About Me

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Tangible Kingdom:

Yesterday at 4:45, I had just gotten out of my last class and I was exhausted. I had stayed up late the night before studying, and had spent all day taking two essay intensive tests. Yesterday at 4:45, Ethan had just gotten out of his last class and was facing a paper and a project to be done for the next day. The rational thing to do was for me to go home and go to bed early and get some rest, and for Ethan to get working on his homework so he could get to bed at a decent time to prepare for his oh so early lacrosse practice the next morning. Did we do the rational thing? No, and I am so glad we didn't.

Our college small group leaders, Austin and Lilibeth, invited us to go to a two hour discussion on Hugh Halter and Matt Smay's The Tangible Kingdom by none other than Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. It was a small group, maybe 40-50 people, and we had the awesome opportunity of talking to Hugh one on two after the talk.

I won't get too much into the details of the actual discussion, simply because I don't want to skew the information based on my own human error, but I do want to talk about how this discussion inspired me. I have not yet read the book, actually, but I will as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. Anyways, the way these guys approach our relationships with Jesus, our place in the Kingdom, and what that calls us to do is something that, in hindsight, is so obvious. You know those things that when you hear a new idea, you just feel like its the most radical, yet incredible approach, but then when you start to really think about it, you feel kind of dumb because it seems so obvious? Well that's how I felt last night, listening, dumbfounded at what they had to say about the Kingdom.

They totally shifted what our lives should look like as Christians. They stripped off all the religion, and focus solely on becoming like Jesus. Dumbfounded. Christianity is about going to church, worshiping, being involved in Christian communities and small groups, studying the Bible, but that is only one-third of the puzzle. Did Jesus simply go to church, worship, study the Word, affiliate Himself only with Christians? No. So why is that the typical model of "being a disciple" of Christ? Was Christ simply nice to the sinners? Did He just smile at them when He came across them in His day to day life? No. So why do we as Christians stop at just being nice? Did Jesus just write checks to orphanages, work in a soup kitchen once or twice a month, or even go on mission trips once a year or even once a lifetime? No. So why do we stop there as well? Did Jesus run away from sinful activities to protect His own reputation as "pure" and "holy"? Don't we still view Him as pure and holy despite his affiliation with sinners? Then why are we afraid of building relationships with the lost and broken, even the blatant sinners? Did Jesus turn His head and pretend like there was no injustice in the world, that people weren't dying of horrible diseases, war, and poverty? Then why do we turn our head because it makes us uncomfortable?

Now please don't get me wrong, I am by no means saying all of this because I feel like I have got it all right and I feel the need to tell everyone else they are doing it wrong. I do everything I just talked about not being like Jesus, I am as guilty as guilty gets. What I am saying though, is that this seemingly obvious radical shift of perspective on my relationship with Jesus has inspired me to change my ways and the questions I stated above were questions I asked myself when figuring out how my own life differs from that of Jesus.

http://life2getherblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sweetspot.jpgHugh and Matt showed us their basic chart of dissecting the "Tangible Kingdom". What I discussed earlier about going to church, worshiping, Bible studies, Church groups, etc.., that falls into the communion bubble. The community bubble you see below was actually called, last night, something along the lines of being an inclusive person or group. I think this is what we as Christians struggle with the most. Somehow through confronting and righting our own sin, we have developed the self-declared duty of confronting and righting everyone else's sin as well. Jesus did not die on the cross for us to judge others, He died on the cross so not only would their sin be covered in heaven, but also on Earth. Our jobs as Christians is to provide a safe place for all sinners, a place WE can find help without shame, a place of unconditional acceptance, a place without a even a hint of judgement. This safe place isn't a concrete location, although it could be, but its something you are to walk around with and offer every second of everyday. It's easy to be nonjudgemental in places where you know you're not supposed to be, but its a whole different story when you're surrounded by a hyper-critical culture.

