The Acute Desire for Approval

“Evil is the greatest explanation for God.”

Perhaps it’s the rain. It feels especially unwelcome after such a sunny weekend. Or maybe it’s the quietness that fills a space after guests leave. (Those silences make me realize that my home should always be used for hospitality, and often.) In any case, my thoughts are doing a remarkable interpretation of laundry churning in the dryer.

So today’s post is from my sermon notes, because at least those were ordered and cohesive.

The Acute Desire for Approval

I’ll admit it. At my core, I crave approval. I think everyone does. We all want to be significant, we want to matter. In the words of my pastor, we have an acute addiction to approval. What do we forgo when we let it control our lives?

A Distraction from Our Calling

Although not inherently wrong, my very human desire for approval is most certainly a distraction. When I spend my life seeking the approval of others, I fail to relish the approval of God. More importantly, I sail straight by His calling for my life. Rather than dwell on truth, I press “replay” on the thoughtless words someone said, or the situations my foolishness left me in.

Put that way, it seems incredibly stupid, doesn’t it? I’m probably the only person who does this: I cooperate with negative thoughts! My failures don’t define me, but I tend to believe that they do. It’s an awful slope to slide down.

But evil is indeed the greatest explanation for God. When I slip towards self-loathing, the only and best solution is to immerse myself in what God says is true. I’m incapable of manufacturing lasting approval for myself. It must come from the One who created me and knows what will happen tomorrow.

Created for Freedom

The truth is that we were created for much more than a life defined by mistakes. We were created for freedom, and to live in that freedom each day. That’s a key tenant of the Gospel.  As per my pastor, here are a few ways to live in freedom:

1. Repent. When lies begin to fill your mind, do a mental (or perhaps a physical) about-face. Immediately remind yourself of the truth.

2. Lean. Choose to rely on God’s power rather than your own. Stop fixing yourself.

3. Stand. Ground yourself on God’s promises, and realize your craving for approval is an echo of a much deeper desire for relationship with God.

4. Stop. Quit trying to earn the approval of people! You’re wearing yourself out. Forgo people-pleasing in favor of honoring God with your life.

Speak truth to yourselves, friends. God is greater; believe it, whether you’re filled with hope or overwhelmed by churning thoughts.

Weekend Blips

We’re going heavy on the tech this weekend! These articles are simultaneously exciting and terrifying. We live in an interesting age, people.

Humanity, not technology

“Sure, technology is absolutely critical. But marketers must remember that technology has a purpose, as well as limitations, and as far as I know, it has yet to replicate the authentic empathy and emotional intelligence of humans.”

No commentary required.

Teaching AI to act responsibly

I appreciate the balance Michael Blitz offers. Too often, AI is touted as our savior. Before we allow machines to run our lives, we must consider all the implications. Learning to code a moral compass is an essential, often overlooked element of technological advancement.

When your calling is hard to find

And finally, a bit of hope that transcends technology. Living in pursuit of purpose (not passion) requires a mindset and lifestyle shift. The results are so freeing, though. “Look around you, God is saying. You are called to serve me right now, in the situation you’re in, whether you’re washing dishes or sitting in your cubicle.” 

Michelle & Denver

In my mind, “Fireman’s Building” doesn’t immediately intersect with “wedding reception.” But wow, Michelle and Denver took that blank-canvas space and transformed into something quite lovely.

M & D got married in the cold throes of January. They chose to delay their reception until this weekend, though, with near-perfect results. Almost all weddings have themed decorations; theirs was the Medieval age. Human chessboard, Maypole and all.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. But when I stepped into that unassuming building, I was greeted by pink roses and baby’s breath, long tables, linen napkins and neatly arranged platters of cheese and fruit. *Insert happy photographer.*

People matter most to Michelle. At lunch, she served her aging grandmother before getting her own meal, pausing to make sure the salad had the right dressing. Michelle also spoke with nearly everyone who stepped into her path, treating each as if they were the only person there. I’ve known Michelle for a few years; that open-handed sweet spirit has always been an inspiration.

And of course, the happy couple. Is it possible for love to be more genuine?

