Monthly Archives: November 2014

Stop. Just Stop.

Honestly, I hadn’t been following the Ferguson story very closely until just a couple of days ago. I knew what was going on but hadn’t been keeping up with it in the News. However, I think I knew enough to give an at least somewhat educated opinion on the whole thing.

We were watching the other night when they made the decision to not press charges against officer Wilson. I had the suspicion they wouldn’t, and I had the suspicion that things were going to get really messy really fast. I was correct. There are people on either side of the argument who believe that justice was not served. Here is what I think:

I think Mike Brown really did rob a liquor store. I don’t know, based on the evidence, whether he assaulted the officer or not. I also think that the officer could have stopped him without using the amount of force that he did. As far as I know, he shot at Mike Brown 10 or 11 times, and honestly, that sounds excessive. Do I think he did that because he was racist? I don’t know. Do I think that he did it because he was scared? I don’t know. I think in that situation they were probably both scared.

Regardless of what really happened, people are rioting. People are destroying businesses and steeling things. This kind of behavior doesn’t solve problems, and it doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t change the fact that officer Wilson got off free. It doesn’t change the fact that a young man–my brother’s age–got killed. Honestly, these people are just perpetuating the problems. They are pitting police against civilians and blacks against whites, and they are not offering any kind of solution. This is a free country, and it’s completely reasonable for people to offer their opinions.

The fact of the matter is, though, that people need to listen. People need to honestly pay attention to what their fellow countrymen and women are saying, and they need to try and compromise. I don’t live in Ferguson, so I don’t know the situation well enough to make judgments, but there is an obvious problem there: otherwise people wouldn’t be making such a mess. Some would like to argue that race is no longer a problem in our country, and that’s simply not true. I think it’s much less of a problem than it once was; and it’s a much more subtle problem in many cases, but there still needs to be change. There will likely always need to be change. However, I think there more underlying problems that are actually more pressing.

Poverty and problems in the public educational system need to be addressed. Certain demographics tend to fall under the poverty line, and these same demographics tend to get a worse educational experience. The government has been attempting to standardize education, and maybe this helps a little, but in other ways is causes more good than harm. Not all students are capable of learning the same way, and I don’t think this is the answer. We we really need is well educated, well motivated teachers who are willing and able to come together and work in schools where there have historically been problems and negligence. Colleges need to work with these schools and work with their potential teachers, and it needs to start in elementary schools. Furthermore, they need to find ways of teaching that aren’t going to cost lots and lots of money.

Parents also need to be taking more of an interest in their children’s educations. Obviously it’s very difficult to stress this enough to the parents themselves, but people need to find a way. They can’t just keep making excuses and taking the easy way out. Children simply shouldn’t be made to drop out of high school because their families want them to work. Obviously there are cases where there is simply no other way for the family to survive. Perhaps schools should provide night classes.

Education and poverty are very closely linked. If people are well educated, they will be more likely to get a well paying job and will therefore be able to help their children move a head or help their community in some other way. Engineers and technology oriented people are in high demand right now. Perhaps schools in poorer communities should be encouraging their students to pursue these kinds of interests.

These changes are slow and not nearly as satisfying as breaking windows, but breaking windows doesn’t solve problems. Actually, it just makes the people who do it look like a bunch violent assholes. I want them to know that. They’re not doing any good by being violent and stupid. What they are doing is incredibly stupid. It’s not helpful, and it’s not kind; it’s not loving, and it’s the exact opposite of what Mike Brown’s parents what them to be doing. I hope they read this and know that what they’re doing is pointless.

I understand that very few people who are doing this are completely malicious. Some people are just frustrated, and some people are caught up in the hype. I just ask that they would stop and think about what they are doing. They are hurting innocent people who wanted nothing to do with this. Change can happen.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Procrastination Holiday Mash Up

Since high school my Christmas list has gotten shorter and shorter. There’s usually one or two things I want that I’m too cheep to buy, and one or two things I need, and that’s what I ask for. Otherwise I just buy stuff myself whenever I need/want it. It’s partly because I learned how to save money, and partly because I’ve had a mini-job for the past couple years so I can do said saving of money. It’s also because since probably my junior or senior year of high school, I feel weird asking my parents for things that I can afford and don’t necessarily need or that I can wait for.

