Monday, May 28, 2012

No Wasted Prayer

I know I've already written about prayer a couple times lately, but it's the topic that has really been on my heart this month. This post is kind of a follow-up to what I recently wrote on prayer here.

What God has been teaching me lately is that our prayers are never, ever wasted. Our prayers will bear fruit, even if we don't see it for years. We may not even know when it happens, but it will happen. The prayers you are fervently praying now could be answered in your life, or in someone else's life--years from now. We may not always recognize the answers when they come or understand how our lives would be different if we hadn't prayed. But it's not like prayers that don't get answered immediately just disappear into this Neverland of prayers which haven't produced results.

What this means is that we need to exhibit greater spiritual tenacity in our prayer lives. I really think that stubbornness can be a spiritual asset, because it is the trait that allows us to keep persisting in our prayers and to just keep storming the gates of heaven with our prayers, trusting that they will produce results even if we may never fully know what those results are and how they come about.

And what if we simply don't know what or how to pray anymore? A lot of Christians over the years have recommended praying through parts of the Bible and using the prayers in Scripture as models for our own prayers. This is a great place to start.

In Isaiah 55, God promises that the Word which He speaks will never return to Him void, but that it will accomplish His purposes. I think it's safe to also say that God's Word will never return void to people who speak it--and pray it--with genuine faith. I get excited about what could happen if more people would be willing to make some of the greatest, most heartfelt, most faith-fueled prayers in Scripture their own prayers. I hope to sometime write a series on some of these prayers.

We need to get tenacious in our prayers. For many things in our lives, we don't have because we don't ask God.

The only prayer that's wasted is the one that we don't pray.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

6 Degrees of Separation?

Today I had one of those great experiences where you totally and unexpectedly reconnect with a friend from your past. You know how they say there are only 6 degrees of separation between you and everyone else on the planet? Sometimes I think it's got to be less than that. I mean, I've actually met a lot of people since moving here for law school who know people that I know from college, or who I have other weird connections with. But today, I was at church when out of the blue, I saw Emily, who was three years behind me at W&L, a friend of mine, and also really good friends with my old roommate and close college friend, Lauren. I was stunned to see her--I never knew that she had any connections to this area or knew anyone here. I went to go talk to her after the service, and it was so good to see her and reconnect. As it turns out, she was here visiting her grandmother--who has been a member of my church all this time, but I had never met her, even though I've been going to this same church ever since August. That connection had pretty much been right in front of me this whole time, but I doubt I would have ever met Emily's grandmother if I hadn't seen her here today. I ended up going out for lunch with both of them and really having a wonderful conversation. It's just so much fun when you end up randomly running into old friends that you never expected to see!

And also, I've been meaning to post a list like this on here for awhile, but this is a list of some of my favorite blogs that you should check out:
  • Cal Newport's blog, Study Hacks. It has tons of ideas, not just for improving your life as a student, but also about productivity and success in general.
  • Scott Young's blog. He decided to teach himself everything necessary to get a computer science degree from MIT--in one year. And he blogged about the whole experience. He also has a lot of great ideas about learning, etc.
  • Celebrate (especially check out the great post about giving from a few days ago)
  • Check out this really inspirational post from a fellow law student, who I actually went to college with.
  • Mark Batterson's blog. Great devotional-type blog from a wonderful writer and pastor.
  • Debra Fileta's blog. Just discovered this one a few days ago, but it has wonderful insights, devotionals, and thoughts on Christian living, all written by a Christian counselor.
  • Steven Furtick's blog. Great devotional/ motivational thoughts from a pastor.
I'll probably keep adding to this list . . . enjoy!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer Plans

This week has been pretty hectic, with starting my job in the admissions office (including leading a bunch of tours of campus) and trying to write a "case note" for the writing competition to be on Law Review. It seems relatively simple at first--an 8-11 page paper on a major landmark Supreme Court case, and we all wrote on the same case and had the same 3 background cases given to us. It was due last night at midnight, and the current members of Law Review will evaluate the quality of the case note as well as GPA/ class rank to determine who will be selected to write for Law Review this upcoming year. I read through most of the materials on Wednesday and Thursday, but didn't really get the ball rolling with writing until yesterday. With only a couple short breaks, I wrote from about 7:30am till 11:15 last night when I finally submitted it. Thankfully, the law school was closed yesterday for the long weekend so I had off work. I was so glad to get that done, though, and be able to really get started enjoying my long weekend!

