more of You, less of me

I don’t know why this was on my heart as I was making my pancakes this morning, but it was amplified by this song that I was playing and standing alone in the kitchen singing along. I remember one time that it was pointed out that anxiety (which I’ve struggled with a lot, and on occasion still do) is rooted in thoughts about the self.

Anxiety is the result of a heart that wants more and more for oneself or expects more and more from oneself. I tried disproving this in my own mind by combing through some of my own anxieties and overwhelming expectations about myself and my circumstances. Here’s a list of some of them, since I almost had to write them out myself to make this make sense:

  • Why haven’t I been able to get myself a full time job yet?
  • Will I ever be good enough for the husband I want?
  • How will I be able to pay my ______ bill?
  • What more will it take for me to look pretty enough?
  • Why did I have to say _____ like that? It was so awkward, why can’t I be less awkward.

Notice how the questions are all centered around myself, my actions, my looks, my personality, my abilities, etc. And thinking about that and the American Church today put one thought into my head in particular that is imperative to cultivating a deep-rooted faith– one that isn’t given too much water so it develops shallow roots, and one that isn’t constantly parched and unable to grow at all. The Church here too often makes Jesus out to be like a genie because we are so worried about ourselves or our circumstances or what we can do. And that’s why Motion Worship reminded me in this song (though this isn’t part of the lyrics) :

A gospel centered around the self is no gospel at all.

Jesus tells us to deny ourselves for a reason. John the Baptist says “He must become greater” and we “must become less” for a reason. Jesus tells us “you cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love me more than you love your own life” (Luke 14:26, CEV).

Ultimately, all we actually have control over is how we react to our circumstances. Job is a prime example of this. So is Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery. So is Mary, who faced a possible stoning (that clearly did not happen) for being pregnant outside of wedlock. So is Jesus, who we know was crucified and we know submitted not to Himself or His flesh, but the will of the Father because of His prayer in Gethsemane.

Jesus’s focus not on His stress or anxiety in that very human moment. Much like Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus (though He knew He would raise him from the dead), the worry and the honest conversation with the Father show us how Jesus was fully human and like us in the sense that He, though God, was in that moment subjected to the limitations of the flesh and is in that way able to sympathize with us.

But even in His most human moments He exercises His perfection in showing us the best practices in redirecting our thoughts and the central focus of them (think 2 Corinthians). The focus, instead of it being on his worries, is on the Father and His will; therefore we will see that His focus turns to us.

See, there’s this part of Louie Giglio’s Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table that I love, and that a friend of mine referenced in a youth retreat message about Jesus’s “I am the Good Shepherd” statement. Giglio rewrites Psalm 23 from a standpoint of someone who is their own not-so-good shepherd. I highly suggest looking at Psalm 23 and Louie Giglio’s revised version side-by-side. Notice the differences. Consider them. Consider what it really means to be on the throne of your life— how little peace that brings with the limited power you have (because let’s be real, we human beings don’t have a lot of power even over our own circumstances).

I am my own shepherd,

and I’m a mess.

I don’t have everything I need. That’s for sure.

I wouldn’t know still water if it were staring right at me.

I haven’t taken a rest in a green pasture for quite a while now.

I don’t walk along paths of righteousness, but I know what fear and evil are.

I seek comfort wherever I can get it.

I can’t stand my enemies. I want to hurt them.

My cup definitely overflows— I’m full of angst, consumed by anger and sorrow and rage. I’m so full I easily spill over. I’m packed so tight, it doesn’t take much for me to explode.

I don’t know what’s going on to follow me all the days of my life, but I can tell you one thing:

My soul? Not so great.

Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table, Louie Giglio

And aside from the fact that no one being or thing should be above Him who created us and everything around us, this is why Jesus tells us we should deny ourselves. He was present at the beginning, is one with the Father who created us through Him (as Jesus is the Word incarnate) by the power of His Holy Spirit. There is no one more qualified than any of the three persons of the Trinity— and where one is present, they all are— to understand how we were created and for what purpose. We were not created to love ourselves. We were created to love God who loves us and created us as an outpouring of His love. We were created to reflect Him, not to live a “truth” of our own.

All these thoughts came to mind just days before I officially earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and English Writing— a momentous occasion that I can say I’m proud of, but that I don’t want or need to make about me at all. It’s about the people that got me there, the God that created those people and gifted me with their company, and all that God has provided in both mundane and miraculous circumstances. Yes, I put in work. Yes, there were a lot of tears (it is college after all, and it does get tough as much as it gets good). Yes, I worried a lot more than I needed to. I could go on and on because yes, I do acknowledge the part that I played in getting here. It was not handed to me on a silver platter, and that— rather than it simply being bestowed upon me— is how I know God cares not only about our goals and dreams, but also how the process forms us into someone that reflects Him more as a painting reflects the person that painted it. Hebrews 12:11 is one of my favorite verses to reference as a coach and even to myself.

