Friday, October 29, 2010

Let's Vote!

Four short days remain between now and November 2. Election day is fast approaching - are you ready to vote? 
Some say that our most important right as citizens is the right to vote. Instead of America being tied to the fate of one royal family or ruled by a cruel tyrant, we have the opportunity to choose our own leaders. Do we realize what a blessing that is? Don't let your right go to waste! Vote on Tuesday. It can make a difference.
However, in order to make a difference for the better, you must be an intelligent voter. Voting for a candidate just because they grab your attention or say something attractive could be a dangerous mistake. (Look where we are today!) Making sure you're voting for the right person is just as important as the decision to vote.
At our Teen TEA Party in February 2010, my friend Victoria Blessing gave a presentation called "Six Simple Steps of Being an Intelligent Voter." These steps are a great review for everyone -- whether you're a new voter or are well acquainted with the ballot.



•Standards
Set standards and know your values. Make a list of what you believe and what you stand for. Know what your stance is and where you stand on relevant issues.


•Understand
Know the democratic system. Know your constitutional rights. Know what you can and cannot do. Understand the government of which you are an integral part.


•Research
Research the election and the important issues at hand. Research the candidates running, including their voting record, what the candidates have said in the past and know their values and morals. Use websites like RocktheVote.com and votesmart.org for information.


•Compare
Get a list of standards and compare the candidates with your research. Compare which candidates have similar values to you and care about issues that are important to you.


•Choose
Choose a candidate who will uphold the values you stand for and who you feel will make the right decisions. A vital part of this step is prayer.


•Vote
This is the easy step. After following the previous five steps, you should be able to vote confidently. Don't think your vote is just one in a million and that it doesn't matter; every vote is as important as the individual behind it.


“Everyone 16 and older is eligible to vote in the next Presidential election. Start with the first five steps today. Let’s get started today, let’s become a generation of intelligent voters.” -- Victoria Blessing, February 10, 2010
 
Another AMAZING website is ontheissues.org. If you want to know how a candidate truly believes, look at their voting record. Ontheissues.org has every political leader's voting record on every issue.
The decisions made this Tuesday could determine whether America will soon be on the road to recovery, or whether we will lose more ground. I'm hoping to embark on the road to recovery.
 
Let's vote!
 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apology

I need to apologize. A few months ago I started using Google Adsense on my blog. I went a while without regularly checking my blog, and recently, when I have checked, I have been horrified to see some really offensive ads. I attempted to contact Google Adsense and filter the ads that appeared here, but the offensive images kept popping up. So, I have deleted all ads!
I am extremely sorry if you ever saw an offensive ad on Freedom to Speak! I want my website to be family-friendly and reflective of my relationship with Christ. Again, I'm really sorry for any bad ads.
But don't worry. They won't be back.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

College Bound

I always knew this time would come, but I never anticipated it to arrive so soon.
Children often can't wait to grow up. They pine for their teenage years. Being cool. Nearly grown. Drivers License. Teens long for adulthood. College. Career. Independence! And adults are often caught wishing for their childhood. Funny how life works, isn't it?
I must be honest here - I don't fit the average mold. As a young kid, I generally liked being a young kid. Sure, there were times I looked forward to the future, but I was mainly concerned with building forts, flying my imaginary dragon, and saving the world. As a teen, I began to become wary of Time. I knew Time was out to get me. Time is like a wily fox; he draws himself out at peculiar times, pretending to amble ever so slowly. Convinced of his lethargy, you let down your guard. Then, in the blink of an eye, you look back and he has caught up with you. Before you know it, he gets ahead of you, and you're trying to catch up with him! I began to comprehend this as an adolescent, and so I guarded against it as carefully as I could. I even - prepare for a shock - put off getting my driver's permit. And though I have proudly held my permit for nearly a year now...I still don't have my license. (Admitting that kind of stings.)
I've spent a lot of time doing what many adults do - wishing to regain my childhood - before I've even spent it! It sounds rather silly now. But when childhood is all you've ever known, and when you understand that once it's gone, you can't recapture it, it is easy to be somewhat apprehensive of the future. I do not mean that I fear the future. I'm just a little loathe to let go.
Well, Time pulled his age-old stunt once again, for here I sit, a high school senior, applying to college. We're expecting a tornado in our home this week - a mayhem of applications essays, transcripts, etc., etc. But in the midst of this storm, I am happy.
Choosing the right college is crucial. Where one spends the next four or more years of their life is not a decision to be taken lightly, for college can make or break you. I don't necessarily mean academically, but spiritually, as well.
That is why I prayed so earnestly about where God wanted me to attend. My heart is full of dreams that God has given me, and since college is often the key that unlocks many dreams, I didn't want to go just anywhere. 
While in Guatemala last summer, I asked God to reveal to me where I should attend college. He answered my prayer, and Patrick Henry College is what He said.
Last week we visited Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia. PHC has been my favorite college for a long time. It has been my parents' favorite for an even longer time. Academically, Patrick Henry College ranks among the highest colleges in the nation. Their core curriculum consists of 63 credits. They place a great emphasis on Constitutional freedom and political involvement. They are also ideally placed only an hour away from Washington D.C. But far, far greater than all of this, Christ is at the center of everything at Patrick Henry College. The Christian community is close. The environment is uplifting and encouraging, where iron learns to sharpen iron.
In fact, you should check it out. PHC.edu
And so, I am scrambling to get everything ready to send off; scrambling to finish all my high school preparations, so that when I do leave for college next year, hopefully to PHC, I'll be ready.
Now I find myself looking forward to college with immense excitement. Maybe I'm even looking forward to college more than I've ever looked forward to anything. However, I have to be careful. For so many years I have wanted to put the future off. Now I'm ready for it to arrive. Somewhere in between, I must learn to live in the moment. That doesn't exclude cherishing the past or preparing for the future. It simply means finding joy where I am. Right now. This moment. There is joy. Thankfully, God is teaching me this lesson, and I think I'm beginning to grasp it.

