Where have all the voters gone?

What have you done this week? Taken some tests, wrote some papers, run it the Color Run? Impacted our country’s future?

It is no secret that the federal government may not have considered how busy the month of November is for college students when choosing an election day.

I know everyone is SUPER busy right now but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to not vote!

On election day (which was 11/3 if you didn’t know), I was very saddened to find out how many of my students did not vote, and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Maybe you’re thinking that it’s too late for a “get out the vote” blog post, but I think it’s time to rally the troops and get people excited, ready, and prepared for the Presidential election in 2016!

You said you’re too busy, right? Maybe you need this much time to prep!

So, here are my top reasons why all ETBU students should vote and why politics matters to you:

  • You are at least 18, which means you’re old enough.
  • You are (probably) a Christian, and it’s your job to make sure God’s will is carried out as much as possible.
  • There were some vary diverse candidates elected a few days ago, so you have no excuse to think politics is just for old white guys.

Allow me to elaborate… Let’s start with reason 1: You are at least 18, which means you’re old enough

Lots of things happen when you turn 18 (or around there at least). You graduate high school, maybe you start college, men at eligible to be drafted, and everyone can vote!

Voting is really a pretty big plus about living in America right now. If you think back in history, we left England because we didn’t feel like our voices were being heard, and lots and lots of protesting was done to make sure that EVERYONE (no matter the race or the sex) can vote.

Don’t you feel like you owe it to all those people to take 15 minutes and have your opinion counted?

Reason 2 that ETBU students should vote: You are (probably) a Christian, and it’s your job to make sure God’s will is carried out as much as possible.

The word “vote” is no where to be found in the Bible. It was written 1000s of years ago – cut them some slack!

But that doesn’t mean that the idea of electing good Christian leaders and praying for them isn’t there.

Take Proverbs 28:12, which warns us of what happens when we have godless leadership:

12 When those who are right with God win, there is great honor, but when the sinful rule, men hide themselves.

If Christians sit back and don’t vote -for whatever reason- how can we expect to have God fearing people leading our country?

Finally, Reason 3 of why ETBU students should vote: There were some vary diverse candidates elected a few days ago, so you have no excuse to think politics is just for old white guys.

First of all, Joni Ernst was elected to the senate in Iowa on Tuesday. That’s a big deal because she’s the first female senator from Iowa, and she’s a veteran. That makes her also the first female veteran to be in senate!

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Compfight cc

 Also, Tim Scott is the first black senator to be elected in the entire South since Reconstruction ended in 1877!! He was elected in South Carolina on Tuesday.

There are a lot of other impressive firsts from this Midterm election, but I’ve saved my favorite for last:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/07/meet-saira-blair-18-soon-to-be-the-nations-youngest-lawmaker/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/07/meet-saira-blair-18-soon-to-be-the-nations-youngest-lawmaker/

 Most impressively, 18 year old college freshman Saira Blair was elected to the House of Representatives on Tuesday. She is either the same age or younger than almost every ETBU student! Are any of y’all thinking of running for Congress soon?

I need to provide a small disclaimer… I have not researched the views or plans for any of these candidates. They might not align with my own views, or yours, and they might not be Christians.

By writing this post, I don’t mean to show support (or not) for any of these candidates. All I’m saying is that there is a whole lot that college students can relate to in politics right now. It is important to be involved, stay informed, and have your vote counted.

Exciting things are happening! Don’t you want to be a part of it?

Voting in Texas really isn’t too difficult. To make sure you are prepared for the 2016 elections, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go here and register to vote! You will then get a Voter Registration Card in the mail.
  2. Grab your Drivers License or Passport for ID
  3. Go vote! Your polling place is listed on your Voter Registration Card, or you can find it online by entering your zip code on this website.

If you are attending school away from home, you will need to fill out an “absentee ballot” meaning you will send it in the mail before election day.

If you still have questions, check out the Helpful Hints on Voting Early by Mail from the votetexas.gov website.

I think that about covers it! Now you have NO REASON to not vote in the 2016 Presidential election! It’s God’s will after all…
AML

Eritrea: Twenty Years of Oppression

This past week students at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) celebrated a night of praise and prayer on behalf of persecuted religious minorities worldwide and in particular sought to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in Eritrea.

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

76% of the world’s population, or 5.3 billion people, live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.

According to a 2014 Pew Forum report, “social hostilities involving religion [have]] reached a six-year peak.”

One of the worst oppressors of religious minorities in the world is Eritrea.  For more than two decades President Isaias Afwerki and the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) have systematically committed flagrant abuses of human rights.  While violations remain pervasive, perhaps no community has suffered more thoroughly and completely than the numerous adherents of a variety of religious communities deemed unacceptable by the illiberal government.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom documented in its most recent report that Eritrea is currently holding 2,000 to 3,000 religious prisoners on religious grounds.

