15 February 2016

Inside Out, Emotions, and the Logos...

Ah, emotional health.  I thought about skipping this one.  Or finding a new topic for this week.  But since I’ve already talked about spiritual health and mental health, I figured I’d need to tackle the emotional at some point (tune in next week for physical health!)

Purely for research purposes, I watched Disney’s Inside Out this weekend.  I’d heard great things about it and I was pretty excited.  It’s no secret that our family is dealing with some extreme stress in this season (we are living in a camper), so I thought it would be a bit cathartic and fun for the family.  I’d heard great things and was pretty excited to see it.

I was underwhelmed.

I mean, it is a cute movie, but let’s be honest, it’s a pretty bad message, right?  This idea that we are solely governed by emotions.  We have a family, each with personified emotions calling the shots in their head.  The dad, with Anger in the lead.  The mom, who for some reason has Sadness in charge.  And their 11-year old daughter, Riley, who has the bubbly Joy at the helm.

I’ll admit that it is cute and at times it is hilarious.  However, I just couldn’t get past the premise.  Perhaps I’ve read Lysa TerKuerst’s Unglued one too many times, but I can’t get behind the idea that we are completely governed by emotion.  If we’re blessed and have pleasant “core memories” then we can have Joy reigning, but what about those unfortunate souls who end up with Fear or Disgust ruling in her stead?

The movie wraps up with the noble notion that each emotion has it’s place and even if we don’t enjoy Anger or Sadness, they are still needed if for no other reason than to shed light on the happier times.  I get that.  And that’s good.  After all, my favorite line from the Doctor Who episode Blink is “Sadness is happy for deep people.”  (Okay, there are a lot of favorite lines from that episode.)

But even with that, there is an idea that we are merely emotional beings going through life with the hope that Joy rather than any other is the predominant emotion running our life.  And that’s just wrong.

Ms. TerKuerst does state in her book that emotions are indicators, not dictators of our life.  We are not helpless and subjected to the rule of our emotions.  No, we are blessed because we can choose how to behave.  Sure, we may feel sad or angry, but we are able to overcome that feeling.  Not because of another emotion fighting away to make sure we don’t get too angry or disgusted.  No, we’re able to act in a different way because we, as humans, have the mental capacity for logic and reason to overcome our emotion – not be ruled by them.

Our emotions do play a part.  We can’t merely ignore them or cast them away.  I’m definitely NOT saying that.  Our emotions are indicators of what we are feeling.  We have to decide whether or not this is an appropriate thing to act on or whether we are being irrational and out of place.  Our emotions are valid.  We do feel these things.  But that doesn’t mean that they are right.  Sometimes we need outside help with this.  This is where accountability and community come into place.

We are meant to live in community for just this reason.  Our first line of emotional accountability should be our family.  Ideally, your spouse or parent should be able to help.  If this isn’t the case, you may need to step outside that to a church setting.  Seek help from a brother or sister or your pastor.  If this still doesn’t resolve, you may need to go a step beyond and seek out a good Christian counselor to help.

Emotional health is a huge part of your whole person.  It’s also so ultimately relative to your person that it’s hard to make a universal.  This is why the other pillars of health are so key.  If you are working hard to be healthy mentally, spiritually, and physically, then emotional will usually, though not always, fall into place. 

In the end, we have to remember that though our emotions are good and valid, they aren’t the ultimate and supreme end.  If you are saved and you have the Holy Spirit to guide you then you can absolutely live above being ruled by emotions.  After all, we do know that Jesus is called the Logos is Scripture.  This is usually translated as Word, but if you’ll look closely you can see this is where we also get our word Logic.  

12 February 2016

Five Friday Favorites: Love

Today, we're talking about love, which is great since my favorite holiday is coming up:  Discount chocolate day, aka the day after Valentines Day.  However, since Valentines does have to happen for the chocolate to be discounted, I thought it would be fun to spend a little time on the main way we celebrate that holiday.