Something that really stood out to me was that Hugh discussed a personal story of allowing his own daughters to go to parties. A public Christian figure, a pastor, an author of a book that discusses what it looks like to live like Jesus allows his two daughters to go to parties. Why? Because he had people ask him if his daughters would be at a party because in the past, they have actually helped their kids make smart decisions in those situations. Living like Jesus is not avoiding sin like a highly contagious plague, living like Jesus is when you find yourself in those situations you act as Jesus would. I feel like common culture tells us to not only avoid bad decisions, but to avoid people who make their own bad decisions because our reputations could be at risk if we run with "that crowd." Number one, if we are living for Jesus, why do we care what others think of us? And number two, Jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, drunks, criminals, and a whole slew of what our world would deem as "untouchables," yet we don't consider Jesus as any of those things. Why? Because although He hung out with those people, although He built relationships with those people, although He loved those people and even called some of them to be His disciples, He carried out God's will while in relationship with them. He didn't avoid them, fearing His own well-being.

http://www.sonofchrist.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/fruit-of-the-spirit-sample.jpghttp://www.amazingkingdom.net/images/ArmorofGod.jpgBeing inclusive isn't about coming across someone who has a difficult life, self-inflicted or not, and trying to "save" them in neither the literal or the spiritual sense. Being inclusive means having absolutely no agenda when approaching them, other than seeing the person they are, and appreciating them for who they are. It means building a relationship with them based on friendship and love rather than "one day I can introduce them to Jesus." It means letting Jesus shine out of you rather than beating them with the Jesus stick. Befriending someone, loving someone, based not on their own person but rather on the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus is dehumanizing because they are now objectified as someone who needs saving rather than the person they are. Whenever you fall in love with someone, do you convince them to love you back with words, rationales, and by explaining your credibility? No, you just love them and them loving you back is a natural process that occurs because you love them. Why should it be any different with Jesus. Let Jesus love them through you and it will be natural. Words, rationales, and credibility are not listed in the armor of God nor in the fruits of the spirit, or really anywhere in the Bible when it teaches us how to show others the love of Jesus.

http://www.mppc.net/files/images/missional_signs.jpgThe third circle of the Tangible Kingdom is Missions, something I think every Christian knows and recognizes and is probably asking, how is this something new and radical? Being missional is not what I previously mentioned, occasionally volunteering at soup kitchens, or giving homeless people change, or writing checks to orphanages, or going on a mission trip once or twice. All of those things are great and awesome and please God, but they in and of themselves do not satisfy the missional third.  Being missional simply means to have your eyes open and be proactive about finding need in your community, your city, your state, your country, your world and satisfying those needs. If you see a friend struggling, don't just "be there for them" but figure out how you can help them in the best way you can and then do it. If you see a homeless person without shoes or a jacket, take yours off and give them yours.  If you see a disabled person having a difficult time, don't just open the door for them, but rather get them all the way to where they are going. These are all just examples on the top of my head, but they all come from the same basic idea of seek need, and when you find it, address it then.. not later at your own convenience. Being successfully missional isn't measured by the quantity of your missions, or even on how heavy your missions may be, but it is instead measured by your ability to open your eyes and let God show you what hurts Him in this world and allowing yourself to be His hands and solve it. It may be a tiny mundane task that you feel as unimportant compared to flying across the world and building an school for uneducated children in developing countries, but it is still being obedient to God and healing His hurt in the world and therefore is just as important.

Being the Kingdom of God does not mean that we simply have our church doors open to anyone to come worship, hear sermons, and do bible studies with. Being the Kingdom does not even mean simply having our hearts and homes open either. It means actively loving others as Jesus actively pursued and loved others. It means actually inviting people into our hearts and homes. It means not just being open to satisfying need, but to pursue solving needs with everything we have.

Acts 2:44-47

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

John 17:23

23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

James 1:27

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

over and out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Modern Day Abolistionist Movement

"The sense that thousands and millions of children and young people are being sexually violated and that there’s this huge silence about it around me angers me."
Sunitha Krishnan

Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this courageous talk, she tells three powerful stories, as well as her own, and calls for a more humane approach to helping these young victims rebuild their lives.