The thing is, my parents like buying stuff for my brother and me. We have an obnoxiously huge beanbag chair (it’s not actually a beanbag chair but I don’t exactly know what to call it) in our kitchen in front of the TV. Our kitchen is obnoxiously huge, so it’s basically part kitchen, part dining room, part living room. Anyway, two summers ago it was ridiculously hot, and because of that (or maybe just because of coincidence) I got sick and projectile vomited all over the nest (that’s what we call it). We went 4 or 5 miserable months without a nest, but our parents surprised us with a new one that Christmas.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made sense to get a new one if my brother and I weren’t home all the time. Sam and I are both in college, but I commute, and he comes home every weekend. We’re both about half an hour from home in opposite directions.

Last year my parents surprised me with a 5 gallon fish tank and a beta fish for Christmas. His name is Raskolnikov because Dostoevsky is a genius. I know we have a ten gallon tank lying around somewhere, so I’m thinking about upgrading and getting a few more fish. I don’t think I’d move Raskolnikov because he seems quite content all by his lonesome, but it might be nice to have some more little friends. I’m weird. I talk to my fish.

I do need a new set of headphones for my computer. Last year my aunt got me a wireless set, and they stopped working. I’ve decided to ask for a set of wired ones for Christmas because wireless anything and I have never been friends. In fact, technology and I have never really been friends, but that’s a whole different story. I know it’s the thing you plug into to charge them, and it’s not the charger itself that isn’t working because I’ve tried a different one and it still doesn’t work.

My brother and two of my cousins and I did ask for the new Pokemon game for Christmas. Yes, I’m 21 and I shamelessly admit that I like and play Pokemon. There’s quite a bit of nostalgia involved. When we were kids, Star Wars and Pokemon were our obsession. That and, gosh darn it, they’re fun!

Otherwise, that’s about it. My list is short this year. It drives our parents crazy, and it drives our aunts and grandmothers crazy, too. I could use a new amplifier for my guitars, but that can wait. I suppose I could ask people for Guitar Center gift cards. I’d like to go and try things out for myself. That upgrade probably won’t even happen for a few years anyway, though.

I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it seems like Christmas and Thanksgiving are really close together this year. Thanksgiving is kind of the start to our Christmas season anyway. The past few years we’ve gone up to Maine and gone out to eat with our family. We used to have it at our house, but my grandfather got really sick, and my grandmother didn’t want to go far. We’ve just gotten used to doing it that way, I guess. We used to stay for one night, but last year we stayed for two because my grandfather died two days before Thanksgiving and we had to stay for the funeral. This year we’re staying for two nights again just so we can have time to see everyone and hang out. We usually go and get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, but since we’re staying for two nights we’re doing that just before we go home. It’ll be fun just to hang out in Portland and play with our cousins. I think we’re going to bring the Wii so we can play Mario Kart in the hotel room.

Our family is insane. My oldest first cousin is 9 years older than me, and my youngest second(third?) cousin is 16 or 17 years younger than me. My mom has about 50 first cousins, which means I have over 100 cousins of varying degrees. On my dad’s side I have 2 second cousins who have no kids, and 2 fist cousins. One is my age and one is two years younger than me. For Thanksgiving this year we’re meeting up with 27 people. Some people have asked why we go out to eat instead of going to someone’s house. Part of it is that we have too many people, and part of it is because it’s significantly less stressful. It makes it fun.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook about people stressing about Christmas already. There are ways of making it less stressful. It’s not that hard. I’ll admit that there are things about Christmas that bug me. It’s almost like there are two holidays going on at the same time, and a minority of people remember the real reason why we celebrate it. The point isn’t to have the biggest tree in the neighborhood (we have the 2nd biggest only because our neighbor has taller ceilings). The point isn’t to get the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to give the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to have the most decorated house (our mom goes nuts anyway, and it’s fun!). The point is to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and that’s WAY less stressful.

I know some people freak out about the “secular” stuff and say it’s creepy or evil and that Jesus was born in April, which may or may not be true. The same people don’t celebrate Easter for the same reason: it’s become too secular. Honestly, I don’t think it really matters. The point is that we remember the real reason why we celebrate. The other stuff just makes it fun. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have fun. The only thing I might do differently if I had kids is I’d probably skip the whole Santa Claus story. It just seems kind of pointless to me. I’d still get a tree, I’d still eat massive quantities of junk food, and I’d still get together with all the magnificently crazy people.