Give Me Liberty: All Life Is Precious

This, my eighth column, was published in the Gainesville Daily Register on October 1, 2010.

Think of the last baby you saw. Its skin was soft and soothing; the bright eyes curiously examined you. You were delighted at the contagious grin and toothless babble.
Now think of your grandmother. Her eyes are keen and wise. Her smile is contagious too – but it’s not the wide-eyed, inquisitive smile of the baby. The never-ending twinkle of a smile that plays on Grandma’s face seems to say, “I know something you don’t.” Years of life experience lie beneath the generous, wise, cookie-baking surface.
Grandma knows exactly how to make you feel better. She knows what snack will cheer you up. She has troves of advice. Isn’t it hard to picture Grandma as anything but what she is now?
Here’s the fact that we all know but rarely acknowledge. Grandma was once a baby. Baby will someday be a grandparent.
Baby may not only be a grandparent. Perhaps Baby will become a famous singer, a politician, a renowned doctor – Baby could even discover the cure for cancer. When you look at the adorable bundle of fresh new life, it’s hard to imagine that bundle as anything else. But the baby will grow, and will become someone important. The possibilities at the beginning of a new life are endless!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the end of life. It’s not so pleasant to think about, but it happens. We know this. However, if passing is painful, the passing of a young life is even more so. Why were their lives taken? They had so much to offer. Their journey had barely begun. They could have become a star – a hero. The possibilities for their life were innumerable. And now they are gone.
In the face of tragedies like these, we cling to the few memories they did leave us. Perhaps if they had lived longer they could have accomplished more, but their short lives brought us joy all the same. We remember the innocence of their babyhood, and their young, smiling eyes. We cherish the curious thoughts, the big dreams, and the open heart they possessed. Even though their lives were brief, they lived nonetheless. And we loved them.
Can there be anything more tragic than a young child’s last breath? It doesn’t seem like there could be. But I believe there is.
What if there is a life that is yet unseen, but undeniably present? This life has all the potential the newborn or the child had. The possibilities, the choices, and the paths that lay before this infant life are as endless as the sky! This new life has not yet had a chance to take in the world with its round, curious eyes. This life has never known what it is like to giggle or babble. The soft, delicate skin has never even been caressed. And then, suddenly, this life is over. Ended. Stopped. Not because of nature – not because its time had come. Its time had never even begun. It was because of a choice; another person chose that this life should never be given a chance. Yes, the life was at its newest, freshest, most infant level, but it was a life.
To snuff out a life before it is even given a chance sounds horrendous. But over four thousand lives just like these are ended every single day in America. These are four thousand lives that could have become people like you and me. They could have become the next great artist or the next President. They could have become Grandma. And all because of one decision, they and all their opportunities are thrown out, and they didn’t even have a chance to defend themselves.
We all agree that death is painful. But the purposeful, untimely death of thousands of new lives every day is even worse. The next time you are confronted with this difficult question of right and wrong, think of the last baby you saw. Think of its soothing skin, its curious eyes, its toothless smile. Think of all it could become. Think of your grandma.