Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Simple Truths

There are so many things going through my head right now i am having a hard time even moving my fingers across the keyboard without being distracted. Thus i writing, as not to impress anyone, or to get a grade, but for mere thought organization and for the faithful few readers to understand what has been going through my head and heart.

Today i had my internship at World Vision. I am working with the Acting on AIDS department where i am supposed to have the energy, passion and excitement to want to help people across the world affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty, hunger. I have learned a lot in my internship, but to be honest i think I've learned more about what I don't want to do, rather than what i want to do with my life. Who would have thought World Vision is 1200 people in a building with white walls and grey cubicles? Every single person in that building does something that makes this NGO work that is helping to save 1000's of people in hundreds of countries. Not to discount World Vision at all, but I have realized that i am more of a "hands on" type of person. Very few jobs at W.V. are field oriented, most of those jobs are done by Natives or by trained professionals with Ph.D's. Interesting. I want to be able to be creative, use my hands, feed a single belly, or provide a language or skill or smile to someone directly. It is difficult for me to sit at a computer and enter names of students who want to help people with AIDS. that means that i am at least 4 people removed from that actual situation. So, I am supposed to be passionate about this, and i think I am at a level, but I'm also supposed to care about poverty, genocide, malaria, homelessness, showing people love, human trafficking, fair trade...and the list goes on...not to mention school grades, job, friends, family, feeding myself and hygiene?? I feel as though I'm passionate about all of these things, but if i tried to care about all of them to the extent that maybe i should that i would run dry, and maybe wouldn't survive in this capitalistic society. Tonight i went to the newest movie by Invisible Children. after 4 or so years after the first movie, there are still children dying. On Christmas day this year, an entire community was killed by the rebel forces. 700 people...a massacre. Why aren't I doing something about this? Today 6000 children were orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Why aren't I doing something about this? Today more than 2000 children died of malaria, a preventable disease from a mosquito! Why aren't i handing out nets right now?? Today thousands died from hunger?!? Thousands from lack of clean water?! Thousands are raped today. Hundreds, maybe even a thousand people are on the streets in Seattle tonight?! I know i can't possibly help all of these things by my own efforts. Maybe a good way to start would be to change my own lifestyle!? Sometimes i think it might be easier to go to the Indian slums and live amongst the untouchables with or without the clothes on my back than to try to change my lifestyle in the culture we life in. Interesting concept.

Graduation. Change, change, change. I don't handle change well. Let's be honest, I hate it during the transition, but always look back with thankfulness afterwards. The hardest thing I've ever done is move 100 miles from the town i grew up in (in my head i compare this to those suffering around the world from lack of clean water...but let's not go there). Come 8 weeks, I think i will go through a similar "change" experience as when i moved to Seattle. I will be leaving the 5 people i have lived with for the past four years of my life. I will be graduating from the college that I've attended. I will be finishing school, something I've known the past 18 years of my life. I will be leaving a place (theoretically/maybe literally?) that I have grown to love, that has brought me sorrow, but SO much growth in every single way possible (another blog possibly). The thing is, i don't fear change anymore. I don't like it, but i don't fear it. God has provided me with so much comfort, and assurance that he works things out in my life. One of my roommates recently said to me that "God has worked things out perfectly this far in your life Rachel, why don't you trust him that he will continue to work things out perfectly".... Come graduation, i think there is a lot of pressure to "figure out life". Our cultures perception of a "complete" person is to have a steady well-paid job, to have a family, a little house with a picket fence, a loving husband/wife, a social network, a nice car, a little black dress, and some spending money for that martini on the weekends. It is difficult to not get wrapped up in that. This week I had the great privilege of listening to JJ Heller in concert. She speaks truth through her lyrics. Simple truths. It is easy for me to get wrapped up in what I'm learning in school. How are sociology and theology related? can you have both? is there free will or do social systems make people the way they are? etc..etc...etc.... Simple Truths speak volumes. This song as been an encouragement to me this week.

"I don't need a thing, my Good Shepherd brings me all, You are all I need. You let me catch my breath, even in the valley of death, You are all I need. All I need, to be complete, is your love, your blood, it covers me. You lift up my head, you provide the wine and bread. You are all I need. There's no need to fear, even with my enemies here, You are all i need. All I need to be complete, is Your love, Your blood, covers me. Your goodness and mercy are following me, you are all that i need, you make a home for me, where pastures are green as far as i see, You are all I need." -JJ Heller

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ode to Jon

Lets be honest. I have had a crush on Jon Foreman since middle school youth group. His songs have been a part of my life for the past ten years and have ministered to me like no other music. It has been insightful and interesting to listen to him in his Switchfoot days, into his solo career days and now in his Fiction Family days. His song writing has matured over time, as have I. His music has not only grown on me, but grown with me.

