A Beautiful Life

Dear Jerry,
In this life, we are not certain of many things, but one thing that is certain is that we will all, one day leave this earth. Sometimes, it’s sooner than others, and is very unexpected. The fact is, it is never unexpected to God. He knew before the beginning of the world, how many days we would have here, and that can give us peace. Nothing ever surprises Him, and even though we grieve over the loss of a loved one, we can rest in the fact that, if they were trusting in Him, they are in heaven worshiping their Lord and savior, now and forever.

On March 5th a dear lady that I knew went home to be with her savior. Her name was Jackie Lewis. I will never forget the day that we got word that she had taken a turn for the worse. The doctors did not know exactly what she had, but her internal organs were beginning to shut down, and her brain was swelling. On the night of March 4th the doctors said that the next twelve hours looked dim. She made it through those twelve hours, but around 11 o’clock the following morning, Mrs. Jackie went home to be with her Lord.

I’ve known Mrs. Lewis for a long time and have always looked up to her. Her lively spirit always lit up the room, whether it was just talking one on one, or on stage talking to a stadium filled with 20,000 people. Though we morn because she is gone, we also celebrate her life, and the amazing example that she set for the thousands of people she came in contact with.

I would like to ask if you would continue to pray for her husband and four beautiful children through this hard time. Pray that the Lord would give them peace and encouragement. If you would like to see more on Mrs. Jackie Lewis, there is a blog available that also has her beautiful testimony on it, and join the thousands that are still being touched by her life. http://jackielewisblog.wordpress.com

“You only live once,

but if you do it right, once is enough.”

-Jackie Lewis


Does God really care about Algebra?

Dear Jerry,

You know them. The “smart ones”. The “brainiacs”. They are the kids in your class that seem as if school is natural to them. It’s almost as if it is effortless. They actually smile while working. People might say it is because they are just natural learners. And while I agree some individuals are more drawn to curiosity and learning, I think it is a lot more of a conscious choice.

Unfortunately school has never been one of my favorite things and I have always struggled with loving the Lord with my mind. I have had many debates with my parents and teachers about how school can surely not be that important to God. Why would God care if I liked algebra or not? (In my case, it has always been the latter) Does God really mind if I slack off on my writing assignments because they aren’t enjoyable to me? Certainly God can understand if I really don’t prefer learning about the Civil War. Are we really commanded to glorify God through school and if so, why?

I have come up with some reasons and verses that have helped show me that God really wants, even commands, us to love him with our mind.

1. Our minds are a gift from a God of truth.

Our God is a god who loves truth and wants his people to love it as well. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 ESV) How are we to know truth if we rebuff learning? Does this apply to all truth? Isn’t God talking about just spiritual truth? Yes, I believe that is a big part of what he is referring to, but I think this verse can also be applied to learning about “material” things as well. God has given every person a mind. Do you ever think of your mind as a gift? I know I usually don’t. But it is and we need to appreciate it. If someone gave you a mansion as a gift, you wouldn’t leave empty. You would want to live in it, and enjoy it to it’s fullest capacity. And you would be very thankful to the person that gave it to you. Treat your mind the same way. Be a truth seeker.

2. Our minds need a transformation.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) We are loving God when we transform our minds. How are we going to determine what is right and true if we aren’t improving our minds by spending time studying? I don’t believe there is a way.

3. Our minds are a beautiful creation made by a wonderful creator.

God made everything in this world. We can honor him and glorify him by learning about his creation. We should desire to study more about his handiwork. In studying the creation, we are studying the creator. God has given us access to witness his glory manifested in thousands of ways.

4. Our minds need to glorify God.

We are commanded to glorify God in EVERYTHING we do. ” So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV) That “whatever you do” literally means exactly what it says: We MUST glorify God in everything we do. (Do you see Algebra in that verse? I promise you it’s there.) Now that does not give you a pass to say that if it’s impossible for you to glorify God in algebra, you need to cease and decease. (Trust me, I’ve tried that one; It doesn’t work) But rather it gives us an opportunity to enjoy all the good gifts that we have been given. We should feel God’s pleasure when we are studying math, or reading our History books.

5. We are commanded to love God with our minds.

“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30 ESV) There is no escaping what Jesus is telling us in this verse. We need to love God with our intelligence.

I am not intending to say that this is easy. In fact, I would hope this is an encouragement to any one who does struggle with enjoying school. It might be easier for some people. I truly believe that some people are just naturally better at math or science. But I also truly believe that God did not make any of his children stupid. Because of sin, we struggle. We will have hardships. Maybe Geometry is a hardship for you.

That’s ok.

But what is not is ok is going through school with an attitude of discontentedness and complaint.

We are called to enjoy school.

I am not saying you have to love every subject. Or put on a fake persona of giddy happiness whenever you do school. But we are called to love the Lord through learning. That means being thankful for the opportunity we have been blessed with to learn about the world around us. Let people look at you and wonder why you enjoy doing hard things. And love the Lord with your mind.


