Christianity, College, Updates

“Gratitude” – Art and Reflections

This is an “Address to the Nation” poem written for my AA10 class in the midst of a very intense social, political, and cultural moment in the US. Titled, “Gratitude”, the poem reflects on some of the lessons I learned and exhorts readers to hang on to gratitude.

“What does it take to heal a nation?!”,
we exclaim, in our frustration
The answer lies in an attitude,
commonly known as Gratitude.

It can thrive in every vocation – no matter our age, ethnicity, location.
Mitigating bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor,
malice and even vitriolic slander, (Ephesians 4:31)
It can surely equip us with peaceable candor.

It’s a conscious choice, a willful reflection
A calm, kind voice, graceful in imperfection
A positive perception, combatting depression
Bringing attention,
to a change in mental direction. 

“That’s so cliché!” I can hear you say
But hold tight there’s a reason
this simple truth is so needed
in each. and every. season.

I’ll share some musings,
of experiences we face,
and how we keep losing,
when we attack opponents at a thoughtless, rash pace.
This message is in light,
of a cultural fight,
that manifests from different world views,
which we debate day and night.

I hope you’ll choose
to listen with care
to see how Gratitude
eases frustrations we bear

A little more Gratitude, a simple cure.
Just look at the failures our society has endured.
Peace only comes,
once we’ve heeded,
and recognized all the reconciliation we’ve needed.

And so I’ll share thoughts of troubled souls,
who have faced many hardships
and Internet trolls…

There’s no doubt you have heard
and probably “learned”
about where you and your peers ideologically diverge.

Maybe like me, you’ve grieved and struggled,
knowing deep inside,
that evil befuddles
even the kindest of hearts, 
and closest of friends –
who turned on you quick – 
refusing to make amends.

At once they lashed out, 
and said something offensive,
You tried to speak kindly,
but neither of you was receptive.
One pushes to offense
and the other, the defensive
Then we all part ways,
deeply apprehensive

For self-righteous views,
and a noble endeavor,
We fall short of any goodness
we can ever measure.
Shallow praise for a fight
that never brings us together!

And after all this,
we may never turn back, 
Feeling justified in our works
and guilt for all that we lack

If you don’t feel convicted, 
Dig deeper – be honest.
Hypocrisy! We’re afflicted,
lacking fruits that we promised

And worse,
crimes are committed 
and injustice permitted.
Gratitude nowhere to be found 
as we speak not life, but just sound.

We must never forget:
ends don’t justify the means. 
Anger for virtue marks selfish schemes.

Activism, democratic socialism, or free market capitalism? 
Marxism, communism, fascism, nationalism?
All of these words, constructs, ideologies…
Please define these terms,
or they’re simply half-researched theories;
Respectfully join in civil conversation,
but never tear down the person you’re engaging.
The way to debate is to compare different views, 
with real-world data and objective truths.

When we cancel and block,
unfriend, and ignore,
we only destroy,
and never restore
the communities we fervently fight and care for.
So no matter your “ism” or the views at your core, 
remember to embrace this discomfort of difference, 
for understanding abounds with courageous persistence!

Remember the times we exchanged smiles and laughter?
Lifting up one another in every hard chapter?
The friendships we held,
when we worked as a team
All different people – just sharing ice cream.

The memes we exchanged
with a shared understanding 
So what has since changed?
Maybe cultural branding?

We once enjoyed each other’s company
Making time for another
VERY willingly.
Treating a friend
more like a brother
A love for our friends,
and gratitude for each other.

But conversations turned sour,
Creating a wedge
“Anger is justified power”,
Accusers allege.

If you’re not grateful,
You’re only hateful.
So never forget
How we lose all respect,
Without our emotions in check. 
Mutual understanding, discourse, tolerance
we lack,
And so we take a step forward
and more than two steps back.

Be gentle and loving to every neighbor.
All fellow humans, I ask you this favor:
Judge one another less harshly than you do,
You hold too high a standard for any to hold to!
We must lead with our actions,
and care for all others
Turning perceived evil factions,
into sisters and brothers.

Causes and passions are surely important,
I support your freedom to peacefully protest,
and own it!
But let’s not get carried away.
Fighting with violence?
That is NEVER the way.

You may not know God or his great love for you,
But if there’s any advice I could share with a multitude,
It’s to cherish your life and those around you.
It’s by common grace, that we enjoy freedoms too,
And forgive our enemies…
even if we dislike what they do.

