The fall of anchorman Brian Williams reveals a how unforgiving we have become. I would like to think Williams spoke without listening to his exact wording. I know I have made mistakes in sharing my thoughts. There are many times when my mouth isn’t syncing with my brain, and unless someone catches my “blunders,” I may never notice them. So why were people quick to question everything Williams reported on? Why are people so quick to shame our mistakes? When did we forget that mistakes are how we grow and learn? We could blame social media. We could even blame the news cycle—the bias monster that it is. However, I believe the problem lies in the lack of empathy for making mistakes. Everyone makes errors. Those mistakes are what drive us to grow and learn, thereby, allowing one to become something better, bigger, and wiser. (I am not including crimes as mistakes.) Technology has morphed humans into isolated screen hogs. When I graduated from high school in 1994, we used computers for papers. We actually talked to our friends instead of texting. Our thoughts were deeper because we did not have 140 character limit in which to think. We did not worry about our social footprint haunting us for the rest of our lives and even from beyond the grave. However, toddlers today know how to work a smartphone before they learn the alphabet or how to even write the alphabet. This scares me. Don’t misunderstand, I am not a technophobe. I am just someone who has witnessed human interaction diminish in the last 25 years and a society in which every word you have ever muttered, wrote, or tweeted about will become what people think of you. But you are so much more than a silly posting. Another thing that scares me is the fact that self-proclaimed Christians sometimes jump on the band-wagon of shaming those who have stumbled. I hear it all the time. Aren’t we supposed to forgive and keep on forgiving? I do believe there should be personal accountability. However, the political correctness that has taken over this country doesn’t allow for that. I hear “blame the one before you” or “everyone is a winner.” Neither of these statement are correct. If you made a mistake, own it. If you lose a game, it is okay. We need to stop placating others. Williams messed up. I mess up. You mess up. When are we going to start forgiving and allowing an apology to be enough? When will our stumbles stop being the butt of late night talk shows? If we create a culture where mistakes are considered learning experiences, we will slowly restore human interaction and growth. So I dare you: put down your phones, turn off your laptops, and think about a time where you may have said something incorrectly. Did someone hold you above a bonfire and say, “Repent and all should be forgiven . . . well after we burn your image in effigy?” Have you ever done this to someone? Our culture breeds fame monsters and if those monsters aren’t always on a five second delay, they will eventually do something that will garner unwanted attention. Heck, they may even end up suspended or fired. So I propose we say goodbye to fame and hello to understanding. We should say goodbye to shaming and hello to forgiveness. We should be making mistakes every day because it is only then that we learn. Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing something; instead, figure out how and why something works and make it a habit of execution in your daily life. I am the queen of mistakes. I am okay with that. At least, I know I am doing something.
March 16, 2015What I am about to say will make you cringe; however, I promise that what follows that cringe will bring a smile to your face. There are only 6 more weeks until finals. I know, I am evil just mentioning it. However, (here is the thing that will make you smile) I would like to propose that for finals (stop hating me) that Fox brings in therapy animals for students. (See, I made you smile.) This brilliant idea came from the wonderful Sidney Tafflinger, Career Coordinator in the IDEA Center. Why doesn’t Fox invest in something that helps students with the ultimate stress? I say we bring in llamas, horses, cats, and dogs on campus for the entire week. Not only will students feel less stressed, but the animals will receive unconditional love. I also purpose this becomes a regular event on campus. So many students experience feelings of anxiety and frustration during the terms. And while Fox does offer free counseling, students still struggle in asking for help. Asking for help is does not make one weak. In fact, seeking help makes one stronger. Not everyone believes in asking for help. Sometimes, Christians shame other Christians for being in a time of hardship. But here at Fox, we have the chance to encourage each individual to ask for help and to love others unconditionally. So back to having therapy animals on campus during finals. Who wouldn’t love to hug a llama or to brush a horse? Who wouldn’t love to play with cats and walk dogs? This is my own therapy dog, Ducky! Fox has money to make this happen. So I am asking you all to help me bring animals to campus in order to love on them and in turn, let them help heal us.
