Is there a bit of truth in this? Sure. (Maybe a little.) And I realize that these quotes address millions of people (across many generations) who really just don’t like themselves, and that’s sad. To loathe oneself can be an exhausting and depressing habit. But the cure for self-loathing or self-annoyance has never been (and will never be, no matter how much people preach it) “self-love.” Or, perhaps as a better term, self-obsession. There is a time for introspection, of course. And you’ll notice that much of what I believe on this is pinpointed on a fine line between two extremes. But here, I believe, is where you will find joy.

The natural step to take, in an effort to become less focused on yourself, is to focus on others. Pour into others. Love others. Expend time, energy, and other resources on showing people how much you care for them. But then, more problems arise. What do we do when that person turns less-lovable? What do we do when something flips and that person becomes a source of negativity? If you’re part of this Millennial/Z generation, then your answer is immediate. (1) You label that person as “toxic,” (2) call them out as that to everyone in your friend group, and (3) proceed to ignore them! (For good measure, block them on social media.) Problem solved, right? After all, just like toxic chemicals, there’s really no healthy reason to expose yourself to them.

But isn’t this just running directly back to the dogma that brought us quotes like, “Love yourself and everything else falls into line?”

So where is the middle ground? How does one maintain a healthy level of self-care and confidence, while reaching out to a broken world? Do we sacrifice our happiness and health on an altar of ministry? Or do we forget the world and seek self-love, self-knowledge, and, in the end, selfishness?

No. Neither one is the answer, and you can tell because I set up strawmen representing both sides, simply to prove my argument. (That’s a joke–I don’t want to confuse you, but I want to be honest about how I’m arguing it.) Here’s the answer: Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28

Oh, goodness. Aren’t we all weary? Don’t we all need rest? I think part of the cultural saying, “I’m tired” that we seem to repeat as often as the word “good,” is, at its core, not an expression of physical fatigue, but one of emotional, relational, spiritual fatigue. Sure, we’re tired because we stay up late, get up too early, and run on caffeine. But we’re also tired because our souls are weary.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that the sweetest bit of poetry you’ve ever heard? This God that created the Universe and loves each and every weary soul on this planet, says he will give you rest!

Ugh, I’ve been distracted from the point. This verse gets me every time.

How does Jesus give us rest from the relational difficulties of the world?

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

When we take his yoke upon us, and let him pull our burden with us (which is a deeply difficult thing to do, sometimes!) we learn from him. We become gentle and humble. Instead of loving ourselves or hating ourselves, we begin to care less what we think about ourselves in the first place, (a “self-forgetfulness” that C.S. Lewis and other writers talk about,) and learn to develop a healthy way of viewing ourselves that is profoundly informed by how Jesus views us.

As with all truth, though, it doesn’t stop with us. We then carry this to others. We take this rest to those in our lives and become anchors of Jesus’ undying compassion and love. Others can sway with the tide, expelling negative forces from their lives. Well-intentioned loving, caring people can pour into the lives of others until they are pushed away or burn out, exhausted. But when we rest in Jesus, he gives us strength.

We all know we can’t do it on our own. We all know we’re tired in a way that sleep isn’t going to repair. Why don’t we admit it? Why don’t we let Jesus take this burden of life with us? Why don’t we just forget about ourselves now and then? And why don’t we let Jesus love broken people through us?

It’s not easy. As soon as we make an attempt to do this, we catch ourselves going back to our instincts of self-reliance. But you can’t love her. You can’t love him. And you can’t really love yourself. You’ll never know what real love is until you let Jesus supply that love.

To be very clear with you, I’m not writing this as a display of my perfect ability to anchor the love of Jesus in the lives of others. I’m writing this because my thoughts have been spinning around this topic for months, and I believe that these words of Jesus in Matthew 11 resonate with this human struggle.

Think of someone in your life that is hard for you to love. Here’s the thing: it’s hard for you to love them, but Jesus loves them immensely more than you ever could. And on the opposite side, think of how you feel about yourself. You may not think highly of your eccentricities and intricacies. And that’s okay. Because you don’t need to think about yourself. Just be an anchor of Jesus’ love. It’s enough. You can always find rest in him. Always.

