Saturday, November 2, 2013

Posing the Questions

A few weeks ago in class we were talking about food.  You'll probably find that this is a topic of interest for this blog going forward.  It's something that I have begun to be more interested in, and something that a lot of my focus in grad school will likely go around.

The basic idea of this particular class is that everything we do is worship, and we are to be constantly outpouring ourselves to others in a missionary way that is not separate from our worship.  We look at how that influences various elements of the Christian walk and of corporate worship.  The particular day I'm talking about, we looked at the Eucharist (Lord's Supper, Communion...).

We talked about various elements and things regarding it, but slowly by slowly we started discussing how food is something that our society revolves around.  Everyone has to eat, so we talked about how having a meal with someone is something you do when you want to know him or her.  We talked about how the church today needs to do more of that.

The theology of food has begun to be very interesting to me.  The thing that stuck out to me that day in class though, is the concept of gluttony.  Unfortunately we didn't really talk much about it the rest of the class though.

Gluttony... one of the seven deadly sins.  But in a culture that is so inwrapped with the availability and (hypothetical) fulfillment of food, it is one that we often ignore.  I would argue that the church is wrapped up in gluttony.  While free food isn't a bad thing, we expect it at church, come to church for it, and have it in every aspect of our Christian lives.  Fasting is a foreign concept to many 21st century Christians.

So what does gluttony mean for us as Christians?  Especially when one of our tools of evangelism is sitting around a table together?  Should evangelism involve food?

How do we as Christians see the goodness of God's creation in light of how we eat?  And how do we help feed others when we have this same mindset?

Some of the final questions that I'm left to ponder begin with me asking, what does the food that I eat say about my theology?  What does it say about the way that I view God and creation?  Am I honoring God with what I'm putting into my body?  If my body is a temple, how am I honoring it?  After all, you can tell a lot about how a person feels about themselves, their life situations, the way they view the world, and the way they view God, by what they put in their bodies.  The grocery store fascinates me for that reason.

Yes, this post has a lot of questions, but now you get to see a glimpse of what goes on within my mind.  I don't have many answers, and I don't think I ever will fully, but I hope that over the next several years God shows me what he wants me to see.  One of my professors, everyday in class, says that the important thing is not that we know the answers to all the questions, but that we know how to ask the right questions.  I think this is a start.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Test

I've been having a lot of health issues lately.  I won't get into that on here because it is neither the time 'nor the place for it.  Please ask me if you want to know.  But basically, I have had a lot of tests done and will most likely have surgery this coming Christmas break.

Several people have been telling me that maybe this difficult time, along with several other difficult health times, like when I lost my hearing or with all my vertigo issues, are meant to test my faith.  Lately I've been thinking about what that really means, and I struggle with it.

If this is testing my faith, it means that my faith is dependent on the good things in life.  Is it?  Is the foundation of my faith in God dependent on things going well for me?  So much so that if things go badly I begin to doubt even the very existence of this God that I sing praises of exultation to?  If I'm saying and singing that God is the healer, provider, and is sovereign, does the way that I live and the way that I deal with difficult situations reflect this?

I think that a major contributor to this issue comes when we say that because we are Christians (or because we're Christians in America for that matter), God will act on behalf of us and that only good things will happen.  You laugh, but I hear these words stated all the time, and I'm not quite sure if it's biblical (the prayer at a Baylor football game this week said this for example).  Sure all things are possible with God, prayer works, and God works for those who love him... but that doesn't mean that life will be easy.  We have this formula for life that we don't want to deviate from -- get an education, go to a good college, have a good social life, get married, have a good job, have kids, then grow old with your spouse, get sick, but still die happy.  And we think that we are entitled to it.  This is so much ingrained in us that when life shies away from this perfect formula, we assume that God, or the universe, has turned and deserted us.

We can say that we don't have these expectations for life, but that would be lying to ourselves.  We have this mentality in our society that if we're 30 and not married, unable to have children, get divorced, lose our job or a loved one, have a child with illness, or have sexual inclinations towards the same sex, that God is working against us or has abandoned us.  We assume that God must be distancing himself.  We put God into a box and are unable to contain it when situations are out of that box and God is unable to be contained or defined by our mortal constraints.

Maybe God is stronger and larger than we know.

If faith "is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see" (Hebrews 11:1), then why do the things mentioned before make us doubt our faith?  God doesn't promise us that life will go according to our plan.  If we are sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don't see, then testing of faith is irrelevant because we are already certain of it.  God exists despite the hard times.  Our certainty in him goes beyond the frailness of our humanity.

The way we look at difficulties says a lot about what we believe about God.  Are we making him to be small, where anything that stretches that view makes us doubt him?  or is God big?  Abounding?  Stronger and wiser than all?

Maybe instead of looking at these things as a test, we should look at them as God working and being active.  Maybe God isn't letting go to test our faith, but is instead simply reminding us that he is sovereign.  Throughout everything, he is the only constant.  He is unfathomable.

All this should remind me that when I get a diagnoses from a doctor that isn't what I want, or when a boy breaks my heart, or when I wonder what the heck is going on in the world, that God is still sovereign.  My faith is in him, his death, and resurrection on the cross.  My faith is not in my health or another person.  My faith is in the one who is larger than all that.  My faith is in Jesus, and I am certain of what I don't see.

FYI- Not the way I feel, just fits the feel of my blog post. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lest We Not Forget

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my 5th grade classroom as the teachers were frantically deciding how to tell us what happened, and parents were coming to pick their children up from school.  Really, I was just hoping my mom would come pick up my brother and me from school... maybe that's bad, I don't know....I was 10 and didn't even know what the World Trade Towers were.

What I remember after that is a craziness of patriotic feelings that engraved themselves within the hearts of working men and women, parents, senators, and children who didn't really know what they were being taught.  I didn't really understand the gravity of what happened, but what I did understand was the feeling of unity and of being a part of something bigger than myself.  That is the first time I recall feeling that way about something besides my family.

