Saturday, September 10, 2011

Step Forward Day: St. Francis Center

GCBS participated in Step Forward Day today, along with over a thousand volunteers from the Pepperdine community. It was a wonderful experience as we helped serve breakfast and pass out groceries to those in need at the St. Francis Center in Downtown Los Angeles.

I was especially pleased to witness how well all of the helpers from the various volunteer groups were able to work together. People stepped in to lend a hand wherever help was needed, and we were able to serve as many people as possible who came through the center's doors. It seemed as though everyone left their personal agendas and egos outside and truly devoted themselves to servitude, which unified these groups of strangers in a way that some well-established business organizations could only wish they could achieve.

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Heb 13:16) It's all too easy for us to get caught up in our never-ending list of things to do that we feel we don't have the time to volunteer. Today served as a great reminder that sacrificing three hours on a weekend can make a significant impact for the less fortunate... and can also be a fun time :) It also makes our prayers that much more meaningful when we think of the homeless and near homeless families in our communities.

Step Forward Day was a lovely way to start out the school year for our club, and I look forward to the future opportunities to serve our community. Below are a few photos from today's activities: [1] Caitlin, Chelsey, Dr. Williams and Michael loading up delicious pies donated by Bonert's Pies. [2] Chelsey and Sarah serving the tables during breakfast.

- Jessica

Friday, September 9, 2011

Overcoming Negative Thoughts

Recently I have been letting negative thoughts attack my everyday attitude.  Sometimes something very small will happen during the day that will consume my mind and seem to take over anything great that happens.  It really feels like a miniature spiritual battle that I have internally.  One of my favorite verses is: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.--1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  It's really a great sounding verse, but a lot tougher than it seems.  Take the first part, rejoice always.  How often can you say that you are constantly rejoicing, all the time?  Yes we may rejoice when something great happens, but are we really rejoicing all the time?  Can you imagine if we were actually following this, how many people would be able to see a difference in us, that we are always joyful?  Take the next part, pray continually.  Yes, I pray multiple times a day about many things, but am I constantly praying?  Definitely not.  The power of prayer is immense and if we really were the praying community that we could be, the light that we have would be so much greater.  The last part, give thanks in all circumstances, seems easy as well.  Of course we thank God when we get the job or we get the grade but are we thanking Him all the time?  For every little and even challenging thing that is happening in our lives?  I doubt it.

On the other hand I think if we weaved these three simple things into our lives it would drastically change the way people see us and the light that we could shine around us.  The last part of the verse that I love is this: "for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus".  I can't tell you how many times I have asked, WHAT IS GOD'S WILL FOR ME?  Well here it is laid out in three simple things.  If I just did these things and turned my focus towards God instead of letting negative thoughts impact my mind, I'm sure there would be drastic changes in my spiritual life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Keep Our Gaze Fixed On Christ

Below is the address Pope Benedict XVI recently delivered to university professors at the Basilica of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid, taken from an email forward from Professor Joe Hahn:

"I have looked forward to this meeting with you, young professors in the universities of Spain. You provide a splendid service in the spread of truth, in circumstances that are not always easy. I greet you warmly and I thank you for your kind words of welcome and for the music which has marvelously resounded in this magnificent monastery, for centuries an eloquent witness to the life of prayer and study. In this highly symbolic place, reason and faith have harmoniously blended in the austere stone to shape one of Spain’s most renowned monuments.

Being here with you, I am reminded of my own first steps as a professor at the University of Bonn. At the time, the wounds of war were still deeply felt and we had many material needs; these were compensated by our passion for an exciting activity, our interaction with colleagues of different disciplines and our desire to respond to the deepest and most basic concerns of our students. This experience of a "Universitas" of professors and students who together seek the truth in all fields of knowledge, or as Alfonso X the Wise put it, this "counsel of masters and students with the will and understanding needed to master the various disciplines", helps us to see more clearly the importance, and even the definition, of the University.

The theme of the present World Youth Day – "Rooted and Built Up in Christ, and Firm in the Faith" (cf. Col 2:7) can also shed light on your efforts to understand more clearly your own identity and what you are called to do. As I wrote in my Message to Young People in preparation for these days, the terms "rooted, built up and firm" all point to solid foundations on which we can construct our lives.

