Voting is a civic responsibility of every U.S. citizen of 18 years old or older.

This is the third election I was able to vote in and it was the first major election I was able to vote in. I voted by absentee ballot for the state of Virginia in the Virginia Beach District. This year we voted on one Senate position, a House of Representatives position, two amendments to the state’s constitution, mayor, city counsel members, and school board members.

I voted for the incumbent candidates for the Senate and the House, and mayor, because they have been doing a good job with their careers. They know the state and the communities they represent. They know the needs of the people because they listen to them.

For the City Council members and School Board members I voted for the incumbent candidates as well, except for the district in which I live, the Princess Anne District. I happen to personally know a candidate for Member City Council Princess Anne District and Member School Board Princess Anne District. So I voted for them because I know them. And because it is a comforting thought to have someone I personally know in a public office position.

I did not have to think to hard about who to vote for Senate, House, Mayor, City Council, and School Board. However, I did take a day or two to think about how I wanted to vote on the two amendments to the State’s constitution. This first proposal was “Should a county, city, or town be authorized to provide a partial tax exemption for real property that is subject to recurrent flooding, if flooding resiliency improvements have been made on the property?” I voted yes, because there are ares of Virginia Beach that are prone to floods due to the low elevation and natural swamp of the land. Many small family-owned farms sit on land that is prone to flooding and they should not suffer financially due to circumstance they cannot control when they have take all preventative measures. The second proposal was “Shall the real property tax exemption for a primary residence that is currently provided to the surviving spouses of veterans who had a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be amended to allow the surviving spouse to move to a different primary residence and still claim the exemption?” I voted yes to this amendment as well, because the spouse’s of veterans sacrifice just as much as their spouse, and any compensation for such service to the country should not have limits. If the real property tax is exempted for the veteran and their family then the exemption should remain valid if the surviving spouse moves to a more reasonable place of primary residence.

When it came to voting on the two state constitution amendments, I used emotions as information. Because both of the amendments were on emotional topics, especially since both apply to my life. So what made sense emotionally, I used as my reasoning on how I voted.

Capon’s The Third Peacock

Robert Farrar Capon was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York in 1925 and passed away on September 5, 2013. During his life time he wrote twenty books, including An Offering of Uncles, The Third Peacock, and Hunting the Divine Fox. While being a successful, Capon’s main profession was a full-time Episcopal priest. He devoted his life to theology, to better understand the gospel, and the help others understand his perspectives. The Third Peacock was written to address the question “Why do bad things happen if God is all powerful?”

Capon starts off the book by telling the creation story in a rather interesting way to explain why God made the world. In Capons explanation he plays with the word “being”, which we will come to learn being is the answer to the unanswerable question. The creation story is told as a party with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The three are sitting in unity talking about the Father’s interests in being and how he kept thinking up new ways and things of being. God the Son and God the Holy Spirit put on a show of being for the Father, it was a party with all of creation. The Father delighted in it, and “the delight of God is the deepest root of the being of everything” (Capon p. 178). So, God delights in all creation, then what about evil? God is not off the hook for evil, for “evil exists only for those who believe in God, who made all things out of nothing” (Capon p. 178). There is a difference between bad and evil. Bad is what happens naturally due to creation, whereas evil is the deliberate corruption of being by creatures with free will. The badness of creation cannot be differentiated from the goodness of creation. The badness of creation is because of the nature of the nature God made. “It was God’s fault simply because he made the earth the kind of thing it is” (Capon p. 190). So why does human kind exist? Science cannot answer that, but theology can. We were created to love God, simply because we are attracted to him. All God has done is simply be himself and we, humans, are drawn to him because of his love for us. The idea of God just being God is easy to accept, because God is God. But, when we say Jesus is both God and human we get uncomfortable, for who can he be man and God at the same time? Well, he just simply is. There is no explanation, we just must accept it. The paradox is beautiful and wonderful. Back to God being God, we live in time, he does not. He sees the bigger picture, we only see one small piece of the puzzle. We see the badness of creation and find it aesthetically unacceptable, God sees the badness of creation as how he created it to be. So, it is not what God does but about where his is. He is present in our sufferings and helplessness. Jesus suffered not for us, but with us. It is not about what God does, but the he is here. God is present. His presence is made known by the body of Christ, the church, the people of God, for the Holy Spirit is in us. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” Matthew 18:20 ESV. In times of suffering because of the badness and evil all that can be is to be present, to be the physical presence of God so that his presence may be felt spiritually.

