All posts by Jared Anderson

About Jared Anderson

Sometimes I like to write about things. In 7th grade, I played the dog in my school's production of Annie.

Review – Commercials

As someone who watches a lot of TV shows (particularly on Hulu), I suffer through my fair share of commercials.

“But Jared” you say, “commercials are my favorite part of watching the boob tube.”
To that I reply, “Why are you still calling television ‘the boob tube’?”

Maybe I am in the minority of people who care this much about commercials. That’s fine. But when I see a well written, well produced commercial, a wave of satisfaction washes over me; cleansing my soul of the filth that is bad advertisement.

So, here are the reviews of my favorite and least favorite commercials currently airing on the boob tube.

I’ll start with my least favorite:

Agh. I don’t even know where to begin reviewing this wretch. I think the worst part about it is that there are more than one of these currently in circulation. The advertising department of KFC liked this idea so much that they gave the green light to make more.
It is a fake video log for a fake blog. I wish that was enough to stop production, but it wasn’t. The fine print literally says “Not an actual blog.”
It is supposed to look like people candidly talking about how much they like KFC. The problem with that is nobody actually likes KFC enough to record themselves talking about how good it is.
And why is there so much editing? It’s a 40 second commercial. Why not just have the actors memorize the script and do it in one shot? The amount of cuts they use in one commercial just puts the icing on the annoying cake; which sounds better than a meal from KFC.

Now on to my favorite commercial:

I laughed so much the first time I watched that commercial. More than that, I was really impressed by it. It is simple, it gets the point across, and it’s easy to watch. Might I add, “Whatever’s Comfortable” is a great slogan, and only increases my love for this ad campaign of Southern Comfort.
My initial observation is the creativity of using the same person through the whole commercial. I love how he points to the next person in line, who is actually himself, to indicate that it’s his turn to start dancing. Even though it is the same person, all of his dances look so different. I don’t know about you, but any time I dance it always looks the same. So I applaud his variety of dance moves.
My favorite aspect of the commercial is how confident he is. He believes that his moves look better than anyone else’s, even though he isn’t that good of a dancer. But isn’t that how everybody feels about their own moves? We all think we look so good on the dance floor, when most of us probably look awkward and just plain terrible. The key is confidence, and this dude has a ton of it. It’s like he is inviting us to join him in feeling comfortable enough in ourselves to get up and dance with him. Most of the time, I end up doing a little head-bob and some body movements on my couch just to feel better about myself.

That’s my first edition of “Review”. I hope to do some more of these in the future. If you have a commercial that you think could contest either of my picks, post it and give me your reasons for why you think its better (or worse) than these.

See you on the dance floor.

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The Fear of Creativity

Over the past few years, I have become fascinated with art. Not just the type of art that you see on canvasses in museums, but films and music as well.

My favorite pieces of art are the ones that cause me to feel something. The ones that make me think about why I like them.  I usually walk away from them feeling motivated to create something, myself. To me, that is what art is supposed to be about: pushing the bounds in such a way that inspires other people to do the same.

In a way, art is a form of activism. It impregnates those who encounter it with a sense of motivation. It should cause people to see life differently. It may make people happy. It may make people sad. Either way, it should evoke some sort of emotion.

However, creativity is a scary thing.

Many of us are afraid to be creative because we don’t want to stand out from the crowd. We are comfortable with blending in with the rest of society; going through life without making any type of mark on the world. We like jumping on bandwagons, picking up trends, and fitting in.

I get it. Being creative means being vulnerable. In order to create something, you have to put your emotions and ideas out in the world where they will be judged and critiqued. If someone bashes your creation, they are essentially bashing you as a person because you are putting yourself into that piece of art.

So, we stay in our little boxes. We choose to hide our true selves from the world. 

Why?

Our creativity is a gift. Everyone has the capability of being creative. So, why do we choose to hide our creativity? If we all decided to expose our thoughts and emotions in a poem or painting or song or film, everyone would become more honest about who we truly are. We wouldn’t have to hide behind the barriers we build around ourselves.

Creativity may look different from person to person, but we all have something inside of us that wants to get out and into the hands, eyes, or ears of another person.

My question to you is, what are you waiting for? Those canvasses, songs, or films won’t paint, write, or shoot themselves. And if you are creating things, how are they impacting your life and the world around you?

Lorde

In a music industry with female artists who like to make a scene with their over-the-top fashion sense, inappropriate public displays, and ridiculous lyrics, Lorde’s seemingly humble persona is a breath of fresh air. The only vehicle she is using to make a scene is her music, and it is quite showing. This 17-year-old musician has burst onto the music scene with a unique music style that has proved to be irresistible to myself and the rest of the world.

