Lent 2017

The season of Lent is often looked at in about three ways by many Christians. This time before we celebrate or risen Lord on Easter is either forgotten, looked at as only a church tradition (followed by some only because of this, and ignored by others for the same reason), or seen as a time to once again focus our hearts on Christ, where they rightfully belong. Whatever your take usually is, there are probably many factors playing into that. 

Lent is most often not even thought about because our culture doesn’t pay attention to those traditions like we used to. If many people rarely even hear about it in church, it just won’t be as easy to remember. Other times, it isn’t given thought because it is seen as only an old church tradition, or it is only followed because it is a tradition. And there are biblical grounds for not simply focusing on traditions in Mark 7:8-9, where we are told not to let go of the commands of God to hold on to the traditions of men. However, we also sometimes forget that celebration of holidays such as Christmas are also filled to the brim with traditions of men.

Whatever traditions you partake in this season, it should simply push you towards the cross. For nothing else really matters in light of that! If we choose to sacrifice something, we should know that another round of New Year’s resolution type goals isn’t what the season is about. This may sound surprising, but I truly believe that Christ desires a simple surrendered life more than you missing out on eating chocolate or something like that.

A verse I recently found while doing some devotion I think emphasizes Christs burning desire for us this season, and really all year long. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 tells us, 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 died for them and was raised again.” This captures it! During Lent and Easter, we remember Christ’s sacrifice and that he is risen. If we are confident in this, God calls us to lay down our own agenda, and take up his! 

Bird By Bird Reflection

The thing I most appreciated after reading through Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” was her motive for writing when her work was successful. Throughout the novel, she brings the reader through experiences she had during the writing and publishing process of several books. Many of those books include one’s she specifically wrote for friends who were dying. While that is a sobering topic to think about, I bring this up because it goes so contrary to self-serving motives of writing.

These specific books were successful because her focus was not on being published and read by thousands. Rather, her focus was to impact one specific person and give them a lasting earthly legacy. Because she was writing for a very specific audience, instead of a broad one, her writing was able to dig much deeper. She also did not have to worry about who her stories were pleasing or offending to. They were simply stories of truth about a person whose life was fleeting.

While I am not ready or equipped to necessarily write about a dying friend at this point in my life, I would like to take into consideration how personal she was able to make her writing and incorporate that aspect into my own. Perhaps I can begin this in small ways, like starting with one single person when imagining my audience or choosing writing that fills a question or a need that myself or someone in my life has at the moment. Perhaps then, my writing can shift away from being self-serving and begin to be a gift to others.

When Christians use Social Media

As a member of a generation that has always had technology at our fingertips, it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the internet and all the experiences it has to offer. In recent years, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have captured the attention of a global audience. I remember what a big deal it felt like when I turned thirteen, and my parents finally allowed me the pleasure of creating my own Facebook profile. How else would I connect with and get to know my multitudes of friends, right?

Recently, many have argued that with the popularity of social media in our culture, the self-esteem of today’s young people has dropped, along with the rise of the comparison trap. These points are very valid and many of us have personally seen the negative effects of social media on people too caught up in the hype of how they are holding up against others. However, I would argue that the social media existing and what people post on it is not the problem. Rather, it is what exactly the individual is grounded in when they choose social media as their platform.

This is the very reason we see the same social media sites that are used to insult others and make comparisons, used as a platform for messages of good intention and social justice. How an individual uses social media and the level they let certain posts affect them depends on where they have laid their foundation. As Christians, we are told by Paul in Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This changes the mindset we take on when viewing the world we live in, including the social media. So despite the temptation, when I look at a post that would make me want to compare myself to someone, I know that I am called to a higher standard. Instead of feeling like I don’t measure up, or that I am better than someone else, I must choose to appreciate the gifts that that individual has been given by God and recognize their important role in God’s creation. Genesis 1:27 restates this to us with a simple statement. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

If this doesn’t call us to respect one another and what we all bring to the table, than I don’t know what does. If we believe that our faith is not circumstantial, but enduring, our viewpoint on this must stay the same with every platform.

A Culture of Love

Oh the irony. On a day dedicated to celebrating love, love is distorted, people are exploited, and our hearts are misguided.This Valentine’s Day, whether you have an official Valentine or not, I implore you to asses how you can better align your actions and mindset to show love in all aspects of life.

