Monday, December 3, 2012

A Badge of Honor: "Busy-ness"

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” 
--Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie

“We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.” 
--Bill Watterson

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” 
--John Lennon

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” 
--Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption

With finals swiftly approaching, every student can relate: we’re all busy. Monumentally busy. Ridiculously busy. By this point in the semester, everyone is simply worn out. Countdowns until the winter holidays are scrawled across countless dry erase boards across campus, and almost every time I see one, I groan. Only 8 more days? My stomach lurches. My backpack feels heavier, reminding me of all of the stuff I have to do every one of those 8 days until I’m allowed to finally rest. Part of me is thrilled that there are that few days until the holidays. The other half is horrified. Where has this semester gone?! I wonder, my stomach sinking again.

Before we all get caught up in the “busy” (don’t misunderstand me—busy can be good), let’s all just pause for a moment. Why has our “busy-ness” become a badge of honor? Why is being so ridiculously busy considered so good? Personally, I’ve started to feel inadequate or like I’m doing something wrong when I have extra time on my hands. It’s no longer viewed as time to enjoy a walk around the lake or escape the confines of campus to get coffee somewhere else. My first thought has started to become this: What else could I be doing? Should I start that project that’s due in a few weeks? There must be something

How terrible is that? I’m not sure everyone else can identify with it, but I know that plagues me on a daily basis.

So, as we all attempt to tackle the mountain of papers, projects, presentations, and tests that we face in this finals season and end-of-the-semester mayhem, can we pledge to keep each other grounded? Yes, tests are important, but in the end, it should not define who we are. I dare you to find your identity elsewhere, somewhere far more worthwhile, and I’ll try to do the same. (I promise.)

I feel like the “busy-ness” can have a tendency to stamp the creativity out of us, narrowing our vision so that we only see the next big project we have to do, the next big exam that always seems to get in the way. I set you, dear reader, with one more challenge (though I know you’ve had plenty this semester and many more to come): take some time to let your creative juices flow and be intensely yourself. If that means you need to write, write. If you need to paint, paint. If that means something as simple as going on a midnight adventure after a long day of studying or exams to Waffle House, do it. Take your time to study, but remember, first and foremost, that you are not a machine. You are a human being that needs and deserves rest, whether you want to admit it or not.

So get out there and do something. I dare you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkea Dae

For the title of this post, I'm channeling the age-old tradition from my [horrendous] middle school days where the Tuesday before Thanksgiving everyone would don ridiculous outfits and bask in the glory of the forthcoming relief from school work. I myself never attended (I was always being whisked away to go out of town), but seeing the words still brings a reminiscent smirk to my lips. (Middle school was just awkward, okay?)

Since it is Thanksgiving (or it was), it's only appropriate that I give thanks for the little things that have crossed my mind over the last few days and weeks that, quite simply, just make me happy:

family and friends ~ seesters ~ much-needed afternoon naps ~ snoozing cats ~ old letters ~ laughter ~ a time to just  be ~ the glossy pages of new magazines ~ stories ~ podcasts ~ learning ~ books (old, new, used, and loved) ~ poppies ~ bookstores ~ the smell of coffee ~ a comfy bed ~ not having to set an alarm in the morning ~ hot showers ~ rain ~ thunderstorms ~ sunshine ~ clouds ~ mountains ~ snow ~ skiing ~ photography ~ good food ~ libraries ~ writing ~ LLYC ~ dancing ~ wind chimes ~ new school supplies ~ good dreams ~ vivid dreams (good or bad) ~ antiques ~ thrift stores ~ cozy sweaters ~ breaks from school ~ my violin ~ classical music ~ bluegrass ~ friends (old and new) ~ funny curses (Egads! Blast!) ~ new words ~ Mumford and Sons 

There's so much more, of course, but these are the ones that came to mind.

Old letters: nostalgia 
Beet juice & Josie
Turkey feathers and flowers: a typical centerpiece at our household
Mmm... canned cranberry sauce
Sweet potato casserole: a family recipe & tradition

Happy holidays and safe travels, friends!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Pull of Power

In light of the elections yesterday, I ask you, dear reader, to consider what the leaders of our country face every day: the struggles they confront and the difficulties they face. No matter which political party you identify with, whether you are excited about the possibilities of the next four years or are considering moving to Canada, I beg you to pause for a moment and remember what really matters, both in this life and the next. 

This is sermon I wrote about a year and a half ago for my church's youth Sunday (first, don't let that dissuade you if you don't believe), and I think its themes are still relevant, especially in light of the last few months' events. I hope my point is clear. But mostly, I hope we can all re-learn (because we seem to have lost this ability in the last few years) to respect each other, no matter our political stances or beliefs, whether we agree or disagree.


