Olympics, Ed Sheeran, and Finding Community in the World’s Identity Crisis

Broken for more

We are all broken people

The Olympics Closing Ceremony and Ed Sheeran

Did anyone watch the Olympics Closing Ceremony? Thanks to a friend’s text, I got to watch Ed Sheeran sing at the Olympics, just in time. She asked me, “Wait, I thought you didn’t like his stuff”, or something to that degree. I decided to evaluate.

At first, the song “A Team” by Ed Sheeran bothered me a lot. I thought the lyrics were really demeaning and repulsive, despite the fact everyone else who heard him liked it. Then I listened to a cover version of it…and it seemed to really hit me with a new perspective. The song reflects the state of our world, in a sense. Its a powerful song. Check out the lyrics here. I gleaned that “the worst things in life come free”, and I really began to see, that it was true. Especially when it comes to love, friends, and any relationship.

If you turn on the news, right about now, you may hear about yet another shooting spree in the USA. You’re heard about the Colorado Shooting and now, there’s the shooting that happened at College Station. Our world is–and always has been– in a state of chaos, change, and quite frankly, an identity crisis.

So many people in the world are hurting right now. We all want answers. We all want something real. As a Christian, who also struggles with the daily futilities and frustrations of life, I realize there’s a whole lot more people who crave security and aren’t getting their needs met. Our very close friends and neighbors and coworkers are hurting, because of rejection we get daily from others. We were made for community.

The Story of Community

Talking in a Starbucks today with an old friend from high school brought up many good questions about true community. She said it best:

“Community will always be just like a sit com, unless Jesus is in the center of it.”

I never thought of that. Looking back to high school, I see it was true, though. People had cliques that they belonged to. That was their “community”. But, its very hurtful to people outside of it. People feel excluded and made less of if they can’t hang out with certain people or groups. You can see how this kind of “community” is like a sitcom. Exclusive, fake, and/or surface level. Its like being on “Friends” but not having any.

However, when we have TRUE community, Jesus is truly at the center– I believe it is the only way to finding real and deep community. What that looks like is this: when we love Jesus, we really love and care for other people, and have unity, and therefore, community. “Unity equals community” is what my sister said to me. When we have one purpose, to love others like Jesus, we can go deeper and really have a chance to invite more people in.
photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photo pin cc

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Response to Chik-Fil-A Gatherings (Part 1)

Recently you’ve heard Dan Cathy, CEO of Chik-Fil-A, speak up about his beliefs that marriage should be between a husband and wife. You’ve doubtless heard the remarks made from all sides of this issue, either from the LGBT community and/or supporters, or else from the conservative community.

As a concerned citizen and follower of Christ, I wanted to not only see first hand what was going on, but really get some perspective. I had a small video camera and some questions all made out to ask people about the event, so I hit the road and prayed for courage and boldness.

The lines were massive and non-stop. Im talking, traffic-stopping from 7pm (when I got there) until 10pm (when it closed). People were spilling out into the parkway as well, standing in line and waiting for over 30 mins to order. As a Christian who believes that the full Word of God is the Truth and Light, I had to take into account: “What would Jesus really do in this situation?”

CFA Line

Cars still in line at 10pm, closing time

So many people were in line… and there were only 4 people out in front of CFA advocating pro-Gay messages. I asked a few people in the CFA line some questions about why they were there that day. Most all of them said they were there to support what Cathy said and keep them in business. Later I heard even Mc Donalds wanted to help by closing down for the night so all the traffic could go to this cause as well. CFA said that wasn’t necessary.

I started to go up to people of various ages and stages of life: older women, college students who went to Baylor, women married with children, and then… a thought struck me. Had anyone even talked to the people in front of CFA holding the rainbow flags and a “Gay is Okay” sign?

I got to talk to an energetic young man from the group who openly said he was gay and a Christian. I asked him some questions, (stay tuned for a video about the night’s events) and he told me his story.

They had been outside CFA since 4pm and they mentioned that people would usually honk or show support or else flip them off. They said someone mooned them, and one guy even parked his car, quietly got out, and attacked them, trying to take away their sign. They said one of them got punched in the face… I think the police came to take away the man assaulting them, they said. I could almost not believe it.  Despite the man’s apparent disagreement with their message, that was not justice. If he disagreed there are other more subtle ways of doing that. Say, going inside CFA for instance.

