Seeing Red [Starbucks Cups?]

Everybody knows “that person”. These are the people that got Kinder Eggs banned from the USA, because they were dumb enough to completely miss the entire point of Kinder eggs and, in the gluttonous haste to scarf down chocolate, choke on the toy inside. Even if you’re blissfully unaware of anyone fitting this description at present in your life, you can at least remember it from your school days, because there is always “that person” in school. You know, the one who caused so many problems with having [insert random item] in class that now NOBODY is allowed to have them? Or the one that verbally diatribes about how easy everything is for them and how they’re so smart and could really use a challenge for a change . . . so the teacher makes the test 200% harder for the entire class? Operating from a place of self-aggrandizement and absorption, these people (left unchecked) can have a terrible impact upon the world around them, skewing the image of any group to which they ascribe.

To my utter dismay, there is a group of self-proclaimed “evangelical Christians” currently acting as Exhibit A of What It Means To Be “That Person” directly in the public eye, as they raise their voices in consternation at the removal of a semi-religious symbol/words from this holiday-season’s Starbucks cup design. How is it that this silly cup-business, of all things, is the story listed among CNN’s top news links about what “Christians” are doing in this world? What a horrible testament to the God they claim to serve.

I am so disappointed at the level of attention being brought to their petulance, not only because their behavior reflects negatively on other followers of Christ, but because they have the audacity to claim that a quintessential First-World-Problem complaint is of import to their faith. In claiming outrage about such meaningless trivialities, these “Christians” are taking the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and warping them beyond recognition through the fire of self-involved entitlement until they resemble nothing but the pretext for an embarrassingly bratty temper-tantrum. While there are people who have been – and continue to be – persecuted mightily for their faith, these abrasively vocal Starbucks customers are not among them. I feel like this situation calls for an awkward parody of Matthew 7:5. . . You hypocrites! First evaluate the glaring lack of Christ in your actions, and then perhaps you can think clearly to evaluate the removal of vaguely christian symbols from your red cup.

Jesus came to earth to proclaim good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and freedom from oppression (Luke 4)! Jesus lived and died to fulfill his promises and renew our ability to be in authentic and legitimate relationship with Him. Everything in the entire narrative of the Bible points to a God who is desperate to reconcile his beloved people to himself and redeem a world that is tragically lost (Luke 19) in order to MAXIMIZE our joy (John 10). If you even BEGIN to truly understand the gospel texts, you cannot deny the beauty and magnitude of a love that could motivate an all-powerful God to sacrifice himself on behalf of his creation. I don’t claim to know everything that there is to know about faith or Christianity, but the more I study and seek and research, the more I see that focusing on oneself is the antithesis of the truly Christian walk. Jesus was ALL about social justice and transformational love. When you lose sight of this, you make God’s beauty and goodness into something self-serving and miss the entire point. Rather than seeing the love, redemption, service, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and being motivated in turn to emulate him, people are choosing to insert him into their identity like they would slide a membership card into their wallets. Instead of seeking to be transformed into His likeness, they add distorted fragments of their perception of Him to their own likenesses and cross their fingers in hopes of club benefits. These are the people that completely miss the mark. These are the people that care about Starbucks’ branding choices more than they care about the person handing them their drink.

Rather than simply proclaiming my disgust and throwing my two cents into the online dialogue around this absurd social-media-spotlighted topic, I want to challenge myself and anyone who reads this (Christian or not, although I guess especially those who profess belief in Jesus), to talk more about issues that really DO matter. There are enough tragic needs in this world that it is shocking that people are collectively taking the time to talk extensively about some company’s seasonal branding decisions.  If anything, the sheer breadth of online dialogue has reminded me that human beings (whether they are “religious” or not) often spend their time and talk unwisely (myself very much included). In the same world where Starbucks’ new seasonal cups are solid red, hunger is the number one cause of death (x). Poverty is rampant; and while I personally spent $2.89 on my (relatively cheap) Starbucks coffee this morning, more than 1.3 billion people are living on less than $1.25 a day (x). When I pulled off the highway last night and walked my five-year-old niece into Starbucks to buy a bottle of water  and use the restroom, I did not even think about the fact that over 750 million people lack access to clean drinking water (x) or that about 1 out of every 5 deaths of children under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease from lack of proper sanitation (x). Rather than seeing some stupid branding decision splashed across our computer screens, imagine seeing ways to mobilize to make differences (even small ones) in these areas of need.

