Just Because I Can

head buttNo one likes to argue. No one likes conflict. Or at least that’s what we think. That’s what we tell ourselves. But it’s not true. In fact, often we feed on conflict. We like to argue. We like going contrary to everyone else. Why?

God has created humans in an incredible way. We are complex, full of emotion and depth that I don’t believe anyone will ever completely understand. And one of those characteristics is our rebellious side. Yes, we all have one. Even the most compliant person has a part of them that wants to resist. Rebellion makes us feel independent and strong. We’re standing against something. And in some ways, that’s really good. If that rebellious nature is channeled right, it can make us stronger and better people.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside of our rebellious side. When we find that we have the strength and gut to be contrary to others, we then start exercising that just because we can. We feel good being different and strong and independent, so we want more.

Now, this is different from a good healthy critical mind. It’s really important that we are careful about what we believe and what we think. But sadly what can happen is we can move from healthy critical thinking to always looking for a bone to pick. This has happened to me. At times I’ve found myself intentionally looking for problems in what others are saying not because I want to be cautious in what I believe and not because I want to have an intelligent conversation with them, but instead just because I want to find something wrong just so I can be a little rebellious. I want to argue just because I can.

We express this tendency in many different situations. It may be in a dinner time conversation. Maybe a text. Maybe it’s Facebook. In fact, today I was tempted to respond to a Facebook post I disagreed with. But I didn’t. And part of the reason was because I knew that deep down I just wanted to disagree because I could. It wasn’t really because I wanted to engage in a discussion on the issue. I just wanted to be a little rebellious. I might have been right about my opinion, but my motive was wrong.

Let’s admit it, it’s fun sometimes to go against the status quo. It’s fun to shake things up. But don’t let that feed you. Don’t rebel just for the sake of rebelling. Don’t start an argument (as orderly as it might be) just for the sake of criticizing. Have a purpose. And be honest with yourself. I’ve found that sometimes I’ll create a purpose for myself just so I feel good about arguing. Basically I’m lying to myself, telling myself that I have a good reason to be critical and rebel a little, but in reality I just want to argue because I can.

calvin_arguingNo one likes people who are always correcting everyone else. No one likes people who always have to bring up something contradictory whenever they’re in a conversation. Don’t be that person. Choose your battles. Choose the ones that matter, the ones that you actually care about. The ones that don’t fuel your desire to rebel just because you can.

Be the kind of person that people enjoy conversing with because you can disagree respectfully but you’re not out to disagree for the sake of disagreement. Be uplifting. Be encouraging. Be wise in choosing to be contradictory.

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Modesty: A New Perspective

A young woman looking at clothes

Modesty. It’s an issue people have been discussing for years. A lot of years. And we still can’t come to an agreement. Maybe we never will. I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of modesty for quite a while and want to share a completely new perspective on the issue. The focus will be modesty for women, but I believe that what I’m sharing can apply to both genders pretty equally.

So get ready for something maybe a little different than you’re used to when reading about the issue of modesty.

I’ve noticed that modesty has become an issue that’s a whole lot bigger than it needs to be. Here’s what I mean. The Bible makes it clear that purity of heart and mind is just as important as purity of body (Matthew 5:27-28). But a mistake that Christians have made is that they’ve inadvertently employed the power of suggestion to make things a problem that aren’t really a problem at all.

Let me explain. Throughout history, clothing fashions have changed a whole lot. It’s interesting to note that some of today’s styles would have been considered horribly inappropriate a hundred fifty years ago, and styles that were totally fine a hundred fifty years ago are today considered immodest. Why? Just for the simple reason that what society deems acceptable changes over the years. It’s how culture operates. And for us to say that the standards for styles today are better than those from a hundred fifty years ago just doesn’t make sense. For example, at one time in history, exposure of ankles was considered immodest and provocative, while exposure of additional skin elsewhere was completely acceptable. Today it’s the opposite. What was once considered immodest is now considered modest, and what once was considered modest is now considered immodest.