So patriotic feelings were really important to me.  And so were all the songs.  "God Bless America", "America the Beautiful", "God Bless the USA".  Music is one of the ways in which I feel closest to God. This was no exception.

But as I have grown older, and especially in the past couple of years, I have been struck by a few things.

Remembering 9-11 is great!  Remembering the lives that died in the saving of others or just that fell under the rubble, is important.  But I think that we do ourselves and our religion a disfavor when we say things like "God bless America" and then go off into a war and kill thousands of innocent men, women, and children because we had a couple of towers come down and our sense of security was taken for a week or so.  What about the sense of security of those people who live in war zones and haven't felt secure for years?  What about the sense of fright that people in other countries have?

We are in a war, yet we are hardly dealing with the repercussions of it.  It is not on our soil and we are not having to face the reality of death right before our eyes on a daily basis.  In fact, I forget that we are in war most days.  People are dying everyday in other countries, and sadly, I don't think we really care because they are around the world and different from us.  But are they really that different?  Sure they may speak a different language, learn differently, or have a different religion, but they still breath, they still love, and they still exist.

I have heard 9-11 referenced to as "the most Beverly Hills version of a war zone".  While it is horrible,  it places some sense of reality on the situation.  Here in America we focus so much on making 9-11 a memorial for the thousands of people that passed away, and while I'm not saying that those lives aren't important and don't deserve to be honored, because they do, we need to remember those in other countries who are passing away daily.  Just because something happened on American soil doesn't make it anymore tragic than a car bombing or the massacre of innocent people elsewhere.  I don't think God looks at things that happen to America as any more tragic.

Jesus says to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Somehow I don't think he just means those in our own countries.  I think he means those with whom we differ.  Those with whom we clash.  Jesus calls us to love.  I have trouble gathering in my head that loving others is exclusive to where they live or what religion they adhere to.  And I have trouble accepting that Jesus only blesses the US.  I'm fairly sure that if he calls us to make disciples of all nations, he must love all nations.

But I digress.

So here's to 9-11.  Here's to the thousands of men and women who died from the events, or sacrificed their lives.  Here's to the thousands of families and loved ones these events have effected this side of the ocean, and the other.  Here's to the innocent men, women, and children who have had their lives taken away.

God bless us all.  Lest we not forget.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"I Want it Like it was Back Then, I Want to be in Eden"

Something I do occasionally is watch nerdy videos on Youtube.

I have watched a bunch of Dr.Phil shows, BBC documentaries on eating disorders and the Wesboro Baptist Church, as well as a bunch on healthy living and weight loss.  Recently I got really into TED Talks.  The other day I was watching one and they were talking about the history of food in America, which is really interesting.  So often, like with all things, we take for granted what we have and don't always think about the way that things used to be.

But in this video it talked about how food used to be just local farms or what you grew in your own garden.  I mean, I feel like this is somewhat common sense, but so often we miss what this really means.  This means that you couldn't just go to the grocery store and get broccoli whenever you wanted.  It would have to be from your garden, or a town store, and it would have to be when broccoli was in season.  And because of the limited transportation, food really was local.  That is why it was so special for people to receive an orange from Florida for Christmas in New York... because you never got oranges and it was super rare, tasty, and special.  With the development of air travel and our highway system, the transportation of food is no longer an issue.  And with things like pesticides and genetically modified seeds and ways of farming, it is easier to grow fruits and vegetables when they aren't naturally in season.  That is why the idea of getting an apple or an orange in your Christmas stocking isn't so alluring these days.

Yesterday, I was driving in my car and eating an apple.  I was thinking about how much I like apples and how I take them for granted.  They're sweet and delicious, but they're often the last thing that I want.

With that apple in my hand, I started thinking about the book of Genesis in the Bible.  More specifically, the creation story and the events that took place thereafter.  The fruit we normally think about Eve tempting Adam with is an apple.  And then I got this new image of this story in my head.

Adam and Eve were the first people on Earth, and God gave them this amazing Garden, Eden.  I imagine this garden being filled with trees of apples and peaches, bushes full of berries, and rows upon rows of weedless corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelons.  The garden of Eden... not just the orchard like we normally picture it being in children's storybooks.

So here are these two people, Adam and Eve.  They're the first people on Earth.

Now really think about this for a second.  That means a lot of firsts... and awkward ones too.  Like the first time to need to go to the bathroom?  Or to walk?  Ever think of what it might have been like the first time they discovered milk came out of goats and cows?  And that they could drink it?  Or that they could kill, cook, and eat animals?  What about their first moments on earth when they started to feel hunger?

Imagine how overwhelmed Adam and Eve were in that garden.  Their stomachs were growling, but they didn't know what it was like to eat.  Their lips had never tasted what milk or berries or any fruit, regardless if it was forbidden or not, tasted like.

I can imagine being completely overwhelmed.  So much to the point where I imagine them standing at the edge of this garden, not knowing where to begin.  Not knowing which foods taste like what, or how to make them taste good, or anything.  Not knowing the difference between a tomato and a banana.  All they would know is that this god who had created them told them not to eat from one particular tree in the middle of the garden, but they could eat from any other tree.

But that tree, the one in the middle of the garden, looks so good!  And they don't know where to start!  Everything looks so good, but so scary at the same time.  And they were hungry.  Everything is new.  There is no knowledge of what could taste like what.

So here comes this serpent, just one of the many animals in the garden (On a side note.... could animals talk at this time?  Was it super weird for this serpent to be talking or was that normal?).  And the serpent says to go ahead and eat from the tree that your creator told you not to.  They had been told not to, but they had no knowledge of good nor evil.  But here they are given direction.  Someone, or something, is telling them what to eat, not just what not to.

So they drive in and eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, woman first and then man.  They are hungry and scared and clueless.

Maybe my indulgence in that apple didn't give me an answer to questions of the fall, or whether or not we should blame that on women or not (no... but that's the feminist in me), but it did give me somewhat of a new perspective.  Hunger is something that all people are prone to, rich or poor, gay or straight, white or black or brown.  Everyone knows what it is like to be hungry: whether that is just before a meal, or for a prolonged period of time....  Hunger knows no boundaries.