After processing my initial frustration towards the Red Cup Radicals, it is with an uncomfortable amount of conviction that I turn the microscope back on myself to evaluate the areas where I allow (or don’t allow) my faith in Jesus Christ to actively motivate my engagement with the world around me. Tonight I plan to do some more hard thinking about what things might be my proverbial “red cups”, the elements of my life that demonstrate focus that has moved away from the beautiful glory of a sovereign God and towards selfish pursuits. It is uncomfortable to realize that I can be perhaps just as wrongly focused as these face-palm-inducing Starbucks boycotters. So, here is my reminder to myself, and you, if you choose to take it. Maybe we (Christians) have a hard time consistently recognizing and remembering the point of our faith, but it is not (now or EVER) supposed to be a personal ego-booster or a step-stool for our pride. Christianity, real Christianity, is an I.V. drip of pure adrenaline-like faith that should propel us into joyful motion in the humble service, care, and love of others.

Autumnal Advice: Feeling Fall-ish?

I love Autumn. It is my favorite season and usually quite the coziest of them all. There are a few things that I love to do most ESPECIALLY in the Fall!  As this glorious season ramps up, consider doing some or all of the following:

Listen to the beautifully melancholy music of Erik Satie:

Watch leaves swirling in the blustery winds, breath deeply that crisp fall air, and let these melodies seep into your soul.

Watch the movie Arsenic and Old Lace:

You haven’t lived until you’ve watched Cary Grant slowly lose his mind when faced by his little old aunties’ murderous activities. To that, add in a serial killing Boris Karloff look-alike, his drunken henchman, a gent who thinks he is actually Teddy Roosevelt, a bumbling police officer, and a little bit of old-fashioned romance. It’s phenomenal.

Eat Squash! In soups, if possible!

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Go to Trader Joe’s and get down with some SERIOUS pumpkin-y goodness!

I stopped in at my local Trader Joe’s yesterday to pick up my usual frozen grilled peppers, edamame nuggets, and ice coffee concentrate. And, LO AND BEHOLD, what should my wond’ring eyes reveal? THE PUMPKINS HAVE ARRIVED! I left with pumpkin scones, pumpkin cornbread mix, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin mochi, aaaaaand just a classic plain old pumpkin. Tonight, after a long Monday’s work, I rolled out this year’s Pumpkin Ravioli, and it did not disappoint!

pumpkin goodness

Go buy some. Now, if possible.

What are your favorite fall treats? Any must-do items that I should add to my list? 

Unpopular Opinion: Valentine’s Day is Awesome.

I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love conflict. There are some opinions that I keep to myself in order to avoid conflict. This is not one of them. If you don’t love Valentine’s Day, I am writing this to you, and you are wrong.

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“But it’s so commercial.”

One common theme in the Hate-On-Love-Day Parade is the claim that Valentine’s Day is overly commercialized; exploited by corporations, both large and small, to make moola. I have several things to say in response to this…

  1. Every holiday is commercialized; we live in a highly consumerist/sales society. Shoot, Christmas is probably the most commercialized of all, but I don’t see people refusing to celebrate that!
  2. Feeding into the over-commercialization of holidays is a choice. Helen Fisher, a sociologist from Rutgers University, said it pretty well: “This isn’t a command performance. If people didn’t want to buy Hallmark cards, they would not be bought, and Hallmark would go out of business.” Helen is on point here, folks. If it bothers you that everybody is out to make money off of Valentine’s Day, then don’t buy anything. Refuse to feed the commercialist beast! Stick it to the man – just don’t stick it to Valentine’s Day! It’s a holiday to celebrate love and the people in your life who you care about – call up a friend and tell them you appreciate them! Is that commercial? No, it’s just nice.

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 “I’d rather do something when it’s NOT expected.”

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Oh really? How often does that actually happen? Sorry for my skepticism, maybe you are the king/queen of doing nice random things for people and I have misjudged you. If that is the case, then huzzah! But I still urge you to look at it from another perspective!

Impromptu and spontaneous acts of love are fantastic – but so is a holiday whose sole purpose is to perpetuate and promulgate planful and thoughtful acts of love! So, if you’re all about unexpected surprises, then this Valentine’s Day show your love and appreciation for someone who is NOT expecting it. Don’t want to be predictable with your sweetie? That’s fine. What about your cousins who you see once a year? What about your nice neighbor who helped you snow-blow your walkway that one time? Or the barista who knows your name? Or your old friend that you call up when you’ve had a crappy day? Those are the people who probably don’t expect anything from you this Valentine’s Day, but who would be delighted by an act of caring!

“I’m single so I’m boycotting Valentine’s Day.”

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ARGH! THAT MAKES NO SENSE!!! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that you had to be in a relationship to be capable of loving someone. DO YOU HAVE A MOTHER?! WHAT ABOUT A MOTHER FIGURE?! DO YOU LOVE THEM??? SO MAKE A POINT OF TELLING THEM THIS VALENTINE’S DAY.

*Deep Breath*

Clearly, this line of thinking turns me into a gigantic, Valentine-defending rage-monster. I shall calm down and try to respond with less of a knee-jerk-emphasis-on-the-jerk reaction.

