To all my 9th Grade ELA students, here is the video link for tonight’s flipped classroom. Pull out your research paper, graphic organizer and cornell notes from today’s class, and then watch the video about writing a thesis statement (Click the screencast link above). There will be a quiz over the video tomorrow!
Amie’s Commencement Address May 24, 2011
President Haynes, Deans, beloved faculty, and distinguished guests, welcome. And to my fellow Cougar graduates, Congratulations! I would like to thank our families, who have worked almost as hard as we have to realize this day. I honor my husband Michael, my children Lauren and Alex, my friends and family who have helped me earn this degree. Thank you.
Five minutes after my last final, I updated my facebook status. It read: after 15 years of classes, 4 colleges in 4 states,12 proud years as a Marine Corp wife, 6 deployments, 2 children, 5 papers and 7 finals… just this week… today… I have finally graduated.
My story is not unique at Cal State San Marcos. Most graduating today have juggled jobs, families, fought for our country, commuted countless miles or even taken one class at a time. For some, today is a beginning; for others of us, this is a victory years in the making. I am proud to be graduating from a university that values both journeys. So, whether you came to San Marcos as a true freshman or started college alongside your own freshman, I congratulate you. Well done!
What do you say to people who collectively know almost everything? It was a bit daunting, but here is some wisdom I have learned.
Life is not all about me. Money, education and esteem are worth little unless you employ them to help others. Put your neighbor’s needs above your own.
Ethical and virtuous behavior should not be what we profess but what we practice. No amount of fortune or fame is worth losing your integrity.
Now is the time to take chances. Trust your instincts, but listen to wise counsel.
Explore the world so you can learn about who you are. And travel now, while youth hostels are still fun.
Dreams are achieved through hard work and time, so have more patience than pride. Stay teachable so you don’t miss new discoveries that lie ahead. Embrace adversity and failure, they fuel creativity.
Attitude is everything. Decide to wake each morning purposeful and positive. Negativity will break a company, a community, a country.
Remember, life is short; don’t just seek a job; seek a purpose, seek your passion, seek to make a difference.
Life is short; don’t waste energy and time envying someone else’s life. Seek to make yours worthy. Surround yourself with people who do the same.
Life is short; don’t wait for a future event to make you happy. Enjoy the journey now. Embrace each day, finish them well.
You have a purpose in this life, don’t settle for anything less. Congratulations Graduating Class of 2011.
To God be all the honor and praise.
Copyright Amie Charney 2011
San Marcos, CA – May 21, 2011 – Amie Charney was selected from the California State University San Marcos Graduating Class of 2011 to give the commencement address at the Saturday afternoon commencement ceremony (May 21, 2011, 2 PM). Charney graduated Magna Cum Laude with her degree in Literature and Writing.
This morning I was walking out of my children’s elementary school when the phone rang. On the other end of the connection was a woman with the National Marrow Donor Registry. She called to tell me that I had matched with a 39 year old man. He has a blood order disease and in desperate need of a transplant. I was shocked. She went on to say; in 1996 I had taken a blood test and checked a box saying I was willing to be a donor. Now, almost fifteen years later, I had popped up as a possible match. Fifteen years…I was surprised they even found me. Since then, I married, had two children, moved five or six times being a military spouse…and here 2010, on a sunny day in California…I was asked to make good on that checked box.
I listened to her speak about the process and that, after the next step of testing, there was less than a 5% chance I would be a match…but would I be willing to even take that chance. In the few moments she waited for my answer, I thought about the man who needed the transplant. Does he have kids like the ones I just dropped off? He is only a few years older than I…does he have a wife he loves as deeply as I love my husband? Is he a teacher, a police officer, military…or maybe an office worker or janitor? Did his life mean just as much to him as mine does to me? If the tables were reversed, what answer would I want him to give?
The case worker was a little shocked when after a few seconds of silence I said absolutely…yes, I will take the next step. My husband, a Marine, has the opportunity to impact and save lives every day. Vicariously, I feel I do as well…being a military spouse. But this is the first opportunity that I feel I could change and help save someone’s life…myself. What an honor. I am just starting the process, who knows if I will be a match. I have a lot of research, praying and talking with my family to do…but in this moment, I feel overwhelmed and excited that I could perhaps help. As the process continues, I will blog it. Has anyone else gone through this …has anyone advice? Please share your story, thanks!
