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I started as an Odyssey staff writer in Spring 2016 and became the Biola community's editor-in-chief in fall 2016. Since then, I have written various editorials about Christianity, current events, politics, and other subjects. In addition, I have created listicles, food columns, and shot a few original photos.  View the full collection of articles on my author page. 


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A Journey through the Spiritual Fruits: Goodness

October 24, 2016

The spiritual fruit of goodness remains crucial to the Christian walk because it helps us change our sinful habits and become more Christ-like. It can be difficult to distinguish between good and bad in a world where people want to develop their own moral standards, justify poor choices, and live the way they want instead of acknowledging God's sovereignty and his truth.

Ephesians 5:8-10 says this; "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord."

Living as Christ's disciples requires a life of goodness that pleases the Lord. What exactly is goodness and what does this new lifestyle look like?

Thoughts affect actions

Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi once said this; 
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.”

Although Gandhi was very wise, this idea is not nearly as profound as it seems. The revered activist was not Christian, but this idea actually appears in the Bible.

Ghandi also rejected Christianity and said,“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.," according to The Washington Times. In a way, he's absolutely correct. We're not like Christ — we're fallen human beings, and Jesus himself recognized this.

The Bible often discusses how our heart controls our mind. Jesus states that evil things in a man's heart defile him — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (Mark 7:20-30). These immoral things fill a person's mind, affect their thoughts, and eventually influence their actions.

My Biblical Interpretation and Spiritual Formation professor from my freshman year at Biola made her classes memorize Colossians 3:1-17, which describes how people receive a new identity in Christ and must eliminate any earthly thinking patterns and habits if they truly desire to shed their old selves. My professor also gave us a card with this verse that I keep in my desk and reflect on because this passage transformed my life. It reminded me that we cannot justify living like those around us because we must adhere to higher standards if we truly desire to become more like Christ. Why justify society's sins when we can serve as honorable examples to this broken world?

Scripture emphasizes purity of thoughts because the things people think about characterize them. Immoral things impact someone's reasoning and motivation. Desire for something someone else has motivates someone to steal. A wish to become like someone else triggers envy deep inside a heart. The same holds true for moral things. A person's love for their spouse causes them to remain faithful and sexually pure.

Actions speak louder than words

Thoughts not only define a person, but they influence actions because actions begin with thoughts. Humans naturally sin and obey their inner desires. Positive thoughts bring great results; negative thoughts bring unfortunate results. Concern leads to care. Hurt morphs into revenge. Optimism leads to joy. Pessimism leads to cynicism. Lives improve from happiness and plunge to depression from sadness. 

A person must examine their actions if they desire to develop goodness. Goodness results from obedience to Scripture and actions God approves. Sinful tendencies prevent goodness because they cause someone to focus on what their mind or the world says is correct. This remains event in situations where students face peer-pressure in situations like class examinations.

Consider this. A student sits at his desk. His hands covers his ears as he panics. When did the Maccabean Revolt take place? He knows that he read it in the textbook, but intense fatigue did not allow the answer to stick in his mind."It's just one question," he thinks to himself. His palms sweat and his shoulders tense with anxiety. "I'm sure the girl sitting next to me has the right answer," his mind tells him. The student's eyes quickly veer to his left side, but then instantly turn back because his mind shouts, "stop!" However, it is too late. The date remains in his mind forever, like a horrible, recurring nightmare. He never cheated again, but he still feels shame because he knew the right thing to do, yet let his mind control him.

Scenarios like this happen all the time. People have values they intend to live by, yet society convinces them that it is okay to forget them for one moment. We make exceptions for certain circumstances and this habit halts our growth in goodness because we blur line between right and wrong.

Listening to the Holy Spirit can help us develop goodness because he counsels people and allows them to discern between right and wrong. In essence, the Holy Spirit is our personal conscience. That is why our mind instantly says "don't do this," in certain situations. However, we must realize that any negative thought comes from the enemy, so we cannot always rely on our conscience and must learn to listen for the Spirit's voice that allows us to act according to God's moral standards and live righteously.

Treat others as image bearers

Actions determine the way a person treats others, so it is not surprising that goodness includes acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). As a result, goodness also includes loving others because God created all humans in his image. It is important to show mercy towards evil people and help the poor and oppressed in society, but it is also important to respect people we encounter daily, such as other nonbelievers or family members that irritate us.

The Bible states that a person reaps what they sow. We start to acquire goodness when our thoughts and actions align with Godly standards because pure thoughts develop into positive choices that produce great results. Purifying our minds from sexual immorality helps us say no to movies loaded with sexual content or the temptation to cheat on someone. Denying desire to disobey God's commands and listening to his voice permits us to act honorably. Learning to care for others allows us to extend bona fide benevolence instead of counterfeit charity.

Light versus darkness

Goodness encompasses all these aspects. It is so abstract, yet it influences who someone truly is and will become. We will either choose to obey God and focus on good things, or obey the world's whispers and lose our souls.

