Change

Let’s Be Positive

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Have you ever had to spend time with someone who is incurably negative? I’m sure you have – we all have. I confess that I am often that person who drags others down alongside herself. When we’re in a mood to be negative, we only see the bad side of things. We think the world is out to get us and we’ve done nothing wrong. The project definitely won’t work. It is way too cold outside. That person is being absolutely awful.

Sound familiar?

Negativity is an easy thing to fall into, no matter where we are in life. It’s positivity that takes work. Our sinful natures want us to groan when the alarm clock goes off and criticize our coworkers and it is easy to listen to that nature. What’s not easy is to get out of bed cheerfully even when we’re still tired or find something to compliment in that one person.

The sin of negativity lurks everywhere, simply waiting for us to stumble into it. Or, as we often do, to waltz lovingly into its arms. But what if we were to fight the cruel master of negativity? And it is a master, taking over every facet of our minds and day while we allow it to.

When we dig ourselves into a hole of hating the world that is out to get us for no reason whatsoever, we are being ungrateful for the good things that God gives us. We are twisting His creation. That one slow waitress might have been an opportunity to show Christian love, but we turned it into an opportunity to save some money on a tip and grumble on the drive home. In this fallen world, turning good things into bad is easy. It’s second nature.

But we are not called to live in a passive, second nature sort of way. We are called to a new nature, one that has been transformed by Christ. And I believe that means a nature of positivity.

Remember when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison? That’s a pretty bad situation. But instead of sitting on the hard dirt and commiserating about how bad their circumstances were, they prayed to God and sang hymns to Him. Because of their positivity in the worst of times, the jailer over them and his entire family heard the gospel and were baptized.

So what does positivity look like in our lives right now? There are two major components to living a more positive life: thinking and speaking.

Thinking

The thoughts we nurture and allow to grow in our minds have a major impact on who we are as a person and how we see life. We can easily convince ourselves that lies are truth just by thinking that they are. Something that a lot of sports players hear is “envision yourself making the play and you will.” Our thoughts can make or break our pursuit of positivity.

So start catching negative thoughts today. Next time you sigh heavily, stop yourself and ask if that thought was necessary. Replace it with something else. Just as thinking negative things can lead us to be negative people, thinking positive things can also lead us to be positive people. Instead of thinking “this line is taking forever” think “I’m glad I’m getting this shopping done now” or “I bet Mark will really love this book I got him.”

How we think can truly shape who we are and how we interact with the world.

Speaking

Flowing out of thinking is speaking. A lot of the time, our negativity becomes verbal. We complain to someone about how awful something was and go through making every detail just a little more dramatic. What we’re doing is looking for sympathy over the horrid mess that we’ve made our lives out to be. And while there’s nothing wrong with talking about things that make us angry or upset, when it turns into complaining, that’s a problem.

In addition to fighting the negative thoughts that we love to let grow, we must combat the words that are a product of those thoughts. The thing about words is that they affect other people. When we start telling anyone and everyone about our latest grievance with life, we drag them down with us. We become that person who is obnoxious to listen to and who is no fun to be around. And while it is possible to be obnoxiously positive, it is far harder than to be obnoxiously negative.

Even when our thoughts are negative, we can fight back by using different words. We may be whining about something in our heads, but we don’t have to let the words come out of our mouths. Choosing to speak more positively can help change our mindsets as well. Our mothers provided us with an excellent principle for trying to be more positive: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”


I truly hope that you will now try to incorporate more positivity into daily life. It’s no fun to live when everything seems bad. And it’s no fun to be around people who live like that. So let’s be the ones to set an example and to move past our childish view of life. There is so much more to it than we can see when we’ve worked ourselves up, so let’s experience the good things God has for us. Let’s really live.

Kira

Slowing Down in a Speed of Light World

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I will be the first to admit that our generation (the ones just coming into adulthood or just barely there) is a group that wants quick fixes. I recently wrote about how that doesn’t work for our relationship with God, but almost every facet of life could benefit if we took our time.

Gone are the days of having to wait for “snail mail” in order to hear from someone, the days of working for years on a project before releasing it to the world. Now, we use all the fast technology that we can get our hands on and complain when the internet’s a little slow.

