Psychology Applied: Meaningful Learning of the Bible

I don’t know if anyone reads this that doesn’t know me personally; but if that’s you, I hope you like what you read! I’m a happily married mother of two and I’m back in school studying music education. One thing I’ve learned to do in my life is to treat everything as an act of worship. I invite God into everything that I do and aim to glorify him in the way that I spend my money and time. Though my budget is tight (giving even 10% is very sacrificial) and my schedule is tight (between work, school and kids, I don’t get to read the Bible daily), I invite God to join me in everything. It makes sense, then, that He shows up everywhere. I just have to remember to look for Him.

God showed up for me last week in my online educational psychology class. In this particular class, we learn a lot about how the brain works, how to teach, and how to learn. The common proverbs say, “You learn something new every day,” and “Practice makes perfect,” so it would make since that we are really good learners, right? Well, for a lot of people, that’s just not true. Try to answer these questions:

  1. Recite John 3:16.

  2. What is the first verse to Amazing Grace?

  3. What is the first verse and chorus to I Surrender All?

If you’ve ever attended church, I’m betting these weren’t too hard. Let’s try some more.

  1. What does the word begotten mean?

  2. Do you believe you are or have ever been a miserable or a despicable person?

  3. Do you use all your money in ways that honor God?

These are a bit tougher, especially since they’re a little bit more personal, but I hope you were able to come up with an answer to them. You may see a connection already, but if you don’t that’s okay. I’ll get there.

Questions 1-3 are great examples of what is known in psychology as rote learning. This is superficial memorization that holds no real meaning for a person. It’s the same idea as learning a song in a foreign language in choir. Unless you already know the language, you don’t know what the words mean, but that doesn’t stop you from learning the sounds that the letters make. Just knowing the words isn’t the same as knowing the meaning.

Questions 4-6 lead to what educational psychologists call meaningful learning*. To help remember what is involved in meaningful learning, there’s an acronym: M.O.V.E., which can be remembered by thinking that the goal of meaningful learning is to move information to long term memory. Meaningful learning requires Organization, Visual imagery, and Elaboration. Organization can be very effective when given a list that you must remember. The purpose is to group related items, but you often get to decide which ones are related to each other. Visual imagery is when you turn an abstract idea (for instance, the definition of a word) into a mental (or physical) picture. This is probably my weakest technique, but it may work well for many people.

The meaningful learning technique that I use most often is elaboration. You may have heard the word, but it basically just means connecting new information to stuff you already know. It means digging deeper so that the concepts of a subject are learned rather than just skimming the surface. In each of my three examples, we are looking at the previously memorized material as if it is new. The goal is to move it from a rote memorization to a long term conceptual knowledge. I will break down the questions two by two.

1. Questions 1 & 4

“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (AMP)

 

Some translations of John 3:16 say “one and only,” others say “only begotten.” However, when reading the Bible, in whatever translation is your preference, it’s important to remember that it is still only a translation. Even if you learn Greek, it takes a long time to understand all the contextual meanings of the literature. (I’m a big fan of the Amplified Bible because it seems to encourage digging into the original text). Keep in mind that I’m not an expert as I give a short language lesson. The original Greek word that translates here as begotten is the word Monogenes. It is a term used only in reference to an only child. It literally means “one (mono-) of a kind (-genes).” Humans are introduced as beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), but Christ is referred to as a one of a kind only child of God. In other words, he is not human. He’s not just created in the likeness of God. He share’s God’s genes. Another thing I want to take note of is the fact that each other time the word monogenes is used in the Bible, it’s in the context of a parent pleading to Jesus on behalf of their only child. This, to me, makes it even more evident how big a deal it is that God would send his monogenes to die for us! This is elaboration: connecting new ideas to previous knowledge. (This is the main site I used as a reference: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/monogenes.html, but I looked it up on several other sites as well.

