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One Giant Leap for the Introvert

Read the following statements and see if any of them accurately describe you:

  • I do not enjoy large crowds.
  • Eye contact with strangers gives me a panic attack.
  • I would sooner parachute into the Atlantic than strike up a conversation with someone off the street.

If one, or any, of these statements resonates with you, congratulations! You might have social anxiety, and therefore may be interested in walking through Jessica Pan’s similarly anxious journey in her book, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes.

Pan describes herself as a “shintrovert,” a shy introvert, and goes to great lengths detailing the disdain for social interactions in the way only a shintrovert could (5). There are anecdotes about bursting into tears at a surprise birthday (out of fear, not joy) and pretending not to speak English in order to avoid conversations at a bar. However, within these stories is Pan’s realization that she is very unsatisfied with her circumstances. She finds herself lonely and depressed, not as a result of being introverted, but rather because of how she sees herself as an introvert. While she once “had been a happy introvert, [she] had managed to wedge [her]self into a hole, through fear, insecurity, and stagnation” (Pan 8). This sets up the entire premise of the book: Pan will spend a whole year as an extrovert.

The rest of book goes through Pan’s journey of “extroverting,” and what follows can only be described as a convicting transformation for her introverted readers (10). From talking to strangers on the street to performing stand-up comedy, Pan takes on all of her social nightmares with a level of humor and vulnerability that paints a very authentic picture of breaking through insecurities as an introvert. There are also very personal events sprinkled between these social challenges that Pan calls real life interludes, such as flying to her father’s open-heart surgery. While these interludes interrupt the flow of her journey as an extrovert, they serve as an accurate reflection of the unexpected bumps and bruises that life throws at us as we embark on new and exciting challenges.

As an introvert myself, I found this book wonderfully relatable and incredibly convicting. Of course, Pan’s descriptions of being curled in the fetal position before attending a social gathering made me think to myself, “Wait, did I write this?”. More importantly, though, Pan’s honesty on how her deep-rooted insecurities created a gaping hole in her social life hit me like a train because I know that I have used my introversion as an excuse for my social struggles. My first year of college was plagued by loneliness because I barely knew anyone, and I created a similar hole of fear and insecurity for myself. I felt that my loneliness and inability to branch out of my comfort zone was just my tragic fate as an introvert. However, when Pan delivers lines like “I wasn’t depressed because of being an introvert; I was an introvert who happened to be depressed,” they pierce my soul because I know exactly what leads a person to come to such a conclusion (5). It felt like I had tricked myself into thinking that my introversion was the uncontrollable source of my depression, but lines like these expose the false reality that I, and many other depressed introverts, create as a result of our deep-seeded insecurities. Walking through Pan’s escape from a depressed, introverted hole gave me the confidence to start tackling my own fears as a shintrovert. Not only am I not alone in my struggles, but there is also a way out. It just takes a very scary leap of faith.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. If you are an introvert, Pan’s journey reminds you that your social anxieties are valid and that there is still a path to happiness. If you are an extrovert, this is an incredible glimpse into the mind and heart of an introvert, and it can help you deeply connect and empathize with your introverted friends.

Written by Ryan

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Seize the Summer Before It Captures You!

Summer…

Let that word sink in.

Hold on to the seat of your pants, because we are almost there.

For me, summer holds the promises of new things: respite from the never-ending burden of school, fresh air (it was always there but finals takes precedence), the only weather Texas takes seriously, watermelons, time with family and friends, or TIME in general. Maybe for others, summer takes a different form, but summer usually gives joy regardless of work or school.

Summer is a time most people dream about and yet squander when it arrives. Enjoy the entirety of your summer! Do all of the things you actually wanted to do when you dreamed about it during finals week or on that particularly hard day. Maybe you wonder: “How can I accomplish everything in the summer?” Fear not, my dear, for I am here, complete with bucket list and the training you need to become an expert at enjoying your summer (yes, you can put this on your résumé). 

Bucket lists contain anything you want from all of the outrageous activities denied to you during the school year to baking cookies for your mom. Keep in mind that not everything on the list must be accomplished for you to enjoy your summer. The list contains a general guideline for your summer to be a bit more exciting than the last and maybe learn a few new things on the way. The most important rule for your summer bucket list, though, relies on how much fun you have making it. Don’t make it a chore. Instead, focus on everything you wanted to do since you were a child all the way until now and figure out what would be fun or fulfilling for your summer.