She first won over our hearts with her song ‘Royals’. This song was released with her first EP called ‘The Love Club’ in November 2012. Within the first 5 seconds of hearing the song, I was on the Lorde train; and I wanted more. The simple sounds of her voice with the driving beat were so mesmerizing to me. The first chance I got, I found the rest of her EP and listened to it non-stop. I couldn’t get enough of Lorde. It amazed me that the simplicity of ‘Royals’ that I loved so much carried over to the rest of her songs. Yet they all sounded so different.

Soon after ‘Royals’ started playing on the radio, her full album (‘Pure Herione’) was released in September 2013. It was perfect timing for me because the play count on her EP was getting pretty high. ‘Pure Heroine’ gave me something else to get obsessed about. “Obsessed” is not an exaggeration. Yet again, I immediately fell in love with how she combined her lyrics with the beats and sounds that make up each song.

As I briefly touched on earlier, one of the most attractive things about Lorde’s music to me is her unique style. It doesn’t sound like anything on the radio right now. Her almost creepy voice juxtaposed with the beauty of her lyrics creates this interesting blend of emotions. She seems to know what I want out of each song, and hits it perfectly.

The danger with her style of music, however, is that there is risk of the songs bleeding together. Most of her songs have the traditional progression of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. That, along with the heavy drum beats, could very easily throw an artist into a rut. In spite of this, Lorde seems to have found a way to make each song sound so different and special–an amazing attribute to her album that furthers my intrigue.

Another aspect of Lorde’s music that draws me in is her lyrics. They invite listeners to join her on her journey of self-discovery, as most teenagers go through. They are so true and honest, it reminds me of what it is like to be a teenager trying to figure out what this life is about. She is showing us her true self with her lyrics, and I want to know what that looks like. They are far more intelligent than anything I could have written at her age, and far more intelligent than what most other female artists are writing about today. This is the main reason I think of her music as a breath of fresh air.

In my post about Macklemore, I addressed his album’s title and artwork. I feel the same way about Lorde’s album.

lorde-pure-heroine-410

The title is so simple and strong. Just like her music, she doesn’t try to make the album’s title and artwork fancy or complicated. She understands the beauty and creativity in keeping things simple and getting to the point.
‘Pure Heroine’ almost describes how I feel about the album. As a heroine addict would crave the drug when they are not able to use it, so I crave for this album when I am not listening to it.

Okay. That may be a dramatic comparison, but I think it gets my point across.

I would encourage each of you to listen to her whole album, not just the songs that play on the radio. With an artist like Lorde, the full album gives you more than just good music–it gives you an understanding of who she is as a person. If you like any artist that you hear on the radio, you should try to find more of their music. Don’t settle for that one song that gets overplayed. Buy music from artists you like because that is when you really learn things about music, about the artist, and about yourself.

The Slavery of Freedom

People in the Church like to talk about God’s will for His creation. By “God’s will” I mean the specific plan that God has mapped out for the lives of His children. The Church emphasizes the importance of following that will in order to live in a way that is most pleasing to God.

At the same time, when we describe the beauty of surrendering to God, one of our selling points is the fact that God gives us free will. We can choose to live our lives for His glory, or not. He wants us to choose the former, but it is ultimately our decision. In the same way, if we choose the former, we will be freed from the chains of greed, jealousy, sex, etc. These are the chains of the world. The bonds of the world will be broken from our lives and we will no longer be slaves to them.

These two ideas, while comforting to a lot of Christians, seem to be contradictory.
Let me explain.

I hear and see a lot of people talk about how God told them to move across the country, or God told them to take this job, or God told them to date/marry this person, etc. It seems like many specific things about their lives are decided by God, not themselves. It seems as though they have no question in their minds that  God made this decision for them and, therefore, must be obeyed.

I do believe that God has a will for each of our individual lives. I do. But I also believe that there are some things about our lives that can be left up to our personal desires.

Why would God promise us free will, then force us to follow a path that he sets out for us?
How do we know that a plan came from God, and not from our own minds?
Will God punish us if we get those two confused?

I think this clip from The Newsroom does a good job at explaining the way I feel about this:

Is it so hard to believe that God can use His children to further His kingdom no matter where we live or what job we have or who we are married to?

Yes. I said it. Maybe God does not care about who we marry.

A lot of you may be straying away by now. Let me pull you back in.

I am not saying that He doesn’t care about the type of person we end up with. I think there are specific desires that each of us have that need to be fulfilled through another person. I think God wants us to have a healthy, two-way relationship that creates meaning and happiness in both parties’ lives. What I am suggesting is that there may not be only one person out there that can create happiness and meaning in our lives. I do not necessarily believe that God has only one person in mind for each of us to end up with. I don’t know about you, but trying to find my “soul mate” would stress me out.