I think it’s true that people get a little nicer around Christmas, and a little more generous. Maybe the love gets thrown around for some of the “wrong” reasons, but the point is that the love gets thrown around, and I am perfectly okay with that. So have fun. Don’t stress out. Go to church if you want to. Don’t feel bad if you don’t. Just remember why this holiday exists.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Where I Never Thought I’d Be

Today I got an email about graduation, and if you had told me nearly four years ago that it would make me feel nostalgic, I would have laughed in your face. The fact of the matter is, I guess I am going to miss Gordon a little. Maybe it’s because I don’t really know what the next step is; maybe it’s because this really is the end of school for me (though definitely not the end of learning); maybe I’m going to really miss some of the friends I’ve made (mostly professors); maybe I’m just getting older and I’m starting to realize that I’m really not a kid anymore.

Earlier today I was thinking about marriage. It occurred to me that I literally had no idea what the point of bridesmaids was, so I had to ask my mom–apparently their purpose is to stand there and look pretty. I’m a girl. I can’t help it. I sometimes think about getting married, despite the fact that I don’t, and never have had a boyfriend. I was just fantasizing on the way to class about who I would pick to be my maid of honor. My immediate inclination was to pick my best friend, but then I thought of my cousins, and it might be a little weird not to pick one of them. Again, I have no idea why I was thinking about this.

Last night I had a dream that I was in the English Army, and we were invading France, except for some reason we had to traverse mountains instead of the English Channel to get there. They were also not normal mountains, but Minecraft mountains, which I find really odd because I was not playing Minecraft last night. In fact, I haven’t played Minecraft very recently. Anyway, I got separated from the group I was with and captured. Then I got sent to a correctional facility for the mentally unstable, even though I’m quite ordinary, thank you very much! I spent quite a while trying to escape, and I was finally helped by the son of one of the people who ran the place. Then my mom and aunt and little cousin came and got me. It seems like I’ve spent a lot of time in dreams lately as the damsel in distress. I’m not sure why that is, and I’m not sure I like it. I have no interest in being someone’s damsel in distress in real life. Actually, I’ve spent an obnoxious amount of time fantasizing about being the hero of this story. Realistically, I guess I’ll probably end up being a little bit of both.

At the end of every semester at school, up until probably last semester, I found myself saying “maybe next semester,” meaning maybe someone will ask me out, or maybe I’ll become friends with someone and eventually ask them out. I guess I gave up on finding someone at school. The email I got turned out not to be very relevant to me. One of the things the sender was asking for was pictures from all four years we (the seniors) have been there. I literally don’t have any Gordon College pictures. The second thing was ideas about a class gift: something the seniors would put together to donate to the school. I guess I don’t really care what we donate. The third thing was that they were looking for 12 volunteers to speak at either the baccalaureate ceremony or senior breakfast. I guess I don’t have a whole lot I’d want to say.

I actually had an awesome experience at Gordon. I learned a lot, I read a lot, and I changed a lot. My classes were great, and like I said, I made some really good friends. Gordon just wasn’t home for me. Gordon was school, and to some degree, Gordon was church. I didn’t share a dorm with someone, so there wasn’t a strange girl who, over the years, became my sister. There wasn’t a guy who lived in my building and was in a bunch of my classes who became my brother, or my boyfriend. There wasn’t a club that I got super involved in. Instead, I went to the music studio on Wednesday nights for two years and recorded an album, and Ken became my brother. Instead I hung out with my extended family on the weekends and went up to Maine a whole lot.

Some might say I missed out, but I don’t regret any of it. This is the end of my schooling. After this semester I will never again be a full time student. I might go back to Gordon periodically, though. I do like taking classes, and apparently it’s super cheep for alumni to audit classes there. I think that would actually be a really cool thing to do. It’ll be super laid back, I can take one class at a time, and I won’t be obligated to take classes in any particular program.