My Thoughts, Inspired by a Lake Conference

It was like a youth trip. Rising before dawn, staying out until heads nod, several unbalanced meals and too many cups of coffee. And the people, of course, huddled into a 16-passenger van, gripping water bottles and Pop-Tarts.

I needed that trip. I needed a long car ride, a few meals out and extra cups of coffee. I needed to shift about in uncomfortable chairs while listening to speakers. And of course, I needed the obligatory stop for fast-food on the way home, and miles’ worth of stories in the back seat.

Trips that require 5:30 a.m. alarms and note-taking and a little rule-breaking… there’s nothing finer. It filled the epilimnion of my mind with new ideas.

ILMS was over my head. But by the end of the conference, I felt more enlightened… enough to use the word “epilimnion” when referring to my mental processing, anyway. With each 30-minute session, I learned a condensed version of lake-related science. From the history of the lakes in a nearby county to the uses of DNA found in a river. Sandwiched between numbers and terminology, I enjoyed swaths of time laughing, sipping coffee and exploring the conference center.

In the end, ILMS provided resources to enter an interesting, largely untapped field of information, one I’ve only pursued since January. Luckily, my job partially relies upon my understanding of lake science! (Like I need an excuse to do research. Spoken like a true life-long learner, I know.)

That wasn’t all we did, of course. There had to be a bit of exploring:

After I got home on Friday, I felt something I haven’t felt for years. I sank into my favorite living room chair, watched the sun create patterns on the carpet. I wasn’t sure how to define the familiar, distant emotion. And then I realized: I felt lonely. That happy loneliness which comes with loving people and sharing experiences. Belonging. The feeling began to dissipate as quickly as it arrived, but I snagged the corner and held on for a moment. Just to savor its presence.

I’m coming full circle. By way of my coworkers and my work, memories are being replaced and renewed, and I am being set free. I’m so grateful.

Weekend Blips

Ford Yates Photography

Every heard of Ford Yates? Me neither… until a coworker introduced me to his work a few days ago. And now I can’t stop skimming through his portfolio. If you love outdoor photography, this is definitely the photographer for you. Prepare to be inspired!

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour tells the heart-stopping story of Winston Churchill and his enduring strength in Europe’s greatest hour of need. Churchill is unwilling to surrender to Nazi Germany: “You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is within its mouth,” Churchill roars at his war cabinet. In a matter of days, this master of the English language rallies his country and yanks them away from the cusp of destruction. If you need a little extra courage to carry on, watch Darkest Hour.

Fun Therapy

My latest podcast addiction! “Fun Therapy with Mike Foster dives into the horribly messy parts of our stories (with a smile),” the description states. Truly, though, don’t we all need a few more genuine conversations about hard things? Ask a friend to listen to Fun Therapy with you; it will likely spark valuable discussions about God, relationships and your understanding of the world.

From a Cozy Converted Apartment to a Multi-Level Complex

I didn’t know gratefulness could look like a building. But it totally can.

In a few short months, this blank canvas will be filled with desks and plants and people. And we’ll absorb all the golden light from those windows and spin in our chairs and rush back and forth from the printer. You’ll recognize us: We’ll be the ones laughing until our sides ache and eating snacks and getting stuff done.

When people ask me how I like work, my first response is always to grin broadly and laugh. Then I’ll probably tell them about the time we snuck chairs to the basement, or how a staff of seven manages to mastermind a festival for thousands. I might tell them about all the data we gather, or the K-12 programs we host.

But I’ll definitely talk about the people. My intensely gifted, clever, genuine coworkers. Good grief, what a gift they are.

My job isn’t perfect… but it’s pretty darn close.

Celebrations Require Sprinkles

I really love celebrating birthdays. It’s kind of my “thing.” If you’re one of my people, I tend to show up at your house super early with gifts and coffee, bake meals or cakes or homemade candy bars for you, create art for you, and/or take pictures of you and post them on social media.

I love my people. And Betsy’s one of them.

My kitchen was a disaster for two hours, but it was totally worth it.  With The Greatest Showman soundtrack turned up loud and on repeat, I danced my way to cake heaven. Can you think of a better way to spend Saturday afternoon?

Betsy prefers the corner piece because there’s more frosting. Since her special day just happened, I decided to make a mini cake that fits those qualifications. Hence, this chocolate-and-strawberry gem. Did I mention it has a strawberry filling? Oh, and that it’s covered in sprinkles because festivity? Mmmhm. Nailed it.

