Category Archives: Lifestyle

Nostalgia and Faith: Can They Coexist?

No one needs faith for something that has already happened. Faith, by its nature, requires a future component, a measure of uncertainty. In situations where there is no uncertainty – the package has already arrived, as promised, the test has been scored – faith is superfluous.

Does this imply that people of faith, like myself, will not be nostalgic, since nostalgia is about the settled past and faith is about the unsettled future? I hope not, because I sometimes wax nostalgic, particularly around the holidays. I remember winter mornings when my brother and I would run out on the front porch in our bare feet to retrieve the foil-topped bottles the milkman had left. We’d pour ourselves a glass, then chew the frozen milk crystals that collected on the top.

Such memories are pleasant to me. Nostalgia is not about times of loneliness and sorrow, but about times of peace and camaraderie. The past I remember seems simpler, gentler, and more manageable. Unlike the future, the past never incites fear.

When the term “nostalgia” first came into use in the 17th century, it denoted a kind of mental illness. The doctor who coined the term described it as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause.” It was thought to be a type of home-sickness – the term coming from the Greek roots for “returning home” and for “pain.”

In recent years, however, social scientists have discovered various benefits that accompany nostalgia. Continue reading

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You Probably Won’t Keep Your Resolutions: Here’s Why

Most Americans who make New Year’s resolutions don’t keep them, according to polls taken over the years. When they made the resolution, they hoped (if not intended) to keep it. Nevertheless, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions hovers around 70 percent.

Some common resolutions are: Exercise more; lose weight; get organized; save more money; quit smoking; spend more time with family. No one makes a resolution in the secret hope of failing, yet most people will fail. Why?

In a word: Most people fail because of habit. Our habits can carve such a deep rut that we can’t get out of it in a single leap; it will take a long climb. We resolve to eat a healthier diet, for example, but our resolve wavers in the grocery store when we see the potato chips display and realize chips and dip would be the perfect thing for our little get-together on Friday night.

Of course, when there is dip left over after the party, rather than throwing it away (a clear misuse of our money, which would break resolution number two), we decide to buy a small bag of chips – just to finish off the dip. But of course there will not be enough dip, and so it’s back to the store. Before long, the rut is deeper than ever and we are further from getting out of it than we were when we started. Continue reading

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Can You Go a Day Without Comparing Yourself to Anyone?

Here’s a challenge. Try going a day without comparing yourself to anyone – not your height, your weight, your hair, your clothes, your car, your spouse, your golf score, or anything else. If you think it will be easy, you might be surprised. Just see how you do when you choose which checkout line to enter at the grocery store or the best lane to drive on the expressway. Those decisions are also based on comparisons.
Fastest, smartest, newest, biggest, safest, most – these are all words used in comparison. Our culture is formed on comparisons. So are our minds. We understand ourselves in relation to others; that is, through comparison. Those comparisons start in early childhood, before we are capable of articulating or even comprehending the meaning of comparison.
Are we smart? How would we know apart from comparing ourselves to others? Are we successful? How about attractive, or friendly, or wise?
While forming comparisons is a natural and necessary part of growing up, it is also a source of much of our dissatisfaction. If I lived in a Papuan village where I was the only person with a car, I would be happy with my car, even if it was rusty, the seats were lumpy, and the car could not accelerate past 35 miles per hour.
However, I might be very dissatisfied with that same car living in my Michigan town. Why? It’s not as if the car has changed. But the situation has changed. Other people’s cars are shiny, and comfortable, and fast and, compared to theirs, mine is a bucket of rust.
Comparisons can quickly lead to dissatisfaction. This is even more likely because comparisons are often rigged.
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You Aren’t From Around Here, Are You?

“How y’all doin?”
On a trip to Tennessee and North Carolina, my wife and I heard that line again and again. It reminded me of being in Boston, only there it was “How-ah-ya?” or “How-ya-doin?”
I love languages and dialects and so, while we were in Boston, I told my wife I just had to try “How-ah-ya?” on somebody. It took me awhile to work up the nerve – I was afraid of ruffling some New England feathers – but finally tried it out on a clerk in a store. “How-ah-ya?” I asked. My son, who was living in Boston, said I got it wrong. It sounded like I was from the Bronx.
In North Carolina I never did get up the nerve to try “How y’all doin?” I wasn’t sure what the penalty is for impersonating a Southerner and I didn’t want to find out. I certainly didn’t want people thinking I was making fun of them.
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The Words We Use Broadcast Who We Are

The “social psychologist James Pennebaker spent years researching the significance of our use of words. With a team of grad students, he developed a sophisticated software program that analyzes what our words say about us. Pennebaker claims that the words we generate over a lifetime are like “fingerprints.” Even small words – what he calls “stealth words,” like pronouns (I, you, we, they) and prepositions (to, for, over) – “broadcast the kind of people we are.”

No wonder Jesus said “that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Continue reading

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The Insurgency of Love Is Looking for Recruits

In 2007, President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers to Bagdad and the Anbar Province in Iraq. The objective was, in part, a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain … Continue reading

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The Most Damaging Lie: “It’s No Use”

The lie becomes more destructive as it filters down to the relationship level. The more intimate the relationship, the more damage the lie causes. Continue reading

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Money Talks – and it is talking about you!

It’s a blabbermouth, really; always talking about the person who has it and, for the most part, telling the truth. In that way, it is like a child, talking about his or her parents. Continue reading

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Religion Is Not an End in Itself

That is analogous to telling someone in Iowa that to get to the intersection of Forest Drive and Hicks Avenue in Annapolis, Maryland they must go east. It’s not that it isn’t true; it just isn’t very helpful. Continue reading

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The Other Problem of Pain

C. S. Lewis’s book, The Problem of Pain, was published in 1940. In it, Lewis responds to an argument against the existence of God that goes something like this: An all-good God would not want his creatures to suffer; an … Continue reading

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