Questions for the New Year

2017 is here!! A new year is an opportunity for new beginnings and life change. How will you respond?

Instead of making resolutions (which are notoriously hard to follow for most us), I prefer to take inventory with myself so I can move forward with deliberation.

Which each of these questions comes an implicit follow-up question: “How will I learn from this in 2017?” I hope that each of them will help guide you as you set your course for the year to come.

goals

  • What were my greatest victories in 2016?
  • Where did I fall short this year?
  • Do I have any regrets? What can I do to amend those situations?
  • If I set any New Years resolutions for 2016, did I stick to them?
  • What are my 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year goals? What can I do in 2017 to make them happen?

relationships

  • Who were my closest friends and confidantes this year?
  • Who have I hurt this year? What can I do to make amends with these people?
  • Who do I want to be closer with? What steps can I take to nourish those relationships?
  • Is there anyone I need to thank, affirm, or help out right now?

memories

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  • What were my top 3 highlights of this year?
  • What were my top 3 worst moments?
  • How have I grown from adversity this year?
  • Which celebrity death impacted me the most this year? What can I learn from that person’s life, and how can I honor their legacy?
  • What music, films, books, etc. defined 2016 for me?

legacy

ambition

  • If I had to summarize my 2016 in one word, what would it be and why?
  • What word do I want to be my mantra / mission statement, for 2017? What can I do each day to achieve that?
  • Who am I at this very moment? What can I do to savor this stage of my life and appreciate the person I’ve become?

I hope these questions help you reflect and grow, and I’d love to hear what you have to say! Leave a comment below with some of your answers. 2017 is off to a wonderful start!

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NMK

Espresso-ions of Praise

After college graduation, the rush to find a post-grad job begins. Many of my friends have started at entry-level jobs in their chosen fields: accounting, marketing, tech… as for me, I’m working at Peet’s Coffee.

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It’s still surreal to me that I’m actually a college graduate; that when Pepperdine starts up in a week, I won’t be one of the students navigating new class schedules and waiting in line for caf food.

I’m living back at home, rediscovering the city where I grew up and navigating life as an adult. It’s an opportunity to recharge and relax before taking the next big step of law school.

Working at Peet’s is a humbling experience. Many of my coworkers are younger than me, studying in high school or college and working part-time. One of my coworkers is a first-year at the local community college. He’s been working various jobs since high school, and now relies on his job at Peet’s to pay tuition. Another girl is a student at my old high school (which is about three blocks from the store), and is grateful to work somewhere “better than In-N-Out,” where many of her friends have jobs.

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As for me, this is my first time working a minimum-wage job, and my first time truly understanding my privilege. Although my family was never super wealthy, I’ve never had to worry about affording textbooks or school supplies. Instead of working through my teenage years, I had free time to invest in tennis, choir, and my church group. I’m realizing now that many teens don’t have that option.

Another humbling experience: learning that it’s okay to be completely terrible at something. Giving myself grace when I hand a customer the wrong change, over-steam milk for a latte, or utterly fail at making latte art (it’s harder than it looks, you guys!). I’m learning the true value of listening to those who’ve walked in your shoes before, of asking the “stupid” questions, and of taking responsibility for mistakes. It’s preparing me for a lifetime of learning to do things that don’t come naturally; tasks that require dedication and a desire to continually improve.

A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Northern Arizona with my church group to serve as Work Crew for high school students at their Lost Canyon summer camp. Before every meal we served, our leader Conrad would lead devotionals, emphasizing the role of service as worship. While the teens left to enjoy chapel services with praise music and sermons, we cleaned up their dirty plates and set up tables for the next meal.

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I started my job at Peet’s almost immediately after I returned from Lost Canyon, with themes of service and sacrifice still resonating in my mind. And I must say–having a Christlike attitude has helped me find meaning in the harder parts of my job (like taking 50-pound trash bags of coffee grinds to the dumpster).

Working at the register, I get to interact with each customer who comes through the door. I’ve served police officers, nurses, and even my music teacher from middle school. With each bagel I toast and coffee cup I pour, I have the opportunity to brighten their day with good service and a smile. If they’re addicted to caffeine like I am, I may be giving them a needed boost to carry out their jobs well.

