Top 5 Characteristics that make Taylor Swift Stand out in the Music Industry

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It was no surprise that her newest album, 1989, won “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Grammy’s earlier this month. At only 26 years old, Taylor Swift has skyrocketed to success. With this year’s three wins, Taylor now has 10 Grammy’s.

Taylor is a truly talented artist who strives to be real with herself and her fans. The effects of stardom can be crippling, but Taylor has been able to remain a respectable individual, even in the wake of pressing celebrity standards.

How has she done this? Taylor exhibits many character qualities that are hard to find in stardom circles. Here are the top 5 reasons why I believe Taylor has been able to retain her integrity and become an incredible artist:

  1. She is real.

Taylor’s music depicts real life for the average person. She sings with genuine heart and feeling about things that everyone can relate with.

  1. She works hard.

This is no question. She has not gotten this far with out a whole lot of hard work.

  1. She is engaging.

Taylor is not afraid to talk to her fans. She is down-to-earth in the sense that she does not puff herself up to be better than everyone else.

  1. She is kind.

We rarely hear about Taylor getting into fights or arguments. She also publicly shows that she appreciates her fans at every concert.

  1. She is approachable.

Taylor has a ginormous fan base, but through her social media outlets she makes herself available to all her fans in a personal way.

These are all qualities that make someone great—whether you have 3 fans or 70 million. I often get stuck thinking that my success is determined by my career. But just think—if Taylor had none of these qualities, would be as big of a star? Don’t ever exchange a kind heart for a larger paycheck. It is often the small character qualities that start in the heart that make someone truly great.

-Megan W

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Television, the Nightly News, and Fear: How Christians Should Respond

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I recently heard a sermon titled “The Kingdom of God and the Culture of Fear” (check it out here). In this sermon, the preacher talks about “peddlers of fear,” people and organizations that actually make a profit on producing fear. This is not the type of fear that a haunted house sells. This fear is the type that we might feel when we hear of natural disasters, violent protests, or random shooting rampages. In fact, just this weekend in Kalamazoo, MI six people were killed by an Uber driver who went on a random shooting rampage. See the news footage – Kalamazoo Shooting Suspect Charged. It is a tragedy that should have never happened. It should break our hearts that these things happen in the world, but it does not mean that we should lock ourselves inside for fear of something like this happening to us.

It is a good thing to be informed. We need to know about what is happening in the world and to be aware of the social issues going on around us. As Christians, however, we are free from being paralyzed by fear when watching the nightly news. As emphasized in the sermon, we have a hope to cling to that conquers all fear – Jesus Christ. Isaiah 41:10 tells us that we are not to be afraid because God is with us. Romans 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God – even random shootings cannot break God’s love for us.

The first ten minutes of most newscasts focus on the stories that elicit fear. I want to challenge you to actively combat this culture of fear. Here are three key points to keep in mind when engaging with current news media:

  1. Pray for protection from fear.
  2. Pray for those dealing with the tragedy or suffering.
  3. Trust and believe that God is sovereign and that will never leave us nor forsake us.

7 Practical Steps to Choosing a Gripping and Engaging, Good Book

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If you love to read, then you know the agony of trying to read through a dull book. You may also have spent countless hours roaming the library or bookstore to find that perfect book. As Christians, we want to fill our minds with uplifting media, but that does not mean we must only read Christian books. In fact, there are numerous good books that are thought provoking and well written and are also good for the soul.

Maybe you have a vacation quickly approaching, a free Saturday, or you simply always need to have a book by your bed. Whatever your reason, here are # steps to help you never go good-book hungry again.

  1. Start broad. Identify a general topic or genre that interests you. Fiction or non-fiction? Romance or Sci-fi?
  2. Check websites and reviews. See what others are saying about the particular books in your desired category. Amazon.com is great for browsing and finding good reviews.
  3. Put in you two cents. Now that you have a list of popular books, it’s time for you to decide what actually looks good. You know what kind of stories you enjoy most. Read plot summaries and/or descriptions.
  4. Make a list. As you narrow down what books are most popular to you, keep a running list of titles and authors.
  5. Head to the nearest library or bookstore. You may have a larger list than you can possibly buy or checkout, but you are covered in case a book is unavailable.
  6. Read. Yes, that may be obvious, but I know I have brought home countless books that I’ve never opened, or never finished. If the book is a dud, yes, it’s okay to move on. But sometimes a little perseverance can be very rewarding.
  7. Find a winner? If you end up loving the book, look up the author and see of he or she has written others. This is a great way to quickly add books to your list that you know you’ll love.

-Megan W

The Questions that made Jurassic Park a Blockbuster Hit

In 1993 the very first Jurassic Park was released. This Steven Spielberg classic trilogy made well over $1 billion in ticket sales and became one of the most popular “man vs. nature” series to ever hit the box office. For some reason, people could not get enough of an entire park created for once extinct dinosaurs.

But what an intrigue this is! The movies incorporate some typical horror elements, certainly to keep you on the edge of your seat, but mostly they are Jurassic thrillers that raise many ethical questions.

I believe it is these questions that made Jurassic Park so popular. When the movie was done and the credits had rolled, people wanted to keep talking about it.

What if we really did possess the technology to bring dinosaurs back? If so, should we? Is it right to keep the dinosaurs locked up? Can man control nature?

These movies pushed people to think deeper about the reality of living in a technologically advancing world—and how far we can use those rights (if they even exist).

