Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where's the Birthday Boy?

Merry Christmas!!! I know it’s still quite a while off, but you’ll have to just forgive me for getting excited. Besides, this might be the best time to bring this up because this is probably when most people are putting their holiday decorations up.

I have a friend from church. Let’s call her Treisa, just because I like that name, and I have to protect her identity. So, Treisa was telling me a story about putting up her Christmas decorations at home with her granddaughter—we’ll call her Gabriella. They’d gotten all of the lights and garland out. They put up candles and candy canes. They topped the tree with a star and hung ornaments from it. Afterwards, Gabriella plopped her little tired self down to admire her work. Treisa was slightly concerned though. She asked her granddaughter if she’d forgotten anything. Gabriella thought for a minute and said no. Treisa was a little disappointed and pointed out that she’d forgotten Jesus.

The whole holiday is meant to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. It is bad manners to forget the guest of honor.

The whole holiday is not about the decorations or Santa Claus. It’s about God giving His only Son to us so that we could be saved because we screwed up. We celebrate Christmas as a giant birthday we’re all happy for. “Dear Jesus, thank you for coming down here and living with us so you could save us.” I haven’t figured out how Silver Bells has anything to do with Jesus’ birthday. Giving is understandable. We give because He gave. We give to follow in His footsteps.

The gifts can be quite the challenge. A lot of people think that the more expensive the gift is, the more the giver cares about who he/she’s giving that gift to. But, what happens when you’re broke? Does it mean you love them any less if you give them a cheap thing?

I’ve got eight other people in my family; Christmas can be difficult financially. We don’t do the Secret Santa thing. We each get one gift for each person in the family. This helps strengthen family bonds. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive present. We all know that most of us can’t afford it, and we’re shocked when “Santa” manages to pull a Wii out of his sack. What we try to do is put more thought into the gifts. My younger sister made t-shirts for a few of us last year. She bought the t-shirt and a few markers and spent the next several days drawing designs on the t-shirts. Each one was crafted to suit a specific individual. She colored a picture of Mater on a t-shirt for my strange cookie dad.

It seemed that when you’re broke, the gifts mean more. They can be so much more special because instead of throwing money around, you have to participate. You utilize whatever talents you have, giving that person a piece of unique you, and show them you know and care about them by shaping the gift to match their personality.

So this Christmas, don’t get caught up in the wrong things. Remember to invite Jesus to His party, and try to make this Christmas a little more special for your loved ones by giving them more than a fancy gift that’ll sit on the shelf.

Picture found at:
Sara Goodman. "Jesus Asks Santa about His Birthday." Cartoon. Sara*ndipity. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.

Take 5, Everyone. Better yet, Take a Day.

Third commandment: Thou shalt keep holy the Lord’s Day. Show of comments, who has trouble with this one?

As a professional procrastinator and college student, I find it difficult to abide by this rule. First chance I get to run out of classrooms and avoid writing papers, I jump on it (sometimes). What this means is that I usually find myself cramming and finishing my homework the day before the first class of the next week: Sunday.

In a society like we live in today, it’s hard to think of resting on any day. Even when on vacation the idea seems so unreal (at least to me). We always have to be doing something: reading an article, bathing the dog, cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, driving the kids to dance/soccer/football/etc. When we get a chance to rest, we pass out, usually on the couch in front of the television. We’re a society of multitaskers with no concept of what rest is anymore. How are we supposed to rest when there’s so much to do, when society asks so much of us?

I think most of us kinda let this commandment slip to the slide, and we forget about it. When studying it, we can find an exception for the rule. We’re supposed to refrain from all unnecessary work. But what counts as unnecessary work? Laundry, paper that’s due in 3 days, car wash…?

Some of this can be taken care of early or can be held off until a later time. At some point procrastination does not harm a person just by raising stress levels later, it can also cause a person to displease God. Sunday is set aside for God. So, if you find you won’t have socks Monday because you haven’t done the laundry, next time do the laundry Saturday. It’s not going to make it any more fun to save it until Sunday, but at least your stress levels will be done.

