Be Careful What You Read

I think we, as a society, need to learn to be careful what we read, see, and hear. It’s odd advice, I know, from a writer, but I think it’s something that needs to be said to a lot of people. We’ve probably all heard that old rhyme “be careful little eyes what you see.” I wonder how many of us take its advice seriously.

I’ll admit, it’s hard to do it today. Our society bombards us daily with sex and violence and the darkest parts of the human experience. I was writing a paper for school a few days ago that was on the subject of the entertainment industry. One of the points that I made was that I can’t name off the top of my head a single adult character on television that is celibate. The highlight of most “love” stories these days is when the main characters have sex for the first time. When I was talking about the paper with my mom later, she pointed out that often, it’s not just in the shows themselves, but actually in commercials for TV shows.

Some shows seem to run off of it. I hate to name one that is super popular, but Game of Thrones is a good example. I’ve personally never seen the show, but I’ve seen enough commercials for it and read enough reviews to know that it’s not something I want to watch. The show makes bank on subjecting viewers to graphic sex scenes and horrifying violence in nearly every episode. Maybe it has a decent plot, but to me it’s not worth it.

Honestly, all of this is dangerous. I don’t think people realize how much of a show they internalize every episode. When you’re laughing along to a romantic comedy, it’s easy to cheer for the likable protagonist when he finally gets the girl and they sleep together. When you’re glued to your seat during the heart-pounding action scenes in a movie like Jurassic World, you probably won’t notice all of the references to evolution and naturalistic thought.

We need to be careful. And some people need to be more careful than others. Personally, I can’t stand most pop or hip-hop. The genres are becoming increasingly filled with references I don’t want to hear. Even old favorites like country music is going down that path. For a long time, I’ve listened almost exclusively to Christian rock and rap. I pick my secular music very carefully. It’s not because I think I’m better than someone else who doesn’t, but it’s because I can’t handle a lot of today’s music. It gets in my head and in my heart in a way that is not glorifying to God. I’m not saying everyone, or even every Christian, should listen to only Christian music. I’m only saying that that’s what I’m doing because it helps me personally.

Sometimes, silence can drown out the bad in ways that sound never could. Sometimes, we just need to stay away from the bad. Christians in particular need to learn this. We are called to be in the world, but not of it (a la Romans 12:2). We have to guard our hearts against what the world will throw at us, and sometimes that means looking away. If you’re vulnerable to something, then get away from it. That’s not to say that we turn a blind eye to the problems of the world. But there’s a difference between knowing that something exists and participating in it, no matter how peripherally.

So please, friends, be careful what you see. Be careful what you read. Be careful of letting what you consume, consume you.

Guard your hearts.

Honors Student Translations

Most of my friends at Liberty University are honors students, and one thing that I’ve noticed among my friends is a certain difference in the way we talk about things compared to the main student body. By that, I don’t mean that we use bigger words, although sometimes we do, but that some of the words we use actually have different meanings.
I’ve decided to put together a little list of translations to help the parents or loved ones of honors students. Some of these may be slightly exaggerated, but most are, at the very least, spot on as far as how it feels.

1. “Pass”
What it usually means: To not receive a failing grade on an assignment or in a course.
What it means to an honors student: Get an A.

2. “A”
What it usually means: The highest grade one can get.
What it means to an honors student: The only acceptable grade one can get.

3. “B”
What it usually means: The second best grade one can get. Pretty good.
What it means to an honors student: Abject failure.

4. “C”
What it usually means: A passing grade. Nothing to strive for, but not horrible either.
What it means to an honors student: Evidence that you are a totally hopeless individual.

5. “D-F”
What it usually means: Not a good grade; failing.
What it means to an honors student: Terror and damnation. The end is nigh! Your personal apocalypse has come! You may as well hide under a rock and never show your face again.

6. “Studying”
What it usually means: Spending a few minutes every day glancing over the textbook.
What it means to an honors student: Spending hours poring over the textbook, the extra assigned reading, and every extensive page of notes you’ve written, doing every extra-credit assignment possible, and forming study groups.

7. “Free Time”
What it usually means: Time used to hang with friends, relaxing or adventuring.
What it means to an honors student: See “Studying.” Or sleep.

8. “I’m fine.”
What it usually means: Everything is alright.
What is means to an honors student: Everything is not alright, and I’m drowning in school-induced worry.

