Melody

She sat on her front steps, watching us. I had noticed her getting out of her car just moments before as a group of girls and I walked along the road that curved around her house, a shabby one in a bad part of town. Paint drooped off it in depressing gray bits and an odious smell, like lavatories and mouldy blankets, permeated the air.

I walked up to the girl—Melody, she said her name was—smoking a cigarette. She wore ripped jeans and a clinging white jersey. Her eyes, distant and dark, stood out in her pale face. I introduced myself, telling her I was part of a youth outreach from Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville. She smiled—a lovely, shy smile that transformed her face, although her eyes remained sad.

Originally from Greenville she had moved to Laurens to live with her boyfriend. She did not currently attend a church but had in Greenville. I couldn’t talk for long; the girls I was with were waiting for me.

I invited Melody to the Gospel services in the community hall and gave her a Gospel tract. As my group walked towards the main road, I looked back. Melody was hunched on her step, her head bent over the tract, reading.

Dilemma 1

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Professors and books and other reliable sources say the best way to begin writing a paper is brainstorming.

“Write down everything that comes to mind about the subject,” they say.

This is not necessarily the way to start writing a paper. Nor is it the only, foolproof way of beginning it. So I, naturally, having many opinions that I share fairly freely, have an alternative.

First, make sure of a topic before starting a paper. This is where a semblance of brainstorming comes in. Make lists of events or people or ideas you’re interested in researching. Example:

-Greek philosophers

-Charles Dickens

-The British Library

-the advent of the pencil

-why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears

Second, once you’ve decided on a topic (why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears), plot a plan of action for the paper–like a general outline. Like this:

I. they think people can understand them

II. they’re small and need to be noticed

III. they can

IV. they know how annoying it is

Third, start researching the topic. Look for articles and books and magazines and not Wikipedia. Make sure you keep an alphabetical card catalogue of sources–you’ll need them later. Also, take notes of ideas and information you can use to write your paper. Like so:

Example 1:

William, William. Mosquitoes Are the Greatest!! Swamp Books: the Glades, 1994.

Example 2:

‘William William says that mosquitoes have a pride complex, especially the ones in Florida because they can really, really annoy people. Apparently this is a good thing’.

Fourth, after you have completed this prep work, you may start brainstorming because you have something in your head to brainstorm about. Start thinking of what you would like to include in your paper and what you would like to prove or say and what words you would to use. More examples:

To include-‘swamps’, ‘Florida’, ‘other wetlands and moisty places that may breed snooty mosquitoes’

To prove-‘mosquitoes in the Caribbean are actually more annoying than mosquitoes in Florida’

Words to use-‘emphatically’, ‘majority’, ‘exceedingly’, ‘excessively’, ‘snobby’

Of course, careful preparation does not eliminate future dilemmas, but it does alleviate initial mental blockage. One important and final hint of writing a paper is: Always write about something you love and will still love even after you have spent many excruciating hours studying it.

Happy writing.

On Moral Dilemmas

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Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’

‘Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. ‘

Consider with me two examples of men who, when faced with the decision to follow Christ, raised questions of moral dilemmas to avoid obeying Christ’s call to discipleship.

The Rich Young Ruler

When this young man comes to Christ seeking eternal life, Christ tells him to sell all he has to become Christ’s disciple. The young man turns and sadly walks away. He knows that the way to obtain eternal life is through Jesus, whom he recognises as God, for Jesus has told him, ‘Why callest thou me good? There is none good but God alone.’ Instead, this young man raises a moral dilemma. ‘I have obeyed all the commands of Scripture from my youth’. What more could this promising young man need to be a follower of Christ’s?

The lawyer and the Good Samaritan story

The difference between this man and the rich young ruler is that the lawyer was purposefully trying to tempt Christ with no thought of discipleship. His question of moral dilemma is, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ He did not ask this to obey Christ’s command, for he already knows what the answer is. ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ is Christ’s answer. ‘Do good to all men’ Scriptures tell us. With all this knowledge, what could have kept this lawyer from becoming Christ’s disciple?

The answer in both these cases is obedience. Christ has commanded us to take up our cross and follow him. We rationalise the situation and say, ‘He meant that for another time, another person, another situation. He cannot possibly mean that I must forsake all and follow Christ’. We ask questions, as the lawyer did, questioning what he already knew to be true. We ask questions that Scripture does not clearly and precisely address, as if doctrine depends on those answers. We ask questions that have no answers. We ask questions to avoid obeying Christ’s command.

Asking questions is not in itself wrong, but asking questions alone cannot bring us to a knowledge of truth. Obeying Christ is to know the truth.

Do not question what Christ has commanded. Take up your cross, forsaking all, and follow him.

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