Women's March in LA Serves As A Perfect Example of Peaceful Advocacy

January 30, 2017

Fires blazed, major highways shut down, and signs saying "Not our president," appeared the day after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. Despite these violent anti-Trump protests that raged across the nation for over five days in cities like New York, Chicago and Portland, LA's protests remained peaceful but still served their purpose, according to CNN News.

Group gatherings flared up once again after Trump's Inauguration on Friday, Jan. 20. Americans women — and even some men — organized "Women's March on Washington" demonstrations across the nation on Jan. 21.

Women's March on LA

Around 750,000 people gathered in Los Angeles for the Women's March Los Angeles, a sister event to the Women's March on Washington, in solidarity for women's rights, according to NBC channel 4 News. The Women's March was not specifically an anti-Trump protest, but some spoke out against his inauguration. The event also grew so large that some Metrolink and Amtrak trains reached capacity. Once again, Los Angeles held another peaceful, anti-Trump event. The LAPDreported no arrests and said demonstrators exercised their rights well, according to this recent press release.

"The streets of Downtown Los Angeles are emptying and you can be proud of your city. With crowd estimates well past one hundred thousand, the women, men, and children exercised their first amendment rights in a joyous and peaceful manner.So far as of 2:00 p.m. The Los Angeles Police Department has not made any arrests and is in the process of opening downtown streets to facilitate the flow of traffic. The men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department are currently working with the Department of Transportation to restore traffic back to normal. While there are long waits for public transportation, our city partners at Metro have added extra busses and rail cars to help expedite everyone's journey." - LAPD press release, Jan. 23.

These are just the basic principles, ACLU also provides a few different resources, including this foldable card and this a "Know Your Rights" brochure about demonstration rights.

The Women's March on Washington did not have violence or unnecessary disruption and took place in the public square. Demonstrators also exercised their free speech rights correctly and voiced their concerns. These characteristics brand it as one of the largest, yet most peaceful protests. Unlike other rallies in America, protests do not need violence to serve a purpose. Coming together in large groups, holding signs, and chanting generates impact and attracts attention.

The nature of peaceful protest

What exactly constitutes peaceful protest? The American Civil Liberties Union provides three principles to remember about protests and demonstrations.

The first is "Conduct, not content." Citizens have the right to express their beliefs, but the way they say it matters.The government can disband protests if they cause serious disruption, but they cannot stop them simply because they do not like what someone said. People can criticize the government, president,and even the chief of police. Free speech does not include libel, slander, or anything that suggests breaking the law. For example, someone cannot yell "shoot the cop."

The second is "Free speech is for everyone." This means free speech is people of different religions, races, ages, etc;. Free speech is for everyone.

The third is "When, where, and how." Protesters should consider all three of these when they organize an event. They cannot demonstrate on private property, trespass, organize a rally that causes unnecessary disruption or violence, and they must adhere to the city's restrictions on time, place, and manner for rallies. Demonstrations cannot interfere with school or church events. Some places, such as city halls, also require permits and people cannot block intersections.

These are just the basic principles, ACLU also provides a few different resources, including this foldable card and this a "Know Your Rights" brochure about demonstration rights.

The Women's March on Washington did not have violence or unnecessary disruption and took place in the public square. Demonstrators also exercised their free speech rights correctly and voiced their concerns. These characteristics brand it as one of the largest, yet most peaceful protests. Unlike other rallies in America, protests do not need violence to serve a purpose. Coming together in large groups, holding signs, and chanting generates impact and attracts attention.

Several Biola University students and alumni attended the march. Senior history major Debra DeWit tagged along with a large group of friends. She plans to become a history teacher and wanted to collect pictures and videos of the march to show her students when they learn about the historic event. She hopes these pictures and videos will help convey feelings and sentiments surrounding the event.

"When I teach about this time period 20 years from now, I can say, 'hey, I was there and can tell you a lot about the feelings and sentiments of what everyone was talking about'," DeWit said.

Elementary education alumna (2016) Miranda Paul went with friends who are passionate about social justice. She personally is passionate about women's causes after learning about gender at Biola and also became passionate about immigration after taking a missions trip to Honduras.. She has also experienced micro aggression as a woman and does not feel people value her opinions as much as a man, especially in the education system. 

Paul noticed the crowds were very congested, so the march was more of a stand-still advocacy session since the waves of people moved slowly. Her friends hoped it would become more active and dramatic like the Trump protests after Election Day. Despite their disappointment, they took advantage of this time, interacted with people around them, and meditated on the street corners.

DeWit stated that main demographic represented was women in their 20s and 30s, but older women, several men, children, and social justice organizations also participated. Junior sociology major Kylie Kelly estimated that men made up about half the crowd. DeWit, Kelly, and Paul all felt the atmosphere was not hostile or uncomfortable — it was truly a peaceful protest where everyone united in different, individual causes to bring justice. In addition, Kelly observed that joy, excitement, and energy permeated throughout the space. DeWit said she feels Los Angeles residents know rioting and vandalism do not help promote causes, which helped the protest stay peaceful and organized.

