Sunday, January 5, 2014

the one-year alternative graduate school program

Several months ago my friend Scott Beebe tweeted a link to a blog post titled “The One-Year, Alternative Graduate School Program". Granted there is no diploma or certificate waiting at the end. There isn't even anything to add to my resume. Still, I absolutely love the idea!

Although I have a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s degree, I don't want to use that as an excuse to stop learning and experiencing new things (and I’m not just talking about Disney movies).

That’s why I've decided to take on the challenge of meeting these items in the next year/two years.

Since I can’t seem to figure out what direction to go in for my actual grad degree, I hope that working through the items on this list will help me to broaden my outlook on the world. Whether I decide to pursue a master’s degree or I end up going straight to some type of social/human services work, I hope that the knowledge gained through this experience will make me a more well-rounded individual and more effective contributor to my community and world.

You can view the original program on the blog linked above. I've edited several items and even added a few to better fit my life and direction of interests. For example, although a round-the-world plane ticket would be exciting, I decided to substitute that item for a foreign missions trip so that I can broaden my missional outlook. For the fiction and non-fiction books, I’ve included lists of the ones that I have selected so far. The list will surely change throughout the time that I read them, but I wanted to have a good starting point.
  •  Subscribe to The Economist and read each issue 
  • Memorize the names of every country, world capital, and current president/prime minister in the world (possibly substitute with memorizing names of political/economic/community/global leaders who may be influential for non-profit development)
  • Take a foreign missions trip.
  • Read the Torah, New Testament, Koran, and teachings of Buddha (read religious texts of country for foreign missions trip)
  • Become familiar with a second language – use a language learning app on a weekly basis
  • Loan money through
  • Acquire at least three new skills (not become an expert, just functionally proficient)

  • Read 30 non-fiction books
    • The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs
    • When Helping Hurts – David Platt 
    • The Hole in Our Gospel – Richard Stearns
    •  Fearless – Max Lucado
    • Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie
    •  A Fistful of Rice – Vikram Akula
    •  Miracle on Luckie Street – Bob Williamson
    • Why Don’t They Just Get a Job – Liane Phillips
    •  The Explicit Gospel – Matt Chandler
    • The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis
    • What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam – John Esposito
    • Grace – Max Lucado
    • Everyone Communicates, Few Connect – John Maxwell
    • Follow – Floyd McClung
    • A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
    • The Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis
    • Miracles – C.S. Lewis
    • The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis
    • Crash the Chatterbox – Steven Furtick
    • Quiet – Susan Cain

  • Read 20 classic novels
    • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller 
    • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
    • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
    • Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
    • 1984 – George Orwell
    • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Hurston
    • The Color Purple – Alice Walker
    • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
    • Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
    • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
    • For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
    • Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – Victor Hugo
    • The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
    • The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
    • Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
    • The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
    •  Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne      
    • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
    • The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank
  •  Become comfortable with basic presentation and public speaking skills
  • Start a blog and post regularly
  • Set your home page to; read the page shown every time you open your browser
  • Listen to at least one “TED Talk” a week -

Saturday, October 15, 2011

life unedited: funeral to photo-shopped Christianity

Every moment in life is an opportunity to learn and grow, and sometimes the very things that we're begging God to teach us can be found in the most frustrating aspects of life.

Among the many lessons I've been slapped in the face with over the past few weeks and months, is the fact that too often as Christians we put on a happy face, 'photo-shopping' our lives by editing out all the bad things so the world can see seemingly perfect followers of Christ. But as an Air1 DJ wrote in his blog last week, we need to remember that our stories aren't complete. We're not at the end, so it's OK to admit that we're not in a good place right now. So, here's to blogging again. This time, a collection of honest, unedited thoughts.

What started out as a prayer for humility several weeks ago has led me through some of the most frustrating and draining days ever, and I've never felt more uncertain of my choices before (which is saying something for someone as indecisive as me).

All my life I've been a paranoid perfectionist. I cried the first time I couldn't beat my older brother at a video game. In school I would rip out a page of notes and re-write them if they were too messy. My closet is color-coded. I obsess over things until they're just right, and would rather inconvenience myself than disappoint someone else.

The class I'm currently taking to further my education is beating me. As a straight-A student, I'm frustrated to no end with the fact that this class, the one thing I thought I wanted to do with my life, isn't coming easily to me. Despite my best efforts, I'm not living up to the student image I built for myself in my undergraduate career. On top of that I feel burnt out and pulled in a hundred different directions. Between working with a Church on campus, leading a small group, and getting involved in youth group, any chance to relax with my close friends is the only sanity I have left.