School shooting have become more common in recent years. The one that is most remembers was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. 26 lives were taken that day at the hands of Adam Lanza, who shot his mother that morning before going to the school. December 14, 2012 was a tragic day for the United States. Many people asked why did God let that happen? How could God have let this happen? Why do bad things happen in a world with an all-powerful God? There is no answer to satisfy those questions. Capon’s answer would be ‘it happened because humans were given freedom, the act was done by human intentions, it was not God’s doing, and yet God is still responsible.’ God did not abandon his people, thus allowing the shooting to happen. In fact, it is just the opposite, God’s presence is even stronger after the shooting, because his people came together in the time of suffering to be there for each other. Building 429 did just that. The contemporary Christian band performed a benefit concert for the families of the victims of the Sandy Hooks shooting. In a devotional by the members of Building 429 on the YouVersion Bible app, they talk about the benefits concert they did for the Sandy Hook shooting. The concert was able to comfort the victims and community simply by the gathering of people for the same purpose. There is power in numbers. At the benefit concert, Building 429 performed their song We Won’t Be Shaken and it moved the crowd, it strengthened the community and support was felt. The chorus of the song goes “Whatever will come our way. Through fire or pouring rain. No, we won’t be shaken. No, we won’t be shaken. Whatever tomorrow brings. Together we’ll rise and sing. That we won’t be shaken. No, we won’t be shaken.” The meaning of the song is that God will always be constant and strong. That no mater what bad and evil things happen in life God will always be there. And that we must remember to trust in him and trust that he is there. This song reminded the crowd that God was there, that he never left. Before the concert the band members were worrying about what they were supposed to say, and more worried about how the crowd would respond. But backstage, the band felt a sense of togetherness and they knew God would show up and all they would have to do is move aside to let God do his thing, and that is to let his presence be known. Once God’s presence was made known, comfort was felt. What Capon talked about in The Third Peacock is relevant want was proved at Building 429’s benefit concert for the Sandy Hook shooting.

J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performed Bach’s St. John Passion at the Ordway in St. Paul, MN. The Ordway is a beautiful, luxurious building located in downtown St. Paul and hosts a variety of performing arts. The concert hall of the Ordway, where this concert was held, was uniquely designed. Walking into the concert hall, I noticed that stage was not elevated, but the audience was elevated, like an amphitheater. The seating goes all the way around the stage. There are three rows of about 20 behind the stage. The seats we had were behind the stage, but the acoustics were beautiful. We could hear the vocalist and instrumentalist wonderfully even though they were projecting their sound away from us. I believe the wonderful acoustics are due to the design of the ceiling. The ceiling is folded creating a wave appearance. The waves of the ceiling are curved in such a way that allow the sound waves to bounce off and travel behind the stage.

J. S. Bach composed a passion for each of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The passions are inspired directly from the gospels and bring the gospel to life through music as a form of worship. Worshiping through music has been valued by the church since the beginning, and even in the bible, “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name” Psalm 66:4. Bach, like Luther, turned bible passages into hymns. Bach did Luther one steep farther by turning each gospel into a passion. As the composer, Bach was able to set the tone for each movement in the passion. He was able to set the tone for how the story of Jesus’ crucifixion was told. He was able to tell the story how he understood and interpreted it in away that others might be able to learn from as well.