Just Around the Corner

Dear Jerry,
So lately my blog topics have been a lot about my future and collage, but the reason is because it’s just around the corner and it is on my mind a lot. Honestly it can be kind of scary to think about sometimes, but then I remember what I want to do, and it doesn’t make it so scary. I want to study sign language at FGCU starting next January to become a sign language interpreter, and possibly teach in deaf schools. I am going to take the Fall semester off to take a few tests that will hopefully get me out of some classes, but I will still get the credits for them. I will also, Lord willing, be helping out in OneRoom (our school) next year, and if I’m nice enough to Miss Sarah, maybe she will let me keep teaching sign language. (hint hint) 😉
When I first started sign language I didn’t think I would be able to use it very much in my everyday life, but I have quickly realized that isn’t true. For the past two years I have worked at Firehouse Subs and lately I have come across a quite a few deaf people that I have had the opportunity to talk to and help out. It sounds like a small thing, but it helps me immensely, and they are so willing to bear with my unpolished signing. But the more I learn, the more it gets easier.
I have not applied to FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University) yet, but Lord willing, I will be applying within the next few months, with the help of my awesome teacher Miss Sarah Ascol. Lord knows I would be lost without her. After all, she is the one that put this crazy idea in my head in the first place. So if I am daring enough to change what I want to do half way through my senior year of high school, you can do whatever you put your mind to. Be willing to go after the crazy things in life, and don’t let people who don’t have influence in your life try to talk you out of it. If you can dream it, and are willing to put in the work, you can do it.
-Maddy Martin

Breaking Down Dystopia : The Giver – Part 1

Dear Jerry,

Over the next 3 weeks I will be breaking down a Dystopia world in three parts. First, I will explain the Utopia that was created. Second, I will explain what went wrong and third, I will talk about what we can learn from it. The Utopia I will be discussing is the world of The Giver.
In the world of The Giver nobody has memories. Everybody is assigned a job when they are twelve and they do that job until they are released when they are very elderly. There is one person that has all the memories of everything of war, love, color, music and etc. He is called the Giver and he is responsible for helping with things that are unknown to the community. When he is elderly he has to pick a child and give all the memories that he has to the twelve year old.
In the community the rules are very strict with curfew. They wok heavily on precision of language and they talk about their feelings and dreams. Their ultimate goal is to achieve sameness where nothing changes. They want to achieve peace and a perfect place where nobody can make wrong choices. The government knows that if anybody makes a wrong choice that it would destroy the whole system and utopia they were trying to make.
The people in The Giver utopia were trying to create a perfect world to live without wrong decisions. Next week I will discuss how the Dystopia broke down. Then for the last week I will go through what we can learn from what they were trying to achieve.

Why I Would Consider going Into The Military

Dear Jerry,

There have been a couple times that I have considered going into the military, most often the Coast Guard or the Navy. I have given the military some thought for several reasons. One, it would be an honor to serve my country through the military. Two, I would simply enjoy both the Coast Guard or the Navy. Three, I could use the experience gained in either branch to help with career training (piloting ships or patrol craft).
The biggest reason I have considered serving in the military is the fact that I would be serving my country. Serving my country in any way possible, be it through law enforcement, military, fire, or political office, is pretty high up on my bucket list of things to do. I want to serve my country because it is the best country in the world. There was only two ways America became great. The first is our military and the men and women in it. Not politicians or policies. Not laws or riches. The second one is the Bill of Rights. I am not going to get into that now, but maybe next week.
The second reason that caused me to think about joining the military was that I would enjoy it. This reason was an extra bonus. Honoring & serving my country AND having fun while doing it is a great combo. Enjoying the Coast Guard or the Navy would not be hard. I like boats & ships and guns so working on or with an armored warship with massive guns or a small patrol craft equipped with the formidable 7.62×51 NATO “Minigun” or a bow mounted M-203 grenade launcher would be great fun for me. Especially the practice.
Finally, I have considered the military because of the career benefits. With experience on ships and boats of many sizes, I could conceivable occupy many advanced positions on cargo freighters or other such ships of many different types.
All in all, joining the Coast Guard or the Navy might be a wise choose for me in preparing for my future and having a great job that also is fun. There are times when I have been questioned about the possibility of having to take a life. When this question comes up I am often confronted with the sixth commandment which most people think says ” do not kill.” Well, it would be a pretty cut and dried issue if this were the case. But it isn’t. The sixth commandment says, “do not murder.” Killing is different then murder and most people have a problem with that. While having to take a life would not be pleasant or easy for me, if necessary, I will.


