Don’t Trash Your Break

Don't Waste Your Break

Whoever came up with the word, “Finals” was a very misleading character. For months and months a student looks forward to finals, but life exists after finals. Granted there is an intense feeling of relief similar to finding a rest stop after finishing a 64oz Big Buddy slushy, but I viewed finals as the end, when in reality it was only the beginning of a new chapter.

Sadly too much time is often given in preparation for finals forgetting that there is life after finals. It is sort of like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, all of the suspense is gone after the ring is destroyed, but Tolkien still writes about the Shire, because that is important to those who live there. There is life after mount Final, and I would like to describe some of the things I wish I had known to prepare myself for the real world of Christmas break and beyond.

  1. I wish I had known that I had tied up my identity with being a college studentstudy-table-1275249-m

For months and months, I existed for one sole purpose, study. Now that purpose is gone. My affirmation and phony ideas of self-worth because I had memorized the periodic tables and could name the multiple parts of the Larynx no longer mattered, in fact those facts where considered boring in the real world. Along with my loss of identity came a sense of insecurity, I didn’t know where I fit anymore as this half child, half adult amphibian type creation.

  1. I wish I had known that I was not in control of my schedule

At college, I was in charge. I knew when I would eat, sleep, and recreate. I ruled my time as sole heir of everything that was allowed into my life. This monarchy met reality once Christmas break started. Families and employers had been planning and dreaming about what would happen when I got home. Save yourself a ton of strife and misunderstanding by calling them before you get home and asking if they have any plans. This is especially important with mothers as they have dreams to make everything special.

  1. I wish I had known that independence/respect was earned

While I was at college, I was treated as an adult. I needed to realize that not only was I entering the land of my childhood, but success in college did not qualify me for respect in life. A good rule of thumb would be to remember that I should never talk to my parents in a tone or way I would not address my professor. If I deserved an F for not turning in an assignment or for sloppy work, I deserve an F at home for showing up late or leaving my clothes in the walkway.

  1. I wish I had known that I had major opportunities to invest in real relationships

When home over break, most people get to spend time with the people who invested the most in them, and made them who they are. These are the real friendships that should get the most attention. Take mom or dad out for coffee, participate in a younger sibling’s project, sit and talk with the grandparents. If possible contact a high school teacher or spiritual leader, chances are they would love to hear about your life but don’t want to intrude. The cute cat photos on Facebook can wait while you invest in 3D relationships.

  1. I wish I had known that I needed to get involved

People wanted to know more about my experiences, but they also wanted to share theirs with me. I assumed that I knew what happened in their life because nothing ever changed at home. One of the best ways to get involved is to ask good questions about your family and friends at home. Even though you are only home for a month get involved. Get involved in your family. Play games, be adventurous, enjoy making new traditions. Get involved in your church through starting conversations, or joining the choir or helping in youth activities. One of the greatest reasons college students are stereotyped as selfish lazy slobs is because they view break as a well-earned rest to be spent on themselves.

  1. I wish I had known that I could still read a book over break

After hundreds of hours studying, I began to realize that there are many topics that I am truly interested in. Don’t let your mind go to waste during break. Grab a novel or read up on a topic you enjoy, look ahead to next semester and finish off a reading report to give an extra cushion in case of an Ebola outbreak on campus.

  1. I wish I had known that I should exercise fitness-series-3-68976-s

If you were to leave a tomato out on the counter for the entirety of Christmas break without moving, that would be similar to what happens to your body after stuffing yourself with Christmas goodies and a sedentary lifestyle for a month. Find an open gym, go play hockey, go sledding, enlist in a free gym membership, do pushups or jumping jacks for every helping of fudge.  Do something that takes more energy than watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

  1. I wish I had known that I needed a goal

You have been offered a free simulation of what life after graduation will look like. As in life during break, you have more education, and the ability to make your own goals to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. As a general rule how you spend your Christmas vacation will be how you spend your life.

Don’t waste your break.

Help the rest of us out by listing ideas and thoughts you wish you had known before break.

Is God’s Will Knowable?

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     If you could ask one question of God, and He guaranteed an answer, what would it be? If you could ask Him one thing about your future what would it be? 