So, for those of you who didn’t know, in the ancient Greek, there are several words used for love.  How awesome is that?  Because really I hate that I have to use the same word – love- to describe my enjoyment of Mexican food, my husband, and my God.  And really I do love all those things.  It’s just a different kind.  I’m definitely no expert in ancient Greece or love, but I thought it’d be fun to look the bare basics of a few forms of love.  Here are a few of the more common usages:

1. √Čros – This is one of the most common forms of love and the general one we think of when we think of love.  It’s the romantic/physical type of love.  Think of any romantic comedy you’ve ever seen… that’s generally what’s considered eros.  However, eros is SO much more.  Plato redefined eros as an appreciation of the beauty within a person (this is how we get the term “platonic”).  Can you imagine?  Look at your spouse, with whom you share the most intimate affection, and see the beauty within that person.  Not married?  No worries.  Think of Jesus.  Spend a little bit of time meditating on the beauty within Jesus.

2.  Philia, or philos – This should look pretty familiar.  Philia is the term for affectionate regard, or friendship.  Having trouble remembering that one?  Think of the city in Pennsylvania:  Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love!  This is one that generally comes pretty naturally to us.  It is pretty easy to show love to our friends and family.  Aristotle, however, stated that philos requires virtue, equality, and familiarity.  Try to look at your friends and family in this way.  Treat them with virtue, equality, and familiarity. 

3.  Storge (pronounced stor-gay) – This is most often linked with empathy, specifically of that within families and most often parent and child.  This is extremely relational.  How complex is familial love!  Whether it is your parents, children, or a family of your own choosing, family relationships are among some of the most difficult to navigate.  However, I really like this idea of empathy in relation to your familial relationships.  Loving family can be really difficult at times, but try to realize that they probably feel the same about loving you.

4. Xenia – This is “love of stranger.”  Today we would think xenia comparable to hospitality.  It’s fun to hang out with our friends and go to a restaurant or spend time at church.  But how often do you invite people over to your home?  I think that hospitality is a lost art.  I think we often think we have to spend a crazy amount of money or time making everything perfect and we don’t realize that expressing xenia isn’t about any of that.  It’s merely treating those outside your family as if they are a part of it.  Warts and all.  Don’t be scared, just reach out and love.

5. Agape – I deliberately saved this one for last.  Probably the most well-known and the most misused form of love.  Agape is rightly defined as a “Godly love.”  This is not only the love that God has for us, but also the love that we are to have for one another.  It isn’t just a feeling, like eros or philia.  Agape is much more akin to a choosing of love, or a mental assent.  Sometimes we have to make a deliberate choice to love someone, even if we aren’t particularly feeling it at the time.  This is what is spoken of when we are called to love our enemies.  We aren’t asked to have an intimate feeling, or even to have a friendly feeling, merely the idea that we are choosing to love this person because God loves us and He is love and enables us to love others.

Sometimes loving is difficult.  Sometimes we can only make a choice to regard and respect that person and that’s okay.  The main thing to remember is that God is love and it is through Him that loving is possible at all.  I challenge you to pick one of these forms of love and express it this Valentine’s Day.  Bonus points if you can find a way to express all FIVE!

Need a few more ideas on sharing and showing love?  Check out these other blogs as a part of the linkup with mrsdisciple.com.

10 February 2016

Liturgical Living: Lent

I have a bit of a confession.  I love liturgy and the liturgical calendar.  Why is this shocking?  I’m technically not “liturgical,” meaning I worship at a church/tradition that doesn’t observe the liturgical year formally.  I don’t adhere to the liturgical calendar strictly, but I do believe that there are a few things that non-liturgicals can gain from it. 

The purpose of the liturgical calendar is to draw us closer to Jesus by observing the year against the backdrop of His life.  Since we tend to divvy up our year with special days and holidays anyway, we might as well do it through the lens of Jesus and Scripture, right?  So, instead of “Sweetest Day” (that’s an actual thing), you might celebrate Epiphany.

Right now, we are entering the season of Lent.  This marks 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Resurrection Day, or Easter, and begins on Ash Wednesday.  In traditional Ash Wednesday services, you would “receive the ashes” in the form of a cross on your forehead to symbolize inner repentance of sins.

Because that is what Lent is all about.  Many tend to focus on the “giving up” part of Lent without truly understanding the real purpose of it.  The three main focuses of Lent are repentance, prayer, and almsgiving.  You can fast from whatever you may chose during Lent, but if that is all you do, then you are missing some of the biggest blessings of this liturgical observance.

To read the rest of this post, head over to Mama Revival Series. Make sure to check out her entire series on Lent!

08 February 2016

Lessons from Genesis...