While I have no direct conclusions, I can learn to have empathy and to think of the story of a fall in a new way.  A way that exudes grace and love and my own humanity.  A way that makes me think not just of the damnation of man because of the lack of trust in God by two, but a way that teaches me that my own trust in God must go further than hunger, pain, and confusion.

I'm glad driving and eating an apple could show me that.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Throwing a why back from the future

“I didn't understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn't dumb. It wasn't lack of interest. My social condition didn't allow me to have an education. Experience showed me once again the relationship between social class and knowledge."
-Paulo Freire

Lately I've been a little apprehensive about my future, as I think I talked about in my last post.  I've been thinking of why I didn't do one of these programs where I would be traveling and doing mission work... and then I realized it when I was talking to one of my best friends.

We were talking about how society tends to look down on people that are different than us.  And one of those ways is that we tend to say that all people are granted equal opportunity.  But really, that's not true.

Growing up, I went to top notch schools in a great school district.  I had teachers who cared about me (I remember my kindergarden teacher coming to my house to deliver my Valentines after I missed our Valentine's day party 'cause I was at home sick.  She also babysat once for my brother and I when I parents were out of town).  I also had parents who spent hours explaining things to me, reading with me and to me, working on science fair projects and silly things in physics when we had to build a bridge.  And if they weren't able to help me, they were willing to hire a tutor for me.  It was assumed that I was going to attend college... not that I ever tried to fight that.

My parents made sure that I was eating well and was creating healthy habits.  They made sure that I learned that exercise is good and that that was present in their lives as well.  They taught me that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated as such.

This was the life that I was presented.

But not everyone has that.  There are many kids whose parents don't care about their education.  There are parents who don't want their children to go to college.  Or even if they do, the kids don't have a way of getting to school or paying for it, even with scholarships.  There are parents who don't necessarily care what their kids put in their mouths or they can't afford to care.

There are kids who don't know that education is out there and available.  There are kids that this is not an option for.

So my friend and I were sitting in his car and talking about this and it hit me.  These doubts that I've been having lately just dissipated.

Why am I going to grad school?  Why am I doing four more years of school in divinity and social work?


Because I can.  I have this opportunity set right there before me, and I'm going to take it.  I'm going to take it for the people who can't or don't know how.  I'm going to take it for the kids who go to bed hungry or without the nutrients they need to have a good mind to learn well.

So yes, this is why I'm going to school for longer....
Because I can and others can't, and it is my duty as a servant of Christ to take the opportunities I've been given and use them for his glory.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sometimes I Can't Sleep

I feel like I'm in this awkward mess of stuff.

Last night I couldn't sleep.  I was caught up in the amazement of God that he creates when you realize certain things.  I was in a reminiscent mood.  I try to be a writer... not only do I keep blogs but journals.  I got out some old journals and was reading old blog posts as well and I was thinking about how much has happened over the past year.  How if this breakup hadn't happened then I wouldn't have worked at camp last summer.  And if I hadn't have worked at camp, then I may not have done this and this which led to me going into social work.  And how certain experiences led me to passions that I have now and just... wow.

And I was also thinking about location.

Next fall, after I graduate from undergrad at Baylor, I'm staying in Waco and doing a dual masters degree in divinity and social work through our seminary and the school of social work.  I'm really excited.  God has put a passion in my heart over the past year to go into social work and such.  I'm just still trying to figure out logistics of money, where I'm living, and where I'm working.  It's stressful.

When I was reminiscing last night, I started to think about how last year around this time I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to get out of Texas.  How I wanted to travel.  I started thinking about programs that I wanted to do last year with missions and volunteering in different countries.  I started thinking about how other people I know are going on huge mission trips around the world.  How my biggest regret in college is not studying abroad even though that is something I really wanted to do.  And the reason I didn't was Sing.

And then I'm thinking about how I'm staying.  And it's making my head fuzzy with emotion because on one hand I'm confident in it because I definitely think it's where God is calling me to be, but on the other hand, there is still a part of me that is aching to travel.  There is still that part of me that wants to live on the mid-atlantic or northeast or northwestern coast of the United States or in Europe... and there is that part of me that wants to travel.  That part that wants to meet random people and go to Israel and Paris and Scotland.

But I have to remember that this is where God has called me for now.  And while it seems boring and mondain at the moment, I can only imagine the things God has in store for me through this place called Waco, TX.

I just need to find a place to live and a job so I don't have to live in a box under I35.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"I Challenge You to a Resurrection!"

This blog is a couple of months late.... oh well...

A lot of majors have senior capstone classes.  My major, religion, happens to be one of those.  This year we're studying the Branch Davidians, Mt.Carmel, and all the related events (

When I came to Baylor University in Waco, TX, a lot of people would make little sly remarks about Waco.  They would say stuff like, "Isn't that where that cult thing happened?"  To which I would smile and nod.  I didn't really know what they were talking about.

Here's the thing.  The event occurred in Spring of 1993.  I was two when this happened, and I am among the oldest undergrad students at Baylor.  Most current Baylor students were either toddlers, infants, or not even born.  This is not accounting for the fact that the majority of Baylor students are somewhat disconnected from the Waco community.  Most students don't really know what happened at Mt. Carmel.

From February 28- April 19, 1993, there was a standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel near Waco, TX.  The police were originally there for reports of artillery and child abuse.  There is no clear indication of who fired first, but somehow shots ended up being fired.  There was then a 51 day standoff between the two groups, as they worked to create the most peaceful ending possible.  Thankfully several people, including several children came out before the end.

On April 19, 1993, there were several gun shots, tanks went in filled with gas, and then a fire started.  This fire killed 76 Branch Davidians, including men, women, children, and their leader, Vernon Howell (who later changed his name to David Koresh).  It is unclear who started the fire.

