Friday, July 27, 2012

Inside the Uni, Outside the Classroom: Soap Box

 The perspective of a college student is interesting and enlightening.  My son, home from college for the summer, graciously accepted my request to be a guest blogger.  I hope you find his point of view thought provoking.
I would like to start my blog series with an issue that is very close to my heart and is poorly handled on campus; in general ‘soap boxing’ in specific ‘spreading the faith’. 

There are a variety of groups with a point of view on campus and many employ poor contact strategies.  This is evident as the results do not positively correlate to the effort input.  To illustrate this, I would like to recall two specific incidents this past year. 
The first involved an elderly Presbyterian group handing out fliers at a high traffic corner on campus.  The fliers included scripture verses warning of the dangers of hell and attesting to the love of Christ. 
An important issue to consider when 'soap boxing'; does your efforts Positively Stand Out. UT students, on average, are handed 4-5 fliers everyday announcing some theatre group or new student politics initiative.  I could have plastered my dorm walls with all these handouts and still had enough to build a paper airplane armada that could put the Luftwaffe to shame. 
A second issue to consider is Know Your Audience:  I’m on my way to class and suddenly some older fellow is jumping in my path forcing a flier in my hand and warning of the dangers of hell; I’m tired, running a bit late, and it’s 98 degrees outside with high humidity.  This isn’t the message I’m looking to hear, nor respond to positively.
The Second incident was of a Protestant pastor who began a soap box sermon in front of the UT tower, which serves as the nexus of campus and has a preponderance of foot traffic.  I did not draw near enough to hear what he was preaching.  I was close enough to see the student in a clown’s costume reading Moby Dick right next to him though.  I seldom agree with lampooning an issue, but in all honesty, the pastor was in the wrong place.

Watching this pastor brought up a concern from some of my Christian friends and appears common in the Christian community.  They seem to have a fear of “militant atheism".  Militant in that if they are recognized as a Christian they expect there will be an immediate drive to bring about counter conversion. 
This fear appears to generate from individuals found on mass media outlets or forum boards, rolling out massive diatribes to the “archaic” nature of the faith or the purported ignorance that it follows.  I personally do not agree with the former statement but do believe there is some evidence to support the latter. 
The question I pose to these friends and communities is this: how is this militant atheism different from our evangelical efforts?  Could it be possible that people find us as annoying as we do these atheists?  In my experience, these militant atheists never appear unless the militant evangelicals are nearby.
I see the campus culture in this way; where once the political boundaries were drawn along the lines of “liberal” versus “conservative” UT seems to express a greater divide between Libertarians and Autocrats (for those unfamiliar, the Libertarian platform stresses personal rights and VERY limited government.  Their principle candidate is Ron Paul).  I believe this shift fundamentally changes the way evangelism should be carried out. 

My generation values personal space and detests the invasion of such therefore instead of pushing into people’s lives ‘do something' and let them ask the questions.  Rather than push pamphlets, perform acts of service.  Don’t bring up Christ, show them Christ to such a degree that they ask what you are doing and why.  Let them see we are Christians by our love.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dating & Mating: Your Love Language

When Gary Chapman published his book The 5 Love Languages in 1992 it was a big hit in many of my circles.  There seemed to always be a class available somewhere in town, and likely still is.

 From this initial volume there are over eight additional editions specifically for children, men, singles, teens etc.  In a world populated with personality tests, self-help tomes, relationship guides and happiness solutions Chapman offers sound advice in simple terms.

Everyone has a language of love ;"a primary way of expressing and interpreting love", the actions that fill their love tank. Chapman makes five categories:
Quality Time
Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Receiving Gifts 

You may have shades of some but one is generally strongest.  Relationally, you will often perform your strongest language but when those actions are performed FOR you, your love tank is filled.  When you do not receive these actions, from family members, friends, people in your life, your love tank diminishes and problems will develop in those relationships.

For personal growth I encourage people to take the personality test from David Keirsey's Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types in order to understand themselves and then Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages in order to develop, understand and enjoy their relationships.

