Created to Enjoy

Peeking out from behind closed petals, the sparkling sky catches my attention. I sway back and forth in excitement as the soft morning breeze caresses my petals. Soaking up the morning dew, I prepare for the beautiful day ahead.

To my delight, several bright, polka-dotted ladies begin to crawl across my stem, hoping to snack on some aphids before the heat of the day. If I could only get those pesky bugs to leave me alone! So rude – always eating holes through my beautiful, waxy leaves! A vibrant green, my littlest leaves droop in relief as the prestigious ladies finish their aphid breakfast. Grateful, I stand up straight and tall, stretching out my stems, hoping to provide the ladies easy passage back to their underground hideout. Unfortunately, I have to practically grow new roots to keep from squirming as those ticklish little feet travel back down my stalk!

Looking up, I sigh in wonder as the morning sun begins to peek over the mountaintop. Bright pink and orange hues dance behind the majestic mountains, anxiously awaiting their morning debut. As dawn turns into day, my little meadow slowly comes to life once again.

I release a few withered petals as several delicate butterflies resume their morning migration. Enticed by my beautiful scent, the butterflies pause to sample my sticky nectar, leaving behind pollen from other flower friends near and far. As the flutterers continue on their journey, I bask in the sun’s gentle rays: warming, loving, life-giving. Early morning chills dissipate as I stretch my head toward the sky. My sole desire in life is to share my beauty with all those around. What joy is found in the life of a flower!

As I continue warming in the sunshine, a human pushing a curious machine comes into view. My petals and leaves perk in excitement at the rare sighting. Perhaps he has come to bask in my beauty! Closer and closer he pushes the machine and louder and louder the noises become. As I wait in anticipation, early excitement turns to profound horror. Though the sun continues to shine, I feel frozen from shock. Completely helpless, I watch as flower families fall all around. Closer, closer, closer the giant machine approaches. Louder, louder, louder, the cutting noises intensify.

-chop-

I shrivel in despair as my beautiful petals sink into the dirt. Instead of enjoying, cherishing, and sharing, the mower breaks, takes, and devastates. If only mankind could understand, I am simply here to help them comprehend that the beauties of earth are for them to enjoy, so on this Earth Day, be grateful, and do not destroy.

Written by Leah (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Who is Barabbas?

Most of us are familiar with the story of Barabbas. We know that Pontius Pilate offered the angry mob a choice: the release of a well-known criminal or the release of a humble teacher. We also know that the crowd overwhelmingly chose the release of Barabbas and demanded the brutal execution of Jesus. However, we might miss the point of the whole story if we see Barabbas as a random criminal.

Barabbas is mentioned in all four Gospels of the New Testament, which means that he is extremely crucial to the story and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. Barabbas was charged with insurrection in Jerusalem, robbery, and murder. He was “a notorious prisoner” (Matthew 27:16). It was also customary for a Jewish prisoner to be released before the Feast of Passover every year, which is why Pilate chose to use it as a strategy to keep himself blameless.

The meaning of Barabbas’ name is key to understanding how and what the authors of the Gospels were trying to convey to their readers. According to Hebrew Streams, Barabbas means “the son of [his] father.” They had to choose between the twisted version of man (Barabbas) and the perfect image of what man ought to be (Jesus), which made the choice spiritually-charged almost immediately because of this fact.

When we read about this story, we might be quick to point out the depravity of the world and the sinfulness of the mob. However, we fail to realize that we are talking about ourselves here. Dead in our trespasses and guilty of breaking God’s laws, we are deserving of His wrath, but a blameless sacrifice to take our place was provided by Him instead—drawing one of the most beautiful biblical parallels with the story of Abraham and his son Isaac found in Genesis 22:1-18. In this story, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and when He saw his obedience, he provided a lamb to be sacrificed instead. Christ’s work on the cross carries the same message and the same story.

Dead in our trespasses and guilty of breaking God’s laws, we are deserving of His wrath, but a blameless sacrifice to take our place was provided by Him instead—drawing one of the most beautiful biblical parallels with the story of Abraham and his son Isaac found in Genesis 22:1-18.

