Shared Creative Writing

The following is from the shared creative writing activity we participated in on Wednesday:

One, two, three, four… the red light flashed again and again, its crimson glow the only illumination this desolate city could conjure up. Not being someone who is usually up at this hour, I didn’t know quite what my eyes were telling me.

Was I there already? It was too late for my brain to connect, and the drive seemed too short for me to be in the capital already. I could barely remember why I was driving south anyways. Maybe this would be a good place to stop, just for a few hours? Exhaustion was seeping into my bones. I desperately needed rest. I drove forwards, into town, looking for any signs or markers that would indicate a place to stop. A few blocks ahead, there was an ancient wooden sign indicating a bed and breakfast.

A bell rang as I stepped inside, disrupting the eerie silence. I surveyed my surroundings, deciding if I should just sleep in my car or try my luck here. The lobby was sparsely decorated, but a giant, dusty chandelier hung squarely over a large rug. I felt a whisper of a breeze on my arm and turned, ready to bolt. A man stood at the counter. Old, with translucent skin. He had not been there a second ago.

“Looking for a room?” he asked. His voice was unexpectedly smooth. I could only stammer a “yes.” He motioned with his hand to follow him up the stairs. As I walked, there were shadows playing on the walls, flickering on the ceiling. But there was no distinguishable light source. Sometimes, I thought I could here a whisper follow me. We walked down a flight of stairs. But wait, hadn’t we just walked up a flight of stairs? Nope. Too much. I was leaving. I stuttered some lame excuse about an emergency to the old man and began to run back the way we had come. He just smiled and nodded. I turned left, up the stairs, then right and down. I was lost. How was this possible?…

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Creative Collaboration Reflection

In class this past Monday, we participated in a creative collaboration brainstorming activity with a partner. In that activity, we were able to think about a response to one of the creative writing prompts, interview the other student about their idea, and then draw out what we saw their idea looking like.

Even though I did not come to class with a solidified idea in mind, I found the collaboration helpful and walked away from class with a potential story idea. When thinking about things I have recently read, I struggled to find something at first because I basically never read fiction. The last time I remember choosing a fiction novel to read outside of the classroom was probably in early high school, at least 4 years ago. That’s pretty sad, isn’t it?

While I used to spend plenty of my free time making up stories, I have lately struggled to come up with something I could claim as truly original content. Rather, I have opted to read biographies and non-fiction reflections while I write about my own life and spiritual journey.

I finally was able to come up with something, inspired by the biblical passages my community group has recently walked through. While going through a book called “Manna and Mercy” we have talked about the ideas of community, creation, and rest in the Bible. One thing that came to the surface was that though the year of Jubilee was planned in the Old Testament, it never seemed to actually happen. My idea is to write a fictional tale of a time when the year of Jubilee actually happened. I am not sure yet what it will look like, but I was able to get some helpful suggestions in class.

Return To Thailand

With the recent affirmation that I will be going back to Thailand for an ENTIRE SEMESTER, I have decided to take a look back through the journal I kept during my time there in August of 2015. Below I have included a summary of my time there as a way to remind myself of why I am going back:

As the last month of summer approached, I set off on an adventure to Thailand with a team of 17 companions and a great God that led us all there. Our church has supported Ban San Faan, a children’s home in Thailand for years and finally getting to meet these kids I had always grown up hearing about really motivated me. As we entered into a new culture, each with our own ideas of what might happen and the shared hope that God would do something great through this trip,  little did I realized just how much I would be blessed by a God who desires to grow my spirit each day and the believers in Thailand that have committed to follow Him while ninety-eight percent of the nation follows a different path with their religion.

The first day of the trip, our goal was simple: unplug from the lives we are used to and learn about the culture that would temporarily surround us. The first couple of days after we landed, we tried to dive into the culture as much as we could, including learning a little about Buddhism and wandering through a large street market, but nothing compared to the times we really connected with those kids. However, no matter where or what we were doing, God’s spirit was continuously at work in every aspect of His mission for us in Thailand.

The first time I really clearly saw Him at work was our one night trip up north when we took six of the older Ban San Faan girls with us. The first place we stopped was at another children’s home called Mercy House where many kids live and are able to get an education. Though they may not have had an abundance of material wealth, God provides for them and the joy and sharing personalities that they have are worth far more than anything the world has to offer. Though we could not communicate that well linguistically, just being with them and watching the Ban San Faan girls lead them in song was a sweet moment that taught me more about just how big the god that we serve is. He knows no boundaries! This was just the beginning of God’s many blessings and lessons He had waiting for us.