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Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

No matter how mundane or gross the job, viewing our work as worship can completely transform our attitudes. The workplace is a mission field, and whether you’re picking trash off the side of the road, answering calls on a customer-service hotline, or simply showing kindness to someone in your office, you are serving the Lord! God put us on this Earth to be His hands and feet; sometimes we’ll be lifting those hands up in praise, and other times we’ll be using them to scrub crud off the pastry oven.

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Side note: THANK YOU to all the friends who’ve come to visit me (and taken stalker photos)… you guys make my day!

So I offer you this: encouragement. Whatever job you have, whatever season of life you’re in, pay attention to how God is using you. Focus on how you can bless those around you. And if you need a shot or two of espresso to properly accomplish that goal, you know where to find me.

NMK

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Zumba in the Chapel

As part of my healthy-ish lifestyle, I try to fit some excercise into each day. Running and hiking are my favorite activities, but when it’s too dark or hot or I’m far from good trails, I like to do the next-best thing: Zumba.

Zumba began as a Latin dance workout, where instructors lead simple routines to fun music. I love it because it’s a great way to workout while feeling like you’re just dancing in Da Club (if the club encouraged precise group choreography). Recently it’s gained tons of popularity in the US, so it’s easy to YouTube a Zumba routine for practically any song and do it at home.

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Last night, we celebrated the end of the academic term in Florence with a final banquet on a rooftop overlooking the city skyline. As the sun set and the sky darkened, I realized it had become too late to go for my usual run through Cascine Park.

So after returning home and changing from my dress into workout gear, I brought my laptop to the bottom floor of the Pepperdine Villa for a late-night Zumba party. My usual spot was occupied by other students, so I set out to find a vacant classroom. Privacy was key; as much as I love shaking my booty in front of a laptop screen, I certainly don’t need an audience for it.

After trying a couple locked doors, I found one that opened effortlessly. Expecting another classroom, I was pleasantly surprised to walk in and discover a lovely little prayer chapel!

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For a minute, I debated whether it would be…appropriate? Decorous? To dance to Shakira and Justin Timberlake songs in such a space. After all, I would never do Zumba in the chapel at Mariners Church or in Stauffer Chapel at Pepperdine. People get married in those places. People light candles in memory of loved ones, read scripture, and sing hymns. It’s not a place for shimmies and step-touches…

Right?

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This weekend I had another interesting experience in a chapel. My friend and I took a day trip to Milan on Saturday. Our tickets allowed for only about seven hours in the city, so we were determined to make the most of our time. First on our agenda was seeing the Duomo di Milano (or Milan Cathedral), famous for its intricate white spires and its colossal size.

Aiming for maximum efficiency, I held my place in the entry line while my friend got in line to buy tickets. As I approached the entryway, however, I became aware of a potential problem: I was wearing a tank top and a short skirt; perfect for a balmy summer day, but strictly prohibited by the cathedral’s policies.

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Fortunately, my problem had an easy solution: I bought a 2-euro scarf, which was large enough to drape in a way that concealed my shoulders and knees at the same time. Sure, holding my purse became awkward with this garment, and taking photos was nearly impossible, but at least I was…covered?

The same people who think God is horrified by the sight of a woman’s bare shoulder would probably faint after seeing me do Zumba inside a chapel. In their minds, there’s a clear dividing line between holy and depraved, spiritual and secular.

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Here’s what the Bible says:

The God who created the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, because it is He who gives to all people life and breath and all things. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories. This was so that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grasp for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being], as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ – Acts 17:24-28

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Also this:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

God’s presence isn’t restricted to temples or cathedrals. His Spirit resides in us all the time, whether we’re eating or drinking or dancing or climbing 436 steps or having sex or wearing a parka or wearing nothing. So whatever you’re doing, you have the opportunity to glorify Him!

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I’m almost certain there will be Zumba parties in Heaven, and I don’t think there will be dress codes for entering the pearly gates (although my new scarf is so fun, I might keep wearing it anyway!). While I cannot change much about legalism in the Church now–unless I somehow gain control of the Duomo di Milano, which would be awesome–I can encourage you to question the boundaries we set between holy and secular.

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Jesus is in the business of transforming our entire lives, not just the parts that occur within the walls of a church. Let’s dance our way through!