9. “I slept in and missed (insert school-related thing here)”
What it usually means: Oops, I accidentally missed something. Oh well.
What it means to an honors student: See “D-F.”

10. GPA
What it usually means: Grade point average.
What it means to an honors student: A paper boat carrying precious cargo adrift in a raging sea that threatens to sink it at any moment.

What’s in a Name?

You may or may not have noticed, but my blog has recently changed names. I’ve actually never liked what it originally was: just my full name, Susannah Ailene Martin. Initially, I named it after myself for marketing purposes. I was creating a brand (or something like that). But then, I read all these wonderful blogs with inventive, funny, or creative name. Then there was mine. Just my name. Yay.

So I changed it. Now it is “Susannah Contra Mundum.” If you haven’t gone to google it yet, that means simply “Susannah Against the World” in Latin. The story of the name actually tracks back to a man from early Christian history named Athanasius*. He was a staunch opponent of a rather nasty, and unfortunately popular, heresy called Arianism, which essentially said that Jesus was just a creation, the best one mind you, but not one with God. When asked why he wouldn’t give in when it seemed like the whole world opposed him, Athanasius famously replied, “Then it is Athanasius against the world.”

I read the story of Athanasius in one of the essays in the giant C.S. Lewis book I finished over the summer, and it struck me: I can relate to him. Maybe I’m wrong, but it certainly feels like the world is against me and anyone who commits to the traditional morals of Christianity. It’s not popular to oppose gay marriage or abortion. Most people will look at you funny these days if you’re almost 20 years old like me and still a virgin. But I want to follow Christ and his teachings. I believe Jesus Christ is my eternal savior, that he bore my sins (along with the rest of the world’s) and died for me. The least I can do is follow the simple commands he left us in the Bible.

It’s never easy going against the world, but I’m willing to do it. And I hope there are a few of you out there who are willing to go along with me. I’ll mess up, sure. But I’m leaving this name on this site as a sort of promise. Feel free to call me out on it if you ever sense me wavering. I’ll count it as a favor.

* Other than the Athanasius connection, I also like the symmetry of giving this blog a similar name to my other one, Me Against the Page, which is my sorely neglected writing blog. It has it’s own What’s in a Name post which you can read.

My Biggest Flaw

Those of you who have been around my blog long enough already know what my biggest flaw is. You know how annoying it is that every once in a while, I’ll do a post every day, and then you won’t see me again for a month. That’s because my biggest vice is my lack of consistency.

There are so many things I want to do, but hesitate to begin because I will be required to be consistent about something. Personally, I would like to blog every day. I’m sure there are those of you who remember my ill-fated attempt to do NaBloPoMo, so you know how that turned out. It’s not even lack of ideas that stops me from blogging a lot. Lord knows my brain wouldn’t keep me up until three in the morning if that were the case. I just… get distracted and forget about it. Honestly, how I have over 400 followers on this blog I have no idea.

I would also like to keep up with my literary magazine, Estuary. But I’ve been neglecting that for far too long. I’m not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to give myself a weekly schedule on that thing. That worked for about a week and a half. At this point, I think it would be better to shut it down than to keep it open, but not deliver on the promise of getting back to people.

I want to finish working on the novel projects I’m doing. I want to finish the three books that I’m in the middle of. I need to finish rewriting the first one, so I can get the dang thing published already. Writer’s block is something of an excuse for the first few, but I can’t even use that for the rewrite, because it’s not a matter of coming up with the story from scratch; I just have to write it better (which, now that I think about it, is just as nerve-wracking). In the same vein, I know that if I want to be a successful author, I’m going to need to use my author page on Facebook more often, or my fans (when I have them) will forget me. Right now, Facebook is screaming at me that I haven’t used that page in 6 days.

I would like to use the excuse “I don’t have time,” but as most people who use that excuse frequently know (at least on the inside), that it’s a lie. I do have time, but I fill it with other things. I read, I binge-watch my favorite shows, I write other stuff.

I think my main problem is that I’m too easily distracted. I’m easily entertained, which is why I can just stare at the ceiling for hours while thinking through a new idea. But I’m also easily bored. Or rather, I get bored fast. I find the idea of sitting anywhere doing the same thing for days or weeks on end is horrifying. It’s part of the reason that I like writing and coming up with stories so much. Although the physical action of me curled up on the couch with my laptop is essentially the same, it’s never the same place in my own mind.