Individuals held in violation of freedom of religion are consistently denied rights of due process, access to legal counsel and even basic medical aid.  They are imprisoned alongside numerous others in deplorable conditions including overcrowded facilities with scarce food and potable water, underground bunkers and caves, and metal containers housed in the desert causing prisoners to “experience extremes of high and low temperatures.”  One former Barentu detainee described confinement in a room with dimensions approximately eight by ten feet, a low ceiling of six and a half feet and a temperature reaching near 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thirty-three individuals were simultaneously housed in this room.

Former detainees describe government utilization of a technique binding the hands and feet of individuals behind their back in a position known as “the helicopter.”  One Christian refugee recounted a harrowing experience of being fastened into “the helicopter” position for 136 hours in an effort to force faith repudiation.

Following field research conducted in June, this past semester the Freedom Center at ETBU has been promoting teaching, research and awareness about the situation of persecuted religious minorities in Eritrea.  Graduating senior Travis Nicks has transcribed sixteen firsthand accounts of the realities faced by evangelical believers, a Muslim dissident, and a former child soldier.

This new research further reveals a systematic violation of human rights including harsh imprisonment practices, burning of Bibles by the military and forced conscription of children.

One such testimony shared by a young female recounted how she was imprisoned for her belief in Jesus as a twelve year old girl:

The story of my imprisonment begins when some brothers were taken to jail because they were found praying together.  When I was twelve years old my family sent me to those brothers to take them some food and clothing.  The police asked me if I was a Christian and I said “yes,” and so they took me inside the jail as a twelve year old… We stayed there for less than two weeks until they transferred us to Wi’A underground prison near Massawa Port around the coastal area.  The coastal area is mostly desert and extremely hot – so hot in fact that the prisoners are held in underground cells…

For two months we stayed in this underground facility – I being only a twelve year old.  I was sick most of the time I was in jail, and they did not give me any medicine, but instead they said to me, “May your Lord give you your medicine.”  The other girls spent their time taking care of me as well as each other.  They were full of compassion and always they were crying for me and praying for me.  We could not see each other so whenever they would encircle me to pray they would have to feel everything out with their hands by a blind search.  If we separated it was difficult to find each other because it was so dark, but they spent their time praying for me and sharing the Bible with me for my encouragement.  After two months I was released from the jail, but I was forced into military training at the very same place which doubled as a military training center.

Another individual who was a freshman at a technical college shared:

They stoned us because we were always telling the good news of Jesus Christ, and for that reason the other students did not like us.  When the incident occurred there were about six or seven of us praying in the house, and when we went outside we were surprised to discover that a mob had gathered and were waiting for us in a nearby open field.  Most of the other students were Muslim and Orthodox followers, and they knew quite obviously that we were believers and they had no sympathy for us.  When I had discovered that we had been trapped I tried to run away but somebody struck me in the back of my head and I fell down unconscious.  I lay there from 7pm until 9pm bleeding seriously, and then after 1 A.M. I suddenly received strength from the Father.  I went to the school and found the secretary who happened to be a Christian sister and she redirected me to the nurse who stitched me up, although without any anesthetics.  I had just begun my first year of studies but due to the incident I was dismissed for one year.

The situation in Eritrea remains dire and calls for ongoing prayer, advocacy and partnership with efforts such as a one year commission of inquiry created by the Human Rights Council to “investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea.”

EMB

Diabeetus

During the Fall 2014 faculty training, Kelley Paul from our Academic Success Office was speaking and told this story about how because of her position she finds her kids often “playing college” and “enrolling their stuffed animals into classes”. With a laugh, I commented to the people at my table “That’s sad.”

Librarian Cynthia Peterson, also at our table, commented, “I played librarian when I was a little girl.”

Week11 Bumblebee_transformingAt that moment, I thought to myself, “Will, you are such a disappointment…when you were a kid you wanted to be a Transformer.”

And then as I looked down at myself, I realized something: I’m at least partially there (at least in terms of generally being a cyborg).

Given the tubing, I suppose I am more like Bane from the Batman comics than a cyborg...oh well, segue.

Given the tubing, I suppose I am more like Bane from the Batman comics than a cyborg…oh well, segue.

I am a Type I diabetic, and as I write this I am connected to an insulin pump via a thin plastic tube that is re-inserted into my eight-pack abs stomach fat every three days. The pump, which runs on a single AAA battery, is usually in my pocket, and the insulin transported from it through the tube into my body literally keeps me alive.

There is also a transmitter attached to my stomach which continuously and wirelessly reports estimated blood glucose levels (via a sensor that measures the glucose in my interstitial fluids, which is roughly on a 15-minute delay from the actual blood glucose readings). I also check my blood glucose levels 3 to 4 times daily via fingerstick on a meter which wirelessly reports those levels to my sensor to calibrate those interstitial readings.