NMK

Room for a View / Cinque Terre

I went to Cinque Terre this weekend and it was fantastic! That’s not what this post is about, but enjoy the photos!

When I started preparing for my time in Florence, one of the first things on my agenda was to find a book set in my future home. Drawn to the concept of juxtaposing my own experience with a well-written fictional narrative, I browsed the Google results for “books set in Florence” and the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble until finally settling on E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View.

Imagine my amusement when I picked up my new novel and read this line in the introduction:

If you were a young woman, from a relatively well-off family, coming of age in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century, you might think of passing a month or two in Italy, to prepare yourself for a life in polished society by learning a little something about Italian art.

The author of this section, Radhika Jones, was clearly talking about a phenomenon specific to the Victorian Age when E.M. Forster wrote his novel. So to see such a parallel of my own experiences–if you were to substitute “Britain” with “America” and “art” with “music”–confirmed that I’d definitely chosen the right novel.

Our protagonist Lucy knows very little about Italian culture, stays in a house with other people from Britain, and delights in seeing a view of the Arno from her room. Literally same, I thought to myself while reading the first chapter. Except my view isn’t as good as hers.

My view hasn’t been very good here. As you can tell from my previous blog post, I’ve been a little bit negative about Florence. Its strangeness has overwhelmed me, and until recently I’ve felt paralyzed by its expanse. I’ve found myself surrounded by wonderful people, yet aching for loved ones back home. In short, I’m going through culture shock… something I never really dealt with in the more comfortable lands of Lausanne and London.

But then I remind myself of this: most of life is not about what you see, but about how you view it. Missing a morning train can be a hassle, or a chance to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee. Being away from best friends can be isolating, or an opportunity to take solo adventures and invest in the community nearby. And having a tiny room with a mediocre view can be a tragedy, or a guaranteed way to bond with your roommates.

As for me, I’m determined to start choosing the positive view. I want to be realistic about when things aren’t great, but I’m also committed to keeping an open mind about the people and places around me. It isn’t hard when what I see is so innately magnificent.

NMK

Florence, I like you, but you freak me out.

Have you ever seen a really, really ridiculously attractive person?

Not just someone who’s kinda cute, or someone who has beautiful eyes or great abs. I’m talking about a person who’s so freakishly good-looking that it’s actually hard to look directly at them. They glance in your direction, and you quickly look away and awkwardly avoid eye contact.

(Oh wait, that’s just me? Never mind.)

 

The most romantic place EVER: Piazza Michaelangelo!

Anyway, I’ve been living in Florence for almost four days now, and so far my impression of this city is kinda like looking at an intimidatingly attractive guy.
Here are some things about Florence that kinda freak me out:

  • Cars drive super fast and don’t give pedestrians the right-of-way. I can see my life flash before my eyes every time I cross the road.
  • Most streets where you ARE allowed to walk are extremely narrow, so if the people in front of you are slow walkers… good luck.
  • The men selling purses can always tell when you’re admiring the merchandise, and they shout things at you as you pass by (not the best marketing strategy, dudes).
  • Our program director warned us that Italian men like to follow women around. So far that hasn’t been true in my case, but I still feel paranoid whenever I pass by a male on the street.
  • The weather here, which is generally sunny and perfect, will occasionally blindside us with rain and crazy thunderstorms.

My morning run by Ponte Vecchio… it was raining, but still absolutely gorgeous.

Don’t get me wrong; I am already quite enamored with this city. I love how there’s art on every corner, whether it’s a famous sculpture or a Renaissance art museum or just some interesting graffiti. I love the old brick houses with flowerpots in every window. I love the smell of strong coffee and the colorful displays of gelato. I love catching glimpses of the Duomo as I meander through undiscovered parts of town.

Here are some things that comfort me about Florence:

  • There’s a tiny river near our villa that reminds me of the creek in my hometown where I always used to ride my bike.
  • The Brandy Melville here has Malibu and Newport Beach merchandise, which is strange because it’s actually an Italian company, but definitely fun.
  • When I went for a run the other day, I thought this guy was catcalling me but he was actually just being helpful and telling me that the road was blocked ahead.
  • You can buy a bottle of local Tuscan wine for under $15… enough said.
  • The Pepperdine house is filled with amazing people and community that brings a sense of home to this foreign land.