This past Tuesday night, I had the great privilege to see "Fiction Family". The word that my roommate used to describe it was "epic" and i wholeheartedly believe that this might be the best word to describe the indescribable. Fiction family at it's roots is Sean Watkins, whom you may know from Nickelcreek, and Jon Foreman, lead man of Switchfoot. The band started when Jon and Sean ran into each other at the local north San Diego county coffee shop, and decided it would be fun to write a song or two together. They eventually had enough material to make a record, and the record eventually became a reality. The band originally was going to be named "The Real Sean-Jon" (hilarious) but their conscious (aka their managers) encouraged them to opt for another name, thus the band became known as Fiction Family.

The concert began with opener Molly Jenson. She was a fellow friend of Jon and Sean's from the San Diego area. She just used her voice and acoustic guitar to play what was unexpectantly pleasant music. In between songs she was whitey and engaged the audience which is always a plus from my perspective at a show. (See picture below)

When Fiction Family came out, they played a majority of the songs on their newly released album, but also played some unexpected tunes. The variety of music that they played was appreciated, the instrumentation was incredible and their stage presence was refreshing. One of the songs they did as a cover was Idioteque by Radiohead. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it was the best Radiohead cover I've ever heard and I liked it better than the original (woh!) Another pleasant surprise was that Jon was able to do a few of his own songs off his solo ep's. "Your Love is Strong" was one that he chose to sing. At this point my roommate Savz and I looked at each other. After both having a difficult week it was as if we were being ministered to.

Along for the west coast tour was Sean Watkin's sister, Sara Watkins. Now, I've seen quite a few fiddle players before, but none like Sara. Her fiddling was out of this world. Sean and Sara were able to do a brief jam session involving intricate guitar picking and fiddle playing. It literally blew my mind musically. Sara was also able to do one song of her own off a new CD that will be out in April. I will be sure to give that a listen.

To bring the show to a close, Jon remarked "If you guys want a encore you have to sing "Hey Jude". Thus, the entire crowd instantly sang the Beatles' Classic in the "Key of E". I find encores a little bit annoying, especially when they are planned, so this was refreshing and clever.

Basically, concert was refreshing. It ministered to me in a way that was unique. It inspired me musically. It has inspired me to continue to look for music that is "inspirational" in ways that are unique, positive, and innovative. And it has reassured me that I still have immense respect for the brilliant and eloquent Jon Foreman and look forward to the music and lyrics that will come forth next.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Traveling through Life (thoughts for traveling friends)

"Travel Lightly and Travel Deeply"

Traveling through life lightly....In the literal sense, traveling lightly is not usually an issue for me, though a few years ago i would say it was. Every break from school I would pack nearly all of my things and return home. This i would not consider traveling lightly. A more implicit meaning of traveling "lightly" could perhaps mean "without burden". To be honest, I need work on this. I have learned that while you are traveling, the unexpected is what happens. What is expected hardly ever happens, but what is unexpected usually ends up being better than what was expected and makes for fond/interesting memories and stories. I struggle to find joy in the unexpected, though this is an area God is shaping me in. I am a planner. When things don't go as planned, my bullet-point mind gets overstimulated. Life is unexpected. How can I find joy in life if i cannot find joy in the unexpected? It would be nice to be able to find joy in anticipating the unexpected. Traveling through life lightly...

Traveling through life Deeply. In this sense, I have lived deeply. Two summers ago I went to India. I am a poor college student and thus got my shovel out, went to my backyard and started digging. Luckily, Ellensburg is exactly the opposite side of the World as Hyderabad. In this way, i have traveled deeply. You may not think i could travel any deeper, but the more I've thought about it, i think it might be possible. To travel deeply could mean to travel with intentionality. To make it a priority to meet new people, to rekindle relationships, to continue to love, to learn all you can about creation and to interact with it, to bring hope, love and justice to people... descriptors of who God is. To travel through life deeply...

feet shuffling
carrying two times my body weight
life is not following my excel sheet
on autopilot
this is not light

pacing down the street
do not look people in the eyes
do not smile
do not talk to strangers
this is not deep

chin up
all senses aware, embracing unexpectancies
changes bring life
this is light

pondering life in awe
sitting with strangers
learning lessons from the creator
this is deep

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pray for India

Upon hearing about the terrible things that happened in India this past week, a song came to mind that was commonly heard in India...the only words to the entire song were as follows....

"You love India, I love India, We love India. Pray for India, pray for India, Pray for India! Pray for India, pray for India, pray for India!"
To be quite honest, after hearing this song multiple times in India, it became a little old, but perhaps God orchestrated it so that in this time of suffering in India, I would remember to Pray for India.
I don't know what else to say, other than my mind has been heavily thinking of India lately, as well as the people I know who live their daily lives in this country. India is 1/6 of the World's population, and this population is most-likely living in fear at this point. Pray for peace of nations, peace of people groups, as well as peace of mind and heart.
In days of hurting, in days of warfare, in days of bloodshed, in days of questioning, in days of death...still.....
"This is the Day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be Glad in it"
I found a video of the song and dance!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Day

My grandpa is a man of 80 some years who grew up in a very rural area in Montana with 13 brothers and sisters. Times were often very difficult. Despite the difficult times, my grandfather had the time to make friends, with turkeys.

