Let’s Stop Glorifying All Nighters

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The above was written by Abe Joy during small groups at church. This past Saturday we had small groups at church centered around the idea of “rest”. I stole an activity I learned in grad school and had my small group each write about rest and crumple up their sheet. Then each member in the group picks up someone else’s paper and we take turns reading each other’s writing. The above is what Abe Chach wrote:

“A rest in music is a portion of any piece of music where an instrument pauses. Rests are important to provide variety in rhythm, ease tonal fatigue and signal musical divisions in a song….”

Spending time in our small groups we began to share how “stress” and a lack of sleep is glorified in our culture.

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We joked that often times when people tell us they haven’t slept all night, our response is “glorifying”, for example, one might say, “Wow! I don’t know how you did that…” When in reality not sleeping actually represents a lack of time management and one rarely responds, “Wow! You must not know how to manage your time…” But that’s really what an all-nighter means!

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Just as how music is incomplete without rests, our lives need rest. We are reminded in the bible of the “golden ratio”, 6 days of work and 1 day of rest. The bible warns us especially in Proverbs about too much rest. I was tempted in our group to say “rest” is our natural state- it’s not! We must rest,  but we must also work.

IMG_1394.JPGI really believe God wants more for us than sleepless nights. He also doesn’t want us sleeping all day! My challenge for my readers today is to ask yourself, do you take your rest seriously?

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College Vlog!

 

Hello friends, above is a video of a college “vlog” that I recorded a few weeks ago.  It’s crazy but I only had a chance to edit this video today!  I’m so grateful that I do not have school today!  I love vacations and this break came at the perfect time.  For those of you still in school, doesn’t summer vacation feel like a weird time of the year?  It always has, at least for me.  It’s an odd period of my life because I find myself having more free time than I’m really used to.

I love breaks, but I actually also really love school.  Hopefully my video will give you an idea of why I love school so much!

I hope you enjoy the video!  Let me know what kinds of videos/blogs you want to get from me.  Comment down below and I can try to get one up for this Sunday.  (How to Video, Vlog, Answer Video on a particular topic…)

I hope you have an amazing Thursday!

Nina

New Orleans Service Learning (aka my response)

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New Orleans will forever remain an anomaly to me, as it is one of the most religious and seemingly secular places I’ve ever visited.  Walking through the streets around 10AM looking for breakfast, the smell of alcohol still reeked from bars.  The cafes that seemed to all close by 8pm were so weird for me, the girl who was used to having 24 hour Starbucks around the corner.  With that being said I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip, and learned so much more about myself than I thought possible in a little under twelve days.   Most of my life has been spent living somewhat sheltered and it was such an odd experience for me to be exposed to so much in under such a short amount of time.

This trip made me constantly think of something called “The Candle Experiment”.  Participants are asked to find a way to get a candle to burn without dripping on a table.  The candle is not allowed to stand on the table and the participant is given a candle, box of matches and a box of pins.  It’s not until the participant dumps all of the pins out of the box, pins this box against the wall and has the candle stand lit up on the empty box that he or she completes the challenge.  They must learn to think of a box of pins as more than a box of pins.  Something that is seemingly easy to do, but when we assign something a role in our lives, it’s hard to “un-think” things.  Ironically enough, New Orleans did that for me and this response paper will attempt to explain why and how this happened.

The disaster of Katrina was not real to me until I came to New Orleans.  The value of my education didn’t make sense until we visited a charter school in the ninth ward.  If there is anything in this city that evidences how great a devastation Katrina was, this school fits the bill.  Granted, the schools were bad before the storm, but a bad situation was made even worse.  Trailers that housed students instead of a solid building greeted us.  It was called George Washington Carver High School and we went here because previous alumnus were working there with “Teach for America”.  Our group made our way past the metal detectors into the school itself. There never seemed to be a need for metal detectors where I grew up but there was a need for it there.  The classrooms were so small and it was weird for me to see students so unengaged.  I wasn’t used to that kind of environment.  I was used to quite classroom filled with people who were afraid to call out.  There was no such sense of fear at this school.  No one seemed to care about being in school and the classes that ran best were run like a military academy.  I didn’t want to believe that learning was meant to happen in this way.  To me education was something I learned to love, it was engaging, captivating and most of all it challenged me.  I was saddened by a generation of teenagers and children who were essentially test guineas.  There lives would be messed up so that later on, the administration could learn from past mistakes.

