Archive - August, 2011

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and Future Wonks… oh my!

Last week was action packed. With a 5.9 earthquake, the remnants of a hurricane, and the welcoming of 1,500+ freshmen to AU, there was plenty of excitement to go around. Unfortunately that excitement can easily become an unnecessary hype.

According to Webster’s, to hype is “to publicize extravagantly”. 

My grandmother left me a message crying hysterically because she heard on the news that the District had a major earthquake. My experience was thirty seconds of moderate shaking and no fear whatsoever. The news reports seemed to be a little hyped.

Saturday afternoon, every grocery store was out of milk, water, and batteries. Rumors circulated that the city might be issued a curfew. Students were warned not to travel between dorm room floors. A bad tropical rainstorm was treated like an apocalyptic event. The local response seemed to be a little hyped.

As freshman flooded AU’s campus, they were told that through the next four years they are going to become “wonks” in their field. The word means to know forward and backward, to be an expert. The branding is a part of a  new marketing campaign. How can four years of education- much of which is general and basic- make someone an expert? Furthermore, the marketing campaign makes it seem like students/alumni are proud to be called wonks when they actually hate the branding. Apparently, the university wonks don’t know their students forward and backward either. The campaign seems to be a little hyped.

At the end of the day, what advantage does a little  hype have? Whether it is exaggerating weather or exaggerating wonkiness, what benefit does it have to extravagantly publicize anything? Couldn’t one just report the facts and allow the facts to speak for themselves? A 5.9 earthquake is still huge, a tropical storm is still devastating, and a four year education at a prestigious institute is still appealing and honorable.

Hype is absolutely unnecessary. Take the hurricane for example. I know that
the storm was tragic. I know that at the moment the death count is over
forty people, that hundreds of thousands are still without power, and
the cost of damage is in the billions of dollars. Those facts are startling and devastating on their own, and they don’t need any extravagant media hype to validate them. 
But, Irene will be remembered in my area has the hurricane that wasn’t
instead of the storm that flooded the northeast because hype tends to ring
louder than the truth and when hype disappoints, the truth is sadly

Why am I mentioning this now? And why would I even put these three things in the same category? Well, funnily enough, I did find a cartoon linking the earthquake, the hurricane and wonk campaign…. 

Nate Beeler
Washington Examiner
Aug 28, 2011

(The cartoon artist is an AU alumni whose work inspired the wonk campaign).

On a more serious note, through the odd combination of these things, I was personally reminded that hype has no advantage. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about life changing moments that rocked your world  or tragic disasters that flooded your life or skills you have required over the years… regardless of the subject, there is no need to hype up the the truth. Your earthquakes still will be viewed as monumental, your storms will still be viewed as periods of immense distress, and your abilities and accomplishments will still be appreciated. But, if you choose to hype things up, when the truth is uncovered and the exaggerations are revealed, you end up losing more credibility than the attention you gained by being unnecessarily extravagant in the first place. 

“Do you know that your sin is crucifying Jesus every time you….”

This picture has little to do with this post, but it does show people dancing. Yay, Ibiza pictures.


“Come again?”

“Are you guys representing Christ on campus? Because if you are dancing like that is wrong. It’s your sin crucifying Christ again. I’ve been watching you and as a Christian, I felt I needed to tell you that. You cannot be a light in this place and do that…. “

I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation in exchange for a little bit of context. It’s Welcome Week at American University- aka our busiest week of the year. The campus ministry that I work for is out and about welcoming students to their new home and trying to bless them through free stuff and fun times. Every year, the university throws a big outdoor party called Quad After Dark, complete with inflatables, a dj, food, prizes, and so on.

While working our table at the event, some of the student leaders and staff of our ministry thought it would be fun to attempt to start a dance party. After all, there was a dj and absolutely no one dancing. To keep the story short, we did attempt, but it didn’t catch on. [There is an embarrassing video somewhere.]  We joined a later cohort that tried again to start a dance party, but alas that fizzled out too.

Later in the night, the dj started playing some hip hop and a small crowd started dancing. At this point, we decided that the dance party wasn’t our thing. The dancing was a little too inappropriate and we were too tired. At this point, one of our student leaders took a step back from the group and jokingly “got low” when “Low” came on.

And, then the lovely man running one of the inflatables approached us and kindly offered his opinions of our behaviour. At which point, we began a lovely discussion that lasted only a few minutes, but has taught me much. After having reflected on it, here are the things I will remember about our brief encounter.