And to think, it used to be complicated.

I have been using the pump for only 5 years. Before that, I was taking between 4 and 6 insulin injections each day, which would also lock me into a particular eating schedule for that day; for example, when I was on NPH insulin if I took my breakfast shot at 7am, I would have to eat a very specific amount of carbs for lunch at around 11:30am. If I ate too early, my blood sugar would go high, which repeated over time is linked to an increased likelihood of long-term complications. If I ate too late, my blood sugar would go low, which is a much more acute problem.

I’ve also only had the glucose transmitter for about 4 months. Before that, rather than checking my blood sugar 3 or 4 times per day I was checking 6 to 10 times per day, depending on activity levels. I had started losing some feeling in my fingertips due to the frequency of the pricks, and dropping down how often has already made a positive change in that sensitivity.

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes only a couple of weeks after my 11th birthday in May 1992. I have COUNTLESS stories about how Type I diabetes has shaped my life since that time. As a reader though, I want you most of all to understand this: DO NOT feel sorry for me.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

7bTherefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

More than possibly any other Earthly influence, this disease has shaped what is now 33-year-old Will Walker. It forced me into total adult self-responsibility at an early age (which carried over into all areas of my life, including academics), it started my true love of physical activity, it made me really good at quick mental math (figuring out dosages, etc.), it fostered my interest in the human body, and most importantly, it was the final impetus for my eternal salvation.

Quite literally, it made me who I am, and if I “hate” Type I diabetes, I hate me.

This line is from the Personal Statement of Faith document that I submitted as part of my job application at ETBU:

“Even my greatest bodily defect, Type-I diabetes, has been geared towards me living a life of eating well and being physically active. I regard teaching Kinesiology as God’s work; while doctors work to heal diseases, Kinesiologists strive to prevent them. I can think of no other way in which to better imitate the miracles of Jesus than to help His people be healthy and physically prosperous.”

(All of that said, I have pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, many more than just three times, and now that I have learned all of these awesome life lessons from it, if at any point He wants to cure me that would be great.)

***Also, I added this video at the last second for Elizabeth Ponder.

WW

The anxious heart: Only a women’s issue?

I have shared before on this blog that my academic pursuits have taken me around the country (well the Midwest mostly until Texas!). In all this moving around, I have had to move away from family and friends, but have been blessed to move closer to other family, and to make new friends in new places.

No matter how wonderful all my new friends are, I still want to keep in touch with old friends, and my friend Emily from Kansas that now lives in Iowa (not any closer to Texas, you’ll notice!) is just such a friend :)

Yes, we’re both women, and stereotypically, women have no trouble talking on the phone. Yet somehow, months would go by and I didn’t call Emily, and she didn’t call me. We’re weren’t in a fight or anything, but we could catch up through Facebook or our husbands, who are also friends, and that would be enough… until it wasn’t.

Now Emily and I have started our own little book club. We are reading Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. We’ve only read the first chapter so far, but I already have some thoughts to share.

I do really like it, but learning that this book was written by a woman, tells the story of a woman’s journey from anxiety to contentment, and is written through examples catered to women makes me wonder: are women the only ones who are anxious, and if so, why?

Photo Credit: R. Motti via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: R. Motti via Compfight cc

Surely it’s not true. Surely men are anxious or worried/concerned with stuff too, right?

Picking up my copy of the book, my husband said, “Oh, is this only for women? I worry about stuff too, maybe I should read it!”

I was immediately comforted.

Men worry too. Whew! It’s not just us girls!

Still though, worry is a “typical” woman thing. Typical as in most, not all, women worry from time to time. Maybe we learned it from our mothers. Maybe men learned from their fathers that worry is a “girl thing” and should not be shared.

Now that worry has been established as an everybody thing, and not just a woman thing, we can move on to my next main take-away from this book (so far).

Should any of us worry? Is worry biblical? 

Definitely not. If we just trust God, what’s there to worry about?

Easier said than done, right?

Calm My Anxious Heart begins with a story of two women, friends, who meet for coffee to discuss life. Linda (the author) isn’t looking forward to this chat because her friend has the terrible habit of finding the negative side of any experience.

I think we all know someone like this.

In contrast, Linda knows another woman, Ella, who is always happy, despite having actual life difficulties. Ella and her husband were missionaries with the pygmies in Africa for 52 years.

Hotter than the hottest day in Texas. No electricity. No air conditioning. No sewage or running water.

These are things to complain about, yet Ella never did.  She had a prescription for contentment:

  • Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather.
  • Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
  • Never compare your lot with another’s.
  • Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
  • Never dwell on tomorrow – remember that tomorrow is God’s, not ours.