I will start with my own summer bucket list either to give you inspiration or encourage you along the way:

  1. First, I would like to sleep. I know this is what everyone does in the summer, but I’m referring to the sort of sleep that energizes instead of makes you want more. I want to go to bed on time and wake up excited for the rest of the day.
  2. I want to read books. I don’t mean my textbooks or books for my research paper on a boring person who does something important in history that some university professor finds somewhat important for academic success. I’m talking Peter Pan, re-reading all of Lord of the Rings (appendix and all), books that have collected dust on my shelf for the past few years, neglected, watching me pay attention to their boring cousins for school.
  3. I finally also get to start writing my own books that I have mapped out for years but never took the time to sit down and work on. So many creative ideas bloomed in past summers that I just avoided, and for what? Doing absolutely NOTHING? The absolute atrocities of summers that I can look back on and say I did nothing gives me pain.
  4. On that note, I also want to work on all of the drawings and illustrations that help me think through my book processes. So many characters live rent-free in my brain that should live on paper and take a life and meaning of their own.
  5. Alone Time. I swear this is less depressing than it sounds. I want to either go outside or sit in a library for an entire day without the unnecessary interruption of people. Then, I can just think or enjoy my one day of me devoid of stressing about anything else. Reminder: it is important to get to know yourself. Sometimes we forget or become terrified of knowing ourselves too intimately, but please understand that there is no better person to hang out with than yourself. You understand all of your own jokes. You do not have to be afraid of yourself not liking your song selection or food taste. So, enjoy that time alone with yourself, far from the pressure of life.
  6. I want to buy all of those Crayola products I wanted when other kids brought them to school. I think this is self-explanatory. I am an adult now, so I can buy the things I couldn’t as a kid. (Use this type of bucket list point with discretion.)
  7. I want to learn to cook dishes deemed worthy by Gordon Ramsey himself. I’m not talking cooking straight from recipes. As useful as that is…boring. I want to throw things together and know that they will taste phenomenal.
  8. Eat watermelon. I really crave watermelon right about now, but I eagerly await the day when I can dig a spoon into a watermelon (don’t you dare touch mine) and just…enjoy. 
  9. I want to plan some bomb outfits for no other reason than I want to look good.
  10. I’m going to finish all of the like ten shows that I watch simultaneously throughout the school year and finally bring them to completion, as sad as that will make me.

Hopefully this sort of list proves helpful as you map out your own summer adventure. While this is not even everything I hope or plan to do this summer, it  gives a taste of the sort of things you can add to your own bucket list. Be creative. Learn something new. Most importantly, have FUN! Have a blessed summer and don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for coming so far.

Written by Eleanor

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Happiness, Revenge, and the Count of Monte Cristo

Looking for a story of romance, revenge, and a triumphant return, all wrapped neatly in the setting of a nineteenth-century European drama? Well, look no further than Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. The story begins with its hero, a thriving young man named Edmond Dantès, enjoying the best that his little hometown has to offer. The popular young Edmond works a steady job, has many good friends, and even finds a fiancée, Mercédès. But things quickly change for Edmond. Several local men—Danglars and Mondego—find themselves murderously jealous of Edmond’s life, career, and soon-to-be-wife. The men, with the help of a powerful man named Villefort, frame Edmond for committing treason, and Villefort sentences him to life in prison on his wedding day.

Officials promptly incarcerate Edmond. There, he meets the elder Abbé Faria, who takes Edmond under his wing. Faria and Edmond become fast friends, and during their time together, Faria gives Edmond two precious gifts. First, Faria educates Edmond until he knows how to handle life beyond a small town on his own. And second, Faria makes Edmond memorize the location of a legendary hidden treasure, located on the remote island of Monte Cristo, so that when Edmond escapes from prison he can claim it as his own. Faria dies, and Edmond uses his clothing as a disguise; Edmond then acts as the dead Faria, and his jailers throw him into the ocean beside the prison. He swims to shore and locates the untouched hoard on Monte Cristo, becoming its sole owner.

The remainder of the book follows Edmond, now operating under the title “The Count of Monte Cristo,” as he uses his almost limitless amount of money to bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him. Edmond’s ultimate goal throughout the book rests on revenge against Danglars, Mondego, and Villefort, who betrayed him and ruined his life well over a decade prior. In an attempt to refrain from spoiling this classic novel, suffice it to say that Edmond becomes a far cry from the kind young man readers meet in the first pages of the story. What occurs after Edmond’s years-long period of waiting to meet these men again is over, I will leave for the reader to discover.