I'm sure that God is telling me to let go, but knowing so and doing so seem miles apart.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

be my everything

“And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.” Hosea 4:12

When we think about what is important in our friendships and relationships, words like “honest”, “trustworthy”, and “faithful” come to mind. We empathize with the bitter complaints of those who have experienced the pain of a cheater. How many of us would ever condone or praise the acts of those who are unfaithful?

We shake our heads at the twisted love stories found in Hollywood, not realizing that we do the same thing every day.

The Old Testament is riddled with what seems to be endless stories of the Israelites setting their priorities wrong. As I spend time in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, and Hosea, I'm struck by the similarities between our attitude toward God, and theirs. A common thread runs through each of the books which unites more than just their timeline. Despite being a nation of God’s chosen people, the Israelites exhibit a generational pattern of kings who rise and fall with their choices to pursue the world.

Time after time, God calls out through His prophets, beckoning His bride to turn to Him. Time after time, altars are built to serve false gods.

Most strongly through the prophet Hosea, God speaks to Israel and likens them to a harlot, an adulterer, a cheater. He loves Israel, but that love is thrown to the wayside and ignored as they pursue their idols.

In essence? Idolatry = adultery.

If we as the church are the bride of Christ, anything that we devote ourselves to above Him is adultery. As His bride, shouldn't we do anything to spend time with Him, to hear His voice? Are we committing adultery with the world?

The amazing part? God doesn’t react to me as a spurned lover and turn away. He patiently waits with open arms and forgiveness. His grace is sufficient, and my prayer is that He would be my everything.

God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping

God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting

God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Saturday, March 12, 2011

one of those forwards

I received this as an e-mail forward (which I don't generally like) but thought it was a fun list. It was designed as a "live life to the fullest in 2011" guide.

  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
  • Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants
  • Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy
  • Make time to pray.
  • Play more games
  • Read more books than you did last year
  • Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day
  • Sleep for 7 hours.
  • Take a 10-30 minutes walk daily. And while you walk, smile.
  • Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  • Don't have negative thoughts or worry about things you cannot control.
  • Don't over do. Keep your limits.
  • Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  • Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
  • Dream more while you are awake
  • Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  • Forget issues of the past. Don't remind people of mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
  • Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.
  • You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree...
  • Call your family often.
  • Each day give something good to others.
  • Forgive everyone for everything..
  • Spend time w/ people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
  • Try to make at least three people smile each day.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business.
  • Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
  • Do the right thing!
  • Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
  • God heals everything.
  • However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  • No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  • The best is yet to come.
  • When you awake alive in the morning, thank God for it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trivial Pursuit & Perspective

When we slow down and sit in the silence of a moment, what will we find that we are giving our lives to?

Over the weekend I spent a considerable amount of time with my extended family, reminiscing good times as we hoped and prayed for the healing of a member of the family who is ill. As we sat in the hospital together, sometimes talking, sometimes just enjoying the comfort of each other's company and the silence of our memories, I found a fresh perspective.

First, I was reminded of the importance of family. I was 5 years old when I last saw the cousins that I spent the weekend with, and as I talked and laughed with them I wished it had not been that long. Friendships are important, and for some that may be the only family you know. But don't let an illness be what it takes to bring you closer to your family.

Second, I developed an intolerance for the petty complaints of the day. On returning to the hotel one evening I checked Facebook only to find that I could not stand to read the posts. After spending all day in the hospital with someone I love dearly, my first impulse was wanting to punch everyone who wrote endlessly of how they nearly died when the internet was out for a few hours, or how they hate their parents for a curfew.

Are we really spending our time worrying and complaining about these things? It breaks my heart to see where my generation invests its time. Is getting drunk on the weekend and posting pictures on facebook really the highlight of life?

I know that I am equally guilty of quickly becoming annoyed. The list of little things that I allow to control my attitude and perspective is long. If my hope was truly in Christ, would I be consumed with complaints when something small goes awry?

After this weekend, the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 have become a challenge for me: "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

As hard as it is to sit in the hospital room and be thankful, or to sit at home with no internet and rejoice, an attitude of gratitude will help us to be content in our circumstances and to invest our time and energy in what matters most. Don't cry over your loss of internet, find a way to make your time without it meaningful. Don't sit and worry when a loved one is ill, connect with family and celebrate their life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

enter His gates with thanksgiving

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks
to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindess is everlasting
and His faithfulness to all generations."
- Psalm 100:4-5

In a day and age when depressing is what sells newspapers and where complaining is easier in conversation than a positive outlook, it is so easy to forget the apostle Paul's encouragement to "give thanks in everything" (1 Thess. 5:18).