2. Questions 2 & 5

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me? I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”

The definition of wretch is “a miserable person : one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune.” If you don’t like that one, how about “a base, despicable, or vile person”? Many people love Amazing Grace. It’s a very traditional hymn and people know all the words, but do they really know what it means? From my experience, many people sing the words without stopping to think about the meaning. If they thought about the meaning every time, I think we’d have a lot of tear filled services. “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Have you ever been left behind at a store or in a crowd and felt the terror and relief that follows? I “was blind, but now I see.” What an amazing healing! Have you known anyone who had a total remission from cancer or any other similar miracle? It’s not something you ever forget. It changes your life. This is elaboration: connecting a string of words to a real situation.

3. Questions 3 & 6

“All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

I would like to paraphrase the first verse of I Surrender All: Everything I own, I freely give to God. Because I love and trust Him, I don’t need my house or my clothes or my savings account. All I need is to be with God. Do you believe this or is this another song that you glaze over because it’s on the list of songs to sing today? Do you check off the song today in order to forget about it when you buy that (insert guilty pleasure here) later this week? Don’t get me wrong: I’m far from perfect and in no place to judge any of you, I just want you to stop and think. This is elaboration: reworking a new idea into terms you can more easily relate to.

 

I hope that my post will help you think about the words you sing in church and the Bible verses that you have memorized. Sure you’ve got them memorized, but do you really know them? Next time you come across something you don’t understand, try making connections with what you already know. You’ll learn it better and be able to transfer what you’ve learned to your daily life better, too. That’s one reason I write this blog, though I wouldn’t have pinpointed it before last week. This blog helps me to elaborate on what God is teaching me. Maybe God will use it for someone else too, but I really do it more for my own understanding of God.

I’ll stop there for this post because I know it’s quite long already. However, in the near future, I will write another post that relates to this one from another idea I’ve learned from my psychology class.

 

*All information about psychology was learned from my classroom textbook: Ormrod, J. E., & Jones, B. (2018). Essentials of Educational Psychology: Big Ideas to Guide Effective Teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

The most unfair game of Monopoly ever

I’m almost done reading Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable and it just keeps getting better. The other day, I was reading a chapter where he talks about just how unfair the Kingdom of God is. It’s hard for us adults to accept because we like things to be fair and equal for all, especially in this day and age. Brant writes:

“It takes a childlike humility to embrace the love of God, to realize how “unfair” it is, and then add, quickly, ‘but I’ll take it!’” (page 177)

…and goes on to say…

“God wants us to accept gifts. It takes humility to do it, which is why kids are so much better than we are at this. No kid balks at a gift. No eight-year-old opens a Playstation on Christmas morning and says, “No—I just can’t. I don’t deserve this. I am unworthy. No. Take it back.” (page 178)

When he was talking about that child accepting an unfair gift, I was reminded of some games of Monopoly I played with my family as a kid. Most of the game of Monopoly is pretty luck-oriented. You roll the dice, you count the spaces and you hope you’re lucky enough to land on a profitable property. Then you hope that all your opponents are unlucky enough to land on your space. The real skill in Monopoly comes with trading to acquire monopolies and then building them up to take out your opponents, one by one.

After all the properties have been bought, players take turns trying to convince each other that a deal is equally beneficial for both parties. Reality check: the player that is offering the deal is hoping that the deal will benefit himself more than it will benefit the person they are offering it to. I find this to be true 99% of the time.

Here’s an example.

It’s Jeff’s turn. Jeff has in his possession two of the yellow properties: Ventnor Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. He sees that Sally has the third and most expensive yellow, Marvin Gardens. He also notices that she has two of the red properties, Illinois Avenue and Indiana Avenue. He has the third and least expensive red, Kentucky Avenue. So Jeff offers Sally an “even trade.” “I’ll give you this one red for your one yellow. We’ll both have a monopoly and the same number of properties. Fair trade, right?” Jeff knows that he is getting the better end of the deal if Sally accepts, but he doesn’t mind ripping her off just a little bit. It still is a good deal for Sally, after all. There’s no other way she’d get this monopoly. Sally might make a counter-offer if she thinks the deal leans too much in his favor, or she might accept is straight off because she actually has had more success with the reds. After all, there’s a card that says, “Advance to Illinois Avenue!” The point is, humans, by nature, like things to be mostly equal, but a little in your favor.