My point is this: it’s not how much skin is shown. It’s not where that skin is. It’s not about the tightness of the clothing. It’s not about any of the things we typically talk about in the “modesty talk.” Here’s what it is about. It’s about attitude and heart. The attitude and heart of both the girl wearing the clothes, and the guy looking at the girl.

In fact, I’m much more inclined to put more responsibility on the guys than the girls. When I see a girl and my mind goes in a direction it shouldn’t, my reaction is to change my thoughts and apologize to God for those thoughts, not to immediately think “wow, her clothes are immodest.” Why?

Because I chose to have those thoughts. I allowed my mind to go that direction. My attitude and my perspective is my choice and my responsibility. I control it. I can make a decision when I see a girl to either think things that are inappropriate and objectify her, or to view her as the beautiful woman God designed. And it’s completely up to me. My thoughts and my mind are controlled by me, not by anyone else.

A challenge I face, though, is that for much of my life I’ve had the impression that certain clothing or styles are “sinful.” But what that did was sensationalize them. The power of suggestion and curiosity is huge. Because I was led to believe that a certain style was sinful, my mind would go there. But as I’ve trained my mind to move away from those thoughts, I’ve been able to view styles not as “sinful” or “not sinful” but instead simply as a style. Guys, our minds are our responsibility. But removing the stereotypes sure would help. As I’ve been able to remove my preconceived beliefs about certain types of clothing, I’ve discovered that they are no longer a stumbling block. The style hasn’t changed. How much skin it reveals or covers hasn’t changed. How tight or loose it is hasn’t changed. But my mind has.

Intention-MattersI do have a few thoughts for girls as well. Because the issue of modesty ultimately comes down to attitude and heart, I think there is some responsibility on the side of the girls as well. I would encourage ladies to consider their motive and attitude for what they wear and how they wear it. Because it shows. I know that might sound strange, but normally it is pretty easy to tell why a girl is wearing what she’s wearing. I can typically tell if she’s looking for attention, if she just wants something comfortable, if she wants to look pretty, if she doesn’t care, if she wants to appear provocative. And that most certainly does factor into the equation. Guys are definitely going to have a tougher time keeping their mind pure if the girls around them are wearing clothing with the intention of getting the wrong kind of attention. So it is helpful for girls to be aware of their attitude and what they might be communicating through what they wear and how they carry themselves.

Also, ladies, it’s good to be aware of the kind of guys you’ll be interacting with. In Romans, Paul talks a lot about being aware of what could be a stumbling block to some. Depending on how guys have been raised and their background (among other things), certain styles could be a stumbling block. That doesn’t mean you should never wear that style, but it may mean not wearing it in certain situations.

Notice that in this entire post, I haven’t said anything about amount of clothing or how much skin should be allowed to be shown or how tight or loose clothing should be or whether one-piece swimsuits are more modest than two-piece suits or how skirts need to be a certain length or anything about necklines or anything like that. That’s because rules just don’t work. The Bible doesn’t make rules. In fact, it has very little to say on the subject of modesty. And when it does address the issue, the focus is primarily on attitude and heart. So who are we to make rules? Also, rules are made to be broken. Someone playing by “the rules” can be super immodest but get away with it and someone “breaking the rules” could be totally modest but restricted by the rules. It’s not about rules; it’s about heart.

To wrap this up…

Ladies, as a guy I would ask you to analyze your heart and your attitude as you choose what to wear. But don’t allow the stupidity of guys to limit you. You are beautiful. You are attractive. And that’s good. That’s what God intended! Guys, let’s take responsibility for our mind and our thoughts. Let’s get our minds out of the gutter. We control what we think. We control our attitude and our heart. It’s up to us. Let’s take some responsibility for what belongs to us and not shove it onto the girls. We are men. Let’s act like it.

If you’re interested in reading another man’s perspective on this, check out this blog post. I can’t speak for anything else on the blog, but thought this post was excellent.

Thoughts on this topic? Share in the comments below!