The Branch Davidians are a sect off of the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, who are a sect off of the Seventh Day Adventists.  Something that they highlight is the book of Revelation, and the end times.  To the Branch, Revelation is a compilation and conclusion to all of the books of the Bible, primarily those of the Old Testament prophets. 

A couple of months ago, my class visited Mt. Carmel.  As we drove up to the site, we were overwhelmed by the memorials set up, and the no trespassing signs (clearly aimed at the government).

The chapel.
We met with the rest of our group and walked into the chapel.  The original chapel was destroyed in the fire.  This place served as a museum and for worship on sunday mornings.  The new building was actually created over the place where the front doors originally were.  These doors were those that the government shot at and put army tanks into.

As we walked through the doors, I was struck by the plain white walls and carpeting.  At the front of the chapel was a little stage with drums, just as you might find in any Southern church.  However, on the sides of it were the 10 commandments hung on two huge tablets.  For an instance I had flashbacks to last semester.

Last November, Westboro Baptist Church came to protest at a Baylor football game.  In preparation for the event, I decided to educate myself by watching many youtube videos on the group.  It was apparent that they had a strong emphasis on teachings of the Old Testament, just as the Davidians do.  I seem to remember some of these churches having the 10 commandments hanging up.  As I walked into the Davidian chapel, I felt like I was walking into one of these videos.

Amongst the whiteness of the walls to our sides were the faces of the previous Davidian prophets.  Victor Houteff, Ben Roden, Lois Roden, and David Koresh were just a few of these.  Sitting in that room and having their faces there was almost surreal.

Dog grave.  Some of the pets of the compound were among the first to be shot.
When we got there we sat down in the chapel.  Charles Pace, who is a Davidian himself (although he did not follow Koresh and wasn't in the Branch) spoke to us.  He spoke rather quickly, but with much passion.  It was easy to tell that this man surely believed what he was saying, even if those of us listening intently to him did not.

Pace started to speak of the theology and the events that actually occurred throughout that time.  Some of what he said we didn't agree with at all.  Examples of this being that Texas will succeed from the United States and become a satellite country of Israel.  This would be where God would send a prophet to judge the world.  In Pace's eyes, the American government, our governmental leaders, and Catholics and Muslims are the problems in the world.  When he spoke of theology, he used a lot of old testament to back him up, specifically Ezekiel.

We were all struck by some of the things he said to us, but we all had an ara of respect as well.  Here is this man that believes so full-heartedly in what he teaches, that he is willing to be out on this land everyday that almost a hundred people, many of whom he knew, died.  He was so determined and passionate about his message.  With seeing that in his eyes and that tone of his voice, it was hard not to see how someone may decide to follow this group of people.

The concrete slab is what remains of the old gym.
After spending 45-minutes to an hour or so indoors listening to Charles Pace, it was finally our time to walk around the site.

The first thing that stood out to us was the size of the compound.  From all of the pictures we had seen of this giant building set to flames, or with FBI around it, we expected to be amazed by the amount of land that this place would have taken up.  We were surprised when we realized that it was not nearly as large as we would have thought.  With the towers gone, it looked surprisingly small.

This is likely the site where most of the women and children passed away in the fire on April 19, 1993.
At some point while we were walking along we remembered that this was the site of 80+ deaths.  Then we remembered where Pace had said that the women and children would have been when the fire happened.  Let's just say that realizing that you are standing on the ground where that many people died in one of the countries largest tragedies is humbling to say the least.

Trying to get through the tunnel into the storm shelter.

This was a storm shelter.  The people tried to get there before the fire, but their only way of entry was blown to shreds.
Burnt items... flashlight and nails we thought

melted glass

Words that we found inscribed into the concrete of the steps of the pool.  Says "DK 92 Boom"... kinda eery.  (DK- David Koresh)

The incident is what inspired the Oklahoma City bombing.   This is a memorial to the people who passed away in it.

In class we have been evaluating different secondary sources, watching documentaries, videos, and engaging on conversation.  For the second half of the semester we have been working with primary documents, choosing a topic of our choice, and writing papers and having presentations.

For my topic, I chose to write on how Baylor reacted to all this... if you want to know more about my research, let me know! :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lent 20+13

I gave up meat for Lent.

Over the past year, I have begun to be far more interested in food and health.  I guess this began at camp last year.  Basically most every meal we had was fried, and I just felt absolutely disgusting by the end of my 7 weeks there.

When I got back to my apartment in Waco, one of the things that I became most excited about was going to the grocery store and buying some healthy food-- veggies, yogurt, real eggs, almond milk, whole grains, hummus, etc.  I also started watching these videos on youtube that talked about health.

Some of these videos talked about basic things that most people know, like saturated fats are bad, and that we need to eat our fruits and veggies.  Some others talked more about high fructose corn syrup, GMO, MSG, and other harmful things that food manufacturers put in our food to get us addicted.  These videos also talked about the real dangers of simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, fried foods, and sugary drinks.  All of this blew my mind.

Over the past couple of semesters I have tried to eat healthier.  I still mess up and treat myself, but my diet now will consist of whole grain tortillas and hummus rather than kraft mac and cheese.

I have also begun to recognize the value in locally grown and natural foods.  Reasons for this being that I like to put my money into the local economy, the food is fresher, and it tastes better.

Something I've become aware of lately is how not only are there pesticides that are put on our produce in the supermarket, but also the meat that we buy and eat is filled with gross stuff as well.  For example, meat should go bad after around 4 days, but meat producers will pump most of the meat in grocery stores full of carbon monoxide to keep it looking fresh.

So for lent I decided to give up meat.

Before I gave it up I wasn't really eating too much meat anyway, but I also wasn't restricting myself in anyway.  There's a difference when I'm purposefully not eating it than when I just don't want to eat it.

So I decided to allow myself to eat meat on sundays (sundays aren't counted into the 40 days of Lent).  Most times I would only have a little chicken, but last week I ventured out.  The college group I'm involved with at church had a little cookout, and I decided to indulge in a hamburger and a couple small pieces of sausage.

Bad choice.  For the rest of the day I was feeling gross and feeling kinda sick.  It's funny how our bodies will adjust to what we do or do not put in it.