Twilight Preaches Mormonism November 19, 2009
A friend’s teenage daughter started gushing about a book series she is reading. As a lit major and writer my interest is always piqued when I see a teenager talk about literature with a glazed look of love in their eyes. So, on her recommendation I bought Twilight and devoured it (ha, joke for those who have read it) in a couple of hours. Stephenie Meyer is no Austen, Steinbeck or Hemingway, nor will Twilight ever be a classic…but it was a page turner of a yarn with characters… that may be stereotypical…but you instantly care about their fate. In lit circles we often debate genre vs literary fiction, and in the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer has “out genred” even JK Rowling. I have dubbed these types of books… pop rocks … remember the candy you put in your mouth… starts out sweet, then explodes in your mouth and leaves an odd slightly disturbing tingle before it disappears completely…yet you still want more?
So, I got “pop rocked” on the first book, then went out and got the other three… and read them in about 2 days … of course doing “laundry” while racing over the words. Everywhere I went (book in hand) I was stopped by women of all ages excited to share with me their own love of the books, relating the characters to their lives in personal ways.
All right, so now to what my blog is really about.
I am not a Mormon/LDS. I am not an expert on it either. I have studied it in comparative religion, and have friends that are…so I know enough to recognize it’s doctrine. To me, the Twilight series seems an apologetic treatise on Mormonism. Am I the only one out here that thinks this way? Stephenie Meyer, author of the series is a Mormon. In fact, an “elite” Mormon having attended BYU and all that entails. So I found it fascinating that she wrote about teenage angst and love among vampires and werewolves. When I tried to flush out why that puzzled me, I started checking out some web research and blogs about it. What I found were rabid Mormon fans that have approved the book for reading in their stake book clubs. The books were “clean” even though erotic, and I was disturbed by some of it’s messages but couldn’t put my finger on any specific thing…other than the regular vampire violence. So I was shocked when my search dug up remarks on LDS websites touting Twilight as seminal Mormon reading…why?
Light started to dawn when I was conversing about the series with a friend who is a pastor and teaches high school English. He asked me what I thought of the Mormon message of the book. My mind tried to recall the themes from my three day word trance…. and there it was, the answer to my question. The books are a romanticized indoctrination into LDS theology, made palatable by the classic themes of courtly love and the noble savage. Make no mistake, the contriversal doctrines of the Mormon church are there. Here are just a few in my opinion…I could probably fill up a good size term paper drawing all the comparisons.
*Warning – Plot Spoilers Below*
1) Mormons believe in deification – you can become a god or goddess through their various rituals and practices. Certainly that is what Meyer’s vampires portray. The gods of the world. They all have super powers, are all powerful both physically and through their immeasurable wealth, supermodel beauty… intelligence…and in the case of Edward’s coven (or stake)… they have risen above their baser natures and don’t even have to really be vampires…at least not the evil Dracula types. Bella, the protagonist, seeks to become a goddess herself…which can only happen if she becomes a vampire (Mormon). But she doesn’t just want any old vampire to change her into one. She sees it as a way to become one with Edward…so she only wants him to do so. Edward, a good old traditional vampire, will only make her one if she agrees to marry him. So her only way to immortality is through marriage. Of course she has a child in book 4, despite all odds… because only in having children does one truly become immortal….and it is a Mormon book after all.
2) The Vampires are living their afterlife. The Cullens, however, have evolved to a higher plane of existence compared to the other vampires. Bella even wonders in book 2 or 3 if Edward can move to an even higher existence if he were to actually die, because of his goodness (the dead, deader…). Meyer contrasts the enlightened Cullens to the “meat-eaters”… those vampires that still feed on humans and can’t control their baser instincts and blood lust. The “vegetarian” Cullen’s exist on a higher plain…perhaps another level of afterlife bliss…due in part to their dietary restricted lifestyle that allows them to co-exist with humans, thus putting them on a higher plain. This denial of nature allows them to follow the higher ideal of intellectual pursuits (medicine, science, music, art) and perfect them. They are civilized. Also, they are humanitarians. Instead of simply luxuriating in their spoils like the Volterra who live the ennui and courtly execess ala Medici’s or Louis XIV, the Cullens are still doing saintly things and continue learning/evolving (even if it means repeating High School or Harvard ten times). This doctrine is called “eternal progression” in the LDS, where it is a core belief for even a god or goddess to learn (progress) for eternity. And this progression doesn’t end unless you are chopped up and burnt (at least if you are a vampire).