  • Jesus save me from your followers still applies. Part of the reason Jesus isn’t appealing to our generation is the fact that His followers like to be judgmental rather than loving. Granted we’ve all been there, but at the end of the day, the notion that people like Jesus, but not His Church still applies… and it is a reality that we must consider and overcome.
  • Christians need to remember that Jesus is no longer on the cross.  My sins, even if dancing is included (but you should already know my thoughts on this one), will not re-crucify Him. He was already crucified, and He does not hang there in bloody agony longer because I sin today. He has already paid the price, and the joy of the Gospel is not only the atonement, but also the resurrection. Jesus is alive; He reigns. The hope is knowing that this broken life and this broken world are being restored because Jesus is alive, active, and returning again.
  • I think that hope is worth dancing and celebration. Jesus would have danced. I truly believe that. God created dance and music, and He desires to restore it to a place of worship. God can be encountered in “secular” music and in clubs and wherever we look for Him. I think Jesus would have smiled at our attempts to start a dance party.
  • Coming in an opposite spirit does not mean retreating and isolating yourself in a Christian bubble. The inflatable dude and I had something in common, and if he wouldn’t have sent me a little defensive by attacking the character of one of our student leaders, we may have had a deeper discussion regarding this. At the end of the day, neither of us like obscene lyrics. Part of his argument was that Jesus doesn’t approve of the song or inappropriate dancing. I agree that the lyrics are horrible; in fact, I said that two minutes before he confronted us. My approach is that horrible lyrics mean amplifying the prayer and the worship. His approach is that horrible lyrics necessitate evacuating the premise. I also agree that grinding is not the way to dance, but rather than not dance, I believe that we can dance as worship. I can see his argument, but I can’t see how it advances the Kingdom. I understand not supporting obscene music- I have very rarely invested money directly into purchasing songs or buying tickets for artists that are extremely crude. I understand not feeding the demand, but I don’t understand how it is wrong to call out the good and to show a different Spirit filled approach to the celebration.
  • Hypocrisy is dangerous, and so are assumptions. The guy was lecturing us while working for the company that employed the dj. So it’s not okay to dance at a free event because of the music, but it is okay to make a living by exposing people to that sort of entertainment?  Furthermore, he assumed that intentions of someone he didn’t know. The moral is that asking questions is way better than confronting someone with assumptions. A simple question “why are you dancing?” would have been a lot more conversation provoking than a correction. 

A final thought, I think it is important for me to mention and to admit that I personally could have handled the conversation a little better. In retrospect, I think I would have done a better job simply saying that I thought there was a bit of a misunderstanding and moving onward. I should have thanked him for his concern, briefly shared why I didn’t think dancing was a problem when he asked, reiterated that I loved Jesus, and just moved on with a blessing and a smile.

Overall, I am grateful the conversation. And, grateful that I serve a creative God that loves music and dancing and fun. My prayer is that God will continue to push me outside of my comfort zone- in ways like starting a dance party- to help invite others into the celebration of knowing the hope of Christ.

