"Words without poetry lack passion; words without passion lack persuasion; words without persuasion lack power."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tyler Community Member Envisions A 'Revolution'


Few individuals portray such a vibrant passion for serving the community as Travis White, local licensed professional counselor and executive director of Mission Tyler.

"Imagine if we, as believers, came together with one purpose, one calling, to connect to others with the love of Jesus Christ by meeting them at the point of their need," he said.  "It would be love the way God intended. It could start a revolution."
 
White runs the local christian non-profit ministry, Mission Tyler, that he said exists to help connect the resources of the local church to the needs of the local community. 

The organization of people works toward this ideal by educating, equipping, and empowering people in the community about being intentional with local service.  

WHITE
"(By) helping believers understand the needs in our community and how their giftedness, passion can connect," he said. 

This past Tuesday More than 150 community members gathered together at a Mission Tyler facilitated event called The City Gate.  Christians from 25 different ministries and 30 churches gathered together to worship, discuss the happenings within the different ministries and making connections with other people. 

"I'd like to think of it as a "collective" cup of coffee networking meeting but with many different like-minded people at once," he said.

One attendee said the night was amazing. "It was so cool to see all the people who showed up, not just physically, but with true hearts of 'connection.'" Others said they left feeling inspired and motivated for ways to serve in the future.

 Mission Tyler offers different outlets for service including:  reduced fee counseling for individuals, couples and families and other services. 

"We partner with other ministries and agencies in our community to address safe housing needs for low income, elderly and disabled through painting, basic construction, and yard, lot clearing project," White said.  

Most recently, the ministry organized and sent relief teams to Joplin, Mo after the tornado in May.  

"We have also used local experiences and networking to assist in mobilizing mission teams to other regional locations," he said. 

 For more information, visit www.oneloverevoloution.com.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Behind My Red Reporter Glasses: Thoughts On Student Grief


Have you recently lost a loved one?

Twenty-two to 30 percent of college students have lost a loved one in the last year, according to a study by David Balk.

I spent the last week and a half talking to various specialists on the subject of grieving, as well as students who recently lost someone, or who are still grieving, years after their loss. The information I came across was helpful, difficult to hear and impacting.

I spoke with a student who lost her brother in April of this year. Her grief was very real and transparent. She had one of the sweetest spirits I've encountered, but she bravely described the circumstances that have been the toughest throughout her loss. She said people often meant to offer consoling advice such as "it's been three months, smile and be happy," and "Ben would want you to be happy." 
The student continued by describing the pain those phrases inflicted, rather then the positive affect they were meant to have.

Local Licensed Professional Counselor, Travis White, emphasized the importance of a good support system after the loss of a loved one, but he also offered the following advice to the friends of the person grieving: Listen. Just listen.
White explained five common stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. Although he said everyone will go through the phases in different orders, and some may not experience every stage. 

Another Student I spoke with lost a loved one four-and-a-half years ago. She described her situation in detail, mentioning a period of depression following the loss. She said it affected her academically- she didn't return back to school for a week, and even still, it was hard. 
Presently, this student is a senior in college, and the death of her loved one motivates her positively in her academics and career goals.

Losing a loved one during college is especially difficult because student are often: geographically distant from their usual support systems, coping with academic pressures and forging one’s autonomy, according to the Students of AMF research.

Both students mentioned above offered the following advice to someone who has recently lost someone: "Don't blame yourself," and "allow yourself to grieve."

What has been your experience with grief? How have you dealt with it? 

To read the article the post is based off of, and to find out more about these students experiences with grief, check out the  Patriot Talon this Tuesday, Sept. 13. Their stories will engage you, and I believe, move you.    Also, check out LPC, Chris Legg. He recently posted a series of posts concerning grief. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Exciting Changes and Untraveled Territory

It has been a while since my last post, and within the absence of posts, many changes have taken place in my life. 

I would love to share them with you.

The whirlwind of change began with making one of the toughest choices, perhaps the toughest choice, I've ever made. After months of thought, prayer, and council I made a choice to resign from a job that I held for five years, in order to pursue my education and related tasks. Leaving my job was much tougher than I thought it would be. I loved my job very much, and felt honored to have received the privileges and opportunities I gained over the years- but the struggle came in much more intimate ways then professional. Five years is a long time to spend in a repetitive activity, and within those years I invested deeply into the people I worked with, and the owners of the company. Also, I grew up behind those counters; I became an adult during my time there.

All things considered, the choice made for a tough transition.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” -Anatole France

 I currently work as a part-time nanny, and also teach dance a few hours a week, but I needed to find another part-time job to make ends meet this semester and next before I graduate in May 2012. So, I spent a week applying at every place I could think of that fit the hours I have available to work. I ended up finding a paid internship that doubles for an upper-division elective for my degree plan, which in turn cleared a little more time in my schedule.

Another change is I am newly serving as the Editor-n-Chief of the Patriot Talon this year. I am beyond excited for this opportunity, and can't wait to see what my staff can do.

I will continue to finish my higher education with expected graduation in May 2012, as I mentioned earlier, and will continue serving as a Young Life leader.