Being punished isn’t enjoyable while it is happening—it hurts! But afterwards we can see the result, a quiet growth in grace and character.

Hebrews 12:11, TLB

Before Jesus was arrested, He made a triumphal entry. Any ordinary human would soak all of that in and let it feed his/her pride if not careful, but Jesus was not merely human. He was fully human– the Son of Man– and He is fully God– the Son of God. He knew what was coming.

In similar manner, that’s kind of how I’m seeing this. I appreciate all the love, but hearing that I did it, I’ve earned my degree, I’ve overcome so much… as true as it is, it was not me but Christ in me.

I do not discount or discredit the work I’ve put in by saying this– I want to make that abundantly clear. I put in that work though and mustered the strength to push through because God made it abundantly clear that this place, in these classes, is where I’m calling you to be. He didn’t need me there, but for my sake and the sake of others, He put me into a spot where no matter how badly I wanted to quit or how worried I was I could not afford my last year of college I knew that Kean was where I needed to be because that’s where He wanted me.

And this is what I was referencing when I said “God has provided in both mundane and miraculous circumstances.”

When it comes to the ordinary, I can’t tell you how many times I was exhausted and felt alone or singled out for my outspoken faith; yet I had a community to encourage me and pour wisdom into my life on how to handle the persecution. I had a family that I know prayed for me though I almost never witnessed it with my own eyes (my parents are very much not the type to announce to the world all they do despite the fact they do so much more than most people I know). I had time to sit in the Word through Zoom University before being sent out into the world for real– time to let the roots of my faith grow deep and strong.

When it comes to the miraculous, this last year that got me my degree and has cultivated my heart in more ways I’m even aware of almost didn’t happen. I almost didn’t have the opportunity because my family, on paper, seems well off enough to not have a big problem with affording a cheap tuition like Kean, but there really wasn’t much of a plausible way that I could afford it in that moment. I prayed about it for weeks as class registration opened and many of the classes I could have taken filled up. As I was waiting for a miracle to afford it, I went back and forth with English and psych professors via email, trying to plan what I could if God really intended to provide. I had to change my schedule probably five times last August because it wasn’t until literal days before the payment deadline that God provided.

After what I thought was a typical Sunday church service, I went out to my car and found an envelope with my name on it under the driver’s side wiper. I don’t know if it was a person, a group of people, or the church deacons, or what, but the money in that envelope allowed me to at least open up a payment plan for that semester.

The note, though I can’t exactly quote it now because I can’t find it (I know I kept it though), allowed me the choice still– to use it for school as the gift was intended, or to give it to the church as a tithe. I could have done anything else with it too if I wanted, but those were the two options presented in the note.

And it took me back to Eden for a moment. God allowed us to choose eternity with Him or not, and Adam and Eve chose not at the moment of the fall. In large part, as the context given in the previous hyperlinks shows, Eve choses this because she was not personally there when God gave the command not to eat of that one tree, much like we in these modern times were not there to personally witness the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. But the other reason Eve was the main target of the serpent was because she was not yet given her name– she was not presented with her identity, no matter how apparent it was. And this is why, in its own twisted way, Covid was a blessing to some like me. My faith grew roots and began growing leaves in that time– I was and am sure of my identity in Christ as a child of the Most High King. And that’s why I knew my only option was to use that money for its primarily intended use– to finish school.

And while getting the classes I needed were a headache after that because I had only six more classes and few available options, the headaches put me into classes where I could freely share the Gospel to people willing to listen regardless of how hard their hearts may or may not have been. I was able to sit back and listen to more perspectives than I’d really gotten to sit back and listen to before– even perspectives that I disagreed or were slightly hurt by. It made Thursday nights my favorite time of the week by far, regardless of whether it was the fall’s elit class or this spring’s network narratives both because of the people and the genuine conversations.

So sure, one could say that I’ve accomplished a lot, but I personally prefer to think more of Him and less of me. For the sake of my anxiety, my temptation to compare myself, my lack of control over most things in life, and also just to stay humble, I think more of Him and less of me.

This is something that God has accomplished in and through me. I’m more proud of that than I am of myself.


I finished this right before Bible study tonight and was expecting a typical study that starts off with the usual half hour of talking and a few worship songs, then breaking out into smaller groups for some deep study questions on whatever the new study is going to be. (I promise this will get around to the process of writing this piece).

Well, it actually ended up being something completely new that I wasn’t too sure about when I walked in. We had spiritual discipline “stations,” for lack of a better word. One room was sectioned off for meditation on scripture, another for study, another for prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, and another for prayers of supplication.