If you were to ask me what the one thing in the world that I absolutely despise, my answer would without a doubt be, sex trafficking.  I could sit here and type for hours about the in's and out's of the process, the mental, emotional, health, and societal consequences. I could rant about how sex trafficking is, in my mind, one of the worst crimes one could ever commit and by far one of the worst experiences to be a victim of. I could tell you how these women feel, before, during, and after. I could tell you their background stories and how they ended up there. But, the problem with me telling you all these things is that it would all be secondary information, read from books, seen in videos. Please watch the brief 12 minute video posted above, a talk from someone who not only lived through the experience herself, but has also personally saved thousands of others. Take 12 minutes that you usually spend on Facebook or watching TV and listen to her story.

Rescued Children from the Sex Trade

Also, my college small group are praying this week about whether or not our tight group of around 10 college students should commit to funding a home in Haiti for three girls. These girls are children who are orphaned and were never adopted. A huge majority of girls in their situation become prostitutes because they have no other options to turn to. One house for three girls, one house to prevent three girls from trading themselves into the sex industry, costs a mere $5,500. I have prayed just over the past 24 hours and have had nothing but an urgency on my heart to commit myself to this project. If our group decides to fund a home, we will be doing it via fundraising in any and every way we can (because we are college kids after all). We also wouldn't limit ourselves to one home, but rather have one home be our bare minimum. If anyone feels like they would like to make a donation or simply wants more information, email me at trussel3@stedwards.edu.

 Psalm 72: 4, 12-13
"He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor."
"For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death." 

What do you think motivates people to move through their own pain and become teachers and role models for others? Comment below with your answer...

over and out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

can art change the world?

"I would like to bring art to improbable places, create projects so huge with the community that they are forced to ask themselves questions."
 JR, Beaux Arts Magazine

I recently discovered the TED talks online, and its my new favorite thing to do when I have some spare time. TED is a place where incredible speakers, artists, politicians, businessmen, scientists, whomever can come and give talks on what TED calls "Ideas Worth Sharing." I have watched quite a few of them thus far and not a single one has left me less than riveted. The people giving the talks are so passionate about what they do and just their passion alone is enough to leave me inspired. The talks actually remind me of some of my favorite magizines (The Economist, TIME, Mental Floss) made into talks by the writers. I have learned about how speech is learned from an MIT researcher; I have learned about how spoken word poetry can be a means of connection from a woman only three years older than myself; I have even learned how the washing machine provided us the ability to read from a Swiss professor. But one speaker in particular really connected with my own passions. He is a photographer from the streets of Paris who uses his art in a guerilla/ grafitti way to try to understand and ease conflict in the world. Now, I am not from the streets of Paris, and I do not paste my photography on the sides of buildings, but I am passionate about portrait photography and conflict in the world deeply hurts my heart. It is so inspiring to see someone using art as a means to do something about the hurt he feels in his heart as well.

JR's bio on TED's website says...
"Working anonymously, pasting his giant images on buildings, trains, bridges, the often-guerrilla artist JR forces us to see each other. Traveling to distant, often dangerous places -- the slums of Kenya, the favelas of Brazil -- he infiltrates communities, befriending inhabitants and recruiting them as models and collaborators. He gets in his subjects’ faces with a 28mm wide-angle lens, resulting in portraits that are unguarded, funny, soulful, real, that capture the sprits of individuals who normally go unseen. The blown-up images pasted on urban surfaces – the sides of buildings, bridges, trains, buses, on rooftops -- confront and engage audiences where they least expect it. Images of Parisian thugs are pasted up in bourgeois neighborhoods; photos of Israelis and Palestinians are posted together on both sides of the walls that separate them.