This leads me to ask fellow Christians, “What Gospel do we spread?”. Would Jesus have subtly stood in line to make a statement that homosexuality is wrong? Or would he have gone over there and talked with these broken people who wanted to share their own views freely as Cathy had earlier? People are people, and sinners are sinners. Jesus loves us all and wants us to be free from sin to come to Him! How can we show that in a tangible way? Certainly not by screaming anti-gay propaganda and hate. Which is what was going on at many points.

As they kept telling me about the hate (and love) they had received from the Church and others since coming out, a man and his dog came up to the group and handed us a huge bag of food from Raising Cane’s chicken next door. Must have been $30 worth of chicken, fries, and sweet tea. I took that as provision from God :-). So, I ate Cane’s Chicken that night, with fellow sinners, just like Jesus would have.

Eventually I got to explain my testimony to them and how even when I felt like I would be judged by exposing my sins, my church received me and prayed for me and loved me through it. Thats the kind of community we were made for. Then, we prayed. I got to pray for them, even the ones who weren’t Christians, and I believe the Holy Spirit met us all. We were all touched.

Later, as I was heading back to my car, I noticed a small group of people singing worship songs right in front of where I parked! I joined in for the rest of the song, “Blessed Be Your Name”. Turns out, they were the youth group from Robinson’s First Baptist Church, and they were super encouraged someone came up and started to sing with them. Before I left we all prayed together too.

There is so much more to this story: its all a part of God’s story. I’d like to encourage the Body of Christ to take a look at our actions…we can’t be going along with the masses unwittingly or else we are hurting other people, rather than helping them. I am not saying it was wrong to eat at Chik-Fil-A that night, by any means! But we have to first look into the eyes of Jesus. His character was eminent in the Bible– He was a passionate, caring man who’s heart would not stand for injustice.

What do you think about any of this? Were you there at Chik-Fil-A, experiencing the even first hand? As the Body of Christ, how can we better show love to everyone while maintaing our values?

The Exley Farm and Apiary

Have you ever experienced life on a farm? Me either. But, I got to experience a day in the life of a farm-life kind of family. Enter the Exleys.

Nathan Exley, another intern I work with, invited us to come see his “farm” and Apiary ( he is a Beekeeper!).

When I first got there I was immediately greeted by the cutest 10 year old boy with a grin the size of New Hampshire, surely. He introduced himself kindly, and then we got to meet yet another Exley brother. There are 4 brothers in the Exley home, but one was at a summer camp.

Exley Brother holding a Hen

My new friend and his chicken little 🙂

First thing we got to do was look at the animals. Chickens. Check. Goats. Check. Chinese Multi-color Pheasant. Say what?! Yup. They had them all, and then some. I got to catch a few critters; I caught the “Big Brama” Hen and held her and met Goliath, the tiny rooster (who is actually quite old!). Paul and Andrew explained the different types of chickens and what kind of eggs they lay: there are brown, white, and even green eggs! “My name is Sam, I like green eggs and ham.” comes to mind…

Big Brama Hen

Petting the nice chicken.

Exley Brother holding eggs

White, Green, and Brown Eggs

A "Show Pheasant"

So pretty…never seen one like him before!

Next thing we got to discover was the garden. Cue epic music. Mrs. Exley, AKA Mama Exley in my book, took us to the garden and let us try fresh cow peas right off the vines. Very tasty. I can imagine them in a good stew with some oregano and parsley. But let me tell you– they grew it all, practically! Spaghetti squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, bell peppers, and I think I saw even a few marigolds. I think you could have a garden salad in your fist by the time you finish taking the tour.

Tomato

Fresh and ripe!

We went inside and the Exleys divvied up the garden spoils and offered to send us home with some. Yes, please, and thank you! This led to us trying some homemade dill and sweet-and-crunchy pickles! I am so glad I gave up being a picky eater, because even though I used to not like the sweet pickles, these were an amazing treat! Next wonder in sight was of course the honey. You cannot imagine how flavorful and magical honey fresh off the press is. So to speak. I was told to try it with some of the wax-honeycomb. It was like chewing gum, almost, ‘cept you got to spit out the wax. Doable, and delicious!

