Friday, January 23, 2009

Symbiotic Friendships

Lately, we have been learning about the different forms of symbiosis in science class. I was struck by the fact that symbiotic relationships are somewhat similar to friendships. If you haven't figured it out already, I tend to make previously unheard of connections between today's culture and the Bible.

Parasitic Friendships
Parasitsm - a relationship in which one organism is harmed and the other benefits.
Parasitic friendships are just that. When your friend benefits, but when you are harmed. Or it could be the other way around: You could benefit and your friend could be harmed. Either way, people are getting harmed. It's okay to be friends with people who's ethics and religion may be somewhat different from yours, but if they start changing you for the worst, it's probably not a healthy relationship for you to be in. Likewise, if you realize that you are badly influencing a friend, you probably need to back off.

Commensalistic Friendships
Commensalism - a relationship in which one organism benefits and the other neither benefits nor is harmed
Commensalistic friendships are A-okay to be in. They're not, persay, the friendships that everybody dreams of in which each of you would give your life for the other, but they're perfectly fine. As long as the relationship is not having a negative effect on you or your friend, than it is alright. But remember, you want to benefit from a relationship. If you're not being benefited, why stick around? I know that sounds stuck up, but you really don't want that person's neutral effect to change to a negative one.
Mutualistic Friendships
Mutualism - a relationship in which both organisms benefit
Mutualistic friendships are the best kind of friendships. Each of you is shaping the other into a better person. You are honest with each other and hold each other accountable for your actions. Mutualistic friendships are the ideal friendship that everyone should strive for.
Think about it. Are you benefitting or harming your friends. Are your friends harming or benefitting you? These are all important factors in choosing your friends and deciding what kind of friend you should be.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Real Deal On Popular People

Popular people.

There's some at every school. They're the ones that are always wearing the right clothes, always saying the right things, and always look stunningly beautiful. But does that really make them popular? And what is popularity anyway?
I think that people are only popular because other people make it so. I mean, if nobody thought the popular people were popular, would they be popular?
Because no one would support that idea. If you don't believe me, let me give you a few real-life examples:

Example #1:
I was with a group of friends the other night. It is comprised of about 10 girls in my grade who go to my school. I was surprised that night that one of the "popular" girls had come. As she sat down, one of the other girls goes, "Oh my gosh, Tori, Megan, like, loves you." And the popular girl goes, "I do! Your hilarious! Everybody loves you, Tori. I'm so jealous!"
That kind of hit me. What do you know? A popular girl was jealous of me. And I had always viewed myself as unpopular. To further prove my point, here is one more example:
Example #2:
I was with a group of friends, once again, and we were sharing the highs and lows of our week. I was surprised to hear that the popular girls were the ones who were being bullied at school, being called names and what-not. I had never been bullied at school before, ever.

So you see, I think we judge popular people. I think we expect them to be sort of demi-gods. In short, they make the same mistakes as we do. People think they're really mean and snotty because they never pay attention to them. But isn't that being judgmental too? When we think that, are we not judging them without really and personally knowing them? How do we know that they haven't gone through something really hard. Maybe their mom's been divorced three times and they're having a hard time with all their dads. Maybe they had a parent die. Or maybe they just have a difficult home situation.
So next time you say or think something bad about a "popular" person, try to catch yourself. You don't know what they've been through. Maybe they just don't know how to handle their emotions. And remember, they're just like you and me. We're the ones that make them popular.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dealing With Angry People: A How-To Guide

Have you ever been yelled at? Have you ever had a friend get so mad at you that they just ignore you? Well, people, this is a commonly felt emotion called anger. Oftentimes, it occurs because the person feels as if they've been betrayed, let down, or simply wronged. So how do we deal with those who are angry? I collected ideas from a few unnamed individuals and here are some examples:
1. Yell at them to snap out of it.
2. Ignore them until they decide to be calm and happy again.
3. Hit them with a textbook until they start crying so that way they're sad, not mad.
Which is the correct way to handle a situation with angry people? Drumroll...


Yelling at the person will only make them even MORE angry. Ignoring them will just lose you a friend, especially if they're already ignoring you. If you're both ignoring each other than you're not likely to ever speak again. And Example #3 I find to be a no-brainer. If I started hitting one of my friends with a textbook, they might be sad for a little while. But, in the end, they'll just be... You guessed it! Even more mad.
So what is the correct way of dealing with angry people? Here is a personal narrative for you on the RIGHT way (most of the time):
One day, I was with my friend Cara during 4th period, which is right before lunch. Cara had gotten really mad at me because she'd been complaining about the homework or the class or something and I'd told her to shut up and be thankful that she got to go to school. After that, she sort of sank into an angry silence. Cara went to save us seats at lunch, like she always did, although she did it silently that day (an amazing feat for her). As me and my other friends Sophie, Mary, Maddie, and Kathleen were washing our hands, Sophie commented, "I don't get why she's so mad. You just told her to be quiet. She's such a brat. What are we going to do about it? She'll probably just ignore us for forever!" As we were walking to the lunchroom, I had a brilliant idea. "Hey guys, let's just be really nice to her." There was some disagreement about my method, but they all gave in eventually. I just so happened to be in the lunch line next to her and I was just chatting away, asking her what she was doing, if she understood the science homework, etc. And suddenly, she said, "Tori, I just can't stay mad at you. You're being too nice." I wanted to jump in the air and scream "YES!", but I decided against it as we were in the lunch room. So we all became friends once more and had a happy rest of the day.