Window (4): Scripture- כבשים

Or more accurately titled: “why there is now a tattoo of a Hebrew word for sheep on my right wrist.”
Everyone keeps asking me why I got the tattoo, and I promised an elegant explanation on my blog.  While this may not be as elegant as I had hoped, here is an explanation.
The imagery behind the word “sheep” in scripture really captivated me. It started when a mentor of mine prophesied the verse Luke 12:32 over my life: “Do not worry little flock, your father has gladly chosen to give you the Kingdom.”
Fittingly enough this verse in scripture and the use of the sheep imagery have been windows to my soul: I found myself wrestling with the question of what it meant to be a part of God’s flock. Why shouldn’t I worry? What does it mean that I am given the Kingdom? If the word is plural, does this apply to me personally or the body of Christ collectively or both?
How does this sentiment relate to the parable of the lost sheep? Does God search for every lost lamb knowing that it would please Him to give each of the flock his Kingdom? Does God chase after the lost lambs wanting to give them a relationship with the Shepherd, guidance, provision, and so forth? Doesn’t given the Kingdom also mean authority especially in the context of this passage? Do I know my identity in this way?
Where else is the metaphor of sheep used?  I know it’s in the Hebrew scripture, where is it? What does it mean? It is used often regarding sacrifices, including Christ as a sacrifice. How does that relate to me? What does it mean to follow Him if He is the Lamb that was slain and we are supposed to be living sacrifices?
Welcome to the inside of my mind at any given moment. I ask lots of questions, and eventually I seek to discover the answers. For me, the journey to unveil what it meant to be one of the flock has been life altering.
So, I have tattooed “lambs” in Hebrew on my right wrist. It is a symbol of my identity as part of the flock, a reminder that I am a living sacrifice, a symbol of the authority I am given by my Father, a branding recalling the fact that I am being guided and protected by a good Shepherd, and a constant altar decoration showing my devotion to the Kingdom.
It’s a weird picture, but there it is…
I wish I could say that the placement and the details of the tattoo were well planned out and symbolic, but they weren’t. I knew I wanted a derivative of sheep in Hebrew on my right wrist, but I didn’t know which one or  how to place it. Since the scripture I mentioned was New Testament, you may be wondering why Hebrew and not Greek… There isn’t an artsy explanation other than the fact that I wanted a tattoo in each language and my other tattoo is Greek. The tattoo artist luckily knows Hebrew fluently, both modern
and biblical, and was able to guide me.  We picked this particular word for sheep in the plural mainly because its long enough to complement my other tattoo. He placed the tattoo facing outward on my wrist, which I like because it is symbolically showing my identity to others. And, funnily enough, the tattoo itself isn’t perfect. It bled a little, and this imperfection reminds me that I am also a work in progress- the flock is a work in progress as we are all trying our best to remind loyal to our Shepherd.
As the last few years have been about learning my identity in Christ, I actively marked my body with a symbolic reminder of all that I have learned, of all those questions that have been answered (or are in the process of being answered) in my life. It seems rather silly to tell people that I have the word sheep tattooed in a language I do not speak on my wrist,but it is a constant reminder that I am one of God’s children, a member of His flock. And, when someone asks me why I have the tattoo, I will remember that it is plural because the individual I am talking with is apart of the family as well. I will remember that my Father loves me, and He loves my brothers and sisters – no matter how far they are from home- because he never loses track of a sheep. He will never lose track of me, and He will continue to use my life as a living sacrifice to help shepherd His flock and to invite the wandering sheep back to a place where they clearly hear and respond to His voice.
So there you have it, a less than elegant description of a less than elegant tattoo.  My identity is tattooed on my right wrist, the dominant hand and the hand symbolic of power. And, a reminder that God’s plan has His perfect timing is tattooed on my left wrist facing me so that I can never forget that He knows best and that I should respond to His promptings.  Just as the people of the biblical times built memorials to the Lord, I have two tattoos marking the great things God has done and is doing in my life as one of His flock involved in His perfect plan.
Note: I wrote this post approximately three weeks ago while still in Ibiza, as the last of a series of blogs relating to a book I had recently read. I am just now getting around to posting those blogs–Aside from minor edits, it remains the same as originally written.

Random things I learned this summer

Some time during my time in Ibiza, I started keeping a list of random things I was learning. My goal was to have a random thing for every day I was there. I ended up having more than enough, so I trimmed the list down a bit and decided to post it for all of you to enjoy. It’s a little funny, a little serious, and hopefully a little interesting.