 

 

 

days of life

Days pass, and as they do, we pack them up in boxes and call them “Weeks”. A few Weeks pass, and we pack them up in a box and call it a “Month”. A few Months pass, which get packed into a “Season”, and then four of these whisk by and get labeled as a “Year”.

But that’s not the end. Once enough of these Years have passed, we refer to them as “Decades”. These Decades continue, and soon, we pack them all up in a box called a “Coffin”, and we bury it six feet under the ground.

 

Summer Reading

It’s Summer, the only time of year when we pledge to read a million books, then toss them out the car window on our way to the beach. But maybe you actually want to read this Summer! If so, here are some books you should add to your stack.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

If you haven’t read this yet, find this little book and read it! You might be able to read it in a couple of days. It’s a hard book to describe, but I’ll just say that it’s a magical mix of fantasy, imagination, philosophy, and adventure. Read it.

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

This is the greatest defense I have read for the existence of God. Armed only with the Bible, philosophy, and logic, he answers hard questions and explains why God just makes sense.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Okay, now I’m realizing I’m just suggesting my favorite books. But we will continue! Better Than Before is the greatest self-improvement book I’ve ever read. It’s interesting and helpful in real ways. Disclaimer: this is a secular book and I don’t condone everything in it.

How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

This is another book that needs a secular content disclaimer, particularly since I haven’t read it all yet (!!), but it’s shaping up to be the best YouTuber book I have ever read. (Also, by the time this posts, I’ll probably have read the whole thing, so I can run back and take this out if the book takes a bad direction.) This woman has worked so hard for the success she’s had, and she teaches how she’s done it and how all of it had to be “worked for, not wished for.” Many of the ideas she shares are ideas I’ve heard in faith-based forums.

So, if you needed more books to abandon come Fourth of July, I hope these suit you!

Another post on reading:

How to Read All the Books on Your TBR

Stressed Out?

We are nearing the end of a school year and a long season of busyness. This is leaving many of us sleep-deprived, stressed, and even depressed about a variety of things. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. You don’t have adequate rest.
  2. You aren’t enjoying moments.
  3. You aren’t getting enough sleep.

(Yes, sleep and rest are two very different things, and we need both to live calm lives.)

Here are several ways you can de-stress your life as we approach a new season, starting with obvious ideas and going into deeper strategies.

1. Get some sleep.

Yes, you need it, and coffee won’t solve all your problems for you. Our society seems to be tired all the timeand it isn’t healthy. Tonight, try beginning your “going to sleep” routine a little earlier. Tidy up your room, lie in bed and read something, and let yourself calm down.

2. Slow down.

Stop rushing. Plan ahead. Do some things slowly. Think about what you’re doing. Think about your life. Think outside of your life. 

3. Pray.

Let it out. Tell God. Your prayer life doesn’t have to be all about asking God, you can just tell Him things sometimes. Explain how you feel and why you feel it. Ask Him to help you.

4. Talk to someone.

Call up a friend. Text someone. FaceTime your family. Just please, don’t post something depressing on Facebook. Find people you can unload on, and let them unload on you. Talk things out together.

5. Take a walk.

When’s the last time you took a walk, and it wasn’t to get somewhere? If your answer is yesterday or today, you probably don’t need to hear this. But if you can’t think of the last time, then just go! Listen to nature or the cars or whatever you hear outside. Use it as time to think through things.

6. Read a book.

Have you ever felt like reading a book took you out of your own situation? That may just be what you need right now. I don’t think it’s healthy to run from your life or your problems, but it’s certainly helpful to take a break now and then. (Here’s a shameless plug for you: if you’re looking for reading material, my book The Fantastical Journey of Gavryn Wickert comes out in August – hopefully. Here’s an update on it.)

7. Do nothing.

Just sit for a few seconds and hit pause. You might be surprised how much you need it.

 

How to Approach Touchy Subjects with Total Strangers

You have probably heard the common phrase “don’t talk about religion or politics with a stranger.” Often, the only defense given if you question this idea is “people get touchy.” But is that really that great of a reason? If people get touchy when talking about these issues, I don’t think the solution is to stop talking about the issues. The solution is to stop being touchy. Talking about our ideas with others leads to a better understanding of each other and keeps us from believing ridiculous fantasies. So, if you would like to climb over this barrier and begin casually approaching “touchy” subjects with strangers, here is a quick guide.