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’ve probably read Genesis at least 10 times.  No, it isn’t because it’s my favorite book or because I just love reading it.  Rather, it is because I commit to those “Read through the Bible in a Year” plans pretty often.  Usually I taper off around Numbers, only to try again next year.

So it’s been that I begin with the best intentions and then fail to follow through.  This year, however, I took a different approach.  I haven’t committed to reading through the Bible in a designated amount of time; I’ve just committed to reading the Bible.  My hope and my goal is to be in the Word!

I’m not so worried with how much I read or when I check off each book.  I just want to be in God’s Word and learning more about Him.  I tend to favor reading large chunks of text at time.  I comprehend more and feel like I get more out of the context instead of just reading a couple verses here and there.

With that in mind, I embarked on 1 January on the She Reads Truth Genesis devotions.  So yet, again, I have read through Genesis.  This time, though, without guilt or rush or an insurmountable goal ahead of me.  I just opened my Bible (or more often my Bible app) and read.  And I did complete the entire book by the end of January.

As with most of Scripture, I had new things jump out at me and renewed fondness for things I’d read a million times.  Nothing stood out to me more, though, than the newness and new beginnings of Genesis.  I think we often overlook the beauty of that.  We see the formation and creation of the world and of God’s people, Israel.

How fitting is it, then, to read Genesis at the beginning of a new year?  How awesome is it to see your own beginnings written out by inspiration of the Creator himself?  I loved seeing both how God created mankind and also how He worked to set apart a designated people for Himself and I count it a joy and a privilege to be one of those that He’s set apart.

I’m not sure where I’ll be reading next, in this interim before Lent, I may continue on to Exodus or I may follow a different reading plan, but I do know that I want to continue in His Word and continue to get to know my Lord and spend that time with Him each day.

05 February 2016

Five Friday Favorites: Winter Dates

Well, this is a bit of a difficult one for me.  It has been a while since the hubs and I have been on a real date (watching Fringe on the couch doesn't exactly count).  However, I've been blessed because we've been on some doozies.  I know that some of these aren't going to be applicable to everyone, but hopefully there will be a little something for everyone.  So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite dates with my hubs:

1.  Our last Navy Ball - I know this isn't an experience that everyone can share, but oh, my, I can't have a list without it.  It got to the point that I was so over shopping for a ball gown and going to yet another military ball.  I really had taken them for granted.  However, for our last one, we made it special.  I wore my favorite ball dress.  NGD's command was so fun so we were able to sit with friends and really enjoy the evening.  I even got a dance out of him!  The O Club served cheesecake for dessert (NOT one of my faves), so the Captain told Nathan he had to get me dessert before we went home.  So we went through the drive thru at McDonald's in our ball clothes and got me a hot fudge sundae (so good!).  

2.  Handel's Messiah & Fine Dining - We are blessed to have some dear friends that live near us around Nashville.  A couple years ago, we were able to go the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall and see the Nashville Symphony perform Handel's Messiah.  Before the music, we went to a fun restaurant downtown, Etch.  It was fine dining, which is something we rarely get.  It would have been great no matter, but it was all the more sweet since we were able to share it with friends.

3.  Marriage Seminar - Most people thought we were having marital problems when I posted on FB that I was going to see Paul Tripp speak on marriage at a conference downtown.  We weren't.  It was just how we decided to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.  It was a Friday night/Saturday morning thing, so after the morning session, we went to a little brunch place and talked about all the cool things we'd heard and learned over the weekend.  Brunch, Paul Tripp, and theological discussions with my husband = a great time!

4.  Private Concert of "Broken Together" by Mark Hall - Okay, I understand that this one is super subjective, but it was still AWESOME!  A few days before our 14th wedding anniversary, I went to see a taping of The Chat with Priscilla Shirer (if you haven't seen her show, check it out!).  The guests were Mark & Melanie Hall.  He's the lead singer for Casting Crowns.  They were speaking on marriage.  It was awesome.  The song "Broken Together" was about to drop, so he and another member of the band were going to perform.  I was amazed when I saw that the rest of the audience was leaving.  NGD & Chas were out in the parking lot waiting on me, so I asked if they could come in and hear the performance.  The producer said, "Sure." So I ran and got them and we all spent a little time chatting with Mark Hall and Priscilla Shirer.  Then Mark sang that song and I cried and cried.  If you haven't heard that song, go listen to it now!

