The Problem of Christian Isolationism

It’s no secret that attending a Christian college means residing in a Christian bubble—it’s hardly reflective of real life, with little to no belief disagreement or push-back. We are blessed to have people challenging us intellectually, and occasionally religiously, but far too often I witness Christians isolating themselves. This is only a small portion of Christians that I engage with at one school; it happens everywhere at every stage of life.

Too many Christians nowadays only cling to explicit Christian ideas, texts, and entertainment. Frankly, I believe this is unwise and a very limiting way to live life.

I grew up in a Christian home and have officially dedicated my life to Christ for about six years now. Even at a young age, I’ve subconsciously thought about explicit Christian entertainment and how Christians should interact with their world. I always thought Christian radio was the corniest thing and wanted no part of it when other people would play it in the car. My family avoided watching movies like “The Passion of Christ” and I avidly read Harry Potter (currently re-reading for the 1000th time), starting from about age five, when people would look at my petite body next to the 500-page books and think I was the next Einstein.

Admittedly, having just finished an 11-page paper for my rhetoric class about why I believe Harry Potter has numerous Christian themes in the eighth movie alone, this topic of Christian isolationism has been on my mind a lot lately. Also, please understand this is NOT me telling anyone their methods of living are inferior or superior. There is nothing wrong with explicit Christian texts, movies, and music.

This past summer was the first time in my life I picked up a “Christian” book and read it. Since then I have read a couple and had no serious problems with them. I think some Christian books can be good and Scripture-breathed. The couple I have read (Mere Christianity, Jesus > Religion, and Uninvited) were much better than I thought they would be. However, they’re still not my first reading choice like I know they are for boatloads of other people—it’s perfectly fine to enjoy them—but it’s also important to remember that if you’re reading them thinking it’ll be a replacement for the Bible, that’s a red flag.

It’s fine to enjoy a good Christian book, but if that’s 99% of the books you read, I think there’s a problem with that. If Christian radio is your jam, sing along all you want, but if you never interact with any music outside of that, I think there’s a problem with that. If you truly believe anything that’s not explicitly Christian is sinful or satanic or any other negative denotation, I really have a problem with that.

Why do I think this is such a big deal?

Because I believe in a God who works through everything. I believe in a God who can use anything to portray his values, including tainted humans like you and I or tainted things like Harry Potter and punk music, if that’s your opinion. I believe God made everyone in his image, even those that haven’t accepted him, so small traces of his character can be found even in the most far-reaching aspects of life.

The coolest thing to me is when I read a book about another belief system or go to a concert where people smell like weed and beer, and soak in the words that are on the page or screamed from the stage, because I usually hear a small sliver of truth. Even if it’s the smallest sliver it gives me so much joy and hope, reminding me that even those people have the capability of carrying out God’s light if they wanted to.

Christians, I challenge you to read or listen to something you don’t like and see if you can find something decent in it. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise you avoid texts and entertainment for surface-level reasons and miss the bits you actually would like. For example, if you put down a Harry Potter book at page two for having witchcraft, you’ll completely miss out on the sacrifice, love, and friendship themes that remain prevalent in the overarching storyline.

I don’t believe I’m being “worldly” if I enjoy fantasy books or listen to pop music. I believe I’m engaging with God’s world—a world that extends beyond Bob Goff and Hillsong.

~Annah

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Tap-Dancing Veins

I wish you could see what I can. The pure yellow radiance of the tree. Its feathery, silky leaves tap-dance in the wind, illuminating the bright depths of its being. Apparently the leaves are passing away, but they have never shown so brightly throughout their numbered days until now, and it’s simply heart-stopping. It just is what it is without trying. Our friend Mr. Sun is only emphasizing what we already know to be true—joy and expectancy sit among the branches. This tree knows where it’s going, without knowing where each individual leaf will fall, yet the appendages tango together happily. It dances in the face of uncertainty. The branches breathe in, breathe out, sway up, sway down. They flutter, fly, and abide. As the sun looks on, the tree sits and waits, leaves steadily twirling to the floor. Eventually it will face a period of death, where the sun may seem to disappear from the tree’s presence maybe days, maybe weeks at a time. But the tree remains tall, adamant, and immovable in the face of its inevitable demise. It knows more than the leaves do—that some day soon more buds will grow, more leaves will bloom, and the yellow still courses within its veins. 

~Annah

Social Media Can Positively Influence

Last year I wrote a post called “Our Twenty-First Century Enemy” about the tension new generations have between internet and truly living, how we’re stifled by our phones. This isn’t necessarily a contradiction blog, but I’ve recently started thinking social media isn’t as terrible as we like to make it out to be.

