Unplug: Lessons from Nature

Unplug: Lessons from Nature

Nature is one of the greatest classrooms life has to offer. College students from across the United States would learn many lessons in just a short week of their summer in the wilderness of Montana. Although a challenge to literally unplug from their normal daily routine, they would discover new perspectives on leadership, finding happiness and purpose, and nurturing a relationship with God while forging strong relationships with each other.

One 19-year-old woman from Seattle, Washington shared her story on connecting with God through nature and her growth as a person and leader:

I personally feel that being in Creation is one of the best ways that I can more closely connect with God, so I really appreciate this time that I had in Montana.

In the mountains, we were without our phones and other man-made distractions. We were forced to use the natural things around us, to watch over and care for others, and ask for help if we needed. Even just after five days, I experienced that we literally had to live for the sake of others in order to survive. It is only natural that we worried for others and also depended on others.

“When out in nature, I also saw that it does not take much for us to live happily in this physical world.”

Pumping water at a lake with the backpacking team.

When out in nature, I also saw that it does not take much for us to live happily in this physical world. Even in the woods, God had provided us with everything we need to live. Besides the food that we brought with us (or could have gotten from hunting and fishing if necessary), we had streams for water, flat and grassy lands for comfortable shelter, trees to hang food away from bears, wood to build warm fires, and all of nature’s beauty to enjoy. As we hiked during the day and rested during the nights, we also had one another to interact with and learn from.

They say that people learn a lot about one another and bond closely when we live together in the mountains, and I think that is very true! It was very refreshing to talk to my brothers and sisters not just about how they are doing, but also have conversations on a more deeper level. It was very inspiring to see others talk seriously about their faith and have great interest in conversations about God and His principles and ultimate dream.

“People learn a lot about one another and bond closely when we live together in the mountains.”

In one discussion that we had during a break in hiking, everyone shared their own philosophy or way of leadership. Many said that it is to lead by example, to live for the sake of others, etc., but I was very inspired by one person when he said that ultimately, what he does, no matter what it is, should somehow connect to God’s dream. This makes even the most trivial actions very important. This, of course, is important for personal growth, but to connect this directly to leadership. This is not something I have really thought about. When it comes to leadership, I more naturally think about helping others and moving their hearts rather than improving myself, but it makes perfect sense that bettering myself and lining up my values to my faith in God will make me a better vessel for Him to work through, and ultimately, a better leader.

“A leader has to make difficult decisions to make everyone’s experience the best possible.”

Leading the team for the day.

During this adventure workshop, I had the opportunity to be the trail captain for a day, and the team medic on another day. Both roles had me experience some challenges. A leader has to take into account many different factors depending on the situation, and oversee everyone’s personal situation and try to understand them. In the mountains, some of these factors included safety, injuries, hiking pace, water resources, location of the campsite, etc. It was also difficult to try to satisfy everyone’s needs. Everyone came to Montana for a different reason. Some wanted to have the greatest physical challenge (like climb the highest possible peak), have solitude time, and experiences like that. A leader has to make difficult decisions to make everyone’s experience the best possible.

This area is special because people can fully experience God’s natural world and learn from Him.

The overall experience was amazing. I feel that I was able to gain some strength from this challenge for the coming year. I am going into my second year of college, and I want to make this a much better year than the last.

 

Core Values for Life: Tackling the Topic of Judgment

Core Values for Life: Tackling the Topic of Judgment

Have you witnessed someone being judged or been judged yourself? Have you caught yourself judging someone else?

Judgment is a topic that is relevant to everyone at every age. This week, Core Values for Life (CVL) invited college and young professional from across the United States and Canada to tackle the topic of judgment on the CVL bi-monthly nation-wide video call.

Granted, there are multiple aspects of judgment, between individuals, by society, institutions, coworkers, friends, and family, and even the judgment we place on ourselves. One young man described the act of judging as thoughts or actions that “place someone in a box.”

We need to ask ourselves, ‘What is the end goal?’ It’s important to uphold a standard and we want people to connect to similar values, but what is an effective state of mind to be in to relate with other people? When we feel the need to place judgment on others, there is a lack of understanding and compassion. We need to understand this dynamic because at the end of the day, it is about growth.

A college student from Washington State agreed on the importance of understanding. “In our families, maybe it isn’t ‘judgment’ but ‘feedback’ to help others and ourselves grow,” he said. “We can have the biggest conflict but because we love each other and have trust, we are also trying to understand each other and take on a different perspective to help each other grow.”

One young women who recently became a new mom shared her thoughts on how to take a proactive attitude in addressing judgment.

Sometimes I find myself in situations where I feel judged but in reflection it’s more self-imposed. Someone could make a comment and it’s not that critical or could even be directed at someone or something else, but I can take it personally and feel judged. So, what can I do to not be affected negatively? I could be insecure about certain things and that allows me to feel judged, even if something is said with good intention. I have to address my own insecurity. On the other hand, sometimes I can unintentionally come off as judgmental but that happens because of ignorance, not understanding others or others not understanding me.

When we get the feeling of being judged, an instinctive reaction for many of us may be to take a defensive stance. One caller contributed, “A defensive attitude is not the best way to understand what the other person is trying to tell you. It takes a lot of effort and training to get to that point. We have a purpose in life to think from a perspective of serving. We are channels for God. When we train ourselves to be more able to understand, we become more positive.”