March 16, 2015I’m back. When I came home in December, the drive from the airport along I-5 was more beautiful than I remembered: so much sky, so many trees. And the mountains! And the big blue sky! I was thrilled to be home. But as time passed—as I settled back into the routines of home and school and friends and life in the Pacific Northwest—I realized a few not-so-good things about America. Being able to eat and drink in the library. Do not get me wrong. There is a significant part of me that utterly adores my current ability to take my Americano from Chapters into the library. Or the chance I now have to just eat from my bag of chips instead of performing a major stealth operation trying to sneak some out of my backpack without garnering the wrath of the librarians. But another part of me misses those books that were the reason we couldn’t eat in the library. I miss those cracked and faded volumes that weighed down your hands with their histories. I miss that reverence, that sacredness. Too much new stuff. Here in Newberg, I walk past houses with plaques that boast about being built in 1905, 1883. I still think that’s pretty cool. But now I also think of these plaques as a consistent reminder of just how new these United States are. When you spend some time in a country where the roads you drive on might have originally been built by Romans, that just happens. We are a baby country, still crawling. Our traditions, our culture: it simply cannot compare. The noise. It’s not just street noise. It’s the neon lights and traffic lights and bright billboards. The feeling that you’re constantly being talked to. I miss the quiet.
March 11, 2015I knew from my extensive experience with BBC dramas that people in England wear suits and fancy dresses, drive either carriages or blue police boxes that travel through time, and have a lot of servants who are sometimes accused of murdering their ex-wives. When all of these “facts” had been successfully disproved upon my actual arrival in England, I found myself constantly comparing my surroundings to those back home. And when I found myself once again surrounded by evergreen trees and rather pretentious coffee shops, I realized some things I really love about America—and some things I really don’t. A few good things about America first. Being able to eat and drink in the library. The libraries at Oxford house some pretty incredible books. One time I got to hold—in my hands—an 1850 edition of poems by the Brontë sisters. Someone in 1850 had held that book, too. So I completely understand their libraries’ very strict no eating/drinking rule. It would be quite the bummer to spill your coffee all over those mustily beautiful nineteenth-century pages. But . . . hangry strikes sometimes. And it strikes hard. And the hunger didn’t motivate me to finish my work more quickly so I could take a study break and munch on my sandwich in front of all the tourists at the library entrance. It just made me sad. It’s also been scientifically proven that having a cup of coffee sitting next to you while you write increases your productivity by 3000%. Becoming best friends with a stranger. I’d been back in the States for a couple weeks. My mom and I were at the gas station. A woman at the next pump over remarked, “Aren’t these gas prices incredible?” (They’d reached $1.99 a gallon.) My mom and I agreed, and soon a man at another pump was chiming in with how little money he was spending to fill up. “Can you remember when it was 75 cents?” the woman at the next pump laughed. And so on. Encounters like this surprised me so much when I first came back. I may have had a few while in England, but such random conversations were much fewer and further between. The “reserved” nature of Britons may be a stereotype, but it is one that tends toward the truth. Wide open spaces. The word that often came to my head as I traveled throughout England was “cute.” Sure, Big Ben and Salisbury Cathedral and York Minster are impressive in their vastness, but what I knew best were narrow winding streets, brick buildings squeezed together, tiny cottages and gardens. I loved their quaintness—as well as the history built into every stone and bit of pavement—but I missed mountains and fields that stretch on for miles without the interruption of a wall. When I came home in December, the drive from the airport along I-5 was so much more beautiful than I had remembered: so much sky, so many trees. (Tune in next week for some cons of the U. S. of A.)