Valentine’s Day is stereotypicaly known for chocolates, cheesy giant teddy bears, and romantic dates. After all, that’s what love is all about right? Or maybe not? In reality, most of the chocolates are made by the over 2 million child slaves forced to harvest cocoa beans and February 14th is the most popular day for break ups.

While these things are not a direct result of Valentine’s Day itself, it can bring these distortions of love to the surface of conversations and provide us with an opportunity to think more critically about how we are celebrating this holiday as a culture. In response to those thoughts, here are some tips to make your Valentine’s Day more ethical and love-centered.

  1. Don’t make it about the gifts, make it about time spent with loved ones.
  2. Focus on how you are showing love to others, and you will likely realize how loved you are
  3. If you are going to buy gifts, make them local or ethical. There are many locally grown flowers, fair trade jewelry, and ethically harvested chocolates available. Your Valentine will also likely appreciate the uniqueness and thought.

My prayer is that you have a blessed Valentine’s Day. Go and walk in love tomorrow!

Reflections on the Writing Process

Jerry Seinfeld Interview: How to Write a Joke | The New York Times

In class, most of the authors when we have talked about the writing process have been authors of more ordinary texts, essays, and books. Wanting to explore something outside of that area of interest, I turned to Seinfeld; the classic source for a good laugh.

What I love about this video is that at the same time as he is raw and open, you can see his humorous spirit and sarcasm peeking through throughout the interview. He starts out by straight up submitting that is is a lot of time spent on nothing of importance so that he can wast the time of others on unimportant things. Even so, his writing process for crafting a joke is complex and unique.

For example, he always uses a yellow pad to write every joke and script. This made me think about all of the habits writers find themselves getting accustomed to. One of the pieces of his composing process I found the most interesting was that writing comedy is all about the connective tissue in between jokes. Just like writers must find the right transitions and flow, comedians must find the right connective tissue and timing!

My Writing Process

In the development of our text analyzing essay, we focused a lot on the pre-writing process. As someone who usually dives right into writing without much thought about structure and organization beforehand, this is something I have had to unlearn over my time in college. To challenge myself, I decided to give this whole pre-writing thing my all.

I started by first drawing out a web of my central question, answers to that question, and evidence of those answers. Next, I developed a thesis and the organizational structure of the essay. I went through this process about three times, getting more specific each time about what I was going to write. I slowly saw my essay coming together. By the time I sat down to actually write the first draft, it went by like a breeze.

I think this ore-writing thing is something I might give more of a chance.

Milk and Honey

The “land of milk and honey” was a promise first made to Abraham. His descendants would reach the promise land and grow to be as numerous as the stars. This was a promise they ultimately held on to through the wandering, the establishing of a people, the settling in Egypt, the forgetfulness in enslavement, the exodus from the land of their captors. Through the good times and bad, fruitful times and desert times, through it all, this promise from the father remained steadfast. And when they get to the promised land, it is good and God meets with them.

I have to admit, when I first think of milk and honey, I don’t think of property or the struggle the Israelites went through just to get there. The context for my milk and honey is closer to what I put into my tea as a sip away during my morning devotional time. Perhaps though, there are more connections here than I noticed at first glance.

As I was reading through Exodus 3, when Moses is once again reminded of a land of milk and honey, I took a sip of my tea and a reminder went off. Just as God promised the Israelites a fruitful land flowing with milk and honey, God promises me that same fruitfulness each day I come and abide in Him, just as they were able to abide in the promised land. Through struggles and triumphs, steadiness and wandering, fruitfulness and desert times, I can cling to that promise that God is with me and I can abide in Him. Each morning, as I sip my tea filled with milk and honey, I hope to be reminded of this even greater milk and honey that comes with abiding in Him.

A Smooth Start to the Day

Breakfast time can reveal more about a person than one might think. After all, it is referred to as the “most important meal of the day”. Do they eat breakfast, what do they eat, is it the same every day, what time do they eat it at, is it rushed or slow, do they multitask or just eat? Each of these answers is an insight into the hum drum ordinary life of that individual. But a person in their ordinary, natural environment is often the truest version of themselves. So why don’t we try a little exercise? I’ll describe my everyday breakfast routine, and you determine what that reveals about me. Sound fair?

Here goes it, a description of my Monday morning and breakfast routine:

6:30 AM – Wake up from alarm, trying to resist the urge to stay in bed. Stay in bed. After all, PE isn’t till 8 right?