So, how do we train ourselves?

 

“Take a breath and don’t just react.”

“Before you pass judgment stop and think. Is this the right moment to say something?”

“Be humble and grateful. You can grow and expand to be more than who you are right now.”

“Listen to your conscience. It is your own judge.”

 

Terms like judgment, constructive criticism, and feedback were thrown around in the conversation. As one young father stated on the call, “Feedback is essential to growth.” However, at the end of the day, remember that the difference between simply putting judgment on someone else and presenting feedback is in how you support that person afterwards. Whether you are a parent, mentor, or friend, being supportive of the person over the long term is how you demonstrate responsibility and uphold the values you stand for.

Finding Our God-Given Talents: CVL Talks Self Discovery

Finding Our God-Given Talents: CVL Talks Self Discovery

“How do we know we have a God-given talent?”

“What counts as a talent? What defines a talent?”

College students and young professionals in the United States kicked off their bi-monthly nation-wide video call to discuss, “How do we find our God-Given Talents?”

From practical tips to get the most out of school and work to how to face life-changing decisions like preparing for marriage, Core Values for Life (CVL) addresses a spectrum of important conversations to help young adults take charge in fostering their own life of faith.

“I don’t know if everyone is born with a talent,” said one young man, “But I would say that everyone has God-given potential to develop a talent.”

Another chimed in, “I think it’s a balance between finding what God gave you and having the drive to challenge yourself in different areas to discover what those talents are and what you should use it for.”

An engineer from Washington state shared his experience saying,

At first wanted to go into the medical field but ended up working at a refinery, majoring in chemical engineering. Providing energy for a region impacts people’s daily life. The work we do provides relatively lower cost for families’ transportation, allowing people to move around and interact with each other. No matter what your field is, there are ways to discover how your work and talents can benefit the world and be defined as “God-given.”

Curious, another asked his peers on the call, “Do you have an experience of having to decide between what you’re passionate about and something that has more potential to help more people?”

A young woman who works for an international non-profit replied,

I studied design and international relations. I couldn’t let go of design because I was so passionate about it. I don’t think you should study a field just because it’s the “right thing to do.” You can use the field that you’re studying to think about its principles and how it can benefit the world. It has to be a balance. If you only pursue what you want to do without a vision, that might not be good either.

Others were quick to join in.

“Listen to your conscience. Recognize what other people have to say but at the end of the day, to have a conclusion, listen to your conscience.”

“We’re talking about God-given talents. Talents God gave us. God isn’t ignorant of what we’re passionate about. He gave us those passions. He may call us to do something different at some time because He needs someone but He doesn’t forget about what you’re passionate about. I gave up going into music because I was passionate about it but it didn’t go with my conscience. But later in life, I constantly got opportunities in music.”

A young man from Alaska brought attention to the importance of recognizing when one’s ego is in the way of self-development saying, “Our false sense of self sometimes gets in the way. As you listen to your conscience and move away from habits that constricts you from what you’re capable of, you learn more about yourself and more able to discover your talents.”

So, what can YOU do to help discover your God-given talents?

CVL says,

“Go out into the wilderness! Go out into nature and clear your mind.”

“Journal. Not just a stream of consciousness but ask yourself, ‘What is my motivation?’”

“Start your day by thinking about God.”

“Pray.”

 

Get out there. Discover your talents. Make a difference.

Setting the Standard of Tradition: CVL Talks Parenthood

Setting the Standard of Tradition: CVL Talks Parenthood

“It’s never too early to think about what kind of parents you want to become.”

Core Values for Life holds bi-weekly video conference calls for college and young professionals to explore topics on the qualities essential to raising a healthy God-centered family. In the most recent call held on April 1, CVL participants posed the question, “What kind of parents do you want to become?”

Being a parent also means being a leader. Parents set the tradition and culture for their children and family, showing how important it really is to think about what kind of lifestyle you want to demonstrate for your kids. “When you’re thinking about becoming a parent, you often think about what not to do as a parent,” shared one young mother, “But as you become a parent, you realize you’ve inherited habits from your parents. It really is an uphill battle to change things.”

Everyone on the call agreed that education for family life starts young, even from birth. The process of growing oneself is continuous. “Kids eventually realize that their parents aren’t perfect,” said a young father, “Therefore, I agree, I’d rather be a father that constantly strives to continue growing. I’m also trying to get my kids excited when they make a lot of effort. Trying hard is more important than being lucky or just being talented.”

One young man still looking forward to married life expressed the gratitude he felt to his own parents, “My father made me feel responsible for my life of faith. He didn’t cram anything down my throat. He somehow stimulated my own sense of responsibility. That’s something I appreciate and would like to inherit from him; the ability to give space and the appropriate time to develop.”

This energizing video call on parenthood brought together young people from all stages of family life. The diverse participating audience ranged from single to engaged, married, expecting and already-parents of young children.

Family Peace Association believes marriage is a blessing from God that grants couples the gift of co-creation with God as they build God-centered families by bringing new life into this world. Learn more about FPA’s education and programs on Marriage and Family.