Monday, July 28, 2008

The Mirror or the Battlefield?

"There is a trial in stillness; and oftentimes the still chamber makes a larger demand upon loving trust than the battlefield." - Philip Bennett Power

I had a wonderful conversation with one of my friends yesterday. She was telling me how hard this summer has been being back at home and not as busy as usual As a result, she is forced to deal with "herself" and is unable to ignore the reigning sin behind the thick curtain of activity. While I am not any less active than I am during the semester, the Lord has placed me in a unique situation where I am forced to reflect much more on my own heart. I feel her pain exactly! I would so much rather be in the thick of spiritual warfare and stand strong in my faith than have 1 hour taking an honest look into my own heart.

The hope that I cling to is the glory of the cross. When I do take a glimpse at my own heart, my horror is always followed by a deeper overwhelment of God's grace.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ciao, Mia Amica!

Well, she's off! My best friend, Bekah, has officially left me to spend 5 months in Italy! She studied abroad in Europe last summer and is returning to Italy to be an Au Pair for the rest of the summer and then to study next semester in Tuscany.

Every summer since our early high school days, I have helped Bekah pack. During highschool, I helped her pack for CWIS every year. Those were crazy times. We did a lot of yelling and screaming at each other! I am a minimalist packer and she is...the exact opposite. I used to tell her that we should just rent a U-Haul and be done with it! On top of that, the act of "packing" itself always dreadfully overwhelmed her! She would sit in a pile of her clothes almost at the verge of tears! I would more or less be "exhorting" her in probably not the most delicate of ways! "Bekah! Just pick up something and put it in the bag!!"

Last year was even better. We were not packing for our 1 week long summer camp; we were packing for her study abroad trip to Europe! She was only allowed to bring what she could fit into a backpack. The Princess manages to buy the largest backpack I have ever seen! It stretched up about a foot over her head! After going through and debating each single item's worthiness to be included, I reduced her pile as much as I possibly could without jeopardizing our friendship! In the meantime, her dad must have heard the arguing from downstairs and walked into the room saying, "What is going on?...Oh, hi, Amber!!" He shut the door and walked out. (The red-head Philosophy major and the blonde English major frequently get into many verbal matches!) I carefully packed everything in as efficiently as I could. We just BARELY fit everything in and the bag was at least 70 lbs.
She said, "okay, great! We are done!"
"Nope," I said, "You are going to put this on, walk downstairs and around the cul-de-sac."
"Amber, I don't need to do th-"
"YES, you do."
"Okay, FINE."
We mounted it on her back and pushed her little optimistic self out her bedroom door. She stopped at the staircase. "Go" I said. With a role of the eyes and something that sounded like, "you are so mean," she walked down the stairs. About halfway down the top of her bag it the ceiling of the stairway and she slipped. I grabbed the top of the bag and pulled her back up. "Keep going," I said. We finally made it down to the kitchen.
"That was easy enough." She triumphantly declared. "Let’s go back up now."
"No, Bekah, we are going to take a little walk now." I said noticing her straining shoulders.
"OKAY, OKAY!" She screamed. "Can you just take this off of me please....its really hurting me now."
Needless to say, she was a little more cooperative going back through everything. She still refused to leave her hairdryer and straightener!

After traveling so much last year, I think she realized the value of packing light! This year, when I walked into the room to gaze upon the mountain that I would have to fit into a suitcase, I was pleasantly surprised! She had several piles folded on her bed and that was it! I still went through everything and made her justify why she was taking it. We got rid of a few extra things and then I started packing! I felt like I was making clothes origami! I folded everything super small and then lined it up in the suitcase like books on a bookshelf. (thanks for the tip, Tay!) While she did do much better limiting her items, she still can't pack it right. Perhaps I am too meticulous...but everything fit into a 45 lb suitcase!

After snuggling on the couch watching an Oscar Wild movie and spening one last night having a late-night conversation before dozing off, we said "goodbye."

I love you, Beks! I know you are going to have such a great time and I really hope to see you in November!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Haircut!

Finally, my friends won't have to listen to me complain about my hair anymore! I tried to grow it out for my roommate's wedding and to do something different. From day 1 I was not liking it! I held out until it was down to my shoulders and then couldn't take it anymore! I have never been so focused on my hair in my life! I would much prefer to have a cute style that I can spend 5 minutes fixing in the morning and then not think about it for the rest of the day! Besides, being in Europe next year, I will need something that travels well and does not require blow dryer, brushes, etc. Now, all I need is some wax and I'm ready to go!

Warning: it is very short and a pretty drastic change!!

I think it is fun! I had to get used to it...but now I really like it! I can slick it back like Audrey Hepburn, funk it up, pull the bangs back or down, etc.