The whole day, I kept saying I wanted to see the bees. We almost didn’t get to because it was hot, but they made it work. I got to try on the Beekeeper helmet and see where the bees live! The Exleys are so brave… they didn’t even use a smoker on them when they opened the lid. Check it out:

in a BeeKeeper's Helmet

Stylish Bee-Keeper-Wear

Bee Home

This is the open box where the bees live! An “Apiary”

Next on the checklist (there really wasn’t one but let’s say there was for the sake of the story) was to see the boys’ beds. They were hand-carved cherry or maple wood, sanded and primed to perfection. Excellent craftsmanship– or should I say, Exley-lent? (Let us have a moment of silence for that bad pun) Anyways! They are fine craftsmen in many ways– they hewed their own wooden swords as well as arrows for their bows. Did I mention they do archery as well?

"Robin Hood"

They taught me how to shoot a bow and arrow! Yahoo!

After a rousing few turns of archery and shooting arrows into funky places, the lovely lads of the household played the fiddle and guitar for me. It was some wonderful music, let me tell ya: Lord of the Rings theme song, a few danceable folk tunes, and then some classic worship songs. By “classic”, I mean Rich Mullins was involved, and of course, “I’ll Fly Away” ended the medley of melodies.

By that time it was dinner, and the Exleys invited me to stay a bit for supper. I was floored. The kindness and generosity of this family blew me away, and I was very thankful indeed to learn so much about a farm and its facets in a family-friendly lifestyle. I am forever thankful for this excursion, and I implore you as you read this, to pray for this lovely family as they head out to Belize August 4th.

Thank you, Exleys, and cheerio!

Jesus: Human, Lonely, Happy

Jesus Is Like Me

Sometimes it gets really hard to connect with a God who seems so far away, so divine,  so “up in the heavens” even. I have been reading this book called “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge, and it certainly hits the mark. Im going to share a few things that really hit home for me, that showed me how human Jesus really was.

Jesus Wept

The Son of Man, weeping

Jesus Was More Human than Humanity

There’s a part in the Nicene Creed that says Jesus” was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary 
and became truly human.” We can hear that well enough, but tend to glaze over what that means. Eldredge says he bet the chipmunks made him laugh, and the Pharisees made him furious. He was fully human, not just God-playing-man, like Einstein dropping in for a First-grade math quiz or Mozart playing the flute with some Kindergarteners. G.K. Chesterton says, referring to Bethlehem at the end of the night after Jesus was born,

The strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity.

How can that be? Jesus… more human than humans? Think about this: sin, shame, neglect, and many thousands of other addictions have left humanity as just a shadow of ourselves. Christ came to show us how to truly be human, as he was, in its truest form. He hungered and thirsted, and even when he came back from the dead he asked the disciples to feed him (see luke 24: 36-43). He came as the Son of Man– not of God, of man.

Jesus: A Man of Sorrow and Loneliness

Jesus really enjoyed being around people. Like, really. Not everybody does, you know. He spent three years of his life living and traveling with 12 other men. He loved a good party, but he also loved being close and intimate with a few friends. In Gethsemane, he took Peter and the sons of Zebedee with him. He said, ” ‘ Stay here and keep watch with me ‘” (Matthew 26:37-38) because he didn’t want to be alone. How’s that for being human? Im beginning to see a face painted to look more like myself than I thought… a face that knew the pang of loneliness.

Growing up I struggled a lot with this issue of being alone. For years I never felt loved or pursued by people, throughout middle school and high school. At a summer Church Camp I told one of the counselors how lonely I felt and that I could relate to Jesus because I knew how lonely he must have been at times. To my shock she said something like, “you aren’t as lonely as Jesus was” or  even “Jesus wasn’t lonely like that”. I felt crushed….that I couldn’t relate to my savior after all.

But, the truth is, loneliness is something we all share with him. Thomas Wolfs said, “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”

You feel lonely when you feel misjudged by people, misused, misunderstood, and missed in general. Eldredge says, “To be wanted for what you can do, rather than who you are. To go on for years unappreciated, even unknown by those closest to you.”  Jesus felt very missed by his closest friends in John 14 when he explains to the disciples that even when he dies, he will prepare a room for them too. They missed the fact that Jesus was saying he has a plan for their companionship to continue even throughout eternity! How sad is that… to miss such a big part of Jesus.