Here's some of my goals for the rest of the summer:
  • Blog really consistently (and maybe attract some new readers, too!)
  • Brush up on Spanish so I can officially say I am "fluent"
  • Read a bunch of books on my list of "things I want to read when I finally have time"
  • Start working on reading the New Testament in Greek (this is actually why I wanted to study Greek in college, but I have yet to actually tackle this project--no better time than now to start, even though I probably won't finish till the end of this year)
  • Get in better shape/ be more consistent with exercise
  • Try to make 10 recipes I've never made before to expand my cooking repertoire--started this one this week when I made Paula Deen's sweet corn casserole and bacon-wrapped goat cheese stuffed dates. SO delicious!
It was about 100 degrees down here today, so I'm probably going to be ready to relocate to the North Pole by August. But there are some great things about Georgia summer, including perfect pool weather pretty much all the time and all the peaches you can eat. Hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Surrender to God

Surrendering one's heart to God is not a passive process, but rather an extremely active one.

It is not giving up.

It is not merely "letting go."

It does not mean allowing people and situations to push you wherever they will and assuming that you have to accept all of it unflinchingly because it must be part of God's plan.

Surrendering to God's will and leading and purpose is an inherently active process. Why? Because it must be a conscious and courageous choice--a declaration that you have the ability to walk in any number of directions, but you will choose to walk with God. No matter where He leads.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Finding God in Our Brokenness

Our society is so obsessed with people having it all "together." In fact, we idolize "togetherness" (I realize that's probably not a word, but you know what I mean). Think about it: we say, admiringly, about people: "So-and-so really has it all together." And we say, critically, "So-and-so really needs to get their act together." And I don't think these are just innocuous figures of speech--having it all together, putting on a good face for people, and never displaying any weakness or brokenness are all valued ideals in our culture. And it's incredibly hard to learn how to embrace a reckless vulnerability around people we've spent years trying to convince of our own strength.

But what does that say about brokenness, and the people who experience it? And let's be honest with ourselves--we ALL experience brokenness, tears, weakness, grief, and loss. It is part of the human condition, no matter how hard we may try to suppress it or ignore it. But I believe that when someone is experiencing brokenness, whether it be in body, mind, heart, or spirit, our natural tendency is to try to to help them "get over it" as quickly as possible, and we feel like we need to help them "fix it"--ASAP.

But sometimes, there is that season of deep brokenness, when the quick fixes utterly fail to accomplish their purpose, and when almost no words can help. It's those times when we feel pressured to hide our pain from others, desperate to reconcile our own condition both with our society's demand that we "get it together," and with the common assumption that God, Himself, expects us to have our lives together in order to come to Him. This usually is our condition when we lose things--or people--we thought we could never live without. We don't know how we can come before God in these times because we feel as though we have less than nothing to bring. We try to pray, but we can't even say anything. We can't put words on our experience--our hurting hearts are quiet.

But then the questions bubble up to the surface of our hearts and can't be ignored: Can our own theology coincide with a shattered heart? And, perhaps the simplest question of all: how can we keep our eyes on Jesus when they are full of tears?

And in times like these, we find ourselves asking, “Is Jesus really, truly ENOUGH?” Just Jesus. Jesus and nothing else, nothing that we thought we had to have just to survive. Is Jesus still worthy of all our praise? Is Jesus enough in the desert while we beg for rain? Is He enough when we are brokenhearted? Is Jesus enough in the wilderness, in the darkness, in the valley of the shadow of death? Is His name still worthy to be blessed?

I don't know all the answers, but I do know that Christ steps into the gap and experiences our brokenness with us. John 11 describes Jesus' response when he went to visit Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus had just died. Mary ran out to meet him and fell at his feet weeping. John then writes, “When Jesus saw her weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled . . . Jesus wept.” I find it very moving that the only time recorded in Scripture in which Jesus broke down in tears was in response to a woman weeping. When Jesus saw Mary weeping from her loss, devastated and broken, He cried with her.