I don’t want to point fingers or cast blame today though. Instead, I want to look at the benefits of slowing down in many areas of our lives.

Experience

They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become a professional. 10,000 hours. That’s 416.67 days of working around the clock. 1.14 years. However, if you can’t constantly stay awake and don’t want to skip dinner on a regular basis, it would take 27.4 years to reach that level of expertise at just one hour a day, every day, holidays and weekends included.

That is a lot of time. That is almost 10 more years than I have been alive. And yet, we often want the results of those 10,000 hours in the space of a few weeks at most. Think of someone who is a star in your field. Do you like music? How much time did Mozart spend practicing? Writing? What about C. S. Lewis?

Slowing down and taking the time that gaining a skill requires gives you the experience needed to be good at that skill. There’s nothing wrong with latching on to a hobby or something interesting for a few weeks and then moving on, but if you really want to be good at something, you have to put in the time.

Quality

Experience in an area naturally leads to a higher quality product, whatever that may be. Do you know of any famous football players? Me neither, but we can imagine. When they first touched a football, they were likely not getting a lot of touchdowns. They couldn’t do very many pushups. They didn’t know how to tackle the other team. (Please forgive me for where the analogy falls apart and reimagine it in a more accurate way)

They spent years all through grade school, college, and now on a professional team honing their skills and getting better at their game. The quality of their skills has grown with them because they put forth so much time. They were patient as they went to the gym every day. I don’t know of any pro football players who were regular 25 year olds who decided one day that they wanted to join the Patriots and were good enough to make the team.

Spending time on something not only gives us experience in that area, it also increases our ability to perform well day after day and year after year.

Joy

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always liked the slow pace of the idyllic southern summer. Sitting on the porch with ice tea, going to the creek, making pancakes in the morning. Slow is nice. Slow lets us enjoy what we do.

Almost none of us live at that pace though. We’re up before dawn, drinking coffee and off to work or class. We’re meeting friends or doing homework all day long. We catch an hour of Netflix at the end of the day before falling into bed, setting our alarms to do it all again the next day.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz describes it perfectly. Go listen to it, but here are a few lines from the beginning of the song:

Alarm clock screaming, bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races, everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life

Ninety miles an hour, going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder, trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
(“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz)

But what if we slowed down? Would the world come crumbling down around our ears if we took our time to do things well? I don’t think so. We’re all incredibly busy – I’m not trying to say otherwise. There is a lot to do in a day. But I know there are also ways to slow down, take our time, and enjoy it more, no matter how busy we are.

It doesn’t have to be world-changing. How about an hour a week to talk with someone you haven’t seen in a while? Twenty minutes to read a book for fun? Doesn’t that sound nice? If we don’t have to have everything instantly, we can have the fun of getting there. Even taking some extra time to learn while working on a project can be more fun that rushing through it last minute. As the popular saying goes, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.

Slow down

It doesn’t take much to fight against the impatience that we’ve nurtured inside of ourselves. The benefits of not rushing through life far outweigh any costs. If we are patient, we can be among the best at what we do, we can create better things, and we can enjoy what’s around us a lot more. So, slow down. Take your time. I promise you’ll be fine.

Kira

An Experiment in (not) Complaining

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation which you absolutely hated, only to discover that it was due to the other party’s constant whining about their circumstances?

Have you ever been in a decent mood and dragged yourself downward by dwelling on all the things going wrong – or at least not going right?

Have you ever heard those dreaded words from the back of a car: “Are we there yet?”

Then you, my friend, have had experience with complaining.

I realized recently just how much I complain about my life and circumstances. I slip easily into a negative mindset and just as easily let those thoughts slip out of my mouth. It effects not only my mood and actions, but those of others as well, and, as a child of God, that is not something I should be allowing to happen.

This realization hit me about a month ago, and, as soon as it did, I began to notice every time I complained to myself or someone else. I often didn’t make it through an hour without some negative thought passing through my head or out of my lips. There were a few key times in which I especially noticed this unpleasant tendancy of mine, including when I got home from work, when I felt tired and unmotivated, and when other people’s actions interfered with what I wanted.