The performance was just as beautiful as the concert hall. The performers, both vocal and instrumental, brought the music to life. They did not just play or sing the notes but gave the notes character. The music had emotion from the mix of dynamics, tone, rhythm. The performers performed the music. The solo vocalist became their character through body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. The Evangelist especially, the narrative role, set the tone and emotion for each movement. He was able to take emotion Bach had felt for the gospel of John and had composed into the passion and bring it to life, thus enabling the audience to feel the same emotions about the gospel of John as Bach did.  

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors was originally an Indie/Horror film produced in 1960. It was adopted to the stage as a musical in 1982 by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. And the musical was re-adopted to film in 1986 directed by Frank Oz and screenplay done by Howard Ashman.

Little Shop of Horrors’ dark and disturbing humor has layers of meaning. Each layer addresses a different social issue that was pressing during the time of the original film. The some of issues addressed were abusive relationships, poverty, class distinction, and murder, as mentioned in a note from the director of Concordia’s production, Jan Puffer, in the program. I read the directors note after seeing the show and it changed the way I thought about the show. I still think the show was well preformed and very funny, but now I appreciate and understand it on a deeper level.

Knowing through the way of Imagination, specifically theater and film, have a unique way of addressing social issues. Rather than trying to explain social issues using reason and logic or trying to justify them emotionally, theater and film often use humor when addressing major social issues. By using humor, the heaviness of these topics is lightened up. The importance and seriousness of these social issues is still able to be communicated to the audience in a manner that is not going to make the audience feel extremely uncomfortable by making them laugh. Being able to laugh at something makes it less intimidating. Little Shop of Horrors was able to do just that from the time it first came out in 1960 to now in 2018.

Review on Capon’s Hunting the Divine Fox

Robert Farrar Capon was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York in 1925 and passed away on September 5, 2013. During his life time he wrote twenty books, including An Offering of Uncles, The Third Peacock, and Hunting the Divine Fox. While being a successful, Capon’s main profession was a full-time Episcopal priest. He devoted his life to theology, to better understand the gospel, and the help others understand his perspectives. Hunting the Divine Fox was written to explain theological language and how it is not as straight forward as we often assume it to be.

He begins the book like it was a fairy tale, with the words “Once upon a time…” (Capon p. 243) and tells the story of an oyster, a starfish, and a ballerina. What seems to be a silly story is used to explain human’s relationship with God, that is oysters are to ballerinas and humans are to God. There is really no comparison, it is like apples to oranges. Capon explains that oysters know just as much about ballerinas as humans know about God, so we really do know much about God at all.

In the next few chapters, Capon discusses how we must be carful with the kind of language and words we use when talking about God. All theological language is all analogies, nothing is “straight” speech it is all “bent” speech (Capon p. 265). Capon explains this by using love. Our human definition of love is far from Gods definition of love, so we must not use earthly concepts with to try to explain God. If we cannot use earthy concepts to explain God, then we most certainly cannot know the will of God. But we have concluded that God wants us, he desires, thus God’s will is for use to be His.

Not being able to describe God leads us to not humanizing Jesus. We focus too much on the God-side of Jesus and forget that he was “merely human” (Capon p.313). Jesus was not an all-powerful supper human here to save all humanity, He was simply the son of man sent by his farther to pay for our sins. Capon wraps up the book in the last couple of chapters by bringing things back to humans. That there is nothing us humans can do earn Gods grace, that Christianity is not a gift and not a transaction. And finally, there is no magic to Christianity, it is simply how we choose the accept the mystery of God. No questions asked just blind faith.

The Bartling Lecture

The Bartling Lecture was given by Jaylani Hussein this year, 2018. He addressed the social issues related to Islamophobia and how they can be resolved. Jaylani Hussein came to Minnesota in 1993 from Egypt when he was a young boy and henceforth is a true Minnesotan.