In Spanish, to say “I’m sorry,” people say, “lo siento,” which literally means, “I feel it.” I feel it. I’m sorry. I’ve always thought this expression was just a bit richer, a bit more genuine, than our quick and often halfhearted “sorry.” I feel it. I feel with you. Perhaps in some way, Christ, crying with this weeping and broken woman, was expressing the original “lo siento.” A divine compassion of unmatched depth. The original, “I feel it.” This means that we never feel anything alone. No matter what we experience, Christ experiences it with us. No matter how dirty, how awful, how excruciating. He feels it. He is sorry in the truest sense of the word. And He cries with us today, no matter what brokenness or what loss has caused us to collapse at his feet in tears. This is true sympathy and true compassion, both of which come from Greek words meaning "to suffer with another." Christ suffers with us. He mourns with us. He weeps with us.

And God still invites us to come to Him--no matter how messed up our lives are and how far we may be from "having it all together." We can glorify him in the desert as well as in the harvest. We are invited to bring our tears and our pain to the altar before him, not just our blessings and our joys. Frankly, God can handle our mess, if anyone can. He invites us to come even when all we have to bring is anger, grief, desperation, and doubt. God doesn’t tell us just to bring him our praises, all the while clutching our pain close to our hearts and keeping it to ourselves. Here’s what I think: coming to God with our pain IS a form of praise. Trusting God with our pain IS worship. Even if that's all we have to bring, God still wants us to come.

Our brokenness is actually, in some strange way, a miracle--because if we weren't broken, we wouldn't need a Savior. Grace is for lives like ours--which can be a mess and are most assuredly not perfect.

I can't claim to know why brokenness happens, but I do know, from my own experience, that Jesus is indeed ENOUGH. Even in doubt. Even in gut-wrenching grief. Even in tears. Even in a very dark and very painful wilderness. He is enough. And that is enough for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Best. Weekend. Ever.

My visit to Washington and Lee was so amazing! I was so nostalgic the whole weekend--sometimes I can't believe I ever left! I was thinking about going to law school at W&L, but I chose not to because other opportunities came up and I worried that I might get bored or feel stifled by being in the same small town (Lexington, VA) for seven years. But as soon as I stepped on campus on Thursday night, I felt like I was "coming home" and like I had never left this beautiful campus:

I stayed at the off-campus house where I lived my senior year and got to see a couple of my old roommates (who are seniors now). I went out for Mexican food and margaritas with them Thursday night, and we talked and talked and got caught up on everything.

Friday was such a fantastic day. I got to see and have wonderful conversations with so many people that are so precious to me, who I haven't seen in at least a year. It was so great to share with these sweet friends what the Lord has been doing in my life and to hear about their lives as well. I also got to catch up with some old professors, which was really nice. I walked around campus a lot checking everything out and trying to satisfy myself that it was, indeed, just like the place I graduated from a year ago. (I am convinced that stuff at the bookstore is just as expensive as it was a year ago!) I got to read the latest issues of the school paper, the Ring-Tum Phi, check out the renovations on Washington Hall, go to the gym, etc.

Saturday morning, I had plans to meet my friend Laura at Lexington Coffee Shop, called "Lex Co" by the locals. While we were getting ready to order, in walks Sarah, one of my dear friends who I have not seen for 2 whole years. She graduated the year before me--this was her first trip back to Lex since. She had just gotten in to town a few minutes before. We had totally not planned to meet up there, and I had to leave less than an hour later--I still can't believe we crossed paths at just the right time, in just the right place. The three of us and a couple other friends ended up having this totally joyful reunion in the coffee shop, talking and laughing and sharing stories from our lives. It was so great. I didn't want it to end.

I got to see so many wonderful people who are so important to me, and have amazing conversations and laughter--the kind that is just good for the soul. So that was my best weekend ever!