I like to think of myself as a pretty happy, pleasant person, and I don’t like to complain that much. But wow. This list puts me to shame!

Photo Credit: melissaclark via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: melissaclark via Compfight cc

If we all lived this way, what a change it would make! I can’t help but think about the election, and how much news is dedicated to complaining, threatening, worrying, etc. about stuff that we really can’t do a lot to change.

Never complain about ANYTHING? Not even if the wrong person gets elected (according to you), or you don’t like the new plan,  or the speech wasn’t that good, or the outfit was terrible? Not anything?

As I read more of this book, I am going to make a more conscious effort to live for contentment. It’s going to be difficult, I know, but definitely worth it! More updates to come :)

AML

“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…”

In the United States, we are often taught that we can “achieve prosperity through hard work”; this is the essence of the American Dream.

The problem is, that isn’t exactly true.

There are a variety of factors that influence our success beyond just hard work. Among other things, genetics, social status, and (as much as we don’t like to hear it) plain ol’ dumb luck play huge roles in our successes and failures. Yes, hard work is almost always a necessary ingredient for the highest levels of achievement across all fields, but hard work does not guarantee success. (For more elaboration on this point, I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.)

Week10 EthicsThere is a related dilemma I face as a professor, which is fresh in my mind as we approach Spring 2015 advising: what is my ethical responsibility in telling students whether or not their goals are achievable? Allow me to elaborate.

KINE 1301 Introduction to Kinesiology is a “Leadership Enhanced Course”. As part of that initiative, I ask my students to write about their long-term career goals. Inevitably, there are always students that write that their “Plan A” is to play professional basketball or football. Knowing that this response is coming, I usually have this ready: the most-recent version of a regular NCAA study that shows the miniscule chance of a person making a major professional sports league. I then further explain that the vast majority of THOSE successes are not from Division III. There were only nine D3 football players on NFL opening day rosters and there are only eight MLB players with any D3 baseball experience.  Furthermore, D3 representation in the NBA has been virtually non-existent for years.

“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…”

Usually these statistics help the student gain perspective. However, there are still those students that see the long odds and assume it is a challenge to be overcome. In other words, their reaction is pretty much like this…

In essence, I sometimes inadvertently encourage that small group to try even harder since their odds are so small, often to the detriment of other aspects of their college experience.

Now, the example I gave just deals with students that think they are going to be professional athletes. However, most of the circumstances I encounter in which students have unrealistic goals happen in a more scholastic environment. For example, the average GPA of students accepted to Physical Therapy programs is over 3.5 and climbing, so beyond sharing that information, how do I best-prepare a senior with a sub-3.0 GPA for the very likely circumstance that he or she will got get accepted into a program? What about a student that wants to teach (requiring a 2.75 GPA, at minimum) but that bombed out his or her freshman year before legitimately turning things around? Yes, that person may actually be a GREAT teacher, but the difficulty of digging out of a GPA hole must be realistically discussed, regardless of how hard the person works now.

Sometimes you just know.

The worst feeling I ever have as a professor occurs when I have the realization that a student isn’t going to “make it”. I am not referring to those times that a student is taking a class and does poorly enough to clinch an “F”, though that is discouraging. I am not even referring to those instances when a student leaves college entirely after multiple class failures, although that is sad.

No, the worst feeling I get happens when after first meeting with a student or after receiving the first assignment I immediately realize the student will be never successful at the college level; that is tragic. “But all students can be successful if they just work harder!” No, that is false. “Dr. Walker, that is overly negative and you are being defeatist!” Maybe, or maybe I am realistic.

To clarify, it VERY rarely happens that I have a student that cannot achieve; usually the problem is that the student does not achieve, despite being capable. ETBU has admissions standards that generally eliminate students that are not adequately prepared. Furthermore, we have a university-wide commitment to academic support that is much better than other university settings that I have encountered. Even including those students that do “fail out”, 99.9% of ETBU students have the prerequisite abilities and available support to be successful. Is it easier for some? Yes, but I honestly think that nearly all of our students can achieve and graduate. Most only need a redirection of priorities.

It is the 0.1% that bothers me. I am now in my 8th year back at ETBU as a full-time professor, and of the hundreds of students I have encountered in my courses I can think of less than a handful that fit this profile: it would not have mattered what they did, what I did, or what the Academic Success Office did. They were not going to be successful in college.

There’s the dilemma. Ethically, which is worse? To honestly think that a student cannot reach a goal and keep it to myself?  Or to tell a student that you don’t think a goal is achievable but it is?!