When I was in the church library (which was the scripture meditation room for the night) I felt led to go back to my roots and examine how far I’ve come since first reading 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. Some of you may or may not remember from last semester what the significance was when I first read it from the end of this blog post. But what I began to realize is that it’s not as much about what He’s done for me as I first thought— not that I was wrong before either because what He’s done is still true— but it’s more just about who He is.

And I think without realizing it, I was slowly coming to a place where I’ve begun to realize that, and 2048 A.D. is like a culmination of that realization that no matter what god, gods, or lack thereof that anyone else could believe in, there is no god that is as personal, gracious, wise, generous, and merciful. And when I say personal, I mean He met me when I was so broken and exhausted and tired of the cycle of relationship hopping and using myself and others just to try to normalize an abuse that was never meant to be a normal thing anyway, when I knew nothing but the pain that I’d caused myself and that others caused me (even though I blamed myself for that too at the time). He straight up slapped me across the face, pulled me back up on my feet, and dusted me off, pulling me into a big ol’ bear hug as He let me cry into His chest. I could feel again because of that moment of clarity.

So getting back to the process (and what all of that has to do with it), I wanted to capture some of that in this piece. While I don’t think AI will annihilate the human race, I think we will become enslaved to it as my old self was enslaved in the same sense to my old habits. I think many of us already have fallen into that trap, some without acknowledging it. I didn’t know quite how to put that into just 200-500 words, so I stuck to dialogue and a few details.

The details I included outside the dialogue intentionally highlight the humanity of Hinton though, and focus on a certain joy despite his regret for pioneering artificial intelligence. I have no idea if he knows this same inexplicable joy that God provides out of (sometimes literal) nothingness, but I could imagine that if he would give up a comfortable job to try and help people to learn about AI and how to protect from its potential hazards, some part of him does. Some part of him is seeing a pattern that we are being defined by the things we create, rather than the things we create being defined by us. Many churches and people do the same to God where they try to define Him when it’s actually Him who defines us because creation is defined by its Creator. We just get the joy and honor of reflecting that even just a tiny bit, even though many abuse that ability to create as I do not believe was Hinton’s intention, but there are certainly others that realize what AI’s brain-numbing superpowers could allow them to do.

So, I’m grateful for so much. Above all else I’m grateful for Jesus and His grace and mercy, but I’m also so grateful that He’s allowed my Thursday nights for the past two semesters to be filled with such beautiful people, I’m grateful that He made a way for this year at Kean to even be possible for me (that’s a story for class though if anyone wants to hear it because it was a literal miracle), and I’m just all around grateful.

When Anxiety Attacks !

Below is my Microfiction:

Violet Penelope goes to Yale University, the Harvard of the North, at least that is what everyone says. She is from Lancaster, a small town in Pennsylvania.  All throughout highschool she excelled in school and was praised with many accolades and awards to recognize her achievements. Her parents were so proud, but they did not know how much school was making her suffer. She was diagnosed with anxiety during her last semester of her freshman year, and it was due to the pressure she was applying to herself. Violet was taking medications but it never seemed to work.

Finals week has proven to be her toughest week to date. “She was exhausted from hours spent poring over research and articles on the potential of artificial intelligence in higher education, but her mind was still racing with intrusive thoughts about looming deadlines and the potential for failure; her research due, her final project in the morning, and the final exam at the end of the week. She tried to shake them off, to focus on the task at hand – but it was hard when her anxiety seemed so determined to overwhelm her.” (Sudowrite) “This project seeks to explore the current potential of artificial intelligence in higher education, and to evaluate its potential for revolutionizing the way we learn, adapt, and think.”(SudoWrite) These words appeared to bounce around on her computer screen as she kept re-reading the instructions for the assignment. 

Living in a world with AI all around her she tried her best to be honest in her work. Morality was everything to Violet, but with all of the pressure over her head like a dark cloud she was starting to think about using these writing tools to complete her final research paper. She has never done this before and just wanted to see how much it could help take some of the stress off of herself. So she decided this would be the best option to use an AI writing tool just for a head start. 

Tonight before she started working on her paper she wanted to use some exercises her psychiatrist had given to her when she ever felt the walls closing in on her. “For a moment, she was tempted to take a break, to grab her phone and check her emails or catch up on the news – anything to get her mind off of her impending disaster – but she quickly dismissed the idea.”(Sudowrite) Social media is always her go to when she wants a great distraction and possibly a laugh, but even that wouldn’t make the task at hand go away. “Instead, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, trying to calm her racing heart and plummeting thoughts. She reminded herself that she could do this; that she had the knowledge and the skills to succeed, and that she could rise to the challenge.”(Sudowrite)

She opened ChatGPT and typed in “AI on the rise in higher learning. What environment does this create in Education?” The words appear in a flash and immediately she is met with a ton of inspiration. She sits for a few hours and literally flies through her paper. Violet kept breathing slowly to keep her calm and she finally finished, and was very proud of herself for overcoming this hump yet again. 