Tara, my stylist, is the sweetest girl in the world! She is a believer who does a great job reaching out to the artistic community. She changes her hair every 3 weeks! I have seen it pink on top and dark on the bottom, dark on top with pink on the bottom, long with extensions, or shorter than mine. Mom and I think she looks like Tinker Bell and she is super fun! She was so excited when I told her to cut it off and seemed to have so much fun with it!!

When Amanda saw it, I have never seen her eyes get so big and heard her gasp so loud! (kind of like when we found that HUGE spider in the shower!) But, after about an hour, she said she really liked it and thought it was very "me." :)

I think my sister is still crying...probably along with my dad! My mom, however, wants to get a cut just like mine now! Patrick came over last night and said, "Its not as bad as I thought...I kinda like it!" I was shocked! This is the kid who has eaten the same thing for breakfast since he was 6!

Tell me what you think!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Great Summer Salad

I love fresh vegetables and have been addicted to this salad all summer! I seriously could eat it every day. It is sort of a spin on Ensalada Caprese. Of course, I am a "free spirit" cook and don't like specific recipes. I usually throw in whatever I have that I think will be good. This is what it looks like usually:

Fresh Mozzarella
Red onion slices
FRESH BASIL (key ingredient)
Pine Nuts
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

I have added peppers, cucumbers, green olives, and fresh oregano before and it is always wonderful! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another Thesis!

It is here! Last week I had the existential experience that gave birth to my thesis topic! I saw bright lights, probably heard angels singing, and definitely felt the "burning in the bosom!"

I had been stressing over my thesis topic and was lost in another world trying to piece something together that would be interesting and unique. I was driving everyone crazy - including my roommate who I was using as a sounding board! She graciously smiled and nodded while I'm sure I made no sense and probably did not speak in complete sentences! I found it impossible to even complete the other reading required for my independent study without knowing the "direction" I was headed. I knew I wanted to do something in the Comparative Religious Ethics field. However, the only two religions I really wanted to focus on were Islam and Secularism. However, I knew I would be intellectually crucified for calling Secularism a religion. I wanted to incorporate Natural Law in somewhere without doing a survey of natural law in various cultures. To say the least, I had thoroughly analyzed myself into a corner!

While I was "in my cave", I kept coming back to a topic I heard Taylor mention months ago. She said, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat to write a thesis on comparing Allah vs. Yahweh in the Islamic and Chiristian Ethical systems?" As the weeks went by, I could not get this idea out of my head. One day, I sat back and thought, "Okay, Amber, hypothetically picture yourself writing on this topic. What would it look like in a thesis?" At that moment, I saw the bright, glowing lights and heard sounds resembling Faure's Requiem all around me! I immediately called Taylor and asked, " married are you to that thesis topic?"
She said, "Well, I'm not really married to it."
"Well, are you dating it then??"
She replied, "No, and I'm not totally positive I will even do a masters in Ethics. I might switch to creative writing."
We both determined, for the sake of my sanity (and her's since she was also subject to my analytical freak-outs), I would take that topic.

So, here it is. I am going to do a comparative religious analysis of the natures of Allah vs. Yahweh and the ethical implications of their natures as meta-ethic justifiability for the normative ethic.

Muslims believe that whatever Allah says is good. In the academic world, this is called "voluntarism." This means that if Allah tells you to kill your brother, it is good because he told you so. An Islamic theologian, Ibn Hazm, writes:

If God the Exalted had informed us that he would punish us for the acts of others...or for our own obedience, all that would have been right and just, and we should have been obliged to accept it.

Yahweh, however, only tells us to do good things. This does not mean that there is this Platonic force called "The Good" that exists above Him. Rather, He has a fixed nature and is unable to contradict that nature. The moral laws are derived from His fixed character and are therefore fixed.

The neat thing about this topic is that it incorporates secularism indirectly. This analysis is what many Secularists are interested in and answers many of the questions they are currently asking. It is especially popular in Europe where Islam is making great headway where Christianity reigned for centuries.

One of the specific questions I will be dealing with is, "Is Yahweh a moral monster?" Christians say Allah is a ruthless and blood-thirsty tyrant unlike the Bible's "God of love." However, many Muslims and Secularists reply by saying, "Have you read your own Old Testament? There is not much different between Allah and Yahweh." I haven't seen this question answered well by the Christian community. I have the privilege of being around wonderful faculty at Southeastern from all areas of study and I am really looking forward to implementing Old Testament study into my Ethics thesis!

My overall hope for this work is to provide a fair analysis of these two religions in order to answer questions that are being asked today. Through the analysis, I know it will be strikingly obvious that these two are not the same gods and that Yahweh is the one true God.

Thoughts anyone??