5.  Fazzoli's and the mall - This is one that will work for just about anyone in any situation.  A few Christmases ago, we were running low on funds and couldn't really afford to do much during our church's "Parents' Night Out" but we didn't want to lose the opportunity for a special date night.  So, we dropped Chas off and used a 2-for-1 coupon at Fazzoli's (breadsticks!) and then went and walked around the mall.  It was supposed to be Christmas shopping, but it quickly turned into an expedition to Earthbound Trading and the other "hippie" stores in the mall.  It was really nothing and certainly nothing extravagant, but it was a special time with my special guy and I still remember it fondly.

In the end, you don't have to do anything expensive to have a great date.  Even some of the more outrageous things we've done were made special by the company and the experience.  Heck, even the symphony tickets were a gift.  Ultimately, a great date isn't measured by what you do, but who you do it with.

03 February 2016

January Book Report: Searching for Sunday

Rachel Held Evans is divisive.  She’s a blogger and writer.  And she’s made a career out of doubting her faith, asking tough questions, and writing about them.  It’s a nice gig, if you can get it.

To date, I’ve read two of her books.  This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of hers or that I agree with her positions.  I do agree that she’s bold enough to speak her mind and not shy away from admitting that she doubts and has questions.  Just like the rest of us.

In Searching for Sunday, Evans uses a beautiful literary device transposing the traditional sacraments of the Church with her own struggles and journey of faith.  While discussing Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick, and Marriage, she navigates the journey she’s been on for the past several years.

Her story isn’t new and it isn’t revelatory, but it is necessary.  I don’t always agree with her conclusions and I rarely agree with her theology, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this book.  Like with most of her writing, you don’t have to agree with where she ends up, you just have to understand the journey.

And I do.

I often struggle with doubt.  Mine may not be in the same ways or on the same scale as Evans, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate.  In addition to the beauty of her writing, Evans is a master of bringing forth conversations that need to be had, sometimes unapologetic and sometimes overly apologetic.

Evans writes what she knows and this book is no different.  It is largely personal and covers what she’s gone through over the past several years struggling with Evangelicalism, a foray into the Emergent, and landing in a small Episcopalian church.  It deals largely with her hurts and her pains and how God has healed and helped her, as well as the areas where she’s still hurting.

In the end, even though I enjoyed this book, I don’t know that I would recommend this book to just the average reader or faith doubter.  You have to be on a certain foundation, I think, to get the most out of Ms. Evans’ writing.  However, for those who have the basics down, but still question would be as enamored with this book as I was.

01 February 2016

Mental Wholeness...

Like the Westminster Catechism, I believe that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  However, to do this, I think we have to be holy, healthy, and whole.  We have 4 “pillars” of health:  mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.  I believe that these correspond to Jesus’ command for us to love God with all our mind (mental), heart (emotional), soul (spiritual), and strength (physical), in Luke 10:27.

To this end, I strive to health and wholeness in each area.  Mental is one that is both easy and difficult to maintain.  There are a million apps and games out there that help with memory and cognition.  However, I’m not sure that just that is all you need for brain health.  I’ve used Brain Age and Luminosity and a couple others and they work well, but I think you need a bit more.

There is a creative and imaginative aspect to mental health, too.  I’m not much of a crafter, but I do like to think of myself as a big of a creative soul.  I’ve just gotten into the grown up coloring books that are all the rage now days.  I’ve also started Bible Journaling.

Scripture memorization is also a wonderful tactic.  You get the benefit of stretching your mental muscles with memorization and you also get the added bonus of having a wealth of scripture at your mental disposal.

These are all well and good and wonderful tools to use.  But the most fun tool for building mental health and wholeness?  Reading!  I love to read, so this may not be the same for everyone.  I like to read broadly, but I will say that my focus lately has been nonfiction and theology.  I’m trying to mix it up a bit this year with my 2016 reading list.

My usual goal is reading two books a month, but I’ll admit that I’m a bit behind schedule this month.  I’ve already finished one book and have two more started that I’m reading concurrently.  I’ve not made the time to read in the past couple weeks, but I hope to get back in the routine.

Check back in on Wednesday for my first monthly “Book Report” on the book I’ve completed.