6:45 AM – I’ll be motivated today! ONLY 15 minutes on my phone in bed? Get it girl! *High five to self as feet hit the floor.

6:50 AM – Get to the bathroom counter mirror and asses the damage of last night’s face into pillow sleeping position. I think I can get by without a straightener today. Sweet! That’ll save time!

7:00 AM – Get out of the bathroom and get some workout clothes on. Unfortunately their comfiness is beckoning me back to bed rather than to the gym.But I resist the urge to climb back under the fuchsia covers. You guys are so proud of me, right? Impressive, I know.

7:10 AM – Downstairs in the kitchen and ready to get my smoothie on. I left the blender out on the counter the night before for reasons of laziness I like to refer to as being prepared. So now all I have to do is mix it together and I’ll be sippin’ on something delicious shortly.

Blueberry Smoothie:

  • 1 cafeteria-stolen banana ripped into 1″ chunks (I swear that sweet flavor of rebellion really brings this smoothie to the next level)
  • 1 spoonful of extra-sugar avoiding fresh ground peanut butter
  • 1 cup blueberries, perfectly frozen just like my brain after studying all weekend
  • 1 cup almond milk

Blend up for 1 minute, pour into a glass, and enjoy! I must admit however, in the spirit of honesty, that my glass is more like an adult sippy cup with it’s lid and straw than a sophisticated smoothie drinking cup. In case you thought I was too sophisticated with my morning smoothie routine. Trying to relate to my readers here!

7:20 AM – Sit down with my smoothie and  get in some Jesus time. Doing my devotions in the morning is something new I am starting this semester and I am super pumped about it so far. We all could use a little bit of re-centering at the beginning of our day, am I right? I sure could!

7:50 AM – Get out that door and head to class! This is working much better than last semester’s routine of racing against the clock to class while drinking the smoothie. I mean, I’m all for multitasking, but this was a bit excessive.

So are the judgments in? Do you feel like you know me better? Well if not, we have to whole semester to share the character-revealing ordinary with one another.

Cross Cultural Friendship

When most people think of significant moments, they start to search for that world-changing, pivotal moment in their life. These moments can be good and and help shape who we are. However, if we spend all of our time looking for that one big moment, we can forget to open our eyes in the midst of everyday life and take opportunities as they come. My opinion firmly stands that sometimes the little moments in life, the seemingly small things in God’s kingdom can have a bigger impact than we realize. One of the moments in my life that comes to mind happened on an oversees mission trip that stretched my faith and altered my worldview, yet it was something that could have just happened right down the street from me.

The summer after my junior year of high school, I took a very long awaited mission trip to the Philippines. Our team had been spending our time with a newly developing church and the community that surrounded, connecting with the adults and children that lived nearby. We had also been blessed to have a few bibles to give to people while we were there. Near the end of the week, we only had a couple of Bibles left, and the leader of the trip asked me if I had anyone in mind to give one to. I hadn’t thought much about it before, but instantly Elisa popped into my mind. She was a young high school girl that I had had a few conversations with and I remember being impressed by her genuineness. I remember asking her about how she digs into God’s word. She told me that they only had a family Bible to share, but that she tries to read and study it most nights.

Handing her that Bible is a moment that will forever be engraved into my memory. She seemed so genuinely thankful just to have her own copy. A smile instantly spread across her face and she went off to share it with the other kids. We are still in contact to this day. In fact, my parents even help to fund her education. She tells me that I inspire her, yet from my point of view, it is always the other way around. I constantly see pictures of her involved in the church that we spent time at, showing other kids her pink Bible and the joy that she has in the Lord.

Elisa has taught me to be grateful for the little things in life, sometimes those are bigger than we realize (“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” –1 Timothy 4:4). She has taught me that there is no way to justify taking my education or access to faith building materials for granted (“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching…” –2 Timothy 3:16). Lastly, and probably more importantly, that true joy is never circumstantial. Rather, it comes from true and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and others (“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have…” –1 Peter 3:15).

As I begin to prepare to go back to the Philippines in a few months, I look back on all of the memories from the past three years and think about just how much my life has changed since those moments. I am thankful for how those moments have contributed to the change within me and given me a new perspective to approach life with. Mostly, I just look forward to seeing a friend face to face once more.

Writing With Success

Success can have a multitude of meanings when it comes to writing. Each writer has different goals they set out to accomplish with their individual piece and in their writing careers over all. Personally, I have come to define a successful writing piece by asking two questions. First, did the writer give their best effort? Second, does the piece accomplish the purpose set out for it by the writer?