I work as a communications tutor and I’ve been told time and time again that formulas work.  Students learn when they are told exactly what to do.  I refused to believe such logic and wanted to believe that you learned to write from reading and that you loved learning because it was fun.  Going to this school reaffirmed so many thoughts I had previously refused to accept.  These students needed this structure, they needed these rules and they needed a lack of freedom for them to actually do well.

Working at “Grow dat” was such a weird experience for me because I had never done anything like weeding for hours before.  It was weird to transition from their “tourist” like view of New Orleans into someone who was doing hard manual work.  Weeding required a strange sense of diligence I doubt I would have tolerated had it not been required.  We started our days weeding, and we ended our days weeding.  There’s this strange bond that is formed between people when you are united over a common goal.  We worked together because we needed to finish weeding a “bed” and did not stop until this was accomplished, or lunchtime was called.  I never imagined I would be spending my spring break singing songs weeding hour after hour; but in doing so I learned more than I thought possible.  When you weed, it’s not enough to simply pull out the weed.  You need to pull out the root and throw your weed in a bucket.  We learned to work together and to weed in pairs.  This was a program offered to the youth of New Orleans and knowing this was around made me happy.  After seeing how little opportunities so many teenagers seemed to have in their education system, it was nice to see they could learn and grow here.

Working at “Habitat for Humanity” taught me the valuing of doing things, even if I’m not initially good at them.  This was different from “Grow Dat” because weeding was not particularly difficult to me, it was more so tiring than anything else.  Doing construction work was something that I’ve never experienced before and was definitely not a natural at.  I’ve always considered myself an academic, or at least I’ve been an academic for a long portion of my life.  I don’t go outside and play sports.  I sit inside and I read novel after novel.  I like talking about problems that seem important and voicing my opinion.  Working with “Habitat for Humanity” taught me that just because I wasn’t good at “hammering” and “cocking” initially, didn’t mean this was a skill I could one day acquire.  I remember being so afraid coming into the house.  I was afraid to walk up the seemingly unstable stairs, and while I was attempting to quietly overcome this fear I was expected to bring up a huge ladder using this same set of stairs!  My work started by me refusing to stand on a ladder, but I grew to become good friends with people from my group and I was pushed out of my comfort zone.  By the end of my trip, I was relaxing and sitting comfortably on a ladder while hammering away.  I was hammering very slowly, but I was still hammering away.  That counts for something, doesn’t it?  I realize it may sound small, but doing that was really hard for me.  And I doubt I would have pushed myself if I didn’t have to.

Going on tours and seeing the results of history before my eyes was such a weird experience for me.  Going in front of the school that was the first to say “separate but equal” was not actually equal gave me chills all along my body.  I was standing on a piece of history that influenced countless lives.  It was weird for me to imagine a time and place where I wouldn’t be accepted because of my race.  It was even weirder to be standing on the very ground this event happened.  We went to a graveyard and were told that across from where we were standing was a place that once held the only legal prostitution in the country.  The way this was explained to us was that prostitution was not legalized here, it was just that all the surrounding areas had a clear ban on prostitution.  I was so disgusted and so shocked to see what this place now become.  Children were running around and I doubt they knew what the ground they were standing on was once known for.

Visiting the levees astounded me; I could not believe that something so large could be constructed so poorly.  What really hurt me the most was seeing a house abandoned that was in front of a poorly made levy. Houses were marked with an “x” to let people know if bodies were found inside.  At one point in time someone lived in that house and now it was abandoned and broken.  Entire levees were rendered useless because the city ran out of funding to cover the entire area.  Levees were constructed with poor engineering because constructing those types of levees saved money.  The example that was explained to us were “T” levees that technically did the job and saved money.  In reality they didn’t work efficiently when a disaster like Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  What astounded me most of all was that some home owners didn’t want levees put in their backyard because they believed that they were eye sores.  Safety did not matter because people were more concerned with how their backyards look like.  Knowing the severity of Hurricane Katrina and the impact it had, I couldn’t believe that people were more concerned with aesthetics than safety for them and people who lived near them as well.