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Grace

For about the past two weeks, I’ve been out of town helping plan and run a national conference with an organization I’m heavily involved in. One of the themes we focused on was grace. Our guest speaker spoke about the need to give and receive both grace and reconciliation. But grace is hard. Because it means giving something up. When we extend grace and reconciliation, we give up some of our desire for justice. We forgive. We move on. And that’s hard. When we receive grace and reconciliation, we admit we’re wrong. We are humbled. And that’s hard.

But either way, grace is good. It’s powerful. It’s life-changing.

However we can’t give and receive grace without the power of Christ working in us. Grace is a characteristic of Christ. It’s in His nature. We can only give and receive grace because Christ did it first. And now, it’s our responsibility to do the same.

Extend some grace today. Receive some grace today. It will change your life.

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.

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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Deeper than Dreams

What do you really want? Really. What is it that burns deep inside your soul? Deeper than your dreams, deeper than anything else?

I’m a big believer in following the dreams God has given you. But when determining the direction of our life and the next steps we should take, sometimes I think we tend to only focus on the dreams, and not go deeper.

What if we went deeper?

What is it that drives you? What’s more important to you than anything else in the world? What values do you hold above all others? That’s what’s going to help you find where God is taking you. I have a lot of dreams. And I believe that they’ve been given to me by God. But I’m realizing that if I only focus on the dreams and only seek to fulfill them, I could get really lost. Overvaluing one dream. Undervaluing another. But when I step back and go deeper, I find direction. When I go to the most fundamental, foundational passions that God has given me, that’s when the pieces of the puzzle start coming together.

And the cool thing is that the pieces come together in ways I never imagined or dreamed! That one dream that I thought was super important and was going to look a certain way changes and become less “important” and takes on a different form. And that other dream that I wasn’t sure about at all starts taking shape.

What do you really want? What’s the deepest passion that God has given you? Find it, and follow it. Be ready for your dreams to take different shapes or change levels of importance. They might look different. But that’s the cool part. You’ll find God working in your life and orchestrating it all. It’ll be scary. But you’ll find purpose, satisfaction, and peace in life.

Go deeper than your dreams.

Willing to be Wrong

I’m a very different person today than I was five years ago. And much of that I can attribute to one factor: the willingness to be wrong and the willingness to change. You see, I used to be extremely closed-minded. But I never would have considered myself as such. I thought I was a good Christian who was willing to obey God and follow Him wherever He might take me. But that wasn’t really the case.

I limited God. Not consciously. But I did it nonetheless. I held strong opinions and thought I was right. And I firmly believed that the Bible was on my side. And for a lot, that was true. But my view of the world was small, extremely limited. And so I limited God to the world I saw when in fact I was missing so much.

So when God started shaking things up in my life, I was really stubborn. I thought I was right because I looked at the world so narrowly. But slowly my perspective began to broaden. I began realizing that life was so much bigger than just me and what I could see. I started realizing that my life was just one piece in God’s amazing kingdom. And as my view of the world began to grow, my opinions on issues began to change.

I’m still in the process of realizing how much bigger life is than just me. And when I try to look at the world through God’s eyes, I see things so differently. When I look at issues from other people’s perspectives, I see things so differently.

I’m learning not to allow my perspective to make the rules. Because my perspective is just that. A perspective. It’s one way to see something. I can’t base my beliefs merely on what I see. Everyone has a perspective. And I have to recognize that.

Try it out. Look at life from another perspective. Try to see the world the way God sees it. It just might change your opinions on some things. It’s an uplifting feeling, though, because you start realizing life is so much bigger than you ever could imagine! Be willing to be wrong. And be willing to change.

 

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Don’t Wait to Be a Hero

I think this is my favorite TED talk out of all the ones I’ve ever watched.

As I re-watched this video, I got goosebumps at the end. This message really hits home for me. How often do I not do something because I think it won’t matter or because I don’t think it’s big enough?

Don’t wait. I love what Mark Bezos concludes with:

Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody’s life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one.

It’s not the accomplishment that matters. People matter. It’s not the size of what we do. It’s that we do.

Don’t wait to be a hero. Who can you be a hero to today?