Jaylani explained that Islamophobia is the irrational fear of Muslims due to a lack of understanding their culture. There are two ways of knowing that are exhibited in Islamophobia, emotion and reason. Emotion is seen in the fear part, obviously. The fear of Muslims is an emotional response to the Islamic culture. This fear is strongly influenced by society. For, the media’s portrayal of Muslims shows them to be a savage group of people and only focuses on the extremist. The media’s negative portrayal of Muslims evokes society to have a fear of the Islamic culture because of the extremist groups. The way of knowing through reason and the way of knowing through emotion collide in Islamophobia. For, society does not see the fear as irrational because an emotional response is being evoked and rationalized by media, so society is using emotion as information. However, when the reason of the fear is analyzed it soon becomes clear there is no rationalized reason behind the fear. As in, the fear is not due to personal experience but due to a socially accepted response.

Understanding that Islamophobia is an irrational fear is important because it is a cause of many social issues regarding the Islamic people. The social issues include job discrimination, social injustices, and hate crimes. We can understand Islamophobia and cure it by educating ourselves on the Islamic culture, and advocate against injustice. If you see something say something, do not just let it happen. Expose, bring the issues to light by speaking up, and empower, do not be dismayed when your efforts fail, but find strength by knowing you may be the voice of the voiceless.

2018 Heginbotham Lecture

The 2018 Heginbotham Lecture was given by Newberry Award winning author Kelly Barnhill. She spoke to an audience of friends, family, faculty and staff, and students who had to be there, such as myself. Her lecture was enjoyable, for it gave a sneak peak into her creative and thought  process, which is different for everyone. And hers in particular, I find fascinating, for a truth/idea is reveled to her in a vision like way and she has to make sense of it. She processes the idea until she is able to connect point A to point B, point A being what was reveled to her and point B being what she knows to be the truth. Barnhill explains that fairy tales and the need for darkness help her understand what she knows to be true.

By using fairy tales, Barnhill uses the imagination way of knowing, for she takes what she know to be the truth and puts her own interpretation on it. She explains and expresses truths in a creative way through her writing. She also uses the emotion way of knowing, for her interpretations of the truth are influenced by her emotions. For, if the truth makes her sad then she will interpret it in a way that will also make her readers sad. Revelation is also a way of knowing used often by Barnhill, for she is influenced by the Bible’s creation story and used theology to understand that darkness is a natural part of the world.

Her most resent book, The Girl Who Drank The Moon, combines all of Barnhill’s ways of knowing. The book opens with a creation story that is influenced by the creation story in the Bible. And the characters of the book where not carefully planned out they just came into being in Barnhill’s imagination. Once the book was published it was no longer hers. The book now belongs to the readers and it is up to them to interpret the book how they see fit. To look at Barnhill’s view of the truth from their own perspective. In many cases Barnhill’s truth and the truth the readers got from the book are not going to be the same, and that is alright. Barnhill wrote the book in hopes the reader will gain a new understanding and perspective on the world different from what they already know.

Presidents’ Panel

The current and past three presidents of Concordia University, St. Paul, Rev. Dr. Tom Ries (2011 – Present), Rev. Dr. Robert Holst (1991 – 2011), Dr. John Johnson (1989 – 1991), and Rev. Alan Harre (1984 – 1989), gathered this evening for a panel to answer questions about their experiences during tenure. Those who attended the panel ranged from former faculty and staff to currents faculty and staff to their family members to alumni to current students. As a student attending the event, I felt a little under dressed, for this was a semi-formal event, which I was unaware of that until I walked into the auditorium. Aside from feeling a bit out of place, it was fascinating to hear first-hand accounts of how Concordia has grown over the past 29 years from the leaders of this institution of education.

Five questions were asked to the panel, spanning from favorite memory to the legacy they left. After the first few questions asked it was very evident that each of the presidents has a different way of knowing. Rev Harre is strong in observation, Dr. Johnson is strong in revelation, Rev. Dr. Holst is strong in emotion, and Rev. Dr. Ries is strong in reason. Each president brought a new perspective to CSP during their tenure; they were able to pick up where the last left off and lead Concordia to success and prosperity.