Reflecting on the past couple of weeks already amazes me. A million different emotions flew around in my mind as each choice came to fruition, and still continue to do so. Change is scary and requires hope and trust, and transitions can stretch someone very thin.

It's as though puzzle pieces are clicking together, and much differently than I would have pictured- well, truthfully I couldn't picture anything. I chose, and choose, to take it day by day, fully trusting him as I run this race. I am so excited for all of my new adventures.
Let's do it.

As life quickly unravels, we realize the things we love. We comprehend that melancholy thought and uncertainty actually enhance life with unique flavor, and sometimes this state of mind can be more valuable than a life of clarity. We cling to the constant promises that we trust to be true even if the promise is extremely vague in seasons. We find people need to be loved, and we are the souls to pour it out.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I'm Sorry, But I Just Don't See It.


There was a time in my life that I had such a disconnect concerning how to see spirituality in my very physical, everyday life. I would constantly intellectualize the concept as I sought to remove the wrench in the gears of my mind. I believe humanity is 100 percent physical and all the while 100 percent spiritual. If this is true, there must be some tangible way to see the spiritual while I work my job, attend school, socialize and so on. So, how do I see it?

The outpouring of my thoughts at the time: The infusion of the spiritual life into the physical.

We, the human race, are beings that have the unique possibility of containing the tantalizing spirit of God deep inside the crevices of our souls.
The spirit is of the God of the bible who created the earth, flooded the earth and restored it, who rescued the courageous trio from the fiery furnace, who sacrificed his son to save his people, and who will return to redeem them once and for all.
Whoever possesses this spirit has potential beyond anything in the material world. God uses his creation to display His beauty and perfection, and his creation includes humanity. Unique to all of His creation, humanity is the climax of his beloved masterpiece.
The concept of combining the spiritual with the physical is better comprehended when we realize the manifestations of the spirit of God in our lives; the fruit of our relationship with God- are tangible avenues of the spiritual within the physical.


I came to realize beauty and good conduct in our lives according to his word IS the spiritual. We could not exercise these things without the spirit of God within us, or simply God's grace on this world.

"Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. " - C.S. Lewis

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Where Home Really Is

Home is a familiar sensation.

Home is full of safety and raw, genuine existing; a place where breathing is easy and fear is unthinkable, for it does not exist.

 "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." -Maya Angelou

--
Over the course of my life I have lived in many different houses and two different states. I have done quite a bit of traveling, and consequently saw some beautiful places. Even still, "home" has nothing to do with a building or geographical location in my life.

"Home," to me, is the place where I am most myself. When I am at "home" I feel safe, raw, vulnerable and transparent in the healthiest of ways. "Home" helps me process, regroup my perspective and priorities, and most often inspires me.  Sometimes, a location feels like "home," but mostly actions, settings, or even people feel like "home." In my life, where I meet God is always "home," for God defines who I am.

The following are circumstances of "home" to me so far:
  • Family.
  • When I am dancing. On stage or in the studio with the lights off. 
  • Writing, piano. 
  • In community. People.
  • When I am a part of something larger than myself.
  • Adventures. Cities. Out of the ordinary. Travel.
  • In the midst of outdoor beauty. 
  • Reading with coffee.  Especially while its raining.
Home refreshes me and reminds me of who I am--so I may function smoothly.

So, today, I encourage you to identify where your "home" is.

“Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserved; it is life's undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind."-Harriet Beecher

Share: what is "home" to you?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Imagine if you were SILENT (mature content)

Many precious lives are trapped into slavery: the abuse of their own personal sexuality for a strangers pleasure.

Children.Women. Souls.

Innocent children are forced to submit theirs bodies to repetitively selfish desires of others, and this becomes their lives. Their Identity.

"Human Trafficking is the fastest growing and second most profitable crime in the world. The majority of this multi-billion dollar industry exists in the form of sex trafficking, where women and children are bought, sold and exploited for profit in the global sex industry."

Many are sold, stolen, tricked, and manipulated into situations that radically change their lives stealing any sense of dignity or freedom. 
"Traffickers, pimps, pornographers and gangs are eager to supply the demand in this profitable marketplace and they prey upon the young, the weak and the vulnerable, exchanging their bodies for cash.Because traffickers threaten, abuse, brainwash and/or starve new recruits to condition them, victims often remain silent and force a smile in order to survive."
This injustice is huge, and happens all over the globe, as well as in our backyard: the United States of America.

These people, children- ARE SILENT.

Please watch this video, it will melt your heart.


Their Stories from For The Silent on Vimeo.

 It is estimated that 1.2 million children are sexually trafficked each year, and a 1/3 of those are boys. 

Analysts say 100,000 American children are sexually trafficked in the American sex trade each year.

Sexual injustices of any kind are in the dark. They are hidden because of shame.

Someone must step up and become THEIR VOICE.

How can you help?
For The Silent is an incredible organization that contends for victims of sex trafficking. The non-profit does many things to shed light on trafficking. The staff at For The Silent believe in awareness, and assist individuals in bringing awareness. We must drag this dark subject out into the light in order to see change. Another great organization is Not For Sale.

I have hope in redemption. 

So, today, I write FOR THE SILENT.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Addiction: A Thief In The Night?


