Sunday, April 17, 2011

now what?

Over the past two weeks I’ve been mulling over a book I received four years ago upon my graduation from High School. The book, Now What? by John Ortberg, is full of little tidbits of wisdom and guidance for graduates. I hadn’t looked at the book in years, but spotted its small spine on my shelf, and when it was made clear that I wouldn’t be finishing Wuthering Heights anytime soon, I pulled it down and started to flip through its pages. 
What I found was that even though I read this book four years ago, I stand today at an even larger crossroads in life, and I needed to hear the words of this book now more than ever before. As I read, certain thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and questions came back to me from high school, but mostly I was flooded by all these new questions. Things that stuck out to me four years ago were not necessarily the same words jumping off the page at me today. In short, I’m the same, but I’m different, too, and these last four years have provided me with new things to think of and care about as I try to make my way in the world. I may still be asking the same 'now what?' question, but the place where I stand is very different. Here are a few of the points made in the book that particularly stuck out to me:

1) Start each day with God.
“For Christians, the beginning of the day should not be haunted by the various kinds of concerns they face during the day. The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it. All restlessness, all impurity, all worry and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, in the early morning hours of the day, may our many thoughts and our many idle words be silent, and may the first word and the first thought belong to the one whom our whole life belongs.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I’ve been trying to do this lately, to wake up and think of God, and to take five or ten minutes together with God and my morning coffee to reflect and pray towards the day. This is just another reminder how important that really is, and how, if our whole life belongs to God, starting with God is so fitting and right it can change the outcome of our day.

2) Pray for people and cultivate friendships.
“People who give themselves to relational greatness - people who have deep friends whom they laugh with and cry with, with whom they learn together, with whom they fight and forgive, with whom they dance and grow and live and die - these are the human beings who lead magnificent lives, whether or not they are ever noted in society. And when they die, not one of them regrets having devoted themselves to people - to their friends, to their children, to their family - not one.” - John Ortberg
So, so important for me to remember right now. Lately I’ve been letting the stress of life get me down, and in those moments I spend with friends and family I’ve been forgetting to put my stress aside and have instead been ranting and unloading at them. I realized on Friday night, as I thought back on the week and towards the weekend, how negative I’d been and how little I’d shown care, concern, and love for the people around me. Ortberg reminds me that people who live magnificent lives don’t just fill life with to-do lists, meetings, and assignments, but with beautiful people. I’m so blessed by the people in my life, blessed beyond words, but now I need to remember, even when things get busy and stressful, to be a blessing to them as well. 

3) Practice joy actively.
“Be joyful always.” 1 Thess. 5:16
Joy used to be my thing. Back in the dreary January of my freshman year at Hope, I realized acutely that I wasn’t being joyful, and this verse from Thessalonians became my bread and butter. I resolved to practice joy actively, and it worked. It changed who I was, and who I would become. Sometimes, though, I forget to be a joy-bringer, and I was reminded once again how important it is to be joyful in all things. Even though this is a tough time of life, it is also one chock-full of joy: springtime green, daffodils blooming, Easter on its way, the accumulation of four beautiful years, the celebration of friendships and achievements, and a new stage of life just ready to take flight. 
4) Think excellent thoughts. 
“Research has shown that one’s thought life influences one’s being. Kind people are simply the type of people who habitually tend to think kind thoughts. Angry people are simply the kind of people who habitually tend to think thoughts that breed resentment and hostility.” Archibald D. Hart
This is so true! What we think, we eventually become, and we take our thoughts into our words, our actions, and our interactions. I came across this great little design on a blog I follow,, a little while back, and saved it to my computer. I pulled it back out today when I was thinking about thinking excellent thoughts, and thought I’d share it with you. The blog is great, you should check it out!
Well, that’s more than enough from me today! Be full of joy, my friends! We have so much to celebrate.

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