JR's most recent project, "Women Are Heroes," depicts women "dealing with the effects of war, poverty, violence, and oppression” from Rio de Janeiro, Phnom Penh, Delhi and several African cities. And his TED Prize wish opens an even wider lens on the world -- asking us all to turn the world inside out."
The "Women Are Heroes" project discussed in his bio goes deeper than just taking pictures of the usually opressed women of those areas and posting them huge on walls and buildings. JR has the men of those communities, the ones who normally do the oppressing, paste the pictures of the women on the walls, showing appreciation for the women.. the moms, the wives, the sisters, the daughters of their communities.

 Another project, amongst many, that JR did was "Side by Side." JR did not understand the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, so he went to both sides of the walls and took portraits of individuals sharing the same job, then would paste them side by side in both communities. He would take a picture of an Israeli and a Palestinian cab driver, lawyer, cook, criminal... and the funny thing is that most of the people in the pictures were more concerned with how big their picture would be than the fact that they would be sharing their picture with someone of conflict to their community. Another funny thing is whenever people who ask JR and his crew what they were doing when they were posting the pictures, JR would explain the project and people would be appalled that he was posted an Israeli in their Palestinian community or vice versa, but when asked if they could decipher between the two, no one could answer. 

The project JR is currently working on is called INSIDE OUT which is "a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work." The goal is to get people from around the world to take go out, take pictures of their own for the project, upload them to the website, and then have other people from around the world download the portraits and post them poster-style somewhere publicly visible in their community.
"Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually."
 Here is some of JR's artwork:


Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. "

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

over and out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

When one thinks of Mardi Gras, the usual image of New Orleans, parades, marching bands, beads, purple, green, yellow, king cake, masks, and lots of partying probably come to mind. However, that is not how it started. Having cajun roots, I went to a few true Mardi Gras parades in my youth and definitely have some fun memories with my family, but how Mardi Gras has developed over time is interesting and certainly worth talking about!

The term "Mardi Gras" refers to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition.

While not observed nationally throughout the United States, a number of traditionally ethnic French cities and regions in the country have notable celebrations. Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiane, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabame, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras. They did not yet know it was the river explored and claimed for France in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: "Mardi Gras Point") and called the nearby tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. 

In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. The tradition has expanded to the point that it became strongly associated with the city in popular perception, and embraced by residents of New Orleans beyond those of French or Catholic heritage. Mardi Gras celebrations are part of the basis of the slogan, Laissez le bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll) and the nickname "Big East". Mobile, Alabama, and Biloxi, Mississippi,  the former capitals of New France, also has a long tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras. In the rural Acadiana area, many Cajuns celebrate with the Courir de Mardi Gras, a tradition that dates to medieval celebrations in France.

So whether you partake in the tradition of Lent or not, today is Fat Tuesday,  so eat up!

over and out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

one wedding and a scripture

Last night, Ethan, Sam, and I went to Austin and Lilibeth's wedding. Austin and Lilibeth are our college small group leaders from Austin New Church. When I say small group, I mean it. There are only seven of us, and I absolutely adore it. God has truly blessed us with this small group. Not only has He opened up opportunities to meet other God loving people our own age and build relationships with them, to serve our city with our group, and brought Ethan and I to Austin New Church, but Austin and Lilibeth truly have been the most supportive and inspirational leaders we have the honor of calling our friends. Ethan and I went through a bit of a rough patch in our relationship this past fall and Austin and Lilibeth were there for us 100% and have kept us in their prayers and have been such an awesome example of a fun loving, God honoring, totally in love couple. They have shown us what all of our hard work in our relationship with each other, and more importantly our relationship with God will bring us. We couldn't be more excited for them as they open this next chapter of their lives that God has blessed them with and we are so excited to continue on our own journey with their support behind us.