As Americans we eat a lot of meat.  I have especially realized this especially over the past month or so.  Walk in to most restaurants, and it is a challenge to find something that doesn't involve some sort of chicken, beef, or bacon.  If you think about it, it almost seems kind of silly.  Here God gave us all these vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts to fill our bodies with the nutrients, protein, fiber, and calcium we need to live, but here we are eating a diet that generally doesn't include these natural gifts given by God.  It's awesome how God gives us the food to eat and the nutrients we need naturally.

A lot of people would ask me where I was getting my protein.  For some reason we have this misconception that we can only get the protein we need from poultry and meats.  Truth is that our culture eats too much protein, and meat is just one way to getting it.  It can also be found in nuts, eggs, legumes, seafood, seeds, and soy.

I have nothing against eating meat.  I think it is ok for us to kill animals and eat the meat from them.  However, my issue is our way of doing so.  Feeding our animals antibiotics and steroids and then killing them.... putting hazardous chemicals in the food... not exactly The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, but it's up there.

So yah... not gonna go completely vegetarian now, but I'll be eating less meat for sure.  Natural and grass fed meat when I can help it.


During Lent, I unintentionally learned a lot about grace.  I got a new view of the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.

I'm not going to go into specifics, but let's just say that a group including myself and some friends, got together to study one day.  We started to form a list of study questions and sent them out to the class.  Because of the circumstances of the exam, this could have been viewed as cheating, even though it was not our intention whatsoever.  Basically our professors found out, and it was a big thing... thankfully they realized that we were not trying to cheat, and we didn't get in trouble.


I'm applying for a graduate school program at Baylor.  Because of some circumstances, my application was not in until the last minute.  I knew that all of my stuff was in, but I was worried about my reference letters.  The next day, the school e-mailed out that they were extending their admissions deadline.


Grace is an undeserved gift.  They didn't have to not punish us.  They didn't have to extend the deadline.

Jesus didn't have to put my sins on his shoulders and carry them for me.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially in the past week:  what was Jesus feeling during those final hours of his life?

How was he feeling when his closest friends wouldn't stay awake with him during his final hours in the Garden?  Or when one of them betrayed him with a kiss?  One of the most symbolic signs of intimacy... and he was led to persecution by it.

I've been trying to put myself in his shoes.  Trying to think of circumstances in which my friends didn't come through or when I felt betrayed by someone I loved.  It hurts, and it hurts deep.

Some of the very people who Jesus knew and loved were yelling to Pilot to crucify him.

and that is where I see the grace.

The Bible tells us that three days after he was crucified, Jesus came up from the tomb.  He appeared to Mary and Martha, and then the disciples.

If you recall, in Mark14, all of the disciples completely deserted Jesus (and then there is an awkward story about a guy running naked).  Not only were Jesus' disciples unable to stay awake with him in the garden, but they completely deserted him in his time of need.

When we look at the resurrection we don't see a guy who is upset at his closest friends for deserting him.  We don't see a guy who is holding resentment for the things that have been done to him.  No, here Jesus embraces his disciples.  He forgives them and loves him.  He tells them to go out and spread his name.  He gives them a mission and a purpose... these very people who betrayed him.


I like to think that these examples of grace shown to me can be adequate examples of the grace Jesus gives us... but I don't think it can.  While I know that I feel thankful and undeserving of the gifts bestowed upon me, I know that what Jesus did is far more than any of that.  He made it so that I could show grace to others in response to how he's shown it to me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


It’s so easy to say we know what it means to love, especially in a Christ-like manner, when we are sitting in our primarily white, suburban churches and donating money to charities and missionaries without actually doing any of the work ourselves.  
I hope that Christ breaks me out of that box.
That I will realize that I should predominantly follow the teachings of Jesus.  Teachings that talk about caring for the oppressed and the widows and the orphans.  Teachings that talk about carrying my cross, and suffering for the sake of the Gospel.  Like actually physically suffering… not just sitting at my computer and being upset at what people are posting on facebook about marriage equality.
I hope that I will realize that I need to follow this Jesus, and that no matter how great the teachings of Paul are in his letters, that Jesus is to come first.  While Paul is important and significant (after all, he is published in the New Testament Canon), he is just as human as you or me.  
Paul talks about his sin all the way throughout the New Testament.  Jesus is sinless.  He is perfect.  
I hope I will realize that when I read the story of the Great Samaritan, that I am the pharisee.  I am no greater, no better than he.  I don’t see hurt around me, and I continue on my selfish road to my own selfish gain.  Just because I claim to be a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that I affiliate with the hero in the story. 
So please tell me whose teachings are more important?
So even if homosexuality is a sin, I think that the American church places far too much importance on it.  
It is mentioned 5 times total in the whole Bible, 6 if you include Sodom and Gomorra, but that is a stretch considering that scholars most often say that this verse is primarily concerned with hospitality.  The two verses in Leviticus, while being significant, can’t be put into a real Christian argument.  There are so many other laws in Leviticus that we don’t follow, that saying we uphold these is hypocritical and creates a we-are-better-than-you mentality.  Besides, as Christians we believe that Christ came to fulfill the Old Testament laws and to create a new covenant.  Therefore these verses can’t stand up in religious argument very well.
We then must look at the passages in the New Testament.  These verses are found in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy… all books that are attributed to Paul (although scholars are unsure as to whether Paul actually wrote all of those based on writing styles, etc).  So here we can see that the phsycial act of homosexuality is wrong according to the New Testament.  Therefore, it can be taken as a sin. and wrong.  However, nothing says that the emotional side or the attraction is wrong.  This just gets all messed up because so much of a person's identity is bound in their physical acts.  So much of our relationships, our pains, and our emotions are caught up in our physical and sexual acts and pasts.... no matter what sexual orientation we affiliate ourselves with.