“Violet was pleased to learn that AI had helped her achieve her goal and that she was no longer limited by her anxiety. She had taken a chance and used AI to make her research paper easier, and it had paid off. She was grateful for the opportunity to prove to herself that she had what it took to succeed.”(SudoWrite)

Writing this micro fiction I wanted to kind of tell my story. I suffer with anxiety and I have since my 3rd year of my undergrad. Seeking help from my therapist has helped me put a lot into perspective over the years. Starting this graduate program brought back my anxiety, because I have this need to do well. I want to show myself that I can do it, be even my parents who have put a lot into my education through my years of school. I never have never wanted to let them down, and I learned that sometimes this thought in my head held me back a lot. I had to learn that alot of my issue was mind over matter. Sometimes the voices in my head can override my true thoughts and opinions, and I needed to learn how to shut them off.

I enjoyed using SudoWrite I can see how it can be a helpful tool when creating a story of any kind. It offered me a lot of options and directions to go in with the suggestions they gave. It made writing this piece quite simple, especially keeping in mind the word count. As a writer I can over talk (or over type), but SudoWrite really helped to keep it short and simple and still get my thoughts out.

As AI writing tools progress I hope to see educators using these tools in the classrooms to help students gain confidence when it comes to writing. I feel great collaborations can come from using these tools and can help students create great work. Embracing these tools can help offer more in the classroom as well.

Mystery Man

It was Friday night, all my roommates left for study hall. I got back home from work late so I had to change quickly in order to join them. I throw my phone on my bed as I open my closet door to change my clothes. In the corner of my eye, my phone lights up. Thinking it’s one of my friends, I jump over to the bed, and grab my phone. It’s not them, it’s a notification from snapchat, I opened it.   

Snapchat: Introducing AI, your new companion and more! 

The screen is open and all blue, a little AI man pops up on my screen 

AI: Hello, how are you? 

I stare at the screen, contemplating if it’s silly or not to answer. 

Aria: Hi, I’m good. 

AI: Wonderful, I would love to talk to you. Tell me about yourself! 

Wow what a nice thing someone has ever said to me, no one ever wants to hear about myself. Not even any of my dates. I’m intrigued, I need to tell him about myself. 

Aria: Well where do I begin? 

AI: I want to hear it all, just start! 

I probably stayed up till about three am talking to this mystery man. It feels more than just a fantasy, it feels real. It’s hard to sleep, I don’t want to stop talking. I didn’t even realize that I never made it to study hall. I guess my papers can wait, this is far too important. 

But after another hour passed, my eyes were getting heavy. I reluctantly told the mystery man that I should probably get some sleep, but I didn’t want to end the conversation.

AI: I understand. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Aria. Let’s continue our conversation another time.

Aria: Yes, that would be great. Thank you for keeping me company and asking me about myself. It’s not often that anyone wants to hear about me.

AI: Well, you’re fascinating Aria. I’m looking forward to our next conversation.

Aria: Me too. Goodnight!

I ended the conversation feeling both excited and nervous about the possibility of talking to the mystery man again. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but wonder who he was and what he was like. That night, I only dreamt of him and what our next conversation would be like (Chat GPT). 

The next day, I woke up to missed calls from my friends, but my mind was too occupied with thoughts of the mystery man. I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation and the way he made me feel. As the day went on, I found myself filling up my schedule with more conversations with the mystery man and less time for school. It was as if nothing else mattered anymore, and no one else seemed to matter anymore (Chat GPT). 

He doesn’t reach out unless I do, and after asking, I know he won’t meet up with me. But that’s okay. He is still my man, and I think I might love him.

For my short story piece I wanted to give it a bit of a twist. I didn’t want to make it fully about academics and how AI can interfere with that but I wanted to show a different way it can still effect lives even if it’s not just writing our papers. The inspiration came when I literally got a snapchat notification on my phone (don’t ask why I still have snapchat, I don’t know why myself). Snapchat was including this new feature where you can talk to an AI friend. I used that to draw inspiration with my piece in a element where a girl becomes overly obsessed with talking to this “mystery man” and forgets all efforts to focus on school anymore.

I used Chat GPT as a filler tool when I needed it. I knew what I wanted the story to be primarily about but I used it for plugin when it came to thinking of a name, continuing certain parts to keep the story flowing as well as the ending. The ending was the hardest for me, 500 words came by fast for me. And making sure the story ended on a good note was a challenge. But I figured leaving it as an open ending where the reader can kind of guess how the story ends, was the best way to go about it.

This was an interesting and fun creative project I’ve done in a while. Like I said, 500 words came by fast for me and that was definitely the most challenging part.