Though we ought to rejoice in Christ’s resurrection, Jesus wished his followers to remember this time of sorrow. At the Last Supper, Jesus speaks of His body and blood as a sacrifice for our sins and commands us to partake in the same communion as we remember Him (Luke 22:19). The Apostle Paul eloquently elaborates on this as well by saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

While many indulge in colorful eggs and delicious sweets, Scripture admonishes us to proclaim His death continually, for by it we are made alive. Our hearts ought to break at the cost of our sin, yet mend with thankfulness for the power of His resurrection. The story of Barabbas illustrates this truth wonderfully. The historicity of Barabbas and the meaning of his name are important to the interpretation and understanding of the text; however, he finds his true identity in all of us. We have all sinned and broken God’s laws. We are Barabbas.

Written by Kenean (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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What St. Patrick’s Journey Teaches Us About Adversity

Before writing this blog, my knowledge of St. Patrick’s Day read thus: it’s on March 17th,  something Ireland, and if you don’t wear green, you will be assaulted. If you live in America, I assume your knowledge of the holiday is about the same as mine. However, after doing some digging of my own, I have come to understand that Saint Patrick had to endure a fair share of hardships. Looking at his complete timeline, I now realize just how significant each one of his tribulations was to the cultivation of his impact and the legacy we see today. So, in the spirit of knowledge and cultural awareness, let’s take a look at the adversities of St. Patrick and what they teach us about our own struggles.

Saint Patrick (full name Maewyn Succat) was born in Britain near the end of the 4th century (386 AD). There is little information regarding his childhood, but when he was sixteen, he was enslaved by Irish pirates. He was then forced to tend sheep in Ireland as a slave for six years. As he became more accustomed to the Irish language and practices, Patrick began to grow in his faith. He started to pray daily and began to see his captivity as a test from God. One night, he heard a voice telling him to escape and return to his homeland. This led him to board a boat with a group of sailors venturing to Britain, and he was reunited with his family after being lost at sea for approximately a month. After escaping imprisonment, Patrick received a vision of the Irish people reaching out to him and was inspired to bring the Gospel to the citizens of Ireland. Although the people didn’t embrace him upon his initial return, Saint Patrick went on to become the most influential Christian figure in the history of Ireland, converting and baptizing individuals across the nation. He continued working with, and establishing, churches throughout Ireland until his death towards the end of the 5th century (between 461-93 AD).

As you can see, Saint Patrick endured a lot during his lifetime, but his faith carried him through such hardships. He possessed a mindset that didn’t allow him to give up when things seemed impossible to overcome. But, of course, I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “don’t give up!” a million times in a variety of different environments. Every adult is aware of the importance of perseverance and developing a strong work ethic. The question is this: how? How can I build a mindset that helps me push through rough times? How can I look at adversity in a new light that helps me move past it? How do I not give up?

For starters, I would suggest ridding yourself of the preconceived notion that adversity has to be a bad thing. The words “adversity” and “hardship” can often come to our minds with negative connotations, which makes us want to avoid them. However, hardships can be viewed in ways that are less negative. For example, Saint Patrick viewed his enslavement as a test of his faith from God. Of course, the word “test” might also have a negative connotation for many people, but Saint Patrick understood that all good things come from God. With this in mind, he was able to view his adversity in a different way.

This transitions nicely into the next question people may have: how can I view my adversity in a truly positive light? As previously mentioned, understanding God’s goodness can certainly help us see our struggles positively. The Bible also specifically lays out how adversity leads to goodness in Romans: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). If we begin to view our tribulations more as opportunities for character development and less as burdens we have to carry, it is more likely that we will have greater hope and energy when approaching such trials. When our hopes are high, we can garner the strength and energy to tackle whatever may be in front of us.

This leads us to the last, and certainly most important, question: where do I find hope? Saint Patrick makes the source of his hope very clear in his confession, written shortly before he died: “thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently [offer] my soul as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord” (“The Confession of Saint Patrick”, par. 34). Because Saint Patrick put his hope in Christ, he had a renewed sense of energy when approaching adversity; he even began to view adversity more positively, which drove him to not give up when his tasks seemed impossible to overcome.

So, today as we’re pinching our friends and showing off our horrendous Irish accents, I hope this holiday can serve as a reminder of where our hope comes from. Even in our most troubled times, God is constant. We just have to remember to look up and know He’s there. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Presidents are People Too

President’s Day is a holiday dedicated to all of the U.S. presidents, both past and present. It is a day where Americans can reflect upon and remember the actions of historic presidents like George Washington as well as the more recent presidents who were elected during our lifetime. This day gives us reason to recall the incredible feats of President Abraham Lincoln, who preserved the Union throughout the turmoil of the American Civil War, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who guided the U.S. during economic depression and world war. Also, this day allows us to commemorate the tragedies of past presidents like the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas during the presidential motorcade. Most Americans are aware of the well-known presidents and their claims to fame. However, presidents are people, too, and they have lived through some interesting periods in American history. Behind every presidential figure lies a trove of fascinating facts about their lives.

We believe that the man or woman elected as president cannot be some average Joe off the street. Although one must certainly be qualified to be president, all of the men elected to office have had their shortcomings. Thomas Jefferson—founding father, writer of the Declaration of Independence, and 3rd president of the U.S.—gravely feared public speaking. In fact, during his entire presidency, he only delivered two speeches. He is not the only president with a phobia. Ulysses S. Grant, the acclaimed general of the Civil War and 18th president of the U.S., could not bear the sight of blood. Yet, he led the Union army to victory in the bloodiest war the United States has ever experienced. Unlike Jefferson and Grant, whose concerns are understandable, other presidents had irrational fears. For example, the 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, was afraid of electricity. Since it had just been invented, Harrison often refused to flip light switches in the White House, believing he would be electrocuted if he did. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president who led the U.S. through World War II, was deeply superstitious. It was common for him to refuse to dine with thirteen people or travel on the thirteenth day of the month as a safety precaution. Like any other person, presidents have fears and concerns that contradict the heroic persona we often think we see them in.

Some of the presidents were incredibly rugged men who lived during periods that we have no experience in. Many of them grew up on the frontier where the wilderness spread for miles and unknown people resided. They developed tough characteristics that they carried with them into their presidency for both their benefit and downfall. The 7th president, Andrew Jackson, is commonly known as the presidential bad-boy of American history and for good reason. Throughout his life, he fought in one-hundred duels (which were legal in his day). Duels were serious ordeals; many famous Americans of that period were involved and sometimes killed in these confrontations. Jackson was shot twice during his tenure as a dueler, once taking a bullet in the chest and another in the arm. Along with Old Hickory (Jackson’s nickname), Abe Lincoln was also a tough guy. Lincoln had a talent in wrestling, winning nearly three-hundred matches during his day. His towering frame gave him the advantage in wrestling matches, making him a formidable opponent to all who challenged him. Both of these presidents were the types of people you did not want to mess with unless you had a good reason.

Throughout history, presidents have had a lasting impact on the United States. Martin Van Buren, 8th president of the U.S., impacted the language we speak today in a very unique way. During his election campaign in 1840, he went by the nickname: Old Kinderhook. In order to create a snappier way of saying this mouthful of a nickname, people referred to him as “OK.” His supporters would lug around signs with the initials on it and, little did they know, we still use “OK” to this day. In fact, it is one of the prominent words in our everyday language.

As humans, we all possess interesting facts about our lives. Every president, from the most prominent to the nearly forgotten, has a fascinating side to his life story. Though we create presidents to be larger-than-life figures, they are people, too, with mistakes, fears, desires, and stories.

Written by Jack

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Works Cited:

Hapsis, Emmanuel. “Weird Facts You Never Knew about the U.S. Presidents.” KQED, Feb. 2016. https://www.kqed.org/pop/20516/weird-facts-you-never-knew-about-the-u-s-presidents.

History.com Editors. “Presidents Day 2019.” History.com, Aug 2018. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day.

Treat Yo’self: Great Valentine’s Tips for One

“If you’re sad about being alone on Valentine’s Day, just remember that nobody loves you on any other day of the year either,” a snarky Facebook meme reads. After a hearty laugh, I sank down into my onesie pajamas considering my Valentine’s Day plans. I immediately thought of me and other celebrators buying flowers, chocolate, overbearing cologne, and doing all of the other materialistic things we would normally do for our Valentines. Between the beep-beep-beep of the cash register in my head and my desire not to indulge in this year’s cliché festivities, I stumbled upon an idea: treat yourself this treat yoself 1Valentine’s Day. Obviously, it is better to give than to receive, and we can all agree that it’s important to show love to others. However, many of us dedicate the entire day to showing everyone but ourselves such affection. It’s time we claim this day as one to cherish those we love, most importantly ourselves.

Tip One: Go to Work

I’ll admit, this option isn’t the most fun, but consider it: many V-day celebrators do their bests to take off work or get off early for the special day as romantic gestures are often prohibited in professional settings. Therefore, you would have at least a couple of hours to peaceably avoid the holiday. Secondly, your job will keep your mind occupied on your task and help you to momentarily forget about the hoopla as you work. Finally, if you find yourself still sore over the matter, at least you’ve earned some cash to do a little retail therapy.

Tip Two: Pamper Yourself

Nothing says “I love me” like a little self-care. Give your skin a sweet treat with a DIY strawberry sugar scrub. Simply mix 1 cup cane sugar, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, ¾sugar scrub cup of coconut oil, and 1 table spoon of vanilla extract. Whip yourself up some delicious treats like these Valentines Brownie Truffles. You can also buy face masks, chocolate, flowers, and anything else that you feel would make the day awesome for you. The point is to make yourself feel good – mind, body, and soul.

Tip Three: Go Out

Just because you don’t have a special someone, it doesn’t mean you must stay in the house on Valentine’s Day. Take yourself out to a restaurant and choose a small table, or a seat at the bar, if dining alone is intimidating. You can also go to a spa, concert, or even anti-Valentine’s Day events.

Tip Four: Celebrate Love in General

Who says you have to be alone on Valentine’s Day? If we celebrate love in a general sense and not just a romantic one, we can be easily reminded of all the ways we could enjoy this special day. Go out with friends for bowling or a movie. Have a stay-cation with your favorite furry feline or precious pooch. Have a family game night or go out to eat together. Do something you enjoy with and for those you love, especially you. Treat yo’self!

treat yoself 2

 

Written by Ashley

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The Servant Leadership of King

In preparation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I wanted to learn more about the man we remember, mourn, and celebrate each January. So I headed to the library and rented one of King’s classic works: Why We Can’t Wait.

This book was written in retrospect of the Birmingham Campaign of 1963, a movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to shed light on the integration efforts of Birmingham African Americans. Throughout its pages, King eloquently discusses the causes of that momentous summer as well as its many triumphs toward civil rights in both Birmingham and beyond. Additionally, the book highlights King’s fervent conviction that racial equality and reconciliation could no longer wait to be achieved.

As I read, I quickly realized that King’s thoughts, descriptions, and anecdotes would provide a wealth of directions in which to take this blog. However, one theme in particular stood out to me, and that was servant leadership. Those words get thrown around a lot on the DBU campus, sometimes to the point where they begin to mean very little to us. But the fact remains that servant leadership is integral to mirroring the character of Christ, and what better way to learn it than studying servant leaders of the past?

While King demonstrated servant leadership in a variety of situations throughout the campaign, there is one moment that stands out as a beacon to guide those striving toward servant leadership. It came in the late spring of 1963. Just as the Birmingham Campaign was gaining momentum and attention, there came news that threatened the entire movement: the bondsman who had previously been supplying bail for all arrested demonstrators would be unable to continue this service. In the thirtieth room of the Gaston Motel, twenty-five prominent leaders of the campaign sat and questioned whether to proceed as planned and personally participate in demonstrations despite the new lack of bail money. With regard to this moment, King writes:

I sat there, conscious of twenty-four pairs of eyes. I thought about the people in jail. I thought about the Birmingham Negroes already lining the streets of the city, waiting to see me put into practice what I had so passionately preached. How could my failure now to submit to arrest be explained to the local community? What would be the verdict of the country about a man who had encouraged hundreds of people to make a stunning sacrifice and then excused himself? (King 79-80).

Undoubtedly, there were a host of reasons for King and his fellow leaders not to put themselves on the front lines and at risk of arrest. If they did, who would take up the torch to rally and lead the remaining demonstrators? Who would stand at the pulpits on Easter Sunday and preach the good news of Christ’s resurrection, which gave so many African Americans the hope they needed to challenge injustice? And perhaps the most frightening question of all, who would work tirelessly to secure another source of bail, which would be needed to release both leaders and hundreds of wrongly imprisoned demonstrators?

King had no answers to these pressing questions, and as he sat pondering them, avoiding arrest would have clearly seemed the wisest course of action. But this was not the decision he made. Instead, King told his fellow leaders, “‘I don’t know what will happen; I don’t know where the money will come from. But I have to make a faith act’” (King 81). Instead of excusing himself, King made a bold decision of faith in the face of uncertainty, which ultimately led to his imprisonment alongside the Birmingham demonstrators.

King acted as a servant by coming alongside his people as an equal, struggling toward a common goal. He displayed leadership by making a difficult decision and encouraging others to follow his example of faith. While some might argue that King’s decision to participate in the Birmingham demonstrations was unwise, the fruits of King’s imprisonment speak otherwise. Much like Paul, King’s time in jail was used by God in mighty ways. There, King drafted his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which he respectfully addressed and rebuked those who did not support the nonviolent direct-action movement.

Countless positive outcomes resulted from the servant leadership of King and many others during the Birmingham Campaign. Some of these include strides toward the desegregation of lunch counters and other public areas, plans to hire African Americans on a non-discriminatory basis, actions to release all persons wrongfully jailed for their participation in the campaign, and avenues for better communication between African Americans and Whites. Truly, without King’s willingness to be a servant leader, the city of Birmingham, and indeed America, would not be what they are today. While it is sometimes hard to believe, never doubt that God can and does call people like you and me to be servant leaders who change communities, cities, states, countries, and with enough faith, the world.

Written by Meredith (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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King, Jr. Martin L. Why We Can’t Wait. 1964. Beacon Press, 2010.

To check availability or place a hold on Why We Can’t Wait at the DBU Vance Memorial Library, click here.

To find other works by King, click here.

The Best New Year Checklist

Hold on! Before you use all of your Twitter characters to jot down your half-plans to “be your best self,” take a moment and go through this checklist to really start the year off right.

Create a list of best-three

This list should contain at least three of your favorite things of the year. These elements can include experiences, developing habits, people, and/or items that you are grateful for. You may even add more than three items to the list as you remember all of the awesome aspects of the year. Add as many things to your list as you can, and reminisce about the best parts of this year. My list of three includes starting a blog, starting a business, and moving into my first apartment.

Create a list of worst-three

This list should be the opposite of the previous list. This time, note your top three fails, obstacles, bad-habits, and other unsatisfactory components of the past year. This time, only jot down those top three. The goal here isn’t to make you feel bad about what went wrong but to accept it and begin making changes. Choose the top three areas from this year you would like to improve for next year.

Now, here’s the fun part…

Create a Vision Board for the New Year

A vision board is simply a compilation of photos, quotes, goals, and other items that foster motivation. Vision boards can be both physical and virtual and are meant to be displayed in a location that can be seen daily. Use your list of top-three’s to find images and quotes that inspire you. Use the list of worst-three to find images and quotes that counteract those items. Then, include your dreams, desires, beliefs and anything else you want to achieve in this next year. Finally, add your favorite image of yourself in the center, enjoying the lifestyle you created. If you get tired of your board make a new one and stay inspired all year long!

Purge, Organize, and Shop

Nothing says “new me” like a clean home, a decluttered closet, and some novelty items to bring in the New Year. Many who purge their junk feel ‘lighter’ and more confident in what the New Year has to offer. Take a couple weeks to go through your home section by section, and remove the things you have not used in the last year. By riding yourself the things you don’t need, you free your mind and your space to collect things that serve a greater purpose in your life now.

Celebrate

Whether at a countdown party, hanging out with friends and loved ones, or at home enjoying your favorite mode of relaxation, celebrate the success of surviving this year and celebrate the promise of the next one.

Written by Ashley

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