Ahem. Oh, you’re single? Me too. In fact, I’ve never been in a relationship on Valentine’s Day. Unlike you, however, I don’t think your relationship status should dictate your ability to celebrate a holiday or not. Shockingly enough, there are still a lot of people in my life that I love and appreciate, despite not being in love with someone.

I remember the year that my brother, Nathaniel, and his college friends decided to boycott Valentine’s Day. They wore black all day, didn’t talk to any girls, and hung out and watched The Godfather that night. Funnily enough, they had it kind of wrong. By spending time with friends, they were sort of celebrating the purpose of Valentine’s Day anyways. Still, I can sort of understand, I’ve had those moments of single-blues on Love-day, but then I remembered that having a chip on your shoulder and taking it out on everyone else is an ugly character trait.

If you boycott Valentine’s Day because you’re single, then you are ultimately just being selfish. It’s not all about you, my friend. You’re glum because you’re single? Boo-hoo. Go show love to somebody else rather than wishing that somebody would show it to you or whining because nobody does. Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic relationships! It’s about love of all kinds. I challenge single-folk to make Valentine’s Day theirs just as much as it belongs to couples. You have to be the change you wish to see in the holiday.

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“It’s too expensive.”

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  1. Please go back and re-read the whole commercialism line of thinking.
  2. The Internet can give you all sorts of ideas for Valentine-y goodness, ranging from inexpensive to free.
  3. Money might talk, but Actions speak louder than words. Rather than buying something or taking someone out for a WAY overpriced meal, do an act of service for someone!
  4. Lots of wonderful caring activities don’t involve $$$. Make dinner, snuggle, read aloud to somebody, play a board game, have an indoor picnic, watch a movie, write a letter, shovel a walkway, take out the trash, fold the laundry, give a neck-rub, do one of the ickier household jobs that everybody avoids . . . you get the idea.

“Isn’t that a Christian Holiday? I’m not Christian.”

First of all, most of the holidays that are celebrated today have some sort of religious origin (again, Christmas comes to mind). I’m willing to bet that many, or even most people who celebrate those holidays aren’t practitioners. I doubt everybody who drinks a beer on St. Pattie’s is a devout Catholic. Similarly, people who eat Cadbury eggs are probably not all attending Good Friday services and celebrating the resurrection of Christ. People who celebrate holidays through the lens of their belief system may return to the roots of the holiday, but it is hardly the norm. You clearly do not need to be a Christian to celebrate a holiday of Christian origins.

Second, while there are some different accounts of St. Valentine and his execution being on February 14th,  the roots of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to Lupercalia, a Pagan fertility festival held in the ides of February in ancient Rome. As a non-believer, I think you can safely celebrate the day. I just wouldn’t encourage you to do it the way they did in ancient Rome, because sacrificing a goat and a dog, well. That’s just sad. And touching their hides (once removed) in hopes of fertility in the oncoming year? I think Science has brought us farther than that.

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Side-note, Valentine’s Day’s association with the idea of Love also has been linked with early belief in France and England that February 14th was the beginning of a bird’s mating season. If all else fails, I guess you can celebrate it for the birds.

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“I actually hate everyone, including myself.”

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That’s just awful! If all else fails and there’s nobody that you love, you should at least love yourself and give yourself a day of pampering. Try. Be good to yourselves, you are the only you this world has got. That makes you a very limited natural resource and a rare commodity. Appreciate that about yourself.

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“My entire family died in a freak pinecone incident on Valentine’s Day.”

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Okay. You’ve got me there. I probably wouldn’t feel very festive either. But, I mean, you could always make it a day to commemorate your love for your family, right? That’s what I would want people to do after I’m gone – not just sit around being sad on the day I went out, you know?

Have some other reason why you don’t like Valentine’s Day?

So, if you aren’t convinced yet, please feel free to go back and look at my older Valentine posts to hear some more of my strong opinions or get ideas for how to celebrate.

If you want to argue with me about it some more, please post comments. You are wrong, and I will fight you. For the sake of Love.

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That Awkward Phone Moment…

The phone rings and your caller i.d. flashes the name of a dear one you’ve been particularly bad at keeping in touch with over the past year or so. You stare at the screen and in the course of a few seconds, you must decide whether to answer or not.

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One one hand, OF COURSE you want to talk to that person! It’s not like you guys have been out-of-touch on purpose. . . life has just been busy and your two schedules have made you ships in the night. It would be so wonderful to hear their voice again!

On the other hand, it’s been so long since you’ve last spoken voice-to-voice that you’re pretty far behind. Who knows whats been happening in each-others’ lives and how much time (not to mention emotional energy) you may have to dedicate to getting up to speed?