But homosexuality is never once mentioned in the Gospels.  I am fairly positive that it is not a central theme to the life and teachings of Jesus.  Instead Jesus talks about love, service, and salvation.  If Jesus wanted to talk about homosexuality, he would have.  His words in the Gospels, a few of them especially, are so selective, that I have confidence in my belief that if homosexuality was something real important to Christianity, then Jesus would have mentioned it at least once.
I think that the American church places far too much emphasis on homosexuality.  I think that if Jesus didn’t talk about it, then maybe we shouldn’t focus as much on it either.  We should focus on finding the best way to care in love for people.  There are other issues we should focus more on in the political spectrum.  Issues such as providing health care for people who can’t afford it.  Issues such as providing governmental assistance to the many people who are below the poverty line.  Providing food to the many, many adults and children who are starving on the very streets of our cities while we walk into an overstuffed kitchen and complain about not having anything to eat.  Things that we can tangibly do for the "least of these".
While I think that the American church places too much emphasis on the legality of homosexuality, I do think the issue of homosexuality is important.  Especially in regards to the culture and times that we are living in now.  I think that it is important that the American church do something about the way it is treating people.  No, this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what is being said, but you do need to realize that while America was founded upon Biblical principles, it isn't really a “Christian nation”, and has the separation of church and state.  Laws aren't made based on the Bible.  That would be like the Sharia law that is imposed on many Islamic countries (although the Bible is far more ambiguous).
What you need to be able to do is look at your neighbor who is hurting.  Look at your neighbor who is hurting because they have struggled with their sexuality their whole lives, grown up in a Christian environment where they are told that God hates them, and to say that you are sorry.  

And not just look, but know.  

Have the conversations.  Get to know his or her story.  Get to know why he or she may have left the church, or is doubting their faith.  Why they struggle every day in a world that tells them they are less than valuable.  Get off of the church pews, and out of the buildings with stain glass and beautiful crosses, and carry that cross out to those who need it.

I am sorry.

I am sorry that the church hasn’t extended love, because if you are feeling hate, then obviously there is something wrong with the picture.

I hope that my life will be a reflection of Jesus’ love.  Of his perfect, self-sacrificing, mercy-filled, love.

**if you have a comment, please contact me privately.  I would love to discuss this with you, but not in a public forum.  I have written two 10+ page papers dealing with these issues in my undergrad, so I am more than welcome to conversation. Thanks.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

For learning. For knowing. For Loving.

A lot of times you hear people say that their college years were the best time of his or her life.  This causes multiple feelings to run through my head.  Is my life at its climax right now?  Is it all downhill after 22?

In some ways I can definitely see that it is.  Especially being a senior days away from graduation, and sitting on the cusp of a new kind of independence which ironically may involve moving in with the parents for a few months in the summer.

College is a time of growth.  A time of learning.  But it is also, especially in today's culture, a time to get away from the world.  To get your independence but not have to really pay for it.  A time to step away from many of the real issues in life, and a time to have fun.  To make friends.  Join clubs.  Become who you are meant to be.

And people say that that is the best it gets?  That going to parties and being involved in college is the best their lives will ever be?

That to me is sad.  I guess I've kind of always had this picture of what life would be.  Especially lately as I've started to think about what I really want to do.  And that picture for me is really, really exciting.  I know this sounds silly since I don't have any definite plans yet for after I graduate, but I am really excited.

The way I have envisioned my future is with people.  I want to know people.  I want to hang out with people, talk to people, love people.  I want to help people.  And help people I will.  I have really just developed a need to do so in my life this past year, and that is nothing short of the grace of God.

I long to travel.  I want to go to Israel and Europe and the Grand Canyon.  I want to live somewhere different, maybe Europe or the East Coast.  I want to learn more about other people's cultures.  I want to learn why people act the way they do.

So perhaps this reason why I don't see college as being the best part of my life is because I see it as a launching pad.  I have had these passions come into my life, and God just keeps opening these amazing doors full of nothing short of His grace alone, that allows for me to do his will.  And I am so, so grateful.

And yes, I know there will be pain in the future.  Loved ones will pass away, money will be an issue, heartache will come... but I know I can make it through.

Because the hope of the world tomorrow and the many tomorrows after that is something that keeps me going when I'm feeling upset.  A hope for learning more about this every changing, ever beautiful world.  A hope for learning, for knowing, for loving.

Monday, March 18, 2013


I almost shoplifted.  Not intentionally.

When I was younger I always thought that lipstick was for older women.  Recently, I have come to the realization that I am 22 and in that time of life when I am “allowed” to wear lipstick.  So yesterday, when I went to HEB, I mustered up the courage, picked out a bright red color, and added it to my shopping cart.  

As is always the problem with small items, it blended into the cart and had a hard time keeping itself in there.  When I was checking out, I seemed to have forgotten it.  I was focused on the high price of my vegetarian food selection on a college kid budget, and the lady in front of me after her full conveyer-belt piled high with food and a screaming toddler at her side.

So I checked out, and as the guy was helping me put the bagged groceries back into my cart, he noticed the lipstick.  I felt like a little kid sneaking candy from the candy drawer and being caught by Mom.

He quickly turned on his heals, already stressed from a long day and no help with the bagging, and went back to the cash register.  My guess is that my face was washed out and red with embarrassment.
As quickly as I could, I told him I was very sorry, got my cart and exited right to my car.

Let’s just say that the red color of the lipstick is very representative of the circumstances in which I bought it.

Sorry HEB guy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Confessions of an Extrovert

We live in an extroverted society.  It's kind of hard to deny that.  From the youngest ages, kids are encouraged to be social.  Whether it's at school, church, or summer camp, kids are looked down upon if they don't fit into the social mold.  Lately it seems to me that a lot of energy has been entirely focused on letting introverts and others know that being that way is ok, especially on social media.  And I love that!  I love that we are allowing these people to feel like they are ok just the way they are!

Here is one of my favorite TED videos that describes this well:

Several of my closest friends are introverts.  I love being around introverts.  I love learning from introverts.  I love engaging in conversation with introverts.  My roommate is an introvert, and so are most of the guys I have been interested in.

