Sunday, January 22, 2012

Don't Take Church For Granted

When I was in high school, my mom persecuted me for my faith. For a period of about 6 months after I was baptized, I wasn't allowed to attend church, and I had limited access to a Bible, phone, or contact with my fellow believers. I'm going to tell the truth: it actually, physically hurt.

I think that if someone has the Holy Spirit, it cannot bear to be away from itself. I need my brothers and sisters. Being away is like missing out on a part of God. It's like God being divided. It's like myself being divided. Yet as I've lived as a Christian for a little longer, I've started to see that people take the church for granted. Excuses like, "I'm busy," "I'm tired," "It's too early/long/boring," "I have to work" (on Sunday morning, or can you work the other 166 hours in the week?) are lame. Even legitimate excuses are lame. Do you really need anything more than you need God? Is there anything he can't provide?

Unfortunately, to our detriment, something positive like a culture that is friendly to Christianity and religious freedom has created a church culture of apathy. We don't see our need. Sometimes I want to shake these people and say, "Don't you know that in most other places in the world, people aren't allowed to meet?? And you're actually blowing off the opportunity?!?"

It's the same thing with the Bible. What if someone took that away because reading it wasn't allowed? Or what if you were stuck in the wilderness for the rest of your life and that's the only copy you have? You'd value it pretty highly, right? So why are American Bibles collecting dust—displayed in people's living rooms?

In the college group I was a part of for a while, I knew a South Korean foreign exchange student who said something similar. He was also surprised at Americans' attitudes toward church attendance, since in North Korea, Christians have to meet in underground groups. In South Korea, he said, Christians are thankful for the opportunity to meet together without fear.

Today, I am thankful for the opportunity to meet with fellow believers in Christ, and I know that if something like that happened to me again, they would be praying for me fervently while I was away. I realize that writing this is a bit like telling a child over dinner to be grateful they don't live in Africa or wherever, but people underestimate how often this nicer version of persecution happens to young people in America whose parents aren't believers. I've had at least 3 friends who went through the same thing I did. If it happened to you, wouldn't you like to trust that even if you aren't able to physically be with your brothers and sisters, you'd be "sticking together" in your hearts? Wouldn't you long for your spiritual family?

If you're reading this, I don't want you to think I'm trying to beat you over the head with the big KJV I have in my living room (ok, I'll be honest, I don't have a big KJV in my living room). Guilt tactics never work. Just take it as some passionate thoughts from someone who just knows what's important and will probably never forget it. Don't take church for granted. And share Bibles with people who can't afford them—you never know, that thing could become a tattered, lifelong best (only) friend.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Star Trek Twitter Watch Party - "Amok Time"

Fellow Star Trek fans of Twitter,

I've been talking about having a TOS watch party and using a hashtag, that way people can discuss the episode together. It's a lot more fun than just watching them alone (although that's fun too). Of course, desires must be acted upon, so grab the popcorn and let's schedule it!

When: Thursday, January 26th at 8:00 pm
Where: Your home planet, and at - Full Episodes - "Amok Time"
Who: Star Trek TOS fans who have Twitter accounts

I chose "Amok Time" because it's one of the most popular episodes, so if you're new to Star Trek, it'll provide a good introduction to the series and the characters—especially Spock. For Star Trek fans, this episode never gets old. The storyline involves the logical, unemotional first officer Spock suddenly going mad because of a Vulcan condition called pun farr, which happens twice in a Vulcan's life. Although the Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission on orders from Starfleet, Spock must immediately return to his home planet or die.

There will be a full week leading up to the time of the watch party. Be sure to log on at exactly 8:00, that way we're all watching it in real time. The hashtag is #amoktime.

Don't be late. Bad things could happen...

Perry Drops Out of GOP Race, Endorses Gingrich

New York Times: Perry Ends Bid for Presidency

Rick Perry announced this morning that he would drop out of the Presidential race, saying, "I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat."

Although he started strong, raising $17M during the first 2 months of the race, Perry had been falling in the polls of late, garnering only 6% support in New Hampshire and only 0.7% in the state's primary vote.

Like Cain, Perry said that he felt "called" by God into the Presidential race, so it's a little sad to see him procure the same fate. Instead, he will endorse Newt Gingrich as a more conservative alternative to behemoth Mitt Romney, dividing evangelical voters in South Carolina and Florida between Gingrich and Santorum.

Perry recognizes Gingrich's failings, but said during a very spiritually salted speech today, "Newt isn't perfect, but who among us is?"

Sarah Palin Endorses Newt Gingrich, Sort Of and Only in S.C.
An Evangelical Vote Of Confidence For Santorum; Gingrich Still Gets Support

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Do Musicians Have to Wear Clunky Shoes?

When I was in 5th grade, I bought a pair of low, square black heels that I subsequently wore to every violin recital, orchestra concert, piano recital, and special event I ever went to, until I had to retire them a few weeks ago.

They were too big for me then, but I got a lot of good wear out of them. Never did I have to worry that my shoes would pass inspection from my orchestra teacher. Never did I worry about falling on stage, rolling my ankle, or fussing over embarrassing horror stories of stilettos getting stuck in between the wooden boards (my middle school orchestra teacher loved this technique of warning us girls). Even when I was in college, my violin professor would check our shoes before we went on stage for a recital.

