Better or Worse?

Imagine this: you arrive home and drag yourself through the door after a long day at work during the hot summer. After eating and doing some chores around the house, you realize it is almost 7 pm. How is that possible? You just got home! Oh, well. You mosey on over to the couch, and you pull out your phone to check social media. All you see are photos and videos of your friends living their best lives at the beach, on vacations in other countries, or exercising. After being on social media for a few minutes, you start feeling unhappy about your life and glance away from the screen. You look around and see a plain apartment with only a few decorations on the wall. You were content a few minutes ago, so what changed? Here is the answer: comparison, the thief of all joy.

Personally, I have been struggling with comparing myself to other people without even realizing that I was doing it. After evaluating my feelings and talking with some of my loved ones, I saw the truth. I am absolutely blessed, but I was bogging myself down with all of the comparisons. What if I was taller, skinnier, richer, faster, prettier, etc.? Would any of these things make me happier? Well, the simple answer is no. This is my discovery after experiencing years of comparison and envy.

1. Realize where your source of joy lies. I guess the better way to say this is: realize who your source of joy is.

You always hear about joy spreading throughout the world, but where does this joy come from? Peter answers this question by stating in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (New International Version). In this short passage, Peter points out that we are filled with joy because of our faith. We do not find joy in our circumstances. Instead, our joy is anchored in Christ alone. Although we might experience hard times, our joy would never waver, unless we are placing our joy in the hands of something or someone apart from Christ. If we place our happiness in the material world, then we might be upset if we do not have the nicest things. However, if we place our joy in Christ’s hands, then we will be joyful and content with life no matter our circumstances.

2. Remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

When I was younger, one of my teachers talked with me about this saying: the grass is always greener on the other side. She pointed out that this is never the case. If we have this mentality, then we will always be comparing our lives to others and living in envy. She told me something that I will never forget: the grass is always greener where you water it. Rather than comparing your life to those around you, simply take time to enjoy the blessings you have. Invest in the different aspects of your life that you typically take for granted. Instead of complaining about how you work too much, invest your time and make a difference in your work-place. Perhaps changing your perception will change your reality. If you walk into work with a more upbeat attitude, you will most likely be more productive and have a better day altogether.

3. Realize most Snapchats, Instagram posts, and Facebook posts are only the most interesting part of peoples’ days.

Each post you see on social media is probably a glimpse of that person’s day. They don’t take photos or videos of the hard parts of the day, whether it is visiting an ailing parent in the hospital or working overtime to provide for their family. I am sure they sit at home oftentimes and think the same things you think about them. Everybody only posts the most exciting moments of their lives, so never let them get you bogged down. You may have experienced exhilarating moments throughout the week, but if you keep comparing yourself to others, then you may never notice them.

4. Lastly, take time to make a list of all your blessings.

In middle school, I was in a class focused around being grateful and thankful for all of the things each of the students had in his or her life, big and small. At the beginning of each class, my teacher had us write down things we appreciated for about ten minutes. Some mornings I would be in a sour mood, so it would take me a bit longer to start the assignment. After a few minutes, however, my attitude would start to change. I would realize how grateful I should be for all of the blessings in my life. Whether it was my grandmother getting out of the hospital or a simple sunrise, my day was radically transformed. I think it is interesting that we are called to rejoice in the bad times as well as the good times. Philippians 4:6 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV). Personally, I think the word thanksgiving is a key aspect of this scripture. We are not to pray and grumble about our anxieties and hardships. Instead, we are to thank God in the midst of all of these problems. I definitely believe there is a connection between gratefulness and attitude.

After trying a few of these tips, I hope you will start to see all of the amazing things in this world that most people take for granted. Stop feeling down about the things that you do not have. Rejoice in the blessings He gives you daily instead. Be present, be active, and never stop being grateful.

Written by Trisha

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In the Beginning

I was recently bitten by the content-creation bug. You know what I’m talking about—the one that’s drawing everyone and their dog (or goldfish or gerbil or hedgehog) to places like YouTube and Vine to make a living by creating videos and other online content. To me, that sounds like the dream life, so I decided to try it.

The question, of course, lay in where to start. I had to rein myself in a little bit and decide what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. To figure that out, I had to answer another question: Why am I doing this?

I knew I wanted to keep my faith in the open, but we all know the dangers of that nowadays. Christians aren’t favorably portrayed, as we used to be, in modern media. It’s much easier to make “Christian” music or write a “Christian” blog and separate ourselves from the world.

The thing is, we’re not supposed to do that.

How do I know? Lots of ways. Take the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added).

Or John 17:14-19, where Jesus notes that neither he nor his disciples are of this world but are nevertheless in it. Verse 15, in particular, catches my eye: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” David Mathis wrote a great article on why this passage (and the phrase “In the world but not of the world” that was coined from it) means not that Christians should fall away from the world, but that we have been sent into it on a mission. I’ll let you read his article for more elaboration.