March 11, 2015Most people have heard the term “Comic Con.” However, even with the plethora of Cons increasing in popularity, there are still millions who have never experienced the fantastical world of Cos-play, celebrity meet and greets, panels, talented artists, and so much more. This past January, two George Fox University students took their first step into the Con world when they attended Wizard World Portland Comic Con. Seniors Keilah Uhre and Jordan Nelson walked into the Portland Convention Center and stepped into a world of geeks, nerds, costumed heroes, artists, gamers, and fans of all things other worldly. When Uhre and Nelson found my sister and me amidst the many packed rows of booths, I noticed how ecstatic they were. They had just attended a panel on understanding comics and were about to get in line to meet Bruce Campbell. Uhre’s face was full of joy and Nelson was silently glowing with anticipation of meeting Campbell. Attending a Con has been on Uhre’s bucket-list for years. “Oh. My. Gosh! I don’t even know how to explain it,” she said as she reflects on her first steps into Wizard World. “I was really overwhelmed. I was so happy to be there.” Some of her favorite costumes were worn by fellow Doctor Who fans. “There was a really awesome Weeping Angel. I was the most entertained person in the world.” Uhre and Nelson stood in a long line in order to meet Campbell. Nelson said when she finally met him, she told him that his character, Sam Axe on “Burn Notice,” was one of the best written characters ever. Both were only recently introduced to his most famous role of Ash in “Evil Dead 2.” Now that they have both been to their first Con, they are looking forward to the next opportunity. When I mentioned to Uhre that maybe next time we can all go as Airbenders, she screamed like a child getting her first puppy or kitten. Uhre’s exuberance reminded me of my first Con. I remember stepping into the convention hall and finally feeling accepted. Each Con allows attendees to be their favorite superhero, villain, character, to collect fan art that you can’t find anywhere else, and meet iconic celebrities. So why should you go? If you like to talk about “Downtown Abbey,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “Arrow,” “Lord of the Rings,” Magna books, or if you love costumes, then Comic Con is something I encourage you to attend. Comic Cons allow everyone to be whatever they want while also allowing one to learn more about his or her passions. Cons inspire. They bring people together to celebrate the child within. Cons allow fans to say thank you to their favorite actors, Cos-players, and artists. They are a conduit for new friendships with kindred spirits. At Cons, it is perfectly normal to take a picture with a Jabba the Hut or find a reason to wear a unicorn horn and superhero cape. There is something so freeing about surrounding yourself with other people who love to celebrate their favorite geeky passions. I look forward to seeing more GFU students at Rose City Comic Con in September.
March 11, 2015Not only did I celebrate my 39th birthday in February, but I have been working to find a summer internship. So far, I have had two interviews for two different industries. This is a problem. Part of my dilemma is I don’t know what I want to do this summer. I have 16 years of work experience, so I know I could do well in an office, in management, in human resources, and more. However, my heart for work has changed. I know my purpose is to help others succeed–this has not changed–but how and who to invest that time with is my struggle. How do you know which doors to seek out if you are unsure where God wants you? When does the regurgitated answer to my previous question, “God only shuts doors you are not supposed to go through,” no longer work? I can answer that, when there are several doors open that refuse to close unless you go near them. I want to honor God’s plans. I believe He brought me to George Fox on purpose. I believe He has continually blessed me with many opportunities on campus. And I believe He has spectacularly big plans for me in the coming months. But with all of my believing, I have absolutely no idea which doors to walk towards. My fear of the unknown has caused me to doubt God’s intention. I can almost hear Jeremiah 29:11 when I am assaulted by the cacophony of confusion swirling around in my already crowded head. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” God says. “Lord, that is all well a great, but when I will know what you have planned,” I ask. God’s reply? Silence. I know He is not ignoring me. I know He will reveal things in His time. I know He keeps His promises. I have witnessed their redemption. So why do I still push the issue? To say it is because I am human cheapens the question. To say it is because I am weak sounds trite. To say it is because I am, for possibly the first time in my life, truly unsure I want what I believe God has planned. My friend, Jana, has been a steadfast echo of God’s voice, inspiring me to trust that He will provide and He is moving me to a new path/career. What does that career look like? I am unsure. When I listen to Jana, as she shares her observations about me that she feels are guided by God’s hand, I feel like those plans will only be revealed at the last possible moment and I will be left with several open doors. He will not point to the right door, leaving me the chance to screw everything up. Have you ever experienced that fear? At times, I have run from God’s plan like Jonah did. There have been times when I walked straight into a typhoon of chaos because God spoke to my heart and challenged me to do so. Now here I am. Sitting. Not sleeping. Battling Anxiety. Avoiding the question. Apologizing. Doubting my call to purpose. Praying. And repeating. Today, I was reminded of a request from God. This request was shared in a very particular way last semester by TaShawna Gordon during a sermon she gave in class. She confessed that she also deals with uncertainty of knowing God’s plans. Her honest journey spoke to me then and blessed me once more. I encourage you, if you are also struggling with not knowing, to repeat the following and when you get to the last word let God love you. Be still and know that I am God Be still and know that I am Be still and know Be still and Be still Be