But alas, I am not.

I am very much an extrovert.

I used to think I was an introvert in high school.  Then I got to college.  I started realizing that I can't be by myself for huge amounts of time.  I can get depressed if that happens.  I discovered that I love meeting new people and getting to know them.  That interacting with my friends is often what I need to brighten my day or mood.

I love being social.  I love being an extrovert.  But go with me for a second.... it does come with its challenges.  It's not easy.  There are many times a week, maybe even in a day, when I find myself wishing that I were more introverted.

Why is this a problem you ask?  Welllll, let me tell you:

It begins with an "S" and ends with a "you're-gonna-fail-school-if-you-don't-do-this".  Yep folks, it's studying.  First of all, I think I have a tad of ADD, and that has been an ongoing debate between my mom and I for years (although she recently told me that she actually thinks I have had it since elementary school...).  However, I think it is more than that.

Here is my dilemma:
I like to study in quiet.  It helps me to focus better.  I also like to study with people around who are also studying.  That feeds my extrovert-ness and helps me to focus.  So a lot of times I study in the lobby of our library.  I like to study here because I get to overlook Baylor, study, listen to jazz, folk, or classical music, drink my chai tea, and see people I know.

The problem comes when I know people... which inevitably occurs.

One saturday afternoon I went to the library, sat in my usual spot, and discovered one of my close friends sitting nearby.  I went over to talk to him for a couple of minutes, and then hurried back to begin the studying process.  Over the course of a few hours, my friend observed as my old roommate and her boyfriend came and talked to be for over half an hour.  Then these girls came up and I started making small talk with them.... but I couldn't remember their names.  He observed me seeing friends I hadn't seen in years, and my accidental spilling of tea on my computer.  Yes, I got work done... but it took much longer than it should have.  And Carlos was laughing at me quite a bit by the end.

There are so many times a week when I wish that I had the will power to sit down with a pile of books by C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Claiborne, and a variety of other authors and theologians.  I wish that I could just devour them without even thinking about moving.  I wish that I didn't feel the need for human interacting every like 30 minutes.  I wish that I didn't start thinking about something random and go off into my own little land (that may be the ADD...).  But really, there are so many times when I wish I was a tad more introverted.

Maybe this is the whole "the grass is greener on the other side" phenomenon.... but maybe it's not.  I think that I can be happy in where I am on this spectrum and still long to grow in either way.  After all, developing ourselves to be productive demonstrates how we work as humans, doesn't it?  If we are completely stagnant in how we approach life and all the aspects of it, we miss something.  Seems to fit into Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest.

So here's to the introverts!

Here's to the ones who inspire me to read, to learn, and to focus.  Who teach me that it is okay to be alone sometimes.

But let's be honest... I wish you were here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Make it Happy to Last the Whole Night Long

For my past four years at Baylor, I have been involved with this thing called All University Sing.  My first year I was a member of Sing Alliance, a non-Greek organization that is amazing and allows for the whole university to participate.  Since then I have performed with Alpha Delta Pi, serving as a Sing chair last year.

Sing is important to me, has been, and will continue to be.  It has provided a creative outlet for me in which to pour those skills that I would have missed from high school.  It has allowed for me to grow more confidence in myself, both as a leader and as a person.  It has allowed for me to meet a lot of awesome people and to have a lot of amazing opportunities.  I've made some of my best friends through our bond for Sing.

However, Sing is not the most important thing in the world.  I think that Baylor students seem to think that the world goes on a break for January and February and that the whole world revolves around Sing.  But it doesn't.  Classes are still going on.  Other campus organizations are still going.  People are living and dying.  Other things are going on.  Life is happening.

The past three years my mind has gotten absolutely tangled with Sing.  It was literally all I could think about-- past acts, possible future acts, ways to improve our act, Sing drama, etc.  I would come out of Sing completely exhausted.  I would tell people I didn't want to talk about Sing, but then two minutes later I would find myself have an elaborate conversation on the same topic.

Another thing I have realized is that I'm generally less happy during the Spring semesters.  I'm not completely sure why this is, but I do think that it has to do somewhat with Sing.  Sing cuts into everything.  It cuts into my free time, my sleep time, my homework time, my friend time, my Jesus time.  I always feel the furthest from God after Sing because instead of him or things constructive to him, I am making Sing my idol.

But Sing is not the most important thing in the world.  Who wins Sing is not the most important thing in the world.  Making Pigskin is not the most important thing in the world.

If being a participant in Sing has taught me one thing, it is that the important things are the positive memories that you make.  The friendships you develop.  The fun you have with your brothers, sisters, and/or friends.  The entertainment you provide for hundreds.

But remember why you're at Baylor in the first place.  Is it so that you can perform on the stage during Homecoming?  Is it so that you can make entertainment?  No, the reason that you are at Baylor is for your education.  The learning is the most important thing.

I wish someone had told me that as a freshman.... I probably wouldn't have listened.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Backwards and Inside Out

One of the primary questions that I have been struggling with the couple of years has been, what does it mean to be a Christian when the popular thing to do is be Christian?

Let me explain.  Christianity is based off of the teachings, life, and resurrection of Jesus.  This man named Jesus lived roughly 2000 years ago, and was a social outcast to the government and the way of life at the time.  He broke many social, political, and religious codes, and was eventually crucified for it.  He claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah.  Many people decided to follow him throughout the years, and from that spouts Christianity.

Christianity was founded in the Middle Eastern region (therefore making Jesus a Middle Eastern Jew).  It was seen in a negative light because it broke with the religious tradition of the region, whether that was to pledge allegiance to the government or to Judaism.  Christianity was viewed as a form of atheism because these new followers were renouncing the other gods.  Many early Christians were killed because of this and became martyrs.  Others had different reactions such as monasticism, or a fleeing away from the world.

Eventually, Christianity was okayed by the government thanks to Constantine.  From there we have this complicated entangling of church and state that can be seen by the Catholic church, the Holy Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformation, and the Church of England to name a few instances.  What is of primary importance in this case is to notice that the heart of Christianity lied in Western Europe, which was the center of the world at this time.  Eventually it moved to the Americas and a few other countries with the spread of imperialism.

