The Power of Knowledge

In March 2011, I found myself in the middle of the Canyon in Tijuana, Mexico. I saw people- including children- who were living literally in the midst of an old garbage dump. I spent more money on going out with friends one night than they would in a week. Most of the families couldn’t afford to send their children to school. If they could, the children probably wouldn’t be able to finish. My time spent there opened my eyes to what was all around me. This wasn’t in Africa or South America or some other place overseas. This was happening on my continent, a simple three hour flight away. This was close enough to my back yard.

Dave is a phenomenal guy. He lives in Tijuana and is a lifeline that connects the people of the Canyon and the people who have visited. His blog keeps us all connected between trips. This post was a little more bitter than sweet to read.

On my first trip, I met Ariana. She had mint chocolate chip colored paint on her nose and her hair was cut short(I found out later it was because she had lice). She laughed and smiled the entire time. The notebook pages we drew on are upstairs in a box of memories from my trips. She has an adorable brother named Armando. One night at the church, Armando and I played for hours. Constant smiles and laughs, until the tears of saying goodbye, of course.

They live in one of the poorest areas of their community. Their father has been in and out of jail, and both he and their mother do drugs. This isn’t an ideal situation for any child. Even if their parents could afford their school fees, supplies, and uniforms, there’s no way they could really concentrate and learn. They leave near a church that provides breakfast for the local children so they have at least one real meal every day. It’s not an understatement to say that church is the lifeline for those people.

Why am I telling you this? Because knowledge is powerful. It’s also scary. It’s permanent. Once you know something, you can’t take it back. You can pretend all you want, but the knowledge is there. You can never “un-know” something. Since that first trip in 2011, I’ve been responsible for what I know. Now, you’re responsible, too. You  can’t pretend they don’t exist.

We can both do our part to help. There’s more than just Ariana and Armando. These children could have the chance for an education, and you can be a part of bringing that to them. What are you going to do?

What does love look like?

We all have people we love. We also all have people who drive us absolutely crazy sometimes. One of my favorite pinterest quotes this week was:

Usually, the people who need our love the most are the ones who deserve it the least.

It’s so true, but it’s so hard to remember. Usually, when people drive us crazy or do something to hurt us, we want to retaliate. The hardest thing to do sometimes is show love to people. I’ve found myself easily annoyed with people lately. Not for anything worthwhile, just stupid little things. So, I’ve decided to fight back. Every time I get annoyed with someone, I’m going to do something to encourage another person. The more I focus on lifting other people up, the less I’ll pay attention to the little things that bug me.  I’m going to post some of the things I do. One because I want to remember them, but also because I think it’s going to be cool to look back and see what I’ve done.

 

 

 

 

Act #1: I’m sending out cards to the women in the sorority I advise. Just a simple hello to see how their summer is. Who doesn’t get excited about snail mail?

“I hope it ruins Greek Life for them.”

“I hope it ruins Greek Life for them.” Out of context, that sounds like a terrible thing to say. Let me give you some perspective.

I love this program called UIFI. It’s a fraternity and sorority program for college students who want to make a difference. Alumni from various affiliations attend the program as facilitators and small group leaders to help guide these students. This summer, I had a few students attend as participants, and a few friends who served as facilitators. Someone asked me what I want UIFI to do for the students that attended. My answer was simple. “I want it to ruin Greek life for them.”

Why would I want to ruin Greek Life for someone? It’s not really Greek Life I want to be ruined, it’s their perception of what Greek life should be. So often, our fraternity and sorority members have strayed from living our values. Instead of living lives of character and service, we live for substance abuse, hazing, and a three letter acronym (that isn’t even worth mentioning by name) that glorifies the stereotypes some people live. We care about our Lilly& Sperry’s, but not the people of our community. We value our weekend social calendar, but not the policies and procedures of our organization. We have given society the ammunition for the scrutiny. I know that there are many fraternity and sorority members who are phenomenal examples of character. However, the negative image above is still a reality for many Greek communities on our campuses today.

By some chance, these chapters end up sending students to UIFI. More than I want them to have fun, more than I want them to build that network, I want one thing. I hope that their time at UIFI ruins everything they know about Greek life. I hope it interferes completely with how they live and what they do. I want UIFI to shift their priorities and cause them to put the meaningless garbage behind them. I hope that because of UIFI, they cannot go home and resume life as if nothing has changed.

I’m thankful for the people who serve as facilitators. The people who help “ruin” Greek life for students, the ones who encourage them that there’s a better way for our fraternities and sororities to live.  I can’t wait for these students to return to campus and disrupt the norm. I can’t wait to see the shift in culture from where they are to where they’re going. I’m eager to see these students face the challenges ahead of them. I know that UIFI has fully prepared them to face every circumstance with courage and character. It’s going to be a struggle, but Fredrick Douglas was completely right when he said “without struggle, there is no progress.”

So, yes, I hope that UIFI has ruined Greek Life for my students.