The Time We Have

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared this video with me. It’s incredible how a video that’s less than three minutes can communicate such a powerful and challenging message.

I found this video sobering, because it really put things into perspective. What am I doing with the time I have? It’s a really good question to ask ourselves. But it’s a tough question to ask. And the even harder question to ask is, “What am I spending too much time on?” It could be anything. It could be your favorite TV show(s). It could be reading books. It could be texting. It could be social media. The list goes on. That’s not to say that the item is bad in and of itself (it most likely isn’t). But is it worth the amount of time you’re spending? Could part of that time be used for something better?

Ultimately, the question is this: Is what I’m spending my time on going to matter for eternity? Is what I’m doing with my time honoring my heavenly Father?

God gives each of us a certain amount of time on this earth. Each minute of each day matters. What are you investing your time in?

hourglass

What’s Your Dream?

In my last post, we looked at how we shouldn’t live life waiting for it to begin, but instead how we should live our lives now. And since the Disney movie Tangled provided such a great foundation for our discussion, I’m going to use another concept from the movie in today’s post.

tangled

The plot line of Tangled may at first just seem like a classic romance story and really “silly.” There’s this girl who has this dream. She meets up with this guy and gets him to help her fulfill her dream. They have lots of adventures and then (spoiler alert!) end up getting married and living happily ever after. But wait just a minute, it actually goes a whole lot deeper than that.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the story. Two people, each with a dream, meet through a set of odd circumstances. They both want to fulfill their own dream. Rapunzel wants to see the floating lanterns and Flynn wants to get rich and live an easy life. Rapunzel has the upper hand (or should I say hair?) in their interaction, so Flynn agrees to help her. But the reason he agrees is not because he really wants her to be happy, but because he wants the crown back so he can get on with his dream. Rapunzel isn’t interested in giving the crown back to him except as a means of bribing him to fulfill her dream. That’s how it starts.

Now lets fast-forward to the scene when Rapunzel and Eugene (not Flynn anymore) sing “I See the Light.” Take a look at some of the words in that song:

Rapunzel sings:

All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I’ve been

……….

All at once everything looks different
Now that I see you

And then Eugene sings:

All those days chasing down a daydream
All those years living in a blur
All that time never truly seeing
Things, the way they were
Now she’s here shining in the starlight
Now she’s here suddenly I know
If she’s here it’s crystal clear
I’m where I’m meant to go

What did each of them realize? What they realized was that their own dream, the one they were so focused on, really didn’t matter. Why? Because they had discovered a new, better, dream. Why better? Because their dream was about someone else, not themselves. Before, Rapunzel wanted to see the floating lanterns for herself. Flynn wanted money for himself. It wasn’t about anyone else. Their dreams were self-centered. But then each of them realized that life was so much bigger than themselves, that life was about others! This is perfectly illustrated when (spoiler alert!) Rapunzel is willing to go with Mother Gothel forever as long as she can heal Eugene first. So she’s wiling to sacrifice herself for someone else. And then Eugene is willing to die to set Rapunzel free. Both of them forsook their own dream and their own comfort for someone else. Sure, in this case it happened to be a romantic story too, but that’s beside the point.

So what’s your dream? What are you living for? Is your dream about yourself, something you want? Or is it something bigger than that? Is it about others? Is it about fulfilling God’s purpose for your life? Is it about loving others? Is it about giving up what you want so that God can work through you as He chooses?

God gives us gifts, passions, and dreams for a purpose. But I think that we sometimes take those gifts, passions, and dreams and only want to use them in a certain way, the way we think is best. But I challenge you to give those gifts, passions, and dreams to God. Let Him use them as He will. It quite possibly won’t be how you expected. It might be hard for you, uncomfortable. It might mean that you must give up a dream that you had. It will definitely mean being selfless and focusing on others. But place it all in His hands. Let Him give you a dream. And then fulfill it with all of your heart! Don’t expect a story and ending like Tangled; expect the story and ending that God has planned for you, even though it might not make sense and even though you may not be able to see it yet.

What’s your dream?

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