Consider, for another example, Kyle MacDonald. Maybe you’ve heard of him but don’t know his name. He started out with one red paperclip and bartered and traded just a little bit in his favor fourteen times in a year and ended up with a house. I’m sure most of those trades seemed pretty even at the time, but when we consider that a paper clip was traded for a house, we look at it and think, “That’s not a fair trade!”

Let’s go back to Monopoly and consider another possible scenario.

It’s Jeff’s turn. Jeff has in his possession the most sought-after blue property, Boardwalk. He sees that Sally has acquired its mate, Park Place. The only other property she has is Mediterranean Avenue, the cheapest property in the game. Jeff on the other hand, not only has the other purple property, Baltic Avenue, but also several other monopolies. He has bankrupted several of the other players and acquired all their goods. Jeff decides he is going to strike up a deal with Sally. He offers to give her Boardwalk and all his monopolies in exchange for her Mediterranean. He’s going to give up all his valuable monopolies in exchange for one lousy monopoly. This isn’t early game where the purples stand a chance because of how quickly you can build hotels on them. This is late game. Jeff’s monopolies all have houses or hotels on them and he’s offering to sell those to her too!

As you read this, what are your initial thoughts? Do you think, “Jeff’s gone nuts? Why would he do something like that? Surely there’s something in it for him…”

Brant Hansen makes a pretty profound statement.

“We humans can’t save ourselves, but we want to be our own saviors. And many of us would rather go down on our own terms than be humble. It’s that simple, and it’s that tragic.” (page 182)

Most adults are so determined to “be our own saviors,” it would take a lot of convincing to accept such a deal, even if it’s in our favor. We would say, “NO! I can’t win like that! I’ve got to do it myself!” We would make a counter offer that seemed more fair.

How bout this for a counter offer:

Sally is surprised by such a good offer, but she hesitates. She really likes the purple properties and has had hers the whole game. Jeff withdraws his offer and counters with another. “I’ll give you ALL my properties, even the purple one in exchange for $1.” Sally smiles and says, “Okay, Daddy!”

The deal makes NO sense to us. That is, until the moment that you find out that Sally is his daughter. Then it makes sense. Only a father would make such an unfair deal. He loves his daughter so much that he doesn’t care about winning any more.

This is how God works. We are his children and he wants us to be with him eternally. So he gave us a GREAT gift. He sent his son to die for us. He gave us Boardwalk and then some. He could’ve asked us to obey a lot of really strict rules and it would still be a deal that leaned in our favor as much as Jeff’s initial deal. What does he ask instead? Just $1. Since we aren’t very good at following rules, he just asks us to believe in the saving grace of God. Paul sums it up in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV):

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

When Jesus himself was asked in Matthew 22:36 which commandment was the most important to follow, he replied in vs. 37-40:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

He didn’t say, “There are a lot of others, but these are the most important.” He said, “ALL the Law and the Prophets,” what we know as the Old Testament, “hang on these two.” Anything else falls under these umbrellas.

Though simple, God’s commandments are hard to follow. Mostly because accepting His Grace means acknowledging that it’s not in our my own control. Brant Hansen says it like this:

“So we have a choice: be offended by Jesus Himself, or embrace the breathtaking unfairness of the kingdom. The unfairness of it all is exactly what the older, jealous brother was complaining about in Jesus’ story about the prodigal son. There’s something in us that wants our salvation to come through us.” (page 181)

The prodigal son comes back and his brother is mad that he has been working his butt off during his brother’s absence. He’s been working and his brother gets a party? The thing is, it’s not about what either son has done over the years; but rather it’s about how God loves us unfairly. By that I mean that He loves us for no other reason than that we come from Him. It doesn’t matter what we do, he will love us all equally. We get the honor of living with him. But when the prodigal son comes home or the lost sheep is found, it’s a reason to celebrate. The bigger the redemption, the more glory God receives, and the bigger the party! The party doesn’t have anything to do with the older, more “responsible,” brother. Rather than complaining, “Why not me?” be grateful that you’ve been blessed to live with God and now get to welcome someone back into the family! Enjoy the party! Accept the fact that he wants US to win the game of Monopoly while he’s left with nothing but a crown of thorns and a spear in his side.