Monday, July 14, 2008

Drivenness Redirected

While spending a week with one of my dear friends, she randomly asked me, "when you are falling asleep, do you make up fictional stories in your head?"
I relpied sarcastically, "Are you asking me if I tell myself bedtime stories to lull myself to sleep? Um, no."
"Oh", she said. "Then what are you thinking about?"
I thought for a moment and replied, "well, I reflect on the day, process my thoughts, and then plan my to-do list for the next day."
"Doesn't that stress you out?" she asked.
"No," I said, "It actually helps me relax knowing I have not forgotten anything and I have everything under control."

After that conversation, I began to reflect more on the strengths and weaknesses derived from this character trait! Perhaps it should have hit me harder while I was paralyzed in the hospital several years ago due to an unattended strep infection that became very serious. I was forced to further reflect on this issue while writing the autobiography required for my IMB application. Starring at your personality strengths vs. weaknesses on paper is indeed sobering.

Those who know me know that I am love organizing, analyzing and planning. As a result, I have always been very driven and am constantly working on "achieving." I strongly believe many high school and college students SHOULD be more focused and driven. I never viewed the highschool and college years as the time after childhood when you get your last "hurrah"before adulthood. More than just dry "achievement," I have also had a passion for life and want to see and do it all! Life is too short and I want to cram as much as I can into the short years the Lord gives me!

As life goes on, I've learned the Lord loves to throw monkey-wrenches into the plans of people like myself. I have been hit with a few of these in my life and they certainly have made an impact on me. Now, ironically, I am fine with God changing my plans because I trust in his lovingkindness and sovereignty. However, I still find myself planning nonetheless! It is almost as if I am fine with God changing my path but I just want to know that I could stay on the current path and everything would work out. I don't think I am doubting that God will work everything out, but I just want "the plan" based on the status quo! I call it "verified possibility"...:) You can see this even in the way I take walks! Taylor, Heidi and I like to walk in the evenings. They just "walk" with no real destination or plan in mind. I, however, cannot do that! While we are walking, I am constantly beggin gthem to give me even a vague "idea" of our destination, route, time limit, etc. They, of course, refuse to oblige and just laugh at me!

There is a song written by Charlie Hall called "One Thing" that really strikes me. One of the verses says:

All of life comes down to just one thing:
and that's to know you, oh Jesus
and make you known

The way this phrase is worded really hit me like a ton of bricks. Of course, I surrendered my life to Christ a long time ago, but this shed light on an all new corner of my life and gave me a deeper understanding of surrender. It spoke to my lust for planning and for my mind that is constantly analyzing. Even though I am fine with "planning" within God's plan and I desperately want His will for my life, my heart's perspective has changed. I know God gave me that ability to be used fo rhis glory. How amazing would it be if I focused all my drivenness and devotion onto the real meaning of life: knowing Christ and making him known?? I know this has been the desire of my heart for many years, but have I been giving it all the ammo I've got? Of course, the Lord is not honored through laziness or apathy. The lesson learned is not to necessarily loose those personality traits but to redirect them toward what really matters.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Wonders of the Gospel

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who had a kind and loving Father. The little girl delighted in her Father and the Father delighted in His little girl. The girl loved her Father so much and desperately wanted to please Him in everything she did. One day, the Father presented the little girl a gift. This gift was the most precious, beautiful and desired treasure the little girl could ever want. When He placed it in her hands, all she could do was tremble. She was too afraid look upon its beauty for fear it would vanish from her fingertips. The feeling of unworthiness came over her as she refused to allow herself to desire such a wonderful present. Rather than taking the gift, holding it close, and looking up at her father with eyes full of thankfulness and admiration, she cast her eyes away and refused to take the gift. “Surely by accepting something so wonderful, I would not please my father,” she thought. “He alone must be my treasure. If I accept this, I will not be focused on serving him!” She was overcome with fear: fear that she would love the gift and not the Giver of the gift. She wanted the gift more than anything in the world but the fact that it gave her so much pleasure frightened her.

Her loving father looked down at her and said, “My child, don’t you know that I delight in giving good gifts to my children? Don’t you know that I choose to be honored through the gifts and pleasures I bestow on those who love me? Serving me is not an action that must be continually on your mind; it is a reaction that flows from a heart that has been filled by my love and grace. You received my grace when you became my child. This gift, as wonderful as it is, is far less than that gift. If you can accept that good gift, can’t you accept this one?”

Such is the wonder of the Gospel.

Such is the wonder of life as a Child of God.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Happy Couple

To view the rest of the pictures, go to

McLean Wedding

Today was the big day for Andy and Sarah! It was also a big day for me marking my first wedding taking pictures with Joanna! It was so much fun! It was quite camera did not stop snapping shots for 2 minutes straight all day long! Everything moves so fast...and everything must be captured! The bridal party was super patient as I'm sure we seemed like the paparazzi! Putting myself in their shoes, I think I have decided I DON'T want a photographer at my wedding! They are quite annoying! :)

Here are some shots:

Yes, leave it to me to find the kid...:) This guy got so excited when I bent down and said, "Can I take your picture??"