1. If you cannot sing or dance well, sing louder and dance harder. For every person you annoy, there will be another person who receives the freedom to express and enjoy themselves as well simply because you were being yourself.
2. While the sight of semi-naked women sunbathing never causes me to look twice, I am always uncomfortable when I look through my goggles under water and spot topless women swimming.
3. For someone who is rather extroverted, I need a considerable amount of alone time on a weekly basis to fully function in social settings.
4. The thought of ringing someone’s door bell or interrupting someone with a phone call still causes me great anxiety- perhaps more so now than it has in several years.
5. Basketball shorts are not ideal for swimming. My fear of swimwear may soon be over come by a strong desire to actually win during water sports and to transverse larger bodies of water.
6. I attract sand like a magnet. It will get everywhere.
7. I really, really want a puppy.
8. As much as I joke about non-negotiables there is only one that really matters.
9. My list of pet peeves apparently now includes people leaving the cardboard toilet paper roll empty on the holder instead of replacing it. It really annoys me; who knew?
10. I actually like line-drying laundry, but absolutely HATE the idea of drying my underwear outside.
11. Cornish pasties are amazing, especially when they are filled with lamb and mint. A pasty is dinner inside a pastry, (not a pastie- a decorative ornament worn by a stripper- an important distinction.)
12. The thing I miss most about the United States is coffee shops and ordering a iced raspberry chai latte with a double shot of espresso.
13. I eat more peanut butter than I would have ever guessed.
14. I actually like most vegetables, but still cannot eat a tomato raw.
15. The smell, sight, and taste of eggs make me nauseated- yet I love a good omelet. Explain that one.
16. While I hate American civil religion and am not a fan of patriotism, I do like my country and have a great deal of national pride. It’s just that most of that pride involves food, clothes, the entertainment industry, amusement parks, sports, and mannerisms/dialects.
17. I love to read. If I am not reading something, it is a strong indication that something in my life is out of sync.
18. There are many cultural languages differences that really don’t matter much (i.e. pop v. soda v. fizzy drink or crisps v. chips). Yet there are some make a world of difference- i.e. pants, fanny, etc.
19. Fanny packs are called bum bags in Europe. Calling a bum bag a fanny pack will turn heads and will be considered rather rude. Regardless of the name, this accessory will never be cool in any way shape or form.
20. For some strange reason though, some rather cool people will insist on wearing them—okay maybe only my friend Tim. Also, apparently gifting someone a bum bag gives them an excuse to wear it…
21. I flash a sideways peace sign when I leave a room more often than I realized. I also tend to do this with the wrong side of my hand facing outward, inadvertently insulting everyone who sees.
22. Western Pennsylvanian accents must be a rarity in Europe because people kept thinking I sound Irish. I definitely don’t.
23. On that note, I think the Northern Irish accent is my favorite European accent at the moment. Maybe it’s just because I know some awesome Northern Irish folk.
24. Tea is not only a drink, but also an evening meal.
25. When asked if you would like a cup of tea, assume that it is hot unsweetened, black tea with milk unless otherwise specified.
26. Tapas may be free in Granada, but in Ibiza, they are rather expensive.
27. The world will not self-destruct if you go several days without checking your email or facebook.
28. Once you acknowledge that the Internet isn’t a vital necessity, you will find that a half hour online every few days is more than enough. Anything more seems boring and redundant.
29. I cry every time I say an indefinite goodbye to someone I love and respect. It’s inevitable.
30. When I was a kid, I cried every time we packed up our stuff to go home from vacation. Apparently I never grew up because I still cry every time I leave a place I love for an extended period of time.
31. Actually, I cry a lot- especially when I am in a solid place with God and am open to Him speaking to me.
32. Regardless often this happens, every time I do cry I will make a point to insist that I am not a crier and that I do enjoy crying. Every time.
33. A lesson learned but not put into practice isn’t actually a lesson learned. And consequently, I have many unlearned lessons.
34. My attention span is only slightly longer than that of a gold fish.
35. Long pauses mid-sentence confuse me. If someone pauses too long while talking, I think that they are done and either stop paying attention or begin responding without realizing that they didn’t finish their thought until that awkward moment where we speak at the same time and I find myself interrupting. I need to work on this.
36. This is really unfortunate for my English friends with more posh accents because I quite often have to ask them to repeat themselves.
37. I really like physical touch. Hugs and the double kiss greeting are perfectly fine by me. Even so, I seem to give off the opposite vibe simply because the idea of physical affection is really foreign to me.
38. While I can fully function on four or five hours of sleep, my body definitely prefers six to eight. I should be nicer to it and maybe it will be nicer to me.
39. Europe has better chocolate, but the U.S. knows how to utilize it. Why hasn’t the rest of the world discovered that peanut butter and chocolate go well together? Or that pretzels and chocolate are a godsend?
40. I still cannot speak Spanish, and every year that goes by and I do not attempt to do so… I understand less and less of what I hear and read.
41. I am too afraid of attempting to speak the little Spanish that I do know that I won’t speak with drunk people or small children- as if they have the ability to judge me for sounding like a fool.
42. This is a rather unfortunate fact when you are living on a Spanish island and have a fairly dark tan and fairly dark hair because people will stop you to ask you questions.
43. Most people from the United Kingdom have no concept of how large the United States actually is and will assume that all US citizens are similar and that you may have met their cousin in California or Florida.
44. The same people will be very quick to assert that there are various countries that comprise the United Kingdom and each of those countries is extremely different.
45. I cannot convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit in my head, which means I am generally rather content not knowing what temperature it is outside.
46. It also means that I have no clue how to use the oven, which is a perfect excuse not to bake things.
47. There are various sub genres of electronic and house music; hard house and drum and bass happen to be my favorites at the moment.
48. You can make an excellent song by simply repeating the words “the big bad wolf” over and over again… and howling… as long as there is a good beat. Perhaps there is still hope for my musical development.
49. Where ever you are and who ever you are with, you will still be misunderstood. It’s inevitable.
50. There is very little I hate more than being misunderstood. I say this knowing that I rarely understand myself.
51. The people who you think are least likely to become your friends soon become the people you will miss the most.
52. No matter how old you are, there will always be people who look down on you and speak to you in a condescending tone because you are younger than they are.
53. When your Converse have holes in them and have been at least partly covered in blood, vomit, urine, human feces, and a number of alcoholic beverages, it is perfectly okay to chuck them into the trash at the end of the summer.
54. Creativity is the key to resourcefulness. Prime example: an abandoned t-shirt can be cut into a skirt when desperately needed.
55. Shutting off cellular data is essential when living abroad.
56. Toll free calls can be made on Skype. I should discover these things before using my US phone to make a $40 phone call to rebook a flight.
57. It is relatively easy to get into nightclubs for free. You just have to be friendly to everyone, and one of your friends will know how to get on the guest list.
58. Do not take for granted the land of free tap water and unlimited refills- especially when in Europe because drinks are expensive.
59. Businesses can close without notice regardless of the business hours posted.
60. One should not rely on a wifi zone to be available when living on an island because the connection seems sketchy everywhere.
61. If one thinks they can find a reliable internet connection before a deadline for an assignment or before a skype date, she will be disappointed eventually and there will be late submissions and cancellations.
62. The only reasons to have internet at home are: for watching Netflix, streaming music, researching, and looking up recipes and chord charts.
63. I will get sinus infections at the most inconvenient times wherever I may be.
64. My sinus medication that I am supposed to take year round but don’t because it is too expensive is one fifth of the cost in Europe.
65. To quote a wise man, quantity time is key for quality times.
66. The ride home from work seems much more pleasant when you take the boat home around sunset.
67. I am really bad at table tennis. Every time I am playing well, the game will get interrupted and when it resumes, I will be horrible again.
68. Insecurity is a sneaky stronghold; if you let it in, it soon has control over areas of your life that you would not expect.
69. Learning names isn’t useful if you cannot remember faces.
70. You can only change the DVD region on your Mac book c. five times.
71. I often use c. in text messages and sentences instead of “about” or “around”. It’s kind of strange and I am not sure why I picked it up or where I picked it up.
72. When you pray to be humbled, you will be humbled. Be prepared.
73. When I don’t have constant 24 hour internet access, I am really bad at blogging, but really good at saving half written blog entries into Word documents.
74. This makes me wonder how many entries over the years were posted simply because I am an insomniac and have access to the internet.
75. I still cannot play my guitar around people that I know/think will judge me for my mistakes.
76. Harem pants are extremely comfortable, and almost fashionable. I like them better when I am in a place where very few people are wearing them.
77. This does not make me hipster. But, while I am mentioning hipsterness, I will get mocked for my hipster tendencies even abroad where the word hipster is not widely recognized. Funny because I am not one! Not at all.
78. Rapping/spoken word is a fantastic way to help brighten someone’s day. I need to embrace my love of spoken word, as I love to pray through it, and I’m good at it… but cannot do so in front of people. Problem. I can however attempt to beatbox poorly. Weird.
79. The one trip that you forget to pack your juggling sticks on will be the trip you wish you had them.
80. Autocorrect will make you look like an idiot regardless of what country you are in…
81. I underestimated water polo. It can be a vicious sport. And surprisingly, I do enjoy playing it.
82. You can turn in five assignments late for class and still receive perfect marks without proofreading a single one of them. This fact does not motivate me to overcome my procrastination tendencies or my every increasing learned laziness in the realm of academia.