About 22 years after Jurassic Park, Jurassic World debuted to an eager audience this past summer. Along with a new director, digital effects, and cast, this movie presented a new audience with new questions. Much like the first trilogy, Jurassic World deals with a loose dinosaur in a park filled with hundreds of innocent vacationers. As if the pure existence of a live dinosaur is not enough, the dinosaur in this movie is genetically modified. It is smarter, faster, and deadlier.

I, along with most Jurassic Park fans, believe seeing the beauty of a once extinct creation alive would be a true wonder. But—is it our right to play God? These movies present the reality of answering that question with “yes.” Jurassic Park takes us on an amazing and exciting adventure, but should also remind us that we have a mighty and sovereign God in good control of everything from a tiny microorganism to gigantic T-Rex.

-Megan W

What 2001: A Space Odyssey Taught Me About the Art of Film

 

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When I was a senior in high school, I took a class on the art of film. At the time, it appealed to me because my friends were in it and we got to watch films. Who wouldn’t want to take this class?

As the class went on, however, I began to learn that there is more to a good film than entertainment. A good film is more than a top-grossing box office weekend. A good film is a piece of art. And, just like any other form of art, it takes talent, passion, and techniques to perfect it.

Sitting in my art of film class, I watched a variety of films ranging from silent to black and white to science fiction. I learned to see the beauty in the films. This was beyond just entertainment. This was like reading a great piece of literature, but instead of words there were pictures.

In order to see the art of a film you have to ask yourself questions. Why is this scene shot in one long shot? How is the use of sound significant? What effect did the room’s celling have on the scene? Is this film analogous with a present-day issue? Why did they do this? Why did they do that? A good director should have a clear purpose for why a shot is done a certain way.

For my final report in the class, I analyzed Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is not your typical Friday night entertainment. Through the profound use of silence and music, drastic jump cuts, canted framing, and extended periods of blackness, Kubrick dives into complex questions regarding the meaning of life, especially in the face of advancing technology.

As a Christian, I believe the message of media is important, however, beauty in media is not always in the message it conveys. It is sometimes as simple as recognizing and appreciating the unique artistic choices an artist makes to convey their message.

-Megan W

 

A Christian’s Response to Social Media

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We had spent hours hiking up the mountain. We climbed over boulders, around streams, and through towering pines. When we finally reached the top, our senses were overwhelmed with the pure beauty of a mountaintop lake. I had never seen anything so magnificently beautiful my entire life. Truly.

So, what did I do? I whipped out my phone to capture this expanse of wonder on a 4” screen to share with friends.

This is nothing new. It’s nearly a necessity to be involved in social media today. We live in an age where creating the so-called “perfect post” dictates our lives. In my case, this “perfect-post” mentality limited my ability to simply sit and absorb the beautiful creation around me. Everyone else needed to know that I had climbed and conquered.

A recent article I read dives into how a Christian should interact with social media (check it out here). This article asks Christians four questions concerning social media involvement:

  1. Am I walking by the Spirit?

As Christians, we are called to glorify God in our actions, including those on social media.

  1. Am I bragging?

Even if it is a God-honoring post, does my motivation reflect a prideful heart?

  1. Am I battling envy and discontent?

Social media can be a breeding ground for discontentment as we scroll past friends who are getting accepted to grad school, getting married, having children, or traveling.

  1. Is this the best use of my time?

We can easily spend an average of 3 hours a day on social media…. Is this the most productive use of the time God has given us?

Social media isn’t bad. In fact, it is an amazing place where “we can point people to Jesus with the light of our lives, with eternal truth, and with grace-filled interactions.”

For the next week, I challenge you to ask yourself these four questions before you post. Who knows, you may find that you encounter more beautiful mountaintops than you imagined – you just couldn’t see them behind the 4” screen in front of you.

 

-Megan W

Reconciling the Quiet Introvert with the Loud-Mouth Extrovert

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In 2012, Susan Cain published a book about introverts and titled it Quiet. Thus we may assume the following:

  • Introverts are quiet.
  • Introverts do not often lead.
  • Introverts will not talk in front of large groups.
  • Introverts only want to be alone. 

Wrong.

Consider for a moment that introversion is the linking trait between prominent former presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon. Their lives significantly contradict the above Introvert Criteria.

The misconceptions about introverts are astounding in our culture today. Recently, Jeb Bush, a 2016 Presidential Candidate, openly announced his introversion and how he believes that having this trait will help him politically. He claimed that because of it he is a better leader.

Cain was not wrong when she titled her book. In fact, she has a profound subtitle that challenges our typical assumptions about introvertsQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

In her book, Cain dives into the depths of culture, education, and biology and explores how they impact whether someone is considered an extrovert or an introvert. She does not shy away from the truth—that we live in a world where extroversion has become “the cultural ideal.” She introduces us to a variety of studies that suggest actual biological reason for why introverts prefer the things that they do. She even offers insights into how to be a happy introvert in our world’s extroverted cultural ideal.

The quantity and quality of research Cain did for this book is unbelievable. I highly recommend this book.

Introverts truly do have power, just as Bush was realizing about himself. In the wake of grand campaigns, like the current 2016 presidential campaign, it is easy to be drawn toward the candidates making the most noise. But, thanks to Bush and Cain, let us never forget the power of introverts in a world, or campaign, that just cannot be quiet.

-Megan W