Time Stands Still (Student Production)

Describe: Time Stands Still is a student-directed production here at Concordia’s theatre department. The play, directed by Alex Johnson, is about a photojournalist named Sarah and her partner James (Jamie), a journalist. The couple travels around the world together and documents tragic events– from wars and famines to genocide and attacks. After Sarah gets severely injured from a bomb while photographing an event, she is treated at a hospital and then returned home with James. The play takes place in their apartment, and follows them on their journey of recovery and learning how to be “comfortable” again after the tragedies they documented.

Interpret: The turning point of the play is when Sarah decides that she wants to go back to the Middle East and continue doing what she always does: photojournalism. James tries to convince her that she should stay home and live a normal life with him while she heals, one that involves marriage and children. After they get married, however, she makes the final decision: she will go back and follow her passion. This part of the play reminded me of Christians being called to a vocation. Sometimes, it requires sacrifice and risk, but if it is God’s will, He will provide.

Evaluate: This play was very interesting to watch and had many similar themes as the Honors course regarding vocation. Sarah leaving her husband to follow something she felt called to do was sad to watch, but was the best decision in the end. She didn’t feel like she was fulfilling her purpose living the “comfortable life” and decided to go back instead. As Christians, we shouldn’t live “comfortable” and “lukewarm” lives when God is calling us to serve Him.

Kolb Lecture

Describe: This Reformation Heritage lecture titled “Living as a Christian: Wittenberg Style” was led by Dr. Robert Kolb on February 8, 2018. Kob focused on Luther’s definition of what it means to be a Christian in the world. Kolb quoted several of Luther’s writings, sermons, and main ideas in theology, the biggest one being living an active life for Christ by taking up your cross (“dying”) and walking in His footsteps. Kolb describes the “radicalness” of this idea for believers during the Reformation because it was seemingly opposite of the monastic lifestyle. This idea propelled the Reformation movement and ultimately helped believers then and to this day to cultivate a truly Christian life.

Integrate: Kolb made many connections to the idea of vocation in this lecture, specifically when talking about “dying for Christ”. Kolb argued that this act is the ultimate Christian vocation applicable to all believers, and that our callings beyond that are our own unique vocational experience with God. Kolb also brought up the idea of “two-fold” righteousness, which describes Luther’s theology in a new way: because of what Christ did for us, we are pure and righteous in God’s eyes, but we also in response should become righteous in our actions and our life.

Evaluate: This lecture put a lot of Luther’s teachings into a modern-day perspective, which I appreciated. It was an excellent reminder of what it looks like to live a Christian lifestyle and to show the love of Christ just through living. This lecture also made me appreciate Luther’s theology more and showed me just how impactful it is, even 500 years later.

Ceramics Biennial

Describe: The 2018 Concordia University Cermanics Biennial is an event curated by the CSP Art Department that showcases ceramic art from local artists in one gallery opening. The purpose of the event is for the artists to display their work and describe their artistic process, ideas, and meaning behind their work to viewers in the gallery opening. Artwork by ceramic artists Eileen Cohen, Amy Santoferraaro, Bianka Groves, Julie Malen, Joe Pintz, Brett Freund, and Erin Smith was showcased.

Integrate: This gallery opening connects to themes found in studying vocation. Each artist sees the world in a unique way and interprets that beauty in various forms and ways. The variety of art presents by the artist shows their God-given talent to find beauty in things that others might not see it in. The personality in the pieces shows the artist’s unique perspective and view of the world like vocation does.

Evaluate: I appreciated the artwork that was presented at the gallery opening and was very intrigued at how detailed and beautiful the work was. One of the reasons I love art is because it is a visual representation of how someone else thinks and sees the world. Being artistic is a gift from God and by creating art these artists are serving their unique purpose God has given them. It is a humbling and surreal experience.

Callings Blog: Middle Ages

Describe: One of the major themes during the Middle Ages in Christianity that many individuals battled with was the ideology of active vs. contemplative faith. Contemplative faith is described as faith that is centered around God and one’s relationship with God, consisting mainly of isolation, prayer, small community, simplistic living, and ascetic lifestyle. Monasticism during this time were heavily based on this lifestyle and believed that this form of faith allowed an individual to get closest to God. Active faith is centralized around the idea of being a light in the world and serving others in order to show God’s love to them (or “charity” in the middle ages). Christine de Pisan, a medieval writer, describes that even the life of a princess can lead one astray from God because the excess wealth is the opposite of living in a simplistic way, which was valued during that time.