Maybe you agree with me. Maybe you disagree with me. Maybe you have never thought about this before. All I am saying is that we need to think about the language we use. If we are constantly talking about how people need to surrender their lives to Christ in order to truly be free, then we should stop talking about how we won’t make any life decisions without feeling inspired by God to make them. If we believe that God only opens one window for us to go through, then we should change our idea about what it means to be “free in Christ”. Because that does not sound like freedom to me.

Cussing in the Baptismal

One of the things that I love most about Solidarity is how much importance they place on living life together. They make it a point to celebrate the achievements of their community members. Two days after I moved to Fullerton, they threw a graduation party for me. A few weeks later, we all went to a high school graduation to support and celebrate with some of the students who have grown up in the Solidarity programs. Three weeks ago, we held a baptism for some of the students who had decided to follow Jesus at camp.

This is not your typical in-church baptism. Just like every other event Solidarity does, this baptism was a big party. We go to someone’s pool. The “baptismal” is a hot tub. We have a bunch of food, and just spend time with each other. In my mind, it is the way baptisms are supposed to be: everyone in a community celebrating and supporting the people who choose to follow Jesus. It is a small piece of heaven being lived out on earth.

One of the teens who decided to get baptized has had a crazy life of gangs, drugs, and violence. He told us about his life at the before-mentioned camp that we all went to. An amazing story. He volunteered to be baptized first.

As we were all gathered around the “baptismal”, he asked a simple question,

“Can I do a cannonball into the hot tub?”

After no one answered his inquiry, he came to a decision on his own and said,

“Ah, f*** it.”

He jumped with his legs tucked in to his body, and splashed everyone who was standing in the splash zone.

No one could have even thought about getting mad at him. He threw us all a curveball. We were left speechless. After a few seconds passed, we all laughed. A few of us jokingly pointed out that he is about to get baptized, so God will forgive him for cussing. In actuality, no one really cared.

There was something beautiful about this teenager having such a kid-like impulse to cannonball into the “baptismal”. Even more, that he used an expletive to justify his doing so.

I think we could all learn something from this teenager: the Kingdom of God is something to be enjoyed. Not everything about following Jesus needs to be serious and reverent. We can show our love for God by enjoying what He has given us.

This is the type of church I want to be a part of. One in which its members give glory to God by cannonballing into baptismals, having food-eating contests, ice-blocking down hills, skating around the city, expressing themselves through art and music, and running half marathons together.

This is how we make the Kingdom come “on Earth as it is in Heaven”.

light vs. Light

Children who grow up in the Church are taught  that God lives inside of us, and that he should not be hidden from the world. His light should shine out of you by the way you act and talk–which is referenced by the song “This Little Light Of Mine”. You won’t hear me say this often, but I think the Church does a good job at explaining this to children. It is something that I need to be frequently reminded of.

A few months ago, I came across a video that both blew my mind and reminded me of this idea that God’s light shines out of His followers. 11:50 to the end of this video is what I will be discussing from here on out, but I encourage you to watch the whole video because it is really interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkzQxw16G9w

While the light from the song “This Little Light Of Mine” is metaphorical, our bodies produce physical light as well. We are literally shining! WHAT?! How cool is that?

After watching this video, I couldn’t help but think of the Light that I have inside of me. It made me wonder if I do a good job at making that Light known to others around me. Unlike our physical light, our spiritual Light only shines through us when we allow it to.

Many times, my Light is dimmer than my light.

I often don’t live in a way that emits the Light that I have. I care more about showing people my physical, worldly light. I let my light become so bright that it reduces the brightness of the Light.

Are you living in such a way that causes YOUR light to shine brighter than THE Light?

Jesus in my heart

Yes, another reblog. This one is by my good friend, and mentor, John Hunt.

Huh?

I am scared to let my son go to Vacation Bible School. I am afraid that he will ask Jesus into his heart. I attended VBS many times as a child, though technically I asked Jesus into my heart at church camp in the third grade. I went on mission trips in which we hosted VBS’s for small churches; I was a puppeteer, even a speaker a time or two. We always gave the children an opportunity to ask Jesus into their hearts. I don’t know that we used that formulaic language, I feel like I rejected that sort of thing pretty early on, and yet, honestly, it’s a pretty good image of how I most often live my life as a believer. It’s also pretty close to what we were offering those children we would never see again and what I fear most for my son, that he would…

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Love Christians, Hate “Christians”

Confession: I am not a Christian.

Before you start writing a comment about how I need to find the Lord, say the prayer, and get baptized, let me explain.