The next morning was a time that was very moving for myself and I believe for other members of the team as well. We went to a church called Khaodee, another children’s home with over 100 kids of many ages living and learning. I had the privilege to be a part of the band that led worship that morning, but the best part was that their voices flooded that upstairs room so loud that they seemed to overpower our own microphones and instruments! There would be many more memories, but one thing in particular that their leader said that will always stick with me is “We have nothing to offer you but prayers, here we live by prayer!” God has started to show me that just like this church, it is always better to depend on Him instead of myself for everything I need. After that, the kids there all prayed for us out loud all at once, I felt undeserving of that blessing from them, but I knew it was a gift from God, His spirit is alive and at work!

That weekend was a perfect preparation for spending even more time with the kids in Chiang Mai and at Ban San Faan, seeing God use the six older Ban San Faan girls and learning how our team fit with them and into the culture. The Monday after we arrived, our team got to start helping out with teaching English at the elementary school down the road. Even though their energy had somewhat of an exhausting effect at the end of the day, it was a blast seeing their smiling faces excited to see us and to learn. While I started to get tired after those school days, I think God was showing me that I need to remember to rest and relax in Him. He should be the source of my energy, not my own strength. After all, the goal of a mission trip should not just be to do a bunch of good activities. It is about being intentional with connecting with those that God puts in your path, and to truly grow and learn in Him more.

When I thought about being intentional, one verse in particular popped out to me; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who dies for them and was raised again.”

We must be intentional in our lives to live for God’s agenda and spend time with Him so that He can fill us up to do as He desires for us!

One time I felt that God really wanted an intentional heart was one simple night at the Chiang Mai night market. A group of us decided to pray over the market, the city and that we would be able to see the opportunities that God would choose to place in front of us that night. Later on that night, I ran into a begging woman on the street. It was only by God’s grace and guidance that I was led to just go out and speak with her. I gave her a small amount of money to this woman named Dalia who was missing an arm and then later on, we  prayed for her that she would be able to know that she is loved and beautiful in the eyes of God. Though that moment was short and I don’t know much else about this woman, I feel that it reached something deep within me because God was continuing to show me his greatness with the way He led me to this woman.

After that night, we were blessed to spend more time fellow-shipping with the Ban San Faan kids and taking them out for the day where we were blessed to afford to buy them each their own Thai Bible. That day and the joy those boys and girls filled my heart with each time I saw them and we got to know each other more will always be one of my favorite memories. And though it was very hard to leave, I know that I will get to see them being used by God and growing and that is worth everything!

Bad Grammar?

For years, among English teachers and writers alike, there has been a war over whether or not teaching grammar in the classroom is helpful and worthwhile. In his article “Grammar, Grammars, and Teaching Grammar”, Patrick Hartwell outlines some of his positions on the subject. He outlines three different types or levels of grammar and explains how grouping their definitions together is problematic. The three grammars are as follows:

  1. Grammar: This is what most people master by age 5 or 6. Basic uses that are not discussed.
  2. Grammar Two: This is when basic grammar begins to be discussed and looked at, where students begin to describe their grammar.
  3. Grammar Three: This is grammar etiquette, which tongue is appropriate to speak and write in.

Hartwell tells his readers that grouping the three types of grammar is problematic because the teaching of one type of grammar could be more helpful and necessary than the teaching of another type of grammar.

Personally, I have never really been a fan of in depth grammar lessons (as you probably get a sense of in my writing). However, as I enter deeper into my studies as a communication arts student, I am beginning to see the importance of grammar just a little more. If teaching grammar is used to “…help students understand the system they unconsciously know, showing them the necessary categories and labels (Hartwell),” then what grammar really is is a tool for meaning making. The ones who are making the meanings are the ones who have power. Therefore, maybe grammar is more than what we give it credit for, it is a tool for empowerment.

Inefficiency

The internet has supplied each of us with a huge amount of knowledge right at our fingertips. In a Google search, one can access anything from the writings of C.S. Lewis, to a plethora of delicious recipes. With so much information available at the click of a button, one must be wise and intentional in taking advantage of this technology. In no way should we discount the advantages that technology has enabled our society with. Rather, we must simply be aware of the time we spend using it and the many ways it can affect our lives.

As many of us personally know, one can be easily become lost when browsing through the unending pages and social media sites that the internet has to offer. While there is nothing particularly wrong with this, it is important not to let it become a black hole that our time disappears into, never to be seen again. Americans now spend an average of eleven or more hours a day consuming electronic media (Richter). Though this media can often be consumed while simultaneously accomplishing something else, this seems like an incredibly large amount of time to be plugged in. One can’t help but ponder how life would be different if we spent even half of this time doing something else. While people accomplish work-place tasks, research, keep in contact with loved ones and an array of other things through electronics, much of our time online could be deemed unnecessary.