Interpret: The contemplative life is important to the study of church history and vocation because there has been an ongoing dispute regarding which is better throughout church history. Monasticism was centered around living in isolation, separating yourself from society, and deepening your relationship with God almost entirely through prayer, which was a demonstration of the contemplative life. Contemporary Christians and Protestants argue that an active life is much more similar to the life Jesus lived, and therefore we should life that life. These two much different portrayals of Christianity eventually lead into different categories of Christianity and various disputes regarding faith.

Evaluate: I think that this part of church history and Monasticism specifically is very interesting because I have always seen faith being lived out actively. Now reading and learning about the contemplative lifestyle, I can understand monasticism and where they were coming from in the ideology of valuing simplicity and living a simple life and I share the belief with the Monastic ideology that prayer is crucial to deepening a relationship with Christ. I think these are simple things that we as Christians can do to demonstrate our faith to the world. I think that the shift from Monasticism and the hierarchy within Christianity to a more contemporary and Westernized faith will be an interesting shift to see, especially when Martin Luther comes into the picture.

St. Macrina

Describe: St. Macrina’s story is one filled with sacrifice and life-changing events– from the death of her fiancé to the death of her brother. At the age of 12, she was betrothed to a man who passed before they got married. Rather than marrying a different man chosen by her father, she decided to devote herself fully to religion because she believed marrying another man would be breaking the commitment to her fiancé. Becoming a nun and choosing Christ as her eternal bridegroom was the beginning of a life of sacrifice for Macrina. As time went on, her priority in life was her faith and living an ascetic lifestyle to reflect it. Her family, her brother Gregory in particular, were inspired by her sacrifices. Marina was also her mother’s main support after her brother passed. Chastity, humility, and prayer were the major themes in Macrina’s life until she died saying her final prayer.

Integrate: Macrina made it her goal in life to reflect her faith through sacrifice. She showed an immense amount of ascetic sacrifice by denying herself material satisfaction and instead replaced it with improving her relationship with God and living like Christ would. In addition to this, she went above and beyond in service to her mother during the death of her brother. She was her mother’s emotional support and foundation, which is what ultimately got her through the tragedy. Gregory wrote about the many trials throughout Macrina’s life and how she even found life through her trials. Despite her difficult circumstances, she found who she was in Christ and made it her goal to lead others to do the same.

Evaluate: Macrina’s work is similar to the Service Learning projects we are doing in Honors. By volunteering 6 hours a week, we are taking a substantial amount of time that we could be using for ourselves and directing it towards others by being the hands and feet of God. Like Macrina demonstrated, being a Christian is no easy task, and we as Christians today should follow Macrina’s example and embrace that difficult lifestyle. In the end, it is more than worth it, and as we serve others and change lives, we also change our own. We can discover who we are and our vocation to God, which can pave the way for many more opportunities throughout or lives.

Martin Luther and the Called Life

Describe: Mark D. Tranvik, author of Martin Luther and the Called Life,  dives into what it means to have a vocation, and the story behind how Martin Luther found his. The book emphasizes the importance of having a vocation as a believer. Although baptism is the foundation to building a fruitful relationship with Christ, having a vocation, or a “called life”, is the next step in faith. Tranvik, however, reminds readers that living the life of a disciple means taking up their cross and following him. “Living a called life means recognizing, first of all, that this ongoing struggle with the past, the future, and the powers of darkness is a battle that every person must face daily” (Tranvik, 79). One important take-away I got from this reading is the reminder that being a Christian in this world is not easy. But, as Luther taught, we are free to be slaves to our neighbors. As Tranvik points out on page 77, “a sense of calling emerges when we view ourselves as liberated children of God, blessed with particular gifts, which we then are to use in service to our communities” (77).

Integrate: Having a vocation is one of the key components of your faith, according to Luther. I think that this is true when anyone has a relationship with God. Being Christian in an interconnected world requires us to have some sort of guide, goal, or motive to accomplish what God wants us to. The Kingdom of God is so beautiful because not only is it built on His followers, but each is also called to a unique purpose and has a personal relationship to the One who called them. I think that God incorporates the spiritual gifts into our vocation and places a calling in our hearts to spread the Gospel in a special way.
Evaluate: I admire Luther’s emphasis on vocation so much because it reminds us not to have a “lukewarm” faith, but rather to have a fire within us to spread God’s love. If we have a path God gave us to follow, no matter how narrow and winding the path is, we will glorify God and lead others to Him by following it. I really enjoyed this reading and was able to apply it to my life, which made it relatable but also historical. It made me think about what my vocation is and what I feel called to do with my life. I firmly believe that God has called me to use my creative thinking, artistic skills, or extroverted personality to witness to those around me or simply show them the love of Christ.

Jazz Concert

Describe: The 2017 Jazz concert was tonight at 7 pm, and it was held in the Pearson Theatre here on campus. It included performances by Vox 9 and Blue– from Christmas song we all know and love to classic jazz. Directed by William White and Adam Rossmiller, the groups presented the music they have prepared over the course of the semester and created an amazing concert with their performances.

Integrate: This concert was a great representation of a ritualistic event– an event that showcased the talents of the student in a ritual space and a “ritual time” (the holiday season). The concert brought together many people leading separate lives and gave them the gift of music in a community, which is something that brings many people joy and peace. Having an audience to support the hardworking students shows how interconnected our CSP community truly is. Staff, faculty, students, family, and the community came to support the artists on stage.

Evaluate: This event was very heartwarming and reminded me of the incredible community I am a part of here at Concordia. The love and appreciation for art and the support of the students was definitely very apparent and reminded me of what art is all about. It is about sharing your perception of the world and expressing yourself to your community and those around you in hopes to inspire them or leave an impression that they will remember, and their performances will certainly be remembered.



Networked: Book review

Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman are both authors and experts in the field of technology and future technological advancements, and how those relate to our culture and society. Lee Rainie is the director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center, and and is an advocate for the ever-changing media ecosystem, giving several dozen speeches a year to scholars and students, media leaders, technology executives, government officials, librarians, and nonprofit groups. Barry Wellman, a sociologist and co-director of the Toronto-based international NetLab Network, studies the areas of community sociology, the Internet, human-computer interaction and social structure in social networks in communities and organizations. Together, these two recognized authors wrote Networked: The New Social Operating System, a book which discusses how social networks, the Internet, and mobile connectivity are transforming and expanding social life in society today. The book’s goal is to encourage networked users to use technology in a positive way in order to network themselves and form communities.

The book is centered around a concept presented by the authors as “networked individualism”, which is a term for describing someone who is networked to other individuals through a large and diverse network. This concept being extremely new to society as of the past decade has asked the question: what does the networked individual look like? And how can we respond, in social aspects, to this advancement of technology in our culture? The book tackles these questions by first breaking down the most recent technological advancements in history, starting with the industrial revolution, then the internet revolution, and then the mobile revolution. Today’s’ networked culture has been formed from crucial components from each of these movements- from machinery to the world-wide-web to user connecting. This building-up of technologies had led us to where we are today: a culture with laptops and smartphones, being able to access internet and countless users from handheld devices. Rainie and Wellman argue that this has brought about a significant amount of change in our culture. One of those changes is our change in how people associate with one another. Relationships are typically determined by the physical groups we are a part of, for instance family, churches, teams, etc. The internet and mobile revolution, however, have brought about changes in how we approach those relationships. We are not in groups as much as we are networked individuals. “It is the person who is the focus, not the family, not the work unit, not the neighborhood, not the social group” (Rainie and Wellman, 6).

I believe that this cultural change can certainly be used in a positive way. However, as we gain more and more access to information online and people in the networked world, there is also more opportunities for unwanted information to make it onto our screens. It is crucial in this day and age to be careful and to have a “filter” when online. Taking advantage of account settings and ad blockers can safen and enhance one’s experience in the networked world, specifically online and on social media. Once precautions are taken, I believe that individuals and communities can make positive impacts on those around them online. As said in the book, “networked creators can truly use the internet for good. It can be used in self expression, an opportunity to learn, space for collaboration, and connecting with community. I very much agree with Rainie and Wellman on this argument, and enjoyed the positive outlook Networked had on our culture and technology.