There's a reason for this. As a musician, you want to be able to focus on your playing; anything that can potentially distract you on stage needs to be controlled for beforehand. But there are posture issues, too. Higher heels alter the arch of your back, so when you rest your instrument upon your shoulder like me, the way you hold your instrument is affected. Similarly, anything but a thick, square heel risks not being able to distribute your weight evenly across both legs and keep your center of gravity low.

I just discovered this while I was practicing for a wedding. I usually practice in flats (or if I'm at home, barefoot), so I decided to pull another pair of high heels out of my closet to practice in. While playing, I thought, "What is wrong with my technique today?!" I took off the shoes while still playing—instant correction. Huh.

I've never been a fashionista,  but I recognize the difficulty in finding pretty performance clothes that are also practical. Studies show that what a performer wears affects how audience members view the quality of the performance. The idea that "what is beautiful is good" is a commonly explored theme in psychology. Basically, the more attractive a person is, the nicer, smarter, and more competent they seem, whether we're conscious of it or not (this is also known as the "halo effect"). So there needs to be a balance between practicality and style.

Since I'm short, I kinda wanted to wear high heels now that my good shoes have gone to the trash bin, but it shouldn't be done if I don't want to sacrifice my technique. So I guess it's ballet flats for me!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Parable

Our culture, like many other cultures, loves parables (especially preachers!) This one has been circulating on Facebook and the Internet in general, so I decided I'd repost it here—I just wish I could give credit to the anonymous writer. It's that good. 

There are 2 things that give it away that it's a parable: 1. A conservative professor? That's virtually unheard of. 2. No professor would ever be able to get away with this...

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. It could not be any simpler than that.

Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read, and all are applicable to this experiment:  

  1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
  2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
  3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
  4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
  5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

I wish the writer of this parable knew that they already do this in high school orchestras.

Thanks, Facebook friends!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I'm sure many of you are thinking about (or have decided on) what your new year's resolutions are. Many are along the lines of self-improvement or diet and exercise—or, if you're a Christian, spiritual matters. They say that it helps if you tell someone about them, so I'm telling you.

My new year's resolution is, honestly, to get my brain back on track as far as standards of schedule and excellence. That's a fancy way of saying that I'm lazy. This one is strange, though, because laziness never characterized me until about the middle of college. I used to live and breathe by my planner. During my senior year of high school, I did what many deemed impossible: lived practically homeless without family within thousands of miles, enrolled in AP classes and was the concertmistress of the school orchestra, held a full-time job (well, 37 and a half hours a week, but who's counting because they want benefits?) and graduated "sort of" top of my class (I went from #3 to #159 out of 470something). I went without a lot (food being the most important thing) in order to save for college, even though looking back, it might have been smarter to tap into my savings when I really needed it. I saved compulsively. I feared men endlessly. When I came to college on a full scholarship, they told me not to work because they would pay for everything while I focused on school. But, afraid that I wouldn't have enough for graduate school, I disobeyed and went to work.

Then something strange began happening. I began to realize that I had a small degree of PTSD and was very afraid that I would end up on the streets again, to the point that it consumed my life. I held an intense feeling of disdain for most of my college peers because I saw that many of them were spoiled and immature. I would scoff about being "surrounded by babies" and would force myself to fast to keep up my discipline, even though my scholarship's meal plan provided me with more food than I've ever had access to in my entire life. I didn't want to be a "pig." I couldn't deal with being provided for. I often had war dreams, and would don my combat boots and run across campus, pretending I was in the army. I was sickly afraid that the kind of discipline I gained in high school would atrophy, like the muscles of astronauts who have been in space for months. I felt powerful. I felt superhuman. I was afraid to lose it. But after I quit my job to focus on school, I went in the opposite direction. My dorm room became messy for the first time; I wasn't going to class. My brain always felt cloudy and lethargic, and my sleep seizures worsened. It was pathetic. And I haven't been able to snap out of it since.

Think of it sort of like this sine wave (I'm guessing with norepinephrine levels, but psychologists can only guess...shh, secret):

Up: O_O

 Normal: ^_^

Down: -_-

This isn't me. I know that it's not. I am so much happier when my brain is engaged and my schedule is strict. Part of me remembers being bullied for being a "nerd" (not too distally, in fact, but by some fellow Christians), but I am aware of how God created me. He can use me best when I slough off the cognitive dissonance and offer my real self, my talents, and my abilities to him to use, and ignore the voices telling me that I'm the wrong kind of Christian (this might make a blog post all on its own!) I just want to return to normal—even if it's a new normal (which it will be).

Some practical things to help me achieve this:

  1. Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.
  2. Write down a schedule for the next day before I go to bed, and think of it in the morning when I wake up.
  3. Eat more salads, even though my mom hated that I loved salads. (Not being able to finish food at greasy American restaurants makes me feel depressed and doesn't give enough good energy anyway.)
  4. Trust church members...volunteer...let God assure me that I'm useful. Engage in kingdom work.

So now that I've spilled my guts, what's YOUR new year's resolution?