In the fall 2010 semester I wrote a series on student addiction for the Patriot Talon. Writing the series has become a highlight of my life thus far. The privilege of conversing with different specialists on the subject, and the personal conversations with various people concerning their past, or present addiction truly impacted my thoughts and functioning invaluably.

The types of addictions I wrote about included: Drug addictions, body image addictions/ eating disorders,  technology addictions, and sex and pornography addictions.

Here is an excerpt of a final column I wrote to sum up the series:

"I feel pressured to look a certain way because ...

I don't have many friends, so I ...

I was lonely and seeking intimacy, so I ...

You fill in the blank; but whatever it is, college kids likely struggle with it and may even be addicted to it.
While writing the series on addictions in student life, I must have heard six different variations of the same cry, a cry of need in some way: "I smoke weed because it releases inhibitions and dulls anxiety," and "I didn't date in high school, so I sought intimacy with pornography."


My favorite description of an addiction I found while interviewing experts is the counterfeit concept that Chris Legg, licensed professional counselor in Tyler, told me about.
"I think, overall, addictions are usually about us trying to meet a totally appropriate need, a totally appropriate desire, just in an inappropriate way," Legg said. "All addictions are counterfeit versions, and so the real thing that you want, you're still not getting."


I love this perspective because it humanizes the people controlled by their addiction.
Often times, I find spectators of addiction speak of it in such a morally black-and-white fashion, and what I mean by that is people commonly consider addicts to be fools because they just need to stop, since it's obviously "wrong" or "bad" for them.


Common stereotypes simply do not do justice to the real transparent lives of addicts.
Looking at addictions as simply counterfeit, cheap versions of real, legitimate needs people may be looking for, allows for healthy people to relate and empathize rather than chastise or belittle.


What I realized is addictions are really all the same underneath the various manifestations.
People are looking for something whether it is intimacy, acceptance or a way to escape their realities because of hurt, shame and remorse or to supplement low self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety or rejection.


Addicts are people who struggle in life just like you and me, but instead choose the cheap, fake, quick version of the Rolex watch they really want rather than saving up for the real thing.
It's easier in the short term, but often it obliterates the long term.


It's almost as though I have had and continue to have a ringside seat in watching people struggle with addictions, as I'm sure many of you do also.
I have many people in my life that have or do meet the criteria of an addict, including my older sister who struggled with addictions to many substances.
I have to say several of my friends and family, who smoke marijuana use other illicit drugs, drink in excess or are addicted to the way they look, stand among some of the most unique, intelligent and beautiful people I know.


I sincerely enjoy them as individuals, but I don't enjoy their substance abuse or addictive actions.
Addictions are so relevant in this generation, and I feel as though I've observed addictions swallow up the potential of people I love.
I want to see people live life to its fullest and watching people become dependant on a substance or an action that is rapidly or slowly eating away years of their lives, or inhibiting their lives to any degree really hurts me.


I've seen addictions ruin dreams, families, relationships and personal health."
Find the complete column printed in the Patriot Talon here.

What are your thoughts on addiction? Leave a comment, or post on my Facebook!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Changing Lanes


When I began driving I, of course, spent the required hours of practice driving before I recieved my license. One of the tasks I clearly remember struggling with was changing lanes. My dad would always instruct me to check my mirrors, look behind my shoulder, turn on my blinker, and then speed up during my transition to safely change lanes. In my own mind there was such a disconnect. For some reason, the only way I could interpret his guidance was to somehow switch lanes in a formation resembling the letter "L." I thought I had to slide over into the lane and then speed up, and this structure was the only way I could comprehend. Although this recollection sounds silly, and perhaps embarrassing, I believe it is a perfect metaphor for the many choices and transitions I, we, face in life.

When I encounter choices, changes and transitions I'm often only able to picture the situation from my pre-existing or created comprehension of what it will look like. Sometimes I cannot comprehend how these adjustments could look from a different view, or even from the other side. Many times I try and impose my understanding to the elements when sometimes I don't understand from where I am.

One day it just clicked. Afters hours, days, months of practice and licensed driving I acquired the skill of changing lanes, but it wasn't just the skill I assimilated, I gained the perspective of transitioning in a diagonal line rather than an "L." This new perspective was much easier, safer, and made more sense. The struggle was not a question of destination, but rather how to run the course to the end. Sometimes it takes life experience paired with perseverance and other key character traits to grow.

The interesting thing about the whole learning process was my dad right there coaching me. The entire time he outlined step by step instruction, but still, it took time to grasp. The disconnect had little to do with rebellion, for I wanted the ability to perform well, but instead it had much to do with how I processed the given action. After all, I had someone right beside me guiding me.

The solution to my quandary was found in the relentless attempts of applying the instruction I received, the courage and dignity to keep trying, and never running away from my given guidance. The same is true for our lives.     

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." -Francis de Sales 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Emotions: Immaturity or Treasure?

 
Addressing concepts of human emotion: Should we transcend emotion to benefit a situation? Are emotions viewed as ignorance?

     Remember the phrases "big girls don't cry" or "men don't cry?" These phrases and similar ones seem to inadvertently shape cultures view on emotions. Many of us grow up thinking it's bad to be upset and that we are not allowed to be emotional about situations we encounter. Over the course of my life, I have noticed that emotions are commonly stifled rather than dealt with. When I really dissected this concept, I came up with contradicting ideas.   

