Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting Higher(Ed)

Nice little play on words, eh?

Anyway, I basically got turned down for a blogging job for a Student Affairs online program a few days ago in which I would have chronicled my job search. Making lemonade of lemons, I've just decided I'm going to do it here! My usual smattering of random ramblings will be included, as well. Enjoy!


   The shining new year of 2014 has already invoked in me that apprehensive, tingly feeling that is equal parts an optimistic excitement at the prospect of a clean slate and that certain dull dread that lingers right below your ribs when you remember you have a 10-page paper due tomorrow (not that that has ever happened to such a dedicated student as I). It is no small thing to be standing on the precipice of the beginning of one’s adult working life. Yes, I am a graduate assistant and I pay my own bills and so forth, but there is something much more important about the transition from part time student/employee/Netflix addict to full time adult with the entire package of responsibilities and liberties that entails. It’s thrilling and horrifying. However, above all things, I am choosing to embrace the hope that whispers through the not yet opened doors 
ahead of me. Ain’t it grand to be young and in search of your future?

   I've mentioned it before, but one of my favorite movie quotes comes from Harvey, a 1950 film about Elwood P. Dowd - a man who seems to be experiencing a mental crisis, hallucinating about a 6 foot tall rabbit named Harvey, with whom Dowd is good friends. Dowd is the type of person you hate when you have to go to the grocery store after a long day; someone who seems to be in a perpetual state of complete joy and satisfaction with his life. In one scene, Dowd recalls a moment with his mother and gives the audience a glimpse into just how sane he really is: “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ - she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” My fellow plagiarism police will notice I am quoting him by his own permission. This quote is particularly attractive to me because it embodies a change I’ve experienced in my own life. For years I was smart; I 
recommend pleasant. And it is in that spirit of pleasantness – by which I mean being kind, well-humored, and generally joyful – that I want to continue in my job search.

   The profession (some would say vocation) of Student Affairs is of such a nature that it 
can shift in extremes from wordlessly taxing on one’s mind and body to infinitely, wonderfully 
rewarding. Keeping that in mind, I don’t expect my search for a position in Student Affairs to be 
any different. I expect the mountains and hope for the valleys and I yearn most for the peaks. 
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go revise my résumé for the 127th
all three extended edition Lord of the Rings DVD’s to drown out my inevitable self-esteem 

Until next time, be kind to each creature!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

'Real Women'

I was browsing Facebook a few days ago and saw one of those spammy, viral pictures that get passed around like a bad cold every now and then. Social media and media in general love to sell ridiculous lists of what 'Real Women' do:

Real Women watch football.
Real Women work and raise a family.
Real Women never have a day off because they are at home with their children.
Real Women run through the pain.
Real Women eat pizza for breakfast.
Real Women vote (fill in the blank).
Real Women act like a lady.
Real Women cuss like sailors.
Real Women...

You know what REAL WOMEN do? Real women support each other and refuse to invent/promote bullcrap rules about what 'real women' do. Real women prevail over the social constructs, class systems, and self-obsession that demand we find fault in our differences. Real women LOVE - themselves and others and anything they very well please. Because real women are real people. And they are complicated and simple and beautiful and without bounds.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Backlog Blog Lag

Hi, everyone! I give this greeting in the remote hope that I am not just talking to myself.

As you can tell, I went on a summer hiatus. I took a truckload of classes and have been working my tush off, but we all are, right?  GET OFF MY BACK, THESE ARE VALID EXCUSES!
Ahem...anyway, I really want to get back on the blog train. We just hosted a pretty cool party I'd love to tell you about, I am refurbishing an adorable table I found in the dumpster (grad student win), and we're gearing up to really kick our half marathon training up a notch. The students returned which means I left town as quickly as possible. Really my grandfather turned 80 so I went home to celebrate that.

I always have mixed feelings about school starting back. I am looking forward to getting back into my own routine, but I also kind of love it during the summer when only the full-time residents are around. For those who ever lived on campus over the summer or in a "college town," you understand that unspoken inner head-nod everyone seems to share once the students have cleared. However, autumn is my favorite season. I'm looking forward to football games, that certain smell around October when the wind starts getting cooler (it's Mississippi; I take what I can get), and all the best holidays. This is the most disjointed post but I have great plans for perfectly relevant and sensible posts for the future, I promise!