3) It is all about the family… the family unit is the humanizing factor that sets them apart from the other vamps and even humans. The mortals in the story appreciate their humanitarian efforts (Dr. Cullen) and see them living a wholesome family life (hiking and camping together)…but they still find them odd and different from everyone else…even a little scary. Edward is not the only thing Bella is drawn too, but also his family life…so different from her own broken one. Family is so important to Dr. Cullen and wife Esme, that they create it in their own way. Because dead vampires can’t procreate (or so they thought in book 1-3), they make children by biting other humans… of course only the ones that would die anyways. This “sealing ceremony”… actually is portrayed by the vampires injecting the venom that turns humans to the other side…then they sear or seal the venom into the victims body, essentially making them immortal. In LDS, the sealing ceremony of marriage also includes future children they have, making them an eternal family. Amazing how the theme of children…having them, the inability to have them (Rosalie), the fact that Bella still is one in many ways…plays in this book. When you get the book 4 you find out the most bitter vampire battle is over vampires so desperately wanting children, that they bite young ones to keep them in that perpetual state.
4) Book 4 starts with a Celestial marriage. In a LDS sacred marriage ceremony, a man and a woman make covenants to God and to each other and are sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity. When Bella marries Edward their vows last Bella’s human lifetime and in her afterlife shortly to come. Which is why it was so important to Edward that Bella marry him as a human. Although the true sealing doesn’t happen until Bella is bitten. In LDS doctrine, the sealing power in the ceremony is what maintains the union after the resurrection from the dead. Unions not sealed will not survive into the afterlife. Interestingly, a man can be sealed to more than one women…technically, only if she dies (polygamy wiggle room), but a woman can only be sealed to one man in mortal life…even if her husband dies. But in the afterlife, all rules are off…women can seal to more men. Good thing Eddie and Bella have a love to last an eternity.
5) Bella is sacrificed and resurrected. Of course Bella has been so prepared by Edward’s family, and her heart is so pure, she doesn’t even have the normal human devouring adjustment period. The death and resurrection scene is intense in book four, made palatable and acceptable to the outsiders (werewolves and family) by the sacrifice she is making to birth a miracle child, Reneseme. A child created by a union between mortal Bella (Mary) and a Edward (God). Mormons don’t believe in the virgin birth, and they believe that God physically impregnated Mary.The blue collar Mormon will tell you this isn’t true, but if you dig deeper into their actual teachings you will find this doctrine. The physical part of God joining with the physical part of Mary… Reneseme in the book becomes the saviour to a tormented Jacob and embittered Rosalie, and is expected to shake up the entire world she is brought into. Being both goddess and woman…. (Feminine mystique work here).
6) Bella is a frustrating character. She is instantly in love with this hundred year old vampire who watches over her (literally when she is sleeping, she calls him her angel). Edward introduces her to a new world of sophistication and eroticism, protects her, is omnipresent and literally in book 2 sucks out her soul. In a nice twist, Bella becomes his saviour…but hey that’s a whole other blog. It is this instant comfort and acceptance of his beliefs, and the fact he is an old, kinda creepy man wrapped up in a hot sexy bod…that makes an interesting statement of what some LDS girls might be looking for…or at least being told to look for. She is willing to give up everything, even her humanity to be with him. Interesting how Meyer works it all out in book 4, so she doesn’t have to…takes some quick footwork though. And when she crosses over into immortality, her superpower is a mental shield, that protects all her loved ones from the mental trickery played by other immortals. Oh, and no one can read her mind. Supermom, hyper-vigilant to the evils of the world.
7. The book takes place in utopia for vampires… Washington State Olympic Peninsula, where it hardly ever is sunny. They can come out and live amongst the folks…interestingly right next to the Hyper aware and wise Native American tribe. The book of mormon follows Christ’s ministry to Native Americans, and the city of zion was said by Joseph Smith to be near their land. Although hard for me to believe Forks as a Utopian city… works in context.