I drove back to NC yesterday, spent the night with my parents, and then drove back to GA this afternoon (I've driven 1000 miles in the last 10 days, so I'm ready to stay put for awhile!) Some of you have been wondering about my summer plans now that school's out. I am staying here in GA and working at the admissions office of the law school, which I think I will really enjoy. I may be able to also work out some part-time hours interning with an attorney here in town. I start work tomorrow, so I'm excited about that. Hoping for a good summer!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Looking Back . . .

Today, I turn 23. I'm thinking towards the year ahead and also reminiscing on the year that has past. A year ago today, I was studying abroad in Costa Rica (and actually, that feels like a lot longer than a year ago). I miss being able to hang out on Costa Rican beaches like this one:

And in the year since then, so much has changed and happened in my life. After I got back to the states, I had a summer job for a couple months, then moved down to GA, got my own place, and started law school. Now, looking back on my first year of law school, it's flown by, but it also seems like it's been a long time (if that makes any sense).

But I am so excited because tomorrow I get to go to one of my favorite places in the world: Lexington, Virginia! I am going to Washington and Lee to visit some sweet college friends who will be graduating soon, and I can't wait to go back. After spending four years there, it feels so strange that I haven't been there at all in almost a year (I was there for a quick trip last July, so I have been there once since graduation). I thought I was going to miss college a ton, and I do miss it, but I'm really happy with where I am now, so I don't typically find myself wishing I was still at Washington and Lee. On May 26th, it will officially be a year since I graduated--a year of the proverbial "real world" and of being on my own. Depending on when you ask me, I would say that year has been exciting, scary, frustrating, and great.

Can't wait to walk down memory lane a bit and see old friends this weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes, "It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Recently, I've been thinking about this issue, and I've realized that a lot of Christians tend to be afraid of desiring anything too much--unless they are wanting a better relationship with God or something very directly related to the spread of His kingdom. I think there's an idea that deep, strong desires for anything that isn't overtly "spiritual" is suspect, at best, and sinful, at worst. But here's the thing: I think that's a lie.

Shrinking away from powerful desires is a way to shield ourselves from vulnerability and protect ourselves from being hurt. We all learn early in life that it makes your heart ache to want something you just aren't getting. While nothing feels quite like when God finally fulfills a long-held desire of the heart, unfulfilled desire is tantalizing and painful. So as a means of self-protection, we try so hard to suppress and quiet the part of the heart that dreams, yearns, and desires. In reality, we may want children, or health, or healing, so badly that it tugs at our heart strings. We may want to get married, to get a better job, to have our broken relationship with a loved one restored. And we want it badly. But we get skilled, so skilled, at convincing ourselves that these desires aren't as strong as they truly are.

Perhaps we worry that if we express a desire that is not being fulfilled, it will reflect badly on our faith and our relationship with God. We think, "Doesn't the Bible say that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart? Am I not delighting in Him? What's wrong with my faith?" And on the flip side, sometimes I even worry about getting something I deeply desire--because what if it's not what I dreamed of, and I'm left disappointed, and wondering if God might just like to say, "I told you so"?

And finally, wanting to suppress desire and act like we don't want is a pride issue. We feel "better" than others if we can act like we don't have strong, heartfelt desires. We assume that those who do are ruled by their desires. Can desire lead to sin? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that desire itself is bad or sinful.

But over time, by trying to convince ourselves that we don't want the things we want, we dull and desensitize the part of the heart that was made to yearn for the things God wants to give us, the part that was made to crave what He longs to offer us. Why do we think it is wrong to want? The part of the heart that wants is deep, restless, and uniquely human. God put it in us, and He wants us to awaken that part of the heart--not to act like it doesn't exist. Because we are made in the image of God, we have the ability to desire deeply, to dream about new possibilities for our futures and our lives. God is the one who desired first--and His desire was for us. It is okay to want, even to want deeply. God wants us to have desires, dreams, and visions, and to express those desires. We have to have a vision, or, according to Scripture, we perish. God wants us to dream--in fact, a dream is a mark of God's Spirit being poured out (Joel 2:28). When God's Spirit is unleashed, people dream dreams and have visions. I think it's possible that we could even quench the Spirit when we refuse to dream.

Could it be that the question we need to answer is simply this one: What do you want?

In Luke, chapter 18, Jesus encounters a blind beggar by the side of the road. The man cries out to Him, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Son of David, have mercy on me!" But Jesus doesn't just heal the blind man then and there. Instead, he first asks him a question that seems simple, but is also deeply profound: "What do you want me to do for you?" What do you WANT? The beggar says, "Lord, I want to see." Jesus then--and only then--responds, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Could it be that verbalizing our honest, deep desire is not only a precursor to blessing, but also an expression of the kind of faith God rewards?

A similar scenario occurs in John 5. There, Jesus met a man who had been paralyzed for 38 long years. But before He healed him, Jesus asked him, "Do you WANT to get well?" It might seem so obvious--of course, that's what he wanted! But yet, it is so beautiful that the God who hung the stars in the heavens and spoke into the darkness to create light and knows every beat of your heart is looking people in the eyes and asking them what, exactly, they want. Because it matters to Him! He cares about what you want. He wants you to verbalize your desire, even though He already knows what it is! That thing you daydream about, or that keeps you up at night, or that you fill the pages of your journal writing about. The thing that brings tears to your eyes and an ache to your heart. The desire that YOU, like that man, may have had for 38 years, and no one has ever bothered to ask you what it is. But God does. I am overwhelmed to think that the God of the universe would ask people just like you and me what they WANT.

And notice that those desires aren't all overtly spiritual! The blind man didn't say, "Lord, I want you to use my blindness to allow me to minister to others, or to bring others to You." No, he just said, "Lord, I want to see." Lord, I just want to see. Sometimes, we hesitate to express our deepest, most heartfelt desires because we think they are selfish and not sufficiently "spiritual." But sometimes, after suppressing our true wants for too long, the masks and facades are suddenly stripped away, and all that's left is our genuine desire. And that is exactly what the Lord wants us to express! Even if it's not "spiritual." Even if we think it's weak, and painful, and difficult, and better left unsaid. Sometimes, we just want to see--and God will take care of the rest.

And I leave you with this: Could the Lord be asking you, even today: What do YOU want?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quarter-life Crisis

Stephen Marche first wrote an article called "The War Against Youth" in Esquire magazine about a month and a half ago, and it has ignited a tremendous amount of discussion since then. The basic premise of the article is that present-day America is now characterized by a "gerontocracy" of the older generation in power, who is crafting social policies that harm the young, especially people of my own generation. Marche cites a lot of different statistics, but he especially talks about how the gap in the wealth and net worth of younger and older Americans has skyrocketed in recent years. He also mentions that, while higher education is more necessary than ever, its ever-increasing cost has made it more out of reach than ever. This has resulted in more and more people around my age (I feel like the article addresses anyone between the ages of about 18 and 30) being unable to support themselves financially and unable to find work, all while "many claim that the young deserve their fate," according to Marche.

One of the statistics I found most interesting in this piece is about the exponential rise in the trend of expecting young people to render free labor through the ubiquitious unpaid "internship." Marche talks about how doing unpaid internships, which was virtually unheard of in the 1980s, has now become so common that young people often have no choice but to participate in them if they want to acquire any experience at all. Perhaps the most shocking information about this? Companies save about $2 billion dollars a year on this form of unpaid employment. This weighs in to part of the article's argument that our culture has become accustomed to expecting young people to work without pay--something which would never be expected of the older generations.

Marche's article doesn't mention the term, but what he is really talking about is what has been dubbed the "quarter-life crisis"--that period in the twenties to early thirties when young people are trying to become financially independent, gain the education they need, and establish their career prospects in a severely faltering economy. As a result, they are often unable to find work, forced to move home with their families, and compelled to put their adult lives on hold while they try to find their footing in a world that has become increasingly hostile to their interests. These struggles can, in turn, lead to depression, confusion, and indecisiveness in young people.

Marche's theory is that the "war on youth" is very systematic and methodological, and that older generations are actively seeking to disenfranchise the young and strip them of their power. This is where I disagree--I think that the issues confronting my generation are not intended by any one group, but are instead the results of economic policies that simply can't be sustained, along with a world that's changing so fast that education hasn't been able to keep up with it. For example, as he discusses, higher education has never been more important to stable employment than it is now, but it's also never been more expensive. Yes, some people can do very well without college degrees and beyond, especially if they are entrepreneurs, but this has become the exception, not the rule. College has now become almost as necessary as high school used to be in past generations--it's basically just an expected next step, and for most people, it's crucial. But yet the cost of education has spiked more than ever in recent years, even more than the rate of inflation. I don't think this is the result of policies of a "gerontocracy" aimed to harm my generation though--I think it's the inevitable result of a lagging economy.

We also live in a society where, in 10 years, there will be so many different kinds of jobs that don't even exist now. But I think that our system of education and employment hasn't yet caught up with all the structural changes taking place as technology revolutionizes the world we live in. For one thing, the sheer amount of job choices that exist nowadays can be so overwhelming that people have no idea of what to do. For example, research suggests that people are more likely to actually make a choice when they have 6 options versus 30 options--this is small-scale version of the indecision that can plague a generation faced with a staggering number of career choices. Also, 50 years ago, higher education was geared very specifically toward specific careers--law, medicine, etc. When people graduated, they knew exactly how to use their degrees to match a career. Now, colleges across the country offer more and more programs that are meant to be applied to any number of careers. Not that they aren't valuable; I studied liberal arts myself and think these educational paths are legitimate and important. However, the lack of specificity leaves a lot of graduates floundering and wondering, "Just what, exactly, are my marketable skills?" As education has tried to broaden its reach, young people have become more easily overwhelmed by choices and unsure of where to turn, especially in a crippled economy. Is this the fault of the older generations? Probably not. And, more importantly, it will take the various generations working together to solve some of these societal issues.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What I Would Tell a 1L . . . .

I have finished my first year and am now home for a few days, visiting my parents and regrouping before I start summer work. I've decided that all I really want to do for the next few days are relaxing things that I enjoy: reading novels, watching movies, hanging out with my family, journaling, shopping, running, and getting my blog up to speed (because I can never write as much as I want to when I'm busy with school, so then I have to have a "blog blitz" and write a ton when I have a break).

I've been processing my life over the past year and thinking about what things I'd want to share with a student getting ready to begin their first year of law school. I'm hoping to have the chance to befriend and mentor students in the incoming class, so I'm hoping the lessons I've learned about the first year will prove helpful for some of them. Here are some:

  • Balance is so important. I really couldn't stress this enough. Learning the law is the most absorbing academic experience I've ever had--a lot like learning a foreign language and culture by immersion. And beyond that, the law is limitless--there's always more cases you could read or more supplements you could study. You could work 24/7 and there would still be more that you could learn. So it's really important to know when you've done enough and need to stop working and get rejuvenated. More work isn't always better, it's just more, because eventually you get diminishing returns from your efforts if you never take a breather.
  • Keep up with activities you enjoyed before coming to law school.
  • Keep a journal about your experiences. Not only is it therapeutic, but it's also really fun to read later and think about how far you've come.
  • Go to all the lectures, special speakers, and student panels that you can (and not just for the free food!)
  • Find some friends outside of law school. For me, these are people I met through my church. While I love my law school friends, sometimes it is so refreshing to be around people who aren't stressing about the same things you're stressing about and who have a different perspective.
  • Go to the gym regularly--it will de-stress you and keep you healthy.
  • Don't be afraid to make some major, ambitious goals--if you don't aim for things, you probably won't get them.
  • Find a place besides the law library that can become your own comfortable, motivation-inducing study spot, like a coffee shop.
  • Wear professional clothes on days you have really hard exams/ presentations/ etc., because it will put you in the right frame of mind.
  • Get comfortable with some seriously delayed gratification and learn how to make your own rewards along the way. There is only one final and one grade for each class at the end of the semester, so you're not going to be receiving much feedback during the semester and will have to work for several months without necessarily knowing how you're doing in the class. Also, since you won't be able to see your hard work be rewarded with good grades or feedback along the way, you will need to know when to reward your work yourself with some time off, a movie, or whatever else is relaxing and rejuvenating.
  • And perhaps most importantly: have fun and enjoy the ride.
These are just a few things I've learned from older students, friends, and my own experiences this past year that I want to pass on.

Career Advice: Write a Fake Resume

Yes, that title was meant to get your attention, and no, I'm not talking about embellishing your resume or making up skills you don't have so that you can get jobs you would otherwise be unqualified for. (Besides being unethical and deceptive, I think that job-hunting technique will always come back to haunt you one way or another!) This is actually about a non-traditional goal-setting method I've used that has helped me significantly.

What I mean by a "fake resume" is the resume you WISH you had and know you are capable of having someday, if you meet certain goals and develop certain skills. I think it's important to create this resume, not to give to potential employers, but simply for yourself. It's a tactic that has helped me get inspired and start thinking outside the box for creative ways to turn the items on my fake, idealistic resume into real accomplishments I can really tell employers about.

I have used this technique when I hit some roadblocks in my own job search, and it has helped me a lot to refocus and redefine what I want to be unique and attractive about me as a professional. I started with my real, unembellished resume and things I've actually done. Then I jotted down some of the goals I have related to my career: jobs I might want to have, languages I want to learn, computer skills I want to develop, articles I want to write, extracurricular opportunities I want to be involved in during law school. Then I started adding some of those "goal" items to the resume as if I have already accomplished them, or simply expanding upon things I've already done to make them more impressive. This document is just for me--and when I have those additional accomplishments on paper and want to be able to legitimately give it to an employer, I feel really inspired to go to work to tackle those goals so that I can!

For example, on my fake resume, I didn't just write an honors thesis (an item on my real resume). No, I published my thesis in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. In this resume, I'm not only fluent in Spanish, but also in Korean. I write for my school's law review journal and have published a few articles on research topics I'm interested in (the articles have titles and everything). I have already earned the advanced certification in legal research and writing that my school offers. I am a member of a moot court team and have won an award for oral arguments. Have I actually done any of these things yet? No. But these are all based on specific goals that I have for accomplishing these items within the next couple of years, and writing them down in resume form, as if I've already completed them, has a pretty powerful psychological effect on my motivation. The trick is to be as specific as possible about putting your goals into written form--the way you would if you had already met your goal and were able to chat about your accomplishment with an interviewer. It makes me see these goals as being doable and also really desirable, because once I have them on paper, I want to be able to keep them there--which means I have to DO them.

If anyone else has hit a plateau in career planning/ job searching, I hope this method will prove helpful for you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


So, as of 5pm today, I am finished with my first year of law school! I'm not even really sure how I feel right now--happy, definitely, but also still a little delirious from the exam-taking and everything that comes with it and not quite feeling like a normal human being yet . . . My main sources of nutrients for the past week or so have been Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Domino's pizza, and Dr. Pepper (no coffee for this girl, but I have to get some caffeine somehow), so I really need to recover from the "finals food pyramid" and maybe go run a few miles! And clean my apartment, which kind of looks like a typhoon blew through it.

My contracts final was my last exam. In the middle of the test, a couple of essential keys literally popped off the keyboard on my laptop, and I started freaking out. I don't know if tech support is equipped to deal with "laptop malfunction because I typed too much in an effort to make it look like I actually know what I'm talking about." Finally I just forced the keys back where they belonged and typed really gently for the rest of the test...but I made it through with no further crises and I am done!

1 Samuel 7:12 seems like an appropriate verse for today: "Thus far the Lord has HELPED us." Yes, He has abundantly helped us, and helped me, thus far! He has made himself so real to me this year, as I've been living fully on my own for the first time ever, adjusting to a new city and new state, making new friends, and getting acclimated to a demanding academic program. I have experienced his grace in so many ways since last August, and I can't wait to see what's in store for my second year and beyond. 1/3 of the way to being a full-fledged attorney!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Waiting for Answers

Just a few quick thoughts while I'm sitting here waiting for my laundry to finish drying . . . not sure how coherent this will be since my brain is fried from studying for exams, but bear with me!

I really do believe that prayer is the world's greatest untapped resource. But what about those times when it seems like God just isn't answering your prayers? In my life for the past couple of months, I have been grappling with unanswered prayers. Or to be more specific, prayers that are not being answered with a "yes." I'm sure that many of you experience this too, at least sometimes.

Without boring you with the details, I have been praying for some things that I both really need and really want, and things that I genuinely believe are a part of God's will for me. I have been trying to seek out God's will and plan for my future as it relates to the things I'm praying about, and I believe that the desires I'm praying for really are ones that the Lord has given me and will eventually fulfill.

But he hasn't done so yet. And I feel like I'm running out of time. When people deal with unanswered prayers, I often hear this sort of sentiment expressed: "God must just not want that for you." "God doesn't want you to do or be (insert the prayer request here), so that's why he's not answering your prayer." While people who say these things surely mean well, I think they are often wrong. In fact, I think this sentiment is really a myth that has insidiously crept its way into our modern Christian discourse. What it really says is this: if you encounter obstacles or failures while trying to achieve a goal or see a prayer be answered, God is trying to tell you to give up on it and pursue something else. It's a way to "spiritualize" a passive approach to the accomplishment of goals and the pursuit of God-given dreams.

But I for one don't believe that obstacles are any reason to quit. While it might be true that sometimes God "shuts doors" on an opportunity, that doesn't mean that facing difficulties, long days and nights of unanswered prayer, or setbacks means that we should discard a desire or dream that we truly believe God has placed in our hearts.

What if, on the 7th day of the week as the Israelites circled Jericho, they got tired of walking around and believed that the setbacks and the difficulties meant that God didn't want them to take the city? After the 6th lap around, they would have walked away in defeat as the walls still stood--and they would have stopped just short of their miracle. Sometimes, it just takes one more time, one more prayer, one more bold act of obedience and commitment. What if God wants you to pray through your failures and your setbacks, but you quit praying because you're sick of not seeing results? You could be missing out on your miracle. Really, a prayer that goes unprayed can turn into a tragedy that we don't even recognize, because we may not even know what blessing we're missing!

There's a lie that's entered into today's "Christianese," and the lie is that facing failure is God's way of telling you that you're pursuing the wrong thing and need to try something else. Now, there may be some occasions where God uses failure as part of a bigger plan to lead us toward or away from something. But that certainly doesn't mean that God doesn't want us to have anything that we're having trouble getting. Prayer is not always supposed to be easy, or rewarding, or instantly gratifying.

Sometimes, God carries us into the last possible minute before He answers our prayers. I'm in that position now--the position where you feel like you have to remind God that an answer that comes too late is really no answer at all. But God knows all about timing. He created time, after all, and He is never early and never late. He is always exactly, perfectly, right on time. He invites us to stand on His promises when we are strong, and to fall on them when we are weak.

I will NOT forego a miracle just because the praying gets long and hard and frustrating. And if and when I can't pray anymore, God's grace can fill in the gap and give me the strength to begin to pray again.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Extravagant Exchange

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."

I don't think it's a coincidence at all that Jesus began his ministry by teaching from this very passage. Luke 4 tells us that this is the Scripture Jesus read from the first time he taught in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. This passage was foreshadowing Jesus himself, and exactly what He does in our lives when we place our faith and trust in Him. He exchanges. Jesus Christ constantly exchanges our sin, our mess, our brokenness, and our failures for His beauty, righteousness, and grace. He can take anything we have to offer and give us of Himself instead! In fact, a number of Scriptures follow this same theme, in which God says to his people, "Instead of ____, I will give you _____." And what He gives is always better--He doesn't just exchange, He exchanges extravagantly!

My ashes for his crown of beauty. My sin for his robe of righteousness. My anxiety for His peace. My despair and grief for his gladness and praise. He doesn't simply fill our cups--our cups overflow. He didn't simply save us from our sin, He gave us eternal life as well, a life which freely begins in the here and now as we come to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in our lives. He rises to show us compassion because He longs to be gracious to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 sums up what I think of as the "extravagant exchange":  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." I really can't add anything to that, and I certainly couldn't say it better than that. This is what Jesus came to do. And it is good news indeed.