Until then, be kind to each creature!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Out of Sync

Someone re-posted this video of 32 metronomes that all start out of sync but end up affecting each other so that they eventually achieve synchronization. It's a pretty interesting watch so here you go:

This is nothing particularly new or mind-blowing, but I appreciate science and watching this made my gears turn. Like any bored individual might, I browsed through the comments (the video I watched was posted to iO9). Watching this video reminded me instantly of the idea of "groupthink." One comment from "science4thewin" stated simply, "order from disorder without the interaction of a 'god.'" Of course, I have some disagreements with this comment. After some careful consideration, here is what I'm sure will come across as a rambling response.

First, I do believe God has interacted and continues to interact with Creation. That said, my question was, "Does our Creator interact with us with the intention of achieving synchronization?" My immediate and, I think, final answer is a solid NO. Just as the Creator is infinitely creative, so is Creation. Creation is not just a noun, it is also a verb (I would argue that the latter is the more important). Creation didn't just happen, it is happening. The Creator didn't finish the work to resign and wait for us to fall into synchronization. This is a process referred to as "locking" by the engineers of the Millenium Bridge in London. Here's a video of what happened when it opened.

Because of the way the bridge behaved, the pedestrians changed the way they walked which ended with thousands of people walking in a side-to-side motion that made the bridge sway significantly. We often react to what surrounds us and, like the metronomes or the people on the bridge, we lock in with each other and fall in sync with each other. However, I would argue that in our actions and in my life as a Christian, we have something that metronomes don't have. Free will. Unlike metronomes and crowds on bridges and planets and entire galaxies, our actions are not always dictated by the physical laws of our world. This is another way in which the creature/creation conflicts with itself. We are created to live beyond the laws of physics and nature, but we are also of this world and, thus, we often apply these laws to our metaphysical existence.

Here's an example. When it comes to peace, we often are so confounded in how to achieve it that we comply with the laws of physics and instead of equity, we settle for sameness. For the same reason that our finite-ness leads to us applying physical law to the non-physical, we apply the same laws to each other. Take any utopian/dystopian novel or story. Think Brave New World, The Giver, or "Harrison Bergeron." In each story, the characters' lives are dictated by rules that intend to equalize every citizen of their world (all except, of course, the people making those rules). It is completely involuntary and it always takes some kind of crisis event for one or more individuals in these worlds to overcome this oppressive equality. Sometimes, it overwhelms them altogether.

Order certainly has it's place and I am not proposing that Christians should "go against the current" just for the sake of being different. However, we have the right, privilege, and duty in many cases to exercise our will. I have a deep appreciation for the physical Creation that so often orders itself through synchronization, gravity, natural selection, and other such forces. But we are called to operate beyond these forces. We advocate for the weak and systematically disadvantaged; we strive to defy the impossibilities of yesterday; we urge ourselves not to "conform but to be transformed."

The metronomes have no will. They can't choose to be out of sync. Even the last one on the right in the second row eventually succumbs to the pendulum swing. We can choose to act instead of react. The example I choose to follow is that set by Jesus. He is the ultimate interaction between our Creator and Creation. Not just the interaction of "a 'god,'" but of the God.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dios Bendiga

For the majority of the past week I was in Campeche, Mexico with Living Waters for the World on a mission to teach local residents how to properly use the water filtration system and clean water. The small group we went with was comprised of my pastor, a member of our church, my roommate, and myself. This was my first real mission trip. I have done alternative breaks and the like, but never a real mission trip. Going into it, I wasn't sure what to expect at all. I had common images of what one would refer to as a "village" in my mind. I remember wondering if I should even wear my simple daily jewelry for fear of both seeming out of touch and of losing it. The hotel we where we stayed had all the basic commodities, wi-fi included. The city itself was as nice as any (and somewhat nicer) than the ones close to me here in Mississippi. The way that the country of Campeche is arranged geographically, most of the higher SES population is found in the lower elevations closer to the water. The higher up you go into the hills, the poorer the residents. Our partner church was right outside the heart of the historic downtown area and, like our hotel, was not very unlike any other here in the U.S.