Now it’s all well and good to realize the problem, but what am I supposed to do with the knowledge. Honestly, I have no flipping idea. It feels like I have a diagnosis, but no cure. It’s simple enough to say “Well, you just have to apply yourself more,” but if it was that easy, I wouldn’t be in this situation. And applying myself more won’t fix the boredom issue. Even college, which I greatly enjoy, gets boring after a while of doing the same thing every day.

I feel like I need more motivation than I currently have. The only thing I’ve noticed that’s helped (at least so far) is putting what I’m doing out there for the world to see. It’s the reason I’ve kept working on the story I’ve been writing the last few weeks, and it’s also the reason I keep coming back to this blog. But I don’t want to do that with everything I work on, because then it would feel like I’m doing it at the point of spear. And that will suck the fun right out of it, I’m sure.

Is this what adulthood is like? If so, I think I want a refund.

Why I’m Not an Atheist

First off, let me tell you what this post is not. This is not a post about why I am a Christian. That is an entirely different post, which I may or may not make some day. This post is not about bashing atheists. I have no interest in doing so, even though I may disagree with their ideas, ideals, or logic. Now that that is out of the way, let me explain why I can’t possibly be an atheist.

My first issue with atheism is one of logic and reason. I’m coming at this from the perspective that most, if not all, atheists are evolutionists. That is, they believe that all that is and was and is yet to be was the fault of some cosmic accident in the very distant past. Glossing over the problems of “if the big bang (or whatever) happened, what made it happen, and what was there before it?” why should we trust anything that we think? What even is thought? Is it just a collection of impulses in our brains that ultimately trace back to that cosmic accident? Why should that mean anything?

I realize I’m asking a lot of questions here, but that’s the problem. I can’t answer them in a way that makes any sense unless I come at it from the position that something out there transcendent and bigger than me must have set these things in motion.

My second, and perhaps biggest issue with atheism is one of morality. I have heard atheists complain that people are too quick to paint them as amoral, that they really do possess a system of morals. But, again, I am reduced to asking a question. Why? And where would these morals come from?

From nature? I certainly hope not. Nature is a “dog eat dog” world where only the strongest survive. It’s survival of the fittest in the most elementary sense of the phrase. But that’s not how our civilized societies function.

Another common idea of morals come from is the societies or communities in which we live. But, again, that doesn’t make any sense. Morality, by definition has to do with right and wrong. But of course, there have been societies at different points in history that sanctioned things that were wrong, or even evil. Shouldn’t morality be a fixed thing, like a law of nature? Gravity doesn’t change just because the winds of opinion are against it. Morality should have to do with what is true and good. Of course, you could argue that there really is no right and wrong, that nothing can really be true. Then, I could safely ignore your arguments, because, if there is no objective truth, then what you just said is completely false because I think so. You can’t prove that proofs don’t exist.

So morality, because I know that there is ultimate good and ultimate evil, must come from something other than some cosmic accident. Without God, or some sort of supernatural being, I don’t see how morality is supposed to exist in the first place. And yet, I see, or perhaps sense, that it does.

A lot of the problems I have with atheism come from fact that I can’t understand evolution. Not that I can’t understand it as a theory. I have studied what the scientists who believe in it (and don’t even try to tell me there’s no element of simple faith or belief in it) have to say about it. I get it, but I still can’t comprehend how it fits into the world I can see with my own eyes. Also, I know I said I would gloss over the whole question of the origin of the universe, but that’s a huge question mark I can’t force myself to live under. For me, it requires a whole lot more blind faith to believe that all matter and natural laws at some indefinable point far back in history just didn’t exist and then did, than it does for me to believe that a supernatural being, something or someone that transcends our understanding of reality, created them.

One thing I can tell you is that I’m not done thinking about this. I’m the kind of person that needs to question everything. I’ll probably be wrestling with these questions for the rest of my life. But for now, these issues are the main reasons that I can’t be an atheist. Even if I wasn’t a Christian, at this point in my life, I would probably lean more toward the agnostics than the atheists. If I didn’t have faith in Christ, I would most assuredly not be putting my faith in strict atheism.

P.S. I’ve been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately, so if you’re a Lewis fan and this sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that.