There is a psychological term known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It says that “unskilled individuals tend to suffer from illusionary superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate”; in short, it is believing in one’s self too much. This term helps explain how both in my role as a professor and in my former life as a college coach I have had athletes in my office that were Division III reserves explain to me that their talents were being misused and that they were professional-level  players. However, don’t you think that a large percentage of CEOs, presidents, generals, and other high-level achievers (such as athletes, i.e. Kobe Bryant) would be Dunning-Kruger effect “victims”? Isn’t success at that level predicated on the fact that those people have an irrationally high level of self-confidence? What percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs have “illusionary superiority”? When then, should anyone stifle that confidence?

Also, Muggsy Bogues was in Space Jam!

Also, Muggsy Bogues was in Space Jam!

I mean, how many people do you think told 5’3” Muggsy Bogues that he’d never make the NBA? (Check out this story.) How many people told Barack Obama that there’d never be a black president or told Bill Gates that people would never have a need for a personal computer? I wonder how Steve Jobs reacted when some people thought the iPad wouldn’t be successful because of the name.

As professors, we must intentionally seek out wisdom and discernment in all situations. In particular, I must help students discover and accept God’s path for them, even if that means a particular occupation (or college in general) is not a part of that plan.

WW

WWJT: What Would Jesus Tweet?

Last week,  Dr. Holloway asked me to join in a discussion about Christianity and social media. There are so many questions to consider on this topic!

  • How can we, as Christians, most effectively make use of this new technology?
  • Why should we devote time to this stuff?
  • What are Christians supposed to say on Twitter… or Facebook… or Vine… or LinkedIn… or Google+… or YouTube… ?
  • How can I authentically share Christ online without seeming phony?
  • What if I’m not talking to the person I think I’m talking to?

This is just a very brief list of some of the things I considered talking about. And when we met, I realized I hadn’t even scratched the surface!

Drs. Holloway, Bashaw, Brown, and I met with a group of 7-10 students to discuss last Thursday.

As a communication studies scholar, I was planning to talk about the Internet’s power to reach an infinite number of people whom we would otherwise not have access to, and dispel some of the nasty rumors about talk online.

So that’s what I did.

I pointed out that online, you can find someone who shares your interest no matter how weird or random. You can even sometimes meet up with them to do your hobby together!

Photo Credit: dfarrell07 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dfarrell07 via Compfight cc

I also mentioned that even though we have a stereotype of people sitting in their parents’ basement, in the dark, with no hope of a future, chatting online, it’s hardly ever like that.

Yes, there are scary people online, and sometimes they will stalk and/or hurt you, but not usually.

A darker side-effect of our online communication was something that Dr. Bashaw brought up: Our tenancy to be the meanest, least compromising parts of ourselves online.

Photo Credit: SpeakingJargon via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SpeakingJargon via Compfight cc

This is truly scary, and certainly not a Christian way of going about things, but we all fall into the trap now and again.

Mainly, it’s because you are anonymous online. In Communication Studies, we call this depersonalization – a fancy way to say that you don’t feel like the people you are talking to online are actually people with feelings, and you don’t think you will ever be confronted about saying something mean.

Obviously, in the time that Jesus was walking the Earth, they did not have to worry about tweets, or Facebook posts, or online comments. But I can’t help but think of the Pharisees here…

People who rarely got called out for their hypocrisy, and didn’t really care if they did? People who thought they were ALWAYS right, and didn’t worry about offending others?

…I’m sensing a parallel…

In Matthew 12, we learn of God’s teachings in regards to being careful about what you say.

How can you say good things when you are sinful? The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man will speak good things because of the good in him. A bad man will speak bad things because of the sin in him. 36 I say to you, on the day men stand before God, they will have to give an answer for every word they have spoken that was not important. 37 For it is by your words that you will not be guilty and it is by your words that you will be guilty.”

Can’t we think of online words like this too? Just because you can’t see a person on the other side of your screen does not mean that they aren’t there, or that they aren’t comparing all of your comments to that one time you mentioned that you are a Christian!

Sometimes it is hard to remember if you come from a Christian family and attend a Christian school, but there are people out there just waiting to catch a “self-proclaimed Christian” in a moment of weakness, frustration, hypocrisy, sin, etc.

Photo Credit: yewenyi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: yewenyi via Compfight cc

It only takes one time, and the Internet is forever – put something online today, and it can come back to haunt you in 10 days or 10 years!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Internet is an awesome power that can be used for good or evil.

Monitor your posts of all kinds, and just maybe one or one million people will learn about Jesus through what you put online.

You don’t want to be thought of like this guy!

AL

Freeing the Web: A Human Rights and Religious Freedom Agenda

There is an opportunity to stand with thousands of human rights activists and persecuted religious minorities in a way that could literally change the world.

Photo Credit: sindesign via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: sindesign via Compfight cc

4.9 billion people live in countries where either complete or partial restrictions on the Internet exist.  According to the most recent Freedom on the Net report by Freedom House, there is no Internet freedom in 14 countries and only partial freedom in another 29.

