Truth, knowledge, bravery, love and selflessness. What if you had to pick just one? Which would become most important to you - so dominant that you would dismiss the other traits?
The bestselling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent, creates a dystopian society where you must choose. Future-day Chicago is divided into factions. Each faction hones in on one of these important traits, and dedicates themselves to performing the tasks for society that best suit their traits (i.e. the faction who reveres bravery acts as security).
Prioritizing core values is not a new idea. The Scarecrow, the Tin man and the Lion set out to find three of these abovementioned traits over 100 years ago when Frank L. Baum’s book, The Wizard of Oz, was first released. More recently, in the 39 Clues series the Cahill family is divided into branches based on their dominant traits and talents.
Classifying humans by their personality traits isn’t new either. Myers-Briggs has been doing it since the 1940’s. I had to take this standardized test before given my first real job offer to be a shopping mall marketing manager. I was offered the position, probably because I indicated I would rather “cobble shoes” than “compare the relative areas of similar spheres” on the multiple choice test. At least, I think that’s how I answered that one…
The HDMI test color blocks our personality traits. I’m RED – glaring, bright, fire truck, stop sign red. That apparently means I’m emotional. Duh.
In The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg there is a free personality test administered by Monvee to help readers identify their strengths and weaknesses. Mine came out that my personality is similar to Joseph’s from the Old Testament – you know the guy who dreamed about skinny and fat cows. The best and the worst of me (and apparently Joseph) – we are organized, task-oriented, detailed, punctual, impatient, easily flustered by change. Okay, enough about me and the guy with the rainbow coat.
The point of all these tests is to help us define ourselves, find ourselves, figure out what makes us tick. By identifying our strengths and weaknesses we can determine what jobs suit our personalities, what roles in groups best suit us, what we need to work on, why we react to certain situations the way we do, how we can maximize our strengths.
So, what do you value most? And how does that effect who you are? Would you ask the Wizard of Oz for courage or a heart or a brain or something else altogether?
The truth is we need some of all these traits to complete us. As Tobias says in Divergent, “I want to be brave and selfless and smart and kind and honest.” I agree, Tobias. I want to be all of those things too.
Have you read Divergent? Which faction would you choose?
You have it all taken care of, right?
You have a date with the Big Man scheduled in your Blackberry on recurring for every day. You have a regular prayer time, a routine for reading the Word, a group you meet with either on Sundays or during the week to talk about your relationship with Jesus.
It’s like clockwork. Until you go on summer vacation. And we all know vacation is a temporary thing, but time away from the Lord is bad any way you slice it. And sometimes, on vacation is when you need Him the most.
So, how do you keep up with your relationship with God when you’re on the road, at camp, at a relative’s house or as distant from real life as a foreign country? When everything about your normal schedule is out of whack, how do you stay in sync with Jesus?
In today’s electronic age it’s easier than ever before. You have a Smartphone. You have a laptop or access to a computer at your aunt’s house or hotel lobby. You have a sense of adventure. You’re all set.
Bible reading is a piece of cake online with www.biblegateway.com. You can look up any chapter or verse in almost any translation. Don’t have access to a computer? There’s an App for that – YouVersion – The Bible App – touts more translations than you’ll ever be able to read, bookmarks your spot for you, and has a search engine to help you find any chapter or verse on demand.
Churches are everywhere. So, it’s not your home church. So, it’s a little different. It’s still a group of Christians gathering together to proclaim God’s word, sing His praises and pray to Him. Find one with beautiful stained glass or an interesting history. Focus on the cross and the music and the readings for this week. If you’re out of the country, a church service in another language can still be amazingly spiritual and uplifting. The architecture and history of ancient European churches create a sense of awe, and help you realize how important God has been to generations upon generations.
Now, that you have the actual Word at your fingertips and at least a Sunday service to attend, how do you supplement it with discussion, advice, inspiration? There are so many cool opportunities on the web! Encounter Magazine has The Scene that takes a current event and tackles its relationship to scripture each week. You can download it at http://encounterface2face.com/category/the-scene/ and work through it personally. There are hundreds of churches that have podcasts of their sermons and inspirational speakers have podcasts for more online immersion in Jesus. Find one that meets your needs – male, female, sister, brother, athlete, musician, artist, dancer, bookworm, outgoing, shy, highschooler, homeschooler on-your-way-to-collegegoer -- there’s a website, a blog, a speaker on the internet who speaks directly to your heart via Jesus. Find them on your favorite search engine, plug in and make it part of your day.
You don’t have to stop with scripture and sermons. Download your favorite Christian tunes onto your iPod and an inspirational read onto your Kindle app, iBooks or e-reader for further immersion.
Just like at home where you had a set time of day, you need to commit to a daily date with God on the road. Do you wake up before the rest of the family or stay up past the rest of your crew – this alone time is perfect for you to hang out with Jesus. If your travels give you a little down time every day after lunch, make it then. Do you schedule a daily run? How about right before or after that workout?
But remember wherever you are, your Creator is there within your heart. He’s ready to chat, listen, comfort, encourage or just hang out whether you’re at home or on the road. Jesus wants to be your best friend wherever you go. So, even when you’re in new surroundings, you can still surround yourself with the Lord.