     I believe emotion naturally occurs within human beings and cannot be stifled. We are human. Even if a situation is viewed from the appropriate point of view, emotions will follow. I would venture to say that emotion is not ignorant nor evil, but rather beautiful and beneficial if the actions following the emotion are rightly accomplished. I do not ever want to transcend emotion. I want to instead achieve discernment and self-control, so my actions may be thoughtful and pleasing to my heavenly father. Life without emotion would be dull and without lesson.

     "Men owe the grandeur of their their lives to tremendous difficulties." -Charles Spurgeon

     I feel many people attempt to avoid emotion because they believe it is negative, largely due to their past experiences. Experiences of people, including themselves, reacting negatively out of their given emotion. Instead of learning from the beauty of their emotion, people try to cancel it out, which worsens the problem over time.

     I believe the key is what you do with the emotion. What does it lead to? It is good to be slow to anger, but if it does occur, the lesson is in how you deal with it. Do you cause harm out of your anger, or do you squelch your pride and love instead by putting the other person above your own selfish emotion. Example: lets say you inflict harm on others because of anger...your new objective is to learn from it. Realize it is wrong and apply it to your life. The same concept can be applied to an array of different emotions.

     However, I do not believe all anger, jealousy and other emotions are always negative- sometimes these emotions can be appropriate. This is evidence that perhaps emotions are not evil at the origin, but it is instead the fallen nature of this world that sours our convictions. Most every good thing outside of God is broken- even our emotion.

     "There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul."  -Arnold Bennett. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Prerequisites for Creativity

Recently I have found myself lacking in inspiration and passion for activities I am normally  incredibly inspired and passionate about.

I love so many things, one of which is creating. To create life-oriented circumstances through the mediums of writing, dance, canvas, music... and the list continues. Creating is how I express, teach, illustrate, love, relate and so often is my therapy. I even describe it as "just breathing" to demonstrate its necessity to my heart.

I have realized that in order for me to complete these things, I must be inspired at least enough to pick up the pen or turn on the music.

The thing is, even my inspiration has a prerequisite. If my heart is not inspired by the Inspir-er Himself,  I cannot even complete things that are so close to my heart.

When I cannot complete these things, I feel hollow and unsure when living life in most all ways. I lack intentionality because of this.

In order for this series of events to take place, I must simply look to Him and trust him. 

I am thankful to identify this entire process so I may troubleshoot these situations in the future. However, I must point out that inspiration comes in many ways and I believe it is unreasonable to expect a similar sensation all of the time. Sometimes I have to do life without feeling like I am spurred on to do so.

Inspire-er>Inspiration>Creativity>Breathing>Pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith.
Without this sequence, all things are strained.(1 Tim 1:5-7)

I encourage you to seek your inspiration. Seek you inspire-er. You may just find your hope and purpose in life.

I apologize for the lack of posts this last month. I am excited to say I will be posting once or twice a week for the summer months.

Next post: Emotions.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Wise Man Loves Truth, Reproof

I love Journalism.
I love working at the Patriot Talon.


     I enjoy these things because I am passionate about justice, truth and people. The untainted mission behind the art of journalism requires these elements in order to function properly and efficiently. Within the heartbeat of journalists lies the responsibility to deliver truth, shine light on injustice committed in government, administrations or communities, and also to tell the stories of real people; stories that would potentially never be heard. Journalists seek to give voice to the otherwise voiceless.

     However, sometimes the truth is not flattering, or a movement that evokes pride. Sometimes, the truth is ugly and offensive.

     My Patriot Talon co-worker and friend Andy Taylor made a great point concerning truth in his most recent blog post:
"Some say that truth is relative and that it means something different to everyone. But while the truth may be debated, it should not be attacked," Taylor said.
     We recently published an editorial driven by our desire for truth and justice, because we believe the student voice is something worth fighting for. Through various circumstances described in the editorial, we believe our first amendment rights are being tampered with. The issue at hand is much, much larger than the termination of a  specific adviser that many do not favor.

     Taylor relayed in his posting that we did not want to commandeer the front page of the paper with this pressing issue, because many of the other stories published deserved great attention as well, but because of the circumstances we deemed the content worthy.  

      Many negative comments condemning the quality of our content and publication as a whole, leave us confused.

     It appears students who are unhappy with the editorial want to see only stories that promote a positive image for the University, which cancels out a main element of our function as journalists.

      The reaction from the student body leaves us beat-up, but also grateful.

     We are grateful for the corrections for a couple reasons: We are thankful that the student body, and whoever else, is engaging on a topic that matters. We also welcome correction because we can benefit from the feedback, and benefit from simply enduring the reproof although we cannot respond or defend ourselves.

Perhaps the students are forgetting we are students too.
I, we, will remain obligated to honesty.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just when you think you have no pride...

     The past couple months of my life have impacted my character in the most unique of ways.

     I do not consider myself a prideful person, nor do I contemplate my humility in vain, but recently I have been reminded of my pride. I've not been reminded of this reality because of some self-righteous, extravagant display of my pride, but rather by my lack of humility, and continuous ability to be humbled.   