This novel significantly impacted me when I first read it. The story itself could be compared to the biblical story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, a favored young man being betrayed by trusted men in his community and rising to power in a new part of the world, only to meet the traitors once again later in life. But while we all know how Joseph’s story ends, The Count of Monte Cristo takes a different turn. Edmond’s character changes dramatically over the course of the story, and by the time it comes to a climax, I felt entirely unsure of what choice Edmond would make. And as the story ended, I wondered what I would have done in Edmond’s place. This novel is more modern version of Joseph’s story, albeit somewhat twisted, which makes it more relatable. I placed myself in Edmond’s shoes, which caused the story to affect me all the more.

The conclusion of the story brings many questions to mind. Are traitors worthy of forgiveness, or are they worthy of revenge? After Edmond’s wonderful life is ripped away from him, what role does money play in the correction of that happiness? Alexandre Dumas explores all aspects of these themes throughout his story. Ultimately, he intended this novel to teach the reader that forgiveness is the greatest end; it is not man who will make all things right, but God. In the meantime, forgiveness remains the healthiest choice for body and soul. I highly recommend The Count of Monte Cristo. The lessons I learned from this book helped me immensely in situations, large and small, that called me to forgive. Dumas’ work taught me to live life with a looser grasp, to let go of fear, and to dispense anger sparingly. This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys classic tales of love, turmoil, and the price of morality.

Written by Jessica

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The Beginnings of Independence

Independence Day celebrates one of the most important events in American history. It signifies the day on which the colonies decided to formally break away from Great Britain and her rule. Due to this bold act, America began the journey of becoming her own nation.

At first, not all the colonists agreed with the idea of breaking away. As the year 1776 progressed, more people found they disliked Britain’s rule and wanted to strike out on their own (History.com). Other colonists fanned the flames of unrest by presenting arguments about why they believed Britain’s rule to be unjust and unnecessary. One such colonist was Thomas Paine. He posted a revolutionary-minded pamphlet called Common Sense, which served to further unite the people in their desire for separation from Britain (History.com). The fire under the colonists’ feet built until the desire for independence grew strong enough to fight against Britain’s hold on what is now America.

Deciding on independence did not happen overnight. Some colonists like Richard Henry Lee wanted independence at least a month before the events happened. Others disagreed and thought their neighbors acted too radically. Voting for total autonomy took place on July 2nd, but the founders accepted the famous Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 (History.com). Hence, America celebrates the fourth as the commencement of independence from Britain.

How to Celebrate

Setting off loud, booming things has always been a tradition when it comes to celebrating Independence Day. In the 18th century, colonists fired cannons and muskets, even honoring the thirteen original colonies by popping off thirteen cannon rounds (History.com). Today, people light up the night sky with fireworks to commemorate the holiday.

Many families enjoy barbequing or picnicking. They gather around the time of the firework show to enjoy dinner together. Some may even turn the event into a large cook-out with friends and extended family.

Some people set off their own bottle rockets or firecrackers. In nearby neighborhoods, the popping and sizzling of these small, destructive devices can be heard throughout the night, adding to the joyful mayhem of the holiday known as the Fourth of July.

Personal Experience

Every year, my family crammed into the minivan and drove to some random parking lot where we set up shop. I had no idea how my family knew where to go to see the fireworks, but without fail, we appeared at the right place. In my childish mind, my parents simply knew everything, and that was that.

We set up lawn chairs or simply sat in the car. The first fifteen or so minutes consisted of setting up dinner and passing the time with conversation. When the first firework exploded with a fizzling shower of color, we grew quiet and sat back to watch the show. Sometimes we sat up close, and the fireworks hurt our ears. Other times, we sat at a distance where the noise was more manageable. Regardless of where we were, I always loved going out with my family.

Conclusion

While the reasons behind the independence celebration no longer center around hot political topics, Americans still enjoy commemorating the day they decided to become their own country (Britannica). It’s amazing to think about how the ideas of growing colonies took shape and how those colonists fought tooth-and-nail for independence. Had the founders not decided to rebel against the rule of a distant country across the sea, America would look very different today.

Written by Joy

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Jesus Loves Your Anxious Heart

If you’re anything like me, anxiety has been a lifelong struggle. I once believed that something happened to me as a young person making me an anxious adult, but a recent conversation with my mother led me to realize that this is not the case. She told me that I displayed anxious habits, such as biting my nails or scratching at my skin until I bled, since I was old enough to walk. Apparently, I have always felt this way.