Why I Document My Meals

Guilty as charged: I’m a self-appointed foodie. I love to take pictures of my plate (and the plates of my friends) and share them on social media… specifically Instagram. It’s just what I do, but not for the reasons you might think.

I don’t share those pictures to show off the restaurant I went to or who I’m with. In fact, if you skim through my page, you’ll notice that most of the pictures are of things and not people. (I need to do better with that. My life is full of tremendous individuals.) It’s partially by design. I don’t like feeling left out any more than the next person!

Pictures of food, though… that’s different. Food is a universal language, a source of pure, simple enjoyment. And when it’s especially pretty, I’m going to document it. Instagram is just a convenient platform to store a handful of the best, most spontaneous images.

These pictures didn’t make the cut for Instagram. I try to stick with clean backgrounds and plenty of natural light for my feed. But this morning, my pauper’s breakfast was just too lovely to ignore. I snapped a few pictures and sat down to eat before the last curl of steam had vanished.

And no, the book (this one!) was not a prop. I read several chapters, between bites and sips.

 

Weekend Blips

The sun made its grand arrival this weekend. Grey clouds were swept aside in favor of a brilliantly blue sky, a sky that winked at its reflection in the lake and beckoned children from indoors. I’ve wiled away the bright hours by doing the usual Saturday things — grocery shopping, cleaning, and so on. I’ve spent the better portion of today with an excellent novel… which will be by first weekend blip.

Origin by Dan Brown

This book. I’m only halfway done, but Dan Brown has claimed all my free time recently. He cleverly weaves together technology, politics and (my personal favorite) a borderline dystopian society. All the right ingredients for an edge-of-your-seat read! I highly recommend you grab a copy.

Andrea Lucado

This one is for my lady readers. Andrea’s blog is tremendous, and you’d be well advised to skim through her posts on occasion. She covers all sorts of topics, from relationships to work, and speaks from her heart.

I found this one especially encouraging, in light of our digital world. Not convinced yet? From Andrea: “I’ve realized that I cannot truly rest in front of a screen observing others’ lives. I must look away and experience the five senses in my real physical world.” She speaks truth!

ThriftBooks

If you like Goodwill and antique stores, you’re probably going to appreciate ThriftBooks, too. It’s a digital used book store, starting at about $3.79 per copy. That’s something all of us can afford! After browsing, I discovered that they have all of my favorites and more. Go check it out!

And a Soul Generated By Love

This post features  portions of this morning’s raw writing. I felt they were important enough to share with you; may you glean a new thought from this glimpse into my heart.

I found a new Instagramer who lives the life I “wish” I did, the pipe-dream life that’s full of adventures and photography and like-minded people. Her captions are blatantly Christian; I love that, too. There’s nothing cryptic. That’s how I need to be.

I feel as though I’m on the cusp of something more, something bigger than I can’t put my finger on. It’s just outside my reach. I’m not talking about changing who I am. Not entirely.

I think I could live my life in an interesting way. My job is the furthest thing from boring and the rest of life has yet to be established, really. It is established, in some ways, but in others (like on summertime weekends when no one is in town) what will I do with myself?

Wanna Get Away flights are cheap. I could go anywhere in the nation for a couple nights, provided I have somewhere to stay. Or I could explore my home state. Or just stay home and write a book.

I need that, I think. I need that edge of adventure, that edge of different. Always have.

I have the gear. I have the raw ability. I have the time and the will. So what am I waiting for? I’m going to make my existence here as beautiful as I know how.

I want to live my life to the absolute fullest. And that means doing what I can with what You’ve graciously, graciously given me. These are my plans, but Lord, You can interrupt them at any time.

You undid me and my whole existence in 2017. Last year marked some truly life-altering decisions. What I’m left with is richer than I hoped for, more challenging than I imagined… and certainly all from You. I am undeserving at best.

Take it, Lord. Help me use this bit of life for Your glory. Put Your motives and purpose in my heart.

Like Jesus; be like Jesus. With a heart given over to service and a soul generated by love.

Many thanks to my sweet roommate for modeling. S, you’re beautiful inside and out.