By Jayson Bronkhorst
Some people love winter, but it tends to bring out the worst in me. Winter is cold. Gray. Cars take 10 minutes to warm up before being driven in the morning, and indoor heaters are unable to keep up. But there's one other key part of this season that can often feel far too apparent: the lack of motivation.
I'd be lying if I said life has been easy lately. It has been busy, and even though I have already gone through the process of learning how to say no, I'm finding myself all too caught up in too many commitments. It all just keeps building up until I find myself overcome by all of it, and feel alone in my mind surrounded by insurmountable obligations. My mind can often feel like a wasteland.
Jealousy is one mindset that can keep me in this rut. If I ever tell you that I'm not a jealous person, that's the pride talking. It tends to begin as bitterness or just unhinged, unreasonable anger towards a person or company that I hold inside of me. It keeps up in my mind until I realize it's an issue, at which point I break it down in attempt to get to the root... and it almost always ends in jealousy.
There have been several times where I've felt the need to confront a person directly and apologize to them for the grudge I've been holding against them. 99 percent of the time, they have no idea and are more taken aback than anything, but it is an important exercise for me to keep my ego in check. Forcing myself to essentially compliment the person I am jealous of breaks down every bit of pride I had left, but it breaks down the grudge along with it. I find jealousy to be rampant in times of personal struggle or desert; it is much easier to envy someone's good situation than work through the problems of my own.
Apathy is another state of mind that can be so easy for me, especially when I'm already behind schedule on something, to just keep putting it off. It was different when I was in school, because there were deadlines. What about for my resolutions for the new year? Or designing that logo that I said I would help with in my spare time? Nobody's going to keep me accountable on that stuff. These are things that I want to better myself in, but I feel stuck.
A Need For Consistency
Before I share this last bit, I am by no means an expert or a scientist. This is just some stuff that I've found to work for me, a young adult with a scattered brain and good intentions (also I'm pretty sure there's science to some of it, I've heard a lot of it from good sources). Here are five things that might help motivate you and keep you on track towards your vague goals and obligations.
1. Drink more water.
This is one of my resolutions for the new year, and I could immediately feel the difference in my energy level after just a week of drinking the intended amount (about half your body weight in ounces... at least that's what I've been doing).
2. If you're working on something and your mind is wandering, do something else.
I'm fairly sure I have some sort of attention disorder that never got diagnosed, but hey, I've made it this far! Moving on always helps me to clear my head, even if it's just for a minute. Because once my mind starts wandering, it doesn't come back.
3. Set your own deadlines.
This is a huge helper for me, and I often will just set reminders for certain tasks on my phone. "Do laundry" at 3:00PM. "Design hoodie" at 5. It's not like I'm forgetting to do these things, I just have to put it on the schedule so I force myself to do it.
4. Do the shortest tasks first--immediately if possible.
If I make my list of reminders and some of them take a few minutes or less, like "take out the trash," "send email," and "bring package to work," I will try to do as many of those as quick as possible. Sometimes, when work gets built up, I can look at my huge list of stuff to do and become very quickly overwhelmed, causing a stalemate in my mind. If I just start to do a few things rather than think about them and let them sit in my queue, that momentum starts to snowball into bigger tasks. Even if it requires me getting out of my slippers and blanket and walking outside on my day off, I'll force myself to do it.
5. Do one thing at a time.
Most of the time, I'm the one with 37 tabs open. in my web browser. Watching the football score in one tab, Facebook open in the next, all 3 of my email accounts, the video game deals I'm watching, the form I'm filling out, the Google search I just did... it can get overwhelming. It's the same thing as staring down a long list of reminders; it can cause stagnancy. If you're filling out a form, close everything else. If you're writing an email, close everything else. It helps keep your mind clear.
By Jayson Bronkhorst
Foster care and adoption have been on my mind a ton recently. This may be partly due to the fact that just over a month ago, our family adopted two sisters that we had in foster care for a little over a year.
My mom especially had an excuse not to take on any more kids, as she's still parenting her boys (major shout-out all the moms; you make the world go round)! But my parents took the plunge. My mom quit her job to devote time to it, and we were along for the ride.
For the last month or so, I've thought about this stuff more than almost anything else. I saw this photo the other day, which had some statistics that fascinated me.
It's 2014 data and the numbers are estimated, but the point still comes across loud and clear; for the problem to be nearly eradicated, less than a third of the church needs to say YES to our kids. In no way am I trying to guilt anyone into fostering or adopting, because for one, it simply doesn't work that way. Two, the only reason I'm even writing this now is because I had no say in my parents doing it.
"Wow," people always say. "I can't believe you guys do this. It takes a special kind of person to take care of and love all these kids."
And that's true... to a point. But you mean to tell me that if a cop dropped off a two-year-old boy in your driveway and his birthday was the next day, you wouldn't make him a birthday cake? Here's the only "special" quality you need to be a foster parent:
In Matthew 19, Jesus insists the children be brought to him to pray for. He says the Kingdom of Heaven itself belongs to them. God speaks to Joseph, Samuel, David, and countless other youth throughout the Bible. Why did he pick them? I have no idea, and they didn't either. But they were willing to follow the call, and amazing, crazy, impossible things occurred because of it. Another thing these stories make clear to me is that young people matter to God. If young people matter to God, then no matter what, no matter who, I believe God will take care of those working for this (his) cause.