The aforementioned tiny river, and the street where our Villa is!

I hope that soon I’ll feel at ease in this city, that I’ll learn to walk these narrow streets with confidence and make it home without staring at the map on my iPhone.

In my new four weeks here, I hope to build my relationship with Florence from unrequited crush to fabulous love affair. For now, I’m gradually figuring out this magnificent city, learning to gaze at its visage without recoiling from its beauty.

NMK

 

Some Shades of Grey

This isn’t a post about an erotic novel, sorry. This is about my life. This is about a reality that, in the dominant culture at Pepperdine as well as in Christian culture at large, needs to be discussed more often.

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I took this photo on a hike in Malibu. Following an unseasonably hot week (90 degrees in October?!??), we finally experienced a day of cool breezes, cloudy skies, and even a trickle of rain. This day of Autumn also coincided with Waves Weekend, meaning that all the visiting parents saw our beautiful campus shrouded in a grayish fog.

I remember thinking to myself, “What a shame! Here we have this incredible campus with an unbelievable view, and yet all these people will see is the gray covering it!” This attitude, unfortunately, kind of sums up how I’ve felt the past couple months.

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When I returned to campus this fall, I had a mental list of things I hoped to achieve. I wanted to get into Chamber Choir, play on the Club Tennis team, and take a more active role in Sorority Recruitment. Last year I tried for the same things, but God made it clear that I had to work on myself a bit more before taking on those roles. This year, He gave me a resounding yes, and as a senior I’m able to take part in each of these activities. Between that, my job with Campus Ministry, and my schedule of upper-division English classes, my lifestyle is incredibly busy and very rewarding at the same time–the perfect combination for me, since I tend to thrive under pressure.

I write this not to humble-brag about my accomplishments, but to get at this central point: Even though I finally have what I wanted, I’m still not satisfied. Most days I see my life like the first photo. Although my life is, by all accounts, an amazing “view,” it’s hard to look past the “clouds”–my dissatisfaction and insecurity–to fully appreciate its beauty.

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Lately I’ve noticed a trend in Pepperdine social media. Somebody will upload a photo of a breathtaking beach sunset and caption it something like: “These sunsets are a great reminder that even on bad days, God is still good.” (#soblessed)

This sentiment is great!! I feel God’s presence strongly through nature, so I certainly relate to feeling uplifted by seeing His creation. But my question is this: is seeing a sunset necessary to remember that God is good? And when we do see the sunset, can we truly look past our own worries and appreciate it? Can we learn to recognize the beauty that hides beneath the clouds of gray?

I don’t have the answer, but I think it has something to do with looking past our own worries and focusing on God’s love. It has to do with appreciating what we have, working towards what we want, and making peace with that which eludes us. It’s also about loving people; helping each other see the beauty beneath the clouds.

NMK

How to Vacation at Home

Today after church, I lingered for a while in our excellent bookstore and stumbled upon the book Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae. Sarah talks about her desire to travel to Paris and find adventure, and how she’s reconciled this urge with her relationship with God, her husband and kids, and her everyday life. She also introduces ideas about how to add some “Paris” into one’s daily life.

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“Wanderlust” is definitely the word of our generation. More so than our parents, we Millennials are using our resources to travel and see the world. Yet when time and money is in short supply, how does one satisfy the deep yearning for adventure? Here are my tips for making every day feel more like a vacation!

  • Walk more.

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Fun fact: I actually wrote my Com 180 passion / pet peeve speech about my passion for walking around foreign cities (and my pet peeve for taking the Metro!). European streets provide countless opportunities to stroll down boulevards and discover unexpected delights on every corner. But even if you’re Stateside, walking can be a fantastic mode of transportation.

My friend Vanessa and I have a fun tradition: whenever both of us are in town, we meet at her home and walk to one of several nearby shopping centers for lunch, belting out show tunes and talking about life along the way. In Southern California where everyone drives, it can be immensely refreshing to just slow down and walk instead. So I challenge you: if you’re going somewhere that’s less than, say, 2-3 miles away, leave the car at home and enjoy the fresh air instead!

  • Sit more.

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To me, there are few things more life-giving than sitting in a cafe, sipping tea, and reading a good book. This “cafe culture” is a fundamental tenant of European culture, and it’s something I’ve tried to incorporate into my life here as well (the photo above was actually taken in Seattle!).