      Just when I think I can't possibly be humbled anymore, unceasingly I am humbled again. 

     Although the causes of humbling can be confusing, painful, chaotic and the origin of heartache- I wouldn't change it.

   Through various happenings, which add up to borderline what I believe to be my mortal breaking point, I arrive at this humble place resembling that of the most unworthy.

     The truth is, it hurts to be humbled. It hurts when you don't feel as though it can worsen but it does.  I do believe there's hope though..there is beauty within the ashes.

     My hope is: Counting it all joy, and recognizing there is a place to find my worth even though my humanity is weak.

     To be honest, I believe I grow most through times of trial. whether the trial is self-inflicted or environmental. I hope never to find myself lacking in trials simply because I shelter myself from potential hurting.
    However, I do not wish to encounter difficulty as an extremist, believing I cannot grow otherwise. For not many desire to get in a car wreck, or smash their hand in a door, or a fail a friendship for frivolous reasons.
     Instead may I find myself taking advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow from the lesser beauties in my life.

     To me, it is the most beautiful thing to watch someone pass through times of hurting, or trial and see how they come out on the other side- to see someone learn from, and acquire beautiful characteristics out of such an unattractive situation is: what life is about.

"A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility."-- D. L. Moody

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Behind my red reporter glasses: personal thoughts on student atheism

I recently wrote another Student belief story for the newspaper on the topic of atheism. I really, really enjoyed writing the article and I feel honored the individuals were so honest and transparent with me about their beliefs.

Many of us may be familiar with atheism, but I came to learn that the actual definition, as it plays out in people's lives, is open to interpretation. The official definition according to the American Atheist organization is as follows:
Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena. There are no forces, phenomena or entities, which exist or transcend outside physical nature, nor can there be.
The most surprising information I found in my research is that atheists are the least accepted social group in the United States, even compared to homosexuals, immigrants, Jews and Muslims.  Many people I shared that data with were not surprised, but I truly was shocked by it. It's intriguing to identify the different levels of what "is acceptable" and the morals of the general public, and then also to find the speculation or claim of the absence of deity to be more severe than the harsh stances many hold to the above mentioned social groups. One student I interviewed said “some people basically equate us to Satanists."
Perhaps this needs to be re-evaluated, withheld and or redistributed. I am in no way validating any belief or stance, but instead hoping to provoke thought. Atheists are people with souls just like anyone else. On the same token, may each one of us strive to be people who are respected in the way we conduct ourselves.

In correlation with the student age, the current generation is said to be the least religiously affiliated in comparison to others with 29% absent from claiming religious affiliation. This number does not cross indicate that they are all atheist, but as Jesse Galef from the Secular Student Alliance said, atheism among students is growing. The number of affiliates with SSA has more than doubled in the last 3 years. There is a lurking question behind this data..why? What is the reason behind the movement?
Many could assert the reasons of knowledge, enlightenment, secularization, lack of morals etc. While credit may be owed to the some of the above speculations, may I also present the idea that many have been hurt by our American church in in some way. So many people I know have been burned by the words and actions of those involved with religion, and I feel this is a major detour-ant to faith. I am aware this borderlines oversimplification, and I do not intend to generalize a complex subject.

During my research I interviewed many people who profess atheism and found some unique perspectives. One individual shared that although he identifies with atheism, he feels religion has had an incredible impact on society, and finds it's roll in history to be essential. Another man I spoke with had been a part of the christian religion for 40 years, and spent 20 of those on a christian commune. The atheist community seems to be very diverse in spiritual backgrounds and walks of life.  

The last subject I found to be interesting was morality. A central concept through each one of my conversations concerning atheism is the idea that humanity has an innate sense of moral built within us, which is independent of any belief system.
 
Check out my story on atheism located on the right of this blog under "silly little reporter girl."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To be a part of something larger than me.

     I was sitting in church a few weeks ago, and for a moment I withdrew from my literal surroundings just long enough to realize one specific element- the overwhelming feeling of connection within the concept of gathering together for a central reason.

  • Being together "as one" to acquire wisdom, offer praise and to perhaps evoke change.  
           I Work for my school newspaper. We work together to bring light on important issues, tell incredible stories of otherwise unknown people, and maybe even make certain "wrongs" right.

      • The purpose of our work, whether we realize it or not, is much bigger than ourselves. 
             There's this beautiful thing called Young Life. Through Young Life, I get this incredible opportunity to befriend some beautiful high school girls and to walk through life with them. 

        • The purpose of Young Life is much larger than me. The organization impacts the lives of others.
               There is just something so unexplainable and beneficial about associating with something larger than your life. The impact on my character is irreplaceable, and the sensation is unique to most everything else.
               I believe experiences like these will impact people if the motive behind the action is truly to help, or love other people; if your motive is truly absent of selfish gain.

               So, whether you serve at a soup kitchen, or adopt, or volunteer at a food bank, or work with mentally challenged individuals, or travel overseas, or medical missions, or sing at a retirement home- the action is larger than you. 
               If you are not already, may I encourage you to be a part of something larger than you. Make time for it in your life, because I might just argue that it IS life at it's origin. I feel most alive in the midst of selfless activity. I believe every single person should take part in this in some way. Even if you're not a "people person," there's a way to benefit the world around you. 
               Check out some amazing stories related to this topic like the For the Silent story or the SKAD story located to under "silly little reporter girl" in the right column of this blog.