This is also the dilemma of the mind behind this blog. Amid the beautiful chaos of life, there’s been barely a minute or two consecutively to sit with my computer over the past month-and-a-half, and now I find myself with a newsworthy snow day and too much to say.

Life has been full to bursting these past weeks, and true to my scattered form, I shall now undertake the telling of the highlights via list, in no particular order.

1. Yesterday my two nephews were officially adopted!!!

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Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have them formally in my family (where they have been informally for years!).

2. Home Base is Movinghome

After 25 years, my parents have sold the home where I grew up and are moving to Michigan. I can’t lie and say that I am not sad, because I loved growing up on Iradell Road, and it will always hold a place in my heart. BUT, I can say that I am very excited to see where this major shift takes my parents and I know that God will bless the next 25 years as fully has he has the last.

3. I love my church!

4. Teaching remains delightful!

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I took this picture of my desk, because it was one of those moments where I couldn’t quite believe the randomness of the things appearing on my desk!

5. Planning School Events is, as always, Underway

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Winter Ball is almost upon us (if the storm doesn’t require a postponement!) and there will be more to come on the Fairy-Tale Forest theme soon . . .

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Suffice it to say, I am staying busy with the details this year!

6. I got another Tattoo

tattwo. . . which prompted one of my students to write this letter to my father, haha!

letters to dad Did I mention that I love my students?

 

7. I’m still obsessed with my cat Winky

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. . . but can you blame me?

8. I have a new fnephew! (foster-nephew)

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So you see, a lot has happened . . .

I have a lot to be thankful for!

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What’s new with you in 2015?

 

Should I be a Teacher? What Should I do With My Life?

Recently, I got this message posted in my message-box on another type of blog I run. . .

advice - college majorThis poor person is in the same boat as a LOT of other 18-22 year-olds the world over, and I can empathize with their plight. SO, I am sharing a slightly-varied version of my response to them on this blog, in the hopes that it might be helpful to anybody who stumbles across my blog whilst feeling similar stress.

choosing a major

First of all: I’m to anyone who is feeling stressed about choosing your major or career path! I remember the struggle to decide what major to declare. First of all, remember that it is NEVER too late to change your mind. There’s this weird belief that once you pick a major your fate is sealed, and there’s no going back. But, even though there are some majors (like pre-med or pharmaceutical medicine) that you have to declare very early on and pursue all the way through your studies, it is never too late to change your mind later on if you find yourself unhappy with the career path you are on. Most people I know changed their major at least once. I also know people that switched careers after doing something for 10 years. It might not be the easiest path, but it is do-able. In light of this, my biggest advice is to try to pick something that aligns with both your passions and your talents, because that is where you will most likely find future career success.

passion and talent

On the other hand I 100% encourage picking a field of study that will result in a job or some kind of marketable skill set! We all know the stereotypical example of being an English major – which might be fascinating, but is not always marketable in a practical or direct way (especially not without further formal study). So, as you study your way along, periodically you should probably ask yourself what you’re going to put on your resume.

build a resume

Let’s do just that and take a critical look at teaching as a viable job option. If, like my forward-thinking message-friend, you’re worrying about the availability of teaching jobs before you’re in your junior year in college, I would encourage you not to worry about that juuuust yet. There is a certain amount of assumed job security in teaching (although it is not always accurate, if we’re being truthful with ourselves). Honestly, until the zombie apocalypse arrives and we’re all more focused on survivalist skills, there will always be a need for teachers. Even with Zombies, if it comes down to teachers v. zombies, my money is on the middle school teacher team. If they can thrive in a middle school, they can survive anything.

Jokes aside, though, there are a lot of teaching jobs, although not always where/when you want to work. Finding a teaching job can sometimes mean being flexible about the when/where you will teach, which can be hard. Another reason why you shouldn’t worry about this just yet, though? Any College Teacher-preparation program worth its salt will do their best to help you network and find a job post-grad.

Likewise, if you go to a school with a good education program and you want to be a teacher, you should not worry about the licensure test. Real Talk Time, friends. At this point, I have taken . . . four? maybe five? of these miserable exams. While they aren’t fun at all, they ARE do-able. If you have studied your subject matter and taken those studies seriously, you will be just fine when it comes to licensure tests that evaluate content knowledge and educator-knowledge.

One  last bit of advice about teaching and whether it is for you? If you want to go into teaching, then you should GO INTO TEACHING!!! But you should only do that if you LOVE (A) the subject you teach, and (B) people/students! Too many people get into teaching thinking it’s a “sure thing” or a “good fall-back” and do not realize that it is a job that requires a lot of heart and soul if you want to do it well. If you feel passionate about being a teacher, then pursue it full steam ahead and see what happens. I sort of fell into becoming a teacher and now I’m addicted – it’s not always perfect, but it’s still the most wonderful thing I’ve ever gotten to do!

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Reflecting on the Message of Isaac Watts…

 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.