New Orleans is a city that is being reborn into something amazing.  There’s such a flush and melting pot of different cultures that makes me feel so welcome, yet so un-welcome at the same time. More than anything New Orleans taught me so much more about myself than I ever thought possible.  All of my life I’ve struggled to find a balance with religion in my life.  I’ve imagined that my “candle problem” involved me hiding my religiousness while still trying to show who I am.  New Orleans taught me that this was something I never needed to do at all.  New Orleans is a city that waits for no one.  It’s weird and it likes being weird.  It’s a city filled with people who are proud of who they are.  You walk down the cobblestone streets and are met by music from musicians who love what they do.   I needed to learn that my religion was more than just my religion, it was who I was and it defined me.  My box of pins was meant for more than to just hold pins, it was meant to solve a seemingly unsolvable situation.  This city taught me to feel the same about myself and who I am as a human being.  I’m forever indebted to it for that very reason.

Learning how to love yourself

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Is love something that we are born knowing how to do?  Is love really a choice?

I learned late in life that writing is a lot about learning how to edit, and this is exactly what I’m doing to do in this post.  It started as a post about learning how to love, period.  But now it is a post about learning how to love oneself because this is something I feel a lot of people fail to do.

I grew up most of my life believing love was something natural, something we were born conditioned to do.  And I believed even more strongly that the ability to love was not a choice.  I didn’t love my family because I choose to love, I loved them because I just couldn’t feel anything other than love for them.  Now that I’ve grown up, somewhat, I’ve come to some sort of conclusion.  Loving someone isn’t simply a choice or not a choice.  I know this because sometimes I force myself to show love to people, this is me making a choice.  But there have been times when I’ve been so hurt that all I’ve wanted to do is hate someone, but still I found myself loving them.

There are times when loving people feels so hard.  My mom will say or do something that upsets me and the idea of showing love in that situation seems impossible.  There are times when I find it really hard to love myself.  It doesn’t make sense but sometimes the most hurtful things are not said by strangers, they are thought by ourselves.  We fail to recognize the power and authority held in words, even when these words are said to ourselves.  The bible tests to this fact as well.

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

In the above verse we are taught that life and death are in the power of our tongue!  This doesn’t just apply to what we say to people we love, this is found in the words that we tell ourselves.  The devil is a liar.  To anyone who has ever thought that they were meaningless, that their lives were meaningless or that they are alone- do not believe that lie.  Your body is the temple of God!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

This is how precious we are!  And we are never truly alone in this world, never at all.  The amazing thing about God is that even if everyone we ever love leaves us, we always have him.  This is something we can put our hope and trust in regardless of circumstance.

I mentioned this in passing earlier but love can also not feel like a choice.  I find myself unwilling to let go of some friendships because regardless of pain I may have felt, I still love that person.  With the same token, sometimes it make feel like we don’t have a choice in how we feel.  Although I believe this is somewhat true- we always have a choice. We may not be able to dictate the way we feel, but we can choose the way we act on these feelings.  This is even more true in regards to how we respect ourselves.  Please, love yourself enough to respect yourself.  If you are feeling hurt by someone or something, remove yourself from that situation.  And if you are hurting yourself, please learn the value held in your life.

The saddest thing for me to think about is the fact that so many people fail to see how amazing they are.  Those people who can be told time and time again that they are beautiful but fail to see it!  If you are someone like that, please just take a second look.  Give yourself a second chance.  Because you are valuable and you are loved.  I can guarantee it.

Everyone feels sad sometimes

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It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true.  Everyone feels sad sometimes.  I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life.  Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling.  The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  But all I want to do is rejoice!

I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do.  I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others.  I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain.  And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle.  And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.