1. Sneak up to the topic from behind.

Don’t just come right out and say “so, what are your religious beliefs?” Try starting with “what church do you go to?” Once they answer that, you could ask follow-up questions like “do you agree with everything that they teach?” If you’re trying to talk about politics, try starting with “did you ever dream of becoming president someday?” Then you can lead the conversation to “which president do you think you’d be the most like?”

2. Don’t let your own beliefs become known.

This part is extremely important. People are more defensive if they think you disagree with them. At least at the beginning of the conversation, try to be coy and only ask them about their ideas or beliefs before presenting your own. Once you do present your opinions…

3. Be kind.

Always pivot back to kindness. Make it clear that you care about them on a personal level, even if you are total opposites when it comes to politics or religious things. Side note, if you don’t actually care about them, then you might not be the best candidate for influencing their beliefs.

It’s not complicated or hard. You just talk. You don’t have to convince anyone of anything. The main purpose of this exercise is simply to relax barriers and help people become comfortable talking about these issues. One more thing: knowing when and who to talk to  is often the hardest part, but don’t worry about it. The opportunities usually present themselves, you don’t need to go looking for it.

Book Etiquette: Reading the Right Way

How does one read a book the right way? Are there certain practices and behaviors that are often disrespectful of a book or the author? I would say yes. This is all in a half-joking manner, but there are truly some things that I think we should remember when reading a book.

Judge Every Book by Its Cover Unless Given a Reason to Do Otherwise

There are enough people in this world practicing “don’t judge a book by its cover” that if they find a masterful book with an ugly cover, they’ll let you know, then you can read it. But there is no use subjecting yourself to some drab magenta book cover if you don’t really know if it will be a good book.

Stick with it until page number __.

This is a rule that lots of people have that I don’t. I’ve heard people say that they stick with a book for 100 pages, 140 pages, it really varies. My trick is that if I don’t like a book, I don’t keep reading. The end.

Give it your attention.

When you sit down to read a book, don’t jump up to do this and pull out your phone to take a picture and text your friend who is also reading a book and taking pictures. Just. Read. The. Book. Whoever wrote that book spent valuable time putting words together in an order that makes sense so that you can read it and enjoy the rhythm and flow. It wasn’t written to be grabbed in little half-paragraph bites. It was written to be chewed.

Be patient.

Newsflash! We have trouble with patience. I don’t want to sound like every social critic blogger, but I will say that the obsessive-compulsive use of social media has probably damaged our patience a lot. Instead of sitting in a doctor’s office and doing nothing (or looking at the fish or reading a book) we now scroll through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, et cetera. So, of course, when we do most anything else, we find ourselves bored very easily.

Sadly, this happens to me practically every time I read a book. Here, a short record of my thoughts when reading a book, for your listening pleasure.

Hmm, I am enjoying this book. Very nice. Oh, good choice of word there, nice imagery. Who is this author? Oh yes. Wow, that’s an awful photo. And that bio is written in third-person but obviously written by the person herself. [See what I did there? I’m being diverse.] Back to reading. I should see how many pages are left before the end of this chapter. Ope… Just about seven. How many pages have I read so far? Just about… one. That’s nice. I love this book so much, I think I’ll check to see how far I am again. I’d say… 1/9th. No… maybe 1/10th.

…And so on and so forth. I am rightfully disgusted with myself. So I have developed a rule that I try to practice as often as my brain will let me:

Don’t check to see how many pages are left before the end of the chapter. Ever.

But someone will say “how can you know if you can read the chapter before you have to go do something else?” Well, here’s the thing, if you have to leave in the middle of a chapter, you use something called a bookmark, and if you have to do a tiny bit of back-reading next time, that’s okay. It’s probably good for you.

Actually read books.

It’s horribly rude to leave unread materials sitting around your house. Sure, they make great decorations (this is coming from someone who once checked out a bagful of books from the library just to use as decorations – they were classics, no one checks those out anyway), but too long sitting as unused decorations and they won’t feel valued.

Read your books! And while you do, remember to:

  • Judge books by their cover.
  • Stick with it until a decided page number. (If you’re that kind of person.)
  • Give it your attention.
  • Be patient.

Happy reading!

P.S. This is the 150th blog post!