          Tuesday, March 15, 2011

          Natural disaster is close to my heart.

          Thinking of, and praying for Japan. 
           In the midst of busy American life, disasters taking place in Japan are resonating in my thoughts.
          I traveled to Sri Lanka in 2005 to do tsunami relief in the tiny village of Kosgoda. 
          Recently I have felt as if I am revisiting Sri Lanka and all the emotions that accompanied the journey.
          Here is a look into my memory:
           Over 1,200 people were killed on this train during the Tsunami. It now stands as a memorial for the lives lost.


           This house was destroyed by the wave, as well as the people in it. Sadly, this house was one of the least destroyed that I saw. Months after the Tsunami, the rubble was still knee deep.
           
           
           
           
           Pastor Isaac. Truly one of the most beautiful souls I have ever met.
           
           
           Some of the girls on my trip after a day of work. We are wearing skirts we bought locally.
           
           
           The breathtaking Sri Lanka sunset.
           
           
           
           
           
           
          Sri Lanka: I am thinking of you. I have not forgotten your brokenness. 
          Japan: Praying for you. Look to Him who stands outside of time. May he bring peace that surpasses all understanding.
          Friends please take time to think about the world around us. While we continue on with buying our Starbucks, being concerned with gaining five pounds, and sports scores..thousands have lost all rights to humanity. So let us simply recognize that this place, this world, is much larger than us. If we do, beautiful characteristics manifest in our person. Selfish desires of any kind, personal suffering and loss become minimized through the lenses of world magnification.

          Wednesday, March 9, 2011

          Behind my red reporter glasses: personal thoughts on Muslim belief

          Currently, I am writing a series for my student newspaper entitled Student belief. In each article I explore and present a certain type of religion/belief, as well as illustrate the spiritual journey of a particular student who holds the given belief.

          The religion I most recently wrote on is Muslim belief. I thought I would share the main elements of Islamic belief, since prior to my research I really had a non-existent grasp on the essence of the belief.

          ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root "SALEMA": peace, purity, submission and obedience according to Jannah.org, a web source for Islamic belief information. 
          The religion has two halves. the first half had five main components which are essential to being a part of Islam. The components include: belief in one God "Allah." Belief in the angels. Belief in the prophets such as Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and the prophet for Islam, Muhammad being the last. Belief in the holy books: The Quran, Bible and Torah. The last element is belief in The Day Of Judgment.
          The second half of the religion, from my perspective, is the application side of Islamic belief. people who practice the Muslim faith must pray five times a day, and are required to abstain from all substance use and premarital sexual relations. They must not curse, and are urged to be extremely moral with clothing.

          I found the moral side of the religion very intriguing in context of the college years.The years following high school are often deemed with the period of time where people "find themselves," or explore spiritually, and I find it incredible that many people in the Muslim religion continue to withhold from straying from the faith, or joining in on culture's version of the college years.
          Here is an article that presents another point of view on Muslim college years:http://www.jannah.org/articles/dating.html.

          When I spoke with an Islamic student, I asked her if it was hard to keep the moral code, and if she has ever questioned her faith. She told me that some of the moral standards  are hard to maintain when an individual is saturated in mainstream university culture, but she overall has not had trouble with it. She was quick to say that she has never doubted her faith and believes very strongly in it, despite the fact that she is occasionally publicly chastised with comments like being called a terrorist.

          The strength of her faith, and the other people I interviewed, honestly stopped me in my tracks. It's so unique to meet people who are so rooted in what they believe. I am not claiming that all of the reasons why their faith is strong to be pure, but I can say that it was different and striking to hear the confidence in their voices.

          While I do not profess Islamic belief to be my religion, and am in fact rooted firmly in truth I have found, it was amazing to research and learn about the religion.
          I encourage everyone to learn about different belief systems and new concepts.
          Even if you do not agree with other concepts and belief systems, it will strengthen what you believe to challenge your beliefs with difference and opposition. I do not mean challenge as a form of rebellion, but to find truth. However, if you do challenge what you know I believe it is important to have a good grasp on what you have found to be truth, so you do not lose all sense of self in the midst of different philosophies and beliefs.  

          Additionally to perhaps strengthening your current belief, speaking with people about there beliefs can help you "meet them where they are." Whether you agree with them are not is not the purpose, but instead, to love them well.
          we don't have to be tolerant, but open-minded to the point of genuine care for souls. 
          They are people.
          So, then, we must love.

          Check out my article on Student Belief: Muslim college students article under the  'Silly little reporter girl' section in the right column.


          Friday, February 25, 2011

          The Broken, Blissful Journey.

          Life- what we consider to be anyway.

          Lessons. Lessons learned. Everything blossoms new character, and experience which defines the soul we become.

          People. People penetrate all corners of everything. Some stay and some leave. Some break your heart and few lift you up, but oh how you love them nonetheless.

          Love, give, give, give. Serve, love. Care, worry, provide. Listen, council, waiting in the silence. It’s really just breathing.