February 25, 2015Why is suicide a topic that is only broached when it takes someone we love? Why do we wait to learn how to spot the signs of someone who is contemplating taking his or her own life? When someone has thought about harming him or herself, why do we call that person a coward who is pathetically weak? Why do we feel the need to tell people to “snap out of it”? There are many myths spread about suicide and those who have thought about or attempted suicide. Thanks to the uninformed, one of those myths is that the people who kill themselves are pathetic. This is not a conversation, but instead a negative and uneducated rhetorical assumption. As someone who has reached out to many people who have struggled with the thoughts of taking their lives, I can tell you they are far from pathetic. The truth is they are scared, depressed (which is not a choice on their part), and at times feeling that leaving this earth will benefit their family and friends. And yes, we know this is untrue, but in those moments they feel this is real. Suicide will touch each one of us sometime in our lives, whether it is through a well-known, beloved actor such as Robin Williams, or through a co-worker who smiled every time we spoke to him or her. The after-effects are catastrophic, not only for the people left behind but for the community. In the last two months, Newberg has lost two young men to suicide. Loss of life is hard no matter the circumstance, and suicide often leaves more questions and blame than a natural passing. Here at George Fox, suicide prevention is barely talked about. While there was a brief mention of Suicide Prevention Week last fall, and suicide is discussed in some psychology classes, the collective student body, as a whole, is not talking about prevention or awareness. There is no active, educated conversation being led by the administration or by the student body. The Center for Disease Control has warned the world to stop overlooking suicide as something selfish, but instead encourages nations to educate and create prevention awareness. The suicide epidemic kills more people than car accidents, is the third most common killer of young people, and plagues our veterans. Perhaps it is time to ask yourself, “What can I do?” Imagine if a group of students, staff, and faculty took the initiative to either create a program or join a program in which those who are suffering can reach out without fear of judgment. What if the administration made mental health issues a priority on campus so the entire student body could engage? What if they mimicked some of our more outspoken students? Our students share their passions for injustice on campus. A few weeks ago, several brave and passionate students stood outside for 27 hours to bring awareness of human trafficking to campus. Last semester, over twenty students stood in a circle around the quad to protest events in Ferguson, Missouri. So in answer to the question, “What can I do?”, both you and I can create a space for honest, thoughtful, productive conversation here on campus. Suicide is nothing that should be shoved into a corner. We must move to bring it into the light and then talk about how we can prevent it. As the body of Christ, each of us should be looking to hold up one another. Let us be stewards who offer a smile, hand, and friendship to those who are hurting beyond our understanding. One person can make all the difference in someone’s battle with suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255. This is a twenty-four hour hotline.
February 25, 2015When the twinkling blue seas below my airplane window gave way to patchwork quilts of fields and farms; when the border control agent’s stern face slipped into a smile when I (excitedly) revealed this was my first time in the U.K.; when I walked out of customs only to find a coffee shop and realize that Britons do drink other beverages besides tea: then, I felt I never wanted to leave this country called England. That feeling persisted throughout my first couple months as a visiting student at Oxford University. I couldn’t get enough of the narrow and winding streets, the Hogwarts-esque libraries, the dreaming spires of churches and chapels. The thought of returning home haunted me. Who wants to think about Oregon rain when you have Oxford rain? I was too busy—with academics, cycling to and from the city, and constant amazement at my surroundings—to ever truly be homesick. When the end of term finally arrived, I bid emotional and exhausted farewells to my housemates, unable to grasp the fact that we were done. We couldn’t be done—not yet. I’d only just arrived! I had believed my return to George Fox would be blanketed by clouds of melancholy and longing. Why is the library so small? I imagined musing, with perhaps a single tear rolling its way down my cheek. Why is no one wearing tweed? Clouds actually did blanket the sky that first Monday of the spring semester—but they consisted of moisture in the air, not of my roiling emotions. I walked across the quad, my eyes drinking in sights and faces both strange and utterly familiar. No pangs of longing pierced me. No sighs escaped me. Instead, I walked, and watched, and gave the occasional hug and 30-second spiel about my “trip.” I was back, and I was happy. Happy? No! shouted a voice from the back of my mind. You can’t be happy! Where are those dreaming spires? Where are the accents? Where is the intellectual stimulation? This is not where you belong! I ended up sharing this voice’s remarks with a friend from Oxford over Skype. “It’s weird,” I told her, “but I’m actually feeling pretty content about being back. I feel a little guilty about how content I am.” “Don’t say that!” came her quick reply. “You shouldn’t ever feel guilty about being content!” That conversation has stuck with me as I’ve pondered and processed this past year. Sure, I miss Oxford. But I have also come to realize that there exists a beauty in transition—of turning the final page of a story well told. Oxford was a story that was told beautifully. Now, it’s time for the next chapter. Don’t be ashamed of going home. Don’t be ashamed of being happy there.