Where are you traveling this summer?
How do you like to incorporate your spirituality with your travels?
Last summer, while checking into our hotel in Dresden, Germany I had the treat of meeting soccer legend, Brandi Chastain. She had her hair pulled into a ponytail was wearing a gray t-shirt, navy blue athletic shorts and cleats. She was kicking a pink Nike soccer ball in the hotel lobby. Yes, in the lobby. She is the woman known for kicking the winning penalty kick to win the U.S. Women’s National team the World Cup in 1999. She was in Dresden to be one of the lead ESPN announcers for the World Cup, speaking to tens of thousands of television viewers for two weeks straight.
When I asked Brandi what advice she had for young people who wanted to be soccer stars, she said,
“Do it everyday. Kick it, pass it, dribble it, every day. When I was young, I kicked the ball against the side of the house for an hour every day. I got to know the ball so well, and how it would bounce off the house and where it would go if I tapped it a certain way and how to kick it back if it came to me a certain way, that when I was on the field, when I was in a game, I never had to think. I knew exactly what to do.”
The same is true for whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
For writers, like me, it means writing something every day. Stephen King says it in his book, On Writing. Anne LaMott says it in Bird by Bird. Do it everyday. That doesn’t have to be writing five chapters of my next novel. It could be a blog or a character sketch or a review of someone else’s work. But each day, I need to be conscious of word choice, descriptions, rhythms and flows of words.
You want to learn how to cook? Chef up a meal every day. It could be scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, but if you do it everyday, you’ll figure out too much salt makes your eggs taste like potato chips and how long to let your grilled cheese sizzle to get the cheese to melt to a perfect gooey consistency.
If you want to get closer to God, read a chapter of the Bible every day and contemplate it. I promise you’ll get closer to Him.
No matter what instrument you play, your instructor will ask you to practice every day. Play your scales. Work on the hardest part of your piece. Soon your ears will know the difference between a C sharp and a B flat. Your fingers will know how to move along the keys of a piano or the frets of a guitar.
If your goal is to become a teacher, explain something to someone every day. It could be how to take care of a tortoise or how to French braid hair or plant pansies, or anything, but the more you practice explaining things to people, the better you’ll be at it. I promise.
So, get going. Today, tomorrow and the day after that – do your thing. As Dr. Seuss said, “You’re off to great places, today is your day.” Today can be your day. You just need to get started.
What can you do on a daily basis to help you achieve your dream?
Control. We all want it. We all strive for it. Whether it is
control over what grade we get in a class, what we eat for dinner, what
projects we’ll be assigned at work, how a relationship will work, what channel
we’re watching – we want to be able to call the shots, make the decisions, have
a say in how and why and when.
Today was the first snowfall of the year. I woke up to a majestic
world frosted in pure white icing. With the beauty came the crisp, cold air,
fresh and pure, seemingly cleansing my lungs as I stepped out of the garage and
The drive uptown to fetch my morning coffee usually takes me five
minutes, only three when the college students are gone for Christmas break. But
this morning the roads were slick. Cars inched along the roads, even though the
dusting of snow was barely an inch deep. I drove cautiously, in no hurry,
nothing I had to rush to get to, taking in the spectacular
A few minutes later, venti Italian roast with a shot of chocolate
in hand, I got back in my car. I took a sip of the dark, rich warmth and turned
the key. At the first stop sign my antilock brakes ground and squealed and
crunched under my foot, but my car did not stop. I kept going right through the
stop sign, even though I’d only been cruising at about seven miles an hour.
Thankfully, our college town is all but deserted while the students are away,
and no other cars were in sight.
But, I didn’t stop.
I wanted to stop. I tried to stop. I did all of the things I
normally do to stop. And yet, my car didn’t stop. I was not in control. I
whispered a prayer of thanks that there were no other cars around, that despite
me driving through a stop sign no one was hurt. I then turned off the side
road, back towards the main road, hoping for smoother sailing. But, as I
turned, my car fishtailed, zigging and zagging across both lanes of the small
street. Again, there were no cars in my way. No one was hurt. But, this was
another strong reminder that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.
As a new year begins, I always make a list of goals for the year
– things I plan on working to accomplish in the upcoming 365 days. I know this
is an important exercise. It is critical to be intentional on how I spend my
time or else my time gets spent for me. It is helpful for me to look out twelve
months to see the potential the year has, to think of ways I can stretch my
faith, my mind, my body, my relationships, my writing in the coming year. Just
like I need to have a full tank of gas, air in my tires, directions to where
I’m going and the key to my car to make it go, I need a plan for my life and my
time. I need to drive the speed limit, stay on the right side of the road, and
step on the brake when there is a stop sign, or else there would be accidents.
People would get hurt. There would be danger and chaos.
God wants me to plan and work and strive as if it all depends on
But, sometimes I step on the brake and I don’t stop. Sometimes,
despite my lists and goals and plans, He has something else in mind. He needs me
to remember, that in the end, it all depends on Him.
Laura L. Smith