TA-DA!!! There's your magic solution. Nothing kills anger like kindness or servility. So next time someone's mad at you, instead of yelling back, try being nice. It works.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Matthew West

Check out my man MW! He's an amazing Christian singer/songwriter who's released four albums so far and just finished up his Something To Say tour. On top of being a really great, god-loving man, he's an awesome singer. He lives with his wife Emily (who is expecting a baby girl!) and his 3-year old daughter Lulu. Also their black pug Earl the Girl. My dad did the covers for his albums along with the majority of his merchandise, so I know him and his family really well. Here's a list of his records so far:

Happy (My dad won a Dove (Christian Music) Award for this cover)

And his latest album is Something To Say
Matthew West - Something To Say Pictures, Images and Photos

Look him up. He's pretty awesome.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fear and Love

Today at church, our youth minister was telling us the story of the Man of God of Judah (It's in 1 Kings 13 for anyone who wants the REAL DEAL). To make it more exciting and more understandable, I will present to you my own version (which is basically the same just with smaller words):
One day God told a man of God from Judah to go to Bethel to King Jeroboam (Jair-a-BO-m), who was a king that worshiped false gods, and tell him that he was DEAD WRONG. Now that's a pretty brave thing to do. 'Cause back then, you'd probably be seized and arrested on spot for telling ol' Jeroboam that he was DEAD WRONG. But the man of God from Judah went anyway and told King Jeroboam that the altars were going to be burned down and his rule would end in ashes, etc. King Jeroboam pointed at the man and said, "Arrest him!" But just then, his arm shriveled up and he couldn't pull it back. So his arm was just stuck pointing. Then he started to get really freaked out and was probably thinking, "Oh, dang. I totally messed with the wrong God here..." So he asked the man of God from Judah to pray for him so his arm wouldn't be all shrivel-y. The man of God of Judah did and the arm came un-shriveled. Then the King, who was totally trying to get on the man of God from Judah's good side so his altar wouldn't burn to the ground, invited him into his house to have dinner and stuff. But the man of God from Judah refused because God had SPECIFICALLY told him not to eat or drink and to come straight back. So the man of God of Judah left. When he was on his way out of Bethel, an old prophet of God came up to him and asked him to come to dinner. The man of God from Judah told him the same thing that he had told King Jeroboam. But then the old prophet did something very nasty and mean.
He lied.
He told the man of God from Judah that God had told HIM that it was okay for the man to eat. So the man of God from Judah agreed and went to eat with him. And then God told the old prophet while they were eating to tell the man of God from Judah that he was going to die that day because he'd disobeyed God.
So on his way back to Judah, the man was viciously attacked by a lion. And the lion and the donkey stood side by side, watching over the body of the man of God from Judah.

Is that weird or what? I mean, that's like worthy-of-Lord-of-the-Rings kind of stuff. Our youth minister then told us that the point of the story was to take obedience to God seriously. That scared me.
It made me feel like if I did something wrong, God was going to strike me down. But, fortunately for us, Jesus came and God has tons of mercy along with his little issue with disobedience. But, it still didn't rest easy for me. The closest thing I can compare it to is the beginning of Kung Fu Panda.
And, yes, I did say Kung Fu Panda.
In Po's dream, he says, "Never before had a panda been so feared, and so loved."
I think that's sort of what our relationship with God should be like. We know that he could totally kill us any second if he wanted to, but we love him because he chooses not to.
Fear and love go hand in hand.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Embarrassing Moments

Embarrassing moments. We've all had them. Your face turns red, some people may laugh, you feel like you want to dig a hole, lay in it, and never come out. Here's just one example of the hundreds of embarrassing moments I've had.
It was the second week of 8th grade. I was just getting to know the people in my Social Studies class. Especially the girl next to me, Beatrice. Beatrice had dropped some papers on the ground next to me, so I kindly bent over to help her pick them up. Now, our desks have a bar on the left side that goes from the back of the chair to the desk. I'm a rather short person, so as I'm stretching as far as I can to get that paper, my feet are suddenly jerked upward and my whole desk flips sideways. The room is completely silent and everyone is staring at me. I can feel my face flushing and my heart beating faster. My teacher came over and kindly offered to help me put my desk back up. Once I was sitting down, conversation eventually picked up again. I had quite a few of the nicer girls in my class asking me if I was okay. I replied with a curt nod and a small smile; I can be pretty shy. Beatrice was in my next class too. I sat right behind her. She looked back at me and said something that would change my view of embarrassing moments for all eternity:

"Hey, you don't have to be embarrassed or anything about flipping the desk. It happens to everybody."