I’m a normal 21 year old. I’m nervous about making music work, I’m nervous about finding a job if it doesn’t, and I’m nervous about finding a boyfriend/husband. I’m nervous, but I also know somehow that everything will be just fine. It will be. I will not fail, the world will not end, and everything will be okay.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Church Needs To Stop Being So Churchy

The Catholic Church needs to not try to be cool. It’s not. I know. I’m a part of it. It’s old fashioned and formal and quiet, and I think that’s the way it should be. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be contemporary. I would love to have contemporary worship in my church, and I love that the Church throughout the world uses technology to get the message out to more people. I’m also not saying that the Church shouldn’t be involved in current, secular culture. It absolutely should be. I read an article yesterday about how Pope Francis is planning on doing a lot of work to help the homeless in Rome. He’s already started a project to build public showers for them near the Vatican. This is great because he is someone all Christians can look to and say “That guy practices what he preaches.”

However, a couple of days ago I watched a video about going to confession because I’m not sure how I feel about it. As it is, I currently don’t. I didn’t find the video very convincing for a couple of reasons. The first was that it didn’t give much of a reason why I should go to confession. It mostly just gave an overview of the actual process. The second was that the video itself was pretty doofy. For one thing, it was animated, which isn’t a bad thing by default, but it seemed like it was making light of a serious subject. The animation was not very good, and I just found it annoying because it was downright cutesy. In the description, it didn’t say that the video was geared towards kids, but it might as well have been. It’s this kind of stuff that gets on my nerves. Don’t make this kind of stuff cute or cool. Make it seem important.

I saw another article that I didn’t read because the title was one giant, horrible pun. Maybe this is getting overly critical, but I know that the teachers at my home church tend to be very punny, and they try to create environments for young people that teenagers and young adults will actually enjoy, but then they call them things like Holy Hangout. Not everything the church does has to have a churchy name. In fact, more people might be interested in these kinds of things if they have even neutral names.

There’s an Episcopal church one town over from me that does open mics once a month. It’s very family friendly and performers have to keep it clean, but it’s not churchy at all. The only differences I can see between this open mic and an open mic at a bar or something are that there’s no alcohol, and it’s a bit less out of place for me to play worship songs. Honestly, though, I like playing worship songs in little cafes and bars because it might be the only way some of the people there get to hear about God. We can’t always separate church from other aspects of life. The Gospel isn’t meant to be heard only in church buildings. Maybe it’s obnoxious, but no one’s ever said anything to me, and quite frankly, I don’t care.

I feel like my job as a musician is to make people happy, but also to give them hope. I try not to be a preacher; I just explain my songs as briefly as possible and play. No matter where I’ve been, I’ve never got a bad response.

The congregation at my home church consists of an overwhelming number of old people compared to any other demographic. The next biggest group is families with young children. There are almost no parishioners between the ages of about 12 and 30. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that this young demographic has a choice. They can either sleep in or go to breakfast/dinner or meet up with family and friends on Sunday morning/Saturday afternoon. Churches tend not to offer services that are super convenient for young people.

However, the second reason this group tends not to go to church is because its not a priority. This tends to be a fairly worry-free period in a person’s life, especially for middle and high school students. People feel they need religion when they have things to worry about. Perhaps this is the reason why young families start going back to church: People have to worry about taking care of children for the first time, and perhaps this worry leads them to look to something bigger for guidance.

The third reason has to do with the first reason. Our culture is obsessed with efficiency. We are basically programmed to constantly ask ourselves “How much can I get done and how fast can I do it?” Because of this, we have to make choices about what the most important things are, and what can be left behind. Church tends not to be a huge priority because it doesn’t seem very productive to sit in a pew and listen for an hour. However, it’s been proven that living with this high-efficiency mindset leads to high stress levels, anxiety and depression in a lot of people. Prioritizing a few “less productive” things at least a few times a week is actually good for our health.

The third reason applies more to the demographic of people with teenage or adult children. There are almost no middle aged people in my parish. This is probably due to the fact that, despite their children being gone, or at least less of a handful, they are still working super hard and still trying to provide for their family; especially if they’re trying to pay college bills.

It seems that retirement age people tend to go back to church for a few reasons. They have time for it, or they don’t have many other things to do. Church becomes a social thing for them, especially if they are not savvy with social media or technology in general. In some cases, they feel worried about where they are in life and worried about what will happen to them on the other side.

This is all fine, except it makes my church feel like a retirement home as opposed to the vibrant community I know it could be.