Let’s love one another in truth and in peace.
Respecting opinions and not over-generalizing, at least.
Let’s be teachable, and humble in all that we do,
So we can grow in understanding, 
And reconcile all our views.

No matter your faith or your lack thereof,
we can exist in peace, in hope, and in love
We just need to hold fast
to something that will last
and that looks to the past
and yields sunny forecasts.

That can bring us joy,
In the midst of depression,
A source of optimism,
that ALL can access,
I should mention.

It provides a warm glow from the inside out,
It’s the very thing I began speaking about,
we can increase love and joy,
to a great magnitude, 
when through trials and triumphs 
we hang on…to Gratitude!


This poem was written during Week 3 of Winter Quarter, 2021 and was inspired by personal experiences and the world I witnessed in 2020. I recalled how social media had become a dark place-reflecting mostly enraged, accusatory, ungrateful, and depressed sentiments. Back in 2020, I had shared some information contrary to the popular view of my peers with the intention of presenting a more nuanced perspective. To me, much of the division was a result of over-generalizing, false assumptions, and a lack of perspective-getting.

My personal assessment of the socio-cultural moment was informed by my faith and psychology research by one of my professors on the topic of perceptions of political affiliation. My faith reminded me to be slow to anger and to pray for those who have wrongly accused, criticized, or mocked me behind my back. I was encouraged to not get my cues or morals from the world and instead look to God’s word for guidance. My studies in psychology provided scientific evidence of the accuracy of the Christian worldview by illuminating how our perceptions are often not aligned with reality. People tend to see out-groups as ‘extreme’ and quickly judge others based on stereotypes or caricatures proliferated by media.

With this view, I had hoped to inspire more productive conversations toward those we label as the ‘out-group’ and show that there were reasonable justifications for why people hold to different viewpoints. Unfortunately, challenging views with some of my friends did not result in productive conversations…

In our digital age, lack of face-to-face conversations makes it easier to cut out those we disagree with (further trapping us in an echo chamber). Looking back on 2020, I recall how conversations became less about listening, exchanging perspectives, and learning, and more about antagonizing and shouting down perceived ideological enemies. Blinded by our own biases and snap judgements, we failed to offer others the benefit of the doubt. Quickness to judge and condemn – usually in the name of some virtue – was foolishness at best and poison at worst. I just remember being so disappointed to witness the lack of emotional maturity as intelligent people made self-righteous statements and irrational accusations toward others.

This kind of culture is toxic and unproductive. And unfortunately, it still exists today. I’ve personally experienced ghosting and outright rejections from people I considered friends. This fracturing of relationships is unfortunate…but unsurprising.

God taught me much during that chapter of my life. If not for my faith in Him, I would not be able to say that I am thankful for that experience. He revealed my people-pleasing tendencies and fear of rejection from others. For once in my life, I knew for a fact that I wasn’t liked by everyone. Acceptance from others was an idol. This realization challenged me to reevaluate the source of my identity and helped me to step out of the digital war zone.

In retrospect, I could clearly see that several roots of false identities had been slowly creeping their way into my heart. Among these identities included superficial accolades such as my college, career path, club associations, political affiliations, friend groups, social media connections…and the list goes on. None of these affiliations are inherently evil or wrong; They were just terribly misplaced! I had allowed these secondary aspects of my life define my core identity, which was never meant to be dependent on affirmation from these sources.

As the Great Physician that He is, God began to perform surgery on my infected heart. He cut out the roots of insecurity and false identity and replaced them with his truth. I fully re-committed myself to living for God and rediscovering my identity in Him. Spending my alone time in prayer and in reading God’s word was healing to my mind and spirit. Once I fully surrendered and welcomed God into my mess, He became my everything and took His rightful place on the throne of my heart.

He taught me how to forgive by reminding me of how much I have been forgiven. He showed me how to have compassion by revealing His compassion for me. He demonstrated how to love others unconditionally by dying on a cross to defeat my sin and shame – an act of love I could never perform myself. He compelled me to pray earnestly for my friends’ salvation by pouring out his Spirit into my life and giving me the desire to share about the freedom I had received.

Even now, I know God is pursuing them and am hopeful that they will have ears to hear and eyes to see the truth about who Jesus is. I pray that they will hear the good news of their redemption, make an informed decision about Jesus – accepting Him into their lives as their Lord and Savior – and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to live a life of eternal purpose! (How I long for the day when we will rejoice in heaven together!)