As to whether or not the writer gave their best effort, that can mean many different things. Are we talking in terms of time put in, quality compared to other pieces by that writer, how many parts of the writing process they went through, willingness to be vulnerable? Each of these aspects can represent a good effort by the writer, but it is going to be different for each author in each context. I think the level of effort is known best to each writer themselves because it is revealed in the decisions they thought through and made in the formulation of the piece.

When thinking about whether or not the piece accomplishes the purpose set out for it, that is up to the writer as well. Was their purpose to be vulnerable, was their purpose to spark some sort of social change, to simply put their thoughts on paper, even if they were never read? How do the results line up in comparison to their selected purpose? If the piece accomplishes its purpose, but they still don’t feel satisfied with their writing, then perhaps their purpose needs to be adjusted so the writing can improve.

It’s Not Always a “Yes!”

After my long-awaited senior year of high school filled with applying for colleges and scholarships, sports seasons with unknown endings and graduation ceremonies, I somehow allowed myself to think that waiting to be accepted to so many things would be over. Well, at least for a little while right? Well not long after my first semester away at college, I was faced with the fact of how dreadfully wrong I was about that assumption. In fact, senior year was not the end, it was only the beginning. Most likely, an immeasurable amount of decisions about my future will be made in these coming years of figuring out adulthood (aka: the rest of my life). From student leadership positions to more scholarships, graduate schools, jobs, even relationships and friendships, the list goes on and on of things I am going to have to put myself out on the line for. It was so tempting (still is) and so hard to resist being overwhelmed with the status of my acceptance, and I imagine the same is true for many of you as well. But the truth is, our worth is determined by so much more than a “We are happy to inform you…” or a “Thank you for your application…”.

 

So here is the call I am committing to take up, and I challenge you to do the same. As I am given answers to the things I hope for, faced with open and closed doors, as I am accepted or turned away from whatever comes my way, I will not let my worth be determined by that bottom line. I am taking up this call because Christ died for me and I have chosen to follow Him. Therefore, my worth is not found in my own abilities. Rather, my worth, my whole identity is found in God. In Luke 10:16, Jesus tells His disciples “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me, but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me” (NIV). Because we are Jesus’ present day disciples, I would venture to say that we are included in this. This is proof enough for me that my identity is found in God, and I hope it leads you to the same conclusion.

Because we are Jesus’ disciples, we have also been given the same counselor that came at Pentecost many years ago. In Romans 8:14-15, it is written: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit that you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” This is the only bottom line we should be concerned about. Because we are followers of Jesus, we have the Spirit of truth, which tells us we are children of God. This means that we are ACCEPTED BY GOD, and if we are accepted by Him, we never have to worry about whether or not we measure up, ever again. Jesus closed that gap of imperfection when He died for us on the cross, and now we get to spend the rest of our lives loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves freely in light of that.

Go In peace my friends, know that the gap is closed, you are accepted as a beloved child of God, you have been given new life. Celebrate and rejoice in that!

Audience Analysis

“The Writer’s Audience is Always Fiction” describes the writer’s readership as much more distant and imagined than the audience of a speaker. When a speaker delivers a speech, they know for the most part the audience whom they are speaking to and the place and time the speech is being delivered. With writing however, there can be a much larger gap. A writer can intend a story or article to be read by certain people, but someone else outside of that context, even years down the road could pick it up and read it just the same. When a speech is delivered, the direct audience can act collectively, reacting to the speech and to one another’s reactions, all creating a certain atmosphere. When a writer piece of writing is read, it is typically in a much more individualized state. The writer intended a certain message to get across, but each reader takes and interprets that message in their own context, causing many a disagreement in book clubs around the globe.

From my own standpoint in the field of communication, I have never really thought of my audience as fictional, rather I have come from more of an “audience addressed” standpoint, as referred to in “Audience Addressed, Audience Invoked”. I tend to think of the particular audience I am addressing and their likes, dislikes, beliefs, and so on, mostly ignoring questions regarding the reality of my audience. After spending some time in thought over that very question about the audience, I wonder how my writing might change if I started to view the audience as more fictional. For now however, I think I am somewhere in the middle. I recognize that their is an audience whom I am writing to, I recognize that the audience I imagine represents real people who will be reading my work, and I recognize that my imagined audience may not always be exactly the same as my actual readership.