There is still some work that has to be done on Sunday. Jesus worked on Sunday. He healed people, and the Pharisees jumped all over Him about it because He wasn’t supposed to be doing anything on the Sabbath day. However, there are some things that are necessary. If you find someone who’s in need, help them. This type of work is necessary as commanded by the Law of God: love your neighbor as yourself, which means feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, all that good stuff.


Words—ain’t nothin’ like ‘em. Do you know the power of words? Would you like to get a hint at it?

“God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). God set order to chaos with words. How much more powerful could a thing get? Words have the power to change.

Why do you write in your journal, for classes, for fun? What do you hope to achieve?

Why do you speak? I can’t think of a single instance when there is not some purpose for why a person speaks or writes—though I admit this may be a failing on my part, but I doubt that there is a time when there is no purpose. That purpose may not always be all that noble and great, but it’s still a purpose. Usually, that purpose is to teach your audience something new.

So, how often do you write? Maybe an hour or two each day. Maybe more if that’s your profession. How often do you speak? Probably a whole lot more than you write. With all of your writing and speaking, what do you teach your audience?
We find that, most of the time, it’s those beliefs we really care about that we argue most (whether it be who’s a better football team or who’s the better presidential candidate). So, how often do you argue for religious purposes?

There are many arguments that just seem to be beat to death, but we still argue them. Why is Twilight the most horrible travesty of literature ever made? Why are roommates the worst things ever? Why are women so complicated? Why are men so weird? Those arguments have been around forever, yet we still argue them, sometimes on a daily basis.

Yet when it comes to arguments about abortion or keeping God in schools, we’ve shut up. I understand we’re the land of tolerance. There are those who aren’t really going to appreciate it if you speak up and say, “Hey, there’s something wrong here.” But no one really liked it when God gave the commandments.

God: “Hey, here’s a bunch of rules I want you to follow. Do this or I’ll let you die in battle.”

Chosen People: “Mmm. Okay.”

Same case when Jesus came.

Jesus: “You’re a hypocrite.”

Stubborn Pharisee: “No, I’m not.”

Jesus: “Okay, ‘cause that changes facts.”

He spoke up against the Pharisees. Think they liked it? Think His speaking up went along with their peaceful lives? No chance. They killed Him for it. It’s our job as His followers to do the same. We speak up, use those powerful words, to change the world according to how God wants it to be. Why do we work so hard to follow God and then hide Him away and take Him out of schools?

You’re probably going to make a few enemies in standing up for what you believe in and doing God’s will, but isn’t it more important to be a servant of God than to be popular among sinners?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

People Watching

Ever heard the saying “he/she’s a strange cookie that one”? This saying has been repeated many times around my ears and a few times by my own mouth. I confess it to be one of my favorite sayings. My family’s big on people watching. Sometimes it can be better or more entertaining than movies or books because really truth is stranger than fiction. Tell me, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this:

I know. Poor baby, right? I admit, the picture is relatively cute, but what about the baby? He/she’s shoved in a pot! Won’t that get uncomfortable after a while? As for the parent, it’s probably much easier to carry the little lobster around like a baby; dealing with the placement of the handles on the pot and how low it’s being carried is going to make for a crazy backache later on. Still, the picture is just a little cute.

We like to look at instances like this and many more just to see the wackiness of it all, and usually we try to figure out what was going through that person's mind when they did that to themselves.

Yeah, still can’t figure that one out.

We like to do this most with celebrities. Lady Gaga, anyone?

She's got quite the taste. I don’t understand half of it, but it gives us something to talk about.

This is where the danger comes in. See, there’s a difference between observing and judging. Observing has always been the fun part for me. It blows my mind some of the things that people do. Not judging can be difficult. We can look at Lady Gaga and call her a wacko or say she’s got a few loose screws, but that’s not really okay. When observing, equality is maintained. Judging leads to marking a superior difference and condemning the “lesser” difference.