Last Night I Didn’t Have A Seizure

Yesterday I didn’t have a seizure. This isn’t out of the ordinary. I don’t usually have seizures. I do have epilepsy, however, and I sometimes get symptoms. I was a little spaced out all day yesterday. For the most part it was fine, it was just a little difficult to pay attention in my first class. I took a little extra medication between my second and third class (which is totally allowed), and I felt better. I was mostly fine in my third class, but I still found it a bit difficult to read. That particular class is from 4:30 to 7:30 PM. By the end of it I was completely back to normal.

Quite frankly, I hate medication. I avoid headache meds like the plague. I don’t like the idea of some unnatural substance messing with my brain. My brain is already screwed up enough. I take the seizure meds because I have to. It’s times like last night when I really appreciate them, though.

I don’t know why, but last night I was thinking about miracles. I keep relearning over and over that miracles aren’t usually what we think they are. I guess I was thinking about this because of Tenth Avenue North’s new album. The main idea of the album is that we are God’s cathedrals: we are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, wherever we go, that place becomes sacred. God allows people to do miracles. It happened in the Bible, and it happens now. Doctors didn’t make my epilepsy go away, but someone created these ugly little pills so that people like me can manage our problems.

Some engineer years ago figured out how to make powered wheelchairs and accessible cars so that people like me could go wherever the crap we want. I can’t use a regular wheelchair. I can’t push it myself because my arms don’t straighten enough, so it’s basically this or nothing.

There are so many technological advances and happy accidents in our lives that we take for granted. The truth is that all these things are miracles.

If you think about it, it’s a miracle the sun comes up every morning. It’s a miracle that there’s life on earth. It’s a miracle that life continues. So many things had to go right billions of years ago and have to continue going right it’s unfathomable.

For Lent last year I decided that instead of giving something up I was just going to make a point to pray more. I think I sort of succeeded in doing that. I definitely pray more, if not as much as I would like to. As part of this, however, I learned something; or at least I decided something. I try to pray whenever I have a meal. As part of that, I’ve learned to appreciate food more. There are other reasons for this as well. Part of it was learning more about where my food comes from, and part of it was learning more about countries where people don’t have easily accessible food like we do. I’m not saying food is a miracle. I’m just saying that there’s something kind of sacred about the act of eating.

My dad and I watched a TED Talk last night by an author who just does weird experiments and then writes books about them. His most recent book was about his experience with trying to follow every law in the Bible literally. There were a lot of things he learned from that, but one of them was that giving thanks is super important. He talked about how often times, we think it’s changing our minds that will modify our behavior, but it’s really the other way around; changing our behavior is what changes our minds. I think that’s true. This guy was agnostic, and remained agnostic after his experiment, but he realized through doing these Biblical rituals that there really is a kind of sacredness to things–whether it’s related to a higher being or not. Admittedly this was a bit confusing to me, but I think it makes sense on some level. I think sacredness can and should be felt, not simply intellectualized.

I know if I don’t bring it up, somebody else will, or will at least be thinking it: but what about the things in the world that are clearly bad? What about the things that are clearly not sacred? I’m not denying that there is evil in the world. I’m not denying that doing certain things is wrong and sinful. If that weren’t the case, then we wouldn’t have rules about not doing them. However, at some level, all creation is God’s creation. This includes human creativity. We are meant to be co-creators, and in some sense, co-redeemers. Bad stuff happens because we have free will and we derp around a lot, but I think beautiful things can be created even from a mess. Nasty things can be made sacred in one way or another. This too is miraculous.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I’ve Been Thoroughly Educated, Thank You Very Much

Last night I went to see Tenth Avenue North. It was an absolutely amazing night. My dad and I got there early because we had VIP tickets so we could meet the band. They’re a bunch of super nice, funny guys, and their music is fantastic. What’s more is, since we got there early, we got to grab whatever spot we wanted in the entire chapel (this was at my school). We were literally touching the stage. It was a little claustrophobic because it was a sold out show and everyone wanted to be up front, but it was just so much fun.

What I love about their music, though is that it’s super fun to just listen to, but it also gets me thinking. I like things that make me think. I like to be challenged sometimes; not just entertained. Anyway, what was super awesome is that their new album doesn’t officially come out until tomorrow, but they had copies available at the show, so I snagged one.