Temper Tantrums

I have a two-year-old. She is such a sweet girl. She is smart, playful, and obedient. She loves animals and Disney princesses, and she loves to dance and play piano. She is my favorite two-year-old girl in the WHOLE world. But I’d be lying if I said she were perfect or that I wish she didn’t have to go to bed so I could spend more time with her. I love being her mom 99% of the time, but it requires a lot of patience to discipline a child. You have to be at-the-ready 100% of the time. Every now and then, I lose my cool and dream of the day when I will only be responsible for wiping my own behind.

Before I had kids, I didn’t have a lot of experience babysitting. I had one regular gig when I was a young teen and the kid was like 5: no diapers, rarely bath time, mostly books and TV. I have learned SO much about caretaking because of my daughter, but that’s not the only thing I’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot about myself by watching her.

The thing about two-year-olds is that, no matter how good their parents are, they are still young enough that most of their responses to life are still instinct rather than learned behaviors. You don’t have to teach a toddler to like ice cream or to make demands or sass back. You have to teach them to eat their vegetables and ask nicely and obey respectfully. You have to teach them the appropriate ways to express their emotions.

I am going to change the topic a bit and tell you about a book I’m reading. It’s called Unoffendable, by Brant Hansen. (It’s such a foreign concept that Microsoft Word is telling me that I spelled it incorrectly.) In this book, Brant Hansen addresses the anger that so prevalently fills our world. Most of it is “righteous” anger, at least according ourselves. We have a right to be angry because someone provoked us or wronged us or wronged someone close to us. If being wronged really gave a person the right to be angry, we would ALL have a right to be angry 99% of the time. The world is full of imperfect people who inflict harm on each other all the time, with or without realizing it.

Brant Hansen said a funny thing in his book on p. 5-6:

“It turns out that I tend to find Brant Hansen’s anger more righteous than others’ anger. This is because I’m so darn right. I’m me. I tend to side with me. My arguments are amazingly convincing to me.”

And this is SO true. This is a natural response. We obviously think we are right, otherwise we would change our mind to believe what we thought was right. The problem comes when two different people (let’s call them Andrew and Becky) have different ideas about what is right. Andrew can’t see how Becky could find flaws in his perfect reasoning (the ones Becky pointed out are pretty insignificant, after all), but he can see all the flaws in her reasoning and she just won’t listen! They keep going back and forth convinced that they’re right. Now both Andrew and Becky are angry and calling names because…. Why are they angry?

Each of them will say, “I’m angry because he/she refuses to listen. I have a right to be angry because he/she is basically telling me I’m wrong.” Since I didn’t include a topic of argument in my example, it’s easy to say, “Maybe they’re both partly right,” or, “It’s okay to disagree,” or even, “Why does it matter who’s right? They should still be kind to each other.” However, if I were to have them fight over a favorite ice cream flavor, the best sports team, or (heaven forbid) a specific political issue, it’s hard to resist having your own opinion and siding with one or the other. Some people will say, “It’s dumb to get angry about ice cream flavors, but politics really matter.” However, even in the midst of threats on his life, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Brant Hansen goes on to say, “But an emotion is just an emotion. It is not critical thinking. Anger doesn’t pause. We have to stop, and we have to question it” (p. 6). This brings be back to my daughter. When something upsets her, she lets everyone know it. She sits on the floor and screams until we pick her up and tell her that throwing a fit is not an appropriate response to feeling anger. As her parents, we have to teach her to pause and think about the way she is behaving. Because she is still young, it is our responsibility to help her learn how to express her emotions.