          Heart breaks. You observe the brokenness and suffering, and some brings you joy and some inflicts your broken heart. There is…
          LIFE created for them.
          But
          They
          Do
          Not
          Hear.
          And so we wait. Once we have spent everything we have physically and mentally, we wait in urgent patience- in constant petition for their souls.

          Soul. Ours. Time slips through cracks as we ponder and develop soul. Challenging instincts, and recognizing truth discerned by something outside of ourselves.

          Outside of ourselves we find LIFE.

          Saturday, February 19, 2011

          Millennials: My voice in the midst of the sea

          I recently requested that people submit subjects they would like me to blog about, and the following subject is one of the requests:

          "Id love to hear your take on the growing movement among 20-somethings to ignore the traditional 'American dream' for one more minimalist, as well as, much more spiritual in life's approach."

          ---

          I am a "Millennial." 

          Millennials are defined as people who were born in the 1980's and 1990's who's behavior seems to contrast that of previous generations, according to several surveys.

          We are: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. We are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. We're less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history according to the Pew Research Center.

           Just as this definition seems to glorify my generation for our characterization, in many ways these perceived positive characteristics may also account for the severe amount of negative backlash we lavish on the world as well. The description is a double edged sword.

          The way I would define my generation would be: uninspired, demotivated, unwilling to settle for the status quo, as well as being full of potential, humanistic and brilliant. 

          I think the lowered interest in the "American dream" could stem from several concepts. From a simplistic point of view, perhaps this generation is redefining what "successful" actually is. The "American dream" is/was considered to be the definition of success by the preceding generations, but maybe that is changing, maybe the framework for success is being replaced by a new structure created by Millennials. This new structure could be identified as one focused on moral concepts rather then money and business etc. On the other side of the spectrum, maybe this generation is demotivated to achieve the "American dream" because the use of technology has conditioned us to immediate gratification and in turn stunted work ethics.

          Spirituality among my generation is extremely interesting. From my perspective, I see a lot of people who are very passionate about what they believe, and also many with no belief at all. I am currently writing a series on Student Belief for my college newspaper, which can be accessed on my blog page under "silly little reporter girl." During my research, I have come across some striking information which all points to the idea that my generation is less interested in religion than any past generations. This could be due to the religiously saturated environments millennials may have grown up in, or the lack thereof; the environment may cause them to stray the opposite direction simply because of our built in desire to boycott the status quo.

          I know and believe that many in my generation are just not willing to settle for what is normal. Sometimes this causes a spirit of change, accomplishment, and determination, and sometimes this causes neutrality to progression.

          Either which way that truth is on this subject, I have high hopes. My dream is to see this generation live up to the capabilities we have, and to not settle for anything less. There is such raw, wonderful potential within the characteristics we have been deemed with possessing.
          Let's do it.

          Millennial Statistics:
          • We embrace self expression 

          Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe. 75% have created a profile on a social networking site. Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo.

          • We have decreased work ethic/ availability of jobs

          37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.

          • We are disinterested in religion

          One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29.

          Source: The Pew Research Center

          Friday, February 11, 2011

          Inspiration from the Inspire-er

          I want to fall deeper in love with you. I know you are my source of comfort. I seek refuge in my secret place. Thank you Lord. You are the cornerstone of my existence, and I all truly desire is to please you Abba. Please give me the strength to die to myself daily and carry my cross as I run toward you. I will persevere in this race. May everything I do be intentional, everything to benefit your kingdom. I delight my self in you, and I know you will give me the desires of my heart. Your promises are emotionally unaltered, thank you. You have told me: “For I know the plans I have for you… plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Your grace overwhelms me. Help me to live a life worthy of you, so that others may see you working in me and believe. You are life to its full Lord, and I never want anything less! I love your people, and because of this I desperately and urgently want them to know you. I would truly rather live a life of poverty and bless the poor and defiled, rather then live a wealthy life from the world’s perspective. To me the earlier mentioned is a rich life indeed. Help me father to not love in word or talk, but instead in actions and in truth. You alone have captured my heart. 

          Friday, February 4, 2011

          Sometimes We Need Help to Get to Help

          This passed week I had the privilege of hearing a friend share a story of a life-threatening car wreck he had been in last year. 
          If I recount correctly, an older man hit his vehicle almost straight on leaving him injured to the point of immobility, and stranded in his crushed version of a car in a ditch on the side of the road. He continued to describe details of what he was experiencing emotionally, since he never slipped out of consciousness. 

          The volunteer fire department and medical help arrived on the scene to find that he was going to have to be cut out of his vehicle. Previous to their arrival, he tried to relieve himself from the jaws of the car, but he couldn't, he couldn't because he was injured and stuck. 

          He knew his legs were damaged and his head was bleeding.

          With the help of necessary equipment and personnel, the fire department was able to get his body out of the car and rush him to the local hospital. He was also air lifted to the hospital in Tyler.

          He went on to speak of a beautiful parallel to his accident and life in general.

          The parallel is this: Sometimes we need help to get to help.

          When I think about this concept I can't help but see the truth within it. This idea has been resonating in my mind all week and I have recognized how many times this metaphor has taken place in my own life. Sometimes we are so far gone in various ways that we NEED to be carried by a source of help, just to arrive at our help.