They have one song on the new album–I forget which one, but there’s a few lines that go:

Forgive me
Forgive me, Lord
For living
Like I’m not yours

And I had it stuck in my head as I was going to sleep last night.

Today I’ve been sort of antsy. I feel like I need to be doing something, but I don’t know what that something is. I do need to be doing homework, but that’s beside the point.

As part of their show, Tenth Ave talks a little bit about Compassion International, partly because they sponsor a few kids through that organization, and partly as a promotional thing to try and get some of us interested. They talked about it last year when I saw them, Rend Collective talked about them when I saw them a few weeks ago, and Tenth Ave talked about them again last night. They’re not obnoxious about it, and they don’t try and guilt anyone into doing anything. It’s just important to them. It still makes me feel guilty, though.

It makes me feel guilty for weird reasons. Firstly, I mentioned this before, but I take things that Jesus said very literally, and he said that we ought to help the poor. Secondly, I am in a very weird financial position at the moment. I am the daughter of a guy who is a successful banker, and who makes a lot–I mean a LOT of money. He’s paying for my brother and me to go to college, and when we graduate, we will have borrowed nothing. By that standard you could say I’m ridiculously wealthy. However, if I wasn’t leaching off my parents, I’m not sure I’d be able to support myself. I’d probably manage, but it would be pretty tough. That said, I think I’d still be in the top 1% of the world. By American standards I’m broke. By world standards, I’m filthy rich. It’s confusing. Thirdly, I don’t feel called to help the poor. I feel called to make peace.

For one thing, I’m good at it. I’ve been able to help fix at least a couple nasty relationships, and I’ve actually been able to help a few people be a bit more optimistic about humanity in general. What I really want to do is help people make peace with God. I didn’t feel like I had courage enough to do that until recently, but I really want to now, and I’m not afraid to talk about it and write blatantly obvious songs about it. I’m convinced that the world is good and people are inherently good. I’ve just encountered so much pessimism and anger about the state of the world that I feel like I should do something about it.

Part of being a peacemaker is getting people to understand that we’re all on equal footing, and getting people to love each other. Loving each other means helping each other, so really, helping the poor is part of that.

The reason I bring up the Tenth Ave quote is that I feel like I haven’t been doing this lately. I’ve written a few blog posts, but beyond that I’ve just been coasting. I’ve been wasting a lot of time on the internet or playing video games when I could be researching music stuff or doing homework. Homework isn’t directly related to being a peacemaker, but I need to get through this semester, and I do feel like I owe it to God to try and do well in school. Lately I’ve just wanted to be lazy, and I guess that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it right.

I’m just finding it hard to really take a whole lot of interest in my work this semester. I’m just not finding my classes all that interesting, and I kind of feel like it’s an obligatory waste of time. I want to work and make money and do things that will actually make a difference in the world. I’ve sort of been struggling with this for about two years now, and I guess it’s getting to a point where I really need to be done with school. A lot of people have been asking me if I want to go to grad school. The answer is “no.” I’ve been thoroughly educated, thank you very much. Now I’d like to put that education to good use.

Because in my world, guinea pigs can fly!

Love Everyone. Just Do It. It’s Not That Hard.

I’ve been following the Britney Maynard story off and on via Facebook, and quite frankly, I’m appalled at some of the things people have said about her–people who claim to be Christians. I know it’s basically pointless, but I often feel like I have to come to the defense of people or causes or what have you on the internet. Do I believe that what she did was right? No, I don’t. If I was in her position would I have done the same? No. I don’t think so. Do I think she was brave? cowardly? I don’t know. I think in some sense she was very brave. She no longer had control over her life, so she was taking control in the only way she could. Furthermore, I think she handled it very well.

When people say really nasty things about her, they are making judgments about a literal life and death situation. She and her family do not deserve judgment–not from us. From us they deserve nothing but love and condolence. Whether it was suicide or not, and whether suicide is evil or not doesn’t matter now. What matters is that there is a family who has lost their daughter.

Something I’ve learned from this is that love has to be intentional. There is the love that happens naturally, which isn’t always as reliable, and then there is the love that we intentionally feel. In most cases, it is our emotions that initiate actions; however, if we are to make the world a better, more loving place, we have to act. We have to create love. Maybe it’s a little cliche–maybe a lot cliche, but a good question to ask in any situation is: what would Jesus do?