As Christians, I think we often quote scriptures such as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 without truly applying it to our daily lives. I wish that I could say that my attitude was one of continuous thanksgiving.

If you think you are a thankful person, I challenge you to sit down and write out 10 things you are thankful for. It seems simple enough, but it definitely humbled me as I sat and tried to identify things that I was thankful for. What are you thankful for? What should you be thankful for? What has God done for you this year?

I'm thankful for...

  • My Savior - How amazing that even in my lowest moments, when I didn’t deserve to be brought out, all I had to do was cry out to Him to rescue me. So many things could have gone wrong, so many more mistakes could have been made, but in grace He reached down and opened my eyes. Thank You, God, for sending Your Son to take my place. Thank You for saving me.

  • Family - We've been through quite a lot this year and are still pushing through. My parents have been a constant, always guiding us with their love and faith, showing us with their actions what it means to trust God. Each of my siblings has been to me the best friends that I could ever ask for. Honestly, I am so thankful to God for each member of the family and am truly blessed to be a Moonen.

  • Friendships/ LOCC family – After reaching a point in church where my heart for serving became no longer a response of love to God but turned into a matter of obligation, He was faithful to give me a fresh start with encouraging friends. It is such a blessing to have found a group of people who live out their beliefs and encourage me to do the same. I am so thankful for this group of people!

  • Graduation/ Time at USCB – The four years that led up to my graduation in May were four of the most amazing years of my life so far. God brought so many opportunities my way and there is nothing that I regret. I was able to achieve so much in my time at USCB, and I am so thankful for the support of the faculty and staff that I received while in school and on graduation.

  • No student loans – This goes along with graduation, but I am so thankful to God for His provision for me in my time at school. I was so blessed with scholarships and stipends that I was able to work my way through college without taking any loans.

  • My job – I have been given so much favor at the university, that at times it is overwhelming. Although this is not where I feel I will be long-term, I know that God has provided me with this job and I am thankful for it. I feel blessed to be able to say that I had a full-time position open for me after graduation.

  • The worship team – Yes, at times there was confusion and hurt, but looking back I can say that I am thankful for the opportunity to be on the team. Although I have so much more to learn musically, I am glad that God allowed me to be there for the time that I was. I loved it and it was a great experience.

  • SGM – In some of the dry times and the trying times, Sovereign Grace Ministries was only a few clicks away. Whether with a sermon from CJ Mahaney to challenge me, or just the right worship music to encourage me, SGM has always remained a pivotal piece of my spiritual walk. I'm thankful I grew up with such a solid background and that the pastors there are still able to encourage me.

  • Elya – I planned on keeping this post as anonymous as possible, but I am so thankful for my best friend. Although I’ve only seen her once or twice in the past 5 years, she is always there with the perfect encouragement when it is needed. I am so thankful to God that He not only gave me her friendship but that He has continued our friendship through the years and distance. I would not trade her for the world!

  • Constant provision – This is the only way to effectively sum up the fact that I’ve made it through this year in one piece, always with more than enough. Even in the moments when it seemed like things would fall apart, I can see that I had no reason to worry because God was always there, providing for me, lifting me up, and taking me forward. There were days this year when it seemed like life slapped me in the face with questions and situations that inevitably let to “why me” moments. Even in those moments, my Savior was by my side, holding me up. I can truly say that I am blessed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

defining love

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

It is so easy to look at this scripture and say "Praise God! He loves me so much to be patient... and never fail me!" But if this is the definition of love, and we ourselves claim to love him, what should that look like?

We would... willing to wait for the things we ask of Him, knowing that His love for us is more important than anything else; speak highly of Him to those around us and not get upset when others do better or prosper more than we do; acknowledge that without Him we are nothing; conduct ourselves in a manner that glorifies Him at all times; seek to serve Him and others rather than serving ourselves; not become angry when things do not go "our way"; not complain when we suffer for the sake of our testimony in Him; not give ourselves to fleshly lifestyles, but rejoice in the truth of the gospel and a life lived for Christ; accept all trials and tribulations, know that it is for Him; believe in His word; hold on to the hope that He give us; and never give our time and energy to a pursuit above Him but hold Him in highest regard as the true love of our lives.

Does this sound like your relationship with God? While it is true that God demonstrated his love for us by first loving us and sending His son for us, when we claim to love God, do we understand what that means as we relate to Him?