However, as adults, we become responsible for our own emotions. We have to recognize what we are feeling and deal with it appropriately. We may not sit on the floor and kick our feet, but we are pretty good at name calling and disrespecting those we love in a moment of heat. We later regret that we behaved that way.

As a parent, I am teaching my two-year-old not to throw tantrums. Right now, it’s a matter of reacting immediately when they happen; but in a few years, she will have learned not to throw tantrums at all. As adults, we need to set our own goals. I certainly don’t expect my mom to correct my behavior now. (In fact, that would probably provoke me to get a little angry.) We need to acknowledge the way we respond to situations and change the responses that are inappropriate. For Christians, this means getting rid of anger altogether.

It’s a gradual process, but it can start wherever you are. If you have a problem yelling at your spouse when you’re angry, learn to notice that you’re yelling and stop yourself. Soon enough, you’ll be able to stop yourself from yelling before it happens. With God’s help, you can go beyond that and ask God to be your Father and make it obvious to you which behaviors are not acceptable. If you don’t believe in God, set your own standards of behavior. What kind of person do you want to be? Write down your problem areas and really discipline yourself as you would a child. Become the best person you can be.

Obedience is Better than Sacrifice

My mom has several Bible studies that she has written and self-published. I recently starting going through her study on Psalm 63. I work part time as a cashier and full time as a mother (I have a girl 1 ½ years old and I’m due with Baby #2 next month) and thought that I would be more motivated to spend time in God’s word if I had a Bible study to give my time some focus. The first thing my mom does in her study is to set the scene of the Psalm. When I opened the study for a Psalm, I wasn’t expecting a history lesson. History isn’t really my strongest suit and often turns me off of the Old Testament. How do the events of who knows how many thousand years ago apply? Didn’t Jesus himself say it was obsolete? However, I was pleasantly surprised to find applicable material when reading the passages from 1 Samuel that set the scene for David’s Psalm.

1 Samuel 15– Saul rejected as king

Just a few chapters earlier, Saul is anointed as king of the Israelites because they asked God to give them a king. Obviously, he is human and imperfect. In just a few chapters, he finds himself rejected by the same God who picked him as king. His final failure was that God asked him to destroy a civilization completely. Instead, he destroyed only what he felt like destroying and allowed his men to keep the “best” of the conquered. He justified it saying that from the best of the conquered wares he would make an offering to the Lord. However, that’s not what God asked for and His servant Samuel addresses King Saul.

1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

   as much as in obeying the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

   and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

Though I am not a Biblical scholar, I enjoy digging into the Bible and letting God lead my understanding of a verse. I don’t know Greek or Hebrew, but I trust (for the most part) the many scholars that have taken the time to study and translate the original text into a language we can understand here and now, so that is what I will dig into just a bit. According to Google, these are the definitions of obey and heed:

 

Obey– to comply with a command; submit to the authority of

  • Origin: Latin: “ob-” – in the direction of; “audire” – to hear = oboedire

 

Heed– (v) pay attention; take notice, (n) careful attention

 

I found it interesting that the word we know as obey is rooted in a word that means literally “to hear in the direction of.” Isn’t that just listening? Well, yes. When a parent tells a child to listen to them, it is understood that they are meant to obey. However, people today often confuse hearing with listening. “Selective hearing” is the nice way of saying that someone wasn’t fully listening. It is such a common problem that the technique of “active listening” has to be explained for some people to realize that they weren’t truly listening.

What Samuel is saying here is that God wants us to listen fully to him and live it out! We use our well-practiced selective hearing skills to hear his commands to read the bible and tithe 10% and take communion, but we ignore his still small voice that should guide every move that we make. We push away when he convicts us of sin thinking that as long as we keep practicing our “good Christian” face, we will be okay. When Samuel tells Saul that God doesn’t desire sacrifices but obedience, we use our “selective hearing” and think it might not apply to us because we don’t offer the same kinds of sacrifices as they did back then. However, let’s look at what sacrifice meant in the Old Testament.