Due to population density, 70% of the world’s population currently lives in contexts where there are active restrictions on Internet freedom and where governments utilize technology as a means to suppress the development of human rights, religion, and the exchange of ideas.

As Sanja Kelly of Freedom House writes:

Restrictions on internet freedom continue to expand across a wide range of countries.  Over the past year, the global number of censored websites has increased, while internet users in various countries have been arrested, tortured, and killed over the information they posted online.

The most commonly utilized means of Internet control include: blocking and filtering political and social content, cyber-attacks against regime critics, vague and restrictive legislation open to abuse, paid pro-government commentators, surveillance, blocking social media and communication apps, deliberately throttling Internet and mobile access, and physical attacks in retaliation for the exposure of human rights abuses.

Several examples are illustrative.

On Wednesday, October 15 in Reynosa, a Mexican town less than 10 miles from the United States, a physician better known by her Twitter handle @Miut3 was kidnapped and murdered for her citizen journalism exposing ongoing regional cartel violence.  On Thursday, October 16, her killers announced her murder by posting a picture of her dead body on her own Twitter account.  According to the Knight Center based at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2013 there were 330 documented attacks on journalists with 59% of the assaults “at the hands of a public servant.”

On October 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced measures to tighten government control of the Internet; a pledge that “provoked widespread alarm in a country where social media and online news sites are crucial outlets for the political opposition.”  This is in addition to already established protocols such as an ability by the government to block blacklisted Internet sites without a court ruling.

Egyptian civil society groups fear that their “margin of freedom is disappearing and that they are on their way to being silenced” by a regime increasingly targeting all government critics and known to simply shut off the Internet.  In Iran, millions of Internet sites are blocked by the government and “journalists, bloggers and other netizens are often prosecuted for publishing or managing online content viewed as ‘propagating against’ the Government.”  The Washington Post recently opined, “in the battle over information between the Islamic State and journalists, the terrorists are winning.”  Foreign Policy noted, “Non-state actors are increasingly inflicting more damage in the digital realm.  Both IS and al Qaeda are skilled with social media and learning new technology; cyber-terrorism could be next on their list.  And yet Congress is failing to address this problem.”

Photo Credit: pasuay @ incendo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: pasuay @ incendo via Compfight cc

In Hong Kong residents “have poured into the streets” and yet “news articles, social media posts and images about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests are being heavily censored behind China’s notorious firewall.”  Chinese authorities view social media as a threat and in recent weeks disrupted Instagram as a means of limiting the ability of protestors to organize and report their activities.

Dr. Randel Everett, President of the Wilberforce Initiative recently called the circumvention of Internet firewalls in repressive countries the twenty-first century Berlin Wall.

The technology to bring Internet access to hundreds of thousands of human rights and pro-democracy activists as well as to persecuted religious minorities already exists.  This technology would allow, as an example, for half a million Chinese to participate in a single worship service that avoids government censorship and is accessible via cell phones.  Unfortunately the implementation of this technology is being delayed by US government bureaucracy.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is the federal agency responsible for implementation.  Their recently revised mission statement reads, “To inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”  With a 2014 fiscal year of $731 million, the BBG allocated 60% of their budget to shortwave radio and less than 2% for Internet broadcasts.

Congresswoman Kay Granger from Fort Worth, the current chair of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, recently utilized a manager’s amendment requiring the BBG to reallocate an additional 1% of their budget and no less than $25.5 million of their current $731 million budget for a “breakthrough competition” that would create dedicated servers and IP addresses that could be utilized in censored and restricted Internet access countries by human rights activists.

After reviewing the requirement to host such a breakthrough competition the BBG concluded:

[There is] enough system capacity to support up to 500,000 simultaneous streaming with strong encryption.  This will also [make] the IP pool big enough, diversified enough and dynamic enough to defeat the potential targeted blocking efforts by any government, even if they spend billions of dollars, hire tens of thousands of people.

In April 2014 the BBG stated its belief that sufficient technology existed “to deliver entire websites via satellite distribution to address populations whose countries have completely shut off access to the Internet.”

Even though the BBG has money uniquely allocated to a project that would empower human rights and persecuted minorities around the world and even though the BBG itself has claimed that this project would be effective, the BBG has yet to call for a breakthrough competition as required by the manager’s amendment.

