Monthly Archives: March 2010

Monday Motivator – March 29

She was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1832. She started out writing sensational stories about duels and suicides, opium addiction, mind control, bigamy, and murder. She called it “blood and thunder” literature, and she said, “I seem to have a natural ambition for the lurid style.” She published under male pseudonyms to keep from embarrassing her family. But in 1867, an editor suggested that she try writing what he called “a girl’s book,” and she said she would. The result was Little Women (1868), which was based on her own family and her own experience as an aspiring writer. She was disappointed at how popular Little Women became, because she was obligated to keep writing more books in the same vein. Her name? Louisa May Alcott.

She was born in New York City in 1918. She struggled to find any success as a writer with novels about ordinary families and ordinary situations, but after reading about the ideas of Albert Einstein, she wrote a science fiction novel called A Wrinkle in Time (1962), about a group of children who have to rescue their father from a planet where individuality has been outlawed. The book was rejected by 26 different publishers, who all felt that it was too difficult for children but too fantastic for adults. But when it came out in 1962, the novel won the Newbery Medal, and it sells about 15,000 copies a year. Her name? Madeleine L’Engle.

He was in Belfast in 1898. He is probably best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, a seven-volume series of children’s books. He is well known also for his essays on Christianity. He’d been baptized and raised Anglican (in the Church of Ireland), became atheist as a teenager, then a theist in his 20s, and then, in his early 30s, he converted wholeheartedly to Christianity.

His writings include Mere Christianity (1952), based on theological talks he gave on the BBC during World War II; The Screwtape Letters, a novel of letters from a demon to his nephew (1942); and the allegorical novel The Great Divorce (1945), in which dwellers of hell ride a bus up to heaven. In an essay called “Is Theology Poetry?” he wrote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” His name? Clive Staples (or C.S.) Lewis. Lewis taught English and medieval literature for three decades at Oxford University, where he was good friends with The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

Alcott, L’Engle, and Lewis share a love for writing (as well as the same birthday). You may aspire to a career in literature, poetry, music, or writing. Take courage from their example and persevere in your dream. God has gifted you with a love for words and the ability to communicate on the written page. Do not hide your gift under a bucket.

The world is a better place because of the writing of Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L’Engle, and C.S. Lewis. But there is always room for another voice, another poet or writer. Do not hesitate to cultivate your gift(s). Write for your school paper. Share your material. Publish your work. Whether your audience is small, large, local, global, or your work is even recognized, your love for writing can make a difference. Serve globally.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 22

I am always amazed at how we learn to make choices about spending our money. I was talking to a student who said he ended up not attend a regional SALT conference in his area of the country because of money. SALT stands for Student Activist Leadership Training, and is the name of the regional leadership conferences National Chi Alpha offers every year in seven regions of the country during the Christmas-New Year’s break.

He had told me he wanted to deepen his faith and I suggested he attend SALT. At first, he said was interested and registered on line to go to the conference. Then after finals he flew home and discovered he had overspent on Christmas gifts and had no money. He even had to pay a penalty when he learned his bank account was in trouble because he had not been keeping his account balanced. He was grounded at home, and was lucky some of his relatives gave him money as a present, because it enabled him to get back to school for the winter semester with a few bucks in his pocket.

He came to me for help and we sat and talked about his budget. “Budget, what’s that?” he replied. I was not surprised to learn he did not handle his finances in any meaningful manner until he got a warning from the bank that his account was overdrawn (again) and he slowed down. But the pattern had been set, and now he needed to start a new one.

I told him he needed to establish a budget and review process and he agreed. He asked where do we start? I said the first step is to write down a plan on how much money he had coming in and how he wanted to allocate it. A budget is a game plan where you tell your money what you want to do with it. The idea is to be purposeful with every dollar.

Second, use the envelope system. Take some envelopes and write on them the categories of expenditures you agree to. The key is to only use the allotted amount to purchase specific things allowed in the category. If the envelope is empty, you do not get to buy anything else in that category until money is put back in. Simple enough, right? Have an envelope for saving for a rainy day (i.e., special need or emergency) too.