I decided that I would spend the next month doing my best not to complain and seeing how it effected me. This time included three weeks of counseling at camps, a few very long days (and one night) at work, and the gloriously high temperatures of late summer in Virginia. Here’s what I learned.

I can’t do it.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent that I was not able to keep myself from complaining by my own strength. Duh. But it was still something that I had to learn and remind myself of over and over again. Once I had that figured out, there was a lot more prayer involved in my quest to keep myself from the sin of complaining.

I really can change my own mood.

Remember when you were a kid and really angry about something and your mom would tell you to just decide to be happy and you could turn yourself around? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, the last month has shown me that my mother actually knew what she was talking about. Who would’ve guessed? There are still lovely things like hormones and bad circumstances to be dealt with, but choosing to keep a positive attitude about things really does make a difference. Sometimes, I would catch myself talking about how awful things were at work one day and realize it was putting me in a downright bad mood. When I changed my thoughts to what was good about the situation (I have a job, some of my coworkers are really great, etc.) or to something else entirely (what to blog about when I got home, how great this morning’s run was, etc.) my mood instantly began to rise. Even just the action of putting a smile on my face helped a lot.

The people I interact with impact my actions.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Show me a man’s five closest friends and I’ll show you his future. And that is true. When I’m around people who complain themselves, I am much faster to complain. When I’m with cheerful people, I’m quicker to be positive. Choose your friends wisely, for you will become more like them, whether you want to be or not.

There are other things to talk about.

I never realized how many of my conversations consisted of 1) complaining or 2) gossip. Since I included gossip in the category of “negative thoughts”, that had to go as well. And as it turns out, there are other things to talk about.

The world is full of interesting and good things to talk and think about – we need not dwell on the things that upset us.

Complaining is a form of pride.

How often do you complain for someone else’s benefit? If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. Complaining is all about me, myself, and I. It is all about what I can get out of life and what will make me happy – not what I can do to please God or serve others. It puts all of our focus on ourselves, which is not how God would have us live our lives as His children.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (giving the picture of a truly humble man): “Probably all you will think about him  is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him…He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

I complain a lot. Still.

The past month has not cured me of my desire to complain (or my all-too-frequent fulfillment of that desire, as my family can tell you). I am still working on this discipline, and I probably will be for a while. Thankfully, when I get discouraged, I can return to the first point: I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve learned a lot from just the realization of how much I complain in a day, and I am grateful for the conviction, painful as it may be at times. I hope that my experiment in complaining will cause you to examine your own life and thoughts and will lead you to a more God-focused, self-forgetful way of being. Because that is what we are made to do.

Kira

What helps you keep yourself from complaining?
Are there any places/circumstances that trigger complaint?

From the Archives: Devotions and To-Do Lists

This is a post that I cannot leave behind. It’s still something I have to work through over and over again.

For a different angle on the same subject, you can read this post. A friend of mine wrote it around the same time I wrote mine (the same day, I believe) with no collusion whatsoever. And even though we appear to be of opposite opinion, I entirely agree with what he says.

Originally published: 6/16/17


“Devotions aren’t something to mark off a to-do list.”

I can’t remember when I first heard that, but it’s stuck with me for a long time. The intended meaning is that you shouldn’t rush through devotions to get through the next thing, but should rather spend time on it and put in effort.

What made it into my head though was the literal meaning. I’ve had the subconscious thought for a long time that if I write down the word “devotions” on a to-do list, it doesn’t count. If I actually do them and mark it off, it’s even worse.

For the past few days, I haven’t wanted to read my Bible and so I just didn’t. I of course felt guilty about it and, one day, wrote devotions on my to-do list. I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that it was wrong and told myself that it was the only way that I was actually going to do devotions that day.

That’s when I realized that the guilt I felt is ridiculous.

The idea behind saying devotions aren’t for a to-do list is a good one. We, as believers, need to invest in our relationships with God just like we would other people. We need to spend time in His Word and in prayer on a daily basis in a deeper way than we would spend time on the dishes. The Psalmist tells us that the righteous man spends a lot of time in the Bible.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

But sometimes we just don’t want to. We’re busy or in a bad mood or don’t feel like it or any number of other things. It’s so easy to just shrug our shoulders and miss it for one more day.