Living on a farm in rural Montana, meant that you were fairly self-sufficient. My great-grandparents raised turkeys for special occasions like thanksgiving and Christmas, meaning the birds were around the property the rest of the year. My grandpa has always been one to like animals, but in a way that is different from most. He tends to show that he likes animals by teasing them, something my own father has inherited. When my grandpa would come home from school, he would tease a particular turkey. He would run after it, and grab it to make it stretch out it's long neck. When the turkey would see my grandpa, it would do its best to fly forcefully toward him with its claws ("turkeys have large talons") ready to grip its prey. This became tradition whenever the turkey saw him.

The turkey and my grandfather continued to build their relationship in this fashion, but time came when the turkey became ill with a turkey disease called blackhead. Apparently, turkeys did not typically live through this. My grandpa realized that the turkey was sick, put him in a box with straw and put him behind the old cooking stove inside the house. He gave the turkey some food, but it still wouldn't eat. Eventually, grandpa carried on the relationship with the turkey in spite of sickness. He began teasing the turkey stretching out its neck and pretending to eat is food. Low and behold, the turkey ruffled his feathers, started to flight back, and ate the food that was placed in front of him. The turkey lived! My grandfathers quirky relationship with a turkey saved its life and it lived happily ever after.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts on Social Psychology

I have heard in the past that "violent scenes in movies" have been linked to "violent behavior" and in particular violence toward women. In my social psych class an model was made that allowed me to see that this could partially be true.

One of the ways that people use to argue this, is the argument that "Classical Conditioning" takes place in a person. The experiment used to explain classical conditioning most often is Pavlov's Dogs. In short, he trained dogs to salivate by ringing a bell. First he began by ringing a bell, holding the food in front of the dogs, and waiting for them to salivate, then gave them the food. Eventually, food was not needed for the dogs to salivate, instead they would salivate just to the ringing of the bell, and even eventually to the experimenters walking down the hallway prior to ringing the bell.

In the same way, people have used classical conditioning as a way to show the relationship between violent movies and violent behavior toward women. Often times in movies, there is a sensual scene involving a women that precedes a violent scene. Sensual scenes in movies, even mild ones, bring arousal to people that are watching them (especially in men). Proceeding this, in many movies, a violent scene occurs, sometimes even violence toward the woman. In the same way that Pavlov's dogs connected salivating to the sound of a bell, people watching movies may connect sexual feelings to aggression.

Last night I began watching the movie V for Vendetta (a movie to see if you haven't). Sure enough, within the first half an hour of the movie their was a subtle example of what is explained above. Natalie Portman is getting ready in her little black dress to meet her date for the night. The scene centers around her getting dressed for the night, zipping up her dress and looking herself in the mirror. The very next scene is her getting mugged on the street.

Though, watching movies with sexual/violent scenes won't make a person act aggressively alone, it is interesting to think that media can have an impact on our minds that we might not even notice. I guess it's just good to be aware of what a person puts into his or her mind.

Friday, November 14, 2008

...and let there be a flood of justice...

"I hate all your show and pretense-the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, and endless river of righteous living" (Amos 5)

This word "justice" has been heavily on my mind lately. Maybe because it is heavily on the mind of our school, and is thrown around in my everyday life, but even so it has been on this mind of mine. A few weeks ago, I decided to read through the minor prophets. At first, i was just doing it for the sake of reading an entire book in one sitting...they are the smallest. But after reading only one book, Amos, I realized for the first time on my own how much the idea of "justice" is emphasized.

The definitions of Justice that come up on my computer are as follows (Encarta):
JUSTICE: 1.) Fairness or reasonableness, especially in the way people are treated or decisions are made. 2.) The legal system, or the act of applying or upholding the law.

Today I realized that the word "justice" can have more than one connotation with it. From what I realized today, the word "justice" can have an angry connotation to it. I think this comes from the second definition inferring a "justice will be served" idea. I think this definition/connotation of justice comes from focusing on the person/idea that will be punished when justice is served. It is evident in the Bible, that yes, we have a God that will bring justice and it will not be a joyous time for some. BUT, I think there is another way of viewing the word justice. A way that brings a connotation of hope. When justice is felt this way, it stems from looking at who is finally being treated right due to justice.

When I tested these thoughts (the sociologist within me) the results confirmed my hypothesis about this word. My tested subject said, "I think of a courtroom. But I also think of helping Africa."

I think that when thinking about the word justice, we should think of it from both angles, with both pairs of glasses on (ok..maybe one pair but with one rosy lens and one grey one). I think that it is important to see that yes, God will bring justice, and we are his hands and feet to try to do so. But also, that God's intention for Justice is not just to just bring wrath, but to bring hope to people...the oppressed, the trampled poor, the helpless, the crushed needy, the widow, the orphan, the is important to see and feel the word jusice in both contexts.