Sacrifices were a required ritual of the Israelites to become right with God. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, animal and other sacrifices became obsolete. However, there are other rituals that we do today that bring us closer to God. Rituals may include going to church or Sunday school, reading the Bible, tithing, fasting, communion, or ritualistic praying. That’s not to say these things aren’t beneficial. Many of them are great examples of how we are called to put our faith in God. Sacrificing money and time as a way of listening to God can help draw our attention upward and allow us to hear God more clearly. However, many people go through the motions of the rituals without allowing God to work through the rituals to change their hearts and lives. Christianity is about being a “little Christ,” walking in his ways and obeying his calling on your life. The rituals we do to get in God’s good side mean nothing if we aren’t learning and living in obedience.

Men and Women

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

Human beings were designed to be social: to live with each other, to work with each other, to enjoy each other’s company, to take care of each other…. We all have a need to encourage others and to be encouraged, we desire the acceptance of others, and we want to be needed by someone. Everyone has unique needs and desires when it comes to friends and significant others, but I believe that there are certain things we have in common. I believe that men and women were created to be different so that they could meet each other’s needs, both in friendships and in marriage (the ultimate human friendship).

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)

Same sex friendships are fairly straight forward. Not easy by any means, but people of the same gender often relate to each other better. I don’t believe this is simply a matter of interests, because girls can like sports and boys can like cooking and sewing. I think there is simply something at the core of each gender that can not be reasoned or explained, but it is felt by each member of each gender. You simply relate better to people with similar chromosomes.

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:1 NIV)

Male-female friendships are a totally different ball game. Many people hold the belief that you can’t be “just friends” with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t fully agree with this. Personally, every male friend that I have had and considered a close friend I had a crush on at some point. Now and since we got together, however, the only man I have had a crush on is my husband, but I still have a couple of close male friends. We maintain appropriate boundaries, but I consider them close friends. This is how I see it: before I was with my husband, I treated every close male friend as a potential husband. I didn’t want to shut out any possibilities, but I never wanted to make the first move.

In male-female relationships, it is SO important to understand the purpose of the relationship, the boundaries, and the roles of each person.

One of my male friends once told me how he believes women need to be treated: “they need to feel beautiful, the need to feel safe, and they need to feel loved.” He treated each woman with this mindset, even when he was looking for nothing more than friendship. I completely agree with him, and I believe that men have similar needs.

1. Appearance:

I believe that most men care more about comfort than attractiveness when getting dressed, but they often care just as much about how their physique compares to others. Muscle size, pant size, you-know-what size… men need to feel attractive, especially to their wives.

However, even if you’re just friends, you shouldn’t be afraid to compliment a member of the opposite sex on a recent haircut or a new shirt or significant weight loss. Instead of criticizing behind someone’s back, compliment them to their face.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV)

2. Security:

Unlike most women, most men feel pretty safe. They can walk down the street at night without looking over their shoulder. That’s not to say they won’t be cautious in an unsafe area or they’re not at risk of being robbed, but most men don’t carry the same fears as women. I think that the parallel for most men is that they need to be the protector/provider. Whether it’s working overtime or buying a gun, a man wants to feel like he is taking care of his family or friends.

Women, let your male friends walk you to your car at night, and don’t be afraid to ask for a favor. Men, don’t be afraid to offer. However, maintain boundaries and don’t spend too much time alone with anyone other than your spouse.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28 NIV)

3. Love:

Duh! Everyone wants to be loved! Even the jerk that you’re in class with, the idiot you work under, and the person on the street corner whom you think is lying about being a veteran.