At that second, I had an epiphany. As embarrassing and horrific as the moment was for you, nobody else really cares. Sure they'll all talk about it that day, but they'll forget it in a week. So don't beat yourself up when something embarrassing happens and you're the victim. Everyone will forget. You'll look back on it later and think that it was just a hilarious happening.

And the One that really matters, doesn't care if you fall out of your desk every once in a while.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"A Model of Christianity"

I was doing a bit of research on where the term "shining city" had been used before. Obviously, in the Bible, but I also found that it was most famous in a sermon that John Winthrop gave to the soon-to-be founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I thought it was a perfect description of what our generation could be if given the certain amount of encouragement and taking the right amount of responsibility.

The following is excerpt from John Winthrop's "A Model of Christianity" sermon:

"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are on us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken... we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God... We shall name the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us 'til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a-going."

I like the first part. But the second half just makes me shudder. That's quite a consequence for rebuking God. I wouldn't want to be that person. Let's try to follow John Winthrop's example. The eyes of the world are upon us, and we must become a shining city on a hill.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First Day Back

So you just had two weeks plus some off of school. You slept late, hung out with friends, saw some extended family, and got some presents. And then it drops like a bomb on your ride.
School's back.
It's a truly depressing thought. Back to waking up early, annoying teachers, and homework.
This morning you probably woke to your bleeping alarm. You probably pressed the sleep button and hunkered back down, eyes closed, curled up in your blanket. Then it totally rained on your day when, five minutes later, it went off again. You groggily got dressed and brushed your teeth. Maybe you took a shower or ate breakfast. And then, whoops, you totally missed the bus and you're very ticked mom has to drive you to school. In Social Studies class, you got unfairly called out for not paying attention. That minor project in Science just slipped your mind. At lunch, you spilled chocolate milk on your favorite white t-shirt. And to top it all off, you bit the dust and did a face plant on your way out the building.
That's a pretty bad day, if you ask me.
So the question is, what do we do about days when nothing goes right? Well, let's see a few examples:
Example #1:
When Jacob got home from school that day, he sulked. He sulked and sulked and sulked. He pushed his brother, snapped at his mom, and back-talked his Dad. During dinner, he didn't join in the conversations. Instead he sat and moped and played with his food. At the football game, he missed every single throw. The way he saw it, that was just one more thing to mope about in his horrible life. Finally, his dad said he'd had enough of this sulking and that Jacob was grounded until he had a better attitude.
Example #2:
Emily sat and stared at the mound of homework that she had. Teachers weren't supposed to give this much homework right off the bat, were they? But, she guessed, the homework wasn't going to do itself. Emily sat down with a snack bar and a bottle of Coke and started to work. It took her a long time to accomplish it, but she did anyway. She didn't want to go to the football game either. But she had signed up for the cheer squad, and it was her responsibility to be loyal to her squad. They didn't even win the game, but Emily was glad that she'd cheered for them. If they had no support, how would they win anyway? Her parents congratulated her for doing such a good job.
So what was the difference between Emily and Jacob? Only their attitudes! The difference was how they saw the situation. That's all it takes to turn a bad day into a good one! Now, that can be the toughest thing in the world to do sometimes. But you should at least try. No one wants to hang around a mopey, pessimistic person anyway.
Now, I've done my fair share and more of sulking and moping. And, more often than not, I crumble when my life gets hard. But you can always pray for God to give you a better attitude. And don't think that after you pray you'll suddenly be happy and everything. You have to work at it. You have to struggle every second to find the good side of a situation. And even if you can't find the good in something, it's probably just hiding. Remember...
God always means for things to happen. And they're all good. Maybe we just can't see it yet.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A New Beginning

Have you ever wondered why people expect so little of teenagers? Is it because we aren't capable? Is it because we just don't want to do anything?
It's because when people treat you a certain way for a long time, you begin to accept that way as the normal one.
That doesn't make it the right one.
Shining City is a teenage rebellion against teenage ideals. For instance, before I became a teenager, I thought all teenagers were obsessed with looks, the opposite sex, and totally full of themselves. When I turned thirteen, it didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't going to miraculously turn into a "teenager".
When I got to about 7th grade, I started wondering what the deal was with popularity. The so called "popular people" were all arrogant snobs, a little too concerned with their hair and not concerned enough with the people around them. Why in the world would you want to be like them? And yet, so many people were getting sucked into their little whirlpool. So many people went to ridiculous ends just to be noticed by these people who, if they noticed them at all, noticed them in a negative way. So the question still stands.
Why would anyone want to be like them?
Well, it's no mystery that EVERYONE at some point in their lives wants to be popular. They want to be loved. How I like to put it is - They want to be wanted. And that's perfectly okay. But you can be wanted by people other than the ones that act horribly. Because sooner or later you are going to have to make a decision.
Friends or Popularity?
Religion or Culture?
That's what Shining City is all about. We make the hard decisions, the ones that are right. Or at least we try to. And oftentimes, it works out better than we thought it could. So come into the City. Everyone is welcome. There is no standard for it's residents. Except to try.
Welcome to Shining City.