A New Year – Embrace Change

Most people don’t like change. Which completely makes sense, because our lives are built around habits. So our reaction to change is often negative and unwelcoming.

But even though we build our lives around habit, life is full of change. Actually, as strange as it sounds, change is really one of those habitual things that regularly happens.

As we head into the brand new year of 2014, I want to encourage you to embrace change, not avoid it. Change isn’t always easy or fun. It might not be comfortable. But change is how we grow and how life becomes fuller.

View change as the opportunity that it is.

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Immanuel

Immanuel.  This single word describes the miracle and the beauty of what we celebrate at Christmas. God with us. The very Creator of the world and everything in it with us. Becoming fully human and yet still remaining completely God, He came to be with us.

Us. The ones who intentionally sinned against Him. The ones who dishonored Him. The ones who replaced Him with others. The ones who broke fellowship with Him. The ones who deserve nothing but eternal separation from Him. Us. God with us.

Think about that choice. Think of the sacrifice. Think of the humility.

And He did this why? One word. Love. Not because we loved Him, but because He loved us. And He loved us that much. Not because He had to. But because He wanted to. And He took a step further. He didn’t just come to be with us. But He then paid the ultimate price so that we could be with Him forever.

What will we give in return for that beautiful, marvelous, costly gift? What can we give Him? Our hearts. Our love. Our everything.

Immanuel. God with us. May this picture remain with you as you celebrate this week. Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

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Social Media and Self-Worth

social media

I love social media. I have a presence on most major social media/networking platforms; I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. Not quite all of them, but a good majority.

I think that social media is an incredible tool and has definitely benefited me in many ways. But I’m frustrated. Not with the tool, but with how it’s being used/viewed (by me included. I don’t believe for a moment I’ve got all of this figured out). I’ve noticed that a lot of social media users are just looking for attention. It’s all about how many likes we can get on our Facebook post or Instagram picture or how many favorites and retweets we can get on that Tweet. We seem to think that our “performance” on social media is a reflection of who we are and that our self-worth is directly proportional to how “popular” we are on social media.

That is not true. It’s just not. Your self-worth has nothing to do with social media. Nothing.

Posting more often, posting less often, posting completely random stuff, posting a ton of pointless photos, posting a ton of meaningful photos, posting only deep quotes, posting only “important” information, none of those “tactics” are going to make you a better person. They’re not going to affect your self-worth.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that social media is about connecting with people. It’s about communicating with them, talking with them, getting to know them. Don’t use social media just to get, but rather to give. 

I’ve found that when I do let myself slip into the mindset that I need to “perform well” on social media, I tend to be more discontent and more frustrated. But I when treat social media as the tool it’s supposed to be and  just enjoy it for what it is, I’m a whole lot more satisfied and much happier.

Think about it this way. In the long run, which is going to matter more? The number of likes you get on your profile picture or status? Or the lives you impact and bless because you care about others?

Use social media. Don’t let it use you or define you.

P.S. – In a previous blog post, I discussed a video that looks at the connection between social media and loneliness. Here’s the video again if you’re interested. It’s very thought-provoking and helps explain some of the challenges that come with social media.

Just a Few Sentences…

I analyze everything. I pay close attention to what’s going on around me and have to take time to think through and process things. So when it comes to making quick decisions, I don’t typically feel very comfortable. I’ve often tended to view this aspect of my personality negatively.

About three months ago, I was having a conversation with an adult leader about streamlining some different systems and processes for an event. When we came to one of the responsibilities and how to improve it, I made a passing comment about how I wasn’t very good at that job because I need to think through things and this job required thinking on the spot. And then I just made a small comment about how I viewed this part of my personality as a disadvantage. And the leader stopped me. She said, “Matthew, don’t say that. It’s important and valuable think through things the way you do. We need that!” And she went on to explain how my perspective could actually contribute to improving this responsibility. This took me entirely by surprise and completely changed my perspective!

I took away a few big lessons from this discussion with that leader.

I realized that it’s all about perspective. I looked at this certain situation from my assumption that my personality was a disadvantage, while the leader viewed it from a different vantage point. While it’s true that sometimes that part of my personality can be negative, I shouldn’t start with that belief. I should begin with a positive perspective.

I also realized how different personalities work together. If everyone was just like me and analyzed everything deeply and took time to process everything, we’d be in deep trouble. And if no one was like me, we’d also be in deep trouble because so many details would be ignored. But when people with all of the different personalities that God has created work together, everyone contributes and adds value.

But the biggest lesson I took away from this conversation actually had nothing to do with my personality, or the issue we were discussing. From this conversation, I realized just how powerful words are, if they are spoken. That leader didn’t have to stop me and encourage me and help me see things differently. She could have easily said nothing; the conversation would have continued and neither of us would have thought anything about it. It wasn’t that I thought this “disadvantage” of mine was that big of a deal. It was a “small” opportunity to encourage, but she chose to affirm me anyway. Now I wonder how often I miss out on opportunities to affirm and encourage people, not because I’m not paying attention, but rather because I see the chance but don’t think it’s really that important. But that leader thought it was important. And it meant a whole lot to me. Those couple of sentences made a world of difference.

Now, I’m inspired to do the same for others. My words have impact, and I shouldn’t ignore that. I don’t want to waste opportunities I have to be an encourager. I want to encourage and affirm, no matter how “small” I think the opportunity is. Those words from that leader blessed me, and I want to pass that on.

We never know the impact we can have on someone because of a couple of sentences in a conversation!

Decision Time

Making decisions is just a part of life. Some decision will be bigger, some smaller. But they’re all important. Here are a few thoughts on making decisions and not regretting it later.

  1. Be practical. Take a look at the facts and be honest. Facts aren’t everything, but they provide a whole lot of insight into situations. By viewing the issue from a pragmatic perspective, you’ll be able to weigh the facts and look at the pros and cons from a balanced view.
  2. Get advice. Don’t try to make decisions on your own. Proverbs 15:22 says that “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Talk to others to hear their thoughts. You may not necessarily take their advice, but talking to them helps you think through the issue and also see things from perspectives that aren’t your own.
  3. Feelings do matter. Just like facts aren’t everything, neither are feelings. But it’s true that gut instincts are important to pay attention to. How do you feel about each option? What does your gut tell you?
  4. Talk to God. Ultimately, a decision isn’t really your own. It’s God’s. Read His word and talk with Him. I recently spoke with my uncle to get his advice on a decision I needed to make, and he told me that God will not hold me accountable for the results if I follow what God tells me. If you make the decision God tells you to make, you’ll have no regrets.

Once you’ve made the decision, stand confident in it. If you’ve chosen the path that God has directed you to, go forward knowing you’re doing the right thing.

Decisions are exciting and challenging at the same time. But don’t view them as obstacles; view them as part of the journey!

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Image courtesy of jev55 on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jev55/

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