Posted in Devotion, Life

Mute or Reflective?

Hmm. I haven’t been here in a while. It’s not that I haven’t had blog worthy moments. Maybe the reason involves summer laziness or wedding distractions, but there’s also a part of me that has just felt the need to be quiet for a while.

I was reading in James the other week, and while James always holds a huge throat punch the latter part of the first chapter highlighted itself. The author writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21 ESV).

My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes. I say things before thinking; I speak in order to fit in. Sometimes I say the wrong thing, and other times I say something in the wrong way. The part about listening and speaking apply heavily in my spiritual and relational parts of life. The anger part, though, didn’t ever feel as applicable because I am generally not an outwardly angry person. This time, though, the addendum to the third point, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”, stuck out. Anger doesn’t have to be manifested outwardly to be anger. I have an inward bubbling anger when I do get angry. I’m more likely to cold shoulder someone and think mean things about them than say something to their face. I might sometimes speak ill behind their back, which goes back to the slow to speak part, but God showed me that the cold shoulder and mean thoughts were just as unpleasing. They didn’t produce the righteousness of God within me. If I was busy angrily seething over my hurt or frustration, I wasn’t seeking the face of God.

So the solution? Thankfully James also throws us a bone occasionally. Immediately after punching us with the truth of what anger doesn’t do, he tells us to put it away and receive the word of God. That saves our souls. Now literally, Jesus does the saving of our souls, but our actions of seeking Him rather than seeking anger bring us closer to Him.

While I’ve been quiet on here lately, I’ve been learning about this and other things. Maybe I’ll share them in time, or maybe the lesson is that some lessons are to be shown in my life rather than in my words.

In other news, I’m excited for the start of this school year. It’s one week away from teacher meeting week. While I still can’t get into my classroom, I have been scouring the internet and making resources and preparing my mind for the return of my lovelies. Here’s to a good school year!

Cheers!

Posted in Book Review, Life, Literature

Books That Promote Thought

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult is more than just another well-written court story. It’s a book carefully woven to leave questions in the reader’s mind. The basic plotline involves an African-American woman on trial after a white baby dies. The baby’s parents were leaders of the Pro-White Movement, which I didn’t even know still existed until this book. Reading this book sent me on an emotional roller coaster of disgust, anger, sadness, and elation mixed healthily with a lot of questions. Rather than spoiling the plot of the book, I’d like to take you through some of the questions in my mind.

Firstly I learned in this book that there is a Pro-White movement. The character claimed that Whites could become the majority. I’ll admit that at times I have questioned why there aren’t White History months or White Student Unions but never to the point that I would actually want those things established. I recognize that in this country and in most of the world, being born with Caucasion skin color puts you a little ahead in the game. I also recognize the injustice others may experience because of their skin color. I would rather appreciate my gifts rather than harbor resentment over a lack of White recognition.

But did you ever think our misfortune is directly related to your good fortune? Maybe the house your parents bought was on the market because the sellers didn’t want my mama in the neighborhood. Maybe the good grades that eventually led you to law school were possible because your mama didn’t have to work eighteen hours a day, and was there to read to you at night, or make sure you did your homework. How often do you remind yourself how lucky you are that you own your house, because you were able to build up equity through generations in a way families of color can’t? How often do you open your mouth at work and think how awesome it is that no one’s thinking you’re speaking for everyone with the same skin color you have? How hard is it for you to find a greeting card for your baby’s birthday with a picture of a child that has the same color skin as her? How many times have you seen a painting of Jesus that looks like you?” She stops, breathing heavily, her cheeks flushed. “Prejudice goes both ways, you know. There are people who suffer from it, and there are people who profit from it. Who died and made you Robin Hood? Who said I ever needed saving? Here you are on your high horse, telling me I screwed up this case that you worked so hard on; patting yourself on the back for being an advocate for a poor, struggling black woman like me…but you’re part of the reason I was down on the ground to begin with.” from Small Great Things

While knowing that my skin color gives me certain advantages is good, it still doesn’t answer what I do about those advantages. I wouldn’t ask for those to be taken away, and simply being thankful for the advantages doesn’t seem to solve the racial injustices. I don’t want to move to the point of feeling guilty for my position of birth, but I also don’t want to lord it over others. I also know that I can’t fix all of the problems by myself.

When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits. From the author’s note.

Then I am moved to ask what I do about the direct racism in the world around me. While I don’t think I consciously treat anyone differently, blatant racism does occur. It would be easy to say that minorities are just making a big deal out of things that aren’t big deals, but I’ve never been followed in a store or told that I couldn’t achieve great things simply because of my race. I don’t know what that feels like, so maybe those seemingly little incidents are important because they add up in the life of a minority person. I also recognize that I can’t stop all of the racism in the world because I don’t cause it all. All I can do is watch my actions and thoughts very carefully to ensure that I don’t perpetuate the problem. In addition, I can teach my students and those around me to see people the way that God sees people. What God sees is a person’s heart, not their skin color. What matters to God is if they are following Him.