Genesis 24 sets forth a great pattern for those who would seek to do the will of God.

     Follow the Words of God. In Genesis 24 the servant of Abraham, Eliezer, is commanded to seek out a wife for Isaac. God specifically stated that Isaac was not to marry an ungodly women (Gen 24:2-4).  Eliezer listened to the commands of God.  God will not give you a map of tomorrow if you are not willing to listen today. Following involves studying and applying God’s Word. It would have been much easier for Eliezer to disobey God and find a wife near home for, but it would have been partial obedience.

I should not expect that God will show what He wants for my future if I am not willing to follow what He is showing me today.

I must realize that disobedience has consequences. If I am not willing to obey, then I lose the blessing and power of God (James 4:4). I lose the help of God. If I am considering something that is ungodly, God will not help me. It would be like a terrorist asking the United States government for money. In disobedience, I lose the peace and surety of God.

Obedience and preparation walk hand in hand along the road to success and accomplishments. Abraham’s servant, expressed his concerns about the low chances of success regarding his quest of wife hunting (Gen 24:5), but then he prepares himself and obeys.

In order to achieve God’s guidance, we must be willing to prepare ourselves for God’s blessing and that is done through obedience to what I know to be true today.

The best time to prepare for the future is today. The best time to prepare to be a good husband or wife is before you are married. As I pursue my marriage to Christ, I will unlock understanding that is needed in my human relations. A lot of Christians know God in the same way that someone can swim through taking a correspondence course.

In our preparation, we must never forget to depend on God, “And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.” (Gen 24:12) If I am not depending on and seeking God, how will I know if I am in His will? Eliezer sets forth a pattern that is worth following of dependence and prayer. I can only rely on God, because my heart is going to fail me, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9 )

We must be doing. It is impossible to steer a parked car. We so often wait and treat our service to God like a menu. We sit down and look at what God has to offer and decide what we will take. “I being in the way, the LORD led me… (Gen 24:27). God will not reveal tomorrows plans, if I am not willing to follow today’s. We often step into subtle rebellion. We do not outright deny God, but we wait to see if it is safe. We sit and stare at the stop light like a 15 year old getting his permit afraid to go in case the instructor might flunk us, and forget that our hesitancy is more dangerous (1Sa 15:23).

God rewards the diligent (Mt 25:28), one of the ways God rewards us is with bigger tasks. Eliezer had been diligent and sacrificed for God. Eliezer was going to lose out on some big time temporal blessing for helping Isaac. Before Isaac, Eliezer was going to receive Abraham’s wealth (Gen 15:2). Because of his faithfulness, Eliezer is able to play a part in assisting the line of Christ, and now has his name memorialized in Scripture.

     Eliezer was successful in his journey and God revealed to Him His will as he faithfully followed the Words of God, and got busy doing what he know to be true.

These dual ideas of following God and doing His will are reflected in another character in this passage.

Genesis 24:16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. 17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. 19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. 20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.”camel-737239-m

Rebekah was busy doing. She was from a wealthy family, yet she was doing servant’s work for her family, and she volunteered to serve others. Men, if the women you are interested in is not currently serving, run! Rebekah was using her body and her resources for others. These wells often were over 100 feet deep and all she had was a 3 gallon pitcher. A camel can consume up to 10 gallons of water apiece. If you do the math, she would have made over 30 trips and drew over 100 gallons of water for an old guy, unbathed servants, and 10 ugly camels. Rebekah was busy using the things she had for others. So to make it personal: 

What things do I have that could bless others?

What talents do I have that could bless others?

How have I been using these to bless others?

We not only see that Rebekah was busy doing, she also was faithful. She was pure, “And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin.” (Gen 24:16). God specializes in using unclean vessels such as Rahab, but God will not use a vessel that is not committed to Him. Purity does not come by accident, purity is a choice to put God above everything else.

In the end of the story, Rebekah finds a godly husband (Isaac is worshiping God on the mountain when she finds him) becomes fabulously rich, and is immortalized as a women of faith. Because of their faithfulness Eliezer and Rebekah both found the will of God, not only for themselves, but their actions still play out in the lives of every believer, because Rebekah was the great… Grandmother of our Savior.