So it is with gratitude that I reflect on 2020. I am thankful for this arts GE for providing the opportunity to voice my perspective and reflect on lessons learned. It is with gratitude that I recall past seasons and friendships, knowing that God is working through them for good. It is with gratitude that I celebrate how God continues to bless me with an incredible church community and life-giving friendships today, while also disciplining me and sanctifying me through the not-so-pretty moments.

In 2020 and in every year of my life, He has been the light in the darkness, the hope for the hopeless. He rescues me from self-destructive tendencies and disciplines me for my own good. He uses what the enemy means for evil to draw me back to Him and renew me with God-given purpose. He teaches me to look not at the storm, but to Jesus as He pulls me out of the raging waters of insecurity and despair, and sets my feet on a firm foundation. He is a good, good Father.

…One of my friends likes to say that some of the best things we experience in life are just a “slice of heaven”. She is SO right. We just need to make a practice of giving thanks and recognizing all the blessings and grace God lavishes upon us. I’ve learned to rejoice even when facing painful moments because they often reveal my sin, give me an opportunity to repent, and reignite a sense of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. (See James 1 & Philippians 4!)

Let us hold fast to the promise of a future glory in heaven, which encourages us to press forward and endure life’s hardships with hope. Soon Jesus will return to establish justice and reign in perfect peace. No longer will there be division and broken relationships, but we will all be unified in love. The promise of His return is THE hope of a lifetime! So with my eyes fixed on Jesus, I’ll cherish the ups and downs of this journey with gratitude 🙂


Other AA10 Projects

Week 1: An Original Manifesto advocating for the role you want creativity to play in your life.

Week 2: Just do it! Art and Spontaneity

Week 3: Art and the Inauguration – Address to the Nation Poem

Week 4: Global Hip-Hop

Rap – “Coffee Ice Cream”
Hello 1E 
It’s nice to see, all of you on my computer screen
I’m no rapper, and I guess I show it
the best I can do is pretend to be a poet
today I’ll share, just a few things
about my love, for coffee ice cream
I started with vanilla at the age of two
then it was chocolate, nothing new
but then my life changed, my junior year,
when I saw some ice cream I'd never tried here
I only liked tea and chocolate things,
I had never grown attached to the thought of coffee
After I tried it for the very first time,
I liked it so much, I wrote this rhyme.
It’s something about the sugar, AND the caffeine 
that made me convert at the age of nineteen.
I hope you enjoyed this dance today, 
based off the hip-hop we learned from KJ!

Week 5: Building Los Angeles

Week 6: Song and Silence

Week 7: Artist + Activist = Artivist

Week 8: Reimagining Museums- Access, Equity, Representation

Referencing the photos of Reynaldo Rivera, make your own black-and-white portrait of a person
(it could be yourself or someone else), or an object in your home or community that explores the relationship of place to person, or place to object. Pay attention to the background and setting.

Week 9: Poetry

Something to Desire

If there's something to desire,
It’s living for something higher.
Having courage until the end,
When you’ll see your one true friend.

It’s to live not for yourself,
leaving all but one book on the shelf...
It's to live for His Will
And love others still.

To count it all loss,
To know just what it costs,
As you carry your cross,
Into the waves, you won't be tossed.

To let go of control
And let God fill His role
To be grateful each day,
Giving thanks while you pray.
In humility and hope,
You will thrive - not just cope! 

All the trials of this life: 
all the troubles, all the strife.
The world is surely rife
With evils of every kind.

But hope came in the form
Of God’s son who was born
To pay our sin's cost
and save all the lost

He bridged the divide
In Him, we can confide
From Him we cannot hide,
His love is deep and wide.

Our God came for all
Who would respond to His call,
Accepting His grace
And seeking His face

Through faith and belief
we find rest and relief
In Christ we have peace
His love does not cease!

He is with us in the trial
We don't have to live in denial
Our rescue from the deep
He's our shepherd; We're His sheep

If there’s something to desire, 
It’s life in He who is higher 
To give up our own ways 
In meekness and with praise
To stand firm for the truth
Discerning feelings from the proof
Rejecting worldly ways,
For life is short—only days!

There's no time to fall away
nor to lead others astray
Let us make a choice today.
Trust in Jesus.
He's the only way.

Week 10: Creativity is…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Current memory verse:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me —practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9