Monday, August 31, 2015

Seeing Your Schedule as Your Life's Script

Fall is a busy time of year. Schedules are packed. And it got me thinking about the value of our time. So I decided to write about it.

A while back I heard a message by Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Okay, well in reality I listen to his messages all the time but I am going to talk about a specific one I heard last fall. He said some things that struck me. One of the statements he made is that when you plan your schedule you plan your life's script. It isn't a profound or groundbreaking statement but it felt like it was because I had never seen my schedule in that light before. Another thing that struck me during his sermon was a question he posed. If God were in control of your schedule would it look different? That message got me thinking about my life and where I put my priorities.

Then Friday afternoon when I was doing some reading for a reflection assignment for Introduction to Ministry I was asked a similar question. It got me thinking about how important our schedule is. What it contains, who is in it, and how much is in it are all very important things. I would like to look at each of those pieces a little closer.

What Our Schedule Contains
Where are we investing out time? What kinds of things fill our lives? Is it filled with things that focus on others or ourselves? God or idols? Serving or being served? It is often not until we truly look at our calendars that we can find the answers. We need to balance the "what" in our schedules. We should look at our calendars and easily find family, work, friends, volunteering, and God (and whatever else we truly value). One easy way to see what truly matters to us is to color code our schedules. I know I do. It allows me to see what my life is really filled with. Lately when I look at my schedule all I see is work. Now work is good but we can't work 24/7 and have a perfectly fulfilled life. We need relationships and we need to prioritize them (I'll talk about this more in the next section). So what activity dominates our time? If it is hard to recognize one of those pieces that we say are one of our core values then maybe we should make some changes.

Who Is In Our Schedule
What kind of people have priority in our schedules? People who help us grow or people who make us less like the kind of person God is calling us to be? No matter what people say who we spend our time with truly does determine who we become. So who are your top 5 people you spend the most time with. Are they the kind of people you hope to become? Because you become more and more like them all the time without even realizing it. Another thing we should do when it comes to the "who" in our schedule is that we should invest in others. We should mentor and guide those who aren't as experienced as us in whatever way we can wherever we can. We can help the new guy at work or the freshman at college or a younger family member. It isn't always easy but it is worth it. So do we invest enough in people who need us? Also, do we spend enough time with our families? Everyone's family is different. Every one has struggles but they vary in kind and how big they are so I can understand why many may cringe at the thought of spending time with one of their family members. I am pretty lucky to have the family I do. Families at their best are there for one another. They provide a support system but you can't be your part of the system if you never spend time with your family. It can be easy to put family on the schedule last. Especially when work or school or other things get busy but family isn't something we should tack onto the calendar if we have time. It should have priority. If it doesn't then maybe your should get out your pencil and eraser. So what kind of changes do we need to make to our schedules so that the right people are in our schedules?

How Much Is In Our Schedule
We must not just focus on who is in our schedule or what is in our schedule. We must also take a look at how much we put in our schedule. If our calendars are bare then we may not be reaching the potential we were meant to. When we have things on our calendars it means that we have things to do. We have responsibilities and responsibilities in themselves are not a bad thing. It is a very good thing. We are meant to work. Our lives are very dull without work. However there is such a thing as a schedule that is too full. I think that the average reader is probably more likely to have this issue. These days people are always on the move. That is why we have fast food. People don't have time for sit-down meals. Why else would we need a drive-thru? This is why we order things for pick-up. We don't have the time. We have planners because if we didn't we would never remember all of our responsibilities. People are always on the move and on the go. Being active is good... up to a point. Many people, however, push themselves way too much. Some think that is good but I tend to think differently. I think when we are SO busy we never give anything our full attention. When we are in church and we spend the whole service thinking about how we are going to fit in all of the things we are doing that day then that isn't good. We need to have a schedule full of meaningful things but we don't need that schedule to be overflowing. That benefits no one. We need our schedule to allow us to listen to God and do as He says. If our schedule is maxed out we don't have time to do the things God is prompting us to do like sit down and have dinner with a friend who is down or spend some extra time with Him.

There is truly a lot more to our schedules than most of us think. I hope this post made you think a little bit and I hope you truly reflect on what your schedule might look like in God's eyes. If you don't have time to do that then maybe you have already found what you need to change.

Reflection and Application
I know I already touched on this a bit but I want to condense it down to a few questions to reflect on...
1. What are your core values? Does your schedule show that?
2. Who are the most important people in your life? Does your schedule show that they are a priority?
3. Who are the top 5 people you spend your time with? Do you want to become like them (because you will)?
4. Is your schedule too full for you to listen to God's promptings and enjoy life or is it not full enough that you are wasting potential God put in you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Powerful Connections Between Faith, Hope, and Love

1 Corinthians 13:13 says "three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love" (NLT translation). Paul's emphasis on faith, hope, and love interests me quite a bit. Recently when thinking over the ideas of faith, hope, and love I realized how interconnected they truly are. Let me explain...

One cannot really love without having hope that their love will be received and one cannot love without having faith that their love will not be abused. Similarly one cannot really have faith without loving the one they have faith in and one cannot have faith without hoping that their faith will not be wasted. Also one cannot have hope without having faith in something and the result of hope is love.

The connections between those three fascinate me beyond end. In fact, if you don't mind I would like to keep going with this.