When people pray for God to 'break my heart for what breaks yours' I'm not sure they understand the full effect. I am reminded of Exodus 33 where Moses is meeting with God and God tells Moses that he is going to show Moses some of his glory, but he cannot look at the face of God, because nobody can do it and live. It's comical, really, that we ask for so many things with zero knowledge of their full meaning, and if God were to answer some of them we would already be dead.I also believe in God's purpose being accomplished through people and things other than devout Christians: from non-Christian humans to talking donkeys to a phantom hand writing on the wall, He shows no bounds.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
You can do it. I strongly believe in, and believe I have seen, God adminster supernatural strength and hope when the situation has seemed impossible to bear (and all the moms said amen). But even if you don't believe in that, fostering for me very quickly became less of "I have to care for this kid" and more "what can I do to let this kid know that they are worth more than diamonds?" The hardest part for me was learning to set aside my me-focused lifestyle and move my focus to the family--and do my best to welcome any kids we got the best way that I could.
To all those who work with youth and kids:
Youth/kids pastors and leaders.
School bus drivers.
And SO many more...
Your job is hard. It is not easy. Thank you for every good impression that you make. These are our young people, and they matter.
~ If this has interested you ~
By Jayson Bronkhorst
Amongst all the political banter crowding our news feeds, something that has seriously bothered me is the myth that there is a "Christian" choice this election.
"If you're a Christian, I don't know how you can vote for _____."
This implies that as Christians, there is only one correct choice for us to vote for, which is simply not true.
Seeing as this is a lucrative topic, I want to clarify a few things before continuing:
There's no such thing as the "Christian candidate." There are a few reasons for this, per the clickbait title...
1. There are too many viewpoints
There are a million different perspectives for every political stance and candidate, each of which can be disproved by one or more of the million viewpoints in favor of an opposing candidate. Some candidates even agree on certain points despite identifying as opposite parties. A great example of an issue that is often make-or-break for many conservative people I know is the pro-life factor. Some stand next to the Republican Party solely voting on the issue of abortion (though there are usually other reasons as well). But this can be quickly broken down and turned around in favor of the opposition.
Why the numbers tell this story is an entirely different conversation, but if nothing else it shows that voting based on where a candidate stands on an issue is not just useless but sometimes also counter-productive. Not to mention the fact that candidates often change their minds on several issues throughout their political career. If our goal as Christians is to be like Jesus (it should be), then we cannot merely stand upon what candidates say they agree with or what they say they will do. More research needs to be done on causes and effects, environments, and people groups; just as Jesus' ministry was multi-faceted, inclusive of everyone and every issue, so Christians should be also.
The answer I came to for this one was nobody. In Deuteronomy 7 we get a glimpse of God's ideal nation, as he speaks sternly to Israel. He warns them several times not to get involved with other peoples, to obey all the laws and commandments, and to have complete faith in him. But then we get an idea of the love that he truly has for the nation:
"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession" (Deut 7:6).
Israel was God's chosen nation, designed to center around worshiping and following God. They had prophets and leaders, but even then they were not obeying the prophet or leader; they were obeying God. All that changes in 1 Samuel 8.
"But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights" (1 Sam 8:7-9).
Samuel goes on to give in-depth details of what a king will entail: drafting for the army, taking some of their crops, enslaving some to work for him, taking a regular tithe for his staff, relinquishing cattle... Basically, Samuel is saying 'look guys, you really don't want to do this.'
"But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We wanta king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king” (1 Sam 8:19-22).
Israel didn't even HAVE an earthly king until they begged for one, at which point God finally relents, I imagine with a deep, knowing sigh: "Listen to them and give them a king." Now, by no means am I saying you should not vote. I strongly believe God gave us brains and logical thinking skills to make our own decisions. Whether or not you vote, and who you vote for, is completely your prerogative. It just can get complicated because the conversation here covers multiple dimensions; God is our Lord, not a human. Simply put, his intentions for Israel are the same as now: that our hope lies in him.
3. Nobody is perfect (or worthy)
This point feeds off of the previous, as we take a look at the first ever king of Israel, King Saul. When Saul was anointed, even though God did it reluctantly, 1 Samuel 10 says that "God changed Saul's heart." Saul was the dark horse, the underdog of his family and generation, that God decided to use in a mighty way. Such are the ways of God.
And God did use him in a mighty way... until Saul went off the deep end. It got to the point where God straight up told Samuel in 1 Samuel 15 "I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions."
And it all started with Saul. Were there good kings after Saul? Absolutely. King David, arguably the greatest and most God-fearing king, the king "after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22), was anointed just after Saul. Part of the reason Saul went crazy is because Saul grew increasingly scared of David as he saw God's anointing on David's life instead of his own. In the midst of Saul, David, and these countless other kings listed throughout the Bible we have to remember something crucial:
Saul was God's anointed.
Acts 13:21, when remembering this time in biblical history, says that God "gave them Saul." That being said, there is a bold claim to be made:
We cannot judge a royal (read: presidential) candidate's leadership eligibility based on their character. There are many passages in the Bible in books such as Timothy and Titus where it mentions that Christians and leaders in the church specifically should live "above reproach," but there is never specific mention of royal character. Something crucial the Bible does mention, though, is to offer prayers and intercede "for kings and all those in authority" (1 Tim 2:2).
Now, obviously we should always use our heads and be mindful, especially of people around us. Proverbs warns of this several times: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (13:20). This is the same topic, but in a different light. This is the conversation of who can God use to accomplish his plan? What is God's plan?
Anybody can of course be used by God, as we see time and time again, but we don't know God's plan. The key here is that we do know that earthly kingship was never part of God's plan, just as America was never a "Christian nation." And whether or not our pledge of allegiance contains the words "under God" makes no difference on our peoples' eternal salvation. Nobody will ever be qualified enough to take the reins of a country.
Jesus made it so simple... didn't he? (Matthew 22). We can't let earthly kings get in the way. This November, no matter who you vote for or if you vote at all, you can make the choice to act towards everyone around you as you would want to be acted towards yourself.
And really, truly, stop and think about what that means.