Honestly, sometimes I think I’m supposed to spread light through social media.

I cannot pinpoint an exact turning point, but somewhere within the last five years I stopped posting random crap on Facebook, like so much of what you see scrolling through and started—with lack of a better word—posting light and honest, genuine thoughts about the world for my family, friends, and even mild acquaintances to read. In all honesty, my Facebook is kind of my second blog, and maybe I put a lot of my heart on it, but never once have I regretted that.

I think heart is exactly what social media is lacking and what I believe social media needs. The world is what you make it, and so is social media. People are so polarized over whether it’s a good or bad thing, but why are we wasting time arguing about that?! I want to speak directly to every Christian reading this. Here is a pure, inexcusable fact:

Social media is the language of the average first-world human today.

You can like it or you can hate it, but it’s a huge way to spread love nowadays, which is something 9/10 people neglect to do. Christians, we need to engage with social media, instead of looking down on those that have their noses stuffed in their phones. Why not write something that matters on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed? Post a meaningful note under your next Instagram caption. That doesn’t mean hitting everyone over the head with Bible verses (they’ll probably just un-follow you), but just something simple like saying ‘hey you? you matter’ (one of my favorite phrases). Show people they have worth beyond their phone and the picture-perfect life they try so desperately to portray, even if that means explaining that through a phone.

You can serve others through social media and I think that’s exactly what people glued to their phones need. They need life and they need your words, so utilize them. I’ve been told my posts are refreshing to read compared to political, hateful junk spewed around constantly, so maybe there’s a method amidst the madness.

I wholeheartedly believe that social media DOES NOT have to be a draining, depressing cesspool. Like everything God has allowed into creation, it has its silver linings and the capabilities to turn people to Jesus. But in the case of social media specifically, the device to pull people in is going to have to be you and your words.

I believe God can work through anyone and anything, including social media. Do you?

~Annah

P.S. Happy birthday to the best brother in the world!!!

My Greatest Inspiration

Three years ago yesterday I got baptized. One year ago today I saw my favorite band, Switchfoot, in concert for the first time, after listening to them for at least a good 12 years of my life. So naturally, it’s only fitting that my sister and I are going to watch Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, perform today. And frankly, all three of these events are strongly correlated (yeah, statistics lingo! It does come in handy.).

This post is dedicated to Jon Foreman, my greatest inspiration of all time. I’m going to tell you about the little I know of this man and why he deserves an entire blog post.

  1. Jon is an incredible writer and strings words together beautifully.

Look no further than any Jon Foreman or Switchfoot song to find poetry and poetry done well. But it’s also well-done in its simplicity, which is something I respect immensely. Many people strive to write the most eloquently or the most scholarly, but sometimes the best messages are simple and straightforward, and sometimes that’s what it takes to make words stick.

“Your heart is a work of art.”

“I arrived at the conclusion: love isn’t made, love doesn’t sell or pay, but we buy and sell our love away.”

“Don’t let the panic bring you down.”

“Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.”

  1. Jon is introspective, and thus, can pull on your heartstrings just the right way.

If you know yourself well and your faults well, you probably know humanity well. That’s Jon Foreman. He gave an incredible TED talk that I still love listening to (and I suggest you all check it out. It’s still bookmarked on my computer from a year ago.) His art and personal character don’t evolve from an outpouring of perfection, but from a man who knows his faults and imperfections very well. I love and respect those who are willing to share their struggles openly; I believe that’s what people of faith should be like, as God thrives in our weaknesses.

“Maybe that’s where life is born

when our facades are torn…

pain gives birth to the promise ahead.”

  1. Because of a daily walk with the Lord, Jon’s lyrics are drenched in Jesus and his promises.

One great lyric that I believe represents Jon’s worldview best is “We were born into the fight.” As a believer, we face a daily battle and the struggle of choosing the Lord over temporary pleasures. One of my favorite Switchfoot songs on their most recent album is called “If The House Burns Down Tonight” which is a powerful message originating from a fire in his hometown. His solo music especially frequently breathes out Bible verses, proving his familiarity with the Word.

“Would you create in me a clean heart, O God? Restore in me the joy of your salvation.”

“I’m not sentimental. This skin and bones is a rental.”