My mother was the first person to make me realize this.  She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest.  Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion!  There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.

In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her.  It’s so hard to love those who hate us.  The bible can vouch for this fact.  But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness.  She understood it instantly.  And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!

The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus.  He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them.  I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves.  It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us.  We do it to ourselves.

If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs.  Or so angry that my veins will burst!  Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious.  We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings.  Feelings change.  And we are never ever really alone, never at all.

What do you stand for?

 

Daniel 3 introduces the reader to the story of Daniel and his three friends.  Just in case you don’t know this story or don’t want to read the passage, let me give a brief summary of what it’s about.  Daniel and his three friends entered a new land in which they were asked to eat and do things they knew they could not do because of their beliefs.  Instead of abandoning their beliefs in the face of obstacles, they choose to hold fast unto their God.

This even came to the point where they were subjected to death in a fiery furnace.  But God delivered them.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel 3:16-18

Their dedication was so strong that they were willing to hold unto their faith even when faced with the prospect of death.  How many of us hold faith like that?  How many of us are able to love God like that?

Do we all even know what exactly we stand for at the end of the day?

Someone once attacked my religion and I sat there in a sea of doubt.  But when they attacked my major I spoke up because I knew I was proud of what I was studying in college.  I was willing to defend my major, but not my God.  I was willing to defend something so small but when my faith was attacked, I collapsed.

Hold strong unto your faith.  There is nothing more powerful than God’s love in our lives.

I know that despite every heartache or pain that I go through, that God is always there.  He will always be there.  His love wraps around me and this assures me that despite trials and tribulation, I am secured.  It has already been promised to me.

Julie

 

Her name is Julie, or that’s what she tells people anyway.  Julie is her American name.  Her real name is Yinjuan.  That’s her Chinese name.  I asked her if I could share her story because I thought it was incredible.  She told me she didn’t think it was interesting but to feel free to write about her.

“There is no such thing as genius; it is nothing by labor and diligence.”

The above quote is what fuels her drive.  That small sentence.  That.  It’s funny how powerful words can be.  How the smallest sentences can mean more than words resting on sentences sitting on paragraphs squeezing through the margins of your page.  The smallest sentences are sometimes the most powerful.  And the smallest words hold the most meaning.  It’s kind of like how you can tell someone over and over again that they’re beautiful.  But if just once you call them ugly- that’s all they’ll remember.  Words are eternally powerful.

English is Julie’s second language, her first being Chinese.  She has been struggling with learning English and communicating for the past 10 years.  She came from China leaving everything and everyone she ever knew back in high school.  She didn’t know America would be the way it is.  Apparently they didn’t really tell her how it would really be like.  She stepped into this country, not knowing a word of the language.

I’m a communications tutor and I was helping her with her personal speech.  She had everything written out and wanted to see if her structure and format was correct.  If her tone, rate and voice sounded good to me.  But as I listened to her give her speech, I could feel my eyes filling.  I was so happy but my eyes were filled because this girl had such a drive to succeed, even when circumstances seemed unlikely.

We take it for granted every single day but the ability to communicate is one of the most important things we can do as a human being.  And when that ability is taken away from us the results are debilitating.  Imagine being tossed into a completely new place without even being able to communicate the simplest of thoughts or desires.  That’s what Julie has to struggle with, but she knows that hard work pays off.

After our session was over, I asked Julie if she wanted to fill out a raffle for my club, InterVarsity Christian fellowship.  She then told me that she was Christian, in fact she converted a year ago, in America.  Someone took her to church and she became a Christian.  Someone did that for her in her life.  Someone was willing enough to do that.

She filled out the raffle and checked off every box requesting information for everything.  She told me she was busy with work but would try.

Julie understood how valuable her life was.  She realized how valuable it was and for this reason she wanted to keep fighting.  Please realize how incredibly valuable you are.  How precious and important you.  If not to anyone on this earth- to God.  And when God loves you, the opinion and faltering opinions of others are irrelevant.

I believe Julie will succeed in her quest to really know English.  I believe it because she believe it too.

 

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me