God’s word reinforces our need to be aware of our time consumption: “Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is” (NIV, Ephesians 5:15-17). Along with every other part of our lives, we must put our use of technology under the authority of scripture. It is vital that we choose to keep technology balanced in our lives. This balance is our means for keeping authenticity in every area of our lives.

If we are not careful, technology can not only use up our time, it can also affect many other aspects of our lives. Including the ways that we relate to others, especially in friendships. According to Brown, “The modern world is becoming more and more efficient with work and less and less meaningful with human interactions. No friendship is based on efficiency” (Brown). With the dawn of modern technology, the demand for efficiency in everything from fast food to our Wi-Fi connection has been highlighted. Maybe it has a come to a point where our minds automatically separate those things that are deemed efficient and those that aren’t, such as friendship. Perhaps this is a dilemma in our way of thinking. Friendship is a necessary part of life, but it can bring about inefficient, unexpected things into our paths. Not to worry though! These deep, intentional friendships are exactly what God wants for us.

‘As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ (NIV, Luke 10:38-42)

Mary pleased Jesus not because of anything she accomplished, not by checking of a bunch of domestic duties, but by simply spending time getting to know Him. Because she intentionally put everything aside and invested in her relationship with Jesus, she was blessed. Maybe if we choose to put aside our electronic media and need for efficiency, and instead look up from our screens and really listen to what our friends are saying, we will be blessed as well.

This creates a funny contradiction in the realm of technology. If the main point of technology is to make life more efficient, why is it one of the largest time consumers in our day and age? Friendship may not be deemed efficient, but maybe if we didn’t let this efficient technology use up so much our time, we would actually be able to invest in those life-giving relationships. It is important to take control over our use of technology. We must use it and its efficient nature to improve our lives and give us more time to set aside for intentional relationships. We must not become distracted, letting technology usher more harm than good into our lives. This is exactly what healthy intentionality looks like, in both our use of technology and relationships with others.

Gendered Writing

Neither in the Flynn nor in the Tobin articles did I wholeheartedly resonate with the type of gendered writing these authors were writing about. While the writing narratives of both men and women may be different, I think that the way men and women compose is far more complex than it has been made out to be. Personally, I have written pieces that fit into both writing style tendencies. I have written more community focused pieces that seek a resolution, but I have also written the sports story where I am pictured as the “hero” who overcame injury.

So while I didn’t particularly connect with one side or the other, there was one section in Tobin’s article that really stood out to me. Maybe because it was though provoking, or maybe just because it gave me a good laugh when I read it. Either way, it was the one paragraph that stuck with me the most. On page 161 in the middle paragraph, Tobin talks about their annual “Papers from Hell” conference where instructors sit around and talk about the papers they find it hardest to read.

In my head, I allowed myself to imagine all of my teachers, past and present, getting together to discuss their least favorite papers to read. How many of them would be mine? Though I have always received high grades on papers, I feel like I have probably written a paper in each of the listed categories:  the author-vacated re- search paper, the politically incorrect persuasive essay, and the plot summary response to a literary, and maybe even my own version of the typical male narrative. I allow my mind to wander here because if a paper I have written would appear at this “Papers from Hell” conference, there is a skill I have not yet learned that could be of tremendous value to me.

Mother Dearest

You know that awful playground saying, “You have a face only a mother could love?” I have often wondered if the same could be said of my writing. When I take the time to think about it, my mom has been one of the biggest influences on who I am, especially in the early years of my life. Therefore, whether she intended to or not, she has shaped my writing.

I can remember one Christmas when I was probably 7 years old or so, my mom had an interesting idea for a Christmas present to all of the family and friends.  She wanted to give them book of my highly-desired elementary level poetry where I wrote on excitable topics such as being super hungry on a family road trip, wanting to jump in puddles, and wishing the world was made out of candy. I even wrote a little “about the author” page that went something like this:

“My name is Reagan. I am seven years old and in the 2nd grade. I live with my mom, dad, and little sister. Selam. I like to read, do cheer-leading, go outside, and play with friends.”

I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a look at my poetry after reading that rousing autobiography?

This 7 year old poetry book may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of my writing currently. However, my mothers wholehearted support and publication of my writing caused my to operate in the mindset that my writing is something worth being read. I hope to use this as a stepping stone and not a crutch to fall back on.