February 17, 2015It is coming! Somehow it has crept up on me like Ellen DeGeneres in the bathroom of her celebrity guests to scare them. My stomach churns with loathing as it approaches. I would avoid it if I could, but Hallmark and couples won’t let me. Now, you might think I am talking about Valentine’s Day and you are somewhat right. However, it is not the reason you would think.. February 14 is my birthday, every darn year, and it sucks! There will be no Captain Picard or Minion gifted to me–no matter how much I want to put both into my pocket to remind me of all the fantastic things this world has to offer. Those who have other holiday birthdays have nothing to truly complain about because, with other holidays, there is no pressure to be in a relationship. There are no looks of pity as someone hears you are single and proud of it. There are no, “But dear, you are getting older and your have four cats” comments—and I do have four cats and there is nothing wrong with it. Seriously though, I wish my mom would have forced me out ten minutes later. I burst into this world at 11:53 p.m. My dad was shouting, “Hold the baby in, a boy can’t be born on Valentine’s Day!” (They did not know they were having, surprise, a girl.) As a young precocious child, I didn’t know my birthday was on the worst day of the year. Really, pink and red clash. Hearts are fabricated. Flowers are sacrificed. “Love Me or Love Me Not” candy is made the year before and sold for more than what I make in a year. Romantic movies are forced down our throats setting up unrealistic relationships—hello “50 Shades of Grey.” And lest we forget, the Valentine’s cards that are read once and then recyled! Or the birthday cards that are for those unfortunate souls who were born on Valentine’s Day. When I started junior high, I realized some people did not want to be my Valentine. There were people who did not want to celebrate my big day. However, my mom would send me a giant balloon basket with a teddy bear inside to school. My principle would call me to the office over the paging system. “Heather Horney, please come to the office right now. Ms. Horney please come to the office.” My last name is HARNEY and yet, every year I would hear HORNEY. I never asked my bumbling principal if he did this to be ironic or he just loved humiliating me but are you starting to see why I hate my birthday? Even with my first love, I bought more things for him than he did for me on Valentines. All I received was a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I could credit him with surprising me with a visit from my mom, but that was mom’s doing. Are we seeing a pattern here? The forced idea of romantic love being celebrated on my birthday or the overwhelming feeling that I am less than because no one besides my family gives me a card that says they love me has blemished this day each year. I don’t expect the following: 1) Flowers (they bring bugs and DIE). 2) Expensive chocolate (I already get a free truffle each month from Godiva). 3) A birthday cake customized just for me (one year I was given a boob cake—I am not kidding). 4) A love poem from Idris Elba (but this meme makes me happy). 5) Have Rick Astley serenade me with “Never Gonna Give You Up” (because this would be awesome). 6) Have my future husband take me out to celebrate our love once a year (that should happen every day because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me). What I do expect to happen is to receive a call from my dad, mom, and sister to tell me “Happy Birthday.” I expect Facebook to remind my friends that it would be very uncouth to not say “Happy Birthday” on my page. I anticipate watching “My Bloody Valentine” because I love me some Jensen Ackles and action/slasher films on the day of my birth. With only a few more days until I became another year older, another year wiser, and another year free from the shackles of “expectations,” my birthday wish is for each of you to take a moment to love each day. I hope that maybe, just maybe, if you meet someone who shares the same birthdate as I that you will give him or her a hug or treat him or her to a movie or offer him or her a chance to burn all Valentine paraphernalia in your backyard.