Some Thoughts about Rewriting My First Book

There is perhaps no task so soul-sucking as rewriting an old manuscript. In this case, the old manuscript in question is my first book, which is currently under the name Super Star, although I’ve never liked the name. I started writing the book when I was 15 years old. I’m 19 now, and I’ve gained a lot of skill in writing and storytelling. Needless to say, reading my old stuff is making my eyes bleed.

I’m about two short chapters into rewriting a 30 chapter book. The good news is that the later chapters are a lot better in quality and won’t take so much brain power to redo. The bad news is that these first ones suck ice. I cannot stop cursing my younger self for her annoying tendency to “talk the plot.” In the last four years, I have really begun to understand what “show; don’t tell” really means.

Another thing I’ve learned since I started the book is that I have to be better at making the dialogue sound natural. It was something a friend commented on the first time I let him read the story. At the time, I brushed it off, but now I’ve realized how right he was. Mind you, I will never tell him this to his face.

One thing I didn’t expect to happen while doing the rewrite was enjoyment. But oddly enough, I’m actually enjoying myself on the project. Having the story already written, to a certain extent, takes the worry out of having to come up with words to pull out of my hat. Every once in a while (not often in these early chapters), I don’t need to change anything. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as the saying goes. Hopefully, the number of things I don’t need to fix will increase as I go along.

So I’m going to keep trying to have fun with it. And I’m also probably going to keep mentally kicking myself in the butt every few pages. In any case, it needs to be done if I ever want to publish this someday.

P.S. If you’re interested in reading some of my work, I have a science fiction and a fantasy series up on Wattpad. Fair warning, though: the fantasy series isn’t finished, so if you want to finish reading it, you’re going to have to wait. Here are the links:

Erya (Fantasy):

Dark Ties (Sci-fi):

Life Update July 2015 (Sorry I’ve been missing for three months)

Hello y’all! I wanted to let you know I am not dead. I know I haven’t been on to update in a horribly long time, but I am still alive. I haven’t posted anything since March. Sorry. I’ve been a bit busy.

For starters, I had the end of my freshman year to finish up. I was still dealing with a lot of my concussion symptoms while I took finals, which is, by the way, not fun. But even with the concussion, I still did pretty well. I got all As except for one class, and I’m still not over that one. A lifelong A streak ruined by an art class… Well, graphic design, but you get the idea. Let’s just say the professor wasn’t the best… or good at teaching at all.


After classes were over, I had about two weeks at home before I had to fly up to Massachusetts for my summer job. During that time I went to the doctor, because my brain still wasn’t, and isn’t, working quite right. I had to get an MRI, which turned out fine, by the way. I guess I can cross “stick head in giant magnet” off my bucket list. I still have about a year of memories prior to my concussion that I just can’t remember, so I’m probably going to have to go see another doctor when I get back home. Ugh.

Anyway, summer job. I’m currently at a KOA (Kampgrounds of America) in Middleboro, Massachusetts. I am working with a ministry called Summer Shine. Basically, they send out Christian college students to random KOAs across the country to run activities for the kids and share the love of Jesus.

I’m having a blast here in the state of my birth (yes, this southerner was born in Massachusetts… in a blizzard). One thing I can say is that I didn’t expect so much of a culture shock, but things really are very different in the North versus in the South. Basically, I never want to live in any state above Virginia, ever. Give me South Carolina any day.

Not everything is roses and fun here, though. We’ve all had a lot of trials. The people are very different here, and some of them can be hard to love, but that’s one thing we’re all getting a lesson in this summer.

I finally got a chance to get into the city of Boston yesterday. We’re only about 45 minutes to an hour away. One of the girls on my team and I walked the entire Freedom Trail. It’s about 5 miles to walk the whole thing and then walk back, but it’s totally worth it if you’re a big history buff like me. Most of the sites along the route were free, with the exception of Paul Revere’s house, the Old South Meeting Hall, and the Old State House. I did pay the three bucks to go in Paul Revere’s house, but I wasn’t willing to pay 10 bucks or more for the other two. I was kinda bummed out on that account, because I wanted to see those in particular, but it was okay. My favorite part was probably either the printing shop or the Bunker Hill Monument.

That’s about it up till now. If you’re the praying type, I ask that you pray for mine and all of the Summer Shine ministries across the country. I know we’re not the only ones having a hard time sometimes.

Hopefully I remember to post again before 3 months go by again. No promises, though. 