This is where that “strange cookie” saying comes in. There are a lot of different types of cookies, such raisin, chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter just to name a few. There are those who prefer chocolate chip cookies and those who prefer raisin cookies. Just because I’m not particularly fond of raisin cookies doesn’t make that cookie any less good; it just means I will not be partaking in that particular snack.

Still, even with the cookies it can be difficult to stay impartial when people watching. The best anecdote until you’ve mastered yourself is to just keep silent. “If you don’t have something nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.”

Photo of lobster baby found at:

Grey, Neha. "Ten Weird Outfits for Babies." Divine Caroline. Real Girls Media Network, Inc. Web. 6 Dec. 2011.

Photo of man with rat haircut found at:

"Rat tail haircut." Photograph. Safa.Tv. Safa.Tv, 25 Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Dec. 2011.

Photo of Lady Gaga found at:

"Lady Gaga." Photograph. Bauer Consumer Media, 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 6 Dec. 2011.

Care for a Brownie?

I like movies. Who doesn’t like movies? The only problem is movies are not always that great. I’m not talking in terms of plot, characters, and the rest of that—well, those can be an issue too—but what I mean is that they’re not always that helpful in trying to help me live like a Christian.

My dad once likened it to a pan brownies: “Brownies are good, but what if they’ve got even a little bit of crap in them? It’s only a little, but are you still going to eat that brownie?” My response? “Eww. No.” Then we think about the little bit of crap in movies. It’s only a little, but it’s still there, and it still gets inside your body and affects the way you behave. Are you still going to watch it?

It’s difficult to say "no" because movies and televisions shows are kind of a big part of our lives. It seems a movie can’t be a success unless it has destruction, profanity, nudity, and/or sexual content. Destruction may not be all that much of a hindrance in trying to live a holier life; it’s just one of those things necessary to most successful movies. Finding a movie or TV show without those other three can be quite difficult.

I used to sit with an 80-year-old lady with Alzhiemer’s Disease. Whenever we wanted to watch television, we’d be stuck with orangutans and cooking shows because those were among the few that we could be sure were “safe.” Whenever the show would break for a commercial, I’d have the remote in hand ready to flip the channels if they started advertizing soap.

Oh my gosh! The soap commercials. What happened to the soap commercials that would just show people washing their hands or a mirror? Now we’ve got women caressing themselves as water drips down their bodies. Don’t need that. It makes me want to buy your product even less.

So you’ve heard my rant about it. What are you going to do? I’m still struggling through it, and I’m by no means perfect with any of this. I still watch my occasional Lethal Weapon and Friends episode. Is it that we must realize the bad that comes with the good (or entertaining)? In recognizing the bad, we can set it aside more and make it less likely that the show will affect us subconsciously.


Candy Bar Brownies. 2009. Chica and Jo: Tackling life one project at a time. Web. 6 Dec. 2011.

Giulia. Bathing Hedgehog. 2009. Furry Talk: Let's see cute animals' opinions! Web. 6 Dec. 2011.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bushel Basket or Lampstand: Which Do You Choose?

A while back, my professor set up conferences for everyone in the class. This was the first, and most likely last, real bit of constructive criticism I was going to receive in the class. However, when I got there, my 12-page memoir got torn apart for all of the wrong reasons.

Memoirs are stories about their writer’s life. They’re not autobiographies, but they tell about shorter sequences of the writer’s life—a story of growth. My memoir was about growth in my religious life. However, in the conference, my professor told me not to write about that. She said that not everyone could relate to it, so to pick something more human. I could understand if she wanted me to open the memoir up to a broader audience, but when she suggested that I just take God out completely and, if I couldn’t, then “just call it something else,” I was more than just a little upset.