Think about the word and all of its burdensome implications just for a moment. Let its syllables roll through your mind; let it fill your very being, uninhibitedly, for just a moment. You can feel it in your veins, can’t you? That slow, tingling feeling that begins in the tips of your fingers, then tickles its way up your arms, works its way into your veins, fuels your adrenaline, and slowly, persistently, and surely ensnares your heart. So many people get a rush from this feeling, as history so blatantly reflects, and it still continues to blow my mind that such a feeling has dominated countless, irreversible actions and altered the lives of so many people, and will continue to do so until the Messiah returns.
Power’s prominence is evident in the passage of the apostle John, when Jesus is sentenced to the ultimate suffering, the ultimate humiliation, what I consider to be one of the greatest acts of cruelty, one that is still too great to wrap my mind around: crucifixion. Pilate confronts the high priests, saying:

“Here is this man!”

As soon as the chief priests saw him, they shouted, “Crucify, crucify!” 

(Can’t you see them, anger blurring their eyes, sun-tanned fists hurled in the air, longing to bring their supposed “justice?”)

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I have no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
Their Messiah has come; their deliverer, their Savior, come to die so that they might live an eternal life, and they claim that this amazing man must die because of their Law? One might be flabbergasted now, reading these hateful words, but in reality, is their fear and anger incomprehensible? How many of us could honestly tell ourselves that, in that moment, we would have done anything but betray the Son of God, not condemn him, but show Him the love that he persistently shows us? I know I wouldn’t have, and there is no point lying to myself about it: I can be a coward. Ironically, the one thing in this world that makes me truly cowardly is not fear, anxiety, of anything of that nature. It is power. Once it’s obtained, often worked for, it seems impossible to let it go.

Four summers ago, I was blessed enough to be provided the opportunity to travel all the way to South Africa to go hunting with my wonderful father. We were planning to hunt, and I was there to employ my love of photography to capture every aspect of the trip. At the second location we visited, after a little bit of persuasion, it was my turn to hunt. My animal of choice was a kudu: an animal that my dad would jokingly say later I chose because of the sheer largesse of its magnificent horns.

Once our professional hunter selected the poor beast for me to shoot, the pursuit began. Looking back on it all, the whole situation seems rather absurd: me quietly leaping from the side of the car, whispered, urgent instructions by my high-strung professional hunter, crawling through dirt into a ditch, and a flat three seconds maximum to align the cross hairs and make my mark. The shot was unlike anything I had ever heard. Oh, I’ve been hunting several times, so the sound is really not new to me, but the fact that something literally exploded because of my delicate “squeeze” of a touch nearly knocked me off of my feet. The kick of the gun didn’t hurt for that part, either.

This shot echoed unlike anything I have ever experienced in my young adult life. It sizzled like a firecracker, only to be outdone by the shouts of glee erupting from both the professional hunter and my dad. Unnoticed by either of them, however, was not a look of shock as they might have assumed at the time, but instead an ironic triumphant feeling mingling with the bitter aftertaste of horror. The horror was not strictly caused by what I had just done: hunting does not bother me. Instead, my first, intense feeling was that tingling of the senses, ensnaring of my heart: power. Horror only came later because I realized that I actually liked this raw force, this passion and overwhelming intensity that flowed through my veins.

I had no idea what I could do with it, but hours later the reasons why men and women cling to power more than any of their worldly possessions suddenly became crystal-clear. Power is invigorating, plain and simple. It’s addictive. Its consequences are nowhere near as simple as that. It is, no doubt, what consumed the minds of the high priests when Pilate was showing Jesus to them, and they screamed, “Crucify, crucify!” The Messiah they had been hoping for, dreaming of, had finally arrived, and they got a man riding humbly in to the city on the back of a donkey, when they wanted and thought they needed a valiant man, conquering their battles and obliterating those who had wronged the Jewish people. I’m sure that disappointment was unbearable, but then when they realized that everything, every part of their being was to go to God, there was no way they could relinquish their hold on that, as well. It ultimately meant giving their power to God.

It is the ultimate surrender. Surrender: another word with negative connotations, of course, often implies weakness and failure, just as the Jews might have seen when their Savior was not a belligerent conqueror. I can empathize with their hesitance about giving up their power: it means losing control, surrendering everything to one being, which is no easy task. The rewards, however, are incomparable to the superficial rewards given by the world. This feeling of surrender is unfound joy, better than any tingling in the fingertips or rush of adrenaline: it’s pure, unadulterated, and completely indescribable. Speaking from blessed experience, this feeling is all consuming, more invigorating than anything ever imagined. It truly is a light unto my soul, a lamp unto my feet. It may seem strange, but this joy makes glow with a radiance that can only come from the knowledge that I dedicate my life to a loving, caring, and amazing God. Think about surrender for just one moment. Surrender yourself to God, and let the joy guide you closer to Him. Feel it in your veins, helping your heart beat with purpose and peace. Let it consume you. If you remember anything from this, remember this one word, and let it bring you comfort instead of fear: surrender.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Love, Revised

"When we look through the eyes of Jesus, we see new things in people. In the murderers, we see our own hatred. In the addicts, we see our own addictions. In the saints, we catch glimpses of our own holiness. We can see our own brokenness, our own violence, our own ability to destroy, and we can see our own sacredness, our own capacity to love and forgive. When we realize that we are both wretched and beautiful, we are freed up to see others the same way."
--Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution


No, I'm not talking about the sappy, cloying, saccharine kind of love that drips from the lyrics of countless sonnets, poems, and songs throughout the ages. I'm talking about the kind of love that bleeds. The kind of love that sacrifices. The kind of love that weeps, the kind that bears so much compassion that it causes one to see other people for who they truly are. This is the kind of love that Jesus talks about throughout the gospels, reminding the apostles that "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).