  1. Joy seeps out of every one of Jon’s pores.

I learned this from going to Switchfoot’s concert last year. Multiple times throughout the concert, Jon interacted with the crowd. The best part was when he walked through everyone standing in front and made his way to the people sitting in the back, who had probably not expected his attention at all. He went up to a young man and plopped his hat on his head, acting like they were old friends. But what a cool metaphor for Jesus! We are to be people who exhale joy and make everybody feel like somebody. You matter.

  1. Jon soaks in people and does not take a single one for granted.

Jon puts everything aside to cater to other people. For example, he nearly missed a plane one day at the Detroit airport because he stopped to talk and take a picture with my brother and his friend. (I was not at all jealous…) We were made to bring hope to others, but we remain so self-centered! Live in active awareness of that struggle and push past it.

“You’re gonna be you and it’s going to take a lifetime of practice.”

“Don’t let past mistakes rob the present of its potential for beauty and joy.”

“It’s going to take a struggle to become who you are.”

Let’s use Jon Foreman’s faithful spirit, among other inspirations, to push ourselves to action. Let’s grow the Christian family that society so often misconstrues. Because if we don’t properly portray God’s love and joy to others, why would they want check Jesus out? The world receives improper portrayals of Christ daily, so let’s be the light, shall we?

(This link looks funky, but it should work fine!)

~Annah

The Beauty and Heartbreak of Death

Ever since I heard of my dear family friend, Luke’s, passing yesterday afternoon I have been on the go. My mom told me, I cried a bit and prayed with some of my housemates, then I headed right to work where the stress of three classes’ homework for today hit me and the rest of the night was spent trying my best to focus on reading and writing, whilst juggling student inquiries at my secretarial job, a scattered brain, and waves of emotion. I woke up today and had my back-to-back classes and now I’m finally done and am free for a long weekend (I’m incredibly blessed to have Fridays off of class this semester).

So now that I am free, I have time to process and write this blog. Time to really consider and bring to God whatever the heck it is I’m feeling. Luke battled a rare and aggressive cancer for two long and hard years, so naturally it is relieving to know his pain and battle is over. I think about Luke’s passing and I’m struck by the thought, “Wow, God, thank you for allowing us this opportunity to choose you in our short lifetimes. Thank you, Father, that because of Jesus we now get to come home to You when we die.” I think of the blessings, I want to dwell on the blessings and the good, I’m surrounded by lovely souls who keep reminding me of the good.

But honestly, God, I’m still incredibly sad. There are still tears streaming down my face, even though I know the ultimate outcome is beyond just “good,” beyond ideal, beyond the best we can possibly think of. Luke is home and Luke is whole in the place he truly belongs and now can exist in his true untainted being, the way God intended him to be. What could be better than that? But our world is broken and Luke’s death is directly correlated to the pain and the brokenness that you and I have created, and that breaks my heart. The outcome is ultimately positive and I know deep down it is good, but as one incredible friend alluded to in a simple text message, because I still live in the realm of brokenness, my heart is broken, I experience brokenness and am not invincible to the pain, therefore, sadness is completely natural. We only see dimly in the mirror right now, so it’s going to hurt.

I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced some kind of loss or deep sorrow. The hardest part is that you cannot plan for it and everything else happening in your life at the time always seems to become trivial in a way. I’ve been to three funerals in my lifetime, the last one being at least seven years ago. I remember my grandpa’s funeral, because even though I had cried for my grandma’s, my grandpa’s funeral was when I truly understood the weight of the situation. I distinctly recall standing with my family and watching his casket being lowered into the ground and that’s when the floodgates opened. He was really gone, he was not coming back, and for now at least, we were permanently separated. I recognized the finality of death.

It hurts knowing Luke was only 17. It hurts knowing his parents and brothers have to spend the rest of their earthly lives without their youngest son and brother. It hurts that people cannot firsthand experience the joy, love, and witty jokes Luke had to offer the world. It hurts.

But there’s also comfort and that comfort lies in eternity, Luke’s peace, who God is, and God’s promises, which all eternally outlast every possible pain you can think of in this scenario.

Loss is hard but it’s also a great reminder of what is  most important: people. That is why God’s biggest mission for us is to go out and make disciples of every nation. If there is one thing you should care about other than me, God implies, it is people. And not just your best friend or your mom, but every person. Get to know as many people as possible, because they are made in God’s image too, despite their opinions and their lifestyle choices. Love on every person you meet, which I know Luke was incredibly skilled at, and don’t forget that every breath is a second chance (as Switchfoot sings) and a gift.

Luke had to undergo more than I could ever imagine over the last two years and that was really difficult for everyone to watch, but

Luke battled on the winning side.