For a long time, I thought my anxiety was somehow immoral. I thought I didn’t trust God enough, or I didn’t pray enough, or somewhere along the line, I ran out of faith too soon. I, like many young people who grew up in the church, believed my severe anxiety had something to do with an unknown sin in my life. The truth is I love Jesus, but I am still an anxious person. I want to follow Jesus with all my heart, yet I am still an anxious person. I felt hopeless, because my anxiety was something for which I hated myself, yet I could never make it disappear. I never understood why my brain tells me that I am unsafe, even when I am not in danger. Eventually, I learned that anxiety is not cause by sin, but an imbalance of chemicals in the brain; however, despite this revelation, the idea that my anxiety is a bad thing remained with me.

When I first met my husband, Alden, I wanted to hide my anxiety from him at first. I didn’t want him to think that my uncontrollable anxiety was a byproduct of a rebellion against God. It didn’t take long before he noticed my anxious tendencies, and much to my surprise, Alden never judged or criticized me for the consistent stream of worries that flowed effortlessly from my brain to my heart. Instead, he walked alongside me as I struggled, and he remained an encouraging presence, always pointing me towards Christ. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone in my pain. Although he did not relate to my experience, he empathized with me, and he wanted to support me in any way possible.

Even though Alden was and is a constant source of encouragement, my anxiety continued to get the best of me. I worried restlessly about how my anxiety would impact Alden. I told myself that my anxiety would be the reason that he would break up with me, or he would eventually grow weary of helping me. I love him, and I feared that my anxiety would hurt him. One day, I gained the courage to ask him if my anxiety was too much for him to handle, or if he would ever get tired of helping me. He paused for a second and said something I will never forget.

He said, “Karina, I love your anxious heart. Of course, I wish you felt safer, but I love you for who you are no matter what.”

One of the many things I love about Alden is how often I see the character of God through his actions and words, and this statement is a prime example. While I view my anxiety as a burden on Alden, he views my anxiety as an opportunity to serve and love me. His words stuck in my mind for days. I realized that if Alden, an imperfect person, is willing to love me through my struggles, then our holy God, who is the perfect representation of love and kindness, must be even more passionate about loving me through hardship. At the end of the day, I am so grateful for a husband who loves me as Jesus does, and shows the Lord’s character through his kindness for me. Furthermore, I am grateful to have a relationship with a God who loves and cares for me in such a pure and thoughtful way. My prayer for those of you who are like me, and face a daily struggle with anxiety, is that you know that your anxiety is not a burden to those who love you, and it is most certainly not a burden to our God. Jesus loves your anxious heart.

Written by Karina

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Four Fun Ways to Save Money During the Summer Months

At the end of every spring semester, many students find themselves utterly depleted of any financial resources due to tuition, housing, books, and regular living expenses. If this defines your current state, you might be looking forward to the next few months of summer as an opportunity to regain your financial standing. Even if your checking account isn’t suffering, this summer might be the chance to build an emergency fund or savings account. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for a few ways to cut costs while still enjoying your summer, check out the following ideas!

  1. Embrace the minimalistic perspective and sell any excessive clothes or items!
     
    Everyone knows that junk and clutter collects at a rapid pace. When sifting through the piles and stacks, try the advice of The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Their 90/90 rule recommends saying goodbye to things not used in the past 90 days that will not be used in the next 90. Apps like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and Poshmark offer online platforms to sell any unwanted clothes or items. If that sounds like too much work, take a load of clothes to your local Plato’s Closet where they will immediately buy them from you!
  2. Spend time outdoors with friends and family!
    Yes! It is, indeed, possible to have fun without spending exorbitant amounts of money! Gather together with friends to play ultimate frisbee at a local park, bike through a nature trail, or soak up the sun! Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and get good exercise while doing so! Just don’t forget your SPF 50!
  3. Test your skills with DIY projects!
    Pinterest displays excellent resources for fun Do-It-Yourself project ideas that could fill any afternoon! Whether mason jar candles, homemade sugar scrubs, or even a festive summer wreath, nothing is beyond the reach of Pinterest’s creative ideas! Fair warning: sifting through these options may cost you an entire afternoon by itself.
  4. Feast upon the samples of your local farmer’s market!
    Hands down, the farmer’s market holds some of the best unique food items from homemade pies to fresh watermelon! With the plethora of booths lining up to sell goodies, there is no shortage of samples offered for nearly every option. Take a friend and spend the afternoon perusing through the vendors! You might be surprised by the unique flavors you will find… all at no cost!