As with most things, doing what we enjoy or what comes easily to us requires minimal effort and maintains our character but doing what is difficult or unnatural takes maximum effort and builds our character.  Speaking a love language opposite to our own builds solid relationships, deepens ties and says, "I love you" louder than words.

Speaking a love language takes conscious effort and selflessness.  Becoming fluent in your partner's love language is a gift beyond measure. . . to you both.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Inside the Uni, Outside the Classroom

The first year of our empty nest is past. I cannot adequately express my appreciation to all those who have encouraged me through this personal growth period.

 After successfully completing his first year, L. spent June in a university lab on an internship.   He is now home and busy with two summer courses as well as working to fill his depleted coffers.  What a perfect time to have him guest post here on Live/Learn. 

 L., I appreciate your taking time to visit with my readers.  Why don't you introduce yourself.

Hey Everyone!  I am Sally’s 19 year old son, currently attending the University of Texas at Austin (Rated #30 in the World!).  I’m a double major; Chemistry and Computer Science with expectation to one day have my own lab at a research university.     

The readers are familiar with my struggles, what were your struggles in the first year of college?

I’ve always been a shy person so that made getting outside of the dorm particularly difficult. I found my balance in the second semester when I joined an Honors fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi, which helped me meet many other like-minded people.  There were still bumps along the road but my suite mates where a great help.   

How would you characterize the college culture?  What did you discover in order to maneuver successfully through it?

 I would describe college as a petri dish covered in augur (basic growth agent for bacteria).  The close proximity to people of your own age pushes the assimilation of the culture of the generation at an alarming rate.  News is widely talked about and opinions fly quickly through the campus (often driven by individuals who major in the issues of concern).  You learn so much in a very short time; the knowledge can be so dense that the experience is overwhelming.  What worked best for me was to set some down time aside for myself.  Whether it was reading, playing harmonica, or playing online I found it was wise to schedule time for relaxation.

Share a glimpse of the topics and ideas you’ll share with us through the remainder of the summer.

I like math . . . a lot, so expect to see some of the more interesting facets of math pop up.  Furthermore, given this opportunity I would like to dispel common misconceptions about science.  It will be nerdy but I'll make it palatable.

I am over the moon having L. home and thrilled he's taking the time to share on Live/Learn.  I hope you enjoy this side trip. 

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Who Do You Love?

In your lifetime people pass in and out.  Although some stay for a short time their impact may be great and you have a love for them that lasts long after they are gone.  Some, such as family, are there your whole lifetime but their impact may be minimal or contentious and your feelings for them are tepid.

We can love, or more aptly admire, people from afar.  These are people you will never/can never meet but are aware of them through the media or literature.  You may feel quite strongly about their actions or character.

Some are loved because you have taken on their physical care and choose to watch out for them; a child from Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or someone you mentor.  Neighbors or friends can become very dear to us.  Perhaps you have a story similar to this.

We are born with a capacity for love which naturally manifests itself.  How your love manifests is directly affected by your life experiences, which can greatly heighten or severly damage that capacity. 

As you read these first words what names came to mind?  D., working through to his Ph.D.; had us spending many years in student housing.  Living in this communal atomsphere has blessed us with dear friends.  Perhaps you thought of co-workers or church members.

My son, L., is a gamer and has been since the mid-90's when game consoles and online gaming were rapidly rising in development and popularity. 

Within the concerns about letting our children sit and play video games I fall here: each child is different and each parent needs to assess their own child's ability to responsibly monitor their behavior online and off.  D. and I both enjoyed many video games with L., providing an example for what behavior was expected.  We stayed involved by showing interest in who he was playing with and what he was playing, guiding his choices rather than dictating.  This method may not prove useful for every child but it worked well for us and L. 

In online gaming that required a team he began meeting up with some of the same players until often they would set times to meet and play together, online.  In 2007 a game assigned L. to just such a team that included La. from Georgia.

Although L. no longer plays the game that brought them together he has remained in contact with La.  from Georgia.  In their online environment they shared a love of the game and what was happening in their lives.  They have commiserated through growing pains and relational heartaches.  They have encouraged and supported each other over time and distance.  They have yet to meet face to face but they list each other as brothers on Facebook.

Who do you love? 

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