Third, avoid people and places that tempt you to spend. If you have trouble sticking to a budget, it may be because you are immature. It may also be because you cannot avoid going to mall with friends who have sloppy financial management skills, and none of you have much restraint. The money you earn should be able to last to the next paycheck.

Fourth, stay motivated and do not give up. A budget is a tool designed to help you manage your financial resources. Set financial goals for the semester and review it monthly (at least). Ask someone to hold you accountable for your spending habits. A budget is a tool you utilize to help you control your spending urges so you live within your means and ensure a balanced approach to giving, saving, and spending.

Read Luke 16:9-12. Handling money is a spiritual matter. The young man I spoke with is determined to get better at handling his finances. I reminded him not to dwell on failures of the past or the fear that he would not be able to get a better handle on his finances. I then challenged him to walk wisely. God wants all of us to learn obedience and faithfulness in financial matters, because it is an indicator of our spiritual health.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 15

The Winter Olympics are a showcase of some of the greatest athletes in the world. I enjoy watching their performances under great pressure, scrutiny, and the ruling of judges. I appreciate learning about the years of sacrifice, training, discipline, coaching, injuries, adversities, and obstacles they have endured and overcame to get to this point.

Watching Olympic athletes compete caused me to review a favorite piece of Scripture. A man named Paul wrote to some younger followers of Jesus in Ephesus and encouraged them to continue their journey of becoming more like Christ. He reminded them their path demanded personal effort, assistance from others, and dependence on God.

Read Ephesians 4:11-16.

I noted seven phrases in bold that contains key information to help each follower of Jesus (i.e., disciple, or learner by attachment) to become the best they can be. God will settle for nothing less – Paul’s friend John wrote that, “Anyone who claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). It will require information and formation, in community.

Unity of the Faith – Disciples must have a confessional creed: a common understanding about Scripture and our position and experience as believers in Christ (individually and corporately). The basis of such understanding is derived from Scripture and includes shared life (or inter-dependence) in community.

The Knowledge of the Son of God – Disciples must have a full assurance of salvation, grounded in right doctrine, based on the character of God.

A Mature Person – Disciples must exhibit maturity in their life: a commitment to apply Scripture to every part of life; a commitment to growth accomplished through the Word of God, worship, prayer, committed relationships, and intentional service/witness; a commitment to produce the fruit of the Spirit, and walk in love; a commitment to keep God’s commandments, and a commitment to bear witness to the Lord Jesus.

No Longer Children – Disciples must develop, deepen, and live a Christian world-view. They must also be able to discern false doctrines and truth from error.

Speaking the Truth in Love – Disciples must be able to articulate the truth of Scripture to one another and those outside the Body of Christ in appropriate ways. They must be able to confront error with love and not harm one another.

Every Joint Supplies – Disciples must cultivate mutually supportive relationships, as well as develop and use their own gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ.

The Growth of the Body – Disciples must cooperate with the Head of the Body (Jesus) for personal and corporate growth and maturity.

You and I cannot grow without working at it, receiving assistance from other followers of Jesus, and the coaching of the Holy Spirit. Live communally. Let’s go for it!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 8

How are you planning to spend spring break? Do you plan to take Jesus along, or leave Him behind? Where can you go to have fun, yet minimize the chance of being tempted to do some things you shouldn’t? Have you considered using your break for outreach?

I have been on many spring break trips, first as a student, and second as a campus minister. I always enjoy leaving the cold weather of the North for the sunny climate of Florida, Texas, or the Caribbean. I remember the rituals of college students chilling out after a few months of classes, homework, projects, and tough weather back home.

I have seen the entire range of students letting go and letting loose on spring break: The macho guys yelling and hollering at girls from their hotel balcony; the young ladies walking the beach in two’s and three’s in search of the perfect tan, and/or some kind of man (perfect or not); the guys and gals looking to get wasted and experience sun, surf, sex, and suds, no matter what the cost; and the students who feel pressured to participate in activity they would rather not, but are battling to handle the peer pressure.

I have watched these scenarios play out and seen what students are interested in (and it wasn’t lonely walks on the beach, shuffleboard, and acting like a wallflower). So one year I made up some spring break guidelines for the students I knew who were heading to Florida. These would apply to students committed to knowing and following Jesus, and who were seriously interested in enjoying spring break, while doing nothing to “go wild, harm others, destroy property, or cause God (or your parents) to blush or cringe.”

Read Ephesians 5:1-21.

First, remember who died for you. Paul told the Ephesians to “Live a life of love just as Christ loved us” (5:2). Spring break is a break, but are you willing to take a break from your relationship with Jesus? Do not be intimidated or afraid to stay devoted to Him while away from campus. Go ahead and mention Him to people you meet, and keep on trying to live as He would.

Second, show restraint with people of the opposite sex. Paul continued, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity” (5:3). Guys can enjoy girls without shouting suggestive things to them, ogling them as if they were sexual objects for your gratification, and treating them like a potential conquest (of course, the same goes for how girls look at the guys). Go ahead and rate the food, the facilities, the weather, and your March Madness basketball picks, but not one another.

Third, find stuff to drink that does not require your ID to buy. Paul added, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (5:18). You can have a lot of fun without abusing alcohol, or doing stuff you probably would never do back home, may get you in trouble with the law, or hurt you or another person.

Taking a break from classes is part of the calendar. Consider using the guidelines I created, or develop your own. Whatever parameters you set, be sure to follow them. Think theologically. We should party to remember, not forget.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 1

Have you ever received a love note that stirred your heart and fired up your imagination? Wouldn’t it be great to receive a handwritten note from a friend or family member that said, “I love you so much. I think highly of you for who you are and care deeply for you. You mean a lot to me and I am blessed to have you in my life.” Talk about being encouraged…it could make your heart beat faster.

You do not have to wait for someone to write such a letter, or send you that kind of a card from Hallmark. Someone already has. The Bible is a love letter to us.

God and people are the main characters in the epic love story found in Scripture. Read Romans 8:38-39. God has been described as a Divine Lover who pursues us like a lover passionately courting his beloved. He is willing to risk his life to win her over. When she responds to his love, he sings, dances, and rejoices over his lover, while all of heaven rejoices.

Have you ever longed for someone to wrap his or her arms around you and love you intensely? The Lover of your soul is pursuing you for that very purpose. He gave His life on your behalf when death was imminent for you. He has pursued you when you ignored Him, and traveled a lonely road, searching for the one He loves, and that person is you. He earnestly awaits your response to his quest for your heart.

Are you in love with God? Are you hungry and thirsty for Him? Do you seek Him consistently with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength? If you do, that is evidence that you love God. Seeking Him reveals that you love Him. The apostle John wrote that God wants you to passionately pursue Him, and when you do, He will fill you with His love (1 John 2:5, 3:1, 4:7, 10).

Read 1 John 4:7-19.

God is the perfect lover (1 John 4:8 and 19). He is forever faithful. He will never leave or forsake you for another. He will not use His power against you. He hurts when you hurt. He blesses you with unexpected gifts. He stirs your heart toward life and away from death. He creates in you a heart of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. He leads you to hope, not despair.

Without God, there is no love and there is no life. He is the initiator of love, life, and light. God’s nature is love, and He expressed it in all of His actions. He wrote the greatest love letter of all. Yet He chose to deliver that letter in person, knowing that in issues of love, you cannot allow another person to represent you. God came face-to-face to bridge the gap between Him and us. He is passionate, because love is never passive, and passionate love leads to action.

Have you read His letter lately? How have you experienced God’s initiatives of love toward you? In what ways is the Bible a love letter to you? Have you ever written a love letter to God? Why not write one today? Grow devotionally. Love and enjoy God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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