Our world has split into this disgusting notion of us vs. them. This notion inhibits us from truly loving our neighbor, from really loving them for all that they are: human beings full of flaws and imperfections that blend beautifully to reflect the image of God. It's so sad how often we forget that our neighbor (not just physically--even our neighbors across the sea, even the people we perceive as our enemies) bears the image of God, just as we do, just as Adam and Eve did, just as our soldiers do, just as the person who wronged us does, just as the homeless man or woman who is huddled, invisible on the concrete does. How often we, myself included, all forget that. 

What if we, as human beings, as Christians, as citizens of humanity, actually started to see our neighbors as someone to really, deeply, and compassionately love with every fiber of our beings, no matter what it looks like or how difficult it is? As Jamie Torkowski so aptly said: "Our job is to love people. When it hurts. When it's uncool and embarrassing. Our job is to stand together, to carry the burdens of one another and to meet each other in our questions."

This, I feel, is what is at the heart of Shane Claiborne's book, The Irresistible Revolution. He touches on numerous other--and very significant--topics, but this, I feel, is the most important. It's rare that a book really makes me stop and reexamine my life and what I value. In all actuality, with all of the books I've read in my short lifetime, I don't think any book has ever really done that. Claiborne has made me uncomfortable and made me aware of my actions and my decisions. He has made me aware that all of my decisions bear consequences, whether it affects me directly or someone else indirectly. Furthermore, I am reminded that the moment I decided to be a Christian, I promised my life and existence to someone, something else. 

There are so many things I could reflect on (and need to reflect on) after reading The Irresistible Revolution, but the thought process could potentially fill its own book. (Narrowing down this post to a few hundred words has been a challenge--I have numerous pages of notes, thoughts, and quotes scribbled all over the place.) I encourage, no, implore you, dear reader, to read this amazing book. No, you might not agree with everything he says, but it will challenge you and your faith in ways you could never imagine. (Well, I at least never imagined.) These few words barely scratch the surface on my thoughts and reactions to Shane's words, but I encourage you to read it for yourself and make what you will of it. (Isn't the freedom of reading beautiful?)

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
--Psalm 139:13-14

After reading, I had so many ideas, thoughts, and reactions I wanted to share with the blogosphere, but it immediately became apparent that it would turn into a collection of essays in and of itself, so if you have any questions, are curious, or disagree with me (as it is entirely possible, and I welcome it), feel free to e-mail me, comment, or whatever your heart desires. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sweet Solitariness

Last Saturday, an odd idea struck me (for a college student, that is). See, unlike most students (it seems, but I'm sure my impression could be completely wrong), no matter how late I've stayed up the night before, I love mornings. I love waking up extra early just so I can sit, eat my breakfast, and read a book while sipping a warm cup of coffee. I love a morning's lazy drowsiness, the cool, refreshing air, and the feeling that for a few minutes, the world is mine to behold.

So, I woke up a few minutes before the dawn (that makes it sound much more impressive than it was), threw some warm clothes on, grabbed my camera, my iPod, and my car keys, and dashed out the door. After buying a deliciously warm mocha (it really is happiness in a cup), I got in my car and drove north. Along the way, I listened to my Harry Potter audiobooks (What can I say? The narrator has an extremely soothing British accent.) and appreciated the rising sun and how its light started to dance across the mountains.

These are a few of the photos I took along the way of things I simply found interesting and intriguing; my only goal throughout this morning was to stop for what caught my eye, enjoy the peacefulness, to simply escape campus and all of its distractions, and to remember that there is a world out there: one with mountains, winding roads, gurgling brooks, and crunchy, rust-colored leaves.

“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our
 innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.” 
--Hermann Hesse

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, 
in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.” 
--Anaïs Nin

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: 
and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” 
--C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.” 
--May Sarton

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I'm normally not one to participate in things like float building, tailgating, and homecoming festivities in general, but this past weekend has been a different story. And who would've thought--I actually had fun! Hey, well it was a surprise to me. 

"Always remember there was nothing worth sharing
Like the love that let us share our name."
--Avett Brothers

Saturday, October 20, 2012


One of our annual fundraisers is what's known as DHOP: Delta House of Pancakes. It's pretty self-explanatory, but the really important things are:
1) It raises money for St. Jude, our philanthropy. (We raised nearly $2,000 that night, if I'm remembering correctly. Someone help me if I'm wrong...)
2) It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
3) Lots and lots of delicious pancakes were eaten. Lots and lots.
4) Several on-campus a cappella groups performed and did a rather swell job, in my opinion.
5) Stan the Aardvark made an appearance.
One down side: (I guess this is partially a disclaimer, as well) the lighting in there was really unfortunate and frustrating.

Another disclaimer: the proportions are a little weird for some of these photo collages, so sorry about that... I'm still getting used to the editing software I'm using, and it's a learning process (basically a nice way of saying it's a struggle at the moment).