Throwback entry: Truth

While cleaning out the office this morning, I discovered a prayer journal from when we were doing a weekly 24 hour prayer session in partnership with Campus America in 2009. I flipped open to a page with very familiar handwriting, and smiled as I read my long forgotten prayers.

Since I am still in the process of sorting through backlogged/half written blog entries from this summer, I figured I would share this throwback post in the meanwhile. The sentence in bold really struck me. My hope is that I would have the audacity to write this prayer again.

Truth. What is truth? Sometimes I feel like it is the purpose of this life…  the academic training of the mind…  is to cram our minds with facts, figures, and theories.. to overload our senses… to push past our own understanding to the point where we acknowledge that the truth is nothing more than an abstract – a concept relative to the topic, the situation, the system, and the circumstance. We are told that relativism is the ultimate goal, the ultimate stage in intellectual development is to have an open mind.  If this is the world’s version of truth, something distant, unknowable and relative, then I long to be boldly and assertively wrong about absolutely every aspect of life. My truth is not a relative abstract, but a concrete, never changing perfection. The truth is not a what, but a who. And, the only truth I rest my life upon is God. The truth that created the world,  the truth that entered the world to rescue his creation, the truth that  lives within me and walks beside me… the only definition of truth is Christ. Why can’t intellectual minds see that?  He is the only thing that makes sense, yet we walk around looking for answers when He is already here. The truth has already been revealed. Why don’t we recognize it? Why don’t we proclaim it? Why do we make the truth seem like a concept that cannot be grasped when He already has a hold of us?-- written 01/29/09