American Christianity has become a very secluded culture. It has become less of a religion and more of a social club. The people who are members of this social club usually fit into a specific set of characteristics that is easily identifiable to the people around them. Over the years, Christians have set their own rules about what it means to be a Christian. These requirements cause people to stress out about their faith. People feel like they need to make sure they are following all of the requirements so they can be accepted in the Christian culture.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is important to live in a way that stands out from the crowd. Our creativity is something that we should be using every day to separate ourselves from the people around us. The problems arise when this difference becomes oppressive to other people.

I grew up in a Christian home. I participated in children’s church, AWANAs, and youth group. I was a member of the worship team on Sunday morning and I knew everyone in my church.

I was one of these oppressive Christians.

I thought I had all the answers to life. If I didn’t know an answer, I pretended I did. For goodness sake, I didn’t want other Christians to think that  I wasn’t reading the Bible as much as they were! I thought that, as a Christian, it was important that I knew how to answer every question that someone might ask me while I was witnessing to them. I thought I needed to have this killer testimony to tell people when they ask me how I became a Christian. Something that would explain how I was lost before I knew Jesus, how He saved my life, and how everything is perfect because of it. Something that would make people cry.

During my time in college, I have learned that it is okay to not have all the answers. You will not go to Hell if you do not have your opinion about abortion or same-sex marriage completely figured out. It is completely normal to doubt the set of beliefs that you have grown up believing. In fact, I would encourage you to challenge what you believe about the Bible, or what you have grown up believing about God. Develop your own opinions and decide for yourself.

The Christian culture today places a strong emphasis on the weight of the Bible. Growing up, I remember being scared that I was not being a good Christian because I did not have my quiet time every morning or every night. I did not read my Bible every day. I would even forget to bring my Bible to church some days! Sometimes I doubted my pathway to Heaven based on this lack of commitment to the Bible.

I still considered the Bible to be God-inspired and an important part of my beliefs, so why did I feel so guilty about this?

The Bible should not stress people out.

If you do not consistently have an hour of quiet time every day, you can still  follow the will of God. You can still treat people in a way that shows them God’s love, even if you do not get around to reading your Bible that day.

I feel God the most when I am with people. It is in the times of laughter and conversations with other people that I experience God’s joy. I see God in other people more than I do in my Bible. I wonder what experiences I would have missed out on if I had been reading the Bible in my room instead of hanging out with the undocumented immigrants in my neighborhood.

There are extreme forms of Christian oppression, like the members of Westboro Baptist Church who verbally abuse people who, they believe, are not going to Heaven. They talk about how God hates people who are not following what they believe to be the correct interpretation of the Bible. These people are not living the way Jesus tells us to live: with love for our neighbors and enemies.

However, how different are the members of Westboro to those of us in the evangelical churches? I would suggest that we are not much better than they are. We oppress people in different ways than Westboro, but we are just as damaging.

We seclude people who are different from us. We do not allow specific types of people in our churches because their sin seems worse than ours. We refuse the rights of women to be leaders of our churches because we think the Bible does not allow it.

I do not consider myself a “Christian” because I do not think American Christianity is living the way Jesus wants us to live. I do think that Christianity is a form of religion, just not the form of religion that I want to commit my life to.

I want to try to follow Jesus’ example. Not Christianity’s example.
So, in a way, Christians are my enemy.

This leads me to my next point:
If I am going to try to live the way Jesus lived, I need to love my enemy. I think I do a good job at loving the enemies of the American Christian culture– the LGBTQ community, documented and undocumented immigrants, people from the Middle East– but I do not do a good job at loving the members of the Christian culture. I often find myself really put-off by people who post Bible verses on their Facebooks and Twitters. I get upset at churches that strongly stand against same-sex marriage or preachers who talk about how God wants justice for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.

Instead, I should be loving and praying for those people. I should be reaching out to them, not rejecting them. By hating them, I am no better than they are.

My ex-roommate and close friend, Blake Fox, wrote a story about a girl’s after-life experience. She goes to Heaven, meets God, and he turns out to be completely different from what she had been told about Him. In fact, Heaven was completely different. It was evil Heaven. After she told God that she didn’t want to be in Heaven, she went to Hell. Hell was a place of joy and love. She had everything she wanted in this Hell. It was how she anticipated Heaven to be like. At the end of the story, the reader finds out that the protagonist had been dreaming. She had never died.

I give you this summary to preface the last line of the story, which sums up my entire thought process into one sentence: “But even though Carrie knew her dream was mere fantasy, she couldn’t help but reflect on the question she had faced: could she sacrifice any self-centered thing, even Heaven, to follow Jesus?”

Maybe we all need to sacrifice our lives as Christians and become followers of Jesus instead.