I’ve found that changing my environment really puts me in a more peaceful and productive state of mind. Even when I’m doing something tedious like studying for the LSATs, these outings always feel like a mini-vacation. Venture beyond the typical Starbucks and Coffee Beans to find the cutest independent coffeehouses in your neighborhood, and go do productive stuff in style!

  • Get out more.

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Regardless of where you live, I guarantee there are cool things in your hometown that you’ve never seen before! For example, did you know that Irvine has its own chocolate factory that offers tours? Or a museum with Impressionistic paintings of California landscapes?

Check out Yelp and TripAdvisor, consult your city’s visitor center, and just allow yourself to be shamelessly touristy! And when you end up a neighboring town–for a concert, retreat, or even an errand that takes you to a slightly different area–take the time to explore and get to know your surroundings a little bit. Approaching these situations with an adventurous attitude will satisfy your wanderlust, one day trip at a time.

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So whether you’re in the heart of Rome (where this photo was taken, believe it or not) or the suburbs of Orange County, you can live in a thrilling and meaningful way! Break from the daily routine and embrace these tiny adventures, and you will feel fulfilled wherever you go.

NMK

My Everyday Identity Crisis

Quick poll: What is my name?

Odd question, I know. But I’m pretty sure I can guess how you’d answer.

If you’re from Irvine or you met me before college, you’d say “Nicki.”

If you’re from Pepperdine or you’ve met me within the last few years, you’d say “Nicole.”

And if you’re a Starbucks employee who’s presumably having a rough day, you might call me Nick… and call my friend Joy by the wrong name, too (side note: we were 13, very feminine-looking, and I’m still confused about this).

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My parents named me Nicole Marie Kennedy, but they started calling me Nicki from birth. For years, I’d correct teachers who referred to me as “Nicole” on the first day of class, and defended my name’s somewhat unusual spelling to those who’d assume the more common “Nikki.”

(Side note: Special shoutout to Nicki Minaj for making the spelling of my name mainstream. I owe you one, girl.)

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Even when I was younger and went exclusively by Nicki, I had it in my mind that I’d start going by my real name when I was older. Nicole was a woman with flowing hair who wore elegant dresses and sat in fields, reading leather-bound books and scribbling in diaries. She was sophisticated, mature, and sometimes spoke with a sexy French accent. She used big words and thought big thoughts. She was a grown-up.

So when I left for college, I vowed to start going by Nicole. And with it, I made a symbolic stride towards adulthood.

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Being home on break is a strange experience. I settle back into my “Nicki” self easily with family and old friends, but tend to hesitate when introducing myself to new people. This often comes out as “I’m Nic—-ki” or “I’m Nic—ole.” Maybe that Starbucks barista was onto something; I could save myself a lot of confusion by just calling myself Nic.

The most amusing moments come when old and new friends collide and have minor arguments about which name suits me more: “You’re totally a Nicole!” or “Nicki doesn’t suit you at all!” are phrases I’m well accustomed to.

This is my everyday identity crisis, the linguistic representation of the distance between who I’ve been and who I’m becoming. I hope I never stop hearing the name “Nicki,” because that would mean I’ve lost touch with the people who shaped me. At the same time, I aim to grow into “Nicole,” to become that powerful and elegant woman of my childhood daydreams (maybe without the French accent).

So when you see me around, feel free to call me whichever name you choose. I love and own them both for what they represent in my life.

NMK

Creative Cursing: or, why I should never be a college professor

Let me begin with a disclaimer that I don’t intend to become a professor. This is probably a good idea because my only idea is for a class entitled “Creative Cursing 101.”

In this class, students would study the linguistic basis of words that are typically considered inappropriate and non-academic. First, we’d examine the most popular four-letter words used today: their history, etymology, and underlying grammatic principles. Next, I would challenge my students to think more creatively about the act of cursing. We’d study Shakespearean texts, historical documents, and world cultures to uncover more avant-garde varieties. My students would take weekly vocabulary quizzes and write papers tracing the etymology of various curses. For the final, their only task would be to tell me, in the most colorful language possible, exactly how they felt about my assignments. Of course, they would also need to provide footnotes detailing the origin of each chosen vocabulary word!