I read an article once, written by a professor (I think) in Ireland. He was riding home from a conference on the train one day, just thinking about stuff, when a man who was very clearly drunk got on the train, holding a bouquet of flowers. The man told the prof “these are for my mother.” He was very clearly upset. A few minutes later the man told the prof that he was going to pee out the door. Then the prof wrote, “In that moment I asked myself, ‘what would Jesus do?'” Then he got up and offered to hold the drunk man’s flowers for him.

It is actions like this that foster love. When we do and say kind things to one another, we are allowing ourselves to be more loving, and it can only get stronger as we continue to act this way. We can’t love some people and hate others. It just doesn’t work. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do anything when people do terrible things to each other. That’s not love; that’s laziness. We should always defend the innocent, even if it means causing a little trouble, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love those we disagree with.

It’s okay to hate actions, but generally people have a reason for doing terrible things. Maybe they had a terrible childhood. Maybe they are uneducated, scared and power-hungry. Maybe they’ve been corrupted by extremist religion. Those aren’t reasons to hate anyone. Those are reasons to pray for people, and yes, those are also reasons to fight.

It might feel forced at first, but if you make yourself love everyone, and I mean everyone, it will start to become genuine. So don’t be so quick to judge.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why Kids Hate Religious Education

I’ve been teaching CCD (Christian Child Development) for the past 2 months or so. The kids have a class about once every three weeks, and it’s been difficult to get them engaged and get them to like me. You might say that it doesn’t matter if they like me; it only matters if they’re absorbing the information. That tends to be the philosophy of a lot of teachers, at least from my experience, but it doesn’t work.

I had sucky math teachers in high school, which is the biggest reason that I suck at math. They all assumed that we were instinctively good at it, and they taught that way. They looked down on the students who clearly were not getting it, and it made me hate them and hate math. The exception was my trigonometry teacher. I took trig in my senior year of high school even though I didn’t have to because I thought it would look good on my college resume if I did well. It happened to be the one of the best high school classes I ever took. Our teacher liked us, and we liked him, even though some of us really struggled with math. We all ended up doing so well that he didn’t give us a final. He often taught things other than math as well. He taught us self worth, perseverance, kindness, and in some ways, love. Sometimes we would spend half a class not talking about math in any way what so ever, but it helped. It all helped.

So how does this apply to religious education? From my experience, the administration at our church looks down on teenagers. They act like 14 is the new 8, which is actually really bad, since at 14, a lot of people want to be thought of as adults. Because of this, the kids act out, or don’t engage at all. One of my co conspirators–err, teachers, acts exactly like many of my high school math teachers, from what I’ve heard. She says she teaches with rules. She will be taking none of their unruly shenanigans, and because of this, her classes tend to be very well behaved. They get through all of the material, and everything is hunky dory.

And you know what? Maybe it works. Maybe her students are engaged, and maybe they do grow in their love of Christ, but from my experience, this kind of teaching doesn’t work. Again, this is super subjective because I’m going off of my own experience. However, the point is, that I don’t teach that way. I let my students get distracted. I engage in their conversations, I use naughty language in class, and I let them know that we are equal and this is, or at least should be, a fun, safe place. I want to get to know my students, and I want them to get to know me. I want them to know that I think of them as people, not just as kids. I let them talk about their talents, and I talk about mine. I constantly remind them that all this is about is love. I want them to get to know love–of neighbor and self; of so called enemies, and of God.

Another problem I’ve run into is that some teachers assume that everyone at least believes in some idea of God. They don’t acknowledge the skeptical ones at all, and the fact of the matter is, that not everyone in CCD believes. Almost no one wants to be there. On the first day I had my students go around and say why they were there. Maybe peer pressure had something to do with it, but the unanimous answer was “my parents are making me.” I let them know that I get it. That was my answer to. I let them know that being skeptical is okay, and that I’m going to try and persuade them otherwise, but I’m never going to tell them that they have to believe anything. Faith is between them and God.

I decided to teach CCD in the hope that I could be helpful. If I can convince one kid that God is real and that Jesus loves them, I will be a happy camper. If I can’t, I want them to know that that’s fine, too.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!