May 28, 2015

The #CharlieCharlieChallenge: Good, Bad, or Both?

The hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge burst onto social media recently, and has been growing enormously in popularity. Earlier this week, the BBC reported that over 2 million people used this hashtag in just one 48-hour period!


What is the #CharlieCharlieChallenge?


So, what is this challenge that seems to be taking the internet by storm? It’s a “game” any child can play because it only takes two pencils and a piece of paper. But it bears an eerie similarity to Ouija boards because the idea behind the game is to call on a demonic spirit.

I think this BBC article captured the essence of it pretty well: "It's a game which involves balancing pencils over the words 'yes' and 'no' on a piece of paper. Players ask questions which are supposedly answered by Charlie - a mysterious demon who spookily moves the pencils, if you believe in that sort of thing."

The #CharlieCharlieChallenge is popular among teens right now. It's gone viral and has jumped into the American mainstream.


The Bad


Okay, let me be clear about this. The #CharlieCharlieChallenge is evil ... and I dare say, Satanic. I just want to make sure you know where I'm coming from before you read the next section. I've been accused of being an eternal optimist, so I guess take what I have to say next in that context.  :)


The (Potentially) Good


I think that the popularity of the #CharlieCharlieChallenge points to American kids' inner conviction that there's a spiritual realm and their desire to connect with that realm. (Or maybe they're just curious and wonder if such a spiritual realm is real.) Of course, they're seeking out connection and answers in a very dysfunctional and wrong way; they are looking to connect with evil rather than good, and that is dangerous.

But -- at least from what I've seen up until now -- even a simple awareness of the spiritual reality that surrounds us seems to have escaped most kids in the U.S., especially if you compare them with their Eastern counterparts. I am encouraged to see evidence of a desire to become more aware of it, at any rate. In this era of popularized atheism, I was worried that for many kids and teens in America, that desire had disappeared altogether.

Bottom line, if you are a Christian believer like I am, we serve the God who can take what Satan means for evil and turn it into something good. I hope that the #CharlieCharlieChallenge opens up conversations about the spiritual reality that surrounds us … and ultimately, about God.

May 26, 2015

How to Thrive in a Selfie Stick World

Dave and I traveled to a flea market this week.

We had lots of fun poking around different shops and laughing at some of the strange wares we saw displayed. Hanging under the flaps of one tent, a sign proudly boasted, "Selfie Sticks Sold Here."

For those not familiar with these sticks, they're an invention that allows you to take "selfie" pictures featuring you with more people. I think it's so strange how selfies have completely taken over the internet. Before I owned a digital camera, I used to almost exclusively take pictures of things and people other than me! I looked for the beauty in the things around me.

But the advent of the social media and selfie stick age has brought with it a cultural acceptance (and promotion of!) narcissism. Vanity. Obsession with ourselves. And that can quickly slip into a dangerous desire for the approval of others. (How well I know that.)

If I was to put together a guide for thriving in a selfie stick world, this is where I would start. Maybe you need these reminders as much as I do!:

1. It's not about you.
For Christian believers like me, life is ultimately about God. His plans. His purposes. His desires. How much are your posts on social media pointing to Jesus instead of yourself?

2. Listen well.
Especially as a writer, I spend so much time speaking into things -- from social media to work to family. As much as I love to write and talk, it is so much more important to actively listen to broaden my understanding and meet people where they are at.

3. Look outside yourself.
It can be all too easy for me to get caught up in my own worries, excitement, disappointments, life circumstances, etc. that I fail to look outside of myself. When was the last time you noticed something beautiful in nature? How could you help meet a need in the world? 

4. Don't seek validation from others.
How many times have I checked my Facebook page just to see if someone liked or commented on something I posted? It's got to be an embarrassing number. Instead, I want to spend my time building up and encouraging others, shining the light of Christ into their lives.

5. Comparison steals joy.
This one's related to #4. Envy can sneak in when you're looking at pictures of a friend's cute baby, bigger house, model-like body, etc. One great way I've found to combat this is with gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great practice, but at least make sure to praise God every day for a few of the blessings in your life!

So, yeah, just some thoughts I was having tonight. What would you add to this list?

May 20, 2015

Hezekiah

In my personal time of studying the Bible last week, I read from 2 Kings.