If I had to pick one thing that I have learned from Austin and Lilibeth over the past months, is that relationships are so so so important. Whether it be with God, Ethan, my family, my friends, strangers, people in need, anyone... It's God's purpose for us to take opportunities to build relationships in His name and truly love people. One of my biggest faults is that I am very shy when I first meet people and sometimes I let that nervousness that someone might not like me prevent me from building a relationship. Or, I let busyness or laziness get in the way of feeding my relationships and its simply not an excuse. I have by no means righted this fault of mine, but I have recognized it and am working towards the goal. My goal to love Ethan as God wants me to love him; my goal to love my family above and beyond what they deserve; my goal to love the friends I have and be outgoing enough to build new friendships; my goal to stop my anxiety from reaching out and loving people as Christ reached out to love me.
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
Philippians 3:12-14 (Message)

over and out.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ready to Rant

Okay, I want to rant for a little bit, so for anyone not interested in politics, economics, or education feel free to stop reading right now.

I hope that it is common knowledge that the United States is run on a massive amount of debt. But just like any other debt, the credit will max out eventutually. Unfortunately that max is $14.294 trillion. WOAH, no way we'd ever spend that much right? Wrong. We were at $13 trillion June 2010 and on December 31, 2010 the national debt stood at $14,025,215,218,708.52. That is over a trillion dollars spent in a measely seven months. So, obviously our credit limit is immediately approaching and Washington is frantically trying to decide what programs to cut and what taxes to increase. Great.
There is currently lots of discussion and the first steps of decision making on what programs will be cut. 45% of our budget goes to Social Security and Medicaid..cutting there? No. 25% of of budget goes to Defense.. cutting there? No. 10% goes to programs such as food stamps and unemployment. But where they want to cut is in the measly 20% percent of the budget that goes everywhere else.
This includes but is not limited to:
-Foreign Aid
-Research and Innovation (Medicine, Alternative Energy, Technology, etc..)

"All cuts must, therefore, be made in the tiny sliver of the budget where the most valuable programs reside and where the most important investments in our future are made." 
-The Freedom Alliance by David Brooks in the New York Times on February 10th

Senators Saxby Chambliss, Mark Warner, Tom Coburn, Dick Durbin, Mike Crapo, and Kent Conrad are some of the very few senators trying to solve the debt in a better, and more reasonable way.

What upsets me the most about the proposed budget cuts it in the education sector. Of course, I feel that research and development is EXTREMELY important especially in the case of the current energy crisis, and I also am a huge advocate of foreign aid, especially in this time of revolutions sparking all over the globe. But, a strong education system is the only way we can continue to be successful as a country. My generation, and my children's generation have a huge mess to clean up and if my children do not have access to adequate excellent education, then they simply won't be prepared to dig this country out of the current pit we are digging. 

As an aside, I could definitely see why some senators would "support" the cutting of valuable programs because they know that the public will fight it much more than cutting some of the sacred cows. This public disagreement would definitely be a platform on which a vote to raise the debt ceiling could be successful. Not only is raising the debt ceiling without any strong and feasible plan to cut spending ridiculous, but frankly it makes me angry that politicians would play such a game with the citizens of the U.S.

"On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even threatened to vote against raising the debt ceiling unless Social Security (sacred cow) is reformed.
"This is an opportunity to make sure the government is changing its spending ways," he said. "I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means-tests for benefits." 
- Debt Ceiling: The First Big "Showdown"? by Stephanie Condon of CBS News

CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes says, "It's practically a political non-starter to cut popular programs like Social Security or Medicare because you know when you are up for re-election, your opponent is going to tout your vote. So while members of Congress do feel they need to make these tough choices - they are reluctant to do it because they know their political future could be on the line." 

In my humble opinion, the job of congress and the president is not to get re-elected, their job is to do what is best for the country. We voted for them (in theory) because we trust our country and our well being in their hands, but if that means being unpopular for a little bit...no way HOSEA.