But where will young people encounter those reference points in a society, which is increasingly confused and unstable? At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability. This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the University. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the University, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.

In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the "house" where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.

Here we see the vital importance of your own mission. You yourselves have the honor and responsibility of transmitting the ideal of the University: an ideal which you have received from your predecessors, many of whom were humble followers of the Gospel and, as such, became spiritual giants. We should feel ourselves their successors, in a time quite different from their own, yet one in which the essential human questions continue to challenge and stimulate us. With them, we realize that we are a link in that chain of men and women committed to teaching the faith and making it credible to human reason. And we do this not simply by our teaching, but by the way we live our faith and embody it, just as the Word took flesh and dwelt among us. Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth. Youth is a privileged time for seeking and encountering truth. As Plato said: "Seek truth while you are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp" (Parmenides, 135d). This lofty aspiration is the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by example. It is more important than mere technical know-how, or cold and purely functional data.

I urge you, then, never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.

For this to happen, we need to realize in the first place that the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable.

"Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love" (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator.

In the second place, we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride, which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set them on the path toward the truth, which we seek together. The Lord will help you in this, for he asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).

All these things, finally, remind us to keep our gaze fixed on Christ, whose face radiates the Truth which enlightens us. Christ is also the Way, which leads to lasting fulfillment; he walks constantly at our side and sustains us with his love. Rooted in him, you will prove good guides to our young people. With this confidence I invoke upon you the protection of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. May she help you to cooperate with her Son by living a life which is personally satisfying and which brings forth rich fruits of knowledge and faith for your students. Thank you very much."

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I should have posted this about a month ago or so.  Anyways, when the rapture was supposedly happening it really got me thinking.  We don’t really know when Jesus will come back, and people were freaking out about the rapture, almost anxious.  I wasn’t worried, but it did make me think about what I would do if the rapture was tomorrow.  This feeling of impatience and excitement started brewing inside me.  It made me realize we shouldn’t live that anxiousness when someone predicts the rapture; we should live that anxiousness every day.  Like Jesus is coming back tomorrow.  We should be living like Him and spreading His word.  The first things I thought about were my family and friends that didn’t know Him, and how if the rapture was coming tomorrow, I would tell them about Jesus.  We should live that anxiousness and excited anticipation every single day not just when falsely predicted.  A fellow Pepperdine student ends many of his prayers wishing that Jesus would come back tomorrow or today or even before the prayer is over, that’s how we should really live.

Monday, April 25, 2011

No School = No Skimming

In some ways we, as Believers, are much weaker than our counterpart non-believers that walk through life with little to no care in the world. There is a lot of Christian rhetoric that will tell you otherwise, but I know it because I’ve felt it. Secular individuals believe that they neither need nor have a religious crutch which they will cling to. Whether they consider their “end of days” and the implications of not believing in something or not, they decide that Jesus Christ is a waste of time and a serious hindrance to living a fun and ceaselessly entertaining lifestyle. They may experience little earthly consequence because of affluence of the Western culture and the obvious superfluity of a God in a culture where we have everything we need. In many ways, I see how this view proliferates. We can relate to the doubt, the intrigue and the attraction of living in the moment. Oft considered, we can imagine how fun and easy it would be to drop the weighty responsibilities of following a religious creed on earth and seek the most sensual desires of our heart. At this very moment, at the moment of forming this wild and unbridled thought, something holds me back.

What is this weakness that I feel and the overwhelming sense of inability to pursue my most worldly thoughts? If I can imagine this so vividly and feel the self-confidence surging through my veins, what can possibly stop me?

Dependence is the thing that stops me. What a dirty sounding word to me. As I begin to formulate an independent and primal urge, I’m struck by an immovable experience of unyielding obligation. This obligation doesn’t feel like an obligation to change my oil or spend time with my overly precocious cousins at seasonal holidays. This obligation has no frame of reference in my life because I’ve only felt it in the context of my faith. In this moment I am weak. I am the anti-hero. I have no power to save the day. I fear death. I fear my own fragility. I doubt myself. My true nature is exposed and I am ashamed. Even my favorite tools like the power of positive thinking and my parent’s nurturing empowerment are impotent forces.