So we’re supposed to go into the world, avoid the advances of the evil one, and impact those around us. Cool. How does creativity tie into that? Dear reader, I’m so glad you asked.

When God created the world, he also created man: Adam; we all know him. He also created woman, Eve, when he realized one human wasn’t enough. Genesis 2:19-20 records one of the first things God told this man to do: “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.”

Writers, how many of you have struggled to find the perfect name for one single character? Yeah, this verse makes me cringe, too.

Remember also that God made Eve as a “suitable helper” (v. 20) for Adam (v. 20). She was made creative, too. Adam wasn’t meant to create by himself; he created in the pattern of God and with his fellow human.

So, what does this mean for us?

  1. Creativity is a built-in part of each one of us; it is God-given and it has a purpose.
  2. Creativity brings us closer to the Lord. God could have named all the animals himself and just told Adam what they were; instead, he let Adam do it with him, and whatever name Adam came up with was the one God ordained. It was a moment of trust and respect that will probably never be replicated in our post-fall existence.
  3. Our creative thoughts are not meant to be kept to ourselves. We’re supposed to use them for what God has told us to do, for the benefit of others.

When we use the materials, ideas, and abilities God has given us to bless others, we’re showing that we appreciate all those things—and that we love the One who made them. Any creator can tell you that the act of creation is an unparalleled experience. I believe this is why.

That’s not to say that everything you create has to be some praise and worship experience. Everything I just pointed out is simply describing the origin of creativity and the high standards set before us. For the Christian, it will shine through unexpectedly and subconsciously.

I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do with my creative abilities yet. Right now, I’m just determined to be as genuine as possible. For me, being genuine means being loving, caring, passionate, discerning, and respectful, as Christ himself is. That holds true if I’m uploading my personality to YouTube or if I’m living a social-media-free existence. I want to live in such a way that, no matter what I’m doing, people see the difference in me and wonder why it’s there.

As the old saying goes, you can be anything you want to be—and the Christian label (or lack thereof) shouldn’t change the message we as Christians carry. As long as you are exercising the love, compassion, and attitude of Christ, you have the power in Him to create something truly amazing and life-changing.

Written by Catherine

Reprinted with permission from this blog.

Image credit: Kā Riley

To Meme or Not to Meme

I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy a good meme. No matter what age, nationality, or perspective on life you have, memes speak to everyone. Commonly, when you think of a meme, you think of a random picture with a caption that fits just perfectly. It’s one of the best forms of communication, in my opinion.

challenge accepted

Being the meme connoisseur that I am, I had challengers who thought that they could win in a meme war against me. To show my wits to these challengers, I wanted to know where the term “meme” came from. Originally, the term is a shortened version of the word “mimeme,” a concept coined by Richard Dawkins, an English evolutionary biologist, who proposed the idea

“[w]hat if ideas were like organisms … They begin from a single location—the brain—and spread outward, jumping from one vessel to another, battling for attention” (Scarbrough). Dawkins argues that all life relies on replication, or memory, which is why the term relates well to the internet sensations we know now. Internet memes are an imitation of memories and pictorially depict reactions, which is why memes go viral. In Scarborough’s article, Dawkins says that some ideas become more successful than others, just like certain memes get more publicity than others. Especially in our social-media society, there is always someone posting, tweeting, blogging, or participating in whatever form of sharing s/he accesses. It’s human nature to react to it whether it be in a positive or negative way.

maybe

A meme is usually funny, so, if the comment was funny and you don’t want to necessarily reply back in a “rude” way because the words you type don’t always portray what you really want them to, a meme is a picture that can inflict an emotion/memory better. They can jog your mind to remind you how you were feeling when you first saw it. I don’t want to be arrogant, but my meme repertoire is pretty strong. I have a reaction for almost everything. It started as a way to respond to people when I didn’t feel like typing, and as it became more popular in social media, people unknowingly fed my budding habit which leads me to the self-proclaimed title of “meme queen.”

Social media has definitely influenced the meme era. In fact, the millennium generation has made a calendar that shows which meme was used most during each month. Once a meme goes viral, you’ll notice it being used for everything: celebrities making faces at an award show, a Vine snapshot, or a great catch by a football player that seems too good to be true. It can be lavish like someone adding seasoning to food in the fanciest way possible, or a reference about any exaggerated post, or as simple as a little girl smiling awkwardly resulting in memes referencing uncomfortable, awkward situations. Anything can be coined as a meme at any time, no matter how simple or mainstream you think it is. One does not simply meme and be great. It takes practice and dedication for a “meming” career path and to reach a level of extraordinary frivolousness.

kanye approves

Scarbrough, Jenna. “What is the origin of the word ‘meme’?”. Mental Floss. 07 March 2005. Mentalfloss.com/article/61843/what-origin-word-meme. Accessed “05 April 2017”.

Written by Celeste

Image credits: Preparing and Fast TypingChallenge AcceptedSmart ThinkerMeme CalendarKanye Approves