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): https://www.wattpad.com/story/41523466-erya

Dark Ties (Sci-fi): https://www.wattpad.com/story/30352294-dark-ties

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.

Whichever.

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. 

Liberty University Loved Ted Cruz (I would know; I go there)

Ted Cruz at Liberty

So maybe you didn’t notice, but something kind of momentous happened yesterday. We officially have our first 2016 presidential candidate. Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, has become the first person to formally announce his candidacy for the next presidential election. And you know what’s cool? He did it at my school!!!

This is my first convocation at Liberty since I slipped on the ice and landed on my face a few weeks ago, so you can imagine my glee when I found out that Ted Cruz would be coming to Liberty on Monday. Well, quite honestly, I would have preferred a lot of people over the guy that was supposed to be there, the governor of my state, Terry McAwful… I mean McAuliffe. But no! It was Ted Cruz, one of my conservative heroes.

Naturally, after the events of a few weeks ago when Sean Hannity came to speak, I started praying that we’d be good. I knew full well that if anyone was rude or heckled Cruz during the speech, then that was all the media was going to report on. My friends were with me on this one, so we committed to praying over convocation together. Overall, everything went really well.

Ted Cruz’s speech was amazing, by the way, if you like that sort of thing (if you don’t, it probably would have terrified you), which I do. I’ve liked him for a while because he’s one of the few people in Congress who tells you what they believe and then stands up for it, even when it’s really, really unpopular. If you’re interested in listening (and I would highly suggest it, if you have the time), then here’s the video:

Great, right? When was the last time you heard a politician talk about faith so candidly like that?

So, you have this great speech about values that a lot of Americans hold. Obviously, that’s gonna set the uber-liberals whining. But did they criticize the speech? Well… no. You see, if you’ve read anything about this speech from most of the mainstream media, you’ve probably heard a lot of people complaining about how Liberty students were “forced” to attend the speech, or else we’d be fined. You know what? They’re absolutely right. But, and this is a big BUT, that’s not the whole story.

When you enroll at Liberty University, you understand that there’s this thing called convocation. You also understand that if you live on campus, you are required to attend Every. Single. One. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, there are a lot of days I don’t feel like going and I’d rather go back to my room for a nap. But I agreed to this. We all agreed to this. If you go to Liberty, you go to convocation. That’s just the way it works, and if you don’t want to follow the rules, you get punished, just like in real life. Nobody forced us to go to this particular college, and therefore, nobody forced us to go to convocation. Other than the fact that this speaker was doing something most of our speakers don’t do and there were a crap-ton of news people everywhere, this really was just a normal convocation. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and nothing that is in any way newsworthy.

In addition, harping on the fact that we had to be there sort of misses the point. The real question is, what did we think of Cruz? The truth is that we loved him! If you watch the video, you’ll see that there were many times that tons of people clapped, whistled, yelled, stood up, and otherwise cheered for Ted Cruz. He was saying exactly what we were hoping that he was going to say. He resonated very strongly with the majority of the audience, so we applauded. While attendance at convocation may have been mandatory, cheering most definitely was not. Liberty students cheer when Liberty students feel like cheering. In fact, we gave him several standing ovations, and y’all, that’s not easy. We don’t actually give out standing ovations very often, so that tells you something about what we thought of Cruz.

Now, of course there were a few students who did not support Cruz. The most visible of those were the “Stand with Rand” crowd who were giving out free t-shirts at the beginning of convocation. They decided that they wanted to make it exceedingly clear to everyone present that Ted Cruz is not their first choice for president and that they’d prefer Rand Paul. The media’s been covering this tiny minority heavily as well.

Rand paul shirts

I want to make something clear here. I know these guys. Some of them are my friends. While it may have come off as rude, they meant well, and they weren’t really doing anything wrong. They were allowed to wear whatever t-shirts they want, and honestly, it didn’t really make a difference. I can also tell you that they don’t hate Ted Cruz. For most of them, he’s their second choice. And despite complaining about how they had to go to convocation that day (a couple of them were commuters, so they didn’t really), they probably would have been there anyway because, hey, who wants to miss seeing someone announce a presidential bid?

But what’s the story here anyway? That a couple of students want to support another conservative candidate? Really? That doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

Bottom line is this: the media will do anything to make a story out of something that’s no big deal to the people involved. Also, they don’t seem to be able to defend against what Ted Cruz actually said. I mean, who can argue with abolishing the IRS? Not me. That’s for sure.

Why You Should Have a Prayer List

praying-hands-A few weeks ago, I added another piece of paper to my already very busy cork board in my room. It was a simple piece of notebook paper with the words “Prayer List” written at the top (well actually, mine says Prayer Lisf, because my fingers did something stupid, and I’m too lazy to fix it). The reason I added this list is that a friend was going through a tough time, and I told her that I was praying for her.

But I wasn’t.

I prayed for her once and then forgot about it. The next time I ran into her, I suddenly remembered about my pledge to pray for her and I felt guilty. But what was I supposed to do? I have a life, too. It’s not like it’s easy to remember all of the things that go wrong in my own life, much less other people’s. Then I shook my head. I was making up excuses. I realized that if I wanted to be a better, and more honest, friend, I needed to come up with a way to remember prayer requests. So I made a list.

My prayer list is very simple. I have two columns, one labeled “Name” and the other labeled “Need.” This way, I can keep track of who I’m praying for and why I’m praying for them. Then, I put it on the board that I look at every day, multiple times a day (yeah, I’m a little obsessive about school). Now, I can’t help but remember who I need to pray for. I would suggest this for anyone who feels like they need to work on their praying.

In addition to helping me remember to pray, I found that the prayer list helped out in two other ways. First, it made me more conscious of the people I’m praying for. When you know someone is going through something, but they are all cheery and normal when you talk to them, it’s easy to forget that anything is wrong. But now that I am always seeing my list and praying for them, I make sure to check up on them; to get updates for my list. Now, it’s easier to keep up with my friends and make sure they’re alright, and to be there for them if they aren’t.

The second area the list assisted me in is just remembering to pray. I’ll be honest; I don’t pray nearly as often as I probably should. However, I can’t help but see the list on my cork board, so it’s not hard to remember to pray. Although I originally made the list just to keep tabs on my friends’ prayer requests, it has actually reminded me to talk to God about things that are important to me too.

What about you? Do you ever forget to pray for someone when they asked? How do you keep tabs on your friends’ requests?