8. Okay, last one for now… The idea of imprinting is creepy. The fact that a werewolves can imprint…or basically mark a mate who is an infant or toddler is weird. There are two characters in Meyer’s books who do so, one is Jacob…who upon seeing the infant Reneseme knows that she will be his future mate. He explains to Bella in book 3 I think, that it is not creepy. This older male will simply be a beloved uncle for awhile, then as she grows into an adolescent a friend whose shoulder to cry on, and then only when she is old enough a wife and lover. How the pack, or family will look out for her and protect her until it is time for her to be taken by the werewolf to mate. How they will even accept their mortal enemies the vampires, because of the power of imprinting. This is eventually accepted by Bella, because omniscient Edward can read Jacob’s thoughts and vouches for his purity of motive and heart.
Hmmm…. a lot to chew on. Anyone else read the books and see the parallels? Maybe you have some I left out. I would love to hear any comments….
Okay, so why do this? In interviews Stephenie Meyer has dismissed and hedged around her religious implications, calling it a story. I will grant Meyers that LDS is the context and POV she is operating within. CS Lewis was a Christian when he wrote Narnia, how much of the inferences we take from it were intended and how many are there simply because he was existing in the framework of Christianity…. authors write what they know. Albeit, Twilight came to Meyer’s in a dream, much like her religious idol Joseph Smith who saw Moroni (who strangely might have looked like Edward in sunlight). My “why” hypothesis is two fold:
1) It is my experience that the everyday Mormon does not know most of these “controversial doctrines”. I think they are purposely withheld from them until they work their way up and can be trusted. I think most cults operate in this manner. It is not until you reach the upper echelon that the true doctrine of their belief system is revealed. So, this is certainly a great plowing technique. Tilling the soil in the hearts of these young LDS women, preparing them for the ideals they will face…. Twilight, although not well written, is a provocative story and a great read…. I can see how easy it would be to start adjusting my expectations and beliefs in order to find a “higher love” like Edward and Bella.
2) It sows the seed in a generation of possible recruits. If the young hearts of girls go pitter-patter for the ideals espoused in the Twilight series… hey, when they are approached with a religion that makes it possible… it’s an easier pill to swallow. Books are powerful – they form and shape ideas of what and who we want in this world. (My husband, is a lot like Mr. Darcy…coincidence? Probably not.) Also, it introduces readers to the sanitized world of LDS. Hey, who doesn’t know that the author is Mormon…and she wrote a cool book like that… how bad can Mormonism be.
As a Christian, I have always found the lines of wizards, witches, vampires in literature interesting. Christians readily accept CS Lewis and Tolkien versions of them as acceptable…but have heart attacks over Hogwarts. I will NOT let my children read Harry Potter UNTIL they realize the biblical truth that witchcraft is Satanic…all witchcraft, even “good” witches. I will not let my daughter read Twilight, UNTIL she can realize how unhealthy Edward and Bella’s relationship is -that Meyers true message is cloaked in unrequited love and supernatural (not God’s) protection. However, I (unlike Bella) can’t shield them from all the evils and influences of the world. Instead, I can help them find the lines of truth before God. In Romans the Apostle Paul said, you have to find that line in your heart, and be accountable to God for the decision you make…however, open your eyes, and know what the message truly is.
The Self Fed Church November 21, 2008
You can’t self-feed if you don’t know how.
The spiritual discipline of personal devotion has a flashy new name…self-feeding. Basically it is an old thought, retooled to fit into an emergent church model. The two are not synonymous though. In some cases “Self-feeding” has become a patsy of churches that cannot figure out how to provide “food” for all levels of the believers that attend.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in personal devotion and prayer. I believe we should read our Bible’s, and spend time in the presence of God. I don’t believe church should be the sole source of spiritual food you intake. However, when a church proposes that self feeding is a substitute for the role a church SHOULD play in spiritual growth and development, then I take issue with it.
The challenge is this… self feeding is an important part of spiritual maturity, but… You can’t self-feed if you don’t know how. This is where emerging churches fail it’s membership, we expect believers to jump from salvation to maturity without teaching or providing the tools for them to get there. We also ostracize and turn the mature believers we desperately need TO teach the new believers away. It is the perfect storm.
Often we expect those that have been at our churches for a year or two to be “up to speed”… right? They’ve been in a pew long enough. Now, when they start to complain… that they have heard the same recycled series several times, aren’t getting their serious questions about faith answered, are being asked to serve in areas they aren’t prepared, called or trained for… we tell them, well you need to “Push away from that table, feed the babies in the church and self feed if you feel lacking.”