Now there are many sects, or denominations of Christianity.  The primary ones today can be most vaguely classified as Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant.  Christianity is the world's most popular religion.  It is growing widely, and is especially predominant in countries that are developing or not as well off as America and Western Europe.

What got me to thinking about this today was reading for my Sociology of Religion class.  In this class we are looking at religions around the world, how they change over time, and the development of them.  I am just a few class periods in and I am fascinated!

The question I posed above is rooted in the fact that in many places in Western Europe and the United States, Christianity is thought to be the primary religion of the land.  However, when Christianity was founded, as shown above, it was not the cool thing to be a Christian.  This religion was founded upon being the outcast of the society.  It was founded on being set apart and not like the world.  The idea of a "Christian nation" is in many ways a juxtaposition to the Gospel itself.

What struck me about my reading (Stephen Prothero's God is Not One, 2010) was the statistical numbers that were presented (I won't get into the nitty gritty of those in here, but they are in that book if you are curious).  What is striking is that while Christianity is growing in third world countries, which according to Prothero is due mainly to the Pentecostal church, it is diminishing in Western countries.  Many more people in Western countries are denying any faith in God whatsoever, and are affiliating themselves with atheism or agnosticism.  These are some of the same countries that have identified themselves by their Christian roots.

This information is common sense to many people.  What strikes me about it is the way that the Christianity in these so-called "Christian nations" works.  For hundreds of years there has been this we-are-better-than-them mentality that white people in Western parts of the world have had.  We can see this throughout history in the colonization and discovery of the America's, the European imperialism in Africa, and the containment policies of the Truman Doctrine.  Throughout history, a focus has been made on trying to get others to be like us.

I would argue that this mentality is very much still alive in America, and even so in the American church.  With the modern way of missions, this is evident.  People in Western, "Christian" countries are generally disconnected from missions.  Not that they don't see the need, or advantage of them, but they are often less directly affiliated.  More often than not, and I am guilty of this, we just give people our money and expect someone else to do something with it to benefit the hurting and the oppressed.  Now don't get me wrong, this is good and money is needed, and in fact, Jesus calls us to give of all our possessions to follow him, BUT missions is more than just donating money.  It is working hands on with people, and showing them the love of Christ directly through our lives.

The longing to make people like us continues when we give people money to buy things and to make their churches spring out more like ours.  Really, one of the most constructive forms of missions is helping people learn how to do these things on their own with the resources that they already have available to them,

So much focus goes into American Christianity helping people in countries in Africa and Latin America and such.  But what is fascinating to me is that we are trying to "fix" these places to have more of an American ideology of the world.  Really, Christianity is sprouting there and declining here.  Maybe we are looking at this backwards.  Maybe we need to look at what they are doing, and see how that can impact us.

Just some thoughts.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking in the Mirror

When I die, or even when I live, I want for people to be able to look at my life and say with certainty that I have lived in a way that truly exemplifies a love for Christ and freedom that is found only in Him.

Right now I don't think I'm doing that.  Something needs to shift.

"No matter what I do, I can't change the fact that I'm handicapped.  
But I can change the way I react to it"
-- Dr. Alan Lefever

We had a guest preacher today in church.  He was having trouble with one of his hands, and eventually he started to talk about it.  He said he suffered a stroke as an infant and it left him deformed.  Up until this point he was talking about how we all run a race in life, how we are all part of the body of Christ, and how as the church we need to lift each other up.  

One of the most important musical influences on my life was a middle school band teacher of mine.  She taught me the flute, a love for making music, and always encouraged me, even when I quit band for choir in 8th grade.  Unfortunately she passed away from cancer during my freshman year of high school.  One of the many things she taught me when she was my teacher was that you are only as strong as your weakest member.  She spoke of this in context to band, but today when I was listening to this sermon, I couldn't help but think of this as well.

So yes, as Christians we are to help those who are hurting.  One thing that Dr. Lefever said that I thought was particularly powerful was that as Christians we should not just talk about the hurting, but talk to the hurting and to help them through that.  So often as Christians it's easier to do the other thing.  It's hard to see the pain that someone is hiding.

It is always exhilarating for me to see people who have been able to overcome their physical limitations.  I guess for everyone it is in some way.  Seeing people overcome those limitations serves as a role model for how we can overcome little things that are thrown our way.

But for me, it hits close to home.  See I am physically handicapped.  I was born with clubbed feet, and thanks be to God I was fortunate to be born into a family that could afford the medical care so that I could have surgery on my feet when I was an infant and to be able to run and play and dance today.  I still have side effects though.  I can't really go on my toes at all, my feet are super flat, my calves are tiny, and my feet get worn out very easy.  People think that this is a big deal... but really, most of my friends don't know unless I tell them or if they happen to glance at the scars up and down my ankles.

I think this is what has helped me in life.  When you have a disability, you know nothing else.  It is the way life is, and you learn that nothing you can ever do will change that.  I remember telling people about my feet in elementary school, or telling my ballet teachers so they wouldn't get on my case about not being able to go into a perfect releve.  I knew that I was never going to be a dancer, or really an athlete of any kind.  And that was just something that I accepted.  It is what I know.

A few years ago I randomly lost all my hearing in one of my ears.  This was difficult, but over time I adjusted.  And I really do believe that knowing how to react to difficulties from when I was young helped me to have an optimistic view of my ear problems.  There are certain times when I talk about it more: such as conversation in a busy area, or dinner with a group of friends.  However, my disabilities aren't who I am.  Sure they are important to who I am in forming me into that person, but they do not decide who I am.

I guess I could let them decide who I am... but what's the fun in that?

If we're only the sum of our parts, then we are only the sum of the parts of our spiritual body as well.  And because of that, we all need each other.  We need to pull up others that are hurting.  And I am fortunate in that I have overcame things just by living the life God gave me, that will hopefully help me to relate to people down the road.