It’s only this last school year that I’ve been able to make a consistent habit of doing devotions. The key word there is “habit.” Habits take effort to form. If you wanted to form the habit of running, you’d have to make yourself run regularly, even when you didn’t want to. Day after day, you’d lace up your shoes to log some miles.

Devotions require the exact same thing. It’s not different because it relates to God. It should be a normal part of our lives and we have to work to make it that way. Sometimes running makes it onto the to-do list and sometimes it is enjoyed.

The long term benefits come from investing when it’s hard and when it’s not. If you want to run a marathon, you have to do those long runs that make you want to die. But they make race day easier. If you want to be grounded in God’s Word, you have to spend time in it when there are a million things you’d rather be doing.

So go ahead. Write devotions on your to-do list if that’s what it takes to get it done. Enjoying it is a benefit that comes with time. Even now, when I generally like doing my devotions in the morning, there are still days that I dread the time and have to make myself do it.

The rewards will come, but the foundation must be laid.

Kira

Do you have the joy that comes from just spending time with God? What are you doing to encourage that joy?

Commitment to Christ

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What are some things that you have committed to? I’ve committed to be part of a ministry, turn in my assignments for class on time, and show up for work when I’m scheduled.

I’m also committed to follow God, which is bigger than all of my other committments combined.

Have you ever thought about that – that being a Christian is a committment? Giving your life to Christ is just that – handing over your entire life. That’s sacrifice.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:37-39

Christianity is a huge committment. But what about the little things? It sounds nice to be willing to give your life as a martyr or suffer persecution for your faith, but there’s not as much glory in reading your Bible every morning or forgiving your brother for seventeenth time this week.

We may be willing to do huge things for God, but we have to be faithful in the small things first. How can we witness to the world when we don’t consistently love our family? How can we suffer for our faith if we don’t have enough to turn to God first every day?

That’s what I’ve been convicted of lately. When God shows me how He wants me to change, how He’s going to sanctify me, I need to be committed to that. Otherwise, there’s no point to any of this. So I leave you with a question to wrestle with daily. Are you committed?

Kira

What are some of your commitments? Is there anything that you commit to more than you commit to following God?

Change Your Life

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Have you ever looked at your life and wanted to change things? Maybe you want to read more books, eat healthier, or memorize some verses. Antyhing, really.

Those things often seem crazily out of reach at first glance, but they’re usually not. All it takes is some commitment and care.

Decide what to change.

The first thing you must do is decide what you want to change, of course. For our example, let’s take memorizing verses. You decide that you want to know more of the Bible by heart. You know the benefits and you are determined that it will make a serious difference in your life long term to know God’s Word.

Set a goal.

Once you know the broad area that you want to change, it’s time to narrow your focus a bit. When setting a goal, a lot of people like to follow the SMART acronym. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound. In my experience, that pretty much covers all the bases you need to get started.

A goal needs to be something tangible – you should be able to picture yourself meeting it. In memorizing verses, maybe that looks like picking a New Testament epistle to memorize.

Your goal should not be impossible to reach, but it should look a bit hard. It’s going to be hard – that’s why you want to change.

Make a plan.

Making a plan to achieve your goal can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I have noticed that simple plans that don’t take a lot of time end up making the biggest difference in my life. Something that takes an hour a day isn’t as likely to happen right off the bat. You can work up to it, though, by starting with a few minutes a day and increasing over time.

In memorizing a book of the Bible, that could mean one verse a day.

Make sure your plan is focused on reaching the goal and that it is something you can measure. If your plan is to eat less junkfood, you need to have a way to measure that so you can tell if you are actually doing it or not.

Get started!

Nothing’s going to change until you get going. The first verse you memorize might not be easy, but I bet the twentieth won’t be as hard. Through repitition and forming the habit of doing something, you retrain your brain and body to make them easier. A year into waking up at 5:30 it feels natural, as opposed to the first week. Or month.

So pick something out and get started. Figure out what kind of goal and plan works for you and make those changes. Take it slow, and the results will astound you. A book is made up of thousands of single words. A house is built of single bricks. A dress is made of single stitches. Tiny steps make a big difference.

Kira

What’s something you want to change? What is one little thing you will do to make that happen?