In summary, these are just a few of many different ideas to save money and trim your budget. For more helpful financial advice and money-saving tips, visit Dave Ramsey’s website or Youtube page! Best of luck to you in your summer financial endeavors!

Written by Grace

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Pop into Summer: Rainbow Jell-O Ice Pops

A dreamy summer day involves some time at the pool or beach, lots of sun, and a refreshing treat to top it all off. If you’re missing the cherry on top of your summer daydream, look no further—rainbow Jell-O ice pops are here to save the day (and your sweet tooth).

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz Jell-O packets in the colors or flavors of your choice (the number is up to you, but 6 is a good variety)
  • 2 16 oz cups of cool water for each Jell-O packet
  • Popsicle molds

Directions:

  1. Start by mixing your first packet of Jell-O into two cups of cool water.
  2. Pour a measured amount of this mixture into a popsicle mold. The amount depends on the number of colors you use and the size of the popsicle molds.
  3. Place the popsicle mold into the freezer until the Jell-O water is frozen, and perform this procedure for each layer. Remember to wait for each layer to freeze before adding the next layer to prevent the colors from mixing. Don’t wait too long though; if the layers are too frozen, they will not stick together.
  4. When you reach the last layer, you can start inserting the popsicle sticks into the molds. Due to how frozen the Jell-O water becomes, inserting the popsicle sticks will be difficult. Here’s the solution: Take the handle of a small spoon or a metal object similar in size to a popsicle stick and run it under hot water. Afterward, gently insert it into the popsicles. Pull it out, and voilà! Problem solved.
  5. After inserting the popsicle sticks, freeze the last layer.
  6. They are ready to eat! Simply run the mold under warm water, and the popsicle slides right out.

A huge thank you to Sarah from “Must Have Mom;” find her website linked below. These rainbow Jell-O popsicles encourage a joyful opportunity to create a tasty treat with friends or family. You can freeze them in a variety of colors and flavors and use them for numerous occasions. I hope these cute, refreshing pops make a fun addition to your summer DIYs!

Must-Have-Mom website: https://musthavemom.com/make-homemade-popsicles-rainbow-jello-ice-pops/

Written by Deneen

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Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

Growing up, I always loved listening to my parents talk about the classic television show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” in which the host, Art Linkletter, asked children random questions and listened to their responses. As indicated by the title, many of the children answered with some of the funniest, realest, most clever answers possible. If you are a parent, older sibling, caretaker, aunt, or uncle, chances are you have heard some remarks from young ones. Due to the lack of social development and training, many children do not understand the proper ways to talk with others. In the book Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, Sonia Sotomayor encourages children to talk with others who might look or live differently than them.

Sotomayor uses the viewpoint of a young girl who wants to talk with her friends, including the readers, about her diabetes. She invites the readers to ask her, and other children, about their different lifestyles. In fact, she introduces several of her friends who provide perspectives and additional information about their daily lives. By creating these characters, Sotomayor allows readers to learn more about diabetes, asthma, wheelchair usage, blindness, deafness, dyslexia, autism, stutters, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, and nut allergies. Cleverly, after allowing the different characters to explain the need for various activities, Sotomayor asks the readers a question that engages them in the subject. For example, Vijay talks with the readers about being deaf; he points out that he “love[s] reading and writing” (11). Rather than stopping there, however, he asks the reader if they enjoy these activities too, providing a more personal connection. It shows the audience that even if their daily lifestyles might look different, they still have commonalities.

At the beginning and the end of the book, Sotomayor provides one of the most powerful and beautiful metaphors. She describes a garden with a variety of unique flowers, trees, and plants that create a beautiful and serene setting. Each of the plants require different elements to survive and thrive in the garden, but this does not make them any less precious. Instead, it gives them more value and beauty. Without each of these unique plants, the garden would be dull and lose much of its unique beauty. All of them work together to create a garden full of happiness and excitement. Similarly, without the various values each person provides, we would live in such a mundane and bland world. Because of this, she urges readers to notice the beauty in the differences. We should ask people about their lifestyles unless we notice some apprehension. By asking questions and learning more about other lifestyles, we can grow as a society and as people. We can rejoice in our differences and flourish in them. Creating an atmosphere of openness and communication allows us to avoid the blunt or awkward statements children, and quite frankly some adults, make in conversation. We can foster a world of beauty, knowledge, and love in the world. We can “be different, be brave, [and] be [us]” (Sotomayor).

Written by Trisha

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Works Cited

Sotomayor, Sonia. Just Ask!. Philomel Books, 2019.

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A Roadmap to Sound Theology: A Book Review of Knowing God by J. I. Packer

“Unreality toward God is the wasting disease of much modern Christianity.”

(Packer 251)

Theologian J. I. Packer’s warning brings a sobering truth to light amidst the cultural haze of the twenty-first century. In his book Knowing God, he attempts to address the root of such cultural haze, which he believes to be grounded in two damaging trends. In the first place, he writes, “Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God” (12). Furthermore, he goes on with the second trend: “Christian minds have been confused by the modern skepticism” (13). With the spirit of self-aggrandizement clouding our judgment and the deceit of modern skepticism pulling our focus, how do we navigate our lives as Christians in truthful, God-honoring ways? It is in response to this question that Packer’s book unfolds.

In part one, “Know the Lord,” Packer expounds on theology, what it means to truly know the Lord, and how this knowledge impacts our lives. In this, he points to Paul’s words in Romans: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom. 11:33-34). Packer sees this as “a summons to us to humble ourselves, to listen and learn of [God], and to let him teach us what he is like, and how we should think of him” (48). This collection of chapters soberly reminds my heart to seek the Lord in His inspired Word and allow such knowledge to shape my character and transform my life.

Part two, “Behold Your God,” illustrates several key attributes of God in His divine character. These include His unchanging nature, His majesty, His wisdom, His Truth, His love, His grace, His judgement, His wrath, His goodness and severity, and His jealousy. The chapter on God’s infinite love, perhaps, had the most profound impact upon my soul. He emphasizes, “There are no inconsistencies or vicissitudes in the love of the almighty God who is spirit. His love is ‘as strong as death’ (Song 8:6). ‘Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away’ (Song 8:7). Nothing can separate from it those whom it has once embraced (Rom 8:35-39)” (121). This powerful truth wrapped around my troubled heart and brought my focus back to the loving embrace of my God and Savior.

The final section, “If God Be For Us…” stands as a collection of the resulting implications following the material laid out in the first two sections. Packer speaks of the heart of the Gospel, our position as adopted sons of God, God’s guidance in our life, the purpose in our trials, and the Lord’s perfect adequacy in it all. My favorite quote from this portion comes from a chapter focused on the assurance of the Lord as our guide, even amidst unexpected twists and turns. Packer writes, “Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good he is” (241). What a blessedly comforting thought – to be held by the everlasting arms of the Creator of the universe.

Overall, this book profoundly impacted my heart and recentered my focus as I seek to increase my knowledge of God. I must admit, it doesn’t take much to crowd my thoughts with worldly desires and selfish ambitions. I am so often carried away by worries and consumed by my own plans, but Packer’s final words in his closing chapters ring emphatically in my ears:

You are called to go through this world as a pilgrim, a mere temporary resident, traveling light, and willing, as Christ directs, to do what the rich young ruler refused to do: give up material wealth and the security it provides and live in a way that involves you in poverty and loss of possessions. Having your treasure in heaven, you are not to budget for treasure on earth, nor for a high standard of living—you may well be required to forgo both. You are called to follow Christ, carrying your cross.

(268)

There are many worthwhile qualities in Packer’s writing style that would behoove fellow Christian writers to acknowledge. First, his clear-cut decisive language underlines his arguments in a straightforward, readable way. All too often, as writers, we get lost in the translation of lofty speculation and vague philosophy. Packer gets straight to the point and keeps his audience engaged in every chapter. Perhaps the most important quality of Packer’s writing is his close contact with the Word of God. It is clear that Packer knows Scripture thoroughly, and as a result, he cannot help but interweave its passages throughout his writing. Such dependency on biblical clarity establishes strong rapport with Christian audiences and respects the authority of Scripture in all considerations and studies. It is in light of this quality that I titled this blog “A Roadmap to Sound Theology.” As Packer so clearly illustrates, there is no better guiding light in establishing personal theology than the inspired word of God in the Bible (Psa. 119:105).

In conclusion, it is with sincere resolution and highest regard that I recommend J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. I have never encountered a more comprehensive study of the Scriptural definition of God’s character, His Gospel, and what it means to truly seek after Him. In true Packer-fashion, I close this review with a compelling scriptural conclusion. The apostle Paul writes, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:7-9, 10-11, emphasis added).

Written by Grace Hodges

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Cinco de Mayo

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about Cinco de Mayo? Is it a fun party with friends? Is it going to a Mexican restaurant to enjoy some delicious food?

If either of these things come to mind first, then this blog is for you!

Unfortunately, throughout the years, Americans have taken this one crucial event in history and turned it into a reason to throw a party. While it is important to celebrate “the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon II on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of the Puebla,” it also important to remember the true reason behind the holiday (Lee).

In my research about Cinco de Mayo, I found a few paintings by Patricio Ramos Ortega on the website entitled 3 Museos. Each depict different events throughout the battle between the Mexican army and the French army, as well as a description about them.

  • Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla)

Within this painting, we see the French army trying to overtake Fort Guadalupe. In the center, a French solider, a member of the Zouaves, was near to a member of the Mexican army. According to the analysis from 3 Museos, the artillery was dropped on the French soldier, which killed him. As the story continues, the leader of this French unit, Charles Ferdinand Latrille, seeing the pending doom, deemed it time to retreat. While this was a large event in the battle, it was not the end.

  • Lucha Cuerpo a Cuerpo (Hand-to-Hand Fight)

Within this painting, we see the Mexican army fighting the Zouaves once again to avoid being overtaken by the French. Despite common misperception, Cinco de Mayo is not actually about Mexico’s independence; it was the fight to keep France from overtaking the country (Lee, P).

  • Victoria de Los Mexicanos (The Mexicans’ Victory)

While the previous painting illustrates the combat, this shows the moment the Mexican army defeated the French army. In the background, the artist depicts the distant glimpse of the beautiful Mexican architecture and the country’s victory.

  • Descanso Después de la Batalla (Rest After the Battle)

This final painting shows the results from the battle. While the Mexican army rests, one of the men points towards the Mexican flag valiantly flying over the church. It was a day of rest and excitement for the men who bravely fought a battle in which all the odds were against them. Note the difference in the weather from this painting and the previous one. Within this painting, we see a bright sky in contrast to the dark and dingy sky in the previous painting. It adds to the sense of pride and excitement, perhaps even an optimistic view of the future.

Within each of these illustrations, we see that the importance of Cinco de Mayo extends beyond a simple gathering or a reason to party. It is a day of pride and joy in the triumph, in addition to a day of remembrance for all those who died to accomplish this. It was hard-fought battle between two armies that ended with a victory for one, but it was not easy. There were days of pain, death, and terror. It should not be forgotten, and it should not be dwindled down as a day for ½ price Mexican dishes at a restaurant.

Written by Trisha

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Works Cited

Lee, Jolie. “Why Do We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?” USA Today, 5 May 2015.

Ortega, Patricio Ramos. Batalla de Puebla. 1862. 3 Museos, https://www.3museos.com/?pieza=batalla-de-puebla-5#. P, Jessica. “The Fifth of May: The Battle of Puebla.” Pima County Library, 25 April 2019. https://www.library.pima.gov/blogs/post/the-fifth-of-may-the-battle-of-puebla/

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A Letter to the Overwhelmed Writer

Dear Overwhelmed Writer,

So. You’re overwhelmed. Whether you’re a new student fresh into your first semester of college or a veteran scholar deep in the slogs of Finals Week, it’s only natural to feel this way when times get tough and classes get tougher. Maybe your classes are filling up your schedule with assignments, or perhaps you are facing an essay with a page requirement higher than you can count on your fingers. I have been in your place many times myself, and while I know it can be stressful or even frightening at times, I also know that you can persevere. Here are three tips you can use to help move beyond your overwhelmed feelings and move towards a finished paper:

  1. Stop and Breathe. You won’t be able to get a single thing done if you’re drowning in all the stuff you need to accomplish. If you take a moment to pause and clear your mind, you will start to recognize that your hugely intimidating task can be broken into more manageable pieces. Have a long paper to write and can’t think of where to begin? Break your time into chunks of researching and writing and spread them throughout your free time up until the due date, saving a few hours in the final days beforehand for edits and revisions. Have a dozen assignments due this week besides your paper and don’t know where to start? Take a deep breath, break out your schedule, and section up your days in a way that will be most effective for the completion of your work. Sprinkle your smaller assignments among chunks of your longer assignments, including your essay, and save some time to rest and recharge. You can’t work with a frazzled brain or an empty tank.
  2. Have Confidence in Yourself! We at the Writing Center certainly do! After all, you wouldn’t have been admitted into college if you didn’t have the skills necessary to write a successful paper. Though your assignments might be pressing on all sides, you have the capability to rise up. If you use your time wisely and believe you can do it with a little work, you are sure to triumph over your busiest weeks. Any paper you are assigned can be completed, no matter the circumstances of the semester. If you’re unfamiliar with your paper’s subject, there are resources that can help you; libraries, online scholarly journals, and university resources. Utilizing resources like this will help you familiarize yourself with your topic and write a successful paper on it. If your upcoming essay must be longer than you thought was possible, don’t fret—trust your professors. They know you are more than intelligent enough to form a cohesive argument and weave it throughout your essay, and you should believe them when they say so! You have the resources and the ability to write a paper that is uniquely your own. Trust yourself as a writer!
  3. Focus on the Paper at Hand. I know from experience that you can’t write a paper when you’re thinking about other assignments or even when you’re thinking of how you’re going to fill up the blank space in the rest of your essay. While you are writing, it is crucial that you focus on what you are putting on the page. Be careful not to let your mind wander—that will open the floodgates for stress to rush in and cloud your thoughts. Keep your essay outline or thesis statement close at hand and refer back to it whenever you begin to feel your thoughts drift to other things. Your focus is imperative to writing your paper in a proper amount of time; delving into your stress will only slow you down and cause you to feel more overwhelmed. As hard as it may be, keep those thoughts at bay and just write!

Most importantly, understand that you are not alone. Every student feels overwhelmed at times, whether from the daunting swarm of tasks in a certain part of the semester or from a particularly frightening research paper. Every student struggles, and every student can overcome, including you! Remember that your professors want to help, not to harm you, and that you have a myriad of resources to aid you in your essay conquest. When your feelings of stress and fear become relentless, it is always best to reach out to your professors. They will most likely understand what you are going through, and will almost always be willing to help. You should also reach out to friends; they might share some stories about their own experiences or perhaps will lend a shoulder to lean on. But above all, reach out to God. As Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God will be with you as you endeavor to write in these challenging circumstances. Now take a deep breath, know you can do it, and write!

Sincerely,
Jessica

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Hear Our Cries

During this time of uncertainty and pain, here is my prayer for the world:

 O Lord,
 Hear our cries for unity
 Hear our cries for peace
 Hear our cries for equality
 Turn not away from your fallen people
 We need you
 We need your love
 We need your heart.
  
 O Lord, 
 Hear our cries for bravery
 Hear our cries for guidance
 Hear our cries for compassion
 Turn not away from your children.
 We need you
 We need your vision
 We need your foresight
 We need your eyes.
  
 O Lord, 
 Hear our cries to spread the Gospel.
 Hear our cries to fulfill the Great Commission.
 Hear our cries to glorify you.
 Turn not away from your people.
 We need your boldness
 We need your courage
 We need your hands.
  
 We need your eyes
 We need your heart
 We need your hands
 Hear our cries for our lost brothers and sisters,
 O Lord.
  
 Let us not become complacent with the call you have placed on our lives.
 Let us not become desensitized to the lost souls who need your love.
 Let us not become one with the world.
 Let us become the true body of Christ. 
  
 Amen.

Perhaps my personal conviction comes into play here. We live in one of the most challenging times: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Right now, fear immerses us: fear of other humans, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Spreading the Gospel already intimidates many of us, but it can intimidate us more while wearing masks and fearing the contraction of a potentially lethal virus. News anchors and medical professionals tell us that travel is dangerous, especially when crossing borders.

So, where does that leave us in terms of our Great Commission? Throughout my life, I felt called to spread the Gospel in Latin America, but I selfishly pulled back my plans due to the new virus. Thus, here lies the reason for my prayer and blog: my own conviction, my own pain, and my own encouragement.

God calls us, as Christians, to live courageous lives, even in the midst of persecution and trials. Paul and many other disciples continued to spread the Gospel, despite imprisonment or death. While we should live wisely, we should also persevere through these difficult times and bravely follow the Lord’s calling in our lives: spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. My youth pastor once told us that if we had the cure for COVID, we would courageously venture to each country and proclaim the good news. Yet, we oftentimes forget the urgency and importance of spreading the truly Good News – the salvation Christ offers us, if we choose to accept it. Now, comes my spur to action. Join me in praying for where and how we, as Christians, should spread the Gospel. For some, it could mean travelling to Spain, while for others, it might mean having a hard talk with your co-worker who sits in the next cubicle. Neither is more important than the other. Live for Him always! ❤

Written by Trisha

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