  1. The U.S. national debt on January 1st, 1791 was just $75 million dollars. Today, the U.S. national debt rises by that amount about once an hour.
  2. Our nation began its existence in debt after borrowing money to finance the Revolutionary War. President Andrew Jackson nearly eliminated the debt, calling it a “national curse.” Jackson railed against borrowing, spending and even banks, for that matter, and he tried to eliminate all federal debt.  By January 1, 1835, under Jackson, the debt was just $33,733.
  3. When World War II ended, the debt equaled 122 percent of GDP (GDP is a measure of the entire economy). In the 1950s and 1960s the economy grew at an average rate of 4.3 percent a year and the debt gradually declined to 38 percent of GDP in 1970.  This year, the Office of Budget and Management expects that the debt will equal 95 percent.
  4. Since 1938, the national debt has increased at an average annual rate of 8.5 percent. The only exceptions to the constant annual increase over the last 62 years were Clinton and Johnson - note that this is the rate of growth - the national debt still existed under both presidents. During the Clinton Presidency, debt growth was almost zero.  Johnson averaged 3 percent growth of debt for the six years he served (1963-69).
  5. When Ronald Reagan took office, the U.S. national debt was just under $1 trillion. When he left office it was $2.6 trillion. During the eight Regan years, the US moved from being the world’s largest international creditor to the largest debtor nation.
  6. The U.S. national debt has more than doubled since the year 2000
    • Under President Bush: at the end of calendar year 2000, the debt stood at $5.629 trillion. Eight years later, the federal debt stood at $9.986 trillion.
    • Under President Obama: The debt started at $9.986 trillion and escalated to $13.7 trillion, a 38 percent increase over two years.
  7. Obama’s most recently proposed budget anticipates $5.08 trillion in deficits over the next five years
  8. The U.S. national debt rises at an average of approximately $3.8 billion per day.
  9. The US government now borrows $5 billion every business day.
  10. A trillion $10 bills, if they were taped end to end, would wrap around the globe more than 380 times.  That amount of money would still not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.
  11. In 2010, the U.S. government is projected to issue almost as much new debt as the rest of the governments of the world combined.
  12. Total US government debt as a percentage of GDP is 94 percent in 2010. Greece, the poor step-step sister of the European Union reported debt as percentage of GDP of 115 percent last year.
  13. The U.S. government has such a voracious appetite for debt that the rest of the world simply doesn’t have enough money to lend us.  So now the Federal Reserve is buying most U.S. debt, and the only reason it can do that is because it can create money to lend out of thin air — at the mint’s printing presses!
  14. According to the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government, an official US government report, the total liabilities of the United States government, including future Social Security and Medicare payments that the U.S. government is already committed to pay out, now exceed $65 TRILLION.
  15. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of debt that Congress allows for the government. The current debt ceiling is $14.2 trillion, which is expected to be breached by May, 2011, unless lawmakers vote to increase it. The U.S. government’s debt ceiling has been raised six times since the beginning of 2006.
  16. With the exception of fiscal years 1998-2001, from 1969 to today, Congress has spent more money than it collected in revenue, (ran a deficit). Treasury has to borrow money to meet Congress’s appropriations.
  17. In 2009, Federal spending accounted for 24.7 percent of GDP, higher than it’s been in any year since 1949. You have to go back to 1946 to find a higher percentage — 24.8 — and that was a year in which the nation was winding down high rates of spending for World War II. (From 1943 to 1945, the height of the war, federal spending ranged from 41 percent to 43 percent of GDP.)
  18. The U.S. government has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar that it currently spends.
Okay, back to education:

Education cuts are already evident, even here in my own hometown of Austin, Texas. They are firing thousands of teachers across Texas and shutting down hundreds of schools. And the schools they are shutting down are the schools in low income areas, where children need education the most, for more than just educational reasons. Although, these kids will be placed into different schools, a lot of families will simply keep them at home due to the inconvenience of going to school far away from where they live. This, of course, leads to all sorts of important issues, but I want to focus on something different.

The United States is ranked roughly between 25th and 30th educationally when compared on an international scale. That is already ridiculous, putting us behind not only European countries, but a lot of countries with a way smaller budget than we have. The top three countries ranked are Hong Kong, Finland, and South Korea. Hong Kong and South Korea's educational systems are selective and grueling and probably not a great model for the United States, if only for the drastic change that would be. But, Finland's educational system is AWESOME.