This undertaking would undermine dictatorial governments and further justice, human rights, and democracy but is stuck in government limbo.  The following are three practical steps to stand with repressed minorities and human rights activists:

  1. Contact Congresswoman Kay Granger and thank her for being a proactive and powerful advocate championing this cause.  Ask her to continue her efforts of due diligence in holding the BBG accountable to implementing her manager’s amendment attached to the 2014 fiscal year budget before Congress recesses.
  2. Contact Secretary of State John Kerry who is an ex-officio member of the board of the BBG and contact Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Patrick Leahy whose positions on appropriations committees task them with accountability oversight of the BBG.
  3. Contact the BBG and urge the agency to immediately begin an initiative that would allow for the circumvention of Internet censorship as required by Congresswoman Granger manager’s amendment.

This is a commonsense policy that will not increase any government spending and will immediately empower hundreds of thousands of human rights activists around the world, help undermine systems of injustice, encourage Christians and other persecuted religious minorities, and further causes of democracy in the midst of challenging circumstances in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

EMB

“We had a Field Day out there today.”

I think this picture makes me look exceedingly cool. The fact that I think that probably makes me exceedingly not.

I think this picture makes me look exceedingly cool. The fact that I think that probably makes me exceedingly not.

This post will go up roughly one hour after the completion of the 7th annual WECC Field Day (here is the newspaper write-up from 2013’s edition). At this event, ETBU students put on a series of physical activities for roughly 280 students from the Washington Early Childhood Center here in Marshall. Despite the fact that WECC’s students are 3 and 4 years-old, things actually run pretty smoothly, and since we don’t have Toby come take pictures with the kids anymore, we don’t have those 4 or 5 kids per year that participate in abject terror. We want it to be fun, after all.

Terrified kids aside, Toby used to always seem to enjoy the experience.

Terrified kids aside, Toby used to always seem to enjoy the experience.

When people ask me how it started, I tell them that it “originated” as a major project grade for KINE 4301 Organization and Administration. Since then, due to my teaching different courses in the department, the activity then passed on to KINE 2303 Lifespan Motor Development and now to KINE 2309 Teaching K-5 Physical Education.  However, that isn’t exactly how it got started.

The following paragraph is an excerpt from my written comps for my PhD from the University of Arkansas. It was written only a couple of weeks after my being hired for my current position at ETBU, although I had not yet completed my dissertation. (Side note: before reading this response, my academic advisor there was not happy with my decision.)

“5. What specific areas are you interested in researching? Why?

I am interested in studying/implementing lifelong activities and community activity programs. As young children, we have plenty of opportunities to take part in sports: soccer, baseball, basketball. As we get older, those opportunities fade. As adults, there are little or no opportunities for social interactions in physical activity unless we join an expensive club or league, and most team sports become impractical as we get older and our bodies break down. Not all people can afford to do activities that they want to do, and not all people that can afford to want to participate. Through ETBU, I want to eventually do things like community play days and free health seminars to encourage people to keep exercising. I want to eventually help the local school develop a curriculum in the high school P.E. programs that emphasizes lifetime activities like aerobics, jogging, and weight training rather than kickball and wiffleball. Through the city of Marshall, I want to possibly develop public walking trails and cleaner parks to encourage physical activity. It is far too easy now to get home from work, be mentally drained, and blow the rest of the day watching TV or surfing the Internet. People want to be entertained, and unless we as Kinesiologists make an effort to extend enjoyable activity beyond K-12 and college-age, what have we really done but delayed the inevitable activity drop-off? Why not eliminate that drop-off? That is what interests me.”

Today’s post is about goals.

Even before those goals were written down in 2007, they had been written on my heart. Everyone is driven differently. There have been several times in which people have asked me “where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?”, and I can’t answer the question to their satisfaction. As an adult, I have never had any goals beyond being a good husband, being a good father, and doing what I am called to do. That last part is what confuses people, because it is hard to quantify “doing what I am called to do.” However, I believe through our life experiences and through a “still quiet voice” God speaks to us about what it is we should be doing and should be pursuing. Any personal planning beyond that seems futile. That is not to say that a person shouldn’t plan at all; it’s just that “the Plan” shouldn’t be the end-all be-all. After all, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Now, because I think that way doesn’t mean that others are right or wrong about their own approach. God creates us in different ways for different reasons. If a person says “I want to be a Head Coach/President/CEO in x years” and he or she doggedly pursues that goal because that is what God placed in the heart, then go for it! Conversely, just because I do not desire to be a Head Coach/President/CEO today doesn’t mean I am incapable of doing so or that God won’t put that calling in heart later or that I won’t be needed to serve in such a capacity unexpectedly. For example, I began a 3-year stint as the Kinesiology Department Chair when I had just turned 28 because I was unexpectedly needed, and just last year I fulfilled a “dream” of serving as a head coach at the college level.

Of course, it was in tennis and not basketball, but it still counts!

(This is video hilarious and feels like 100 years ago.)

Just a 1/3 clock-wise swivel of my desk chair away at all times.

Just a 1/3 clock-wise swivel of my desk chair away at all times.