And ultimately, all I can say is “Hallelujah, what a savior.”

As they say on Earth, rest in peace, Luke. Not that you need the well wishes. I know God is so ecstatic to have you home. Party it up.

~Annah

Yellow Birthday

I wrote this yesterday, 8/15/17.
Button up and button on

Today is yellow birthday

Did you hear the tears last night

Dripping into a yellow pool

That juxtaposes sass and smiles

With tired, aching, dry eyes

Yellow, sallow skin

Help

Yourself to a piece of cake

Smile and reminisce into the lens

Then drive through yellow-lit fields

A color grim and grateful

A color faint yet strong

On this dear yellow birthday

I’m reminded where I belong
~Annah

Summer 2017 Goals

After two weeks, it’s finally hitting me that it is now summer. The season of calm, the season of recharging and the season to be reminded to listen carefully to what God has to say about my life. I’m sitting here basking in the hazy, warm breeze drifting through the living room while listening to new music from Harry Styles (basically the next Paul McCartney). Ah, there is nothing like the warm blanket of weather and new music to put me in the summer spirit and my heart is happy.

I then received and began reading a lengthy email from my advisor. The email brought up a lot of things—mostly things that stress me out… my future, my career goals, the average fears of college students. But at the end she wrote about how summer is the best time to listen to God’s calling for your life, be patient, and continually spend heavy, lengthy time with him. It tugs at my heartstrings because it makes me remember what’s most important, which is nothing I or my loved ones have been worrying about.

With that being said, these are my real summer goals. These are the things I am sure of and what I really hope for my summer. These are not goals that anyone else wants for me, but the genuine desires of my heart in this season.

My first goal was going to be “find part-time work” apart from Biggby, but if I’m honest, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But I’m still praying about it.

The first couple days back at Biggby I was miserable. I just kept thinking ‘God, why am I here? This is dumb. I can’t gain anything from being here again. I’m not even a good barista, I keep messing up and my coworkers have to pick up the pieces for me. I want to be anywhere but here, I still feel tension with one coworker, and this job is a source of negativity for me.’

Since then I’ve been a little stuck. I still mess up now and again when I work, but I feel much more comfortable and back into the rhythm of things. My coworkers, boss and I have shared many laughs and all of the regulars have been so sweet and happy to see me again. But also I just want to be really transparent right now. There’s this person I met last year who I have prayed almost daily for and that person has been on my heart a lot because I know they don’t have many stable people in their life and most days are just “okay.” I’ve never been sure if that person truly cares about me (one of my biggest fears is apathy from people I love), but when I came back and saw them the first time, this person that seldom shares their true emotions was so genuinely excited to see me and it really had an impact on me.

I don’t know what God’s plan is for me in this season career-wise; all I can do is continue to pray. But I do know God works in mysterious ways and the fact that I’m back home and this person is coming back to work at the same time is very interesting.

So after this footnote/goal revision, here are the summer goals I am certain of:

  1. Spend time with Gracey.

Gracey is my sixteen-year-old dog and I have been with her almost the entirety of my life. To some this may sound silly, but for me I am incredibly serious. I love this dog so much and I know her time is drawing to a close, so I want to give her all the pets and treats I can.

  1. Cook for my parents at least once a week.

Yes, yes, I know this has not happened yet. *Cue eyebrow raises and pointed stares as we sit down for a meal.* But the point is my parents are really cool humans and have helped me through everything, so I want to try to give just a little bit back. (And maybe learn some cooking skills for the coming school year.)

  1. Show my family how much I value them.

Not only do meals show appreciation, but I also hope to hang out with my siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents more. Whether that involves game nights, good talks or serving in any way I can, now’s a good time to exemplify my love for these beautiful humans I have the privilege of living alongside.

  1. Spend time with God.

This has kind of already been emphasized, but it can never be emphasized enough. I would be nowhere without this cool dude. I’m hoping to turn to him before more and more things, whether a difficult talk with a friend or just a stressful day of work.

  1. Write a significant chunk of my novel.

My future, my career, so many uncertainties… But what is not a question? I’M WRITING A TRILOGY. So now is the perfect time to invest into something I am certain of. Get ready to fall in love with my characters, because I’ve only developed them a little and already love them. It will be an exciting adventure that will hopefully shed light on the broken and forgotten people around the world. My goal is to also write something my grandma will love.

Also this may mean I write less blogs than normal. But that just means you’ll have something in your hands you’ll love way more sooner rather than later.

~Annah