What does God want for my future? Exactly the same thing He wants for my present. He wants me to follow Him in every command big or small, and get busy doing. I being in the way, the Lord led me…

The beginning…

What I Wish I Knew About Church

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Choosing a new church particularly as a college student can be a monumental task.  Many times we treat churches like a McDonalds menu, we order what we like, and we expect it our way.   There are many things I wish I had known as a college student picking out a church.

I wish I had known that I was an answer to prayer. The first new church I went to, the Pastor had prayed for a college student. Many churches are tired and life has zapped them of the energy of youth. Your presence could herald the fact that God is not done working in their church.

I wish I had known that it wasn’t about me. I wanted a church that could minister to my needs and make me comfortable. Nowhere in Scripture will we find this philosophy blessed. In fact the opposite is true, church is not about me. You should be searching for ministries that stretch you and move you away from your current comfort zone. If you are attending a church where you don’t feel you fit keep reading.

I wish I had known the value of the assets I possessed. I did not understand the value of what I possessed as a college student. Even if you cannot sing or feel qualified to teach, there is an enormous amount of untapped potential for a church in every college student. You have:

Abilities: The most obvious abilities in a church would be singing and teaching, but the list goes so much deeper. If the thought of standing in front of a congregation is more terrifying to you than a herd of rabid monkeys, that’s OK, simply check out what you do well.   An ability is simply a skill that you possess and every person has them. If you are sports minded, maybe you could be involved in a weekend camp. Maybe you are gifted with media and know how to convert audio into MP3’s, most churches could use that. Maybe your skills lie in art. See if you could design a bulletin or brochure. If you are mechanically minded, bring your tools and start some repairs. Maybe you like to cook, find an elderly lady who needs encouragement and bake away! Whatever your skills, God wants you to use them, and the church will be more than happy to plug you in.

Energy: This can translate into, playing ball after church, shoveling the walk, cleaning the church, chaperoning youth activities (includes free pizza), giving rides, greeting people, pushing children on the swings, giving testimonies, passing out flyers, setting up for activities, decorating, hanging out with the youth, talking with different age groups, writing a letter to a young kid….

Prayer: If you are not praying specifically for your church, it is not your church.MEDION DIGITAL CAMERA

There are many more assets that people possess, but make sure you are proactive about finding needs.

 

I wish I had known that people wanted me involved. I wish I had proactively gotten involved in people’s lives. I wish I had taken a directory home and memorized people’s names, and then told them I was praying specifically for them. I wish I had asked about people’s needs and done what I could to meet them. I wish I had understood the value of a listening ear. Larry King once remarked, “I never learned anything new when I was the one talking.”

I wish I had known to have a conversation with the pastor. I wish I had asked him about Scripture and his thoughts on theology. If I am paying thousands of dollars to get an education, why not take advantage of a man with oodles of degrees and years of life experience, and it’s all free.  I would have asked him several questions. I would have asked: if he ever doubted his choice to go into ministry, what concerns did he have for the church, what is his passion in ministry, how could I free up his time, if there was any way I could specifically encourage someone, what areas would he like me to serve in?… Most pastors are looking for someone to invest in, there is nothing more energizing for a pastor than someone who is willing to be poured into.

I wish I knew that church is a place where sinners go. So I should not be surprised when things are not perfect, including me.

I wish I had read ahead. If the teacher is going through a study or a book of the Bible, if you take a little time to read about the topic being discussed or read the Bible passage, it will increase learning exponentially.  

I wish I had known about consistency. Sadly, I attended 5 different churches during my 4 years at school. A lot of that had to do with logistics (transportation, and travel time), but I was not able to build lasting relationships or a consistent ministry. I wish I had kept with a church ministry and seen it grow. I also wish I had sent off a letter or two during the summer to keep everyone in touch with my life. If you do have to leave a church for some reason, be sure to let the leadership know as they have begun to care about and count of you.

Your church experience will directly mirror what you put into it. If you are willing to apply some of these practical ideas, I guarantee it will transform your church experience.

I would love to hear about your experiences or other suggestions for making church going a more fruitful experience.

 

What I wish I knew at College

 

 

Welcome to a whole new world.   College, a chance to spread your wings, stay up late, learn new things and eat cold pizza for breakfast. If I could relive a portion of my life, it would be college. If I could relive it, there are several things, however, I wish I knew before starting college.

  1. I wish I had known about life…

Lots of learning happened when I didn’t expect. After tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of books, I couldn’t repeat one main point or reproduce one study guide. The learning that will stay is the learning that is done. My learning often came through involvement. Go out of your way to find ways to utilize the stored information until it becomes part of you. This utilization will take different forms depending on your major (particularly if you are a heart surgeon), but find ways to involve yourself.

  1. I wish I had known about family…

My adventure was a bigger loss for my family, than me. While I was looking forward my family was looking backwards to the way things used to be.

People could not experience my life if I didn’t share.  People back home want to know about your life.  It helps them feel connected.

They also want you to ask about their life. One of the biggest mistakes is thinking that because it used to be that way when you left that it will stay that way  Even if nothing changes at home, the family still wants to tell you about themselves.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if anyone back home knows that my intermural football team went undefeated?

There are lots of ways to keep in contact, but do not forget the simplicity and importance of writing a hand written letter. There is something extremely meaningful about this form of contact especially for moms. I would suggest making a list of all the blessings and skills your family gave you and making it personal.… Mom, thank you for giving me the best years of your life. Thank you for the skills you gave me, potty training has been immensely useful….

  1. I wish I had known about snacking…

Don’t eat pepperoni pizza past midnight.

Never ever, ever, even think about taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach.

Most granola bars are candy bars in disguise.

Eat a salad once a day.ramen

Buy Reese’s Puffs when it’s on sale.

Remember not all Ramen noodles are created equal.

Anything from the Dollar store should not be eaten.

(After years of concentrated study and field research,

Maruchan brand should be sought after as the ultimate in epicurean delight.)

www.eduinreview.com/blog/2010/08/10-ways-to-spice-up-ramen-noodles/

 

  1. I wish I had known about friends…

I wish I had invested more in friendships. Find people you can invest in. Use your skills and areas of expertise to help people. Don’t be afraid to just hang out.

I wish I had purposefully invested in those who were investing in me. To this day, some of my strongest friends are professors and pastors I met at school. Feel free to take your Pastor (or his wife) out for coffee, send them an email thanking them specifically for their investment. Remember, your home Pastors and wives go through withdrawal seeing their “kids” go off into another world.

Remember your professors. Most professors have been in school for longer than you have been alive, yet even with their education, you probably make more money flipping burgers at McDonalds. They are there because they love you. Talk with them after class, ask them deep questions that show you are interested. Not only will this help you learn more, it may result in a better friendship, and probably a better grade.

  1. I wish I had known about me…

I spent a lot of time making sure I didn’t fail. Failure makes you stronger. Make sure you put yourself in situations where failure is inevitable. The process of picking yourself up will create character and build stamina for life.

It is easy to have a very egocentric outlook on life. Criticism shows more about me than it does the other person. When you find yourself complaining or not liking a situation ask yourself a few basic questions. “Why don’t I like this?” “What can I change?” “What can I learn?” Be specific in your answers.

As a quick example, when I was at school there was a rather boring professor. The answer to the first question involves stating the facts. He was not engaging, the topic was not made relevant.

Part of my solution was found in the answer to the second question, “What can I change?” I realized I could not change the teacher, but I could engage by asking questions, and make the lesson relevant by talking to him about the significance after class.

In answer to the third question, “What can I learn?” I analyzed the teaching style and kept track of things I would do as a teacher, and things I wouldn’t. After asking those three questions, a boring informational class actually became a time of intense personal learning.

  1. Things I am glad somebody told me…

Keep a journal. It will help you analyze your thoughts and is an excellent resource.

Wake up at the same time. It is tempting to sleep in on off days, but your body will work better on a schedule.

Take a power nap. 15 minute naps are like plugging in your smart phone while online.

Plan ahead. Get big projects like reading done at the beginning of the semester. (Make sure to check if there are requirements attached such as a weekly quiz or report.)

Exercise with a friend.

Don’t date the first semester. (Desperate people are looking for you…!)

Pursue personal interests.