Christmas Concert

Describe:  Music and the performing arts have always been big here at Concordia University. Every year there is a large Christmas concert to showcase all the students have learned and worked hard on throughout the entire year. This year was no exception. The name of the concert, Glad Tidings of Great Joy was not only just the title of the evening, but was a strong theme throughout the event. The strong student choirs, the various bands, and all kinds of musical performances created a mix of nostalgia and warmth for the upcoming holiday season. The choir sang some traditional hymns and wore formal red robes that tied both the Lutheran and Christmas aspects of the concert into their performance. The choral directors took turns directing beautiful pieces that brought the Christmas spirit into the room.

Integrate: This concert is a perfect example of how humans come together for an annual ritual of celebrating an important part of both our religion and culture. It takes place in a ritual space- the recently updated Buetow building, which has housed previous annual concerts. The formal red robes and hymns sung by the choir pointed to the traditional values our school holds being Lutheran, while the  Christmas songs performed throughout the evening brought in the Christmas spirit and a sense of community, which brings those in the room closer and reminds us of the reason we celebrate.

Evaluate: This event was not only very interesting and beautiful to watch and listen to, but it was also very heart-warming and reminded me that the one of the most important seasons of the year is ahead of us. It gave me a feeling of nostalgia and well as feelings of peace and joy. It is a tradition that I am familiar with from my high school, so it is an event I plan to attend every year. I was excited to have been able to listen to and support my friends in their performance and be able to get some Christmas spirit out of it too.



Who’s in Charge? Book Review

Who’s in Charge?: Book Review

Michael S. Gazzaniga is both a professor of psychology at the University of California, a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience, as well as the head of the SAGE Center in studying the mind. His most well-noted book, Who’s In Charge?, deals with the popular question of what exactly “free will” really is, and how that relates to the science and anatomy of the brain on a neurological level. The book discusses and explores what makes up the brain, how the brain is wired– specifically in the areas of learning and decision-making, and then applies that knowledge to commonly asked questions. In addressing a wide audience of thinkers, he redefines the concepts of “free will” and “responsibility”.

Gazzaniga starts his book off by establishing what we know to be true about the human brain. Referring back to basic anatomy and psychology, he puts his own perspective on facts that scientists would all agree on. He dives into neural-specificity and connections, using the phrase “Neurons that fire together wire together” to better understand the concept of activity-dependent processes developing the brain. He then goes on even deeper to discuss the complexity of our brains, the biggest concept being parallel processing. The brain is a hugely complex network of connections that are capable of firing and sending signals as needed– in some cases we are consciously aware of this and can voluntarily control it, and in other instances we cannot. Our brain is capable of firing both of these types simultaneously, so that we may, for instance, be able to focus on tasks in our daily lives and not worry about our heart pumping blood or our lungs taking in air. We technically don’t have freedom to make a lot of choices in our brains. From this comes the topic of emergence, which is one of Gazzaniga’s main points. The neurons that make up our brain are categorized into various “levels” of processing, which in turn have different rules that apply to them, which Gazzaniga calls “organized chaos”, “Chaos doesn’t mean that the system is behaving randomly, it means that it is unpredictable because it has many variables, it is too complex to measure, and even if it could be measured, theoretically the measurement cannot be done accurately and the tiniest inaccuracy would change the end result an enormous amount”. Because of this “organized chaos”, everyone is wired completely different from one another. Despite this, though, we are built to mirror one another and create morals within social constructs. Responsibility and the law are built within these social constructs: “…The way to think about responsibility is that it is an interaction between people, a social contract. Responsibility reflects a rule that emerges out of one or more agents interacting in a social context, and the hope that we share is that each person will follow certain rules.” (193). Gazzaniga argues that we have freedom, but only in a social context.

This book made me do a lot of thinking regarding what “free will” really means, and how much of my brain I actually consciously control. Although a lot of our processes happens automatically, I believe that there is a still a part of our brains (or minds) that I can control. I believe that we have a responsibility to God and to each other to use our past experiences in order to make wise decisions. Gazzaniga doesn’t mention how this correlates with spirituality, but I would say that the complexity of the brain and mind points to God’s creation because only He is capable of creating such intricate systems., which further points to the idea of us being built to be in communities and not be isolated. I overall enjoyed the book and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a deeper perspective on free will and something to chew on.