The water that the new filtration system will produce will be used to serve those who live near this church as well as the mission churches they have planted in the hills for the poorer populations. In this kind of set-up, we don't serve as a drop off service but, instead, we strive to create and maintain relationships with our friends in Mexico. We are a part of a ripple effect that helps other help themselves and those who have even less than they.

On the way back from our trip, our pastor asked us to consider what it meant to both be a blessing and to be blessed so that we could share that with our church this Sunday. On the plane ride I wrote down a few of my thought and I wanted to share some of them here.

Although I could see our positive impact we made, I don't feel like I would go so far as to call myself or my presence in this trip a "blessing." I mostly just hope that I was in some way a vessel of God's love for the world. I spent most of the trip feeling incredibly insufficient and incompetent. My Spanish is limited at best so communication was no simple task. Had it not been for our wonderful translator, teaching the daily lessons would have been impossible. That said, we soon found other ways to communicate. My roommate and I brushed up on the Spanish we learned in our undergrad years and managed to hold brief conversations. We connected through music, kindness, laughter, and food. Especially through food.

And that's where we switched from "being a blessing" to "being blessed." I was blessed by every act of generosity and patience, both of which were more than hourly occurrences. I have never met such hospitable and gracious people in my life. They constantly told us how grateful they were for us and for our service, but it was me who was grateful. Despite our lack of language skills, we were met with compassion and love and kindness to a degree that I rarely experience in my day-to-day life. Whether I was a blessing or not, the Spirit of God was undeniably present throughout our trip. I am convinced, now more than ever, that we are all truly created in the image of God. And for that, I feel deeply blessed.

P.S. Pictures to come soon!

Monday, April 29, 2013

It Really Bugs Me When...

Christian artists sings songs with unclear and possibly harmful messages about God. I was listening to K-LOVE last week (because I had forgotten to grab my iPod) and I heard this song with a lyric that basically said, "I could write the most beautiful song in the world and it still wouldn't be enough."

And I was like,

Now, I know that they probably meant, "I could write the most beautiful song in the world and it still wouldn't be enough to reflect how amazing You are." But it comes across that our best and most beautiful creations are "not enough...for God." Like God is some judgmental critic, sticking his nose in the air when we sing off key or write a poem that doesn't deserve a Nobel Prize. (However, I do think God wants you to stop letting children speak/sing-talk 1/3 of your songs. Please.)

Which is why I love the message behind Amy Grant's "Better Than a Hallelujah." Yes, we should do our best for God, whatever our endeavors. However, artists need to be careful when they push the message that us and our various ways of glorifying God are insufficient.

No, there is no way that we as faulted creature/creations can fully express the immense glory of our Creator. However, our Creator made us in His image so whatever we do, if it's to glorify Him and his Creation, then it is "enough."

This is not my most eloquent post, but I think you all get the gist of what I'm saying. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life."

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life."
                               - Bilbo Baggins

I'm very drawn to the idea of living simply. It's one of the major reasons I have remained a vegetarian (which I promise I'll discuss in length some other time). I'm not really sure if there is one way to sum up simple living. As naturally complicated creatures, it's very easy to project our inner intricacies to our exterior lives. The world is not always simple. We learn this every time we turn on the news. How can we be simple in a world that demands us to constantly multitask?

For me, simplicity is not defined as avoiding deep thought or engagement in our local and global community. Much to the contrary, I think those things encourage me to live simply. I think it comes down to prioritizing what you consider essential in your life. In their song "Heaven Go Easy on Me," The Head and Heart says, "It is that the good life is a simple one? Sittin' in the yard watchin' the leaves go by. Reading good books and playing songs." That may be a dramatically reduced summation, but I think it reflects how I would define the simple life. We simplify our lives when we focus all of our endeavors toward achieving the goals that we have for ourselves. I ask myself, "Will X allow me to grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally? Will doing X allow me to serve others? Would I regret not doing X?"

For Bilbo, the simple life is eating good food and enjoying the company of his friends and loved ones. Isn't that a fairly universal goal? You don't have to become a super-vegan, zero-waste, only-own-3-outfits kind of person to live a simple life. You just have to remove the clutter of the non-essentials in your life. Simplicity isn't hard when you have a core of inner peace to take shelter in when everything else is screaming for your money, attention, and energy.

How do you simplify your life?