Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

God Tried

I’ve been reading the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet who lived during the days of the last kings of Judah. The Babylonians were going around conquering other countries, and Judah felt threatened – for good reason, since God repeatedly warned them through Jeremiah that they would be defeated. But God kept trying to offer them ways to make it not so bad. “Repent, surrender to the Babylonians, and you will live. And don’t worry too much; I’m going to eventually bring you back to the land of Israel.”

God tried. Over and over. Every time someone asked Jeremiah what would happen, he repeated himself. The Babylonians are going to win, so just surrender.

They didn’t listen. Sad, but perhaps not surprising. Also not surprising: The Babylonians conquered the land of Judah. Many people died. Many more were taken into captivity.

And then, in Jeremiah 42, a bunch of important people came to talk to Jeremiah:

Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us—that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”

Jeremiah agrees to pray and tell the people what God wants them to do, and they say, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

Ten days later, God gives Jeremiah an answer for them:

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.”

Basically: Stay here. Trust me. I’ll take care of you. Don’t try to run somewhere that seems safer, because it won’t work.

The Israelites had been so disobedient that the ultimate disaster had happened: the Promised Land, which was supposed to belong to them, had been conquered. That’s how much they had sinned. I’m sure life seemed basically hopeless at that point.

And God still gave them another chance when they asked him what to do.

Sadly, they still did not obey. But God tried.

Posted in Life, Thoughts

Introverts Need People, Too

“I think it fascinating that the introverted one needs people more than the extroverted ones, in a way.”

This is a comment a friend recently made on a story I wrote. It made me think about how rarely an introvert’s need for people is portrayed in literature. As I said last week, the general internet likes to talk about how introverts need alone time. This is true, and important. But it means many people have forgotten that introverts do also need people. And sure, there are lots of stories where the awkward loner does something cool and gains a bunch of friends, but that is not at all what an introvert needing people looks like.

It looks like a not-usually-chatty person coming home from college for the weekend and talking and talking and talking because they don’t have close enough friends at college to make them feel heard.

It looks like still wanting to spend hours talking to a close friend after a long day making small talk at work.

It looks like debating about whether to go to a social gathering, because yeah, you’re kind of lonely and you know it would do you good, but you’re also so exhausted…

Socializing does use up an introvert’s energy. But not all socializing uses the same amount of energy, and not all socializing equally satisfies the need for people.

For example, socializing with strangers or slight acquaintances uses a lot of energy and provides little satisfaction, so while it’s very often necessary, it’s not particularly helpful.

Socializing with close friends, on the other hands, uses little energy and provides lots of satisfaction, so it can potentially go on for hours or days with little need for breaks.

Then there’s the middle, people who use a moderate amount of energy and provide a moderate amount of satisfaction. The introvert likely considers these people friends, but not their closest friends. Whether they’re helpful to be around depends on what the introvert needs at the moment.

(Disclaimers:
1. There are probably some introverts who could pull off being a hermit long term. I am not one of them. And while I don’t know statistics, I doubt it’s the norm.
2. All descriptions are from personal experience. Take them with a grain of salt. Your introvert may function differently than I do.
3. Not every decision on whether or not to spend time with a person is made based on amount of available energy and need for people. Nor should every decision be made this way. But it is often a factor.)

In conclusion: Don’t forget that introverts need people, too.

Posted in Life, Thoughts

Extroverts Need People

The general internet likes to talk about how introverts need alone time. Introverts want their extroverted friends to understand that sometimes they need to withdraw to recharge and function well.

This is good. It’s important. After all, an extrovert who never made sacrifices to help their introvert friends live in a healthy way wouldn’t be a very good friend, right?

But guess what, introverts. It goes the other way, too.

What if you never go to a party with your extroverted friends?

Never spend time with them when they want company but you would really rather just be alone?

Never make sacrifices to help them live in a healthy way?

Well, that wouldn’t make you a very good friend, would it?

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

Infinite Grace

I recently read a book called None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin. It was a good book.

Supposedly it was aimed at women, but I didn’t get that impression. I remembered the fact three times while reading, and all three were because it was specifically mentioned. Which is to say: I think anyone could get useful things out of this book.

The part that struck me the most was this:

He measures our sins, yet his immeasurable grace exceeds them. Mercifully, our sins are finite in number, the product of finite beings:
But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Rom. 5:20)

If you add up all the sins all the humans who ever lived have committed, you would get a number. Admittedly, a number no one wants to spend their time counting to, but if you did, you would eventually get to the end, and you would have to stop.

But God’s grace abounds. It’s immeasurable. Infinite.

You know what you get when you subtract any number from infinity?

Infinity.

Many people seem to struggle with wondering if God can forgive the sins they have committed.

Guess what?

He can.

He has enough grace.

More than enough.

Posted in Christianity, College, Life, Thoughts, Writings

College Reflections

Sometimes I think about my college degree and remind myself that it is an accomplishment. It doesn’t always feel like it, but it is. The diploma displayed on my dresser and the summa cum laude cords hung on my wall represent heaps of time and effort and frustration and lack of sleep and months when I would have much preferred to quit altogether.