Second Shooter....Here I Come!

A friend of mine introduced me to a local photographer named Joanna Liston ( and mentioned to her that I liked photography. She asked me to join her for a couple of gigs this summer as her second shooter. Of course I was thrilled to have the experience and glean from a pro! I have really enjoyed working with her! She is very talented and has a great heart for the Lord.

Our first outing was a Bridal. I have never even been to one much less taken pictures! It was VERY hot but so nice to be outside playing around with what is quickly becoming one of my favorite hobbies! Now that the wedding is over, I can now post some of the results!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Instinct or Conscience?

On my day off work for July 4th, I packed up my books and walked up to a local coffee shop downtown Wake Forest. I opened my complete book of C.S. Lewis' Signature Classics to "The Abolition of Man" and indulged in some "intellectual candy" as the guys in my History of Ideas class used to say.

The Abolition of Man is quite depressing and poignant. It describes current philosophical
trends that result in the "de-humanizing" of mankind. I was struck by how "ahead of his times" Lewis' works are! While he certainly refutes relativism, his points also apply to the New Atheists who suggest there is an absolute standard of morality derived from biology. This new philosophical trend seems to be a more "sophisticated" form of atheism but is really the same thing in all new packaging.

Even though the New Atheist will admit to an objective right or wrong, they will not admit to an objective reality. They attempt to start with the normative ethic and skip the first step: the meta-ethic. They seek to remove "ought" from "is." Consequently, they have no justifiability.

By reducing everything to nature, the New Atheists have managed to reduce conscience to instinct. C.S. Lewis offers the following explanation for why they do this:

From this point of view the conquest of Nature appears in a new light. We reduce things to mere Nature "in order that" we may "conquer" them. We are always conquering Nature, because "Nature" is the name for what we have, to some extent, conquered. The price of conquest is to treat a thing as mere Nature. Every conquest over Nature increases her domain. The stars do not become Nature till we can weigh and measure them: the soul does not become Nature till we can psychoanalyse her. The wresting of powers "from" Nature is also the surrendering of things "to" Nature. As long as this process stops short of the final stage we may well hold that the gain outweighs the loss. But as soon as we take the final steop of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified, for this time the being who stood to gain and the being who has been sacrificed are one and the same. This is one of the many instances where to carry a principle to what seems its logical conclusion produces absurdity. It is like the famous Irishman who found that a certain kind of stove reduced his fuel bill by half and thence concluded that two stoves of the same kind would enable him to warm his house with no fuel at all. It is the magician's bargain: give up our soul, get power in return.

New Atheism, while managing to reduce conscience to instinct, also manages to reduce man not as an being equal with nature, but as a slave of it. Lewis argues that our attempt to control nature "because we can" actually makes us a slave to it. Human beings do have the innate desire to make something better or improved. I argue that this is part of the Image of God in man. We live in a world ordered by the Creator over the creation. Because we are in His image, we are creators as well. Those who believe science will make humanity better are operating on their natural inclination to create or better something. However, they are doing so only after they have stepped out of the realm of the meta-ethic. As Lewis observes:

In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, no stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. . . . Each new power won "by" man is a power "over" man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car.

This statement reminded me of Huxley's A Brave New World in the way the older generation attempted to create a perfect race with no problems (crimes, emotional pain, etc) but consequently enslaved them. It seems then, our god-given creativity must be used within the holistic created order which He put in place. Even though the New Atheists admit to "normative ethic" and objective morality, their system continues to de-humanize mankind. The new packaging might be "new and improved" but the final product is the same.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Siding with Science

Richard Lewontin, population biologist at Harvard, brilliantly articulates the following in the New York Review of Books:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific comunity for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. Iti s not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the pehenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are foced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Morever, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.

After reading through a survey of the Great Books, it is really amazing to step back and see trends and movements in the history of thought. One of the most striking is in the realm of epistemology. The ancient greeks (especially Plato) believed the best way to know something is through reason and not the senses. They recognized that senses are deceptive and cannot be trusted. Many say the great epistemological shift came with Francis Bacon, or the Enlightenment in general. With this shift came the view that one can can only know something certainly through the senses. This is the view we are familiar with today. In our world, if one can't experience something with their five senses, it is not real and is either dismissed as speculation, placed in the realm of "belief" (which is defined as anti-reason) or considered a matter of opinion.

According to Lewontin, though science is proven time and again to not be entirely justifiable through the senses, people today still hold onto it with "religious devotion." Perhaps they are not holding to their own method of knowledge. How ironic.