There is the huge divide that I see in the church today, you tend to have more mature Christians that have been saved for a long time, and you have new believers who have become born again in the past 1-5 years. Basically, you have believers that the church depends on to do the “work” of the body, mentoring and teaching, and those that need to be fed and grown…and both often complain that they are not getting fed enough.
Why is this true?
In our attempt to grow larger as a church we have skipped over a few major rungs…like teaching how to develop spiritually, theory and foundational doctrine, hermeneutics (how to study the Bible), how to use study tools, how to teach, how to mentor…. these are not subjects you can breeze over in the 20 mins of sermon time from the Sunday pulpit. It is not enough. Believing may be the first major step on the Christian walk, but in order to grow healthy, balanced babies into adolescence and adulthood, you have to TEACH them before sending them out onto the firing line.
That brings me to teachers. We need them desperately in the post-modern and emergent churches…and we are showing them out the back door as fast as we bring them in the front. Teachers tend to be the older, more traditional Christians that don’t always fit exactly into the “DNA” of the adrenaline set.
We tend to be a drag, not wanting to throw all tradition and foundation out the window.
We don’t want a million half run programs, we want a few really solid ones. Quality vs. Quanity.
We believe that a healthy church, in balance, is one that continues to educate the mature believer while empowering them to reach out to serve the up and coming ones.
We don’t want dumbed down doctrine, and don’t believe that the quick and dirty brass tacks is enough to grow new believers into effective, mature ones. Why are we warming over doctrine, to make it more palatable?
Amazingly enough, the newer converts want the same thing…. it’s the church leadership that often doesn’t. I believe we need to be relevant, and relational…but we also need to be responsible and reverent. I want all to feel welcome… not ostracize people that have been hurt or turned off by the traditional church… however, we also need to love them where they are, and love them enough to help them grow. When I was in youth ministry one of the toughest challenges was how do you relate but not relent? Why are we afraid of asking people to live their lives to a higher standard?
I teach a Survey of the Bible class. It is amazing to have Christians at all different points in their walk of faith. What I am realizing is that those who are at the 3-5 year point have a serious hole in their development. They don’t know how to study the word, and they don’t feel like they have a forum to ask the hard questions…like if I am saved, can I still sin? Wow…. with a basic like that… somewhere we have failed.
As a church we are so busy “Doing the Martha”…. doing the work, the business, the trappings of a cool ministry…. trying to relate to all kinds of new interesting people… trying so hard to be “relevant” … that we are leaving the reachers and teachers, far behind in a wasteland…. armed only with the advice to self feed themselves out of it.
Mature believers will “self-feed” more effectivly when they are refreshed and rejuvenated in God’s word. Often it is the more mature members often are the ones in spiritual desert. They feel left out in this “seeker sensitive” church model. All the work, and none of the sustenance. And what do we dare tell them? Obviously you are not self feeding…you are not serving… The modern architects of this seeker model, Willow Creek (link to CToday article) in Chicago have just come out with a change of course, realizing that they have left their foot soldiers without MRE’s and ammo on the battlefield. They now plan to gear their weekend services to help mature believers grow their faith.
Why now? Was it because their study revealed that 63% of their dissatisfied mature membership has considered going to another church? Did they realize that… by leaving them behind their services and ministries started to show fatigue, their offerings took a dive? Are their tried and true veterans leaving the church because they aren’t feeling like there is anything left for them…and the leadership won’t listen?
So what can we do? How can we close the back door while leaving the front opened as wide as it can be? Not by another campaign, or thirty day blitz, or rewired program. First and foremost, as a corporate body seek the Lord fervently for His direction… not just a day, or a week…but until He answers. When He does answer, be willing to change course even if it goes against your grain. Try listening to the believers at your church that make up it’s fabric…not just the new cool members… Listen to those that have put in the time and resources…listen with an open heart and mind. Instead of being a personality driven church, be a God driven church…changes of heart must start at the top. Provide teaching at all levels. Invest in keeping the mature Christians in your church, try studies geared toward them. Have open “no questions barred” forums, where believers can ask the tough questions of faith…. and don’t provide pat Christianese answers, but dig deep together.
These are just some suggestions, I would be interested in hearing some of yours as well. Let’s be open and invite people to jump into this wonderful walk of faith…. but lets also take the time and resources to help them to become complete, balanced and healthy…