I’ve been out of college for more than two years now. (Yet people still regularly ask what grade I’m in, so that’s amusing.) I don’t miss it. At all. But recently I’ve been thinking about how certain classes impacted my life, so I thought I’d talk about the two most notable.

We’ll start with the one that’s notable because of its lack of long-term impact: Creative Writing.

I do a lot of creative writing. I have filled up notebooks. Last month I found myself editing a story I wrote before college. It wasn’t awful, but I have definitely improved since then. But that improvement came from practice and talking to friends who write. None of it came from my Creative Writing class.

I don’t remember learning one thing in that class. I remember a couple short stories we read (I didn’t like either of them). I remember that we were supposed to keep a journal and I gave up halfway through the semester because I did not have the time and the teacher never once checked to see that we were doing it. I remember leaving one day because it was the third time the teacher was more than 15 minutes late, which meant students were allowed to leave without penalty, and I hadn’t left the previous two times and I had had it.

Basically, I remember a lot of frustration.

The one nice thing that came out of the class resulted from our final project. During that semester, I had been working on a story entirely unrelated to the class, but I asked the teacher if I could submit it for the final project, and she said that was fine. When she returned it, she informed me that the story kept her up past her bedtime because she couldn’t put it down. It was satisfying that someone who was neither a relative or a close friend liked something I wrote that much, but perhaps not quite worth it overall.

But on a more cheerful subject: Scripture Interpretation.

Rumor has it this is one of the hardest classes at my college. I took it my sophomore fall semester. I saw the teacher (my favorite teacher, incidentally) a couple weeks before classes started, and he asked, “Don’t you know you’re supposed to take Greek or Hebrew or at least Intro to Biblical Languages before you take this class?”

Nope. No one ever told me that. But I wanted to take the class, and at that point rearranging my schedule seemed like more trouble than it was worth, so I stuck with it.

541362_454180244623700_1225700392_nThat was my hardest semester. Not necessarily academically, but in general stress and homesickness. But Scripture Interpretation was a lot of work, so that may have contributed. Most memorably, I took this picture of all the books I used for a one-page paper (though I think it ended up being longer than one page). But in the long run, I did well.

Despite all the work, I’m so glad I took the class. It ended up being my favorite college course. I gained a great deal of respect for translators. I regularly see its influence in the way I read and study the Bible, and that’s something that will be valuable wherever I go in life.

Posted in Life, Thoughts, Writings

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is next week.

I don’t feel like blogging.

So I found a loophole!

Two years ago, I wrote about Valentine’s Day. This is still my opinion, and it seems silly to rewrite it, so here is that old post for your enjoyment (or not… I guess you don’t have to enjoy it if you don’t want to).

tuesdaynews

As I’m sure you’re aware, Valentine’s Day is approaching. I like Valentine’s Day. But disliking Valentine’s Day seems to be a Thing.

One reason I’ve heard is that people try to use the day to “fix” relationships that are unhealthy. They think that giving their significant other flowers and chocolate because that’s the thing to do will make up for all the times they’ve been selfish or unkind or whatever. It’s a very shallow viewpoint.

Some people do that, sure. But that doesn’t have to be how Valentine’s Day works.

If a relationship already has problems, one day of flowers and chocolate isn’t going to fix it. But it could be one step in the right direction if the couple is trying to make things better. And even healthy relationships – romantic or not – need constant upkeep to stay healthy.

Valentine’s Day is a tool (though that’s an exceedingly unromantic description)…

View original post 47 more words

Posted in Thoughts, Writings

Character Development

Are you a writer? Do you have a shallow, obnoxious, petty character who needs to grow up already?

Turn them into a llama.

That’s right, The Emperor’s New Groove style.

(If you’ve never seen that movie, it’s excellent.)

How do they react? Are they horrified? Annoyed? Traumatized? Mainly concerned with what this has done to their appearance?

Set it up so your nicer characters have to help the obnoxious character figure out how to turn back into a human. Are they actually nicer? Do they help willingly? Or are they glad to see the obnoxious character suffer?

Put as much or as little thought as you want into the logistics of it all (after all, this is unlikely to end up in the official story), but make the solution complicated enough that everyone has time to grow in the process.

I did this recently with a character, at my friend GG’s suggestion. We decided everyone needs to try it. It was, first of all, a lot of fun. And it was fascinating. I wrote it from Obnoxious Character’s point of view, a perspective I never use in the actual story. This was both difficult and eye-opening, because there were things I knew my usual point-of-view characters were doing that I wanted to write about, but Obnoxious Character did not notice or care, so I couldn’t. But she was forced to slow down, get to know the main characters better, think, and notice some of her own problematic attitudes.

In her real story, Obnoxious Character will not turn into a llama. But playing with it gave me an idea of what a less obnoxious version of Obnoxious Character looks like and how my other characters interact with her while she’s changing. It helped a lot.

Fun, fascinating, and helpful. What more can you ask for in a writing exercise?