I keep that excerpt from my comps next to my office desk to keep focused on those professional goals that God has placed on my heart when I started this position at ETBU.

I have met some of those goals, but in my estimation, I have not met near enough. The WECC Field Day is part of reaching those goals. In Marshall, Texas, there are now 10-year-olds that took part in Year One of the Field Day that hopefully have positive memories of having participated in physical activities at ETBU in a fun environment. In the Spring, for only the second time, one of my classes will be putting on a workshop for local Physical Education teachers. Part of that is exposing local Physical Education teachers to “a curriculum…that emphasizes lifetime activities”.

What does all of this have to do with “when faith and academic disciplines collide”?

In two weeks, early academic advising for the Spring semester begins.

Here is what is right next to students as I help them “plan their course”.

Here is what is right next to students as I help them “plan their course”.

During these meetings, I always ask the students “What do you want to do with your life?”, and they answer. Then, I look at them much more sternly, and I ask “What are you supposed to do with your life?… Why did God put you on the planet?” When advising my students, both academically and in life, if I can exhibit the important of those “supposed to” goals over the “want to” goals (ideally they would be the same), I feel that I have done my job as academic advisor, which by the way, is part God’s purpose for me at ETBU.

WW

If you’ll be my sunny day, I’ll be your shade tree

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc

Maybe it was moving to Texas. Maybe it was watching The Voice. Maybe it was a Pizza Hut commercial. But lately, I’ve really been enjoying Blake Shelton’s music.

Judge me if you must, but I’ve always thought he seems like a genuine guy, and I’m always impressed with celebrity couples who can stay married for longer than a few days. Blake is married to Miranda Lambert (a country star in her own right), if you were wondering :)

Why am I talking about Blake Shelton today? Well, to be honest, I heard his Honey Bee song this morning, and it has been stuck in my head all day!

It is a catchy, sweet song! You can click here for the YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZjosn2u1gA, or read the lyrics below

“Honey Bee”

Girl, I been thinkin’ ’bout us
And you know I ain’t good at this stuff
These feelings pilin’ up won’t give me no rest
This might come out a little crazy
A little sideways, yeah maybe
I don’t know how long it’ll take me but I’ll do my best

You’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

Yeah, that came out a little country
But every word was right on the money
And I got you smilin’ honey right back at me
Now hold on ’cause I ain’t done
There’s more where that came from
Well you know I’m just havin’ fun, but seriously

If you’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar, baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

Your kiss just said it all
I’m glad we had this talk
Nothing left to do but fall in each others arms
I coulda said “I love you”
Coulda wrote you a line or two
Baby, all I know to do is speak right from the heart

If you’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

You’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
And I’ll be your honey bee

I’ll be your honey bee 

Photo Credit: R.H.Sumon™ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: R.H.Sumon™ via Compfight cc

Am I crazy, or does this describe God’s plan for marriage? 

Ok, I am a little crazy, but given what I’ve heard Blake Shelton say about God and marriage, I don’t think I’m completely wrong!

I think we’re all pretty familiar with the Genesis story…

Genesis 2:18, 21-23
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper that is right for him. … 21 So the Lord God put the man to sleep as if he were dead. And while he was sleeping, He took one of the bones from his side and closed up the place with flesh. 22 The Lord God made woman from the bone which He had taken from the man. And He brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh.

One of the many things that can be taken from this passage is that men and women aren’t meant to be alone. God made women for men, to complete them, to help them.

And this is the main message of Honey Bee, I think.

It doesn’t work for all the lyrics, but you certainly can’t have sweet tea without sugar. And you wouldn’t need a tree for shade if it wasn’t sunny outside.

Whether you phrase it in terms of Southern charm and a catchy tune, or not, the fact remains that men and women need each other. And I always love when God’s message comes out in pop culture!

Not to burst your bubble, but in the interest of ethical blogging, it must be noted that Blake Shelton did not write this song. In fact, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip did.

But I’d like to think that Blake really believes in what he’s singing – otherwise, it wouldn’t be so popular, right?

In a recent interview in Redbook magazine, Blake described how important his wife is to him, and gave his advice on being a good husband.

Photo Credit: Daniel CJ Lee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Daniel CJ Lee via Compfight cc

 “I think you’ve got to be confident and a little bit of a pushover. Obviously, you’ve got to be a loyal person. I’m never going to listen to someone trash my wife. I think you have to be willing to take a bullet for somebody if you’re going to stand up there, take your vows, and be married to them for the rest of your life.”

Sage marriage advice from the expert!

Ok, obviously, God is the real expert. He knew Adam could not do it without Eve, just like He knows how much I need my husband, and how much every marriage depends on the partners relying on each other.

A beautiful plan, don’t you think?
AML