" I think maybe there was an idea that we wanted to prove that we don't necessarily have to riot to be heard and take the nation's attention," DeWit said.

The organization's mission statement explains how the march was not a protest, riot, or rally, but instead a march to celebrate human rights.

"In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us."

- Women's March on Washington mission statement, paragraph II.

Kelly felt that the marchers reflected the organization's mission statement well.

"The march had a heart of non malicious intention which was reflected in majority of the marchers," Kelly said.

She also shared that other drivers welcomed groups' presence when marchers veered off the route.

" Even when we went onto streets that were not intended for us to be marching on, drivers we're happily honking along and cheering rather than being frustrated at the fact that there were now immobile," Kelly said.

Several signs and creative chants

Paul believes that many marchers were more politically reserved, yet they publicly expressed their thoughts because they feel America needs change, especially during a Trump presidency, and wanted to unite with others who shared the same desires. She feels the same way personally and said this was the first time she publicly made a political statement.

"They typically weren't politically active, they weren't typically one to speak up about social justice issues, but with the gross intentions over some of the things president Trump said, they hit a breaking point and couldn't stay silent any longer," Paul said.

Marchers held signs with statements about different issues — women's rights, public health, immigrants, pro-choice, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, anti-gun, and anti-Trump. Most signs had some phrase related to a cause. For example, pro-choice signs had slogans about women's genitals like "pussy power" due to Trump's comments about women. 

Varieties of chants echoed throughout the streets of Downtown Los Angeles. People who desired love and unity cried, "you will not divide us." Female pro-life advocates went back-and forth, saying "my body, my choice" as men responded with, "your body, your choice." Those fighting for immigration rights shouted "say it loud, say it clear, immigration is welcome here," anti-Trump groups yelled "hey, hey ho, misogyny has got to go," and racial equality advocates shouted, "Black lives ,they matter where? Black lives, they matter here!"

Kelly was excited that she could fight for social injustices outside of campus and felt empowered as she celebrated human rights with others. Kelly agrees with the Women's March mission statement and hopes to provide justice and equality for others that do not share the same privileges she enjoys.

Kelly believes God gave her a passion for racial justice and equality. Her sign read, "Black lives matter" on the front and "women's rights are human's rights" on the back. She has specifically observed how Black Live Matter advocates focus more on men instead of women. She does not discount this concern, but she also recognizes the need to increase awareness about the ways racial inequality affects Black women.

"So many of us hold a blind spot to how systematic racism affects Black women. Our focus is usually on Black men, which is obviously also important," Kelly said. " I know that hearing systemic racism makes people upset but it is a very real thing that takes shape in many different forms and we need to be more educated."

Paul held a sign that said "respecta nuestra existencia, " which is Spanish for "Respect our existence" and basically means "love your neighbor as yourself." She hopes to show solidarity with immigrants recognizes that the United States struggles with the issue.

"You look at immigration as a whole, but when you actually know that they're not the way the media paints them...knowing they're good people who are looking to just better their lives for their families because they are living in extreme poverty and don't have any other option definitely changes the way in which we think about it," Paul said. 

New vantage points

Dewitt also recognized that immigration remains a complicated issue across America and hopes Christians can develop policies that will help remedy the problem.

"I don't want to be placed on one side or the other because I actually think it's really complicated," DeWit said. " I'm not for loads of people breaking the law and coming illegally, but I also think they're a huge contribution to our society and I think that as Christians we should be pushing for more policies to welcome them in and give refuge."

DeWit considers herself a moderate, so she hoped to learn from people who stand on both sides of an issue and encounter perspectives that deviate from her own. She quickly realized the march encompassed more than just women's rights. 

"Hearing the variety of voices uniting under this 'we care about each other in a sense that we want to stand up for each other. It wasn't just a women's march — it was everyone's march, " DeWit said.

Paul also engaged views that differed from hers. The march was heavy in pro-choice representation, but Paul said she is not pro-choice and stands more on the pro-life spectrum. She understands pro-choice arguments and advocacy. One of her best friends started the Brave Voices ministry at Biola, which provides a place of refuge for people who experienced sexual assault. As a result, Paul recognizes that terrible things like sexual assault are closely tied to pro-choice causes, feels sympathetic towards people who take a pro-life stance, and understands their views.

"When you put terrible things attached to that, it's part of the cause," Paul said. "It's not the main reason for the cause, but it's one of t he propelling reasons that you're more sympathetic and understanding where it's coming from and understanding the desire for some women to feel like they have a claim over their bodies."

Like DeWit and Paul, Kelly felt she learned about new perspectives that she did not previously encounter much as a Biola student and found it comforting. Despite her personal views, she felt united with those around her as she pursued justice .

"I felt a sense of unity and connection with the strangers around me even though we disagreed on many topics," Kelly said.



©2019 by Jehn Kubiak.