Why do Finland's schools get the best results? 

By Tom Burridge
BBC World News America, Helsinki

Finland's schools score consistently at the top of world rankings, yet the students have the fewest number of class hours in the developed world.
The Finnish philosophy with education is that everyone has something to contribute and those who struggle in certain subjects should not be left behind.
A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular subject. But the pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability in that particular subject.
Finland's Education Minister, Henna Virkkunen is proud of her country's record but her next goal is to target the brightest pupils.
"The Finnish system supports very much those pupils who have learning difficulties but we have to pay more attention also to those pupils who are very talented. Now we have started a pilot project about how to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.'' 
Primary and secondary schooling is combined, so the pupils don't have to change schools at age 13. They avoid a potentially disruptive transition from one school to another.
Teacher Marjaana Arovaara-Heikkinen believes keeping the same pupils in her classroom for several years also makes her job a lot easier.
''I'm like growing up with my children, I see the problems they have when they are small. And now after five years, I still see and know what has happened in their youth, what are the best things they can do. I tell them I'm like their school mother.''
Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they're playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning.
Less is more

Finnish parents obviously claim some credit for the impressive school results. There is a culture of reading with the kids at home and families have regular contact with their children's teachers.
Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high.
The educational system's success in Finland seems to be part cultural. Pupils study in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
Finland also has low levels of immigration. So when pupils start school the majority have Finnish as their native language, eliminating an obstacle that other societies often face.
The system's success is built on the idea of less can be more. There is an emphasis on relaxed schools, free from political prescriptions. This combination, they believe, means that no child is left behind.

Everything that makes the Finnish education system successful, from both a performance and quality of life perspective, is not money. Its simply a national pride in their education, their children, and utilizing methods that have proven themselves as effective. Instead of cutting the education budget by simply shutting down schools, firing teachers, and eliminating programs and scholarships, why can't we model our educational system on Finland's and raise a generation that can achieve success for this country and the world instead of raising a minimally educated,  lazy generation that won't have the essential tools to keep this country from drowning.

I would love to hear opinions, for or against my own. I just ask that they be respectable.

over and out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Inspired: Picasso

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, or Picasso as we all seem to know him by was a revolutionary painter that created paitings in which their sole purpose was to question every rule in the art world of his time. Most people can recognize the typical Picasso painting, in the style of the paintings below...
but, Picasso did not start his artistic career painting the painting we recognize as his style today. He developed that style over time and had many differing styles between the beginning and the end of his art career. Personally, my favorite of these is his Blue Period, where all of his paintings were mostly monochromtic blue. They are so expressive, yet simple.
After his Blue Period, he went through what is known as his Rose Period... below is one of his more famous paintings from this time.
What I am most suprised and inpired by are his paintings from his youth. He was classicially trained as a painter and had incredible talent and technique that many people do not associate with Picasso.

Picasso was a rebel in every sense of the word and his journey to rebellion is what has inspired me. Yes, of course as someone who loves art and loves drawing/ painting/ photography, I am inspired by his artwork, but mostly I am inspired by is his philosophy on life and how he portrays that through his body of work. Being rebellious is something that is so... alluring to me. I want to question everything and know why..about everything. And if there is something I cannot do, for reasons outside of my own values and beliefs, it makes me want to do it even more. I adore being unique (a much more flattering synonym for weird). Some of my weirdness is inherent to me.. the spelling of my name (Taelor), but most of it comes from two things. One, letting go of the fear of being different, and two, really searching to find the things that I really love in life rather than settling for whats popular. I have learned so much about who I am, about my heart, about my intellect, about my character by going beyond the norm to find my real, true interests. I am nerdy, quirky, romantic, thoughtful... most importantly, I am myself, Taelor, and no one will ever mistake me for anything but that. 

