Archive | March 2016

‘What if?’: A dangerous contemplation

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Sometimes I run late. I don’t like doing it, but with a killer commute to work every morning, it can happen.

Sometimes I can’t help wondering, “What if …?”

What if I hadn’t let that car go in front of me?

What if I’d been more aggressive merging?

What if the light had stayed green just a smidge longer?

Or if I hadn’t grabbed that granola bar on my way out the door?

What if the person in the left lane had actually gone faster than the person in the right lane?

The little things can make a big difference. Being even 1 minute late is almost worse than being 10 minutes late because you’re so close.

The problem with “what ifs,” of course, is that they don’t do you any good. You’re already late, so what’s the use in wondering what could have happened? You can’t change anything.

It reminds me of a scene from The Lion King. (Yes, I’m digging way back on this one.)

As a kid, my favorite part of the movie was when grownup Simba and his crazy old baboon friend Rafiki are standing in the wide open plains one night, having a heart to heart. Simba knows it’s time to go back home and face his past, but says it won’t be easy. He’s right in the middle of his reflection when out of nowhere, Rafiki bops him on the head with his staff.

Simba winces, then asks why he did it.

“It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” Rafiki shouts.

I always thought the surprising blow and the loony baboon’s subsequent thrills were hilarious, but the dude had a point.

Dwelling on the past and replaying “what if” scenarios in your head gets you nowhere. It’ll drive you nuts, at best.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying “It is what it is.” Not exactly Shakespeare, but I think these five little words are a great reminder when we want to whine about something. Another way to sum it up: “accept it and move on.”

Now I do think there’s a caveat, times you should try everything in your power to go back and make it right—ask forgiveness or repair a relationship maybe—but sometimes there’s really nothing you can do. Letting “what ifs” ping back and forth in your head will only serve as a handicap to getting on with it.

After the baboon hits Simba in the head, he makes this statement: “The past can hurt,” he says, “but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

Running late, making a mistake or wondering what could have been might not necessarily hurt, but it can be annoying, frustrating or discouraging.

The good news is that we have a choice: let it get to us or learn from it and keep going.

 

 

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When You’re Tired of Terrorism

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Photo credit: europe.liveuamap.com

In the past 10 days, we’ve heard of two terrorist attacks: one in West Africa’s Ivory Coast (March 13) and one in the small European country of Belgium (March 22).

I first heard about the Belgium attack on the radio as I drove into work yesterday. My initial reaction? Big surprise.

That may seem callous and uncaring, but I don’t mean it that way at all.

Ever since 9/11 happened my sophomore year of high school, I’ve heard about one terrorism-related attack after another. Lately, they seem to happen more and more, and the target seems to be getting wider. There was Egypt, Nigeria, Spain, Norway, London and Paris. The beaches of Ivory Coast. A train station and airport in Brussels. Even places closer to home like Boston and Chattanooga.

I’ve had a variety of responses to it over the years, from fear to anger to helplessness to simply being tired of it all. Sometimes I listen to the radio for hours or comb one website after another trying to soak in every detail. Sometimes I change the station because, after a while, all the interviews start to sound the same:

“We never thought this would happen here.”

“You don’t think it can happen to you.”

“He had some wacky ideas, but I didn’t think twice about it.”

Then there’s the whirlwind of international statements condemning the terrorist acts with words like “cowardly,” “senseless” and “repulsive.”

I don’t disagree in the slightest. But I’m also not shocked.

After years of watching burning buildings on the news, hearing sirens go off in the background of a radio report, seeing photos of people covered in ash and blood, I think the best way to describe my response is this: utterly ticked off.

Every time I hear of a terrorist attack, I think of the bully on the playground who pushes a kid off the swing because he’s mad. What good is that going to do? It solves nothing, just harms someone else and makes others dislike you in the process.

Obviously terrorism is deeper and much more serious than that, but I do get tired of the insanity of it all—innocent people losing their lives in horrific ways while they’re just going about their business. Some were catching a flight or making their way to work. Others were running a race or meeting a friend for lunch.

I wouldn’t say I’m desensitized to it all—my heart sinks every time I hear of an attack, and I’ve been moved to tears many times after reading about the victims—but I would say the attacks are becoming a routine part of the news cycle.

I know there will be another attack. And another. It’s just a matter of where and when. I also know better than to think “it can’t happen here” because it can, and it might. No one is immune.

I’ve tried applying Bible verses to the situation, like the one about Jesus overcoming the world (John 16:33), or the one about how we aren’t given a spirit of fear but of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7). Those are definitely uplifting and true, but at the end of the day, I think the best thing I can do is pray for the ones who are committing these cowardly, senseless and repulsive acts.

As ticked off as I am, I truly believe most of them don’t understand the weight of their misguided actions, and only by changing their hearts will their actions stop. As Jesus once prayed for His crucifiers,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
—Luke 23:34

More than a relationship status

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The Huffington Post recently published an article called “Getting Married Is Not an Accomplishment,” written by a woman who got engaged a few months ago.

