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The joy on a college campus

Last week I had the amazing privilege to go with my sister and brother-in-law to take my niece (and only girl niece I have…) to college at Liberty University. I LOVE Liberty! Yes, I am biased because I teach there but I also went there for my graduate degrees. It is a very special place. While, I was walking around campus last week, I felt the excitement of the young people and the next generation of leaders and world-changers all around.

Arguably, one could feel this on any college campus this fall, especially as in-person learning resumes! It also made me wonder what happens to adults causing them to lose the love of learning, exploring, making a difference in the world, meeting new people, trying new things, moving away for a bit or embracing any type of change.

There are many factors that can come into play in losing some of the joys experienced on a college campus, but we don’t have to lose our joy in the possibilities of the future. We can work to maintain a spirit of faith and belief in something greater.

My belief in God is what gives me joy in the possibility of greatness, change, goodness, possibility, and faith. Jesus came to make all things new by taking on the sin of the world. We often forget that Jesus is making all things new in the midst of so much pain and evil in the world, but I challenge you today to walk onto a college campus or at least shut your eyes and imagine doing so and take a deep breath and dream. But don’t stop with a dream, think of all the possibilities and opportunities God can give you to do good in this crazy world today.

Never stop believing that you can make a difference, that you are called for a great purpose to love others as Christ did. Pray for those who are hurting such as those in Afghanistan or Haiti or down the street. Pray for the educators beginning classes this time of year and for the students. Pray for a new generation to rise up and seek to obey God and overcome evil with good.

Choosing Joy today,

Dr. Atwell

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A rare form of generosity…

I love the quote by Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” Personally, I believe her quote rings true today more than ever. At a time where people can physically,  be it at times technologically, connected, people often seem more disconnected to true genuine conversation and ultimately relationships than ever before. So you may ask what was going on in the world and personally for Simone Weil to make this statement in the early 1900s.

Simone Weil who lived during a tough time in culture 1909-1943, including both World Wars. According to some, she was a philosopher and political activist who eventually turned to religion. We can learn some about her through her essays and writings, but to me she seems like a person who was seeking truth and looking for ways to overcome the evil in the world. Some say she became a Christian and emphasized martyrdom and sacrifice as you sought to share her beliefs and give attention to the hurt of others, which led to her dying an early death at age 34. Simone wrote “Attention is the rarest form of generosity” in a letter to a poet friend ins 1942. It is likely she make this statement out of personal experience. Maybe she felt as if no one was truly giving attention to people (the part of creation made in God’s image). It was after all a time of world war, mass killings of Jews, development of nuclear reactor (which became a part of the first  nuclear bomb), families being torn apart by war, etc. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but wonder if it was stated out of the feeling that no one was giving attention to hurting people in the world, likely including herself.

Maybe Simon believed that if people would show true care and concern for one another by giving them attention that people would respond with love and not fear which often leads to terrible behaviors. Consider the pharaoh in Egypt who thought the Jews were becoming too numerous so he treated them like slaves. What if he would have paid attention to them, learned more about them, listened to their stories about their God? Could this have caused him to love them and in turn not lose his first born son? (Exodus) What if Hitler would have given attention to the Jews in his country, learned from them, and given them a chance to be a part of the country he ruled? Could Germany have been a great nation still today instead of millions dying,  including Hitler, for a terrible ideal?

What if you paid attention to those around you? Would it improve your marriage? Would it impact your kids’ behavior? Would it allow for you to make a new friend? Would it change the trajectory of someone’s life? It certainly could! Finally, what if people paid attention to you? Consider how it could change your life.

While we can’t necessarily make people pay attention to us, we can be people who give attention to others.  So, if you want to be a generous person give your attention to someone today. Here are some a tips for when you try:

-Be aware of the messages sent from your body language (make eye contact, think about your facial expressions). Put your phone down!

-Ask open ended questions and/or specific about the person and his/her situation? Demonstrate concern.

-Paraphrase to show you want to understand when engaging in conversation.

-Don’t interrupt or insert your own personal stuff while you are listening to someone.

-Verbally affirm others.

-Notice the person in the corner or notice the person who no one else is noticing and be friendly. Get to know your neighbors. Make a new friend at work.

-Spend quality time with others without technology and give undivided attention. (Don’t act like you are in a hurry).

I am a firm believer that most of the hurts in the world come from relationships, but so does our healing. My faith leads me to believe that ultimate relationship is with God alone. I believe He alone fills the void in our lives, but also uses others to spread His love and attention. Simone Weil also said, “At the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world,” which makes me think she came to the same conclusion and belief I have in God.

I hope someone give you attention today!

Dr. Natalie Atwell

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A great recommendation from a teenager

Teenagers these days often are described as being self-centered, lazy, unmotivated, and addicted to social media instead of living life without posting about it or considering using a filter for pictures they post.

I was encouraged this summer as I met a very amazing teenage boy at the beach who was so kind to my not quite teenage boys. He took them riding in a boat, helped them learn to kayak, and never acted like they were bothering him. He and his brother were very respectful and truly a joy to be around. One day, the teenage boy told me he was reading the book “Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world” by Admiral William McCraven. He also told me he wants to be a navy seal one day.  I have no doubt that he will achieve his goal and will be a great leader one day.

After I met him and talked to his mother about how she is raising two amazing boys, I saw a book at the library that caught my eye, “Sea Stories: My life in special operations” By Admiral William McCraven. Since this man obviously caught the attention of a neat teenager, I thought maybe I’d enjoy a book written by the same man. The book did not disappoint. I found someone who is very successful to also be humble and gracious.

Here are some things I learned from the book:

-Turn hardships into laughter, self-deprecating, unforgettable, and unforgettable stories.. it’s all in how you remember it!

-Don’t lie to your parents, they know. Give your kids a chance to tell the truth.

-Don’t underestimate the power of one act of kindness. Call a kid, encourage someone today it may make all the difference in the world.

-Take it one evolution at a time. Don’t quit, it’s not the smartest, fastest or strongest who are always successful. It’s the ones who stumble, fall, falter, persevere, who get up and keep moving.

-Sacrifice is worth the reward. God is always working. His hand is in everything . When it’s your time to go, it’s your time.

-People are always listening:). 

-There are angels and spirits among us. Be aware.

-War gives your life meaning. Everyone longs for an honorable fight, a battle of convictions.

-Don’t be a bench sitter

-People deserve a second chance

-Be kind to people who are going thru tough times. Continue to fight regardless of your injury! Lose the paperwork…

-Bombs can be carried in shoes… Your decisions effect others sometimes long after you intended them to.

-Overcome evil with good

-Have hope that God can turn brokenness into something beautiful. 

-Leaders must be prepared to trust who are fighting for them and to make tough decisions.

-Sometimes rough men have to protect the innocent. 

-The sacrifices of the men and women in the armed forces help to save those who may be the best great scientists, doctors , pastors, etc.

-Millennials ask why, sacrifice and say they will be just fine, they are more inclusive, more engaged, not always unmotivated.

-It feels great when justice is served

-Practice the tough plans and drills, go over them and over so you are prepared.

-Tomorrow has stories too.

 

Be blessed today. Keep going, don’t quit, If it isn’t over yet, it is not the end…A brighter day is ahead.

Dr. Atwell

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Is it ok to be angry?

This week I was given the honor of leading the devotion for Hendrick Motorsports at the weekly devotion lunch. It is such a blessing to join a company who values the word of God and its people enough to take time out of a busy week to focus on encouraging employees. The topic I was given to present to a group of about 90% men who work in a competitive sporting industry was “anger”. It seemed as if the topic was of value, so I thought I’d share with my faithful blog readers.

What is anger?

A feeling of frustration at someone; an expression of letting someone know that you are not happy with the way things are going between you; a possible desire to make things better between two people.

Regardless anger is an expression of frustration that often is masking other emotions such anxiety, sadness, guilt, hurt, shame, insecurity, and/or fear.

Example of how anger masks fear?

The anger a wife may have towards her husband for talking to his friends or texting them more than she perceives he talks or texts her, may MASK a fear that she has of him not enjoying talking to her as much as he does his friends.

OR

Someone is angry at God because a loved one was hurt may MASK a fear that He isn’t completely trustworthy to heal the hurt.

Does God get angry?

Yes, God gets angry: 2 King 17:18 God gets angry, BUT Psalm 7:11 says God is a righteous judge! It’s ok for God to judge it helps us know that He will get vengeance on those who’ve hurt us. Seeing loved ones go thru terrible things, you can only live by knowing God will judge one day and right all wrongs.

Jesus got angry: Matthew 21:12-13:Jesus overturned the tables (it was a den of robbers instead of a house of prayer) BUT in the next verse, V14- The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. He didn’t lose his compassionate nature even in the midst of frustration/anger.

The Holy Spirit gets angryThe Holy Spirit is grieved (can be explained as anger), but gives us instruction on how we can righteously respond and not grieve Him (Ephesians 4).

The difference is God’s anger is righteous and our often is unrighteous? JD Greear says, “Unrighteous anger is often loving the wrong thing or loving the right thing out of proportion. One way to tell is to ask yourself ‘What is my anger defending?’ Is it control, convenience, comfort, or hurt?” God’s anger is slow, controlled, loving, and redemptive!

How can we handle anger properly?

A: ASK for help.We need God’s help through the power of the Holy Spirit to respond righteously. We are called to PUT on the new man which is characterized by patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Asking for help may also include seeking counseling, talking to family ad  friends, reading and meditating on God’s word and other helpful books.

N: Negotiate boundaries by turning the other cheek. Matthew 5:38-40 suggests, turning the other cheek (face is synonymous with ‘relationship’ in Jewish culture). It doesn’t mean not confronting the issues (turning requires effort), This scripture actually speaks of: confronting the issue, setting boundaries which may require change (turning) and then re-offering the relationship (other cheek) when possible.

G: Give grace; Don’t carry the burden of righting wrongs. It is God’s job. He is in control of the sun, moon, and stars, so let him handle it. Romans 12: Repay no one evil for evil. He is a righteous judge. Ephesians 4: 26-31 Don’t sin from anger, don’t let the sun go down on wrath, don’t steal, encourage one another, listen…Get rid of it… Proverbs 19:11 Overlook offenses… Proverbs 15:1 have gentle words… not hard ones. Giving grace is a way of controlling anger.

“Anger doesn’t produce change, GRACE does!” JD Greear.

E: Engage with God through prayer; Pray without ceasing so you can encourage one another! Our speech should be: only for building one another up, confront issues in love and praising god. 

Be angry and sin not!

Natalie 🙂

PS. Rick Hendrick has the best man cave I’ve ever seen! Wow…cars, sporting collectibles, and musical gems! However, as I left I remembered that nothing compares to the love and grace of God 🙂 and we have the chance to share this with others as we give grace and disallow anger to cause us to sin.

PSS. I had to control my anger as I saw that my alma mater, Liberty is a sponsor of one of the drivers who is also a student because I sure could use a sponsor to pay for my doctorate! 🙂 jk-kinda…