I was really moved by the story of Hezekiah. He's not one of those figures in the Bible you usually hear about in a sermon or even Sunday school, but I think his story is worth being told more. Hezekiah is a descendant of David and an ancestor of Jesus. After numerous generations of idolatrous and evil kings in Judah, Hezekiah came on the scene.

He was only 25 when he became king, but Hezekiah did what so many other kings before him had failed to do. 

"He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.) Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses" (2 Kings 18:4-6).

Later on in the chapter, Assyria's king, Sennacherib, threatened war on Hezekiah and his people. Sennacherib sent his commander, who tried to convince the local people not to believe their king, Hezekiah, when he told them the Lord would save them. Still later, we see Sennacherib boasting about his exploits in a letter to Hezekiah, which is recorded in 2 Kings 19:10-13:

“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?”

And what did Hezekiah do in response to these threats? I love this.

"Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God" (2 Kings 19:14-19).

I love that Hezekiah's immediate response to the threats of an enemy was to go into the presence of the Lord. I was really struck by the image of Hezekiah spreading out the letter before the Lord and then entering into a time of prayer. Whenever trials come into my life, I want my knee-jerk reaction to echo Hezekiah's ... to lay those things before the Lord and seek him in prayer.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how this ended up ... God heard Hezekiah's prayer and delivered the nation from Sennacherib and his vast army.

May 16, 2015

Molly is so cute!

Here's a new video of Molly. Because she's just so stinkin' cute!


May 15, 2015

Finding Our Dream House

Dave and I will soon kiss condo life goodbye.

We're planning to buy a house--and hope we can find a great one before Thanksgiving. Soooo excited! It'll be my first time buying a home (although Dave has walked this path before). Any advice to share for this first-time home buyer? I'm all ears.

Dave and I started to put together a wish list for our dream home, and here's what we've come up with so far:

  • Newer roof and good structure
  • 3+ bedrooms
  • 1.5+ baths
  • 2-stall attached garage
  • 1 story with finished basement
  • Lots of kitchen counter space & cupboards
  • Fenced-in backyard for Molly, our dog  :)
  • Brick home
  • Nice, family-friendly area
  • Close to a library

We're willing to put a bit of work in to finish a basement, put up a backyard fence, etc. And I know we might not get everything on our wish list ... but it sure would be nice!  :D


UPDATE: Our house-buying plans have been delayed until spring of 2016. Stay tuned!

May 12, 2015

#22by30

I wrote a while back about my struggle with anxiety, and I started taking medication to help manage my anxiety back in 2014. However, one of the possible side effects of the medication I’m taking is weight gain … and I’ve gained weight. A lot of weight.

I’d like to reverse that trend, and I know it isn’t going to be easy. And that’s why I’m reaching out to you, readers, to help hold me accountable to the new goal I’m setting.  :)  I’ve decided to set my goal to get healthier and lose some weight based on Body Mass Index (BMI).

My current BMI: 27
My goal BMI: 22

A score of 22 would put me in the middle of a healthy weight range for my height. I know it will take some time, especially fighting against my weight-gaining tendencies on this anxiety medication, but I’ve set a goal I think is reasonable.

I’d like to reach a BMI score of 22 by the time I reach my 30th birthday. That gives me about a year and a half.

I’m calling it my #22by30 goal.  :)

How am I going to achieve this? Well, I’m going to start out aiming for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. I’m going to make my diet more heavily veggie, protein, and fruit-based. I’m even going to eat more lettuce (which I’ve been known to jokingly call “crunchy water” … lol!). If you guys have any tips or recipes that might be helpful as I launch into this part of my journey, please type them in below!

I’m planning to check in with you guys here on my blog every month to let you know how things are going. This is definitely going to be a challenge for me.

I'd appreciate your prayers and encouragement!

May 5, 2015

And the Winning Poem Is ...

The results are in! Before I share the winner with you, I want to say a special thank you to all who shared their votes with me. It was really fun for me to see which ones were your favorites! :)

By a slim margin, the poem from my April Poetry Challenge that received the most votes was … Amia!

Amia, a fairy, pins hair in a plait Whilst sipping a tin can Admiring light wings And a tail shining as a star A bit vain in a glass As rain drips again In a fairy lair

You may have noticed that this poem contains only three vowels: A, I, and Y. Restricting myself to words that only contain these vowels made it challenging to write, but really enjoyable, too! Glad to see that so many of you loved it. :)