“Out of all the people who interacted with Davis Bauer at Mercy–West Haven Hospital during his short life, only one of them is sitting in this courtroom at the defense table: Ruth Jefferson. Only one person is being charged with a crime: Ruth Jefferson. I spent an entire trial skirting a very important question: Why? “Ruth is black,” I say flatly. From Small Great Things

Finally the court case in the book brought up the point of indirect racism. This happens when the question of race is ignored in a situation. I don’t think I intentionally treat anyone any differently simply because of the color of their skin, but I may unintentionally perpetuate the problem by ignoring that racism happens. I teach at a school with a very diverse racial population and a mostly homogeneous racial teaching staff. One of the questions on my application was “what do you think about race?” I think, as a 24-year-old, I answered something along the lines of saying that race didn’t matter to me because God loves everyone. While that is all good and well, ignoring racism in the world doesn’t help my students learn how to handle it whether they or someone else is being discriminated against.

I mean equity. Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.” I look at her. “The first one sounds fair. The second one is fair. It’s equal to give a printed test to two kids. But if one’s blind and one’s sighted, that’s not true. You ought to give one a Braille test and one a printed test, which both cover the same material. From Small Great ThingsThis means I carefully choose the literature we read in order to bring up these questions of race and the general treatment of people. It means I don’t allow discriminatory talk of any kind to happen in my classroom. It also means that if a student accuses me of acting in a racist way, whether he is right or wrong about my intentions, I examine my actions to ensure that it wasn’t unintentional racism. It means that I teach my students to look for the similarities between us all as humans rather than seeing the differences while also celebrating the variety of cultures. Finally it means that I teach my students and those around me to love as God loves by demonstrating that love and humility in my actions.

While it may be a moot point now, I encourage others to read Piccoult’s Small Great Things. There is a little bit of language to represent the cultures in which the characters live, but overall wholesome thinking is applauded. The book provokes thought, creates complex plot, and develops characters at just the right pace. She really looks at the question of racism from every angle, and I haven’t really even begun to do this conversation justice. That’s what this book is: a conversation about race. So go read, then come back and converse with me.

Posted in Life, Movies

Free Porn…and the consequences

The episode of Friends when Joey and Chandler find free porn on their TV bothers me, but it also reveals some truths about pornography. The two are afraid to turn off the TV because they are afraid the porn will disappear. Firstly this shows how addictive porn can be. This is not the only time the characters demonstrate their addiction to pornography. Just episodes before, Monica entices her friends to come hang out at her apartment by offering cookies and, you guessed it, porn. It’s sad how easily people are drawn to this distortion of God’s creation, but it’s scary how prevalent and addicting the habit is. The episode closes with Joey and Chandler turning off their television set. They are relieved to hear silence, but immediately they must turn the TV back on to see if they still the have free porn. It is addictive.

Secondly, the show reveals the effect porn has on the viewer. Towards the end of the episode, Chandler reveals to Joey that he was disappointed that the woman at the bank didn’t immediately want to have sex with him. Joey had a similar experience. Porn, and the habit of watching it, distorts reality. God created sex, so sex in and of itself is not bad, but God created sex for marriage. Pornography makes that sacred moment seem like a cheap side show. It could be likened to serving filet mignon at McDonalds .

Lastly, I want to point out that none of the characters have healthy, lasting relationships (aside from Chandler in very late the series). I don’t think that is a coincidence. Their view of relationships and intimacy is distorted by the culture around them, namely in this instance, pornography. While I enjoy the best show’s witty banter and Comic moments, I simply cannot approve of the lifestyles the characters lead. I shake my head and remind myself that they do not know Jesus. Their lives would be so much fuller if they did.

Posted in Life

The Big Falls

Niagra Falls was a wonder to behold.

Navigating the area and stuffing in all of the experiences we wanted to experience into five hours was another wonder. Thanks to much research and a little intuition, this day of the trip was probably one of the most enjoyable.

We started the day by finding parking in the very busy town of Niagra Falls, New York. My research had advised parking in the state park lot 1, but since I wasn’t driving, I had no say when the driver changed that plan to park in the $5 lot across the road. Turns out, though, that it was a better spot anyway. It was cheaper and we literally ended up directly across the street from where we would have parked before.

Then we started to get our bearings and look for food. We quickly discovered that the food on the American side was touristy and overpriced, so we decided to head on over to Canada.

I’ve left and returned to the US numerous times, and that was by far the easiest border crossing ever. You do need a passport, and maybe the time of year and day of the week make a difference, but we walked into Canada in about ten minutes time. We went through some interesting turnstiles and followed clearly marked signs that said “To Canada”. As a group we showed our passports to the customs officer, and we walked across the Rainbow Bridge which separates the US from Canada.