Here’s the gist: of course marriage is something to be excited about, but so is furthering your education or landing a great job. Marriage is exciting, and staying married is for sure an accomplishment, the author writes, but a successful woman isn’t defined by a ring on her finger.

I scanned hundreds of comments on the story—some applauding the author, some vigorously disagreeing—but what really caught my attention was this nugget from the story:

In general I have noticed that I tend to be questioned much more about my relationship, engagement, or wedding than my job or related accomplishments. And, this didn’t just start in the last three months. It has always been the case that I was more likely to be asked “So, when are you getting engaged” or “How’s everything going with Craig” than “How’s your job going?” or “What have you been working on lately?”

By nature, women tend to be more interested in relationships, so it makes sense that we get quizzed on that more than school or jobs, or that we focus more on relationships when talking to other women.

Most conversations I have with my female co-workers—besides the ones that are explicitly work-related—revolve around relationships. Not just boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife relationships, but relationships with family, within our churches or other friends. Even in talking about travel plans, cooking disasters, kids, how one friend is getting her master’s or how another is doing with the nonprofit she started, many of the conversations hinge on our relationships—the people in our lives who play a role in all of the above.

I also know I get more excited when a friend gets married than when a friend gets a pay raise. Graduations and promotions may signify a new chapter in life—and that’s certainly worth celebrating, but jobs and education aren’t typically as final or life-altering as uniting two people for the rest of their lives.

At the same time, I know how annoying and frustrating it can be when people only want to talk about relationships—and this time, I mean the boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife kind—especially when you’re single.

Before I was married, I had a few friends and relatives who seemed interested only in my relationship status. Did I have a boyfriend? Why not? Was I interested in anyone? There’s more to me than that!, I’d think, faking a smile. Can’t you think of anything else to talk about?! Ask me what I’m reading, what movies I’ve seen lately, if I have any trips planned, what I think of college, how my car is holding up, what paper I’m writing, where I got my fetching new bag, any number of things.

(Post-marriage, the questions keep coming, but with a slight variation. Do I have kids? Why not? Do I want them? … But that’s another article for another time.)

As for the Huffington Post piece, I agree that a woman shouldn’t be defined by a piece of jewelry on her left hand, and neither should a man. As a Christian, I think our worth lies in Who created us, not in what we do or who we marry.

But instead of discussing whether marriage is an accomplishment or not, I think we can take a broader look at how we see people. Is she your “single friend” or your tech savvy friend? Is he “unsettled,” or does he just have a fierce passion for travel? Is she a soon-to-be wife, or did she also just publish the best book you’ve ever read?

Are we putting so much weight on one aspect of a person—like relationship status—that we neglect seeing that person as a whole?

Think about how you characterize your closest friends. Is there another way to look at them?

No stop, only go

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Pete and I got back from a mini vacation yesterday where we spent a lot of hours on a plane.

As we buckled up for the long flight home, I watched one ad after another pop up on the screen of the headrest in front of me. One ad for the airline caught my eye: “There’s no stop in us, or you. Only go.” A plane soared through the clouds in the background.

I get the ad—go, do, forge ahead, be a pioneer, we’ll take you where you want to be—but as the words faded off the screen, I felt a little stressed.

For pretty much the past decade, I’ve been busy. I’ve had a ton of fun, but it’s also been tiring.

“How was your day?”

“Busy.”

“How was your weekend?”

“Busy.”

So when I see an ad about going, doing, moving ahead and not slowing down, I start feeling a little hurried. In my head, I hear, “Go, go, go!” And all I really want to do is answer back, “Can’t I just sit here a minute?”

I’m not great at being still, even on vacation, but sometimes it’s nice to slow down, go at your own pace and take a breather whenever you feel like it. While we were gone, I told Pete that I wish we could be on vacation all the time. Our work weeks are full and our weekends too short, so I have to remind myself that rest isn’t just enjoyable; it’s necessary.

Heck, even God Himself took a day to rest. And then you know what He did? He commanded us to do the same. Commanded.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
—Mark 2:27

Sabbath means rest, to stop or cease. If we don’t take advantage of that regularly, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

So here’s a question: If the All Powerful came down right now and told you to take a nap, would you do it? Or would you mumble something about the dishes or your work or that thing you haven’t done yet?

I’d like to think I’d throw on my PJs and hit the pillow, but knowing me, I’d put up a fight.

“But, Almighty, I haven’t packed lunches or finished laundry yet.”

“Stop whining; I’ve got my hands full with the election.”

Of course, whenever I do take a moment to rest, it’s wonderfully refreshing and I’m left to wonder why I don’t do it more often. Hence the forever-vacation comment.

What about you? Do you have a hard time slowing down? How do you find rest?

Two things I’ve found helpful: