In the Beginning

I was recently bitten by the content-creation bug. You know what I’m talking about—the one that’s drawing everyone and their dog (or goldfish or gerbil or hedgehog) to places like YouTube and Vine to make a living by creating videos and other online content. To me, that sounds like the dream life, so I decided to try it.

The question, of course, lay in where to start. I had to rein myself in a little bit and decide what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. To figure that out, I had to answer another question: Why am I doing this?

I knew I wanted to keep my faith in the open, but we all know the dangers of that nowadays. Christians aren’t favorably portrayed, as we used to be, in modern media. It’s much easier to make “Christian” music or write a “Christian” blog and separate ourselves from the world.

The thing is, we’re not supposed to do that.

How do I know? Lots of ways. Take the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added).

Or John 17:14-19, where Jesus notes that neither he nor his disciples are of this world but are nevertheless in it. Verse 15, in particular, catches my eye: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” David Mathis wrote a great article on why this passage (and the phrase “In the world but not of the world” that was coined from it) means not that Christians should fall away from the world, but that we have been sent into it on a mission. I’ll let you read his article for more elaboration.

So we’re supposed to go into the world, avoid the advances of the evil one, and impact those around us. Cool. How does creativity tie into that? Dear reader, I’m so glad you asked.

When God created the world, he also created man: Adam; we all know him. He also created woman, Eve, when he realized one human wasn’t enough. Genesis 2:19-20 records one of the first things God told this man to do: “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.”

Writers, how many of you have struggled to find the perfect name for one single character? Yeah, this verse makes me cringe, too.

Remember also that God made Eve as a “suitable helper” (v. 20) for Adam (v. 20). She was made creative, too. Adam wasn’t meant to create by himself; he created in the pattern of God and with his fellow human.

So, what does this mean for us?

  1. Creativity is a built-in part of each one of us; it is God-given and it has a purpose.
  2. Creativity brings us closer to the Lord. God could have named all the animals himself and just told Adam what they were; instead, he let Adam do it with him, and whatever name Adam came up with was the one God ordained. It was a moment of trust and respect that will probably never be replicated in our post-fall existence.
  3. Our creative thoughts are not meant to be kept to ourselves. We’re supposed to use them for what God has told us to do, for the benefit of others.

When we use the materials, ideas, and abilities God has given us to bless others, we’re showing that we appreciate all those things—and that we love the One who made them. Any creator can tell you that the act of creation is an unparalleled experience. I believe this is why.

That’s not to say that everything you create has to be some praise and worship experience. Everything I just pointed out is simply describing the origin of creativity and the high standards set before us. For the Christian, it will shine through unexpectedly and subconsciously.

I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do with my creative abilities yet. Right now, I’m just determined to be as genuine as possible. For me, being genuine means being loving, caring, passionate, discerning, and respectful, as Christ himself is. That holds true if I’m uploading my personality to YouTube or if I’m living a social-media-free existence. I want to live in such a way that, no matter what I’m doing, people see the difference in me and wonder why it’s there.

As the old saying goes, you can be anything you want to be—and the Christian label (or lack thereof) shouldn’t change the message we as Christians carry. As long as you are exercising the love, compassion, and attitude of Christ, you have the power in Him to create something truly amazing and life-changing.

Written by Catherine

Reprinted with permission from this blog.

Image credit: Kā Riley


Music to My Ears

Music and writing are nearly synonymous to me. When I am writing just about anything, be it for school or for fun, there is usually music flooding through my headphones or the speaker on my phone. It doesn’t particularly matter what kind of music it is; it can be my favorite rock group or an instrumental piece of video game music (yes, I am a nerd), but the right music sometimes helps me set the mood for a scene or find more creative ways to phrase something.

When a person writes a song, he or she is stringing abstract sounds together into something coherent and meaningful; when a person writes a story or paper, he or she is doing the exact same thing. In this sense, technically, anyone can write either a poem or a ballad.

However, it is only when the heart and soul get involved that something truly magical takes place. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what changes, but what would ordinarily exist without purpose suddenly becomes full of life. This is something that both English and music professionals can testify to. Musicians regularly spend months recording, planning, and tweaking their songs before releasing an album, and authors of novels might spend months, perhaps years, on a rough draft alone. Their creative work quickly consumes their lives, and a part of their being can be said to permeate the finished product.

Most people, teenagers and adults alike, know what it’s like to become immersed in a song or to sing the lyrics at the top of their lungs in the car or shower. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could experience such passion in our own writing, even if it’s just for a class paper? After all, if we are trying to accomplish the same goal as a musician, shouldn’t we feel the same way they do? And shouldn’t we see a notable, positive change in our writing?

Yes! Heart and soul are essential to a good paper. Professors notice when you care, and, knowing that, you may find yourself hating a blank word document a little bit less.

How can you add some personality to your paper? The best thing you can do is write about the things you love. If you’ve followed the Dallas Cowboys since you were small, but you try to write about the Philadelphia Eagles, whatever distaste you harbor for the Eagles will most likely evidence itself, especially if your professor was born and raised in Pennsylvania. The same is true for any topic you choose; if you love your subject, your writing experience will improve.

Now, I’m not saying you should write about something completely unrelated to the general subject matter just because you love it; your religion professor, for example, likely has no interest in reading a paper about the Dallas Cowboys. However, the ability to take a professor’s prompt and stretch it to its furthest boundaries shows your ability to think critically and, therefore, helps increase the credibility of your words.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, for a paper you love will almost certainly be music to your professor’s ears.

Written by Catherine

The Testing Dead

Did you know that DBU has its own version of the Walking Dead? This version comes about every so often whenever something negative happens, like Chick-Fil-A being closed, the internet being down, or finals week. While the two former problems are typically temporary and resolved after some patience, the latter is something that can bite us and infect our attitude. However, in order to be a real finals survival expert, you need to be prepared. Please allow me to be the Rick Grimes to your Carl Grimes.

First, you must know your enemy. The zombies that we fight come in the form of papers and Scantrons. There are different types, such as English, Math, or Psychology. Each one requires different types of preparation, but the method is the same. In order to fully know your enemies, you must study them. It is recommended to study a minimum of one hour for every class period. Keep in mind that studying is no substitute for being in class and getting experience. Both are equally important and one cannot be done without the other. Studying prepares you for facing the undead creatures that plague you during this week of supposed terror. It’s always good to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse before it happens, after all.

What are some methods for studying? I’m glad I asked! I bet you are too. You’re welcome. The classic method is reading and reviewing notes. Most assuredly, you have been taking notes in class, right? Right? Right. Along with rereading the chapters that the final will cover, reread your notes over those chapters. Make sure your notes contain things that the professor has mentioned are important. Things written on the board are typically important, so you should write them down, too. Another classic method is to use flash cards. (No, Mr. Zombie, flAsh cards. With an A.) Write some questions on one side and the answers on the other and quiz yourself. (This also applies to learning about zombies.)

Next, you must make sure your body is ready. During this apaperlypse (patent pending), you need to keep your body in good shape. The most important part of this is to make sure you get sleep. If you’re exhausted before you face the test, then you won’t be able to bring your a-game and then you get bitten by a zombie and then you start to turn and then someone has to shoot you and it gets messy. DBU doesn’t have a zombie disposal unit. Trust me, I’ve checked. Sleep allows your body to rest and recharge so you can take on the challenge of your final.

Now comes the most important thing that any good zombie killer/final taker must do. You must choose your weapons! Against the zombies, you can choose anything from guns to swords to crossbows. Guns alert zombies, though, so I’d recommend using them sparingly. Swords are nice because they do not need ammo and can typically be sharpened and used over and over again. Crossbows are also a good tool since they are long-range and can be reused so long as you retrieve the arrow. So, as a final taker, what weapon do you have? What is your trump card to vanquish your mighty foe?


The legendary No. 2 Pencil

Sorry, you’re kind of stuck on this one. Scantron Machines have this fascination with Number 2 Pencils. It’s like their favorite candy or something. You get one weapon and typically just one shot. Trust me, though, if you heed my simple advice, one shot is all you’ll need. Probably. Maybe get a good eraser, too.

Finals can be scary. They come across as undead creatures that were raised from the dead by some Necromancer masquerading as a professor. However, you shouldn’t fear these walking dead. When you shine the light on them by studying, they turn out to be pretty harmless. The important thing to remember is to keep a cool head. Fretting over finals will only put you in more danger of becoming like one of the undead. Remember my tips and you should be fine! Don’t remember them, and well… good luck out there.

cute zombie

Actual picture of a Psychology final

Written by Alfred


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?


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


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


A Return to Truth

So there’s this concept called ‘communication.’ Apparently humans do it in order to relay ideas to one another, and it baffles me sometimes. You see, most of my life, I’ve done my best to blend in and be unseen. A lot of that involved learning how to internalize any sort of ideas and emotions so that nobody else sees them.

But there’s more to this than just being quiet and hiding all the time. In a way, that’s the opposite of blending in, because people notice whenever you refuse to respond or have trouble answering during a conversation. Thus, I learned not only to be quiet when I could, but also the responses people look for when talking, so I could be as normal and inconspicuous as possible. In short, I learned to lie.

For a while, this worked. In fact, I was praised highly by everyone around me because I made good grades, I always played well with others, and I did my best to never upset anyone. I mastered the art of blending in, wearing a mask, and making everyone around me smile.

It did not make me happy.

That might be surprising. My mask was effective. Everyone loved me. I had a generally good effect on the world, despite how small my role in reality is. Being loved is what everybody wants in life, right? Right.

But in this case, I wasn’t the one being loved. It was the lie of myself I’d spread that made everyone like me. But love requires true understanding, and lying about who I was hindered that process. People didn’t know me; therefore they couldn’t fully love me.

Now I’m in college, on my own with a bunch of different people. I’m learning that acting like a likeable person isn’t enough, because I’m not acting like myself. I never learn whether people will actually accept me or not.

Some of the people around me most are my coworkers. I’m grateful for my job here at the Writing Center because I’m encouraged to write (this blog, for instance). Writing causes me to actually think about what I’m saying, rather than going with the gut reaction I think is socially acceptable. I appreciate the chance to develop what I want to say; to truly sit down and think in my own thoughts about how I view things

So here are my real thoughts; the ideas of a strange kind of liar who, for once, is going to say what he thinks. While it’s good to think about others around you, it’s also important to review what you think and feel. Truly thinking of others isn’t just quieting oneself so the others can be happy; it’s communicating with love. Misgivings about situations and such can be voiced without being rude or offensive, and in most cases, people appreciate the input.

So don’t partake of my habit. Talk things through with your friends and family. If you need to, write down a few paragraphs and sort it all out so you can think clearly and concisely. I know it helps me.

Written by: Isaac


For the Love of a Word

Popular culture has destroyed the meaning of the word “love.” Instead of embracing love as a constant gift from God that needs to be shared with the world, we wrongly reserve it for one of two extremes. We say that we have love for menial, materialistic objects and with people deeply close to us such as a spouse or parent, but rarely anything or anyone in between. We love football. We love tacos. We love three day weekends. We love country rap (I sure don’t, but for some reason people actually do). What we don’t always love are people outside of our families. We don’t love co-workers. We don’t love friends. We don’t love teammates. We don’t even love our boyfriends or girlfriends. Oh sure, we like them, we appreciate them, and we enjoy their existence, but we rarely tell them that we love them. I don’t deny that Christians show love in their actions and indirectly through their words, but when it comes to using the word “love” to describe our emotions, we often fall short. Just as Christians ought to use the word “love” when they mean love, so should writers consistently chose accurate words to represent their ideas.

Written language needs to be just as authentic as spoken language, but this can be difficult when a professor assigns a ten or twelve page assignment. It becomes easy to gloss over the meaning of a word and focus only on the amount of space it takes up on a page. Instead of saying: “The Cuban Missile Crisis was an important event in Cold War history,” one ends up saying: “For thirteen horrendous days in October of 1962, the United States dauntlessly stood in opposition to the callous presence of the Soviet Union in Cuba, in a significant Cold War episode that radically shifted the current of history.” When writers struggle to stretch the length of papers to the minimum word requirement, quantity quickly becomes more important than quality. In our attempts to make papers long, we unsuccessfully try to explain things we don’t understand, promote ideas we don’t believe in, and teach information that is not true. C.S. Lewis was a well-graced writer across a number of genres; he wrote works that both captured the imagination of children and engaged the minds of scholars. Lewis had this to say about word choice: “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” This philosophy of words did not just apply to the Chronicles of Narnia. Even in Lewis’s dense works, The Screwtape Letters for example, the writer was careful to use simple words when necessary and complex words when necessary.

On the flip side of that, it is also tempting to write in a way that is elementary and easy to create, although it may not necessarily be true. John Keating, the infamous English teacher from The Dead Poets Society, calls this pure laziness: “[A]void using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” I’m skeptical about his philosophy on wooing women—usually dinner and cheesecake will suffice for me—but Keating’s observation about writing essays is spot on. “Very tired” is easy, “exhausted” is hard, and ultimately they do not mean the same thing. One is true to the concept, the other is not. The idea that more is better is not always correct in the case of diction and syntax. Keating realizes that in some situation, to remove a word, phrase, or paragraph from an essay is to be most faithful to a subject.

The beauty of words is that they can be powerful when they are short, influential when they are long, persuasive when they are few, and memorable when they are many. To share authentic ideas may require a three sentence paragraph, or it may demand a twenty word sentence. As a writer, you have the authority to make that call, and with that power comes the responsibility to make the best word choice for the situation. The duty of a writer to unify thoughts and language is almost as critical as the command Christians have to both speak and show love. When someone’s words betray their actions, we call them a hypocrite, and so should that title befall a writer who disregards the connection between thought and truth and written language. As it says in Colossians: “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all for the glory of Christ.”

This photo seems appropriate… maybe not.



Written by: Savanna