This was a unique opportunity for current students, such as myself, to get a glimpses into the past, so that we may see and understand the great legacy we are a part of. This also is an opportunity for us to appreciate what has been done in the past so that we are where we are today. This evening I learned that Concordia only recently, when Dr. Johnson was president, began to expand the the programs offered. The university itself had to expand the ways of knowing that were being taught to the students. Concordia would not be as successful as it is today if it did not expand past church work majors. By doing so Concordia now prepares its students for more than just a job after graduation. Students are being prepared to be contributing members of society by learning how to think beyond how they already know. Students are being exposed to new cutler and experiences that help shape them and expand their understanding of life.

Research and Scolarship Symposium (convocation)

Walking into the BEC was a little overwhelming, because there were different stations around the room where students presented and explained their research. The board that caught my attention was done by a fellow Honors student and member of the lambda class, Solomon Spangler. His research project was titled “Cell Phones and Their Attentional Cost” and his thesis was the mere presence of a cell phone is distracting. The results of his study confirm his thesis.

Solomon’s research can be applied to topic of Christian vocation, because a Christian vocation, by my understanding, is any kind of work or action that benefits and/or serves another individual or group. By serving others, one is then giving service to God. Solomon’s research confirmed his thesis that cell phones are a distraction, and, if it is our calling as Christians to serve others, how can we do so if we are distracted by our phones and not paying attention to the world around us? We cannot, is my answer, for we are sinners by nature. However, with the power of the Holy Spirit the temptation of sin can be overcome, allowing us to serve others without getting distracted.

I allow my cell phone to be a distraction when it should not be, especially in church. Church is a time when my full attention is needed in order to fully appreciate and receive the gift of God’s grace. There is always something in the sermon that I need to hear, and if I am distracted by my phone, then I will miss the message. And so many times I have been walking down the street or a hallway while on my phone, completely blocking out the world around me. And because of Solomon’s study, I now wonder, what if I had not been on my phone? Would I have had an interaction when someone that would have given me the opportunity to share the love and grace of God with them? Actions as small as a smile can be an impact larger then we realize, and that is when we are serving others. I make it a habit to turn my phone off during church, so I do not miss the message and because of Solomon’s study, I will be more cautious about when I am on my phone and will make an effort not be on it as I walk down to the street or the hallway, so that my full attention will be on serving others.

Callings, Post-Christian World (2 of 2)

Dorothy Sayers lived from 1893 to 1957. She was a one of the first women to graduate from Oxford University; she worked as a journalist. In her writing, Vocation in Work, she explains that one’s work should be meaningful and creative and engaging of the mind. Humans were created in the image of God, and God is a creator. God created humans because he wanted to and for his own pleasure, not because He had to. Thus, humans are creators too, and ideally, work should be creative and for our pleasure, not solely for economical gains. This also applies to how leisure time should be spent; it should not be spent doing unproductive mind numbing actives, but should engage and work the mind and be creative and meaningful.

Dorothy Sayers’ philosophy on vocation and work would be beneficial in today’s society. Because our society is so caught up in making money, we often forget that leisure time can and should be spent doing something that actively engages the mind. Leisure time could be spent volunteering in the community instead of falling asleep in front of the TV. Causing individuals to serve their neighbors, in turn serving God.

I agree with Sayers’ philosophy on how leisure time should be spent. When I spending a whole day watching Netflix and getting nothing accomplished, I do not feel well and I do not like spending my free time that way. I prefer to spend my free time outside being active or playing one of my many instruments. I like to stay active, both physically and mentally, because it helps me perform better at my summer job and keeps me healthy. My summer job is a lifeguard and pool manager at a private pool in Virginia Beach, VA. My job is physically and mentally demanding and requires me to interact with people, all day, every day. The interactions with people give me many opportunities to share the love of God with the patrons. So how I spend my free time affects my vocation, because if I do not take care of myself then I can not do my summer job.