Wear your heart on your sleeve, love without reservations (not without boundaries), forgive immediately, and if you get your heart broken- especially by a friend- repair what you can or move on.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 NIV)

The little things

I was thinking last night about all the little things in my life that have brought me to where I am. I’m currently attending my third college since high school, studying music therapy (this is my first year of that) and am engaged to be married in July. Here are a few examples of the little things that could’ve changed all of these things:

  • If I had been born 6 weeks later, I would’ve been a grade younger than I am now. My fiancé just graduated from college in December, so even if everything else remained the same (of course it wouldn’t), I would’ve missed meeting the man who is to be my husband.
  • If I had decided straight out of high school that I wanted to go into music therapy, I might have lived at home to save money and studied at a school 20 minutes from home. However, when I transferred to my current school, I not only loved the program, but I liked that it was a couple hours from home. This is because at my second school, I had lived on my own and liked the freedom that came with it.
  • If I HAD found my current school immediately, I would not have met all the people who helped me grow into the woman that I am. I also would not have had time to heal from a past relationship, but I won’t go into details on that.

There are so many little details that have shaped my life. As they happened, many of these circumstances or unexpected changes felt unnecessary and frustrating. Being the youngest in my class, everyone else got to do cool things before me. Transferring twice and changing my major multiple times in three years made me feel like I was on a wild goose chase. However, looking back, I know God had His hand in my life all along.

Taking a minute to remind myself of this is really good. It is comforting to know that even in times where I don’t know where my life is going or what’s going to happen, God is here. He has a plan. As long as I follow His will and live for Him, He will lead me through life.

Matthew 6:34 comes to mind. “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Every day comes with its own set of things that one could choose to worry about. I often found myself worrying about whether I was making the right choice. But in the end, it didn’t matter whether I worried about the choice I made or not. Each day was followed by another and another and now I’m where I am today.

It is my goal to live each day without worry, trusting that if I let God take care of tomorrow, today will not be as bad because God was here yesterday.

I Wonder…

As I was driving home this afternoon, I was reflecting on today’s weather. This morning, it was kind of dreary. I was worried that the skirt that I chose to wear this morning would leave me too cold, but I wore it to church anyways. After church, I had to walk through a window-less door. When I opened the door, I froze, blinded by the sunlight. Sunlight! It ended up being a nice day after all!

As I was driving hom later in the afternoon, I was reflecting on the weather and praising God for the beauty of spring. Then I thought, if this is what God can do here on Earth, I can only imagine how beautiful heaven is! For some reason, I often picture heaven as this infinite space of white light where everyone is standing or kneeling or prostrate (on a floor of light?) around the Throne of God, praising Him. If this is what Heaven is like, I’m sure it will be awesome because we’ll be in the presence of God. But I really don’t think this is it.

In the book of Revelation, John describes his glimpse of heaven to the best of his earthly ability. It includes jewels, colors beyond the rainbow, streets of gold, rivers, and creatures that we can only imagine all praising God. From what I’ve heard of out of body experiences, there are many similar experiences in modern times. The most common description is that what they saw is beyond words. I heard once that if we think of the best, happiest, most beautiful things of Earth, they are comprable to the worst things of Heaven.

So when I was praising God for the weather this afternoon, I just let myself imagine what heaven might be like.

I’m standing around the Throne of God with everyone else who chose to follow Christ while here on Earth. We’re standing on the softest, greenest grass imaginable, barefoot of course, basking in the warmth of the Light that is coming from everywhere. There are quiet streams weaving through the crowds so that no one is ever thirsty. Each stream is fed by a huge river that flows from the Throne, never ceasing. The River is strong and wide, but no one fears falling in because the River brings nothing but Life. There are mountains on the horizon, but they cast no shadows. Birds are singing, the most pleasant fragrance of flowers is all around, and I can’t help but praise the Maker of all. Everywhere I look I see His beauty, and all my senses are overwhelmed by Him.

I’m sure this doesn’t even come close to doing the wonders of Heaven justice, but it’s the best my human mind can imagine and describe. I praise God because he is infinitely better, more beautiful, that anything our minds can concoct.