Picasso's first paintings are so beautiful and perfected, but they look like endless other paintings from his time period and even generations before him. It would be next to impossible to pick that painting out of a room of paintings similar and say "that's a Picasso." But, at the end of his career, there would be absolutely no doubt as to which paintings were his due to his incredibly unique style. His Blue and Rose periods were transitional phases whenever he was searching for who he was as an artist and his Blue Period specifically respresented a tough time in his life. What I learn from these periods is that becoming unique and finding out who you are is a transitional process, slowly testing the waters and finding out what makes you different from people around you. Also, although his Blue Period was extremely expressive of a difficult time in his life, it was merely a period rather than a definitition of who he was. Difficult times can definitely affect your characteristics, but it should not define who you are.

The final thing about Picasso that inspires me is that he perfected the norm before rebelling against it. He learned and understood all the accepted rules of art before breaking them. He didn't just naively start being rebellious for the sake of it. 

Here are some quotes!

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction."
"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else."

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

"My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso."

"The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?"
"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun."

-Pablo Picasso

over and out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wish List:

Okay, so my 20th birthday is in a mere 10 days and I don't even feel that excited. Normally this close to my birthday, I am super excited and counting down the days. This is probably because I have gone on trips every year for my birthday since I turned 16. I spent 16 in Beverly Hills, 17 in Italy, 18 at a ranch resort and lodge, and 19 in Seattle. This year, on top of turning the boring age of 20, I haven't made any exciting plans. I may or may not go camping.. that's as far as I have gotten. Most of my excitement is pinned on September when Ethan and I will be moving to Angers, France for a semester abroad. So.. to get myself a little amped up, I went on a mini wishlist building extravaganza and found some fun things. I thought it would be fun to share my finds and if anyone wants to send a gift my way on March 13... :P





moss mills milo bracelet - photo 

Dachshund Bracelet 



Canvas Wedges 


Mental Floss Magazine 



 Vintage Polaroid Land Camera Automatic 320 Folding Camera with Leather Case and Manual

 over and out.

to be or not to be: a hero



1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

"What does it mean to be a hero? Is it someone fulfilling an ambition at great personal and physical struggle or is it someone doing something for the good of mankind? And why do we all need heroes - what is it that inspires us about certain people and makes us hold them up as examples of greatness?
The truth is that we look up to people who make a difference to our lives while at the same time overcoming personal struggle and hardship to achieve that goal. We admire their bravery and dedication; we aspire to be as courageous and focused as they are to achieve what they set out to do.
So being a hero isn't necessarily about achievement only. It's the effect that their achievement has on the rest of us and what we can learn from the struggle and hardship they underwent. They are what we could call exemplars - they are people who demonstrate high standards of character and dedication and who inspire us to achieve the highest that we can in order to emulate them.
However, being a hero isn't always front page news or the stuff of films. Being a hero can mean working all the hours under the sun and earning enough to send your children to college so that they can have a better future than you had at their age. It can be as simple as making sure that the elderly people in your area are always warm and well fed, or dedicating yourself to improving community amenities and overcoming all the obstacles that get thrown up in your path.
So you can achieve great things like win an Olympic gold medal by being fast on your feet and become an icon. Or you can achieve great things through strength of character and perseverance, and become a hero. You can doubt your ability to complete the journey, but having the strength of character and purpose to overcome your own fears about completing it - that's the stuff of heroes. That's what inspires others - that you falter and doubt your ability to carry on, but that you then pick yourself up again stronger than before, doubly committed to your goal, and you press on to the end." -Neel Raman

James 4:7-10 (New Living Translation)

 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Hebrews 11:25-26 (New Living Translation)

25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treausures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 

Colossians 3:5-10 (New Living Translation)

 5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.[a] 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 

Philippians 4:8-9 (New International Version)

 8 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

Ephesians 4:1 (New International Version)

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 4:26 (New International Version)

26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

Romans 15:1-2 (New Living Translation)

1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

Matthew 15:16, 18-20 (The Message)

 16-20Jesus replied, "You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? ...What comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that's neither here nor there." 

Isaiah 53:10 (The Message)

 10Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
   to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
   so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
   And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.

 over and out.