December 11, 2014January is about to roll around and a new crowd will soon take over the gym equipment. Some of them might use the machines in a way you could have never imagined. A swarm of people will be found on the treadmills and ellipticals, partly from familiarity with the equipment and partly out of “first time at the gym ever” embarrassment. The weight room will appear more crowded than usual, with folks glowing with sweat and the hope of accomplishing their New Year’s Resolution of finally getting those muscles worth showing off. For those who habitually visit the gym, these new faces and appearances may be overwhelming or annoying when it comes to sticking to our routine workouts. What are we to do when our indoor exercise outlet is taken over by newfound dreamers, who may or may not stick around for longer than a month? If you have to get your daily run in, try taking to the reality of the trails, streets, or sidewalks. It might snow, rain, hail, or even simply be a really cold day with a bit of wind chill. Throwing a twist into your exercises, such as stadium workouts or a bit of a focused core workout, will get the other body parts you’ve been granting only so much attention. If you can’t work up the warmth to face the cold and can’t stand around waiting for your favorite workout machine, go try something new in the gym. There’s no better time to try out something new than when everyone else is doing the same thing.The only difference is you might have a clue as to what you’re doing. If you have to, pick a different time of day if your usual workout time is clogged with newcomers. According to the Telegraph, about 12% of gym memberships start in January. However, the Telegraph also said “Fitness Industry Association said that almost 22 per cent of people who join will have thrown in the towel after 24 weeks. A further 20 per cent will disappear before December.” If anything, lead by example and try to help out the newbies this time of year. Try a new class or check into at-home workouts that avoid the whole congested gym situation all together. Don’t let the January gym-goers get you down.
December 11, 2014Silence. We are called in the silence. Sometimes it may be a gentle voice, a soothing whisper, or a tug on your soul. Regardless of how the call generates, you are called to serve The Master. Repeated calls flow and ebb like the cerulean sea guiding you towards an emerald paradise or crashing you violently among the jagged grey rocks of a land embattled by fear and rage. He calls you; even amidst a noise so deafening you seek to stop hearing at all. So child, why do you stubbornly keep running? Your feet are worn and scraped. Your shoulders bear the weight of a hundred oak branches. Your face is falling towards the earth from weariness and flash-tear floods. “Why do you fight so?” This is something I have heard God ask me a lot lately. I try (and maybe this is my problem) to stay strong, listen, and walk where He leads. But I have moments where I yank back control and declare I am superwoman. I don’t know if I do this with malicious intent, but I acknowledge I do this—too much. I fight the one person I shouldn’t. I could blame my humanity and call it a “fickle failure” but I can’t. Each time I try to control my life, I drown in life’s noise instead of drowning out life’s noise. I should be praising Him always. Why don’t I? Honestly, I can act like a raccoon—I see something shiny and it grabs my full attention and I won’t let go even if it means my freedom. Light and shadows distract me. Too often, I allow the world to suck me in. When God is calling to me in silence or in a whisper, I can’t hear Him when I am walking the other way or when my desires mute all other things. I know a lot of us are going through rough times. I have days where I feel like I have been beat with a bat. I have days when I am tortured by a thousand tiny paper cuts that never seem to heal. However, more often than I acknowledge, I have days where all of creation sings with me in worship of a Father who only wants to love me and guide me in His purpose. In those moments, I feel as if I can fly. So in the midst all of the noise in my life, today I ask for silence. I don’t want to be in control. I want to hear God call and direct my footsteps. No longer do I wish to wrestle with my stubbornness but instead learn to anchor deep, hold on, and pray. God, please meet us here and cut through the noise. Help us hear you. Silence all of our worries, doubts, grief, and anxieties. Heal our pain. Heal our loved ones. Heal our hearts. Help us stop running away. Turn our eyes towards you. Show us how to anchor deep. Show us how to hear you through everything. “He wasn’t in the fire. He wasn’t in the quake. He wasn’t in the wind. He is the whisper here.” ~ Bluetree.