For moment there, I was in two countries. Once in Canada, our stomach let the way. Here’s a little travel advice: the first restaurant you approach will probably be the most expensive. Skip it. While the views from the Canada side are more spectacular because you see both falls at once, the roads are like an amusement park.

With more time and stamina, we might have found something a bit more authentic, but we landed on the gimmicky Clifton Hills road complete with its oversized everything and pull-you-in attractions. This road was basically covered with American chains, but we did find a Tim Hortons, a Canadian based chain similar to Duncan Donuts. I enjoyed soup, bread, and a cookie for under $5. Here’s another travel tip: bring your own drink (Nalgene water bottle in my case) to save a bit of money.

Then we were finished with Canada. Crossing back into the US required a $1 toll, but it was just as simple. Never once were we checked in security. In fact the officer simply asked us what we were bringing back. I guess we didn’t look too threatening.

Back on the US side, we gave in to the high prices of the boat tour Maid of the Mist. There is a Canadian side version of this called the Hornblower, but we opted the for blue ponchos instead of the red.

It was full on tourist mode, but when in Niagra Falls do as they do. Overall though it got us closer to the falls than we could have any other way.

Overall it was a great day, tiring, but well worth the journey.

Posted in Life

Facebook

Maybe it’s time to deactivate Facebook again. My heart is drawn there when it’s sad instead of drawn to Jesus. I find myself seeking comfort by scrolling when true comfort comes from Jesus. It’s easy to find myself scrolling mindlessly and letting my more creative outlets fade into the lie of “I don’t have time”. Ultimately it is a temptation to compare and judge myself and others positively and negatively.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Matthew 18:7‭-‬9 ESV

I need to run from this temptation to waste time, judge others and myself, and worship a false god. It may be temporary because I do see some benefit in having an easily accessible account. I’m praying about the right way to do this or if God simply wants to shift my mindset towards Facebook. I don’t want to lose contact with people, but I have to trust that God will keep the people I need and who need me in my life other ways.

For now I’ll delete the apps, but I’ll keep listening to God about the heart matter and what methods he’ll use to heal me. Pray with me?

Just so you’re aware, I have a cell phone that works when I hold my head the right way and get signal, another number that runs off WiFi, and a landline. I also update on Instagram (where I feel like I have more control over myself) and this blog (where I would love some comments and interaction). I also answer old fashioned knocks on the door if you’re in the area.

Posted in Life

Church

In the past month, I’ve been in four different churches because of various circumstances such as flooding and travelling. All of them are teaching the Bible, and there are people in each one who are genuinely seeking God. None of them, though, leave me feeling completely content with how I imagine the perfect church to be. The music is too slow or too loud; the lights are too bright or the building too cold; the people are too old or the crowd is too large; the drive is too far or I don’t want to go alone. These are just a few of the complaints that run through my head as I leave a service.

I know being plugged in to one church is what I desire, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Lately it seems as if there’s always something better somewhere else. That’s not normal for me, so I started praying. After some heart-searching, these are the answers that God gave to me. Maybe these thoughts will help someone else in a similar circumstance.

What I need to remember is two-fold. First church is not about all of the frills, which I’m honest is where most of my complaints lie. The most important part of church is God. God can speak with old hymns, new rock, bright lights, a yelling preacher, a long sermon, or a quick devotion. God is not bound by any circumstances. The only thing that binds me from hearing his words is myself.

Secondly, all of these churches are run by people. Granted, I think all of the churches I’ve been at lately are led by people seeking God. Still though, I find myself wanting certain circumstances to worship. Rather than looking for perfection in the man-made aspects of church, I should look for perfection in the God-driven aspects of church. My focus should be on praising God and leaning toward him rather than examining the layout of service.

Lastly, even with all of the imperfections I can find in churches, I still find church to be very important to my faith in God. Yes, all of the answers I need for my relationship with God are found in the Bible and through time with Him, but God made us for fellowship. When Jesus left the Earth, he left a group of believers and told them to stick together. God didn’t design me to navigate this world alone. He intends for me, and others, to meet together regularly to worship Him and study his Word. While I can, and should, worship and study all week long, there’s just something special about gathering with other believers no matter which building I do it in. I have no answers about what the perfect church service or atmosphere looks like, probably because it doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter where I end up on Sunday, my one focus should be to worship God and learn more about Him.

Posted in Gratefulness, Life

God and I

God and I went on an adventure together today. It was a bit muddy and slick and totally delightful. As followed the trail markers through the quiet forest, he reminded me that he has given me trail markers in life as well to keep me on the path. My heart panged a bit as I saw a couple taking engagement photos, but God reminded me that no matter my marital status he is more than enough to satisfy me. A child’s shriek of fright and the mother’s reassurance as they climbed a hill put a smile on my lips, and God reminded me that he’s given me much to smile about. All in all it was a good day basking in God’s beauty. Enjoy the pictures below and remember how much God loves you.

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky