Look Ahead, Stay Present

Have you ever wished that you could see your future? That, just for one moment, you could supersede time and space to learn what lies ahead? To be prepared for whatever life throws your way?

Sometimes I find myself pondering the very same questions. If I know what comes next, I’ll be a less anxious person, right? I won’t make as many mistakes. Right?

Wrong.

As much as I would like to believe that I can take a look at my life from a bird’s eye view and calmly handle whatever the future brings, the truth is that I would fail miserably. Looking ahead to discover what kind of job I’ll have after grad school or how many grandchildren I’ll get to meet sounds appealing, but I’m convinced it would be a disastrous choice. First of all, I think I would be more fearful of hard times to come; I would worry much more about surmounting future obstacles, and let me just tell ya – I worry enough as it is. I am fearful – yet prideful – enough as it is. I struggle with dependency on God enough as it is. If I knew ahead of time what grade I’d make on my midterm or that I would lose my job in approximately six months, what would induce me to trust God? How could I continue to do my best and leave the results to the Lord if all my energy was being spent on plotting and planning moves and countermoves to events that haven’t even taken place yet? (That isn’t meant to negate planning ahead, but there is only so much you can do when you can’t even see tomorrow.) Above all, I want to do the best I can with what I am given, today. I want to lean on God and not my own pride.

Also, have you ever stopped to think about what propels you into the future? Today. Now. The present. The decisions you make today will change the rest of your life. The root of the matter is that I usually waste time pursuing things that I don’t have while failing to realize the tremendous blessings and opportunities I have already been given. Here’s hoping that we can learn to be thankful for where God has placed us today instead of worrying about tomorrow.

By Carilee

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Remember the Pilgrims!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I get really excited. Ridiculously excited, one could say. Autumn is without a doubt my favorite season of the year, and it only gets better when a holiday is thrown into the middle of it.

Of course, the Pilgrims did not have the same kind of holiday that we do today. They did not travel for hours on an airplane to visit family, nor were they likely to have pumpkin pie. This is a sad truth, I know. But in order to fully appreciate such a special day, we must look at its historical context. How did we get our modern day of thanks from such a humble beginning?

The most obviously wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is probably the sheer abundance of food. I wish I could invite everyone in the world to my family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, because my mother’s classic turkey dinner with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie is delightfully scrumptious! Yet food, although it is essential to any family reunion, does not create a holiday all by itself.

The Pilgrims were simply celebrating the fact that they had food at all. When was the last time you were actively grateful for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you eat between classes every Tuesday and Thursday? When was the last time you stood in front of a full pantry and thanked God for it instead of moaning about how “nothing sounds good”?

Many Americans use the week of Thanksgiving to take a break from school or work and travel long distances to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, or that crazy cousin who only shows up for the food. In most cases, this is a time to catch up on the latest news and laugh together, enjoying each others’ company.

Unfortunately, the Pilgrims did not have that either. Half of their small number had died in the previous months, and going back home just to see their loved ones was nigh impossible. Yet they still celebrated, because while they were few, they were alive. When was the last time you were thankful to open your eyes in the morning and greet your bleary-eyed roommate?

Even the holiday’s position as a sort of bridge to Christmas seems rather unfounded. Were the Pilgrims eagerly awaiting the day’s end so they could start playing winter carols and making wish lists? Far from it, most likely; I would imagine that the day after the first Thanksgiving feast was just like any other day, filled with tending to the fields and doing laundry. The continued absence of Santa Claus reigned.

If not Christmas, then, what did the Pilgrims have to live for? Another year of hardships and trials? Not at all. They looked forward to the future, as well. They could be grateful because they were assured of God’s providence and strength as they moved forward. They could thank Him for every extra breath they took, for the food they finally had to eat, and for the gift of His Son, who assured them that their loved ones who hadn’t survived were in a better place.

What would happen if Americans today prioritized our lives like this, even just for one day? What if we stepped off the whirlwind that has become our lives and remembered God’s blessings of breath and life, His omnipresence, and his loving control over every situation we face? What if we thanked Him for the people we see every day as well as for our far-away friends and family? I think we would come to adore Him and the whole of His creation and majesty all the more.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be – Psalm 139:14, 16 (New International Version)

Written by Catherine

Friday Symposium

“Philosophy literally means the ‘love of wisdom,’” Professor Naugle’s voice carried over the microphone, “And wisdom has been aptly defined as ‘knowledge applied.’ Hence, philosophy may be more also defined as the love of applied knowledge” (8). At these words, Dallas Baptist University (DBU) faculty and students hummed in agreement. I scribbled my pen across Dr. Naugle’s essay, circling that statement.

The statement reminded me of Socrates’ hierarchy of reason, knowledge, belief, and opinion. A philosopher does not simply hold a vast amount of knowledge, as a mathematician understands 2+2=4, but he or she is also able to apply this knowledge. Thereby, the reason underlying the knowledge determines how a philosopher will use it.

“And the application of knowledge,” Dr. Naugle finished his point, “is exactly the goal of the philosophy program at [DBU]” (8). So, as a student at DBU, I am to both love knowledge and love applying that knowledge.

ben 2My experiences at DBU’s Friday Symposiums have aggrandized my intellectual ability and allowed me to encounter subjects I would not have otherwise. Once a DBU professor, who is also a singer-song writer, read to us her dissertation on Bob Dylan. Her argument was that Bob Dylan’s song lyrics marked the end of modernism. Throughout her talk, she played and sang some of Bob Dylan’s songs. This allowed the words and music to come alive and ring inside my head as the paper continued.

Another speaker who influenced me was the poet-laureate of Oklahoma. He attacked sentimentality in writing, expressing that, as poets, we must find the difference between “grandma’s praying hands,” and “my grandma’s praying hands.” The overall theme being that particularity brings universality. Particularities draw in a reader, giving him or her the opportunity to relate to the subject matter.

I could ramble on about other lectures I have had the pleasure of hearing, like the psychologist from New Orleans and the professor from Duke-Divinity school. Yet, my favorite part of the Symposiums is the question answer time.

“How does one retain a fixed theory while also remaining adaptable, as the liberal arts promote adaptability,” I asked Dr. Naugle after his presentation. He looked away for a moment, scowled in his typical fashion as he thought it through, and answered, “A college student is supposed to be open to changes to a specific theory… Some students are intransigent, which I would argue is not the correct attitude.”

ben 1

This answer has sent me into a whirlwind of pondering. Are there theories I uphold to that might need changing? Am I unwilling to consider other viewpoints or, at the least, understand them?

As aspiring philosophers, we should love knowledge and truth. We then must act or apply that knowledge and truth in our daily lives. The symposiums are great avenues to grow in spirit and truth, which matures one’s mind and implants a sense of justice that permeates all experiences of life.

This post was written by former Writing Center staff member Ben Jones.

Works Cited

Naugle, David. “Philosophy: A Christian Vision.” DBU Friday Symposium Sept 2015: 1-13. Print.

Christian Community: A Better Idea

Freshman year, I shared a bathroom with five guys and a 10×12 ft. dorm room with two roommates. We were destined for conflict, and it didn’t help that we were so different.

One roommate was a gamer, the other a runner, and I was a self-proclaimed academic. The gamer was an insomniac and woke at the slightest sound or glimmer of light. The runner went to bed early and woke up at five in the morning.  I went to bed early and slept in most mornings. Our bedtimes were a point of conflict. To heighten the tension, the gamer and runner cranked the AC to the temperature of an igloo, which wasn’t to my liking. Our approach to conflict also caused dissension. I was all about confrontation and “laying problems on the table,” whereas the runner kept to himself. The gamer was entirely passive. Even our approach to conflict caused conflict. Freshman year was marked by conflict. My roommates and I were consumed by petty issues and placed them above people. We placed things above community because we had a low view of it.

Maybe, like me, you’re placing things above community. Instead of embracing differences, we let them divide us. While neglecting those whom we do not prefer, we lend preferential treatment to those who are cool, funny, smart, et cetera. Sometimes, we do not go outside of our comfortable community to invite others into it. Maybe the reason that we place things—our differences, preferences, selves, and comfort—above community is because we have a low view of it. But, the community to which the Christian belongs is extraordinarily valuable. We will stop placing other things above people in our communities when we see their importance. Throughout its narrative, the Bible shows that community is very important to God.

God went to great lengths to establish Christian community. It has always been his desire to be in perfect community. Below are a series of charts that maps God’s work to establish community before, during, and after time.

Creation

Before there was a before, God was in community with the Son and Spirit. Out of His abundance, He created man, and man had no mediators; community was complete.

John 1

Fall

But, perfect community did not last long, for man had a great fall and all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men couldn’t rebuild community again. At this time, God appointed mediators who we know as priests and prophets to perform ritual sacrifices and prophecy to the nation of Israel. Also, God selected some people, in some places, for some time spans to be his people. In other words, community was limited.

But, God’s will was not for limited community. In fact, the moment after God pronounced His judgment of Adam and Eve’s actions, He initiated a plan to defeat the enemy and restore man to God. This pronouncement can be found in Genesis 3:15* and is referred to as the protoevangelium, the first reference to the Good News, God’s plan to destroy Satan and restore community with Him.

*”He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

John 2

Redemption

Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled in John 3:16. Through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan was defeated and man was given the opportunity to commune with God once again. Now, our only mediator is the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who extends the opportunity of fellowship to all people, in all places, for some time (only some time because His offer lasts only during the life of man). Thus, all who believe in Him may have community with the Father, Son, and Spirit as well as with other Christians.

However, even the Christian community is not entirely complete because we live in the period of history which theologians refer to as the “already but not yet,” that is to say that the kingdom of God has been inaugurated by the first coming of Christ but will not be made in its fullness until the second coming. In other words, Christ is reigning but sin and evil still exist though not for long.

John 3

Consummation

There will be a day when Christ returns and restores humankind to the fullness of community that was experienced before time. There will be no mediators and community will be complete again.

I did not understand God’s grand vision of community my freshman year of college. I traded God’s great vision for my petty preferences; I placed things above community. If I had understood this concept, bedtimes and room temperatures and strategies to conflict resolution would not have prohibited me from enjoying the community to which God called me.

If we value community, we will recognize that He who was most unlike us loved us, despite our differences, and, therefore, we will not allow differences to divide us. When we see that Christ left His comfortable abode to descend among us, the detestable, and preferred us, we will yield to God’s preference, which is for all to know Him; we will die to our preferences when we realize Christ died to His. God went to great lengths to include us in community. It is His heart’s desire; therefore, we must go outside of our Christian communities to include people in the eternal family of God by sharing the Gospel.

John 4

Written by John Brock

Don the Swan

It’s a glorious day here at Pond Kingdom. The sun has risen, the birds are tweeting, and my fluffy wife Gertrude has recently awakened from her slumber. With a stretch of the wings and a crane of the neck, I begin my leisurely morning swim in search of breakfast. In order to find the juiciest insects to devour, it is vital that I start my search before that ghastly brigade of ducks arrives.

They drive me quackers.

Every morning they come waddling over, trying to steal the catch of the day from Gertrude and me. But that’s the least of my worries. I’m fully convinced that they all suffer from clinical insanity. Seriously, they’re always trying to convince me that we don’t live in an ordinary pond.

“Did you know this is actually a university?” they quack. “Apparently we live right in front of the president’s house!”

To these outrageous remarks, I always sneer in silence. I know for a fact that the beastly minions, who possess a strange fascination with walking around my kingdom, are by no means smart enough to be in college. I mean, surely students, who have met the qualifications to be admitted into university, would know better than to flap their arms at me in a mocking manner, or throw pieces of bread to my wife and me and expect any sort of kindness in return.

Even so, on this lovely morning, I make my way towards the hub of water bugs and am not surprised when the beastly ducks come swimming my way. I smack my beak in detest and preen my feathers, hoping that for once, they will be intimidated by my beauty and majesty. But NO. Here they come, their ducks in a row, already chattering about what they will presently relay to me. “Don! Don!”

“Greetings, esteemed peasants.” I reply with a sigh.

“You’ll never guess! It’s the most exciting news since ‘duck duck goose!’”

“If you could just get this nonsense over with I would be most obliged; Gertrude is waiting for me.”

“We finally have confirmation!” Jeeves, their ever-obnoxious leader and chief blurts out, swimming his way towards the front of the formation.

“Jeeves, how many times do I have to tell you? There is no need to speak at such a high decibel,”

“But this is urgent,” he squawks, “We have proof!”

“Proof of what?”

“Proof! Proof! Proof! Proof!”

“Eaaaaasy does it tiger, let me explain,” says Marquart, pushing Jeeves to the side. “What Jeeves means to explain, is that we have proof that these “pests,” as you call them, are indeed students.”

“Hit me.”

“We’ve noticed that every day they come here with textbooks, notebooks, pencils, oh my! If they were just uneducated passersby as you claim, why would they require these materials?”

“That’s beside the point.” I clear my throat. “If you’ll excuse me, my wife is waiting for me.” I swim away, almost unaffected. However, even to my highly elevated swan mind, I cannot deny that their observations are not altogether ludicrous. Perhaps my visitors are innocent students, who visit me and my kingdom in search of respite from the academic grind.

The only problem is, I don’t know how to explain this to Gertrude. For you see, Gertrude, some years ago, suffered from…an uh, incident. *gulp* it was the winter of 2004. Pond Kingdom was completely frozen over. Gertrude had been down south visiting her parents for the holidays, and when she arrived, didn’t realize the nature of her surroundings. I explained to her that the pond was frozen. Yet Gertrude, who never was the brainiest of the bunch, didn’t know what the word ‘frozen’ well…meant. As such, she took a giant leap over the water, expecting to gracefully drop in as always. She conked her head, very hard, on the ice. She hasn’t been the same since. Consequently, I dreaded attempting to explain to her this newfound information.

“Gertrude, darling!” I cried, circling about the little island upon which she generally lay.

“Dearest! You’re back!” she exclaimed, flapping her lop-sided wings with glee.

“Yes, and I have news for you.”

“DO SHARE!”

“You know those humans we call ‘minions’ whom you’re always squawking at me to chase away with whatever vicious precautions you deem necessary?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, uh, as it turns out, those minions…are, indeed…students. We live at a university. This isn’t Genovia from The Princess Diaries as you believe.”

Her crazy eye twitches.

“What’s a university?”

I sigh.

“Quick! Don, predators! Chase! Chase them away before they harm our precious kingdom!”

With slight hesitation, I go after the students walking by, keeping enough of a distance to intrigue their dare-devil tendencies. They always come back when I taunt them with a hope that they may defeat me. It’s sad for Gertrude that she will always exist in this strange state of disillusionment. But I have to admit, it is oddly satisfying to watch the students flee from me as if I’m finals week. Respectfully, I remain,

Don the DBU Swan

(Written by Karoline)