This is the moment that I see how weak I am compared to those around me who can dismiss this obligation of reliance. You think you know what’s coming, “He’s going to say that he feels God’s peace wash over and a warm buzz of good feelings dissipate the shame.” Actually, I feel none of that. As I see the world laughing at my weakness and fragility, I don’t feel better about myself at all. It is not a matter of my emotion, but of my soul. A spark inside my soul is ignited, a flicker of faith…that I have been redeemed by some power that I desperately need. In spite of the way I feel, my soul, my very essence, KNOWS that my pathetic weakness is my eternal strength. 

-Luke (I love you guys, hope everyone has a great summer and keep posting on here!)

Friday, April 8, 2011

He Loves Me

I learned something fundamental this year. I learned that God loves me. I learned to show emotion frankly. I learned to trust despite uncertainty. I learned to try to understand success. 

Finally, and above all, I learned that He loves me so much.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can something be ‘very’ true?

That was a question a friend asked me years ago.  Well, not really a friend, or at least, as it turned out.  But, the question stuck with me.  Like gum on the bottom of your shoe.  Like that annoying friend who you later find out is really a better friend to you than you were to him/her
The reason the question stuck with me, I’m pretty sure, was because ‘truth’ and what it actually consists of has haunted me most of my life, and especially, in my study of the Scripture. 
John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
People quote this verse all the time.  Pastors quote it, athletes quote it, ‘unChristian’ entertainers and actors/actresses quote it, Sunday school teachers quote it, and politicians even quote it.  Why?  I’m pretty sure because we all have a lot of natural yearning for freedom.  Freedom to what?  Usually this means to do whatever we want.  ….if we only knew what that actually was.  If we look at the context of the verse, we see that Jesus has just brought the verbal pain to the Pharisees, telling them they don’t know God, the Father, His Father.  And His statement about ‘being free’ is a conditional one.  It starts with “if”.  “IF” you continue in Jesus’s word, He says, you shall become His disciples.  THEN you get the truth.  Then you get set free.  Kinda how Peter was set free to get crucified upside down.  How Paul was free to get stoned and snakebitten and ship-wrecked.  How Jesus was free to give up His life and die the most gruesome death imaginable.
Which, tangent, but – every time we see a cross around someone’s neck we should really imagine a gas chamber or the electric chair instead – because if Jesus had lived and died and rose again today that’d be the symbol to remember Him by, not one with no cultural relevance to the current time and place.  But I digress…
The point of this passage, I think anyway, is that Jesus sets up a construct for following Him, His word, becoming His disciple, getting in sync with the Father, knowing the Father – THAT sets free.  Like a chemical process.  This is scientific…if-then…something happens.  And it’s not about us, it’s about becoming 1) a disciple of Jesus and 2) connected to the Father & knowing Him.
Which, according to most of the Bible, anyway, usually involves hardship, pain, death, torture.  That stuff.  Not exactly the American dream.  But I digress…
I think, by the way, now, after years of contemplation, that something can be ‘very’ true and other things just ‘true.’  What I mean is, a filet mignon steak is ‘very’ good and that cheap standardized flank steak you are getting thrown on your plate as you’re bused through a line like sheep or cattle yourself in a sketchy cafeteria is just ‘good.’  There are degrees to things that can be good or valuable or pleasurable, just like degrees to truth.  Jesus however is speaking of truth as an either/or.  Either you follow Him or you do not.
Main takeaway:  In summary, I would submit that he’s speaking about God/Him/Holy Spirit as the praxis of truth itself.  As in, truth being worked out in the hearts and souls of human beings.
Two supplementary quotes—one from the Indian author of ‘House for Mr. Biswas,’ and the second from my journal while building a log cabin in Colorado w/a buddy who embodies the Truth of Christ in His life in a way that has challenged me to the core:
"Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision." —V.S. Naipaul.   How does this relate to your intellectual and other pursuits?
Like the fabric and threads of that old blanket which conjures instantaneous sentimentality in your mind, God has been stitching together time, experiences, relationships, events, thoughts, feelings, and a plethora of components out of which he has, and is weaving, a life.  Your life.  Which, the Psalmist says is like a “fleeting vapor” that moves over blades of grass.  So guess what, it doesn’t matter anyway, at least, not as much as you might think.  We are all vapors, God-breathed, and may we settle well on His grass, and be enjoyed in His nostrils, freely, lively, abundantly…