A Man of Joy and Sorrow

Jesus wasn’t always feeling lonely though. He had many intimate moments with his disciples, as well as others. Think of the time Mary washed his feet with her hair and tears. Tender moments with Jesus. I think Jesus was really a happy man. Seriously– the Bible says the “joy of the Lord is our strength” and how could that be true if we knew our Jesus wasn’t a joyful person.

I read in Isaiah 53:3 that “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering”. I think of all the nice people I’ve met, and try to imagine someone like that going through incredible trials and abuse without having done anything to deserve that. That’s how I began to unfold more of the face of Jesus. As someone who is real, tender, and caring. He has a heart that is vast as the ocean, and he really, really wants to show us more of himself so we can connect with that heart.

I hope as you read this, you will begin to discover just how much we reflect him. His joy, his laughing, his feelings. We have them cause he first did.

What other emotions and feelings are you going through that you would like to know more about how Christ identified with?

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/28021905@N06/4525179809/”>jlwo</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photo pin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

A Tale of Two Cities: London and Austin

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

How appropriate these words are for this post. I’ve been traveling all over the world, it seems, just doing the next big thing. Over the past 6 months I’ve lived in London, England and also, Austin, Texas. Quite the stark contrast.

I’ve decided to make a comparison between the two large cities, because, after living in Austin and London for 3 Months, you start to see things differently.

London:

  • Not particularly pedestrian-friendly, but the public transportation is great– we would walk and take  trains or the Tube to get places.
  • Good selection of foods; except for the fact they lack one necessary component for life, Tex-Mex.
  • There was a myriad of people and accents– although, I felt like the one with an accent. For the first two weeks I tried my best to speak like a Brit but not only did that fail, it made me sound “mental” apparently.
  • There were a lot of parks. And loads of places to go running. I loved this part a lot.

Austin:

  • Allegedly “pedestrian friendly” but I’m still not used to driving around, holding up traffic when a bicyclist is putting along down South Congress at 7pm. Driving here is really bad. You don’t know how many times I’ve been flipped off…whoever said Southerners are friendly drivers, I don’t know what you were thinking!
  • It’s a Foodie’s paradise here. There are so many food stands and local, quirky shops that offer things like Sunflower Cheese, and Spinach-and-Rhubarb smoothies, and other random items that will leave you feeling like you just traveled the world using your tastebuds alone!
  • in Austin, Tx… there are a myriad of people from all over the world, but the local accent is the Texas twang. I love hearing Asians speak with a Texan accent at Whole Foods…
  • The terrain is spread out. A lot. I’d have to drive like 5 miles to get to Zilker Park (I’d bike there if I could but I don’t have one). Zilker Park has amazing things going on though, such as Blues on the Green each Wednesday night this summer, as well as a show of the Sound of Music.

Those are just a few geological and physiological differences between the cities. They are pretty similar, but that’s because of the fact they are large melting-pot cities. They say Austin is the Paris of the South!

But living in London was a totally different experience than living in Austin. Its not just the people. Its not just the culture, or the history… its something deeper, almost. Its like a heritage. A legacy of each city, as its thousands of inhabitants leave their marks daily in many ways.

In both places, it had been a struggle and a challenge to stay afloat and stay encouraged, despite the culture shock. God is with me– always. But sometimes you feel like you can get lost along with all the other people drifting along in the big city life.

But not everything is bad about the city. If I had a choice, I would live in the city, or near it, because I love being around so many people and so many places. I wonder if that’s just because Im young and naive. In each city I have discovered new friends, a new way of life, and a new adventure. I would not take back my time for a second– I have grown so much as a person, and it’s all thanks to God who guides it all. He’s my adventure.

Now, for a treat: Can you guess which photo was taken in England and which one is from Texas?

Image            Image

No worries… I bet you got that, easy. Just in case, one is St. Paul’s Cathedral, built by Christopher Wren, and the other is the Austin State Capitol building.

What are some things you like about your city? Where would you like to live for 3 months if you could?

Cheers, Y’all! 

Song Series Part 1

Why I Write What I Do

This week has been so crazy, in the sense that I’ve been inspired suddenly to write 5 songs. Here is the first one. Im hoping to refine each one and post it as it comes, to be a source of encouragement and creativity.