This was my life. God was (and still is) in it. I referred to Him as God. He’s going to be in there. She spent several class periods before telling us to not be afraid to write what we felt at that time. This meant, if you cursed a lot at the time of your life you’re writing about, don’t be afraid to put curse words in the dialogue. “The point of non-fiction is to reveal truth. So get us as close to the real thing as possible.” It seems she was only talking about curse words and vulgar terms for her lady parts.

I rewrote the story to bring out a theme more people could relate to because I didn’t really have enough time to explain the concept of God to people who refuse to admit they’d never heard of God (she knew). But this all brings me back to my last post. A person should not hide who he/she is—this is the land of tolerance, or it’s supposed to be at least.

A lot of people hold their religion close, which can be a good thing. But sometimes, we hold it a little too close and don’t let it show through. Remember that candle song from the younger years? This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it freakin’ shine! A person cannot say they are part of a religion and then not act on it. If you slap a Ferrari sicker on a VW, is it then a Ferrari? No. It’s the same with people. No matter what a person labels him/herself, unless they act the part, they’re not really Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, or whatever their label is.

This does not mean that you have to go out and force your religion down other people’s throats. It also doesn’t meant that you have to go out and put your religion on display to show everyone how great and fabulous you are. It does mean that you have to live your faith. You can say you believe, but unless it’s shown in the way you live, you’re nothing but talk.

If anyone has any requests for topics, feel free to leave a comment below with your ideas.

Fauxhead. This Little Light of Mine. 2011. Fauxhead: My Pursuit of Art. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Proud Prayer

You’re sitting in a cramped restaurant with your friend. You see a group of people coming to sit at the table ten inches from your elbow. Do you keep the volume of your voice at the same level? Do you drop to a whisper? Do you stop talking all together and tell your friend you can pick up the conversation later?

I know everyone is different, but I’m usually one of those to drop my voice and turn my body so I can make sure that the conversation is kept between me and my buddy. It doesn’t matter what the conversation is about or how intimate the subject matter. It could be about a party, work, school, or family. The point is that these other people are not my intended audience, so I don’t know how they’ll react. But it wouldn’t be a big deal if they heard. The conversation’s usually about nothing really important, these eavesdroppers don’t usually do anything to show a reaction. I should just keep talking, shouldn’t I?

What if this friend was God?

You’re at a restaurant praying before you eat. A group of people sit at the table next to you and scan the room, taking in their surroundings, and they spot you. Your voice cuts off, and you either stop or finish praying in your head. Why? Is it bad to give thanks to the one who allowed you to have whatever meal your about to start to gobble down?

I know I’m not the only one to do this either. I’ve talked to countless people about this and witnessed it more than just a time or two. People don’t like to pray in public. When we find a private place, we have no problem talking to God. We might fold our hands, speak out loud, or even kneel down to pray. But, for some, it can be hard to even speak out loud to God in front of their families.

Some of this comes from the fact that there are multiple religions out there, and perhaps we’re just a little too cautious because we don’t want to offend anyone. “I don’t want my child exposed to her shenanigans.” This is where your sets of values come in to play. If you’re shut yourself up and just stop praying because somebody wants you to because they feel uncomfortable or they have their own opinions about your faith, you’re casting your faith aside to be accepted by society—even though they might not fully accept you anyway because they’ve already witnessed the deep dark truth that you’re actually a Baptist, or a Mormon, or a Catholic, or whatever religion you identify yourself with.

But you are a Baptist, or a Mormon, or a Catholic, or whatever, so act like it. Pray like it. You’ve chosen to seek your salvation, so why stop because someone else might be uncomfortable and might speak up and say something. Praying allows you to talk to God. How do you build a relationship with your friends? You talk to them. Praying to God is building a relationship with Him. So keep praying, and don’t be afraid to do it. Be proud that you can talk to God and have that personal relationship with Him. That other person might get up and talk to you, though it is unlikely, but in the end, you’ve got the points with God, and He tends to be a pretty good caretaker.