Although this course probably won’t be offered at universities any time soon, I believe it says a lot about my attitude towards cursing in general.

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Evangelical Christian culture tends to imply that cursing is a sin. To prove this idea, Christians will cite Bible verses like:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. – Colossians 3:8

Fair enough! These verses definitely suggest that impure language is not pleasing to God. But they also don’t specifically mention cursing–at least not in the way we conceptualize it today. The “corrupting” or “obscene” talk mentioned is despicable to the Lord because of its content. The words themselves are nothing but mere words, capable of carrying any connotation intended by the speaker.

That being said, anyone who knows me is aware that I personally refrain from cursing in my daily life. I have a few reasons for this:

  1. Cursing is unoriginal.
    True to the spirit of my “Creative Cursing 101” idea, I believe that our generation has become quite lazy with cursing! The four or five curse words most people use are like old socks: over-worn, ubiquitous, and mildly stinky. At this point, when I hear someone use the “F” word, it hardly even phases me. It’s passé, and if people continue to overuse it, it will lose its meaning entirely. According to the Global Language Monitor, there are 1,025,109.8 words in the English language. Surely one of them will convey your point more accurately than the four-letter alternative!
  2. Cursing is unprofessional.
    It’s safe to say most people agree that cursing in a job interview is taboo. Same goes for most office settings, especially if you’re working in ministry or with children or in a major political office or… really anywhere! Personally, I would hate to form a habit of cursing in casual settings, then force myself to regulate those speech patterns once I enter the workplace.
  3. Cursing is POWERFUL…
    …when used effectively! The beauty of cursing so little in my regular life is that when I actually do use a curse word, people listen. They know that I’m legitimately feeling a strong emotion and that whatever I’m saying is worth their attention. I like to think of this as a secret weapon I’ve cultivated through the years (insert cool sunglasses emoji).

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Friends, I mean not to condemn you for your language. Instead, I pose a challenge, should you choose to accept. The next time you begin to say one of those four-letter words, try to substitute it for a more creative choice. I haven’t fully compiled my “Creative Cursing 101” syllabus yet, but here are some brilliant ideas from my homeboy Shakespeare:

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To conclude, I will leave you with one of my favorite Bible verses, because the Word says it better than I ever could.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

NMK

Worshiping What?

A band plays onstage in a crowded venue as the crowd passionately sings along and lifts their hands to the sky. For these few beautiful hours, a group of strangers becomes united for a common purpose as they dance, shout, and mouth the same words together.

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Coldplay is the first band I ever saw in concert, back on their Viva La Vida tour. 14-year-old me was blown away by the amazing visual effects (they released yellow beach balls during “Yellow”!) and by how much their live show sounded like the recording. From that experience I was totally hooked on the whole live music thing, and I’ve seen many phenomenal concerts since.

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This picture gives you an idea of the church background I come from. At Mariners we basically design worship services to resemble a high-energy rock concert; especially in High School Ministry, where I would occasionally sing or play the keyboard (recognize the lil singer gal on the left?). Mariners’ approach to worship comes from the concept of Inculturation: throughout history, worshipers have been drawn to vibes that resemble familiar gathering places, be it a political forum in Ancient Rome or a rock concert in Southern California.

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Last night I made the trek to LA (with the help of a bus, an uber, the LA metro, and my friend Hope’s driving skills) to see Death Cab for Cutie perform. It was an INCREDIBLE show. When they played “Soul Meets Body,” I literally screamed. Repeatedly.

There was a moment when I looked around at the expanse of the Hollywood Bowl, seeing everyone’s faces as they sang along with Ben Gibbard’s melodic voice. Hands were raised, energy was high, and I realized something: these people are worshiping.

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Because the truth is, all of us are worshiping something! Whether it’s a pop song or a hymn, we all love to belt out lyrics that resonate with our souls. And when we join in community, even the temporary community of a concert, it helps us feel understood.

As for me, I’ll keep going to concerts, seeing bands I love and adding to the concert list on my phone (28 bands, 16 venues, and counting!). I’ll keep praising God at church and leading worship services on campus. As a follower of Christ, I acknowledge that God’s word is the truth and music artists’ songs are problematic faves. Both are so, SO good! But I know that only one is worthy of my deepest praise.