When we place our faith in something or someone we usually love that person or that thing to some degree. We trust them (or it). When we are young we place our faith (our trust) in our parents because we love them and they love us. Our pets have faith in us because we show love and affection for them. As a result they generally show care and love back to us. One of the examples that comes to mind of this is Hagrid (from Harry Potter). He has faith in his half-brother Grawp to become civilized because Hagrid loves him. He won't give up on him because he loves him and has faith in him.We know we can put our faith in God because He loves us. That love assures us that we can trust Him. Faith and hope are also connected. When we put our faith in something or someone we hope that our faith will not be wasted. When we sit on a chair we have some amount of faith in it and we hope it will not break. Now for a major step in analogies. When we put our faith in God we have ultimate hope because we have been promised some incredible things from Him like protection, unconditional love, and of course eternity with Him. As Christians we can live with a wonderful sense of hope because of the faith that we have in God.

Now to turn that around. Similarly one cannot have hope without putting their faith in something. No matter whether someone is an atheist or a Christian everyone has faith in something. Some people have faith because of their faith in themselves. Some people have faith because of their faith in science. Some people have faith because they believe God will redeem them. No matter who you are everyone has faith of some kind. Even in the little things we have hope due to our faith. We have hope that cute boy who sits kitty corner to you in second hour likes you because your friend told you that he did. Your hope comes from your faith in your friend. You have hope that dinner will be good because your nose is telling you it will be good and you trust your sense of smell. Hope and faith are forever linked and it is amazing to think about! Hope and love are also connected. One connection that can be made is this: when we have hope we react in love. When we have hope that God has redeemed us because of His love for us we react with love too. We love our neighbors. We love God. When we are hopeful about our future it allows us to be joyful and therefore more loving towards others.

When we show love to another human being or an animal or even to God we love hoping that our love will be received. We hope the other person will express love back to us. We hope our kids will appreciate the care we show them. We hope that special someone will love us back. Even with pets we hope for their returned affection. Whenever we love we also have this unspoken hope inside of us. At the same time faith also works with love. When we love we have faith that our love will not be abused. When we marry someone we have faith that they we will be faithful to us. When we love God we have faith that He will accept our love. Sometimes people even love wild animals hoping they will love them back. Those people are usually misplacing their faith. However, when we choose to love God we can know our faith will never be misplaced.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the deep rooted connections between faith, hope, and love. Which of these three are you best at? Which one would you like to become better at?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

9 Things You Should Do Your First Year of College

Since I spent many of my waking hours at college this year, now have many college friends, and by
the end of the summer will have taken 12 college courses I figure I am at least semi-qualified to tell you about college. So here are 9 things you should do in college (preferably starting your freshman year)...

1. Get on the professor's good side before you need something
Your professors will have lots of students. If you can stand out in a good way that is very important because when you need something they will be a lot more interested in talking to you and trying to help you. You don't want to need a favor and your professor see you as 'the kid that walks in late every day'. Be respectful and kind. They work hard and deserve the respect. Many are very willing to help you pass the class or help you get that internship but if you never respect them you will have a tough time.

2. Take the opportunity to talk to people you don't know
There are several hundred to several thousand people on campus. You will not know everyone by week three. I guarantee you that. Even after year three chances are there will still be people in your own class that you don't know. Still, take the time to talk to people you don't know.You could become best friends. Okay, while not extremely likely that will happen with everyone you sit down and talk to you may be surprised to hear the things you have in common. At the very least you will probably have an interesting conversation so take the time to talk to the person you are sitting by at lunch or in class.

3. Go to events
Yes, you are not paying thousands of dollars to go to events. True. But if you are going to be paying thousands of dollars and only get a few years there, make the most of it. Go to football games with friends - even if you hate football. You may not remember the game but you may remember the time you were jumping around cheering for the team and your friend made you fall on the guy in front of you. Go to the band concerts and cheer on your friends. You may not remember the pieces they played but chances are that friend will remember you were there for her. Go to events - if you are lucky you may end up with a new friend or at least some free food. Both are pretty good.

4. Live on campus
If you can, live on campus. There is something special about living 100 feet from your friends or (if you are lucky) living with your friends. Some crazy adventures happen and if you don't live on campus you will miss a lot of them. I know because I have missed out on some crazy adventures with my friends by living at home. But that's okay because this year at home has made me realize how much I want to live there and next year I will appreciate those times all the more.

5. Join something
When I ask fellow college students what they recommend freshman do I always hear the phrase 'join something'. Join band. Join choir. Join track. Join swing dancing club. Join something. Joining something gives you the chance to get to know people outside people in your major and your hall mates. When I joined a group I honestly feel like I joined a family. So get connected right away by joining a group and be part of something incredible.

6. Buy your books online or from other students
Whatever you do, don't buy all your books for the campus bookstore. That is a rookie mistake. Check out all the best textbook sites and see what other prices you can get. Also, another great place to look is down the hall. A lot of students are looking to sell their books back and 90% won't ask nearly as much for them as the campus bookstore. And even if they want to keep their books many will actually just let you borrow them for the semester.

7. Meet with advisers and have a plan
If you know what major you want to pursue and if you have any other plans (like internships you want to do or adding on a minor) then it is a very good idea to meet with your advisers. They know what classes you should be taking and in what order.

8. Talk with juniors and seniors in your major
They know what professors to take and which ones you want to avoid like the plague. They also will know which classes you will need to study for the most and which ones are okay to slack on a bit. Like previously mentioned, you also may be able to borrow or buy some textbooks from them too! (Side note: another great tool to find out which professors are good is - true, some students have the poorest reasons for rating professors as bad or good but overall it can give you a fair idea of what a professor is like)

9. Enjoy the journey
Above all though, do not let these moments go by you. Don't spend your whole four years wasting time and be preoccupied with other things. Go out on late night adventures with your roommates. Meet new people. Take interesting classes. Enjoy your college experience while you can. You will never forget it.