          Perhaps our destination help is the doctor, or our faith, a counselor etc.

          The above story illustrates a beautiful picture of what that looks like physically. He COULD NOT get to the doctor to be healed without the help of the fire department and paramedics. Sometimes it is a personal choice, or a series of personal choices that cause us to arrive at a place of self immovability, or the life taking place around us that causes us to find ourselves "stuck." Whatever the way we end up in that place, sometimes we just cannot get to help alone.

          Many times have I found myself in the midst of a life situation or choice thinking: "I can't do this by myself; I need help." 
          There are people in our lives that are our source of "help to take us to help" like a mother or father, like a friend or mentor...whatever it looks like, I hope that you have that in your life and listen to and accept their help.

          We need them because sometimes we find ourselves injured to the point of immobility (emotionally, spiritually, or physically), but there's help, help that can get us to help when we cannot get there alone.

          Sunday, January 23, 2011

          Abba's Child Review

          I have decided to write  a short personal review for select books that I read and post them for the purpose of expounding various thoughts I have while reading the text, and also to share my opinion on the writing itself.

          Book: Abba's Child
          Author: Brennan Manning, published 1994, 2002
          ISBN: 978-1-57683-334-6



           The published purpose of the book is the following: "I began witting Abba's Child with one purpose in mind- to recover the passion the fired my desire to enter the seminary and seek ordination to the priesthood. In the process I discovered that all I wanted from the years of silence and study was to fall in love with God." -Manning.




          The book genre is non-fiction, religious.

          When I began reading Abba's Child I had low expectations, but for no other reason than I figured Manning couldn't possibly write book with superior content to the several other literary works of his that I have read. The truth is I could not have been more wrong. I was amazed to find a fresh perspective to common issues of the identity of humanity and of Jesus. The last half of the book kept me glued to the pages.

          The intended audience seems to be the comprehension of level high school age and up; people seeking to learn more about how they function in relation to the bible and to the life of Jesus.

          The author's style stays true to formal diction but is conversational enough to be informally understood. I feel the material is related to easily, full of impact, and helpful. The main points of the book were fluid and coherent. The material suits the intended audience well.

          I was personally effected by the book in several ways. The author writes about an impostor that dwells within each one of us that is characterized by judgmental ways, and insecurity. He continues by identifying the cure to this impostor to be found in knowing our identity as abba's child. If you would like me to expound on this concept contact me via comment or email and I would be happy to, but I don't want to give it all away. The idea that really impacted me is the idea that Jesus IS God incarnate. The way he conducted himself with people, and the things he did were a direct reflection of how God feels about us. That is something I myself, and I think a lot of us have always known, but I had never realized the significance that concept has on my perception of God. To know that the God that led his people out of Egypt, who flooded the earth, and who created this earth is the same God that will eat dinner with tax collectors, will forgive and affirm the prostitute, and who teaches that if someone forces you to go one mile with them, go two miles with them..is the SAME God is incredible.

          I highly recommend this book no matter your religious orientation. It is a good source of self reflection and a humble, genuine approach to recognizing and supplementing the negative elements of ourselves. The book is a breath of fresh air in its genre, and offers a close intimate perspective of the Jesus of the bible.

          Tuesday, January 18, 2011

          You see this, but I see that...

          Recently I have encountered people in my life who are experiencing struggles. The kind of struggles that produce perspective and character that define how an individual views every aspect of life. Many of the conclusions people come to really break my heart.

          Never before have I recognized how much perspective can alter EVERYTHING in a person’s reality. Everything meaning things like God, family, friendships, work and passions.

          Even if all of the evidence is available and recognizable, human kind sometimes chooses self or denial over factual evidence or faith.

          This idea really expands and validates the concept of free will, and just how relevant that it is. We choose, even on the microscopic level, how we view a situation that is full of fact, reason and feelings.

          I recently read a wonderful book entitled Abba's Child, written by one of my favorite authors of his genre, Brennan Manning. The script was a unexpectedly life-changing and I highly recommend it. I intend to submit a brief review on the publication later this week. One of the concepts Manning discusses in the book is the following: 

          "We unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves... But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves -- unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely."


          The idea is that many people project and characterize God by the the perceived faults they see in themselves. I feel that this concept can also be applied to other people in our life, passions we have, and our general perception of reality. The things we don't like about the way we operate, or the past mistakes we have made, can often directly effect our our perception of reality.

          I am not seeking to define what reality is, for that subject is one of its own, but I do feel it is important to magnify the relationship between free will and negative perspectives of reality. People often choose the way they view life by exercising free will to see what they want to see. 

          While I do not intend to define reality at this time,  I do believe there is solid truth that can root people in a clearer perspective of what I find to be reality, and I want so desperately for people to live within the freedom of the following...

          The truth that they are "compassionately, intensely, and freely" loved by the creator, and that they are placed in the time period, and geographical location for divine reasons.

          It is a shame that a truth so freeing and so full of strength is alienated by distractions of any measure.

          To close I will leave you with another perspective-widening view on the perception of reality.

          "To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge." -Bonhoeffer
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