Three Things That I Admire About Our President

Dear Jerry,

When I saw the topic that was chosen out of our weekly topic shuffle, I nearly had a heart attack. As you may have heard, President Obama is not one of the people that I feel much admiration for. However, I accepted (or had to accept) this challenge. This is going to be quite a stretch for my brain and I will try to get through this letter without crying or breaking down. It took me a while to figure out three things that I admired. But I have done it.
The first thing I admire is his devotion to his family. From all indications, he seems to be a good father to each of his daughters and his wife. This is significant in many ways. Many families are falling apart today and it is good to see a family so strong and well knitted together as the First Family.
Secondly, I admire his persistence and drive. President Obama does not give in to anything anybody says about anything. He will try to push his current issue relentlessly and without fail. Many presidents have an issue with decisiveness and drive for their agenda. president Obama definitely does not have that problem.
Lastly, I admire the way that he demonstrated concern for Americans in General by drafting a new healthcare law. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not agree with any part of the new law. Forcing people to buy a bad product is wrong. Penalizing people for not buying said terrible product is even worse. It is unconstitutional in every possible way. What I do agree with is the motive. Trying to provide affordable healthcare for the average American is an awesome goal. The only problem is, government just isn’t cut out for that job.
So in conclusion, it is a great thing to try and find common ground between you and whatever politician(s) you may have issues with, however small that common ground is. I am grateful to have a president who is such a good example to our young people who are growing up with broken families all around them. These young people can look to their chief executive as an example of a sound family. I am thankful to have a president who cares for the American people enough to write a law designed to protect us (even though that law is unconstitutional and it is not working right).


Learning While Teaching

Dear Jerry,
Last year I started learning sign language as my foreign language for school, but I didn’t get far into it. But this year, I have done a lot more with it, and even decided that I want to make it my career. Lucky for me, my teacher also knows and loves sign language and has been helping me through it. In some situations I just need help talking through stuff and she is always there to help. Part of my learning is also teaching the other students in my class, and it has helped me a lot more than I thought it would.
I have always had an interest in sign language. When I was little I was doing school one day and found the ASL (American Sign Language) alphabet in my science book, and I learned them as fast as I could. I didn’t know any other signs so I just spelled everything out, and made my friend learn it too so we could talk back and forth. That love and interest has spilled into my high school years and is now spilling into the rest of my life.
When I first took over the sign language class I didn’t know much myself, but when you are learning with intention and learning so others can learn too, it helps immensely. Not only does it help me learn faster, but it helps me realize what my career could look like. I want to be able to teach in deaf schools, and interpret in churches.
I love watching them learn and pick up new things every week, and as a (somewhat) teacher that makes me so happy. I would encourage anyone who wants to learn sign language to find someone to learn with, because that is what has helped me.


Lessons in the little things

Dear Jerry,
Music has always been a part of my life. My family is very musical and you can often catch us belting out a disney tune while we clean. I’ve always loved music; listening to it, singing along with it, or playing it with an instrument.
I started taking piano when I was younger and played for a good amount of years. I had never really seriously considered playing another instrument. But when I stopped piano lessons, I started thinking about I I were to play another instrument, what it would be? I have always loved the way strings sound, especially bass, cello, and violin. My older sister had always wanted to play violin so when the opportunity arose for her to start taking lessons, I decided to join her.
I found I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. My sister and I took lessons for close to three years. Then my sister went on to practice with a new teacher at our local college. I never started lessons and fell out of practice. I would play occasionally at my church on Wednesday nights but I wasn’t practicing like I used to and I soon stopped playing all together.
I told myself that I stopped playing because I just wasn’t that interested. But what it really came down to was a fear of not being good enough. Reading music has always been hard for me and I told myself that I wasn’t that good. I didn’t like performing in front of others because I wasn’t as good I as knew I could be. I used that excuse.
Just very recently, I have started playing again. My older sister, Grace is giving me lessons. I didn’t enjoy the time I took off from violin. I gave up on myself. And now it is going to be much harder for me to get back to the skill level I had reached before. But I wouldn’t change it because I have learned a lesson about perseverance and hard work. Don’t give up on something just because it’s hard or you don’t think your “that good”. If you persevere, you might find you get satisfying results.

Breaking Down Dystopia: Divergent – Part 3

Dear Jerry,

I am wrapping up the series on Divergent today. I have talked about the way the perfect world was created and the what the intentions were in separating people into different factions. Then next, I talked about what the breakdown was that destroyed this perfect world. And finally today, I am going to wrap up with discussing what we should learn from the book Divergent.

When this society was created, it was divided into five factions that all valued different things. Everyone thought that the virtue they emphasized was the most important. But I think what was the biggest breakdown of all is that people were taught to believe that one virtue was better then the rest. Honesty is great but if you aren’t thinking of others, then you can come across as thoughtless and rude. And we should be brave but we need a balance of kindness as well. Knowledge is important but not most important. We need a balance of all of them.

I think another key lesson is that everything eventually comes to an end. No matter what it is, it won’t last forever. This attempt to make an utopian society failed and became a dystopian society within three generations. There is a very strong example of the power in Divergent and how fast it deteriorates. Power is a good thing and could be used for good but is very easily abused. You might be at the top for forever but it will eat away and you will always want more.

I think that is the the lesson we can learn from the most. We tend to strive towards material things such as power. And we lose sight of what really matters. When we do that, we are replacing God with our wants and desires. And though its usually not on such an extreme scale as we see in Divergent, we all do it on different levels. We need to make sure that we are aware of the lessons we can learn when we read books such as Divergent.