This is a song I wrote for a dear friend. If you’re feeling hopeless or afraid of the future or of something you’re facing now, this song is about that. I even made a video to post for you guys, if you want to listen along!

By the way….its written from God’s perspective. Just a heads up. 🙂

Ill Be There (Winter Blows)

Verse 1:
When you feel restless and your heart begins to stray
Just know Ive got you and I’m never far away;
I’ll be your guiding light, and I will hold you tight,
no matter where you go, I’m there–

Chorus:
And when the winter blows, Ill be there
My gentle arms will hold you, don’t be scared,
and even when it hurts, I’ll be there, I’ll be there.
When skies above turn gray, and shadows seem to stay,
when all around you things keep changing…Ill be there

Verse 2:
Your hands are shaking and you’re trembling inside
But don’t you worry, everything will be alright.
Ive come to set you free, so you can run to me
and see the plans Ive made for you–

Chorus

Bridge:
My love is stronger than your fear,
And I’m still holding all your tears,
The truth is stronger than you feel
But I can show you what is real…

Chorus

I’ll be there….

–© Diana Fadal June 2012

Graphic Design According to Christians

Hello! Im a Christian Graphic Designer and I have been discovering the role of artists and designers alike and how we relate our identity in the real world. I have just started working for a Christian company where I intern as a Graphic Designer. Here are some thoughts and things I have learned along the way about being a Christian and Designer. Feel free to scribble some out if you disagree, but I’m sure it may be better to leave a comment (that way your computer screen is less likely to hate you).

The Invention of Graphic Design
Being an artist and/or Graphic Designer is hard enough, especially in the economic situation at present and the lack of jobs available for freelance Graphic Designers to begin with! In our broad world today, being a Christian is even less popular, especially if you get out of the South. How can you glorify God with being a Christian Graphic Designer and reach the world as your audience when you have so much going against you?

Let’s take a look at a few things from the Bible. I bet you never knew God was a Graphic Designer.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2

See? God took something formless, dark, and empty and began the biggest, most beautiful work of art ever. The Great Star-Breather started off noticing there was darkness and created light, cleared the space, and began to work away.

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:3-4

Now, Im no physicist, and surely I can imagine how difficult it would be for anyone to separate light from darkness by sheer willpower. Its hard enough separating your two children fighting over a misplaced Pokemon card they found. But anyway, what I’ve gleaned from these two verses was the fact that light was created to stand out from the darkness. So, we as Christians take that to heart and become people of light. We shine and reveal the darkness and sometimes that seems painfully exposing.

Christian Methods in Graphic Design
One thing we are to remember as Christians is that we live on earth, but not in it. 2 Corinthians 10:3 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” We’ve heard this before, I’m sure. So, in translating that to how we do Graphic Design, its quite simple. Our methods should look different. But what does that look like?

Being a Christian Graphic Designer does not look the same for everyone. Just because you’re a Christian and Designer doesn’t mean you have to slap a Christian Ichthus (the little fish symbol) all over your art. Your talents are given to you by God to make a difference in the world. It is often a conception that there is a fine line between being portraying Christ in your work and being religious. According to this awesome article, Is It Hard Being a Christian Designer?, there are many things we can do as Christians who make graphic designs- but who will you choose to minister to?

Many Christian Designers end up working freelance or for churches, doing bulletins, posters, tee-shirts, and all that other cool stuff you see your local Youth Group wearing. But sometimes you want to make a difference in the rest of the world; you know, the parts that think “Christians are like everyone else, but are just busy on Sundays”. That’s quite a wake-up call, isn’t it? We must broaden our circles. The Great Commission calls us to go into all the world, not just to the “Christian bubbles.” We should want to stick out, and create compelling art that moves people to Christ.

God is not limited in His ministry- He wants to be a part of everything we do. No, rather, we should be a part of everything He invites us to do, and as a Graphic Designer I choose to honor God with my skills He has given me so I can see His glory here on earth! It would be the same if I was a nurse, a teacher, a basketball coach, a rocket scientist or a news reporter. What are your thoughts on this subject?

If you thought this article was interesting to you, check out this other post about Christianity and Graphic Design and what we can do to be excellent in our craft and let me know what you think!