Lessons from Esther #2: Know who the boss is

One of the most interesting things about Esther is that she didn’t try to be a hero. She didn’t go around talking about how she was going to be great and powerful. She simply followed where her circumstances led her. Even more importantly, Esther was continuously remembering that she was not in charge. She always remembered who her boss was.
First was her cousin, Mordecai. The Bible tells us Esther’s parents had died, and her cousin raised her as his own daughter. Throughout the time she is living in the King’s Palace, Mordecai comes to check in on her. Her provides her with wisdom and guidance. He warns her not to reveal that she’s Jewish. He encourages her when she’s terrified. She obeys Mordecai’s requests and respects him.

Next is King Xerxes. Obviously, as the king, he rules the roost. If you remember, it was the former queen’s disobedience that got her removed as queen. Esther knew she couldn’t just show up and start calling the shots. She was submissive to the king, and she showed respect to him. She earned his favor, which played a huge part in the events of the story. Without Xerxes thinking so highly of her, surely, she would have been killed for going to the Xerxes without being called.

Then, of course, there’s the obvious. Beyond the respect for Mordecai and Xerxes, Esther remembered that God was in control. I believe she took Mordecai’s words in Esther 4:14 to heart. She truly embraced her destiny and knew that God put her where she was for a specific purpose. She trusted that God would be faithful and lead her where she needed to go. Her attitudes and actions always reflected her true boss, God.

We might think that Esther had it easy. Sure, Mordecai and Xerxes treated her well, and God knew she would make it through her trial. What happens when we have a difficult boss? Maybe the “boss” isn’t necessarily in a work situation. Maybe they’re simply someone who is in leadership. We may love them, or we may dislike them. Every president has fans and critics. God doesn’t ask us to form an opinion. God tells us we should give to Cesar what belongs to him. This means knowing who the boss is and respecting those with authority over us.

Most importantly, we need to remember who the real boss is.God is the ultimate boss, the one we will answer to for our actions and thoughts. Are we honoring our boss?

Even when we feel small, God is doing big things: the story of Esther

At work this weekend, a woman prophetically spoke Esther to my life. I’m starting to learn that when God speaks, I need to not only listen, but focus. So, the next few posts are going to be all about Esther. My prayer is that we’ll both learn a few things.

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been playing such a small role in the world. I think we can all relate at times. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Esther. She wasn’t born into a royal wealthy family. There was nothing extraordinary about her.

Then, one day, her life became a whirlwind. King Xerxes was looking for a new queen, and they sent Esther to the palace as a candidate. Talk about a fish out of water! This simple girl was now living in the capital and could one day become queen! People began to notice Esther for her looks and personality. The Bible tells us she became the favorite.  I can’t imagine how she felt, being who she was and being in that situation. I’d be terrified. My confidence would be shaky at best, and I’d feel so small in comparison to the prestige of the King.

Yet, even when we feel so small, God is always doing something big. In the midst of Esther being scared and adjusting to the circumstances, God was already working. He knew what was ahead of her. More importantly, He chose Esther from the very beginning to be in this situation. There’s just so many aspects of this story, and I can’t wait to see what I learn about my own life and what God has for me.

New Years Resolutions: An update

So, in my old blog, I made a list of my resolutions for 2013. Yeah, I definitely forgot to transfer that one to this blog.  I do remember some of them, and for the sake of accountability, I thought it was time for an update.

1. Read a book every month. Thanks to one of my favorite Christmas gifts, my tablet, the nook app & I are bffs. So far, I’ve read 15 books.That averages about two per month so far. I’ve had a good balance of books for learning/growth and some just for fun ones. 

2. Be more conscious about my health/weight.  This one is hard to measure. I didn’t want to attach a number to this goal. I talked about cutting out soda, counting calories, and doing a lot more exercising. Well, I’m drinking a can of Mountain Dew as I type, I’ve sat/been lying around most of the evening reading, and food logs? Aint nobody got time for that. Here’s what I can say: I think more about what I eat. I try to have more fruit/veggies on my plate than anything else. I normally don’t eat a lot of sweets, and I’ve cut down A LOT on soda. That’s progress to me.

3. Significantly decrease my debt. This one is a bit more difficult. Obviously, I can’t do this without money. My goal is to be more responsible with my money. I have a large amount of debt in the form of student loans. Through my own irresponsibility, I’ve also accumulated some credit card debt. By Christmas, I want to have eliminated my credit card debt and have made all of my payments on time for my student loans. As of July 15th, I’m allowing myself two monthly “fun” purchases. One can be music/a new book. The other can be going out to dinner or doing something fun with friends. Other than that, I’m only spending on necessities.

4. I want to actually use this blog. I was doing great at first, but then, I got busy. Story of my life. I’m going to say once a week is a fair way to judge. I also started this blog a bit after new year; so, I’ll have to make up for lost time. That means 52 posts for 2013. I want these posts to actually be useful, not just filling space to get to a number. Let’s see how I do.